Saturday, May 26, 2007

Treat for Voters

Thanks to everyone who voted. The voting closed about 6 hours before the late email told me it would, so who knows what they're doing at Discover Magazine. I love the magazine but, man, this contest has sucked in terms of how it was run and even the submissions. I really didn't like our entry, mostly because we finished it about three hours instead of taking the neccessary time to make it good, but I go into more detail about that in the previous post. Thankfully, the best entry, in my opinion, had the most votes and I do hope they've won. I'll post more when I hear from them, if I hear from them.

Here's a treat for everyone who voted. I have a soft-spot for really hard to contextualize video clips. My favorite is still the black and white film footage of the German midget laughing at a camel as seen here. Below you'll find a clip from a Bollywood knock-off of Superman. It has to be seen to be believed.

This link comes from the never tiring, always amazing BoingBoing.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

String Theory Vote! DO IT! DO IT NOW!!!

In a previous post, I mentioned that I had been selected as a finalist for Discover Magazine's "String Theory in Two Minutes or Less." In addition to noted physicist Brian Greene selecting the winner, there is also a viewer's choice award. I was never alerted that this was happening, or even notified that the video had been made available until this afternoon when I received an email letting me know that voting is ending tomorrow at midnight. So, please go here and vote for an entry. Mine is called "Mass Through Strings," vote for it if you like it the best.

This voting has been going on for about a month, it seems, and I'm second from last (sigh). I have no idea why I wasn't even informed the voting was happening. Anger.

Go vote and tell your friends!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Future Shock

I have a feeling that the world is no longer progressing towards something, more that it's just changing without direction. I think the common definition of the future is that it is the place we are going, as a culture and as individuals. The future is a point in time ahead of now, where things will be better. It's an intrinsic part of the dominant American ideology that we progress and improve in so doing. Keep in mind that for most of human history, the future really didn't exist as a positive, cohesive place we were traveling towards. It was commonly held that if tomorrow was different than today, things were going wrong.

In a recent interview, Cory Doctorow made the point that if one were to compare stone axes from 15,000BC to 10,000BC, they would not be able to detect any noticeable differences. For 5,000 years humans never thought to change the ax or make better tools. It worked as an ax, and our ancestors evidently thought, "Ax hack wood. Ax chop head. Ax good. Screw improvements."

In ancient Egyptian times, one of the most exalted gods was called Mi'at. This was both a god and an expected state of affairs. One of the chief charges of the office of Pharaoh was to maintain Mi'at. Mi'at could be roughly translated into a term like "status quo" or "make sure tomorrow is exactly like today." Even in the East, the primary role of the Chinese Emperor was to maintain peace and stability—to keep things unchanging and constant. In the West, throughout the Middle Ages, humans thought about the future in very similar terms. All of the great truths about mathematics, philosophy, and art had been revealed by Aristotle and his bearded, bare-chested ilk. Answers for questions concerning government, social order and spirituality were codified in the Bible. Different kings ruled, empires rose and fell, things changed but did not change into anything other than more change. The concept of future, as we now think of it, hadn't been invented yet.

The Copernican Revolution, the Renaissance, and the Enlightenment laid the groundwork for the Modern Project and the idea of a future was born as a result (I realize this is a totally unqualified statement, but, oh well). Things started to get "better." We could look at generations past and say, with confidence, "Boy, I'm sure glad I don't live way back then. It's so much better now." History became important. For much of our past, we really weren't interested in knowing much about the generations before us, because, after all, they very similar. With Modernity, we became increasingly interested in how humanity organized and reorganized itself. Whether change came upon a culture suddenly or gradually. Logically, for humanity to have a collective future to progress towards it needed a cohesive past to recede from.

The moved-towards-future concept is still powerful today, but I think it's take on shades of plasticity and change without direction. These changes fall broadly under the Post Modern school of thinking, but I think they have more broad implications. I don't know if this is necessarily a bad thing. I've heard compelling arguments made for either case. One thing, however, that gives me pause, is camel racing.

Now the camels have robot jockeys. Robot jockeys! I remember Robot Jox. I saw it at Showcase Cinemas the week it came out. My friend Jesse and I went. I can still remember my amazement at how empty the theater was. Where were all the people, I thought. This is Robot Jox! It was so awesome. Giant, stop-motion mechs sawing the hell out of each other in a post-apocalyptic war zone with Gary Graham, the dude from Alien Nation, as the protagonist! Can it get any more awesome than that? Check out the clip below and revel in the ball-flattening awesomeatuude:

And now, robot jocks are a reality. Observe the picture below:


Notice anything strange? For me, it's the fact that in one picture there are so many strange, contradictory, and flat-out scary implications it makes my head spin. The world is changing, but I don't think it's progressing any more. I think people have given up on the idea of the future, and are instead reveling in the absolute unpredictability of now. A digital picture of robots riding camels while people wearing millennia's old religious garb should be proof enough for anyone that we are well and beyond the looking glass.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Moving Report

Strange things are afoot at the Circle K

Mandy and I are heading into flux territory again. The wheels of life begin to grind once more and a great evil looms in the East.

Our lease is up at the end of June. So, between then and now we have to decide the following:

1) Where we're going to move
2) What school Mandy can get into to finish her degree
3) Where we can work
4) How/if I can find work that relates in any way to video

We have about six weeks to figure all of this out. While we are on our way to getting a number of these things nailed down, there's still work to be done. My posts will remain sporadic for the next month and a half as we work our way through the big Decisions. I will try to keep the blog updated with details about our job situations, where we're moving, and what we're planning.

So, to start, I am 15 calendar days away from not working at my current job. I tendered my two week resignation this past Wednesday. My last day will be June 1st. My plan is to use the month of June to finish Sue and Casey's travel dvd, help pack up all of our belongings, travel to the new city and find an apartment, and move. Our current thinking is Mandy will be done with her job one week after I am done with mine, so we both can travel to the city to check out apartments and neighborhoods.

This strategy carries some obvious risk, but such is the case with anything worth doing. A career change on both our parts, medical and video, will not come about without sacrifice and work. I think we're both in a much better position financially and emotionally for the change due in large part to our hiatus to CinCity. We both feel the project was a success and are eager to move on to the next thing.

An example of something I've recently had to reassess is my rubber band ball strategy. My work environment is beset with rubber bands of all shapes, sizes, and colors. They gather in dimly lit corners in small, dusty piles. They find their way into cups of coffee, between printouts, and even into shoes. To help with this problem, many of my co-workers have begun to capture the stretchy strings and wind them into rubber band balls of various sizes. Some are monstrous; the har labor of many years. Others are dainty and colorful, the fruits of a passing interest. My goal was to create three fist-sized rubber balls I could juggle. However, my resignation has forced my face up to the fact that this an impossibility. I had only created one complete ball and had just started a second. I realized that the average volume of rubber bands that come my way is not enough to complete the project before I would be leaving. So, this morning, while watching scripts run on my computer, I unwound the smaller ball and merged the bands with the larger ball; my thinking being, one large ball is easier to keep track of than two smaller ones.

(This is two of me pushing both of the balls together)

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Go speed racer, go!

This weekend, Mandy competed in her third River Bank Run 5K in Grand Rapids. She placed seven in her class and did a bang-up job. Despite being slightly injured she pulled off a respectable 10 minute per mile average. Angie also competed and did an amazing job. Congrats to all!

I can say I was little jealous to see everyone running and standing at the sidelines as I had the first year. I am going to run the Buck Creek Run in July, so keep an eye on the obituaries that week.

Here's a little video I shot of Angie and Mandy running past the turn just before the 2 mile mark. Sadly, I was only able to capture a few seconds for each person, so I padded the video with a little extra content to make it a watchable length. Even now, it's still pretty unwatchable. Please forgive me.

(Sad, sad little video camera.)

Monday, May 07, 2007

You Can't put the Smoke Back In

The saga of my sad PC continues. Tonight, I replaced my old power supply with one Kleiner-One-Niner gave me (what a guy). I unplugged all the cables on my old one, unscrewed it, and yanked it out. I fastened the new one to the case, plugged all the cable back in, and hit the power button. Crackling sounds and smoke began to pour out of the case. I yanked the plug from the back and inspected the damage.

It turns out, I plugged a cable in the wrong way. It was a small, four-pin power cable that ran to my front-side sound panel. Normally, these plugs have guide wings that force the inattentive user to plug in the cable one way only. Sadly, this card doesn't have any and I was the inattentive user. When I plugged the cable in, I was off by one pin... and that one pin apparently didn't like being left out.

The worst part about all this is the power supply doesn't fix the problem I was having. The computer still randomly reboots and sometimes won't even post when being powered on. More investigation is necessary...

The damage:

(Click for a close look)

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Response to "Dont't pump gas on May 15" Email Virus

Now that summer is upon us again, and the seasonal gas additives are being additted, it seems the "Let's not pump gas on a certain date" virus has started its relentless march across the internet. Several people have forwarded this email to me over the past few years, and now I am bored enough to write a response to it. Below is a step-by-step breakdown of how nearly every statistic, point, and conclusion found in the email is wrong.

The original email will be formatted this like this. My comments will be formatted like this. Also note that I haven't changed the original email in any way. All the misspellings and grammar mistakes are preserved for your amusement.

Original email begins here:

I say its worth a try!!

Ø NO GAS...On May 15 2005

Body: Don't pump gas on may 15th

Body: April 1997, there was a "gas out" conducted nationwide in protest of gas prices. Gasoline prices dropped 30 cents a gallon overnight.

::There is no record of this happening. This claim has absolutely no evidence to support it. There are plenty of sources that list that is NOT true. This statement is false. However, there is some evidence that this has happened in 1999, and throughout the 2000s. Ironically, as a result of these later boycotts, most gas stations saw an overnight price spike, not a drop. So, if anything, boycotting gas stations for one day causes the price to go up, not down.

::Since the premise is flawed, any deductions are equally flawed, QED. There was no "Gas-out in April 1997." Even if there was, the date of the gas-out is not supplied, so there is no way to tell when the overnight price drop of $0.30 would've occured. Even if we did know the date (we don't) and we did see a price drop (we didn't), there is no way to make a causal relationship between people not going to the pumps and the gas price dropping. We don't know how many people didn't go to the gas pumps.

On May 15th 2007, all internet users are to not go to a gas station in protest of high gas prices. Gas is now over $3.00 a gallon in most places.

::Assumptions galore! Who said gas is "$3.00 a gallon in most places"? This is a completly unqualified statement. Again, we have to assume it's true for any of this to work. Secondly, the phrase "high gas prices" is completely arbitrary. People in England would be happy to pay $3.00 for a gallon of gas as would people in Canada.

It's also import to note that the price we see on the local Shell Station marquee is not the actual price of gas. It's a subsidized price. The way it works in America is the goverment collects taxes from its citizens, then uses some of the money to pay oil companies to keep the price down. It's called oil subsidization. Americans are actually paying close to the same amount for gas as people in other countries, it's just that we pay part of the price at the pumps and part of the price in taxes that come out of our income.

Due to this fact, people can't make very effective comparisons between gas and other non-subsidized goods. We have to look at the true cost of a good to make a comparison, otherwise it's apples and oranges.

There are 73,000,000+ American members currently on the internet network, and the average car takes about 30 to 50 dollars to fill up.

1. People are not members of the internet. They might use it, but they can't join it like some kind of fan-club.

2. The average car may take $30 - $50 to fill up from empty, but the point the email is making is that every person who uses the internet also owns a car. Of course, this is preposterous. Many non-driving-age children, people who ride bikes, use public transportation, and millions of other people use the internet yet don't buy gas.

3. The most current CIA statistics for Americans who've used the internet once in the past month is 205 million. So, that static is also wrong.

If all users did not go to the pump on the 15th, it would take $2,292,000,000.00 (that's almost 3 BILLION) out of the oil companys pockets for just one day, so please do not go to the gas station on May 15th and lets try to put a dent in the Middle Eastern oil industry for at least one day.

::Okay. There are so many grammatical, logical, and statistical problems with this run-on sentence, I'll have go step-by-step.

1. We've already established that not everyone who uses the internet owns a vehicle (let alone a car) or is responsible for filling the vehicle, so any conclusions being deduced from that premise are, by definition, wrong. But, just for laughs, let's see where this hypothetical argument takes us.

2. Assuming the above numbers and conclusions are correct, this scheme still wouldn't work. It certainly wouldn't be keeping much money out of oil companies pockets since much of the cost of the gas we buy at the pumps isn't a direct result of the crude oil prices alone. 25% of the price comes from local and state taxes. 9% comes from distribution and marketing of the gas. So, if this happened, people would actually be depriving their AMERICAN communities and AMERICAN-run gas stations and trucking services of money, in addition to a Middle Eastern oil company. As a result of the boycott, these AMERICAN companies would suffer the greatest harm.

Here's a good report from the Council on Foreign Relations that explains the where the high cost of consumer bought gas prices comes from. This is backed by, you know, evidence.

3. Most importantly, the email just asks people to not buy gas on that day. So what happens on May 16th? When we do run out of gas, where are we going to purchase it? The gas stations. At the end of any given week, even if everyone skipped a day, the sales would still be the same. The reason this seems so appetizing is because it's a quick fix. Even in principle, the only way to affect gas prices at the pumps is by changing your gas consumption habits over a long period of time. Come May 16 th, everyone would still have to fill up somewhere.

If you agree (which I can't see why you wouldn't) resend this to all your contact list. With it saying, ''Don't pump gas on May 15th"

::The email claims to not understand how anyone would not want to do this. It's easy to understand why: This is email is riddled with half-truths and lies. It attempts to make its arguments be appealing to emotion, not fact. If something seems too simple and good to be true, it is.

This "no gas" email is a well-documented internet virus. These are commonly called social engineering viruses because they are spread not by security problems with email applications, but by exploiting weaknesses in people's understanding of security. This is A) An appeal to emotion B) An idea that seems very simple. It is not, however, anything anyone could put any stock in due to being riddled with logical, economic, and grammatical horrors.

Before re-forwarding emails that have been forwarded to you, check out It's a clearinghouse for these kinds of urban myths and social engineering email viruses. Here's the link for a more thorough dissection of the "No Gas" virus that has been spreading.

For you are my rock and my fortress;therefore,for your name's sake. Lead me and guide me. Ps.31:3

::What does this passage have to do with oil? I mean, come on! It's not even remotely related. A quick note: If someone invokes the bible to make their point, it's probably an appeal to emotion, not reason.


(This guy kept forwarding these emails. Look what happened to him.)