Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Word Lens

Wow. Computers have advanced. You can carry a phone that can translate stuff for you on the fly. Not perfectly, but well enough to get along.


Monday, December 27, 2010

"Board Game" music video

A guy I know edited this. I like the video anyway, but I'm really impressed with the editing.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Board Game Remix Kit

The Boardgame Remix Kit looks awesome. I hope to have one soon. They give you new rules to play old, lame board games by. And mix together bits from various games to make new games - like using Scrabble letters and a Clue board together.


Saturday, December 25, 2010

Games and crafting

I really like Sprite Stitch. It's a blog of crafts and video games. Lots of amazing Nintendo themed crafts. My favorite today is the amigurumi Mega Man. Although there are several amazing crocheted blankets.

I have only begun to browse this blog, but it looks similarly impressive.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Math is awesome

This video is amazing. I could watch this woman doodle and talk about math all day.

Maybe I will.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Portland: Dream of the 90s

I'm pretty sure they're mocking us, but the upcoming sitcom about Portland does seem to nail us.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Data: Google Books

You can search the collected history of all books ever, thanks to Google. And see how different words trend. A group at Harvard did a bunch of interesting analysis about some words and phrases (See how Great War is replaced by World War One! Thrill at how pizza is much younger than ice cream, which is much younger than steak!)

And, you can search for words yourself. I found comparing Jesus and Buddha really surprising. Also, a LOT of books on Oregon were published in the 1930s. I have no idea why. And "email" used to mean something else in the 1860s. Something about enamel, and maybe about bacteria.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Monkee, Monkee, Chiu

One of my favorite christmas carols. Sung by the Monkees.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Why Monopoly used to be fun

Buried in an article about why Settlers of Catan is a great board game that everyone loves, I read a sentence that helps me understand why anyone ever played Monopoly, the most boring game in the universe.

"Idleness may not have been an acute problem in 1935, but in 2010, it's a fatal flaw."

See, when Monopoly was invented, no one had a job or anything else to do, so sitting for 4 hours to wait for your friend to finish you off in Monopoly was better entertainment than just sitting.

But game technology has gotten much better now. Heck, even Mah Jongg, not exactly new, does a better job of maintaining suspense and strategy than Monopoly.

Maybe you just can't underestimate the power of pretend money.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Worst. Game. Ever.

Have you played one of the worst video games in existence? I think I have.

I just spent time at Defense Acquisition University's games page. It's part of training military personnel and civilian staff about the military procurement process.

Imagine, you can play the exciting role of supply procurement specialist!

Although Fraud Investigator is slightly interesting, and Acquisition Proposition isn't very different from Diner Dash. Just way less charming.

Friday, December 3, 2010

We're headed for the island of stability!

I just learned about superheavy nucleii that might be unusually stable. There's a scientist who claims to have detected element 111 in trace amounts inside deposits of gold. Wild. I wonder if it'll still be true a year from now. But if it is, that means we might someday have trace amounts of element 120! Sure, we haven't been able to synthesize it yet, but if we ever do, it might have a really long half-life.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Arsenic Life!

There's a bacteria living in a hot springs that doesn't have DNA. Well, not anymore.

While early reports suggested that this bacteria evolved naturally with arsenic instead of phosphorus in its DNA, it turns out that it did this in the lab.

Which is still amazing. Life can evolve to really weird chemistry that we thought was universally toxic. But it would be even more amazing to see bacteria that live in the wild that use another molecule for their genetics, alongside the sulfur-based deep sea vent bugs.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Crazy intense remix music videos

My brain overflows when it watches this music video. But it's pretty cool editing, even if he's stealing from dozens of movies.

But that's what I'm most excited about. This is transformative use - mixing together different tropes from different films to create something wholly new. Sure, you can recognize the work of different authors in here, but it's not that different from the many literary allusions you find in great works of writing. Jane Eyre is an original work of art, even if it quotes from the Bible constantly.

Although Jane Eyre is not composed entirely of Bible quotes.

And then the same editor made me want to see the Tron sequel.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Dumb Phone

A deliberately simple cell phone. Fascinating. It's very pretty, and I know there are people who are annoyed with how often they replace their phone.

Although this does seem about as likely to catch on as the concept cars you see each year. Lovely to look at and probably fun to use, but not quite what folks actually need.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Bacteria genetically engineered to solve sudoku

Japanese scientists have genetically engineered bacteria that can solve sudoku. They communicate chemically with each other and change colors to display the solution to a sudoku puzzle.

On the one hand, totally useless. On the other - HOLY CRAP. Scientists have such precise control of DNA that they can do totally useless, fairly complicated stuff. Biological computers or data storage seems kind of feasible when they can dink around like this.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Baseball periodic table

Speaking of tables, some guy came up with a periodic table of baseball hall-of-famers.

It's the kind of nerdistry you have to respect.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Beautiful folding table

I wish I knew how to make this.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Harry Potter sings The Elements

And the Tom Lehrer version, not They Might Be Giants'. Apparently Daniel Radcliffe is nerdy enough to memorize all the elements' names.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Mmmm.... chocolate

I just learned that cocoa butter, the "chocolate" in white "chocolate" is used in suppositories because of its melting temperature.

Thanks, internet. I don't think I ever would have found that out without you.


Sunday, November 14, 2010

Xbox Kinect Lives

I'm a fan of Lore Sjoberg, and not just because of the Nordic j in his name.

I particularly enjoyed his recent essay about an Xbox Kinect controller that becomes self-aware.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

XKCD Color Survey

If you're unfamiliar with XKCD, it's one of the best line-art nerdy webcomics out there.

Recently the author of that comic posted a survey of color names, putting up squares of different colors and asking people to name them. He also asked people about their gender, because colorblindness is a sex-related genetic trait.

If you read through the survey results, I think you'll find it interesting and amusing. Read all the way to the end, or at least skip to the end and read all the comments people left along the way. I was laughing for minutes.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Forget You

I loved the real version of this song the first time I heard it. And I enjoyed seeing it on the Colbert Report.

But I knew it was a crazy hit when I heard this version on NPR. I love how the actors play up the censoring of the "Shh" in this. Although in the full version, you'll notice the little boy's mother chides him for cursing, but doesn't here.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Music Video "shreds"

I recently became aware of "shred" videos, where someone redubs a video with a different soundtrack. That is hilarious.

Like Mick Jagger singing about farting. Well, singing isn't quite the word for it.

Or this altered version of the Obama inauguration.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Lego robot that makes things out of Lego

Somebody made a robotic Lego assembler out of Lego robotics. If this thing starts making copies of itself, then we're doomed!

Monday, October 18, 2010

No Mo Sho Po

I'm done with abbreviations for Portland neighborhoods. Refugees from New York (or hipster New Yorker wannabees), you don't live in SoHo or TriBeCa. And Lents isn't the next SoHo. And even if it is, Lents is only one letter more than FoPo. St. John's already has a name, it doesn't need to be NoPo. (Not to mention that abbrevations for low-income neighborhoods that end in po' are in po' taste.) And why isn't the Pearl District referred to as PeDi? Surely the metrosexuals that live there get foot-manicures.

But if this must be done, I have some suggestions for new abbreviations:

Home of the Portland Pirate Festival - StJo (try saying that out loud)
Just up the ridge from Downtown - WeHi
A wealthy suburb south of the city - LaOs

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Meta media

I'm a very meta kind of guy. I have a BS in philosophy. Now I'm taking education classes where I think about metacognition and talk about talking about learning. Most of my news sources are meta - while I do read the paper and listen to NPR, I listen most faithfully to Wait Wait Don't Tell Me and On The Media, and I religiously watch The Daily Show and Colbert, all programs that operate by analyzing the news and the media structure, not just being participants but being reflective participants.

And my musical tastes run meta. I'm mostly a fan of They Might Be Giants, Weird Al and Jonathan Coulton. All very clever songwriters. In particular there are many pieces of music who I know best through parodies. A week ago I heard the original Rocket Man, and I realized I knew Shatner's corruption of that song better than the original (and maybe the Family Guy parody of Shatner's parody even better). I like my universe highly processed, but sentient and clever. Seems to be working for me so far.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Don Quijote - Asian Grocer

In Hawaii recently, I discovered the Japanese grocery chain Don Quijote.

They were pretty awesome, well stocked with American and Asian foods. But it got me thinking what other literary figures you could name retail establishments after.

  • Ebenezer Scrooge - basically Wal-Mart, but with a Victorian mascot.
  • Fallstaff's nursery - specializing in fruit trees and vegetable gardens.
  • Mrs. Dalloway's. No joke, I just think it's a charming name.
but maybe we should appropriate a Japanese cultural icon for a Mexican grocery.

  • Rashomon - every time you ask for a price, you get a different answer.
  • Kaguya-hime - No refunds or we'll send you back to the moon!
  • Taira no Kiyomori - clearly the perfect mascot for a delicatessen.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Month at the Museum sparked awesome videos

The science museum in Chicago didn't choose this guy to live there for a month. But I think his application video is hilarious.

If you want to know more about why this video exists, I recommend Nina Simon's discussion.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Sesame Street: Smell Like A Monster

Grover is charming in a very different way than Isaiah Mustafa.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

We want dumb robots

We can program a robot arm that will crack an egg or pour a beer better than you can. But that's not what we want. We want robot arms we can learn to use. You want to develop skill at using your tools, not have it do everything for you.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Corrupt Politics

Not only has the current Republican minority leader in the House once openly handed out tobacco company bribes on the House floor, but every Republican presidential contender but one is a paid employee of Fox News.

Wow. How the Democrats can lose to these guys is amazing. True, they have amazing writers who tell very seductive stories. And their discipline is amazing, and they have lots of funding to tell their story in lots of places.

But the amount of corporate funding corrupting them is shocking. Maybe the democrats are just as corrupt and I'm blind to it, but it seems like there's less poop in our food and lead in our toys when the liberals are in charge and willing to actually enforce the law.

Sigh. Publicly funded election campaigns seem like a flawed solution, but it's the only remedy I have heard of that might possibly fix things. A third party seems more and more inevitable and I welcome the shakeup, but I don't think it will solve the problems long term. Our country's history of third parties is of a temporary realignment followed by the death of one of the two parties. I don't know which current party will die in a realignment, but ten years later I don't think much will have changed unless we alter the mechanics of our political system.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Buddhist Gideons

My hotel room in Hawaii has a free Buddhist book alongside the Gideon bible.

I'm much more interested in the Buddha, although that likely has a lot to do with the fact that I don't know this book nearly as well as I know the bible.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Blog posting about science article

General observation about something in the world. Segue to specific topic with new development. Link to online article about new development.

Personal opinion about new development. Statement considering straw-man version of opposite point of view, followed by refutation and return to original opinion.

Question to solicit comments?

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Poker Face

Hooray for the British TV producer who had the brilliant idea to have Christopher Walken perform Lady Gaga's "Poker Face".

Sunday, September 19, 2010

iPad is a laptop killer

I thought the iPad was creating a whole new genre of technology, perhaps a computer for people who didn't have a computer before. If my grandmother didn't have a computer already but was interested in one, I'd point her that way.

But according to retail numbers, people are buying iPads instead of laptops. It makes sense - most computer users aren't power users that need lots of features. The simpler, shinier iPad is exactly what they want.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

I wasted money on a Kindle case

We're really enjoying our new Kindle - it's made Project Gutenberg even more awesome than it already was. And given how much stuff I have to read in PDF form already, it's going to be super awesome in the future.

But I got swindled on the case. Sure, the $30 case we bought is solid and durable, but when a 40 cent envelope makes an awesome Kindle case, why would I spend 100 times as much?

Because I got suckered. Reviews of the original Kindle always said you really need a case to hold it easily. Apparently the new Kindle is different from the old ones. I enjoy holding my new one in my hand, I just wish the reviewers I read had giant hands.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Credit Card Magic

The bankers who ruined the world economy have now come up with some amazing new credit card technology. Cards the same size as normal ones, but with buttons on the card where you enter your PIN. You can even have a card that contains multiple accounts, and changes the magnetic strip depending on which PIN you enter.

There's also a card that hides your account number unless you enter a code.

This is what Back to the Future 2 led me to expect. I'm glad at least banking hasn't disappointed me.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Crazy people

A certain fraction of humanity is always going to be nuts. Just plain bonkers. These are people who deserve food and shelter and medicine, but who believe crazy, crazy things and who should not be allowed sharp implements or loaded guns.

Or TV shows. Yet somehow, the craziest of the crazy are suddenly the people we care about on the news. Through acts of demagoguery and terror, they are demanding that we capitulate to their ridiculous demands.

We should not be giving crazy people an idiot veto. I don't want to see the president, or for that matter anyone of any responsibility outside the mental health industry, giving an opinion about what a crazy person might or might not do. "Mr. President, a man in Nevada is threatening to kill his puppy unless we immediately bomb North Korea." So? He's crazy. Who cares what one stupid idiot does?

