Floridiots on the Move

I decided to spin off Floridiots into a separate blog, The Floridiot Files. There is too much of it for this blog, and trying to fit it in here was both a distraction to the focus (such as it is!) of this site and an unnecessary restriction on what I though could be an interesting concept in its own right that might have much broader appeal.

So, the Files launched yesterday, with all the classics from this site plus some older items that I skipped. There are several new stories queued up as well, plus a new mug shots feature.

New Heavyweight champion laptop?

What with laptops getting impossibly small and light, how can a laptop vendor distinguish itself? Well, I guess this is one way...

Lenovo is introducing an eleven pound laptop that is over two inches thick. It has dual screens (17” and 10”), dual hard drive bays and is so wide the keyboard actually has a separate numeric keypad -- and a built-in digitizer tablet!

I suppose the article is right that there is some market for such a beast, like photographers, where something that is merely “luggable” is a fine tradeoff for power and lots of display area, but oof... it’s hard to get over the 11lb number, which is twice the weight of typical “large” laptop, and only around half the weight of Compaq’s luggables of old. (If this thing catches on, will we see a new arms race of bigger, heavier, fancier laptops that take us back into that 20lb territory?).

There’s no mention of battery life, but with that much of a size and weight budget, it may have a battery that can run it for a couple of days!

Floridiots Afoot!

I was trying not to do too many of these, but how could I pass up a story like this?

A Florida firefighter who admitted taking a severed foot from an accident scene has resigned.

St. Lucie County Fire Chief Ron Parrish said Cindy Economou, a 14 year veteran and former firefighter of the year for St. Lucie County, resigned after she was presented with the investigation report into the incident.

He said after seeing the report, which found her at fault for removing the foot, she resigned.

Parrish wouldn't say if she was encouraged to resign or if she did so voluntarily.


Economou admitted to investigators that she removed the foot, which had been severed in the crash, so that she could take it home to help train cadaver dogs, a hobby of hers.

OK.... as long as I’m giving in to temptation....

From TCPalm:

PORT ST. LUCIE — A cross-dressing robber snatched a 74-year-old woman's purse in St. Lucie West on Tuesday before a faux breast popped out of his tube top, according to a police report released Thursday.

The alleged female-impersonating robber then hopped into a four-door silver getaway car occupied by possibly two other men in drag and sped off, leaving the victim and the faux breast — a water-filled condom in a white gym sock — at the scene.

"We're processing the condom for latent prints," said Officer Robert Vega, police spokesman.

The victim was pushed to the ground and sustained minor injuries in the incident at the Sears on St. Lucie West Boulevard.

Police also recovered two hairs on the sock that might be chest hairs. Investigators are submitting them for DNA analysis.

The assailant wore a short jean skirt, tube top and white flip-flops, weighs 130 to 140 pounds and is of thin build. He sported shoulder-length hair with maroon hair attachments in a dreadlocks style.

Port St. Lucie has really been contributing more than its fair share of late. Other PSL stories that didn’t make the cut: Man arrested for assaulting his girlfriend with a sandwich, and two people arrested for stealing $15,000 worth of breast pumps and selling them on eBay.

Breaking news: there has now been a second man arrested in PSL for assaulting his girlfriend with a sandwich. We’ll keep you apprised if this turns into a full fledged sandwich assault crime wave...

The High Seas

My Dad teaches at Maine Maritime Academy, a college which offers neat majors like Marine Systems Engineering, Marine Transportation Operations, and Small Craft Design. They have their own fleet of ships of course including and a 500 foot training ship, T.S. State Of Maine. During their first and third years, students in majors leading to USCG third assistant engineer and third mate licenses are required to participate in training cruises on the ship. In the past they have vistied some interesting places these 60-day working trips. But, as you can imagine, a 60 day cruise in a ship that size uses quite a lot of fuel, and current oil prices have been a challenge.

Now of course in the old days, ships were powered for free, by wind. (MMA also has one of those: Arctic explorer Admiral MacMillan's schooner, Bowdoin)

What you may not have realized was the extent to which ships in the olden days were also apparently running on Ethanol -- or at least, their crews were.

