Using DRM for Good 

Monday, May 2nd, 2022

While “DRM” generally stands for “digital rights management”, the term covers more than just technologies that limit access to digital content like movies and music. In recent years, DRM has been creeping into more and more physical products, like printers and tractors. Generally, that’s a very bad thing. However, in the case of farm equipment stolen from Ukraine by Russian troops, the DRM is providing at least some good, by disabling the vehicles remotely.

There Are a Lot of Regrets, Dave 

Friday, April 29th, 2022

In 2018, Boeing signed a deal with then-President Donald Trump’s government to provide new 747-8s to serve as presidential transports. Somehow, this deal was set to pay the corporation an astonishing $4 billion for two Air Force Ones.1. Even more astonishing, Boeing is now projecting that they’ll lose $1.1 billion on it.

I am shocked, shocked to find that a deal with Donald Trump is turning out poorly for everyone involved.


Footnotes:

  1. I suspect many of my readers already know this, but “Air Force One” is not actually a specific plane. While it’s frequently used to refer to the plane most commonly used by the president, “Air Force One” is actually the call sign used for any US Air Force plane when it’s ferrying the president. Likewise, “Marine One” refers to any US Marine Corps aircraft (usually a helicopter) with the president on board. ↩︎

Spahks Afta Dahk

Thursday, April 28th, 2022

Recently, I received an invitation to an event to be held at Boston’s Museum of Science. It was billed as an “electrifying experience”, due to the presence of the world’s largest air-insulated Van de Graaff generator.

Email invitation to the “Sparks After Dark” event, with the following text: Calling all party animals! Sparks After Dark - the official after-party of the Museum of Science's  Stars of STEM  annual fundraising event is back! Hosted by the Innovators, the Museum’s young professional society, Sparks After Dark is Boston’s only late night party in a room producing over a million volts of lightning—the Museum's Theater of Electricity. Shocking, we know.

Sparks After Dark will feature cocktails, late night bites, science-themed entertainment, live animals, music, and dancing featuring the Museum's favorite drag queen and DJ, Coleslaw.

With a name like “Sparks After Dark”, it was only natural that I would repeatedly read the invitation out loud in an over-the-top and utterly ridiculous townie accent. As one does. While practicing that tomfoolery, I then realized that the second paragraph’s bizarrely long list reads like a Stefon sketch.

And so, I present you with this nonsense:

You can listen for this ad on Boston-area radio stations for the next week. You won’t actually hear it, but nothing can stop you from listening for it.

CNN Minus 

Wednesday, April 27th, 2022

A week ago, I posted about the extremely rapid demise of CNN+, a soon-to-be-shuttered streaming news service that lasted for approximately one month. Now, CNBC has posted a very solid breakdown of how it all broke down.

A key factor was the Discovery and WarnerMedia merger that was in progress, which prevented executives from the two companies from holding discussions with one another. When that merger closed faster than expected, and CNN+’s rollout was delayed, the service’s grand opening was quickly followed by its grand closing.

A Virtual Prost to This Man 

Tuesday, April 26th, 2022

Modern science and medicine are frequently amazing. In Germany, a patient recently had a brain-computer interface implanted that enables him to communicate despite suffering from complete paralysis. Among other things, he used it to request a drink.

Eventually, he could make specific dietary requests for his feeding tube: soup with meat, sweet pea soup, and curry with potato. And he did request a beer and for his caretakers to play his favorite band, Tool, very loud.


The speller used to select letters using brain activity

It’s not clear to me if he was actually given the beer he requested, but I sure hope so. I’m not sure anyone has ever deserved one more.

An Identical Twin, Born Much Later 

Monday, April 25th, 2022

In America, cars that fail to meet minimum fuel efficiency standards are subject to additional taxation. Though inefficient automobiles are still permitted, a Gas Guzzler Tax is levied on them. This surcharge is intended to dampen the demand for these vehicles.1 I’ve always liked both the idea, and the forthright name it received.

Also in America, a Texas-based company called ViaGen Pets will take tens of thousands of your dollars and return to you a genetic copy of your animal. This clone will probably look the same as your beloved pet, though it will of course not actually be the same. In addition to the incredible expense, the process may cause pain and suffering for other animals.

“People think, ‘Oh, I’ll just press a button and out will come Fido,’ but that’s just not the case,” said Robert Klitzman, director of the masters of bioethics program at Columbia University. “So you may love Fido, but do you really want several animals to die and suffer in order to have the one healthy Fido?”

“I can either pay thousands of dollars to create a new pet that’s actually going to have a different history and personality,” he said. “Or maybe I could adopt an animal that would otherwise be killed in a shelter. Those are things that ethically need to be considered.”