Somehow I imagine this will end up like in Blazing Saddles, where the new sheriff can only calm the mob by holding himself hostage. If President Obama would threaten to kill himself, maybe everyone else would shut the hell up. Well, except Fox News who would complain that he's weak on crime for not arresting himself for attempted suicide.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Oregon Trail: The Movie

You will die on this Trail. Just like Poopface!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

9/11 Happened to All of Us

The Council on American-Islamic Relations has some excellent videos, making a point we apparently need now more than ever: some of the victims of 9/11 were Muslim. It happened to all of us. Some of the first responders - firefighters, nurses, doctors - are Muslim.

Unless you want to be a jerk who ignores reality and oversimplifies everything, we need to get over our election-year fearmongering and get with the fact that most Muslims aren't terrorists.

I'm pretty sure that both of my readers aren't racist. But I need to say something.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Colorado Republican wants to take away your bicycle

Well, I guess this guy who thinks bicycles are a UN plot to steal your freedom isn't going to take my bicycle away. But the way he talks, I feel like he thinks my bike commute is a scheme to overthrow society.

I guess I shouldn't tell him about the group of men I organized who gather in a basement to punch each other.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Pac Man on voting machine

I've been very glad that in Oregon we vote with paper ballots that are machine counted. We get all the benefits of quick computer counting, but we have paper records that can be audited if a computer company screws up.

Yet another blow to the concept of voting booth computer security - some savvy youths were able to reprogram a voting booth computer, not to change the votes but to play Pac Man.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Stupid racists, stop hating people

I'm shocked, SHOCKED that after weeks of Fox News telling us we should hate all Muslims who want to kill us and burn our cities, that some stupid people have started attacking Muslims in the US. Burning their mosques, stabbing them, and other evil.

And of course, Fox News commentators are denying all responsibility. When a few hundred Muslims attack, all Muslims are automatically evil. But when a few enraged conservatives commit violent acts of hate, they are lone wolves who don't reflect our larger society.

Never mind that the proposed new Islamic center in Manhattan is a Sufi community. Never mind that there are 2 other mosques in the neighborhood that are overflowing.
Never mind that one of the primary funders is a major stakeholder in Fox News.
Never mind that a nation of freedom should be better than this.

Innocent people are being hurt and it must stop. This is what hate speech leads to. When you go on TV day after day and lump a billion people together, and say they want to kill your babies, someone is going to take you seriously and start setting things on fire. This is the cost of Republicans gaining a few points in the polls for this fall's election. Shame on them.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Fox News funds terrorists

Or something like that. Thanks to ?reporting? by the Daily Show, I now know that the major funder of the controversial Islamic center in Manhattan is a major shareholder in Fox News.

Wow. That's inconvenient for their racist, bigoted narrative.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
The Parent Company Trap

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The web isn't dying. Although video is booming...

Wired published an article in their latest magazine discussing the possibility that the web is dying and that other sectors of the internet are replacing it.

However, if you graph the data accurately, the web is booming, not dying. Wired's chart makes it look like web is in decline, but that's only as a percentage of data. Video is a huge data hog, so people are downloading a TON of pages and many videos - it's just that as a share of bandwidth video has exploded.

You'd think a publication like Wired would be able to make that distinction. But I guess with the iPhone and Facebook, it serves the larger tech narrative to contemplate the idea that walled gardens are in ascension while the open web is in decline.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Sufi Muslims didn't kill anyone on 9/11

I already thought that people should be allowed to build a mosque wherever they want. If the other 2 mosques in Manhattan are overflowing, a new one should be built. If you're upset because there are Muslims worshiping in lower Manhattan, you should meet some Muslims and get to know them as people and not cartoons who object to cartoons.

Today I learned that the group wanting to build the controversial mosque is Sufi. The mystical, liberal, peaceful branch of Islam. It would be like the Amish wanting to build a church next to a Holocaust memorial - yes, they're German, but they're pacifist Germans who abhor the evils that happened and actively work to prevent future evil.

It's sad that people can be so racist and hate someone they don't know just because they're different. And pathetic that Republicans will probably get votes by yelling about this to get us to forget that the deficit they're so upset about was created by their tax cuts.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Lou Gehrig may not have had Lou Gehrig's disease

Scientists have found that getting hit in the head can cause neurological damage that mirrors certain famous disorders. Because he got hit in the head by a baseball many times, Lou Gehrig may not have had Lou Gehrig's disease.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Bad Google! Bad Verizon!

Google and Verizon are said to be about to sign a deal to make Google faster on Verizon. This is bad.

This is exactly why net neutrality is important, and exactly what we've been warning could happen. If Google's content has priority on the internet, then Google will get fat and lazy, because the next kid in a garage with a great idea won't be able to compete. Verizon will make garage kid's content super slow, and Google will start sucking.

The only way Google isn't being evil here is if they don't want to succeed, but are trying to get the government to get off their butts and create regulations to block this deal. But this is a weird way to make that happen.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Breast Milk contains bacteria food

Turns out that human breast milk has food for bacteria. Yes, humans have evolved to lactate a substance which contains large amounts of material that humans can't digest. But that's not all - that material is perfect food for a particular species of bacteria that protects our babies' intestines from infection and other stuff.

I'm sure Nestle is trying to synthesize it and claim that their evil, evil formula is just as good. But really: nursing is amazing.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Gas and Brake Pedal: Confusing

Remember all the TV news hoopla about Toyotas speeding out of control, not stopping?

Turns out most of those cases were people stomping on the gas, not the brake. Sometimes humans get confused by the whole "two-pedal" situation, and screw up. I've done it once myself, in the middle of a crash where I was rear-ended. Luckily, since I drive a stick, I floored the clutch along with the gas, and the car just rolled without speeding up.

The article linked above mentions inventors trying to redesign the whole pedal system for cars in a way that removes this possible hazard. I hope they figure something out, but the things they describe seem awkward and unlikely to catch on.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Black and white twins

All the unusual births I read about are in England. What's up with that?

Anyway, there's a white woman married to a black man who gave birth to twins, one black and one white.

Genetics are awesome.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The end of phone calls?

There's a commentary at Wired suggesting that we may someday soon stop calling on the phone.

I know I definitely prefer email - I know I'm not interrupting someone. I don't know when you're free to talk, but I can send an email when it's convenient for me. There are times - like scheduling something - when you need the true back and forth of conversation. And there are lots of examples of emotional conversation where text isn't sufficient. Face to face discussion is best for that.

