29 June 2010

yummy eye feast

On the recommendation of the Daring Fireball blog, I ran across a great short video of a Star Wars toy re-imagined as a dog (below). It's awesome, really well done. Then I started to watch the filmmakers other videos and that pretty much sucked away a good 40 minutes of my morning.

The filmmaker is Patrick Boivin from Canada, and he should be famous by now, because he's certainly insanely talented with mad mad mad skillz. He's become a YouTube celeb, with some of his films getting over 5 million hits. He's been hired by Iggy Pop, Tony Hawk and Google to make videos.

So I decided that you, dear reader, needed to piss away some of your valuable time and enjoy the creative stylings of a truly gifted filmmaker. Enjoy!


AT-AT Day Afternoon



Iron Man vs Bruce Lee



Iron Baby


Definitely check out Boivin's videos on YouTube. He has over 200 and they're great.


Pic courtesy of Woolf+Lapin.


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24 June 2010

apple iphone 4 review (hint: think awesome)

I was one of the "lucky" 600,000 people who pre-ordered an iPhone 4 last week, and it arrived one day early via FedEx yesterday afternoon. As soon as the FedEx truck pulled up, I was up and out the door. The driver saw me and laughed, "Everyone is so happy to see me today!"

Yay, new toy. For your enjoyment, I present a few unboxing and comparison pictures, and then I'll share my initial thoughts.

Quick summary of the Apple iPhone 4 in one word? It's awesomealicous.

Apple iPhone 4 Box
Hello iPhone 4!

Apple iPhone 4 Open Box
Fresh out of the box... typical Apple design. It all just fits together. ;)

Apple iPhone 4 Unboxed (2)
The usual iPhone accessories -- except no SIM pin.

Apple iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4 (side)
The iPhone 4 is thinner than the 3GS (and has a flat back).

Apple iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4 (bottom)
You can really see the difference between the iPhone 4 and 3GS in thickness.

Apple Britelite!
The "Retina Display" is a silly name but is no joke. It's amazing -- tiny HD screen.
Feel
The iPhone 4 is heavier than the iPhone 3GS and it definitely feels more solid, tight. The 3GS has a plasticky feel due to its plastic backing. Now, both sides of the iPhone 4 are glass, and with the trim being stainless steel, the phone has *weight* to it. I notice it more in my pocket right now, but that could be because I'm just more aware of it. With its flat back, the rectangular shape is more pronounced, and I thought I wouldn't like it but so far I do. It feels different in your hand than the curved back of the 3GS. The buttons on the side for volume, vibrate and sleep have a good click feel to them and are much more solid than on the 3GS. I won't be accidentally turning my phone to vibrate every time I put it in my pocket now (that was a small but constant annoyance with the 3GS).

Screen (aka, the "Retina Display")
The name may be hoaky, but damn baby, this thing is beeyootiful. I found myself opening up pictures, apps and websites just to see how good they look on the screen. The difference between the screen on the 3GS and the iPhone 4 is the difference between a standard definition TV and HD. No hyperbole here, it's significantly better than a 3G or 3GS. It even shames the beautiful screen on the iPad. Text is extremely sharp and clear, making reading a real pleasure. iBooks look good, Amazon's Kindle look great and email is like reading a printed piece of paper. All marketing fluff aside, this is a winner display.

Speed
Hello 512MB ram and A4 processor! The iPhone 4 is speedy speedy. I've seen significant speed improvements in how fast apps load and perform operations. Email loads much faster -- this is especially true for when it just arrives, and you click on it... and wait while it loads... now it opens right away. Heck, even performance on the AT&T 3G network seems fast. With wifi turned off, I was getting speeds of 2.82 Mbps down, 1.54 Mbps up on AT&T's network here in northwest DC (using the FCC speed test app). On wifi, the n wireless offered faster download speeds to my home network (geek note: it's a 2.4GHz not a 5GHz 802.11n antenna).

