Wednesday 30 March 2011

Emily Dickinson - bringing creepy to the kindle

I bought a kindle, which is awesome by the way. While it is sleeping it has a set of famous author portraits and other pictures it displays as a sort of screen saver.

Does anyone else think the picture of Emily Dickinson is particularly creepy?  Have any fellow kindle owners woken in the middle of the night to find this staring at you from your bedside table? There is definitely something of 'the ring' about her, or at the very least she has a Mona Lisa follow-you-around-the-room kind of stare.

Monday 21 March 2011

The apple and grape juices on these shelves contain lead

Today at the supermarket, as I was picking up my usual 2 quarts of Mott's apple juice, I was confronted with this sign.

WTF?  If it has lead in it, TAKE IT OFF THE SHELF.  Don't just put up a little sign that I'm unlikely to read anyway.  Or better yet, how about making apple juice without lead in it in the first place?

It turns out that this ridiculous warning is the product of a similarly ridiculous piece of legislation voted in by Californians in 1986.  While the intent is good - to notify people of unsafe chemicals they are exposed to - the execution is pretty poor.  The FAQ will tell you that just because a product carries a warning, doesn't mean it is unsafe.  In fact, as the FAQ points out, since there are no reporting requirements on companies the state government can't tell you why a company has chosen to make a declaration, or indeed tell you anything useful such as, for which chemical, how long, and at what level.

Take my apple juice.  A warning needs to be posted unless exposure is low enough to pose no significant risk, which (for cancer causing chemicals) is defined as:
the level of exposure that would result in not more than one excess case of cancer in 100,000 individuals exposed to the chemical over a 70-year lifetime. In other words, a person exposed to the chemical at the “no significant risk level” for 70 years would not have more than a “one in 100,000” chance of developing cancer as a result of that exposure.
This statement seems full of holes, which is probably why the law has made shady lawyers a lot of money.  What does 70 years of exposure mean for apple juice anyway?  A glass a day?  A gallon a day?

It is very common for Californian apartment garages to have a declaration due to the chemicals present in car exhaust.  This is the one on ours - scary huh?

I suspect the levels of chemicals would only be harmful if you lived in the garage for 70 years.  But who knows?  The law says the apartment owners should be able to tell you, but they just put the sign up so they don't get sued.

In any case, I'm more happy ignoring this sign on the garage than on my apple juice.  Labelling law FAIL.

Tuesday 8 March 2011

R|Evolution: where the very very recent past goes to be ogled by nerds

We took Em's dad to the Silicon Valley Computer History museum, which is a stone's throw from the Googleplex.  It is a very well presented exhibition, and covers 2000 year of computing history from the abacus to the present day.  We spent 4 hours there and I still felt like I skipped over a lot of things!

Nerds love to have conversations about the 'ancient' hardware they played games on when they were young.  I certainly wasn't around when the only reason companies could think of to have a computer at home was to store recipes:

But I did spend a lot of time playing platform games on a monochrome orange screen of an Osbourne 'portable' computer similar to this one:

And the gaming section was particularly awesome - computer progress is moving forward so fast the very recent past is now immortalised in the museum.

I hope they have plenty of room to expand...