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Nintendo Wii Could it Kill Your Child?

Nintendo has announced that they are offering a recall of 3.2 Million wrist straps for the Nintendo Wii controller. Apparently people are getting so worked up playing the Nintendo Wii that the controller straps aren't durable enough to resist the force and the controller ends up being hurled at the TV.

Quite frankly people just need to calm down. You don't see people hurling bowling balls, tennis rackets or baseball bats in real life. When people play sports they can "control" themselves enough to to not start hurling sports equipment without prejudice. When you're playing Wii Sports just pretend that your actually playing real sports and be a little more cautious when swinging the controller.

But for all those ADHD kids who just can't settle down, Nintendo will replace the current strap with a thicker one. Honestly I don't think this will stop the problem. These maniacs will just keep swinging the controller as hard as they can until they break the new strap.

The solution to this is to replace the strap with a handcuff. This way if they throw the controller the rest of their body will go with it and hopefully they'll learn a lesson. Attached is a clip of what I'm talking about. Also what is that one kid drinking, a bottle of wine? Kids these days...


Gift Ideas: 5 Practical Presents that are Actually Useful

Looking for some interesting gift ideas? Sick of buying the traditional tie for dad and sweater for your nephew, and want to get them something they might actually have a use for? Look no further! Well, actually you should look further down the page. Below are five unique holiday gift ideas for that special someone that won't find their way into a box in the attic. Roomba robotic vacuum cleaner1. Give the gift of convenience. It is the year 2006, and yet you cannot fly around town on a hoverboard, jet pack, or even a flying car. Luckily, we do have robots to do menial household labor. I highly recommend the iRobot Roomba vacuum cleaner. You may be wondering: does it really work? Our experience with the Roomba has been very positive, so much so that we got one for my parents last Christmas. How is it practical? You just have to press a button, and it cleans the whole floor! Seriously. It takes longer than you might be able to do with a fancy Dyson vacuum, but you don't have to do anything! My mom loves it. To be fair, you do still have to empty it out when it is done and once in a while you might want to clean hair out of the brushes. But if you are lazy like me, it will do a much more thorough cleaning job, and you'll end up vacuuming twice as much. $149.99 at Amazon 2. Give the gift of health. Many of us suffer from health problems that could be improved by improving our diets. There is a lot of homeopathic quackery out there, but there's also a large and growing body of research on how to fight high blood pressure, cholesterol, and other common modern ailments. Unfortunately, the vitamin, supplement, and "natural " health food industry is largely unregulated. How can your dear mum be sure she is taking fish oil and not a mercury smoothie? Get her a subscription to How is it practical? I think this one is pretty obvious. Access to independent testing data on different brands can ensure you're getting what you're paying for. It might not seem like as much fun as a Big Mouth Billy Bass or a keyboard tie, but trust me, no one wants those things anyway. $27.99 for a one year subscription Kil-A-Watt 3. Give the gift of power. Not everyone is a tree hugger, but everyone likes to save money on their electric bills. You might be surprised which appliances and gadgets are sucking down the most power - or your recipient will, when you give them the Kill-a-Watt Electricity Usage Monitor. How is it practical? Just plug the thing you want to test right in and you'll be able to compare kilowatt-hours. It can also help justify buying that new flat panel monitor, air conditioner or other more efficient device. "Look honey, buying this new MacBook with the Core 2 Duo will actually save us money!" $24.99 at Amazon (and a little less from some of their "featured merchants.") Mind Hacks 4. Give the gift of brains. Publisher O'Reilly is well-known for their technical books and their fun "Hacks" series. Mind Hacks: Tips & Tools for Using Your Brain is a very entertaining book on how your brain works and why it works the way it does. The book is not just for nerds--it definitely does not read like a dry technical manual. It does adopt the hacker point of view, a combination of curiosity, cleverness, and an interest in real-world results. A similar book in the series (which I haven't read yet) is Mind Performance Hacks: Tips & Tools for Overclocking Your Brain. How is it practical? The chapters are, quick, light reads that give you practical insights and tricks, everything from improving memory performance to figuring out optical illusions. Everything is grounded in scientific research, and they cite actual sources! If you think your intended recipient will be put off by the title and format, you might want to consider Forty Studies that Changed Psychology: Explorations into the History of Psychological Research, which covers some of the same ground from a different perspective. $16.47 at Amazon Lego Ice Cube Tray 5. Give the gift of cool. Like most people, you are probably sick of boring old ice cube trays. Wait, you say you haven't given ice cube trays any thought in your entire life, and that my premise is specious? Once you've seen the Lego Ice Cube Tray and the Lego block-shaped ice cubes that it produces, you'll agree with me. This is the perfect gift for that certain someone. How is it practical? Well, how else are supposed to build a frozen scale model of Edinburgh Castle on the kitchen counter? Unfortunately, it looks like it is sold out until March! Not-nearly-as-cool but just as practical substitutes include the OXO Good Grips Ice Cube Tray and the ISI Orka Freeze and Press Ice Cube Tray, both with spill-reducing lids. $7.99 for the Lego tray (sold out) $3.99 for the Good Grips tray $9.95 for the Orka Freeze and Press Bonus gift idea! Finally, for those of you who need to the right gift for a godless, hedonistic liberal, The War on X-Mas Manual will no doubt fill their hearts with joy. If they are too far from the lord to truly know joy, then at least you know their hearts will be filled with secular blood as they pick up helpful tips on destroying your faith. How is it practical? Remember: whenever a minimum-wage cashier at a big box retail store says "happy holidays," Jesus cries a single tear. Better yet, if you can get the press covering a "war" against Christmas, they won't have as much time to report on the war in Iraq.

