April 2009 Archives

Bruce Sterling on Swine Flu

Sci-fi Author (and futurist) Bruce Sterling has some Practical advice on Combating Swine Flu:
    People freak out over "pandemics," even though we've got one of the worst pandemics in history, AIDS, raging through the carcass of the body-politic right now. Every once in a while you see a street demo or a charity show about AIDS. Carla Bruni is pretty big on fighting AIDS. Otherwise we just drop dead of AIDS in hecatombs, and the pandemic has become our business as usual. AIDS is an extremely fearsome disease, practically 100% lethal, yet it's hard work to get people to remain properly afraid of it. *There is always some flu around and flu is always killing some people. Even when a raw mutant flu manages to kill off more people than a shooting-war, flu has never ravaged whole cities as cholera or the Black Death can do. As awful pandemics go, flu is like the snotty-nosed little sister of awful pandemics. *So if you catch the new swine flu, you're very likely not gonna die. *But since it is a flu, you're gonna kinda WISH you could die. *You're not ACTUALLY gonna die unless your lips are turning blue, you have bad chest pains, you can't swallow water, you can't stand up, you're having seizures and you don't know where you are or what your name is. As this document suggests, you're gonna want to watch out for those symptoms.

No One Will Know, Except You


Link Roundup

Through the miracles of modern science, we can

I Remember Andrea

Andrea Wachner received an invitation to attend her 10-year high school reunion and decided to make a documentary of her experience. Unlike a normal attendee however, she decided to buy a ticket and send Cricket, a stripper to attend in her place. With a hidden earphone and microphone, Andrea was able to coordinate from the hotel room above while Cricket made the rounds below.
    Cricket told the reunion attendees that she'd had reconstructive surgery and also suffered from amnesia. It wasn't completely unbelievable, because some had already heard that the real-life Wachner was in an accident after high school -- her car was totaled and she had been injured, but she had never suffered from amnesia. Most of them had not seen or talked to Wachner since high school, but many found her new profession suspect: Cricket as Andrea said she was working as a stripper to help pay her graduate school tuition. Daniel Wolowicz, 32, who had been an acquaintance of Wachner's in high school, said he was immediately suspicious. "She was just so different. You have to understand the community we had come from," he said. "Everyone was questioning who this person was. "I had asked her a very specific question about seeing her at a bat mitzvah when I was 15 years old," he said. When Cricket answered his question correctly, Wolowicz said he assumed it was Andrea or "someone else who had been given a lot of information."
While the film didn't get picked up during the film festival circuit this year, Andrea drew some attention when she began posting clips of the documentary on YouTube:

There's one particular segment in the clip that I enjoy, which is pointing out the sheer numbers of BMWs and Mercedes in the student parking lot of the high school. The YouTube comments on the video run the whole gamut about perpetuating certain stereotypes about this community to admiration for Andrea for making the reunion interesting.

ABC News: Stripper Impersonates High School Alum: Classmates Learn About Reunion Prank on YouTube

James Jean: Process Recess 3 Available for preorder

Process Recess 3 by artist James Jean is now available for pre-order from bookstores, including Amazon. The regular retail price is 34.95, and the book is a 6 x 9 hardcover. James Jean is also producing a special limited edition, which he announced on his blog, which will cost $199.99 and will include a slipcase and a signed giclee print.

Past James Jean books have become valued commodities; the initial Process Recess by James Jean now sells for over $800, and his latest book, a collection of his Fables covers entitled Fable Covers: The Art of James Jean Vol. 1 , which was released in November 2008 is currently sold out, and fetching prices in the neighborhood of $100.

Harmonix + LEGO = LEGO Rock Band

I don't know what to make of this particular melding of licenses; unlike the LEGO Star Wars and Batman games, I'm not really sure there's much that generic rocker-looking minifigs can add to the Rock Band universe, though I think if they LEGO-fied everything, including having LEGO blocks represent the buttons I can see it being interesting. Will the Special Edition come with special LEGO band instruments? Regardless, this title is on its way, and more than likely I will end up picking it up.

