Entries for April 2007

April 27, 2007

Idea: Uncensor the Internet with Greasemonkey

Uncensor the InternetThere’s an article on-line from Money Magazine called “50 Bulls**t Jobs.” That’s right. Bulls**t. With those two asterisks in there. Come on. We know what word they mean. So why not just say it? If they think we’re adult enough to be reminded of the word, why don’t they think we’re adult enough to see the actual word? (The article is based on a book by the same name, but without the asterisks)

Oh, I know. It’s the kids. They might be reading. Sh*t. I didn’t f*cking think of that. It would be terrible if they would see the word “Bulls**t” in print, but it’s okay for them to see it with the asterisks, right? They’ll have no idea what that means. And I’m sure they have no idea what “the F word” is, so let’s just keep calling it that.

But what about us adults who can decide for ourselves whether we want to see foul language or not? Is there a way for us to avoid all this f****ng unnecessary self-censorship littering the internet?

There is now. I’ve created the “Uncensor the Internet” script for Greasemonkey (a Firefox plug-in that lets you add all sorts of useful functionality to your web browser, available here). If you’re running Firefox with the Greasemonkey plug-in, just install this script, and see all the foul language that people are pretending they don’t use.

It’s also available as a standalone plug-in for those of you who aren’t running Greasemonkey. Right-click on the link to save it to your desktop, and then drag it into your browser window.

To see an example of the script in action, reload this page after you’ve installed it.

Previously: The CNN Fortune Cookie Greasemonkey script. It automatically adds the phrase “in bed” to the end of CNN.com headlines.

Update: I’ve fixed the script so it knows the difference between “a whole” and “a**hole,” and it knows the difference between “batch,” “botch,” “butch,” and “b*tch.”

April 23, 2007

Crash into me

I saw this ad on a website I visited recently:


Isn’t the first rule of automobile advertising that you don’t put “roll over” in big letters above a picture of your car?

April 20, 2007

The best employee ever

Today’s Wall Street Journal has a story called “The Most-Praised Generation Goes to Work.” The article is about kids whose parents lavished them with praise, and now that they have grown up and entered the work force, their bosses have to deal with their expectations of constant praise.

According to the article, “The Container Store Inc. estimates that one of its 4,000 employees receives praise every 20 seconds.”

I can’t help but wonder which employee that is.

April 18, 2007

“The Week” in review

The WeekLately I’ve been reading a news magazine called The Week. In a recent national survey (PDF), The Week was the only magazine to rank in the Top Ten for being most credible, most objective, and most enjoyable. It’s one of the fastest-growing magazines, but with a circulation that’s only around 10% of Time magazine, you’ve likely still never heard of it. Here’s why I like it:

I don’t have time to read every blog I enjoy. So I use an RSS aggregator to bring all the headlines from my favorite blogs into one place where I can read the highlights and get an idea of what’s happening in the blogosphere. The Week is like an RSS aggregator for magazines and newspapers. This one magazine condenses all the best articles from various sources into one easy-to-digest magazine. Sure, it tells me about Britney Spears’ hairstyle and Don Imus’ career woes, but it also tells me about suicide bombers in Morocco, a kidnapping in Pakistan, and a mysterious cancer afflicting the Tazmanian Devil in Australia — the kinds of stories that fall through the cracks in the mainstream media obsessed with the celebrity of the week and kittens stuck in trees.

Even more importantly, I get perspectives from publications I wouldn’t otherwise read. I may not like the political leanings of National Review, for example, but when their perspective is included in a round-up of editorials on a particular topic, I get a broader view of that topic. And a feature called “How They See Us” lets me know what editorialists in other countries are saying about the United States.

The WeekOne nice feature is “The World at a Glance,” which summarizes major events around the world, along with a map to help put a story into geographical context. The “Briefing” section gives me all the sides of a current issue, including perspectives from several sources — not just a condensed version of a single article. Sections called “The Main Stories and How They Were Covered” and “Best Columns” are valuable (and self-explanatory) features, as well.

There’s light-hearted content, too, including “Good Week For / Bad Week For.” Last week was a good week for manatees, who are no longer facing extinction, but a bad week for Australian rugby star David Kidwell, who tripped over his 2-year-old at a barbecue, injuring himself so badly that he can’t finish the season.

