29 March 2007

Need directions on Google Maps to London?

Tell Google maps that you want to go to London in the UK, and you will get this direction:

I saw this on another website, but thought it was funny
Obviously, someone at Google has a sense of humor (or is it humour?)

28 March 2007

Moving Between Cars on the Subway

There was an article in the Times about how the new rule that prohibits moving between cars on the subway has resulted in the police catching people involved in crimes on the subway. Apparently there have been 1,995 summonses issued this year for walking between the cars. Personally, I liked the old rule. If I didn't like someone in my subway car, I could move to another subway car to avoid them. Now, you can't; at least not without risking a summons. I understand that they are doing it to stop crime (and also because it is dangerous), but I don't like it. I've walked through subway cars since I was very little -- my father and brother and I used to go into the city on Columbus Day and we would occasionally walk between the subway cars or between cars on the Long Island Railroad. I also liked walking between cars because I could walk up (or back) on the train so that I was in the right position for the staircase. Now, I'll have to pre-walk.
New York, incidentally, is the only place that allowed walking between cars. It's certainly not allowed in DC and I don't know of any other city that allowed it.
This new rule was part of a slew of other rules that they implemented, including one prohibiting you from jumping the turnstile even if you had a valid Metrocard (by which they mean unlimited ride)
This is a technical explanation explaining why people jumped the turnstile, but if you are going to ride the subway in New York City, it is worth reading:
When you have an unlimited ride Metrocard, once you successfully swipe it at the turnstile, it locks you out of the subway system for eight minutes. This is to prevent people from buying one unlimited ride Metrocard for four of their friends and using one Metrocard for all four people.
Under some circumstances, the card can be locked out, but the turnstile not released. Usually this results from people not obeying the "Swipe again at this turnstile message" That message really means just that. If the person doesn't swipe again at that turnstile, then the card will be locked out for eight minutes. The person, who being a New Yorker, is in a rush, decides to jump the turnstile. If the person was summonsed, he or she would just say that they had a valid Metrocard. The MTA got tired of this excuse.
(This problem also occurs if you have a regular farecard, only if you don't swipe again at that turnstile, you can lose the fare that you paid)

22 March 2007

Easily add searches to your browser

I run searches a lot, and often they are not just on Google. However, Google has come up with a really easy way to configure their toolbar to run searches on practically any website. You just right click on the search box and select Generate Custom Search. You can then, by clicking on the "Manage" option from the search pulldown menu, choose to have this search appear either as a button on your toolbar, or if you don't want that, as an available search from a pull-down menu, as you can see from the screenshot on the right. There is no coding required. The only tricky thing is that it uses the web page's icon, so if you have a web page that doesn't have a custom icon, you are limited to which ones you can show as buttons on your toolbar since you won't be able to tell them apart. Penn State has this problem, the icon shown next to PennStateFullName is what would show up if I put that on my toolbar as a button.

Historical Myths

Most people know that one of the rights set forth in the Bill of Rights is the prohibition against quartering soldiers in people's homes. That, supposedly, is one of the reasons that the colonists fought against the British in the American Revolution. However, according to this blog, the statute permitting quartering of soldiers never permitted quartering soldiers in people's homes. It permitted quartering in outbuildings, but even then, other resources had to be exhausted. Maybe whoever was responsible for quartering the soldiers chose to ignore the statute and quartered soldiers in people's homes anyway.
I must take issue, however, with the blog's belief that breaking and entering is redundant. It's not. Burglary requires two elements:

  • The defendant must break a lock, window, etc., or technically open a door, I think.
  • The defendant must then go inside the building.
If the defendant breaks the lock but doesn't go any further, then it's probably vandalism, but I don't think it would be burglary.

As a side note, in California, it's burglary if you enter an outhouse (among other places).

This post does not constitute legal advice.

20 March 2007

Found Boy Scout

There was a boy scout lost in the woods in North Carolina over the weekend, and they found him today. I'm glad they found him. I had been following the story somewhat, as I was once a boy scout (and a cub scout). I've read the book that he liked: Hatchet. It's a good book, I liked it when I was younger.
Boy Scouts was a really good experience growing up. We used to go to Wauwepex Scout Reservation which was a scout reservation owned by the local boy scout council in New York. It has since been named Schiff Scout Reservation, but it will always be Wauwepex to me. One time when I was in cub scouts, I remember playing hide and go seek or manhunt or something and running through the woods until I must have reached the edge of the property, and came out on a huge farm field. It was really neat, and a quintessentially American experience to come out of the woods to be standing on the edge of this vast farm field. I'll bet the farm field doesn't exist anymore. It's probably a subdivision. As I went to Wauwepex later in my scouting career, I noticed how many houses were going up nearby. It wasn't out in the country like it used to be (if being out in Suffolk County was ever out in the country)
When I was in the boy scouts in middle school, we went to Resica Falls Scout Reservation for a week in the summer. This was in the Poconos, near East Stroudsburg. Also a lot of fun, I got to learn how to shoot a gun, leatherworking, lifesaving, first aid including CPR, etc.
The boy scouts were pretty careful to avoid people getting lost. At summer camp, scouts were always supposed to go with another person, using the "buddy" system, so that if someone got hurt, the unhurt scout would be able to get help. I suppose the buddy system wouldn't protect against a scout wandering away so he could hitchhike home, though. The most dangerous things that we did was playing manhunt -- in the dark -- and that was without buddies. That was when we were furthest from the trail -- and yet no one, that I know of, ever got lost or seriously injured (at least from my troop)
The other cool thing about scouting was the skits (short humorous stories that usually involved corny jokes), but I'll have to blog about that some other night.

16 March 2007

Why I Probably Won't Buy Another Macintosh Computer

I purchased a MacBook awhile ago, and it has had more than its fair share of problems and has had to be shipped for a repair three times. The last time I shipped it back (for what turned out to be a failed hard drive), there were smudges on the wrist rest, and I had asked them to replace the wrist rest while they were at it, as it really shouldn't have this problem. I got an email from them saying that my repair would not be covered my warranty and that I should call them. When I called them, I was informed that they believed the smudges were my fault and they would not replace the wrist rest for free. They wanted me to pay them $400+ for it. I explained to them that since the hard drive failure had nothing to do with the smudged wrist rest, could they just replace the hard drive? They told me that no, they could not, because a Mac leaving their repair shop had to be up to "specs" and the wrist rest was not up to specs. Since I was unwilling to part with $400+, I asked to speak with a supervisor, who overrode it and authorized the repair. I thought this was a fluke, but it looks like it is not.
See this blog post. To summarize: The person had a hardware problem, and because he was outside of the ninety day free technical support period, the telephone technician wanted him to purchase an extended (AppleCare) warranty (I don't know the prices off-hand, but I know it's over $100) so he could diagnose the problem to see if it was a software problem. The only other option was to go to an authorized repair center (like an Apple store) and get the repair that way.
Apple tried to extort money from me to get my computer repaired, and they also tried to extort money from this person as well.
Dell, on the other hand, does not extort money. Once they figure out what is wrong, they arrange for the repair. I have never once had a problem with Dell and a repair.

15 March 2007

Update on Mining Safety.

Here is an update from a post I did nearly a year ago on mines. According to West Virginia Public Radio, and this press release (a pdf) on International Coal Group's website, International Coal Group is going to install mine shelters in all its mines in Kentucky, West Virginia, and Illinois. Illinois and West Virginia both require them, but Kentucky does not. International Coal Group is doing it voluntarily. I'm sure there could be more safety improvements, but I think it's good that International Coal Group is doing this voluntarily.

A funny email from Flickr

I emailed Flickr technical support and got this email back. They win points for a sense of humour.

My Flickr name,

Just a quick email from Team Flickr to let you know that
we've successfully received your recent Help by Email query
and we hope to respond within 1 days.

We'd also like to take an opportunity to remind you that
one query is sufficient and multiple queries regarding the
same issue make the Magic Donkey cry.


The Flickreenos


No humans were involved in the creation of this email.
It is auto-generated, so please don't reply.

14 March 2007

Old User IDs/Email Addresses

I was talking with someone online today and was thinking about the ID that I use for The New York Times and realized that it is probably the oldest logon ID that I still use. I've had it practically since I started using the Internet, before Mosaic and Netscape (and certainly before Internet Explorer), when you had to use a text-only browser called "Lynx". The link has a screenshot, but keep in mind that my Lynx was black and white. The second oldest ID that I use is probably my AOL Instant Messenger ID.
My cousins keep on switching their AOL Instant Messenger IDs, but I don't. In retrospect, I probably should have come up with a better ID, but occasionally old friends have used it to get in touch with me, after they haven't spoken to me in years.
As far as email addresses go, I have been less consistent with these. As I've moved around, I've switched email addresses a few times, but I still use my college one occasionally and plan to use my Gmail address for a long time.

