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Tuesday, February 28, 2006
Not only did I miss the death of Don Knotts last week, but I also overlooked that of actor Darren McGavin, who died last week at the age of 83 of natural causes. McGavin was perhaps best known as a TV actor, starring in the series Mike Hammer and Kolchak, among others. His film credits included memorable roles in films like The Natural and A Christmas Story, as seen to the right.
It's sad to see two actors representing some of my fondest childhood memories pass on like this. Here's hoping that bad news doesn't come in threes... :-(
Beloved TV and movie actor Don Knotts died last Friday at the age of 81. Don Knotts was perhaps best known as the bumbling Deputy Barney Fife on The Andy Griffith Show, but I like to remember him as the bumbling landlord Mr. Furley on Three's Company, as seen to the right. His extensive movie and TV career began in the '50s and was cut short only recently due to illness. He will definitely be missed... :-(
Finding something to criticize Bill O'Reilly about is like shooting fish in a barrel, but I'm going to do it anyway. O'Reilly recently once again showed what a hypocrite he is in stating that the U.S. should leave Iraq "as fast as humanly possible" because "there are so many nuts in the country." For those of you keeping score, that's just a bit of a departure from a previous statement in which he "called those advocating immediate withdrawal from Iraq 'pinheads' and compared them to Hitler appeasers." What an asshole...
Friday, February 24, 2006
A neologism is "a new word, expression, or usage." neologasm is a blog dedicated to "the joy of new words." Fun... :-)
Life In The Office is a fun blog on one of my favorite TV shows, The Office (not to be confused with the former BBC show, which I also love, but in a different way ;-).
I'll start with an obvious statement: e-mail has become a vital communications medium in all facets of society. So it came as a surprise to me when Newsweek reported that during the course of congressional investigations into government responses to Hurricane Katrina, it was revealed that: Secretaries of Defense and Homeland Security Donald Rumsfeld and Michael Chertoff "do not use e-mail." Granted, they have aides and staff to manage and filter e-mail traffic, but to be totally divorced from such an essential means of communication, and, more importantly, documentation of events and correspondences is unconscionable. Unbelievable...
"Desktop Earth is a wallpaper generator for Windows. It runs whenever you're logged on and updates your wallpaper with an accurate representation of the Earth as it would be seen from space at that precise moment." Very cool...
What's Up? bills itself as "an indispensable tool for the global newsjunkie," and I think that's pretty close to the mark. A global map continually refreshes with "hot spots" of news that you can click on for more information. Pretty neat concept...
A couple of weeks ago there was another sad milestone in the history of the Grumman F-14 Tomcat:
A chapter in naval aviation history drew to a close Feb. 8 aboard USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) with the last recovery of an F-14 Tomcat from a combat mission.As I've mentioned before, the Tomcat is my favorite military aircraft, so seeing it go through its "sundown" phase has been a bit sad...
Jim Baumgardner has created another cool "coverpop," a random collection of like objects that you can mouse over to zoom in on and see more details. This time he has created a coverpop of 1,300 Cereal Boxes, which he points out is "The equivalent fiber of one box of Colon Blow" (embedded QuickTime video of the Saturday Night Live commercial). Very neat; definitely check out the other coverpops on his page (some of which I may have linked to before)...
Thursday, February 23, 2006
The kid in this video is pretty damn scary. Too bad it's in German and I can't understand much of what he's saying; probably for the best, though...
Thursday, February 16, 2006
Steve Martin offers his comedic take on Cheney's recent shooting incident in HuffingtonPost:
Vice President Dick Cheney, while hunting wild geese in the Rose Garden, accidentally shot President Bush twice, once in the heart and once in the head. "I didn't really shoot the President twice," said Cheney. "The second time I shot him, I was president. It wasn't until my third shot, where I accidentally shot my own foot, that I had shot the president twice. I was officially injured and unable to govern, when Dennis Hastert came in, and stepped on the butt handle of the rifle causing it to swing up like a rake and shoot his hair off. I guess I'm officially responsible for that too, meaning I shot the acting president for a total of three occupants of the oval office. I'm not proud, but it is a record."
Flash Bookmarklets (and the site in general) has a bunch of nice bookmarklets, but my favorite is seek bar, which places a pause button and seek bar under Flash videos when run.
For those of you that haven't used bookmarklets before, in Firefox you simply drag them to your bookmarks or tool bar, creating a link or button that can be run later.
CNET reports that startup company Terrafugia "is aiming to show off what it calls the Transition 'personal air vehicle,' an SUV with retractable wings, to the EAA AirVenture Conference in Oshkosh, Wis., at the end of July." The performance figures sound intriguing, but I'll believe it when I see it...
ScienceDaily reports that "Fifty years after MIT researchers pioneered the use of electron microscopy to study viruses, MIT scientists have helped produce the most detailed images yet of the tiny infectious agents." Pretty wild...
In the post "Do Bush followers have a political ideology?", Glenn Greenwald makes an argument for the statement that "Whether one is a 'liberal' -- or, for that matter, a 'conservative' -- is now no longer a function of one’s actual political views, but is a function purely of one’s personal loyalty to George Bush." I think he's right on the money...
Tuesday, February 14, 2006
I found myself strangely engrossed by the Wikipedia entry Strange Units Of Measurement.
Protests across Russia are taking place after a "Oleg Shcherbinsky, a railway worker whose car was hit from behind last summer by a speeding car carrying the Altai region's governor," was sentenced to four years in a labor colony. In case it's not clear from the previous statement, Shcherbinsky was hit by a speeding, negligent driver making a dangerous and illegal maneuver, yet he was found guilty of "careless driving leading to the death of others and for not yielding to a car with priority." As many of you may have heard, Russian traffic police are notoriously elitist and corrupt, and the privileged basically have free rein on the roads:
Nowhere is the privilege -- and abuse -- of power more visible to ordinary Russians than on the roads, where politicians and bureaucrats, who have special license plates and blue lights for their luxury vehicles, speed recklessly, force other drivers aside and generally flout the rules. At the same time, ordinary citizens are subject to constant harassment from traffic police, who routinely demand small bribes. These irritants have become the source of open anger because many motorists can easily imagine themselves suffering Shcherbinsky's fate.This is a crock of shit, and I hope that media scrutiny forces Russian authorities to rethink this shameful decision. Looks like not as much has changed in Russia as people think...
Check out Angry Alien's latest creation, Star Wars in 30 seconds with bunnies. :-)
The Star Wars Valentines at Something Awful are awesome. One of my favorites is above... :-)
Monday, February 13, 2006
The Official Google Blog reports that Google Earth has been updated with high resolution imagery of the Torino, Italy area. Turn on the Terrain layer and check out the tilt view; cool...
MSNBC.com has a full 2006 Winter Olympics TV schedule, including programming on NBC, MSNC, CNBC, USA, and Universal HD. I'm looking forward to hockey and curling...
Holy crap, it's a real transformer (embedded video)!
By now you've probably heard that a couple of days ago Dick Cheney accidentally shot a fellow hunter while quail-hunting on a ranch in Texas, spraying 78-year-old millionaire lawyer Harry Whittington in the face and chest with shotgun pellets. I'm going to go ahead and take the low road on this one and post the inevitable satirical links that have already popped up. More as I come across them :-)...
Saturday, February 11, 2006
February 12th is Charles Darwin's birthday, so son't forget to celebrate Darwin Day tomorrow!
The Darwin Day Celebration was founded on the premise that science, like music, is an international language that speaks to all people in very similar ways. While music is both intellectual and entertaining, science is our most reliable knowledge system, and it has been and continues to be acquired through human curiosity and ingenuity.
Every episode of South Park is available for download in .avi format from Mr Twig's message board. The video quality is pretty decent considering that each episode is compressed to about 150MB or so. I realize you can probably do better through BitTorrent etc., but this nicely collects them all in one place. Hopefully I can grab them before things get shut down...
Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez would have you believe that W's authorization of domestic wiretapping by the NSA is no big deal. After all, he recently testified (WMV or QT video), "President Washington, President Lincoln, President Wilson, President Roosevelt have all authorized electronic surveillance on a far broader scale." Um, what?! Just in case the idiocy of this statement isn't clear, there was no electricity when George Washington was president. For further dissection of the rest of this moronic position, HuffingtonPost.com goes into more detail...
Friday, February 10, 2006
By now, you may have heard about the resignation of George C. Deutsch (New York Times link, may expire soon),
the young presidential appointee at NASA who told public affairs workers to limit reporters' access to a top climate scientist and told a Web designer to add the word "theory" at every mention of the Big Bang, resigned yesterday.However, this article and the mainstream media both failed to convey the depths of Deutsch's incompetence and actions bordering on megalomania.
