April 30, 2004

Icon Comparison

300 Images From 1800 Sites

Fascinating page; the owner grabbed icons from different Fortune 1000, major shopping sites, etc. and pulled them together for comparison. What amuses me the most is the similarity... and the worst part is, I've made a few of these icons myself.

In college, I had a teacher who made us all build houses as part of a 3-D design class. We were to distill what we thought of as "house" down to the bare minimum and, theoretically, most essential parts of what signified a house... as he put it, it's "houseness". It was pretty interesting to see what I and a couple of dozen other people picked out as details for our house. They varied on details, but the essence -- a square/rectangle with a sloped roof and a door -- was with everyone.

This, I believe, is what constitutes an icon -- an image which represents a culturally-based "standard" for a given item. "House" becomes represented by a five-sided outline with a square in the lower half.

Why do we create icons? What is the magic behind the simplification and distilling of an image down to it's barest elements?

Posted by Ted Stevko at 12:14 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 25, 2004

New International Cybercrime Treaty Does Nasty Things To Our Rights

SecurityFocus HOME News: U.S. defends cybercrime treaty via Slashdot

I'm getting depressed about all the crap that's coming down lately. It's almost like people don't want to be free.

Today's wonderful tidbit of demogogery comes from a treaty which may, in fact, allow other countries to accuse someone of a cyber crime, and then force the US to monitor that person for them..

A quote from the article:

That worries civil libertarians. The treaty is open to any country, with the approval of those that have already ratified it, and some fear that it could put the United States' surveillance capabilities at the disposal of foreign governments with poor human rights records, who may be investigating actions that are not considered crimes elsewhere.

Note that it's not necessary for you to have broken a US law, just a law in another country.

Which gets us to the law itself:

3. Each Party shall adopt such legislative and other measures as may be necessary to empower its competent authorities to seize or similarly secure computer data accessed according to paragraphs 1 or 2. These measures shall include the power to :

a.     seize or similarly secure a computer system or part of it or a computer-data storage medium;

b.     make and retain a copy of those computer data;

c.     maintain the integrity of the relevant stored computer data; and

c. [sic]    render inaccessible or remove those computer data in the accessed computer system.

Wonderful. The power for foreign governments to get to your data. My word, how enlightened.

*Sigh*. It's always been this way, I suppose; sometimes I wish I wasn't informed about it, though.

Posted by Ted Stevko at 11:32 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Horowitz Speech At Emory


Didn't know that David Horowitz had come to speak at Emory -- no big suprise, I'm not anywhere around Emory, nor am I any fan of his. But the article above -- a column by the fun read and left-wing John Sugg -- points out a political point that's come to colleges lately, that colleges tend to "teach" left views.

I have a few questions on that subject. The first one, which can't be answered with "they already are", but has to be answered with a "yes" or "no". If this sort of injunction were forced on both teachers from the left and the right, would this be fair?

My second question is, if the teachers were forced into teaching only a regulated formula of information, sans their own opinion or input, would this be teaching, or just giving out material to be consumed?

And my final question is: If you answered "material to be consumed" to the above question... why are you letting this happen in our educational system with the No Child Left Behind plan of "ram the material down the throat so they can past the test" method of teaching?

Teaching is an art form, not a math equation. Forcing teachers into a mold is ludricous. If you feel you can't learn from a teacher, either don't take a class from him/her, or (if you must) put up with it as best you can and move on.

Life is full of people you won't agree with. Get used to having to deal with them and working around them. But forcing them into your own mold is childish.

Posted by Ted Stevko at 11:19 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Ladies and Gentlemen... the i-Duck



Via my friend Cecil, I present... the i-duck.

Yes, it's a rubber ducky/FlashUSB drive.

I may laugh myself to death.

Posted by Ted Stevko at 05:43 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 18, 2004

Nomination Of Biased White House Archivist?

The Haunted Archives via Metafilter

The Bush White House Motto should read, "If there's no record, it's like it never existed."

Bush has asked for the resignation of the current National Archivist, a Clinton appointee, to step down. He's nominating Allen Weinstein, the former head of the Center For Democracy, a GOP thinktank, who's work as a historian has been critizied as being flawed... for being secretive.

The Society Of American Archivists has questioned this appointment, along with about 8 other organizations.

And the National Coalition For History also has posted some objections to this appointment.

Somehow, I think the full damage we're taking because of this administration may never be fully known.

Posted by Ted Stevko at 01:16 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Searching For Mickey

Can Disney Build a Better Mickey Mouse?

I have to say the image on Boingboing's link is downright brilliant. Take a look at it if you have a sec.

At issue is Mickey Mouse's image and how currently he's viewed. To me, Mickey is all about a brand. He's not appealing. He's been distilled into near invisibility.

I was a child, in the late 70s and early 80s, Mickey was all shiny and plastic, and never had anything to seperate him from any other shiny plastic toy. He was a non-violent, boring He-Man/GI Joe/Transformers equivelant.

Once I got older, I saw his older films, and understood some of his appeal... and saw how they killed him off. In his earliest films, Mickey was appealing because he wasn't "an everyguy". He fought back when people picked on him. He did things that were anti-social, wasn't a perfect character or a particularly good role model. That appealed to me, not because he was anti-social -- but because he had a personality.

At some point, Mickey became... a property. They polished him up, got rid of his personality traits. They tried to make him squeaky clean (pardon the pun.) Mickey became Barney-like in his roles, and became more baby faced. (For more details on the baby-faced thing, see Stephen Jay Gould's book "The Panda's Thumb", and the essay on the de-aging of Mickey's appearance over the years. )

Mickey is currently the image Disney wants to present to everyone, not a character. Frankly, I'm surprised that anyone had to write an article about this: Mickey isn't even there. He's a logo, not a cartoon. He has no appeal, he just a mark for what Disney owns.

But the obliviousness that Disney has to this is astounding. Check out this quote from the NYT article:

Underlying Mr. Spiegelman's suggestion is the idea that Mickey should be taken back from children: that his evolution from pig-nipple-tweaker to bland role model should be reversed. After all, Homer Simpson is loved by both kids and parents. Disney can't really afford to turn its figurehead into a controversy, though. "I don't feel the need to present Mickey in a new way," [Andy Mooney, chairman of the consumer products division for Disney] said. "In fact, I would say that, with all that's going on in the world, people would prefer Mickey to be this standard bearer for everything that's positive and good in life rather than go back to the presentation that Walt originally did for adults."

Ahem... Mr. Mooney? The kids don't care about Mickey. Even when I was a kid, and I collected Mickey items, I did it because I wanted to be a cartoonist and thought I should.. but I knew enough to keep it a secret, and didn't think of him as a role model. If that's a good role model -- to be a corporate shill, to be so bland as to be practically non-existant -- I'll give my kids every bad role model I can find before they get Mickitized.

Posted by Ted Stevko at 01:00 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Columbine Victim's Dad Asks For Assult Weapon Ban To Continue

CNN.com - Gun victim's dad wore son's shoes to NRA meeting - Apr 17, 2004

Tom Mauser, who's son was killed at Columbine, walks into the NRA national convention -- in the shoes his son was killed in -- to ask Dick Cheney to continue the assult weapons ban. A security guard turned him away; NRA members cheered, and yelled "Get a life."

I cannot say how much I despise anyone who thinks that this man, whose son was killed and is attempting to halt the manner in which it happened, should "get a life".

NRA members should be ashamed. You've just spit on a man who's son was killed, so you can keep your guns.

Posted by Ted Stevko at 12:20 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

April 07, 2004

Another Political Fallout

Indian Fund Investigator Angrily Quits

Basically, a court-appointed investigator quit over disgust with the government's delays. Alan Balaran was appointed to investigate a class-action lawsuit over energy companies bilking American Indians out of oil and gas on Indian land. Balaran states he was disgusted because the Interior department was delaying the case with frivolous motions, and he had found evidence of different prices based on race, trust informatin being destroyed and bad record keeping.

What sad is that this isn't shocking.

Posted by Ted Stevko at 04:31 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 03, 2004

Amazing Buddhist Sand Mandala Photos

Maybe yes, maybe no

This weblog shows some nice photos of the construction of a sand mandala at Clemson University in South Carolina, done by Buddhist monks. It's quite amazing to see how they create this sand painting, using hand tools and patience.

Posted by Ted Stevko at 03:52 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Everyone In Silico Released As Free E-Book

Free E-book Released via boingboing

Jim Munroe's got to be one of the better writers I've read in the last 10 years; the best way I can describe it is that he's got solid, readable scenes, with a deep velvet undertone saying, "what you're reading is not all that's there. Read again to find out what you're missing".

Munroe's put out all of his books as e-books so far. (Me, I couldn't wait, I've bought his last two.) Munroe's Angry Young Spaceman, is my favorite (probably because it was the first I read), which probes the same topics and thoughts that the movie Lost In Translation probes (being in a country where nothing is familiar, being without ties, being misunderstood), with a lot more depth, curiosity and willingness to understand the culture that's the protagonist is in.

I also really liked Munroe's Flyboy Action Figure Comes With Gasmask, it reminds me of my more bohemian days, while reading more like Michael Chabon's Kavalier and Clay.

In other words, check them out. If you like, buy a copy.

Posted by Ted Stevko at 03:33 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Vampire Bats Kill 13

CNN.com - Vampire bats kill 13 people in Brazil - Apr 3, 2004

The bats had rabies, which is what's killing people -- but still, you have to love the article anyway.

Posted by Ted Stevko at 03:11 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 02, 2004

US Extends US-Visit Program To All Countries

US fingerprints 'allied' visitors

The US is extending is US-Visit system to apply to all visitors from every country in the world... except Canada.

So, now we're hitting everyone who's not American. I'm not clear: what's the reason for this? I mean, what are we trying to accomplish with this?

My favorite line:

[Asa Hutchinson, undersecretary for border and transportation security] said fingerprints were checked against criminal databases, but the information was "strictly protected under privacy rules".

Last time I bought that one, my spam went up 75% overnight.

Posted by Ted Stevko at 05:18 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack