Tastes Like Chicken

Saturday, January 13, 2001
_Jet Powered Kitchen Dragsters
Gang, listen up: What I am going to describe is different from what's on the page and it is DANGEROUS. I'm not telling you it could go wrong, I'm telling you it did go wrong and I had to clean up someone else's blood.

Do not empty a plastic two liter bottle. Do not prepare the cap by making a hole in it smaller than a centimeter in diameter. The smaller the hole the more powerfully dangerous, up to a threshold you must avoid experimenting to find (and do not remember that it's much easier to make a hole gradually bigger than smaller). Do not fill the bottle with water and then empty it, to remove the CO2 from the soda that will inhibit the burning. With the cap off, do not spray for barely more than one full second into the bottle with a can of aerosol Right Guard. Do not screw on the lid. Do not place the bottle the ground. do not apply flame to opening in the cap.

You would never do these things because the result, when done exactly wrong, is a total flameover of the fuel/air mix inside the bottle that sends it (literally) rocketing away, probably faster than you can turn your head to track it, and certainly louder than you want to hear. MUCH louder. A tremendous high volume and high pitched wooshing/hissing noise, probably no more than two feet from your ear, were you foolish enough totally disregard what I said and do what I told you not to do. Under these conditions, the bottle behaves like a rubber balloon on steroids releasing it's air. Fuck steroids: like a balloon with lightning up its ass, a HARD balloon with lightning up its ass.

Yes, it hit somebody. In the head. Well, more like the face. Yes, there was a lot of blood, and stitches, too.

Oh, and be sure not to flush the bottle with water between each flight.

Friday, January 12, 2001
_Wisconsin rednecks
I didn't know they could thrive so well in the northern climes. This guy drove his monster truck back and forth along the property line (over a car) and then back into his barn. "Shortly afterward, the women saw Byczek and his truck again, and the words 'All lesbians will go to hell' were spray painted across the side of the vehicle... Feeling afraid, Farrington said, she and Carter began walking toward their home, when Byczek began screaming profanities at them. By then, the other two women... also heard Byczek, who drove onto their driveway, got out his truck and began pounding on the door of the duplex where the four lived, their testimony indicated. He was screaming, Hack testified, such things such as: 'You done it, you broke the law. You (expletive) lesbians are going to Hell.'" What did the women do to provoke this? They followed the cops' advice to tape his antics.

Updated: Guilty--disorderly conduct, facing 90 days in the pokey and a $1000 fine.

_Making Teflon Stick
Ooh, here's a great find. This is a fascinating article (honestly!) about the development of Teflon. The article's title refers both to the technical challenge of bonding Teflon to other materials to make frying pans, etc., but also to the cultural and commercial forces behind it's emergence as a part of the mainstream psyche. Good stuff, History Channel style. See also over here about a simple recent discovery that dramatically improves the performance of these surfaces.

_GumArt - Chewed Gum Creations

As Spicoli might say, "Hey, I know that dude." I'll let you in on a little secret--he didn't chew all that gum himself, so, yes, he did collect chewed gum from other people and play with it. However, I'm pretty sure that he's never exhibited a combined sexual fetish for dirty socks and chewed gum. Not that I know of, at least.

_Federal rules for computer searches and seizures
That link goes to a Wired news summary. Here is the long version. The short version: bend over.

Back when such things were novel, I got to hear first-hand about a case where the Feds really blew it and seized a whole LAN of equipment as evidence of activity that was not a crime. Way to go! Want to guess which piece of "evidence" took the longest to get back? The laser printer.

_St. Louis cops (age 26-43) in nude hot tub/alcohol parties with 16 & 17 year old girls
Hey, what's a little alcohol, nudity, bedroom-romping, kissing and ticket-fixing between friends? "Once Waisner (cop) came to her house while she was cutting the grass. 'He said he could see my nipples,' the girl recalled." Classy... They were removed from that precinct, but at least two of them already have badges again at other police departments, and all are currently eligible for future law enforcement jobs. The government is still shielding the officers from public scrutiny, refusing to release their names or the official reasons they were shown the door.

