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July 2004 Archives

July 1, 2004

New Sony "mp3" player
Wired is calling it a "credible competitor," and while it is sexy, svelte, and all the other physical adjectives you might want in a portable music player, it still sucks in every way that I have ranted that Sony's current generation of music players sucks, and I even have a new word for it: muda.

I learned this Japanese word yesterday at our all hands meeting, and it means waste, inefficient, unnecessary, an activity without value. Businesses use it to describe the processes that need to be streamlined or eliminated. I think it describes the Sony experience perfectly.

It's not an mp3 player as you still have to do the slow/stupid/inefficient/wasteful ATRAC conversion. It also still relies on the screen-wasting Sony Connect music player software for your computer that can't seem to do anything right.

If Sony focused on removing the muda from the user experience, they could have a great product, but they insist on continuing to focus on features that have negative value to the consumer and software that is bloated in every possible way except for functionality.

- Another photo of Sony's NW-HD1 Network Walkman
- Sony Japan Press Release

Systems at 75%

The feed aggregator has flown over to its permanent home at movabletypo. Sorry for the interruption in service, but from now on things should be much more stable. No more random DSL interruptions, etc... so I hope you enjoy the not new, but more stable feed aggregator at movabletypo.

The real is still lying in a helpless heap, but most of it's functionality has been temporarily transferred here, and the temporary server lets me play around a bit more nimbly as it doesn't have to rebuild 1300 entries.

July 2, 2004

Tiger Hand!

Rock, Paper, Saddam


I have a policy that Friendster sucks

I should've read last months Wired more closely, I missed this gem:

Moore's buddy Matt Chisholm chimes in to tell me about a similar hack, a JavaScript app he wrote with Moore that works on Friendster. It mines for information about anyone who looks at his profile and clicks through to his Web site. "I get their user ID, email address, age, plus their full name. Neither their full name nor their email is ever supposed to be revealed," he says.

Notified of the security holes Moore and Chisholm exploit, Friendster rep Lisa Kopp insists, "We have a policy that we are not being hacked." When I explain that, policy or no, they are being hacked, she says, "Security isn't a priority for us. We're mostly focused on making the site go faster."

(via kottke)

Word of the day: antwacky

Adj. Old fashioned. Possibly from antique(y). E.g."Oh no way! I'm not wearing those shoes, they're so antwacky." [Merseyside/West Lancashire use]

Example usage:

Real-estate agents rarely pick up the phone to hear Kate Beckinsale on the other end, complaining that her yem's looking right antwacky and she'd like a bit of a posher gaff.

(yem = home, gaff = home/work place)

(via kelarskye)

July 6, 2004


We completed the move over the 4th of July Weekend from 1010 to 99, and most systems are go except for the all important DSL. Big thanks to all who helped (too many to list, as we had an army of volunteers). We have cable, which means I have been able to view the Tour de France uninterrupted, but without DSL I am unable to turn this blog into a complete TdFest like I normally do. I shall persevere to endure.

Despite all the busy-ness moving and unpacking, I did manage to see the excellent Spidey 2 twice. I can't think of any comic book movie that's better, though I've been told to re-watch Superman. My memories of that series are vague, though I'm inclined to give the edge to a nerdy, conflicted superhero over an alien that only experiences negative emotions when exposed to red rocks.

July 7, 2004

Another day, another blog

Bloglines has updated their service with a major new feature: clip blogs. Bloglines is an online service that lets you subscribe to RSS feeds and view them within a browser window. It is currently my feed reader of choice, as it works from any computer with a browser and Internet access, and the interface offers the features I want in a feed reader. With the new clip blogs features you can click on an entry to publish it to your clip blog while you are reading your feeds. Here's mine:

For many people, I imagine this is a simple and easy way to start sharing links and get involved in the blogging world. It's integration with the feed reader is also nice, as it creates a simple workflow between finding the links and publishing them.

I still think that MovableType bookmarklets are easier-to-use because they work outside of the feed reader. Also, the current bloglines service doesn't make it very easy to quote the original entry (unless I'm missing something). Most people don't have easy access to a MovableType installation, though, and Bloglines is a good feed reader that is also completely free. Personally, I'm still waiting for the service that makes it easy to do remaindered links posts into my blog ala (perhaps a future MT plugin?).

July 9, 2004

Coin puzzle

Here's a puzzle to waste your weekend on. Got it from toons.

Professor S.F. Mann has just returned home, surprisingly unscathed, from a lecture in New Haven. He realizes that he has collected 100 Sacagawea dollars in change from the train ticket vending machines. He tells his kids Billy and Mary that he'll split some of the coins with them. He goes in to his dark room alone and places the coins on a table with 60 of them heads-up. S.F. then tells Billy that he must arrange the coins into two piles without the aid of any light. Afterwards Mary will be allowed to choose which pile is hers and which is Billy's. The children will then receive all of the Sacagawea coins that are heads-up in their respective piles, and S.F. will take the remaining coins. Billy hates losing to Mary and so his goal is to divide the coins up so that each pile contains the same number of heads. He is allowed to shuffle and flip the coins whichever way he wants, but he cannot tell which side is heads up while he is putting them into two piles (the room is dark, and Billy's sense of touch is a bit dim too). What should he do?

