May 18, 2006 | 5:31 PM ET

As promised, here's the audio of my interview with Seth Roberts about the Shangri La diet.  As you can tell by my confused stammering, I had a bit of a struggle accepting what I still think is a counterintuitive principle.

What else is significant about this chat is that the new phone booth is officially up and working and I know how to use it.  Right now the interviews I do come from the occasional publicist pitch that strikes my fancy (the Judas Gospel guy is in the works for next week).  What I'd like to do is open the schedule to suggestions from Clicked readers.  If there's a news maker or other interesting person you think would make a good 20 minute (or so) interview, let me know.  I may be opening a can of worms here, but until that's revealed to be the case, let's give it a shot.

May 18, 2006 | 4:15 PM ET

Verizon says they didn't supply phone records to the NSA and they weren't even asked.  Of course, they have considerable incentive to take that position.  But I'm reading folks wondering if USA Today isn't about to have a( nother) scandal on its hands.

Meanwhile, "Former AT&T technician Mark Klein is the key witness in the Electronic Frontier Foundation's class-action lawsuit against the company, which alleges that AT&T illegally cooperated in an illegal National Security Agency domestic-surveillance program."  Here's a good quote for the movie version of this story:  "AT&T built "secret rooms" hidden deep in the bowels of its central offices in various cities, housing computer gear for a government spy operation which taps into the company's popular WorldNet service and the entire internet."  I love secret rooms hidden deep in bowels.

Then again, if the telecos are lying, what are you going to do about it?

As long as we're talking about phone record surveillance, ABC's coverage of a tip that the FBI is looking at their phone records is an interesting specimen of transparent blog format news reporting.  Beginning with the initial report, you can scroll through their May archives and see updates to the story as they pursued various leads.  Does the FBI admit they look at journalists' phone records?  ( Yes)  Have they been tracking the calls of ABC News reporters? ( Not exactly)  How often is this kind of tactic used? ( 3,501 people last year)  How many of those were journalists?  ( Not many)  Is the White House OK with this practice?  ( Snow would be concerned if "there was grounding to it.")  The point of this exercise is that traditionally all of this would be in one article and the reporters wouldn't say anything until they'd gathered all their facts and reactions.  On the blog they can report in pieces.  Do you like news reported that way?  Is it fair?

The Totally Awesome Guns & Range commercial shows how brief horror movies would be if the victim characters had machine guns.

Norah Jones makes a surprise punk performance.

Speaking of music, MP3 bloggers share songs of personal significance.  (Yes, with free downloads.)

A Washington Post article called " Forever Pregnant" has the feminist blogosphere lit red with rage.

But Pandagon's report on what the CDC paper really says is probably the best post I read on the topic.

The trailer for Oliver Stone's World Trade Center movie.  (Not gonna see it.)

Trailer for Al Gore's new movie — Since he's said no to another presidential run, this movie is probably the reason why he's doing things like the Saturday Night Live skit we looked at on Monday.

Speaking of movie trailers, Ten things I hate about commandments - Remember all those Brokeback Mountain movie trailer mash-ups?  This is one that mashes The Ten Commandments with a high school teen flick.

Speaking of lists of ten, Ten reasons to love WMP 11.  That's Windows Media Player 11.  I frankly never notice when there's a new WMP upgrade.  When I get the message that it's time to upgrade, I click OK and get on with my life.  But this new version seems to be getting a lot of attention.

Speaking of new Microsoft products, MapCruncher may mean we see more Virtual Earth mashups.  It's not really a tool for casual clickers like me, but the explanation of how the satellite view helped answer a question about a gap in a bike path map does a good job of demonstrating what the tool does.

Papersculpture — Sculptural pieces created solely with paper by means of scoring and folding.

" Photographs of residents in their flats in Hong Kong's oldest public housing estate: 100 rooms, each 100 square feet in size."

In the follow-up department, Truth Out defends the Rove indictment story saying they now have even more sources.  They also introduce a weird media conspiracy angle.  As far as I know, they're still the only ones reporting the story.

And the BBC guy I mentioned on Tuesday was not actually a cabbie, he was there applying for a job.  Can you imagine showing up for a job interview and instead of going into someone's office they put a mic on you, put you on international TV and ask you questions for which you have not prepared?