_'Black Like Me' celebrates 40th anniversary
Another account of a white man passing as a black man in the Jim Crow south, ten years later (late 1950's) than this similar account by a different white man. It seems odd that CNN makes no mention of the earlier book.

_Thief Bites Off More Than He Can Chew
"A suspected Scottish jewel thief was caught when doctors X-raying him for a broken hip discovered thousands of pounds worth of loot in his stomach, police sources said Friday. ...Officers had mounted a 24-hour hospital guard over the suspect in a bid to retrieve the stolen goods."

Actually I think the last bit should read "stool and goods." Maybe he just couldn't get any haggis.

Thursday, January 11, 2001
_Women's Mental Skills Vary During Monthly Cycle
Well, there's a shocker. "Higher levels of estrogen were linked to lower scores, while higher concentrations of testosterone were linked to higher scores." Please, I could have told you that.

_Snake man!
"Fifty-year-old Fuzhou from China pulls a snake through his nose and out of his mouth." I wonder if that tastes like chicken?

_Expatriate Scots Forced Into Haggis Smuggling
Food concocted out of ingredients so foul that most nations refuse to allow it's importation. Then again "Everything that's in a haggis is in a hotdog."

_Dating Game: Food freshness labels lack standards
This is a solid artice (if overlong), but the real reason I blogged it was as an excuse to tell you about an experience of my own with food dates.

I used to work at a "thrift" store. We were an operation set up to move old stock from a particular company. Mostly we sold loaves of bread beyond their date to people on limited budgets (hence my nickname for the place: "old bread for old people"). We were allowed up to a week after the date on the bread to sell it (this brand was double bagged and usually lasted that long).

We also sold old cookies from the same company. REALLY old cookies. Who knows what the gap was between when they were baked and the expiration date marked on them, but we were allowed to sell them up to SIX MONTHS AFTER the expiration date. There was a progressive discount scheme where the further past the date the item was (until we weren't allowed to sell them any longer), the cheaper it got.

So one day this guy rolls in and buys several cases of two-packs of large cookies that are only days from the [expiration date + 6 months] drop dead point. I'm ringing him up, and, uncharacteristicly, I ask what he's going to do with all these cookies that are about to be earmarked as hog feed (that's what really happened to stuff we weren't allowed to sell). His answer: "I stock vending machines."

Number of food items I've bought from vending machines since then: 0

Did you know that a single Mint Milano cookie has as much fat as an uncooked strip of bacon?

_How Now Mad Cow
"Hundreds of animal feed producers have violated regulations meant to keep mad cow disease out of the country, says a new Food and Drug Administration report." FDA inspections found that 20% to 30% of the facilities inspected failed to implement federally mandated safegaurds against mad cow disease.

Coming on the heels of another disturbing and detailed article on mad cow disease and the food supply, this news does give one pause, especially since the new article states that the European outbreaks resulted from lax enforcement of laws, not inadequate laws (got to love that bit about feeding beef to cows at the rate of four pounds a day). Hopefully this is the beginning of a truly stringent application of these rules.

My friend Howard recently came back from a trip to Germany, and he says that over there almost nobody is eating any beef. In Germany! Wow. You know, this thing is like AIDS for carnivores: long incubation, abstinence being the only sure avoidance mechanism, striking the young, slow wasting death. How long until some yahoo says it's God's vengeance upon the carnivores?

_GPS road map
I bought this for my pop, and now of course I really want one. It's a Global Positioning System unit with a built-in set of road maps, which are surprisingly detailed. It's a bit smaller than a dollar bill and roughly one half inch thick. Pretty spiffy, even if I can't see my dad getting into geocaching. Palm Pilots never did spark much interest from me, but this...

Other good links on this: a detailed report on it's features and usability and a page with purty pictures, side-by-side with a Palm, etc.

_New Protein Thwarts HIV Attachment
"In attaching to T cells, HIV first uses a protein called gp120 to recognize the CD4 receptor on the surface of a T cell. Once gp120 recognizes CD4, an HIV attachment protein called gp41 launches a harpoon-like component into the T cell’s membrane. Next, gp41’s spring mechanism snaps shut—forming what is known as the "trimer of hairpins," (named for its triple helical, u-shaped protein structure)—and draws the virus to the T cell like a grappling hook."

