Friday, November 30, 2007

Comparing and Contrasting Batman under Miller & Morrison

Some cool stuff from Geoff Klock comparing Frank Miller's take on Batman vs Grant Morrison's. [Link]
The fight between Frank Miller and Grant Morrison to control the destiny of the Batman saw another blow today, as Frank Miller, in the tragically misunderstood secretly weirdly brilliant All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder, took a shot at Morrison.

Batman tells his young charge to pick a code name and a costume. The kid picks up a bow and arrow, thinks of Robin Hood and goes with "Hood" -- as a name and a costume choice. Batman objects to the costume and says "Hood, huh? Do you know what any thug with half a brain would do with that hood?" He violently pulls the hood over Robin's eyes and walks out saying "Lose the hood. You're Robin." He has re-imagined the origin of the name and costume of Robin in a persuasive way -- Grayson goes with Robin Hood in this "year two" in the same way the young Batman identified with Zorro in "Year One."

But he is also taking a shot at Morrison's recent Son of the Bat plot. Miller emphasizes the father-son dynamic between the two: his Batman says "What am I DOING playing Father...?" Robin's first choice of costume looks exactly like the Robin tribute costume Batman's biological son wears in Morrison's book -- and Miller's Batman chastises him for picking something so stupid. Score one Miller.

AT&T vs Apple

Cringely thinks that Apple will get involved in the 700mhz auction, perhaps as a prelude to a national wireless network for Apple products, like iPhones, iPods, laptops without needing AT&T. [Link]

I'm not privy to any inside details here, but there are two ways I can see Jobs rationalizing his auction position and they aren't necessarily exclusive. He could claim to intend the 700-MHz auction participation as a pure investment, just a good use for the $30+ billion Apple has squirreled away.


Or Jobs could tell AT&T that Apple is investing solely in a DATA network for which it has no voice ambitions. Maybe all MacBooks will soon get 700-MHz access cards.

This excuse rings truer, but of course it would still be a scam on Steve's part.

It would not surprise me at all if this were the case and when the 700-MHz network is finally up and running Jobs claims astonishment that the most popular data application is Voice over IP, a direct competitor to AT&T Wireless. This may be part of the reason why Apple has been so slow approving third-party iPhone applications. Wouldn't your first application be a VoIP client?

Of course to this point Apple hasn't even said it will participate in the 700-MHz auction. Apple has said nothing at all on the subject. I said it and still believe it to be true. And I'd say Randall Stephenson's remarks this week pretty much confirm I was correct.

Space Settlement Resources

From RLV and Space Transport News.

Full online copies of space settlement documents.

National Space Society Space Settlement Library

We lose more balls that way...

This is cool. Guys playing soccer on a satellite dish on a ship. From here.

My dad worked on one of these in the sixties. I wonder if he ever did this or saw anyone else do it?

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Public Defenders

Now that is a thankless job. [Link]
Journalist Kevin Davis’ book Defending the Damned: Inside Chicago’s Cook County Public Defender’s Office should make readers reconsider the contempt routinely heaped on public defenders. Perhaps, given recent headlines, there’s actually some merit to the public defender’s familiar complaints about inadequate funding, heavy caseloads, and prosecutorial misconduct.

Davis spent the better part of a year shadowing the lawyers on Chicago’s Murder Task Force, the elite office where the city’s best public defenders eventually end up, representing defendants in high-profile homicide cases. Davis writes in the preface that he wants to get beyond what public defenders sometimes call “the Cocktail Party Question,” namely, “How can you defend those people?” He introduces his discussions of that question with the Murder Task Force lawyers by describing some gruesome homicides committed by people the task force has defended. In one particularly horrifying example, the young parents Joan Tribblet and Everette Johnson choked their infant girl to death to stop her from crying and then, to cover up the crime, cut her body into small pieces, breaded and fried them, and fed them to alley dogs. Task force lawyers were successful in sparing both from the death penalty. In another case, a man sexually assaulted a little girl with a shotgun, then fired the weapon during the act.

So how can they defend those people? Davis finds a wide range of motives. Some public defenders are building careers, and value the trial experience they can get right out of law school. Some fight simply out of opposition to the death penalty. Others subscribe to a broader, vaguer notion of representing the powerless against the powerful. Some just relish the challenge.

But most rightly see themselves as an indispensable part of a fair criminal justice system.
Their level of funding should probably be closer to that of the prosecution's than it is.

New Knight Rider KITT

The new KITT.
KITT was originally a Pontiac Trans Am, but for this modern day remake, the car is officially a Ford Mustang Shelby GT500KR, first reported by the sleuths at Jalopnik that spotted the car being developed in an LA facility. There is no word on what awesome gadgets and features the next generation 550HP KITT will feature, but we would assume it will be one-upping its Pontiac predecessor that was loaded to the guns with everything from thermal resistant coating, a parachute, tear gas, a "telephone comlink" (I can't help but laugh at that), microwave jammer and more.

Thomas Barnett: The Pentagon's new map for war and peace

Thomas Barnett says some really interesting things on how we need to change how the military interacts with the world. His book is interesting and a longer, more detailed version of this video.

Media bias at the YouTube debate

At the latest Republican debate, where the questions were all submitted on YouTube, at least 4 of the questioners are Democratic supporters or work for a Democratic candidate. Yet, the Democratic debate with YouTube questions had no such opposition questions.
CNN says they didn't have time to vet the questioner's affiliation, but bloggers found connections quickly, some right on their YouTube profile. [Link]

From comments [Link]
I would like to hear the candidates from both parties face hostile questions from the left, from the right, and from the center. I would like them to also face friendly questions from the left, the right, and the center.

What we get now are Republicans asked questions framed from the left and Democrats asked questions framed from the left. If I was a lefty, I would think that is just fine. But I am not. And I don't think I would like the reverse, either. Nor do I think I would like both sides getting only questions framed from their side, or both sides getting only questions framed from the other side.
UPDATE: From Instapundit

CNN's problem isn't just bias -- it's a failure of professionalism. Frankly, if bloggers ran some sort of event and were infiltrated in this fashion, the usual media-ethics suspects would be tugging their beards about blogger irresponsibility and praising the superior layers of editors and fact-checkers at Big Media outfits like . . . CNN.

But we learn that CNN did use Google:

He said CNN never spoke to Kerr and had Google, which owns YouTube, bring the retired general and about a dozen other questioners to the debate because their videos were likely to be used, although no final decision had been made.

Using Google for plane tickets is okay. But next time, try using them for . . . Googling. As a commenter at Kurtz's observes: "What should be noted about this issue is that CNN probably has a whole army of interns and low-level producers who could vet the possible questioners. They 'could spend hours Googling everybody', while the top level hacks concentrated on choosing the 'best' questions."

Meanwhile, I'll just repeat what I said earlier: If Fox hosted a Democratic debate and many of the most pointed questions turned out to come from Republican activists, but Fox didn't disclose that, do you think it would pass unremarked?

UPDATE: From Wizbang

It's been over a full day since the CNN/YouTube Republican debate, and I think it's time for a full roundup of the identified plants in the questioning:

1) Retired Colonel Keith Kerr, staffer on Hillary Clinton's and John Kerry's campaigns.

2) Adam Florzak, aide to Senator Dick Durbin.

3) Mark Strauss, announced Bill Richardson supporter.

4) David Cerrone, announced Barack Obama supporter.

5) LeeAnn Anderson, United Steelworkers Union activist -- which has endorsed John Edwards.

6) "Journey," another announced Edwards supporter.

7) Ted Faturos, former intern to Congresswoman Jane Harman (D-CA)

8) David McMillan, aspiring TV writer whose biggest schtick is his satire as "the blind black Republican" and attendee of Barack Obama fundraisers

8 of 34. Just under 24%.