Phone
"So how is it as a phone, kid?" It sounds clear and loud in the earpiece, and the speakerphone is very loud without distortion as the new speakers on the bottom are much louder. The iPhone 4 has two microphones... one at the bottom like the 3GS, and now one at the top near the headphone jack to assist with noise cancellation. I can't yet tell you how well it works, but according to a client and my sister the phone sounded clear. It paired with my bluetooth headset quickly (though oddly, it doesn't give the name of the headset like my 3GS, which correctly identified it as a Samsung bluetooth). There's talk about a problem with the cell signal failing when you're holding the phone around the edges (as in, holding it normally). I can confirm that when you hold the phone with fingers on one side and palm on the other you can see the cell bars slowly drop. I haven't seen an impact on actual speed of the data or impact on calls, and I've been reading that this is occurring on 3GS iPhones that have been upgraded to the new iOS 4 firmware. Feel free to let me know if you've seen this on your phone in the comments section.

Multitasking
This works very well, even though it's a different take on multitasking. The operating system (iOS 4) will keep the "state" of the application in memory, so when you click back to it you'll arrive back at what you were doing -- it doesn't actually keep the application open and running in the background (with exceptions).  Apple apps like email, iTunes and phone can run in the background -- that hasn't changed. However, it can run certain processes in the background so long as the app has been updated to work with iOS 4. For example, you can now open up Pandora and listen to music, and then flip over to Safari and browse the web while still listening to the music. Even better, with a quick double click of the Home button you can access all open apps and music controls for Pandora (without re-opening up the Pandora app). You just touch the app you want to switch to and you're back. Nice. That said, I hate that every time I open an app, the phone remembers. This irritated me about my old Palm Treos... it irritated me to constantly "kill" extraneous or unused apps running in the background (seemed messy to me, and I didn't like the performance hit from having them all running). The difference is that iOS 4 doesn't ding performance to hold the state of the app in memory. Ok, cool. But it does mean that you'll have to go in and manually "close" those open apps.

Other Changes -- Wallpaper and Folders
There are a TON of updates to iOS 4 beyond what I've already mentioned. There's the ability to finally assign a homescreen wallpaper (something you could do on jailbroken phones more than 2 years ago) -- but it's very appreciated now. Creating folders is GREAT! I love being able to organize my applications into folders based upon either how I use them or their type. All you do is hold an app until it wiggles, then drag the app onto another app and a folder is  created. The phone will automatically name the folder based on metadata of the apps -- so if both are financial apps it will name the folder "Finance." You can change the folder name quickly whatever you want. Each folder holds up to 8 apps, and you can put a folder on your dock at the bottom. The dock and the top status bar are now translucent, with the dock mimicking the dock on OS X and shows reflections. It's a welcome design change. Your wallpaper will appear underneath the status bar, again, just like OS X on a Mac computer.

The New Camera (and FaceTime!)
Ok... the new camera is cool. It's 5 megapixels and includes an LED flash, digital zoom, autofocus, white balance and a video recording capability of 720p high definition. And then there's the new front-facing camera. You can switch from using the 5mp camera on the back to the smaller VGA (think 1mp) and back again with a small on-screen button. The smaller front camera looks good, but is clearly only for doing self-portraits or for FaceTime. The LED flash works well -- almost too good, actually. I'm used to the darker images from my 3GS, and not to well-lit pictures! I'll have to get used to the better quality, lol.

Wow, FaceTime... it's video phone calls done well. It only works over wifi right now (can you imagine trying this over AT&T's already clogged cell network? Oy...) You can turn the option for FaceTime off or on in Settings, and when set to On, you can initiate a FaceTime call from the phone. You have to be on wifi and talking someone else who has an iPhone 4. I haven't used FaceTime as I didn't know anyone else who received their iPhone yesterday -- everyone I spoke to was getting it today (hopefully!). I can't wait to try out FaceTime -- I really want my wife to get the iPhone 4 so we can do video calls when she travels for work. (Yes, we could Skype now, but her massive Dell laptop doesn't have a webcam on it.) So call me when you get your iPhone 4 so we can try this bad boy out.

I can go on about the phone's features, but this is long enough already. Suffice it to say that iPhone 4 is a home run, no doubt. From build quality to software, the phone rocks.

Like I said... it's awesomalicous.

Happy iFamily
Happy iFamily



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19 June 2010

an apple a day...

