AtMatt Link(s) of the Day
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Friday, November 16, 2007
- Get unlimited local and long-distance calling for 20 bucks a year | Crave : The gadget blog
Need a second phone line? How about a dedicated business line for your home-based enterprise? A cheap way to make calls while traveling the world? Look no further than the MagicJack, quite possibly the coolest gizmo of 2007.
All you do is plug the little guy into a USB port. It automatically installs its own software: a nifty little dialer/address-book app. (During the initial setup, you get to choose your own local number for inbound calls.) Now just plug any corded or cordless handset into the MagicJack's standard RJ-11 jack and presto, you've got a dial tone. And voice mail. And three-way calling, caller ID, etc. You can also use a headset if you're traveling and don't want to schlep that bulky old Princess phone.
The MagicJack costs $40, which includes a year's worth of unlimited local and long-distance calls. (Free international calls to other MagicJack users, too.) After that, you'll pay just $20 per year. I've tried this thing, and let me tell you: It rocks. It's way easier to use than Skype, way cheaper than Vonage, and way cool to boot.
Thursday, November 08, 2007
- TiVo offers a temporary price break on its service fees | Crave : The gadget blog TiVo offers a temporary price break on its service fees | Crave : The gadget blog
# 1 year monthly service: now $12.95/month (originally $16.95)
# 1 year prepay service: $129 (originally $179)
# 2 year prepay service: $249 (originally $279)
# 3 year prepay service: $299 (unchanged)
- Hong Kong tests toys for date rape drug - Yahoo! News HONG KONG - China-made toys seized in Hong Kong were being tested Thursday after scientists in Australia found that similar ones contained a chemical that converts into a powerful "date rape" drug when ingested, officials said.
At least five children — two in the United States and three in Australia — have been hospitalized after swallowing the toy beads, which are used in arts and crafts projects. They can be arranged into designs and fused when sprayed with water.
Australian scientists say a chemical coating on the beads, when ingested, metabolizes into the so-called "date-rape" drug gamma hydroxy butyrate. When eaten, the compound — made from common and easily available ingredients — can induce unconsciousness, seizures, drowsiness, coma and death.
The toys were sent to a laboratory in Hong Kong for tests, a customs official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of policy. If the tests come back positive for the chemical, suppliers of the toy in Hong Kong could face a year in jail and fines of $12,877, she said.
Problems in China's toy industry came into focus earlier this year when Mattel Inc. recalled more than 21 million Chinese-made toys worldwide. Products including Barbie doll accessories and toy cars were pulled off shelves because of concerns about lead paint or tiny detachable magnets that could be swallowed.
The latest toys under scrutiny are called Aqua Dots in the United States and Bindeez in Australia, where they were named toy of the year at an industry function.
Retailer Toys "R" Us Inc. said it issued a "stop sale" on the entire Spin Master Aqua Dots product line on Tuesday in its North American stores and on its Web site after it learned of the news. "We understand that Spin Master and U.S. regulatory authorities are investigating this product and we have asked Spin Master to fully explain what it believes happened," it said.
Toys "R" Us said it pulled all the toy beads from its stores in Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia after officials in Australia ordered them off the shelves Tuesday.
A company spokeswoman for Moose Enterprises' Hong Kong office said the production of the toy was outsourced to a mainland Chinese factory. She refused to elaborate and referred all further requests for comment to the company's head office in Australia.
"Our Hong Kong office is only responsible for operations such as logistics and shipping arrangements, we don't have any firsthand information," the employee, who would only give her surname, Lo, told The Associated Press.
Moose Enterprises said Bindeez and Aqua Dots are made at the same factory, which is in Shenzhen in southern Guangdong province. Last week, the government announced an export ban on more than 700 toy factories in the region because of shoddy products.
The company said the product is distributed in 40 countries.
The toys were supposed to use 1,5-pentanediol, a nontoxic compound found in glue, but instead contained the harmful 1,4-butanediol, which is widely used in cleaners and plastics.
