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[Comments] (7) Can't Relax: So if Joel hadn't built the 'bots, he would have control over "where the movies begin or end"? Really?

This has been bothering me for fifteen years.

: Sumana and I saw this old casting letter from ST:TNG and started brainstorming ideas for re-casting ST:TNG with today's actors. (Wil Wheaton as Riker: too much to hope for?)

It all went downhill once Sumana suggested casting Dulé Hill as Geordi La Forge. I think Dulé Hill would make a better Data, but this never came up because somehow we got the incorrect idea that Dulé Hill is two years younger than Levar Burton was when he started doing TNG, and started coming up with strategies to compensate for the age difference:

"Well, we could wait a couple years to do our imaginary remake of Nextgen."

"Or, we could clone Dulé Hill, and since memory is genetic, we can age the clone at an accelerated rate while maintaining his acting ability."

"He could contract the aging virus that Dr. Pulaski got, and get cured after five minutes."

"He could breach the singularity of a Romulan warbird and spend some time in one of the areas where time runs faster."

"We could cast the rest of the show, then they could spend two years in a transporter pattern buffer, the way Scotty did in 'Relics'."

"Or they could live through the three-day time loop from 'Cause and Effect' over and over again."

"We could do a controlled version of what happened to Crewman Daniels when he became unstuck in time and his body was aging at different rates."

"He could move to the planet from 'Children of Time', and we could cast one of his descendants."

"He could wait two years and come back to the present day through the Guardian of Forever."

"Or use the slingshot effect."

"We could create a holographic representation of what Dulé Hill will look like in two years, then hire it when it inevitably achieves sentience."

"We could cause a quantum fissure like in "Parallels" and mine alternate realities for one in which Dulé Hill was born two years earlier."

"If we need him to be more mature as an actor, not necessarily older, he could spend two subjective years in his own head, like those aliens did to O'Brien in 'Hard Time'."

"Or he could run into that probe from 'The Inner Light' and gain a whole lifetime of experience."

"He could acquire a Trill symbiont that's two years old."

"He could use temporary cosmetic surgery to make him look like a human, when he's actually a slightly younger human."

"We could use a telepathic trick or an addictive video game to trick the whole world into thinking Dulé Hill is two years older than he really is."

"We could do a new animated series and just have him do the voice."

"The Traveller could do something."

"If Q were around he could do it by changing the gravitational constant."

"Isn't there something we can do with relativity?"

"There's no relativity in Star Trek."

Unfortunately, I ruined the whole thing by checking IMDB:

"Wow, Dulé Hill was born in 1975! He's thirty-five!"

"How old was Levar Burton in 1987?"

"Only thirty! It's a temporal paradox!"

"So Dulé Hill needs to become younger."

"There can be only one answer: reproduce the transporter accident from 'Rascals'."

[Comments] (1) These Are The Supply Chains I Forged In Life: For a while I've been fascinated by Alibaba.com, a sort of B2B Etsy that connects you to the Chinese and Indian companies that manufacture all of the manufactured objects in your life. For instance, I searched for "dinosaur" and discovered Zigong Gengulongteng Science and Technology Co., which makes animatronic dinosaurs for amusement parks and museums. They have a video corporate intro and pictures of the dinosaurs under construction.

Based on the original fossil was discovered, with use of modern voice, light, electricity, mechanism to produce. It could accomplish the movements of eyes, mouth, head, hand, tail, stomach breath, walking, laying an egg, [!!] seating and riding, and make voice.

In fact, the city of Zigong is full of companies that make animatronic or large-scale replica dinosaurs. There's also Zigong City Dragon Culture and Art Co. ("simulation skin grafting elaborate process is made available for tourists to view, play, all kinds of dinosaurs to the audience as if return to the Cretaceous era"), Jade Bamboo Culture Development ("Our vision... Leading people to walk into dinosaurs’ world, helping to make dinosaurs stand with you!"), and a dozen more. (Although some of them may not be totally independent companies--Zigong Hualong Art uses the same "Based on the original fossil" catalog copy as Zigong Gengulongteng Science and Technology) Why so many? I guess because Zigong is a really good place for dinosaurs in general--there are lots of fossils and even a museum there. ("As a famous saying goes, one finds a veritable nest of dinosaurs at Zigong.")

Okay, so that's giant animatronic dinosaurs. You can get similar, though less awesome, results with anything else. Not only finished products, but raw materials and intermediate parts, and the machines used to assemble them into finished products. Just browse the recently added products for ideas.