Electric taxis coming to NYC?  It's easy to be wooed by the idea of exhaust-less noiseless cabs in New York, it would absolutely change the character of the city.  Reading through the comments, however, there seems to be more skepticism than hope; the obstacles being battery range and recharge rate.  (By the way, gas is $3.19 for the cheap stuff at the Mobile station on Canal Street in New York City.  So I'm sure cabbies an anxious for alternatives.)

Sales of canned oxygen to create fresh market for Seven-Eleven Japan — Hey, there was a time when selling water in bottles sounded weird too.

Creepy Ronald McDonald baby.  Ads of the World is a neat site though.

Store celebrates 10,000th shoplifter —  The translation is in the comments below the video, but you can pretty much understand what they're saying.

"This is the first part of five in a series about how to change, improve and modify your habits easily and effectively."

Lexus Sponsors Slate 'Textcast' on iPod — I understand the concept of subscribing to regularly updated material to be read from an iPod, but this "cast" suffix is getting a little out of hand.

Kiddley is a new parenting blog.

Free calls to all landlines and mobile phones within the US and Canada — If you've been meaning to try Skype VOIP (Internet phone), now might be a good time to try it.

Life After the Video Game Crash — Written with a lot of humor, but he's not kidding.  In short, when the video game industry ran out of new tricks in the 80s, it crashed.  The industry has again run out of new tricks.

Every now and then I click on someone's photoblogging of the current state of New Orleans.  (Still pretty messed up.)

Speaking of New Orleans, I couldn't get this to load the other day but I think it's back online now that some of the traffic has faded.  It is the most informative demonstration of how the city flooded during the hurricane.  It's a time lapsed map that shows how and when each part of the city flooded.

Speaking of precarious real estate, the balancing pagoda.

Weather mole — Double click the map, get the weather report from NOAA.

Scariest Bird Flu headline I've seen so far:  Make your own Tamiflu.

May 17, 2006

Hey, remeber this?

Speaking of Freakonomics, I recently received a pitch from a book publicist for a book called "The Shangri La Diet" by Seth Roberts.  The diet is difficult to describe, but it's more about tricking the brain than the usual nutrition based diets.  If you're curious, these two bloggers describe it in greater detail.  Keep an eye out for a chat to be booked with Mr. Roberts.

I'll be talking to Mr. Roberts on the phone this afternoon at 2 p.m. ET.  If you'd like to add a question to the list, use the form below.  This is my first interview in our new audio booth, so if it goes well I'll start booking chats again and will be open to suggestions.

UPDATE 5/18:  This interview came out OK and the new audio booth worked, so that's good.  I ended up having trouble wrestling the file into a manageable size, so that resulted in a few wasted hours of headscratching.  Anyway, audio and a new Clicked coming in a few hours.

May 16, 2006 | 10:40 AM ET

In addition to traveling last week, I also caught myself a bear of a cold so I had to close my eyes for a bit and let a few significant themes pass by.  Now that I'm feeling better, let's catch up on some of what happened last week in case they come up again later.
For some reason last week was a banner week for new products.

Topping the list, Google came out with a few new toys.  I played with two of them, Google Trends and Google Co-op.  Google Trends is simple enough.  Type in the words and see their search frequency and news use graphed over time.  Isn't this the stuff Google refused to give the government a few months ago?  Anyway, Steve Rubel had a good time learning new things.  The blogosphere as a whole found some interesting insight into which regions of the world do the most searching for sex.

I played with Google Co-op a lot, but only because I had a hard time trying to figure out what the heck it is.  My nutshell explanation is that you can tell Google how to customize your search results based on the sources you prefer your results to come from.  Others who value your insights on sources and searches can also subscribe to your customization.  I didn't figure that out on my own though, I also clicked this explanation.

Other new stuff:

Yahoo maps on iPod

Upload to YouTube from your mobile (Woah, that's huge news for citizen journalism.  I know where I'm going to look for "user generated video" when the next public news event happens.)

Some new improvements to Flickr

The new MSN Messenger is out in beta with some new tricks (actually called Windows live messenger).

Speaking of messengers, MySpace is adding one.

And as if in reply, AOL is expanding on its IM buddy lists and launching a social network called AIM Pages.

Speaking of social networks, Congress targets social network sites — Yes, Congress is so savvy I'm sure they'll get this one right.

