September 10, 2004
'Minority Report' - Chicago-Style
The future doesn't announce itself; rather, it softly drifts in, like fog or mist.
Now comes the inevitable next step on the road to a real-life world of "Minority Report"-like surveillance and observation, 24/7/365, anywhere and everywhere.
Read Debbie Howlett's story, from today's USA Today, about Chicago's imminent real-time video grid, scheduled to go live in March, 2006.
Chicago Plans Advanced Surveillance
A surveillance system that uses 2,000 remote-control cameras and motion-sensing software to spot crimes or terrorist acts as they happen is being planned for the city.
Mayor Richard Daley said the cameras would be tied to a network armed with software to alert authorities to suspicious behavior.
If that sounds a little like Big Brother is watching, he might be.
"Cameras are the equivalent of hundreds of sets of eyes," Mayor Richard Daley said Thursday.
"They are the next best thing to having police officers stationed at every potential trouble spot."
The system would exceed existing projects in how it would tie cameras to emergency operations, said Ron Huberman, executive director of the city's Office of Emergency Management.
Neither the courts nor the American Civil Liberties Union have objected to cameras in public places, saying there is no expectation of privacy on a city street.
"We live in a video world," said Ed Yohnka of the ACLU of Illinois.
The high-definition, motorized cameras can rotate 360 degrees and include night-vision capability.
They will be mounted on buildings and utility poles across the city.
Most are already in use — 30 by the police department and 1,000 at O'Hare International Airport. Other cameras are on elevated train platforms and the city's 600 schools. An additional 250 cameras yet to be installed will raise the number to more than 2,000.
The city is also considering allowing private companies to join the network, for a fee.
Officials said the system size is nearly limitless.
The linchpin in the network - paid for with a $5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and scheduled to be up by March 2006 - is software designed to detect "suspicious" activity.
For instance, if someone left a suitcase in a stairwell, the software would engage any camera within range and alert a worker at the emergency operations center.
It would do the same if an individual rushed up to another and dragged him away.
A series of cameras could track fleeing criminals, and 911 operators would be able to give police descriptions of suspects.
Huberman said the cameras will also allow city departments to be more vigilant.
Public works will be able to spot a broken water main instantly or the transportation department can see traffic jams developing.
"It really adds a whole new tool to public safety," Huberman said.
"It gives us a tremendous early warning and detection capacity."
Chicago is the first U.S. city to install such a network.
Officials here said they studied systems used by Las Vegas hotels and casinos, as well as the Pentagon and the city of London, where it's said that the average resident is viewed by 300 cameras a day.
Baltimore is trying to build a network with around-the-clock surveillance cameras.
Other cities have used them during big events.
Police in Tampa tried the cameras, using a mug shot database and facial recognition software to identify criminals on the street.
It abandoned the effort after two years because it never identified a wanted criminal.
Huberman said Chicago considered face-recognition technology but rejected it as inefficient and immature.
But, he said, it's a possibility in the future.
"Chicago has a history of pioneering 9-1-1 operations," Huberman said.
"Now, we're stepping off in the direction where 9-1-1 operation is going to be in the future."
Jet-powered wheelchair - of course it's Italian!
Giuseppe Canella was looking around for someplace to put a jet engine he had lying around, and then saw his Parkinson's Disease-affected mother-in-law's new wheelchair.
The jet-chair can now do over 60 mph.
Talk about the "Little Old Lady From Pasadena"....
Here's the BBC story.
Giuseppe Cannella had a big surprise for his mother-in-law when he put a jet engine on the back of her wheelchair.
Mr. Cannella says the chair can now do top speeds of more than 60 mph and has proved the star of a model plane championship during the Bank Holiday.
A model plane enthusiast himself, Mr. Cannella has been putting on shows at Barkston Heath near Grantham, Lincs.
"It is just the wheelchair with the engine bolted on the back and steering on the front," he said.
"Originally it was a gimmick. I had a jet engine and I was going to put it on a go cart.
"But the missus says put it on something unusual and so I put it on the mother-in-law's wheelchair," said Mr. Cannella, who is from Luton in Bedfordshire.
"She was on holiday at the time so she didn't know what I was doing until she came back.
"She actually thought I was doing it for her."
Mr. Cannella's mother-in-law, who had bought a new wheelchair, has Parkinson's disease.
Her son-in-law has been collecting money for the Parkinson's Disease Society and hopes to collect up to £1,500 during the shows at the British Model Flying Association national championship.
Why is bookofjoe published on such a weird schedule?
I mean, posts appear 8 times a day, at:
Who's up at 3:01 am?
Not me, that's for sure.
Judging by my reader statistics, not many of you, either.
Same goes for 6:01 am.
So why not go back to the old version 1.0 schedule, which also featured 8 posts a day, at:
As you can see, the old schedule corrresponded to the waking, working hours of the largest proportion of my readers, on a geographical basis: those would be denizens of the U.S. Eastern time zone.
You comprise, overall, from 30%-45% of my visitors at any given moment.
Both the late Version 1.0 and the current Version 2.0 number about 20% of their visitors from outside the United States, with the highest numbers from Scandinavia and the Far East.
And what's up with the crazy ":01" for posting times, anyhow?
The reason is that back when I was just getting started, things were always getting messed up when I used 12:00 pm and 12:00 am, especially regarding archives and what have you, so pre-emptively I started doing it the current way. But I digress.
To answer the question heading this post: the old schedule meant that there were two long periods - one five hours, one four - between new posts.
It became clear to me that there are those individuals who, for whatever reason, live from post to post here, and whose progress through some pretty tough days and times is made just a little easier by knowing, to paraphrase Little Orphan Annie, "You're only less than three hours away" from a new, fresh post.
So, for you dear souls, this post's for you.
Wild Bryde Jewelry
This cool company, owned and run by Michael Warner, creates unique jewelry, and sells it at very reasonable prices.
Full disclosure: Mike Warner is a bookofjoe fan, and I know this to be true because he posted a comment the other day, about the world's best mandoline.
The nice thing about running bookofjoe is that no amount of money on the planet can get you or your company mentioned in a post.
Only a certain something enables one to enter the virtual pantheon.
Posts are made by fools like me,
But only joe can waive your fee.
Apologies to Joyce Kilmer.
No, this isn't Microsoft Bob's edgy cousin.
Rather, HyperActive Bob is the name of a system created to let fast food restaurants predict when they are about to get busy, then tell them how much food to put on the grill.
The system uses rooftop cameras atop the restaurant that monitor traffic entering the parking lot and drive-through.
Currently, it's all about volume: if a minivan pulls in, there's apt to be more than one mouth to feed.
By this time next year, the system's creator, HyperActive Technologies of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, expects to be able to tell by the type of vehicle entering the lot whether its passengers are inclined to order a burger rather than a chicken sandwich.
HyperActive Bob's now in place at seven Pittsburgh-area McDonald's, a Burger King, and a Taco Bell.
"I've been a manager for 28 years," said Pat Currie, a manager at a McDonald's in Chippewa Township. "It's the most impressive thing I've ever seen."
It was installed at Currie's restaurant two years ago. Since then, waste has been cut in half and wait times at the drive-through have been reduced by 25 to 40 seconds a customer, Currie said - an eternity in the fast-food industry.
HyperActive Technologies last week set up the system at two restaurants in Florida.
Bonus: the time it takes to train new employees has dropped from three months to one week at Currie's restaurant, without all the yelling and screaming back and forth between the five people actually doing the cooking and the order takers.
Last night, wasting time and all, I put stirt.org in the URL box to see what comes up.
Full disclosure: I bought stirt.com back in 1999 (too bad that was the extent of my internet involvement before the boom - and crash), but haven't done a thing with it.
Anyhow, to my amazement, up comes a fancy site with Flash and a guy who says "Stirt," with a Mexican accent.
There's a whole other world out there, turns out.
Who'd of thunk it?
World's First Sculling Helmet
Funny, I never thought of sculling as especially hazardous to one's intracranial health, but this helmet's not designed for protection from physical trauma.
Instead, its purpose is to reflect the sun without hindering airflow to the scalp, thereby optimizing heat exchange and minimizing increases in head - and body - temperature.
Dirk Lippits, a Dutch sculler, was the first rower ever to wear this - or any - helmet in competition, at the recently completed Athens Olympics.
The helmet was custom-designed from a 3-D scan of his head, and created layer by layer from nylon powder using a 3-D CAD process.
It features integrated sunglasses to filter annoying reflections from the water.
Pom Wonderful - World's First-Ever Refrigerated Pomegranate Juice
All I knew about pomegranates growing up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin was that the juice stained anything it touched, and you could never get it out.
Now I find that I don't have to buy a pomegranate and break it open and crunch the seeds in my mouth to taste the juice, because this company's done the heavy lifting - or, should I say, squeezing - for you and moi.
They grow the Wonderful variety of pomegranate, then harvest and sell them from October through December.
They squeeze the fruit to produce five varieties of juice,
and sell them for $3.99 a bottle (15.2 oz.) in the refrigerated section of the produce department.
I bought a bottle (100% pomegranate variety) yesterday and tried it: different from any other fruit I've eaten, sort of like grape juice, but with a lot more punch. Very intense, both in color and taste.
I like it.