Wednesday, December 19, 2007

This is just too 'low hanging fruit'

What will we do for humor when Bush and Cheney are banished to the Phantom Zone come 2008?

There was a fire today in the Executive Office Building directly across the street from the White House. Dark black smoke was seen billowing out of the front.

I've actually been in this building. It used to be the offices for the State, War, and Navy Departments, and now houses the Office of Management and Budget and staff of the National Security Council and other agencies.

VP Cheney has a 'ceremonial office' in the building.

Ahem. Take a deep breath...just savor it.

AP reporters indicated that the room was cloaked in heavy black curtains, allowing complete and total darkness, save from that of the infernal sulphuric glow from the gaping portal to Hell, which just happens to occupy most of the floor in front of the VP's desk. Staffers referred to the office as 'ceremonial' because, as one anonymous source indicated, "he likes to make his sacrifices to his Dark Lord away from the White know...the whole 'don't sh*t where you eat' thing."

Cheney was located in the West Wing of the White House, and so was unharmed by unexpected blaze, which apparently resulted from the smoking remnants of a recent offering. Fire officials reported seeing several scurrying eight legged creatures crawling the utterly colorless drapes and leaving burning patches of velvet in their collective wake.

When contacted, Cheney asked the fire officials to put him on speakerphone so he could recite arcane commands derisive of Yog-Sothothery, with which to banish the nefarious critters.

White House officials were quick to engage in damage control and released this activity designed to inform Americans on the true identity of their 'elected' official.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Hoping for Hobbit not vomit

It took over a year to get all the litigation issues worked out, but Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh are again associated with Tolkien's, 'The Hobbit'...except he's not directing it would seem. He's in the Producer's seat...hmmm. This movie could very well sucketh...having Steven Spielberg produce this year's 'Transformers' helmed by Michael Bay's just barely made it better than his earlier flotsam, 'Pearl Harbor'.

Who knows. It could not suck. I'm betting on the Jackson for making it happen. Maybe they want him in the producer's seat since he made all three of the Lord of the Rings films in concurrent production, thereby saving buttloads of scrill. Who's going to direct? Hmm...there were some rumors that Sam Raimi would take the reigns. Could be good. Could be. Then again, it could stink like that pile of vomit I saw in the BART station last night.

Finally, a movie worthy of Will Smith's abilities

Check the trailer for Hancock.

WALL-E trailer

Lasseter always seemed a little smug to me...'I did Toy Story 1/2, A Bug's Life, and Cars, what did Brad Bird ever do! Oh, well if you're gonna count The Iron Giant, The Incredibles, Ratatouille, and the countless Simpsons episode on which he was the creative consultant, then fine. I BIRTHED Pixar and I get to greenlight films!'

Needless to say, I'm looking forward to the new Lasseter Pixar film, 'Wall-E'. Here's the trailer.

And speaking of Brad Bird, his next film (1906) sounds like it's going to be live-action.

24 hours between trains during Winter

Wet weather seems to bring out different behavior on BART.

The train this morning was pretty full. More people want the safety and sanity of transportation that runs on rails and isn't prone to careless brakers or lane-changers. I'm standing in the middle of the aisle, reading Fahrenheit 451, when this gentlemen gets on board and stands RIGHT NEXT TO ME.

Now the train isn't that full...not the full that the after work rush gets where everyone is packed like sardines and you can't help but be all up in someone's space.

No. This morning's train was moderately full, but this guy decided that he needed to brace himself against me. I know what you're thinking...he wasn't getting overly friendly...he was, for some reason, dead set against not moving from his spot and didn't mind if his shoe soles were nestled up on mine. Of course, he wanted to rub elbows as well...just to let me know that he cared. I didn't have much room, to reposition, and even if I did, I find it rude that some people get in your space in order to attempt to claim it. So I kept elbowing back (this is all very childish I know), and eventually he calmed down a little.

I kept thinking...what if this is all a set up and this guy's trying to get on or something. He was definitely on par with the elevator lady.

I kept kicking myself for not having this clever video device my sister showed me...I'd have filmed the whole thing and put it up on youtube. Unfortunately, all I have are his bad manners to remember...and some slight indentations on the side of my shoe.

The funny thing is...well not so much funny...was that almost 24 hours previously, I was at 12th Street waiting to get on and notice this dude slumped over on the brick stairwell rail. Not too remarkable. Then I noticed the sharp, tangy smell of partially digested food and see that homeboy had just booted his sauce onto the platform. It looked pretty fresh too. Chunky in the right places, and thin and runny in the others. Well, if I'd had the proper video equipment you'd be able to participate in that lovely slice of citizen journalism.

BART just seems to be so much more interesting during Winter...especially closer to the holiday weeks. I guess it's because of Christmachannukwanzaa, and of course, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Lessons learned - vundo and Beacon make out at badware reunions

This Saturday I spent most of the day working on removing variants of the vundo Trojan dropped on my most favorite and dear in-laws.

It's unclear how they got the little jerk on their machine, but Norton Real-Time Protection picked it up almost immediately, and started broadcasting the fact that it couldn't do anything about it. More than likely, someone clicked on a link in a spam email.

So, while this harangue has something to do with trojan removal, and 'ultimate' Windows boot CDs, it also has something to do with online privacy.

Here are some little vignettes I would like to impart:
  1. Vundo is malware that's part adware part trojan, and while it's not all that serious to your machine (nothing's going to blue screen you), it is extremely hard to remove.
  2. There's so much 'information' on the internets about removing 'vundo' and its variants that I won't contribute to the noise. The entry on wikipedia is a fair summary. Needless to say, Symantec and McAfee don't provide methods to remove. It would seem that while these companies used to develop fixes for issues like these, there are more and more niche businesses and open source developers out there that create specialized tools that make a company like Symantec's investment in development for one trojan foolish and unnecessary.
  3. My method of removal consisted of making a Windows boot CD, which allows your copy of XP to load from CD, and removing all the adware and malware I could find, then by manually removing the randomly named dlls (c:/windows/system32...) that vundo creates. Those little bastards would still be in use even in Safe Mode. Even using a process tool that could suspend certain processes so adware or malware removal programs (like Ad-Aware or SpyBot Search and Destroy) could scan the hard drive didn't remove the thing.
  4. This all relates to protecting your privacy. EPIC has a bunch of safe tools that can be employed to aid in the quest to maintain your anonymity, but once something (trojans, worms, or other viral nasties) is on your machine you should consider yourself compromised and take steps to sever your connection with the internet, as these pieces of code can track your keystrokes, harvest your emails from your address book, harvest password information, or at least turn your machine into a zombie, which will then be used by some 15-year old hacker in the Netherlands to run a distributed denial of service execution against eBay.
  5. Oh, and make your wireless network secure. I had to check email on the road one day and just drove around and refreshed the available networks until I found one that wasn't locked down. If you don't change your administrator login (like your password from 'password'), then someone who knows the manufacturer's default credentials can just hop on your network, access the router, login, and get whatever they want from any machine connected to the network.
  6. While consumer regulation defeated the intrusions of Facebook's Beacon, and has launched AskEraser, which allows you to anonymize your query activity through the site, the larger issues are: Ask gets some of its results returned from Google, and Google doesn't anonymize this information, and everything that goes through your ISP (like AT&T or Comcast) is stored on their servers and personally identifies you.
  7. Will consumer regulation activity extend to government regulation? Seems like we don't have a problem complaining to Facebook about our shopping information being made available to perfect strangers, but for some reason our government seems content to perpetuate the military-industrial complex when it should be focused on evolving from an country that requires a surge of troops to bump up the economy. Is the populace not vocal enough? Is all this talk about torture farming and warrantless wiretaps spooking the citizenry into silence?

Friday, December 14, 2007

Holy spooky comics

While trolling through MySpace and Facebook pages under the guise of 'exploration', a news report banner stole my attention away from the abundance of shockingly personal and easily identifiable information: the Catholic Church released an 'Anti Abuse Coloring Book'.

Now all my attempts at prowling the internets will go unfulfilled! The Catholic Church is just so proactive and responsive to concerns about young people being violated, molested, and dismissed.

OK, so I'm just a little in shock from this. Not that it's a completely accurate parallel, but it smacks of the Philip-Morris anti-smoking campaigns.

The funny thing is that the comic above doesn't say 'priest' says 'adult', as in: don't be alone in a room with a priest. Just come out and say it, you mean to tell little boys that they shouldn't be in rooms alone with priests because, know...they can't keep their sticky fingers to themselves.

Don't get mad at me for making such comments. Be mad at the Church for the abuse it's enacted upon its parishioners.

Me...I'm Jewish. Jews kick ass.

Monday, December 10, 2007

If you don't vote, the Martians win

So what do you want the next President and his/her (first time I get to say that, pretty cool) administration to achieve?

For me, I'm seeing this next election as the opportunity to inject some new blood and their fresh ideas into the highest office of an elected official.

I want someone ,who, when they say 'The American people want...', is actually talking about things that I consider to be relevant for me and for the global community. We can't shirk the 'community' tagline anymore. We are a global economy. Economic markets are becoming further and further dependent on efforts taken by a companies in separate hemispheres, acts that impact the environment aren't confined to one country's shoreline or horizon, and with an ever increasely 'connected' technological infrastructure governmental power cannot reside solely in the hands of those who graduated college when the television was the next biggest thing.

There is undoubtedly incontestable value and wisdom in our older generations, and in order to make such wisdom actionable, extensible, and flexible in an ever-changing world is to incorporate it within newer power structures and people familiar which such structures. For example, you wouldn't put Ted Stevens in charge of a government body charged with defining the nation's goals associated with Net Neutrality.

Oh wait...maybe you would.

Alaskan Sen. Ted Stevens (R) is a prime example of such this disparity between those in political office and their understanding of the ever-expanding haze of the Internets, or in his words, a 'series of tubes'.

I'm not saying that the next President needs be a sys admin, but he or she must have a basic grasp of email, networks, blogs, instant messaging, wireless security concerns (if they set up their own wireless network at home did they change the username and password from the manufacturer's default), consumer privacy (nicely brought to the forefront by Facebook's Beacon scandal - thank you CA researchers), and issues of broadband accessibility.

Unfortunately, I'm not too clear on how we're going to get the model changed. It's not like there is an army of lobbyists charging up Capitol Hill trying to get issues (for example) like consumer privacy dealt with on the scale of, say, legions of T2000s that descend from pharm or medical industry dropships.

For one, I'm not sure the government is the best tool in place in order to contend with something like consumer privacy. I'm thinking that Beacon and its PR nightmare have helped to awaken some people to the issue that we've been like lobsters sitting in a pot that's slowly been getting warmer, and only when it's too late do we realize that we're cooked. Plus, given the broad reaching impacts of the Homeland Security Act, and Mitt Romney's desire to get biometric devices installed in people, I'm even more loathe to have someone who gets puzzled when the computer tells them to push the 'any' key run anything related to my privacy.

Second, I think candidates are recognizing the fact that they need to be more tech savvy. That's why they flock in droves to the Google campus to talk about their ides on innovation. The nice thing about technology is that for the most part it's usually a binary issue: it's on or off, it's either this or it isn't - meaning, a candidate will know what SQL does or a candidate will not. There's not much wiggle room there, and typically wiggling in this area is an indication that you don't know, and don't want others to know about it.

Third, the sooner we get on board with the integrated village model the better, since we're going to have to start talking about the Martian invasion at some point, and it'd be better if we're all on the same page as a species. Those Martians just love to see us tearing at our throats...makes conquest easier.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

DLC for BioShock released: 4 new plasmids

Looks like I jumped the gun on that last one, but those plasmids were mentioned in the code...maybe it's for a later release. Ecology plasmids would really add a new dimension to the gameplay.

Only 4 new plasmids have been released, per 2K Games:
  • Sonic Boom (1 & 2): Hurls creatures and objects back with a blast of force.
  • EVE Saver (1 & 2): Enables Plasmids to use less EVE.
  • Vending Expert (1 & 2): Reduces prices in the vending machines.
  • Machine Buster (1 & 2): Increases the amount of damage players deal to cameras, bots and turrets.
Xbox360 users will be prompted to access the content when they load the game and connect to their Live account. PC users will need to download and install a patch. All the info in on the 2K Games site.
Completely semi-related...recently saw Kooza and I'm almost 100% positive that the set and costume designers modeled the under-stage utility-commanding Deep Sea diver looking character after a BioShock Big Daddy.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

No Ahhnold for Terminator 4 - is there anything Christian Bale can't do?

I was having a conversation with a friend about who today's current swiss army knife actor...the actor who seems to pop up in unrelated films and always nails the role regardless of how questionable the film may be. Such an actor usually makes the film more enjoyable.

Names were thrown around. Val Kilmer (we excused him for Thunderheart) was one...c' never saw his breakout role in 'Real Genius'? It even had the Tears for Fears hit, Everybody Wants to Rule the World, as the soundtrack's terminus; wrapping the ending up in a nice little package proving that brains can always overcome government stupidity assuming you know how to substitute a 'prom' with the 'reprom' (a little inside Real Genius humor).

Can't remember the others we discussed, probably because the crux of the matter revolved around one actor we both agreed displayed the requisite wicked thespian chops: Christian Bale.

He broke out in Steven Spielberg's 'Empire of the Sun' in 1987. I personally feel that it was his disturbing portrayal of the 'American Psycho' character Patrick Batemen conceived in Bret Easton's eponymous novel that put him on the map. From there he chose films that balanced box office appeal and roles that explored the shadowy facets of humanity without becoming overly saturated in maudlin themes...with 'The Prestige' probably being one of the more darker films of his films.

Needless to say I was thrilled to hear that he'd be picking up the Terminator franchise as John Connor, whom we all know as Sarah Connor's son, who saves humanity from the brink of extinction from the machines led by SkyNet's brutal self-aware AI. Producers are calling it a 'reboot' of the franchise, a term that's becoming more and more popular these days (think the J.J. Abrams 'Star Trek' project). No word yet on who'll be the antagonist, since the Governator has his own battles to field at present.

[sidenote: is this 'rebooting' another indication that Hollywood is running out of ideas, or that present-day themes are so fleeting or uncompelling that it keeps returning to topics it knows were once innovative, visionary, and thrilling...what is it about today's climate that's so less interesting? Are we being lulled deeper into a consumer oriented fugue? Facebooking our privacy away? Are we losing ourselves to our Second Lives, or are dynamic virtual communities making such static artifacts as lights projected on a screen passé?]

Bale is returning as Bruce Wayne/Batman in Christopher Nolan's 'rebooted' 'Batman' franchise, and recently appeared in '3:10 to Yuma' and is scheduled to headline in 2009's 'Killing Pablo', also starring one of the scariest villains ever to grace the screen in this year's 'No Country for Old Men'...Javier Bardem. Should be good stuff. They've even gotten out a trailer for the new Terminator film! Amazing! Didn't see Christian Bale though...

Monday, December 3, 2007

It's not a Lifeclock, but it's close

(finally, I can use this picture again)

For $999 would you want to know what your genetic composition means to you?

Are you more prone to certain kinds of cancer?

Will you get Alzheimer's?

Are you mother's ancestors really from the Black Forest region in Germany?

Are you related to Dave Chappelle's mom?, launching with backing from Google and NEA, offers a service to provide you with these answers and more for a cheek swab and $999. Uber-brains and people with lots of academic suffixes fill out their employment roster.

Interestingly enough, most of the more compelling resources (did you get your good teeth from your dad?) requires that family members also be participants in the service, so that would mean a very expensive Christmachannukwanzaa present for everyone in the clan.

One of the founders, Anne Wojcicki, is the new wife of Google co-founder Sergey Brin. Given the nature of Google to acquire all that is known about you in order to provide more 'customized advertisements', it's an interesting service to be sure, but I'm loathe to keep pumping Google and its related subsidiaries with personal information. I'm looking at you, Facebook.

Can you imagine the type of money Google could charge companies wishing to advertise through them if Google statisticians and biologists found a strong correlation between your genetic composition and people who sell or re-lease their car every 2 years? I keep thinking about Oryx and Crake for some reason.

All conspiracy notions aside, I'm also thinking that results from this test would also allow you to get a better sense of your own mortality. Would you want to know when and how you'll expire, if you could? Or is this just going to be a totally awesome tool for people who finally want to put an end to the debate about how Irish are they really come St. Paddy's day?

A great game gets better

Recent news relevant to gamers, specifically BioShock gamers, is the news that certain plasmids will be made available via downloadable content (DLC) for PCs and consoles. This should be interesting to see, as typical DLC involves new gaming levels or game maps, but in this case we see gameplay elements becoming accessible. Given the scope and depth of BioShock, enabling elements like this greatly adds replay value as it redefines the way a player approaches ingame situations.

The details of these plasmids is contained in some of the game code in its current iteration, however, it would appear that 2K (the publisher) didn't release the content for the initial shipping of the game. Folks have done some detective work and uncovered a number of plasmids. Expect to see these made available through the free DLC.

Vending Expert
Sonic Boom
EVE Saver
Machine Bully
Life Drain
Telekenisis 2
Electric Bolt Zero (what the heck is that?)

These appear to be a whole new family of Plasmids called 'Ecology Plasmids'
Name: Mutant Synergy Plasmid (Ecology)
Description: Junkers who are near to you will take less damage.

Name: Drone Neural Dampening Field Plasmid (Ecology)
Description: Drones take longer to sound their alarms when near you.

Name: Pressure Manipulation Plasmid (Ecology)
Description: You can use a Pressure Station even if its timer is currently running.

Name: Drone Attractant Plasmid (Ecology)
Description: Makes Drones want to follow you.

Name: Drone Synergy Plasmid (Ecology)
Description: Drones who are near to you will take less damage.

Name: High-Pressure Armor Plasmid (Ecology)
Description: When local pressure is high, you take less damage.

Name: High-Pressure Conservation Plasmid (Ecology)
Description: When local pressure is high, your Active Plasmids consume less EVE.

Name: High Pressure Entropic Dampening Plasmid (Ecology)
Description: When local pressure is high, your weapons will not degrade.

Name: High-Pressure Plasmid Synergy Plasmid (Ecology)
Description: When local pressure is high, all your other Plasmids are treated as if they had an extra slot.

Name: High-Pressure Security Crate Access Plasmid (Ecology)
Description: You can automatically open security crates in high pressure.

Name: Localized High Pressure Plasmid (Ecology)
Description: Your Weapons and Plasmids are always treated as if they were in high pressure.

Name: Localized Low Pressure Plasmid (Ecology)
Description: Your Weapons and Plasmids are always treated as if they were in low pressure.

Name: Low Pressure Armor Plasmid (Ecology)
Description: When local pressure is low, you take less damage.

Name: Low Pressure Conservation Plasmid (Ecology)
Description: When local pressure is low, your Active Plasmids consume less EVE.

Name: Low Pressure Entropic Dampening Plasmid (Ecology)
Description: When local pressure is low, your weapons will not degrade.

Name: Low Pressure Plasmid Synergy Plasmid (Ecology)
Description: When local pressure is low, all your other Plasmids are treated as if they had an extra slot.

Name: Low Pressure Security Crate Access Plasmid (Ecology)
Description: You can automatically open security crates in low pressure.

Name: Guardian Synergy Plasmid (Ecology)
Description: Guardians near to you will take less damage.

...not that this development overshadows the Vivendi-Activiation merger. I wonder if this will mean that Blizzard will finally get the developers it needs to crank out Diablo 3.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Rumors on the internets can get you a fabulous stay in an undisclosed location

Have you heard of the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007?

The House passed it on October 27, 2007 404-6, and it's on its way to the Senate. I'm kicking myself because it always seems like these types of issues come up AFTER they've passed. Of course, the Senate needs to approve as well, and Dubya needs to remember to not use his banana to sign it into law, but it looks pretty clear: this is going to happen.

An excerpt from the legislation, sponsored by Democratic Rep. Jane Harman states:
The Internet has aided in facilitating violent radicalization, ideologically based violence, and the homegrown terrorism process in the United States by providing access to broad and constant streams of terrorist-related propaganda to United States citizens.
Taken by itself, it's not surprising to hear: I'm sure terrorist cell members are using gmail, although they might not be tracking their actionable items on Google Groups.

The legislation establishes a committee comprised of:
  • one member shall be appointed by the President from among officers or employees of the executive branch and private citizens of the United States;
  • one member shall be appointed by the Secretary;
  • one member shall be appointed by the majority leader of the Senate;
  • one member shall be appointed by the minority leader of the Senate;
  • one member shall be appointed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives;
  • one member shall be appointed by the minority leader of the House of Representatives;
  • one member shall be appointed by the Chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security of the House of Representatives;
  • one member shall be appointed by the ranking minority member of the Committee on Homeland Security of the House of Representatives;
  • one member shall be appointed by the Chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs of the Senate; and
  • one member shall be appointed by the ranking minority member of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs of the Senate.
This committee meets to:
Examine and report upon the facts and causes of violent radicalization, homegrown terrorism, and ideologically based violence in the United States, including United States connections to non-United States persons and networks, violent radicalization, homegrown terrorism, and ideologically based violence in prison, individual or ‘lone wolf’ violent radicalization, homegrown terrorism, and ideologically based violence, and other faces of the phenomena of violent radicalization, homegrown terrorism, and ideologically based violence that the Commission considers important.
Now, this may seem relatively harmless posturing on the Dems to demonstrate proactive measures to combat terrorism, and it very well may be...but the spirit imbuing this legislation could very easily be used to start persecuting you for thoughtcrime: What are you doing visiting the Al-Jazeera website anyway? The Economist...why don't those sneaky intellectuals sign their articles, and why did you leave an anonymous comment on that anti-American story? Hmm...I think we'll need to detain you for questioning. Please slip this black eyeless bag over your head and draw the cord. You won't be away from your loved ones for very long. Don't bother packing any luggage. We'll take care of that for you.

Don't think the legislation could creep, like a poorly managed software development lifecycle? Check out the page on the State of Alabama's Homeland Security website (page recently removed, but archived...thank you Internets) statement on 'anti-government' groups. Then take the interactive quiz just for fun! Yay!

