Thursday, January 31, 2008

They Call It Citizendium

The Internet can be a very patriotic experience, if you are slightly crazy like me. Certain websites, servers, or browsers can garner my allegiance as much any tangible organization in the real world.

[As a side note, I am not advocating this weird style of devotion, but if I did not clarify then the following might seem very strange.]

As far as web browsers go, I am a devoted servant of Safari, though long ago I recall being a disciple of Internet Explorer. In the realm of search engines, I scorn this unworthy “champion” called Google, pledging myself to Yahoo!, though I fear I might soon become a lonely radical in this regard.

My greatest loyalty, however, is to “the world in a nutshell,” better known as Wikipedia. Though often slandered as dubious and overly-nerdy, I have developed a close bond to this fount of knowledge.

[In case my mother happens to be reading this: No, mother, I do not utilize Wikipedia for my research papers … much.]

Considering my allegiance, you can understand why I was alarmed to learn of a contender attempting to initiate a coup over Wikipedia.

They call it Citizendium.

A while ago, shortly after I discovered this poser, I gave my initial arguments against its very being. However, as that was a number of months ago, I have decided to be gracious and give Citizendium a second chance to prove itself to me. After all, it is not Citizendium’s principles that I am against; this newer compendium was formed in an effort to secure more accuracy in its information, which is a noble goal.

But hey, I am loyal to Wikipedia. So there.

My test for Citizendium was to search through their massive collection of “over 5100 articles” for a few scattered interests and review the results, if any.

1. Jack Bauer: the protagonist for 24 had no article on Citizendium, nor anything relatively close. However, considering that all articles must be verified by an expert, I doubt that Jack will be making an appearance anytime soon.

2. J.S. Bach: Bach is apparently more worthy than Jack Bauer. [I suppose that happens when you are a real person instead of a pop culture icon.] At first glance, the Citizendium article on Bach seems in good order, but after a short investigation I found that large portions of the article are word-for-word transcriptions from the Wikipedia counterpart article. Who’s dubious now?

3. Harding University: nada. I shouldn’t have gotten my hopes up.

4. Golden Grahams: also nada. Among the top five results were Jefferson Airplane, Brazil, and Atheism. Pretty close.

5. Immortality: we have a winner, though you might want to check out the full text of the article.

So, after a brief and admittedly very biased review of Citizendium, I still scorn its presence on the Internet. Wikipedia may be vulnerable to inaccuracies, but I encourage everyone to have a little faith in the knowledge of the world.

Because until there is an article for Jack Bauer, my loyalties stand.

Viva la Wikipedia.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

On This Day - 1/30

On this day in history, many incredible things happened. I have compiled a short list (only twelve points!) of some of the more bizzare, cool, or just plain awesome historical events that happened on various January 30ths throughout history. They are in chronological order as follows:

- Oliver Cromwell is formally executed after having been dead for 2 years (1661).

- Antarctica is "discovered" by Edward Bransfield (1820).

- The first attempted assassination of a US President is carried out against then current President Andrew Jackson (1835). Both of the assassin's pistols misfired, and the man was quickly subdued by a 68-year old Andrew Jackson, his favorite walking cane, and the onlooking crowd.

- The most famous seamstress in the world, Betsy Ross, dies (1836).

- Future US President Franklin D. Roosevelt is born (1882).

- The Royal Canadian Navy is inaugurated (1911).

- Adolf Hitler is sworn in as chancellor of Germany (1933).

- Future US Vice-President and founder of the fourth branch of the government, Dick Cheney, is born (1941).

- Mahatma Ghandi and Orville Wright both die (1948).

- The Beatles last public performance is broken up by the police (1969).

- The first computer virus is written (1982). It was given highly meaningful name: "Elk Cloner."

- Future author of this blog, Drew Spickes, is born (1987).

21 years later, here I am. Harding, being the wonderful university that it is, did not allow me to make any stupid decisions that involve alcoholic beverages. Instead, I made a stupid decision that involved a mustache and wore one all day. It felt very empowering and very ridiculous.

