The Emotional Pumpkin


Thursday, January 27, 2005

Good news (sort of)

You may remember me talking about this really cool-looking movie that was released on DVD recently in Japan: Casshern. It appears that Dreamworks picked up the US distribution rights for the film late last year, which is good news for all those US viewers who haven't seen it yet. However, the movie was decidedly mediocre; the trailer was better than the actual film. It did look nice, however, so it'll be worth paying to rent at least once on Netflix to watch again. (Via LilacMoon)

This is pretty damn cool:

RIPPERS and burners with an eye for design have a new way to smarten their image. Disc writers that can print images onto the label sides of the discs will hit the market next month.

Burning movies, songs and images onto CDs and DVDs is easy, but labelling the discs is still a fiddly business. Writing on them with a felt-tip pen or chinagraph pencil is simple but looks scruffy. You can print an image onto a circular label with a normal printer and stick it to the disc, but these labels can come unstuck and jam in a disc drive. More recently, special printers that print directly onto a disc's label side have come onto the market, but the process isn't very user-friendly.

The new system, called LightScribe, aims to change that. It uses discs whose label sides are coated with a light-sensitive dye that darkens when exposed to the laser beam in a specially designed disc burner.

The initial system is only monochrome, but think how cool it would be to be able to make any image you like in PhotoShop and print it in as many colors as you like onto a CD with this system! That would truly bring affordable, professional production quality home to the amateur user. (Via Slashdot)

UPDATE: I just found out the hard way that putting links into the title of a post doesn't work so well. One would think that as long as the tags are properly nested, this wouldn't be a problem. However, when I put the link in the title (now removed), the link to the individual post in the Previous section only linked to the article I linked in the title, and not the post itself. Strange.

From yesterday's

NY Times:
Eight of the nation's largest technology companies, including I.B.M., Microsoft and Oracle, have agreed to embrace open, nonproprietary technology standards as the software building blocks for a national health information network.

The Bush administration has said that creating such a network should be a national priority over the next several years. The goal is to improve care and reduce costs by abandoning paper and moving to a digital system for handling patient records, clinical research, claims and payments. Such a network, analysts agree, should save both lives and dollars.

As both a health care consumer and someone who has grown up around doctor's offices, I say hallelujah. The medical industry has been severely lagging others when it comes to good, organized, modern infrastructure. The advent of a national health information network should make a significant difference in the efficiency of health care everywhere. (Via Slashdot)

Read this interesting

article about the changing face of international relations in this new century:
Aside from being a massive humanitarian tragedy, the Asian tsunami, perhaps better than any other recent event, demonstrates the new historical context of international relations. Even from an American standpoint, Iraq, however things turn out there, will be less important than developments in the Asian-Pacific theatre.

And yeah, I'm not quoting the best bits on purpose. Go read the whole thing. (Via InstaPundit)

Shiites in Iraq

are apparently saying that the new government will be secular, according to this article in the NY Times. Less than a week to go till the elections. (Via InstaPundit)

Sunday, January 23, 2005

You know what I hate

about Microsoft Entourage? There's no easy way to include a reply-to header in your outgoing e-mail messages. You have to change your account settings every time you want to do it. You can't do it on a message by message basis. Isn't that the stupidest thing ever? One would think Microsoft would spend at least a little time to try and get at least the basic functionality Outlook has into its Mac counterpart. Yeesh. So now I'm using Mac Mail when I need to do the reply-to thing. Not that this is taking money away from Microsoft in any way, but it gives me some small spiteful satisfaction to use another client.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

For the past

6 months or so, I've been using this unbelievable little app on my Macs called Quicksilver. Basically you launch this thing with a key combination of your choice (cmd+space, in my case), type in the name of the task you want to perform or the program you want to launch (e.g. "yahoo" to launch Yahoo! Instant Messenger or launch the Yahoo! website in a browser), hit Enter, and presto! your desires are fulfilled. No mouse involved. Now, this may not be a big deal to you, but for an efficiency freak like me, it is absolutely amazing (especially on's like buttah). Since I've become so reliant on Quicksilver, all my other non-Quicksilver computing experiences have in comparison seemed hopelessly clunky and slow. Today, though, I discovered an analogous application for Windows. It's called AppRocket, and it seems promising, although I've only used it for an hour or so thus far. I'll report back on my findings soon.

Friday, January 14, 2005

I bit the bullet

Although the aesthete in me was crying out, I had to do it. I couldn't take it anymore. I replaced my beautiful but nearly useless one-button Apple mouse with a two-button scroll mouse on my G4 PowerMac. It doesn't look very nice, but I am so happy; ah, to scroll again! To be able to bring up a context menu with without having to involve my keyboard! The joy!

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

In his latest

PressThink post (about the Thornburgh report, of course), Jay Rosen advances a simple yet wonderful idea:
A simple example of a different approach: Sixty Minutes could publish on the Internet (as transcript and video) the full interviews from which each segment that airs is made. All interviews, every frame. Even the interviews that were not used. Producers and correspondents would instantly become more accountable for these interviews and the selections made from them. And in my view that would strengthen the journalism, make for better work; it would also be a revolution in accountability. CBS would be creating more value by publishing more source material, although it would also be more open to criticism and scrutiny.

Is it doable? I can't say I know that. But no knows until someone determined and smart tries. I believe accountability journalism, which is the kind the professionals at CBS News still want to practice, won't work any more unless the public can hold journalists themselves more accountable.

Is it doable? Hell, yes. Aside from the minor logistical issues of converting and uploading raw video footage and transcript data on a regular basis, and the again minor expense of maintaining extensive online archives (which to some extent CBS already does) I can't see how this, practically, would be a difficult matter.

It could even be profitable - publishing their raw materials would surely result in a significant increase in web traffic. More eyes means more advertising revenue. How can you go wrong?

Really, it's a win-win situation. The public gets the transparency it's so hungry for, and CBS instantly gets back some credibility, if only for displaying its willingness to be more open with the viewing public. Regaining all its credibility, of course, will be harder; that depends entirely on how responsible and scrupulous CBS proves itself to be in this new (and as yet hypothetical) atmosphere of openness.

Rosen again:
My other major reaction is that, like others, I am shocked that CBS News President Andrew Heyward still has his job. This is the reason.

As soon as the reporting of the Air National Guard story came under question, CBS had not one but two problems. The evidentiary problems with the story were one. The involvement--no, the immersion--of Dan Rather in the events thereafter was the other. Rather is the star of CBS News, the face of the brand, the personification of the news division. The anchor. Immediately it was clear that he had "bigfooted" the rest of the division and took over defense of a case in which he was accused. In effect, he was making policy for the network, as when he said that there is no investigation underway at CBS. There were huge dangers for Rather, for CBS News and for the network itself in allowing Rather to become so involved in defense of the story, which muted everyone else "under" Rather, leaving only Andrew Heyward, the boss, who did not act. He was the one who could have protected the brand and his friend, Dan Rather, by speaking truth to (star) power. The responsibility was his alone and he failed in the clutch.

Whatever happened to stopping the buck at the top? If, as Les Moonves says, "Heyward is an executive of integrity and talent", why isn't he taking responsibility for this catastrophe that happened on his watch? Whether or not Heyward fell down on the job, and it's pretty clear to me that he did, he should resign on principle. Accountability again.

But that's the whole problem, isn't it?

Rathergate update:

There seems to be a consensus amongst most moderate and conservative bloggers that the independent panel report on the CBS National Guard story does not go far enough in pointing out evidence of bias on the part of CBS, or at least of some of its employees. John Hinderaker of Power Line has read the Thornburgh report in its entirety and offers some thoughts along the same lines.

Monday, January 10, 2005

The eBay (and advertising) generation

From Slashdot:
According to the BBC, a 20-year-old US man is selling advertising space on his forehead to the highest bidder on website eBay. "Andrew Fisher, from Omaha, Nebraska, said he would have a non-permanent logo or brand name tattooed on his head for 30 days. "The way I see it I'm selling something I already own; after 30 days I get it back." Mr Fisher has received 39 bids so far, with the largest bid currently at more than $322 (£171)."

OK. I gotta say it. What is the world coming to?

Good news

Mahmoud Abbas yesterday declared victory of Palestine's presidential election:
Mahmoud Abbas, who opposes continuing violence against Israel, got straight to work this morning after his declaration of victory in Sunday's election for president of the Palestinian Authority.

Official results released today showed him winning by a large margin, with 62.3 percent of the vote. His main challenger, Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, got 19.8 percent. Even before the results were announced, Mr. Abbas met with the current and future prime minister, Ahmed Qurei, about the shape of a new cabinet.

There is a hard road ahead for Mr. Abbas, but the election of a moderate leader offers definite hope for the eventual success of Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.

This is

pretty cool:
Researchers at the NanoTech Institute at The University of Texas at Dallas (UTD) have been awarded a $750,000, 20-month grant to develop artificial muscles that convert chemical energy to mechanical energy. The award was made by the United States Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), whose charter is to develop new technologies for military applications.
While the carbon nanotube muscles can exceed the performance of natural muscle by generating a hundred times the force and elongating twice as fast, the contraction is less than one-tenth that of natural muscle. The conducting polymer muscles provide similar contractions to natural muscles, but have neither high cycle life nor high energy conversion efficiencies. The goal of the DARPA-funded program is to eliminate these problems and convert from electrically powered to chemically powered artificial muscles.

(Via Slashdot)


From Slashdot:
"Blogs and message forums buzzed this week with the discovery that a pair of simple Google searches permits access to well over 1,000 unprotected surveillance cameras around the world - apparently without their owners' knowledge." Apparently many of the cams are even aimable. Oops!

Natural disasters

From CNN:
A fierce winter storm packing hurricane force winds that swept across northern Europe has left at least 13 dead [and] several missing, officials said Sunday.

Is it just me, or has there been, in the last couple of years, a disturbing frequency of natural disasters around the world (including hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis and volcano activity)? I'm wondering if this is an unusual level of activity, or just a bunch of not-unusual events happening unusually close together. Hmmm. (Via InstaPundit)


More blatant bias and appalling lack of fact-checking from the folks at Newsweek.

I'm back!

Due to the holidays, my sister's wedding plans, and spending the lion's share of my free time reading, I basically haven't blogged at all for the last couple of months, but that's going to change now.

Rathergate update: CBS has fired 4 employees, 3 of whom are executives. Here's a link to the full report.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year, everybody. You'll notice that I haven't blogged for basically the whole month of December. This was due to extensive traveling and being busy in general. Hopefully that'll change in the new year.