Monthly Archives: January 2009

I like it when people thimk

And no, that’s not a spelling error, well, it’s intentional anyway.

It seems that a New York representative (Peter T. King) is trying to make things safer for children but he’s not thinking. He wants to make it difficult for predators to take pictures of children and that’s commendable but it lacks a lot.

Camera Phone Predator Alert Act – Requires any mobile phone containing a digital camera to sound a tone whenever a photograph is taken with the camera’s phone. Prohibits such a phone from being equipped with a means of disabling or silencing the tone. Treats the requirement as a consumer product safety standard and requires enforcement by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

So there will be one and only one sound that can’t be disabled if they take a picture but if they use video on their cell phone, it’s cool? And what about digital cameras? And what about people who can hack pograms on cellphones? Hello? Earth to Peter.

Quotes of the Day

The mind of a bigot is like the pupil of the eye. The more light you shine on it, the more it will contract.
  – Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.
A healthy male adult bore consumes each year one and a half times his own weight in other people’s patience.
  – John Updike
If living conditions don’t stop improving in this country, we’re going to run out of humble beginnings for our great men.
  – Russell P. Askue
And one for Eric Crafton:
El problema con todo el mundo es que los tontos y los fanáticos están siempre tan seguros de sí mismos, pero la gente más sabia tan llena de dudas.

  – Bertrand Russell

(The problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always sure of themselves, but wise people are always full of doubts.)

One Banana, Two Banana, No Banana

I expanded my knowledge today, courtesy of Laura Creekmore. Her blog has linkage on the right column to things she liked and I clicked on one. (Cue Twilight Zone music now, please.) Coincidentally, it’s lunch time and I’m working from home due to the ice coating on everything and was about to go make myself a peanut butter & banana sandwich. It may be one of my last.

You’ve heard the expression banana republic and may have even wondered where the expression came from. Now I know.

In 1911, the banana magnate Samuel Zemurray decided to seize the country of Honduras as a private plantation. He gathered together some international gangsters like Guy “Machine Gun” Maloney, drummed up a private army, and invaded, installing an amigo as president.

The term “banana republic” was invented to describe the servile dictatorships that were created to please the banana companies. In the early 1950s, the Guatemalan people elected a science teacher named Jacobo Arbenz, because he promised to redistribute some of the banana companies’ land among the millions of landless peasants.

President Eisenhower and the CIA (headed by a former United Fruit employee) issued instructions that these “communists” should be killed, and noted that good methods were “a hammer, axe, wrench, screw driver, fire poker or kitchen knife”. The tyranny they replaced it with went on to kill more than 200,000 people.

Right now, you’re saying “OK, so why do I care?” Because the United Fruit Corporation decided that one variety of banana made the world safe for shipped produce, the Gros Michael.  It was sweet when ripe and soft and yummy and it fit in a lunchbox. It was the perfect fruit. So all the banana plantations were stripped of the other varieties and Gros Michaels were only grown in cultivation. Enter Mother Nature and the Panama disease, a fungus that ravages banana trees. In fact, it’s so ravenous it killed all the Gros Michael trees in the world back in the 60s.

Enter the Cavendish, United Fruit’s replacement – it bruises easily but it’s still soft and yellow and sweet and It ought to last foreve – oops. Seems that Mother Nature doesn’t like single cropping at all. Much of the Cavendish crops are now dead as well. In Africa, 60% are gone. Fortunately, Africa is so economically stable it won’t matter. (rolls eyes)

Banana 3.0 will likely be the Goldfinger – it’s crunchier and tangier. They may come up with a genetically modified version immune to the fungus. Want a banana with anchovy genes?

For a hundred years, a handful of corporations were given a gorgeous fruit, set free from regulation, and allowed to do what they wanted with it. What happened? They had one good entrepreneurial idea – and to squeeze every tiny drop of profit from it, they destroyed democracies, burned down rainforests, and ended up killing the fruit itself.

But have we learned? Across the world, politicians like George Bush and David Cameron are telling us the regulation of corporations is “a menace” to be “rolled back”; they even say we should leave the planet’s climate in their hands. Now that’s bananas.

Quotes from HuffPo.

Sigh. Some days ago was the 25th anniversary

And this post was all ready for it. Unfortunately, I seem to have inadvertantly turned it into a page instead of a post, so now here it is where it belongs.

Of the Macintosh computer. I cannot believe I’ve been using Macs for that long. Yes, I am a Mac person fan boy. Apple, and rock star Steve Jobs, live and breathe daily making technology easy to use. I can use the command line but I don’t think users ought to need it. They have revolutionized computers, music, and phones.

Tucked away in a box somewhere I have the original motherboard from my first Macintosh. I’d decided to upgrade it and had ordered the parts necessary for migrating it to being a Mac Plus, including extra RAM (128K, no less) and an internal hard drive (I know, showing off). I didn’t realize I was also supposed to order installation as a separate part number, so I got the components and got to crack the Mac open myself. It had everyone’s signatures on the inside of the case, molded into the plastic. Very cool.

