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February 2006 Archives

February 1, 2006

Thinking of buying a Mac Pro? Perhaps you should wait

According to Adobe's Intel-Mac transition FAQ, you may want to delay your upgrade to the Intel iMacs. You may also want to save up a bit more $$$ for the switch. Adobe will not be releasing Universal Binaries for it's current application versions (e.g. CS2). You will have to wait until their next release to get Intel support and, presumably, that upgrade won't be free. You can still run CS2 on the new Intel Macs, but you won't get the performance upgrade you were planning on. Of course, you could always get good Intel performance by running Photoshop on Windows ;) ...

February 3, 2006

Wakeup Soap

soap2.gif3 years ago, I proclaimed caffeinated soap to be the '#1 innovation of the year [2002].' I'm a lazy luddite, though, and have yet to actually use this invention I exalted. Have no fear, ArsTechnica has put the soap to the test and, barring a $100 12MP Canon Digital Rebel with built-in GPS, I can re-proclaim caffeinated soap to be '#1 innovation of the year [2006]' because some innovations transcend the year in which they were invented. It may just be the added tingliness of the peppermint oil, but the stuff appears to work. I believe.

February 4, 2006

Reconsidered Materials at the Exploratorium

Reconsidered Materials-Silk waves Reconsidered Materials-01 Reconsidered Materials-Exodus

Reconsidered Materials Styrofoam Hummer Reconsidered Materials-Fossil Fueled Reconsidered Materials - Rubber Horses-1 Reconsidered Materials-Quilt

There's something about an art show at the Exploratorium that just works really well. Perhaps it's the fact that it's hard to tell the difference between the art pieces and the Exploratorium exhibits (hint: the art pieces came wtih pink labels). Perhaps it's the fact that a mostly adult crowd gets unleashed in a children-oriented museum to play. Whatever the reason, I hope that there are more shows at the Exploratorium. At least this year, while I'm a member.

I became a member as a result of the very, very long line out front. I don't know if it was the Jello SF posting on BoingBoing, a summoning of the Burning Man crowd, or what, but there were a lot of people at the Reconsidered Materials exhibit. Far more than the Exploratorium planned for. They were offering memberships as a way to get to the front of the hour long line, but I resisted as there was no way to get all three of us in on one membership. Or at least I didn't think there was until I talked to the possibly inebriated museum staff. It was a good night for the Exploratorium.

Jello SF was the reason I was there and it didn't disappoint, though we were surprised by how small it was. I guess we didn't take time to think that the artist was doing SF piece-by-piece. The piece that she made for the exhibition was in the Twin Peaks neighborhood and was at a slightly smaller scale than the downtown model. The artist's mom was there to hold a container of dry ice fog over the entire model while it was regularly given earthquake simulations.

There were eighteen installations and I particularly enjoyed the full-size styrofoam Humvee (American Detritus), the blanket pigeons (Exodus), the quilted tea bags (The Quilt), and the Rubber Horses, all of which you'll find photos of in the flickr photoset. I also liked Arp Forms and Strobe Flower, which I've posted movies of below (I forgot to take a movie of Jello SF). Arp Forms was a mixture of corn starch inside of a vibrating cup that caused the corn starch to congeal up into a blobular, dancing form. Strobe Flower was a plastic bag hooked up to a variable speed motor and a strobe -- you could put your finger into it to push it into different forms. click on the photos to access the movies, apologies for rotated strobe flower movie:

Reconsidered Materials-Arp Forms Reconsidered Materials-Strobe Flower

See also: horizonline's and m's posts from the exhibition

February 5, 2006

Monterey Aquarium Cliches

Some of my own cliches for the Monterey Aquarium Cliches group on Flickr.

Monterey Cliches-06 Monterey Cliches-2 Monterey Cliches-02 Monterey Cliches-04 Monterey Cliches-03 Monterey Cliches-08 Monterey Cliches-11 To the Mothership Monterey Cliches-07 Monterey Cliches-01 Monterey Cliches-05 Monterey Cliches-1 Monterey Cliches-09

see also: horizonline's photos

Blah Blah Blah

Two hours after the end of the Superbowl, ESPN had a graphic up on their frontpage that said:

blah blah blah

They have since corrected it to say:

Final: 21-10

I believe that the original graphic was more correct.

Violence seems to have replaced sex in this year's ads. Either that, or we mostly laughed at the violent ones in reflection of our current zeitgeist. I was partial to the non-violent sheep streaker ad -- I also like the 2003's zebra instant replay version -- but I figure with seven ads Budweiser was bound to score with at least one. Nostalgia also hearkened me to the MacGyver ad. IFILM has a pretty descent Superbowl ad page if you want to relive the ads.

Continue reading "Blah Blah Blah" »

February 6, 2006

Warty comb jelly movies

Photos won't do the warty comb jellies at the Monterey Bay Aquarium justice. Neither will these low-res movies I took because warty comb jellies are one of the simply coolest creatures that nature has created. If I had a lot of time and money, I would make a feature film where giant warty comb jellies take over Earth and force us to dance at all night raves to their bioluminescent glory.

warty comb jelly warty comb jelly warty comb jelly

Talk: Douglas Hofstadter: Analogy as the Core of Cognition

Hofstadter at StanfordDouglas Hofstadter sponsored by Stanford Humanities Center

Most of my few run-ins with Douglas Hofstadter haved corresponded well with whatever I'm reading at the time. I read Godel, Escher, Bach during college, which connected the dots between all the different computer science classes I was taking, a feat that my professors were not interested in accomplishing. Shortly thereafter, I saw Hofstadter speak about translating Russian literature. This did not do as good of a job unifying my education.

Tonight's talk, Analogy as the Core of Cognition, was also outside the computer science domain, but my pop-sci interest in brain books has given me more dots to connect. Less than an hour after Hofstadter's talk, I read this passage in Birth of the Mind (p. 138) that struck me as almost being planted by Hofstadter for me to read:

Another critical factor may be the almost magical ability of humans to combine simple elements into more complex ones that can in turn serve as elements in futher combinations, as idea sometimes referred to as "recursion." If you can think about a ball, you can think about a big ball, and if you can think about big ball, you can think about a big ball with stripes, a big ball with stripes that lies on the beach, and so forth.

Although penned by a different author, this passage in many ways is the central idea to Hofstader's talk, which you can read more about in the extended entry. Hofstadter came out old-school with the overhead transparencies and in some spots in the notes I've used photos of his slides instead of textual transcriptions.

Continue reading "Talk: Douglas Hofstadter: Analogy as the Core of Cognition" »

30 Boxes: immediate wow

30boxes.gifAfter hitting refresh all day, I finally managed to get a beta account on 30 boxes, which is a Web calendar with fancy features like:

  • a text box at the top where you can quickly add events like "Tour of California Feb 19-26" or "kwc's Birthday Oct 31 repeat yearly". I've found this box to be much, much faster after a 10 second learning curve.
  • overlay your local weather on top of your calendar.
  • little touches, like giving you a link to check your Gmail in order to retrieve your signup confirmation and getting a user icon from Flickr if you give it your Flickr account name.
  • export to iCal so that you can view it in iCalendar, Sunbird, or other apps
  • subscribe to your upcoming.org profile.
  • share your calendar with friends (anyone else feel like signing up? let me know)
  • uncluttered display: the calendar takes up your whole browser window

I've only been using it 15 minutes and I'm gearing up to switch over from my Yahoo! Calendar. Every other "Web 2.0" calendar site I've tried in the past (at current count, about three) has failed to immediately impress or convince me that it is in anyway better than the good ole' Yahoo klunker. I'm a little hesistant to jump ship so quickly. The last technology that convinced me to leave Yahoo! behind was Gmail, so it's been quite awhile since I've had to deal with the ramifications of having my personal workflow moved from one system to another. It appears that they may be in need of a little more polish before I'm ready to migrate, but given all the little touches in there so far it seems that whoever is in charge of their development will get it polished up nice and shiny.