But there's a lot of information I need to share with people that's purely factual, where email or text or whatever is just way more efficient. The cell phone is dead! Long live the portable electronic communicator!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Upgrade Complete ironic game

Following on the footsteps of "Achievement Unlocked", (parodying how video games now try to get you to replay it lots by giving you awards for stupid stuff) comes the game "Upgrade Complete".

It's a parody of all the little flash games where you unlock upgrades as you play the game.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

200 year old ship found beneath World Trade Center

Yes, an old ship was found beneath the ruins of the World Trade Center. Mummified lumber for the frame of a seagoing vessel, along with barnacles and oysters.

One wonders what else is buried beneath our feet.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Turn teaching up to 11

I read an article at the BBC about some twit who pointed out that it's useful to have a bad teacher at some point because it builds character. While true, not something that the chairman of the Office for Standards in Education (something British) should say out loud.

But far more important than the quality of children's education is what happens when you adjust the volume on the accompanying video. The sound range on this video is from 0 to 11. Yes, 11.

You can turn it up to 11. I suspect this is a basic feature, and any video on the BBC website can be turned up to 11. On half a dozen different clips, I found this to be the case.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Double Rainbow music video

Some guy was walking in Yosemite and saw a double rainbow. He was really happy about it. Good for him.

But then some people used Auto-Tune to take his shouting and whooping and turned it into a song. It's awesome.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Nerd v. Geek

The question of Nerds vs. Geeks continues, with a twist!

Sure, people have clever distinctions between nerds, dorks and geeks. But David Anderegg argues that these labels should become dirty words.

I don't think these terms are necessarily offensive, but I fit into the stereotype. Anderegg's point is that these labels perpetuate the stereotype of geek culture that keeps it a white male bastion, and excludes women and minorities. And he's right.

I was very glad in high school to have a computer room to hang out in and belong to. But we need to find ways to cultivate a wider array of people to develop computers. Because the contributions we're missing would make them better.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

What do we learn from practicing?

Does constant texting and googling really make us dumber? Or is the moral panic about new technologies just another in a long line of unfounded fears, going all the way back to Plato's comments about how "writing" ruined kids' ability to remember stuff?

Stephen Pinker thinks we're going to be fine, that it's just a generational divide and that new tech isn't making us dumber. Amongst his evidence is that we keep making more cool new discoveries and inventions. And we keep training new scientists and inventors.

In fact, in this discussion of different opinions on the topic, someone points out that reading is unnatural. We evolved into our current state long before the Book was invented. Reading printed words is a very unnatural act, and if doing something regularly changes your brain, then reading little black squiggles on a white page utterly alters your brain from its natural hunter-gatherer preference.

I really like how Pinker slams on quick-fix "brain training" games and things. Like diet and exercise to lose weight, the way to become skilled in a field isn't complicated:
Accomplished people don’t bulk up their brains with intellectual calisthenics; they immerse themselves in their fields. Novelists read lots of novels, scientists read lots of science.

It isn't easy to devote years to learning a field, but it's not complicated.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Is Steve Jobs Big Brother?

Many, including me, have argued that if the iPad ends up dominating the mobile computing market, then the App Store's current model of censorship is unacceptable. Right now, I can use a web browser on any computer to go get content any way I want. But what's to keep Steve Jobs from deciding that Safari will only load pages that have content he deems acceptable?

I found this argument worth considering though: while Steve is a control freak, he won't corner the market because he won't compromise. Specifically, he won't license his software to other hardware makers, or sacrifice operability for profitability.

The argument is that the iPad will go the way of the Mac, because someone else will build off of great ideas in the iPad and sell their competing product more cheaply, and eventually Steve will lose market share.

I'm not convinced that this is destiny. iPods are staying strong as the dominant mp3 player, despite lots of competition willing to add in "missing" features. On the other hand, while the iPhone is the standard, its market share is not a majority.

I'm more convinced by the argument that even if the App Store is censored, you have a web browser. Want to read incendiary political cartoons or see pictures of naked people? Google it. There may not be an app for that, but you can get there by Safari. So long as Apple's web browser stays open, the censorship complaint is a little hollow. Although Apple is blocking all Flash apps on the web, so there's that debate...

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Game design evolution

Some have noted recently that what passes for good game design has changed lately. At least, the stuff I mostly play now is lots of little short games, with mini-rewards every 5 minutes. Of course, that can be taken too far.

I'm glad that back in the day, games were designed with a different aesthetic, rather than giving you a little congratulations every 5 minutes for doing stupid stuff. But there are different audiences with different desires. A 5-minute payoff is great if you only have 5 minutes to play. Still, I think a vision of Super Mario designed in 2010 is disturbingly accurate.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Nanotechnology could save the Gulf

A scientist at the University of Pittsburgh, who makes nanoparticle coatings that break up ice from forming on power lines, has created a cotton filter that separates crude oil from seawater.

I hope they can produce mass quantities of this stuff in time to help. I'm sure in the long term this will be awesome, but it's too bad we didn't already have this a month ago.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Lego felt-tip printer

More awesome creations. Can nerds ever be stopped?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

What does "being silent" mean?

When I first heard about the Supreme Court decision that you have to actively tell police officers you aren't answering questions and invoking your Miranda right, I thought it was ridiculous.

When I read the details of the case, I became less sure.

The suspect in question sat mostly silent for 3 hours while police badgered him with questions. Mostly, I think, is a key word. The man
said little during the interrogation, occasionally answering 'yes,' 'no,' 'I don't know,' nodding his head and making eye contact as his responses. But when one of the officers asked him if he prayed for forgiveness for 'shooting that boy down,' Thompkins said, 'Yes.'

If he answered some questions, even with "yes" and "no", that's not silence.

God forbid I should be interrogated for 3 hours by the police. But if I have a right to be silent, I think actual silence would be what I'd want to provide.

The court's requirement that I say I'm being silent is a little absurd, since I have to contradict myself. But given the case they had, I can understand ruling against the guy who wasn't totally silent.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Wait.. What?

The Tea Partiers have many goals: returning to the gold standard, repealing the health care law, lowering taxes.

And apparently, they don't want to vote for senators. Several Tea Party candidates for office want to repeal the 17th amendment. The one that took the decision over who would be a senator away from state legislatures and gave it to the people.

