Monday, July 31, 2006

Persistence, In a Bad Way

Okay, I know some of you guys work at Microsoft. And there's something that Microsoft really needs to do with the 360, a feature that is so obvious I can't believe it's not already standard.

Here's the thing: many types of HD sets are, in certain situations, susceptible to burn-in. And the most common situation is with a persistent onscreen image that is too bright--a stock ticker, for example, or a station logo.

Or persistent onscreen elements in games. Like the scoreboard in the 360 version of NCAA this year, for example, which has this laser-bright EA logo. And that EA logo is even present on most of the off-field Dynasty screens as well.

It should be a requirement from Microsoft that any persistent onscreen element for a game include a transparency setting that is user-controlled. I should be able to dim the scoreboard to make it as transparent as I want. I should also be able to dim the heads-up display in first person shooters.

Mark my words: Microsoft is going to get sued over this, and I think there's a good chance that they'll lose.

E3 and EA

Irony is so delicious:
A senior industry source has told that next year's E3 expo is in jeopardy because publishing giant Electronic Arts has taken a stand over rising event costs.

That was from, here.

EA qualified as one of the top three assholes at E3 every single year. They always insisted on having some kind of giant screen (and I mean GIANT) display with a loop of their games running. And along with the giant display, the sound level was absolutely overwhelming. In 2005, it was so bad that it was embarrassing--every booth with fifty yards of EA (at a minimum), was totally overwhelmed. They epitomized what was wrong with the event.

This year, I brought earplugs specifically for the EA area. It was the only time I needed them during the entire show.

To their credit, they set up their booth as an enclosed theater-in-the-round this year, and the noise didn't extend beyond much beyond their area. But unless you had earplugs, it was impossible to stand inside and actually look at the games.

So if this report at is true, EA was responsible for both ruining the show environment on a yearly basis and then killing the show entirely.

Note to EA: that didn't solve any of your problems. They're all still there.


Our little black cat Gracie has turned into a minor celebrity, based on my e-mail today. Some of you are claiming that, in fact, she's normal size, and we are actually a race of giants with the last name of Brobdignagian.

If you've never had a cat as a pet, here's all you need to know: every cat is a unique collection of compulsions and phobias. That's a cat.

Here's Gracie's list, and she must do all of these things every single time the situation arises:
--whenever Eli gets a toy with a clear pastic panel on the packaging, Gracie must scratch it at least a hundred times as fast as she possibly can.
--if you throw a piece of ice into the sink, Gracie will immediately leap onto the counter and stare at the ice.
--Gracie must knock everything off every surface. Pencils, photographs, watches--it's all got to go. And she has a very careful, methodical technique, gently pawing at something until she calculates exactly how much force it takes to send it to the floor.
--if you come in from the swimming pool, Gracie will smell the chlorine and begin to bite your toes.

Here's how cats spend their day: sixteen hours sleeping, two hours eating, and the remaining six trying to figure out how to kill you. It's nothing personal, so don't take it that way when your cat cuts across your path at high speed when you're walking down the stairs.

They won't cut you off when you're going up the stairs, mind you.

The Official Word

So here's the official announcement by the Entertainment Software Association concerning E3 (thanks Gamasutra):
"To better address the needs of today’s global computer and video game industry, the 2007 Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3Expo) is evolving into a more intimate event focused on targeted, personalized meetings and activities, the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) announced today."

...The new E3Expo will take shape over the next several months. As currently envisioned, it will still take place in Los Angeles, described by ESA as a “great and supportive partner helping to build E3.” It will focus on press events and small meetings with media, retail, development, and other key sectors. While there will be opportunities for game demonstrations, E3Expo 2007 will not feature the large trade show environment of previous years.

This really does have some stink coming off of it.

Not that E3 doesn't have problems, and changes did need to be made. What they're saying between the lines, though, is that they don't want the general public to have access anymore, and that's just crap. It's not like people were getting in free, and it's not like it was cheap. I know that most industry people hated that aspect of E3, but I always thought it was an opportunity for anyone to take a look at the future of gaming.

Now that opportunity is gone.

Hey, it's easier to just set up appointments with people you know to be sympathetic. Heaven forbid you let anyone who might form their own opinion get inside.

I'm still betting that Sony said they were pulling out of next year's show and everyone followed. That could be totally wrong, but Microsoft and Nintendo did very, very well this year, and somehow I doubt they were dissatisfied.

What I really find discouraging about this is that what they're specifically eliminating by going to this format are the chances for people to test out games in progress without a company represenative giving them a controlled, canned presentation. Does anyone think that will actually be an improvement for the people who actually buy the games?

Eli 5.0 Posted by Picasa

Or Not

From Ars Technica:
Contrary to reports across the web, E3 has not been cancelled. Next-Gen had hoped that they would blow the lid off of a hot story by revealing that the show had been cancelled, but some quick fact checking shows that they are simply incorrect.

Sources close to the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) tell Ars Technica that the show can and will go on, but that big changes are planned.

...Now in theory, these shows are primarily geared towards connecting businesspeople. To that end, E3 was (again, in theory) only open to industry folks and journalists. In recent years, however, the number of people attending have skyrocketed, in part because E3 registration was a moderately open process.

One source I spoke with told me that media access is indeed a problem, but it probably does not factor in greatly to the decision to downsize the show. Nevertheless, there are plenty of complaints from insiders about how "blogging" in particular has made the shows more difficult, if only because floor people are instructed to speak only of what they are approved to speak of, lest another half-baked headline make the rounds.

To translate that last paragraph, "the industry" doesn't want to see a single negative comment.

I completely understand the issues around expense. The degree to which companies went to put on their own little circus was totally ridiculous. But we didn't make them do that, did we? All we wanted was information about the games themselves, not a bunch of distractions to draw our attention away from the games. In fact, the singlest biggest complaint about E3 over the years has been exactly that: companies were spending more time distracting us than showing us the games. So to a significant degree, I think the industry is whining about problems that they created.

If you guys have been competing with each other for the "best" (translation: over-the-top) exhibit, that's not our fault.

Plus, whining about journalist access is really poor form. The industry wanted publicity. Journalists provided that publicity by covering the event. Don't cry about journalists causing problems.

I still think the unspoken subtext is what happened to Sony this year. They spent a fortune, provided uncontrolled access to the PS3, and got an ass whipping from everyone. So say goodbye to uncontrolled access. From now on, games and hardware will be presented in more tightly controlled environments, where the entire presentation can be stage-managed and relentlessly positive.

Which completely misses the point, really. The reason the PS3 got an ass-whipping was because of the utterly ridiculous price and the state of the games, not to mention the comedy cavalcade coming out of the mouths of Sony executives.

Access wasn't the problem. Sony was the problem.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

E3: Finished

I didn't see this coming (from Next Generation):
Senior industry sources have revealed to Next-Gen.Biz that the E3 industry event, in its present form, has been cancelled for next year and the foreseeable future.

The Entertainment Software Association (ESA) shindig has been a staple of game industry life since the mid-1990s. However, we understand the larger exhibitors have jointly decided that the costs of the event do not justify the returns, generally measured in media exposure.

Publishers believe the multi-million dollar budgets would be better spent on more company-focused events that bring attention to their own product lines rather than the industry as a whole.

Well placed sources say the news that larger exhibitors were pulling out had prompted urgent meetings among publishing executives. They decided that, without the support of the larger software publishers and hardware manufacturers, there would be no point in continuing.

Full story here.

Here's what I'm wondering: did other companies look at what happened to Sony this year and decide they wanted a much more controlled environment in which to demonstrate their products? And by "more controlled environment" I mean "much less chance of negative feedback." The article does mention that "larger exhibitors" were pulling out, and I wonder if Sony was in that group.

E3's really been kind of a pain in the ass, but hanging out with Nicest Guy in the World Ben Ormand for several years running and eating lunch annually with the Gamers With Jobs guys has been great.

There's definitely a much more interesting story behind what's happened than what we're hearing now, and it lies somewhere in that phrase "larger exhibitors have jointly decided." Hopefully it will leak out in the next few days.

Friday, July 28, 2006

From the World of Sports

From Deadspin:
Yesterday, the chorizo was officially announced as the fifth racing sausage in the Milwaukee Brewers sausage race. They had a special press conference just to introduce him, with his first race this Saturday. He has a little goatee. He is a dancing chorizo.

The chorizo was apparently obtained from the Texas Rangers in exchange for Carlos Lee.

Your E-Mail and Links

Great stuff from you guys, as always. Here's a very eccentric collection of links.

First, from Jason Price of, a link to a program called "My Heritage." Basically, you upload a photograph of a face and the program can can a celebrity database over over three thousand photos and find the one with the highest degree of resemblance. There are other features, but that's what you can do in the demo. It's here. And if you want to see which celebrity Eli 4.11 most resembles, go here (you might have to click on the "Celebrity Matches" button at that location).

And the crazy thing is, Eli 4.11 really does sort of look like that guy.

Next, Ryan Mattson sent in a terrific link related to the Montana child-naming post from last week. The Social Security Administration has a names database (all the way back to 1937) called "Popular Baby Names" where you can do all kinds of interesting queries. You can put in a name and find out where it ranks in popularity either for a single year or over time, or you can just view different lists of names based on popularity. It's a totally entertaining time waster, and you can find it here.

Ryan also included a link to an article from the New York Times Magazine titled "Where Have All the Lisas Gone?" which discusses how popular names have changed over the years. Very interesting read, and you can find it here.