Does that mean if we, American taxpayers, are supporting the procurement of weapons for Afghan or pro-American fighters are transforming our country's government into one smacking of socialism, thus undermining the God-given right of pulling yourself up by the bootstraps? If that's the case, how about we just ditch drugs patents (bite my sac Phizer), stop immortalizing doctors, and introduce universal healthcare.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Heart: it's not just the classic rock female duo

VP Cheney's doctors found that he had an irregular heartbeat today.

[wait for it]

Most of his physicians were more surprised by the fact that they even found a heartbeat at all.

"I've been his doctor for over 10 years, and I've never heard more than a rattling rusty nail type sound coming my stethoscope", said a physician identifying himself as "'one of Cheney's caregivers'".

The White House was quick to issue a statement designed to deflate concern. In it, White House spokesperson, Dana Perino, indicated that Cheney had already been released from the hospital, and was enjoying some leisurely quail hunting on his friend's ranch and was contentedly shooting his GOP backers in their faces.

When asked for a comment, his Dark Lord and Creator Satan replied, "Dick is a helluva guy. He's done a bang-up job up there, and if it was up to me I'd let him stay on Earth for the next 2 millennia. Hell, if I did, I wouldn't need to worry about how to usher in the Apocalypse! Ol' Dead Eyes would handle it for me. But, there are rules. I was playing poker with the Axis leaders from dubbleya dubbleya two, and lost to Stalin. We'd played on who'd receive the honor for killing more of his own people, and it looks like Cheney's gonna lose that one. Sorry Dick! You can fault that sneaky Russian for killing his own soldiers, but he's a truly a skilled gentleman at Texas Hold 'Em"

When asked for his comments, Sen. Trent Lott indicated he wished his GOP buddy the best, saying that he'd always held the Number 2 spot in his 'private list of favorites', the Number 1 being reserved for Sen. Strom Thurmond (ret), of course. Then after banging his left fist over his left chesticle, he threw up a deuce, kissed it, threw down the mic, yelled out "I'm audi-5 bitches!", walked through the crowd and said "and when I leave, come together like butt cheeks". AP reporters took this as an indication that Sen. Lott was tendering his resignation.

While there is a risk that VP Cheney could develop blood clots which could result in aneurysms and thus a stroke, most Americans polled didn't seem to find this to be much of a concern, as the President was recently diagnosed with a brain tumor, stunning his physicians who had collectively agreed that there were no indications that he ever possessed a brain. Indeed, all Presidential cranial imaging on file indicated that his skull housed visions of sugarplum fairies, which doctors theorize danced through his head.

Needless to say, should the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi becomes President, Mitt Romney vowed to return to his Mormon roots and give up his run for the Oval Office: a statement which drew cheers from reporters covering today's monumental events.

please note: this is not real news, as it's not fair to link Satan and VP Cheney...that would be unfair to Satan (thanks Ann Coulter!)

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

What would Valerie Plame be thankful for?

OK, so this has nothing to do with Valerie Plame, who happens to be a hot ex-secret agent who was outed for her husband's criticism of the Bush administration, but while thinking of a title for this post, it just popped into that dark, cobwebbed attic I call a mind.

With the mortgage market crumbling, the war in Iraq remaining a constant legacy that we entrust to new generations (along with the hefty multi-billion dollar price tag), and oil spills in the SF Bay Area, it can seem like there's a constant stream of negative shite being spewed upon us.

It's easy to feel desensitized to the daily announcements of trains running over people, people being killed in auto wrecks, soldiers dying because of 'roadside bombs' or some other variation of an IED, the Bush administration jacking itself off on the American people with Congress and the Senate mired in CYA initiatives with the pending 2008 election, Oprah's Leadership Academy's South African officials raping its educational wards, and other general macro downers.

But there are some items out there that are cautious positives, weighing against the tide of geo-political detritus. Sometimes they're harder to see because for some reason 'good things' don't always get the press they deserve or because sometimes they never make the news. I guess this post could be considered an all-purpose 'thanks' for Thanksgiving list.

Here are just a few...

Senator Obama running for President...hell, there are some great candidates out there, and I'm just glad we can change the course away from that of the Bush regime. 2008's candidates have the advantage (thank you President Clinton for not inhaling) of being more frank about their 'formative years'. While Bush never wanted to discuss how many lines he did, or how many whiskey sours he slurped off of the strippers at his ranch, Obama came right out and indicated that he's made some 'poor choices' in his youth. While he's mentioned this before in his memoir, let's face it, unless it's on TV or the internets, people might not be aware of it. It's good to see that we're no longer pulling the wool over our eyes and making our Presidents more than an man...or a woman (wink-wink Hillary).

Open source software. Saving money, now more than ever, is on everyone's mind, and if you're looking for ways to cut costs with regards to spending on productivity software use at home there are some amazing and completely free open source alternatives out there. CNet's Crave has 10 alternatives that are completely free and will most likely satisfy most non-intensive needs. These include an open source equivalent to MS Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access), Photoshop, CD/DVD burning software, audio conversion/authoring software, etc.

Stem cell developments. Scientists in Japan figured out a way to make skin cells develop into stem cells. This is amazing. While the current method isn't exactly perfect (10 out of 50,000 cells only seem to take the change, and so far the method causes cancer which isn't good), future research could make this a viable option for repairing a failing liver, heart tissue, brain cells, etc. Will religious zealots move to strike this research down calling it hubris and immoral, as the extension of this type of technology suggests that creation of life need not be achieved via the union of sperm and ova? Perhaps. But even Nancy Reagan got on the bandwagon when the Gipper was going. Of course, the Bush administration took credit for the recent success:
On Tuesday, senior aides to Mr. Bush said he drove the experiments by holding his moral ground.
“This is very much in accord with the president’s vision from the get-go,” said Karl Zinsmeister, a domestic policy adviser to Mr. Bush who kept the president apprised of the work. “I don’t think there’s any doubt that the president’s drawing of lines on cloning and embryo use was a positive factor in making this come to fruition.”
Come on! If Dubya gets to claim this, can Gore get the credibility that he did indeed invent the internet?

Khymer Rouge war crime trials. Ever see the 80s movie, The Killing Fields? Atrocities upon atrocities were committed by this political party in Cambodia, to which this movie attested. Recently, one of the party members, known as Duch, was on trial in his native country to account for his actions. What were they? The NY Times reports his actions thusly:
At least 14,000 people were tortured under Duch’s orders at Tuol Sleng prison, also known as S-21, and sent to the killing fields. Only a handful are known to have survived.
“Under his authority, countless abuses were committed, including mass murder, arbitrary detention and torture,” said a presiding judge, reading the indictment to the court.
He listed methods of torture that included beating, stabbing, suspension from ropes, removal of fingernails and drowning in pits filled with water.
Not one of the people for whose death he's responsible can be brought back, but he's being brought to justice, and I don't think Cambodians will be attempting to rewrite their equivalent of the War Crimes Act, recently attempted by our own favorite little war chimp.

So. Happy Turkey Day. Hug your loved ones, and if you don't have any go out and make some. At least Boba Fett had Han Solo...according to Robot Chicken, that is...(if you're getting this via RSS feed or in an email, you're not seeing this video - head over to the actual blog to view)

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Blog strike

Been so busy with work and winter and playing Team Fortress 2 that I haven't been able to post for a while, so this one's a jumble of 4 topics: the writer's strike, the Top 10 Online Flash games courtesy Cnet's Crave, the sale of a WoW character, and MyLifeBits.

I hope the writer's strike recently initiated goes on for a whole year.