Crickey. That ought to wipe that smug look off the nearest nanotech enthusiast.

The developement is a treatment, not a cure or preventative, which works by interfering with the "spring mechanism." It also shows promise against a range of other viruses, including influenza and Ebola.

_Warnings no longer required for products containing saccharin
"The bladder cancer found in male lab rats taking high doses of saccharin was considered unique to the rat." A single group has voiced an opposing opinion, the same killjoys that tell you not to eat anything that tastes good like movie theater popcorn and restaurant Chinese food.

My momma always said that cyclamates tasted gooood.

Whoah! I just did a little poking around and found a page claiming that cyclamate consumption can "cause hormonal problems and wasted testicles in human males." I guess there's a reason I never heard about how great cyclamates are from my dad! Despite this, they are apparently in current use soft drinks and other stuff in Britain. Do you think that explains things?

Wednesday, January 10, 2001
_Star Wars Episode II Virtual Edition
"WARNING! THIS PLOTLINE CONTAINS MANY SPOILERS!" No joke. An attempt at a scene-by-scene summary of the upcoming Star Wars movie, with pictures from a variety of sources. Senator Jar-jar?

_Tastes like chicken
"A South African man bit his way to freedom after he was attacked by a python that tried to squeeze him to death, a local newspaper reported Wednesday."

_Monkey business rules in India's corridors of power
"Thousands of monkeys are creating havoc in the corridors of power in the Indian capital, barging into government offices, stealing food, threatening bureaucrats, and even ripping apart valuable documents." There are also lots of other amusing details in that story.

_Women noisier at sex
Hotel behavior differences between the sexes according to a hotel survey in New Zealand and Australia.

_Geek mating ritual?
Using internet search engines to snoop on romantic interests. The article is a good read, but, horrors!, who would do such a thing?! I guess it's the electronic equivalent of looking in someone's medicine cabinet.

_Abandon blimp, all hands abandon blimp!
"...strong winds prevented a ground crew of nine from grabbing the mooring lines to anchor the blimp. At that point, both the pilot and student pilot jumped from the aircraft..." Check out the picture:

_2 Planetary Systems Stun Astronomers
Interesting, but what got it blogged was that the author snuck in some Shakespeare: "Are there more kinds of planets in the heavens than scientists have dreamed of?"

_Most diets work, but not for long
Look, gang, no matter what anybody tells you, weight loss is all about calorie restriction: "ANY DIET that limits food to about 1,500 calories per day produces short-term weight loss, no matter how sound or exotic the regimen." Do those screwy Atkins diets work? "[T]hese diets produced a greater loss of body water than of fat, and the water was regained when the diet ended." How about keeping the weight off? "But if you read the report carefully, we also know that no matter what, after about two months of dieting, you will stop losing weight and plateau and will start regaining unless you exercise regularly, have social support and decrease stress. It is a tremendous effort to keep the weight off."

_Next question!
A scene from the White House briefing room.

_Stonehenge is as much the work of 20th-century engineers as prehistoric humans
Researcher Brian Edwards has uncovered photographs showing fallen stones at the site in southern England being hauled into place using cranes and scaffolding during facelifts over the last 100 years.

_Recession, take me away
"Unemployed, we find ourselves with an idle afternoon and enough food to eat for the day and no bombers overhead and no knife at our throats and we must then ask: How shall I spend my time? How shall I spend this uninvited windfall of liberty? Shall I go to the library for free? Shall I sit down and sing a song to pass the time? Shall I visit my neighbor?"

Shall I start a 'blog? That links to a Salon article rhapsodizing about an economic and lifestyle downshift. If you want to remind people to savor the idle moments, fine, but job hunting still blows dead bear, buddy.

Tuesday, January 09, 2001
_Airport shenanigans
"Between a fugitive who bit a police officer and a wayward traveler who rode a baggage conveyor belt for a quarter mile, bizarre incidents over the weekend at San Francisco International kept airport security hopping."

