Tuesday, July 31, 2007

July 30: bad day for motion pictures history

Just as I posted this review about the toughest movie characters of all times yesterday evening, this week has turned into a REALLY bad one in terms of motion pictures history as two of the last living film director giants have left the stage for new filmmakers.

Swedish film director Ingmar Bergman died Monday morning July 30 at his home on the island of Fårö, at the age of 89. It was just a few hours later when we all heard about the death of Michelangelo Antonioni at the age of 94. Following is a short video of my favorite Bergman The Seventh Seal (1957), an existential journey of a medieval knight (Max von Sydow) across a plague-ridden country.



This one is from Zabriskie Point (1970) by Antonioni that depicts the U.S. counterculture movement of that time, telling the story of an idealistic young secretary, and a militant radical. I first came to know about this fantastic movie due to the Pink Floyd soundtrack album carrying the same name. Haifa's Cinémathèque was the place where many of my building blocks and dreams were formulated.

New logic puzzle platform: puzzlepicnic.com



One of my favorite puzzle bloggers (thanks Thomas!) posted earlier this month about this new "online platform for people who like logic puzzles" called PuzzlePicnic. Other than Sudoku and kakuro the site offers a nice selection of logic puzzles: Battleships, Archipelago, Tents and Trees, Master Mind, Cogwheels, Easy as ABC, Spokes, Fences, Pathfinder, Panorama, Neighbours and Spiral Galaxies.

Other than straight forward puzzling on a Java based platform puzzlepicnic.com says its also "a place where puzzle solvers and puzzle makers meet, entertain and challenge one another". Perhaps within the new spirit of the web2.0 trend, the site aims to become a "platform for people who like to design their own puzzles and get them published online". I wonder if this can really happen.

Johan de Ruiter is the "mental father of the project" and "the creative mind of the team". With an interest for logic puzzles "ever since his childhood"
de Ruiter is claimed to have participated six times in the Dutch National Puzzle Championships (check out on kostunix if you don't know this championship and are not Dutch) with best ranking being 22nd.

According to the website de Ruiter's
cogwheels puzzles appear regularly in Breinbrekers, a Dutch logic puzzle magazine. In addition one of his puzzles was featured on the World Puzzle Championships hosted by the Netherlands in 2003. de Ruiter also seems to be running this nice "brains" blog

Other people involved in the new site are Maarten Löffler, a computer scientist and mathematician, and Thierry de Kok, a java programmer. Lets wish them good luck!

Visit puzzlepicnic.com

Monday, July 30, 2007

From Sam Spade to Harry Callahan: Toughest Movie Characters of All Times

From Sam Spade to Harry Callahan: Toughest Movie Characters of All Times

From Walter Cameron and A.C. Abadie playing the sheriffs in Porters' The Great Train Robbery (1903) to Douglas Quaid in Verhoeven's Total Recall: the history of moving pictures is full of tough fellows and quite many tough dames. But who should be the one to be placed above them all? Who is THE toughest movie character of all times?

To begin with, allow me to establish my basic presumption that a clear male-female separation needs to be kept in such a contest... I was totally fascinated by Jamie Lee Curtis' character of the rookie female cup in Kathryn Bigelow's 1990 Blue Steel but we can't have this lady competing against Harry Callahan. We are just going to have to make a special tough-woman review.

1: Harry Callahan
  • Actor: Clint Eastwood
  • Movie: Dirty Harry (1971) and sequels


Who can argue with the most legendary tough-guy line in the history of motion pictures? the lines of the lines. The one that gave the .44 Magnum its notorious name, making it perhaps the most commonly known handheld weapon model in the history.



"Dirty" Harry Francis Callahan is a fictional San Francisco Police Department inspector in the films Dirty Harry (1971), Magnum Force (1973), The Enforcer (1976), Sudden Impact (1983), and The Dead Pool (1988) all played by one of my favorite tough guys Clint Eastwood. I vote for Harry Callahan as the number one tough character in the history of motion pictures.



2. Jeff Costello
  • Actor: Alain Delon
  • Movie: Le Samouraï (1967)


The nearly mute perfectionist hitman who "religiously adheres to a strict code of duty" in Jean-Pierre Melville's Le Samouraï is my second choice for the subject. Costello is not just tough. He is icy cold tough. He lives in a Spartan apartment whose interior contains a neatly arranged line of mineral water bottles, cigarettes on a bookcase, as well as a little bird in a gray cage in the middle of the room.



The film opens with a long take of Costello lying awake on his bed, smoking, as the following text appears on-screen, attributed to an ancient samurai writing entitled "The Book of Bushido", which Melville later on admitted to be completely fabricated:
"There is no solitude greater than the samurai's, unless perhaps it be that of a tiger in the jungle."




3. Roy 'Mad Dog' Earle
  • Actor: Humphrey Bogart
  • Movie: High Sierra (1941)


The robber gangster Roy 'Mad Dog' Earle was Raoul Walsh's tragic hero in an early heist film noir film written by John Huston and W.R. Burnett from a novel by Burnett. Starring Ida Lupino and Humphrey Bogart High Sierra was shot on location at Whitney Portal, halfway up Mount Whitney. The film has entered the motion picture pantheon for its climatic final scenes, as the cups pursue 'Mad Dog' Earle from Lone Pine up to the foot of the mountain before they kill him. My vote goes for Roy as the third toughest movie character of all times.



4. Marv
  • Actor: Mickey Rourke
  • Movie: Sin City (2005)


My favorite character in the Sin City (2005) movie adaptation and one of the
leading characters from the graphic novel series Sin City, created by Frank Miller. Marv works the streets of Basin City ("Sin City") performing jobs for people he feels deserve help. He can be very mean and extremely cruel when preforming his questioning routines with the assistance of his sawing tools and tourniquet set. Yet he usually does that to protect a lady so that gives him an additional point.

The 2005 neo-noir anthology film written, produced and directed by Miller and Robert Rodriguez was the first time for me to meet Marv. I must admit at the time I though this guy does it and gets my "toughest of the toughest" vote but now it gets a 4.