I hope the surplus of filmed shows is completely drained, and the vast inventory of television production vaults are entirely withdrawn.


Becase I want 'reality' shows to rule the airwaves. I want high quality programming like The Biggest Loser, The Bachelor/ette, Studs n' Skanks, Kid Nation, Punched in the Face, and all permutations of Punk'd to dominate television. I want syndicated episodes of The Simpsons, Futurama, Family Ties, and The Cosby Show to become the commodity for which networks will bankrupt themselves while they compete for fewer and fewer viewers.

'Lost' will epynomously actualize itself, and there will be no savior for 'Heroes'. 'Gray's Anatomy' will develop a terminal illness, and 'Desperate Housewives' will get a divorce on grounds of adulterous behavior with the kids from 'That 70s Show' and they'll need to move to some city where they film 'CSI' variants.

An entire season of television will see significant delays of DVD production save for the newest 'Survivor'.

And maybe people will start reading more books and watching less crap. Oh sweet bliss.

Crave UK, part of Cnet, puts together 'Top 10...' lists on a fairly regular basis, and one of their current ones is a must see for those who engage in a little time-killing anti-boredom activity at work. I myself have never engaged in this questionable behavior, however, I know there are many that do. Lazy sloths.

I'm posting this one because I played most of these over the course of the weekend and thoroughly enjoyed myself. I highly recommend Desktop Tower Defense.

Ever need to sell your World of Warcraft character online? Need help in specifying all those esoteric details? You need to talk to this guy. Just an excerpt of his post:
the priest was the best geared priest on its pvp server hands down pre bc. I was the first priest to have full t1, full t2 and the first piece of t3. I took a long break and recently came back to play BC. I lvled to 70 and started farming epics, but the game just isnt the same anymore. I still have alot of those old epics as well as old weapons like Benediction/Anathema from back in the day.

Currently wearing 11 enchanted epics from various lvl 70 raid instances and have more in the bank for DPS. My current build is holy/Disc and I can achieve 1700 plus healing easily and almost 2k buffed. I have about 1k arena points saved up to buy new gear.

Priest has 5 different epic riding mounts and 1 flying mount. 375 tailoring and 355 enchanting currently. Every single pre BC enchant is known including all AQ 40/AQ20 MC and rep enchants etc. Currently have a lot of epic tailoring patterns to play with at lvl 70. Just need to farm primal nethers to make the good stuff. Plenty of enchanting mats etc as well. About 120g on this toon.
You need this character! Anyone with a character possessing holy/Disc is worth a thousand mouseclicks.

Philip K Dick was right...again.

FoxNews is reporting that Microsoft is working on a venture to backup your life. It's a crazy thing to think that (based on Microsoft estimates) 'a 1-terabyte (1,000-gigabyte) hard drive will cost less than $300...and could easily hold all text documents, voice files and photographs of a person's complete life experience — but if it came to video, it would be only enough for four hours per day for an entire year.'

To tie this directly to a Dickian theme, an India-based company went to far as to use a clever phonetic spelling for the business, reQall. While reQall doesn't implant memories as in Dick's tale, We Can Remember It for You Wholesale', it suggests that there's a market for helping people to remember.
Because reQall converts what you say to text, remembering is as easy as searching the web. You can read and edit your posts, see what you’ll need to remember next week, search for a particular item and more. You can even see an overview of your activity on a calendar view.
Don't know if this is going to be the 'killer Web 2.0 app', or if it'll end up being one more online 'resource' that you'll need to remember that you could use if you just took the time out to set up an account with them.

I'm waiting for the movie version of Burn:Cycle.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

The 1st Lady of Hip Hop Parody

Check out Melia Mills' video. Went to school with her, and now she's the self-billed...1st Lady of Hip Hop Parody

Friday, November 2, 2007

Shiva holes

Do you remember the Walt Disney film, The Black Hole?

It's a personal favorite of mine, as it remains firmly embedded in my childhood memory as one of the top 5 best ever. Robert Forster, who wouldn't make another big comeback until Quentin Tarantino's Jackie Brown, was the the captain of a ship, the Palamino, who finds another ship thought to be lost hanging just beyond a black hole's event horizon. Reunions, theorizations on travel in a black hole, kidnapping, shooting robots, laser lobotomies, and trips into the great beyond ensue. It had an addictive theme as well.

I had the audio record for the movie. You know the big 33 1/3 speed record you'd play, while reading the accompanying storybook rich with movie photos? Man, those were awesome. I also had 'Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom' and the Star Trek Buena Vista records. I recommend the Robot Masters mp3 sample.

Where was I? Black holes. Some interesting recent work in astronomy suggests that at the core of every galaxy is a supermassive black hole. How big is 'supermassive'? Well, according to an article in the Washington Post (where's there's also an ad in which I was involved: see the Presidential Candidate search), the one at the heart of the Milky Way, which is the galaxy in which the Sol system hovers, is 4 million times the size of our own sun. I can't even comprehend this. Is it like 4 million pushpin heads crammed together in something the size of a carnival balloon...or a hot air balloon?

Even more interesting,
To the enormous surprise of those who study the universe, the size of a supermassive black hole appears to have a direct and unusual correlation to the galaxy around it. Researchers calculated a decade ago that the mass of a supermassive black hole appeared to have a constant relation to the mass of the central part of its galaxy, known as its bulge. This relationship supports the notion that the evolution and structure of a galaxy is closely tied to the scale of its black hole.
This means that every starlight starbright galaxy in the multiverse contains a black hole so massive, that given enough time they could eventually consume the host galaxy, and spit out new elemental particles needed for new stars, suns, planets, and such. Philosophically speaking, they are a catalyst of destruction and creation.They're like giant celestial Shivas busting out an endless Nataraja.

Meanwhile, people back on Earth pay over $3 (if you're lucky) for a gallon of gas and work in cubes like these for eight hours a day for years upon years. Perhaps it could be argued that we impose our own event horizons upon which we spin inexorably to the great unknown at which time the process begins anew. I hope my next cube has a window.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

All good things come to those who wait

Oh sweet holy of holy holies. Bestoweth upon me with great benevolence your glorious powers of exceptional GPU performance.

How did this happen? Who! What? When?

Was I walking around with my head in the sand all this time? How did NVIDIA manage to sneak this new line of graphic cards by me? I've been fixated on the 8800GTS, GTX, Ultra and Black Pearl, but just yesterday I learned that there's another line of the 8800s coming out. It looks like they just launched.

Insert your dork comment aimed in my direction here.

Why is this so cool? Well, NVIDIA first put out the 8600 series to try and capture the market space that didn't want to fork over upwards of $400 for a card, but the 8600s aren't all that spectacular, especially when considering the new games that are coming out, or when considering the bloated needs of the new Vista OS.

The 8800GT line is going to be the sweet spot for gamers who want the DirectX10 capability (and who are brave enough to be running Vista without SP1), who want to be able to run all their games with high settings so as to take advantage of all the texturing, shading, and steady framerate, but don't want to drop 4 bills to make it happen. Games like Crysis, BioShock, and Unreal Tournament 3 are going to devour older cards. Transistors and subpar boards will lay strewn in the wake of these resource hungry beasts, which, if tamed, will grant the player with an unparalleled experience.

It's not surprising to see that practically all vendors are presently sold out of these cards.

BCCHardware has a great review of the 8800GT compared against the 8600GTS, and Tech Report has another one comparing the 8800GT to the big boys, although I haven't yet seen the card priced between $199 and $249, but from the vendors I've seen it's close.

