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June 10th, 2007:


Wireless phones. Wireless networking. Wireless electricity. Had to happen sooner or later, right?

Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers announced last week they had made a 60-watt light bulb glow by sending it energy wirelessly, potentially previewing a future in which cell phones and other gadgets get juice without having to be plugged in.

The breakthrough, disclosed in Science Express, an online publication of the journal Science, is being called “WiTricity” by the scientists.

The concept of sending power wirelessly isn’t new, but its wide-scale use has been dismissed as inefficient because electromagnetic energy generated by the charging device would radiate in all directions.

Last fall, though, MIT physics professor Marin Soljacic explained how to transfer the power with specially tuned waves. The key is to get the charging device and a gadget to resonate at the same frequency — allowing them to efficiently exchange energy.

It’s similar to how an opera star can break a wine glass that happens to resonate at the same frequency as her voice. In fact, the concept is so basic in physics that inventor Nikola Tesla sought a century ago to build a huge tower on Long Island that would wirelessly beam power along with communications.

The new step described in Science was that the MIT team put the concept into action. The scientists lit a 60-watt bulb that was 7 feet away from the power-generating appliance.

The development raises the prospect that we might eliminate some of the clutter of cables in our evermore electronic world.

That sound you hear is Tiffany, who hates hates hates the clutter of cables in our house, doing the Happy Dance. If there’s a beta program for this, I suspect she’ll want in on it.

Early voting: A quick look at San Antonio

I’ve spent the past week flogging the runoff race here in Houston, but there are runoffs going on in other Texas cities as well. One of the more hotly contested races is for the District 8 City Council seat in San Antonio. I haven’t been following this very closely, but my blogging colleagues B and B and Dig Deeper Texas have been (more here), and they clearly have a preference. (In the interest of equal time, I should note that The Walker Report has the opposite preference.) Those of you with a stake in that race should check them out.

Meanwhile, back here in Houston, Tiffany cast her vote yesterday at the Multi-service Center on Gray. She reports that Olivia was very interested in what she was doing, and demanded to be picked up so she could get a better view. Unfortunately for Olivia, Tiffany also had Audrey with her, which meant she couldn’t accomodate those demands. Just as well, since I know from personal experience in similar matters that had Olivia gotten her desired closer view, she’d have wanted to start pushing buttons as well. And given how delicate our voting machinery can be, who knows what chaos might have resulted from that. I’m pretty sure Hart Intercivic never tested an Olivia scenario.

Of course you know who Tiffany voted for, right?

Racy Mind did the same. Early voting ends Tuesday. Don’t miss out!

San Antonio gets on the municipal WiFi bandwagon


The City Council unanimously approved a test project Thursday that lets AT&T Inc., the nation’s biggest phone company, set up a municipal wireless network that will serve much of downtown, including city offices and a stretch of the River Walk.

AT&T will offer wireless Internet access to residents and visitors over the network, which will operate via equipment it installs on city property over the next two months.

It also will let the city test initiatives that could include remote meter reading and reporting rising floodwaters over the network.

San Antonio officials said they hope to use the trial, which could last up to 18 months, to determine the best way to build and run a large-scale wireless network that could cover a substantial swath of the city.

The city could partner with San Antonio-based AT&T or another telecom company to expand the service, but it would need to put out a formal bid to do so.

“On the technological front, this is really going to drive the city forward,” Mayor Phil Hardberger said. “Although this is only a test, I have no doubt it’s something that eventually will become permanent.”

I wonder if Mayor Hardberger has discussed his city’s plans with Mayor White. Like Houston, San Antonio is fairly spread out and not terribly dense in most places. The pilot ought to be a boon for the city, since their downtown is a big tourist attraction that will be enhanced by this new feature.

During the trial, AT&T will offer free Internet access at speeds of 200 kbps, slower than its lowest tier of wired broadband service. It also will offer paid access that clocks in at 1 Mbps, or on par with wired broadband service. The company hasn’t set the price for the faster tier.

The arrangement essentially means AT&T will pick up the tab for the network installation, but allows the company to earn revenue when customers opt to pay for faster-speed Internet access.

I also wonder if AT&T has studied the EarthLink example to see how their business models match up. We’ll see how it goes for them. Link via Dwight.