So where have all the Lisa's gone? In the 1960's, "Lisa" was either the most popular or second most popular name for baby girls every single year. By the end of the 1970's, it had dropped to 16th. Last year? 493.

Josh Catania sent in a link to a new Guitar Hero clone for the PC called, surprisingly enough, "PC Clone Guitar Hero." It works in conjunction with the Freetar Hero Editor and you can use your Guitar Hero controller if you have a PS2 to USB converter. The site is here.

From Chris Kessel comes the new that "The Tick," one of my old cartoon favorites (and one of Eli 4.11's current favorites), is finally coming out on DVD. The initial release of the first season (strangely, missing one episode) will be available on August 29.

Science Links!

You can thank Sirius for these science links. Like I said before: a one-person science link machine.

Here's an article titled "First direct observations of spinons and holons," and here's an excerpt:
The theory has been around for more than 40 years, but only now has it been confirmed through direct and unambiguous experimental results. Working at the Advanced Light Source (ALS) of the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, a team of researchers has observed the theoretical prediction of electron "spin-charge separation" in a one-dimensional solid. These results hold implications for future developments in several key areas of advanced technology, including high-temperature superconductors, nanowires and spintronics.

Here's a link to an article about (and picture of) the discovery of Umoonasaurus, a "new" plesiosaur. Read it here.

There's a very interesting article over at titled "The Perils of Being Huge: Why Large Creatures Go Extinct." Longer gestation periods and smaller numbers of offspring, in short, but it's an excellent read and there's much more to it than that. The full article is here.

Here's an amazing article about a 14-year old boy named Ben Underwood. Ben is blind and uses echolocation to find his way. Incredible, and it's here.

Here's a link to the winners of the Visions of Science Photographic Awards and the photographs are stunning. You can find them here. And here's a link to the Biomedical Image Awards 2006, which are just as incredible (actually, maybe even more incredible). The pictures are here.

Finally, there's a new article today about black holes and an emerging question over what they really are. Here's an excerpt:
A controversial alternative to black hole theory has been bolstered by observations of an object in the distant universe, researchers say. If their interpretation is correct, it might mean black holes do not exist and are in fact bizarre and compact balls of plasma called MECOs.

Rudolph Schild of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts, US, led a team that observed a quasar situated 9 billion light years from Earth. A quasar is a very bright, compact object, whose radiation is usually thought to be generated by a giant black hole devouring its surrounding matter.

...A well accepted property of black holes is that they cannot sustain a magnetic field of their own. But observations of quasar Q0957+561 indicate that the object powering it does have a magnetic field, Schild's team says. For this reason, they believe that rather than a black hole, this quasar contains something called a magnetospheric eternally collapsing object (MECO). If so, it would be best evidence yet for such an object.

Amazing if true, and the full article is here.

Onward, Into the Fog

I haven't talked about swimming in a while, but there was a new development about two months ago.

I met the Mother Teresa of swim coaches.

She was giving a little girl a swimming lesson at the pool, and she was such a great instructor that I asked her if she was accepting any new students. She said she was, so I signed up Eli 4.09 (4.09 at the time). Then I decided to take a few lessons myself.

Eli can now swim freestyle--when he wants to. He still struggles with turning his head properly to breathe instead of lifting it out of the water, but his stroke is very strong. She works him very hard in the pool for thirty minutes each lesson, and it's remarkable how much he's improved.

She's just as good with grown-ups--this grown-up, at least. [insert usual disclaimer about how I'm not a swimmer in the sense of real swimmers. I started swimming because running decided it didn't like my knees anymore about two years ago] My PR for the 100 had been 1:37 and now it's 1:27, and I feel so much stronger in the water now.

Long-time readers of whatever this is will remember that I mentioned I wanted to swim 1600 in 30:00. At the time, I thought that was 1600 meters, which would mean a mile in thirty minutes. Well, I found out the pool in our neighborhood is not 100 meters, it's 100 yards (damn it), so it's not really a mile. Still, it's the pool where I swam 31:39 last summer, and thirty minutes is still a big goal.

Mother Teresa is moving to Houston in two weeks. So I decided to take a crack at the 1600 while she was still here. I didn't feel good in the water yesterday at all, but I wanted to see what I could swim when I didn't feel that good.

My biggest problem was that my goggles fogged over so badly that I couldn't see my splits very well (I have this very dorky way of lifting my head out of the water at the turn every 200 meters to check my time), so I had no splits for a 600 meters in the middle of the swim. And that was costly, because I wound up swimming 30:17, and if I'd gotten my 200 splits every time, I could have knocked off more than 17 seconds.

It was hard, and I'm tired today, but I can swim faster than that. I've got some anti-fog drops now. And I think next Thursday I'm going to finally break thirty minutes.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

No Ordinary Counterfeit

DQ reader Steven Kreuch sent me a link to a fascinating article in the NY Times titled "No Ordinary Counterfeit." It's a detailed examination of incredibly sophisticated counterfeit bills called "supernotes," and here's an excerpt:
...Beneath cardboard boxes containing plastic toys, they found counterfeit $100 bills worth more than $300,000, secreted in false-bottomed compartments.

The counterfeits were nearly flawless. They featured the same high-tech color-shifting ink as genuine American bills and were printed on paper with the same precise composition of fibers. The engraved images were, if anything, finer than those produced by the United States Bureau of Engraving and Printing. Only when subjected to sophisticated forensic analysis could the bills be confirmed as imitations.

Counterfeits of this superior sort — known as supernotes — had been detected by law-enforcement officials before, elsewhere in the world, but the Newark shipment marked their first known appearance in the United States, at least in such large quantities. Federal agents soon seized more shipments. Three million dollars’ worth arrived on another ship in Newark two months later; and supernotes began showing up on the West Coast too, starting with a shipment of $700,000 that arrived by boat in Long Beach, Calif., in May 2005, sealed in plastic packages and wrapped mummy-style in bolts of cloth.

Oh, and here's the kicker--they apparently come from North Korea.

It's great reading, and here's the link.

All Together Now

We went to see Ray Davies at the Paramount Theater on Saturday night.

The Paramount Theater was originally built in 1915. In the late 1970's, after it had fallen in to complete disrepair, a full restoration took place over a four year period. It's a stunner and a landmark--here's a picture, and that picture in no way truly shows how beautiful it is inside.

I recommended Other People's Lives a few weeks ago. It's an excellent album--thoughtful and very, very wry, and almost every song has hooks that make you want to listen to it again.

I'm listening to it right now, actually.

And it's a small album. It's not something you'd perform in an 80,000 seat stadium. It's much more personal than that, and that's why it's so good.

So we went to the Paramount and expected to see a concert supporting a small album. I was hoping it was just Davies, actually, or maybe him and one or two other musicians. That's all the album needs, really.

I should probably mention at this point that when it comes to music, I don't care what somebody used to be. Couldn't care less. I want to see what they are, not what they've been. And to me, based on the new album, Ray Davies is very interesting the way he is now.

We had very good seats, but any seats at the Paramount pale in comparison to the small balconies that are on either side of the stage. They can seat about a dozen people each, and they're hopeless exotic.

"I envy them," I said, pointing in the direction of the glamorous people. "Above the hue and cry of ordinary men."

"I like how they wave at the chattel," Gloria said, because almost everyone in the balcony acknowledges the peasants so far below their lofty plane. "I envy them, too," she said. "They always look so happy."

"Of course they're happy," I said. "How could you not be happy in a balcony? Unless you're Lincoln, of course."

Our first hint of possible trouble came when we saw the lady who was sitting in front of us. She was wearing a metal-studded black leather band around her wrist while she flipped through a personal photo album of past Kinks concerts.


Eight o'clock, the concert start time, came and went. The stage was devoid of life. Eight-ten. Eight-twenty. Eight-thirty.

This is bad form. Very bad. If you're performing in an arena, I expect you to be late. Very late. If you're performing in front of a thousand people, though, where you can hear every single person in the audience, it's much more personal, and your ass needs to be on time, or at least very close.

At eight-forty, finally, Ray Davies stepped on stage to wild applause. I looked at him, then turned to Gloria and said "Damn, he looks old," and I could tell that she was thinking the exact same thing. Sixty-one isn't that old, I guess, but it was a hard sixty-one.

He had a band. I think there were four other guys on stage with him--guitarist, bassist, drummer, and I swear somebody else was out there doing something. Plus Davies himself plays guitar.

It's at this point that I realized my dreams of a small concert were over, right at the moment when Davies launched into a Kinks song at mind-blowing, eardrum shattering volume. And when that one was done, he launched into a second.

I felt like one of those birds who flies into the glass sliding doors on the patio and falls to the ground, stunned.

I was blind and deaf and had no sense of my surroundings. And it wasn't particularly good, either--just loud. During the very first song, he was encouraging the audience to sing along. "Uh oh," I said to Gloria. "Opening number sing-along begging. That's a bad, bad sign."

After the second song, though (which featured another sing-along), he spoke briefly about his new album and played the opening song. At ear-splitting volume. Then he played four or five songs from the album--quiet, thoughtful, wry songs--at ear-splitting volume.

One of the most appealing qualities of the album is that Davies' voice is very distinct. His voice can sound powerful, then fragile, often within a few seconds of each other. There is a tremendous amount of nuance in the way he sings the songs on the new album.

In concert, though, you could barely even hear his voice. The band totally overwhelmed him, and when you could hear his voice, it didn't sound like it was possible for him to have recorded what I heard on Other People's Lives.

Nobody cared, really. Everyone had woodies for Ray Davies, and it didn't matter what he sang or how he sang it. All that mattered was that he was standing right there in front of them, and I'm totally okay with that. It's just not my thing.

