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silly warning signs   ...   elsewhere on the web , from_the_archives , signs
mon 2003-jun-09   ...   permalink

Here are some silly warning signs I made with Safety Sign Builder, a tool that seems perfectly designed for being used for something it wasn't designed for.

small images and printable PDFs of them )

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strawberry ice cream   ...   elsewhere on the web
thu 2005-aug-04 12:32:54 pdt   ...   permalink

Just came across this article, about a study in which researchers were able, through the power of suggestion, to make people believe they had as a child gotten sick from strawberry ice cream. The same did not work with chocolate chip cookies.

Of the fact that it didn't work for chocolate chip cookies, the article says, "But strawberry ice cream is a rarely eaten food for most people and might be susceptible, the researchers decided."

Okay, so far so good. This all seems fairly unsurprising to me.

However, the researchers claim, "We believe this new finding may have significant implications for dieting."

Um. What? So you're saying you can convince people to not eat something that they already don't eat. And this is meant to help them lose weight how exactly?

Now, to be fair, it could be a case of bad reporting rather than bad science...

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is that an encyclopedia in your pocket?   ...   elsewhere on the web , software
tue 2005-feb-08 21:16:55 pst   ...   permalink

Thanks to TomeRaider and this Dutch guy called Erik Zachte, I now carry Wikipedia on my person at all times. How cool is that?!

It's not entirely clear to me whether the file that Mr. Zachte has furnished me with is in fact all of Wikipedia -- I mean, I know that it's just the English-language portion, and it doesn't include any images, but I'm not sure whether it's all of the English text. The TomeRaider file is 500MB, as compared with the official full database dump which is apparently 26GB; I believe the dump also excludes the images. I guess it probably does include all of the database's indices and such, so that could make it somewhat bigger... But still, it seems hard to believe a 50-fold blowup. Both are compressed...

In any case, I also grabbed the (much smaller) TomeRaider files for WordNet and IMDb (all movies since 1960). I am a walking fount of information.

This of course means that I can now carry only about half the amount of music I used to carry on my convenient, easy-to-swallow 1GB SD card. Might have to get another card!

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Delicious Library   ...   elsewhere on the web , software
sat 2005-jan-15 23:09:07 pst   ...   permalink

Came across this Wired article about Delicious Monster, the company that makes "Delicious Library", a MacOSX application for cataloging your collection of CDs, DVDs, books, etc. The interesting thing about the company is that they don't have an office, they just bring their laptops to in a cafe in Seattle with free wireless.

Anyway, so then I downloaded the app. It's pretty well done. Perhaps the most important feature is that you can scan barcodes with a video camera, so entering data is relatively quick and painless (and you don't need a proper barcode scanner). I've started by scanning all our DVDs (of which there are only 40 or so).

Once we scan all our CDs and books, well, then what? Well, one nice thing about the software (as far as I'm concerned) is that it stores your data in a simple XML file, so I can write a script to -- oh wait, what am I saying, surely someone's already done it ... yep, here we go: DeliciousExporter. Rock on.

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Netflix bookmarklets   ...   elsewhere on the web , netflix
sun 2005-jan-09 14:33:38 pst   ...   permalink

I was thinking that it would be really nice to be able to go from an IMDb movie page to the corresponding Netflix movie page. And then I realized that it probably wouldn't be too hard to make a bookmarklet to do it.

(For those who haven't seen the term before, a "bookmarklet" is a snippet of javascript that you can store as a bookmark in your browser's toolbar, and then in some particular context, clicking it will perform some useful action.)

details )

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SD/USB flash memory   ...   elsewhere on the web , hardware
fri 2005-jan-07 16:19:33 pst   ...   permalink

SanDisk has announced plans to release an SD card with a built-in USB connector -- eliminating the need for a card reader. Personally, I'd prefer to have my laptop have a built-in SD card slot, but I guess there are just too many flash memory card "standards" for very many computer manufacturers to actually build one of them into a laptop. (Though of course Sony includes Memory Stick and I have seen an IBM laptop that had a built-in CF slot...) Given that I can't have built-in SD on my laptop, I suppose built-in USB on the card is a reasonable solution. It just seems so inelegant.

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poor journalism   ...   elsewhere on the web
mon 2004-aug-16 17:39:02 pdt   ...   permalink

Here's a Reuters story on how some researchers are predicting Kerry will win in November because he has more royal ancestry. In it, they quote one Harold Brooks-Baker as saying the following:

"Because of the fact that every presidential candidate with the most royal genes and chromosomes has always won the November presidential election, the coming election -- based on 42 previous presidents -- will go to John Kerry."

The notion that every election has gone to the more royal candidate is plainly impossible, since there have been several "rematches" between the same pair of candidates, and in some of those the loser has come back four years later and defeated the same opponent. The most obvious example of this is Grover Cleveland, the only president to serve nonconsecutive terms -- Benjamin Harrison ousted him in 1888, only to be ousted back in 1892...

other rematches )

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text messaging mailing lists   ...   elsewhere on the web , software
thu 2004-aug-12 18:16:42 pdt   ...   permalink

Interesting article in Wired about TxtMob, a clever tool for setting up mobile phone text message mailing lists. The guy who created it initially intended it to be used by political protesters to coordinate with each other in real time. And so apparently it was used by protesters at the Democratic convention. He's now working on improving the service for use at the Republican convention, where of course more protesters are expected. (The article does not make clear what the TxtMob guy's own politics are...)

