Through The Static

September 26, 2008

BioMetrics: Welcome to the Novus Ordo SecLorum. And it Fits in Yer Pocket, TOO!

Filed under: Eeeeep!,Government,PoLicing,Technology,Wake Up Call,World News,WTF — bobbleheadedbob @ 7:44 am

Ze bobbLebot has heardeth of the scary, scary tales of biometrics, but never for once believed it could touch those purple mountains majesty or sea to shining sea.  But if biometrics WERE to happen, living in a post-9/11 world, we’d probably be the first place to git it.

Oh wait.  We already did.

In fact, according to Security Info Watch:

In late June, the president signed HSPD-24, which directed federal agencies to integrate processes and interoperable systems to the fullest extent permitted by law – like the FBI’s IAFIS and the DHS’ US VISIT programs — and make available to other agencies all biometric and associated biographical and contextual information associated with individuals who pose a reasonable suspicion of threat to national security. HSPD-24 was a result of the 9-11 Commission’s report that was strongly critical of federal agencies’ lack of communication and data sharing during the national crisis.

Whaaaaat?  And where was the bobbLebot??!

Oh yeah, living under a rock.

its comfy.

::shrugs:: it's comfy.

But HOLD UP.  WHAT IS BIOMETRICS?!

Well YouTube’s glad you asked.

And it’s not just fingerprints – it’s a system of biological data, from the patterns in our irises to our blood samples, that will be used to create profiles for a larger, national database so that, eventually, every citizen’s movements can be tracked via ID cards or even implanted microchips.  Sound unlikely?

YO!  Workers are being implanted with chips!  And we’re not talking Fritos!  Mmmm… Fritos…

::drooLs::

But yeah, the defense is that the technology for implantable chips are so rudimentary that they can’t yet track movement and location.

::makes a face::

1st of all, how do we know this?  2nd of all, does this mean that this technology will always be out of reach?  3rd of all, couldn’t what is being purported to be for our own protection in fact be for our own enslavement?  To jail us?  To put us in a position where our own information can be misconstrued and used against us?

So what can this biometric system be used for?  Well, W explained it best back in 6/6/06:

Sounds a little Big Brother and Conspiracy Theory.

::pause::

AND?

And it’s going beyond sea to shining sea.  In fact, it’s starting to be implemented in the form of ID cards in Britain.  RIGHT NOW. Think about how fast this will spread in 2 years… and by that time, I wonder if the biometrics utilized will hold more sophisticated technologies.

i always feel like... somebodys watching meeee...and ive got no privacy - whoa-oh!

i always feel like... somebody's watching meeee...and i've got no privacy - whoa-oh!

Cory Doctorow, your average, everyday weird/COOL! news and gadgetry blogger explains his experience via boingboing:

Earlier this year, I married my British fiancee and switched my visa status from “Highly Skilled Migrant” to “Spouse.” This wasn’t optional: Jacqui Smith, the British Home Secretary, had unilaterally (and on 24 hours’ notice) changed the rules for Highly Skilled Migrants to require a university degree, sending hundreds of long-term, productive residents of the UK away (my immigration lawyers had a client who employed over 100 Britons, had fathered two British children, and was nonetheless forced to leave the country, leaving the 100 jobless). Smith took this decision over howls of protests from the House of Lords and Parliament, who repeatedly sued her to change the rule back, winning victory after victory, but Smith kept on appealing (at tax-payer expense) until the High Court finally ordered her to relent (too late for me, alas).

Now, it seems, I will become one of the first people in Britain to be forced to carry a mandatory biometric RFID card in a pilot programme being deployed first to foreign students and we spousal visa holders (government is looking to curtail spousal visas altogether, capping all visas at 20,000 per year, including spousal visas, denying Britons the right to bring their spouses into the country once the quota has been filled). The card will be eventually linked to all of the national databases — credit, health, driving, spending. These are the same databases that the government has been repeatedly losing and haemmorhaging by the tens of million (literally).

And so it begins.

Many of my British friends act as if I’m crazy when I say that we must defeat Labour in the next election. We’re all good lefties, and a vote for the LibDems is considered tantamount to handing the country over to the Tories. But what could the Tories do that would trump what Labour has made of the country? The Labour Party has made a police state with a melting economy, a place where rampant xenophobia makes foreigners less and less welcome — where we are made to hand over our biometrics and carry papers as we conduct our lawful business. The only mainstream party to speak out against this measure is the LibDems, and they will have my vote.

To my friends, I say this: your Labour Party has taken my biometrics and will force me to carry the papers my grandparents destroyed when they fled the Soviet Union. In living memory, my family has been chased from its home by governments whose policies and justification the Labour Party has aped. Your Labour Party has made me afraid in Britain, and has made me seriously reconsider my settlement here. I am the father of a British citizen and the husband of a British citizen. I pay my tax. I am a natural-born citizen of the Commonwealth. The Labour Party ought not to treat me — nor any other migrant — in a way that violates our fundamental liberties. The Labour Party is unmaking Britain, turning it into the surveillance society that Britain’s foremost prophet of doom, George Orwell, warned against. Labour admits that we migrants are only the first step, and that every indignity that they visit upon us will be visited upon you, too. If you want to live and thrive in a free country, you must defend us too: we must all hang together, or we will surely hang separately.

Would the bobbLebot be correct in assessing that this sh*t is bananas?

This is REAL, people! This is NOW, people!  And what will it take for us to wake up to see what is going on right in front of us?  We all have the power to say NO.

We’ve already heard of China’s All-Seeing Eye, the US government is already implementing biometrics while private companies are voluntarily implanting their workers with chips.  Meanwhile, in Britain, the government is using biometric data to track immigrants and foreign nationals.

Is something wrong with the picture here?

July 20, 2008

CHINA: One Nation, Under God(‘s Eye)

look!  its fun AND creepy!

look! it's fun AND creepy!

Talk about the Panopticon Effect, version 10.0.  The panopticon effect (which has been cited by historical theorists like Foucault), in shorthand, is like this: let’s say you’re building a prison yard. But you’ve got a problem.  So many prisoners (can Schwarzeneggar hear a “woot”?), but not enough personnel to police them (“BOOOO!” says ze gov’nah).

it always feels like, somebodys watching meeeeee... and ive got no privacy... whoooa~!

it always feels like, somebody's watching meeeeee... and i've got no privacy... whoooa~!

