Time-lapse drawing of a wasp

Picture 4-13 It's fun watching this time-lapse video of JW drawing a wasp. Link

Moscow film from 1908

Picture 3-17 Here's a seven-minute movie of Moscow filmed on a snowy, windy day in 1908. Brrr. Link

Anti-laptop-mist for $45

French cosmetics company Clarins is selling an "anti electromagnetic radiation mist" that costs about $45 and protects you from the supposed aging effects of your laptop screen:
Apparently, electro magnetic radiation is now a real cause of skin ageing, or so say Clarins. But before you cower away into a technology-free cave, rest assured that lo and behold, Clarins will be releasing an anti-electro magnetic radiation mist to protect you. It'll be available in January at a cost of €39, but I think this is one risk I'm happy to live with.
Link (via Shiny Shiny)

Evolutionary basis for self-delusion?

David Byrne posted a thought-provoking rumination on the evolutionary basis for religion and other forms of self-delusion -- it may help us live longer if we can fool ourselves into thinking that life has a point:
The truth may set you free, but you might not be as carefree and happy. It will eat away at you – what hurts you does not necessarily make you stronger.

I would maintain that a healthy (i.e. substantial) amount of denial is therefore genetically heritable, that it allows us to blithely go on (despite reading Beckett) and to ignore the basic sadness and desperation of life. We can live in an illusion – in fact we are genetically predisposed to do so. These illusions can be small – I am just as good at catching game as Bob, my rival, for example – or they can be very large – that death is not the end and that I will be rewarded for my faith and Bob, the apostate, will rot in Hell.

Either way, they allow me to go on, to persevere in the face of unlikely odds or limited chance of success. We have evolved to be less rational that one might think, and to be slightly more delusional and even stupid.


Linux music player will sell DRM-free music from Magnatune

Amarok, an excellent free music player for GNU/Linux (Mark Pilgrim: "It’s just like iTunes except it automatically fetches lyrics from Argentina, automatically looks up bands on Wikipedia, automatically identifies songs with MusicBrainz, and its developers are actively working on features that don’t involve pushing DRM-infected crap down my throat.") is shipping a new version that includes a music-store selling DRM-free music, including tunes from the CC-friendly, non-evil music label Magnatune.
Amarok continues to blast ahead with release 1.4.4. We're thrilled to be able to take our long association with Magnatune to new heights with the addition of an integrated DRM-free music store with full-length mp3 previews. Magnatune's "we are not evil" attitude guarantees that you can purchase awesome tunes and the artist receives half of the purchase price.

With 1.4.4 comes basic support for the Rio Karma. Many bug fixes and additions for the other media device plugins have also been made. Now Amarok is truly your "one-stop-media-device" shop, supporting nearly all the major media device's on the market.

Amarok 1.4.4 may very well be our closest to being bug free release ever! Over 100 bugs have been closed for this release, thanks in no small part to the tireless effort of our development team. Martin Aumueller and Alexandre Oliveira in particular have been on a bug squashing craze for this release, and first-time contributor, Ovidiu Gheorghioiu, has submitted a large bundle of patches and fixes to improve Amarok's efficiency and response.

On another note, we still need artists! If YOU are interested in creating artwork for the Amarok project, please mail amarok@kde.org with your proposal, or for more information about what is required.

Link (Thanks to everyone who suggested this link!)

eMusic bones subscribers with downgrade

Pete sez,
I received an email from eMusic today saying that, after November 21, all new subscriptions will cost the same, BUT GIVE YOU LESS.

The Basic plan is currently 40 tracks per month, but will soon drop to 30. Similarly, the Plus and Premium plans are dropping from 65 and 90 to 50 and 75 downloads per month respectively.

By default, the plans of existing subscribers (i.e., me) will not change. Furthermore, if I act quickly, and upgrade my subscription RIGHT NOW, I'll be able to "lock in at the lowest price per download available" (!)

The email does not explain why they're reducing the value of new subscriptions, and I'm unable to find any mention of these inpending changes on the eMusic website.

To be honest, the whole thing is filling me with a growing sense of injustice. Logic (along with my limited understanding of economies-of-scale type stuff) would suggest that as eMusic gets bigger they'd be able to offer BETTER (not worse) deals. But this does not seem to be happening.

I agree. I stopped my Emusic subscription when they went from unlimited downloads to a max of 40 a month. Most months I didn't download any music from Emusic, but I was willing to pay in those months against the months when I'd discover a new artist or genre and download a hundred or more tracks. Charging by the click is a dumb business model -- when AOL gave it up for flat-rate pricing, they made more money, not less. After all, when you're selling something inherently experimental (like new music, or new electronic services), it makes sense to keep the cost of experimentation as low as possible.