The Food and Drug Administration in 1999 declared the chemical a Class I Health Hazard, meaning it can cause life-threatening harm.
Both chemicals are manufactured in China and elsewhere, including by major multinational companies, and are also marketed over the Internet.
It's not clear why 1,4-butanediol was substituted. However, there is a significant difference in price between the two chemicals. The Chinese online trading platform ChemNet China lists the price of 1,4 butanediol at between about $1,350-$2,800 per metric ton, while the price for 1,5-pentanediol is about $9,700 per metric ton.
The recall was announced by the Consumer Product Safety Commission on Wednesday several hours after published reports about the recall in Australia.
The two U.S. children who swallowed Aqua Dot beads went into nonresponsive comas, commission spokesman Scott Wolfson said Wednesday. A 20-month-old has recovered, while the other child, whose age was not known, has been released from a hospital after five days and is recovering, he said.
"To prevent any other child from being hurt, we are calling upon parents to take the product away immediately," Wolfson said.
In Australia, the toys were ordered off store shelves on Tuesday when officials learned that a 2-year-old boy and a 10-year-old girl were hospitalized after swallowing the beads. A 19-month-old toddler also was being treated.
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
- Die and you're under arrest! Britain's most stupid laws - Yahoo! News LONDON (AFP) - Queen Elizabeth II's speech in the British parliament Tuesday may have been routine but at least nobody got bored to death. That would have been against the law.
Dying in parliament is an offence and is also by far the most absurd law in Britain, according to a survey of nearly 4,000 people by a television channel showing a legal drama series.
And though the lords were clad in their red and white ermine cloaks and ambassadors from around the world wore colourful national costumes, at least nobody turned up in a suit of armour. Illegal.
Other rules deemed utterly stupid included one that permits a pregnant woman to urinate in a policeman's hat and murdering bow-and-arrow-carrying Scotsmen within the city walls of York, northern England.
A law stating that in Liverpool, only a clerk in a tropical fish store is allowed to be publicly topless, was also ridiculous, said a poll of 3,931 people for UKTV Gold television out Tuesday.
Nearly half of those surveyed admitted to breaking the ban on eating mince pies on Christmas Day, which dates back to the 17th century and was originally designed to outlaw gluttony during the rule of the Puritan Oliver Crowmell.
The laws and other regulations were culled from published research into ancient legislation that has never been repealed although subsequent statutes have rendered them obsolete.
Respondents were given a shortlist and asked to vote.
Most ridiculous British law:
1. It is illegal to die in the Houses of Parliament (27 percent)
2. It is an act of treason to place a postage stamp bearing the British monarch upside-down (seven percent)
3. In Liverpool, it is illegal for a woman to be topless except as a clerk in a tropical fish store (six percent)
4. Mince pies cannot be eaten on Christmas Day (five percent)
5. In Scotland, if someone knocks on your door and requires the use of your toilet, you must let them enter (four percent)
6. A pregnant woman can legally relieve herself anywhere she wants, including in a policeman's helmet (four percent)
7. The head of any dead whale found on the British coast automatically becomes the property of the king, and the tail of the queen (3.5 percent)
8. It is illegal to avoid telling the tax man anything you do not want him to know, but legal not to tell him information you do not mind him knowing (three percent)
9. It is illegal to enter the Houses of Parliament in a suit of armour (three percent)
10. In the city of York it is legal to murder a Scotsman within the ancient city walls, but only if he is carrying a bow and arrow (two percent)
Thursday, November 01, 2007
- The Ultimate Interval - bicycling.com The Ultimate Interval - bicycling.com
All it takes to develop blow-their-legs-off power is one hour--one brutal, agonizing, endless hour of astounding misery and pain. Just one.
By Ian Dille
Peter Herzig was not a fast cyclist five years ago. As an undergraduate student at the University of Queensland in Australia, he possessed only a mild interest in competitive cycling. Meanwhile, exercise physiologist Paul Laursen, also at the University of Queensland, was trying to figure out if, among all the programs recommended to cyclists worldwide, there was one interval that stood out as the most effective. Laursen enrolled Herzig in a study group he called T-Max.
Herzig subjected himself to the most brutal training of his life--holding back his vomit while a stereo blared the heavy-metal group Pantera. But after just eight of these interval sessions, Herzig was fast. His maximum power output jumped more than 10 percent. His VO2 max--a measure of how much oxygen your body can absorb and use--increased by three points. And he took four minutes off his 40-?kilometer time-trial performance. Herzig is now a domestic pro in Australia.
Laursen's findings, which have been backed by other recent studies, show that the workout he dubbed T-Max can, on average, increase maximum power output by 5 to 6 percent, and raise VO2 max sky-high. The T-Max Interval is effective because it tailors work and rest time, and intensity, to your genetic ability and fitness level, rather than prescribing an arbitrary set of conditions. Here's how it works: T-Max is the length of time you can hold your peak power output before succumbing to exhaustion--or, scientific jargon aside, how long you can ride really, really hard until you feel so much like you're dying that you stop. For most of us, that's about four to six minutes.
Laursen found that cyclists improved the most doing intervals at 60 percent of their T-Max with double that amount of time for recovery between efforts. For instance, someone with a T-Max of four minutes would ride hard for 2:30, followed by five minutes of recovery. In a 2006 study performed at Ithaca College in central New York, members of the collegiate cycling team performed sets of eight intervals twice a week for six weeks; they improved their performance in a 5-kilometer time trial by 7 percent.
Exercise physiologist Andrew Coggan, a preeminent authority on training with power, gives his nod of approval to the T-Max: "It seems like a very logical, pragmatic approach to interval training. Here's the maximum amount of time you can go hard. To do that intensity repeatedly, you have to go hard for a shorter amount of time."
The one catch is obvious. Riding at peak power output is excruciating. "I could never forget the T-Max Intervals," says Herzig. "They were and probably still are the hardest training I've ever completed." In the Ithaca College study, says research project advisor Tom Swensen, "The guys could do about five or six intervals max. I think a goal of eight is too many." In fact, Laursen admits that more than a third of his test subjects failed to complete the prescribed eight efforts, and that some of them gurgled puke by the end of the session. "The stress is quite significant," he deadpans.
Cue the Pantera.
Find Your T-Max
1. Determine Your Peak Power Output. Using a power-measuring device from PowerTap, Polar, SRM or CompuTrainer, begin riding at 100 watts. Increase power by 30 watts every minute until you reach exhaustion. Laursen deemed test subjects fully exhausted when they could not keep their cadence above 60 rpm. You can use that benchmark, but let's be honest, you'll know when you're done. The number of watts you produce just before collapsing is your peak power output, or PPO.
2. Find Your T-Max. Rest for a day or two. Again using a power meter, ride at your PPO until you can no longer sustain that level of output. The amount of time you can hold your PPO is your T-Max. For most of us, that's between four and six minutes.
3. Calculate Your Ultimate Interval. Multiply your T-Max time by 0.6. This is the work phase of your interval. Double the work phase to set your recovery time between efforts.
4. Try It Out. The original study prescribed eight hard efforts. But if you'd rather avoid losing your lunch, start with two or three intervals. Do two sessions a week, with at least two days of rest or other easy riding between. Add one interval to each set every week until you achieve five or six intervals per workout. Build up to eight if you can.
If You Can't Measure Power
Though the results likely won't be as dramatic as with a power-based T-Max Interval, Laursen says unplugged cyclists can reap some of the benefits by performing 2:30-minute intervals at 95 to 100 percent of max heart rate (the point at which you cannot speak), followed by recovery to 60 percent of max, or until you can speak in full sentences. Do two to six sets twice a week, with at least two days of spinning or rest between.