Saturday, May 20, 2006

For Those Of You Who Watch The Apprentice, a Quick Poll:


Would it be more fun to pick Allie up by the ankles and use her to beat Roxanne to death, or the other way around?

Something Made of Plastic That Can Take Three Dozen Balls At Once?

Looks like Ann Coulter may have some competition!

Hammacher Schlemmer (via Gizmodo) has the Automatic Golf Tee, which takes the last remaining physical exertion out of going to the driving range.



Using Your Cell Phone as a Modem

If you are stuck with no Internet access and you want to check your email or do a few webby things really quick, there is no better solution than using your cell phone as a modem for your laptop. You can use a USB cable or bluetooth (if your phone's got it); I used to use my Treo 650, which gave me dial-up speed. Now, with my MM-A920, I get much higher speeds.

Your mileage may vary, of course, but at least on Sprint, modem usage is supported as long as you have an unlimited data plan and you're not a pig about it. Fair is fair: no long sessions, no torrents or other massive downloads, and obviously, no VOIP (which would be stupid, since you do have a cell phone). In other words, be courteous: Get on and get off.

Lifehacker has a primer on how to go about hooking up. Over the last year or so my bacon has been saved many a time by this method. It's a good thing to learn.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Res Ipsa Loquitur

"You've got to have a President who sees the world the way it is. And the way it is, is a dangerous place that requires the United States of America to be on the offense. And so we're waging the global war on terror."
-- George W. Bush, speech at Northern Kentucky University, 5/19/06


Number of times the Terror Level was raised during the 2003/2004 Presidential campaign?

5

Number of times it's been raised in 2005 and 2006?

1

Number of times it will be raised right before the 2006 elections?

Anyone's guess.

Invasion and Conviction

The last three minutes of the season finale of Invasion were so powerful that I wished the whole series had been that good. Of course the show is not coming back next year so there goes that.

Similarly, I am sorry Conviction will not be returning. I've really been enjoying this show, particularly the acting. It's not perfect, but I think NBC is missing a bet by letting it go. I'm looking forward to the finale tonight, but I hope there are no cliffhangers.

Any Burnout Fans Out There?

Am I the only one who loves the Burnout series but hates the races where it's just you against the clock? Burnout is not about avoiding crashes... That's what the other six thousand racing games are for. I dread those races.

Also, I am not a fan of having to sit and watch those trophy cut scenes. They should be skippable, IMHO. Otherwise these games are crack to me.

My New Favorite Clip: Puppies!

Gina has it for you.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Riya


I can't decide if I love this or I'm terrified of it.

It's called Riya, and it's in beta. Riya is an advanced facial recognition tool. You upload your digital photos and teach Riya who the people in them are. Riya learns their faces, and then you can have it scan the rest of your pictures and tag the photos that contain people it recognizes.

Riya remembers the faces and names for your future convenience, and so you can then search for public photos of those people. Here's where I start to itch a little. I'm not sure I'm comfortable with this huge, instantly searchable database of faces and names, and I certainly wouldn't want to teach it how to recognize everyone I love without ironclad guarantees about who owns that data.

In the meantime, it is fascinating technology. And incredibly useful for people whose photo collections are out of control. (Also for a guy who took a picture of a girl at a party with his camera phone and can't remember her name.)

Google Notebook

Google Notebook is live and it's spectacular. I have already found it incredibly useful for grabbing this and that as I surf the web. It adds a right-click menu choice to grab highlighted text to your personal Google Notebook page.

Also, if you're not using your personalized Google Home Page yet, you're really missing out. It can be customized in hundreds of ways. My favorite is the Sticky Note, a little scratch pad that saves your notes from session to session, no matter what computer you're on. So useful.

I'm Breaking Up With America's Next Top Model

(Arrrr, there be SPOILERS ahead)

I've always watched ANTM, and I've always enjoyed it. It's my secret, guilty pleasure. But there was no pleasure in it this season. I'm afraid this was my last journey through the world of "Tyra mail" and "noted photographer Jo-bleu seu-bleu" or whatever his name is.

