Trygve.Com > Diary > JournalWeblogDiaryWhatsis - December, 2002
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wait...I need batteries!

because ... well ... why the hell not ...?

it's a dirty job, but somebody's got to do it.

Tuesday, December 31st


The End:

...of 2002, anyway.

I figure an appropriate way to ring in the new year is with a midnight set of squats. It's a lot like the ball they drop in New York's Times Square except, of course, that the weight plates don't have lights on them and they have "20.4 Kilos" written on them instead of "2003."

squatting in the new year

Oh, yeah....and I do have a somewhat smaller range-of-motion than the tower in Times Square does. Nevertheless, the basic idea's the same.

2002 was a palindromic year, so I suppose it's somehow natural for it to end about the way it began, without a whole lot changing along the way. The Rocky Mountain News has its "local news" section divided into only three subcategories: "weather," "Columbine," and "JonBenet Ramsey." At least as far as the local news is concerned, that's what's important in Colorado, and two-thirds of it hasn't changed in the last year (or the year before, or the year before that).

...and - this just in - Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead.

I've often had the urge to compile a list of all the old Saturday Night Live jokes and fake ads that people have gone on to make come true. It's not easy to write satire, at least not when so much of the world is determined to live it.

But a few things did change, here and there, quietly in the background: computers got faster, hard drives got bigger, and just about anything related to networking and IT got a whole lot cheaper.

Out here at the treehouse, the year saw a lot of hardware upgrades and additions: new login machines; new, dedicated nfs and mail servers; new DNS machines; a new, dedicated backup server; a new digital modem bank upgrading dialup service to 56k; new routers; and, only a few weeks ago, a new webserver. In the land of, the only things that haven't been replaced in the last year are the two "legacy" login machines (not everything's been ported over yet) and the two news servers. I'm probably going to build new news machines soon enough, though; not because the old ones are obsolete, but it'd be nice to do a clean setup with the latest software versions and get everything moved onto journalling filesystems.

I'm hoping 2003 will be more productive on the filmmaking front. 2002 started out with a couple of upcoming film projects that kept getting delayed, and then when they all were about to get started (all at nearly the same time), I got sidelined by breaking my foot on a run-through of a stunt that hadn't even been in the script. Let's hope nothing like that happens again in 2003; at least I'm healed up well enough now that my foot's not bothered by a little quality time in the gym.

So that's where I'll be when the new year arrives. Nobody'll be able to say that I didn't do squat in 2003.

Saturday, December 21st


A Thorny Problem:

I was disturbed to hear that yesterday (December 20th, 2002) Radio Free Virgin had signed an agreement with Acacia Research Corporation to license "Digital Media Transmission" (DMT) technology from Acacia.

Why is that disturbing? Last week Acacia Research filed suit in federal court against twenty-seven small online porn companies, claiming that these companies were violating five patents issued between 1992 and 2000 and held by Acacia. Acacia is demanding payment of royalties for the adult sites' use of the "technology" described in these patents. (Yes, I put "technology" in quotes for good reason, which we'll get to in a moment.) If you're curious, Acacia has created a visual depiction of the nature and scope of their patent claims, suitable for ages three to seven.

I can't fault their strategy here: pick a politically unpopular target first, one that would have more trouble than most getting public support and backing from free-speech advocacy groups. In the absense of a legally defensible argument in their favor, this tactic makes a whole lot of sense. If they win (or settle out-of-court), then they have a stronger hand to play against less unpopular the entire remaining population of the world.

