A Couple of Interesting Photo Sites

I found a couple of photo sites that captured my eye:

Riya – This site lets you upload photos (like a lot of sites do), but Riya is special, because it allows you (as well as your friends) to annotate the photos, including identifying people and things in the photos. You can then search for these annotations. This is a great example of the emerging world of user-entered metadata, where people that don’t know anything about classification can help enter additional information about a particular thing simply by providing straightforward feedback about it in the interface in which they view it.

Border Film Project – These folks gave Minutemen militia members, as well as illegal immigrants trying to cross the border, disposable cameras and asked them to take photos with them and turn in them. (Click on the “B” in the home page to view the photos.) I found the Similarities page particularly interesting, considering none of these people knew that the other group was taking similar photos. Regardless which side of the ideological fence you stand, this was a really good idea, and I hope that other groups in conflict will be asked to do a similar thing.


Another Win for Evil Petting Zoo

The trivia team I’m a part of, Evil Petting Zoo, came in First Place last night in the P&H Trivia Tuesday Trivia contest. Chris Matz, a founding member of the team, calculated that it is the 26th time we’ve won the weekly event over the past 2 years:


2004 (8): 6 July, 13 July, 20 July, 14 September, 21 September, 12 October, 23 November, 30 November

2005: (15): 4 January, 11 January, 8 February, 8 March, 15 March, 29 March, 5 April, 12 April, 10 May, 14 June, 26 July, 23 August, 30 August, 8 November, 29 November

2006: (3): 10 January, 28 February, 28 March

That’s pretty cool… And it doesn’t count all of the other times we’ve come in 2nd or 3rd Place, which is still in the money. Of course, I didn’t join the team until beginning of 2005, and I am definitely not directly responsible for any of those wins. In fact, I often contribute to pushing us toward the wrong answer during a guess. Still, it is an honor to participate in something that is rather consistently successful. A lot of nights, I get to play trivia, drink beer, and walk out with at least as much money as I brought into the place. Now, that’s a great deal.

Here are some of the better questions from last night:

1) At what battle did Stonewall Jackson die? Chancellorsville

2) Which two US Presidents are buried in Arlington National Cemetary? John F. Kennedy and William Howard Taft

3) Which three US Presidents died on the 4th of July? Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, James Monroe (strangely, Calvin Coolidge was born on July 4th)

4) What childrens book was GW Bush reading when Andrew Card interrupted him to tell him about the 2nd plane hitting the World Trade Center (only for Bush to continue reading to children for 5 more minutes)? “My Pet Goat”

5) Which famous Tennessean died of blood poisoning after damaging his toe from kicking a safe after forgetting the combination? Jack Daniels (no kidding)

Post a comment if you have a good trivia question for me…


The End of Milosevic: Good Riddance?

Milosevic Poster Covered in MudThe former President of Serbia and Yugoslavia, Slobodan Milosevic, died last Saturday and currently lies in state at the Revolution Museum in Belgrade.

Who cares about a washed up dictator near the end of a 3-year trial (and 5 years in prison) for war crimes? We all should. First of all, the world was robbed of the ability to hold a leader responsible for his vicious and dehumanizing actions, not terribly unlike the situation with Hermann Goering in the Nuremberg Trial, as Milosevic was only about 50 hours of testimony away from the case being sent to a tribunal of judges for a final decision. A properly-held, public trial is one of the best ways to assert that a set of actions was wrong and should not have happened, and many of Milosevic’s war crimes were beyond dispute.

Milosevic’s death before a judgement in his trial prevents us from publicly reviewing why he was considered such a bad man and a flawed person, one that acted according to his nature upon being placed in power. So, in a small way, I thought it might be a good idea to go over some of his most noteable acts:

  1. Milosevic deposed and eventually murdered (using secret police) his own primary political patron, Ivan Stambolic, in order to claim the Serbian Presidency.
  2. Milosevic headed the Serbian government during the Srebrenica massacre, directing his generals to take part in the massacre and worked extensively to cover it up. (If you want to view something really sickening, watch the execution video of these 6 men [RealPlayer link – go to the 2:35 mark in the video], which occured during Srebrenica.)
  3. Milosevic led his country into crippling sanctions, hyperinflation, and “a drastic worsening of living standards.”
  4. Milosevic took part in a joint criminal enterprise for the “forcible removal of the majority of the Croat and other non-Serb population from the approximately one-third of the territory of the Republic of Croatia that he planned to become part of a new Serb-dominated state through the commission of crimes”.
  5. Milosevic provided “financial, material and logistical assistance to local Croatian-Serb bodies, including paramilitary groups.”

Well, the list goes on and on. There is no way that I can list all of the major charges here. There simply isn’t time.

On a personal note, I know that, unlike most of the other despots around the world, I was directly impacted by the policies of Milosevic on two different occasions. First, while travelling on a bus through Sarajevo with my friend Dave Hanson in 1995, we were pulled off of the bus by Serbian policemen and had our belongings throughly searched, simply because we were Americans travelling (legally) through the former Yugoslavia. After not finding anything, the policemen verbally abused us and finally let us back on the bus.

The second time was almost much more serious. While on our honeymoon in July 1997, Kath and I were on a train from Prague to Istanbul when we go the word, while changing trains in Budapest, that Milosevic had closed the border to Americans (as retaliation for Clinton’s recent bombings of key Serb military targets). It was a Friday evening, and if we had not gotten this word, we probably would have been stuck at the border for the entire weekend. In order to dodge Serbia, we threw away the rest of our tickets and got on a train for Romania, which eventually took us to Bulgaria, where we got a bus (and a ride by a guy named Jonis) into Greece.

Of course, nothing I’ve experienced is even remotely close to the thousands and thousands that died from direct actions due to Milosevic’s policies. However, I’m no less sad to see him go. I only wish he could have stuck around to allow for some semblance of justice. But, I guess that was never his style…


Word for the Day – Capacitance

Reading a pretty interesting How Stuff Works article on how the 5th-generation video iPod works, I came across what has to be a word for the day: Capacitance.

In the article, capacitance is defined as the “build-up of an electrical charge between two conductors,” and it is used in relationship to the way the human finger can move along the arc scroll wheel of an iPod and make the wheel scroll in one direction and then the other. This is possible because the finger is a conductor of electricity, and so is the grid of metal channels beneath the plastic of the scroll wheel cover. The scroll wheel works by having your finger conduct electricity on the other side the non-conductive scroll wheel cover, causing the greatest build up of electrical charge at a particular spot on the grid below the scroll wheel, which can be turned in a precise location. The direction of the locations as you move across the scroll wheel allows the interface on the iPod to, well, scroll through menu options or songs.

The most impressive thing about the word capacitance is that it can easily be compared to popular notions poetry or art or philosophical thought. Think about it: capacitance requires that the two electricial conductors never meet. Otherwise, it is not capacitance. Imagine two forces that strain to touch one another but are prevented from doing so by an immutable obstacle. And it is precisely this obstacle than makes these two conductors two different conductors. Otherwise, they would be a circuit.

They are hopelessly eternally separated, but it is through that separation that they provide something meanful to the rest of us.