Lost verizon

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It might even work on Bud Light

Honda has rolled out a limited number of mid-sized sedans running on a hydrogen fuel-cell stack, an impressive bit of technology that misses being ready for prime time, partly because you can’t just ease into a 7-Eleven and get a fresh load of hydrogen, but also because there being no actual hydrogen lying around in usable form, the current practice is to subject water to electrolysis, a process requiring a pretty fair amount of electricity, which is not getting any cheaper.

So this looks promising indeed:

Gerardine Botte of Ohio University may now have found the answer, using an electrolytic approach to produce hydrogen from urine — the most abundant waste on Earth — at a fraction of the cost of producing hydrogen from water.

How it works:

Urine’s major constituent is urea, which incorporates four hydrogen atoms per molecule — importantly, less tightly bonded than the hydrogen atoms in water molecules. Botte used electrolysis to break the molecule apart, developing an inexpensive new nickel-based electrode to selectively and efficiently oxidize the urea. To break the molecule down, a voltage of 0.37V needs to be applied across the cell — much less than the 1.23V needed to split water.

I had to look at the molecular structure to make sense of this. The hydrogen atoms in a molecule of urea are bonded to nitrogen atoms (in the two NH2 groups), and nitrogen has substantially less electronegativity than does the oxygen in good old H2O, making for a weaker bond.

And, let’s face it, we’re never going to run out of urine.

(Via AutoblogGreen.)

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He stopped loving her today

I didn’t write a word of this, but then I really didn’t have to.

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Soon to be available nationwide

California IOU by Lisa Benson

(By Lisa Benson, Washington Post Writers Group.)

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WinCIM, lose some

The recent death of CompuServe Classic disturbed me greatly, partly because I had no idea it was still alive through half of 2009, and partly because when I first read the article, I couldn’t remember my old account numbers.

I first signed onto CIS (CompuServe Information Service, which nobody wanted to type all the way out in those days) back in 1985, using my trusty Commodore 64 at a startling 300 bps. At the time, I was 72030,117. I dropped the service after a few years, but returned in the 1990s as 73142,1451, this time with an actual MS-DOS machine. Lots of acquaintances over the years, and one actual friend: Dawn Eden, whom I met in one of the service’s music forums circa 1995. We lost touch shortly thereafter, but reconnected, thanks to this screwy blog stuff, several years later.

I don’t have a whole lot of memorabilia from those days: I’m pretty sure I no longer have my copy of CIM (I put off switching to WinCIM as long as I could, but then I put off Windows as long as I could, which explains this) in the Big Box O’ Defunct Software. I did turn up in my archives the text of a couple of emails from Roger Ebert — we had some brief discussion of Bad Movies — and, from ’94, what purported to be CIS addresses for Penn and Teller. (I was a major Penn fan in those days, since he’d been doing a column for PC/Computing magazine, which was usually about computers and/or Uma Thurman.)

Of course, anyone who remembers CIS also remembers the alternate version: CI$. At six bucks an hour, the tab piled up quickly. Worse, in the Eighties, they charged you according to your modem speed; those hotheads with 1200-bps modems paid twice as much as the plodders like me with 300.

If you’ve wandered by here and wondered “Why the hell is this guy on the Internet?” you’ve just read one of the reasons.

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The home of HEmlock 1

Now this is kind of nifty: a scan of a 1962 (or thereabouts) flyer from Cincinnati Bell that introduces / coerces / foists off [choose one] the wonder of “All-Number Calling.” No more pesky letters!

As a resident of Oklahoma City’s WIndsor exchange, I liked those pesky letters, but for the last forty-odd years the phone company has been making the prefixes, and the locations to which they were assigned, essentially meaningless.

I’ve written on this subject before, but somehow it keeps popping up. And this time, it brought with it a recollection of Allan Sherman’s mockery of the concept, which was called “The Let’s All Call Up AT&T And Protest To The President March.” It went something like this:

Let us wake him up in his slumber.
Get a pencil, I’ll give you his number.
It’s 3 1 8 5 2 7 3
0 8 7 4 2 9 dash!
5 1 1 4 9 0 6 7
4 0 8 5 2 hyphen!
1 1 4 6 2 0 5
7 9 hyphen dash 0 3.
And now that you’re on the right road,
Don’t forget his Area Code.
Which is 5 1 8 2 4 7 9
0 5 hyphen dash 9 4.

Do not try to sing this to the tune of either BEechwood 4-5789 or that song about Jenny.

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Now that’s diversity

Marching in lockstep? Not these two guys at the same newspaper:

Tweets by Steve Lackmeyer and Darnell Mayberry

(Cut and pasted right off of TweetDeck.)

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On this glorious Fourth

Food for thought:

Today we remember how Charles Lindbergh had his shoes inspected for bombs before climbing into The Spirit of St. Louis, how Lewis & Clark took nothing but pictures and left nothing but footprints, how Casey Jones passed his Federal Railroad Administration licensing exams, and how the battle stations on the Monitor and Virginia were certified OSHA compliant.

Bless you, Tam.

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I could have told you that

You’ve got to keep telling yourself: “I am a lovable person; I will succeed.”

Or, um, not:

Positive self-statements make people who are already down on themselves feel worse rather than better, according to [a] study conducted by psychologists Joanne Wood and John Lee of the University of Waterloo and Elaine Perunovic of the University of New Brunswick.

Apparently spouting that sort of bilge causes internal conflict:

“I think that what happens is that when a low self-esteem person repeats positive thoughts, they probably have contradictory thoughts,” Dr Wood told Agence France-Presse.

“So, if they’re saying ‘I’m a lovable person,’ they might be thinking, ‘Well, I’m not always lovable’ or ‘I’m not lovable in this way,’ and these contradictory thoughts may overwhelm the positive thoughts,” she said.

Norman Vincent Peale was not available for comment, though I suspect he would have found the idea depressing.

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Just a dusting (2)

Stuff I didn’t mention this past week and would like to get off my plate:

The Al Franken Decade begins in the Senate:
I was starting to think Norm Coleman was going to stretch this out for ten years.

Hayden Panettiere drops her towel:
Call me when she leaves it in another room.

Hyundai offers $1.49 gas to buyers of some of its cars:
None of which run on premium, I hope.

Microsoft’s Bing improves market share, slightly:
Which is more than Microsoft Bob ever did.

Russia’s Gazprom signs joint-venture deal with Nigerians, coins unfortunate name:
“Nigaz”? Please.

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Quote of the week

While contemplating Sarah Palin’s potential for 2012, which may or may not be affected by her decision to step down as Governor of Alaska, Smitty takes note of another woman who is known to have interest in the Oval Office:

In the credit where due department, HRC is nothing if not cunning. She’s suddenly not going to Russia. Of course, it’s entire too early to connect the dots with other (scroll down a bit) “Unwelcome Distractions”. But it doesn’t take a prophet to realize that, if BHO is AFU in 2012, HRC will come back with the fury of a cancer that’s been in remission for a few years. Possibly I could have chosen a more pleasant metaphor, but as long as the electorate favors Beltway hangtime over Constitutional fidelity, the egalitarian oxymoron “political class” shall continue to weaken all you hold dear, tumor-like.

Not to mention growing.

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Once a spectacle

“And some,” continued Malvolio, reading from Maria’s letter, “have greatness thrust upon them.” For “greatness” read “unwanted notoriety,” and perhaps you wind up with a story like this:

I frequently pass a true-to-life statue of the tallest man in the world. The guy was really, really tall — almost 9 feet. Although it was put up as a sign of respect to the gentlemen, who died many years ago, I don’t think it functions that way.

When I pass by the little memorial, I almost always see somebody standing next to the statue stretching up on their tiptoes and giggling with their fingers wiggling in the sky, a friend or relative about four feet away with the camera.

I wonder how he would feel about that. Due to the fact we know how to treat overactive pituitaries now, he’ll certainly keep that record, but I wonder what he’d make of the continuing interest in his height.

It’s not as though Robert Wadlow was a recluse: he toured with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus in 1936, when he was eighteen, and made many other personal appearances. (He died at twenty-two after a blister on one foot became infected.) He left little behind in the way of writings, and his family had most of his belongings destroyed after his death, fearing exploitation by unscrupulous collectors. But I have the feeling he’d pretty much come to grips with his Guinness-worthy stature and status; if you could see that high, you could probably have seen him shrug.

“Be not afraid of greatness,” Maria had said in her letter. Then again, at the time, Malvolio had no idea that it was Maria.

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Destination: Z-list

Laura explains the process of blogger burnout:

Many of the top bloggers have been absorbed into some other professional enterprise or are burnt. It’s a lot of work to blog. Most bloggers, and not just the A-listers, spend 3-5 hours every day blogging. That’s hard to maintain, especially since there is no money in this. They used that time to not only write their posts and monitor their comment sections, but to read and foster other bloggers. Blogging survived based on the goodwill and generosity of others. It’s probably no coincidence that every blogger that I’ve met face-to-face is an extraordinarily nice person. But it’s hard to volunteer that much time over a long period of time. The spouses tend to get annoyed.

I attribute my survival, if that’s the word, to the following:

  • Three to five hours? Not a chance. If I find myself taking more than twenty minutes on a single post, I shunt it off to Ventland.
  • I have no reasonable possibility of absorption into Something Larger, which means I don’t spend any time consciously, or unconsciously, rewriting things to fit into someone else’s matrix.
  • I keep one to four items in the can at all times, letting them age. This does nothing for freshness, really, but I’d rather let them sit for a few hours, in case I think of something new I need to add, or something old I need to delete. It beats the hell out of staring at the screen for hours on end.
  • I have no spouse, and no prospects for one. Not only does this simplify matters immensely for at least two people, but it’s a never-ending source of whiny, self-absorbed material.

I’m sure someone out there will accuse me of being extraordinarily nice, so consider this my official denial of same.

(Via Megan McArdle.)

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Careful with that coffee, Eugene

Evidently they were told this would improve office morale:

David Taylor, a business psychologist, told workers at design and marketing onebestway, in Newcastle upon Tyne, that a Naked Friday idea would boost their team spirit.

He was called in to help the firm after six staff members were forced into taking redundancies at the start of the credit crunch.

Mr Taylor told them that, by stripping off their clothes, staff could also strip away inhibitions and talk to each other more openly and honestly.

He said: “Inviting an organisation to go naked is the most extreme technique I’ve used. It may seem weird but it works. It’s the ultimate expression of trust in yourself and each other.”

This implies that there exists at some base level a degree of trust which needs just a little help to blossom, a premise which is difficult to defend in some of our more dysfunctional organizations, where being stabbed in the back is unusual only because it’s not actually in the front.

Besides, I suspect ulterior motives:

The experiment in April was filmed for a one-off TV show, Naked Office, to be screened on July 9 on cable channel Virgin 1.

If you’re going to try this at your workplace, here’s a hint: Towels. On the chairs. Especially the leather chairs, if you have any.

(Via Fark.)

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Tastes great, less tanking

You have to figure that Ford isn’t too thrilled about its June sales, which were down about 8 percent from the same month last year here in the States, but they do have some reason to celebrate: 133,684 vehicles bearing the Blue Oval were moved in those thirty days (25 selling days, technically), a good 16 percent better than second-place Toyota, which dropped by a third, as did third-place Chevrolet.

Which doesn’t mean Dearborn is out of the woods yet: Lincoln/Mercury sales are still slow. Then again, Volvo, which Ford has yet to sell off, was actually up a smidgen.

Making the best showing: Subaru, up 3.4 percent from last year. Freest of the free-fallers: Suzuki, down 78 percent.

(Numbers from Autoblog.)

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Greyness is apparently not a factor

At least now I have a benchmark:

The Pew Research Center reveals that American perceptions on growing older differ from the reality, particularly in just when old age begins (most say 68, but there are various milestones to signify the passage, including sexual/genitalial failure and lack of a Twitter account).

Which, I suppose, stands to reason: should it come to pass that, in Gordon Lightfoot’s phrase, “my pony won’t go,” I can’t imagine any motivation for tweeting about it.

Still, I tend to think of myself as old, based on this observation by the late H. Allen Smith:

If we accept seventy as the allotted span, and if we divide life into youth and middle age and old age, then we divide seventy by three and arrive at a fraction over twenty-three. Just to give everybody a break, let’s make it an even twenty-four. So, we are young up to the age of twenty-four, at which point middle age sets in. Middle age lasts until we are forty-eight. Anything after that is old and that’s where I am.

Not that I expect any 24-year-olds to buy this premise.

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“With Honduras,” declares Andrew Ian Dodge in the title of the 341st Carnival of the Vanities.

Honduras, like many nations in the Americas, has had frequent short-term governmental changes, though occasionally a strongman emerges. One of the stronger: Tiburcio Carías Andino, after being ousted the first time, managed to maintain control of the country for sixteen years, second only to Spanish corregidor Juan de Zuazo, whose 18-year rule ended 341 years ago, in 1668.

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Enter the AHL

And exit the CHL:

Oklahoma City is set to begin negotiations to bring an American Hockey League franchise to town for the 2010-2011 season. But there won’t be pro hockey here next season.

The Oklahoma City Blazers have suspended operations after failing to renew their lease with Oklahoma City to play in the Ford Center or Cox Center, a team official said Thursday.

The decision comes as Oklahoma City officials have filed paperwork clearing the way to start negotiations with “a prospective AHL franchise afflilated with Express Sports,” according to city documents.

So basically Express Sports, which owned the Blazers, is departing the CHL and moving up to the AHL. By the sheerest of coincidences:

The Edmonton Oilers of the NHL own a dormant AHL franchise and there have been discussions in recent month about relocating that team to Oklahoma City.

So they sell a piece of the franchise to Express, and after a one-year period of mourning, we have the Blazers, or a reasonable facsimile thereof, back again, playing at a higher level.

(Via Don Mecoy.)

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Sarah: always running

Sarah Palin in running gearThe Governor of Alaska is interviewed in the August Runner’s World, whence this picture was swiped, and she’s definitely the type to go the distance, hang the consequences:

I went for a run at John McCain’s ranch a couple of days before the debate with Joe Biden. My favorite thing in the world is to run on hot, dusty roads. I don’t get enough of that in Alaska. So I was in heaven and there were plenty of hills so I knew my thighs were going to just throb and my lungs were going to burn and that’s what I crave.

I like running alone and having the Secret Service with me added a little bit of pressure. I’m thinking I gotta have good form and can’t be hyperventilating and can’t be showing too much pain and that adds a little more pressure on you as you’re trying to be out there enjoying your run. Then I fell coming down a hill and was so stinkin’ embarrassed that a golf cart full of Secret Service guys had to pull up beside me. My hands just got torn up and I was dripping blood. In the debate you could see a big fat ugly Band-Aid on my right hand. I have a nice war wound now as a reminder of that fall in the palm of my right hand. For much of the campaign, shaking hands was a little bit painful.

The Secret Service, incidentally, lived up to their name by never saying a word about it.

The shoes (since you’re going to ask): Asics. More photos here.

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Or maybe it just rolls into a lake

Lisa discovers the amazing hygienic propensities of Minneapolis:

We decided if you played Highway Bingo on Minneapolis’s streets and highways, you couldn’t include discard items of any kind. There were none. I mean none. I told Andy, if we saw a piece of trash we’d have to pull over so I could photograph it, as it would be the only piece of trash existent on Minneapolis highways. It’s not that California highways are littered. They are actually pretty clean.

But you usually see the Sheriff’s Work Program crews out there in their orange jumpsuits. Or you see the orange plastic bags full of trash neatly stacked and waiting for pick up. In Minneapolis, there was no evidence whatsoever to indicate that there had EVER been any trash. This leads to only these conclusions:

1. All trash is magically picked up at night by invisible crews of Keebler Elves and hobbits.

2. There is no packaging in Minnesota, therefore no trash.

3. There is a force-field in Minnesota that automatically locks car windows in the closed position so they can’t be opened to dispose of trash.

I spent a couple of days in Minneapolis, with my children in tow, and we encountered lots of packaging. What’s more, the car windows were all working, despite my out-of-state plates. (You’d figure we, as interlopers, would be targeted by the force field.)

So I figure it’s the hobbits and elves. And this being summertime, the nights are short, so they have to work fast.

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