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4 June, 2004

Biometric Media Player

Press Release: Thinking Materials Delivers VeriTouch Biometric Media Player Prototype w/1.5 MP Digital Video Camera.

Thinking Materials has, on assignment from VeriTouch Ltd. (U.S.A.), delivered the first working prototype of iVue, a revolutionary, patented hand held audio/video player capable of biometrically encrypting and decrypting digital media content. The authorized user authenticates via a fingerprint and can then use iVue to listen to music and watch DVD-quality videos, including wireless content delivery and connectivity to existing peripheral A/V equipment.

That's hilarious. But it's a real press release.

(via The Register)

Posted on 4 June, 2004

One More Book

This afternoon, I turned in the final chapter edits for Excel 2003 VBA Programming For Dummies. Yippee!

It would have been finished a long time ago, but I had to correct a lot of errors that the technical editor found. By the way, Dick did a great job. I think it was his first tech editing assignment. Hopefully, he didn't find it too unpleasant, and he'll be available when I do the next round of books.

Posted on 4 June, 2004

AOL Settles Lawsuit

From IDG: AOL settles improper billing lawsuits.

America Online Inc. has agreed to settle a pair of class action lawsuits brought on behalf of subscribers to the online services of AOL and its CompuServe unit. They allege AOL and CompuServe continued to bill them after the plaintiffs asked for their subscriptions to be cancelled.

AOL "vigorously denies any liability" related to the allegations, but agreed to settle to avoid the "undue burden and cost" of further litigation and to resolve the matter,

How much do they get?

The proposed settlement calls for AOL to provide refunds of up to 4 months of subscription fees, at a rate of $21.95 per month. How much of a refund a plaintiff receives will depend on his or her specific claim. Separate from the settlement fund, AOL has also agreed to pay the plaintiffs US$3 million for attorney's fees and costs.

What kind of lawyers would settle for a mere $3 million in a class-action suit?

But this is the confusing part:

...as part of the agreement, AOL also has agreed to make changes in its procedures to prevent post-cancellation charges in the future.

AOL claims that there was no improper billing, yet they agree to fix the problem. Huh?

Posted on 4 June, 2004

Searching The Terrorist List

From Newsweek: The 'Patriot' Search.

Buying a home? Prepare to pay to have your name checked against a government list of suspected terrorists.

Who pays for this?

Because the SDN list is a public document, many title companies charge nothing for the search, according to ALTA's von Eigen. But increasingly, firms like California-based First American Corp. are charging the buyer up to $30 for each person involved in the transaction. (So, for example, if one couple buys a condo from another couple, the buyers are charged a total of $120 for the searches, which can be done for free at the ALTA Web site.)

Is it effective?

That depends on the search software. Typing "Osama bin Laden" into the ALTA search engine yields zero matches, but that's because the U.S. government spells his name "Usama bin Laden" (which gets two hits). Roe says that even though Charles Jones uses a more sophisticated search tool than ALTA (a tool that registers hits for alternative and approximate spellings), less than 1 percent of the searches they conduct yield a match. In the event of a match, the transaction must be immediately halted and a report filed with the Treasury Department.

Posted on 4 June, 2004

Test Your Southern-ness

I took this Southern-ness quiz, and scored 40 out of 71. This qualifies me as a Southern Sympathizer.

(via Doc Searls)

Posted on 4 June, 2004

When I Post

I was curious about the times of day that I post new entries to this blog. So I created this chart for all of the blog posts since the beginning of the year (when I switched to pMachine).

I thought that creating this chart would be a simple process, but it wasn't. I exported the MySQL database to a CSV file, and imported it into Excel. The problem was converting the Unix timestamps to actual times. I had to dig around to find out that Unix time stamps represent the number of days since the "Unix Epoch," which is 1 January, 1970. Then I had to compensate for the GMT offset and Daylight Saving time. I eventually figured out a formula that did the conversion.

I wasn't surprised to see that the most frequent hour for posting was 7:00am - 8:00am. Then the frequency drops off as I get to work doing other things.

Posted on 4 June, 2004

Seinfeld's New Garage

From The Smoking Gun: Seinfeld's Automotive Money Pit.

One of New York City's longest-running (and problem-plagued) construction projects has finally been completed. That's right, after five long years, Jerry Seinfeld's private Manhattan garage is finally ready to receive a handful of cars from the Porsche-loving comedian's pricey automobile collection.

Seinfeld's multimillion-dollar renovation of a two-story building on West 83rd Street was completed late last month...

Besides holding five cars, the garage also has a "little bachelor pad."

Posted on 4 June, 2004

Toilet Paper Museum

Enjoy your visit to the Virtual Toilet Paper Museum.

The Toilet Paper Museum was established a long time ago in a reality far far away, fulfilling the founder's lifelong dream of creating a tribute to this lowly and often overlooked substance which forms a major part of the foundation of our civilization.

It grew steadily until it rivaled the Smithsonian Institution in size, but tragically suffered a major setback during the Great Toilet Paper Shortage of 1973 when it was pillaged by an armed band of desperate dysentery-ridden tourists.

The Evergreen tissue shown here is from the Vintage Collection.

Posted on 4 June, 2004

Reference Books Online

This might be the mother of all reference book sites: Bartleby.com.

Bartleby.com combines the best of both contemporary and classic reference works into the most comprehensive public reference library ever published on the web.