But speaking of being savvy, just who the heck is using all of these new Web toys and Web 2.0 sites?  There are 694 million people using the Web world wide, but beyond porn and gambling, is anyone visiting any of the cutting edge sites we read about all the time?  The answer is 53,651 (Actually, if you want to start from the beginning of this meme, the root is here) but at least the first 25,000 are irrelevant.

And speaking of the same users comprising all the traffic, " Roughly 1% of your site visitors will create content within a democratized community."  I feel like I should have a follow-up to that, but instead I'll just let you read the sentence again.

And speaking of the illusion of participation (and also speaking of trying to get a handle on numbers), Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen recently drew some conclusions from 3500 angry e-mails he received.  (The "illusion of participation" part is that he admits that just because you can send e-mail to a columnist doesn't mean you are actually interacting with anyone.)

What's odd about Cohen's conclusion is that if 3500 people watched a TV show, it would be cancelled before the credits rolled.  If 3500 people showed up at a national anti-war protest, it would be an embarrassment to organizers.  (Strangely, hundreds of thousands showing up to a protest is not as clear an indicator of political outrage as 3500 e-mails.)  And while 3500 mails may indicate a trend, I'd argue that the trend is that liberal bloggers are actively engaged in their declared "working the refs" tactic, with special venom reserved for mainstream pundits perceived as token liberals who don't stand up for the position.

Speaking of what the pundit bloggers are up to, lately you'll find a lot of talk about the "Chait/Kos/Atrios battle" or the "Drum/Atrios battle."  Basically, the accusation was leveled that activist blogs on the left subscribe to a radical ideology.  To bring the argument into practical terms, Atrios listed what he believes to be common liberal blogger values.  The thread is a little messy, but I started here with the Atrios list and this Kevin Drum follow-up.

With the list established, other blogs are using it as a litmus test for their own political leanings.  I clicked Glenn's answers, he links to a few others.

I believe that part of the appeal of this test is that a lot of bloggers are recalibrating their political identity.  The events of 9/11 brought into alliance many people of diverse political tastes, and now that the passion over 9/11 is fading and the mood about the war in Iraq is souring, along with the rise of other issues, like immigration, the alliance is weakening and some folks are waking up to their strange bedfellows.  And so we find conservative blogger LaShawn Barber, always reliable for defying expectations, openly talking about Bush impeachment.  (By the way, she has a nice collection of links related to President Bush's border guard speech last night.)  And Professor Bainbridge talking about Conservatives deserting Bush.  As I look at my list of links on this topic, I see that they're all contained in this post about "conservative fatigue syndrome."  Though there is a strong anti-Bush theme, I agree with the bloggers who describe a general realignment as political issues emerge and shift.

OK, enough segues, here's some link miscellany:

When chemistry and mixology meet.  (Here's the lasting one in case that link expires to the archives.)

Webby awards — I don't have anything specific to point out here, it's just interesting to flip through what are considered some of the best sites this season to see what they have in common.

This one is only borderline safe for work.  The question is whether it would be more safe for work if it was girls instead of guys.  Well, really the question is whether comic book covers are sexist, but there's nothing like a good role reversal to put things in a new perspective.

Giant slingshot to space?  Sounds interesting, but what if they build the space elevator first?

" Bottle Rocket follows three friends (Owen Wilson, Luke Wilson and Robert Musgrave) as they attempt to become gangsters..."  Lots of irony and coincidence in one little film.

Rare mirage — I understand the text, but I'm still not sure I understand it.  Am I meant to believe that the entire city in the photo is actually not there?

Students at MIT who've been experiencing a dimming of the dorm lights lately can probably blame the Multifunction In-Dorm Automation System.

Tiny Eyes lets you upload images and then filter them according to how developing babies would see them.

What happens if you drive a car faster than the speed of light and then turn on the headlights?  I don't remember if that's a Steven Wright joke but it came to mind when I read a headline about light so fast it moves backwards.  I understand how they speed up and slow down light, but backward or "negative speed" light still hasn't found a comfortable spot in my brain.

"What if we could simply prompt damaged organs to repair themselves?"  Apparently the heart is particularly receptive to this idea.

Fun toy.  Makes what you type look like a newspaper clipping.

