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Friday, October 31, 2008
 Make-Believe Maverick 
That's the title of a Rolling Stone article on John McCain. He graduated from the Naval Academy 894th out of a class of 899. He crashed three planes while a naval pilot, and he was basically a spoiled brat for much of his early life into adulthood. His past is eerily like that of Bush II.

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Friday, October 17, 2008
 Small businesses dropping fast 
At least that's the case here in Reston. At the local South Lakes Shopping Center, 4 local businesses have just closed their doors for good. That's 1/4 of the 16 locations. We won't miss the tanning spa, but the seafood place, the photo store, and the floor store were providing a useful service to residents. For many years there were several vacancies at the center, but in the past 4 or 5 years it had started to flourish again. The current vacancies are likely due to a rent increase and the slowed economy.

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Why is Oliver Stone releasing W now? He appears to be emulating Michael Moore and his 2004 film Fahrenheit 9/11, despite his protestations:
Stone has publicly promised W will be a "fair, true portrait of the man," but already there are those accusing him of the politics of personal destruction — and, worse, of trying to influence the election by painting the current Republican administration as reckless doofuses.
Moore did such a good job influencing the 2004 presidential election:
Moore was unequivocal about his desire to do everything in his power to help oust President George Bush in this November's elections.

"We thought, 'We cannot leave this to the Democrats this time to fuck it up and lose.'" He wants, he said, to "inspire people to get up and vote in November."
Stone is even mentioned in this review of the book entitled Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11,
Moore's provocative polemic, released early in the election year of 2004, criticized the Bush administration in a number of ways. It broke all records for documentary attendance and revenues, but also drew a blast of hostile attacks, not only, predictably, from right-wing partisans but also from more mainstream critics, who found it distorted or downright untruthful. Acknowledging Moore's deliberate attempt to influence the election against the Republican incumbency, Toplin argues that the negative fallout (not the film itself) led to a voter backlash with the opposite effect. Toplin (who has also written about Oliver Stone, another gadfly) reviews Moore's history
I have this sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. Maybe these well-intended film makers should just leave it up to the voters to decide. Let's hope the film is treated the way Ralph Nader is being treated this time.

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Monday, October 06, 2008
 Wired Sep 2008 
There are some interesting articles in the September 2008 Wired magazine:

Driven: Shai Agassi's Audacious Plan to Put Electric Cars on the Road about how Shai Agassi of Better Place is building an inexpensive electric car with a smart onboard computer system, fed by an electric recharge grid:
Most startups try out their product on beta testers. Agassi wanted a beta country. A cooperative national government would be willing to modify the tax code or offer other incentives—essential to getting consumers on board quickly. He wasn't selling cars, but really building a network; the bigger the initial base, the stronger the network effect.

A small island nation would be ideal, since the range of his car is limited by the range of his charging grid. Fortunately, he already had deep family and business ties to a virtual island—Israel is surrounded by water on one side and by enemies on all others. The farthest a driver can safely go in a straight shot is about 250 miles. Plus, Israel is increasingly queasy about its role as an oil importer. Anything that threatens the livelihoods of hostile Arab oil sheikhs and Iranian mullahs has a special appeal in Agassi's native land.

A star is born about the development of a new digital movie camera that will revolutionize motion picture making. It is being developed by Red, a company created by the former Oakley magnate :
To compete with celluloid, a digital cine-camera would need an image sensor identical in size and shape to a single frame of 35-mm motion picture film. Without that, the Red couldn't give filmmakers the control over depth of field, color saturation, tonality, and a half dozen other factors that 35-mm film provides.

You'll find that kind of full-frame sensor at the core of any high-end digital single-lens reflex camera. But they're designed to shoot no more than 10 frames per second. That's warp speed for still photographers but barely first gear for filmmakers. Movies are shot at a minimum of 24 frames per second, with some scenes topping out at 120 fps for slow-motion effects. The Red's sensor would have to do everything a DSLR sensor does—and do it significantly faster.

The camera also had to be able to record in the same bulky file format that DSLRs use—called raw. The format preserves picture data in essentially unprocessed form, which gives photographers more latitude to tweak images with software the way they once did in a darkroom. (Cinematographers do the same thing with 35-mm film, but it's a complicated, expensive process: The film must be scanned into digital to be manipulated, then converted back to analog for projection.) Since a movie is just a long sequence of still pictures, using the raw format presented bandwidth and data-storage problems. A two-hour feature could run up to 7 terabytes. The Red engineers built a workaround, a lossless compression codec they call Redcode Raw.

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Thursday, October 02, 2008
 Fairfax Co prepares for Walk and Bike to School Day 
This squad car blocking a sidewalk was spotted today, the day before Walk and Bike to School Day, at Langston Hughes Middle School. Couldn't they find a better place to park?

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