Monday, June 30, 2008

Email privacy

So, this guy got fired from a job.

Then he finds out later, they're reading his personal email.

Now I get that companies have access to your work email. It's their email server, you're using their computer to work.

But what the hell? When I use Gmail, or Yahoo, or any other free web email service, that should be private. How did they even read this guy's email? If he left himself logged in to a computer at work, and they didn't log out, and used the access, that's gross. But if they sniffed his password and broke into his account to read emails between him and his lawyer, that's just evil.

I hope the case goes to a judge who's younger than 80 years old, and can understand the differences in the technological examples, and apply traditional standards of privacy in a sane way. I suspect I'll be disappointed.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

It's hot. Damn hot!

I performed in Shakespeare last night, on a day with 100 degree temperatures.

Unsurprisingly, a wool coat is exceedingly uncomfortable at that heat. And my slave costume, a vest and trousers, which had been cold during dress rehearsal, was actually a little warm!

Evaporative cooling is great. I deliberately spilled water on the stage, and it dropped the temperature a few degrees. For a few minutes. Brick holds a lot of heat.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Attempted Copyright Violation

So, the MPAA and RIAA are suing people for stealing stuff. And claiming that if you have files in a "shared folder" where people can copy it, then you are stealing.

They claim that they don't need to prove directly that you were sharing the files, just that you are "making available" stuff that's not yours. Largely, this is because it's impossible for them to prove whether anyone downloaded stuff you were sharing.

I'm torn. On the one hand, lawyers I usually agree with say this is like charging people with Attempted Copyright Violation, which Congress hasn't made illegal. On the other hand, file sharing software is designed to evade the law, so that's WHY there's no proof of violation.

I doubt this metaphor will help, but if I made a bunch of bootleg DVDs and CDs, and set them out on a table with a FREE sign, would I be guilty of copyright violation before anyone took a copy? Or, if I set up a DVD burner on the street, and passersby could press a button for it to dispense a free illegal copy of a DVD, am I guilty until the first copy has been made?

Clearly I'm intending to violate the law. But it can't be proven that I have yet violated it. But that's because I'm deliberately making sure there's no evidence, if I did violate it.

I think the corporations are overreaching, but I wonder if that's just because I assume they are, since they always do that.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Religious Tolerance

So the Pew Center (I love good, solid research) did a survey of Religion in America. And the vast majority, 79% of people, believe their religion is not the sole truth. Most of us think other people have equally legitimate ways to worship.

Or they say they do. People lie to surveys. They know they're not supposed to be racist, so they say they're not. And when this article about the survey points out this fact, you have to wonder what they were thinking:
Another finding almost defies explanation: 21 percent of self-identified atheists said they believe in God or a universal spirit, with 8 percent "absolutely certain" of it.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

My job rocks

Yesterday, I created a version of this:

But that wasn't the best part. The best part was figuring out that in doing the diet soda/mentos activity, you don't need Mentos. (Diet Dr. Pepper is the most explosive soda, by the way.)

You can use sand. Because it's all about the surface area of the Mentos, and sand has lots of surface area.

But sand is messy, and grinds into your launch tube. So I tried iron filings. I used a magnet to hold them in the tube, and then pulled the magnet away. It was awesome. I'm sure video will follow.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Fire Video

Safety means knowing what will happen in an emergency. So firefighters sometimes burn stuff, so they know what they'll face later.

Which results in awesome videos.

Friday, June 20, 2008


Having finally seen Juno, I see why the media was abuzz about this movie. It earned its screenplay Oscar.

As much as I really enjoyed the movie, its unique voice did not extend to giving the different characters personalities. All the characters in the movie were are really the same person, or different aspects of the same authorial voice. Which isn't necessarily a flaw. I think Shakespeare does that, too. (Of course, so does Edison Lee, a "comic" strip whose "humor" allegedly comes from a precocious child, but the child is just an old person in a child's body, talking to other old people. Vomit. I'm glad my local paper finally stopped carrying it.)

I look forward to Diablo Cody's next project. I'm curious to see what else she'll write. And I wonder whether her writing will evolve so that more than one voice will present itself in her stories.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Run Fatboy Run

Speaking of movies with great acting but less than stellar plot, I recently saw Run Fatboy Run. It's a movie with an extreme premise, but lacking extreme instincts.

Simon Pegg does fantastic work as a schlub whose life sucks because he sucks, who's inspired to run a marathon to try to win back his ex.

But it's hard to swallow the extreme premise that he should be our hero, since he left her at the altar. Pregnant. And the script doesn't make her shine particularly much, and the villain new boyfriend is caricature, not character. And I'm pretty sure that the middle finger is an American gesture, not likely to be used by children in London.

But Pegg is awesome, as well as one gag as he runs a very slow marathon.

I wouldn't pay more than $3 to see it, but I don't want two hours of my life back.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


Speaking of sexism, we recently watched the movie Enchanted.

It was pretty well made, but I could have done with a great deal more irony. There were a couple awesome moments, especially the musical number where the princess cleans up the apartment in New York with the aid of pigeons, rats and cockroaches.

And Amy Adams and James Marsden were very focused actors, totally committed to their characters' reality. Which was very fun to watch.

