Google Street View to Scope out Walking Routes

So I was using Google Street View to scope out walking routes crossing over an interstate. It was working pretty well, and it looked like the route I was looking at was good. There were sidewalks and crosswalks. Then I saw these cones.
Flattened cones on a sidewalk
Let's just hope they weren't flattened while they were on the sidewalk, or I'm in trouble!

Netflix family marketing

I spotted this ad on Grooveshark (source URL):

A family decides what to watch on Netflix

Aah, a family having a night in with popcorn and movies, deciding what to watch on Netflix. Hmm, kids, is this a No Strings Attached night, or are we feeling some Paranormal Activity 2?

Here are all the covers I can pick out (Google Images look-alike search helped on a few), right-to-left and top-to-bottom, and information about each (source: IMDB):

  1. Mad Men (TV series, AMC) - drama
  2. Kick-Ass - Action, adventure, comedy - Rated R for strong brutal violence throughout, pervasive language, sexual content, nudity and some drug use - some involving children
  3. No Strings Attached - Comedy, romance - Rated R for sexual content, language and some drug material
  4. True Grit - Adventure, drama, western - Rated PG-13 for some intense sequences of western violence including disturbing images
  5. Killers - Action, comedy, romance, thriller - Rated PG-13 for violent action, sexual material and language
  6. The Vampire Diaries (TV series, The CW) - Drama, fantasy, horror, romance
  7. Iron Man 2 - Action, adventure, sci-fi - Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence, and some language
  8. Something w/ Spongebob Squarepants (TV series, Nickelodeon) - Animation, comedy, family, fantasy - Rated TV-Y
  9. The Office (TV series, NBC) - Comedy, drama, romance - Rated TV-14
  10. Sons of Anarchy (TV series, FX) - Crime, drama - Rated TV-MA
  11. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - Crime, drama, mystery, thriller - Rated R for brutal violent content including rape and torture, strong sexuality, graphic nudity, and language
  12. Hot Tub Time Machine - Adventure, comedy, sci-fi - Rated R for strong crude and sexual content, nudity, drug use and pervasive language
  13. Glee (TV series, Fox) - Comedy, drama, musical
  14. Limitless - Mystery, sci-fi, thriller - Rated PG-13 for thematic material involving a drug, violence including disturbing images, sexuality and language
  15. The Fighter - Drama, biography, sport - Rated R for language throughout, drug content, some violence and sexuality
  16. Super Troopers - Comedy, crime, mystery - Rated R for language, sexual content and drug use
  17. The Expendables - Action, adventure, thriller - Rated R for strong action and bloody violence throughout, and for some language
  18. Office Space - Comedy, crime - Rated R for language and brief sexuality
  19. Take Me Home Tonight - Comedy, drama, romance - Rated R for language, sexual content and drug use
  20. Paranormal Activity 2 - Horror - Rated R for some language and brief violent material
  21. Friday Night Lights (TV series, NBC) - Drama, sport
  22. How I Met Your Mother (TV series, CBS) - Comedy, romance
  23. Original Sin - Drama, mystery, romance, thriller - Rated R for strong sexual content and some violence (edited version)

OK, so we've got a cover with prominent breasts, two implying sex pretty strongly, three with guns.  Just the title of one contains an expletive frowned on in some (many? most?) young households.  And those are the superficial things!

I identified 15 movies.  Out of those, 11 (70%) are rated R.  15 (100%) are rated PG-13 or higher.  I imagine most of the content of the TV series would be rated similarly.  We've got sex, violence, and drugs in many of them, including rape and torture in a few.  "Disturbing images" and horror in several.

I recognize not everyone is as uptight as I am, and there's some room for arguing you shouldn't let letter grades from the MPAA define your standards.  But I think we can all agree that very few parents, in their right minds, would watch Paranormal Activity, or The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, or Original Sin with kids that young.

How did this happen? Did Netflix just auto-update the screen to show their latest, most popular titles, not thinking of the young family context of the photo?

I'm not sure exactly how I feel about this - the absurd amount of time I spent on it (about 30 minutes) is surprising - but ultimately I think it's just disbelief that Netflix could be this stupid.  Or perhaps shock, if this content really is standard fare in young American families?  The stats on ratings and content turned out even worse than I would have guessed before I started counting.

Oh, well.  At least I learned Google Images has a decent hit rate for searches on little pieces of movie posters.

Another foreign .com takedown by the US

Verisign shut down under court order from the State of Maryland.  The domain name was purchased through a Canadian registrar.

But at the end of the day what has happened is that US law (in fact, Maryland state law) [has] been imposed on a .com domain operating outside the USA, which is the subtext we were very worried about when we commented on SOPA. Even though SOPA is currently in limbo, the reality that US law can now be asserted over all domains registered under .com, .net, org, .biz and maybe .info (Afilias is headquartered in Ireland by operates out of the US).

