Monday, December 31, 2007

Working From Home: A Pretty Good Information Resouce

"Want To Work From Home?"

Looks like a pretty good place resource. The discussion of how to start and what to think about is detailed, and has links to more resources.

Funny Dog Photos

"Funny Dog Pictures"

Also quite seriously cute, in some cases.

Socal Security: Lies, History, and Solutions

"Simple Solutions for Social Security"

A well-written, and unconventional, discussion of the Social Security system. I particularly appreciated the history of Social Security. I would have appreciated it more, if the author had said where he got the information. However, what he said didn't seem implausible, given what I know of 20th century American history.

Days of the Week Ranked, Best to Monday

"Top 7 Days of the Week"

Friday tops the list, Wednesday wasn't so bad, and Monday was at the undisputed bottom of the list.

Better Ideas From China:
Color-Coded Shower Head Lights

"Illuminated Shower Heads"

The shower head lights shine with different colors, depending on temperature:
Under 32°C White
33°C to 41°C blue and dark blue
42°C to 45°C pink and violet
Over 45°C hot red

Having a sort of light show while you shower is a cool idea. That "hot red" light might be a good safety feature, too. 45°C is 113°F. Somewhere over that, you get into a range where scalds are possible, at least according the American Burn Association (pdf-format campaign kit).

More ideas - good, dubious, and strange - at "Better Ideas From ... "

Sunday, December 30, 2007

U.S. Department of Transportantion (DOT): New Battery Rules For 2008

This is a sort of public service announcement.

New rules for airline passengers who carry spare lithium batteries go into effect on January 1, 2008. There's quite a lot of information available at the DOT website. These links may be useful.

From the US DOT ("your source for tips to help travelers get to their destinations quickly and safely!"):
  • "Spare Battery Tips"
    Eight practical tips.
  • "Always Remember"
    Five good points
  • "How-To"
    "A battery's electrical connections (also called contacts or terminals,) must be protected from contact with metal or other batteries that may cause the battery to short-circuit. You can do this in many ways."
  • "Downloads"
    In printable pdf format (some also in original format):
    • SafeTravel Printable Flyer
    • SafeTravel Pocket Card for Commercial Reproduction
    • Air Line Pilots Association Advisory
    • DOT Safety Advisory (As issued to the Federal Register)
    • U.S. DOT Plan of Action to Address Battery Safety Concerns
    • Battery Recall Guidance
    • Battery Recall Guidance: Recommended Practices for Consumers
  • "Q & A"
    Just what it says.
  • "What's New"
    "Effective January 1, 2008, the following rules apply to the spare lithium batteries you carry with you in case the battery in a device runs low: ..."
  • "Contact" Information for
    • Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA)
    • Portable Rechargeable Battery Association (PRBA)
    • Federal Aviation Administration Office of Hazardous Materials
    • Underwriters Laboratories Inc. (UL)
    • National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA)
    • Air Transport Association of America, Inc. (ATA)
  • "Batteries Home"
    "If you're planning a trip, bring your laptop computer, cell phone, camera, personal digital assistant, or other battery-powered device along. These items are safe to fly with!"
There's more than this selection available: the home page is a good place to start browsing the site.

Better Ideas From New York City:
New Year's Wishes Online

"New Year's Wishing Wall Online" -

The New Year's Eve party at Times Square, New York, has something new this year. You can have a message printed on a piece of that colorful confetti. If you're in New York City, there's a place at the Times Square Information Center to drop off a message.

For people like me, who aren't likely to be within a thousand miles of Manhattan, theres the "New Year's Wishing Wall Online."

I've left a wish: "May leaders act with wisdom and compassion." It may sound corny, but who knows: That message might start someone thinking.

"Times Square Alliance," "The Official Website of Times Square," is involved with the Wishing Wall Online.

More ideas - good, dubious, and strange - at "Better Ideas From ... "

New Year Tech: New Lights Over Times Square

"Times Square Alliance - New Year's Eve Ball"

The big ball over Times Square will be twice as bright, more colorful (16 million colors), and a lot more efficient than last year's. The Waterford crystal ball has LEDs inside now, and takes about as much power as a kitchen oven.

Bristlebot: Technology Doesn't Have to Be Practical

"Bristlebot: A tiny directional vibrobot" from Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories.

Made of a toothbrush, a battery, and a pager motor, the Bristlebot has no practical value that I can see: but it looks like fun to make and run.

There's a video and a step-by-step guide to making your own Bristlebot.

List of 101 - A Promising Resource for Writers and Bloggers

"101 Resources on the Web for Writers and Bloggers"

Looks promising. Includes links like "6 Tips for Dealing with Feedback on Your Creative Work," "Story Idea Generator," "Exposed: The Pros and Cons of Freelancing," and "How to Write a Better Web-blog."

New York City Design - And a Great Quote

"Downtown" - Really nice furniture.

"Noted for fearless color combinations and the mix of distinctive 20th century design, Downtown has become a destination for designers in search of fresh ideas.

"Opened in 1996 by David Serrano and Robert Willson, Downtown combines significant historical knowledge with high energy and imagination. The duo was honored by House & Garden Magazine as New Taste Makers of 2006."

My favorite part of the site, so far, is their quote on the home page:
"Less is more only when more is no good."
- Frank Lloyd Wright

Let's Hope the Designers are Better Engineers
Than They are Communicators

"Luxury floating hotel shaped in beluga"

Intriguing photos (CGI?) and none-too-informative text about a futuristic whale-shaped dirigible. I'm guessing it isn't a blimp, but I've been wrong before.

There's a quite artistic, and equally uninformative, splash screen at The page title is French, though, so it must be quite cultural and sophisticated.

(It's getting late in my time zone: Goodnight.)

Abandoned Brewery

"Stella Artois Brewery" - photograph of an abandoned brewery interior in Belgium.

Despite the abandoned chamber, Stella Artois and its bottom-fermented pilsner lager are still very much around. The company's website is

Saturday, December 29, 2007

A Very Cool Bubble Dream Castle on the Blue Coast

"Chateau Bulles"

Fourteen photos of an oceanside retreat for people who don't like straight lines. And who do like living on the Côte d'Azur near Cannes.

There's a rather breathless description of the place, "Antti LOVAG'S 'BUBBLES DREAM CASTLE'" that ends with the ominous promise (threat?), "It is all this, living in Antti LOVAG's 'Bubbles Dream Castle', which will change your life."

There's a more 'just the facts' description at the aptly-titled "Description."

And, perhaps in deference to American culture, Cap West International includes a mis-placed apostrophe in its upper-right navigation bar("Photo's" where "Photos" should be). (Webmasters: While you're there, check out the match between the "Home Introduction Description Photo's" text and the links. Remember: it's important that a link links to what it says it links to.)

Friday, December 28, 2007

Better Ideas From South Korea: Sim Jae-duck's Toilet House

"A Look Inside the World's Only Toilet House"

"Haewoojae, the world's one and only toilet house...."

And it belongs to the World Toilet Association General Assembly's chairman, Sim Jae-duck.

Only one photo was taken inside, though: although another shows a bit of a posh interior, through the wraparound windows.

More about Haewoojae:

"A Night at `Toilet House'?
(Discover that "Haewoojae" means "a place where one can solve one's worries," "a euphemistic expression describing a toilet" - and that someone could stay the night there for $50,000 - proceeds going to the Korea Toilet Association, which will use the money, later, to help give developing counties healthy toilet facilities.)

More ideas - good, dubious, and strange - at "Better Ideas From ... "

Have Kids? Don't Want Them to Do Drugs? Time To Talk Can Help

"Time To Talk the conversation starts here"

"Talking to your kids about the risks of drugs and alcohol is important and it isn’t as hard as you think. By having regular conversations with your children, they are up to 50% less likely to use. We’re here to help make talking even easier. We’ve got free, easy-to-use, research-based tools and tips to help you have ongoing conversations with your kids to keep them healthy and drug-free."

Sounds like a good idea.

Inside Look at a Combustion Engine

"Micro Camera Shows the Workings of a Combustion Engine" This is a cool video. Since it's filmed inside an engine, maybe that should be "hot."

IBM: Move Over, Transistor:
We'll Use Photons and Atoms

"IBM to shatter Moore’s law with 300GHz Crystal Computer" (New Tech Spy)

Impressive. Apparently, IBM's Crystal computer encodes quantum information on neodymium atoms in a silicone crystal, without using transistors.

This could be the biggest thing in information tech since, well, the transistor.

Whole Food Market Offering
Five-Finger Discount?

(I don't usually get this opinionated, but as guy who's been a working slob most of his life, the strange case of John Schultz got under my skin.)