I'll post an answer next week, but for now I will state the following:
- Billy cannot stand the coins on edge
- Billy cannot walk away with any coins
- The solution for this problem works all of the time (i.e. the solution does not rely on probability over time)

July 12, 2004

Link dearth

There was a dearth of links over the weekend, kinda sad. Here's what popped on my radar this morning:

Angelina Jolie is competing with meta for large Thai-themed tattoo on back

New Oakley 'Thump' glasses with builtin mp3 player: this is getting news because Lance Armstrong was sporting them for a photo. For cyclists and other athletes, the 'Thump' glasses could be an ideal solution (assuming that they come in less ugly models): no extra cords, no armband, lightweight. My tiny 128MB Sony mp3 player gets the nod over the iPod when I'm cycling, as I prefer it's lower weight and higher probability of crash survival, but the cord running down my back is still very annoying. Sony did have an mp3 player they released that was built into the headphones, but the headphones were not the ideal style for exercising.

Reuters U.S. Mulling How to Delay Nov. Vote in Case of Attack: IMHO, this isn't as bad as it seems, yet. We should figure out how the US should respond in the event of a terrorist attack during the elections, and this debate should occur in the public's eye and far in advance of the election. If an attack did occur, then it would be the case that those immediately affected by the attack should still be given a fair opportunity to vote, but if they are allowed to vote at a later date, after other elections have been tallied, then their results could be considered dubious. However, entrusting the sanctity of our vote to Tom Ridge seems even more dubious.

Neil Gaiman will be at Comic-Con after all (though only one session)

Answer to Coin Puzzle

For those stumped or wanting to check their answers, read on to see the solution to Friday's coin puzzle.

Continue reading "Answer to Coin Puzzle" »

July 13, 2004

Tattoo showdown

It's a showdown between the large Thai-themed back tattoos. Vote now, vote early, vote late, vote often!



Crossing my fingers

Hoping that DSL will be setup today so that will resume normal service and I can start work once more on the feed aggregator. Tired of the broken links and missing content and inability to use the Internet from my bed.

Update: booo, still no DSL. suck

Remaindered tech fu

Sending SMS messages over AOL IM

Spell checker for Firefox 0.9+: this is the first spell checker I've seen that explicitly supports the newer Firefox releases.

BugMeNot for Firefox: It's a Firefox plugin that will help you avoid registration on sites like the NYTimes, LA Times, and other mandatory free registration sites. A useful tool for the compulsive news junkie. I've been using it for a week now and I'm pretty satisfied.

For Java developers: Maven 1.0 released. Maven made grokking and managing my project a lot easier when I was at PARC. I don't have as much opportunity to use it here, but the integration of numerous documentation, build, release, Web site, testing, and analysis tools is well worth the effort you put into it.

July 14, 2004

The links overfloweth

ultimate iPodAs if to answer my post on link dearth, the harvest is now bountiful. I should save some of these for 99, but oh well:

HULK Blog SMASH!: which shall entertain me now that the anthropomorphic mars rovers have run their course. 1

Ultimate iPod (well, not really): pqbon and I were discussing the simplicity of the iPod last night. As if to fly in the face of everything we discussed, someone mocked up what the iPod would look like with everyone's absurd feature request. 2

NYTimes on Giant Robot: mmmm, fried mochi on a George Foreman grill. Definitely will have to try that one out. 3

A reason to add Belgium to my visited countries map: Belgian Centre of Comic Strip Art: Yerba Buena had a good comics exhibit awhile back, but an entire museum would be even cooler 4

tranSticks: finally, a Sony product I can say positive things about :). If done right, I think wireless tech like this can fix usability and security issues that we see with technologies like Bluetooth, while making the overall setup so much easier to understand. The color-coded sticks allow the person to actually see the setup and interact with it physically without worrying about PINs/passwords, device names, menus, etc...

Whee! Backyard coaster 2/5

1 via kottke 2 via engadget 3 via metamanda 4 via fwak 5 via boingboing

July 16, 2004

MT Blacklist for MovableType 3.0 is coming!

Jay Allen, creator of MT Blacklist, has just released MT-Blacklist v2.0G5, which his entry into the MovableType 3.0 plugin contest. Considering how useful MT-Blacklist 1.x has been, he should automatically be awarded a prize, but I'm excited that he has updated his plugin as it means:

MovableType 3.0 will be installed on (soon, as in a couple of weeks)

I tried every which way to configure to use MT 3.0's various comment features, such as TypeKey authentication and comment moderation; both lead to a decrease in valid comments on my site and/or increased my administrative headache. If I weren't so lazy, I would have reverted to MT 2.6 just to get MT-Blacklist back.

BTW - MT-Blacklist 2.0 adds a feature that I think is really cool: you can specify an 'open' comment window in which entries less than X days are unmoderated, but after that time window, comments become moderated. Its so simple, so obvious in retrospect, and oh-so awesome. All of my comment spam is on older entries, as the spammers get the URLs from Google. It is conceivable (until the spammers get smarter) that this single feature would eliminate all spam on my site, and it doesn't even involve maintaining a Blacklist. Woohoo!

As evidence of my hypothesis, try the following experiment:

1) Search Google for mt-comments
2) Look familiar?

All three times this experiment has been performed, I, or the person I was demonstrating it to said, "Why, those are the entries I get my spam on!" New entries don't appear in Google quickly, nor do they initially have a very high page rank, so there so the open comment window should do well.

BTW: renaming mt-comments.cgi will reduce your comment spam, but not eliminate it.

July 18, 2004

I be back

As my home server has become a functional brain in some regards, serving as both memory and recall, the title for this entry holds a grain of truth.