We made it through an hour. During the last two songs, I was physically in pain. The noise was so bad that I ordered accoustic earplugs on Sunday, in case I have any hearing left. And I missed several songs from the new album that I really wanted to hear in concert ("Other People's Lives," in particular, is a great, great song), but I wouldn't have recognized any of them, anyway, so I guess it didn't matter.

I heard an interesting conversation as we walked through the lobby. We had seen a woman woman before the show who was clearly part of the upper management of the theater. She was talking with two other people, clearly annoyed, and I heard her say "twenty-one songs and three encores."

I'm not sure how I heard her. Maybe I can read lips and never realized it.

Maybe she wasn't going to get the show that was specified in the contract. Maybe she was upset because the show started so late. Either way, though, she had nothing to complain about--she was still able-bodied and fully functioning and had excellent posture. Meanwhile, I dragged my broken body and ruined hearing across the softly carpeted floors and into the night.


From the BBC:
Bed sharing 'drains men's brains'
Sharing a bed with someone could temporarily reduce your brain power - at least if you are a man - Austrian scientists suggest.

When men spend the night with a bed mate their sleep is disturbed, whether they make love or not, and this impairs their mental ability the next day.

The lack of sleep also increases a man's stress hormone levels.

According to the New Scientist study, women who share a bed fare better because they sleep more deeply.

Clearly, I had to forward this groundbreaking research to Gloria immediately, as I generally sleep very poorly at night. She sleeps quite well.

She found the study "amusing."

I walked into the bedroom last night wearing a bicycle helmet, strap securely attached under my chin. Gloria burst out laughing. "What in the world?" she asked.

"Oh, I think you know," I said, pulling back the covers. "You people are brain drainers. It's been scientifically confirmed. If I sleep in this bed, I wake up stupid."

"I'm not sure sleep has anything to do with it," she said.

"See? You're already brain draining me," I said, carefully adjusting my helmet. "I have to avoid the vampire effect. I may need to add a layer of aluminum foil under the helmet." I picked up my book and began to read, secure in the knowledge that, for now at least, my brain was safe from intruders.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The Onion

The Onion is screamingly funny again, this time with an article titled "Wikipedia Celebrates 750 Years Of American Independence." It's hilarious, and here's the link.

NCAA 2007 Sliders (360): Punting

The final settings for the Punting Power slider: 45 CPU, 5 Human.

Here's the data. I didn't even bother with the default settings, just adjusted until CPU/Human were balanced and captured data then.

The worst punters in the game have 82 ratings for kicking power. The best punter in the game has a 94. Here's the data using the adjusted slider settings:

KP, CPU,...... HUM

The numbers for the CPU are a range--punting distances are less consistent than field goals. The human results are the max punting distance with the meter filled up. I thought there was less variance with the human player when the meter was maxed, so I just put a single distance instead of a range.

Those distances might be slightly low compared to real NCAA numbers. Punters who hit the coffin corner or just punt into the end zone aren't going to get their regular full punting distance when averages are calculated, and I saw some active punting career leaders averaging 45 yards a kick. Still, it's close, and if you want to adjust it upwards, it's easy to do.

NCAA 2007 (360) General Slider Summary

And if you're lazy and don't want to read the previous post, here's the summary. This is true for Heisman difficulty--not sure of the others.

Set Field Goal Power for the CPU to 15. Set FG Accuracy for the CPU to 0.
Set FG Power to 80 for Human. Set FG Accuracy to 0 for Human.

Subjectively, I think tackling is poor on the default settings, so I bumped tackling up to 65 for both CPU and Human. I also think Quarterback accuracy is too high, so I lowered that to 40 for both CPU and Human. I'm very happy with tackling--I may lower QB accuracy to 35, but haven't done so yet.

As for anything else, I'm still working through the settings.

The game plays really, really well this year.

NCAA 2007 Slider Notes (360)

Like I said previously, since EA removed the ability to watch a CPU vs. CPU game, developing sliders is much more subjective this year. My approach has been to identify what settings can be objectively tested and start there.

So, first off we have kicking.

This is relatively simple to objectively test. Go into practice mode and kick field goals with a set of kickers who represent the general spectrum of kick power ratings. That gives you the human range. Then defend against field goals as the CPU kicks them. That gives you the CPU range. You can re-spot the ball whenever you want, so you can very precisely establish the range for a certain kick power rating based on the slider setting.

I'm going to recommend settings, but I'm also going to present the data here, because some of you can use it to tailor your settings to your preferences.

Important note: these are based on Heisman difficulty. I don't know if the other difficulty settings will produce the same results. Heisman is excellent and very fair this year, so that's the difficulty level I'll be using.

Here's the specific testing methodology. I used four different kickers with kick power ratings of 78, 87, 92, and 98, respectively. In terms of leg power, 78 represents the weakest kicker, 87 represents the median, and 98 represents the best.

The CPU's kicks have relatively little distance variance, so I watched each one kick and kept re-spotting the ball until I had established maximum range. For the Human range, I kicked until I had maxed out the power meter. So that represents the absolute maximum range if you make the best kick.

With the default field goal power slider setting of 50 for both CPU and Human, here are the results. The first column, "KP," represents the kicker's power ratings. The second number represents the CPU range, and the third column is the Human range.

78---42--- 36

On the default settings, human players have much less range than the CPU. The median kick power rating for most field goal kickers seems to be around 87, and at that rating there's over a 10% difference in range.

The slider settings I wound up with after testing are 15 for the CPU and 80 for Human. Here's the results with those settings:
78---40--- 39

With the median rating, range is identical. The Human player has a slight advantage with excellent kickers, but given the superior accuracy of the CPU, that's not an unfair advantage.

As far as accuracy goes, I set it to "0" for both the CPU and Human settings. The CPU is too accurate, even at 0, and the analog kicking meter is very lenient in terms of accuracy for the human player as well.

I should have punting and kickoff settings tomorrow.

I Have No Idea What You People Are Talking About

Some of you are alleging that I purposely juxtaposed a picture of the Yamato next to a picture of my wife's feet.

Well, I sure didn't do it by accident.

The fact that Gracie is about 3/4 the size of a normal cat made for an ideal optical illusion. I'll get my ass kicked for that as soon as Gloria reads the post, but I'm willing to take one for the team.

The Yamato (text)

Erik Taylor sent me a link to an amazing photograph of the Yamato on fire (which you can see below). I would normally not copy and post a picture, but I didn't figure the Navy would mind. Here's the original link:

Here's what's amazing about that fire. Do you see those tiny ships to the left of the Yamato? Those are DESTROYERS. I think it's safe to assume that they're at least 300 feet long. And in that picture they look like Legos in comparison.

The Yamato (picture) Posted by Picasa

The Difference Between Men and Women #73 (Text)

That picture you see in the post below shows the shoes that Gloria wore yesterday.

Please note that the cat in the background (Gracie) is extremely small. Gloria's feet are not gigantic.

Well, they're not tiny, either.

Gloria came downstairs wearing these shoes, and I took a long look at them. Gloria looked at me and said "What are you looking at--the shoes?"

I said "Here's the difference between men and women. I can shower and dress in the time that it takes you to tie your shoes."

The Difference Between Men and Women #73 (picture) Posted by Picasa

Invasion of the Eyeball Snatchers

Gloria took Eli 4.11 to a wonderful local toy store called Terra Toys yesterday. It's an Austin institution--a crazy, oddball toy store with all kinds of eccentric things you can't find anywhere else.

Eli picked out an Arctic archaelogy dig set with his toy budget money (more on the toy budget later). They also got a bag of those big Halloween eyes--you know, giant eyeballs, red streaks, about the size of a plum.

We were watching Tom and Jerry last night, and Eli got up and went to the bathroom. When he came out, he was holding a giant eyeball over each eye. Then, in his best booming voice, he said "Do not be afraid. My eyeballs come in peace!"

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The Chair

I bought a new chair for my study. The old chair was hard on my back.

The new chair seems very nice, except that I hurt my back while putting it together. Ah, delicious irony.


You may remember this (excerpt from MSNBC) from December of last year:
HARRISBURG, Pa. - In one of the biggest courtroom clashes between faith and evolution since the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial, a federal judge barred a Pennsylvania public school district Tuesday from teaching “intelligent design” in biology class, saying the concept is creationism in disguise.

U.S. District Judge John E. Jones delivered a stinging attack on the Dover Area School Board, saying its first-in-the-nation decision in October 2004 to insert intelligent design into the science curriculum violates the constitutional separation of church and state.

...Jones decried the “breathtaking inanity” of the Dover policy and accused several board members of lying to conceal their true motive, which he said was to promote religion.

A six-week trial over the issue yielded “overwhelming evidence” establishing that intelligent design “is a religious view, a mere re-labeling of creationism, and not a scientific theory,” said Jones, a Republican and a churchgoer appointed to the federal bench three years ago.

"Breathtaking inanity." The man can turn a phrase.

A few days ago, DQ reader Brian Witte sent me a link to the transcript of the cross-examination by Eric Rothschild of intelligent design theorist and proponent Michael Behe.

The cross-examination is brilliant beyond belief. Rothschild does a relentless, impeccable job of drilling through Behe's obfuscations and "scientific" half-truths. Time after time, Rothschild both exposes Behe's deceptions and demonstrates clearly that intelligent design is not a scientific theory and has nothing to do with science.

This transcript is long, but if you are interested in either the attacks upon science or masterful cross-examinations, it's a sensational read. You can find it here.

Nice or Nasty

I am absolutely blown away by an article in the NY Times today. It's titled "Nice Rats, Nasty Rats: Maybe It’s All in the Genes," and it obliterates all kinds of conventional wisdom about animal domestication.

Here's an excerpt:
Belyaev decided to study the genetics of domestication, a problem to which Darwin gave deep attention. Domesticated animals differ in many ways from their wild counterparts, and it has never been clear just which qualities were selected for by the Neolithic farmers who developed most major farm species some 10,000 years ago.

Belyaev’s hypothesis was that all domesticated species had been selected for a single criterion: tameness. This quality, in his view, had dragged along with it most of the other features that distinguish domestic animals from their wild forebears, like droopy ears, patches of white in the fur and changes in skull shape.

Belyaev chose to test his theory on the silver fox, a variant of the common red fox, because it is a social animal and is related to the dog. Though fur farmers had kept silver foxes for about 50 years, the foxes remained quite wild. Belyaev began his experiment in 1959 with 130 farm-bred silver foxes, using their tolerance of human contact as the sole criterion for choosing the parents of the next generation.

“The audacity of this experiment is difficult to overestimate,” Dr. Fitch has written. “The selection process on dogs, horses, cattle or other species had occurred, mostly unconsciously, over thousands of years, and the idea that Belyaev’s experiment might succeed in a human lifetime must have seemed bold indeed.”

In fact, after only eight generations, foxes that would tolerate human presence became common in Belyaev’s stock. Belyaev died in 1985, but his experiment was continued by his successor, Lyudmila N. Trut. The experiment did not become widely known outside Russia until 1999, when Dr. Trut published an article in American Scientist. She reported that after 40 years of the experiment, and the breeding of 45,000 foxes, a group of animals had emerged that were as tame and as eager to please as a dog.

As Belyaev had predicted, other changes appeared along with the tameness, even though they had not been selected for. The tame silver foxes had begun to show white patches on their fur, floppy ears, rolled tails and smaller skulls.

It is a widely-held belief that all animals we could domesticate have been domesticated. I won't go into the details of why this is so (I honestly can't remember all the detail), but there are far-ranging implications if this belief is disproven.

Here's the link to the full article (registration required).


Yesterday, AMD announced that they were buying ATI for over 5.4 billion dollars.

Here's some context for that announcement. AMD's revenue for the trailing twelve months was 5.95 billion dollars. Intel's projected research and development budget for 2006 is $6 billion dollars.

Okay, that's a bit of a fudge, because $500 million of that $6 billion is "share based compensation," but even without that, Intel is spending in research and development just slightly less than AMD's total revenue. So that helps give you an idea of the kind of resources Intel has compared to AMD, which happens when you're 6X the size of your primary competitor.

AMD has been dominating the U.S. retail market. They have over 81% of that market, believe it or not (CNET story here). And in other markets, they're gaining--up to 37% of notebooks and 14% of servers.

Here's the problem: the U.S. retail market only constitutes 9% of the global computer market.

Here's the other problem: integrated chipsets (with on-board graphics) are a gigantic market. Do you know who's the market leader in "PC graphic devices"?

It's Intel, believe it or not, and that's entirely due to integrated chipsets.

So AMD is dominating a fraction of the market, but they're not even playing in the gigantic market of integrated graphics.

For the last two years, AMD has been making a case for itself behind superior engineering and lower prices. It's hard to beat that. With Conroe, though, AMD no longer has engineering superiority on the desktop, and they no longer have lower power consumption. It's possible that they may lose engineering superiority in servers as well.

Oh, and Intel is basically giving CPU's away right now, forcing AMD to match.

So Intel is putting the wood to AMD in the two areas where AMD had been breaking clear. I don't think it's an unreasonable strategic move for AMD to make an acquisition that enables them to enter the integrated chipset market.

Did they overpay? Probably. Will this strategy actually work? Don't know. But I do think they had to do something.

Because We Desperately Need to Make Our Money Back on This Damn Deal Somehow

Thanks to Juan Font for tipping me off about this:
In this special, gamers will get a jump on all their friends and would-be competitors with a look inside this year's release. EA game designers, world-ranked top players and more will lead them on a guided tour through new changes and advances in all aspects of the game. Exclusive to ESPN Pay-Per-View, order Inside Madden NFL 07 today.

Premieres Friday, August 4th at 8:00 p.m. ET
Suggested Retail Price: $19.95

Available on TV and Online. To order call your Pay-Per-View Provider or log on to, search: Madden. *

Or search: dumb ass*.

Since I seem to be using the word "context" quite a bit lately, allow me to put this in context for you: two years ago, we paid $19.95 for the game. Now we pay $19.95 for a video preview of the game.

The game, of course, was NFL2K5, not made by EA, and it was the best professional football game ever made. That game also had an ESPN tie-in and included a Sportscenter with dynamically-generated highlights of the day's action. It was so good and sold so well that EA had to quickly and deeply cut the price of Madden that year to compete.

Then EA scratched a really big check to the NFL so they wouldn't have to compete again. Now we have $19.95 pay-per-view previews.

If you ever wondered if exclusive licenses were Satan's spawn, there's your answer.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Or the Regalskeppet Vasa 3

Thanks to Johan Nilsson for letting me know this:
Of course, we have our own version of Yamato here in our Swedish history books. It was called Regalskeppet Vasa and was suppose to be our ultimate flagship/warmachine around 1628.

Of course it sank after 100 yards on its maiden voyage.

You can read more about it here if interested:

So, when Sony launches PS3 in Sweden I’m pretty sure they’ll attach this name to it to get that local branding.

Swedish readers, please take note of this local change.

That Wikipedia entry is totally fascinating, by the way, and I highly recommend it.

The Ship

Okay, I'm not playing it yet, but based on my e-mail, you guys love The Ship. Absolutely love it. And if you don't know what the game is about, here's a link to a Gamespot preview. Here's also a link to the official site.

This game is wonderful conceptually because it makes a single in-game death meaningful. That's genius.

The Yamato 3

Not that we didn't see all this coming, but I just thought I'd mention that it's happening as expected. From Business Week Online:
One troubling sign already indicates that the PS3 might not be quite the hit Sony expects. Game makers are steering development resources away from Sony and toward games for machines from Microsoft and Nintendo, says Hirokazu Hamamura, president of Enterbrain, a game-industry researcher in Tokyo. At its autumn games preview on July 13, for instance, traditional Sony ally Electronic Arts spent far more time showing off innovative Nintendo games than it did titles for the PS3. EA announced six Nintendo Wii launch titles and showed long working demos for two of those. But it offered only a short clip of a car-racing game for PS3. EA says it's still testing the potential of the PS3. "Many developers think the console's initial high price will lead to slow sales and are holding off on creating games for Sony," Hamamura says.

...With sales of packaged games declining, Sony execs say they're looking to other sources such as fee-based online gaming and downloads, as well as ads for games Sony creates in-house. "Game advertising is likely to be an important part of our strategy," says Izumi Kawanishi, senior vice-president of Sony's Games division.

The article says that the PS3 is costing Sony "over $750" to manufacture each unit. I still believe it's close to $1,000, even though no one is admitting that yet. You can read the full article here.

Then there was the article last week about Famitsu's latest survey where about 80% of everyone just don't give a damn about the PS3. Here's a brief summary of the poll results.
Gamers (216 participants)
Here’s what gamers said are the consoles they’re most interested in buying:
73.6%: Wii
16.7%: PS3
9.7%: neither

Retailers (85 participants)
Of retailers, here are the consoles they find most appealing:

65.9%: Wii
18.8%: neither
15.3%: PS3

Game makers (33 participants)
69.7%: Wii
27.3%: PS
33%: neither

Full article here.

DQ reader and friend Kwadwo Burgee e-mailed me and came up with the greatest name for the PS3 I can possible imagine: the Yamato.

I know--I've mentioned the Yamato before. Not in this context, though. Here's his summary:
During WWII, the Japanese decided to build the mother of all battleships, called the Yamato. This ship would totally outclass any other battleship before it, as any other ship one-on-one would be outmatched. We won’t go into all of the specs, but let’s say it’s a giant battleship with quite an array of BFGs. With her Superman-in-the-sunshine strength armored plating and incredible gun range, on paper she was impenetrable.

Yet she was sunk in under 2 hours.

When she was built, she was considered state-of-the-art, a true example of Japanese technology. There were tons of secrets and misdirectional pieces floating all around. All the US knew was that the Japanese were building something big. As in “Awww **** NO!” big. This vessel would help to usher in a new age of Japanese technology, a ship that would surely propel the Japanese to victory.

As the tide of the war turned, the face of the war was changing – no longer were naval battles to be decided by big ships with giant guns. Now, airplanes would be introduced – aerial assaults were more effective (even the Japanese knew this, to an extent, when they bombed Pearl Harbor). The Yamato’s main guns, designed for blowing the crap out of battleships and other boats (and even islands!), were ill-equipped for the new face of war. Even certain modifications proved relatively ineffective. Still, at this point, the Japanese were losing, and finally it was decided that the Yamato would be sent to repel the advancing US fleet at Okinawa. She had been in other battles before, but this one was truly the ultimate test. With only enough fuel for a one-way trip, and the knowledge that there was a good chance the crew wasn’t coming back, it truly was a suicide mission.

U.S. planes were able to sink the massive ship, and needed less than two hours to do so. The hits that she took at her weak point (the armor plating just under the surface of the water) caused her to lean. Deck fires from the bombing raids reached the tons of ammo stored on the ship, and, well, it kinda reminded you of those Bugs Bunny cartoons where the person lights a match in a munitions storage. With the weight of her main guns, it caused the ship to sink much faster than normal, and that was it for the mighty Yamato.

That's it, then. Our new internal name for the PS3 is officially the "Yamato 3."

AMD Buying ATI

AMD is buying ATI (which I'll write about later today), but probably more useful to us in the short term is the recent announcement they made about their processor prices. Here's a link to an article over at that shows the old and new prices, and the numbers are stunning. Many of the Athlon processors are dropping in price by 50% or more.

Here's an example. The Athlon64 X2-5000+ (socket AM2) was selling for $649. New price? $282.

The FX line of chips isn't getting quite that kind of discount, but even the FX-62 is dropping by 22%.

Price war.


After I wrote about seeing a kid named "Montana" in a restaurant last week, I knew the e-mail was coming. Here's a sample.

First off, from Chris Gwynn:
My wife and I are having a daughter soon. Due to this, I recently had a drunken discussion of girl's names with some college friends of mine. We determined (as you've already noticed) that place names are nearly universally stupid when used as names for people. The conversation ended when a friend of mine pointed out that Idaho may be the worst name possible for a girl. He's right.

Next, from the Australian offices of Dubious Quality, Bruce Hardie:
My wife has a pair of cousins named Montana and Dakota. I call them North and South.

Chris Seguin weighed in with this:
When my wife and I were expecting our first child, I laid down some ground rules as to CATEGORIES of names that were NOT ALLOWED. Those categories, with include examples of inappropriate names, are shown here:
States, cities, or other Geographical locations: Montana, Idaho, Indiana, Phoenix, Intercourse (that's in PA)
Occupations: Tanner, Taylor, Hunter, Prince, Farmer Brown
Seasons: Summer, Autumn, College Football
Weather Patterns: Sunny, Rain, Hurricane
Unisex names: Pat, Chris, Stevie, Prince
Office Products: Avery, Fax
Flowers: Daisy, Rose, Petunia, Apple, Gold Medal
Things in your Mailbox: Bill

We settled for Kathryn and Hailey.

By the way, AVERY could fit into two categories - Office product, and Unisex names. I have two friends, neither of which know each other. His SON is named Avery. Her DAUGHTER is named Avery.

Everyone develops a strategy for naming their children. For us, it was whether I could think of an obscene word that rhymed with the name (I've written about that before).

I Did Not Know That

Here's an excerpt from a book I'm reading for work called Unexpected Returns:
...Voltaire, who, in addition to being a leading writer of his day, proved himself a most successful speculator in corn, bacon, and other investments. He even participated in an investment syndicate and used a statistically based strategy to win the national lottery while eliminating virtually all of the customary risk; his pool bought essentially all of the lottery tickets after a number of lotteries without winners had increased the potential winnings to unprecedented levels.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Kentsfield Moves Up

Intel, which already hit a home run with the Conroe processor, announced durings its earnings conference call that it's moving Kentsfield (its quad-core desktop CPU) up to Q4 2006 from Q1 2007.

If you're buying a motherboard for a Conroe CPU, look for the 975X boards that should be announced late next week. They will support both the Conroe and Kentsfield CPU's and that flexibilityis hard to beat.

Guitar Hero 360 Update

An anonymous source (who I trust) confirmed the Guitar Hero 360 rumor.

Let me just show some journalistic restraint here: woo hoo!

Guitar Hero to 360?

There are some rumors abuzz that Guitar Hero is coming to the 360. Wireless guitar, anyone?

It's entirely logical, even if the rumor itself is entirely speculative. It would be nonsensical not to expand the reach of the franchise, and the 360 is the obvious choice for the next platform. So I would put this in the "highly likely" category.

I hope.

The Art of The Lazy

From frequent correspondent and Fitness Director Doug Walsh:
I think I have a new entry in the “I’m so lazy…” contest.

It dawned on me today that I’ve spent the past year trying to outrun my garage door while it closes. I ready myself on the step near the inside door to the house like a sprinter crouching into the blocks. A quick glance to make sure the neighbors aren’t outside, then I’m off! I slap the button on the wall of the garage and take a few lengthy strides towards the garage door as it makes its slow descent into the decapitation zone. I draw close to the outside world and carefully leap over the invisible object-detecting laser set three inches off the ground. As I leap, I hunch over as far as I can to avoid slamming my head on the closing garage door.

I’ve done this for over a year now. And in doing so, I’ve banged my head twice, slipped and fell several times, and tripped the laser and had to repeat the process a dozen or more times. And I’ve been laughed at by the neighbors at least once (probably daily from behind their windows).

But I have it down to a science now. I know to pre-place my coffee mug on the hood of the car outside the garage before I attempt a run, and I also know that it’s safer to go barefoot sometimes depending on the shoes I’m wearing that day. I also know to lower my angle of trajectory during the coup-de-grace moment, as leaping straight up into a closing garage door doesn’t tickle, I can assure you.

And why do I do this? Because the battery in the garage door clicker died…. Sometime early last summer.

My feet were cold yesterday and I went upstairs and saw a single sock in the sock basket. I had matching pairs available, but I took the single because I thought the other one was downstairs in my study.

Well, it wasn't. I had one sock and two cold feet, but to get another sock I'd have to go back upstairs. So I spent the next three hours switching the sock from left foot to right foot every thirty minutes.

If you want to be lazy, you can't just be half-assed about it. Well, actually you can. It's sort of implied, really.

The XXX Factor (Part Two)

From Skylander, a comment on the "XXX Factor" post I made earlier in the week:
There is one other thing that you might find interesting about what porn is doing. My dad works for a hotel, and recently that hotel was sold to investors. They would like HD and a TIVO-like device in every room.

My dad has been scrounging everywhere and he recently bought 40-inch flat panels for the rooms and is now trying to find Hi-Def content for them. He talked to Sony and Sony struck a deal that they will do HD on-demand movies "at some point" and that he will be at the top of the list if he buys a bunch of their TVs. Well they had the best deal going so he bought those TVs.

Right now, though, no major movie studio has HD on-demand content. But the porn industry does. That's right--you can't see Spiderman 2 in HD on-demand , but you can see Butt Pirates of the Caribbean in full 1080i.

The best part of porn is the film names. They're little comedy classics: porn-ku.

My favorite porn film name of all time, a play on "Batman and Robin" : Cockman and Throbbin.

The Internet Police will be coming to your cube soon after they scan this post. Please remain calm.

500 Tapes

Francis Cermak sent me a link to this story:
It is a priceless insight into the creative processes of the most celebrated pop group of all time — more than 500 tapes of the Beatles arguing, singing snatches of old tunes and jamming to unreleased tracks.

But for 35 years only tantalising fragments of the missing tapes had emerged, until they turned up as evidence in an English court after a long investigation into their whereabouts. Now Beatles fans are hoping for the release of a treasure trove of material they’ve never heard before.

I hadn't heard anything about this. Of course these will get released in nine different compilations and "rarities" albums. I'd like to hear them.

NCAA 2007 (PSP): the WTF Review Team

Okay, I am completely blown away by the people who review sports games. It's nothing short of incredible, really.

I did some research after hearing about the game-killing bug in the PSP version of NCAA 2007. On running plays, the ball is spotted where the runner is first touched by the defense. Not tackled--touched.

In other words, it's NCAA 2007: Two-Below (Doug Walsh suggested that).

That's a recall situation. As a game ranking, that's a big fat zero.

Now check out these excerpts from some of the reviews. They're classic.

Gamespy gives the game a rating of 4 stars out of 5, which is their "Great!" category. Here's an excerpt from the review:
I noticed that the ball is spotted where the ball carrying player is initially hit, instead of where his knee hits the ground, which can lead to some frustrating results on running plays. It'll be important to note that the initial point of contact on tackles is where your yardage gained will end -- a serious bug in an otherwise enticing running game.

Hey, no problem, though. He even finds the bug and it's still "Great!"

Gamespot gives it 7.6 out of 10, which is their "Good" category. Here's an excerpt (full review here:
...spotting the ball seems to be slightly off--a three-yard gain on the ground sometimes is spotted as no gain at all.

He didn't even play the game long enough to clue in on what was going on. Well done.

IGN is the best, though. Curiously, even though Gamespot and Gamespy's build had the bug in it, IGN claims their review build didn't. I find that very interesting, but let's move on. They've adjusted their review score to reflect the bug in the running game, and now they've given the game a 6.9, which is "passable."

So here's what we've got: a bug that renders the game unplayable. Period. No one can play the game for any length of time with two-below rules on running plays. Yet Gamespy still gives the game 4 stars out of 5, and IGN gives it 6.9 out of 10!

What does a game have to do for IGN to give it a "not passable" score--set your PSP on fire?

Oh, wait-that would be a 5.2.

Good grief.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

ASOH Pilot July 27

I corrected the Amazing Screw-On Head post--I had the pilot episode coming on this Thursday (tonight), but it's actually next Thursday (July 27). You can see it online now, though, if you're interested.

The Amazing Screw-On Head

Man, I am just getting some unbelievably good e-mail. Some of it is so good that I'm going to make individual posts out of single links so that they get more attention.

Mitch Youngblood sent me a link to a SciFi channel pilot called "The Amazing Screw-On Head." Here's an excerpt from the website:
In this hilarious send-up of Lovecraftian horror and steampunk adventure, President Abraham Lincoln's top spy is a bodyless head known only as Screw-On Head.

When arch-fiend Emperor Zombie steals an artifact that will enable him to threaten all life on Earth, the task of stopping him is assigned to Screw-on Head. Fortunately, Screw-On Head is not alone on this perilous quest. He is aided by his multitalented manservant, Mr. Groin, and by his talking canine cohort, Mr. Dog.

Is it funny? Hell yes, it's funny. It's demented and incredibly creative and amazing to watch. You can watch the preview online here, and it's also appearing on the SciFi channel July 27 at 10:30 EST (9:30 CST).


DQ reader Ken Andert sent me a fascinating photograph, which you can see below. Here's his description:

I went to the city of Bern [Switzerland] and visited the the Bern Historical Museum, where there is currently a huge exhibition on the life and work of Albert Einstein. In order to give appropriate context to the Einstein artifacts there, the exhibition discusses in detail many historical events that were happening at points in Einstein's life; at one point I found this display on hyperinflation, exactly as you had described it in the blog. Though I'm not sure if pictures were supposed to be allowed, I knew I had to take one and send it to you. So here it is.

The display traces the course of deflation for the German mark, and it's staggering. By November 20, 1923, one trillion marks had the same value as one mark in 1914. And in ONE MONTH (from October 3, 1923, to November 3, 1923) the currency was devalued by a factor of ONE THOUSAND (I hope I said that right).

It took 100 million marks on October 3, 1923 to equal the value of one mark in 1914. On November 3, 1923, it took 100 BILLION.

Just over two weeks later, it took a trillion.

Ken is in QuarkNET and is spending his summer working on the CMS detector at CERN. Not that that's incredibly cool or anything.

Hyperinflation (the picture) Posted by Picasa


I found a scrap of paper today that said "electronical."

Heh. Good times.

A few weeks ago, we were sitting in the living room and heard something outside. It sounded like something fell off the house.

"What was that?" Gloria asked.

"I don't know," I said. "I just hope it wasn't the satellite dish."

Gloria started laughing. I got off the couch and started walking to the back door. As soon as I confirmed it wasn't the satellite dish, I walked back into the house.

"All clear," I said. She starts laughing again.

"Your Daddy," Gloria said to Eli 4.11, "is crazy about his electronical devices."

"Yes," I said. "I'm very systematical about taking care of my electronical devices."

"Just a slip of the tongue," Gloria said.

"Well, sure, and I wouldn't have said anything except you're getting all tauntal," I said.

NCAA 2007 (PSP Version): Stay Away

There is apparently a bug in the PSP version of NCAA 2007 that can only be described as crippling. Thanks to Jesse Leimkuehler for alerting me to this.

As reported in various forums, in the PSP version of a game, the ball is spotted at the point where a runner first makes contact with a defender, NOT where he actually gets tackled.

Here's an example: let's say you're on the 50 yard line. You run the ball wide on a pitch. The first time a defender touches you is at the 45. You break a tackle at the 45 and take it all the way for a touchdown.

Oh, wait--no you didn't. The ball will get spotted at the 45.

Oh, yeah. That's a bug.

IGN actually changed their review as originally posted after discovering that the build they were given for review was not identical to the shipping version. Here's the addition:
With all of these positive tweaks aside, it's that much more dismaying to discover that the running game this year is completely broken. For some reason during a running play, the game will inaccurately spot the ball at the point of initial contact rather than the actual yardage gained, where a player's knee goes down, or where your momentum stops. This can result in random subtractions of yardage. For example, running the ball for an eight yard gain might only be registered as a two yard gain if you were touched shortly after you passed the line of scrimmage. This flaw renders the ground game practically useless, which isn't particularly accurate to the sport, nor is it fair to those schools that rely upon the ground game.

In other words, the PSP version is a coaster. Avoid it at all costs.

If you're wondering why the other versions of the game apparently don't have any crippling bugs--well, we got lucky. The schedule for these annual release games is nightmarish, no one manages it well, and getting a team sports game without a huge bug is the exception instead of the rule.

With the exception of the Winning Eleven series, where quality is obviously a higher priority.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

More E-mail

From DQ reader Wig (who sends very funny e-mails in general):
On Friday morning, a few of us were standing around in the lab, drinking coffee. I turned to Jim, who I know is an avid runner, and asked him:

Me: "So Jim, you run pretty much every day, right?"
Jim: "Yeah, almost every day."
Me: "How do you recover that fast? I can't go more than 3 times a week."
Jim: "Well, I only run about 2 miles each time, so it's not that big of a deal."
Me: "2 Miles! Man, I don't even hit my glide path until after 3!"

Jim: "... glide path?"
Me: "Glide path."
Jim: "cool."

A few hours later, I went to Jim's desk to ask him a question. He was typing furiously.

Me: "Jim, I need to ask you something qui-"
Jim: "WAIT! Give me 5 minutes! I'm in the glide path."
Me: "......"
Jim: "oh yeah, I said glide path."

See, it's catching on already.

Unflinching Triumph

From future Nobel Prize Winner Brian Pilnick comes a link to a documentary film called "Unflinching Triumph." It's one of the greatest pieces of satire I've ever seen, and I don't say that lightly. This is one of those Internet moments where someone comes out of nowhere and makes something absolutely brilliant.

Here's a link to the website and there's a trailer available: Unflinching Triumph.

More NCAA 2007

There are several more excellent, detailed posts over at The Blog for the Sports Gamer. There's also a three-year Dynasty analysis available. Good stuff.

IGN reviewed the 360 version and gave it a 7.5. The rating is wrong and can be safely ignored. The same goes for the 7.0 that 1Up gave the game--I read the review and barely recognized what game he was playing.

I'm waiting for the Fairdale Kings rosters to be available and then I'll start my Dynasty.

Running and Bulls and Laughing

Okay, when I mentioned Pamplona, I absolutely KNEW that at least one of you had run away from the bulls. No matter what I write about, one of you guys always has personal experience.

From DQ reader Andrew Mass:
I was in Pamplona when I was 16 and somehow, under the influence of sleep deprivation and a very pretty Spanish girl, ended up running as fast as I could manage away from the bulls.

When the sun came up and the parties quieted, this girl introduced me to her four brothers, who tied a red sash around my neck and led me to the starting gate. I had some notion of Spanish machismo and just couldn’t see how I might back down, even though I was terrified and had harbored absolutely no intention of participating. Two people had been gored or trampled to death the day before. Needless to say, I made it into the arena, and safety, alive. And I couldn’t stop laughing. I laughed and laughed for probably ten minutes. I may have run away from the bulls, but I can assure you; I was not laughing at the bulls, I was laughing with them.

Shackleton, not Shackleford

Brain damage. My apologies.


We ate lunch Monday at one of Austin's most-loved and longest lasting restaurants.

The food is quite good, and always has been, but the service is just as bad as the food is good. We sat down and waited. And waited. The fellow who wound up being our waiter must have walked right past us at least five times without even a glance.

"What is it about this place?" I asked Gloria. "The waiters here all remind me of Night of the Living Dead. They're doing the zombie shuffle and the thousand yard stare. If this place caught on fire, they'd never make it out alive."

"They do seem sort of lethargic," Gloria said.

"That's redundant when you're talking about zombies," I said. "Lethargic is implied."

When we did finally order, Gloria ordered a Caesar salad. With shrimp.

"You ordered shrimp?"

"I did," Gloria said.


"Yes, I believe I'm here," she said.

"You've gone all Shackleford on me," I said.


"Led a doomed expedition to the Antarctic. He survived, but only after a terrible ordeal. Just like you and that salad."

Final verdict on the salad: "not very good."

I was in the lobby after we ate, waiting for the team bathroom visit to finish, and I heard a woman hollering at her son: "Come ON, Montana! We're going to the car!"

What is that? Why in the world does someone name their child after a state? I'm just waiting to hear someone yell "Rhode Island, get your ass over here!" And is this strictly an American phenomenon? Does anyone in England name their child "Staffordshire" or "West Sussex?"

Probably due to the Montana incident, I was about 1400 yards into a swim yesterday when I had this sudden and uplifting revelation: if Tennessee and Kentucky were forced to merge, the new state would be called Tennesucky.

That's why I swim. Mental clarity.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

You Are Correct, Sir

Yes, "newbies" does rhyme with "boobies." Thank you for those e-mails.

NCAA 2007 Impressions (Xbox 360)

Well, it's that time of year again, the time when I play the yearly EA football games, then tell you not to waste your money. NCAA was a mess last year. Madden was worse, particularly on the 360, where it was a disaster. Head Coach got torn up so bad I didn't even bother.

I've been accused of having an anti-EA bias. No, I don't. I have a bias against shitty games.

Seriously, when was the last time EA Sports had a truly outstanding team sports game? I'm drawing a blank.

So after playing the 360 version of NCAA 2007 for about ten hours, believe me when I say this: it's a pretty damn good game.

Hey, I'm just as shocked as you are.

That's the short version, and if you want to skip the detail, just know that the 360 version is worth the money, and I don't mean barely worth the money.

By the way, if you want impressions of the Xbox version, head over to the grumpy old men over at The Blog for the Sportsgamer.

I've written many times that no graphics-based sports games ever really get completed. They get shipped every year, but they never get finished. And every excellent sports game I've ever played has involved compromise--there will always be problems, and you do your best to navigate around them. One of the biggest reasons NFL2K5 was such a superb game was that when things were broken, you could generally turn the option off or use sliders to make adjustments.

And on the face of it, NCAA 2007 is missing a ton of features I want in a game. Features like:
--accelerated clock
--sim to end (and a jump-in feature as well)
--in-game saves
--multiple camera angles (there is ONE freaking camera angle in the 360 version)
--ability to watch a CPU vs. CPU game (somebody find the stoned employee who took out this feature, and thanks for screwing us on slider development)

Plus the 360 version is missing features that are in the Xbox version. Features like:
--S.I. magazine covers (which, strangely, is a feature I've always loved)
--the new spring game
--spring drills
--campus legend mode

I'm sure that's not it, but who the hell really cares? Like I said, the Sportsgamer guys are all over the Xbox version.

So what does the 360 version do right and why does it stand out from previous versions? Here's a list:
--a well-designed and flexible playcalling interface. This includes a "window" approach where you can see replays or game information while you call a play.
--greatly expanded playbooks. There are HUGE numbers of plays now.
--blocking on screens and draws is much better this year. Screens, in particular, are all kinds of fun now.
--there are a sizable number of new animations. It's not all-new (ignore that b.s. about the 360 version being build "from the ground up"), but the new animations represent a significant improvement)
--sliders actually seem to change behavior this year, sometimes radically.
--while it's ridiculous that there is only one camera (totally ridiculous), it is extremely well-placed and is very playable (for me, at least).
--blocked kicks. FINALLY!
--the stadiums are phenomenal. Truly phenomenal. If you don't think that matters, just wait until you're looking at what you think is a still photograph, then the camera begins to move forward and you realize you've been looking at a screenshot of the stadium as rendered by the game engine.
--the crowd looks so much more realistic. Again, if you don't think that matters, wait until you see it--there's a huge difference in the immersion level.
--here's another one for the immersion factor: post-play celebrations have been added this year that are entirely appropriate and realistic. They're not excessive, they're not too frequent, and they're not overdone in any way. Again, that might not sound important, but they look real, and anything that looks real is important.
--wide receivers no longer have hands of stone.
--player stats in Dynasty mode are significantly improved. No, they're not perfect, but they're a big step up from last year.

Sometimes games have a bunch of positive one-offs, but never overcome their flaws. Well, the game certainly has its flaws. Here's what I've seen so far:

--sometimes players "skate" along. This has always been a problem with EA football games, and it's still there.
--tackling animations are still well behind NFL2K5 in quality, and the animation in general, while significantly improved, is still behind as well.
--the transition from the "walking to the scrimmage" shot and the actual playable game view is jerky at times.
--Time-out usage is spotty. I've seen some very questionable decisions.
--penalties are still called sporadically and bear no resemblance to real football (tip: turn all the penalty sliders up to 100 except defensive pass interference, which should be set at 60. That helps a bit, anyway.)
--the announcers were great the first year they used them. With each passing year, and each new lame comment by Lee Corso, they get more grating.
--the sound effect of the ball dropping to the turf is absolutely horrific. It's too loud and sounds like something dropped on a wood floor. When you hear that thirty times a game, it's really pretty annoying.
--There are too many visual distractions that remind me it's not real football. I don't want the team name to flash on the scoreboard ticker because they're gaining momentum. I don't want the play-clock to flash when I'm below ten seconds. I don't want to see a star at the feet of star players. Let me turn all that crap off, please.
--Also, the damn scoreboard ticker is too bright. Come on, it's a basic option to let me make any onscreen overlays more transparent.
--there's an analog kicking meter (hooray), but they've butchered it (oh hell). The right analog stick maps to a kicking meter. Damn it, you guys, the whole point of having an analog stick is that it's NOT a meter. When the kicker starts to swing his leg back, we need to move the analog stick back, and when he starts to move it forward, we need to do the same. You've already got the code in the Tiger Woods game--just adapt it.

I actually have far more objections to things they left out (already listed above), particularly display options, than to anything that's actually in the game. It's very solid, and I am very impressed after ten hours. At this point, it's the best version of NCAA Football that I've ever played.

Here are a few general notes if you're interested.
--Heisman level is challenging but fair. It's definitely the preferred difficulty level this year.
--there is no ESPN highlight package. Arghh.
--pressing "A" after calling a play takes you directly to the line of scrimmage. This can be a problem for online games (a big problem), but it streamlines the game if you're offline.
--depending on how long it takes you to call plays, 7 or 8 minute quarters are a good place to start if you're looking for 120 plays a game. Again, it will depend on how long it takes you to call plays and how often you use the "A" button.
--there seem to be too many broken tackles on default Heisman level, at least for me. I increased tackling ability from 50 to 65 that and made a significant difference.

I'll be working on a Heisman slider set. Since EA took out the CPU vs. CPU option, though, it's going to be much, much difficult and far less objective than it was in previous years. What I'll be trying to do is increase defensive ability to make games more balanced (NCAA has always tilted toward offense). I should have some preliminary settings by early next week.

The XXX Factor

DQ reader Ross Paton sent an interesting e-mail to me this week, and in it he discussed the X factor in the HD-DVD vs. Blu-Ray format war.

Well, the XXX factor, anyway.

It has long been argued that the reason VHS won out over the superior picture quality of Betamax was because the adult film industry adopted VHS as their format of choice.

There's a long discussion to be had about porn driving all kinds of technology, but many people have already written about that. But the basic reasoning is that people who want to see "adult entertainment" will basically pay any price for easier/better access, so they become a dream market for new technologies.

Will that matter this time? It's possible that digital delivery has already transcended any physical storage medium, but it's reasonable to believe that it will still be a factor. And it would be interesting to find out if the adult film industry is being courted by either format.

At this point, there are a few thousand bad joke opportunities with "courting" of the adult film industry, but I'll leave those to you. Here are a list of ideal words to use for rhyming purposes: rock, sock, knock, angina, and anything that rhymes with "boobies."

Ross also wanted to clarify that while he thinks porn may well drive the format war, he is not personally an early adopter of same.

Maintenance Man

I called Gloria in Shreveport on Friday.

We swapped keyrings because I didn't have a key to her car, and she takes mine on road trips.

"I have a few questions," I said.

"Go ahead."

"First off, what is up with this keyring? How many keys can you jam onto this thing?"

"I need all those," she said.

"Why? What are you--a jailer?"

"There aren't that many."

"And they're huge," I said. "Did Fischer-Price opened up a hardware store called My First Key?"

"How are the plants doing?" she asked, cleverly Tivoing the conversation through the key segment.

"About the plants," I said. "Taking care of them is more complicated than I thought."

"Complicated? All you have to do is water them."

"Well, the whole 'watering' concept is kind of a dark art, isn't it? I have no idea how you look at a plant and tell how much water it needs. Do you use a pentagram? Is there some kind of ritual involved?"

"Good grief," she said.

"I have a question about the pink flowery plants on top of the thing on the deck," I said. "I watered them, but one suddenly popped up four or five inches in its pot after I gave it a good soaking."

"That's because those are dried," she said.

"Good, because that whole popping thing looked entirely unnatural. I was going to recommend you get rid of that one."

A dark art, I tell you.

Monday, July 17, 2006

NCAA 2007 Answer

Thanks to DQ reader Loren Halek, I now know how to get that button bar to go away. Just remap one of the pre-snap buttons that's listed in either the offensive or defense bar. I'm guessing that the program must then realize that the bar is inaccurate and no longer displays it.

Kind of a funky and roundabout solution, but as long as it's a solution, I don't care. It's a big improvement visually.

NCAA 2007 Question

Okay, for any of you guys who snagged the 360 version early, I've got a question. Pre-snap, there's a "button bar" that extends across the screen, letting you know which buttons map to pre-snap adjustments. I want to turn the damn thing off, and people are claiming you can, but I've been unsuccessful. The only display option I can see that might apply is the "help ticker" (on/off) option, but changing that doesn't seem to do anything.

If any of you have managed to turn it off, please let me know how. Thanks.

Just Hand Me a Broom and I'll Start Sweeping the Stables

I rented NCAA 2007 at Blockbuster on Saturday afternoon.

The end of the story, though, is the least interesting part.

You're already aware of the three million car pile-up on Interstate 35 Thursday morning that prevented me from driving to Waco (90 miles away) to get the game. It was the only time in recorded history (that I can remember) that the Interstate was totally shut down in one direction for over five hours.

Here's what DQ reader Dennis e-mailed me:
You know, you CAUSED that wreck.

That was certainly a working theory.

Then, Austin DQ reader JT e-mailed and said he was driving to Waco to get the game. And he did, just in time to have them pull it from the shelves thirty minutes before he got there.

I have no doubt in my mind that if he hadn't e-mailed me, he would have been able to purchase the game with no problem.

So I resigned myself to waiting until Tuesday. Until Friday night, anyway. That's when, after seeing a post on the OS forums that someone had purchased the game at a South Austin Wal-Mart, I decided that since it was 10 p.m. and I should be going to bed, it was the perfect time to drive across town and buy a stupid video game.

Only a twenty-minute drive that time of night, if you know which access road goes to the store. Which I didn't.

I finally got there and they are selling the game--selling it so well, in fact, that the 360 version is sold out. As Eli 4.11 would say--touche.

If you're wondering why I so desperately want to play a game that I slag two years out of three, I can't answer that question, except to say that I love football and the NCAA series has been EA's "best" team-based franchise. And forum posts that breathlessly talk about people getting the game early have a cumulative effect on my desire.

On the way back from my futile Wal-Mart trip, I decided to (cue ominous organ music) take the Interstate. Come on, it was 10:30 on Friday night--no traffic jams.

Except, of course, that I was there.