Monday, January 28, 2008

A Presidential Prediction

Next Tuesday, we will more than likely know the two people who will be running for the office of president of the United States. It seems like this has been a long time in coming. And if you’re just now joining us for the presidential campaigning, you haven’t missed anything that we can’t catch you up on.

The Nevada Caucuses and the South Carolina Republican Primary are through reporting, and it seems as if we have our front-runners, a match-up for Election Day: Hillary Clinton and John McCain.
For the record, I am biased toward the Republicans; I’ll admit that. But you have to think that this is the best ballot the Republican Party could hope for (barring the entrance of NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg, but that would be a different story altogether).

Why is this good for the Republican Party? First, they aren’t going against Barack Obama. I know many of the Democrats on our campus are Obama supporters, and they will be glad to hear me say that he has the best shot of beating any Republican. If he were to face McCain (who was born in Panama and would be the first president to be born outside the 50 states) it would be the largest age gap in presidential race history ­— a larger gap than Clinton-Dole from 1996. However, Obama, the “candidate of change,” has not been materializing his numbers at the polls well enough to overtake Clinton’s front-runner status. Sigh of relief from the Republicans.

Second, McCain is known as a rebel, a maverick, but at 72 years old, he would be the oldest president to be inaugurated for the first time (Ronald Reagan was 73 when he was inaugurated for the second time in 1985).
McCain is seen as a national hero and a moral, well-respected man. Clinton, on the other hand, is disliked by more than a third of Americans. Conservative Republicans will vote for McCain, yes, but more so they will vote against Clinton. Clinton’s experience card doesn’t seem to play well against McCain.

Third, if you don’t believe me, I’ll reference the polls. I know that polls can be wrong (see New Hampshire), but we can trust them most of the time. Only one Republican beats Clinton. Only one Republican beats any of the three Democratic candidates. That’s right: McCain. Why? Because McCain is more of a centrist than any of the other candidates. He is a straight-talker. And, for the most part, he has been proven right, time and again.

So, before you let someone tell you McCain is soft on immigration (which he is not) or that he is too entrenched in the game of politics (which he is not), seek to learn about him, and the other candidates as well, or at least hear both sides and make up your own mind.

And now, time to play Nostradamus: I will attempt to predict the future. Assuming I am correct with McCain vs. Clinton (and I won’t be surprised if I’m wrong), who will be their VP running-mates? My picks: A Democratic ticket of New York Senator Hillary Clinton and Indiana Senator Evan Bayh (also their former governor) versus the Republican ticket of Arizona Senator John McCain and … former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee (but watch out for Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman).

So, good luck to Senator Clinton and to Senator McCain; they both deserve our respect.

Thanks for reading. And remember: politics is fun, but it’s not everything.

3D Mailbox

Email is boring. Yes, I like some of you am easily excited by a late-night communique from Facebook telling me that someone has posted a one word message on my wall, but not all people revel in electronic communication with the same vigor that we do. Email has become a dry, uninteresting wasteland where only business people and the occasional nearly-illiterate relative trying out their new computer dare to tread. Or at least, so believe the people over at 3D

Showing an unnatural knack for what the youth of America consider "keen" they have taken the exciting concept of a three-dimensional virtual world and applied it to your email inbox. Popular Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) games such as World of Warcraft use this concept to bring together thousands of players at once to roleplay that they are wizards, elves, or some other fantasy hero fighting against a greater evil that threatens to envelop the land, all while collecting more powerful weapons and piles of gold. 3D Mailbox uses this concept to help you check your email.

Yes, by downloading and installing 3D Mailbox you will be able to interact with each of your emails as if they were individual people. The first “level” of the program features a Miami resort with a beachside pool which acts as your inbox. Each of your new messages is portrayed as a poorly-rendered, swimsuited beach-goer who is bent on entering the resort. To do this though, they must first go through the bouncer, your spam filter. If they gain entrance, they dive into the swimming pool, waiting for you to join them in the water and "read" them. After they are "read" they towel off and sunbathe at the poolside. If the bouncer rejects the poor person as a spam message, however, they are sent to the beach outside of the resort compound to await being eaten by a great white shark.

This is not a fake website.

This is a real program that real people really use; just not for any practical purpose, say, like actually catching up on your email. I’m sure though there is a fourteen year-old girl somewhere who is probably quite enamored with the new hunk named “Re:Thank You” that her character met by the poolside yesterday.

So if you, like me, are bored and frustrated with regular old email, download 3D inbox* and interact with your email in ways that are beyond your wildest imagination! This video preview gives you a brief glimpse of the exciting world that is waiting for you!

The website also boasts of second and third levels which allow you to both take control of LAX and fight off a zombie infestation in a peaceful rural hamlet. I can hardly wait.

*I would never under any circumstances recommend this program for any sane, productive human being.

The LEGO Block's 50th Anniversary

The LEGO block is over the hill today. The original patent for it was submitted at 1:58 p.m. January 28, 1958; however, the LEGO block we know today wouldn't appear until five years later when they began using the current materials to make it.

The LEGO company began as a Danish manufacturer of small wooden toys in 1932. Ole Kirk Christansen, the founder, came up with the name LEGO as a combination of the Danish words "leg" and "godt," which, put together, mean "play well."

The forefather to the modern LEGO brick was created in 1949 and was tweaked and developed until 1958, when it took the form still used today. Blocks from 1958 will fit with blocks from today.

One thing I did not realize is the sheer scale of the LEGO operation. There are 2,400 different brick shapes, and the LEGO company also produces 25 other product lines, and is sold in more than 130 countries (there are 190 countries recognized in the UN).

Neatorama has a good article with the 10 Neatest LEGO Facts, in tribute to the wildly-popular toy's birthday.

I thought I would share something I found on YouTube: The Dark Knight trailer, in LEGOs. It's perfectly matched to the real trailer.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

We Are Now Open For Business

Welcome to Hobson’s Buffet. As you can probably tell, this is a blog. But there are a few things that make this blog different than your average bear, so let me tell you what we’re about.

We’re about being interesting. This blog has no specific intentions; we have no agenda to push, other than our own. We have no collective purpose, other than to inspire dialogue, both within ourselves and between you, the readers, and us, the writers. We want this to be a forum, and as such relish reader participation.

Who are we? We are, at the moment, four guys too busy, lazy, apathetic to keep a constant flow of content on our own blogs. We will use the tool of a collective blog to foster readership and allow us to go about our “real” lives with much less pressure added from trying to update regularly. And with more writers, you get more perspectives and more voices, which will hopefully make it more interesting all around, for us and you.

Specifically, we are Jeremy Watson, Drew Spickes, Alex Ritchie and Michael Crouch. We are all currently students at Harding University, and that’s one of the only things we have in common. Our interests are varied, so our blog will be as well. We will write about anything and everything that springs to mind: Religion and politics; humor and movies; video games, books, sports, funny videos we find on the Internet, ideas, dreams, life. And that’s just for starters.

So why Hobson’s Buffet? After a long, tiring process, in which we hit Wikipedia’s “Random Article” button many times and sat talking about everything from Greek mythology to horrible puns based on scatological innuendo, we had managed to eliminate several possibilities. Referencing Sisyphus only brought to mind a venereal disease, and after sitting next to Taco Bell for a while, all we could think of while trying to play off the Gordian Knot were Gorditas. Finally, we settled on Hobson’s Choice, because it eventually came down to picking that or giving up altogether. But we wanted something more unique, and because there are going to be multiple writers on this project, it’s more of a buffet anyways.

So, once again, welcome to Hobson’s Buffet, where the lines are short and the food is (fairly) warm. Come with a hearty appetite, or don’t come at all.