Nikon has just astonished me

Very Awesome

August 27th, 2008

I’m astonished; A dSLR that shoots 720p video, with adjustable DOF and high ISO capabilities. I know this is a promotional video, but I have nothing to say but… wow.

Fill in the blank: The Olympics is a global ____ celebration

Very Awesome

August 13th, 2008

A beautiful reminder that even the most inane components of sports can make for good advertising.

I’ve been to the moon, if by “been to” you mean “read about”

Very Awesome

August 1st, 2008

Man achieves personal flight, again and in some ways less in less impressive fashion that in other recent successes. Head over to Europe and the same goals are achieved in a more spectacular fashion. This seems to harken back to the minor controversy over who really invented the airplane. The Wright Brothers original invention required a catapult for take-off, whereas Brazilian Alberto Santos-Dumont built the first airplane that didn’t require assistance for take-off, documented and verified by impartial observers. While no one argues that the Wright brothers flew, there are questions about what constitutes enough of a flight to win the accolade of first airplane. By some definitions we’ve achieved time travel already, but there’s a question of substance on precisely what will eventually determine what “time travel” is.
Regardless of where the credit will fall, it seems that we are in a window of time where some decree of personal flight may become a reality. And if history is a dependable teacher, what qualifies as personal flight now and what personal flight will become in the not-too-distant future will be vastly different.

Let’s meet at the gates of Hell

Very Bad

August 1st, 2008

From Time:

According to a former senior American official, it appears another locale can be added to the international roster of interrogation sites — one both more obscure and potentially more controversial than the alleged sites in Poland and Romania. The source tells TIME that, in 2002 and possibly 2003, the U.S. imprisoned and interrogated one or more terrorist suspects on Diego Garcia, an island in the Indian Ocean controlled by the United Kingdom.

[CIA Director] Hayden’s attempt to set the record straight [about the US’ practices on Diego Garcia] has failed to quiet British protests about American activities on the island. Instead, an All Party Parliamentary Group on Extraordinary Rendition has begun an investigation, raising a variety of pointed questions about the island with Gordon Brown’s Labour government. Speaking to the BBC, Labor MP and Foreign Affairs Committee member Fabian Hamilton said this week that, “I think it’s important the British government makes plain its … deep concern that it’s not being told the truth and that our territories are being used for these purposes.”

Hamilton’s Committee insists that Britain can no longer take at face value America’s assurances that it is not torturing prisoners, and, in a clear reference to Diego Garcia, said the U.K. now bears a “legal and moral obligation” to make certain that no British territory abets American rendition flights or interrogations.

How does a ghost town exist in a world so desperately in need of new laser tag courses?

Very Awesome

July 22nd, 2008 has put together a list of the 10 most amazing ghost towns. Amazing is certainly the right word; the abandoned dwellings cover all sorts of terrain and socio-economic areas and the page is certainly worth a glance. There’s nothing going on quite like The World Without Us describes, though there are apparently a few trees growing in buildings.

If you can find a newspaper that covered this, get some scissors and have your own ticker tape parade

Very Awesome

July 21st, 2008

From the LA Times:

In an interview with the German magazine Der Spiegel, Maliki embraced Obama’s plan, saying: “That, we think, would be the right time frame for a withdrawal, with the possibility of slight changes.” Maliki said he was not making an endorsement in the presidential race.

The endorsement of the Iraqi Prime Minister for a plan that calls for combat withdrawal - an effective end to the Iraq War - is enormous news. Ironically only the LA Times fronted the story, owing to pressure exerted from the White House for the Iraqi government to issue a retractment, which they (vaguely) did. When the New York Times ran the story they ran it as a story focused on the implications for al-Maliki given the disapproval his comments generated with senior White House and US military leaders. Even so, this offers the most real possibility of an actual conclusion to the Iraq War we’ve had since it began. The lead of Iraq, Prime Minister Maliki, effectively supports presumptive Democratic nominee Barack Obama’s 16-month time-table for withdrawal, and presumptive Republican nominee John McCain has repeatedly stated that he would respect Iraq’s sovereignty on the issue of withdrawal (though his plan calls for no immediate withdrawal and indefinite military presence). It’s unlikely that McCain would actually advocate such a speedy withdrawal since it would be near political suicide, but this is the clearest hope the American public has had yet for an actual termination to the War. A full rundown with the official responses of the candidates is here.

Related: While the mainstream press was slow to run this story, The White House press corps inadvertantly emailed this story to their entire list (instead of the intended internal list) immediately after Der Speigel, the source of the Maliki interview, ran the story on the wire.

