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things that just are

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Daylight Savings Time

Just Wake Up Earlier
Benjamin Franklin is often credited with creating the concept of Daylight Savings Time when he wrote a letter to the Journal of Paris. However, what is little known is that the article was humorous. He was really suggesting that people wake up and go to bed earlier- not a bi-annual changing of the clocks.

From his letter:
I went home, and to bed, three or four hours after midnight, with my head full of the subject. An accidental sudden noise waked me about six in the morning, when I was surprised to find my room filled with light; and I imagined at first, that a number of those lamps had been brought into it; but, rubbing my eyes, I perceived the light came in at the windows. I got up and looked out to see what might be the occasion of it, when I saw the sun just rising above the horizon, from whence he poured his rays plentifully into my chamber, my domestic having negligently omitted, the preceding evening, to close the shutters.


From Wikipedia

Monday, March 28, 2005

Walking It Off

From the WSJ Evening Wrap:
Weighing in at a Rubenesque 9,200 pounds, Maggie, an African elephant at the Alaska Zoo in Anchorage, could stand to lose a few hundred pounds. To that end, zookeepers have commissioned a massive treadmill, to be built free of charge by Conveyer Engineering, an Idaho mining-equipment maker. The treadmill will be 20 feet long and five feet wide and will have guard rails on either side of it. "Our biggest concern is that we break the elephant," a Conveyer Engineering official said.

Animal-rights activists People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, however, believe Maggie is still getting a raw deal. They note that, in the wild, African elephants walk some 16 hours a day, foraging for sustenance. What's more, African elephants are accustomed to climates warmer than Alaska's, and Maggie's been alone since her buddy Annabelle died in 1997. PETA wants Maggie moved to a wildlife sanctuary or a warmer climate.

Though other zoos now want elephant treadmills of their own, the controversy will keep Conveyer Engineering out of the business for good. "When we're done with this one, we're going to turn the plans over to EquiGym," a Kentucky company that makes treadmills for horses, a Conveyer Engineering spokesman said. "Mining is controversial enough."

Thursday, March 24, 2005

More Details...

From the WSJ Evening Wrap:
Sitophobia is an abnormal fear of eating food. It's rare, but an unnamed woman who ate a horrifying meal at a San Jose, Calif., Wendy's restaurant earlier this week would certainly seem to be at risk of catching it.

She was eating a bowl of chili when she bit into something unusual. She spit the unusual thing out, a one-and-three-eighths-inch-long section of human finger, decorated with a long, painted nail. She had the presence of mind to warn other customers in the restaurant to stop eating, but then vomited "a number of times," according to a Santa Clara County health official. The official said the woman was at no risk of disease, since the finger had been thoroughly cooked.

Wendy's said it was working with investigators to figure out the finger's origin. It apparently did not belong to any employees at the Wendy's restaurant. "We asked everybody to show us they have 10 fingers and everything is OK there," a health official told the Associated Press.

Hilarious Spoof

OnlyTzaras.com : "Share your tzaras (problems) with everyone"

(Not to be confused with onlysimchas.com)

Worse Than a Fly in Your Soup

Diner finds finger in chili
From CNN.com

SAN FRANCISCO, California (Reuters) -- A diner at a Wendy's fast food restaurant in San Jose, California, found a human finger in a bowl of chili prepared by the chain, local officials said Wednesday.

"This individual apparently did take a spoonful, did have a finger in their mouth and then, you know, spit it out and recognized it," said Ben Gale, director of the department of environmental health for Santa Clara County. "Then they had some kind of emotional reaction and vomited."

Local officials launched an investigation after the incident Tuesday night and the medical examiner determined Wednesday that the object was a human finger.

Officials are trying to determine whether the finger came in the raw materials Wendy's used to prepare the chili, Gale said.

