lol cats

Somehow some people don’t know what lol cats are. I tried explaining, but I got all caught up in the the evolution from the first lol cat I ever saw, Invisible Bike, to the most recent one to actually make me laugh, It Are My Birthday.

Now, not only is there the requisite stupid cat photo, but also the font and, most perplexing, the grammar. I tried to explain it as something like “You know, if a cat could talk in an attempt to explain the odd position/situation it has been caught in by a camera, wouldn’t its grammar be a little weird? I mean, not every cat gets photographed and then ridiculed for looking so damned silly. So their vocabulary will likely be limited.”

Like this one:

On icanhascheezburger.com.

How to get HD content for your Apple TV

Last week I eagerly tore into my new Apple TV and started using it. It is the now main component of my entertainment center, especially since I can’t have both a DVD player and the Apple TV connected at the same time. I rip DVDs using my Dual 2ghz G5 and then stream them over the wireless G.

Other than that, I’ve been getting all of my entertainment from either the iTunes store or from podcasts. NBC Nightly News and CBS provide a light overview of the day’s events, I watch 1 or 2 episodes of the TED and CoolHunting (fascinating!) podcasts, and sprinkle in a few cartoons and animations, plus shorts from PBS, Discovery, National Geographic, and a handful of amateur science podcasts.

As for paid programming, The Daily Show and Colbert are daily requirements, and then Heroes, Lost, and BSG when they’re available. I still haven’t purchased a single movie from the iTunes store and likely won’t until they either make the pricing more reasonable or come up with a rental scheme since I usually only watch most movies once, I can’t justify paying $10 for a low quality, stripped down version of a similarly priced DVD!

I have the HD capable, widescreen TV, the Apple TV, the HDMI cable to get them talking to each other, the surround sound. So what’s missing? There’s no freaking HD content! Even the Apple movie trailers are in a grotesquely compressed, low res format.

Yeah, shocking. So I have done the legwork and pulled together a list of resources for getting a little 720p action from your new honey. If you’re able to find something I haven’t listed here, let me know and I’ll update this post.

BBC in HD
http://www.bbcmotiongallery.com/Customer/index.aspx
They’ve got some great, free content over there in QT format.

Technology Evangelist
http://www.technologyevangelist.com/feeds.html
Fun tech geekery in glorious 720p. It’s a podcast!

MariposaHD
http://www.mariposahd.tv/
The world’s first HD internet TV show. Chicks in bikinis. Site may not be wholly SFW.

ItalyGuides.it
http://www.italyguides.it/us/roma/download_audioguide/podcast/hd_apple_tv.htm
These guys are marketing directly to you, you AppleTV owner you.

TrailerCast HD 720p
http://phobos.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewPodcast?id=213245269
HD movie trailers! This is a direct link to the podcast in the iTunes store.

Tecnocato
http://www.tecnocato.com/
They’re now producing an HD podcast.

That’s enough to get you going. There are a couple more on similar subjects that I haven’t listed here because I couldn’t find a link to their website, but just do a search in the iTunes store for 720p and you’ll find them.

EDIT

Reader Contributions:

Nasa in HD
http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/videogallery/hd_index.html

My tv Setup Experience

Until today I was using a Mac Mini for my home theater needs. But yesterday, as I read the blogs, saw the unboxing galleries, watched the dissection…I sent an emergency text message to my wife: “If I sell the Mini can we get an tv?”

Of course, her first reaction was, “What the hell is a ~68;acute-box.tv?” Ah, she doesn’t have the font installed on her windows machine at work.

“Well, baby, love…It’s this thing that’s sort of like an iPod for your iTunes video content! Isn’t that great?” I eagerly replied.

“But I just started school and money’s tight…besides, I thought you already had a ‘video iPod’…” was her response.

Huh…well, yeah I do, but it’s really an “iPod with video, noob”. This has HDMI. Component video. Settings. I ostentate. I must have it.

Finding my composure, I roll out “But on craigslist.org I see Minis going for $350 to $550. We’ll be up at least $50…see?”

“Oh, ok. Whatever. As long as you sell it first,” she cunningly added.

So I put it on craigslist. With a wireless keyboard and mouse, and EyeTV 500, and an $80 DVI video cable, I pulled $500 within a day. Granted I picked up the tv from the Bellevue Apple Store about 6 hours prior to finalizing the sale, but it was a sure thing.

I arrived home and sprinted toward the entertainment center and unboxed the little sucker. Now, while I think Apple does a great job with their packaging (I saved the packaging for the mini and delivered it to the purchaser with all the original inserts, including the stickers and in the Apple Store bag my tv came in), I couldn’t bear to bore you with another set of those pictures – I was eager for only one part of the experience: Settings.

