Monday, April 30, 2007

Supreme Court redefines "obvious"

So, a patent has to be for something that's "not obvious". But it turns out that until today, the meaning of "not obvious" was not obvious. A federal court had a weird, stupid definition that meant things like getting your cat to chase a laser pointer were patentable.

Not any more! Today, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that you have to actually do something new to get a patent. About time.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Smurf? Smurf!

As Lore points out, there are lots of slang terms for "smurf". That is, the word "smurf" is slang for several illegal activities.

While the Smurfs themselves would use the verb smurf to describe pretty much every activity.

Doesn't that just smurf your mind?

Saturday, April 28, 2007

What counts as cheating

Apparently, a new book is coming out exploring computer game cheating. It's interesting how there are different kinds of "cheating", marking different codes of ethics. Can you cheat a machine, if it doesn't affect other people? Can you cheat yourself? Is reading the end of a murder mystery novel before the beginning "cheating"?

Friday, April 27, 2007


Pretty sweet video of explosions. Apparently if you keep manufacturing rocket fuel without having rockets to put them in, and you store it all in one room, and you start welding, you can blow up the entire factory. Bad times.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

100 year old predictions

So, The Ladies Home Journal got a bunch of scientists together in 1900 and they predicted the future.

And the funny thing is, they got a lot right. They foresaw the internet, sort of. They see the end of horses and the rise of the car.

And they're completely wrong about biology. Somehow, they had a panel of telegraph scientists and transportation analysts who nailed it, and a crazy, pie-in-the-sky flying car biologist who thought we'd do things that sound impossible still.

And of course, since it's before the invention of the airplane, it's all about blimps.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Marketing Science

Interesting essay on communicating science to "red states".

Should you participate in the pitched battle of ideas, framing issues in emotional as well as factual ways, so people listen to your arguments? Yes.

Should we lose all basis in fact, focusing so much on winning that the ideas behind the struggle for truth lose any connection to the fact that there is a truth? No.

Granted, I may be wrong about what the truth is. But there is a fact of the matter. Either dinosaurs evolved, or God put them in the ground as a test of our faith. No one can tell the difference, but one is correct and one isn't. I don't believe God is that mean.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Plagiarism gone wild

There's a blog that shows plagiarism at work. Lots of examples of lazy ad agencies stealing from creative artists. And lazy artists stealing from other artists.

Giant corporations abuse copyright, punishing people for legitimate uses. But this is why copyright should be real.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Infinite Cat Project

Oh, recursion. Is there anything you can't do?

This site has a picture of a cat looking at a picture of a cat. Looking at a picture of a cat. Looking at a picture of a cat. Looking at a picture of a cat. Etc.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Friday, April 20, 2007

Fox News - unfair and cruel

Yes, we knew that Fox News was crazy. Suing Al Franken, generally reporting distortions.

But as this blog observes, their obituary of Kurt Vonnegut is rude and hateful. Damn.

It reminds me of Ann Coulter, in a panel I saw on CSPAN. She acted like the guy from ACLU had killed her dog. And eaten it. Just mean and angry for no apparent reason.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

You're smarter than Google

So, you know how Google doesn't know what's in a picture unless you label it? Now there's an answer to that problem!

The ESP Game pairs you with someone else on the internet, to come up with the best descriptions for images. Google has their version, too. Because two people compare results, it's better than if one person did it alone. And since it keeps score, and there's a timer, it's quite motivating.

Even more fun, but less obviously useful, is Peekaboom. You work with another person to identify which part of a picture contains a particular word. It's hard. Engaging. And improves computer AI.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Religious Illiteracy

So, a BU professor finds that Americans don't know their religious facts. I'm shocked, shocked! In a rabidly religious country, people don't actually know what the bible says?

I have to admit, on this sample test of religious literacy, I didn't get right the difference between Sunni and Shiia. And I answered a Mormon question so fast I got it wrong.

Interestingly, the self-reported results of people taking the test online are very high, unlike people on the street. Either people reading the article online are well educated, or liars.

Now, how many people know how many calories are ina life size chocolate Jesus?

Monday, April 16, 2007

Best. Mime. Ever.

This guy has so much focus. Great actor. This is a later performance, with a nice twist to the performance.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

A short history of television

Wired has a pretty good short history of TV.

Who knows what the future of TV holds? Obviously, good content will continue to be not produced my major corporations who are risk-averse.

And that history of TV does fail to give credit to the man who invented it. Eat it, Zworykin!

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Bush wants to spy on us more. Legally.

Since it was revealed that the government was breaking the law by listening to our phone calls, President Bush is asking for even more power to spy on us.

Given that his administration is breaking the law by destroying communications records, it seems like maybe Congress should hold off on trusting the President with powers that lack oversight. I like requiring judges to sign off on warrants.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Black is white

Our Orwellian president continues his march against facts.

