Archive for December 29th, 2007

Eli’s Obsession With The Google – While My Guitar Muppet Gently Weeps

(I had no idea this even existed. Thanks, Cujo!)

My blog is the #1 search result for guitar muppet media.

Woohoo!!! Surely there must be a way to monetize this…

4 comments December 29th, 2007 at 10:28pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Eli's Obsession With The Google

Mashable Hardware

Well, now you can!

Early next year, Bug Labs, a startup based in New York City, will begin selling the Bug, a powerful but highly malleable base unit and a series of add-on modules that allow buyers to create their own consumer electronics device.

Think of them as Legos for adults who are tired of having limited gadget choices and want to make their own hardware as easily as they now mash up Web sites and write their own software.

“The idea for the company sprang out of my own frustrations with the consumer electronics business,” said Bug Labs founder and chief executive Peter Semmelhack, who describes himself as an inveterate tinkerer who yearns to pull back the screens and experiment with the innards of today’s gadgets.

(…)

The device builder begins with the BUGbase unit, a highly modular computer with room for four attachments. Four such attachments will hit the market at first: a full color LCD touch screen, a GPS unit, a digital camera and a motion detector/ accelerometer.

The company says that over 80 BUGmodules are in development and every three months it will release four new ones, like a credit card reader, hard drive, compass, RFID scanner, TV tuner and solar panel. The company will also publish the devices’ open source specs and allow anyone else to build and sell their own module.

Bug customers are expected to do the rest. For example, Mr. Semmelhack said, someone could combine a radar detector, GPS and wireless modem modules together and put the device in their car. Every time it detects a police radar trap, the unit could post that information to an online map and share it with the world.

Users could also turn their Bugs into open-source digital video recorders, game controllers, biometric security scanners or any thousands of devices that the big electronics companies haven’t thought of or won’t address because the market for such a gadget is perceived as being too small.

Mr. Semmelhack expects the first generation of users to be hard core hackers who post their designs online. Ensuing users will then have a universe of plans to mimic, or can forge their own.

The point, he said, is to harness the do-it-yourself mentality of today’s engineers who can no longer get their hands dirty with today’s high-tech products or complex automobile engines. “I firmly believe inside every software engineer is a frustrated hardware engineer,” Mr. Semmelhack said. “When you put the power in the hands of individuals and hackers, innovations happen. We want to put decision making on features into the hands of the end user.”

I really don’t have the coding skills to take advantage of this, but I love the idea of being able to mix and match components to create just the device you want.

December 29th, 2007 at 09:15pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Coolness,Technology

Perspective On Courage

Brent Budowsky reminds us just how low the bar for political “courage” is set in this country:

Benazir Bhutto was no angel, but she was a believer in democracy who gave her life for her country, retuning to Pakistan knowing she would probably give her life for her country.

By contrast, Democrats in Washington have a life crisis, consult an army of pollsters, and have trouble taking clear leadership stands on war and peace because members of a Congress with record unpopularity might lose another point or two in the polls.

Our discredited politics in America has become a sad Kabuki dance of insiders congratulating and protecting each other, of pollsters and pundits uttering sweet nothings into the ears of politicians too fearful and self-indulgent to take even minimal risks for the higher values of our country.

Benazir Bhutto gives her life. Democrats in Washington cannot risk a point in the polls. Republicans in Washington cannot summon the courage to speak out against a president and war that many of them privately, silently, believe is a disaster for our country.

(…)

Give Al Gore credit for elevating the debate about climate change, but at a moment that our country, under George Bush, sabotaged the Bali summit, why isn’t Al Gore running for president?

Never have the man and the moment come together so perfectly as Al Gore for President in 2008. Never has any potential candidate been so clearly the heir to Roosevelt and Kennedy, never has any potential candidate so clearly embodied change when change is needed, and experience when experience is needed, as Al Gore for President in 2008.

Having supported Gore through campaigns and governance over a generation, words cannot express my disappointment, my sadness and to some degree my outrage that Al Gore had better things to do than be leader of the free world.

(…)

Does Al Gore, or anyone, seriously believe that any presidential candidate, in either party, is even remotely as committed to the battle to save the Earth from the planetary emergency as Gore? If the world is truly in danger of extinction unless major changes are made within the term of the next president, isn’t there some higher obligation to hold the one office that can lead the nation and the world toward those changes?

My hope is that Gore at least makes a major endorsement for change in the coming hours, but the real shame is that our strongest leader does not lead where it matters the most, and the voice of both experience and change is silenced on the most important debate about the future of our nation and the world.

Benazir Bhutto gave her life for her country; Democrats so often lack the courage of their convictions to risk even a few points in the polls; and Al Gore racks up the prizes and awards, no doubt deserved, but sadly silenced when the man who should have been leader of the free world had higher priorities.

Benazir Bhutto’s murder is a moment of outrage and sadness, of crisis and shock, but it is also a reminder of the power of hope, of the higher purpose of patriotism and of the higher truth that one woman can make a difference, if she gives enough of a damn to try and puts everything on the line for the cause she believes in and the country she loves.

Good-bye, Benazir. You may be gone, but you will be remembered and honored. Perhaps some day in the land that gave us Washington and Lincoln, some heroic leader will emerge once again, inspired by your courage and your example, and rise above the mediocrity and timidity of our times, as you did in yours.

Sigh. Much as I love Al Gore (and because I love Al Gore), Budowsky is right: We needed Al Gore to run for president. He was the only Democrat with the stature to win, and the intelligence and passion to start cleaning up the mess the Republicans and defensive-crouch Democrats have made over the last seven years. Who knows, perhaps he would have even inspired the Democratic party to start standing up to Republicans instead of progressives.

Sure, another campaign would have been a miserable hardship for Al, but it couldn’t have been any worse than Benazir Bhutto’s.

1 comment December 29th, 2007 at 08:09pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Democrats,Elections,Gore,Politics,Republicans

I Am Officially Behind The Curve

old-phone.gif

Yes, that’s right, I am one of those Luddite techno-primitives who does not yet own a digital television:

The Consumer Electronics Association announced today that half of American homes have a digital TV.

(…)

…Gary Shapiro, president and chief executive of the CEA, sees good things ahead:

With 50 percent of U.S. homes able to experience the reality of digital television, we have crossed a critical threshold. 2008 will continue to demonstrate the growth and success of DTV, with nearly 32 million units forecasted to ship. Consumers are particularly keen to add HDTV to their homes, with high definition expected to account for 79 percent of total DTV shipments in the U.S in 2008.

While revenue from TV sales next year will be up 13 percent, unit shipment growth will be 17 percent, he predicted – which means, of course, the half without digital TVs will be paying less for their sets than the half who already have them.

I weep with shame.

On the plus side, at least I’m saving money…

(Image from Married To The Sea)

4 comments December 29th, 2007 at 07:03pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Technology

Liquids And Clippers And Gels, Oh My!

NYT’s Patrick Smith is fed up with airport security:

Six years after the terrorist attacks of 2001, airport security remains a theater of the absurd. The changes put in place following the September 11th catastrophe have been drastic, and largely of two kinds: those practical and effective, and those irrational, wasteful and pointless.

The first variety have taken place almost entirely behind the scenes. Explosives scanning for checked luggage, for instance, was long overdue and is perhaps the most welcome addition. Unfortunately, at concourse checkpoints all across America, the madness of passenger screening continues in plain view. It began with pat-downs and the senseless confiscation of pointy objects. Then came the mandatory shoe removal, followed in the summer of 2006 by the prohibition of liquids and gels. We can only imagine what is next.

(…)

In years past, a takeover meant hostage negotiations and standoffs; crews were trained in the concept of “passive resistance.” All of that changed forever the instant American Airlines Flight 11 collided with the north tower. What weapons the 19 men possessed mattered little; the success of their plan relied fundamentally on the element of surprise. And in this respect, their scheme was all but guaranteed not to fail.

For several reasons — particularly the awareness of passengers and crew — just the opposite is true today. Any hijacker would face a planeload of angry and frightened people ready to fight back. Say what you want of terrorists, they cannot afford to waste time and resources on schemes with a high probability of failure. And thus the September 11th template is all but useless to potential hijackers.

(…)

The folly is much the same with respect to the liquids and gels restrictions, introduced two summers ago following the breakup of a London-based cabal that was planning to blow up jetliners using liquid explosives. Allegations surrounding the conspiracy were revealed to substantially embellished. In an August, 2006 article in the New York Times, British officials admitted that public statements made following the arrests were overcooked, inaccurate and “unfortunate.” The plot’s leaders were still in the process of recruiting and radicalizing would-be bombers. They lacked passports, airline tickets and, most critical of all, they had been unsuccessful in actually producing liquid explosives. Investigators later described the widely parroted report that up to ten U.S airliners had been targeted as “speculative” and “exaggerated.”

