Letters from the Land of the Protons #2

A consequence of the time I spend in the world of electrons - motionless, more or less, except for my fingers and my eyes - is that protons tend to congregate around my waist.  I try to fight this with exercise, but it's clear that I've got to cut down on the supply of these protons, too.

I work from a home office, and it's 100 steps (including 34 stairs, if you count down as well as up) from my desk to my refrigerator.  Apparently, walking consumes 0.045 calories per step, so my 100 steps uses up four and a half calories.  If I want to stay ahead of the game, I've got to have something in the fridge that puts fewer than four and a half calories back on, but is still big enough to feel Continue reading "Pickles"

The Spirit Thermometer

Letters from the Land of the Protons #1

It has, as usual, been hot and cold here in Texas between the third Sunday of Advent and Epiphany. You could literally have given yourself a heatstroke while jogging at noon on December 17 and frozen your tongue to a metal pole at noon the next day, if you didn't have much sense in any kind of weather.

I have a record of the whole thing, because of the weather station I installed in my back yard (it's a long story, but the nub of my motivation is that we live in a kind of hyper-local rain shadow, so the Austin news stations' summaries of how much rain the area receives tell me nothing about whether I should turn the sprinkler system on or off). Here's the temperature graph for 15 December 2016 through 6 January 2017:

I love the weather station;
Continue reading "The Spirit Thermometer"

You Can Make SOPA and PIPA Irrelevant (But You’re Probably Too Lazy)

SOPA and PIPA are bad laws. And Clay Shirky's TED talk about why they're bad laws is great. But he gets the most important point wrong. Right at the end, he says there are two things you can do. He says you can call your Congresspeeps, and you can "get ready", because more is coming. But there aren't two things you can do. There are three. And the third thing is much more powerful than the two things Clay suggests. You can make SOPA, PIPA, Copyright, and the Media moguls of the Hollywood studios, the music labels, the MPAA, and the RIAA irrelevant. You can cut off their air supply. You can make your own media, and you can make it free. And why wouldn't you? It's not like the media that's being made for you - for which the RIAA and the MPAA are willing to break the Internet Continue reading "You Can Make SOPA and PIPA Irrelevant (But You’re Probably Too Lazy)"

What Steve Jobs Built

You've all heard the news by now. Steve Jobs has stepped down as Apple's CEO. I could recite his accomplishments, but you know them. I could link to the videos, but you've seen them. I could tell you to buy a Mac and an iPhone, but you've already got them. But there is one thing I haven't seen anyone say about Steve, so I'll say it now. You often hear that we don't build anything in America anymore. And it's true enough that we don't build TVs, and we don't make much steel, and we don't make many textiles, and even Apple doesn't make computers here anymore. But we still do make ONE thing in America. We make the future. And Steve Jobs did that better than anybody, for a long, long time. Thank you, Steve. I hope you have many happy and healthy years to enjoy the future you've Continue reading "What Steve Jobs Built"

A Bipartisan Letter From Congress to the American People

Dear America, We know you're watching the debt ceiling debate with growing alarm, and we just wanted to reassure you that we know exactly what we're doing, and everything is going to be OK. For us. You, not so much. You probably think we don't know your credit card interest rates are going to go up to 30% next week when we refuse to pay the bills we rang up invading Iraq, buying crooked banks, stuffing the pockets of CEOs and Union bosses, and throwing enough nickels at the rest of you to make sure you didn't ask too many questions about what was really going on. You're wrong. We know. We just don't care. You probably think we're anguished about the fact that another million of you are going to have your houses repossessed by the bank when mortgage interest rates shoot up like a rocket in August. Wrong Continue reading "A Bipartisan Letter From Congress to the American People"

A Beautiful Short Film

How Football came to Panyee. This film is wonderfully made and tells an inspiring story in a little over 5 minutes. It doesn't hurt that the setting, Panyee Thailand, is one of the most beautiful places on the planet.

How Much Do Movies Really Cost?

A while back I wrote about how much it costs Hollywood to make a movie, using Avatar as a (particularly depressing) example. Avatar seems to have cost about $237 million, of which $150 million went to promotion. Avatar, of course, wasn't just "any old movie" - even by Hollywood standards. It was made by James Cameron, who has a history of making movies that rake in mountains of cash once they're released; Avatar seems to have made North of $2.5 BILLION dollars. It was also made in 3D (ick) using bleeding-edge graphics techniques on a set which was designed from the ground up to make the movie. Avatar won three Oscars, which is evidence that the Oscar should no longer be considered an honor worth having. You can make a much better movie than Avatar for a lot less money; The Hurt Locker, directed by Cameron's ex-wife Kathryn Continue reading "How Much Do Movies Really Cost?"

Not Worth Stealing

This week in movie news, Hitler has reacted badly to the news that Constantin Films, who own the copyright to "Downfall", have issued a DMCA notice resulting in the removal of many "Downfall"-based parodies from YouTube. The Downfall parodies are a prime example of what Larry Lessig calls Remix. Constantin Film AG calls it "theft". EFF, the Open Video Alliance, and others will argue til the cows come home about whether remix is theft or fair use. I say the hell with it. Forget about remix. Why start with crap? I haven't seen Downfall; it was made in Germany, not Hollywood, so it might not be total crap. But what arguments over the DMCA are distracting us from is that
Take Avatar. It was released on video this week. It won THREE Oscars, and was nominated for six more including best director and Continue reading "Not Worth Stealing"

What Does DHS Think TSA’s Job Is?

I've been puzzling over Janet Napolitano's comments in the wake of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab's semi-successful attempt to ignite a bomb onboard a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas day. At first I thought her comment that "the system worked" was just normal bureaucratic ass-covering, but after reading and re-reading her comments, and after thinking about the "additional security measures" most widely implemented after the incident, I'm not so sure. The additional security measures just didn't make sense to me at first:
  1. Passengers limited to one carryon bag (Abdulmutallab had none).
  2. No personal effects in passenger laps during last hour (Abdulmutallab had nothing in his lap; the bomb was inside his clothing).
  3. No moving around the cabin in the last hour (OK, Abdulmutallab did this).
But then I asked myself "what are these rules trying to prevent?" The answer is unfortunately obvious - the rules are trying to prevent someone who has
Continue reading "What Does DHS Think TSA’s Job Is?"

Goodbye, Don

Don Bowen died yesterday. He was 51 years and two days old - a bit older than me. He died of a brain tumor. I took the picture of Don you see above in San Diego's Gaslamp district on July 30. Don was attending my company's conference, and a lot of his friends held a party for him in the evening at a local restaurant. The crowd lined up to see Don that night was huge. If you'd met Don, you'd know why. You can't meet him any more, of course, but you can get an idea of why all of us loved him. He chronicled his two years of living with cancer on his blog. What comes through the details of the story is Don's optimism, his faith, and his love of his friends and of the everyday reality of life. The very last entry sums it up; I Continue reading "Goodbye, Don"

Never a Small Step

"The day", to my grandparents's generation, was December 7th. To my parents', it was November 22. To me, and to my generation, "the day" is today - July 20. I like to think that Neil Armstrong fumbled the first half of his famous quote because the false humility stuck in his throat. It was never a small step. It was always and only a giant leap, and everyone knew it. Armstrong knew it, because he and everyone he worked with signed up for a giant leap, and would never have settled for anything less. Kennedy knew it; he gave the call Armstrong answered. Kruschev knew it, behind all his bluster. And I knew it, and so did all my fourth-grade friends on Robin Hill drive in Williamsville, New York. That leap defined my generation and set us on our path. The Beatles and the race to the moon were the Continue reading "Never a Small Step"

Remembering Frank

Frank McCourt died today. Frank was famous for Angela's Ashes - his account of his "miserable Irish Catholic childhood". If you haven't read it, you should. He was a wonderful writer. Mostly by chance, I had the pleasure of spending a week on a bus with Frank. Karen & I signed up for a Photo Mentor Series trek to Ireland in 2003. The Ireland trip was unique among the Photo Mentor series treks in that it had a local host who wasn't a photographer, and Frank was that host. I took the above picture of him in the pitch-dark interior of the Gallarus Oratory on the Dingle peninsula. The photo mentors - Barbara Kinney, Jill Enfield, and Joe McNally, - were fantastic; Barbara had been Bill Clinton's White House staff photographer, Jill is a leading expert in hand-coloring photographs, and Joe shot the first digital cover for Continue reading "Remembering Frank"