Friday, March 30, 2007

So Long Sobel?

A rabbi who has overseen South America's largest Jewish congregation for more than three decades has temporarily resigned after being arrested on shoplifting charges, police and his congregation said Thursday.

Henry I. Sobel, who heads the S&atilda;o Paulo Jewish Congregation, was arrested Friday on three counts of theft for allegedly stealing ties valued at $680 from several stores in Palm Beach, Fla., according to a Palm Beach police statement.

Sobel gained a strong reputation as a defender of human rights during Brazil's 1964-1985 military dictatorship and is also well-known in Brazil for attempting to forge strong relations among Jews, Christians and Muslims.

The police report said an employee at a Louis Vuitton store in Palm Beach called officers after she realized a man left the store and a tie was missing.

Sobel, 63, initially told officers he was not in the store, and then offered to buy the tie, but continued to deny he took it, the statement said.

He then admitted taking the tie and gave officers permission to get it from his car, police said. Officers found a bag with other ties that Sobel admitted to taking without paying from different luxury stores, the statement said.


I don't think I've ever met him, but Sobel has a reputation as a very nice guy, although a little quirky. I'm also sure he makes enough money that he wouldn't need to steal any tie. Moreover, there are somewhat contradicting details on the various news articles... I don't know what's going on.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Conductive Plastic - Unbreakable Electronics, Roll-up Screens and More

Dutch researcher Paulette Prins has demonstrated that plastic does not have to be a poorer conductor than present-day semi-conductors. This opens up the way for a revolution in consumer electronics: mobile phones and MP3 players will soon survive being dropped.

Just imagine it. Consumer products that do not break if accidentally dropped, devices with flexible screens that can be rolled up, and products becoming a lot cheaper. Up until now it was a mere pipe dream. The limiting factor is the chips in such devices. These need to conduct electricity and plastic chips fail to make the grade. Plastic conducts at least 1000 times less well than the current generation of semi-conductors.

Prins showed that specially developed plastic can conduct just as well as existing semiconductors.

See also ElectriPlast: Conductive Plastic.

Journalist Receives Dossier on Himself From Microsoft

Imagine being asked one day, "Would you like to see your FBI file?" You'd say "Yes," right? But then ask yourself a different question: "How will it make you feel to know all that information?"

I recently got about as close as one can get to this experience. While reporting a story on Microsoft's video blogging initiative – something called Channel 9 – the dossier that Microsoft and its outside public relations agency Waggener Edstrom keeps on me accidentally ended up in my email inbox.

As journalistic windfalls go this is about as good as it gets. There I was writing a story about how Microsoft is on the cutting edge of using the Internet to become more transparent, and there in front of me are the briefing documents they are using to manage the story. The timing was so fortuitous that I wondered whether it was intentional. When I told Microsoft about it, they convincingly told me it was not.

But after I was done reading all 5,500 words I no longer felt elated at the prospect of an interesting scoop. I felt downright peculiar. I've been a journalist for more than 20 years and always assumed that the people I interview do as much homework on me as I do on them. So the existence of a document like this didn't surprise me. But that still didn't make it any easier to read lines like, "It takes him a bit to get his point across so try to be patient." I know my long-windedness drives my wife nuts occasionally. I didn't know it had become an issue for Microsoft's pr machine too.

It also was strange to see just how many resources are aligned against me when I write a story about Microsoft. Microsoft set up interviews with the head of Channel 9 while I was in Redmond, it allowed me to follow him and an associate at the Consumer Electronics Show in January, and it allowed me to interview two other executives involved in the project on the telephone.


Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Will Flash Solid State Replace Hard Drives?

Will your next laptop lack a hard drive?

Yes, if Samsung has anything to say about it. The electronics maker is looking to kick off an era of flash-based solid state drives (SDD) that approach usable capacities. That is, they can store enough for an OS and a healthy batch of applications, with some room left over for assorted files.

The company today announced a 1.8-inch, 64 gigabyte (GB) flash hard drive replacement that offers twice the capacity of the SSD Samsung debuted last year.

Samsung's drive is built using 8 Gb single-level-cell (SLC) NAND technology, which the company credits for the drive's improved performance, not only over traditional disk-based storage, but over its predecessor as well. Samsung's 64 GB SSD can achieve read speeds of 64 MB per second and write speeds of 45 MB per second while drawing half a watt of power during drive activity. The unit draws just 0.1 watts at idle, or 1/15th the power required for a conventional 80 GB hard drive.

Mass production of the Samsung 64 GB SSD is scheduled for 2Q 2007.


$1,000 Pizza, Where Else? In NYC

(CBS) NEW YORK We've been dealing with the pocket-emptying effects of rising gas prices, new electric rates, and an increase in cab fare, but how would you feel about breaking the bank all for...a pizza? Now you can find out thanks to Manhattan restauranteur Nino Selimaj, who has apparently brought from the heavens a real "pie in the sky" with his new $1,000 pizza.

The pizza will be added to the menu at "Nino's Bellisima," one of Selimaj's six restaurants in the city. Forget traditional cheese and pizza sauce, the record-priced pie will be topped with creme fraiche, chives, eight ounces of four different kinds of Petrossian caviar, four ounces of thinly sliced Maine lobster tail, salmon roe, and a little bit of spice with wasabi.

"Let them say I'm crazy," Selimaj says. "But I believe in this product, and it's gonna sell!"

So who's gonna buy this pie? Selimaj is betting Wall Street business types.

The previous international record for pizza found on a menu was $193 at Gordon Ramsey's Maze restaurant in London.


Even if it doesn't sell (I kind of hope it doesn't), it's a good PR strategy.

15% Human Chimera Sheep Created

Scientists have created the world's first human-sheep chimera - which has the body of a sheep and half-human organs.

The sheep have 15 per cent human cells and 85 per cent animal cells - and their evolution brings the prospect of animal organs being transplanted into humans one step closer.

Professor Esmail Zanjani, of the University of Nevada, has spent seven years and £5million perfecting the technique, which involves injecting adult human cells into a sheep's foetus.

But the development is likely to revive criticisms about scientists playing God, with the possibility of silent viruses, which are harmless in animals, being introduced into the human race.

Dr Patrick Dixon, an international lecturer on biological trends, warned: "Many silent viruses could create a biological nightmare in humans. Mutant animal viruses are a real threat, as we have seen with HIV."

Animal rights activists fear that if the cells get mixed together, they could end up with cellular fusion, creating a hybrid which would have the features and characteristics of both man and sheep. But Prof Zanjani said: "Transplanting the cells into foetal sheep at this early stage does not result in fusion at all."


Gotta Love Japan - Candid Camera

The Hole - video powered by Metacafe

Cat Stevens, aka Yusuf Islam, aka Fanatic Misogynist? Probably Not...

Reader Joanne said...

This story seems to be making the rounds, yet when I was in London earlier this month Mr. Islam had no problem shaking hands with and speaking to me and several other women - all of us non-veiled, non-Muslim, and non-family members. Methinks someone has taken what they perceived to be a slight and blown it out of proportion.

Here's the original post:

Muslim singer YUSUF ISLAM reportedly refused to speak with the female guides at a German event over the weekend (24-25MAR07) because they weren’t veiled - despite accepting an honour for building bridges between Eastern and Western cultures.

The star, formerly known as CAT STEVENS, received a special prize at the Echo Awards last night (25MAR07) in Berlin for his musical, social and political work and was praised as a bridge-builder between the West and the Islamic world.

However, when the FATHER AND SON singer, 58, rehearsed his appearance the day before the prize giving (24MAR07), he acted rather narrow minded, according to German publication B.Z.

When the hostesses approached Islam, who arrived with his management and his veiled wife FAEZIA, telling him that they were his guides, he simply ignored them and didn’t even take a look at the women.

Islam’s manager explains, “Mr Islam doesn’t speak with women except his wife. Least of all if they don’t wear a headscarf. Things like that only happen via an intermediary.”

Thanks to Baba Gary.

P.S. An anonymous reader claims that this is innaccurate. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find a report to second that claim (although I did find several reports of this incident, albeit not from big news sources). If anyone can point me to some other contradicting sources, that would be great. Thanks.


So if you look a little more closely at the lederhosen that are adorning that mannequin, you'll see some buttons that might look familiar. Yep, those are cell phone controls, and ja, they're sewn right in to the clothing. The lederhosen come with a place to embed your cell phone and use the exterior, leg-based controls to operate it. You won't get an LCD, of course, but then you wouldn't be able to read it anyway unless you contorted yourself painfully around. You will get a mouthpiece, though, that is included in the suspenders straps.


Monday, March 26, 2007

Sales no More?

"If you own a mom & pop store and can't get rid of some of your inventory, you can always clear out some shelf space by holding a sale. If the Supreme Court sides with business interests in a case they heard today, however, such sales may no longer be possible. Since 1911, it has been illegal for manufacturers to force retailers into setting a price floor for products — individual retailers get to decide how much they sell their products for. But today the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a case seeking to overturn this longstanding rule. Should the Court do so, it would drive up consumer prices across the board. This case is particularly salient in the era of internet shopping: consumers are now easily able to shop around to multiple retailers to find the best price. The Court could wipe out this advantage." From the article: "Should the Court abandon the... rule against minimum resale price maintenance... it would send a signal that the Roberts Court will continue to narrow the application of the antitrust laws and that the Court may disregard settled precedent and Congressional will in other areas of the law as well."

Via Slashdot.

Praying With Subtitles

Anti-rape condom

Anti-rape device created by South-African inventor Sonnet Ehlers is about to hit the market after a long time of waiting for patent verification.

The female condom-like device called Rapex has fish-like teeth that attach to the penis.

This invention stirred a great deal of controversy all over the world. The main concern is whether the Rapex was a medieval device built on a hate of men or it can be considered an easy-to use devise that could help South African women protect themselves against rape.

According to Sonnet Ehlers the process of checking is going to be up on April 10.

Sonnet Eshlers publicly announced her invention one and half years ago and shot to international fame as the invention stirred debates about advantages and disadvantages of Rapex.

The inventor took part in British and Australian radio shows and was interviewed by South American journalists.

More. Ouch!

Friday, March 23, 2007

Former Arizona Governor Admits Seeing UFO

Former Gov. Fife Symington says now that those strange lights that appeared over Phoenix a decade ago were from another world and that he had a close encounter with an alien craft on March 13, 1997.
"I'm a pilot and I know just about every machine that flies. It was bigger than anything that I've ever seen. It remains a great mystery. Other people saw it, responsible people," Symington said Thursday. "I don't know why people would ridicule it."
Symington, who was in his second term as governor of Arizona during the Phoenix Lights incident, recently told a UFO investigator making a documentary that he had kept quiet about his personal close encounter because he didn't want to panic the populace.
Symington was convicted of bank and wire fraud and had to vacate his office that September. His conviction was later overturned and he was pardoned by President Bill Clinton before federal prosecutors made a decision on refiling.
Tucson astronomer and retired Air Force pilot James McGaha said he investigated two separate sightings over Phoenix that March night and traced them both to A-10 aircraft flying in formation at high altitude.
McGaha said he talked to an amateur astronomer who observed the A-10s and to the National Guard unit that flew them.
"It was clearly aircraft in formation, flying at two different times and then dropping flares and it's clear to any rational person that's what it was," McGaha said Thursday.

Who really know...?Video. More.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Ergonomically-correct-politically-incorrect mousepads

Nice. More.

Sci Fi Extends 'Battlestar'

Sci Fi Channel has increased its fourth season order of "Battlestar Galactica" to 22 episodes.

The order will include a special two-hour "Battlestar" event to air during the fourth quarter of 2007 on Sci Fi, and will also be released on DVD.

Previously, the network announced a reduced "Battlestar" season order of 13 episodes rather than 22.
Via TV Week.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

New Grand Canyon Skywalk

Opened to the public yesterday 3/20/07.

The glass bridge is suspended 4,000 feet (1 219 meters) above the canyon, a height that eclipses the world's largest skyscrapers.[1] The bridge's walls and floor are built of glass 4 inches (10.2 cm) thick. The horseshoe shaped bridge protrudes 65 (20 meters) feet from the edge of the canyon. The Skywalk is able to hold 70 tons of weight, allowing for 800 people weighing 175 lbs. (80 kg) each to stand on the bridge. The allowed capacity, though, will be limited to only 120 persons.

More details here.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Retro Games in Stop Motion

Compressed Air Car From India

March 19, 2007 Many respected engineers have been trying for years to bring a compressed air car to market, believing strongly that compressed air can power a viable "zero pollution" car. Now the first commercial compressed air car is on the verge of production and beginning to attract a lot of attention, and with a recently signed partnership with Tata, India’s largest automotive manufacturer, the prospects of very cost-effective mass production are now a distinct possibility. The MiniC.A.T is a simple, light urban car, with a tubular chassis that is glued not welded and a body of fibreglass.

Most importantly, it is incredibly cost-efficient to run – according to the designers, it costs less than one Euro per 100Km (about a tenth that of a petrol car). Its mileage is about double that of the most advanced electric car (200 to 300 km or 10 hours of driving), a factor which makes a perfect choice in cities where the 80% of motorists drive at less than 60Km. The car has a top speed of 68 mph.

Refilling the car will, once the market develops, take place at adapted petrol stations to administer compressed air. In two or three minutes, and at a cost of approximately 1.5 Euros, the car will be ready to go another 200-300 kilometres.

As a viable alternative, the car carries a small compressor which can be connected to the mains (220V or 380V) and refill the tank in 3-4 hours.

Due to the absence of combustion and, consequently, of residues, changing the oil (1 litre of vegetable oil) is necessary only every 50,000 Km.

The temperature of the clean air expelled by the exhaust pipe is between 0 - 15 degrees below zero, which makes it suitable for use by the internal air conditioning system with no need for gases or loss of power.

How does it work?

90m3 of compressed air is stored in fibre tanks. The expansion of this air pushes the pistons and creates movement. The atmospheric temperature is used to re-heat the engine and increase the road coverage. The air conditioning system makes use of the expelled cold air...


Monday, March 12, 2007

Mac Batteries Can Catch Fire Too...

3am last night. I woke up to my girlfriend screaming (yelling "Matty!") and the dog barking. She fell asleep on the couch in the back lounge of our house. I jumped out of bed and raced out thinking that maybe somebody had come through the back door or something.

As I was running I saw a fire. At first I thought that the lamp had fallen and set fire to the curtain. As I got closer I realised it was my mac book .... burning! I picked it up and blew on it and swung it around to put the flames out. The book shelf it was sitting on was burnt and there were a couple of magazines that were on fire too. I quickly put those out and calmed down.

First point to make - check regularly that your smoke alarm works - ours didn't go off.
Second point (and this is the scary one) - we were damn lucky not to have a house burnt to the ground. I have been out for most of the weekend and this night was the only night I had it charging.

What actually happened?
I have noticed for the past 3 weeks the battery life has been poor. I was only getting an hour to an hour and a half from it (compared to over 3 hours).
I also notice the battery symbol had an X showing a couple of times but a restart would sort that out.
One last thing I noticed over the last few days was when the battery was fully charged and on the power, it would flicker between 99% and 100% constantly. Nothing would fix this and I was planning on getting it looked at very soon.

So, Saturday afternoon I watched a tv show (from a ripped dvd) on the macbook. The battery goes down to 21%. I close all programs and shut the lid. It was in sleep mode - the light was pulsing. I usually plug it in for a charge but I didn't this time and head out for the weekend (damn lucky as I would have come home to rubble).
Sunday night, I come home and open the lid. It doesn't wake. I plug the power in and it fires up but showing 0% on the battery symbol.
I surf the net using safari for 30 minutes and the battery is charging up as usual.
I close all programs and shut the lid. Again, I always make sure it's in sleep mode before putting it down. I set it on the book shelf and leave it to charge.

And we are back at the 3am incident. My girlfriend said she heard it hissing like a steam valve, then smoke started pouring out of it and a couple of seconds later, a very large flash fire started. I'm sure you have read about these and seen the dell video. This is what happened to my macbook.

The battery is swollen and burnt so it's definitely the battery that exploded and caught fire. The macbook is melted on the bottom and severely charred (along with my bookshelves, books, magazines and the wall). The space bar is melted as is the track pad. The screen has been damaged a little too.


Space Weapons Myths

1. The United States already has satellite killers, why shouldn’t anyone else?

It’s not just the hard-line Russian commentators or the North Korean press that alleges that US military forces are already armed to the teeth for space warfare: the same explicit assumption often appears in the mainstream Western press as well. Sometimes the argument even goes, “Well, there’s no official acknowledgement of them—that proves they exist in secret” (as if the absence of evidence were transformed into evidence of presence).

But since the 1985 air-launch satellite intercept, a project cancelled by Congress (see “Blunt arrows: the limited utility of ASATs”, The Space Review, June 6, 2005), there is no evidence that a new satellite-killer technology has been developed. Laser tests seem focused on interfering with satellite observation equipment, as well as to determine how to develop US countermeasures against other countries using lasers to interfere with US observation satellites. Non-destructive radio spoofing seems to be the limit of the amount of force—short of setting off a nuclear weapon in space, which would be suicidal—the US is currently prepared to use against space objects.

Lots more.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Brain Controller - Better than a Wii?

The Project Epoc system can move objects based on a gamer's thoughts, reflect facial expressions and respond to the excitement or calm the gamer displays, the company said.

Sensors in the helmet pick up on electric signals in the brain. The system software analyzes the signals emitted by the brain and then wirelessly relays what it detects to a receiver. The receiver is plugged into the USB port of a game console or PC, according to Randy Breen, Emotiv's chief product officer.


Monday, March 05, 2007

Using Google Maps to Find Latitude and Longitude

How to get Latitude and Longitude from Google Maps

1) Go to

2) Enter your address, or zip code, or airport code, or whatever you
wish to geocode.

3) click on a point a small distance from the marker (this is not always
necesary, but it never hurts).

4) click on the link that says ‘link to this page’ It is on the right
side, just above the upper right corner of the map.

5) The address bar (URL) will change. Copy the full link. For example:,+Sebastopol,+CA\


6) The latitude and longitude are contained in those URL parameters. Look for this:

7) The latitude is: 38.407263 and longitude: -122.828865


Friday, March 02, 2007

Craig Ferguson Speaks of Alcoholism

Please pass this around, it migh help somebody. Kudos to Craig.

Sports News: