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December 2005 Archives

Stranger than iPod fiction

A mom bought an iPod from Walmart for her son as a Christmas present. When he opened up the box, he found a slab of meat instead! Well, that mystery has now been solved: Apparently, a Walmart employee has been replacing iPods with meat. You can't make this stuff up. :)

RIAA encourages 15-year-old girl to commit perjury

Defendants in an RIAA lawsuit are countersuing because one of the RIAA's witnesses deposed that the RIAA's lawyer pressured her to lie under oath. Apparently, the RIAA realized they wouldn't have a case if this girl told the truth, so they repeatedly called her to insist that she lie. You tell me which is the bigger crime: Copying some music? Or encouraging a girl to commit perjury?

Duck Duck Goose

One bright moment.

Mashups and Music

I was thinking about the No One Takes Your Freedom mashup I mentioned in my Christmas post, and I realized that it kinda reminds me of Feel Good, Inc. by the Gorillaz [10.8 MB MPEG4 Video]. (A couple more Gorillaz videos on this page.) Feel Good Inc. flows between rock ballad-ish singing and rapping (by guest artists De La Soul) in a very natural way. In a way, though, it almost feels like a song that was designed from the start to be a mashup. It's a mashup with no parents. A mashup orphan? Anyway, I like it.

The Price of Gas

My latest guest-post.

Guest-blogging for SSR

For the next few weeks, I will be among the guest-bloggers for Saheli* whilst she is in India.

Here's my first post on her blog.

The Kinks celebrate Christmas

Here's some holiday cheer, courtesy of The Kinks: Father Christmas [YouTube]. It's off of their 1978 Misfits album. (Although, if you're gonna get a Kinks album, you should either get one of their best-of collections (which will have singles like You Really Got Me) or get their somewhat Beatles-esque Something Else by The Kinks. For some reason Death of a Clown is one of my favorite songs. I don't know what that says about me. :P)

As they said on a restaurant window in Istanbul, MERRY CRISM.!

Update: Since this Christmas post was a bit of a downer, here's something to cheer you up: A mashup by DJ Earworm called No One Takes Your Freedom. It's Scissor Sisters (Take Your Mama) vs. The Beatles (For No One) vs. George Michael (Freedom '90) vs. Aretha Franklin (Think)... and yet it sounds like it's all meant to go together! Especially at the end, when they actually get the vocals from all four songs going at once! Wow. This is probably the best mashup I've heard.

My Own Private Thermopylae

Oh awesome.. They're making a movie called 300, based on a Frank Miller graphic novel, about The Battle of Thermopylae. The director (Zach Snyder, whose only credit is the Dawn of the Dead remake) is taking a bit of a Sin City approach to it, but not quite as extreme. He's got sets, but also tons of green screen. Check out this concept art page with some more comparisons of the graphic novel and before-and-after compositing.

The Battle of Thermopylae is one of the earliest and most amazing "last stand" stories in Western history. In 480 B.C., 300 Spartans and a few thousand other Greek soldiers defended a mountain pass against Persian Army that was some 200,000 strong. The Spartans knew they had no chance of winning, but they had to stall long enough to allow the Greeks to evacuate Athens and regroup their forces. Even after their leader Leonidas was killed, they circled around his body to defend it. Eventually, the Persians fell back, and the remaining Spartans were killed with spears and arrows, but only after taking some 30,000 Persians down with them.

This is going to make an awesome movie.

(Sorry, SSR! I'm being very un-Quaker-like and glorifying war, I know. But I guess I have a "last stand" fetish. :P)

(And yes, I named this post after a computer game level, but hey, someone else named a whole freaking company after that level! So there you go.)

Merry Winter Solstice

Update: NORAD tracks Santa

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So those of you who follow politics know that Bill O'Reilly has been leading the fight to defend "Merry Christmas", going so far as to protesting Walmart for saying "Happy Holidays" (instead of, you know, protesting them for locking their workers in at night and so forth :P). I think the protesting is idiotic, of course, and I find "Happy Holidays" to be a perfectly fine way of inclusively wishing people well.

Yet, when people were leaving work Friday, and some coworkers wished me "Happy Holidays", I was surprised to find it kinda grating. It just sounded so artificial and hollow to me. I didn't even feel comfortable saying it back, so I instead replied, "You too!"

On a person-to-person level, I guess I find "Happy Holidays" too artificial and hollow. I have no problem with and in fact prefer department stores saying "Happy Holidays", but that's because their season's greetings are hollow to begin with. In the case of an actual person, I realize that I would rather they just say "Merry Christmas" to me.