LEGO Rock Band for Consoles, Nintendo DS Confirmed - PCWorld

Venus and Mars

Supermodel Karen Elson and Amy Patterson own Venus and Mars Vintage, a unique vintage clothing store in Tennessee.

Karen Elson is also known as Mrs. Jack White (of the White Stripes).

G.I. Joe: Resolute Part I Now Online

G.I. Joe: Resolute is an animated short featuring the classic 80's G.I. Joe characters. Written by Warren Ellis, the short has a much darker feel than the 80s cartoon series. Cartoon Network will premiere the show next week, but for now, they're releasing new webisodes daily.

Disney Animation Loops


Profiles in History - Spring 2009 Auction

Profiles in History has posted their Spring 2009 Auction catalog, full of historic film memorabilia. Items up for sale include Deckard's gun from Blade Runner, A fourth revision shooting script for Star Wars, a Naboo Blaster from Episode 1, and Sean Connery's Ramius' costume from Hunt for Red October.

There's plenty of other props and costumes too, and it's the kind of thing that I could easily spend an afternoon looking through.

It Takes 634 Gallons of Water to Create a Hamburger

Good Magazine recently created an excellent graphic detailing the water usage of various products and services. Some highlights:
  • 1 cup of Coffee = 37 gallons
  • 16 oz. Soda = 33 gallons
  • 1 pint of Beer = 20 gallons
  • 1 pound of Beef =1500 gallons


Can a simple robot which only goes in one direction manage to navigate its way to its destination with only the help of strangers?

Yes, yes it can.


Kaneda's Big Adventure


How Marshmallow Peeps Are Made

The Chicago Tribune has a great photoset showing how those marshmallow peeps are made.

Yesterday's 8-Bit Music is Today's Rock Band Track

8-BITar Hero procedurally creates Rock Band tracks from 8-bit NES games in realtime; what this means is that the algorithm takes into account the sound output of the game, and then maps the appropriate note to an instrument of Rock Band; the effect is much cooler in the video demonstration below:

Overworking in the Games Industry

During the International Game Developers Association Leadership Forum last year, the head of Epic, Mike Capps spoke at a panel and claimed that working 60+ hours was expected at Epic, that they hired people who would work those kinds of hours, and was not exploitation, but rather, a part of corporate culture. He also implied that the idea that people would work a standard 40 hours a week was absurd.

Noticeably, this statement in a leadership forum, especially in an industry association, speaks volumes about the philosophy of managers at Epic; the games industry does not have an official union, per se; and so at the GDC last month, chair emiritus Jen Maclean made the official statement that the IGDA doesn't exist to "dicatate" to anyone what hours they should work. What Maclean says is basically true; the IGDA is an organization whose purpose is to support game developers in advocacy and networking, if there is an issue, they put together a SIG (Special Interest Group), and discuss the matter, but they don't have any real power in the industry. Membership to the IGDA is extended to anyone willing to pay the $48 a year in the games industry, but it's not really a union or a guild, and because game development is so broad an industry it's really hard for IGDA to keep any one group happy without upsetting a different group of industry professionals, which means that as an organization goes, the IGDA is unwilling to take a stand on the issue.

As a former games developer; I have this to say -- 60 hours a week is likely partial exaggeration, and partial underestimation; there are some employees who will put in only 40 hours a week; they have families or other commitments which regulate their hours. Others will put in 60 hours, which is a 12 hour shift every weekday, and others will do even more than 80 hours a week (essentially 12 hour days, 7 days a week). Keep in mind that as a games developer, your are already underpaid compared to other industries, but the hours of the industry make this an even worse deal, especially considering that as a developer, their rights to the work that they produce have been largely divorced from them. While EA was slapped with a massive lawsuit years ago regarding the labor laws; the industry as a whole has not heeded the warning; game developers are still overworking, and have few avenues to protect themselves and their jobs. Over the long term, these actions are unsustainable for the majority of game developers and they will eventually burn out -- the current average of burnout is 5 years in the games industry.

Under the Table


Nom Nom Nom Nom

Warning: Extreme cuteness ahead.