Definitely a Pick-Me-Up

The not-always-helpful WebMD has an interesting headline today: “Swim With Dolphins, Cut Depression”.  Now, I'm not a doctor, but isn't that a little… well… F–KING OBVIOUS?  Why are you wasting my time with this crap?  And where the hell am I supposed to find a dolphin, anyway?  Someone's definitely on crack over there.  Yeesh.


Hey, That Thing Looks Coo… OUCH!

I just found a cool design-related blog called Sensory Impact. They link to a cute new product design called the Syringe Button, which won first place in the 2005 Design Innovation Award for Product Design.

What it is: “This project offers a universal solution allowing patients to make injections on their own, safely and without any special training. It is enough to apply the syringe to the skin and press it from above with a finger.”

It's a great idea, but it looks a little too cute for its own good. Also, it's not real (yet). But keep an eye open!


China: Enter at Your Own Risk

Today Chinese officials shut down water flowing into Harbin, China, because it contains massive quantities of pollution – a slick, containing carcinogenic benzene, dozens of miles long. Millions of people who live in Harbin will have no tap water for days.

Holy —-.

But China has always been a site of major disasters. This is at least partially a function of statistics – China has so many people that it's going to get a disproportionate number of deaths. But still… according to the Disaster Center, over thirteen million people died in natural disasters in China during the 20th century. 3,700,000 people died in floods in 1931. Earthquakes, epidemics, droughts – China has seen it all. Geographic size also matters, of course, but the Soviet Union had far fewer disasters like this, and with the exception of Stalin's engineered famine, which killed five million people in 1932, a much lower death toll. That famine was a result of evil, murderous public policy – anything but natural.

Anyway. It's also currently the most polluted country on the planet – reflected by the current nightmare. Read the report on China by Energy Information Administration (which, as a subdepartment of the Department of Energy, provides “Official Energy Statistics from the U.S. Government”). In 1998, the WHO reported that seven of the world's ten worst polluted cities were in China. Or, according to The Economist, which quotes the World Bank, sixteen out of twenty.

The Chinese government appears to be committed to remedying the pollution problem, but clearly, there's a LONG way to go.

So, unfortunately, as fascinating, unique, and ancient as the Chinese culture is, it is clear that visiting China is a risky endeavor. If you go there, be aware of the serious environmental problems, and try not to breathe too deeply…



p.s. Stuff like this makes W look like a tree-hugger, huh?

Oh Yes, Ligers Are Very Real

Some of you may remember Napoleon Dynamite, the sleeper hit movie about a nerd in rural Utah.  You may also remember his favorite animal – a “liger” – half-lion, half-tiger.  Well, the creature exists.  Yesterday, KRNV in Reno, Nevada, reported that Sierra Safari Zoo in Reno was looking for donations.  Of their “selling points”?  A liger.  Don't expect the zoo to deny their secret monster creation program.  In fact, they are quite proud of it.

Now, millions of questions popped into my mind as I read this story.  Would the phrase “jungle fever” be appropriate here?  Do the parents need “beer goggles”?  How does “Liger Facilitator” look on your resume?  Does the job come with “Mauling Insurance”?  Can I ask a question without “quotes”?

These are questions that the biased, complacent media just aren't asking.  We the people must be kept informed of this new threat, before they complete the triumverate of Lions, Tigers, and Bears.  My inside sources tell me that the only reason this super-monster hasn't been completed yet is that they couldn't come up with a name that doesn't sound stupid.  But once they do… I can't think about this anymore.  Buy more duct tape.


p.s. What's next? Bearacuddas?  Leopirhanas?  Iguacodiles?  I have more, if you want…
p.p.s. “Very Real” doesn't make sense.  Something is real or it isn't.  I only put it in to make fun of it here.  And because it adds a sense of gravitas.  Quite true.

