Saturday, October 31, 2009

Handheld Nintendo

I do like video games. And the idea of being able to play NES games inside an old NES cartridge, with an old NES controller embedded inside? Genius.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Bob Herbert is right

You know, I've been feeling like the world is out of control, and bankers aren't being held accountable, and that it's time to seriously upset the power structure and neuter the corporations that somehow are getting our elected officials to ignore the common good and legislate only to the bottom line.

Then Bob Herbert wrote a column about how things won't fix themselves and it's up to each of us to stand up and speak out and actually get things to change.

That's what I've been feeling. I just didn't know it.

I bet this apathy isn't original. I bet people were just as hopeless about the possibility of change in the 1890s or 1920s. But hopefully we'll snap out of it, just as we did in the 1960s. And 1770s. It's time for another greatest generation to rebuild all the things that Reagan and the Bushes tore down. I hope video games and cable TV aren't enough to pacify us into not fixing what's broken.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Coincidence? I think not.

Briefly: California Governor Schwarzenegger (shudder) recently vetoed a bill.
Unprofessionally, it contained an obscene acrostic. They claim the
lewd imperative suggestion is merely a bizzare coincidence. I think it's un-
likely that a swear would appear in that form without intention.

Someone did that. If it was a single four letter word, I would buy that it was a
harmless coincidence. But to have "fuck you" be the first letter of each line?
I think a person put it there deliberately. It's not easy for that to happen.
That's hard to do, even intentionally.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Technology is disruptive, but not THAT disruptive

For decades, corporations that make money make alarmist claims about new technology. Suggesting that kids stealing music online will cause poor helpless Paul McCartney to starve.

Of course, that's not how it turned out in the past. Ever. When John Philip Sousa complained about the phonograph driving sheet music purchases into the basement, it's not as though musicians have disappeared. It's just changed how they share their art with the world.

Technology's not going to stop just because you wish it would, RIAA. Suck it up. Radio adapted when TV was invented. So did movies. You can adapt to the internet. Or else you deserve to die.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Evolution at work

Go science! I'm quite impressed by people who study evolution by watching bacteria evolve for years. And then after thousands of generations, analyze their DNA and see what's changed. Pretty frickin' awesome.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Online books at libraries?

Disruptive technology means we need new way of doing things. Electronic books could destroy libraries. Unless we find a way to borrow electronic books. Publishers would like to charge libraries hundreds of times the price of a regular book, since it'll get read multiple times. But they're just getting greedy.

Honestly, the problem with electronic media with locks on is that corporations get greedy instead of thinking of how best to create an experience that gets customers coming back. Hopefully Barnes & Noble's ebook reader will crack this nut, by letting us share books with each other without charging extra for the privilege.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Copyright treaty is classified

The latest international copyright treaty is classified. Making it a federal crime to read it.

Man, that does make it hard to ensure that our rights are protected. Or make sure that corporations aren't taking too much for themselves.

Thursday, October 22, 2009


You have to wonder about the motivation of the scientists who did this one. Did they survey any men at all? Seems like we gossip, too.

Allegedly, women tell secrets in 2 days or less. I think that result is plausible, but I doubt there's anything special about women.

And this definitely goes in the "sure glad we cured cancer and war so we have time for stupid stuff like this" file.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Fake engine noise for hybrid cars?

It's nice that hybrid car designers aren't limiting themselves to fake engine noise. It would be sad if they made electric cars make the sound of a gasoline car just so people won't get surprised.

But I have some sympathy for the people who say the drivers shouldn't hit people. It's not the pedestrian's responsibility to not get hit. If you're driving an electric car, don't run folks over.

Yet, while I'm biking, I want to hear people coming and passing me and not be surprised.

If only honking didn't mean anger here. In China, it just means "Hi, I'm here. Don't hit me!" When I bike and pass another cyclist who's slower, I ring my bell or call out to let them know I'm coming. Hybrid car drivers could use a honk or chime to tell people that they're present. Heck, it'd be great to be able to make a variety of sounds instead of just the honk - to be able to communicate more complexly about your intentions.

So, car makers, give us lots of noise options. Give me the ability to "honk" in ways that tell people the difference between "pardon me" and "go to hell". And let me have ringtones for my car. I want my car horn to be anything I want it to be. Heck, you can charge us $2 per sound, and create a whole new revenue stream.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Another chemistry video

This one's brilliant. Although it does anthropomorphize the various elements. But it's hilarious to chemistry nerds.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Chemistry videos

The makers of the PCR song have now come out with a wonderful new sequel: GTCA.

The PCR song, which has been stuck in my head for a week. Who's your daddy?

Friday, October 16, 2009

Smoking bans save lives

There's more data in to confirm that banning smoking saves lives. Banning smoking in public places - hotels, restaurants, bars - has resulted in fewer deaths from heart attacks.

I was a little surprised that the effect would happen so quickly, and be so measurable. But it's there. Secondhand smoke really is that bad for you. Penn Gillette, you were wrong.