Most ironic are the people who favor this who are running for the US Senate. Personally, I think if Tea Party people don't want to elect senators, they should feel free to not vote for a candidate in the Senate races this year. I doubt they'll take this idea to its natural conclusion, but I wouldn't mind.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Dalai Lama finds inspiration in all faiths

I find the Dalai Lama's view of the religions of the world inspiring. It's how I like to think about humanity.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Bleeping's not good enough for Parent Television Council

Well, the @#$($*s at the Parents Television Council aren't satisfied with bleeping, apparently. They're protesting a new show because it has an obscenity in its title. Even though the obscenity is bleeped, or obfuscated by punctuation marks.

I empathize with people who want to protect their children from frightening, shocking material that kids aren't ready to see. But they could just turn the TV off.

I'd rather just bleep all kinds of stuff than shut down conversation completely:

Monday, May 24, 2010

Passage Game

Yet another point for the "games can be art" side.

Passage is a very simple game, but it tells a very beautiful story. You do have some control over what happens, but the author kept enough control to make some powerful points.

(He's come out with a new "game" that's a storytelling platform for 2 players to interact. I'm tempted to learn more about Sleep is Death. When I actually have time for it.

Sunday, May 23, 2010


I got my garage door opener to work at last! So, stalker/thieves, figure out my encryption code and come on in and take our stuff! (Although hopefully it will be more difficult than robbing our car was.)

Saturday, May 22, 2010


Another vote for games being a form of expression: Oiligarchy.

You play the role of CEO of a major oil company, drilling and exploiting resources all around the world. Pretty funny, and dark and interesting. (Although I was annoyed when I had an oil spill in Alaska despite only drilling on land. But I guess tankers carry oil gathered from on land as well as at sea.)

Makes me curious to play other games by the same team like the McDonalds game.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Facebook privacy scanner

You'd think Facebook would be better than most websites when it comes to privacy, since it's where people are at their most personal. But in the last few months it's been clear they don't get it, setting things to totally public by default, changing privacy settings whenever they feel like it, and selling your information to other companies without telling you first.

You don't have to just take Facebook's privacy whims. Now you can use lots of different tools to figure out your privacy settings and take control.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Portal is free!

Did I mention that for a few more days, Portal is free!

It's one of the best computer games of the last few years. Devilishly clever. And for a couple days - free.

It's a promotional gimmick to get people to sign up for the online game service Steam. And I know it's worked for me. Hopefully I didn't agree to give them my firstborn in the terms of service that I clicked through.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Mt. St. Helens time-lapse

Thanks to NASA, we can see the forest returning to the slopes of Mt. St. Helens.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Short film - Pixels

If you played 80s video games, this is the best movie of the destruction of New York ever.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Apple is becoming evil

I see both sides in the Apple vs. Flash war. Apple cares most about making their hardware work, Adobe wants people to use their cool software.

But Apple's censorship of the App Store is out of line. (Not to mention the goon squad going after their lost iPhone prototype. If you want to keep the next version a secret, don't leave it in a bar!) Not only have they censored political cartoonists and random apps they don't like, they've also censored a journalist.

The iPad is pretty. And a great intro computer for novices. But Apple's walled garden is the AOL of the 21st century. It ain't the whole internet. And Apple is acting like a vengeful god, arrogant and spiteful.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Super Mario Crossover

Wow. This game is amazing. You play Super Mario Bros., but you can play as Mega Man, Samus, Link or 3 other 8 bit characters. With their interfaces and powers. It's a mashup that comments on the nature of video game design. So cool.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Segway shooting range

No, you can't shoot at stuff while riding a Segway at this place. (Although I'm sure someone's thought of that.) You shoot at Segways with styrofoam torsos on top.

It's simultaneously awesome and creepy. Awesome that they can program all the Segways to run around in complicated patterns, while still having enough autonomy to avoid obstacles and to scatter to safety when one of their friends gets shot. However, it's still creepy to see a small town of Segway-people "walking" around. If I saw a town of robot people like that, I'd run far away. Which is probably the best way to avoid getting shot, anyway.

value="http://www.youtube.com/v/VNoJrIOREeo&rel=0&color1=0xb1b1b1&color2=0xcfcfcf&hl=en_US&feature=player_embedded&fs=1">name="allowFullScreen" value="true">name="allowScriptAccess" value="always">src="http://www.youtube.com/v/VNoJrIOREeo&rel=0&color1=0xb1b1b1&color2=0xcfcfcf&hl=en_US&feature=player_embedded&fs=1"
type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowfullscreen="true"
allowScriptAccess="always" width="640" height="385">

Sunday, April 25, 2010

If you want to be a teacher in New York, you now can get your teaching license from an alternative facility, and not have to go to a formal university for a full Master's degree.

Those who favor this change, including Obama's Secretary of Education as well as me, observe that many education schools are too heavy on theory and don't provide practical skills. Critics of the change argue that hegemonic mandates fail to account for cultural practices in communities of learners that facilitate individual constructions of knowledge.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The internet doesn't isolate us from ideas

While some had feared that with news aggregators online we might only read news sources we agree with, it turns out that most of us get news from a variety of sources.

Unfortunately, that alone doesn't mean it will all work out. Studies have shown that once we've made up our minds, facts showing we're wrong just convince us of our righteousness even more. The fact that liberals check Fox News to gloat about their hypocrisy and conservatives read the New York Times to see what liberal horror to be outraged at doesn't solve our political problems. But it's still nice to know the internet hasn't made the problem worse. For that I blame Fox.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Cyberpunk makeup thwarts computer face detection

Remember the crazy makeup in Blade Runner and other 80s sci-fi movies? Turns out that sort of high contrast makeup breaks face-detection algorithms. So if you want to keep The Man from using software to sort through all the CCTV footage of where you've been, paint yourself like a simulant.

On the down side, every human around will remember you very clearly. Of course, they'll just remember the makeup. It's like wearing an eyepatch, only it confuses people and computers.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Apple blocks kids' programming tool

Not only has Apple kept porn out of the App Store (which I can respect) and editorial cartoonists (until they got caught), now they've blocked Scratch.

Scratch is a cool way for kids to make computer programs and share them online with others. They can make games, electronic greeting cards, music videos, all kinds of cool stuff. And learn how to operate computers along the way.

