Bagelheads

I guess with tattoos and piercings becoming increasingly common, you have to look elsewhere for a new way to disfigure yourself. In Japan, this can be achieved through saline injections. Warning: the photos can be quite disturbing to some.

Picture the scene: five people, each with hideously distorted heads, tubes sticking into their faces. Reminiscent of a medical experiment gone hideously wrong, you’d be forgiven for thinking they had a gross infection or disease. They look like alien abductees, fresh from invasive research by their interplanetary masters. But these are Japanese club kids, otherwise known as bagelheads, deliberately disfiguring themselves by experimenting with saline inflations.

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The World Through Twitcaps

Twitcaps is one of a growing number of sites that have glommed onto the Twitter rocket. In this case, twitcaps allows you to view photos that people on twitter are uploading/sharing. The fascinating thing is the variety of crap stuff that is being generated.

Sure you have plenty of shots of plates of food or beers with the predictable ‘I am about to eat this/drink this’ captions, shots of bands performing, shots of people mugging for the camera, pictures of pets. But its the shots of ‘here is my daughter born 4 weeks premature…’ or ‘this is the window that my grandma used to look out of all day before she died’ that really grab you. The captions also remind you how much of the content is generated outside of the US (or at least in languages other than English).

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Nokia N97, iPhone 3GS and Palm Pre

June is proving to be the hot month for new mobile phone introductions. Apple have announced the availability of a new iPhone model (the 3GS) as well as a 3.0 firmware upgrade on the 19th. Palm released the Pre earlier in the month, and Nokia a releasing the new flagship model N97 in the US on June 25th (though you can buy it now if you can get to one of the two Nokia retail stores in Chicago or New York City).

The Palm is a non-starter for me, just because their past products have always disappointed and the Treo was more of a PDA than a phone. I flirted briefly with the idea of jumping on the Jesus phone bandwagon, but my poor experience with an iPod Touch that I bought for my in-home music upgrade frustrated me enough to throw me that much further in favor of the Nokia N97.

I think it is going to be sweet to have the option of both touch interface and a full QWERTY keyboard in addition to being able to keep most all of the phone apps that I already have. The other bonus was I was able to pre-order the N97 from Amazon for a significant discount early in June — I now note that they are back to charging full price and the N97 is on backorder.

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Sidebar Tweets

As I find myself using Twitter more for quick posts I have added a sidebar widget to display the last handful of devastatingly witty tweets that I have bestowed upon the world. If you’re in for the full punishment, you can follow me as (not surprisingly) rcampoamor on twitter.

Some of the tweets can tend to be a little more ‘raw’ that the blog postings, but I am sure you will figure that out if you have a look.

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Military iPod Touch

Proving once again that the street will find its own uses for technology, the US military has adopted the iPod Touch as a war theatre handheld device.

The iPod isn’t the only multifunction handheld on the market, but among soldiers it’s the most popular. Since most recruits have used one—and many already own one—it’s that much easier to train them to prepare and upload new content. Users can add phrases to language software, annotate maps and link text or voice recordings to photos (“Have you seen this man?”). Apple devices make it easy to shoot, store and play video. Consider the impact of showing villagers a video message of a relaxed and respected local leader encouraging them to help root out insurgents.

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The Tempting 11%

The title of this posting is a reference to a statistic in an article called That Muslim in the White House. It relates to a statistic that is tempting to apply to poll results:

Here is another fact: About 11 percent of adult Americans have an IQ score of 81 or below. This is the region of the IQ distribution curve traditionally labeled “dull” at the top and “defective” or “idiot” at the bottom, with various and variously colorful tabs in between.

What conclusion shall we draw? Some of you are tempted, aren’t you? The proper answer is, None; but in practice how people interpret facts depends heavily on their preexisting attitudes toward and opinions on sundry matters.

There is probably an easier answer: the considerably more than 11% that think that Fox News is news and parrot the right wing hatred coming from Fox and ‘shout radio’ broadcasts. I am confident that the tempting 11% is well represented in there as well.

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Techno Anniversaries

Today is the 20th anniversary of the creation of the World Wide Web (not to be confused with the Internet). Apparently, today is also the 15th anniversary of Linux. I wonder how pervasive Linux would be had the WWW not preceded it. It seemed it was the world wide interest, adoption and coding that made Linux what it is today. Well, I suppose the same could be said for the Interwebs as well.

In any case, raise your glass for two of technologies finest. And note that Microsuck ‘innovation’ had nothing to do with either of them.

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Right Wing ‘Outrage’ = Crocodile Tears

Dear Republicans: stuff a sock in all of the phony ‘outrage’ over the economy and the stimulus package. Seriously. Your time for outrage was when 2.3 Trillion dollars went missing from the Pentagon or when $9 or was it 50 BILLION (no one knows for sure) went missing from Iraq or the illegal no-bid contracts to Cheney’s henchmen let alone the cost of the war in Iraq itself. Why didn’t we hear a peep then? Was it because it was the Republicans who were benefiting at the taxpayers expense?

Once we stop handing out money to the banks so they can pocket it rather than make the loans they committed, we should at least this time around we’ll have something to show for the money spent.

If we had a serious press corp in the US they would be asking these follow up questions every time one of the right wing mouthpieces started spouting forth their talking points. I want to hear them answer. They won’t because they won’t be asked. Oh, an someone please remind the right that saying anything bad about the President is ‘treason’.

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Google Task List

Finally, Google have delivered a (task) list that is basic but usable and includes the option for mobile access and annotation. If you have an existing gmail account, you just need to go into the ‘labs’ options to enable it.

While on the go, you can reference your list (and add to it) by going to http://gmail.com/tasks . And most importantly of all, it gets two thumbs up from my wife who has been wanting a usable mobile list for some time now. It fact, the new google task list was declared the best thing since fish grew legs!

