05 April 2007

I want a Wii!

UNEASYsilence, a pretty cool tech blog, is giving away a Wii. All you have to do to win it is mention it on your blog, or Digg it, or tag it, or something. But you're not gonna win, because this is the winning mention, right here.

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19 March 2006

Texas cops lead interesting lives

From San Antonio, a contender for all-time best headline: Flying Cow Leaves Two Police Cars in Flames

And, reported by Dave Barry many years ago, this:
"Police Blotter" item from the Port Aransas (Texas) South Jetty, consisting entirely of this fascinating statement: "No goat was found in the trunk of a vehicle when an officer responded to a complaint on East Avenue G at about 1:20 p.m."

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01 March 2006

Beware unintended consequences

I heard once that a bar in California (why is it always California?) had installed a coin-operated breathalyzer, the intention being that patrons could check their alcohol levels before leaving, to make sure that it was safe and legal for them to be driving.

If you think that's how the machine got used, you need to learn more about human nature. Almost immediately, people in the bar started holding contests to see who could get the highest reading on the machine. Although this was probably good for business, the bar was forced to remove the machine on advice from their lawyers.

But if the machine were still in that bar, this guy could probably win a lot of money, betting on himself.

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28 February 2006

Of course, fraternal twins don't necessarily look alike...

This story is amazing:
When Kylie Hodgson gave birth to twin daughters by caesarean section, she was just relieved that they had arrived safely.
It was only when the midwife handed them over for her to hold that she noticed the difference between them.

Remee, who weighed 5lb 15oz, was blonde and fair skinned. Her sister Kian, born a minute later weighing 6lb, was black.
Both of the grandfathers of the twins are black; both grandmothers are white. General coloration is thought to be determined by several genes, which is why children often have skin tones intermediate between their parents. But in this case, against extremely long odds, one twin seems to have gotten all the genes for dark hair and skin, and the other all the ones for fair.

I bet they're going to get really sick of explaining this to people who object, "But you can't be twins!"

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20 February 2006

Of course, "normal people" have nothing to fear

According to the Hatch Act, political bumper stickers are allowed on cars parked on federal property, with no stated limitation on either size or number of stickers. So by the current rules, Scarbrough's car would seem to be legit--unless the "elsewhere" of the pamphlet rule is meant to extend to personal property as well as government property.

If that's the case, both Scarbrough and his coworker said, "That's news to me." It would also be news to the dozens of people parked in the Natural Resource Complex with bumper stickers reading, among other sentiments, "My Dad is a Marine," "Create Peace," "POW/ MIA," and others of both the pro-choice and pro-life variety.

But after going through the incident, both Scarbrough and his coworker are insistent: it's not the location or size that mattered in this case. It's the message.
— from the Boise Weekly, in an article on Scarbrough's being made by Homeland
Security officers to move his vehicle and its anti-war messages away from his workplace
Two uniformed men strolled into the main room of the Little Falls library in Bethesda one day last week and demanded the attention of all patrons using the computers. Then they made their announcement: The viewing of Internet pornography was forbidden.

The men looked stern and wore baseball caps emblazoned with the words "Homeland Security." The bizarre scene unfolded Feb. 9, leaving some residents confused and forcing county officials to explain how employees assigned to protect county buildings against terrorists came to see it as their job to police the viewing of pornography.
Policing Porn Is Not Part of Job Description
It took me a half dozen e-mails and telephone calls over three days to just to confirm that yes, the Directorate of National Intelligence, or DNI, the new-ish uber-spooks body — has opened an office to deal with state and local law enforcement.

And it took me a few more inquiries before the DNI gave up the name of its head, Michael Tiffany, though nothing more.
— Jeff Stein, National Security Editor, CQ.com
Secret police, arbitrary (mis)enforcement of laws—America is cravenly allowing the Bush administration to, bit by bit, create a police state.

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18 February 2006

Now Alec Baldwin shoots at Whittington!