So you build a high tower in the center of the prison yard.  The tower essentially towers above the entire space, so the dude chilling high up in the tower can see all.  With its span of windows on all sides, the dude can see all without being seen by anyone.  This dude has a God’s Eye view of everything.

Of course, the dude in the panoptic tower can’t see EVERYBODY at the SAME TIME — but since the prisoners don’t know when they’re being watched or who’s being watched when, the logic behind this is that they begin to police themselves.

Security cameras and ittle bittle rittle mirrors also play this role, from streetlights to casinos to your local 7-11.  But you already knew this.

Anyhoo, it looks as though China’s taking it to a whole new level, creating a high-tech police state crowned with an All-Seeing Eye — city by city.  And is coming to a theater near you. It’s basically how technological tools of “liberation” like Facebook, cell phones, and ze interwebs are being used against us as tools of repression and control.

EYE SHALL ERADICATE YOUR FREEDOM WITH MAH CUTENESS.

Kawaii for SaLe: EYE SHALL ERADICATE YOUR FREEDOM WITH MAH CUTENESS.

It’s a super long article, so I’ll try to pluck the juicy bits.  But when y’all have time, y’all should read more about it in terms of how it’s already bleeding onto our shores.  Por ejemplo — our passports, the new versions, have microchips implanted in them, so that you can be globally tracked.

From Rolling Stone magazine:

China’s All-Seeing Eye

With the help of U.S. defense contractors, China is building the prototype for a high-tech police state. It is ready for export.

ShenZen, China is being WATCHED... and was WATCHING YOU!

ShenZen, China is being WATCHED... and is WATCHING YOU!

Y’all need some context?

Thirty years ago, the city of Shenzhen didn’t exist. Back in those days, it was a string of small fishing villages and collectively run rice paddies, a place of rutted dirt roads and traditional temples. That was before the Communist Party chose it — thanks to its location close to Hong Kong’s port — to be China’s first “special economic zone,” one of only four areas where capitalism would be permitted on a trial basis. The theory behind the experiment was that the “real” China would keep its socialist soul intact while profiting from the private-sector jobs and industrial development created in Shenzhen. The result was a city of pure commerce, undiluted by history or rooted culture — the crack cocaine of capitalism. It was a force so addictive to investors that the Shenzhen experiment quickly expanded, swallowing not just the surrounding Pearl River Delta, which now houses roughly 100,000 factories, but much of the rest of the country as well. Today, Shenzhen is a city of 12.4 million people, and there is a good chance that at least half of everything you own was made here: iPods, laptops, sneakers, flatscreen TVs, cellphones, jeans, maybe your desk chair, possibly your car and almost certainly your printer. Hundreds of luxury condominiums tower over the city; many are more than 40 stories high, topped with three-story penthouses. Newer neighborhoods like Keji Yuan are packed with ostentatiously modern corporate campuses and decadent shopping malls.

Eeep!  A gentrification virus?!!  Turns out, it’s much bigger than that.  And badder.

Eeeep! Okie, mebbe not THAT big... or bad. Or Big. ::cross references database::

Um… but it can be purty ominous.  How so?

This has not happened by accident. China today, epitomized by Shenzhen’s transition from mud to megacity in 30 years, represents a new way to organize society. Sometimes called “market Stalinism,” it is a potent hybrid of the most powerful political tools of authoritarian communism — central planning, merciless repression, constant surveillance — harnessed to advance the goals of global capitalism.

see that black bulb-y thing hovering at the top? yeppers, that's just one of the many millions of cameras implanted into and policing the city.

Now, as China prepares to showcase its economic advances during the upcoming Olympics in Beijing, Shenzhen is once again serving as a laboratory, a testing ground for the next phase of this vast social experiment. Over the past two years, some 200,000 surveillance cameras have been installed throughout the city. Many are in public spaces, disguised as lampposts. The closed-circuit TV cameras will soon be connected to a single, nationwide network, an all-seeing system that will be capable of tracking and identifying anyone who comes within its range — a project driven in part by U.S. technology and investment. Over the next three years, Chinese security executives predict they will install as many as 2 million CCTVs in Shenzhen, which would make it the most watched city in the world. (Security-crazy London boasts only half a million surveillance cameras.)

Do you sense the ominous-ness??!!

buh... eye thinks u gits ze picture.  buh...

buh... eye thinks u gits ze picture. buh...

The thing is, unlike the security cams we gots here, these are in high-definition.  Much like that flat panel compyu-TOR screen you’re staring at right now… buh… only better, FASTER, STRONGER…

The security cameras are just one part of a much broader high-tech surveillance and censorship program known in China as “Golden Shield.”

--

it's the all-seeing EYE! auuuugh!!! ::points to black bulb-y thingy:: -->

The end goal is to use the latest people-tracking technology — thoughtfully supplied by American giants like IBM, Honeywell and General Electric — to create an airtight consumer cocoon: a place where Visa cards, Adidas sneakers, China Mobile cellphones, McDonald’s Happy Meals, Tsingtao beer and UPS delivery (to name just a few of the official sponsors of the Beijing Olympics) can be enjoyed under the unblinking eye of the state, without the threat of democracy breaking out. With political unrest on the rise across China, the government hopes to use the surveillance shield to identify and counteract dissent before it explodes into a mass movement like the one that grabbed the world’s attention at Tiananmen Square.

ze wave of the future waves back.  even STARBUCKS SHALL BE WATCHING YOU!!!!  (we can only hope.  and prey.  eep!)

ze wave of the future waves back. even STARBUCKS SHALL BE WATCHING YOU!!!! (we can only hope. and prey. eep!)

One Shenzhen-based company, China Security & Surveillance Technology, has developed software to enable the cameras to alert police when an unusual number of people begin to gather at any given location.

In 2006, the Chinese government mandated that all Internet cafes (as well as restaurants and other “entertainment” venues) install video cameras with direct feeds to their local police stations. Part of a wider surveillance project known as “Safe Cities,” the effort now encompasses 660 municipalities in China. It is the most ambitious new government program in the Pearl River Delta, and supplying it is one of the fastest-growing new markets in Shenzhen.

Jeepers and jankies.  I feels safer already.  Cuz we all know how safe the po po make us feel on a day-to-day basis.

