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April 2005 Archives

Company Loyalty

Hiroshi Yamauchi, who ruled nintendo for over 50 years, stepped down as President but remained on the Board of directors in 2002. Now he's officially retiring. What's amazing is that he's forgoing his multi-million dollar retirement package because he believes the money would be better spent by the company. He's essentially donating several million dollars to the company. It's hard for me to imagine an American corporate head donating his own money to the company this way.

Vader's Blog

One of the best-written fake-blogs i've seen: Darth Vader's blog. Excerpt:

Do you want to know what the worst part is? My left leg is still on the fritz. Whose trachea do you have to crush with your mind to get a little service around here?

Poor poor melancholy Darth...

Product placement in the news

I never realized PR's influence on print articles is quite this extensive.

A quick evening at the movies

1. I just watched Battle Royale tonight... controversial Japanese movie about a bunch of middle school kids thrown on an island and forced to kill each other until there's only one left. It was surprisingly good, in that it did a good job of giving a couple dozen characters each a bit of humanity (with one notable exception). It was tense, too, partly because the basic premise is so twisted that you truly have no clue what's going to happen--who's going to live and die. Anyway, apparently, the Japanese film company refuses to sell this movie to an American distributor, probably afraid of post-Columbine backlash and national image or something, but I got it easily from Netflix. Only downside was that the special features disc was only subtitled in Korean. :P

2. There's going to be a live-action Star Wars TV show! It'll be set between Episodes III and IV, and it'll star secondary characters from the movies, apparently. Personally, I'm just excited about the idea of someone other than George Lucas directing another Star Wars movie. I'm still peeved that he didn't let go after Episode I. :(

3. This is absolutely the most ridiculous home theater ever built. Here's a direct link to the completed room.

4. Check out this early 40s music video. The bass player is awesome. (Btw, don't click "View movie scenes" like I did. Click a file format below that.)

French court prohibits copy protection on DVDs

The court said that copy protection violates private copying rights. (Hm. That last sentence just made me realize the oxymoronic nature of "copyright", which is really "copynoright". :P) This contradicts the European Copyright Directive, and the movie studio is likely to appeal.

Idle Specurotation

I'm fascinated by branding, like with the naming of the new Xbox... Sony's coming out with the Playstation 3 this year, so Microsoft didn't want to call their new console "Xbox 2", because they're afraid people will just compare numbers and decide 3 > 2. :) But just jumping from Xbox to Xbox 3 would be a bit too brazen... They ended up deciding on this very odd "Xbox 360".... They get to say "3" without just calling it "Xbox 3"! Kinda silly, but I bet it kinda works. In fact, I bet some people are gonna find "360" too long to say and end up saying "Xbox 3" anyway. Meanwhile, Microsoft gets to say, "That's not our fault!"

A while back, well, remember US Air? They were viewed as kind of a cheap low-quality airline, which wasn't helped by their gaudy red, white, and blue logo. I read an article that talked about how they spent tens of thousands of dollars over 9 months or something looking for a new image. After all that work, they ended up adding four letters, making it "US Airways". They also turned their logo into gray monochrome. I don't hear about them doing all that well these days, but at the time, the change worked out great for them! (Hm. My attempts to google for a pre-change US Air logo failed miserably. Anyone up to the challenge?)

[old AOL logo] [new AOL logo]

Anyway, this was brought on by my noticing AOL's new logo. I wonder how much money they spent rotating it 30 degrees? :)

Update Apr-25: Cleggy in the comments helped me realize that I should be looking for "USAir", and not "US Air". So voila:

[USAir] [US Airways]

While we're on the topic of subtle logo changes, I also remember when the iMac came out, and Apple suddenly dropped all use of the rainbow-colored Apple logo, keeping the shape but making all subsequent ones monochrome (though sometimes shiny).

Cheap Thrills

Question for y'all: Why do we get cheap thrills from dangerous situations? Okay, so getting the adrenaline pumping makes sense: It helps us get out of the dangerous situation. But what about our morbid curiosity? Why do we have it? Doesn't it seem evolutionarily advantageous to want to get the hell away from that stuff?