Asbestos is the new Lead

Lead is passé. Asbestos is where its at. [Link]
This Christmas, the new new thing is asbestos-tainted toys and other products. The CPSC doesn't even test for asbestos, so it's anyone's guess what products might be hiding some away—or rather it used to be, until an independent consumer group ponied up the cash to pay for the testing.

The results cover a variety of products:

  • CSI Fingerprint Examination Kit (asbestos in both the white and glowing powders)
  • Art Skills' Clay Bucket
  • Three varieties of Ja-Ru Toy Clay
  • Scotch High Performance Duct Tape and its All Weather Duct Tape
  • DAP Crack Shot Spackling Paste and DAP's 33 Window Glazing
  • Gardner Leak Stopper

According to the article, "Asbestos also was also found in hair rollers, hot plates and small appliances imported from China and sold in major drug store chains. The organization may do additional testing on those products and others."
Did China run out of Lead?

How Does Bruce Schneier Protect His Laptop Data?

He is well known as a computer security expert. This is good information. [Link]

There are several whole-disk encryption products on the market. I use PGP Disk's Whole Disk Encryption tool for two reasons. It's easy, and I trust both the company and the developers to write it securely. (Disclosure: I'm also on PGP Corp.'s Technical Advisory Board.)

Setup only takes a few minutes. After that, the program runs in the background. Everything works like before, and the performance degradation is negligible. Just make sure you choose a secure password -- PGP's encouragement of passphrases makes this much easier -- and you're secure against leaving your laptop in the airport or having it stolen out of your hotel room.

The reason you encrypt your entire disk, and not just key files, is so you don't have to worry about swap files, temp files, hibernation files, erased files, browser cookies or whatever. You don't need to enforce a complex policy about which files are important enough to be encrypted. And you have an easy answer to your boss or to the press if the computer is stolen: no problem; the laptop is encrypted.

PGP Disk can also encrypt external disks, which means you can also secure that USB memory device you've been using to transfer data from computer to computer. When I travel, I use a portable USB drive for backup. Those devices are getting physically smaller -- but larger in capacity -- every year, and by encrypting I don't have to worry about losing them.

Multiverses and Canon

In a follow up to DC's Multiple Earths List, theres this on how it all relates to canon and the stories these worlds were created to emulate. [Link]
I have a feeling my Nu-Multiverse concerns will all be moot by this time next year. In the 6 1/2 months since 52 #52, over half of the Nu-Multiverse has been catalogued, and I can’t help but think that the other Earths will be mapped by the end of Final Crisis. The Nu-Multiverse seems to be an unsustainable closed system, so I don’t see it surviving Final Crisis. Instead, I imagine FC will open up DC’s cosmology somehow, either by bringing back the classic Infinite-Earths model or by reaffirming Hypertime (or something similar).

Maybe that will reaffirm the divide between the “real” stories and the “imaginary” ones. This line of thinking does make me sympathetic to the Monitors’ desire to keep everything properly compartmentalized. I wouldn’t want another reality’s nigh-omnipotent quasi-deities casting a critical eye on my home universe.

They’re all imaginary stories, of course; but the mashup which is the Nu-Multiverse demonstrates the need for some stories to be watched more closely than others.

I don't see them going back to one universe after Final Crisis either. An infinite number of worlds is ok by me as long as they are not an every issue affair.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Is your computer classically trained?

Computer Randomly Plays Classical Music

That's cool.


Changing the world's climate deliberately. Geoengineering is coming, sooner or later. [Link]
Until recently geoengineering has been largely taboo. Many activists fear that geoengineering will provide policymakers an excuse not to cut carbon emissions. But if you believe, like Al Gore does, that we only have a decade to act before we do irreversible damage to our environment, then it seems irresponsible not to pursue geoengineering.

Due to the physical chemistry of carbon in the atmosphere and the socioeconomic challenges of retooling our energy systems, greenhouse gas emissions can't be cut fast and far enough to make a difference. Geoengineering is a quick fix compared to either emissions restrictions or bringing zero emission nuclear power plants online. It harnesses American traditions of innovation, creativity, and our "can do" spirit.

The Chinese are using geoengineering to seed clouds to relieve severe droughts and water shortages. Chinese officials are considering a similar approach to cool daytime temperature and reduce demand for electricity during the 2010 Olympic games.

Reel-to-reel albums

This is neat. Some albums are being reissued on reel-to-reel. [Link]
The Tape Project, an interesting subscription service for reissues of great music on reel-to-reel audio tape. Each release, from Sonny Rollins's "Saxophone Colossus" to Jacqui Naylor's "The Number White," comes on an engraved reel in a leather case and includes cover art printed on high-quality claycoat paper. Depending on the subscription package, each release costs around $129.
For when you want that retro hi-fi experience.

The Tape Project

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Gail Simone and Wonder Woman Costume contest winners

Gail Simone is one of my favorite writers. She is profiled at the New York Times
“I was a hairdresser until a couple of years ago,” Gail Simone said. “It took me a long time to admit that I was a professional writer.”
And over at Project: Rooftop are the winners of a costume to redesign Wonder Woman's costume. Some pretty cool looking pieces there in a variety of styles.

Tom Swift rights acquired

Cool. [Link]
Worldwide Biggies, a digital studio recently opened by longtime Nickelodeon and Spike executive Albie Hecht, has acquired all rights to Simon & Schuster's long-running Tom Swift book series, Variety reported.

The company plans to introduce the franchise with a feature film and video game, followed by episodes for TV and the Web.

The books, originated by Edward Stratemeyer, center on Swift, a teenage genius born into a family of inventors. The series has had a wide following for decades, spanning some 100-plus installments in numerous genres. At its core has always been young Tom's knack for problem solving and fantastical inventions.
Some of the earliest sci-fi I read was the 50's incarnation of Tom Swift, Tom Swift Jr. When I was older I read the third Tom Swift series, set in space. There have been two series since that I have not read.
One of the first letters I ever wrote was to suggest to WTVJ that they should have a Tom Swift series. I was seven or eight. I reread them many, many times.

Chuck picked up for a full season

Cool. This is one of the best new shows on TV this season. Chuck is believably geeky without being a caricature. Plus, Adam Baldwin rocks.

Does this mean they have a full season of scripts already written?

Girls with guns

First timer at the shooting range. [Link]

I grew up in New Jersey, and was taught to hate handguns. Really. Shotguns and rifles were okay if you hunted (not that I ever had the desire to hunt), but handguns? Evil. Death machines. The only reason to have one is to use it to kill someone. People get killed all the time by handguns, mostly people who found one, played with it, and shot themselves or someone else by accident. At least, that’s the lore I grew up on. But I’ve known since I moved to Virginia that it’s a very gun-friendly state, and y’know, I’m a woman alone, and my neighborhood has gone downhill considerably in the last two years. I’ve been thinking a lot about learning to shoot and buying a gun.

Which is why I spent Sunday afternoon at the Blue Ridge Arsenal in northern Virginia learning to load, shoot, and unload four different kinds of handguns. Plus a rifle.

I've gone shooting a couple of times with Kurt and enjoyed it. The lever action rifle was cool. I felt like I was in a Western.

I have no desire to own one, but I like having the option open to me.

Preparing for the Zombie Apocalypse

Neat comic [Link]

Are we an Empire?

I don't think so. [Link]
The second verse of the anti-imperial lament, sung in unison by liberals and libertarians, goes like this: Expansion of the military-industrial complex leads to contraction of freedom at home. But historically, this is a hard sell. Women got the vote largely thanks to World War I. President Truman, that consummate Cold Warrior, integrated the Army, and the civil rights movement escalated its successes even as we escalated the Cold War and our presence in Vietnam. President Reagan built up the military even as he liberalized the economy.

