Friday, February 06, 2009

Hey, Rush Hour Commuters--Run Across Any Zombies Lately?

This story has been making the rounds of the various news media recently, and the actions that spawned it seem to be spreading across the country as well. I'm talking about the people who have been hacking into those electronic road signs that usually warn of road construction or accidents ahead and broadcasting funny messages from them:
The latest breach came Tuesday during the morning rush hour near Collinsville, Ill., where hackers changed a sign along southbound Interstate 255 to read, "DAILY LANE CLOSURES DUE TO ZOMBIES."

A day earlier in Indiana's Hamilton County, the electronic message on a board in Carmel's construction zone warned drivers of "RAPTORS AHEAD — CAUTION."

And signs in Austin, Texas, recently flashed: "NAZI ZOMBIES! RUN!!!" and "ZOMBIES IN AREA! RUN."
And of course, highway officials don't appear to have a sense of humor about this:
Officials in Illinois are concerned the rewritten signs distract motorists from heeding legitimate hazards down the road. The hacked sign on Tuesday originally warned drivers of crews replacing guardrails.

"We understood it was a hoax, but at the same time those boards are there for a reason," said Joe Gasaway, an Illinois Department of Transportation supervisory field engineer. "We don't want (drivers) being distracted by a funny sign."
Heaven forbid that a driver might be distracted by something funny. What's next--outlawing jokes on the radio? These may not exactly be the same people who want to take away our cell phones when we drive, but you'd think that they could at least acknowledge that it's funny.

As the linked article notes, the hackers do provide a public service of sorts: They alert transportation officials to holes in the security of their sign programs. Perhaps that's why there hasn't yet been an effort to take down the online tutorials, such as the one on, that show people how to hack the signs. And besides, the signs themselves are often unintentionally funny, with badly misspelled words or glitches in the time estimates between landmarks (just the other day, on the President George Bush Turnpike in Richardson/Plano, a sign at Jupiter Road gave the estimated time between there and Coit Road--a distance of five miles--as "33 minutes," which, if true, would have likely meant that traffic would have been backed up to a point quite a bit behind where I was driving, unimpeded by traffic of any kind, at the moment).

In the meantime, since I do make quite a few Austin trips, I'll definitely watch out for those zombies; you never know when they might jump out at you.

Funny video chain of the week: The original video, called David After Dentist, shows a seven-year-old kid interacting with his dad after a trip to have a tooth removed. (Hat tip: Althouse, where the hostess posts a poll asking if the dad should be condemned for making fun of his kid like that, and the answers are almost evenly divided between Yes, No, and Eh.) Then someone made a mash-up of David with the Christian Bale movie-set rant from earlier in the week (and if you missed the RevoLucian remix of Bale's rant, you should definitely check that out; it stands on its own as a cool techno song). WARNING: Both of the previous videos have audio that's NSFW (does anyone read The Musings at work?). It also spawned a few other remixes, including a metal version.

In the original video, little David asks his dad, "Is this real life?" This is very close to the opening lyric to Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody," and when it was submitted to Digg, the commenting community finished the lyrics in the comment section to that post; it's very funny to watch everything scroll by.

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