Map spies!

Paul Boutin astutely observed that the NYT buried the lede when it said that there are no less than 16 American spy agencies.

My favorite?

The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency — in other words, map spies!

Speaking of maps and puzzles, check this:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The only surviving copy of the 500-year-old map that first used the name America goes on permanent display this month at the Library of Congress, but even as it prepares for its debut, the 1507 Waldseemuller map remains a puzzle for researchers.

Why did the mapmaker name the territory America and then change his mind later? How was he able to draw South America so accurately? Why did he put a huge ocean west of America years before European explorers discovered the Pacific?

“That’s the kind of conundrum, the question, that is still out there,” said John Hebert, chief of the geography and map division of the Library of Congress.

Cyrus and MC Hammer!

The interview went awesomely! MC Hammer was a gentleman and was happy to let me monopolize his time for the better part of an hour.

After the interview, we totally geeked out, comparing our iPhones — he was giddy over the Labrnyinth game for the iPhone. He was cooler than I ever could have imagined.

How to unlock your iPhone

Booya! I finally got my iPhone yesterday and spent last night and this morning figuring out how to GSM unlock it — letting me use my T-Mobile SIM card with ease.

How’d I do it? I’ll have a forthcoming article for Macworld explaining soon, but until then, you can read this guide and thank the good folks at ModMyiPhone.com. I followed their instructions — but after three failed tries, I installed AppTapp before doing the faux activation, and that seemed to work.

Woohoo!

On payphones

SF Bay Guardian:

But after the 1989 Loma Prieta quake and after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York City, residents found there was still a way to reach their loved ones and let the world know they were OK; they used an old-fashioned communications tool that’s low tech, securely grounded, publicly accessible, and reliable.

It’s called a pay phone.

NYT:

There is a reason for their survival: Public telephones are one of the stranger cash cows in city finance. Not because of the coins that are fed into them, but rather because of the millions upon millions that companies are willing to pay to put ads on them.

The phone kiosks generate $62 million in advertising revenue annually — and last year the city got $13.7 million of the take, triple what it pulled in from calls.

Would you rent a MacBook for under three bucks a day — for three years?

So here’s the deal: Apple France and French ISP Orange are hooking up to provide French consumers with a rented MacBook and 1 Mbps DSL for €60 ($79.50) a month. That works out to about €2 a day. (You can upgrade to 8 Mbps DSL for an additional €5 per month.)

The catch is that you have to sign up for three years, but that includes three years of Apple Care.

Louis-Pierre Wenes, executive director of France Telecom’s domestic operations compared this deal to getting a €150 rebate on the price of a MacBook (€1099) plus an additional two years of AppleCare (€319) — in that €35 that pays for the computer x 36 months = €1260. However, M. Wenes didn’t explain what happens at the end of the three-year deal. (There also appears to be a rent-to-buy option, but it’s unclear how that works out.)

Either way, if you in France and you’re one of the first 200 people to sign up, Orange will toss you an iPod shuffle for an additional euro.

I know a lot of people who would take this deal (possibly myself included) in a heartbeat.

[via MuniWireless]

Scott Adams hacks his own brain, restores speech

Apparently for the last 18 months Scott Adams has been suffering from Spasmodic Dysphonia, a disease that affects the larynx, making ordinary speech extremely difficult.

Somehow, he figured out how to hack his own brain to figure out how to speak again:

My theory was that the part of my brain responsible for normal speech was still intact, but for some reason had become disconnected from the neural pathways to my vocal cords. (That’s consistent with any expert’s best guess of what’s happening with Spasmodic Dysphonia. It’s somewhat mysterious.) And so I reasoned that there was some way to remap that connection. All I needed to do was find the type of speaking or context most similar – but still different enough – from normal speech that still worked. Once I could speak in that slightly different context, I would continue to close the gap between the different-context speech and normal speech until my neural pathways remapped. Well, that was my theory. But I’m no brain surgeon.

The day before yesterday, while helping on a homework assignment, I noticed I could speak perfectly in rhyme. Rhyme was a context I hadn’t considered. A poem isn’t singing and it isn’t regular talking. But for some reason the context is just different enough from normal speech that my brain handled it fine.

Jack be nimble, Jack be quick.
Jack jumped over the candlestick.

I repeated it dozens of times, partly because I could. It was effortless, even though it was similar to regular speech. I enjoyed repeating it, hearing the sound of my own voice working almost flawlessly. I longed for that sound, and the memory of normal speech. Perhaps the rhyme took me back to my own childhood too. Or maybe it’s just plain catchy. I enjoyed repeating it more than I should have. Then something happened.

My brain remapped.

My speech returned.

Not 100%, but close, like a car starting up on a cold winter night. And so I talked that night. A lot. And all the next day. A few times I felt my voice slipping away, so I repeated the nursery rhyme and tuned it back in. By the following night my voice was almost completely normal.

That’s truly amazing. I met (and interviewed) Scott Adams once (he lives in Blackhawk, California), when I was a student journalist at The Daily Cal. You can read our lengthy conversation here.

[via Saheli]