Canada Just Banned the Penny!!

Yes - WTF - Canada just got rid of the penny!

The penny! The most important unit of currency we have! Without it, what would line your car's console? What would fill up that jar in the corner of the kitchen? What would weigh down your pockets after you buy things in cash? What would fill up the "leave a penny take a penny" plastic thingy at the counter of your favorite convenience store?

Yes, these are British pennies. Better of course in every way. 


So, penny no more? Basically - they cost a lot of money, and that's an issue. They are worth more than they are worth, or put another way, they are a currency without currency.

Canada is getting rid of them because they cost money to mint and keep in circulation.

The US is keeping them because of pricing. If you don't have the penny you have to price everything which can be paid for in currency in $0.05 increments. That's a huge issue - because retailers would have to shift from $4.99 to $4.95 or $5.00 - and they don't like that idea.

So it will be a while before the US gets rid of the penny, but those crafty Cannuks are already at it.

Crafty. Not very useful. But crafty. 

How big is our own solar system... (bbc.com)


This Japanese Ghost Ship Lost


This Japanese Ghost Ship Lost in the Tsunami Was Found Floating Near the Coast of Canada

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This Japanese Ghost Ship Lost in the Tsunami Was Found Floating Near the Coast of Canada

When the devastating earthquake and tsunami hit Japan last year, it created more than 22 million tons of debris—the size of California, pretty much. Included in that debris was this ghost ship, a 150-foot long squid-fishing boat that's just been found, a year after the tsunami, near the coast of Canada.
Spotted by aircrafts some 120 miles off the coast of Canada, the Japanese squid-fishing boat is a true ghost ship—no one is in control and no one is on board. The ship's owner confirmed it to be from Japan and told Canadian authorities that the ship has been lost since the tsunami. What's both impressive and a bit paranormally eerie is that the ghost ship managed to survive the entire year and nearly 5,000 miles in travel while staying intact. The ship is obviously pretty beat up, Mother Nature will tend to do that, but it's still upright and headed towards Canada as we speak.
The ghost ship marks the first large sign of debris from post-tsunami Japan. Previously Japanese bottles and other knick knacks have reached North America's shore but with officials estimating nearly two million tons of debris to survive the entire trek across the ocean, it won't be at all surprising to see other items pop up in North America. In fact, officials are fully expecting to find more ghost ships like this too.
Scientists have been analyzing wind patterns and ocean currents to estimate when most of the debris will touch North American shores, some are predicting 2014 while others point to as soon as this October. Prepare, North America. [Telegraph.co.ukVancouver Sun]

Will A123 Batteries Survive?

Looks like another "green" company might not make it - but I actually like this one, and hope it does.

A123 is an innovative battery company which ramped up production capability too quickly. Because of that, a welding machine in their new factory was misaligned and, even though it was only one of four machines, cells from that machine could be in each battery and could fail, so all have to be recalled. This will cost $55 million. To a company A123's size, $55 million is a large amount—the company brought in only $139 million in funding all of last year.

A123 Systems had $187 million in cash at the end of 2011, considerably less than the $258 million it lost last year. A123 had planned to cut its cost and raise up revenues... and if they survive this they probably will be able to. But like so many before them, they completely misjudged the ramp up of electric vehicles.This is also related to the massive fail which is Fisker Automotive, which I have long predicted will be a flop.

Shareholder Rights: Harvard Law and CalPERS are Idiots

For years, there have been two very vocal voices in the debate over corporate governance: CalPERS and Harvard Law School. Unsurprisingly, both are idiots.

For years, CalPERS has argued that their focus on corporate governance improves returns. Bullshit. There is absolutely no evidence of that. Most of what we are now talking about as "corporate governance" is crap - the real issues have been solved, we are now just making up shit to give law school professors something to do. Which would bring me to the article below... but first... time to savor a little humble pie.


"Alfred Villalobos, a former member of the CalPERS board who hired himself out to several big investment firms, plainly on the expectation that he would use his connections to get them business. According to a lawsuit filed last year by the state attorney general's office, Villalobos made $47 million from 2005 to 2009 by getting CalPERS to invest $4.87 billion with his clients.

The AG's lawsuit and a just-released report on the Villalobos affair prepared for CalPERS by the Washington law firm Steptoe & Johnson paint a picture of corruption, moral corrosion and board-level inattention staggering in scale.

