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5 November, 2003

Avoiding Phone Menus

It seems that just about every business that has more than 10 employees uses a phone menu system. Few things in life are as annoying. CNN/Money has a few pointers on how to escape out of the menus and reach a live human being. For example, American Express:

American Express customers can hit zero to bypass the automated menu, but be patient. It will ask for your 15-digit card account number, which you may ignore. It will then say "We do not recognize your input," which you also ignore, and you will soon be connected to a live operator.

Posted on 5 November, 2003

Popsicle Photos

Photos of popsicles, by Meredith Allen.

Allen's recent show at Gracie Mansion in Chelsea offered a series of eleven photographs of cartoon character ice pops inhabiting bucolic country landscapes.

Amidst the trees, ponds and beaches of far eastern Long Island, Tweety Pie, Pokemon, Bugs Bunny, et al. melted and dripped their way into intertwining dialogues on nature and culture, temporality, and the impermanence of corporeal existence.

(via Obliterated)

Posted on 5 November, 2003

For Bill Gates Fans

Here it is, the Bill Gates Fan Network (it's not a joke site).

Perhaps the most interesting thing about this site is the obnoxious pop-up window that tells you how to change your screen resolution. It says:

This site is best viewed with 1024 x 768 screen resolution. You can customize your screen to this resolution by doing the following: (1) Minimize all active documents on your screen (if any), (2) right click anywhere on your screen, (3) in the dialogue box that appears, select "Customize my desktop", (4) select "Settings", (5) at the bottom right of the box, adjust the Screen Area to 1024 by 768, then click OK when prompted. After visiting the site, you may apply the same procedure backward to recover your usual screen resolution.

Yeah, right. People are going to change their screen resolution just so they can view the Bill Gates Fan Network site. A much better approach is to design the site properly. Even Bill Gates would agree with that (I think).

Posted on 5 November, 2003

Google Stuff

Two Google-related items (one of them is a joke):

For some time now, Google's board has been deliberating how to translate that power into money. They appear to have decided to bring Google to the stockmarket next spring. Bankers have been overheard estimating Google's value at $15 billion or more. That could make Google Silicon Valley's first hot IPO since the dotcom bust, and perhaps its biggest ever.

Friday, reports surfaced that Microsoft was interested in buying Google. Instead, food giant Nestl� announced that its sweetened offer to buy the Internet search engine company has been accepted.

Google will complement Nestl�'s long list of well-known brands, including Perrier water, Stouffer's, LifeSavers, and Nesquick. Nestl� says Google will be renamed NesGoogle and have a recipe section added to its main page.

Posted on 5 November, 2003

Nixon Speaks

Nine excerpts from the speeches of Richard M. Nixon -- including the moving story of Checkers the dog.

These are very poor quality WAV files, but they are intelligible.

(Thanks dazed)

Posted on 5 November, 2003

Analyzing Phone Conversations

Phone therapy for couples, via The Relationship Barometer (link is to a PDF file).

Aspects of a relationship can be characterized by extracting conversation features such as speaking rate, volume, duration, pause during speaker transitions, number of interruptions, and time spent holding the floor. These objective numbers allow some of the underlying dynamics of the relationship to emerge without the bias of self-report or even a third party observer. As can be seen in the figure below, particularly negative interactions have distinctive values of these parameters that are fairly easy to classify - interactions at significantly higher volume, speaking rate, and interruptions are all indications of a potential fight.

(via Jeroen's Semi Blog)

Posted on 5 November, 2003

Ecosphere

This looks pretty cool: An Ecosphere.

EcoSphere is a calming balance of earth, water, air and life-all parts of a working self-sufficient ecosystem that's much more than science; it's an original work of art. Makes a unique gift for those who contemplate the mystery of life on our planet and enjoy the serenity of nature.

The delicate coexistence of animal and plant life (red shrimp, algae and microbes) thrives in the handblown glass sphere of seawater. It's easy to care for-just provide sufficient light and enjoy the aesthetic blend of science and art, beauty and balance. This technology was developed by NASA scientists as part of a growing initiative to study our planet's biosphere.

Besides seawater, it contains shrimp, algae, and microbes. It has an average life expectancy of two years.

The extra large 9-inch model costs $500. They also have 6-inch, 5-inch, and 4-inch versions.

(via Life as it Comes)

Posted on 5 November, 2003

Microsoft Trademarks

Download a complete list of all of Microsoft's trademarks. It's in an RTF file, which can be opened with Word.

You'll find such memorable as AutoSum, Bookshelf, Fringer, HomeClick, Natural, Rushmore, and TipWizard.

Posted on 5 November, 2003

Czar Of The Bizarre

Johnny Meah is the Czar of the Bizarre. He's a circus artist.

Born in Bristol, CT in 1937, Johnny Meah began his art career at the tender age of 9, when his father, an editorial cartoonist, took him out on the fair and exposition circuit as "The World's Youngest Portrait Artist."

Meah became fascinated with the circus and particularly its performers, so at age 14 he spent his summer vacation with the celebrated Zachinni Family, traveling with the King Bros. and Cristiani Circus. Hugo Zachinni, the original "Human Cannonball," was also a fine artist and helped Johnny "chart a path connecting the mind, eyes, and heart that would eventually allow me to paint dreams."

Posted on 5 November, 2003

Lego Honda

Watch an extremely clever 30-second ad for the extremely ugly Honda Element. Using computer graphics, the car is constructed entirely from Lego blocks.

Posted on 5 November, 2003

Take An IQ Test

I've seen quite a few IQ tests on the Web. The IQ Test from Emode is one of the best.