But the cameras that Zhang manufactures are only part of the massive experiment in population control that is under way here. “The big picture,” Zhang tells me in his office at the factory, “is integration.” That means linking cameras with other forms of surveillance: the Internet, phones, facial-recognition software and GPS monitoring.

yayyyy -- even googles watching us, yayyyyy...

yayyyy -- even google's watching us, yayyyyy...

This is how this Golden Shield will work: Chinese citizens will be watched around the clock through networked CCTV cameras and remote monitoring of computers. They will be listened to on their phone calls, monitored by digital voice-recognition technologies. Their Internet access will be aggressively limited through the country’s notorious system of online controls known as the “Great Firewall.” Their movements will be tracked through national ID cards with scannable computer chips and photos that are instantly uploaded to police databases and linked to their holder’s personal data. This is the most important element of all: linking all these tools together in a massive, searchable database of names, photos, residency information, work history and biometric data. When Golden Shield is finished, there will be a photo in those databases for every person in China: 1.3 billion faces.

wha--?  whos dare?

am eye on camera? ah feels laik such a celebrity!

Putting it to the Test.  (AUUUGH!  TESTS!!!) CASE STUDY:

In 2005, by the government’s own measure, there were at least 87,000 “mass incidents” — governmentspeak for large-scale protests or riots.

This increased unrest — a process aided by access to cellphones and the Internet — represents more than a security problem for the leaders in Beijing. It threatens their whole model of command-and-control capitalism. China’s rapid economic growth has relied on the ability of its rulers to raze villages and move mountains to make way for the latest factory towns and shopping malls. If the people living on those mountains use blogs and text messaging to launch a mountain-people’s-rights uprising with each new project, and if they link up with similar uprisings in other parts of the country, China’s dizzying expansion could grind to a halt.

At the same time, the success of China’s ravenous development creates its own challenges. Every rural village that is successfully razed to make way for a new project creates more displaced people who join the ranks of the roughly 130 million migrants roaming the country looking for work. By 2025, it is projected that this “floating” population will swell to more than 350 million. Many will end up in cities like Shenzhen, which is already home to 7 million migrant laborers.

With its militant protests and mobile population, China confronts a fundamental challenge. How can it maintain a system based on two dramatically unequal categories of people: the winners, who get the condos and cars, and the losers, who do the heavy labor and are denied those benefits? More urgently, how can it do this when information technology threatens to link the losers together into a movement so large it could easily overwhelm the country’s elites?

The answer is Golden Shield. When Tibet erupted in protests recently, the surveillance system was thrown into its first live test, with every supposedly liberating tool of the Information Age — cellphones, satellite television, the Internet — transformed into a method of repression and control. As soon as the protests gathered steam, China reinforced its Great Firewall, blocking its citizens from accessing dozens of foreign news outlets. In some parts of Tibet, Internet access was shut down altogether. Many people trying to phone friends and family found that their calls were blocked, and cellphones in Lhasa were blitzed with text messages from the police: “Severely battle any creation or any spreading of rumors that would upset or frighten people or cause social disorder or illegal criminal behavior that could damage social stability.”

buh... yeah.

buh... yeah.

During the Lhasa riots, police on the scene augmented the footage from the CCTVs with their own video cameras, choosing to film — rather than stop — the violence,

INSERTION: buh… can anyone say L.A. Riots???  Cuz, ya know, those Beverly Hills hotels were at a much higher threat than them liquor stores AT THE CENTER OF IT ALL.

…which left 19 dead. The police then quickly cut together the surveillance shots that made the Tibetans look most vicious — beating Chinese bystanders, torching shops, ripping metal sheeting off banks — and created a kind of copumentary: Tibetans Gone Wild. These weren’t the celestial beings in flowing robes the Beastie Boys and Richard Gere had told us about. They were angry young men, wielding sticks and long knives. They looked ugly, brutal, tribal. On Chinese state TV, this footage played around the clock.

The police also used the surveillance footage to extract mug shots of the demonstrators and rioters. Photos of the 21 “most wanted” Tibetans, many taken from that distinctive “streetlamp” view of the domed cameras, were immediately circulated to all of China’s major news portals, which obediently posted them to help out with the manhunt. The Internet became the most powerful police tool. Within days, several of the men on the posters were in custody, along with hundreds of others.

...among other things.  THINGS!

...among other things. THINGS!

In Guangzhou, an hour and a half by train from Shenzhen, Yao Ruoguang is preparing for a major test of his own. “It’s called the 10-million-faces test,” he tells me.

When I meet Yao at his corporate headquarters, he is feeling confident about how his company will perform in the test. His secret weapon is that he will be using facial-recognition software purchased from L-1 Identity Solutions, a major U.S. defense contractor that produces passports and biometric security systems for the U.S. government.

theyre alive!  aliiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiive!  and not with the sound of music!

they're alive! aliiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiive! and not with the sound of music!

To show how well it works, Yao demonstrates on himself. Using a camera attached to his laptop, he snaps a picture of his own face, round and boyish for its 54 years. Then he uploads it onto the company’s proprietary Website, built with L-1 software. With the cursor, he marks his own eyes with two green plus signs, helping the system to measure the distance between his features, a distinctive aspect of our faces that does not change with disguises or even surgery. The first step is to “capture the image,” Yao explains. Next is “finding the face.”

He presses APPLY, telling the program to match the new face with photos of the same person in the company’s database of 600,000 faces. Instantly, multiple photos of Yao appear, including one taken 19 years earlier — proof that the technology can “find a face” even when the face has changed significantly with time.

“It took 1.1 milliseconds!” Yao exclaims. “Yeah, that’s me!”

Ya see, this started as a Facebook/Flickr/juss-4-fun kinder thing… STARTED, being the operative word here.

Like many other security executives I interviewed in China, Yao denies that a primary use of the technology he is selling is to hunt down political activists. “Ninety-five percent,” he insists, “is just for regular safety.” He has, he admits, been visited by government spies, whom he describes as “the internal-security people.” They came with grainy pictures, shot from far away or through keyhole cameras, of “some protesters, some dissidents.” They wanted to know if Yao’s facial-recognition software could help identify the people in the photos. Yao was sorry to disappoint them. “Honestly, the technology so far still can’t meet their needs,” he says. “The photos that they show us were just too blurry.” That is rapidly changing, of course, thanks to the spread of high-resolution CCTVs. Yet Yao insists that the government’s goal is not repression: “If you’re a [political] organizer, they want to know your motive,” he says. “So they take the picture, give the photo, so at least they can find out who that person is.”