[FIGHT!] [FLIGHT!] [FIGHT!] [FLIGHT!]

"Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi. You're my only hope."

Toshiba has developed a 3-D flat panel that does not require glasses. I wish there were some video of it.

A, um, music video

Somebody please tell me that this video is a subtle joke? That it's not serious?

Please?

Lu Report Retrospective (Volume 1)

[Firefighter] So in the months following September 11, I emailed lots of links to friends. Eventually, I started sending these emails to a bigass cc list, and I called them "The Lu Report". Looking back, this is exactly the sort of thing I would've blogged, had I been blogging, so I thought I'd blog them! It'll be a window into the mind of Kenneth post-September 11.

I'll do this in batches. Of course, it started as just a bunch of links I'd send to friends and such, so in this post, I'll take you up to the first one I called The Lu Report. Apologies in advance for all the expired New York Times links where you'll only be able to see abstracts now. (In fact, I make no guarantees about any of the links still being valid.)

Enjoy!

P.S.: The photos I linked to on September 14 (including the one to your right) still give me shivers....

From: kenlu@mit.edu
Subject: Jane's analysis
Date: September 12, 2001

http://www.janes.com/security/international_security/news/jid/
jid010911_1_n.shtml

From: kenlu@mit.edu
Subject: WTC structural design
Date: September 12, 2001

http://www.civil.usyd.edu.au/wtc.htm

From: kenlu@mit.edu
Subject: The Story of the Firefighters
Date: September 12, 2001

Here's a mirror copy of a New York Times article on the firefighters..

http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=21556&threshold=0&
commentsort=0&mode=thread&cid=2284334

(Please let me know if you can't read the link.)

I don't know.. It may sound cheesy, but the story of the HUNDREDS of
firefighters who risked and lost their lives going UP the stairwells
when most people barely got out... I guess that somehow hits me the
most.  Maybe it's because of my own fear of death, and how hard it is
for me to see myself risking my life for others.. and there's a part of
me, whether social or otherwise, that really doesn't like that.. that
really feels that I SHOULD be willing to risk my life for others like
that without a second thought...

Anyway, that article got me all misty-eyed, so I thought I'd share it
with you.

From: kenlu@mit.edu
Subject: Passengers may have thwarted flight 93's hijackers
Date: September 12, 2001

I haven't seen this elsewhere in the news yet...

http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/world/americas/newsid_1540000/1540158.
stm

Scroll down to "Thwarted by Passengers".

It seems that, on the flight outside of Pittsburgh, the pilot secretly
left on a mic in the cockpit that played in the cabin.. And passengers
likely managed to suppress the terrorists and either retake control or
struggle for control of the plane, but they couldn't maintain control,
causing it to crash, but well outside any populated area.

From: kenlu@mit.edu
Subject: a rebuilding suggestion
Date: September 12, 2001

someone showed me this suggestion for rebuilding the WTC:

http://www.scripting.com/images/flippinTheWtc.jpg

From: kenlu@mit.edu
Subject: Photos from the inside...
Date: September 14, 2001

http://www.phatmax.net/wtc/wow.php

especially this one:

http://www.phatmax.net/wtc/wow.php?s=DSCN3612.jpg


man.

From: kenlu@mit.edu
Subject: Falwell: The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this
Date: September 14, 2001

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A28620-2001Sep14.html
[Fixed WaPo link Feb-2008]

I don't think I need to make any more comments for this, because it
speaks for itself..

From: kenlu@mit.edu
Subject: Pictures some people are going to have a lot of fun with
Date: September 14, 2001

Figured y'all would be interested in what will soon be the latest
craze:

http://9news.com/newsroom/13294.html
[Link is dead, but here are the pictures it showed. Feb-2008]

Mmm.. gotta love low-res compression artifacts!

