Sunday, July 18, 2004

I, Robot roundup

With "I, Robot" now in theaters, here are several prior posts related to this movie:

The price of things, redux

The post called The Price of things is getting a lot of traffic today for some reason (perhaps because it quotes the price of Martha Stewart's $10,000 handbag). It's a fun read...

Friday, July 16, 2004

The next revolution

I have long considered the appearance of bottled water to be a product revolution. Somehow, through marketing and subtle social pressure, companies took a free substance and turned it into a very expensive substance. In many airports and hotels, a bottle of Dasani water costs more than a bottle of orange juice. I was at a convention in Orlando two weeks ago, and bottled water was $2.50 from a vending machine. When you consider that the cost of producing the bottle of water is a penny or two, that is an unbelievable markup.

Since bottled water's arrival, I have been waiting for the "next big thing". And this may be it:

Will's weird WC obsession

Apparently, Will Smith (star of movies like Men in Black and I, Robot) is advocating that we all switch to wet toilet paper rather than the rolls of dry stuff we have been using for the last century. In the words of the article: "Will Smith seems to have become slightly obsessed with personal hygiene and is on a mission to educate the world - about wet-wipes!"

If you have a baby, you know what these are -- diaper wipes. They come in a sealed plastic box to keep them moist. You can even buy diaper wipe warmers lest something too cool touch your baby's skin.

So I am wondering if the toilet paper industry can create the next consumer revolution, eliminating rolls of toilet paper and replacing them with this more expensive product. Time will tell. One potential problem with this revolution: big clogs in the sewer system.

Saturday, July 10, 2004

Humming bird

I had gone out this morning at about 6:20 to get the newspaper. As I was walking back toward the front door, I walked by the flower bed. We planted something called "Vista Red Salvia" this summer, and it has had spikes of small red flowers all summer long.

I stopped walking when I noticed that a hummingbird was buzzing around the Salvia flowers at the other end of the bed. Based on the bright red feathers under its throat, I am going to guess that it was a ruby throated hummingbird.

I'm standing there watching him. He drinks from one flower while hovering in the air, pulls back, looks, turns and zips to the next flower, drinks, pulls back... He visits only the brightest red flowers. As he is flying, you can see the leaves below him moving from his wings' downdraft. As he gets down toward my end of the bed, I can actually feel the downdraft myself on my legs and feet when he truns and moves. His wings are moving so fast they are invisible.

As I am watching this I notice something else. About 3 inches in front of my face is a strand of spider silk. If I had stopped 3 inches later I would have broken it. After the hummingbird finishes and flies away, I look at this strand. Then I follow it. It is about 30 feet long - a single strand attached at one end to a tree's leaf and at the other end to the downspout on the house. No spider can be seen, and there is no web. Just the strand.

As I walk back to the front door, the bird that's built a nest on the front porch flies away, again. Every time you use the front door she flies over to a tree 10 feet away. Then, as soon as you step off the porch, she flies back.

Then when I walk in the front door, I notice that I'm not the only one taking this opportunity to enter the building. A big red beetle decides to walk in as well. He must have been sitting on the door's threshold waiting for his chance to get in.

Where did all these bugs and plants and animals come from? It's just amazing when you think about it...

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Cell phones and sex

One of the first and most popular posts in this blog is named Smoking and sex. It asks the question, "Why do we consider smoking to be sexy?" Smoking is a pretty disgusting habit when you get right down to it, so it seems very odd to associate smoking with sex. The answer to this paradox is simple: smokers are far more sexual. 19-year-old women who smoke are nearly four times more likely than non-smokers to be sexually active. See Smoking and sex for details. Cigarettes are essentially a marker for sexuality, so "smoking" becomes "sexy".

According to this article, cell phones are about to become even sexier than cigarettes. The article states: "According to The Mirror, the researchers, who questioned more than 10,000 youngsters between the age-group of 13-18, found that 60 per cent of teenagers who use mobiles a lot had sex, whereas, only nine per cent of the children who seldom or never used mobile phones had had sex."

It would be interesting to see this same sort of research applied to tattoos and other markers. And then there are the combinations: what does it mean when you see a tattooed teen with a cigarette in one hand and a cell phone in the other?

Monday, July 05, 2004

Are you a college student? Try out reduced gravity with NASA!

Welcome to the Reduced Gravity Student Flight Opportunities Program Web site!

From the site:The site has an extremely nice video to go with it (about 20 minutes). The video says that 800 college students have flown in microgravity on NASA's KC-130.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Latest batch of Microsoft updates

I keep the three XP machines I own up-to-date on all the Microsoft updates. So yesterday when the updater said, "There are updates ready to install", I was expecting one or two new updates. Instead, here's what is needing to be installed today:It's about 20 MB of patches. It will take 10 to 15 minutes to install. If you were to read about each one, it could take well over an hour.

Perhaps that is why US-CERT is suggesting people use other browsers. See also this post on the cost of maintaining XP.

This is starting to feel like a national security issue. The military, government agencies and most American businesses, not to mention hundreds of millions of normal citizens, use Microsoft software every day. If something "bad" were to happen on a large scale to this software, the entire nation would feel it. Yet the software is highly vulnerable. Why is Microsoft allowed to sit on $50 billion in cash rather than being forced to fix the problems it has created?

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