Microsoft Boy announces his School Homework

Phil Factor's Phrenetic Phoughts : Microsoft Boy announces his School Homework

"Well, young William, (looks over his glasses severely) where is your homework? It should have been handed in today, I'm afraid."

Microsoft Boy:

(with a smug ingratiating smile redolent of sincerity) "The past week has been an amazing time for the me as I geared up to announce the delivery of my essay. The response to my announcement from friends and parents has been overwhelmingly positive – in fact, even my aunt Edith wants to read it. What is catching users' eyes? Legibility, correctness, conciseness….the list goes on and on. Simply put, this history essay is a significant release for me – one that builds on all of the great things that I was able to deliver last year in the Lower fifth. I see it as a critical step forward for my academic life here, and the foundation of the broader vision for my school career. Based on what we are hearing from people who have seen the current version of my essay, it seems that everyone agrees."


Nano-Plasm Tech: 3D Scanning and Replication

Most, if not all, of the technology in my book Nano-Plasm is inspired by (or extrapolations of) real tech.

Here's something suggestive of the tech in Nano-Plasm:

MD043 - Next Engine: 3D Scanning

© 2008 Stephen Clarke-Willson, Ph.D. - All Rights Reserved.

Gordon B. Hinckley, Mormon Leader, Is Dead at 97 - New York Times

Gordon B. Hinckley, Mormon Leader, Is Dead at 97 - New York Times
With his buoyant personality and affinity for public relations, Mr. Hinckley made Mormonism more familiar to the public and more accepted in the Christian fold. He gave news conferences and was the first church president to sit for interviews on “60 Minutes” and “Larry King Live.” When the Winter Olympics went to Salt Lake City in 2002, the church’s home base, he guided the church outreach campaign.

To emphasize its commonality with other churches, he changed the church’s logo, making the words “Jesus Christ” in the church’s name much larger than “Latter-day Saints.” He arranged to make the church’s huge library of genealogical records publicly available on the Internet.

I was truly sad to read of Mr. Hinckley's passing. That man was a genius. During his time as the head of the Church (and before - because he served as defacto head of the Church when earlier Church prophets were incapacitated for one reason or another), he did more to organize and streamline - and dare I say - mainstream - the Church than anyone ever.

I'm not a Mormon, but I admire this guy. He was brilliant.

© 2008 Stephen Clarke-Willson, Ph.D. - All Rights Reserved.


Nano-Plasm - A Novel

I have published my book. I've worked on it over for over seven years!

If you are a person with a reasonable amount of discretionary cash, you can buy it here:


I've just bought four copies to loan out to friends.

Here's the best paragraph in the whole thing:

But it was going to take more than a forensic
expert to figure out how Smythe’s brain and eyes
and a portion of his spinal column had been
removed from his head intact, and placed two feet
away on the floor. The sight of Smythe’s eyes still
connected to his brain by a bundle of neurons
almost made Pendleton throw up.

If that doesn't whet your appetite, then I don't know what will.

You can buy an actual hardcopy paperback book (with a really nice binding, I mst say) or go cheap and buy the download (you don't need to be a person with lots of discretionary cash to buy the download - it's about the cost of a sandwich). I make a ton more money on the download, so feel free to go cheap.

(Actually you can get a free PDF now.)

© 2008 Stephen Clarke-Willson, Ph.D. - All Rights Reserved.


Spooky: Haunted Mansion Holiday

When I took this picture, I thought the steam/smoke was an effect added for Haunted Mansion Holiday. But actually, as I learned listening to the Inside the Magic podcast, sometimes the train vents its steam just behind that earthen berm. I just happen to catch the steam from the train and the sun just right for this picture.

© 2008 Stephen Clarke-Willson, Ph.D. - All Rights Reserved.

Hitler concedes to superior Blu-Ray marketing...


Directors deal template for others: MPAA chief | Markets | Markets News | Reuters

Directors deal template for others: MPAA chief | Markets | Markets News | Reuters:
[The deal with the directors] required studios to work with union directors on content produced especially for the Internet.