First of all, none of the national TV broadcasts that I watched mentioned the fact that Deutsch's "Bachelor of Arts in journalism, Class of 2003" from Texas A&M University was in fact fraudulently included on his résumé, as he never graduated from that institution.
Secondly, most of the TV coverage centered on his decision to limit access to NASA climate scientists who might report on Global Warming facts at odds with the administration's current stance on the subject, which a blissfully ignorant claim that it is not a "settled issue." Far more egregious was Deutsch's insistence last year that The Big Bang was only an "opinion" and that every mention of it in NASA publications should be prefaced with the word "theory." Granted, the Big Bang is technically a scientific theory, but the definition of theory he was using was most definitely not the accepted scientific one. To wit, what was not widely covered was the content of the e-mails in which he made his misguided edict:
The Big Bang is "not proven fact; it is opinion. It is not NASA’s place, nor should it be to make a declaration such as this about the existence of the universe that discounts intelligent design by a creator."I am enraged that this incompetent sycophantic peon should get such an important job simply because he briefly worked on W's presidential campaign. However, my anger is nothing compared to the eloquently enraged rant at Bad Astronomy Blog, so I will refer you to that entry while I go seethe.
I'm glad to see that Mr. Deutsch received his just desserts, but if the previous consequences of incompetence in this administration are any indication, I'm sure he'll land a plum job at some Conservative think tank any day now...
In honor of the Chinese Year Of The Dog, retroCRUSH features The 100 Greatest Dogs Of Pop Culture History. Number one is no surprise, although as you can see I was elated to see "Flash" from Dukes Of Hazzard, among others... :-)
One of my favorite entries in the recent Worth1000.com contest Food For Thought 5 is the one pictured above, although there's a lot of fun PhotoShop work in this one...
Thursday, February 09, 2006
Million Dollar Murray, a recent story in The New Yorker, really touched me. The subtitle, "Why problems like homelessness may be easier to solve than to manage," doesn't come close to summing up the article. Well worth the read...
Apple is celebrating its impending billionth song download with a contest rewarding every 100,000th song and, of course, a grand prize for the person who downloads the billionth song. The very cool cascading display of cover art of songs currently being purchased makes this page worth checking out too...
Dorian Lynskey asks the question, "Could we chart the branches and connections of 100 years of music using the London Underground map?" Obviously, I wouldn't be posting this if the answer were no. :-p Check out the London Underground Musical Mashup, which overlays musical artists on London Underground routes with different genres corresponding to different lines and common stations representing crossover artists. Very cool, albeit slightly UK-centric...
You do not know the definition of "obsession" until you have seen The Bobacabana, home of Gus Lopez and Pam Green, Star Wars fans who obviously know no restraint. I'm speechless...
Wednesday, February 08, 2006
MooBella is a robotic ice cream vending machine that can dispense 12 flavors and 3 mix-ins. Mmmm... ice cream.
43 Folders' feature Becoming an Email Ninja is a nice roundup of e-mail etiquette, productivity, and organization tips.
redemption in a blog posts about a Microsoft FrontPage ad dripping with irony. You need to know some HTML to spot the error, and the ironic thing is that the advertisement claims that Frontpage will help you produce better code. Oops...
The BBC reports that "An international team of scientists says it has found a 'lost world' in the Indonesian jungle that is home to dozens of new animal and plant species." The Independent also picks up the story with some details on the different animals and plants discovered, and National Geographic offers a small photo gallery of some of the new/rediscovered animal species. Apparently most of the animals were not scared off by the scientists' presence, implying that this was their first contact with humans. Pretty amazing...
Full disclosure: similar to my previous post about the 26th Anniverary DVD of The Jerk, I recently received a copy of Dune: Extended Edition from Special Ops Media in return for writing a review. I don't do this too often, but I make exceptions for things like this that I probably would've ended up buying anyway. ;-)
This particular release has been highly anticipated for some time, as there have long been rumors of a four to five hour version of David Lynch's Dune, as opposed to the two hour, seventeen minute theatrical release. This Extended Edition is not the realization of fans' hopes for a five-hour cut, and although the film has been recut to two hours and fifty-seven minutes, it was done so without David Lynch's involvement, hence the "Alan Smithee" director's credit. There is a set of deleted scenes over and above both versions that is introduced by producer Raffaella De Laurentiis in which she states that "no final cut ever existed outside of the theatrical release," but apparently there is still some doubt about this amongst fans.
