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November 1, 2008

What if commenters had to provide their real names — and Social Security numbers?


You don't think much of that idea, do you?

Oh, did I understate things?

In South Korea "To battle online harassment, the government’s Communications Commission last year ordered Web portals with more than 300,000 visitors a day to require its users to submit their names and matching Social Security numbers before posting comments."

I learned this in Choe Sang-Hun's October 12, 2008 New York Times story about the recent suicide of South Korean movie star Choi Jin-sil (above), for years the subject of relentless online attacks and insults about her status as a single divorced mother.

The Times article follows.

    Korean Star’s Suicide Reignites Debate on Web Regulation

    Choi Jin-sil, a movie star, was the closest thing South Korea had to a national sweetheart.

    So when Ms. Choi, 39, was found dead in her apartment on Oct. 2 in what the police concluded was a suicide, her grief-stricken homeland sought an answer to why the actress had chosen to end her life.

    The police, the media and members of Parliament immediately pointed fingers at the Internet. Malicious online rumors led to Ms. Choi’s suicide, the police said, after studying memos found at her home and interviewing friends and relatives.

    Those online accusations claimed that Ms. Choi, who once won a government medal for her savings habits, was a loan shark. They asserted that a fellow actor, Ahn Jae-hwan, was driven to suicide because Ms. Choi had relentlessly pressed him to repay a $2 million debt.

    Public outrage over Ms. Choi’s suicide gave ammunition to the government of President Lee Myung-bak, which has long sought to regulate cyberspace, a major avenue for antigovernment protests in South Korea.

    Earlier this year, the Lee government was reeling after weeks of protests against beef imports from the United States. Vicious antigovernment postings and online rumors on the dangers of lifting the ban on American beef fueled the political upheaval, which forced the entire cabinet to resign.

    In a monthlong crackdown on online defamation, 900 agents from the government’s Cyber Terror Response Center are scouring blogs and online discussion boards to identify and arrest those who “habitually post slander and instigate cyber bullying.”

    Hong Joon-pyo, floor leader of the governing Grand National Party, commented, “Internet space in our country has become the wall of a public toilet.”

    In the National Assembly, Ms. Choi’s suicide set the country’s rival parties on a collision course over how to regulate the Web. The governing party is promoting a law to punish online insults; the opposition parties accuse the government of trying to “rule cyberspace with martial law.”

    The opposition says that cyberspace violence is already dealt with under existing laws against slander and public insults. But the government says that a tougher, separate law is necessary to punish online abuse, which inflicts quicker and wider damage on victims.

    To battle online harassment, the government’s Communications Commission last year ordered Web portals with more than 300,000 visitors a day to require its users to submit their names and matching Social Security numbers before posting comments.

    The police reported 10,028 cases of online libel last year, up from 3,667 reported in 2004.

    Harassment in cyberspace has been blamed for a string of highly publicized suicides. Ms. Choi made headlines when she married a baseball player, Cho Sung Min, in 2000. But tabloids and Web bloggers were relentless in criticizing her when the marriage soured and she fought for custody of her two children.

    TV producers and commercial sponsors dropped her. The general sentiment was that her career was over.

    But in 2005, she made a comeback with a hugely popular soap opera called “My Rosy Life.” In it, she dropped her cute-girl image and played a jilted wife who throws a kick at her errant husband, but reconciles with him when she learns she has terminal cancer.

    This year, she broke another taboo by successfully petitioning a court to change the surname of her two children to her own.

    But in an interview with MBC-TV in July, which was broadcast after her death, she said she “dreaded” the Internet, where posters had insulted her for being a single, divorced mother. The police said she had been taking antidepressants since her divorce.

    In South Korea, volunteer counselors troll the Internet to discourage people from using the Web to trade tips on how to commit suicide and, in some cases, how to form suicide pacts.

    “We have seen a sudden rise in copycat suicides following a celebrity death,” said Jeon Jun-hee, an official at the Seoul Metropolitan Mental Health Center, which runs a suicide prevention hot line. Mr. Jeon said the hot line had received 60 calls a day, or twice the usual number, since Ms. Choi’s suicide.

November 1, 2008 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Pocket Wrench


From the website:

Pocket Wrench

This is the next best thing to a real wrench.


Made from 420 stainless steel hardened to Rc52, 1/8" thick, 4" long, and 1" wide — perfect for a pocket or tool pouch.

It will tighten or remove nuts from 3/16" to 11/16" or 5mm to 17mm.

Excels at preventing nuts from spinning as you tighten a bolt.


One end is tapered for use as a pry or a screwdriver.

There are also Imperial and metric scales.

One of the best features is the 1/4" hex hole,


which allows you to slip the wrench over a standard hex bit (not included), creating a lever for applying extra torque.

A wonderfully useful tool.



November 1, 2008 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Clemens en August in November


Long story short: "For the last three years, Alexander Brenninkmeijer, the designer of the German label Clemens en August, has sold his collections only in museums and art galleries around the world, usually for no more than three days at a time."

And starting next Tuesday, November 4, he'll be at the Chelsea Art Museum in Manhattan, through Thursday, November 6.

Fair warning.

Here's Eric Wilson's October 30, 2008 New York Times story about the pop-up store to-the-max designer and his wares, examples of which appear in the photo up top.

