The Blog of Curtis Chambers

Archive for July 2007

Mainstream media’s lack of journalistic integrity

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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:

  1. The medical examiner found no traces of salvinorin in his system.
  2. He was on an acne medication that has been linked to depression.
  3. His parents were divorced, which has been shown to lead to higher depression rates.
  4. 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.

In the end, it seems that the news is becoming more and more of an entertainment source than a source of information. The well-informed are turning to other sources to get their information.

Written by Curtis Chambers

July 30, 2007 at 8:23 pm

Posted in Culture, Media, Thoughts, Video

Office LipDub

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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.

Written by Curtis Chambers

July 26, 2007 at 1:03 pm

Posted in Video

Back to civilization

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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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  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.
  4. 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!”
  5. 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.

Written by Curtis Chambers

July 24, 2007 at 5:37 pm

The Future of TV and Movies

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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 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.

Written by Curtis Chambers

July 18, 2007 at 12:34 am

Gregarious plugin for Drupal

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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 once it’s ready for testing.

Thanks Ankur!

Written by Curtis Chambers

July 15, 2007 at 1:09 pm

Posted in Drupal

Is capitalism sustainable?

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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.

World Population Growth

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?

Written by Curtis Chambers

July 12, 2007 at 5:38 pm

Posted in Society, Thoughts

The Graphical Keyboard User Interface — Followup

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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?

Written by Curtis Chambers

July 9, 2007 at 11:57 am

Posted in HCI, Technology, Usability


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