Sunday, February 29, 2004

Media Awareness Network This was introduced to me by my wife -- it's a resource centre for media and information literacy for young people. The site has a wealth of resources for parents, young people and teachers. It's great to help young people navigate the constant media bombardment they're exposed to -- defense like this they don't always teach in school, and parents can't always fill in all the gaps. This site helps a little in the fighting back.
Frying to Mars Between Mars and Earth is a lot of open space -- open that is, unless you're looking for a bit of radiation. If you're looking for raditation, there is no open space between Earth and Mars. NASA is working on figuring out what dangers the radiation that astronauts will be exposed to pose. Current estimates, put the chances of getting cancer due to the exposure is between 1-19% -- but the margins of error is apparently quite wide. Read more at this NASA site, and check out the useful links on the topic at the bottom of the page.

Saturday, February 28, 2004

Miserable Failure Search Goolgle for 'miserable failure' and you will get links to George W., Michael Moore and Hillary Clinton -- thanks to 'Google Bombing!' Pranksters have fooled Google into returning those results. Cool!
Outsourcing to India OK ... I'm getting sick and tired of this topic in the business news, in the general news -- just about everywhere I look, I see the cries of lost jobs thanks to cheap Indian labour. If you're unlike me, and you haven't got your fill of moaning and whining yet, here are a few news articles to top yourself up with.
  • BusinessWeek's cover article from their December 8/03 issue covers the topic very well.
  • BusinessWeek's cover article from their March 1/04 issue is yet another look, yet a slightly different angle -- and yes, it sells magazines!
  • Wired Magazine even got into the fray with their Feb. 2004 issue.
  • US: Let us be Fat The World Health Organization is creating a proposal to fight obesity worldwide, but unfortunately, the world's fattest nation, the US, is undermining it. Why? Economics. The food lobby groups are increasing pressure on the US government to water down the proposal.
    Greenhouses on Mars NASA is researching the effects of growing plants on Mars -- as any base there would be required to be as self-sufficient as possible. Problem is however, plants have evolved to adapt to the environment on Earth, not Mars, and they start to act strangely when experimented under Mars-like conditions. Low pressure for example -- Mars has lower pressure than Earth -- plants don't like that -- they start to act as if they're drying out. Interestingly enough, this research has applications on Earth. Read a very cool article.
    Ending Peer-to-peer pressure (An article from MIT's Technology Review.) From the makers of Kazza comes a way easing the burden on the internet brought on by peer-to-peer users -- solution? cache the peer-to-peer files locally at the ISPs so that local requests can be fulfilled locally instead of going around the world to get the file. The problem with this approach however, is that suddenly, the ISPs will know what is being shared -- suddenly the RIA can subpoena the data being held on the ISP's servers, find out what's being shared, and then since, there is evidence of illegal activity, request the names of everyone who requests the files -- which gets kind of complicated -- because if a user is making an illegal request -- doesn't the ISP, now delivering on that request, also be conducting illegal activities by fulfilling the request? Of course, if the RIA's member companies were smart, they'd just want to know what's shared so that they can know what the demand is so they can deliver it for pay via alternative channels. But that would be smart -- better to call out the lawyers.
    No Alternative to Globalization This was sent to me by a friend. In my past posts I've asserted that globalization is the way the world needs to go -- the world needs to be a smaller place so that we can stop looking at other's issues in isolation, instead of shared. Check out David Crane's article in the Star that points out why the world needs globalization. Many will disagree with him -- I agree -- I've yet to hear a convincing argument to the contrary.

    Friday, February 27, 2004

    Comcast's Bid for Disney The next mega media merger is starting to take shape, with Comcast's $54 billion bid for the Walt Disney Co. After News Corp.'s buyout of DirecTV and AOL's purchase of TimeWarner, you gotta wonder -- with the US's FCC let it happen again? Read this BusinessWeek article for a good summary of the tale to date.