10 Reasons You Will Want the Apple iPhone

Since the dawn of time, man has wondered: will Apple come out with a iPhone, and will it match the success of the iPod? This is the Internet, of course, so by the dawn of time I mean three or four years ago, well before the Motorolla Rokr came out. Despite whipping the rumor mill into a frenzy, the Rokr ended up being not much of an Apple iPhone and was immediately overshadowed by the iPod Nano. Now, it seems Apple may be actually coming out with an iPhone in early 2007. And you are going to want it. Here's why. (A quick disclaimer: I don't have any inside info about Apple or the iPhone. This list is an educated guess. I like to think of it as "analysis" rather than "idle speculation.") 1. Simple controls. My very first cell phone, a Kyocera 2135, had a keypad, a directional pad, a total of four buttons and a couple of menus. Since then, as I have gotten new phones and new plans, the number of buttons and menus has increased at an exponential rate. It looks like amazing progress, a Moore's Law of mobiles, except most of the time, I'm just trying to make a stupid phone call. The evolution of the iPod has been a study in simplification, to the point where all you have now is the clickwheel, unless you have a Shuffle, in which case you have even less. 2. Consistent controls. When you get a new phone, how long does it take for you to get used to it? Forget any new features for now -- what about just using the "dial", "hangup", "OK", and other common buttons in different contexts? Earlier cell phones were often better current phones in this regard, probably because they had less functionality. When a phone has both a dial and an enter button (like the Treo), you're not always sure which is appropriate in which situation. I can almost guarantee the iPhone will embrace the "it just works" attitude Apple is known for. I know my contact list is getting way too long to navigate with up/down arrows, and even jumping by letter is becoming tedious. Look for the contact list to work the same way a playlist works, and expect to spend a lot less time figuring it out and more time just using it. 3. Innovative controls with obvious affordances. Big words, but all I'm saying is that the interface will be different from what's out there, but won't require much explanation. Affordnaces are surfaces and shapes that imply use - for example, a handle on a door implies "pull" while a horizontal bar implies "push". My guess? A haptic interface for common, atomic actions. Instead of needing to find and press a little button to hang up, maybe you can just shake the phone--think erasing an Etch-a-Sketch. 4. Streamlined interaction design. Current phones include a lot of functionality - calling, text messaging, taking photos, shooting video, sending email, surfing the web, etc. The current solution is a burrito-like seven layers of menus and icons. If Apple is smart, the iPhone will make sure the most common tasks will be the most visible and easiest to get to. Think of the actions you perform the most with your current phone - making a call, finding a contact, hanging up, etc. The main difficulty for Apple will be effectively combining music player and phone functionality without adding a whole layer of menus or icons. Something like Front Row might be a step in the right direction. Listening to music is a more passive activity that calling, and you don't want to add a "switch to phone mode" step when the phone rings, so It's not exactly the right metaphor. 5. No more disgusting face grease on your screen. This is, in my opinion, the holy grail of cell phone design. There have been a few phones that tried to address this issue, but the vast majority of phones are shaped such that you must press the screen to your face to make a call. I know what you're thinking. "But my face isn't oily and gross." Yes it is. Take out your phone and really look. Perform this experiment: clean the screen and buttons, eat a couple slices of pizza, and call your grandma (you really should call more). Now look at the screen. I cannot imagine Steve Jobs allowing skin oil and other human excretions on his beautiful devices, let alone requiring it just to make a call. I have seen the press conferences, this is a man who exfoliates. I'm not sure how exactly they will get around this one, but is it possible they might make a phone... actually shaped like a phone? I have never had this issue with a landline phone. 