Yesterday was a fun day, without a doubt. It started of with a Segway tour in the morning (10 people from Cali and mid-West, crappy tips... feh) in great weather. Then home for a quick lunch, calls with clients and then some work on a few wireframes for the client's website. Good stuff.

The highlight for the day: the 5pm grand opening of the new Apple store in Georgetown. Since no metro runs to Georgetown, I was going to have to brave the DC public transit system and take a bus, something I've never done actually. I take the subway (aka "the metro") every where, sure, but a bus? I know they're popular, quick and ubiquitous... it's just... a bus? By the time I got off my last client call and out the door, I was running late, so I ended up taking a cab, figuring I could have my DC bus adventure some other time.

Turns out, I got the slowest cabbie in the city. I actually leaned over at one point and asked why we were going so slow. "Huh?" he replied.  "We're going 10 miles an hour. Look at the speedometer..." I said, sitting back and shaking my head. Patience is a good virtue (need to cultivate that one). We finally make it to the edge of Georgetown and I decide to walk the rest of the way. As I approach Wisconsin Avenue I see a line of people standing and talking, and I sigh. Not just a line, but a long line.

I decide that I'm going to walk up to the front and check things out, take some pictures and see what's going on. And it's a pretty long line, easily a couple of hundred people standing in the sun (some with umbrellas, some with iPads). Later on I heard that people started waiting for the opening at 2pm (!). I mean, I was excited but that's a bit extreme, eh?

That when I run into the One Cent Per Life people (aka "the Enough Project"). I thought they looked interesting and figured I'd snap a quick photo, so I asked if I could take one person's picture. "Sure," he said. "If I can tell you about our cause." I ended up chatting with a gent named John Bagwell, their Field Manager and a seemingly nice, chill guy.

This bunch is trying to convince technology companies to have better corporate citizenship by using due diligence and accepting their role in the current methods for mineral mining. Referred to as "conflict minerals," it includes tin, tungsten, tantalum and gold -- all used by tech companies in manufacturing their products. Apple included.

The group was pretty low-key for the most part, waving signs and quietly talking with people, hoping to educate those waiting in line that these companies, Apple included, can do more than it does. Here's an interesting article on the One Cent Per Life campaign, recently published (I think from a press release, but it gives you an overview).

I agree with them insofar as I think we all are responsible for understanding where the labor and materials come from that create our favorite products. While it's not Apple's responsibility to police mines in the Congo, for example, they spend a lot of money on Congolese exports. Their checkbook influences more than the public's voices... and the public's checkbook influences Apple, natch. Same kind of responsibility issue as they have with the Foxconn company in China. Foxconn manufactures the iPhone and iPad and they've had 9 (or higher?) suicides in the past few months. They are being scrutinized for the way they drive production and labor -- to the point that people are jumping off buildings. Apple isn't responsible for Foxconn, but they could ensure their vendors are ethical and compensate well, right? If you want more info on conflict minerals and the details surrounding it, visit the Enough Project's website.

After chatting with these guys for a while, I realize I'm now standing in line somewhere among the first 100 people -- there's no way I'm walking to the back of the line at this point. Then a cheer goes up, and we hear chanting and yells, people clapping and what looks like jumping and a train of Apple employees comes running down the walkway, giving high-fives, clapping, cheering and making a lot of fun noise. The crowd is already seemingly in a good mood, and the running back and forth of the Apple employees begins to put them over the edge as their mob-ish cheer gets louder.

While I'm not really the type of person to get caught up in fan behavior and mindless crowd-excitement, I now find myself giving high-fives to the employees as they run by and I'm pretty much as pumped and excited as the rest of the crowd. The line moves forward a bit, like it was tugged en masse, and I figure the doors are open as another cheer goes up from the front of the line. We start moving up and I'm snapping pictures and getting ready to film the entrance into the store. While I've never been to an Apple store opening, I could only assume it was going to be loud and crazy once the doors opened (an understatement).

The line starts to move, and I have the same adrenaline rush anticipatory feeling you get as the roller coaster begins moving up the track, and you know there's gonna be a crazy twisty turny totally fun kind of thing about to happen.