So the Directors Guild has made a deal with the Studios in only five days.

And the deal covers everything the writers wanted.

The clause I quoted above seems strange, as I thought that was the major sticking point for the studios ... that they had to use Guildies for content produced especially for the Internet.

Because, really, any kid can produce content for the Internet. Why pay these directors and writers extra money when the most creative Internet content is not coming from them?

I'm guessing that there's some subtlety to the language so that the requirement is only for long-format Internet content. But I don't know.

Here's another take on the deeper issues:

How the Writers' Strike will Probably End
Last time we spoke to our favorite former WGA attorney and prolific Huffpo blogger, Jonathan Handel, he gave us a pretty grim assessment on the state of the studios vs. the writers. The studios had just broken off talks, and the two sides were farther apart than most observers realized: Not only were they miles apart on digital, the guild was sticking to other demands: It wanted to unionize reality and animation writers, who aren't part of the WGA, and it wanted the ability to call sympathy strikes -- the ability to walk out, if, say, the actors guild does.

The digital negotiations are knotty, but it's those other demands that seem to be real non-starters, Handel says. Giving the writers the ability to unionize reality shows, for instance, would take away the lifeboat that the networks are currently using: The next time the writers went on strike, there'd be no new shows available - period.

Based on this article about the lead negotiators, I'd say the chief negotiators for the WGA are just the wrong guys: they are guys that are taking a hard-line stance when they don't have the upper hand:
Patric M. Verrone, president of the Writers Guild of America West, is a sporadically busy comedy writer with a law degree that has seen him through the rough spots between jobs at shows like “The Simpsons” and “Futurama.” David J. Young, his chief lieutenant, is a plumber turned hard-bitten labor organizer, with roots in the rough-and-tumble world of Los Angeles sweatshops.

I'm guessing that the WGA will use the DGA agreement as an excuse to settle. Otherwise the WGA rank and file will need to fire these guys.

(You can read David Letterman's side letter at Slate.)

© 2008 Stephen Clarke-Willson, Ph.D. - All Rights Reserved.


Midway Austin Layoffs “Routine”

Midway Austin Layoffs “Routine” : Next Generation - Interactive Entertainment Today, Video Game and Industry News - Home of Edge Online:
But there were rumblings of further staff changes in the lower levels. Midway confirmed to Next-Gen on Tuesday that Midway Austin, the studio responsible for the lackluster Blacksite: Area 51, did experience a reduction in workforce. A spokesperson said that the move was “routine.”

I guess they are emulating EA's excellent personnel management policies.

© 2008 Stephen Clarke-Willson, Ph.D. - All Rights Reserved.

Foundation 9 Makes David Mann President, Hopes to Raise Game Quality

Video Game News, Video Game Coverage, Video Game Updates, PC Game News, PC Game Coverage - GameDaily:
"I'm very excited to help take the company to the next level in terms of quality, productivity and profitability," said Mann.

There isn't much I can say about Mr. Ma-nn that hasn't been said before.

In addition the company said it's forming a new group focused on evaluating and raising the quality of F9E's games.

It's good to want things.

© 2008 Stephen Clarke-Willson, Ph.D. - All Rights Reserved.


Movie Rentals should be 30 hours ...

Apple Unveils Movie Rentals and Thin Notebook - New York Times:
The new iTunes Movie Rental service, available immediately as a free software update, is offering movies newly released on DVD for download at $3.99 and movies from the rental library for $2.99. Customers have 30 days to view a movie after they have rented it, but only 24 hours to view it completely once they started it. A movie can be moved between devices, such as Macs, TVs and iPod.

Jobs missed an opportunity here. It's silly to have 24 hour rental periods. If you want to watch a movie over two nights, an hour each night, you would have to start watching an hour earlier to finish before the rental runs out. This 24 hour thing is "retarted", as the kids say.

Jobs could have shown how in-touch he was with actual viewers by setting the rental period to 30 hours which is much more user friendly.

© 2008 Stephen Clarke-Willson, Ph.D. - All Rights Reserved.


