Been watching episodes from the first season of the Canadian TV series ReGenesis this past month or so. It is about a fictive biochemical laboratory that is paid for by the Canadian, US American and Mexican government, and there is always some really important, life-threatening situation going on that needs genome sequencing or some other biochemical method applied to it.

I know nothing about biochemistry, but this is really exciting. They are just as much geeks as we computer types are. There is even a page by the Ontario Genomics Institute explaining the things that are possible, likely, not likely or impossible that happen on the show.

The shows are fascinating, but there is only one show left on the first season DVD. What do I do then? They have seasons 2 and 3 already broadcast, 4 is scheduled to start in March. Arte has been sending them in Germany - how did I miss this? Guess I don't study the TV-Guides very well.

I really, really, really want to spend money on the DVD collections for seasons 2 and 3 - why has the movie and TV industry not figured out how to let me pay them money for stuff they have that I want to see? Hmm, there they are, all on PirateBay.

I am beginning to understand why people download stuff. You don't have to fuss with the DVDs not playing on certain equipment or being locked to a specific showing area or other perversities. But here I would gladly pay to have someone stamp the next two seasons onto DVD disks and there is no one willing or able to legally take my money. Bizarre.



There is a new electronic member in our household, I call him Froggy. It is an OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) that I got through the G1G1 program (Give one, get one).

These machines are only available in the States, but my brother was kind enough to take delivery on it and then send it on in the mail. Extra points for the good old US Postal service, for 36$ they got it to Europe in 10 days. FedEx wanted 120$ for shipping it.

Customs picked it out, of course, must have a look at what this is. The customs guy was very nice and apologetic, says he believes me what is inside, but he is curious, could he have a look, please? So I open up, he gets to touch it, and then he is lenient and only assesses me for value-added tax for the one notebook, not the full price paid for two.

First order of business was getting a plug organized. Luckily the power cord thingy can take 220 V, just needs an adapter. The battery gets extra points - it had been fully charged in the States, was 10 days in transit, and still had 3/4 of its charge here! EeePC take note!

It takes forever to start up, and some fussing around with a Unix command (!) to get it named. I took it to the Wikipedia Stammtisch, people liked playing with it. Everyone asks if it is for underwater use - the keyboard is in continuous plastic so those drink spills don't cause so much trouble. I had some teenagers play with it, they were quite absorbed with the Python programming stuff. Had it with me at Code Camp yesterday and they enjoyed playing the synthesizer.

But we couldn't get it to talk to the WLAN at school, it uses WPA encryption. According to the wiki you have to update to version 656. Okay, will do. Except I still have the old updater that can't update from a stick. So I have to do it at home where I control the WLAN router.

Spent 5 hours last night downloading the image (DSL has a download rate which is just slightly higher than carrier-pigeon message transferring lately). Put it on a USB disk, started the flashing: Bad hash, and it stopped dead. Tried it again: Bad hash in a different address. Hmm. Got out a stick that I could delete enough on to use, same thing.

Wrote a bugtrac item on this, will buy a new stick (so there is nothing on there but the OS) today. Hope this works, because currently I just have a nice green paperweight - before uploading the new OS it erases the old one.....

Stay tuned!


I'm Not There

Right. Let's see: multiple actors playing Bob Dylan under different names; discontinuous time filled with flashbacks and -forwards and -sideways; dream sequences, or things I hope are dream sequences; references to known bits and pieces of Dylan's life, more or less thinly veiled. Woody Guthrie called Woody Guthrie, but Joan Baez and others under different names. The actors were good, though, pretending to be them.

Where was I? Trains, hobos, a whale, a dog, a giraffe, interesting furniture, interesting clothes, a whiff of sex, non-sequiturs galore, obnoxious reporters, obnoxious crowds constantly demanding that he play the old songs, booze, pills, cigarettes and guitars and that old harmonica. A bit of a plot running through - Dylan marries French artist, they have 2 children, they divorce, he is sad.

Other than that the Dylan-actors (is some of the footage vintage Dylan or is it just made-to-look-like-vintage?) strive to be emotionless. Politics - he refuses to be co-opted by any political movement.

I didn't really care for this quite long film (except for the music, including some of the old songs). WiseMan thought it was lovely. Maybe it's because he understood all the references. Whatever, better than walking around Malmö in a storm.

The movie won't be released in Germany until next week, it has already bombed in Sweden, even this tiny theater had seats free. Although it is nominated for an Oscar, probably for set construction. Ah, the IMDB reveals Cate Blanchett playing one of the 6. I thought I saw a woman there occasionally. And it's her up for the nomination. Okay.

