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May 31, 2006

State of the Union visualizer

screenshot from the state of the world visualizer

Brad Borevitz's State of the Union visualizer lets you browse through every US presidential State of the Union addresses from 1790 all the way up to the present. For each address common words are displayed with the size showing how many times they were used in the speech and the height on the graph showing the word's significance as compared to other speeches. The visualizer also tracks speech length (Jimmy Carter had a lot on his mind in 1981) and grade-level of each address.

Posted by Chris Spurgeon at 10:24 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 30, 2006

Why is it so hard to fool your sense of taste?

There's a really interesting discussion on the mindhacks blog around fooling your senses. It's super easy to fool our senses of vision (there's a great blog devoted to visual illusions), hearing and touch. But what about fooling our sense of taste/smell? Why aren't there lots of well know ways to trick our tongues and noses? It turns out there are such illusions, but not many of them. And there are some basic reasons that they're so rare.

(By the way, if you want to spend a weekend repeatedly going "Whoa! That is so cool!" pick up a copy of Mind Hacks by Tom Stafford and Matt Webb).

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Posted by Chris Spurgeon at 10:18 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 28, 2006

Spare a moment for gapingvoid

gapingvoid image

gapingvoid features the (approximately) daily drawings of Hugh MacLeod, a web guy who lives near the England/Scotland border. Macleod draws cartoons on the backs of business cards. They're often about the 'net/blogging/web world, but they are also often about life in general or are just random doodlings. They're well worth a few seconds of your time. And if you print one out and put it up in your cubicle, think how much cooler you'll be than all of those Dilbert clippers.

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Posted by Chris Spurgeon at 05:37 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 26, 2006

Jim Woodring drawing blog

Jim Woodring painting

I'm a long-time fan of artist Jim Woodring, creator of strange, haunting cartoon images. So I was delighted to discover that Woodring has started an image blog. It's called The Woodring Monitor. Check it out!

Posted by Chris Spurgeon at 07:11 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 25, 2006

How to get 10,000 strangers to draw you a sheep

image from sheepmachine

The Sheep Market is one of the more interesting online art projects of recent months. Strangers were each paid two cents to draw a cartoon of a sheep. It took only 40 days to come up with...wait for it...TEN THOUSAND sheep.

The Sheep Market made use of a fascinating service from Amazon called The Mechanical Turk. It hooks up people who have a lot of tasks that are hard or impossible for computers but really easy for humans (things like "Is there a foreign car in this photo?") with people willing to perform those tasks.

Posted by Chris Spurgeon at 09:15 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 19, 2006

"The Ten Commandments" as a teen comedy

10 Things I Hate About Commandments still image

If you read Boing Boing then you've already seen this, but if not immediately stop whatever you're doing and watch this amazing video mash-up... it started out as the trailer for "The Ten Commandments", but now it's the trailer for the latest teen comedy. Hilarious!

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Posted by Chris Spurgeon at 09:39 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 18, 2006

Coming soon to airport near you...blimps!

photo of a dirigible over New York City in 1931

I am *so* ready to travel in style. And I may just get my chance, if Ethan Stock is right. He has an essay laying out how the rise in oil prices and drop in airline passenger satisfaction makes the time right for a return of commercial dirigables. Instead of 10 hours of cramped airliner misery to get from LA to London, why not spend a full 24 hours on a dirigible, cruising along in high style...great food, fine wine, full net access of course, total comfort. Sign me up!

Posted by Chris Spurgeon at 09:31 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 17, 2006

Make the earth a sandwich!

image from Make The World A Sandwich

The always hilarious zefrank had a great bit on his daily video screed yesterday, which he's calling "If the Earth were a sandwich". The idea is simple... get a photograph of a slice of bread lying on the ground, and another photograph of another slice of bread lying on the ground on the exact opposite point on the earth (that's technically known as the antipode). At that instant, we will have turned the entire earth into a sandwich. Brilliant!

Check out zefrank explaining the whole thing. He also has an easy to use tool that lets you figure out what point is on the other side of the earth.

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Posted by Chris Spurgeon at 06:28 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 15, 2006

Save the 76 ball!

Kim Cooper photo from the L.A. Times

Kim Cooper (pictured above) is my newest hero. She's waging a one-woman crusade to get ConocoPhillips to stop their plan to get rid of the bright orange "meatball" signs that adorn 76 gas stations throughout the west. Her blog, www.savethe76ball.com has the full skinny on the balls, and the latest ones to be yanked down. There was also a good article about Cooper and the ball controversy in Sunday's Los Angeles Times.

Advertising and other roadside ephemera is, for good or ill, a big part of the Southern California landscape. We should be preserving and celebrating things like the 76 signs in the same way that towns in Mississippi preserve plantation homes.

And everyone should read Learning from Las Vegas by Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown, a great defense of silly looking iconic structures.

Posted by Chris Spurgeon at 08:14 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 10, 2006

Google Trends launches

google trends logo

Google labs have rolled out their latest invention, Google Trends, and it's completely addictive. Enter one or more search terms and get back charts showing how often Google's performed searches for those terms, where the search was most popular, all sorts of cool stuff. For example, here's the Google Trends report for the search term podcasts

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Posted by Chris Spurgeon at 10:17 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Ten Commandments of Egoless Programming

Ten Commandments image

The Coding Horror blog has a wonderful little piece, "The Ten Commandments of Egoless Programming". For example:

7. The only true authority stems from knowledge, not from position. Knowledge engenders authority, and authority engenders respect—so if you want respect in an egoless environment, cultivate knowledge.

The commandments are great advice for any programmer. Or for that matter, any human being.

Posted by Chris Spurgeon at 09:28 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 08, 2006

Skip the show, watch the commercials

screenshot of TiVO

TiVo has begun rolling out a new "feature" called Product Watch that automatically downloads paid advertisements to your TiVo box. According to engadget, more than 70 companies have cut deals with TiVo to send their ads to TiVo boxes...everything from 60 second spots to hour-long infomercials. TiVo owners will be able to filter ads based on brand, interest, and ad length. There's a press release with details on the TiVo website.

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Posted by Chris Spurgeon at 04:47 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The world's most advanced soccer ball

addidas soccer ball

Every four years, the World Cup rolls around, and every four years one of the big sports companies gets the honor of providing the offical balls for the competition. Adidas got the nod this year, and they've cranked out perhaps the most advanced football in the history of the sport. It's called the Teamgeist, and one will set you back a cool $130 US. According to their web blurb, it's the roundest ball ever.

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Posted by Chris Spurgeon at 04:17 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 05, 2006

Government by wiki

If the wiki idea works for compiling the world's knowledge, why not give it a shot for government? That's the idea behind wikocracy, a wiki site that lets you modify federal laws...Roe v. Wade, the PATRIOT Act, The Digital Millennium Copyright Act, even the Constitution. For instance, here's the Second Amendment, as crafted by the wikocracy community:

No person who has been unanimously judged by a jury of his peers to suffer from serious mental illness may own a firearm of any nature, nor can those convicted of any violent crime in any jurisdiction whether within or without the United States of America. Citizens may possess any type of firearm including but not limited to pistols, assault rifes and machine guns. The possession by any entity within the United States of Chemical or Biological weaponry is prohibited by this amendment. The United States military shall not have the power to possess any weaponry which its citizens do not themselves have the power to possess, particularly nuclear or radiologial weaponry. Congress shall have the right to increase, reduce or eliminate the stock of such weapons as it sees fit through appropriate legislation and the ratification of international conventions. Citizens may not possess weapons of mass destruction, except those with substantial nonweapon uses, including but not limited to airplanes.

Posted by Chris Spurgeon at 09:26 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 04, 2006

Mount St. Helens grows 'fin'

USGS photo of fin forming in Mt. Saint Helens

Mount St. Helens continues to be showing all sorts of crazy cool volcanic activity. Right now, there's a fin-shaped slab of rock the size of a football field rising vertically inside of the crater. The slab rises about four or five feet a day. The slab's been holding steady at about a hundred meters tall, since the top tends to crumble away at about the same rate that it rises.

The overall lava dome within the caldera has been pushing outward at a rate of about a meter a day.

The local TV station website has more images of the fin. The US Forest Service has a live webcam trained on Mt. Saint Helens.

Posted by Chris Spurgeon at 10:09 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 03, 2006

The city of Galvez

image of Galvez

Want to make a fast trip to another world? Check out artist Oscar Guzmán's creation, The City of Galvez. Guzmán has created a hauntingly beautiful cityscape...manipulated photographic images that look beautiful, creepy, realistic and otherworldly, all at once.

Posted by Chris Spurgeon at 04:17 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Hilarious "Shave Everywhere" online campaign

shaveeverywhere.com screenshot

Phillips/Norelco has rolled out a hilarious website called "Shave Everywhere" touting the advantages of their "Bodygroom" electronic razor, designed for shaving underarm, back and (gulp) genital hair.

A smarmy guy in a bathrobe touts the product's advantages (everything from less body odor to an "extra optical inch"). There's even a dead-on music video.

(It may or may not be safe for workplace viewing, depending on how uptight your workplace is, and it requires Flash 8).

Posted by Chris Spurgeon at 08:21 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack