Sunday, July 29, 2007

Blobs become doodles

I can't remember how or when I found Kevin Cornell's blog, but I've been following it because he posts some pretty charming little comics and artwork. Some of his comics involve a sock monkey named Mojo which are always fairly awesome. At least I think so, and that's all that matters in this part of the internet. Ha! Take that Andrew Keen. I'm killing culture! HA HA HA HA HA!


Anyway, Cornell's latest post invited people to try a little drawing game. Start with some blobs, hopefully be inspired by their shape, and doodle whatever comes to mind. I decided to give it a shot in an effort to clean the cobwebs out of my head.

I actually had a hard time with blob C (upper right hand corner of image above). I tried several different things and hated them all. So, you're left with that strange fellow with a tooth infection. However, I also considered this dinosaur guy.

And this guy is apparently me just channeling pure frustration onto the page. It's like you're seeing right into my mind...

I feel sorry for the guy. He's apparently having a severe alergic reaction. So, "pfft" is really all he can say.

Sorry if the pictures seems a little washed out. I played with the levels a bit but decided to leave them alone in the end. Also, if you're feeling up to it, you should give the little doodle exercise a shot. You don't have to post anything and embarrass yourself like I did. You can just doodle for the fun of it (but it'd be cool if you did post something).

Friday, July 20, 2007

Google to enter 700MHz auction?

[Update: Further comments from Google about the reasoning behind their offer.]

Talk about putting your money where your mouth is. With regard to the auction of the 700MHz band here in the U.S., it looks like Google is interested in using its monetary muscle to shift the balance of power and take a stand for open networks. You can see the news here.

It's an interesting development. Too bad it might take power plays from private companies to get the U.S. government to do the right thing. I suppose it has always been that way for any government, and, of course, the auction rules may not change despite Google's efforts.

A cynical part of me thinks Google expects no change in the rules with appropriately cynical analysis as to why they would make their offer anyway. But I think analyzing people's hidden motivations is usually fruitless and ultimately incorrect. So, I'll take the offer at face value and say that, regardless of the outcome, at least there was one company that went on record to say, "Yes. Open networks and spectrum are valuable to us, and we are willing to spend money on it." Which is quite contrary to what the incumbent telcos have been saying.

Of course, if Google did win the auction, you'd still have the problem of a network carrier who also delivers services. As other people have pointed out, even with the rules in place at first, eventually the "owner" of the spectrum gets more and more control over time through lobbying of the government.

Susan Crawford (as usual) has a concise summary of what Google wants to do with the spectrum. If Google really intends to make money off of realtime auctions of spectrum, then perhaps the problem of "owner" lobbying wouldn't be an issue since Google's income would be increased by having more services and applications using their network. They would have an incentive to be open which is the opposite of the incentive incumbent's currently have. Is it possible for a network to be optimized for both billing and innovation? It would be interesting to find out.

Finally, here's Google's letter.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


I don't have an update to the stone sculptures I've been working on. They have become informally on hold. I don't want them to slip into abandoned. So, I will be working on them this week.

In the meantime, I thought I'd share an interesting little find. You know how I enjoy short films? Well, I found a recently launched quarterly "magazine" called Wholphin which is devoted to short films. Their masthead claims "DVD magazine of rare and unseen short films", but considering the limited venues available for short films, I think "rare and unseen" is a bit redundant. Of course, it does have a certain ring to it.

I picked up the first three issues. I haven't watched everything, but I've definitely enjoyed what I've seen so far (except for "The Passion of Martin" on disk 3). It's difficult to give a taste of what Wholphin offers using just words, and I suspect that if you're into short films, you probably followed the link above and haven't looked back. However, I will say that if you're into watching things like Dennis Hopper's explosive performance art, a guy singing "Stairway to Heaven" backwards, God taking potshots at unseen targets with a rifle, or even touching or just interesting documentaries, then you should give Wholphin a shot.

In fact, if you were willing to check out just one issue of Wholphin, I would suggest issue 3. That one contains a documentary called "A Stranger in Her Own City" that follows a young girl named Najmia for a couple of days. Najmia lives in Sanaa, Yemen and is 13 at the time of the filming. She's apparently come to the age that she is supposed to wear a veil, but she refuses. Najmia is practically the definition of indomitable, and watching her made me realize just how easy I have it. But while viewing the film, I just "knew" that spirit couldn't last much longer as the cost of resisting society's demands can be very high, but I was probably projecting onto her my own weak response to societal demands that I reject. Regardless, it's the first documentary that had me on the edge of my seat wondering what was going to happen next.

Anyway, it's interesting to watch the incredulous and spontaneous reactions people have to Najmia. Where she lives, the idea that a woman should wear a veil and disappear into her home is the norm and taken very seriously, and rejecting it seems to be considered either an insult or a challenge. Many reactions are angry, but some are surprisingly not. I did find a short clip on Youtube to give you taste. Also, there is some good news about Najmia, but I think you should pick up issue 3 to find out about it. Yes, I'm a jerk.

Here are some other clips to give you a little more of an idea of what to expect with Wholphin:

Part one and two of a "documentary" that was apparently supposed to be part of Gore's presidential campaign. For some reason, it was never released. Honestly, I've never seen the man so natural and relaxed as he appeared to be in this video, and as much as I decry how superficial most American political discourse has become (especially during campaigns), it would have been interesting to know if that small documentary could have changed people's perceptions of Gore. Probably not...

A quick clip of people playing volleyball using part of the never completed wall that separates San Diego from Tijuana.

