Drink Tank

Extra Aqua Vitae Nulla Salus

1.31.2005

Running Skills Better Suited for Wildwood, NJ

ps. Ivan, you were right: ~44<<200. Congradulations to Ivan for surviving the weekend, winning the bet, and for being < a week away from bequeething me a new sibling. Of course, more on all this later.

Oh, and a special congradulations to stubborn Iraqi voters that surprised even the most hopeless optimists.

1.28.2005

Oded, That's Your Coat!



Cheney, flanked by his wife and Israeli President Moshe Katsav at the Holocaust memorial event.
Photo Credit: Herbert Knosowski -- AP

1.27.2005

Dead Puppies For Money

I couldn't do it.

The Daily Photo Project

This dude takes pictures of himself allmost every day in the same position. Here is his blog.

If you want to see a similar project from the first year of Josko's life, go here.

Great Scott!


Special guest Marty McFly comes back from the future to attend the 60 anniversary of Auschwitz's liberation by the People's Red Army. He described the ceremony as "Heavy."

...mice with human brains.

So, does this mean we can see centaurs and mermaids and humans with gorilla arms? Also on my list: flying monkeys a la Wizard of Oz, monkeys with human brains, dogs with human brains.

1.26.2005

Stop Bitching, Start a Revolution

>New Brain Terminal

The Aristocrats

I see Penn (of & Teller) made a documentary of different versions of The Aristocrats joke (Clip here told in South Park... the producers claim this is not among the top five offensive versions in the film).

BParty

So I'm about to have a bachelor party. I have no idea what will happen.

I'm hoping it isn't something like this.



...or this.

To Be A Fly On The Wall

Interesting. I guess Sprint knows I cracked open a beer and believe they're a bunch of fucking chuckleheads.

Will Rise Again

Bush Aides Say Budget Deficit Will Rise Again.

Go to the graphic on that page, showing how much more the deficit will be if the tax cuts are made permanent and such. This does not take into account the higher growth from overhauling the tax code or lowering taxes, which is really, really annoying.

Also funny is the way people criticize Bush for not asking the average American to sacrifice a thing for the War-on-Terror, then go on to criticize the tens of billions needed in tax dollars to fund the war.

Even funnier is the lack of mention of the new prescription drug bill, though the rise of Medicare and Medicaid costs is mentioned.

On a related note, I just got my W2 for 2004. If withholdings were not allowed, then I'd be forced to write a check at the end of the year to the IRS. I think far fewer people would complain about the tax cuts if this were the case. Even better: an itemized bill so that I can complain even louder about coerced charity. Something like this, but for the amount in taxes paid, would be nice.


1.25.2005

High Oil Prices Have Unexpected Benefits

Carnegie Mellon University gets great press in this story about those that benefit from high oil prices. I've long thought that the best way to bring about more renewable energy is to let the market take care of high prices of oil prices by diverting investments to green tech.

I think the billions spent on market warping subsidies to oil companies and renewable energy companies (corn based fuels) should be given back to the taxpayers. I was about to say they should be spent on robots (as most federal programs should), but figured that an analogous situation applies: as non-dancing robot applications go up in price, the market will naturally invest more in dancing robots. Thank god for that!

Feng Shui Principles ...For Hair

I'm going to get a haircut and probably a re-dye (black), cos a special day is approaching. I haven't been to a barber, much less a salon, since the summer of 2000. At that time, it'd been a few years, and afterwards I decided that, yeah, paying someone to cut my hair was still overrated.

...That being said, I'm gonna try it again, and this time fancier (last time a cut cost me $10 in Bakersfield). Suggestions? My hair's fairly long, I'm thinkin' I'll tell the lady/dude "something like the Beatles." You know, let them decide which era of Beatles' hair would 'do' me good (double pun intended).

1.24.2005

The Driving Under The Influence Presidency

Two comments about this:

1. I think it nicely illustrates my contention that Mr. Gonzales's career too frequently involved him lawyering on behalf of the now-Chief Executive's political needs, and that he ought not be confirmed as Attorney General a matter of President-isn't-above-the-law common sense.