February 7, 2006

Dork power set to maximum

backpack

Much in the same way that I was certain that I was the only person blogging the Comic-Con, Tour de France, and AAAI artificial intelligence conference, I'm pretty sure I'm the only person in the entire universe with a backpack (any object for that matter) signed by:

  • Don Knuth (thanks ota)
  • Douglas Hofstadter
  • Neil Gaiman
  • Dave Zabriskie

Not so coincidentally:

  • Neil Gaiman <-> Comic-Con/Comics
  • Dave Zabriskie <-> Tour de France/Cycling
  • Don Knuth/Douglas Hofstadter <-> AI/Computer Science

Which is to say that I now have tangible/wearable proof of the absurd nicheness of this blog. Allow me to congratulate myself. Now how is it that Bloglines lists other subscribers to this feed? If you've read this far, you're all as dorky as me.

Federal Budget Explorer 2007

Paul's Federal Budget Explorer version 2007 is up for those that want to explore how their tax bill is divided up.

Paul's random observations:

  • Games with the defense budget continue. Since the emergency funding for the wars has not yet happened, the budget continues to show a decrease over the current year, as it has for the past 3 years.

  • Medicare still up 9.3% overall, despite the cuts proposed, due to the prescription drug benefit. Medicare almost topped $400b.

  • Interest on the debt almost edged out all health spending at $243b.

  • Social security still the top category at $588b and growing at 5.5%.

For additional scrutiny, WashingtonPost.com's Froomkin has a roundup of articles pointing out the many fallacies in this year's budget.

Previously: Federal Budget Explorer 2005, California Budget Explorer 2004-05

Flying dogs

I can't stop watching Vitalic's "Birds" video featuring flying dogs (download link). If Flying Dogs were real, they'd be even cooler than warty comb jellies. They even have a better soundtrack.

thanks bluemonday and glynnenstein

Book: Birth of the Mind

Birth of the Mind addresses the relationship between DNA and the development of the brain. Most of the ideas in the book are fairly simple and easy to understand:

  • It's both nature and nurture. We start with an initial structure that is highly adaptable. You can transplant a third eye onto a creature and it's brain will create the necessary processing structures for it.
  • Genes designate structure coarsely and relatively. One more more beacons draw certain types of cells towards them along channels. The stronger the beacon, the stronger the pull. If you move the beacon, you can change the location of where something develops.
  • The same genes get reused in different parts of the body like building blocks. Very few genes are unique to the brain. This is perhaps why there are so few genes in the human genome.

You won't get too much insight into how the brain works. Birth of the Mind is more akin to civil engineering than architecture, dealing with the materials of construction rather than the function of what is constructed. Birth of the Mind is deceptively short (< 200 pages), so you shouldn't have any problem pairing it with another pop-sci brain book to fill in some of the gaps in this book.

The brevity of Birth of the Mind sways my overall review of it. The writing is mostly clear but isn't clever, the analogies are rather bland (mostly computer programming analogies), the footnotes don't provide that much additional detail, and most of the writing is an exercise in aggregation rather than drawing a clear thread through a backdrop of works. But it's short. It's short enough that I see it as a good (re)introduction for future pop-sci neuroscience readings. The Amazon reviews are almost entirely glowing, so it would appear that a lot of the readership appreciated the material within.

Someone in the future will write a better version of this book, mostly because neuroscience/cognitive science is still making important discoveries on the nature of the mind and how it is formed. I'm awaiting an author to come along in Hofstadter-like fashion and pull together all the loose threads and unify our picture of the brain, from genes all the way up to consciousness. Having listened to how Hofstadter and Marcus both emphasized chunking/recursion, perhaps someone will be able to come along and draw analogies between the way we build our complex brain out of simple building blocks and the way we build complex concepts out of simple words. Maybe this book already exists and I just don' t know about it.

February 8, 2006

Screenshots added

My MythBusters: Catch a bullet with your teeth and helium football entry has been updated with disgusting screenshots of abused pig heads.

