November 2009 Archives

It's Starting to Get A Bit Chilly

One of the things I regularly forget is just how warm Southern California can be, and inversely, just how cold it can get in Northern California. After being spoiled by temperatures in the mid 70s, it is a bit of a shock to return to Norcal, and its tendency to drop down to the mid 40s in the evenings.

This past Friday was Black Friday, and today was Cyber Monday, but this year, moreso than any other years, it seemed to be more like one continuous 4-day sale than two different events; with many retailers starting online even earlier in the week, this year's Cyber Monday seemed to be more of an afterthought, and an easy way of clearing out inventory which wasn't wiped out by the earlier discounts of Black Friday.

Could Europa be stocked with fish?

Arthur C. Clarke might be right again.

    ... the extraterrestrial ocean is currently being fed more than a hundred times more oxygen than previous models had suggested, according to provocative new research.
    That amount of oxygen would be enough to support more than just microscopic life-forms: At least three million tons of fishlike creatures could theoretically live and breathe on Europa, said study author Richard Greenberg of the University of Arizona in Tucson.

Could Jupiter Moon Harbor Fish-Size Life?

Star Wars Facebook Status Updates


"Trinity! Help!"

Here's a classic internet win. Matrix + LEGO + stop-motion:

Apparently, the filmmakers also tried to go for accuracy, so the 44 second clip echoes the 44 seconds of the original film.

LEGO Matrix

A Brief History of Black Friday

    If you ask most people why the day after Thanksgiving is called Black Friday, they'll explain that the name stems from retailers using the day's huge receipts as their opportunity to "get in the black" and become profitable for the year. The first recorded uses of the term "Black Friday" are a bit less rosy, though.
    According to researchers, the name "Black Friday" dates back to Philadelphia in the mid-1960s. The Friday in question is nestled snugly between Thanksgiving and the traditional Army-Navy football game that's played in Philadelphia on the following Saturday, so the City of Brotherly Love was always bustling with activity on that day. All of the people were great for retailers, but they were a huge pain for police officers, cab drivers, and anyone who had to negotiate the city's streets. They started referring to the annual day of commercial bedlam as "Black Friday" to reflect how irritating it was.

mentalfloss: A Brief History of Black Friday

The Black Friday of Blu-ray

2009 seems like the year that Blu-ray truly hit its stride; while I was resistant for some time in making the transition over from DVD to Blu-ray, Blu-ray finally feels less like a high-end videophile niche format (like the LaserDiscs of yesteryear).

A large part in my change in philosophy must be credited to the Playstation 3 and the availability of cheap Blu-ray players. In the same way that DVD became much more accessible once the price of the players dropped below $150, and game consoles (such as the Playstation 2) began integrating the functionality so that a video game system could also be a DVD player, a large part of the transition to Blu-ray must be credited to the price of the 120GB Playstation 3 dropping down to $300.

When the PS3 was first released, it was far too expensive for most consumers, listing a price tag of nearly $500 for a 20GB version and $600 for a 60GB system. Unlike the PS2 which had several years for the DVD to rise in popularity as a format, Blu-ray was a nascent format at the time of the PS3's release, in competition with the HD-DVD for becoming the new media of choice. With HD-DVD's declaring itself the loser of the format war last year, the electronic manufacturers and movie studios have committed their resources to Blu-ray. With the addition of the Digital TV transition this year in June, more homes this year are ready for the high definition capabilities of Blu-ray than at the release of PS3 in November of 2006.

With prices of Blu-ray players now hitting the consumer sweet spot of $150, and Blu-ray prices dropping to DVD-level prices, it's no wonder that retailers such as Amazon have a section for cheap Blu-ray discs costing $7.99 to $25. For Black Friday, there are some pretty good titles in the mix too, such as the Harry Potter movies for $10 each, most Star Trek movies being under $10, and some James Bond movies for about $9 each.

John Hodgman at the Herbst Theatre, San Francisco

The last time I saw John Hodgman was at his booksigning during the release of the paperback version of his book The Areas of My Expertise. This time, his appearance is due to the release of the paperback version of More Information Than You Require, the second in his series of made-up trivia books, and in many ways, it was a continuation of that first event, although without Coulton and the Cognac break, the event lacked the charm of the October 2006 event at Cody's Books.

John Hodgman was on stage with Merlin Mann, and talked of his transition from being a literary book agent to becoming a minor television celebrity. This talk is part of City Arts and Lectures and should find its way on NPR within the next couple of months.

  • He was a Literary Book Agent before he became a celebrity, and Publishing he says is a very Apprentice-styled industry. As a result, the industry is filled with lots of 20-30 year olds who really know very little, although writers would come up to them and say "What should I be doing?" And they answer something like "Vampire Detectives" and that is how those books get written, so he thought, why can't I do a series of
  • As a Famous Minor Television Celebrity, he decided that he could wear anything he wanted. In the case of this appearance, he chose to wear a three-piece corduroy suit with sneakers, and made fun of Dean Kamen (inventor of the Segway) for wearing denim shirt with jeans.
  • At TED, he gave a lecture on alien abductions, and Dean Kamen gave him his card. A year later, as he was searching TED for a Mac to use to check his email (because the battery on his iPhone was dead), the only place he found a Mac was in the Tech Support area of TED. As he is checking his e-mail, Dean Kamen comes up, and says "Hey, this is Tech Support, right? Can you charge my iPhone?"
  • He was a big fan of Trevanian books when he was growing up.
  • He figured that 700 names of Hobos was a really bad idea once he got to the four hundreds. It was the same for the 700 Mole-man names and their occupations.
  • He feels really sorry for maiming Jonathan Coulton's hand by having him play Rock Candy Mountain for 55 minutes straight while they were recording the names of Hobos for the audiobook.
  • Hodgman flew in the economy section once, and saw through the curtain the Verizon "Can You Hear Me Now" guy as they were deplaning. They had locked eyes with each other for that brief moment.
  • Yes, Hodgman did kick the persimmon off Mann's head. That's why there is like a solid minute of applause afterwards. Sadly, I think this portion will be edited out of the NPR broadcast.