Friday, December 26, 2008

Rickrolled IRL - I Think Reality is Collapsing...

The most rediculous thing just happened to me.  So I went out to get the mail today...and I got an oddly wrapped package from my friend Andrew (@mcandre on Twitter).  When I say oddly wrapped, I mean it was a media mailer very heavily bound in packing tape.  I knew the package was coming because he asked my address last week, but he told me it wasn't a gift requiring reciprocation.  That made me curious...

Now if you have ever tried to pull packing tape off of shipping plastic, you know it's no picnic.  I pulled out the kitchen scissors and after quite a bit of wrestling, I arrived at...more wrapping.  This time it was festive wrapping paper.  From the size and shape of the package, I could tell it was a CD case of some kind and I made quick work of the final layer.

Before I even got it totally out of the wrapping paper, I realized what it was.  I could see this logo [see left] very clearly and I felt a feeling I had felt many times before while surfing the web.  One of dread...I had just been Rickrolled.

This was not just any Rickroll though, this was a Rickroll "IRL" or "in real life."  I've heard of such things happening, but really, in my own mailbox!  What is this world coming to?

I have enlisted the help of the bear on my desk to help me document this crime against the memedom.  


Here you can clearly see that this is the album that included "Never Gonna Give You Up" as the top track.


If you have suggestions on how I can get Andrew back, leave a comment or message me on Twitter.  I cannot allow this kind of behavior to abide!!!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Big New Post Coming Soon...

It's been a while since I updated.  Never fear!  It's all because I'm working on a big post about something awesome.  Wait for it....wait for it....(keep waiting until your RSS reader says otherwise ;) )

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Ender Saga Fills a Plot Hole Nicely [Ender in Exile Review]

If you've been reading my stuff at all, you know I love sci-fi.  Specifically, older sci-fi novels have a special place in my heart.  A little while ago, I gave in and read Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game and was BLOWN AWAY by the story.  From there I read all of the other "Ender's Saga" books as well, starting with Speaker for the Dead.  

Well finally, another book for the series has come out, and boy is it a doozie!  Ender in Exile is a direct sequal to Ender's Game.  That being said, you pretty much HAVE to read all the other books that have come out already because there is a great deal of assumed knowledge.  The story happens primarily as Ender is leaving Earth and going to out the new colony he's to govern.  Essentially Card felt that there was a missing story between the end of the war and the beginning of Peter's time as leader of the united world.  Plus, we get to find out what happens to Bean's last missing son.

I have to say, I really liked this book.  It's told with exactly the same tone that Card uses in all of his Ender books and lets us once again into Ender's beautiful mind.

Speaking of the book...I didn't actually read it.  In fact, I haven't ever read one of Card's books.  I listen to audiobooks :)  Here's a link to the Ender in Exile Audiobook if you're like-minded.  It has the same cast of voice actors as in the previous books so you will feel right at home.  I wish it wasn't so expensive, but until audiobooks get cheaper, there's not a lot you can do.
Also, speaking of newly released content that's really great...the Dr. Horrible DVD is OUT!

Monday, December 1, 2008

A Special Honor

This week I am exstatic that I have been chosen for "Worth the Follow" on Julia Roy's Tweet Week.  I had no idea I'd been picked until several hours after the post went live.  This is mainly because I had a post go up on MakeUseOf today that netted me a lot of followers on Twitter.  Many of those followers turned out to be from Tweet Week.  What a pleasent surprise!

Here's Tweet Week #5:

Thanks so much to @JuliaRoy and all of her fans :) - then again I'm one of her fans so thanks to me too!

P.S. - If you can spare a Digg, please help my Twitter article get on the front page!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

A Switch To Chrome

Well I'm finally biting the bullet and switching to Chrome. I have been a loyal Flock user for a very long time now, but I just can't handle it anymore.  The constant crashing, the corrupted profiles, the sticky add-ons, and the general incompatability with everything but the most basic web tools.  I know it's a firm shake-off, but I've been with it for a long time and it's generally been a very stressful existance.  

I stayed with it through all the bugginess primarily because the extra features were really compelling.  Long before Firefox had the "Awesomebar," Flock was mixing your history and your favorites and guessing your destination.  Of course this was more in the search bar and less in the main address bar.  Also, the RSS reader was ahead of its time and that is one of the things I have not had luck in finding a replacement.  That being said, the RSS reader hasn't been upgraded for quite a long time and in terms of features and interface is miles behind Google Reader, which I am currently using for my many feeds.  Thank God for OPML exporting!

My switch to Chrome (with Firefox as a backup for incompatabilities) went smoother than I expected.  I'm keeping Flock around to make sure I don't lose anything I thought I had already, but I'm pretty sure all my exporting and importing is done.  The browser experience on Chrome is superb (as I indicated earlier) but I am missing a few things.  For one, the download manager is aesthetically pleasing (and similar to Download Statusbar) but does not offer as many options in where and how to download.  Also, videos viewed on the web play by default in the browser using some plug-in instead of allowing me to move it to an external player.  Note that I mean file-based videos, not YouTube vids, which obviously play fine.

The performance difference between Flock and Chrome is unbelievable.  I feel like I'm using a completely different computer.  I probably have 24 tabs open right now, which is fairly typical for me, and I'm experincing no lag and no serious drain on my system resources.  It also doesn't get worse over time, it just equalizes at one level and stays there.  Hopefully my profile will not gunk up (which is still possible), but I don't feel like Chrome is as gunk-upable.