Posted on 4 June, 2004

Record And Mix Some Sounds

This is a very nicely done Flash site: A Break in the Road.

Use your microphone to search the city soundscape for beats and melodies you like. After you've recorded six, take them home and try mixing them into a tune.

Posted on 4 June, 2004

Jumping The Shark

TV fans might like this: Jump The Shark.

It's a moment. A defining moment when you know that your favorite television program has reached its peak. That instant that you know from now on... it's all downhill. Some call it the climax. We call it jumping the shark.

You can vote on when a particular show jumped the shark.

For example, just about everyone agrees that The Andy Griffith Show jumped the shark when Barney Fife left -- although a fair number think it occurred when they started filming in color.

Some shows have never jumped the shark. Included among them are The Simpsons, Dick Van Dyke Show, and The Critic.

(Thanks ed)

Posted on 4 June, 2004

Grading The Ballparks

ESPN has reviews of all the major league ballparks: Ballpark Grades.

Toad will be pleased to know that the top-rated ballpark is PNC Park, with a score of 95. The worst, not surprisingly, is Olympic Stadium in Montreal. It scored a measly 49 points.

The new Petco Park in San Diego isn't on the master list, but it's review is here. It scored a respectable 80. The reviewer refuses to use its official name:

Let me begin by saying that I will not refer to this stadium by its "official bought and paid for'' name. I've made my feelings clear -- many times -- about corporate names on publicly-financed stadiums. And ESPN.com readers have made their feelings about the name of San Diego's new park, in particular, so clear that even David Wells could understand.

"Embarrassing'' is probably the most frequent term I heard when I asked for opinions on the subject last winter, though "insulting'' wasn't far behind. When I asked for alternative names, the one most frequently submitted was "Mission Field'' -- so that's how I'll refer to the stadium throughout. And if a certain pet store chain doesn't like that ... well, they can always send me a check for $100 million, too, and I'll reconsider my policy.

Posted on 4 June, 2004

Truth Or Fiction

A site that's kind of like Snopes: Truth Or Fiction.

Check out rumors, inspirational stories, virus warnings, humorous tales, pleas for help, urban legends, prayer requests and calls to action to see if they are TRUTH! or FICTION!

Posted on 4 June, 2004

Rat-English Dictionary

If you'd like to carry on an intelligent conversation with a rat (and who wouldn't), you'll need a copy of Harrap's Rat-English Dictionary.

The most comprehensive interspecies dictionary available in paperback.

A few sample definitions:

eee eeee [ii:'iii] v. to leave; eek eee eeee, let's leave the vet's and never come back, okay?

eee eee ee [iii:'iii:ii] v.tr. to explore; eee eee ee e ee eek, Let me out so I can explore behind the filing cabinet!

eeeee; I finished that whole walnut by myself.

(via JOHO the Blog)

Posted on 4 June, 2004

Celebrities' Near Death Experiences

From Soul Travel Magazine: Near-Death Experiences of the Rich and Famous. You can read about the NDEs of several celebrities.

The article also discusses the role of Elvis in NDEs.

People having near-death experiences are greeted by someone - usually someone they deeply love or the so-called "Being of Light". When Elvis Presley died, it seemed like the whole world mourned. He was truly loved by many people the world over. Since then, many people have reported having "Elvis sightings" where the spirit of Elvis appears as an apparition to people much in the same way that Jesus appeared to people after his death.

(via Cliff Pickover's RalityCarnival)

Posted on 4 June, 2004

Bradbury On Moore

From World Net Daily: Ray Bradbury rips Michael Moore.

Author Ray Bradbury has ripped into filmmaker Michael Moore for using the title "Fahrenheit 9/11" for his new Bush-bashing movie, an obvious takeoff on the 84-year-old's science-fiction classic "Fahrenheit 451."

"Michael Moore is a screwed a--hole, that is what I think about that case," Bradbury said.

Posted on 4 June, 2004

A Big Guitar

From Harmony Central: 32-Foot Electric Guitar Created for Discovery Channel Series.

A massive 32 foot long, fully functional electric guitar has been made by a team of builders including legendary pickup guru Seymour W. Duncan, luthier Matty Baratto, and the "best-of-the-best" craftsmen from the television series Monster House and Monster Garage.

The guitar was built for the Discovery Channel Network television series BIG! and will air June 15, 2004. The BIG! series shows how things are made and work by building the objects over-sized.

It's big, but it's not a record-breaker.

"The record for the largest electric guitar is a 43 foot Flying V," notes Chris Stone, music industry consultant for the BIG! Guitar. "However that guitar uses six standard sized pickups, whereas the BIG! Guitar has a single, 156 pound humbucker pickup designed specifically for this project."

Posted on 4 June, 2004

Cow Magnets

If you own cows, you may need some Cow Magnets.

Cow magnets are popular with dairy farmers and veterinarians to help prevent Hardware Disease in their cattle. While grazing, cows eat everything from grass and dirt to nails, staples and bits of bailing wire (referred to as tramp iron). Tramp iron tends to lodge in the honeycombed walls of the reticulum, threatening the surrounding vital organs and causing irritation and inflammation, known as Hardware Disease.

The cow loses her appetite and decreases her milk output (dairy cows), or her ability to gain weight (feeder stock). Cow magnets help prevent this disease by attracting stray metal from the folds and crevices of the rumen and reticulum. One magnet works for the life of the cow!

Posted on 4 June, 2004