Via I write, therefore I blog

Monday, March 21, 2005

The Daily Show

Daily Show Clip Archives

Great Website

Ever need to send attachments that are too large for email?
YouSendIt will host your email attachment and let others download it from their server.
Pretty cool.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

No need to plead the 5th

From the WSJ Evening Wrap:

Getting away with crime is difficult enough, but it's especially hard when the criminal advertises his or her crimes to the world in advance.

Cases in point: Police in Quincy, Mass., discovered a man sleeping in a stolen car in the parking lot of a CVS pharmacy, wearing a stocking on his head and holding a cap gun and a note saying: "I have a Gun DO NOT Press any Alarms or let Custermors [sic] know Empty the All the register."

And police in Moorhead, Minn., arrested a man for drunken driving last week who had a personalized license plate that read "TIPSY." "It doesn't mean I drink and drive," the defendant explained to the Associated Press. "It just means I have a good time."

Who's on First?

McSweeney's Internet Tendency: Who's on First?

(A CUSTOMER steps up to a video-store counter with a stack of videos.)

CASHIER: Hi. Did you find everything you wanted?

CUSTOMER: (Handing over membership card.) Yes, thanks. (Pause.) When is this one due back?

CASHIER: The day after tomorrow.

CUSTOMER: Yeah, when's it due back?

CASHIER: The day after tomorrow.

CUSTOMER: Yes. The Day After Tomorrow.


CUSTOMER: Right. When's it due back?

CASHIER: The day after tomorrow.

CUSTOMER: I mean the movie. The Day After Tomorrow. When is it due?"


Tuesday, March 15, 2005

The Big Drip

From the WSJ Evening Wrap:

At more than 20 years and nearly $15 billion, the Big Dig, which diverted I-93 into tunnels underneath Boston, has been the biggest, most expensive highway project in U.S. history. And you may not want to drive in it. After an inspection of the I-93 tunnels, one of which sprung a massive leak in September, an independent engineer told the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority that he couldn't guarantee their safety.

The engineer, Jack Lemley, told Massachusetts lawmakers in November that the tunnels were safe, but he has since discovered hundreds of smaller leaks, the latest black eye for a project dogged by cost overruns and controversy. Mr. Lemley also said that turnpike officials had withheld information about the problems and had no plan to fix them. The Turnpike Authority stood by the safety of the tunnels: "If we ever had a reasonable inkling otherwise, we'd close the tunnels," a spokesman told the Boston Globe, which broke the story.

Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney said he would ask the state's Supreme Court if he could fire the Turnpike Authority's chairman. Mr. Romney told the AP that he'd keep driving through the Big Dig, but "I don't feel as safe in the tunnels today as I did yesterday."

Just Get Even

No Need to Stew: A Few Tips to Cope With Life's Annoyances
NY Times
March 15, 2005

When Seth Shepsle goes to Starbucks, he orders a 'medium' because 'grande' - as the coffee company calls the size, the one between big and small - annoys him.

Meg Daniel presses zero whenever she hears a computerized operator on the telephone so that she can talk to a real person. 'Just because they want a computer to handle me doesn't mean I have to play along,' she said.

When subscription cards fall from magazines Andrew Kirk is reading, he stacks them in a pile at the corner of his desk. At the end of each month, he puts them in the mail but leaves them blank so that the advertiser is forced to pay the business reply postage without gaining a new subscriber.

Life can involve big hardships, like being fired or smashing up your car. There is only so much you can do about them. But far more prevalent - and perhaps in the long run just as insidious - are life's many little annoyances."

These, you can do something about.

To examine the little weapons people use for everyday survival is to be given a free guidebook on getting by, created by the millions who feel that they must. It is a case study in human inventiveness, with occasional juvenile and petty passages, and the originators of these tips are happy to share them.

"They're an integral part of how people cope," said Prof. James C. Scott, who teaches anthropology and political science at Yale University, and the author of "Weapons of the Weak," about the feigned ignorance, foot-dragging and other techniques Malaysian peasants used to avoid cooperating with the arrival of new technology in the 1970's. "All societies have them, but they're successful only to the extent that they avoid open confrontation."

