Genetically Superior


Dynolicious: is not about dinosaurs at all by Tony
August 23, 2008, 12:05 pm
Filed under: Technology, Written by Tony | Tags: , , , , ,

Dynolicious iPhone applicationIn fact, it’s the only application in the iPhone’s new library of (awesome) applications that I didn’t mind paying for. And I paid a lofty $12 for it too.

Now that I’ve hyped it, Dynolicious is a super-sweet employment of the iPhone’s accelerometers: it measures the acceleration of your car using its advanced three-axis accelerometer.

Of course, I was skeptical from the beginning. I wondered whether the sensors in the iPhone would be sensitive enough to give accurate readings, and wondered if it was just a glorified stopwatch that was more gimmick than gearhead gotta-have. So after leaving work one day, I took the long way home and did some time trials.

I live at the edge of Columbia, Missouri so it’s easy to find long, flat, empty, straight two-lane roads all around my home. It didn’t take long to find a suitable one, outside the city limits and the range of police patrols (I hoped).

Keeping an eye out for traffic [of course], I launched the application and set my iPhone down on my center console. I revved my engine, tapped the Start Test button, waited a couple seconds for the application to calibrate, and then dropped the clutch.

My ’96 Nissan Altima—all 150 horses of it—jumped and raced to the 60 mph mark. When Dynolicious had calculated I had traveled 1000 feet, it vibrated to signal the test was over. The results:

0-60 in 12.2; 136 HP

Which seemed to be pretty accurate. I was soft on the clutch, so I didn’t get the quickest launch I could have. As for the 136 horses, the application is set to measure horsepower at the wheels, so a 15 HP reduction from engine to wheel is definitely acceptable, especially before taking engine mileage and the rough estimate for weight that I input to the system into account.

[For more on the accuracy, read here]

The skidpad feature is pretty sweet as well. It definitely makes driving the twisty two-lanes more fun, even if glancing down to check the current g-reading on a blind curve qualifies as abhorrently dangerous.

My advice: if you’ve read this far and have stayed interested through the gearhead gobbledigook—and own an iPhone or iPod Touch—buy it.



Anatomy of a College Party Movie by Tony
August 2, 2008, 1:18 pm
Filed under: Movie Reviews, Written by Tony | Tags: , , , ,

For eager freshmen, dreaming of their days of limitless debauchery, and alumni drawn back into glossy-eyed reminiscence of nights spent any way but asleep, there is a clear champion of the college party genre: National Lampoon’s Animal House. Its legacy in campus culture is forever emblazoned in “To-ga! To-ga!” chants, and is seen on every campus in T-shirts with “College” stamped across the front.

The tale of a houseful of Greek miscreants and their battle to be the best — at being the worst — is the essence of the college movie. Animal House’s formula has influenced films for decades, and hasn’t stopped short on the upcoming film, College (not to be confused with Raven Symone’s College Road Trip which sucked), which will be released August 29. Included in the trailer are obligatory “don’t remember” tattoos, pubescents rounding second base, and a heap of traditional fraternity hazing.

It’s all part of the standard curriculum here in College Movie Anatomy 101, where the golden equation is:

Babes + Beer + Scheming Frat Boys = The Ultimate College Party Movie

Exhibit A: National Lampoon’s Animal House (1978)
Exhibit B: PCU (1994)
Exhibit C: National Lampoon’s Van Wilder (2002)

Babes
Behind every rambunctious big man on campus, there’s an equally stunning gotta-have-her hottie who shakes things up. For Van Wilder, chasing white hot Gwen (Tara Reid) is enough reason for Van (Ryan Reynolds) to end his 7-year playboy stunt and finally graduate college. In Animal House, it wasn’t just one girl, but many: the party-preying cougar who doubles as the dean’s loose-minded wife; the 16-year-old who snuck out of her bedroom to attend a party; and Otter’s (Tim Matheson) cute girl-next-door main squeeze. PCU falls a little short in the babe category by modern standards, but for the early ’90s it’s hard to deny the hot factor of Katy (Megan Ward) and her navel-hugging jean shorts.

Exceptional exception: Legally Blonde (2001) stars Reese Witherspoon—not exactly babe material — whose chase involves a sweet and charming guy throughout their stint at Harvard law school.

Beer

Droz (Jeremy Piven) serves up a bit of advice to a visiting pre-freshman in PCU: “Beer: It’s your best friend. Drink a lot of it.” And college party movies do — except in Hollywood, the kegs never run dry. As Bluto (John Belushi) from Animal House puts it: “Grab a brew, they don’t cost nothing!” The effervescent beverage is the prime catalyst for every blowout party. As for Van Wilder, wherever Van distributes red cups, the signature of beer sipping, a party blossoms.

