More Hot Chess Babes

ticia gara, hungarian women's chess champion
Following up on my earlier post about hot European babes getting liquored up and playing chess (extremely well), comes news of the 3rd Szeged Cup. I bring this up because even relative to a field of improbably attractive women, the Hungarian women’s chess champion (at right) is still a stunner. And if you follow the link and scroll to the very bottom of the page, you’ll see she has an equally-gorgeous, chess-playing sister.

It’s interesting to note that at some point women’s chess really glammed up. If you go back a few years, things aren’t so shiny, and also they apparently didn’t have heat.

Thanks Jorn!

The "Real" gOffice Steps Forward

I previously used the term “gOffice” to refer to the coming critical mass of collaborative productivity tools over at Google. But I’m informed there’s already a gOffice. And man are they some evil bastards…

This is one of the most obvious fishing expeditions for a corporate buyout I’ve ever seen. Yahoo almost bought them and then… Gee (as in “G”), I wonder what happened. It doesn’t help/hurt that they throw in a nice dose of domain squatting. I mean gOffice? That was accidental, I’m sure.

Um, half the site still says it’s free, and yet I can’t even see what the thing does without signing up and handing over all my personal and credit card information. Fat chance. Wait, and they want my “secret phrase” as well? Is this a phishing site too? Jesus.

Holy crap, this site has one of the worst and most abusive terms of use agreements imaginable. It’s worded so broadly that you basically sign over all rights to anything you produce using these tools. Don’t believe me? Check this out: “No part of any content, form or document may be reproduced in any form or incorporated into any information retrieval system, electronic or mechanical, other than for your personal use (but not for resale or redistribution).” Which means, if you write a novel on this thing, forget about ever getting it published (gOffice probably would be able to though).

Once you click on the register link, you’re stuck in SSL mode, so you get a security warning on every… single… page. How ironic.

There is something subtly so condescending about the whole thing. I mean even beyond the whole “pay for our product before you even glance at it” aspect. It could just be that weird abruptness that comes from being a technical person (or in this case I suspect, a lawyer) for whom English is a second language (and jargon may well be the first). Then again, it could be this enterprise really is this full of itself. “We suggest you go buy an inkjet printer if you currently own a laser.” Oh yeah? Well I suggest you go fuck yourself, gOffice!

Okay, maybe it’s not so subtle. These guys are just evil, evil bastards: “This site is all but impossible to legally duplicate, as we have filed a broad patent application that seeks to lock up the interplay of technologies we use in a unique and unobvious way.” And they’re proud of this. Have they seen Writely, Google Spreadsheets, etc.? I hope Google sues these guys out of existence, finds out where they live, ties them down to their beds with barbed wire, whips them bloody with strips cut from steel-belted radial tires, burns their houses down with them inside, sends Carrot Top to the funeral to roast the deceased (badly) in front of their unsuspecting families, and then a few days later exhumes their graves for the singular purpose of taking a shit on their corpses.

Gas Turbine as Fuel Cell

From the files of things I predicted in crappy, unfinished sci-fi epics…

Sure, a 10-watt gas turbine the size of an SD card is cool, but I couldn’t help noticing that these things run at 20K rpm. So why not just extend the spindle and make a super-fast, power-generating, direct-drive hard drive (aka memory card and battery in one) out of it? I know, I know, crystal lattice laser storage will be here before this thing goes to market. But hey, I didn’t put the Mr. Fusion in the DeLorean.

The term “rocket in your pocket” is about to take on a whole new meaning.

The Inexorable March Toward gOffice

Today I received this fine, fine email from Writely.

Dear _______,

In a few days, we will update your Writely account to use your Google Account registration settings.

This means you’ll need to use your Google Account password when signing in, not your Writely password (if they’re different).

If you’ve forgotten your Google Account password, just go to

Google Writely Team

Woo hoo!

The Omega Brunch

blind faith in your leaders, or in anyone, will get you killed... not spinach
I felt a little bit like Charlton Heston this morning, cooking up the last bit of pre-apocalyptic fresh produce while zombies beat on my shutters. Yes, I ate the dreaded spinach. Worse than that, I ate from a package that was not only expired but had been opened before the… Well, what is it? It’s not a ban. The FDA is calling it an “advisory.” In any case, it’s been a pretty effective way to get people to stop eating spinach.

I’m pissed off about this. I like spinach. And this reaction is simply not good science. One person died. Somewhere around 120 people got sick. You know what that sounds like to me? A moderate heat wave, a small blizzard. Do we close the freeways in Texas when Minneapolis gets a snowstorm?

Presumably (we’re still woefully short on facts) this was all from eating fresh, raw spinach that somehow came in contact with animal (possibly including human) feces. To some extent this “stuff” is just everywhere. Face it, it’s a shit-filled planet. When you’re a terrestrial omnivore or herbivore (meaning you eat off the ground at least occasionally), ingesting some amount of e. coli is just an occupational hazard. Besides, this stuff is already in your body right now! But if you really want to avoid swallowing more of it, and I bet you do, we it's a damned bacteria, just fucking cook it now have a high-tech, two-pronged technological solution for this that’s only about three quarters of a million years old: it’s called rinsing and cooking. That’s what I did. Is the real reason for this ban that we can’t trust people to cook their food? Are we going to ban chicken and hamburger next? Probably not, they have great lobbies.

I hesitate to admit this for fear of other spinach lovers showing up over here, but I have a whole other unopened package of this stuff. I plan to eat spinach three or four more times this week. Am I going to be the last American eating spinach? How ridiculous is that?

The fear is palpable (isn’t it always these days?). I was in HEB tonight buying lettuce and watched a young(er than me) couple perusing the bagged lettuce section. Their conversation went something like this:

He: “Is that the one?”
She: “Fresh Express, I think so.”
He: “They’re all Fresh Express.”
She: “Let’s get something else.”
He: “Why not this?” (indicating the whole romaine heads I had just picked from)
She: “No, let’s skip it.”

scramble, or the terrorists win
Please note: there was no spinach for sale; Fresh Express has not been implicated so far; I both ate the romaine lettuce and served it to company tonight.

Just another nail in the coffin of the American colon.

We’re Done. Time to Make Room for the Next Species

I think this represents the absolute pinacle of human evolution.

Asking a convenience store clerk to use a microwave oven to warm a fake penis full of real urine in order to pass a drug test resulting in a call to 911 and a guilty plea against a disorderly conduct charge? If you somehow cast Scarlett Johansson, Charlton Heston and Samuel L. Jackson in an Peabody award-winning short, animated music video about this you would have perfectly encapsulated the last 30 years of the American Experience. The fact that the defense attorney is named “Difenderfer………………………………………………………

I’m sorry, that sound you just heard–that of a perfectly-balanced Shure cartridge drawn violently across the grain of a vintage white vinyl White Album with the volume cranked to 11–that was all my gestalt circuit breakers tripping with Tesla arcs of irony and zeitgeist. Check back with me tomorrow, when hopefully I will have awakened as an ascended cyborg.

How Consumer Reports Won Me Back

I’d been on the fence about Consumer Reports for a long time. On the one hand, I have to support the scientific method wherever it’s applied rigorously, especially considering how rare that is these days. On the other hand, and this is necessarily going to be a vague observation, they seem impossibly white-bread. I’m not sure what I mean by that except to say that I feel like Consumer Reports skews toward mediocrity. In other words, if you want to decide based on scientifically quantifiable data (which includes a built-in, bell-curve cost-benefit analysis), they rock. If you want to choose based on taste or aesthetics or coolness or some other ineffable post-modern factor (as I think and sometimes fear many of us do), read something by Conde Nast or Playboy.

However, they won me back with this month’s cover story on the fallacy of E85 as our automotive savior. Unfortunately, you can only get a teaser on line. Here are the highlights:

  • 27% reduction in fuel economy in the test vehicle (E85-rated Chevy Tahoe)
  • Poor E85 availability (800 stations out of 176,000), no availability in 14 states, including New York
  • CAFE/FFV credits allow manufacturers to produce large, inefficient E85 vehicles that will never use the fuel, thereby increasing overall gasoline consumption (for example, the Tahoe, which in the real-world testing gets 10 mpg combined on E85, rates as a 35-mpg vehicle for CAFE purposes).
  • The E10 program already uses virtually all available ethanol production capacity, which means we’re already seeing the maximum emissions-reduction benefit (or we would be if all these hulking E85 vehicles weren’t “cheating” by running on regular gas.

Note that Consumer Reports does not actually come out and say, “Nah nah nah nah nah, we told you to buy the Prius.” But it’s implied.

I expect to see a similar condemnation of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles around this time next year.

Traveling Salesman Problem No Longer a Problem?

Way back when I was taking computer science classes, the traveling salesman problem was considered if not actually unsolvable at least unoptimizable. Then again, maybe that’s just because I skipped Calculus so often. Then again-again, if you actually try to read what I just linked to there, it’s still unsolvable for 99.999% of human beings (and a lot more nines, probably). Sure, make jokes about the symbol for boron, but infinitesimal asymptotics are no laughing matter (though they would make a great band name). Anyway, apparently cracking impossible computational complexity is now a trivial feature on in-car nav systems. I’m probably irrecoverably old for even bringing this up. Give me a car without a computer or a torque converter any day.

Thanks Jorn!

Love Gmail, Little Interest in Hacking It

Lifehacker, which I find generally annoying for some reason (let’s call it the Princeton Review Effect for lack of a better explanation–and let’s face it, it’s not going to be lifehacking until I’ve got nanoworms swimming in my plasma), recently aggregated all their Gmail tips and tricks onto one page.

A lot of these I avoid just because they involve Greasemonkey and bookmarklets. I’m still leaning toward client portability over all-out productivity, and have little interest in turning my Gmail (and in general, browser) experience into another Outlook—that is, bound tightly to my OS instance. Even working from home, I work on a lot of different machines and virtual machines, and if I didn’t keep the experience somewhat consistent and free of up-front tweaking I’d probably have a psychotic break. I’ve also developed a sort of standards-based lizard brain that convulses at the thought of just how likely to rust anything that can honestly be described as “a hack” is going to be down the road (as opposed to a “tip,” which is just a software patch for my brain to update the API).

However, there are some interesting (if not actually useful) tidbits here. For example, embedding images (and other HTML) in Gmail. Before you get too excited, it doesn’t work as advertised. Here’s why…

What this post doesn’t mention is that for this to work your images have to be hosted somewhere. The implication is this is “just like Outlook,” but Outlook uses MIME-encoded inlining, not outside linking (well, it depends, but for image drag-and-drop, it’s inlining). The only reason I mention this is that the example they use involves Google Page Creator. As I blogged about Writely, it looks at first like Page Creator essentially offers free image hosting. However, unlike with Writely, this doesn’t actually work with Page Creator (at least with unpublished pages–and are you really going to publish a page for every inline image?). I emailed myself an “inline” image at a non-Gmail address and Page Creator won’t serve the image. So, in effect, this article just takes you down a rabbit hole. Fortunately, I like rabbit holes. That’s where they hide all the good stuff.

Thanks Dave!