Monday, November 29

Target Ban To Cost Salvation Army $9 Million In Donations

This is pretty sad... Target is not going to allow Salvation Army bell-ringers to stand outside its stores this Christmas, costing the charity an estimated nine million dollars in contributions.

The Salvation army is hoping to redirect such gifts to its Web site.

Plenty of Room at Inn for Mary and Joseph

Heh... a London hotel is offering a free room to couples with given names "Mary" and "Joseph."

"We are trying to make up for the hotel industry not having any rooms left on Christmas Eve 2004 years ago," said hotel manager Sandy Leckie. Well, Sandy, it was actually 2008 years ago (or 2007, if you don't believe the Year Zero existed), and it wasn't Christmas Eve (Christmas didn't exist yet, and there's no way the shepherds were sleeping outdoors in winter anyway... Jesus was probably born in the spring), but otherwise it's a nice sentiment I suppose. :)

America finds a 'National Treasure'

The original title for the article to which this is linked, penned by some headline writer at Reuters, was "'Alexander' Falls on Sword at Box Office." I think it's pretty dumb to devote the headline for the weekend box-office roundup to the number 6 film... but whatever. I apologize for the corny title I made up, but you can blame Focus on the Family for the idea.

My wife and I saw "National Treasure" this weekend, and we both really liked it. She isn't a big fan of Nicolas Cage, but for both of us the combination of action, intelligence, and "just-a-regular-guy" acting really made it worthwhile. I liked one particular scene where Cage hits a guy and brings him down, but then he stops to nurse his hurt hand before the action continues. This is what made the movie, in my opinion, even better than the classic "Indiana Jones" flicks: the hero is not a superhuman "action-hero" type of guy, he's just like any regular nerdy history nut. I'm reminded of Stanley Goodspeed (Cage's character in "The Rock," a great film which I rented and first saw over the past weekend), the self-described "chemical super-freak" who still finds it in himself to do what is needed to save the city of San Francisco. Another bit that makes it better than Indiana Jones is that it's set right in our own American backyard and deals with our own relatively recent American history instead of foreign places and ancient temples.

Diane Kruger (whose first big film was this summer's "Troy," in which she played Helen) was also great as Cage's female counterpart. I really enjoyed seeing an actual good-looking woman on the screen instead of the emaciated Hollywood-imposed "archetype of beauty" who looks like she needs a sandwich more than she needs to get the guy. It was also cool to see her actually play an integral part in the development of the intellectual part of the story. She did it believably, too... unlike Denise Richards' character in one of the recent Bond films, who basically came off as a pair of boobs with a bunch of lines she didn't really understand. While I'm on the subject, I hope that they don't try to give academic brains to one of the Bond girls ever again unless they get a real woman like Kruger to play her.

In any case, I heartily recommend "National Treasure." Go see it; it's worth your while, and even with a PG rating it's able to truly intrigue the intellect and entertain the masses.

Retail Sees Solid, Not Stellar, Holidays

On the whole, this article didn't really tell me anything I didn't know (or at least expect). However, one tidbit was very interesting. I hadn't known the origin of the term "Black Friday" before, but it is called that because it's the day most retailers move into profit for the year... getting "in the black," as opposed to "in the red."

It's also interesting to think about how much money changed hands in one day - $22.8 billion, just in America. The mind boggles.

Wednesday, November 24

Math Whiz Sets Record for Mental Calculation

Pretty amazing... but what use is it, really?

Last Rites Sounded for Life-Changing Video Format

The best bit of this article (though you really should read the whole thing):

By the 1990s, a VHS recorder was a common feature in most homes as prices fell and technology improved -- although the art of actually programming a recorder remained a mystery to many.

To add insult to injury, police grudgingly admit that in Britain at least, house burglars don't even bother to take VHS players because new ones now cost so little that no one wants a second-hand model.

Holidays Looking Merry for Web Retailers

Well, it's pretty obvious that Internet shopping is getting more widespread... and now here's a news article to tell us so.

Film Review: Christmas with the Kranks

I'm looking forward to this movie, even though Jamie Lee Curtis looks like Rita Rudner in the previews. I also haven't seen Tim Allen do anything new in a while, and the kid who plays Dewey in Malcolm in the Middle will probably do well too.