Why not rename it gooogle while you’re at it

Very Bad

July 17th, 2008

newgooglezoom.jpgGoogle’s strength has always laid in their user experience: Fast load times and a dead-simple interface made for an irresistible search engine. But the need for growth has pushed them to compromise the very qualities that make them attractive in the first place. My search results now include rating and commenting components, two features that sound like they may be good additions. But instead, these new features are bad for 3 reasons.

  1. The non-text elements on my screen just increased tenfold. Previously the Google logo, a search bar and possibly a Google checkout graphic were the only graphic intrusions that cost me load time (and cost Google serve time) or added elements to the visual presentation. The ranking and commenting added 30 graphic elements. Even worse, these new elements introduce colors and behaviors new to Google search. They all have the appearance of translucence, a design tactic not used previously on their search result. They also have non-uniform behaviours: Rolling over the up-arrow generates a green rollover, while the ‘x’ and comments bubble just get a darker grey.Green means good?
  2. By introducing an explicit ranking system, Google is introduced overt influence into their ranking system. Part of the strength of most search engines is the ease of use - anyone can enter a phrase and get back a relevant result. There is no require for a survey about your previous experience with similar searches. There is no financial cost for results. There is just a question and an answer. But now, Google is fostering a sense that you need to rank their responses to get better results. Perhaps they are right and that will lead to better search results (which is not a given) - where is a user’s incentive to substantially increase their investment for marginally better searches? Who is willing to go from a one-click search to a search improved 1% at the cost of 10 clicks? The answer, of course, is web surfers that have already migrated to other niche-search engines.
  3. The lack of focus on the comments will provide nothing but noise, further degrading the value of the information on the page. What are the comments for? Am I supposed to comment on the quality of the specific results as they relate to my search? I could just as easily comment on the quality of the result in an objective setting, which has little value in the context of the search results. If I run a search for “funniest Obama joke” (which you’re not allowed to make, remember) I get a mix of videos, new stories and web page in my results. I could also, with these new features, get comments ranging from “This video is hilarious” (content-specific), “This site is so racist” (site-specific), or “A story about a cancelled debate doesn’t help me find a funny joke” (search result-specific). Given the range of likely results, the comments are almost certain to become noise.

Google has gained little with this adjustment, and given the feature release appears to be limited to select users right now, it’s unlikely the add-ons will make it to Google proper unadjusted.

I miss the writers strike when late night hosts at least had an excuse not to be funny

Very Bad

July 17th, 2008

From the NY Times:

Comedy has been no easier for the phalanx of late-night television hosts who depend on skewering political leaders for a healthy quotient of their nightly monologues. Jay Leno, David Letterman, Conan O’Brien and others have delivered a nightly stream of jokes about the Republican running for president — each one a variant on the same theme: John McCain is old.But there has been little humor about Mr. Obama: about his age, his speaking ability, his intelligence, his family, his physique. And within a late-night landscape dominated by white hosts, white writers, and overwhelmingly white audiences, there has been almost none about his race….Despite audience resistance, Mr. Stewart contended, his show had been able to develop a distinctive angle on Mr. Obama.Noting that the senator seems to emphasize the historic nature of his quest, Mr. Stewart said, “So far, our take is that he’s positioning himself to be on a coin.”…Jimmy Kimmel, the host of the ABC late-night talk show “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” said of Mr. Obama, “There’s a weird reverse racism going on. You can’t joke about him because he’s half-white. It’s silly. I think it’s more a problem because he’s so polished, he doesn’t seem to have any flaws.”

Perhaps there’s a actual reticence comedians have to make fun of Obama. But McCain may just be an easier target. McCain revels in giving the press the sort of personal access that invariably exposes him to the risk of poorly-phrased quotes getting caught on camera. He offers that access because it results in more favorable press coverage, but the collateral cost may be ready-made comic materials. Obama, on the other hand, has run a very disciplined campaign that offers little casual press access. Less access results in less unscripted conversation, and less room for error.Again, it’s very possible that some jokes about Obama get discarded because of racial sensitivity or political ideology. But McCain’s offered a steady stream of pre-packaged jokes this campaign season and you can’t blame comedians from running with jokes that are practically prewritten.

“Goodbye from the world’s biggest polluter”

Very Bad

July 11th, 2008

From the Independent:

President George Bush signed off with a defiant farewell over his refusal to accept global climate change targets at his last G8 summit.

As he prepared to fly out from Japan, he told his fellow leaders: “Goodbye from the world’s biggest polluter.”

President Bush made the private joke in the summit’s closing session, senior sources said yesterday. His remarks were taken as a two-fingered salute from the President from Texas who is wedded to the oil industry. He had given some ground at the summit by saying he would “seriously consider” a 50 per cent cut in carbon emissions by 2050.

I wish I was the kind of person that could create something like this, but for now I’m content just to be the kind of person that can appreciate it.

Very Awesome

July 8th, 2008