I generally favor a light touch when it comes to regulation. I would be quite hesitant to outright outlaw most things. But perhaps we could implement a candidly-named “Stupid Tax”, for things which no one should actually do.


Footnotes:

  1. This tax is also an attempt to encourage the development of more efficient engines. Lamentably, it does not apply to “light trucks”, which includes SUVs and pickups. As such, the effectiveness of the tax in actually improving overall fuel efficiency has been limited. ↩︎

Censored Cheetos 

Friday, April 22nd, 2022

It’s illegal to openly sell Cheetos in Germany, due to trademark concerns related to a product called “Chitos”, which doesn’t actually exist.

Chitos are a color, an emotion, a state of mind. They’re that look in his eyes when you tell him you love him. They are you and me

As a result, there’s all sorts of gray-area selling and importing going on. It seems like a lot for Cheetos.

More Famous in Death Than It Was in Life 

Thursday, April 21st, 2022

Literally ones of people are devastated today, as CNN+ will be shutting down just a month after it launched. If you’ve never even heard of the streaming news service, well, that makes sense. I first heard of it just last week, when it was reported that they had a laughably low number of subscribers. Apparently, fewer than 10,000 people were paying for the service two weeks after it launched.

The Ever Loving Hell

Wednesday, April 20th, 2022

You may recall that last March, a container ship named the “Ever Given” blocked the Suez Canal for almost a week. Recently, a sister ship from the same Evergreen Marine shipping company joined it in infamy. The hilariously named “Ever Forward” ran aground in the Chesapeake, and it stopped moving forward, or indeed anywhere at all. This time around, the transport was outside the shipping channel, and thus didn’t interfere with any other vessels. As a result, it was much less of a major news story. Still, I’ve been following it, and after more than a month of work, the ship is finally free.

This will surely not be the last giant boat to get stuck somewhere, and the odds are decent that the next one will be an Evergreen vessel too. The company operates a fleet of approximately 200 ships, and many of them follow that same rather strange “Ever ______” naming convention. Some are bland, like the “Ever United” or the “Ever Leader”. But many others are quite amusing. Let’s take a look at the names of a few of the Evergreen crafts we might see stuck in the not-too-distant future.

A Look at an Assortment of Names Given to Evergreen Vessels

  • Ever Ample, Ever Burly, Ever Mighty, Ever Strong
    Many of the names are like these, positive adjectives that are fitting when given to a massive ship.

  • Ever Dainty
    This particular ship is 294 meters long, and that is not any dainty.

  • Ever Clever
    It’s a container ship, so I doubt it’s very clever at all. Still, I appreciate the stupid rhyme.

  • Ever Forever
    Now that’s just redundant.

  • Ever Full, Ever Loading
    I hope not, as these names would imply container ships that are not very good at being container ships.

  • Ever Lasting
    Willy Wonka would like a word.

  • Ever Cozy
    My gosh but that sounds cozy!

  • Ever Chaste
    That sounds very boring. I think I’d rather go with the Ever Vulgar.

  • Ever After
    This is surely the happiest of ships.

  • Ever Unicorn
    As far as I can see, this ship doesn’t have a horn on the front of it. That’s a real missed opportunity.

  • Ever Clear
    If this one has a mishap in the future, odds are it will be because the captain was drinking.

  • Ever Alot
    “A lot” is a phrase. “Allot” is a word. “Alot” is not a word.

  • Ever Lucky
    “Ever Forward” might be the worst name for a ship that runs aground, but “Ever Lucky” is right up there too.

The above list is all real, save for one name, which I invented. Can you guess which one?

Click to reveal the answer

At present, the “Ever After” is not a ship in Evergreen’s fleet. I’m surprised!

If you’d like to explore the world of goofily-named “Ever ______” ships, you can head on over to VesselFinder.com just as I did.

I Bet He’d Like a Mulligan 

Tuesday, April 19th, 2022

When I saw the headline “His business was failing — so he stole and sold golf carts for ‘easy cash’”, I thought “Of course!”. Willie Sutton had it wrong. Everyone knows golf carts are where the money is. Unfortunately for Nathan Nelson, he just didn’t know when to quit.

FBI agents interviewed one of Nelson’s buyers who, starting in 2019, had purchased between 20 and 30 carts. The man still had four and let the agents inspect them. He also gave them a collection of scorecard pencils he’d found over the years. Branded with golf course names, the pencils tied Nelson to the businesses he’d hit, officials said.

What a way to get caught. Brought down by golf pencils!