Thursday, July 12, 2007

One Bar with a Very High Cover Charge

I would like to see a detailed accounting of why exactly the fees are so high. That's all.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Practical Technology: Microsoft's New ... Table?

At the Movies
Ok, first of all, I love to see Hollywood's predictions borne out in reality-especially when it comes to cool gadgets. Do you remember Spielberg's futura noir adaptation of the Philip K. Dick short story entitled "Minority Report"? You know, the one where Tom Cruise's character (Precrime Chief Jon Anderton) manipulates images, video, and text with his special gloves on a gigantic screen?

Well, Microsoft (MSFT) has a few tricks up its sleeve- and you don't even have to wear special gloves! Bill Gate's recent appearance on the Today show debuting Microsoft's "Surface" demonstrated the technical wizardry that is taking the fiction out of science fiction. Gates demonstrated how restaurants and "other retail partners" may soon be filling orders by touching the screen and selecting a dish, drinks, or desserts and sending them out to order. Ok, we see touchscreens all the time in restaurants now, so what's the big deal?

Well, jaded reader, how about the ability for customers to pay their bills by putting their credit cards (probably modified from today's standard issue plastic) on the screen's surface and dragging over icons of what they ordered to the appropriate credit card? No more awkward exchanges over who'll pick up the check and no more crazy mathematical schemes (hey, anything that saves me having to use my phone's tictacs keys to enter numbers into a tiny calculator is welcome in my book)! Plus, the waitstaff could likely benefit from newfound tactile payment applications, since Surface automatically calculates the tip for your party, making the generosity of a bar or restaurant's patrons easier to manifest.

Photos: Easy as 1, 2, 3
Another neat trick is the apparent ability for anyone to use a wifi-enabled camera to directly transfer photos to the computer via touchscreen. Gates 1) snapped a picture, 2) placed the camera down on the touchscreen surface, and 3) automatically had the touchscreen's computer display, copy, or move the pictures onto the touchscreen. Not too technically impressive (you can accomplish the same thing by merely having a button on the wifi-enabled camera send the pictures over to a regular wifi-enabled PC nowadays), but visually impressive and a definite step in the right direction for tech-challenged folks (here's looking at you, Dad).

Surface's behavior closely mimicks how one would flip through photos on a real table. Flipping through photos onscreen simply means dragging photos with a finger, sliding one on top of another, or moving a whole pile at a time. This behavior has been displayed previously, but only in technology demos.

Follow the Leaders
Microsoft isn't the only one trying to come up with new ways for us to poke and prod our data, however. In the late 90's, Sony (SNE) demonstrated a more primitive version of a touchscreen interface with clear plastic blocks colored by the receptacle on a touchscreen computer, but I haven't seen anything from Sony in this field for a while. Apple Inc's (AAPL) iPhone, due out in late June 2007, has been heralded as a major advancement in how we interact with our little electronic helpers. Users of both Microsoft's touchscreen table and Apple's iPhone have the ability resize a picture by pinching or otherwise manipulating a picture to resize it. Prada's phone and its ilk have ramped up efforts to steal Apple's thunder with similar products, but it remains to be seen if touchscreens (which have been with us for a while) will be a staying force in computer design or a passing fancy.

Any early-adopter who remembers the dominance of the PDA and its heyday in the 90s probably forgot where they put theirs after that old Palm lost its sparkle. I still have mine, but that's another story... Outside of medical school and some industries requiring vertical computing, PDAs have slowly been replaced by smartphones.

Fad, Flop, or the Future?
Only time will tell if Microsoft can predict the public's taste for this piece of technology enabled furniture. Well, that and your wallet's appreciation for a major diet- the table currently runs around $10,000. Oh, and you probably don't want to spill any of your latte on it. After all, this ain't your grandfather's coffeetable.

See it for yourself: Link

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Officer assaulted with colostomy bag

TUESDAY, Jan. 30, 2007, 11:16 a.m.
By Georgia Pabst

A teenager stopped by a police officer at the Grand Avenue Mall as a suspected truant became disruptive and threw his colostomy bag at the officer, department spokeswoman Anne E. Schwartz said this morning.

