Video

Back in 1987, Disney and Star Wars first came together with Disneyland’s Star Tours ride, the first such attraction based on a non-Disney film. That same year, Guns ‘n’ Roses released Appetite for Destruction, an album with a slew of rock hits, including Welcome to the Jungle, the second single off that album (a song that got a big boost from the “Dirty Harry” film The Dead Pool).

We would have to wait until 2011 for Disney, Star Wars and G’n’R to join together and form a triumvirate of awesomeness. In case your brain refuses to accept what’s happening in the video above, it’s Welcome to the Jungle featuring the Mos Eisley Cantina Band as backup dancers, Chewbacca as Axl Rose and the Ewoks as guitarists and percussionists (they’re playing on the helmets — or is it decapitated heads? — of fallen stormtroopers and TIE fighter pilots).

I normally don’t go for the live entertainment at Disney parks, but this one I’d love to see.

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Pure awesomeness for a back-to-work Monday morning:

And for those of you who missed it, my accordion rendition of the tune:

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Don’t Count on Cat Lassie

by Joey deVilla on July 1, 2010

…because cats are jerks:

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Conflict Minerals and Blood Tech

by Joey deVilla on June 27, 2010

conflict minerals

Say the word “silicon” and chances are, you’ll think of technology. After all, silicon’s relationship to tech – it’s part of what makes transistors and chips – has been part of popular culture for decades, from the “Silicon chip inside her head” opening line from the Boomtown Rats’ song I Don’t Like Mondays to “Silicon Valley” as the nickname for the suburban expanse between San Francisco and San Jose.

Silicon is only part of the equation, however. The chips that drive our computers, mobile phones and assorted electronica are actually a “layer cake” consisting not only of silicon, but also oxide and metal.

There’s also the matter of key non-chip components like capacitors, which momentarily store an electrical charge. They’re made of thin layers of conductive metal separated by a thin layer of insulator. We use their “buffering” capabilities to smooth out “spiky” electrical currents, filter through signal interference, pick out a specific frequency from a spectrum of them and other “cleaning up” operations.

One of the metals used in the manufacture of capacitors is tantalum, which you can extract from a metal ore called coltan, whose name is short for “columbite-tantalite”. About 20% of the world’s supply of tantalum comes from Congo, and proceeds of from the sale of coltan are how their warlords – the scum driving the world’s most vicious conflict, and who’ve turned the country into the rape capital of the world – are bankrolled.

Nichloas Kristof of the New York Times wrote about metals like tantalum purchased from Congo – conflict metals – in an op-ed yesterday:

I’ve never reported on a war more barbaric than Congo’s, and it haunts me. In Congo, I’ve seen women who have been mutilated, children who have been forced to eat their parents’ flesh, girls who have been subjected to rapes that destroyed their insides. Warlords finance their predations in part through the sale of mineral ore containing tantalum, tungsten, tin and gold. For example, tantalum from Congo is used to make electrical capacitors that go into phones, computers and gaming devices.

Electronics manufacturers have tried to hush all this up. They want you to look at a gadget and think “sleek,” not “blood.”

Yet now there’s a grass-roots movement pressuring companies to keep these “conflict minerals” out of high-tech supply chains. Using Facebook and YouTube, activists are harassing companies like Apple, Intel and Research in Motion (which makes the BlackBerry) to get them to lean on their suppliers and ensure the use of, say, Australian tantalum rather than tantalum peddled by a Congolese militia.

He also points to the Enough Project’s latest video, which used humour and a reference to the “I’m a Mac / I’m a PC” TV commercials to draw the public’s attention to conflict metals and to encourage them to contact electronics manufacturers and ask them to be more vigilant when sourcing components:

The Enough Project says that auditing component supply chains at the smelters to see whether the metal was sources from “clean” places like Australia or Canada instead of lining the pockets of Congolese warlords would add about one cent to the price of a cellphone, and that this figure originates from within the industry. I’d happily pay a thousand times that for each of my devices – a mere ten bucks – to ensure that I wasn’t bankrolling rape and murder.

