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Journal: Game time! 9

Journal by plover
Thanks to this posting, Rupert and I are now playing a game: Find the highest Google maps route distance to great circle distance ratio.

Rupert started it with this:

Fairbanks to St. Petersburg.
Great circle distance: 3,840 miles
Google directions distance: 9,631 miles
My score: 2.508

I answered by stretching his route slightly: Kantishna Station, Alaska to Skarsvag, Norway. It's a pretty long journey no matter how you look at it.

Google's route: 10,411 miles
Great circle distance: 3,141 miles
It has a score of only 3.315, but it'll take 34 days to make the journey!

This one seemed like a good North American entry:
Google's route
gets a score of 3.7.

But North America is tricky. Just about every goat and Jeep trail is mapped, and we Americans cannot abide straight lines that aren't paved. Rupert's still managed to find some good ones: Route to distance gives a very respectable 5.6.

I've headed over to the Balkans, where the maps are usefully short on detail. Here's my latest entry. Lecce, Italy to Tirane, Albania: Route to great circle.

1267 km by Google, 216 km straight arc. Score is 5.866.

It's kind of a pain because you have to snarf the lat/lon from Google's URL and adapt it to the great circle calculator, but it's fun to exploit holes in Google's map coverage.

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Journal: YASS - Yet Another Story Submission

Journal by plover

Wearing a blue suit and a tight smile, the fed faced his audience.
And this wasn't just any audience. It consisted of 300 potential offenders, rounded up on Tuesday so Jon Dudas could lay down the law to them.

In this Star Tribune story, Jon Dudas, the director of the USPTO was speaking to an elementary school assembly of second through fifth graders. So instead of "students" or "kids", it's now acceptable for reporters to refer to them as "potential offenders"? This is plus ungood.

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Journal: On the date of my birth:

Journal by plover
helicobacter has launched a /. meme. Go to wikipedia and type in the month and day (no year) of your birth. Pick out three interesting events, two births and a death, and post them in your journal.


  • 1986 - Halley's Comet is visible in the night sky as it passes in its 76-year orbit around the sun.
  • 1962 - Ranger 3 is launched to study the moon. The space probe later missed the moon by 22,000 miles (35,400 km).
  • 1802 - The U.S. Congress passes an act calling for a library to be established within the U.S. Capitol; eventually this becomes the Library of Congress. It's a geek thing.


  • 1961 - Wayne Gretzky, Canadian hockey player, coach, and team owner.
  • 1918 - Nicolae Ceausescu, Romanian dictator (d. 1989.) I only picked Ceausescu because I remember how much the Romanians enjoyed executing him.


  • 1997 - Jeane Dixon, American astrologer (b. 1904.) And she never saw it coming!
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Journal: Merry [Christmas|Hannukah|Kwanzaa|Yule|.*] to you! 3

Journal by plover

I just wanted to wish all of you well this holiday season. I know some of you aren't religious folk (neither am I), but that won't stop me from hoping for happiness for you now and in the coming year.

And money, too. Yeah, I may as well wish for something practical for you all while I'm at it.

So have a happy new year and I hope you get money! :-)

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Journal: Another submission: this year's Ig Nobles have been awarded

Journal by plover
Here's the text I submitted. It's probably already been submitted, but hey, they're likely to publish at least one of them (and if Zonk has anything to do with it, they're likely to publish ALL of them! :-)

The BBC is reporting on this years winners of the Ig Noble awards, honoring science achievements that "cannot, or should not, be reproduced". For example, this years winner for Medicine was the inventor of Neuticles, rubber replacement testicles for neutered dogs.

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Journal: Submitted an interesting story 3

Journal by plover
Here's my submission:

In the story Hacker Hunters, BusinessWeek Online documents how the Secret Service turned a member of the ShadowCrew and was able to arrest dozens of the members of the phishing ring.

From the article: "Law enforcement officials are often loath to reveal details of their operations, but the Secret Service and Justice Dept. wanted to publicize a still-rare victory. So they agreed to reveal the inner dynamics of their cat-and-mouse chase to BusinessWeek. The case provides a window into the arcane culture of cybercriminals and the methods of their pursuers."

I thought it was a fascinating read, anyway.

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Journal: Another submission, and it's not a dupe! 2

Journal by plover
This is the text I submitted under the heading "Vex, a New Robot Kit available at Radio Shack Soon"

While Lego Mindstorms are fine for creating autonomous toy robots, there's still a lack of kits for constructing larger, sturdier do-it-yourself remote controlled robots. Enter Vex, an Erector/Meccano-style robotics construction kit. According to PCMagazine, (beware, popunder ads) Radio Shack is set to roll these out to consumers beginning in May. No computer control (yet) but they sure look fun!

So, if the story gets rejected, you still might want to check them out. I can't wait!

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Journal: Another midnight, another submission 1

Journal by plover
Best Buy to Eliminate Rebates

According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune (free registration required,) "In response to customer complaints, Best Buy, the world's largest electronics retailer, promised today to eliminate mail-in rebates within two years."

Can it be that we're finally nearing the end of one of the most hated marketing ploys of all? What is the world coming to?

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Journal: I'm hopeful about this submission! 2

Journal by plover
This one is actually news.

plover writes: Because of Congressional legislation passed quietly in 2003, the Air Force Space Command will no longer distribute space surveillance data via NASA. There was supposed a three year transitional period where the data was to be made available via a NASA web site, but earlier this month their transitional server went down hard, and NASA has decided to not rebuild it. (It was scheduled to be shut down on 31 March 2005 anyway.)

The only way to obtain satellite data now is by signing up with the official Space-Track website. Part of the agreement to obtaining data from their site is that you agree to not redistribute their data.

Of course, amateurs are still free to redistribute their observations, including those of classified satellites.

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Journal: Another rejected story prepared

Journal by plover
Well, I keep trying. Here's the latest scoop.

According to Reuters, the chairman of Apex was arrested in China. Chinese officials have confirmed the arrest, but have not made the charges known yet. A supplier recently came forward revealing Apex owed them $4.3 million, and fraud charges are suspected. Apex is a maker of inexpensive DVD players that are widely known for the ablility to turn off their region codes.

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Journal: New submission prepared for rejection 2

Journal by plover
This one was titled "SCO sales tanking?"

The SCO Group reported their fourth quarter income on Tuesday, and according to The Register, this quarter's earnings are down to $10.08 million, compared to $24 million last year. Their licensing revenue is virtually non-existant, at only $120,000 compared to $10 million to Q4 in 2003. Darl's statement to stockholders began by reporting 'Fourth Quarter achievements demonstrate continued progress at SCO.' I guess progress doesn't imply direction...

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Journal: Quick, a story that hasn't been rejected yet 1

Journal by plover
I submitted this story this afternoon.

'Researchers are saying that caffeine withdrawal should now be classified as a psychiatric disorder' states Sid Kirchheimer at WebMD. In this article he examines a new study that shows caffeine withdrawal produces symptoms that render a person so dysfunctional that it should be classified as a psychiatric disorder. (The article also takes great pains to say "don't panic.") Caffeine withdrawal is nothing new to me, but having it ranked as a "disorder" does trouble me a bit.

Lets see if they can set a new land-speed record in story rejection...

If you want to put yourself on the map, publish your own map.