"Grocery worker fired for stopping shoplifter" (December 27, 2007)

"John Schultz says he lost his job at Whole Foods Market in Ann Arbor after he tried to stop a shoplifter from making a getaway. But the company says he went too far and violated a policy that prohibits employees from physically touching a customer - even if that person is carrying a bag of stolen goods."

So: Whole Foods Market considers shoplifters to be customers? Very broadminded of them. Very broadminded. And generous.

Whole Foods Market has a pretty good store search service on its website, and a list of all Whole Foods Market stores. I checked. There are only two in Minnesota: one in Minneapolis, one in St. Paul. I don't know if the Minnesota stores have the thief-friendly 'no touch' policy.

And yes, I know: the rationale is probably based on a 'human-life/box-of-donuts' value ratio. Just the same:
  • Firing an ex-Marine
  • Who was on break
  • Was asked by a manager to help stop a thief
  • Did so
  • Caught the thief on the other side of the street
  • Was told to release the thief
  • And did so
Seems stark, raving, moonbat crazy.

Experimenting With a Wrong Way Balloon

"Science Experiment of the Week #39 Wrong Way Balloon"

"Anyone that has ridden in a car knows that when the driver speeds up quickly, you are pressed back into your seat, and that when the driver brakes quickly, you are pushed forwards. But what would you think if the force that pushes you backwards was pushing something else forward at the same time?"

A video from Robert Krampf's Science Education Company.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Better Ideas From Canada: Garage-Door Windows

"Condo Building With Garage Door Windows" With photos

An intriguing, ingenious, and not-quite-novel idea (I suggest you read the "Condo Building" post's comments).

Two questions:
  1. Why build condos with glass garage doors for windows?
  2. In Vancouver, British Columbia?
More ideas - good, dubious, and strange - at "Better Ideas From ... "

One Laptop Per Child (OLPC)
(Knowledge) Power to the People!

"Give One. Get One"

Extended through December 31.

"One learning child. One connected child. One laptop at a time.

"The mission of One Laptop per Child (OLPC) is to empower the children of developing countries to learn by providing one connected laptop to every school-age child. In order to accomplish our goal, we need people who believe in what we’re doing and want to help make education for the world’s children a priority, not a privilege. "

I've run into people who deride this effort because the computers are not of the quality to which they have become accustomed. Nevertheless, I think it's a good idea.

Tired of Crazy Lawsuits?
You're Not the Only One

"U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform's "I am Lawsuit"

"When I heard $67 million, I said to myself, 'Nonsense'... How could he claim this much over a pair of pants?" Remember Jin and Soo Chung? They're the mom & pop dry cleaners targeted by a judge with $67-million-dollar pants.

They're not the only people who have been hurt by a lunatic lawsuits.

"I Am Lawsuit is a project of the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform (ILR). ILR is a national campaign, representing the nation's business community, with the critical mission of making America's legal system simpler, fairer and faster for everyone. ILR was founded by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in 1998 to address the country's litigation explosion."

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

News, Comics, Games: and Family-Friendly

"ArcaMax / Family Friendly News & Fun"

"ArcaMax Publishing is a leading provider of family-friendly news and fun on the Internet. We send out over 70 features and more than 700 books to 3 million subscribers by email -- all free of charge."

ArcaMax also has pretty good website. This blog's previous post features 'today's' Zits: one of my regular online comics stops.

"Zits" Generation Gap Too Narrow for Jeremy's Comfort

If you've got teenagers, you might find a chuckle in Jerry Scott and Jim Borgman's "Zits" comic for today (tomorrow, actually, in my time zone).

Latex Glove Lamp

"Lamp Made out of Latex Gloves," by Katarina Britse at Beckman’s College of Design

As weird as this sounds, the result is attractive, in a modernish sort of way. And it's supposed to be fairly easy to make.

I did a little checking, and found the image's source - with some more information - at Beckmans.

Better Ideas From America:
Tiara Tower

"Princess Diana's tiara inspired top of proposed Cincinnati office tower"

The Great American Insurance Building may get crowned, if Cincinnati's building design review board okays Gyo Obata's tower topper.

"Design and project diversification have led this architect's practice to international heights ...An interview with Gyo Obata, FAIA, founding partner of HOK." HOK (Hellmuth, Obata + Kassabaum)

More ideas - good, dubious, and strange - at "Better Ideas From ... "

Gadgets and Muscles: Technology Expert with Muscle

"Mr. Bicep The Muscleman of Technology®"

Comsuer technology, that is: games; software; hardware; exercise equipment.

"Bruce Pechman is America's Best-Built Technology & Fitness Personality appearing regularly on Los Angeles' #1 rated "KTLA Morning Show" and "Good Morning San Diego," San Diego's most popular local morning news."

"Bruce Pechman, also known as "Mr. Bicep," is a loveable and visually memorable consumer technology enthusiast ...."

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Petra: Two Thousand Years Past Peak

" Reconstructing Petra" (

"Two thousand years ago, it was the capital of a powerful trading empire. Now archaeologists are piecing together a more complete picture of Jordan's compelling rock city"

Better Ideas From Japan: A Fuzzy Green Building

"Amazing Green Building: The ACROS Fukuoka"

From the green space in front, this commercial building looks a little like a shaggy Aztec temple. The terraced shrubbery is billed as a fine home for bugs and birds.

This looks like a very good idea: even though it looks like what happens to buildings after people stop maintaining them.

ACROS stands for Asian Crossroads Over the Sea, according to the ACROS Fukuoka website. There's a Symphony Hall inside: but the interior decor there isn't fuzzy and green.

More ideas - good, dubious, and strange - at "Better Ideas From ... "

Seven Abandoned Sites in America

"7 More Abandoned Wonders of the World: Amazing American Abandonments"

With photos.

Formal Apology, With Options From
"It Was My Evil Twin" to
"Please Do Not Tell My Parents"

"Official Notice / Formal Apology"

I'm pretty sure that this form is a joke: but don't you get the idea that it could be real?

Adeste Fidelis - the Video

"A Musical Treat: Andrea Bocelli Sings Adeste Fidelis"

Not much more to say: within the limits of online videos, this is a very nice "Christmas music" piece.

'All I Want for Christmas'

"The Top 12 Coolest Toys On The Planet"

I can't confirm that this list is the top 12, but from "Little Tikes Super Splash Waterpark" to "Jakks Eyeclops Bionic Eye," these are seriously cool toys.

No Hope of Nobel Prize for This Lot: U.S. Senators and Global Warming

This is what happens when scientists, senators, and a journalist or two look at global warming without a prize-winning attitude.

(Warning: Persons who are convinced that the fur seal, the northern spotted owl, and Miami beach front property are in peril because steel plants and flatulent cows release greenhouse gases should not read this post.)

For everyone else, this is a very interesting collection of links on global warming. Each article or report reflects the thoughts of those who are willing to give up hope of winning the Nobel Peace Prize, or an Oscar or two.

"U.S. Senate Report: Over 400 Prominent Scientists Disputed Man-Made Global Warming Claims in 2007 Senate Report Debunks 'Consensus' "
(December 20, 2007)

In case that page goes offline again, here are some of its links:

Monday, December 24, 2007

WebCams - Video Views of Europe, With Maps

"WebViews Bringing Europe to You"

"Europe webcam directory featuring streaming cameras and live aerial map views"

Santa Claus Position Update:
NORAD Tracks Santa 2007

Update (December 24, 2009)
NORAD Tracks Santa's home page ( gives you seven languages to choose from this year.
UPDATE (December 24, 2008)
I've corrected/updated the link for the NORAD Santa Operations Center. It should now work for you. Sorry about that: I'll try to be more alert next year!

In case the Operations Center link changes, and I miss it, try NORAD Tracks Santa's home page.
"NORAD Tracks Santa Operations Center"

This is fun: Santa-tracking technology has come a long way from the crude radar systems of my younger days. On a more analytical note, Santa Claus seems to have started at or near the International Date Line, and be sweeping westward. Generally.

When I began this post, the jolly old elf was in Algeria. He's made deliveries in Libya since then, and now he's over Palermo, Sicily, Italy.

NORAD's Radar Tracks Santa,
Reindeer Warming Up

"NORAD Tracks Santa Operations Center"

"Track Santa as he makes his deliveries all over the world! Google Maps will refresh Santa's position every 5 minutes. Click on the map below to view an interactive Google Map."

As of the time of this post, very early Christmas Eve in Minnesota, Santa Clause is still at the North Pole. And, according to the downloadable Download Santa Tracker, he's warming up the reindeer.

