September 27, 2002

Everything you see is wrong

The Koffka Ring optical illusion will have you doubting everything. If you can't trust your own eyes, what body part CAN you trust?

Thanks to Geek Press for the link.

September 25, 2002

The Sound of Silence: Ch-Ching! - British Musician to Pay in Lawsuit

"LONDON -- What price silence? Six figures, as British musician Mike Batt found out when he included a one-minute silence on the latest album by his rock group, The Planets.
Batt agreed Monday to pay an undisclosed six-figure sum to the John Cage Trust, after publishers of the late American composer sued him for compensation, claiming he had plagiarized Cage's 1952 composition, "4'33," which was totally silent."

Imagine that. This guy included a track on his album with 1 minute of silence on it and jokingly called it "1:00" and gave co-authoring credit to John Cage...and so Cage's estate sues. Another symptom of how dysfunctional the copyright system is!

September 24, 2002

Fool Me Once, Don't Be Fooled Again...

In case you missed it on the news, here's our Commander-in-Chief at his very best. Words fail me.

Getting More Pages Up

I'm on a roll in getting some new pages up on the web. First up was something I've meant to do for a long time: Adapting and Enhancing Existing Webquests. That one will be used in EDTEC 470 and was the centerpiece of the workshop I did in Kansas City last week. Also brand new is Teaching and Learning with Faraway Partners, a mini-WebQuest I needed for EDTEC 570. It took up 2 hours of last night's class and I think it went very well.

And earlier today, I did a makeover on the very old but very popular series of WebQuest About WebQuests pages. I saved one of the old versions just to show the difference. I nuked the Resources section of the page and moved the links into the Process section, which is more in keeping with today's format. Also added a cool Javascript timer and tarted up the color scheme. All very gratifying!

September 21, 2002

How Easily Things Get Broken

What a drag. We drove by June's Mom's now-uninhabited house this afternoon and walked in to find the kitchen floor under two inches of water. The floors in the living room were buckled up and the carpet was soaked and musty smelling. Turns out that the plastic hose feeding water into the icemaker in the fridge decided to spring a leak. It had probably been dribbling away for close to a week.

We called one of those companies that do nothing but clean up after incidents like this and they quickly sucked up the water, tore up the carpet and hauled in a flotilla of dehumidifiers. We're going to have to replace a lot of the floor, get new carpeting, and have the place repainted. The silver lining is that this got us off the dime in sprucing the place up and getting it ready for sale. It's all insured. Still, what a drag.

Now Hear This

Remember those personalized ads directed at Tom Cruise as he walked through the mall in Minority Report? I'm not convinced that that will ever happen, but if it does it will require that each person only hears his/her own ads. The technology for that, HyperSonic Sound, is apparently already here!

Why HSS?
There are many reasons. The first and most important is the ability to direct or focus sound into a tight beam, similar to the beam of light from the flashlight described above. No other audio reproduction device available today provides this unique ability. The opportunities for applying this characteristic to the reproduction of sound are limitless. Think about the ability in a museum to direct the narration about a specific display only to the people standing directly in front of it.

Hmmm... imagine what kind of party games you could create if you were able to whisper different things into the ears of each participant simultaneously. Could be interesting.

September 16, 2002

IM'ing with the A-Boy

While I was teaching tonight, Alex was wrestling with this assignment to write a teen version of the UN Declaration of Human Rights. You can see his struggle on tonight's entries at After first writing up a long warmup and then a very short list of demands, he winnowed it down to "there's already a human rights declaration, teens are human, that's all we need." He was proposing just handing that in, but I imagined that his teacher might look at that as taking the easy way out even though he arrived at it after lots of thought. He left voicemail asking for my opinion so rather than wait until I got home, I launched iChat and we were instantly in touch.

Me: Sooooo,,,,, looking for a quick way to get this assignment done, eh? I don't think your teacher would go for it.

A: hi
A: not really...
A: I just don't think Teens have any specific rights...

Me: And you still think the assignment is to write up your actual rights rather than proposing that things change?

A: I posted a revision to my original declaration...

Me: On
A: yeah
A: well, after thinking back, it's more of a wishlist...

Me: Me go there.

A: I'm starting to think it's a sort of Kobiashi-Maru...
A: I mean, I can't think of a real answer...

Me: OK... here's a thought:

A: *all ears*

Me: Do the long preamble about intergenerational lah-de-dah from your first draft and then go into the last version saying "we don't need anything more". I think that accomplishes her goal to get you thinking and writing and your goal to speak the truth.

A: cool...
A: okay
A: *copying to a stickie*

Me: My work here is done. I'm coming home now.

A: okay
A: cool
A: mom is about to go get food
A: I'll tell her to wait

Me: Ah... where's she going?

A: I'm not sure

Me: Ax.

A: McSomething or Mexican...

Me: I'll have a little Mexican. Don't have her wait.

A: what do you want?
A: k
A: brb
A: back. okay...she'll go to a mexican place then

Me: OK that gives me a few minutes to wrap things up here. I'll be home in about 20.

A: okay. seeya then!

Me: Bye kiddo
A: bye!

Such an ordinary conversation. Hardly worth blogging. But someday he'll be in college or sitting at a desk somewhere and I hope we'll continue to chat. The content will change, the medium will get more intense. But just for the archives I wanted to save one conversation here. I like being a Dad.

Bill Gets Off Easy

From Microsoft's New Deal with Uncle Sam.

"On Wednesday, the Bush administration is scheduled to publish its proposal to increase the security of the Internet. Properly titled the "National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace," it's said to talk with great earnestness about helping home users safeguard their computers, about thwarting online intrusions into business systems, and about providing better training to federal network administrators.

"But, according to people familiar with the draft report, it pays scant attention to Microsoft, which has been responsible for more online security woes than any other company in history."

For the last two weeks my inbox is getting around 20 e-mails a day due to Microsoft's neglect. Both bots and humans are writing to me to say that I've been sending out mail with an infected attachment. I haven't sent anything, of course; I'm in the address book of some Windows user who is infected with the Klez worm. As a Mac user, I'm immune to that but it doesn't stop my name from being put into the From: field of these tainted messages. According to the article, it's been estimated that four Windows-based infections -- Nimda, Code Red, SirCam, and Love Bug -- cost us $13 billion in lost productivity and lost data.

Microsoft should be held more accountable, but that's not going to happen during this administration.

September 12, 2002

The Final Tool in my Toolbox

I'm thumbing through Foundation PHP for Flash by Steve Webster. What a terrific book! It assumes that the reader has already become comfortable with Flash and goes from there to a very readable introduction to PHP and MySQL. Very nicely done.

My head is spinning with what I could do with a Flash front end and a MySQL backend. One project I'd like to work on is a version of the Glass Bead Game. A couple of years ago I worked up a version of GBG using Inspiration. But how much cooler it would be if the beads were drawn randomly from a database that others could contribute to, and completed games were stored for later viewing. With these three tools, it shouldn't be that hard. If only I didn't have to sleep!

September 11, 2002


Andy Ihnatko has captured my feelings perfectly.

"The TV gets turned off now and will remain off for 22 hours or so.

"I don't believe that the networks are being exploitative with their 9-11 coverage. It's simple: I think each network is just absolutely terrified of people thinking it's Not Doing Enough and is determined to do as much as everbody else, if not more. So I'm not offended.

"All the same, I don't want to be a part of this. I have found my own relationship with the events and I require no reminders. More importantly, in the past few months I've only just begun to stop associating my flag with people who want to sell me things, be they a song about putting a boot up someone's ass, a political agenda masquerading as patriotism, the beer and snack chips in the commercials that ran before and after the Super Bowl halftime show, or especially any bit of tacky plastic with an American flag silkscreened on it.

"It's taken a while, but I finally have my flag back.

"Once again, my flag means what it's meant to me ever since I was a kid: my flag is the flag that my fellow Americans abandoned - in many forms and in great quantity - on the surface of the Moon. Once again, my flag symbolizes the power of what's possible when 250,000,000 people all want the same thing...and they're lucky enough to live in a country where that actually matters."

September 08, 2002

The Bill of Whats?

From Newsday: Overview of Changes to Legal Rights. A short list of freedoms formerly guaranteed by the Constitution that we have lost in the last year. Is it wishful thinking on my part, or has the flagwaving mostly stopped and are normal people beginning to get a handle on what's happening under the Monkey Regime?

September 06, 2002

Computer: Earl Grey Tea. Dim Lights.

Toshiba develops Bluetooth-enabled headsets
"Toshiba developed wireless headsets that are equipped with wireless communication function and voice recognition function. Toshiba employed Bluetooth technology for incorporating wireless communication function into its headsets. When connected to Bluetooth-enabled PCs and home electronics, the headsets can actually play high-quality sound music and take control of equipment via its voice recognition function. Toshiba is eying to market the products within year 2002."

This sounds almost too good to be true. I love the idea of walking around the house telling the appliances what to do while listening to Andrea Bocelli in the headphones and dictating my next book.

September 03, 2002

A Family Milestone

Alex started high school today. That's a once-a-lifetime event as it is, but it's an even bigger deal here because he's been homeschooled since first grade. Mother and child are both doing fine.

The Machines Will Out-Evolve Us

From today's New Scientist: Radio Emerges from Electronic Soup. "A self-organising electronic circuit has stunned engineers by turning itself into a radio receiver."

Wow. If they let it keep running, will it evolve into Rush Limbaugh?

Gauging your Octoroonity

Just read this on my Lithuanian genealogy list: DNAPrint has announced that they will be providing a service in which they'll analyze a sample of your DNA, compare certain markers against a database of ethnic groups around the world, and tell you where your ancestors came from. For $20, you can buy their kit to capture your DNA. No mention of how much the analysis would cost.

"In addition to forensics, Dr. Shriver will help ANCESTRY penetrate a recreational consumer genomics market. For example, the test could be attractive for adoptees who desire to learn about their heritage, or for genealogists who desire to learn more about ambiguous regions of their family tree. By allowing for the inference of precise ancestral mixture, ANCESTRY could help dispel the entire notion of "race" as we know it today and force governing bodies to re-think policies based on the classification of individuals into rigidly defined racial groups."

So, I wonder how fine-tuned the results would be. As far as I know, I'm 50% Irish and 50% Lithuanian. But there's talk on the Irish side of way-back links to Denmark and Cornwall. And as for Lithuania, with centuries of Poles and Germans and Russians trooping through, there are bound to extra deposits in the gene pool. Do I get a report that breaks it down into percentages of 5 or 6 subflavors of that chewy Bernie Dodge goodness?

"Recreational consumer genomics". Remember, you probably heard it here first.

September 02, 2002

Googling for Gamestuff

Spent most of today finding new links for my Game Design class. What fun! I set up a new Backflip public folder that I'll share with students. One ongoing assignment will be for them to add to the links as we go, and to blog about what they added.

I found 18 other courses having something to do with game design, but none so far like mine with a focus on educational games and simulations. It will be good to get this course online as I think there's a market for it. Looking forward to starting the semester!

September 01, 2002

Toynbee Tiles

Wow! How could I have never heard about this? A posting today on the Psychoceramics list (that's the study of crackpots) describes Toynbee Tiles, mysterious plaques appearing in a dozen cities or more with no known explanation. CityBeat: Out of This World tells the story in Cincinnati and leads to What Is It?, the one-stop shopping site for information on the phenomenon. Looks like someone is either truly nuts or having fun tweaking our curiosity like the Andre the Giant postermongers. I'd like to think it's the latter.