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September 28, 2008

I'm asleep in the waiting room — you?


Above, a half-page ad in the new issue (October 2008) of Wired magazine.

Cracked me up.

Wait a minute — you mean it's not supposed to be funny?



September 28, 2008 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Swivel Surge Protector


I don't know what it is about surge protectors and bizarro power outlets and extension cords that gets me all excited but there's no question every time I see a new variation I can't wait to tell you about it.

From the website:

    Swivel Surge Protector

    Swivels to save space

    This Swivel Surge Protector reacts instantly, protecting your electronics, appliances and other equipment from costly, damaging power surges.

    6 grounded outlets swivel 90° for compact use in tight spaces behind furniture, desks and more.

    Indoor use.



September 28, 2008 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

'Look Who's Irrational Now' — by Mollie Ziegler Hemingway


Her "Houses of Worship" column in the September 19, 2008 Wall Street Journal was an eye-opener.

Long story short: "The Gallup Organization, under contract to Baylor's Institute for Studies of Religion, asked American adults a series of questions to gauge credulity. Do dreams foretell the future? Did ancient advanced civilizations such as Atlantis exist? Can places be haunted? Is it possible to communicate with the dead? Will creatures like Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster someday be discovered by science?"

"The answers were added up to create an index of belief in occult and the paranormal. While 31% of people who never worship expressed strong belief in these things, only 8% of people who attend a house of worship more than once a week did."

Here's the piece.

    Look Who's Irrational Now

    "You can't be a rational person six days of the week and put on a suit and make rational decisions and go to work and, on one day of the week, go to a building and think you're drinking the blood of a 2,000-year-old space god," comedian and atheist Bill Maher said earlier this year on "Late Night With Conan O'Brien."

    On the "Saturday Night Live" season debut last week, homeschooling families were portrayed as fundamentalists with bad haircuts who fear biology. Actor Matt Damon recently disparaged Sarah Palin by referring to a transparently fake email that claimed she believed that dinosaurs were Satan's lizards. And according to prominent atheists like Richard Dawkins, traditional religious belief is "dangerously irrational." From Hollywood to the academy, nonbelievers are convinced that a decline in traditional religious belief would lead to a smarter, more scientifically literate and even more civilized populace.

    The reality is that the New Atheist campaign, by discouraging religion, won't create a new group of intelligent, skeptical, enlightened beings. Far from it: It might actually encourage new levels of mass superstition. And that's not a conclusion to take on faith — it's what the empirical data tell us.

    "What Americans Really Believe," a comprehensive new study released by Baylor University yesterday, shows that traditional Christian religion greatly decreases belief in everything from the efficacy of palm readers to the usefulness of astrology. It also shows that the irreligious and the members of more liberal Protestant denominations, far from being resistant to superstition, tend to be much more likely to believe in the paranormal and in pseudoscience than evangelical Christians.

    The Gallup Organization, under contract to Baylor's Institute for Studies of Religion, asked American adults a series of questions to gauge credulity. Do dreams foretell the future? Did ancient advanced civilizations such as Atlantis exist? Can places be haunted? Is it possible to communicate with the dead? Will creatures like Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster someday be discovered by science?

    The answers were added up to create an index of belief in occult and the paranormal. While 31% of people who never worship expressed strong belief in these things, only 8% of people who attend a house of worship more than once a week did.

    Even among Christians, there were disparities. While 36% of those belonging to the United Church of Christ, Sen. Barack Obama's former denomination, expressed strong beliefs in the paranormal, only 14% of those belonging to the Assemblies of God, Sarah Palin's former denomination, did. In fact, the more traditional and evangelical the respondent, the less likely he was to believe in, for instance, the possibility of communicating with people who are dead.

    This is not a new finding. In his 1983 book "The Whys of a Philosophical Scrivener," skeptic and science writer Martin Gardner cited the decline of traditional religious belief among the better educated as one of the causes for an increase in pseudoscience, cults and superstition. He referenced a 1980 study published in the magazine Skeptical Inquirer that showed irreligious college students to be by far the most likely to embrace paranormal beliefs, while born-again Christian college students were the least likely.

    Surprisingly, while increased church attendance and membership in a conservative denomination has a powerful negative effect on paranormal beliefs, higher education doesn't. Two years ago two professors published another study in Skeptical Inquirer showing that, while less than one-quarter of college freshmen surveyed expressed a general belief in such superstitions as ghosts, psychic healing, haunted houses, demonic possession, clairvoyance and witches, the figure jumped to 31% of college seniors and 34% of graduate students.

    We can't even count on self-described atheists to be strict rationalists. According to the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life's monumental "U.S. Religious Landscape Survey" that was issued in June, 21% of self-proclaimed atheists believe in either a personal God or an impersonal force. Ten percent of atheists pray at least weekly and 12% believe in heaven.

    On Oct. 3, Mr. Maher debuts "Religulous," his documentary that attacks religious belief. He talks to Hasidic scholars, Jews for Jesus, Muslims, polygamists, Satanists, creationists, and even Rael — prophet of the Raelians — before telling viewers: "The plain fact is religion must die for man to live."

    But it turns out that the late-night comic is no icon of rationality himself. In fact, he is a fervent advocate of pseudoscience. The night before his performance on Conan O'Brien, Mr. Maher told David Letterman — a quintuple bypass survivor — to stop taking the pills that his doctor had prescribed for him. He proudly stated that he didn't accept Western medicine. On his HBO show in 2005, Mr. Maher said: "I don't believe in vaccination. . . . Another theory that I think is flawed, that we go by the Louis Pasteur [germ] theory." He has told CNN's Larry King that he won't take aspirin because he believes it is lethal and that he doesn't even believe the Salk vaccine eradicated polio.