If you have any questions about how I'm getting along, please let me know.  I want this to be a resource for others making the big leap.  I haven't played around with some features, like the Application Shortcuts, so there is still a bit more for me to test out.

Good night and good luck!

[Image from]

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Finally, Christians Can Play Guitar Hero!

As most of you are aware, Christians have been suffering for many years now as other faiths and the non-religious enjoy the game Guitar Hero. The lyrics are obviously too dark for they ears of the Faithful, so much of the nation has experienced an increase in hand-eye-coordination while Christians fall behind. Well no more! Now there is Guitar Praise!

Satire aside, let's look at the name first...Guitar Praise? Personally if you were going to rip-off and re-purpose the game, wouldn't you pick something that is at least slightly original? Or at least go with Praise Hero, which sounds a lot better to me...

Here is the ad for the game, which was originally posted on GeeksAreSexy by Casey:

Are you serious? This is an incredibly inferior game for obvious graphical and platform reason, but on top of this, it illustrates how backward some people are. The ad is clearly for people who have somehow never been exposed to Guitar Hero and are generally new to the idea of a guitar controller. This isn't just some new's one of the most popular game control systems in use today. Truly you must have been buried in some hole (and consequently buried your kids in that hole with you) to be in the dark about this game.

It's hard for me to express my aggravation with groups that have to digest and rebrand everything they use in order to ensure it fits with their own way of thinking. Ironically, the parents of modern parents would probably see all the tracks on Guitar Praise as works of the devil.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Jimmy Chows Down - Eli's Deli Becomes "Best Deli"

It's true, Eli's Deli is under new management and will henceforth be known as "Best Deli." It was quite a shock to my system as a long-time Eli's fan, but times change I guess. Anyway, here's my review of our local deli:

I hope you enjoyed our recent video...I feel this one came out especially well! Also, notice I'm wearing my Epic-Fu's fabulous and you should get one too!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Books and Movies on My List

Sorry for my low number of posts this month...I've been preoccupied and somewhat uninspired to do much blogging (still much more than normal humans, but not much for ME). Anyway, I thought I'd post some books and movies I'm planning on reading/viewing in the near future.

Currently Reading:
Cryptonomicon - I have to say I'm kind of not enjoying it. As crazy as I was about Anathem, this Neal Stephenson book isn't holding its own at the moment. Basically it seems like "just another" convoluted war story with some crazy philosophy/concept worked in. Hopefully it will get better...otherwise it may have to go back to the library.

Upcoming Books:
The Diamond Age: Or, a Young Lady's Illustrated Primer - Yes, I'm on a Stephenson kick...get over it, he's a fantastic author. This book sounds pretty intriguing so I'm gonna give it a shot. Basically it's about a girl in a weird nanotech-driven future who learns all kinds of stuff (how to think for herself, most importantly) from a book she finds.

Ender in Exile - It's another book in the Ender's Saga I need to say more? If you're a real geek, consider the cost of the book part of your membership fee in order to maintain your geek status. For those interested in knowing what it is before they's a DIRECT sequel to Ender's Game. I'm really hoping it doesn't suck...and also that it will be AMAZING!

His Dark Materials Trilogy (The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, The Amber Spyglass) - I don't know too much about this book set, but I saw the first movie and it shows promise that it will elicit some thinking on my part. I don't really like books that don't make me think at all. All I've got for that one.

Memoirs Found in a Bathtub - This is a neat sounding story about a secret agent and a future where all the paper of the past was destroyed, save some small remnants. It is the pick of the month for Sword and Laser, so I figured I'd give it a try if I get a chance.

Upcoming Movies:
Quantum of Solace - I haven't seen it yet, but I hope to on Friday. I hear it's amazing. Personally I'm very excited by this new set of Bond movies! I really like that they are based on the original stories by Flemming (the link above is actually for the series of short stories, not for some time-defying Amazon listing).

Who knows which of these I'll actually read. I promise this isn't turning into a book blog...they're just more in my consciousness recently.

[Edit: Somehow forgot Ender in Exile until 2:30PM (see above)]

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Book I Haven't Read: Experimental Heart

You may have seen my Anathem book review. I've been trying to read a lot more and that's what happens when I read good books...I talk about them. Another book that I hope to read sometime in the future is Experimental Heart, by Jennifer Rohn. It's an interesting look at the life of a fictional biotech researcher who begins to fall in love with a vaccine researcher. She disappears...the plot ensues.

The reason I bring up this book is that it's actually kind of difficult to find a book that really looks at scientists and takes them on as more than simple plot tools. Instead, scientists are often pidgin-holed as geniuses with a master plan or dithering lab techs. We're real people too and need love and attention the same as everybody else.

This is not really a recommendation, as I haven't read the book, but it looks interesting and if you have read it (or buy it through the wonderful link above), please let me know how it reads!

[via io9]

Saturday, November 1, 2008

I Owe You a #wotw2 Explanation

If you've been reading The Beat regularly you might have been a bit surprised by my posts yesterday. Here's the scoop:

On Halloween day, I participated in War of the Worlds 2.0. If you remember hearing about Orson Wells' first on-air reading of The War of the Worlds, you probably also remember that it didn't go so well. People though it was REAL because they came into the broadcast after the show started. Well, a fellow named Kris Kowal decided that this year we should pay homage to that first reading by re-enacting the whole thing on Twitter!

Now unlike the first reading, few people were probably frightened by the imaginary attack. It was also a bit different in the delivery. Instead of one story, there were literally hundreds of stories because each user who chose to participate added updates to Twitter that were relevant to their story.

Here's how it worked:
  • The orchestrators of the event planned it out on a Google Doc that you could get access to if you wanted to help (which I didn't).
  • Then they created a Twitter account named wotw2 that served as the timeline keep everyone on the same chronological page.
  • Finally, everyone posted their updates in line with what was "happening" and tagged them with the hash code, "#wotw2."

How did the whole thing stay together? Well, you could search Twitter in a number of ways (I used Twemes) for the special hash code. In doing this I saw SO MANY other people on the network. It was a ton of fun and I met a lot of new Twitterers!

Specifically, one of my Twitter friends did a great job posting updates and I want to congratulate her on the great work! Here's a post summarizing her activities yesterday. If you want to see all my antics, just check out my Twitter feed and scroll back to Oct. 31st.

[Image from the wotw2 repository]

Friday, October 31, 2008

GMU is GONE! [#wotw2]

Finally got a signal again. It's been a very long day. After the tripods - as they're now being called - left, they were engaged by the military at some of the big city centers. I hear DC is pretty much a crater. It looks like our troops lost because they came back in a big sweep to blow the hell out of everything!

Specifically in Fairfax they came and promptly knocked the spire off of the JC....and then took out the rest of it too! My housing area got flattened and I barely got out with my laptop, cooling fan, charger, headphones, and external tact. I've been hiding out in Ike's Diner because I was able to hack together a wireless network off the hard line and they have a freezer full of food that's still good (someone was smart enough to close the freezer door before taking shelter elsewhere).

To any other survivers, good luck!

-Google #wotw for more information if you're interested.

All Hell is Breaking Loose!!! [#wotw2]

I thought today was going to be a boring Halloween, but after class today I heard about giant cylinders that came down last night and landed all over the DC area. A couple even landed on campus!

I wandered over to the one that was sitting in the quad and all of a sudden a bunch of steam and smoke started coming out of it and seams started making their way up the cylinder. After about a half an hour, the segments became legs and pulled a sphere to the a walker of some kind. 3 legs!

Several people - students, campus police - started to get near it (still pretty hot from atmospheric entry I guess) and the were VAPORIZED by a laser. After that we all ran for cover...they're going wherever they want and taking out anything in the way! Nobody knows much at all. CNN claims Obama is willing to negotiate without preconditions according to innismir.

I've been trying to get a better grip on the situation through Twitter...getting a lot of updates from sea_dot and jaxxonxx.

Got to go...just grabbed some wifi before the network goes down...details later! Follow my tweets or Google the tag in the title if you want more info!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Plurk Themes Can Make Your Profile Look Awesome

A while back I was surfing through the interwebs and happened upon Gino Carteciano's blog, Plurk Customized Themes Emporium. Gino makes Plurk themes for users who have enough karma to upgrade their profiles with a custom CSS theme. As I just got to Plurk Nirvana (>80 karma), you better believe I have enough karma for just such an upgrade. I asked for something neat and techy and here's what he produced: Metal Power.

It's a really nice looking theme (though the updates on the left are a tad dim on the black background) and it is a pleasant diversion from the overtly "happy" theme of a normal Plurk profile. Thanks a bunch to Gino for making this for me! You can get it yourself here and never fear, the install is automated, just push the "install" button and you're off and running! If this theme is too dark for you, Gino has lots of themes on his blog, so I definitely suggest you check them out.

If you want to see it on MY profile, click the "Come Plurk Me" button on the left column of my blog. I can't promise I'll have it up forever, but I'll definitely hang onto it for a while!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Anathem Rocks My Socks [Anathem Review]

"Have you ever read a book that completely changed your view of the world?" I posed this question at a dinner with several adults once and their response was a unanimous "No." This surprised me a great deal, as you can imagine, but when I elaborated with an example, they softened their reply with "Oh, well maybe when I was your age." This tells me one of two things. Either my fellow diners were less deeply philosophical people than I first thought, or my mind will not always be as malleable and thoughtful as it is now. Whatever the answer, I hope that you have not already reached this sad point in your life. This latest book is proof that I haven't, that's for sure.

Anathem is a novel by Neal Stephenson that I recently finished reading. Finishing it is a fairly weighty statement, as Anathem is more on the "tome" side of the book world. At over 900 pages, it can be a bit intimidating. Despite this, I was excited to read it for two reasons. First, I have read Stephenson's Snow Crash and found it a thrilling example of the cyberpunk genre. Second, the book just came out in September and was immediately selected as the feature book for the Sword and Laser podcast. I'm not a very active member of this book club, but I do pay attention to their SF selections (they alternate between science fiction and fantasy novels) and have found their analysis and background fairly helpful.

Anyway, I was fortunate enough to receive some birthday money from my friends in the blogging world, so I went out and grabbed myself some serious tree-matter. It happened to be very cheap on Amazon that day so I lucked out, but sadly the price has risen steadily since I purchased it (it's now around 20 dollars, which is still a pretty good deal if you get the free shipping). Once I got it in the mail, I could tell it was something special. The hardbound version was very tastefully decorated, with gold leaf adorning the spine and the "N.S." on the cover. Inside, the pages are separated into separate books with finely illustrated pages depicting Mathic architecture.

So with all this literary foreplay, how did the book turn out? To say the least it is my favorite book at the moment. While going into the plot and even the set-up might be too much of a spoiler, here's what I can tell you. The story is set in a timeline that is actually very similar to our own. This is deceptive because the part of the world we live in ("the Saecular world" as it is known in the book) is largely irrelevant to the overall story. They have largely gone through the same cultural, scientific, and philosophical advancements that we have, but the process has been streamlined (mostly to simplify a complex system).

The protagonist, Erasmas, lives in "the Mathic world," which, over a thousand years ago, segregated itself from the rest of society. Those that live in these scientific monastaries only come out and interact with Saecular society every 1, 10, 100, or 1000 years, depending on the level of commitment they have chosen to devote themselves to. A book describing this kind of scientific monasticism would probably be an interesting read unto itself. Fortunately, Stephenson delivers a large chunk of it initially and then sprinkles it throughout the rest of the ensuing adventure.

Beyond the bizarre lifestyle of the monks, there is an underlying philosophical and cosmological argument being formed throughout the entire book. To go into it would probably weaken the way that Stephenson himself introduces it to the reader, so I will simply suggest that you be patient with his "teaching method" and enjoy his brilliant fusion of modern multiverse theory and Platonic forms (just let that one sink in for a bit).

Overall, I loved the book and I am going to lend it to just about anyone who will let me impose it upon them. It may also make up a significant portion of my Christmas gifts to others. Originally I reviewed the book (having only half-finished it) on I've also actually written a bit of fanmail to Mr. Stephenson, so I feel this post is the last bit I can do to plug the book.

Here are some extra resources (watch out for spoilers):
I hope you liked my review of Anathem. If you plan on buying the book (or any of Stephenson's other books) please uses the widget below and support my blog!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

I Love a Good Woot-Off

I haven't been to Woot in a while, but they decided to leak the fact that a Woot-Off was occuring tonight so I, in turn, decided to check it out. This was the first thing I was greeted with (click for larger view):

Yes, what would we do without Woot?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Science and Publication

To follow up on my previous post, the poster session and grant competition went very well but unfortunately I went home without one of the prizes. I'm a little disappointed, but I feel I held up the reputation of my lab very well and all of the winners had very impressive work behind their presentations. This also gets me out of having to present again in the Spring to the Virginia Academy of Science (which would be after I had already finished doing lab work).

This week and weekend have been full of an enormous number of ups and downs for me, many of the downs in my personal life. That being said, I had a fun little surprise on Friday that makes me happy. I received my 3 authors copies of the 14th Volume (Issue 4) of The Journal of Commercial Biotechnology, which hold within its pages my review of Welcome to Biotech Nation by Moira Gunn. [Note: it's not viewable online for free unless your institution subscribes to it through a database.]

It is my first publication in anything reputable and I am very proud of myself for it. Hopefully I will eventually gather some publications related to what I'm doing, but until then, a book review isn't too shabby for an undergrad.

Here's to better days ahead!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Off for the Weekend - Science Time

This weekend I will be traveling to my hometown of Richmond, VA (Henrico County to those in the know) and visiting my parents, getting a haircut, seeing friends, etc. While I'm there I'll incidentally be...spending all day Saturday presenting a research proposal for the project I'm working on.

I'm a bit apprehensive about it because I'll be going it alone, without the aid of professors or fellow students, but as long as I can actually get my darn poster made, it should all work out fine. Wish me luck! There's a $500 grant for five of the presenters this weekend!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Tech for Obama Talks About the Tech Issues this Election Year

If you're interested in technology and the future of the internet, check out this promo for Tech For Obama. They're a group of tech overlords that see fit to endorse a candidate for his stance on technology infrastructure and other important internet issues.

Personally this was one of my first reasons to go with Sen. Obama because he really gets technology like few politicians do. His team's use of the internet and social networking has been fantastic for them and I think it is because they understand what the web is. Compare this to Sen. McCain, who really doesn't use the internet beyond maybe a basic level.

[via Gizmodo]

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Thanking My Donors

A few weeks ago I put out a post to see how much money I could raise solely through my blogging efforts. While the results weren't mind blowing, the speed of the donations and the generosity of the donors was very impressive.

Below are the people who helped me raise $40, split between the AIDS Walk in DC and Light the Night (which benefits blood cancers):

Will Mueller
Advanced Tech Solutions

Elmyra Jemison
ultimate geek girl

Ann and Jim Rogers
My Parents

Thanks to everyone and if you're reading this, please click through and check out their blogs!

Maybe it doesn't look like a lot of donors, but I'm still glad we did it and it was my first attempt at raising money for something like this. I had a great time at the AIDS Walk and it felt nice to know I wasn't just volunteering, I was actually helping to solve the problem. I plan on doing this type of thing again in the future (probably the spring) and I hope to really get an even larger turn out next time.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Singing About Food Is Always Win!

I'll be honest I almost didn't finish this video but the semi-boring drunkenness is redeemed by the eventual singing. Short and sweet!

Oh and it's a shame but these two don't seem to be doing much more online. Maybe their recent internet success will inspire them to do more videos...maybe even a musical!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Using Words As Art

Here are a couple of really neat examples of how letters and words themselves can be used for artistic purposes.

The first is from Brazil's Folha de S. Paulo newspaper [via GeeksAreSexy]. They wanted to show that famous people are really hiding inside their issues. Kind of a silly campaign, but the art that came out of it is fantastic. I mean James Dean's hair is awesome!
Click On Each One For A Larger View

The other nifty bit of word art out there (nothing like the kind designed by Microsoft) is called Texorizer. Just take your favorite picture - hosted online somewhere - and put in a word or two. All of a sudden you'll get something like this:

It's harder to set-up than it looks, but eventually you'll figure it out. Picture choice is key. I suggest something with a lot of white space like the one above. Note that Ann Torrence went with her first name as the main word and it came out pretty well!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Jimmy Chows Down [Season 2] Update

For those of you who have been patiently been waiting for more Jimmy Chows Down's your first taste from Fall 2008! These are the first three episodes from Season 2 in reverse chronological order. Let me know what you think in the comments.

California Tortilla

Metro Silver Diner

Foster's Grill

If you'd like to see all the videos, check out the archives. If you go to GMU, check out our Facebook group too!

Two Walks for Two Good Causes

If you're reading this post it's either because you know me personally (what's up!), know me from the internets somewhere (hit me up on twitter!), or randomly stumbled into me via Google (this one's a bit more awkward...what's your sign?). No matter who you are, I hope you'll consider the following.

This Saturday, there will be two walks for two different cures. One will be in Reston, VA to benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. It's called Light The Night and it raises money for research on blood disorders and cancers. One of the really neat things about this walk is that it happens at night and everyone hangs on to a different colored balloon. Some are red, some are white, and some are gold. The first represents someone who supports the walk (with a red blood cell). The second is for someone who has been affected by cancer indirectly (with a white blood cell). The last is for people who have survived cancer (gold cell?). It creates a simulation of the blood stream as everyone marches with illuminated balloons.

Sadly I cannot attend this event because I have a conflict, but my scholarship group is going to have a team and I figure with the connections I have online, I should be able to do some good for them.

A walk I will be able to attend is on the very same day, in the morning. It's the AIDS Walk, which benefits the Whitman-Walker Clinic in DC. If you live in the DC area at all, you've probably heard of it before because of all the fantastic things they do for HIV/AIDS patients. The disease is one of the most debilitating ones out there and most of the treatments are almost as bad as the original symptoms. The clinic not only supports patients directly, but funding also goes to research for better treatments or possible cures. I WILL be attending this one with my community service fraternity (Alpha Phi Omega), but unfortunately I really can't spare the $15 for registration.

As a microbiologist, I really understand a lot of the science behind both of these disease groups. Viruses are remarkably hard to combat and without more funding, it will be a long time until we find true cures. Blood disorders are just as bad because their effects are systemic.

So here's how this matters to you. If you have 5 or 10 bucks laying around that wouldn't pull food out of your mouth if you spent them, consider giving to one or both of these great charities. Specifically I'd love to see 5 dollar donations to each from a whole lot of people. If you want to give more, please contact me at, because I would really like to get a proper registration fee for AIDS walk.

For the Light The Night page, go here:

For the AIDS Walk page (updated link), go here:

If you give to one or both of these for my teams, let me know in the comments or via email and I'll make up a little post for all the donors. If you have a website/twitter/something like that, I'll put that up too! Let's use all this networking we have on the internet for some good. Thank you!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Off The Beat: They've Kind of Built Up

School has been really picking up so my blogging activities have been on the low side. Here's what I've been up to since my last "Off The Beat."
As you can see, I've been mostly just subsisting on my MakeUseOf staff position. Hopefully I'll get a lot more done in the next few weeks (exams are finally calming down). Also, I'm trying to figure out how to write greeting appears to be a fairly decent way to make money from little to no work.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Mason Tech Beat on Wordle

If you enter my blog into Wordle (a cloud generator), you get the following:

Pretty neat, eh? I don't like that it creates an un-clickable Java result, but otherwise it's a pretty neat system. I don't even like tag clouds because I think they're useless, but I don't mind this one too much.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Google Chrome Zips Through the Tubes [Reaction]

Everyone is clamoring about Google Chrome, so I figure I should throw in my two cents as well. If you haven't heard, Google just dropped a big old stone in the internet and they're watching to see how big the ripples get. With effectively no warning (they announced it one day and released it the next), the search engine giant has created a web browser that is fairly polished and ready to take on some of the biggest contenders out there.

Let's back up a little bit before I dive into the nitty gritty. Remember, Google is the largest and richest company devoted to user actions on the web. While search and Adsense may be their bread and butter, NONE of that would be possible without web browsers. Many people have speculated about the possibility of a Google operating system before, but the idea of a Google browser has never been as popular. As it turns out, everyone had it half right.

Google lives entirely on the internet. They have made the occasional foray into desktop applications, but those are always heavily dependent on the ability to "call home." A true Google OS doesn't make a lot of sense, but think about Google's platform. Its services don't depend on anything other than a web browser. Providing that browser is, for Google, THE SAME as providing an OS is to Microsoft. Google Chrome will unify the browser, the web platform, and the web apps under Google's digital empire.

Now that we've identified the purpose of Google Chrome, how does it do in the wild? Well, keeping in mind that it is still an early prototype, it is fairly remarkable. The install process is simple, non-intrusive, and would make my parents comfortable with it from the get go. After this, it offers to do the standard transfer of bookmarks from popular web browsers. Once you've finished, it simply drops you into the interface and lets you go on your way. The screen has a single bar at the top, which they are calling the "Omnibar," and a very minimalist set of control buttons.

Instead of a program toolbar at the top of the browser, the screen is defined by the tabs. Because each tab is its own process in the operating system, the tab is considered the highest level of differentiation in Chrome. Supposedly in the future, each tab could have some independent settings for different kinds of browsing. The commands you are familiar with are found in either the "control this page" or "control Chrome" drop-down buttons.

If we leave out the more mundane commands, there are several that readily call attention to themselves. Next to "new tab" and "new window" there is also a "new incognito window" option. This command brings up a new window that is colored differently to indicate that it browses the web without picking up tracking information (aka Porn Mode). There is also a "create application shortcut" option. It creates a bookmark that will replicate the function of a program shortcut, but instead of opening a .EXE file, it's opening a link to a web app. While this may seem a bit silly right now, it is certainly Google's intention to make web-based programs much more of a reality.

This is a reaction, not a full review, so I'll save any other jewels of wisdom for later. I suggest you give Chrome a try and see if you can use it for something. For the moment I'm using it when Flock crash-cycles uncontrollably (in other words, fairly frequently). Leave your thoughts in the comments!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Yeah It's Been a Week...I've Been Chowing

Hey All...
The blog's still alive and everything, I've simply been INCREDIBLY busy with my life on other sites (and that real life thing too). Once things calm down I should be posting more regularly. Please keep the faith and keep subscribed though...I'm hoping to get my Google Chrome reaction up soon!

To bide your time, check out my latest installment of Jimmy Chows Down...the first of Season 2! We had audio problems, but they've all been resolved!

Permalink to the video

Sunday, September 7, 2008

"Jimmy Chows Down" Gears Up for Season Two [Teaser]

We've finally gotten the first "Jimmy Chows Down" in the can for season two! While we polish it a bit, here's a bit of an advertisement we made:

Jimmy Chows Down Teaser from Connect Mason on Vimeo.

It's a bit silly, but then again, so am I! Comments? Keep in mind we made this from beginning to end in like 20 minutes. If you want to watch last season, here's our temporary page.
Blogged with the Flock Browser

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Off The Beat: Race Your IM in XP or Your Software Will Get on Digg in Burbank, Little Girl

Wow, it's been a few more days than usual between "Off The Beat" segments so a few more stories to report. Also, I managed to create a flame war and GOT ON THE FRONT PAGE OF DIGG!!!

The big thing is obviously the article that got on Digg. It's a first for any of my works and I really feel like I should be able to do it again too. One thing that makes me a bit sad is that my really decent articles about software are much better than the one that got on Digg, but listy articles just travel faster up the pipeline so this one made it instead.

Also, I really will be doing a Jimmy Chows Down tomorrow so it should be up next week and I will link to it.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Goodnight Burbank Lives!

Great news! I just got an email back from Hayden Black and he told me the following:
"We're on hiatus right now but Season 2 is being prepared for."
I am incredibly glad that the show "will go on." If you haven't already, check out Goodnight Burbank and subscribe on iTunes. You won't regret it!

Also, in a post to come I'll tell you about Hayden Black's newer project (haven't really gotten a chance to check it out yet).

Sunday, August 31, 2008

What Happened to Goodnight Burbank?

After watching a great interview of Hayden Black on Epic-Fu, I hunted down his comedy news show Goodnight Burbank and immediately become hooked on their quirky humor and witty dialogue. Here's a taste:

Little did I know that the show has been on hiatus for about 8 months now. Once again I've gotten addicted to a drug that isn't made anymore.

I call this Firefly syndrome. If you don't get the reference, Firefly was an excellent show that really caught the imagination of its viewers. It was tragically canceled by Fox (or "the Devourer of Joy" as some call it) and now anyone who gets into the show is left with an empty feeling of incompleteness. This is how I feel about Goodnight Burbank.

I'm trying to figure out what happened to the show because it was a really fantastic story and I'm going to be quite sad if nothing more ever happens with it. Black seems to have moved on to a solo production called Abigail's Teen Diary and I fear that may be a bad sign for Goodnight Burbank. ATD is actually pretty funny and has a decent concept, but it's nothing like its predecessor.

If anybody knows anything about the status of Goodnight Burbank, definitely let me know in the comments.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Track Your Software with Wakoopa [Review]

If you're like me, you use a ton of software and you're always trying out new things. Until now, there hasn't been a particularly good way to keep track of all of the freeware you sample. Wakoopa is trying to change all that.

The Wakoopa service is very simple. You download a client that monitors which programs you're using (presumably by monitoring processes or something) and phones home every fifteen minutes. This generally creates a pretty good snapshot of the apps you use and the frequency at which you use them.

The client is lightweight and the website is designed in an interesting way. Though I find the interface a little cluttered ("information overload" comes to mind), I like the way you can sort through programs you use the most. In fact, you can even create a badge to show off programs with primary screen real estate (check out mine on the sidebar).

Wakoopa's site has take all of their user information and collated it so you can find an effective tool for the job you need to do. It also has a social attribute that lets users rate the software they use. The recommendations are a bit watered down because so many users use terrible software because they don't know any better, so the reviews are a good alternative.

If you join up with Wakoopa, post a link to your profile in the comments!

[Also, props to the site for automatically suggesting a nice version of the logo when you right-click it!]

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Sideways Ponytail! [Music Video]

I'm not really one for new music.  Most of the rock I listen to is "classic rock" and therefore it's at least 20 years old.  Even so, I saw this music video the other day and I was very taken by it.  I'm not sure why, as it resembles an acid trip that goes out of control, but I think you'll agree that Natalie Portman's Shaved Head (great band name if I ever heard one) can really rock out.

natalie portman's shaved head - sophisticated side ponytail

I specifically like the ending where the whole thing gets overly layered.  Music is pretty cool too...I mean they mention Shamoo!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Off The Beat: Tap Pandora or IKEA Will Visually Fall Like a House of Cards

Woo, long title there...