Monday, November 22

The Hammer in Spain Is Plainly to Ease the Strain

If you've ever seen "Office Space" or fantasized about destroying bothersome workplace equipment, you'll understand this concept. Apparently there's a junkyard in Lubia, Spain, that will let you go around with a sledgehammer and bash in "cars, computers, phones, and photos of the boss." 40 euros ($52) will buy you two hours of destructive joy, but organizers from group called StopStress say that nobody has yet been able to make their aggression last more than half an hour.

Taipei to Cloak City in World's Largest Wi-Fi Grid

This is a pretty neat idea: Taipei wants to completely cover its environs with an ubiquitous Wi-Fi network. This means that PDAs, Laptops, and other wireless devices will be able to connect to the Internet anywhere in the city.

It seems that this may not be as fun for those with their own 802.11x networks (and even cordless phones and baby monitors) at home, but the added connectivity throughout the city seems to be a great idea.

If only there was a way to get Wi-Fi connectivity to jump from 2.4GHz to another frequency not quite as occupied by other cordless and wireless household gadgets... However, this worldwide connectivity is definitely the Internet of the future, and I see Wi-Fi and cellular technologies converging into one voice-and-data wireless system several years down the road.

Half of U.S. Parents Plan to Buy Videogame-Survey

Not only are half of parents planning to give gifts of interactive entertainment to their children this Christmas, apparently 37 percent of Americans (I'm assuming that this figure refers to the adult population) "expect to either give or receive a video game as a gift this holiday."

My Wish List has a couple of video games on it, but none of them are the new "Halo 2" and "GTA" -style games. I always find myself a bit retro in my video-game taste: when 3D gaming was all the rage, I still liked 2D platformers best; now that first-person combat shooters and criminal adventures are hip, I finally like 3D platform games (but I still prefer third-person to first-person). The games I want are kind of old (Rayman 2 & 3; Indiana Jones and the Emperor's Tomb), but I find that liking older games means much less financial outlay at Best Buy and/or Amazon: Games more than a year or so old often end up on the cheap-o bin and are still as good as they were when priced at $30 or more.

North American Moviegoers Dig 'National Treasure'

Not only a short review of "National Treasure," this is Reuters' weekly round-up of the top-grossing movies of the week. The new Cage flick debuted at number 1, trailed by Paramount's SpongeBob flick. Apparently, viewers of this animated bit of hooliganery were "split evenly between moviegoers either side of 18 years." Odd, but Reuters reports that "'SpongeBob' is a cult favorite with the college crowd," which I believe but find a bit disheartening. The obsession of today's college student with kids' television programming is causing me to lose faith in the America of tomorrow.

Friday, November 19

Mac Skeptic: Apple's ISight, a Webcam and More

The iSight, it appears, can be more than just a vehicle for online video chat. The application that intrigued me most in this article actually uses the iSight to scan barcodes from CDs (possibly DVDs, too, but it wasn't clear) in order to create a digital representation of your music library, including cover artwork.

I know iTunes does this sort of thing, too, but it doesn't have the ability to scan barcodes! That's pretty nifty.

Thursday, November 18

Trade in your dumb phone for a smart one: Treo 650

This new Treo looks awesome. Whenever prices start to go down, I will definitely be in the market for a PDA/phone/Bluetooth-modem like this.

However, with a $600 price tag (even though it'll have a discount for signing a term-of-service agreement), it's still out of reach. Also, since I'm currently on Verizon, I don't have access to any of the really cool new up-and-coming gadgets. Because of this, I'm very much looking into switching providers when my Verizon contract is up next summer.

Google Rolls Out Search Product for Scholars

This looks promising... a new Google search product that will index scholarly journals and academic publications worldwide. I poked around on it for a bit, and it seems promising. Obviously it has culled a lot more articles on Biotechnology and Environmental Science than on Music Theory (my academic field of interest, for those new or just passing through here), but I think this has the potential to be a great resource.

How Big Bird and Kermit Saved the World

Interesting... a documentary on how various worldwide "Sesame Street" adaptations have challenged traditional values and exposed long-suppressed problems around the globe. Among the tidbits being explored are an HIV-positive Muppet that forced South Africa to recognize its AIDS epidemic and a strong female character that caused Egyptians to rethink traditional gender roles.

Movie Quotes to Get Their Own TV Show

This promises to be a good show. The American Film Institute (AFI) is putting together a three-hour tribute to the best quotable movie quotes of all time. I actually get CBS at my apartment, so I'll be looking forward to when it airs next June!

Hollywood's Odd Couple: Cage and Bruckheimer

I'm looking forward to the new "National Treasure" film. My wife says she can't stand Nicolas Cage because he has "no expression," but I think that's part of his charm. Of course, it didn't hurt that he's been opposite such talents as Téa Leoni, Don Cheadle, and Giovanni Ribisi (who, while not a "big" name, is a great actor in my opinion).

Besides, they're making comparisons between this new treasure-hunt movie and the Indiana Jones films. I love the mix of intelligence, action, and adventure in the old Harrison Ford classics, so if this has any relation at all I'm sure I'll be happy with it.

Clinton Library Officials Defensive on Impeachment

Firstly: Why is our country so gung-ho to honor the man who was only the second president ever to be formally impeached?

Secondly: Why is a former President, whose term ended four years ago, still getting so much press? I don't recall seeing George H. W. Bush in the news or writing books or continuing to be so much in the public eye after his term was over.

Wednesday, November 17

Bluetooth group releases three-year road map

This is cool... Bluetooth is gaining wider acceptance and is a part of more and more gadgets. However, reading this article left me salivating for UWB (Ultrawideband, an up-and-coming shortrage wireless protocol) rather than Bluetooth.

Disney Booting Up 'Toy Story 3'

Cool! There might be a new 'Toy Story'! Sadly, it seems it will happen without Steve Jobs and Pixar this time.

The Onion | Oprah Celebrates 20,000th Pound Lost

I chuckled all through this article... It's not worth a summary from me, but I wanted to share it with readers (if any; most seem to come here via the "Next Blog" link) of my blog.

Kmart Buying Sears in $11.5 Billion Deal

Wow... Dos this mean that K-Mart stores are going to get better or that Sears will downslide into a poor excuse for a department store?

Thursday, November 11

High School Students Needed For ABC Reality Show

This is cool... a reality show ("The Scholar") whose grand prize is a full-ride scholarship to the university of the winner's choice! It's nice to see the whole reality-TV thing being used productively, as in Last Comic Standing where people were actually furthering their careers instead of romping about on an island in hopes of a cash prize.

I might actually turn on the TV for this show... lately, I haven't watched anything but movies and whatever sitcom rerun is on the WB when I go exercise at my apartment's fitness center.

iPod Socks coming in Dec.

This article made me chuckle. Apple is actually creating socks with iPod-sized pockets. I guess this is for when you're listening to tunes around the house and you're in boxers and a t-shirt (or other attire sans pockets)?

I think it's a cool idea, but a bit silly. Of course, if I actually had an iPod, I'd probably get some (of these socks, that is).

(UPDATE: After checking out Apple's Web page, I found out that these are knit "socks" in which to store your iPod, not real footwear with iPod-sized pockets. My apologies for any confusion, which was probably very limited due to the incredibly tiny readership of my blog.)

Gmail Users Soon Able to Check E-Mail Via Outlook

Well, I'm sure this will be a draw from some users, but I think POP3 access for gmail is kind of silly. For me, the best part about gmail is the Webmail access... the ability to see my Inbox in exactly the same state no matter what computer I use to get online.

I suppose the big advantages will be: a) the ability to view emails "like you're used to," through whatever POP3 client you usually use, and b) the ability to view emails while not connected to the Internet. For me, though, I really like the gmail Web interface and wouldn't dream of going back to using Outlook. Also, I'm never at a computer without Internet access, so viewing messages while offline really is never an issue.

I suppose it *could* be an issue if I ever started using my PowerBook anywhere but at home or in my office, but I hope eventually to be able to be able to go online via my cell phone. Also, whenever I go to grad school I'm sure there will be plenty of Ethernet jacks around campus and in libraries. WiFi/AirPort networks would be best, of course (and that's what I use at home).

