Archive for November 19th, 2011

November 19, 2011

Rat Running

rat maze

Rat running or cut-through driving refers to the use of secondary roads or residential side streets instead of the intended main roads in urban or suburban areas in order to avoid heavy traffic, lengthy traffic signals, or other obstacles lengthening a journey, even though traffic calming measures may be in place to discourage them and there may be laws against taking certain routes. Rat runs are frequently taken by motorists who are familiar with the local geography. They will often take such short cuts to avoid busy main roads and junctions (intersections).

The associations with ‘beating the crowd,’ the rush hour, and the rat race may have given rise to the term, or perhaps similarities were observed between the patterns of rat running driving routes and a rat running a maze.

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November 19, 2011


less travelled

The term shunpiking comes from the word shun, meaning ‘to avoid,’ and pike, a term referring to turnpikes, which are roads that require payment of a toll to travel on them. People who often avoid toll roads sometimes call themselves shunpikers. Shunpiking has also come to mean an avoidance of major highways (regardless of tolls) in preference for bucolic and scenic interludes along lightly traveled country roads.

The word ‘shunpike’ may have its origins in post-colonial New Hampshire: When the ‘Turnpike’ was built, around 1810 or so, by the Hampton Causeway Turnpike Corporation, a toll was charged to cross it at Taylor’s River. Not content with the payment of a toll, some of the residents got together and built a slight bridge called the ‘Shunpike’ across the River, some distance west of the Turnpike bridge, where travelers and teamsters could cross without charge. This continued on until 1826, when the toll on the Turnpike was discontinued and has remained a free road to this day

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November 19, 2011

Truck Nuts

truck nuts

Truck nuts, also known as truck balls, BumperNuts, BumperBalls, or Trucksticles, are accessories for pickup trucks and other vehicles. This trend began in the United States in 1998 and first sold on the internet in 1999. Truck nuts are used as a statement by the car, truck, ATV, and/or motorcycle owner to boast/amuse/shock him/her self and others. Truck nuts are installed to hang under the bumper area of the vehicle so they are conspicuous to those viewing the vehicle from the rear. Manufacturers use HDPE, ABS, and PVC plastics to create truck nuts, though hollow aluminum and solid brass can also be found. They can be many different colors, as well as metallic chrome coating and a brass-colored reflective metallic coating.

In 2007, a proposal was made in Maryland to ‘prohibit motorists from displaying anything resembling or depicting ‘anatomically correct’ or ‘less than completely and opaquely covered’ human or animal genitals, human buttocks or female breasts.’ The bill’s sponsor, delegate LeRoy E. Myers Jr., referred to the testicles as ‘vulgar and immoral,’ and stated that his proposal was made at the request of a constituent who was offended by the accessories. Similar legislature is being advocated in several other states including Virginia, South Carolina, and Florida.

November 19, 2011



Neuticles are prosthetic testicular implants for neutered dogs and other domestic animals. Creator Gregg Miller won the 2005 Ig Nobel Prize in Medicine, a parody of the real Nobel Prize, for his invention. As of 2007, more than 240,000 pairs of the patented product had been sold, in all 50 U.S. states and 49 countries. Miller developed the idea for Neuticles in 1993, after his bloodhound Buck caught the scent of a bitch in heat, disappeared and turned up days later 30 miles away. Miller had Buck neutered to stop his wandering. Following the procedure, when Buck went to clean himself, he realized something was wrong and acted ‘extremely depressed’ for three days.

The first commercial Neuticles were implanted in 1995. Neuticles are made from Food and Drug Administration–approved materials and are designed to replicate the weight and feel of the animal’s natural testicles. They are made of solid silicone and are not gel-filled and therefore cannot leak. Several companies have tried to copy the patented prosthetic. CTI Corporation, which manufactures Neuticles, cited an investigation revealing that companies in New York and California were pirating Neuticles. CTI warned of health risks to the animals getting the pirate product.

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November 19, 2011


American Nervousness

Neurasthenia [noor-uhs-thee-nee-uh] is a psycho-pathological term first used by American neurologist George Miller Beard in 1869 to denote a condition with symptoms of fatigue, anxiety, headache, neuralgia (pain of the nerves) and depressed mood. It is currently a diagnosis in the World Health Organization’s International Classification of Diseases (and in the Chinese Classification of Mental Disorders).

However, it is no longer included as a diagnosis in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Americans were supposed to be particularly prone to neurasthenia, which resulted in the nickname ‘Americanitis’ (popularized by American psychologist William James). Today, the condition is still commonly diagnosed in Asia.

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November 19, 2011

Capsule Hotel

capsule hotel tokyo


A capsule hotel is a type of hotel with a large number of extremely small ‘rooms’ (capsules) intended to provide cheap and basic overnight accommodation for guests not requiring the services offered by more conventional hotels. The guest space is reduced in size to a modular plastic or fiberglass block roughly 2 m by 1 m by 1.25 m. Most include a television, an electronic console, and wireless internet connection. Capsules are stacked side by side and two units top to bottom, with steps providing access to the second level rooms. Luggage is stored in a locker. Privacy is ensured by a curtain or a fiberglass door at the open end of the capsule. Washrooms are communal and some hotels include restaurants (or at least vending machines), pools, and other entertainment facilities.

This style of hotel accommodation was developed in Japan and has not gained popularity outside of the country, although Western variants known as ‘Pod hotels’ with larger accommodations and often private baths are being developed. Guests are asked not to smoke or eat in the capsules. Capsule hotels vary widely in size, some having only fifty or so capsules and others over 700. Many are used primarily by men. There are also capsule hotels with separate male and female sleeping quarters. Clothes and shoes are sometimes exchanged for a yukata (a casual summer kimono) and slippers on entry. A towel may also be provided. The benefit of these hotels is convenience and price, usually around ¥2000-4000 (US$26–52) a night.

November 19, 2011

Net Cafe Refugee

net cafe refugee

Net cafe refugees, also known as cyber-homeless, is a term for a growing class of people in Japan who do not own or rent a residence and thus have no permanent address and sleep in 24 hour Internet or manga cafés. Goods and services offered at these establishments has grown to include food, undergarments and other personal items, and showers. They are often used by commuters who miss the last train, but a growing number of people use net cafes as a temporary shelter. The fee of 1400-2400 yen (US $18-31) for a night—which may include free soft drinks, TV, comics and internet access—is less than for capsule hotels. Some cyber-homeless may also be freeters, a Japanese expression for people between the ages of 15 and 34 who lack full time employment or are unemployed, excluding housewives and students.

According to a Japanese government survey, those staying have little interest in manga or the Internet, and are instead using the place because of the low price relative to any of the competition for temporary housing, business hotels, capsule hotels, hostels, or any other option besides sleeping on the street. It was also estimated that about half of those staying have no job, while the other half work in low-paid temporary jobs, which paid around 100,000 yen ($1000) per month – lower than what is needed to rent an apartment and pay for transportation in a city like Tokyo.

November 19, 2011

Drunk Dialing

drunk dial congress

Drunk dialing is a pop-culture term denoting an instance in which an intoxicated individual places phone calls that he or she would not likely place if sober. The term often refers to a lonely individual calling former or current love interests. Kurt Vonnegut once said, ‘I have this disease late at night sometimes, involving alcohol and the telephone. I get drunk, and I drive my wife away with breath like mustard gas and roses.

And then, speaking gravely and elegantly into the telephone, I ask the telephone operators to connect me with this friend or that one, from whom I have not heard in years.’ ‘Drunk texting’ is a related phenomenon, and potentially yet more embarrassing for the sender as, once the message is sent, it cannot be retrieved; the message will most likely be misspelled (due to being drunk), and it might be reviewed and shared among many.

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November 19, 2011

Wisdom of Repugnance


The wisdom of repugnance is the belief that an intuitive (or ‘deep-seated’) negative response to some thing, idea or practice should be interpreted as evidence for the intrinsically harmful or evil character of that thing. Furthermore, it refers to the notion that wisdom may manifest itself in feelings of disgust towards anything which lacks goodness or wisdom, though the feelings or the reasoning of such ‘wisdom’ may not be immediately explicable through reason.

The term was coined in 1997 by Leon Kass, chairman of the President’s Council on Bioethics, in an article in ‘The New Republic.’ Kass stated that disgust was not an argument per se, but went on to say that ‘in crucial cases…repugnance is the emotional expression of deep wisdom, beyond reason’s power fully to articulate it.’ The term remains largely confined to discussions of bioethics, and is somewhat related to the term ‘yuck factor.’ However, unlike the latter, it is used almost exclusively by those who accept its underlying premise; i.e., that repugnance does, in fact, indicate wisdom. It is thus often viewed as loaded language, and is primarily used by certain bioconservatives to justify their position.

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November 19, 2011




A hacker is a member of the computer programmer subculture originated in the 1960s in the United States academia, in particular around the MIT’s Tech Model Railroad Club (TMRC) and MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. Some members of the ‘hacker’ community most emphatically differentiate the term ‘hacker’ from malicious hackers (whom they very strongly prefer to call ‘crackers’).

Other hackers make no such distinction. The latter hackers’ view that hackerdom is not inherently moral/immoral or ethical/unethical is broadly similar to the concept or attitude of a ‘grey hat’ hacker. By contrast, ‘white hat’ hackers use their computer security related skills and knowledge to learn more about how systems and networks work and to help to discover and fix security holes, and ‘black hat’ hackers use the same skills to author harmful software (like viruses, trojans, etc.) and illegally infiltrate secure systems with the intention of doing harm to the system.

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November 19, 2011



Hacktivism (a portmanteau of hack and activism) is the use of computers and computer networks as a means of protest to promote political ends. The term was first coined in 1998 by a member of the Cult of the Dead Cow hacker collective. If hacking as ‘illegally breaking into computers’ is assumed, then hacktivism could be defined as ‘the nonviolent use of illegal or legally ambiguous digital tools in pursuit of political ends.’ These tools include web site defacements, redirects, denial-of-service (DoS) attacks, information theft, web site parodies, virtual sit-ins, typosquatting, and virtual sabotage.

If hacking as ‘clever computer usage/programming’ is assumed, then hacktivism could be understood as the writing of code to promote political ideology: promoting expressive politics, free speech, human rights, and information ethics through software development. Acts of hacktivism are carried out in the belief that proper use of code will be able to produce similar results to those produced by regular activism or civil disobedience.

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November 19, 2011

Patriot Hacking

israel inside


Patriot hacking is a term for computer hacking or system cracking in which citizens or supporters of a country, traditionally industrialized Western countries but increasingly developing countries, attempts to perpetrate attacks on, or block attacks by, perceived enemies of the state. Recent media attention has focused on efforts related to terrorists and their own attempts to conduct an online or electronic intifada – cyberterrorism.

Patriot hacking is illegal in countries such as the United States yet is on the rise elsewhere. ‘”The FBI said that recent experience showed that an increase in international tension was mirrored in the online world with a rise in cyber activity such as web defacements and denial of service attacks,’ according to the BBC. At the onset of the War in Iraq in 2003, the FBI was concerned about the increase in hack attacks as the intensity of the conflict grew. Since then, it has been becoming increasingly popular in the North America, Western Europe and Israel, the countries which have the greatest threat to Islamic terrorism and its aforementioned digital version.