I recently stumbled again across this article about the history of the oldest commissioned warship in the world, the USS Constitution. It comes by way of the National Park Service, as printed in "Oceanographic Ships, Fore and Aft", a periodical from the oceanographer of the US Navy.

On 23 August 1779, the USS Constitution set sail from Boston, loaded with 475 officers and men, 48,600 gallons of water, 74,000 cannon shot, 11,500 pounds of black powder and 79,400 gallons of rum. Her mission: to destroy and harass English shipping.

On 6 October, she made Jamaica, took on 826 pounds of flour and 68,300 gallons of rum. Three weeks later, Constitution reached the Azores, where she provisioned with 550 pounds of beef and 2,300 gallons of Portuguese wine.

On 18 November, she set sail for England where her crew captured and scuttled 12 English merchant vessels and took aboard their rum. By this time, Constitution had run out of shot. Nevertheless, she made her way unarmed up the Firth of Clyde for a night raid. Here, her landing party captured a whiskey distillery, transferred 13,000 gallons on board and headed for home.

On 20 February 1780, the Constitution arrived in Boston with no cannon shot, no food, no powder, no rum, and no whiskey. She did, however, still carry her crew of 475 officers and men and 18,600 gallons of water. The math is quite enlightening: Length of cruise: 181 days. Booze consumption: 1.26 gallons per man per day (this does not include the unknown quantity of rum captured from the 12 English merchant vessels in November).

Naval historians say that the re-enlistment rate from this cruise was 92%.


Return of the Floridiots

I'm trying not to make every post be on this topic, but it's hard when I keep seeing stories like this:

MIAMI (CBS4) ― Imagine trying to strap a light pole, at least 30 feet long, to the roof of an Astro mini-van. Now imagine driving through busy downtown Miami traffic with that pole tied to your vehicle. That's exactly what cops say Elio Valerio and a friend did just before they were pulled over.[...]He managed to drive all the way from 83rd and Biscayne Boulevard to Northwest 7th Avenue and Northwest 21st Street.

Story with video here. Google maps says thats about a 5 mile, 15 minute drive through downtown with the stolen street light pole strapped to his minivan!

Floridiots Strike Back

The last item reminded me of something I wrote before I had a blog. This is from an email I sent my Dad & awesome Stepmom a couple years ago when they were planning a trip down.

Hi guys! Hope you're still planning on coming!

Not to discourage you, but after seeing the following story on last night's news, I thought it would be best to prepare you for a visit to South Florida, where anything and everything happens. If you're familiar with any of our previous work:

  • Assorted Hurricanes
  • New home of OJ Simpson
  • The Elian Gonzales case
  • The 2000 Election
  • Home of several 9/11 hijackers
  • Anthrax attack
[not to mention Creative Duct-tape Users -ed] then I know you'll enjoy this one:

Yesterday in Homestead, near Miami, a man who apparently feared he had overdosed on drugs left his house, sprinted three blocks down the street while naked, and burst into an occupied home. He sat on the couch for a few moments while the startled family stared at him. At that point, he apparently became scared, got up and moved the couch, and cowered behind it for a several minutes.

At that point he got up, ran into the kitchen, took a gallon of milk from their fridge, and left the house. He stopped and boarded a "special needs" schoolbus, and forced the driver to take him to the hospital. When they arrived, he ran into the hospital and, still naked and carrying a gallon of milk, hurdled the counter at the admissions desk and demanded to be treated.

I think we've really outdone ourselves with this one. It's hard to even fit all the wackiness into a single headline! "Recently cowering naked local addict hijacks special ed schoolbus with stolen milk jug, demands treatment".

Anyway, hope that didn't scare you off! See you soon! And be prepared!

Unfortunately I can no longer find a link to this one, but I swear I really did see this story on local TV news.

Floridiots In The News

I've been noticing for a while the a lot of the "stupid criminals" news stories seem originate in this state. A couple recent examples come to mind.

First there is is this one out of Ocala, FL, where a bank robber used his own personal check, with his name on it, as a robbery note.

Second, and the best I've seen in quite some time, is this story (be sure to watch the video), from Deland, FL where a guy tries to use a dried up palm frond as a weapon to rob a convenience store. Besides the hilarious dialogue, weird gestures (I like the way he shakes his hand "Hey!" when the clerk touches him), putting his shirt over his head like the Bazooka Joe character, and the fact that he is shooed out with a stool, the funniest thing is of course his choice of weapon. Someone pointed out to me that even doing the old "my hand in my jacket pocket is a gun" routine would have worked better, which is a good point. I think it says something about your skills as a robber when you choose to intimidate using a real "weapon" that is less effective than an imaginary one.

Update: if you enjoyed this, Floridiots now has its own website: The Floridiot Files. Come check it out!

Note to Amazon

From the Amazon page for a DeLorme "Atlas & Gazetteer":

Excerpt - page 25: "... i 1 IM M\II`IAI I ~ A`` I , (, DeLorme - o à 0 0 1 '" = 2.3 miles Continue ..."

Nice thought, but trying to OCR a book of maps doesn't work so swell!


Talk about an Axis of Evil...

CNN Reports that:

Yahoo rejects joint proposal from Microsoft, Iran

In a joint press release, Ballmer and Ahmadinejad also vowed to "wipe Google from the map"...

(ok, actually it was Carl Icahn but I misread it...)

Shock and Awe and Childlike Wonder

MacRumors is usually kind of interesting, but I guess it's a slow news day. This piece informs us of the shocking fact that Mac OS 10.5 will probably be followed by a version called 10.6, based on a reference to "10.6" found in the iPhone SDK. (In hot political news, sources close to the 2008 election process have indicated that it will happen again in 2012)

On the other hand we have a previous item that the pundits didn't pick up on, but which I think is really interesting. About Apple's acquisition of PA Semiconductor:

"PA Semi's staff has started notifying a limited set of customers that the company's existing dual-core processor will enjoy long-term support. Apple will employ a number of old PA Semi staffers just for this task, which is good news for folks making missiles, mine-sweeping gear and storage boxes."

(The Register, via MacRumors. Emphasis added.)

Now that's interesting: Apple-powered missiles. Now only if they'd loan out Jon Ive to help design them. Imagine missiles with a seamless brushed aluminum or glossy white surface that emit a soft, pulsing glow from hidden LEDs when armed. Maybe some kind of iTunes integration, downloading and playing "Ride of the Valkyries" or other suitable music over any BlueTooth headsets in the target area. Missile nose cameras would stream back QuickTime videos of the impact, automatically saved and organized in iPhoto. Google Maps integration for targeting. Use your imagination.

That's right. Missiles that deliver not only Shock and Awe, but Childlike Wonder.


Explode different.™™™


Parking Ticket Vehicle Camoflage and Business Card Müllerian Mimicry

In camouflage, whether man-made or in nature, the idea is to disguise something as something else that is harmless or uninteresting. But there exists a kind of opposite in nature, Müllerian mimicry. This is when something tries to disguise itself as something more dangerous and visible. There are harmless snakes who have evolved to look very much like a poisonous variety, for example.

You may have heard previously of Telstar Logistics, a nonexistent company that is really just a scam to avoid parking tickets in loading zones. Todd Lappin camouflages his car as a fleet vehicle, to blend into its urban surroundings as a defense mechanism.

Well, today I came across a kind of flip side: Business Card Müllerian Mimicry.

The inventor displays this business card on his luggage while traveling when he doesn't want to be bothered. Quote: "It's amazing how often I get an empty seat next to me".


<cardboard><styrafoam>your items</styrafoam></cardboard>

Browsing at an online store today, I noticed that one of the shipping options was "United Parcel Service (XML)". I suppose that's meant to be an indicator to the store admin that this option automatically transmits shipping data to UPS vs a manual process, or some such, but it seems like an odd thing to show to the end user. Certainly conjures up interesting mental images, reminiscent of the HTML Cake...

Strange Travels, Part 2

The second adventure was a whirlwind weekend trip in Maine to visit various relatives with my wife, Suzy. We had fun visiting with my Mom's side of the family, who all got together at my Aunt's. We even made plans to meet up with one of my cousins and his family at Disney later when the came down (which we did, and really enjoyed). But the highlight was visiting with my Dad and excellent Step-mom, which is always entertaining as they are wonderfully unconventional people!

My Dad lives in a small Downeast town and local legend has it that he lives in a cabin in the woods with with many chainsaws and a trained bear (well, the chainsaws part is true, anyway). Reality is just as interesting -- he owns his own personal fire truck (a ladder truck, in a county that I don't think has any building more than a couple stories!) and teaches math and computer science to sailors. My wonderful stepmom has been all over the world as a ship and tug captain, even fighting off pirates, and has interesting relatives of her own (stories include one of them mooning the QE2, I think it was, from an ultralight) So you can see where this would be interesting...

Because of the short schedule they came down and met us at a circus-themed diner, and brought us several items including a calendar featuring somewhat less-than-convincing photographic evidence of alien cow abductions. They also updated us on recent events in town, as well as upcoming ones including their impending (re-re-re-)wedding. They're getting married again, as they do periodically for the entertainment of the residents of the local nursing home. This time the residents have requested a biker-themed wedding. I am awaiting pictures...

Alas, all too soon it was over and we were jetting home. We hope to make an extended trip up this summer and have a real vacation for the first time in quite a while.

Strange Travels, Part 1

I've been on a couple trips recently, hence the interruption in blogging.

The first was my irregularly scheduled periodic trip to the office in New York for my job. I work for a division of a large company with a three-initial name that supplies hardware and software solutions to large businesses (no, not that one). My group is based in White Plains, but I work out of my house in Florida. Another remote coworker and I generally try to arrange to come up the same week.

The week itself was fairly uneventful, but the travel was interesting in a few unforeseen ways. Last year we scheduled our January trip one week later, which worked fairly well, except for the part about getting to the airport and finding out my ticket had been canceled for nonpayment, thanks to a screwup at our company's outsourced travel agency. But they rebooked me and I got there a few hours late without further problem.

This year we made the mistake of coming up the same week as the all sales engineers from across the country for their annual conference, so temporary office space was in short supply.

Let me back up, though...

When I made the reservation, I noticed that my confirmation code, usually a 6-character alphanumeric code, was not only all-alphabetic but pronounceable, and was kind of an interesting word or name. Perhaps the long-forgotten name of the Greek Goddess of Ticketless Itineraries. Anyway, I'm going to keep it a secret as I may end up using the name someday, perhaps for some software.

I was thinking about this again as I went to catch my flight, and for the first time many months I thought about my previous job. Between my current job with the three-letter enterprise hardware/software company (no, not that one) and earlier at a three-letter giant telecom company (no, not that one), I spent a little under two years at a travel industry IT company. I won't go into too many details but let's just say having seen travel industry IT from the inside, I was not nearly as surprised by last years canceled-with-no-notice ticket as you might expect. Heck, I'm more surprised that the majority of reservations seem somehow to work fine. (Also, I learned to really hate typing the words "Itinerary" and "Itineraries". I still winced a little typing the preceding paragraph. It's even worse when you have a database schema that sometimes randomly misspells them...)

So there I was, I was thinking about my neat reservation code and trying to remember the acronym for the record of a booking. Something with a P? PRN maybe? I couldn't remember what it stood for, and I started thinking "wow, I haven't thought about the travel industry or that company for a long time! How wonderful!"

So at that very moment I walked into the airport terminal, and almost literally ran into their CTO.

Now I left on good terms (other than giving notice one week after another one of their best people) so it wasn't terribly awkward or anything, but it was... just weird. Then, it turned out we were on the same flight.

Thankfully we weren't seated near each other, but it did get me thinking about a story the CEO liked to tell, about the time he and this CTO were on a flight that caught fire. And I mean, "giant flames shooting out of the wings" on fire. Which is the kind of thing I prefer not to think about at that particular moment, especially given the knack the universe had just demonstrated for throwing me curve balls that day...

However, the flight was uneventful and I eventually got to New York and went to pick up my rental car. The lot was almost empty, thanks I think to the sales engineering conference, and I ended up with a very weird Chevy something, a kind of imitation PT Cruiser. It wasn't too bad, except that it had poor visibility (a real problem in the insanely cramped parking garage at the hotel, where you have perhaps 6 inches of clearance on either side of your car on the ramps), and the little problem with the window controls.

Namely, there didn't seem to be any.

This was a a bit of problem as I would need the window down for the lot exit, toll booth on the trip, parking garage at the office, etc. After conducting a thorough search of the entire car in a state of increasing concern that perhaps American car companies had finally lost their minds completely and done away with openable windows, I finally discovered them low on area where the dashboard meets the center hump, which is usually reserved for a small storage area or the cigarette lighter. Apparently they've only partially lost their minds and decided not to do away with them completely, just to relocate them as far physically and logically as possible from the windows they control.

So I drove to the office, eventually passing the sign right in front of the office that is perhaps one of the most confusing and disconcerting traffic control devices I've ever seen, a horror show of multiple parallel arrows bent at alarming angles and finally careening off in different directions, with the word ONLY underneath as a finishing touch. If you understand how the road works, the sign makes perfect sense (though, that would seem to defeat the purpose of having a sign). But for the uninitiated, the sign seems to suggest a sharp hairpin turn to the left, followed by a hard right, a brief straightaway, and then another hard right, followed by your car exploding. ONLY.

The weather was pleasantly warm, warmer even than at home in Florida the previous week, where it had been chilly. Monday was in the mid 60's. Tuesday was not quite so warm but enough so to make standing outside for half an hour less of a drag than it could have been when there was a false fire alarm the next day. (I tried to use the opportunity to walk over and get a picture of the aforementioned sign, but the cell phone camera wasn't up to the task of getting a clear picture at the distance and angle required).

The hotel was in the process of being renovated and the room smelled strongly of fresh paint when I arrived, but was otherwise fantastic, complete with a large flat-panel TV and probably the most comfortable bed I've ever had in a hotel (or most anywhere). The hallway was somewhat less impressive, completely torn up with wires and light fixtures hanging from the ceiling, and was reminiscent of some kind of abandoned underground tunnel. Worse, the free internet was bogged down to the point of being useless at times (foiled again by the convention!) Still, the free breakfast buffet included a waffle maker and strawberry topping, which in my book makes up for a lot.

Work went fairly well, I got to catch up with my coworkers a bit. And, aside from making some good progress on a little skunkworks programming project for work, I surprisingly can't think of anything to say about the trip home.

So ended trip one...

The politics of failure have failed

ABC News quotes John Edwards from tonight's debate: "The status quo is yesterday. And change is tomorrow. And tomorrow begins today. We must move forward, not backward, upward not forward, and always twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom!"

OK, he didn't really say the latter part of that... must have been cut off before he had a chance.

All Hail President Kang!

Talentlessness Quincunx

A Googlewhack is a two word query that produces exactly one hit in a Google search. Both words must be "dictionary" words (according to a somewhat arbitrary definition). Quotes in the search phrase are not allowed of course, as this would make it far too easy. The hit must not be just a list of words. There are a remarkable number of such lists out there!

It turns out to be rather challenging to find one. Sometimes the most absurd combinations of words turn up hundreds or thousands of hits. I thought Kabuki Quincunx was a winner, but I had typoed "quinqunx" instead. When I corrected the spelling, 748 hits! About the same number as for electroplated mayonnaise.

Other more obvious-seeming combinations will have zero hits. Sometimes you'll get just a few, and on some occasions you'll get two hits. It's especially frustrating when you have a single good hit, ruined with a second wordlist hit. Finally there are the word pairs that produce a single hit on a legitimate page, but one of the words is disqualified. Alas, no superquadratic weevil for me (there are nearly four thousand regular quadratic weevils).

But at last, I have achieved whackness!

Of course, now that I've mentioned it, it's only a matter of time before it's compromised... So enjoy the solitary hit for an arrangement of five talentlessnesses in a square (four at the corners and one in the center) while it lasts.