The 40-item test will take about 20-30 minutes. When you're finished, you'll be asked for lots of personal information (you can enter a fake email address -- the result is not emailed to you). The results page displays your IQ and also your "Intellectual Type." Then, of course, they try to get you to buy a more detailed report for $15.

I took the test, and I scored 133. I was classified as a Visual Mathematician.

This means you are gifted at spotting patterns - both in pictures and in numbers. These talents combined with your overall high intelligence make you good at understanding the big picture, which is why people trust your instincts and turn to you for direction - especially in the workplace.

Ah... perfect qualifications for a spreadsheet guy and amateur photographer.

(Thanks Dave Callahan)

Posted on 5 November, 2003

Pencil Carving

The art of carving pencils.

According to their forms, they are divided into 4 types - "Double spiral", "Chain", "Ring" and "Kikko" that may be called a honeycomb pencil. Others like "Six-fold spiral", "Extensible" and "Triangle, square, pentagon, hexagon" are considered to be variations based on one of those 4 types.

The carving shown here was done by Mizuta Tasogare, and is called Ball-Joint (Variation of "Chain").

(via Asparagus Pee, Gooblek & Other Neat Stuff)

Posted on 5 November, 2003

Walkenbachs In The News

Occasionally, I'll search the Google news site for "Walkenbach" to see if any of my relatives are in the news. I'm not positive, but I think all Walkenbachs are related to each other. Today I found two items, one good one not so good:

Former Player Returns As Coach

Homecoming [at Cornell University] may be this upcoming weekend for most Cornell alums, but for Bill Walkenbach '98, homecoming was Oct. 1. On that day, varsity baseball head coach Tom Ford announced that the three-time team MVP would be joining his staff.

"It's a thrill for me to have a player come back as a coach," Ford commented. "I've always thought a lot about Bill as a baseball person and as a quality guy.

And from the Jefferson City News Tribune, a small item:

In other law day actions this week, Callahan ordered presentence investigations for people who pleaded guilty to charges filed against them, including: Chad R. Walkenbach, 23, 5305 Balmoral Way, who was charged May 4 for driving while intoxicated.

Posted on 5 November, 2003

Bananas And Fishing Boats

Did you know that bananas are considered to be bad luck on fishing boats? I didn't. Do a Google search for "bananas luck fishing," and you'll find lots of information.

Here's a company that sells BananaFish stuff.

The story is that many, many years ago a sailing ship entered port with supplies bound for a fishing fleet. Among the supplies were bushels of bananas. After loading their supplies the fishing boats raised their sails and headed for the open ocean, unaware that the banana bushels were infested with black widow spider nests. Many aboard did not return alive!

Henceforth, bananas have been considered taboo on sailing and fishing boats, and became associated with bad luck. It is forbidden to have bananas on board!

(Thanks John Fleming)

Posted on 5 November, 2003

A Java Toy

This is really fun: an interactive Java app with moving balls. I dare you to spend less than 10 minutes playing with it.

Posted on 5 November, 2003

The Broadcast Flag

From the Washington Post: FCC Approves First Digital Anti-Piracy Measure (fake info required to enter the site).

The Federal Communications Commission yesterday approved the first-ever requirement that some personal computers and other consumer electronic devices be equipped with technology to help block Internet piracy of digital entertainment.

The move is a victory for the movie industry, which has lobbied hard for regulations aimed at stemming the tide of copying and online trading of movies and television shows.

The press release from the Electronic Frontiers Foundation summed it up nicely:

"The broadcast flag rule forces manufacturers to remove useful recording features from television products you can buy today," said EFF Staff Technologist Seth Schoen. "The FCC has decided that the way to get Americans to adopt digital TV is to make it cost more and do less."

Oh well, television sucks anyway.

Posted on 5 November, 2003

Single-Speaker Surround Sound

This looks interesting: Nirotek One-speaker surround sound.

Less is more, the old adage has it. Torrance, CA-based Nirotek America has taken the concept to an extreme with its recently unveiled NIRO 1.1 and NIRO 1.1 PRO home theater audio systems. The systems are claimed capable of delivering full Dolby 5.1 surround sound performance from a single speaker.

Posted on 5 November, 2003

Changing Your Religion?

Getting converted has never been easier, thanks to Holy Soft Co.

One of the most popular items is the Christian Kit, shown here.

Do you need to change religion to grab the chance for a career outlook? Are you going to work abroad? Getting a new customized god is easy with Plug'n'Pray. A new spirituality and a new respectability can be yours at a mouse click.

Religious Gurus from all over the world compiled these kits for you. Religious and cultural habits are fully illustrated: audio and video files will teach you everything about prayers, mortification and purification rituals, as well as ready to use supplications, special formulas and sacred functions.

Posted on 5 November, 2003

Faces In Nature

I've linked to the Butterfly Alphabet site in the past, but I overlooked this part: Faces & Figures. It consists of seven pages of photos that depict faces in nature.  This moth is downright scary.

(via Everlasting Blort)

Posted on 5 November, 2003

The Cadillac Ranch

Ant Farm's Cadillac Ranch...

As a tribute to America's best automobile, a collective of artists called Ant Farm decided to place 10 Cadillacs, ranging from a 1949 Club Coupe to a 1963 Sedan, in a wheat field located west of Amarillo, Texas. Mr. Stanley Marsh 3, a local helium tycoon, provided some place for the cars to rest. Ten big holes were dug and the cars were driven with their front end into them.

(via Attu)

Posted on 5 November, 2003