Thursday, September 21, 2006

Video Friday #10: "99 Problems", Jay-Z

With the exception of Joe and Kendra, most of my friends never listen to rap, at least as far as I can tell. That's a shame--some of it is quite delectable. So this week, I'm going to try to be Johnny Rapperseed. Try it: you might like it!

This was Jay-Z's last video before he "retired", and it was directed by Mark Romanek. The black and white treatment really looks great on my tv, but not so much on the youtube box. Sorry. Inexplicably, Vincent Gallo of Buffalo '66 and The Brown Bunny makes a cameo.

This is the non-censored version of the video, so it's probably not safe to listen to this at work with the speakers cranked up. If you need help, a translation is available.

Typing in martian

My brother once had to "simulate" martian speech for a joke, and he simply shifted his right hand one key to the right: "Tje qiocl brpwm fpx ki,[ed pver the ;azy dpg".

Then, a few weeks ago, jampak rediscovered the same off-by-one technique in the comments on this page. He just didn't know he was speaking in martian.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Video Friday #9: Cibo Matto, "Sugar Water"

Cibo Matto means "Crazy Food" in Italian. They are from Japan. Their first album had songs titled "Apple", "Beef Jerky", "Sugar Water", "White Pepper Ice Cream", "Birthday Cake", "Know Your Chicken", "The Candy Man", "La Pain Perdu", and "Artichoke". Mmm, artichoke.

And this video blows my mind. It's directed by Michel Gondry, who's known for this type of puzzle-video, and I had to watch it a few times before I understood what was going on. Read more about it at Director File.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Linking to sites you don't support

In my last post, I linked to the "Loose Change" website, a site which I think is spreading misinformation and half-truths about 9/11. But if you link to a site, you're "voting" for it to get a higher PageRank, and thus be displayed higher in the search results pages. That's definitely something I don't want to do.

There's a trick, though. Search Engines have a tag you can use to say "do not count this link as vote for the page". Thus I used the rel="nofollow" attribute in the link to the Loose Change website.

It's easy to do--just add it to the "A HREF" part of the HTML, like this:

<a href="" rel="nofollow">foo</a>

If you've got a blog, and you link to sites you don't want to vouch for, using nofollow is the recommended solution.

Loose Change Vs. Popular Mechanics debate

The "9/11 was a conspiracy" folks have been getting a lot of attention lately. A lot of it can be attributed to conservatives desperate to make liberals look unhinged. When they attack the conspiracy nuts, conservatives imply that they're debunking a view held by most liberals, instead of a minority view held by a few fringe elements.

What can I say? Conservatives do a great job of picking their enemies.

Of course most liberals (myself included) find the conspiracy claims simply ludicrous. One of the best sources for debunking the conspiracy theory has been Popular Mechanics. This televised debate between the Loose Change filmmakers and the Popular Mechanics editors (Google Video, 42 minutes) really makes it clear to me who's got evidence and who's grasping at straws.

Dicewars Strategy

Addictive flash game alert: Dicewars.

There are no instructions on the site. You're the purple player. You can attack a neighboring territory, and the battle is determined by rolling the attacking stack of dice v. the defending stack of dice. The defender wins ties. At the end of your turn, you'll get replacement units based on the largest contiguous group of territories you own.

Some simple strategy tips:
  1. Early on, identify where your largest potential group of terrirtories lives, and concentrate on that group.
  2. If one of your armies is off on an island, it's usually better to ignore it. It's not helping you (because it's not contiguous, it doesn't add to your replacement dice allotment) and if you add more territories to it, the weak area will serve as a sink for dice that you need elsewhere.
  3. You "lose" a die for every territory you capture, since one die needs to remain back to occupy the previous territory.
  4. Thus it's better to attack a large group before a small group, so that you have the greatest advantage when you need it.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006


My laptop computer has a touchpad, which is a grid of capacitors. As you move your finger around the touchpad, you change the capacitance in part of the grid, which the computer turns into mouse movement.

It turns out that you don't need to actually touch the touchpad--just having your finger nearby can change the capacitance. When I do this, I like to pretend that I'm using the Force.

Kevin Kelly's Cool Tools

I always make a point to read Kevin Kelly's "Cool Tools" blog, which features a new cool gadget, tool, or book every weekday.

Kevin's a modern renaissance man, and ends up finding and posting a lot of tools he's used on his own projects. But he also posts reader submissions. Today, he posted the cool tool that I submitted: Micro-Mesh abrasives.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Peak Helium.

Back in January, I blogged about the fact that the planet is running out of helium, a non-renewable resource. This Wired article has a good summary of the issue.

Then, a month ago, I started noticing that I was getting a lot of hits on that article; for some reason, people were suddenly searching for "Helium Shortage". Gas-supply company BOC had increased helium prices across the board and had stopped taking new customers, and people were searching Google for more information.

Now Praxair has raised their prices too. This is a global shortage, and I fear we may have reached peak helium.

This is hitting the common man, too: a friend attempted to fill a HoverDisc over the weekend, but all of the party supply stores were out of helium.

We need to start thinking about conservation, and soon!

We need a new name for 9/11

Should September 11th be a national holiday? My answer, is "Hells yes!", although I'll admit I'm partially motivated by my cynical desire for another day off. On the other hand, if you look at the hullabaloo we raise on 9/11 and compare it to something like labor day, it certainly seems like 9/11 rates.

The biggest problem we face to getting a new national holiday is when 9/11 falls on a weekend. We can't very well mark calenders with "Friday, September 9th (September 11th observed)"--that's madness! We need to come up with another name. I don't have any great ideas, though: my attempts so far, "Firefighter's Day" and "Freedom Day", just don't have zazz. Anyone?


I don't know who told all of the old men that it was ok to wear their wireless, in-ear, bluetooth headsets all the time. It's kind of an epidemic in these parts.

But thanks to Todd and Mike, at least now I have a word to describe them:


Bush tramples flag during 9/11 ceremony.

This photo is pretty much a metaphor for his whole presidency.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Video Friday #8: Cake, "I Will Survive"

Parking enforcement must be a sad job. You're in "law enforcement" and wear a uniform, but have no real power. You spend all day alone in a humiliating vehicle. And everybody hates you.

It took Cake's cover of "I Will Survive" to make me feel sorry for meter maids. (Just a little...I mostly still hate those bastards.) Make sure you watch for the cameo by the runner in "The Distance" just before the 2:00 mark.

Mmmm, Cake.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The internet was invented so that you could watch this video

After Steve Irwin's recent death, I had a real-life discussion about famous Australians. In my book, you don't get much more famous than Jacko.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Video: One Thousand Virtual Cars