July 6, 2010

NASA’s new mission statement

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Space, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 13:06

“To boldly re-assure where none have re-assured before.”

When I became the NASA administrator — or before I became the NASA administrator — [President Obama] charged me with three things. One was he wanted me to help re-inspire children to want to get into science and math, he wanted me to expand our international relationships, and third, and perhaps foremost, he wanted me to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science . . . and math and engineering.

Good to see that the US federal government knows how to prioritize, isn’t it?

The anti-ergonomic design of scanners

Filed under: Humour, Technology — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 12:59

Having recently inherited Elizabeth’s printer/scanner because it stopped being willing to play nice with her computer, I found that if anything, James Lileks is being over-charitable to scanner ergonomic design teams:

I just fear dealing with the Canon scanner interface, although it can’t be worse than HP. Yes, yes, I know, buy VueScan. But I had just gotten used to the HP interface on the new scanner. It was designed, as usual, by engineers with no taste who presume Great-gramma is trying to scan something so she can send it by the inter-mails to someone, and needs to be shown in the most obvious way possible that she is old and stupid and should not use computers. Hence it has two icons: one says DOCUMENTS, with a little badge that says “300,” and another says IMAGES, with a badge reading “200.” I assume that means dpi, but who knows? You can make custom profiles, but it never remembers them. There’s no button that actually says SCAN, which would be helpful. It’s as if the GUI team is a bunch of malicious bastiches who came up with the most non-intuitive interface ever, then said “Okay, now let’s add one more step between deciding to scan and actually achieving a scan. Johnson, you’re good at this. What would you recommend?”

“Well, just off the top of my head, I’d say have the default setting for saving put it into some proprietary image-collection program buried deep in the User’s library, so it can’t be found no matter how hard they look.”

“Excellent! Make it so.”

The latest set of disruptions to Toronto traffic

Filed under: Cancon, Randomness — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 12:01

Toronto’s traffic, recently noted as being the 2nd worst in the developed world, has had a string of one-off events recently to slow down our already sclerotic commutes:

Toronto, are you crying uncle yet?

First, the G20 Summit ground the downtown core to a halt, landing hundreds of people in jail and crippling all kinds of business.

And then came the Queen, laden with her dainty hats, her fancy BlackBerry, her 3D glasses and her entourage, stopping traffic wherever she goes. She brought with her the heat, the hot, hot heat so hot that even the sidewalks are sweating. And then a power outage plunged our beleaguered city into darkness.

And now: Bring on the Shriners.

Both the Queen and the Shriners will converge on Queen’s Park today, shutting down traffic all around the provincial legislature. More than 10,000 well-meaning men in their little red hats and teeny-weeny cars will parade down University Avenue at 1 p.m. Road closures are expected to last until 7 p.m., meaning they will still be in effect during the nightly commute.

Knowing that my usual parking lot would be inaccessible by the time I got downtown, I took the GO train in to Toronto’s Union Station. Last summer, when I took the train in, I just walked up University Avenue . . . which was swarming with Shriners today. I risked getting totally lost in the PATH underground system instead. Fortunately, I had a guide: I met my accountant walking into the Whitby GO station, so I just followed him up as far as Adelaide before venturing out into the muggy air. In the couple of blocks I walked north, I felt I was nearing the end of a marathon — I’m not a hot weather fan.

Men at Work to pay 5% for infringement

Filed under: Australia, Law, Media — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 07:37

Following up from a post earlier this year, an Australian judge has avoided penalizing Men At Work the maximum for using a riff from another song:

A judge in Sydney has ordered the Australian band Men at Work to hand over a portion of the royalties from their 1980s hit Down Under, after previously ruling its distinctive flute riff was copied from a children’s campfire song.

But the penalty he imposed of 5% of the song’s royalties was far less than the 60% sought by publishing company Larrikin Music, which holds the copyright for the song Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree.

Kookaburra was written more than 70 years ago by Australian teacher Marion Sinclair for a Guides competition, and the song about the native Australian bird has been a favourite around campfires from New Zealand to Canada.

That seems like a remarkably sensible judgement: the song clearly does infringe, but only for a small portion of the entire recording: it’s not critical to the success of the song, but it does contribute to its overall atmosphere.

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