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.