Thursday, June 28, 2007

Redistricting Game

So, have you always wanted to Gerrymander?

The Redistricting Game is a pretty darn well made game that lets you recalibrate several different "states" into new congressional districts. Craft a new Republican majority! Balance by population without taking party into account! Violate multiple Supreme Court rulings!

I really enjoyed this game, especially how hard it is. It's difficult at the higher levels to even make your own party happy, much less find a solution that makes everyone happy. (Not that making any of the political parties happy is the best goal for redistricting.)

In real life, I think incumbents have too much power, and we should find an independent system that slaughters safe districts and makes over 500 seats in Congress competitive. Obviously, Wyoming is going to be Republican until the end of time. And Vermont will be a liberal. But there are a lot of places where we could have contests between 2 moderates instead of locking in the most insane extremist from one side or another. I love Portland's congressman, and I believe in what he believes in. But our democracy is sick and dying because congressmen like him are guaranteed reelection until they retire. Competitive elections also encourage corruption, but safe seats mean extremists who don't represent the actual views or interests of the country as a whole.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Food Videos

I like Store Wars. Yes, it's a piece of corporate propaganda. I happen to favor the environmental ideas, but more importantly I favor the bad puns.

The Meatrix involves a very clever metaphor, but feels a little more... HAM handed. haha.

Given all these food videos, I want to shoot my own grocer's parody. Store Trek 2: The Wrath of Corn. The adventures of James Clerk and Mr. Stockboy. Is it about biodiesel, pesticides, genetic engineering? Or just bad comedy on a sci-fi theme? I'll have to actually make it. Katy thinks I should play Jim Clerk.

There are other grocery sci-fi videos. And other mashups of style with Star Wars.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Making Stuff Up

The Washington Post ran an interesting piece on Father's Day. In museums, Dads often make stuff up.

I remember learning that "I don't know" is an ok answer in 10th grade. It's a hard lesson to learn. There are even examples of teachers doing a good job of saying they don't know, and students taking that to mean the answer isn't known.

Makes me think that "Google it, slacker" or "I'm not your damn search engine" might be more relevant phrases. Although perhaps something is needed that indicates an eagerness to learn alongside rather than automatic contempt. But there is value in implying that my lack of knowing doesn't mean it's not known anywhere.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Steam Trek

A silent film version of a classic.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Lego Alien

Behold a pretty awesome lego construction. Well, gruesome lego replica of the alien from Alien.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Chinese Rights

People in China have it hard. Not only is there plenty of internet censorship (and lots of other oppression described in that good overview article), but there are other issues bubbling into the news.

A blind man was beaten in prison for refusing to shave his head. Just the latest in a long, long string of people oppressed.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Best. Machine. Ever.

I just discovered what I want for Christmas. Of course, if I got this machine, I would just sit at the end of it, eating its glorious output. And die of a heart attack in a month. But I covet Donut Robot 42.

Mmmm.... donuts.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

LEDs are everywhere!

OMSI once displayed Hokey Spokes, lights that go on a bicycle wheel and display patterns and even messages.

This fan takes that whole idea to a completely different level. It's pretty frickin' awesome!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Good TV

I finally watched my tape of the first episode of this season's the 4400. It's pretty good.

I'd been wondering to myself if the show I remembered as good science fiction from the 1st season was still good. I remembered that the story had changed a lot, from individuals dealing with the mystery of the future, to a titanic battle between two sides over the nature of the future.

Then I saw the symbols. Where the first season had symbols of individual lives, people struggling with the nature of change and trying to catch up with their own lives, this season starts off with stories about faith, religion, holy war, and two groups in one country deeply divided. Two sides with radically different beliefs about the future, where the future should lead and what our choices mean for our own morality.

I saw metaphors for Osama and Bush, including some wonderful lines about Messiah envy. And now that I've seen Firefly, I realized that the producers of the 4400 have cast Summer Glau to play a character eerily similar to the one she played on Firefly - a schizophrenic girl with superpowers.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Trash Art

This is pretty cool. An artist makes sillhouettes out of piles of trash. Out of total rubbish comes stylized, sculpted gentle shapes. Creation out of chaos. And some pretty cool juxtapositions.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

I love a parade

I carried my church's sign in the Pride Parade today. It was a lot of fun. I saw lots of church people I know, and my parents, and several other friends from work and other places.

