Archive for July 2007
I saw this video today and had to write about it. It’s a perfect example of what’s wrong with the mainstream media in today’s society. Before I go into my rant, I’ll post the video here so you can watch it as well.
Now I’ve never done this drug or any other hallucinogenics so I can’t really claim to have personal knowledge about them, but this story is completely over-dramatized. Here’s a few reasons to question this story:
- The medical examiner found no traces of salvinorin in his system.
- He was on an acne medication that has been linked to depression.
- His parents were divorced, which has been shown to lead to higher depression rates.
- He was an alcohol user, a demographic that has nearly twice the suicide rate of non-alcohol users.
I’m not saying this wasn’t a tragic event or that his mother was at fault. This post is mostly a criticism of the hysteria that mainstream media produces by distorting and/or omitting the facts. They wanted to produce a sensationalist piece that got under people’s skin, so they only showed the things that would “shock and awe.” The irony of it is that the local Delaware news presented all the facts and what happened, while the mainstream media outlets (CNN, ABC, NBC and USA Today) took the story and reported it as a “salvia suicide”, even though there are no documented cases of fatalities from salvia use.
In reality, the mother believes that it was a wide variety of things that caused her son’s death, which is probably the truth. CNN also took this quote from his journal:
“Salvia allows us to give up our senses and wander in the interdimensional time and space…. Also, and this is probably hard for most to accept, our existence in general is pointless. Final point: Us earthly humans are nothing.”
Deducing that salvia killed him from that quote is purely a red herring. Anyone with any sort of intelligence has probably thought the same thought at one point in their life, even without drugs. You’d probably come to the same conclusion from reading a Stephen Hawking book, but no one ever blames that for killing people.
The folks over at Connected Ventures made a music video to Harvey Danger’s Flagpole Sitta in their office after work one day, and it really makes me wish I had an office to shoot a music video in! Check it out:
Quickly after there was a response by another office in Paris that made a video to Weezer’s Undone (The Sweater Song). Here’s theirs:
Is this the new Star Wars Kid? I think so. And it makes for one hell of a recruiting video for your company as it makes it looks like an awesome place to work.
I just got back from a week in Michigan for a wedding, so that’s why I haven’t been able to post in awhile. That said, I learned a lot from that trip as I hadn’t been to the midwest before. I’ll summarize it all in a list:
- The travel industry needs some major reform. It’s such a ridiculously complex system for something that really isn’t that complex. Fare codes, price changes, etc. I nominate Apple to create iLine, the new lickable, streamlined airline that doesn’t cause major headaches and makes you actually want to travel.
- Michigan is actually pretty cool. I met some great people there, saw some beautiful scenery and ate some great tasting, horribly unhealthy food. Which brings me to point #3.
- America has a huge health problem. As much as I’d love to have national healthcare here, I really think that the culture has to change first for it to be economically viable. The “all-you-can-eat” mentality needs to be destroyed and our sense of value needs to be represented by quality instead of quantity. However, a mindset change is much harder to do than just throwing money at a problem. I’m not really sure how to approach this as western culture has a “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” mentality, but our personal health and healthcare systems are both broken but no one realizes it.
- People in rural areas get married much younger than in metropolitan ones. I knew this before, but I didn’t see a single girl in her 20’s in Traverse City that didn’t have a wedding ring. I started thinking about it and I think there’s two things that contribute to this. The first is basic economics. Since there’s only a few girls in the city, the demand for them is much higher because of the fundamental lack of supply. In big cities, there’s a virtually unlimited supply of new people to meet, so the pressure isn’t really there. The second thing is that the local culture that enforces what the economics dictate. People get married just because other people are. I know I personally never even think about marriage until I realize that a bunch of my friends are getting married. I think, “uh oh, I better get on this before I’m Weird Uncle Curtis to all their kids!”
- Almost everyone in Michigan drives an American car, which is inversely proportional to California. Similarly, a lot of people in California have Apple computers, but that’s not really the case in the midwest as they see them as “those hippie computers.” I just find it interesting how products have such strong geographical influences.
That’s pretty much all I learned. I had a great time at Emily’s graduation party and at Shayna’s wedding. I’ll upload the pictures to my Flickr account soon. I’ll be back to posting more regularly now as I have several topics ready to talk about.
I’ve been saying for awhile now that television as we know it today is on its way out. With major networks putting their shows online for free and on iTunes for $1.99, the Internet is the future of video distribution. The TV itself might not go away as we still need a screen to watch everything on, but I think traditional broadcasting and the big media moguls’ days are numbered.
There’s a few reasons why this will inevitably happen. One reason is because of the insanely hectic schedules that people have now. No one has the time to religiously watch shows during the standard time slots anymore. TiVo and On-Demand were baby steps towards what is the grand Internet video paradigm of “anything I want to watch, whenever I feel like it, without having to remember to record it.”
Another reason for the shift is because the Internet knows no bounds. Currently, there is 3 hours of primetime per night and only 5 major networks. There’s a time limitation on the amount of premium content that can be shown, which makes it very hard to get into those few spots as an artist, but also makes it so networks can charge huge amounts of money to advertise during those shows. As Terry Heaton said in a paper of his, “Why pay a $500 CPM for a television ad that estimates the thousand people when an online ad will honestly deliver those thousand people? It makes no sense.” A $500 CPM rate is unheard of in the online world (a $20 CPM rate is pretty good online), yet television shows garner huge dollars for untargeted audiences. That money is headed directly for the Internet once the business world realizes the power of online advertising, and it will be spread among a much wider range of content providers while being targeted specifically to the viewer of the show.
Another major benefit of the Internet is exposure. In the old model, even if you’re an amazing actor, director or cinematographer you still have to jump through hoops and might never be able to make something that people see. With the ability to create and post all the video you want online, it’s up to you to make sure people can see your creations instead of some suit with no creative talent at all. However, that begs the question of how does an aspiring artist market their work without millions of dollars behind it?
That is the real question, and it is currently being answered in a variety of ways. Creative marketing techniques are coming out of the woodwork by the creative people behind the works themselves. My favorite example of the new school of Internet marketing is a feature film put together by Arin Crumley and Susan Buice called Four Eyed Monsters. They made the film by putting $100,000 on their credit cards and posted the entire film on YouTube for anyone to view. However, they made a deal with Spout.com to receive $1 for every new user they created for Spout. So far they’ve made $35,443 from that revenue source. They also made it possible to download DRM-free, high quality versions of the film for $8, and you can also purchase extra materials as well. I threw down $8 for it because the first 20 minutes of it I watched on YouTube looked great, and I’m sure several others have out of the 724,198 people that have watched the YouTube version. Even if only 2% of those people purchased it, they’d make a profit just from that.
The technology is also driving the democratization of video. Miro, formerly known as Democracy Player, came out in its first public preview today and it looks amazing. It already has over 1,400 channels of video and all of it is free and created by independent filmmakers or organizations that support free video. It utilizes BitTorrent for downloads so there isn’t server congestion for popular videos. It even searches all the major video sharing services like YouTube and can save them to your computer. All I have to say is…
This is the beginning of the revolution.
I talked with Ankur Kothari, creator of the Gregarious plugin for WordPress, and he’s given me permission to port the plugin to Drupal. I’m pretty excited about this because I think this plugin is amazing and will be an excellent addition to the Drupal community. I’ll post it here as well as on drupal.org once it’s ready for testing.
Is capitalism really a sustainable economic system in an age of environmentally friendly practices and declining growth rates of populations? This question came up in my mind after reading about San Francisco’s ban of both plastic grocery bags and plastic water bottles. The move by the city makes for less waste and forces people to reuse materials as opposed to just throwing away single use containers. However, the companies that produce these plastic bottles and bags are crying foul about the whole thing because it will cut into their profit margins. Hence my question about the viability of our current system, because capitalism promotes consuming more and more, while environmental practices promote consuming less and less.
The other factor against capitalism is declining growth in population. There have been many people closely studying the growth of the world population and the most common consensus is that we’re seeing a phenomenon very similar to the shape of an arc tangent.
Now while population is still growing, the concern comes when it starts growing at much slower rates. Wall Street doesn’t reward growth, it rewards growth beyond what is expected. So according to the above graph, we’re rapidly approaching the cusp of the exponential growth we’ve been experiencing for the last 100-200 years, which coincidentally is about how long capitalism has been around.
So what’s next? What economic system can support a slowly declining populous that reduces, reuses and recycles? And once we determine a system that can support that, when will the revolution come and how violently will it be opposed by those with money?
Original post here.
It seems that there’s a lot of active discussion going on about this right now. There’s a new blog by Clay Barnes that seems to be focused solely on this issue, and he’s posted two articles about the mouse’s decline. He also references a couple of great posts by Jeff Atwood (I’m a huge fan of his blog). The first one talks about going commando and weaning yourself off the mouse. I think that’s a great idea and increases productivity by leaps and bounds. As I said in my previous post, I only use the mouse when I absolutely have to. His second post about how Vista makes it easier to find things via the keyboard is good, but I wouldn’t be a true Mac zealot without saying that Microsoft ripped it off from OS X’s Spotlight feature, which was then copied and made better by Quicksilver.
I really like this new trend of research in the keyboard navigation arena. Perhaps the resurgence is due to the old school DOS/UNIX junkies getting nostalgic for the days when all you had was a keyboard. I remember using the a DOS word processor called Textra back in the late 80’s, and it was controlled entirely using the Function keys. F1-F10-F7 saved a document. Each time you pressed a function key it changed the menu options along the bottom of the screen. Pico/nano in UNIX are similar, only they change the menu options along the bottom when using Control-key combinations.
I remember in college I was a total emacs guy, and got very adept at using all the various tools using Control-key combinations. I’m now lazy and use TextMate, but at least it integrates well into the shell and has bundles. I’m really hoping to get deep into vi, but I just haven’t had the time to learn more than the basic shortcuts. Any great tutorials that people can link me to?
There’s an ongoing debate about this article over on Slashdot right now. While I completely disagree with the author of the book that math shouldn’t be part of computer science, I do believe that a lot needs to be changed in traditional computer science education.
First off we need to look at the traditional definition of computer. Back in the day, the word computer referred to anything that performed computations, even a human. If I sat in a room and punched numbers into a calculator to perform computations, I was a computer. We then created mechanical computers that could perform those same calculations even faster than we could, and subsequently we created the electric computers that we all use today. But the basic word “computer” comes from something (or someone) that performs sequences of computations, and those sequences of computations are called algorithms. This is why when you major in computer science at a university, a good majority of the time is spent on analyzing algorithms and the math behind them.
So from a historical standpoint, I can understand why a degree in computer science is very math intensive. A pure computer scientist is only concerned with algorithms and how to compute them. However, computers have come a long way in the past several years and one could argue that even though there are underlying algorithms that power the programs we use, the majority of people do not use computers for computations anymore, but rather for communication. The computational aspect of computers has been abstracted for the most part.
For example, the average computer user only uses the computer to browse the Internet, instant message/e-mail friends, manipulate digital photos and listen to music. According to an NPR survey, 92% of Americans under 60 have used a computer, 75% have used the Internet, 67% have sent an e-mail and 68% use a computer at work. So while 20+ years ago the users of computers were mostly computer scientists performing calculations, today we’re in the minority of computer users. In my mind, this means that the field of computer science needs to be broadened beyond pure algorithmic study.
Due to the acceptance of computers and the Internet by the mainstream population, we now have a great deal of non-computational issues that should be discussed that deal with the communication, business, and legal aspects of computing. Things such as privacy, security, intellectual property and media distribution are things that are studied in grad school, but yet seem to have no means for discussion in the current undergraduate system. Should there not be discussion on what a computer scientist creates before they create it, and whether it should be created at all? A similar ethics question is typically posed to traditional scientists as well in regards to things such as the atomic bomb and cloning. Just because we can create it doesn’t necessarily mean we should, right?
I think that computers are becoming more than tools and are starting to actually shape society. People are using them for communication, personal connections, business and many other things. Even some people are proposing new job types such as Director of Metadata. Perhaps these things should fall under other fields of study such as communications, sociology and philosophy, but I find that those departments haven’t adopted studying these new technologies very quickly. What can we do to educate people about the new fields of study in relation to computer science?
I just happened to stumble upon Alex Faaborg‘s latest blog entry, The Graphical Keyboard User Interface. I think he makes a lot of great points about the tradeoffs between using a command-line vs. using a GUI. However, I don’t think that command-line vs. GUI is necessarily the real debate as much as it is keyboard vs. mouse.
I think that GUIs are great, as they have made it possible for the masses to enjoy and utilize these great tools called computers that were once only used by those adventurous enough to learn all the various text commands. I grew up using DOS for many years so I guess I was one of those nerds, but nowadays my eyes appreciate a well-designed GUI since I spend a good majority of my day staring at it and manipulating it as I work. So in my mind it isn’t the GUI that slows me down as much as it is the mouse. I use the keyboard almost exclusively for navigating between windows, launching applications and using shortcuts. I really only use the mouse when I’m feeling lazy or it’s a faster means to accomplish something.
Needless to say, I’m really excited to see Alex’s idea take place for navigating with the keyboard through Firefox. However, what I’d really like to see is a more unified framework built directly into the OS for accomplishing this very idea. For example, someone could use the new Core Animation framework in OS X to build a framework that provides an interface similar to Quicksilver that application developers could directly tie into for application navigation. It would significantly reduce the burden on application developers while giving a consistent UI feel across the various applications that utilize it.
*Note: Side effects may include making you crazy when trying to use your friend’s computer and they don’t have it installed.