Friday, June 28, 2002

That's not a pecan, it's a LoJack transmitter.

I'm an ice cream purist. I believe ice cream should be smooth, simple, and elegant, like Häagen-Dazs--not complicated and heterogeneous like Ben & Jerry's.
Give me coffee over Chunky Monkey ® any day.
However, Ben & Jerry's do have one thing going for them: a combination lock for pints of their ice cream.

'Course, a determined thief can just cut through the cardboard.
The only true safety is to eat the whole pint in one sitting. It's always worked for me.

Thursday, June 27, 2002

Lose six to eight inches of real money fast!

[Posted by Noah:]

The SpamDemic Map traces the connections between various spamming companies and domains, including who does what for whom, who owns whom, and how mailing
lists are exchanged. Available in viewable .GIF and printable .EPS format.

Houston, this is Discovery. You're not going to believe this.

I can't imagine this is true. It can't be. Right? Four women in Portugal were supposedly tricked into exposing themselves out the window in order to receive mammograms
by satellite.

In Objectivity we Trust.

Wow, this just shows how out of touch I am. When the Pledge of Allegiance was ruled unconstitutional yesterday, I was surprised--not because I disagree with the ruling, but because I thought it already was ruled unconstitutional. I guess I just assumed it was, since it's clear to me that it should be.

Thus, even though it's foolish, I'm even more surprised by the
widespread outrage
at the ruling today. I realize that the majority of Americans, including those in government, believe in God and thus have no direct objection to God references. But in my youthful ignorance I thought that lawmakers understood why the government isn't supposed to endorse specific religious beliefs, even those beliefs that the lawmakers happen to hold. Especially those.

An analyst points out (correctly) that the word "God" already permeates government, but goes on to say

If any of those nine justices, having heard "God save this honorable court" every single day, if something was wrong with it, someone might have said something.

Ah, the old "it's how things currently are, how can it be wrong?" argument. Very nice.

It gets even better. This morning on the news, Robert Byrd (D-West Virginia) exclaimed on the Senate Floor

I, for one, will not stand to see this country ruled by a bunch of atheists. If they're not happy with it, they can leave!

(Quoted from memory--if I can find the exact quote, I'll update it. See Comments.)

If that doesn't show a frightening lack of objectivity, I don't know what does.

Tuesday, June 25, 2002

I just... I just don't <i>belong</i>.

They screened Lilo & Stitch at work today. Based on the previews, I had no interest in seeing the movie--the message conveyed by the previews was "Hey, he's wacky, you won't believe how wacky he is, come see the movie to find out how wacky he is!" I wasn't sure I could handle all the wackiness.

Plus, I'm generally lukewarm on the Disney Formula: angst-ridden youth, understood by nobody, just doesn't fit in until a zany sidekick accompanies him/her on an adventure which ultimately earns the youth acclaim and self-esteem. (See Aladdin, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Hercules, Mulan, Tarzan.)
Out of the blue, The Emperor's New Groove strayed from this formula, and was a fantastic movie. (Notably, it was on track to be a standard musical pseudo-epic, but mid-production was handed over to new writers, who twisted it up and made it great. That's the story I hear, anyway.)

I couldn't tell from the previews how formulaic Lilo & Stitch would be. On a whim, I attended the screening today, and was amazed--it's really good. The Disney Formula is present, but largely subdued, and otherwise the movie is original, funny, and very pretty. (Even more so since the screening was digital.) CG is used sparingly, and works well where it's used. There are even two uses of photographic media (a movie clip and a photo)
integrated with the line art, which I don't recall seeing in any other Disney feature.

Against all odds, Stitch himself (the rabid four-armed blue guy) isn't even annoying. Really.

Oh, sure, if <i>I</i> had a satellite, I could take pictures like these too.

NASA's Earth Observatory has annotated satellite imagery of climatic and environmental interest. In addition to images of current wildfires, there are
ice floes,
and even aircraft contrails.

NASA's Visible Earth is a searchable index of more general satellite imagery, all in the public domain. If you live in Sydney, Australia, you can probably see your house in this one.

Sunday, June 23, 2002

Nothin' but the best.

Siggraph 2001 was in Los Angeles, the city with the worst traffic in the nation. Siggraph 2002 is in San Antonio, the sweatiest city in the nation. What distinctions put San Diego (2003) and Atlanta (2004) in the sequence?

Friday, June 21, 2002

Search them for ammonia-based condiments

[Posted by Noah:]

The one, the only, the Oscar Meyer Weinermobile was recently
pulled over
in a restricted no-trucks area near the pentagon.

