July 13, 2007
Eye-Fi: Makes any digital camera a wireless transmitter
From the company's website:
Technology that will change the way you take pictures
Millions of digital photos are captured everyday. Four out of five digital photos are never printed or shared, because of the complex, multi-step practice required to get photos from your digital camera — a time-consuming process that deters even the most motivated consumers.
Eye-Fi provides the first and only effortless way to send images directly from your camera to a host of destinations, including a computer, and online photo and social networking sites for instant sharing. It’s a whole new way to go from taking photos to sharing them.
The final paragraph of Christopher Lawton's July 11, 2007 Wall Street Journal article about the emergence of WiFi-enabled cameras:
Back on April 28, 2006, Michael Arrington featured this technology on TechCrunch.
He wrote, "There’s lots more buzz on this. See Robert Scoble and Scott Beale, who are just as excited as I am about Eye-Fi. No guidance on when this will be available, but they have working prototypes. If Eye-Fi owns the intellectual property around this, look for them to license the technology to flash memory producers. I will buy this the second it becomes available."
Eye-Fi's in beta now (below).
Let's hope that's not beta as in vapa[ware].
BehindTheMedspeak: When playing doctor isn't indicated
Look at the picture above.
What do you see?
The caption for the photo, which accompanies today's Wall Street Journal Weekend Journal section front page article by Nancy Keates on unconventional treatments for depression, reads, "Psychiatrist Ronald Parks combines conventional and alternative medicine."
Ausculating a sitting patient's abdomen through clothing, as opposed to placing the stethoscope against the skin of a supine individual, is indeed unconventional — besides being diagnostically worthless.
All you'll hear is the rustling of fabric against the instrument.
Why Dr. Parks allowed himself to be pictured looking so foolish — he's an internist as well as a psychiatrist, so he can't claim he forgot — is beyond me.
Oh, well, I suppose it doesn't matter much — I just hope the story spelled his name correctly.
'Water is the new oil'
Actually, the headline up top is my paraphrase of Genoveva Gomez's remark, "Water is the oil of the 1980s," a reference to the spiking price of the commodity a couple decades ago when OPEC tightened the screws — literally and figuratively.
Ms. Gomez is the lead engineer for the Lower Rio Grande Regional Seawater Desalination Project Pilot Facility in Brownsville, Texas, where Texas is investing $2.2 million in an attempt to produce drinkable water from the sea at an affordable price.
Lynn Brezosky's July 1, 2007 Associated Press story follows.
- Texas begins desalinating sea water
On a one-acre site alongside a string of shrimp boats docked on the Brownsville ship channel stands a $2.2 million assembly of pipes, sheds, and humming machinery — Texas' entree into global efforts to make sea water suitable to drink.
Opening a small spigot at the end of a fat pipe, plant operator Joel del Rio fills a plastic glass with what he says will taste "like regular bottled water."
"Sea water," he said. "It's never gonna run out."
The plant is a pilot project for the state's $150 million, full-scale sea water desalination plant slated for construction in 2010.
Desalting sea water is expensive, mostly because of the energy required. Current cost estimates run at about $650 per acre foot (326,000 gallons), as opposed to $200 for purifying the same amount of fresh water.
However, it is a growing field around the world as governments and private investors ante up where water drinkable needs are crucial.
About two-thirds of the world's desalinated water is produced in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and North Africa. Perth, Australia, is looking to meet a third of its fresh water demand by removing salt from sea water.
In March, Israel showed off its plant at the Mediterranean port of Ashkelon that can process 87 million gallons of water a day. Singapore opened a sea water desalination plant in 2005 hoping it will meet at least 10 percent of its water needs. Two months ago, General Electric Co. announced a $220 million contract to build a plant in South Africa.
Global output is still relatively minute — less than 0.1 percent of all drinking water. But according to a recent report by Global Water Intelligence, the worldwide desalination industry is expected to grow 140 percent over the next decade, with $25 billion in capital investment by 2010, or $56 billion by 2015.
While the U.S. has hundreds of plants to purify brackish ground water, desalination of saltier sea water is just getting started. In Florida, a $158 million sea water desalination plant in the Tampa Bay area opened in March after years of delays.
California hopes to get about half a million acre feet of water a year from desalination, said Fawzi Karajeh, chief of water recycling and desalination for the state Department of Water Resources.
That may seems a tiny portion of the state's yearly requirement of 70 million acre feet, "but every drop counts," Karajeh said.
An acre-foot is about 326,000 gallons, or about enough to supply two homes for one year.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry began pushing for Gulf of Mexico desalination in 2002, after a state water plan determined that hundreds of communities could face water shortages in the next 50 years.
The Brownsville venture got fast-tracked during a period of alarming drought and rapid population growth. From 1990 to 2000, the Brownsville area grew 43 percent to 372,000 people, and the population is expected to approach 500,000 by 2020.
Every drop of the Rio Grande, the river shared by Texas and Mexico, is already accounted for. A plant that purifies brackish groundwater provides enough water to meet about one-fourth of Brownsville's current peak demand, but groundwater may not last through a long-term drought.
Desalination is "part of the tools in the toolbox" of 4,500 water management strategies in the state's water plan, Texas Water Development Board spokeswoman Carla Daws said.
"We should never become complacent because of the history of our state having repeated droughts," she said.
The pilot plant was built along the busy ship channel because passing ships stir up the water, providing a challenge for the purification systems, said Genoveva Gomez, the Brownsville project's lead engineer.