5. Jimmy "Popeye" Doyle
  • Actor: Gene Hackman
  • Movie: The French Connection (1971)


The Obsessive-Compulsive New York City police detective portrayed by Gene Hackman in The French Connection is a model for persistence and not letting anything taking you off your course.



Other than being really tough and preforming exceptional "running after the bad guys until they die" skills, The Jimmy "Popeye" Doyle character is actually based on a real life New York City detective named Eddie Egan. I bet Egan was tough as well.



6. Max Cady
  • Actor: Robert Mitchum, Robert De Niro
  • Movie: Cape Fear (1962), Cape Fear (1991)


Here is a guy you wouldn't like to get into an argument with. The villain of the John D. MacDonald's novel The Executioners, the 1962 film adaption Cape Fear and Scorsese's 1991 remake is definitely one of the meanest toughest hoods any of us had ever seen. If you haven't met this guy yet, believe me when I tell you he is tough. First played by Robert Mitchum and then again by Robert De Niro (in an Academy Award-nominated performance) in the remake, Max Cady ranked his way to the 28th place on the American Film Institute's list of the top 50 movie villains of all time.

According to Wikipedia, the scene where Mitchum attacks Polly Bergen's character on the houseboat was almost completely improvised. Mitchum rubbing the eggs on Bergen was not scripted and Bergan's reactions were real. Bergen suffered back injuries from being knocked around many times during this scene and "felt the impact of the 'attack' for days". Both Mitchum's and De Niro's characters are tough. Yet i vote for the Mitchum one. Being more realistic I find it more effective in my opinion.

7. Sam Spade
  • Actor: Humphrey Bogart
  • Movie: The Maltese Falcon (1930)


Created by Dashiell Hammett Sam Spade is the tough private eye of the 1930 novel The Maltese Falcon and the first film-noir movie ever made written and directed by John Huston. In those days there were not many tougher than Spade as played by Bogart. "Spade has no original. He is a dream man in the sense that he is what most of the private detectives I worked with would like to have been and in their cockier moments thought they approached." (Dashiell Hammett on Sam Spade)



8. Paul Kersey
  • Actor: Charles Bronson
  • Movie: Death Wish (1974) and sequels


Based on a 1972 novel by Brian Garfield Paul Kersey is the main character in the series of motion pictures all titled Death Wish; Death Wish (1974); Death Wish II (1982); Death Wish 3 (1985); Death Wish 4: The Crackdown (1987) and; Death Wish V: The Face of Death (1994).



Kersey was kind of a nice guy before he metamorphosed into a serial killer. It was quite a breakthrough in terms of the type of things a popular movie "hero" character can do and still have its sequels. Besides, Bronson was always tough and we can't have this list without at least one of the amazing characters he played.



Harmonica
  • Actor: Charles Bronson
  • Movie: Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)


An anonymous user which later on signed as Benjamin posted this comment to CultCase's From Sam Spade to Harry Callahan: toughest movie characters of all times article claiming Charles Bronson in Once upon a time in the west should have been be considered, too, as a "really tough" being an "(anti-)hero".



I love this film SO much that after watching this scene again I just had to do this gesture for both Benjamin and Charley. Even though Bronson's character name remains (to the best of my knowledge) unrevealed, it does have this supercool nickname "Harmonica", given to him by Frank (Henry Fonda).



If you find this article interesting you can check on my toughest movie characters playlist on YouTube as more videos are being added there every once in a while.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Solel's world’s largest single solar commitment



People always tell me I have my head overloaded with information technology and communications. That should be the place to say that first of all note that these are two different subjects. Things could have been much worse if I only had my head busy with have my head overloaded with information technology or with communications, so its not like I always think about a single "theme".

Furthermore, the above is absolutely inaccurate. I am deeply interested about other things as well. Solar Thermal Energy for example. In the 80's there was this small yet successful Israeli company called "Luz". they were making hi-tech glass when no one really knew what it even was. Then in the early nineties it was more-or-less shut down and reborn as Solel Solar Systems Ltd. ("Leading the World in Solar Thermal Energy") which over the last 14 years invested their resources in improving the yearly electrical output of parabolic trough solar fields and in reducing their installation, operations and maintenance costs.

According to the Israeli financial paper Globes, Solel will sell 553 megawatts of electricity to California’s PG & E Corp. (Pacific Gas and Electric Company) from a solar power plant that the company will build in the Mojave Desert at an investment of some $2 billion. PG & E's nine-square mile Mojave Solar Park is due to begin operating in 2011. PG&E said that the power, enough for 400,000 homes, will go to customers in northern and central California.

According to Globes the Mojave Solar Park project is now the world’s largest single solar commitment ever made.

BTW, sun is not the only thing Israelis make electricity from. We also help reducing humanity's carbon Footprint by making electricity from Biogas from Cow Dung (that's a Hebrew reference) very close to where I live.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

No Woman, No Cry




Made famous by Bob Marley and the Wailers, "No Woman, No Cry" was first released in 1974, and became became Marley's first hit and one of the world most famous reggae songs ever about one year later, released as a single from his album, Live!, which was recorded at the Lyceum in London in 1975.

It is a common belief that Bob Marley wrote the song himself, yet songwriter credits were given to a close friend of Marley's named Vincent Ford ("V Ford") who ran a soup kitchen in Trenchtown, the ghetto of Kingston, Jamaica where Marley grew up. The royalties received by Ford allowed the survival Ford's kitchen but the question about the authenticity of this ownership is still questioned.

No Woman, No Cry was No. 37 on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. This short video was improvised today soon before Nitsi and I took Carmel back home for her noon sleep. Taken with my Motorola phone the clip shows Zemah (A "Koyotie" member) in one of his magic moments, enjoying this free-style unplagued version performed with a classic guitar and harmonica. I thought it was REALLY cool.

