Friday, August 22, 2014

Mythbuster misfortune

It was really disappointing to see the end of the current season of Mythbusters.  The season have felt too short of late but that's not the reason.  Tacked on to the end of the episode was an announcement that Kari Byron, Grant Imahara, and Tory Belleci will not be back next season.  That wasn't expected, and the way they handled it was particularly ham-handed.  You might think, if they knew this was coming, that the show might dedicate a significant portion of their season finale to a retrospective on all the work the trio did for Mythbusters.  My current pet theory is that Discovery channel tried to get the three of them to do a fake Shark Week documentary, they refused, and Discovery lashed out like a petulant child and fired them all.  Probably not true, but it sounds good.  You can see the sad ending to season 11 of Mythbusters here.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Wheaton's law revisited

A while ago, I posted a link to a presentation Phil Plait gave advocating for Wil Wheaton's law.  Now I stumbled upon a video from TYT's Nerd Alert saying largely the same thing.  I guess until all the trolls die off, this is a message that needs to be repeated.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Electronic privacy protection in Utah

While I generally point out the shortcomings of local government and poke fun at their failings, today I thought I'd chime in with something positive.  On March 31, Governor Herbert signed into law HB0128.  This bill makes it explicit that a government agency needs to get a warrant before obtaining location information on an electronic device.  So, the Utah state legislature feels that a person's cell phone shouldn't be used as a tracking device against them without just cause.  Sometimes it's nice to say that someone's thinking is so twentieth century.  Good work guys, think the federal government will respect your law?  More on this story here

Friday, April 4, 2014

Message to teachers, tell the truth, lose your job

As reported in the Salt Lake Tribune, a teacher in the Granite School District has been placed on administrative leave and may lose their job.  The heinous crime this educator is accused of is . . . telling the truth.  Specifically, the truth this educator let slip was that computer adapted standardized tests were a waste of time and irrelevant to students.  Anyone who has bothered to take a look at high stakes standardized tests has reached the same conclusion,with the possible exception of people who have a financial stake in such tests.  So basically, the teacher got in trouble for not sticking to the party line and may now be out of work.  Punishing people for not going along with the argument from authority is something that is more at home in North Korea or cold war era East Germany, not the United States.  Sometimes it is easier to understand a seemingly irrational action if one applies the concept of projection onto it.  If the Granite School District lashes out so crudely when someone questions a test that is a waste of time and irrelevant, perhaps they do so because they find that their institution is increasingly a waste of time and irrelevant.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Inspirational quote of the day

You never have to give up what you believe,
To support someone else's insecurities.

- Billy Scudder

Thursday, February 6, 2014

The truth is meowt there

The real reason for so few entries on this blog, I have been brainwashed by Internet cat celebrities and now, finally, somebody has the courage to reveal the awful truth, enter, "Truther Cats,":

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Mermaids, Megalodon and mockumentaries, oh my

Quite a few people have commented on the Animal Planet programs: “Mermaids: The Body Found,” and the follow up “Mermaids: The New Evidence.” These are a pair of fictional programs that present themselves like a documentary. Not to be outdone, the Discovery Channel jumped on the bandwagon with a shark week program entitled: “Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives.” All three of these programs are depressing statement of the state of programming on basic cable television, particularly on channels that profess to have some informational value. If someone were inclined to defend such programming, they might point out that there were disclaimers at the end of the programs. Let's take a look at the disclaimers, first up Megalodon:

none of the institutions or agencies that appear in the film are affiliated with it in any way, nor have approved of its contents.
though certain events and characters in this film have been dramatized, sightings of “submarine” continue to this day.
megalodon was a real shark. legends of giant sharks persist all over the world. there is still debate about what they may be.

Next, the disclaimer that ran at the end of both mermaid programs:

none of the institutions or agencies that appear in the film are affiliated or associated with it in any way, nor have approved its contents. any similarities in the film to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
though certain events in this film are fictional, navy sonar tests have been directly implicated in whale beachings
the bloop is a real phenomenon. there is still debate about what it may be.

All of these were in white text in all caps, on the screen for a short period of time and right at the end of the program. It also looks like they get their legal boilerplate from the same source. The mermaid programs were even more tricky and placed their disclaimer at the end of the closing credits, megalodon at least put up it's disclaimer during the program's conclusion. The really frustrating thing is that neither just come out and says, “It's a joke, we pulled a fast one on you, there are no mermaids/megalodons.” To show how a disclaimer at the end of a trick broadcast is supposed to go, I take you to 1938 and the words of Orson Welles:

“This is Orson Welles, ladies and gentlemen, out of character to assure you that 'The War of The Worlds' has no further significance than as the holiday offering it was intended to be: the Mercury Theatre's own radio version of dressing up in a sheet an jumping out of a bush and saying 'Boo!' Starting now, we couldn't soap all your windows and steal all your garden gates by tomorrow night. . . so we did the next best thing. We annihilated the world before your very ears, and utterly destroyed the Columbia Broadcasting System. You will be relieved, I hope, to learn that we didn't mean it, and that both institutions are still open for business. So goodbye everybody, and remember, please, the terrible lesson you learned tonight. That grinning, glowing, globular invader of your living room is an inhabitant of the pumpkin patch, and if your doorbell rings and nobody's there, that was no Martian. . . it's Hallowe'en.”