Stopped dead. Again. Gloria calls me on my cell phone and I chat for a while because it's not like I'm driving or anything. Then we start crawling along and I narrate what I'm seeing: "I see police cars--four of them--lights flashing--I see foam--lots and lots of foam--like insulation--still getting closer--more foam--and there's a mattress husk--a mattress has exploded--and there's a car that's wrecked--the car has wire wrapped around it's back-right tire--I think it's the springs from the mattress--I'm glad you're not a mattress because this would all be too horrible for you to hear."

Gridlock. Foam. Exploding mattresses. Cars confounded by bedsprings. If circus monkeys had jumped on my car and demanded bananas as a toll, I wouldn't have been surprised.

I finally got home at 11:30, and all in all, it was a really satisfying trip. Except, of course, for the trip itself, which was a disaster.

Hello, Saturday.

There was no way I was going anywhere to look for the game today. I'm out. I figured if I kept doing this I'd eventually be causing actual fatalities. Then, of course, someone posts that a Blockbuster in Round Rock is renting the game, and we only have twenty-four in Austin and the surrounding areas, and damned if I don't start calling them. And a Blockbuster ten minutes away from my house is renting the game.

In car. Driving. Waiting for four spontaneous blowouts. Keeping an eye peeled for snipers. I call JT to let him know, since he lives in Round Rock and this Blockbuster is roughly halfway between us. He says he's in.

The area around the Blockbuster is choking with traffic. It's unbelievable. I finally get into the parking lot, go into the store, and don't see the game anywhere on the shelves.

Obviously, I expect this.

What I don't expect is that the lady actually does have the game behind the counter, and as I'm renting a copy JT walks in and we actually meet in person for the first time (really nice guy). I leave the store with the rental case firmly in hand.

Don't get overconfident.

Halfway home, my cell phone rings and it's JT. "Hey, check inside the case," he says. "They found a disc in the wrong case." So I do, and much to no one's surprise--it's the Xbox version.

Back to the store. At least they do have the 360 version, and the disc gets swapped out. I drive home, I see no fatalities or pileups or snipers. That doesn't mean they weren't there, but I didn't see them.

I pop the disc into the 360, expecting the console to spontaneously combust, and when I see the title screen, it officially ends fifty-five hours of madness.

Impressions tomorrow.

On Hands And What's On Them

E, who writes a wonderful blog called Star Spangled Haggis, has termed me into a germophile.

Wait, that's not right. That would mean I have an expansive appreciation of germs. I'm not buying new germ hardware like a videophile would buy the latest plasma screen.

Germophobic. That's what I mean. Except that's not a word. Don't ask me why.

"Mysophobic" is the word I'm looking for, even though I'm not in the least afraid of Mysos.

Anyway, I'm about a hundred times more conscious about germs than I used to be. So we're all in the doctor's office today (minor Eli appointment) and for some reason we go off on a tangent (big surprise) and start talking about germs. The doctor said that he had read a study that indicated over 98% of the bacteria on our hands were under our fingernails.

So if you fear catching a disease from someone (cue Howard Hughes watching Ice Station Zebra in a darkened room), wash thoroughly under your fingernails.

Thus concludes today's health bulletin.


All kinds of links for your reading pleasure.

First, from Sirius, a link to an article about how spiders "fly." Here's an excerpt:
When a spider wants to travel long distances, it simply casts out a strand of silk, captures the breeze and "flies" away. They are known to travel hundreds of miles, even ending up on islands in the middle of the ocean.

Now scientists have figured out how this mode of transportation works.

Very interesting read, and here's the link.

Here's a story about finches evolving--on Galapagos Island.
WASHINGTON (AP) - Finches on the Galapagos Islands that inspired Charles Darwin to develop the concept of evolution are now helping confirm it - by evolving.

A medium sized species of Darwin's finch has evolved a smaller beak to take advantage of different seeds just two decades after the arrival of a larger rival for its original food source.

Here's the link.

This is one of the most astonishing, spectacular pictures of the sun that you'll ever see:

Here's an article on mortality rates for the T-Rex:
A major midlife crisis came early for dinosaurs in the tyrannosaur family, as new research suggests many of the giant beasts died just as they reached their sexual prime.

Like modern long-living birds and mammals, Tyrannosaurus rex and other tyrannosaur species experienced high mortality rates as infants and young adults, with just a choice few surviving to maturity.

It's a fascinating read, and here's the link.

Francis Cermak sent in a link to a funny story about "Guitar Hero parties." You can read it here.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Cases, Bulls, and Ice Cream

I was on my way to Fry's to covet some new hardware (I'm getting the Antec P180 case but they were out of stock) and NPR had a story about Pamplona.

Running with the bulls, don't you know.

It was a long story, and they must have used the phrase "running with the bulls" about twenty times. Look, you people aren't running with the bulls--you're running away from the bulls.

Accuracy often drains glory. You wouldn't turn to your buddy and say "Hey, let's fly to Spain, go to Pamplona, and run away from the bulls!"

Popular Science, which is not related to running away from the bulls at Pamplona in any way, seems to have a continuing fascination with making ice cream quickly. Liquid nitrogen, sure, but this month they've found a new way, and all you need is a fire extinguisher and a pillow. Here's an excerpt:
...Discharge a 10-pound CO2 fire extinguisher full blast into a pillowcase for about 10 seconds, and you'll have several pounds of finely powdered dry ice. (Don't play with it, though. Dry ice can give you frostbite in a few seconds).

Then you just fold it slowly into the ingredients and keep stirring until frozen. Here's another excerpt:
So is it edible? Because they're intended to be used in restaurant kitchens, CO2 fire extinguishers are usually filled with food-grade CO2. (Do not try this with a dry-chemical fire extinguishers).

Insane. And the ice cream is actually carbonated, believe it or not. If you want more details, then pick up the August issue at your local newsstand--its not on their website yet. They did say that it won't be replacing regular ice cream anytime soon, unlike their liquid nitrogen experiment, which supposedly produced the best ice cream they'd ever tasted.

Friday Links

Lots of links to ruin your productivity. Thanks to Sirius for most of these--a one-person link machine.

First off: mammoths with different hair colors.
Museum dioramas typically portray mammoths as having shaggy brown coats, but some of the hairy beasts might have been blonde, raven-haired or red-bodied in real life, thanks to a gene that controls hair color in humans and other mammals.

By examining DNA extracted from a mammoth bone frozen in Siberian permafrost and comparing it with sequences from other mammoth remains, researchers have concluded that the wooly creatures probably carried two versions of Mc1r, a gene whose protein product helps determine hair color in several mammals, including humans, mice, horses and dogs.

Eli 4.11 was blown away that there might have been blonde mammoths. Here's the link.

Here's a link to, well, this:
Gensou Hyouhon Hakubutsukan (”Museum of Fantastic Specimens”) is an online collection of creatures “curated” by Hajime Emoto. The three-story virtual museum consists of 9 rooms chock full of water- and land-dwelling monstrosities from all corners of the globe. Each specimen has a clickable thumbnail that links to additional photos and historical and background information (in Japanese). The basement contains a bookshop and a cafeteria serving dishes prepared with some of the beasts featured in the museum (such as umiushi sashimi, served fresh from the tank and wriggling on your plate, with a balsamic vinegar sauce).

All of the creatures showcased in the museum are sculpted from paper, modeling paste and bamboo and are completely imaginary, claims Emoto — perhaps a disappointment for hunters of the legendary tsuchinoko (center-right in the photo above) in search of an actual specimen, but an amazing collection of critters nonetheless.

The detail in these figures is amazing, and it's also amazing how realistic they seem. Very fun, and here's the link.

There's a fascinating article over at Wired titled "What Kind of Genius Are You?" Here's an excerpt:
What he has found is that genius – whether in art or architecture or even business – is not the sole province of 17-year-old Picassos and 22-year-old Andreessens. Instead, it comes in two very different forms, embodied by two very different types of people. “Conceptual innovators,” as Galenson calls them, make bold, dramatic leaps in their disciplines. They do their breakthrough work when they are young. Think Edvard Munch, Herman Melville, and Orson Welles. They make the rest of us feel like also-rans. Then there’s a second character type, someone who’s just as significant but trudging by comparison. Galenson calls this group “experimental innovators.” Geniuses like Auguste Rodin, Mark Twain, and Alfred Hitchcock proceed by a lifetime of trial and error and thus do their important work much later in their careers. Galenson maintains that this duality – conceptualists are from Mars, experimentalists are from Venus – is the core of the creative process. And it applies to virtually every field of intellectual endeavor, from painters and poets to economists.

It's a fascinating article, and you can find it here.

Here's an article that's subtitled "A microbiologist discovers our planet is hard-wired with electricity-producing bacteria." Here's an excerpt:
RICHLAND, Wash. – When Yuri Gorby discovered that a microbe which transforms toxic metals can sprout tiny electrically conductive wires from its cell membrane, he reasoned this anatomical oddity and its metal-changing physiology must be related.

A colleague who had heard Gorby’s presentation at a scientific meeting later reported that he, too, was able to coax nanowires from another so-called metal-reducing bacteria species and further suggested the wires, called pili, could be used to bioengineer electrical devices.

It now turns out that not only are the wires and their ability to alter metal connected—but that many other bacteria, including species involved in fermentation and photosynthesis, can also form wires under a variety of environmental conditions.

The full article is here.

Here's a link to "Strange and Unusual Vehicles," including prototypes. There are some amazing looking vehicles, and here's the link.

Here's a link to an article about both fanged kangaroos and the 'demon duck of doom'--both from Australia, naturally. The picture of the fanged kangaroo skull (formerly meat eaters, believe it or not) is fantastic. Here's the link (thanks Rob Clendenin).

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