So what is the "technology" covered by these patents? If you look at the patents themselves (Acacia has the text on their site; you can get better versions with figures and diagrams by going to the US Patent and Trademark Office and pulling up the patents numbered 5132992, 5253275, 5550863, 6002720, and 6144702) and Acacia's claims, they are asserting that they own the rights to two basic ideas:

Acacia Research's DMT patent illustration

illustration from Acacia Research's US Patent 5132992

  1. Media (video, audio, images, text, etc.) stored in one location, encoded and transmitted digitally over some medium (telephone, cable TV, broadcast, etc.), and then decoded and reproduced at one or more other locations. This covers not just the transmission of online porn over the net, but also downloading and playing mp3 files, reading webpages, watching digital TV (whether over cable, satellite, or broadcast), sending faxes, using answering machines or services, baby monitors (if they buffer and encode video and/or audio digitally), pagers, etc.

  2. A user at one location selecting media that is stored at a remote location for transmission to the user's location. If you've ever viewed a website (ooops, too late for you already) or logged onto a remote computer, you've used "technology" that Acacia claims is theirs and you are liable for royalty payments.

In order for a patent claim to be valid under Title 35 of the United States Code, it has to meet five fundamental requirements:

  1. patentable subject matter - a stapler or a method for purifying silicon would generally be patentable; a variation on existentialism or a new religious belief system would not be.
  2. originality - it can't have been invented by someone else; if you "discovered" an invention by overhearing a discussion about it in a restaurant, you can't race to the patent office and try to get a patent on it before its inventor gets around to filing.
  3. novelty - it must be a new idea, not one already in use or one that has already been written about.
  4. utility - a "useful" invention is one "which may be applied to a beneficial use in society, in contradistinction to an invention injurious to the morals, health, or good order of society, or frivolous and insignificant" (Justice Story [383 U.S. 519, 533])
  5. non-obviousness - the patent must describe something that would not be obvious to someone reasonably well-trained in the field.

The current legal climate favors a very broad scope of intellectual property patents, and obviously lots of people are using "technology" described in Acacia's patents, so their claims certainly fit requirements #1 and #4.

But that's it. As for the rest of the requirements--numbers 2, 3, and 5--there are "patently" obvious flaws in Acacia's legal reasoning. Acacia's patent and intellectual property rights claims are absurdly broad and vague. Even the patents themselves are exercises in hand-waving and simplistic flowcharts with no specificity of implementation.

Far from detailing a specific method or process of transmitting media content from one device to another, they've drawn a few boxes with arrows between them to represent data flow, and then claimed that they have the rights to the idea of transmitting digitally encoded and compressed data from any device that could be represented by a box drawn on a piece of paper to another device that could be represented by a similar box, in a direction that could be represented by an arrow.

Acacia Research's DMT patent illustration

illustration from Acacia Research's US Patent 6144702

You don't even need to be an expert in the field of digital communications to be able to draw two boxes with an arrow between them and describe the idea of storing data in one box, transmitting it to the second, and then replaying it at the receiving end. To anyone who's ever seen a TV set, this concept is pretty darned obvious.

You can't claim patent rights to something that isn't an original and novel idea, and the broader and vaguer a patent claim is, the harder it is to claim that it truly is original and novel. If other people were already using a process that would be covered by your patent claim before you came up with the idea, or the idea had just been discussed (but not necessarily implemented) beforehand, then it's not novel and it's not original.

This last, I think, should be a killer for Acacia's legal arguments. Their earliest patent is from 1992 and, while that may predate "Internet Explorer" and even Mosaic (by a few months, at least), that's three years behind Tim Berners-Lee's document "Information Management: a Proposal" that many describe as heralding the beginning of the world-wide-web (and it's got diagrams in it that are as good as Acacia's). While practical implementation of Video-on-Demand over cable TV might not have been achieved by 1992, it had certainly been discussed for quite some time by then, so that wasn't a new idea. X Windows was initially produced back in 1984, and that was an actual implementation (versus Acacia's vaguely-described idea) of the "technology" that Acacia claims to have patented, eight years before Acacia Research's own patent.