The officer was responding to a truancy complaint at the downtown mall Monday at 1:17 p.m. and stopped the youth, who refused to tell the officer his name or age, she said. The suspect then became disruptive and threw his colostomy bag containing bodily waste at the officer.

A colostomy bag is a worn outside the stomach to collect feces, generally following colon surgery. Schwartz said the assault is considered an "injury to an officer" because of the potential harm from contamination.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Better Ship These...

Capitalizing on the Bomberman craze, a toy company is offering plushies of the iconic bombs.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Christmas Over There

No matter what you think or feel about the War in Iraq, sometimes it helps to read what our military thinks.

Washington Post article has some good links to other military blogs.

The poem below is courtesy of (who lists the contributor) and the mp3 is courtesy of

‘Twas the night before Christmas, he lived all alone,
In a one-bedroom house made of plaster and stone.
I had come down the chimney, with presents to give
and to see just who in this home did live.

As I looked all about, a strange sight I did see,
no tinsel, no presents, not even a tree.
No stocking by the fire, just boots filled with sand.
On the wall hung pictures of a far distant land.

With medals and badges, awards of all kind,
a sobering thought soon came to my mind.
For this house was different, unlike any I’d seen.
This was the home of a U.S. Marine.

I’d heard stories about them, I had to see more,
so I walked down the hall and pushed open the door.
And there he lay sleeping, silent, alone,
Curled up on the floor in his one-bedroom home.

He seemed so gentle, his face so serene,
Not how I pictured a U.S. Marine.
Was this the hero, of whom I’d just read?
Curled up in his poncho, a floor for his bed?

His head was clean-shaven, his weathered face tan.
I soon understood, this was more than a man.
For I realized the families that I saw that night,
owed their lives to these men, who were willing to fight.

Soon around the Nation, the children would play,
And grown-ups would celebrate on a bright Christmas day.
They all enjoyed freedom, each month and all year,
because of Marines like this one lying here.

I couldn’t help wonder how many lay alone,
on a cold Christmas Eve, in a land far from home.
Just the very thought brought a tear to my eye.
I dropped to my knees and I started to cry.

He must have awoken, for I heard a rough voice,
“Santa, don’t cry, this life is my choice
I fight for freedom, I don’t ask for more.
My life is my God, my country, my Corps.”

With that he rolled over, drifted off into sleep,
I couldn’t control it, I continued to weep.
I watched him for hours, so silent and still.
I noticed he shivered from the cold night’s chill.

So I took off my jacket, the one made of red,
and covered this Marine from his toes to his head.
Then I put on his T-shirt of scarlet and gold,
with an eagle, globe and anchor emblazoned so bold.

And although it barely fit me, I began to swell with pride,
and for one shining moment, I was Marine Corps deep inside.
I didn’t want to leave him so quiet in the night,
this guardian of honor so willing to fight.

But half asleep he rolled over, and in a voice clean and pure,
said “Carry on, Santa, it’s Christmas Day, all secure.”
One look at my watch and I knew he was right,
Merry Christmas my friend, Semper Fi and goodnight.

©Copyright circa 1991 by James M. Schmidt(As printers in the December 1991 issue of the USMC magazine, Leatherneck)

The same poem set to music:

Monday, December 18, 2006

How Professors Grade Exams

I always suspected as much... :)


Saturday, December 16, 2006

CNN is Stupid, Big Surprise...

I found this "story" on Barack Obama to be ridiculous. CNN decided to analyze the Illinois Senator's business casual dress (suit jacket sans tie) and, after a brief history on presidential wear (including Kennedy, Nixon, Reagan, G. W. Bush, and Kerry), came to the conclusion that since Obama and Iranian dictator Mahmoud Amadinejad dress similarly, Obama might have difficulty winning the Democratic nomination for the presidency. Oh yeah, and his name "sounds like Osama" and his middle name is "Hussein."

Obviously no one at CNN considered the fact that Hussein is a very common name and that business casual favored by Obama is worn by many men around the world. Not many of those men are running for president, but CNN's story makes as much sense as saying that John McCain doesn't have a shot at the presidency because he has two eyes - just like *GASP* North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il does! Dun DUN DUN!

Classic guilt by association. No wonder the number of people who watch network TV news is falling.