Saturday, July 31, 2004

The Pope Jumps the Shark

Just posted this to MetaFilter. Link.
The Pope to Women: “get back in your place” — The Vatican, fearing it may still share some semblance of the same reality as the rest of us seeks to rectify this problem by telling women that they should stop hoping for the same things as men have.

“The obscuring of the difference or duality of the sexes has enormous consequences on a variety of levels,” the document said, asserting it has inspired ideologies that “call into question the family, in its natural two-parent structure of mother and father.”

It also warned of challenges to fundamentals of church teaching, saying the blurring of differences “would consider as lacking in importance and relevance the fact that the Son of God assumed human nature in its male form.”

By al - 8:40 PM | (14) comments | Post a Comment

Modern-Day Sabbath as Cure for Modern Life

Well, my new found Jewishness has got me thinking about what it is about Judaism that I've always found tertiarily appealing. One of the things that first came to mind was the idea of the Sabbath. The core of it is that you reserve one day a week on which no work is done, to be spent in study and reflection. The basic rules of the traditional Jewish Sabbath are
154.Sabbath Rest
8Remember the Sabbath day and keep it sacred.
9You shall labor for six days and do all your work.
10But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. no work is to be done then, either by you or by your son or daughter, or by your male or female servants, or by your work animal, or by a foreigner in your settlement.
11In six days the LORD made skies and earth, the sea and everything in them, but on the seventh day he rested. That is why the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it sacred.
--- Hebrew Bible, Exodus20:8-11
155.Covenanters' Sabbath Rules
17...And on the Sabbath day no man shall speak
18a foolish and empty word. He shall lend nothing to his comrade. He shall make no plan concerning wealth and profit.
19He shall speak no word in matters of business or work to be done the next day.
20No man shall walk in a field to do services for himself
21on the Sabbath. He shall not walk more than a thousand cubits[= 500 yards] from his town.
22No man shall eat on the Sabbath day except what was already prepared. Nor from what was lost
23in a field. And he shall not eat and drink except in the camp...
--- Dead Sea Scrolls, Damascus Covenant10.17-23
Source Here (note: when googling for 'Sabbath rules' be sure to exclude references to the band Black Sabbath and how much they rule) Below these basic ones are a lot of specifics about not helping an animal give birth and how to harvest crops, stuff that is of course obsolete and not central to my idea for a modern-day equivalent. The important parts are those about not pursuing financial business on your day of rest. It would be similar to the annual Buy Nothing Day, only it would be once a week, and would take you out of not just the consumption cycle but the production side of our modern world as well.

But unlike 'buy nothing day' which is essentially destructive and negative, a weekly day of removal from the modern world could be very positive and constructive. When it becomes a habit you would start looking forward to it, instead of doing more shopping the day before Buy Nothing Day to last you through it, and then treating it as an exercise in self-discipline to make an essentially negative statement, you would become accustomed to simply slowing down for one day and re-adjusting your normal rhythms.

I'm thinking about starting a sort-of Sabbath as a way of rescuing my sanity. One day a week of no computers, no Internet, no working, no shopping, just quiet relaxation and reading perhaps. I might make an exception for music, I don't put much value in absolute ascetism for its own sake.

The traditional Sabbath also involved not going out to eat or cooking. But I don't think this is necessary. That was taking the assumption that everyone in a community would be observing the Sabbath on the same day, whereas in my mind it is a personal thing, and not everyone who does it needs to take the same day, so while I have my day on a Saturday, a person who works at a restaurant can have theirs on another day.

One of my current favourite authors and graphic novel creators, Douglas Rushkoff (blog) has done a lot of writing on the place of Judaism in today's world (good introductory article here), and has argued that many of the rituals that the institutional establishment cling to are woefully obsolete and get in the way of the core of Judaism which he believes still has a lot to offer people in modern times. He boils down the basic beliefs as abstract monotheism, iconoclasm and a belief in social justice. This is a lot more relevant than strict rituals and other trappings of established institutional religions. He's even taken it so far as to create a project he calls Open Source Judaism in which people come together to discuss and interpret Jewish teachings in a modern context.

... And wouldn't you know it, he's written an article on the modern day Sabbath, and even ties it into the same themes as were explored in The Corporation. The article is here.
The irony here is that religion might actually serve as a last line of defense against this branded cultural imperialism. Adbusters' annual "Buy Nothing Day" used to occur once a week as a long-forgotten ritual called "Sabbath." Once every seven days, the Judeo-Christian founders concluded a few millennia ago, people should take a break from the cycle of consumption and production.

Imagine trying to practice Sabbath today. What's left to do that doesn't involve paying for admission? Are there any public spaces left other than the mall? Though the Sabbath was widely celebrated even 10 years ago, it now falls outside the imaginable for the market fascists: wouldn't it throw the economy into a recession?

Perhaps, but it would also give us 24 hours each week to restore a bit of autonomy into our own affairs. The hard right has claimed the spiritual high ground (as a way of promoting market values) but it may actually belong to us. It's our way of disengaging from the corporate machine, unplugging from the matrix, and considering whether we would rather have a communal barbecue pit at the end of the block. It's not time off; it's time "on." It's a sacred space for the living. We might even use it to have sex.

By al - 12:16 AM | (1) comments | Post a Comment

Friday, July 30, 2004

Belief-O-Matic

In today's episode of 'Al has nothing to post so he'll just post something he saw on MetaFilter instead' we have the Belief-o-Matic quiz which tries to match up your own beliefs with the religion or school of thought that matches them most closely. Kind of a fun little toy, at any rate. (MeFi thread here, if you care)
1. Bahá'í Faith (100%)
2. Liberal Quakers (99%)
3. Reform Judaism (95%)
4. Unitarian Universalism (95%)
5. Mainline to Liberal Christian Protestants (91%)
6. Sikhism (90%)
7. Mahayana Buddhism (84%)
8. Jainism (80%)
9. Neo-Pagan (79%)
10. Orthodox Judaism (76%)
dot dot dot

25. Eastern Orthodox (32%)
26. Roman Catholic (32%)
27. Jehovah's Witness (25%)
I have to say I'm glad that those Jehovah's Witnesses are in last place, I think that shows I'm on the right track at least ;) Take the quiz and post your results in the comments, just for fun.

By al - 7:15 PM | (2) comments | Post a Comment

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Chuckers vs. Floppers. . . The war continues.

One of guys I game with mentioned that there was a significant debate of about D&D on CBC radio which I can only assume they discussed the many myths surrounding the activity. I haven't be called upon to defend the gaming community in a while so I thought it would be interesting to revisit the subject by doing a bit of reading on the internet. Found an interesting website called The Escapist that has a lot of information about various myths associated with D&D and gaming in general.

An interesting aside, Wizards of the Coast did some market research back in 1999 and made some rather interesting conclusions. First, floppers and chuckers don't mix. There are few of what they call "general gamers", i.e. gamers that play all gaming types. There actually are females that game. Excerpt:

Conclusions:

1. Few 'General Gamers':
The first, most notable conclusion we can draw from this information is that the mythical 'hobby gamer' who plays TRPGs, CRPGs, MWGs and TCGs comprises a very, very small portion of the total market. A minority of gamers play more than one category of hobby game; very few play all three. The largest overlap, though still a minority, is with CRPGs and TRPGs.

This is an exciting conclusion, because it indicates that a company can successfully create brand in one of the three hobby categories, and extend that brand into the other two without significantly cannibalizing sales. In other words, the people who buy the RPG are not likely to be the ones buying the MWG or the TCG.

2. There are 'Women in Gaming'
Second, it is clear that female gamers constitute a significant portion of the hobby gaming audience; essentially a fifth of the total market. This represents a total population of several million active female hobby gamers. However, females, as a group, spend less than males on the hobby.

3. Adventure Gaming is an adult hobby
More than half the market for hobby games is older than 19. There is a substantial 'dip' in incidence of play from 16-18. This lends credence to the theory that most people are introduced to hobby gaming before high-school and play quite a bit, then leave the hobby until they reach college, and during college they return to the hobby in significant numbers.