The real is back now, which means some previous crippled content and functionality is back online now, including:
- movie list
- reading list
- ability to post photo galleries
- monthly and category archives
- the search bar should actually work again

Note to people upgrading to MovableType 3.0D with MTRssFeed, the following patch to from TweezerMan seems to work:

# return MT->VERSION<'2.50'?_decode_xml_fallback($value):decode_xml($value); my $mt_ver = MT->VERSION; $mt_ver =~ s/^(.*)\D$/$1/; return $mt_ver<'2.50'?_decode_xml_fallback($value):decode_xml($value);

Howard Rheingold, I tip my tin-foil hat to you

My book reading habits frequently inspire paranoia. Perhaps it does not help that I started the week reading generics Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49, putting me in a particular mood to notice trumpet-shaped logos everywhere. I next picked up Bruce Sterling's The Hacker Crackdown, which contains a brief mention of "virtual-reality maven" Howard Rheingold and his stewardship of the The Whole Earth Review. As I finished the book I arrived in the city to meet with meta, who had just spent all day at the Intel's Urban Atmospheres Street Talk, which included, coincidentally, a panel with Howard Rheingold. As Rheingold is a prominent figure in his field, I was not yet surprised, but I next picked up Johnson's Emergence, which mentioned Rheingold's The Virtual Community. ENOUGH!!!

A virtual reality expert deft in the art of electronic media and communication? Howard Rheingold, I say thou art a modern day Templar! I must escape your collapsing media stranglehold on me!

I must choose my books more carefully.

Update: hmm, meta recommended Lot 49, Emergence is meta's book, and Emergence was apparently mentioned during the Urban Atmospheres event that meta attended and Rheingold spoke at... It's all so clear now.

July 20, 2004

Busy behind the scenes

WARNING: the following entry is terribly boring, and unless you're interested in protecting your MT blog from spammers or XHTML-validating your Web site, I suggest that you skip this entry with only the knowledge that I am hard at work behind the scenes doing stuff that, for the most part, you won't notice.

I've been busy working on this blog, though you won't be able to notice the fruits of a lot of my efforts. If you're especially observant, you might be able to notice that I'm using a new names for the entry URLs, which is part future-proofing, and part protection from search-engine-powered spammers. I used the htaccess trick that I posted about awhile back, though I should have done it sooner, as I have a 138KB htaccess file as a result (I trimmed it down to 99KB on the presumption that certain entries weren't worth forwarding).

I've also been making other tweaks to protect this site against spammers including * changing the name of my stylesheet * changing the names of the category and monthly archive pages: * individual: <$MTEntryDate format="%Y"$>/<$MTEntryDate format="%Y-%m-%d"$>.<$MTEntryTitle dirify="1"$>.html * monthly: monthly/<$MTArchiveDate format="%Y"$>/<$MTArchiveDate format="%B_%Y"$>.html * category: category/<$MTCategoryLabel dirify="1"$>.html * tweaking the comment posting mechanism to be less search-engine friendly * other small tweaks to common wording that MovableType comes pre-installed with and is really easy to search for.

Another big change is that I've been trying to make sure that my pages XHTML validate, which is actually very time intensive, as I have to fix every typo I have made over the past year across 1200+ entries. To assist in this effort, I've been using the validate HTML bookmarklet from Jesse's Bookmarklets, and I have installed Markdown (much to bp's pleasure, I'm sure), as MovableType makes it very difficult to use blockquote's that validate. I'm a bit disappointed in Markdown thus far (limited range of character formatting, limited list interpretation syntax, no width/height on images, etc...), but the ability to generate XHTML-valid output is worth having it around when I need it. I think I might switch to Textile, which has a wider range of syntax, but I'm going to give Markdown a little bit more time to sink in first.

To Comic-Con I will go

I'm heading off to Comic-Con tomorrow. Can't seem to find my registration confirmation, so I hope they let me pick up my badge without it :). If you have any special requests (sketches, stuff to try and find, etc...), please get them to me IMMEDIATELY as I will lose regular Internet access tomorrow.

July 21, 2004

I, kwc

I passed up an opportunity to see I, Robot with John McCarthy last night. Not sure if this was a good or a bad thing.

July 22, 2004

Panel: Stan Sakai

It's Usagi Yojimbo's 20th anniversary so Stan Sakai had a panel. I've uploaded small gallery of photos, and you can read on to see my outline notes of his talk.

Stan Sakai Comic-Con 2004 Panel Gallery (11 Photos)

Continue reading "Panel: Stan Sakai" »

Comic-Con: Kung-fu Extravaganza

parakkum says that this has gone downhill over the years. This year there were a couple of interesting clips for me, but overall the selection was poor.

Musa: never actually showed the clip he wanted to, and rather than recognize that the wrong clip was being played, he would wait until the end of the scene and then say, "that was the wrong clip." It didn't matter too much: myself, honeyfields, and parakkum all hated the freakin' movie.

All Men Are Brothers: This is cheesy fantasy kung-fu, but absolutely hilarious. By far the best clip of the night.

Butterfly Sword: A Michelle Yeoh/Tony Leung movie with a cool arrow maneuver.

Running on Karma: not particularly memorable for me. Not sure why he chose this one. About this guy (Andy Lau) who had the ability to see through cause and consequence and reenact previous scenes of violence. He also shadow boxes a piece of tissue.

Men Suddenly in Black: this movie is about a bunch of guys who are intent on cheating on their wives. The clip contains a hilarious a non-violent John Woo homage with cameras and other implements.

Master Q: don't even remember this one. I think this was the one where these guys take on a taoist demon with a mirror, but I don't know.

Red Trousers: a behind the scenes movie about stuntmen that we saw the trailer for

Legend of the Condor Heroes: boring anime that was being plugged

July 23, 2004

Comic-Con: 24-hour Comics

Read on for a sparse and paraphrased transcript as well as a couple of photos

Continue reading "Comic-Con: 24-hour Comics" »

Comic-Con: Composition in Storytelling

Didn't stay at this panel very long. It was by two Atelier folks, one who worked mostly with digital, and the other mostly in analog. Some of the main points were:
* keep your corners vacant, don't want to put important stuff there
* establish a grid, keep focal points away from border region
* spacing to border can establish mood. Squishing character against border creates sense of claustrophobia.
* tie your panels together. beyond the Marvel-y techniques of pointing and looking to establish connections between panels, try to lock panels together by echoing curves and shapes from one panel to another.