My first disappointed realization was that there was no mini jack for sound output. I would have to bring out the bug ugly speakers with the RCA inputs and put away the sleek and small computer speakers I had been using. Fine. They sound better anyway even if they do look like a Frank Ghery architectural throw-away.

AppleTV Resolution SettingsMy second disappointment was the discovery during the setup phase that the tv does not support my 30″ Dell LCD that I use as a living room TV. 1080i, no. 720p, no. 480p (shudder), no. The odd 576p, 50hz? Yes. Huh? Ok.

My third disappointment: nowhere, and I mean nowhere in the documentation, the settings, the packaging, casing, does it tell me what the MAC address is. I use MAC address filtering on my network to block unknown network device access. I had to disable MAC address filtering and rely solely on 128 bit WEP.

AppleTV Virtual KeyboardAnd then, the big, big disappointment: the virtual keyboard for typing in your WEP key. If you’ve ever used a Sony PSP, you’re familiar with what a hassle that sucker is to configure with its virtual keyboard. Well, this one’s worse.

Four lines, first line CAPITAL letters. Second line lower case letters. Third line numbers and symbols. Fourth: more symbols. I had to enter the name of my network (it’s also not broadcasting its SSID) every time the connection would fail. Then I had to re-type the WEP key. After 3 tries I dropped to 40 bit encryption.

Success! But I come to the sad realization (yes, allow) that this thing is geared toward people who don’t secure their wireless. It’s picking up all of my neighbors’ networks, and if mine were unsecured I’d just select it and be done! And, yes, wireless security is closely related to the Iron Maiden, but is that now just the excuse? “Hey, we can’t make you secure and simple! We’ll do either-or. How’s that? An offer you can’t refuse?”

First thing it has you do is couple the tv with an iTunes installation on your local network. “Go to the computer where iTunes is installed and click on your Apple TV. It will ask you for a key. Type this one in:” I’m paraphrasing.

Run upstairs, connect the external hard disk and change the location of my iTunes music folder to the external (which had previously been attached to the Mini). It takes a while to update the new iTunes Library.

When done, I rush back downstairs and there it is! My shared library. It took some work, but I finally figured out how to not sync anything from my G5 upstairs with a 640GB RAID array to the 32GB (available) tv. But once I’ve got it, the thing works beautifully. Far better than the Mini ever did. Video is smooth, joltless. Switching between iTunes libraries is seamless.

I run through all of the settings, sweet, sweet settings and discover that the tv has settled on a 1280 x 800 resolution for my 30″ monitor, something that wasn’t available when it was asking me to choose a resolution. The MAC address is available under the “About” menu option so I can turn on MAC address filtering again.

Finding the logic between Synching and Streaming is a bit of a challenge. You only have about 33G to work with for storage since the rest is taken up by the OS. Every iTunes installation that you’re tuning ito is caled a “Source” so you don’t have a central spot to look at everything available. You have to switch to each source and then browse its content.

Overall, I really like this thing. I’d hate to buy one for my mother and her brand new 42″ plasma tv. She’s 1000 miles away and once sent me an email: “Hi tonyboy. this is your mother see im on the computer and sending you mail. does this make you happy?” The one and only email I’ve ever received.

This thing would be a nightmare for her. The networking is still as complicated as anything else (only now you have to do it with a virtual keyboard), and the concept of conecting to media servers is only slightly obfuscated with this interface. My mother would never get it.

You can see pics over here —-> PICS

And a video here —————> YouTube

Seattle Clearwire

I’m never moving from this spot. This spot being directly in front of my monitor, which is directly in front of my new Clearwire modem. We’ve been living here for almost a month and a half with no internet. So today I signed up with Clearwire wireless broadband for $19.99 a month.

They advertise it as 1.5 mbit down and 256 kbit up, so I tested it against Speakeasy’s bandwidth measuring tool and, hey, it is exactly as advertised. Somehow it feels a bit snappier than stuff I’ve used in the past which was way faster.

The setup was the easiest I’ve ever done. Step 1) Take it out of the box and plug it into your computer. Step 2) Turn it on. No passwords, no admin panel, no configuration whatsoever.

If it were faster I’d give it a full five star rating, but at 1.5mb you can’t download a movie from iTunes and start watching it immediately, which is a drag.

Kris got accepted to grad school at Seattle U in their MBA program, so we celebrated by having dinner at the Tamarind Tree. If you like Vietnamese, you have to try this place. It’s an exquisite meal in a fancy restaurant ambience, at totally affordable prices. My veggie crepes (god damned delicious) was $8.

Remember the golden, good ol’ days?

