Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Teaching Computers Proper Grammar

Today was the first day of classes for the Fall semester, as my Longhorn readers are already well aware of, and it went pretty well for me. I got good vibes from my professors for CC 303 (Intro to Classical Mythology), CS 310 (Computer Organization and Programming), and LAT 311 (Second Year Latin I). Plus, I tried out the Rec Center after my 10AM class (I have a 3 hour gap after it) and I must say that the weight room is more spread out than Gregory and less busy. Anyway, the most impressive item today was the research done at Cornell that can use patterns derived from a body of text in another language to create novel sentences in that language. The algorithm utilizes some complex statistical procedure to do so, and the article explains that it really is pretty smart. This is actually something I've been curious about for months since a CS 307 program where we did something similar with English texts although it was not nearly as smart as precise. This is all just something for you to ponder over because of what it could mean. It could mean programs that can translate better or grade your papers or do much more to help us out.

A war is brewing from the seed sown by VoIP over better solutions to the standard telephone companies. Microsoft has entered the arena by buying Teleo, which could provide the means for computers to communicate directly with telephones, and Yahoo had bought Dialpad, which I used to use to call India back in the day via VoIP. One blogger is being sued by a company because of what is written in their comments and I just think that we've entered an era that's testing the limits of the bill of rights in the technological arena. I find that this lawsuit infringes on freedom of speech, but the more important issue is that the blogger should not be responsible for what he did not write.

Click to enlarge the teaserThe teaser poster for Superman Returns may not look like much to you, but to me it's the start of what's sure to be a beautiful marketing campaign. I hope we can expect more from Singer's boys in the near future. Meanwhile, Casino Royale is moving at a snail's pace as none of the head honchos can agree on a leading man as good as or better than Pierce Brosnan. Keep waiting 007 fans, your day will come. If you're a Joe Pesci fan though your day has already arrived as he has come out of retirement to do one more movie with Robert DeNiro: The Good Shepherd. I'm curious to see how his acting is in his old age. Lastly, just a couple of trailers. There's going to be a 3-D IMAX movie on the first walk on the moon for all you stargazers. The other one is for North Country, which sounds like its riding the coattails of Erin Brockovich.

I just have to mention a couple of silly things before I conclude. I mentioned Jimmy Kimmel's spoof of the R. Kelly hip hop opera a while back and I just noticed that he aired the final two installments on his show so you can check those out here. They're a lot funnier if you watch all the R. Kelly videos in the saga.

Unfortunately, the BDI Mememeister lived in New Orleans so keep her in your prayers and if we're lucky maybe she'll come out of it alive and mind humping on Wednesdays. Meanwhile, I'm going to settle for the Question of the Day:

Did you ever have a crush on one of your teachers?
Yes, but that was in elementary school. Funny that it would happen so early in life, huh? That doesn't body well for my future with women, but it was in like the second grade I think. She was more like an assistant teacher (not a student TA though) and I remember that one time she was reading a story on the rug and after it was done everyone went back to their seats but I just stayed there looking at her. Ah, the memories.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Ivan Vs. Katrina

Today was a very tiresome day because I spent much of it tabling under the sun at the Organization Fair and the Gone To Texas stuff in addition to help setting up the CNS GTT sea of organizations before the main event on South Mall. I left home at 11:18AM and arrived a little after 8:30PM so that tells you how crazy it was and a part of me still wasn't totally happy yet despite being around some cool people (read: NSC dorks). I guess I was a little homesick still, but coming home tonight with a lot of our problems with the apartment fixed (namely the a/c) made it feel more homey and now I feel a lot better. I hope it continues onto the first day of classes tomorrow. What I thought I'd talk about today, since everyone else is, is dealing with Hurricane Katrina. This article was written in the aftermath of Hurricane Ivan last year and provides an almost haunting insight into the dilemma facing New Orleans right now. I don't like to subscribe to all that apocalyptic theory nonsense, but I really am starting to get worried. Will they really be able to rebuild New Orleans for a while? I'm sure not in time for Mardi Gras, which is its big money maker. What about gas prices? The increase to $70 a barrel has hit everyone hard and can't be good news for the economy. Are we headed into another depression? Am I just too pessimistic? With less money to spend on money people will go out less, which means they'll spend less, which means less money will float along, which means that less people will have money and companies will start laying off and so on. I'm going to leave this paragraph at the thought that was nestled within that run-on sentence.

Since I ended up talking about gas prices I'll open the nerd news with the research into a self-driving car with cruise control that would keep a safe distance between the car in front and stay in its own lane. I know that I'll accidentally drift sometimes so that'd be a pretty nifty feature to have. There's a kind of neat article here sarcastically listing the top 5 reasons to not use Linux and is a defense against Wintel naysayers. We may hear about an iPod cellphone as soon as next week due to a partnership between Apple and Motorola putting iTunes on a new Motorola phone and allowing the play of songs on the phone as well. I guess that would really be a yuppie phone though.

Goodnight, and Good Luck!

Now for a look at the most prominent movie news today. I was personally most exciting with the advent of a trailer for George Clooney's Good Night, and Good Luck as I was very enchanted by Confessions of a Dangerous Mind and this one looks even better. The movies seems to be a pretty realistic look into the diffusion McCarthyism era. Another movie to look forward to is Southland Tales, which has a whole slew of confirmed actors including many SNL veterans. I like how Richard Kelly is creating buzz through sparse releases of cool information. Scream series star Neve Campbell has announced that she will return for Scream 4 thanks to some coaxing from the brothers Weinstein and so it must be something pretty special for her to do another one. And finally, the Casino Royale script is being revised by Million Dollar Baby writer Paul Haggis. If the script has to actually be fixed up that doesn't portend good things for the movie, but at least they're putting some effort into it.

Now for a great Ten on Tuesday:

10 Lessons You Want to Teach Your Kids
10. Sex isn't the most important thing in life and neither is money.
9. Reading is much more fulfilling than watching tv.
8. Don't squander your cash, even if you want every other DVD that comes out.
7. Stay loyal to your friends and they will stick with you or will get their just desserts.
6. Understanding the opposite sex is a lifetime journey, so don't try to find all the answers too soon.
5. Being popular is quite overrated.
4. Treat others with dignity and respect because to do otherwise helps no one.
3. There is no pleasure without pain.
2. Trust me, honesty really is the best policy.
1. Always be yourself.

Monday, August 29, 2005

The History of IM

There are only a few insightful LiveJournals, and the Nugget is actually one of them. The LJ's latest post is a really comprehensive article on how instant messaging has evolved and how Google Talk stacks up. I actually got caught up reading it this morning despite having a bus to catch to campus. If you use an IM client of any kind I highly recommend reading it because he is completely and utterly right. Google Talk really is a let down in that they use Jabber as a cheap banner to tout their service as being open when, in fact, they're just an isolated part of the Jabber network. I have Gaim so I'm always on all the different IM services, but isn't it sad to have so many different protocols. There should be more standards and more progress rather than things staying where they are and have been for what will soon become a decade. Maybe Google will disavow their strange ways and end up starting an IM revolution after all. Until then though, read up on its history and try to become part of the future. Maybe IM will become respectable one day.

Again, I'm aiming for shorter posts so they'll be easier for me to right and I got it right with movies yesterday so let's try it with tech stuff today. I'm notorious among some relatives of having an iron stomach because I'll eat food my mom sends after it's been in the fridge for a couple of weeks (it tastes just fine), so I thought it was only appropriate for me mention that NASA is developing food that can last years. It's meant to be nutritious and artificially tasty (food has many positive psychological effects) so it should be something to look forward to. While I'm on health I might as well mention that coffee may soon be a health drink because of its anti-oxidants, but I'll still stick to tea myself. Lastly, I wanted to mention Apple's new chip purchasing deal with Freescale just because it's an Austin company.

