Irregular Webcomic on Scotland's Great Glen

06/17/08 | by Adam | Categories: Potpourri


Another fascinating annotation from the most erudite webcomic this side of Xkcd. Today's focus: planetary geology and the shared physical heritage of Scotland, Newfoundland and the Appalachians.


Interesting tourist places you can't go if you're an American

06/16/08 | by Adam | Categories: Potpourri


I have to say Iran does sound like an interesting destination. The Leptis Magna ruins in Libya (not listed) also strike my fancy. The old Silk Road route would be great too but that's just a little too dangerous these days for my liking.



06/15/08 | by Adam | Categories: Technology


"Hypermilling", or the process or trying to optimize fuel efficiency via driving techniques, is on the rise in the public consciousness. This Wired article is about the fifth I've seen in the last month.

However, for all its positive aspects, getting stuck behind someone trying to do hypermilling would be profoundly irritating. One of the commenters puts it pretty bluntly:

Ask yourself this: is saving a few bucks in gas worth the fact that people are going to get out of their cars and punch you in the face for "drafting" them (ie, tailgating, and of course you're going to rear end them when they do stop anyway since your engine is shut off and you have no braking power - thanks for your lack of concern for other's safety asshole), or put the PIT maneuver on your ass because you're taking 5 minutes to get your car up to speed at every stoplight and holding up 100 cars behind you?

To be fair, the how-to Wiki on Wired's site is a bit more general and does include some sensible suggestions that don't involve being a menace on the road.


World Of World Of Warcraft

06/14/08 | by Adam | Categories: YouTube


To use an equally geeky analogy, the Onion hit this one out of the ballpark.

(Via Ricardo)


Some bad ideas never die

06/13/08 | by Adam | Categories: Canadian, Copyright


Yup. Jim Prentice's Canadian uber-DMCA is rearing its ugly head again. Do I hold out hope that the opposition parties will kill it? I guess it depends on how much the studios have been forking over to the various "interested" MPs again...

Anyway, here's Michael Geist's take on it. A few quotes from his article:

the effect of these provisions will be to make Canadians infringers for a host of activities that are common today including watching out-of-region-coded DVDs, copying and pasting materials from a DRM'd book, or even unlocking a cellphone.
Under the proposal, there are exceptions for uploading or posting music online (ie. making available) and even the suggestion that posting a copyright-protected work to YouTube could result in the larger $20,000 per infringement damage award.
The education community received several provisions that are largely gutted by the fine print. For example, library materials can be distributed in electronic form, but must not extend beyond five days. In other words, it turns librarians into locksmiths.

Summary: assuming this beastie passes as is, and that there are no further changes and that the copyright industry doesn't have a change of heart, you'd better stock up on current media as those usage rights will never be as anywhere good as they are now.

(Update: Geist posted a further set of thoughts about the bill and what can be done about it.)


La Paz's (literal) Zebra Crossings

06/12/08 | by Adam | Categories: YouTube


For some reason, La Paz's decision to use crossing guards dressed as zebras for their zebra crossings (aka pedestrian crossings) really appeals to whimsical side of me.

(Via Kottke)


On search engines

06/11/08 | by Adam | Categories: Technology

For the last article, I'd remembered reading a Wired review of GTA 4. I'd not bookmarked it so when I wanted to reference it, I went back to Wired and tried to use their search engine to locate it. None of the standard searches like "Grand Theft Auto", "GTA", "molotov cocktail" and so forth returned the article. In the end I gave up and went Googling; that returned the correct article as the first hit.

It's a bit sad when a the search engine used by a prominent IT-focused publication on its own site is less effective than a third party one.


The best racing game that's not on a PC

06/10/08 | by Adam | Categories: Games


A couple of weeks ago I found a review of a new game that sounded like a sure thing for our periodic weekend PC gaming sessions:

"There are 15 different modes of online play, most of which are pretty good. One clear winner is [...] Race, which blends car racing with combat: You can assault one another's vehicles, and even carjack one another. The result is exquisite madness, with drivers jumping out of wrecked compact cars and in 18-wheel trucks, then tearing off down crowded sidewalks while followed by lowriders hurling Molotov cocktails. If, like me, you're a subpar driver, you can simply abandon the goal and become a machine of revenge -- setting up a roadblock, waiting for other drivers to approach, then blasting them to pieces. This is food for the soul.

In previous years, we'd been addicted to racing games like "Need For Speed: Porsche Unleashed" and Microsoft's unparalleled "Midtown Madness". Both are unfortunately rather long in the tooth but we've never found anything to replace them for sheer multiplayer fun.

When I saw the review, I figured we had a winner. The game described above is of course Grand Theft Auto IV, and I went out the following day to pick up a copy. What I hadn't thought of -- given the game's heritage -- was that it was yet another console-only release.

Oh well. Guess I'll still have to keeping looking for that next one game, although maybe the parameters of the search may well be changing...


Hm, shipping's a little high

06/08/08 | by Adam | Categories: Technology

I'm not sure that a $55 shipping cost on a single CD from the US to Canada is really warranted. Bad Blizzard!


Sony's PS3 is a energy-sucking hog

06/06/08 | by Adam | Categories: Technology


Well, I guess it doesn't qualify as a EnergyStar compliant device. The article being referenced all over the place (Gizmodo, Gizmodo UK, Wired) is that a Sony PS3 running 24/7 software (like Folding@Home) will chew up as much energy as five fridges over the course of a year. Gizmodo comments that this means you're effectively donating about $250USD to outfits like Folding@Home a year. The energy consumption for when in use isn't too surprising; what is that even when idle, it's almost as much. At least when it's off in standby mode, it's not that bad.

Take a look at the chart; it makes for some interesting reading.

(Earlier related post here.)


Privacy and Facebook

06/05/08 | by Adam | Categories: Technology


Out in Ontario, some students are suing Facebook for privacy infringement. The (non-legal) synopsis of the argument is that Facebook is granting full access to private and protected information to third parties without permission.

Full story »


Skewed views of relationships

06/04/08 | by Adam | Categories: Whining


The link is to a tongue-in-cheek Gizmodo post about one of their writers throwing away DVD packaging on the request of his wife. Nothing too special there; what is interesting is in the pages upon pages of responses in the comments section.

Those are indeed some seriously worrying individuals...


Article writing 101

06/03/08 | by Adam | Categories: Technology


Bad BBC. If you're going to have a headline reading:

Web users 'getting more selfish'

and a lede that reads:

Web users are getting more ruthless and selfish when they go online, reveals research

it would probably make sense to actually include the quoted phrase in the article. Go look at the link and see if you can find it; I couldn't. The headline and lede are pretty negative choices of words, especially given how the article itself is quite non-controversial. It's about the fairly obvious conclusion that most web-surfers object to having their time wasted with unnecessary bumpf:

Instead of dawdling on websites many users want simply to reach a site quickly, complete a task and leave.
Web users were also getting very frustrated with all the extras, such as widgets and applications, being added to sites to make them more friendly.


Well, darn it... Again.

06/02/08 | by Adam | Categories: Music


Another day, another duplicated Amazon purchase.

So, who knew that there'd be two CDs with entirely different names and cover art but with exactly the same track listing? This time it's The Damned taking the non-obvious duplication prize with "It's Alright Jack And The Beanstalk" and "Not Of This Earth." Wikipedia, font of all true knowledge (so long as it's not controversial) has the low-down.



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