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August 2006 Archives

U.S. citizens refused re-entry without charge

Two U.S. citizens, one naturalized and one native-born, have been refused re-entry into the country after an extended stay in Pakistan, unless they agree to FBI interrogations. They are the uncle and cousin of a man who has been convicted of supporting terrorist activity.

Thing is, the FBI has every reason to be suspicious of them, and to want to question them and keep an eye on tem, but they should go about that in a legal way. As it is, these two people are being deprived of their Constitutional right to due process.

Link from Saheli, and her own writeup is here.

Every time I read something like this, I hope that we don't get all huffy with China any time soon. (See? I even said, "we" to refer to the U.S., and I was born in China and everything! I did that without even noticing it till after the fact! Not that it'll make any difference when the time comes...)

X-Prize funder to be next space tourist

[Ansari] Iranian-American entrepreneur Anousheh Ansari, whom the Ansari X Prize was named after, is set to become the world's 4th space tourist on September 14. [BBC News] The multi-million dollar donation to the X Prize from her and her brother-in-law led to the successful launch of SpaceShipOne in 2004. She is also the co-founder and CEO of Prodea Systems, which is working with Space Adventures and the Russian Federal Space Agency to develop a suborbital tourist space plane called the Space Adventures Explorer. (Space Adventures is the same company that's been working with the FSA to provide all the space tourism we've had to date, including Ansari's upcoming mission.)

Ansari had been training as the backup for Japanese businessman Daisuke Enomoto, but he was recently pulled from the mission for medical reasons. She will also be the first female space tourist, which is what a lot of the articles seem to be harping on. I'm going to get on my high horse here and say that's she notable for being way more than a "female tourist". Actually, the coolest part is that someone who's given (and is giving) so much to the cause of space tourism will have the chance to experience it first-hand.

Then again, I'm also being totally hypocritical by putting up a picture of her because I think she looks hot in a spacesuit. :P Of course, Enomoto was planning to go up in a suit modeled after the outfit of Char Aznable, the villain from Mobile Suit Gundam. That definitely would've been an even better picture! Forget about "first female tourist in space"; I wanna see headlines that say, "first cosplayer in space"! :D

Flyer for Scarab at Johnny V's

Hey, so I helped Scarab make their latest flyer. Figured I'd make it thematic with the band names. Here it is:

Oh, and you should go to the show, btw! :)

The new net neutrality: domain name registration neutrality

Wow. This sounds like a TERRIBLE idea. ICANN is going to allow tiered pricing for .biz, .info, and .org domains. This means that a domain name registrar can set individual prices for different domains. They have to give 6 months' notice before raising prices, during which the domain owner can pre-pay up to 10 years at the old price.

This means that the registrar for, say, eff.org, if they didn't like them, could decide to increase fees to $1 billion a year. Then the EFF would be forced to pre-pay 10 years... and then who knows what will happen in 10 years?

This doesn't apply to .com and .net domains. Yet. I'm curious to see how this pans out, but this is sounding a lot like the net neutrality debate.

Grown-up Talk

I was looking at the Wikipedia article on baby talk, and it starts with this gem:

Baby talk, motherese, parentese, or child-directed speech (CDS) is a...

Further down:

Child-directed speech or CDS is the term preferred by researchers, psychologists, and child development professionals.

WTF?!?!?!!! My favorite part is the acronym. First, they come up with a much longer phrase.... then, since it's too long, they shorten it into an unrecognizable acronym. :) At least "baby talk" is still the main title of the entry. :P

Back to Movable Type

Okay, I came crawling back to MovableType, but I upgraded to a newer version, so I still need to mess with the layout. (I started from scratch with a more modern, CSS-based theme, but I'm going to go tweak it so it's similar to before.)

Auto-generated news stories in production!

This is awesome! Thompson Financial and Reuters use computers to auto-generate some financial earnings stories within 0.3 seconds of the company making the results public. The computer explains whether the company has done better or worse than expected, and they're planning to "add more adjectives". This is like The Postmodernist Essay Generator being put to practical use! :D

Transitioning to WordPress (or maybe not)

I decided to switch webhosts, and so I took this opportunity to switch from MovableType to WordPress as well.

I'm still working on setting up the theme and formatting, so things will be kinda ugly for a while, but everything should basically work. I've hacked the WordPress permalink system so all the old individual article links should still work, but there might be one or two broken ones.

One thing you'll notice is the the first time you post comment, you'll need to enter your name and email (which won't be displayed), and I'll be asked to approve your comment. You won't need approval any more after that first time as long as you use the same name and email.

Oh, and also, I've disabled direct image links on this new host to avoid bandwidth theft, but I can set up exceptions if I know you, and you want to link to an image on my site. Just ask!

Update: I felt like like the moderation thing was lame. I installed a supposed spam blocker, and I'm going to leave the comments open. We'll see how this goes.

Update Aug-21: Wow, I had no idea the WordPress documention base was so ridiculously terrible. Good lord that Codex thing is unusable. Half the stuff is out of date, and it's in total disorganized disarray. I think I'm going to try moving to a newer version of Movable Type instead. I'll probably be doing that from my existing backup, so, um, any comments you're leaving might go byebye.

List of contemporary thematic movie pairs

You know how Hollywood often releases two movies about the same thing around the same time? I first noticed this during the release of Volcano and Dante's Peak, and then later wiht Deep Impact and Armageddon, and with A Bug's Life and Antz. Recently, I noticed it again with The Illusionist and The Prestige, and so I set about looking for a list of such films on Wikipedia.

I couldn't really find one at first, so I was going to start my own, and call it "List of contemporary thematic movie pairs". But then I got smarter and Googled for ["dante's peak" volcano "a bug's life" antz], and I found that it was indeed already on Wikipedia! The article is called, Competing films with similar plots, and it was indeed missing the Prestige/Illusionist pair, so I added it. I should've known better than to believe that something would actually not exist on Wikipedia. :P

P.S. Speaking of the movies, here's is the first update from Roger Ebert himself on his condition since his recent surgery.

Battery Recycling Quiz

POP QUIZ: What should you do with old alkaline batteries?

(A) Burn them
(B) Throw them in the trash.
(C) Take them to a designated recycling center.

If you said C, you're absolutely.... WRONG! According to this battery disposal guide, we currently have no system in place for proper disposal or recycling of alkaline batteries, and (B), "Throw them in the trash," is actually the best thing to do.

However, rechargeable batteries can be recycled at tons of hardware and electronics stores. This includes Ni-Cad, Nickel Metal Hydrid, and Lithium Ion batteries. You can find a local battery recycling center on this page, which features a picture of that sidekick dude from Home Improvement. :P

So I didn't know any of this until just now. I looked it up because I have an old laptop battery to get rid of, and thus was spawned this public service announcement. :)

The Perfect Theater Experience

Snakes on a Plane!

The moment I stepped into the theater for the opening show, I knew this was going to be good. There was just this buzz all around. You could tell everyone was pumped up and excited, and not just there to watch a movie, but to participate. The audience screamed when they turned half the lights off, before the trailers even started. Then people were booing half the trailers, demanding snakes instead. (They seemed to like Borat and Tenacious D, though.) They went really crazy when the title came on, and then when Sam Jackson first appears, when the plane takes off, etc.

In fact, I don't think there's ever been another case of people getting so excited about an establishing shot of a plane taking off. :) I made this recording of the hollering audience [MP3, 12 secs, 28 KB] from when the snakes finally bust out of their crates. Yes, there are snakes! On a plane! I hope I didn't just spoil the movie for you. :P

The movie managed to live up to the audience's expectations. It knew exactly how to get the audience to holler and shout every few minutes. I'm kind of impressed, actually. It basically got a nearly Rocky Horror level of cult classic enthusiasm... before it was even released. And then it actually did not disappoint!

It was a great time. I mean, the crowd was so loud that we actually managed to miss most of Jackson's signature line from the movie! But it didn't matter: Most of the crowd knew what it was anyway, and when people caught the tail end of the line, they screamed again!

I definitely recommend that people go see it opening weekend when the rowdy crowds will still be around.. This movie is going to be a totally different experience without all the noise. :)

* * *

P.S.: I feel proud of the webcomics community tonight, too. Way back in October of last year, when the Snakes on a Plane story first broke (and I blogged it here), Jeffrey Rowland of Wigu/Overcompensating was one of the first to jump on the bandwagon with this comic. Scroll down on that page for the T-shirt he designed, a T-shirt which Samuel L. Jackson himself wears in the official music video. All this attention allowed him to actually meet Samuel L. Jackson in person at ComicCon, and now he's been invited to the official premier, and both he and his comments will be featured in the DVD extras.

Meanwhile, that music video plays over the end credits of the movie, so he actually got his art into the actual movie, by virtue of being one of the first fans!

P.P.S.: The more I think about it, the more I'm surprised that it actually lived up to the hype.