Click to enlarge the X-menThe picture you see before you is miraculously from the set of X3 and the characters are Bobby Drake (Iceman) and Kitty Pryde. That's significant since it's the first look we have at the movie at all and shows that it's at least started filming. Oh, and Shohreh Aghdashloo will not be Dr. Kavita Rao in X3 despite previous rumors but will instead play Hispanic mutant Dr. Cecilia Reyes in a really weird and stupid move. It seems like a waste of talent. AICN's Quint reviewed The Secret Gardener and it sounds like a pretty decent movie. It may be Academy material after all. The first Pirates of the Caribbean 2 teaser poster is out there for your viewing pleasure, though it seems like it's missing something. Lastly, here are some more Serenity pictures to whet your whistle.

Now for an odd Monday Madness:

1. Do you own a dishwasher (and if not, do you even want one), or do you have to do your dishes by hand?
Yes, but I typically do them by hand. It seems like it takes a lot of Cascade to do what I can easily do in a couple of minutes.

2. Do you put your dishes away immediately after washing them?
I let them dry in the drainer pan first and put them up when I notice that they're dry.

3. In the warm weather, do you like hanging your laundry out on the clothesline to dry, or do you prefer a dryer?
At home we would do both depending on how thick the clothes are, but we'd even use the dryer for those clothes for a bit to get the lint out. Over here, in Austin, I'll use the dryer and a folding clothesline thing for the ones that don't get dry.

4. How many loads of laundry are done in your household each week?
One in Houston, and in Austin I'm only going to do a load every two weeks.

5. Do you own a pet? If so, do you buy them presents for holidays? Do you consider your pet(s) spoiled? If you don't own one, do you think you will one day?
Nope. Maybe someday though!
6. It's Friday evening and you're planning your weekend. What's on your agenda?

I Moved In, Baby!

I'm back in Austin and excited to be back "home", or am I? It feels like I have to get used to living here again. After spending a whole summer in Houston I almost miss being at home. Isn't that funny? I've spend all this time trying to get out of there and now I feel homesick. The same thing happened to me last year though, so I'm not too worried. I guess it's because being at my parents' place is a security blanket and things are just easier to deal with whereas over here I'm all on my own and I have to drive on the scary freeway ramps and hilly roads. I got confused and lost a few times today while trying to get to church and back and finding parking and such so the other drivers must've thought I was drunk or crazy or something. It almost seems like driving in Houston is easier, but anyway it's definitely a whole different ballgame. Moving into the apartment went relatively smooth and after working like a dog all day I got everything unpacked and today I put away all the empty boxes and did some vacuuming. It looks much more like a "home" now and all that's really left to do is put up posters so the walls aren't so bare. It's a good bit bigger than my old place, but due to the large closet my room mate's (Avinash) desk has to be in the living room. Also, we have a dining table this time! And a patio also with storage for all our boxes. It's really strange to be so far from campus (5 or 6 miles), but the drive only takes like 10 minutes. Drop me a line if you're at UT and wanna come by or hang out and definitely let me know if you also live in Far West!

I want this post to be the start of shorter blog posts, so let's see how that goes over with the tech news that accumulated over the weekend. I will still keep blogging though because I wouldn't want to contribute to the demise of geek bloggers, which I think have just normalized rather than become totally decimated. Just as a follow=up to an article I mentioned last week about the decline in Indian outsourcing, I thought I'd plug this quickie about the possibility of such jobs moving to rural areas quickly becoming connected to the Net. The rest of what I want to discuss is actually Google-related. There's actually a good amount of buzz about the possibility of Google providing its own free WiFi service given its new control over dark cables across the nation in order to save themselves a lot of money in fees paid to ISPs. Considering such an ambitious project it's ironic that one editorial claims that Google has reached its peak. He makes a lot of good points in that they may become more focused on improving products quickly to block out competitors rather than roll out a lot of new stuff, but I just think it's too early to say that they've stopped accelerating.

Just a few movie items for the weekend, and I'm going to start with the scary stuff. JoBlo got some new Saw II pictures that are particularly creepy for those interested. The marketing campaign for The Exorcism of Emily Rose doesn't make it sound too good, but according to one reviewer it's surprisingly good and mainly a courtroom drama. I may end up seeing that one after all. We haven't heard much from Orlando Bloom in a while so I just thought I'd plug this interview with him to see what all he has been up to. Lastly, check out the new Domino poster:

Click to enlarge

Now for some Unconscious Mutterings:

  1. Girlfriends::Expensive
  2. Here to stay::Clothes
  3. Call me::Back
  4. Frustrated::Irritated
  5. Public school::Bellaire
  6. Glitch::Bug
  7. Cheese::Seinfeld (remember the two waitresses at Monk's eating grilled cheese?)
  8. Director::Movie
  9. Pivotal::Important
  10. Exclusive::Interview

Friday, August 26, 2005

Summer '05 in Retrospect

I think it's true

As you can tell from the comic, I'm back to normal. We're going to talk with the executive office of Collina's to get our money back on the towing. The comic does seem pretty random, but it does reflect my freshman year living experience inasmuch as my room mates were hooked to a game that when I played for a bit made me realize how evil it is. Not in a bad way, but more in a timesuck kind of way. There's not a whole lot of great news today so I'm going to cut the news portion of this post short in order to reflect a bit on my summer. I'm also cutting it short because tomorrow morning I leave to go back to Austin.

Some of my regular readers may know much about my summer and what it was like, but I'm sure that many of you don't so I'll hit on the high points. Up until a couple of weeks ago I had summer school Monday-Thursday and got through 9 hours of social studies, which completes my core and allows me the status of Junior for Spring registration. The first session was very easy and I learned C++ on the side, but I also started babysitting. When July hit things went in full gear and I was always pretty busy between two classes, babysitting most days of the week, and trying to figure out wxWidgets. I did not formally take a vacation. My only trip was to San Antonio for a weekend the weekend before last to go to Schlitterbahn with some cousins. I guess that sounds sad, but I got to spend a lot of time on weekends with my brother and his girlfriend and that was nice because I will not see them for a while now (I'll get to that real soon). I also got my beautiful car this summer and I'm very appreciative of it despite the a/c problems it caused me.

Those were all my accomplishments over the summer, but what really saddened me was that I didn't get the programming done I wanted to. The idea was to do a Grade Calculator program (to get used to making a GUI) and a program to help Latin students learn the language (a supplement to the Wheelock). I started on the former, but not at all on the latter. I really wanted these under my belt to help me out at the Career Fair, but hopefully I can dig up an internship anyway (pray for me!). I was also disappointed that I didn't see my friends as much as I had wanted to, but I did have fun with them the few times we went out. I wanted to read some Stephen King and I only started Carrie just last week. I had wanted to learn some new guitar pieces but I only learned some popular music. The more I write this the more I realize that my plans were too extravagant anyway. If I just get a CS job for next summer I'll be more than happy. I will not be coming back to Houston for a long while. I may come back for Buzzfest (October 22) at the earliest. Being at home made me realize how much I hate to not be in control of my own life. I didn't wait four years for college for nothing, and now I realize it. I love my parents dearly, but they baby me too much and restrict me a lot. I shouldn't be worried about anything but my personal affairs and here I'm worried about whether my mom is pissed at me or not. Plus, I need to get used to cooking for myself. I look forward to the next school year, and my goals include maintaining a 4.0 GPA, becoming a higher officer in NSC and the ACM, getting closer to friends I've made, and becoming more comfortable with getting around Austin. Here's to the end of a packed summer.

I'm going to put together all the really good tech news and movie news into this paragraph. There's a lot of buzz around Apple investing a lot of money in Samsung in order to reap the benefits of their flash memory. This would mean a lot of improvements for the iPod Mini, which currently uses a hard disk, in most areas other than price, which Samsung may work with them on. In the courts, Apple lost an estimated $15 million to possibly 1.3 million victims of poor or defective batteries. This has been going on for a long time so it's good to have closure. A British study has found that men on average score 5 points higher than women on IQ tests, which I'm posting here to ruffle some feathers and see what people think. The New York Times has a great article on Greenspan having to leave the Fed in January and a worthwhile read for those of you interested in the economy. Now for some quick movie stuff. There is finally a Japanese trailer for the upcoming movie Memoirs of a Geisha. I already packed up my speakers but the trailer looks really awesome and I hope this movie is a hit. The wheels are in motion for a sequel to the comedy movie Bruce Almighty and they got Steve Carrell back on board, which is weird because a sequel doesn't sound feasible and he's so talented. Lastly, IGN has some cool pictures from Corpse Bride.

Now for the Friday Fiver:

1. Link to your local news source:
The Daily Texan since I only read local news in Austin, not Houston.

2. Link to your favorite dessert:
Too hard, I pass.

3. Link to a band that you despise:
I hate System of a Down with a passion.

4. Link us to a good book:
I'm currently reading Carrie and it's phenomenal for its implicit criticism of religious fundamentalism and its frighteningly realistic window into the life of someone who is the source of childish ridicule.

5. Link to your favorite Muppet frog:
Kermit, duh.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Towing Companies Are Evil

Before I start this post here's a couple of notes. First of all, don't go to any Collina's restaurant unless I say it's alright (you'll see why if you read this post). Second, if cursing is a pet peeve for you then don't read this one because this is going to be an ardent post and I'm not going to hold back just to make this blog rated G.

I wonder if the bad tow truck drivers go to Hell. I should hope so. My brother closed his house today (he bought it in Jersey Village) and so we decided to go to Collina's and have dinner to celebrate. This was on Richmond and Weslayan and it was a center with other shops and restaurants so there was shared parking. A lot of the spots were only for that particular place (the ones right in front of them), so I searched and searched and finally found a spot with no such parking warning sign on it in that same center at the very end. There were five of us and we came in 5 separate cars to the restaurant. After we ate, we chatted for a while and then decided that we wanted to go somewhere else for dessert. The restaurant was clearly getting ready to close mind you, but there were still other people there and there were still some other cars in the lot, though it was not nearly as packed as earlier. Since we were going somewhere closeby we decided to all go in one car. We had a great dessert, and then came back thirty or maybe forty-five minutes later. My brother's girlfriend couldn't spot her car in the relatively empty lot, and I knew for a fact as soon as we entered that my car was not there. The first thought that came to mind is that we got towed, and I was right. There was no sign in front of my spot, mind you, advertising that I'd get towed if I left nor was there one on my neighboring spots. In fact, it was so packed when I first parked that I couldn't see any signs on that side of the lot (after living in Austin a year I know the importance of checking). We call the number on one of the sparsely placed signs (stating that you'd be towed at own expense if you're not a customer at any of these places to paraphrase) and find out that this place on Bissonet has both our cars and they're holding each ransom for $171.89. Of course, we are livid at this point. Our cousin's wife, who came along, still had her car there luckily so she left and my brother took the two of us to that towing place (the fifth person took us for the dessert obviously so she went home also).

When we inquired on the phone, the guy at the towing place told us that they towed us because they have video surveillance and they "know" (because they're omniscient, duh) that we left our cars there. That doesn't explain why they only got two of the four cars (though it is luck that the other two remained, indeed). We get to this run-down place and the guy at the desk has a desk that is about 7 feet off the ground. There is only a slit small enough to take paper and cards so that you can't shoot him and so you can barely see him I suppose. My brother's girlfriend got hers back no problem. My car being so newly acquired though the title had not officially transferred over yet on the system. I give him my insurance information and the license plate number, but that wasn't enough. I understand the liability issues with him giving me the car without direct proof of my ownership, but they have a fucking brown man walking out of a green Volvo on tape and then walking into our friend's car so they know it's me. If that gives them the fucking right to take my baby away from me then why doesn't my presence give them the right to give it back to me? What kind of a shitty double standard is that?

Please comment and tell me, what the fuck did I do wrong? Who did I hurt by leaving my car there? Not only did we save gas but also the pollution of four cars going the exact same way. Did we not patronize this restaurant? Did we take advantage of their parking? Was I informed that this would happen? I looked into the Texas transportation code and it doesn't say exactly what I hoped it'd say but it does state that there be a sign to "state that the vehicle is in a space in which the vehicle is not authorized to park." There was no such sign in my spot. The money I give to them when my dad goes and gets the car will be dirty money akin to the blood money Judas accepted for Jesus (not that it's nearly as serious, but just to explain what I mean by "dirty"). It's written in the bible that those who reap money from the sweat of others' brows are evil. I guarantee you that I worked hard for that fucking $171.89 and those cock sucking bastards robbed me of it. You have no idea how angry I am that I save my money to use it when I need to so I don't have to say "I can't afford to hang out with you" to my friends since I don't have much money and now I've lost $171.89 for doing nothing wrong. I've lost it for eating at Collina's, that piece of shit establishment. We plan to go in there and let all Hell break lose. Please, I humbly beg you to not support this dirty restaurant unless they refund us these towing charges. I feel horribly wronged here. I didn't know that I have to look 200 feet either side of my parking spot to make sure that it's legal to park where all the other cars park who want to eat Italian food.

I love my car as much as you can love an inanimate object. It is my first car and it will always hold a special place in my heart. It's pretty and it gets me to where I need to go and keeps me happy while I drive with a good stereo and everything. I feel incomplete without it (it even hurt me when the a/c had problems) and as such you are getting an incomplete post here. Instead of something meaningful and informative you've got me rambling. I'm sorry about that, but I feel so angry and sad to know that my poor baby was dragged on Highway 59 by that filthy tow truck for doing nothing wrong. For me to do a standard post would be superficial. This injustice will not be forgotten, and let it be a lesson well-learned for you through my personal pain.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

A New Silicon Valley Villain?

I think that there's a general consensus that Microsoft has been the bad guy in the Valley for quite a long time. That image just developed over a time with the high profile nature of software glitches and cutthroat business tactics. Google has been hailed as the dream boat of nerds everywhere to sink the M$ ship in favor for world peace and other such things. But could they be becoming the bad guys now? When you think about it, they follow a similar story to how Bill Gates got his start. He just had a lot of ideas and didn't believe that any boundaries surrounded him. The founders of Google built their company on the same philosophy, but they have also starting questionable practices. They suck up all the best talent in the industry and their reach extends to any service that may pique their interest (whether or not it's search-related). Beforehand though they bore a very similar tale to Netscape as well being the favored underdog and going public. So which route will they take then? The evil villain? The failed competitor? Or can one be optimistic enough to think that they'll stay mostly innovative and fair? I'm excited to learn whether or not history will repeat itself.

I'm going to start out the techie news with a story close to home. Most of you at UT know that the Flawn Academic Center (the UGL) will no longer be the library it used to be but rather will be a technology center when we return for the fall. I believe it will also have a larger lobby area than it had before, which is good because around finals time that place was always way too packed and stuffy. Going back to the Silicon Valley stuff, there's some minor buzz that Google may end up buying Skype to supplement Google Talk and provide a decent VoIP service. I'm sure they'd want to do more than that with it, but it's all just hearsay for now. While they start a new service though today is actually the 10th anniversary of the debut of Windows 95. If you forgot all the hype of the OS then click here for a blast from the past. India may no longer be the go-to country for outsourcing as rages start to rise there and sink in other places. I don't know whether that's good or bad news, but it's progress I suppose. Lastly, all you PSP owners will want to get the new firmware update full of important features like a mobile web browser and photo sharing.

I'm going to start out the movie news with some really good news: Old School 2 is a go! Originally, there was no hopes for a sequel because of a dispute between the directors and DreamWorks's piss poor marketing of Eurotrip, but apparently they've been forgiven and now they just have to get the old cast back. If you want some more good news you should read this review of Nicholas Cage's next film, Lord of War, where he plays an international arms dealer. I liked the trailer for this movie and now it may be too good for the mainstream, but it does sound like it is good at least. Speaking of trailers though, there's a theatrical trailer for Doom over at Yahoo! showcasing an FPS-style technique of cinematography in the movie. That could either turn out to be kinda neat or very annoying and cheesy depending on how they use it (it'll likely be the latter I'm sure). MTV snagged a great interview with Korean vengeance film creator Park Chan-wook about his inspiration for Oldboy as well as his future plans. He sounds like a real cool guy and I look forward to his upcoming feature films. Lastly, there are some new Chronicle of Narnia pics floating around including in this awesome gallery.

Click to enlarge

I think BDI is having some issues so I'm going to try Cheddar X this week:

This X is all about the idiot box.

1. What do you watch most? Either Seinfeld or Family Guy (it may be a tie).
2. What would you be embarassed to be caught watching even though you do watch it? Date My Mom. I don't make it a point to watch it, but I will if it's on.
3. Write yourself into a tv show. I could be another son of Joe's on Family Guy.
4. Replace someone in a tv show. It would be interesting to be Clark Kent on Smallville.
5. Who would you like to see out of tvland forever? Britney Spears and whoever her husband is, Kevin something.
6. Who would you like to see back? Jerry Seinfeld! I know it won't happen (unless it's a stand-up comedy show), but I can still dream.
7. Entertainment or information? Entertainment. As you can see I read online for information.
8. What makes for a good viewing experience for you? Forgetting all the other worries and stresses I have to deal with.
9. Have you ever had a great idea for a special niche cable channel (like the Golf Channel or Home and Garden TV)? A video game channel would be neat, but I guess that's G4? I don't have satellite so I've never watched it.
10. What was your favorite show when you were a kid? Probably The Simpsons.
11. Most memorable moment of television? That's way too hard. I don't really know.
12. Most memorable moment you'd just as soon forget? Those commercials for Wild N Out! Any of them! They have funny parts from the show, but then it makes them less funny to keep seeing it.
13. What would you like to see again? Isn't this question 6 again?

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

An Educational Shift From Coding and Science

The topic I want to talk about today is actually a big deal: it's a growing trend in what college students are learning nowadays. Bill Gates has been in the news for expressing his concern over less bright students in Computer Science because less kids are majoring in it nowadays. It turns out that many are becoming more focused on other fields and the applications of computer literacy. A lot of people seem to encourage this, and there's nothing wrong with it, but without CS majors we wouldn't have real innovation. Everything would be pretty run-of-the-mill without the many advances that are still left to discover (namely, a more user-friendly computer on the whole). A columnist at the BBC even realizes how little our government cares about the advancement of scientific research in this country, though they probably pump tons of money into developing new weapons. If you regularly read my blog you probably know how much cool stuff Japan comes up with and they're just a group of islands! The sadder issue to me though is the exodus from CS. What happened to people getting excited about creating useful software?

I'm going to start out the tech news by putting to rest the rumors regarding Google's new communication tool. It is, in fact, an instant messenger called Google Talk. You can start using right away if you have gmail and you use Gaim, Trillian, iChat, or another Jabber client. I have some bad news: Sony and Toshiba have officially ended talks to create a unified next-generation DVD format. I'm sure it was hard for either side to cave after all the R&D they put into their respective product, but now one of them will have to go the way of the Betamax unfortunately. If you don't know much about open source or why you should care about it this is a great article for you to get introduced to it. It's concise and definitely a must-read if you don't know much about open source. If you'd rather hear about the top 10 computer destruction disasters then check this out. Lastly, there's a good article here about the use of technology in the classroom and whether or not it's just a fad. I think it's not big now, but it will be someday when it's more affordable.

The movie news is going to be a tad short because AICN went down right after I loaded the home page, but maybe I'll just catch up tomorrow. Fox, Universal, and Microsoft have reached an agreement on how the Halo movie will be handled and it is now set for a 2007 release. I'm curious as to what kind of plot they came up for it. CBS has nabbed some pictures from the set of the Da Vinci Code movie, and it is kind of neat to see all the main actors though no real scenes from the movie are shown. Empire is putting out a magazine this month with a shot of King Kong in NYC on the cover (as designed by WETA), and is the first picture anyone has seen of the big ape on the Empire State Building. There hasn't been much news regarding the screen adaptation of Spy Hunter, but The Rock confirms that things are going along well for the action-thriller. Lastly, the improved site for Corpse Bride has gone live for those of you who enjoy cool-looking Flash sites.

For this week's Ten on Tuesday I'm going to pretend that I'm in Austin right now since I'm there 3/4 of the year anyway:

10 Things You Love About Your City
10. It's the greatest place to live in Texas.
9. The indie music scene.
8. The people are generally nice and happy to be there.
7. It's not too crowded for a big city and state capitol.
6. It's so much easier to navigate than Houston.
5. The weather is only really, really hot in the summer, not every month but December and January like Houston.
4. Having such a great college campus at the heart of it.
3. The awesome night life.
2. The beautiful hill country that surrounds the city.
1. The sheer amount of babes.

I want the last thing in this post to reflect how I feel right now: kinda sedate and sad. It's not that I don't want to go back to Austin, but I hate packing and my linking problems in Visual C++ for my program aren't helping things. This postcard from PostSecret reflects a concern that's always in the back of my head though, but I try not to show it.

Click to enlarge the secret

Monday, August 22, 2005

Google Speculation

"The foreman, Mr. Elton Mott, was especially Godless. Momma said that Satan had reserved a special blue corner of Hell for Elt, as he was called at the Blue Ribbon." - Carrie

What did I do to you Stephen King? Coincidentally, a friend of mine in high school calls me Elt sometimes (there's a story behind it, it wasn't just something he started calling me when he met me or anything). Given my bias for Google (sorry, but it's true), I feel bad about making them the main topic again but they just happened to have the best news today. So you've heard about the increase in their stock unless you've been under a rock, so what was it for? They actually have a couple of things in mind. The first thing is a vastly improved Google Desktop that aims to be kind of like Dashboard on Macs but even better. The program affords you much power in searching lots of random areas of your computer for what you need in addition to a Sidebar to keep you informed and that tailors itself to your interests based on how you use your computer. When it acquires more plug-ins I'll probably try it out. And the other thing? It's a mystery for a few more days but we do know that it will be a communications tool of some sort. The first assumption is that it's an instant messenger given the news that they bought Meetroduction though that could be an unfounded rumor and it may be more likely for them to work on a smart phone. I guess we'll know soon enough, and the buzz keeps Google going as a fascinating force in computing (much like Microsoft in the late 80s).

I'm going to start of the techie news with something ironic. There's a podcast out there called "We Hate Technology" and it's just some tech heads ranting about the worst news developments as well as just things that they don't like in general. A good idea if you ask me. Especially since you may actually need a special monitor to view HD content on Windows Vista. That article provides a detailed explanation and I got lost somewhere in the middle of it but it's more complicated than that; maybe you'll understand it. If there was any doubt that Atom will represent the standard for RSS, Microsoft's inclusion of it for Vista makes it surefire. There have been two conflicting studies about the indexing of Yahoo vs. Google and now a blog post sheds some light on the situation. Apparently, their indexing of long documents isn't as extensive as Google's, but they're not lying about the number of documents they cover so that would explain the conflict.

The movie news today isn't too shabby in sharp contrast to the weekend edition. I showed the poster for Saw II a while back and it has now been banned by the MPAA because the severed fingers were a it risque. I agree with their ruling, but the approved one doesn't seem much better. The best news was the international teaser trailer for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire that shows a few more scenes and makes you even more hyped up for it. If you want another video to gawk at there's an interesting trailer up for a movie called The Dark, but it's dubbed in German. Regardless, it's worthwhile for horror movie geeks despite it's visual similarities to The Ring. If you're interested in The Brothers Grimm there are a couple of fresh clips over at Yahoo! Movies, but they're not good enough gauges of how good the movie will be unfortunately. There's a very strange rumor out there that Jessica Alba will be starring in Gurinder Chadha's (of Bend it Like Beckham fame) adaptation of I Dream of Jeannie. Given Alba's inherent beauty I'll be sure to keep you abreast of any concrete developments. Lastly, JoBlo has a couple of shots from Mission Impossible: 3 and Pirates of the Caribbean 2, including this cool-looking one:

Click to enlarge the action

Now for a very random Monday Madness:

1. When putting groceries away, do you rotate your food so your newest items (cans and such) are in the back, and older food in the front?
I do that with actually dishes that I cook, but with side items and fruits and such I have certain places where I keep them in the fridge to keep the most important items the most accessible.
2. Do you own a digital camera? If so, how long have you had one? If not, do you plan to purchase one soon?
Nope, but if I get a job next summer that will be at the top of my list.
3. How do you store your precious photos?
In a safe place in my drawer in my parent's Houston home.
4. It's 6:00 a.m. and you've just lost power due to a severe thunderstorm; they say it will probably take at least 12 hours before power will be restored; what do you do?
If I was to follow the advice of one Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliott I'd have to lose control. I'd probably suck it up and just go to campus and sleep some more in the NSC office. Luckily I have a battery-powered backup alarm.
5. How many times a year do you (or does someone dear to you) wax your automobile?
I just got my automobile so we'll work on that later!
6. Gas prices; what can we say except they've reached an all-time high. How are you dealing with this?
Combining all my errands into supertrips rather than scattered small ones.
7. Have you ever purchased a book or cd twice, forgetting that you already had it?
I'm not spendthrift enough to do that! If only I had that kind of cash to buy things more than once. I guess I still have enough of my memory left.

Sky High in the Video Game Industry

Sorry to be so tardy in my weekend post, but I had a long night and wasn't able to start working on this post until around midnight because I had to handle things for my move to Austin this Saturday. The title of the post is another lame attempt to connect two topics. I saw Sky High today with my little cousin (who I've been babysitting all weekend) and it was better than I thought it would be. The PG rating was only warranted for the love storylines and so have no fear bringing a kid along because it's very child-oriented with themes of friendship and heroism as well as a fun story. There was corny stuff here and there but it was easily bearable and surprisingly enjoyable to watch. It wasn't as good as The Incredibles of course but I give it a B- anyway. There were clearly underdevelopments and ambiguities in certain characters as well as a couple of minor plotholes. Gamesutra has a pretty cool article about big guys in the video game industry reminiscing about their first jobs. It's a great read for those of you interested in making video games someday. I hope to someday have a story like those to tell, but I doubt it'll be in games because despite the optimism of those tales it's quite hard to get a decently paying job in making games. Still, they're cool to read.

I'm going to start out the nerd news by continuing the video game topic. A new psychological study has determined that violent video games actually make their players more aggressive. My stance is that it probably does do that in some capacity, but that has to be offset by good child-rearing. A popular blogger, Mark Cuban, has made the bold claim that Blogger contains the most splogs, or spam loaded blogs. Google has added a feature to prevent spam comments, but they haven't made very many strides in removing splogs. Hopefully change will come soon. Click to enlarge the door madnessThose crafty Japanese have created an automatic door that conforms to the shape of your body to reduce the amount of outside pollens and such that come inside and the amount of a/c that goes out. Anyone else noticing the trend of indie music coming to the forefront? Namely, it's making a big wave on the Internet and is understandably eager to keep this territory free from proprietary music (i.e. big labels' pollution). Lastly, it looks like big-screen tvs are on a steady decline in prices, which means that more people like you and me can afford them! They're still pricey, but becoming more affordable for the middle class.

The movie news is extremely thin, which is good because I've been distracted several times during this post and I'm now ready to sleep. The 40-Year-Old Virgin reigned supreme at the box office with $20.6 million, which is weaker than I had expected but it was enough for it to take the lead at least and hopefully word of mouth will follow (ala Wedding Crashers). Red Eye, another big opener, managed to get second place with just over $16 million. I was impressed that Wedding Crashers and March of the Penguins held on to 4th place after so long. We now know that Christopher Nolan's next projects are The Exec and The Prestige, likely in that order but no relation to each other except that they're both written by his brother, Jonathan Nolan. It'll be tough to follow up Batman Begins, but if anyone can do it it's him. Lastly, we have a candid picture of Woody Allen on the set of his next project, which is currently still quite elusive but hopefully will be good.

Now for some Unconscious Mutterings to close it up:

I say ... and you think ... ?

  1. Fan::Heat
  2. Scum::Bag
  3. Lily::Flowers
  4. Humid::Houston
  5. Ghetto::Lauryn Hill (it reminds me of a song of hers)
  6. Remember me?::Eminem (again, there's a song relation)
  7. Polished::Brass
  8. Compose::Letter
  9. Squish::Gooey
  10. Future::Tomorrow

Friday, August 19, 2005

More Comics Online

Do you want the three-shitty?

I posted about the Xbox 360 pricing a couple of days ago and I just had to share that comic strip because of their name for the cheap, stripped-down version. For the first time though, the seemingly random comic strip I've put up here actually relates to the main topic. The New York Times has a great article up about how more cartoonists nowadays see the web as a great infinite canvas for their comics rather than the frozen boxes they're normally confined to. You also see a lot of animated comics out there, such as the cult-hit Strongbad. I personally prefer to see them online. They're accessible anywhere I go to show to friends and usually you can even interact with the creator, which is pretty cool. Plus, you can support them by buying their merchandise direct from them, which I would do if I had the cash to. There's also the usually lure of an archive of comics to the very beginning in most cases. The one thing the article didn't mention is how some cartoonists, like Absath at Ctrl-Alt-Delete, actually print their comics and sell it in volumes to make money as well. Anyway, the article is a good read overall. And I also wanted to mention how thrilled I am that I managed to get a CD magazine for my car's CD changer so I can now drive in style. Luckily, the speakers are also great. So I'm still in a good mood because of that and the impending move back to Austin (a week from tomorrow).

I'm going to start off the nerd news by going back to Microsoft real quick. They've decided to try out the on-demand gaming market by allowed the service Exent to distribute 6 of its biggest titles. The article cites worries about the end of retail, but I think some gamers will always have that desire to possess a box with their own copy of the game rather than downloading it. Nintendo mentioned at E3 its plans to release a GameBoy Micro (a miniature GameBoy Advance basically), and now they've set the U.S. date to be September 19. My theory is that they're trying to saturate the market out of fears of the PSP. Japan has begun a very ambitious project to broadcast 3-D HDTV nationally by the year 2020 to not only see images from any angle but also incorporate smells and sensation. It all sounds pretty cool to me except for the smell part, but I do think it could take a bit longer than 15 years. Lastly, one company is trying to improve the cemetery experience by allowing families to include flat-screen monitors with tombstones to show a memorial video. It's a neat idea, but I can see the concern that it may violate the sanctity of a home of the deceased.

Click to enlarge the hotnessThe movie news is pretty thin today, but does that really give me the right to put up a picture here of a clearly hollow adventure film? Probably not, but after seeing so much Alba tail in the European trailer I just had to. If you want to see some worthwhile video footage though you should see the new entry in the Superman Returns video blog featuring footage from Bryan Singer's appearance at Comic-Con 2005. It also includes some excerpts of scenes from the film itself and the director getting some much needed rest on the flight to and fro California. If you want to see a really cool poster you should check out what the creators of Cabin Fever have put together for Hostel, which is sure to be bloodier than Kill Bill at least. If you want to see some storyboards in action from the forthcoming action-thriller Shoot'em up you can check that out over here. I may have to see the movie just for Monica Bellucci. Lastly, in a final attempt to coax you to check out The 40-Year-Old Virgin this weekend, I give you Quint's review of the comedy. I'd see it myself if I wasn't stuck babysitting.

Now for the Friday's Feast meme:

Do you get excited when the season begins to change? Which season do you most look forward to?

A little, yes. But not for summer because it's way too hot in Texas in the summer. I guess I look forward to winter the most when the weather cools down a bit and Christmas and New Year's are right around the corner.

What day of the week is usually your busiest?

At UT it was Wednesday in the Spring semester. Here in Houston during the summer I really couldn't say. I suppose I've traditionally had the most to do on Saturdays though if I really had to pick a day.

Would you consider yourself to be strict when it comes to grammar and spelling? What's an example of the worst error you've seen?

When I'm writing something serious, like an essay or an important e-mail, yes. I'm not too harsh on my blog posts and in regular chatting though. The worst error I see is probably run-on sentences. Some people are just afraid of periods and semicolons I guess.

Main Course
Who has a birthday coming up, and what will you give them as a gift?

My cousin Diane has a birthday coming up, but unfortunately I'll be in Austin at the time so I can't get her anything! I'll make up for it at Christmas time.

If you could have any new piece of clothing for free, what would you pick?

A good casual shirt! I'm starting to get rid of my old Large shirts and containing my everyday wear to my Small and Medium sized shirts. I'm not fat anymore so I don't need to dress like I am. I'll probably buy another Longhorn shirt from the Co-op Outlet when I get back into Austin.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Giveaway Gimmicks

After four nights of getting down and dirty in the garden, I think my weed-pulling job is done. That is definitely the most painful and annoying chore and when I buy a house of my own I'm definitely hiring a gardener. I don't even know if I'd want my kids to pull weeds! Enough of that though. The news pipe today is drier than yesterday, but I ran into a rather intriguing article about how companies use iPods as incentives to get people to pay for their service (like a gym or a bank). Until I read that article I didn't realize how easy we are to be led on by the promise of something that you can usually afford yourself if you're paying for said service. One of the reasons my dad opening a new checking account for me at Compass Bank was a free DVD player even though we already have one. There was also free checking and free ATM anywhere and that stuff, but that kind of put it over the edge. I wonder what the next iPod would be? It's amazing the range of people that the iPod appeals to, and it's amazing that other companies are so behind in competing with Apple. Now that is market power.

The other tech news items are pretty short. EA is teaming up with Nesta Futurelab to investigate how video games can be used to help educate kids rather than suck up all their time. I think video games could be a powerful educational vehicle when made to be more fun than just those cheesy kids games on computers right now. Click to enlargeCan you imagine checking out your vital signs right on your wrist? One company has designed such a device for truly at-risk patients and it just sounds pretty cool and it could be very impacting. Google has filed papers with the SEC to sell over 14 million more shares of their stocks to raise money for general corporate expenditures. There have been a lot of pet projects rumored for Google to be interested in so this could be the catalyst for those things. There's a lot of buzz around Intel's new chip line, but all we know for sure is that it will have multiple cores. Maybe that's why Apple switched. Lastly, keep your eyes peeled for RSS 3.0 Lite.

There's not a whole lot of movie news either. IGN scored a great interview with the director and a few cast members from The 40-Year-Old Virgin in anticipation of its release tomorrow. It's pretty light-hearted, but still a fun read. IGN also has some video featurettes from Red Eye if you're still interested in that movie for all your frightful needs. AICN has confirmation that Pierce Brosnan will not be Bond in the next film despite some rumors, but still no word on who will fill those shoes. They also admit that no one knows what the villains will be in Spider-man 3 and probably won't know until the official announcement. Sam Raimi and Avi Arad have done a great job of
keeping everyone tight-lipped.

Now for the 3x Thursday meme:

1. Do you wear glasses and/or contacts? How long?
I wear glasses all the freakin time. It blows. But I think the question means for how many years, and it's been since the second grade so it has been over ten years. I don't think my parents want to fork over the cash for contacts so I'll probably have to fund them myself next summer.

2. Do you have any other eye problems?
Nope. Just that pesky double astigmatism.

3. What do you think about eye (muscle) surgery for people who actually need it (as opposed to vision correction surgery)?
It's nice? What should I think about it? I hope it helps them out.

Bonus Question for Comments: If you have bad eyes and could afford it, would you get the laser corrective surgery? Why/why not?
Probably not just because I'm not sure how reliable it is and plus I think that with vision as bad as mine it would be too big a risk.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

My First Real Car

I promised actual pictures of my new car, and so here they are (courtesy of my cool brother)! All six of them can be enlarged in a new window simply by clicking on them. I said 'real' in the title of the post because my old car was my mom's 1990 Nissan Maxima and now I have upgraded to a 1996 Volvo 850 Turbo. I haven't thought of a name for it though, so let me know if the pictures inspire a certain name.

Side view    Front view

It may have that old school boxy shape, but I still love the way it looks. The dealership waxed it real nice so it's all shiny and it still looks like that since I've kept it in the garage. I may even pay for covered parking at my apartment complex this year. Also, notice the pretty alloy wheels! I blurred the license plate in the front view because I wouldn't feel safe having that so readily available online. I don't know why but I really like the way that grill looks. Notice that there's no dents or busted lights because it has never been in an accident. Oh, and you can see my mom's Santa Fe in the background, which looks extra shiny now that I've washed it.

It's got some junk in the trunk ;)    The dashboard

Again, I blurred the license plate but you can still see its sexy ass! I would've taken a shot of the trunk but there's nothing real special about it except the Alpine CD Changer, which I still have to get the cartridge for (probably from Tweeter). You can see the Maxima in the background and my brother's sweet Acura CL in the garage. In that dashboard shot you can see my graduation tassel, and other than that it's a pretty standard dashboard. I love the dual climate control and the information center below the speedometer the most. Oh, and you can also see the turbo meter. Apparently, at a certain speed and/or acceleration the turbo kicks in, which the meter would show, and give an extra boost of power. I haven't been on a freeway with it yet but I will be trying that out very soon.

The leather interior    A gorgeous engine

I felt that this would be the best angle of the interior to get, but at least you can see the leather interior (which is grey, not black as I had previously misreported). It's pretty clean and a child seat folds out of the back, which is totally useless to me except that behind that there's easy access to the trunk. This also means that should I get shoved in my trunk I can actually get out. The last picture is my favorite part of the car: the engine. I'm pretty sure that it's under 200 HP but at least it's turbo-charged and has 6 cylinders. I just think it looks really pretty and sleek. I didn't take a picture of the sun roof because I didn't think it was anything special, but it'll come in handy for crisp autumn days in Austin (the weather was pretty nice last fall at least). If you actually want to read more about the car you can see my old post about it here.

If you just came for the car pictures you can leave now. Given how long this post is, I'll go easy on the tech news. The Wall Street Journal has a nice concise article on spear phishing test in which IT security people from a company will sent out seemingly authentic phishing scams to test how many people succumb to it and subsequently slap them on the hand for it. It's an interesting technique and definitely necessary given the seriousness of the problem. Microsoft is taking a pretty smart route with Xbox 360 pricing by making a barebones system with just a wired controller $300. For an extra hundred you can get some bells and whistles though (wireless controller, Ethernet cable, HD, remote, and headset), which makes the console cheaper than the PS3 at this point in time. The last things are new innovations. One is a liquid thin lens that could mean huge gains in optical zoom for digital cameras, not to mention it sounds pretty cool. The other thing is a display unit that projects 3D images in the air via lasers, and it's actually for sale already. I'm sure the price is high, but someday it will be very useful.

There's a ton of movie news today so I'll keep each item brief. Sony has decided to bankroll a sequel to Kung Fu Hustle in light of the success of the original, so that's a good news for fans of funny kung fu action flicks. V For Vendetta has been pushed back several months from November to March, supposedly because it's not done yet. I think holding off so long after steam has already built up for it is bad. AICN got a review for the Project Greenlight movie Feast, and apparently it turned out to be a great first horror film for Gulager. There's also a surprisingly early review floating around for Southland Tales, and while it has some spoilers the basic idea of it is that this movie blows Donnie Darko out of the water with execution. I'm still very excited to see that one, especially since it's been so mysterious. A Catholic nun is protesting the Da Vinci Code movie because she calls the book blasphemy, but I don't understand the worth of getting caught up over a fictional novel. Would God really care? Lastly, IGN has a sneak preview of the upcoming Flash site for Corpse Bride, and it's pretty artistic though slow to load.

And now to get down and dirty with the Wednesday Mind Hump:

01. If your brain were scratch and sniff, what smell might we be sniffing when we scratched?
I kind of hope that it would smell like chocolate. Even if it smelled like my laundry it would be pretty cool. With the amount I sweat in Houston though I'd guess it would probably smell like funk though.

02. "There was an old lady who lived in a shoe ..." If you lived in a shoe, what kind of shoe would it be?
I think I'd like to live in large, name-brand shoe. Generic brand shoes get worn out too quickly and so if you're going to live in a shoe you might as well spend a few extra bucks on a nicer one. Probably Nike since they tend to last a long time.

03. What the last thing that made you laugh so hard you spit out whatever you were drinking?
I actually don't know. I know it has happened in high school, I just don't remember what it was. I'm sure it was one of the dumb pranks one of my friends played on another friend.

04. If you were an "As Seen On TV" product what would your function be and what cheesy name would you have?
I'd be studying machine: the Eltontron 3000. If you get a warranty I'll last til the year 3000 for all your nerdy needs.

05. A doctor is giving you a complete physical exam and says, "That's odd". What has the doctor found?
Probably all those tapioca balls I've eaten from Tapioca House boba in Austin. Or, I think I swallowed a piece of gum on accident a few years ago that he might find.

06. What would you wear for camouflage if you were hiding in a gingerbread house?
Probably a suit made of chocolate chip cookies. I guess they don't have to be chocolate chip but the browner I am the better so as long as they're cookies.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

OpenTV >= TiVo

I found out today that I'm not cut out for manual labor. First of all, I had to wash my parents '05 Santa Fe, which means I had to use the special washing/waxing solution to keep it real pretty and shiny. Scrubbing that hurt actually hurt my right tricep. That wasn't the issue though. I had to pull some crazy weeds in our backyard flower bed. I had to actually use a shovel for one of them and dig the think almost a foot into the ground to scoop out the root. Pulling weeds is byfar the worst chore as it is extremely exhausting and gross (lots of bugs and stuff). I'm sure that you've noticed the unnecessarily dorky title and it's phrased that well because it's hard to tell whether the TiVo alternative is actually better than the popular set-top box. You probably haven't even heard of OpenTV, though it's pretty big in Australia and the United Kingdom. What's pretty impressive is that you can choose from different camera angles on certain shows and even different audio channels (which is especially useful for sporting events). So what's the catch? They have some issues with privacy in that they divulge your viewing habits to advertisers so they can intersperse more appropriate commercials for your taste. Though this allots them more clout with cable and satellite providers it may alienate customers. There are more bells and whistles to the service including interactive gaming, but is it worth the trade-off for privacy? You be the judge.

I do actually have some more tech news than that (what a surprise). I didn't mention it when it occurred because I didn't think it was too big a deal but Microsoft actually filed patents for many things used in the iPod. This matters now because the U.S. Patent Office has ruled that Microsoft can request royalties from Apple despite their protestations. I think it's funny that they can have such an advantage over their old rival in their biggest moneymaker because it's obviously a business move since they're not hard up for the cash. Internet businesses are beginning to become concerned about users deleting cookies from their computer to fight spyware because it cripples their ability to best serve advertisers. I wonder if the web development community will create something better than the cookie anytime soon. Did you ever think that a robot could physically feel things? Well some researchers at the University of Tokyo have and created robot skin just for the sense of touch, which is crazy and cool to me. Lastly, I think it's funny that the Bush administration is fighting the .xxx domain name extension despite how easy it is to find porn out there on the web. They need to leave well enough alone.

I thought that the most interesting piece of the today's movie news was IGN's interview with Steve Carrell and Paul Rudd regarding The 40-Year-Old Virgin. It's a pretty fun read and Carrell even reveals that The Office will return September 20. IGN also put up a review of Red Eye, which is notable because they bring up a recurring point that the movie is great except for the ending. I'll probably rent it anyway later on. Apple put up a trailer for Two For The Money pretty similar to one we've seen before and it does sound like it could be pretty good. Empire Online has a trailer for the new Guy Ritchie movie, Revolver, and it actually looks really good and features some cool actors (including Ray Liotta and Andre Benjamin). Another 9/11 film has been announced, but this one is from a relatively unknown director and revolves around Flight 93 (the one that didn't hit any buildings) and I just hope that it doesn't come out corny. The director sounds pretty ardent though, so I doubt it will be. I got the first piece of good X3 news in a while today: the amazing Shohreh Aghdashloo has joined the cast as Dr. Kavita Rao developing cure for being a mutant. I loved her in 24 and she's been in a few great movies as well. Lastly, keep your eye on the campaign for Christopher Walker for President.

Just a couple of things before I conclude. I just noticed that the College of Natural Sciences actually put up our NSC officer picture! You can check out our page over here thought I look pretty dorky in it. Why did I wear my glasses? The other thing was a really funny postcard from PostSecret this week, which is the first racy picture I'm putting on this blog but I don't really care. I could censor the nipple, but what's the big deal? Who doesn't have a nipple? If I'm going to show a breast I might as well show the whole bloody thing.

Click to enlarge the postcard

Not sure what's going on with Ten on Tuesday this week so here's the Tuesday Twosome:


1. Are you more of a morning person or a night person? Explain:

Definitely a night person. Except when I'm in Austin and I get 8 hours of sleep (which was pretty normal last year), I'm pretty groggy in the morning. I prefer staying up late and getting stuff done that way. I usually have more energy late at night than early in the morning, though getting up early makes me feel like I have more time in my day.

2. Name the two longest times you have gone without sleep:
The night before I moved out of my apartment I stayed up to play Metal Gear Solid 3 all night instead of sleeping, though I took a nap in the car ride home several hours later so that was over 24 hours without sleep for sure. I can't remember the last time before that because I always get my sleep, but it may have been the 8th grade.

3. Do you "function" with little sleep or do you require a "full night" of sleep?
I can function with little sleep, but definitely at a subpar level. I enjoy sleep too much to not partake of a full night of it, so I'm a happier person with it.

4. What two things can cause you to lose sleep? Explain:
School work and women basically. The former is pretty self-explanatory, and the latter refers to chicks who like to play games or who are just plain ambiguous.

5. Do you or someone you know suffer from any sleep disorders? Explain:
Not really, but I've walking in my sleep a couple of times and my dad snores regularly. One of my room mates last year claimed that I laughed in my sleep, which is pretty cool I think because it shows how much I like to laugh!

Monday, August 15, 2005

Larger Than P2P

Has anyone who goes to 24 Hour Fitness noticed a change in the music selection? Or is it just the Meyerland Plaza location? They've gone from crappy pop music to 90s dance songs and an assortment of other old favorites. It makes working out so much easier that way. Oh, and to give a long overdue answer to a question posed by Adam in a comment: yes, I will be rolling into Austin with my new car so hopefully the UT peeps can check it out. Moving on though, the title is actually meant to be a corny satire of the Backstreet Boys song "Larger Than Life" and I'm actually referring to a recent statement from the RIAA claiming that recordable media is actually more devastating to the music industry than P2P software. This is certainly true for myself and many people I know because I'm just not in the mood anymore to download music and I'll usually burn CDs of artists that I've heard a lot about but am reluctant to actually buy the album for in case it's a waste of money. It's not necessarily all that hurtful though because my burned copy of No Name Face (Lifehouse) led to my purchases of Stanley Climbfall and Lifehouse. Anyway, I don't agree with the measures they're taking to preclude ripping and copying because it means that Windows PC users (not Mac users) can't put the songs on the iPod, which makes me less inclined to buy an mp3 player and hence buy tracks legally online. They really didn't think of that chain reaction possibility. There will always be a crack though for whatever they try, so I guess it really doesn't matter.

Today's nerd news is a jumble of random stuff. Some Singaporean scientists have invented a battery that when coupled with urine can output about 1.5 volts of electricity. Though it sounds odd it could be used for stuff like blood sugar testing units and such around the home considering how cheap urine is to produce. Google lost a lawsuit regarding AdWords that they pushed a little to hard about violating Geico's trademark. You can read the article for the details of how they were in violation and it seemed pretty clear to me that they were in the wrong. There was talk over the weekend that the BBC took advantage of Wikipedia to promote a game on their site, but they denied the charge though it does look pretty bad against them. Why would someone else do that? Apparently though, it's a more common technique than you may think. I mentioned the other day that Yahoo claimed to index more than Google but a new, objective study concluded that Google actually returns many more results than Yahoo does on average (over a random sample of more than 10,000 searches). Poor, poor Yahoo. The underdog also lost in the browser market share arena where Firefox lost over half a percent of market share despite passing the 80 million download mark. Lastly, web developers will want to check out these resources for working with CSS.

There's very little movie news today that I didn't cover in the extended weekend edition yesterday so this will go pretty quick. IGN has learned of 3 new cast members to X-men 3: Bill Duke has the scientist who created sentinals, Michael Murphy as Angel's father, and Olivia Williams as a former love interest of Professor X. The last addition is most intriguing to me since I loved her in Sixth Sense, and these changes make the movie sound more palpable. Yahoo! Movies got a new clip from Red Eye showing the introduction of a rather suspenseful moment, and I guess I still have a little bit of faith left for this movie despite the lackluster reviews so far. JoBlo is starting a feature on the top 10 animated hotties and I only mention it because Jasmine (from Aladdin) made the list, which is a character I felt weird for finding strangely pretty when I was little. Lastly, IGN has some new pictures from Transporter 2.

Click to enlarge

Now for some Monday Madness:

1. On what day of the week were you born? Saturday (I had to use this though)
2. Do you look forward to birthdays? Yes, because each passing one is just another step closer to 21.
3. How do you usually celebrate your birthday? I've celebrated with family until last year when I didn't really do anything. Hopefully I'll have more fun this year.
4. Do you like surprises? In general, yes.
5. Has anyone ever thrown you a surprise party? Not yet (hint hint).
6. How many family and friends' birthdays can you remember right off the top of your head? Probably only like 3 or 4. I use Birthday Alarm to stay on top of them.
7. Do you send cards to your family and friends on their birthday? Usually just e-Cards, but I do personally deliver cards to local family and friends sometimes as well.
8. What kind of cake do you like? I think my favorite may actually be German Chocolate, but I can be swayed. I'm a big fan of chocolate in cake, but I'm pretty flexible since I have a big sweet tooth.
9. What kind of ice cream goes best with it? Vanilla is the standard.
10. When is your birthday? October 18, 1986.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Schlitterbahn is Sweet

Click to enlargeI'm back at last to the pleasure of some and the disdain of others I'm sure. I had so much fun this weekend that it didn't even bother me to skip a day of blogging. I drove both ways to San Antonio (where we stayed with an Aunt's family) in my mom's Santa Fe by the way and it was an interesting experience to drive for so long continuously in a car with no pick-up. Flooring that vehicle makes no difference. Oh, I also got a new phone finally so I can actually see who's calling me. Moving on though, we only got about 5 or 6 hours of sleep Friday because we had to drive to New Braunfels in the morning and in all there were 10 of us. I'd actually forgotten how fun Schlitterbahn is and it even costs less than Astroworld! We started out with some tube rides as a tradition (Whitewater, Cliffhanger, Hillside), and then jumped in the jacuzzi area before lunch because the water was extremely cold. It has been colder in the past, but it didn't help that the sun was hiding out behind some clouds. I think we had more fun at the other park though (it's divided into three parks, the other one I'm referring to is really two of them side-by-side) with Wolfpack, the wave pool, Black Knight, and Dragon Blaster. I think we had the most fun riding the waves in the wave pool, but we learned a lot of great ways to pass time while waiting in line. You can play hot plates (hold each others hands like ovens and one person tries to slap each other), "rock, papers, scissors" with slaps, slapping each other's bare skin to start sneaky battles in which you end up pretty red, and elementary school style hand games. This parargaph was pretty useless but I felt that I should explain my "summer vacation". I took some pictures of my totally awesome car today, but my brother has to send them to me so it may be a while before they're up here.

I'm going to start out the nerd news with what I thought was the biggest thing: strong speculation that Apple may team up with Google to somehow offer iTunes in an even bigger way. With the risks Apple has been taking recently I honestly wouldn't be surprised if it was true and it would be a nice experiment. There's an even more solid rumor of Google buying a company that is predicated upon an instant messenger, which would be a logical move for them. What is confirmed though is that Google has put its Google Print project on hold for now in order to give publishers time to decide if they want to participate. It could either reduce or increase (by featuring it as a Google search result) sales of their books, but I'm inclined to think more of the latter. TiVo is testing out a service to offer IFC shows for download to the set-top boxes, and it's good to see a change in the works. I think if shows like 24 were available for download when missed they'd attract a larger audience. If you have videos of your own that you want to show then you should look into YouTube. Lastly, there's a pretty interesting, but long, article over here about the future of advertising and I can't help but think of Minority Report.

The winner of the box office battle this weekend was Four Brothers at a weak $20.7 million followed by another opener, The Skeleton Key, at just a few million behind. This is, yet again, another very weak weekend for movies but hopefully The 40-Year-Old Virgin will bring the box office back to life. There's a good amount of multimedia yet again. The best is this clip from Extra showing footage from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, which hopefully means that a trailer is on the way. It looks like they're farther along than most people think. Blue Tights Adventure put up another great entry in the movie's video journal featuring the achievements of the art department and it's amazing how much nitty-gritty stuff they get done. Yahoo! Movies put up a trailer for Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang, and I don't think much of it but I thought I'd furnish the link for you to make your own opinion of it. IGN put up a bleep-ridden clip from The Aristocrats that made me realize how many great comedians are a part of this movie. There's a weak rumor that Haley Joel Osment will play a young Indiana Jones in a supposed series of movies following the fourth adventure, but it sounds pretty doubtful as I don't think Osment fits the right image. Lastly, Matt Damon told IGN that the Project Greenlight movie Feast will likely be released in December while the show will likely be cancelled unless they win the Emmy they're nominated for. I think the show is great but I've admittedly not been keeping up with it.

I want to really quickly mention two more things. A study in the UK found that parents generally disregard mature ratings on video games, and I think that's pretty accurate. It seems like they just don't care anymore. The other thing is actually quite more significant: the return of the 30-year bond after a four year break. We stopped making them because we didn't need the money, but I suspect that the war debt pushed the Treasury to print them and I'm interested to see what will happen with them.

Now for some Unconscious Mutterings:

I say ... and you think ... ?

  1. Idiot::Dumbass
  2. Rocket::Power
  3. Liability::Car insurance
  4. Harmless::Benign
  5. Stringy::Cheese
  6. Theater::Thespian
  7. Gwyneth::Paltrow (duh)
  8. Use it or lose it::Sayings
  9. Sonic::the Hedgehog
  10. Pucker::Pluckers Wing Factory