Archive for the ‘misc’ Category

Why I don’t live in England


Video Prof is still a dickbag

A few weeks ago I briefly commented about the Video Professor’s practice of filing lawsuits against anonymous internet posters who he feels are defaming the company. Now we get Mr. Professor’s take on his reasoning straight from his blog:

“A number of people have gone to web sites and anonymously posted less-than-flattering statements about their experiences with Video Professor. I am simply trying to learn who these individuals are so that I can fix the problems they have had with my company. I am committed to satisfying my customers and I will go to great lengths to make them happy, as we always have. However, I can’t help them if I don’t know who they are.”

No, I’m not making this up – he cares so much about his unhappy customers that he needs to sue them in order to help them.  With over 600 complaints filed with the Better Business Bureau in the last 36 months alone, it looks like he’s going to be busy suing and helping people for quite a while.

Officer OnStar

In a previous life as a firefighter I knew and worked regularly with police officers and sheriff’s deputies. During that stint in the early 90’s I became aware of the Pursuit Intervention Technique, or PIT maneuver. While the training is intense, the concept is simple – lightly nudging the rear corner of a moving vehicle sideways will its break traction at the rear wheels and cause the car to spin out and (usually) stall. Needless to say it was an improvement over the ramming techniques that it replaced, and it makes for great TV too. Safer still has been the advent of StopSticks which puncture vehicle tires when rolled over, but this still doesn’t eliminate police pursuits – it only shortens them at best. As traffic volume on the roads continues to increase it becomes increasingly clear that something has to change in the way these volatile situations are handled. Police departments in Dallas and all over the nation are limiting and even eliminating pursuits from their protocol due to the excessive risk they create. I’ve been thinking in the past few years that we should have no problem remotely disabling vehicles before a chase even starts. Prototype devices have been developed that launch from the front of a police cruiser like a rocket powered skateboard, roll underneath the pursued vehicle, and disrupt its electrical system. What could go wrong? No, I’m thinking more along the lines of a dedicated receiver in all cars that shuts off a vehicle when commanded. And apparently, OnStar has been thinking the exact same thing. It does raise some privacy and control issues, but I think these can be easily addressed in a way that makes this a revolutionary technology. It will be interesting to see how this plays out. Maybe one day soon your stolen car will be returned and NOT totaled.

Ig Nobels

On an entirely silly note, the Annals of Improbable Research has once again bestowed its esteemed Ig Nobel awards on several lucky scientists.  This year’s keynote, “Chicken Chicken Chicken Chicken Chicken”, was based on the author’s paper entitled “Chicken Chicken Chicken: Chicken Chicken.”  A PDF of the paper is here and I highly recommend giving it a quick read.  The points are salient and the visual aides plentiful.  Other winning topics included catching bank robbers with hidden nets, the US Air Force’s now-infamous Gay Bomb, and extracting vanilla essence from cow dung.


In high school I knew a girl who thought you couldn’t flush the toilet when the power is out. I’m recalling this because this morning the city of Irving issued a boil water notice for the area I work in due to a problem at a pumping station.  This means no coffee.  Yeah.  Anyway, I’ve already heard two people say that coffee should be safe to drink since the water is boiled.  The only problem is, the water isn’t boiled when making coffee!  At least not since percolators went out of fashion.  I suspect a few people will be going home sick today. Me, I’ll be sleeping peacefully at my desk.