CalPERS directors and officials accepted gifts, cut secret deals and tried to subvert professional standards to serve Villalobos' clients. Some of the ugliest behavior is laid to Fred Buenrostro, a Villalobos crony who served as CalPERS chief executive from 2002 to 2008, during which period Villalobos allegedly paid for his travel, first-class accommodations and even part of his wedding. After leaving CalPERS, Buenrostro took a job with Villalobos."

Ahh... that's just fantastic. The amazing thing is that CalPERS is now somehow back claiming that they are improving the world by pushing to "improve" company's corporate governance standards... when some of the very same corrupt idiots are still in the organization.

But back to HLS, that den of arrogance and self-importance:



Harvard’s Shareholder Rights Project is Wrong

            The Harvard Law School Shareholders Rights Project (SRP) recently issued joint press releases with five institutional investors, principally state and municipal pension funds, trumpeting SRP’s representation of and advice to these investors during the 2012 proxy season in submitting proposals to more than 80 S&P 500 companies with staggered boards, urging that their boards be declassified.  The SRP’s “News Alert” issued concurrently reported that 42 of the companies targeted had agreed to include management proposals in their proxy statements to declassify their boards – which reportedly represented one-third of all S&P 500 companies with staggered boards.  The SRP statement “commended” those companies for what it called “their responsiveness to shareholder concerns.”

            This is wrong.  According to the Harvard Law School online catalog, the SRP is “a newly established clinical program” that “will provide students with the opportunity to obtain hands-on experience with shareholder rights work by assisting public pension funds in improving governance arrangements at publicly traded firms.”  Students receive law school credits for involvement in the SRP.  The SRP’s instructors are two members of the Law School faculty, one of whom (Professor Lucian Bebchuk) has been outspoken in pressing one point of view in the larger corporate governance debate.  The SRP’s “Template Board Declassification Proposal” cites two of Professor Bebchuk’s writings, among others, in making the claim that staggered boards “could be associated with lower firm valuation and/or worse corporate decision-making.”

            There is no persuasive evidence that declassifying boards enhance stockholder value over the long-term, and it is our experience that the absence of a staggered board makes it significantly harder for a public company to fend off an inadequate, opportunistic takeover bid, and is harmful to companies that focus on long-term value creation.  It is surprising that a major legal institution would countenance the formation of a clinical program to advance a narrow agenda that would exacerbate the short-term pressures under which American companies are forced to operate.  This is, obviously, a far cry from clinical programs designed to provide educational opportunities while benefiting impoverished or underprivileged segments of society for which legal services are not readily available.  Furthermore, the portrayal of such activity as furthering “good governance” is unworthy of the robust debate one would expect from a major legal institution and its affiliated programs.  The SRP’s success in promoting board declassification is a testament to the enormous pressures from short-term oriented activists and governance advisors that march under the misguided banner that anything that encourages takeover activity is good and anything that facilitates long-term corporate planning and investment is bad.

            Staggered boards have been part of the corporate landscape since the beginning of the modern corporation. They remain an important feature to allow American corporations to invest in the future and remain competitive in the global economy.  The Harvard Law School SRP efforts to dismantle staggered boards is unwise and unwarranted, and – given its source – inappropriate.  As Delaware Chancellor Leo Strine noted in a 2010 article : “stockholders who propose long-lasting corporate governance changes should have a substantial, long-term interest that gives them a motive to want the corporation to prosper.”

Martin Lipton
Theodore N. Mirvis
Daniel A. Neff
David A. Katz

Obama 2012: Because Nothing Is His Fault

How the fuck is this idiot going to get re-elected?

Every time he opens his mouth, he is either lying, patronizing, dissembling, or obfuscating. He always believes he is right, has completely fucked the constitution and rule of law, and is so in bed with his buddies and campaign donors that there should be a red light hanging in the window of the White House. The moron makes Nixon look squeaky clean, but everyone goes around pretending that he "really isn't that bad". 

Honestly, I have had a lot of people tell me "but what has he really done wrong?" The short answer? Everything he has done. Bailout, stimulus, GM illegal shakedown, idiotic healthcare reform, tax plan, spending plan, individual rights, attacks on corporations, pulling out of Iraq ensuring defeat and pissing on everyone who served over there, and a failure to follow through with anything he said in his last campaign (not that I am really pissed about that, but how liberals don't care I have no idea).

The man is a fucking disaster. His tax plan and spending plan will ensure that America fails to grow, his attack on the rule of law means we are looking more and more a shitty place to invest your money, and his whiny patronizing attitude towards all Americans not educated enough not to understand (as he does) what is really best for them drives me fucking crazy.

And yet, looks like we are going to end up with him for another 4 disastrous years. Thank god I have a British citizenship, hitting up the commonwealth seems pretty appealing right now, Australia anyone?

Obama 2012: Because Nothing Is Ever His Fault.
http://www.nationalreview.com/campaign-spot/294245/obama-2012-because-nothing-ever-his-fault

from my HP TouchPad

Bats All Folks! The Epic Fail IPO



Bats All Folks! The Epic Fail of the Worst IPO Ever
http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2012-03-23/bats-all-folks-the-epic-fail-of-the-worst-ipo-ever

---
Sent from Zite personalized magazine webOS app.
Available for free in the App Catalog
www.zite.com


-- Sent from my HP TouchPad

Tacocopter is dumb....

The interwebs are all abuzz over a taco delivery quad copter... 

Tacocopter Aims To Deliver Tacos Using Unmanned Drone Helicopters
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/23/tacocopter-startup-delivers-tacos-by-unmanned-drone-helicopter_n_1375842.html


I can understand why, but come on, its obvious it won't work. Weather, the fact you have to be outside, airspace restrictions, delivery range, carry capacity, ability to deliver drinks, and of course price (the operation will be far more expensive than a taco truck) mean this is a non-starter. Some idiot valley CD's might still invest in it though after all this buzz...
---
from my HP TouchPad

Gun sales are soaring, but it's hard to say why

http://tpt.to/a2nVbcP
--

Amish photo of the day...


“Free” Mobile Broadband... From NetZero

Remember NetZero? Yeah, it's been a while. Free dial up internet hasn't been something you have been lusting for since Clinton was stumbling around the White House, but how about free wireless broadband?

NetZero offers free Wi-Fi 'teaser' service for 1 year – USATODAY.com

It works like this, across the top of your screen there will be a big banner ad... ok, kidding. It actually is not much of a gimmick. Running on the Clearwire network (which has been having trouble finding buyers other than Sprint), you pay either $50 for a USB modem or $100 for a wifi hotspot. You get 200mb/mo free, for one year. There are no overage charges - the data simply shuts off after 200mb and asks if you want to buy a plan.

So, is it a good deal? Well, not for me, because Android has tethering and I have unlimited data on Sprint. Even if I needed it, wifi hotspot over the phone is only $1/day... so paying $100 up front doesn't make a lot of sense.

On the other hand, for the sometime-traveler without tethering (*cough* iPhone *cough*), this could make a lot of sense - 200mb does not get you that far in a month, but it would be enough to get your email, especially with something like gmail.

After the first year, you can opt into a paying plan. All in all, not bad NetZero, not bad.


Doomsday Bunkers for What? "Preppers" Are Idiots

Recently I wrote about the 10 best doomsday survival shelters in the world. These make sense - they are for continuity of government, they are so mankind will survive, they are all about long-term planning or strategic defense.

But, I just came across a brand new show on Discovery - "Doomsday Bunkers" - and it's stupid. Interesting, but stupid.

It turns out that there is a whole community of people out there who believe Y2K is still coming think Fallout 3, the Book of Eli, or Mad Max is just around the corner. And so they are "prepping" - getting ready for the zombie apocalypse.

The craziest of them - or perhaps just the most obsessive or those with the most money.... spend $50,000-$1,000,000 building underground bunkers to protect themselves from... something.

Cozy...

I hope you like Progresso 

And that's where the idiocy comes in: they don't know what they are protecting themselves from. The vast majority of them are built to offer 2-6 people 6mo-2yrs of ability to live underground behind a blast door. Hermetically sealed other than an air system with a NBC (nuclear, biological, chemical) filter, these things usually have basic plumbing, some have well water while others live off tanks, and generally speaking, they should keep you "safe" for a little while... depending on what happens.

And to me, that's the big problem. In what cases are these bunkers useful? When are they useless? When are they simply living tombs - letting you live 6mo longer than everyone else, and that's it.

