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January 2007 Archives

Least explicable Wikipedia vandalism ever

So I often go on about how you learn to notice what you can and cannot trust on Wikipedia, that articles on controversial or obscure topics may be less trustworthy, but that articles on argon or something are probably more trustworthy, because people rarely bother to vandalize that stuff.

Well, Saheli has found an example of the latter. Take a look at this diff. Someone in Ecuador (according to reverse IP lookup) decided to change all the numbers on a table of gravitational acceleration at different major cities. Wha-huh?! Why would someone do that? I guess it only takes a few. :P

Science makes Mecca pilgrimage safer

Last year, over 300 people got trampled at the annual pilgrimage to Mecca. This year, Saudi officials hired scientists to analyze and direct crowd flow, and it was a success. [Boing Boing Summary] [Nature Article] [Researcher's Site]

UFO and Corn Palace

UFO?

[UFO]

I didn't do any post-processing on that one aside from cropping.

And I lit this next one with the high beam of my car:

[Corn Palace]

(I think it kinda has a bit of a deserted Coney Island look.)

Scarab @ Voodoo Lounge

[Lights]

Hooray pretty lights:

[Hooray Pretty Lights]

Seems every good picture of Felipe involves him screaming:

[Felipe Screaming]

Banzai:

[Banzai]

Okay, maybe he doesn't always have to be screaming:

[Grin]

Smoking in a tree:

[Smoking in a Tree]

Mathematical!! That was TOTALLY math! Rhombus!

This is the awesomest short I've seen in a while: Adventure Time!

Completely unrelated, fun with censorship in Thailand!

Los Esteros Critical Energy Facility at Night

[Los Esteros]

Click above to expand. flickr link

I froze my hands off taking this picture. :P I knew I wanted to photograph this thing when I first saw it off the side of the freeway, but there's no way I can take a picture from a moving car at night.. So I was happy to find a dirt road off to the side of the freeway. It's the cross at the center of this map. (The power plant is to the north. Hover your mouse over it or click it!)

Ebert Withdrawl symptom: Clint Eastwood made two Iwo Jima movies back to back?!

So I saw some ads for the new movie Letters from Iwo Jima, with some mention of Clint Eastwood and I thought, "Didn't Clint Eastwood make this movie a while ago? And something seems odd about the title..." Turns out I was thinking of Flags of Our Fathers. Clint Eastwood apparently make two Iwo Jima movies back-to-back! The second is from the Japanese point of view.

I felt so out of the loop. And I realized that I am still reeling from the effects of Ebert withdrawl. If he were writing his reviews, I would've read his review of Flags of Our Fathers, and he wouldn't mentioned Letters from Iwo Jima, and even given some interesting background information about it all, including maybe some personal recollection of a meeting with Clint Eastwood.

The only thing review he's written recently was for Perfume, and it didn't come with any update on his health condition. :\

Update Jan-12: Ebert has posted a New Year's message. He is still recovering. I wish him luck.

The Horror! The Horror! or: Kenneth finally discovers how people change the backgrounds on their MySpace profiles and is appalled

So I have a very minimal MySpace presence. Nothing much actually in it. I was wondering how people change their backgrounds the other day, so I went hunting around.

How odd, I thought. I can't find any stylesheet customization page, or box, or anything of the sort. Strange. I wonder how people customize their backgrounds to all those glaucoma-enducing animated flashing monstrosities.

Oh. My. God.

So on the basic profile page, there are a number of boxes for different types of stuff you can write. They are:

  • Headline
  • About Me
  • I'd Like to Meet
  • Interests
  • Music
  • Movies
  • Television
  • Books
  • Heroes

Note how none of them say, "Stylesheet". But! But... So to their left is an unassuming little box that says:

You may enter HTML/DHTML or CSS in any text field. Javascript is not allowed.
Do not use HTML/CSS to cover MySpace advertisements.

To disable clickable links in Interests / Music / Movies / Television / Books / Heroes, put a <Z> anywhere in the box.

You can put CSS stylesheet blocks anywhere in any of the boxes, willy-nilly! As in, who would you like to meet?

I'd like to meet: Suri Cruise <style type="text/css">body { background-image:url("ugly.jpg"); }</style> and Lindsay Lohan

GAH!

GAH!

Pardon me while I go into some convulsions.

Oh and not to mention their randomass <Z> tag that you also just insert willy-nilly anywhere in a box to, like, do stuff.

GAH!

P.S.: My guess is that this used to be a code injection bug that someone exploited because they didn't bother filtering CSS out of their text fields, and they just went with it. Which is still pretty appalling. And it's not just aesthetics. MySpace has in fact been hit by scripting bugs that happen precisely because of this sort of haphazard user code.

Kids' remake of Jaws from 1978

This is apparently a bunch of 12-year-olds remaking Jaws on Super8 in 1978. Awesome.

Movie: Children of Men

James Brown

[ IMDb Entry ] [ Rating Key ]

Toast Toast Toast Toast

No, James Brown is not in this movie. That still is from Beat the Devil, one of those BMW-sponsored short films starring Clive Owen, who is in this movie. I just couldn't find any stills from Children of Men that were as captive as this one. :P (Oh hey! Beat the Devil is no longer available for download or purchase from BMW, but it's on YouTube! I blabbed a bit more about it in my More Fantasticness! post.)

Children of Men (which again has nothing whatsoever to do with James Brown) was excellent. It was easily my favorite movie of 2006. Now, if you go watch the trailer, you'll probably think, "Hmm, so in the near future, women can no longer have babies, society crumbles without hope of future generations, and Clive Owen tries to save the day. That sounds like a pretty hackneyed sci-fi plot." Well, that's what I thought, at least. I didn't even really want to go see it that badly.

It turns out that this is one of the most intellectually and emotionally engrossing movies I've seen. The director, Alfonso Cuarón (Y tu mamá también, Happy Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Great Expectations, A Little Princess (talk about range!)), somehow makes the actual plot only a small piece of the movie. This is a film that's all about texture. It's as much about what happens around the main characters than what happens to them.

His England of the near future manages to represent two things at once: It's a cautionary tale of where our First World societies might head if we're not careful, but, just as I think, "At least things aren't actually this bad," I realize that they are that bad right now, in Iraq, in Somalia, in dozens of Third World countries around the world.

Most importantly, and this is why I loved the film, nothing in the movie ever feels like "science fiction". Everything feels absolutely real. This is in large part due to a few amazing set pieces where the main characters are darting in and out of trouble as action happens around them for minutes and minutes and minutes without a single cut. We're all used to the modern way of filming action scenes, where no shot lasts more than a second and a half. Yet, somehow, the action can be far more tense when the camera just keeps on rolling, and we feel like we're really there, that this is all really happening, and that nothing is being staged. (This effect couldn't show through in the rapid-cut trailer, unfortunately.)

You might notice that I've given few details. It's not so much that I'm worried about spoilers. I'm really not, since the actual plot is mostly predictable. It's because the typical details people give in reviews are irrelevant here. This movie is very much about the experience of watching it, and I'm just going to recommend that you do that.

I mean, the performances by Clive Owen, Julianne Moore, and especially Michael Caine are quite good, as is newcomer Clair-Hope Ashitey, but I've seen good acting before. What I haven't seen is a movie that takes all the conflict in the world today and so effective show me:

This is what could happen. This is what is happening. It's a miracle we're still around. And we should be damn appreciative of that. Watch this movie, and for those two hours, you'll be there.

Radio Telescope and Moon

Radio Telescope and Moon

Click the above image for the flickr post (and larger version). I also took too more pictures of the telescopes here and here.

(Project 365 Day 78)

This is one of the four radio telescopes over by NASA Ames Research Center, right along Highway 237. I always thought they looked really cool. For one week, I drove by them every day to work nearby, and then I changed jobs. So sad.

Anyway, they didn't seem to actually belong to Ames, so I looked up Ames in Wikipedia, and that led me to something called WikiMapia, and I figured out who it belongs to.

Apparently, it belongs to Onizuka Air Force Station. It's soon to be decommissioned, but it has a windowless building called "the Blue Cube" that has for decades housed some of our most top secret projects. I had no idea! A bit more info in this other flickr user's description.

Hm. Come to think of it, Onizuka AFS redevelopment plans were mentioned in the Winter 2007 issue of the Sunnyvale Quarterly Report that I flickred a few days ago! The City of Sunnyvale is actively seeking community input in shaping its plans. :)

Traffic Light Repair

[Traffic Light Repair]

(Project 365 Day 77)

Quick snap while I was at a red light. (Cropped.)

So much

The video for "Bombs", a new single by Faithless, is pretty trippy.

One TRILLLLION dollars!

This is just hilarious.

  • For a few years now, a Russian website called AllofMP3.com has been selling MP3s of popular songs for pennies a piece, contributing a fraction of that to the recording industry.
  • Copyright laws work differently in Russia, so this is apparently perfectly legal there.
  • The American recording industry has been trying to shut them down for a long time, without much success.
  • Recently, it convinced Visa and MasterCard to stop accepting payments for AllofMP3. (They now have to use prepay and other various systems to charge users.)
  • Even more recently, the US made Russia change its copyright laws as a condition of entering the WTO. This will likely spell the end of AllofMP3 in its current form.
  • According to US law, the RIAA can seek a penalty of $150,000 per song for infringement cases, supposedly representing the amount of lost potential sales.
  • The RIAA has filed suit against AllofMP3 for that amount times 11 million songs downloaded, leading to an amount of $1.65 trillion.
  • The GDP of the entire country of Russia in 2005 was $1.58 trillion.

I wonder if it's possible for someone to use this to show how ridiculous that $150,000 per infringement number is?

P.S.: I have to admit that, legal or not, AllofMP3 is clearly a pretty shady business. :P But $1.65 trillion?!?!

About January 2007

This page contains all entries posted to the klog in January 2007. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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