Radically Inept
Thursday, September 30, 2004
  Dueling sound bites

The Banjo Dance - dueling banjos

I received an invite to watch the 'debate' at Manuel's Tavern tonight with the students and alumni of the School of Public Policy [In the two years I attended the MS program, I don't ever remember anyone using "Ivan Allen College" and "Liberal Arts" in the same breath - the new web design - just interesting] from GA Tech. As much as I would enjoy seeing old friends again, and as anyone who reads this blog on any kind of regular basis knows, I am a big fan of Manuel's Tavern, but even at this late date, I'm not sure I can be bothered to attend this mockery of the democratic process and insult to the tradition of political discourse. Besides, it will like watching Deliverance (1972) again, without the plot, suspense or entertainment value.

Besides, I really cannot stand to hear/watch George Bush. He causes me to have a visceral reaction that makes me want to lash out. I'm scared I would start throwing beer glasses through every television in the place. In fact, Baby Bush reminds me of Eddie Albert as Capt. Erskine Cooney, CO, Fox Co from the 1956 movie, "Attack", which if you've never seen it, is worth your time. [It is most certainly the role that made me realize how much real depth Eddie Albert had as an actor] In fact, his portrayal as a cowardly, psychopathic army officer, who got his position based on family connections, and sends his troops to almost certain death in combat, while he cowers in the rear and smirks, creates the same loathing in me that Baby Bush evokes just being himself. Really, if you can get a copy, this movie could be Baby Bush's life in an alternate universe - "Attack"

I just wish I could think of Kerry in Jack Palance's role as Lt. Joe Costa, Fox Co. It almost fits, but in contrast to Jack Palance, Kerry is boring and uninspiring. I think Kerry's performance so far reminds me of any Chuck Norris performance - flat. You don't doubt that he can physically accomplish (in the early films, at least) what's presented on screen, but you can always tell your watching a B movie, with a B actor reading from a B script. I just wonder who thought Kerry was worth a roll on the casting couch in the first place. Besides, in the end of "Attack", a wounded Lt. Joe Costa (arm run over by a German tank - fairly horrific scene) finds and shoots Capt. Erskine Cooney so you get the feeling that good triumphs over evil, even if there are no survivors. I just don't think Kerry is going to win in the end so the parallel to the movie ends at the ending. Too bad.

So, rather than watch two or three hours of a sham and the associated coverage, where know-nothing assholes tell me who won and how I'm supposed to interpret what was said, I think I'll read a book. 
Tuesday, September 28, 2004
  Rick Eddy on the Temple of Doom (Part Two)

There were a couple of items I wanted, but first I had to see if I could grab a room somewhere semi-close by. Surely, some asshole conventioneer or someone failed to show up at one of these hotels. It took four tries, but I found a room for too fuckin' much money in a not all that great building, but they took credit cards, had phone in the room and the shower was fairly clean.

I love New York, where else are you going to find a pawn shop opened at nine pm. I pawned the RVer's camera for $300. I kept the disk, but I didn't need to schlep the camera around; it was pretty much just dead weight now. And while I was there, I bought a car first aid kit that somebody had pawned [and even weirder, someone had given money for] a thin plastic razor knife, a plastic paint stirrer with holes for the paint to go through, a decent box cutter with extra blades, a flash light and a multi-headed screwdriver.

I needed to improve on the press pass. Hannity and I don't look so much alike. I found a 24 hour Kinkos/office supply kind 'a place, and bought a couple of sheets of laminate and contact paper, a back of re-writable CDs, a decent midrange briefcase/computer case for the lap top, and some standard, blank invoice forms. I went ahead and rented some time on one their computers, and put together some phony logos and letter heads, inserted the blank invoices, and now I was in business - the pest control business, the security sales business, the restaurant equipment rental business and the general handyman business. I bought one of those pre-paid mobile phones with 60 minutes on it. I doubt if I talk 60 minutes on a phone the entire year, but you got to have the right props, and now a days, the cell phone is your standard prop.