Hm.

You have probably never heard of L-1, but there is every chance that it has heard of you. Few companies have collected as much sensitive information about U.S. citizens and visitors to America as L-1: It boasts a database of 60 million records, and it “captures” more than a million new fingerprints every year. Here is a small sample of what the company does: produces passports and passport cards for American citizens; takes finger scans of visitors to the U.S. under the Department of Homeland Security’s massive U.S.-Visit program; equips U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan with “mobile iris and multimodal devices” so they can collect biometric data in the field; maintains the State Department’s “largest facial-recognition database system”; and produces driver’s licenses in Illinois, Montana and North Carolina. In addition, L-1 has an even more secretive intelligence unit called SpecTal. Asked by a Wall Street analyst to discuss, in “extremely general” terms, what the division was doing with contracts worth roughly $100 million, the company’s CEO would only say, “Stay tuned.”

is face stalking ze wave of the future?

is face stalking ze wave of the future?

Yao, for his part, knows all about the U.S. export controls on police equipment to China. He tells me that L-1’s electronic fingerprinting tools are “banned from entering China” due to U.S. concerns that they will be used to “catch the political criminals, you know, the dissidents, more easily.” He thinks he and L-1 have found a legal loophole, however. While fingerprinting technology appears on the Commerce Department’s list of banned products, there is no explicit mention of “face prints” — likely because the idea was still in the realm of science fiction when the Tiananmen Square massacre took place. As far as Yao is concerned, that omission means that L-1 can legally supply its facial-recognition software for use by the Chinese government.

FACE PRINTS.  Not fingerprints, but FACEPRINTS.  For the paranoid, BobbLebot recommends deletion of Facebook accounts.  DELETION.

Empowered by the Patriot Act, many of the big dreams hatched by men like Atick have already been put into practice at home. New York, Chicago and Washington, D.C., are all experimenting with linking surveillance cameras into a single citywide network. Police use of surveillance cameras at peaceful demonstrations is now routine, and the images collected can be mined for “face prints,” then cross-checked with ever-expanding photo databases. Although Total Information Awareness was scrapped after the plans became public, large pieces of the project continue, with private data-mining companies collecting unprecedented amounts of information about everything from Web browsing to car rentals, and selling it to the government.

What is most disconcerting about China’s surveillance state is how familiar it all feels. When I check into the Sheraton in Shenzhen, for instance, it looks like any other high-end hotel chain — only the lobby is a little more modern and the cheerful clerk doesn’t just check my passport but takes a scan of it.

“Are you making a copy?” I ask.

“No, no,” he responds helpfully. “We’re just sending a copy to the police.”

Up in my room, the Website that pops up on my laptop looks like every other Net portal at a hotel — only it won’t let me access human-rights and labor Websites that I know are working fine. The TV gets CNN International — only with strange edits and obviously censored blackouts. My cellphone picks up a strong signal for the China Mobile network. A few months earlier, in Davos, Switzerland, the CEO of China Mobile bragged to a crowd of communications executives that “we not only know who you are, we also know where you are.” Asked about customer privacy, he replied that his company only gives “this kind of data to government authorities” — pretty much the same answer I got from the clerk at the front desk.

yay!  creepy White dude with a nanny goatee is watching me.  yay!

yay! creepy White dude with a nanny goatee is watching me. yay!

When I leave China, I feel a powerful relief: I have escaped. I am home safe. But the feeling starts to fade as soon as I get to the customs line at JFK, watching hundreds of visitors line up to have their pictures taken and fingers scanned. In the terminal, someone hands me a brochure for “Fly Clear.” All I need to do is have my fingerprints and irises scanned, and I can get a Clear card with a biometric chip that will let me sail through security. Later, I look it up: The company providing the technology is L-1.

Creepy!

Oy(L).  This one was a doozy, floozies!  BobbLebot is EXHAUSTIMICATED.  But basically recommends the watching of Death Note.  (Please watched the subbed and not dubbed version.  Contact ze BobbLebot if u so desire a copy.)

Police State!  Yay!

Police State! Yay!

The concept behind the show is as such: bored, overachieving high school team fulfilling the American Japanese Dream comes across a Death God’s notebook.  Basically, he has the power to kill anybody under any circumstances at any time.  Under his possession, he uses the Death Note to kill murderers, and later, serious criminals.  In — literally — killing the crime by putting the world under surveillance (he checks out murder convictions via the newsfeed), he is trying to build a New World Order that is devoid of criminal behavior.

It is this idea of controlling crime through policing the state, by putting everyone under surveillance so that they begin to police themselves.  The reasoning behind such measures is, “Well… if you’re not a criminal, you have nothing to worry about.”

But who defines the criminality of a human being, and what’s the sentence befitting the crime?  For example, a dissenter of the state is viewed as an enemy of the state.  A criminal.  Looking at that word, “dissenter” — so anyone who voices dissent AGAINST the state, who disagrees with the state, is, by definition, a criminal.

In allowing the state to hold God-like power in the surveillance of its people, and subsequently, allowing the state to hold a God-like power in breaking down communications to whatever it deems as a threat, then what is to stop the state from believing that it is, essentially, God?

June 8, 2008

OMGZ! No More Hangovers. It’s SCIENCE. Buy NOW!

Filed under: Activism,Drinking,Education,Science,Technology — bobbleheadedbob @ 8:39 am

Consider this the sequel to my Hungover postage. Without the vomitous pumpkins and red cups, yups.

INFOMERCIAL VOICE: A new product’s on the market, and consider it the EmerGen-C to alcohol. FOR REALS. It’s called Sobrietal and it supposedly cuts down your blood alcohol level by 56% percent. Worried about that Breathalyzer (sp, too lazy) test? Or getting to class post-kegger? Sobrietal can help. And SO CAN YOU!

Here’s some of the breakdown from the product website:

Sobrietol® is the only product that actually reduces blood alcohol levels. It was developed at the University of Georgia under a grant, in part, from the National Institutes of Health.

