The Cosmic Ray Deflection Society of South America

"You won't look like a dork™"
Foil sleeve protects motorists' arms from sun

A special sun block sleeve to protect motorists who drive with their arm out of the car window has gone on sale in Santiago. The Never Again sleeve is made with thermal isolator material and tin foil and, according to its creators, offers 100% protection from UVA and UVB rays.

Creators Raul Cereceda and Claudio Valtierra told Las Ultimas Noticias online: "You go to the beach and you see all these people with a tanned arm. They get a sun tan without protection."

Never Again is being sold in pairs at pharmacies and supermarkets. Mr Cereceda and Mr Valtierra say that they plan to soon be selling them all over Latin America. "We are confident about our product. We are confident we will sell 10,000 of them a month," they said.


Mormonstar Galactica

I thought the new Battlestar Galactica movie (sorry, I can't call a two part, 3.2 hour story a "miniseries") was pretty good. Not the most original thing ever, but well done. And it had that rarest of things: spaceships that don't move like fish. It broke new ground in two ways:

  • I think it's great that Gaff finally got to waste a replicant on his own.
  • And I don't remember Scorpius ever giving Crichton a hand-job!
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Six Degrees of Vaccination

Vaccinate Thy Neighbor:

Human networks of acquaintances, computer networks like the Internet, and interacting protein networks in the body, all share a characteristic layout: most of the elements have only a few links to others, while a few individuals have a very large number of links. [...]

The idea is to randomly choose, say, 20% of the individuals and ask them to name one acquaintance; then vaccinate those acquaintances. Potential super-spreaders have such a large number of acquaintances that they are very likely to be named at least once, the researchers found. On the other hand, the super-spreaders are so few in number that the random 20% of individuals is unlikely to include many of them.

Using the team's vaccination strategy, a disease can be stopped by vaccinating less than 20% of the individuals, in some cases, according to their computer model of a human population. The method can also be tweaked: if a larger sample is asked for names, and those named twice are vaccinated, the total number of vaccinations required can be even lower.


DNA Lounge: Wherein I hack hardware and don't make a complete mess of it!

In case you were looking for more reasons to hate ASCAP, there's this article about Skip's Tavern here in San Francisco. It's a bar that has live music, with bands who play only original songs. ASCAP came to them and said, "you have bands, and so they must be playing songs on which ASCAP controls the copyright! Pay us $800/year." The bar owner asked for evidence that there was any copyright infringement; in response, ASCAP sued him. They were unwilling to negotiate, so in response, he's no longer doing live music at all.

Speaking of live music, if you've ever watched our RealVideo webcasts while a band was on stage, you probably noticed that audio and video were at least ten seconds out of sync. I think I've fixed that, but I won't know for sure until the next time there's someone performing on stage (which looks like it's going to be a while.)

The webcasting setup we have is pretty convoluted, and I just made it even more convoluted to fix this. The goal is to webcast the main room when we're open (in both MP3 and Real) and webcast our archives when we're closed. That's simple enough for the MP3 streams: I just have the input source to the Icecast server change based on a timer. But getting those archived MP3s into the Real stream was trickier.

The way it used to work is that the MP3 encoder machine did two things:

  • stream MP3s from either live audio or the archives;
  • play analog audio of whatever is currently being streamed out its sound card.

Then the RealEncoder machine had its soundcard input coming from the soundcard output on the MP3 machine. That made the two always be in sync, at the expense of another decode/encode step (but that doesn't matter much, because RealAudio is way lower quality than MP3 anyway.) The only problem was that all that encoding/decoding introduced a big delay.

So the change I made was to introduce a switch: when we're open, the RealEncoder machine gets its audio directly from the main room; and when we're closed, it gets it from the MP3 machine. This switch is a pair of ST-SSR1 relays. I wired up their control lines to a pin on a parallel port, and the decision of when to switch from A to B is made by the MP3 machine (since that machine already knows when we're open, since it already had to decide whether to play live or archived.) The scripts that start and stop the live audio and archives now also run a little program that turns the appropriate pin on the parallel port on or off.

It seems to be working, but I had to tweak the volume levels in three different places, so I'm not sure it's all completely in sync; I think it's a little quieter than it used to be overall.


truth in advertising


"Dentures from nobody you know."

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It's Greek for "gimme some sugar, baby."

Colymbosathon ecplecticos:

A fossil of a small sea creature extracted from a 425-million-year-old British rock formation is the oldest unequivocally male fossil known, researchers say. [...] Details revealed include gills, eyes, limbs designed for swimming and the oldest known male organ in the fossil record. It was this last that led researchers to name the new species, Colymbosathon ecplecticos, which is Greek for "amazing swimmer with large penis."
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chicks dig my ride

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At Home He's a Tourist

We were having dinner at a Thai restaurant, and got to do some quality evesdropping on the family at the table behind us. It started off badly enough: the dad was telling the little girl that she'd better work really hard on her reading homework this month, because when they moved to Las Vegas after Christmas, she was already going to be the new kid, and if she also couldn't read as well as the rest of them, she'd be really unpopular. And he was doing this in condescending baby-talk. I remember being 7 or 8, and I might not have known the word "condescending", but I sure did know it when I heard it. So I hated him already.

Shortly after that, the waiter came over to take their order. Just before he got to the table, he said something to another waiter in non-English.

    Dad:   What language was that?
    Waiter:   Thai.
    Dad:   Oh, Taiwanese?
    Waiter:   Um... no, Thai.
    Dad:   But Thailand is in Taiwan, right?
    Mom:   They're two different places...
    Dad:   But they're both in China, right? Or Japan?

The waiter made some kind of embarrassed noise, presumably hoping he could just get to the taking of the order. At this point, I think dad might have gotten the slightest inkling that he'd just made an ass of himself, so he switched on the full-bore Marketing Weasel charm and started talking to the waiter like he was glad-handing him at a trade show:

    Dad:   Hey, what was your name again?
    (I loved the "again" -- he'd never been told the guys name and he knew it!)
    Waiter:   Ben.
    Dad:   No no, what's your real name? Your Thai name?
    Waiter:   "Ben."

At this point, we couldn't hold it in any more and burst out laughing.


US fires Guantanamo defence team

US fires Guantanamo defence team

A team of military lawyers recruited to defend alleged terrorists held by the US at Guantanamo Bay was dismissed by the Pentagon after some of its members rebelled against the unfair way the trials have been designed. [...]

The first group of defence lawyers the Pentagon recruited for Guantanamo balked at the commission rules, which insist, among other restrictions, that the government be allowed to listen in to any conversations between attorney and client.

"The first day, when they were being briefed on the dos and don'ts, at least a couple said: 'You can't impose these restrictions on us because we can't properly represent our clients.' When the group decided they weren't going to go along, they were relieved. They reported in the morning and got fired that afternoon." [...]