Speaking just from my own personal experience, more than ten years before the date of Acacia's earliest patent, I was working on neutron time-of-flight data from the particle accelerator at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. For that I accessed the computers at the main computing center (three CDC-7600s and three Cray-1s) using a local terminal and I would use that to select graphical data stored on the remote system which would then be sent to a local high-resolution graphics station or printer. That's a process that explicitly falls into both areas of Acacia's patent claims (and I even wrote some of the code for the encoding and compression used)--but predates them by more than a decade.

So, on the one hand, Acacia's 1992 patent is more than ten years too late...but on the other, it's also ten years too early. Regardless of what people were doing prior to 1992, a significant proportion of the world's population has been openly and publically using the "technology" Acacia claims. Articles mentioning media being digitally transferred over the net have appeared frequently in most, if not very nearly all, newspapers and magazines written for the general public during this time period. Products that rely on "technology" Acacia lays claim to are openly and widely available for sale, not just in computer specialty stores, but also on the shelves of such non-esoteric vendors as Wal-Mart.

But Acacia Research made no attempts to enforce its patent claims or to inform anyone who might infringe upon them of the existence of these claims prior to October, 2002, when they mailed out notices to several small online porn sites, including the twenty-seven they later filed suit against. Even if Acacia's patent claims were upheld (which seems unlikely), anyone at the receiving end of a patent infringement lawsuit could make a darned good case that a ten-year span of open, public, general usage of a "technology" consitutes a waiver by Acacia of the right to enforce patent claims on the "technology" in question.

I don't know what got into Radio Free Virgin's corporate head to make it sign a licensing agreement with Acacia. Neither of them is disclosing the royalty payments involved--for all we know, it could have been set at ten cents--but signing such an agreement at all does add at least a small odor of legitimacy to Acacia's claims. Since Acacia's arguments are applicable to anyone who has ever used a digital device, whether as content provider or user, any encouragement or reinforcement they can get will just mean they'll go on to annoy more people and file more lawsuits.

addendum (added 2002.12.29): this particular off-the-cuff random rant seems to have drawn far more attention than I would have expected, enough so that one of my lawyers suggested that I really should append a suitable disclaimer, so here goes:

The preceeding off-the-cuff random rant is not legal advice and should not be taken as such. This rant does not constitute investment advice, nor will it aid in weight loss or increase the size of any of your body parts which you may feel are too small. I am neither a lawyer, an investment advisor, a medium-sized inflatable toy puppy, a lawnmower, nor a yet-to-be-classified thermophilic archaebacterium retrieved from a deep-sea hydrothermal vent. This rant is for external use only; if rash persists, discontinue use and seek the advice of your physician.

thank you. we now return to our regularly-scheduled blog, already in progress.

Saturday, December 14th


Bobbling for Presents:

With all of my junk mail apparently being shipped to Michigan this year, it looks like I'm going to have to look for inspiration elsewhere if I'm going to come up with anything else in this series of memorable gift ideas.

gifts wrapped under the tree

But...wait! There's still the world-wide web! We may be getting a little close to the wire here for your mail-order holiday shopping to arrive before Christmas, but there's still some time left if you act fast.

I think we can safely assume that most people wouldn't be ecstatic about getting a couple of socks for Christmas (especially if that's what they got from everybody else, too) and that most people would be ecstatic about getting a couple of high-end plasma HDTV displays (even if that's what they got from everybody else, too)--so let's wander the web in search of a few more gift ideas that would at least be memorable and distinctive.

  • One great gift for anyone on your gift list with a technologically-influenced aesthetic sense would be an original microsculpture from mathematical sculptor Bathsheba Grossman. All pieces are her own original designs and are made only in limited quantities (and usually available just for a limited time). After the end of this year, Sheba plans to discontinue her jewelry designs, so this could be your last chance to get one of these rare and distinctive original jewelry designs.

  • Or, if you'd like to wish someone a Gorey Christmas, Gorey Details specializes in posters, stamps, greeting cards, stamps, and other items featuring the artwork of Edward Gorey. Plenty of holiday-themed items, too.

  • If Edward Gorey seems a little too perky and high-energy for some of the people on your guest list, perhaps what they really need is a soft, plush, stuffed animal like Earl the Dead Cat, now available in large and small sizes, and every one comes complete with its own personal death certificate. (note: certificates are made of paper and are not plush or cuddly.)

  • Speaking of death certificates and related cuddly plush items, don't forget the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office Gift Shop (I know I mentioned it last year, but some things never go out of style)

  • ...and speaking of things that never go out of style, one easy way to get someone a semi-personalized gift is to find an appropriate t-shirt. Why not, for example, get somebody a shirt emblazoned with his or her favorite differential equation? (Good science/math/astronomy geek t-shirts don't seem to be as easy to find as they used to be, but The Science TeeCher at least carries as good a selection as I've been able to find this year.) If nothing else, it's one way to get people to notice your chest during finals....

  • Sure, getting people calendars and stuff like that for Christmas is old hat, but at least it's practical. Why not ring in the new year with a wall or desk calendar from the Demotivators 2003 collection, now available from Despair, Inc.? And with Valentine's Day on the way too, I think I'll go ahead and order some of their BitterSweets while I'm at it.

  • Finally, if you're looking for that super-special gift idea that the recipient will never be able to forget and are willing to spend some extra bucks, why not send in a few pictures of someone on your gift list and have a life-like Custom Bobblehead figure made in his or her likeness? The minimum order is 250 units, so be sure to allow enough time to place a few hundred bobbing-head figurines strategically throughout his or her house to make it a particularly memorable surprise. Just imagine the look on his or her face when they see their own face, bobbling realistically back at them from every nook and cranny! They won't know how to thank you....

Friday, December 13th


Oh. So that's where my junk mail went:

Still none of the usual pre-Christmas catalogs, unless you count the one and only catalog that's shown up in my mailbox in the last four days, which is from The Blasters Library, "Your best source worldwide for explosives and blasting information and publications."

I guess weird stuff does show up in my mailbox occasionally; that particular catalog and another unidentified pair of purple lace panties are certainly the most memorable items so far this week. (This particular bit of lilac lingerie appeared sans stamp and envelope, so it's entirely possible that it was not delivered by a suitably authorized representative of our nation's postal service. I don't guarantee that this is the case, but I have my suspicions.)

Thanks to a hot tip from Robert Rapplean I have, however, found out where all my junk mail went. Apparently all the catalogs of expensive junk that I'd never actually consider buying have been being delivered, instead, to Alan Ralsky, who certainly deserves them much more than I do.

Alan Ralsky, after a lackluster career which involved jail time for securities violations and a conviction for fraud, is now in the business of filling the world's email boxes with junk email, to the tune of more than one billion electronic letters per day. Ralsky's been referred to as "the Spam King" (and several other names inappropriate for a family-oriented blog) and takes considerable pride in being a strong candidate for the world's number one email spammer.

It appears that he's been successful enough at spamming the world to have a new, 8,000-square-foot house built. For some reason, once his new postal address became known, he somehow started getting signed up on vast numbers of mailing lists.

Irate over being inundated with junk mail, Ralsky told Detroit Free Press writer Mike Wendland, "They've signed me up for every advertising campaign and mailing list there is. These people are out of their minds. They're harassing me."

Ralsky says he intends to sue. (Whom? The whole world?) I don't understand what he's complaining about; after all, he could simply go through every piece of unwanted postal mail he receives and send a response to its sender that he would like to opt out of their mailing list.

Nevertheless, now you know Ralsky's feelings about junk mail. So, be careful not to put the following address on any mailing lists for information and products he might not want:


Wednesday, December 11th


Where did all my junk mail go?

Something's different about Christmas this year. The Christmas displays started going up in stores sometime before Halloween, lighted metal-frame reindeer have sprouted in front of several of my neighbors' front yards, and there's one radio station that switched to an all Christmas music, all the time, format, all the way back in mid-November.

I hope the radio station gives it up eventually, but, there's always the possibility that they'll follow in the footsteps of the year-round Christmas Tree Ornament store that's up the street from me and just keep it up in perpetuity.

Voice of the Demon

(what could be more appropriate for the holidays than playing an overzealous fundamentalist minister in an independent film?)

What is missing is the traditional seasonal onslaught of catalogs for stuff I'd never even consider buying that usually floods my mailbox this month. Here I was, all prepared to sift through my junk mail in search of blog-worthy weird or dumb gift ideas...and there hasn't been any. I've gotten catalogs from mail-order computer sellers, more than a few integrated circuit and electical component suppliers (which could be great if there's that special someone in your life who is just aching for a couple of low-noise, high slew-rate op-amps), and several hefty tomes from Uline, whose catalogs of fabulous shipping boxes and supplies usually show up two, three, or even five at a time.

(If only Uline would send me their catalogs in reusable shipping boxes. Then I wouldn't even have to place orders with them anymore.)

But whatever happened to all those festive catalogs of genuine stoneware soup tureens lovingly hand-painted and sculpted to look like a roasted pig with an apple in its mouth? The multi-colored sequined styrofoam fruit assortments? -- You know, the kind of stuff I see at garage sales the following summer for seventy-five cents apiece and get to experience the joy and satisfaction of passing up all over again? In years past, I'd get several glossy catalogs of stuff like that every day from Thanksgiving onward. This year, I haven't gotten a single one.

I dunno. But, now that I think about it, even if it has made it more of a challenge to come up with a series of weird and/or bad gift ideas, I guess it's still worth it.

Tomorrow, then. I'm sure I'll see something weird and blog-worthy tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 10th


What's nu with you?

The "solar neutrino problem" (or at least our awareness of it) dates back to 1968, when early solar neutrino detectors were just not detecting as many solar neutrino units as expected; theoretical estimates, based on our understanding of the fusion processes going on in the Sun's interior suggested more than twice what was detected, and later estimates placed the discrepancy at about three-to-one.

Neutrinos are elementary particles, like electrons and quarks (the particles that make up protons and neutrons), but they're much harder to detect. If you built a solid wall of lead that stretched from the earth to the Sun, most neutrinos would simply fly through it. People figured that they had to exist, because without them the numbers don't come out right in nuclear reactions (and other interactions of subatomic particles).

Simple example: all particles have a quality called "spin"; if you add up the spins of all the particles going into a reaction, it has to match up with the spins of the particles that you have left at the end. Neutrons, protons, quarks, and electrons all have one-half spin per particle. If you have a neutron sitting by itself outside of an atom, it'll spontaneously break into an electron and a proton after about half an hour. The neutron had one-half spin, and the proton and electron each had one-half spin, and there's no way you can add or subtract two halves and be left with one half. Can't be done--so there had to have been another spin one-half particle involved, you just weren't looking hard enough.

With neutrinos, you have to look really hard, but people did eventually manage to detect them. Any type of nuclear reaction that involves changing protons to neutrons or vice-versa produces either neutrinos or anti-neutrinos. Because they interact so little with other matter once they are produced, when you do detect them, you're likely to be getting them straight from the Sun's core, the interior of a supernova, or wherever else they originated.

With something like a three-to-one neutrino shortfall, you generally look first for some methodological flaw in how you're measuring the solar neutrino flux, and then scratch your head and wonder if your theories about the Sun's interior are off. Neither of those appeared to be the culprit and the leading theory nowadays is that neutrinos oscillate between electron neutrinos, muon neutrinos, and tau neutrinos. Most reactions involving ordinary matter produce electron neutrinos--and detectors built from ordinary matter detect electron neutrinos--but if, in between the time they are produced in the Sun and the time they reach the earth, they switch randomly...then you'd detect only a third as many as you'd predict. That's a pretty satisfying explanation.

It's a pretty exciting explanation, too, because if neutrinos oscillate, then they should have a non-zero rest mass. If neutrinos have mass, then they're a good candidate for at least some of the mysterious "dark matter" that appears to make up most of the mass in the visible universe, judging by the movement of stars and globular clusters within galaxies and of larger-scale structures in the universe. The High Energy Physics Division at Argonne National Laboratory maintains the The Neutrino Oscillation Industry site, if you're looking for more details on the experiments and evidence supporting neutrino oscillation.

What makes this all newsworthy today is that the results are now in from the first six months of operation of KamLAND, a neutrino detector in Japan that's been measuring, not the neutrinos from the Sun, but antineutrinos produced inside nuclear reactors in Japan. One obvious difference between a Japanese nuclear reactor and the Sun is that the Japanese reactor is a whole lot closer, especially if your detector is also in Japan. If neutrinos and antineutrinos are oscillating, this way you can observe how they've oscillated given a much, much shorter span of time to do it in, and you don't have to consider the possibility that some other, as yet unknown, stellar process could be depleting the supply of electron neutrinos.

According to Stuart Freedman, co-spokesperson for the U.S. team at KamLAND,

"While the results from earlier neutrino experiments such as those at SNO (Sudbury Neutrino Observatory) and Super-K (Super-Kamiokande) offered compelling evidence for neutrino oscillation, there were some escape clauses. Our results close the door on these clauses and make the case for neutrino oscillation and mass seemingly inescapable,"

Lawrence-Berkeley Labs has the full press release: "Disappearing Neutrinos at KamLAND Support the Case for Neutrino Mass"

Tuesday, December 3rd


Safety in Numbness:

Are you or is someone on your gift list tormented by reflected glare? Troubled by frequent incidence of Dry Eye Syndrome? Distracted by excessively attractive coworkers? Or just think that putting blinders on your employees would generally improve office productivity? Finally, salvation may be within your grasp, in the form of the Sumacke™ from Suma Brand™.

According to its inventor, Basimah Khulusi M.D.:

"You Cannot control Glare at the sources! There are too many of them! 'GLARE IS HERE, GLARE IS THERE, GLARE IS EVERYWHERE!' But, with THE SUMACKE (TM), you sure can control Glare at the receiving end!"

"With THE SUMACKE (TM), you don't need to close any windows, so LET THE SUN SHINE IN! You don't need to dim any lights! Actually, when you dim the lights, the Glare from the Computer screen gets worse! Also, because THE SUMACKE (TM) cups around your eyes like a goggle, Employees and especially Contact lens wearers' eyes are protected from the Dry Office Air!"

The Sumacke™ is currently available in blue and purple, and more cool colors will be added in the future.

The Sumacke by Suma Brand

"The Look of the New Millennium"

These patented PVC wrap-around goggles are also available without the little cut-out in the front, making them suitable for use with head-mounted virtual reality goggles (VR goggles not included). If you'd like to discuss this product, or would just like to see what other satisfied users have had to say about it before plunking down the $149.99 purchase price, Suma Brand™ has a message board devoted to the discussion of this product and what you can do with it.

Be warned, though, no matter how perfect a gift the Sumacke™ might be for that special someone on your holiday shopping list, remember that it is not a toy and must be used responsibly:


Just you wait; I'm sure all the gang at Dilbert's office will be getting these any strip now....

Monday, December 2nd


The Sensuous Mouse:

While we're on the subject of questionable sound-activated devices for your Christmas shopping list, isn't there someone you know who needs a vibrating mouse?

(Um, just to be clear about this, I'm talking computer mice here, not an exciting electric toy for your furry friends...or friendly furries.)

