On Internet Publishing

I’ve mentioned before how incredible the internet is, particularly in the context of writing. With blogs, Twitter, web forums, and free/inexpensive hosting, there are effectively no barriers to entry to the world of public writing.
Entire communities of subscribers and participants have sprung up around major bloggers and web forums and discuss issues of every conceivable topic.
When I say “every conceivable topic” I mean it.
Behold: Bacon Today, a site dedicated to the most delicious of foods.
Ten years ago, one would be hard pressed to find a newsletter, local group, or other means of keeping up-to-date with the ever-changing world of bacon. Today, this is a trivial matter.
Oh, how the world has changed for the better.

On Bugs

Oh god! It can fly? That’s not fair!
-Louis

He uttered those words in reference to the giant, fearsome beetle-thing that was blocking entrance to my apartment. Or rather, he uttered them after I poked at it with his sword and it started to fly.
Intellectually, I’m not terribly afraid of bugs: they tend to be an annoyance rather than a source of fear. The few insects that bite, sting, or are venomous generally leave me alone and I leave them alone. I don’t have any known allergies to insects, so I have no compelling medical reason to be worried about bugs.
But there’s something about finger-length beetles that give me the heebie-jeebies. Upon seeing this insect, the? words of Admiral Ackbar sprang to mind: “[We] can’t repel firepower of that magnitude!” I’m not exactly cowardly, but this bug still creeped me the hell out. It reminded me of the hockey-puck sized ones I saw in Kenya.
My rock-throwing did nothing (( There’s no way I’m getting close to it. Screw that. )), so we were forced to use the sword, which is a rather effective bug-dislodging device.
While I enjoy and appreciate nature, I like to maintain the boundary between “me” and “fearsomely huge insects” when I’m outside, and particularly so when I’m inside (be it my apartment or a tent).

Let’s play a game…

No, not Global Thermonuclear War, but a more intellectual (and less destructive) game.
It’s commonly said that, “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” — while such a sentiment tends to be viewed as somewhat macabre, I think it’s right on the money: if a person is committed to violence, they will find a way to make it happen regardless of the availability of a specific type of weapon.
Evidently the British don’t seem to understand this, and have even gone so far as to make and market an “anti-stab” knife. While the rounded tip might foil ((Hah.)) thrusting attacks, it’s still quite effective for slashing. Will they take the edge off next?
Anyway, I digress. I was talking about a game. The game is as follows: find an ordinary household object that is not generally considered a weapon and make (or describe, if you don’t wish to actually modify it) it into a weapon (practical or not) using, if required, only ordinary household items in a reasonable amount of time. Let’s assume the weapon is for use against a single opponent, and will not present undue risk to bystanders (that almost certain rules out things like gasoline).
Obviously someone with some metal and a CNC mill could make just about anything, but let’s assume that CNC mills aren’t commonly available but, say, basic hand tools (file, saw, etc.) are. Same thing with time: someone with years of time can craft just about anything. Let’s be reasonable.
Bonus points to the most absurd-yet-practical examples (e.g. anything involving rubber chickens), objects made into weapons in a brief time (say less than two minutes), and those using unexpected-yet-common household objects (e.g. popcorn kernels, cooking oil, etc.). Extra bonus points for those who provide photographs.
Here’s a few that I could think of off the top of my head:

  • The antennas on my wireless router would be rather effective at poking someone’s eyes.
  • An aluminum soda can torn in half makes a somewhat effective knife.
  • Electrical cords to my computer could make a decent garrotte, rope, or shocking weapon.
  • The flash mechanism in a Kodak (or other brand) one-time-use film camera can be employed as a makeshift shocking weapon ((I’ve done this before. It’s quite entertaining.)).
  • While perhaps a bit obvious, my Maglite flashlight could serve as a bludgeoning weapon.
  • Same thing with a padlock in a sock.
  • Spray-on whiteboard cleaner, being mostly alcohol, would make an excellent incapacitating weapon if sprayed in someone’s face.
  • CD/DVD disks, when broken, are quite sharp and could be used as knives.
  • As chocolate is slightly abrasive, one could use a chocolate candy bar to polish the concave surface on the bottom of a soda can to a mirror-like finish, then use it to focus the rays of the sun onto someone, thus dazzling and/or burning them. ((This is also a reasonably effective method of starting a fire if all one has is a soda can and a candy bar. Try it sometime!))

What can you think of? Since not all of us can be armed all the time ((I, for one, am frequently in the laboratory on campus, where weapons are prohibited.)), this game actually has a practical purpose in that the use of improvised weapons could be lifesaving.
Update: Corrected some incorrect grammar/spelling/word use. I’m an idiot.

Marketing

I’m a scientist, not a businessman. I know next to nothing about making a profit except “sell stuff for higher than it cost you to make/purchase/acquire.” I leave the details to the experts, particularly when it comes to marketing.
I don’t like it when vendors don’t provide sufficient details, particularly technical details, in their catalogs, websites, or other media. I really dislike annoying ads that flash, blink or otherwise compete for my attention. I like simple, informative data that tells me what I want to know. I also know that one should really double-check one’s text prior to publishing it (( Though I admit to not doing this on occasion. )), particularly when one is putting together a catalog/website to sell things. It’s espescially important when publishing something in a different language.
For example, observe the following exerpt of a description of a sillicone, flexible, roll-up USB keyboard:

Finally a ruggedized keyboard which can withstand all kinds of abuse! This flexible keyboard is made of thigh quality silicone material, which offers the perfect combination of practicality, durability, comport, and flexibility. The unique material allows you not only to clean the keyboard with soap and water, but also makes it resistant to any dirt, even coffee or tea!

Thigh quality? Really? I always associated sillicone with breasts, not thighs. Perhaps they were trying to say, “thick, high quality”?
I’m not sure that a keyboard can “comport” — it might be comfortable, but I can’t really see how an inanimate object could misbehave.
While coffee might not be the best-tasting substance ever (though it smells fantastic!), I wouldn’t go so far as to call it “dirt.”
I suspect that the description was written by some Chinese person with a passable knowledge of English, but they really should have run their text past a native English speaker to see if the text actually makes sense. Surely a one-time cost of a hundred bucks or so is sufficient for someone with a bit of attention to detail and knowledge of the target audience’s language to look over it and make corrections, particularly when they’ll be cranking out a brazillion of whatever device they’ll be selling (hopefully at a profit).
If their marketing department can’t pay any attention to detail, I shudder to think of what their actual manufacturing department does.

April Fools!

I had a 50% surge in visitors yesterday, mostly coming from search engines looking for stuff related to “tgscom lawsuit” and whatnot.
I did a bit of digging, and it seems that TGScom sent out an email to subscribers claiming that a lawsuit they filed resulted in the NFA ’34 being overturned due to violating the Second Amendment. Evidently a bunch of people were gleeful and started searching for more information, finding two posts I made about TGScom a while back.
Folks, be sure to check your calendar before celebrating: it was an April Fools joke. A bunch of the excerpts of the email message I saw posted to forums did not include the date, which may cause confusion in the future when people read such posts.
I know, I wish they repealed the NFA as well.

Changed Worldview

I always thought that the “fire and brimstone” style of preaching was a metaphor for a general “doom and gloom” style of preaching, rather than mention of actual fire and brimstone.
Similarly, I always thought the term “bible-thumper” was a metaphor for particularly devout, evangelical Christians, rather than an behavior.
I was wrong on both counts. My worldview is irevocably changed.
A preacher, Brother Jed ((Search for the guy on YouTube for some examples of his behavior.)) , occasionally comes to campus with his wife and aggressively preach ((Calling sorority girls “whores”, frat boys “fornicators”, making blatantly racist comments towards blacks and hispanics,? etc.)) to students. He was giving a no-shit fire-and-brimstone speech to a bunch of students outside the university’s administration building. On occasion, he’d thump his bible. I must admit I was somewhat stunned by his behavior; I had never thought that anyone would ever actually preach like that.
Unfortunately for him, his methods didn’t seem to be garnering any followers. Indeed, people seemed to be more amused by his behavior than they were interested in his message. I wonder if this guy has actually run a cost/benefit analysis to see how effective his methods are.