Sure Naomi Wolfe, Frank Rich and other leftists believe that the imperialistic war on terror has turned America into a police state. But if they were right, they wouldn't be allowed to say that.

Fan Fiction

Neat. [Link]
Search hard enough, and you’ll find stories featuring just about any existing character, from Jack Bauer to Odysseus. Want to know what would happen if the crews of Ocean’s 11 and The Italian Job teamed up to rob a bank? Or what really went down after The Sopranos faded to black? It’s all here. Where your favorite stories end, fan fiction begins. Deep down, fan fiction is driven by the desire we all have for one thing: a way to keep our favorite stories going.
I like fan fiction. For a while I was a regular reader of Daria fan fiction. Something about her and her personality resonated with me. Lots of it was bad, very bad, but some was great.

Like a relic from a previous era

Very pretty. [Link]
This little engraved MP5K is a machinenpistol produced in 1976, "designed at the request of HK South American sales rep, who saw a market for dignitary protection and increased firepower in a small package." It comes with its own leather "briefcase" carry-case that allows for fast, machine-gun-kelly-style blasts from within the bag.

Pictures from Watchmen

Pretty cool looking. Check out the last one with the Nixon poster / Who watches the Watchmen / and I think Rorschach.

Solar Sails

Cool post here
Solar sail technology is no idle dream. After extensive study at Marshall Space Flight Center, NASA’s basic sail design has reached the point where space testing is the logical next step even as research continues in European venues like Germany’s DLR. When we begin a serious push into solar sail technologies, we’ll need to test these designs in near-Earth orbit, and then move out into the Solar System. A logical mission for early sails will be, as Friedman notes, a replacement for the Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE), a mission nearing the end of its lifetime.
Solar Sails on Wikipedia

I'm glad it has a name

The majority of projects I've worked on have been like that.

DC's Multiple Earths List

Filling in the blanks.
The known earths are:

Earth-2: Home of the original Justice Society (first appearance 52 #52 - this earth’s Superman and Power Girl are missing)
Earth-3: The Crime Society’s world (first appearance 52 #52)
Earth-4: Home of the Charlton characters (a.k.a. – the Watchmen-esque world) (first appearance 52 #52)
Earth-5: Home of the Fawcett (Shazam) characters (first appearance 52 #52)
Earth-8: World of Lord Havok and the Extremists – called Angor by its natives (Countdown #29)
Earth-9: Tangent Universe (upcoming in Tangent: Superman’s Reign #1)
Earth-10: Home of the Quality (Freedom Fighters, Uncle Sam, the original Ray, etc) characters (first appearance 52 #52)
Earth-11: World of reversed genders ( Arena #1 and The Search For Ray
Palmer: Superwoman/ Batwoman #1
Earth-12: The Next Generation, beyond Batman (i.e., Batman Beyond?) (Arena #1)
Earth-13: World of dark and arcane heroes ( Arena #1)
Earth-15: World of heroes realized (Donna Troy as Wonder Woman; Jason Todd as Batman) (Countdown #30 - the earth of this universe was destroyed in Countdown #24)
Earth-16: Home of the Super-Sons ( Arena #1)
Earth-17: A post WWIII, apocalyptic universe (first appearance 52 #52)
Earth-18: World of the Elseworld’s Justice Riders ( Arena #1)
Earth-19: World of Elseworld’s Gotham by Gaslight (The Search For Ray
Palmer: Gotham By Gaslight #1
Earth-21: World of Elseworld’s New Frontier ( Arena #1)
Earth-22: Elseworld’s Kingdom Come Universe (first appearance 52 #52)
Earth-26: Universe of Captain Carrot and the Amazing Zoo Crew (Captain Carrot
And The Final Ark #1
Earth-30: World of Elseworld’s Superman: Red Son (Countdown #32)
Earth-32: World of Elseworld’s Batman: Darkest Knight (Arena #1)
Earth-34: World of Elseworld’s Amazonia ( Arena #1)
Earth-37: World of Elseworld’s Thrillkiller ( Arena #1)
Earth-40: World of Elseworld’s Liberty Files ( Arena #1)
Earth-43: World of Elseworld’s Batman: Red Rain (The Search For Ray Palmer:
Red Rain #1
Earth-48: Forerunner’s world (Countdown #46)
Earth-50: Wildstorm Universe (first seen 52 #52)
I love this crap.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Exoskeletons becoming a reality

Pretty amazing. [Link]

Conan's Kissing Cousin Coming to Cineplex

Another of Robert E Howard's famous characters, Solomon Kane, is coming to the movies.

Caricatures better than Police Sketches

Interesting. When I've seen a police sketch and the person they identified with it, I can almost never see the resemblance. [Link]
In tests, volunteers were asked to identify people from the standard photofit of their face and from their caricature.

On average, a photofit face was correctly identified 20% of the time, compared with 40% for the caricature, according to a report in this month's Visual Cognition journal.

In a second test, the team led by Charlie Frowd asked volunteers to make photofits of international footballers two days after being shown a picture of them. The delay was introduced to reflect the typical amount of time that passes from a crime being committed and a witness being asked to create a photofit.

When the images were shown to volunteers, only 3.4% of them were correctly identified, a similar success rate as that reported for police photofits. The researchers are in discussions with police over the possibility of trying out the technology after future crimes.

New Prison...Wait, Elementary School

How much more can they make school like prison?
The building, designed to house and secure more than 600 people, has 23 security cameras inside and out that record 24 hours a day.

The windows do not open, in part so no one can sneak in. They also are extra-large so the outside perimeter can be monitored, and they are scaled so even small children can easily look out. During business hours, all of the facility's doors except one are locked, forcing every visitor to enter through the office.

Welcome to Watertown-Mayer Elementary School, one of the newest -- and most unusual -- schools in Minnesota.

I think this kind of design is counterproductive. That environment rubs off on students. School is one of the safest places you can be. This is an example of Scaring Ourselves to Death.

Super Efficient Wind Turbine

Cool. Small footprint compared to a field of conventional turbines, low friction from maglev bearings, works in low wind speeds, this seems like a near perfect power source.
Construction began on the world’s largest production site for maglev wind turbines in central China on November 5, 2007. Zhongke Hengyuan Energy Technology has invested 400 million yuan in building this facility, which will produce maglev wind turbines with capacities ranging from 400 to 5,000 watts. In the US, Arizona-based MagLev Wind Turbine Technologies will be manufacturing these turbines. Headed by long-time renewable energy researcher Ed Mazur, the company claims that it will be able to deliver clean power for less than one cent per kilowatt hour with this new technology. It also points out that building a single giant maglev wind turbine would reduce construction and maintenance costs and require much less land than hundreds of conventional turbines. The estimated cost of building this colossal structure is $53 million.

Antimatter in stellar core

I didn't think much antimatter was produced in nature, but that may explain some extremely luminous supernovae. [Link]
In 2006, the supernova SN 2006gy wowed scientists with a light show that was 10 times as luminous as the average supernova, challenging the traditional model of exactly how an exploding star creates a supernova. Astronomers suspect that the cause is the repeated production of antimatter in the core of the star.

Supernovae occur when a star nears the end of its life, and the nuclear processes that fuel the star push outward more powerfully than the force of gravity can hold the star together; the type of supernova created depends on the mass of the star. In stars with masses between 95-130 times the Sun, this process can occur more than once, creating a "pulsational" supernova which can happen as many as seven times.

The cause for the multiple explosions may have to do with the production of antimatter particles in the core, which then recombine and release large amounts of energy.

"The pair instability is encountered when, late in the star's life, a large amount of thermal energy goes into making the masses of an increasing abundance of electron-positron pairs rather than providing pressure," wrote Dr. Stan Woosley, of the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics, USCS Santa Cruz.

"Captain, the core canna take any more stress. It's gonna blow!"

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Bitmap to Vector Conversion

This is cool. This converts bitmapp images to vector format and thus smoothly resizable. [Link]

Here is a vectorized version of MetalShop, saved in PNG format.

Comment deletion trickery

This is underhanded. The San Francisco Chronicle's website will hide deleted comments from everyone except the person who made the comments. This is pretty unethical.
If you make a comment on an article posted at SFGate, and if the site moderators then subsequently delete your comment for whatever reason, it will only appear as deleted to the other readers. HOWEVER, your comment will NOT appear to be deleted if viewed from your own computer! The Chronicle's goal is to trick deleted commenters into not knowing their comments were in fact deleted. I'll give evidence below showing how they do this.

Why would SFGate do such a thing? Because ever since public input was first allowed at SFGate, many commenters who had their comments deleted would come back onto the comment thread and point out that they had been silenced for ideological reasons -- i.e. they weren't sufficiently "progressive" -- or because they had pointed out ethical lapses at SFGate and the Chronicle. Or any number of other reasons that the Chronicle did not want known. So, to pacify these problematic commenters, the SFGate moderators came up with a very clever and underhanded coding trick to prevent deleted commenters from ever finding out that they had been silenced.
And it goes beyond just individual posts, some users have all comments banned automatically.
An anonymous commenter has just documented that, at least in some cases, the comment-deletions on SFGate are automated; that all comments from certain users who have been secretly banned from the site are immediately deleted automatically; but that such deletions are not visible to the banned commenter himself. Thus, he never knows that he has been banned.

Idiots in Majority

People will believe anything. [Link]
Nearly two-thirds of Americans believe the federal government had warnings about 9/11 but decided to ignore them, a national survey found.

And that's not the only conspiracy theory with a huge number of true believers in the United States.

The poll found that more than one out of three Americans believe Washington is concealing the truth about UFOs and the Kennedy assassination - and most everyone is sure the rise in gas prices is one vast oil-industry conspiracy.

Campaign Logos

Pretty interesting analysis of Presidential campaign logos. [Link]

Battlestar Galactica: Razor review

It is on tonight. [Link]
With the final fate of Battlestar Galactica’s fourth and final season somewhat hazy due to the Writer’s Guild strike (it’s due to start in April), this evening’s Battlestar Galactica: Razor will most likely bring about a wide range of emotions in fans and viewers. Is it good? Frak yes, it’s good. Not perfect, but very, very good. At the same time, is it bittersweet? A little – if this is the last we’ll see of Galactica for six months or even more…frak.
I'm looking forward to it.
Saturday, November 24th 9:00 pm EST

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Science Tattoos

Go see them here

Reinventing wheels, poorly

Not all CAPTCHAs are equally good at determining human/not human. It's affecting Hannah Montana concert tickets, where scalpers are defeating the CAPTCHAs to get more tickets than they should. [Link]

It seems an awful lot of programmers subscribe to the "add some crazy patterns and/or colors to the text and pray for the best" school of CAPTCHA design. That's not only sloppy, it just doesn't work. The top of this chart is littered with their failed attempts. On some sites, this is OK. They don't need the same world-class level of protection from bots and scripts that Ticketmaster does-- there's tremendous financial incentive for scalpers to break their system.

This particular hacker estimates a 50% success rate against the Ticketmaster captcha, long before the above article was published. No wonder those parents weren't able to buy their kids Hannah Montana tickets-- it's not because of failings in CAPTCHA protection, it's because the ticketmaster programmers failed to implement CAPTCHA correctly.

Instead of hacking together their own partially effective (and often not even human solvable) CAPTCHA, what Ticketmaster's programmers should have done is studied prior art-- in particular, by outright copying the high-volume, extensively researched Yahoo, Google, and Hotmail CAPTCHAs. I'm awfully fond of Google's CAPTCHA technique; in my professional opinion, it is simultaneously the most readable and the most hellishly difficult to OCR correctly. If you need industrial strength protection from bots and scripts, that's where you want to start.

Talking Cats

Sarah and I believe Emily (the cat in spin the cat) understands English. At least to some degree anyway, but not to this:

A Tachikoma of your own

Neat. $200 in February. [Link]

Eminent Domain - Stealing land legally

This is ridiculous. [Link]

Despite owning the land, despite living only 200 yards from the property, despite hiking past it every week with their three dogs, despite spraying for weeds and fixing fences, despite paying homeowner association dues and property taxes each year, someone else had taken a shine to it. Someone powerful.

Former Boulder District Judge, Boulder Mayor, RTD board member - among other elected positions - Richard McLean and his wife, attorney Edith Stevens, used an arcane common law called "adverse possession" to claim the land for their own.

All McLean needed was to develop an

"attachment" to it.

Undoubtedly, his city connections couldn't have hurt, either.

In the court papers, McLean and his family admit to regularly trespassing on the Kirlins' property.

They created paths. They said they put on a political fundraiser and parties on it (though not a single photograph of these events surfaced in court documents).

This habit of trespassing developed into an affection.

If we take McLean at his word, he should have been treated appropriately: like a common criminal. Instead, the former judge demanded a chunk of the land for himself - and implausibly he got it.

Figuring out what went right

Refugees are returning to Iraq in large numbers. [Link]

The UN's refugee agency, the UNHCR, estimates about 45,000 Iraqis returned from Syria in October - the first month of the school year.

One factor in their return is likely to be a sharp and sustained drop in all kinds of violence, particularly in parts of the capital Baghdad, following a US-Iraqi military "surge".

But the stream of returnees from Syria is not being matched by return traffic from Jordan, where there may be as many as a million Iraqi refugees.

That is probably because those in Syria are poorer, so their savings have run out more quickly, says the BBC's Jim Muir in Baghdad.

This is good but still the political situation is up in the air. [Link]

Tom Friedman at the NYT admits things are seemingly better in Iraq but brings up the current objection, which goes like this: 'Yes, the violence may be down but political reconciliation has not been effected'. He writes:

But then I talk to people in Baghdad and look at what is really evolving there and I say to myself: “Maybe you’re missing something that Secretary Rice knows — that there isn’t going to be any formal political reconciliation moment in Iraq, grand bargain or White House signing ceremony. The surge has made Iraq safe, not for formal political reconciliation yet, but safe for an ‘A.T.M. peace.’ ”

That is, each of the Iraqi factions basically agrees to live and let live with the new lines drawn by the last two years of civil war and the Baghdad government serves as an A.T.M. cash machine — supporting the army and local security groups and dispensing oil revenues to the provincial governors and tribal chiefs from each community. ...

What was done right?

It was recently fashionable to schedule screenings of the movie Battle of Algiers to impress upon Americans how hard and hopeless their task was. This movie should continue to be shown, but it may be ruined by flashing this card as the credits roll: "this is what happened to the French, and seemingly to every Western Army since the 1960s, even to the Israelis in Lebanon in the 1980s. But it didn't happen to the US in Iraq." That would certainly provoke outrage, perhaps because people accustomed to being handed a flagellant whip don't know what to do with a glass of champagne.

It's a startling realization and shouldn't be borne in mind to gloat, but rather to provoke further thought, as Friedman hoped to do with his "ATM" observation. The question that will torment historians, if Iraq becomes viable, is 'what went right?'. It's a hard question not in the least because it so easy to get the wrong answer. Was it more troops? The number of additional forces deployed in the Surge was really quite small, and the Surge began happening even before the full complement was in place. Was it a new strategy or set of tactics? If so, which? Did information warfare play a part? The questions come thick and fast. It is at least as important to figure out what went right as to ask the standard question of what went wrong.