Now can someone tell me why so many films are done in Canada these days?


Shut Up and Sing

Discovered there was a "Music Documentary" festival on this week in Lund, and flipping through the films I saw that a film about the Dixie Chicks called "Shut Up and Sing" was being shown this evening.

So we drove through the rain and got ourselves "Member Cards" for 50 SEK in order to be able to buy tickets for the nowhere near sold-out film. A tad different than the Berlinale...

I really enjoyed the film. I hadn't realized that the comment that one of the singers made about being ashamed that Bush was from the same state she was, Texas, was just something that had sort of slipped out. The reaction in the States was sickening.

Ignorant "patriots" denounced them, stomped on their CDs, made all the radio stations south of the Mason-Dixon line refuse to play their music, even made death threats. I mean, come on people, freedom of speech is in the Constitution, there is nothing to get worked up about here. Makes me happy not to share a passport with these people. One guy even said that freedom is speech is fine if you don't do it in public (!)

Especially watching these people waxing patriotic in 2003 about the "Weapons of Mass Destruction" and about how fast they are going to win the war in Iraq - in 2008 it has a very bitter edge.

The bravery that the women showed as they went on stage in Dallas, Texas, despite the death threat was just magnificent.

I liked best seeing these three really tough women who just love to sing and play instruments and love their families and get high on being on stage with all those fans and who are the best selling women's band DESPITE the radio boycott - way to go, Dixie Chicks!

Got the CD "Fly" playing in the background as I write this, it's the only Dixie Chicks CD up in Sweden. Gotta make sure I have them all when I get back to Germany. They sing a special kind of country that I kind of like - not the "Stand By Your Man" stuff, but real woman stuff. Small-town US stuff. Emotional stuff.


Eat. Drink. Read. Write.

Now that's vacation. Nothing but eating good food, enjoying the crystal clear, cold water from the well, reading from my tons of stuff and writing in the evening in front of the fireplace. Still a few leaves and branches to clear out.

The paper writes that there was no winter this year. Winter is defined meterologically as five days in a row in which the temperature does not rise above 0 degrees Celsius. Spring is defined as 7 days in a row after February 15 in which the temperature does not fall below zero. If the forecast is correct, tomorrow will be that seventh day, so spring will officially be here, and there will have been no winter. Just rain, from the looks of the fields.

Global warming is starting to really scare me. As a hay-fever sufferer I love winter and want to have one every year....


Growin' old

I have lots of moles and freckles on my skin so I am supposed to have them looked at every year or so. Recently a number of a new kind of discoloring has appeared, so I finally made an appointment. My aunt had skin cancer, and I have her colorings, so it pays to be safe.

"Oh," says the youngish doctor, as she has a look, "those are just fine, they are just old-age spots!"

Harumpf. Nice way to start your day. Didn't think 25-year-olds got old-age spots......


Angie, Traffic Rowdy

I was on my way to a meeting this evening and just missed the turning light for the tunnel at Potsdamer Platz, where the Berlinale is being celebrated. Suddenly a big, black Audi shoves itself in front of me, occupying the pedestrian zone for the turning lane, and another one shoves itself in front of the straight ahead lanes.

One car honks, I start my usual curses about these drivers of fancy cars thinking they own the road, when I notice that the woman in the back seat of the car looks awful familiar. The news is helpful, explaining what the chancellor of Germany said today about the top manager caught siphoning funds off to foreign countries, and finally the synapses connected: This was Angela Merkel and her husband, who had so rudely shoved them selves in front of us.

Of course I didn't have a proper camera on me, so the mobile phone would have to do. This is how the car was angled in, I am in the left-turning lane! As the light went green the limos gunned their motors and scooted off the the left as well, careening down towards the Reichstag.

Man, if a mere mortal had tried that stunt, they would soon find themselves riding mass transit for a couple of months, their driver's licenses would be suspended!

The EeePc

I am embarking on some research into adapting E-Learning material for use with small non-standard systems. The first attempt was to port a course for the Playstation Portable. The results: nah. The screen is too small and without a keyboard it is just too difficult to use.

Next up is the EeePC by Asus. I ordered one back in November, it was finally delivered the end of January. No, I did not get pink, I got a black one. This is serious research.

