Friday Hodgepodge

Friday, August 11, 2017

Four Things

1. What will you see on eclipse day? Head over here, plug in your zip code, and find out. (via Geekpress)

2. I've been dealing with patents a lot lately, so it was with some amusement that I noticed my beer-themed page-a-day calendar commented on Patent no. 3827595. For what it's worth, the plastic beer keg has now been around for over forty three years.

3. The Chronicle of Higher Education, in an amusing report about a book manuscript that was thirty years overdue (but still wanted), notes the following:
[David] Congdon's comically tardy book may seem like an extreme example of editorial generosity, but The Chronicle spoke to several people with lengthy tenures at university presses. They say that anyone who spends enough time in the industry, where a turnaround of several months to a few years for a book is the norm, will very likely encounter a project that is the not only years late, but decades so.

"Oh yes, this is something that comes up with surprising frequency!" wrote Leila Salisbury, director of University Press of Kentucky.
I've known academics to sit on results for years before publishing them as papers, but this takes the cake.

4. Get executed for 99 smackers? That's the "dangerous catch" an article about a startup called "Airmule" describes when it looks into its ultra-cheap flights to Beijing:
If you're acting as an air courier, you ... could be fully liable for what you carry through Customs. So, that suitcase of apparel you're supposedly carrying for a fashion show? If it's loaded with heroin, that's on you, and the penalty for that in China is death (no ifs, ands or buts). The suitcase full of baby formula? If you didn't know that it's illegal to bring it into China, it doesn't matter: the massive fine is all yours if you get caught.

Airmule takes a bunch of reassuring-sounding security measures. For example, they participate in a TSA inspection program which verifies that shipments are safe for air transportation. You do too -- by letting the TSA inspect your bag when you check it in (although in all fairness, there are some additional security measures cargo companies comply with, and Airmule says they do this). Airmule claims that they inspect shipments as well, and I think they probably do. However, while this provides reasonable assurance that whatever you're carrying won't cause the plane to crash, it doesn't provide as strong an assurance that what you're carrying is actually legal to carry into the country where you're carrying it.
Hmmm. One of the conditions of the fare is that you give up a bag to Airmule, but I'm not sure I would have considered the above possibility.

-- CAV

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