Thursday, December 30, 2004

Taibbi takes on...

This week, it's Time Magazine's pathetic, fawning "Person of the Year" issue, featuring GWB:

The "Person of the Year" issue has always been a symphonic tribute to the heroic possibilities of pompous sycophancy, but the pomposity of this year's issue bests by a factor of at least two or three the pomposity of any previous issue. From the Rushmorean cover portrait of Bush (which over the headline "An American Revolutionary" was such a brazen and transparent effort to recall George Washington that it was embarrassing) to the "Why We Fight" black-and-white portraiture of the aggrieved president sitting somberly at the bedside of the war-wounded, this issue is positively hysterical in its iconolatry. One even senses that this avalanche of overwrought power worship is inspired by the very fact of George Bush's being such an obviously unworthy receptacle for such attentions. From beginning to end, the magazine behaves like a man who knocks himself out making an extravagant six-course candlelit dinner for a blow-up doll, in an effort to convince himself he's really in love.


Also - Here's a Taibbi archive link, since I can't directly link to it on
Taibbi @

Technology Research Advances of 2004

Lots of exciting stuff here...


Record high-quality audio on your iPod

Sure, you have to install Podzilla (meaning it only works on Gen 1, 2 and 3 iPods), but this finally makes me want an iPod.


edited It only works on Gen3 iPods... Boo hoo.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

More kids dissing on old videogames

Remember those old videogames we used to play, when we were kids? How they had "more engaging gameplay?" How they didn't just "clutter up the screen with ever-more-complex graphics?" Get a load of what today's kids think of them:

On "Adventure"

The first action role-playing game, Adventure sent its dot-size hero--armed with an arrow-shaped sword--into dungeons inhabited by dragons that even the game's creator admits look like water fowl.
Bobby: A duck ate me.

EGM: A what ate you?

Parker: A pink duck.

EGM: What do you think this character's name is?

Parker: Dot. Or Adventure? That's what this game is, isn't it? Go up, go up, go up.

Bobby: Stupid duck. I hate the duck. The duck is evil.

Parker: Go left, go left. Grab the arrow. That's the only way you can kill the duck. You have to run that into the duck.

Garret: It's a spear or something.

Bobby: [Enters castle] I'm just going to store all my keys and useless stuff in here. I'm going to store my duck in there.

EGM: Do you identify with this dot?

Garret: No. The dot is small. I am not.


Link to original article

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Does anyone care about your signature?

Credit card signatures are a useless mechanism designed to make you feel safe, like airport security checks. So my question was, how crazy would I have to make my signature before someone would actually notice?


One more cynical Christmas link

Not really SFW.


South Park makes a difference

Sure, Lloyd Grove gives a list of reasons for why he's not going to write about the antics of Paris Hilton anymore, but we all know the real reason.


Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Allegro Media Server released!

Finally, people with Omnifi streamers can use iTunes and a Macintosh as a server. Unfortunately, it's $25 (and that's only the introductory price), but you can download a free demo version to make sure it works with your gigantic media library (Adam!).


Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Nerd stopped nuclear armageddon on a "hunch"

Two decades ago:

Moscow — Just after midnight, in a secret bunker outside Moscow, the warning sirens began to blare. A simple, ominous message flashed on the bunker's main control panel: Missile Attack!

It was no drill. A Soviet satellite had detected five U.S. nuclear missiles inbound.

The control computer ordered a counterstrike, but the bunker commander, a nerdy lieutenant colonel named Stanislav Petrov, acting on a hunch, overrode the computer and told his Kremlin superiors it was a false alarm. The Soviet brass quickly stood down their missiles, saving 100 million Americans from nuclear incineration.


Ho ho ho

Between this piece, and the gloriously horrifying Christmas Critters episode of South Park, I think I've gotten my fill of anti-Christmas bile.


Monday, December 20, 2004

What the hell do we stand for?

Matt Taibbi (of Wimblehack fame) writes - and please excuse the giant quotation:

The other side is energized because its vision of the future is clear; it wants a return to the days when the one organizing concept of sexual relations was marriage for life, when patriotism was putting on a uniform and fighting for freedom, when the goal of life was a good job, hard work, kids, the church, a house and a well-attended funeral.

