"Hey, you two sheepboys� stop that jibber-jabbin'!"

Seth Stevenson at Slate.com: The Last Days of Dada - The talking sheep who love Skittles, and other wacky ads that just don't work. By Seth Stevenson

But what on earth do these sheepboys hope to convey? That the Skittles brand is edgy? That it's unpredictable and wild? If so, the whole effort seems futile when so many other ads reach for the same zany vibe. No distinct identity waits at the end of this well-trodden path. The bottom line: If everyone's freaky, no one is.
Maybe Skittles wasn't trying to leverage zany make-believe -- but rather absurd reality? Maybe Skittles knows that a form of sheepboys already exist for medical research? Paul Elias, AP Biotechnology writer:
On a farm about six miles outside this gambling town, Jason Chamberlain looks over a flock of about 50 smelly sheep, many of them possessing partially human livers, hearts, brains and other organs.

The University of Nevada-Reno researcher talks matter-of-factly about his plans to euthanize one of the pregnant sheep in a nearby lab. He can't wait to examine the effects of the human cells he had injected into the fetus' brain about two months ago.

"It's mice on a large scale," Chamberlain says with a shrug.

As strange as his work may sound, it falls firmly within the new ethics guidelines the influential National Academies issued this past week for stem cell research.

In fact, the Academies' report endorses research that co-mingles human and animal tissue as vital to ensuring that experimental drugs and new tissue replacement therapies are safe for people.

This article also notes, without comment, the same upside-down ethical guidelines I wrote about previously in entry "Play it stupid, man-mouse, and we might just let you live." Consider:
Stanford law professor Hank Greely, who chaired the ethics committee [which endorsed a proposal to create mice with brains nearly completely made of human brain cells], said the board was satisfied that the size and shape of the mouse brain would prevent the human cells from creating any traits of humanity. Just in case, Greely said, the committee recommended closely monitoring the mice's behavior and immediately killing any that display human-like behavior.
Am I crazy to suggest that the mice displaying the more human-like behavior should be entitled to more humane treatment?

(See also: the risk that chimeras could provide a mezzanine for animal viruses to adapt to human cells, discussed at "I'm not easily squicked, but...")

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Pricey Zip Codes

The zip code I've lived in with the most expensive homes? 94114 (San Francisco, CA) at #90 on Forbes' Most Expensive ZIP Codes 2005.

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The lie in every Sunday paper

Mickey Kaus: The MSM's Weekly Fraud

Mitch Albom landed in hot water for reporting something that he expected to happen as if it had already happened -- to make a story deadline. (Next week, who knows? Maybe we'll find out Albom hasn't visited heaven to find the five people you meet there.)

With the Albom affair in mind, Mickey Kaus wonders about a more purposeful deception in almost every Sunday paper and magazine:

Aren't the dates on these MSM Sunday sections beginning to look like a form of fraud, or at least deceptive non-disclosure? The printed Times Calendar section I'm holding in my hand claims it's the Sunday, April 24, 2005 edition. But it's really the Wednesday, April 20, 2005 edition. Uncredentialed blogs accurately report the date they were written, down to the minute, no? Advantage: Self-aggrandizing journalistic wannabes! ... P.S.: Why don't the LAT and NYT (and Time, and Newsweek, and The New Republic, etc.**) accurately disclose to their readers the date they were actually finalized (e.g. the date they were printed)? They could easily do it. The reason they don't is because readers prefer to read the latest information, and the publications want their customers to think they are getting information that's more up-to-date than it actually is. In other words, it's not just an unavoidable problem, or trivial lack of disclosure. It's conscious deception for commercial gain!
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First they came for a small swab of cells in my cheek...

SFGate: DNA study of human migration / National Geographic and IBM investigate spread of prehistoric peoples around world
In an unusual move, scientists are allowing anyone to join the study by buying a 'Participation Kit.' Participants will use a plastic stick to scrape mucous membrane cells from the inside of a cheek and mail the tissue to National Geographic. The kit costs $99.95 plus shipping and handling.
Perhaps the "informed consent" portion of the kit could also include a copy of Edwin Black's IBM and the Holocaust, as a reminder that having your ethnic identity uploaded into IBM's computers hasn't always been a good omen.

(Which is not to say that I buy most of Edwin Black's critique of IBM or its Nazi-era German affiliates. Just providing fodder for thought.)

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Snap's radical openness

Snap is a newish search engine with a recycled name that promises "complete transparency."

One step in that direction is impressive: they're publishing their daily revenues:

Date        Day of Week  Total Searches  SNAP Revenues
2005-04-19  Tuesday              65,365        $144.83
2005-04-18  Monday               73,591        $210.63
2005-04-17  Sunday               65,549        $211.70
2005-04-16  Saturday             65,746        $156.89
2005-04-15  Friday               69,958        $148.61
2005-04-14  Thursday             64,220        $151.94
2005-04-13  Wednesday            75,148         $71.06
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Letter to NYTimes

To: nytnews@nytimes.com
Cc: public@nytimes.com
Subject: Uncredited use of website graphic

I was flattered to see an illustration I created accompanying Tom Zeller Jr.'s recent article, "When the Blogger Blogs, Can the Employer Intervene?" (http://www.nytimes.com/2005/04/18/technology/18blog.html and April 18, 2005 print p. C1).

The original concept for the illustration is due to Niall Kennedy, the startup employee featured in the article. But as reported, Niall took his artwork down soon after a talk with his employer.

I never saw Niall's original, but after reading about it, I thought his combination of graphics and themes from two different eras had been clever and thought-provoking. I wanted more people to see it, and I considered the arguments against its publication unconvincing.

So I recreated a version of Niall's poster, working from a written description he left on his weblog. In addition to the weblog software logos he used, I also added the logo of his own employer, Technorati, as further commentary. I posted the recreation to my weblog, "Gojomo". This was the exact illustration appearing in your paper and website.

I'm glad the Times concurs with my editorial judgement: the picture itself is an interesting part of the story, and there's no reasonable grounds for hiding it. I'm also happy that the Times has exposed the composition to a much larger audience -- my goal in recreating a version of Niall's poster.

However, shouldn't the source of the illustration have been credited? The "recreation" you published wasn't Niall's or that of a Times staff artist, as someone might infer from your caption: "A recreation of Niall Kennedy's posting." The image you published was copied directly from my website.

Would you please correct the online form of the article to include a customary photo/illustration credit?

Thank you for your consideration,

Gordon Mohr
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NYTimes republishes my artwork (without attribution)

Niall Kennedy: New York Times on employer weblog intervention:
Tom Zeller Jr. of the The New York Times wrote an article published in Monday's business section on employer intervention over employee weblogs. I am featured in the article. I will pick up a hard copy of the paper in the morning.

I first want to give Gordon Mohr credit for the poster pictured in the article. I hope he was contacted about the use of his work.

Thanks, Niall! Now, regarding the Times...

No, the New York Times didn't contact me before republishing my collaged recreation of Niall's original. That's OK -- I don't contact the New York Times before excerpting their work, either.

But I do scrupulously give attribution, which I would have thought customary in such situations, if not outright required by journalistic ethics.

There's no attribution in the current online version, just the caption "A recreation of Niall Kennedy's posting." (screenshot) That could give readers the impression the image was created by NYTimes staff.

I'll see how it's creditted (or not) in the print version in the morning.

Update (2:52pm pt): The print version, below the fold on the first page of the business section, has the same generic "A recreation of Niall Kennedy's posting" caption. Cool to see my collage work published in full-color in the NYTimes. Odd they didn't see fit to credit the source of a news illustration.

Update (2005-04-25 11:04pm pt): The NYTimes link inside the Niall Kennedy quote above has been updated to target a freely-accessible version of the article, using New York Times Link Generator.

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Me Talk Pretty

My Linguistic Profile:
  45% General American English
  25% Yankee
  20% Dixie
  10% Upper Midwestern
  0% Midwestern

What Kind of American English Do You Speak?

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Wifi Uber Alles

I didn't realize it at first, but as far as the big three search engines are concerned, "wifi uber alles" (as used in my previous post) appears to be a new coinage. At this moment, it's a Yahoowhack for my blog front page, not yet appearing at all in Google or MSN. I'm a bit surprised; wifi triumphalism is pretty common. The pairing of "wifi" and "manifest destiny" already occurs in a couple places.

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April 106 Miles: Mobile strategies (and the name game)

Got back a little while ago from the April 106 Miles event, with the theme Mobile Strategies.

My impressionistic summary of the speakers' (and especially Russell's) message:

There are a gazillion mobile phone users worldwide and soon will be a gazillion more. But, to reach them, you have to work with a bazillion different devices, software platforms, and carriers. Plus, the carriers hold all the cards and demand princely sums to reach "their" customers. But it's still worth fighting for whatever morsels they drop your way because -- did I mention yet? -- there are a gazillion gazillion users.
Not specifically metnioned, but obvious to me, was that the fun, world-changing, big-win play would be to build -- or build apps for -- some open, TCP/IP-over-air alternative that makes the carriers irrelevant. When it was suggested that Wifi could be a better platform than traditional carrier cellular, several people pooh-poohed the idea that Wifi could work, anytime soon, with the roaming ubiquity people expect of mobile phone services. I suspect however that the Wifi-uber-alles model had many silent sympathizers in the room. Give it 5-10 years, less if there's a large enough investment boom.

Two mobile software startup winners mentioned are both in the mobile games category: MForce and Jamdat.

"Jamdat" rang some bells... not exactly those six letters, but others with the same properties. A flood of memories...

In 1999, after an acquisition-gone-awry decimated the instant-messaging startup where I was CTO, I left that company and was considering potential next steps. Mobile gaming was one area of interest. Seeing how awkward it was to enter internet hostnames on keypads, I noticed the value of short meaningful names typable with only the first character of each 3/4 character set: ADGJMPTW. Such names could be entered in a minimal number of memorable, non-repeated keypresses.

After a search for domain names up to six characters long that were pronounceable, at least vaguely meaningful for mobile gaming, and still available in the .com TLD, I came up with two I liked: madpaw.com and madtap.com. I registered them both at some point in 1999.

I never seriously pursued any mobile gaming ideas, though, and let both names expire within a year or two.

Now, they've both found their best use: madpaw.com leads to a product line of mobile phone games marketed to Asian markets, and madtap.com leads to a "consumer brand portal enabling direct downloads of mobile gaming content."

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EconoMommy, can I have a job?

Funny typo in NYTimes headline: Ecomomy Added Just 110,000 Jobs Last Month

Screenshot for when it's been corrected:

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