Everything else I needed would have to wait 'til mornin', well except gettin' a couple of bottles of Beam's Rye to keep me mellow. Besides, I still had some things to do back at the room. It's all about prep work. Learned that back in the Army. They used to have somethin' called the IPB or somethin', that stood for the Intel Prep of the Battlefield. And that's what I had to spend my time doin' - preppin' my battlefield. In the end, it's why amateurs get caught. They don't do enough prep. They think they can MacGyver or Rockford their way through situations. And they can, but you have to prep.

When I got there, I grabbed some ice from the machine in the hall, and I poured myself a tall rye. Then I pulled an old picture ID out my wallet and used the thin razor knife cut the lamination around the photo and to lift it off. It takes a little practice to do it right, but this was about the third time I'd used this particular photo, so I had to be extra careful, but at least I knew what I was doin'. I found Hannity's press pass and I put my photo on his. Now because my photo looked obviously raised, I cut some squares out of the contact paper, and laid a couple of on the pass 'til it looked flat. Then I put one piece of laminate over the whole pass. I used the razor knife to trim the excess and heated the side of the screw driver with the butane lighter, and smoothed the edges of the pass. 'Tweren't perfect, but if this job was going to require perfection, I was in deep shit already. No, the idea is to make sure no one looks to close. It takes a little actin' and a lot of balls to make this kind of phony ID work, but it ain't like I was workin' with the CIA's budget.

Next I took the plastic paint stirrer and with the box cutter, started cutting down at an angle from both front and back, and making sure that I wound up with a solid point at the tip. I carved a small, plastic stiletto with a 'blade' about an inch wide at its widest, five inches long and with a four inch 'handle'. The beauty of this weapon is it's seriously easy to hide. If you did a good job cuttin' it out, you can slide it back into the grooves you made in the paint stirrer, and no one'd would be the wiser. But I'd be taping it between my pecs on my breast bone. It fits right in place, doesn't set off metal detectors, and if someone searches you, if they ever bother to check your breast plate, the consistency doesn't incite suspicion; though you might ought'a putty the holes, if your worried about someone searching you. You might think the holes are bad, or just somethin' to put up with, and you'd be wrong. When you slide this up under the ribs or into someone's throat, you give it a twist, and all those rough edges play hell with the tissues.

After that, I started going through the yellow pages for numbers for the buildings and businesses I could use. I started with the restaurants, hopin' that the managers might still be on duty. I'd call up, ask for the manager on duty and when he came on line, I'd ask for the name of the owner/daytime manager and did he kindly know the name of whatever pest control company they used. Then I started on the office buildings and hotels in the area, gettin' the names of whatever security service they were using; in-house or outside service provider, I just wanted the names of the businesses, and when I could, the name of the guard who'd be comin' on duty.

While I was makin' the calls, I backed up all the programs and info on the lap top to CDs, scrubbed the hard drive and finished off the first bottle 'a rye. Last thing I did was write down the addresses of a couple of used clothing shops and a commercial uniform place.

It was about midnight now, so I thought I'd go catch a few drinks somewhere close by and while I was there I'd see what kind of info the locals were sharing about the security hassles they'd had. The cool thing was I just sat there and listened to these people bitch about having to deal with the security, and what was really valuable, how some of 'em were able to by-pass certain check points. I took mental notes.

Next mornin', I got up early and I used the white medical tape from the first aid kit to wrap the handle on the plastic stiletto and taped it to my chest. I put on a red tank top and blue running shorts, and over that I dressed in 'business casual', including a sports coat, gray slacks and expensive black shoes. You can get away with alot, if you have on the right shoes. I grabbed the computer/brief case and loaded it with the invoices, a white ball cap, a pair of black 'tennis shoes' and what was left of the rye.

On the way out, I stopped by the front desk, haggled with them to keep the room for two more nights. I didn't figure on needin' the room anymore, but I might and I sure as hell didn't want them closing out the credit card just yet. From the courtesy business room, I got an envelope, addressed to the RVer's and had the hotel rep send them disks with all the info from their computer. I left there and found one of those package drop off points and shipped them their computer snail mail. If they were lucky, they still had boot disks.