These are all reasonable goals to have when you know heaven is at the end of it all. That's what it comes down to. They're fighting for a simple path to heaven, while the rest of us are fighting for something a little less exciting: the desire to have a more rational and inoffensive political atmosphere within which to wrestle with the underlying problem of existential despair in a confusing secular world whose only offered paradises are affluence, sexual freedom and consumer choice.

What's ironic is that a lot of what motivated the progressive sector within and even outside the Democratic party this time around was a rebellion against this very set of circumstances. Certainly there was an intellectual basis for a lot of the anti-corporate anger that goaded people onto the streets in the past years—legitimate disgust over the idea that the honest jobs that used to be held by Americans had been exported abroad, where Asian children working for pennies an hour stitched together the sneakers we all bring to the gym—but it went deeper than that. There was a lot of anger out there at the underlying concept that the ultimate purpose of life was to acquire things, that the answer society provides us to each of our personal problems was a product.

Most of us are aware and despairing on some level that our lives have become de-eroticized, that love and romance are not all around us but have to be hunted for with the kind of desperation that people used to bring when they went west looking for gold. But the answers that society gives us for this sexual desert are Viagra and Cialis and Levitra, products that allow us to stay hard for hours as we hump the indifferent mannequins we run into in bars. The country is lonely, self-obsessed and the individual members of the population are offered a thousand ways to improve their individual appearance and vigor. But there seems to be no solution on the horizon that anyone is offering to bring us more together, to give us the things we really need—love and acceptance and community.

We blame corporate America for this state of affairs because this ideology of individual acquisitiveness is the religion it naturally preaches. But it's our failure to come up with a competing ideology of getting along that's the real problem. Down south, in those "backward" red states, they vote the way they do because they see this individualistic religion as a creature of the cold, greedy, north, which has chosen to attack the idiocy of the right-wing church rather than admit to its own spiritual unhappiness.

Bush is our fault. He's our fault because too many of us found it easier to hate him than find a way to love each other. If we work on the second thing a little harder, we won't need to rely on the cynics in the DLC to come up with the right "formula" the next time around. Because happiness and hope have a way of selling themselves.


Fark takes on LOTR-ROTK

Hilarity ensues...


Sunday, December 19, 2004

End of the line for Suprnova and Torrentbits



Friday, December 17, 2004

Apple sues "unidentified individual" over flash player leaks

Can you even do this?

The complaint alleges that "an unidentified individual, acting alone or in concert with others, has recently misappropriated and disseminated through Web sites confidential information about an unreleased Apple product."

Apple said in the seven-page civil complaint, filed on Dec. 13, that it did not know the "true names or capacities, whether individual, associate, corporate or otherwise," of the defendants. Once they have been discovered, the Cupertino, California-based company said it would amend the complaint.

Why would Apple file a complaint against an unknown person? All this does is give credibility to the rumor.


Most breathless science article I've ever read

True, it's about making paralyzed rats walk again, but do we really need to read things like this?

But in cramped university labs, a young neurobiologist with movie star good looks, a Carl Sagan-like fondness for the popular media and an entrepeneur's nose for profits is getting tantalizingly close.


"We all love Hans - for various reasons," giggled Karen Miner, whose advocacy organization helps fund Keirstead's work.

No. No we don't.


Apple phone coming soon?

Everyone who thinks about technology convergence seems to come to the same conclusion - soon it will all be on your phone. Cellphones offer high-end tech at low prices, thanks to the subsidized model of locking you into a cellular contract with each sale. I guess Steve Jobs has come to this conclusion as well, as the usually tight-lipped executives at Apple are already talking about this in public...

Link doubles their prices! 2 cents/MB. My question is this: Has any artist or record label ever received a dime from this company?


Bush team faces "challange" of contradictory economic messages

Throughout a two-day conference on the economy, President Bush and his allies extolled the virtues of his tax cuts and "pro-growth" policies, which they said have lifted the nation from recession and propelled it well above its international economic competitors. If Washington adheres to the path of fiscal restraint while following the president's tax prescriptions, it was suggested, policymakers could secure powerful economic growth far into the future.

Yet when the subject turned to the nation's legal or Social Security systems, the picture grew suddenly dark. Frivolous lawsuits have hobbled America's businesses and have put them at the mercy of their enlightened overseas competition, administration officials said. As for federal entitlements, a rising tide of retiring baby boomers will inevitably slow economic growth and bankrupt Social Security.

