Paint them like ducks, they still won’t quack

The Daily Mail reports on the incredibly strange story of what some Thailand zookeepers did with their elephants.

These elephants were painted black and white to look like the pandas who have stolen all their fans.

The elephant is Thailand’s national symbol, but the country has gone panda-crazy since the birth of a female panda cub to pandas Lin Hui and Xuang Xuang at Chiang Mai zoo in Bangkok.

Those with animal cruelty concerns need not worry, as later in the story the paint used is a form of watercolor.

I have to wonder what problem the zookeepers had in mind for this rather bizarre solution? You can still tell they are elephants. They still don’t look nearly as cuddly as panda bears. If one were to try and feed them bamboo, I don’t think the watercolor would really help them take a liking to it. Oh, and they are still going to trumpet like elephants, not make the more chipmunk-chatter-like noise one would expect from a panda bear.

Really, I don’t think the kids were fooled.

The end of blogging as we know it in the UK?

In perhaps the most daft attack on blogging as free speech, the High Court in London (UK) has ruled bloggers have no right to anonymity, as reported by Yahoo! News UK.

The basis of the ruling comes under the assertion that “blogging is essentially a public rather than a private activity.” I am horrified at the implication made here, as many things one does that would nominally qualify as public activities, one would still expect some degree of anonymity.

Granted, the case here involves a public official and is far from an ideal test case. But it’s a chilling effect, and sadly, I would expect no better from certain US courts. (This is par for the course in e.g. China and maybe even Iran under the current administration there.)

There are and will always be peer-to-peer anonymity-friendly networks like Freenet, though the chilling effect is still present because moving content such as a blog-like journal to such a network reduces the audience substantially. However, it is my stance now, and has been for some time, that true free speech comes only with anonymity, in light of the fact that most censorship comes “after the fact.” Thomas Paine originally published the pamphlet “Common Sense” anonymously during the American Revolution–and for good reason (as shown in this Wikipedia illustration).

Today, Paine would probably write a blog, and/or post to an online Web-based forum. In much the same way that “crimes of the high seas” has been re-interpreted to include air travel, freedom of the press and freedom of speech include publishing via the Internet and similar electronic media.

In summary, the authoring of a pamphlet such as Paine’s is no more a public activity than writing a blog accessible via the Internet, and the latter is in fact the modern day equivalent of the former. I think it is unfortunate that the High Court in London has found nearly the exact opposite to be true.

Kids, don’t try building your own reactor at home

No, really, some grownups won’t get it if you do. Even if you are only pretending.

The Australian reports on a couple of German kids whose game of make-believe went a bit too far.

The schoolchildren in the western town of Oelde had built the nuclear reactor mock-up out of a computer casing and taped a “radioactivity warning” they had printed out from the Internet on its side.

“When the boys returned to their ‘nuclear power plant’ from a brief stop at home they were sent away again as the area and a wide radius around it had been cleared and blocked off,” police said in a statement.

The only thing that kept these kids from getting in real trouble was the parents going down to the police station and telling the cops it was a kids’ game of make-believe. I can only imagine the cops’ reaction.

Did the cops in this German town really get fooled by a simple “radioactivity warning” sticker downloaded off the Internet and taped to the side of an old computer case? I remember several contemporaries when I was a teenager pasting radioactivity and biohazard stickers on notebooks and such. Then again, that was the 1990s; this is 2009. Still, it does give credence to “common sense isn’t that common anymore.”

What part of “don’t automatically install” did they forget about?

It’s been a while since I’ve spotted Microsoft dropping the ball. Here’s just one example of a nearly inexcusable gaffe, reported by

Users who have specifically chosen not to automatically install Windows patches, are finding that the Automatic Update software is installing them anyway at shutdown. Not surprisingly, Microsoft is quick to deny there’s a problem:

The forced-install behavior has been witnessed at least three times by Windows Secrets editors, but Microsoft says its procedure for Automatic Updates hasn’t changed in the last 10 months.

Leave it to Microsoft to take liberties with the meaning of “don’t automatically install stuff.”

As detailed in the article, the only way to work around the bug is to change to “never check for updates.” Of course, this results in getting nagged about checking for updates being turned off, which is ordinarily a bad idea.

Thoughts on Michael Jackson (1958-2009)

As you have undoubtedly heard by now, Michael Jackson passed away just a few hours ago (if you haven’t, CNN, MSNBC, Mashable are among those reporting).

Any child of the 1980s was influenced to some degree by Michael’s unique musical and dance style. Michael inspired a lifelong passion for music and dance for many.

I do believe it is extremely unfortunate that his legacy will be marred by controversy from child abuse allegations. I personally found it much more difficult to enjoy Michael’s music after the child sexual abuse controversies and legal actions (most notably the first one in 1993).

Today, in 2009, I think it’s time to set all that aside, and admire Michael Jackson for the great musician and dancer he was. Without him, pop music wouldn’t be what it was today (Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears, and Christina Aguilera come to mind). And let’s be honest here, even Elvis Presley was not without his share of controversy.

“It don’t matter if you’re black or white.” Indeed it does not.