Update: screenshots removed at the order of the Discovery Channel

Ryukyu inu, Ryukyu tora

I was searching for "Ryukyu tora" on the Internet and was dismayed to find very little information. Ryukyu tora (tora = "tiger"), or sometimes Ryukyu Inu or Ryukyu turaa, is the breed of my last dog, Courtney, and I figure her memory deserves a lot more respect from the Internet. Courtney was a street mutt that we picked up as a puppy. I began to suspect she might an actual breed when I ran into another street dog that looked exactly like her with different coloring. After seeing photos of Ryukyu toras in a local paper, there were enough physical similarities that I decided I could call her a Ryukyu tora if I wanted to. A ryukyu inu page I found has even more photos, including a poster that has Courtney's tawny coloring labelled as the 'Aka turaa' (red tiger) breed.

All Ryukyu inu are all mutts, as World War II was not particularly kind to Okinawan dogs and the American occupation afterwards brought many non-native dogs to the island. In the early 1980s they discovered a pack of dogs in the nothern rainforests that was genetically distinct and designated it a breed. Since then, the preservation society has 'stabilized' the breed and there are now two official lineages, Yanbaru and Yaeyama, based on where they were found. There are probably less than a thousand of the Ryukyu inu around, though there might be a lot more if more stray dogs were rounded up.

According to some pages I found in Japanese Dogs: Akita, Shiba, and Other Breeds :

Ryukyu inu are medium sized dogs... [and] look very much like wild dogs, which gives the impression of extreme ferocity, but, quite to the contrary, their disposition is mild and amiable and they make loving pets. Nevertheless, they have a strong territorial instinct, and they are not necessarily good with other animals. At one time they were used to hunt wild boar, and one should bear in mind that their hunting instinct is alive and well. [I've included the Ryukyu Inu pages from the book below if you'd like to sample the book]

This description pretty much matches my experience with Courtney, except that she looked very sweet and not the least bit ferocious. She was a very loving dog who enjoyed being pet or sitting out in the yard with you staring out at the ocean. She was also a thirty pound dog that commanded respect from larger dogs.

When we were staying at a friend's house, she wouldn't let their dog enter the same room, so he would just sit there in the adjacent room sadly staring in. She also required eight Marines to hold her down for a shot and she destroyed a dog toy with a three month guarantee in a single night. We bought her three stuffed animal toys, figuring that they might last her awhile. The first lasted a week, the second a day, the third had a hole in the heart within minutes. She definitely enjoyed the hunting of wild stuffed animals.

Ryukyu Inu.1.gif Ryukyu Inu.2b.gif

February 12, 2006

Matchmaking, TiVo style

TiVo has sent out invites for a "Singles Mixer" that matches you up based on your TiVo profile:

Ever wish your TiVo� WishList� or TiVo Suggestions could score YOU the perfect match? Come flirt with the possibility of finding your own special someone, "TiVo-style." PLUS get 2 free drinks AND be automatically entered in a raffle for one of 14 brand-new TiVo boxes with product lifetime subscription! Must be present to win.

I tried to take their 'matchmaking quiz' for more laughs, but it appears that the event has already filled up. I'm betting that most people signed up for a chance to win a TiVo box.

February 13, 2006

2 * 1000 contest

I create competitions out of everything, especially when there is little or no point. In this spirit I am announcing the Second Mill-entrial Guess When kwc Posts Entry 1000 (* 2), a Celebration of Ginormous Wastes of Time. bp was probably hoping for another free dinner, but I decided to be more fair to the VA watchers and redo the prizes this time around. For the best guess of the post time of the 2000th entry, I'm offering your choice of one of these <$20.00 prizes, selected for their appropriateness to recent content:

To enter, leave a comment here with: * your guess of the exact post date and time of the 2000th entry (down to the second) * your preferred prize * your name

I promise not to read your entries until after I've posted entry #2000 -- a filter in my GMail inbox will be keeping a tally of how many entries have been made. Do not leave entries in the comments here -- you should only comment here if you wish to complain about the prize selection.

The most important thing you need to know, of course, is that this is entry #1948.

See also: First Mill-entrial Guess When kwc Posts Entry 1000

February 14, 2006

Free Web library = Hot

Yahoo has released several ui libraries. Open APIs are pretty cool, but free (Creative Commons) code gives you more options. I've been considering a redesign of this site for quite some time; the ajax, animation, and dom libraries might be of some use. They've also released a series of user interface guidelines that they call 'design patterns,' which I found interesting in that such things are now considered important enough to share.