2. I don't think it's at all fair that Mr. Bush could have had to publicly reveal his DUI conviction as a matter of serving on a jury. I think that kind of information should be private -- bringing it up seems like the state meting out an additional punishment for the crime.

1.20.2005

Record-Level Cuteness for Every Hour of the Day

Musta been a big momma!

10 Days Until The Election

I was going to try and post a little on the candidates but I hear that "most of the main groups are not disclosing most of the names on their slates, beyond a few well-known figures. So voters are unsure of what many—maybe most—of the 84 parties and alliances and 27 individuals on the ballot actually stand for and, in many cases, who is running for them."

Maybe that'll clear up in the next few days -- the president reiterated his commitment to spreading democracy through force today (checking I see that he's even more ambitious than that, and he's going to be ending tyranny... I'd be happier if he was going to kill Osama bin Laden, leave Iraq better than when he found it, and achieve victory in The War On Terror).

In the meantime, here's the lyrics to Clint Black's Iraq & Roll (available here with pictures. I'm sure there'll be much more to say about the election in coming days.

Iraq & Roll

You can wave your signs and protest
against America taking a stand,
the stands America's taking
are the reason that you can.

If everyone would go for peace
there'd be no need for war.
But we can't ignore the devil,
he'll keep coming back for more.

Some see this in black and white,
others only gray.
We're not begging for a fight,
no matter what they say.

We have the resolution
that should put 'em all to shame.
It's a different kind of deadline
when I'm called in the game.

Iraq, I rack 'em up and I roll,
I'm back and I'm a hi-tech GI Joe.
I pray for peace, prepare for war
and I never will forget ~
there's no price too high for freedom
so be careful where you tread.

This terror isn't man to man,
they can be no more than cowards.
If they won't show us their weapons
we might have to show them ours.

Now it might be a smart bomb,
they find stupid people too.
If you stand with the likes of Saddam,
well, one might just find you.

Iraq, I rack 'em up and I roll,
I'm back and I'm a hi-tech GI Joe.
I got infrared, I got GPS,
I got that good old fashioned lead.
No price too high for freedom,
so be careful where you tread.

Now you can come along
or you can stay behind
or you can get out of the way.
But our troops take out the garbage
for the good old USA.

Iraq, I rack 'em up and I roll.
for the USA.

Revote

Alongside car-making robots in The Economist, I see that, having lost a hand recount for the governor's office by a little more than 100 votes, Washington state Republicans are calling for a revote. The article doesn't say if they're serious or if it's just a big show of how they don't think it's fair, but it is nonetheless an absolutely great idea.

Winner-take-all elections should require a winner, and the plain fact is that in counting physical ballots, there is a margin of error. I think cheating makes this margin of error fall above the 1% range, but not everyone accepts that... just the counting process, though, obviously puts it above the .004% margin we have in this case. (The Republican fellow "won" by even fewer votes -- like 30, I think, in the initial count.)

Domo arigato, Mr Roboto

Citing a pending labour shortage caused by Japan's greying population, Toyota announced plans to install new two-armed robots in all 12 of its Japanese factories. The robots are to be used in finishing work, such as installing seats and interior details, which had previously been too complex for machines.

Cheap labour is thin on the ground, because Japan has refused to open its borders to immigrants from China and elsewhere. (The official stance is that immigration would strain Japanese society.) Met with a rising demand for robots, Japanese firms are now in stiff competition: Sony has made the first robot that can run; Honda has made one that responds to touch; and Toyota is touting one that bows and plays the trumpet.


====
From the Economist.

1.19.2005

Gold IV

Jaws in 30 seconds with bunnies.

1.18.2005

Cato Handbook for the 108th Congress

Every year, the Cato Institute makes a rich set of suggestions to Congress. In Ivanistan, Cato would be listened to more closely on many issues.

1.17.2005

First Round Fired...

...in the war between Humanity and Robot Sharks. This is old news, but I can't just ignore a story of this sort, particularly given that it talks about being in awe of big noses. From Gizmodo's wireless section.

Guilty Abu Ghraib Guard Joins Prison Cheerleading Squad

by Scott Ott

(2005-01-16) -- Charles Graner, the Abu Ghraib guard sentenced yesterday to 10 years for Iraqi prisoner abuse, said he'll "make the best of a bad situation" by signing up for recreational and vocational training activities at the military prison, including cheerleading and classes in modeling.

"It will be fascinating to get to know prison life from the other side of the bars," said Mr. Graner, whose sentence includes a demotion to private, dishonorable discharge and loss of all pay and benefits. "I've always been athletic, so cheerleading is a natural choice for me and after my prison term, I hope to pursue a career as a male model. My face is already recognized around the world thanks to my amateur modeling endeavors."

Meanwhile, Democrats in Congress reacted to the Graner verdict and sentencing by questioning whether those decisions were actually made by the military jury.

"We believe that the jury was simply obeying orders which came from the highest levels in the Pentagon," said one unnamed Senate aide. "Don't be surprised if this week you hear calls for Bush to fire Rumsfeld over this new scandal."

1.14.2005

David Beckham to Name Next Child After Drink Tank Member

London January 14, 2005 2:08:46 PM IST

England's soccer captain David Beckham recently took a jibe at all the speculation that is on about what he and his wife, singer Victoria Beckham will name their baby boy who is due in March, by saying that he might name him after a Spanish beer.

The 'real Madrid' star joked that 'San Miguel' was his favourite beer name and he might name his son that, reports The Sun.

"I heard San Miguel was one name we had apparently mentioned," the report quoted him as saying. (ANI)

Gold III

They never forget.

Rejected chemical weapons

Most bizarre among the plans was one for the development of an "aphrodisiac" chemical weapon that would make enemy soldiers sexually irresistible to each other. Provoking widespread homosexual behaviour among troops would cause a "distasteful but completely non-lethal" blow to morale, the proposal says.
No pun intended, I'm sure.

1.13.2005

Worlds tallest buildings

This is an awesome pic from a discussion in the comments here about this North Korean Hotel.

"Osama bin...Osama...Obama."

Barack Obama is a Democrat I could vote for in 2008, and, I think, one of the Dem's only hope for executive power in the next decade. See, while I appretiate "beet-red" Dean---and would delight in a BVB 2008 presidential run of Dean VS McCain (Beet Versus Beet)---the former Vermont governor and future Democratic Chairman is (presidentially) unelectable. Obama is young, moderate, black, and of immigrant origins. If he don't speak America, I don't know what does. Most importantly, he's got charisma, and the president's primary job is making people comfortable and confidant.

Did I mention he's the first black senator in, like, 25 years?

The only caveat is that he may be too young, that four years in the senate tain't enough for a presidential resume. My answer to this would be that Bush spent four years as Texas governor, which, I'd reckon, is far more removed from reality of leader of Free World. Still, if Barack lost to McCain (who, by the way, would be older than Reagan in '81 if inaugurated, and the oldest president ever), I'd still be happy.

1.12.2005

Let Us Trim Our Hair in Accordance With Socialist Lifestyle

NORTH KOREA: OFFICIAL HAIR DAYS (Agence France-Presse)

The government is telling men to keep their hair short and visit a barber twice a month, saying that long hair "consumes a great deal of nutrition" and could thus rob the brain of energy, according to the BBC, citing broadcasts from Pyongyang. The drive is being led primarily by state television with a series called "Let Us Trim Our Hair in Accordance With Socialist Lifestyle."

From the What-To-Do-When-You-Really-Need-A-Pocket Department

Yow-zahs!

1.11.2005

Schnappi!

Schnappi

#1 on the German pop charts is "Schnappi", four-year-old Joy Gruttman's song about a made-up crocodile.

The Schnappi Site (with four mp3 downloads)
Music One Charts
AP Write-up

Camille and I will be travelling to Berlin in March... I can't wait to hear what's hot then!

Herbert Hoover, Hero

It does not detract from the relief operation in Asia to question the title almost routinely given to it as the "world's largest relief operation ever".

The huge American undertakings that fed millions of people during and after the World War I rescued not sections of populations but whole peoples.

Today they have been largely forgotten.
...
These operations saw nearly 11m metric tons of supplies delivered at a cost, in contemporary terms, of nearly $3bn. The US government ended up paying for most of it, though Britain and others did contribute.
...

The Hoover way

The common factor in all these operations was a man who later became an American president reviled for not doing enough during the great depression - Herbert Hoover.

Between 1914 and 1922, he certainly did something. He got money from governments and charity, sailed his own fleet which flew his flags, took over railways, set up a telegraph network, issued his own passports, made treaties with governments, negotiated safe passages through war zones on land and sea and saved countless lives.

It was not a charity he ran. It was an industry. It was almost a state.

A British diplomat remarked that Hoover had set up a "piratical state organised for benevolence."

Herbert Hoover was a successful mining engineer and businessman in London when war broke out in August 1914. A hundred thousand American tourists had to be got back home and he was called on to organise their return.

He did so. If they had no money, he lent his own, accepting only promises of repayment in return. Only a very few were not honoured. One lady demanded a written assurance that her ship would not be attacked by a German submarine. He wrote out the assurance himself.

...read on.
I like the idea of having your own passports and flag. Ivan, you thought about Ivanistan's flag yet?

On a Very Special Installment of Drink Tank

...guest web logger Britney gives up a trickle of her precious stream of consciousness. I was wondering what the "True Masters" had to say on the question of leisure.
STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS

January 3, 2005

Dear Fans,

A new year is starting and I have so many resolutions. If only I could convince myself to stick to them!

My Christmas was wonderful and I had such a great break. I think I should rephrase myself from my previous letters when I was talking about taking a "break". What I meant was I am taking a break from being told what to do. True Masters say it's cool when you look at someone and don't know whether they are at work or play since it's all the same to them. The things I've been doing for work lately have been so much fun, because it's not like work to me anymore. I've been even more "hands on" in my management and the business side of things and I feel more in control than ever.

I just shot a cute video for "Do Something" that I co-directed. After doing about 20 videos, it gets kind of boring playing the same role, so I chose to work with a young, hungry, director Bille Woodruff. He had no ego whatsoever and the whole process was just so much fun. Oh, his dog was just adorable too.

...read on.
Thanks Fran.

1.10.2005

The Serious Debate On Torture Begins





'Don't cheerleaders all over America form pyramids... Is that torture?'..

I don't really have anything to add to Mr. Drudge, except to note it seems Mr. Graner's lawyer has advised him to shave his moustache.

This Should Answer Some Questions You've Been Having

I live in a Victorian brownstone in Brooklyn, NY. The previous owner was a widow by the name of Cora, and when she died, her sister sold the place with everything included. So every few months I find myself in the cellar poking through Cora's things. I had a good run last time and may soon go to some antique stores for assessments on a couple of knickknacks.

In addition, I found Cora's dirty books -- this classic by the cowriter of Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Atomic Bomb -- and, among other things, a copy of:

The Illustrated Encyclopedia Of Sex, published originaly in 1950, reprinted in 1967.

There's a chapter devoted to Tragic Wedding Nights ("brutality, clumsiness, and even a humiliating negligence on the part of a man during defloration have been known to cause prolonged and even permanent sexual insensibility in a woman"), one called The Sins of the Male (""Much less rare are the cases where the only obstacle to sexual intercourse is the size of the man's stomach, but this situation can usually be remedied by means of a change of relative positions..."), and other gems such as Hysteria of Sexually Unsatisfied Women (Chapter subhead: "How to recognize hysterical women... Chances of a cure").

Here on Drink Tank, for your viewing pleasure:

  • Two pages of black and white illustrations

  • Two pages of color illustrations


  • (look for the "dinner of exciting foods")

    A belated Happy New Year to Drink Tank readers and contributors.

