Lego releases for 2009

February 23, 2009 by  
Filed under In the News

Geekdad posted about the upcoming Lego releases for the new year on display at the 2009 Toy Fair.  Lots of fun stuff on the way, but my favorite is the Space Police series which will come with alien minifigures.  As much as I love Lego, it is about time for some unique guys to go along with the kits.

Based on the concept of intergalactic cops and robbers, these sets add a lot of new heads, faces, and colors for the minifigs.  Available in August with 5 sets under $20 these should be easy on the pocket book.


Amazing Inauguration Photo

February 5, 2009 by  
Filed under In the News

Patrick Norton tweeted this photo a couple weeks ago and I’ve been meaning to share.  A photographer captured the best photo of an event I have ever seen.  The final result is actually a combination of photos stitched together to make a 1,474 megapixel photo.

I made a panoramic image showing the nearly two million people who watched President Obama’s inaugural address. To do so, I clamped a Gigapan Imager to the railing on the north media platform about six feet from my photo position. The Gigapan is a robotic camera mount that allows me to take multiple images and stitch them together, creating a massive image file.

My final photo is made up of 220 Canon G10 images and the file is 59,783 X 24,658 pixels or 1,474 megapixels. It took more than six and a half hours for the Gigapan software to put together all of the images on my Macbook Pro and the completed TIF file is almost 2 gigabytes.


The photo doesn’t look like much until you start playing with the controls and zooming.  Those little ants of people zoom in until you can recognize all the celebrities.  Absolutely amazing.   It is like a real world Where’s Waldo.  Here’s a challenge…can you spot The Hat?


High School Student Isolates Plastic Eating Bacteria

May 29, 2008 by  
Filed under In the News

I came across this wonderful story about Daniel Burd, a Canadian 16 year old that isolated bacteria that can eat a plastic bag in 3 months!  Amazing story and the logic he applied is so wonderful in its simplicity, yet no one else has done this.  Here it is in a nutshell.

  1. It takes 1000 years for a plastic bag to biodegrade.  Yet, it DOES biodegrade so something has to be eating it.
  2. He collects dirt from a landfill and creates and nurtures a bacteria farm, feeding it only ground up plastic
  3. He isolates the bacteria that are thriving on his plastic meals and tests them individually.
  4. First he finds the bacteria that eats the plastic the fastest
  5. Second he finds the combination of bacteria that works the best
  6. His controlled tests find a 50% reduction in plastic bag mass after 6 weeks

Absolutely brilliant.   Can’t wait to see what this  project leads to.  For Burd’s efforts he won a $10,000 prize and $20,000 scholarship although I expect there will be several universities offering him a full ride.

Here Comes the Amazon Tax

May 24, 2008 by  
Filed under In the News

Attention all NY State residents. Starting June 1st, Amazon will start charging 8.375% sales tax on your orders to be compliant with the new internet tax law proposed by former Governor Spitzer and passed by current Governor Patterson. Amazon is suing the state in NY State Supreme court, but until then we will be stuck paying. Place your orders now and anything shipped before June 1st will not be taxed.

The quick and dirty history on this tax law is this:

  • Catalogs have long been exempt from sales tax if they do not have any physical presence in that state.
  • Internet retailers were given the same exemption and Bush extended that exemption to 2014 with passage of Internet Tax Freedom Act:
    “[n]o State or political subdivision thereof may impose any of the following taxes during the period beginning November 1, 2003, and ending November 1, 2014: (1) Taxes on Internet access and (2) Multiple or discriminatory taxes on electronic commerce.”
  • Spitzer found a loophole by considering any Amazon associate member living in NY to be considered a representative of Amazon, thus give Amazon a presence in NY State and making their sales subjected to NY State Taxation.
  • NY State sales tax is 4% and each county tacks on their own tax, but the law requires Amazon to charge a flat 8.375%. If a NY State company charged a flat rate across all counties of NY they would be fined. No word on if items exempt in NY will also be exempt on Amazon, such as clothes.

The justification by the state hinges on the Amazon Affiliate program.  To me, the affiliation is a glorified advertising campaign.  Affiliates handle no merchandise and they do not collect money for Amazon.  Amazon pays them based on referrals.  By this reasoning shouldn’t any company that advertises on a NY website or in a NY publication be subjected to NY State taxes on their ecommerce sales?  The truth of the matter is that NY is not interested in other website and they have even referred to this law as the “Amazon Tax”.  They have tried taxing internet sales before, but with no legal footing they added a voluntary tax assessment to NY State’s income tax forms.  Obviously that did not work well and with no legal recourse to force NY residents to pay, they decided to take on the biggest target.

In the end, I expect Amazon will win and NY will have to pay for ALL legal fees of both parties.  They will have wasted a lot of time and tax payer money on this illegal venture.

Another day, another recall

August 14, 2007 by  
Filed under In the News

Mattel has announced another recall. I think we’re ok again, but we need to check our Sarge to make sure. Review the recall info and make sure your toys are safe. Also keep these recalls in mind when you hit garage sales in the future.

Sarge recalled Toy maker Mattel Inc. on Tuesday issued a recall for 9 million toys made in China because they contain magnets that can be dislodged and swallowed, or they may contain lead paint.

The recall includes 7.3 million play sets, including Polly Pocket dolls and Batman action figures, and 253,000 Sarge brand cars that have lead paint. The 2½-inch, 1-inch high car looks like a military jeep.


Thomas the Tank Engine Recall

June 14, 2007 by  
Filed under In the News

ThomasI just learned from Jumping Monkeys that there is a recall on several Thomas trains manufactured between 2005 and 2007. These trains were painted lead based paint. RC2 Corp has posted the details of which trains have the paint and instruction on how to exchange them.