Jon Stewart’s Closing Remarks

Jon Stewart’s closing speech at the Rally to Restore Sanity was brilliant. On mass media the most tweeted line of the day was, “If we amplify everything, we hear nothing.” Viewing the United States political process from Finland, I have to say the “fun-house mirror” through which Americans portray themselves is a bit comic. Europeans don’t know what to make of all the back-stabbing in the political races. “I am not a witch?” – Really?

My favorite part was how Stewart compares this dark time that we all think we’re going through to the Lincoln Tunnel which takes cars under the Hudson River to Manhattan. It’s a daily ritual where multiple lanes converge into two, everyone hates it but the need to do it and somehow, as divisive in reputation as New Yorkers can be, they all manage to make it. They make it through that tunnel of darkness because they know they’ll get to the light on the other side if they all work together.

I’m not doing it justice. Take 15 minutes and see it for yourself. It’s Stewart at his best, making you laugh and think at the same time.

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Current Events

Laura Miller Kennedy 1925-2010

My Grandmother passed away earlier this month and although I could not make it to her memorial service in upstate New York, I did send along the following anecdote to share with those attending. I will miss her but she lived a very full life and lives on in her stories.


Grandmother

Laura Kennedy, my Grandmother, was a great storyteller. She told her stories in such a way that you knew they were perfected over time, improved with each telling. They were so good that when you knew she was about to launch into one, you took it in and let it wash over you, knowing that you would hear something new and were guaranteed to be entertained. Here is one of my favorites.

Trans-Siberian Railway

I’m not sure when this story takes place. I do know she was in Europe and on her way to Japan so maybe it was when she set out to meet my mother’s parents for the first time before Dad married Mom. This would put us in the early 60’s.

Of course, traveling from Europe to Japan by airplane was way too efficient. My Grandmother lived in a different age. An age of steam and fur coats. Efficient modernity caused her nothing but trouble. I remember my uncle gifted her a new refrigerator once her old hulk gave out. This new fridge was gleaming and featured amenities such as water dispensed chilled from the doorway and an automatic ice machine that kept the bin in the freezer topped up. When Uncle Peter called a few days later to check in on his Mother to see how she liked the new gadget, she asked him exhaustively to get rid of the “infernal device” as she couldn’t get a wink of sleep. Probed further, she explained that she had to come downstairs at least every three hours to empty the ice bucket because she feared the freezer would overflow and jam up and the “thing just wouldn’t stop!”

No, a stratocruiser from Paris to Tokyo would not do. She preferred to travel under steam on the Trans-Siberian Railway out of Paris to Vladivostok and connect with a cruise ship to taker her around Honshu over to Yokohama. It was two weeks but she had time and probably was secretly looking forward to some time alone to indulge herself in some reading. In preparation, she brought along a boxes of books.

Two Weeks! She was going to improve her mind during the trip and I could imagine that she shoved in several weighty tomes, maybe she even had that entire series of Arabian Nights books that she had in the Blue Room. There was probably an Olivetti in a trunk somewhere as well just in case an inspiration struck her while rolling across the steppes. You know, no less than fifteen pieces of luggage, steamer trunks, probably several hat boxes. That’s how Grandma rolled. All steam and romance.

Of course, with the kind of convoy required to move such material, unless you were a logistical genius, you would be delayed getting from Point A to Point B. Grandmother was most definitely *not* a logistical genius. We’re talking about the lady that kept her manuscripts in the oven because, if there was ever a fire, “that would be the *one* place something wouldn’t burn. Creative, yes. But not very practical.

So of course she was late getting to the station in Paris and almost missed her train. She got there just in time, all flustered, found her carriage and eventually her compartment and began to arrange her things.

She was about to settle into her seat when she popped back up and thought about pulling down her first book. Like starting a delicious feast, where to begin? As she was about to sit back down when the train lurched and she dropped her glasses, which she had been holding in her hand, on the bench in front of her. As she fell forward, she spun around and landed with a plop into her seat, her legs thrown out from under her. She then heard a multi-faceted *crack* and *crinkle* and instantly knew what happened. She had sat on her glasses!

As she rose slowly to survey the damage and it was evident that the lenses were beyond repair. They were utterly destroyed, not just cracked but actually ground down, tiny shards of plastic, powder, and bent wire was all that remained. There was nothing that could be done. The train was now gaining speed and headed towards the outskirts of Paris, two weeks, fourteen days, 336 hours of rolling boredom lay before her.

The days dragged on. The green countryside of France gave way to the grey potato fields of Poland. In the evening it grew cold and she discovered there was a small crack up by the window that let the air in. Laura found that by chewing the rough Russian bread, she could soften it into a rough ball and use it to stuff the hole and stop the breeze. During the day, when it got hot, she would take out the bread dough to let some air in, and then repeat the process with some new bread each evening. Days went by as they rolled over the tundra – the image of Grandmother, staring at the fake wood-grain paneling on the walls of her train compartment, unable to see more than a grey smudge of sky over frost-covered fields, the sole highlight being the daily “filling of the hole” exercise still sticks with me as some kind of Kafka-esque punishment. Grandmother had hoped to read Russian novels during her trip, instead, she was living one!

Eventually, she fumbled her way to some of the other compartments. Realizing that her First Class cabin was really an isolation tank that would drive her insane. She made her way to the second and third class cars and ran across what she describes as a raucous carriage full of Russian cossacks. The trip was eventually salvaged by playing drinking games with the soldiers.

She may have been exaggerating. She always stretched the truth a bit. Maybe they weren’t really cossacks, maybe the glasses weren’t really broken. Who knows. I never really pushed her on it. It was the story and her joy in telling it that counted. And that’s the message.

You really don’t need vision to see.

Miss Universe National Costumes

Miss Kazakhstan is always easy to find at a crowded party.

I had no idea that there was a National Costume portion of the Miss Universe pageant. I need to tune in next time. Excellent collection of snarky one-liners over at Tom & Lorenzo’s blog. Part One & Part Two.

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Current Events

Google and Intergalatic Law

What happens when you open Google in a non-standard browser like Opera Mini? You get the following snippet.

Sorry, but this browser does not support web word-processing.

Please see our system requirements page for a list of supported browsers.

If you are working to fix problems with a specific browser and would like to bypass this check, just add ?browserok=true to the end of the Google Docs url.

Please note that it is a violation of intergalactic law to use this parameter under false pretenses, so don’t let us catch you at it.

And, it won’t work very well — really.

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Current Events

[Humor] Sponsored Conversations

What do you get when you combine speech recognition, contextual advertising, text-to-speech software, and a disruptive business model? A phone that’s free as long as you are willing to listen to advertising.


New Google Phone Service Whispers Targeted Ads Directly Into Users’ Ears

Don’t laugh, the idea has been kicked around before. But why stop there? You could link the price of the monthly contract to selected offers. Some other ideas,

  • Use GPS to verify check-ins at certain locations. As long as you’re at that location, long distance calls are free. Mom, I know it’s noisy at this bowling alley but as long as I’m here, this call is free.
  • Use 2D barcodes to redeem mobile coupons that unlock discounts. Buy a Big Mac and get 1000 text messages free.
  • Track coupon history for special offers. Feeling sick after that Big Mac? There’s a gym right down the road from you. Why not stop by for an orientation?

The mind reels.

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Current Events

Friendster Ruins Uncovered

The Onion takes a crack at what future “internet archaeologists” from the “Friendster Excavation Project” discover when they run across the ruins of the ancient online civilization, Friendster.”

One day users were posting a seemingly endless stream of bulletins about “awesome parties” and “cool shows” and then, nothing. Total silence. . . Their lives come to a complete stop, live flies trapped in amber.

Internet Archaeologists Find Ruins Of ‘Friendster’ Civilization

I rarely delete any of my social networking profiles but I deleted my Friendster profile just last week after reading the news of it’s sale to a company in Malaysia. Truthfully, I never really used the service and was only reminded of it when one of my contact’s birthdays was coming up.

My favorite profile was Andy’s but with the redesign my old link no longer works.

Ringtone Symphony

Izumi pointed me this old video from the Improv Everywhere performance troupe in which they orchestrate the simultaneous ringing of a large number of cellphones stored in a normally quiet place.

Mayhem ensues.

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Current Events

IKEA Heights

IKEA Heights is a mini-series shot entirely in the Burbank IKEA store without the store’s knowledge.

I think we’re seeing the birth of a new genre. Flash Concerts and Urban Camouflage performance art to name a few.

The Finns pronounce it ee-ki-ya by the way.

Update: More recent entries in this genre include The Ikea fashion shoot or family portrait and this YouTuber who faked an entire Bali vacation with photos she took inside Ikea.

I did not know it at the time I posted this (maybe he didn’t either?) but the 7-part series stars Randall Park who would go on to be a big star in the movie Always be My Maybe and the TV series, Fresh off the Boat.

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Current Events

Fisher-Price Snuffs Out View-Master

View-Master

Fisher-Price, the toy company that used to market them, has just eliminated almost all the View-Master titles that have been a staple of young lives for almost 70 years.

The Economist

Rumor has it that Microsoft will license the rights to the View-Master and use them as a new and innovative distribution channel for their PowerPoint slideshows which will be made available with a special relationship with Kodak.

Positioned as a low cost alternative to Apple’s iPod, the co-branded Microsoft Slide-Master© will be sold via Microsoft enterprise sales and partners as a no-nonsense business tool as an ideal tool to distribute training material.

“In these lean times, it’s important to keep our costs down but continue to deliver,” said the head of HR Training at a major consulting firm.

Microsoft will make available a special print format template that, once installed, will allow you to save your slideshows in the View-Master format and upload them to the Kodak Gallery online store which will print out the reels and ship them overnight.

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Current Events

Best Code Comment Ever

Comments left by developers in the dead of the night are inside jokes left for others. Little winks of comic relief left for others that will be parsing through the sub-routines trying to wrangle software to get things working. Usually code comments are short but this one left by a frustrated programmer of a Photoshop viewer is epic.

At this point, I’d like to take a moment to speak to you about the Adobe PSD format. PSD is not a good format. PSD is not even a bad format. Calling it such would be an insult to other bad formats, such as PCX or JPEG. No, PSD is an abysmal format. Having worked on this code for several weeks now, my hate for PSD has grown to a raging fire that burns with the fierce passion of a million suns.

If there are two different ways of doing something, PSD will do both, in different places. It will then make up three more ways no sane human would think of, and do those too. PSD makes inconsistency an art form. Why, for instance, did it suddenly decide that *these* particular chunks should be aligned to four bytes, and that this alignment should *not* be included in the size? Other chunks in other places are either unaligned, or aligned with the alignment included in the size. Here, though, it is not included. Either one of these three behaviours would be fine. A sane format would pick one. PSD, of course, uses all three, and more.

Trying to get data out of a PSD file is like trying to find something in the attic of your eccentric old uncle who died in a freak freshwater shark attack on his 58th birthday. That last detail may not be important for the purposes of the simile, but at this point I am spending a lot of time imagining amusing fates for the people responsible for this Rube Goldberg of a file format.

Earlier, I tried to get a hold of the latest specs for the PSD file format. To do this, I had to apply to them for permission to apply to them to have them consider sending me this sacred tome. This would have involved faxing them a copy of some document or other, probably signed in blood. I can only imagine that they make this process so difficult because they are intensely ashamed of having created this abomination. I was naturally not gullible enough to go through with this procedure, but if I had done so, I would have printed out every single page of the spec, and set them all on fire. Were it within my power, I would gather every single copy of those specs, and launch them on a spaceship directly into the sun.

PSD is not my favourite file format.

via Fark

UPDATE: If you want more code comments, check out Stack Overflow which has a collection of them.