"The crisis is now," Bush warned in his closing speech.


Thursday, December 16, 2004

White House faces financial "challanges"

The word "challenges" -- a main theme of a two-day White House economic conference that ended on Thursday -- was misspelled on a large television monitor that stood in front of Bush during a panel discussion.

"Financial Challanges for Today and Tomorrow," the message proclaimed in dark blue capital letters against a bright yellow background.


TV that can be enjoyed on two different "levels"

However, I'm not sure what kids were getting out of this, given the over-the-top level of double-entendre-ing going on.


thanks, Dano

Matthew "Fluxblog" Perpetua likes Sunset Homes

The "beebs," as he was once known, has posted the first track off our new record today.

"O Sing, Transformer" is a melancholy wartime hymn which bridges the gap between the two bands, combining the spacey sound effects of the Shimmer Kids with the crisp, unaffected production style of the Society.


Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Chinese rushing into stem cell treatments

This sounds like a somewhat scary combination of hyper-advanced western medicine and laying-on-of-hands faith-healing.

The long-term impact of the surgery remains unknown, but that does not bother patients who would otherwise have only a few years to live, nor does it bother those like Golden who are willing to try anything to get out of a wheelchair. "People like me and the others in this hospital are willing to risk everything, even our lives. I'll be a guinea pig. Some hope is better than none."


Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Namco to open ramen-oriented theme park

Namco's park will feature seven different ramen establishments featuring the styles of different regions and urban neighborhoods, from the roast-pork ramen of Tokyo's Shinjuku district to the salty ramen of Osaka.


thanks, Dano!

In defense of idleness

I distrust the perpetually busy; always have. The frenetic ones spinning in tight little circles like poisoned rats. The slower ones, grinding away their fourscore and ten in righteousness and pain. They are the soul-eaters.


Monday, December 13, 2004

Alien Loves Predator

Whoever wins, we laugh...


News of the gross

Wanna know what this is?

You probably don't, but if you do, here's the story:


Christopher Hitchens: Let the Afghan Poppies Bloom

Bloodthirsty "neoliberal" Christopher Hitchens takes a contrarian look at the Drug War, and its devastating impact on the recovery of Afghanistan.

Reporting from Afghanistan a few months ago (Vanity Fair, November 2004) I pointed out a few obvious facts. Twenty and more years ago, the country's main export was grapes and raisins. It was a vineyard culture. But many if not most of those vines have been dried up or cut down, or even uprooted and burned for firewood, in the course of the hideous depredations of the past decades. An Afghan who was optimistic enough to plant a vine today could expect to wait five years before seeing any return for it, whereas a quick planting of poppies will see pods flourishing in six months. What would you do, if your family or your village were on a knife-edge? The American officers I met, tasked with repressing this cultivation, were to a man convinced that they were wasting their time and abusing the welcome they had at first received in the countryside. It doesn't take much intelligence to understand the history of Prohibition, or to know that American consumer demand is strong enough to overcome any attempt to inhibit supply. In any case, we know this already from dire experience in Bolivia, Colombia, and Mexico.

There is the further point that opium is good for us. Painkillers and anesthetics have to come from somewhere, and we have an arrangement with Turkey to grow and refine the stuff that we need. Why Turkey, an already over-indulged client state? Isn't it time to give the struggling Afghans a share of the business? We could simultaneously ensure a boost for Afghan agriculture, remove an essential commodity from terrorist and warlord control, and guarantee a steady supply of analgesics that would be free of impurities or additives.


Hollywood fails to ram any bills through Congress this year

Maybe it's that all the bills (like INDUCE, etc.) were far to over-arching, but this gives me hope that when it comes to messing with technology, Congress isn't eager to capitulate to Hollywood after all. Sadly, it could be the product of a Republican majority.


HBO claims no paid product placements

I find this hard to believe, but HBO is steadfast in their denials, as are the supposed customers. They say the plugs are just there to make the dialog seem more real.


The danger of patent-licensing firms

Many have compared these new patent licensing firms to terrorists, and in some ways, the analogy is apt. When the Soviet Union collapsed, one of the biggest worries was that rogue military personnel might sell off one or more of the USSR's nuclear missiles to a terrorist group. Securing those weapons became a top priority. The reason was fear -- fear that the terrorists, who had little to nothing at stake in terms of world peace and national stability, would use the missiles to extort or manipulate the world political climate. Unlike the United States or China, which could be retaliated against and which had a stake in stability, terrorists were essentially immune from attack, and thrived on instability.

With the patents of bankrupt dot-coms, the dynamics are similar. Rogue licensing firms buy up these patents and then threaten legitimate innovators and producers. They have no products on which a countersuit can be based and no interest in stable marketplaces, competition or consumer benefit. Their only interest is in the bottom line.


Sunday, December 12, 2004

Finally - the iPod-killer I've been waiting for.

Samsung's snappily-named "YH-920GS" has the features I've been waiting for in a small form-factor hard disk-based MP3 player:

Virtually the same size as an Apple iPod, the 20GB device can play back MP3, WMA (including protected WMA), WAV, OGG, and Audible files, and it includes an FM tuner and recorder, line-in recording, and a voice recorder.


Hollywood continues de-featuring your PVR

A middle-level executive at Time Warner has approached several cable companies and broached the idea of restricting the ability of customers who use those company's Digital Video Recorders to record several popular Time Warner TV programs.

The term being used by the executive is"transitional fair use," and the scenerio laid out goes roughly along these lines:

Viewers would be able to record an episode with their DVR, but there would be a time limit on how long it would be available for viewing. The executive was pushing for an expiration date that coincided with the premiere of the next episode. The consensus of the cable executived was that it needed to be between 2-4 weeks.

One more reason to buy a Replay before they're illegal.


Friday, December 10, 2004

Disney vs. Comix

Great article up on Reason about Disnay's case against a couple dirty hippy comic artists back in the seventies. A couple choice chunks:

After losing a copyright case to Disney in court for depicting Mickey Mouse in a number of sexual situations, Cartoonist Dan O'Neill decided to do it again:

“Doing something stupid once is just plain stupid,” says O’Neill. “Doing something stupid twice is a philosophy. When you’re down $190,000 in a poker game, you have to raise.” The next step was obvious: Commit a new crime. If O’Neill defied the injunction, Disney’s only recourse would be to have him held in contempt of court. “And then they have to put you in jail,” he says. “For drawing a mouse? In the land of the free? No way.”

After Disney sued him again...

The June 28 San Francisco Chronicle reported that a settlement seemed likely. The terms were rumored to include no admission of guilt by, and no jail time for, O’Neill, though the damage award would remain in place. O’Neill’s recollection of the final proceeding is positive. “It was great,” he says. “The judge told ’em, ‘I’m not gonna welcome this case into my court. If you bring him in on criminal contempt, he will bring up the First Amendment…I will not end my legal career as a judge that weakened the First Amendment.…Now you knocked him down once, and he got up and hit you back. You knocked him down twice, and he got up and hit you back. You knocked him down three times, and he got up and hit you back. By now, you should have figured out he’s Irish.’”

Laveroni remembers no such admonition. Keker says, “It’s what Judge Wollenberg should have said. I have no recollection, so I can’t deny it was said. There are some facts too good to check.”


Google with Autocomplete



Thursday, December 09, 2004

The IEEE on how to fix the patent system

First, create incentives and opportunities for parties to challenge the novelty and nonobviousness of an invention before the PTO grants a patent.

Second, provide multiple levels of application review, with examiners devoting successively more time and effort as an application proceeds to higher levels. The goal would be to avoid wasting money to meticulously examine unimportant patents, while taking sufficient care to avoid mistakes where the stakes are high.

Finally, in cases involving claims of patent invalidity based on the existence of prior art—that is, previously issued patents or public disclosures covering the invention at issue—replace juries with judges who could call on experts, called special masters, for guidance. The change would give parties threatened by invalid patents a better opportunity to make their cases to the court.

The first two proposals aim to make the PTO more effective at a reasonable cost. The third addresses the reality that since even the best of all possible PTOs will make mistakes, we need a court system capable of correcting them.


Canadian Supreme Court rules in favor of gay marriage

A victory for Canadian values.


A little something for the Stern fans

"What's the beef, sir?"