Most of everything else was a Photoshop tutorial, and the room was uncomfortably warm, so we jetted. I was hoping for something more along the lines of showing a bunch of different comic book pages and deconstructing their composition, rather than a live demonstration of composing a page, but that's more my learning style.

July 24, 2004

Panel: Quick Draw Improv

This is one of my favorite Comic-Con panels. This year's panel featured Sergio Aragones (Groo), Jeff Smith (Bone), and Scott Shaw (Hanna Barbara master). For those of you not familiar with Quick Draw and/or Sergio, you should know Sergio draws obscenely fast, which will perhaps make some of the prompts and drawings make more sense.

Warning: really large download if you read on.

Continue reading "Panel: Quick Draw Improv" »

Comic-Con: Pixar

Brad Bird was at Comic-Con promoting The Incredibles along with one of the producers and a moderator. Brad Bird was fun to listen to as he riffed on the transition from going from the 2-D animation world to Pixar's version of 3-D animation. My favorite example of the difference between the two worlds was about blowing up planets. In 3-D animation, it's really easy to blow up a planet. Here is my approximation of this anecdote:

  • Animators: "You want this robot to crash through and car to go everywhere?"
  • Bird: "Yeah"
  • Animators: "Okay. How many cars?"
  • Bird: [answer]
  • Animators: "Okay. What kind of damage do you want?"
  • Bird: "A variety of damage."
  • Animators: "Variety of damage? Okay, we can do that."
  • Bird: "Alright, in this next scene I want him to grab his shirt and--"
  • Animator 1: gasps "Does he know what he's asking for?"
  • Animator 2: "Do we have a budget for that?"

Animators will go to a movie and yawn at the explosions, but if they see a shirt grab, they immediately go, "I must talk to that man who did that shirt grab." Bird learned to ration his shirt grabs, but he assured us that The Incredibles will have the best shirt grabs.

There was also a big difference in the time delays in doing 3-D animation. Even though everything is done somewhat in parallel, there's a huge gap before you start seeing anything. Bird felt that at meetings he was making "another 1000 decisions for the pit," but wouldn't see anything back, until all of a sudden there were a bunch of images streaming back.

Also, with computer-generated images, the minute you put in detail, it begins to demand more detail. You add in freckles, and then you have to add in eyebrows. And because you've added in eyebrows you have to put in nostrils, and because you put in nostrils, you need to do nose hair, and suddenly you end up with realistic, deformed people.

I found this anecdote interesting because it was Bird basically describing the Uncanny Valley, which I am so fond of finding examples of. This is Pixar's first venture into modeling humans, so they had to work hard to make sure that they're presentation would stay far to the left of the valley, which Bird did by finding the appropriate ways to simplify.

Someone had asked him, "so when are you going to do real movies?" To Bird, animated films have all the same elements. You have characters, staging, cutting. You have to deal with animators the same as you would actors. The animators want to be talked to in acting terms, emotions to express, not in technical computer terms.

Bird had kind things to say about John Lasseter, who threw himself between Bird and the "forces of mediocrity" and made sure that Bird's transition in Pixar went well. He's happy that Pixar isn't trying to play it safe and is doing stories that the directors feel passionate about. Lasseter is passionate about toys (his office is full of toys) as well as cars, which lead to both Toy Story and Cars. Bird was raising a family and ended up projecting those emotions into The Incredibles, which is a story he wanted to do prior Pixar.

Read on for some photos.

Continue reading "Comic-Con: Pixar" »

Comic-Con: Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury's session was mostly full of soundbites and anecdotes (which he was prompted for). I'm afraid that these notes are very accurate, but I am transcribing them for my memory anyway. For each of these stories there's a lot more to tell, and I'm fairly certain that they've been told before (as most of the stories were prompted), so I would Google for the whole story if you're actually interested.

Read on for my notes and a photo.

Continue reading "Comic-Con: Ray Bradbury" »

Comic-Con: Mirrormask

Dave McKean and Neil Gaiman were back like acting like the old married couple that they are in order to talk about Mirrormask. I was happy because I finally got to see a couple clips of what it would actually look like, though I was pressed for time and saw only one of the several clips. It pretty much looked like Dave McKean art done in 3-D, which is rather cool.

Some highlights: * Gaiman had toured Pixars massive render farm. In comparison, McKean only had a "Render Cottage Garden." * Gaiman mentioned that they never officially got the green light for the film. It was more of a "blinking amber." * McKean: "Every possible thing has gone wrong... I don't want to go through it again." A lot of the film was done during a heatwave, which tasked their computers as well as their actors in full makeup/masks. * McKean: with computer-generated graphics, realism is often the goal. Instead, McKean wanted to explore the range that CG would allow so that he could make something more illustrative, more dream-like.

Read on for a couple photos.

Continue reading "Comic-Con: Mirrormask" »

I'm back

Todo list:
- blog about Comic-Con (panels, schwag, sketches)
- process Comic-Con photos
- read Comic-Con comics
- watch three days of Tour de France stages (even though the outcome was inadvertently spoiled already).
- blog about said three stages
- build awesome tie fighter fleet of destruction

Tomorrow I head off to my first ever academic conference, AAAI, which is an AI conference in exciting San Jose. Other people get to go to boring places like Vienna for conferences, but really, the commute there is terrible.

Sketches: Queen and Country

update (7/27/05): I completed my Tara Chace collection -- Brian Hurtt drew me a great sketch at Comic-Con 2005.

Sunday was Queen and Country day. In addition to getting an advance reading copy of Rucka's new QnC novel, I also managed to get Tara Chace drawn by every QnC artist, with the exception of Brian Hurtt (ran out of time). Someone one-upped me and got a huge roster drawn by every roster on a large board; I think it became somewhat of a competition between the artists to do their best as their drawing was next to their peers, and it looks really cool. I have a photo of the nearly complete roster (two drawings are missing from the photo).

My favorite drawing is Rolsten's, as I think it portrays her character jadedness the best. It also helps that he was one of the only artists who did inked his drawing. I also really like Carla Speed McNeil's sketch. J. Alexander did an absolutely awesome sketch for the person doing the roster as he broke out the ink, and a lot of his style comes from the way he inks.

Queen and Country wouldn't be complete without mastermind Rucka's sketch, so I've included his sketch in the full entry even though the sketch is a 'self-portrait.'

Scott Rolsten

rolsten sketch

Continue reading "Sketches: Queen and Country" »

July 25, 2004

Comic-Con Summary and Advice

First off, I must give my thanks to honeyfields and parakkum; without both of their unique skills Comic-Con would have been an impossibly overwhelming experience rather than the manageably overwhelming experience it has been the past two years. parakkum served as the war-hardened veteran with the encyclopedic knowledge of all things comics. Who's where, what's cool, where's this were all questions I repeatedly asked and had answered. Honeyfields served as the charmer: she'd approach the booth first and strike up a long conversation with the artist/author, by the end of which we'd both have great sketches (though usually hers are a bit better :) ).

Now that I have completed my second trip, our game plan has been further tested, implemented, and tweaked. This game plan pretty much summarizes how I spent everyday at the con, and it worked fairly well for me. I offer this as advice to all those who plan to attend future Comic-Cons.

Continue reading "Comic-Con Summary and Advice" »

Comic-Con: Buffy!

I got to see Buffy, I mean Sarah Michelle Gellar. She seemed a little nervous and overwhelmed, perhaps because it started off poorly. The first question, as expected, was why hadn't she been to Comic-Con before. Expecting this, she pulled out a chronological list of reasons as to why she hadn't been there. It was a list only a comic geek could love, and it was delivered by someone who clearly wasn't a comic geek, to a crowd that contained many people who weren't comic geeks. I didn't even get them all (someone want to fill me in on the Phantom Zone reference?). According to my sparse notes, the reasons were (I may be missing one):

  1. Holding out for all the image guys to return to Marvel
  2. Two words: Phantom Zone
  3. Didn't have a ride back to LA
  4. Still trying to make sense of the Spiderman clone story
  5. Dark Knight Strikes Again -> done with comics
  6. Gonna wait for the next Tick issue. Still waiting.
  7. Waiting for Peter David/Todd McFarlane debate to be over
  8. Already married to world's biggest comic geek
  9. Not enough merchandise with my damn face on it

The rest of the talk was fairly bland: some nice things said about the Japanese people, Gellar's failed attempts to learn Japanese in time for the Japan premiere of The Grudge, compliments to the other guy for Roswell. The main highlight I remember was an exchange where a girl asked her if she ever used any of her characters to help her through real-life situations. Gellar replied, "You know they're not real, right?" which was followed by her saying that Cruel Intentions did teach her how to kiss a girl, "thank you Paris Hilton."

Eliza Dushku was also there again this year desperately trying to revive her dying show. As you can tell in the gallery, it was a whole lot easier to get close enough to take decent photos. In at least one of the Sarah Michelle Gellar photos you can see the shrimpy security guy moving me away.

Buffy/Faith Photo Gallery (23 Photos)

Comic-Con TnA report

I capturing the sights and sounds of the Comic-Con, I would be remiss in not discussing the, uh, TnA. Needless to say, there was no end to the: * paintings of scantily clad women, often with small "family friendly" stickers * pictures of scantily clad women (an occasional Playboy playmate even), oftentimes with that woman sitting behind an album of them * groups of scantily clad women, hired by vendors, such as the eAdultComics harem

There's even TnA packaged for kids, such as this woman whose costume features foam cleavage:


But really, I mainly wanted to write this post to give a special award to the makers of Species III. I could give them an award because someone was idiotic enough to make two sequels to that terrible movie (this one so shameful that not even Natasha Henstridge would appear in it). Surprisingly, though, that wasn't the most ignominious act associated with this movie series. The most ignominious act, in my opinion, occurred at their booth at Comic-Con, which you can see a picture of if you read on.

Continue reading "Comic-Con TnA report" »

Comic-Con Schwag

Schwag is a big component of Comic-Con. I wasn't on as much of a schwag hunt this year, but I think I did manage to pick up some items that will survive in my possession, rather than get tossed in the trash several months from now when I realize how useless it is. I was also trying to be minimal in the amount of stuff that I was toting around with me, and, for the most part, I avoided posters, which are hard to keep in good condition.

1. The Tie Fighter Fleet of destruction.

tie fightersparakkum and honeyfields graciously donated their Imperial fighters to my fleet so that it would be more impressive.

I like the lego minis -- they have the proper amount of abstractness. I much prefer them to the mid-size lego models that assume too much detail; you become too aware of the differences between the model and the real thing. Not quite the Uncanny Vally, but perhaps similar.

On a similar note, s was talking to me during the ride home from the airport about McCloud's work and how McCloud discusses how abstraction in comics serves to allow the reader to project their own impressions on the work. I think they minis work this way -- I even found my subconscious playing the Imperial March as I assembled the minis, but that may just be because I'm insane.