This is no longer a doom-and-gloom theory by some guy in a tin foil hat. It just happened.

It may not be all that big of a precedent, but it just goes to show how much power the US already holds over the Internet.

An observation about the BYU Testing Center

From the BYU Testing Center Website:

Annually, the BYU Testing Center administers more than 700,000 tests returning over 1 million class-hours back to the university. (emphasis added. source)


The Testing Center allows BYU Faculty and Staff to administer their tests in the Testing Center instead of the classroom. This provides the following advantages:

  • Tests don't take up valuable lecture time.
  • Tests can be written to take 2 or 3 hours. Tests administered during class time are usually limited to one hour.
  • Tests can be available to the students for a longer period of time (usually 3 days). This provides greater flexibility to the students allowing them to take the test at more convenient times. (emphasis added. source)

I have often heard "There won't be class on X day, because of the test in the Testing Center."  (Usually I'm happy to hear this.)  Is the instructor saying he/she doesn't consider "lecture time" all that "valuable"?  That the most "convenient time" for a student to take a test is, in fact, during class time, when the students have already committed the block of time out of their week?  That if the test takes "2 or 3 hours", it would be unfair to ask the student to "return class-hours back to the university"?

I don't really know what to think, it's just interesting, maybe a little annoying.

MPAA tries to have it both ways, on what is "foreign"

October last year the MPAA sent this document to the Office of the US Trade Representative about the top pirating websites in foreign countries, presumably to give an idea of what they hoped to solve with new IP legislation.

Page 5 says that are hosted in the Netherlands.  They're the top site in the category of "Infringing Download and Streaming Hubs".  "An estimated 500 servers in the Netherlands are required to host this volume [of traffic]... Both websites host files through Leaseweb in the Netherlands."  Jobs, money, American property, theft, illicit, blah blah, OK.  Clearly we need to do something about these foreign sites!

Fast forward a few months to today, where they just busted  The MPAA's chairman and CEO Chris Dodd (former Senator) says,

This criminal case, more than two years in development, shows that law enforcement can take strong action to protect American intellectual property stolen through sites housed in the United States. Similar tools are needed to go after foreign-based websites that threaten the livelihoods of the 2.2 million hardworking Americans whose jobs depend on the motion picture and television industry, and the millions of others who produce creative content in this country.

(my empahsis)  Oh, so is housed in the United States now.  Did the site relocate to the US, that cozy haven for piracy, since the MPAA's earlier statement about it being foreign?  Maybe they emphasize parts of it that are domestic today, so they can push for new foreign-facing legislation tomorrow?  Or is it just "hosted" wherever is politically expedient on any given day?

"Rogue foreign site" gets shut down

Hey, look, this "rogue foreign site" that was "wholesale" "dedicated to the theft of US property" based outside US jurisdiction just got shut down (quasi-quotes of SOPA/PIPA text and rhetoric of advocates.)  Woohoo! That's why we have laws like SOPA/PIPA!

...Oh wait, SOPA or PIPA haven't passed (yet?) So, remind me why they're necessary, if a 2-year FBI investigation just resulted in arrests and seizure of the foreign site? I daresay they're not necessary and this is a perfect example that existing laws are sufficient.  What's the matter, is 2 years worth of due process by a dedicated agency not quick or severe enough for Big Media?  Ah, that explains why they want to legislate a fast-track to judges with the authority to force the entire rest of the United States Internet to comply with their rulings.  The timing on this is perfect; it shows exactly what's really going on here!

Possible counter-point: The US has jurisdiction to seize under the .com TLD but wouldn't under another country's.  SOPA/PIPA could require domestic ISPs to blacklist any domain with "infringing content."  This is probably true, but it appears the FBI have done even better by seizing a bunch of servers and arresting individuals, something SOPA/PIPA would not enable any more than current laws do.

The fight between Mega and UMG is also telling. UMG's actions are a taste of what will continue to be possible, and become more common and draconian, with broader IP laws.

Must be a citizen of Facebook

Dear Amazon Student member,</p>

Share the joy of winning with your friends on the Facebook page when you enter for your chance to win a Kindle and invite up to three Facebook friends to do the same. Then if your name is drawn as one of the potential winners, and your selected Facebook friends have also entered the sweepstakes, you could all win the prize! (See Official Rules for details.)

Amazon is giving away four Kindle devices on 11/16/11, four Kindle Touch devices on 11/23/11, four Kindle Touch 3G devices on 11/30/11, and twelve Kindle Fire devices on 12/7/11.

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Sweepstakes ends 12/6/11. Must be a US resident. See Official Rules.

Apparently you must also be a Facebook citizen to enter.

Spell check isn't a magic fix

I've just seen someone write "manor" when they meant "manner", for the second time in as many days.

You can still be using a wrong word, even if spell check isn't underlining the one you wrote.

Oh well, I've noticed myself get trapped by homonyms too; I dictate (in my mind) what I'm saying as I type.

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