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June 21, 2008

Ghost of the Chesapeake


Can you see it?

David A. Farenthold's story in today's Washington Post will fill you in on the details.

    Google, Not Ghosts, Behind Creepy View of Chesapeake

    Ever get the feeling that the Chesapeake Bay is trying to tell you something?

    To get it, go online to a Google Maps image of the bay, and zoom in on a patch of water a few miles north of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. There's a pattern of blue and green patches that coalesces into a shape [top].

    Which looks an awful lot like...

    "No way!" said Maryland Department of Natural Resources spokeswoman Olivia Campbell.

    "It really, almost, looks like a skull," said Kim Couranz of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

    It looks like a green skull the size of Baltimore.

    There are so many tantalizing possibilities here: Is the Chesapeake death's-head a large algae bloom? A signal of impending doom? An ingeniously placed ad for "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull"?

    The actual cause, as usual, turns out to be the least exciting.

    According to Google, the skull is probably a computer glitch.

    Chikai Ohazama, who oversees mapmaking operations at the Internet giant, said the skull never actually appeared in the water. Instead, he said, it was created by accident on a computer as Google technicians digitally combined two satellite photos of the same area.

    "I'm sure they just missed" the skull shape that was produced in the combined image, Ohazama said.

    Ohazama said that the image had probably been up for a year at least and that there were no plans to remove it. He said there was no evidence that anyone at Google had drawn the skull on purpose.

    "We try to reflect reality as much as possible," he said. "That couldn't happen. Or, it shouldn't happen."

    Plenty of other strange shapes have been spotted in Google Maps by sharp-eyed and not-very-busy fans. There's a human face in a Peruvian sand dune [below]


    and, in Canada, a rock formation that resembles a man in an Indian headdress listening to an iPod [below].


    James Ward, a Calvert County Web designer, spotted the skull in the Chesapeake while working on a Google map of lighthouses.

    "I was looking at these maps, and I was like, 'You know...'" Ward said. He blogged about it, musing that the skull might be useful for environmentalists as a symbol of the bay's problems.

    And he might be right: algae blooms, which can be as green as the skull in the image, appear regularly in the bay and its tributary rivers. Sometimes they create areas devoid of the oxygen that other life needs.

    Dead zones, they are called.

    In any event, the skull is probably not an evil omen from the beyond. At Hart Miller Island, a Maryland state park that Google Maps shows jutting into the skull's spectral forehead, employees have not heard rattling chains, seen ghostly pirates or experienced any other traditional signs of a maritime curse.

    "They were just laughing hysterically at even the thought of it," said Campbell, the state natural resources spokeswoman.

    Then, Campbell said, one of the employees remembered something. "We did have a boat burn last week," she said.

    But she said that was probably just a coincidence.


As virtual overlays increasingly become the norm, we will be seeing more and more things like this.

Only the difference between virtual and real will erode to the point where there is no difference.

Mr. Turing, your test score is back.

A singularity of sorts, I suppose; not quite the one Ray Kurzweil's betting the house on, but related, for sure, in the sense that both are the result of the informational equivalent of "girls gone wild" — call it "processors gone asymptotic."


Not quite as catchy, true — but it'll do.

June 21, 2008 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

LG Decoy — 'First phone in the world with a Bluetooth headset built in'


Just released this past Monday, June 16.

What an excellent idea.

But wait — there's more.

"The headset is automatically charged on the phone when the phone is being charged."

Now if only you could charge the headset via Bluetooth.

Don't laugh.

Soon come.

But you didn't read it here.


$179 at Verizon stores everywhere.

June 21, 2008 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

World's biggest Kit Kat bar — How about 45,000 calories worth? Does that work for you?


From craziestgadgets.com:

Giant Kit Kat is a Mere 45,000 Calories


Some crazy guy created a homemade Kit Kat bar. But not just a normal-sized one, a giant one. At approximately 2 feet long by 7 inches wide and 5 inches tall, this is one big candy bar. It comes out to be a mere 45,888 calories, 1860g saturated fat and, for those of you on a diet, 1120 Weight Watchers points (which is about 3 months worth of points for a woman). For comparison, a normal person probably eats around 2400 calories and 65g of fat per day — very roughly.


The creators used a wallpaper dipping trough as a mold to make the chocolate bar. It took a few days to harden and had to be put into the fridge diagonally since it was bigger than the depth of the fridge. That’s some big eatin’!




If you're from the "see one, do one" old school, well, you're in luck: a June 17, 2008 post on supersizedmeals.com offers a superb tutorial and recipe replete with photo documentation (above) to enable you to create your very own.

June 21, 2008 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Earbud Clip


Designed by Paul Koh.

From the website:

Earbud Clip

Keep your earbuds from tangling in your bag or pocket — keep 'em wrapped around your player with the earbud clip.

It's quick, it's easy and with no separate reel or case to carry it's incredibly compact.


When not in use simply slide the clip down the cord — with its lightweight construction you'll barely know it's there.

Ordinary flat clips pinch the cord and are made of cheap plastic that breaks after a few days' use.

This earbud clip is made of durable Lexan polycarbonate and its contours prevent pinching and guide the cord into the clip.


Multicolor 4-pack (Green/White/Black/Pink): $10.

June 21, 2008 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Sarah Ruhl will sort you out


A few months back I wondered out loud if she might be the world's first quantum playwright.