Toshiba Launches HD DVD Player Fire Sale

DailyTech - Toshiba Launches HD DVD Player Fire Sale
Toshiba apparently doesn't want to go down without a fight and is instead slashing the prices on its HD DVD players. Toshiba's second generation HD-A2 players previously dipped down to the sub-$100 mark during November -- but that was during the traditional holiday buying season and not truly indicative of regular retail pricing.

Now, Toshiba's third generation 1080i-capable HD-A3 is selling for a mere $139.98 on Amazon.com. The 1080p-capable HD-A30 is not much more expensive at $179.98. For the price of an Xbox 360 HD DVD add-on, consumers can now purchase a fully-fledged set top box with 1080p support.

It's getting interesting! Although ... who would buy one if there's nothing to watch?

And what about Microsoft's stupid pricing on the Xbox 360 add-on? That thing should be about $90.00.

© 2008 Stephen Clarke-Willson, Ph.D. - All Rights Reserved.


I'm not dead yet!

Despite a Reuters article earlier this week, which indicated that Microsoft would consider Blu-ray for Xbox 360 in the event of a total defeat for HD DVD, Albert Penello, group marketing manager for Xbox, has now refuted the report, telling Gizmodo that the "headline misconstrued the context of what I said."

He stressed that Microsoft is "not thinking about it" and has "no plans" to create anything based on the Blu-ray format. Furthermore, Microsoft remains "totally committed to HD DVD" and the format is only dead "when Toshiba says they're not doing HD DVD anymore."

Some believe that could be in the not too distant future, but Toshiba said it "remains firm in our belief that HD DVD is the format best suited to the wants and needs of the consumer."

After pondering this a bit, a strategy for crushing Sony came to mind. Something like 100 million computers are sold every year. Imagine if every single one had an HD-DVD rewritable drive in it? That would make the PS3/Blu-Ray numbers look pretty pathetic.

Maybe this isn't over yet...

© 2008 Stephen Clarke-Willson, Ph.D. - All Rights Reserved.


SpongeBob Attacked!

Video Game Features, PC Game Features:
Serious Games Initiative co-founder Ben Sawyer has a beef with games aimed at young children that use licensed characters such as 'SpongeBob SquarePants' but that add little with regard to the quality of the gameplay.

The SpongeBob games I played were good. I have to disagree with this guy.
"They're all the same; only the licenses are different. The gameplay craftsmanship is simply phoned in."

He's wrong there too. I know lots of people that work on kids' games and it's a ton of work. (I myself have worked on kids' games.) There's nothing "phoned in" about it.

He should try making one before he makes such a judgment.

As I've said before, adapting a character from another medium into a game is every bit as reasonable as adapting a screenplay from another medium. It takes a lot of craft.

© 2008 Stephen Clarke-Willson, Ph.D. - All Rights Reserved.

Spiderman counts this cash ... and Munchkins

From Munchkins

Spiderman was taking a break from crimefighting in Hollywood and used the opportunity to count his money.

We ran into him outside Grauman's Chinese Theatre. We were in Hollywood to see the Munchkins get their star on the Hollywood walk of fame. Follow the Munchkins link for high-res photos from that trip.

(Update: shortly after I posted this blog entry, Johnny Grant, who is featured in a few of my pictures, passed away.)

© 2008 Stephen Clarke-Willson, Ph.D. - All Rights Reserved.


As Scripts Run Out, Reality Kicks In

Lisa de Moraes - As Scripts Run Out, Reality Kicks In - washingtonpost.com:
'All these people walking the picket lines give us failed shows,' noted the anonymous exec. 'Overwhelmingly -- 94 percent of what we get from these people never sees the light of day, and what does make it to air, most of it fails. Why are we doing this? Why spend all this money?'

Yup. That's how the big guys think. It's not a good time to be a writer for a large corporation right now.

I've been watching Letterman, Leno, Stewart, and Colbert, to see how they are doing. Letterman's show is the same old thing so I stopped watching.

The other guys are doing a great job winging it! I find it fairly entertaining and Leno is correct that the shows are looser and more fun.