A time of innocence, strong moral values. The times when our grandparents were growing up, so naive and good natured, unlike modern times. You know, it’s because they didn’t have violent video games, sexy music videos with suggestive lyrics, and a culture that idolizes criminal subcultures.

Right? Snicker…anyway, I found a great cache of free music files from the fist half of the 20th century. Country and folk songs recorded by musicians you’ve never heard of. Each song is accompanied by lyrics and occasionally by sheet music and a midi file. So you can search on content for “murder” and find a long list of great ballads about killing your true love and watching her die.

Here are a few examples.

The Waxweed Girl

VERSE 15
Come all you young people
Warning take from me
Don’t murder your true lover
Fer no cruelty

VERSE 16
For if you do they’ll bother you
Until th day you die
And finally, they’ll hang you
Upon a gallows high

Adaptation. Performed in 1958.

Pretty Polly

VERSE 4
She threw ‘er arms around ‘im, she cried into tears
She threw ‘er arms around ‘im, she cried into tears
How can I be a poor girl
An’ love you so dear

VERSE 5
He stabbed her thru her heart an’ th blood it did flow
Stabbed her thru her heart an’ th blood it did flow
While down in that big grave
Her body did go

Adaptation. Performed in 1969.

If you’re at all interested in old American country and folk songs, this site has hundreds of them in AIFF, Real, and midi formats.

Arm Control Nerve

I found an article on Digg this morning about this parasitoid wasp. This subject fascinates me. The page they linked was inaccessible, but Wikipedia has a great article about it.

Ampulex compressa (Emerald Cockroach Wasp) delivers an initial sting to a thoracic ganglion of a cockroach to mildly paralyze the front legs of the insect. This facilitates the second sting at a carefully chosen spot in the cockroach’s head ganglia (brain), in the section that controls the escape reflex. As a result of this sting, the cockroach will now fail to produce normal escape responses.

The wasp, which is too small to carry the cockroach, then drives the victim to the wasp’s den, by pulling one of the cockroach’s antennae in a manner similar to a leash. Once they reach the den, the wasp lays an egg on the cockroach’s abdomen and proceeds to fill in the den’s entrance with pebbles, more to keep other predators out than to keep the cockroach in.

A fascinating parasitic fungus which also alters the behavior of its host is Cordyceps Lloydii. I couldn’t find a Wikipedia article about it, but there’s an amusing web page the purpose of which I can’t reckon.

This fungus has evolved the ability to control the minds of the ants it infects. The process begins when the ant unwittingly ingests a spore of Cordyceps Lloydii as its walking along the forest floor. The spore makes its way through the ants body, eventually reaching the brain. Once in the brain, the spore begins to control the behavior of the ant who suddenly finds himself searching for the stalk of tall plant and climbing skyward. Fully under the control of the fungus in his brain, the ant impulsively climbs to the highest leaf where he grasps the leaf with all of his strength, his claws hardening with an uncontrollable expenditure of energy. At this moment, Cordyceps Lloydii enjoys the fruits of its labor.

A grotesque mushroom sprouts from the fungal mush that was once the ant’s brain. Bursting from underneath the smooth surface of the ant’s head, the long stalk extends skyward. Now, taking advantage of the healthy breeze available at such high altitudes, the stalk releases its fresh spores into the wind. Having served its purpose by helping the spore to this favorable altitude, the ant dies, adorned with the freakish funerary ornaments of its murderer. Carried by the wind, the spores drift to the forest floor where they will infect more ants.

And in another case of a parasite taking control of an ant’s arm control nerve, Dicrocelium dendriticum starts life as an egg in the intestines of cows. Cow dung is fed upon by snails who become infected and serve as a breeding ground for the fluke, who then uses the snail’s slime as a handy slip and slide escape route. Then…

Ants happen upon the slime and consume it as a source of moisture thus taking the new flukes into their system. Once inside, the parasite shows an interesting tactic. By controlling nerve centers of the ant they are able to control its behaviour. When the sun sets and temperatures drop the ant is compelled to attach itself to a tall blade of grass by its mandibles. Here it waits to be ingested by some grazing animal. If the ant survives the night the sun prompts it to return to the colony and live its life normally, until the next night. Eventually the ant is eaten by some grazing animal.

And then there’s my current nemesis, Toxoplasmosa gondii.

In a series of experiments, [scientists] demonstrated that healthy rats will prudently avoid areas that have been doused with cat urine. In fact, when scientists test anti-anxiety drugs on rats, they use a whiff of cat urine to induce neurochemical panic. However, it turns out that Toxoplasma-ridden rats show no such reaction. In fact, some of the infected rats actually seek out the cat urine-marked areas again and again. The parasite alters the mind (and thus the behavior) of the rat for its own benefit.

By some estimates, almost half the human population of earth is infected with this parasite. Recent research shows that it also has an effect on human minds, making us stupid and slutty! So if you’re feeling 10 to 15 IQ points below your norm or find yourself sleeping with someone simply because they seem to enjoy your uninhibited manner, check to see if it’s not just the booze, then seek treatment. Medications to treat the infection include those used with most other protozoal infections, like pyrimethamine, sulfonamide drugs, folinic acid, clindamycin, and trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole.

Yes, Wikipedia sort of sucked me in for a few minutes this morning.

How Playing GTA Saved My Life

This past weekend, my wife, Kris, and I and a couple of friends, Chris and Julie, spent the weekend snowboarding at Whistler, 2 hours north of Vancouver, BC. We had a great time, some great food, and a little booze and snowboarded our butts off, heading out for Seattle at around 4:30 Sunday afternoon.

We stopped at the Whistler Blackcomb outlet store in Squamish, then Canadian Tire to pick up some LED Christmas lights. The drive was mostly uneventful, but the roads were wet and the rain was falling heavily.

I was a little unnerved driving down the Sea to Sky Highway in the dark with so many other cars and all this rain, so I was driving cautiously and slowly, letting cars pass me every time we encountered a passing lane, finally settling in behind a small truck that was pacing itself similarly.

About 10 minutes north of Vancouver Kris yelled “Oh Jesus!” I quickly refocused my wandering attention on the truck in front of me and the oncoming car, in our lane, directly in front of the truck. *SMASH!!!* I spied a double shot of good luck for us in the form of a gap between oncoming cars and a paved shoulder on the other side of the oncoming lane. Looked back at the crash coming up fast to see flying debris and the truck on its side up against the concrete barriers on the right and the front and driver’s side of the car completely smashed in.

Taking the opportunity to avoid becoming part of the carnage I shot across the oncoming lane and onto the shoulder. A driver coming in the opposite direction had the exact same idea and was heading directly for me on the shoulder. I mentally pleaded with the other driver to have the sense to let me have the shoulder as he had his own, unobstructed lane to stay in.

Yes, seeing a scary head on collision makes you want to pull onto the first shoulder you see, but first you have to get out of harms way. He got my point and darted back into his lane and continued past us without a scratch to either car.

We stopped and Chris made a quick call to 911 (thankfully Canada uses the same emergency phone number we do), and got out of the car to get more details for the operator.

Within about 5 minutes an ambulance was there and shortly several firetrucks. They used the Jaws of Life to extract the driver of the car, who was in pretty bad shape and he was medevaced to Vancouver General after being rushed down to nearest hospital by ambulance. The driver of the truck seemed ok, but was wheeled away on a stretcher in a neck-brace and ambulanced to the nearest hospital.

After I don’t know how long we were asked to come back to the station to give our witness’ statements. We were questioned by a very nice Canada cop until about 9:30 last night, then made it home at about 12:30.

Pictures of the immense, quick response

***UPDATE***

Amazon Honor System

To donate to Matt and his family via Amazon Honor System, click here. All donation will go directly to his wife.

SFGate columnist loves his “brand new lick-ready smooth-as-love Apple MacBook Pro Core 2 Duo Super Orgasm Deluxe Ultrahard Modern Computing Device Designed by God Herself Somewhere in the Deep Moist Vulva of Cupertino Yes Yes Don’t Stop Oh My God Yes.”

This article made me laugh.

Interview with John Hodgman

John Hodgman, the PC in the new Mac commercials, was interviewed this week by Engadget. He’s a really funny guy and somehow, even though he’s not the product being advertised, has become the star of those ads. Makes me wonder if there are any people out there thinking, “If I like the PC better in the Mac commercials, will I like a PC better in real life?” or is he just the likable, bumbling fool who you’d have a beer with but never trust with your data?

Here’s an excerpt:

Seth Stevenson over at Slate thinks that the ads have backfired because your, “humor and likability are evident,” and that he’d “much sooner associate with Hodgman than with Long [the guy who plays the ‘Mac’].” Are you becoming an icon for diehard PC users?

The villain of any story is often the most compelling character. Justin, who is brilliantly funny, of course must play the hero, and the Luke Skywalkers of the world always catch a certain amount of flack. It’s unfair, but inevitable, and I don’t think it has caused people to buy more PCs anymore than it caused people to root for the empire over the Jedi. The Jedi still are the best. And they don’t get viruses.

How did you maneuver me into a Star Wars discussion? Damn internet.

That is all.

The whole interview is here, and the Slate article is over here.

He’s also got a recurring role on The Daily Show, which is always hilarious.