After reading "Dead Man's Cell Phone" last evening (it finally arrived yesterday, three months or so after I pre-ordered it from Amazon) I know she is.

    From the play:

    You know what's funny? I never had a cell phone. I didn't want to always be there, you know. Like if your phone is on you're supposed to be there. Sometimes I like to disappear. But it's like — when everyone has their cell phone on, no one is there. It's like we're all disappearing the more we're there.

    But when Gordon's phone rang and rang, after he died, I thought his phone was beautiful, like it was the only thing keeping him alive, like as long as people called him he would be alive. That sounds — a little — I know — but all those molecules, in the air, trying to talk to Gordon — and Gordon — he's in the air too — so maybe they all would meet up there, whizzing around — those bits of air — and voices.

    I wonder how long it will take before no one calls him again and then he will be truly gone.

    I wonder too. I'll leave his phone on as long as I live. I'll keep recharging it. Just in case someone calls. Maybe an old childhood friend. You never know.

    I get onto the subway. A tomb for people's eyes .I believe that when people are in transit their souls are not in their bodies. It takes a couple minutes to catch up. Walking — horseback — that is the speed at which the soul can stay in the body during travel. So airports and subway stations are very similar to hell. People are vulnerable — disembodied — they're looking around for their souls while they get a shoe shine.

    I put these two together. You're a sick person, you want to deal with red tape? You want to be put on hold — listen to bad music on the phone for seven years while you wait for your organs to dry out — is that love? No. Is that compassion? No. I make people feel good about their new organs. I call it: compassionate obfuscation. There are parts enough to make everyone whole; it's just that the right parts are not yet in the right bodies.

    That's right. When you die, you go straight to the person you most loved, right back to the very moment, the very place, you decided you loved them. There's a spiritual pipeline, you might say. In life we are often separated from what we love best — errors of timing, of geography — but there are no errors in the afterlife.




June 21, 2008 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

RattleBuster — 'Road Vibration Simulator'


"A tool specifically designed for locating annoying rattles and noises in cars — without having to drive."

That's different.

From the website:


    So, how does it work?

    This amazing CD kit provides you with a powerful "ToneEngine" that enables you to simulate road-induced car vibration using your vehicle's CD sound system.

    The ToneEngine provides you with a specific range of sound frequencies or tones. Each tone has been extensively researched and specifically selected for its vibration generating characteristics.

    You will be able to control the exact amount of vibration generated using the Volume/Bass/Fade controls on your vehicle's CD player. This will enable you to induce and subsequently pinpoint the interior vibration or rattle you are looking to identify.

    The ToneEngine

    Comprising five PowerTones (each 4 minutes in length), it forms the core element of this product. Each tone mimics a different type of road vibration. Your car will be stationary with its engine off. You are then free to move around your vehicle’s interior (without having to drive!), enabling you to listen for — and pinpoint — the rattle, vibration or dashboard buzz you are looking to eliminate.

    • RattleBuster will: enable you to pinpoint many annoying interior rattles, vibrations or dashboard buzzes. Its ToneEngine uses a specific range of sound waves which cause loose or unsecured objects to oscillate or vibrate.

    • RattleBuster will not: pinpoint "road impact"-induced rattles, for example, a rattle caused by the sudden impact energy absorbed whilst driving over a pothole in the road. Be clear about what sort of rattle you are looking for.

    • Rattle in Your New Car? Use RattleBuster to locate and prove the existence of an irritating internal car rattle to your supplying motor trader.


As seen on TV, so you know it must be good.


June 21, 2008 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

BehindTheMedspeak: Does dialing 911 on an iPhone violate its terms of service?


The highlighted item above was a parenthetical aside in a post that appeared yesterday on nexus404.com headlined "iPhone’s Web browser Used To Control Unmanned Aerial Vehicles."

If true (is it? I know there are readers who can find out in a Mountain View minute) it's an interesting bit of fine print.

So much for using the inevitable video capability of the device for remote diagnosis and treatment.

Though it's hard to see how Apple could possibly police such uses without a built-in real-time video search function far more capable — and Orwellian — than any such technology commercially available today.

Perhaps it's just something the Cupertino lawyerbots threw in until the Good Samaritan laws catch up to the 21st century.

[via Ray Earhart]

June 21, 2008 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Tide Clock


From the website:

    Tide Clock

    For tide indication simply set the hand to the full tide position at time of high tide for your location — the quartz-driven hand will rotate every 12 hours and 25 minutes, indicating approximate tidal state.

    How a tide clock works:

    Tides are caused mainly by the moon's gravitational pull on the Earth.

    The time it takes the moon to reappear at the same place in the sky each day is 24 hours and 50 minutes.

    This is called a lunar day.

    Many areas in the world have semi-diurnal tides (two high tides and two low tides a day).

    The tide clock is designed to rotate twice each lunar day (every 12 hours and 25 minutes), giving you a quick and easy indication of high and low tide.

    Other influences on sea levels and tide times which must be taken into account:

    • The sun's own gravitational pull when lined up with the moon

    • Changing volume of river flows

    • Strong on / off shore winds

    • Atmospheric pressure


    • Hand-spun stainless steel

    • 7-11/16" Ø (195 mm)

    • Quartz movement


Tide and Time Clock below.



June 21, 2008 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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