Not Content with the Internet, Cats Move on to Prisons and Terrorism

LOL Cat - Today the dog. Tomorrow the world.We’ve long known that cats rule the Internet, even getting their own film festival this year at one of the nation’s most prominent institutions of contemporary art. But two incidents last week lead me to believe that video contests are just good PR and we all need to be even more prepared than ever to welcome our feline overlords.

First, I saw where a cat with a cell phone, drills, assorted batteries and two saws taped to its body was caught trying to enter a Brazilian prison. I think if he hadn’t gotten so ambitious – perhaps starting with just a saw, then the drill on another trip, you know – then he might have been more successful slipping past the guards. If you’ve seen the photo, the bulky package was a bit too obvious on his white fur.

But, then again, perhaps it was just a rookie mistake? A prison spokeswoman told the Estado de Sao Paulo: “It will be hard to figure out who is responsible, as the cat does not talk.”

Then later in the week, I saw where Japanese authorities captured a cat that was carrying computer code used to make terroristic threats such as potentially blowing up a shrine in Mia province and possibly bombing a passenger jet.

According to Kaspersky Lab’s Threat Post blog, “The chase began again in earnest last week when the hacker announced a ‘new game’ and sent a series of riddles that said the code used to commit the threats remotely was attached to a cat’s collar somewhere in a remote part of Tokyo.”

Ultimately, the hacker or group – or should I say clowder? – that issued the threats using remotely controlled computers in Japan remains at large despite a three million yen bounty.

But never fear, Google has trained a computer to spot cats; and probably not so that the computers can eliminate their main competition to take over the human race, right? Right?

 

[Update 6 Feb 13: Their march continues. The iron is out of Monopoly and a cat is in…]

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Hobos Didn’t Eat My Pet Duck, but The Bloggess’ Book Did Bring Back Memories

Let me start right off by saying there is no way I ever want to enter into a pissing match with Jenny Lawson aka The Bloggess about who had the harder childhood.

Mine could never compete with the therapy-inducing “Stanley the Magical, Talking Squirrel.” And for that, I’m thankful.

But, as I started reading her book Let’s Pretend This Never Happened last week, the chapter titled “My Childhood: David Copperfield Meets Guns & Ammo Magazine” did bring on my own set of flashbacks that I felt compelled to share, since, you know, it worked out for a book deal for The Bloggess and you just never know…

Early in my childhood we did get our water from a well. Not the kind Jack & Jill went to, but also not one with radon like Jenny’s family. And also, we moved up to “city water” not too many years later, so that doesn’t really count, other than just to say, I understand what “beige” water is like.

I, too, grew up with furniture dedicated to the storage of guns aka the gun cabinet. Ours was not just a free-standing cabinet, though, ours was built into the custom home my parents designed and we moved into when I was four. Not only did we have a built-in gun cabinent in the house, it was given a place of prominence in our living room – right behind the television. It did also include a bow and arrows, although my father did not use his as often as Jenny’s dad did.
Senior Banquet

I do know what it means to clean a deer, although standing in one is not something I had the misfortune to do. (read her book to find out more about that one) Luckily, the only wildlife I remember my father cleaning in our backyard was fish that were hung from the frame of an old swing set.

While my father was not a taxidermist like Jenny’s, he did do his part to keep them in business. In that same living room/main family room of the house with the gun cabinet, the walls were adorned with (from left to right in the picture here taken before my Senior Banquet) deer, javelina, antelope and bass. (not pictured – a turkey, too) I never really thought it unusual until friends visited from college. Didn’t everyone have stuffed animal heads on their wall? Oh, and did you catch that I called it Senior Banquet, not Prom? That’s because proms have dancing and we couldn’t have dancing. Seriously. I lived Footloose.

I, too, went to gather the chicken eggs once and found a snake. Well, no. That’s not really true. It turned out just to be an old biddy that wasn’t too happy I was sticking my hand up over my head into a box I couldn’t see in and into her business. Because I’d been warned enough that snakes could possibly be in the coop at my grandmother’s house in Arkansas, my childhood mind equated the squawk of the hen to the hiss of a snake and eggs went flying as I ran screaming into the house. My brothers must not have been around or I’m sure I’d still be hearing about it from them (along with the periodic torment I still receive over a Scooby Doo-induced nightmare).