    Thursday, February 26, 2004

    XP Service Pack 2 Microsoft is readying XP's 2nd service pack -- and it appears that they're doing more than just releasing just a patch fix -- there appears to be some new functionality coming. Check out the article from Microsoft Watch.

    Tuesday, February 24, 2004

    Microscopic Astronauts There are trillions of microbes in your colon, trillions on your hands, and trillions in your mouth. There are more microbes on Earth than people -- in fact, there are more microbes than cells in your body. With NASA planning trips to the Moon and Mars, and studying the effects of long term zero gravity on humans -- you'd think they might also want to do such studies on microbes as well. In fact, they are -- and the results are quite surprising.
    Edward BurtynskyThis mid-career retrospective brings together approximately 60 compelling photographs. Burtynsky's large-format camera images, scaled to impressive colour prints, reflect upon the unorthodox beauty of manmade environments - quarries, mines, tailing ponds, refineries, recycling plants, and dismantled oil tankers on the beaches of Chittagong, Bangladesh. This was sent to me by a friend at work. It's the photographic works of Edward Burtynsky -- who takes large scale pictures of human-made environments -- often beautiful -- but sad on reflection. Some of the images are really shocking. He's currently showing his works at the AGO -- on until April 4th, in case anyone is so inspired to go see it. As well, the AGO has the Picturing the Land exhibit, as a compliment to Edward Burtynsky's -- the exhibit focuses on landscapes as seen through the eyes of photographers present and past.

    Monday, February 23, 2004

    MIT's Technology Review Here are a few of the more interesting articles from the March 2004 issue of MIT's Technology Review magazine.
  • Translation in the Age of Terror [PDF]: there is much to be desired in the US Department of Homeland Security, but one of the good things that came about since its creation, is the amalgamation of many US government departments responsible for security and intelligence. Centralized control and the knocking down of walls was what Homeland Security brought. Take the departments responsible for gathering and analyzing information -- four branches of the military, thirteen intelligence agencies and the US State Department -- all overwhelmed by the amount of information being gathered. Now think of how the problem grows as the information being gathered is in many different languages, tempered with dialects, cultural influences, allusions, mispronounciations and grammatical errors. Read the article to see how the US government is coping.
  • Search Beyond Google [PDF]: Google has the crown for search engines, and garnered grassroots support for it's speed and non-intrusive ads. It's made a whack of money at it, and will most likely issue an IPO soon. But can Google remain on top? Microsoft wants to conquer the search engine market, and there are a host of startups around the corner.
  • Nanotech's First Blockbusters? [PDF] Read a short tale of Nanosys, a company out to make a name for itself in the nanatech industry by bringing some of the first nanotech consumer products to a store near you. Think of nano glue, nano solar cells on chips, flexible electronics and biochips. This company is in it all.
  • Virtual Heart [PDF]: Read of the effort underway to build a lifelike computer model of the human heart. It's a decentralized effort with collaborators from around the world, working on the project. The promises include improved diagnosis for cardiac disease, efficient ways of testing new heart drugs and trial runs for surgeons before they get to the real thing.
  • Master of Light [PDF]: Here's an article on a lighting specialist who has helped with the computerized special effects on movies such as the Matrix and the X-Men. He can render a face under just about any lighting condition conceivable.
  • Innovation News [PDF]: March's highlights of innovations coming from the lab -- WiFi and Cellular unite in new communication devices; Magnetic RAM chips are coming, with the promise of instand on computers; Feeling depressed? Try running some heavy duty magnets around your head; and some researhers have cooked up a method of figuring out if the water supply is tainted by the amount of stress fishes feel.
  • Patriot Act: A Visitor's Tale [PDF] And here's a result of the US going all coo-coo over security. Read the tale of a visitor who happened to be just the wrong colour, the wrong race, and born in the wrong place.
  • RFID [PDF]: Here's a really beautiful graphic illustrating how RFID works.
  • Disruptive Incrementalish [PDF]: Here's one for the Marketing guru in you ... disruptive incrementalism is not nearly as disruptive as disruptive innovation ... but boy can it make you a whole lot of money for a small investment!
  • Sunday, February 22, 2004

    Enterprise Reference Architecture As more and more companies enable business processes with technology, both purchased packages and in-house developed, their IT infrastructures continue to scale the mountain of complexity, with haphazzard if any, integration or thought of long term sustainability. Enter the need for enterprise architecture. In the past, businesses have been able to rely on a single vendor to provide this guidance -- traditionally, it has been IBM -- but with data centres now littered with purchases from a number of vendors, some of whom are niche players, IBM can't be relied upon. So what to do? Build it yourself.
    7-Eleven's Supply Chain 7-Eleven's got convenience stores - 25,000 across the world. Their North American operation consists of company-owned and franchise-owned stores -- 5,800 in total. The other stores around the world license the 7-Eleven brand -- 10,000 in Japan, 3,400 in Taiwan and 6,000 scattered in other countries. They're successful, and they do this by keeping the entrepreneurial spirit of a mom-and-pop shop -- in quite contrast to the industry drum that Wal-Mart beats. 7-Eleven realizes that local managers know their neighbourhood a lot better than they ever could, and allow them the flexibility of determining their assortment and replenishment needs. Where corporate 7-Eleven does come in though, is managing their suppliers, their relationship and demands placed on those suppliers. 7-Eleven knows what is selling in each store, hour by hour thoughout the day -- all of that data feeds a 7 (not kidding) terabyte data repository, from which analytics can be run to sift information that is used to strengthen bonds with suppliers and lower costs throughtout the chain. Now think of that next time you need to run to the 7-Eleven for something in an emergency.
    Gulker.com I like this blog -- and I like Chris Gulker's opinion regarding Governor Schwarzenegger's demands to end gay marriages in California. That's it -- no more Terminator movies for me.