Wednesday, June 19, 2002

Horror stories in the House of God.

On July 2, Neil Gaiman will be reading his soon-to-be-released book Coraline aloud in a church in Berkeley. Admission is $10 for adults, $5 for kids.

Of Coraline, Terry Pratchett says "This book will send a shiver down your spine, out through your shoes, and into a taxi to the airport," though that probably says more about Pratchett than the book.

Monday, June 17, 2002

I will comply. You don't have to.

I've finally taken the time to migrate MonkeySpeak to
XHTML 1.0 Transitional. If you don't know why this is a good thing, take a look at the XHTML Guide I've whipped up.

As far as I know, all of my own content is compliant, and I've converted all existing articles and comments to be
compliant. However, the site currently doesn't check
new comments or articles for compliance. Thus, it's
inevitable that new comments will make the site
uncompliant again.

Until I add a system for validation, I won't hold others
to the XHTML standard. However, sometime soon I may add XHTML validation to the compose process. Since I don't want to make composing difficult, I may also provide an automatic clean-up feature for those who don't want to
change their ways.

Heil Hasbro.

Pointless Conspiracy Theory of the Week: The Offical Word List that comes with our copy of Scrabble contains the word "Nazi" but not the word "Jew". Both are proper nouns, and "Nazi" is an abbreviation to boot, so it's kinda strange.

This CAT scan shows that your mojo is workin' double time.

A study has found significant correlation between a person's musical ability and the amount of grey matter in their auditory cortex. The researchers admit they're not sure which is cause and which is effect, but it's still cool. And hey, before long, musical auditions will just require a little exploratory brain surgery instead of pesky performance evaluations.

Friday, June 14, 2002

I wasn't clumsy, that was foreshadowing!

[Posted by Noah:]

There's this guy building New York City out of legos. I don't think this is quite as impressive as the version of NYC in Legoland, CA, but this one appears to be done by a random private individual which always adds cachet.

Be sure to check out his Empire State Building and his single tower of the World Trade Center.

Ghetto math

[Posted by Roberto:]

"Rufus is a pimp for three girls. If the price is $65 per trick, how many tricks per day must each girl turn to support Rufus' $800 per day crack habit?"

A teacher in Winnipeg was suspended for asking such a question on a recent math test. Finally, math problems with real world examples and the parents cry in outrage. Sheesh.

That's a <i>mean</i> cup o' joe!

Last week I saw a documentary on Africanized ("killer") bees, the raving psychopaths of the insect kingdom. Apparently, not only will they chase you for up to a half mile, but if you dive underwater to escape, they'll wait at the surface until you come up for air.

If you're into coffee, it turns out killer bees are good for something. But I don't drink coffee these days, so I'll continue to think of them as pure evil.

Thursday, June 13, 2002

Electric brains.

A month or two ago, They Might Be Giants appeared on Conan O'Brien. They performed a freaky song called "Robot Parade", in which John Flansburgh's voice was altered to sound robotic. The audience did not get it, and halfway through the song, Flans just started rambling in the weird voice to Linnell about how the audience couldn't understand him.

Two days ago, the album with that song came out. It's called "No", and it's a kid's album. (It said this on the outside, but I didn't believe it.)While a couple songs are palatable, and most are cute, the whole thing is a bit much. There's even a disturbingly sincere song about not crossing the street "In the Middle" of the block.

The bad news is that this won't enter my regular listening rotation. The good news is that I've officially bought the first album of children's music for our unborn baby. Yay! Unintentional good parent points!

Everything's a file, including the leak protection layer.

MarkV pointed me to a site that lists products around the world that are sold under the brand name "Unix". It includes diapers, fire extinguishers, and a product that fights fungal diseases of wheat and barley.

I'm not a <i>real</i> carjacker. You're on Candid Camera!

MTV, unsatisfied with the levels of public intrusion and annoyance achieved by Jackass, has apparently been working on a Candid-Camera-like series, "Harassment". One prank in their (as yet unreleased) pilot episode features a fake bloody corpse in the hotel room of some unsuspecting travelers. The travelers, who were trapped in the room temporarily by fake security guards, are suing.

When people are offended by what they see on TV, I say "change the channel". When people are bothered by morons injuring themselves intentionally on TV, I say "lighten up". But when television crews scare the living crap out of random strangers for no reason, I'm happy to see them sued.

Should that be "farce or subversion"?

The San Francisco Gateway has an
on an Indian restaurant owner who has daily, for eight years, parodied the marquee on the seafood restaurant next door with his own marquee. For instance, on the day that their sign said "Every Day is Fat Tuesday", his said "Praise the Lard!" I love it.

Is this like VGA?

NVIDIA has realeased "C for graphics" ("Cg" for short), a language that can compile to their vertex and pixel shaders. News coverage is predictably incompetent. One article compares it to "[Microsoft's] series of C languages". Even NVIDIA's intro page has an inspirational graph with meaningless axes.

That's okay. Shading in hardware is cool anyway, and having an official (if not standard) high-level language is probably progress.

Wednesday, June 12, 2002

Midsentence filibuster.

Psychologists at Stanford and UC are apparently researching
the meaning of interjections like "uh" and "um". I can't comment on the research itself (since I haven't seen it), but an article on the work merely states the obvious. I'm wondering now: don't most people understand why they say "uh" and "um"?

When I was a kid, my father (a seasoned public speaker) explained that people use "uh" and "um" as placeholders to retain conversational control. In normal conversation, pauses of more than a breath usually signal "end of transmission", which means someone else gets to talk. When a speaker realizes she needs to think for a moment mid-sentence, and she's not willing to give up control yet, she interjects an "um" to stave off any potential respondents.

While this is natural (or at least common) in casual conversation, it's widely considered poor form to do the same in formal or public speech. It shows that you haven't thought your sentence through, and it makes you sound stupid.

The strange thing about the article is that, because they've "discovered" the role of these words, they seem to think the words have new legitimacy and value.

"In school we were taught not to use these phrases, but the fact is, everybody uses them," said Fox Tree, who says her high school debate teachers used to discourage the use of "um's" and "uh's." "So we think they must have a role."

The article stops short of suggesting that these words are good to use, but it seems like that's where they're leading. I hope the next generation of public speakers isn't taught to embrace these linguistic tools, intentionally punctuating its speech with dramatic "um"s. Listening to the State of the Union Address would be even more unbearable than it already is.

Tuesday, June 11, 2002

Music to my MP3-enabled ears

[Posted by Roberto:]

I've never taken a marketing class, nor do I pretend to know what the customer wants. I usually leave this up to qualified Marketing Executives TM who have years of experience selling goods to customers. But at some point you just have to draw the line.

I recently purchased a medium to low quality computer speaker system for my office from Cyber Acoustics. When it arrived I was surprised to see "MP3 Ready" emblazoned on the side of the box. "Jumpin' Jiminy! That's exactly what I was planning on using them for!" Do these marketing gurus take us for fools? Are people really confused by things like this? I cringe thinking that someone, at some point in time, questioned the folks at CA about the abilities of their speakers.

Actually, I think I'm more concerned with the people who are returning their speakers in fear of audio file format incompatibility. ...Perhaps I should have upgraded to the OGG Ready speakers for the extra 10 bucks.

Monday, June 10, 2002

Sis boom bah.

Mmm. Thanks to the ritual entreaties of the High Priest,
the Sun God Ra has seen fit to return to His usual circular form. We are spared His wrath for another millenium.

All hail Ra.

What he said...

[Posted by Kevin:]

I'm not one to really get excited by the verbal missteps of the political elite of this country, but I stumbled across a page that lists some of President Bush's tastier statements. It amazes me what passes for presidential qualifications these days, although it's great as presidential humor goes.

The page is laid out in reverse historical order, so his newest foibles are first, and get older as you go down. Since his handlers have learned to be more and more restrictive, his best works are at the bottom, spoken before associates realized how dangerous it is to let W. speak his own mind.

Sunday, June 9, 2002

Fancy schmancy typing monkey.

I've completely rewritten the site's infrastructure to make it more secure and to facilitate this gratuitous new look.
As far as I know, everything is working at least as well as before. If you encounter any broken links, malformed pages, unexpected errors, or if you have problems logging in or posting, please let me know.

Friday, June 7, 2002

From the 'Is this news really the newest news?' News Department.

[Posted by Kevin:]

NPR (National Public Radio) reported today that an LA Times Beijing News correspondent passed along a news article of political significance to the Chinese National Evening News. It appears - as reported by the Chinese evening news - that congress is considering moving locations unless they get new digs. Calling the current U.S. Capitol "inadequate and obsolete," Congress will relocate to Charlotte or Memphis if its demands for a new, state-of-the-art facility are not met, leaders announced Monday. These demands include a retractable dome, Dancing Waters fountain and new luxury boxes... yes luxury boxes.

It seems that the article passed on by the Beijing correspondent was posted by The Onion in May. The NPR information stated that when the news broadcast station called the Beijing LA Times correspondent for confirmation, he got huffy and stated 'What proof do you have that we didn't confirm the story?'

Remember, always believe what you read.

Wednesday, June 5, 2002

Backwards-compatible engine noise.

I've been hearing a lot about Audi's Multitronic system lately. It's a continuously variable transmission which uses a thick link chain instead of a rubber belt, which means the Multitronic can withstand much more torque than traditional CVTs.

I've also been hearing that CVTs in general are disorienting to drive, since the engine can maintain a constant RPM at all speeds. There's no rise-and-fall of pitch from the engine--it just whines an incessant monotone. The primary audio
cue for speed is absent, which makes it hard to sense how fast you're going.

For this reason, Audi apparently added artificial shift points to their Multitronic transmissions, so that the engine varies its RPM (and thus pitch)
in a basically familiar way. This seems really wacky, since it presumably reduces the efficiency of the transmission. I'd like to find out more about this, but so far I've only found one article that mentions the artificial shift points.

Does anybody know more about this?

The groove that never stops.

Flutterby points out yet another
proposed copy protection scheme that could never possibly work.

Tuesday, June 4, 2002

Not multimedia. Hardly even media.

Speaking of emulators, my friend Mark periodically gets the urge to write emulators for hardware that came out when I was in diapers, or not born yet. (That's probably not his metric, but it's true anyway.) Last year he wrote a cool PDP-1 emulator that could run the original
Space War (1962) [scroll down].

Today he whipped up an emulator for the CHIP-8 virtual machine that ran on the COSMAC ELF (1976). His emulator has so many cycles to spare, he can easily dump PPM's to disk in the inner loop, which is
how he made the animated gif.

Insert obligatory "write a web server for it" comments here.

You're looking a little blue in the tooth...

[Posted by Kevin:]

Ever get that sinking feeling you may have jumped on the wrong bandwagon?

When I purchased my IPAQ 3870 PDA, I was hedging my bets by shelling out the extra $110 or so for the built in Bluetooth transceiver. I figured that if it ever got big (more than two devices big) that I would have regretted not getting the extra. However, more and more I'm feeling like the only guy on the block with a videophone. Sure it's got Bluetooth, but no one else does. Let me rephrase that, no one in the US does.

In digging on sites looking for available products, I've stumbled across stores like expansys which carry boatloads of Bluetooth products... for Europe. It seems that our neighbors in the Pithy hats can get tons of Bluetooth products while our scrapings are much more... well let's just say, meager.

On a related, belated subject, the practice of announcing availability in grand press-releases for products that are 6 months away strikes the vaporware chord. SanDisk announced in January that they have available a 256mb sd card - the memchip desire for my IPAQ. In typical, coming soon fashion, this announcement was made 6 months before they even intended to release the product. Its still not available.

Now, I'm not berating the early announcement aspect of all of this, but the "check's in the mail" is getting a little old. The Bluetooth availability is a tech issue and I bought on the leading edge of the bell curve. But I didn't realize the curve was so flat in the US. All I want is a Bluetooth phone, to go with my Bluetooth PDA. As for the sd card. If you are going to sell it, sell it. Don't dangle products on a string and ask consumers to jump.

Anybody want to call me on my videophone?

Sunday, June 2, 2002

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the holy water.

Jesus Fish.
Darwin Fish.
Pagan Fish.
Science Fish.
Though I don't feel the need to participate, I'm generally entertained
by the Fish Wars which
rage on bumpers across the country.


Today I saw an enormous decal spanning the rear window of someone's
truck. It showed a huge, furious, razor-toothed shark pursuing a little
Darwin fish which was scurrying away. I've seen Jesus-Eats-Darwin stickers before, and Darwin-Eats-Jesus stickers, but I'd never seen this kind.
It struck me as more than a little odd, since the message seems not to be "Christianity overcomes Atheism" or "Creationism overcomes Evolutionism", but rather, "Christianity is vicious and angry and will tear its enemies

At the risk of oversimplifying, I've always been under the impression that one of the central messages of Christianity is that anger and vengeance serve no purpose: "Love thy Enemy." While I'm not Christian, this message has always struck me as the most significant and profound aspect of the religion.
This decal seems inconsistent with that message.

Of course, it's always possible that this decal is an anti-Christian
sentiment. It's hard to tell. One Fish Wars arms dealer suggests [go down to the Shark emblem] that the Shark symbol is used by both sides, and that they (the arms dealers) are perfectly happy selling to both sides.

I'm confused in basically the same way as
these (fictional) youths.