Monday, July 31, 2006

Two Things

Could sanity on the horizon for online music distribution? Yahoo is distributing a album without DRM in the MP3 format. There's been many a time when I've mulled over buying digital music from legitimate sources but have been turned off by the work involved in doing the ol' rip and burn (it's easier, I've found, to just buy the friggin' original CD). Leaving it in it's DRM format really isn't an option. What if your system dies, will the backup work on a new system? What happens in ten years when you find yourself on your fifth or sixth computer, will it still work then? Or even better, what happens when the company that DRM'd it doesn't support it or goes belly up and doesn't support any new codecs, players, etc.? You'd have a couple gigs of very expensive, worthless crap, that's what.

On a completely different subject Cox and Forkum point out an article that laments the fact that Japan's Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi was unable to convince the U.S. to push for a permanent security council seat for the Land of the Rising Sun. This points out how worthless the U.N. is when it doesn't consider a country with one of the largest economies and one of the largest militaries worthy of consideration. It also points out how diversity often equals lethargy since the U.N. is pulled in so many directions (mostly bad ones) that it's ability to do anything worthwhile is bound to offend someone. I figured if it meant that much to Koizumi though, then he could have the U.S.'s 'security council' seat.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Kerry Krap

Doesn't this bumper sticker just say it all? I snapped the pic on a car yesterday...


Lezzee: Union, Spanish, in mint condition despite being on the car two years after the election.

While I was looking at other Kerry Krap, I came across these two gems, first one for the Mac users out there:


Oye I kid, I just can't help myself!


And then I kid you not, this is NOT a photoshop:


Of course the site sports a button for the opposite group as well.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Full Final Fantasy Panic!

I've had this last Microsoft test hanging out over me for a couple months. It's structured differently and I figured I'd have a rough time of it, so I kept putting off the hardcore studying I figured was required to get through it. I slowly soaked up info here and there; but then over the July fourth holiday my brother came over and he got me into playing Final Fantasy X (yes I blame him :) ). Needless to say, studying and much else took a back seat to leveling up characters, riding chocobos and whatnot.

I had logged about, oh, 35 hours into the game (it helpfully keeps track of how much of your life you've p!ssed away playing it). I had a memory card for my FFX and my twelve year old son has one for his. You can see where this is going, he called me this past Thursday to let me know that he had gotten the cards backwards and had nuked all the saves on my card.

O-M-G

I figured it was a sign from God telling me that I should quit screwing around with Japanese anime-ware* and crank out that last test - to which I said 'screw that' and went out and bought a uniquely colored memory card that would ONLY be for my FFX saves and I bought a walkthrough manual as well and then I started back into it at the beginning.

Now I dutifully have my last test scheduled on some date on which I have no intention of taking it of course; and the night before I'm scheduled to take it for these past several months I log onto their site and punt the date down another two or three weeks. So I'm leveling up my FFX characters like mad last night on the Thunder plains and I determine that I would really rather play FFX than study for that test I have scheduled for the next day. I log onto their site and the test date is locked, cannot reschedule, cannot call since it’s the weekend. Welcome to Screwedville, population me.

So I cram like there's no tomorrow (after playing another half an hour of FFX) with the expectation that this will be the hardest test yet (70-298 for those keeping track). I'm nervous as hell going into it since I planned on cramming 15 hours and I spent maybe two, two and half hours looking over my notes.

The result: Crappiest, and thus easiest, test ever. I wish I could get that two and half hours back so that I could put them into my game. I've said it before on other Microsoft tests, but I mean it this time, half the test was "who is buried in Grant's tomb" B.S. type questions that someone who has never seen a computer could have gotten right. The other half were an amalgamation of ‘greatest hits’ questions from previous (sometimes two previous) exams. So easy were the first few questions that I determined after answering only half the questions that it was mathematically impossible for me to fail.

I promised myself that I’d take some extra tests this year, but I think me and my brain are done for now. Of course all it takes is a mild business downturn and the possibility of missing a meal to refocus the mind!

*(From what I’ve read, this game had strong(er) religious overtones in its original Japanese iteration. I dare say that if the country of origin wasn’t taken into consideration and a more faithful port was performed that it might be viewed as having a very strong Christian (albeit anti-Catholic) storyline)

Monday, July 17, 2006

Goodhearted Idiots

Someone needs to put this on billboards placed every twenty feet on every major highway:
Honesty and truly I say, there's nothing special about pull tabs [on soda cans] which makes them exchangeable for time on a dialysis machine. These bits of metal are worth nothing more than the ordinary recycle value of the aluminum they contain. Though rumor claims pull tabs are made of a special metal or have a "higher aluminum content" than the cans they accompany (thus accounting for their imagined greater value), there's nothing to this notion — the tabs are made from the same material as the cans.
A million pull tabs have a recycle value of just under $300 U.S. And that's before you factor in what it costs to collect, store, and transport them to a recycling center which will pay cash for them. When you consider the time and effort it takes to collect a million of anything, it's a wonder anyone would go to all that trouble for a mere $300. Far better to ask everyone you know for a penny in place of each pull tab they would have given you — at least then when you were done collecting your million, you'd have $10,000 to donate to your charity.
This is one of those things that I never bother to quash since, it doesn't make sense on it's face; I figure the person telling me this doesn't believe it themselves. I remember being told this yarn back in the sixth grade (twenty some years) and thinking it was a load of bull.

But it still comes up, so at least now I'll have URL to point people to; people are always grateful to be told their good intentions are a crock, right? I'll be the most popular person in Northeast Ohio, prepare to be jealous!

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Free Time

Dvorak notes this video where someone edited the skateboards out of video. Although a technical feat, I have to wonder there the creator got the time to make something so frivolous.

As well, I was NASA again today for an event, and the presenter was having issues with the playback on the projector of what was obviously an encoded video of some sort (probably DivX). The other presenter cracked about how the pause in the action is no doubt thanks to Microsoft. I cracked semi-silently to myself that they couldn't fool me; it was no doubt a Mac up there that was choking on the video*. Then the woman in front of me turns around and says "no, that's why we have Macs!"

WTF? A friggin' Mac zealot! I felt the need to stand up......for.....Microsoft? Screw that says I. The Sandmich refuses to be a whore for any corporation (except for maybe that Skyline Chili place and whatever place I happen to be working for). Where do these Mac people get off thinking that it's a worthwhile pursuit to plug a multinational corporation, for free? Don't they know there are real religions out there with much more well meaning dogmas?

However, along those same lines I occasionally see (typically Japanese) artwork of OS-chans which are inspired mascotts (typically scantily clad anime girls) based upon a particular (typically Microsoft) OS. The whole idea leaves me puzzled. Is there so little in the world from which to draw inspiration from, and so much free time that there's nothing better to do than make your own ads up for Microsoft? I caught a picture of some girl though who took it to the next level and made her own cosplay outfit based upon the idea, oy!


I got that pic from this cosplay site. Go on and click it you perv, I know you like girls that dress up like Sailor Moon!



*The joke being of course, that a Mac would only be able to play back video that's been encoded by some software that only three people on the planet own. Usually Mac people have more humility than to whip it out in public.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Valuable Fortune

I loved these two cookie fortunes so much that I taped them to my monitor, the lucky numbers are provided free of charge!

Monday, July 10, 2006

Random Pics

I had some family come and visit and I took some pictures of some landers that are docked downtown near a Coast Guard facility. Kind'a a pain since they sit back at a weird angle behind a fenced barrier. I guess they keep them on hand in case Canada needs to be invaded (though they probably have two too many):

I've taken pictures of the landers and the nearby anchored U.S.S. Cod, but these seemed to come out particularly well:

And lastly, I finally got off my lazy butt and took a picture of my unlicensed Counterstrike toys that I picked up from some unscrupulous Chinamen:

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Apple a Day

Maine is dumping laptops on all the kids in their education system in an attempt to, well, they don't really say, but a helpful blogger passes along some notes:
What did we learn? If you're thinking of doing something like this, go to one vendor. Don't spread it around - you want one throat to choke. When something goes wrong, you don't want the computer company blaming the network company. Get one vendor who can deal with the whole issue and be your partner. For us, Apple was a real partner. They moved people to Maine, were fantastic with repairs, a real partner.
Macs rank right up there with soccer on the number of kids who use versus the number of adults, but that doesn't stop the adherents from thinking their payday is right around the corner. The killer is that Bill Gate's foundation supplied at least part of the funding for the endeavor. But why get the laptops in the first place?
The model of education for 500 years has been a teacher becomes an expert and dumps data on kids. Thomas Jefferson could know everything, but now, no one can, because there is so much more knowledge out there today. We should look at law school as a model, because there's too much damn law. Nobody can learn all of it. Instead, you learn how to ask the right questions, identify the issues, and find the law. That's a much better model for kids to learn in a knowledge-rich society. It's a different kind of learning. Like they say, we've gone from the sage on the stage to the guide on the side. We're not going to beat the rest of the world on rote learning.
'Guide on the side'? What a pile of crap, and they attest as much elsewhere in the article:
So do not - do not - promise your school board that one-to-one laptops will improve test scores, or you'll be out of a job. You can say they improve writing skills - all the research is showing this. But it's really about problem solving.
I must admit that I think laptops do improve writing skills, at least in my own experience, but why is this? I tend to think it's because of the consistent, constant (some would say nagging) feedback that a program like Word provides on writing miscues. As helpful and educational as it is, this is the epitome of 'rote learning' where an 'instructor' incessantly badgers the student to perform certain tasks correctly. Although it's probably better coming from a computer since there can be no perceived malice on the computer's part, and for as much as you might get angry with them, computers will never, ever, ever give a care for your feelings.

Now longtime readers of the ES know of my ambivalence when it comes to computers in the classroom. I guess this comes from growing up in an environment where computers were thrown into classrooms in the hope that some mystical force of osmosis would transfer some flavor of computer knowledge with which the administrators of the school were themselves wholly unfamiliar with. Hearing stuff like the above doesn't exactly reassure me that anything has changed in the intervening years and people should ask what exactly school administrators hope to get out of expanded computer use by students. I can't help but think that the educrats hope that the computer will give them some cover for their overall ineptitude, which it well might if it were developed properly; but if they won't even play to the computers strengths (few though they might be) then educational computer use will continue to be largely a waste of time and resources.

(It also needs to be pointed out what resource hogs computers are in terms of space, power, manpower, trash generation, etc. So costly are their overall usage in an institutional environment that they should really only be used in situations where either it's a task only a computer could do, or where using a computer offsets resource usage in some other area) .