1) Biological attack / plague
Putin is in a military struggle to retain his "legitimate Presidency" and... decides that the super smallpox he's personally been working on is ready to go. It sweeps across the world with a 90% fatality rate, with the remaining 10% left with a desire to walk around without their shirts on. Society struggles to deal with the devastation, and most people try protect themselves the best they can. Preppers, secretly kinda excited their bunkers aren't just worthless buried shipping containers, hunker down for the duration.
ewwww
ewwww
A) What happens?
History tells us that the premise of packs of looters roaming the streets looking for resources (a basic premise of every Hollywood post-apocalyptic scenario) is unlikely. Instead, people will be hiding in their homes and avoiding all human contact. The militaries of the world will be out in force to keep peace and maintain quarantine zones. If you look at what happened in the Black Plague - people hid in their homes. Afterwords, there was a massive increase in the freedom and economic power of the lower class, because there was so much demand for their labor. Population boomed in the wake of improvements in farming technology driven by the lack of labor.

B) What does the bunker do?
Not a whole lot. More or less, there is no difference between having the bunker and a house. There are resources aplenty and people don't want to be near each other, let alone roam around in packs. If you have enough food to last in your house, then that's a good thing. Clearly - a prepped bunker helps with this, but I don't really think this is going to be that big a deal. If 90% of the human population is wiped out, there will not be a shortage of food, at least not in the US - given the huge surplus of food we have. Farms, already isolated, are going to probably be able to keep going pretty well, especially with help from the military.

2) Nuclear Attack
Putin is in a military struggle to retain his "legitimate Presidency".... and decides to nuke 1/2 of Russia. Thinking it is an attack on them, China retaliates, and the US ends up launching as well. The whole world is covered in mushrooms, and nuclear winter is upon us.
Not good

A) What happens?
Given the size of the nuclear attack - the world is probably more or less over in the way we know it. Continuity of government facilities might be able to keep going - for a while. In a smaller attack, you might just have a limited amount of radiation in the atmosphere, and humanity (though greatly reduced) would survive. If there is just one or two nukes dropped, nothing happens in the rest of the world -- we have used about 2000 nuclear warheads since 1945, though only two were used in anger, and the effects are not that important.

B) What does the bunker do?
So we have three options: nuclear winter, regional nuclear conflict, rogue state / terrorism / mistaken launch. In the first case, nuclear winter, the bunker is just a tomb. Yes, you live a little bit longer, and then you die. It's that simple. In the case of a few nukes going off, the bunker is also worthless. So, you come to what I think is the least likely option: regional nuclear conflict, with a few hundred warheads used. Here, the bunker would let you shelter the worst of the fallout.

3) Natural Disaster
Putin is in a military struggle to retain his "legitimate Presidency"... and a monster hurricane hits the East Cost. And a typhoon hits the West Coast, a earthquake Japan, a blizzard Europe, wildfires in China, King Kong in NYC etc etc. Everyone runs for shelter and governments try and recover.
The Day After Tomorrow is probably a Monday..

A) What happens?
Well... everyone who can get out of the way, gets out of the way. After the fact, the world comes together to help each other and recover.

B) What does the bunker do?
If the natural disaster is unexpected - you can't get to your bunker. If the natural disaster is expected, the government will probably evacuate you in the first place. Flooding, hurricanes etc can all be avoided by, well, avoiding them. Your bunker is freaking worthless in an earthquake because you don't know it's coming. I really can't think of a situation where your best option is getting your family together and driving for your bunker.

4) Zombies
Putin is in a military struggle to retain his "legitimate Presidency"... and releases the "rage" virus. 28 days later you wake up in a hospital bed. Thankfully, your trusty shotgun is next to you, and after blasting your way out of the hospital, you find a plucky band of survivors to blast zombies with. There is a hot single chick, a tough old redneck, a kid who needs protection, and a wise older man. Together, you blast your way through zombieland.

A) What happens?
See 28 days later, I am Legend, The Walking Dead - etc
File:Zombie walk Pittsburgh 29 Oct 2006.png
Scary. No, I mean really scary. Pittsburgh is weird.

B) What does the bunker do?
Finally, a case where the bunker saves your lives! The zombie plague sweeps the world, you hunker down for 6mo-2years, and when you come out, the zombies have all started to decompose and are no longer a real threat. You start to rebuild. You use your stockpile of weapons to set yourself up as a local warlord. Life is good until the remnants of the 101st Airborne, lead by Liam Neeson, para-drops on your ass and steals your bunker. Fuck.

