Sunday, April 04, 2010

The Case of the Missing Polar Bears

Early one morning last week I was walking to work along King Street East and noticed a little parkette across the street from St. James Church containing an unexpected sight:

 

Okay, nothing out of the ordinary here - just a few huge, bright orange polar bears walking into the wall of a building.

The very next morning the scene looked like this:

The bear in the back disappeared, and the parkette had been locked. Perhaps there was a late-night bear heist? Did several masked men sneak in and carry a 15-foot-long neon polar bear down the street? Maybe some animal activists who were former ravers saw the manifestations of their acid trips and staged a rescue?

The next morning the bears were gone. The parkette remains locked down as I'm sure the police are heavily involved in this investigation. I remain hopeful that the bears merely completed their passage through the wall into another dimension, joining their brethren which may include pink dolphins, yellow penguins and green seals.

All kidding aside, if you happen to know the story behind these mysterious polar bears or their whereabouts, hit me up on twitter @consciousness.

Posted by justin at 3:10 PM
Categories: Etc.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A final word on this sleep challenge thing...

So as much as I tried to dress up my last post about this LifeHack 5 Day Sleep and Wake Up Early Toaster Strudel Jabberwockey challenge, I woke up at 9 this morning instead of 6. So I guess I failed the challenge. I'll wake up an hour earlier tomorrow, or I won't. Come Monday, I'm waking up at 6, having my coffee and going about my workday. Whatever.

To be blunt, the idea of writing about when I wake up in the morning is boring the piss out of me, so this is the last I speak of the subject. I'll be back when I have an opinion on something interesting.

Posted by justin at 10:59 AM
Categories: Etc.

Monday, March 22, 2010

LifeHack Challenge - Day 1: Sleeping tonight - it's just a dream

While contemplating the merits of participating in the LifeHack: Become An Early Riser In 5 Days Challenge early yesterday morning at around 7 after having been awake all night, I didn't think very far ahead to what it would be like actually starting it.

Originally vowing to get up at 6am each day to make way for waking up with enough leisure time to shake the cobwebs and get in a little exercise before heading off to work, I set the bar for Day 1 pretty damn high, rolling back my Monday wakeup time to 3am to catch some live mixed martial arts broadcast from Japan where they're 14 hours ahead.

No, little did I think of how difficult it is for me to hop into bed and simply pass out, especially when I've been awake slightly less than 12 hours to begin with. So, with an hour and a half left until my obscenely loud alarm clock is set to jolt my heart rate through the ceiling, I've elected to stay awake. All night. And all day.

I've done this sort of thing before when I knew I had to shed my nocturnal behaviour for that of a daybreaker. The sun burns through the retinas just a bit hotter, and the mind tends to wander off in completely new directions, or conjure up thoughts you were sure you'd forgotten. But hell, it's just one day. It's just a bit more lost traction on my running shoes than normal from a more pronounced dragging of my feet. It's no big deal.

As I scroll through some of the comments on the LifeHack Challenge page, I notice a lot of people who want to wake up an hour earlier, or a half hour. There are some who already sound defeated, saying they'll "try" to get up earlier. I seem to be the only one admitting that I'm coming back from the other end of town where the sun has been a stranger.

So, with day 1 less than 2 hours old, I am up to the challenge... up all night.

Posted by justin at 1:44 AM
Categories: Etc.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

I broke my blog layout and I'm waking up super early from now on.

So the main reason I haven't posted in awhile is because the blog software I use broke into a million pieces. Specifically I was gullible enough to rely on its ability to back up the code and archives I put together over the past few months rather than keeping things in a separate location in plain text form. The result is I put everything back together today, pieced together the archived posts as best I could and now it's rather plain looking. I'm working on a kickass new layout, but that won't be coming for a bit, and the reason why ties into the rest of the post.

Someone pasted a link to this Lifehack Challenge: Become an Early Riser in 5 Days. Sounds interesting enough, and the timing couldn't be more perfect: I just got a new job that I start a week from tomorrow and could really use a quick turnaround from my recent insomnia-induced habits.