    Saturday, February 21, 2004

    Sun's Looking Glass Sun's experimenting with a new desktop interface for Solaris and Linux, written in Java. The interface is supposedly a 3D desktop, with features such as translucent windows, sticky notes, more use of visual cues, and more. While this bodes well for Linux on the desktop, I doubt it carries much weight in the Solaris world, that's slowly dying on the desktop -- still, it seems like a bit of catch up to Apple and Microsoft. Oh well ... maybe Sun will invent something new.
    Sticky Fix [PDF] (Another Baseline article.) You have to admire UPS. It takes little steps with its home grown systems and processes, and it's cutting hundreds of millions of dollars out of its processes. This quick article is about UPS' introduction of a little label that tells the truck loaders which truck, and where in the truck to place packages. The result -- $600 million in savings over a year. Now that's an ROI that any executive can live with!
    FreshDirect: Ready to Deliver [PDF] (Another Baseline article.) FreshDirect is an online grocer -- it has survived the hardtimes that online grocers have faced. Webvan went out of business. FreshDirect survived, but just barely. It has stumbled with some of its processes and technologies. Its website still crashes, data is still in disparate systems -- but there is hope. So far the company has stuck with serving New York City only -- it's saving its expansion dreams for when it has worked out all the bugs.
    Albertson's Last Stand [PDF] (Baseline article.) Albertson's is the 3rd largest grocer in the US, competing directly against Kroger and Safeway -- but more importantly, sees the future, and knows that WalMart will clobber them all if they don't do something to turn the tide. WalMart entered the grocery business in 1998, and since then, has grown its take of the business to $56billion -- surpassing Albertson's $35.6billion. WalMart makes 3.3 cents on every dollar spent on grocery at their stores -- Albertson's a mere 1.4 cents. But when you consider WalMart's efficiency, and not to mention their average $8.50 per hour employees versus Albertson's $13 per hour, it is no surprise. Albertson's is betting big that technology will help it stand up to WalMart and even surpass it. It's betting big with huge investments in POS technology, supply chain technology, etc. Can it survive? Can it win? I'm rooting for them, and not because they're the underdog, but because a WalMart dominated world is not a good one.
    100-Million-Mile Network [PDF] (Another Baseline article.) Here's a communications view of the Mars rover missions of Spirit and Opportunity. Things tend go wrong on planetary missions. No one can predict what will happen once our robots and spacecrafts arrive at their destinations -- but how do you go about a rescue mission when you can't really travel there in a hurry to fix things? Communications, it turns out, tends to be quite important.
    RFID: Hit or Myth? (From Baseline Magazine.) Reality is dawning on WalMart's top 100 suppliers who must comply to the companies mandate of using RFID tags on their products by 2006. 2004 is the year a lot of those suppliers will kick off projects to look at how they will comply with WalMart's wishes -- and there are hurdles. First one is ROI. Is there really any financial benefits to implementing RFID technology -- especially at the product level. A lot of companies, and even the US Defense Department has bought into the pallet level tracking -- but where's the benefit of product level? For one thing, RFID tags are still a little too expensive to implement en masse. The early adopters are usually the ones who pay the price to make an item a commodity -- they're also the ones who are in the risky position of perhaps not hitting their ROI. There is already established barcode technology in use to track products -- and barcodes haven't hit the end of their lifespan as yet. New symbologies are constantly being dreamed up to pack more information into that small space. Another risk for the early adopters: standards. There aren't any yet. Eventually, the competing standards will reduce down to a few -- which ones are you willing to bet on today? The other hurdle is the technology. The laws of physics can't be remade. Radio waves don't travel well through certain things -- take liquid for example. Try tagging a can of soup. There are ways to go, and I doubt that WalMart will be successful by 2006. Give the industry a decade or so, and things might be different.
    Jupiter's Radio Storms Jupiter's intense storms, occurring near the planet's magnetic poles, create radio waves that travel all the way to Earth. Ham radio operators have been listening to the sounds, in the 18 to 32 MHz range, and now you can too. NASA is providing streaming audio from the University of Florida's Radio Observatory, that's been listening to Jupiter. You may hear overlapping music and voices from terrestrial radio stations that interferes with the radio waves coming from Jupiter. Check out the NASA site for more information on this really cool phenomena!
    Cells on Silicon This was sent to me by a friend. Researchers have managed to grow nerve cells on a silicon chip -- the silicon enabled neve cell was able to communicate to other cells, as well, the chip could read memory traces from the nerve cell. The findings were published recently in the Physical Review Letters. For further reading, check out Peter Fromherz's publication on Electrical Interfacing of Nerve Cells and Semiconductor Chips [PDF], and another similarly titled publication of his from 2001 [PDF].
    UPS' Breakthrough A big problem in the transportation business is route optimization. You need to go from many places to many places, some of which are the origin of your customers orders, while others the destinations. (I'm really oversimplifying here.) In the mid 1990s, software available for such optimizations were just coming to market, and the computing power needed to drive them, were still years away. This wasn't a big deal for many transportation businesses, but for the courier business -- it was a big deal. UPS recognize the big deal. They had over 1,500 facilities. More than 10-million packages per day. They estimated that there was 15.5-trillion options in calculating a route of just 25-points -- the fastest computer of the day would 500,000 years to complete the calculation. Not enough time. So UPS went to work on the problem. Today, they're idolized in the transportation business for their supply chain optimization. But UPS isn't slowing down -- next steps -- putting this in the hands of their 70,000 drivers so they can make on-the-fly route modifications.
    Grids in the Enterprise I've posted on the topic of Grid Computing in the past -- but it's a topic that keeps coming back in the media. Grid computing wasn't born yesterday -- it has been in the making for decades. Only now have all the components come together to make the the delivery of grid computing possible and affordable. Here's an eWeek article that takes a look at grid's imminent arrival at enterprise data centres. So what is grid computing? Grid computing [PDF] is the connection of heterogeneous systems using self administrating software (for load balancing, adpative allocation of workload, etc.) that makes the diverse systems function as one. This is different from clusters, in that clusters are homogeneous systems, and are usually under the command of a central authority -- like Google's set up [PDF]. So why all the noise all of a sudden? Well, for one thing, the technology has arrived. All the components are here to make heterogenous systems work together -- and most have become commodities. Central to bringing the price of grids down, is the advent of low cost Intel boxes, running Linux. Sure, you can call on processing power from the traditional boxes in a data centre, but now, you can also very quickly, add computing power via Linux machines.
    Roland Piquepaille's Technology Trends Here's a cool blog -- heavy on the science and technology! And definitely one for the bookmarks!
    Do Plants Act Like Computers This was forwarded to me by a friend. Researchers at Utah State University have proposed that the processes that regulate the exchange of gases in plants involves a kind of distribution computing, where the individual stomata in leaves, open and close in part by the influence of neighbouring stomatas. Read the publication here. [PDF]

    Wednesday, February 18, 2004

    Stellar Tidal Disruption Two orbiting observatories have recorded the first strong evidence of a supermassive balck hole ripping apart and consuming a star. NASA's Chandra and ESA's XMM-Newton both captured the event occurring in the centre of galaxy RXJ1242-11 [PDF].
    Tax Me if You Can A friend sent this me -- it's a PBS program to be aired Feb. 19th, at 9PM -- it's all about tax shelters that corporations exploit to turn their tax department into profit centres. It's an American show, and American and Canadian laws are different -- but again, it points to corporations only interest -- themselves.

    Tuesday, February 17, 2004

    Tobacco Advertising My wife brought me to this site, inadvertently, as she was researching tobacco advertising to enlighten her class -- and having met her students, I have no fear that the local McDonald's will replace staff with robots anytime soon -- there's a batch of burger flippers coming in the latest generation. But I digress -- tobacco advertisting -- Richard W. Pollay of the University of British Columbia, has put online his collection of thousands of tobacco ads and anti-smoking ads -- an example of how an industry faced with mounting evidence of the dangers of their products, continue to produce, promote and forage for new customers to poison.

    Sunday, February 15, 2004

    Designer Cars From BusinessWeek Magazine: Engineering has rapidy become a commodity. It used to be that you knew what a quality car was, just by the brand name -- who can tell now? Name does still carry some quality appeal, but there is enough confusion in the globalized auto market to leave a smart shopper feeling dumb. So looks are in. Design matters again, and automakers are becoming braver as they seek to differentiate themselves from the competition. Check out the article -- and the cars! My favourites: Mazda RX-8, Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren, Ford Mustang, Mercedes-Benz Brabus Roadster, Nissan 350Z, Lexus SC430, and Chrysler Crossfire.
    Ode to WinterClick here to see some of my winter pictures from last year! I'm not sure who wrote this, but it arrived in my mailbox, via my wife, from her Aunt up in Barrie. I thought it was funny!
    It's winter in Ontario and the gentle breezes blow, 70 miles per hour, at 52 below! Oh, how I love Ontario, when the snow's up to your butt. you take a breath of winterair, and your nose, it freezes shut. Yes, the weather here is wonderful. so I guess I'll hang around, I could never leave Ontario, 'cause I'm frozen to the ground!