Water pumped into the plant goes to three separate pretreatment units, designed by three separate companies hoping to win a contract for the full-scale plant. Chemicals and filtration remove bacteria, sediment and other impurities.
The cleaned but still salty water then goes to the reverse-osmosis equipment, where it is pumped at high pressure through a process that separates dissolved salt molecules from the water, producing one stream of purified water and a second of concentrated brine that is returned to the sea.
Tyson Broad of the Sierra Club in Austin said he was concerned the plant would be constructed on the shores of the Laguna Madre and send a salty discharge into the bay.
"If that increases the salinity in the bay system that's going to probably make the area less tolerable to fish and for any of the organisms that need to rely on the bay," he said.
Gomez said the waste discharge from the pilot plant is cleaner than the sea water that came in, and said even a full-scale plant would have minimal environmental impact.
She said the high cost of desalinated sea water will as more companies enter the market.
"If that's the only solution we have, you get water from the sea or you don't have any, then the cost wouldn't matter," she said, pointing out that people already pay a dollar or more for a quart of bottle water. "Water is the oil of the 1980s."
Visit the website (www.desal.org) of the Brownsville Desalination Project to find out more.
FLARP! Noise Putty Key Chain — 'Makes awful noises!'
"Disgusting great fun!"
Suitable for age 3+ so for a change everyone's old enough.
Washington, D.C. as it will appear in the upcoming video game 'Fallout 3'
The game won't be released until late 2008 but the photo above showing the gameplay arena appeared in the July 3, 2007 Washington Post Business section along with Mike Musgrove's story about the huge amounts of money and effort now being spent by game companies to win the affections of big-name reviewers, who can make – or break — a game.
I have always been fascinated by what's allowable or not in video games, especially as they approach the watershed of photorealism, with in-game virtual reality indistinguishable from a film or video of actual events.
Best news of the day
It's pictured above.
William Gibson's new book comes out Tuesday, August 7, 2007.
Put me down for a copy.
No wonder your steamed bun tastes like cardboard — it is cardboard
I hate to seem like I'm piling on, what with seemingly everything from China now turning out to be composed, at least in part, of the matter equivalent of "mystery meat."
But Audra Ang's Associated Press story, published in today's Washington Post, about an undercover investigation by a Chinese TV crew that showed a Beijing street vendor picking up cardboard off Beijing's streets, then using it to stuff steamed buns, really is an eye-opener.
The Chinese TV video appears above.
Here's the Post piece.
- Beijing Steamed Buns Include Cardboard
Chopped cardboard, softened with an industrial chemical and flavored with fatty pork and powdered seasoning, is a main ingredient in batches of steamed buns sold in one Beijing neighborhood, state television said.
The report, aired late Wednesday on China Central Television, highlights the country's problems with food safety despite government efforts to improve the situation.
Countless small, often illegally run operations exist across China and make money cutting corners by using inexpensive ingredients or unsavory substitutes. They are almost impossible to regulate.
State TV's undercover investigation features the shirtless, shorts-clad maker of the buns, called baozi, explaining the contents of the product sold in Beijing's sprawling Chaoyang district.
Baozi are a common snack in China, with an outer skin made from wheat or rice flour and and a filling of sliced pork. Cooked by steaming in immense bamboo baskets, they are similar to but usually much bigger than the dumplings found on dim sum menus familiar to many Americans.
The hidden camera follows the man, whose face is not shown, into a ramshackle building where steamers are filled with the fluffy white buns, traditionally stuffed with minced pork.
The surroundings are filthy, with water puddles and piles of old furniture and cardboard on the ground.
"What's in the recipe?" the reporter asks. "Six to four," the man says.
"You mean 60 percent cardboard? What is the other 40 percent?" asks the reporter. "Fatty meat," the man replies.
The bun maker and his assistants then give a demonstration on how the product is made.
Squares of cardboard picked from the ground are first soaked to a pulp in a plastic basin of caustic soda — a chemical base commonly used in manufacturing paper and soap — then chopped into tiny morsels with a cleaver. Fatty pork and powdered seasoning are stirred in.
Soon, steaming servings of the buns appear on the screen. The reporter takes a bite.
"This baozi filling is kind of tough. Not much taste," he says. "Can other people taste the difference?"
"Most people can't. It fools the average person," the maker says. "I don't eat them myself."
The police eventually showed up and shut down the operation.
Here's a link to yesterday's BBC video report about the cardboard bun kerfuffle.
And here's the latest video to surface on YouTube, posted just nine hours ago.
The caption reads, "Chinese merchants soak cardboard in industrial chemicals to soften it. Then it is chopped and mixed with pork fat and flavored powder. The mixture is stuffed in dough and steamed. Enjoy your siopao!"
Time-Out Teddy — Because it's never too early to send mixed signals
From the website:
- Time-Out Teddy
Time-Out Teddy lets kids know when time’s up!
Plush bear not only measures a child’s "time-out" if they’ve misbehaved but also aids in teaching youngsters the concept of time.
Timer on the teddy’s tummy can be set in increments up to 60 minutes and when the time’s up, a buzzer rings to let everyone know!
"Teaching youngsters the concept of time?"
I've got news — a few years sitting in elementary school classrooms anything like those I spent what seemed like centuries in will go a long, long way towards taking care of that.
I wouldn't be at all surprised to learn that Time-Out Teddy was used in Alex DeLarge's preschool.