Prison built to house Pitcairn rapists

Half the men on Pitcairn Island, a remote British colony in the middle of the Pacific, are to be imprisoned in a new on-island jail being built to house them. The men were convicted of rape after a woman left the island to attend school in New Zealand and reported on systematic, society-wide rape of virtually every woman on the island. The convicted men were the only people capable of operating the long-boats that were the only way on and off of the island. The islanders are the descendants of the mutineers on Captain Bligh's Bounty, who took Tahitian wives.
A British Foreign Office spokesman said seven New Zealand prison officers would be dispatched to establish a new prison, Her Majesty's Prison Pitcairn, on the remote South Pacific island. Britain will pay the bill, expected to total about £500,000 ($1.2 million) a year.

The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office said on Monday the six men had lost their appeal to the Privy Council, which rejected their argument that English law had not been promulgated on the island and it was not under British sovereignty.

Link (Thanks, Cyrus!)

See also:
Half the men on small island charged with rape
Pitcairn rapists convicted but not jailed

Adopt a microbe - parasites personified

Dani sez, "This creative, insightful and deciededly funny blog is written by Australian medical student Emma Lurie. She draws cute personifications of different bacteria microbes. With each drawing comes different facts associated with what the bacteria is, what is does, how you catch it and how it affects the human body. Educational and fun!"
Hola. I'm C. jejuni.
I am a curved Gram Negative rod.

You can find me in lots of domestic animals.
I am part of the normal bacterial flora of poultry and cattle.
I get into people through dirty drinking water or undercooked meat, especialy chicken.
I cause food poisoning, with a self limiting bloody diarrhoea, abdominal cramps and fever.

Link (Thanks, Dani!)

Neil Gaiman's HOWTO create a literary will

Neil Gaiman has published a free template for writers to use for creating a literary estate. He was inspired by the death of his friend Mike Ford, whose lack of a proper will meant a lot of expense and hardship for the people who loved him. Making a literary will is simple and fast, and every writer should do so:
Others make wills, but don't think to take into account what happens to our literary estate as a separate thing from the disposition of their second-best beds, which means unqualified or uninterested relatives can find themselves in control of everything the author's written. Some of us are just cheap.

All this bothered me, and still bothers me.

Shortly after Mike Ford's death, I spoke to Les Klinger about it. Les is a lawyer, and a very good one, and also an author. I met him through Michael Dirda, and the Baker Street Irregulars (here's Les's Sherlockian webpage).

Les immediately saw my point, understood my crusade and went off and made a document for authors. Especially the lazy sort of authors, or just the ones who haven't quite got around to seeing a lawyer, or who figure that one day it'll all sort itself out, or even the ones to whom it has never occurred that they need to think about this stuff.

Link (Thanks, Mike!)

Miami Zoo mounts giant shit exhibition

The Miami Zoo's "Scoop on Poop" exhibit exposes visitors to a football-field-sized arcade of shit, featuring photos of animals en flagrante, samples of turds great and small, and lots of other shit:

The Scoop on Poop is a traveling exhibition based on the popular book by Dr. Wayne Lynch. The exhibition leads visitors on an investigation of what poop is and how animals and humans use it. The Scoop on Poop treats the subject with a tactful blend of good science and fun.

The Scoop on Poop features large colorful graphic panels, three-dimensional models, and fun interactive components. Visitors are invited to listen in on an animal’s digestive system, learn the language of poop in countries around the world, examine fecal samples in a veterinarian’s lab, compete in dung beetle races, track wild animals by clues left in scat, see how long it takes an elephant to poop their body weight, improve their #2 IQ in stool school, and meet a dinosaur dung detective.

Link (Thanks, Michael!)

Last minute changes snuck into Aussie DMCA

Australia is fast-tracking its own version of the US's disastrous Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) -- the country became obliged to impose this when PM John Howard signed the Aussie-US free trade agreement into law. The worst part of the legislation is undoubtedly the "anti-circumvention" provisions that ban breaking software locks, even if you own the material they lock away. Anti-circumvention lets any company impose any terms it wants on you, like Apple: "you can only play the music we sell you on the players we make or authorize." Anti-circumvention creates anti-competitive lock-in situations, takes away fair dealing rights, and punishes people who buy their media instead of getting infringing copies.