The department of justice is working on a "First Freedom" project.

This is where the government sues to make sure that we are all forced to live in a Christian nation, and organizations can fire people from their jobs if they're not good Christians. I support synagogues being allowed to require their rabbis to be Jewish.

But The Salvation Army smells much worse if they fire people for being gay. Or divorced. And it's not good that the federal government is suing to uphold that.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

FBI not investigating crime

So, my friend Daniel works for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. He just published an awesome piece of reporting.

Apparently the FBI isn't investigating crimes that actually hurt people anymore.

In particular, fraud, embezzlement and other white-collar crime prosecution is way, way down. Crimes that actually affect you and me. Terrorism is scary, and politically attractive, but way way more people die from drunk drivers than terrorists. Six times as many. And when Enron types steal from giant pensions, it hurts a lot of people.

Humans suck at understanding risk.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Style crossover music videos

This is a weird mashup of styles, either a psychotic break or a scathing commentary on female objectification. It's a parody of this.

Then there's Tori Amos' cover of Smells Like Teen Spirit.

I really dig the Paul Anka version:

And the acoustic Hey Ya.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Cell phones still banned in planes

This guy argues that cell phones are not allowed in planes because the government is lazy.

He does make a good point that terrorists could use phones to crash planes if that's an actual hazard.

But his first alleged real reason - to control the mob that's loaded onto every plane - seems like a really compelling one to me. I think planes should be quiet places full of people talking to each other, or reading, or listening to headphones. The noise and stress level on a plane would explode if everyone were trying to be heard on their phones. And flying is stressful and tense enough as it is.

I actually appreciate the government keeping me in the dark about current events for the few hours I'm actually in the plane. Ignorance is bliss. I'll be damned if I accept the government's secrecy about everything else in the universe, but their ban on cell phones on planes is fine by me.

Although I should get a watch. I don't enjoy not knowing what time it is on a plane, since the only timepiece I carry now is my phone.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Violent video game parenting

So, even though violent video games seem to only exacerbate pre-existing tendencies rather than cause antisocial behaviour, it's still a good idea for kids to consume media that's developmentally appropriate. Good parents make sure kids know what trees are. And only let them watch limited amounts of TV. Which is really hard work, and I'm a single man declaring how it should be, because my parents had the guts to limit my TV watching as a child.

Nowadays, though, people my age are having kids, and starting to negotiate the boundaries of video games for their kids. And now we have parents who know video gaming first hand. I have hope that we'll negotiate that boundary better with knowledge, and I'm certain that our kids will come up with a new technology to make us grumble from our anti-gravity fusion powered rocking chairs. My personal theory? Wings. Genetically engineered wings. Also, green skin, blue skin, and implantable third eyeballs. Those would freak me out. And my grandkids will explain that it's normal. In a retirement home full of drooping tattoos and piercing holes. Not that I'll be tattooed or pierced, ever.

Sunday, April 8, 2007


This be a cool blog.

Crafts, science, and eclectic.

Nerdy crafts. Mmmm...

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Don't use Powerpoint for Evil

I could have told you that poorly done powerpoint presentations suck.

This study claims that powerpoints are overall bad. But if you read the whole article, it turns out that it's actually just BAD powerpoints that damage learning.

Then they claim that if you tell students the answer, they learn better. Seems like somebody is overreaching their expertise.

Friday, April 6, 2007

DST saves no energy

Unsurprisingly, no energy was saved by our early switch to Daylight Savings.

I guess the Bush administration will have to find another symbolic way to not deal with our problems.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Google rocks!

I just noticed that in Google Maps, if you look at other countries, their names are in the native language. Oesterreich instead of Austria, Espana instead of Spain.

And Greece and Japan are just awesome.

This is how a global society should refer to different countries, instead of localized bastard pronunciations of country and city names. NPR reporters always pronounce Latin American countries and cities with a Spanish pronunciation. I believe every city should get that treatment. I want to hear TV and radio reporters pronounce Paris, France with a nasal accent, and drop the s.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Signs of the Times

This is weird.

I like Lore Sjoberg's sense of humor. But I struggled to get this one. Which is, of course, why I posted it on my blog.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007


So, I shouldn't have talked about how warm it was in March.

For some reason, while March was warm and Springy, April has been quite cold every day. I got back out sweaters I thought I had put in storage for 6 months. And I lost feeling in my fingers on my morning commute today.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Locked out cell phones

As presented by On the Media, researcher Tim Wu observes that cell phone service providers force manufacturers to cripple their phones.

The industry rep gives a crap answer that "competition" and "the market" will solve everything in a world of puppies and rainbows. Or something like that.

Sunday, April 1, 2007


The bookmobile is so 20th century.

For a 15th century way of bringing literacy to poor rural areas, try the bookcamel!

[This is not an April Fool's joke.]