The machine weighs in at just under a kilogram and is a bit larger and bulkier than a DVD case. It has a full keyboard, although the keys are a bit smaller than normal, a tiny touchpad (I am soooo spoiled with my MacBook Pro), and a 9cm x 15,5 cm screen squeezed between two loudspeakers. A little camera is installed at the top of the screen.

It had 3 USB connections for plugging in external hard drives, etc., an Ethernet connection and built in WLAN, connections for external microphones and loud speakers, and a VGA connector. The latter makes it conceivably possible to take along for giving a talk, saving lots of space in your luggage.

It boots blindingly fast, and offers pre-installed the Firefox browser, the OpenOffice suite, and some games. There is about 1 GB of the 4GB flash memory free for storing files internally. The fast booting makes it interesting as a Videotext substitute. As it was sitting on the living room coffee table doing the battery tests members of the Wise family would pick it up and check the scores of this or that major-league match.

The battery is a disappointment. Fully charged I get about 3 hours out of it. But even when it is turned off (and powered down), it still sucks electricity. Turning a fully charged EeePC off when you go to bed and just leaving it closed all night is enough to empty the battery. I've tried turning off the WLAN, doesn't change much.

The WLAN took me an hour to configure for home use. The little "details" window announces the wrong MAC address.... It also forgets the WEP password often enough to be annoying. I have tried to configure the WPA for connecting at school, I downloaded the certificate, but there is no place to attach the certificate, it just wants the shared secret. I've found some scary things-one-can-do on the net, I'm not quite prepared to do any of them yet.

I tested using the EeePC to take notes at a talk last evening. There were no table, so I had to have it on my lap. It just sort of balances on the tops of my thighs, I have trouble typing 10-fingers with it, though. Hunt-and-peck works fine. It just barely made the 3 hours of the discussion. The battery status is a bit confusing, there are 4 bars, the first one disappears quickly. When only the last one is shown, the mouseover says "40% remaining", which is not true. I would prefer it to tell me how many minutes I have left instead of some meaningless percentage.

When starting a connection to GoogleDocs this morning with Firefox in order to upload my notes, Firefox crashed badly, freezing its frames. I tried the little "SOS" box, which did let me kill the browser process without having to restart the system. Upload was fast and efficient.

The pre-installed Skype only worked for the chat, not the video conference. But there was an update available, and after installing that, I could hold a decent video and audio conference with one other person. The picture quality is not the best in the world, but you can see that it is me. The picture broke up on occasion, but the audio was good.

I tried to watch some YouTube videos on it. You have a choice of either seeing the entire video, or of having the controls on the screen, but not both. Even removing the navigation strip does not enable me to have the video and the controls visible at the same time, which is a bit nasty. Colors and audio are okay, though.

Is it good value for the 299 €? Don't really know yet. But it is a nice toy.


Do we have to make everything into a film?

I attended a session on the "Dark Side of Film" this evening and was rather shocked to hear that two of the films, "Gardens of the Night" and "Ezra" were rather violent and involved children as actors. "Gardens of the Night" is about two children abducted and kept as sex slaves for over 9 years and them coping with who they have become after this time. "Ezra" is about child soldiers in Sierra Leone.

I asked the film makers how old the children were, how they managed to get them to act these scenes, and whether they offered any psychological assistance for the children.

Newton I. Aduaka, the director of "Ezra", responded by saying that he had had a psychologist working with him since he began casting, and that the 8-10 year old children in the film actually were child soldiers and that they spoke with them at length about what was being asked of them.

Damian Harris was rather flippant and had an answer that completely shocked me: he told his 8-year-old leading lady completely different stories about the scenes she was acting in (in collaboration with her parents) in order to get her to act accordingly. He gave the example of telling her that she had just lost her mom in the airport and didn't know how to get to the gate on time.

I replied: She will hate you when she gets older.

I find it ethically appalling to be lying to the child to get it to act accordingly - when she is older (and she will have to be to legally see the film, which is not rated yet but surely will be over-16, if not over-18) she will surely discover the truth and very well may be angry at this betrayal.

An Australian journalist collared me in the foyer after the discussion to continue to talk about the point. He did not find anything wrong with this, actually, he felt it was censure to "forbid" using children like this in films. I objected to the use of am 8-year-old child as an object, not considering that it will be getting older and may have its own views about what it did. Even with the parents approval, this could very well be the parents trying to make a star out of their child.

Do we really have to make everything into a film? I only saw a short take of each of these films, a journalist staying with me saw the "Gardens" film and found it to be very voyeuristic. Who was the target group for this films, pedophiles? Even if there was no nudity or sex scenes depicted, much is suggested using editing techniques.

