Can somebody explain why curling is suddenly hot? It’s trending on Google, I’ve seen multiple excited blog and Twitter posts, and its even getting some primetime TV placement.

But nobody seems to be talking about why there’s so much excitement.

Don’t get me wrong. This is not a hit piece or a “How can you enjoy that boring sport” piece. I’ve seen far too many of the latter aimed at baseball to ever go there myself.

Serious inquiry. Of all the sports in the Winter Olympics, why is curling getting so much of the love? It’s just my perception–I don’t have numbers to back it up, but by comparison with previous Olympics, interest in figure skating, skiing, and luge seem down, while I’ve already seen more talk about curling than in any other two complete Winter Games.

I suppose I’m not really asking any aficionados for an explanation. You’re part of the baseline of interest, not the current peak.

Maybe it’s because curling is a deceptively simple sport. One of those “easy to learn, difficult to master” things. Are people looking for something simple to understand in reaction to the increasingly baffling actions of our elected officials, who daily seem to become less inclined to act in their own best interests, much less those who elected them?

Perhaps the World Curling Association is running an astroturfing campaign. Will that be the next scandal to rock the international sports scene? Or is some other national or international sport group trying to raise curling’s profile to distract the public’s attention from their own problems–there’s certainly no shortage of candidates if your taste for conspiracy theories leans in that direction.

Is it just curling’s turn in the spotlight? A few months from now, will all the come-latelies be saying “Curling? Oh, yeah, I remember that. Does anyone still play it?”

Still, I’m no more immune to curling’s allure than anyone else. Whatever the reason for its current popularity, you can find me on the bandwagon.


Well, Google did it to me again. Every time I look at their Top Charts, I find something confusing.

This time around, it’s the “Animals” chart. It’s not that the chart itself is confusing, nor are there any peculiar entries. No, what’s confusing me is the actual data.

Number One: “Dog”

Number Two: “Cat”

And it’s not even close. If we can believe Google, people search for dogs more than twice as often as they search for cats. And it’s been that way since Google started keeping statistics back in 2004. Here’s the comparative popularity of dogs and cats as measured by Google over the past decade:

“OK,” I hear you say. “People are more interested in dogs than cats. So what?”

Well, it just doesn’t make sense. The Internet was created for cats. Nobody wastes their entire day looking at videos of dogs in boxes. Nobody obsessively creates LOLDog images*. There’s no mythology of Basement Dog, Ceiling Dog, or even Monorail Dog.

* Yeah, OK, there is Doge. But his followers are a lunatic fringe, and he’s only been hot for the past year. Doesn’t explain the numbers prior to 2013.

So what’s going on? I can only come up with two possibilities. Either our Evil Feline Masterminds are attempting to minimize their visibility on the Internet, or the Criminal Canine Conspiracy is staging a takeover.

I don’t see an obvious way to establish which is correct–though if we see a surge in feline snuff videos, that would be a pretty good indication that the CCC is adopting ISIS’ tactics*.

* By that logic, a surge in videos featuring non-fatal violence against cats would suggest the CCC is fronting for the NFL. Or maybe using the Internet to facilitate a takeover of the NFL. There are, after all, four cat-related team names (Bengals, Lions, Jaguars, and Panthers), but not a single dog-related team name.

My money is on the EFM scenario. There’s been a real shortage of news coverage of criminal cats lately. Take another look at that chart. Notice how smooth the cat curve is compared to the dog curve. The variations in the canine searches strikes me as suspicious. Why would it suddenly peak, then drop back? Those are the kind of numbers you would see if a random number of searches were being added to the actual interest levels.

I suspect the EFM has been conducting a disinformation campaign, pumping “dog” searches into Google late at night when their cover humans aren’t online. Check your browser history, especially if you spot suspicious cat hair on your keyboard.


As I write this, Kaja is snoozing in Maggie’s desk chair. Kokoro is snoring on the bed. Yuki and Rhubarb are dozing on the stairs. And Watanuki is curled up with his magic banana, sleeping on the dining room floor.

Notice a pattern here? Yeah, I’m the only one awake in the house. A minor miracle, given the number of Feline Sleep Rays (FSRs) being generated.

Cats have a near-magical ability to force even the most alert human to pass out within minutes. It’s simple: sit down with a cat in your lap. Pat the cat until he or she relaxes and goes to sleep. Almost instantly, your eyelids will begin to droop; shortly after, your chin will be bouncing off of your chest.