In other news, pigs are flying

The Optimus Maximus, the most expensive keyboard ever is no longer vaporware. [Link]

I gues he hasn't been written out of character...

Tony Stark, Iron Man [Link]
Many fans, myself included, enjoy bitching about how Marvel has turned Iron Man into a total facist asshole ever since Civil War. How could they get the character so wrong, we ask? Most of us are just hoping he's a Skrull and everything will go back to normal and they'll let somebody like Adam Warren or Jeff Parker write Iron Man and everything will be fine and shhh it's OK to cry.

Since I feel passionate (in a smug, ironic way) about the proper characterization of Tony Stark, aka Iron Man, I decided to go back to those comics I remember and cherish from my youth. You know, the Dave Micheline/Bob Layton era of Iron Man when Tony Stark was a real hero. I found Iron Man #126, a fantastic issue in the Justin Hammer saga. It's written by Micheline with art by John Romita Jr. and inks by Layton. This is the Iron Man of my childhood! Noble, intelligent, cunning, brave...

Hey. What the HELL?!! This Iron Man is a dick, too!
Apparently I forgot that the Tony Stark of 1979 was a major league pimp with a fondness for whiskey sours, fighting dirty, gold chains, and reefer.
Never mind then.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Alternate History Map of North America

Cool. [Link]

Which raises the question, at least in Matthew White’s mind: “What is the most fragmented that North America could have been?” White’s website (from the mid-nineties, but still online) serves up several ‘alternate history’ maps, that use a POD (point of divergence) somewhere in the past to construct a present slightly (or wildly) different from ours. White’s Balkanised North America, with 1787 as the POD, is by far the most interesting exercise.

“In this alternate reality, the westward expansion of the Anglo-American people proceeded pretty much as it did in our reality,” White writes, “but the United States government just couldn’t keep up. Every national identity crisis resolved itself in favor of the separatists instead.”

On the map, White details as sovereign, areas that:
“1. administered themselves as autonomous nations at some point in American history, or
2. shed blood to achieve or maintain their independence, or at least
3. threatened to.”

One important caveat: “The Native American tribes throughout the continent fit all these criteria, but I limited myself to only three native enclaves.”

Go see the map.

Dragonlance Movie release data and trailer

From [Link]
The Dragonlance: Dragons of Autumn Twilight animated feature film is scheduled to be released on DVD Jan. 15, 2008.
And the trailer

I'm not sure about this. The voice work sounds good, but the art. A mix of very stiff Flash-like animation and very obvious shiny 3d animation. They couldn't use a cel shader?

I'll pass.

Personal DNA profiles

This is cool but I'd like the price to come down a lot before I'd use it.
Three competing companies, 23andme, Decode, and Navigenics are betting that you want to do a little better than reading your horoscopes and playing with tea leaves. They think that you want to know something about your destiny and take control of your future..
The problem is who gets to control the information?

Fake MySpace account leads to girls suicide

This is horrible. A girl has a falling out with a friend down the street but meets a new friend on MySpace. Everything is going well when the 'friend' turns out to be a sham created not by the former friend but by the parents of the former friend. [Link]
Later that day, Ron opened his daughter's MySpace account and viewed what he believes to be the final message Megan saw - one the FBI would be unable to retrieve from the hard drive.

It was from Josh and, according to Ron's best recollection, it said, "Everybody in O'Fallon knows how you are. You are a bad person and everybody hates you. Have a shitty rest of your life. The world would be a better place without you."


Tina and Ron saw a grief counselor. Tina went to a couple of Parents After Loss of Suicide meetings, as well.

They tried to message Josh Evans, to let him know the deadly power of mean words. But his MySpace account had been deleted.

The day after Megan's death, they went down the street to comfort the family of the girl who had once been Megan's friend. They let the girl and her family know that although she and Megan had their ups and down, Megan valued her friendship.

They also attended the girl's birthday party, although Ron had to leave when it came time to sing "Happy Birthday." The Meiers went to the father's 50th birthday celebration. In addition, the Meiers stored a foosball table, a Christmas gift, for that family.

Six weeks after Megan died, on a Saturday morning, a neighbor down the street, a different neighbor, one they didn't know well, called and insisted that they meet that morning at a counselor's office in northern O'Fallon.

The woman would not provide details. Ron and Tina went. Their grief counselor was there. As well as a counselor from Fort Zumwalt West Middle School.

The neighbor from down the street, a single mom with a daughter the same age as Megan, informed the Meiers that Josh Evans never existed.

She told the Meiers that Josh Evans was created by adults, a family on their block. These adults, she told the Meiers, were the parents of Megan's former girlfriend, the one with whom she had a falling out. These were the people who'd asked the Meiers to store their foosball table.
I would expect kids to do something like this; kids can be cruel and vicious, but adults who should know better? What were they thinking?

What If Gmail Had Been Designed by Microsoft?

Wow. I love GMail and its clean interface and dislike the look of Hotmail when I see Sarah open it.
[W]hat if Microsoft, not Google, had created Gmail? What would be the differences in that web mail client for users today? What if we apply some of the same design rules that brought us Hotmail, for instance?
Go read the rest. Vicious. Just like the iPod packaging by Microsoft.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Minifig Scale Yamato

It's a huge model. [Link]

Superman vs ?

This is very geeky and I love it. Superman vs various threats, Jedi, magic users, and the Death Star.
It all started with a reader's e-mail. "Please help," wrote Ian Booth. "There's a huge argument between me and my mates. Who would win - a Jedi Knight or Superman?" In his 771-word response, HowStuffWorks staffer Robert Valdes examined the scenario from several angles. He shared his thoughts with the rest of us, and that was all it took. Before long, break-room and lunch talk revolved around who could take on Superman. In this article, we'll look at what it takes to beat Superman and whether a range of foes could win against him. Like Superman, our opponents are all stars from big-name movies, books and comic books. Let the games begin.
Go. Read now.

New Venus probe concept

A split team of two vehicles, an aircraft circling at a lower temperature, lower pressure altitude, and a refrigerated rover.

The extreme conditions on Venus make traditional rover technology impossible: the heat and pressure combined wreak havoc on any electronic components, and the atmosphere of Venus, mostly composed of carbon dioxide and sulfuric acid, is highly corrosive on metal parts. And if this weren't enough, the thick atmosphere makes the light conditions on the surface like a rainy day on Earth, which limits the potential of solar energy.

To solve the problem of putting electronics on the surface, the team will split the mission into two: a rover that will have limited electronic components in pressurized chamber cooled to under 300ºC (570ºF), and an airplane that will fly in the middle atmosphere of the planet, where the temperature is more moderate and the pressure not as great. The airplane will contain most of the more sensitive electrical components like computers, and will assist in relaying all the information back to Earth.

The Russian Venera lander to last the longest on the surface of Venus operated for a mere two hours before being crushed, but the rover for this mission will be designed to last more than 50 days.

Inflatable Moonbase Deployed to Antarctica

Project hopes to deploy and finish in 4 hours.

Toups and several other habitat designers from NASA's Johnson Space Center and ILC Dover will attempt to deploy the structure in the Antarctic this coming January. Their goal: to use just four people and deploy everything in four hours. Working in bulky cold weather gear will also make the deployment more analogous to the challenges facing astronauts clad in cumbersome spacesuits on the moon.

The habitat prototype will eventually serve as a multilayered test platform for new technologies such as health monitoring systems, self-healing materials, and protective radiation materials. When not inflated, the habitat can save on space and weight during transportation. It's just one of several models, including another prototype that stands on eight legs and has two pressurized cylinders connected by an airlock door, under scrutiny by NASA engineers.