So, the goal is 6am every day for the next week so I can hit the ground running. There's no worse feeling than dragging yourself out of bed at the last possible minute to simultaneously take a gulp of coffee while brushing your teeth and chomping a piece of toast.

So why am I blogging about this? Well, there is the slim chance that Lifehack will publish this and follow my progress. But more or less this is a personal challenge that has the added pressure of public scrutiny in case I fail. If I fail, I'll write about it and take my lumps. I normally hate these kinds of blogs and as you can see from my archived posts I write about things unrelated to my mundane existence, but the hell with it. My life revolves around technology enough as it is that I might as well use whatever tool I can for motivation.

The first day will be the worst, because as an admitted MMA junkie, both the UFC and Dream are holding major fight cards, the latter of which starts at when I plan to wake up, at *3am*, as it takes place in Tokyo, Japan. The fun of watching my favourite fighters beat the living shit out of each other along with a heaping pot of coffee will hopefully be enough to keep me awake.

So, check back tomorrow as I post updates on how things go if the idea of reading about me waking up early doesn't bore YOU to sleep.

Posted by justin at 7:06 PM
Categories: Etc.

Friday, February 05, 2010

TechCrunch posts details of fired intern's mistake, and that's a mistake.

An intern at TechCrunch was fired for accepting a Macbook Air as compensation in exchange for a blog post. Michael Arrington, who runs the leading tech blog, made the decision to publicly post about this matter, in detail, "protecting" the name of the person in question, who might I add is underage. He deleted all of this person's posts on the site as well. You can read the article in question here.

This was a ridiculous thing to do on Arrington's part. Not only did this make it fairly easy based on comparing cached versions of the site to find out who it is, Arrington later decided to reveal the intern's identity once he came forward - after the damning article was posted.

I don't think this post should have ever been written. At private companies when someone loses their job, a general email is usually circulated stating the person is no longer with the company. In almost all cases the reason is not revealed, nor are the facts of whether the individual left of their own accord or were fired.

This posting does just the opposite, revealing everything that lead up to the individual's dismissal, while not implicitly exposing who it is. Now that he's been revealed, one has to wonder if the intern would have ever spoken about this publicly had it not been for the fact that:

a) Readers would not have to dig very deep to figure out whose posts are no longer there, combined with

b) Why exactly he was terminated has been made public

With both pieces of information tied to each other in a public forum, I have a feeling this intern (whose name I choose not to further promote here) only chose to come forward due to the inevitability of readers finding out not only that it was he who was let go, but also what he did.

In my opinion the right course of action would have been to bid him adieu internally, delete his posts and simply move on. Some people might have questioned why all his articles were now missing , but in that situation I believe it's the responsibility of Arrington to not only protect someone who did something wrong, but to protect the image of someone who is underage.

While the situation is serious from an internal standpoint, and while the intern made a mistake that cost him his job, the biggest mistake here comes on the part of Arrington: on one hand you have him chastising the poor judgement made by one of his interns, but then acquiescing to that intern's judgement call to reveal his identity.

If it was a poor judgement call for Daniel to take the Macbook to begin with, why would you encourage the decision he made to come forward? Then again, as stated earlier, the posting of this article to begin with made it pretty difficult for him not to defend himself.

This intern now has to go out into the world with a very public black mark on his record, due to the negative public perception he's been handed, and he's not even 18 yet. Good luck, kid.

Posted by justin at 6:45 PM
Categories: Ethics, Tech

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Caprica reminds me of Ghost in the Shell; is Awesome, too

Starting from when I was little, modifying a simple tape player to record voice at different speeds and using it to make stupid skits with my friends, to learning how to type on my first computer - a Macintosh SE, to busting out my first webpage as a teen, the way we use technological advances to entertain and make our everyday lives better has always been a fascinating subject to me.

So when I came across Ghost in the Shell years ago and the subsequent series’ that followed and found it took the subjects of life and technology and smacked them together to explore life as technology, I was hooked.

 

Main character Motoko Kusanagi’s beautiful looks combined with her bad-ass nature are enough to draw in any anime fan based on fan service potential alone, but the fact her brain and a segment of her spinal cord were all that remained from her original existence - leaving her encased in a cybernetic body – revealed the genius of creator Shirow Masamune’s existentialist character study. Unlike HAL in '2001: A Space Odyssey' – a computer programmed to behave and react like a human being, the idea was twisted around in GitS; by putting a human brain inside a robotic body, it effectively amplified the audience’s awareness of Motoko’s struggles to cope with her identity while fighting crime in a future time.

 

Caprica, the offspring of acclaimed series Battlestar Galactica, is already showing interesting similarities to Ghost in the Shell even at only two episodes deep.

Warning: spoiler alert.

Without getting too deep into the plot for those unfamiliar with BSG history, a major storyline centers around Zoe, the teen-aged daughter of wealthy technologist Daniel Graystone, the man responsible for development of robots known as Cylons for purposes of armament and security – picture a cross between Robocop and The Terminator. He also created a Matrix-like virtual environment known as the Holoband, where Zoe finds a way to use as a means to upload a ‘copy’ of herself known as an Avatar.

Well, her dad finds out about this after a terrorist attack claims her life, downloads the avatar, and in a desperate attempt to bring his daughter back into the real world, uploads it into his 7-foot-tall, thousand-pound Cylon prototype. An error occurs, he thinks she’s gone, but we soon find out she’s now actually stuck inside this thing.

 

Much like Motoko’s character in GitS, Zoe is inside an artificial body, a fact not even her father has yet to realize. The second episode cuts between showing Zoe as a giant menacing robot and her true self, illustrating her imprisonment in a larger than life frame. It’s really well done as she attempts to walk a tightrope between staying hidden from those who might try to destroy her, and telling her best friend who may one of only a few voices of reason to help her.

It’s an awesome idea for how to approach a character, and when you package it inside a well-acted, visually stunning prequel to Battlestar, you’ve got the makings of one kickass show.

Although I’ve read the ratings so far haven’t been great early on, here’s hoping word gets out on how awesome Caprica is shaping up to be. If you like crime syndicate drama served with a side of sci fi, Caprica is a dish you’ll want to consume often… without any of the cheesiness of my food metaphors.

Caprica airs Fridays at 9 Eastern on SyFy in the US, and Thursdays at 8 in Canada on SPACE.

Posted by justin at 6:43 PM
Categories: Sci-Fi, TV

Friday, January 29, 2010

How Apple Blew the Announcement of the iPad

Unless you've been living under a rock, and let's face it, there's likely internet access and 3G coverage underneath rocks these days, you know Steve Jobs marched up in front of a salivating crowd in dramatic fashion - as we've come to expect from the fearless leader of the Apple cult.. er, company - and unveiled the iPad, the long awaited, and even longer rumoured tablet computer.

It was touted to be a replacement for netbook computers... It's not. That's not the problem, though.

 

What may surprise you is that the problem is also not the lack of a camera, expandable memory, USB slots, SD card slot, Flash support in Safari, multitasking, HDMI out, AVI support for movies, or a stylus.

No, those things are only a byproduct of the real problem. The real problem is outlined in the photo below:

 

It's the hype.

It's also massive secrecy prior to the unveiling. It's allowing us geeks to let our imaginations run wild because Apple wants the iPad to be all things to all people.

Apple's marketing team are made up of geniuses. The huge stage, the clear outlining of features, the emphasis on simplicity - it's what's sold people on the iPhone, even though you couldn't copy and paste text. That small drawback was forgivable, because the iPhone has so much going for it, and is useful to such a large segment of the population. In short, the iPhone broke new ground and set the bar for what smartphones could achieve.

The iPad? Not so much. Without retaining any humility in who Apple thinks could really benefit from the iPad, the people who got the most excited over this were us technophiles. We wanted the features we were seeing on netbooks, and pushed for the juggernaut that is Jobs and company to deliver. What Apple _should_ have said right from the get-go was that they had a new device for soccer moms.

The iPad is more or less a simple browsing device that can play some videos, let you do a bit of emailing, read a book, and if you dare, make a call.

That's about it. It's for your aunt who is tired of her Windows PC popping up spyware ads for spiky dildos when she's just trying to get her mail and read up on the news.

It's for the businessman who needs to show a slide presentation, open a few websites on the go and read over today's meeting notes.

In other words, the iPad is for the casual user, and for these purposes it works damn well. The problem is Apple couldn't come right out and admit that, and now look a tad foolish for raising such a big stink about this thing.

With expectations at such a fever pitch, and with Steve Jobs standing in front of a screen twelve times the size of God to unveil the next great innovation, you'd better bring all the goods or you're getting panned.

It didn't have to be that way. If we knew who this device was for before it was released, it'd have gotten a pass. Instead, we've got the very customer base who could use this device for some convenient, time saving applications, getting trickled down jokes from us geeks comparing it to a tampon.

So, little favour Steve: it's time to stop acting like you need every person on the planet to buy every product you put out - you're worth $50 billion now, it’s okay to dial down the hype a notch when you put out a niche product. Relax... and give us geeks the goods in iPad Gen2, and maybe we’ll spread the good word again.

Posted by justin at 6:38 PM
Categories: Tech

Sunday, January 24, 2010

What to expect when Jay Leno Resumes The Tonight Show...

In light of the recent controversy surrounding The Tonight Show, here's what you can expect more of once Jay Leno reclaims his old 11:35 timeslot, courtesy a clip from The Dana Carvey Show(1996):

For the record, I'm a fan of both Quentin Tarantino and the man portraying him, comedy writer/Triumph the Insult Comic Dog puppeteer, Robert Smigel. According to some, the terms of Conan O'Brien's release state he can't take Triumph with him to another network. Thanks again, Jay and NBC.

Posted by justin at 6:35 PM
Categories: TV

Friday, January 22, 2010

Bob Kinnear Needs to Wake Up

A recent photo posted to Twitter showing a Toronto Transit Commission employee sleeping on the job has made its way to mainstream news, inciting Amalgamated Transit Union leader Bob Kinnear to respond publicly:

"There have been many media enquires about a picture taken at 10:00 p.m. on January 9 of a TTC Collector described as "sleeping" in the booth.

The TTC is conducting an enquiry on this and until this is completed the union will have no comment on the matter except this:

Whatever the outcome of the enquiry, it is very discouraging that the picture taker and, apparently, other customers, made no attempt to determine if there was anything wrong with this TTC employee. A simple knock on the glass might have determined if the Collector was, in fact, asleep, or whether he was unconscious as a result of some medical problem. The reports that passengers were laughing at him as they passed by the booth makes this even more disturbing.

The union will comment further at an appropriate time."

Is he kidding? Nope! Kinnear appears to actually be blaming the public for not checking on the Collector - ie. avoiding taking a photo of him and posting it online and causing embarrassment for the TTC. That obviously didn't happen, and the ATU leader's outcry is about as insane as it gets - especially considering there's been no news of any medical condition or emergency situation suffered by the slumbering ticket collector, shown in the most relaxed position I've ever seen someone in an office chair. Maybe he was having a heart attack and instead of collapsing or calling for help, decided to clasp his hands, push his chair back, and recline peacefully.

Kinnear's response is something I would expect to read on The Onion - completely unbelievable, presumed tongue-in-cheek and lacking any connection to reality. He wraps quotation marks around "sleeping" even a full two weeks after the fact, as if it's somehow still up in the air whether the employee was actually taking a nap.

Dear Mr. Kinnear: It's not such a big deal that one of your employees was caught grabbing a little shut-eye, but you're making this bigger than it needs to be by pointing the accusing finger your customers.

P.S. - He was asleep, dude.

Perhaps Kinnear unconsciously made the choice to take a stance that was so over-the-top, he wanted to push the envelope of absurdity to find out what he could say without any real repercussions.

