Monday, July 31, 2006

Video: Best Geico Commercial. Ever.

Ahahahaha. Oh, man.

I just saw this commercial for the first time a few seconds ago. And God bless the YouTube - it's on the internets for me to post here.

Five dollars says Burt's drunk as Cooter Brown.

*Update: I've been informed by several people now that this is not the funniest Geico commercial ever. Also, I've been told that Burt isn't drunk - he's just old.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Time Wasters: SnowDays

SnowDays is a neat way to remind us all that every person is like a snowflake: cold, flaky, and usually found clumped together with a bunch of others just like it.

Created by Popular Front, SnowDays lets people make their very own individual flake, and then drift that flake in a serene setting for others to look at. It's actually quite relaxing and enjoyable.

Even if you're a cynical grinch like me, you'll probably like SnowDays. Check it out.

Preview: Transformers

Those of you who didn't know that there was a new Transformers movie in the works...probably don't care that there's a new Transformers movie in the works.

Those of you who do know, already peed your pants once.

I know nobody's going to start singing the 80's theme song with delight when they read this. But it's worth posting just on the slight chance that some poor soul missed the news...and actually cares.

Very few details about the movie are available, but it has amassed a formidable cast.

The film will star the likes of: Jon Voight, John Turturro, Bernie Mac, Dane Cook, Josh Duhamel, Shia LeBouf, and a metric ton of other B-through-D-listers (excepting Turturro). And as reported by the huge text on the official Transformers movie page, Peter Cullen will reprise his role as the voice of Optimus Prime.

You might also know Cullen as the voice of Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh, Zandar from G.I.Joe, Mogwai and the gremlins from Gremlins, the Narrator from Rainbow Brite, virtually every voice from every cartoon produced in the 1980's...oh! And also as the voice of K.A.R.R. from Knight Rider.

Yes, you heard right. K.A.R.R.

The man is literally the voice of almost every cartoon I remember from childhood. I'm excited about the Transformers movie if for nothing else than Peter Cullen.

Michael Bay (please, hold your scornful laughter) is directing the live-action/CGI epic, and though it isn't slated for theatrical release until July of 2007, the teaser trailer should tide you over for now.

I've also added some CGI test footage from ILM that will make you pee your pants again.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Video: Japanese Game Show Junk Slaps

There are 3 universal truths illustrated in the following video:

1) All men fear being wailed in the junk.
2) Everyone laughs at men being wailed in the junk.
3) The Japanese have the most ridiculous gameshows conceivable.

The premise of this particular game is for contestants to repeat a challenging tongue-twister before time runs out. If a contestant fails? SLAP!

Right in the baby-maker.

It's incredibly low-brow of me to post something like this. But you're going to laugh at it.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Microsoft's iPod Killer?

*To avoid any confustion, this is not an image of the Microsoft Zune. Nor is it the Microsoft Pyxis. I just Photoshopped a screenshot of Windows Media Player 10 from Vista onto a 5G iPod.

Word of the Microsoft "iPod killer" has been spreading for some time now. We've known that the Big M would eventually launch an assault on the personal music/video player market from the moment that Apple unveiled the iPod.

Now, finally, some dates for release of the blandly-named Project Argo music players are on the calendar. According to BetaNews, the folks up in Redmond are looking at an initial unveiling around the end of August, with plans to begin shipping units as early as October.

Microsoft's initial device offering will be the (code-named) Zune.

Zune is speculated to be a direct competitor to the 5G iPod in terms of storage capacity, functionality and size. But there is another player in development that will likely square up against the iPod Nano: the Pyxis.

Sporting yet another code-name, Pyxis should be unveiled close on the heels of Zune.

According to reports, both players will be serviced by the Alexandria (code-name #3) music library software. While no one knows how comparable Alexandria's functionality will be to iTunes, the word is that it will work in a fashion similar to MTV's URGE.

Published reports also recommend that consumers not buy the Microsoft Zune or Pyxis.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Tools: Zunafish

I StumbleUpon-ed Zunafish a couple months months ago. Then, just moments ago, I did it again. And now you are going to know about Zunafish, too.

Zunafish (I'll repeat the name as many times as possible throughout this post) is like going to McKay's: you take your used stuff to trade in, and you get somebody else's used stuff. It's a premise as old as commerce itself - only now it has a funny name.

You can't trade for furniture with Zunafish, and you can't trade cars or house pets. You can trade DVDs, CDs, VHS tapes (why?), books, video games, and audiobooks.

The system is very user-friendly. If you've ever used Amazon or eBay, then you already have the knowledge necessary to use Zunafish. Where it differs from those other sites is that buyer and seller tender no currency - you simply barter one item for another.

You get to pick the things you are interested in trading for, and as soon as somebody has that item to trade...zoink! You've been Zunafished.

The process goes something like this:

1) Create an account.
2) List the items you're done with and want to post.
3) Wait.
4) Get trade offers and pick the stuff you want in exchange for your stuff.

There is a $1 fee per trade. So you don't get something completely for nothing. But that's a heckuva deal to get rid of crap you won't use in exchange for crap you will use and then trade again for other crap.

Zunafish doesn't charge any fees or membership apart from the $1-per trade. No monthly dues, no nothing. If you don't make any trades, there's no cost.

I haven't personally used the service yet. But that's mostly because I keep the things I buy. Those of you who love thrift stores and tape-trading are going to like Zunafish. Try it out.

*Total "Zunafish" wordcount = 8. Unless you count this one, and then it's = 9.

Impressions: Opera on DS

I watched this 2 days ago after downloading it via 4CR, but it finally showed up on YouTube.

There's no point in me recapping the review, as that would immediately remove any incentive for you to actually watch it.

Never being able to get a girlfriend might also immediately remove any incentive for you to watch it. Nerd.

News: Synthetic Gecko

A company called BAE Systems has developed a synthetic material that mimics the feet of geckos, allowing it to adhere to slick or sheer surfaces.