I asked my resident 16-year-old what he thought of this (he had acting lessons when he was younger), he said that he would be very pissed to find out now that they had been lying to him in the past, he would be embarrassed to be in a film like that.

Looking up the girl actor on the IMDB I see that she has been in movies and TV since she was four, she also has a younger brother who is in films. This is clearly not her decision, but the decision of her parents to expose her to this.

The journalist noted that the actress was only one child, and there are surely many more affected by the film. I don't quite see the logic of "sacrificing one to help many". That usually goes down badly with the sacrifical lamb.

Are there some things that just don't need to be explored on film? Or do we just accept everything?


What No One Knows / Det som ingen ved

Shaken, slightly disoriented, keenly aware of the the video surveillance cameras all around me, I leave the Zoo Palast. It is Berlinale and I was in the not-quite-sold-out world premiere of Søren Kragh-Jacobsen's new film "Det som ingen ved" (What No One Knows).

The Danish co-founder of Dogma95 has woven three films into one thick braid: a spy story based on the book "En Anden Tid" (A Second Time) by Søren Lassen (who, according to blog rumor, got to be an extra on the set), your typical Danish family drama, and an unsettling demonstration of Big Brother watching you. The film is interspersed with short cuts in black and white of cameras and of the pictures they are taking. They are everywhere, you can't get away.

When Thomas complains to Ursula about this she asks him if he has been living in a cave or what the past half a year. They are put up to fight druggies and crime and "terrorists". She taunts: "But now that they are being used against you, you don't like them. Or were you a bad boy, Thomas, were you a bad boy?"

Back to the story: A nice, Danish family dinner gets traditionally interrupted by bad news, Marianne wants to divorce Thomas. Thomas gets drunk, meets briefly with his sister in the garden. She has something important to tell him, someone she wants him to meet, but she won't tell him because he is drunk. She tells him to be at the cold baths in Ribersborg across the bridge in Sweden tomorrow night. When he arrives, she has disappeared and is found drowned with a nasty bash on the head.

He finds papers in her apartment about bioterrorism, and of course the Danish Secret Service and the Secret Secret Service called Tyrfing after a magic sword, and the CIA and and and. Anyway, he joins up with Ursula to try and sort this out, and she admonishes him to make sure that he is not being followed.

Suddenly they are everywhere. Suspicious people who could be spies. Cameras. Hidden microphones. More cameras. More suspicious people. Who can you trust? Enough of them do scare him, hurt him or his family. Who will be next?

The braid comes together for some sort of happy end, only to have another pesky camera taking pictures again. As the credits roll we have throbbing music and pictures of cameras and microphones flashing by, beating to the rhythm of the music. I feel that my heart is following this rhythm and the cameras are boring themselves into my eyes. They are everywhere.

And so they are on my way home. They are everywhere. I know, I don't like it, but I don't protest enough. I seriously consider wearing a Tschador, that would hide me, but it might be a tad to conspicuous, even in Berlin, for me to show up to work in one.

An eerie feeling of being watched still surrounds me, hours later, even as I write these lines. A masterful film, not scheduled for release in Denmark until this summer, for whatever reason I do not know. I hope it wins a bear - preferably gold.


Love International

I had the pleasure of attending "Love International" this morning at the Berliner Talent Campus. Dorothee Wenner moderated the discussion with an Indian actor, Shah Rukh Khan (IMDB, WP), with over 60 films to his credit and two actresses, the German Maria Schrader (IMDB, WP) who won a Silver Bear in 1999 for Aimee & Jaguar, and the Nigerian Kate Henshaw-Nuttal (IMDB, WP), who has appeared in 150 films.

[That last paragraph took forever to write. First there was no picture of SRK on the Wikipedia, so I fished through my horrible photos of the morning for something decent. Then there was no article on Kate Henshaw-Nuttal in the Wikipedia, so I had to do something about that. German will have to wait.]

There were scores of mostly female fans outside the theater, waiting to get a glimpse of Khan. I had to go through 4 checkpoints to get in, and was surprised to see that there were so few seats filled down on the main floor. The first and second balcony, however, were filled to bursting with some very excited young girls and women.

The theater did fill, but there were seats free, one next to me. I leaned over to speak to the woman on the other side, she turned out to be a high-level film executive who admitted that she loved Bollywood and had obtained a ticket for a (male) friend who did not show.

On my left was a Nigerian filmmaker who entertained me with tales of Nollywood. I had never heard of it before this week, they produce 1500 films of horrible quality each year - and the Nigerian public laps it up. At 11.02 he complained playfully that we had not yet started: "I thought the Germans were all so punctual!".

The discussion was really good, they explored many topics of what love and how it is portrayed, and the question of whether love is universal or culturally colored. An interesting discussion arose on what sort of things the actors would do on screen but not in real life, and vice-versa. Khan was quite the comedian, the upper balconies hung on every word, stomping and clapping and sighing over everything that he said. The room vibrated with their emotions.

Afterwards I went for a leisurely lunch and a nice chat with a woman from South Africa. On my way back there was still a crowd outside the theater - turns out Khan was signing autographs and had been doing so for an hour or so! Reading the WP article I see he has a Master's Degree in Mass Communication - so he understands how important this signing is. Every one who got the autograph and all her friends will now have to buy Om Shanti Om. That adds up to a lot of sold films! Maybe I'll take my 14-year-old friend who looooooooves Bollywood to go see it next month when it hits the German theaters.


That is a definate maybe

Got a letter from a student today:

Dear Dr. WiseWoman,

thank you for all the information you gave me about the bachelor's thesis yesterday.

I had asked other professors if they had interesting topics, but they didn't answer my emails, so I committed to doing my thesis with you. But today Dr. X finally answered his emails. He doesn't have time until next week to meet with me.

I know that I promised to do the topic "Advanced Indecisiveness" with you. And this decision stands. I just wanted to let you know that I may change advisors, after speaking with Dr. X next week.

I am sorry about this, but after all it is my Bachelor's thesis and I want to choose a topic that is best for me and my professional career. I hope you understand.

Stu Dent

My answer:

Dear Stu,

Hmm. I am confused.

Is this like: yes, I will come to your party, unless there is a better one that I get invited to before then?

Choosing your adviser and your topic is a very important task, and you had 5 semesters to do so. I only take a few students so that I can advise you properly. If you switch at the last minute, I may have told someone else "no" who could now work with me.

This is not about you choosing which pancakes to have for breakfast. I also get paid by the amount of people I advise. If you drop out at the last minute, I have to teach an additional class next semester to make up the difference.

I offer topics in which I feel that I am qualified to advise you. If you are not interested in my topics, then you should say so. After all, after you committed I contacted the third party interested in this topic, introducing you to each other. How do I explain to them that you now want to do something else? Scared off in a day?

I feel like the host trying to plan for a party, but with so many maybes doesn't know how much food and drink to offer. Why didn't you tell Dr. X: Sorry, I have already committed to write with Dr. WiseWoman? What would Miss Manners think?

So no, I don't understand.

Dr. WiseWoman

Now, this is the second student in two days to send me letters like this. I guess they all finally got emails from colleague X. I've been teaching at university since 1993, this happened with one student last semester and two this semester (to date). I find it very strange - is this just the "me" generation, or am I getting too old and crochety?


Helpless on the Subway

I was a bit late to work the other day, I had wanted to be in extra early to get some preparations done. As I hopped on the subway I realized that a man was lying, passed out, on the floor of the car I had entered.

The passengers were grabbing for their mobile phones when some bright person pulled the emergency handle. After all, that's what it is for, right? And when do you get a chance to honestly pull it? The person got off and went right to the info station, requesting help.

Meanwhile a woman went over to the guy and tried to arouse him. No such luck. He did seem to be breathing, so some others went over and helped move him into a stable position like we all learn at the first-aid course you have to take to get your driver's license.

Time passed.

More and more people made a mad dash for the train, only to be disappointed that we were not going anywhere. The information board showed a current technical delay. The newcomers were impatient and began loudly complaining that the train was not moving. They complained that the emergency team was not yet there (teleporting has still not yet been invented). One woman got very irritated, another snapped at her: If that was you lying there, you would want us to get an ambulance for you, wouldn't you?

Finally after about 15 minutes a team arrived. They managed to get the guy to sit up and then stand up - and it was clear that he was dead drunk. The irritating woman and some others began loudly insisting that he be carried off the train. The medics tried to calm people, saying that the guy had a right to decide if he wanted off or not, he was not arrested so he could not be forced to get off. And he did not want to get off.

People began bitching about being late for work. A migrant woman noted loudly that if the guy would not look German he would have been carried off the train long ago. She began loudly complaining about the medics.

Finally they managed to convince the guy to leave - he stumbled out of the car, and we were finally able to continue. I got to work half and hour late, wondering why people can be so nasty.


But it is his birthday!

Today is WiseMan's birthday, and I am trying to work at home. The postmen keep ringing (3 and counting: public mail, private mail, parcel) and now the phone has started.

- "Hi, here's Inez, is WiseMan there?"
- "No, he's at work."
- "When will he be home, can I call back at 6 p.m.? It's his birthday!"
- "Yes, he'll be there by then. Who may I say called?"
- "This is Inez from StupidLotteryCompanyWiseManLikesToPlay."
- "Well, then don't call or you will lose a customer."
- "But why? It's his birthday! I want to congratulate him."
- "We only want private people to call, not telemarketers."
- "I'm not a telemarketer. WiseMan is a customer of StupidLotteryCompany. I want to give him a present."
- "No. We don't want advertising."
- "But this is a present, not advertising."
- "Look, I'm a computer scientist, I don't like data being used for other purposes, WiseMan doesn't either, he doesn't like talking on the telephone anyway. Just send it to him."
- " You are a computer scientist and I studied business. I just want to give him a nice CD, everyone likes getting presents. I just want to check your address, is it ....."
[Ding-Dong. Parcel post]
- "Oops, doorbell."
[slams receiver down]

The nerve! You give them your birthday to "prove" you are old enough to play their lottery, and then they use it for marketing purposes. Just proves what WiseWomanMother always used to say. She's a mathematician and used to call playing the lottery a tax on stupidity. Of course, when WiseWomanFather actually won the lottery, but playing his birthday so he had to share with all sorts of people, he gloated about that for a long time. 25 years and counting, if my math is right.

From "Learning Objects" to "Knowledge Bits"

I have long been an opponent of the "Learning Objects" school of thought in E-Learning. If you take the IEEE Learning Technology Standards Committee definition, this is "[a]ny entity, digital or non-digital, which can be used, re-used and referenced during technology-supported learning". You pretty much get everything, including the kitchen sink, as a learning object.

Many, many authors spin wild tales of reusing learning objects, of combining them, enhancing them, and what not. I don't find any papers actually demonstrating reuse, however. We talked about learning objects in my Master's seminar yesterday, me being a curmudgeonly old skeptic and rather disorienting the student who thought he was presenting state of the art research when singing the praises of learning objects.

He can't be blamed, even the popular press is jumping on the band wagon with the current hype about "knowledge bits", little nuggets of wisdom which can be ingested in 15 minutes, between answering your email and fussing with Facebook.

The Berliner Tagesspiegel calls them "Knowledge Pills", just the thing for the younger generation. No need to read, ponder, think. Just pop a pill and be wise.

I find this to be utter nonsense. There is still no royal road to knowledge. Sure, there are things that you can learn in 15 minutes. Wikipedia offers a lot of them, and I am sure there are lots of things like "How do I force my text processor to produce a table of contents" that fit nicely in this area. But the kind of learning we want people to have at university does not fit into 15 minute sound bites (bytes?). We want people to learn to understand a larger picture, to be able to abstract away from details, to plan, to explain, to understand.

In the afternoon two former students dropped by with their current project. Neither had taken my e-learning class (tsk, tsk), they didn't know what learning objects are and thought meta data was something used in MPEG-7. They are right, and Dublin Core is used for both, but blessed be the people who have never heard of LOM, for they shall see light!

Their idea, called Sofatutor, consists of short videos produced with cheap cameras, paper, magic markers, bits of paper, and microphones (I do hope, however, that they can soon purchase new microphones!) demonstrating in Common Craft style mathematical proofs and chemical reactions in German.

This stuff is not actually what people mean when they talk about learning objects. For one thing, it's in German. Subtitling, like dotsub does, would handle that. There's no meta data - yet. But the idea is grand: the videos are easy to make, and cheap. Of course, they want to have social communities grow, have people make their own videos and upload them, that sort of thing. And there are no plans on re-mixing for the moment.

On the one hand, I am skeptical of this. Students often think they have understood a proof or an algorithm, when they have not. They tell other students the "right way", and the others believe it and are angry when this gets marked wrong on a test. On the other hand, the same thing is true for the Wikipedia. And despite all the nonsense to be found there, there is actually lots of useful information to be found, even if I don't want my students quoting it on academic papers. So this might actually be a useful was of getting lots of pretty-good content produced for teaching people about subjects such as maths. And boy, do we need to teach people more math, but that is the subject for another rant.

So good luck to the Sofatutor Squad!