The slow driver in fast traffic, the shopper with 50 coupons at the front of the checkout line and the telemarketer calling at dinner all inflict life's thousand little lashes. But some see these infractions as precious opportunities, rare chances for retribution in the face of forces beyond our control.

Wesley A. Williams spent more than a year exacting his revenge against junk mailers. When signing up for a no-junk-mail list failed to stem the flow, he resorted to writing at the top of each unwanted item: "Not at this address. Return to sender." But the mail kept coming because the envelopes had "or current resident" on them, obligating mail carriers to deliver it, he said.

Next, he began stuffing the mail back into the "business reply" envelope and sending it back so that the mailer would have to pay the postage. "That wasn't exacting a heavy enough cost from them for bothering me," said Mr. Williams, 35, a middle school science teacher who lives in Melrose, N.Y., near Albany.

After checking with a postal clerk about the legality of stepping up his efforts, he began cutting up magazines, heavy bond paper, and small strips of sheet metal and stuffing them into the business reply envelopes that came with the junk packages.

"You wouldn't believe how heavy I got some of these envelopes to weigh," said Mr. Williams, who added that he saw an immediate drop in the amount of arriving junk mail. A spokesman for the United States Postal Service, Gerald McKiernan, said that Mr. Williams's actions sounded legal, as long as the envelope was properly sealed.

Sometimes, small acts of rebellion offer big doses of relief.

"I've come to realize that I'm almost addicted to the sick little pleasure I get from lashing out at these things," said Mr. Kirk, 24, a freelance writer from Brooklyn who collects and returns magazine inserts.

When ordering a pizza from Domino's, Mr. Kirk says he always requests a "small," knowing that he will be corrected and told that medium is the smallest available size. "It makes me feel better to point out that their word games aren't fooling anyone," he said.

The Internet offers a booming trade to help with this type of annoyance-fighting behavior. For example, shared passwords to free Web sites are available at Bugmenot to help people avoid dealing with long registration forms. To coexist with loud cellphone talkers, the Web offers hand-held jammers that, although illegal in the United States, can block all signals within a 45-foot radius.

Mitch Altman, a 48-year old inventor living in San Francisco, said that in the last three months he has sold about 30,000 of his key-chain-size zappers called TV-B-Gone, which can be used discreetly to switch off televisions in public places. "When you go to a restaurant to talk with friends, why should you have to deal with the distraction of a ceiling-mounted television?" Mr. Altman said.

Some Web sites specialize in arming people against online annoyances. The site Slashdot posted the name and the mailing address of one of the worst known spammers, encouraging people to sign the spammer up for catalogs and other junk mail to be sent to the spammer's home. Mr. McKiernan of the Postal Service said that this tactic also appeared to be legal, but might constitute harassment.

Some groups are more frustrated than others. In 2002, Harris Interactive, a market research group based in Rochester, conducted a phone survey called the Daily Hassle Scale that asked 1,010 people to rank the aggravations they faced in a typical day. The survey found that poor people and African-Americans suffer the most stress from the everyday annoyances such as noisy neighbors, telemarketers and pressure at work, but it did not explain why.

Sometimes, the resistance to these frustrations is organized.

Work slowdowns are methods commonly used by labor unions to apply pressure without actually striking. During the Solidarity movement in Poland, people expressed their disapproval of the government-run news media by taking a walk with their hats on backward at exactly 6 p.m. when the state news program started. When the government noticed the trend, it issued curfews, but people then put their televisions in their windows facing outward so that only the police walking the streets would see the broadcasts. "You have to remember, in Poland during those years showing up drunk at work was seen as a patriotic act because people hated the bosses so much," Professor Scott said.

But even on less coordinated levels, shared frustration is often the augur of countercultural trends. Mr. Shepsle said he took great solace in discovering his irritations with Starbucks' lingo summed up on a popular T-shirt in Chicago. The shirt, which mocks the pretentiousness of a certain Chicago neighborhood, features two names. Next to Lincoln Park it says "Tall, Grande, Venti." Next to Wicker Park it says "Small, Medium, Large." "It's nice to know I'm not alone," said Mr. Shepsle, 28, who works for a theater company in Manhattan.