    A Date Gone Awry

    Don was hoping to make amends with his estranged friend John. He didn't expect, though, that his awkward way of speaking frankly would fully enrage John, turning him beet-red, climbing over the table in blind hysterics. Needless to say, John no longer has any confidence in Don.

    1.08.2005

    Study: Internet Pornography More Addictive Than Crack Cocaine

    ...and I'm not just whistling Dixie, pun intended:

    Internet pornography is the new crack cocaine, leading to addiction, misogyny, pedophilia, boob jobs and erectile dysfunction, according to clinicians and researchers testifying before a Senate committee Thursday.

    Witnesses before the Senate Commerce Committee's Science, Technology and Space Subcommittee spared no superlative in their description of the negative effects of pornography.

    Mary Anne Layden, co-director of the Sexual Trauma and Psychopathology Program at the University of Pennsylvania's Center for Cognitive Therapy, called porn the "most concerning thing to psychological health that I know of existing today."
    The first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem, you sicko.

    1.07.2005

    ExtraExtra: Americans Most Compassionate People on Earth

    ...towards pets.

    LAS VEGAS, Nevada (AP) -- Just before the New Year, Army Reserve Capt. Gabriella Cook sent an urgent e-mail from Iraq requesting food shipments. Not for her or her unit -- for Iraqi police dogs.

    "The dogs are starving and urgently need dry dog food," Cook wrote in a December 28 e-mail that said the Iraqi Interior Ministry's only bomb-sniffing police dogs were eating table scraps and garbage.

    The response to the canine crisis has been overwhelming: Offers of help poured in from New Hampshire, Florida, Texas, Ohio and New York. One sports gambling handicapper alone ponied up $5,000.

    ...read on.

    For completely unrelated Kaj photo, click here.


    Mudville Gazette - Abu Ghraib quiz

    How much do you know about this story? I learned plenty from the post linked above.

    I really wish there was a serious debate about these matters. Maybe this is a start.

    1.06.2005

    Bad Idea

    Senator Boxer to Object to Electoral College Results. Formula for a marginalized party: energize your fringe members, alienate any reasonable base which allows you to be a national party.

    Of course, I would love to see a three party formulation: 1) Environmentalists, Globalization haters and income distributionists 2) Religious conservatives & Big Spenders 3) Social liberals & Fiscal conservatives. A schism in the Democratic Party could do this. Read more about something like #2 in this followup to a praised essay.

    World's Smartest Robot

    Unlike already-developed humanoids whose intelligence capabilities are largely fixed with built-in circuits, the network-based humanoid relies on its outside server whose capacity can be expanded easily.
    Is networked AI really such a novel idea, or somehow difficult to implement?
    Unveiling their creation, they said the robot that looks like a small teenager wearing a blue and grey space suit...
    Finally!!

    1.05.2005

    America Part II: Lonely at the Top

    Whatever happened to the belief that any American could get to the top?

    THE United States likes to think of itself as the very embodiment of meritocracy: a country where people are judged on their individual abilities rather than their family connections. The original colonies were settled by refugees from a Europe in which the restrictions on social mobility were woven into the fabric of the state, and the American revolution was partly a revolt against feudalism. From the outset, Americans believed that equality of opportunity gave them an edge over the Old World, freeing them from debilitating snobberies and at the same time enabling everyone to benefit from the abilities of the entire population. They still do.

    To be sure, America has often betrayed its fine ideals. The Founding Fathers did not admit women or blacks to their meritocratic republic. The country's elites have repeatedly flirted with the aristocratic principle, whether among the brahmins of Boston or, more flagrantly, the rural ruling class in the South. Yet America has repeatedly succeeded in living up to its best self, and today most Americans believe that their country still does a reasonable job of providing opportunities for everybody, including blacks and women. In Europe, majorities of people in every country except Britain, the Czech Republic and Slovakia believe that forces beyond their personal control determine their success. In America only 32% take such a fatalistic view.