Hopefully in a year or two Apple will open up the iPad to tools like this. But it's another reason to hope they don't corner the market. Making sure your hardware works well is one thing. Blocking software developers from selling to your customers is another.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Lego robot plays Tetris

First Rubik's Cubes, then Sudoku. Now a lego robot that plays tetris. (With the help of special electronic eyes that convert the screen into a signal it can handle.)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Lego stop-motion awesome

A swedish rock band made a crazy awesome video.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Lego house

Thank you, Britain.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Post-it stop-motion spectacular

Art student in Georgia does amazing things with post-it notes. Sorry Eepybird, but your post-it antics aren't even close to how good this is.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Apple store censors political cartoonist

It's their party, and they can kick out anyone they don't like. But Apple blocking a political cartoonist from the App Store points out how the iPad isn't the salvation for newspapers. If Apple can decide what does and doesn't appear, then they can block anything unfavorable about Apple. Or any of their friends.

Sorry, Steve, but you've gone too far. It's one thing to have technical specifications (even tyrannical ones) and maintain control over the working of your device to assure high performance. But your control obsession has extended to the content, and that's not how a free society should work.

Update: The fact that Apple has asked the cartoonist to resubmit doesn't fix the problem. Doing the right thing when everyone is paying attention is easy. And letting famous journalists say whatever they want doesn't show courage. Real free speech is for all people, not just the ones we've heard of.

We need more bank regulations

I feel like I'm a talking point machine, regularly linking to Paul Krugman's columns, but once again he is right on the money, so to speak.

The congress is considering stiffening financial regulations. Republicans say that's bad for some reason. However, as Krugman observes, "between the 1930s and the 1980s, there weren’t any really big financial bailouts, because strong regulation kept most banks out of trouble. It was only with Reagan-era deregulation that big bank disasters re-emerged."

Arguing that banks should be free to fail is irresponsible because the ripples go through the whole economy. Anyone who was laid off, or knows someone who was laid off, or got their pay cut or was furloughed understands this. Banks aren't the only companies hurting right now, even though banks were the ones who screwed up. They have too much power over our economy, and they need checks and balances like the ones that worked very well for 50 years.

Making banking boring and safe again. Tell your congressperson to pass strong banking regulation.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Kinetic typography

I'd seen this before, but I hadn't seen the hundreds of great videos on YouTube. Holy crap. These are awesome. Using animated text to not just enhance audio, but to make the words dance and live even more.

For everyone: Who's On First

For some: Fight Club

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Young Me, Now Me

Ze Frank has a photo contest where you send in an old picture of you (and your family or friends) and then a current picture of y'all reenacting the original.

The results are often quite hilarious. Most of my favorites involve people doing things that are cute when a toddler does it, but creepy when an adult does it.

Pay especial note to facial expression, hand gestures, and overall body position. The best ones are very faithful reproductions. I give fewer points to the ones that kind of match, but not really. (Although when there's 8 people in the picture, it's got to be awesome for that family to have that history documented.)

It's inspiring: anyone can easily participate. I'm thinking of a few different baby pictures of me, and planning out how I can do it. My biggest concern is getting the wardrobe right - my cutest baby picture involves a very particular shirt.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

8-bit Jesus

From the maker of the 8-bit Dr. Horrible, behold 8-bit Jesus, an album of Christmas music that's simultaneously an album of video game music.

With songs like Ryu, the Red-Nosed Ninja, Super Jingle Bros. and Deck The Kremlin, it's got something for everyone from your 40 year old nerd to your 25 year old nerd.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Nintendo game of Dr. Horrible

Well, it's just a video, but the Dr. Horrible Sing-Along Game is spectacularly awesome. An artist in Philly who specializes in 8-bit music made a spot-on spoof of what the 8-bit game of Dr. Horrible would be like.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Best break-in ever

Someone stole the stereo from our car last night.

It's kind of lame, and a bunch of work for us now. But on the up side: they didn't break any windows. They were courteous enough to only damage the parts of the car that hold the stereo in. Door's fine, steering column's fine.

And we still have our car.

They did dump the glove box out on the seat, and rummage through that. Too bad for them that our garage door opener doesn't work. It's been annoying me for weeks, and I'd been planning on trying to fix it today. Now I'm in less of a hurry.

Although a friend pointed out how awesome it would have been if we'd left the not working opener in the car. I think I would enjoy wiring up another opener to a super loud alarm bell. (We have 3 remote controls, and a receiver that ignores all of them.) Then if someone breaks into our car again, they'll let us know about it. We can come yell at them, and give a precise time on the police report, instead of "between 9 PM and 9 AM".

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Festival of Rube Goldberg machines

If you want to lose an hour of your life watching awesome things, you can go to a video gallery of Rube Goldberg machines.

I was familiar with half of them, but several others are new to me. And awesome.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Filters don't work

A guy who sells web filtering software posted a column arguing that filters don't work.

Well, he argues that filters should be built around human intelligence. That in schools, teachers should be given the authority to make judgment calls about which pages are and aren't appropriate, rather than assuming that one list can do it all.

I'm biased - I already made up my mind years ago that filters suck. But it's still true: you can't write a computer program that can tell the difference between an amateur photography site that shows pottery and an "amateur" "photography" site that features pictures of "jugs". You have to be smarter than the computer. Which means designing computers to depend on the smartness of people.

If you have kids, keep the computer in the living room. In a school, point all the screens where you can see them. And give the teacher a password that lets them access anything. Because treating teachers like they're idiots is stupid.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

60s credits for 70s movies

These are fun. Credits for movies as if Saul Bass had done them. (And for Lost.)

Tron vs. Saul Bass from Hexagonall on Vimeo.

Lost vs. Saul Bass from Hexagonall on Vimeo.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

I like pie.

However, I find this anti-pie video amusing.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Affordable e-reader

Now this is what I want. An electronic book device that costs $150. And comes pre-loaded with 100 public domain books.

I've been waiting weeks for Jane Eyre to arrive at my local library. With one of these I could just download it and start reading.

Yes, I'm cheap. But technology has to reach a certain level of cheapness for it to really take off. Only after entire civilizations are reorganized around something can you jack up the price. You have to need your car for gas and cars to skyrocket. And electronic books aren't there yet.

But this is something awesome. Too bad my birthday was yesterday. And we just spent all our savings on a new house and requisite things like sinks that don't leak.

Thursday, March 25, 2010


The idea of a Segway-like vehicle you sit on has appeal. Looks way cooler than the Segway.

Of course, a bicycle does most of what this phallic thing does. Unless it's built to go 35 mph. Oh, concept vehicles.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Banks suck. We need protection.

We're in a huge economic mess. And yes, while some consumers made stupid choices, the fact is that banks have all the power. And they went nuts. And now the banks act like it's our fault. I am not alone in being tired of treated like scum by the banks that brought down the economy. Pretending like they've always been conservative, reasonable people who manage money safely is a lie, trying to cover up the fact that they screwed up. But their opposition to financial regulation is insane.