I’ll close this post with the closing paragraph from Kristof’s op-ed:

We may be able to undercut some of the world’s most brutal militias simply by making it clear to electronics manufacturers that we don’t want our beloved gadgets to enrich sadistic gunmen. No phone or tablet computer can be considered “cool” if it may be helping perpetuate one of the most brutal wars on the planet.

This article also appears in Global Nerdy.

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Meanwhile, in Korea…

by Joey deVilla on June 15, 2010

a group of Korean students are learning the more (ahem) colourful parts of the English language [not safe for work; swearing]. My friend David Matte, who lives in Korea, should consider teaching a Master Class in English swearing and charge top won for it.

By the way, you should buy some prints from David so he can buy a new Nikon.

Found via Certified Bullshit Technician.

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Dan Pink on What Motivates Us

by Joey deVilla on May 25, 2010

I posted this article to the technical blogs I write – my own Global Nerdy and Microsoft’s Canadian Developer Connection – but the topic of what motivates people would be just as interesting to people outside the field of software. There’s no tech jargon here; if you do work that involves even a modicum of cognitive skill, this is for you!

Here’s a great movie which takes the audio from a presentation by Dan Pink based on the research for his latest book, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us and augments it with video of a whiteboard cartoonist illustrating what Pink is talking about. I have no idea how long it took to film the illustration sequences, but I love the end result – I think it makes for better internet viewing of a presentation than simply watching a video of the presenter on the podium, even when accompanied by slides.

The movie covers the part of Pink’s presentation that talks about an experiment to determine whether higher pay led to better performance. The results:

  • For turnkey, mechanical, just-follow-the-instructions tasks, larger rewards do lead to better performance.
  • For tasks that call for cognitive skills, conceptual and creative thinking — even at a rudimentary level — larger rewards did the opposite: they led to poorer performance.

The sort of work we do calls for cognitive crunching certainly falls into the latter category – as Andy “Pragmatic Programmer” Hunt says, making software is one of the hardest thing humans do.

Money is a motivator, but when it comes to people who do the sort of work we do, it requires more than just money to motivation. Pink’s recommendation is to pay people enough so that they’re not thinking about money, but thinking about their work instead. Once you’ve done that, there are three factors that lead to better satisfaction and performance:

  1. Autonomy: The desire to be self-directed, to direct our own lives
  2. Mastery: The urge to get better at stuff
  3. Purpose: The reason we do something

In the end, what Pink suggests is that if we treat people not like “smaller, better-smelling horses” with carrot-and-stick incentives but like people and set up the appropriate motivations, we’ll make our work and the world a little bit better.

If you enjoyed this portion of Pink’s presentation and want to see the whole 40-ish minutes, I present it below. Enjoy!

If Pink’s name rings a bell, it’s probably because you’ve heard of his other books, A Whole New Mind and the manga career guide Johnny Bunko.

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The “Social Media Revolution 2” Video

by Joey deVilla on May 17, 2010

It’s Mesh week here in Toronto! Today, the developer-and-creative-focused MeshU conference takes place, followed tomorrow and Wednesday by the social-media-and-marketing focused Mesh conference. I’ll be in the audience at MeshU, and tending the Microsoft lounge (and the cocktail parties) at Mesh. If you’re attending, please say “hi!”

In the spirit of Mesh, I present Social Media Revolution 2, the follow-up to last year’s Social Media Revolution video, produced by the people behind the book Socialnomics (written by Erik Qualman, who blogs here). Whether you’re looking for little facts and statistics for a presentation, need some infotainment to get the week started or both, this video is for you!

(Want to feel old? The music track for the video is Fatboy Slim’s Right Here Right Now, which is from the album You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby, which is 12 years old. Yowch.)

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.

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