Bottom line? Your bunker? It ain't worth shit.

Endless Suffrage: Why Liberals can STFU about the Republican Nomination

Ok, the Republican nomination is going on way too long at this point. Chief Foot In Mouth Romney can't seem to seal the deal, and that's too bad, because it is sad that Santorum is even being considered for President. Hell, I would never want him hired as a school Principal.

And so everyone is complaining. And I agree - this is stupid. We need to get rid of Obama--he's a complete disaster and if you value your job and the currency in your pocket, he needs to go--but let's back up for just one second.

Remember 2008? Remember how a certain young Senator did an end-run around Hillary Clinton, claiming that superdelegates had to vote according to state primaries? (they dont). The Democrats didn't have a set candidate until the convention, and the race was far far closer (in terms of delegates) than anything we are seeing this year with the Republican primaries.

New Nurburgring to be Yellow Hell Rather than Green Hell?

So, the Nurburgring is increasingly becoming the standard for auto manufacturers and car development. Because of that, the track is in high demand, and there are fewer and fewer days available both for public use and private testing.

Nürburgring emblem
My Porsche Goes Both Ways

What's an entrepreneur to do? Especially ones who owns and operates tracks like Infineon Raceway, Bristol Motor Speedway, Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway, among others. His name is Burton Smith, he's the CEO of Speedway Motorsports, and he wants to build a new "green hell" - though it's not going to be very green. It's going to be built in Las Vegas.

This would be incredibly fun, and while I don't think that it will be quite the same being out in the desert and 115 degrees rather than the shady hills of Bavaria, it would still be amazing to get to drive your car (obviously, especially if you lived in car crazy LA) out to try your lap times against the standard of the world.

I have to wonder though - is he allowed to do this? I mean, the Nurburgring owned by a private German company, and I would be pretty damn pissed if someone scanned the track and created an exact copy. Not sure if you can protect the rights to a track, but seems like there should be some protection there.

Norm's Top 10 Travel Charging Tips For the Power Hungry

So, I am really into gadgets. Shocking, I know. And the thing about gadgets? They take power. Yeah, your Kindle takes less power than an LED bulb, but does it take more than a book? Yup. And if you ran out of power half way through The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo while crossing Siberia by Lada, you would be pretty bored (actually, if you could read in the back of a Lada, I would be seriously impressed).

File:Lada Niva 1b.jpg
It is veeerry bumpy, ya
So then what is a gadget hound to do?

10) Solar Sucks (for this)
Solar chargers are cool, very cool possibly. Charging your gadgets from the power of the sun? Awesome! However, cold hard reality kind of bites on this one. First, your phone, camera, netbook or tablet, and especially laptop take a lot of power. For example, a laptop normally takes about 60watts of power to charge. This is what a 60w solar rig looks like:
Yes.. that is a car battery
Yeah... so this is 60watts: a netbook takes about 50watts, a iPad/Tablet about 45w, and a smartphone 15w. In other words, as I said in my review of the Solio H1000, portable solar panels are low voltage, low watt solar chargers which recharge an internal battery, and then let your power USB devices. The theory is very cool, the practice is very slow. Because (as you can see above) it takes a lot of area to generate meaningful solar power... it takes literally days for these little chargers to charge up. And I mean days of direct sunlight not behind any glass (especially modern coated glass). At the end of 5 days leaving your $50 charger sitting out in direct sunlight, you will have about ~1,000-1,500mAh of power for a USB device, or enough to mostly charge a basic smartphone battery.

As I said about the Solio, if I am heading in the wilderness, the Solio will be one of the first things I pack. It gives you a little power to get by, listen to some music and call home every few days, and make the emergency call when you really need to. This is very important.... but doesn't solve the needs of the power hungry. In other words, if you are not going to be in the wilderness, but rather the wilds of international travel... read on.  

9) Power Packs
Most people end up charging their "solar" charger off of USB anyway, which means they are carrying around that big 'ol solar panel just to get at the lithium-ion battery inside it. Which is like carrying around Al Gore because you need methane. Instead, you can buy yourself a small, portable power pack. Basically, what to look for is power/weight, and of course cost. My personal favorite is the energizer xpal line which comes in all sorts of shapes and sizes and shows up on Woot.com now and then. 