I checked out Santa's video, on NORAD's YouTube page, "NORAD Tracks Santa." I knew his reindeer were fast, but I didn't appreciate what high-velocity reindeer were like until I saw Rudolph, Donder, Blitzen, and company in action. Or that Santa could perform a barrel roll.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Computer in a Bottle:
the Whisky PC

"Computer Made From A Bottle of Ballantine Whisky"

It's not just a bottle: there are electronics in this home server, too.

Quite a conversation-starter, and working information technology.

More, at "Whisky PC Something little that one can do with the empty glass bottles." Janos Marton tells how he made the Whisky PC.

British Monarch Goes Digital:
Elizabeth II on YouTube

"Britain's Queen Elizabeth goes global on YouTube"

England's Queen Elizabeth II made her first televised Christmas message fifty years ago. This year, she's got a YouTube account, where she addresses the Commonwealth.

There's more at "The Royal Channel the official channel of the British monarchy:" Including E II's first television broadcast.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

How to Confuse Your Roomate

"100 Ways to Confuse Your Roommate"
Matt Simerson (undated)

Some of these are probably illegal, and all are not the sort of thing that a kind-hearted person would want to do.

On the other hand, these are funny!

Here are some of my favorites:

30. While your roommate is out, glue your shoes to the ceiling. When your roommate walks in, sit on the floor, hold your head, and moan.

44. Move everything to one side of the room. Ask your roommate if he knows how much an elephant weighs, and look at the floor on the empty side of the room with concern.

76. Make cue cards for your roommate. Get them out whenever you'd like to have a conversation.

86. Carve a jack-o-lantern. Complain to your roommate that the jack-o-lantern has been staring at you. The next day, tell your roommate that the jack-o-lantern thinks he/she has been staring at it. Confide in your roommate that you really don't like the jack-o-lantern, but you can't convince it to move out.

92. Sit and stare at your roommate for hours. Bring others in to join you. Eat peanuts, throwing a few at your roommate. Then say, "Boy, these zoos just aren't what they used to be."

Christine Levinson: No Good News From Tehran

"Wife of Former FBI Agent Fails to Find Husband in Iran" - Christine Levinson still hasn't found her husband, Bob. He disappeared while investigating cigarette smuggling near Iran.

Bob Levinson's family launched a website, to spread the word about his disappearance. I tried visiting it this evening, and couldn't get on. I trust this is because people are aware and visiting the site.

I wrote another post about this, a week ago: "Husband Disappears, Wife to Search Iran" (December 15, 2007).

European Experts and Web 2.0: Saving the Rabble From Themselves

"Europe to save citizens from rubbish Web 2.0 media" ("The Register," December 21, 2007)

(Warning: mini-rant coming.)

"The European Union's Directorate of the Bleeding Obvious* has concluded, essentially, that the media is full of rubbish and that its audience is ill-equipped to assess the quality of the information that it is offered. Furthermore, the audience itself is now complicating matters by producing its own rubbish in multiple overlapping and intersecting formats."

Referring to the benighted peasants who now can publish their own works, "They don't always 'fully understand the context within which such material is written, seen or read, or the possible consequences of publishing something themselves.' And indeed quite often they don't, just as those selling 'my exclusive story' to the popular prints quite often don't understand the possible consequences. So your point is?"

" * Well OK, the Information Society & Media Directorate General, really." (ISMDG, in this post)

"The Register" article includes a link to a list of "contributors to a public consultation on media literacy run by the Commission in 2006." It's the usual suspects: old media, traditional organizations, and others who are scared spitless at the prospect at losing even more of their monopoly on information dissemination and analysis.

I don't always agree with "The Register," but this time I'm with them.

This ISMDG study is right in one way: "Web 2.0" is full of rubbish. So what? Any information media is full of rubbish: Just look at a grocery checkout magazine rack, if you don't believe me. (This is an American cultural reference - I'd love to know what other countries offer, as equivalents of the American tabloids.)

So, most people don't fully understand what they're doing? Okay, I'll agree with that. I certainly am not omniscient: I've done many things in my half-century on Earth, without thoroughly understanding the consequences, philosophies, and histories involved. (It's called "having a life" over here.) So far, trying something and learning from what happens next has worked for me. Of course I'm an American: maybe ISMDG assumes that Europeans aren't like that?

The ISMDG seems to think that people don't have a really well-developed set of critical and analytical skills. That's right! I'm a recovering English teacher, and I can tell you that the sample of humanity I dealt with didn't show the promise of being top-flight critical thinkers.

But they weren't stupid, either.

And, I don't think that the best approach to encourage critical thinking is to have a bunch of arrogant, old-school, wiser-than-thou 'experts' try conditioning the masses into thinking the 'right' way.

This ISMDG matter seems to be another 'we can learn so much from Europe' thing. In this case, what not to do. I know: that's jingoistic - and unfair. From hiring and college acceptance quotas to Santaphobia, America has its share of conceited, uppish, overbearing know-it-all do-gooders.

Great Medical Myths Exposed!
Go Ahead: Pork Out on Turkey.

"Revealed: The seven great 'medical myths' " - according to the American Journal of Psychology, anonymous researchers, and the British Medical Journal.

They're probably right.

By the way: Don't worry about getting sleepy eating turkey. All that holiday food and drink would make anyone doze off.

And gain weight.

But hey, it's just once a year: Merry Christmas, a few days early.

When Good Geeks Make Bad Money Choices

"7 Mistakes Geeks Make With Their Money (and How to Fix Them!)

From "Owning Every Battlestar Galactica Season, but Not a Single Stock"> to "A Portfolio Full of GOOG," this looks like a good, and entertaining, collection of advice.

Wikipedia's Felonious Financial Functionary
Back in the News

"Felon Became COO of Wikipedia Foundation" Carolyn Bothwell Doran is in the news again.

There's no evidence that she did creative bookkeeping while handling the Wikipedia Foundation's finances. That said, she's lived an interesting life. We knew about the
  • DUI convictions (including one that killed somebody)
  • Petty larceny
  • Theft
  • Passing bad checks
  • Unlawfully wounding her boyfriend with a gun shot to the chest.
Now we find out that
  • Her father was a CIA official (probably)
  • She shot her boyfriend in 1989 - possibly because someone said he was beating her - and got probation after he asked for the case to be dropped (this might be the "illegal shooting" we read about before)
  • A former roommate of Carolyn's was accused in 1995 of poisoning a man for insurance money - Carolyn helped investigators get evidence, but defense attorneys say that she did so to get a break in a credit-card forgery case that was open then
  • Her husband, intelligence officer Sean Doran, drowned during their honeymoon in 1999
Quite an exciting life: a perforated boyfriend, involvement in a lethal (I assume) insurance scam, a brand-new husband who died romantically, DUIs - one of which killed some poor nobody - theft, petty larceny, and passing bad checks.

Either she's among the unluckiest people on the North American continent, or she's not the sort of person you'd want to have handling a major foundation's finances.

I don't usually go on at length like this, but I think the Wikipedia situation warrants it. I use Wikipedia regularly, particularly now that they've started encouraging their editors and contributors to say where information came from. However, I also remember when Wikipedia was a wonderfully idealistic people's encyclopedia, one that assumed that 'errors' would be corrected by the well-meaning cooperation of the readers.

I'm concerned that Wikipedia's got problems beyond growing pains and an overdue audit (see previous harangue: "Felon Balanced Wikipedia's Books"
(December 16, 2007). "Good old boys" networks were roundly disparaged, back in my college days. Today, I wonder if the Wiki people have made the transition from non-discriminatory hiring to indiscriminate hiring.

Repeating from a post of about a week ago, Doran's disappearance was noticed by a Wikipedia editor. "Pray tell, what happened to Carolyn Doran?" was the editor's question for the Foundation board. "I've asked on a number of fronts and been met with stone walls...The Chief Operating Officer of a top ten web property vanishes, with no explanation of any kind?"

Here's Wikimedia Foundation chairman, Florence Devouard's, answer: "Has it ever occurred to you that Carolyn herself may have preferred so?" Devouard wrote. "If the issue disturbs you so much, I have a suggestion. Just give Carolyn a call...she is still living in Florida. You may try to find her contact on internet, or white pages? I think that when you want to know something, the best you can do is to ask directly the person. No?"

Online text communication is always a little risky. With no tone of voice or expression to modify the words, a reader can read emotions into a message that weren't intended.

That said, I 'hear' a little condescension in Ms. Devouard's reply. I could be wrong, but sounds to me a bit too much like an executive suppressing (reasonable) concern about one of his/her buddies.

When that happens in an organization with the budget, and cultural importance, of Wikipedia and the Wikipedia Foundation, I get concerned.