"The scientists stuck tiny radio transmitters to the wings of 14 green darner dragonflies and followed the radio signals in an airplane and with handheld devices on the ground."

As if dragonflies weren't trippy enough, a wired dragonfly borg swarm is pretty seriously trippy.
After the line to go to the top of the Empire State Building, I would have guessed the longest voluntary line of people was for the burgers at Shake Shack in New York City (where standing in line is a way of life).  But the line at E3 to try the new Nintendo Wii takes the cake.

May 15, 2006 | 1:50 PM ET

Bloggers are having a good chuckle over a misunderstanding that led to a random cab driver being mistaken for a computer expert and interviewed on BBC television.  I found the video in this story.  Not all bloggers are laughing.  The intended guest is a little grumpy about it.

Speaking of getting laughs from TV, Al Gore's Bizarro-world opening bit on this weekend's Saturday Night Live is the latest clip from that show to go viral.  I clicked this YouTube link, but we know those don't last long before NBC's lawyers catch up.  Crooks and Liars is still a reliable poor-man's-Tivo has the clip as well, along with a transcript.  Cleverly, there's also a link to the SNL site.  I wonder if that will placate the copyright gods.

I regularly see mail in the letters to the editor from people who don't agree with whatever poll results are being reported and demanding to know why they've never been polled.  Now, through the ubiquitousness of blogging we can now confirm that pollsters actually do call real people to get their results.  On the other hand, reading through this polled blogger's analysis of how the poll's results were reported, using real people may have been merely a formality.

Speaking of the NSA wiretapping/phone logging/domestic spying story, discussion of the matter has flooded the media, blogs included.  Rather than run through examples of all the positions with which you're already familiar, I'll share just a couple that stood out to me.  Defense tech's explanation of why collecting phone records is a waste of time based on social network analysis reads a little like a pitch for an episode of NUMB3RS.

Reasoning presented by Outside the Beltway struck me as funny because I was thinking the exact reverse.  "In this case, I believe the surrender of liberty is infinitesimal while the potential gain in security is huge."  He's inclined to compare the actual sacrifices with potential gains.  Maybe I'm a pessimist, but I'm inclined to compare the potential sacrifices with actual gains.  I can see how a positive thinking person would think it's worth it to save lives with an anonymous list of numbers, but I can't escape the feeling that terrorists are either too clever (anthrax mailer) or too crazy (D.C. sniper) to be caught by such a tactic, and the government is too dishonest to use the database appropriately.  What stops various interests in the government from using the database to find people who've called abortion clinics or news reporters or escort services or bookies or pot dealers or political supporters or travel agents...?  For that matter, what's preventing the whole list from being hacked?  The headlines lately don't inspire that kind of faith in me.

Lastly, I'm having a real hard time understanding the celebration/worship of Qwest.  They're the one big telecom that didn't hand over their phone records, instead asking for a subpoena, which of course, wasn't offered.  So people are falling all over themselves to thank or reward Qwest for standing up for customers.  What kills me is that it wasn't too long ago the company was identified as part of a group so corrupt as to be almost caricature .  Might the fact that Qwest asked for a warrant have more to do with their legal history than their principles?

I did read one interesting spin that Qwest's situation was the result of optimism about expected government contracts which never came to be because of their refusal to play with the NSA.

P.S. I found this brief " NSA datamining explained" piece useful.

New Miami Vice trailer — Channel 102 on my cable is something called Sleuth TV and they play old Miami Vice reruns in the wee hours.  I've been watching lately because the originals were barely on the threshold of my bed time and the show went over my head most of the time anyway.  Frankly, this movie doesn't look very much like the show, but that may be a good thing.

Remember those t-shirts that would change color when you got hot?  I guess a mood ring works on the same principle.  Anyway, you can also buy tile with that heat/color property.

First baby in Britain designed cancer-free — "Although they did not have fertility problems, the woman and her partner created embryos by IVF. This allowed doctors to remove a cell and test it for the cancer gene, so only unaffected embryos were transferred to her womb."  So not "designed" so much as "selected."

Is Internet addiction a real problem?  Links to a new study and discusses ways to classify online behavior to give "Internet addiction" a  more useful meaning.  The bit at the end caught my attention:

When 54 percent of Internet addicts say they have a history of depression, 52 percent drug or alcohol abuse and 34 percent an anxiety disorder, it seems even clearer that cyberspace is just another place for unhealthy and self-destructive behaviors to manifest themselves.