And finally, hobos didn’t eat my pet duck, but I did eat the cow that I bottle-fed as a calf. I know that sounds harsh (and The Bloggess’ PETA friends will probably now come find me), but he had it coming. Oh sure, they start out all cute and sweet and you feel sorry for the poor little orphaned baby. Then, before you know it, the yearling is nearly as tall as you, weighs much more and thinks that butting you upside the barn wall is fun play. When you try to run away, the game becomes chase and when you look back to see how close he is on your heels you turn around just in time to see nothing but green as your face slams into the side of a John Deere combine. As you roll under the barbed wire fence to safety and notice the blood dripping from your nose, a steak dinner starts sounding pretty good.

I’m still reading the book, and laughing out loud, so there’s no telling what else might pop up that I feel compelled to share. Since the book I finished just prior to this one was “Fat is the New 30,” you’re forewarned that my Deep South roots may just start showing more than they have on this blog before.

What about you? Have any down-home stories to top these?

Visual.ly Almost Here. Shows Me What I Tweet in the Meantime.

Back in April, I got excited when I heard that a new service was coming named Visual.ly that would give me the ability to create those oh-so-hot-and-trendy infographics.

My creative skills aren’t all that shabby, but I’m certainly not a trained graphic designer, so “a platform for people to plug in data and have infographics pumped out automatically” was definitely something I wanted to check out.

Unfortunately, at that time, it was an invitation-only site. I put in a request for an invite, but did not play their game of spamming my friends in order to hope it got me higher placement in the beta. So … about two and a half months later, I got an email with the subject “Visual.ly is live!” and two weeks later finally found the time to go check it out.

Well, it is mostly live, I’d say. The ability to share infographics and explore those from others is there today. It looks like they’re concentrating first on the things that they hope will lead to revenue (and who can blame them for that?). As noted in FastCompany back in April, “Visual.ly wants to offer its services up in a subscription model, providing its team to clients as needed for a monthly retainer fee.

So, I’m still waiting for what I hope will be an easy way to create graphics for my own use. In the meantime, Visual.ly is offering us a fun visualization of what we tweet via an auto-generating infographic (a similar functionality ionz in Brazil did not so long ago). You can compare yourself to another twitterer, or just get a snapshot of your own tweets.

That’s what I did here – enjoy!

Thursday Was Spaghetti Day

One of my favorite picture books I used to read to my girl (before she was off reading her own chapter books) is “Wednesday is Spaghetti Day.” It’s a cute tale about what your cats get up to during the day while everyone is away and school at work.

Wednesday is Spaghetti Day

Well, it’s Thursday, but today definitely turned out to be spaghetti day for my family.

When I got home from work, my husband suggested I make my world famous (in my mind) spaghetti for dinner. I checked with my girl and she said it sounded good to her, too. Then, after I’m already in the midst of chopping bell pepper and onion, she mentions that she had spaghetti for lunch at school today. And, then hubby remembers that he’d handed me a frozen Lean Cuisine spaghetti on the way out the door this morning, reminding me that I’d also had spaghetti for lunch!

Oh well. None of those others were as good as my own. It’s my adaptation of the recipe my mother made. You’re welcome to give it a try! (although I warn you, there aren’t a lot of exact measurements to it – leaves room for personalization)

Ingredients:

  • Chopped fresh bell pepper, onion and garlic
  • Mushrooms (jar or canned or fresh)
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • 1 tomato paste can of water
  • Salt, pepper, garlic salt, basil, oregano and Mom’s secret ingredient – a dash of chili powder for kick.

Saute the veggies in a little olive oil. Open the cans and add them. Season to taste and simmer while the pasta cooks.

Get in the Boat with Project Noah

The photo-sharing application Color got a lot of attention recently with its $41 million funding. And all the Instagram pics I’m seeing in Twitter and Facebook are already getting as old to me as past trends overusing photo edge effects for desktop publishing.

But there’s another mobile app out there that leverages your smartphone’s camera in what I think is a unique and useful way – to document nature around us.