Not only did they carry the loathsome Jade through over much more talented girls again and again, presumably for the sake of "good TV," but the last episode ruined whatever credibility this show still had.

After the judges admitted Joanie did a better job in the final commercial competition, admitted she did a better job in the final fashion show, and admitted she showed the most development throughout the competition, they compared her pictures side-by-side with those of Danielle.

Almost every time they expressed a preference, the judges acknowledged that they liked Joanie's picture better. In all of the pictures, they acknowledged that while Danielle was beautiful, she was always exactly the same, while Joanie was beautiful but "a chameleon," a quality which photographers love.

So, naturally, Danielle won.

Huh?

It should also be noted that back when both girls were sent to get cosmetic dentistry, Joanie endured a grueling two-day procedure, and Danielle refused. The following week, they cajoled her to go back, and she kinda sorta closed the objectionable gap a little.

Last season a girl was disqualified for refusing to cut off all her hair. This year, a girl refused to get her gap fixed... and she won.

That's it. I'm out.

And you'll notice that none of this has anything to do with Danielle's much-commented-about accent, for which everyone struggled to find euphemisms. As if Tyra's telling someone she lacks the ability to speak clearly in a television commercial is tantamount to denying her the right to drink from the same water fountain as other folk.

Look, I hate the idea that TV should only feature a "standard American speech." I find the way Chris Hansen and Stone Phillips speak disturbing and sinister, and the way Cornel West speaks authoritative and comforting. But Danielle wasn't wrong for TV commercials because she's black. She's wrong for TV commercials because she has marbles in her mouth.

America's Next Top Model is supposed to be a wallow, but it should be a wallow with a little integrity. Within the confines of what it is, it has to be real. We ask so little of models. To give the top prize to the girl who can't change her expression, walk, or speak is not keeping it real.

Not Just Elliott, Kat Was Robbed, Too!

Where was Sherman Oaks' red carpet? Didn't her American Idol homecoming seem sad compared to the other two? I felt bad for her. Sherman Oaks is a lovely community with more than enough locations for a civic celebration for a hometown heroine. And did anyone else think Governor Schwarzenegger's absence was conspicuous and odd?

FireWire 101

I use FireWire for file transfers and networking all the time, but when I saw this Lifehacker primer I realized a lot of folks might not know how easy and fast it is. That wire is great for more than just cameras.

Check it out. If you've ever spent a lot of time burning CD's or watching animated files fly from one folder to another on your computer, FireWire might save you a lot of time.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Guy Walks Into the BBC...

Cabdriver Guy Goma shows up at the BBC News channel for an interview in the IT department. A rushed staffer asks him, "Are you Guy? Are you here for the interview?"

He says, "Yes." Because he is.

He's put into makeup and shown to the news set, where Guy Kewney is to be interviewed on the Apple/Apple lawsuit. Confused, but obliging, Mr. Goma plays along as best he can, despite English being his second language. Meanwhile, Mr. Kewney sits in the green room, doubtless doing an Earl Grey spit take.


Snap.com

If you're looking for a better -- or at least prettier -- way to search, Snap.com may be what you're looking for. I learned about it through Lifehacker (where all good things come from). Snap offers a visual preview of your search results, so you can see where you're going before you get there. Unlike other preview solutions, it's not thumbnails, but a full-fledged preview pane, so you get fewer results, but a bigger look. Check it out.

What I Learned From Dateline's "To Catch a Predator"

Pedophiles are not only scumbags, they have no fashion sense.

No matter how many creeps they parade in and out of that house, Chris Hansen is still usually the most sinister presence. Even Stone Phillips is like, dude, what's with that voice?

The Fort Myers Police believe in brutally tackling every suspect, no matter how docile or cooperative. One was even already spreading his hands and kneeling when he got oofed by three cops.

Also, apparently, it is standard police procedure in Fort Myers for policemen with weapons drawn to yell, "GET DOWN! GET YOUR ASS ON THE GROUND!" at a suspect who is standing still and confused. In most towns, police officers identify themselves as police officers and order someone to surrender, thereby defusing a dangerous situation. Not in Fort Myers, where the notion that the perp might have a concealed weapon is considered a good reason to jump out from behind a bush and yell, "BOO!" (Then of course comes the four-man tackle)

Also, and bear with me here...

I'm all for humiliating them, and it's damn good TV, but I'm still not sure what law they broke. (Except for the ones who sent pictures of their pogo sticks)

I'm not being a smart ass, I'm really asking. I'm pleased and proud to state that the laws involving sex with minors are something I know nothing about. But in no case was there any minor actually involved. If any defense attorneys are reading this who feel they couldn't beat this rap, I'd love to hear why, just for my own edification.

I don't know much about entrapment, but some of these cases sure looked like it to me. In one case, despite the actress' repeated begging, the guy refused to come in the house. (He was tackled and arrested anyway as he tried to leave.) The most hilariously doofy of the guys claimed he was not there for sex but to pick the girl up and take her to a birthday party. The fact that his sister and her two kids were waiting in the car would seem to bear that out... Still, he got sacked.

Oh, well. I throw no pity party for these guys. It just doesn't feel technically illegal to proposition an adult posing as a child in a chat room, even if you didn't know they were an adult. It feels sicker to go into a chat room posing as a child looking for sex.

Still, I'm sorry that Lost and the Amazing Race will keep me from watching this week. One of the guys gets naked and brings a tub of Cool Whip.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Eyespot


Eyespot aims to be to video editing what Writely is to word processing: a free online tool that replaces expensive software. Still in beta, Eyespot allows you to upload, trim, arrange and output simple video projects.

I haven't tried it, because I'm never far from my laptop. But I can see it being very useful for someone on vacation who wants to edit some quick-n-dirty footage and send it home to Grandma... or for someone who has just shot some amazing footage of his roomate passed out drunk with a penis drawn on his cheek and wants to polish it before emailing it to everyone they know.

AllofMP3.com All of Gone?

Over the weekend, AllofMP3.com went down for "server maintenance" and no one knows when or if it will return. I am told it was a great place to get MP3's for next-to-nothing, and I have heard that until it returns, MP3stor.com and/or MP3sugar.com might fill the void. Or so I hear.

The Day Roger Ebert Realized He Was a Pulitzer Prize Winner Sitting Next to a Knucklehead

"Um, when you say Camilla Belle is 'a thousand times more beautiful than Lindsay Lohan,' is that just a shade of hyperbole there? I mean, couldn't you say she's 'a little more beautiful' or something? Lindsay Lohan's pretty good-looking."

-- Roger Ebert to Richard Roeper, Ebert & Roeper, 5/14/06

(Moments later, Ebert praised Lohan's performance in Prairie Home Companion and implied that Just My Luck was beneath her talents. Roeper exclaimed of JML, "This movie just sucks!... This is a real piece of junk!" Ebert sighed and said, "Uh, I think your opinion has been made very clear.")

Skype Free For the Rest of the Year?

Sure looks that way. Skype has always been free for computer-to-computer calling, and very inexpensive for computer-to-phone calling. But for the rest of the year, the latter kind of call is free within the U.S. and Canada. Yep, call any landline or cell phone for free.

If you haven't made the plunge yet, now there is no reason not to experience Skype for yourself and talk for free. You can either use your current microphone and speakers, or one of the many inexpensive USB phones available everywhere from Radio Shack to Staples to Costco to Home Depot.

A good USB headset/mic is the most comfortable, as it leaves your hands free and your shoulders relaxed... Let's face it, if you're not paying anything, you're going to be spending a lot of time on the phone.

And why pay people who give away your personal information anyway?

Best. SNL Cold Open. Ever.