Although there might be hundreds of useful applications for such a material, I'm sure you guessed that the company is focusing its research towards military applications:

The research is still at an early stage but the firm said "infantry climbing suits" could be made out of the material, giving the troops gecko-like abilities.

Don't get me wrong - this is not a bad thing. Because having infantry soldiers capable of scaling windows and ceilings only brings us that much closer to the primary goal of 21st century technological progress: the flying car.

Once armed soldiers can stick to the sides of any sheer surface, we're going to need a way to quickly deliver troops to the windowed superstructures that litter hostile countires. And because we already know that the most effective way to transport infantry to the front is via car, then we're going to need a car that flies and has a good-sized hatch for letting Spec-op Gecko Infantry (SOGI) soldiers out.

Voila! Science invents the flying car.

Such is the hand-to-mouth evolutionary process that brings us futuristic products like Velcro, Astronaut Ice Cream and Tempurpedic mattresses.

Anyhow, has a great article on this stuff. So stop reading my crap and educate yourself for real.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Ken Jennings vs. The Jeopardy!

Ken Jennings is a smart guy. At least, I thought he was.

You might remember him from his 74-game, $2.5-million run on television's Jeopardy! If you don't remember him, then you don't own a television or read any printed news materials...and probably aren't reading this now.

Ken Jennings might be a smart guy, but he would have lost on Jeopardy! a whole lot sooner if there had been a category called: Not Biting the Hand that Feeds You, Dumbass.

Last week on his personal blog, Ken wrote a "humorous" piece entitled, Dear Jeopardy! In it, he proceeds to rail against the show (because it's repetetive?) and even (if you can believe it) America's favorite Canadian anti-hero, Alex Trebek.

Now I'm all for making sarcastic remarks at the expense of others. In truth, I'm deeply committed to the idea. However, if any organization, individual or charitable trust was responsible for paying me two-point-five million wouldn't find any of my sarcastic remarks directed at said benefactor.

It'd be like saying, "Hey the Tennessee Lottery! You don't donate enough of your profits to academic scholarships and you also have an unfunny slogan! And you're a cyborg made out of Canadian children! Ha ha! Oh, and thanks for nothing. Two-point-five million nothings!"

You see what I mean? I sure would sound mean-spirited and ungrateful.

Anyhow, I won't spoil it for you. Just go read it for yourself.

Update: Ken has since posted a response to the reactions he received about his Dear Jeopardy! entry.

*Not actually Alex Trebek or Ken Jennings or Sean Connery

Video: Cubicle Wars 2006

Alright, this is completely and utterly a viral marketing campaign. It's a two-minute ad.

But so was Terry Tate, and those videos are classic.

I'll try to post some TT soon, but until then, I present you: Effeminate Geek Office Battle-Fest 2006.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Preview: Iron Man

According to every account I can find, this is not the final armor design for Jon Favreau's upcoming Iron Man film.

Apparently, if you are to believe the typography at the bottom of the poster, this is a Stark Industries Prototype of the Iron Man armored body suit.

Woah, wait...go back.

Jon Favreau is directing an Iron Man film?

Er. Yes.

The Fav is indeed at the helm of the good ship, S.S. Iron Man, and there is no trace of sarcasm in my voice when I say that I'm all for it.

I loved Zathura.

You ask Casey, she'll tell you it's true - maybe to her chagrin (I took her to see it on our first movie date).

Favreau has shown that he has the finesse of an auteur director and the sensibilities of a grown-up kid. He's a perfect fit for revamping this classic Marvel hero. And whether you think that's an accurate assessment or not, it's an accurate assessment.

True to form, I've managed to find a transcription of some dialogue from leaked pre-production scripts:

The Mandarin: Iron Man, it looks like you've met your match. It is I, The Mandarin!
Tony Stark: Blearrghh.
The Mandarin: Ha aha hahaha haha aha! Ha! I've found your weakness, and exploited it to defeat you!
Tony Stark: Gachana maaah Iron baaalllggsss. *hic*
The Mandarin: Like Kryptonite to Superman, all it took to topple the mighty Iron Man was Mad Dog 20/20!

You can tell from these early lines that the film will be a heavy-hitter, dealing with tough issues like racism. I can only hope that The Mandarin actually makes it into the final cut.

Click that poster you're looking at for a lovely larger version.

PvP Wins Eisner

So, on Saturday, the 18th Annual Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards were held at Comic-Con in San Diego. The Eisner Awards honor the best of what has become an endangered art form: the comic.

I say endangered, but as far as newsprint comics go, I consider it a virtually extinct art form. Notwithstanding the noble efforts of a few earnest strips, the newspaper "funnies" haven't been worthwhile in years.

Comic books, graphic novels, trade paperbacks, et al. still have plenty of wonderful artists and writers to go around. There is still life between glossy covers. But for the lover of the 3-panel sequential, little is left worth appreciating...outside of the internet.

The webcomic is slowly but surely saving sequential comic art.

PvP (Player vs. Player) is one such savior. Built from the ground up by artist/writer Scott Kurtz, PvP has grown from one man's pet project into a brilliant body of work.

His once web-only comic is now printed in traditional comic book form via Image Comics. You can walk down to your local comic shop and pick a copy up off the shelf.

Of course, it's still available online - which is where it well-and-truly shines. Scott has put a lot of effort into polishing his art and writing to a slick, professional lustre. He has succeeded where many have failed, and as best I can tell, that's mostly due to a tremendous amount of good old fashioned hard work.

That hard work has finally earned Scott his industry's highest honor: Best Digital Comic.

I don't read PvP every day. But that doesn't mean it isn't absolutely worth reading every day. I just don't get around to it as often as I should. Usually, I miss a few weeks and then have a marathon catch-up session to find out what I've missed.

If you love comics, and long for the halcyon days of the newspaper sequential, then you owe it to yourself to discover (or rediscover) the many fine webcomic offerings around. I'll post another entry soon with more links to keep you satisfied.

Until then, enjoy PvP. And congrats, Seńor Kurtz.

Nintendo DS Sales Rampage

I've mentioned before that Nintendo is doing everything right. Now, there are some remarkable market reports to back that up...with a vengeance.

As of today, Nintendo reports that sales of the DS have crested the 20 million units sold mark. I've seen numbers that put it well over 21 million. For some real world perspective on that, consider the fact that these numbers account for sales recorded in less than 20 months - the amount of time the DS has been available on the world market.

It's taken the GameCube nearly 5 years to sell 21 million units, and the DS has matched that in under 2 years.

According to 4colorrebellion, that works out to about 1 DS unit sold every 2 seconds since its launch date. And some more financial data from the 4CR article:

Riding high on the success of the DS, Nintendo also announced that their profit forecast for the next year is $711 million, up from $556 million last year. Their profits in the first quarter of this year were up ten percent, mostly because of the launch of the DS lite. Net income this quarter was $134 million, an additional $14 million higher than first quarter of the last fiscal year.

Holy zebra turkeyfish, Tom Nook! Microsoft and Sony have plenty to worry about.

Go Nintendo.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Tools: Tourist Remover

Tourist Remover does something very cool: it takes your otherwise unusable vacation pictures and cleans them up so you have one perfectly memorable image.

Now all those photos you took at The British Museum - you know, the ones that had forty Japanese tour groups crowded around the statues - can finally have a place in your scrapbook.

All you have to do is upload your pics to futureLAB's Snapmania site, and they'll do the fixing for free...


There is a catch.

The catch is that you need to have taken several (4-5) photos of the same scene from a tripod. It takes multiple input sources in order to make a clean finished image. Upload 5 shots of a tourist-infested monument, and then you get a nice usable version.

You probably won't be using Tourist Remover for photos you've previously taken. But if you're planning another trip soon, and you expect to be in some high-traffic photo-ops, then plan ahead!

Bring your tripod along, or stick your camera on a steady mount somewhere, and snap away. Take multiples on your digital camera, knowing that you can get your lovely tourist-free photo made once you've come home from holiday.

Check out the demo page and see for yourself.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Awesome: Aygo Soccer

The guys from the long-running show, Top Gear, have more fun with their test autos than anybody at Car and Driver ever dreamt of.

This post is strictly for fun. Just like the Toyota Aygo, apparently. If you want to skip the intro and go straight to the match, fast forward to 4:05.

Update: I just found a second football match between the Aygo and the similarly-sized Volkswagen Fox. This one's quite a bit rougher, but even more awesome. Enjoy!

Friday, July 21, 2006

More Just Letters Nonsense

Ha ha! I hate to keep harping on this thing, but man is it good for some laughs. The guys at work and I had some quality fridge time this morning and I thought I'd post the results.

Speaking of that, I would love to see screen captures of any funny word combos you guys manage to create! All you have to do is hit:

Ctrl+Print Screen

to copy your desktop view to the clipboard. Then just open up MsPaint or whatever image editor you use. Create a new file and hit:


to paste your copied desktop into the file. Save the best ones and send them to me. If I get a few, I'll post them up here.

Get to it!

Trailer: TMNT

Holy Technodrome! The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are coming back to the big screen.

Back in the early 90's there were rumblings that the green teens supreme might get a CGI revamp with Hong Kong action impresario, John Woo, at the helm. Apparently, that never materialized, as Woo isn't linked to this film. But leave it to The Weinstein Company and Imagi to make a CGI turtles flick happen anyway.

Growing up, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were easily one of the biggest influences on my young mind - at least as far as pop culture goes. I collected the comics, I watched the TV show religiously, I once stood in line for hours with my mom to get Peter Laird's autograph (which I lost...probably the next day).

Hokey as it may sound, I have had a soft spot for the turtles nearly my entire life. Once my childhood zealotry cooled, I was left with an unmistakable nostalgia for the awesomeness of my favorite mutant ninjas.

As much as I'm impressed by the fact that TMNT has survived into the 21st century, I'm not surprised by it. There is just something about it that resonates with kids - and sparks that nostalgia in big kids my age.

Watch the trailer. It's short and not very revealing, but it's cool.

To me, the teaser looks like a combo of the opening cityscape from the animated TV series, the next-to-last stage in the TMNT arcade game (where you have to storm the Foot Clan's mid-town highrise headquarters), and one of those freerunning videos you see on the internet.

All in all, I'm flipping excited. Cowabunga, dudes!

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Followup: Just Letters...The Jigsaw Edition


Casey just informed me that I missed the best part about the Just Letters time waster: the jigsaw puzzle version.

If you liked Just Letters (or if you hated it but love a good jigsaw-solving/destroying collaboration), you will be instantly attracted to this. It comes with a disclaimer though:

I can't be held responsible if you get fired for doing jigsaws instead of your job.

Video: Human Space Invaders

When you think about the sheer amount of time involved in something like this, one of two things comes to mind:

1) What an incredible amount of preparation, planning, and careful execution. Bravo.

2) How many people gave up an otherwise perfectly good Saturday to facilitate some dork's video 210 project? Bah. You dorks.

I hope you chose number 1.

Preview: The Tesla Roadster

If you know me, you should know by now that I'm a proponent of alternative fuels.

My advocacy isn't based on some environmentalist, left-wing agenda I have. Rather, it's born of a practical belief that the dangers of remaining reliant on any exhaustible resource should be constantly driving fuel innovations in other, smarter, cleaner directions.

Why continue to build the world's economies around petroleum, giving undue power and wealth to violent, dictatorial regimes, when we absolutely have the resources to generate energy in other ways? There's no good reason.

But I'm not interested in the soapbox today. I'm interested in badass cars. And this is why I brought you here:

The Tesla Roadster.

Developed in Silicon Valley by Martin Eberhard, this Lotus-designed tarmac eater paces from 0 to 60 in under four seconds. Its top speed is somewhere in the vicinity of 130 mph. And its direct-drive, fully electric engine redlines at...oh, how about 13,500 rpm.

All this muscle is powered by 6,831 rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, at a cost of around 1 to 2 cents per mile.


The Tesla has a three-speed gearbox (two forward and one reverse), and will drive the speedometer needle to a comfortable 70 mph in first gear. It'll do every bit of this without making a peep, because the motor is practically silent.

Wait, wait! I have a finger in my ear and didn't hear that properly. Did you say electric engine? Electric?

Yeah, I did. And I also forgot to mention that the Tesla Roadster will give you all of those ridiculous specs - plus its devastating good looks - for a projected $80,000.

In comparison, the Porsche Carrera GT, with a tach redline at 8,400 rpm, would cost you $440,000 - not to mention all the "compensation" jokes made at your expense.

The whole Tesla Motors project is impressive and fascinating. Eberhard is an electrical engineer who developed a portable eBook reader, and made a boatload of cash when his company sold. For venture capital to finance his electric sports car, Martin has recruited Elon Musk (co-founder of PayPal), Google's Larry Page and Sergey Brin, and former eBay honcho, Jeff Skoll among others.

It's a who's who list of this generation's cutting-edge entrepreneurs. If these guys can't figure out how to push alternative fuels into the mainstream, then I don't know who can.

Anyhow, at this point I'm basically just rewriting the already excellent article Joshua Davis wrote for Wired Magazine. So, rather than plagiarize Davis, I'm going to direct you to the article right here.

Once this blog earns me a cool 80 thou, I'll be stopping by a Southern California Tesla dealership to pick mine up. You guys keep a black one on the lot for me, ai'ight?

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Opera on DS?

It's no joke.

Although it isn't available yet, Opera will be launching its DS browser in Japan on July 24th. The US release will follow sometime soon thereafter.

I keep saying how impressed I am with Nintendo's handling of their next-gen gaming consoles.

The Wii seems to have every one of its ducks in a row - from the buyer-friendly price point to its stable of launch-ready games...oh, and let's not forget the flipping Wii-mote.

With the release of the DS Lite, Nintendo unquestionably dominates the handheld market as well. They have simply done everything right when it comes to developing smart, appealing game systems and titles.

Now, to the lengthy list of accolades worth heaping on Japan's rock-solid gaming icon, add some praise for this: deliberate integration of third-party and open-source software and peripherals.

(PS: If you're lost at this point, it won't get any less nerdy from here.)

Rather than explain the story, How about I let Opera's Executive Vice President of Devices, Scott Hedrick do the work for me:

Nintendo came to Opera and requested that Opera work with them to port and optimize our browser for the DS...

Not that porting to any platform or device is easy work, but Opera has done this before and has succeeded in becoming a modular and flexible Web browser. The DS provides a unique form factor with dual screens and touch-screen technology and many of Opera’s core technologies come into play very nicely in this setting, such as Small-Screen Rendering (SSR).

Although I'm a huge fan of Firefox, it's not the only browser I use. My real affinity is for open-source software, and so I have several browsers cohabitating on my machines.

Opera is my second-favorite web surfing tool, right behind the Fox. So knowing that it will be available for my DS is excellent news.

An already secure browser, O should be even more secure when packed inside the buttoned-up DS wi-fi network. It's definitely worth keeping an eye out for.

Who read all the way to the bottom? You're a nerd!

Preview: Portal

Valve is expected to package some excellent goodies into the release of Half-Life 2: Episode 2.

There is a totally revamped addition to the Team Fortress franchise: Team Fortress 2.

From the screenshots, the character models don't look like they came from the Half-Life universe - rather, they seem to have spawned out of The Incredibles.

But that's not what I'm writing about. Read here if you want more info...

What's frothing my rabid curiosity is Portal. Portal will utilize the Half-Life 2 engine and universe...but with drastically different gameplay. You carry a portal-generating/zero-point energy weapon of some kind that allows you to pick up objects (a la the gravity gun in HL2) and also generate entry/exit portals.

You'll have to calculate the best way through the levels using these portals, finding unique solutions to each new labyrinth.

It's kind of like good old Lemmings, where you have a set task and a limited number of tools to achieve that task. Making proper use of those tools in each situation is the key to success.

Portal looks a lot like Prey, but that's not a bad thing.

Part puzzle game, part Pitfall Harry. I'm definitely in.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Awesome: My Guitar Gently Weeps

Have you ever wondered what George Harrison's My Guitar Gently Weeps would have sounded like if George was half Asian, dressed like Ryan Seacrest, and played the ukulele?

Well, for the love of Ringo...wonder no more.

You have to trust me on this. You are going to want to watch the video even if you don't like The Beatles, have set fire to your Seacrest posters, and would have thrown Tiny Tim out of a lifeboat into shark-infested waters wearing a dead tuna around his neck. Should you find yourself unable to sit through the entire four and a half minutes, just fast forward to 2:40 and watch this guy wail the solo.

Unbelievable: Yukio Miyamoto

Great googaly moogaly. I'm not sure if you realize exactly what it is you're looking at. Hopefully I can rectify that.

Most of you are probably familiar with Adobe Photoshop. If not with the software itself, then at least with the concept of what it's used for: Photoshop is an image creation/manipulation program.

In the right hands, it can be used to create anything imaginable with pixels - from stark, solid color graphics to detailed, photo-real images. I use it nearly every day in my professional life, and am very familiar with the practically limitless potential of the software.

So after looking at those images above and reading this bit about Photoshop, you're probably thinking, "Hey. That tape reel thing is one kick ass Photoshop job. Kudos to that guy."

Great guess!

The thing is, though, that he didn't make it with Photoshop. He made it with Illustrator.

Illustrator is another of Adobe's industry-standard graphics programs. It's another piece of software I use nearly every day. But it isn't for creating photo-real images. I mean...not by mere humans.

Illustrator uses vector data, whereas Photoshop uses raster data. Basically, Illustrator is designed to create infinitely-scalable graphics with...hmm. I don't actually think I'm going to be able to explain this if you don't already know how it works.

Let me just try this:

What you are looking at is on the highest order of artistic perfection. What Yukio Miyamoto creates is stunning enough; how he creates it is almost unfathomable.

Please take a few minutes to look at his gallery. Once you click on the thumbnails, you can see the images in large detail with their vector outlines.

Smith, you shouldn't pass this one up.

Update: At Mr. Miyamoto's suggestion, please visit this page to see his newer works. And by "please" I mean "definitely you need to."

Wireless Memory

HP has developed a wireless data chip that is miniscule enough to be applied to virtually any surface.

This tiny chip could be used to put medical records on a patient's hospital armband, photos of your vacation on a postcard from the beach, or even your ex-girlfriend's phone number and 8x10 glossy on about 450 photocopied leaflets you can distribute around campus.

The idea is pretty revolutionary. If everyone has access to tiny, stickable wireless data chips, personal information might become the new junk mail. It'll be like:

Honey, we got the Clarksons' hospital bill in the mail by accident. It's got Dale's complete medical history embedded in it.

Don't worry, dear. Just walk it down to their mailbox. But don't forget to save Dale's hospital records on the laptop along with his insurance statements, social security number, savings account numbers, and complete traffic citation history. You never know when that stuff will come in handy, right?

Ha ha! What an exaggeration I'm making!

Video: The 2005 Microsoft iPod

This video might be dated, but it's undeniably timeless.

I think the title says all that needs to be said. Enjoy.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Time Waster: Just Letters

Just Letters is an absolutely brilliant piece of work. It's a virtual refrigerator (more than one, actually) loaded up with magnetic letters. You can rearrange the letters however you'd like in real time.

Spell your name. Write a love letter to your secret soul mate (gross). You can even spell out dirty words.

The trick is: so can anyone else. At the same time as you.

The results are hilarious. You'll be spelling your name out, and someone else will turn CHRIS ECHOLS into CRAP HOLES.

They will. Because they did. So I know.

If you can tolerate the juvenile language that occasionally pops up, you're in for the most fun you've ever had with refrigerator magnets. Well, with fake refrigerator magnets.

FireFox Day: July 15th 2006

This post is, unfortunately, two days belated.

Saturday, July 15, 2006 was Firefox Day. And missing Firefox Day is like missing your mom's birthday: you do it once, and you'll feel so bad about it that you'll never miss it again. Until next year.

But check this out: there is something you can still do. Tell a friend about your favorite open-source internet browser through the worldfirefoxday website, and if said friend downloads the software, both of your names will appear in Firefox 2.0 and on the Mozilla Foundation's Firefox Friends Wall.

It's not exactly the kind of enshrinement you'd tell your grandkids about, but it is the kind of enshrinement that I'll tell my grandkids about.

Heroes: World of Warcraft Samaritans

If you look hard enough, you will find good people almost anywhere - even in places that don't actually exist.

And of those good people, you're going to find a lot of nerds. Take this story for example.

Don't laugh at players who are identified as Sedren 60 human priest or Redlit 60 human warlock.

Instead, imagine that their names are Ralph Smith 96% good dude or Tito Hernandez 94% excellent.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Time Waster: Flicktionary

Flicktionary is a straightforward, addictive little game. The concept is thus:

Start a new game. Look at the pictures. Figure out the compound word from the picture clues. Win!

This ingenious time waster uses photos from Yahoo!'s Flickr website, and utilizes the descriptive tags people give their images to make the hints. It's kind of like Win, Lose or Draw...only without the screaming at your partner and wanting to stab someone with your magic marker.

Try it!

Cartoon Anatomies

Mr. Smith recently posted a link to some of the finest historical anatomies I've ever seen. Truly, it seems to be a nearly lost art...but not entirely lost.

Michael Paulus has taken the time to strip some 22 popular cartoon characters down to their bare bones, and reveal the grotesquely distorted skeletal structures underneath. His art is great, and it's good for a laugh.

You'll never look at Fred and Barney the same way again...

The Amazing Screw-On Head

Holy crap. I'd like to apologize in advance for frothing at the mouth...

Sci-Fi Channel produces great television. By that I mean, they produce one of my very favorite television shows of all time: Battlestar Galactica.

But alive!

Sci-Fi has developed a pilot episode for an animated version of Mike Mignola's The Amazing Screw-On Head. It stars the voice talents of Paul Giamatti, David Hyde Pierce, and Patton Oswalt, among others.

Are you kidding me?? Did I die and go to comic nerd heaven? Travis Charest, are you here, too?

But wait. It gets better! has the entire episode up on their website for you to watch. They want you to watch it and then fill out a little survey to find out what you think of the pilot.

Let me go ahead and give you the answers to the survey:

Q: Did you enjoy Mike Mignola's: The Amazing Screw-On Head?
A: Awesome!

Q: Would you tune in to Sci-Fi Channel to watch regularly-aired episodes?
A: Awesome!

Q: Have you previously read any of artist/writer Mignola's work?
A: Awesome!

Q: Would you recommend The Amazing Screw-On Head to friends?
A: Where can I go change my pants!?

The adaptation of Mike's gorgeous art onto the screen is perfect. His lineart is so distinct and stylized - but they've recreated it faithfully. Those stark, carefully-chosen graphic novel colors are there, too. Spot-on.

Click on the picture above or the link above or here, but go watch the thing. Hot dang!

PS - I genuinely believe this may be the largest single collection of bold and italics tags, exclamat!on points and hyphenated-words I've ever assembled into one work.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

The Uncanny Valley

It's a creepy picture, isnt' it?

But why?

Apart from its obviously unsettling elements (a weeping woman holding a gun is likely the definition of unsettling), there is something more at work here - something more subtle and instinctive is turning you against the image.

It's called the uncanny valley.

At least, that's what robotocist Masahiro Mori called the effect he observed in his research studying human response to near-human androids.

Apparently, people respond with increasing comfort and fondness to humanlike robots the more those robots begin to look and act human. However, there is a steep drop into discomfort and uneasiness reported once the humanlike robot reaches a point of resembling humans almost exactly.

Hence, the uncanny valley.

This phenomenon is being studied more and more as the video game industry pushes the limits of photo-real game characters. There's a delicate balance between creating the most believable game actors possible and alienating the gaming audience because of this instinctive behavior.

Some excellent examples of our disaffinity for near-human CGI are the movies Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within and The Polar Express. Apart from actual plot content, many reviewers reported that they disliked the "creepiness" of the characters. They were almost doll-like.

And everyone knows that nothing is creepier than nasty, nasty dolls.

Anyhow, the uncanny valley phenomenon is something that will play an ever-increasing role in our relationship with movies and video games in the coming years. How it's overcome will be an interesting evolution.

By the way, the screenshot above is from a technical demo of the upcoming PS3 game, Heavy Rain (working title). You can watch the full tech demo video below, but let me warn you: it's creepy and contains a little NSFW language.

Favorite Things: FOUND Magazine

Miya introduced me to FOUND Magazine. She introduced me in the best way possible: by gifting me the first book.

There is nothing else like FOUND. Why? I don't know. It would seem like the most obvious thing in the world to gather discarded scraps of paper and publish them for people to see. I mean, ephemera is everywhere. Why did no one think to package it neatly into one place before this?

These are the questions on my list of things to ask the Almighty.

Until then, enjoy the endless bits of humanity salvaged in FOUND's website. If you're even remotely humored by what you find, then buy one of the books. Or subscribe to the periodical.

You'll discover a remarkable insight into the laughter, pain, embarrassment, and individuality of human beings you'll never meet. I can't recommend it any more highly.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Ball Ball: Sport of Geniuses

This isn't just a sport. It's a physics lesson.

Welcome to the internet, Mr. Newton. We're big fans of your work here.

Please disregard the crappy music.

Awesome: Multi-Touch Interaction Research

Part Star Trek: The Next Generation, part Minority Report, the possible applications for this sort of prototype are endless.

It is also very cool to watch.

From what I understand, this is one of several interface experiments by Jeff Han*, a consultant at the NYU Courant Institute of Mathematical Science. By all means, explore his website. The human-computer interface projects are incredible.

*and NYU collaborators.

Retirement. Wha?

I'm 26 years old.

If statistical averages are correct, then I'm not even halfway through my projected lifespan. Why would I worry about retirement? Better yet, why should you worry about retirement?

Read this.

It's not some gloom-and-doom prediction about the retirement age for my generation. And it isn't a preachy list of things you should be doing now to plan for then. It's just a financial "Dear, Abby" article from a couple in Colorado who want to know if they've done enough planning and saving to retire at 55.

The reason I'm posting this is to highlight just how much money this couple has had to save in order to retire. If you read and do the math, you'll note that as of age 43, they've already stashed $592,000 away strictly for retirement. And remember, there are still 12 years worth of saving on top of that before they reach 55.

You're looking at a 2-person family with no children who are able to put the maximum amount into their retirement savings: $28,000 into IRA + $12,000 into mutual funds per year. The couple makes $130,000 combined per year in income - which is nothing to sneeze at. But that works out to $65,000 a piece in yearly salary.

This family has packed away a huge amount. They've diligently prepared for retirement in a way that most of us won't come close to matching. And they're worried about being able to retire at 55?

If these two haven't done it right, then who has? I mean, how much would they need to have invested so as to not worry about retirement??

The point here is that planning for retirement is a mammoth undertaking - even in the most ideal circumstances. If you start late, you are hosed. Everyone, regardless of income can start planning now.

Don't think you're too young to start saving. You aren't. Even if it's a small amount at first, start putting away money with every paycheck. Just get in the habit.

Read this and this and even this.

You don't want to work until the day you die*.

*If you do want to work until the day you die, disregard this.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

What Did I Tell You?

In a solid show of support for headbutting (aka. "awesomeness"), the international press voted Zinedine Zidane the winner of World Cup's highest individual honor: the Golden Ball.

I don't think I need to reiterate the reasons behind his win. I'll just say this: only a small percentage of the vote was based on his outstanding play and his role as leader of the best team in the 2006 FIFA World Cup. The remainder of the votes were cast strictly in awe.

As a quick followup, there has been a lot of speculation about exactly what Marco Materazzi said to Zizou that made him flip out. Some have said he insulted Zidane's mother. I mean, really insulted.

Of course Materazzi denies those claims. He admits that he taunted the French captain, but conveniently forgot just what he said.

Personally, my assessment went from "interested due to awesome headbutt" to "genuinely a fan of Zinedine Zidane."

Doug has reminded me more than once about how his fandom for a particular sports figure (i.e. Dominic Hasek, Miroslav Satan, etc.) evolved out of some happenstance event. Well, I see how that works now.

Read the articles and decide for yourself.

Awesome: Des Serpents Dans L'Avion

There's no way you haven't heard about Snakes on a Plane.

Unless you live in Iceland, where the majority of your entertainment news revolves around Bjork's fistfights, then you are likely already pumped for the summer's greatest movie.

The summer? Psssh. Try history's greatest movie.

This international release poster has managed to elevate my already piqued fascination with Samuel L. Jackson's taser-weilding, snake-punching docudrama.

Do you think he's going to actually be tasering the snakes? Or will he just taser passengers and use their bodies as shields against the snakes?

Either way, I'm for it.

Here is some excerpted dialogue from the French language trailer for SoaP:

Samuel L. Jackson: Zut alors! Des serpents!
Snake: Hisssss.
Samuel L. Jackson: Ne comprendre pas, serpent. Se repeter
, sil vous plait?
Snake: *bite*

Samuel L. Jackson: Oh! Fut*e vous, serpent! Foo tray voo!
Samuel L. Jackson: *punch*


Watch some of these.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Don't F With Zidane

I don't really like soccer.

But dude, I have really enjoyed the World Cup. From group play until the final today, I've been glued to this spectacle that drives global sports fanaticism like no other competitive event.

I also don't really like France.

But dude, I've been pulling hard for the French since they dominated Brazil in the quarter-finals. So tonight, watching the final versus Italy, I had high hopes for the only red, white and blue flag left in World Cup competition.

True to form, France put the pressure on Italia for the full match - all the way through 2 overtime periods and into penalty kicks. Unfortunately, they came up short in PKs. Vive l'Italia.

The only reason I'm writing all this is to justify a post about Zinedine Zidane.

The guy is one of soccer's living legends. But let's recap the details you need to know in the context of this particular final match:

  1. Zidane has already announced that he'll retire after the World Cup.
  2. He's managed to come back from what could have been a game-ending shoulder injury, playing through the pain in order to stay on the field.
  3. It is clear during the waning minutes of regulation that the France/Italy final is likely to go to penalty kicks - and Zidane is one of the most dominant kickers in the game.

The guy has to have complete awareness that he's a critical part of winning the World Cup for France. He's the team captain, after all.

But Italy's Marco Materazzi says something to Zidane that pisses him off.

And what does my new sports hero do? Ignore Marco, knowing that if he gets a penalty now he could jeopardize his team's chances of winning? Maybe return the trash talk with some of his own? Non.

He fricking headbutts Materazzi. Right. In. The. Sternum.

I'm not talking some sort of warning shot here. I'm talking borderline homicide. Watching Materazzi flop to the pitch like a salmon, I have no doubt that the impact from Zidane's skull stopped his heart. It was unbelievable.

Anyhow, Zidane takes a red card and is ejected from the match. His career is over, France loses the World Cup championship, and Zidane isn't even presented with a silver medal at the awards ceremony.

He punted Materazzi, legacy be damned. That is dedication.

The French might be a nation of pantywaists, but with one notable exception.

"Mais pourquoi? Mais Pourquoi?"

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Game: Just Sudoku

Thanks to Casey, I've become a big fan of Sudoku. It seems intimidating, but is actually quite simple. Once you figure out the pattern-recognition, you can absolutely solve every puzzle.

I've heard people say (and I thought the same myself), "It's a number puzzle. You have to use math, and I suck at math. I hate math plus I don't like Japan equals Sudoku is for nerds."

Ha ha! Sudoku is for nerds. But it is also for everyone else, including you. I promise it's better than a crossword, and it has even unseated my longtime personal favorite: the cryptoquote/celebrity cypher.

If you haven't played before, the rules of the puzzle are thus:

Each row and column must contain all digits 1 through 9.

Each 3x3 box must contain all 9 digits.

That's it.

If you're confused as to how to solve the puzzles, check here. I don't know if his is the most concise explanation of solving, but it will give you an idea. Really, once you've solved one, and get the pattern down, you'll be addicted like it's methamphetamine.

From: here

Tools: AVG Anti-Virus

There are a lot of anti-virus software offerings out there. Some are expensive, some are free. Some are effective virus-killers, some are ineffective hard drive space-wasters. But without actually installing and testing the myriad options available, it's difficult to know which applications are trustworthy.

So how do you decide what software you should use? How can you know what will keep your computer safe, but also be worth your investment?

Put your mind at ease, reader. I have the answers you seek.

AVG anti-virus software is a solid combination of stability, reliability, and freeability. It's an excellent weapon to have in the fight against those ubiquitous "viruses" you hear so much about.

The software comes in two forms: a free, consumer version and a professional corporate edition you can purchase. The free version provides the complete virus detection functionality offered by the professional edition. You will get the exact same security for free.

In addition to the standard seek-and-destroy method of eliminating infections from your system, AVG also includes an optional email scanner. If you use a mail client like Mozilla Thunderbird, Eudora, or (hopefully not) Outlook Express, AVG will run its virus detections on all incoming mail. Since mail propagation is easily the most common form of virus distribution, it's a pretty useful feature to have.

Again, this is all included in the free consumer release.

The paid version will add 24/7 technical support, faster whatnots, and bells and whistles in other languages. That part isn't important. The only thing you need to know is that you will get's highest rated commercial-grade anti-spyware software for (I'm saying it once more for effect) no cost.

Once you've got the thing, it's easy to use. On first run, AVG walks you through your first backup and scan - showing you exactly how to use the software. The interface is overly simple. It isn't pretty to look at, but who cares? It's keeping your PC healthy. Give it five minutes and you'll have it figured out.

Personally, I've never been a huge advocate of anti-virus applications. I haven't found them to be absolutely necessary, and in some cases, they're shamefully inadequate. But AVG has given me a reason to keep an anti-viral running on my PCs.

No software of this sort is perfect - particularly one you aren't paying for. But AVG is the closest thing I've found. It's trustworthy. It's a smart download.

Go get it.

Awesome: Transphormetic

Touch it.

I repotted it here, but it is originally from there. Lots of them there. Credit, I think, goes to this dude.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Awesome: Weezer, El Scorcho

To keep Beck's Hell Yes company, I'm posting another throwback: Weezer's El Scorcho.

I know, I know. It's old. It's not funny. Why would you want to watch a video from 1996 featuring nerds half-singing, half-sqwaking an angsty would-be love tune about half-Japanese girls?

The question is why wouldn't you watch.

It's one of my favorite Weezer songs. It's probably my favorite Weezer video. I found it on YouTube, so it's going up here.

...I'll bring home the turkey if you bring home the bacon.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Hillbilly Savants

So this is something akin to self-promotion (and definitely kin to cross-promotion), but I wanted to help drive more traffic to a genuinely worthwhile piece of the internet.

Hillbilly Savants is a blog a little like this one - but only insofar as they look alike and I write for both of them. Apart from that, HS takes the moral and practical high ground over my efforts here.

The idea for HS began with the one and only Eric Drummond Smith. He put the blog together and solicited a group of contributors to populate it. We're a diverse group - with different backgrounds and perspectives - but we all share a common home: Appalachia.

So that's what Hillbilly Savants is about: a diverse group of thinkers, with shared roots, writing about the world as we see it. Southern history, American history, war, peace, politics, faith,'s all there.

Take the time to read and you'll find everything from Mountain Dew to The Carter Family Fold to prehistoric ground sloths and even elephants in middle Tennessee.

I don't contribute to the site as often as I would like. But I'll get around to it. In the mean time, if you've somehow found your way to my site, let me go ahead and redirect you to Hillbilly Savants.

Whatever you find there is going to be better for your soul than anything you find here.

Music: The Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Alright. I'm not going to pretend that I know a lot about The Yeah Yeah Yeahs. What I do know about them is that their single Gold Lion is good. It's old lady-punching good.

Yet another XM Radio find, I heard the song often enough to convince me to buy their album Show Your Bones from iTunes. Following that, I used the interweb to learn more about the YYYs. Mostly I learned just how unkempt human beings who make music can be.

Unkempt and weird. Weird like crazy weird.

That said, you wouldn't want a band like the YYYs to be anything but unkempt and weird. It's that art-punk lifestyle, that sensibility that makes their music so crazy good. It's pop. It's punk. It's infectious like rabies.

The band is made up of three maniacally-coiffed individuals: Karen O (vocals), Nick Zinner (guitar and beat box), and Brian Chase (drums). If you look at the three in this lineup and can't tell who is who - or which one is the girl - don't feel bad. I'm still not sure.

I don't know if I can accurately categorize the musical genre that the YYYs fall into. They followed close on the heels of The Strokes and were quote-unquote supporting both The Strokes and The White Stripes during early tours. The sound is definitely similar.

Personally, I prefer the quirky flavor of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs to the all-too-familiar alt-punk of The Strokes.

Anyhow, like I said, I can't pretend to know much about the YYYs. That won't stop me from suggesting that you go listen to their music - buy it from iTunes for cheap.

Han, Eric, Todd - you guys should all find something to love about the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

Here are a few additional resources for you.

Awesome: The Good Wife's Guide

I was thinking I should give some sort of politically correct disclaimer for this post - something to distance myself from its outdated, thinly-veiled misogyny.


Stolen from here.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Review: GBA Micro

This review is a little late, as the GBA Micro has been available in the US since October, 2005. I've had mine since December, but I only started posting this blog 3 days ago. Once I get my hands on a DeLorian, I'll go back to December, 2005 and write this review again so you'll have it in a more timely fashion.

But if I was ever going to get a DeLorian and travel back in time to write the review, then I'd already have written it by now and you would already have read it....

And if I had been able to travel through time, the last thing I'd be doing is writing some crap on the internet. I'd be shaking hands with Lincoln; making money hand-over-fist in the first dotcom boom; harvesting dinosaur eggs in the hope that I might one day create an unique interactive theme park where children could see dinosaurs up know, but safely.

Since none of the above has/had happened, I'm going to do this GBA Micro thing now. But don't worry about the review itself, because you didn't read past that time travel nonsense and aren't reading this now.


The Nintendo GameBoy Micro has genuinely changed the way I play video games. Because it is so small, so transportable, I take it everywhere and use it every day. I owned a GBA SP prior to the Micro, and never played the thing.

For whatever reason, the shape and clamshell design of the SP never sat well with me. It was too clunky to fit comfortably in a pocket and the buttons were positioned too awkwardly for my fingers.

The Micro, on the other hand, has neither of those shortcomings. It's aesthetically very pleasing. And despite its small size, the buttons are actually spaced further apart and are much easier for my fingers to reach. It's just a nicer package all around. Why that makes me use it more often I don't know.

To illustrate just how small the Micro is, someone came up with this classy sticker. (It isn't mine. I found it here.) Yes. It's that small.

There are more virtues than just its size and design, though. The LCD screen is brilliant. Brighter and higher resolution than the SP, the Micro's screen makes the GameBoy's stable of cartridge titles look as good as they've ever looked.

Also, another deal-making improvement is the battery life. Dude, the thing has a single-charge lifespan of better than 8 hours on average. I've gotten close to 10 hours. Long trips, intercontinental flights, church'll survive anything.

Although the Micro isn't backwards-compatible with original GameBoy or GameBoy Color cartridges, it shouldn't be a problem. If you were in love with your original Mega Man title on GBC...then you probably still have your GBC. Play it on that. Nerd.

There aren't any other bells and whistles with the Micro. Size, design, screen quality and battery life are its only virtues. But for me at least, they are more than enough reason to spend $90 on a game system that has probably the best, most playable library of games available.

My main recommendation is primarily for those who have not yet purchased a GameBoy system of any sort. If you already own another GB system, the Micro isn't a necessary purchase. It is a necessary purchase if you love gaming and don't yet own a Nintendo portable.

I have a DS Lite that keeps the Micro company on my nightstand. The DS is a wonderful system with its own compelling reasons for purchase...but I don't play it 1/10th as much as the Micro.

To put a punctuation on this already lengthy, largely useless review, let me say that for under $100, the GBA Micro is the best money I've ever spent on a gaming system or accessory*. Period.

*This statement is probably only true because I never actually purchased a copy of Guitar Hero.