Court ruling on Bush’s secret NSA wiretap program

This is practically ancient news, in Internet terms, but I wanted to make a comment here on the latest ruling on Bush’s secret NSA wiretap program. I haven’t read the ruling yet, so I’m a bit surprised by what I’ve seen of it so far. The ruling in short is that the wiretap program is unconstitutional *and* is illegal under the 1978 FISA act (see also Wikipedia’s entry for a more understandable guide to FISA).

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On the great importance of commas

(via Tingilinde)

After mistakenly putting an extra comma in a contract, Rogers Communications, Inc. of Canada may be spending $2+ million extra for use of utility poles in Canada.

It could be the most costly piece of punctuation in Canada.

A grammatical blunder may force Rogers Communications Inc. to pay an extra $2.13-million to use utility poles in the Maritimes after the placement of a comma in a contract permitted the deal’s cancellation.

The controversial comma sent lawyers and telecommunications regulators scrambling for their English textbooks in a bitter 18-month dispute that serves as an expensive reminder of the importance of punctuation.

Rogers thought it had a five-year deal with Aliant Inc. to string Rogers’ cable lines across thousands of utility poles in the Maritimes for an annual fee of $9.60 per pole. But early last year, Rogers was informed that the contract was being cancelled and the rates were going up. Impossible, Rogers thought, since its contract was iron-clad until the spring of 2007 and could potentially be renewed for another five years.

Armed with the rules of grammar and punctuation, Aliant disagreed. The construction of a single sentence in the 14-page contract allowed the entire deal to be scrapped with only one-year’s notice, the company argued.

Language buffs take note — Page 7 of the contract states: The agreement “shall continue in force for a period of five years from the date it is made, and thereafter for successive five year terms, unless and until terminated by one year prior notice in writing by either party.”

Slightly more information on the story in the full article.  Folks that think grammar and punctuation don’t matter can learn something here.  If you would like to try to get a better grip on this, perhaps you’d benefit from either Lynne Truss’ original book or her latest release?

[tags]On the importance of grammar and punctuation, Watch that comma, Comma costs millions[/tags]

PS2 gets pink and price drop, PSP to follow in color

Joystiq has mention of the current price drop for the PS2, from $149.99 to $129.99. pinkps2_sitting.jpgTo go with this, it seems Sony is releasing a pink model (at least, in Europe). I don’t get the draw of pink, but it worked for the RAZR phone, and I’m guessing it will work for the PS2. On top of this, it seems a pink PSP is in the future as well (again, at least in Europe).

Oddly, shortly after these posts were made on Joystiq, there was a post discussing the ever-important question of why there aren’t more female gamers? I was worried that I would read the article to find that companies thought it was because there weren’t enough pink consoles. Fortunately, I was wrong – instead, the lack of female developers gets the blame.


Set for release in Europe only – at the time of writing – the limited edition pink PlayStation 2 will hit shelves on November 8 this year, bundled with two pink DualShock controllers and a pink Memory Card.

. . .

The pink PlayStation 2 will retail at €159.99 across coutries united by one glorious currency, while the UK can expect to fork out £129.99. Us Brit-types do get a copy of SingStar Pop bundled with the whole shebang, however.

. . .

Set for release on October 27 in Europe only, the P!nk PSP Value Pack will cost €229, or £169. Anyone picking up the pack will gain access to exclusive P!nk-related downloads, courtesy of Sony’s service.

The mention of P!nk-related downloads refers to the collaboration with the artist Pink, by the way. So it looks like buying a pink PSP will get you some music by Pink to go with it. We’ll see how that all pans out when the Pink console is released closer to the end of the year.

[tags]Sony goes pink, Pink PS2, Pink PSP[/tags]

We now call them rail guns

At least, that’s what I call them now. How about you?

From the June 1932 issue of Modern Mechanix magazine.

Electric Cannon Uses No Gunpowder

SILENT guns sending their whistling messengers of death into the sky at speeds far beyond those now attained by powder-driven shells seem likely for the next war, using for propulsion magnetic fields so powerful that when they are short-circuited they produce miniature earthquakes.

Dr. Kapitza, F. R. S., working at the Cavendish laboratory of Cambridge University, England, in his attempts to disrupt the atom has produced magnetic fields so powerful that they “explode” the coils that produce them. This man has finally revealed the secret of the magnetic gun so long anticipated by ballistic experts. Dr. Kapitza accomplishes the electric firing of a shell by short-circuiting powerful dynamos for periods of one one-hundredth of a second.

[tags]Modern Mechanix, Ancient rail guns[/tags]

Saitek tri-color keyboard review

(via Kotaku)

The folks at Gameworld network have a review up of the Saitek Tri-color keyboard.  It doesn’t actually have any special gaming features, so at $70, it might not be a must-have product.  But it’s shiny, and I want one anyway.


In the corners, the oversize feet extend beyond the outside edge of the top surface of the unit, creating a unique, symmetrical, horizontally stretched “x” shaped footprint. The overall style of the Eclipse II is quite attractive, but the true kicker, the defining cool-factor is the remarkable three-color, manually dimming backlighting. By hitting a button at the top right corner of the keyboard, the user can select between red, blue and violet backlighting. A twist of a knob in the multimedia control array can increase or decrease the brightness of the light.

[tags]Saitek, Saitek keyboard, Tri-color keyboard[/tags]

Wal-Mart Image-builder resigns

(via Blue’s News)

Here is a case of someone saying something they shouldn’t have said.  And it comes from the kind of person you wouldn’t expect to say this kind of thing.  So, here are the comments made by the man Wal-Mart recently hired to help build a better image for the company.

“You see those are the people who have been overcharging us,” he said of the owners of the small stores, “and they sold out and moved to Florida. I think they’ve ripped off our communities enough. First it was Jews, then it was Koreans and now it’s Arabs.”

Wow.  Not the thing you’d expect to hear from someone trying to help build a better image for a company with as bad an image as Wal-Mart.  So, who is this outstanding symbol of good image and what did he do about it?

Mr. Young, 74, a former mayor of Atlanta and a former United States representative to the United Nations, apologized for the comments and retracted them in an interview last night.

Well, that’s one way, I suppose.  But really, why would he say this?  I mean, he had to have a reason, right?  Context matters, I’m betting.  It was probably mis-interpreted.  So here’s what he had to say after the fact.  The clues that all was not as it seems.

“It’s against everything I ever thought in my life,” Mr. Young said. “It never should have been said. I was speaking in the context of Atlanta, and that does not work in New York or Los Angeles.”

OK, so he doesn’t think Jews, Koreans or Arabs are bad all over – it’s just the Jews, Koreans, and Arabs in Atlanta.  Damn, that’s some serious foot-in-mouth disease he’s got going on.

[tags]Wal-Mart, Image-building, Hating on the foreigners[/tags]