_Buy that region-free DVD player now
According to this article, the licensing authorities that parcel out rights to the tech needed to make a DVD player are getting tough with enforcement of the rules. Expect a side effect to be increased difficulty in getting a DVD player that will play discs from any region code, since the sale of these players is also against the rules that these cartels try to enforce at the consumer's expense.

For those unfamiliar with region codes, they are the reason that DVD's sold in Japan, for example, won't play in a fully licensed US DVD player. The rules put forth by the cartels require the manufacturers of players to purposefully cripple their players so that they can not play DVD's from other regions of the world. There is no technical barrier to playing a Japanese DVD in an American player; the obstacles are artificially erected to squeeze more money out of the public.

_Microwave Abuse
You're done playing with matches, it's time to screw with the microwave! Two links here, one with descriptive and well informed observation, the other with lots of cool pictures.

"Christmas tree ornament in the microwave, a beauty, isn't it?"

_25% of women over 50 are too fat to measure with skinfold calipers
"Skinfold calipers came into use during the 1950's, when people were leaner than they are now. 'How do you quantify the amount of body fat in living people? ...Obviously, you can't melt people down and extract the fat, though that has been done with cadavers.'" So you use the skinfold calipers. But "'As folds get thicker, it becomes harder and harder to really elevate a fold,' Dr. Himes said. 'It gets to be kind of a sloping mound rather than any kind of fold you can elevate.'"

Eww. Just keep them out of traffic, ok?

_Comic strips worth reading
That lead-in link up there leads to the current edition of Penny Arcade, updated each Monday, Wednesday and Friday (with authors' commentary available). On an identical update schedule is the highly worthy MegaTokyo, which may take a couple strips of reading to get the swing of (but it definitely pays off). Sinfest is worth a peek, too.

A classic patiently awaits you. The first five years of Calvin & Hobbes are ready when you are.

NOT FOR WORK OR CHILDREN: If you're sick and twisted, you might kick a out of the weekly strip at the Thin H Line. I'm really not kidding when I say that it is for the sick and twisted and NOT FOR WORK OR CHILDREN. Don't make me stop this car!

A simple, fast and addictive puzzle game played in your browser. Play on skill level 2. Level one lacks the timer, making it more of an activity than a game. Personal best on level 2: 1207 stones cleared. Level 3: 843.

_Stunning picture

Be sure to check out picture 9, too.

_Filthy lucre

"Haiti's soiled currency gives meaning to dirt poor, filthy rich. ...Some bills in circulation are so covered with grime that the denominations are no longer visible. Frequently, the dark green, purple and red gourdes are sticky to the touch and carry a distinct odor. Some residents warn that touching Haitian currency can be hazardous to one's health, and anyone handling gourde bills is advised to give his or her hands a good scrubbing before handling food."

_Firefighter and relatives refuse to rescue mean drunk from burning house
His own brother and sister refuse to get him out, and then the firefighters refuse to get him out. Finally, state troopers show up and pull him out, perhaps because by this time he was unconcious. As soon as he comes to away from the fire, he starts punching and kicking the cops!

_Dallas Cowboy tries to kill self by running into traffic on busy suburban highway
Someone else who didn't heed this lesson. This time 275 pounds. Looks like we need a new traffic sign, "Beware Of Suicidal Fat Man."

Monday, January 08, 2001
_True nonstick polymer eliminates mechanical friction
Slick! Stretch a surface and spray it with Teflon. "When the tension is relieved, the substrate pulls the polymer molecules so close together that no other material is able to bond to the polymer molecules. Devices coated with the friction-free polymers can bang against each other without scratching and cannot become coated with anything — even liquids. ...The resulting surface not only had much greater density and 'smoothness,' but also proved to be more chemically inert than natural substances. Without any of the ordinary irregularities in its surface, even down to the atomic level, nothing could attach itself to the material, even water molecules or solvents for the coating material."

Did you catch that last bit? The post-stretch coating was impervious to the solvent normally used to remove the material in the coating. So far it has been unaffected by varying heat and humidity levels, including six months of submersion in water. Next are tests against industrial acids and other extreme conditions.

