Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Why kids <3 MySpace

An essay by social scientist Danah Boyd attempts to explain why MySpace has become so popular, and it's enlightened:

[T]here are three important classes of space: public, private and controlled. For adults, the home is the private sphere where they relax amidst family and close friends. The public sphere is the world amongst strangers and people of all statuses where one must put forward one's best face. For most adults, work is a controlled space where bosses dictate the norms and acceptable behavior.

Teenager's space segmentation is slightly different. Most of their space is controlled space. Adults with authority control the home, the school, and most activity spaces. Teens are told where to be, what to do and how to do it. Because teens feel a lack of control at home, many don't see it as their private space.

To them, private space is youth space and it is primarily found in the interstices of controlled space. These are the places where youth gather to hang out amongst friends and make public or controlled spaces their own. Bedrooms with closed doors, for example.

Adult public spaces are typically controlled spaces for teens. Their public space is where peers gather en masse; this is where presentation of self really matters. It may be viewable to adults, but it is really peers that matter.

Teens have increasingly less access to public space. Classic 1950s hang out locations like the roller rink and burger joint are disappearing while malls and 7/11s are banning teens unaccompanied by parents. Hanging out around the neighborhood or in the woods has been deemed unsafe for fear of predators, drug dealers and abductors. Teens who go home after school while their parents are still working are expected to stay home and teens are mostly allowed to only gather at friends' homes when their parents are present.

I've regurgitated the same quote that BoingBoing used, but it's the crux of his paper. Please forgive me.

Link (via BoingBoing)

John's Background Switcher

John Conners wrote a nifty little app designed to change Windows desktop wallpaper periodically, according to a schedule you set up.

It's kind of surprising that this isn't built into Windows already. Until then, this'll do nicely.

Link (via Thomas Hawk)

Monday, February 27, 2006

Two recommended albums

I'm addicted to discovering new bands and love talking new music with friends. I hear a lot of good stuff (and some not so good stuff, of course). I'm going to start posting some personal recommendations when I find a disc that I can't stop listening to. Here are two of those discs from the past few weeks:

Atmosphere : You Can't Imagine How Much Fun We're Having

I've been into Atmosphere since I first heard "Seven's Travels" on vinyl a couple of years ago. Slug's (aka Sean Daley) deeply personal, self-deprecating, sometimes bitter, sometimes transcendental lyrics reflect his struggles with love, loss, and raising his kid. "You Can't Imagine..." is his latest, and deals his rising popularity, drug addiction (both prescription and illicit), more love and loss, and tragedy at one of his shows in Albuquerque.

Blackalicious : Blazing Arrow

I've known about Blackalicious for a few years now, and I regret not listening to this album earlier. These guys are progressive, smart, eclectic and on the "positive tip." It's the kind of Roots meets Lyrics Born hip-hop sound you can't help but nod your head to. Their latest album ("The Craft") is also good, but this is the album that I can't put down. J5, Dilated Peoples, Ben Harper, and even Zack de la Rocha make appearances, but the album doesn't suffer from "guest fatigue" like so many hip-hop albums do.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Rejected Family Learning Channel cartoons

I've never heard of the Family Learning Channel, and I don't think that they would commission Don Hertzfeldt to do some commercials for them, but who cares. This is some funny shit.

Prepare to be amused and disturbed at the same time.

Update: Apparently, this has been around for a long time, and has been immensely popular. So much so that it was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film. It was made by an outfit called Bitter Films. You can pick up a DVD of the short on their website.

Update 2: The Google Video link doesn't work anymore...try this one.

Link (thanks, Nate!)

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Space Invaders on your wall

For $45, you can adorn your wall (or other surface) with a scene from Space Invaders. I haven't decided whether it's geeky or cool, but I want one.

Link (via BoingBoing)

Super Mario Brothers Speed Race

Two high school kids race each other to finish the original Super Mario Brothers on the NES at a talent show. The whole thing takes about six minutes or so.

Video games at a talent show. I don't know why, but I think that's pretty cool.


Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The poetry of D.H. Rumsfeld

Rumsfeld's a poet! I'll be damned.

Link (thanks, Mike!)

History of the "Amen Break," possibly the world's most important drum loop

Nate Harrison explains the history of one of the most important drum loops in pop-culture today, the "Amen Break." It's a b-side of a Grammy award winning single from 1969, and Nate submits that it was one of the first drum samples to be experimented with, heavily influencing the development of hip-hop, jungle, drum & bass, and pop culture in general:
I'd like to talk about drums, or rather about a particular drum beat. I'm sure you've heard it dozens of times before. It's a ubiquotous piece of the pop-culture soundscape. It's been used as a rhythmic backdrop in everything from late 80's gangsta rap to corporate America's recycling of hip-hop forms to sell things like jeeps and blue jeans to suburban America. In fact, just last week, i saw a TV commercial for a pharmacutical company where this drum beat was used to promote some sort of purple pill.