Most people participate in this sort of behavior on some level, Professor Scott said, adding that his own habit was to write "England" rather than "United Kingdom" on letters he sends to his British friends. He described this as his way of disregarding British claims to Wales and Scotland.

"As a tactic, it doesn't amount to much except a way to provide a tiny and private sense of satisfaction," he said. "But that's something."

Friday, March 11, 2005

A Joking Matter

Judge Says Leno Can Joke About Jackson

By TIM MOLLOY, Associated Press Writer

SANTA MARIA, Calif. - "Tonight Show" host Jay Leno may joke about Michael Jackson (news) despite a gag order on the prospective witness in the molestation case, the judge ruled Friday.

Responding to a request by Leno's attorney, Superior Court Judge Rodney S. Melville clarified that the gag order would not prevent the comic from making jokes about Jackson in his monologues.

Leno, who may be called to testify about a phone call with Jackson's accuser, has been having other celebrities tell Jackson jokes on his show since being subpoenaed. Media attorney Theodore Boutrous Jr. argued for the clarification on grounds Leno's First Amendment rights were violated.

The judge said the gag order barred Leno from talking about the specific areas on which he may testify, but it wouldn't prevent him or anyone else covered by the gag order from commenting generally about Jackson.

He said he would not even try to make Leno stop telling jokes that assume Jackson is guilty.

"I am not attempting to prevent anybody from making a living in the normal way that they make their living," he said.

The judge also joked: "I'd like him to tell good jokes ... but I guess I can't control that."

Jackson attorney Robert Sanger said Leno has made "very cruel jokes" about Jackson that could affect how he might testify and he urged the judge to restrict Leno further.

"We're not putting him out of his business if he can't talk about Michael Jackson for a few weeks," Sanger said.

The judge said he didn't believe such a limit would be constitutional.

The defense is expected to call Leno as part of its effort to show that the accuser's family has sought money from many celebrities including the "Tonight Show" host. According to the defense, Leno called police after talking with the accuser because he thought accuser's family was looking for a "mark."

Sanger noted that Leno's testimony would be favorable to the defense.

The judge said that during questioning, Jackson's lawyers would be free to note that Leno has made jokes about Jackson if they think it's relevant.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Outsourcing at McDonalds

Ordering a Big Mac via Fargo? McDonald's ponders call centers for drive-thrus

By Jennifer Waters
March 10, 2005

CHICAGO (MarketWatch) -- Call centers for McDonald's drive-thrus?

That's on the menu as the world's largest hamburger chain looks at ways to speed up accuracy and timing for drive-thru customers who contribute more than half of all restaurant sales. Instead of being on site, the liaison between customer and cook could be thousands of miles away from a local Golden Arches.

At an analyst conference in New York on Thursday, McDonald's executives said they are testing the use of call centers -- with professional order takers who have strong communication skills and do nothing other than take orders down.

At this point, it's not likely the order takers will be in Bombay or Bangladesh, but they won't be behind the window. Some, however, may be fluent in foreign languages, regardless of where they are.

"So if you're in L.A. and you hear in a year or so a Spanish-speaking person taking your order in a North Dakota accent, you'll know what we're up to," Chief Executive Jim Skinner said.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Funny Signs

"Adding insult to injust"

More signs from Flickr

Birthday Ice Cream

Yahoo! celebrates its 10th birthday with ice cream!
Yahoo! 10th Anniversary Ice Cream Giveaway

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Robin Williams' anti-Disney, pro-Pixar "Song of Freedom"

From Boing Boing:
During a press junket for the upcoming Fox CG film Robots, Robin Williams -- who plays robot 'Fender' in the film -- burst into a hilarious impromptu riff about Pixar's departure from Disney. Yeah, I know. Everything Williams does is an impromptu riff.

Link to MP3