From: kenlu@mit.edu
Subject: Account from someone inside
Date: September 14, 2001

http://www.everything2.com/index.pl?node_id=1158479

Another WTC story.. this one from someone who was on the 87th floor of
WTC 1 and got out 15 minutes before it collapsed.  It seems like it
would be representative of the stories of many survivors.  Reading it
just boggles my mind.

A friend of mine sent this to a mailing list I was on:

From: S.C.
Date: Sat, 15 Sep 2001
Subject: Fwd: Reaction in Chile

 In light of what Kenneth said, here's an email I got
 from a high school friend who's currently living in
 Chile.

One of the reasons that my experiences abroad are so important to me is
that it allows me to witness world news from a different point of view. 
I remember very clearly hearing the OJ Simpson verdict when I was living
in Mexico.  I was in a car with my Mexican host mom and a canadian
exchange student.  The news was as of much interest to them as it was to
me...

September 11 is a historic and volitile day in Chile.  Sept. 11, 1973
the presidential palace was bombed and President Allende was
assasinated.  That was the beginning of Pinochet's 20 year
dictatorship.  Every year there are protests and riots in Santiago.  We
expected the same this year.  I went to sleep the night before expecting
to see the tear gas and fires on the news in the morning-they are
present every Sept 11 in the capital.  I did not expect to be awakened
by the phone call I got.  The phone woke me up at 9:30am--  "They
attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon!!" Still half asleep I
said "no, that can't be possible, no one can attack the Pentagon"  So I
went to the TV where everyone was already watching the morning's events
unfold.  We watched all morning, we saw the towers fall, everyone was
glued to the TV.  I went to the gym and everyone there was watching
too.  Everywhere I went all day everyone was watching the news. All
national programming was suspended, all channels only had news of the
attack all day long.  I realized that if everyone here was glued to the
screen, most likely everyone in the whole world was watching too.  And
all day I kept hearing "how could this happen, we thought the US was
invincible" And so did I.

I have known for a long time that many people think of the US as a big
bully-- too powerful.  But now the feeling is different-- as much as
people here might not usually like it, I think it gives them a sense of
security that the US is always in control.  The terrorist attacks have
made people here feel vulnerable.  They are scared.  There was an
immediate panic about what would happen with the economy.  The price of
the dollar rose 30 Chilean Pesos in the first couple of hours.  The
supermarkets were crowded all day. Everyone was stocking up on the
essencials-- either because they were afraid of a 3rd World War or
because they were afraid that the price of everything imported will
skyrocket out of control.  It is amazing to me that the people here, who
are so far from the US, who live completely different lives from what we
live in the US, are so impacted by what happens there.

My response to that:

From: kenlu@mit.edu
Date: Sat, 15 Sep 2001
Subject: Re: Peace

I actually find this whole discussion very fascinating..

I was thinking about how much we care about this bombing, and we should,
but I was also thinking about how we care so little about the incredible
suffering going on in many countries in the world, most ironically in
Afghanistan.  I mean, even as we talk about retaliation, there's still
very little talk about the horrible conditions there.  When the Taliban
started destorying historical treasures a few months back, people made a
big cry about it, ignoring all the incredibly oppressive activities of
the Taliban that affect the people in that country today..

And I don't mean to insult anyone.. I mean, I certainly admit to caring
more about the WTC bombings myself, as well.  I figured that it's
probably because we relate more to those who died at the WTC.. Even if
there wasn't anyone we knew personally, they seem like the kind of
people we know.. they seem like US.  I think that's why we feel more for
them.  Of course, fear plays a large factor in it as well. (The "that
could have been me" factor.)

So then we get to the world reaction.. Politically, it's seems to me
that most countries want to be on good terms with the US because of our
clout, and thus officially express condolences while they don't bother
when something bad happens in some politically weaker country.

But as for the citizens of those countries.. I dunno.. I think perhaps
it's more complicated.. In Western countries, the relating factor
certainly applies.  But would there be as large a world reaction of a
large terrorist attack like this happened in, say, England, France, or
Germany, even?  I feel that part of the world community's reaction comes
from a deep fear that, if this can happen to the most powerful country
in the world.. what's next?

I dunno.. those are my thoroughly uninformed thoughts.  What do others
think?

(Remember all that goodwill we had after September 11? Remember? No? Me neither....)

From: kenlu@mit.edu
Subject: thrusting therapy on trauma may backfire
Date: September 15, 2001

Here's an article I found interesting..

It basically says that some psychologists think trying to give
psychological aid to trauma patients too early may deprive them of a
normal grieving period and thus be counterproductive.

http://nytimes.com/2001/09/16/health/psychology/16MENT.html

Subject: Motives and OUR propaganda
Date: September 16, 2001

Here's an article mentioning bin Laden's motives and condemning our lack
of coverage of those motives.

http://www.kuro5hin.org/story/2001/9/14/01234/2598

A quote:

    The first time I asked someone why they thought these people did
    this, the paraphrased response was "because they're crazy
    fundamentalist terrorists who hate America because they've been fed
    propaganda by their government". Hopefully the irony isn't lost; out
    of 48 hours of media attention, perhaps five minutes has been spent
    on understanding the motives of the other side. In the eyes of
    America, the "other side" is not even human. They're not people
    avenging the deaths of their children or the loss of their
    property--they're just a bunch of crazy terrorists who need to be
    exterminated.

I have to totally agree.. I'm absolutely amazed and disgusted at the
lack of coverage of his motives and the simultaneous flood of "quoting"
people saying things like, "This is motivated by pure hate, and we must
eradicate it."

Who are the ones propagating pure hate here?!

Then again, perhaps we should not blame the media.. perhaps it's only
giving us what we want.  I mean, I know _I_ don't do all I can to keep
abreast of international politics.  I didn't know what bin Laden's
grudge against us is, nor did I know much about the Israel-Palestinian
conflict.  So perhaps it's our own fault for not caring more, but our
news sources certainly aren't helping.


And also, here's an excellent article, written by someone who's had to
endure IRA violence:

http://www.kuro5hin.org/story/2001/9/16/24557/3260

And now, Ladies and Gentlemen, what you've been waiting for: the very first official Lu Report!

From: kenlu@mit.edu
Subject: Techie and gov't solns
Date: September 17, 2001

The techie solution:  Make fuels safer so planes don't blow up when they
crash.

http://www.nytimes.com/2001/09/18/science/18BOMB.html


And here's a nice article on the various military and other options the
gov't is considering:

http://www.nytimes.com/2001/09/17/international/17ASSE.html



I was just discussing with Paul yesterday that the toughest part of this
is how hard it is to find terrorists, making the task of "destorying the
terrorist networks" really difficult.  That is why, it seems, the gov't
is going after the easier goal of going after "gov'ts that harbor or aid
terrorists", but the problem with that is.. Is that really a reasonable
thing to do?

Questions questions questions.

This has been a part of the Lu Report news service.  This is not spam. 
You are subscribed to this service because you at some point in your
life befriended one Kenneth Lu.  If at any time you would like to opt
out of receiving any future mailings, please simply email kenlu@mit.edu
with "unsubscribe" in the message body.  Don't worry.  He'll still be
your friend.

More to come!

View all Lu Report Retrospective volumes

Fun with jumping out of airplanes

Don't worry. The skydiver in this clip survives just fine. [WMV, 3'24", 12.6 MB] There's still no way I'm gonna go do that, though. Ever.

(Btw, I found this first hand account of what happened, even though I don't really understand it. :P It does say that the guy's okay, but that he was already tense from a similar draft he ran into the day before. A couple of posts up it mentions that this happened in Mexico this year.)

First brain-controlled artificial limb test

Another cybernetics milestone: A man used a brain implant to control an artifical limb.

Nagle was given a general anaesthetic before a disc the size of a poker chip was cut from his skull. After making an incision in the brain's protective membrane, a tiny array of 96 hair-thin electrodes, each protruding about a millimetre, was pressed onto the surface of his brain, just above a region of the sensory motor cortex that is home to the neuronal circuitry governing arm and hand movement. With the electrodes in position, the bony disc was replaced, leaving room for a tiny wire to connect the electrodes to a metal plate the size of a 10p piece that sits on Nagle's head like a button.

To read brain signals from Nagle's motor cortex, Donoghue's researchers attach an amplifier to the metallic button on his head and run a cable to a computer. When he's hooked up, the tiny voltages of the sparking neurons beneath the electrodes produce a series of brainwaves that dance on the computer screen.

(Found link via this /. article)

In distantly related news, here's an article on how the Secret Service is using distributed computing to crack encryption on confiscated files. They're deploying it to run silently in the background of agency desktop computers. What's particularly interesting here is that they make great use of the human factor by scouring the computer for personal info and interests of the user to find candidate words for passwords:

"If we've got a suspect and we know from looking at his computer that he likes motorcycle Web sites, for example, we can pull words down off of those sites and create a unique dictionary of passwords of motorcycle terms," the Secret Service's Lewis said.

Hansen recalled one case several years ago in which police in the United Kingdom used AccessData's technology to crack the encryption key of a suspect who frequently worked with horses. Using custom lists of words associated with all things equine, investigators quickly zeroed in on his password, which Hansen says was some obscure word used to describe one component of a stirrup.

Google Craigslist Maps

This is awesome: Craigslist housing listings integrated with Google Maps.

Also, too lazy to look up interesting Google Satellite Maps items yourself? There's now a blog that lists them.

Bit Disco

[Hard Drive and Bit] This is insane: Imagine Schoolhouse Rock about hard drive technology.

When was the last time you heard a hard drive talk to a bit about the superparamagnetic effect? :)

C is not for Health Food

Cookie Monster is singing a new song: "A Cookie is a Sometimes Food".

!!!!!

C is for cookie! That's good enough for me!

Word Bombs

[Leaflet Jet]

That there is an F/A-18F dropping leaflet bombs during training. (Found via this Cellar post.)

I browsed around on that site a bit, and this is one eerie missed call.

The Proclaimers

Now here's a fun Wikipedia article. :)

Master of Manes

This is an awesome job title:

[Head of Hair] Especially amusing because the one he's got is so out of control. :)

So recently I watched the season finales to both Stargate: SG-1 (which I haven't watched in ages) and Stargate: Atlantis (which I had never watched). Atlantis seemed downright lame, especially with the monster-like aliens. SG-1 has its place. It's fun, but it's devolved into 90% self-parody, like the last couple of seasons of X-Files (which I did still like).

As for Battlestar Galactica, I had only watched the series premier and one other episode before watching the two-part season 1 finale, and I was totally hooked. The story is kinda interesting, and the gritty "realistic" style is good, but really the key to Galactica is that it's actually got fantastic dramatic acting, not cheesy over-the-top sci-fi acting. Not for the most part anyway. :)

I remember getting excited a few years ago about how the decreasing costs of special effects would mean that we would finally be able to get good, character-focused science fiction that could let those effects stay in the background. I used to rant about how science fiction on film and TV would no longer have to appeal to the lowest common denominator just to recoup their effects budgets. That day is finally arriving. What excites me most about the new Galactica is not how good it is, but that it's another sign of what's to come.

Waiting for Obi-Wan Godot

A group of Star Wars fans have been waiting in line at the Chinese Theater in Hollywood, but the movie isn't even premiering there. It's not even likely to play there at all. But they're going to wait there anyway. What's even funnier is that some of them aren't even looking forward to this movie. They're doing this more for the symbolism than to actually see the movie. One of them said, "I'm in it for the lineup only and don't give a darn about the conclusion of this lackluster, so-called 'Star Wars' series."

About April 2005

This page contains all entries posted to the klog in April 2005. They are listed from oldest to newest.

March 2005 is the previous archive.

May 2005 is the next archive.

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