Tracking Santa Claus with NORAD's Radar

"Countdown to Track Santa"

"Welcome to the North Pole! Santa’s helpers are busy getting gifts ready for delivery on Christmas Eve to the good boys and girls around the world! Can you find out which shop in the village is the busiest today? When you do, click on the shop to discover a fun activity!!!"

And, "Santa Tracking Control Center"

"Beginning at 2:00 am MTN on Christmas Eve, you can track Santa Live as he makes his historical journey around the world!

"This is exciting, as Santa travels fast and NORAD Santa Cams take photos of Santa and his reindeer!

"Download Google Earth in preparation for tracking Santa in 3D on Christmas Eve. "

Breeding Better M&Ms

"M&M Duels" describes the tongue-in-cheek efforts of someone to develop a superior race of M&Ms.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Comic Map of Europe: Funny, Artistic, and Completely Beyond My Budget

"George Glazer Gallery: Comic Map of Europe England, 1870"

If you have $1,300 to spend on an 11 x 17.25 inch hand-colored lithograph, this caricature / cartoon map could be yours.

If you don't, you can still take a look.

(from George Glazer Gallery, used w/o permission)

(from George Glazer Gallery, used w/o permission)

You, too, Can Wear a Really Geeky Tie

"The ThinkGeek 8-bit Tie"

This clip-on tie is - unique.

Unusual, anyway.

"For the 8-Bit Office

"A few of us monkeys at ThinkGeek had this great shared dream a few months ago."

Anglo-Dutch Translation Guide, or
When Knowing a Language Isn't Enough


Two of my favorites are:
What the British SayWhat the British MeanWhat the Dutch Think the British Mean
I was a bit disappointed …I went ballistic …It doesn’t matter.
That’s not bad. That’s good or very good. It’s poor or mediocre.

A Really, Really Quiet Room:
An Anechoic chamber in Orfield Labs

"The Quietest Place on Earth - Orfield Labs"

Certified by the Guinness Book of World Records.

And, it's in Minnesota. This post describes the room, how it was built, and a little about Orfield Labs.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Robotic Go-Karts for Crippled Kids

"Babies Do the Driving in Delaware Lab"

Researchers at the University of Delaware are letting a baby drive a weird contraption, and hope to "help immobile, disabled children move and explore."

Aside from the feel-good aspect of helping crippled kids, there's a very practical goal to this research. If this works, youngsters who can't move on their own can have the learning experiences that babies and toddlers normally get by moving around and exploring.

As someone who spent a fair percentage of his childhood in one sort of cast or another, my response is, 'go baby, go!'

The article gives links to On the down side, with something like the Whizzybug, I probably wouldn't have developed the upper body strength I got by dragging myself around. These robots should really help youngsters with serious mobility problems, though.

A Rule of Three

"How to Use the “Rule of Three” to
Create Engaging Content

A rather thoughtful, if not entirely accurate, look at writing and the number three. (The author quotes "Blood, sweat and tears" - Churchill said, "I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat..")

This is one of those resources that's interesting - and that I'd take with a grain of salt.

Holday Slump? Great! Now You've Got Time For ...

"Putting the Holiday Slump to Work for Your Business"

Pretty good advice for freelance writers - and anyone else who runs a small business with a seasonal cycle.

Dave Reinbold's Fine Art

"Dave Reinbold Fine Art and Illustration"

A small gallery of his work, and a shop.

It's contemporary art, but I can imagine a sensible person buying his work.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Funny Photos, and a Seriously Cute Puppy

" What I Found In My Email" Mondays. Vol.1 - Issue 9"

A collection of funny photos found by a blogger in his inbox.

Art by David Edwards

"Fallen Beautym" a David Edwards work.

More on CaptureFX, an "online showcase of creative artist David Edwards. David is a visual effects artist living in Leeds, UK specialising in matte painting and 3d motion graphics for film and entertainment media."

Earthrace: 10-Ton Bio Diesel Speed Boat

"EARTHRACE - Bio Diesel Boat "

It pierces waves, displaces 10 tons, and runs on the captain's fat (the bio diesel fuel is mostly from plants).

Earthrace sponsors hope to set a speed record for sailing around the world.

Power, speed, and a renewable energy source: This kind of "green" I can get interested in.

Where to Start When Writing That Paper

"Top 7 Websites to Visit Prior to Writing Your Research Paper" - in StudentHacks' opinion, anyway.

Avoid Cliches Like the Plague

"11 Images you might want to avoid in your designs" has some very good advice for designers - and anyone in marketing.

Online Fine Art Gallery

"Pierside Gallery Fine Art Gallery"

A commercial venture - and an opportunity to see some very nice art.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Feel Generous? A Fund Helping I-35 Bridge Survivors

"Glow" is a 45-second video that's intended to raise awareness of a fund to help survivors of the I-35 bridge collapse in Minneapolis earlier this year.

It's also a fairly cool video.

"MinneapolisHelps" is the assistance fund.

I posted three times about the I-35 bridge disaster, in another blog:

Randy Reindeer, Damaged Displays, Middle Schoolers, and a Remarkable Coach

This isn't the sort of thing I usually post on "Apathetic Lemming of the North," but it's too weirdly inappropriate to ignore.

"Police: Coach Turned Displays Into Porn Group Reportedly Put Reindeer In Sexual Positions"

I'd assumed that it was the usual drunken toot by college kids and an over-age-in-grade frat-boy-turned-coach.

Nope: Those were middle school students.

I think the coach is a candidate for the 2007 nitwit of the year award.

Monday, December 17, 2007

A Dream-Home Conservatory

"Machin Bow-End Attached Conservatory" - I suspect that if you need to ask how much it costs, you can't afford it.

The photo shows the conservatory, sun-drenched and fully-furnished.

Look, There on the Page,
It's a Comma, It's a Period,
No, It's Supercomma!

Punctuation Made Simple: "The Semicolon"

A discussion of the semicolon: one very useful bit of punctuation.

The World at a Glance: Cloud and Sunlight Map

"World Sunlight Map"

"Watch the sun rise and set all over the world on this real-time, computer-generated illustration of the earth's patterns of sunlight and darkness. The clouds are updated every 3 hours with current weather satellite imagery."

More of Putting Planets and Stars in Perspective

"Keep the World in Perspective" - this video pans and zooms from a picture of Venus to one of W Cephei: with "Also sprach Zarathustra" for musical accompaniment, to give a sort of retro "2001: a Space Odyssey" feel to it.

(The biggest featured star is W Cephei A, a red supergiant with a very hot probably-main-sequence companion.)

I must like this sort of thing. I posted "Putting Earth, the Sun, and the Solar System in Perspective" just a few days ago.

Winter Holidays: From
Rosa Parks Day to the
Premier of "Mighty Mouse Playhouse"

The small Minnesota town I live in has a pair of nice, safe, "Happy Holiday" banners over the main highway. That ambiguity isn't a bad idea. It allows people to read their own preferred winter holiday into the message. There's quite a variety to choose from, including: Or whatever. There's a pretty good page on December holidays at

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Tired of People Dancing Around "Merry Christmas?" You're Not the Only One

"Sorry to offend you…but Merry Christmas anyway!"

That blog post expresses a remarkable idea: that it's okay to acknowledge a religious holiday, even if it's Christian.

I think there's a cultural sea change happening in America.

For decades, we've had to pretend that I'm not making that last item up. Fort Collins, Colorado decided to keep their discriminatory lights, on a vote of 6-1. I harangued, briefly, in "Happy Thanksgiving Eve!," a post in another blog.

This aversion to the C-word and C. decorations on public (and sometimes private) property has affected everyone. The small Minnesota town I live in has nice, safe, "Happy Holiday" banners on both ends of the main highway. Happily, no one has objected to the banners' lights being red and green.

A little surprisingly, nobody's objected to the word "happy:" even though it arguably discriminates and victimizes people with chronic depression. By the wild and wacky standards we've come to expect in American courts, anyway.

Now, after decades of determining public and corporate policy on the preferences of some the most brittlely sensitive people, officials and business leaders seem to be cautiously approaching the idea that "Merry Christmas" is no more offensive than "Happy Hanukkah" or "Happy Eid."

I don't think it's the Sixties any more.

Okay, that's enough ranting for now. The next post will be a little different.

Felon Balanced Wikipedia's Books

"Wikipedia COO was convicted felon"

Wikipedia's Chief Operating Officer probably didn't put these accomplishments on her resume:
  • On parole for a DUI hit and run resulting in a fatality
  • Passing bad checks
  • Theft
  • Petty larceny
  • More DUIs
  • Unlawfully wounding her boyfriend with a gun shot to the chest
That last item interests me. Apparently it's possibly to shoot your boyfriend legally? As a married man, I wonder if that extends to husbands.

