Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Sending it "snail mail" in the true sense of the word

The expression, "send it by snail-mail" has taken on a whole new meaning for Muriel, Austin and Cecil. In fact people using their mail delivery service just might have to wait for their package or mail to take weeks, maybe even months to arrive.

What makes this delivery service unique is that the trio are...snails. As in the gastropods that live in back yards. As in the real live thing(s).

These snails have been fitted with equipment to allow them to send e-mails on behalf of visitors to a website and it's all part of a "slow art" project called Real Snail Mail at Bournemouth University in the UK which will be showcased in Los Angeles in August.

Each snail is fitted with a tiny capsule which holds a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chip. RFID allows objects to communicate over short distances.

Users of the service send a message via the Real Snail Mail website which is routed to the tank at the speed of light to await collection by a snail "agent".

Read the entire story here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/7458531.stm

BTW - to date the snails have managed to deliver 14 messages.

There's also a web site devoted to the system and perhaps the site coordinates says it all:

The Web site also provides background profiles for the trio:

Agent 001

Also known as Cecil

Hours of service: 978
Deliveries made: 4
Current status: Carrying message
Average delivery time: 3.26 days

Agent 002

Also known as Austin

Hours of service: 2493
Deliveries made: 10
Current status: Available
Average delivery time: 1.96 days

Agent 003

Also known as Muriel
Hours of service: 978
Deliveries made: 0
Current status: Available
Average delivery time: None as yet

Interesting that Agent 003 - Muriel - hasn't made any deliveries yet... Too slow...too shy... One can only speculate.

A snail-cam will be available during the trio's visit to Los Angeles while participating in the Slow Art Exhibition from August 11-15 here:

Don't expect any quick deliveries, though.

Friday, June 13, 2008

New Canadian law passed for illegal downloading of copyright material

Chances are that anybody working in the creative field will be happy with the news that Canada has passed a law to deal with downloading copyright material, the problem is how do the police and the legal field enforce said law?

"New legislation against downloading copyrighted material comes with one big problem. Nobody knows how fines could be doled out because nobody knows how violators could be caught, York Regional Police said yesterday. The current copyright law carries a maximum fine of $20,000 but has been geared towards nabbing commercial distributors and high-volume bootleggers."

"The federal government has introduced a controversial bill it says balances the rights of copyright holders and consumers — but it opens millions of Canadians to huge lawsuits, prompting critics to warn it will create a "police state."

"We are confident we have developed the proper framework at this point in time," Minister of Industry Jim Prentice told a news conference in Ottawa on Thursday. "This bill reflects a win-win approach."

At present anyone caught disobeying the copyright law, which is focused on dealing with commercial distributors and bootleggers, can be fined $20,000. The new legislation will focus on
deterring individual downloaders and purchasers of scammed content.

When it's all said and done, however, the main question or issue is: how do you catch individual downloaders?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

No cheering allowed at high school graduation

Talk about over-zealousness on the part of high school officials and perhaps even on the part of the police.

So a group of enthusiastic young people made it through high school and were part of graduation ceremonies. Perhaps they got caught up in the moment and cheered when their friends received their diploma. That's a natural thing to do - support your friends. Right? Since when is it a crime, anyway, to cheer out loud? Obviously in some places it is.

I mean - gimme a break!

"When Rock Hill school officials tell commencement crowds to hold their applause until the end, they mean it — police arrested seven people after they were accused of loud cheering during the ceremonies.

Six people at Fort Mill High School's graduation were charged Saturday and a seventh at the graduation for York Comprehensive High School was charged Friday with disorderly conduct, authorities said. Police said the seven yelled after students' names were called."

Read the entire story and shake your head in wonder and puzzlement as I did wondering what this world is coming to:


With the exception of one case that includes resisting an arrest charge, all the cases will be handled in city court with the punishment(!) being a maximum of 30 days in jail(!) and a $1,000 fine.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Here a rabbit...there a groundhog - garden pests dealt with severely by gardeners

Gardeners as a rule are a protective lot, especially when it comes to the fruit of their labor so to speak. There are some who sow crops of carrots, lettuce, cukes, tomatoes etc. in their backyard suburban garden, anticipating a fresh salad al fresco. However, not only do humans enjoy freshly picked veggies - so do all the local wildlife and therein lies the problem. It's a case of the humans versus the wildlife with a not-so-happy end result in some cases.

