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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Roadtrip Documentary Film is Live! 

Clocking in at 288 MB and 28:50 in length, the completed documentary about our epic road trip is now online. Set your phasers to fun and check out the road trip page:


You can download the whole thing (recommended for best quality and uninterrupted viewing experience) or check out three 10-minute YouTube chunks.


Tuesday, July 22, 2008

There Is No War in Iraq 

John McCain said yesterday that "we are winning the war". This is not true. It is in fact impossible, because there is no war in Iraq. A war – to quote the Right Honorable William Hicks – is when two armies are fighting. He was speaking humorously of the ease with which the US military defeated the Iraqi military in 1991, but it applies to the current situation as well.

In 2008 there is no war in Iraq. There is an occupation, an insurgency, and a counter-insurgency. The distinction is crucial: There are laws of occupation which differ from the laws of war. The difference is also important to our society (as well as Iraqi society); people feel differently about occupations than they do about wars.

This is not my usual brand of English-teacher diction pedantry – in this case, it is a word specificity with real consequences beyond the academic Saussurian deliberation. Everyone, please stop calling this a war. Thank you.

The image – of dead civilians near a burning US Bradley fighting vehicle – is one of the less hideous images in this Salon gallery. You've been warned.


Guy lets the city of San Francisco cut his hair. Via BoingBoing.

Today I'm listening to: The Cool Kids!

Monday, July 21, 2008

I Still Haven't Found... 

Do other people suffer from this problem? I read a headline like the one in today's New York Times: Comment Stings Maliki as Obama Arrives in Baghdad. I begin reading the article, intrigued to learn what the "comment" in question is. I keep reading. I get frustrated when, five paragraphs in, I've found only discussion about responses to criticism of the comment. Finally, in the sixteenth paragraph, I find the comment itself.

If the comment is mentioned in the headline, why not give it to us in the first couple of paragraphs? I usually assume that the writers and editors assume that everyone is familiar with the comment itself, and therefore needs no repetition in the article's lead. (I mean, al-Maliki made his comment on Saturday – surely you're enough of a news junkie to know what he said, right?) Maybe I'm just not plugged in enough to the news scene.

Am I the only one who gets frustrated by this? Sometimes I find myself scanning the entire article for quote marks, just to discover the quote itself. Sometimes – and this is much, much more aggravating – the article won't even give me the actual quote, substituting instead a paraphrase or summary. I thought I was supposed to decide, dagnabit! Just give me the source and let me compile it. (Ya like that geeky allusion there, computer dorks?)


Check out "Better Already" from my latest musical obsession, Northern State. (I haven't been this excited about a hip-hop act since Babbletron.) This song isn't nearly the best one on their new album Can I Keep This Pen?,* but it's decent – and the video is lots of fun.

Today I'm listening to: Northern State!

* That particular honor goes to track #3, "Oooh Girl".

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Everybody Do The Bender 

We're back from our trip – yay! I'm working to compile all the vids and pics we took into a funky film. Without wishing to brag, I think some folks are really going to enjoy the opening titles, at least. (I recently got FCE, so I've got some remarkable new cans of digital whoop-arse to open.)

Meantime, here's a cool video I found on BoingBoingTV called "Sexy Robot". I tried to find a video of Bender dancing too, but the only stuff on YouTube is crappy homemade rendered junk. Thanks a lot, Viacom! I could have done some free advertising for you, but NOOOOO. (Futurama STINKS!)

Today I'm listening to: Rick Astley!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Stop Buying Video Games, Lady 

You all may remember four years ago when I had some serious internal struggle about whether or not to buy Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. You may also have heard about the "Hot Coffee mod" in that game, which allows hackers to unlock explicit sexual content (which the game does not otherwise feature). Perhaps you know about the class-action lawsuit which has been filed against Rockstar Games – for allegedly defrauding the public by not making the existence of hackable content known.

In a New York Times article about the lawsuit (and why it's not attracted more outraged plaintiffs), one mother explained how she and her innocent child had been hideously deceived by Rockstar:
While adults who bought the game for children said they were upset over the sex scenes that they did not know about (and had not seen), interviews conducted by lawyers showed the adults also did not know basic characteristics of the game.

For example, Brenda Stanhouse, who bought the game for her son, 15 years old at the time, said in a deposition that she did not know that a player in the game could "stomp to death innocent pedestrians."

She also did not know that the game included prostitutes, that players could kill policemen or that "a player in the game can kill innocent pedestrians and steal money from them."

"I'm aware that there is killing in the game," Ms. Stanhouse said in the deposition. "I wasn't aware of the stealing."

Ms. Stanhouse was asked whether she would knowingly buy for her son a game that allowed him to kill police officers.

“Well, I think he does have games with violence,” Ms. Stanhouse said, adding that she would “possibly” buy such a game — though not one that contained sex scenes like those in San Andreas.
"Timmy, what is this disgusting sex doing in your policeman-murdering video game? I never would have suspected such a thing from a game with such a wholesome-looking cover! You're not stealing in that game, are you?" "No, mom, just killing people." "Whew!"

"Orcs Gone Wild" comes from The Tech Guide's article about this affair, which is pretty good reading.
ANY game can be modded. Think about this. Would the ESRB change the rating of a pokemon battle game if there were a nude patch/mod for the pokemasters? Assume you see a view of the pokemon battling with the pokemasters in the background just outside the ring. A parent seeing a nude lady instructing her man-bear-pig to tackle the pikashlong is sure to freak out and complain - but this is in no way different from the child downloading pornography. It would require the player to download and install the patch, changing the game.
I think that post deserves some kind of award for coinage of the term "pikashlong".


And now for something completely different – a cat playing the piano. (You don't wanna know the YouTube videos I considered posting. Just be thankful that good taste won out in the end.)

Today I'm listening to: Braintax!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

My Confusing Afternoon 

Or, How I Sold a Hard Drive to a Mysterious Person Who May Not Exist at a Secret Government Black-Ops Organization

Several years ago I purchased a MicroNet 80GB external hard drive. It worked fine, with only one crash many years in the past. Recently, I purchased a snazzy new – and much larger – SimpleTech external hard drive. Since I no longer needed the MicroNet drive, I contacted my friend Craig and asked if I could place a classified ad on his list.

Yesterday I got an email from a fellow named Frank* who expressed interest in purchasing the drive. I had suggested we meet at the lovely Hawthorne Library near my house, but he was unfamiliar with that location. He asked if he could pick it up during his lunch hour instead. We traded some emails, and this morning I told him I could drive the drive out to him. (Get it? Drive the drive?) He said sure, and gave me his address: 1600 Wayout Road. I punched it into GoogleMaps, jotted down the directions, and took off.

When I reached Wayout Road, I realized that I had made a supremely boneheaded mistake – I had written down the suite number, but not the street number! (Needless to say, I couldn't remember the number on my own.) I tried to look around for a building which seemed right, but after three attempts to wander into the right place, I realized I had no choice but to return home and get the four magic numbers. What a moron I can be!

But wait – there's more.

Once I returned home, I realized that 1600 Wayout Road is not listed on GoogleMaps. The last address indicated on GM is 1500! I emailed Frank (he hadn't given me his number yet) to ask about this oddity – he replied by describing how I could get to the building, and indicated that he would give me several extra dollars for my trouble. Convinced that GoogleMaps was – and is – infallible, I assumed he was confused and meant to write "1500 Wayout Road" in each of the previous three emails. Nevertheless, I gave it one more shot.

Lo and behold, when I returned to Wayout Road, I located a building at 1600 Wayout Road. I parked in the small lot and went inside, clutching the hard drive and associated cables. I was expecting to meet Frank, but I don't think I did – when I entered the small and clean office, I was met by the most unstereotypical secretary ever: He looked like Larry the Unfunny Cable Guy. He was in his early 20s, wore a baseball cap under his headset, and a sleevless t-shirt.

"Hi," I said. "I'm looking for Frank Smitherson."

Without expression, the secretary asked: "Are you Eric?"

"Yeah," I said, placing the drive and cables on the desk. Without speaking, Larry handed me some bills folded into a Post-It note and bound with a paper clip. He took the drive down from the higher desk and placed it on his workspace.

"It's so odd that this building didn't show up on GoogleMaps," I said. "Is it a new building?"

He blinked. "Couple of years."

I nodded. "Huh," I said. Then, unsure of what else to do, I left. I never met Frank in person.

As I drove away, it occurred to me that perhaps their company demanded that GoogleMaps remove any mention of their building? Didn't Dick Cheney once make such a demand? Or perhaps Frank and Larry work at a super-secret US government black ops organization. Maybe they'll use my hard drive to torture taxi drivers in Bagram. I sure hope not!

It was a most confusing afternoon.

* Names and other identifying information has been changed to protect the identity of innocent people who may not exist.


Pippi is fun for a few seconds.

Today I'm listening to: Seefeel!