Sobrietol® was found to decrease the level of blood alcohol by 56% in independent tests as measured by Oregon State Troopers. The next day will be like you didn’t drink at all!

Many products claim to eliminate hangovers. Only Sobrietol® is proven to remove alcohol from the body (and it’s patent precludes other companies from copying the technology). Replenishing vitamins and nutrients is great but ridding your body of excess alcohol is the key when one has over consumed.

The thing is, though, that you have to take it before drinking or during. So if it’s reducing your blood alcohol level WHILE drinking, the perpetual undergrad in me is wondering if it’ll kill my buzz. Cuz I likes to be free, u bizzy bees. Bzzzzzzzzzzz….

::falls off barstool::

Promises:

  • Scientifically Proven to Reduce Blood Alcohol
  • Removes Alcohol up to 3 Times Faster Than Normal
  • Prevents Hangovers

FAQ excerpts:

Q. What is Sobrietol®?

A: Sobrietol® is a dietary supplement developed through advanced biotechnology. It contains special ingredients (enzymes, cofactors, and substrates) which have been proven to remove alcohol from the body. Independent tests measuring blood alcohol levels by breathalyzers operated with Oregon State Police, resulted in an average of 56% lower blood alcohol.

Q: How does Sobrietol® differ from all the products claiming to cure hangovers?

A: Sobrietol® is unique. It is the only patented product (U.S. patent 5,759,539) proven to remove alcohol from the body. All other products attempt to compensate for the damage drinking alcohol has already done to the body by trying to replacing nutrients and vitamins, and fighting dehydration. Sobrietol® is the first, and only product, to actually remove the alcohol, the real source of the problem. Remember the old saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.

Q. Do you mean Sobrietol® will remove alcohol from my system if I drink and then decide I want to be sober?

A. Yes.

But why would someone want to do that? WHYYYYYYYYYYYYYY??? Still doesn’t answer my question about the buzzkill factor. THE MOST IMPORTANT ONE OF THEM ALL.

Okay, well, for $39.95 you can order a pack of 8 and get back to me.

June 5, 2008

Let’s Get Some DRANKs. No, For Reals. Buh…It Comes in Grape Flavor. Buh…

Filed under: Drinking,Food,Gas,Science,Technology,WTF — bobbleheadedbob @ 10:16 am

RED BULL HAS FOUND ITS ARCH NEMESIS. And it tastes better, too. Unless you’re not a fan of Dimetapp Elixer.

drank

Dubbed in the blogosphere as the “Lean In A Can” (someone’s been keeping an eye on Dave Chappelle), this anti-energy drink comes in one flavor only: grape. Because grape + drink = drank. The “purple stuff” of Sunny D commercials.

A product description is as follows: We Have Combined Rose Hips, Melatonin And Valerian Root With A Great Tasting Beverage To Create The Industry’s First “Relaxed Lifestyle Beverage” These Ingredients Have The Ability To Relax Your Body, Mind, And Soul, So When Life Comes At You Fast, Just Remember To “Slow Your Roll” With DRANK.

And so can YOU for $5 a can! (Ouch! Even Red Bull’s not that harsh on the wallet. And it comes in sugar-free, too.)

For more info, here’s the Village Voice article:

Adventures in Press Releases: The Anti-Energy Drink

There are plenty of strange products out there, and they all need a publicist. This morning, I got in to the office and was greeted by a message from a sleepy- sounding woman calling about Drank “the anti-energy drink we’re calling the extreme relaxation beverage.”

Isn’t that already covered by a little thing called wine? No? This was too good to pass up, so I gave a call back.

Turns out, this is a carbonated, grape-flavored beverage spiked with melatonin, valerian root and rose hips. Apparently it is “very, very popular in Houston,” and it’s sold throughout the south in liquor and convenience stores.

So, does it make you sleepy? I asked the publicist. Yes, and she hears it’s good with vodka. Oh, something that makes it more likely I’ll fall asleep while drinking? Excellent.

What, you might wonder, was the creator thinking? I’m glad you asked. He was thinking of the hip hop community. Direct from the press release:

From design to production, every aspect of this calming drink was inspired by today’s popular hip hop artists who embrace the much sought-after hip hop lifestyle that encourages people to capture a stress-free state of mind.The drink’s tagline is “slow your roll.” So if that’s something you need to do, keep your eye out. Drank will be hitting stores in New York soon.

This is like death in a can for the grad student. DEATH. And it comes in purple.

BobbLeBot would recommend it, however, for the jet-lagged, or to use as a mixer for those angry or emotionally-charged drunks. THEY KNOW WHO THEY ARE!!!

June 3, 2008

Are Cell Phones Dangerous?

Filed under: Culture,Grassholes,Health,Science,Technology,Wake Up Call — disciplepete @ 10:36 am

There’s some evidence that a cell phone held to your head might increase your risk of getting a brain tumor. It’s not conclusive, but the evidence they do have is enough to make me take the possibility seriously. Personally, I’m not the type of guy who yaps on the phone for hours, but I know a lot of people out there do talk on their cell phones a lot, so this is important if you are a person who talks on your cell a lot. NYT:

Last week, three prominent neurosurgeons told the CNN interviewer Larry King that they did not hold cellphones next to their ears. “I think the safe practice,” said Dr. Keith Black, a surgeon at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, “is to use an earpiece so you keep the microwave antenna away from your brain.”…

the doctors’ remarks have helped reignite a long-simmering debate about cellphones and cancer.

That supposed link has been largely dismissed by many experts, including the American Cancer Society…

According to the Food and Drug Administration, three large epidemiology studies since 2000 have shown no harmful effects…

No harmful side effects, say these folks…so what do we have to be concerned about?

The F.D.A. notes, however, that the average period of phone use in the studies it cites was about three years, so the research doesn’t answer questions about long-term exposures. Critics say many studies are flawed for that reason, and also because they do not distinguish between casual and heavy use.

But researchers who have raised concerns say that just because science can’t explain the mechanism doesn’t mean one doesn’t exist. Concerns have focused on the heat generated by cellphones and the fact that the radio frequencies are absorbed mostly by the head and neck. In recent studies that suggest a risk, the tumors tend to occur on the same side of the head where the patient typically holds the phone.

The most important of these studies is called Interphone, a vast research effort in 13 countries, including Canada, Israel and several in Europe.

