Wikis, Cats, Roombas (Ramblings)

I recently ended up at Wikipedia through a Google search on "cats aluminum foil."  I was trying to determine whether it’s true that aluminum foil will keep cats off of stuff.  Apparently it is true, according to Wikipedia’s surprisingly comprehensive aluminum foil entry.  What other encyclopedia would have such a lengthy entry that includes a passage like this:

Deterring pets

Aluminium foil is also sometimes used in the training of cats;
as cats have an inborn dislike of loud noise, like that caused by
sheets of aluminium foil, it is possible to prevent cats from jumping
on or otherwise damaging furniture by covering its surfaces.[citation needed].

It cracks me up sometimes what you can find on Wikipedia.  Doubly funny is the "[citation needed]" at the end.  Is the person who added that expecting that there’s an article on this in a scientific journal or will a column from Cat Fancy do?

BoingBoing recently reported that a guy is putting [citation needed] stickers on real world things (link:  It’s a "campaign that involves recontextualizing ads and signs — or anything
that makes a dubious claim — using stickers with the [citation needed]
tag found in Wikipedia articles."  I think this is amusing, but not quite in the way this guy is hoping for.

Jesse James Garrett recently wrote that

Wikipedia’s "[citation needed]" convention takes passive-aggressive behavior to a global scale.

I’m not sure I’d go so far as passive-aggressive — more like absurdly pedantic and simple-minded, especially in cases like the one above.

My search for an answer to the cat-foil question was prompted by an unfortunate cat-Roomba incident.  One of our cats decided today to pee on our Roomba.  I found it with a little puddle on top, its lights ablaze and it making sad little blurps and whirs.  I just spent an hour cleaning it.  I’m slightly embarrassed to admit on this blog that I have a Roomba, but I was recently swayed by the positive reviews for the new series, and it’s a great help in cleaning up fur from three pets.  Plus, as I now know, it’s fairly easy to disassemble and clean thoroughly.  Assuming the Roomba survives this ordeal, I now have the problem of keeping the cat off of it, so I think I’ll try fashioning a little tin foil hat for it.

Another thing I like about that Wikipedia foil entry is the ultra-high resolution "household aluminum foil" picture, as shown above (available here in its full 1984-by-1784-pixel glory).


Quick administrative note: I’ve had to turn on comment and trackback moderation because I’ve been getting a lot of trackback spam.  So there will be a delay now before they show up.  Sorry.

typepad, why must you torment me?

Please bear with me as I continue swapping out ugly Typepad templates.  Hopefully I’ll find one that doesn’t make me queasy after a couple of days.  Oddly, I find the "knitting" and "travel" themed templates more attractive than the generic ones.  (Of course I could pony up $30/year more for the privilege of choosing my own colors… woohoo! but that seems insane.)

Yes, I appreciate the irony of obsessing over blog layout on a pseudo-anti-technology blog.  But what else do we do with computers?  I wouldn’t be surprised if something like 25% of the average computer user’s time is spent messing with fonts and colors.

Shootin’ People

So why is anyone surprised when a member of the military, trained to devalue human life and desensitized to killing, says that he finds it fun to do so?  (In other words: he enjoys his job.)  The error he made, of course, is talking about it, and this is acknowledged in his non-apology that "he should have chosen his words more carefully."  The media keeps the discussion safe for our militaristic/denial culture by sticking to reactions and politics rather than the actual meaning of what he said, and of what goes on in war.

Links: NYT, CNN.

Meanwhile the Pentagon bypasses middle-man paid pundits and launches its own news/propaganda sites.

The reader (all one or none of them) will please excuse the incoherent rant.  Now back to technology crap.