6. No more lock in. I'm not talking about the elimination of Apple's one major lock-in scheme, requiring iTunes for purchased, DRM-ed music. But notice that with the iPod there are no limits on loading up your own MP3s, photos, etc. My guess is the iPhone will be similar. This is actually revolutionary for a cell phone. There is a good amount of hardware and functionality built in to the phone in your pocket that you don't have access to. It's because the carriers will block anything they would compete with any service they offer (or think they might offer some day in the future). They also like to lock you in to a contract when you purchase the phone. Apple, debuting a shiny new must-have cell phone, just might have the leverage needed to just say no. 7. It will look really, really nice. This is subjective, and I'm sure there are a few people out there not impressed by the iPod. It's clear, though, that Apple knows how to fashion artifacts that a large number of people drool over. And this mass of drooling people seems to include geeks, hipsters, famous people, and all the popular kids at school. 8. Integrated voicemail, chat, SMS and email. This isn't a new idea, and there are plenty of carriers and startup companies promising to do this really soon now. As far as I know, there really isn't a solution that makes the different forms of messaging work together that has been adopted by the general public. It would require integration with the service providers (difficult) or a chip beefy enough to encode audio, but imagine if you could store and manage voicemail and SMS as easily as you do email, through a simple visual or audio interface. There is plenty of hard drive space on an iPod, so why not apply the Gmail concept of effectively infinite storage to voicemail? 9. No camera. I'll say up front that I'm not nearly as confident about numbers 9 and 10, but I have a feeling the iPhone will not have a camera. Why not? It is a little-known fact that people only use their cell phone cameras in two situations: the first week after purchase, and when drunk. The cameras themselves are not very good, the shots are low resolution, and the carriers have made it their mission to make getting the photo to your computer or printing it at Walgreens difficult and expensive. So why not leave it out? That's one less thing to squeeze into the form factor, one less item in the menu, less clutter. 10. Connectivity. At the very least, expect to be able to connect to anything an iPod can connect to now. The iPod does not have wireless features like the Zune, but it seems like the Zune was crippled for DRM purposes. Cell phones are inherently wireless, so it will be interesting to see what Apple does here. Is it possible they might make bluetooth actually live up to its promise? Specifically, it would be really nice if it was easy to beam contact info, photos, etc. to others. This is 2006, there's no excuse for making us strain to hear someone's number in a loud club or try to manually enter names and numbers while being jostled by a crowd. And every phone I've ever played with that can store or take photos makes it a major chore to ever get them off the damned phone. I'm not too sure this will happen, because getting the bluetooth turned on with my wifes iBook was a chore, and getting it to actually connect to my Treo was a pain too. Of course, there's no guarantee the iPhone will have any of the above.  It's possible that Motorolla or Nokia's next phone will cover enough of the items above to become the next must-have gadget.  But they've had plenty of chances.  I'm guessing it will take a company with a new perspective to make a really great phone, and Apple just might be that company.