To be fair, I came to this country with no religion, and I adopted the local Christmas celebrations in a secular way, no differently than how I adopted, say, Halloween. I can see how someone who has a non-Christian religion might find it offensive to be wished a Merry Christmas just because Christianity is the dominant religion. But really? I mean, Christmas is such a secularized holiday anyway, and it's the only religious national holiday. Besides, my homeward bound coworkers are officially getting Monday off for Christmas.

When I was at Motorola, there were a large number of Indian people at our site, and so almost everyone had lunch together at an Indian restaurant for Diwali. I didn't say, "Hey, I'm not going to go because I'm not Hindu." Plenty of non-Indians went. I thought that was really neat. Some people told stories about how they celebrated Diwali as kids, and it was culturally enlightening. For Chinese New Year, a bunch of us, including many non-Chinese, went out to a Chinese restaurant. We got to see some of the normally quiet Chinese immigrant chug rice wine and play drinking games. Also culturally enlightening. :) Of course, those were unofficial outings, and the company only paid for our Christmas party, and I thought that was fine, too. Like I said, Christmas is already an official national holiday, right? It's pretty natural to me for minorities to participate in some way with traditions of the dominant culture.

I guess what I'm saying is, "Happy Holidays" is like being so afraid of focusing on one religion that you end up taking all meaning and culture out of the greeting. Let's have more culture, not less. I'd rather be wished a Merry Christmas, but also a Happy Diwali, and a Happy Chinese (or Lunar) New Year. I understand that corporations and the government can't cover all the bases, so it's fine for them to hold back, but when you're talking to an actual person, say a greeting that actually means something.

So for now, Merry Christmas!

P.S.: This would be a good time to remind everyone of the true Spirit of Christmas. :D o/~ Dreidel dreidel dreidel / I made you out of clay / Dreidel dreidel dreidel / With dreidel I will play! o/~

A Nine-Ton Bag

The Straight Dope is a nifty question-and-answer column, and I was reading a column about diplomatic bags, which are bags countries can send to their ambassdors that don't get inspected at border crossings. Here's what a typical bag looks like. They're supposed to contain documents and other official items, and they were officialy codified in the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.

This part of the article greatly amused me:

Any container can be a diplomatic bag--there are no limitations on size or shape. The Soviet Union tested the limits of this rule in 1984 when it claimed that a nine-ton tractor trailer was a diplomatic bag. As Chuck Ashman and Pamela Trescott tell the story in their book, Diplomatic Crime: "The white Mercedes truck bearing the blue Cyrillic letters reading Sovtransavto across its side tried to cross into Switzerland . . . The three Soviets driving the truck put off a request for inspection." The Swiss were not amused. "Though the Vienna Convention does not specify any size limitation for the bag, Swiss officials said they considered 450 pounds to be the maximum allowable size." The truck wound up in West Germany where Soviet officials permitted West German authorities to inspect the truck's contents: 207 crates, which themselves constituted diplomatic bags and weren't inspected.

:D

Sushi sushi sushi

Here is the proper way to eat sushi. [QuickTime movie] Hilarious!

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Whoa.. check this out.. Ballet in Three Acts for Saab 9000 Turbo, [Google Video] from 1988.

Also: Drag racing 747s [WMV].

Balance

Here's a cool little animated short film that's very balanced.

Oh and here's another. Go ahead. Watch it. After you. I insist.

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Unrelated: Some researchers used "emotion-recognition software" on the Mona Lisa and determined that she's "83% happy, 9% disgusted, 6% fearful and 2% angry". Now that's just ridiculous on so many levels. :P

Voting on demand

I was amused by a quote from this article on strong Sunni turnout in the Iraqi elections:

"We came to vote for the alliance, obeying our clerics' demand," said Ali Hussein, a 45-year-old taxi driver in Najaf.

What an odd blend of democracy and not. :)

Nifty animated music video

I don't like the song that much, but I like the animation in this video.

o/~ I'm not the kind who needs to tell you / Just what you want me to o/~

Sofia Coppola's new movie is called Marie Antoinette, and the teaser trailer is out [QuickTime]. What does it say about me that I'm more excited about the fact that the soundtrack to the trailer is entirely consisted of an early New Order song [lyrics link] than the fact that it features a scantily-clad Kirsten Dunst with a strategically held fan?

And I'm not the kind that likes to tell you
Just what I want to do
I'm not the kind that needs to tell you
Just what you want me to

Update: Oops. Corrected the second line of my lyrics quote. I thought I'd also point out that the song is called "Age of Consent", and that Marie Antoinette was married to Louis XVI when she was 14 and he was 15.

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Completely Unrelated: They should make a movie called, "Item Removed From Bagging Area". The sequel could be called, "Please Return Item to Bagging Area". Finally, the grand finale would be called, "Unexpected Item in Bagging Area". The DVD box set would be titled, "The Bagging Area Trilogy". The movies would be referred to by hardcore fans as IRF, PRIT, and UII, since the BA would, obviously, be implied.

hey buddy download this cool link

lol its not a virus

Chop!