8) Batteries 
There is a better option than portable power packs though - batteries. I mean standard, AAA and AA batteries. A lot of time, energy (ha), and effort has gone into making great AA batteries and.... they work alright, but they are everywhere. For example, my old digital SLR (Canon Rebel) used proprietary li-ion batteries. They would last for ages, but I ran out one time in Austria on the road and I was... screwed, and a wee bit annoyed. My new camera (Pentax K-x) uses AA's. The rechargeable kind sort of suck, because they don't hold a charge long (even the sanyo eneloops I use don't last anything like a proper camera battery) - but anywhere in the world you can get AA alkaline batteries, and carry some spare lithium non-rechargeable's with you, and you are good to go... and all this ties into my next point. 

7) AA to USB. 
Most of what you have will charge off USB - the exception is a netbook/laptop, and those are power hungry beasts. And the easiest way to power up your USB devices? One of these little guys, a energizer energi to go charger. Ignore the $20 price tag, I got mine for $5 off ebay a while back, and they were on woot.com for $2.50 a pop last week. Basically, they let you use AA batteries to charge your gadgets. They are light (with no batteries in them), cheap, reliable and most importantly, refillable. 

6) Extended life laptops
These days, there are a number of good options for long battery life laptops. Some of them break the 24hr mark (in tests). Sure, they are often bigger and heavier, with the battery being more of a plate on the bottom of the laptop rather than slotting into it. But who cares - especially as some of these start off life as light weight netbooks or ultrabooks before they get the Quasimodo treatment. 

5) Hand crank.
Etón American Red Cross CLIPRAY ARCCR100R_SNG USB Cell Phone Charger with Hand Crank LED Flashlight (Red)
So, why am I against solar but pro hand-crank? Because hand-crank is power when you need it. And, when you are traveling, working, globetrotting etc, you rarely have the opportunity to stick a solar charger out into the sun for a few hours. This is a good one, made by Eton, and solid in terms of cranks to power ratio. Cheap Chinese ones work also, but plastic gears might loose their teeth over time, and small handles mean tired arms etc.

4) Universal Adapters
Ok, this one is pretty obvious... but there are some good universal and convenient designs out there. Get multiple so you can charge many things at once.

3) USB is your friend.
USB is a universal standard, and increasingly, it is available just about everywhere. USB is not just a data connection, it is a power standard. Even beyond your usual electronics, there are many different small gizmos and gadgets which run quite well off of USB. And wherever you go in the world, USB is USB.

A good tip is to bring a powered USB hub instead of  your usual cellphone charger. This lets you charge many things at once and does not add that much in terms of size and weight. A good one here

2) 12v is your friend. 12v universal adapter, USB adapter, Netbook adapter etc etc, cheap light 110 to 12v adapter means you dont have to bring multiple. If you are going somewhere and renting a car (and plan on driving a fair bit), 12v can be your best friend. 12v in the US and the rest of the world is... exactly the same. Used to be a little different, but no longer. And what can you do with 12v? Anything. A $1 USB adapter will give you two usb plugs for your phone etc etc. A $10 120v adapter will let you charge your laptop. Or, if you have netbook, you can buy a dedicated 12v charger for about $15-20. 

1) Get an extended battery for your phone. If you are reading this, you probably have a smartphone. And if you have a smartphone, it is the best travel device that you have. Actually, it is the most useful device you have period (well, unless you are batman - he has some cool shit). Even if you don't have a cell signal where you are going, your phone is still your best friend. It is a mp3 player, movie player, portable game system, portable note taker, decent camera and camcorder, calculator, translator (with the right app) and GPS navigation system. Get an app (skype, etc) so that you can make international calls off wifi. Basically, your phone is your best friend. So, get an extended battery. Or, if you are a submissive to Apple's Dom, then get an external battery back for your iBrick.

Putting it all together:
Once you standardize on 12v/USB/AA(A) batteries, all of your chargers are multi-purpose and will do anything. Your battery charger can recharge your phone, your USB charger can recharge your batteries, your 12v charger can power your laptop, your laptop anything off USB, anything off USB can run off AA(A)s and anything except your laptop can run off your batteries. It's a great big circle of happy electrons, and it will make your life on the road (or off the road) much easier. 

RIP Continental, hello crap service on United

I have never liked United, probably because they have never liked me. I feel like they are pissed that I am there, that I personally affronted all of them by showing up, ticket in hand.