It may also indicate that the existing group of players is aging and not being refreshed by younger players at the same rate as in previous years.

Note:
TRPGs = Tabletop Role-Playing Games (D&D)
CRPGs = Computer Role-Playing Games (Neverwinter Nights, Final Fantasy)
MWGs = Minitures War Games (Warhammer)
TCGs = Tradable Card Games (Magic, Pokemon)

By Ming - 4:22 PM | (1) comments | Post a Comment

Wow, this is actually quite neat. From MeFi:
The physicist Shariah Afshar has used a beautifully simple experiment, which no-one seems to have thought of before, to disprove Bohr's principle of complementarity, something which has been pretty much unchallenged for 80 years. He may also have gone some way towards showing that there is no such thing as a photon, and that Einstein's Nobel prize should be revoked. So, big stuff.

By al - 3:57 PM | (0) comments | Post a Comment

Auto News

Greetings from the west.  I realized something about gasoline prices in the town I'm staying.  They don't change.  They were 82.9 c/L when I arrived in June, and they haven't budged, regardless of the price of a barrel of crude.  Full serve, self serve, weekdays, weekends, doesn't matter.  Interesting.  Back home, prices seem to follow the price of crude somewhat - but not here, it seems.

But alas, I'll be spending the Civic Holiday here, away from my Civic.  I miss it so.  It's our first Civic Holiday apart in over 2 years *weeps longingly*.  Once every now and then I'll see a 7th gen 'vic on the streets here (this is very much domestic and truck country) and admire it from up close and afar.

And Duc - I repeat - this is VERY much domestic/truck country up here, but there are 2 7th gen Celicas in town.  Blue and black.  Sweet. 

Despite the automotive demographic, I've seen 3 really sweet/expensive cars here downtown - a Viper, a C5 vette, and a new, expensive-looking Porsche (non-boxter).  This wouldn't be totally unexpected in Calgary or Edmonton, but in this town it's unexpected, especially given the little time I spend driving around town.

And has anyone heard from the Water Buffalo Man himself?  Do they not have internet connections in his village?

And this computer/internet thing - it's kind of nice to have.  Don't know I'll get one when I arrive back in Freddy Beach, but I can see why people have them.

By Silent_G - 12:07 AM | (0) comments | Post a Comment

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Something for Audiophiles

I got sick and tired of my MP3 mix and I really needed to shake things up. Usually I just take the MP3 disc for the car, remove tracks that have grown stale, add my new tracks, and then reburn the disc. Only this time, pretty much everything went stale at the same time. Maybe I should lay off the JPop for a while :-) Ditched pretty much my entire playlist and spent a few hours going through my archives for some good tracks i haven't heard in a while. Hopefully that lasts me for a while.

Anyways, back to my original topic. All this new mixing means I'll listen to more music at work. Music at work means playing music on the laptop. The laptop has crap for speakers. I got great headphones, but they don't help when the soundcard's junk. So, I got the iZotope Ozone plugin for Winamp. I heard about when I was watching the Screensavers on TechTV and I decided to try it out. This thing is amazing! It's unbelievable how much better my mp3s sound with this thing turned on. Especially the homebrew mp3 I make from this internet radio station I listen to (which are pretty horrid quality if you ask me). I'd almost say it's as good as my home setup, which is pretty scary. I'm just running the Free version, but it does just about everything I need it to do. I probably wouldn't mind trying how much better the full version is, assuming I had 29USD to spend on stuff like that. They also have a version of the plugin for Media Player 9 for those MS-whores out there.

Check out iZotope Ozone here

By Ming - 11:00 PM | (0) comments | Post a Comment

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

You, give me a job.

The absolute worst part of sending out a job application is when they ask you what your salary requirements are. I've been living on a graduate teaching assistanceship for 2 years, I have no conception of what people make in the non-slave economy.

If I was to be totally honest I'd put "just pay me enough so I can eat and give me something to occupy my mind for 8 hours a day and I'll be grateful." If I thought the person reading my application wasn't a soulless, witless HR troll I might actually write that in.

Just to be a little more honest about my priorities, perhaps I should re-arrange my C.V. a bit, under "education" I should put my high school, and under hobbies I'll put "Bachelor of Computer Science, Master's of Computer Science". With all my education, though, I still think the coolest thing I ever made was the Dr. Mario clone I wrote in Pascal in grade 11.

It's probably best I don't make a lot of money. Among people I know the ratio of income to expenses is doesn't seem to change as income rises, they just keep spending more and more money to keep up with what's coming in, and I know I don't have the energy to do that much shopping. If 'wandering minstrel / philosopher' was still a viable career I'd be all over that. Who paid Socrates' living expenses while he stood on the steps of the Parthenon opining away? Are they still hiring? Not that I have much to say, but people don't really know how to listen properly these days anyway.

By al - 12:09 AM | (1) comments | Post a Comment

Monday, July 26, 2004

Neo Radio

It's about time. Hopefully it will catch on. From here:
from the can-i-get-an-amen dept.
NPR had a great story yesterday about what I hope is the oncoming death of commercial radio as we know it. Do you ever get sick of how loud, obnoxious, and repetitive radio stations are? how all they play is a small list of hits until they're dead? and how they're so obviously in cahoots with the record companies (who we all know are evil)?

Yes, of course you do. I'm glad we all agree. So listen to the story, it's good.

I just can't believe it's taken so long for anyone in the radio industry to catch on to this idea. We've known what's wrong with radio for years. Did it really take a big consultant to figure this out?

(Here are links to the radio stations they refer to: Denver's The Mountain and San Diego's FM94/9. A report about this done by a radio consultant that NPR links to can be found here.)

By al - 1:31 AM | (5) comments | Post a Comment

The Corporation: Parts 2 & 3

Wow it takes me a long time to finish things. Anyway, finally finished watching the third part of The Corporation tonight while waiting for a circuit to synthesize. (one little design now takes over an hour to go from about 1000 lines of code to about a 200k bit file. That's a lot of work. I digress.) The most compelling parts of this section were those dealing with the privatization of water in Bolivia. As part of the conditions for an IMF / World Bank loan, Bolivia had to privatize its water utilities, which were then taken over by BechTel Corporation. They made it illegal for any private citizen to get water except through them. It was illegal to dig your own well, or even to collect rainwater. Prices became so high that families had to forego schooling, food and medical care just to be able to afford the minimum amount of water to survive. It's still a condition of IMF acceptance that a country privatize their utilities, despite the demonstrated idiocy of such schemes. But in Bolivia the people rose up and it eventually led to the overthrow of the government. BechTel sought compensation for the lost business, but not considering the 6 lives that were lost as a direct consequence of their attempt to put down the popular revolt. Go figure.

But the striking part about this portion of the documentary was that despite the colossal lengths corporations went to grab power and ensure profits (there was even an attempted coup against the US government in the 30s by major corporations, to overthrow Roosevelt and install a fascist, corporate-friendly government.) that there are still means by which people can exert their power, and working within the law, can hold corporations to some standard of behavior.

But the conclusion remains that the system as it exists today, with corporations enjoying all the rights of a human being, but one which acts not like a person but like a psychopathic parasite, is fundamentally broken. The film concludes that corporations should have more of a responsibility to the people in a democratic society, and reminds the viewer that it is up to them to hold corporations responsible for their actions.

For my part I've grown quite disillusioned with the standard corporate model, and while I fully intend to start my own business sooner or later (hopefully sooner, and I'm exploring that option at the moment..) that I will make every effort not to allow the barrier between people and profits allow me to take some action that is ultimately harmful to the earth. Being in the software business makes this easier than most, but it's still something to be mindful of.

Like with Fahrenheit 9/11 I had read about much of the material that was covered in this film, but also like F9/11 to see everything, and to have it all thrown at you it once makes it much more compelling.

By al - 12:55 AM | (0) comments | Post a Comment

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Just added my fellow MeFite Stavrosthewonderchicken's blog, emptybottle.org, to the sidebar. Go read.

By al - 9:59 PM | (0) comments | Post a Comment

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Peter Parker: Pathetic Pansy

Gawker has pointed me to an article in the New York Observer, entitled "Stuff It, Emo Boy!" which signals the early death of the emotionally needy Peter Parker personality prototype, pertaining principally to pointless posturing and prissy self-proclamation of one's problems. While seeing the vulnerable, unsure side of a superhero has an undeniable appeal, something we don't get with Superman's dry-as-dirt alter ego or the impenetrable Bruce Wayne, the real life embodiments of post feminist male-ness, casually tagged "emo boys" end up being, according to the authors of the article, wholly unappealing.

In the end guys who wear their hearts on their sleeves appear to simply be whining most of the time. And a whole new self-centeredness replaces the old type, where now the woman is expected to, as Kirsten Dunst does in the film, serve as emotional dartboard for this new emotionally open male. The article aptly points out that it's this neediness that is at the root of why our neo-Kurt Cobain guy is no better than the insensitive clods that are the stereotypical males.

The reason why this scotch works for Peter Parker in the Spider-Man movies is that we know that he does, in fact, have superpowers. But your typical heart-on-his-sleeve not-fully-grown-up emo boy doesn't, so you're left with the simpering prick that was Peter Parker in the first movie before getting his powers, the one who stared longingly at Mary Jane, was a dick to his family, and didn't do anything to stop the dude who eventually killed his uncle. All because he was too self-centered to think about anyone else.

I don't really have a proper conclusion other than to echo what the article says about these punk rock icon-imitating boys. Perhaps pointing out that this leaves a big gaping hole in what women actually want now that we've moved past the stone-hearted cowboy and the soft little emo boy extremes. Being hopelessly out of fasihon at all times anyway it really doesn't affect me what the latest trend might be. I guess we should all just go back to aspiring to be like Brad Pitt.

By al - 1:25 AM | (5) comments | Post a Comment

Friday, July 23, 2004

Go click on every one of the links in Tam's sidebar. Do it now. Especially this one.

By al - 3:08 PM | (1) comments | Post a Comment

Thursday, July 22, 2004

This Year for Sure. . . .

I haven't made it out to a single beach in PEI since I moved here 3 years ago and I would like to make it out at least once before I get Laid-off. Not to say that I'm definitely getting the axe, but you never know what's going to happen at work these days.

Binnie: I remember you mentioning heading out to the land of surf and sand sometime this Summer. Give me a call if you do!

By Ming - 12:03 PM | (1) comments | Post a Comment

Welcome to. . . The Al Show?

I just realized that the only one posting on the blog for the past week is Al. The last non-Al post was by Chantal on the 14th. Granted Al notmally posts a lot of stuff, but with Tuan partying with the Water Buffalo and Chibi-Greggu hiding up North, things are quite. . . Al-ish.

I normally refrain from posting as I tend to rant and gripe about stuff, like how the PEI government is raping me with absurdly high property taxes, how the oil companies are raping me with absurdly high gas prices, and how Ottawa is raping me with absurdly high income taxes. . . . everyone probably wouldn't want to hear about stuff like that.

I could also talk about computers and stuff, like how cool Magna Carta, this PC RPG game by Softmax I got on my trip to Korea, is even though I don't know a lick of Korean and there's not a shread of English ANYWHERES in the game. Or how I can build a killer PC gaming machine for only 1400 CAD. Or how I flashed the firmware on my DVD-burner so I can reliably burn PS2 and DVD copies. I'm assuming people are already bored.

Anyways, the point I was trying to make, aside from me writing about my D&D exploits or any of the other aboved mentioned topics, everyone else should post more.

By Ming - 11:06 AM | (1) comments | Post a Comment

I always seem to choose to make myself miserable

Sometimes I wonder about myself. Like why it was I decided that getting up in the morning, going to school, and staying there until about midnight was a good lifestyle choice. It seems like I don't know too many people here in town whom I can just call up and see a movie with. It's either full time 'hang out and get drunk with us every night and become part of the group' or nothing. Since I don't have time or money for the former this Summer I am experiencing a lot of the latter.

The worst part about writing a thesis is that every waking moment I spend not working makes me feel guilty for not working as hard as I think I should be. When I get a job it's going to have to be one that keeps me on a strict 8 hour schedule, otherwise I know I won't have the sense to stop at the end of the day and go home to what will likely be only fleeting distractions.

Oh well, time for work. :P

By al - 12:21 AM | (1) comments | Post a Comment

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Factlet of the day: the iPod is slightly louder than other portable music players because Steve Jobs is partly deaf. (from this Wired article)

By al - 10:06 AM | (0) comments | Post a Comment

PETA may have a point on this one. Workers at a Pilgrim's Pride slaughterhouse have been filmed demonstrating their criminal lack of respect for living things by torturing living chickens.

via MetaFilter.

Proving once again that the more you know about where your food comes from, especially industrial-scale food production, the more you consider giving up on eating alltogether. Between this, and the awful working conditions of vegetable farmers in California and Mexico, and all of the additives that get stuck in processed food for reasons other than maing the food better, you start to think the world is a pretty shitty place.

I'm starting to buy more organic type food mostly because it tastes better, but the rotten things that go on in industrial farming are another pretty compelling reason.

By al - 7:48 AM | (0) comments | Post a Comment

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Praying Mantis

While I'm pontificating about places to eat in Freddie, and since I was there this evening, I have to say I really like the Praying Mantis restaurant here in town. Having a place in town to pop in to and get a quick bowl of noodles and some tea almost makes this little burg seem cosmopolitan. They play good jazz music (not elevatorsmooth jazz, yuck) and the waitresses are very friendly, and chatty if you're there by yourself, which is nice.

Their menu is a bit on the lunch-heavy side, with nothing that's overly complex or large, but that's usually what I'm looking for anyway.

They even have the big bowls of cold noodles like that Vietnamese place in Montreal we went to that one time when we were there for the GP.

It's nice to see that they're still doing fairly good business after the initial honeymoon period most places get.

By al - 8:52 PM | (0) comments | Post a Comment

Best game ever. Move the big dot over the squares and don't get hit by the little dots. Screw fancy 3D graphics, this game is where it's at.

By al - 2:57 PM | (0) comments | Post a Comment

Monday, July 19, 2004

Seed Magazine — A science and culture magazine written by people with strong scientific backgrounds. Thinking about subscribing.

via boing boing.

By al - 6:44 PM | (0) comments | Post a Comment

Leo's Thai Food and Dimsum Palace

New Thai restaurant in Charlottetown. Yay. Freddie sucks for restaurants, especially next to Charlottetown which is smaller but has a much better variety of places to eat. Unless you like pub food, of course. Is it only the tourism factor that lets Charlottetown sustain its food service industry? Is the student population which supports the bars, who don't attempt to serve anything other than pub food during the day, actively hurtig the market for more interesting food ventures?

I'd trade every place that serves wings and burgers in town for being able to get Lebanese, Indian and proper Italian food instead. (except for Bugaboo, they can stay.)

By al - 2:15 PM | (1) comments | Post a Comment

The Blog as Social Software

After sniffing around Orkut for a day or so, thanks to an invite from a generous soul, as well as being on hi5 for a while (invite link), I had the thought that all of the 'communities' and lists of contacts, etc. were something I already have, on the blog. I was going to write about it, but someone else already has, and I pretty much agree:
My blog is my social software. It is also my social network.

It has my profile and much more - it has my identity fleshed out, through my posts.

  • A profile with history that allows you to know so much about me - i started blogging in March 2003 - and already readers people have seen me add new professional interests and take my qualitative research skills into new areas, some know i love music and Floyd, others have been with me to my cottage in the hills, read about my holiday and meetings with some wonderful bloggers on my trip, seen me change home, celebrated with me when i got a project due to my blog, and even wondered where i am when i've gone silent on my blog for a few days.
  • A profile that tells you much more than any homepage i have on Ecademy or Ryze or Tribe or LinkedIn could.
  • A profile that changes, grows, flows - not a cold resume or 'about me' page filled with past achievements and accolades - but is touchy-feely and one that says more about me through my thoughts, interests, preoccupations, rants, rambles and angst - that makes me more than just a consultant or a qualitative researcher - or a demographic statistic, 'female blogger from India'.
  • A profile that is salient too - it gets me high up on Google in many areas of search - so i do get noticed.
  • A profile that is my online identity - yet one that has led me to many face-to-face meetings, some that have resulted in new friends, others that i am pursuing professional interests with. And some that are a wonderful combination of the two.

With comments and trackbacks, guestmap and zonkboard, email id and skype handle - it lets me have conversations, make connections and network with people whom i share interests with. And engages me in meaningful dialogues. And i grow, as a result.

With Technorati (the new beta version is pretty cool btw) and Blogstreet, Blogshares and Sitemeter - i allow you into and share with you my reader community.

With blogrolls and by building links into posts, i share with you people who's thoughts i enjoy reading.

With newsreaders and aggregators i discover more about others than i would through 'pleasantries' exchanged through my Ryze guestbook and stars or cubes or hearts as Orkut had (!!).

I would also add that the dynamics of a group blog, where people expand on each other's ideas and even argue to arrive at a conclusion. (or amuse each other to the confusion of anyone else). This kind of collaboration to produce content that is greater than the sum of its parts is missing from the social software networks which mostly just offer hard-to-navigate message boards and no integration with other networks or the wider Web as a result of each site trying to be all things to its users.

By al - 12:03 PM | (0) comments | Post a Comment

You know those dumb 40 question surveys people email around asking about your favourite food, what your dog's name is, etc? Apparently not giving good answers on one cost Stephen Harper the election according to a G&M columnist.

By al - 10:30 AM | (0) comments | Post a Comment

High Noon

I am rather embarrassed to say I hadn't seen the movie High Noon before tonight when they showed it as part of the outdoor 'movies under the stars' thing that the city does during the Summer. But now I am amazed that it even got made back in 1952. To me it seems like a total indictment of McCarthyism, with the main character, Kane, representing someone who's been 'blacklisted' in a town, and who decides to help the town despite them not wanting him and his being able to leave if he wanted to. It also painted organized religion as a way for people to hide from taking individual responsibility, not something one would expect back then. I'll have to read up on the history of the film because I think there's a lot of stuff 'just under the surface' as it were.

Other parts of the movie that I noticed were that it was done completely in real time, with clocks showing how close it was to noon, when the villain was to come back to town on a train. (Sort of like Speed, only not awful).

Another consistent theme of this movie that was ahead of its time was that the characters that had any depth to them were the ones that didn't fit in in the town, the main character and the Mexican woman who has a history with Kane. Both are left without the support of the society, and have to make it on their own, and become the characters of main interest. Compare this with the John Wayne model Western film where the closer a man is to the conception of a mainstream American ideal the bigger a hero he is and you can see why High Noon is a gem of a film.

By al - 12:28 AM | (3) comments | Post a Comment

Sunday, July 18, 2004

Super Speedway IMAX

Just watched Super Speedway, which was originally an IMAX film covering the 1997 CART racing season from the point of view of Michael Andretti and the Newman / Haas team. They start off with the process of designing and building the car, from the clay model to the 5-axis milling machine grinding out the shape of a race car from a formless block, to the wind tunnel, to the track testing. Even though it's a bit old it's still a good window into how these cars are built. (CART car design has been fairly steady for the last few years as well.) The CART teams don't have $200 million plants and computer simulations that try thousands of different design possibilities running 24 hours a day, instead they have engineers huddled around a clay model using their intuition to form the initial shape of the car. They give a pretty good glimpse into how a wind tunnel works, with fluorescent paint sprayed on the car that changes colour depending on how much wind resistance it experiences at each point.

The real treat of the movie, though, is the on-board footage. When watching a race on TV you get footage from a tiny little camera and microphone that has to send radio signals back to the TV broadcaster. The teams would normally never stand for adding the weight and bulk needed to get a decent video image. But for this movie they equipped Michael Andretti's car with a high-quality camera and multiple microphones to pick up everything, from the eerie wind echo when he gets close to a wall to the rumble that overcomes the car when switching from a patch of new tarmac to the older road surface, something that looks totally smooth on TV looks like it might rattle the car apart when you actually see and hear everything in true detail. The best illustration of this is what happens when he spins the car on a road course. You hear the tires squealing, the breaks locking up, the suspension being pushed the wrong way and you nearly have a heart attack when you see the kerb approaching sidelong.

There's one sequence of some pretty spectacular crash scenes, which pretty much serve to make you wonder why any sane person would race on an oval track. The up-close footage also shows the skill required to get a turn just right, and how a slight over- or under-steer problem can totally throw a driver off his rhythm.

Even after more than a decade of watching CART and F1 I can say I gained a new appreciation for what the drivers go through having watched this.

OK, I just checked and you can actually download it from Suprnova.org. Definitely worth it even if you don't follow racing.

By al - 6:47 PM | (0) comments | Post a Comment

Curse This Wonderful Weather

Thesis writing on a beautiful day like today is cruel and unusual. I think I'll try and mitigate the shittiness of this situation by going to get an ice cream and going for a walk until I am wishing I was back in an air conditioned room again, at which point going in to school won't be so bad.

By al - 3:30 PM | (0) comments | Post a Comment

What's in a Name?

Orkut is Google's attempt to clone and (allegedly) improve on Friendster. They're doing an asstastic job of it so far from what I've heard, but I'm only a member of Freindster and Orkut is invite only and apparently being overrun by Brazillian Portuguese speakers.

But none of that is the point. The point is that “orkut” is rude Finnish slang for “orgasms.”

Also, phoenetically in Dutch it comes out sounding like “ear cunt.”

I know Google are supposed to be wacky and creative, but there's something to this market research stuff, you know :)

By al - 6:47 AM | (2) comments | Post a Comment

Saturday, July 17, 2004

“God Created Assistant Managers When He Was in a Really Shitty Mood.”

This quote is my comment on this post about young entrepreneurialism at willpate.org:
I've noticed the same thing myself. No intelligent person I know talks about what great big company they want to go work for anymore (unlike in the late 90's). I think one reason for this is the last death of the idea that a company will take care of you if you are loyal to them. People see high-profile bankruptcies and the workers taking the hit for it, and they aren't too eager to jump into the arms of potentially the next Enron.

Wanting to own your own ideas and be responsible for your own success or failure is the key to successful ventures, and that I notice that from those I talk to leaves me optimistic, even if it took the death of corporate culture to make it happen. The ashes of the fake revolution of the 90's may give rise to a real revolution born of a desire for self-determination rather than just hopping on the money bandwagon.

Al O'Neill
Further, I still don't think most talented creative people are living up to their potential to drive the market. This article about CORE Advertising is a good example of how I think more businesses should structure themselves.
When the service you’re selling is as ephemeral as “creativity,” sometimes it pays to defy the conventional business wisdom. “In so many traditional advertising agencies, art people become middle managers,” says designer John Dames of the St. Louis agency CORE. “They organize a process, but — almost in spite of their talent and training — they don’t actually create anything. Some specialist does their type, another does their photos, yet another does their production and color.

“The creative impulse gets diluted in layers of hierarchy — and the work suffers. When CORE was started, that was exactly what we wanted to avoid.”
Lead with the Heart

That decision has led the CORE Advertising team to an international reputation as an ad agency that always brings artistic passion to everything they do — from their ground-breaking typography, to their renowned photocompositions, to more recent experiments with lush motion graphics and special effects.
Any business that rewards good work by removing that worker's ability to be creative and putting him or her in a management position is a self-defeating organization. Actual good managers, those who can coordinate a team effectively and bring out creativity in others are indeed rare, and cannibalizing your creative people to fill the management positions hurts you twice. Once because they probably aren't good managers, and twice because you're draining your own creative talent.

I'm defining creativity in a very wide scope here, everything from design to engineering to media to scientific research operates in the same general model and all of those areas are hurt by overgrown hierarchies.

By al - 6:34 PM | (0) comments | Post a Comment

Starbuck's Coffee is Laced With Crap

So this morning an old, good friend, Leah, called me at a ridiculously early hour to tell me she was in town. Now the Farmer's Market is no big deal for me since I live right next to it, but she'd not been living in town for years, so that was the only thing she could think about, so needless to say that's where we ended up.