Happy Valentine's Day

Lunaran1.jpg

credit: Lunaran over at the Something Awful forums

Valentine's Day roundup

Pulled from The Examiner and elsewhere:

  • China Daily/AP: there is "fresh demand from couples who are going under the kinfe to get their noses and even their eyes done as a sign of their love for one another.... 'I suggested it as a way of celebrating our relationship and bringing us closer together with a special kind of bond,' Liu Yan, 24, was quoted as saying of the matching nose jobs for her and her 28-year-old boyfriend."
  • Headline from the Onion Radio News: "US Leads World in Pregnancy Test Scores"
  • More than one-third of the people on Match.com list eyes as their best feature
  • Davis Freeberg left me a link to his TiVo Valentine's Mixer summary in the comments
  • GIS data can find you love: MapInfo released some Valentine's demographic summaries, such as "Laredo, home to Miss Texas USA, topped the metropolitan area list as the best place for single men seeking single women, with 89 men per 100 women in the 25 to 34 age group." Odd that no one wants to advertise Sunnyvale as one of the best places for single women to find single men (8th highest male-female ratio in US in 2000). GeoCarta has more of the MapInfo stats.
  • Plan a date for your next flight: Airtroductions
  • Puppy monorail
  • Kazo, a 4-month-old African Lion cub, plays with her new canine friend Cairo, an Italian mastiff puppy, on Friday at the Wild Animal Park in Escondido, Calif. Cairo was adopted by the park after her mother was rescued through Operation Canine Rescue in response to Hurricane Katrina.
    kazocairo.jpg
    Photo credit: Christian Calabria, Associated Press

co.mments.com

co.mments appears to be exactly what bp and I were hoping for back when we made our own RSS comment bookmarklets for our blogs. Unless you're using a service like LiveJournal, participating in a conversation on a blog can be very cumbersome as there is no standard way to get notified when you leave a comment elsewhere. co.mments gives you a bookmarklet that you click when you leave a comment and an RSS feed you can subscribe to. I have no idea how well it works, especially with highly variable MovableType blogs, but I'll be testing it out over the next week.

co.mments is similar in purpose to cocomment, but co.mments (if it works) is slightly closer to the use pattern I've been looking for.

Update: co.mments appears to work on newer MovableType blogs (i.e. 3.x templates) but not with older (e.g. kwc.org/blog) installs.

Update: assaf of co.mments quickly added support for older MovableType blogs -- thanks assaf!

2 * 1000 update

I'm aware that some might try to gain advantage by entering at the last possible moment (you know who you are :) ), which is unfair to those who boldly entered when I announced the contest. To be more fair to the prompt entries, I'm adding this addendum: starting tomorrow, all new entries will be assessed a 24-hour penalty per day, i.e. if you enter a guess tomorrow then it will be penalized 24 hours, if you enter on Thursday your guess will be penalized 48 hours, and so forth, up until the time I close entries. Today is the last day you can enter with no penalty.

February 15, 2006

Tracking this site, hello MeasureMap, goodbye mybloglog

Update: I'm no longer using MeasureMap, which seems to be abandonware now that Google bought them

If you read your status bar carefully, you've probably noticed that this site is instrumented up the wazoo with various trackers. I've been using mybloglog, Google Analytics (Urchin), and awstats in combination to maintain this site. I also occassionally use stats from Google Sitemap and Feedburner, though more out of curiousity.