Touchscreen voter hacker comes clean

Not that this is evidence of fraud...blahblahblah

In the vote fraud prototype that I created things are not what they seem. Hidden on the screen are invisible buttons. A person with knowledge of the locations of those invisible buttons can then use them to alter the votes of everyone before them. By clicking the correct order of invisible buttons the candidate selected by the user is compared to other candidates within that same race. If the candidate they selected is leading the race nothing happens. If the other candidate is leading the race the vote totals are altered so that the selected candidate is now leading the race with 51% of the vote. The other candidates then share the remaining 49% in exact proportion to the totals they had previously.

Sound familiar (exit polls, anyone?)?

To be fair, this was just a proof-of-concept, not an actual deployed machine, as far as I can tell. However:

[The programmer] states he initially believed that [the Republican who hired him] sought to stop Democrats from using such a program and “wanted to be able to detect and prevent that if it occurred.”

It was not until after the prototype was delivered that he says he got wind of its possible, more nefarious usage.

According to his affidavit, Yang, his employer, later informed him that the software might be used to “control the vote in South Florida.” He says that he would never have developed the software had he known its alleged ultimate purpose.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Audi RS4 pix

Look for this next year (as if I could afford one of these...).


This one's for Damon

A new Westfalia concept car...


It's the class war, stupid!

David Sirota gets real with Democrats and gives them a nice juicy message for electability: "F*** the rich!" I'm increasingly on this side of the debate. Running to the center only seemed to work for one guy: Bill Clinton.


Tuesday, December 07, 2004

The Yes Men prank the BBC

Maybe you all have seen this, but the fake website, apologizes for the Union Carbide Bhopal disaster, and promises $12 billion dollars in compensation for the victims.


Watch the video

Dow and Union Carbide still have trouble articulating their lack of concern over the Bhopal tradgedy, so the Yes Men have given them a hand.

Lik-Sang takes on the PSP

This looks powerful and beautiful. Shame about the load times, though.


IGN has their impressions too.

The writing deficiencies of corporate America

Even CEOs need writing help, said Roger S. Peterson, a freelance writer in Rocklin, Calif., who frequently coaches executives. "Many of these guys write in inflated language that desperately needs a laxative," Peterson said, and not a few are defensive. "They're in denial, and who's going to argue with the boss?"

But some realize their shortcomings and pay Peterson to help them improve. Don Morrison, a onetime auditor at Deloitte & Touche who has built a successful consulting business, is among them.

"I was too wordy," Morrison said. "I liked long, convoluted passages rather than simple four-word sentences. And I had a predilection for underlining words and throwing in multiple exclamation points. Finally Roger threatened to rip the exclamation key off my keyboard."


What I want for Christmas

This thing is a MIDI interface, an audio input/output USB interface, and touch-sensitive (albeit small) keyboard, with a cool, theremin-style hand-waving interface "dome," and a pile of assignable control knobs. It's supposedly $200.


Update: This is not out quite yet...

The Economist, on the perilous state of the US dollar

The dollar is not what it used to be. Over the past three years it has fallen by 35% against the euro and by 24% against the yen. But its latest slide is merely a symptom of a worse malaise: the global financial system is under great strain. America has habits that are inappropriate, to say the least, for the guardian of the world's main reserve currency: rampant government borrowing, furious consumer spending and a current-account deficit big enough to have bankrupted any other country some time ago. This makes a dollar devaluation inevitable, not least because it becomes a seemingly attractive option for the leaders of a heavily indebted America.


Nice juicy hypocrisy from "family values" Bush supporter



Monday, December 06, 2004

Former "ex-gay" ministry changes tune

It's hard to tell what they are advocating now. I guess "gay relationships, entered into sincerely, with mutual commitment." And lots of hand-wringing. Too bad these guys are in the UK.


"Shockingly frank" Pentagon report admits we've lost the propaganda war

The Pentagon has admitted that the war on terror and the invasion and occupation of Iraq have increased support for al-Qaeda, made ordinary Muslims hate the US and caused a global backlash against America because of the “self-serving hypocrisy” of George W Bush’s administration over the Middle East.

The mea culpa is contained in a shockingly frank “strategic communications” report, written this autumn by the Defence Science Board for Pentagon supremo Donald Rumsfeld.

First of all - "supremo?" I think the correct term is "Secretary of Defense."

Second of all - how is it that all these off-message reports keep getting issued by the Pentagon?


Museum of natural "history"

How long until this is paid for with tax dollars?


BoingBoing story
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