As Elisabeth Warren and others have pointed out, we had a stable banking system until Reagan and others removed the regulations that kept us safe. Government oversight of banks worked really well for 50 years. I would like it back, please. The Canadian banking system didn't crash - and they still have the sort of regulations we repealed.
Having seen her on TV, I think Ms. Warren is a fantastic teacher. I think she'd be a great head of a consumer financial protection agency. The fact that the banks oppose her just convinces me more.

I'm moving my money to a credit union. I'm tired of bankers screwing up and still giving themselves huge bonuses. Hopefully Congress will pass strong banking regulations, and we'll have at least 50 more years of financial stability. Until we forget again how bad this was, and convince ourselves the regulation is a problem and not a solution.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Nanotechnology might actually do something!

I've heard about quantum dots for years. Cute novelty, lots of potential and hype and no applications. Yet.

Except apparently these tiny bits of metal that have bizzarre properties might make cell phone cameras with super high quality. Like professional quality. That's pretty amazing. Especially given how crappy phone cameras are now.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Jury Duty Adventures

I was almost on a jury this week. That's not that interesting. But seeing the top front page headline in the paper be the trial I almost sat on?

Wow. I'm glad I'm not on the jury, but mostly because that means I'm allowed to talk about it, and blog about it, and read the newspaper. I'm almost tempted to go sit in the courtroom and listen in on parts of the trial, just because it's so lurid and interesting. The same reasons it's the top story in the paper.

Thursday, March 18, 2010


Librarians rock. And at their conventions, they have book cart drill teams.

Featuring this song: "I want to be a librarian" by the New Zealand band Haunted Love.

Friday, March 12, 2010

The 70s were cheesy in Russia, too!

I know I'm behind the curve on this meme, but this guy has such awesome unironic charisma.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Weird Science

Apparently, hermaphrodite chickens are half-rooster and half-hen across their whole body. All man on the right side, all lady on the left.

Not nearly as creepy as the eel with two sets of jaws, but still pretty frickin' weird.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Scurvy Science

150 years after scurvy had been cured, science forgot.

Well, not exactly. They thought they knew how to cure it, but they altered their practice to a method that didn't work. Turns out if you store lime juice in copper pots open to the air, the vitamin C goes away.

And it doesn't help if you don't know that vitamin C exists, and start suspecting that scurvy is caused by a bacteria.

It's scary how fragile our knowledge can be.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

OK Go surpass themselves

OK Go's dance moves and treadmills are awesome. But their new rube goldberg video? Best. Video. Ever.

Cool blog with clever images

I just saw a blog with some clever images.

Although the "guide to how far to stay away from a car in case it's a giant bomb" is more grim. Kind of reminiscent of the 1980 Portland nuclear fallout plan.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

I'm bored

I'm at a conference for libraries and museums about how to use the web.

It's mostly librarians and art and history museums - organizations with large collections of artifacts and information.

Imagine, if you can, a place where the most obsessive qualities in a librarian for organizing, sorting and cataloging can come together to talk with computer people about the picky, fussy nitty gritty details that computers can be very demanding about.

It's nerd-squared. And not in a good way. (Although that's this instant. Just after lunch a friend of mine and two others presented a rock star panel about cool things they're doing.)

We think people on TV are our friends

I recently had one of the stars of Rough Science walk into my office and ask a question. But what's interesting about that is not my excitement at meeting a TV star who I respect and admire. It's how I felt like I knew her.

I saw her, and immediately knew I recognized her. And my brain, to make sense of this insane impulse, decided she was someone from another museum that I've worked with in the past. But I'd never met her before, just watched her on TV. My brain's reaction to working with someone for weeks and talking to them for hours is the same as passively watching them on TV for hours, years after they did something cool.

I felt sad to have my weakness to TV made so obvious to me. I was happier when I was ignorant of how much I love TV and how personal a connection I feel to the stars of the shows I watch regularly. But I have to confess that it's true. My brain reacts the same to David Tennant as it does to people I actually know.

We need to know this. We need to remember the power of media, and teach kids how powerful it is. It controls us too much already, and I fear it has only grown in power in recent years. TV "news" is poisoning society. Hopefully the internet will wound TV enough that this power can be disrupted.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Bike taxes would be stupid

This week there were letters to the editor in Willamette Week and the Oregonian that argue cyclists should have to pay a fee to register their bikes. What they fail to consider is that most of us who use a bicycle to get around also have cars. I bike to work nearly every day, but I own a car and pay my registration fees and gas taxes. And 200 pounds of person and bike create far fewer potholes than 2000 pounds of steel and rubber.
The worst part of a cyclist tax is how it would affect people who aren't able to have cars, ironically like one of the writers who biked for years before he could "afford" to drive. Cyclists have a responsibility to ride safely and obey traffic laws, but asking those of us who ride to pay more taxes either punishes the poor or punishes people for making a choice that benefits us all.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Mentos! And 6 kinds of soda!

I had fun last weekend.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Haverford returns Descartes letter

My alma mater just discovered that they were holding a stolen Descartes letter in their collections.

Man. I wish I'd known that letter was there when I was a student. I would have taken the time to stare at words actually penned by one of the smartest people ever.

Still, I'm proud to have gone to a school that immediately returned something as soon as they realized they weren't the rightful owner.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Facts and intelligence

I have long respected and admired Leonard Pitts. His editorial columns are always intelligent, and often reveal insights into topics that I never would have thought of otherwise.

Two of his recent columns point out something I've known for a while: anti-intellectualism in America has exploded of late. To the point where both sides in the political battlefield quote back and forth the same Moynihan remark: "Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts."

I'm sure there's some facts I'm blind to; some inconvenient truth that I conveniently forget to prop up my worldview. But it seems to me that the Republicans today are masters of denial. And I fear for the future: I see no way for us to walk back from this place. How can we change from this state of affairs to one of civility and reason? Perhaps if all televisions were destroyed, it might be possible. But even if we create publicly financed campaigns, would it be able to stop the madness?

I know Canada and Europe aren't perfect. I know they have problems, and their political systems have flaws. But I can't help thinking that other places in the world have a little more respect for intelligence than we do. I wish the Republicans were being intelligent enough to defeat Obama in an argument occasionally. Goldwater, Buckley... I wish there were a political opponent who I disagreed with, that I could actually RESPECT.

The West Wing was a TV show about political wish fulfillment, and this was part of its story. Not only did it show a Democrat who argued for progressive politics forcefully and persuasively (and won), but in the final season it had a Republican presidential candidate who was ethical and reasonable - and conservative.