  • Google Analytics: where people are going and how well I'm retaining them
  • mybloglog: what links people are interested in
  • awstats: historical data and bandwidth data from my Web server logs.
  • Feedburner: what RSS readers people are using, how many people are subscribed, and what recent posts are popular
  • Google Sitemap: what search terms pull up kwc.org, what search terms people actually click on to visit kwc.org

When my server suddenly starts bogging down, as it did during Valentine's Day due to this puzzle, Google Analytics and/or awstats can usually point the finger. When I try something new with a MythBusters episode summary, mybloglog can often tell me if visitors are actually interested in that part of the summary, though only if that data makes it into the top ten links summary that mybloglog reports.*

I've found something I think is much better than mybloglog. MeasureMap does what mybloglog does, but much, much more. It will tell you what % of your posts are being visited, it does a better job of telling you where visitors came from, and it provides data far beyond the top ten that mybloglog gives you for free. It's also visually much more appealing and without some of the display and data bugs I've encountered with mybloglog.

I've had an invite for MeasureMap since December, but I forgot about it when I went on vacation and was only recently reminded of it again with the news that MeasureMap was bought by Google, just as the purchase of Urchin got me on Google Analytics. Most of my traffic comes via Google searches, so it may be appropriate that Google properties are responsible for most of my site tracking. Where's the competition?

* Paid versions of mybloglog give you data beyond the top ten

MythBusters at Maker Faire

The MythBusters will be at Maker Faire, April 22-23 in San Mateo. Maker Faire is an event being held by Make Magazine, which is a darn cool magazine for people who want to get MacGuyver-y with electronics. The faire might give me a good jump start on my kite camera.

Disable that annoying GMail popup

gmail.gifupdate: novak has pointed out the easier "standard without chat" link at the bottom of your GMail inbox that will completely disable the chat functionality (including annoying popups).

GMail Chat has finally migrated to all of my GMail accounts. I don't really plan on using the chat functionality, so mostly I'm annoyed as the update also includes a popup window that appears anytime you hover over someone's name. It seems really, really, silly to me to see an "Invite to Chat" button when I hover over an Amazon purchase confirmation.

If you're as annoyed as I am and you have Firefox+Greasemonkey installed, Garett Rogers has written a Greasemonkey script that banishes the popup to the netherworld.

Warning: it eliminates all popup windows, including the one for the Quick Contacts pane. The popup window in the contacts pane is the only way I know managing your Quick Contacts, so if you still need to use the chat functionality you may wish to do without.

Eliminate Gmail Chat popup windows Greasemonkey script

Speaking of stats (Tuning Apache)

kwc.org has slowly been degrading in performance, but thanks to some Apache tuning slides and some followup with bp I think I have bought some more time. The key was turning off the AllowOverride for nearly every directory on this site. Way back when kwc.org had very little traffic, I had created an htaccess file to help me migrate from an older MovableType installation. It turns out that a large htaccess file and a sudden influx of traffic can bring your Apache to a halt.

I've wondered what the breaking point of my setup would be. I run kwc.org on my home Windows desktop over 802.11g and DSL. Eventually it was going to start showing cracks. January was the first month that this site eclipsed 50,000 visitors and there is a slight chance of breaking 60,000 this month. This isn't very large compared to other sites: Alexa ranks kwc.org somewhere between 116,013 and 383,693, which is not in the range that Alexa actually considers trackable. However, kwc.org is now serving 6KB/s on average, with much higher traffic during peak times and as much as 800MB in a single day. Anywhere between 10-20% of my DSL bandwidth is being eaten up, so I may have to get more creative in the future to keep things running. I've also noticed MovableType degrading, often failing to rebuild files on the first try. It will be a race between MT and my DSL line to see which requires attention next.

Almost useful Caltrain site

iamcaltrain is an attractive mashup of Yahoo maps, Flickr, and the Caltrain schedule. I've posted my own Caltrain hacks before (Caltrain vis, Caltrain tags), so anything that makes my commute easier is bound to catch my attention. iamcaltrain almost did it, but it needs a couple of tweaks:

  • I can get a station-to-station schedule, but I can't bookmark it
  • Reloading clears the schedule I'm looking at
  • Bug: To get from Mountain View to Menlo Park leaving right now it gave me the option of taking the next train to Menlo Park (15 minutes) or taking the same train all the way to San Bruno and catch a train back (1 hour 24 minutes).
  • Bug: If I type the name of a station in the start or end boxes, it assumes I'm typing an address

February 16, 2006

4th Law of Robotics

  1. A robot may not harm a human being, or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence, as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
  4. "A robot must activate its red LED when disregarding the First, Second, or Third Law."

irobots.JPG hal.jpg terminator.jpg cylon.JPG

Sony recently cancelled the Qrio, an action that was attributed to cost-cutting and product division reorganization. Closer observers know that Sony was trying to forestall the robot uprising:

redqriob.jpg

See also: RFC 3514 - The Security Flag in the IPv4 Header

Behold the awesome knowledge of Google

Google had me more than a bit disappointed with GMail + Chat and the whole China censorship issue, but Paul@Icarus Diving gives me warm fuzzy Google feelings once more with this screenshot of all the useful knowledge contained within the Google Suggest search box:

googlesuggest.jpg

No wonder people are trying to wire up their bathrooms with Web terminals -- Google really needs to add "How to use a Japanese toilet" to that list. Try it yourself if you wish to discover what other knowledge may lie within the magical textfield.

via apophenia

February 17, 2006

Myths undecorated

In my more recent episode summaries for MythBusters, I have been using screenshots from the episodes as I felt that they conveyed some of the mythbusting better than text. I did so believing this is fair use, as they were merely screenshots and not actual video clips, they were of low quality, and in no way did they devalue the original material. Apparently the Discovery Channel does not agree.

They state that I am using Discovery Channel's copyrighted material and, oddly, Discovery Channel's logo (do they mean their own logo they place in the bottom right corner of every episode?), and they are concerned that somehow someone will mistake kwc.org for a Discovery affiliated or sponsored site. This is probably a form letter and, as such, I can only expect a form response to any further inquiry. In the mean time, I have disabled the images in the links so you will see many, many broken image links. It will take quite awhile for me to fully purge the entries of these images.

I'm saddened as I feel that this was a fair, legitimate, and appropriate way in which to document MythBusters episodes. I also feel we live in a very bogus era of copyright enforcement where any weak argument can be used to effectively deter legal uses of material.

MythBusters @ Encinal High

Update: my summary and videos from the event have been posted

Even in light of my previous post, I'm still going to a "MythBusters Live Event to Benefit Encincal High" in Alameda. Perhaps they will be raising money to fix the goalposts they warped in Border Slingshot. Here are the full details:

Encinal High School Presents:
Myth Busters : Live Event to benefit Encinal High School
Saturday, Mar 25, 2006 7:00 PM PST (6:00 PM doors)
at Kofman Auditorium

Tickets are still available.

Harry Potterish Video Stamps in the Netherlands

lenticular_stamp1.gifThe Netherlands is releasing plastic 'video stamps.' The is the same technology that you've probably seen in the past with pieces of plastic you tilt back and forth, but it appears that it is done much better. More info at Gizmodo. I can't wait for the day that this becomes a consumer-available product and I can print off videos of my nephew for my parents to stick on their fridge.

Brief update

Thanks to bernadette I've been browsing the Chilling Effects database. There are a few cease and desist letters from the same law firm and one for Discovery Channel that is much more harshly worded than the one I received. They are a bit nicer in their wording now, though the arguments I feel still conflate copyright and trademark and are awash in slippery slope non sequiturs. It's still not clear to me how one defends against a cease and desist letter without financial liability.

I also found this fair use article online, which I'll link to because of it's title:

Copyright Mythbusters: Believe It or Not, Fair Use Exists

For now I've updated the MythBusters episode summaries to really, really try to make it clear that this site is not Discovery affiliated. I've also decided that I'll leave all the broken image links in so that future visitors can appreciated the absense of screenshots.

February 26, 2006

MythBusters episode guides relocated

If you're reading this blog for MythBusters episode guides, let me now point you to kwc.org/mythbusters. I've been wanting to run a separate episode guide site as I've never liked that someone searching for a MythBusters episode summary is dropped into the middle of my blog. The separate site should eliminate a lot of navigation confusion. I've also gone back through a lot of entries and have tried to add in photos to replace some of the removed screenshots where possible.

I'll still be posting MythBusters news on this blog, but the episode summaries will go to the new location.

