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The top three holiday high tech items

The holiday season is a time for shopping, dining, and robotically aided dental work?

Can a Kmart blue-light special turn black and blue?

It sure looked that way recently, when a computer glitch started a melee at a store in Wauwatosa, Mich.

A promotion to give away $10 to anyone applying for a Citibank credit card somehow morphed into $4,000 in instant credit, even if the applicant shouldn’t have qualified. (In Wauwatosa, that would seem to be a lot of people.) According to news reports, once word got out about this “free money,” a free-for-all ensued. A store employee, for example, was punched in the nose and went flying through a glass display case. Nearly a dozen police squad cars responded to the call.

A merry Christmas to all, and to all a good fight.

The Wheel of Cheddar

Sooner or later, someone had to cut the cheese: Wedginald, the now-famous wheel of cheddar that matured live over a Web cam, went up for auction recently with the proceeds going to the BBC Children in Need charity.

If you ever wanted some non-stop action on the Internet, watching a 44-pound cheddar mature really cannot be beat.

The cheese attracted more than 1.6 million hits on www.cheddarvision.tv since it first went on the Web late in 2006 (and had over 1,300 friends on MySpace). It finally sold at auction on eBay, ending on Nov. 19, at the sale price of £1,145. With a total of 36 bids, nearly 200 people watched Wedginald as the auction closed. Apparently, it will be ready to consume by Dec. 25, 2007.

A merry Christmas to all, and to all a good bite.

Robots as Dentists

If you tend to eat too many candy canes over the holidays, there may be some good news on the horizon: dentists in Japan (where else?) are now able to better detect patients’ pain by training on a humanoid robot that can say “ouch” when the drill hits a nerve.

The robotic aide, named Simroid, resembles an attractive young woman with long black hair and a pink sweater, and can also listen to instructions and react to pain by moving her eyes or hands. The 160-centimeter (five-foot-three) robot can say “it hurts” and frown when it feels uncomfortable from the dental drill. There was no word on whether load swearing would follow. On a somewhat disconcerting note, Simroid also has a sensor on the breast area that keeps track if it has been touched inappropriately. Some dentists, it would seem, need to get out more.

A merry Christmas to all, and to all a good root canal.