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Friday,  10/31/03  12:37 PM

What a hectic week.  At the Microsoft PDC, traveling to San Diego, Shirley's birthday, and now Halloween!  Whew.  But it's all happening (anyway)...

Happy Halloween!

Yahoo has amazing pictures of the California fires taken from space.  Looks like the weather has changed and the firefighters are finally getting the upper hand.  750,000 acres have burned, claiming 3,700 structures, and 20 lives have been lost.  The fires aren't contained yet but with snow forecast for this weekend, the end is in sight.  Wow.

Don Park has similar pictures from NASA.  "It's the Santa Ana wind, high deserts' middlefinger to Pacific Ocean."

The Ventura County Star carries these pictures from readers, closer to the ground.

And MODIS has great maps of all the fires....

If you don't live in Southern California, it might be hard to imagine such a severe change in weather.  Tuesday we had 95° heat with dry 40mph winds.  Friday we have 45° with a cool breeze and patchy showers.  Yep, it is a desert.

Ted Castronove pointed out Earth Fires Destabilize Virtual Governments.  "In other words, a firestorm has knocked out the government that rules over 750,000 accounts.  There will be no police officers on the streets tonight."  Fascinating.  [ via Cory Doctorow ]

Speaking of virtual worlds, is there a there there?  Wired looks at "there" and wonders.  "One of There's main objectives is to attract women.  The theory goes that women will attract men into the world, while the reverse is not true."  Has anyone been there?  What's it like?

California isn't the only place on fire, consider the sun, which just erupted with one of the largest solar flares ever recorded.  If you're having trouble with cell phone reception, this could be why.

[ Later: there's another flare coming, too.. ]

Rand Simberg wonders if there are signs of intelligent life in U.S. space policy.  There are rumors President Bush may redirect national efforts back to the Moon, with Mars as a more distant goal (in time and space).  We'll stay tuned...

Steven Den Beste posted a characteristic long and rambly discussion of the Great Chipmunk Space Race.  Interesting as orbital relativity may be, skim through to the review of the mechanics of "space elevators", it's good stuff.

AdAge: Why PVR Technology is Good for Marketers.  "In fact, TiVo and other PVRs are a boon to marketers. It's only the broadcast networks that are in trouble."  Yep.  (boldface is mine.)  [ via Matt Haughey ]

Oh, and the Pioneer DVD recorders with built-in Tivo are out!  They look very nice.  Now you can make digital backups of content recorded from broadcast channels.  No ethernet jacks, though; I think the importance of IP distribution of video is still unclear.  To some.

And here we have a DVD recorder which uses Windows Media 9 compression.  This enables it to record 6 hours of video at "DVD quality", and up to 15 hours with less quality.  The race is on - WMA vs. MPEG.  Who will win?  You will!

Microsoft announced Portable Media Center, an architecture for digital media players to be available in the second half of 2004.  Media as in video, presumably.  So when will the videoPod be out?

Adam Curry posted some great pictures of the Concorde's last flight.  It might have been un-economic, but what a beautiful machine.

From MIT comes "memory glasses"; "Whatever you need to remember is programmed into a tiny computer that you wear.  The computer sends messages in the form of light to a mini TV screen on the glasses.  The messages -- like someone's name, or a word like keys or medicine -- flash before your eyes at 180th of a second. It's too fast for the eyes to notice, but not the brain."  Excellent.  I actually think this type of technology will be used for a lot more than memory.  Imagine looking at a person and having their identity recognized automatically and all the online information about them flash up on a screen.  It will happen.

Want to know whether you're male or female?  Among other ways to tell, you can use the Gender Genie.  Enter a block of text and it will tell you the likely gender of the author.  Cool.

Daring Fireball skewers Proteron’s Samuel Caughron.  "Oh, really?  For hundreds of millions of users, the feature [command-tab] has existed for over 10 years, after it debuted in version 3 of Microsoft Windows."  Don't you just love a nice fisking?

Driving while stupid, from aptly-named collision detection.  "To use two mobile phones is the height of stupidity."  Especially when Sprint's service for Treo 600s incorporates three-way calling :)

wholemovement is a site devoted to origami made from paper plates.  Check it out, absolutely amazing!

CNN reports new shopping carts may talk to you.  Oh no!  Just the other day I was in a market with TV monitors playing ads aimed at people standing in line to check out.  I'm not going back to that market.

Finally, the brain-teaser of the day, courtesy of David Burbridge:

"Imagine a cube, which is going to be cut in two by a straight saw cut.  The saw-cut section, the raw face of the cut, can clearly be of various shapes, a square, or triangular (if a corner were cut off).  How would you cut the cube so that the section may be a perfect plane hexagon?"

I'll post the solution tomorrow...  [ Later: not quite tomorrow! ]