|^. *Jack:*|Okay, this can function as a sonic blaster, a sonic cannon, and a sonic disrupter. Doc, what’s you got?|
|*Doctor:*|I’ve got a sonic…oh nevermind.|
|*Doctor:*|It’s sonic, let’s leave it at that.|
|*Jack:*|Disruptor, canon, what?|
|*Doctor:*|It’s sonic! Totally sonic!|
|*Jack:*|A sonic what?|
|*Jack:*|Who has a sonic screwdriver?|
|*Doctor:*|I do.|
|^. *Jack:*|Who looks at a screwdriver and thinks, ooh, this could be a little more sonic?|
|^. *Doctor:*|What? You never been bored? Never had a long night? Never had a lot of cabinets to put on?|

Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds…and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of…wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up, the long, delirious burning blue
I’ve topped the windswept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, nor even eagle flew.
And while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space…
…put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

— John Gillespie Magee, Jr.

Not trying to throw around _Newsies_ trivia unnecessarily, but this one is just too strange to pass up. Apparently a Color Guard squad (i.e. flag/rifle/etc. team) did a _Newsies_-themed (and scored) routine in 2005. That’s not the weird part. The weird part is that I’m about 85% sure that I attended a Winter Guard competition at the very high school where this took place, back when I was dating a fabulous person who happened to do that sort of thing. Looking at the pictures I got a totally weird _deja vu_ thing.

Newsies flag routine

Apparently some of the child actors in one of the best Disney movies ever, _Newsies_, filmed a no-budget horror flick on the set. IMDb describes the improbable Blood Drips Heavily on Newsies Square this way:

bq. Washed up actor Don Knotts shows up on the back lot of Universal Studios in Hollywood, California in hopes of landing a role in the new Disney movie, Newsies. Unfortunately director Kenny Ortega quickly dismisses Mr. Knotts and has him thrown off the lot. Mr. Knotts is quite upset by the turn of events, so decides to go on a killing spree, believing that if he can’t have a role in the movie no one can. He knocks off one newsie after the next, each in a different and unique way.

Okay, seriously, I very much need to see this. Anyone have any thoughts on where I might find it?

The _New York Times_ article about the use of by college students is notable for a few reasons. Most administrators surveyed are taking a fairly hands-off approach to the site, and show a surprising amount of cluefulness in realizing that it isn’t Facebook that is inherently good or evil, it is just another socializing tool that can be used in various ways. The second thing I find strange is the angle about online privacy. The _Times_ quotes several students who are upset or confused by the idea that what they do online, in a semi-public medium, is not private. For instance, they post pictures of underage drinking, and then are upset when they get written up for it. The assumption seems to be that Resident Advisors (i.e. other students) as well as administrators have an obligation to *not* to look at a web site publically available to everyone at the school and to not act on anything that is chronicled there. Um…why? How can you claim breach of privacy when you are posting things publically? Not to mention how much control Facebook gives users over their privacy settings — a lot, so that things really can be “private” if a user so chooses. There is really no reason to be shocked or angry that there are legitimate consequences to ones actions, be they in the real world or online.

I get that you want to synergize and you’re expanding into every product category known to man, but come on Amazon, you have one of the most massive stores of customer data in the history of civilization, and yet your brilliant recommendation engine spits out crap like this?

Powerbook buyers also like All detergant!

Has it ever occured to you that my taste in computers might not directly map to my tastes in laundry detergant? Not to mention, why would I buy my laundry detergant *online*? In addition to this recommendation based on my PowerBook ownership, I was also told I might like Ralph Lauren polo shirts because my fellow iPod buyers do. The hell?

Bouncie balls down a SF streetFor a commercial for their new Bravia line of LCD televisions Sony dumped a *quarter of a million* rubber bouncy balls onto the streets of hilly San Francisco and filmed the result from 23 different angles. The result, with no computer enhangement, is truly surreal. It seems like ads can be more creative in general in Europe, perhaps because there are fewer of them (at least in the UK, I believe) and perhaps because they can be longer. Watch the ad and view photos on Sony’s site or on Flickr.

Interesting to note that Fitzgerald’s investigation of the Plame leak has so far cost well shy of $1 million, while Ken Starr’s investigation of Whitewater ended up costing at least $40 million. Other interesting tidbits: Libby is *confirmed* to have been one of the leakers (PDF, para. 14), and it is also pretty clear that he *knew* Valerie Wilson was a covert operative. Not sure why the TV news/spin shows can’t figure this stuff out, apparently they don’t know how to read. Also not sure what ever happened to Bush’s promise to fire any leakers.

I realized that a new TV season is approaching and since I don’t watch commercials I’m not really up on the new shows coming out. Not really knowing where to turn, I loaded up the websites of the major networks. Now, first of all, they need to make it a lot clearer which shows are new and give me short blurbs about them, rather than throwing me through stupid Flash animations. But the height of stupidity was when I went to CBS, which offered a thingy that lets you watch previews for the new shows.

Click, it pops up a little window, fine, click, it goes to load the preview, fine, it takes a while, fine, and then it tells me that this CBS video clip is brought to me by… And follows that with an *ad* an *ad* before I watch the *ad* for the new show. It is almost as if they are actively trying to get me to dislike them, to turn away as many visitors as possible. I have to watch a 30 second spot about joining the Army or getting prescription Ambien before I can watch the trailer for their new show?

Well, I’ll tell you one network whose shows I will *not* be checking out. Good job, morons.

Those who advocate for smaller government frequently suggest that outsourcing things to businesses is more effective. In practice we find a huge number of instinces where outsourcing with federal, state, or even local government oversight leads to gross mismanagement, abuse, price-gouging, and the like. But sometimes the theory makes a lot of sense. If someone had put Walmart in charge of the disaster relief supply chain, those supplies would have gotten there a heck of a lot faster. Even without being in charge of anything, their pre-positioned supplies (foresight, what a concept!) and amazingly well-coordinated global supply chain network allowed them to respond incredibly quickly with much needed water and food to some of the hardest hit areas.

Well, the hardest hit areas that FEMA hadn’t gotten to yet. There have been credible reports that FEMA officials turned away Walmart trucks loaded with supplies. Not to mention Red Cross, firefighters, volunteers, and people with boats. So yay for the morons at FEMA…

I have my problems with Walmart’s labor practices, but I have to give kudos where they are due. Good job, Walmart. You put the federal government to shame.

bq. It appears that the money has been moved in the president’s budget to handle homeland security and the war in Iraq, and I suppose that’s the price we pay. Nobody locally is happy that the levees can’t be finished, and we are doing everything we can to make the case that this is a security issue for us.

— Walter Maestri, emergency management chief for Jefferson Parish, Louisiana; New Orleans Times-Picayune, June 8, 2004.

More disgusting quotes in this vein that show this administration cut needed funding for incredibly important, science-backed projects so as to preserve tax cuts and pump more money into the war in Iraq.

bq. Those of us in New York watch the dire pictures from Louisiana with keen memories of the time after Sept. 11, when the rest of the nation made it clear that our city was their city, and that everyone was part of the battle to restore it. New Orleans, too, is one of the places that belongs to every American’s heart – even for people who have never been there. Right now it looks as if rescuing New Orleans will be a task much more daunting than any city has faced since the San Francisco fire of 1906. It must be a mission for all of us.

New York Times editorial

Harvard (well, Partners) is doing a study of people who have recently experienced sudden-onset deafness. Unlike many of the other studies listed on the page, no email address is given, only a phone number. A phone number. For a deafness study. No indication that it is TTY, either, not that you’d expect someone who has become deaf in the last 14 days to already have a TTY phone.

Crossword puzzle from the futureEvery week _Wired_ includes a “Found” item from the future on its back page. Generally humorous and insightful, this week’s Found consists of a crossword puzzle from a 2019 issue of the _New York Times_. Someone was kind enough to scan it and put it online (I stopped getting _Wired_ a while back) and I spent most of my lunch break figuring it out. There were one or two clues that I couldn’t figure out and one that I got wrong, but otherwise I did pretty well, and a few of the answers were quite amusing (Former sky layer: OZONE). Print it out and see how you do. 🙂 Puzzle is here, answer key is here.

Back in 1999 there was a big to-do about the incredibly wealthy Ira Rennert’s building of a massively huge house in Southampton, New York. Exposés were written about Rennert, how he aquired his money, and what sort of scary things he was going to do in his massive new compound. His neighbors sued to block him from building the monstrosity, claiming that, while 20,000 sq. ft. is fine and dandy, 42,000 sq. ft. is just a bit too ostentatious.

All this having nothing to do with me, except that when we were visiting the Hamptons last year, we drove by the Rennert compound and I was able to snap a few bad pictures of it from afar (close up it is surrounded by high walls of brush).

When you search for Rennert on Google Images, the *only* actual pictures of the house returned are those taken by me, which has led to the odd phenomenom of people using my photos page as a place for social commentary. I only found out about this today when I received a slightly inappropriate email from someone who was searching fro Rennert house imagery and stumbled across my site. Go figure.

I’m noticing that there is a lot more going on at Berkman than is apparent from their web site. When I first looked at H20 I was hopelessly confused by it, but now reading about what they’re trying to do I’m getting really excited.

We’re in an online learning rut, and we need to get out of it. When I was working on myBrandeis and we were talking about moving to the new version of our system that supports courseware components (something called dotLRN) I was excited because it seemed like a good opportunity to open up something that has traditionally been handled by closed software that never breaks the mold. But even then I wasn’t thinking enough outside the box.

I see real beauty in some of the new web apps popping up — things that have really good UIs and are really clean and really interactive and sort of behave more like you want them to behave, but also things that are focused on doing a few things *really well* rather than doing everything. Flickr has some flaws but is throwing some amazing new ideas into the online photo gallery game. 43Things is based around a concept so simple that you have to ask yourself, “why didn’t I think of that?” And yet, it does it *really, really well* and new modes of interaction are starting to pop up. H20 looks like a similar type of system.

In my mind when I look at these systems I see internal self-consistancy and beauty, but an external mess. Everything behaves differently! Nothing is linked together! What kind of an online learning experience can you have when you have to jump from site to site, format to format, discussion to discussion, with no external consistancy?

There are some really neat ideas out there right now. Tagging related topics, forming ad hoc communities, making the inclusion of media painless, adding true user interaction. I have a lot of hope for these technologies and new ideas. But I also feel like a lot of this stuff is out there so disjointed and unconnected that you have to be in a small very focused community to really be able to track it, and the average user or guy with an idea is being left out in the cold. This has the potential to lead to groupthink and could lead to projects getting stuck in the same ruts they so passionately eschew.

For projects that are doing so much to bring new communities of people together in innovative ways, it seems odd that, from my outside perspective, they don’t always seem to be drinking their own Kool-Aid (r).

As you may or may not be aware, all citizens of the UK who own or operate a television set are required to pay a yearly license and have a license certificate on hand. The TV Licensing web site gives details about licensing requirements, exemptions, and enforcement. The web site makes it very clear:

bq. There is no excuse for watching TV without a licence – it’s a criminal offence.

A person caught watching without a license can be fined up to £1000. How are they caught, you ask? Why, by the TV license enforcers and their special, top-secret detector vans, which can pinpoint on errant television signals in as little as 20 seconds. Anyone purchasing or renting a TV or other similar equipment is also required to submit their name and address, and the retailer is required to report that information.

* Information about detection
* Some excuses people have given for not having licenses

Oh, in case you were wondering, the TV license fees pay for the operations of the BBC(British Broadcasting Corporation).

Clearly they’re a little more serious about this than we are with PBS(Public Broadcasting System), which Congress is once again trying to de-fund.

‘The early bird catches the worm,’ ‘a stitch in time saves nine,’ ‘He who hesitates is lost.’

We can’t pretend we haven’t been told. We’ve all heard the proverbs, heard the philosophers, heard our grandparents warning us about wasted time. Heard the damn poets urging us to seize the day. Still sometimes we have to see for ourselves.

We have to make our own mistakes. We have to learn our own lessons. We have to sweep today’s possibility under tomorrow’s rug until we can’t anymore.

Until we finally understand for ourselves what Benjamin Franklin meant. That knowing is better than wondering. That waking is better than sleeping.

And that even the biggest failure, even the worst most intractable mistake, beats the hell out of never trying.

p>. — “Grey’s Anatomy”: