Monday, January 29, 2007

Horse Feathers

Uh, OK:
Colonial Downs, which offers betting on horse races at 10 sites across Virginia, is pushing for changes in state law so that it can offer a new form of gambling, called historical racing, on which people wager on horse races that have already taken place.
One more time for the world: "people wager on horse races that have already taken place." That's what I thought they said. Wha? Ah:
In historical gambling, which is also called instant gaming, customers would put as little as a nickel and as much as $5 into a video terminal that resembles a slot machine. The terminal randomly selects a race from an archive of at least 10,000 previous horses races from tracks around the country. Customers review a graphic showing the odds and statistics for each horse before deciding which one to bet on.

The race appears on the monitor. If the chosen horse wins, the patron will receive a payout based on the odds, how much was bet and that day's purse.
My guess is that anyone with a thorough and meticulous knowledge of the history of horse racing (and/or a concealed palmtop computer) could beat this, even if they left the horses' names off the screens.

Besides...wasn't this kind of the plot of The Sting?

Sunday, January 28, 2007

I Am the Neuromancer?

Apparently (via which science-fiction writer are you?):

I am:
William Gibson
The chief instigator of the "cyberpunk" wave of the 1980s, his razzle-dazzle futuristic intrigues were, for a while, the most imitated work in science fiction.

Which science fiction writer are you?

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Oh, the Sponge-anity!

Putting the phrase "sponge disasters" in a headline is a pretty good way to get me to click on an article. From Yahoo! News:
Microwave experiments cause sponge disasters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Reports about a study that found microwave ovens can be used to sterilize kitchen sponges sent people hurrying to test the idea this week -- with sometimes disastrous results.

A team at the University of Florida found that two minutes in the microwave at full power could kill a range of bacteria, viruses and parasites on kitchen sponges.

They described how they soaked the sponges in wastewater and then zapped them. But several experimenters evidently left out the crucial step of wetting the sponge.

"Just wanted you to know that your article on microwaving sponges and scrubbers aroused my interest. However, when I put my sponge/scrubber into the microwave, it caught fire, smoked up the house, ruined my microwave, and pissed me off," one correspondent wrote in an e-mail to Reuters.
Could the destruction of a sponge really be considered a "disaster"? And, gee, who would have thought that putting something in an oven would cook it?

Wednesday, January 24, 2007


Last night, I was helping a friend of mine (who is an eighth-grade science teacher) edit some video of her classes for some educational conference/contest. Fortunately, nothing in her video went as awry as this science experiment, caught on video. The inevitable line: "That wasn't supposed to happen." Serves him right for wearing a tie-dyed lab smock.

A Sloth By Any Other Name...

...would still be as immobile.

I've had days like this:
Scientists in the eastern German city of Jena said Wednesday they have finally given up after three years of failed attempts to entice a sloth into budging as part of an experiment in animal movement.

The sloth, named Mats, was remanded to a zoo after consistently refusing to climb up and then back down a pole, as part of an experiment conducted by scientists at the University of Jena's Institute of Systematic Zoology and Evolutionary Biology.

Neither pounds of cucumbers nor plates of homemade spaghetti were appetizing enough to make Mats move.
Then again, you know, they are called "sloths" for a reason....

Finnish Lines

Oh, this is just wrong:
A novel whose narrative consists entirely of mobile phone text messages has been published in Finland.

"The Last Messages" tells the story of a fictitious information-technology executive in Finland who resigns from his job and travels throughout Europe and India, keeping in touch with his friends and relatives only through text messages.

His messages, and the replies — roughly 1,000 altogether — are listed in chronological order in the 332-page novel written by Finnish author Hannu Luntiala. The texts are rife with grammatical errors and abbreviations commonly used in regular SMS traffic.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Sound of Silence

One wonders if this is apocryphal or not:
A press release making the rounds on the that a conceptual artist named Jonathon Keats has made Cage's 4'33" into a ringtone.
If it's true, it's the best possible ringtone that could ever have been created.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Of the Icing

Far be it from me to say anything bad about the Wegmans supermarket chain (except that I hate them for not having a store around me), but, via Engadget, I was amused by their cake printer that could not handle special characters:
I'm sure that brought a tear to Aunt Elsa's eye.

I remember back in the late 1990s I did a story for Micro Publishing News on Torrance Bakery (in Torrance, CA), which was one of the first bakeries in the country to be able to print computer files onto cakes. They had adapted a Canon BubbleJet printer to use food-coloring-based inks that printed onto thin sheets of icing that could then be placed in top of a just-baked cake. For our holiday party we had the cover of our December issue printed on a cake. It looked cool but was kind of tasteless...slight flaw there...

I assume cake-printing technology has proceeded by leaps in bounds since then, though I still prefer my cakes to be imaged the old-fashioned way.

A Very GoodYear

I think I have solved my transportation problem (well, not really as problem per se). Instead of getting a new car, I think I will opt for my own personal blimp:
The Personal Blimp uses hot air (rather than Helium) for lift and virtually silent electric motors for propulsion. To put it another way: the Personal Blimp is a hot air balloon that can be maneuvered about in nearly perfect quiet. Passengers in a Personal Blimp have a serene experience of flight unavailable in any other type of aircraft. (Note: Initial flight tests are using a conventional gas-powered motor. Electric motors will be added once these initial tests are complete. Similarly, the initial flight tests are being made with conventional -- i.e. loud -- hot air balloon burners. Quiet burners will be added later.)

I suppose we should be happy it doesn't use hydrogen--oh, the humanity!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Fowl Threats

Here's a little tidbit of information I picked up this morning at the periodontist's, while undergoing oral surgery. My oral surgeon, by the way, is fond of expounding on bizarre trivia, either because he's just that kind of guy or it's a subtle way of getting the sedation to kick in faster.

Anyway, did you know that if you are a bird owner, you should not cook with Teflon cookware? Apparently, if you overheat Teflon, it releases a gas that is lethal to birds which, thanks to their heightened metabolism, they absorb more quickly than more lethargically metabolic organisms.

To that end, I propose the Tippi Hedren line of Teflon-coated cookware.

You could also use the cookware to take care of the creature it had done in.

The subsequent dissertation on the molecular structure of Teflon ultimately put me under....

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Pure MADness

Now, who, I say, who could resist this?
Absolutely MAD Magazine - 50+ Years

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Includes video clip interviews from the MAD writers and clips of Spy vs Spy animation

Over 600 complete printable issues, cover to cover, that’s over 17,500 scanned pages in full color

A truly interactive experience and can leverage the success of the late night show to introduce MAD Magazine to an entire new generation of consumers.