res ipsa loquitur

there's a sucker born every minute

Posted on: Wed, 04/29/2009 - 00:40 By: Tom Swiss

A five-foot Ethernet cable might run you about $20 at Best Buy. Less if you shop around on-line or get a bargain-basement cable. A cheapo cable is more likely to fail, but once you get up to a decent quality Category 6 cable, a cable is a cable is a cable.

But the folks at Denon actually have the gall to charge $499 for their AK-DL1 "proprietary ultra premium Denon Link cable". It's got all the bells and whistles: even "signal directional markings are provided for optimum signal transfer." (Presumably the electrons read the markings to figure out which way to go, because moving under a voltage is just so out of style.)

Worse is that there are people who would buy this, the same sort of "audiophiles" who buy Monster cables and Brilliant Pebbles

More at Wired's Gadget Lab.

a double A-bomb victim

Posted on: Fri, 04/03/2009 - 21:52 By: Tom Swiss

Tsutomu Yamaguchi
was in Hiroshima on a business trip on August 6, 1945, when the U.S. flash-broiled thousands of Japanese citizens (a disproportionate number of the them children who were set to work making firebreaks in the city) in the area, in order to intimidate the U.S.S.R. with our new wonder-weapon.

He survived the attack and returned to his hometown of Nagasaki -- just in time for the second nuclear massacre.

I'm not sure if this is a very lucky man to have survived two mass killings, or a very unlucky man to have been present at them.

Spanking play 'brings couples together'

Posted on: Mon, 03/30/2009 - 11:05 By: Tom Swiss

New Scientist reports on a study of hormonal changes associated with BDSM play:

Brad Sagarin at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb and colleagues measured levels of the stress hormone cortisol in 13 men and women at an S&M party in Arizona, before, during and after participating in activities. During S&M scenes, cortisol rose significantly in those receiving stimulation, but dropped back to normal within 40 minutes if the scene went well. There was no change in those inflicting the activity.

At an S&M event in Colorado, testosterone was measured in 45 men and women. It increased significantly in receiving women only. Donatella Marazziti of the University of Pisa, Italy, says the boost may help women cope with the aggressive nature of S&M activities, or that it could be another sign of stress. In both studies, couples who said the party went well also reported increases in relationship closeness


Richard Wiseman, a psychologist at the University of Hertfordshire in Hatfield, UK, adds that almost any shared activity is likely to promote interpersonal closeness. "It doesn't have to be tying up your partner or placing clamps on their nipples, it could be something as simple as cooking a meal together or even doing the housework as a duo," he says.

xkcd on rude parking

Posted on: Mon, 03/30/2009 - 01:40 By: Tom Swiss

Once again, xkcd is made of win:

I loathe people who think they are so much more important than the rest of us that they're entitled to two spaces. When I come across a diagonally parked sports car, I park my dirty beat-up old car next to it as close as I can. I did that for a week solid at the office at my job about a dozen years ago; after a few days we had a whole line of cars parked diagonally.

How to run a con

Posted on: Mon, 02/23/2009 - 21:54 By: Tom Swiss

From Psychology Today blogs, Paul J. Zak discusses the anatomy of con job:

The key to a con is not that you trust the conman, but that he shows he trusts you. Conmen ply their trade by appearing fragile or needing help, by seeming vulnerable. Because of THOMAS, the human brain makes us feel good when we help others--this is the basis for attachment to family and friends and cooperation with strangers. "I need your help" is a potent stimulus for action.

Also see this video of Michael Shermer running the "pigeon drop" on the streets of Westwood, California:

Obama re-sworn

Posted on: Fri, 01/23/2009 - 01:43 By: Tom Swiss

After John Roberts screwed up the administration of the oath at Obama's inauguration, some people suggested - some jokingly, some seriously - that Obama wasn't legitimately president. Well, now there's no doubt (discarding wacko conspiracy theories about how Obama was really born in Kenya or on Mars or something) because they went back and did it again:

The decision to repeat the oath was taken out of an abundance of caution, an official said.

But Mr Obama joked: "We decided it was so much fun...." before adding: "We're going to do it very slowly."


"We believe the oath of office was administered effectively and that the president was sworn in appropriately," said White House counsel Greg Craig.

"Out of the abundance of caution, because there was one word out of sequence, Chief Justice John Roberts will administer the oath a second time."

Two other presidents, Calvin Coolidge and Chester Arthur, have had to repeat the oath because of similar problems.

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