Thursday, April 01, 2004

Solar System Renamed

Alright! Great news! Now, think--what is today's date? (I fixed the link.)

Good writing tips!
Marvin Olasky has a good article on writing. I fixed the link. I love his quotes from the great writers! Here are some of the best:
Let's start with Mark Twain: "When you catch adjectives, kill most of them -- then the rest will be valuable. They weaken when they are close together; they give strength when they are wide apart."

Here's good advice from George Orwell: "Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print. Never use a long word where a short word will do. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out. Never use the passive where you can use the active."

Isaac Asimov, commenting on a classic editor's statement -- "We don't reject writers; we reject pieces of paper with typing on them" -- added: "Don't stay mad and decide you are the victim of incompetence and stupidity. If you do, you'll learn nothing and you'll never become a writer. ... Don't make the opposite mistake and decide the story is worthless. Editors differ, and so do tastes, and so do magazines' needs. Try the story somewhere else."

No more excuses! If your life is full of meetings, grocery shopping, doctor's appointments and music lessons, the world of gadgetry is finally here to help you out in the form of new memory glasses.

    Help may be on the way from a pair of specs dubbed the memory glasses. The specs have a tiny television screen embedded into one of the lenses and are hooked up to a PDA.
    The PDA can be programmed to send messages or images to the screen. Each prompt is geared to jog the wearer's memory -- whether it is an image of a soccer ball, the day's calendar or the name of the guy who just said hello.
    And all of these messages are flashed before the eye at 1/180 of a second, so the wearer isn't even conscious that they have been sent.
    "The thing that's unique about my work on the memory glasses is the use of subliminal messages," said Richard DeVaul, the glasses' inventor and a doctoral student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Media Lab.
    "It seems slightly spooky, but all the controversy in the '70s about advertising proved to be junk science," DeVaul said. "It's nothing like the movie The Manchurian Candidate, where we will be sending people off to shoot the president, nor will it have any effect on your soft-drink preference."
    DeVaul said subliminal messages aren't powerful enough to stimulate action; rather, they act as prompters -- they fill in the blanks that the wearer is already searching for. The fact that the wearer is unconscious of them is, according to DeVaul, the key to his system.
    "We can never precisely know what the wearer needs to know, or when he needs to know it, and this is why the fact the messages are subliminal is so important. If the information given is not helpful at that time, it's not important because it isn't noticed," DeVaul said.
    So rather than producing a barrage of distracting pop-up messages, the system provides a noninvasive wealth of information and memory cues about appointments, shopping-list items, meeting agendas, and the spouse's birthday.
    And for those awkward chance meetings when you are completely at a loss as to whom you are talking to, the system can flash a name or an image of the last meeting you had with the mystery person to help jog your memory. The system can find these matches by using voice- or face-recognition technologies.
    DeVaul has been using off-the-shelf PDAs in tests of the glasses. The mini TV screen itself is a few millimeters square and can be integrated into the wearer's own glasses, but for the trial the MIT team has been using a clip-on version.
    A wire runs from the current version of the glasses to the PDA. DeVaul said MicroOptical, the company working with him to make the prototypes, has produced a wireless display, but it can only operate for a few hours.
    "Battery power is the main problem here. Whenever you have any display, they use a lot of power because of the backlights, and there is no way to get power around wirelessly," he said. "It's conceivable in the next three to five years we'll have a wireless version as we get improved battery technology and lower-power displays."
-- Louise Knapp,

Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Oopsie... swearing, smoking, and swastikas in a Florida school.

A comic book whose hero is empowered by smoking cigarettes is being filtered out by the Florida company that sells it through school book fairs.

Scholastic Inc. stopped selling the Japanese comic "Shonen Jump," which is an offshoot of Yu-Gi-Oh trading cards, after a complaint from the Norwin School District in Westmoreland County, the Lake Mary, Fla.-based company said Monday.

The company sells books to students to promote interest in reading, and officials there said they understands concern about the book, which was included on its sales list because the related trading cards are popular with preteens.

The comic book in question was purchased by a fifth-grader at Hillcrest Intermediate School in December. The school principal, Rosemarie Dvorchak, was stunned by its content.

"This is a fifth- and sixth-grade building," Dvorchak said. "These are 10- and 11-year-olds. It's against what we're teaching, it's against our DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education)" program.

In addition to the cigarette-smoking hero, the comic included mild profanity, a character with a swastika on his forehead and a female character who asks readers to buy the comic again so they can see which "hot guy" would die in the next issue.

"We do have an editorial board, and it's a very lengthy and challenging process," said Teryl McLane, a publicity official for Scholastic Inc. "We try to be thorough, but there is a challenge with cultural differences. In Japanese culture, some of these things are acceptable."

In Japan, for example, a swastika is seen as an ancient Hindu symbol of goodwill, she said.