I read those stats the other way and see that many Internet addicts don't struggle with other vices, so the Web is a new drug.

I did take the quiz and answered as honestly as I could and still only scored a 47 (average).  It looks like what determines whether you have a problem is how much it distracts you from reality and how much your real world relationships suffer.

Top ten strangest robots (each with video).

Can I cause another person to dream?  The answer is more about changing the quality of that dream than causing a dream or not.  Still very interesting.

Blogger reports Karl Rove indicted.  Just so we're clear, as far as I know, this is the only person reporting this, so it's hardly reliable.  If he's right, it'll be quite a scoop, but the way I clicked it was while reading a thread discussing the possibility that this blogger is the victim of a leak sting - false information shared selectively to see if it's leaked to the public.  If he's wrong... ?

20 Things You Didn't Know About Leonardo da Vinci

How The Da Vinci Code Doesn't Work  NOTE:  Contains plot spoilers.  They run through the technical impossibilities in the book.

World's largest digging machine digs 10 meters a minute.  Looks almost Photoshopped.  If they could get that thing into New York City, they could put in a Second Avenue subway line in a weekend.

Speaking of digging, you must see Volkswagen's new storage facility in Wolfsburg, Germany.  (Actually, it doesn't say that this is in a hole in the ground, but it seems like a good way to me.)

How to pirate a vinyl record.  Not exactly "ripping."

Robert Scoble has been dealing with his mother's dire health situation.  Our thoughts are certainly with him as he and his family work through this difficult time.  I wanted to highlight one entry in particular in the series that shows how much a DNR relieves a family's decision-making burden.

Speech to text foreign language translation

I followed a link to Bibi's Box for vintage cartoons.  I'm using the general link because there's other interesting stuff there as well.  Scroll a bit for the vintage cartoons.

Video of the Day: Tyger

Forearm forklift — Not as cool as the name, but still a pretty good idea.  I can imagine a few disaster scenarios related to tying oneself to heavy furniture while trying to move it up or down stairs, but hey, moving is dangerous.  The site has video.  Presumably the moving babes are not included.

Speaking of babes, every year at the E3 video game expo, an ancillary element of amateur coverage includes photos and stories of the models or "booth babes" representing the products on the show floor.  Apparently someone thought things were getting a little out of hand and this year new restrictions have been placed on what the models can wear.  I clicked the story of this silly protest.  The few photos in this "then and now" slide show give an idea of what's changed.

May 9, 2006 | 5:09 AM ET

For the next three days I'm traveling out to the mothership in Redmond so I'm not sure how often I'll be able to post here.

And speaking of flying and Microsoft, Microsoft's Plan to Map the World in Real Time — I was recently discussing (if it can be called discussing when two people complain about the same thing at the same time) the quality of weather forecasting on TV and how much better it is to just look up the radar map online and see what's coming.  That led to comparing weather sites which led to some enthusiasm for the idea of projecting real time satellite (or Doppler) animation on a global map.  I'm not sure Microsoft is going to go that far with their idea, but if not, this may be another possibility:  Apple To Power First Real-Time Full-Color Feed From GEO

Speaking of satellite maps, Showdown at Google Gulch — Some military action in Baghdad caught by the Google satellite.  There's some question about whether it's an actual battle or something more routine, but still interesting.  (Spare yourself and skip the train wreck comment thread.)

Still speaking of overhead views, Ancient ruins viewed from space

And finally, Pretty blue planet — Some of these pictures are not as special as they used to be now that we've got so many satellite maps to play with, but the night time shots are cool.

Topping Reddit today was this wise-guy answer to a simple geometry problem.

Being written in Japanese (as we recently learned is a third of the blogosphere) I had to figure this game out by trail and error.  It's like Tarzan.  Point to top and click and hold it.  Let go of the click when you want to swing.  As you start to fall, click up high again.  Actually, I guess that's more like Spider Man.

Speaking of video games, Fan-made Battlefield 2 video mistaken for terrorist propaganda.  Actually, the link I'm seeing most in connection with this story is this message board posting.  There's a bit of a theme forming here with video games that allow players to contribute content.  Recently we saw a video game have to change its rating because of a "user mod."  Video games are the only field I can think of that embraces this kind of participation.  The problem is explored further here.