Among first to express serious skepticism about the bombers’ readiness was Thomas C. Greene, whose essay in The Register explored the extreme difficulty of mixing and deploying the types of binary explosives purportedly to be used….“The notion that deadly explosives can be cooked up in an airplane lavatory is pure fiction,” Greene told me during an interview. “A handy gimmick for action movies and shows like ‘24.’ The reality proves disappointing: it’s rather awkward to do chemistry in an airplane toilet. Nevertheless, our official protectors and deciders respond to such notions instinctively, because they’re familiar to us: we’ve all seen scenarios on television and in the cinema. This, incredibly, is why you can no longer carry a bottle of water onto a plane.”

(…)

“I would not hesitate to allow that liquid explosives can pose a danger,” Greene added, recalling Ramzi Yousef’s 1994 detonation of a small nitroglycerine bomb aboard Philippine Airlines Flight 434…. “But the idea that confiscating someone’s toothpaste is going to keep us safe is too ridiculous to entertain.”

…At every concourse checkpoint you’ll see a bin or barrel brimming with contraband containers taken from passengers for having exceeded the volume limit. Now, the assumption has to be that the materials in those containers are potentially hazardous. If not, why were they seized in the first place? But if so, why are they dumped unceremoniously into the trash? They are not quarantined or handed over to the bomb squad; they are simply thrown away. The agency seems to be saying that it knows these things are harmless. But it’s going to steal them anyway, and either you accept it or you don’t fly.

(…)

In the end, I’m not sure which is more troubling, the inanity of the existing regulations, or the average American’s acceptance of them and willingness to be humiliated. These wasteful and tedious protocols have solidified into what appears to be indefinite policy, with little or no opposition. There ought to be a tide of protest rising up against this mania. Where is it? At its loudest, the voice of the traveling public is one of grumbled resignation. The op-ed pages are silent, the pundits have nothing meaningful to say.

(…)

How we got to this point is an interesting study in reactionary politics, fear-mongering and a disconcerting willingness of the American public to accept almost anything in the name of “security.” Conned and frightened, our nation demands not actual security, but security spectacle. And although a reasonable percentage of passengers, along with most security experts, would concur such theater serves no useful purpose, there has been surprisingly little outrage. In that regard, maybe we’ve gotten exactly the system we deserve.

As I have said before, all bin Laden needs to do to complete the demoralization and humiliation of the American people is unleash a very inept Underwear Bomber.

4 comments December 29th, 2007 at 05:52pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Terrorism

We’re Number 9!

Yet another feather in Pittsburgh’s cap:

Residents of Minneapolis and Seattle are the most bookish and well-read, according to results from a new survey released today of the most literate American cities.

The survey focused on 69 U.S. cities with populations of 250,000 or above. Jack Miller of Central Connecticut State University chose six key indicators to rank literacy. These included newspaper circulation, number of bookstores, library resources, periodical publishing resources, educational attainment and Internet resources.

Overall, the top 10 most literate (and wired) cities included:

1—Minneapolis, Minn.
2—Seattle, Wash.
3—St. Paul, Minn.
4—Denver, Colo.
5—Washington, D.C.
6—St. Louis, Mo.
7—San Francisco, Calif.
8—Atlanta, Ga.
9—Pittsburgh, Pa.
10—Boston, Mass.

Minneapolis, Seattle, Pittsburgh, Denver and Washington, D.C., have made the top 10 every year since 2003, when the survey first launched.

Woohoo!!! We are totally a city of nerds.

Pittsburgh is also the 9th-most walkable city in America.

And, of course, Pittsburgh is the most livable city in America. You heard me.

(h/t Caro Kay)

1 comment December 29th, 2007 at 04:14pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Pittsburgh/PA

Because David Brooks Isn’t Wrong Often Enough

I’ll never understand why Republicans hate the media so much. It’s not like they’re not on the same side:

The Huffington Post has learned that, in a move bound to create controversy, the New York Times is set to announce that Bill Kristol will become a weekly columnist in 2008. Kristol, a prominent neo-conservative who recently departed Time magazine in what was reported as a “mutual” decision, has close ties to the White House and is a well-known proponent of the war in Iraq. Kristol also is a regular contributor to Fox News’ Special Report with Brit Hume.

I have to think that Republican hatred of the “liberal media” is nothing more than an act, like pro wrestling. After all, their continual insistence that the media have a liberal bias is probably the only reason that most Americans have not figured out that the media are owned by people and corporations who have a mutually beneficial, almost symbiotic relationship with the Republican party.

December 29th, 2007 at 03:06pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Media,Politics,Republicans,Wankers


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