The first truely great invention of the new age has arrived. No longer shall we be forced to raise our index finger to passing waitresses or fight with the common serfs at the bar. Yes, the people who brought us the Blitzkrieg and Levi’s have done it again. Behold, the Inteli-coaster or as they call it in Germany, the Smarzenbeerinorderinvanhausen. Well the people at New Scientist are calling it a “smart mat” but that sounds too much like smart card to me, and although beer security is one of my top concerns I just love hyphenated words.
The device contains an accelerometer, so you can either use it to play in pub quizes like the makers suggest, there by replacing the onerous task of pushing buttons with the eratic failing of your arms….or you can let the guy who knocked over your beer precisely how many meters/secord angry you are at him when you lob it at his head.
So if you like beer, and you like to keep drinking after you’ve lost the capacity for communication, then this is your lucky day.
I have resisted the overwhelming urge to title this post “International Frosty Prost” and I am glad for it. Well I have as yet refrained from any electronic journaling ***I WILL use my editorial powers to viciously purge any use of that foul four letter “b” word from this site*** thus far because of my romantic clinging to the belief that our content here is so insightful, so sublime, so supercriminalfragitistic that we often must refrain from posting it for months at a time.
Tonight, in celebration of my vacation in a country with a bleeping AZERTY keyboard and where I have to use the SHIFT (labeled up arrow here) key to type a period and the “Alt Gr” key to get an @ I have chosen to treat the loyal supercrime readership, you know who you (singular) are, with a plan for a self-supporting vacation to London.
The Internet cafe I’m in also doubles as a crepe stand so you can disregard my idea as so many Nutella fueled dreams of fancy or you can take it for the pure stinking gold that it is.
If you have ever traveled to a major European city, some American cities, or seen Euro-trip than you are familiar with the countless silver/gold/white painted robots/sarcophagi/human statues that adorn the plazas in front of tourist attractions doing robot movements/not moving for hours/moving when you tip them. If not just imagine someone painted one color standing still for a long time and people rewarding their sloth with spare change. The problem with their stick is that it’s been done and over done, so here’s my idea. I will be Little Ben, I will make a costume that resembles Big Ben and I will wear it in locations where you can see Big Ben (e.g. Trafalgar Square) and I will jump around and dance and let people take pictures of their kiddies with me, and I will rake in the dough. What I am proposing has never been done before, there is novelty; it can only be done in one or maybe two locations in London to maximum effect so no else can do it. This may be the single greatest idea in the history of creatively begging people to give you money on the street.
You are welcome. My rented computer time is about to expire. I’m getting a crepe now.
The Superbowl premier of Napster’s “Napster to go” service raises some interesting technophilosophical questions. The Napster to go service offered at $14.95 is an expanded version of the $9.95 PC only version, if you want to take the songs “to go” on select portable MP3 players. While I think the 50% price increase to allow portability is a bit excessive, the concept of the service is very intriguing to me. Is media ownership an antiquated phenomenon or because I’m a bit more rational than other net minds who decry everything that isn’t bleeding edge as hopelessly outdated, is ownership so ingrained into the American psyche that services such as Napster to go will never dominate the marketplace? Owning a song certainly doesn’t carry the same cultural attachments that owning a car or a house does, but there is still a strong attachment to the philosophy behind ownership of any kind.
There are two ideas people need to accept for a music service like this to work: 1.) Physical ownership isn’t important, use ownership is what matters 2.) Renting, given certain parameters, is better than owning. The second idea is less of a problem than the first. Many people are very content leasing cars one after another and most people rent movies instead of buying everything they want to see. However, renting music is different in some important regards. Music is something that you want to enjoy over and over again, most likely more times than you want to watch a movie (unless it’s Episode V or The Matrix), and any particular song isn’t going to change over time (i.e. if you like it enough to buy now, you’ll probably like it in ten years and it isn’t going to get any different), unlike a car which gets old and doesn’t have the same features as new models. So, while Napster to go is a terrific investment for any given month, its value as a service decreases somewhat when you string many months together.
Finally I have all the justification I need to drop a couple g’s on a flatscreen TV. I can now consider it a critical item in my disaster preparedness kit and can write it off as a homeland security expense. As reported by CNN, the Toshiba TV of an Oregon man was broadcasting the 121.5 MHz international distress signal with enough strength to attract the attention of monitoring satellites and eventually Langley Air Force base. Fortunately for the man, Toshiba has offered him a free replacement set to avoid the $10,000 fine that would result from continued use of his television and “willingly broadcasting a false distress signal.”
Like most writers who are prolific only in their dreams my mind this week has been whelmed by a swarm of post ideas, yet I’ve only managed to write one pithy little thing. What do I do when there’s too much to write about, I don’t write anything, which is pretty much my strategy regarding all too muchess, except for beer.
Topics of note this week who’s screams to be discussed have fallen on all too apathetic ears.
- The last public appearance of James Doohan, famous for his role as Lt Cdr Montgomery Scott on Star Trek. Doohan was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and will be retiring from public life. Best wishes to Scotty and his family as they struggle with his diagnoses.
- Yesterday marked the beta launch of Microsoft’s online music sales service. See this USA Today article for more information. “Microsoft doesn’t ‘look to make any money of note’ from the service, said Yusuf Mehdi, Microsofts’s corporate vice president in charge of its MSN online division. Instead, Mehdi said, Microsoft is hoping the service will serve as a vehicle for drawing more users to its MSN Web site, helping garner more advertising dollars.” (Associated Press, September 3, 2004). Or….Microsoft might just be trying to find another way to crush Apple.
- Chechnyan Rebels seize a school in Russia with horrifically tragic consequences and a death toll in the hundreds. I would like to write a longer piece on societal failings in understanding and grappling with terrorism and “terrorism” from a philosophical and socio-historical perspective, however, I won’t do so if it will bother the other site moderators an members. I would like supercrime to remain apolitical and simply be a sounding board for news of, ideas about, and attempts to understand our world, so if the readership thinks something like this is inherently political, I won’t post it and will just write it and email it to those who are interested. Please comment about this.
- The end of the Athens Olympics. Congratulations to Greece for hosting such a spectacular games and to the many athletes who demonstrated the sportsmanship, class, and honor their mother countries so often lack.
“A gang of Russian cybercriminals has helped accomplish what antitrust regulators couldn’t: reduce Microsoft Corp.’s share of the market for Web browsers, if even just a bit.” - From today’s Wall Street Journal
For those of us who remember, the browser wars of the mid-nineties bear a strange and disturbing resemblance to the Clone Wars of Star Wars infamy. Following the destruction of Netscape, Emperor Gates assumed total dominance over the galactic web of surfdom with the help of Darth Anti-trust violation.
But now, a new hope. In 1998, the remaining rebels from Netscape and others formed a resistance, and they called it Mozilla. Now, six years later the rebel Mozilla team has delivered the first blow in a new battle before the Longstar becomes fully operational in 2006.
The Wall Street Journal reported today that Microsoft’s browser, Internet Explorer’s market share fell for the first time since analysts at WebSideStory began tracking it. You can find the article in today’s edition of the WSJ in the marketplace section. (Subscription or “free” trial required). However, here’s a link to a transcript of the article from some dude named Bart’s weblog. You can read more about the story here.
Although the actual decline in IE’s webshare is small it is still extremely significant because it represents the first tracked shift away from IE over security concerns.
Firefox is the official browser of the Supercrime team.
Bless those Russian hackers,
In keeping with the trend of writing about Supreme Court cases I thought that I would post about the three momentous decisions the Court handed down today related to Executive orders permitting individuals designated as “enemy combatants” to be held indefinitely without charge or trial.
The decisions are very long and I have not read them completely yet, most of my information about the rulings comes from the half hour NPR broadcast I listened to today about the Court’s decisions. If you care to read any or all of the rulings you can find them here. The three relevant cases are Hamdi vs. Rumsfeld, Rasul vs. Bush, and Rumsfeld vs. Padilla all issued today June 28th, 2004. You can find relevant news stories from the New York Times (registration required) here, or from CNN here.
In order to maintain some semblance of brevity in a post for once all I will say is that rulings represent either a major defeat for the White House or a major victory for those concerned about stripping American’s of their right to judicial oversight. The Court ruled that, most importantly, U.S. Citizens have the right (and foreign nationals have the privilege) of judicial review of claims made by the executive that they are “enemy combatants.” In essence the ruling states that anyone being held as a prisoner by the United States Government has the right (or privilege) to a judicial review of the Executive’s claims. The ruling does not challenge the right of the executive to hold person’s–U.S. citizens or otherwise–indefinitely without trial, rather it dictates that there must be a judicial process whereby prisoners are allowed to challenge the contention that the are “enemy combatants,” i.e. that there is justified cause for their imprisonment. This provides legal power to those who feel they are being held because they are enemies of the government rather than legitimate prisoners of war.