Every Adult, Child In Town May Become Millionaires — The town owns a bunch of land and would give the cash from the sale of that land to the townspeople.  I seem to recall a similar story in which the town struck oil and shared the revenue with the residents.

OPML is a list of RSS feeds.  It's like a feed of your feeds.  So Share Your OPML is a site that collects the lists of feeds people read and lists and ranks the results.  Steve Rubel is kind enough to do a better job explaining than I just did.  Right now the list is all tech bloggers, but as it spreads the top 100 should be a little better rounded.

President Bush's best moment of his presidency was catching a fish?  Here's the original transcript.  I don't know why he answers the 9/11 part seriously but doesn't take the second part seriously.  He could have made a joke of the whole thing and said the pretzel choking was the worst part.  Saddam's statue toppling?  Purple Iraqi voting fingers?

Why do you think Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon" has spent 1,500 weeks on the Billboard charts?  Roger Waters' answer is close to the top of this interview.  Any mention of drug culture goes unmentioned like a giant pink eleph... er.. pig in the room.

What Really Saves Gas? And How Much?  This is from November 2005 but I haven't seen anyone doing it during this latest round of gas price hype.  I don't agree with the tire pressure results.  I definitely see improved mileage with harder tires.  One other thing that improved my mileage was switching from fossil oil to synthetic oil.

"This is my personal account of curing my asthma and hayfever by deliberately infesting myself with the intestinal parasite hookworm."  (I don't seriously have to include the "don't take medical advice from blogs" caveat for this one, do I?)

"Texas scientists have added one more trick to the amazing repertoire of carbon nanotubes -- the ability to carry electrical signals to nerve cells."  Does it seem like there isn't as much hype surrounding nanotech medicine as there ought to be?  Maybe if some religious group can find it offensive it'll get more media attention.

How to learn speed reading

10 ways to add variety to your digital photography  P.S.  Microsoft Future pro photographer contest

Speaking of harnessing user creativity to market software, Video of the Day:  It says "human beat box" but it's more like Max Headroom.  Whatever video editing software he's using should be running this as a viral ad.  Check out the view counter.

Speaking of clever advertising, you don't need to speak Portuguese to know what they're showing here.

Jason Kottke, after watching the Kentucky Derby entertains a discussion about who would win in a short sprint race between a horse and a human.  At what distance does the horse's greater speed overcome the human's quick start advantage?

Scientology nearly ready to unveil Super Power — As I understand it, part of being a scientologist is taking classes to guide or improve yourself.  Super Power is a particularly advanced class.  Not to be confused with the upcoming Sci Fi show, " Who wants to be a super hero."  Sci Fi is owned by NBC, but I still haven't figured out how to work that to my advantage.  Shouldn't I be getting free Stargate mousepads or something?

Shocking lie detector — Apparently lie detector technology isn't very expensive to produce if they can turn it into a board game.

"Alaa, blogger, co-founder of the Egyptian blog aggregator Manalaa and democracy activist, got arrested today during a protest to support the Judiciary's branch fight for independence."  The latest is here.

Speaking of oppressive regimes, "Three computer geeks at the U of T are renowned developers of anti-censorship software, including a program out this month that could allow people to outwit the world's most repressive regimes."

Y'know the End User License Agreement, the fine print, the pops up in the course of installing any new software?  All that text you sort of look at and then just check the "agree" or "accept" box anyway because who can seriously be bothered?  Well, this guy can.  He's translated the EULA for Windows XP into plain English.

64 versions of Stairway to Heaven

Alabama gubernatorial candidate Loretta Nall is getting a lot of attention for her Flash for Cash site on which contributing to her campaign gets you a peek at a cartoon representation of her exposing herself. (Or so it would seem.  I didn't actually pay for any peeps to find out.)  Given the Mary Carey candidacy, it's easy to assume this is another joke candidate, but in fact, her more official site is more serious and I get the impression the Flash for Cash gimmic is more about making fun of how she's being treated by the local media.

“The first British interactive reality series made exclusively for mobile phones”  I have a hard time imagining sitting down to watch the phone the way we currently sit down to watch TV.

Battlestar Galactica as Simpsons characters


Discussion comments


Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments