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  • December 2005
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Roun’ da Horn
News Roundup plus stuff

In a move that shows American democracy can truly be spread across the globe, the Iraqi Sunnis are taking a play from the American Democratic Party and are making wild accusations about widespread voter fraud.

Poland will keep troops in Iraq.

Japanese prefer humanoid robots to real people.

My cat does not prefer humanoid robots.

A close up of the beast:

Best Christmas Gift. Ever.

The Ghosts of Internet Time.

Everyone should resolve for 2006 to sharpen their Google skillz:

• 1. Find similar terms
And you thought the tilde character («) served no useful purpose. When you insert the tilde in front of a search term, Google will retrieve sources matching the word as well as synonyms.
Searching “«conservative” will yield the National Libertarian Party, the National Republican Committee and the Right Wing News home page. Do not leave a space between the tilde and the search term.
• 2. Exclude terms
Sometimes a keyword will come up with items totally unrelated to the subject you are interested in. A student researching plasma in the cosmos would type in the word plasma and be forced to wade through scores of sites referring to plasma televisions.
The fastest way to solve this is to use the exclude function, the hyphen. Search “plasma -tv” and you will eliminate many irrelevant sites.
Though better, that may still not be good enough – you’ll wind up with sites using the word “television.” Simply refine your search this way: “plasma -tv -television” and eliminate both terms from your results. (No need to use the word “and” or other punctuation.)
If you really want to be cool, combine your newfound skills and type “plasma -«tv” that will exclude all synonyms of TV.
• 3. Substitute for unknown words
Friends kid me that my memory is pretty bad; I think they exaggerate. But sometimes I need to look up a quotation for which I can’t recall all the words. No problem. Use asterisks to stand in for missing words.
So if you forget, oh, let’s say, the number of years that Whatsisname referred to in his famous address: Something score and something years ago … just type “Four * and * years ago.”
• 4. Find lost pages
A wonderful but mostly overlooked feature of Google search is the cache option. Most people glance right past it, but in virtually all search results, you will see a link to cached versions of pages you are looking for.
You usually won’t need to refer to these archival pages, but if your search ever turns up an old news page, for instance, you may find that when you click on the link, the page no longer exists, even though it turned up in the search results.
In that event, simply click on the cache link (at the bottom line of the search result), and that will retrieve the last saved version of the page that had failed to show.
• 5. Get your number
Looking up a phone number? Give your fingers a break, and let Google do the walking.
Just type “phonebook” and the name and city (or state initials) of the person whose number you’re looking for. The number will pop up instantly. Often, you can leave out the word “phonebook,” though city or state will be required.
6. Get the name
If you have a phone number but want the name or the location, just type in the number – no hyphens, parentheses or spaces necessary.
• 7. Look up synonyms
With all due respect to Webster, you can now get definitions in a flash by typing “define:” and your search word. You’ll come up with definitions, synonyms and links for further information.

Superfluid successfully tested. Of course, there’s no potential application at all for superfluids, but…

Dodo bird skeleton found. Seriously, take a look at that article. The last stuffed Dodo bird was burned in an Oxford fire in 1755, making finding a complete genome about impossible. The Dutch word for the Dodo meant “Nasty Bird” because they tasted so horrible. The Portuguese word meant something along the lines of “dumb.” Differences in culture, Portuguese didn’t care what it tasted like, they were easy to catch (and people make jokes about the Poles, the Portuguese history is a lot funnier). Just imagine if the Dodo was actually tasty, it’d still be around.

12 myths dealing with the Bush Phone Tap “scandal”. It’s a liberal perspective on the whole thing. I’m rather ambiguous about the whole affair. I’m not worried about whatever Bush would do with the phone taps, I’m worried about future U.S. presidents abusing such a power. Like Bill Clinton and his FBI files scandal. Then again, the power will probably be abused either legally or illegally, so the cynic in me once again remains ambiguous.

If you still think the Bush thing is bad, imagine the government knowing exactly where you’re driving all the time:

Britain is to become the first country in the world where the movements of all vehicles on the roads are recorded. A new national surveillance system will hold the records for at least two years.

Using a network of cameras that can automatically read every passing number plate, the plan is to build a huge database of vehicle movements so that the police and security services can analyse any journey a driver has made over several years.

The network will incorporate thousands of existing CCTV cameras which are being converted to read number plates automatically night and day to provide 24/7 coverage of all motorways and main roads, as well as towns, cities, ports and petrol-station forecourts.

Can you imagine the potential for abuse? Shoot, there goes the cynic in me again…


Personal Update

Sorry everyone, I was out volunteering for Dan “The Ox” Ochsner in Senate District 15 today. Ox has a tough election bid tomorrow. I’ll have the next installment of my “Letters to a Liberal” series available tomorrow. Like usual, I have a huge numbers of stories and topics I’d like to get to, as well as a year 2005 roundup, some 2006 predictions, and some pictures of my cat fighting a humanoid robot.

I’m not completely “better” yet health-wise, but this new vitamin regimen seems to be working enough to allow me some use of my vocal chords.