Lyrics
No woman no cry
No woman no cry
No woman no cry
No woman no cry
Cause I remember when we used to sit
In a government yard in Trenchtown
Observing the hypocrites
Mingle with the good people we meet
Good friends we have, Oh, good friends we have lost
Along the way
In this great future,
You can't forget your past
So dry your tears, I seh
No woman no cry
No woman no cry
Little darling, don't shed no tears
No woman no cry
Said I remember when we used to sit
In the government yard in Trenchtown
And then Georgie would make the fire lights
As it was log burning through the nights
Then we would cook cornmeal porridge
Of which I'll share with you
My feet is my only carriage
And so I've got to push on through,
Oh, while I'm gone
Everything 's gonna be alright
Everything 's gonna be alright
Everything 's gonna be alright
Everything 's gonna be alright
Everything 's gonna be alright
Everything 's gonna be alright
Everything 's gonna be alright
Everything 's gonna be alright
Everything 's gonna be alright
So no woman no cry
No woman no cry, oh
My little sister
Don't shed no tears
No woman no cry.

Yes, ANOTHER party


Just a while ago I told you about how few parties we usually have in our house quite. Well, since I said that we seem to have quite many of them all of the sudden. As we always keep our promises here, we had most of our close family over here yesterday evening, partying and celebrating Carmel's second birthday, though in two weeks late (She turned 2 same day we were too busy having this Conceptis event)

Anyway, now this party is behind us and our little girl is already on the run for her third B day. Can you believe this? Our daughter is two years old. As can clearly be seen in her graduation party video I published yesterday, Carmel is well integrated in to the rest of the toddler bunch, even though most of them are older than her by one year, which is quite a lot when you are two years old.

This video has two parts: The first part (also seen at the top of this post) starts with the late preparations after my parents came and ends with the candle cake ceremony. The second part was filmed by Zemah and shows the "after party" with the cake and everyone full of wine and joy.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Kindergarten Graduation 2007

As I mentioned in my previous post, yesterday afternoon we participated in Carmel's graduation party for the year of 2007. Here is a video summary of the event.

Birthday party this evening!



We are having a party here this evening starting 19:00. Thats a late birthday party for Carmel who have turned 2 when we were just too busy having this Conceptis event you must have red about in this blog.

Its also a graduation party for Carmel's first year at the kindergarten. Nitsi and I were very excited and felt like proud parents with all the pictures and everything. We got lots of multimedia stuff when the grad. party was over so other than my own video (in process at the moment) there are also some pictures and this powerpoint presentation. Multimedia kindergarten :)

To be continued.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

White labeling social networks



Many things have changed in the last few years about almost everything that has to do with advertising and public media attention. Yet, the world is still driven by products, companies and services even though not always commercial ones. Therefore branding remains an essential element of every successful venture. White labeling social networks, making the platform provider as invisible as possible to the network’s users, allow better, more accurate, branding for the network identity.

Techcrunch.com, probably the world's leading tech blog, has published this article two days ago about how to build a social network from scratch. This article samples nine companies providing white labeling infrastructure: Ning, KickApps, CrowdVine, GoingOn, CollectiveX, Me.com, PeopleAggregator, Haystack, and ONEsite and includes this amazing chart summarizing their offerings. Other than Techcrunch, credit for initial research into these companies goes to Jeremiah Owyang who compiled a comprehensive list of white label social networking services.

Just a few days ago we had this news about White Label Social Network Ning Raises A Huge $44 Million Round. I guess White Label social networks are getting hotter every day now. Read more here: 9 Ways to Build Your Own Social Network

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Will dynamic ad push free mobile gaming?



Can dynamic advertising and marketing push make mobile gaming free and by that reaching all of us? TheMarker, a leading financial Israeli newspaper, reports today that the Israeli start-up company innerActive has just completed a capital raise of $1.5M from "private investors". It was just two weeks ago, on July 12, 2007, that Israel's largest mobile operator Cellcom has announced the completion of its first ad-funded mobile games service powered by new technology from innerActive.

The new Cellcom service showed results of 44% Click-Through-Rate (CTR) and 19% Acquisition Rate for Mobile Advertising Campaigns, indicating a breakthrough in marketing via mobile phones. I guess this has pretty much done the job with those "private investors".

As I wasn't participating this pilot (even though I am a Cellcom user!) here is how it actually worked according to an official press release from innerActive:

As integrate to Cellcom’s system innerActive's solution "dynamically inserted ads and marketing content for product placement within the games". Yet, as opposed to traditional mas-media advertising models innerActive's mobile in-game ads were "targeted and segmented in real-time according to each user’s profile, behavior and responses". In addition, "mobile coupons and other incentives were offered for conversion and cross-over to other media channels like websites and point of sells".

In marketing terms the new model used in the trial has proved to be effective and feasible to all the players. On average, according to the results of this trial, a trend of 10 times higher game downloads per user was observed, comparing to the pre-pilot download results. Adi Cohen, VP Marketing of Cellcom said:

"We succeeded to promote thousands of new users, that are not heavy gamers, to consumed and enjoyed games. The advertising-marketing stimulus trial confirms its effectiveness to all parties that took part in this project. This mobile advertising is working and shows far-reaching consequences for the mobile industry.”

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

kindergarten violence



Yesterday Nitsi became really ill and couldn't get out of bed. I therefore had the privilege of fetching Carmel from the kindergarten myself. I came in, going near lots of other children which were having their noon nap and looked very cute when one of the assistants approached me saying "Carmel got punched up a little bit today... its nothing serious but she has those little red areas on her nose..."

I wasn't sure how to react and all I wanted was to see her as soon as I can. "I see. Where is she" i asked quietly with a forced smile, trying putting my good guy face on. "She is there, playing. she is all right now..." I heard the assistant voice already going to the direction she was pointing at.

Then the kindergarten teacher heard they were calling Carmel's name so she left her previous business and approached me with the same news. "Yes, I just heard that" I said. "Did you see how it happened"? I asked, remembering the previous event, which was also the first, when she came back on her second birthday with a small human bit on her arm. "Another child hit her with this small plastic shovel but we didn't actually see it until a few seconds".

Increasing number of kindergartners coming to our attention for aggressive behavior

At this point Carmel and I noticed each other. She was lying down - alone - on one of the mattresses and stood up immediately. About 0.3 seconds later she was smiling ear to ear in my arms, hugging me in the most amazing way. Nothing else in the world compares with that feeling.