Taking a seat at the little raised area where they served breakfast, oddly being able to actually get a seat despite it being after 9:30 and every living soul in the city buzzing around. But looking at the menu we noticed they had both coffee and “Starbuck's Coffee.” Leaving aside the buzzkill that the presence of a Starbuck's can have on the wholesome image of a farmer's market, my initial reaction was “why on earth would anyone want to drink Starbuck's coffee if they had the choice?” Leah was rather baffled by my lack of enthusiasm, saying something about having just been on a trip to Seattle and staying in a house on Puget Sound next to the mansion of one of the founders of the company. But that, of course, doesn't change the fact that they sell burnt, stale, over-brewed coffee that sits in a bucket and gets pumped out like so much industrial effluent to make up the base for their flavoured warm milkshakes people love so much. Which is fine, for that purpose, no one could taste good or bad coffee underneath 6oz of whipped cream and cocoa anyway. But the idea of drinking it on its own is just bizarre.

Now it's true that most people don't know good coffee from bad, and I don't want to sound like a coffee snob, as I've been known to press the power button on a coffee maker to re-heat the last cup now and then, but Starbuck's should not even qualify as a potable substance. So anyway, just to be a belligerent prick, I very specifically ordered the “regular coffee” after she ordered her branded version. Long story short, she ended up not finishing hers.

PS. Stuffed French toast, which ends up being a fried cream cheese sandwich, is like nirvana in my spiritual quest for food that will kill me.

Will write more on the prevention of abuse of coffee beans in future.

By al - 5:06 PM | (0) comments | Post a Comment

Despotism

I'm currently obsessively trolling archive.org looking for interesting non-copyrighted video and music just waiting to be discovered. I came across this chilling piece of educational film: Despotism (multiple formats) by way of this MeFi post. It's a short film produced by the Encyclopaedia Britannica group in 1948, to show the societal factors that can lead a democracy to despotism. Watching it today is rather chillingly timely.

By al - 10:49 AM | (0) comments | Post a Comment

Friday, July 16, 2004

Cool little CSS Preview Deallie. Because redesign fever has hold of me like the clap.

By al - 6:19 PM | (1) comments | Post a Comment

The Corporation: Part 1

So earlier I posted the trailer to the documentary The Corporation. Well, last night at school I acquired a copy of the film, all three hours of it. I've only seen part one so far, but it was enough to leave me pacing around an empty room in frustration at what I was being shown.

It had an interesting perspective in that it is a Canadian-produced film but most of the source material is American, American and British history of how the mechanism of limiting liability through chartered corporations came about, and American companies studied as case examples. There were a few Canadians interviewed in the film, like Naomi Klien and someone from the Fraser Institute were interviewed, but largely because they were experts in the field and not because someone at the CBC keeps them on speed dial to fill out their reports as is the case with a lot of Canadian journalism.

One of the more striking parts of the film is where footage of the person from the Fraser Institute who expounds on the wonders of commerce and how corporations have some invisible desire to do good in the world is interspersed with another organization which actually goes and investigates conditions in foreign factories. The Fraser Institute's office is immaculata, bright and looks exactly like any report mill would, unencumbered by any traces of production. The other organization 's office was packed with evidence of corporate excess in production methods. They had a rack full of designer garments, along with paper documents showing how many cents (ranging from $.05 to $.70) a worker gets paid to produce a $125 piece of clothing. The contrast between the separation from the subject matter that the Fraser institute claims to be experts in and the dirtier realities was very striking. This is the sort of thing people don't like about documentaries, the editing that doesn't change anyone's words, but puts them against a contrasting or contradicting background. It's the film making equivalent of the hundreds of photos of O.J. Simpson wearing a certain brand of shoe after he testified that he never owned such a pair. It might not look very polite, but videotape doesn't lie.

The movie was also very deft at not vilifying the rich white men in charge of these corporations that do so much harm, rather it focuses on the institution itself. Noam Chomsky, who provides a lot of the intellectual weight of the film, summed up this idea well when he said that in the time of slavery a slave owner may have been a perfectly nice gentleman, and not himself an evil person. Rather, it is the institution itself that has the fatal flaw that it allows humans to do otherwise unspeakable things to each other and be separated from the liability. Similarly, corporations externalize their liability and business people live entirely in the world of their own creation, externalizing harms and maximizing profit at all costs. The film gives voice to the former CEO of Interface, a carpet manufacturer, who had an epiphany about his role and the role of his company and who now is one of the better spokes people for corporate responsibility, as he can't be painted as a raving outsider like a Michael Moore does.

One last thing, if you live in the states and view this movie you may never want to drink milk again.

Will watch the other two parts probably today and tomorrow, and write my thoughts. I can burn copies or sned over MSn to anyone who wants it and has a decent internet connection :)

By al - 8:14 AM | (3) comments | Post a Comment

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Even more badass bicycle racing at MetaFilter
Drag Race Ride through the streets of Manhattan with some of the fastest urban bicyclists in existence as they race in the wintertime. Thrilling and unbelievable. The mpg is from a head mounted camera worn by one of the racers. More here. Also don't miss the cameraman riding on top of a Jersey barrier here. And here I was thinking that Times Square to Park Slope in 25 minutes was pretty quick. Thanks to nervous.net.

By al - 12:58 PM | (0) comments | Post a Comment

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Acid rain and smog, baby!

It's pouring here today...and you know that day from the tower? that wasn't mist or fog apparently...

the pics look great!

By chantal - 10:01 PM | (0) comments | Post a Comment

Acid rain falls from the sky over Seoul. I actually had to use an umbrella when I was there! The rain actually burns your skin when it hits you; a rather nasty tingling and burning sensation on exposed skin.

By Ming - 2:02 PM | (0) comments | Post a Comment

Why is antifreeze so delicious?

By al - 1:49 PM | (0) comments | Post a Comment

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

FINALLY! The DUC has come back to SEOUL!


See the millions! And millions of the Duc's fans from all over the world!

Okay everyone. I took all the pictures I shot on my trip to Hong Kong and Korea, cooked up a nice set of web pages, and smacked that thing onto my web server for the PEOPLE!

CHECK OUT WHAT THE DUC HAS BEEN COOKIN'

P.S. I haven't really given my web server a good workout since I set it up. I don't expect the whole slashdot-effect, but I guess I'll see how well it holds up to a moderate load.

P.P.S. Why the hell are you still reading this??? Check out the pictures!

By Ming - 11:05 PM | (2) comments | Post a Comment

CNBC + Will Ferrell == teh funny. I suck for not having seen anchorman yet. This will be remedied shortly even if I end up walking up to the mall myself to watch it. Ferrell is pretty much the only SNL cast member from that era that's actually funny.

By al - 4:20 PM | (0) comments | Post a Comment

OK, so the new thesis plan is to write five pages a day every day until my supervisor comes back from his little male bonding lets-get-sweaty-on-bikes-in-the-woods trip that I didn't ask too many questions about. This should leave ma almost finished by the time it's done, and also likely almost dead. Blogging may or may not be affected, depending on whether I actually keep to this plan or not.

Sometimes, oddly, I find writing about something specious or at least not work-related actually helps me get back into the rhythm of getting words down on the screen, and I can carry that momentum back into the world of circuits and FPGAs and graphs and vertices and all that stuff I can't even bear to think about at the moment.

My long-time lab mate Nancy has an interesting plan to find work now that she's finished her M.Sc. in Electrical Engineering, she's hopping on a plane down to San Jose and is going to go around and basically knock on doors until someone hires her. I'm quite awed by this and also by the notion that a little Chinese girl has a bigger set of brass balls to go about this plan than I'll ever have. On the other hand she said that if she does find a job that I'm welcome to visit her and do the same thing if I want to. That sort of speaks to an immigrant sensibility, now that I think about it, bringing your family to a new place one at a time. I'll have to see how my own job hunt goes, I guess.

By al - 3:51 PM | (0) comments | Post a Comment

TMBG + Homestar*Runner == one kickin' music video. (flash)

By al - 5:50 AM | (0) comments | Post a Comment

China rejects viagra patent. Obviously crushed tiger penises represented prior art.

By al - 5:34 AM | (0) comments | Post a Comment

Monday, July 12, 2004

weblog.cemper.com — Not a bad little weblog for web development hacks and tech business news, worth a look if you're into that sort of thing. Though it seems to have about the most crowded interface I've ever seen on a blog, but RSS is my buddy now so I worry not about such things.

By al - 12:24 PM | (0) comments | Post a Comment

Proudly, a progressive.

Further to this post on Acts of Volition:

The progressive movement used to be a fairly well-defined term, basically people inside the liberal democratic establishment who want to adopt some socialist policies in order to stave off the increase in political power of unions and more hard-core communist parties. Basically it was borne of practicality, wishing to improve the system from within, instead of by tearing it down first via a revolution.

In that context 'progressive' is a perfectly valid term, the trouble is people using words without knowing their meaning or origin. (see: 'liberal' becoming an epithet in the US, somehow...)

But there are some elements with the environmental / green movement who view 'progress' (in the economic sense) as the enemy, and thus calling one's self a 'regressive' would make sense, but it isn't an antinym of classic 'progressivism'.

By al - 11:22 AM | (0) comments | Post a Comment

One of those old stand-by topics.. I noticed over at Hello Dita there is a post about which are smarter, cats or dogs? The accepted answer is that dogs are smarter because they can be more easily trained. But then, if you were to describe your husband as 'well-trained' people probably wouldn't think much of their relative intelligence.

It occurred to me that cats are more of an introvert's pet, and dogs are more of an extrovert's kind of pet. I can identify with cats, and empathize. I think that if I was the size of a cat I would behave exactly as they do; go look for a nice warm spot on the couch where the sun is shining in and take a nap, patrol my territory and go exploring now and then, get my shits and giggles by running after the birds. Dogs, on the other hand, behave rather strangely. They don't understand their own indignity when begging for attention. They have give excessive loyalty and affection to some dope just because he thinks he owns them, they just generally have an obsessive, clingy relationship with their owners, and can't seem to amuse themselves. Something we introverted cat people can't handle for a second, either in a pet or in people.

I think it has something to do with growing up with a cat. They give off a certain special polarizing kitty dust that affects the people around them. Either the are allergic, or they fall under the cat's spell and are henceforth under its control. People affected in this way become 'cat people', that is, they are slowly turned into cats themselves.

'cat people' spent their childhoods worried at the presence of a dog in the yard, some boorish destructive creature who doesn't pay their cats proper respect. Dogs leave a trail of destruction in their wake, trampled flowers, knocked over furniture. Where a cat goes over or around, a dog will go through.

Dogs have their uses, to be sure, and there's nothing better than playing frisbee with a friendly, intelligent dog, but what they need is an off switch.

Another interesting observation is that when cat-like traits are applied to humans it is in a positive manner. Gracefulness, cunning, quiet. You can't call someone "dog-like" without getting a kick in the crotch. You also won't see a movie called "dogwoman" coming out any time soon.

Perhaps what brings the dog down is its servile, dependent nature. Especially when compared to the much superior cousins, the wolf and the coyote. Now there are some respectable animals. The dog is like the parody, the degeneration of a once-noble creature. While the housecat seemingly avoids this fate by being self-sufficient to the end.

OK, after I wrote all this, I found this article that says almost the opposite, and that I also agree with completely. Perhaps it's more to do with the fact that pets grow to resemble the personality of their owners. So annoying people who own dogs will have annoying dogs. Makes sense.

By al - 7:03 AM | (0) comments | Post a Comment

Sunday, July 11, 2004

Somewhat disturbing. . . .


CWINDOWSDesktopPowerRangeres.jpg
Power Rangers Movie!


What movie Do you Belong in?(many different outcomes!)
brought to you by Quizilla

BTW: I'm back on the Island after that whirlwind tour of Asia. Been busy trying to catch up on stuff, so I'll post more later. I'd get around to uploading pictures soon. I got lots! I shot 340 pictures myself and I got some from relatives too. Anyways, back to other stuff.

By Ming - 3:21 AM | (2) comments | Post a Comment

Saturday, July 10, 2004

OK, so I changed the name of the blog back to what it used to be. It's a better name because it doesn't contain the word 'blog', it has history and context to it (the hallway gatherings that other people looked on in confusion at) and the 'lol communism' thing gets old.

I'm catching the redesign bug from Tam I think, trying to come up with a good logo or something, like my other blog.. I like the floating links bar on the right, though, so I'm not touching that.

By al - 3:16 PM | (2) comments | Post a Comment

Grassroots hackers create file-swapping wireless iPod

Basically it's a wireless-enabled PocketPC with a Rendezvous-based music discovery / sharing program, similar to iTunes' playlist sharing, which uses the iPod as a slave disk drive device. It's kind of like duct taping your VCR and TV remotes together, but it's still a neat concept.

Something like that won't ever get the critical mass needed to have a good chance of running into someone sharing their music while walking down the street, unfortunately. And Apple doesn't seem to want to over-complicate their iPod by putting in a hacked up wireless solution that most people won't be able to figure out.

On the other hand, if someone has a wireless network and is running iTunes with playlist sharing (a fairly common situation right now, I'm running exactly that.) and someone walking by with a wireless iPod could see the shared playlist and tune in to it for a while, it would be all kinds of cool. And wouldn't really make the interface more complicated, they would just show up as another playlist, with maybe a flashing light telling you it's there. They're already inching towards this route with AirTunes though that's a push rather than a pull model.

The two disadvantages to wireless are 1) cost and 2) battery draining. An 802.11b card visibly reduces the running time of a laptop computer. They're getting better though, and it wouldn't run continuously on the iPod, rather it would come on maybe every 30 seconds, check for a wireless signal, and a shared playlist, and turn back off if it doesn't find any. And the cost of components has also gone down quite a bit, and on a $400 iPod it is certainly not an impossible barrier.

This would be most of the way there towards what Cory Doctorow described in Eastern Standard Tribe, only in a handheld form instead of just in a car, and about 30 years ahead of time.

By al - 2:21 PM | (0) comments | Post a Comment

My latest reason for loving iTunes:

I was on my laptop in the Grad Room and I had borrowed someone's Black Sabbath CDs. (A Ronnie James Dio era disc that is fun to listen to but would never admit to it in public normally.)

However the Faculty tech support people continue to insist I have wireless access while I continue to not have wireless access, so I wasn't able to rip the tracks and have the track names downloaded for me. I didn't want to pass up the chance of having these highly non-sought-after songs on my computer, though, so I ripped the CD anyway, and now had a set of AAC files (like mp3 for cool people) named "track 01" to "track 11", and by this point I had even forgotten the name of the album, so it would ordinarily be a rather arduous task to reconstruct the song titles and track numbers by searching for lyric snippets on Google and track listings on Amazon. Especially considering my conscious insistence that I only possessed the songs for irony value. (this is a rather flimsy lie, of course, but if I can't convince myself then my ability to effortlessly convince other people to do things might come into question.)

But thankfully some software designer at Apple actually has a bit of a feel for what users might actually want to do. So when I highlighted the nameless songs, and went to the Advanced menu and chose 'Get CD Track Information' it happily went out and did a CDDB query on the tracks exactly as if they were on a CD I had just placed in the drive.

So why does it take a hardware company to make such good software? Also, I definitely think it's time cock rock made a comeback.

By al - 12:06 AM | (0) comments | Post a Comment

Friday, July 09, 2004

CWINDOWSDesktoplionking.jpg
Lion King!


What movie Do you Belong in?(many different outcomes!)
brought to you by Quizilla

By chantal - 11:26 AM | (1) comments | Post a Comment

CWINDOWSDesktopFightclub.jpg
Fight Club!


What movie Do you Belong in?(many different outcomes!)
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via ...

By al - 6:51 AM | (0) comments | Post a Comment

Thursday, July 08, 2004

The Tao of Regional Economic Development Seminars

Yesterday I attended a presentation on the plans for pushing ahead with a life-sciences cluster in the Charlottetown area. My claim of familiarity with life-sciences, that I helped parallelize an RNA folding algorithm, was more than enough street cred to get to talk to a few interesting people there.

The seminar itself was, unfortunately, the same economic development speech I've seen over and over again in this part of Canada. The presenter gave the usual speech about the population of Southern Ontario, the competitive advantages of the Ottawa research cluster because of the proximity of many different research firms, as well as the NRC and the other federal government research operations.

The goal for PEI is to, it seems, try and create this cluster by getting a bunch of different people to set up shop here all at once. They've even managed to get a new NRC research centre set up.

The problem, of course, is that you can't create something big out of nothing. The building the meeting took place in, the Atlantic Technology Centre, is a good metaphor for this. The PEI government wanted to have more hi-tech companies come to the province. And, since building a building is a bureaucrat's idea of accomplishing something, they poured millions of dollars into this fancy new office building downtown. The hope was that it would be a technology incubator, a place where small startup companies could have good facilities and office space. The result, predictably, is the same as what happened in Fredericton with the Knowledge Park buildings: a couple of big companies got most of the space, and they pretty much took over.

This makes one ask "why do we need government to subsidize construction for already-established companies?" We don't, of course, but as the buildings were nearing completion, they suddenly realized they would open and be nearly empty. The panic button was hit, and they went for the easiest way to fill up the building, offer it up to an established company. The end result is that taxpayers dump millions into what is supposed to create new high-tech, research-oriented jobs and we end up with a net gain of about 0 positions created and no new research being done.

The Knowledge Park, when I worked at NVision, it was filled completely with SmartForce and CGI, with us and one other small company being the only 'startups' in the place.

The end goal of this policy of encouraging agriculture research is to help move PEI farmers away from dependence on potato crops and towards more profitable niche markets. The majority of the people at the seminar, however, seem to be the same government officials who have had to be dragged, kicking and screaming, towards a more modern farming policy.

IF it's followed through with I can see this being a big help to a lot of farmers. A test farm, where they can show good yields for higher-paying niche crops, or organic methods, will be enough to convince a few farmers to give up on growing potatoes for 2 cents a pound. It's hard to convince an old farmer to risk his whole operation switching crops for the first time in his life based on projected numbers. It will be much easier if he can see money growing in the ground for himself at a test farm.

An attitude change will have to come from farmers at the same time, though. Their undoing has been relying on seed suppliers, who have 'taken care' of them for a long time, but slowly squeezed them for more and more each year, while they are being squeezed on the other side by their buyers pushing prices further and further down. Farmers need to take back a little more of the responsibility and the risk involved with doing business along with getting themselves into a more profitable area.

The cross section of high-tech and farming that may come together on PEI is an interesting one, and the need to take risks on one's own if one is going to be successful is something that the government can't come to grips with in their efforts to stimulate both economic areas. Though it's still a hell of a lot more than New Brunswick ever did in becoming the call centre capital of the universe.

By al - 8:43 PM | (0) comments | Post a Comment

Fahrenheit 9/11 available for download at archive.org. Moore makes good on his word. Awesome. Archive.org has a massive pipe, but if that's too slow you can grab it here using Bit Torrent.

via boing boing.

By al - 1:57 AM | (0) comments | Post a Comment

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Le Tour de France: The Perfect Individual / Team Sport

Like I've said before, I don't have a TV in Freddie. So when I go home for a few days it's actually a very foreign experience to be able to passively sit and take in a form of non-participatory entertainment / information. When I go home I tend to get drawn into things like 24-hour cable news and financial news channels. Watching a story get teased out, detail by detail, throughout the day on CNN is the ultimate suspense-mechanism, and is true brain-candy that those fake reality shows can't even hope to approach.

My other obsession this weekend was the non-stop coverage of the Tour de France on the Outdoor Life Network. Being a veteran of SpeedVision's 24 Hours of Le Mans coverage I'm used to this type of race coverage. But the mundane details of bicycle racing that are never touched on in the SportsCentre reports are what make it incredibly fascinating.

In auto racing they have teams, they can be one, two or occasionally 3 cars in size and are a good way of giving props to the mechanics and pit crews and everyone else involved in making the process come together before the driver even slips into the car.

But in auto racing, teammates are supposed to compete against each other as hard as they do against other drivers. In fact it can be the basis of governing body appeals if one team member is suspected of compromising the integrity of the race to help out his teammate in some way, either by blocking racers behind him to allow his teammate to extend his lead, or by actually allowing his teammate past him in some obvious way. Also, the intra-team rivalries can be even more fierce than any others. Consider Jacques Villeneuve's psychological warfare he waged against a succession of F1 teammates from then-champion Damon Hill and once-promising Heinz-Herald Frentzen, down to BAR minnows like Ricardo Zonta. Also going back to the Prost-vs.-Senna rivalry at McLaren in the 1980s. That's not to say that it isn't the best way to do things in racing, dirty tricks on the part of teams do nothing but subtract from the spectacle and the purity of the sport itself.

But in bicycle racing, the team consists of numerous other cyclists who are under the same banner, wear the same uniforms, and work in consort with each other. Their goal is to help their point man do as well as possible, and they each have their individual strengths that play some part in the overall race.

A Lance Armstrong could never hope to go through an entire race at the front of the pack. The extra work required when there is no one breaking the air in front of you is the main reason for this. Also a front-runner might be a tempting target for a bribed or frustrated backmarker to bump off the track.

So the point man's has his teammates take turns riding in front of him to break the air. They alternate so that they stay fresh and are not holding up the point guy, then fall back when they are done their shift. There is also usually a guy behind the point man ensuring enough space between him and his rivals.

There are also hill-climbing specialists and pacemakers, who pay close attention to maintaining a pace which doesn't tire out the point man too quickly, so he doesn't have to pay attention to his own pace while also being pulled by the desire to push too hard. Pushing too hard is the killer for long-distance athletes, and is the reason most marathon runners prefer to run by themselves and concentrate on their own pace. In bicycle racing they have their teammate to keep them in a good pace.

They have radio communication and move in graceful, coordinated fashion surrounding the point men.

Rival teams even work together when it helps their respective point men. Lance Armstrong's US Postal Service team were alone at the front of the pack at one point, part of a strategy to keep a rival Spanish team in behind. A member of the team motioned behind him at Hans Ullrich's T-Mobile teammates, who were coasting along behind them, to come share the work of being at the front, since they were both benefitting from the Spaniards being held back. The T-Mobile team then moved easily up and interspersed themselves with the Postal Service team to work together.

These kinds of complexities, and shifting alliances, are not found in most other sports, especially in North America, and it adds so much depth to the competition that I was glued to video of men pounding relentlessly on pedals for hours at a time.

The Armstrong-centric coverage on OLN can be a bit tiresome, but he is the favourite so it's not entirely uncalled-for.

Link: Tour de France English Language Coverage.

By al - 11:27 PM | (1) comments | Post a Comment

I confessed a while back that I have a crush on Hillary Clinton. Well, apparently Jack Black agrees. From Wonkette (My current imaginary girlfriend.):
Jack Black stuck on a deserted island: "I'd have to go with Hillary Clinton. Forever could be, like, 50 years, so if I'm stranded with one person she better be kick-ass both upstairs and downstairs. If a woman is just beautiful, well that will fade with age and I'd be bored." [WP]

By al - 9:43 PM | (1) comments | Post a Comment

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Greetings from Korea!

Weather isn't as hot here as in Hong Kong. . . only it's raining a lot here now. Acid rain's pretty bad too. Got a chance to see some of the sights yesterday with Chantal which was good. Hoping it stops raining so I can do more sightseeing. Got lots of pictures anyways. I'll have to post some when I get home. Later!

By Ming - 9:41 PM | (0) comments | Post a Comment

Monday, July 05, 2004

Yesterday's French Grand Prix was a very good example of the state modern Formula One racing is in. Fernando Alonso in the Renault started on pole, with Michael Schumacher second, and was a match for Schumacher for the first half of the race, staying ahead without really being threatened. Now, the ideal thing to happen in racing would be for the guy in second place to try and pass the guy up ahead of him. Instead, however, Ferrari's strategist Ross Brawn decided it would be better to do another pit stop (making 4 total for the race that some did in two and most did in three). This put Michael about 15 seconds behind Alonso for a while, but gave him clear track with no traffic and got him out of the 'dirty air' that he would have been in had he stuck behind Alonso. At this point he pulled off a succession of unbelievably fast laps, gained about a second per lap on the leader for 10 laps. The extra pit stop also allowed Schumacher to run a looser suspension and wear his tires down more quickly, but with the advantage of better grip. Thus, after Alonso emerged from his last pit stop, heavy with fuel, Schumacher was well ahead of him and stayed there for the remainder of the race.

I've long been as impressed as anyone with Michael Schumacher's driving ability, and no one can reliably pull off near-perfect laps on cue like he can. However he seems to have a rather substantial aversion to actually racing against anyone side-by-side if he can at all help it. From a practical standpoint this makes sense, however it can make for a fairly dull race to anyone not intimately familiar with the various differences in tire properties and engine / aerodynamic characteristics between the teams and who just wants to see the best drivers in the world race against each other.

Here is a clip (.mpeg) from the 1979 French Grand Prix, showing the last couple of laps and the phenomenal duel between Gilles Villeneuve in his Ferrari and René Arnoux in the Renault. (Interesting coincidence). The two cars fight it out, with ARnoux having the clearly superior twin-turbo, but Villeneuve pulling out everything to get past the faster car.

The final race of 1997 is an often-pointed-to example of what happens to Schumacher when he is actually forced to race 'against' another driver. He messes up, and often races dirty.

Watching the race yesterday was as exciting as ever for me, but I could greatly sympathize with anyone else who actually sat through the thing.

Champ Car racing is perhaps a little better formulated to encourage real racing, with the elimination of pit-stop strategy dominated races and more equal cars, it can produce some very unexpected results, but still the best driver tends to shine through the rest.

We'll see what will happen to my second favourite sport, but I really can't imagine it going on this particular path and still have it considered a sport. As an engineering contest it stands alone, obviously, but I don't think the potential audience for such an expensive endeavour can sustain that particular path for very long.

By al - 8:56 AM | (1) comments | Post a Comment

Sunday, July 04, 2004

hello everyone! To let everyone know. Watching Lightning Crashes performed live, by live was an unforgettable event.

The festival of lights here on the island was great this year. April Wine kicked ass. one of the best drum solo's I have ever heard. I was so hyped up I nearly lost my voice.
The fun didn't stop there though. The fireworks in charlottetown were the best they have had yet. They had shapes in them, smiley faces and swirly things as well as a star and several venus type shapes it was great.
The Threws and Sam Robert was another test to my vocal cords. It was amazingly awsome.
And well Live was just fantastic.
well worh the show.
Have a good day.
Sabrina

By Sabrina - 4:55 PM | (1) comments | Post a Comment

Michael Moore says he doesn't mind people sharing Fahrenheit 9/11 over the Internet.

Wow, great news and good to hear from the point of view of those of us who think today's copyright laws are absolutely ridiculous. This will also serve as a good example to the rest of the movie industry to show that most people would rather spend $10 and go to see a film than spend hours tracking down and further hours downloading a crappy-quality movie to watch with their shitty little computer speakers in their office chairs.

That said, there's still a gaping hole for someone to implement an iTunes Music Store-style system to easily and reliably download movies off of the Internet. An Akamai-based distribution network that could reliably deliver 200-300kb/s download speed vs. a spotty BitTorrent or Kazaa connection would make, perhaps, a $4.99 price tag very attractive for most people. Couple that with DVD burners and you suddenly have a practical distribution medium.

Apple recently added the capability to view movie trailers from within the iTunes interface. I thin that's more than just a subtle hint at what they might be planning. But with Apple they always wait to get something perfect, so it may still be a few years.

I still think movie studios should start selling DVDs of movies right at the theatre when they are playing. Perhaps you could pay $30 for the DVD and get to see the movie like you normally would as well, plus you get to take it home. It would also give people not able to see a movie due to it being sold out something better than leaving empty-handed.

By al - 12:08 PM | (0) comments | Post a Comment

This is a comment I left at Hello Dita:

Saw [Fahrenheit 9/11] yesterday while in Charlottetown for the weekend. Wow. Even though I had already read everything that was presented in the movie, it was still very jarring to see it all threaded together and presented at the same time.

The audience applauded at the end, which is something I had only seen at a movie a few times before.

The most amazing part was showing the level of cognitive dissonance many americans have, with the woman in Washington insisting that the protestor and Lia sharing their emotions of loss was "staged". She didn't believe that someone could actually be feeling something negative about this war and just assumed it was a lie, which is the opposite of what's true, with the rosy wonderful picture being the real lie.

By al - 8:34 AM | (0) comments | Post a Comment

Saturday, July 03, 2004

hey guys...just a quick note to say 'hi'....hi. I still live, but so very tired. Spending a lot of time on my online courses and entertaining a social life on the weekends...

I am looking forward to having Ming on my hometurf Monday, and remind you all yet again that I am here should you be at a loss for viable destinations.

Cheers. :o)

By chantal - 7:06 AM | (0) comments | Post a Comment

Friday, July 02, 2004

Fuckers. Odd thing is I've noticed less patrols lately. Hmmmm, we'll see if that picks up after this annoucement. Nothin like a good old fashioned cash grab. Remember kids, play nice and the big man won't take away your toys.

By TVT - 1:21 PM | (3) comments | Post a Comment

Toyota's Subversive Anti-car. Interesting review from Slate.

By al - 9:26 AM | (1) comments | Post a Comment

But what of Earthworm Jim? No.....

By TVT - 8:44 AM | (0) comments | Post a Comment

Greatings from HK!

Sorry, just got a few minutes on a public internet computer in Times Square Hong Kong. I'll have to catch up on the blog later, but I just wanted to say hi. It's incredibly hot and humid here. Hoping it's better in Korea :-p Gotta run!

By Ming - 7:13 AM | (1) comments | Post a Comment

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Neat.

By TVT - 8:25 PM | (5) comments | Post a Comment

Why we may not see any posts from Chantal for a while. Hooray for democracy, as long as it's convenient, apparently.
Mr. Roh, tear down this firewall! South Korea's previous efforts to censor the beheading video of Kim Sun-Il have escalated considerably. They are now blocking most major weblog services, including Blogger/Blogspot, TypePad, and LiveJournal -- a degree of censorship for weblogs even greater than that of China.

The rallying cry of opposition seems to be centering around this letter :

"I am writing this letter not primarily to criticize all Koreans .... No, my purpose is more specific: to cause the South Korean government as much embarrassment as possible, and perhaps to motivate Korean citizens to engage in some much-needed introspection. To this end, I need the blogosphere's help .... The best and quickest way to persuade the South Korean government to back down from its current position is to make it lose face in the eyes of the world." If you are interested in giving the South Korean Ministry of Information and Culture a piece of your mind, please email them at: webmaster@mic.go.kr.

By al - 4:38 PM | (0) comments | Post a Comment

I've almost decided to take a trip home to PEI for the long weekend, hopping on the bus today.

I hope I can still get a ticket to the Trews / Sam Roberts / 3 whiney cancon chicks / Live concerts even though the first night which I don't give a shit aobut is already over. *fingers crossed*.

Will be a bit of a working vacation, as always, just a change of setting more than anything.

As usual, The Buzz contains a lot of fiddling and squaredancing but not much in the way of non-kitchy-touristy stuff going on. Such is the eternal curse of Canada Day weekend, though.

I hope Live realize that they aren't permitted to play anything they may have written after the rock world decided they were no longer cool and stopped paying attention to them. They should know their place and realize that they're never going to have people requesting anything that isn't from Throwing Copper ever. But my junior high self still wants to see them, so it's all good.

By al - 6:51 AM | (0) comments | Post a Comment

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