Regardless of the actions - or lack thereof - that result after Kinnear's stated ignorance of the pink elephant in the booth, this seems to show the lengths to which he will protect his employees even while the evidence stares him in the face, albeit mouth-ajar . And if disciplinary action is handed down to the Collector after all, it would be a surprise to me after Kinnear's melodramatic defensive stance.

I think Bob Kinnear is the one who needs to wake up.

Posted by justin at 6:32 PM
Categories: Ethics, Transit

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Jay Leno Sucks.

When Johnny Carson handed the reins of the Tonight Show over to Jay Leno in 1992, he did so with a great deal of reluctance. Johnny wanted to pass the torch to who many thought was the natural successor to the Tonight Show – David Letterman. A lot of backroom politics, hiding in closets, and corporate maneuvering kept that from happening. And the man responsible for those moves was Jay Leno.

The next time you’re sitting down with Netflix wondering what to stream, download The Late Shift for a better idea of what I’m talking about.

The kind of slimy moves Leno made to get himself The Tonight Show in ’92 are the same moves he’s making 18 years later to get right back to where he started.

Amazingly, some people actually thought Jay Leno was going to step down in favour of Conan keeping The Tonight Show to alleviate all the drama that’s taking place. Here’s why those people are wrong:

NBC wanted to push Jay Leno out of the Tonight Show, as idiotic as that was. Leno was getting good ratings as host at 11:30, mostly based on having strong lead-ins from prime time. NBC has made a lot of stupid moves, but that's beside the point. They wanted to mess with what worked and bring Conan up an hour. Conan jumped at the chance, and who wouldn't?

Much of what brings viewers into late night is having the 10-o’clock drama hour packed with strong shows like Law and Order, ER, and most recently cop drama Southland, a show with strong ratings after its debut. NBC dominated in that department for the longest time, which fed into Leno’s banal, non-edgy talk show. As pablum as it was, it was a formula that worked.

So instead of riding off into the sunset and passing the Tonight Show baton to Conan, Jay made it all about himself. When Jay’s 10:00 show was starting up, everyone was talking about it – because it got promoted far and above Conan’s move. Everywhere you looked, Leno was being advertised for his big move to 10.

Wait a minute, I thought this was supposed to be about Conan's triumphant ascension into the late night throne? It became about Jay.

For a guy who announced he was leaving the Tonight Show back in 2004 – a guy who had a full 5 years to plan his next move, he wanted to do the same show at 10? He wasn't leaving? He was going to have people driving a green car? His biggest change was getting rid of his desk? Really? He was just going to do the same show but even more neutered?

That was it?

The ratings didn’t lie – “The Jay Leno Show” was a disaster, and had local affiliates threatening NBC to preempt it to stop the bleeding.

Meanwhile, who suffered? Conan O'Brien.

By having one of the weakest lead-ins in the history of television, there was hardly a person left to watch Conan on the Tonight Show at 11:30. Leno knew it and wanted it that way. It was his plan all along - he never wanted to leave in the first place.

As you may have heard, NBC offered to put Leno back at 11:35 while pushing Conan to just after midnight with The Tonight Show, which Coco summarily rejected – as he should have. You can’t have The Tonight Show be pushed around the dial after 60 years of tradition, merely because a guy who failed at 10pm wants his old slot back. Hell, it wouldn’t even BE the tonight show, it would be the TOMORROW show.

It’s no coincidence that pretty much everyone in late night is calling Jay out on the carpet for this. Dave Letterman has ripped into Leno the past few days. It's no coincidence that Jimmy Kimmel went as far as to slap on a fake chin, a whiny voice affect and proceeded to dedicate the entire hour of his show to lampooning Jay Leno, even during interviews. It's not by chance that Leno, on the other hand plays the innocent and hardly gives it a mention, instead taking a couple of softball jabs at NBC instead of acknolwedging that he's the one benefitting from all this.

So what happened today? Leno’s getting his old timeslot back, from 11:35-12:35.

Can you see why I'm not at all surprised? Because Jay Leno sucks.

Posted by justin at 6:28 PM
Categories: TV