Take the article in the New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/05/garden/05animals.html?_r=1&oref=slogin
with some gardeners finding a solution by taking things into their own hands. There are those who take more drastic measures using guns and other weapons to solve the problem. Here is the opening of the story:

THE homeowner, a city-boy artist and illustrator who had moved to rural Pennsylvania, never wanted to kill the woodchucks. Sure, they were ruining the garden and digging up the foundations of outbuildings, but it was a moral issue: the artist, who is still so uncomfortable about what transpired — and so concerned about how his New York clients would feel about it that he is not willing to be identified — did not want to take a life.

"I posted a sign in the backyard (positioned close to ground level) with a recipe for rabbit pie. I think the bunnies got the message."CE, Plano, TX

Given the size of the property — a 12-acre former horse farm — fencing was out of the question. He bought a Havahart live animal trap but did not catch a thing. And he worried that releasing woodchucks down the road would only be dumping the problem on a neighbor. So he moved on to that tried-and-true landlord’s tactic: harassment. He attached a hose to the exhaust pipe of his old pickup truck and stuffed it into a burrow — not to kill the woodchucks, just to encourage them to move on. That didn’t work, either.
Finally, the artist decided he would have to shoot the animals. First, though, he went to each hole and made an announcement.

“I said: ‘I intend to kill you. You have 24 hours to get out,’ ” he recalls. “I wanted to give them fair warning. I said, ‘If I were you, I would find another place to live.’ I also promised them I would not take a shot unless I knew it would be fatal.”

He is making this into a funny story, he says, but when he killed his first woodchuck he “literally felt sick.”
“I went outside and knelt down to it and said a little prayer to whatever the powers that be that when my turn comes, I will do it as gracefully and uncomplainingly.”
Eventually, though, he embraced his mission, and grew so obsessed with it that an aunt began to call him Woodchuck Johnny. How many did he kill that summer?

“I stopped at 19,” he says. “One was a suicide. It realized its days were numbered and ran in front of a car.”

There are a lot more stories about how plain ordinary, "normal" gardeners like you or me, handled the situation. As an aside 325 gardeners , some who agree with garden guerilla tactics and many others shocked, who let their feelings be known with e-letters to the editor of the New York Times.

Read the entire story and decide for yourself.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Attorney fights to be slow

There are people who are actively involved in many causes to help humanity and there are others who run around like the proverbial chicken with its head cut off. Then there's 73-year old attorney, Edgar S. Cahn, who is making a point of people's right to be lazy.

My kind of person.

He is head of the "slow movement", a national campaign that believes that speed kills.

The slow movement backs random acts of slowness, such as turning off the BlackBerry or spending time with friends.

Its leaders say that Americans are so starved for time and that the need for speed is destroying health, families and communities.

Read the whole story here: http://www.cnn.com/2008/LIVING/worklife/06/06/balance.slow.movement/index.html

There are groups people can join including:

• The Long Now Foundation, a group based in San Francisco, California, was established to provide an alternative to a "faster/cheaper" mind set and promote "slower/better" thinking.
• Take Back Your Time, a nonprofit group based in Seattle, Washington, is leading a national campaign to address time famine by using conferences and teach-ins to wean people off of their need by be busy.
• Slow Food USA is a nonprofit group that offers an alternative to fast-food eating and industrial food production. It encourages members to plan communal meals and use farmer's markets. It has at least 80,000 members in 100 countries.

Slow movement members don't fit one profile. They're journalists, lawyers, chefs, farmers. Yet they cite the same factors for our inability to slow down: longer work hours, longer commutes and technological advances like BlackBerrys that keep many employees chained to work.

Perhaps this is a movement whose time has come.