Movie and book reviews are done Zagat-survey-style, using quotes from various reviews to boil down to one rating. It’s like RottenTomatoes, but with a less confusing rating system.

Each 40-page issue is packed with information that gives a broad view of the world in the past 7 days, but none of it is very deep. If I want more information on a particular topic, I still need to look elsewhere. But at least now I know what’s happening in the world as covered by different outlets with different perspectives, including foreign points of view, without the mountain of magazines to wade through.

I’ve been reading The Week for a while, but I decided that now is a good time to mention it because they’re publishing one free issue this week, and it’s going to be on-line only, starting this Friday. Go to their website www.theweekmagazine.com and check it out.

April 9, 2007

Idea: The Digital Jewel Box

I love having my music on my hard drive or iPod, but one reason I still buy CDs and then rip them is that I enjoy holding the jewel box in my hand and reading the liner notes while the music plays. I just hate how much space all those jewel boxes and liner note inserts take up.

Digital Jewel BoxSo how about making a Digital Jewel Box? Here’s how it would work: The DJB sits next to your stereo or computer in its charging dock. Similar to a digital picture frame, it syncs wirelessly to your home network via WiFi, syncing itself with iTunes or whatever digital player you use. When a new song comes on, the DJB’s screen shows the album cover art for that song.

At any time, you can take the DJB out of its dock, sit on the couch with it, and use the controls on its side to flip through the rest of the liner notes, including track listings, lyrics, song credits, acknowledgments, and whatever else is included in the paper version. The pleasure of flipping through liner notes doesn’t need to go away just because CDs do.

You can also use the DJB as a remote control, as long as your media player supports it. The DJB has an infrared transmitter, and the charging dock has an IR receiver. So if you’re sitting on your couch flipping through your favorite album’s liner notes and you decide you’d rather be listening to a different track, you can skip forward or back by pressing buttons on the DJB itself. If you want to hear a different album entirely, use the DJB’s menu to flip through your music. The songs themselves aren’t stored on the DJB, but the track listings are.

When you’re not playing music, you can set your DJB to turn off completely, or double as a digital picture frame, displaying your personal pictures.

Here’s another mock-up of what the DJB might look like, but probably with fancier transitions than these:

Digital Jewel Box

April 4, 2007

Animated Manhattan: Shortbus

Part 16 in an ongoing series looking at New York City in animation.

ShortbusThere’s a lot of explicit sex in the movie Shortbus. There’s straight sex, gay sex, solo sex, oral sex, and group sex. But in between all the sex scenes, there are lovely animated sequences depicting New York City.

The movie, which is more artsy than pornographic, is primarily about a relationship-and-sex counselor who has never had an orgasm. She and the other characters live in New York, and when the narrative shifts from one part of the city to another, the camera flies through a virtual version of the city, over bridges and through the park, finally landing on a street or building where the next scene takes place.

Shortbus Shortbus

The virtual city is really wonderful. It looks like a handmade and hand painted model. If not for the way the camera moves between and around the buildings, it would be easy to mistake the computer generated model for a real tangible highly detailed replica. Most of the city’s recognizable landmarks are faithfully recreated. The city is depicted by day and by night, and even during a blackout, to wonderful effect.

The animation is done by John Bair, whose company Edgeworx has done visual effects for TV, movies, and commercials that you’ve almost definitely seen. Here are more images from his work on Shortbus:

Shortbus Shortbus
Shortbus Shortbus
Shortbus Shortbus

IMDb Rating: 7.2/10
BCDb Rating: N/A
My Rating: 8/10

(My rating is for the depiction of NYC only)

April 1, 2007

New species of falcon named after Millennium Falcon

Millennium Falcon Press ReleaseAs a Star Wars fan, I was excited to read this e-mail from my friend Hugh who’s doing an apprenticeship studying birds in Madagascar. The lab he’s working at recently discovered a new species of falcon, and they’ve decided to name it the “Millennium Falcon.” From his e-mail:

The scientific name is falco milleannus which means Millenium Falcon. How cool is that! The “official” explanation has nothing to do with Star Wars, but we’re all getting a good laugh out of it here because of the double meaning. My boss came up with the name. Check out the press release, they even quoted me at the end!


You can read the whole press release here. Very cool.