_Sentenced to 180 days in jail, given probation, and fined $4,000 for selling a comic book
"The arrests of Castillo, a high school graduate who never worked anywhere else, fit the city's pattern of vice squad enforcement typically aimed at adult stores. The vice cops come in, purchase a product to build an obscenity case around, and arrest whichever hapless clerk or manager rings up the sale."

_New Microsoft products can only ever be installed on a single PC
Like I mentioned before, moves are afoot to alter PC hardware so that you have to repurchase software if you change to a new machine or do major upgrades to an existing one. Well, Microsoft isn't waiting for the hardware, they're making it part of their software. The so called feature "will tie a Windows product key to one specific PC in order to reduce casual copying. In order to 'activate' it, a customer will send data about the installation, such as product ID number and hardware identifier, to a Microsoft-run license clearinghouse. The clearinghouse won't allow the use of the customer's product key on a PC different from the one originally activated." That's right, this "feature," like some of the others discussed before, also requires you to inform Microsoft or some other central corporate entity of when and where you use the product, or else it won't work.

_Afghan head orders death for religious conversion
"Therefore, all countrymen are seriously notified that any Muslim Afghan will be sentenced to death if he accepts Christianity and has converted to this nullified religion or is seen inviting people to Christianity and Judiasm as well as propagating and distributing their books."

_Celebrity Atheist List
"an offbeat collection of notable individuals who have been public about their lack of belief in deities" So, would this get you killed in Afghanistan? It's a pretty well made site, with information easily accesible and direct quotes to back up it's assessments.

_The Wrong way to kill yourself
A 300 pound man jumps off a bridge, timing his jump so as to be hit by an onrushing truck. He crashes through the windshield, killing himself and the driver. Be sure to catch the part about the "sack of dead cats."

_Streaker crashes world darts championship
Hah, too funny. Perfectly chosen details flesh out this little story. Read it!

_Arrest Warrants issued against DNA profiles sidestep statute of limitations
"A day before the deadline on the one remaining case expired in August, Willover obtained an arrest warrant -- not against a named suspect but against the genetic code of the semen sample taken six years earlier from a young rape victim. A month later, after the statute of limitations would otherwise have expired, the DNA sample was matched to Paul Robinson and he was arrested"

I'm not sure what to think about this yet. The civil libertarian in me says that if they haven't charged a person by the time the statute of limitations runs out, then tough. But the geek in me knows that DNA is a hell of a lot more of a unique identifier than a name. Is it really the alignment between the DNA and the name that decides whether or not you can say you charged a person before the window closed?

Sunday, January 07, 2001
_Leftover explosives and poison gas were buried on the American University campus
Poorly disposed of World War I poison gas weapons are causing problems on and around the campus of American University. "Accounts in student newspapers from the time describe soldiers disposing of weaponry by means that today would be regarded as an environmental catastrophe. Seventeen temporary buildings were deemed so 'saturated with war gas and other dangerous chemicals' that their lumber could not be salvaged. So they were burned in a 'suffocating' cloud of smoke."

_Eavesdropping On History
"New technology perfected by Stephen St.Croix is recovering long-lost sounds. It might even bring back Watergate's famous 18 1/2-minute gap."

Wow, this is a "Don't miss!" article. The guy who is the main human subject of the article seems, given the way he drives, to be dramatically misemphasizing the dangers in his life, but he does provide some remarkable insights into what can be done to extract human voices from garbled recordings.

"'No erasure is complete,' he said. 'The head rescrambles the sound filings but usually only gets about 95 percent. Even if they erased it numerous times, each time they only really get about 95 percent. Which means that there is a possibility that buried in there is the original sound.'"

"This feature cuts out the rumble of the airplane," he said. By clicking the button and moving the cursor, you can remove all the sound that is naturally outside the register of the human voice. By just lopping off mostly bass sound and a bit of treble, I could almost make out the words being uttered in what was obviously a conversation between two men. St.Croix ran the remaining sound through the Adaptive Extraction module. ...As he cycled the sound through repeatedly, the sound got better and better. Pretty soon, I could hear President Clinton and President Bush talking..."

"Human language is highly intonated; that is, it is constantly changing frequency and volume. The Tone Removal module analyzes the sound, recognizes the frequencies that are constant and then strips them out. ...St.Croix began to loop it through the Noise Reduction module. ...[W]hat began as a dense murmur became an audible voice saying: 'Take the package and go back and drop it off. . . . Meanwhile keep an eye out for other people. Don't talk to anybody. If anybody asks, don't panic. You don't know anything.'"

_Corporate Spying
"Almost every Fortune 500 company these days has a "competitive intelligence" (or C.I.) unit or farms out its spy activities. Coca-Cola, 3M, Dow Chemical, General Electric and Intel all maintain a staff dedicated to uncovering what business rivals are up to. Motorola hired away a star from the Central Intelligence Agency to create its corporate intelligence division. Ernst & Young, the accounting firm, boasts a 25-member competitive intelligence arm."
"Working undercover for years at a time, he had infiltrated Asian organized crime networks that controlled the distribution of counterfeit goods in the United States, as well as tracked phony pharmaceuticals and airplane parts. To Barry, collecting intelligence on companies was a snap compared with gathering information on violent gangs."

This article is fascinating. It focuses on a banal example, one pizza company trying to figure out how many pizzas a rival can produce, but the story of the process is chilling in it's depiction of how much information can be finagled out of people who should know better.

The article refers to practice of extracting information from people who shouldn't give it to you as "humint" or "human intelligence," but to geeks it is "social engineering." Many of the best known cases of computer security lapses are really about people falling prey to social engineering. Ever heard of Kevin Mitnick? He accomplished far more through social engineering than any technological approach.

At the other end of the scale are hardcore technological approaches to gathering information surreptitiously, such as the analysis of electrical noise in power lines feeding a facility, in this case a facility attempting to isolate nuclear fuels.

And props to my mom for telling the telemarketers working for my college to shove off when they called her house looking for me. Booyah!

_I Was a Teenage Pornographer
"At the time, my new vocation wasn't a shameful secret; on the contrary, it was the anonymity that rankled. When my first opus finally appeared in print, a few weeks after I'd completed it, I'd locate it in bookshops -- it was a virtual porn best seller -- and offer to autograph it. The bookstore clerks always turned me down. One, who at least pretended to accept my claims of authorship, said, "Nah, people will just think it's been used." Used was his distressing word choice." It was just his little secret, until President Clinton nominated his wife for a cabinet-level position.

_In Japan, losing a job is so shameful that some people will do anything to keep the world from finding out
According to this well written article, middle-agged Japanese men who lost their jobs in the economic turmoil of the 90's regularly keep up the appearance of being employed to avoid telling their neighbors. It's got a certain Twighlight Zone quality to it. The New York Times has a login-in requirement for reading many of their stories that is a certified pain in the ass. Sorry.

_HE'BREW: The Chosen Beer
Shmaltz Brewing Company brings you "Messiah Stout...It's the beer you've been waiting for!" What, you think I could possibly make this up?

It's shaping up to be religion day here at the 'blog.

_Welcome! You are about to become an ordained minister with the Universal Life Church
"We believe everyone is already a member of the church and is just not aware of it as yet. The Universal Life Church will ordain anyone that asks without question of faith, for life, without a fee. Just select 'Become Ordained' to complete the process right here on our World Wide Web site. The church has two tenets: the absolute right of freedom of religion and to do that which is right. Anything else within the law is allowed. As an ordained minister of the church, you too may ordain new ministers. The Universal Life Church will not stand between you and your God and recognizes that each person must choose his own path. Each person in the ULC is free to follow any path as long as it does not infringe on the rights of others."

Check out their homepage for what few other details there are.

_Bumblebees finally cleared for takeoff
"Insect flight obeys aerodynamic rules, Cornell physicist proves" Recent research addressing the old stories about bees being unable to fly according to the known rules of flight. Now we know more. The article has a colorful animated picture showing the sworls of air critical to the process:

This is an older story, but it's slow this weekend...