Here comes Santa Claus, here comes Santa Claus...

Dog Shoots Man

You might've heard of Man Bites Dog, the Belgian film from '92, in which documentary film makers follow the activities of a serial killer. Well this movie has nothing to do with the recent shooting of a man by his own dog. The AP story provides pleasant details, but for some reason it reminded me of another relatively recent 'hunting accident' involving Satan, I mean ol' Dick. Cheney.

In case you didn't see the John Stewart Show in which the eponymous host presented the topic, I highly recommend its viewing.

Accidentally shooting someone in the face. I'm actually not surprised to hear it coming from the man who drops eff-bombs on his fellow politicians. I'm wondering if we can pair up this trigger-happy dog* and our respected veep so the two can enjoy a relaxing pheasant hunt together.

[scene: crossing a stream, the dog and he come upon an open meadow]
(Cheney): What a wonderful effing day. I love bringing death. Sparky?
(Sparky): Woof.
(Cheney): Sparky...what are you doing with that shotgun?
(Sparky): Woof.
(Cheney): (silent confusion permutes to understanding then horror) No...
(Sparky): Woof.
(Cheney): SPARKY!! NOOOOO!!!!!
(Sparky): Woof. (shotgun discharges)
[fade to black]

* I'm aware that dogs are not sentient beings, and although they are completely lovable in all their tail wagging goodness, they would never shoot another person on purpose. Actions such as those are relegated to higher lifeforms such as ourselves. Food for thought or just more reason to love the fact that we have opposable thumbs, which improve our gripping ability on the deep earth tones of the walnut stock on our collective pappy's 30-06.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Crysis Trailer

The gaming gods have been good to us this year, and have blessed us with titles such as BioShock and the Half-Life 2 Orange Box. Next up will the spiritual successor for FarCry: Crysis, developed by Crytek and published by EA. The recent trailer demonstrates the beautiful in-game graphics, which come at a cost.

The specs to run this game are steep:

Recommended System Requirements
OS - Windows XP / Vista
Processor - Intel Core 2 DUO @ 2.2GHz or AMD Athlon 64 X2 4400+
Memory - 2.0 GB RAM
GPU - NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GTS/640 or similar

Minimum System Requirements
OS - Windows XP or Windows Vista
Processor - 2.8 GHz or faster (XP) or 3.2 GHz or faster (Vista)
Memory - 1.0 GB RAM (XP) or 1.5 GB RAM (Vista)
Video Card -256 MB
Hard Drive - 12GB
Sound Card - DirectX 9.0c compatible

What looks to be one of the cooler features of the game is the Nano Suit. It allows the player to enhance strength (you can knock people 20 feet back with a punch and jump onto rooftops), initiate camouflage, speed (you can run like a gazelle...but you have high tech firearms), and armor (bullets bounce off your suit).

Similar to BioShock, we see how abilities such as this allow the player to dictate strategy and play style using either brute force, stealth, or a symbiosis of the two in order to negotiate obstacles.

I've heard this somewhere else, but soon these games will look so good that we'll be saying the graphics on real life aren't as good as those in the game.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

I like this Cheney

It looks like Cheney's recent heart surgery left him with the ability to love, so reports The Onion.

Here he is quoted at a recent GOP fundraiser:
"If the events of Sept. 11 have taught us anything, it is this: We need to learn to love one another," Cheney said. "We are all entwined in an unbreakable braid of human brotherhood. Each of us has something good and special to offer. If we work together, we can make the world into a most wonderful place where we can turn our attention to the truly important things, like snuggling."

During a C-SPAN-televised appearance at the Senate Tuesday, Cheney, in his role as Senate president, announced he had brought doughnuts for everyone, and encouraged the legislators to be more sensitive to one another's feelings.

"I've wasted so much of my life on a mindless quest for power and outright destruction," an increasingly emotional Cheney said. "What about all the sunsets I've missed?"
Amazing what modern medicine can do. Now all we need is Dubya to visit the Emerald City to visit Oz, so he can grant him a brain.

I'm going to miss this administration. They're so easy to make fun of. What's going to happen when we have a new boring and [hopefully] competent team in power? Well...they'll be cleaning up the whole Iraq thing for decades to come (thanks again Dubster! You da man!) and bailing the U.S. out of Chinese coffers (that there Eeracky War is a might pricey!), so we'll undoubtedly have something interesting to talk about, but nothing near as much fun as Cheney's good 'ol shotgun shootin' antics, or good ol' upside down book readin' from W.

Harder Better Faster Sleeper

I need sleep like Kenny Rogers needed Dolly Parton for 'Islands in the Stream'.

Like Burt Reynolds needed Lori Anderson.

Like Oates needed Hall.

Like Michael Jackson needed Bubbles.

Notice the 80s-enhanced comparisons? More on that later...

Sleep. UC Berkeley just finished a study on sleep deprivation. The data suggests that people who don't get enough sleep can suffer various degrees of emotional imbalance.
"It could even help explain road rage, said Matthew Walker, director of UC Berkeley's Sleep and Neuroimaging Laboratory and senior author of the study, which was coordinated with researchers from Harvard University.

"One of the functions of sleep is to reset and replenish the emotional integrity of our brain circuits so we can approach the day's emotional challenges in appropriate ways," Walker said. "If you don't get a good night's sleep, you'll be making irrational choices.

In the UC Berkeley study of 26 young adults, half of the subjects were kept awake for 35 hours straight and the other half were allowed a normal night's sleep in that same time period. Then all of the subjects were hooked up to an MRI and shown a series of images, some of them disturbing pictures of graphic violence or gory injuries. Researchers monitored what happened in their brains as each image was shown.

When shown the disturbing images, the sleep-deprived subjects had a significant jump in activity in the amygdala, the section of the brain that puts the body on alert to protect itself. At the same time, activity slowed down in the prefrontal cortex, which controls logical reasoning.

Subjects who had gotten a full night of sleep showed normal brain activity.

What this means for most people is that a sleepless night can cause them to overreact to emotional challenges that they would otherwise be able to tolerate with no trouble, Walker said."
This is sooo true for me. If I don't get enough sleep, I become a cranky, nasty, and volatile person. I'm a racecar running in the red, and all I'm saying is that it's not good to have a racecar in the red. I eat sleep. It's my dessert.

I can go for a couple days with a subpar amount of sleep, but if I don't catch up on the third day, I will be evil incarnate. I will intentionally break unopened rose blooms in my neighbor's yard before I leave for work. I will push someone out of the BART train as the doors are closing so they have to wait for the next train. I will fart on other BART patrons and then walk around, further dispersing the stank. Industry insiders call this move 'crop-dusting'. Once I get to work, I will need to drink a carafe of coffee to be mildly abrasive. I'll sit down at my desk, and ignore emails. Instead, I'll register those colleagues for sweepstakes on sites that vomit spam uncontrollably. At lunch, I'll go outside and kick pigeons. Pray I am not in your midday meeting. I'll doodle to keep from launching spitballs on the whiteboard as you draw out some fantastic metadata management model in which global changes can be effected across hierarchies in multiple parent-children structures. Then I will go home, and be a pleasant person because I know that while I'm tired, at least I can be tired in shorts and a tank-top and play with my son and wash dishes used to serve my wife's savory and delicious meal before I lose consciousness at 8:30pm.

This being said, let's sleep on this: the 80s are back.