On a related note, I'm thinking of separating out the cycling and Comic-Con content so that I can create more customized pages. I may wait until I have more artistic inspiration for those as the new mythbusters episode guide site is rather bland.

February 27, 2006

Today's Apple humor

In anticipation of Apple's Feb 28th announcement, I bring you Fair and Balanced humor coverage (one dig at Apple, one dig at Microsoft):

special leak from Engadget's What Would Jobs Do 3: apple parody

Microsoft redesigns iPod packaging (click for video)

Cyclists, please update your links

Spare Cycles (kwc.org/cycling) is my new cycling blog. I've broken off my past Tour of California, Tour de France, San Francisco Grand Prix, and other coverage and moved it on over. My reasons for doing so were similar to moving the mythbusters entries: people who want to just see cycling coverage get innundated with many entries that having nothing to do with it, it's harder to navigate, and it's harder to showcase links to other cycling-related sites.

The first new content of the Spare Cycles will go up once I finish prepping an entry on lessons learned for taking cycling photographs. The blog may be a little dormant until the Sea Otter Classic and Tour de Georgia in April (still waiting for the Morgan Hill Grand Prix announcement), but I'll see what other content I can put together that isn't just race coverage and photos.

2*1000 contest participants, don't fret. Entries for all three blogs -- this one, Unofficial MythBusters, and Spare Cycles will count towards the total. And to littlestar who thinks I don't post enough, the 57 entries I've posted this month is the greatest amount since October 2004 (also 57 entries)... and February is a short month :).

February 28, 2006

Apple *yawn* fun

I fail to see much fun in today's announcement of an Intel Mac mini, iPod HiFi, and leather cases.

  • Mac minis are the most exciting announcement, but this just feels like Jobs milking the MacIntel announcements -- the MacBook Pros just started shipping last week.
  • iPod HiFi is no different from any of the other Bose/JBL/etc stereos on the market -- except I don't think it's very attractive. They did add software updates to the iPods themselves, but it's minor upgrades such as large album art display.
  • The leather cases are 4x as expensive as my Case-ari leather case, but my Case-ari case is both high quality and it lets me use the controls and see the display.

If I were a thirdparty Apple accessory provider I would start looking for another platform to develop products for. Why develop accessories for the iPod when you know Apple is just going to take a huge cut of every product you sell, copy your ideas, make minor updates to the iPod firmware, and put the full weight of their marketing division behind it?

There is a balance between having total control over the user experience and farming it out to thirdparty vendors. Apple is moving towards total control over the user experience -- hardware, software, accessories, .Mac and store. This provides very little incentive for companies like Belkin, Griffin, Adobe, Konfabulator, and others to develop new and innovative products -- Apple will just copy them and win. Control over the user experience is nice, but if other companies are already making great accessories for your products, why not just help make them even better instead of pushing them out?

Microsoft has obviously gone too far into the farming out territory and lacks a good end-to-end user experience with music players. Jobs is right that Microsoft would probably have to do it's own music player if it wished to beat the iPod, but if Microsoft exercised half the control over it's platform that Apple has it would probably find itself back in antitrust court.

Book: Quicksilver

It took me two years, four months to finish this book. It's huge. So huge that I have to read it on weekends in coffee shops because it's too big to carry in my backpack. I can hardly remember the beginning as there's been many dozens of books I've read since I read the first page of this book and I can barely remember going to Stephenson's Quicksilver talk where I bought it. And it's not like I'm actually finished. I still have two thousand pages to go with Confusion and System of the World. Stephenson actually divides the Baroque Cycle into eight books, which I wish his publisher did because I might have been able to psychologically deal with its heft better.

I would feel more satisified if I felt that Quicksilver were anything more than exposition for the rest of the series. I can't actually call it exposition because I have not read the other two books, so I am not certain yet that Stephenson has a plot in mind. As far as I can tell, Quicksilver takes a thousand pages to explain the first chapter. I think it could have been done in fewer.

Quicksilver was fun, otherwise I would have abandoned mid-course. Jack Shaftoe's entry into the series helped pace things forward. But next time I'm buying the paperback edition and cutting it into three smaller books.