I thought that I had seen the original theatrical version of Dune, but having watched the Extended Edition over the weekend, I obviously have only seen snippets of the film. Having seen the film, I was quite engaged by the epic plotline and really want to read the book(s) now. I also need to watch the original theatrical release, as there is some debate about which version does a better job presenting the expansive storyline and complicated character relationships.
Since I haven't yet had time to watch the theatrical release, I can't personally attest to the additions to the Extended Edition and will rely on some other reviews that I've read. Rather than the original introductory narration by Princess Irulan, the Extended Edition begins with an opening sequence in which a different voiceover accompanies still paintings that illustrate the Dune Universe and its complicated cast of characters, with a historical perspective that leads up to the film's events. This narration is repeated throughout key scenes of the film in order to give some perspective on what just occurred, with varying success, in my opinion. There is some debate as to whether the other additional footage introduced into the Extended Edition helps to clarify the complicated relationships and plotlines in the movie. I must admit that I had to pay attention in order to follow everything, but on the whole I was drawn in and didn't have too much trouble keeping up.
The DVD is double-sided, with the Extended Edition on one side and the theatrical release and Special Features on the other. The metallic case housing the DVD is one of the nicest ones that I've seen outside of more elaborate boxed set packagings. The Extended Edition is an anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) transfer that isn't great compared to some remastering efforts that I've seen, but at least they preserved the correct aspect ratio. Some fans had hoped for a DTS soundtrack, but that was obviously shelved. It would be nearly impossible to fit a DTS mix on this single-disc version, which is why rumors of a two-disc release were rampant. Both versions of the film feature Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound, and on the whole I must admit to being somewhat underwhelmed by the sound mix. The excellent musical score could have made better use of the overall sound stage, and the somewhat disparate volume of dialogue and music was annoying at times.
A booklet insert of Dune Terminology summarizes key concepts, families, and phrases; the other side graphically illustrates the "tree" of Special Features. Special Features include:
Bottom line, fans of Dune will definitely want to get their hands on this DVD. It may not be the "definitive" version that many were hoping for, but the Extended Edition and the associated Special Features offer enough new material and perspectives to make it worth your while. Newbies to the Dune film/novels or the science fiction genre in general may not find it as appealing, but as someone new to the Dune universe, I found myself more than engaged by the film.
Tuesday, February 07, 2006
As you may have noticed, the daily del.icio.us link posts that I've been using for about a month crapped out last night, so I retroactively "manually" posted all of those links this morning.
Some of you have expressed a dislike for the del.icio.us linkdump formatting, but I tend to prefer it because it doesn't require me to make individual posts for links that I feel don't require a lot of commentary, extensive formatting, or accompanying images. It also means that on days where I'm busy (or just lazy), at least you'll get a post with sites that I was able to quickly "tag" during the day as opposed to nothing at all. Finally, I think that the compact formatting lends itself to lots of quick link posts, which as you can see take up a lot more real estate as individual posts.
On the other hand, the daily del.icio.us linkdumps are lumped together as one post, which means that it's more difficult to later refer back to an individual link. It may also mean that someone who wants to comment on a post may decide not to because it wouldn't necessarily be obvious which link is being referred to. That last point is particularly hard to gauge, as commenting has dropped precipitously for several months now, but who knows?
What do you think? Please give me some feedback so that I can make an educated decision on whether to abandon the linkdump format for individual posts.
Monday, February 06, 2006
Six degrees of Wikipedia "finds the shortest path between any two Wikipedia articles in the main namespace using wiki links."
Check out the Fantasy Novel Title Generator, which is right on the money.
Mastercard has more information on the MacGyver commercial that premiered during the Superbowl. Fun stuff...
The Observer has an interesting timeline of free speech.
Aubrey Herbert's Economic Education reports that in a recent interview, "Colin Powell's former Chief of Staff Lawrence Wilkerson states that much of Powell's landmark speech to the United Nations laying out the Bush Administration's case for the Iraq war was false." No way!
Yahoo! News has an interesting article on the bottled water industry:
Consumers spend a collective $100 billion every year on bottled water in the belief--often mistaken, as it happens--that this is better for us than what flows from our taps, according to environmental think tank the Earth Policy Institute (EPI).
CNN reports that Volkswagen is "working on a prototype vehicle which features Google Inc.'s satellite mapping software to give drivers a bird's eye view of the road ahead." Cool!