Then I did my final shopping. I went to the commercial uniform shop and bought a cheap, blue polyester blazer - the kind that every security company in the country issues their guards. I also explained to the guy behind the register how I was startin' my own security firm, and could I see some samples of other companies' patches and logos as I didn't want to accidentally use one of their designs? Of the ones he showed me, three belonged to companies operating in the security zone. I bought those three as samples for my 'designer' to look over when comin' up with my company logo. I also bought a little pack of self-adhesive velcro strips. Absolutely fuckin' beautiful. I now had three decent disguises - cheap. I put the blazer, velcro and patches in the case for later.

Low paid security guards are everywhere, and no one pays them any mind. In fact, if you've ever done the work, you'd know you just plain fuckin' disappear into the background unless someone needs somethin'. Everyone figures you got the job 'cause you couldn't do anything else. 'Course, that's true a hell of a lot of the time, and I knew I could use that in my favor - a cheap blue polyester blazer, a velcro'd patch, gray slacks and black tennis shoes buys a whole lot of active anonymity - people go out of their way not to notice you.

One more stop, and I'd be done preppin'. I hit the used clothing store, St. Somebody of somewhere's charity shop. I found what I was looking for - an embroidered red electrician shirt [electricians seemed to gravitate toward red for some reason] stenciled with some ex-worker's name, Dave, and a pair of blue light-weight coveralls with some companies logo [who's business I couldn't figure out] - both worn but good condition. I had 'em put the purchases in separate bags, which I also shoved into the case. It was gettin' a little full, but form here on out, I'd be emptyin' it piece meal. Perfect. Now I needed to plant these on my potential escape route.

I by-passed the next level of security using the route the local in the bar bragged on at the bar. It worked just fine, and left me two levels to go before I hit the Garden proper. Next I headed to a restaurant with an entrance on this side of the next security check point, but with a rear kitchen delivery dock on the other side. They weren't open yet, so I hung out across the way and waited 'til an employee showed up to start the days kitchen prep and clean up. I walked over before he could lock the door behind him, and dropped the name of supposed on-coming manager that I'd gotten by phoning from the room. I told him I was meeting the manager in a little while (vagueness goes a long way), but as how I could go ahead and do my pest inspection now, and then I'd be ready when the manager showed, and not have to waste his time. He was a hair dubious, but I knew the manager's name, pest control was something that just comes with the restaurant business, and I guess I didn't look like a hit man, so he let me in.

I took out the flash light and screw driver, and started my inspection. The good thing 'bout a pest control inspection is it's a license to look everywhere. I did it quick, and found a decent place on the back dock to hide the bag with the coveralls in it for later. Then, just so as not to get the employee suspicious, I pretended to get a phone call, wrote up a proposal on one of the invoices, and told the guy to give this to the manager and I'd be in contact later. I left via the loadin' dock, one zone deeper into enemy territory.

I steadily made my way over to an office building that was similar to the restaurant in that I could enter on one side of the building, but leaving on the otherside would put me almost to the Garden, though in this case, it was through the building's attached underground garage. I stopped in the foyer for a minute and checked out the scene while pretending to look at the business listing to find what I was lookin' for. What I was lookin' for was a floor with multiple businesses which would generally mean a common restroom. I was also makin' sure I had the patch to match building security's. I did. I made my way up the elevator, and stashed the red electrician's shirt up in a ceiling tile. While I was there, I velcro'd the matching security badge onto the cheap blazer, and stuck it in an easy to reach side pocket of the briefcase. Then I found the shortest to route the parking level by the stairs so as to minimize contact with anyone, but especially the security people.

When I got to the entrance of the parking garage, I looked for a place to stash the security jacket, and it dawned on me that the best place would be on top of the parking fee attendant's booth. So I went over and chatted him up a little; made sure it was 24 hour parking but with out an attendant on duty after 11pm. When he was distracted dealin' with someone paying to get out, I tossed the security coat on top of the booth for later.

Now I walked out of the parking garage into bright sunlight. I was close to the Garden; the final test. I slowly walked around like I was lost and looking for the right check point to use. That's when I spotted my target - one that looked like it was a VIP entrance. The way I figured it, I'd wait 'til some Vip in a limo drove up, and while they were busy, I'd try flashin' the pass and movin' through. Yeah, it was risky, but it was better than tryin' to go through one of the check points were the guards weren't as bored. I meandered over for the real test - it was make it or break it time. If they spotted the fact that the press pass was altered, I'd be arrested on the spot and disappear into the federal system and probably shipped to Guantanamo with out ever seein' a lawyer.

So, just as a limo pulled up, I started to walk up and to the flash.

That's when I got surprised. I heard a voice from behind say, "R.E., what are you doin' here?"

Shit! I knew that voice. This could go either way. I turned around walked over to the rolled down limo window, "Hey, Murdoch, what's up?"

Murdoch was lookin' me over, and I was sweatin'. Like I said, either way. I could tell when he read the name on the press pass - he smirked. Yeah, I know, it's hard to imagine Rupert Murdoch smirkin', but we go back, back to the days when I used to do work for the RNC, and do a little bag work on the side for him. "Well now I understand what happened to Hannity. Get in, R.E."

The guards looked like they didn't have a clue as to what to do. They sure as hell weren't dumb enough to fuck with ol' Rupie. So I walked over to the farside of the limo, and the driver popped out, opened the door and let me in.

I slid in to the back seat facin' forward next to Murdoch, and looked around at the surprised faces of a couple of his flunkies. Probably some FOX producers or equal low lifes. You had to understand the food chain in this environment. "Nice limo as usual, Murdoch." Then, 'cause I couldn't resist - I'd likely only get this one shot, and I figured I might as well use it right off 'cause this could turn ugly right quick, so I said, "Rupie, you ain't pissed at what I done to your boy, Hannity?"

The low lifes in the expensive suits looked like they wanted to be anywhere but here. They were savvy enough to know shrapnel kills, and if you can be seen, you can be hit. I thought they did a pretty nice job of meltin' into the car's plush upholstery.

Murdoch smiled, "R.E., no one who knows him likes that pompous mick, least of all me. But he does his job without too much whining, and the plebes like him. He's got good ratings. Besides, I thought it was pretty funny - a nice touch puttin' his dick in his hand, and pretty good photos, too." The Execs weren't sure how to react to that, so they stayed blank. I could see as how these were the kind of slime that floats to the top -= good corporate survival instincts. Still smilin', but his voice went cold, "I've told you - Don't call me Rupie." Then, the smile dimmed, but the voice warmed ever so slightly, "Give the other disk."

"Hey, Murdoch, I only had the one disk."

"R.E., give me the fuckin' disk. I won't have you damage my property by putting those photos out, so give them to me...NOW."

Well, I ain't the brightest guy on the planet, but seein' as how the limo had moved into the Garden's underground lot, and I was past security, I could see no point on playin' this game no further. Eventually he'd find out that I had already distributed other copies and send a few of his goon squad lookin' for me, but for now...I reached into the brief case and handed him the original disk with the photos on it.

"Thank you, R.E.", the smile back, and maybe even a trace of warmth. "So, are you back in the business?"

"No, Sir," I said, 'cause sometimes bein' polite with these ego-types goes a long way to how far you get to play the game. The difference between me and the slime was, I wasn't doin' it for a pay check, at least not anymore. "I'm here in the capacity of what you might call a reporter, Murdoch."

"For who? Who gave you a shot at reporting? And why, your talents are so much better used pursuing other endeavors," that last part meanin' collectin' pay-offs for him and his ilk.

"Well, Murdoch, I'm writin' for "Radically Inept"."

"And just what publication or network owns Radically Inept," he asked in a fairly surprised tone. That wouldn't last.

"Well, Murdoch, it's a small blog."

He laughed. The bastard laughed and I couldn't blame him, but I did anyway. Fuck him. But I smiled. Like I've said before, I may not be the brightest bulb, but I ain't burnt out yet.

"So, you are a blogger, eh? And you are covering the convention? Well, you know you are going to run into a lot of your old acquaintances," which is about the time he understood why I came. 'Course, he simultaneously realized, like I had from the beginning, just how fuckin' futile this effort was. He looked at me for second, and then that truly predatory smile 'a his, the one he usually kept in check 'ceptin' when his stompin' the heart out of some competitor or milkin' money out of limey blue bloods, came over him. I could tell the still silent execs (I told you they understood survival) were wonderin' where this was goin' to go.

