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October 25, 2004

Four More Aeons! Four More Aeons!

This just in from the Somebody Had To Do It Dept:

'This site is dedicated to the great old one, who should return from his slumber to take over the U.S. government and make this country a whole hell of a lot better as the leader of our executive branch. Or destroy it and drive everyone insane, kill us all, or something really nasty! Remember, Cthulhu for President, why vote for the lesser of two evils?'
There is a t-shirt, too. Of course.

Remember, kids: the end is nigh, R'lyeh is rising, and and the cold unspeakable evil of the Old Ones is coming from all sides.
Let's try to have some fun tonight, OK?

October 19, 2004

Inventor Rejoices as TVs Go Dark

'Sanders Li's paper plate held nothing but a crumpled napkin. His meal finished, he lingered. His unblinking eyes gazed at Sex and the City on a 15-inch color TV over the counter at Nizario's Pizza on 18th Street in San Francisco's Castro neighborhood Sunday evening.

In the middle of a scene, the TV turned off.

For 10 seconds, Li kept looking, waiting, not blinking through his glasses. At last, he left his stool, trashed his plate and emerged into the cool autumn night.

Leaving, he passed 48-year-old Mitch Altman, who was twiddling a matte-black plastic fob on his key chain. Altman's blue and purple hair reflected the pizza shop's neon, and he was smiling excitedly.

"We just saved him several minutes of his life," he said.

Li agreed. He said he didn't care that the TV was gone, even though he had been watching the show.

Altman's key-chain fob was a TV-B-Gone, a new universal remote that turns off almost any television. The device, which looks like an automobile remote, has just one button. When activated, it spends over a minute flashing out 209 different codes to turn off televisions, the most popular brands first.' (Wired News article)

October 18, 2004

Science Turns Monkeys Into Drones; Humans are Next

'LONDON - Scientists have discovered a way of manipulating a gene that turns animals into drones that do not become bored with repetitive tasks. The experiments, conducted on monkeys, are the first to demonstrate that animal behaviour can be permanently changed, turning the subjects from aggressive to "compliant" creatures.

The genes are identical in humans and although the discovery could help to treat depression and other types of mental illness, it will raise images of the Epsilon caste from Aldous Huxley's futuristic novel Brave New World.

The experiments -- detailed in the journal Nature Neuroscience this month -- involved blocking the effect of a gene called D2 in a particular part of the brain. This cut off the link between the rhesus monkeys' motivation and reward.

Instead of speeding up with the approach of a deadline or the prospect of a "treat," the monkeys in the experiment could be made to work just as enthusiastically for long periods. The scientists say the identical technique would apply to humans.' (Ottawa Citizen article)

October 15, 2004

How to Fake It

This Something Awful article by David Thorpe on how to fake vast storehouses of popular music lore is really funny:

'Trust me; you don’t want to learn everything about rock and roll. It’s a pain in the ass having a brain filled with worthless trivia about worthless art. It’s impossible to learn more about rock and roll without hating rock and roll more than before. That’s how I became the twisted old monster that I am today: knowing stuff. I used to be a fresh-faced teenage genius, in love with music and in love with the world. Then I started learning more and more; now I see every rock band as an exotic symptom of a diseased culture, and if I could sign some sort of order to have them all thrown in a volcano, I’d do it in an instant.

Luckily, there’s really no actual need to know anything. If you want to impress people with your boundless wit in the field of popular music, all you have to do is convincingly fake it. It’s not hard at all. Just like anything else worth knowing, from tying a necktie to building a nuclear bomb, you can learn to do it just by reading a single stupid article on some two-bit Podunk website. I’ve been watching people do this for years; it’s impossible to have conversations about music frequently without running into quite a few sly bastards who have mastered the art of faking musical knowledge and quite a few more who are at least half-assedly attempting it.' (Something Awful article)

RFID Implant Story

'About 2 months ago I had an idea. A crazy, but semi-cool idea. Pretty much everyone knows about the chips people inject into their dogs so if they ever get lost they can find them. However, not many people understand the chips. From the first second I heard about the chips, I wanted one. I wanted to be able to say I have a microchip inside me. I wanted to be trancend the barrier of science fiction and be one of the first to have a chip under my skin.

The next few weeks were spent researching the technology, not because I thought I'd actually be doing it, but because I was interested in it. I came across a couple websites of prospective companies trying to create a human chip (http://www.4verichip.com/), as well as writings about Kevin Warwick and some other lady who had two of them put into her hand. Kevin had only left his injected for nine days, and it was then removed. Others had left them in permanently. In all, I only found about five personal accounts of people who had them.

I found out that the chips were about the size of a grain of uncooked rice, and were supposed to be injected right under the loose area of skin. They had been used in dogs, cats, reptiles, birds, horses, cows, fish, and tons of others. When scanned within a few inches by a frequency designated scanner, a nine digit number in the following format shows up (XXX*XXX*XXX). AVID Technologies (http://www.avidmicrochip.com/) is the creator of the most popular chip for animals. They manufactured the ones the lady had put in her hand.

At this point I was really interested in having one of my own. I found an online veterinary supply company (http://www.countrysidevetsupply.com...itml/icOid/1736) and within minuites had ordered an AVID microchip with pre-sterile syringe for a mere twelve dollars. I figured that If I chickened out I could always just inject it in my dog and register it.' (Something Awful Forums post)

October 14, 2004

Girl says bones belong to ghost

'A Russell County fifth-grader is convinced bones found in her home last weekend belong to a mysterious friend who told her about being chopped up years ago.