    Saturday, February 14, 2004

    Janet Jackson's Breast This was sent to me by a friend -- it puts Janet Jackson's breast into perspective. (Another perspective? Check out Andy Rooney's -- he was at the Super Bowl.)
    Smart-Label Revolution Here's an application of smart-labels or RFIDs that I never thought of -- but boy will it make retailers and manufacturers more wary. Imagine if the prolifiation of smart labels really does happen like the industry is hoping. Wouldn't it be great for retailers and manufacturers alike? They'll be able to track inventory better, avoid stock-outs -- lower costs and increase profits. But imagine a little bit more. Imagine you -- you dumb consumer -- imagine you surfing to a website that tracks products made by exploited 10-year-olds in some third-world country -- or a website that tracks companies that polluters -- you get the idea -- now imagine you can pull down the identification of their products and store them in your own little handheld for your next shopping trip -- imagine what fun it would be, when you're no longer just a dumb consumer, but a consumer with a conscience, and the information to act on that conscience -- that day is coming -- and it's going to be so much fun!
    Fermionic Condensates I think I had posted this news previously, but here it is in a clear to understand summary. Scientists have discovered a new form of matter. We all learned of solids, liquids and gases in elementary school -- then in high school, we learn about plasmas. In 1995, Bose-Einstein condensates were discovered -- this state occurs when bosons are supercooled, and merge to form a single super-particle that behaves more like a wave than a particle. Now, meet fermionic condensate (read the preprint [PDF])-- related to Bose-Einstein condensates, in that it occurs at temperatures close to absolute zero. The properties of this new form of matter isn't fully known or understood yet, but initial thoughts are that it should flow without viscosity -- akin to superconductors. The commerical application of superconductors are wide ranging -- so expect further research into this form of matter to grow -- especially in industry.

    Friday, February 13, 2004

    The Project Managers Homepage Here's a site dedicated to Project Management. There are lots of resources -- white papers, templates, articles, a newsletter, and even job postings. Heck, the site even contain articles written in French and Spanish. If you are a PM, and would like to converse with your collegues, you can also try allPM.com's forum. One bad thing about the site though -- you need to sign up (it's free) to get access to the information.
    Planet PDF If you publish PDFs, you will like this site. There is more to PDFs than Adobe's products, and Planet PDF has a good list of useful tools, some free, some shareware, some requiring cash -- there are tools to extract information from PDFs, split and merge PDFs, etc. Then there is information -- from quick tip artciles to full articles for the professional / techie PDF user. The site also offers a small collection of classic books, in PDF format.

    Tuesday, February 10, 2004

    American DynastyClick to order from Amazon. There are many books dissing George W., but this one paints a conspiracy picture with such richness, that it's worth the read. Author Kevin Phillips pulls no punches apparently in his distaste for Bush, and the legacy of the Bushes. He tells the story of family that practiced a policy of secrecy, decit, and disinformation to get two generations elected to the top post in the US. From what the public faces of George W. Jr. and Sr., you will find it hard to believe that they could purposely have set out to accomplish what they did -- I, for one, credit a lot of it to just dumb luck. Read the review at BusinessWeek magazine -- and while you're at it, check out their best seller list! [PDF]
    Contact Lens for Cannibal Chickens My youngest was telling me about this. Apparently there is a famous Harvard Business School case study on the adoption of contact lens for egg laying chickens in California -- I couldn't find the case study -- but it is supposedly, illustrative of Marketing and has been widely used in schools. The case study revolves around an 'innovative' product -- contact lenses for chickens -- created to solve the problem of egg laying chickens pecking each other to death due them being cooped up and forced to produce instead of running wild. The contact lens blurs the chickens vision enough so that they can't see each other, hence no pecking to death. This apparently reduced chicken cannibalism to 4.5% from the 20% it was before the lens. This is too weird.

    Monday, February 09, 2004

    Big FishClick here to check availability at Amazon! I went out with some friends from work to see this last week. It was quite an enjoyable movie. For some reason, it didn't remind me of Tim Burton's other movies some much, as it reminded me of Neil Gaiman's Coraline. It comes highly recommended from me -- and would make a great date movie!

    Thursday, February 05, 2004

    New Facts of Life I read this short article in Wired -- it's a nice, concise article about the convergence of biology and technology -- the treating of technology as if it was alive and watching as behaviour emerges from what wasn't and isn't necessarily alive. Makes you think all phylisophical about it -- what is life? This is all about technology adopting what practices that were once solely the domain of life -- such as (co)evolution, reproduction, self-organization, etc. The article is by Christopher Meyer -- co-author of It's Alive: The Coming Convergence of Information, Biology, and Business -- a book I am now interested in reading.

    Wednesday, February 04, 2004

    Big Bang Works From the Discover article on superstring, where the Big Bang doesn't work, to Scientific American in the same month, saying the "big bang works better than ever" -- we see at least that in cosmology, the truth is still out there. Read how the lastest observations and theories are building on the premise of the big bang -- and the hell with all the superstring nonsense.
    Before the Big BangClick to get Discover via Amazon! Here's an article from Discover magazine that nicely explains superstring theory -- extending the concept to origin of the universe, contending that there wasn't necessarily a singularity where the universe began, but rather, our universe may have been the result of the collision of two other universes that exist in a space that has up to 10 spatial dimensions. This may be a cycle that repeats itself endlessly, birthing new universes regularly -- but because we can only perceive four dimensions, this theory will only remain a mathematical conjecture -- however, a conjecture that promises to unite macro predictions relativity with the subatomic predictions of quantum mechanics. It's a beautiful idea.
    Science Diet The US Department of Agriculture has long published what is considered the definitive food guide in North America -- but now, a Havard scientist has published the Healthy Eating Pyramid -- developed from the longest running dietary study. The eating pyramid gives a sense of priorities -- of what to eat more of, less of, and when coupled with regular exercise, would lead to a healthier life. When you really think about it, who would you trust? A Harvard scientist with nothing to gain, or the US Department of Agriculture, who's there to promote American agriculture.
    Prudence The US has gone nuts with security. From detaining 'suspects' without charging them, or telling them why they're being detained, to the increasing trend of not granting security clearance to foreign born citizens, or citizens with relatives in countries that the US may suspect of espionage. Where does that leave the US? Well, considering that more and more, the hard sciences are being dominated by foreign born residents or citizens, the US could be closing the door to some incredibly smart people. It seems like the American government has forgotten the Statue of Liberty. Read the article in BusinessWeek Magazine.
    Booming Hong Kong Those that ran away from Hong Kong when China got the island back from England must be kicking themselves now. They should have seen it. The city has billions of hungry consumers waiting on the mainland -- and that's what China delivered on Jan. 1st. It opened up trade with the island to give it preferential treatment over other trading partners in the world. Hong Kong is already giving Japan a run for its money, and is also giving China a boost in the international trading community. Check out the article in BusinessWeek magazine.

    Tuesday, February 03, 2004

    The Singularity This was forwarded to me by a friend at work -- the Singularity -- Ray Kurzweil's ill-named term for what he describes as a point where machine intelligence surpasses human intelligence, and the rapid technological change it represents, creates a rupture in human history -- ie. there ain't no humans left for human history to continue. I don't see things the way Kurzweil does -- which is probably a good thing -- so I don't look forward to the time when such a thing will happen -- although Kurzweil predicts it will happen in my lifetime. Kurzweil seems to forget a couple of things:
  • The profit motivation -- there ain't no profit in it -- most of the world is still poor. Another way of looking at it -- we have enough food to feed the world, but we don't, cause they can't afford to pay for it. We have the medicines and the means of curing diseases that ravage huge populations, but we don't, because there ain't no money to be made in saving people's lives.
  • Those in the developed world are lazy. That's why we're all getting fat, and will die before reaching the singularity. There won't be mass adoption of the output from the exponential technological growth.
  • Humans still place a great deal of store on faith -- we actually want to live a human lifespan -- reach old age, and enjoy the immaterial benefits of it, and die. Death scares the shit out of us -- but living beyond death, is an existence most will see as soulless -- it's a faith most will not welcome, and will pull the plug on those who sell their soul to the electronic Satan.
  • Fruit Flies to ISS No, not fruit flies to ISS, fruit flies to ISS -- the insect! (Sorry about that, couldn't resist a pun.) NASA is planning to send some fruit flies to the International Space Station to study the effects of space travel and space on genes. Fruit flies share quite a bit of genetic material with humans and they go through generations like there is no tomorrow. NASA is doing this research cause they're a little worried that astronauts on a long voyage to Mars, would return to Earth to spawn monstrous offsprings that would kill us all as a lesson to the human race to not mess with science. I think they should be more worried about the monstrous offspring of fruit flies that were in space. After a few generations, you never know what they might spawn -- didn't anyone at NASA see the Fly?

    Sunday, February 01, 2004

    Film Festival Toronto has a bunch of those small theatres left, and now they're part of the endless film festivals. It seems like everywhere you turn, you can find another film festival cropping up. So I picked up the festival rag today, when I was out for brunch with the family, and what do you know? Movies -- I would be interested in a few!
  • Dion Conflict: Trailer Trash [PG] - what this is a sitting of just trailers. You should find stuff here that you'd never think you'd see again. A lot from B-Movies, independent films, etc. [Feb. 21, 9:30PM, The Royal Theatre]
  • Bubba Ho-tep - on the surface, this sounds stupid. The book is probably way better -- but I want to see, if only so I can see Bruce Campbell in a new flick. [Feb. 27-Mar. 3/Mar. 4-10, 9:30PM, The Royal Theatre]
  • Dragon Princess [14A] - Fridays at the Royal Theatre, they feature a kung fu movie from the 60s or 70s. Remember those kick ass movies? Now you can watch them just like you did back in the old days -- on really small screens! The next movie coming up is Dragon Princess. [Feb. 13, 9:45PM, The Royal Theatre]
  • Baraka [PG] - from the cinematographer of Koyaanisqatsi, comes Baraka -- I haven't seen it yet, but I saw Koyaanisqatsi years ago, and I still remember it as beautiful film. [Feb. 25, 7PM, The Royal Theatre]
  • The Last Samurai [14A] - I missed this one when it was first released, so I guess this is my second chance. [Feb. 20, 9:25PM, The Revue Cinema]
  • MyDoom Strikes SCO The MyDoom.A worm has taken the SCO site offline. The worm was written primarily to bring the SCO site to its knees. It's speculated that the worm was launched by an individual or group that sympathizes with the Linux community over SCO's attempts to destroy the OS. The worm was set to go live on Sunday (today) -- a variant of the worm, MyDoom.B, is set to strike on Tuesday, and it targets SCO and Microsoft. Get those virus scanners going!
    Minibosses I read about these guys in Wired Magazine -- and I had to take a look. They're musicians -- rock stars -- in a small kind of way. What they really are, are geeks who really haven't grown up. They play covers -- covers of classic NES tunes. Classic games like Megaman, Castlevania, and their ilk, have found new life in the performances of these guys. I don't know -- sounds cheesy, but I have a soft spot for a bunch of guys who probably grew up lonely, and have found a niche for themselves by playing for those who just didn't fit in either.
    Globalization Or what I had for dinner last night -- it dawned on my last night after dinner, as I was munching on some grapes after a not too shabby dinner that I had made, that the world really is a small place. A lot of people have taken to the streets to protest globalization, big business or world trade -- or something like that. You can keep the protest. I rather enjoy the world becoming a smaller place, and if it isn't for trade, why else would the world be a small place? Think of the foods! Which was exactly what I was thinking about last night -- great foods! My dinner last night was an international concoction. While I was cooking, I was munching on grapes from Chile. To prepare the meal, I first placed some shrimps (from China) in a bowl to thaw, then started peeling the Eddoes (from Africa) -- when that was finished, I used spices -- ginger, garlic, garam masala, jeera -- all from India or somewhere in Asia, and of course, I had to add the British spices: black pepper and salt. While that started to cook, I started on the Eggplant -- from the West Indies. To accompany the meal, I purchased some mango juice -- from South Africa -- there was a mango juice in the grocery store from Canada, but it had a little mango and a whole lot of artificial flavours and preservatives -- I skipped it. Now where would dinner have been last night if it wasn't for global trade?
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