One idea I had was that Leno, Stewart, and Colbert could hire their writers as janitors or something and then sit around the break room and crack jokes, without writing anything down. That would help stimulate ideas for the night's show. Although, really, these guys are doing a great job writing their own jokes.

© 2008 Stephen Clarke-Willson, Ph.D. - All Rights Reserved.

Guild Wars wins again!

MMORPG.COM - Best free/micropayment game of 2007!:
This category represents the biggest blow-out in the voting this year, as Guild Wars walks away with the Best Free / Micropayments Game of 2007 award with a staggering 68% of the vote. The win for this top-tier MMORPG shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone given the game's continued popularity over the last year.


Blu-Ray Wins! Amazing!

UPDATE 1-Warner Bros to back Blu-ray DVD format exclusively | Markets | Markets News | Reuters:
'The window of opportunity for high-definition DVD could be missed if format confusion continues to linger. We believe that exclusively distributing in Blu-ray will further the potential for mass market success and ultimately benefit retailers, producers, and most importantly, consumers,' Warner Bros Chairman and Chief Executive Barry Meyer said in a statement.

I think the fact that Sony et.al. managed to get Blu-Ray players down to $250.00 this last Christmas season saved the Blu-Ray format. Previously, the cost difference was $500.00 (HD-DVD) and Blu-Ray ($1000.00). Last Christmas there was a pile of Blu-Ray players for $250.00 and a pile of HD-DVD players for $200.00; and that's not a big enough cost differential to make HD-DVD a winner.

Of course, you can talk to anyone with a PS3 hooked up to a 1080p display and they will tell you that Blu-Ray looks only marginally better than standard DVD. The PS3 is a great standard DVD player. That's the real reason people aren't buying Hi-Def content - it's only recently they were able to see all of the bits on their standard DVDs, and those standard DVDs look pretty good!

My argument in favor of HD-DVD was always about cost and Sony somehow pulled it off, in spite of selling players with incomplete features, 3 minute boot times, and huge initial costs. I think Howard Stringer also saved the day for Sony by "speaking the language" of the studios when he talked to them about how importance it is to have a single format (and duh, that would be Sony's).

This would be the first format that Sony has ever successfully (i.e., mass market) introduced into the United States!

Now the fight switches to download vs. Blu-Ray. Personally I think the markets and usage are enough different that we'll continue to get "near-DVD" or "DVD" quality downloads for a few years until the bandwidth catches up enough to overtake Blu-Ray resolution for downloads.

*Sigh*. HD-DVD RIP.

© 2008 Stephen Clarke-Willson, Ph.D. - All Rights Reserved.

Flooding estimates are off by 5 feet

Flooding estimates are off by 5 feet - Breaking News Updates New Orleans - Times-Picayune - NOLA.com

In June, the Army Corps of Engineers proudly announced that new gates and levee repairs meant residents returning to Lakeview and Old Metairie would see floodwaters reduced by up to 5 1/2 feet if the city were hit by a 100-year hurricane.

They were off by 5 feet.

The reason? The Lakeview data got fouled up when somebody put a minus sign in a calculation that called for a plus sign, Ed Link, leader of the corps-sponsored Interagency Performance Evaluation Task Force, said Friday. The Old Metairie errors stemmed from faulty assumptions about the way water would move into and out of the neighborhood from surrounding areas, Link said.

In other words, flood protection in Lakeview and Old Metairie has hardly improved at all since the neighborhoods drowned in the 2005 flood -- despite the public celebrations of corps officials and others in releasing the maps on Hurricane Katrina's second anniversary.

Federal Gulf Coast Recovery Chief Donald Powell had called the reduced flood risk one of the most important events in the state's recovery. "If I were in the real estate business, or if I were anticipating coming to live in New Orleans, the first thing I would look at are these maps we're releasing today," he said at a June 21 news conference.

The correct flooding estimates are listed in a table in the IPET team's long-awaited risk study, which was released without fanfare two weeks ago. The new numbers show only a 1/2-foot difference between the risk of flooding in both neighborhoods before Katrina and today.