And then I hit the record button on my iPhone and bang the roller coaster jumps down the tracks and zoom I'm in the store and there's people jumping up and down everywhere as employees form a long gauntlet down into the store. They're cheering and yelling, pumping hands and fists into the air and giving high fives. They're cheering into my iPhone camera lens and I'm rushing down the track under their power, just soaking up the energy all around me with what most likely was a really silly big grin on my face. And then, pant pant pant, the ride slows and I'm out of the gauntlet at the back of the store. Someone had stuffed a box in my hand (an Apple Georgetown t-shirt, it turns out) and I look down at my iPhone and realize that in the excitement, I actually never hit the record button. D'oh! I just laugh, and begin walking around the store, taking pictures and talking with employees (special shout-outs to Matt, Anthony, Shannon and Isaac!).

The energy hasn't stopped. There's a DJ bangin out the music (but not too loud, now that I think about it... it was just right). The employees are a mix of excited, overwhelmed, harried and smiling as they chat with customers, run to the back to grab new iMacs, iPads, computers and such for people with money to spend. And there was A LOT of money to spend today it seemed. I saw a lot of iMac desktop computers go out the door, and of course, a slew of iPads being heralded as they went from the back room to their excited future owners.

I look up from taking pictures and a guy motions me over to him, "Hi, I'm Bob Barnard with Fox News... " (groan, Fox?)... "Would you mind if we interviewed you?" I smile and say "Sure!" and then quickly reach up to turn my hat around, "Ha, in case my Mom watches, you know?" Bob smiles and nods at the cameraman.

They interview me for a few minutes, asking me about my thoughts on the store opening (total chaotic fun), why I thought it was so exciting for customers (because it's fun to share your geek joy), why Apple products were worth their slightly higher costs (because they just work). It was kind of like giving an addict a little crack and saying "smoke 'em if you got 'em!" cause these are the kind of questions a marketing geek loves to answer... so I did.

When we finished talking Bob laughed and said "Wow, ha ha. You should really work for them. You do a great job of selling them." That's called "geek confirmation."

Then they asked if they could follow me around for a few minutes filming me as I took pictures. I played along, taking pics of iPods and the other people around me. And hey, I made it to the 10 o'clock news... I think I sounded pretty good.



After a while the excitement calms down a bit and I think I have enough pictures and TV interviews done for one day, so yeah, I can head home with my Apple t-shirt shwag, 40+ pictures and a really cool experience. But I never did take that bus... oh well. I'll tackle that adventure at some point in the future.

Here's a Flickr slideshow of all the pics:



Check out my iPhone 4 review -- it's awesome.


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16 June 2010

so wrong that mebbe it's good?

I don't know for sure, but I might have found the worst song and music video ever. I mean, even worse than what you made at home when you were 15 and thought you were cool.

I actually found this video posted on a temporary example site a company I freelance for is using to demo pop-up video players for their clients.

The video came pre-embedded on the example page, or so the designer told me. Considering she's a woman, and knowing her as I do, I'm doubting she put the video there, but still... I was testing the pop-up function and the lil' video window popped up like it should and the video started playing.

And so I pass it along to you for your enjoyment, in the same way I'd ask you to "drink this milk and tell me if it tastes bad... or is it greek yogurt?"

Oh and yeah, know that the video is not safe for work, though I admit I haven't watched the whole thing. The first 15 seconds were enough for me to be surprised, then to start laughing, then to call the designer and say "Um, yeah, did you, um... you know, have you seen that video yet?"

"No, why?" she says. "It's just an example video, it's not the client's --" I turn up the volume on my computer and play it on the call to her.

After she stops laughing, she agrees to swap the video in the embed example. Imagine if the client saw it first! (Tell me the singer slacker guy looks really familiar ... like someone you knew in college, right?)



Flickr photo courtesy of Glutnix


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15 June 2010

bad apples and wormy att

I tried to buy an iPhone 4 today.

I decided to not rush. I mean, Apple is making millions of them (and making billions selling 'em), so I decided to start out my day with a nice cup of coffee and some eggs (with salsa, very tasty). I picked up my iPad (more on that soon, I promise) as I enjoyed my breakfast and opened the Safari browser. It all felt very Christmasy anticipationary. I went to Apple.com and oohed and ahhed at the screen shots of the iPhone 4 and even threw a little love to the new Mac Mini (not only is it purty, but it finally has HDMI). Then I clicked on the Store. It's time to order. Oh boy, I loves me some new Apple toys.

I click on the pre-order button and get to a page that asks me to choose my new iPhone. I crack my knuckles, lean in and click the lil' button for the 32GB shiny black iPhone 4. Oh boy, oh boy! Now I'm asked if I want a new plan or add/replace to an existing plan. Replace! (My 3GS has been a bit buggy, so, er... see, this new one is really for medicinal purposes.) Great! Let's continue, boyz!

Now I fill in my phone number / zip / last four of social sec number so AT&T can check my account ... Okay, click Continue... little spinning thing saying it's processing, okay...  and it's spinning... maybe I'll go get more coffee...

Okay, got my coffee. I get all the way through the process to a confirmation screen with my AT&T account info (oh look, AT&T's waiving the $18 dollar fee just so I'll stick around another 2 years, isn't that precious?), and I click continue and we're processing...  and we're processing...

Feh: bad apples & wormy AT&T

"Your request couldn't be processed."

Whoah. Wha? We were just processing! What happened?

Did it time out? Was it my iPad? Oh dear! I'm curious, so I try again. And again. Each time I get to a different step in the process when -- crash -- fail. Try again. Fail. I go upstairs to my MacBook... try again. FAIL. Sonuva... ferget it. Don't want it. Nevermind. Geez.

So I do work today (gotta pay for this supposed new iPhone) and run some errands (to the eye doc to get wicked dilated to check my retinas). I come home, and ho-hum, mebbe I'll just go check the iPhone order site ... FAIL. Sigh.

Ok, let's try once more... you know, to document it for a blog post. Journalistic-style. For posteriority. I read on the blogosphere that the issue wasn't Apple's fault, it was the crappy AT&T servers going up and down. Apparently, they didn't test them, and they just couldn't handle the load. Seriously, can't AT&T do anything right? Man, Apple must be making a fortune partnering up with these people.

Success! Say what?

It worked!


It only took 10 tries and and almost 10 hours to accomplish! But it's done! It's almost like I can forget the hassle from earlier. Yeah, no... not really. I can't stand AT&T, and frankly, I hold a serious grudge against Apple for allowing AT&T to monopolize this so well. (And no, Apple doesn't have a monopoly, they have a product.)

Honestly, I would have been surprised had this process gone smoothly. I doubt any telecomm would have done well on a pre-order day... it's just that, well, I want to use my iPhone as a phone sometimes. (Thankfully, not that often!).

June 24th, delivered right to my door. Shweet! I don't look forward to the activation process that day... oy.


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10 June 2010

watch me be incredulous

As a tried and true geek, I like toys (Hello iPhone 4!). This really isn't in question. I'll happily fork over money for an item that I don't necessarily need, but that I think I'll enjoy. But it's always within reason, of course. My wife and I have no personal debt (beyond a deflated house in DC, natch), and we'd like to keep our debt-less ways, thanks.

But here's a toy I just can't understand. File this post under "WTF" and "Shirley, you must be joking." I somehow ended up on the Overstock.com web site, on a page for a watch. Oh no, not just any watch. A "Breguet Men's Classique Grande Complication Tourbillion Messidor Watch." Let's see what this watch offers (from overstock.com):

The men's Classique Grande Complication watch features a handsome 18-karat rose gold case with a skeleton dial and Tourbillion carriage at 6 o'clock. This exquisite timepiece from Breguet is finished with a brown leather strap.
  • 18-karat rose gold case
  • Transparent sapphire crystal caseback
  • Skeleton dial
  • Tourbillion carriage at 6 o'clock
  • Two blue hands
  • Movement is visible from both sides of the case
  • Brown leather strap
  • Pin buckle
  • Scratch-resistant sapphire crystal
  • Swiss manual-wind movement
  • 50-hour power reserve
  • Water resistant to 30 meters/100 feet
  • Case measures 40 mm in diameter x 9 mm thick
  • Strap measures 20 mm wide x 8 inches long
This watch is powered by Manual Hand-Wound mechanical movement which means the winding of the spring occurs only when the wearer winds the watch. The watch must be wound every day in order for the watch to work properly. It is also important to adjust the time every few weeks as manual movement can gain or lose a few minutes per month.