Exceptional exception: In Real Genius (1985), Val Kilmer’s buddies spend their time building lasers instead of drinking. Predictably, this movie never hits a heady high.

Scheming Frat Boys
Opposing partying protagonists in college movies is the job of whiny, pretentious frat boys at the upper echelons of campus society. In Animal House, it’s the evil Omegas who team up with the dean to get hard-partying Delta kicked out. In PCU, it’s the evil Balls and Shaft fraternity that teams up with the school president to get the hard partiers in The Pit kicked out. And in Van Wilder, it’s the evil president of Delta Iota Kappa (that’s DIK for short) who teams up with the school board to get Van kicked out. It’s a storyline as predictable as their uniforms: blue blazers with red ties, of course!

Exceptional exception: In Road Trip (2000), the good guys’ only encounter with Greek life is a pleasant run-in with a black fraternity chapter with a good sense of humor.



Flashy Journalism by Tony

One of my favorite style and culture magazines is going to get even flashier come August.

If you haven’t seen it already, Esquire editor in chief David Granger says the September issue will have the first E-Ink cover, which is admittedly pretty dang sweet. The cover will use inks that change color (in this 1.0 version, it’ll be just black and white) by applying different voltages to the magazine cover. A tiny battery will power the cover for about 90 days. The flashing text will say “the 21st Century Begins Now”.

A bit intrepid? Perhaps. But for the journalism industry, this marks an eager foray into the convergence of centuries-old print technology (the printing press was technology at one point) and print’s biggest foe: the electronics industry.

Thus far, no print media outlet has found a way to wrangle the power of the internet to make its print product better. Even now, a decade after the Internet went mainstream, many news organizations’ newsrooms have separate online and print divisions. In fact, only a few weeks ago did the New York Times move its online and print newsrooms into the same building. Until the newspaper industry finds a successful combination of the two, including learning to embrace citizen journalism without cutting newsroom staffs, it will continue to fail.

However, the magazine industry is a completely different story. Circulations, aside from those of weekly newsmagazines like Time and U.S. News, have held steady througout the online news push. In fact, studies have shown that magazine reading rates among young milennials are nearly the same as among aging baby boomers.

In addition, another study has shown that young readers will avoid reading serious news online, instead choosing headlines that appeal to their humor or pop culture tastes. The participants in the study, aged 14-18, called their experiences with reading online news “stressful”. I can completely agree. It’s not often that I’ll get on CNN.com and read anything other than the headlines that interest me most: the weird, the sexy, or the explosive (and if there’s video of an explosion, you can bet I’m going to click on it).

I’ve been all over the place in this post, but I guess my lasting opinion is that journalism as we know it is both enduring radical change while simultaneously weathering an information revolution that is evolving around it. The key to traditional media surviving the information age is its keeping credibility with the public (something that seems to be a bit of challenge lately—thanks danratherfoxnewsphotoshop!).



Better than Google? by Kevin
July 28, 2008, 9:14 am
Filed under: Technology, Written by Kevin | Tags: , , , ,

Today, Monday July 28th, 2008, a new search engine called Cuil launched as direct competition to current search mega-giant Google. Cuil (pronounced “cool”, not “kwee” like I imagined) works entirely differently than Google, relying on the context of a website rather than number of inbound links.

First Impression

Looking at it side by side with Google, Cuil has a much more modern, sleek appeal, mostly because of its black background and royal blue logo. Google changed the whole idea of search when it launched, instead of filling the page with text and links like Yahoo!, it simply had a search box and a small row of links below. This simplicity was definitely one of the things that led to Google’s initial success.

Once you actually start using Cuil, the similarities end. The first thing you notice is Cuil offers search suggestions that update as you type; this is a tool I find both attractive and useful (and is why I am in love with Firefox 3′s “awesome bar”).

Now I wanted to test which site brought more relevant and useful information, I used “Beijing 2008″ as my test query. Google’s results were very familiar, with the official Beijing 2008 Olympics website on top followed by the International Olympic Committee, news stories, etc. This was essentially what I expected from Google, relevant results which could answer any of my questions. Could Cuil do any better? Cuil’s results were initially a little daunting. I was presented three columns with a list of 11 results and an “Explore by Category” box. The first few results were the same, listing the “official” sites, but this is where the similarities end. No Wikipedia entry, often Google’s top result, no news stories, and, most notably, no “Sponsored links” box. Cuil’s results produced a schedule of Olympic events and venues, information on the torch relay, as well as travel information. It is difficult to say whether this is more useful than Google or not, but it is compelling.

I must admit I admire Cuil for even trying to take on such a juggernaut. Google is one of the biggest companies in America and one of the most progressive companies on the web. Everyone loves them. Their products always work as described, their services are almost always free, and on top of that they have some of the best PR in the biz; they are one of those seemingly untouchable companies. But Cuil makes lofty claims that they index three times as many pages and their engine is faster.

Whether these claims are true or not, Cuil definitely has a lot of work ahead of them, even it is better it will be difficult to pull users away from Google. Saying “Cuil it” lacks the same ring as “Google it.” It will also be interesting to see how they plan to draw a profit. Monetizing search is difficult, Google has done very well using “Sponsored links” but most of their revenue is drawn from Adsense. It will also be interesting to see how Cuil plans to expand and match Google’s massive amount of processing power within its multi-million dollar datacenters.

Google is way more than just a search engine for me, it is central to much of the time I spend on the internet. This is where Cuil will need to expand and offer better e-mail services, mapping services, image searching, etc. Only then could it compete directly. I say try it out, but I won’t be making a switch anytime soon.



George W. Bush: America’s Worst President Ever by Kevin

I decided earlier this week my next post was to be inherently political in nature, but I had some difficulty deciding what exactly I should discuss. There are just so many issues that I would love to address that I think are extremely important to this country, which is why I’m so surprised I decided to write about something that I’m 95% sure is completely and utterly pointless.

Today, Friday July 25th, the House Judiciary committee held hearings to discuss the limits of Executive Power and the possible impeachment of President George W. Bush. For this we have Ohio representative Dennis Kucinich to thank, who earlier announced thirty-five articles of impeachment to the house. Now, I in no way believe George W. Bush will be impeached, and I’m tempted to say these proceedings are a waste of time; but I’ve decided that there is nothing more important on this day than for these proceedings to occur and be put into the books.

George W. Bush is a war criminal. I believe he, and his administration, should be prosecuted for the crimes against both his own country and humanity in general. Bush has the blood of over 4000 of America’s finest on his hands, not to mention the up to 90,000 Iraqi civilians. And for what? What has this war brought? Absolutely nothing positive comes to mind. We may be down one gruesome dictator but we have completely destabilized an entire region, completely destroyed a country, soiled our global reputation, and brought our own economy to the brink of collapse.

This war never should have happened, and it will no doubt leave a stain on American history. I have little doubt that George W. Bush’s reign will go down as the worst in U.S. history. Many believe the war wasn’t entirely his administration’s fault, it was in fact authorized by Congress and we had the support of a large coalition of countries as well as the majority of the American people. But a great majority of this support relied on direct manipulation of intelligence and blatant lies to the American public. Early in October 2002, Mr. Bush declared to the American people and to the world that Saddam Hussein was an imminent threat to our country. How could anyone have ever fallen for this? Iraq was not close to nuclear capability, even if he did have chemical weapons (which he didn’t) he had no way of delivering them to the United States. But at the same time on the other side of the world in Korea, Kim Jong il was making his own nuclear preparations, and he wasn’t being quiet about it. Why not invade there the more direct threat?

On that night in October, George W. Bush was lying through his teeth. His words were the polar opposite of what his own top secret intelligence (since been released) was telling him at the time. The Pentagon gave Mr. Bush an intelligence report six days before his speech that explicitly declared that Iraq was not an imminent threat to the security of this nation, but Bush told America otherwise. This lie is what brought us to war with a sovereign nation, without UN approval. This lie brought the deaths of over 4000 Americans. This lie brought the destruction of 4000 families. This lie also made Bush and his cronies very rich. At least some one is happy.

Hundreds of no-bid contracts have been handed to Halliburton, making Dick Cheney a very rich man while the rest of America struggles to pay their mortgages. This is just one of many examples of Bush’s cronies making gobs of money off an unconstitutional war based on false pretenses. The fact that things like this can happen, that the government of the richest nation can be so inherently corrupted, embarrasses me. Anyone who claims the United States to be the greatest nation in the world needs a serious reality check. Step back and look at what the ruling elite have done. This country is on a downward spiral, and I can honestly say it was on its way back up to its former glory before Mr. Bush took office.

It blows my mind that Bush hasn’t been impeached already. The democrats are absolutely spineless. Bill Clinton had impeachment hearings for lying about a blowjob. This blowjob did not harm the people of this nation and no one died as a result of Clinton’s blowjob. But George Bush’s lies have led to the slaughter of American lives, and the butchering of an undeserving nation. Kucinich had thirty-five articles, thirty-five pieces of evidence that Bush had committed high crimes and misdemeanors contrary to his oath to serve this nation.

Only a guilty person would pardon their entire administration including themselves from any crime they committed.

This is not to mention his authorization of spying on American citizens, his authorization of “interrogation techniques” (read:torture) that are completely contrary to the Geneva conventions, and his immense overstepping of executive authority. How the hell was he ever elected? Oh wait, he wasn’t he was just lucky his brother was the governor of Florida, and the woman making the decision on the recount was a member of his campaign. Yes, the 2000 election was bought, but I’ll save that for another day.

I am absolutely disgusted. You are all invited to my party on January 20, 2009 when George Bush leaves office. This country will be reborn, and if I had my way, Mr. Bush would be put in handcuffs at 12:01 AM.



Something I wrote about Apple. by Kevin
July 23, 2008, 1:16 am
Filed under: Technology, Written by Kevin | Tags: , , ,

Apparently, Apple is set to release a Macbook Touch in October (oh geez I’m so excited<-sarcastic), this unconfirmed rumor comes from a “close source” who says Apple is planning a “product transition” in September. All I really have to say about that is: big fucking deal, I really don’t care.

But it absolutely blows my mind the amount of press this tiny unconfirmed rumor about a “product transition” creates. This left me wondering how Apple manages to create such enormous buzz with just about anything they ever do. I understand they make good products, I have an iPod, I wish I could afford an iPhone, I sort of want a Macbook; but what I don’t understand is their power over the citizens of the internet.

One must first look at the amazing turnaround they have accomplished over the last ten years. Back in the late 90′s it looked like Gates was finally putting the nails in Jobs’ coffin as Apple continued losing ground fast to companies like Dell and Gateway. But they were saved by an invention initially dismissed as bulky, over-priced, ugly, pointless and stupid. At the release of the first generation iPod back in late 2001 it was generally given reviews something to the effect of: who the hell would need this fat piece of shit? But a few generations later, the iPod was the toy everyone wanted for Christmas.The iPod put the spotlight back on Apple, allowed them to produce buzz around their other products which shared the iPod’s sleakness and simplicity. This allowed them to continue to take advantage of Microsoft’s squirming.

Nowadays you can’t walk around a college library without hundreds of glowing Apple logos staring back at you. Apple has been enormously successful among college students and young people in general. I think the younger market is very important in technology because they decide whats cool, define the trends, and dictate which product will be successful. They also decide which computer they want for graduation, and which computer should replace the one Mom spilled coffee on.

I think simplicity also has a lot to do with Apple’s success. Their product line is simple and concise, in other words shopping for an Apple product is easy. If you want a laptop, you can get an Air, Macbook, or Macbook Pro. But if you look at a competitor like Dell or HP, you have multiple product lines, within those product lines you have multiple models, and each model has multiple configurations. All this choice mostly serves to confuse the hell out of the general public. Also, looking at Mac OS X, simplicity is evident in the design and functionality, especially when looking at it side by side with the disaster that is Vista. Everything Apple does has a very clean shine to it.

Its difficult to place what else makes Apple so capable of generating buzz. I almost want to say its Steve Jobs, but I find it hard to believe anyone actually likes someone who is such an asshole; seriously look at this guy. I guess Apple has a reputation somewhat akin to Google: the company that does no wrong and is super-duper awesome.

Its pretty clear now that Apple will continue to piss off Microsoft for many years to come, they will continue to gain market share in computers and sell tons of iPods. They will continue to keep the market on its toes with gobs of innovation. And they will continue to generate stupid rumors that make it to the front page of Digg, Gizmodo, and every other stupid blog including this one.

Also on an unrelated note, if you haven’t started watching HBO’s miniseries Generation Kill, get your shit together, its awesome. If you don’t have HBO, steal it off the internet like everyone else.



Minimally Splendid by Tony
July 21, 2008, 11:52 am
Filed under: Style, Written by Tony | Tags: , ,

I’ve been meaning to put up a short post about my newest fashion statement that just arrived in the mail.

I’d been searching for a new watch for a couple of months now, looking for something less gaudy than the crap Fossil calls a wristwatch (it’s like wearing a bedazzled kitchen clock on your arm). I also need something with a smaller face so my wrists don’t end up looking any smaller than they already are. I just want something casual with enough class that I could wear it every day.

Nixon makes a sweet line of watches called the Time Teller. It’s so minimalistic it breaches the opposite end of the style spectrum and becomes a statement in its own. I don’t need an alarm or a calendar or a stopwatch or a timer or a chronograph or an altimeter or a depth gauge or even a glo-light—that’s what my phone is for. I just want something that tells me the time.

I love the simple white face with easy-to-read silver numbers, and the canvas band I ordered stays cool in the unbearable humidity of a Missouri summer. You can get it with a metal band as well, and there are a couple different color combinations. The all-black style looks downright badass.

It’s not quite as thin as I would have liked, but for a $60 watch, the build quality is excellent. The brushed aluminum housing hasn’t scratched, and aside from the Nixon lettering at the 3 position, this watch is all about being elegant yet casual—more John Mayer than Kanye West (gratuitous link of the day).




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