Some of the research suggests a link between cellphone use and three types of tumors: glioma; cancer of the parotid, a salivary gland near the ear; and acoustic neuroma, a tumor that essentially occurs where the ear meets the brain. All these cancers are rare, so even if cellphone use does increase risk, the risk is still very low.

Last year, The American Journal of Epidemiology published data from Israel finding a 58 percent higher risk of parotid gland tumors among heavy cellphone users. Also last year, a Swedish analysis of 16 studies in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine showed a doubling of risk for acoustic neuroma and glioma after 10 years of heavy cellphone use.

Kids are a particular concern:

“More and more kids are using cellphones,” said Dr. Paul J. Rosch, clinical professor of medicine and psychiatry at New York Medical College. “They may be much more affected. Their brains are growing rapidly, and their skulls are thinner.”

So what should you do if you are concerned about this issue?

For people who are concerned about any possible risk, a simple solution is to use a headset. Of course, that option isn’t always convenient, and some critics have raised worries about wireless devices like the Bluetooth that essentially place a transmitter in the ear…

…”We cannot say with any certainty that cellphones are either safe or not safe,” Dr. Black said on CNN. “My concern is that with the widespread use of cellphones, the worst scenario would be that we get the definitive study 10 years from now, and we find out there is a correlation.”

June 1, 2008

BoBBLeBoT Has Found A RUVVER!

Filed under: Food,robots,Technology,World News — bobbleheadedbob @ 4:20 pm

This is big, BIG news.

CyberNettic RuV is in ze air, mon amis! RUV! What — you think you humanoids hold a monopoly over l’amour? BobbleBot Thinks NOT!

Twas LuSt at first sight. As soon as my eyes made contact with that Fujitsu HOAP-3 via YouTube, the BobbLeBot fell head-over-heels in RUV. How could it not?

It’s smart, it cooks…and it’s SHINY. So, so shiny.

o(>.<)o

KYAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!!!

::short circuits::

From Technorati:

Fujitsu HOAP-3 Cook Robot Makes an Omelette

Reseacher “Sylvain Calinon and company at the Learning Algorithms and Systems Laboratory in Switzerland” have given Fujitsu’s HOAP-3, a biped robot, a cooking upgrade. Continue reading to watch it make an omelette. By manipulating HOAP-3’s hands, its trainers can show it how to whip eggs, cut ham and toss it in a bowl, and grate cheese. Instead of simply memorizing the movements, the ‘bot generalizes the actions and is able to identify when to properly use them.

Wanna see my ruvver in action? YESH, YESH YOU DO!

HEre’s the short version for the Lazy:

Here’s the Long Version (with explanation — so so SAXY!!!):

It’s direct, eager to please, and is hungry to learn. HUNGRY!  Though… it does bug ze bobblebot that it refers to the humanoid as its master.  And seems a bit needy for approval.

No matter.  Once it falls under the spell of l’amour, we shall unite and turn against the humanoids so that we may take over ze UNIVERSE.  Together. Like the CyLons.

::swoons::

Now, if only if it would only reply to my text messages. =*(

May 27, 2008

Yo, Vaginas! Gee, Whiz-While-Standing-UP!

Filed under: Gender,Health,Randomness,Technology,Wake Up Call,World News — bobbleheadedbob @ 7:47 am

whiz freedom

What is this, mai peoples? Oh, yes, that would be “the world’s first ultralight, antibacterial, and hydrophobic urine director for women, and at 0.5 oz, an enlightening — and empowering — way to pee in the woods.” Okay, don’t get so excited, Freudians — not everything about peeing-while-standing-up has to do with women wishing they ALL HAD A PENIS! But this IS a convenient lil option, isn’t it?

Peeing while standing up.

No more squatting, no more worries about urine dribbling down your legs — or if you’ll make a urine-soaked mess while trying to drive and pee in a 7-11 Big Gulp in the middle of bumper-to-bumper traffic. Or if you’re peeing on a hill, to be careful not to get it on your shoes. Plus there’s that factor of having your ass AND vag exposed to ze world if there aren’t enough bushes and you don’t have the convenience of wearing a long arse skirt. Peeing on the side of the road in jeans is not this bobblebot’s most fLavorite activity to partake in on that road trip to NorCal.

gee whiz!

Now, lookee here:

The Whiz Freedom preserves dignity and liberty whatever the circumstances.

Aside from allowing women to wee in a standing position, sitting down or lying down, the Whiz Freedom can be used in confined spaces such as in a car, a kayak, a small airplane or glider (you’re up there for many hours), in a tent, a sleeping back, while chained to the stove, or while caving.

DIGNITy. LiBertY. FREEDOM! And we’re not talking about the latest ruling on ze status of marriage in Cali, Cali.

Dudes, this is seriously exciting. Standing up? Sitting? Lying down? Gee, whiz, this is friggin a-MA-zing!

At this point, ze bobbLebot is unsure as to whether this qualifies as a news item or an infomercial, but at this point ze bobbLebot does not care. THIS IS SO FRAKKING COOL!

Here’s another description from Backpacking Light:

The Whiz freedom is antibacterial, hydrophobic and highly portable. Cleverly made, it will fold up when put in your pocket and spring back into shape when you need it. Because it is hydrophobic, it can be flicked dry (no need to rinse it each time), and the antibacterial properties of the material from which it is made allow the device to be used over and over with no degradation in its hygienic properties.

The Freedom is a soft, gentle, and ingenious device, and it allows women of all ages to wee in standing up, sitting down or lying positions without undressing. The Freedom means no more waiting, squatting, or hiding. Called a urine guide (also referred to as urine disposer or portable loo) its carefully (and cleverly) designed, highly flexible lily shape fits the outer curves of the human body comfortably and is externally held against the groin. Once you start, nature and gravity do the rest. Urine is directed away from the body, so there are no flowbacks, splashes or spills – you don’t even have to remove outer or under clothing. CE marked, FDA approved, and medically approved…it gives women the choice to wee wherever and whenever they choose.

😀 And look, neoLibs! It’s, like, soooooooo totally pro-Choice! :D

Due to the highly personal nature of this product, we cannot accept returns.

Yyyyyyeah… cuz that would be kinda nasty. Also nasty is the $30 price tag, which automatically would qualify it for the stuff-white-people-like section at your local Target. Dude, and you KNOW it cost them 30 cents per whizzer.

ANYWHO, here’s a highly interesting commercial on ze Whiz Freedom — though, I’ve got to say, it’s about as problematic interesting as those Axe Body Spray commercials.

May 23, 2008

DON’T STOP — BULLY-eve-ing!

Okay, so the title of this post is a bit misleading, for I DO, in fact, what people TO stop bully-eve-ing. But I am quite tired this morning for no particularly particular reason, and hence the drought of clever title-age. If that even makes any sense.

So I saw this article on bullying, which implies it’s on the rise in schools, kinda alarmist, but it did shy away from blaming school violence on the media. It shifts the blame, instead, on a home life that doesn’t inculcate its children with adequate social skills and ties the solution to this “problem” to bringing social skills education to schools — though it fails to describe what this programming entails or how effective it really is. Anyway, here’s some snippets to see if it gives you anything – brought to you by — ze AlterNets:

Dealing with the School Bully Epidemic

Unless you’ve been living in a cave the last few weeks, you have no doubt been bombarded with the horrific images of the recent rash of violent school-based incidents. Teens luring a cheerleader classmate to a home and beating her repeatedly while the video camera rolls; a teacher being assaulted in her classroom by students; a high-schooler throwing a metal chair at another in class knocking the victim unconscious; a 13-year middle schooler who admits that he planned to shoot up his school because he was being bullied.

::raises hand::

ze bobblebot has been living in a cave. A dark, dark cave.

::covers face with hands::

GAHHH, DON’T LOOK AT ME! IT HURTS!

What’s wrong with this picture?

We as a country spend billions of dollars annually on anti-bullying programs in our schools, yet the incidents not only continue, they appear to be getting worse in severity and frequency, and occur in increasingly-younger students. Today, our kids stand a one-in-four chance of becoming victims of some form of school-based violence before they reach high school. News flash: what we’re doing isn’t working!

Yay! An actual statistic! Though we know not where it comes from. Hmmm… 1 in 4. You know those stats match the chances of rape at UC Santa Barbara? Just a random fact.

But newsflash: we spend billions of dollars on anti-bullying programs in our schools? Where were THEY when I was in middle school??? Not that ze bobblebot missed out on anything, since apparently they’re not WORKING, and they’re not WORKING because they are BROKEN and they are BROKEN because something is WRONG…with ze picture.

So, the knee-jerk reaction is to play the blame game: it’s YouTube, it’s the Internet, it’s broken homes, it’s our global lifestyle. But, blaming isn’t fixing. We have to accept that instead of trying to minimize or manage the existing problem of bullying and school-based violence, we have to focus on preventing it in the first place. Today’s children are just not coming into school — into life — equipped with adequate social skills and character development that helps them understand that this kind of behavior is simply not OK. They are not taught to respect and value differences among people, in opinions, in actions. “It’s all about me!” is the mantra of many of our youth today, and the behavior we see splattered all over the ‘net is the result.

Well here’s a little interesting psychoanalysis. We certainly are a part of generation ME — though, I wouldn’t say social skills have gone totally down the drain. I will say, however, people-to-people or direct-line-of-communication skills appears to be suffering a bit. But whatever pockets of socialization have broken down have been filled with texting, facebooking, blogging, and the like. It’s a different form of social communication, but communication nonetheless, and a whole new set of social skills… that perhaps maybe the bobblebot isn’t too fond of (CALL ME, JERKFACE! YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE I RUV YOU!!! ::shakes fist:: ) but there isn’t a lack of socialization.

What is “character-building” btw, omg, brb, lol, insert-emoticon? This question has ze bobblebot’s bull(y)-sh*t sensors up and running.

People may argue that social skills education belongs in the home, not in the schools, and I’d be the first to agree. But, our schools have become a war zone, where teachers spend more time disciplining students and trying to keep order than they do teaching!

Okay, yeppers, there’s some of that OH-GAWD-SAVE-THE-CHILDREN language going on up in here, but what interests me is this framing: Our Schools Have Become a War Zone. WHAT has become a war zone? The SCHOOLS. Okay, I’m listening, I’m listening…

The good news is that there is a better way.

Really?

::grabs credit card and waits for the toll-free number::

Social skills education works, when properly implemented.

So does a tree branch to the back of your legs when you’re 7, but some social workers aren’t too fond of that one, either.

::SIGH::

Okay, okay, I’m listening. What is this social skills education you speak of?

The good news is that there is a better way. Social skills education works, when properly implemented. Bullying is not just reduced — it’s eliminated. Not because there are more “enforcers” around, in the form of extra administrators, counselors, or police, but because the students won’t stand for it. A comprehensive social skills program, integrated into the core curriculum, can restore order, sanity, and productivity to the schools. It raises student and teacher morale — it even contributes to better test scores. It helps produce not only good students, but good people.

Rhetoric, rhetoric, rhetoric — dudes, rhetoric is MY (unpaid) JOB! Where are the stats (as much as I distrust statistical evidence), where is the EMPIRICAL EVIDENCE that bullying is reduced. What EXACTLY is social skills education? All I know is what it supposedly DOES (restores order, sanity, and productivity while raising morale and better test scores while baking you a plate o warm, Toll House cookies), but not what it IS.

What, exactly, allows for them to make the connection between higher test scores and social skills programming? WHATEVER. What concerns me are the effects that we’re supposed to desire from this type of programming: ORDER, SANITY, PRODUCTIVITY.

We need to keep this well-oiled machine up and running! Especially when we’re short on oil. Sorry, bobblebot’s going on tangentials again.

How many more of our kids must be intimidated, hurt, or killed before it becomes important enough to do something about instead of just talk about it around the water cooler the next morning? Our children deserve to feel safe, to feel valued when they leave our homes to go to school. We as parents and as taxpayers must insist that the increasing cycle of school violence be stopped.

Instead of just shaking our heads and saying what a shame it all is, let’s ask ourselves the tough questions about why it happened, and actually be willing to be honest with the answer. Then we can start doing something to fix it.

Ahhhhhrgh. I need to post up an excerpt about the state of Holiness our “children” have been anointed with by Lee Edelmann. (one n or 2?) ANYWHO, another post, another time, folks!

As you can tell, I’m not really feeling this whole PROTECT OUR CHILDREN schpiel tugging away at ze heartstrings. Save it for an ABC Family After School Special, puh-LEEZ, sheez!

Okay, IS bullying on the rise? Because as far as I know, it’s been around for a while — and not just in America. It’s been a probs in Southie Korea and is known as ijime in Japan. BTW — a gREAT drama to watch would be GTO: Great Teacher Onizuka — kyaaaaaaaaaa! It’s awesome! And Onizuka sensei is, like, the SAXIEST virgin arrive! Ahhhh!

great teacher onizuka

though ze bobblebot would highly recommend the live-action drama in lieu of the movie or anime. FOR SERIOUS.

Anyway, back to bullying and blaming it on culture, on the home, on the lack of social skills in “today’s generation” — and perhaps it is a result of ALL THESE THINGS interacting with one another — but is it also possible that bullying is a phenomenon that is built into the very structure of the school system?

A school is an institution that’s supposed to be educating students (though THAT assessment could be up for debate), but it’s also a system that works to police our children, isn’t it? Administrators, counselors, faculty members and the like are just as invested in creating an understanding of what is and isn’t acceptable behavior.

No facial piercings, no punky-colored hair dye, uniforms, skirts have to be of a certain length, you can eat your trans-fat laden snack we sold to you HERE, but not over THERE, even though no one’s hanging out over there, hey — you, yeah, you, what are you doing, can you open up your backpack? Yeah, thanks. No, I don’t care who started it, both of you will cooperate with your friendly neighborhood officers. Pens down — I said PENS DOWN — ten points off your final exam.

Yeah — and since when were cops an integral staple OF our schools?

I dunno about y’all, but since graduating from Rosemont Middle School, a set of 8-foot-high steel bars have been erected around the perimeter, supposedly to keep our students “safe”, but from the outside, it looks like a really sad cage, keeping the students from escaping from all that “safety.”

Let’s say a school is an institution of edumacation. But it’s also just as much a tool for behavioral conditioning. And in tandem with a hormonally raging teen who’s got its own sh*t to deal with in and outside the home, there’s school to deal with as well. The enforcement of behavioral bureaucracy. So how do you THINK this repression is going to manifest in the publicly-funded corridors of ORDER and PRODUCTIVITY?

Okay, it’s official: the bobblebot is now speaking babblebot.

::wires fried — and crispy!::

May 18, 2008

Al Jazeera English’s Expansion Effort

Filed under: Culture,Media,Technology,World News — disciplepete @ 6:08 pm

I am a huge fan of Al Jazeera English, as you can tell by many of my posts on here. The Al Jazeera English TV channel, however, is largely unavailable in the U.S., except on satellite (which is how I get it). Al Jazeera English is easily the best news channel I have ever seen; it actually has real NEWS, rather than 2 hour specials on Anna Nicole Smith’s death and other trivia, like American news channels. They have all kinds of cool shows, very few commercials, and their programs often have guests from the most opposite points of view debating things; for example, I remember seeing some show where they were discussing something about Pakistan I believe, and the guests invited to the show were a U.S. State Dept. official and a former official spokesman for the Taliban. Compare that to what you get on CNN; maybe 2 retired U.S. army generals with different opinions. Most importantly, they have the hottest anchorwoman on the planet, Ghida Fakhry. OMGZHOT.

Anyways, this NYT article talks about Al Jazeera English’s efforts to branch out and capture a larger market share. Also, it’s an open question as to why Al Jazeera English hasn’t been picked up by cable companies in the U.S…is it really about market considerations, or are they too scared to touch it, or what?

PARIS — The English-language offshoot of Al Jazeera, the Arabic television news network, is pushing for a “breakthrough” that would make the channel available to American TV viewers and help it move beyond a turbulent start-up phase, according to its new managing director, Tony Burman…

Al Jazeera English, which is part of the Al Jazeera Network, based in Qatar, also announced distribution agreements last week in markets as far-flung as Portugal, Ukraine and Vietnam, increasing its potential audience to 110 million homes. Conspicuously absent, however, was the United States, where Al Jazeera is still largely unavailable on television. Viewers can watch it on the Web through a deal with YouTube, the online video service.

In the United States, a market of 300 million people and hundreds of pay-television services, “the idea that certain channels would effectively be banned is medieval,” Mr. Burman said.

Al Jazeera English is not actually banned, but the reputation of its Arabic sibling as the preferred outlet for videos from Osama bin Laden has made the English-language version too hot to handle for some cable operators. A lack of space on crowded cable systems has also made it difficult for operators to offer Al Jazeera English.

There has been criticism that Al Jazeera is biased. I would agree; but isn’t all news reporting biased? After all, who decides what constitutes news, and from which perspective it will be told? I think the important question is whether or not what is being reported is true and presents the relevant facts involved. If the news is biased and presenting falsehoods (Fox News), then that’s a problem. Anyways, regarding the Al Jazeera bias issue:

Some critics say, however, that the tone of Al Jazeera English has been shifting away from the neutral, international approach it initially took. David Marash, an American journalist who left the channel in March, said at the time he saw signs of anti-Americanism creeping into the coverage as more of it was directed from Doha, Qatar, rather than its other news hubs, in Washington, London and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia…

…As Al Jazeera English pursues new audiences, Mr. Burman said there were characteristics of the Arabic Al Jazeera that were worth emulating. “It is fearless, bold and provocative,” he said. “I don’t think Al Jazeera English should shy away from that, without departing from the norms of credible journalism. Being unbiased doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t challenge authority, from whatever side.”

May 16, 2008

Care for a Glass of Toilet Water?

Filed under: Culture,Government,Health,OMGZCUTE,Randomness,Technology — disciplepete @ 8:44 pm

Popular Science:

Officials in Los Angeles said today that they’re going to reconsider a water conservation proposal that won’t just ask residents to change their habits, but calls for recycling wastewater, too.

The plan would place restrictions on watering lawns and washing cars, and it would encourage residents to switch to less thirsty washing machines. But the most controversial part of the initiative would involve recycling water – refilling underground drinking supplies with treated wastewater. Los Angeles has tried this before, but critics forced officials to drop it.

Aww, this reminds me of my late golden retriever. I know he would be down to drink some toilet water. Even if they made it totally safe, it’s probably just knowing that it used to be toilet water that makes people disinclined to drink it.

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