Other researchers at McMurdo Station in Antarctica will use the inflated habitat as a staging area from January 2008 to February 2009, allowing the designers to monitor its performance using human reports as well as data from embedded sensors. NASA and the National Science Foundation hope to learn how the habitat material behaves in a cold environment and how well the structure retains heat and atmosphere.

Toups said the field demonstration will show that the structure can be "packaged in a small volume" but still "expand to a usable, habitable volume," even in an extreme environment. If NASA likes what it sees, a second or third generation inflatable habitat could deploy to the moon as early as 2020, with four-person crews making weeklong trips to get a lunar base operational.

For the eco-conscious Bond Villain 2

A solar powered yacht with large sweeping wings of solar cells.
The Volitan, or the "Flying Fish," is a concept design for a boat that would run green over the great big blue. It harnesses both the power of the wind and the Sun, using solid sails and an array of panels along its wings to trap solar energy and keep the ship's battery charged. The Volitan's wings are controlled by an onboard computer, which tracks light and wind direction to maximize the boat's performance by turning the wings appropriately. The computer can also perform actions such as folding the wings up against the hull when weather conditions get rough.

PDAs for Census Takers

Cool tech.
It's the U.S. Census Bureau's first handheld computer (HHC), and it's coming to survey a home near you. Developed as part of a federal mandate to make census data collection more secure, officials hope the HHC will cut down on time, paper and human error during the next census. "We're expected to save a billion dollars," says Mike Murray, the HHC project leader for Harris Corp., the government contractor working on the device, more than 500,000 of which are being manufactured by mobile giant HTC.
When census takers get their hands on them, the HHCs will come with 10 hours of battery life to get through a day’s worth of door knocking—plus a built-in GPS unit to them to those doors in the first place. After collecting data with a stylus and step-by-step touchscreen interface, they can simply upload the information to U.S. Census headquarters via Sprint's encrypted data network. (A dial-up modem comes embedded for remote areas without wireless.) It’s all secured by a biometric fingerprint reader that keeps non-authorized users off the device—and the authorized ones off the phone with the bureau for forgetting passwords (21st-century bureaucracy wasn’t built in a day).

Underground Datacenter in Japan

Why would you put a datacenter in an abandoned coal mine? Energy savings.

Sun and a consortium of other businesses are going to lower Blackbox self-contained computing facilities into a Japanese coal mine to set up an underground datacentre, using up to 50 percent less power than a ground-level datacentre.


The coolant will be ground water and the site's temperature is a constant 15 degrees Celsius (59 degrees Fahrenheit) all year, meaning no air-conditioning will be needed outside the containers. This reduces the energy required for the water chillers, used with surface-level Blackbox containers.

The group estimates that up to $9 million of electricity costs could be saved annually if the centre were to run 30,000 server cores.

At least that's the cover story. I think it is a place for a Bond Villain to push up his ranking on Folding@home.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Star Wars Holiday Special in 5 minutes

I vaguely remember seeing this as a child. (Luckily, I've suppressed most of those memories)

Today in 1978 was the one and only time the Star Wars Holiday Special aired on CBS. Why just that one time, you might ask? Doesn't a trip with Han Solo and Chewbacca to Chewie's home planet sound like it would be on syndication forever? In it, Solo hangs out with Chewie's family, while they are being pursued by the Galactic Empire.

Is the fix in?

At least at CNN's Las Vegas Democratic debate it was. [Link]
It's hard to have a bad debate performance when:

** The audience is planted in your favor
** The questions are planted in your favor
** The questioners are your supporters
** The after debate spin room includes 2 former staff members and 1 current campaign analyst

The post debate was as Clinton-friendly as the actual debate.
The CNN debate may have been pre-planned and censored every step of the way, but CNN did not have to worry about a Clinton-friendly environment in the post debate.

CNN took care of that when hired the debate analysts.
Two of the three debate analysts worked for the Clintons.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Buran pictures

I love this stuff. [Link]

Who ya gonna call?

The Ghostbusters.
Harold Ramis, Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd are getting back together and revisiting their roles to make a sequel to Ghostbusters 1 and 2 – in video-game form, and we’ve got the first details. Both Aykroyd and Ramis are teaming up for scriptwriting duties and are going far beyond just the typical licensed add-your-voice-to-the-game-you-had-nothing-to-do-with formula.
If it matches the films and early cartoons in quality, I'll be happy.

The Path to Giant Robots

Japanese military project on future soldiers.

The Advanced Personal Armament System -- Japan's version of the Future Soldier project, designed to modernize combat infantry units -- offers a network-linked helmet providing night and thermal vision, amongst other capabilities. It was introduced at a presentation held by the ministry's Technical Research and Development Institute titled, "Towards the realization of Gundam."

Gundam is the name of a hugely popular anime series featuring huge "mobile suit" robots, and the system unveiled at the research presentation sports features inspired by the giant humanoid robots that appear in the anime "Mobile Suit Gundam," according to officials.

The suit also contains global positioning system (GPS) technology, allowing the wearer's location to be tracked.



Moving beyond gunpowder

Railguns. A scifi staple moving towards reality. When deployed, we will see them first in the Navy on ships; the power requirements are quite high and only a ship has the amount of power available to make this feasible.
The lab version doesn’t look particularly menacing—more like a long, belt-fed airport screening device than like a futuristic cannon—but the system will fire rounds at up to Mach 8, drawing on tremendous amounts of electricity to generate the current for each test shot. That, of course, is the problem with rail guns: Like lasers, they’re out of step with modern-day generators and capacitors. Eight and 9-megajoule rail guns have been fired before, but providing 3 million amps of power per shot has been a limitation. At 32 megajoules, this new system appears to be the most powerful rail gun ever built, and the Office of Naval Research is installing additional capacitors at the Dahlgren facility to support it. The planned 64-megajoule weapon, if it’s ever built, could require even more power—a staggering 6 million amps.

According to Dr. Amir Chaboki, the program manager for Electro-Magnetic Rail Guns at BAE Systems, “The power is available. The challenge is how you use it.” The Navy’s electrically-propelled DDG 100 Destroyer, Chaboki says, is a prime candidate for the final 64-megajoule system. Around 72 megawatts (MW) of the vessel’s power can be used for propulsion. But during combat, the destroyer’s speed could be brought down, freeing up energy for a rail gun. Chaboki calculates that firing the 64-megajoule weapon six times per minute would require 16 MW of power, which would be supplied by either onboard capacitors or pulsed alternators. The more daunting challenge is the force of the rail gun itself: A few shots can dislodge the conducting rails—or even damage the barrel of the gun.

While the 32-MJ LRG should start firing soon, it could take another 13 years for a 64-megajoule system to be built and deployed on a ship. The Marines, in particular, are interested in the potential for rail guns to deliver supporting fire from up to 220 miles away—around 10 times further than standard ship-mounted cannons—with rounds landing more quickly and with less advance warning than a volley of Tomahawk cruise missiles.

Effective rail guns will require a major breakthrough in materials between now and 2020, to keep the guns themselves from being shredded by each high-velocity barrage. Which means that for now, rail guns are precisely like lasers in one crucial way: They’re Holy Grails, irresistible precisely because they’re out of reach.

More on University of Delaware Indoctrination

The media is softpedaling descriptions of the programs. [Link]
The few reports that the mainstream press has carried give the impression that the program runs a discussion group promoting tolerance. But the program clearly rejects give-and-take discussion. It says: "We have successfully moved away from the idea that simple exposure to topics and opportunities to attend is equivalent to education. Our specific education aims, broken down into 28 competency areas now requires us to examine competency attainment" and "learning goals," i.e., student acceptance of the ideas we are determined to impose. The residential assistants were reporting to administrators on which students were resisting the diversity programming. "I felt like the secret police, not as a mentor," a former RA wrote anonymously to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). Stuart Taylor is likely right about one prediction: the program will probably return in another form once the heat is off.
And from a commenter there: [Link]

I was an RA at the University of Delaware years ago when the seeds for its Residence Life program were being sown. I'd like to give you some perspective on the program since, as an undergrad and then as a Ph.D. student, I took classes with or worked directly under people in the Psychology, Philosophy and Women's Studies departments and in the ResLife, New Student Orientation and Student Counseling programs.

First, the indoctrination program is not likely to go away. The reason that it will resurface is simple: a backlash from "racist America" has been predicted from the very beginning. Indeed, the backlash will be cast as proof that America *is* racist for being unwilling to tolerate a program of "racial understanding". Thus, by their own logic, the backlash validates the rationale and urgency of the program.

Second, you have to understand that the people involved in this program really do mean well and see themselves as a force for good. This gives them a moral "shield" that simply isn't going to be penetrated by criticism from forces they perceive as malign (Republicans, white leaders, etc.). Indeed, I don't think that I exaggerate when I say that we perceived ourselves as being far removed from (and surely superior to) the muling cows that make up our benighted society. Once you have committed yourself to "elevating the consciousness" of the bovine dolts all around you, it is no surprise that some start bellowing and mooing from the discomfort. With a God-like remove and infinite patience, however, the enlightened can help to "wake up" young America so that, when they become the next generation of leaders, they can help create a "better" and "fairer" society.

That's the theory. The problem is that the architects of this "consciousness" live in a tightly interlocked logical bubble of their own design. With little exposure to the true machinery of political and economic life, they're simply building a web of words largely divorced from reality. As I discovered after leaving UDel, the world is filled with intelligent, thoughtful people (who, by the way, are quite capable of pointing out the flaws of these programs of indoctrination). The real world also provides copious evidence that the very fundamental assumptions behind the ResLife program are simply wrong. In the bubble, however, such evidence simply doesn't penetrate.

In the end, I go back to something that my Dissertation adviser taught me: intelligence doesn't guarantee a correct outcome. It only guarantees that whatever prejudices and errors you bring to the table can be defended with greater eloquence. It takes humility, not intelligence, to uncover the truth.

A strength of the West

One of our strengths is that we argue about things, quite often repeatedly.

It must really concentrate the mind of a general to know that there are literally millions of people back home who are just waiting for him to screw up, so they can crow: we told you so.

It also results in Western armies filled with people who know quite well what the plan is and what the score is, having just spent the last few hours, days, weeks or even years arguing about it all. Western armies invariably contain barrack room lawyers and grumblers, to say nothing of people who sincerely believe that they could do better than their own commanders and who say so, courtesy of those interfering journalists.

Central to the whole idea of the West is that you get better decisions, and better (because so much better informed) implementation of those decisions by the lower ranks, if lots of people argue like hell about these decisions first, during, and then again afterwards. In fact if you argue about them all the time.

Take Iraq now. The narrative that is now gaining strength goes as follows: Iraq invaded for dubious reasons, but successfully. Peace lost because no plan to win it. Two or three years of chaos and mayhem. Change of strategy. Now war may be being won. Maybe this story has not quite reached the MSM, but I believe that it soon will, if only because of bloggers like this guy and this guy.

And now, a word from the brain...

This is cool. Electrodes in the brain used to figure out out what word the person is thinking of.
The wireless electrode, which resides just six-millimeters below the surface of his brain, records pulses from 41 surrounding neurons involved in speech generation, and thanks to software developed by the associated team, those thoughts will hopefully be translated into words in the not-too-distant future. Currently, the group feels that they can accurately identify the word Ramsey is thinking up 80-percent of the time, and in the coming weeks, a computer will begin giving the patient real-time feedback so he can perfect the art of thinking out loud.

The Company You Keep

Says a lot about you. Ron Paul has some nasty friends/contrbutors. [Link]
Your Presidential campaign has drawn the enthusiastic support of an imposing collection of Neo-Nazis, White Supremacists, Holocaust Deniers, 9/11 "Truthers" and other paranoid and discredited conspiracists.

Do you welcome- or repudiate - the support of such factions?

More Writer's Strike Stuff

More numbers and details of money [Link]
* You may not watch a lot of scripted television today, but consider that the DVD formula applies to older shows you may watch and enjoy. 4 cents for every DVD sold. And that's for films. TV is an even more convoluted formula. Ken Levine, a writer on MASH and other shows, stated the following on his blog: "The producers say we already receive royalties from DVD sales. There are no less than fifteen box sets of TV series with my scripts in them. I haven’t received a dime. I have gotten $0.19 from American Airlines for showing eight of my episodes on maybe 10,000 flights."
And a video done by some of the writers of the Daily Show.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Insane drive through Paris

This is a nerve wracking, short film. It was filmed in one take, with no permits or permission. A high speed drive through downtown Paris at 5:30am.

"C'était un rendez-vous" ("It Was an Appointment") is a short film by Claude Lelouch (1976) that has become a legend among car and movie lovers alike.

It is illegal, uncompromising, highly dangerous documentary, shot in one take, without any special effects... as the director starts his car early in the morning and races through Paris with complete disregard for traffic lights, one-way streets, cars, buses and pedestrians - to meet with his wife 8 minutes later in one intensely romantic ending.

New underwater water city of the dead masquerading as old city of the dead

A new artificial reef off Miami for cremated remains. [Link]
The Reef is an underwater graveyard for cremated remains, made to look like an ancient lost city.
It's a little out of the way — three miles off the Miami Coast in 45 feet of clear water. The reef will cover 16 acres of ocean floor with room for 125,000 remains. The Neptune Society hopes it will attract those looking for a final resting place and the occasional tourist diver. Over time, this underwater memorial city is supposed to become a living reef with colorful marine life and coral growth.

The 'A' stands for planet?

I guess dislike of America really is widespread when you can't even call a character by his name.

It’s not unusual for there to be concern, and controversy, about how distinctly American themes will play to an international audience. Off the top of my head, I recall the to-do over the disappearance of “the American way” from Superman Returns, and more recent rumors about the G.I. Joe movie.

But when did Captain America become Captain Planet?

I’m sure it’s simply an oversight — and a funny one, at that — but in its report on Marvel’s newly announced online comics initiative, The Telegraph of London transforms the Sentinel of Liberty into … Captain Planet. Not just once, but three times — including under an image of Captain America.

Traveling Music

Musical roads.

A team from the Hokkaido Industrial Research Institute has built a number of "melody roads", which use cars as tuning forks to play music as they travel.

The concept works by using grooves, which are cut at very specific intervals in the road surface. Just as travelling over small speed bumps or road markings can emit a rumbling tone throughout a vehicle, the melody road uses the spaces between to create different notes.

Careful with the speed.

"You need to keep the car windows closed to hear well," wrote one Japanese blogger. "Driving too fast will sound like playing fast forward, while driving around 12mph has a slow-motion effect, making you almost car sick."

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Countdown Theories

Some interesting points. All kinds of Kirby creations seem to be on the move, spiraling in towards a Final Crisis.

Visit to Creation Museum

A monument to Creationism. Read it and enjoy. [Link]
In the first room of the Creation Museum tour there’s a display of two paleontologists unearthing a raptor skeleton. One of them, a rather avuncular fellow, explains that he and the other paleontologist are both doing the same work, but that they start off from different premises: He starts off from the Bible and the other fellow (who does not get to comment, naturally) starts off from “man’s reason,” and really, that’s the only difference between them: “different starting points, same facts,” is the mantra for the first portion of the museum.