Boston Legal is awesome. Never has the severing of a man's fingers been so hilarious. :P

Ford caves to conservative group pressure

Ford is pulling Jaguar and Land Rover ads from gay media publications due to pressure from the American Family Association. They're going to keep running Volvo ads, though. Blech.

P.S.: No, that Blech was not in response to mentioning Volvo. Have you seen the new Volvos? They actually look kinda cool! Much better than before. They've got that whole "European" look. They're still Volvos though... :)

A different kind of pong

Here's a page about the very first video game, from 1958. It's called "Tennis for Two", and it was played on an oscilloscope display. That page also has a video clip [RealVideo] of it in action.

(P.S.: This came way before Pong did in 1972.)

Crazy window washing rig incident

Don't worry; everyone survived. Go to this article and click on the "See Raw Video" link. It's crazy. A skyscraper window washing rig got blown all over the place in high winds and started smashing up all the windows while the window washers held on for dear life. Craziness.

* * *

Heehee.. Randomly clicking on a link on that page brought me to an article about a 19-year-old who used a barcode program he downloaded to try buying an iPod for $4.99. What the hell was he thinking? I mean, isn't that just a tad bit suspicious? But what's funny is the statement he wrote for the police:

"I will NEVER EVER DO THIS EVER AGAIN and I am once more terribly sorry," Baldino wrote. "Please let me go for I am terribly sorry!!! I'm only a kid! Help me out. I just want to go home. I did this not knowing of the serious penalty that lies behind it. Please! Please! Please!"

Okay, it's sad, too, but still funny. :P

The article also has one of those amusingly wry endings:

Police said that Baldino didn't even pay for the software program. He used barcodes generated during the 15-day trial period.

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Update: Holy crappy reporting, Batman. Both that Denver Channel article about the barcode thief and this Denver Post article say he got an iPod, but he didn't! The police report [which also contains his full statement on pages 3 and 4] shows that he actually got an Altec Lansing iPod-compatible audio system. He got an iDJ iPod-compatible DJing system for cheap on a previous visit, and that's how security knew to look for him. The Denver Post article mentions the previous visit, but called that an iPod as well. The reporters probably just saw the word "iPod" in the police report and figured that's what people want to hear. :P

Also, it makes much more sense that he could sorta get away with it if they weren't iPods. I mean, I'm sure the cashiers have a much better sense of how much actual iPods are supposed to cost than these obscure accessories.

Your Congress, hard at work

Paul pointed me to the news that the United States Congress is going to hold hearings on the college football Bowl Championship Series. Wow.

A House Energy and Commerce subcommittee, charged with regulating America’s sports industry, announced Friday it will conduct a hearing on the BCS next week, after this season’s bowl matchups are determined.

There is a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee charged with regulating America's sports industry?! And so why are these hears necessary, exactly? Apparently:

“Too often college football ends in sniping and controversy, rather than winners and losers,” [Committee Chairman Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas] said. “The current system of determining who’s No. 1 appears deeply flawed.”

SO?! Why do you care?! *sigh*

This wonderful news brought to me by Paul, who points out that Congress was doing a super exciting job of investigating steroid abuse in baseball not long ago. Jacob points out that at least one could make the argument that Major League Baseball affected "interstate commerce". :P

Is the Gulf Stream already dying?

Scary stuff.

In other news, an amusing 360 commercial that Microsoft decided not to air.

The World as the Palette

More fun from the Media Lab: a brush that captures images from the real world and lets you paint them on a canvas. Be sure to scroll to the bottom and check out the video.

Keep It Simple, Stupid

Most engineers are aware of the K.I.S.S. principle, so this story amused me:

Proponents of Intelligent Design claim that some things are so complex, they must have been designed by an intelligent creator and could not have arisen naturally. Recently, they've been comparing themselves to SETI, saying that they are also searching for patterns of intelligence.

This appears to have irked someone from SETI, who wrote an interesting column. Far from searching for complexity, SETI actually specifically looks for simplicity! That is, they look for steady, simple signals. You see, complexity actually comes rather naturally... It's simplicity that requires intelligence to create! I love how this kinda turns the whole ID argument on its tail. :)

I mean, the fundamental problem with the ID arguments is that complexity is actually easy to come by. It's precisely why I'm so fascinated by Conway's Game of Life: only 4 simple rules can generate unendingly complex patterns! It's simplicity that's difficult to find. If we look at DNA, we see tons of wasted genes and unnecessary complexity. If our DNA were efficient and well-organized, if we had no appendices, that would be a better sign of intelligent design than "the complexity of an eyeball".

(I found that SETI member column via this Ars Technica article.)

About December 2005

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

November 2005 is the previous archive.

January 2006 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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