Sesame Street Gone Very Badly Wrong

It makes me very sad to see that Sesame Street has fallen under the spell of the wealthy, dangerous to children and public health, pseudo-science organization Autism Speaks. Using the muppets to promote dangerous quackery is horrible.

Learn more about this issues from Rebecca,

Source: Sesame Street Partners with Anti-vaccine Organization Autism Speaks – Skepchick

or these other news sources.

Sesame Street Chooses Wrong Narrative on Autism and Loses a Key Relationship

Sesame Street’s autistic muppet, Julia, was a huge success—why some of her developers are now cutting ties


Why An Autism Group Is Breaking Up With ‘Sesame Street’

‘Sesame Street’ Under Fire For PSAs About Autism That Add ‘Further Stigma’

Convert letterboxed video to widescreen in Corel VideoStudio X5

There is a great web page by Trevor Andrew about working with 16:9 video in Corel VideoStudio 10. In particular I needed to use the section about 3/4 of the way down the page titled “Ok let’s change a 4:3 aspect ratio to 16:9“. I wanted to crop a 16:9 video that was captured in letterboxed 4:3 format and I’m using Corel VideoStudio X5, so the screen shots and some option locations are different. Here are screen shots and modified steps to make Trevor’s page match X5 exactly.

Differences are in parenthesis, my VSP X5 changes are in bold italics

  1. Change the project properties to use 16:9 aspect (File – Project Properties-Edit-General tab) (Settings – Enable Widescreen)
  2. With the 4:3 video in the top track select the (‘Attributes Tab’. Select the “Distort” button.) (Open the Options panel, Select the Attributes Tab and check the Distort Clip checkbox)
  3. Right click the preview screen and select “Fit to screen”
  4. Right click the preview screen and select “Keep aspect ratio”



The Most Important Documentary of 2010

Last night Frontline aired what I feel may go down as the most important documentary of 2010, The Vaccine War. An extremely well made documentary that is as unbiased and factual as possible, this is what I expect and nearly always get from Frontline. On the rare occasion I’ve seen where Frontline messes up, they quickly and thoroughly correct the mistake.

I feel this documentary is important not because it will likely end the problem of the anti-vaccine movement, although I really hope it will. It is important because if we keep heading down this road eventually the avoidance of vaccinations will cause unnecessary illness, pain and death. It may be twenty or more years from now but if it happens we’ll have this documentary to review and see who caused the problem. Then we can rightly blame the irresponsible parties (I’m looking at you, McCarthy, Handley, Fisher, Kennedy and the other out front denialists).

Check your local listing for re-broadcast times, watch the documentary online at

Catholic League Announces Plan for Large Scale Copyright Infringement

The announcement is here:

We are now getting copies made for a mass mailing later this week. We will send a copy of this episode to 414 bishops, and to hundreds of influential Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Orthodox Christian, Muslim and Mormon religious leaders across the United States. We will also send a copy to hundreds of activists and members of the media.

Not only are they promising to break the law in their statement, they are already violating the law by posting the Penn & Teller video here. This blatant disregard for copyright law from a religious organization is despicable. With the enormous wealth of their organization and church they should obey the law and buy the right to distribute the video.

I support copyright law, I believe it currently lasts too long hurting the public domain but, it is important that creators have control over their creative works. Large scale piracy always makes me mad and when an organized group such as the Catholic League publicly announces their intention to violate copyright law I hope that they are prosecuted. Of course I doubt Showtime or their parent company CBS will file an infringement suit. The negative publicity is probably not worth it and, after all it is their intellectual property and only they can decide how to handle the situation.

If the Catholic Church wants to show they have some morals left, they will immediately make a public announcement condemning this action by the Catholic League. I won’t hold my breath for it. While I am incredibly tolerant of religious beliefs, as Roger Williams taught, over the past few decades the actions of Catholics and particularly their leadership has forced me to believe that the Catholic Church is no longer an institution worthy of any respect or tolerance. If they really cared about people they would have insisted that Cardinal Bernard Law be put on trial for his alleged actions in helping hush up so much child sexual abuse. Instead they sent him to the Vatican where he is protected from the legal consequences of his past actions.

Hat tip to the Friendly Atheist for pointing me towards this story via the J-Walk Blog.

A Message from JamesBurkeFan

I have good news and bad news, first the good news. James Burke’s wonderful documentary series The Day the Universe Changed is finally becoming available at a reasonable price. Until now the only way to buy it was at $80 each for the ten DVD’s of the series that’s right $800US (although the Discovery Education Store sells the ten episode set for only $750US). Well on 1/27/2009 the complete 10 episode series will be shipping for $150US from PBS in a 5 DVD box set (you can pre-order now). Not only will you save a big wad of cash but you’ll be helping support PBS (NOVA, Nature, etc.). PBS also has Connections: 1 and Connections: 2 available as box sets at the $150US price in stock for immediate shipping. Also of note to Netflix subscribers is the availability of Connections 1, 2 & 3 right now and TDTUC will be available soon.

Now the bad news, the JamesBurkeFan YouTube channel is gone, he is protesting the copyright related takedown of another YouTube channel he was working on as RichardFeynmanFan. He sent me an email with permission to post it so, I’ll let him explain this in his own words.

This refers to “former” YouTube user “JamesBurkeFan”, which is (or was) myself. I should like to say no request was made to me to take down that channel due to any copyright issue. Nobody contacted me, and I had even been told that Mr. Burke was well aware of the existence of the channel which promoted his views and ideas without any advertising or monetary benefit to myself. Originally I had mentioned on the page that TDTUC was not available for sale to private individuals. This has changed and I was delighted to find out about it, and immediately posted a link to the purchase page on the main channel page.

I took this channel down willingly (and with much sadness) in protest for the takedown of another channel I was building in dedication to Richard Feynman. That channel was another purely educational channel which took the Feynman lectures and combined the audio with clips from the lecture notes making them far easier to understand. I made a pact with myself essentially linking the two channel’s existences (though I pretended to be two different people).

After much correspondence with the complaining party (Michael A. Gottlieb) who was really complaining on behalf of Addison-Wesley publishers (aka. Caltech*), an agreement could not be reached and the site (together with it’s fundamental [and I think novel] idea) was destroyed.

Of course YouTube and my subscribers will not know why the channel was closed. However the awareness raised by it (I have many emails and messages to verify this) brought Mr. Burke to many young people who would otherwise have never heard of him. Additionally, I believe the channel indirectly encouraged the ultimate publication of TDTUC in DVD format for sale to the general public. That was the main goal anyway and I’m glad if in some small way I helped to cause it’s realization.

– Alan Carre [aka JamesBurkeFan & RichardFeynmanFan]


*that was meant as a joke

It’s too bad that a copyright holder would do this but it is their right. Personally I think Mr. Burkes way of acting is the right way, let the material stay up on the web as long as the poster is not trying to profit from the work and the posting is meant for global public education. But that is a decision only a copyright holder and their attorneys can make, obviously Addison-Wesley doesn’t feel this way. While I never got to see any of Alan’s work on The Feynman Lectures it sure seems like it would have been very helpful in making them easier to understand for the general public. Again personally, I think it could have driven sales of the books and audio of the lectures to the general public but then again, I may be wrong and it could have hurt Addison-Wesley by lowering sales. I also think it is too bad that Alan felt the need to take down the James Burke videos but hey, just like Addison-Wesley’s decision, it is solely his decision to make.

Somewhat related to all this, Blake Stacey of Science After Sunclipse had pointed me to Feynman’s “The Character of Physical Law – Messenger Lectures” series on Google Video last year. Checking to see if I could link to those as a consolation prize for my couple of readers, I see those videos have been taken down too.

*** UPDATE July 18. 2009 ***

Alan has sent me some exciting new information, the Feynman lectures have been purchased by Bill Gates and are being put online for free! You can read more about the story at this article from the NY Times.