Called “citizen science” and billing itself as a tool to explore and document wildlife, Project NOAH (for Networked Organisms and Habits Habitats) has the lofty goal of building “the go-to platform for documenting all the world’s organisms.”

Project NOAH mobile app

I’d downloaded the application some time last year after reading about it, and found it to be a fun way that my girl and I could do something together. We documented several different flowers and bugs we found in our urban habitat – my favorite being the largest centipede I’ve ever seen in the wild which we spotted exiting one of our local movie theaters. (that is as we were exiting, not him, although he did appear to call a crevice in the stone wall of the building home)

Then, after some time, our participation slacked off. So much so that I apparently missed many upgrades and additions to it – including that hallmark of gamification – the badge.

But I was reminded again recently when one of those Instagram photos caught my eye – this one of a giant slug. I tweeted to the photographer that it would be a cool one for Project Noah, and one of the founders, Peter Horvath, chimed in to second my suggestion!

So, I was also inspired to share with any of you who are following along with my attempt to blog every day for 30 days. I’m behind on updating my phone’s OS, though, so will have to do that before I can get the latest features. But if you like nature, taking photos and have an interest in helping document the world around you – go download it now!

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An April Fool’s Confession

No one seems to know exactly how April Fool’s Day got started. Even that great investigator Snopes can’t confirm its origins.

The internet, however, has fully embraced the day for pranks. I’d contemplated trying one with today’s post, but I’m just not really that good at it. My daughter was disappointed I didn’t prank her, but I’ve just never been good at coming up with something that doesn’t just seem mean to whoever you’re duping. I like things more along the lines of how Hulu put their home page into a way back machine today.

hulu-april1.jpg

Since that sort of thing takes a lot more work than I want to put into blogging this Friday evening, instead I’m going to share a true confession.

This is prompted by a blog post I read yesterday with much disdain. It was giving advice for job interviews, including that women should wear no jewelery so that people wouldn’t make hiring decisions based on their marital status along these lines:

    • Diamond engagement ring.  “Will probably need time off for the wedding and honeymoon.”
    • Diamond ring with wedding band.  “Wonder if there’s a maternity leave in her future or little kids at home?”
    • Gigantic diamond ring with wedding band.  “Hubby must earn a good living so she doesn’t need this job.  Probably high maintenance who will whine or quit if she can’t have her way.”

I tweeted about how terrible I thought it was that people did that, feeling rather better than those who would.

Later that evening, however, it hit me. I had been that person before. Not just the person who judges a book by its cover, but actually the person who makes hiring decisions based on it. I was the fool.

It turned out to be a lesson learned, however. Because within a year, the one I chose was obviously not the one I should have chosen and eventually I had to fire them. Not really instant Karma – it was the more long-drawn out kind with multiple “performance discussions” and attempts to make it all work out.

So, I guess I shouldn’t be self-righteous about a blog that perpetuates the games people play when hiring. I just need to learn from my mistakes in that area and do my best not to repeat them.

The End of Geosocial Nightmares

If you’re buying groceries and no one online knows it, are you really buying groceries?

No, it’s not the sequel to Inception, just my attempt at humorous musings upon seeing the following cartoon and TechCrunch news item close to the same time this morning.
Geosocial Nightmares by Geek & Poke

If that’s you, well, worry no more! TechCrunch reports that there’s an app for that. Apparently, Future Checkin allows you to check-in to your favorite foursquare venues automatically when you’re near them.  Just load all your favorite places into the app and whenever you, or at least your phone, is within a certain distance of said locations, you’ll automatically be able to tell the world without so much as a slide to unlock.

And don’t worry Gowalla fans – word is they’ll have a version out for you as quickly as next week.  I know I’m going to sleep better tonight! <wink>

Cartoon courtesy of Geek & Poke via Creative Commons.

You Won’t Remember the Eiffel Tower

Theater SignThere is a line in David Mamet‘s play “Race” where the lead character asks his associate what she remembers from her trip to Venice. He goes on to explain that when we travel to somewhere like Paris, it’s not the Eiffel Tower we remember, but rather it’s the old lady selling flowers that we tell stories about when we return.