    Price Tags That Are Works of Art

    The price tag on a men’s cotton suit from Clemens en August, a German label that is difficult to come by, reads $633. It also notes that the suit hypothetically would have cost $1,583 if you were buying it at a store like Barneys New York. But Barneys doesn’t carry the line, nor does any other luxury store.

    For the last three years, Alexander Brenninkmeijer, the designer of Clemens en August, has sold his collections only in museums and art galleries around the world, usually for no more than three days at a time. Last week, he was in Tokyo at the Zel Gallery. Next week, starting Tuesday, he will be at the Chelsea Art Museum in Manhattan. There’s no middleman, so Mr. Brenninkmeijer charges wholesale.

    “I thought it would be a good idea to go on tour so we would be able to cut out that high retail margin,” he said.

    Before starting the label, Mr. Brenninkmeijer worked with the designer Kostas Murkudis, who sold his collections at Harvey Nichols and Bergdorf Goodman. Mr. Brenninkmeijer said that prices were marked up so much it was hard to sell them.

    “The problem was, for young contemporary designers, there’s hardly any chance to become big independently,” he said. “One of the last designers to have that was Helmut Lang, but even he was taken over by Prada.” (That didn’t exactly work out, either.)

    Mr. Brenninkmeijer’s collection was called Clemens en August after the founding brothers of C&A, his family’s fashion business in the Netherlands, but it operates independently and has a more austere luxury look, with slim tuxedo suits or techno fabric jackets for women, and an emerald velvet suit or shiny athletic pants for men. A women’s silk blouse costs $365, and a jersey dress with a cotton back is $255.

    He wanted to open a store, but no one would take a risk of leasing to a label with no sales. So he approached a few galleries and was accepted, usually for a small donation, at Kunst-Werke Berlin, MAK in Vienna and the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London. The events — a schedule is at clemensenaugust.com — have caught on partly for the pricing concept, and because the limited availability makes the designs seem more exclusive: This season, he expects to sell about 4,000 pieces.

November 1, 2008 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

World's longest insect discovered in Borneo


And a great name to go with it: "Chan's megastick" (above, displayed by Jane Lucas of London's Natural History Museum, and below).

How's 22 inches long — will that do?

Read all about it here, here, and here.

If you can't be bothered to click on a link, just keep on scrolling down for Nature.com's October 17, 2008 story.

Longest insect is the stuff of nightmares


Please welcome the world’s longest insect. Measuring a horrifying 56.7cm (including legs) this stick insect has just been unveiled by the Natural History Museum in London and was described in the scientific literature for the first time this week.

In a paper in the journal Zootaxa, researchers Frank Hennemann and Oskar Conle propose a revision of the classification of oriental stick insects and along the way get around to describing seven new species.


The star of this show is the record-breaking Chan’s megastick (Phobaeticus chani). It was given to Malaysian entomologist Datuk Chan Chew Lun by a local man and then shown to UK scientist Philip Bragg, who recognized it as a new species. Chan then donated one of the three known specimens to the museum.

“We’ve known about both of the previous record holders for over a hundred years, so it is extraordinary that an even bigger species has only just been discovered,” says George Beccaloni (below),


stick-insect expert at the NHM.


No problema.

Here's a video about the discovery, on the website of the Natural History Museum.

Read the original article published in Zootaxa here.

November 1, 2008 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

POC Lobes Goggles


My future's so bright I've taken to wearing mine indoors.

From a website:

    PC Lobes Goggles

    Lobes are our newest ski goggles, with a huge lens to optimize the field of vision.

    The inspiration comes both from Swedish architect Sigurd Lewerents, who puts his windows outside the facades, and from astronaut Neil Armstrong.

    The lens of Lobes is a perfectly shaped spherical surface to minimize optical distortion.

    The lens is made of polycarbonate, perfectly tapered in thickness, which is cut to shape using computerized numerical control.

    Another, thinner sheet of cellulose propionate is then applied to the inside.

    Complete with anti-fog and anti-scratch treatments.



November 1, 2008 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

USB Mini Paper Shredder


From the website:

    USB Mini Paper Shredder

    Protect yourself and your business from fraud and shred important papers right at your desk — simply plug this mini unit into your computer.

    Has both forward and reverse modes to quickly and easily reduce receipts, notes and other small-sized paper into fine shreds.

    Plastic with metal blade.

    6" long.


November 1, 2008 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

iBackup — 'A simple backup/restore utility for Mac'


I'm excited, because for once you don't have to have OS 10.4 or beyond — iBackup works with 10.3.9, which is exactly what I'm running.

Oh, yeah, one more thing: it's free.


[via Rob Pegoraro's "Fast Forward" column in the October 30, 2008 Washington Post Business section]

November 1, 2008 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Soup + Crackers Mug


About time.

From the website:

    Soup/Cracker Mug

    Convenient mug holds your favorite soup and snack at the same time.

    Each glazed stoneware mug holds 1-1/2 cups of soup, coffee, tea or cocoa and features a nifty "sidecar" for saltines, cookies or crackers.

    Perfect for snacking in front of the TV.


Two for $14.98 (yeah, sure — can of soup and box of saltines included. No spoon, though — you have to bring your own spoon).

November 1, 2008 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

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