Friday, March 30, 2007

Friday Follies

Originally uploaded by mord.
So, if it's so much more efficient for the IRS if I file electronically, why do I have to pay extra to do it? (Another in a series of backroom deals wherein private industry arranges for the government to pick my pocket.)

Hans Island is a frozen bit of rock in the north Atlantic that's been claimed by both Canada and Denmark. Proving that it's an ill wind that blows nobody good, the place has become important as a consequence of... global warming.

Remember that British show called The Good Life (known in the United States as Good Neighbors), where Tom and Barbara Good decide to retool their suburban home for self-sufficiency? Utterly unrealistic, of course. Nobody would actually do that, right? Of course not. Now, if they lived in New York City, that would be realistic. (NY Times story: Registration required. See also Wise Bread and The Compact.)

Do you have any opinions that you would be reluctant to express in front of a group of your peers?

And an oldie but a goodie, the Top 100 April Fool's Day Hoaxes of All Time, complete with a link to the BBC's report of a booming Swiss spaghetti harvest.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

You get what you deserve....

Originally uploaded by dubaddict.
...when you ask Google for driving directions from Chicago to London. I especially like the part where Google tells you to swim across the Atlantic Ocean, and actually estimates how long that will take (assuming you can maintain a brisk 6 mph).

Originally observed by Gadling, also reported by Upgrade: Travel Better and The Consumerist, this behavior -- trick? Easter Egg? Computer sarcasm? -- recurs for any two cities separated by the Atlantic. Wisely, Google refuses to attempt driving directions to Tokyo, even if you plan to stop over in Honolulu.

Yes, I tried it. What can I tell you? I was bored.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Best Buy Acquires Speakeasy

Huh? Did I read that right? The internet service provider with possibly the best reputation of any ISP, better in fact than most computer manufacturers I could name, is being acquired by the retailer with the second most ignorant sales force on the planet? (CompUSA holds the title, but they're closing stores left and right and not likely to spread their seed.)

Friday, March 23, 2007

This week's linkdump

Borders to end its arrangement with Barnes & Noble and Borders to merge? Dogs and cats living together? ("Farkers everywhere briefly turn away from the comfort of their familiar blue and white columned worlds, and ask 'What's a book?' ")

RIAA asks universities to deliver letter from RIAA to students telling them to pay for downloaded music. Universities say no. RIAA asks universities to rat on students who download music. Universities say no. RIAA asks universities to retain and turn over IP address assignments in order to track students who download music. Universities not only say no, but bill RIAA for the time they've wasted.

Separate beds for married couples not enough? Try separate bedrooms. "The quest for better rest is behind the trend as experts say the lack of decent sleep can cause marital tension. ...Snoring, night-time visits to the bathroom, child-care requirements and shift-working can deprive couples of the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep per night."

"Software developers truly believe, in their heart of hearts, that they are typical users."

And half of teacher's can't see this mistake.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

You know, this makes sense

I don't think anyone who knows me would accuse me of being a rabid environmentalist. That said, though, I certainly see the wisdom of minimizing the consumption of resources when practical. Most of the lighting in my house is compact-fluorescent instead of incandescent, which lowers both my electric bill and the average room temperature. I'm sold on the utility of low-power LEDs (which appear to be widely used in traffic lights in the area). Heck, I even find the dark-sky arguments quite reasonable. (I remember when I could lie on the grass at night and watch the stars. I sure can't do it now.)

But I didn't think of this: | Black Google Would Save 750 Megawatt-Hours a Year
From the lights out department - did you know that a cathode ray tube (CRT) monitor uses about 74 watts to display an all white web page, but only uses 59 watts to display an all black page? ...

Take at look at Google, for instance, who gets about 200 million queries a day. Let's assume each query is displayed for about 10 seconds; that means Google is running for about 550,000 hours every day on some desktop. Assuming that users run Google in full screen mode, the shift to a black background will save a total of 15 (74-59) watts. Now take into account that about 25 percent of the monitors in the world are CRTs, and at 10 cents a kilowatt-hour, that's about $75,000/year, a goodly amount of energy and dollars for changing a few color codes.
Okay, $75,000 a year divided by however many million visitors doesn't amount to enough difference for any one user to notice. I'd certainly grant that. Nonetheless, it would be a strong, conspicuous gesture toward an attitude shift. Why burn what you don't have to?

No, you won't find me leading any "Internet Goes Black" movements, but (as Treehugger points out) there are many dark colors that still represent energy savings compared to white. I spent years perfectly content with green-on-black 80x24: The screen resolution and color palettes available now offer a tremendous improvement over that.

I suppose it's possible for me to override any page's default colors, but this isn't the kind of thing that would be effective as a user-by-user grassroots movement. The hosts of the internet's most popular pages would have to buy into it.

Of course, as the world upgrades to LCD monitors, the issue may take care of itself.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

"Oh, you’re going to defy me when I become president?"

Looking for an alternative for President in 2008? Tired of choosing the lesser of the evils? Have I got a candidate for you.
Columbia Chronicla | Secret Service investigates satanic vampire
The 2008 presidential bid just got a little more challenging for the race’s only satanic vampire candidate.

Jonathon “The Impaler” Sharkey, a 42-year-old New Jersey man who is running under the Vampire, Witches and Pagan Party, is currently being investigated by the Secret Service for potential threats toward President George W. Bush.

According to Sharkey, Secret Service agents visited him and his 19-year-old wife, Spree, in Ohio on Feb. 15. The visit concerned Sharkey’s repeated remarks about impaling Bush, an act Sharkey said he would only do if he were elected president.

“They never even asked to see my impaling stick,” Sharkey said.

... “They were telling me, when they were interrogating me, that their job was to protect Bush even after he’s out of office,” Sharkey said. “I’m looking at them like, ‘Oh, you’re going to defy me when I become president?’”
The Secret Service agent's reaction is unrecorded.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Time is broken

Sun Dial, Kew Gardens
Originally uploaded by bluedwarf.
Did everyone remember that the new, improved Daylight Saving Time begins today?

I did remember, and spent the last half-hour or so before bed last night changing clocks. We have cheap battery-powered wall clocks in almost every room: Those would have to be changed manually. So would the clock on our oven, and the one in the breadmaker (we have a microwave, but it doesn't have a clock), and alarm clocks in my son's room and on my wife's side of the bed. Oh, and the clocks in our answering machine and thermostat, and my analog pocket watch.

I missed the VCRs. I confidently expect I'll have to change them four times this year: Once when DST now is, and once when DST would have been. I'll see if I can disable the auto-settings for that, while I'm in there.

My alarm clock, my daughter's alarm clock, and the wall clock at my wife's desk all get atomic timekeeping signals: They all updated themselves. So did the computers and cel phones. (Exception: My iPaq, an older model, didn't update. I wonder if there's a patch for that version of Windows Mobile. Why, yes, there is.)

Outlook, of course (and those of you who use it should be aware of this), jumped the gun and went wonky a couple of weeks ago. My all-day events spanned two days, because they begin and end at 1am instead of midnight, and my timed events drifted forward an hour. Downloaded Microsoft's Time Zone Data Update Tool: Worked just fine. Although I am amused that Windows itself can update automatically and Outlook can't.

Note to myself: When I replace clocks of any kind, replace them with clocks that receive atomic timekeeping signals. I shouldn't have to do this.

Ah, well, it could be worse. I could live in Indiana.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Rational discourse

It would be unfair of me to draw any general conclusions regarding the thinking or reasoning power of the average "progressive" based on one stray posting at Wonkette. I am, however, impressed that those who chose to comment on the "issue" are so determined to hate conservatives that they cannot accept a statement from George F. Will at face value even when they agree with its substance.

If you happen to view the video before you follow the link, you may wonder what the fuss is about. It's 24 seconds into the video, when George Stephanopolous asks Will about Ann Coulter (a reference, one supposes, to her recent remarks pertaining to John Edwards), Will falters, recollects his thoughts, and says "...the less said about whom, the better."

At least, that's what I heard him say. The progressives seem equally sure he said "...the less said about him, the better."

That's it. That's all.