The rhetoricians in the crowd will already see how a card has been palmed here. The Museum is casually trying to establish an equivalence between science and creationism by accrediting them both as legitimate “starting points” for any discussion of biology, geology and cosmology. This would cause any scientist worth his or her salt to have a positively cinematic spit take, because it’s horseshit, but if you don’t know any better (say, if you’ve been fed a line of crap your whole life along the lines of “science is just another religion”) it sounds perfectly reasonable. And so if you buy that, then the next room, filled with large posters that offer on equal footing the creationist and scientific takes on the creation of the universe and evolution, seems perfectly reasonable, too: Heck, we can both have our theories! They’re both okay.

The problem with this is that creationism isn’t a theory, it’s an assertion, to wit: The entire universe was created in six days, the days are 24-hour days, the layout for the creation and for the early history of the planet and humanity is in the first chapter of Genesis and it is exactly right. Everything has to be made to conform to these assertions, which is why creationist attempts at science are generally so damn comical and refutable. This is also why the “different starting points, same facts” mantra is laughably false on its face — creationism has to have different facts to explain the world. It’s a little idiotic to establish as a “fact” that both science and creationism acknowledge, say, that apes exist, but to paper over the difference in the set of “facts” that explain how the apes got here, or to imply that a creationist assertion (apes created on the fifth day) is logically or systematically equivalent to decades of rigorous scientific process in the exploration of evolution.

Lots more there.

Party Crasher

Chinese sub surfaces in the middle of US Navy Fleet exercise.

American military chiefs have been left dumbstruck by an undetected Chinese submarine popping up at the heart of a recent Pacific exercise and close to the vast U.S.S. Kitty Hawk - a 1,000ft supercarrier with 4,500 personnel on board.

By the time it surfaced the 160ft Song Class diesel-electric attack submarine is understood to have sailed within viable range for launching torpedoes or missiles at the carrier.

According to senior Nato officials the incident caused consternation in the U.S. Navy.

The Americans had no idea China's fast-growing submarine fleet had reached such a level of sophistication, or that it posed such a threat.

One Nato figure said the effect was "as big a shock as the Russians launching Sputnik" - a reference to the Soviet Union's first orbiting satellite in 1957 which marked the start of the space age.

The incident, which took place in the ocean between southern Japan and Taiwan, is a major embarrassment for the Pentagon.

This was bound to happen eventually. Technology doesn't stand still, and neither does training or experience. This was a calculated warning, "You are not untouchable". Message received.

Spoilers for New Trek Film

Read if you're interested here.


I can see that working without invalidating the existing history of Star Trek as well as a new, wide open future.

Writer's Strike Context to History

Interesting piece on strikes and Disney. I knew Walt hated unions.
Walt Disney was so far to the right on the political spectrum he’d make Bill O’Reilly sound like Ugo Chavez. On May 29, 1941, 293 Disney animators who were members of the Screen Cartoonists Guild struck the studio after Disney fired animator Art Babbitt, who was exercising his legal right to organize.

Several weeks later, President Franklin Roosevelt actually had to send a federal labor conciliator to Hollywood to work out a settlement. He found in the Guild's favor on each and every single issue. The Printing Council forced the withdrawal of Floyd Gottfriedson’s Mickey Mouse comic strip (signed by Disney, of course) from its newspapers. Technicolor refused to process Disney film until the studio recognized the Cartoonists Guild.

Mars Analogue Research Stations

I love acronyms.
[T]he two Mars Analogue Research Stations (MARS) in Utah and on the uninhabited Devon Island are able to give people a little taste of what it may be like. Research crews spend two weeks to a month living in the habitats built by the Mars Society and follow a code of rules to make the whole thing more Mars-y. To name a few: The days are 39 minutes longer just like on the Red Planet, everyone has to wear a spacesuit outside the enclosure, and all communications have to have a time delay to simulate the fact that Mars is pretty far away from Earth.
That would be very cool to go and work there for a while. Get a taste of the space age.

Spacesuit Problems

The glove problems continue. One glove was damaged during a space walk and now there seems to be unusual wear on them.
'During EVA 1, EV-2 (Doug Wheelock) performed his routine glove inspections. At GMT ~299/15:07, Wheelock reported RTV peeling on his right glove (s/n 6068). During POST EVA, the crew took photos of their gloves, per 1.240 POST EVA, and subsequently downlinked the pictures,' noted the presentation.

'After MCC-H completed the review of the downlinked photos, significant RTV loss was confirmed along the inboard seam of the thumb and index finger, with nominal wear and abrasion of the Vectran. It should be noted that this is the same area that was damaged on CM Rick Mastracchio and Robert 'Beamer' Curbeam's gloves. Glove was deemed GO for shuttle contingency use only.'

The damage to the gloves wasn't as extreme as observed during STS-118's EVA-3, which was forced into an early termination due to a cut. However, cuts to the gloves were observed during the third EVA on this mission.

'Near the end of 10A EVA 3, EV2 installed APFR 3 in Lab WIF 13 and had some difficulty getting it installed. Following the EVA and IVA glove inspection, EV2 found a cut in his right glove, which was the hand used to install the APFR, and he felt that the cut was due to the difficulty with the APFR install.

'Wheelock called down the hole was on the inside of his right thumb, the size of a 2 mil by 3 mil square hole. EV2 wore different gloves for EVA 4, and Over Gloves for the entire EVA. APFR 3 was returned inside at the end of EVA 4 for subsequent IVA inspection (along with APFR 7, which was the suspect APFR from the vectran damage on Mastraccio's glove). ISS CDR performed inspection on 11/7 and found no sharp edges.

'Post EVA 3 (GMT 303/17:21), EV-2 (Wheelock) commented on his suit fit at which time he also gave a status of his 1st back-up pair of gloves (s/n 6193). Wheelock stated that inside of his right thumb, there is a 2 millimeter by 3 millimeter square hole in the Vectran. He said it appeared that there was some blue/green color seen through the hole.

'He commented that on his way back to the Airlock he was working with the APFR locking collar, and he was certain this was where he got the hole in his right glove since his gloves looked fine immediately after he egressed the SRMS. The right glove was deemed NO GO for use. EV2 was directed to use the third B/U right glove for EVA 4. APFR #3 was brought inside at the end of EVA 4 for IVA inspection.'

Maybe they should put this glove into production?

NASA has awarded $200,000 to the creator of a new spacesuit glove that beat out its competitors and NASA's own current glove in tests of strength, flexibility and comfort. Aspects of the design could be used in future NASA spacesuits.

The Astronaut Glove Challenge was part of a series of NASA-funded contests called Centennial Challenges. NASA promised $200,000 in prize money for anyone who could design a glove capable of outperforming the existing gloves used by NASA astronauts, as well as beating those of other entrants in the competition.

On Thursday, NASA announced that Peter Homer of Southwest Harbor, Maine, US, had bagged the $200,000 award, using off-the-shelf materials.

Gloves are possibly the most important part of the spacesuit from an astronaut's perspective. In addition to cranking levers and handling power drills, astronauts use their hands – rather than their feet – as their primary mode of "walking" around the International Space Station (ISS).

Current gloves use two inner layers – a rubbery balloon-like layer surrounded by cloth to help keep the glove's shape – and an outer shield that protects against micrometeoroids and orbital debris and insulates the hands against the extreme temperatures of space.

The gloves are pressurised, making it difficult for the astronauts to move their fingers. As a result, they often do hand-strengthening exercises to prepare for spacewalks, which can last six hours or more. The labour-intensive spacewalks often leave astronauts' hands bruised and pinched and their fingernails bent backwards.