On my way to work this morning I listened to the new Kanye West album, Graduation Day, which bleeds Al Pacino-Scarface synth undertones. Then I go on the train, and saw this woman dress like Pat Benatar and sporting the Farrah Fawcett feather hair-do. It wasn't Oct 31. This wasn't a costume. She was going to work. She was making a fashion statement. She was telling everyone on that car that the 80s are back, and she was ready for them.

Maybe Kanye will do an 'Islands in the Stream' remix...meanwhile, check out 'Stronger' for more interpolation on 80s flavor (sampled Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger by Daft Punk).

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Why people hate Microsoft

Tons of users out here love Word and Excel. There might be fewer who feel the same way about Visio, Powerpoint, Project, Outlook, Exchange, or Access. But the main reason why people don't like Microsoft, I'm contending, is because the company's operating systems are so crappy that users must postpone adopting a new platform until a service pack AND additional hotfixes are released.

XP had the same concerns. Now it's finally a robust mature service pack 2 plus the additional hotfixes that are rolled out on a relatively frequent basis.

But Vista. Oh man. What's the deal? I was so fired up to take advantage of the DirectX10 graphics and the cool 'aqua' interface (yet another jacking from Apple), and then all the horror stories about the OS started sprouting like mushrooms in Kevin Costner's field of poo, which as you know, is used to fertilize his other, more recognized field.

Computer sellers like Dell, Hewlett-Packard, and others are offering consumers the option to buy computers with XP pre-installed instead of Vista. Chortle. What did Microsoft have to say to the issue of the strong demand for XP in the face of the new OS?

"We wouldn't term it strong," said Kevin Kutz, a director in Microsoft's Windows Client unit. "We would describe this as accommodating a certain element who needs more time."

M'kay. That reads as, 'We wouldn't call the smell shitty, but rather we have a certain, and might I add, LAME and ARCHAIC contingent who fail to recognize the beauty of our fecal matter.'

Anyone using Vista? Am I wrong? Did anyone have to request the special hotfix (that's have to REQUEST it) because you ran out of memory while copying files?

What about using the diagnostic tool? Did anyone have any luck resolving the 150 problems that Vista identified?

Walt Mossberg gave it a pretty fair-handed review and I'm sure that Vista will eventually be as good as XP if not'll just take a couple service packs.

It would be nice if there were hotfixes for real life...hmmm...a hotfix for the Bush administration? Actually, the best fix in that case would probably require a reinstallation of the OS, plus prompt updates via all available service packs, and a rehaul of the security measures to include more robust internal auditing measures.

Friday, October 12, 2007

BioShock Complete

I finished it. Just now.

Not the best of endings, but an ending. I'm glad I saved the Little Sisters.

Can I sum the game up in one or four sentences? It's straightforward tale of crafted identity woven into the elaborate tapestry of mankind's struggle for dominance over mankind. You play the protagonist, whose true purpose only becomes evident in the latter chapters of the story. And you get genetic upgrades like telekinesis and the ability to emitt electro-voltaic, fire, and subzero currents from your body in order to assist your struggle. Can you develop Natural Camouflage to allow you to stealth in your strategy: yeah, that's possible.

BioShock's design and 'emergent gameplay' style will no doubt be emulated by others. The replay value alone gives you at least 2-4 playthroughs, as there are different strategies and approaches one can take.

This was by far one of the best games I've ever played, and which spurred my interest in writing a blog entry on IGN's competition to win a copy of the new Orange Box in the Half Life 2 series. BioShock got me thinking about how 'successful' elements evolve from title to title. Check out the blog on IGN and have a think.

Noble Nobel Prize

Dubya will be known as a great president. Great in the sense that:
  • his butchering of the English language was complete and pronounced
  • he consistently marred the global perception of American democracy and liberty
  • his drinking and drug habits rivaled those of coca lords portrayed in Miami Vice
  • he probably did more to widen the chasm between the rich and poor, a more than any other president since Reagan
  • he ushered in a new wave of privacy violations (I'm looking at you Patriot Act and illegal wiretapping)
  • he exuded the general complacency and smug attitude that afflicts Americans, thereby maintaining the status quo, and (it could be argued) accelerated the process of dumbening that we've witnessed in recent years
  • he unswerving demonstrated his lack of interest and responsibility in global warming (remember the 1997 Kyoto Protocol?) and essentially whored himself out to corporate sponsorship and 'market-based' solutions.
I could go on...okay, let's at least honor the wonderful contributions he made to the state of Texas in his 1994 term as governor when he made it legal to carry concealed weapons and supported laws against sodomy. I think this was also the same term in which he so famously mocked the soon-to-be executed Karla Faye Tucker. Classy G-Dub! You da man!

Yes, folks, he was the 'compassionate conservative'.

But you know who was the greatest un/almost-President of recent years? Al Gore. You know the guy who won the popular vote but lost the electoral college votes back in the 2000 election? Yeah that guy. It might've been the best thing that ever happened to him, and to the issue of global warming (eff that politically correct 'climate change' nonsense).

Today Gore and the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. In 2006, he won an Academy Award for his documentary, An Inconvenient Truth. Here he is from Barbara Boxer's fundraising event this Thursday in San Francisco. You can see what he has to say about his nomination, which was ratified today.

It's like the rest of the world is saying, we know, America. We know 2008 and the future years will be better. These past 8 years have been hard on us all, but we know that we're going to be able to get on with our plan to make this place better for everyone, and it's people like this who are going to be instrumental in making this happen.

Friday, October 5, 2007


That was today's headline in my daily email notification from the NY Times.

Null. Null, I asks myself?

Was there an intern at the Times who neglected to update a field in some arcane script that populates the subject line of an email? Was there a solar flare aimed directly at the mail server at the Times? Did Blackwater spew a horrible cocktail of Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears' bathwater all over the MIS group, thus incapacitating the staff with their collective egregious funk and prevented every one of them from pressing the 'Enter' key at a crucial moment? The world may never know.

What is even bigger news is that I won the captioning contest at my work. We get a company-wide bi-monthly email in which a wonderful cartoon by the late great Bill Keane is presented sans caption. Employees are invited to provide a witty comment, preferably relevant to the search industry, specific to the company, and must give the reviewers a decent chortle.

What brilliant humor earned me a $25 GC for iTunes, Starbuck's, Peet's, or a local coffee house? Well here it is...and's dork humor, so put on your dork hat and dork it up, dorky!

I haven't been this happy since I found that handful of Milk Duds at the bottom of my backpack.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

UCB on YouTube

While Keenians may loathe the content of YouTube because (as they see it) it softens truth, allows any slack-jawed yokel to publish his momma fallin' on the kitchen tile while the dogs lick the cake from her limp fingers, and essentially dilutes expert commentary from renowned USC film school instructors who think only they should be able to post such content because only they can enjoy the humor on so many levels, apparently UC Berkeley finds it to be a tool that will help garner more mindshare and promote its innovative and open image.

The school, which "joined" the YouTube community in May of 2006, recently started posting videos of classroom videos. The topics range from biology, physics, intellectual property (IP), comparative literature, chemistry and more. Google co-founder Sergey Brin does a session on search engine technology and IP.

What an awesome way to share polished expert instruction on various topics for anyone with a broadband connection to see.

This means that would-be students won't need to study for the ACT or SAT to gain entry to this prestigious school...ok...I kid...BUT this sharing of intellectual material could be seen as having concurrently enrolled students' tuition subsidizing the cost.

There is no Dana only Zuul

Zuul (a 'real-life' Sumerian god of destruction) being the evil omnipotent internet and all things digital, of course.