More UK Mac Ads

Here is a link to more UK Mac ads. It's too bad PC's objection in the "Court" ad doesn't work in real life.
Update: Whoops. I suppose it would be helpful to include the link.

12 March 2007

Spammers Get Shut Down by the SEC

The stock scams that spammers use can actually raise the market price of the stocks, and the SEC has decided to do something about it. As a result of this, they have decided to freeze the trading of these stocks. I'm glad. I really hate spammers; I think that they should get substantial jail time. This is probably just a drop in the bucket, but I'm hopeful that the SEC will eventually put a stop to this stuff. From this link, there are some interesting (I think anyway) links to more information about regulations that have to be followed, etc. when a broker starts allowing people to trade on these stocks again.

07 March 2007

Classical Music Online

There are free downloads of MP3s of classical music from Deutsche Velle (which looks to be Germany's version of the BBC) here. Click on the Classical Masterpieces Link.
For downloads that are tethered to your computer, there are more downloads here (from Cincinnati's Public Radio). You can find the William Tell Overture (the Lone Ranger theme song) or Aaaron Copland's Rodeo (that's the song that they played on the "Beef -- It's what's for dinner" commercials years ago, among other songs.

05 March 2007

As Coroner, I Must Aver

Saw an article in the Times awhile ago about the Coroner of Munchkinland, who is still alive, along with a few other Munchkins. It's also online (for free) in the Seattle Post Intelligencer. When I was in first grade, I remember the teacher saying (after we finished watching a movie, not a video, mind you) that we shouldn't applaud at the end because all the people were dead. Looking back, I'll bet that since it was not a silent movie, some of the people were alive. The Wizard of Oz was a (relatively) early movie and some actors from it are still alive. A little bit before I was in first grade, Margaret Hamilton (the actress who played the Wicked Witch of the West) was still alive.
I realize that the real reason that they didn't want us applauding is that they didn't want us to make noise. They shouldn't have told little kids this, though, they're impressionable, and you could make them think that everyone in a movie is dead. I don't think I was fooled for long.

03 March 2007

Booting Windows from a Floppy

My father's computer displayed a blue screen of death on boot-up the other day, and when we tried to boot from the Windows Install CD to troubleshoot, we got another blue screen of death, as discussed on this page on Microsoft's support site. Essentially, despite the fact that you are booting from a CD, Windows Setup still tries to mount (start reading and writing data to) any hard drives that are available. Following Microsoft's instructions, we had to create a set of four floppy disks to boot the computer. Then, we had to tell Windows Setup not to mount the hard drive by editing a configuration file. After doing all of these steps and running chkdsk, we were able to get my father's computer booted again. Fortunately he bought this computer with a floppy drive. And I thought that in the age of compact disc install programs, I would never see this message again.

01 March 2007

Lobsters and Deep Sea Netting

There was an article in the Times on Wednesday about fishermen that want Maine to allow them to use deep sea nets (essentially nets that run along the sea floor and pick up everything and anything in sight) to catch lobsters. The "normal" way one captures lobsters is with a trap. The lobster fisherman has to go from lobster trap to lobster trap pulling them up to see if they have any lobsters in them. If they are too small, then the lobster fisherman is -- on the honor system -- supposed to throw it away and back into the sea. Lobster fishermen notch female lobsters with eggs so that other lobster fishermen know not to catch them. The lobster industry is relatively stable because of this. Given that the ground trawlers already avoid the Maine law against "landing" lobsters by going to Massachusetts with their lobsters, I don't trust them to follow the rules. If you are interested in the nitty-gritty lobster regulations, Maine's Department of Marine Resources has a discussion of the rules for recreational fishers. I think the laws as to size are the same for commercial and recreational fishermen alike.
I went out on a lobster boat once (when I was younger my family used to stay at a place for a week or so that had a lobster fisherman that used the dock). It was a lot of fun; a beautiful summer day. I imagine that it is not so much fun in the middle of the winter, though. So, I may be biased for the lobster fishermen, but I still think that a net that catches everything would damage the lobster fishery, possibly permanently.