    But are they right? A growing body of evidence suggests that the meritocratic ideal is in trouble in America. Income inequality is growing to levels not seen since the Gilded Age, around the 1880s. But social mobility is not increasing at anything like the same pace: would-be Horatio Algers are finding it no easier to climb from rags to riches, while the children of the privileged have a greater chance of staying at the top of the social heap. The United States risks calcifying into a European-style class-based society.

    ...read on.

    Gold

    David was just mindin' his bidness when some unpolite person ninja-starred him in the eye with a lolly-pop. That's so freakin' rude.

    .

    1.04.2005

    Italy is Dying,

    ...and young Ukrainians will clean their bibs:

    Aging Italy leans on immigrants

    Italy is renowned for its family values, but with one-fifth of the population now over 65 many Italians are outsourcing home care for the elderly to immigrants.

    "All our children live abroad, so I had to try and find someone to look after my wife. It was impossible to find an Italian," says retired businessman Giorgio Potsios as he flicks through television channels in his smart Rome town house.

    His wife, who underwent major surgery recently, can only nod or shake her head at his choice.

    "She cannot walk, she cannot speak and her right side is semi-paralysed," he says, gently holding her hand.

    "But being at home here is the most important thing... I needed someone who understood how to help her. There was never any question of sending her to a nursing home."

    Mr Potsios found Svetlana, a Ukrainian immigrant, to care for his wife.

    ================

    ..read on.

    America Enjoys View From the Top

    "A country that makes a film like 'Star Wars' deserves to rule the world."
    Philip Adams, former chairman of the Australian Film Commission

    Maybe so, but a country that allows and spends a few hundred million dollars watching Episodes I and II deserves to be pummeled by large sharp asteroids. Good article, though. Part of a series.

    "They're Wicked Good Dogs"

    It's official: I live in Boston.

    I was walking Romeo this morning, and had someone ask about his breed. The guy went on to describe his dogs: a Rhodesian Ridgeback-Pitbull mix and a German Shepherd-Labrador-Rottweiler mix. Then said, "They're wicked good dogs." How charming.

    A tale of 2 pundits

    It gets a bit repetitive, but I'm amazed that Brooks and Krugman work for the same paper. Actually, that Brooks is there at all given editorials like this is amazing.

    The first two links are differing views on our American economic model. Brooks compares it to Europe, where aging populations, slow growth from high taxes, and expensive social programs spell disaster for future growth. Krugman talks about the death of Social Security and the illogic of tax reform as if the current system is anything close to ideal. Almost to preempt this, Brooks writes:
    Many liberals are claiming that we don't need to fundamentally revamp our system because there is no crisis. To the extent that's true, it is because we have not been taking their advice for the past 50 years.

    We have stuck with a low-tax, high-growth economic model. This gives us the resources and the flexibility to deal with the problems caused by an aging population without having to face, at least for now, the horrific choices that confront our friends across the Atlantic.

    On another front, the editors at the New York Times can't help but continue acting as if they know how best to spend taxpayers money. They continually whine about the levels of spending by the government, but completely fail to notice that the majority of charity, and certainly the best actualized charity, comes from private sources. This is well characterized as a sham here. Just goes to show, for some, if there is a problem, more government is the solution.

    But as we all should know by now...

    1.03.2005

    2004: An Important Overview

    ...of the top 20 nude scenes in film.

    2005: Roll-Call of Fun New Technologies I Want But Won't Get

    The Future in Your Pocket

    If you are a geek or a gadget fan, the next 12 months look like they're going to be a lot of fun.

    The relentless pace of development in the hi-tech world and rampant competition in many of its sectors, particularly among mobile phone firms, all suggests that 2005 is going to be a very good year.

    To begin with, 2005 will be the year that third-generation (3G) mobile phones become inescapable.

    The 3 network launched in 2003, Vodafone launched its consumer service in November, Orange followed in early December and T-Mobile and O2 are due to launch in 2005.

    The main result of these launches will likely be a slew of good deals for consumers as operators try to poach new customers from rivals and convince existing users to trade up.