P.P.P.S.: SNAKES ON A PLANE!

Transformers on a plane

I was looking at the TSA list of permitted and prohibited items, and I was kinda surprised that not only are "Scissors - plastic or metal with blunt tips" permitted in your carry-on, but even "Scissors - metal with pointed tips and blades shorter than four inches in length" are permitted.

But I was even more surprised that there's a whole explicit entry for "Toy Transformer Robots". Huh? Is that a frequent concern?

GTA as a Coke ad

Amusing.

Scarab in San Jose at a block party

Scarab spontaneously played at a block party in San Jose with With Report.

This picture is comes right after they announced, "Our next song is about driving from one stop light to the next."

[block party]

Jim Davis on Scary Garfield plus some stuff about the Moon

A boingboing reader wrote in to describe his meeting with Jim Davis, where he discussed that awesome Halloween Garfield series I blogged about. Apparently, he had no idea it was such a hit on the Internet. He said he didn't base it on any previous cartoon:

It was simply a week before Halloween and Jim wanted to do something legitimately scary, as opposed to Halloween-scary. "Ghosts aren't scary..." he told me before explaining that before writing the strips he went around to everyone he knew and asked them what truly scared them. The answer he got most often was "being alone" or "dying alone". Just that simple.

* * *

In completely unrelated news (that isn't really news at all), did you know that there's a piece of art on the Moon? There's even intrigue involving the convergence of space, art, and commerce!

In further non-news that's related to the last item, I never read much about the origin of the Moon before, until today. Behold: the giant impact hypothesis.

Life Imitates Art: Liquid Explosives

Here's a Sierra Mist commercial from a few months ago. And here's the latest news:

Airports, which faced chaotic delays and cancellations, instantly changed rules on what passengers could carry on board. In the United States, liquids, gels and creams were banned from carry-on luggage."

:P

Pluto might be considered a "dwarf planet"

Ever since astronomers found several asteroids and other bodies larger than Pluto, there's been a lot of debate about whether Pluto should be considered a planet at all. It's even smaller than the Earth's Moon, thought that's partly because the Moon itself is abnormally huge. (There's also the fact that Pluto did not form from the accretion disk of the sun, and it has an eccentric orbit outside of the orbital plane of the rest of the planets.) Every time someone promotes that we "demote" it from planetary status, people get all up in arms about it, and so we keep calling it a planet. But then, to be consistent, we'd have to start calling a whole bunch of other things planets, too, such as 2003 UB313 (nicknamed "Xena"), which is very similar to Pluto, and actually bigger than it.

According to NPR, the latest word is that an international panel is recommending that Pluto still be called a planet, but:

Several panel members have favored dividing planets into categories: terrestrial planets (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars), giant planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune) and a third class that would include Pluto.

"We'll call them dwarf planets or something," says Iwan Williams, an astronomer at the University of London who favors the idea and also served on the panel.

Further:

Some panel members say they favor counting any object which is large enough that its gravity has made it round. If the object is spinning, a small bulge would be tolerated. "We're talking about no more than four or five new planets," says Iwan Williams.

Small potato-shaped asteroids wouldn't make the cut. But Ceres, a big round asteroid between Mars and Jupiter, might qualify.

But the panel's recommendation is not yet official and is still under review, so we're still waiting on the final word.

I think this debate is ultimately pretty silly, since it really doesn't matter that much what we call Pluto from a scientific perspective, but it is amusing and sort of touching how emotionally invested people are in Pluto's status as a planet. :)

(Link found via /.)

Halo movie to have an interesting director

So there's going to be a movie based on the Xbox game Halo, produced by Peter Jackson, and they've picked a director who's never made a feature film: Neill Blomkamp. Who is this guy? You've most likely seen the transforming Citroën ad? You can check out that and a few other commercials on this page.

He also made a short called TempBot, featuring a robot trying to fit in to an office environment.

Perhaps most interesting is the short called Alive in Joburg, where he uses cinéma vérité visual effects to tell a story of aliens in apartheid South Africa.

I don't care how much people joke about "shakycams"; I love shakycam CGI. :)

I think I may well be looking forward to the Halo movie more than the actual Transformers movie because that's being directed by Michael Bay. :P

Reviewing a game's content "in its entirety"

Congressmen Cliff Stearns (R-FL), Jim Matheson (D-UT), and Mike McIntyre (D-NC) have introduced the Truth in Video Game Rating Act bill, which would, among other things, require game raters to review "the content of the video or computer game in its entirety."