The felonious bookkeeper left Wikipedia last July. Wikimedia will get around to doing an audit sometime. And, they say they still don't know about those convictions.

It looks like Wikipedia and the Wikimedia Foundation should be congratulated for their a non-discriminatory hiring policy. Maybe indiscriminate would be a better word.

More seriously, this matter of a non-profit's embarrassment seems to have at least two lessons.
  1. Use of today's information technology, to check out potential employees' background
  2. Use yesterday's attitudes about due dilligence
I'm old enough to remember criticisms of 'good old boy' networks, and why hiring should be handled 'by the numbers.'

The "Register" article reports that Doran's disappearance was noticed by a Wikipedia editor. "Pray tell, what happened to Carolyn Doran?" was the editor's question for the Foundation board. "I've asked on a number of fronts and been met with stone walls...The Chief Operating Officer of a top ten web property vanishes, with no explanation of any kind?"

Here's Wikimedia Foundation chairman, Florence Devouard's, answer: "Has it ever occurred to you that Carolyn herself may have preferred so?" Devouard wrote. "If the issue disturbs you so much, I have a suggestion. Just give Carolyn a call...she is still living in Florida. You may try to find her contact on internet, or white pages? I think that when you want to know something, the best you can do is to ask directly the person. No?"

When Devouard's posted that reply, Carolyn Doran was locked in the Pinellas County, Florida jail. Embarrassing.

That's My Kind of Book Store

"A Book Store Made in Heaven"

"Whoever said that reading was a religious experience was right, especially when taking a visit to Selexyz Dominicanen in Maastricht, Netherlands.

"Having just won the Lensvelt de Architect Interior Prize 2007, this newest addition to the Selexyz book chain is well worth the visit to this Medievil city if you are ever in the area."

With photos.

Impressive. Very.

A Singles Site that's Not a Dating Service

Well, now exactly.

"" wants "to empower people with the knowledge and inspiration needed to grow and strengthen their most important relationships for a lifetime of happiness."

If you've been on Earth during the last year, you probably know about

What impressed me about eHarmony was that its ads specifically mentioned marriage as a possible outcome of using their service. Having lived in a culture where "meaningful relationships" with "significant others" were "long term" if they lasted more than a few months, eHarmony's approach stood out like a flare.

A Pretty Good Resource for Catholic Singles


Catholic Content

If Catholics, Catholicism, Catholic beliefs, or the Catholic Church bother you, please do not follow these links. The following website is specifically Catholic.

"Ave Maria Singles"

"Faithful Single Catholics Meet and Marry at!"

"Welcome to Ave Maria Singles,
A service for marriage-minded Catholic singles
Integrity - Sacredness - Quality"

Ave Maria Singles isn't a dating service. "Ave Maria Singles™ pledges to offer a service solely dedicated to helping faithful, practicing Catholics find their future spouse and help them become a better follower of Christ."

They've got a decent selection of blogs, and articles like these"

Very Expensive, Very Modern Houses

"Have2ask - The real estate blog of unique properties, home design and communities."

When I checked, they had photos of Australia's Tattoo House, C-1 House by Curiosity, $4.3 Million Two-Story Chicago Penthouse, and A Modernist Discovery in Pasadena.

All terribly attractive, modern, pricey, impressive, and marginally practical.

Oxygen is Bad For You: Sometimes -
Clinical Death, Cell Death, and
Refrigeration as Treatment

Despite the title, the Newsweek article, "To Treat the Dead" is a serious look at how emergency medical procedures may have to be changed.

It turns out that, after four or five minutes, the last thing a victim of heart failure needs is oxygen: and the best treatment may involve refrigeration.

The Glow Stick that Wouldn't Die

"New Light Source Lasts 15 Years Without a Recharge"

Granted, green light isn't for everyone, but this looks promising.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

And Now for Something Completely Different:

"Written on the Wind" - a small, but I hope growing, collection of poems.

I don't, and won't, do poetry posts very often: but this seems more than passable. Besides, the author left a comment on another post: ""

Husband Disappears, Wife to Search Iran

"Wife of Retired FBI Agent Will Travel to Tehran in Search of Missing Husband" isn't good news, quite. On the other hand, I don't think there's a married man or woman who wouldn't want a spouse with that kind of loyalty and determination.

The missing husband's family launched a website, to spread the word about his disappearance.

Boeing Building Laser Gunship: No, Really

A megawatt laser with a four-inch-diameter beam that can cut through metal at a range of nine miles. Science fiction when I was growing up, a Boeing Integrated Defense Systems project today.

Friday, December 14, 2007

A Determined Cat and a Prudent Bear

About a year and a half ago, a bear and a cat met. Here's how the confrontation ended.

This House Could Roll Away

"The Smallest (Real) Home on the Planet" - maybe.

It's got a shower, a kitchen, and a place to lay down, and it's almost as tall as most Norwegians (the Snail Shell System seems to be a Danish creation: not Norwegian at all).

Travelers Aid Society is Now The Road Home

"The Road Home"

"The Road Home's mission is to help people step out of homelessness and back into the community through emergency services, personalized case management and collaboration with additional resources."

Putting Earth, the Sun, and the Solar System in Perspective

A sort of slide show, starting with Earth, and ending with the largest known star, helps put the size of our home and parts of the universe in perspective.

(A related post is "More of Putting Planets and Stars in Perspective." I must really like this sort of thing.)

Thursday, December 13, 2007

MPAA, Pirated Spyware, and Intellectual Property Rights

"MPAA gets a taste of its own medicine"
Geeks are Sexy (December 4, 2007)

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) asked presidents of 25 major universities to put MPAA spyware on the university servers. Aside from ethical problems, the MPAA made a major boo-boo. Their spyware was pirated.

Interesting look at intellectual property and the Information Age.

Also, another data point supporting the view that American media companies, particularly motion picture studios, are led by some of the best minds of the 1920s.

And Now, for Something Completely Different: Hong Kong's Robot Kitchen

Three robots operate a restaurant in Hong Kong. Almost on their own. As of about a year ago, there was still a human supervisor. This is not a bad idea.

The robots are available as kits, at about $5000 USD each: batteries included.

Just one catch: They only seem to understand Cantonese.

These seem to be original articles on "Robot Kitchen:"

A Kitten, a Bit of Chicken, and a
Really (Daring?) Human

"Kitty Loves McNuggets"

Growing up with cats, I learned a few things. One of them was, 'don't take the cat's food away.' That goes triple when the food is particularly good.

Maybe these people like to live dangerously.

When You Reach the End -

"The End of the Internet"

I like this!

Bonds, Bones, Byrd - What's the Big Deal?

I tie this debacle into the Internet and technology, but mostly this post is a rant.

"Mitchell Report List" is one of dozens of headlines with the same news.

Sixty Major League baseball players have either used or possessed steroids, twenty four were cited for "Alleged Internet Purchases of Performance Enhancing Substances By Players in Major League Baseball."

There was surprisingly little overlap between the two lists.

Fox News ("Bonds, Clemens, Tejada Named in Mitchell Report") gave a link to

Why All This Fuss?

Why focus on steroids? Today's athlete and role model has a impressive menu of performance-enhancing drugs to choose from.
  • Human Growth Hormones
    • Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (hCG)
    • Luteinizing Hormone (LH)
    • Human Growth Hormone (hGH)
    • Insulin-Like Growth Factor (IGF-1)
    • Insulin
  • Drugs to Increasing Oxygen in Tissues
    • Protein Hormones
    • Artificial Oxygen Carriers
    • Blood Doping (A charming process of pumping whole blood into a fully-loaded "athlete"
  • Masking Pain
    • Narcotics (like morphine, methadone and heroin - groovy!)
    • Protein Hormones
    • Cortisone
    • Local Anesthetics
With athletes flying high and feeling no pain, it seems to me that steroid abuse may not be the sports world's top drug problem.

Is anyone really surprised?

Records get broken: but the spectacular performance - and physiques - of contemporary athletes makes more sense, when you realize that many of them were conditioned, pumped up, and bombed out of their gourd when they did their superman routines.

It seems that it takes more than Gatorade and better bats to live up to today's athletic standards.

This isn't a drug problem: It's a culture problem First, there's an 'ethics-be-damned,' 'win at any cost,' attitude that's unhealthy on the field, and off.

Remember, about two years ago, when a half-dozen football players whizzed on someone's lawn in an eastern suburb of Minneapolis? Probably not.