Frighteningly, the cat doesn’t actually need to be in your lap. A cat sleeping on chair across the room is nearly as effective as one in contact with you. My own research suggests that unlike Wi-Fi, the strength of the signal is not attenuated by passing through walls. Even worse, the FSRs are apparently not radiated. Radiated electromagnetic signals weaken as a factor of the square of the distance (double the distance and the strength drops to a quarter). FSRs retain an astonishing 90% of their power across the length of the typical home. That suggests that they are actually focused beams directed as specific targets, rather than general broadcasts. They don’t appear to track moving targets well: you can fight off the effect of an FSR by moving around. As soon as you stop moving, though, the FSR will reacquire its target (you).

Interestingly, there seems to be an inverse relationship between feline size and the ability to generate FSRs: on average, kitten-generated rays are 4.2 times as strong as those produced by fully-grown felines. Current scientific speculation is centered around the well-known fact that kittens purr much more loudly than adults; studies suggest that there may be a sub-sonic audio component to the FSR which is produced through a mechanism similar to purring.

With all of their awesome potency, why don’t more people know about FSRs? Conspiracy theories that the CIA and FBI are hiding information about FSRs to cover up their use in covert operations are clearly nonsense: nobody has ever figured out a way to get a cat to take orders. Can you imagine walking up to a foreign embassy with a kitten in your pocket and then trying to convince it to go to sleep so you can sneak past the guards to plant a bug? My suspicion is that the powerful Ambien® lobby is suppressing the information while they try to figure out how to monetize it. Fortunately, there are significant issues that would have to be overcome to make packaging FSR generators, as the brains behind the bonsai kitten discovered back in 2001.

So now the information is out. If this post fails to show up in Google or vanishes from this site, you’ll know the coverup is factual, and I’m sleeping with the fishes instead of the felines.

Oh, My Heart!

Oh, for crying out loud.

The latest “hot” topic in the media is hacking of medical devices. It’s hardly a new story. It wasn’t new when we talked about it back in April: I cited reports about wifi-enabled, unsecured pacemakers dating back to 2008. So why is it suddenly all over the news?

Wait, before we go there, is it really all over the news? Well, the SF Chronicle ran a piece on the subject over the weekend which had previously appeared in Businessweek. Forbes has a short item on their website. And there are a number of others. It may not be at quite the same level of visibility as Perez Hilton’s feud with Lady Gaga, but it’s out there.

So, why is it out there? Two reasons: a hacked pacemaker played a key role in an episode of the TV show “Homeland”, and security researcher Barnaby Jack died last week just before he was going to demonstrate real-world hacks of pacemakers. Let me say that again. Last December, a character on a TV show was killed by someone hacking his pacemaker wirelessly. Late last month, a real person who had previously exposed security flaws in insulin pumps died of causes unknown. Said real person was going to show off his ability to short out pacemakers wirelessly (not control them, apparently, just destroy them).

It’s a pretty tenuous link, but it’s enough to hang a story or two on when things are slow. And the coincidence of Jack’s death just before his presentation is good for another couple of paragraphs in the story. Yes, I’m betting coincidence, unlike such noted venues of conspiracy theories as Twitter, Reddit, and ABC News.

ABC? Yup. Check out this lovely bit of unbiased (and well-edited) journalism:

Meanwhile, questions — and even conspiracy theories — are swirling around the Web regarding Jacks’ untimely death, with some even blaming the U.S. Government.

“This is an industry where a lot of money and danger is at stake,” ABC News consultant and former FBI Agent Brad Garrett said. “The work he was doing certainly put him at some risk,” ABC News consultant and former FBI Agent Brad Garrett said.

Of course, the San Francisco police, who have ruled out foul play must be in on the conspiracy, and the ongoing investigation is nothing but a transparent attempt to cover up the murder.  Fortunately, we can still get the occasional voice of reason. The Daily Dot quotes one participant in the Reddit discussion as pointing out that Jack had already given the same demonstration last year.

Not that I expect that little revelation to stop the conspiracy theorists. After all, how much credibility does some guy in Australia posting under the name “ThaFuck” have compared to a “former FBI Agent”? (That would be the same FBI that works with the NSA to conduct illegal “information gathering” on American citizens who have communicated with other citizens who have at some time communicated with still other citizens who have once communicated with people outside of the U.S.) Hey, wait a minute. Jack supposedly gave his presentation in Australia. That means he’s not only talked to foreigners, he’s actually been to a foreign country. He’s obviously a terrorist himself!

Ahem. The really frustrating thing here is that Jack’s good work is getting swept under the carpet for the general public. His exposures of the “implement first, release second, worry about security later” mentality that afflicts too much of the technology industry were a valuable service. (In fairness to the device manufacturers, I should note that some of the problems Jack and other researchers have found have been bugs rather than instances of “insecure by design”. Some.) Security flaws are dangerous in ways that go well beyond people’s possessions and financial information. In medicine and other fields, they can kill. We need more people like Barnaby Jack.