Sayonara, Sleazy Sony

There has been quite a ruckus about Sony's downright idiotic decision to install software that modifies Windows at the deepest level, hides itself, and secretly spies on your computer. It does this with something called a rootkit, examples of which have names like T0rn, FU Rootkit, and my favorite, SuckIT. Even more bizarre – it makes use, illegally, of Open Source software to do some of its dirty work. This is ironic for two reasons – first, the Open Source software model is designed to foster sharing and cooperation, and second, that this particular software has been written by “DVD Jon“, famous for hacking DVD encryption. Whew.

I'm not particularly surprised that the music industry is taking the most heavy-handed, brute force approach to the problem of file sharing, despite the fact that there are several creative alternatives to the problem. iTunes, for example, has done incredibly well, even its customers can easily get their hands on the exactly same merch for free.

The problem is that the whole business model is now flawed. The music industry has three parts – production, marketing, and distribution. Production is everything related to creating the album. Marketing is done by the labels, who take a hefty percentage for their efforts. Distribution is done by a handful of companies, including Sony, and involves getting the physical CD's into retail stores. They take about 50% of CD profits for this service/racket. File sharing (legal and otherwise) is a direct threat to the distribution model, since the physical CD's are rapidly becoming obsolete. iTunes gives me the music without the crap or the guilt. In fact, the only thing artists need these days is a studio to get their music made, and a marketing company to get their music heard. And if they're concert-friendly, they could even distribute recorded stuff for free, and make their money doing shows (which many artists do anyway – they can get a lot more from a tour than from CD's).

So it's no wonder Sony Music is freaking out. The joke is that moves like this only serve to push customers away from physical media – why should I put this malware-ridden crap in my pristine PC? As I said, I'm not surprised, but I'm not particularly worried. This is an act of a desperate company in its death throes. Boo-yah!


p.s. I should note that I have a good friend who works for Sony Music… sorry, dude :-/

Coke and Israel: Chilly Relations?

Yitz points out that on the new Coca-Cola website, Worldchill, which has maps of each country and a “chill factor”, Gaza and the West Bank are listed as “Palestine”, and the Golan Heights is listed as part of Syria.

I don't agree with Yitz's conclusion that Coca-Cola is “backing terrorism”.  I'm pretty sure it's purely a money thing – Coke doesn't want to miss out on the Middle East markets by calling those areas part of Israel.  Also Yitz claims that he can't see Jerusalem, but that's just because it's covered by “push pins” – where people can leave comments.  Interestingly, the only “push pin” in “Palestine” says “Dude, we're not a country”.  Looks like someone already got annoyed by this site.  Was it you, Yitz?

Anyway, I try not to get too upset by stuff like this – it's basically a sleek, asinine marketing ploy, that made a silly political decision that every map app has to make – Google Maps, NASA WorldWind, etc etc.  Whatever.


p.s. I know that Coke has a very cozy relationship with the O-U, if that makes you feel better…
p.p.s. It's good to stop drinking Coke (and almost every other soda) anyway – that stuff is poison.

Mazal Tov!!!

My good friend just got engaged!  Yaaaaaay! :-)

Head over to his site and wish him well!


p.s. Are you still here?  is waiting…

Something Smells Phishy

A coworker of mine had a close call with a phisher today. After working together with him for a few minutes (and reporting the criminal to Yahoo, which is the unwitting web host), I learned some new tricks and information to help find out if the e-mail being sent is a phishing attempt.

Just a quick note about how phishing usually works – you end up on a fake page that looks identical to the bank's normal login page. When you try to log in, it gives you an error saying that your password was wrong (no matter what you do, you'll get this error message). Behind the scenes, the phishing program is collecting your name and password, probably in a secure database somewhere. At that point the phisher's will use your password to access your account and pay all of your bills, without even expecting a simple thank you. That's the kind of people they are.

Anyway, the first thing I should point out is: NEVER access your bank's website directly from an e-mail. Even if you're 1000% sure that the e-mail is legitimate, simply open up a new web browser and enter the bank's address directly.

Here's why: the phishers are able to (quite easily) create website addresses that look almost the same as banks' addresses. For example, the address might be or In the first case, the website is merely spelled differently. In the second case, there's all sorts of junk at the end that indicates that the website is not, but

The second thing they do is make the link look like it is pointing to one address, and have the actual link go to another location. For example:
looks like a search for phishing, but if you click on it, it's actually a search for (horrors) yodayid! Like most Republican policies, the differences between appearance and reality can be subtle, but the eventual results are horrific (zing!).