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Apple Online Store Suckage

I recently blogged about how I decided to ditch my long-held mobileme email address from Apple. It just so happens that that email address is the one that I had used with the Apple on line store (duh). Apple, in their infinite wisdom decided to make it very difficult for you to change from using a .mac email ID to a non-Apple one. Impossible in fact.

When I went to the Apple online store to order a new copy of iLife, I wanted to make sure I changed my email address (which is what Apple also uses as your ID) to my new address. No can do. Here is the completely lame message that I was presented:

This change is not allowed. This account name was originally set up as a .Mac account and upgraded to MobileMe. An Apple ID has already been automatically set up for use with this member name. You can access this Apple ID by using either .Mac or MobileMe addresses (e.g. membername@mac.com or membername@me.com), but you cannot change the Apple ID. If you would like to use a new account name, please create a new Apple ID.

That is swell, but when you leave .Mac, you can’t change your email address and have to create a new account. As an added bonus, there is no ‘logout’ functionality on the Apple store site. So you have to start another browser, create a new account (re-keying all of your info), then go place the items you want to order in your cart again, then, finally, check out. Very, very crappy user experience Apple.

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Apple Killing Off DRMed Music In iTunes Store

As an unlikely response to my previous blog posting, Apple has seen the light and is now offering (or will soon, it is hard to tell) all of it’s music DRM free. Oh, and thanks for the 30 cent vig on each tune to re-buy a DRM-free version of what I already have and paid for once.

Apple also announced individual track prices as low as 69 cents — we’ll see how many tracks actually are priced at that level. Overall, I think that I will still look to Amazon first for my music download needs.

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Yahoo! Shopping! Is A Colossal! F–king! Joke!

Yahoo Shopping is a flippin’ joke — apparently their motto is ‘we don’t have a clue and we don’t give a crap’.

Over the weekend, I came across an item that I was looking for that was sold by a ‘Yahoo endorsed’ online vendor. I called their customer support number, only to find that it was disconnected. I called the ’24 hour customer support number’ only to find it was the mobile phone number of a rather irate woman who disavowed any knowledge of the web site. Not looking good. I even tried to place a order for a token item just to see what would happen. Predictably, I received a message back from Yahoo about an ‘invalid merchant’ when I submitted the order.

Trying to be a good Internet citizen, I then sent an email to Yahoo pointing out that I was unable to get in contact with the vendor and it looked as if the web store was, in fact, defunct and asked them to confirm the status of the merchant. After all, you would think that they would be interested in weeding out dead sites to maintain some semblance of trustworthiness. Apparently not. Here is the response I got back:

Hello Rich,

Thank you for writing to Yahoo! Shopping.

Yahoo! Shopping is an online service that helps you find products you
want from a variety of merchants with online stores.

If you have a suggestion, request, or question for a particular merchant
featured in Yahoo! Shopping, you should contact the merchant directly.

Regarding your request, please direct all suggestions, requests and
questions to the merchant directly
. At the stores web site, you can
find contact information in links such as “Info” or “About Us”.

Thank you again for contacting Yahoo! Shopping.

Regards,

Theo

Yahoo! Customer Care

[Emphasis added] So the solution to my issue of not being able to contact the vendor is to (wait for it) contact the vendor directly. So either the person who responded to this request doesn’t even possess a fundamental grasp of the English language or they simply don’t give a wank. I can only imagine the round and round I would have to go through if I ordered something from an endorsed vendor and had an issue. No thanks.

Here endith my first and last attempt to do business with a Yahoo endorsed vendor (or Yahoo for that matter). You have been warned: any shop you encounter under *.stores.yahoo.net is suspect and you should find a safer alternative. Yahoo, everything about you sucks. That is why your bloated, Flash-encrusted carcass is overdo at the dot-com dead pool and will no doubt arrive shortly after Microsoft acquires and then kills you off.

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On My Mind

Following are some things that I have been thinking about but am unlikely to have the time to expand on them individually. So here they are in capsule format:

Apparently the water that I purchased in a secure area and was allowed to take on a plane in Tokyo is no longer safe once I am in the corresponding secured area at the Houston airport. TSA forces you to discard water before you can pass through security for a connecting flight even though you’ve been in the ‘sterile’ area the entire time. Hasn’t this been thoroughly disproved as a viable threat? What a joke. And has anyone done an environmental impact on all of the force-discarded water bottles?

Why do Republicans go on and on about ‘personal accountability’ when social programs are being discussed, but providing corporate welfare to oil and huge corporate agribusinesses with record profits is a-ok. Same with the people who followed their advice to ‘buy the biggest house you can’ and are now stuck with a ballooning sub-prime mortgages. And the financial institutions that made money off the suckers, for a while anyway. No discussion of personal accountability, rather lots of talk of bail-outs. Why isn’t the press in the US throwing the ‘amnesty plan’ rhetoric back in their sniveling faces? Oh, thats right, because we don’t have an effective independent press in this country any longer.

While we are on the topic of bailouts, how does creating a whole organization to manage the bailout square with the right-wing distaste for ‘big government’? I guess government can’t be big enough when it benefits other right-wingers. Ditto with extending the Fed to manage and oversee banks, and other financial institutions. Why am I reminded of the definition of fascism when I think about the last eight years?

For what is supposed to be such a technologically advanced country, it is darn near impossible to find wi-fi access in Japan, (specifically Tokyo or Kyoto), let alone free wi-fi access. I suppose the mobile carriers might have a hand in this — if you get your ‘wireless’ via your mobile phone, there is not a lot of incentive to provide non-handset based access. My favorite wi-fi moment: On the bullet train platform in Tokyo station are big signs announcing ‘free high speed wireless’ access — from a WEP secured base station. Go figure.

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