"R.E., this is just too perfect." Then, continuin' his thought, "R.E., I am personally going to ensure you get a far bigger story than you had hoped for. In fact, you are my personal guest - I want you with me for the rest of the convention. What do you say?"

Well, I guess the execs weren't as good as I thought, 'cause it was apparent they hadn't kept up. I knew 'xactly what ol' Rupie was drivin' at, and said as much, "You want the truth to come out in a small time blog, so everyone will think it's shit, just like the CIA uses Star Magazine and The National Enquirer when they know some story is goin' a come out they don't want people believin' - they leak the story to the tabs first, and that's what you want from me? You want Radically Inept to break the story."

After I'd explained it, the execs caught on and startin' smirkin' on their own. Let 'em smirk. The joke is always ultimately on clowns like this. They sell their soul to climb the ladder, thinkin' that eventually they'll have the keys to power. Schmucks. What they didn't get was they'd never have any real power. That ain't the way the game is rigged. A few guys like Rupie would always have the real power. They bought, sold and broke dumbass climbers like these guys on a whim - just like the climber's wives spent their money and changed their home decors on a fuckin' weekly basis in the fuckin' vain attempt to out do each other. Bunch of class conscious idiots who thought gettin' close to the throne actually make 'em royalty.

Anyway, Murdoch says, "Of course. You are perfect for this. You already know the players, and no one but the players will know you are telling the truth." The assholes startin' smilin' real big now. They were just dumb enough to think they were included amongst 'the players'. Like I said, schmucks.

Me, on the otherhand, I understood only too well the game we were goin' to play. And hell, I liked it. I was goin' to get the story, you guys are gettin' to read it, and it ain't my fuckin' problem whether or not you believe it. And a'fore you ask, NO, there ain't no proof, and there ain't gonna be no proof. Them's the rules of the game I got into. Trust me. I won't come in your mouth.

'Bout that time, the driver opened up Murdoch's door and we all started climbin' out of the limo. The schmucks were smart enough to let me tail out right after Murdoch. Maybe they figured out that in this new game, it be best to let me take the hits. As we climbed out, Murdoch told one of the execs to give me his convention pass, and to wait there until a new one was sent down to him. I could see the execs not chosen for this particular dubious honor puff up, and new that I just gained an enemy. Fuck him. He looked like some pantywaist that'd be easy to take out in an alley.

I put the badge on as we made our way to what was definitely a Vip elevator, and road up to the FOX News suite. I followed Murdoch in, and there was Hannity. Murdoch went over, and I had to admire his ability to ask Hannity how he was feelin' and not just laugh in his face. Hannity looked good though; the make up people had done a good job of hidin' the bruises on his throat and neck/jaw. His voice was a little rough, like you'd expect, seein as how I had damn near broke his wind pipe - I know, I was thinkin' how I shoulda', too. But I knew the audio people'd fix it so you couldn't tell it was his normal, regular, obnoxious, I wanted to punch him again, voice. What I didn't like was the way Colmes was lookin' at me. I always thought he looked a little faggy.

Anyway, Murdoch led us out through a side door and into the FOX Executive suite. More schmucks. Murdoch gave a quick speech. You know the type - how they was all the best in the business, and how fuckin' great FOX was, and then he kinda' let on how the election was in the bag thanks to their efforts. That got a good laugh out of the execs, and they all fuckin' beamed (Yeah, really, they fuckin' beamed) at each other like they was all in some secret fuckin' club with their own tree house and with a 'girls keep out' sign posted on it.

That last part was bullshit, and I knew it. It doesn't fuckin' matter who wins, the election is in the bag for the Murdochs of the world. Well, in the midst of all that self-congratulatory bullshit, Murdoch caught my eye, and I knew I was supposed to follow him. We slipped though a door hidden like one of those you find in ol' British and German castles and palaces, and right into THE power suite.

They weren't all there, but the ones that were, well, they were REAL power. Some of 'em knew me from the ol' days, and even though I could tell they were a little unhappy 'bout my bein' there, those that knew me nodded, and said shit like 'Hey, R.E.'. Hell, even Scaife gave me a polite, 'I'll see you in hell' nod. Now was the time I had to keep on my toes, and get the story no one else got. The REAL fuckin' convention story.