CNET News reports on the upcoming PMA convention, typically where many new products are unveiled each year. CNET's article makes some predictions on this year's trends, including a Canon director's assertion that "the megapixel race is pretty much over." This statement is based on the idea that the seven- and eight-megapixel range is capable of making high-quality 13"x19" prints, more than enough for most consumers and "prosumers."
Siemens is developing a system called Park Mate for cars that not only finds you a parking spot, but will also automatically parks your car too. Supposedly this won't be available until 2008, but it sounds pretty cool...
Boing Boing reports that "A Finnish casemodder built a functional PC inside a 1.5l Ballantine's whisky bottle." As Gizmodo points out, it would have been more impressive if he hadn't cut into the bottle... ;-)
Josh Kinberg of sandbox films was kind enough to share his programming expertise in creating Greasemonkey scripts that allows you to save local files of both YouTube and Google video files. Check out his blog post here for the scripts and more information on how they work.
Both of these scripts will allow you to save the videos as Flash .flv files (you may need to supply the extension). If you don't have a means to play such files (I didn't), then you can download an FLV player from download.com.
For those of you unfamiliar with Greasemonkey, it is a Mozilla Firefox extension that allows users to write scripts to change how you interact with specific web sites, usually adding or supplementing the page content or changing its design or function. If there's enough interest, I'd be happy to make a more detailed post with some of the scripts I use regularly.
In 1997 Spike Jonze did a commercial for Levi's Jeans that was set to the classic'80s Soft Cell song Tainted Love. Check out the embedded YouTube video below or visit the YouTube page. Twisted but fun... :-)
Google Video and AOL have made all of the Super Bowl XL commercials available for viewing.
I think Budweiser was the real winner this year with a bunch of funny commercials, although there were some other standouts as well...
Saturday, February 04, 2006
Friday, February 03, 2006
Most people are fond of their pets. What happens when that fondness goes a little too far? Meet Sugar Bush Squirrel. "Being an International Superstar and The World's Most Photographed Squirrel, Sugar Bush loves to dress up, and has over 1,000 outfits with matching hats and accessories." You can follow Sugar Bush Squirrel's adventures on the bridge of the "Squirrelship" Enterprise, her hunt for terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan, or her reenactment of the Asian Tsunami. Want to try your hand at squirrel photography but don't have a squirrel? No problem! Just purchase the Bring-To-Life Squirrel Kit and you will be on your way to squirrel photography fame and fortune.
Thursday, February 02, 2006
I totally missed this last year, but apparently The Cars is reforming as New Cars:
Cars principals Elliot Easton and Greg Hawkes are in talks to team with veteran singer/songwriter Todd Rundgren in a new incarnation of pioneering new wave rock act The Cars, which will tour and possibly record an album next year. Rundgren will step in for Cars frontman Ric Ocasek, who has no plans to participate in the project. Cars bassist/vocalist Ben Orr died of cancer in 2000.I'm not quite sure how they'll manage without Ocasek or Benjamin Orr, but I'll guess we'll see. I was e-mailed a teaser video (WMV or MPG) that doesn't have too much more info, but supposedly there will be a press conference in March with more details. I'll let you know if I here anything more...
Slashdot posts about new missile technology that Russia has developed that has the potential to render the United States' anti-missile system obsolete before it's even deployed (or shown to be at all successful during rigged tests):
[Russian President Vladimir] Putin said the new missiles were capable of changing both altitude and direction, making it impossible for an enemy to intercept them since "a missile defense system is designed to counter missiles moving along a ballistic trajectory."
Check out Brokeback To The Future (YouTube video), a mash-up of Brokeback Mountain and Back To The Future. Click on the image above to watch it now (embedded Flash video).
They did a good job editing it together, but now I can't think of Back To The Future in quite the same way...
Check out this insane Japanese ad starring none other than Ah-nuld. Or, as Screenhead so eloquently puts it, "I've got a headache THIS BIG and it's got 'Schwarzenegger' written allll over it!" :-)
A day after stating that "America is addicted to oil" in his State Of The Union address, The Borowitz Report reveals that W has now admitted that he is an "oilaholic:"
In a nationally televised address from the Oval Office last night, a visibly agitated [W] began his speech with the following simple statement: "My name is George W. Bush, and I am an oilaholic."
Wednesday, February 01, 2006