As you can see in the picture (right above the little pieces of the lunch) this is really not a very serious event (all right, the red marks can hardly be spotted but they are there!) but for Nitsi and me it still is a worrying one. I have done some googling about kindergarten violence yesterday evening when I became ill as well (temperature up, bad feeling, sweat, shakes, you name it I had it last night). Not many horrific stories seem to have popped up in the prominent worldwide media very recently and thats already a good sign. Yet, it might had more to do with me getting ill as Nitsi and failing to preform the search properly...

As expected, don't get too optimistic as things don't seem to be heading the "good" direction on this matter. Michael Parker, program director of psychological services at the Fort Worth Independent School District, USA, which serves 80,000 students., said in a 2003 Time interview:
I'm clearly seeing an increasing number of kindergartners and first-graders coming to our attention for aggressive behavior... We're talking about serious talking back to teachers, profanity, even biting, kicking and hitting adults, and we're seeing it in 5-year-olds.
And these are not the kids who have been formally labeled emotionally disturbed, says Nekedria Clark, who works in Parker's department:
"We have our E.D. kids, and then we have our b-a-d kids."
In the first four months of 2002, according to USA Today, under new schools chief Paul Vallas, 33 kindergartners have been suspended from Philadelphia public schools, up from just one during the same period last year. Israeli media has more recent reports of kindergarten violence. This article for example suggests some aspects depend on the parents.

OK, my temperature goes up again. I am ill, remember? Less than a year ago, few weeks after Carmel started going to this kindergarten I happened to manage "upgrading" such a simple flue to an real pneumonia and found myself visiting the local hospital. I think i am going to sign off now and rest for a while. I don't feel like having another round of this extremely expensive hi-tech antibiotics I was eating three time a day for 10 days back then.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Are you a webutante?

According to techscape.tv, (" Charting the rise of mobile 2.0") there is a new "word of the day" going on in the UK nowadays: ‘webutante’. Dawn Bebe, ex MD at magazine publisher Emap Elan, who’s setting up a new Web 2.0 fashion site called Osoyou.com due to launch this summer is quoted by techscape.tv saying:
“There’s a new breed of webutantes - and fashion brands - who just aren’t getting what they want - a 24/7 anytime, anywhere fashion forward shopping channel which is stylish and fun.”

With the catchy slogan of "Stare. Shop. Share." Osoyou.com say they will offer a mixture of shopping and social networking, with advertising from high-end fashion and beauty brands. Osoyou users will also have their own "style files" to store favorite items. If you are a webutante, maybe you should check on them later on this summer.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Ladysitters

In the pre-web2.0 era, when there were very few and limited options for people to share their media with each other, they were simply sending their "good stuff" in email message attachments. It was horrible, but it worked. Although most of the stuff you got was quite a b.s. some of it was nice.

I remember getting this clip to my email within one of Chuck's huge chainlist messages he used to run around 2003. It was rude, loaded with chauvinistic "nuances", very homophobic and mostly making fun of the "feminist male" type of person. It's actually quite hard to name the reasons why would any of us like watching this kind of humor vids (I might try doing so in one of my next posts but please tell me I didn't have to write that...). It is obviously very far from the true thoughts and believes about human relationships most of us normal human beings have, yet Nitsi and I both liked it. We actually loved it so much it has been quoted among us about a million times.

As somehow I managed to exclude it from the backups this video became kind of a private family myth. Something that keeps coming up as part as a "culture item". I tried searching for it a few times, including on Youtube, but nothing came up or i guess i just didn't try hard enough. So, to make a long story short:

This morning I spend some time looking for this when Nitsi took Carmel to her parents' swimming pool and found it on two websites. One of them looks a bit creepy so I won't suggest it as a main address but just in case something happens to the following, brought to you here directly from a cool looking German video site named clipfish.de

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Neo-Dada montage projects

It has been quite a while since i said anything about Carmel and all of you must be very curious to know how she is doing. Well, she is doing just fine and every day there is a new trick. Some of the tricks - like coming back from the kinder garden with a load full of Neo-Dada montage projects - are common, yet always so beautiful! I just HAD to take this short video yesterday during the afternoon break and show them to you:

OK, I admit she didn't do all that on her own - this one for example was done with some help from Nitsi - but still: aren't they spectacular? you can clearly see how her mother is a talented art-director. There are also fully-textured high-res stills in this new PicasaWeb album to prove that if you are interested. I think I am going to post more of those as they come to this album.

Who Comments on Blogs, and Why?

Stephen J. Dubner from freakonomics.com published this discussion trigger post about the million dollar question that bothers most bloggers: who comments on blogs and why?

On the freakonomics.com blog, according to Dubner, 40 or 50 comments on a certain post are considered "quite a bit" even though this is a very popular blog with "many thousands of readers" so the number of nature of the comment stream depend on the nature of blog or at least the post.

With an overall number of 117 comments it certainly looks like asking the right question can be one of the best ways to get a nice number of comments. Following are two of my favorite responses to Dubner's trigger question:
on 15 Mar 2007 at 8:52 am # JakeSutton
...I comment regularly on the blogs of people I actually know, but very rarely on the blogs of strangers or on what might be called “public figure blogs”. I think a lot of it actually comes down to basic human shyness. Nobody wants to speak up for fear of sticking their foot in their mouth. ;^)

on 16 Mar 2007 at 7:22 am # yorkd
... Some time ago, Brian C. Warnock posted a question to a Perl discussion group, got no replies and wondered why — the lack of response to his query become known as “Warnock’s Dilema”. Wikipedia has somewhat similiar “stub problem” — incomplete threads, lacking incremental knowledge from commenters. Lower status bloggers are faced with a sortof Fermi’s Blogger Paradox — why have we not been visited? Why hasn’t anyone addressed our question(s)? Is there life out there that understands my queries?

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Interactive Adobe billboard



Has Adobe abandoned computer screens in favor of a busy Manhattan street or is the above billboard a new step in the latest Adobe vs. Microsoft battle? According to the NYTimes early morning July 13, Adobe unveiled an "interactive wall of projected animation in Union Square, along the 14th Street side of the Virgin Megastore". As people pass by this Adobe wall, "infrared sensors lock on to the person closest to the wall" who is then able to "control a projected slider button at the bottom of the wall". Isn't it cool? I say it is. but wait, there is more!

As the person continues walking and moves the slider along, the wall displays animation and plays music. According to the NYT, this effect grow or recede at the pace that the person advances or retreats. And then comes the punch line as "when each selected pedestrian reaches the end of the wall, his or her design will be in full blossom, above the campaign’s message: “Creative license: take as much as you want.”

The new Adobe wall is 7 feet high and 15 feet wide and is planned to be placed early August, at the Piccadilly Circus Virgin Megastore, London. Each will be there for a month. Nice videos of the wall can be seen below and here. I just wonder about the carbon footprint of this new creature.


Tuesday, July 17, 2007

World's Most Powerful Nuclear Power Plant on Fire! Causes Radioactive Spill

According to Associated Press (Mon Jul 16, 2:35 PM ET) a strong earthquake shook Japan's northwest coast Monday, setting off a fire at the world's most powerful nuclear power plant and causing a reactor to spill radioactive water into the sea - an accident not reported to the public for hours. There is also a video on Yahoo.

read more | digg story

Free copies of Fantasy and Science Fiction for bloggers

The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction is giving away copies of their Sept. 2007 issue to bloggers willing to write about the issue on their blogs. This issue features stories by Alexander Jablokov, John Langan, Albert E. Cowdrey, Heather Lindsley, Kevin N. Haw, Robert Reed, and a brand new story by Ted Chiang.

read more | digg story

Happy Blogiversary - 10 years since the blog was born

It's been 10 years since the blog was born. Love them or hate them, they've roiled presidential campaigns and given everyman a global soapbox. Twelve commentators -- including Tom Wolfe, Newt Gingrich, the SEC's Christopher Cox and actress-turned-blogger Mia Farrow -- on what blogs mean to them.

read more | digg story

Monday, July 16, 2007

WikiYou: The people's Wiki

Recently launched WikiYou is a website dedicated to "the unauthorized biography of every person on earth". According to Mashable!, a leading blog focused exclusively on social networks, the most active members on the site are invited to become editors and are promised to get prominent placement for stories they include about a person. Mashable! highlights a few interesting comments about how this system work:

The actual “stories” about a person show up in speech bubbles that resemble the updates you’ll see on Twitter, and tend to be rather short. You can include links, images and flash embeddable media into a “story” as well.
These are pretty cool features, helping in fueling the social aspects of the process. Yet, this type of service has obvious potential problems within the privacy and identity theft areas:

There are absolutely no privacy settings, so anyone can edit anyone’s biography. WikiYou also has a separate section for Celebs. There are of course, privacy and security issues that can come about as a result, but the wiki nature of this service means that, even if content is revised, it’s not deleted.

For the good and the bad of it, ever since Internet came into our life, there is very little most of us can practically do about what other people say about us and this is not just problem of celebrities anymore. Wikipedia already has many articles about ordinary people so my advice is for you to "be there" for your own name before the bad guys will.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Barry Sonnenfeld's adaptation to DeLillo’s White Noise "Appears to have ceased"

For quite some time, actually since I read it about ten years ago, I've been waiting for a proper film adaptation of Don DeLillo’s White Noise, a comic novel about an "airborne toxic event" and its impact on a college town.

About three years ago I happened to found out that a film adaptation by
Barry Sonnenfeld's (Men in Black 1997; Director, Get Shorty 1995; Director ; Executive Producer) was scheduled to be released in 2006. I bookmarked the page on IMDB and came back to check for news every once in a while but it got forgotten until today, when I found out that the movie page on IMDB has been removed... ??!!!

Checking at the novel page on Wikipedia I discovered that sadly the pre-production "appears to have ceased as of the fall of 2006" and the Internet Movie Database (IMDB) has indeed "removed all references to this movie". What a bummer!! Mr. Sonnenfeld. you really let me down this time. I guess I'll have to settled with buying a new copy of the book and watch Game 6 again - a DeLillo’s novel which did manage to find its way to the screen.

More about White Noise
  • Author: Don DeLillo
  • Country: United States
  • Language: English
  • Genre(s): Novel
  • Publisher: Viking Adult
  • Publication date: 21 Jan 1985
  • Media type: Print (Hardback & Paperback)
  • Pages: 326 pp (hardback first edition)
  • ISBN: 0-670-80373-1

It's official: OLPC and Intel become friends, collaborate

The One Laptop Per Child Project and Intel have put their differences aside, at least for now, as Intel agrees to take a seat on the OLPC Board of Directors. The new "peace" between Intel and OLPC will also involve the project receiving some funding from Intel, and according to a statement, "Intel and OLPC will explore collaborations involving technology and educational content."

read more | digg story

Mixed logic magazine with assorted Conceptis puzzles launched in Russia

Zheleznaya Logika, a monthly magazine containing assortment of number-logic and picture-logic puzzles from Conceptis, was released in Russia in April, 2007 by Bauer-Russia.

Priced at 15 Rubles (about $0.58) Zheleznaya Logika (Russian: Железная логика) is a medium format 52-page magazine containing a mix of 65 Conceptis puzzles, including Classic Sudoku, Mini Sudoku, Diagonal Sudoku, Irregular Sudoku, Sum Sudoku, OddEven Sudoku, Multi Sudoku, Mega Sudoku, Kakuro, Slitherlink, Hitori, Pic-a-Pix, Link-a-Pix, Fill-a-Pix, Maze-a-Pix and Battleships. All puzzles are available in a range of difficulty levels from easy to hard.

The ninth magazine with Conceptis puzzles

"Our research showed Sudoku and picture-puzzle magazine readers are the same" says Maxim Popov, Deputy EiC at Publishing Group Bauer Russia. "There is a known risk in launching magazines dedicated to unfamiliar puzzle types and we could not placed too many new types of logic puzzles in current Sudoku magazines. The solution was Zheleznaya Logika: mixing all number-logic and picture-logic puzzles in a single publication."

Bauer-Russia, Conceptis' exclusive partner in Russia since May 2002, launched Zheleznaya Logika after the eight following magazines:

  • Toyama Tokanava (20 pages with Pic-a-Pix puzzles)
  • Kimono-To Nedoshito (16 pages with picture-logic puzzles)
  • Sikoku-Sikoku (20 pages with Pic-a-Pix)
  • Sum-Do-Ku (52 pages with Classic Sudoku)
  • Kakuro (52 pages with Classic Kakuro)
  • Doku-San. Sudoku Slozhnye (52 pages with Classic Sudoku)
  • Sbornik Sudoku (52 pages with Classic Sudoku)
  • Nauchis. Sudoku Lyogkie (52 pages with Classic Sudoku)

Part of Heinrich Bauer Verlagsgruppe, Bauer-Russia is one of the five leading publishers in Russia. Established in 1994, the company currently publishes 34 newspapers and magazines with a total distribution of over 20 millions copies per month.


Saturday, July 14, 2007

The first International Conceptis member gathering



Well, it really happened and there is a short video and some pictures to prove it... On the evening July 12, 2007, in our home garden in the small country side village of Kfar Netter, the first International Conceptis member gathering took place.

Approximately 20 "Conceptised" workers and website members from Finland and Israel as well as some friends and family had the pleasure of meeting each other, having a few snacks, drinking some good Israeli wine and mainly talking about puzzles, dreams and the future of Conceptis. To me it seems that everyone had great fun (I guess we'll still see about that...) and it might even be that one or two very interesting operational ideas came up.

View, enjoy and... don't forget to comment! Stay tuned as full report will follow.

Friday, July 13, 2007

the.co.ils Zone

Have you been looking for better access to the people behind the Israeli internet industry? Check out the.co.ils Zone - new a social network for internet operations allowing direct contact with Start-up companies Venture Capital groups and other companies and people.

Announced just yesterday, the.co.ils Zone is interesting and somewhat different by allowing its members easy distribution of information and promotion of interests without considering it as spam. On this network you can write a post about your company, product and services, add yourself to the relevant groups, contact Start-ups, VC's, Companies and others, upload pictures and of course run your own blog.

Created on the Ning platform, an online service for creating and sharing of Social Networks, the.co.ils Zone is a new venture by Yaron Orenstein and Yami Glick from the Israeli blog thecoils.com.

Check out my new space on this platform.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Lawnmower's day

From Garden
It's Wednesday and I never touch the lawnmower before weekends. Yet, I just realized this evening has to be different. Bummer? not at all. Sometimes hard labor has very good reasons: tomorrow, July 12 2007, 18:30 Israel time, is not only Carmel's second birthday but also the first International Conceptis gathering involving website members will practically start taking its place right on our very own grass outside our humble home in Kfar Netter. If you are from outer space and have no idea what am I talking about you might want to try some of the puzzles on this website at www.conceptispuzzles.com

Totally thrilled

Nitsi and I have had one or two parties here since we moved in 5 years ago (what? should we have more??). We have had the chance to guest Chie from Japan at our house and of course had Dave here for working meetings many times, but we have never had the honor and privilege of hosting any International Conceptis gathering. Not to mention one involving website members from both Finland and Israel.

We are totally thrilled. The guests from Finland are already having good time in Israel. There is going to be some food and wine and other than the obvious full report there are going to be quite a few pictures taken and hopefully a video on youtube so stay tunned. I am sure now any of you would agree that the garden needs to look at its best, right? I guess you can say this would be a whole bunch of individuals@home... LOL.

Get involved

Anyways, back to the original subject, I'll have to sign off earlier than usual today as no house gecko like me can do the grass with the Israeli summer sun over his head and walk out standing. Israeli lawn mowing needs to be when there is still light but the sunset has already started. say at about 18:30 at this time of the year.

So, if you have any comments already you are mostly welcome to get involved and start posting them. Simply use the comments link at the bottom of this post. The one that usually says "0 comment" because, other than my wife who obviously wants to keep an eye on what I am saying here, I am probably the only one who is reading this stuff (for an exceptional example see this post). Just in case I am wrong, I set this blog to allow comments from anyone (even from myself in case none of you picks up this virtual glove) so I believe you don't even have to have a blogger account.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Chinese mobile phone batteries explode

China have been popping up a lot lately with various defective products and product recalls. we red about pet food recall, recalled poisoner toothpastes, poisonous toys, we had major car company under pressure to recall its products because there is danger of the tire treads separating and more examples of how low-cost products can turn into high-cost ones very quickly.

If you read this blog (of course you are, what am I saying here?) you must know I make regular use of a Motorola RAZR V3X phone. As a result of this fact I was pretty much interested with this recent news item about how we now also have mobile phone batteries joining this defect spectacle show. Now mobile phone batteries are exploding and killing people for real and in tests! isn't it nice?

Apparently, an exploding cell phone caused the death of Chinese welder Xiao Jinpeng, who used to be working at Yingpan Iron Ore Dressing Plant in Gansu’s Jinta county. As far as I know, apart from the famous January 5, 1996 assassination of Yehiya Ayyash also known as "the engineer" (at that time the leading Hamas bomb expert) which was part of someone's plans, this is probably the first case in which an exploding mobile phone actually kills a man. The battery in the deceased Motorola cell phone exploded in his shirt pocket. According to IntoMobile - a website dedicated news and buzz in the world of mobile technology:

  • The explosion was linked to high-temperatures in the plant, according to colleagues - that must have been some crazy-hot work environment.
  • The fatal battery failure took place on June 19 and resulted in Xiao’s death on July 4th.
  • The battery explosion broke the welder’s ribs and fragments of the casing pierced his heart.
  • Authorities are investigating the incident - particularly whether or not the man was using an authentic Motorola phone and genuine Motorola battery
  • If the device turns out to be a bona fide Motorola product, the embattled mobile phone manufacturer could be in for some fun times.

Live Earth Carbon Footprint: 74,500 tons of the gas

Sometimes what we do and what we think we do is not quite the same. John Buckley of Carbon Footprint, an organization that helps companies reduce their carbon dioxide emissions, said Saturday when interviewed to The Washington Post about the Live Earth London event from 3 days ago:

"Live Earth will produce about 74,500 tons of the gas... We would have to plant 100,000 trees to offset the effect of Live Earth". Yet, he also added that "if you can reach 2 billion people and raise awareness, that's pretty fantastic."

I still need to adjust my calculations for our supermini car millage (which we only use to bring Carmel to and from her kindergarden) and our average yearly household power consumption based on previous electricity bills. Yet, I just made a rough calculation of our house carbon footprint, using this handy calculator from carbonfootprint.com - and guess what?

As my wife and I work exclusively from home and are both avid "home fans" we seem to have an extremely low footprint comparing to the average UK household. Based on the estimated data our house has a total primary household CO2 (kg) footprint of 6,454 comparing to and average of 12,034 in UK average household. In case you are interested, this determine your own primary carbon footprint, based on your household fuel bills and your annual travel. For your annual travel you can choose to enter just your own personal travel, or the total travel taken by your full household / family.

Monday, July 9, 2007

21Publish: become a blog host

Blogging and social networking are major issues nowadays, keeping the lights on in many business development departments, marketing strategy rooms and non-profit organization headquarters. They are more or less what SEO (Search Engine Optimization) has been in the last three years or so. For that reason, 21Publish is a very interesting Web2.0 venture.

While most other blog services mainly offer blogs for individuals not for groups, with 21Publish you can become a blog host yourself. This platform will aggregates the individual and independent blogs of any number of people with a shared interest: any club, college, media company or enterprise can use the system and offer blogs to their members, users, students or friends. I am not sure how many more of those there are out there but this one is certainly an interesting service.

21Publish is specifically designed to be used as a community publishing network. Administration panel allows central control over the network. The look of the Blog Community can reflect its own brand, hand on its own domain and be using its own design. It can work as a fully functional, stand-alone website or be seamlessly integrated into an existing one. Here are a few featured communities linked from the 21Publish website:
Key features

A list of handy features (see all of them here) gives users the means to customize their blog communities according to their needs in terms of community features, design, user functions, and privacy. Key features are:
  • BlogPortal as community homepage
  • Central console to manage multi-user platform
  • Suitable for thousands of users with independent yet inter-connected blogs
  • Multiple Options for user registration process
  • RSS Integration of existing Blogs operated through other providers
  • Runs under yourdomain.com or fully integrated into your existing site
  • Selection of templates or your own CSS editing
Hosted application

For the good and the bad of it, 21Publish is a hosted application. It means there's no software to install, no maintenance and no updates required at your end. You can set up and run your own personal BlogPortal and invite others to join in. But this also means you don't have 100% control over the system. For a group of good friends sharing a common interest this would not be of any problem. For some companies and chief technical officers I know it probably would.

21Publish is a classic 2-layer system: the first layer is your BlogPortal or community homepage where users can register and login, find new blog entries or community news. The second layer consists of all the individual blogs of community members.

Price?

Free for small communities of up to 100 users (blogs) providing 2MB of webspace for each, 21Publish's business model also allows on-demand upgrade options and enterprise solutions with pricing depends on three factors:
  • The number of users (bloggers)
  • How much web space allowed for each user
  • Allowing 21Publish to be the ones who place advertising on user blogs or not
Using your own advertising through banners or Google AdSense, as well as using your own domain (domain mapping) is only available in paid BlogPortals. There is an online price calculator on the company's website.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Microsoft(R) Firefox | We've Made it Better

Just stumbled this "amazingly going all the way to make its point" site with the strange eyecatching domain name of msfirefox.com and could not believe my own eyes. I found myself clicking my way from the About page to the Download looking to see what is going actually on here. Then I had to keep my mouth shut with my palm to avoid my laughter moos from waking everyone at the house. Following is some text from this site about page. Don't miss the rest of it! There is even a Press section...

We provide tools for developing Microsoft standards content

  • Microsoft offers the best implementation of its web standards. Period.
  • By acquiring competitors left, right and center, we offer to to roll a plethora of core technologies into one - removing unnecessary compatibility issues and risks.
  • We utilize scare tactics such as filing lawsuits against companies who we deem as second rate or are providing low-key products to our more deserving users. Such techniques has effectively stabilized core security kernels within technologies such as Microsoft Windows.
We are a slightly open source community

  • We continue to be a leader and partner in slightly open source development, providing low cost*and alternative choices for technology. With millions of users already, we are one of the world's largest distributors of slightly open source software.
  • Our software development processes all take place in the public eye*. We have nothing to hide.
* Official US Civil Antitrust Complaint required

Conceptis puzzles @ nordinho.net

This short review titled Conceptis - Pic-A-Pix, Link-A-Pix, Fill-A-Pix, Maze-A-Pix, Kakuro and Sudoku was published about a year ago on nordinho.net - a forum and blogs community dedicated to adventure games, riddles and puzzles. Check out the personal blog of rbmagic (seen on left) a 23 years old highly active member (1705 forum posts!) from Australia who seems to like Conceptis puzzles very much!

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Internet Relay Chat: from chatscan past to iPhone future

Just as http, ftp and other commonly known and used Internet protocols IRC (Internet Relay Chat) is an Internet protocol allowing people to virtually meat each other in theme based channels and exchange text and other type of messages in a synchronized manner. This form of synchronous (real-time) conferencing is mainly designed for group (many-to-many) communication in discussion forums called channels, but also allows one-to-one communication and data transfers via private message. See Wikipedia for more.

In the late nineties I have found myself very busy researching the IRC network with my younger brother Lior and a very good friend named Moshe Carmeli. Within the frame of an ambitious project we were trying to promote, we took extreme efforts to convince local venture capital companies that IRC needs to and can be indexed in a real time manner to allow people identifying and accessing live conversations based on their personal interests. Our point was that being an open platform the IRC network host much more users than any other single commercial chat application. To prove this point we used special custom made tools and counted millions of chatters on the network. It was a fantastic experience as if we were discovering a new hidden continent, loaded with gold and oil.

A bit of a bitter taste

As the millennium turned, just a few months before the "Internet bobble" had blown up we got tipped about a project named chatscan by eNow which was being developed by some other group of former Israeli
entrepreneurs who practically have the exact same idea. The difference was that - as opposed to us - they had a working model and already got an amazing sum of money form a very respectable investment group so after almost three years and lots of ups and downs we decided to pull of. The adventure left us with a bit of a bitter taste but as we kind of made our point "Communiverse" was left behind and each of us moved forward to his own destiny.

I almost forgot about IRC for a few years now until this morning when i read this.
I have already heard that since the was launched people are on a crazy lookout for web applications to run on their new toy. Almost 10 years have passed since communiverse and chatscan, the Internet went a long way but there is still now way to find IRC chatrooms on a real time content based method. Yet, it was just yesterday when people have actually started logging in to IRC channels using their iPhone devices!

Gearlive.com, a popular tech blog, explains the process of how IRC channels can be accsed using iPhones with this short presentation. I bet if this would work IRC is about to take a huge step forward as millions of new users are about to join. Note that using the method you also need a Mac workstation.

Friday, July 6, 2007

The Internet Frog: test your bandwidth



internetFrog.com provides this cool tool for testing both your download - the speed at which your Internet connection downloads data to your PC from the Internet and your upload - the speed at which your Internet connection uploads data from your PC out to the Internet. The Internet Frog tool also reports the Quality of Service (QOS) for your connection, which represents the level of consistent download capacity provided by your Internet Service Provider (ISP). The higher QOS percentage, the higher the overall quality of the connection - which results in better connections for high traffic applications, such as streaming content (audio, video, VoIP calls, etc.)

Other parameters mesured are RTT which stands for the Round Trip Time (RTT) reports the total time in milliseconds (ms) to send a small data packet and obtain a reply back. The smaller the RTT score means a faster the connection and Max Pause - the longest pause recorded during the data download. This should be a very small number. If not, it could indicate Internet congestion or a bad Internet connection. You can see my test results in the picture.

The Internet Frog has many tools for webmasters, domain owners, network administrators, and website developers. The Internet Frog is free to use.

http://www.internetfrog.com/mypc/speedtest/

del.icio.us

The most popular service of its kind and one of the most interesting web2.0 applications, the website del.icio.us (pronounced as "delicious") is a social bookmarking web service for storing, sharing, and discovering web bookmarks.

Founded by Joshua Schachter in late 2003, and now part of Yahoo!, del.icio.us allows users to manage and share web bookmarks from a centralized source. With emphasis on community power, del.icio.us improves how people discover, remember and share on the Internet.

Other than just being a fantastic service, an important aspect of del.icio.us sums up to the fact you can always import / export / backup your del.icio.us bookmarks in various formats so you are not even committed to using it as your main bookmark tool. You can see all bookmarks of del.icio.us team here. The del.icio.us guys also have a blog and a community.

More of the story of del.icio.us, as told by Joshua and interpreted by other people can be seen under the following links:

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Zoomquilt: collaborative art project

Defined by its creators as a "collaborative art project" Zoomquilt is one of the most spectacular collaborative art creations I have ever seen. Technically, the Zoomquilt project is a recursive set of pictures conceptualized and produced by Nikolaus Baumgarten as an online presentation.

Similarly to the commonly known effect created by two mirrors placed one in front of the other, the special technique is used by the Zoomquilt artists to create a very long zoom in motion allowing the viewer to control speed and forward-backward directions. The project is available in Flash, HTML and Screensaver (exe) formats. I recommend you'd take the Flash.

Previously on someone said that

"There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home." Ken Olsen (1926 - ), President, Digital Equipment, 1977

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Dr. T. V. Raman's complete audio desktop

Have you ever tried using your Windows voice-to-text speech engine? If so I bet you got depressed as I did. I bet you went to sleep that day thinking how far we still are from those sci-fi movies showing people chatting with his home computers, normally having the voice of a hot sexy female. I bet you did.

Anyways, if the idea of having a complete voice interaction with your data fits well into your dreams, you might want to check out Emacspeak - a new technology dramatically changing how blind and visually impaired users around the world can interact with the personal computer and the Internet.

Conceived by Dr. T. V. Raman, (see picture from raman's Public Gallery on Picasa webalbums) who obtained his first guide-dog, Aster Labrador, from Guiding Eyes in January 1990 - Emacspeak is a speech interface that allows visually impaired users to interact independently and efficiently with the computer. Using "Audio formatting" - a technique pioneered by AsTeR - and full support for W3C's Aural CSS (ACSS) - Emacspeak produces rich aural presentations of electronic information. By blending different aspects of the Internet such as Web-surfing and messaging, Emacspeak speech-enables local and remote information via a consistent and well-integrated user interface.

A suite of task-oriented tools provides efficient speech-enabled access to the audio desktop and evolving semantic WWW. According to T. V. Raman, when combined with Linux running on low-cost PC hardware, Emacspeak/Linux provides a reliable, stable speech-friendly solution that opens up the Internet to visually impaired users around the world.

See the online manual, productivity tips, speech-enabled applications list and the various online resources for Emacspeak locatable through Google for additional details.

T. V. Raman is one of the most well known computer scientists who came from India. According to Wikipedia, T. V. Raman has worked on speech interaction and markup technologies in the context of the World Wide Web at Digital's Cambridge Research Lab (CRL), Adobe Systems and IBM Research and he presently works at Google Research.

His research interests are primarily auditory user interfaces and structured electronic documents. His PhD thesis entitled Audio System For Technical Readings was awarded the ACM Dissertation Award in 1994. Raman went on to apply the ideas on audio formatting introduced in AsTeR to the more general domain of computer interfaces Emacspeak. On Monday, April 12, 1999, Emacspeak became part of the Smithsonian's Permanent Research Collection on Information Technology at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History.

Way to go Dr. Raman. I wish I was half as brave, strong and innovative as you are. I am also going to try installing your amazing system on the Linux machine I plan as version 2 of our HTPC. It's gonna take time, but I am going to give it a try.