January 2003 Archives

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Track Junk In Space


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Rock climbing on Mars

Yeah! Now that's what I'm talkin about!

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DivX on the Mac has finally matured

These kids in France have written an entire cross-platform video streaming solution that supports MPEG, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, DivX, mp3, ogg, and DVD. Stream video live from one system to another, regardless of platform, or just use the client to view files locally. It supports Windows, Linux, iPaq Linux, BeOS, Solaris, NetBSD, FreeBSD, etc., etc., and it's open source. Best of all, there's a client for the Mac written in Cocoa, and DivX movies play flawlessly-- no avi2mov or DivX Doctor conversion required.

Why are you still reading this?!?! Go try out VideoLAN Client right now!

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Cool use of Maya

Part of the Illegal Art exhibition features a video created by Michal Levy. The video puts the Jazz stylings of John Coltrane to computer animation. Very, very slick.

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Why we are going to war with Iraq

Ah, the numbers! :-) According to this article, Iraq is only producing 30% of their oil potential, "the industry desperately needs funds only foreign investors can offer."

Ya know, it's just too bad Saddam won't let foreign investors in on his oil. Maybe we should make him an offer he can't refuse? (Oh wait, we are). :-(

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OSU Faculty Senate: "We Oppose War with Iraq"

Today my Dad, a professor at Oregon State in the Forest Science Department and former President of the OSU Faculty Senate, sent me a copy of a letter he sent to the editors of The Wall Street Journal and The Barometer. I have to agree with him (note: we often disagree politically), the OSU Faculty Senate grossly overstepped their bounds by issuing a statement that they oppose war with Iraq. What's disturbing is the way in which they came to the conclusion that the faculty of OSU objected to war:

"...the OSU Faculty Senate has 132 voting members (Article V Sec 1). The vote included only 62 members and some 40+ of those voted for the resolution. This is a meager one-third of the OSU Faculty Senate. Under NO stretch of the imagination could this vote be considered "representative" of the entire faculty at OSU, regardless of the by-laws of the Faculty Senate. ...it is highly disturbing that the vote came close to or after 5 o'clock when the meeting normally adjourns. ...in more honorable times it was the practice of the OSU Faculty Senate to give such issues a rest until the next meeting, giving everyone on campus a chance to dialogue about an issue, then meet under more reasoned circumstances to vote. There seems to have been a premeditated purposeful rush-to-judgement reason for ignoring that "rule" since war might occur any minute. No one has gone to war and the United Nations still seems to hold all of the big cards. Any one of the above events does not seem like much in and of itself, but taken together there appears to have been the "high jacking" of the OSU Faculty Senate by select members of the Faculty Senate itself! Votes like this do NOT get rammed through without a tremendous amount of help from some group privy to the inner workings."

I had the following comments to make on the subject:

In the case of the faculty senate, they’re using the war to “test the bounds� of their legal system in pushing through issues like this one. They may not be consciously aware of it, but as you elude to in your letter, they may use this new flexible boundary again in the future on something that actually does matter.

I hope [Dad] you’re not taking the “opinion of the faculty senate� too seriously. I don’t think it holds any weight anywhere outside of OSU campus… Everybody (should) know that it’s not their place to state an opinion on such a thing anyways. If a few faculty want to get together and state that they oppose the war, that’s great, more power to them, but they can’t say they represent the interests of the entire faculty. People should know that.

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The Civil War Inside Sony

From Wired:

Within the music industry, Sony is regarded as the technology leader, the one the other labels look to on issues like peer-to-peer distribution - if anyone can figure out how to adapt Napster-like technology for authorized downloads, the thinking goes, it's Sony.

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Rogue Nation of Eastern Montana

I created my own country on Jennifer Government: Nation States. Hehe! Pretty neat:

The Rogue Nation of Eastern Montana is a tiny, devout nation, notable for its absence of drug laws. Its hard-nosed, intelligent population of 5 million are free to do what they want with their own bodies, and vote for whoever they like in elections; if they go into business, however, they are regulated to within an inch of their lives.

The large, corrupt government juggles the competing demands of Religion & Spirituality, Law & Order, and Commerce. The average income tax rate is 28%, but much higher for the wealthy. Private enterprise is illegal, but for those in the know there is a slick and highly efficient black market in Beef-Based Agriculture.

Crime is a problem. Eastern Montana's national animal is the badger, which frolics freely in the nation's many lush forests, and its currency is the rogue.

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EFF takes comments on your experience with the DMCA

Ever tried watching a non-US DVD in a US DVD player and weren't able to? Ever been blocked by a copy protection scheme with your own software or media? Let the EFF know! My comments:

I bought a copy of Unreal Tournament 2003, a video game for the PC. It comes on 3 CDs. After you load it onto your computer, in order to play it, you need to insert the 1st CD. Every time you want to play it you have to shuffle through your CD collection to find that 1st CD.