It's been used so much I might argue that it's now entered into the collective audio unconscious, and did so about three or four years ago. It's been somewhat glossed over now, but it has quite a history to it. This particular drum beat, or rather this break-beat, as it is more accurately called, or even more simply just "break." Well this particular break is called the "Amen." The "Amen Break."
Link (via BoingBoing)

Save money at the pump: Read your owner's manual

Gas prices are set to spike again amidst more violence against Shell Oil in Nigeria. This is not surprising, considering Royal Dutch Shell's long history in Nigeria (NOTE: This statement is not meant to condone the violence. What happened in Nigeria is a tragedy, and should be categorically condemned. I sincerely hope that the nine kidnapped oil workers are returned safely. But history is history, and I encourage you to do some reading before reacting.) "That, and an earlier attack, has forced Shell to halt the flow of about 455,000 barrels a day — about one-fifth of daily output" according to the Associated Press.

With prices so high, why waste your hard-earned money at the pump on something that doesn't do your car any good? If you buy gas containing a higher octane rating that your owner's manual recommends, you are doing just that. You may as well light a match to your hard won duckets.

Octane rating corresponds to the fuel's ability to ignite (from Wikipedia):
Higher octane ratings correlate to higher activation energies. Activation energy is the amount of energy necessary to start a chemical reaction. Since higher octane fuels have higher activation energies, it is less likely that a given compression will cause knocking.


It might seem odd that fuels with higher octane ratings burn less easily, yet are popularly thought of as more powerful. The misunderstanding is caused by confusing the ability of the fuel to resist spontaneous ignition (pre-ignition = engine knock) as opposed to the ability of the fuel to burn (combustion). However, premium grades of petrol often contain more energy per litre due to the composition of the fuel as well as increased octane.
So that means that higher octane gas should give my car more pep, right? Wrong. Unless you're driving around with the pedal to the metal all of the time, you aren't reaping the benefits:

Using high octane fuel for an engine makes a difference when the engine is producing its maximum power. This will occur when the intake manifold has no air restriction and is running at minimum vacuum. These conditions are present only when the accelerator is totally depressed. When this occurs, if a fuel with below recommended octane is used, then the engine will knock.

Even if you are a leadfoot, the benefits are modest at best if your car isn't designed for the higher octane gas. According to this study, a switch from 93 octane to 91 caused an unexceptional 4% difference in output when the engine is run under maximum load. The Federal Trade Commision puts it this way: "In fact, in most cases, using a higher octane gasoline than your owner's manual recommends offers absolutely no benefit."

If you are to believe the advertisements, these "premium" gasolines also have more cleansing agents, which should have more benefit than lower grades of gas. That couldn't hurt, right? True, but "government regulations require detergents in all grades of gasoline" (The Straight Dope). Premium gas may have more, but 10 to 20 cents more per gallon for it? It's up to you.

Keep in mind that the converse is also true. Don't use gas with a lower octane than your owner's manual recommends. Most modern cars have "knock sensors that detect detonation and automatically retard the spark to compensate [...] eliminating knock but also giving you less power and poorer mileage." (again, from Cecil Adams at The Straight Dope).

Save your money, and read your owner's manual! You're already getting slammed at the pump.

Of course, it's never been a better time to invest in a hybrid.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Old Lady Pwnz Mercedes Guy

More Google Video for your Friday. An old lady turns the tables on a road raging guy in a Mercedes.


World Air Guitar Championships

I saw this a little while ago. It's too f'ed up not to share.

It's $0.99 cents to buy, but you only need the preview to get the idea.


Thursday, February 16, 2006


Chris Pirillo has been on a tear lately. He laments memes in the blogosphere and the rise of the echo chamber.* He also seems a bit fed up with the rampant "metooism" so common on the blogs:
But being "first" is no longer important, as evidenced by all these damned memetrackers that I'm getting sick of hearing about. I don't visit Memeorandum on pure principle - I'm f*cking sick of the echo chamber. We all want to be on top, we all want to win - and sometimes in our quest to find the one ring to rule them all, we forget about giving credit where credit might be due (even if that comes in the form of a simple hyperlink or name-drop).


There's definitely a need for weighing in on a topic, but don't do it for the sake of weighing in.
Why not? What's wrong with the echo chamber? Going further, what's wrong with the me too's? The me too's out there give the author that his or her idea has traction, that it makes sense. Me too's are an important yin to the contrary yang. Sure, a positive (or negative) reinforcement loop can spin out of control, but I think that the echo chamber is large enough that this isn't a chronic problem.

Unless by metooism, he's referring to a blogger's propensity to regurgitate opinions as fact. That, in my opinion, is the biggest problem facing conversations in the blogosphere. Hearsay in printed form is still hearsay. A little fact checking (read: RTFA) might show that the "next big thing" is little more than someone's opinion (or worse, some company's ad copy).
It's the want and need that all of us have to make ourselves look more important than we might actually be. We're trying to show others that we can get the scoop - that we were the first to do something.
I think that Chris is onto something here. The need to compete to get the scoop leads to extreme forms of link baiting, sensationalism, and maybe a little lack of attribution. On that last bit, I think that "giving credit where credit might be due" is important. More important, however, is providing context by citing one's sources. So much of what we find on the 'net is suspect, so some fuller disclosure gives the article credibility. It's also good karma.

I'm not surprised that the blogosphere is pulling the same tricks as mainstream media. Access has given more people a voice. The problem is that we're all trying to shout at once.

* - That's a pretentious sentence, I know, but necessary for my argument. Make sure to check out the definition for blogosphere. Besides, this site is called Neologies, so cut me some slack.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

LED graffiti

Some people over at the Graffiti Research Lab have come up with an ingeneous form of temporary tagging using LED lights affixed to magnets. They're calling them "LED Throwies." It's a pretty simple idea, and very cool to see in action.
LED Throwies are an inexpensive way to add color to any ferromagnetic surface in your neighborhood. A Throwie consists of a lithium battery, a 10mm diffused LED and a rare-earth magnet taped together. Throw it up high and in quantity to impress your friends and city officials.
Link (via Digg)

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Get a live person on your next call to <INSERT COMPANY HERE>

I'm a tech oriented guy, but there's something incredibly annoying about navigating XYZ Company's cryptic, buggy, self-referencing IVR (interactive voice response) system. GetHuman.com has a slew of tips and tricks for finding a person on the other end of your next call.

Image courtesy of Despair.com.

Link (thanks, Scott!)

Freak accident leaves knife in Boy Scout's brain

A bizarre accident left a Boy Scout with a pocket knife lodged between his frontal lobes, apparently just two millimeters from doing some major damage.
It was a freak accident in every way. Few people can admit they've seen anything like it, a 1 ½ inch blade through someone's skull.

“That's the best spot you know, if you're going to have a knife in your head,” said Kevin.
I bet he lost his Toten Chip.

Link (thanks Nate!)

Monday, February 13, 2006

Don't Panic Underwater

I had a conversation with a friend over dinner last night regarding the dangers of scuba diving. I'm a PADI Advanced Open Water diver (or whatever they call it now) and have been diving on and off for about 15 years. I submitted that most injuries and fatalities occur as a result of diver panic. Having been in a couple panic situations myself, I have realized how important it is to keep calm during a diving emergency. If you get over anxious, even a minor situation like a flooded mask can have dire consequences. Just today, Divester posted a story regarding a diver who died just a couple of feet below the surface when he apparently panicked while cleaning the underside of his boat.

The Divers' Alert Network (DAN) compiles statistics on diver injuries and deaths, and apparently does a good job doing so. I'm not a member, so I can't quote anything specific from the report here, but scuba is a relatively safe sport if you know what you're doing.

On that note, here are a couple more useful links from Divester addressing how to minimize anxiety and maximize safety underwater. Some of them are pretty obvious, but they're good things to keep in mind nonetheless:

Don't Panic Underwater
Don't Panic Underwater, Part II


HDR Photoset

Check out this amazing set of photos on Flickr. They were processed using a high-dynamic range (HDR) lighting plug-in for Photoshop, and the results are remarkable.

Link (via BoingBoing)

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Friday, February 10, 2006

Shady advertising

Yesterday, Nvidia made the news (well, the blogs at least) due to some allegedly shady advertising practices. Apparently, their PR firm (or one of them) AEG may have been hiring actors for the purposes of talking up Nvidia products on web forums as part of the "strategic viral seeding [of] viral assets."

This caused an uproar, as is to be expected. It didn't take long Nvidia to respond by doing some damage control on Joystiq and The Consumerist, indicating that the program is not as disreputable as once thought. AEG's Stephanie Schopp posts:
The program, I assure you, is far less nefarious than your rather damaging article/blog above claims it to be. These members were not "paid in hardware" as your article states, but sent hardware to give us (NVIDIA through AEG) feedback, positive or negative, regarding their experience with it. They were never told what to say, nor did they sign any document forbidding them to discuss their relationship with NVIDIA or AEG. They are not actors: they were real, informed, hardware enthusiasts that could help us further understand what it was the community wanted from hardware vendors.
I suspect that the truth lies somewhere in between, which is unfortunate for Nvidia. Joystiq goes on to make some good points about how a little more transparency could go a long way:
While Nvidia's program may fall short of the worst abuse possible using this sort of focus group program, it would benefit from increased transparency, if only to remove the appearance of impropriety. It's full disclosure: if you're handing out free hardware to test, those who receive it should be compelled to acknowledge their benefactors.
Well said.

Did Nvidia Hire Online Actors to Promote Their Products? (The Consumerist)
Did Nvidia hire an army of message-board sock-puppets? (BoingBoing)
Nvidia's "Manchurian Fans" shill for gear (Joystiq)

Friday, February 03, 2006

Take a glowing down line on your next dive

Divester has found a novel tool/toy for your night and deep dives: Glow Rope. Check it out:
Splice-able braided Nylon sleeve over a braided Nylon core. This rope meets all Requirements of the U.S. Military specification MIL-R-24050-D. Due to its high strength and elongation, Nylon is the ideal choice where shock absorbency is required.

Very cool R/C jet

YouTube has a video showing the "coolest toy EVER," a radio controlled scale model of the F-14 Tomcat:
Built out of kevlar and carbon fiber, this miniature figher jet can reach speeds upwards of 280 M.P.H. The models use small jet turbines, functionally identical to those used in actual full-sized jets to achieve remarkable speeds and flying precision.
I got to see one of these at an R/C airfield when I was (much) younger. They had a real hard time getting it off the ground. After finally getting it in the air, it didn't take long for the pilot to auger in. Chuck Yeager he was not.

Link (via Digg)

Search engines: What do they know about you?

CNET Online News has an interesting survey of the big dogs in online search, asking Microsoft, Yahoo!, Google and AOL the same seven questions. The responses are interesting, varying from full disclosure to non-answers. Here's an example:
Do you ever anticipate offering search engine users a way to delete [search] data?

Weinstein [AOL]: We already do. :)

Langdon [Google]: We have no plans to announce such a product. However, users can use Google without a cookie.

Sohn [Microsoft]: Some customers have expressed interest in MSN providing users more options regarding the types of data that MSN stores from their search sessions and the length of time that we store it. We are currently looking at ways that we might do that, but we do not yet have any firm plans.

Mary Osako [Yahoo!]: We are always considering new ways to improve the user experience while preserving the high level of trust people have in us.
Link (via Digg)

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Death by risk-aversion

Kathy Sierra describes how risk aversion is the leading killer of great ideas. This is a great read that can be applied pretty broadly to just about anywhere you might work, especially if where you work has a manager or two. A snippet:
Risk-aversion is the single biggest innovation killer, and of course it's not just Microsoft that's been infected. Taking risks is... risky. But if not taking risks is even riskier, then WTF?


So add one more skill to our carreer advice for young people: be willing to take risks! Perhaps more importantly, be willing to tolerate (and perhaps even encourage) risk-taking in those who are managed by you.


But can anything be done about all the spirit-squashing risk-aversion? Recognition is the first step.
Link (via Addicted to Digital Life)

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Amnesty International confronts Yahoo!

Amnesty International is calling for action on behalf of Shi Tao, a Chinese journalist recently imprisoned for ten-years for "illegally providing state secrets to foreign entities." His discovery and subsequent apprehension is credited to the disclosure of his email account details by Yahoo! to the Chinese government. He is considered a Prisoner of Conscience by Amnesty International. AI goes on to state:
Companies must respect human rights, wherever they operate. Yahoo’s business ethics are becoming questionable due to its role in assisting the Chinese government to sentencing Shi Tao. The company has signed the Public Pledge on Self-Discipline for the Internet Industry, effectively agreeing to implement China’s draconian system of censorship and control.
Here are some additional stories to bring you up to speed on Shi Tao's story:

Shi Tao's entry on Wikipedia
Yahoo 'helped jail China writer' (BBC)
Yahoo, Chinese police, and a jailed journalist (Christian Science Monitor)

Related: Microsoft sets policy for dealing with government restrictions on blog content (ArsTechnica)

Link (via BoingBoing)

Andy Roddick vs. Pong

Andy Roddick meets his match in Pong in this AmEx commercial.

Link (via Joystiq)