Travel Web site pays $1.1 million for 'S'

And you thought the dot-com bubble burst years ago: A British travel company has paid $1.1 million for the Internet domain name cruises.co.uk, a price that is effectively a million bucks just for the letter "S" since it already owns the address cruise.co.uk.

The sum shatters the previous record of $300,000 paid for a "co.uk" domain name last year.

Seamus Conlon, whose company bought the address from a German travel company, said it was a necessary move to retain dominance in the rapidly growing market for ocean cruising.

"'Cruises' is consistently ranked first on Google, with 'cruise' just behind," he said.

“We wanted the top positions so that when Internet users are searching for deals ... we are the first port of call.”

While the purchase is a record for Britain, it is a long way behind the huge sums paid for more popular ".com" addresses.

The current most-expensive domain is sex.com, which was bought for $12 million in 2005. Running close behind is porn.com, snapped up for $9.5 million last year.

At least they got a whole word for their money.

Gas attendant automaton
Tired of pumping your own gas just to save of few pennies? Now you can let a robot do the refueling, as Dutch inventors this week unveiled a car-fueling robot costing $111,100 they say is the first of its kind.

A car-fuelling robot is seen unscrewing the gas tank cap before fuelling up a car in Emmeloord, central Netherlands, February 4, 2008. Dutch inventors on Monday unveiled a 75,000 euro ($111,100) car-fuelling robot, able to fill a vehicle's tank with petrol without the driver so much as having to leave their seat. REUTERS/Michael Kooren (NETHERLANDS)Michael Kooren / X01210

The petrol-pumping gadget works by visually registering the car's make and model on arrival at the filling station and matching it to a data base of fuel cap designs and even fuel types so you don't have say "regular" or "super."

A robotic arm fitted with multiple sensors extends from a regular gas pump, carefully opens the car's flap, unscrews the cap, picks up the fuel nozzle and directs it toward the tank opening, much as a human arm would.

"I was on a farm and I saw a robotic arm milking a cow. If a robot can do that then why can't it fill a car tank, I thought," said developer and gas station operator Nico van Staveren. "Drivers needn't get dirty hands or smell of petrol again."

He hopes to introduce the "Tankpitstop" robot in a handful of Dutch stations by the end of the year. It works for any car whose tank can be opened without a key, and whose contours and dimensions have been recorded to avoid scratching.

In other words, low-rider and monster-truck owners should stick to self-service.

Creepy 'Lolita' label
A chain of retail stores in Britain has withdrawn the sale of beds named Lolita and designed for 6-year-old girls after furious parents pointed out that the name was synonymous with sexually active pre-teens.

Woolworths Group PLC (spun off years ago from the now-defunct chain of five-and-dime stores in the U.S.) said staff who administer the Web site selling the beds were not aware of the connection.

In "Lolita," a controversial 1955 novel by Vladimir Nabokov, the narrator becomes sexually involved with his 12-year-old stepdaughter — but Woolworths staff had not heard of the classic novel or two subsequent films based on it.

Hence they saw nothing wrong with advertising the Lolita Midsleeper Combi, a whitewashed wooden bed with pull-out desk and cupboard intended for girls aged about 6, until a concerned mother raised the alarm on a parenting Web site.

"What seems to have happened is the staff who run the Web site had never heard of Lolita, and to be honest no one else here had either," a spokesman told British newspapers.

"We had to look it up on Wikipedia. But we certainly know who she is now."

Woolworths said the product had now been dropped, adding, "We will be talking to the supplier with regard to how the branding came about."

That's OK, we really don't need to know any more details.