Click to embiggen
Let's note in the above text... you have to manually wind the watch yourself. No batteries. No auto-mechanical movement... no spring drives to self power as you swing your arms... no solar power. Nothing but do it yourself technology. Why does that matter? Well, I don't know, see I'd hope -- nay, I'd EXPECT -- that a watch that costs $127,757.99 to wind its-friggin-self. No, that isn't a typo... this watch costs as much as an Audi R8 or an Aston Martin (or a house somewhere).

So I jump over to Amazon, and sure enough, ha ha, they have it cheaper, only $96,755.99 (you save $43,144.01 (31%)!). I tell ya, you can always find a good deal on that Amazon.com. So is this a joke? All the reviews on Amazon sure make it sound like it's a joke (especially this totally creative review). I like this review from Overstock: "My father brought this for me as a gift for my 21st birthday, almost passed out once [I saw] the price -- the women love it" (capers21).

I did some web-sleuthing and found the company's web site (ok, it wasn't rocket science) resides at Breguet.com. It says they've been around since 1775 making fine watches. Apparently, I stumbled on the special playground of the mega-rich, where people give these watches to their kid so he can finally get some action from the ladies. I mean, forget the fact that mumsie and daddums are omg billionaires. It also seems that if you can afford this watch that you don't need to know what time it is. I mean, seriously... how are you supposed to tell time on that thing? Snap! I get it... it's a manual wind watch because Breguet assumes, of course, that your butler will wind it every day after he brushes your teeth for you.

I wonder if I should buy this watch so I too can not tell time? Honey? Do we have room on the home equity loan? (Think they take American Express gift cards?)


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09 June 2010

google this post

Google (the company) has completed work on Caffeine, the search index that powers google.com. They claim this will make their searches execute 50% faster -- actually, they say "50 percent fresher results" and a larger collection of data being searched. They've changed how they index web content globally -- and that's a LOT of content. Think about how many blogs and websites are out there: some stats are as high as 126 million blogs and 243 million websites -- each with content to be crawled, categorized and made ready for little old you to find and enjoy.

Google's "old way" was to refresh content based on a "layered" approach. The content that was used the most was refreshed in the Google index the most. Older, or less requested content, was refreshed less frequently in Google's index. This meant results may not be as updated as the site itself, or it could take Google longer to find the results requested. The new caffeinated way is to analyze and index small portions of the web continuously, thereby keeping the index more up to date... "fresher."


And how much content is that, really? It's kind of mind-boggling. So rather than paraphrase, here's an idea from the Google blog post:
Caffeine lets us index web pages on an enormous scale. In fact, every second Caffeine processes hundreds of thousands of pages in parallel. If this were a pile of paper it would grow three miles taller every second. Caffeine takes up nearly 100 million gigabytes of storage in one database and adds new information at a rate of hundreds of thousands of gigabytes per day. You would need 625,000 of the largest iPods to store that much information; if these were stacked end-to-end they would go for more than 40 miles.
Here's a sense of how fast it is...



And here's a quick look at how Google ACTUALLY works (sans Toy Story):


Diagram courtesy of the official google blog.


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08 June 2010

cool riding

I'm getting really addicted to the MSNBC Photoblog. They publish journalists' photographs that are particularly eye-catching, artistic or important. I recommend subscribing to their RSS feed, or making visiting them a daily act.

Check out this awesome photo of guys surfing at a canal in Germany:



You can also watch a vid:



Pic courtesy of MSNBC Photoblog.


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07 June 2010

reaffirmation


I went swimming at the gym today. First time back in the water for exercise reasons since childhood swim team. (Oh sure, I've gone swimming for fun not that long ago, but that's more like floating than swimming.)

What I've learned: I'm not Michael Phelps. Actually, I'm like the anti-Phelps. That shit is exhausting. Guess I'll keep at it.


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unbelievably sad

Seriously, what's going on? How can you look at these pictures and not have your heart break? No, none of the "liberals are crying so you should be too" crap... this is awful.

Win McNamee/Getty Images

Photo courtesy of MSNBC Photoblog.



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