The legal questions surrounding the detention of U.S. and foreign citizens was not fully settled because the Court did not rule on the Padilla case stating that it was filled in the wrong jurisdiction. However, the rulings today should be viewed as a victory for both champions of liberty and security because they insure a continuing check on the power of the Executive by the Judicial branch without damaging the ability of the Executive to ensure the safety of America’s citizenry.
A belated response to probablyjeff’s post on the Supreme Court ruling in the Hiibel case:
Before reading this post I would strongly recommend reading the Court’s ruling with particular reference to Justice Kennedy’s statement that a 5th Amendment appeal does not apply in Hiibel vs. Sixth Judicial Court of Nevada and Justice Steven’s dissenting opinion related to 5th Amendment protections. Those interested in the potential “slippery slope” implications of this ruling should also pay particular note to Justice Breyer’s dissenting opinion. Also, remember that the Nevada law under question in this case only stipulates that an individual provide their name to the investigating officer and makes no requirement for production other identification, namely a driver’s license or “the papers.”
As additional background, the basic details of this case are well treated by New York Times articles here (a general description of the ruling) and here (a slightly longer discussion of the opinions).
Finally, I would recommend viewing Hiibel’s personal site, reading his account of the facts and viewing the video of the arrest (a Bit Torrent link is available on the site). Regardless of the Court’s opinion, the police work evinced by the video is disheartening. The situation could have likely been diffused without argument or arrest if the officer at the scene had acted in a more professional and courteous manner. In the same way that a request by an officer for a suspect to identify himself by name may be viewed as reasonable, the counter provision that an officer answer basic questions about their investigation and intent should also be upheld. The video introduces problems into my evaluation of the Court’s majority opinion specifically because it demonstrates the clear possibility for abuse and overextension of Terry Stop provisions that the Hiibel ruling may allow, and which Justice Breyer warns of in his dissent.
We all know the stories about ridiculous legislation that is still on the books in varying cities, counties, and states for reasons long forgotten which has now been relegated to nothing more than quaint trivia.
However, Ron Lewis, U.S. Representative from The Bluegrass State hopes to change all of that. Representative Lewis recently introduced House Resolution 3920, euphemistically titled “Congressional Accountability for Judicial Activism Act of 2004″, which would allow Congress to reverse judgments of the Supreme Court with a 2/3 vote in both houses.
I don’t want to go off on a rant here, and for once, I won’t. Thank you Dahlia Lithwick, senior editor at Slate for writing one for me.
I desperately wanted this site to refrain from all things political when I helped found it. Unfortunately, the recent events at Abu Gharib and now the execution of Nick Berg have cut me to the core and I can’t hold back anymore. The political is the personal, and for me the political has fallen away and I am left so profoundly saddened that I have to say something.
Neither the photos of American soldiers denigrating Iraqi prisoners nor the video of Al-Qaida fighters beheading an American citizen shocked me. I have learned of and scene enough examples of human atrocity to know the baseness that man is capable of, and my eyes are long scarred with images of suffering and loss I fear I will one day see in person. In Abu Gharib and Nick Berg I see two cultures of people expressing their hatred of the other in the most poignant way possible. Male sexual humiliation strikes the heart of Islamic values in the same manner that the murder of innocents bites the soul of Americans. Both acts are so horrible that “worse” cannot be applied to either. Dante’s Hell has no level for this vulgarity and the shame of these actions is all of mankind’s to bear.
Hatred begets itself and certitude leads to nothing but violence. The world is snowballing out of control and the brinksmanship of violence shows no signs of slowing. Nobody is right anymore. There are no terrorists. There are no liberators. We are simply a people who have wandered so far from the path that we have forgotten we are lost.
I was told by a friend last night that the problem with religion is that it separates the sacred from the human, setting us apart from what we aspire to be. That, to me, is the essence of what makes the sacred desirable, for when I see what I am capable of in the actions of others I can only dream of a sacred that has abandoned man’s imperfections. All that separates us from it is a reluctance to let go of our hate; I pray for this realization.