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”:

If you’re not a blogger you probably have heard only vague hints about the Downing Street Memorandum, a secret document circulated to top British officials summarizing a meeting in which they discussed how to legally justify an Iraq war that President Bush and Prime Minister Blair had already agreed to undertake – back in July 2002. As you are no doubt aware, the White House claimed that taking the case for war to the United Nations was an attempt to avert the conflict by allowing Saddam Hussein a chance to comply with new resolutions reiterating calls for inspections. Many at the time argued that the new demands on Saddam were impossible to carry out, and this document confirms the intention by the governments to craft demands to which Saddam could not possibly accede, thus allowing the war a legal basis.

Many have claimed for a long time that the American peple were lied to. This memo is perhaps the most damning claim yet to surface that, not only is this true, but there was an effort at the highest levels of government to subvert international law and move forward with a policy-driven war that was not supported by facts.

No major United States media outlet has reported on the DSM. Many in America, including 89 members of Congress and over half a million citizens who signed an online petition, wonder just what is going on here.

In a series of studies, researchers have found that, among other processes, new love involves psychologically internalizing a lover, absorbing elements of the other person’s opinions, hobbies, expressions, character, as well as sharing one’s own. “The expansion of the self happens very rapidly, it’s one of the most exhilarating experiences there is, and short of threatening our survival it is one thing that most motivates us,” said Dr. Aron, of SUNY, a co-author of the study.

To lose all that, all at once, while still in love, plays havoc with the emotional, cognitive and deeper reward-driven areas of the brain. But the heightened activity in these areas inevitably settles down. And the circuits in the brain related to passion remain intact, the researchers say – intact and capable in time of flaring to life with someone new.

Good to know. From Watching New Love as It Sears the Brain, because today is a New York Times day.

Events like the Kansas Board of Education hearings on creationism in the classroom serve as another reminder of the sheer absurdity of humanity. How we’ve managed to survive this long is pretty amazing. This quote is best of all:

“We can’t ignore that our nation is based on Christianity — not science,” explained one retired teacher.

Perhaps she is a Christian Scientist.

The new Nikon D50 contains 90% of the features of the D70 in a slightly smaller form factor with a slightly less fancy lens for $900 and will ship in June.

On the other hand, the D70 includes all the features of the D70, is shipping right now, and, after rebate (and from the right dealer), costs around $900.

So that’s a little odd.

(They’re clearing out D70s to make way for D70s‘s, which also come out in June, and are about 10% better than the D70 — for around $1200.)

On October 14, 2003, Student Union President Josh Brandfon sent the Justice a letter to the editor about their election coverage the week before:

When our Secretary formally communicated his disappointment with your staff in the days following the printing of the last paper, he received a response from one of your editors that read in part, “Tell Danny Silverman to shut the fu*k up.” I hope that your editorial board shows a little more professional tact when interacting with their readers, and that you are more responsive to the rest of our community when they express concerns.

He advised that they take a look at how they, as an organization, behaves towards the community:

You, as editors, are entrusted to a position of power without accountability, and in this case, have clearly abused it by attempting to unjustly destroy the reputation of another student. While I appreciate your efforts to report the news, it is my sincere hope that you are able to maintain a higher level of journalistic integrity when doing so.

The next week, the Justice published the now-infamous article calling Dusty Baker a “word that rhymes with Tigger,” and then bungled the resulting PR disaster. The downfall of that paper was already in progress. A couple weeks ago the Justice finally got a new editor-in-chief. Maybe, hopefully, they’ll now be able to begin down the road to recovery.

Ah, the memories.

This week’s New Yorker has a piece by Anthony Lane trying to determine what the amorphous EU really is and what it is supposed to be regulating. After examining some of the new laws and regulations recently passed, it concludes with:

The history of European civilization has been rife with attrition and dispute, but the age of conflict is over. Americans do not want to tour a landscape littered with exhausted sex toys. They do not want to bandage the broken heads of circus performers. They want to walk the streets without fear of yogurt; they want to consume bananas of enormous and unenbarrassed girth; above all, they want to sit and watch contented pigs toss a Frisbee from sty to sty. Is that really too much to ask?

No, not really. So keep it up, EU! And quit your whining, UK!

There is lots of trivia, of course, most of which I don’t care for or understand. But while I was looking at something I found these tidbits that I thought were interesting and/or relevent, at least to me:

  • Alex Borstein, of Family Guy fame (Lois, etc.), has guest starred.
  • Jane Espenson, of Buffy (writing) fame, is a producer and has written two episodes.

But most interesting is how the show got started:

  • Something called the “Family Friendly Programming Forum,” a part of the Association of National Advertisers, funds, among other things, the development of scripts for “family friendly” shows. Gilmore Girls was the first major success of this program. Their definition of “family friendly” is pretty vague, but basically they’re looking for shows that parents and children can watch together and that “embody an uplifting message.” This seems less evil then I originally thought because they don’t seem to be stressing any specific set of conservative values, i.e. in Gilmore Girls the backstory is something along the lines of the mother getting pregnant as a teenager and choosing to raise her child alone.

Interesting, and a little weird. Anyway, that’s that. Oh, also, might as well throw in a quote, for good measure:

I really like him, Rory. I can’t help it. And it’s been a really long time since I’ve felt like this. You can’t always control who you’re attracted to, you know. I think the whole Angelina Jolie/Billy Bob Thronton thing really proves that.

And a reference to Oliver North in the same episode? Vaguely Buffy-esque in terms of snark, not too high brow, but real intelligent rather then fake intelligent like Dawson’s Creek. Hum.

Still not going to watch the show! (he continues to tell himself)