Digitizing Tibet

From previous posts, you may recall that we’re supportive of the campaign to free Tibet from China’s oppressive and atrocious occupation.

In addition to its continuing genocidal persecution of Tibetans who remain faithful to the teachings and (spiritual) leadership of exiled Dalai Lama, Chinese authorities are also perpetrating “ecocide” or the reckless and systematic destruction of Tibet’s natural environment. Given that Tibetans have (for several centuries) advocated being ecologically responsible — and have warned of the price for failing to do so — it is fitting that China is now beginning to suffer the consequences since it (and several other neighboring countries) is so highly dependant upon the rivers of Tibet.

So it is encouraging, that despite all of the atrocities inflicted upon Tibet’s people and environment, efforts are being made to ensure that its culture will live on — digitally. Tibetans living in exile, in partnership with others worldwide, have a number of massive projects underway to digitize manuscripts that represent the unique Tibetan cultural heritage. Glyn Moody sums up this noble endeavor eloquently in a recent post on his Open… blog:

[…]The world of bits offers a partial counterbalance to some of the terrible losses taking place in the world of atoms.”

Missouri Liberated!

Wright is wrong!  Set Love free!

As mentioned back in September, we’re big supporters of Southwest Airlines’ Set Love Free campaign that’s aimed at revoking the Wright Amendment that prohibits them from offering non-stop flights from their home airport Love Field to states that don’t directly border Texas.

Just this morning, SWA sent out an update announcing that Congress voted to add Missouri to the list of states that Dallas Love Field can serve nonstop. So, now that Southwest is offering flights to/from Kansas City & St. Louis, there’s really no reason for you not to come spend Spring Break with us, Karen! (How’s that for some pressure?)

Pretty in Pink

pink Chinese dolphinThe waters of the South China Sea are home to around a thousand Sousa chinensis or Indo-pacific Humpback dolphins, a cetacean species that’s typically white, gray, or pale yellow in most regions of the world where it’s found, such as South Africa & northern Australia.   But in the Pearl River Delta, between Hong Kong & Macau, these dolphins have taken on a bubble-gum hue.

Yup, Hong Kong’s dolphins are pink!

Scientists are not fully certain why the Indo-pacific Humpback dolphins living off Hong Kong’s coasts are pink, although they have several theories.   They speculate that a lack of natural predators (namely sharks) in the brackish water where rivers meet the sea negates their need for camouflage or that the pink coloring is a byproduct of blushing, the flushing of blood to the skin, used to regulate body temperature.

For more info & photos, visit the Hong Kong Dolphinwatch site.

Update:   There’s also a rare pink bottlenose dolphin that was sighted recently in southwestern Louisiana.

Mickey & Woody – Finally Friends!

Steve Jobs’ 2006 is starting with an atomic bang…

First Apple is fresh on the heels of a record-setting sales period, most notably due to the introduction of the video iPod just in time for Christmas. Then just a few days ago, the Intel-based Mac was rolled out and set the personal computer industry all abuzz. Now Apple’s CEO has become a board member – and single largest shareholder – in the Walt Disney Company.

In a surprising move, the board of Pixar Animation Studios approved the company’s $7 billion sale to the Walt Disney Company today. Having been approved by the boards of both companies, the deal needs only the vote of Pixar’s shareholders to go through and given that Jobs owns more than 50% of Pixar’s shares… its practically a done deal.

Ironically, Pixar’s founding member and chief creative officer John Lasseter had left his animation job at Disney in 1984 to join the computer animation team at Lucasfilm Ltd. That division was purchased for $10 million by Steve Jobs in 1986. Although not widely known, Pixar actually got it’s start as a maker of graphics designing computer hardware used for the medical visualization. But in an effort to demonstrate the computer’s graphics power and bolster lagging sales of the system, Lasseter began creating short computer-generated animations.

Industry analysts predict that John Lasseter will take the creative reins – which would be the first time an artist has been head of animation at Disney since Walt died – and subsequently reinvigorate Disney’s animation division with some much-needed vision, innovation, and (most notably) a large dose of soul.

Although Disney developed a bad rep in recent years, the vast majority of that has been attributed to former CEO Michael Eisner. (Roy E. Disney publicly accused Eisner of turning Disney into a “rapacious, soul-less” company.) But since his appointment as CEO in Octobr 2005, Bob Iger made bold strides to rid the company of Eisner’s bad baggage and was responsible for restarting negotiations with Pixar.

As for Steve Jobs, it could be argued that he is this generation’s Walt Disney. Both men are known as forward-thinking and gutsy perfectionists who eschewed formal education in favor of self-taught smarts. Both are know for radically expanding and diversifying the boundaries of their businesses and Jobs’ latest move certainly puts him in a pivotal position to rapidly advance the convergence of new and old media. BusinessWeek’s Ronald Grover summed it up nicely:

“The acquisition will usher in a new era in which Disney, with Jobs and [Iger] allied, could rewrite the rules of how entertainment is distributed digitally via new consumer technologies.”

Dolphin Mathematics

Dr. Kelly Jaakkola and fellow scientists at the Dolphin Research Center in Marathon, Florida, are the first team to show conclusively that dolphins can count!   Linda Erb, one of the trainers on the project stated:

We know dolphins are intelligent but to actually pose them with a question where he has to make a choice and you’re not telling him, he has to think through it himself…

The study’s results, announced in the center’s research article, ‘Understanding of the concept of numerically "less" by bottlenose dolphins’, proves that dolphins have the ability to understand and act on numerical concepts.

Visit the Dolphin Research Center web page regarding this study or click here for a video of some interesting footage of Erb testing a dolphin’s math skills.

New Year, Old Friends

Our old friend Cary Vanley made the big move from dusty West Texas to scenic Washington State a couple of years ago and has since turned his whole family into snow bums. Hey Cary, looks like you’re having a great time and it was sure nice to hear from you!

The Vanleys love snowboarding!

Christmas in January

The last of the Christmas gifts has arrived. Rob has wanted a leather chair and ottoman for about the last 9 years when he fell in love with one on display at Pier 1. The only problem with that chair was that the price was about double what it should have been. Ever since then he has shopped for the perfect chair and never could find one until last month. We found it in Midland at Furniture Row and I wanted to get it for him for Christmas. When we got ready to pay for it, they told us it would be ordered and ready for pick-up in 6-8 weeks. I had no idea it was an order-only furniture store but Rob was willing to wait for it. Well, today was the big day and here is a picture of Rob in his dream chair. Merry Christmas Baby!

Rob seems happy with his Christmas gift

First Intel-based Macs Announced

Intel powers Apple's future
The Internet is all abuzz over the first Intel-based Mac, the MacBook Pro, shown by Steve Jobs earlier this week at Macworld. Apple intends to transition their entire product line to Intel chips this year.

What’s going to be interesting is to see what happens in the coming weeks and months as creative techie types manage to run Windows on these new Mac hardware. Apple has officially stated that they will not intentionally prevent Mac users from using Windows on their new Intel-based Macs. Already, industry insiders are probing the differences between Intel-Macs from Intel PCs and there’s no shortage of folks already burning the midnight oil to figure out what it’s going to take to get Windows XP to run on the new Mac hardware.

This is sure to open up some incredible design possibilities. PC makers have made strides in the past few years with boring beige boxes becoming all but extinct, but Apple’s products have always had, if nothing else, a distinct aesthetic upper hand. In fact, Jonathan Ive, the design genius behind almost every piece of iconic Apple hardware (not the least of which includes the iPod), was recently named a Commander of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II for his international achievement in the field of industrial design.

Maybe even more exciting is the prospect of seeing the Mac operating system, Unix-based OS X running on a commonly-available “PC” box, like the trusty eMachine, HP, or Dell or homebrew PC sitting under your desk. To be sure, this won’t be simple at first, but I believe it will happen this year and I can’t wait to see what shakes out when Mac and PC can be compared, dare I say it, “apples to apples.”

An interesting angle some insiders see is that Apple’s move to the Intel platform might turn out to be an incredibly sly manuever to dramatically expand Apple’s fanbase. There’s some compelling arguments that suggest that this is a strategic trojan horse that will put Macs in the hands of countless Windows-lovers hands who would’ve otherwise never touched one.