I think the proposed ban on smoking in outdoor parks in Hillsboro may be a little much. Then again, we've managed to pollute the Earth pretty badly - it could be that even outdoor secondhand smoke can be harmful.

But it's clear that smoke-filled rooms were hazardous to everyone's health. I'm glad we've made some progress.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

ASCAP are jerks, and the court agrees

Thank goodness a judge decided that a phone ringing is not a concert. The fools at ASCAP sued phone companies, claiming that phones ringing by playing clips of songs was a public performance. This, in spite of the fact that they GOT PAID for the rights to those clips.

Man. ASCAP has been slamming a local theatre I work with, too. They're completely unreasonable in their demands, wanting more money for the same privileges, just because they can ask for it. Thank goodness they got slapped in court. It's about time. Artists deserve to get compensated for their work, but the system is bent way too far out of balance.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Take away Congress' health care?

While I support the cute concept, I think Nicholas Kristof overlooks an important detail in suggesting that Congress should lose its health care.

Yes, while 60 percent of Americans want Medicare for All, Congress is much more hesitant about any sort of reform. But if you took away their medical benefits, they'd all just go buy some health insurance. They're all millionaires.

Which is really the root of the problem. The rich buy power, and the rich medical companies are no exception. The reform process is corrupted by insurance money, and the change we need will be horribly watered down.

We need publicly financed election campaigns. And fully transparent political lobbying funding. The First Amendment guarantees the right to lobby, but we need to make that process as transparent and embarassing as possible.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Technology causing bad parenting

I know that TV has enabled bad parenting. I suspect radio did, too.

I think there have always been neglectful, inattentive parents, and it's just a question of how current technology affects the shape of modern parenthood, both good and bad. But it's still interesting to read about parents ignoring children to talk on cell phones, or text or tweet or whatever.

I just visited with a family that consciously chooses to eschew technology and focus on playing acoustical music and card games and read books with their children. The broad strokes of society are not changing. Bad parents just have new ways to be bad parents.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Media doesn't have that much power

A day after Thomas Friedman warned that the right wing crazies are creating a violent, dangerous climate, David Brooks argues that talk radio doesn't wield true power. He points out that when they tell people to actually vote for or against stuff, they have no effect. Beck, O'Reilly, even Limbaugh: when they told their listeners to get out and vote for Mitt Romney, they ignored the radio hosts and voted for Huckabee or McCain.

I think the massive "tea bag" events point out a gap between Brooks' case and reality, but it's reassuring to note that while a fringe is very loud, they are not changing minds. Just making life unpleasant for everyone else.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Google Groups suggests Google Books might not be great

Google wants to scan all the out of print books and save them from becoming the next lost library of Alexandria.

Unfortunately, last time they rescued an archive from the flames, it didn't go so well. Their storing of all the USENET archives in Google Groups has made the archive unsearchable.

There are lots of flaws in the Google Books plan. This is an example of why we shouldn't trust Google to just get it right, but make sure they're contractually obligated to.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Holy crap, I'm selling my house

After one day on the market, I accepted an offer on my home.

Holy crap. That's insanely fast. My neighbors have had homes for sale for months, even up to a year.

The standard offer/inspection/close cycle takes a month, but I could be moving that soon! Wow.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

I have to tell you if I get free stuff

Apparently corporations are paying for people to shill crap on blogs. And giving lots of free stuff to bloggers. So soon, bloggers will have to reveal conflicts of interest. Tell you if the product they're reviewing was given to them for free, or if the corporation paid them to review it.

I wish they were paying me. I think it's good that blogging is maturing to the point that people are needing to develop ethical standards. I just wish more than 4 people read this blog, so I could make money selling ads and get free stuff.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Artificial heart with no pulse

A woman in Singapore has been implanted with an artificial heart that doesn't pulse. It just generates a continuous pressurized flow of blood.

When you think about it, why would you make an artificial heart pulse? It's easier to engineer a pump that operates continuously than one that stops and starts constantly. I suppose there are limits to how the blood vessels of the body can handle it, and I wonder how the body will react to the very unnatural blood flow this pump will create.

But I'm surprised it hasn't been done until now.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Politics is getting REALLY ugly

I knew that politics was in a rough phase. I knew that campaign funding had led to corruption. I knew that gerrymandering and the destruction of the middle class was leading to an erosion of moderates in politics, creating extremists who are unwilling to compromise and propose no solutions, only criticism.

But the attacks on the President have gone way out of bounds. The ridiculous birther bullshit and other attacks on the legitimacy of his presidency have given rise to presidential death threats. And these are way more serious than nonexistent death panels.

When people use racism to attack the president, and compare him to Hitler, it cultivates the extreme crazies out there and puts his life in danger. I didn't know that, at least not consciously. But now I do. And it makes me sad and angry.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Graphic Novel about math

I'm kind of curious to read Logicomix. It's a graphic novel about mathematicians arguing about the philosophy of math, and whether logic exists and can be useful in the real world.

And most of them are crazy. Which you always kind of suspected about really brilliant mathematicians.