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.

Greatest Lolcat Ever?

I just had to share pretty much personifies that message you get with any USB mountable device.

If you don't laugh at this...I have no help for you. :(

[Via ICanHasCheezburger]

Monday, August 4, 2008

Off The Beat - A New Location

Well I'm back from my vacation and I've been trying to write up as many articles as I can while studying for the GRE. I've had two articles published off-site this week. One is at MakeUseOf and one is at GeeksAreSexy, a great blog you should all definitely check out:
It should be noted that the first article is kind of the first of many article on MakeUseOf about iPhone Apps. I'm scaling back my writing about the iPhone, so this is a good way for me to still keep it up and use my knowledge. The "column" is going to be called MakeUseOf Your iPhone. That's all for now!

Who Will Be Batman's Next Foe?

One of several possible new villains
I have now seen The Dark Knight twice in theaters and I was very impressed. I don't usually see movies more than once on the big screen, so this Batman Begins sequel deserves some serious props.

At the end of each showing the same question jumped to mind: Who will the "caped crusader" battle next? I noticed that almost all the chatter from other audience members seemed to be running along the same lines. The Dark Knight just screams to be outdone by an equally awesome sequel. That means a new villain (despite the fact that we all wish the Joker could come back for a second run).

Personally, I can't remember all that many villains that haven't already been done by Hollywood in the past. The Penguin, the Riddler, Cat Woman, Scarecrow, Two Face, and Mr. Freeze have all had their night on the big screen and that pretty much sums up the most notable Batman villains too.

Even so, this article by OMG Lists has a pretty nice set of villains and judges their likelihood of appearing in the new, more realistic series of Batman movies. My money is on the scary guy named Zsasz, pictured above. He was apparently glimpsed in Batman Begins when the criminally insane escaped from Arkham. He might not be a major character though...he'd make a better secondary villain like The Mob was in the latest picture.

Either that or they'll make someone completely new up...they did it with the ninjas, right?

[OMG Lists via Geeks Are Sexy]

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Calvin and Jobs [Comic]

I'm not 1337 (leet) enough to know if this photoshopped or just someone who's very good are copying other artists' styles, but either way it's very cool. The fusion of some of my favorite icons. Click to enlarge:
Update: Another strip

[Flickr Via Digg]

Are You Ready for the LHC?

LHC, underground
That's right ladies and gentlemen, the time of particle physics glory (or world destruction through mini-black holes) is rapidly coming upon us. If you're not really familiar with the Large Hadron Collider, check out their website. The long and short of it is that it is the most complex machine ever made by man (maybe the biggest too) and it's designed to find some of the smallest and most elusive particles ever theorized. Right now we don't really understand a lot of things, especially gravity, and the LHC may be able to help with that.

If you already know a bit about it, here's a fun countdown clock to let you know when the first particle stream cuts loose.

Friday, August 1, 2008

I love how the GRE is computer-based.... the same way that Velveeta is cheese-based.

I have been using Barron's GRE prep book in getting ready for my GRE on the 11th of this month. It's a pretty decent book and it comes with a CD that lets you take practice tests. About a week after I signed up for the GRE online, ETS, the people who make these wonderful tests, sent me a practice CD. It's nice that they sent me free testing materials, but upon putting the disk in my machine I was a bit surprised.

First of all, Autorun didn't kick in at all. I almost forgot I put it in until I realized no naggy "INSTALL MEEEE" screen popped up over all of my other stuff. Upon further investigation, the CD has an Autorun but for some reason it didn't activate. I manually started the setup file and away it went.

I was surprised at the old-style of installer because I assumed that this being the current year's software, it would run something like Windows Installer or InstallShield at least. It loaded quickly and I looked around for the program. Great! No destop icon.

After hunting it down in the file system (and making my self an ICON), I opened the main testing program and my computer exploded. ...Well, I shouldn't say that, but it resized my screen resolution to something so small that the driver on my LCD screen defaulted to trying to revert it. Apparently this software is really for Win95/95 and has simply been ported forward to allow XP users to use it.

From the monopolistic leader in testing in America, I was pretty surprised at the archaic software. I mean, is it just that they want to make sure all those Win95 users are covered or are they too cheap to upgrade. ETS probably masks the latter with the former.

Anyway, I did really well on my first full test! 1280 on the complete practice. The verbal was tougher than it was in previous practices. This is a very good score for what I'm trying to do (Ph.D. in Microbiology), so I'm reasonably optimistic.
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.