Is the obscure Ghostbusters reference throwing you off? Remember in the movie when Bill Murray's character, Dr. Venkman, goes over to Signourey Weaver's apartment and finds that Dana Barrett is possessed? While Dana is in the throes of possession he asks to speak to Dana to which she replies: there is no Dana only Zuul.


Well, the point is that I've finished that Keen book, and have to say that while it raised some interesting and valid points, for the most part I found it to be self-serving sensational hyperbole with an elitist spin. The internet is Zuul.

Keen seems to have a decent understanding of today's internet technology, but only to the point where it serves to bolster his arguments. He falls victim to the same behavior he describes in his book in telling how people only go to blogs that mesh with their ideologies: because they're biased and looking to have their own views reflected back which allows them to reify their contentions or creeds.

I'm assuming this is why he crafted his own blog, but I find it ironic given that he mourned the fact that so many blogs (and splogs) litter the ether, but then comes to the conclusion that he's mature and responsible enough that he can pepper one more on the digital landscape.

With the nature of the internet and digital technology changing so quickly, one major issue he had with regards to privacy are now moot with search companies like leading the way by being the first search engine that will allow users to opt-out of data collection and have that information deleted within a few hours of their searches. Microsoft, Google, and Yahoo are all following suit so that search history can either be eliminated or completely anonymized.

For the most part, he highlights cases where Web 2.0 and the digital age have hurt those who are either lax or uninformed with regards to the permeable and ubiquitous nature of the information economy. He highlights the woes of Wikipedia, and how it's detracting from efforts exerted by experts.

His solutions are mostly common sense:
  1. become better informed on Web 2.0
  2. if you don't like something you see on the internet, then don't visit it again
  3. parents need to rally in order to shield their kids from bad inter-neighborhoods.
  4. if you have a router, you can configure it to restrict access to sites, or you can use software to monitor your child's usage.
  5. don't put personally identifying material on the web if you're concerned about privacy
Bottom line: the tools and information to protect yourself are there.

Now I can finally pick up something interesting from the library, Cormac McCarthy's The Road. For my son, I've got one from my childhood: Island of the Skog.

Monday, October 1, 2007

I'm making good on my commitment

I mentioned a while ago this book, The Cult of the Amateur, by Andrew Keen. I've not been writing much because I'm trying to burn through this thing so I can comment on should I describe it...provocative expose on how the digital age, Web 2.0, the internet are causing a process of cultural retardation.

The basic premise is that the nature of the internet is allowing people to dilute truth, and we are to blame for our own infatuation with ourselves, hence, the cult of the amateur. He raises some valid points about Wikipedia and its 'questionable' editing and (non-existent) vetting process, but then he states that Craigslist causes people to lose their job because of the fewer dollars spent on advertising.

My garage sale posting must've done horrible things for DoubleClick.

I'm withholding final judgment until I finish, but I find it difficult because as I find myself agreeing with some points, for the most part he sounds like an elitist who wields his research like a Protestant orator on the pulpit warning of the fires of hell that will consume non-believers. He delivers bitter tirades on bloggers and his generalist derisions liken them to negligent parents. In his eyes, every blog's link subsequently linked to another blog (aka: an unreliable source of information) muddies the water of truthery as the ensuing circle of misinformation threatens to drown us in confusion and mindless noise.

What's that, you ask? Does Andrew Keen have a blog? Why, yes he does! That magnanimous fellow conveys a upon himself a mantle of praise and humble awareness (he earned his stripes in Silicon Valley, and nonchalantly deemphasizes their significance while simultaneously giving a knowing wink as they offer credence to his tale), while providing links to Amazon and Barnes and Noble where you can buy his books. I think he's secretly jealous of the Daily Kos and is trying to generate swirl for himself.

It's an interesting read for certain, and he does circuitously make the point that you need to be careful about what you find as "fact" on the internets, but for the most part it's a hypocritical and somewhat myopic treatise with periodic nuggets of critical thought.

If you don't like what's out there in the ether, then stay out of those neighborhoods and stay abreast of events from reliable sources. It's like TV. Don't like it? Don't watch it, but stay aware of it...the whole "keep your friends close and your enemies closer" bit. Blurbs from Wikipedia should be taken with a grain of salt...of course you could always see who made the edits before you quote the site's articles in your term paper.

More later. Must finish reading tirade on the evils of YouTube and search engines and how horrible it is that Clear Channel or Viacom, two of the largest communication and media giants that control cultural mediums such as radio, cable stations, movie production houses, internet properties, and more have to "let go" of smaller underperforming stations. It's too bad that a handful of companies can't maintain a stronger grip on the vehicles by which we receive our news and entertainment. I'd prefer that one company have control over all my media because one opinion is better than a varying point of views.

Down J...must...reserve...judgement...only halfway through...maybe he'll start proposing solutions or alternatives as opposed to pointing fingers.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The best t-shirt I ever bought online

Undoubtedly the best t-shirt I bought online was one from the merchandising line of the then earth/industry shattering GTA III. The game involved you driving around and committing horrible crimes. It was genius. One of the many subtle in-game artifacts was a user controlled radio. Once you entered a car, you were able to change to the various radio stations.

One of the on-air ads was for It was a satirical take on the pervasive Web 1.0 business trend, where Joe Six-Pack could map out a business plan on a napkin and get millions of dollars in venture capital to start up ridiculous, or at best, poorly planned online products and services. promised a wide variety of animals available for sale and delivered to your home the next day. Some of the animals highlighted were: fish, rhinos, vermin, stomach parasites, pekingese fighting bitches, sharks, and mackerel.

Wearing this shirt back in 1998 when the game debuted was cool because:
1) people thought it was real
2) they recognized it from the game

Wearing this shirt now is cool because:
1) people think it's real
2) it's a reminder of what NOT to do

And yes, Rockstar Games is still in business, and are still producing morally reprehensible games that are pleasing fans across the globe.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


Did you know that Mark Ecko, the fashion designer, bought Barry Bond's Hank Aaron 756th homerun ball?

Ecko then set up a site for people to vote on what to do with the ball. The options were:
  1. Send the ball to Cooperstown as is, where it'd be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
  2. Mark the ball with an asterisk, signifying the cloud of doubt on the issue of whether Bond's used steroids was deliberate, and then send to Cooperstown for admission.
  3. Send the ball into space, and effectively banishing it.
The results are in (I voted for asterisk) with over 10 million votes submitted. 47% voted to first mark the ball with an asterisk and send it to Cooperstown.

The fact that he bitched and moaned and whined about how everyone was trying to tear him down even before the steroid issue didn't exactly make him a likable figure in the game, and once all the issues about "the clear and the cream" came out and he went on the defensive to purport his innocence (he said he didn't know they were steroids) and reiterated that people were trying to bring him down just like they did his dad it didn't really help sweeten his image.

What if he had exerted a little more energy to be a "likable" guy...maybe hired some spin doctors? It's not like he wasn't a capable athlete. Would there had been such a controversy? Maybe, but had he been a 'lovable rogue who was out there playing the game the way he meant to', I bet Mark Ecko would've never bought the ball, and there wouldn't have been such a stink about the matter. We still might've had the steroid investigations and the banning of performance enhancement substances in the MLB, but Bonds would probably have gotten to stay with the he gets to wrap up his career as he lived it: bitterly.

Master Chief in Training

I promise this will be my last Halo 3 posting for a while...unless I need to post another one.

I was well on my way to discuss my excitement about finally rolling over 4 jobs worth of 401k plans into a Rollover IRA, and then I saw this story about some MIT students executing a geekly smart prank on their neighbors at Harvard.

Those kids.