But the simple idea of SMS mailing lists makes so much sense, I'm surprised no one's already done this. Then again, maybe they have. In which case, why isn't it a big thing?

The answer, of course, is "Because texting itself is not a big thing in the US." (Maybe SMS mailing lists are already big in Europe and/or Asia...?) And as far as I can tell, the biggest reason SMS has not caught on in the US the way it has in Europe is quite simply that not everyone can receive text messages on their cell phone. If the wireless providers in the US would make receiving text messages free and automatically on for everyone, I believe a lot more people would use it. Of course, there's probably a quite sizeable chunk of the handsets in the states that just don't support SMS... But the old problems with cross-provider texting have been solved. If I knew that everyone with a cell phone could automatically receive texts, I would totally send them more. As it is, I periodically try sending one to someone, always starting with "Can you receive text messages?" at the start of my message... Only a handful have responded. Which reminds me, another thing that SMS needs is a "bounce message" mechanism. If someone's phone or service doesn't accept my text message, it just disappears into the void. Useless!

Anyway, yeah, SMS mailing lists. All sorts of applications present themselves... Most obvious is just small groups of friends, meeting to hang out and stuff. But also they'd be great for puzzle hunt sorts of things (for game control to contact all the players, for example). In fact, whole new games could be built around such things... Hm...

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infocom AIM bot   ...   elsewhere on the web , software
fri 2004-jun-11 20:51:44 pdt   ...   permalink

If you use AIM, send a message to "infocombot". Totally cool! You can play Zork, Hitchhikers' Guide, and several other old Infocom games. Info here.

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teenagers and sexuality   ...   elsewhere on the web
tue 2004-jun-08 15:18:55 pdt   ...   permalink

danah pointed out this article in the NYTimes on teenagers and sexuality... Part of her response to it was:

If girls are really calling the shots about sex, what are the long-term implications? Damn that's rad. ... And if a matter-of-fact attitude about sex is emerging, can we begin to be more serious about realizing that marriage is just a contract, not some hormone-driven fantasy about love?

As for girls calling the shots, I agree that it's great if girls are feeling empowered in this way. However, the fact that most of the hookups described in the article consist of girls giving fellatio to guys, and not getting anything themselves ... well, I don't think that fact necessarily makes it less empowering for the girls. After all, if they feel like they're in control, then when they're ready for more, they'll ask for it. But I do think that the reason cited for the asymmetry -- that guys are grossed out by the idea of going down on a girl, and/or girls expect guys to be grossed out by it -- highlights the need for better sex education; in part just because of the notion that cunnilingus is gross, but perhaps more importantly because of the implicit assumption that oral sex is the only way for a guy to pleasure a girl, and so if for whatever reason he's put off by that one activity, then there's nothing else they could be doing... If they're experimenting with their sexuality, then why aren't they actually experimenting, trying out different things to see what's good?

As for danah's other point, that this suggests the emergence of a more matter-of-fact attitude toward sex, which might possibly lead to more realistic notions of marriage and so on ... well, I agree that such a shift in general attitude would be a good thing, but I don't think that the article really suggests such a shift. I mean, even if we suppose that these kids are separating sex from emotion (which the article strongly implies that they aren't in fact successfully doing), they still clearly have the same old fantasies about finding the "perfect" mate and then settling down and getting married, etc. So the marriage fantasy is still very much intact.

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oops!   ...   elsewhere on the web
thu 2004-may-20 10:50:35 pdt   ...   permalink

Childless couple told to try sex

A German couple who went to a fertility clinic after eight years of marriage have found out why they are still childless - they weren't having sex.

Wow. Um. Words fail me.

UPDATE: Turns out "oops!" was the right title for this entry, as I really should have snopes'ed the story... Duh.

Well, in my defense, the article that I read certainly was somewhat more believable than the one quoted in snopes. But indeed, some of the points they make do apply, and this instance of it is clearly no more true than any of the others.

I wonder how I originally came across the story. Ah well.

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robot gender   ...   elsewhere on the web
thu 2004-may-06 15:48:14 pdt   ...   permalink

Article about gender in robots...

Basically, the theory is that as robots become more integrated into our lives, it will become more important that they have associated genders. I'm not so sure. I mean, certainly the gender of humans affects how we interact with them. But does that mean that in the absence of gender we are just unable to conceive of how to interact with an entity? Plus, for something like the Roomba, which is not at all humanoid, does gender even have any effect at all? I certainly interact with a cat in exactly the same way whether it is in fact male or female. Honestly, I don't even really think of cats as having gender at all, hence the use of the pronoun "it". And the Roomba seems a lot more like a cat than a person.

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