Wednesday, August 31, 2005

iPod in Patent Violation?

Creative was awarded patent number 6,928,433 yesterday which covers the user interface found in most current MP3 players.

Referred to as the "Zen Patent" by Creative, it describes a method of selecting a single audio track by navigating through a hierarchy of three or more tiers. Sound familiar iPod users?

Creative states that they had sold nearly 100,000 NOMAD players using technology covered by the patent a full 13 months before Apple's announcment of the iPod.

Sounds like litigious speak to me.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Ruby Slippers Gone Missing

Apparently four pairs of Ruby Slippers from the original Wizard of Oz film are known to exist. I've seen the pair on display at the Smithsonian.

This past weekend, a pair was stolen from the Childrens Discovery Museum in Grand Rapids, MN, where Judy Garland was born in 1922. The slippers were lent to the museum by a private owner in Los Angeles.

In 2000, one pair sold at Christie's for $666,000.

That's a lotta poppies, but at least the thief won't face the death penalty for swiping some slippers, Dorothy's or not. In 2002, a pair of slippers supposedly worn by the prophet Muhammad were taken from the Badshahi mosque in Pakistan, a country where transgression of blasphemy laws can result in execution.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Playing Ninja

One time, when I was in the third grade, one of the two Sisters who lived down the street rang our doorbell and asked if I could join them and some friends in their garage to "hang out". Up until that point, I had only ever called friends on the phone to see if they could "play". I'd never "hung out" before. Especially not with the Sisters down the street, who must have been in about the sixth grade at the time. One of them regularly wore a Guns N Roses t-shirt. Yeah.

Standing concealed from view but within earshot of the Sister and my mother, who answered the door, I listened with shock, delight and instant nervousness as I was invited to mingle with the older kids.

This was all replaced with a horror that only children know as my mom told her that maybe I could come down later, because right now I was "playing ninja".

And sure enough, I was wearing my ninja PJs, headband on, throwing plastic ninja stars and weilding nunchucks I had constructed from toilet paper tubes, tape and twine. And I had been all day.

Needless to say, I never got to hang out. With the Sisters. Ever.

Flick Off

Yahoo!, the new owner of photo-sharing web community Flickr, has managed to rub some 400 or so members the wrong way by requiring that they create Yahoo! identities in order to continue using their Flickr accounts. So, they formed the user group Flick Off to voice their protests.

For the most part, I think this is a silly overreaction. All users will maintain their Flickr login names and photo collections, and all links to Flickr pictures will remain the same, so no one's blog is going to break.

Okay, argue the corporate factor, and in some ways I agree. Large businesses reaching even further across the web when it comes to my information is a little scary, but I can always choose to use a service or not.

Also, this does say something to the affinity users feel for their online communities, and I understand that advertising Flickr to a Yahoo! audience will likely introduce a different element (read "less hip") to the group. And this can be upsetting to people. Well. Oh, well.

Elementary School


Speaking of elementary school, Richard Scarry's Cars and Trucks and Things That Go was by far one of my favorite books. Goldbug, shown on the cover driving the yellow bulldozer, would hide out on each two-page spread and you'd have to spot him Where's Waldo style.

This and a dinosaur book went pretty much everywhere with me. I can't remember the title of the book, but I definitley remember the cover and many of the illustrations. Especially those of archaeopteryx and the "egg-thief" dinosaur, which I'm guessing is oviraptor. Although, it seems the egg-eater theory has since been debunked.

Strange to remember those illustrations and descriptions and compare them to current theories. My Stegosaurus dragged its tail. And mine was called Brontosaurus, not Apatosaurus.

At any rate, Anthony's got a great illustration of another fav of mine, Ankylosaurus.

A Little After-School D&D

Wizards of the Coast is sponsoring a Dungeons & Dragons after-school program in public libraries. This would have been a dream come true for me when I was in fourth grade.

Great way to get kids thinking creatively and analytically, and to instigate face-to-face interaction with one another rather than chatting over IM or a headset during Halo online play. Besides, D&D is so damn cool.

Friday, August 26, 2005

SACK II for Your Giant Robot

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To my surprise, I just learned that the venerable mobile suit pilot Char Aznable has abandoned his attempts to brow-beat the Earth into recognizing spacenoid colonies as independent nations, and instead is now hocking SACK II condoms: "TRY NEW TYPE CAN YOU SURVIVE? 12 TIMES?"




I can only assume for copyright reasons that he was forced by his superiors at Zeon to alter the name and design of his ZAKU II in order to persue his new venture.

Quizmaster

My clutch moment at quiz night came with the question: "Alex J. Murphy is better known as who in the movie series."

Answer here.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Teenagers from Mars


Ever since I really stopped buying comic books in the eighth grade, I put out a probe every few months or so hoping to find a new read that excites me the same way comics did way back when. I guess I just miss that new toy feeling - like when I opened my AT-AT the first time.

Well, the Rick Spears & Rob G eight issue series Teenagers from Mars still doesn't compare to the light-up head cannons, but it does contain all kinds of stuff that I like in my comics: zombies, punk rock girls, fantastic art, and some intelligent commentary to boot.

I have to admit a small bias here: I did go to high school with the artist Rob G. However, I haven't spoken to him in over 10 years, and I guarantee he wouldn't remember me anyway (he was three years ahead of me). We did have art class together, though, and I still remember his version of Wolverine tied to the big X crucifix from Uncanny X-Men #251 . Plus, TFM has all kinds of references to our hometown, which I got a huge kick out of.

At any rate, TFM tells an anti-censorship tale posing as a crash course in how to go from meek-geek to ass-kicker all while wearing a Joy Division t-shirt.

I've got all eight independently published ishes in the original, because I'm that guy, but you can pick up the graphic novel from your local shop. Also, check out other Spears/G works at their new site Gigantic Graphic Novels (still under construction).

Other Rob G: The Couriers series, Filler, Dead West

Davis Limbach


There may be a little something of the Jamie Hewlitt touch to Seattle artist Davis Limbach's urban, anime influenced creations, but you won't find any Michael Jackson in Limbach's visions of "confusion, aimlessness, [and] apathy".* Instead, I find his work to be eerily comforting in its quiet uncertainty.

Not much on Limbach's site, yet, but I'm definitely bookmarking in anticipation of more to come.

In the meantime, the [con]temporary blog has some great photos of a brick wall mural project completed by Limbach and crew.

* from the description of Limbach's May 21 - June 25, 2005 show at Hipposchemes

Gift Bag


My good friend Warrick, during his two-year exile from the States, worked as a bike messenger in London. I recently visited him and his new wife in Boston where he presented me with by far one of the coolest gifts I've ever received: a Royal Mail delivery bag. It took some back alley dealings with a postman, but Warrick secured for me what I am told is an oft-used bag by London couriers. Even the FAA security lady noticed what a hot dog I am with my new bag and complimented me as she scanned it for explosives. Thanks, Warrick.

Caption: Here we have Paul Davies, a Royal Mail postman of 18 years sporting, yes, a dapper red RM bag.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Glomp

This weekend, my teenage sister is off to Otakon, the annual anime otaku convention held in beautiful Baltimore MD. This year she's gone bigger and badder, sporting a handful of different costumes, one of which is coordinated with a group of friends all dressing from the same manga series.

First off, I should admit that this is likely all my fault. We're eleven years apart, my sister and I, and I think I permanently damaged her by growing up geek.

Second off, let me say that while impersonating animated characters in hotel lobbies is not generally my thing, I did agree to attend a convention with her once that coincided with one of my trips home.

Sis: (eyes twinkling) "Are you going to dress up?"
Me: "...Uh..."
Sis: "Everyone does. If you don't, it's like, look at that person without a costume."
Me: "Well, do people my age dress up?"
Sis: "Oh, yeah. My friend who I met last year is like 30 and she dressed as *string of anime characters' names*. She's really cool. You'll like her."
Me: "..."

So for a Saturday, I was Spike Spiegel, a nice choice for the simplicity of his costume. And, my sister told all of her friends I look like him. This, I soon gathered, is a nice compliment in her circle.

I can say now first hand, after having attended this minor convention, that not everyone dresses up. Not everyone indeed. No problem, I'm only mildly embarrassed when we roll into Taco Bell. I'm in some get-up with two 15 year old girls - also in costume - in tow.

My favorite moment occured, however, in the vendor's room, the sequestered area where you buy your pocky and Sailor Moon keychains, when a young man in blue spray-painted cardboard armor and a helmet made of - I'm guessing - a combination of socks and papier-mache approached me and mumbled: "Koichi Yamadera". I know this is what he said now, because I just looked it up. At the time, however, I had no idea he was even speaking to me until he removed his helmet and continued by offering some more words (later learned to be anime characters' names) as if waiting for me to recognize what he was doing. Oh shit, I thought, he's reciting dialog from the show the character I'm dressed as is from or something, and godblesshim, I think he might be mildly autistic. He saved me, though, just as I started shaking my head, and clearly said, "Koichi Yamadera is the actor who did all of those characters' voices". Including my guy, Spike Spiegel. "That's an impressive memory," I said. He asked me if I knew who his character was, and I apologized because I didn't. That was okay with him; he flashed me a big smile, bowed low and left.

Then someone glomped me.

The cardboard knight seemed like such a sweet person. I wish I could have guessed his character for him, because I'm sure it was a great costume.

Pigeon-ku

Walking accident
Pigeon's head beneath my foot
Instant augury


That's an old one based on a friend's true life experience. Stepped on a pigeon's head by accident. Damn.

A pigeon is a dumb bird, yes, but on top of that Boston pigeons just don't give a shit. Riding my bike, a pigeon in my way would always fly straight up instead of to the side when trying to avoid me. I've literally swatted pigeons out of my face. Their warbles mock me.

Come to think of it, that's exactly how Boston pedestrians react to a cyclist after they've stepped into the street without looking: they pigeon-dance right in the way.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Bees Knees


Dear Christ, the soft honey after taste makes you want to learn circular breathing...

Kitty-a-Buse-y

My kittens are so goddamned cute I often want to put them in my mouth and eat them. Maybe I suffer from Kluver-Bucy syndrome.

No feline fornication, though.

Ghost Rider


I've always had dubious feelings concerning the world-wide bicycle advocacy ride known as Critical Mass - a large gathering of cyclists that commandeers a city's streets for an evening on the last friday of every month. The idea is to assert the presence of bicycles as rightful, legal vehicles.

Now, I'm a former messenger and still bike everywhere. Most car drivers drive me nuts. But I'm not so sure the best way to coexist is to drive them nuts right back.

In an entirely more subtle, and I would argue more personally engaging manner, Seattle's Ghostcycle.org started marking the sites of bicycle/car accidents with entirely white painted bicycles and placards reading, "A cyclist was struck here". Each placard is numbered, so you can read more on Ghostcycle's site about each accident. What's more, a Google map pinpoints all reported bike accidents in the city, not just those marked with a ghostcycle, and includes accident stats and bike advocacy resources.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Danger, Stranger

I am, now, a full 5 weeks into my Aikido practice, and already in that time I have learned to levitate and fire a sort of energy burst from the palms of my hands. It's still weak yet, but please, I'm just a beginner. As I develop my "ki" further, I'm told I'll really be able to wreak some havoc.