Thursday, March 31, 2005

Data Visualization and Names

This baby names site has a very interesting interface for visualizing the popularity of first names by decade. Besides having an interesting interface, it's fun to see how the popularity of your name and those of your family and friends have changed over the years. Personally, I can't understand the decline of Earl in recent decades.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

New Results in Genetics

In the 1800s, Mendel‘s studies of pea plants led him to assert some basic laws of heredity that were the foundations of modern genetics. These laws are still taught today in beginning genetics classes. There is a short explanation of his pea plant experiments here. The Mendel Museum has a nice website that gives a lot of information about his life and his work (a lot more than just pea plants and genetics).

In a recent issue of Nature, a group from Purdue University led by geneticist Robert Pruitt published some results that contradict Mendel’s laws. A summary is given here. In short, they found that occasionally some plants didn’t inherit traits from their parents as would be predicted by Mendel. Instead, they showed traits of their grandparents. If true, that could mean there is another mechanism that transmits genetic information from the preceding generation. Sometimes this information can override normal inheritance or genetic mutations. If that mechanism could be understood and controlled, it could offer a new avenue for therapies to treat genetic diseases.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Office chair

Here is a funky design for an office chair.

Creative cubicles

I'm one of the lucky, Dilbert era people that gets to work in a cubicle in an open office environment. The back wall of my cube is ~5 ft 6 inches high, two sides are 4 feet high, and the final side is the "door". That open environment can be distracting when you're trying to focus -- like when you're writing something. I have to put on headphones sometimes to shut out the rest of the world.

This page has some interesting pictures taken during a tour of Pixar. Scroll down about 1/3 of way and you'll see how Pixar handled setting up "cubicles" in a creative way for their animators. Looks like a fun environment.

Brady Bunch Clones

Here is a cute video spoof on the Brady Bunch opening theme.

RFID Chip Implant

Someone posted photos on Flickr showing an RFID implant in their hand that they plan to use for keyless entry into a car. There are a couple videos on this page that show how the implant works.

You can't believe everything you read, or see, on the web. I can only hope this is a hoax -- I could imagine the videos being faked by having an RFID tag taped on the underside of the hand. But you never know. There are some crazy people out there.


Dave Logan made an interesting animation to accompany the song Bloodmobile by They Might Be Giants.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Need a wallet?

You'd think this would be on the Red Green website, but's it's from 3M -- a web page describing how to make a wallet out of duct tape.

Latte art

Not being a coffee drinker or a frequent visitor to Starbucks, I had no idea what a barista was until a contestant on Survivor listed barista as an occupation. There's even a barista championship!

There is an interesting photo page on Flickr showing latte art. Pretty amazing! If a barista could just figure out how to make an image of the Virgin Mary, they'd make a fortune on eBay.

Who is doing this and why?

I have always been amazed at spammers. How can spammers be wasting their time pumping out these annoying emails that no one in their right mind would respond to? There must be a few people responding to make it worthwhile. I always thought maybe 1/10 of a percent. If a spammer sent out 100,000 emails and made 5 cents per response that'd only be $5.00. It didn't make sense -- until today.

The BBC posted an article recently describing results of a poll about spam and responders. I couldn't believe the poll said 10% of people have bought items advertised in spam emails!! In addition to enacting anti-spam legislation, I think spam responders should also be prosecuted.

That changes my estimate of a spammer's profit per email campaign to $500! Hmmmm....did I trash that email message I got about working from home as a spammer?

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Follow up on chicken harvesting

I few weeks ago I had a post about chicken harvesting. I went back to the website today to show someone the video and the link for the chicken harvester movie had disappeared. The site must have been getting a lot of hits when that hit the major blogs. That shows the power of the blogosphere -- or animal rights activists.

How to scare a spouse, part 2

A few weeks ago I did a post on sleep jerks. Here's another sleep story.

A few nights ago I was dreaming that Dianne and I were in the house where I grew up. I don't know why, but we were the only people inside and were looking around in the house. We noticed a group of people outside that looked like they wanted to get in. They were coming up to the windows and pressing their faces to the glass and using their hands to shield their eyes so they could see inside. We decided to scare them aware to keep them from coming in. Dianne suggested I should jump in front of the window and shout real loud the next time someone puts their face to the glass. So that's what I did. Apparently the shouting part carried over from my dream into real life. Dianne awoke to me shouting.

Of course she wondered what was wrong. I said I was just dreaming and apparently fell back asleep right away while she was left wide awake with her heart pounding. Well....the shouting was her idea.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Danger in Char Siu?

One of my favorite Asian foods is char siu -- especially in baked manapua form. You can see and learn more about manapua at the Manapua Research Labs where I'd like to work someday. Typically, char siu meat has a bright red color. Seasoning mixes are a bright red powder. That made a connection with this article about red dyes in food sold in China. Hopefully that's not what makes char siu taste so good.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Body plastination

Last fall we saw the Body World exhibit in Los Angeles. It was an exhibit of cadavers and organs preserved in plastic and prepared or positioned to illustrate various body systems. It was a fascinating exhibit.

Recently, Yahoo news had an article on the artist and his purchase of a factory in Poland where he hopes to increase his plastination output. Here is an updated link for the article.

Here is a movie where people are plastinated while still alive. Hopefully the Plastination factory won't be the site for the sequel.

American Sign Museum

A new museum is opening later this spring in Cincinnati.

Friday, March 11, 2005

You can't always win with outsourcing....

....especially when it comes to innovation.

Business Week has a nice article about Apple and the benefits it reaps by maintaining design work in house and integrating the design work with other functions of a product team. I thought the comments from Donald Norman were interesting. A design consulting group can provide a good design, but you can get great design by integrating in-house creativity with the project team.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Power Tool Drag Racing

I haven't seen the Power Tool Drag Racing on the Discovery Channel. Looks interesting. However, according to Boing Boing, what's more odd is the entry that was left out of the documentary. There's a movie at the site.

Chicken Harvester

This will stop any craving you might have for chicken. Click on the video link on the right side of the page.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Music Royalties

The music recording industry is having a hard time dealing with the digital sound era. I don't completely understand their thinking and something will have to give. Two recent articles on the web have caught my attention and caused this rant.

I understand music industry arguments against completely open sharing of recorded music in digital form. A prime example was Napster in its original form. Several folks argued that ripping music from a CD and sharing it openly would hurt the pocketbook of the recording industry. I understand that position. However, to be fair, increased exposure through some song sharing could increase listener interest in a group and result in increased CD sales. That's probably especially true for lesser known bands. That's a positive for the industry. Off the record, I'm sure a rational representative of the recording industry would accept that as true.

In contrast to open sharing is controlling the distribution of digital recordings by establishing some type of control (DRM) that permits use only when paid for. Napster's current music distribution system and Apple's iTunes music store are a couple examples of that today. This latter position, when taken to extremes, will also hurt the music industry. Here are two examples that illustrate how the music recording industry is shooting themselves in the foot.

The first example involves paying royalties for recordings used in podcasting. Say you make a podcast to tell the world about this great new song you bought and you include a bit of the song in a podcast to show how great it is. The recording industry position is you would have to pay a royalty. In short, you'd have to pay the recording industry to perform word of mouth (i.e. podcasting) advertising for them. Word of mouth advertising has got to be powerful -- it has shown it's value with books. Wil Wheaton had a rant about this recently and I agree with him on how insane that is. There are more details here. I guess I better be careful about discussing music face to face with friends. If you hum or whistle during the discussion it could cost you. Oh….and be careful about singing happy birthday at your next party.

The second example involves distribution of the old TV show WKRP in Cincinnati. What does that have to do with music? Since the sit-com was based at a radio station, they played bits of songs throughout the show. It wasn't a complete song, but often times background music when say Venus or Johnny was talking to Les Nessman in the studio. The music added a lot to the show. Unfortunately, the music also adds significantly cost via royalties if the old shows would be distributed on DVD. The alternative is to take out the music. That could upset fans and might not fly with the shows creators. It seems if royalties are that hefty that they prevent distribution of old TV shows containing music, the music industry is hurting itself. Lower royalties could lead to DVD distribution which could lead to baby boomers spending money getting the recordings they hear on the old shows -- now that they have money to buy them.

It's no wonder why the video game Donkey Konga doesn't use original recordings.