Foolproof Science

userpic=mad-scientistI’ve been staring at my saved links, wondering if I could construct a coherent theme out of any triple, when the titular theme hit me (and no, I’m not talking about Courtney Cox):



Somethings Old, Something New: Brand Names, Song of the South, Vinyl LPs… and a Table-sized Tablet

userpic=recordAs I’ve gotten older, I’ve notice that things from my past are fascinating me more and more. Here are a few lunch-time stories about things from my past… plus one intriguing new thing just announced…

  • Brand Names. Over the weekend, the LA Times had an interesting story on businessfolk who are purchasing unused or abandoned brand names and bringing them back. They do this to play on the nostalgia we have for these itmes, or the recollection we have for their quality. This is especially true when the new products have no connection to the original company at all, and are in fact marketed to a more “value” audience. Even established brands do this — especially in the appliance arena where often storied brands that used to be quality have been retargeted to the lower tiers.
  • Song of the South. Inspiration for the Splash Mountain ride at Disneyland, and the source of a classic song (“Zip-a-dee-do-dah”), most folks have never seen “Song of the South”. This article from Slate looks at the movie through the eyes of a recent book, talking about how Disney miscalculated when he thought it would be a masterpiece for the ages. Should it be re-released, or is it unsalvagable?
  • Vinyl. An interesting article from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on how the youth of today are rediscovering vinyl (LPs). They like having the tangible item, they like the cover art, and they think it sounds better (which I’ve never understood… to me, records and CDs sound the same, and records have the annoying crackles and skips). There’s also a market for old turntables, which are being refurbished. One problem, according to the article: some younger people don’t actually know how to use the players themselves. According to one record store owner,“About 10 percent of them come back with complaints. They’ll say, ‘It plays great, but I can’t hear it.’ They’re so young, they don’t know they need amplifiers and speakers, because they don’t have those for their iPods.” They also probably don’t realize that the equalization and amplification curve for phono output is different than for other devices.

And for the something new:

  • Coffee-Table Tablet Computing. This sounds fascinating, but I’m not sure of its practical use. According to the Las Vegas Sun, Levono is producing a 27″ coffee table tablet PC. It’s a 27-inch screen with the innards of a Windows 8 computer built into it, and it can stand up on a table. You can also lift it off the table, unhook the power cord and lay it flat for games of “Monopoly.” It’s big enough to fit four people around it, and the screen can respond to ten fingers touching it at the same time. The screen is the size of eight iPads stitched together, and it weighs 15 pounds. The Table PC will include plastic “strikers” for “Air Hockey,” and joysticks that attach to the screen with suction cups for other games, including multiplayer shooter “Raiding Company.” Cost: $1,699.



One Mouse, One World

“One Mouse, One World”. Sounds like a slogan for world domination by a particular corporation, doesn’t it. Sometimes it feels that way when you are in certain parts of Orlando Florida. It is also the slogan of one of that organization’s theme parks, Epcot, which we visited today.

First of all, why Epcot? The answer is simple. Most of the rest of the other Orlando parks can be found somewhere in the Anaheim parks. So it didn’t make sense to spend boku-bucks to go to them. Epcot, on the other hand, is mostly unique (except for Soaring, Captain Eo, and Nemo’s Adventures).

Epcot is a odd mix of multiple parks. The first park, when you go into it, is the “park of the future“. This is the park of the big Epcot globe, the voyage into space, and the hydroponic gardens. This is also the park that (mostly) felt dated — it felt like the Tomorrowland of the 1970s, down to the architecture and layout. It had that rounded-curve sense of the old People-Mover structure. We did ride a few rides in this area — in particular, Spaceship Earth, Mission:Space (Green) and Living with the Land. Spaceship Earth seemed a bit dated — all the audio-animatronics looked like characters from Pirates, although I did appreciate the 9-track tapes. Living with the Land, on the other hand, was neat — especially the portion where they went through the actual Epcot gardens and science areas. Mission:Space was good, but short and predictable (almost like “Star Tours”)… and you can tell where the “Orange” version would have added stuff. We didn’t get to see everything here we wanted to see — there evidently is an Energy movie with Ellen DeGeneris, but it was 45 minutes long, and we wanted to see other stuff. The line for Test Track was just too long, and the FastPast was too late. I also note that quite a few attractions allowed you to email stuff to yourself, such as the picture from this post.

The second part of Epcot is the World Showcase. This was mostly shopping, as opposed to rides (although we did see one Circlevision movie with Martin Short). The lands are Canada, UK, France, Morocco, Japan, America, Italy, Germany, “Africa” (Outpost), China, Norway,and Mexico. Each land has lots and lots of themed shopping (although at points I felt the shopping was a little culturally insensitive and stereotypical). Some of it is great (I particularly liked Canada, UK, Paris, Japan, and Germany), some of it wasn’t. Each land also has lots and lots of local food, much of it relatively expensive. Few rides, but fun to walk through and shop. There was also good music — in particular, a really good rock Celtic-Canadian band (including bagpipes) called Off-Kilter.

The third part of Epcot is a graft — Disney attempted to “graft” characters and marketing into the park. Thus you see Nemo in the Sea section, the Three Cabillaros in the Mexican lands, and various Disney face characters in the appropriate lands (i.e., Aladdin and Jasmine in Morocco, Belle in France, Snow White and Rapunzel in Germany (but no Heimlich), Mulan in China, etc.). You also see Duffy the Disney Bear everywhere, and Pin Trading and Vinylmation everywhere, and Disney marketing everywhere. You can find everything Disney in Epcot … except any books describing the original purpose of Epcot and its history and development. Evidently, remembering the history is something solely reserved for Anaheim; Orlando is for entertainment, resorts, and separating the tourists from their money. But I didn’t say that in my outloud voice, did I?

Overall, what did we think of the park? It was fun, although not the constant attraction type of fun of Disneyland and DCA. I don’t think it was worth the standard Orlando gate, given that it was mostly shopping. But it is hard to say what any Disney park is worth. I am glad I saw it.


Friday News Chum: Periodic Table of Tech, USS Enterprise, Kickstarter, Disney+Lucas, Sitcom Spinoffs, and Robocalls

Well, it’s Friday at lunch (well, really, it is Thursday evening, but you know how things go), and it is time to clear out the accumulated links of the week. There’s a bunch of real interesting stuff here folks, so let’s dive in…



The Princess Phase

Today’s reading of the news uncovered a Newsweek article that addressed the same question as an earlier NY Times article. This isn’t a surprise, as both were reviewing the same book, “Cinderella Ate My Daughter” by Peggy Orenstein. The articles explored the question: Do little girls always go through a “princess” phase, where they want to dress up like a princess? What is the drive that leads to this?

I think it is an interesting question. I’m trying to remember if my daughter had such a phase. I think so: I do remember her dressing up in Barbie heels at one point. But she was never attracted to the traditional Disney princesses waiting for their Prince Charming. She was more in the latter-day princess mode: the bookish Belle, the tomboy-ish Lilo, the adventurous Mulan.

So what do you think? Is the pink and princess a phase that every little girl goes through?

P.S.: FYI, evidently pink is the in-color for 2011.

P.P.S.: Do read the linked articles. They address the question: Can pink frilly dresses and magic wands really harm young girls?


Disney and Hijabs

The LA Times today has a story about a young woman who is having a dispute with Disney: she’s a restaurant hostess at Storyteller’s Cafe, and wants to wear her hijab (head scarf) as part of her costume. Disney has indicated the request is being reviewed by corporate, and until they make a decision, she was offered a position backstage where she was free to wear the hijab. Disney indicated that all positions that work with guests directly have specific costume rules (and those who know Disney know they take this very seriously).

Now, I happen to agree with both sides to some extent with this. Disney has the right to dictate the costumes and dress codes for their guest-interacting positions: they are a private company, and they are not firing her or lowering her salary based on her religion. But I also agree that she should have the right to wear her religious attire. Even more so, however, I see her as a pawn: pushed into this by supporters pushing an agenda, which lead to the inability to find a creative solution.

However, what bothers me more about this situation are the comments to the article: “Muslims back to their own land and their own miserable lives.” “Let’s just say no 2 Islam.”, and others of that ilk. This relates to the anti-Islam fervor best illustrated by the controversy over the Islamic Cultural Center in New York. My feeling: if zoning laws would permit an equivalent Christian institution at that location, the Islamic center should be permitted.

As a Jew, I think it is our responsibility to speak up for our Islamic bretheren. If it were antisemitism rearing its ugly head, we’d be seeing the same lines and actions against Jews. Why is it acceptable when it is against Muslims? The answer is that it isn’t. What makes America a special place—and is a reason many in other countries are so offended by our presence—is our freedom to practice whatever religions we want free of government pressure. The religious extremists of all ilks want to impose their religion on us, and we must fight that by proudly demonstrating for religious freedom, whether or not we like the religion. Just as Freedom of Speech means that sometimes you must face uncomfortable or insulting speech, Freedom of Religion applies to all religions, whether a particular person likes them or not.


News Chum: Return from ACSAC Edition

Well, I’m back in the office after ACSAC (I was at home yesterday), it’s lunchtime, and I’m not fighting a headache (as I was on Monday). You know what that means… it’s News Chum time…

  • From the “A Walkin’ Talkin’ Man” Department: Technology refreshes. It is the bane of our existance. Here’s an interesting technology refresh in the news: They’re rebuilding Mr. Lincoln. I refer, of course, to the facsimilie president at Disneyland. According to the OC Register, a new “Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln” show is debuting with never-before-used technology that is supposed to make the robot more realistic than ever. Lincoln’s lips will form to make “o” and “s” sounds. His cheek muscles will move. His eyebrows will raise. The new figure will use electronics — the first time a whole animatronic head will be electronic. Disney creators use a computer to design the internal skeleton and then the forms are printed on a 3D printer, a way to make the insides more realistic.
  • From the “Market Your Idea” Department: Got an idea for a product that would be perfect for a late-night infomercial? Then you want to visit TeleBrands, the subject of a recent NY Times article. They recently held a fair for new product pitches, many of which are described in the article. Would you want a mower caddy shelf; a Find-It beeping keychain; self-adhering wrapping paper; the all new EZ-Stack party dish; or the Gutter Gremlin drainpipe screen? How about a terry cloth jumpsuit for after showering? Operators will soon be standing by.
  • From the “Passings” Department: There are a number of notable passings to report. Most significant is the death of Roy E. Disney, nephew of Walt, and the man behind the revival of Disney Animation. We have Mark Ritts, who was Lester the Lab Rat on Beakman’s World. There’s Sol Price, who gave the world Price Club, now integrated into Costco. There’s Harold Bell, who created “Woodsy Owl” as the mascot for the Forest Service, and Robert Heft, who created and sewed the first 50-star flag. On the arts side of things, last week brought news of the death of Steve Meltzer of the Santa Monica Puppetry Center, and Liam Clancy, the last surviving member of the Clancy Brothers. Of course, there’s always’s the death of Tiger Wood’s endorsement career, but that story, alas, refuses to die.

Your Daily Quota of Chum

Today brings a few intersting bits of chum… certainly worth chewing on…