Maybe the problem is TV making me think it can be different, rather than fueling the flames of hatred and hysteria. Or maybe it's both.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Australian "hackers" revealed

Some department of the New South Wales government is shocked - shocked! that a newspaper tried to find out information about an upcoming programme.

He claims that the reporters hacked into their webserver to get documents. This "hacking" consisted of typing in the address for the site.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Medical metaphors

In the debate over health care reform, I've heard interesting metaphors. People have compared and contrasted the medical-industrial complex to grocery stores, to public schools, to car dealerships.

But I very much like what Jonathan Rausch writes, exploring what would happen if air travel were like healthcare.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Periodic Tables of Awesome

There are many excellent periodic tables on the internet.

But are any as fantastic as the periodic table of cupcakes?

Certainly nothing is nerdier than the comic book periodic table. Each element has its own page, where you can review excerpts from comic books where that element was mentioned.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Lego Sudoku Robot

Sure, some Lego robots can solve Rubik's Cubes. But Sudoku is much harder for a robot.

And much slower.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

It's getting better. I think I'll go for a walk.

I continue to be astonished at the right wing rhetoric out there. Complaining that President Obama is destroying the economy, that the stimulus isn't working, that what we need more of now is deregulation and tax cuts.

How can they say it with a straight face? How can someone call for more of what destroyed the economy and has deeply hurt millions of people? People are out of work, out of their homes and out of their medical coverage. More people are hungry than since the Great Depression. And it's the Republicans' fault.

President Obama and the Democrats are making it better. I wish they were doing more to make it more better, but the resistance to any measure that would actually create jobs, stabilize our banking system, and keep poop and lead out of our food and toys? Unacceptable.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Darpa wants to be the next Frankenstein

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or NAMBLA, seems to have used up all its good ideas on the whole "creating the Internet" thing. Because their latest idea of creating immortal bacteria seems a tad bit stupid.

Sure, we can make cells that live forever. Possible danger to the rest of life on earth? No problem! We'll just put in a gene that makes it instantly die if it touches a particular molecule.

Like that won't evolve out of the life form in 2 generations.

I'm sure DARPA has done some cool stuff, even lots of cool stuff. But the media keeps digging up these crazy irresponsible schemes. At least that means they get shut down. I hope.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Inclusive scouting

Ever since the Mormons took over the Boy Scouts and moved the headquarters to Texas, they've been an even more conservative organization than they were before.

But one troop in Harlem decided they still wanted to teach boys to be good men, without teaching them to hate. So they created a group called Navigators.

I hope it catches on.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Another picture of dino plumage

Another beautiful rendering of what color dinosaur feathers probably were is at the Times.

Science is awesome.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Copyright Overreachinglords

UCLA professors have been posting videos on their class websites. These websites only work on-campus. You can't view the videos anywhere else in the world.

But that's not good enough for movie producers. So now they have to take all the videos down.

OK, you say, but if they were stealing these videos then they should stop and pay for them. The problem is that these videos are clearly fair use - they're allowed to show them in their classrooms completely legally. But the media producers want us to stay in the 1980s and not use new technology.

They're going to lose eventually - progress has a way of always happening. (It's not always good, but if poor people are going to get dioxin poisoning and asbestos, it's only fair for record companies to get screwed by the internet.) It's a shame they're going to spend millions fighting change, lashing out and ruining lives in their death throes instead of working on being creative and inventing new ways to make it easy to buy their music.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Unfortunate Web Addresses

Man, I would not want to be named Michael Sporn. Especially if I ever started a business named after me, and had to create a website for it.

Right up there with PowerGen Italia, Who Represents.com, or Pen Island.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Science can read your mind

Well, a little bit. British scientists have devised a way to communicate with people in comas. Or, people we thought were in comas.

By getting them to imagine a physical activity like tennis, they could distinguish between activity in different parts of the brain.

This does push and pull on the meaning of "death". It used to be that if you weren't breathing, you were dead. Then it moved to the heart. It's been in the brain for a while, but we didn't have the tools we have now. Now we can detect brain activity in otherwise completely immobile people.

I wonder if in 100 years we'll have brain scanners good enough for these people to participate in society. Just as our EKG machine now makes the first toilet-paper tube stethoscope seem primitive, will we one day look back on our current technology and chuckle at simpler times?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Jonathan Coulton rap battle

Continuing my week of obsessive fandom, here's a highly entertaining video. At least, if you're familiar with old video game music and Strong Bad.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Coulton and TMBG in one concert

Jonathan Coulton is opening for TMBG in several concerts. But they're all very far away. Oh, well. I guess I'll have to look elsewhere for a total nerdgasm.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Jonathan Coulton in ASL

I just became a fan of Jonathan Coulton. He writes weird, funny songs. (I actually already had been impressed with his guitar work in Areas of My Expertise and admired the song he wrote for the end of Portal.)

This video is a guy signing one of Coulton's songs in ASL. The level of nerditude is extremely high. But so is the level of awesome.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Dinosaurs had tiger stripes!

Recent analysis of the microstructure of dinosaur feathers reveals that some dinosaurs had orange and white stripes!

This is awesome. Not only do we have some fossilized dinosaur skin so we know what their texture was, we now have the technology to figure out what color they were. Go science!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Corporations aren't people

I'm depressed about the Supreme Court's ruling that corporations have free speech rights. It seems blindingly obvious to me that corporations have a disproportionate amount of power in this country, and that when they are allowed free reign in the political arena their voice drowns out reasonable, factual discourse. We've seen it in Oregon where there's no limits on campaign contributions, and tobacco companies and other interests win battles through lies. (The fact that you can't ban lying in political speech is another thing that frustrates me, but I can accept that.)

But the fact is that "one person, one vote" isn't the way things are. It's "one dollar, one vote". And huge multinational corporations have most of the dollars. It was unethical that rich people had more say than other people. It's a crime that their companies are being allowed to vote now.

I hope Congress can do something to fix this - some sort of law or even a constitutional amendment limiting the freedom of corporations. Because the free market does a crappy job of keeping poop out of our food, lead out of our toys, and lies out of our politics. We need some reasonable amount of regulation, and if the Supreme Court says the current Constitution doesn't allow that, then the Constitution needs to change.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Medical reform?

I think the house should pass the senate bill. Because it's the best option. I guess. If we can't get anything better out of the Senate. Which is a whole other complaint that I made yesterday.

But apparently that's not going to happen. Dammit.