After you get on the flying gulag, the food costs $8 for a child's portion, the stewards are grim faced, and everyone is just trying to make it.

Continental was a better class of American airline. They were actually glad you were flying with them. Service wasn't amazing, this is no Virgin Atlantic, but it was far better than anything you would get from the big three.

Now, Continental is no more. What this really drives home for me is that I will be working double hard to book everything I can on southwest or jet blue.

The United-Continental merger: United's computer chaos | The Economist

Amazing 360 Waterfall Views


An Interactive 360° Aerial Panorama of the Worlds Highest Waterfall waterfalls Venezuela photography
An Interactive 360° Aerial Panorama of the Worlds Highest Waterfall waterfalls Venezuela photography
An Interactive 360° Aerial Panorama of the Worlds Highest Waterfall waterfalls Venezuela photography
An Interactive 360° Aerial Panorama of the Worlds Highest Waterfall waterfalls Venezuela photography

Aggravure III: A Mural Using 450,000 Staples

Aggravure III: A Mural Using 450,000 Staples staples art

Aggravure III: A Mural Using 450,000 Staples staples art

Aggravure III: A Mural Using 450,000 Staples staples art

Aggravure III: A Mural Using 450,000 Staples staples art

Aggravure III: A Mural Using 450,000 Staples staples art


Aggravure is an ongoing series of large wall installations by Baptiste Debombourg. His latest,Aggravure III, was inspired by drawings from 16th century engravers Hendrick Goltzius, Jan Harmensz, Cherubino Alberti and utilizes nearly a half million metal staples tacked to a wall, taking 340 hours to complete. Via the artist:
I then use some images by “worsening” the scale, the form or the context to produce an installation in the architecture by means of staples. The recurring theme in these paintings revolves around the collapse that resonates with staples. Here the staple is a material and a media that plays with contemporary aggression and daily life’s secular usefulness.
You can see much more of Aggravure I, II, and III on his website.

The First Second Generation Digital Camera

Digital cameras have come a long way... but then again, they haven't.

They have replaced film, and that's amazing. But they have literally replaced film, and that isn't. The image sensor has replaced the film in terms of capturing the image, but more or less everything else has remained exactly the same.

The difference between a dSLR today and a SLR of 20 years ago is that one uses film, and one doesn't. The camera part is basically the same, the sensor is the only difference.

Until now.

A small company has introduced the "Light Field Camera" - think of it this way, it takes lots of different images all at the same time, of the same frame. Then, after the fact, you can decide where to focus the image. "Focus" thus becomes a thing of the past, as does depth of field, etc.

The camera itself is a funky looking thing, and is no professional photo tool at this point (and costs  $500), more of a cool way to demonstrate the technology, to be integrated into better cameras in the future.



More info from popsci:


So, a quick refresher on what exactly this light-field stuff is all about: Typical digital cameras align a lens in front of an image sensor, which captures the picture. The Lytro adds an intermediate step, an array of micro-lenses between the primary lens and the image sensor. That array fractures the light that passes through the lens into thousands of discrete light paths, which the sensor and internal processor save as a single .LPF (light-field picture) file. Your standard digital image is composed from pixel data, like color and sharpness, but pixels in a light-field picture add directional information to that mix. When a user decides where in the picture the focus should be, the image is created pixel-by-pixel from either the camera’s internal processor and software or a desktop app.
Given its fundamentally different way of dealing with imagery, the Lytro specs out differently than any other digital camera. Worrying to those who have to create spec lists is the lack of a true megapixel count or relatable sensor specs. Its sensor is physically slightly smaller than your everyday point-and-shoot, but it's designed to capture more data. The Lytro's sensor captures 11 megarays of data ("megarays" refers to the number of light paths the sensor captures), which, if flattened into a simple JPEG--removing the ability to refocus the image--results in a three-megapixel image. That sounds low, but remember that the megapixel count refers only to the size of the photo, not to its quality. The only manual control left to the user is exposure--you can't actually set it, but you can tap on the screen to tell the Lytro where in the image you'd like it to base its exposure.
Handling the Lytro is also unlike anything you’re likely to have used before. Users frame shots by holding the 4.4-inch-long device like a pirate looking through a spyglass, staring down the barrel through a 1.5-inch touchscreen/viewfinder on the rear (more on this in the gallery). The front two-thirds of the camera is an f/2 optical zoom lens (it zooms up to 8x) encased in aluminum, while all the controls that aren’t touchscreen-based--shutter, capacitive zoom slider, and power button--are situated on the rubberized grip. Cameras come with either 8 or 16 GB of internal storage, which give you space for 350 or 750 images, respectively (if you're nit-picking the math on that one, the difference is due to the software/OS taking up precious storage). The camera feels great: solid but not heavy, with a thoughtful, modern design. The magnetic lens cover is a particularly nice touch.
Smartphone or iPod touch users will have no issue navigating on the Lytro, which is very responsive. In live-view, they access a pop-up menu by pulling up from the bottom of the screen. To scroll through previous shots, swipe from left to right as on an iDevice. In playback mode, they can "star" images as favorites, which gives those images priority when syncing with a computer later.
When we set out to shoot with the Lytro for the first time, it was immediately clear that, as we’ve said before, this is an entirely new type of digital photography. And, as with anything that’s truly completely new, the Lytro comes with a rather steep learning curve. Our “see the picture, take the picture” mentality for point-and-shoot cameras needed some rewiring. The trick with the Lytro is to internalize where it’s likely to perceive different focal planes; images with a clear fore- middle- and background separated by several feet provide the clearest examples of what light-field photography can do.
Once you get the swing of it, the Lytro does exactly what it claims to do. On every photo we took, we could change the focal point with a click -- but keep in mind that there are shades of gray involved here. Often, when subjects were grouped closely, the shift in focus from point to point was nearly imperceptible. This is how the Lytro acts by default in “everyday mode,” which limits zoom to 3.5x and has a minimum focusing distance of about 5 inches. Everyday mode is ideal for images where the primary subject and secondary one are far from both the lens and one another, much like our little squirrel friend and his faraway observer.
To provide more control, Lytro has added what it calls “creative mode,” which allows the users to cheat the optics to make clear distinctions between focal planes. This mode extends the camera’s zoom range up to its maximum 8x and brings its minimum focusing distance down to nil. Before taking the shot, tap the screen where you want the Lytro to think of as the “middle” of your image from front-to-back, almost like on a tap-to-focus smartphone. Doing so forces the camera (quite literally, in fact; there is an audible mechanical noise inside the lens casing when you select a new midpoint) to perceive that plane as the center of its focal range and assess other planes in front of and behind it more clearly.
We had the most luck using creative mode for macro shots, like groups of balls on a coffee table. But it’s also useful to separate objects that are close to one another in the foreground, while still keeping a distinctive background.
Lytro, Pointed at You:  John Mahoney
If you’re running on a Mac, uploading pics from the Lytro is a true plug-and-play experience. (A Windows client is coming soon.) When you plug the camera in over USB for the first time, it automatically launches an installer for its desktop software. The camera then begins transferring images to the computer – your starred favorites go first, then the rest of the lot. This can take a while, a long while. Because each image file contains thousands of light paths, one file can bloat up to 12MB. From there, you can upload the full clickable image to Lytro.com or Facebook, or export a still JPEG with the point of focus you want selected. Should you wish to print those image, Lytro recommends you not go any larger than a 5-by-7 equivalent.
Right now the Lytro is essentially a one-trick pony, but let’s not forget that it’s quite the trick. Think of it this way: this camera captures multiple depths of field with one shutter click, a feat only possible previously with either a whole room filled with lenses or taking multiple versions of the same image with a regular camera. We'd love to be able to say that the final images it creates are flawless, but that's sadly not the case; in low-light there's a noticeable amount of noise--especially at high ISOs. Image blur is a real issue, as well; the slightest shake of the hand or sudden movement from the subject renders shots irretrievably blurry.
As Lytro continues to refine its image-processing engine, you’ll be able to edit images to be entirely in focus or choose two distinctive light paths in order to create a 3-D effect without a dedicated 3-D camera. But the promise of light-field photography for the everyday Joe isn’t limited to this one device; should the Lytro’s capabilities be merged with other now-common features (adjusting ISO, exposure, white balance, and the like), it could fundamentally change how we think about a large portion of modern photography. A light-field engine on a smartphone, for instance, could remove much of the guess-work from on-the-fly shots and allow those pics to have depth previously reserved for today's DSLRs and interchangeable-lens cameras.