The final “Sopranos” tonight

I have no idea what will happen in tonight’s finale of The Sopranos. You can find various predictions here and here, among other places. I’m kind of partial to the idea that Tony will be rescued by the FBI in return for ratting out Phil and the New York crew, but there are plenty of other worthwhile scenarios. The one thing I do know is to watch what I read very carefully on Monday if I haven’t already seen the show. Not everybody is good about observing spoiler etiquette, and I’ve had a few episodes ruined by that. I hope I know better now.

So. What do you think will happen? Leave your guesses in the comments, but please don’t reveal anything after you’ve seen it, for those who tune in later than you.

UPDATE: As PDiddie notes, it’s Sopranos versus the NBA Finals tonight.

Among the HBO mob drama’s millions of followers is [LeBron] James, who described himself at Saturday’s media session at the AT&T Center as “a big Sopranos fan” and was clearly elated to have been asked about something other than how to beat a double-team.

Members of the Soprano family have been getting knocked off at an alarming rate, much more quickly and ruthlessly than the Cavaliers and Spurs have rubbed out their playoff foes.

With several of Tony Soprano’s lieutenants gone, it appears that the boss may be next. But “The King” doesn’t think so.

“Me and my guys have definitely sat down to think about it,” James said. “My friends think that either the Feds are going to come and get him or he’s going to make friends with the Feds and maybe snitch on a lot of people.

“Or he’s going to be whacked, which I don’t think is going to happen. I hope that he’s just able to get away and not worry about nothing.”

James has a small problem. He has a previous engagement Sunday night and won’t be able to watch the final episode when it airs for the first time. He plans on catching up when he gets back to Cleveland next week.

“I did have my girlfriend TiVo ‘The Sopranos,’ definitely, so when I get home I’ll be able to watch it,” James said. “But I think I’ll be more focused on Tony Parker.”

Indeed, this is why God gave us TiVo. The Series 3, with its dual-tuner capabilities, is even more of a godsend.

What’s the deal with baby dealers?

Was it just me, or did anybody else who read this Press story about shady adoption “facilitator” Jennalee Ryan have a flashback to shady would-be uterus broker Whitney Broach?

If the name Whitney Broach doesn’t ring a bell, think back to 1993, when she got 15 minutes of fame that she’s been hiding from ever since.

It started when a billboard went up along the Southwest Freeway advertising a “womb for rent.” An anonymous woman was offering to be a surrogate mother for what her lawyer said was the going rate of $100,000.

The billboard got worldwide publicity, but when reporters started digging, they found out who the anonymous woman was — Whitney Neuhaus Broach — and what she was.

She’s been convicted of fraud and money laundering in a New Orleans federal court for filing fictitious health insurance claims in connection with her weight-loss clinic. She’s been the loser in a federal suit in which the government alleged she was charging women for tests using a bogus machine to detect breast cancer.

Broach, who has used many aliases throughout her checkered business career, was even arrested — but never charged — in the 1983 killing of her then-husband. The Chronicle reported in 1993 that New Orleans law enforcement officials said that Broach, then known as Cherie Ward Werling, “presented a battered-wife defense and was never prosecuted for the killing.”

Broach surfaced again locally in 2002 when former Chron columnist Thom Marshall wrote about her “charitable foundation” without having been aware of her past. In googling ol’ Whitney, it turns out I may have been a bit harsh on ol’ Thom. He apparently wasn’t the first writer to fall for her BS:

This marriage is the second round for Roger and Whitney Broach, Mr. and Mrs. Texas. He was divorced, and she was a widow. She has luminescent green eyes that never blink. She works as a paralegal and does tattoo removal and permanent cosmetics in a room that adjoins Roger’s law office. “My first husband was abusive and I vowed I would never marry again,” Whitney whispers in a petite voice. “But 20 minutes after meeting Roger, I knew he was a genius. And he’s fantastic in bed,” she adds, without batting a permanently lined lid. They eloped to Vegas on a very low budget. After spending $25 on a marriage license, Whitney talked a chapel owner into marrying them for $12. The honeymoon was dinner at a Mexican restaurant.

While Roger was recovering from heart surgery, Whitney averaged four hours of sleep in order to care for his clients as well as her patients. She wants to remove gang tattoos in exchange for ex-gangsters’ performing community service. If they win, Whitney and Roger plan to visit women in shelters and prisons to illustrate that not all marriages are bad.

There’s really nothing I can add to that, is there?

Anyway. That’s what reading the Press’ current cover story reminded me of. Read it for yourself, and if you remember Whitney Broach, see if you agree.