    Cheap Chat

    Already the extra capacity in 3G networks lets 3 offer good deals on voice calls at rates that will probably have to be matched by the other operators.

    But the shift in technology and low cost of voice calls means that operators lose a significant chunk of their revenue.

    "Show me an operator that believes their voice business can sustain them, and I'll write their obituary" said Niel Ransom, chief technology officer at Alcatel.

    Instead operators are likely to push all other things that 3G phones can do such as video messaging and other multimedia capabilities.

    Already camera phones look set to challenge digital cameras and are likely to win more fans as multi-megapixel devices go on sale.

    But 3G will not have everything its own way. It will face competition from emerging technologies such as Wimax.

    This wireless technology can boost data transmission speeds up to 75 megabits per second and works over distances of up to 30 miles.

    Kent is likely to be the site of the UK's first Wimax network which is due to go live in 2005 and it could be the way that rural areas get high-speed net access.

    Analyst firm Telecom View predicts that Wimax will steal a lot of market share from 3G and will be a clear winner.

    Bob Larribeau, principal analyst at Telecom View, said the better return on investment offered by technologies such as Wimax could dent the possible returns of 3G networks.

    And the growing ubiquity of wi-fi must not be forgotten either. The technology is popping up in more places than ever and its wider use is only held back by the price differences across countries and suppliers.

    Unified Message

    Moves to unite mobile and fixed phones look set to get more emphasis in 2005 too.

    For a start, BT looks set to roll out its Bluephone project during the next 12 months.

    The service revolves around a hybrid device that uses the mobile networks when you are out and about but switches back to the fixed line when you are at home.

    Fixed line phones will also start to get much more serious competition from a technology that has the formidable name of Voice over IP (Voip).

    Voip routes calls via the net instead of the fixed line phone network.

    Anyone with a broadband connection, which is now more than 50% of the UK's net using population, can use Voip and could slash their monthly phone bills if they used it.

    Telecommunications regulator Ofcom has declared 056 to be the area code for Voip calls and 2005 is likely to see a lot more consumer-focused Voip call services starting up.

    Home broadband services will also start to increase in speed as dwindling numbers of new users signing force the pace of competition.

    If 2004 has been the year of the portable music player, they 2005 looks like it will be the year of the portable media player.

    Motorola has just announced a deal with Apple to produce a phone that works with the iTunes service and other hybrid gadgets that sport a big memory and lots of other functions will become commonplace.

    The pace of advancement in storage media will continue mean that the cost per megabyte of memory will plummet. Some of those devices will sport huge hard drives letting you store more data than you ever wanted or knew you had.

    Convergence could mean that single-function devices start to dwindle in number. Instead every gadget will be able to do almost anything and communicate almost any way you want.

    The only downside is that consumers will face a series of tough choices as they are confronted by a bewildering array of gadgets each with an enormous numbers of features and vast data holding capacities.

    But that is the kind of problem most gadget fans can live with.

    1.01.2005

    Report: Sea Gypsies' Knowledge Saves Village

    BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) -- Knowledge of the ocean and its currents passed down from generation to generation of a group of Thai fisherman known as the Morgan sea gypsies saved an entire village from the Asian tsunami, a newspaper said Saturday.

    By the time killer waves crashed over southern Thailand last Sunday the entire 181 population of their fishing village had fled to a temple in the mountains of South Surin Island, English language Thai daily The Nation reported.

    "The elders told us that if the water recedes fast it will reappear in the same quantity in which it disappeared," 65-year-old village chief Sarmao Kathalay told the paper.

    So while in some places along the southern coast, Thais headed to the beach when the sea drained out of beaches -- the first sign of the impending tsunami -- to pick up fish left flapping on the sand, the gypsies headed for the hills.

    Few people in Thailand have a closer relationship with the sea than the Morgan sea gypsies, who spend each monsoon season on their boats plying the waters of the Andaman Sea from India to Indonesia and back to Thailand.

    Between April and December, they live in shelters on the shore surviving by catching shrimp and spear fishing. At boat launching festivals each May, they ask the sea for forgiveness.