Freak of the Week – 4/25/05

Posted on

If you thought Michael Jackson was weird, check out this Peter Pan wannabe. I don’t even want to think about what he looks like without the wig and all these handmade fancy clothes. He says that his “day” job is in computer programming – lovely. He also has a IT company called Elfin Technologies. I love it.

I never before thought I would see these two sentences together: “I also started this site so that Tinkerbell would have an easier time finding me! So first of all I should say that I’m 50, and I live in Tampa Florida…”

Thanks Phyl, I’m sufficiently weirded out.


Spam from Spamalot

Posted on

I read recently a NY Times article about how somebody pretty easily cracked the e-mail signup page at montypythonsspamalot.com. There were all 19,000 registered e-mail addresses, ripe for copying and adding to mailing lists. Which, of course, leads to spam. The irony is just too rich. The very term “spam,” as applied to junk e-mail, originally came from an old Monty Python skit.

By the way, you gotta love Eric Idle, the driving authorial force behind “Spamalot.” In his show memoir at the Web site, he writes: “Thank God for computers, because mine tells me I began writing the first draft of Spamalot on Monday December 31st 2001. I downloaded the text of the [Monty Python and the Holy] Grail [movie] from one of the many illicit websites, which thankfully saved me all the bother of typing out the script and I could paste and cut and rewrite as necessary.”

He downloaded his own illegal script to save himself time the lazy bastard. I love it!

Via Pogue’s Post


Flying Cars Coming Soon

Posted on

This week inventor Woody Norris will receive America’s top prize for invention. It’s called the Lemelson-MIT award — a half-million dollar cash prize to honor his life’s work, which includes a brand new personal flying machine called the AirScooter (it goes on sale later this year at $50K per scooter).

The AirScooter can fly for 2 hours at 55 mph, and go up to 10,000 feet above sea level. This is not a joke – go and read the CBS News story and how NASA’s “The Highway in the Sky,” a computer system designed to let millions of people fly in their very own vehicles, will help make this a reality sooner than you think.

“Roads? Where we’re going we don’t need any roads…”

Via Slashdot


Homage to Leo

Posted on

I went to Google’s homepage today and this is what I saw:

Aside from being the inspiration for a book that has been on the NY Times bestseller list for 107 weeks, let me quickly run down this scientist/inventor/artist’s achievements so that you can feel even worse about watching TV and ordering in last night:

>> Described as the archetype of the “Renaissance man” and as a universal genius
>> Painted the Last Supper
>> Painted the Mona Lisa
>> Was left-handed and used mirror writing throughout his life. Explainable by fact that it is easier to pull a quill pen than to push it; by using mirror-writing, the left-handed writer is able to pull the pen from right to left.
>> Developed the world’s first robot
>> Recorded some 13,000 pages of notes and drawings, which fuse art and science
>> Considered to be the beginner of caricature due to the fact that he actively searched for bodily deformed people to paint them

Just thought I’d share in case you google today from your toolbar only and bypass its homepage.


In Memory of Saul Bellow

Posted on

Saul Bellow passed away recently and it saddened me greatly. Although I have not read many of his books, his existence, along with Eli Weisel, acted as Jewish Titans. At one point in his novel Herzog, Mr. Bellow seems to set out a kind of manifesto, a ringing checklist of the challenges the novelist must confront, or the reality he must contain or describe:

“Well, for instance, what it means to be a man. In a city. In a century. In transition. In a mass. Transformed by science. Under organized power. Subject to tremendous controls. In a condition caused by mechanization. After the late failure of radical hopes. In a society that was no community and devalued the person. Owing to the multiplied power of numbers which made the self negligible. Which spent military billions against foreign enemies but would not pay for order at home. Which permitted savagery and barbarism in its own great cities. At the same time, the pressure of human millions who have discovered what concerted efforts and thoughts can do. As megatons of water shape organisms on the ocean floor. As tides polish stones. As winds hollow cliffs…”

The only word I can think of is “powerful”. Mankind has lost another great thinker.


Taco Liberty Bell? Left-Handed Whopper?

Posted on

The Museum of Hoaxes has an area devoted to the Top 100 April Fools Day Hoaxes of all time. A number of them are really funny. I especially liked numbers 4 (Taco Liberty Bell) and 8 (Left-Handed Whopper).

Here is a brief description of #4, the Taco Liberty Bell:

“In 1996 the Taco Bell Corporation announced that it had bought the Liberty Bell from the federal government and was renaming it the Taco Liberty Bell. Hundreds of outraged citizens called up the National Historic Park in Philadelphia where the bell is housed to express their anger. Their nerves were only calmed when Taco Bell revealed that it was all a practical joke a few hours later. The best line inspired by the affair came when White House press secretary Mike McCurry was asked about the sale, and he responded that the Lincoln Memorial had also been sold, though to a different corporation, and would now be known as the Ford Lincoln Mercury Memorial.”

Enjoy reading about the Whopper, Sidd Finch, The 15th Annual April Fools Day Parade and all the rest.

Thanks Jason


New Foo Fighters Double Album In Stores 6/2005

Posted on

“In Your Honor” will be the bands fifth album. Almost exactly a decade from the release of the first Foo Fighters record, it will come out in June. It is a double album, as promised. One CD rock, one CD acoustic.

As Dave Grohl puts it, “just so you know, I have a calendar in front of me that is a year long, fucking packed with tours that will spin us around the globe over and over and over again. It makes me dizzy just looking at it. I can’t fucking wait.”
Neither can I.


Segway Polo

Posted on

No, this isn’t an April Fools Day joke:

This sport is real, it’s growing, it’s specially designed for and by wealthy dorks and I knew it was only a matter of time for something like this was invented once the Segway was unveiled to the public.
After the jump, read the NY Times article all about this “sport.” Enjoy.

Thwack! Whir!… Whir? Segway Polo Is Born

By Josh Sens

NY Times, April 1st, 2005

WHEN Alex Ko and his companions took up polo, they made some subtle changes to the sport once enjoyed by ancient Mongol warriors, who are said to have played with the severed heads of their enemies.

Mr. Ko and his friends opted for a 6-inch-diameter Nerf ball.

And instead of horses, they chose to ride Segways, the self-balancing transportation devices first developed as a short-distance alternative to the automobile.

“It’s similar to real polo,” Mr. Ko said, “but without the manure.”

He was standing in the thick grass of Ponderosa Park, a shaggy patch of green in Sunnyvale, Calif., preparing to compete in a game that replaces the thundering of hooves with the whir of battery-run machines.

On the first and third Sunday of every month, Mr. Ko, 34, a mechanical engineer from nearby Santa Clara, organizes Segway polo matches with friends and colleagues, most of whom work in the Silicon Valley, all of whom belong to the Bay Area Segway Enthusiasts Group.

Their matches have some of the trappings of traditional polo. Players wear jerseys – actually, colored T-shirts – and use mallets to knock a ball into a goal. Score is kept. And there is an umpire, although players feel free to ignore his calls.

“There are a few guys who take it seriously, but mostly this is a big goof,” said Jon Bauer, 37, of San Francisco.

This morning’s contest pitted four against four. Mr. Bauer’s team wore blue T-shirts. Mr. Ko’s team wore yellow and included Stephen G. Wozniak, one of the founders of Apple Computer and the owner of seven Segways. He is respected, if not feared, on the polo field for his aggressive play.

“My swing feels off,” Mr. Wozniak said just before the match began. He whirled his right arm in a windmill motion and said that he was operating on virtually no sleep, having stayed up at a party and then to watch a movie until 8:30 that morning.

The teams lined up on opposite sides of the field and rushed toward each other when the umpire rolled the ball between them.

At first glance, Segways could be mistaken for large push mowers, and in the early going, as the players found their rhythm on the grass, the game resembled a frenzied act of landscaping. But near the end of the first period, or chukker, in polo parlance, both teams showed signs of organization, even fleeting hints of skill.

“You should have seen us at some of the first games,” Mr. Bauer said. “We were all bunched together. Not much passing. Very little strategy.”

Like the birth of polo, placed variously in Persia or India more than 2,000 years ago, the genesis of Segway polo is hard to pin down. Mr. Ko traces his own interest in it to the fall of 2003, when a Segway polo demonstration was staged during halftime of a professional football game.

“I didn’t see it,” Mr. Ko said of the halftime show. “But it sounded pretty cool.”

Jonathan van Clute, a real estate and stock investor from Sunnyvale, said he had stumbled onto the idea even earlier, while consulting at a software company. “I brought my Segway into the office so everyone could goof around with it,” he said. “And this one guy pokes his head through the door and says, ‘Dude, two words: Segway polo.’ ”

WHATEVER the case, in April of last year, Mr. Ko and Mr. van Clute met at Ponderosa Park and began to tinker with their version of the game. Mr. Ko fashioned a mallet out of plastic pipe. They tried different types of balls before settling on a Nerf. They adopted rules from polo, water polo and bicycle polo, another contemporary offshoot. They outlawed high-sticking, or the polo equivalent of it, and agreed to run their Segways on the yellow-key setting – one of three settings on a Segway – limiting the top speed to eight miles an hour.

“We’ve never had any serious accidents,” Mr. Bauer said. “But there have been some pretty spectacular falls.”

During the match, the prospect of injury seemed to heighten whenever Mr. Wozniak entered the fray. Despite sleep deprivation, he played with zeal, charging after loose balls, leaning forward on his Segway like a ski jumper searching for extra air.

Mr. Wozniak’s opponents attributed his fearless play to his competitive gusto and his fleet of backup Segways, not unlike a traditional polo player’s string of ponies.

“Woz is the only guy who’s always cranking his Segway at top speed,” Mr. Bauer said. “I think it has something to do with the fact that he’s the least concerned with damaging his.”

Most Bay Area Segway Enthusiast Group members own only one Segway, which sell for around $5,000. Although the stated mission of the group is to promote public acceptance of the machines, many members spend more time playing polo on them than proselytizing for them. Mr. Bauer, in fact, who lives in San Francisco, where Segways are prohibited on sidewalks, said that his was used only for the Sunday matches.

“I used to ride mine more, but part of me got tired of dealing with the negativity,” Mr. Bauer said. “You can’t use them on the sidewalk, and if you do, people are yelling at you. Or they’re thinking of you as a yuppie, which in a sense you are.”

This was not the dream of Dean Kamen, inventor of the Segway Human Transporter, when he rolled out the first model in 2001. Easy to ride and ecofriendly, the Segway was hailed as an innovation that would revolutionize the modern city.

Just how much has changed is perhaps evident in the transportation used by players to get to their polo matches. Most drive. Mr. Wozniak often shows up in his Hummer, hauling four Segways in the back.

If the Segway has yet to transform urban living, it has at least altered recreational sport, if only slightly. It is fitting that it has happened in the Silicon Valley, a region renowned for finding innovative uses for technology. Recently, Mr. Ko said, a group of Segway enthusiasts in Southern California has taken up Segway polo. But his hopes for an intrastate rivalry have not materialized.

“I don’t think they’re quite that organized down there yet,” Mr. Ko said.

At Ponderosa Park, meantime, the match wore on. In the third chukker, Stuart Moore, 39, of San Jose, notched an impressive goal, moments before taking an impressive spill when his Segway bumped wheels with Mr. Wozniak’s. Mr. Moore hurtled headlong onto the grass; his Segway rolled on poignantly, like a riderless horse.

The score was tied in the fourth and final chukker when Mr. Wozniak shot at goal and raised his arms in triumph. The umpire, Chris Knight, 16, of San Francisco, ruled that it went wide. But Mr. Wozniak and his teammates paid no heed, exchanging high-fives with their mallets. The goal stood.

Other things happened. A player’s shin was bruised and another took a glancing blow to his helmet. The blue squad tried a last-ditch comeback. But as time expired, the score was 7 to 5, in favor of the yellow team. The players left the field, laughing and giddy. They were still full of energy, but their Segway batteries were running low.