There were 4 blocks of churches in the parade, which is excellent. And not only that, but I'm certain the anti-gay protesters were fewer, quieter, and more ignored. Their fading away has begun. Their hate is on a long, slow slide into oblivion. And churches are opening their arms and hearts to all kinds of constructive love.

Edit: Also, one of those protesters, at the anti-gay parade, was an anti-abortion protester. Not the brightest protester in the world. Which reminds me of this video:

Saturday, June 16, 2007

China highlights

My parents and I want to China in May. We took many pictures. Here are the essentials.

The first three pictures are from the Great Wall. They line up with each other, left to right. Panorama-style.

This is the Temple of Heaven in Beijing. It's a beautiful, holy space.

Roofline detail for the walls surrounding the Temple of Heaven. The Forbidden City, the former home of the emperor, has similar work, but in imperial yellow instead of heavenly blue and green. The ends of the roof beams also are decorated with a more heavenly motif than the ones in the forbidden city.

Another shot of one of the temple's praying buildings.

Dragon sculpture. There's a really cool one of these in the Forbidden City.

My mom's cousin standing on the rock on the holiest of the 3 altars. This altar is in the center of 3 levels, each with 9 circles of stone, with 9 steps between each layer. The circular altar is surrounded by a circular wall, and then a square wall.

Sadly, this Wuhan bus is typical. The air pollution in China is really, really bad.

These melons are called gua. They are tasty, almost like cucumber - not very sweet as melon goes. One of the few new foods I experienced.

The three old trees of Guling. In my grandfather's time, these 3 trees were the only trees. They are ancient and sacred.

Views back into the valley from Mt. Lu. It was pretty cloudy during our time in Guling, but you can see a little bit of valley past the glacial hills.

In Wuhan, where my grandfather was born, there is a riverfront park full of statues. Here you see the hero of the Changjiang (Yangtse), working with a dragon and turtle to stop a flood, emerging from his dead father's belly, and defeating a nine-headed flood snake demon. Last time this river flooded, 800,000 people died. It's a beautiful and useful flood control park.

Civil rights, schmivil rights

Man, there's so many people having a hard time.

In addition to the people at Guantanamo who deserve a trial because they're humans, it turns out the FBI is spying on all of us, so we can be next. (You know, if the people at Gitmo are tried and found guilty of terrorism, lock them up and dissolve the key in my stomach acid. But you can't put people in prison because the President says so, without checks AND balances.)

And a judge ruled that RAM is a document that needs storing. But that's a dumb ruling like the substitute teacher who got linkjacked. Both of those rulings will be thrown out when the defendants get better lawyers and are heard on appeal by smarter judges.

But my favorite outrage of the day is a guy who was arrested for holding a sign advocating equal rights for robots. There was a big anti-gay rally at a college, which was matched in its hateful, spittle-flinging irrational frenzy by a pro-gay rally. One guy, thinking, you all are crazy, held up a sign. It said "Equal Rights for Robots". He got arrested. It seems like the most obvious case of free speech imaginable, particularly given the circumstances of lots of other people right next to him exercising their rights in a very active manner. Man. Not Cool.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Blogging could get me fired!

Well, I was going to post something about Bodyworlds, the exhibit at my workplace, OMSI, but now I'm not so sure.

Jessa Jeffries just got fired. For blogging. On her own time, not about work.

So I guess I shouldn't mention the prominent bellybuttons or the megalomaniac quotes in the really interesting, artistic exhibit. Because I wish to continue the cool work I'm doing.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Wiretapping laws applied to video cameras

Apparently, a man in Pennsylvania is being charged for wiretapping. But what he did was videotape police who stopped him while driving.

How can it be a crime to videotape something happening in a public street? On private property, I understand, but in public? I don't care that the law makes it a crime to record a conversation without the consent of those being recorded. Do you really have a reasonable expectation of privacy in a public place? Especially if you're a public servant, like a police officer?

Why wouldn't this kind of prosecution outlaw such things as the Rodney King video? Or for that matter, the Tienanmen tape?

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Philosopher Comic

I usually enjoy Cow and Boy, but yesterday's comic is the best.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Google invading your privacy

The Luddite is an interesting columnist, often critiquing new technologies in an interesting way. He doesn't hate new things for no reason, just new things that destroy something good about living life.

His criticism this week about Google taking pictures of every public street in big cities is quite enjoyable.

Reminds me of The Corporation, a non-fiction film that criticizes the LLC legal structure as being inherently destructive and psycopathically uncompassionate. I feel like we need to rebuild the common good as something people value, and expose the lie of the marketplace as an efficient way of doing things.
Markets and corporations may do a good job of finding the fastest, cheapest way to do a job, but they are lousy at figuring out which jobs deserve doing. And they're lousy at doing things safely, fairly, or sustainably. We need democratic, representative organizations to ensure that corporations don't poison us, use up unreplaceable resources, or leave most of us out of their success.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Mochi keyboard

A keyboard was in an office that was set on fire.

Now it looks like candy. And aliens. And frogs.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Battlestar Galactica is good sci-fi

I've been enjoying DVDs of Battlestar Galactica for the past few months.

I really enjoy the show because it uses science fiction to comment on current lives. I like aliens and spaceships and time travel, but it's most moving when the stories told are normal, human stories. Stories that relate to us. (Like the stories in the first season of The 4400.

Battlestar manages to tell the story of 9/11, of Iraq and Afghanistan and other struggles in the world today, only in a land of homicidal robots that look just like us. And in a time and place where the total number of living humans is less than 50,000. (Excellent way to raise the stakes.)

It's interesting playing catch up, because there are a lot of sleeper agents on the show, and I keep accidentally finding out major surprises online. It's also really interesting seeing two characters who each represent some aspect of George W. Bush's personality, facing off against each other.

Props to the actors, writers and crew of that show, for making good television. (I guess that is why they won a Peabody.)

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Painstaking music video animation

The people who made this stop-motion music video worked very, very, very hard.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Daffodil Rap

The Lake District commissioned a musical composition. Wordsworth's "I wandered Lonely as a Cloud", often known as "Daffodils", set to music.

Well, "music".

You can find the piece here.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Mobius Town

I had a dream last night with an interesting image: a Mobius town. You couldn't leave the town, because as you got to the edge of it, you'd end up inside one of the buildings in the middle. And in the middle of town, there was a diorama that showed the outside, which you could enter and end up on the edge of town. Like a secret passage, but topologically sublime.

The town had lots of Chinese letters, and I did lots of juggling, and the people I was with all seem straight out of my trip. And the beautiful redhead was obviously Katy.

But a town that's being demolished/attacked, where you can't escape, but you can evade by jumping into a sewer and ending up in the movie theater on the other side of town...

My brain comes up with cool stuff. I think this is right up there with canned food spelunking and sentient garbage cans.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Muppet Lord of the Rings

Or, the Battle of Ham's Deep.

A Comics Shop has painstakingly combined Muppet and Tolkien action figures into an awesome tableau of muppets and battle.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Rational security

There's a column on Wired that makes an excellent point about security. There are things we know work, which prevent dangers we know exist. Like seatbelts, bike helmets, avoiding eye contact with dogs, and smoke detectors.

Then there's taking off your shoes at the airport. One guy had a shoe bomb, and the attack didn't work. It's ridiculous that the TSA reacts to every new threat by preventing the attacks of the past, instead of investing in good intelligence and surveillance that will prevent the attacks of the future.

Like this blogger points out, we do things that make us feel safe, but actually are totally predictable by bad guys. We need to figure out how bad guys act, understand how they think, and then act in ways that will predictably block their actions.

Not make my mom dump out her water bottle twice before boarding a plane. (The Chinese just have a guy who smells your water to make sure it's water.)