Games are not movies that you can watch in 2 hours... Many games would require weeks if not months to complete "in its entirety", if that's even possible... Not to mention that all this legislation is being thunk up because of the GTA Hot Coffee mod, which you could not find even if you DID play the game in its entirety, since you had to actually hack the game to get at it...

Let's also not mention that government enforcement of media ratings has been repeatedly struck down in court, so this bill is really nothing more than election year manuevering that will never actually get enforced anyway.

Found via /.

Robot Hide and Seek

Via boingboing comes this awesome painting/comic. :)

Scarab at a Café in Campbell

Scarab and Chess: A winning combination!

[chess]

Reverse angle so you can see more of the cafe:

[reverse angle]

In this next shot, it looks like some sort of supernatural force is assimilating Mark's head. Perhaps he's being digitized into that Ms. Pacman machine?

[ms. pacman]

See that dude in the white shirt in the next picture? He spent the entire time sitting on the couch right next to the band, playing online poker with his headphones on. :)

[poker]

Russ has fans of all ages!

[girls]

Scary Garfield

You've probably seen those remixes of Garfield without the word balloons. Everyone loves to make fun of how inane Garfield is now, but from October 23 to October 28, 1989, Garfield was AWESOME. I guess it was a Halloween special or something? You can go see them in the official Garfield archives and set the time to October 23, 1989. Or you can see them set to music. The official archive ones have been colorized, but I prefer the original black and white, given the theme. Found via boingboing. And here they are in black and white:






Update: This guy points out that this Garfield strip is likely based on this old Italian cartoon

Update Aug-11: Jim Davis says it wasn't based on any previous cartoon, and he explained his thinking.

Wacky Construction Vehicle

Got stuck at an intersection on my way home tonight because of this thing:

[wacky construction vehicle]

There was a bigass truck in front of it at first, too. What is that thing? Some sort of road-paving thing maybe?

P.S.: And why do the green lights look cyan?

(P)shaw!

BIZARRE revelation of the day: According to both American Heritage and Merriam-Webster, the "p" in "pshaw" is silent! WTF?! I've always pronounced it.

It's time for the first ever klog reader poll! What do you say?

Final Results:

Do you prounce the "P" in "pshaw"?

Yes, I prounce it. -> 6

No, I just say, "shaw". -> 0

Update: TheFaucet looked it up in the OED for me, and it seems to allow both versions. Also, the word dates back to at least 1673! I still find fascinating the concept of an onomatopoeic word with a silent letter. Gotta love English.

Update: I guess no one who reads my blog agrees with those first two dictionaries! The OED shows its superiority once again!

Darth Remix

In lighter news, here's a Darth Vader remix called Darth Vader being a smartass. There's been a rash of Vader parodies lately, but I think this is the funniest, partly because it consists entirely of actual movie footage.

Video blogger in jail for refusing to hand over footage to feds

So at a G8 protest in San Francisco, someone hit an SFPD officer on the head and a cop car was set on fire. A video blogger called Josh Wolf was filming the protest. The federal government got involved, with the justification that the SFPD gets federal funding, and they're demanding that Wolf turn over his tapes, even though he says he has no footage of the culprits, and the feds have no reason to think he does. He refused to do so on the grounds that turning over a journalist's notes has a chilling effect on journalists' access to events. (I think the suspicion is that the feds might want the footage just to keep track of who all the dissenters at the event were, and not actually to find out who perpetrated the violence.)

The district court judge sided with the gov't and has put him in jail [SF Chronicle].

Now, in state court, he'd be protected by the California shield law, which protects journalists' rights, but this is in federal court, so that doesn't apply. On a related note, according to the NYTimes writeup, the SF Board of Supervisors has formally protested the federal government's involvement in this case. And here's an SF Chronicle editorial supporting him.

I actually have a 2nd degree link to Josh Wolf, in that Saheli hung out with him and his documentary-making friends for a while, and I dropped her off once at one of their meetings. This of course means that the feds are probably reading all my emails now. :P Here is Saheli's writeup.

Why does this stuff matter? Well, considering this measly blog you're reading right now is blocked in all of China. (And that last sentence probably won't help my chances of getting it unblocked. :P) I'm happy to be living in a country where I can complain about the gov't now and then. They can't stop people from doing that here, but they can and do use more indirect ways of stifling free speech, and this is one of them.

About August 2006

This page contains all entries posted to the klog in August 2006. They are listed from oldest to newest.

July 2006 is the previous archive.

September 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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