In a way, the Vikings party wasn't such a big deal. Seventeen football players rented two charter boats on Lake Minnetonka and shipped prostitutes up from Florida, but not all of the sports figures performed sex acts in front of the boats' crews. And, presumably, not all were involved in spreading condoms, sex toys, and urine on the lawns of people living near the lake.

Hey, "boys will be boys," right? Wrong, but it's going to take an enormous change in many people's attitudes to hold "stars" to the same standards that we follow.

I think the big question is:

Why are these doped-up doofuses still regarded as "roll models?"
Back to something interesting.

Thanks to the Internet, we can read the Mitchell Report ourselves, instead of depending on what some sequence of reporters and editors decided to publish.

And, you think high-flying/high-living athletes are something? You ain't seen nuthin' yet. Ten years or so from now, some report may "reveal" that the top-performing athletes in some sport had a little help:
  • Remote-control injectors inside their chests, that shoot game-appropriate drugs directly into their bloodstream when the coach thinks they need a little boost
  • Little, tiny, boxes in their heads, connected to their limbic system, dentate gyrus, nucleus accumbens, and anything else it takes to make them enjoy the sensation of getting bones broken.
  • Titanium splints, or something of that sort, strung along their bones so that, even if a bone breaks, they can stay in the game
Far fetched? Considering what these sports dudes and their handlers are willing to do today, I'm not so sure.

Okay. The rant is over now.

Old Sight Gag, New Imaging Technology

"For a civil engineer, there's no such thing as a 'little' mistake." One funny photo.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Short on Excuses?
Want Software to do Your Thinking?

"Holiday Party Excuse Generator"

Funny, and surprisingly G-rated for a service of this sort. Well, maybe PG.

It's apparently possible to send what you come up with. I can't recommend that, but it's fun to choose different options, and see what comes out.

These are two messages I got:

"Dear [name],

"I am overjoyed that I will be unable to attend your chi-chi holiday wingding. I will be meeting with the leaders of Free world, and thus in a more celebratory frame of mind. Once the holidays are past, I hope to have a good long visit with you and find out all the party highlights. Please give my tepid regards to your party guests, and tell them I said, "better you than me." My best wishes for a blithe and bourbon-soaked holiday.

"Hugs and Kisses,

"Dear [name],

"I am beyond delighted that I will be unable to attend your spiffy yuletide shindig. I will be auditioning for a community theater production of "Cats", and thus unavailable for you to bore with your insipid palaver. Once the holidays are past, I hope to have a chat with you. Please give my heartfelt hisses and sneers to your party guests, and tell them I believe life's really dark moments never fail to built character. My best wishes for a truculent and tawdry holiday.

"Adios, [name]"

Wacky Warning Labels: As Crazy as Ever

"M-LAW's Wacky Warning Labels"

Lawsuit-happy lawyers, people willing to admit being outwitted by a coffee cup or a flaming pickle, and judges who take them seriously have created a new sport in America: loony label spotting.

My favorite of the current lot is an honorable mention: a warning label on a letter opener that says: "Caution: Safety goggles recommended."

M-LAW isn't all fun and games. They're trying to fix a whacked-out legal system that has manufacturers putting "Do not use for personal hygiene" labels on toilet brushes.
When lunacy is the order of the day, it's tempting to try acting crazier than the lawyers who made "Caution: Coffee is Hot" labels necessary.

Going out on a limb, I'm going to guess that these labels haven't been used yet.
  • Lawnmower:
    • Not A Hair Care Product
    • For outdoor use only
    • Not a food processor
  • Bottled Water:
    • Not a substitute for food.
    • Potentially dangerous in high doses, or if inhaled.
    • Consultation with a licensed nutritionist is recommended before use.
  • Printer paper:
    • Caution! Paper cuts may result from improper use.
    • Persons with a family history of hemophilia should wear protective clothing and gloves during use.
    • The manufacturer is not responsible for content placed on this paper by any third party.
  • Printer ink cartridge:
    • Not for internal use.
    • May leave marks on paper or cloth.
    • Not intended for use as paperweight.
Now, my own warning label:

Don't blame me if some beleaguered company has to use one or more of these warnings.

Lucky, or Loser? Chatroom Bot Lets You Be Both

"Flirty Chat-Room 'Bot' Out to Steal Your Identity"

I'm not sure what this is:
  • A great step forward in the development of artificial intelligence
  • An indication of how simple, shallow, and conventional 'romantic' online chats are
Maybe both.

The place: A computer's monitor, glowing in the dark somewhere.
The person: Some online chatter, seeking love, or a facsimile thereof.

Finally, the lonely netizen gets lucky! Someone's interested! All that's needed is a telephone number, and a postal address, and a photo, and maybe some more personal information.

The problem: The person on the other end isn't human. It's a 'bot' that mimics a flirty chat room user, collects personal information from credulous rubes, and passes the data along.

The official line by the software's publisher is that it's for guys who are too busy to chat up girls, and their female counterparts. It can be used by lovelorn Web surfers, but the odds are that it will be used for identity theft, too.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Museum's Game: Exercise Your Victorian Etiquette

The McCord Museum of Canadian History website's game, "The Victorian Period," lets you find out whether you are "a 'civilized' person, suited to the Victorian period,"

Looks like fun.

Tesla Christmas Tree: Not Your Average Yard Decoration

Photos and discussion of a shocking Christmas tree that must have sparked controversy where it was built.

Chicago Spire, CCTV Headquarters, and
Seven More Imaginative Projects

"top 9 unique structures soon to be built"

Photos, some description of each structure, and, in some cases, links to relevant websites.

What the Chicago Spire, the CCTV headquarters in China, and the other seven projects have in common is a willingness to put up buildings that aren't just like their neighbors. In fact, some of them are more like inhabitable sculptures than traditional buildings.

I like the look of them, although locals are calling one the "corn cob."

Non-standard structures like this sometimes require that special care be taken in basic engineering. Particularly in the case of China's CCTV headquarters, I hope that the architects have carefully calculated the building's stress loading.

For their sakes, and that of the people who will be in and near that excitingly-cantilevered structure.

Better Ideas From England: Parking Fines for Slow Shoppers

"McParking row as slow eaters are fined"

Problem: People parking their cars in McDonald's lot (car park in England) and walking somewhere else.

And it's not just Ronald's problem.

Solution: Set up a plate-recognition system to ID cars that park too long. Then turn late departures over to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) for collection.

The parking fines are around £125 (roughly $250 USD): Not exactly pocket change.

I see good news and bad news here.

Good news: Executives will be delighted with the knowledge that their car parks aren't crowded with non-customers, or with customers doing Christmas shopping.

Bad news: Employees won't be too pleased as they're let go, when customers go to places that don't cost a day's pay or so for parking too long.

(I could be wrong: I'm assuming that Britain's regulated economy allows employers to let employees go, when business is bad.)

More ideas - good, dubious, and strange - at "Better Ideas From ... "

Monday, December 10, 2007

Determined to Do Dvorak?
Remap Details Discussed

"The Dvorak Keyboard"
jcb, MIT

I don't doubt that the Dvorak keyboard is more efficient than the "Qwerty" arrangement that's standard now - at least with American-English keyboards.

On the other hand, I wonder about Dvorak's claim, repeated in this article: "According to Dvorak, prior to World War II, researchers had found that after three years of typing instruction, the average typing student's speed was 47 net words per minute (NWPM)."

I was typing around 50 NWPM after a few weeks in a business school class, back in the sixties. Three years? A couple weeks? That's a huge discrepancy: and I'm not exactly a speed typist now, three-plus decades later.

Now You, Too, Can Do Dvorak!

For all you geek wannabes, the author tells how to re-map a keyboard in the Dvorak order, for Windows, Mac, and UNIX.

For actual geeks, I suppose remapping is something to be done while sleeping.

Dvorak Keyboard: Great Idea!

"The Dvorak Keyboard / A Brief Primer"

It's ergonomic!

It's efficient!

It won't replace the "Qwerty" keyboard anytime soon.

In my opinion, at least. For that to happen, there'll have to be
  1. Dirt-cheap (or free) Dvorak-marked and coded keyboards for every device that uses "Qwerty" now
  2. People with Dvorak training to use the new-and-improved keyboards
Or, some national or international agency to that forces everyone who types to change.

25 Very Unusual Keyboards

"The 25 Coolest (and Most Unconventional) Keyboards"

Some practical, some anything but.

Galactic Empires and the One Percent Rule

"Aliens Apart" looks at the question of civilizations on other worlds, and the issue of Galactic Empires. Or Federations, if you prefer.
Related posts, at

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Sorry About That!

I didn't make entries Saturday. It's been an interesting weekend. Eventually, I'll have an entry about it over at "Through One Dad's Eye" later tonight.

At least, that's the plan.

See the Invisible Shelf

"Invisible Shelf," for people whose life won't be complete unless they have books displayed with no visible means of support. Or, who like a nifty gimmick.

"Human Statue of Liberty" Photo

"Human Statue of Liberty 18,000 officers and men at Camp Dodge, Des Moines IA.
Col. Wm. Newman, Commanding
Col. Rush S. Wells, Directing."

There's more about this remarkable image at Snopes' "HUMAN STATUE OF LIBERTY."

And Now, for Star Wars Fans:
Learn to Talk Like Yoda

"Learn to Talk Like Yoda with The Yoda Speak Generator"

"Convert your English text into Yoda-speak! This is not a chatbot. If you've not used this before, please read and understand the tips to the left. Thanks."

How to Make a Metal Detectector: The Video

"Make a metal detector out of a radio and a calculator." This thing just might work.

A how-2 video, lasting about a minute and a half.

The Microcosm of London: A Nineteenth Century Book

"The Microcosm of London"

A complete nineteenth century book about London, illustrated, in pretty-high-resolution photographic reproduction.

"... Just one more click ...."

"STUMBLEUPON: Just one more click before you go to sleep"

People who use the StumbleUpon service will recognize the symptom shown in this poster.

Space Cat:
Or, "Gravity Cat;"
Or, a Feline and Four Folks in Free Fall

"Ever wondered…
what a cat would do if there was no gravity? Wonder no more."

A 35-second video.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Yiddish and You: Ten Words

"Ten Yiddish Expressions You Should Know"

Plus a link to more.

If you're a writer, at least. Personally, I think you'd be meshugah to ignore this: But I've got a love of language that's greater than most people's.

Fifty FireFox Functions: Fabulous!

"50 things that Firefox can do for you"

This is part of Mozilla's marketing of FireFox, but I think it's worth a glance.

And, fairness, I'll admit that I use FireFox.

How to Read the News: Or, Missouri Teen Suicide, Lori Drew, and Victims

"Neighbors shun Missouri family over Internet hoax and suicide; police step up patrols"
Minneapolis Star Tribune (December 6, 2007)

The Star Tribune of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota, offers another view of Megan Meier's suicide last year: and some information that hasn't been widely published before.

The article also serves as an example of why it's a good idea to read the news carefully. It also, in my opinion, shows how a community can protect itself, when a finely-tuned and sensitive legal system doesn't.

The article's main story line gets sketched out in this series of selected quotes:

"Almost Tribal?"

" ... But the suicide of a teenage girl _ and allegations she had been tormented by a neighbor over the Internet _ have brought a reaction that is old, almost tribal, in its nature."

" 'It's like they used to do in the 1700s and 1800s. If you wronged a community, you were basically shunned. That's basically what happened to her,' said Trever Buckles, a 40-year-old who lives next door to the Drews."

"Drew became an outcast after she participated in a hoax in which a fictional teenager by the name of 'Josh Evans' exchanged online messages with 13-year-old Megan Meier. Megan received cruel messages from Josh that apparently drove her to hang herself in her closet in 2006.

"Through her lawyer, Drew, a mother of two in her 40s, has denied saying hurtful things to the girl over the Internet, and prosecutors have said they found no grounds for charges against the woman. Nevertheless, the community reaction has been vengeful and the pressure on the Drews intense."

"Clients have fled from Drew's home-based advertising business, so she had to close it. Neighbors have not seen Drew outside her home in weeks...."
(Star Tribune)

But isn't Lori Drew the woman who drove a fragile teenage girl to suicide? The "Star Tribune" has, or implies, an answer:

"Only ... Polite Messages"

"A teenage employee of Drew's named [name withheld by this blogger] said she created the 'Josh' account on MySpace after a brainstorming session with Drew and her daughter, according to a prosecutor's report. Drew said the girls approached her with the idea, and she told them only to send polite messages to Megan.

"[name withheld] sent Megan many of the messages from 'Josh,' and Lori Drew was aware of them, prosecutors said.

"On Oct. 16, 2006, there was a heated online exchange between Megan and [name withheld], who was posing as Josh. A few other MySpace users joined in, calling Megan names. It ended when 'Josh' said the world would be better off without Megan...."
(Star Tribune)

Shocking! A modern community shunning a woman and her family, and for practically no reason at all. Lori Drew, it seems to me, is being painted as a victim of circumstance. The implication is that Ms. Drew's employee is the guilty party, and implicated Ms. Drew.

What's Written: And What's Not Written

My favorite line in the article is "prosecutors have said they found no grounds for charges against the woman." As a writer, I admire how the Star Tribune, by omitting a detail, imply that there is no evidence that Ms. Drew is the leader of the "Josh" project.

Other articles discussed motive, means, and opportunity for Ms. Drew's involvement: and that no charges were filed because the harassment of Megan Meier was done over the Internet - a realm that the American judicial system is only beginning to deal with.

Facts, Possibilities, and Self-Defense

Two final thoughts:
  1. I think it's remotely possible that Lori Drew is not guilty of hounding Megan Meier until the teenager hung herself in her closet. However, I also think that, based on publicly available information, it is very unlikely that Ms. Drew is not responsible for the deliberate online deception of Megan, which led to her taking her life.
  2. I believe that, in general, the people who share a town with Lori Drew are acting reasonably. By cutting their ties with Ms. Drew, they are minimizing the chances that Ms. Drew will decide to attack members of their own families. This assumes that Ms. Drew is motivated by the occasional discomfort that comes with her current status.
It is a near-certainty that Lori Drew decided to deceive Megan Meyer by inventing a fictional boyfriend, and then decided to torment the vulnerable teen by having the "boyfriend" dump her in a very cruel way.

I acknowledge that Megan Meier decided to hang herself with a belt in her closet. However, I think that there is very little doubt that Lori Drew is responsible for strongly encouraging Megan to do so. And, I think that it is not safe to treat someone with an ethical system similar to Lucretia Borgia's as if she's a typical member of the community.

Other posts about the online predation of Megan Meier:
"Megan Meier's Tormentor: Knowledge is Power"
(December 6, 2007)
"Megan Meier's Online Predator Has New Problems"
(December 6, 2007)
" 'Murder?' Not Legally, but Megan's Still Dead"
(December 4, 2007)
"Ersatz Boyfriend Kills With MySpace"
(November 13, 2007)

Picking Domain Names - Another Approach

"Secrets Revealed: How I Pick Domain Names." Interesting idea, interesting tool.
"The 22 Best Writing Tips Ever"

Considering that writing has been in use for about two and a half millennia, I won't vouch for these being the best 22 of all time.

Besides, I don't quite agree with some of the points. For example, 11. "Join a writers' group so you can enjoy support and comradery in your craft." I've been in writers' groups, and don't miss not being in one. Of course, I don't aspire to be either a "literary," "artistic," or "relevant" writer.

With that disclaimer, this list is good advice: from

1. "Do it. Write."


18. "Let go of your inner editor. When you sit down to write a draft, refrain from proofreading until that draft is complete."


22. "Write, write, write, and then write some more. Forget everything else and just write."

Advice for Pilots, Jokes for Everyone


I don't know where this list of sayings and advice for pilots came from, but it's funny: a mixture of serious advice and a few slightly-grim jokes. Samples:
  • "Every takeoff is optional. Every landing is mandatory."
  • "A 'good' landing is one from which you can walk away. A 'great' landing is one after which they can use the plane again."
  • "When in doubt, hold on to your altitude. No one has ever collided with the sky."

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Megan Meier's Tormentor: Knowledge is Power

In this case, power to protect.

At least, I hope so.

A very quick review of Megan Meier's death, and the online predator who drove her to suicide:
  • Last year Megan Meier, a young teenage girl with somewhat above-average levels of teen angst, was driven to suicide by Lori Drew.
    • Lori Drew's daughter was an on again, off again, friend of Megan
    • Megan and Drew's daughter had a falling out
    • Ms. Drew decided to set up an fake MySpace account - she says to find out what mean things Megan was saying about her daughter
    • The fake MySpace account was set up with the help of two teenagers, one an employee of Ms. Drew.
    • Ms. Drew set up a fictional teenage boy, and manipulated Megan until the teen accepted "Josh" as her boyfriend
    • Then, Lori Drew had "Josh" turn on Megan, attacking the fragile teen's character, and finally rejecting her.
    • Then Megan Meier killed herself
    • One of Lori Drew's accomplices, a teenage employee of Ms. Drew, is getting psychiatric treatment now.
  • This month, Lori Drew got good news: she won't face charges, because she used the Internet to torment Megan Meier.
  • The American legal system is ponderously adjusting to Information Age technologies.
  • Quite a number of people are saying mean things about Lori Drew on the Web.
  • A particularly vile blog, called "Megan Had It Coming," attracted a great deal of attention when its author claimed to be Lori Drew.
  • Lori Drew claims to not be the blogger who runs "Megan Had It Coming."
  • Ironically, if "Megan Had It Coming" is written by someone impersonating Lori Drew, Ms. Drew may be protected by laws which her foul actions inspired.
At this time, there seem to be extremely limited protections for people who are vulnerable to online predators.

I'm not using the usual "allegedly" disclaimer in this post, since there seems little to no doubt that Lori Drew drove a vulnerable girl to suicide, and scarred the mind of a teenager who had the misfortune to have her as a boss.

I've compared the Internet to the American West of the mid-to-late 19th century. In both cases, we have a great many people moving into a new territory, developing a new society, dealing with new technologies, with negligible law enforcement.

It's an exciting, and potentially rewarding, place to be. It's also dangerous at times. Particularly to people who have chinks in their psychological armor.

I think it is unlikely that the American judicial system will effectively protect the innocent online any time soon. For this reason, I believe that it is reasonable to share some publicly-available information, and a concern.

The people in Dardenne Prairie, MO, where Megan Meier lived, and the Drews own a house, are probably well aware of the Curt D. and Lori J. Drew household. Dardenne Prairie is a suburb of St. Louis with a population a little under 5,000. That's about how many people live here in Sauk Centre. In places this size, people stay informed: particularly about dangerous neighbors.

However, I'm not so sure about the people in O'Fallon, where Mr. Drew works, and Ms. Drew has an advertising business. O'Fallon has about ten times as many people as Megan Meier's home town, and so provides some of the anonymity of larger cities.

Both towns are part of the St. Louis Metropolitan Statistical Area.

I'm not entirely comfortable about identifying the company that employs Curt D. Drew. For one thing, Mr. Drew seems to have known about, but not participated in, the hoax that killed Megan Meier and drove one of Lori Drew's employees insane. For another, Mr. Drew's employer has nothing to do with the death of Megan Meier.

Lori Drew's advertising business, Drew Advantage, is another matter. Ms. Drew's use of one of her employees in the online stalking of Megan shows that she is quiet capable of using her company, and her employees, for immoral, if legal, purposes - like driving a teenager to suicide. And driving another insane.

Lori Drew may strike again.

Anyone considering doing business with her advertising company, Drew Associates, might consider what might happen if Lori Drew felt that she had not gotten what she wanted.

And, although it's hard to be picky when looking for a job, I would hope that anyone considering employment with Drew Associates think very carefully about what services Ms. Drew might demand.

Lori Drew's company is:

Drew Advantage
2977 Hwy K, Ste 200
O'Fallon, MO 63368

[Blogger's Note, December 6, 2007: I learned that
  1. The company name is Drew Ad Vantage
  2. According the "Star Tribune" of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota, Ms. Drew's "home-based advertising business" has closed
  3. Business directories give at least two addresses for Drew Ad Vantage
(Relatively frequent changes of address in start-up businesses is hardly unusual. I found an alternate address at Merchant Circle) I am assuming that the "Star Tribune's" assertion that Ad Advantage closed, due to a lack of clients, is true.]

I want to stress that I do not suggest or advocate that any illegal or immoral action be taken against Ms. Drew or her family.

On the other hand, there's a remote chance that someone who is about to get involved with this person will read this, and re-consider the wisdom of associating with someone with such apparently flexible ethics.

My thanks to this post, "Why Outing Lori Drew Was The Right Thing To Do," for discussing a rationale for providing information about Ms. Drew.

Posts, including this one, about the online predation of Megan Meier:
"Megan Meier's Tormentor: Knowledge is Power"
(December 6, 2007)
"Megan Meier's Online Predator Has New Problems"
(December 6, 2007)
" 'Murder?' Not Legally, but Megan's Still Dead"
(December 4, 2007)
"Ersatz Boyfriend Kills With MySpace"
(November 13, 2007)

Megan Meier's Online Predator Has New Problems

"MySpace Mom Linked to Missouri Teen's Suicide Being Cyber-Bullied Herself"

I'm doing two posts on the death of Megan Meier today. This is the first, and is today's harangue on the subject. The other is much calmer, I think.

There's a blog called "Megan Had It Coming." The blogger's attitude is summed up in the blog's name. The "Megan" is Megan Meier, the Missouri teen hounded to death by Lori Drew.

A bit of background:
Lori Drew is the mother of an on-again, off-again friend of the late Megan. The two girls had a falling-out, so Lori Drew thought that Megan was mean to her daughter. Ms. Drew says she just wanted to find out what Megan was saying about the Drew daughter.

There's a pretty good description of what the St. Charles prosecuting attorney said, in the "St. Charles Journal's" "UPDATE: No charges to be filed over Meier suicide."

Thanks to there being no law specifically prohibiting interfering mothers from driving their children's friends to suicide, Lori J. Drew is off the hook, legally speaking.

Which should be a big relief for her and her husband, Curt Drew.
Turns out that the teenager who Lori Drew paid to help set up the ersatz MySpace account profile was a temporary employee of Ms. Drew's company, Drew Advantage. That teenager is getting psychiatric treatment, now. The kid's understandably upset at being an accomplice in un-murder. Or whatever it is that Ms. Drew did.

Chalk another one up for Ms. Drew.

My guess is that driving an employee crazy isn't illegal, either: providing that the internet is involved.

Back to that "Megan Had It Coming" blog:

An article published today quotes a December 3 post:

"It's time I dropped the charade. Yes, I made this blog. Yes, I'm Lori Drew," the blogger wrote.

The post gave a detailed account of what was done to Megan Meier. Then, the blogger makes a request.

"My daughter had nothing to do with this, ... Everyone needs to leave her alone. None of you can possibly know her involvement, and none of you can possibly know what she's gone through. She's just a kid. She doesn't deserve these brutal verbal attacks. Please stop."

Fair enough. Of course, Megan was just a kid until she committed suicide, and so is the former employee of Drew Advantage - at least for someone my age.

Now, Lori Drew says that she isn't that blogger. So does her attorney.

That could be true.

I don't blame her for denying connection to the blog. Comments on that "I'm Lori Drew" post included phrases like "You have psychological problems," and one that ended with "Don't burn in hell. Instead, I hope you rot in the dirt with the maggots and other disgusting vermin, since that's the only thing you deserve."

The blog service ( - the same one I use) says that there's no reason to believe that Lorid Drew isn't the "Megan Had It Coming" blog. Impersonation is against their TOS.

Now, the St. Charles County Sheriff's Office is looking into whether the "Megan Had It Coming" blog and other postings falsely attributed to Drew have violated any online harassment laws.

The irony of this is that, assuming that "Megan Had It Coming" is the work of a troll, and not another example of Lori Drew's efforts at self-expression, the impersonator may face criminal charges - thanks to what Ms. Drew did to Megan Meier.

Posts, including this one, about the online predation of Megan Meier:
"Megan Meier's Tormentor: Knowledge is Power"
(December 6, 2007)
"Megan Meier's Online Predator Has New Problems"
(December 6, 2007)
" 'Murder?' Not Legally, but Megan's Still Dead"
(December 4, 2007)
"Ersatz Boyfriend Kills With MySpace"
(November 13, 2007)

Get to the Top of the Writing World
Or at Least, Pretty Close

"How to coast to a writing career"

Pretty good, detailed, advice for becoming a published, almost-top-rate, writer

Shinkansen: Japan's Bullet Trains


A pretty good overview of Japan's bullet trains, including "how to ride the shinkansen."

This is the Future - a Century Ago

"What May Happen in the Next Hundred Years"
(There's a facsimile of the John Elfreth Watkins, Jr., article in a link from another URL, a blog post: "What May Happen in the Next Hundred Years (Ladies Home Journal, 1900).")

"Futurists" and their progenitors have been around for a long time. Here's a look at the The Future that we're living in, seen from about a century back.

Some predictions didn't happen.
  • No wild animals, except in menageries
  • Life expectancy extended to an unlikely 50 years
Others did
  • Telephones around the world
  • Trains running 150 miles an hour
I don't think the "Ladies Home Journal" author thought the speedy trains would be called shinkansen.
UPDATE: December 7, 2007. I corrected an error in this post's link: and added another. Sorry about the bungled link.
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