Luckily for Whittington, Baldwin was only using words, and he's not all that good with them. And Whittington is the wrong Republican to be going after—he's deserving of respect, a member of the honorable opposition. Want to know why? Go read Molly Ivins on the subject. Here's a sample:
...Whittington is seriously civilized, particularly on the issues of crime, punishment and prisons. He served on both the Texas Board of Corrections and on the bonding authority that builds prisons. As he has often said, prisons do not curb crime, they are hothouses for crime: "Prisons are to crime what greenhouses are to plants."

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I can do 8th grade math! Kinda...

You'd think that after spending 12 years getting a BA in math, I would have no problems with a test that purports to tell you if you could pass 8th grade math. And sure enough, I got 10/10—but that was only because I guessed right on this question:
-7 is:

a. Irrational
b. An integer
c. A whole number
d. A prime number
I hate it when test creators don't carefully check their tests. Depending on how you define "whole number", either b or c could be correct. According to the Wikipedia (and my memory, which is even less reliable), a whole number can be either a positive integer (1, 2, 3, ...), a nonnegative integer (0, 1, 2, ...), or any integer (... -1, 0, 1, ...).

This isn't, however, as bad as the questions from Thailand's test of English I posted a while back.

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17 February 2006

The US decides to help fix Iran

US to promote change in Iran

The Bush administration, frustrated by Iranian defiance on its nuclear program, has proposed spending $85 million to promote political change inside Iran by subsidizing dissident groups, unions, student fellowships and television and radio broadcasts.
The problem is, we've made ourselves so poisonous to Muslims that none of the recipients can be seen to be accepting help from Americans.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice...said Wednesday that the administration had also worked out a way to circumvent U.S. law barring financial relations with Iran to allow some money to go directly to groups promoting change inside the country.
Gee, waddya think that way was? Did Bush decide he didn't have to follow that law, either?
Senior State Department officials said that they did not intend to publicize recipients of the financing, for fear that they could be jailed or even killed.
See, that's the sort of thing that might make you a little reluctant to accept this money.
...the United States has been cautious about supporting dissident groups, fearful that Iranians, even those sympathetic to the West, might view these efforts as an echo of past U.S. meddling in Iran's internal affairs.
Yup, when you take anti-democratic actions while preaching democracy, people tend to think you're less than sincere. In Iran, in particular, the US-backed ouster of the democratically-elected Mossadegh and installation of the autocratic shah hasn't been forgotten. Together with US support for the military takeover of Algeria, support for Israel's clearly anti-democratic actions against the Palestinians, support for Musharraf in Pakistan, Mubarak in Egypt—I could go on and on—the US just doesn't have much credibility in the region.
...some conservatives at the Defense Department and Vice President Dick Cheney's office are known to be resigned to a nuclear-armed Iran and to argue that the best way to address that problem is by opening Iran to democracy and reform.
I think at this point they're right. I'm disturbed, but unsurprised, at the implication that the ideological purge of the military policy-makers (isn't it disturbing how Stalinist the US is sounding these days?) has left only "right-thinking" conservatives in place.

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A Mac OS X virus had to happen someday

So the dread day has come, the day when the first OS X virus got released into the wild:
A malicious computer worm has been found that targets Apple Computer Inc.'s Mac OS X operating system, believed to be the first such virus aimed specifically at the Mac platform.

The worm is called OSX/Leap-A, according to a posting on the Web site of antivirus software company Sophos, which said the worm is spread via instant messaging programs.

The worm attempts to spread via Apple's iChat instant messaging program, which is compatible with America Online's popular AIM instant messaging program, according to the Sophos Web site.
The worm sends itself to available contacts on the infected users' buddy list in a file called "latestpics.tgz," according to the Sophos Web site.

The worm will not automatically infect Mac computers, but will ask users to accept the file, Weafer said.

Symantec ranked the new worm as a Level 1 threat (with 5 being the most severe).
So be careful, especially with files sent to you via iChat. But no need for paranoia yet.

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