2. Advance reading copy of Rucka's new Queen and Country novel, A Gentlemen's Game

honeyfields got me a copy of this while I was snapping photos of Buffy. Rucka signed it, "After this, everything changes." It contains numerous spoilers for the upcoming Q&C comics, so unfortunately this will have to sit on my shelf for awhile.

3. Incredibles poster by Mike Mignola (Min-yola, not Mig-nola)

Apparently Brad Bird is a big fan of Mignola's art, and the poster is a nice depiction of Mr. Incredible. I will try and get a photo once it is back in my possession.

4. Sky captain t-shirt

I liked this t-shirt because, unlike most free t-shirts, it isn't an advertisement first and a t-shirt second. A Punisher t-shirt I got, for example, has URL for the movie below the skull.

Honorable mention: The Grudge hat

It's a high-quality black hat with bright red kanji letters on the front. I think I will take a knife to it and cut out "The Grudge" translation that's on the back of the hat, at which point it will become a cool item.

Sketches: PvP/Penny Arcade

Gabriel from Penny-Arcade was quick with the sketches and nice with the requests. Both of the sketches I got are pseudo-references to recent strips that they've done, in case you're wondering, though the one I got for pqbon is a very weak reference, and more just an opportunity to have Gabe insult him.

Penny Arcade

The 'mess up' refers to the fact that he misspelled "high" the first time around.

penny arcade sketch

More sketches in the full entry.

Continue reading "Sketches: PvP/Penny Arcade" »

Sketches: Small Press

We wondered around a bit in the small press section (small press as in, DIY, as opposed to Indy Press like Oni and Slave Labor). I got sketches from Art Baltazar (Wolf Boy) and James Burks (Martin's Misdirection). honeyfields fared even better and got those as well as a really awesome sketch from the author/artist of Horus.

James Burks was really nice to talk to. He had worked as an animator on the doomed Iron Giant project; he talked about how Brad Bird had described the final months of that project as being in an airplane and being able to see the runway, but you're out of gas so you have to start jettisoning items to try and glide the airplane in.

For his comic he combined his fondness for magic with his desire to draw comics; he also felt that was a rabbit was a perfect match for a comic about magic and was surprised to see that it wasn't being done.

Art Baltazar was cranking out sketches with the markers and the cartoons, in a sort of grown-up-imitating-a-child-drawing-superheroes style. He had a Havoc that strangely amused me. honeyfields got a nice sketch of the Grimm Reaper that I hope to add to this entry, in addition to her nice Horus sketch.

James Burks

burks sketch

Continue reading "Sketches: Small Press" »

Sketches: Indy Press

In this entry are sketches from Eric Shanower (Age of Bronze), Michael Gagne (draws all manner of twisted things, including twisted bunnies), and Ross Campbell (Spooked, a bit of Hopeless Savages). The Campbell and Naifeh sketches were for pqbon; the request for both was along the lines of, "draw my roommate something that mocks him for not being here." The Naifeh request was humorous because Naifeh had his right arm in a sling from a motorcycle accident. We showed him some of the broken leg sketches that we got for pqbon last year as inspiration (hence, the arm sling on Courtney Crumrin's arm).

I was also lucky enough to get a sketch from Jeff Smith. It happened pretty much by accident, as I happened to run into him wandering out of the Quick Draw panel. I asked for a sketch and he said, "sure," as long as I walked with him so as to prevent everyone else from swarming to him. Getting a sketch otherwise would have been fairly tough as his booth was packed whenever he was there. He had these beautiful gold leaf, hardcover editions of the complete Bone series that I really wanted, but were a bit over my budget ($120).

Ted Naifeh

I was hesitant to approach Naifeh at first as he had his right arm in a sling. Then I noticed him signing stuff and realized he is left handed. This sketch goes well with Ross Campbell's sketch, also mocking pqbon. In fact, Ross Campbell's sketch is drawn in the indentations of Naifeh's sketch, as Naifeh tends to press really hard. Ross said something to the effect of, "awesome, I get to draw in Ted Naifeh's indentations!"

naifeh sketch

More sketches in the extended entry.

Continue reading "Sketches: Indy Press" »

July 26, 2004

Notes: Stochastic Local Searches

Tutorial session at AAAI


Continue reading "Notes: Stochastic Local Searches" »

Notes: Automating the Design of Visualizations

Maneesh Agrawala, Julie Heiser, and Barbara Tversky Tutorial session at AAAI

Two implemented systems explored for automated design of visualizations: map routes and assembly instructions. Map routes system (LineDrive) used by MapBlast (now

Three parts to talk: cog sci/CS background, map routes, assembly instructions.

Continue reading "Notes: Automating the Design of Visualizations" »

Comic-Con: Costumes

Read on to see the three costumes that caught my attention well enough for me to take a photo.

Continue reading "Comic-Con: Costumes" »

Comic-Con Quotations

Ted Naifeh (approximate quotation):

I thought life would take me many places, but I never thought I'd draw a three-breasted woman

honeyfields seemed to like this one, which I gave in reference to the numerous, inexplicably long lines for collectible, expensive, merchandise:

A fool and his money should be parted swiftly, not slowly and painfully

Sarah Michelle Gellar, most popular excuse she gave for why she had never been to Comic-Con before:

There's not enough merchandise with my damn face on it

My niche

I'd just like to note, having bombed you all with 25 entries in the past two days, that I am fairly certain that I am the only blog out there that is bringing you combined coverage of:

So piss off all you Democratic National Convention bloggers. No one wants your crappy thoughts on politics. The kwc-SDCC-TdF-AAAI connection is where it's at!

July 27, 2004

Talk: AI and the New Exploration Vision

Dan Clancy, NASA

I enjoyed this talk -- it was a survey of NASA's current AI-based missions, including current and future Mars missions (Sojourner/Spirit/Opportunity). metamanda would have liked at least one point the talk made, which was that NASA is working on a personal rover robot to create/inspire kids, and in particular, girls. They have found in their exhibits that robots are more engaging to girls than boys, who enjoy the embodied interaction, so they see in it an opportunity to bridge a gender gap as well as inspire a future generation in NASA's vision. It was interesting how the Personal Exploration Rover pictures really did look like baby versions of the Spirit/Opportunity rovers, i.e. there was a certain amount of anthropomorphism to the vehicle, and it appeared child-like that could help engender a care-taker relationship between a kid and the robot.

Read on for notes.

Continue reading "Talk: AI and the New Exploration Vision" »

Talk: Real Robots for the Real World

Sebastian Thrun, Stanford

This talk was mostly over my head in terms of the math, but the work is interesting.

Continue reading "Talk: Real Robots for the Real World" »

Talk: AI Characters and Directors for Interactive Computer Games

Brian Magerko, John E. Laird, Mazin Assanie, Alex Kerfoot, Devvan Stokes

Information on a storytelling environment built in Unreal Tournament.

Continue reading "Talk: AI Characters and Directors for Interactive Computer Games" »

Talk: A Multi-Resolution Pyramid for Outdoor Robot Terrain Perception

Michael Montemerlo and Sebastian Thrun, Stanford

Elegant solution for managing short-range and long-range mapping data for robot navigation.

Continue reading "Talk: A Multi-Resolution Pyramid for Outdoor Robot Terrain Perception" »

Talk: Identifying Terrorist Activity with AI Plan Recognition Technology

Peter Jarvis, Teresa Lunt, Karen Myers, NASA/PARC/SRI

Continue reading "Talk: Identifying Terrorist Activity with AI Plan Recognition Technology" »

Talk: Useful Roles of Emotions in Artificial Agents

A Case Study from Artificial Life Matthias Scheutz, Notre Dame

Continue reading "Talk: Useful Roles of Emotions in Artificial Agents" »

Comic-Con '04 Backposting

In order to keep my panel notes in semi-chronological order, I'm backposting them. I will keep track of the new posts here, in case you are interested.

Newest: * Stan Sakai

New: * Quick Draw Panel * Kung-fu extravaganza

Slightly older: * Mirrormask (Gaiman and McKean) * The Incredibles (Brad Bird) * Composition in Storytelling * Ray Bradbury * PvP/Penny Arcade (Added photo) * 24 Hour Comic Panel * Quotations * TnA report

Older: * Costumes * Buffy! * Schwag report * Summary and Advice * Queen and Country Sketches * Pixar/Incredibles/Brad Bird

The Quick Draw Panel page is likely to be updated when I exchange notes with honeyfields.

July 28, 2004

Talk: Learning Social Preferences in Games

Ya'akov Gal, Avid Pfeffer, Barbara Grosz'

A mix of social agents and game theory (social vs. analytic strategies)

Continue reading "Talk: Learning Social Preferences in Games" »

Talk: High-level Goal Recognition in a Wireless LAN

Jie Yin

A lot of stuff about Dynamic Bayesian Networks that I don't really have a background in yet, so my notes are sparse.

Continue reading "Talk: High-level Goal Recognition in a Wireless LAN" »

Talk: Eliciting Bid Taker Non-price Preferences in (Combinatorial) Auctions

Craig Boutilier, University of Toronto Tuomas Sandholm, CMU Rob Shields, CombineNet, Inc.

I like combinatorial auctions as they blend two fields I'm interested in. You get a Computer Science optimization problem (Knapsack problem) combined with Economic auctions.

Continue reading "Talk: Eliciting Bid Taker Non-price Preferences in (Combinatorial) Auctions" »

Talk: If not Turing's test, then what?

Paul Cohen, USC ISI

This was a nice review of the pros/cons of the Turing Test as well as current grand challenges in AI, with lots of Daniel Dennett quotes.

Continue reading "Talk: If not Turing's test, then what?" »

Talk: Affective Recruitment of Distributed Heterogeneous Agents

Multi-robot task allocation

Continue reading "Talk: Affective Recruitment of Distributed Heterogeneous Agents" »

AAAI Summary

I don't expect anyone other than myself to actually go through all the talk notes I've been posting, but I will point to three in particular that I enjoyed and thought were useful. The first was a tutorial on Automating the Design of Visualizations, which was a great blend of cognitive science, computer science, and user studies to help try and foster better computer-generated visual designs (target audience: people with Tufte on their shelves).

Two of the invited talks, AI and the New Exploration Vision (NASA) and If Not Turing's Test, Then What? are high-level enough to be approachable. The NASA talked a lot about the technologies they are using/will use/want to use in their Mars and future lunar missions. The Turing talk discusses some of the grand challenges for AI and was also a meta talk about the properties of grand challenges.

I find myself drinking from the fire hose here -- many of the talks were topics that I knew little or nothing about, nor had any mathematical background for. If you don't understand my notes, rest assured that I may not understand them little, though being at the conference is rather like learning a foreign language in a foreign country, with the immersion making for quick study.

Update: Added to photo entries
- Mars Personal Rover
- Maze of Carnage

Google HQ

Had my first tour of the new Google HQ today. It was an event held for AAAI participants that was a thinly veiled recruiting event, though the recruiters stayed far away, letting us munch down on really, really good food and drinks on their large patio. They gave us some cool shwag -- Nalgene bottles with Google logos and black Google t-shirts -- and afterwards there were some fairly open tours of the actual campus.