This week I was fighting GMU's evil network so posts may be a little sparse until I can get everything back together.
And there you have it, another week in the life of a blogger. Also a quick note...Jimmy Chows Down should be starting in a week or two, so watch Mason Tech Beat for more updates on that! I think our first stop will be Foster's Grill in Fairfax...

Calling Home: A Micro-blog Story

Over the last few weeks, I've been following a little bit of drama on my Plurk feed. No, it's not an angry feud between's an actual drama being played out by several micro-blog accounts.

Calling Home is a space opera (if I understand that genre correctly) that spans several user names on Plurk and Twitter (so you can use either network). It started out with a single account called "CallingHome" sending out a distress signal. Eventually it was received by another account called "Allen." From there the details of what went wrong and who's involved begin to play themselves out.

Overall, I think its a really neat idea, but it can be a little hard to find the updates among all my other Plurks. At the same time, the challenge is rewarding so maybe it's not so bad. I suggest you check it out and see if you like it.

Update: Oh and another easy way is to follow either the Tumblr page or the RSS of that page.

Friday, August 22, 2008

GMU's New Network System is a Failcopter

The GMU "MUST II" system has been a serious nightmare. Almost every student has had problems logging on at some point or another. The new Juniper host client has been super buggy and no amount of work on the user's end can fix the problem. When they mess something up, the network fails and everyone is suddenly in "the dark."

I'm personally a bit steamed about it because I missed one of my first blogging deadlines for MakeUseOf because of it. Fortunately I have an understanding editor, but thus far I'm not much of a fan of MUST II. That is all for now...Jimmy Chows Down will be starting up as soon as we get some time to film it...woo!

[Image via ValleyWag]

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Bush Admin Equates "The Pill" with Abortion

There has always been an anti-contraceptive movement in America, but this little bit of news may surprise you. It seems that the Bush administration has recently asked the HHS (Dept. of Health and Human Services) to define contraceptives as abortion. For those of you why may not be grasping the significance of this, it is at least two-fold:
  1. It "legislates" the idea that taking "the pill" is tantamount to abortion after a pregnancy (which is a far, far more serious kind of act).
  2. It might even jeopardize reproductive rights were Roe v. Wade to be overturned (thus nullifying the right for a woman to choose abortion as a legal alternative to birth).
The first facet of this case is the most important and pressing. According to RH Reality Check, the HHS recently issued a proposal "to redefine many forms of contraception, the birth control 40% of Americans use, as abortion." This is based on the HHS's decision to toss out accepted medical opinions and instead assume pregnancy happens at "a biologically unknowable moment." As a person who might be called a scientist some day, I can say their reasoning is so muddled and full of polling data that it doesn't really stand up to even a brisk assessment. Check out the full article for a very detailed explanation.

Image courtesy of Violet Blue (I thought it was clever)

Even if the Bush administration's reasoning doesn't make any sense, the implications are quite powerful. Contraceptives are a fundamental right in our modern society. The ability to control one's own reproductive choices and still be able to engage in a full and healthy family life are tied to that pesky "pursuit of happiness" clause. It's also arguable that since this decision is based on public opinion and religion instead of science, those rights are being undermined by the government imposing the beliefs of others on free citizens. There are certainly exceptions to every rule, but I don't want to live in a country where religion trumps biology and humanity.

The second facet I listed is more of my own design, but it seems like a possible future. The right for a woman to have an abortion is largely protected by a single, tenuous Supreme Court ruling about privacy. If enough of the right Justices retired or passed away, so too would the current ruling. While the loss of abortion would be tremendous, imagine if contraceptives were sufficiently tied to that Evangelical windfall. I'm not saying it would happen, but I think I would feel more comfortable if there were a firewall between the two.

I am certainly not an expert of any kind and I might have even gotten some of the HHS's reasoning wrong. Bush's message to the rest of us is clear, though: reproductive rights are un-American.

[Image and Story via Open Source Sex]

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Off The Beat: Obama Twitters In Space

I've been trying to figure out how to make up a good "Off The Beat" title every week and I think combining the article topics together is better than anything else. It also leads to very ridiculous fake news.
I think the Obama one is definitely my favorite!

As I said, I just got back from my second (mini-) summer vacation down in Pipestem National Resort/Park. It was really fun because I got to see my sister and her husband, as well as spend some time hiking in the mountains. We did a 5 mile trail that was very rigorous, had huge switchbacks, and generally taxed the others in my party a great deal. The place we stayed can only be reached by a tram car that takes 12 minutes each way. Pretty remote...yet it has a gourmet restaurant at the bottom...who knew!

Oh BTW, If you aren't already...check out my sidebar and subscribe to me in whatever way you like...I tray to be entertaining!

Oh BTW #2, I need a graphic for "Off The Beat" (and maybe the blog in general)...anybody got a nice one they can make up for me? I'll give you props at the bottom of the page...

Friday, August 15, 2008

Vacation #2: Pipestem National Park

Hey All! I'm off to WV's Pipestem National Park/Resort for the weekend to meet up with my half-sister and her husband. It's in a really neat area of the wilderness and it has a tram that you actually have to take down the canyon. It's near the New River, if you know where that is.

Consequently, you won't see too many blog posts. I may not even have internet access (though I suspect there will be something, as it is part conference center).

Also, exciting news...I have just accepted a position as a Staff Writer for It's a little more hardcore than my previous job with them, but I think it will have an equal challenge to reward ratio.

Have a good weekend!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Orson Scott Card's Integrity Has Been Smashed

It seems that every time I discover a new creator of art or literature, I end up finding out about their deep, dark secret and it sort of ruins their art form for me. Now Orson Scott Card, author of Ender's Game, one of the most well-known sci-fi novels ever....has fallen into this particularly fiery part of purgatory.

I really enjoyed every single book in Ender's Saga. Each individual story focused on a different part of the human condition or of humanity in general. Somehow the author of these great works of fiction is also a true bigot. First of all, I learned he was a Mormon. Now I have nothing against Mormons in particular. Every religion has extremists that make it look bad and I'm sure there's some great people in their ranks. Even so, hearing about it in an article on Cracked gave me immediate suspicions of what was to come.

This article by Michael Swaim, "Orson Scott Card Wants YOU (To Rise Up Against The Gay Menace)," has a fairly silly title, but surprisingly it isn't a silly article at all. While the tone of the writing is on par with other Cracked stories, it really bears out Swaim's total repulsion at what Mr. Card has decided to do with his own personal soapbox.

It seems that Card believes the institution of marriage is so important that if its current form is not verified by a definitive law, we should rise up as a people and overthrow the government. Yes, you heard marriage is a cause of revolution. Check out the quote from an op-ed in the Mormon Times:
"How long before married people answer the dictators thus: Regardless of law, marriage has only one definition, and any government that attempts to change it is my mortal enemy. I will act to destroy that government and bring it down, so it can be replaced with a government that will respect and support marriage, and help me raise my children in a society where they will expect to marry in their turn."
What?!? Well anyway, I could go through and elaborate on how ridiculous and stupid I think his statement is, but Swaim does a much better job than I could and he even mentions hot lesbians (always a plus). Go ahead and read his powerful article.

Do note that I feel as much betrayed by Card's indiscretion as anyone and it will forever mar my opinion and understanding of his books. Remember, these are books that children are often assigned to read in school, not just abstract texts in the juveniles section of the library.

[Image from Wikipedia]

Monday, August 11, 2008

Our Invisible Future is One Step Closer

We've all seen one incarnation or another of H.G. Wells' "The Invisible Man." Whether it's a cheesy SciFi Channel show or the black and white classic, the idea of invisibility is all over the place. So why doesn't the real thing exist? Well, like human flight and space travel, it was conceived far ahead of its time. Until now...

Researchers led by Xiang Zhang at the University of California Berkeley have been working on invisibility for quite some time. Their approach is made possible by "metamaterials," composed primarily of "ceramic, Teflon, and fiber composite." Instead of absorbing or diffracting light, metamaterials redirect light around them, causing a perceived invisibility effect. [Quick Physics Lesson: If light doesn't bounce off an object and back into your eyes, you can't see it...hence invisibility.]

Scientists have so far only been able to cloak two-dimensional objects from view. Back in October Igor Smolyaninov's team at the University of Maryland was able to obscure small objects (just 10μm across) in two planes of vision. Zhang's new development is able to cloak objects in three dimensions. This is a momentous stepping stone to a day when we may have true stealth technologies.

Personally I'm keeping a fire extinguisher handy in case I feel like I might not be alone in the room.

[Via Gizmodo and BBC News]
[Image from]

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Off The Beat - Busy Week!

This week has been a very busy one. I've been studying for the GRE (graduate school standardized test) and trying to start off at GeeksAreSexy with a bunch of posts. I've also been working on an article for MakeUseOf. I hope this blog doesn't ever suffer from other commitments (other than school commitments). Anyway, here's the stuff I'd done "off the Beat" since my last update:
Wow, 5 (hopfully) decent articles! I especially liked writing the Defcon 16 article because Defcon is pretty awesome every year. The "MakeUseOf Your iPhone" is to be the first in a series.

Aside from the fact that this is basically a "free post" and a good way to catalog my off-site contributions, I really like writing "Off The Beat" because it gives me a sense of accomplishment. :)

Friday, August 8, 2008

Are You Revved Up for #080808?

If you aren't familiar with the #080808 movement going on among Twitter users, check out my article about it on GeeksAreSexy.

Personally I'll probably be watching something else (MST3K: Manos Hands of Fate) during the Olympics' opening ceremonies. I'll try and catch it later.

I did create myself a custom avatar which you can see on my Twitter account. I just took the one that you can customize and messed around with it on GIMP. Hurray for free software!

Remember to Twitter about your Olympic experiences and remember to add on the #080808 tag when you do it!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Slydial Offers a Unique but Useful Service

Have you ever wanted to call someone but not really talk to them? Sometimes it's easier to just leave a message, especially if they are chatty, have no phone skills, or you just don't have the time.

slydial is the answer to your "leave a message" needs. Using Voodoo magic not seen by mortals before now, slydial is able to circumvent the normal call you would make and go straight to voicemail. Simply call 267-SLYDIAL (267-759-3425) from any phone and wait for a prompt to enter your desired connection. The next thing you here should be your friend's voicemail system. Sorry, slydial doesn't skip all of the options you will NEVER USE (who sends a fax from a phone?).

I personally haven't tried it out yet (though I plan to), but I'm assuming with all of the places I've seen it around the web that it does work as advertised. If you try it out for yourself, please drop me a comment. Normally I test stuff before posting it, but it's late, I have no one to call, and really, aren't you glad you can add "voicemail ninja" to your resume? You're welcome.
The content of this page is completely the creation and opinion of James Rogers. He is affiliated with Connect Mason and formerly Broadside Online but the relationship only governs republication, not content.

Further, in the interest of full disclosure, this author holds minor financial investments in Apple, Inc. and Advanced Micro Devices.