Monday, December 29, 2008

My friends are plotting against me!

Friday, December 26, 2008

DIY Biotechnologists - Start Praying

Apparently the new rage is to attempt synthetic biology in one's home, says this article:

Amateurs are trying genetic engineering at home

(via the Associated Press)

People with no training and only rudimentary knowledge doing genetic splicing in unregulated lab conditions? Very scary. And you thought genetically engineered food was bad? Please. You haven't been scared s***less until you've seen Joe the Plumber trying to splice vanilla flavoring into E.coli and then injecting it into his Gun'n'Roses tattoo so he can have a scratch'n'sniff bicep.
"We should try to make science more sexy and more fun and more like a game," says Mackenzie Cowell, a 24-year-old who majored in biology in college and co-founder of the group DIYbio which has set up a community lab where the public could use chemicals and lab equipment, including a free Craigslist freezer.
NO. We shouldn't. Science will always be sexy to the hardcore. and it is sexy to stupid people as well... but it should be kept out of their reach, and restricted to people dedicated enough to pursue it. Is this a discriminatory statement? Absolutely not: anyone regardless of background is free to pursue it, but they should be required to obtain the appropriate training and put in the work to get there. There's nothing discriminatory about meritocracy.

I cringe every time I see college kids not using goggles and other safety equipment in lab, and they're actually being supervised and taught proper lab technique. Do you really want untrained individuals to be weilding even more responsability than that, in your backyard?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Ball Droppeth... again

Sony Computer Entertainment has today announced that it will perform a worldwide release of the new PlayStation Home service on December 11, 2009. The 3D social gaming service has recently completed its lengthy beta test and will allow PlayStation 3 users to interact, communicate and share game experiences with each other.

PlayStation Home will allow open interaction among users, business partners and SCE, and will evolve with additional features including dedicated game spaces, special events and exclusive themed items, to further enrich the entertainment experience on the PS3 platform.

A variety of consumer partners will participate in Home including Paramount Digital Entertainment, Red Bull and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

(via Gamespy)
Great Sony... you just invented Second Life, except now I'll be dealing with people who don't have a keyboard. Leaving most to use BT headsets (though many people on PSN don't, and those who do, I can seldom understand them clearly).

Well, regardless, I'm sure all my friends will be on here, just like in Second Life... oh wait, that's right... none of my friends use Second Life.

What I think more people would REALLY appreciate is for Sony to improve the ability to communicate with people on your Friends list, and to more easily hook up with them for games. I'd really appreciate a better interface for jamming with my buddy in online Rock Band 2, for instance. Seriously... "Invite a Friend" basically emails them an attachment?

Come on, Sony, make this easier. Take all these social-networking type feature and make them 2D (ie built into the XMB interface) rather than revert back to the "ooh, 3D is the Wave of the Future!" mentality of the 90's. I'd much rather have the ability to make a audio/text chat room with a few clicks in the XMB, to meet with my buddies and arrange a game, rather than go join a 3D one that involves having to run around and find people. Much more complicated.

(Note: I'm not bashing Second Life, just the fact that it's not so wildly popular that I think it justified PS Home being pushed ahead of the other updates I mentioned)

12/15/08 Update: I tried out Home the day after it went public (turns out 12/11/08 was just the public beta) and I couldn't get on. I tried again today, 5 days later and I still get a "can't connect" message. What's worse is there is no option to retry the connection. Some form of "busy redial" would seem appropriate to me. All in all, it's a bust so far. I'm asked to accept the online usage policy every time, as well.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

I'd Sooner Kiss a Wookie

Robot Chicken - Escape from the Death Star
I was totally floored to see this in the recent Robot Chicken Star Wars Special 2. For all you kids who aren't old enough, or (*ahem*) cool enough to know, the nerds pictured here are playing Escape from the Death Star. Until now, I thought my close friends and I were the only ones priviledged enough to have played it.

Wait, did I say privledged?
I meant damned. Worse board game ever.

Maybe our dice were just weighted, but it seemed that no matter what you did, you inevitable wound up in the detention block/trash compactor at the center of the board, which you could only escape from with a perfect roll. We all spent most of the game stuck there. To this day, mention Escape from the Death Star to any of my friends who was there, and they break into a cold sweat, and go into full PTSD-mode.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Message from Our Alien Overlords

As frequent readers know, every Saturday we publish a new article in our Home & Lifestyle section of the blog. This week, frequent contributor Xltlksxxr has a few helpful tips for how to tidy up around the house.
Matriarch of Qtrrklr-7, and Freelance Contributor







Join us next week for the continuation of this article, including more tips on how to knit the perfect tea cozy.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Swap Modifier Keys Between Macbook and External Windows Keyboard Modes

A problem with PC keyboards on the Mac is that your Option and Command keys get mapped to the Windows and Alt keys, respectively (this swaps their placement). This makes it confusing when you are switching between a Macbook's onboard keyboard and USB PC keyboard.

Well, in Keyboard & Mouse preferences you can swap the modifier keys (Option, Command, Control, and Caps Lock) to remedy this. In Tiger, you could only change this globally for all keyboards, meaning that when you switched between external and internal keyboards, you'd have to keep switching the settings if you wanted to keep the right key orientation. This gave rise to the Applescript below, from Lance Ball.

Keyboard Prefs Screenshot
In Leopard, however, they added the ability to configure keyboards independently. You could, theoretically, leave your internal keyboard with the default setting, and only have them swapped for the external. Oh, if only this were the case. I run a Logitech Cordless Desktop MX3000, and used to, for a brief moment, have the option to do this. It was listed as "USB Reciever". However, the Logitech Control Center driver removed this. That's what brought me to the following script. This will automatically swap the Option and Command key mappings, toggling between them each time it is run. The original Lance Ball script was for Tiger, but has been adapted for Leopard. You can use this with MarcoPolo to run automatically when you add/remove your keyboard.

Update (9/29/08): I gave up using my MX3000 mouse, and went to a more ergonomic MS Natural Mouse. Since the MX3000 keyboard never worked with Logitech Control Center anyway, I just removed the driver. I've now reclaimed the ability to independently map my Logitech keyboard. Huzzah.

If you still need the Leopard script for some reason, here it is. I added code to swap the MBP’s keyboard illumination on/off (off for ‘docked’ mode. You can enable this feature as per the script comments since it's disabled by default.

Paste and save the following in Script Editor.
-- **********************************************************************************
-- Utility script to switch keyboard mapping for Command and Option keys.
-- Useful when you have a PC external keyboard that you use in one location, but
-- at other times you are using the builtin laptop keyboard or an Apple keyboard.
-- Author: Lance Ball (lanceball - at - mac - dot - com)
-- Modified by: Joe Chan
-- Modified attributes: Script will change Internal Keyboard to have default behavior when
-- changing keyboards
-- Leopard 10.5.5 version by netgarou. Also added feature to toggle Macbook Pro keyboard illumination.
-- (Remove the appropriate remark lines that start with "--**" to enable this if your system supports it).
-- Also disabled Growl notifications by default.
-- **********************************************************************************

-- Set up growl notifications
tell application "GrowlHelperApp"
-- Make a list of all the notification types
-- that this script will ever send:
set the allNotificationsList to ¬
{"External Keyboard Mode Notification", "Default Keyboard Mode Notification"}

-- Make a list of the notifications
-- that will be enabled by default.
-- Those not enabled by default can be enabled later
-- in the 'Applications' tab of the growl prefpane.
set the enabledNotificationsList to ¬
{"External Keyboard Mode Notification", "Default Keyboard Mode Notification"}

-- Register our script with growl.
-- You can optionally (as here) set a default icon
-- for this script's notifications.
register as application ¬
"Change Keyboard AppleScript" all notifications allNotificationsList ¬
default notifications enabledNotificationsList ¬
icon of application "Script Editor"
end tell

-- Open System Preferences
tell application "System Preferences"
set current pane to pane ""
end tell

tell application "System Events"
-- If we don't have UI Elements enabled, then nothing is really going to work.
if UI elements enabled then
tell application process "System Preferences"
get properties
--If keyboard illumination is on, disable it when the external keyboard is connected.
--**if value of checkbox "Illuminate keyboard in low light conditions" of group 1 of tab group 1 of window "Keyboard & Mouse" is 1 then
--** click checkbox "Illuminate keyboard in low light conditions" of group 1 of tab group 1 of window "Keyboard & Mouse"
--**end if
-- Open up the Modifier Keys sheet
click button "Modifier Keys…" of tab group 1 of window "Keyboard & Mouse"
tell sheet 1 of window "Keyboard & Mouse"
-- get the text of the 3rd pop up button
set areweDefault to "0"
set commandKey to value of pop up button 2
-- If we're in default mode, swap the keys
if commandKey ends with "Option" then
-- Change "All" keyboards
click pop up button 2
click menu item 4 of menu 1 of pop up button 2
delay 0.1
click pop up button 1
click menu item 3 of menu 1 of pop up button 1
delay 0.1
-- Send growl notification
--** tell application "GrowlHelperApp"
--notify with name ¬
--** "External Keyboard Mode Notification" title ¬
--** "External Keyboard Mode" description ¬
--** "Settings have been optimized for external keyboards" application name "Change Keyboard AppleScript"
--** end tell
--** delay 0.1
click button "OK"
-- We're in PC keyboard mode. Swap back to the defaults
click button "Restore Defaults"
--** set areweDefault to "1"
-- Send growl notification
--** tell application "GrowlHelperApp"
--notify with name ¬
--** "Default Keyboard Mode Notification" title ¬
--** "Default Keyboard Mode" description ¬
--** "Reverted to default keyboard settings" application name "Change Keyboard AppleScript"
--**end tell
click button "OK"
end if
-- close the sheet
end tell
--** If switching back into laptop keyboard mode, then reenable the keyboard illumination if it was disabled
--** if areweDefault is "1" then
--** if value of checkbox "Illuminate keyboard in low light conditions" of group 1 of tab group 1 of window "Keyboard & Mouse" is 0 then
--** click checkbox "Illuminate keyboard in low light conditions" of group 1 of tab group 1 of window "Keyboard & Mouse"
--** end if
--**end if

end tell
tell application "System Preferences" to quit
-- UI elements not enabled. Display an alert
tell application "System Preferences"
set current pane to pane ""
display dialog "UI element scripting is not enabled.
Check \"Enable access for assistive devices\""
end tell
end if
end tell

Spore: Round One

I started playing Spore this week.  I don't know how the online reviewers could claim that the performance was good even on less powerful machines.  I have it running on my Macbook Pro 2.2ghz (Geforce 8600M 128MB) with all the settings turned down, and it *CRAWLS* once past the Cell stage.  Anyway, here  are two of the products from my game: my species, and a land vehicle for them. Although not much of a game at this point in development, the creator tools really are amazing.  I'm looking forward to seeing what else I can come up with.

Yeah, it looks kinda funny... but I'm proud of the duck head.  It reminds me of the one on Wade's swimming tube from the US Acres/Garfieldd & Friends cartoon.

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="250" caption="Wade Duck"][/caption]

As you progress to each new stage (Cell->Creature->Tribal->Nation->etc) your species develops one of three specializations depending on your choices in the last stage.  For some reason mine became faith/culturally based.  Thus in the Civilization stage I must use faith to convert other rival nations.  Hence, this guy here is the "Faithinator 1000".  Those loudspeakers coming out the side blare the word of Cthulhu to the heathen.  I'm somewhat proud of the VW-Hippopotamus look that it's taken on, and only wish the legs would articulate when the unit is moving in the game (what's the point in putting in legs if you can't see them walk?).

Saturday, August 30, 2008

OSX 10.6 Snow Leopard: Fix the Finder!

With OS X 10.6 "Snow Leopard", Apple's Goal is to "Enhance the performance of OS X, set a new standard for quality and lay the foundation for future OS X innovation." They are promising that, although there will be no huge feature additions, 10.6 will be worth our while since it will give Apple the opportunity to clean up their code and make a cleaner, leaner, meaner OS X.

Yet, missing from the feature list which includes things like Grand Central, is something that Mac users have been clamoring for for a while: An overhaul of the Finder.

I will totally get this upgrade if, on their list of fixes they fix the #%@#% Finder. Seriously, it's the most used, most prominent element of OS X in need of an update. Most people will get way more mileage out of an overhaul of the Finder than any of the other things I've seen listed.

For instance, fix the crashes, have Trash remember the origin of deleted files so you can actually recover them, and have enable Undo/Trash support for files that are erased by the "copy and replace" Finder operation. For that matter, how about a "copy and merge" function instead of (or in addition to) the aforementioned?

Six Corporations Own Everything You Read, See, and Hear

Really scary... turn off the TV.  The corporations are GE, Time Warner, Disney, News Corporation (Fox), CBS, and Viacom.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Who Knew Billy G Was Funny?

Despite how much I hate Micro$oft and it's crappy, do-nothing software that hasn't changed significantly in 10 years, I have to admit that Gates is pretty funny in this.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

"Pennsylvania has herpes"

from The Daily Show 4.23.2008:

Woman: The attention's been really flattering with the media being in Pennsylvania for the past month and a half.
Jason Jones: Yeah, it's like when a guy hits on you in a bar, takes you home, and then never calls you again. You're that girl.
Woman: Yeah.
And I'm that guy...  and now you have herpes.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Mac Trash Bin

I hate to admit it, but Windows actually has one advantage over OS X, and that's the handling ofdeleted files.  Sure, on both systems you can always undo the last operation (well, not always... I'm not going to make that blanket statement).  However, Windows Recycle Bin has a few big advantages:


Windows Recycle Bin remembers where each file came from.
Just right click an item and choose restore, and it will go back to the right place.  Very important for those deleted preference files that need to end up in some arcane location in your Documents and Settings. In OS X, good luck placing stuff back in to the right folder. Strange that OS X is all about metadata but doesn't keep track of this.

You can selectively remove items from the trash
As opposed to OS X's all-or-nothing "Empty Trash" option.

When you're copying a folder and another of that same name already exists in the destination, Mac only gives you an option to Replace.
This deletes the existing folder then copies the new one in it's place (see common Finder gripes: "Replace vs Merge").  Something deleted in this way doesn't go to the Trash. This is insult to injury: Not only are you surprised to find that you just accidently did a delete and replace instead of the far more common and expected merge, but then you're double-screwed because Apple decided to disable Undo for this most destructive of actions.  It's pretty evil.

And to all the Mac users out there: all the other OS's do merge, or will at least give the option for it.  I'd at *least* like Finder to present this choice, especially since the Merge operation is a lot harder for a user to replicate on their own, than a Replace.  By the way, it's not perfect, but you can reclaim some of your lost Merge with MergetoFinder applescript

Control Junk Mail

Annoying credit card/insurance offers got you down?  Get out of them:  It's even endorced by the Federal Trade Commission.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

But at the Market, isn't it Spelled "McIntosh"?

I now has a Macbook. w3rd!
To anyone who has tried them both:  I ask whether you prefer Word 2008 or iWork's Pages '08?  Same goes, to a lesser extent, for the other Office vs iWorks components.

Leopard rocks, so much so that it is a worthy point of procrastination to mention it at midnight when I still have a paper left to write....


After using Pages (iWork’s wordprocessor) some more, I have to say, it’s nice, but because it uses it’s own format, I find myself still saving in .DOC format a lot in order to port my files between systems, and saving to other formats sucks.

If you save as a Word .DOC…

  1. It’s not just another possible format to select in the save dialog… oh no. You’re not saving the file, apparently, you’re exporting it. Different rules apply, and you can’t just hit option-S.

  2. I don’t think it does autosaves to DOC format.

  3. Even when you haven’t modified the file, it say that the file has changed, and ask you to save it again. Gets very annoying when you just saved it. This is another reason I think it doesn’t autosave.

So basically it treats DOC as an alien format, and different rules apply. Very similar to Photoshop’s “Save a Copy” option.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Survey: Silent Discos

Would you ever go to one?

Adultswim Videos

Wordpress won't let me embed the videos dammit:

Aqua Teen Hunger Force:

Robot Chicken: Star Wars

Adulterated Cookies

A friend was telling me yesterday that nowadays, in an effort to be more responsible, they've gone and bastardized the Sesame Street that we all grew up with. The worst case of this is that now Cookie Monster doesn't wolf down his favorite snack like he used to. Now he sings "Cookies are a Sometimes Food"

Sometimes is now!


I was watching an old Daily Show and came across this and thought it was worth repeating.

"We share 98.5 percent of our DNA with chimps.
The other 1.5% ? Well, that's why we kill each other."

However, I have to point out that the exact percentage of common DNA is debated, especially when you take introns and 'junk' DNA into account. Oh, and chimps can be pretty mean, cannibalistic little buggers, so there's that as well.

Web+Log = Annoying Neologism

I've been wondering this for a while now, going back to the very start of the blogging movement, when I had a close friend with a publicly accessible blog. I can understand personal blogs where access is restricted just to friends, and I can understand non-personal blogs (tech, politics, etc), but I'd like to know why the personal, publicly viewable blogs/journals are attractive to those who use them. Anyone care to elucidate the matter for me?

Interesting Satellite Imagery

Apparently in the 70's, and even before that, some people thought it would be smart to throw tires into the ocean to build reefs. This happened at Fort Lauderdale. Now, they did this without any research or test runs to back up the claim that coral and other animals would be able to colonize the tire reef. I'm sure they said something along the lines of "This is such a brilliant idea, how could anything ever go wrong?"


"The steel clips used on the straps holding the bundles of tires together have melted away, and loose tires are scouring the sea bottom of any life. Tires are washing up on beaches and blocking the growth of a real coral reef further down the shore."

The tires kill just about everything on the ocean floor, and are costing a mint to clean up. See the pics and satellite images at

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Valentine's Day Picts

My last chance to post something contemporaneous for V-day (no, not the WWII one). The first shows 1,000 candles in front of Yokohama Red Brick Warehouse (Yokohama, Japan) as part of a promo event. Neat. I wish I had a high res picture of that, without all the annoying people in the way as well.

The second one is sweet: a touching reminder of the universality of love and the affirmation that although there may seem to be a fundamental rift between Western and Muslim culture, there are still commonalities. And that's totally a man under that burka.1.jpg

Widescreen Goodies

It's really hard to find high resolution (1280 and above) wallpaper, let alone in widescreen. Those of you with 1920x1200 displays feel my pain. I've gotten some compliments on my choices of backdrops, so I thought I would share a few of my sources. Check them out, if, like me, you are blessed with 24 inches.

My favorite. He has some free ones, but the main stuff you have to pay for with a nominal fee ($10), that gets you lifetime access to the site. New picts are periodically added.


What else can I say? Possibly the best repository on the web. Link to widescreen section Warning: I can't seem to find any that go beyond 1400x900. Might be a limitation imposed by the site.

HDR Walls

They have a nice collection of High Dynamic Range photos, at high resolutions.  It involves shooting multiple times, with different exposures, and layering them to create dramatic lighting effects and saturation.  Not all of them are high-def.  But some go up to 1920x1200.


Babes & Wallpapers

Some good images and wallpaper (not all of which are widescreen) ripped from various parts of the Interwebs. Oh, and there are some pretty women to look at too.

Addendum: Although not widescreen (or highres, they max out at 1600x1200) this site has excellent wallpaper:

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


There's a famous children's song in Japan,

Tan-tan-tanuki no kintama wa
kaze mo nai no ni:
"bu-ra" "bu-ra"

It roughly translates to "Look at the tanuki's balls. There's no wind, but they're still swinging" (bu-ra is the sound it makes). This is really the only kids song I know in Japanese, but it's all I need!
Tanuki (Nyctereutes procyonoides), commonly translated as "racoon dog", is a canid with a build that resembles a Welsh corgie, and markings that resemble a badger or racoon. Their role in Japanese folklore is pretty similar to that of kitsune ("foxes") in that they are shape shifting tricksters.

For an excellent (though animated) look at them, I recommend Heisei Tanuki Gassen Pon Poko (or just "Pom Poko"), by Studio Ghibli.

There are tanuki statues everywhere in Japan. They're often outside of businesses/restaurants, as they are for luck I believe. Here are some of the ones I've captured.


Sunday, February 10, 2008

Visual Design Inspired Videos

Found a bunch of awesome videos today. Here are a couple of them. I particularly love the Hours music video.

The Hours, "Ali in the Jungle". Video by Jonas Odell
The Hours
Via MotionGraphics

The War
The Hours

MagnetoSphere by Trentemoller

via flight404

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Tragedy of the Commons - Smurfenomics

The tragedy of the commons explains what happens when natural resources are exploited by one party to the detriment of all others. The free market dictates that something that is owned by no one, will have it's price set by the market. However this is pretty flawed. The reason for it is explained here... with Smurfs. Smurf this link.


"The fact that Smurfs don’t belong to anybody means they belong to everybody"

Friday, February 8, 2008

Colbert Report's Better Know a Lobbyist Interview

from 02-06-08

Colbert: What is the HRC?
Joe Solmonese: The Human Rights Campaign
Colbert: I thought it was the Homosexual Rights campaign
Solmonese: No, "Human Rights Campaign"
Colbert: I thought you worked for homosexual rights.
Solmonese: We do, but HRC is the "Human Rights Campaign."
Colbert: Are you saying that only homosexuals are humans and that straight people aren't humans? That's what you're implying with that name.
Solmonese: No, we're implying that gay rights are human rights.
Colbert: Well, aren't some people more human than others?
Solmonese: No.
Colbert: I'm straight, I can make other humans. Doesn't that give me a leg up?
Solmonese: No. I'm gay, I can make other humans too.
Colbert: But you choose not to -- so you've chosen not to be human.
Solmonese: No, I've chosen not to make other humans.
Colbert: So, if I use birth control, you're saying that makes me gay?
Solmonese: <thinks for a moment> ... Good question.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Vote Whichever Way Your Heart Desires. Just Vote.

If you don't vote, Stalin, Kim Jong-Il, and Hitler will break into your house and eat your kittens. It's true!

Nifty Technology Demos

A new concept in interactive lighting from Philips

By far the coolest Wii hack/VR demo I've seen. Simple, practical, and powerful.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Foray into the blogosphere

I told myself I would never do this but you know what they say about rules, and the predestined violation of said rules.