Friday, May 19, 2006

Something Else To Worry About

A bulletin has gone out about a new-generation gun built to look like a cell phone. It's made of heavy-duty plastic and is difficult to identify as a firearm by casual inspection or metal detection, and fires four .22LR rounds when cocked and when appropriate keypad numbers are pressed. A video of the operation of the phone is available along with a longer article here. Apparently they're being made in the Balkans. Those crazy Balks!

Just in case you think you may have been sold a Cell Phone Gun by accident, here's a Top Ten List to help you out:

Top Ten Ways To Tell You've Been Sold A Cell Phone Gun:

10. Under 'dead areas' in service agreement, it says "head or heart, within about 10 feet".
9. Aftermarket chargers are made by 'Remington'.
8. Comes with earplugs instead of earbuds.
7. Breakdown of monthly service charges include section for 'ammo'.
6. If you bought it used, the guy who sold it to you was bleeding and missing an ear.
5. Firm instructions in the manual to not answer the phone while asleep or taking antihistamines.
4. Phone has no camera, but manual talks a lot about 'sight picture'.
3. After a year, the phone company wants you to upgrade to 'centerfire'.
2. The terrorist beside you on the plane tells you his new phone is smaller and fires more bullets.
1. You have the loudest ringtone, ever.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Recycling For Columnists...And For Pulitzers?

For those of you not keeping up with the inner workings of the print media, newspaper readership is declining. There are many reasons, readership has been slipping since 1970 or so and is accelerating. Even the New York Times has seen a dramatic drop in readership and advertising revenue, to the point where the Board of the company that owns the NYT is pushing to pull the paper out of the ink-stained hands of the Sulzburger family, who own the majority of the voting shares of the company.

Bob Herbert is an op-ed columnist for the New York Times, with an axe to grind and, apparently, an affinity for cutting and pasting his own material. The repetition finally got to Nancy Kruh of the Dallas Morning News, who fired up Lexis/Nexis and rather convincingly shows Herbert to be not only obsessed about a few points, but apparently so dedicated an occupant of his own echo chamber that the voices in his head that tell him what to write are actually his own voices. Evan Coyne Maloney at his blog Brain Terminal has even gone so far as to generate an Automatic Bob Herbert script that will assemble a Bob Herbert column with the click of a button. I guess you can add "Opinion Columnist" to "Elevator Operator" and "Buggy-Whip Manufacturer" to the list of jobs now extinct due to technology.

Herbert's recycling is at least a step up from Jayson Blair, the ex-NYT reporter that cut and pasted the work of others or simply made things up when necessary. It's arguable that it's not plagarism when you're cribbing from yourself. It's possibly better than Dana Priest apparently recycling a 2002 story about CIA prisoners into a 2005 Pulitzer Prize. The 2002 story was a group effort by Washington Post staffers and has a more positive tone, the 2005 version is considerably less WH-friendly despite covering essentially the same ground. Read the post and make up your own mind.