* You can't disable this CD check without using a "no-cd crack" program, which is illegal under the DMCA.
* Using a "no-cd crack" program prevents you from being able to update the software because the update mechanism checks to see if you've modified the original binaries.

I play a lot of games, and a lot of them have similar "cd checks" built into them. It is EXTREMELY annoying to have to search through my CD collection whenever I want to play a game, however I would be breaking the law if I modified a game that I owned to not check for the CD upon startup.

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Dan's Troll

Hey ya'll, I just planted a new Geocache outside of town. Go check it out! :-)

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Who Owns What in Medialand?

Can't sleep. This is keeping me awake. :-)

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Lessig on Copyrights

Great Flash presentation on Copyrights, Fair Use, and the loss of unregulated use at an Open Source conference.

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Recent Inflation in the Price of Boreal Climbing Shoes

If you're a rock climber you may have noticed that in the last two months the price of Boreal climbing shoes ordered from online retailers overseas like Sport Extreme or Barrabes have sky-rocketed: shoes like the Ace, which used to cost $70-80 USD now cost $135-150. In the US, these shoes have always cost between $135-150, so myself and a lot of other people were just paying $10 shipping to buy them from our friends in Europe. (Boreal is based out of Spain).

I speculated over email with a budy of mine, Evan, as to why we've seen the drastic inflation:

I think what's going on is when Boreal brought their shoes to the US, they
guaranteed retailers a "suggested retail value" on their Aces of $150.
They probably sell the Ace to retailers for $50/pair so the retails can
make a typical 150-200% markup.

Where Boreal screwed up is they made the shoes available in Europe for a
lot less, probably around $20-$25/pair, suggested retail value of $70-80.

What Boreal and the retailers are afraid of is, if Boreal drops the price
of their shoe to a lot less, the retailers will loose a lot of money on
their current inventory. The only way companies can get around this is to
offer a rebate, which is expensive to operate, and pretty unpractical and
such a low-volume product like rock climbing shoes.

I think what happened with the recent inflation of Boreal shoes overseas
is the US retailers got wise and complained to Boreal. Boreal then
changed their contract with their European dealers to prevent them from
exporting the shoes overseas themselves."

I think this is a great tragedy for American consumers. If you or someone you know is an Economist that can offer a better explanation, please let me know! :-)

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Bush on North Korea: "We Must Invade Iraq"

"For years, Kim Jong Il has acted in blatant disregard of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation Of Nuclear Weapons, and last week, he rejected it outright," Bush told reporters after a National Security Council meeting on North Korea. "We cannot allow weapons of mass destruction to remain in the hands of volatile, unpredictable leaders. Which is exactly why we must act quickly and decisively against Saddam Hussein."

thanks wozz

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Who Is This On My Phone Bill?!?

Use a reverse lookup service to find out what that mysterious phone number is on your phone bill.

Lazy Web Idea: Create a Caller-ID and reverse lookup integration so you know everything about who it is that's calling you.

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Where do terrorists get their money?

The Detroit Project

Whether you choose to believe the hype or not, America needs to produce hybrid-electric cars. Once somebody makes one that looks like a normal car and can drive through snow I'll buy one. Props to Honda on the Civic Hybrid.

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Red Meat on Cranium

Hey! I play that game all the time... :-)

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New York State Education System Lies to Children

As if we didn't already know that public schools routinely sanitize information that is to be read by children, here's a link to a documented case where the New York State Eduction Board removed all references in essay testing material that could ever possibly offensive to anyone.

What is even more shocking is that original authors of many of the works they modified as still alive, and when confronted, they were of course outraged.

In the Chekhov story "The Upheaval," the exam takes out the portion in which a wealthy woman looking for a missing brooch strip-searches all of the house's staff members. Students are then asked to use the story to write an essay on the meaning of human dignity.

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9/11 "Conspiracies" and the Defactualisation of Analysis

9/11 "Conspiracies" and the Defactualisation of Analysis: How Ideologues on the Left and Right Theorise Vacuously to Support Baseless Supposition is a fascinating piece analyzing the various theories surrounding the failure (or success) of the US intellgence community in averting the 9/11 tragedy, the anthrax case, and other post-9/11 politicized items. This is an excellent article of unbiased research and reporting.

"...the FBI has never been keen to identify the perpetrator [of the anthrax letters] because that perpetrator may, in fact, be the U.S. Government itself. Evidence is mounting that the source of the anthrax was a top secret U.S. Army laboratory in Maryland and that the perpetrators involve high-level officials in the U.S. military and intelligence infrastructure? Forget unfounded conspiracy theories. The evidence is overwhelming that the FBI has consistently shied away from pursuing the anthrax investigation [under government pressure]."

"...the likelihood of political inaction being behind the administration's failure to foil the Al-Qaeda plot, in itself implicates the existence of a web of strategic and economic influences acting upon the political establishment, which resulted in such political inaction. And given that this is a far more tenable and probable possibility than mere 'incompetence', then it is essential to investigate the matter more thoroughly - including specifically an evaluation of the information (and what was done with it) about the 9/11 attacks available to the U.S. intelligence community."

At the very least, its entertaining.

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Oregon Snow Page

I just threw together a website that's got links to weather forecasts and snow data for Oregon ski resorts 'n stuff. (Probably not the first time this was done!) :-) I also included my winter backcountry travel checklist. Safety first!

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Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom

It's almost 2am. I need to ping Cory some whuffie. (I've been a fan of his blog at boingboing.net for a couple months now, I feel like I know the guy and can call him by his first name ;-p ). Cory's new book, Down and Out, is available online as a free ebook, and I can't stop reading it.

Down and Out goes past the cyber-future that we all know and fear from Hollywood into a Disney-perfect world where, without death and disease, the post-human race still finds ways to get itself down. There's a lot in this book that goes unsaid about where we are going as people. It's highly entertaining and thought-provoking science fiction.

Nothing happened. I tried to keep the shit-eating grin off my face as nothing happened. No tone in my cochlea indicating a new file in my public directory, no rush of sensation, nothing. I turned to Lil to make some snotty remark, but her eyes were closed, her mouth lolling open, her breath coming in short huffs. Down the row, every castmember was in the same attitude of deep, mind-blown concentration. I pulled up a diagnostic HUD.
Nothing. No diagnostics. No HUD. I cold-rebooted.
I was offline.

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Safari, Apple's new web browser

Apple this week released Safari (well, public beta), a new OS X web browser based on the KHTML layout engine. I'm a big fan of Chimera, but Chimera has bugs, so I was eager at first to try out the new browser. After spending 15 minutes with the Safari browser tho I have to admit I was a little under-impressed.

* For one, Safari doesn't even really look like an OS X application. It uses the dreaded Quicktime brushed-steel appearance theme, so it looks dark and dreary, which is in pretty stark contrast with the rest of the OS.
* Second, I love tabbed browsing. I got really used to that in Chimera. In MacOS X, (well, the mac in general) window management is a nusaince. Tabbed browsing solved many of my browser window headaches. I don't know if I'll be able to live without it.

Time will tell if I'll be able to make the jump over to Safari. In the meantime, it does appear to be slightly faster and it renders several pages correctly that weren't rendering correctly in Chimera.

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I just became aware of a cool blog that tracks "stupid linking polices" imposed across the 'net. Telling someone they can't link to your webpage is like saying they can't use the ISBN number on your book, reference a specific paragraph in an article you wrote, or something else equally idiotic. The American Cancer Society even says that you can't link to their page. I can see a middle school student having problems with this:

Student: In 1997, xx million people died of cancer worldwide.
Teacher: Excuse me, but where did you get this fact?
Student: I'm sorry, I can't tell you, I would be violating their terms and conditions set forth on their website.
Teacher: Ever heard of "plagarism" young man?!? You get an F.

I'm linking to the law.com headlines page just to spite their Terms and Conditions. Ooops! Did I just link again? Sue me. :-)

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"Better to control and regulate human cloning than to try to ban it"

An article in The Economist about the ethical arguments of human cloning. I couldn't agree more with the closing arguments:

To ban all cloning research, therapeutic as well as reproductive, as America proposes, is certainly a mistake... an indefinite ban on cloning research could have worse consequences than careful regulation... The goal of policy should be to ensure that research on cloning is conducted by those who know most about it, and about how to develop the technology, rather than by amateurs.

As the Transhumanists like to say, the future is coming whether you want it or not. It's better to regulate and accept it than to fear it. I, personally, don't want to live in a Do Androids Dream Electric Sheap future where people illegally obtain body clones and cybernetic modifcations underground from under-qualified doctors and experimentors.

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Roger Ebert's Review of Bowling for Columbine

Not only an insightful review, I found this last comment worthy of quoting:

The movie is rated R, so that the Columbine killers would have been protected from the "violent images," mostly of themselves. The MPAA continues its policy of banning teenagers from those films they most need to see. What utopian world do the flywheels of the ratings board think they are protecting?

That's pretty interesting coming from someone who is so important to the movie industry.

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US Postal Service Experiments

A hilarous account of various attempts to mail non-traditional items through the Postal Service, including an unwrapped football, $20 bill in clear plastic case, and a small bag with a toy inside that yelled, "LET ME OUT!! HELP! LET ME OUT OF HERE!!"

God bless our postal carriers! :-)

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Bowling for Columbine

I saw Michael Moore's latest flick at the local cinema last night. Good movie. GOOD movie. Go see it now.

The movie is done in a documentary style, and explores the question, "Why is America so violent?" Go see it now.



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