Toasters are next. Or flying cars. We were promised flying cars by now. Whatever. Happy anniversary to all the other Apple people out there.

Newark has a better idea

I know, Newark? Come on, Jim. But it’s true (and I know this courtesy of Mack, who IM’d me the link) and it’s Delaware, not New Jersey, which may ease your mind some. Newark, Delaware is the home of the University of Delaware.

One of the issues with electrical energy goes back to the days of Edison and Tesla- they differed on how to make and distribute electricity (and Tesla won). The end result is that electricity isn’t stored, just generated.

The electricity that’s powering your laptop was created (or generated) somewhere in the neighborhood of five to thirty minutes ago, depending on how long it took the sparks to go from the Watts Bar power plant to the plug in the wall where you are. It isn’t stored in batteries, just generated, pushed through big wires and used.

Alternative energy sources, unless at your home and for your home use, work the same way. If the wind isn’t blowing, the windmill isn’t sending power to the grid. If the sun isn’t shining, there’s no solar energy being made.

Newark (see, I did get back to it!) is trying something different. They took a Scion xB, the concrete block-shaped car and added batteries to it, turning it into an electric car. When the car isn’t being used, it plugs into a socket and feeds energy that’s been stored in the batteries to the grid, helping smooth out those no sun and no wind fluctuations.

If there were more of these cars, here is how it would work. The wind tends to blow more at night while we’re sleeping so I have limbs to pick up out of the yard every morning. While it’s blowing, my car is also charging up. I get up the next morning and drive to work, where I plug my car back into the grid. The energy I didn’t use flows back into the grid to help maintain reliability and I get paid for the energy I send back to the grid. Since I charged my car during off-peak hours, I paid less for it. Since I donated energy to the grid during peak hours, I get more for what I gave than what I paid.

The catch is that there has to be the infrastructure, the car has to be smart enough to keep enough to get me back home, and there have to be enough of these cars to make it work.

Tubular Comment Love

I guess we can still call them the tubes, even in Uncle Ted’s about to go up the river. Anyway, one thing I’ve noticed about blogging is that they have (sometimes) comments.

In a lot of ways, the Internet is like Christmas. It’s better to give than receive. Comments are like that too. To get any, you’ve got to give them too.

You see, when you comment somewhere, your commentee starts wondering if you’re an axe murderer or a serial killer or something and so they go to your site to find out more about you. (Hint: it’s better if you don’t have a list of your convictions or something kinky in the About page. Well,  if you do, you’ll get a different class of reader. Remember, on the Internet, nobody knows you’re a poodle. 

Once they figure out you’re not really a spammer, they tend to return the comment favor, so to speak. However, if you’re boring as hell (or, sadly, if you post something really long (* stops to count words and cries) you will have other problems. Sad but true. People read shorter posts on the Internet.

And speaking of boring as hell, if you’ve been sweating bullets to write about something or other topic and time and time again nobody comments on your posts, they’ve all been visiting, but the no comments thing is a hint. Write about something else. If it ain’t working, fix it.

Learn to spell, or spellcheck. (Learn to grammar, too.)

It seems if you have one of those Captcha gadgets, that can reduce the number of comments you get. Your mileage may vary on that (and the downfall of no captcha isspam). You can either trust the world (which will end badly, trust me) or use something like Akismet in WordPress. Now, I like the captchas because I have fun making up definitions for the words they display, but that’s just me.

You will also have to check out your spam filter to see if it caught things it shouldn’t, which is possible. I’ve caught two comments that Akismet thought were spam recently.

Other ways to get comments are pretty straight-forward. If someone posts a comment, ask them a question about it or follow up on their post. People love themselves and want you to love them too. If you ask them something (OK, “Have you always been an asshat?” doesn’t count.) back, they may respond. You start a discussion. You should be the #1 commenter on your site. (Don’t be the only one, though. That’s scary as well as pathetic.)

Keep in mind that as much as your commenters are also stalkers who are after you love and respect you, for them it’s also all about them and they want to see what’s in it for them. You simply need to write things that are not only about you but also reflect upon the human condition – or show kittehs. Kittehs work too. Or Puppehs.

There are gadgets out there on the tubes (like DISQUS) that spread the comment love. Check them out. You can add in plug-ins that allow people to subscribe to the comments. That gets them back, especially if you start a flame war. Flame wars can start historic comment levels.

And speaking of comment love, use that too. If Newscoma posts something that’s totally killer, it never hurts to tell her and the rest of the tubes.

Oddly enough, and as I have already mentioned, other people seem to do things other than visit your site (I know – what are they thinking?) So just in case they don’t actually have time to make a full comment, if you add buttons for Digg, Delicious, StumbledUpon, and other social networking sites.