Investigators have few clues about how and when the bones got inside insulation under the living room floor of the mobile home on Jowers Road, near East Alabama Motor Speedway.

The 10-year-old, Stephanie Ogden, and her family have lived in the home since 1998. Her great-grandparents, John and Marion Stewart, own the home.

The bones were found Saturday as the Ogdens, who are renovating the home, pulled up boards in the living room floor. Russell County Sheriff's Lt. Heath Taylor said an initial analysis shows the bones are from the pelvis and leg of a child at least 10 years old, and the child has been dead at least 10 years.' (Ledger-Enquirer article)

Physics Professor Goes on Rage in Class

'LAFAYETTE, La. - A University of Louisiana at Lafayette physics professor was banned from the campus Wednesday and taken to the coroner's office for evaluation after threatening his class, university officials said.

Student Kacie Spears said professor Louis Houston lost control right after class began Wednesday morning and was yelling obscenities.

"Then he told us if we got out of our seats he's gonna kill us. He went on the black board and wrote "911 now", so we were really in fear for our lives," Spears told KATC-TV.

Spears said Houston slapped a student and then told his class he was God.' (Yahoo! News article)

October 12, 2004

Information in the Holographic Universe

This is old, but I just saw it and I'd like to share. Ended up visiting the site as a result of meeting somebody I hadn't seen in years. Check out this Scientific American August 2003 article informing us that 'Theoretical results about black holes suggest that the universe could be like a gigantic hologram':

'An astonishing theory called the holographic principle holds that the universe is like a hologram: just as a trick of light allows a fully three-dimensional image to be recorded on a flat piece of film, our seemingly three-dimensional universe could be completely equivalent to alternative quantum fields and physical laws "painted" on a distant, vast surface.

The physics of black holes--immensely dense concentrations of mass--provides a hint that the principle might be true. Studies of black holes show that, although it defies common sense, the maximum entropy or information content of any region of space is defined not by its volume but by its surface area.

Physicists hope that this surprising finding is a clue to the ultimate theory of reality.'

October 11, 2004

"Scrabble is a religion. I do not mean this metaphorically."

Really cool web short story, Powered by Flash: http://www.vidlit.com/craziest/craziest.html. Highly recommended!

RFID tags in clothes are coming

Via Bruce Sterling, I found this communication by Katherine Albrecht, Founder and Director of CASPIAN (Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering):

'Dear CASPIAN members and supporters:

I have disturbing news from the RFID front lines. CASPIAN has uncovered evidence of industry plans to deploy RFID tracking devices in consumer clothing items.

A $600 million company called Checkpoint has developed prototype labels containing RFID spychips for Abercrombie & Fitch, Calvin Klein, and Champion sportswear. These tags contain tiny computer chips with unique ID numbers that can be read remotely by anyone with the right equipment.

CNET picked up the story on Friday, September 24th. You can read it at:

Photos of the spychipped clothing labels can be seen on our website at:

Potentially, people wearing the tagged clothing items could be identified and tracked as they pass through Checkpoint-equipped doorways and store portals, as they stand near Checkpoint's retail "smart shelves" containing hidden RFID reader devices, or when they enter Checkpoint's planned RFID "smart zones" in stores.' (Beyond the Beyond blog entry)

Atomic register offers route to quantum computing

'The fundamental memory component of a quantum computer has been built for the first time using a string of atoms. This could offer a more reliable way to build a working quantum computer than other techniques, suggest researchers.

Quantum computers exploit the quantum properties of matter to perform calculations. While conventional computers use binary digits - or bits of information - in the form of electrical charge, quantum computers use quantum bits, called qubits.

And because particles can be in several states at once, qubits would allow huge numbers of computations to be carried out simultaneously - beyond the capabilities of a conventional supercomputer.' (New Scientist article)

Douglas Rushkoff: Networks without a Net

And more from Rushkoff, on the emergence of wireless networks and how the most interesting among them could be those who are independent of the internet. One user's comment to his entry also highlights an important point.

'...Just as the Internet has fostered a sense of global connectivity for users pinned to their desktops, the wireless network -- by coming along in one's pocket -- can enhance users' connections to their immediate environments and temporary communities. After all, wireless users have left their homes and offices for a reason. Away from their desktops and, in many cases, laptops, they are in "nomadic mode", not office or home mode.' (rushkoff.blog entry)
I tend to agree on the nomadic point, seeing the potential of that modality etc. I'm not sure, however, that it would be necessary for the new networks to 'forgo access to the Internet' in order to reap the benefits of mobility -- and I even suspect that there might be serious losses in taking this approach, because of the issues raised by the commenter as well as others. At any rate, the article is definitely worth a read; check it out.

It's the worldview, stupid

Just saw (a bit late, admittedly, but I've been too swamped to check my RSS feeds lately -- and to do way too many other things, unfortunately) this insightful point made by Douglas Rushkoff in connection with the first presidential debate:

'In the absolutist, polar world view, evil quite clearly exists. All enemies are a single thing. Now, the enemy is flying planes into us, so we've got to go there and get them. Think of it more like a father protecting his house. One day, a robber breaks in and hurts one of the kids. Dad buys a shotgun, and you better not be caught riding your bike across his lawn.

If the enemy is understood as Satan, himself, then it doesn't matter which arm of Satan is after you - you respond the same way. See, to Bush it doesn't matter whether there's a causal or conspiratorial connection between America's various enemies. Whether or not our enemies know it, they are heads on the same demon.' (rushkoff.blog entry)