Automatic ketchup packing machine? Here it is, with pictures. Molybdenum? It's sold as sheets, plates, bars, powder, disks, wire, and custom-cast parts. Sodium benzoate? Minimum order 1 metric ton! Things not normally considered to be manufactured products, such as software development or voice dubbing? We've got that B-roll!

On the road between Bangalore and Mysore there's a town called Channapatna, and a big Lions Club-type sign declaring it "City of Toys". And here's a toy company from Channapatna on Alibaba: Kaveri Handicraft Industry. There are probably more, but it's tough to search for a specific city.

A couple more. The Shenzhen Dojust Painting Co. does custom paintings. Those anti-counterfeiting holographic stickers? They have to be manufactured, and the Dongguan Linbiao Anti-Fake Technology Co. manufactures them.

It's really amazing. My only complaint is not so much spam, as that it's difficult to restrict a product search to original manufacturers, so you get a lot of random resellers. (You can do a supplier search and restrict your search to original manufacturers, which is probably what I'd do if I wanted to buy anything.) It's a glimpse into a world you knew was there but didn't think much about apart from the occasional Bunnie Huang essay.

[Comments] (1) Technology As Folk Art: I did some work today but it's nothing you need to see yet, so instead I'll just show you some more stuff I found looking around Alibaba:

Venera 3: I'm reading New Cosmic Horizons: Space Astronomy from the V2 to the Hubble Space Telescope, by David Leverington. When I read a sentence like "The exact mission of Venera 3 is a mystery even today," the science fiction author in me (or, more accurately, coextensive with me) sits up and takes notice. But, the book was published in 2001, so I went to the Internet to see if the Venera 3 mystery had been resolved.

As it turns out, the book has more information on Venera 3 than the Internet does, so I'm putting up a quote. All the Internet's English-language information derives from this NASA page, which is contradicted by New Cosmic Horizons (p73-74):

The exact mission of Venera 3 is a mystery even today. The Russian Academician Leonid Sedov said early on in the flight that it was a twin of Venera 2 and was to take photographs as it flew by Venus on the opposite side to Venera 2. The Soviet news agency TASS, on the other hand, said that Venera 3 included a landing capsule which replaced the photographic module of Venera 2. TASS also said that communications were lost just before the lander was due to separate from the main spacecraft, and that Venera 3 struck the surface at 9.56 a.m. Moscow time on 1st March 1966. [This is also what the NASA page says.] For some time it was thought in the West that Venera 3 was the first spacecraft to have impacted Venus, but later information showed that communications had been lost some three months earlier than stated by the Russians, so whether the spacecraft had hit Venus or not can only be a matter of surmise.

There are no endnotes in the book, so I don't know what this "later information" is. But if you lose contact before the lander separates, whether it's immediately before or three months before, I don't think you get to say with any certainty that the lander successfully landed.

[Comments] (1) Prerequisite: It's the end of the year, and time for the traditional navel-gazing. I was going to shun the sight of my own navel this year, but as I get older these roundups are very useful, both at the time and in retrospect, so let's go for it. Unlike last year, I'm not going to go crazy putting up all the photo galleries I neglected to put up throughout the year. I do have some cool photo galleries I'd like to show you, but I don't have time.

Because the theme of 2010 is not having time for things. I had a huge project in the form of Constellation Games, and Sumana had a lot of personal work taking care of her mom, and just about everything else fell by the wayside. As such, a big part of the 2010 wrapup will be things that happened in 2010 that I need to carry over.

All of which is to say that I've put up the paper I gave at WS-REST back in April: Developers Like Hypermedia, But They Don't Like Web Browsers. There may or may not be some ACM-related reason why I can't put up the paper I wrote on my own website--I don't remember, so up it goes.

The conclusion of the second half of the paper--that desktop developers hate browser-based OAuth token authorization models and will do almost any amount of work to hack around one--turned out to be a major driver of my work for Canonical in the second half of 2010. And I really want to write a follow-up essay because I've discovered that to a first approximation, the desktop developers were right. I was making them do a lot of extra work for no security benefit, because I was applying a web-based security model to the desktop. But, it's 2010, year of not having enough time.

I do want to highlight this quote from my paper:

I propose a natural experiment: as I write, a client for the Twitter web service can authenticate its requests using an OAuth token, or by providing a Twitter username and password with HTTP Basic Auth. Twitter developers plan to deprecate Basic Auth starting in June 2010. I predict that as Basic Auth is deprecated, client-side Twitter hackers will resist Twitter's OAuth token authorization protocol, just as client-side Launchpad hackers resisted Launchpad's similar protocol.