To get back to the original topic... honestly, I think that the whole POP3-gmail thing is for the people who aren't comfortable on the cutting edge of technology. Which isn't a bad thing, but it's not me.

Wednesday, November 10

The Onion | U.S. To Send 30,000 Mall Security Guards To Iraq

'A force of security guards trained to protect retail stores across America will be deployed to the Persian Gulf region,' said Maj. Peter Archibald, a spokesman for Central Command. 'Once in Iraq, security teams will fortify ground forces and assist them in keeping the peace and quelling any horseplay.'

Stalled Immigration Reform 'High Priority' for Bush

Immigration 'reform'? In what sick and twisted way does 'reform' mean "let's let a bunch of poor people come drain our economy legally?"

Before we ever do a deal with Mexico, or get as friendly with Vicente Fox as Colin Powell seems to be in the picture on this news story, we need to deal with all of the ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS who have, by coming here ILLEGALLY, already commited a FEDERAL CRIME.

I know Bush doesn't give a sack of wet beans about what happens in California since it's clearly a Democratic state, but the massive influx of illegal immigrants can be, and in some cases clearly is, hiding terrorists who come into the country with fake Latin American names and two-for-a-peso Matricula Counsular cards that are purportedly "official ID" from the Mexican government. For that matter, I doubt that a Democrat president would care about California's current condition since he'd feel that our vote was "in the bag," so to speak.

This is definitely a Homeland Security issue, but the DHS hasn't lifted a finger to help stem the tide. In fact, Asa Hutchinson, Undersecretary of the DHS, bent to the slightest pressure from Congressman Joe Baca (D-Calif.) and stopped the proactive efforts of police in Riverside County to rid our streets of these economic leeches.

I'm more pissed about this "deal" with Mexico than can be descibed in words on a webpage, but to hear more about the shaft California has been getting please listen to John and Ken on KFI (3-7pm weekdays, Pacific Time).

Tuesday, November 9

Legal challenges come to mayoral vote count

This looks promising... apparently, after a closer look at the San Diego charter, it seems that there is a case for completely dismissing Donna Frye as a candidate for mayor. No matter how many votes she winds up getting once the write-ins are counted.

A Liquid Thanksgiving: Turkey in the Straw

Just read it... there's no way I'll do this article justice in a summary. Besides, you have to see the picture.

Actor Colin Farrell Not Interested in 007 Role

Wait a second... I thought Dougray Scott has already been chosen to play the next 007. What up with Colin Farrell even thinking it was a possibility for him to turn down?

I'm confused.

Firefox Browser, a Microsoft Rival, Fully Released

Well, it looks like Reuters is reporting this momentous occasion as well. More reason for you to go check it out. :)

Firefox 1.0!


Finally, Mozilla Firefox (the best Web browser on earth) has gone 1.0. For the uninitiated, this means that it's finally a full-fledged product and is no longer in "beta test" mode. It works great, has an awesome popup-blocker, has a tabbed interface (as all *real* browsers these days must), and is also impervious to all of those stupid hacker tricks that exploit flaws in Internet Explorer.

Try it out! It's what I use in both Mac and Windows, and it's fantastic. One of the really cool things about it is that it's based on a plug-in sort of architecture... which basically means that it comes off-the-shelf (well, off-the-site) with only the most basic options necessary to run the browser, and then you can add on Extensions (from, as well as a number of other places) to add on only the features that you want. This means that it runs very quickly, as it's not hampered down by a full-fledged feature set of which you'll only end up using half.

Click the link on this post's title, and try it today!

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The Geek Code desperately needs updating, but in any case here's mine (as of 2010-02-28):

Version: 3.12
GIT/MU d+(-) s:+>: a C++> ULXB++++$ L+++ M++ w--() !O !V P+ E---
W+++ N o++ K? PS PE++ Y+ PGP t !5 X- R- tv+@ b++ DI++++ D--- e*++
h--- r+++ y+++ G+

If you really care about knowing what that all means, you either know the code already, or you can get it decoded for you here.