A last minute change has been introduced into the new bill and it's so arcane that legal experts differ strongly on what the effect will be. But with the bill fast-tracking through Parliament, it's likely that this mystery clause will be passed unless the brakes are put on the process. EFF has information on the changes and how Australians can get involved:

While the new version’s TPM ban is broader, the Bill does contain two carve-outs: First, there’s no legal protection for region-coding access control technologies on video games and DVDs. That is likely to avoid some of the potentially anti-competitive impacts of geographic market segmentation via TPMs – a practice that involves no copyright right. The carve-out is presumably designed to preserve the 2005 Australian High Court ruling in the Sony v. Stevens PlayStation modchip case, but unfortunately, does so in the narrowest possible way. Second, there’s an attempt to exclude misuses of TPM provisions on embodied computer programs like the printer cartridge and garage door opener cases invoking the DMCA.

How bad is the last minute change in language? Even Australia's top legal minds are unsure of the precise impact. Unless the bill is delayed there will be no opportunity to assess that before the highly complex bill is pushed to a speedy vote.

But that’s not the only problem with the bill. It also creates new criminal penalties for copyright infringement. It introduces new summary and strict liability offences and criminal penalties for non-commercial infringement. These rules would apply to children as young as 14, and could make everyday Australians criminals for uploading lip-synched videos to YouTube and other commonplace activities.


Update: David Cake of Electronic Frontiers Australia sez, "Yes, the government is trying to push through this bill disgracefully fast - the senate committee has been allotted only 4 hours of public hearings for a 213 page bill, including major changes to the bill that have been introduced between public drafts and the introduction of legislation. Electronic Frontiers Australia has been able to lodge a submission to the senate committee objecting to these changes, but the time frame before the bill is due to be voted on is very short, and reversing these changes will be difficult."

Haunted Mansion tribute from a young filmmaker

A young filmmaker produced a stop-motion animation short film based on Disneyland's Haunted Mansion, ingeniously blending construction paper backgroups, doll-house props, plastercine figures and artwork from the original ride. This is great fan-art, and as a dyed-in-the-wool Haunted Mansion lunatic, it gives me quite unseemly pleasure.

This is a movie I made a long time ago. It's the same as the Haunted mansion ride at Disneyland. I made the sets out of construction paper and paper bags. I redid the audio because my high little kid voice doing the Ghost Host just sounded stupid.
Link (Thanks, Stephen!)

Rotting Soviet-era Ministry of Transportation building

Regine from We Make Money Not Art visted a show called Spectacular City at Netherlands Institute of Architecture that features giant photos of "spectacular" buildings. She's featuring the best of them in a series on her blog. Today's entry really caught me -- a rotting ex-Soviet Ministry of Transportation in Tbilisi, Georgia:
The image for today is the Ministry of Transportation. Shot in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, the photography brings out the conflict between a symbol of progress and its current state of decay.

By Antwerp-based photographer Geert Joiris.

Link (Thanks, Fipi Lele!)

Stanford panel on Whole Earth Catalog influence, 11/9

Copyfighting video archivist Rick Prelinger sez, "The WholeEartharati are convening for a public panel on 11/9 at Stanford. The event's going to be moderated by Fred Turner, author of the new book From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Catalog, and the Rise of Digital Utopianism, and the eminent panelists will be Stewart Brand, Kevin Kelly and Howard Rheingold. Like many others, the Catalog and its successors played a major role in my development -- I'll definitely be there."

Count me among those who were heavily influenced by the Catalogs. I have a complete set in a storage locker in Toronto. I used to pore through them for hours on rainy days, marvelling at the flowering of the mission of "access to tools and ideas." And when a friend slipped me the "Is the Body Obsolete?" issue of the Whole Earth Review in the 80s, I knew I'd found something special, a publication about something that I had always hoped was out there, but had never found. Even now, I have a WELL account! Link (Thanks, Rick!)

FairGame cracks iTunes using iMovie

Matthias sez, "This script package takes an Apple-DRM-protected song (.m4p), and converts it *using iMovieHD* into an unprotected .mp3 file. I've tried this with six songs now and it works great, though you have to be careful to not actually, like, do anything else with your computer while it's running as it tends to make the script throw up and die. So you might want to run it overnight if you've got a lot of protected files to free from your Apple shackles. Does this mean Apple will be forced to file a DMCA C&D against the publishers of iMovie?" I've done this with regular iMovie before and it worked pretty well.

The holy grail of Apple DRM for me is opening up the audiobooks. These files cost a fortune, can't be easily burned and re-ripped (and some even come flagged as "non-burnable" -- showing that there are crippleware modes in iTunes that aren't widely known). Cracking them through the analog hole using Audio Hijack is time-consuming (I spent six weeks this year running two PowerBooks 24/7 to convert all my iTunes audiobooks to MP3s using this method). Link (Thanks, Matthias!)