    Anti-religionists such as Mr. Maher bring to mind the assertion of G.K. Chesterton's Father Brown character that all atheists, secularists, humanists and rationalists are susceptible to superstition: "It's the first effect of not believing in God that you lose your common sense, and can't see things as they are."

September 28, 2008 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Hot Lips Ring — by Solange Azagury-Partridge


Sterling silver


and enamel.



September 28, 2008 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

'As We Grow Older, Everything Is Illuminated' — by Deborah Tannen


Her superb essay appears on the second page of today's Washington Post Outlook section, and follows.

    As We Grow Older, Everything Is Illuminated

    Not long ago, I read that slaves made up one-fifth of the population of New York City in the 1700s. I gasped. The 18th century, which at one time sounded to me like ancient history, now feels shockingly recent. It was less than 300 years ago — less than three times the span of my father's life. And how absurdly young the United States now seems, our country's age only a little more than twice my father's when he died two years ago this month, just shy of 98. Because my father's life spanned nearly a century, my sense of time, of history and of aging have been transformed.

    My father recalled attending, as a child, a Veterans' Day parade led by men who had fought in the Civil War. When I think of this, that once-distant war comes within range of my experience, through his.

    I always knew that old people had been young people once, but until my parents aged, this was just an idea, not something I knew in a gut-level, automatic way. For most of my life, I saw old people as old first, people second. It wasn't until my mother and father joined their ranks that I saw old people as people first, their age a meaningless mantle laid over who they really are.

    I think I now understand why former classmates often meet again years later and fall in love. They see one another as the young people they were when they first met, which means that they see one another as they see themselves — their real selves, not the senior-citizen pods who have replaced them in the eyes of the world.

    At my 40th college reunion, I spied a gray-haired man across the room and wondered, "Who's that old guy, and what's he doing here?" But as I looked at him, familiar features began to emerge. As though I were watching a time-lapse film in reverse, the markers of age — the gray hair, the wrinkled skin, the extra pounds — all fell away, and the old-guy face dissolved before my eyes into the face of an 18-year-old I'd known in college. Aha, I realized with a jolt, it's Craig! That's who he is, that's who he really is. It was as if aging was a layer of makeup smeared upon his face — makeup that someone had just wiped off.

    I remembered then a conversation I'd had with my father when he was in his early 90s. "Daddy," I asked, "what does it feel like to be old?" "I don't know," he replied. "I don't feel old. When I pass a mirror I think, 'Who's that old man?' "

    My father's own sense of time was telescoped as he aged. Though he never lost his mental acuity or wit, he often remembered past events as more recent than they were. Toward the end of his life, he referred to his mother having died a few years before. I pointed out that she'd been dead for 33 years. "Thirty-three years?!" he said in astonishment. "And she's still bugging me!"

    In his last year of life, my father remarked, "When I'm walking along and thinking of people I knew, I think about them as if they're alive. Then I remember that they're dead." This comment gave substance to the cliche of people living on in memory. And so my father lives on in mine. Because he lived nearly a hundred years, history isn't history anymore.

September 28, 2008 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Camcorder Pen — 'World's smallest high-resolution real-time digital camcorder'


From the website:

    Camcorder Pen

    World's smallest high resolution real-time digital camcorder.

    People won't know the ink pen in your hand or pocket is actually recording video.

    One-touch record button employs the same motion you'd normally use to make a pen tip retract and lets you record without suspicion.

    And yes — you can write with this pen.

    Color CMOS pinhole camera captures AVI video in 352 x 288 resolution and stores it on the built-in 4GB flash memory.

    Unscrew pen and plug it into the USB port on your computer for playback.

    Just plug and play — no special set-up necessary.

    Camera records continuously until memory is full (approximately 12 hrs) or manually shut off.

    Automatically saves files before battery is depleted.

    Li-on rechargeable battery lasts about 3 hours and charges via USB hookup or included adapter.

    System requirements for playback: Windows Vista\XP\2000\ME\98SE.




September 28, 2008 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

SaferCar.gov — 'The nation's premier source of vehicle safety information from the government'


Just unveiled on this highly informative website funded entirely by our federal tax dollars, a new feature that, as the Associated Press reported, "... will allow consumers to look up the number of alleged deaths, injuries and cases of property damage involving passenger vehicles."

"In July, a federal appeals court ruling barred the government from withholding key data reported by manufacturers."

No doubt such information was withhold for our own good because we wouldn't really understand it.

"Consumer groups have sought the information, which was part of legislation passed by Congress following the massive recall of Firestone tires in 2000. The law was devised to help the government quickly detect potential trends in car accidents. It required manufacturers to provide data on complaints of deaths, injuries, property damage and warranty claims."

Well, the new information is a start, anyway.

Look for continued stalling and delaying from the car companies as they try to prevent anything more than the bare minimum mandated by law from seeing the light of day.

September 28, 2008 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Penny Hammer — by Stacey Lee Webber


Above and below, her hammer, fabricated by cutting pennies (only pre-1982 coins, minted from 95% copper, could survive her acetylene torch's high heat), then fusing them together into panels with small gaps so they could be rolled easily into the forms she desired.

"Darts cut in the flat swaths helped them to fold into the right shapes," wrote Eric Smillie in an appreciation in issue 15 of MAKE magazine.


He continued, "While preparing the pennies, she laid them between towels to shield the decorative textures of their faces from her hammer blows. For looks, she plated the finished objects lightly with copper and added a patina using liver of sulfur."

September 28, 2008 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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