Why not get that "special" someone a new Vibration Mouse with "SoundSensual" Technology:

AVB's Vmouse "listens" to sound effects emitted by any game, multimedia software or interactive website viewed on your computer. Each sound is accompanied by a synchronous vibration, thus enhancing your computing experience dramatically. Ordinary word processing becomes more stimulating; internet gaming more of an experience. Now you can "feel" the excitement, instead of only hearing it.

AVB's Vmouse is a strong and affordable portal through which you will enter into a new phase of computer interaction.

vibramouse (simulation)

Haven't you often thought to yourself, "gosh, I do sure wish that the sounds my word processing software makes were more deeply stimulating and exciting! If only there were a strong and affordable portal through which I could reach a heightened beeping experience, my life would be complete!"

No? Well, okay; maybe it's not something you'd buy for yourself, but isn't there someone whose stocking you'd like to slip a vibrating mouse into?

Sunday, December 1st


'Tis the Season:

Yep, one way you know that the end of the year is approaching is that, all of a sudden, everything is being advertised as "the perfect gift" no matter what a recipient might be likely to think of your mental facilities after unwrapping it.

Sure, some items really are a perfect gift for anyone on your gift the cuddly, plush "Santa Cthulhu" to my right. (Just so you know, I did try to special-order "Hanukah Hastur" as well, but the entire store vanished into a noneuclidean interdimensional tidal vortex before I could pick it up. Why does holiday shopping have to be so complicated?)

And others aren' the box of "Ocean Blue Color" "Spongebob Squarepants" macaroni and cheese on his right.

(Even--or maybe especially--after the Ocean Blue macaroni and cheese has been left in the back of the fridge long enough that it, too, becomes plush and cuddly.)

Elder gods Santa Cthulhu and Spongebob Squarepants

Somewhere in the twilight zone between Santa Cthulhu and the Squarepants of Hollywood Lingerie Collection lurks all those other gift ideas that are probably perfect for somebody even if it's not at all clear whom.

Or why.

One of the computer parts wholesalers I deal with suggests their new glow-in-the-dark IDE cables.

Antec TrueBlue480 illuminated power supply

Um. Okay. That's not really any weirder than Antec's line of light-up power supplies and cooling fans and those are apparently popular enough that Antec has already filed suit against overseas manufacturers who have begun producing similar multicolored light-up cooling fans. Maybe people just really miss those glorious days when core really was core and you could keep an eye on what the computer was doing by watching banks of blinking lights.

I may just have the wrong attitude about these things. I admit that, in years past, there have been times when I've seen light streaming out of a power supply fan grate, or even a few flashes of light from inside a computer. My reaction at the time, however, was not, "oooh, cool!"--it was more like, "oh. This is going to be expensive."

Next holiday season, if Antec releases a line of power supplies and cooling fans that emit an electronically-synthesized odor of burning insulation, I'm not going to buy those either.

If you're into home-theater equipment, you've probably already seen ads for The Guitammer Company 's Buttkicker product, an electromagnetic low-frequency transducer which may be bolted onto the back of a couch or chair to make your home theater experience more like driving with a hyperactive child in the seat behind you. If there's a home-theater afficionado in your life whom you think deserves a kick in the pants, this could be the perfect gift.

buttkicker electromagnetic transducer

BTW, the manufacturer points out that, not only can the Buttkicker be used to transmit low-frequency energy directly into your sacral region, it could also be used for archaeological and oil exploration. Now, there's a versatile gift! Just think of how these two disparate functions could be combined to enhance your enjoyment of "Raiders of the Lost Ark."

Panasonic Brainshaker Extreme

But for those times when you're on the go--or if you just don't have the space for a kick-butt home theater setup--Panasonic has released a similar, but much smaller, device: Brain Shaker Extreme Headphones which operate more like tiny, sound-activated, hyperactive children kicking you in the back of your head.

What more could you want for the holidays? Well, there's still most of a month left to go, so there's still lots of time for yet more "perfect gift ideas" to wander into my mailbox.

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