Monthly Archives: July 2010

Robot Road Trip: Robovans Driving from Italy to Shanghai

Robotic Vans to Cross Europe and Asia

Two robot vans are taking a road trip that many humans will envy: Parma, Italy to Shanghai, China. Each robot-controlled van will be paired with a human-driven van as they make their way through cities and deserts in the most ambitious robot cruise ever.

Alberto Broggi, Vislab’s project leader, is anticipating that the humans will have to take control of the robot vans from time to time.

M4RC0 P0L0. That’s not what the project is called… only what the project should be called. It’s called the Intercontinental Challenge, and you can follow along.

These are some slow-ass robots, though: with a top speed of 37mph and an 8-hour recharge period between three-hour driving periods, the 8,000-mile journey will take three months.

That’s a lot of I Spy.

Failure is part of the plan. The goal is to determine precisely the situations where the technology does not work — and fine-tune it using 100 terabytes of information that will be gathered along the journey.

Driving From Italy To China … With No Driver : NPR.

Divers Find World’s Oldest Drinkable Champagne… and Drink Some

World’s Oldest Drinkable Champagne- Tastes Great, Apparently

While investigating a sunken ship in the Baltic Sea, divers discovered the world’s oldest drinkable champagne, supposedly from the 1780’s. What did they do? They drank it.

Well, of course they did. What would you do? Good on ’em.

Ekstrom said the divers were overjoyed when they popped the cork on their boat after hauling the bubbly from a depth of 60 metres.

“It tasted fantastic. It was a very sweet champagne, with a tobacco taste and oak,” Ekstrom said.

Not relying solely on a taste test, scientists are testing the bottles to be sure that they’re genuine, and to gauge their exact age. Should they prove genuine, each bottle could be worth around €50,000 (US$64,500).

Hey, they’ve been stored perfectly: in a cold, dark place.

Spirit Airlines CEO Defends Fees, says Luggage is Non-Essential

Spirit Airlines, the carrier that actually prides itself on nickle-and-diming its passengers, has defended its luggage charges as a benefit to less-well-off travelers. Spirit charges for checked luggage, and will begin charging for carry-ons placed in the overhead bins. Seriously.

According to Spirit Airlines Ben Baldanza’s tortured logic, unbundled baggage fees are a Very Good Thing because now (and let’s not thank Ben all at once), people with no money can now afford to fly with no luggage. Because when you’re broke, that’s what you do… right?

Of course, coach-class fliers (i.e. everyone whose companies aren’t paying for their flights) can squeeze their luggage under their seat, as long as they enjoy the taste of their knees.

I’m trying to come up with a way to describe Spirit Airlines’ decisionmaking as anyting other than stupid, but I keep failing.

Just like Spirit Airlines.

And its not just carry-on bags that Spirit charges for.Want to pick your seat in advance? That will cost anywhere from $8 to $60 depending on the seat. Spirit charges extra even to reserve the much-dreaded middle seat.

Not content with anything other than 100% assholery, Spirit is also doing away with reclining seats. Hey, it’s one less thing to forget before landing.

via Spirit Airlines CEO Defends Luggage Fees; Tells Congress Bags Are Not Essential For Vacations – ABC News.

Awesome-Looking Namibian Bars with Great Names

If you love travel, and you love bars… then you’ll love-love this series of Namibian bar photos.

Having never been to Namibia myself, I wonder aloud if it’s trendy to name you watering hole “[Adjective] Bar”.

I hope so. It’s way more cool than when bars name themselves after their own addresses. Bar 89 in SoHo gets a pass because of its awesome toilets, but still. It’s played out.

My favorites from the list below:

  • Fabulous Bar
  • Cool Bar
  • Serious Bar
  • The Bruce Lee

The 10 Best Bars in Namibia

If I opened a bar in Namibia, I’d call it something like:

  • Dodgy Bar
  • Amphibious Bar
  • Quietly Confident Bar
  • Invades Your Personal Space Bar
  • Fun Bar
  • The Donnie Yen

Those photos totally made my day, and re-ignited my desire to visit Namibia. I’ve always wanted to see the Skeleton Coast, and I once met these two really cool Namibian girls while I was in South Africa. This just adds (at least) ten new reasons to go.

18th-Century Ship Found Beneath WTC Site

While excavating the World Trade Center site, workers found the skeleton of an 18th-century sailing ship.

Yes, I know you just thought of The Black Rock from Lost, and wondered if there was dynamite inside. There wasn’t. The ancient ship was found in an area of the WTC site that had not previously been dug up: had it been in either of the Twin Towers’ footprints, it would have been found already.

This wasn’t the first ancient ship found on dry land in Manhattan, strangely enough: another one was found beneath Water Street (duh) in 1982.

In the middle of tomorrow, a great ribbed ghost has emerged from a distant yesterday.

David Dunlap at the New York Times wrote that and then sat back with his arms crossed. He chose that line because “You got some Arzt on you” was already taken.

via 18th-Century Ship Found at Trade Center Site – City Room Blog – NYTimes.com.

Iroquois Lacrosse Team Denied Entry to UK

Iroquois Lacrosse Team’s Haudenosaunee Passports Not Recognized

The Iroquois Nationals were headed to the UK to take part in (and hopefully kick ass at) the World Lacrosse Championships, but they were told they would be denied entry into Britain due to their travel documents. The team, traveling under their Haudenosaunee Confederacy passports, may now miss out on part of the tournament.

The Iroquois Nationals got special dispensation from the US State Department to travel with these documents, but– and this seems very strange to me– it looks like nobody thought to check with the UK Home Office to see if those documents (as opposed to the traditionally-accepted American and Canadian documents) would be accepted upon landing on foreign soil.

It turns out that these documents would only be accepted if accompanied with a letter confirming that the team would be allowed back into the US upon leaving the UK.

A border crossing has two elements: leaving one country and entering another. Since the US and Canada don’t have exit visas, it’s easy to forget that bit, but surely the State Department should have anticipated this.

I hope that this misunderstanding is resolved quickly- it would really suck if the Nationals had to miss their first game because of paperwork.

Tonya Gonnella Frichner, legal adviser to the Iroquois Nations, said the agencys decision is “devastating.”Team officials have been in touch with World Lacrosse Championship organizers, who are working to help resolve the matter, she said, but the teams first scheduled game is Thursday evening, and it will have to be forfeited if the team doesnt appear.

via Iroquois lacrosse team still caught in bureaucratic net – CNN.com.

Chinese Students Do Karaoke Until Their Boat is Rescued

111 Chinese students found themselves stuck when their boat broke down. As the pleasure cruiser, stranded in the River Tyne, awaited rescue near Gateshead, the students passed the time by singing karaoke.

Those are some laid-back students. I like their style, and really want to know the set list. Yellow Submarine? River Deep, Mountain High? Islands in the Stream?

Rescuers said the students were “no worse for their experience”.The vessel was towed to Newcastle where the passengers disembarked. No-one was injured.

via BBC News – Rescue passengers perform karaoke on River Tyne cruiser.

Tik Tok to the Future: Ke$ha vs Michael J. Fox

If you don’t agree that Tik Tok to the Future is awesome, then you just failed the Voight-Kampff Test. You’re simply not human. Sorry you had to hear it from me. Note that you are not required to actually like the song– you must only concede that Michael J. Fox in the puffy vest makes everything more awesome than it was before.

Well Played, Paul the Psychic Octopus

Paul the Octopus is Eight for Eight

Paul the Psychic Octopus was right. Again. Aside from wondering why more people aren’t dropping to their knees in worship, I gotta say I was hoping for a Netherlands victory.

Yes, I sided against Paul. Maybe it’s a character strength, maybe it’s a character flaw: I don’t accept fate as dictated to me by someone else, even if it is a mystical denizen of the coral reefs, a cephalopod with strange powers. I prefer to base my hopes on desired outcomes, and not likely outcomes. That way I’m working towards my own goals, and not someone else’s.

This has worked out fairly well for me so far, but not in terms of World Cup predictions.