Well, that sure happened. At the time, people referred to the changeover as the "OAuthpocalypse". Or possibly the #oauthpocalypse, I'm not really up on these things. And that's for a web service for which real bad guys would really like to grab your credentials, so in theory OAuth could be a very nice feature. Here's Jon Udell describing how to make Twitter's token authorization protocol feel like Basic Auth.

More later. Now to hang out with Sumana before she leaves for Washington. Because it's still 2010 and there's still not enough time.

[Comments] (3) The Crummy.com Review of Things 2010: That's right. I haven't covered everything I want to, because Rachel has arrived (yay) and I need to go to sleep so we can visit a museum in the morning. But you're not gonna read this until you go back to work anyway, so here it is:

Books: I read about 35 books in 2010, compared to 88 in 2009. Not many books, and not much fiction. I did read Gravity's Rainbow and the prose was great, but I found it annoying in the way that only a book from the 1960s or 1970s can be annoying.

The Crummy.com Book of the Year is James Tiptree, Jr., Julie Phillips's biography of Alice Sheldon. Runners-up are two books I read for Constellation Games research: From Eternity to Here by Sean Carroll, and Packing For Mars by Mary Roach. According to my contemporaneous ratings, I really liked Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Lovecraft's The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, but neither seems terribly appetizing right now. Oh, and the first half of A Case of Conscience is really good.

Games: My big discovery of 2010 was board games. With Sumana away so often, I did a lot of game nights with my Astoria friends: Pat, Lucian and Beth. Our favorites are Dominion, Carcassonne, Cosmic Encounter (Crummy.com Game of the Year), and (Pat only) Twilight Struggle. Yes, by BoardGameGeek standards we are not indie at all. By anyone else's standards, we're trailblazers. In 2011 I plan to get into Power Grid, Agricola, and Small World.

I don't really have video game recommendations because I didn't play many deep or obscure games in 2010--mostly grindy stuff like Etrian Odyssey III to kill time during travel. (EO3 is a great game, and even innovative, but its innovations are very subtle.) I did think What Did I Do To Deserve This, My Lord? 2 was really interesting--like a puzzle version of Conway's Life. I would also like to publicize the fact that Super Scribblenauts fixes all of the non-conceptual problems with Scribblenauts. And if you can play Pac-Man vs., you should.

Video: 2010 was the year I finished a project I began in 2005, to watch all the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episodes more or less in order. I still haven't seen a couple KTMA episodes that were reused as Comedy Central episodes, but I'm basically done. I don't think you need me to tell you this, but MST3K is an amazing TV show. It has some big problems, and I think it's a less important show now that the Internet serves as your inoculation against the idea of passive media consumption. But it's really fun, there's a surprising amount of continuity, and in terms of sheer volume it's probably humanity's largest aggregation of jokes (at least until The Simpsons does a couple more seasons). Eventually I'll turn my show notes into an enormous web page, but don't hold your breath (or, indeed, postpone any vital biological function) waiting for it.

Online video: Board Games With Scott is great and may lead to you spending money.

Audio: MST3K isn't the only groundbreaking media from the 1990s I've been re-experiencing. In 2010 I spent many a sleepless hour in a strange hotel room listening to Schickele Mix, from PRI, Public Radio International. If you're not familiar: Schickele Mix was a radio show which gave you an education in music theory as part of a relentless, endearingly corny schtick. I'm almost through all the shows I have, and near the end it becomes less a music-theory show and more of a themed clip show, but nearly every episode is great.

It occurs to me that Schickele Mix was a podcast avant la lettre. Are there any other good music theory podcasts? I know that Pandora used to have one, but I don't think they do anymore.

Speaking of podcasts: this year I became able to exercise without visual stimulus, an adaptation that served me well. I'm a fan of a bunch of gaming podcasts: Three Moves Ahead, selectbutton.net, Dwarf Fortress Talk, and The Retro League. My favorite non-gaming podcasts are Astronomy Cast and the Long Now Foundation's Seminars About Long-Term Thinking.

This was not a big music-album year for me, but Schickele Mix introduced me to Laurie Anderson, and re-introduced me to Igor Stravinsky. The coveted "Best New Artist" award goes to Tally Hall.

[Comments] (3) Year Of Links:

Plus one more link about which I had so much to say that I started writing a whole nother post. You'll see it... in THE YEAR 2011!


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