I managed to wander over to where benoit sat during his orientation time, which was near Eric Schmidt's and Brin/Page's offices. I was surprised that even people like Brin, Page, and Norvig all have to share offices, and there's a lot of shared cubicles as well. I guess they wanted to foster that communal spirit. The food they give their own employees is awesome -- everywhere you look there's free, high-quality snacks; I would gain 50 pounds my first week, or as meta would say, I would be sportin' a third trimester food baby in no time.

On the way out they handed out free shares of their stock and showed me their warehouse with the Ark of the Covenant, but alas, I'm under NDA, and can say no more -- I can't tell you what was inside the Ark.

July 29, 2004

*blog seizure*

Stan Sakai has made his way into my backpostings, as my Quick Draw Panel entry is 90% complete (awaiting collaboration with Christine).

I still haven't posted on the half of the Stephen Silver talk (see Penny Arcade) I went to, nor my notes on Alex Sinclair's coloring tutorial (mostly a Photoshop tutorial), nor the Adapting Comics to the Screen Panel (during which I got a photo of myself with Stan Lee and his autograph). I think these notes will have to wait, even in light of the fact that my short term memory is gushing out of my ears right now due to the Comic-Con being followed by an AI conference. Of these three potential entries, it's most likely that I'll transcribe the Sinclair notes, and drop the others, but we shall see (any requests?). I also have about four photos of Jude Law that may languish, as well as some bad photos of Ray Park, Kenny Baker, a giant promo robot, and someone who I think is Sienna Guillory from the upcoming Resident Evil flick. There's also this interview with JD Salinger that I'm gonna toss. Good night.

Talk: Application of Artificial Intelligence to Web Search

Peter Norvig, Google

Continue reading "Talk: Application of Artificial Intelligence to Web Search" »

Burning poo

Sonny, a friend of mine from high school who was way better at track than me despite his non-aerodynamic bowl haircut, has been blogging from Afghanistan, where he's been deployed as a reservist for the past two weeks. Among the highlights:

So my platoon finally hit the ground yesterday and it brought a huge smile to my face when I saw them get off the bird. Even better, they came bearing gifts. For me, they brought a pistol with a new holster. Kinda cool, huh? Of course I have no ammunition for it and I've never fired one in my life - but it's the thought that counts, right? I'm sure I'll get it squared away eventually. Plus, the bad guys can't tell, right?


I ended up riding along on my first real convoy in a combat zone today. I felt pretty safe throughout though. We ended up driving through the city, and there'd be people all around. It was strange because I hadn't really had to interact with locals at all my whole time here. But today was pretty eye-opening. As we drove through the city, the males would tend to give us scowls and dirty looks. Some of them would smile at us, but most would be either negative or neutral. The kids, though...the kids are a blast. They'd run out to the road and cheer and wave. Some of them would give thumbs up signs or that hand sign that surfers give. It felt great to see that kind of response from all of the kids. I think, for the most part, that they're doing that in the hopes that we'll throw them stuff, like candy or water or whatever else. But we've been reminded over and over again not to do that because it could cause problems with kids rushing the vehicles and causing traffic jams. Anyway, I'm back in one piece still and things seem okay.

and finally,

Burning poo...there are about three or four Afghans that come in the gate every day to burn our poo for us. Oh, how I miss running water. You can see the columns of black smoke rising from the poo buckets every morning, and they burn throughout the day into early afternoon. And the smell lingers for hours. If you've never smelled it yourself, consider yourself one of the lucky ones.

You can read more of his near-daily updates at

Tour de France Tech Present + Future

Engadget has an article on the timing system that was deployed at this year's Tour de France which uses a mixture of cameras and transponders to report when the riders cross the line, no small feat if you've seen a race finish. It also results in fairly cool, surreal finish line photos (notice the spokes on the bikes).

Meanwhile, a technology that's still in trials will allow TV broadcasts to track riders via satellite and do cool things like show their relative positions using 3D animations (6MB video). I think this technology would help introduce people to the sport, as one of the hard parts about watching cycling is figuring out where everyone is relative to the course and relative to each other.

July 30, 2004

Stat scrapin'

This post and this post are examples of why its always worth surfing through your Web server stats.

July 31, 2004

Movie: The Village

When I saw the headline on CNN, 'The Village' Shyamalan's best film yet, I had high expectations going into the film. I should have read Ebert's review instead. I haven't seen Signs yet, but both The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable were far better movies with far better stories.

The Village starts off promising, and thirty minutes into the film you believe that Shyamalan might have something interesting setup. Then the pieces start falling into place, but you see each one coming ahead of time, because they fall in obvious and boring ways, and I myself am obvious and boring, so it took no incredible leaps of imagination. I thought of a reorderings of scenes that could have changed the movie entirely and made it much more twisted, but I cannot speak of them here, as to do so would obvious spoil the movie for those who persist in seeing it.

Tall Buildings

I like architecture exhibits, so I found this online exhibit of tall buildings by MOMA to be rather cool. It shows various completed, under construction, and never-to-be-built designs, with details on each design as well as comparisons between them based on height and space. Several of the WTC designs are outlined, as well as numerous designs around the world (London/Seoul/Hong Kong/etc...).

More Firefox extensions installed

Came across some more Firefox extensions to install while over at asa: * Copy Plain Text: adds a "Copy Plain Text" option to your edit menu to remove all HTML from your copied text, available from Jeremy's Mozilla Extensions * TinyURL creator: convert current URL to tiny URL via a menu option or toolbar button, also from Jeremy's Mozilla Extensions. You could also use the TinyURL bookmarklet: TinyURL! (drag the link to your links toolbar) * Translate: add a toolbar button to translate the page from several languages * MiniT: reorder your tabs in Firefox by dragging

what is this?

This page contains all entries posted to kwc blog in July 2004.

June 2004 is the previous archive.

August 2004 is the next archive.

Current entries can be found on the main page.