I'm not grinding any political axes with either of those videos. They just happen to be the ones I could find. Just watch them if you're interested. By the way, according to Wolphin, the U.S. taxpayers (or maybe future taxpayers?) spent 3.4 billion dollars on that wall you see in the video. I feel so embarrassed right now.

Hey, I found that video about God I mentioned earlier. You probably shouldn't watch it if you don't have a good sense of humor about religion. You know who you are. "Tactical Advantage".


P.S. The other wholphin.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Street Painting

There was recently an "Italian Street Painting Festival" in San Rafael, California. Apparently it is an annual event, and this year's featured artists were Mark Wagner and Clayton Thiel. They collaborated on a piece that mixed sculpture with the more traditional form of street painting. The picture is a concept sketch of the final piece.

I heard about this festival and would have loved to see it, but I obviously wasn't there. However, Wagner and Thiel have been gracious enough to post photos of not just the final piece but of some of the process leading up to the final piece. Check 'em out. I think you'll really like the final result.

I'd been thinking about posting about both these artists at some point. So, now seemed like a good time.

Links via Endicott Studio.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Internet Policy and You

I was reading this post from Susan Crawford's blog, and I thought I would pass along this brief explanation of why it is important to keep the business of carrying network packets separate from the business of providing services using those packets. If what I just said didn't make any sense, but you have an interest in the internet, do yourself a favor and read that explanation.

I realize there are many other worthy and worrisome things in the world, but technology policies happen to be something I watch closely and think are important to our lives. However, I'm also aware that I'm just as misinformed and opinionated as everybody else. So, I try not to indulge in expressing my opinion too often. It seems there is no shortage of people willing to do that without actually being edifying and without moving any discussions forward. Like I said, I try not to be that way myself, but I trust you'll forgive my indulgence...

I've been following the developments in the U.S. internet policies for a while now, and there is clear movement away from the policies and ideas that the internet was built on. Policies that led to an almost literal explosion of services. Policies that freed subscribers of internet services (i.e. you, me, and anybody with an internet connection) to not just choose any service they wanted to use that was available but to also create new services that didn't yet exist.

If you wanted to use Amazon, go for it! If you'd rather use Barnes & Noble, go for it! If you wanted to establish a used book store clearing house like Alibris, pay to connect to the internet, start up your business, and go! If you want to wear your heart on a blog, nobody is stopping you! Publish a webcomic, start a search service, provide an online feed reading service for all those blogs. And that's all just the tip of the iceberg of the possible services and ways to use the internet. I mean, I haven't talked about all the different ways people use to communicate and coordinate with one another using forums, and email, and any number of other things...

Besides being on the internet, what's the one thing all those services and tools have in common? You and I and the other parties involved didn't have to get advance permission from the network service providers (the entities that carry the packets). You pay for your connection, and you go. Regardless of who provides your internet connection, regardless of how you are connected, you can communicate with anybody else on the internet. You can use free services, or you can use paid services. You can communicate whatever you want (within the limits of the protocols and the law, of course). You can do all this, and all the while your service provider stays the hell out of the way.

Contrast that with how other networks work. Do you have a cell phone? What sort of services can you access with your cell phone? Only those that your cell phone service provider is willing to let you have. Do you have a cable television (or equivalent)? What sort of services can you access there? Only those services that your cable television provider is willing to let you have. If you had an idea for a new cell phone service, how would you go about implementing it? Well, first you'd probably have to approach the various cell phone providers and see if any of them are interested. If none of them are, too bad. If you have an idea for a new internet service, pay for your hosting service and go for it!

Additionally think about what several decades of monopoly on radio waves, phone service, and cable companies provided in terms of innovation of services, and compare it against what has happened on the internet since about the mid 90's. That's the difference I'm talking about. Closed networks versus open networks.

Another way to think about it, and I'm pretty sure I got this from Susan Crawford, is that closed networks, like your cell phone provider, are optimized for billing, while the internet was optimized for innovation. That isn't a flippant comment about "greedy corporations". It's simply an observable fact about the different intent of the design of these networks. An observation that raises the question: is it okay if all networks end up closed or, knowing what we know now, should we make an effort to keep at least one network open?

I don't know what will happen in the future. I'm not making any predictions, but if you don't want the internet to turn into just another cable or cell phone service or quietly languish while it is demoted to a second class service by the service providers, you may want to keep an eye on policy developments, not just here in the U.S., but wherever in the world you may be. And I'd recommend that you pay attention not only to your government policies but also to the policies of your service providers. Those are just as important.


P.S. Susan Crawford's blog is a good place to stay abreast of U.S. communications policies as well as international internet policies.

P.P.S. Believe it or not, I tried to limit my comments. I also considered ranting about how policies developed around the limits of technology circa 1920 have hampered innovative developments in the use of the radio spectrum, but that's another topic. However, it is related to internet policy. So, I'll refer you to this Wired article about the upcoming auction of the UHF spectrum. The part of the spectrum that is being vacated by TV broadcasters (a horrible use of spectrum in my opinion) as they move to so-called digital broadcasting. Actually, the first paragraph of that article brings up a good point about the devices we use to connect to networks that I didn't even touch on.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

If I Were a Simpsons Character

I was visiting here and found out about the little create-an-avatar feature of the Simpsons Movie website. I decided to give it a shot, and this is what I came up with.

The only thing I added were the wire frame glasses. I thought about touching up some other things (like maybe a little more hair), but then I realized that this probably is how I would be rendered in the Simpsons world.

The funny thing is that I actually own a shirt similar to the one above. Only in the real world it is the mascot of the OpenBSD project.