Anyway, right now, that's where phishers are, technologically speaking. It still takes that mouse click from you to go to the phony web page. So DON'T CLICK IT!

Safe Surfing,


p.s. Ok, so my example wasn't all that subtle. Maybe because I'm not a phisher?

p.p.s. My first PSA… awwwww :-)

Where Have You BEEN?

Faithful Readers, you (hopefully) noticed that I haven't blogged much in the past two weeks. This is because I moved, which turned out to be a lot of work (who knew?). It's going well, but I'm still not 100% settled in. I just got internet access in the apartment two days ago, so my only chance to blog would have been at work, but I've been pretty busy there too. So did you miss me? :-)

Anyway, I just wanted to relay my horrific Time Warner Cable (TWC) experience. I wanted to get internet without television access, so I called up NY Connect and set up an appointment. They told me TWC had to do the install, and it would be five business days before someone would come over. Also, I had to pick an appointment time range – 10AM to 2PM or 2PM to 6PM. Neither one was good for a working stiff like me, but I picked 2PM to 6PM. I figured I would work half a day, head home, hope the guy came early, and continue working from home once internet was set up. So I wait a week for the guy to show up, go home early (missing a gym session with my gym buddy, among other things), and wait in my apartment. And wait. And wait. I need a shower, and I need to do laundry, but I don't want to miss the guy, Heaven Forfend. At about 5:57PM, I get a call from TWC central – the guy's outside. Can I come downstairs and let him in? Apparently they're not trained to use buzzers. I go downstairs – no guy. I tell them this, and I suggest that perhaps he's lost. Maybe they can call his cellphone and remind him of my address? No, they can't contact him – they have to wait for him to call them. Ugh. How about asking him to call me, so I can guide him through Manhattan's labyrinthine grid? Fifteen minutes later, I get another call from TWC – a different operator this time. Am I at home? Hell, yes – I've been here for four and a half hours. Because the guy's here and can't get in. Can you see where this is going? I go downstairs – no guy, This happens two more times (a different operator calls, asks the same questions, tells me the guy is outside, which he's not, I suggest that perhaps he's somewhere in Brooklyn that happens to have the same address). Finally, FINALLY, at 6:50PM, I see the guy, and decide to let him in. I tell him that I find it odd that the buzzer didn't work, and I didn't see him. I was here, he claims. Fine, whatever. I take him to my humble apartment, and he gets to work. Or not. You see, he says, you need a new wire dropped down from the roof, and since it's after 5PM, I'm not allowed to do that (TWC regs). Would you like to reschedule?

You can use your imagination from this point on.

There is one more thing, though. While walking home later that night, I passed by, of all things, a TWC office (maybe even the headquarters) three blocks away from my apartment. They are RIGHT THERE. So maybe, just maybe, the guy wasn't looking for my place. Maybe he didn't feel like showing up by 6PM, but he didn't want to get in trouble for missing his appointment, so he called TWC pretending to be outside the place (or maybe they colluded with him – who knows), all the while playing Xbox or something until he felt like walking over. I can't prove it, but I think this guy is a lazy punk who completely screwed up my day (and, to some extent, the next day, too, since I didn't have time to do laundry).

The story has a happy ending. I asked my new next-door neighbors if they could share their DSL line with me (via wireless) if I chipped in. They said sure, would $10/month be ok? So this actually worked out well – I now pay $10, instead of the $45 I was expecting to pay. In any case, though, this was definitely the most frustrating part of my move so far. Beware of TWC!


Tech Companies Gone Wild

Some strange headlines from Slashdot on Thursday:
Reining In Google
IBM Slows the Speed of Light
The Microsoft Singularity

It looks like technology companies are out of control – mark my words,
the fabric of space and time will be…  Oh wait, I probably
should have read the stories first, instead of just glancing at the
headlines…  Well, they're still too big for their britches.