Nintendo Wii and your mother

Most people out there I will not be able to convince either way about the Wii.  Either you are already in love with is, as I am, or you hate it and Playstation/Xbox/MMORPGs are the way to go.  But you are here reading this post, so you must be interested a little. So, if you already love the Wii, what else can I say to you? We could converse about how great the system development is.  We could have lenghty chats about how great Wii Sports is, and that no, we don't understand who would actually buy for $50.00 bucks since it comes with the system.  The conversation has probably already been had at how incredible games like Zelda and Rayman are for the system and how sore our upper bodies are from the constant use of the Wii. Prose is already exhausted over how awesome and revolution- (see, if you knew that this was the system's orginal name you would think I was cool right now)ary the controllers are even though you have to buy the wii-mote and the nunchuks separately.  But, we have already had this conversation. Right now I want to talk about your mother.  Is your mom already playing your Wii?  Cause she will be.  The Wii is designed for people of all age groups, heck, the installation pamphlet has elderly people playing inside.  So, your mom is a lot younger than the elderly, right?  Has your mom already bought the Dalmations Nintendogs for her pink or teal DS Lite?  If so, your Wii is in danger of consistanly dead batteries and parental abuse.  I don't want to be the bearer of bad news but your mom may even be better than you at the Wii.  I know it's scary but it's entirely possible.  We have to face these problems together as a generation.  Games are no longer being marketed to just the youth and single men over the age of 40.  No, they are being marketed towards our mothers and grandmothers. And your mom is going to be addicted to making Miis.  She is gonna have a little parade of Mii replicas of herself and her friends in your Mii Plaza.  You will go to play bowling and in the next lane, you see your mother!! She will be on your baseball team.  You will see her everywhere.  It's going to be a Mii infestation. My solution to you?  Buy your mom her own controller.  Then, she can store all of her little Miis on her controller and not have them leave their dirty footprints in your Mii plaza. And, I mean, it is kinda creepy when a Mii that looks exactly like your mom (how did she get it so close?) is always hanging out in the bowling alley. Another thing before I wrap this up.  Any one of you who thinks that the Wii isn't worth it's weight in whatever you find to be not worth it's weight should try to play it first.  At least three of my friends who were like, 'man, the Wii is stupid, I wanna play Gears of War!' completely changed their tunes after playing just one round of tennis in Wii Sports.  They are all trying to find Wiis now, and to them I say, good luck!  They do have a better chance of getting one than if they were looking for a PS3 (way to drop the bomb Sony!) and they will have more friends in the long run since playing the Wii in a group is much more fun than playing alone. So, in conclusion, what did you learn here?

Saving the earth, one lawn mower at a time

It turns out electric lawn mowers are better for the environment and would take some hassle from my schedule.

I have a small yard, with a lot of shade – depending on the weather, I only really need to mow every two to three weeks. When I bought the house, it seemed silly to buy a new lawn mower for such a small yard, so I accepted a hand-me-down instead. The hand-me-down has always been hard to start, and now no amount of cord pulling seems to help.

What could be wrong? Simple. It could be bad gas, old gas, water in the gas tank, sediment in the fuel filter or the bottom of the tank, a gummed up carburetor, not enough air, too much air, a dirty (or just dead) spark plug, a problem in the ignition system, or it could need an oil change. Of course I should have done more regular oil changes, changed the filters, and drained the gas before last winter.

Add to all that the time I spend pushing this loud, heavy thing around and this does not sound like an appropriate amount of effort for my tiny, wimpy lawn. Buying a new gas-powered mower will only alleviate the immediate problem, not the gas, oil, filter, etc., hassles.

And guess what? Gas-powered lawn mowers are horrible polluters! Apparently cutting for one hour is about the same as driving for 100 miles! I have a hippy-treehugger hybrid, so I can probably drive two hundred miles on that emissions budget. There have been moves to add pollution controls to small engines, but they are often blocked by industry lobbyists, or valiant crusaders against evil regulatory expansionism, depending on your point of view. I'm always interested in living more efficiently, so I think it's worth considering.

Let's add this up:

Things I like/don't mind:

  1. Being outside, even if it's cold.
  2. Walking
  3. Pushing things

Things I don't like:

  1. Adding maintenance of some device to my already busy schedule
  2. Polluting, apparently much more than I would have guessed
  3. Pulling and pulling and pulling and goddamn you why won't you start!

As I see it, I have three options:

  1. A manual push mower, just like grandpa used to have. Apparently modern reel mowers are not like grandpa's, since they are light and easy to use in many yards.
  2. A corded electric mower, just like that one neighbor used to have in the 80s. Corded mowers are apparently about as good as gas mowers with the drawback being the cord.
  3. A battery-powered mower. Although they don't last long enough for big lawns (not a problem for me), there are even robot models available.

I haven't had a chance to really look into manual reel mowers, but I did a little searching about electric mowers and came up with some ideas.

Anyone have first-hand experience with these, or other manual and electric mowers? I might even buy one just for the emissions savings, I'm that lame. But it sounds like any of the choices above would be more convenient, too. Let me know what you think in the comments below.