Yeah. I know. This needs a serious edit, but His Ineptness is on my case to get somethin' posted. Me? I got a case a' PBR and a bottle rye, and for once, a little of that 'kind', so I am out 'a here. Expect part three sometime this weekend, unless I find somethin' better to do. Ain't like I'm gettin' paid for this shit.

  LA to NY - from the back seat

Via John at lies.com comes this link: Lacquer. LA to NY in three minutes of time lapse, with a pretty decent sound track. 
  Admin Update

Well, things are almost back to normal here, though we do have some water damage in the hallway ceiling that needs to be fixed, and some landscaping that needs to be done. I should be back on the blog more regularly for the foreseeable future. Our cars should be out of the shop in the next couple of days.

My condolances to those of you in Florida.

Here, we didn't get the brunt of any of the storms, but my brother lost two trees (spent Saturday helping him cut-up and split the smaller of the two), and my father-in-law's bridge got swept away by Ivan's flood waters. He now makes it from his house to his company car by walking across one of the two I-beams that remain.

We still have a little more to do with our insurance company, but so far, State Farm has been very timely, and we've already received a check for in excess of $28k, and will be hitting them up for another $2-3k.

Lastly, Rick Eddy's story got delayed, but he swears it will be completed soon. I'll be docking his non-existent pay check.
  The Nose Knows

Look, Ma! No hands!

Article: Nose-steered mouse could save aching arms| New Scientist:"At the start of a session, the nouse's camera takes a snapshot of the user. From this it isolates about 25 pixels representing the tip of the nose and takes readings for the brightness of each pixel. The nouse software then tracks the pattern of pixels.

A double blink switches the nouse on. Its software then scans the region where the nose was last, looking for the 25-pixel target. Once it has found the target, its movements are translated into the same signals that would be expected from a normal mouse.

Gorodnichy has designed several software packages to demonstrate the nouse, including NousePaint, which allows you to draw patterns on the screen using only the nose and eyes (see video).

The nouse can also be used to navigate around 3D computer software, such as virtual design environments and games, but this requires two webcams. In 3D mode, both cameras pinpoint the tip of the nose and the nouse software calculates how far away the user is, and whether they are moving into, or out of, the environment."Won't that make porn more fun. 
  It's enough to make Popeye proud

Spinach could power better solar cells| New Scientist:
"An electronic device that uses spinach to convert light into electrical charge has been developed by US researchers.

Shuguang Zhang at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, US, and research collaborators integrated a protein complex derived from spinach chloroplasts with organic semiconductors to make a solar cell that could be combined with solid state electronics...

...Zhang's team managed to artificially stabilise the protein complex at the heart of their system - comprised of 14 protein subunits and hundreds of chlorophyll molecules - using synthetic peptides to bind small amounts of water to it, within a sealed unit.

Light particles, or photons, excite coupled pairs of electrons within chlorophyll, causing an electron to transfer to a nearby receptor molecule."
See, your mother was right - Spinach is good for you. 
  Good news for Info-phobiacs

NEC extends quantum cryptography range and speed
The system can generate quantum keys at a speed of 100Kbps and transmit them over distances of up to 40 kilometers along commercial fiber optic lines. This combination of speed and distance is a world record, and means the system is suitable for commercial use, according to Kazuo Nakamura, senior manager of NEC's quantum information technology group at the company's Fundamental and Environmental Research Laboratories.

The system, which was first tested successfully in April at the company's System Platforms Research Laboratories in Tamagawa, west of Tokyo, contains several breakthroughs from previous technologies used by the company, according to Akio Tajima, assistant manager at the laboratory.

Quantum cryptography systems allow users to exchange keys with the knowledge that they have not been tampered with during transmission. The systems work by embedding the encryption key on photons. As photons cannot be split, they can only end up in one place, either with the receiver or with an eavesdropper.

NEC has been developing a 'round-trip' quantum cryptography method that has a laser and receiver at one end, and a mirror at the other. Until this April, technical issues with the receiver and mirror meant that the system had not been able to work at high speed over long distances, Tajima said.

With prior NEC systems, the detector worked too slowly to cope with correctly registering the photons hitting it. When photons hit the detector, they are turned into electrons. Because the detector creates an avalanche of electrons for each photon strike, it was necessary to find a way to clear the swarm of electrons out of the device quickly so that it could accurately register the arrival of the next photon. The new detector developed by Tajima's team clears that delay faster, so that the system can work reliably at speeds of 100k bps. That's fast enough to be useful commercially, Tajima said.

NEC has improved the system's mirror. NEC's prior systems used a type of mirror called a Faraday Mirror, a device that reflects light in a 90 degree rotation from the input light. The performance of Faraday Mirrors changes with temperature, which affects efficiency. NEC has changed the technology with the mirror so that it works accurately at temperatures between minus five degrees and 70 degrees Celsius, Tajima said.

Scientists have struggled to develop quantum key systems that are fast enough to work through long enough distances in networks to be commercially viable. Photons tend to get scattered and lost in fiber optic cables. More powerful lasers that are needed to shunt more photons over longer distances tend to cause more noise, which degrades efficiency. NEC's new system includes a conventional laser whose power has been optimized so that it creates less noise, Tajima said.
But do we really want commercial entities to continue to operate in secrecy? It seems more like the ability to operate in secrecy, allows them to do more damage. 
  Robot touch - Will we program them for pleasure?

Flexible sensors make robot skin:
"Researchers from the University of Tokyo have devised pressure-sensor arrays that promise to give objects like rugs and robots the equivalent of one aspect of skin -- pressure sensitivity.

The researchers' pressure sensor arrays are built from inexpensive organic, or plastic, transistors on a flexible material. This allows for dense arrays that can be used over large areas.

The arrays could be used in pressure-sensitive coverings in hospitals, homes, gyms and cars to monitor people's health and performance, and eventually as skin that would give robots the means to interact more sensitively with their surroundings, said Takao Someya, an associate professor of electrical engineering at the University of Tokyo.

The sensor skin works even when rolled around a cylinder as small as 4 millimeters in diameter, said Someya. The researchers' prototype is an eight-centimeter-square sheet containing a 32-by-32 array of organic sensors -- a density of 16 sensors per square centimeter. In contrast, humans have 1,500 pressure sensors per square centimeter in the fingertips, though far fewer in most other places.

The pressure sensor arrays could be used in pressure carpets that distinguish family members from strangers or sense when a hospital patient collapses."
  Making Buckminster Fuller proud (or at least his namesake less deadly)

Rice finds 'on-off switch' for buckyball toxicity

While buckyballs show great promise in applications as diverse as fuel cells, batteries, pharmaceuticals and coatings, some scientists and activists have raised concerns about their potential toxicity to humans and animals.

CBEN's study is the first cytotoxicity study of human cells exposed to buckyballs. Cytotoxicity refers to toxic effects on individual cells. The study found that even minor alterations to the surface of the buckyballs can dramatically affect how toxic they are to individual cells, and the researchers identified specific alterations that render them much less toxic.

"There are many cases where toxicity is desirable," said Vicki Colvin, CBEN director, professor of chemistry and chemical engineering, and the principal investigator for the research. "For example, we might want particles that kill cancer cells or harmful bacteria. In other cases -- like applications where particles may make their way into the environment -- toxicity is undesirable."

In the study, the researchers exposed two types of human cells to various solutions containing different concentrations of buckyballs. Four types of solutions were tested. One contained tiny clusters of smooth-surfaced buckyballs. In the other three, researcher s modified the buckyballs by attaching other molecules to their sides. Researchers measured how many cells died within 48 hours of exposure to each solution, and they repeated the tests until they found the exposure level for each that resulted in a 50 percent mortality rate.

In general, the greater the degree of surface modification, the lower the toxicity. For example, the undecorated buckyballs showed the highest toxicity -- about 20 parts per billion-- while the least toxic proved to be buckyballs decorated with the largest number of hydroxyl side-groups. To achieve the equivalent level of toxicity as that of bare buckyballs, the researchers had to increase the concentration of these modified buckyballs by 10 million times to more than 5 million parts per billion.  
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