6.27.2002

Railroaded

AMTRAK BASHING

   Derrick Jackson of the Boston Globe (via Progressive Review) provides rebuttal
   to those riding on the Amtrak bashing bandwagon. Apparently some transportation
   subsidies are better than others.


Via the always interesting Ethel.

6.23.2002

I Got My Rights (Clink!)

Why would you want a metal copy of the bill of rights?

   The First Ten Amendments to the constitution of the United States printed on sturdy,
   pocket-sized, pieces of metal.

   The next time you travel by air, take the Security Edition of the Bill of Rights along
   with you. When asked to empty your pockets, proudly toss the Bill of Rights in the plastic
   bin.

   You need to get used to offering up the bill of rights for inspection and government
   workers need to get used to deciding if you'll be allowed to keep the Bill of Rights
   with you when you travel.


Too good. Of course, they will take it away from you, so you can't hit John
Ashcroft over the head with it... But wait! He's already taken it away from
you...

Found via Boing Boing.

6.20.2002

The One That Bot Away

Robot on the run
By Dave Higgens, London
June 20 2002

   Scientists running a pioneering experiment with "living robots" which
   think for themselves said they were amazed to find one escaping from the
   centre where it "lives".

   The small unit, called Gaak, was one of 12 taking part in a "survival of
   the fittest" test at the Magna science centre in Rotherham, South Yorkshire,
   which has been running since March.

   Gaak made its bid for freedom yesterday after it had been taken out of the
   arena where hundreds of visitors watch the machines learning as they do
   daily battle for minor repairs.

   Professor Noel Sharkey said he turned his back on the drone and returned
   15 minutes later to find it had forced its way out of the small make-shift
   paddock it was being kept in.

   He later found it had travelled down an access slope, through the front
   door of the centre and was eventually discovered at the main entrance to
   the car park when a visitor nearly flattened it with his car.


Come back, 'chine! Gaak!

From The Age (Au) via Boing Boing.

6.19.2002

The God That Sucks

Thomas Frank, in the Baffler:

   The market is the reason our housing is so expensive. It is the reason our public transportation is lousy.
   It is the reason our cities sprawl idiotically all across the map. It is the reason our word processing
   programs stink and our prescription drugs cost more than anywhere else. In order that a fortunate few might
   enjoy a kind of prosperity unequaled in human history, the rest of us have had to abandon ourselves to a
   lifetime of casual employment, to unquestioning obedience within an ever-more arbitrary and despotic corporate
   regime, to medical care available on a maybe/maybe-not basis, to a housing market interested in catering only
   to the fortunate.


Found Via Wood_s_lot.
Celistina

From the paleoliterature of robotics:

Alberto Moravia's short story "Celestina" from the collection "Command And I Will Obey You" (1967):

   Celistina vanished. Her zinc-covered stand was empty, empty her pavilion;
   there was no trace of her in the garden, in the surrounding countryside, in
   the house. Or rather, there was one trace, just a single, but significant
   clue -- the simultaneous disappearance of our old, worn, antiquated water-
   heater. And so, finally, the truth dawned upon us: Celistina, unknown to us
   had started a love affair with the water-heater, an individual of a rather
   passionate nature and prone to excessive over-heating. Seeing that I intended
   to marry her off to Titac, she had fled with her lover.


A story I remember whenever I read a hyped news story about how human robots are becoming...

6.11.2002

Octopus Card, Eh?

How to stay financially underwater...

The Octopus Card

   Here, just about everyone carries an Octopus card -- a rechargeable, contactless card that
   is passed over a scanner to access almost every train, bus or ferry. The territory's 6.75
   million inhabitants make nearly seven million Octopus transactions each day, worth about
   HK$48 million (US$6.12 million).


From Yahoo News via Boing Boing.

6.02.2002

Cui Bono?

This is sinful.

(from NYT) Heart of Cheapness
By PAUL KRUGMAN

   So here are our priorities. Faced with a proposal that would save the lives of eight
   million people every year, many of them children, we balk at the cost. But when asked
   to give up revenue equal to twice that cost, in order to allow each of 3,300 lucky
   families to collect its full $16 million inheritance rather than a mere $10 million,
   we don't hesitate. Leave no heir behind!


Found via FmH.