But I wished the traditional princess story had been turned on its head, not just stretched a little. If the princess had been truly shattered by the darkness of the real world, then found her inner strength to truly kick some ass, not just throw a sword to save her true love, with the aid of her trusty chipmunk.

And given her talent with animals, I would have preferred her to be seen in the epilogue as a talented zoologist, rather than a celebrated dressmaker. Although at least she did run her own business.

But this is too much to expect from a Disney movie, even one that occasionally winks. The eternal Disney dead-mother trope is still there, even if she's not dead, she just "left".

I did enjoy the irony of Disney's portrayal of Times Square as a horrible place, after Disney worked to make the real Times Square a less horrible place. And casting the star of Wicked as the woman who's replaced by the princess, but ends up with the prince? Nice touch.

Still, I had my hopes too high for this movie. While it pushes on the concept of the princess fairy tale, it ultimately affirms that worldview, rather than subverting it. Mocking feminism by turning Marie Curie's death into a cheap irony instead of a noble sacrifice. I hope someone will tell stories that balance the world, of smart women and caring men. I think it's ok for a powerful heroine to fall in love, but it should be ok for her to succeed in a non-traditional career, too. I just won't hold my breath for Disney to tell that story.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Stupid Nerds. Be less Sexist!

I already knew that women, while achieving equal numbers in the law, medicine, architecture, and other high status professions, were underrepresented in science, engineering and technology. (Math, too. And not so much biology as physics, chemistry, etc.)

Now I read this story which gives lots of details and explanations why.


Sexist nerds suck.

Engineers and scientists need to recruit tons of women to come into their industries and change their culture. Because then their work will be more useful to humanity. And they'll become less dickish.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Stupid Media and their overarching narrative

Stories are powerful. Our human minds need stories to make sense of things.

However, sometimes we cling to a good story even though it isn't true. And even when it matters. And unfortunately, that's often done by journalists.

Take the idea that
Clinton supporters will vote for McCain. Turns out, according to that article I linked to, that Obama is polling way, way better than McCain with women. Far better than Gore or Kerry. And yet the media have a few old polls, and a few people willing to appear on TV, who were Clinton supporters who are voting for McCain.

Those few individuals may be completely truthful, but that doesn't a trend make.

Like the media's bias for conflict, the bias for narrative is dangerous. It means that Bush is president, because they freaked out when their standard election night narrative was disrupted in 2000. It means we're at war, because the Bush administration did a very skilled job of playing into the media's standard storyline about a nation going to war.

I wish there were an example I could think of where the story tendency cravenly advanced an agenda I agreed with, but I have a blind spot towards what I consider success.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

No Country for Old Men

I had some thoughts about this movie, but now all I can think of is the Ninja's observation.

Which totally gives away the end of the movie. But let it be said the title is really misleading.

Damn, that is one scary, scary movie. Very excellent. And just a few moments of Coen brothers wackiness. Although it does seem to have a lot of the violence of their early work.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

The Second Coming!

I think the Messiah has been born on Earth.

This child being born is a miracle. The mother was on The Pill. And after she got pregnant, because the embryo very likely had (in fact does have) a genetic kidney disease, she had an abortion.

But the fetus survived the abortion procedure, not to mention ovulated right through the pill's hormonal restrictions. And now has been born, and is relatively healthy. (Apart from only having one working kidney.)

I think they should have named him Jesus. What kind of name is Finley for a Messiah?

Thursday, June 5, 2008

See! I wasn't the one downloading movies!

Researchers at University of Washington framed a printer for a crime. The crime of copyright violation.

At least, they signed the printer up for participation in Bit Torrent downloading, which caused the MPAA or whoever to send them a letter suing them. Despite the fact that IT'S A PRINTER, and can't possibly be downloading movies.

Makes for nice evidence if they sue you, pointing out that while my computer may participate in the completely legal Bit Torrent network, they don't actually have proof I downloaded the movie.

Ironically, the only way I can think of for movie studios to collect evidence of people stealing movies is for the studios to themselves participate in the illegal distribution of movies...

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

McCain would wiretap warrantlessly

I don't know the most grammatical or the most poetic way to describe it, but the fact remains that John McCain says he would continue spying on US Citizens if elected president.

It's not weak to protect freedom. Finding criminals, protecting public safety, etc. are good things, but the Constitution requires checks and balances and getting a warrant from a judge before spying and searching.

At least he's slightly less insane than President Bush when it comes to torture.

Monday, June 2, 2008


This is a dust mite. I'm pretty sure.

Dust mites live in pillows and matresses, feasting on flakes of dead skin that we throw off. This dust mite is sitting on one tiny, tiny thread of insulation material from a pillow.

My pillow. Fun.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Security verification

This column contemplates why we use faxed signatures for stuff. Why do we use something so easy to forge? Because we usually only accept them in a context where there are ways to make sure it's real.

Unless you're a lazy jail guard, and release a prisoner based on a fax sent from McDonald's. (McDonald's has a fax machine?)

And I learned that banks don't bother to verify check signatures unless the amount is over $30,000. Because it's cheaper to clean up the mess later on the tiny percentage of fake checks, than it is to verify all the legit ones.