I was watching that play on the last evening of a business trip that took me to Copenhagen and New York City and it is certainly one of the stories I’ll tell. The one about the play I hadn’t really heard of, but opted to go see based on the recommendation of Laura at the theatre desk of my hotel – in no small part to the fact that she and I shared a name and an appreciation for James Spader who played the lead role.

So what will I remember from this trip? Certainly the meetings that started at 8:00 a.m. and ran non-stop to 6:00 p.m. But, also much more.
Military Vehicles
The sound of a woman singing that led me to look out my hotel window to see a parade of military green vehicles that appeared straight out of a World War II movie. The singing turned out to be coming from loudspeakers on one of the trucks.

The cotton floss (or cotton candy as we call it hee in the States) at Tivoli Gardens that was nearly as big as me and the Tivoli Boy’s Guard Band that marched by while I ate as much of it as I could.

Discovering the person seven time zones away that you’ve only talked to on conference calls shares your affinity for a Coke instead of a coffee when you both reach for one in the center of your conference table to start the morning’s meeting.

The dinner conversation at a brewpub where I found myself seated next to a Colin Farrell look-alike who was born in Istanbul, a Canadian raised in the UK with tales of Calgary that sounded like scenes from Urban Cowboy, and a New Yorker that reminded me of Nathan Lane who had raucous talks of paparazzi and Uma Thurman.
Brewpub
The serendipity of finding myself in a pub in Nyhavn singing along with a guitarist from my home state of Louisiana while sipping a Bourbon I’d never heard of with coworkers as new friends from the UK and Germany.

Then, there was the epic transfer through Heathrow. Where two women who had purchased the exact same snowglobe in the Copenhagen airport found each other unable to get through security with them in our carry-on baggage. How I came to be the one taking charge to help a PhD in feminist studies who had worked for the United Nations and was flying home to Jordan navigate our way out of security, through immigration and customs and back to our airlines to attempt to check our little mermaid gifts is still beyond me. I hope hers survived better than mine did and her niece gets more than the shattered remains my daughter received.

And, then finding myself seated next to a woman from New Jersey celebrating her birthday by attending a Broadway play about race relations who was a complete doppelganger for one of my Austin neighbors.

Yes, Mamet was right. It’s those unexpected scenes and people we meet on travels that make them so memorable. And I’m thankful for the opportunities I’ve had to build such memories this past week.

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Can’t Take All the Southern Out of This Belle

Easter has come and gone and it left me thinking about a couple of things from my Deep South upbringing that I don’t think I’ll ever shake.

One is the tradition of an Easter dress. As much as I fought my mother over the requirement that girls wear dresses to church every Sunday when I was a kid, and as much as I now enjoy attending a church where I’m comfortable in my jeans, I have to say I was a little disappointed looking around and seeing young girls in blue jeans at Easter service. I almost tweeted a comment about how I was pondering the impact of the growth of casual churches on the retail industry!
Easter Dresses

I had forced my own girl into a fancy number that her uncle and his girlfriend bought for her last year and she’d just about grown into. It’s very likely the only time she’ll ever wear it. As she would say, it’s not really her style. Dresses on Sunday’s is one tradition I won’t hand down to her.

But, Easter is just a little different. It still seems like a time that deserves something extra. A columnist in this month’s issue of Southern Living Magazine (yes, I’m a subscriber) noted: “An Easter dress was your prettiest, dressiest Sunday-go-to-meetin’ ensemble of the year. It screamed spring: floaty fabrics in pastel colors; short sleeves, puff sleeves, or no sleeves; store-bought or handmade.”

The other Easter-related bit of Southern ettiquite that I honor is the wearing of white – or to be exact the wearing of white dresses, skirts, pants or shoes only after Easter and never after Labor Day. I wasn’t raised strictly according to the rules of “A Southern Belle Primer,” but I got well-versed on it as an LSU sorority girl, and the shoes portion of that is #3 on their Southern Belle’s Ten Golden Rules.

Oh, I suppose I could break it. Many people do. But, there’s actually something fun about pulling those items out after Easter – it’s like getting a new wardrobe without shopping or spending any money!

So, I’ll probably pass that one down to my girl. That, and my absolute distaste for ever showing a bra strap. 🙂

Image via Creative Commons courtesy of Moultrie Creek.