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Thursday, March 29, 2007

thanks, god

Recently, techies at the University of Oslo built an evolutionary computer that changes the design of it's own hardware using genetic algorithms to optimize performance. This is pretty amazing, considering the now-present possibilities for the rapid evolution of Strong AI by having computers design themselves. It reminds me of Ray Kurzweil talks about the singularity:

"Just like in the real world it can take 20 to 30 thousand generations before the system finds the perfect design to solve the problem, but this will happen in just a few seconds compared to the 8-900,000 years it took humans to go through the same number of generations." via BoingBoing

Yeah, thanks God. Real fair. Asshole.

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

world's geekiest hotels

There are some travellers who want to stay in the grandest, goldest, marble-floored hotel in the world. Some seek out the hippest, boutiqueist, most Wallpaper* hotel out there. For others still, the local hostel will do, with all the comforts of shared bathrooms and Euro-trash roommates. Yet what do you do if you're looking for a hotel that, say, provides you with a Mac G5 in your room, or you want to travel to a hotel based in the set of Luke Skywalker's home planet of Tatooine (pictured at right)?

Luckily, HotelChatter has generated a list of the Best Geek Hotels in the World. The list includes the obvious Hotel @ MIT in Boston (complete with "historically significant robots" on display in the lobby), the Lord of the Rings-inspired Woodlyn Park at the film-site New Zealand, and the Faena Hotel + Universe in Buenos Aires where pool staffers will offer you charging cables for your electronic devices. My favorite? The Hotel Gansevoort in New York City comes with Wii in every room

via HotelChatter

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texas instruments cell phone projector

Texas Instruments has introduced a "pico-projector", a device small enough to be built into a cell phone that will allow users to project cell phone-based images and video onto any surface.

DailyTech reports that the projector uses three lasers and a DLP chip (for those of you who care) to provide "DVD-quality video, and the projection technology allows an effective screen size that far surpasses even the largest cell phone displays."

Just wait until you're on an airplane and someone is projecting cell-phone videos on the seat back in front of them. It doesn't come on an iPhone though, so it must not be that cool....

via DailyTech

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weighing in on the sirius / xm merger

Man, it can be hard to keep your head above water. You’ve got lobbyists complaining to the SEC, the FCC complaining that the sat radio licenses are (already!) being violated, the National Association of Broadcasters running copyright-infringing advertisements about anti-trust infringing mergers, and advocates on both sides screaming “pork!”

So what’s the question behind the Sirius/XM merger? It’s simple, really. Here’s how it boils down for the consumer (you, me; you know, most of us):
  1. Ballyhoo! The merger will create a monopoly on sat radio and allow Sirius/XM to increase prices and ignore the consumer’s implicit “rights” (in all such cases of consumer-scare-ism, “rights” translates to “low prices”).
  2. Huzzah! This way, Sirius and XM will standardize the industry and combine their programming (football and baseball on one device, wow, damn!). How could it go wrong?
Sigh. Like I said, this is a confusing situation. Personally, I find myself on the side of Ballyhoo!, for what I think are good reasons.

First, this will be creating a monopoly. There’s no two ways about it. I’ve seen arguments trumpeting terrestrial radio as a competitor of satellite’s, but the difference in technology, delivery, and, most importantly, advertising makes comparisons between the two an apples-to-oranges job; the kind of punditry reserved for CNN or Fox News. I’d like to ask users of sat radio to head back to the old days of terrestrial broadcasts for one commute, and then tell me it’s the same industry. Same thing goes for MP3 players or internet radio. There appears to be some confusion between “listening to things” and “market.”

So monopoly it is. While this doesn’t immediately bode poorly for those of us who already use one of the services, I don’t need to tell you about its potential. A big part of this country’s history is antitrust litigation; you’ve all heard about it, and whether or not you agree with it, it’s all about protecting your “rights.” Matters of principle aside, this merger holds real threats, especially to the SEC who will later be tasked with breaking everything apart again, just like those FCC licenses said should happen.

Second, this will standardize nothing. The industry will eventually develop another competitor, either when the SEC smacks it down or when Rupert Murdoch blesses someone’s coffers with enough cash money to overcome what will be a MASSIVE barrier to entry. Meanwhile, Sirius/XM will have standardized their own proprietary technology (whoo). Standardization is not something that comes from one place, since it initially reduces potential profit for all of those proprietary monsters out there (hello, Sony? Listen up, m’kay?). It has to happen when an industry isn’t syncing the way it should be. This industry will have no one left to sync with.

Finally, competition is good. How very un-revolutionary. But the reason prices have stayed low is that even the sat radio Oligarchy of Two couldn’t risk inflating prices. That one hasn’t massively undercut the other and pushed them out of business is surprising, but also illegal so I guess that makes sense for now.

And that’s what I think. I like pretending to be an expert.

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

mccain's myspace defaced

John McCain's MySpace page, fairly funny in and of itself, was slightly altered recently to exhibit McCain's new (and improved) stance on same-sex marriage. Unfortunately for gay people, people who want to marry their same-gendered best friend, and the general cause of civil rights and equality in America, McCain's new position was nothing more than a bit of internet connivery

McCain's MySpace template was created by Mike Davidson of Newsvine. As TechCrunch reports, "Davidson gave the template code away to anyone who wanted to use it, but asked that he be given credit when it was used, and told users to host their own image files." McCain's page uses the template without crediting Davidson and uses images hosted on Davidson's server, forcing Davidson to pay for bandwidth from the hits on McCain's page.

Thus, "Davidson decided to play a small prank on the campaign this morning as retribution. Since he’s in control of some of the images on the site, he replaced one that shows contact information" with a statement in support of gay marriage, "particularly marriage between passionate females" (above).

I like this act of internet vandalism. Not only is it a great way to point out the necessity of intellectual property rights protection on the internet, but it also makes a great political statement. Slob is hereby calling on any and all hackers to infiltrate the websites of conservative politicians and replace their right-wing bullshit with some lefter-wing bullfact.

via TechCrunch [via Newsvine]

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Monday, March 26, 2007

open source music

Opsound is an online open source community for musicians and sound artists. Particpants simply upload their sound files to the site under a Creative Commons Attributive-ShareAlike license. This copyleft license allows users to "download works, make copies, share them, include them in other works, remix and rearrange them, and even sell them."

There's some pretty weird stuff on Opsound, and the site seems to attract people into music ranging from ambient and musique concrete to house and trance, and genres listed on their site include "algorithmic" (Xenakis, anyone?), "pscyhogeography," and, well, "country."

Potentially, Opsound might produce some very interesting music. I'd also be curious to see if this model could be applied to video or other media.

Stream Opsound radio here.

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let's do drugs

Australian artist, Justine Cooper, has created a drug. She's also created a disease for it to cure. And according to cooper, it's not all that uncommon.

Cooper's drug, Havidol, claims to be "the first and only treatment for dysphoric social attention consumption deficit anxiety disorder, or DSACDAD."

The made up illness is much like Restless Leg Syndrome or Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder, claims Cooper, that are diseases pharmaceutical companies claim they can cure.

Havidol, Cooper's fictional drug, just finished it's gallery stint in Manhattan. Complete with billboards, smiling people, and a t-shirt with a Havidol logo, the drug seemed much like an actual commercial.

Although it stirred controversy among consumers and especially with the large pharmaceutical companies, Cooper raises interesting questions about the pharmaceutical sector. What are they marketing to us? Are common ailments a creation of big business? Do I really have a disease? What the fuck am I taking?

via Holly Stocking [via The Scientist]

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Friday, March 23, 2007

un airbus a380 en 7 minutes

Apparently, you can actually build an airplane in 7 minutes--in French. Here's the video of Airbus's new monstrosity that made its debut in North America this week. The behemoth is "as tall as a seven-story building, roomy enough to fit 70 vehicles on its wings, as heavy as 500 Volkswagen Golfs and big enough to carry 35 million ping pong balls." Yeah, but Boeing 747s are big enough to take out a 110 story building. Too soon?

[via Gridskipper, The Lede]

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2007 geneva car show; a look into the future of "green"

The 2007 Geneva Motor Show was much more than a display of futuristic, street-legal, racing vehicles with a hard on for speed and handling. No, no, no. The show previewed the top ten green cars of 2007.

With the imminent threat of global warming and climate change on the agendas of policymakers and obviously consumers, the auto world is striving to fill the void of green vehicles.

I am still dubious as to the American people's actual desire to "go green," but the shift in automobile production and direction is a definite step in the right direction.

Consumers are more likely to purchase hybrid/diesel engine vehicles if they are 'fly', or in Paris' rhetoric 'hot', which Mercedes-Benz C220 BLUTEC and VW's Passat BlueMotion have fulfilled with their 50 mpg emission-cutting vehicles of 2007.

Among the other top green cars of the show was Saab's 9-3 convertible biopower and Toyota's “completely recyclable zero-emissions car” and technology in the Hybrid X.

What else will they come up with next?

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Thursday, March 22, 2007

al gore's still pissed

In a long string of rhetorical questions, Al Gore pretty much told it like it is to Congress yesterday. Equiped with 519,414 signatures, Gore spoke about how "our children and grandchildren will look back and...ask one of two questions..." You bet they're rhetorical:

Also, Gore, in a bout of enthusiasm, scheduled a Bono-wannabe music festival/hippie convention/douchebag meetup for 7/7/07. It's called Live Earth and...well...don't go. But at least it's for a good cause?

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conflict of interest or who cares?

In a move to keep up with the kids, ABC hired former Rocketboom vlogger, Amanda Congdon, to their blog. A pretty cool idea, actually and it worked for a while until Congdon broke some of the rules...or did she?

ABC's ethics code forbids their journalists from engaging in commercials or other outside ventures so as to maintain their journalistic integrity.

Congdon, fully aware of this policy, filmed a handful of "infotainmercials" for DuPont. On her blog she claims, "I am not subject to the “rules” traditional journalists have to follow. Isn’t that what new media is all about? Breaking the rules? Setting our own?"

ABC has not made an official statement. But Jeffrey Schneider, a spokesman for the news division, told the LA Times that Congdon is a commentator, not a journalist.

Josh Wolf would be pissed. But hey, he can't read about it because he's in jail.

via Gawker [via LA Times]

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

sweet summer job

How does touring in a bio diesel bus for 7 weeks sound?

Amazing?! Sign up for the Udall legacy tour and give it a shot.

Imagine you and a bunch of other college kids and recent grads doing a total of 57 service projects all over the country. You get to visit 32 places including cities, reservations, colleges, and national parks.

And at the end they PAY you! What an awesome summer job!

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Monday, March 19, 2007

nerds everywhere are waiting with bated breath

Rupert Murdoch's semi-recent acquisition, MySpace will receive a beating this month.

The bullies, two hackers that go by the names Mondo Armando and Mustaschio, announced on their LiveJournal that April 2007 will by the "Month of Myspace Bugs, Yuss!" (MOMBY, I swear...)

MOMBY follows in a string of Month of X Bugs and will consist of small bugs on your MySpace profile throughout the whole month.

You can avoid the bugs by adding to your spam blocker and to your proxy blocker. You can also e-mail Mondo Armando suggestions for bugs. If there's something about MySpace that really irks you for some reason or other, let him know.

Don't worry emo kids, these hackers aren't harmful and April's not too long. Plus, I'm kind of excited to see what they have up their sleeves!

[via AHN]

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Saturday, March 17, 2007

tesla roadster for sale this fall

Have you been waiting for a gorgeous, stunningly fast sportscar that won't singelhandedly cause the polar ice caps to melt, killing all the cute penguins? Wait no longer. The Tesla Roadster is a 100% electric, 135 mpg beauty that goes 0-60 in about 4 seconds.

Yes indeed, a fast, stylish car that you can feel good about driving. Plus, at $92,000, it's practically a steal. Just think about all the money you'll save on gas. There are also rumors floating around Gizmodo about a Tesla sedan, but no info on Tesla's site.

Five dealerships are slated to open this fall in Chicago, New York, Northern and Southern California, and Florida. Reserve your Roadster now, they're going to go fast. Pun intended.

[via Josh Spear]

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"world's smallest" is "my favorite"

Kingmax's incredibly small Super Stick measures an wild 34- x 12.4- x 2.2-mm. Somehow everything small is impressive. I love small ketchup bottles, vinyl figurines, and well-made dioramas. But tiny USB flash drives take the cake.

Usually innovative technology this impossibly small comes at a price, but the Super Stick runs pretty cheap. 512MB ($19), 1GB ($29), 2GB ($39), and 4GB ($55). On Amazon, you can pick up the 1GB for an astounding $8.90!

[via Engadget]

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all the nicotine without the fire

No, it's not another NicoDerm product, although it may help you quit. Swiss made, NicStics (no website? what?), are battery-powered tubes that vaporize the nicotine in tobacco to give you the buzz you crave without so much as lighting a match.

Yes, stoners, I did say vaporize. NicStics work just like your Volcano and are certainly healthier than a conventional cig.

It may be another clever way to quit--that's my suggestion--or possibly the cigarette of the future, but being addicted to anything isn't great.

We can't seem to give up our addictions though. Once bars go smokeless worldwide, we're going to have to find something addictive to replace cigarettes.

My suggestion, tootsie pops.

Gizmodo [via Medgadget via Ubergizmo]

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students at the University of Michigan beware

STOP illegally downloading songs on campus computers! Don't use bittorrent; don't use Kazaa; halt your Soulseek-ing!

The RIAA has identified IP addresses of p2p file-sharers in Ann Arbor and intends to sue according to a letter from Paul Howell, Chief Information Technology Security Officer of the University of Michigan. The letter, intercepted by Wired, encourages faculty and staff members to remove p2p file-sharing programs from their computers and to download their music legally (through iTunes, MSN Music, Ruckus, Rhapsody, etc.)

Luckily, UofM will not release names unless subpoenaed. The University is in the process of identifying the students themselves and issuing a warning.

For more info and a copy of the letter, check Wired.

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Thursday, March 15, 2007


I'm not usually one for MadTV because it generally sucks, but this sketch is awesome but sadly too accurate:

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

oriental virgin

Take a look at this logo photographed by John at Sinosplice from the side of a Shanghai construction site:

Oriental Virgin. Brilliant. I won't even make the jokes. John points out that this sign, aside from being hilarious, is an obvious knock-off of the Sony Ericsson logo. Clever marketing, Chinese company.

Writes John:

Apparently the recipe for their English name and logo went something like this:

    1. Take a successful foreign company’s name and add “Oriental” to the front. Base the Chinese name on the English name.
    2. Copy the logo of a different company, altering it a bit.

Everyone knows Chinese companies never steal the ideas of others or anything dastardly like that. This must be the rare exception to the rule.

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Monday, March 12, 2007

patagonia travel bags and DIY shoes

Patagonia's new line of Lightweight Travel bags ($50.00-$70.00, includes a Tote, Courier (messenger bag), and Pack (shown left), all made from 30-denier triple-ripstop silicone nylon. The fabric allows the bags to be extremely lightweight yet still incredibly durable; the three weigh less than 11.5 oz each, with the Courier coming in at a svelte 7 oz. Each pack can stuff into its own pocket when not needed, making them perfect for travel. The Pack can also convert to a stuff sack. Talk about useful.

Patagonia has also introduced a new do-it-yourself shoe ($30.00, that comes sold as a kit, aptly named the DIY. According to the company:

Our DIY shoe is somewhat reminiscent of the moccasin kits we all had as kids, but it's made from leather scraps left on the floor of manufacturing facilities. Distinctive and easy-to-assemble (about one hour per shoe) and requiring no glue or tools, DIY shoes provide both maximum comfort and ample opportunity for personal expression.

Customizable, recycled, and cheap. Cool.

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divvio set to launch

Alarm:clock reports that Divvio is expected to launch out of closed beta testing any day now.

According to Bussinesweek, Divvio will be a "service that automatically finds audio, video, and, eventually, text, on your favorite subjects. Then it weaves these clips together to create personalized multimedia channels that are updated each time you sign on." I'm guessing the name oh-so-cleverly derives from "digital video", but I'm not an expert on these things.

Divvio's founder,
former AT&T executive Hossein Eslambolchi has raised $3m in angel funding for the tech startup. Slob will be reviewing Divvio soon, so check back for more.

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TED concludes this weekend; world emerges better

The annual invitation-only Technology, Entertainment, and Design (TED) conference concluded on Saturday in Monterey, CA, and boy was it mind-blowing. Actually, we wouldn't know, because no one at Slob was invited.

The conference brings together 1,000
"thhought leaders, movers and shakers" from around the globe to discuss the latest trends, ideas, and innovation in virtually every field and subject area. Businessweek has a nice slideshow of the conference, and TED's blog provides some highlights of the events. Or check out the videos.

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Saturday, March 10, 2007

I, Robot?

It appears as though Dr. Isaac Asimov's tales of humans and robots coexisting in society may not have been too far fetched. This past week, scientists in South Korea began drafting an ethical code to bar humans from harming robots and robots from harming humans. To many, this may seem a bit premature. The only robots most people see on a daily basis are in the form of toys, assembly line machines, and vacuum cleaners. However, developments in robotics have resulted in humanoid robots that can react to human touch, understand multiple languages, and even change their eye color and robot-face expression based on mood.

As robots become more human-like with the not-too-far-off development of artificial intelligence, this ethical code will become more important. If robots can think and learn and make their own decisions, can they be at fault for mistakes they make? Is the owner of the robot to blame? Is the company that built the robot responsible? The ethical code will hopefully answer these questions along with numerous others that will arise with the advent of A.I.

Once this technology is out there, the questions are going to be never ending. Will there be different laws governing different models of robots? Can robots be used in combat? Will they be primarily human servants? If they can think and feel can they get depressed? Can they fall in love with other robots? I hope I live to see robots integrated into society, but there will no doubt be very strict guidelines set forth regarding their use.

Want to see Hollywood's version of what robots living with humans will be like? I recommend watching Blade Runner, Westworld, or A.I.

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Friday, March 9, 2007

good news for the climate

In all-star day for, well, the world, the European Union announced the creation of a binding target for the implementation of renewable energy including solar, wind, and hydroelectric power. According to the BBC:

The 27 EU states will each decide how they contribute to meeting a 20% boost overall in renewable fuel use by 2020.The measures could include a ban on filament light bulbs by 2010, forcing people to switch to fluorescent bulbs....It is thought the EU could offer to extend its 20% target for emissions cuts to 30% if other heavy polluters like the US, China and India come on board.

The EU's agreement will have a large net impact on climate change and will hopefully force the rest of the industrialized world into taking more considerable action to combat global warming.

Meanwhile, President Bush signed a deal today with President Lula de Silva of Brazil to cooperare on the development of ethanol from sugar cane. According to, "the two nations intend to help third countries, beginning in Central America and the Caribbean, to stimulate private investment for local production and consumption of biofuels." Unfortuntely, President Bush stopped short of reviewing tariffs on imports of ethanol.

While the United States is now officially lagging behind Europe in the development of renewable energy, the ethanol agreement might be a step in the right direction. Furthermore, we may see more positive developments come 2008 when the Bush administration is out of office. Meanwhile, write your congressional representative, copy this story, and tell them that you want the House to debate binding targets for renewable energy.

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Thursday, March 8, 2007

the fcc, letting us be?

In the same week that the FCC announced that Clear Channel, Citadel, and others would pay a settlement to end the payola scandal that has plagued commercial radio, another side deal was made.

Independent of the government's ruling, major radio corporations struck a deal with independent music spokesgroup American Association for Independent Music (A2IM, a sweet acronym) to allot airtime for indie bands. Clear Channel and friends will now set aside 8,400 half hour blocks for our little unknown friends thus flipping the the entire music industry on its head, baffling indie bands and their labels, and freaking out scenesters worldwide.

Now this begs a few questions:

1. What's an indie band?
2. Will indie bands get indie-er to avoid major radio play?
3. Will non-indie groups get indie-er to receive more gauranteed radio play?

We'll have to wait and see, but until then, I'm going to have to find all sorts of new ways to up my indie cred.

(Sourcess: ABC News, Spin)

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presidential candidates on youtube

Some of these guys (and gals) get it, and some of them just don't. Clearly candidates are trying to appeal to the internet generation--that would be us--by making YouTube videos so we can blog and MySpace and FaceBook about them and do whatever it is kids do these days. Message to campaign media managers: new media is all about user generated content and posting the same video that you're going to run at your party's national convention is not going to sell to a generation that is more media savvy than you are.

Take, for instance, Mitt Romney's video, titled "Unplugged". First of all, this is one of the only videos on all of YouTube that uses quotation marks in the title, and I know that's hypercritical of me, but it's an early sign that the video is going to be detached from YouTube's audience. Second of all, it's called "Unplugged", which might have been a cool pop culture reference in 1995 when that show was still on MTV, but now it sounds tired. Then there's the video itself: a slick, well-edited montage of Romney (using the word Jihadist, no less) and his wife, narrated by someone who sounds like he's from the National Geographic channel. This video might impress a 50-year-old, but word on the street is that they're not so hip to YouTube. There is, in fact, nothing "unplugged" about it.

Let's contrast this with the videos coming out of Barack Obama's campaign. Obama has hired Joe Rospars, a young, cool guy who co-founded Blue State Digital, as his New Media Director, and Rospars' team has produced a series of videos that I actually enjoy watching. They don't seem scripted, they're edited like other YouTube videos, and a good majority of them build on Obama's "I'm the grassroots candidate" theme by relying heavily on interviews with people off the street. The videos are effective because they don't bore the audiences with Obama's stump speeches--rather they play up the buzz surrounding Obama. In this next video, Obama is comes off as a rock star surrounded by his adoring fans. Talk about hitting the target audience nail on the head:

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blogger's rights comprimised.

The French government passed legislation yesterday banning citizen journalists from taking pictures or video of acts of violence. French authorities are policing the web and mobile phone services for images and video of violent acts captured by non-professional journalists.

Offenders can face up to five years impriosnment and a fine of up to €75,000 (US$98,537)!!

The law was passed, I'm sure, to protect bloggers from harm. But, censoring an unestablished community of citizen journalists is ludicrous. The internet should always remain a platform for free speech.

The question now is: will the law be enforced? How will French authorities determine what is an act of violence, who qualifies as a professional journalist, and most importantly how will they track down those who post acts of violence anonymously?

Also, don't forget that the French press is government regulated. How will the French people receive unfiltered, unbiased news? The mainstream media is censored and now so is the blogosphere.

The irony of the situation is that the bill was passed on the 16th anniversary of the Rodney King beating which was documented and convicted solely by citizen journalist footage.

(Source, MacWorld)

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you can be big brother, yes you!

I just found out about this hack for Google Earth. There are certain parts of the world that can be viewed at a much MUCH higher zoom level. Makes me worry a little bit about our privacy. But in the meantime, it's kinda fun to play around with.

1. Go to and find your location.
2. Click the Satellite button in the right corner.
3. Click "link to this page."
4. Scroll to the "z=" part of the url and make the number bigger.

That's it! I admit, I haven't found many places in the world that will allow for a zoom over "z=20," but many others have.

According to comments on GoogleBlogoscoped's post, the ultra-zoom is due to a collaboration with National Geographic as well as an Australian day flyover.

At some point they must have done flyovers in Africa too, because the man in picture is totally looking at the camera.

The weirdest part is that the super zoomed image (link) has a blurred edge, as if Google wanted us to find it.

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we are humbled.

Today was a great day for Slob. First, I learned that my write-up about Emily Nussbaum's article for New York Magazine was actually quoted on New York Magazine's blog. Next, one of my posts about Project (RED) was quoted
by PSFK (one of my favorite websites) alongside several very well-established sites including Gawker and that of the legend himself, Mr. Josh Spear.

It feels good to know that someone is actually looking at what I post. That being said, efforts will be made over the course of the next few weeks to update our appearance and usability. Don't be surprised if we make a move to our own domain sometime over the next year. Thanks to those of you who read Slob. And to the rest of the Slob contributors, how about some contributions? See you out there.

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Wednesday, March 7, 2007

nau is the time

After much delay, Nau has finally launched its official webstore and the new company is "open for business unusual," as the index page reads. Nau's clothing line attempts to blur "urban endeavor and backcountry" while simultaneously melding "beauty, performance, and sustainability." The company is working to develop myriad new fabrics to achieve these ends. Much of their clothing is made from organic cotton and recycled synthetics. The clothing is highly functional--much of it is stretchy, fitted, and water and wind resistant. Nau will be opening four retail stores in CO, OR, WA, and IL. Rumor has it, these stores will be "webfronts" places for customers to try out clothing, but customers will be encouraged to order clothing from the webstore to cut down on the company's carbon footprint (doesn't that mean more shipping? I guess we'll see how this works in real life).

With Nau's extensive use of sustainable and psuedo-sustainable fabrics (I'm sure recycled polyester involves extensive chemical processing to produce), their product line is perfectly situated to take on earth-concious labels like Patagonia and Edun. But unlike Patagonia, Nau doesn't advertise your eco-awareness so readily and would thankfully look out of place at a Yonder Mountain show. At the same time, the clothing is designed to take you from your favorite fair-trade coffee shop to a Big Sur bouldering trip or even your weekend in the backcountry. The clothing is clearly targeted at the young, urban, tech-savvy, yoga-practicing, Prius-driving, Whole Foods customer, a target market that is unfortunately devoid of a good moniker except for the tired term "yuppie".

The clothing will also be a hit with the virtually untapped flashpacking market, as the clothing appears to be lightweight, easily packable, odor resistant (merino wool is, anyway), and wrinkle resistant (anything with high polyester content). But so is GoLite. The key with Nau is that the clothing doesn't wear its technical features on its sleeves (get it?). You can wear Nau while hiking around Chiang Mai and leave it on when you go out to Bed in Bangkok without looking like a member of the sandals-and-socks crowd.

Nau has a lot of growth potential and should be a brand to watch over the next few quarters. The company is committed to social and environmental change through business and may find itself at the forefront of the social business movement. The one prohibitive factor is cost--Nau isn't cheap--but Nau's target market has generally shown a propensity to pony up for well-designed, value-added products, especially products fitting their social values. Furthermore, as the inevitable competition arises, the supply of sustainable fabrics should increase, bringing prices down. Who knows--maybe someday we'll all be able to recycle or compost our shirts.

More: check out Nau's blog, The Thought Kitchen.

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more on (RED)

Sorry to bombard you with video (I do assume someone looks at this blog), but just wanted to leave a quick note to show our loyal readers that Slob beat CNN to this punch:

CNN confirms that (RED) partner companies spent somewhere in the vicinity of $100 million to market (RED) products, while they only raised a scant $18 million for the Global Fund--less than the figure (RED) gave to PSFK. Is (RED) successful? Comments?

By the way, I could listen to Susan Lisovicz say "Buy less crap" all day. I can't wait until that gets cut into some leftie YouTube diatribe.

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Tuesday, March 6, 2007

the machine is us/ing us

Prepare to have your mind blown a little bit.

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Friday, March 2, 2007

project (red), how's that going?

In 2006, Bono and Bobby Shriver created the (RED) campaign to raise money for the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis, and Malaria. The initiative (the campaign insists it's a brand, not a charity) teamed up with a bunch of major international firms that agreed to design, market, and sell (RED)-branded products. Portions of the companies' pre-tax profits are then channelled to the Global Fund. Current corporate partners include American Express, Converse, Gap, Emporio Armani, Motorola and Apple. So if you buy a (RED) iPod or (RED) panties, Apple or Gap will respectively give some money to the poor Africans who can't afford either item.

(RED) has been hailed as a creative, market-based solution to financing the Global Fund. Theoretically, the campaign could raise serious money for the Global Fund as long as partner companies' bottom lines are continously met. As Shriver told the New York Times in 2006, "We want [our partner companies] to make money. We don’t want anyone to be thinking, ‘I’m not making money on this thing,’ because then we failed. We want people buying houses in the Hamptons based on this because, if that happens, this thing is sustainable.” The campaign raises money by playing off of the self-interest of corporations and the vanity of consumers (perhaps (RED) phones will be the new LiveStrong bracelets?). Furthermore, consumers do not have to change their behavior--they're already buying iPods, phones, and sneakers. Why not buy the (RED) ones and give money to charity without having to actually donate money ? Capitalism at its finest.

On the other hand (RED) also has it's share of critics. Recently, WPI launched BUY (LESS) CRAP, a campaign aimed at "rejecting the ti(red) notion that shopping is a reasonable response to human suffering." According to Ann Handley,

WPI founder Ben Davis says his big beef is that the donations aren't transparent: "When donations are based on percentages of profit and the accounting methods are not transparent, you can spend $100 on a (RED) product with the notion that you're helping to save lives in Africa—but there is no assurance that any of that $100 will actually reach the cause. Not one (RED) cent."

According to Project (RED), the campaign has raised over $20 million for the Global Fund, certainly a substantial amount of money that may go a long way in the developing world. At the same time, that sum pales in comparison to the $100 million that that Davis reasonably projects must have been spent by (RED) partner companies on marketing since the project's inception.

It appears that (RED) partner companies' marketing budgets probably could have gone further if the companies just donated the money directly to the Global Fund. What remains to be seen, however, is whether or not (RED) will gain enough momentum to be a sustainable source of finance for the Fund. (RED), therefore, needs to snowball into a trend, or it will be a wasted effort. One of the largest problems facing (RED) is the fact that consumers don't seem to assosciate it with a cause. There simply isn't enough buzz, and the marketing doesn't really provide consumers with any information about the HIV/AIDS pandemic or the Global Fund. Most (RED) television spots only point to the cryptic link, and as Seven87 points out:

The link doesn’t even talk about the issues, it just has a sparse page with the 6 RED branded products. The “Manifesto” has an overview, but only the “Global Fund” link has any info on the issues… A single page with the issues. Even the information design of the animation with drill down data was not as compelling as it could be.

Perhaps they didn’t want to go overboard on the scary/sad messages, but it still seems rather underwhelming. They really aren’t educating anyone. They aren’t even playing the “ace card” that charities have… emotional and guilt triggers.

Finally, (RED) products just aren't that cool. Advertising your charitable inclinations is simply not trendy. Consumers are searching for products that are their social values (ie: Toyota Prius, American Apparel), not just branded to represent their values. Perhaps (RED) is just too much like it's creator, Bono. Cool for awhile, but ultimately overly persistent, lacking in substance, and not something that hip people would be caught dead assosciating with.

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Thursday, March 1, 2007

i always knew emo was dangerous

WDAZ News of Devil's Lake/Grand Forks, North Dakota recently aired this story about the growing threat that emo poses to our nation's schoolchildren (and thanks PSFK for unearthing this video).

Watch how the reporters extrapolate bogus claims based on their own misinterpretation of satirical websites. Apparently, no one in North Dakota is aware of a) what the internet is or b) what jokes are.

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