Saturday, March 29, 2008

Jesper Klein

A treat for my Danish readers (hello? anybody there?), Danish comedian Jesper Klein tells H.C. Andersen's The Princess On The Pea. He claims he tells it in Serbo-Croatian, but actually it's a wild mixture of baby-Danish, German, French, and English.


I'm watching Kinsey, the story of the famous study on sexuality, and its eponymous maker. It's fascinating. Well recommended.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Utopia revisited

Article: here comes everybody.

In the related podcast, Clay Shirky talks about how he became a partial pessimist about the effects of the huge new freedoms of the Internet. How basically sensorship has become nearly impossible, so for example anorexic girls can exchange tips on how to stay skinny, or people can express a racial preference in real estate listings (on craigslist, which has no central publisher.)

I think we need a perspective. Sure, you can point to temporary negative effects of total freedom of communication. But everything has a cost, and I believe this cost is very small compared to the gain. Free communication is very essence of progress.

Also, things take time, and sometimes one has to go through short-term painful developments to get the long-term positive effects. And the potential positive effect of the Internet on humanity over the centuries and millennia is awesome, almost unimaginable.

Peaceful Blade sez:
Not to mention anorexic girls can trade fitness tips all on their own, and just because racial preferences cannot be expressed in a real estate listing it doesn't mean they don't exist. I think it's better to let people be who they are and then decide how we will respond.
Will some women be hurt by following the anorexic girl's advice? Yes, but they're the ones who choose to follow it and the moment they feel it's having a dangerous effect on them they are free to stop.
Do I feel comfortable living near a racist? Not particularly, but I can't change him nor can I refute what I deem to be a wholly irrational outlook on people of color. I can tolerate him so long as he is an idle bigot and he doesn't insist on being part of my life and he doesn't try to convert me. In fact I consider this more tolerable than not knowing, not because his thoughts on race are any of my business but because dishonest people are ticking time bombs. You can make racism illegal but you can never get rid of racists. The backlash against oppression of opinions and behavior is often more extreme than what we face when we just let people be.

The interviewer Glenn wrote to me:
I really disagree with your interpretation of what Shirky said and the commenter on your site! But I don't have time to write a lengthy reply at the moment.
In short, Clay said he was no longer a utopian. And when your commenter writes:
"Will some women be hurt by following the anorexic girl's advice? Yes, but they're the ones who choose to follow it and the moment they feel it's having a dangerous effect on them they are free to stop."
Not women. Girls. Teenagers.

All right. It may sound like I think that Shirky is saying the Net is a bad thing. This would indeed be a simplistic and dumb interpretation, though one that I'm sure many people would take away from it.
But it does sound to me like he is saying that there are important downsides to the Net. And I think there are not... not if we compare it to the upside. If we do that, even the worst downsides are trivial.
Like cars. People are getting killed every day by cars, yet the upside is so great that this is disconsidered.

In any case, I just swooped down on a detail, this was not the main thing they were talking about, and the podcast (and surely Shirky's book) is talking about many interesting aspects of how the Net is changing the world in ways we can't predict.

For instance, he talks about a funny story of how a cleaning company in France were suing cleaning women for bypassing the company and organizing their own car pooling. Which he points out is similar to what the music industry is trying to do. The "music industry" is not the people making music, it's the people who used to control the distribution monopoly! A hell of a difference!

An old story by... Heinlein, I think, tells about a company which invents a method for people to know the day they will die. And the life insurance industry sues them! The judge in the trial points out that just because a specific level of technology has made you money for some years, you do not have a legal right to have that income protected. A hard lesson to learn, but an important one.

Unusual guitar

Unusual guitar playing.

Free software

New: Photoshop Express for free.

This confirms what I observed years ago: as software matures, an increasing portion of it becomes cheaper, and then free.

Heck, if you buy a Mac today, you have all the software you'll ever need, for most people. Browser, email, word processor, bladiblah.
And then you can include iWork and iLife, two packages which includes so much productivity that you don't ever have to be bored again, for a price which nobody can call anything but a bargain. iLife is included for free with every new iMac, and iWork is only eighty bucks. Ten years ago getting something like all those things would have cost a small fortune.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Using web2

Pogue article: "Are You Taking Advantage of Web 2.0?"

I must admit, not really, no. But I've sometimes considered setting up a 'simple nudes' discussion and picture post board on a separate site. Separate from Domai, that is.


Even on vacation, I need to update my web sites, and Golive is a heavy customer. If that was not the case, I would consider the MacBook Air. (I may still.) Here's a good article about it.

Weird bike

A new type of bike. Looks kinda interesting.
Ooh, and the interviewer Vanessa is awesome cute.

She also goes to the Toy Fair.


"There's no such thing as trolls."
"Then how do you explain all the dead unicorns?"

"If you wanted to depress us, you did it... Now I need a drink. Not this one, a different one. In a different place."

Metalocalypse is an animated show about the death-metal band Dethklok. I wonder why they did not just call the show Dethklok. Or call the band Metalocolypse. It would save the audience from having to learn two new made-up words. But anyway, the show is over-the-top brutal, and very funny. It's like South Park for metalheads, only better drawn. And the parody of brain-dead rockers is spot on.

Thanks to my gal pal Gail Worley. A hard core rock writer with pink hair.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Alyson and Britney

I'm looking forward to getting the first season of the sitcom how I Met your mother. Because it stars Alyson Hannigan.

Now it seems the show's ratings has been boosted by a guest appearance of Britney Popstar. Good for Britney and good for Alyson.

When Britney was a guest star on Will And Grace, I was actually pretty impressed. She really nailed her part. I think there is much more to her than meets the eye.

Talking about Alyson Hannigan, she was the one great thing about the otherwise pretty abysmal Date Movie. Like somebody said about Whoopi Goldberg in The Color Purple: it's amazing that somebody can be this brilliant in such an awful movie. Apart from being beautiful and funny, she has an almost unique talent for doing and saying the most incredibly raunchy things with total innocence and likability. You gotta love that.

All right, Date Movie had its moments. It had really good cinematography, and a host of very talented actors. And it had some jokes that worked. But for mature audiences, it was ruined by tons of the worst kind of gross-out comedy.

The Last Sucker

Industrial/metal trailblazer band Ministry, who is basically genial Al Jourgensen and whoever he likes to work with this week, has released what is apparently to be his final album, The Last Sucker. (More info.)

I discovered it late, because the Ministry releases of the past ten years or so has left me a little bit lukewarm. But on first listen I really like The Last Sucker. It may be the best release since the excellent Psalm 69 in the mid-nineties.

Al seems to get most of his creative juices from anger, and who he's most angry at right now is George Bush. The cover of the CD contains a holographic picture of Dubya, which morphs into a lizard. This would be a reference to the theory which is popular in the some conspiracy circles, that humanity is held in slavery by a race of extraterrestrial lizard men, who can morph their shape into human and back again. Amongst them is a number of the leaders of the world, including George Bush, Dick Cheney, and the English queen. One of the most famous proponents of this theory is Englishman David Icke.
(That last bit I have copied to Wikipedia, not from it. :)

You can hear samples of The Last Sucker on Amazon or iTunes, but here is a taste of the lyrics. Barbie Girl it ain't.

Ministry End of Days Part Two Lyrics

As the future unfolds in the end of days
Judgment of our times in biblical ways
Our man made gods, genocide is faith
Idea warfare has been engaged
Cannot trust your fellow man at all these days
Sycophants out looking to get paid
Images burned into my face
Pangs of Distress salt my flesh to flay

I constantly fear everything I see
Blood is the fist of authority
Pestilence is my rabid dog unchained

Another road sign marks the end of days
I disregard those who govern me
I hate all of this treachery
I numb my mind and try to walk away
Toward the trail of tears and to the end of days

Face down on pavement and drunk at the end of my days
I hang from a noose that was made to slowly decay
The pangs of distress salt my flesh to slowly flay
Face down on pavement and drunk at the end of my days
The end of days

Macs and seismology

"What began as a way to prevent damage to the hard drive from a dropped laptop has led to an innovative project that lets seismology and engineering students or researchers study, store and share data to better understand the science of structural dynamics -- be it a gentle tap or a full blown temblor."
Article on Machines Like Us.

Dictation software

I've tried a few times to start using dictation software. If I recall correctly, the first time was right after the millennium, with the first edition of MacSpeech iListen software for the Mac. It didn't work too well. A few years later, I tried buying Dragon NaturallySpeaking for Windows for my old Windows laptop. This did not work very well either. I don't know whether the Windows laptop was underpowered, perhaps. Last year after getting an Intel Mac I bought Windows Vista for it, and a new version of NaturallySpeaking. Unfortunately I could never get that the dictation software to install correctly. David Pogue told me that his worked well but he was using Windows XP. I did not have the energy to purchase XP also.

But then MacSpeech finally managed to purchase a license for the speaking engine of NaturallySpeaking. And so we should finally have decent dictation software for the Mac, which has been pretty much the only thing I have been missing.

I got the software yesterday. And this whole post, as well as half of the last one, has all been dictated in MacSpeech Dictate for the Mac.

I'm still learning how to use it, and maybe the software is too, so I still have to make quite a few corrections. But it is usable already, and it's fun, and I'm looking forward to seeing how it will go in the future.

Update: well... so far, not so good. There are corrections in at least every other sentence. Boring. I don't get how other reviewers are getting the 99.5% correct dictation that they speak of. (And I've done all three voice-training texts provided.)

The Jackson kids on hard times

The Jackson kids on hard times.

I guess when you're a superstar, particularly from childhood, it never occurs to you that you could ever fall on hard times. But it just has to occur to me that if Marlon Jackson, for example, had just stashed away a tiny percentage of the riches that once flowed his way, he would not have to stock supermarket shelves for a living now.
When the money was coming in fast, if he'd just asked his accountant to put a steady five percent in a Swiss bank account, or something.

This article hints at a very complex and bizarre story, though. It seems to be one of those cases where so many people and conflicting egos are involved that we can be sure we will never know the real truth of it. Nothing makes sense, and everybody is claiming different things.

I know from experience that even when you were right in the middle of things, things did not look any clearer, in fact sometimes just the opposite.

Fear and Loathing in the Galleries

This is funny, I just found this screenshot. It's funny not just because it's followed me through all my computers in nine years and it's fun to see the Mac OS 8 interface of the late nineties again, but also because I've just met a professional artist who sells the big majority of his art through the web.

OK, so my article is exaggerating. But I hear that's a legit way of making your point. :)

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Engst on marketing

Adam Engst on web marketing. (He's talking to software developers, but I think much of it is broadly relevant.)

Monday, March 24, 2008

Full metal jacket

I always thought that the rounded tops of modern cameras were molded in plastic. And some may be, but clearly not all.

Nice, innit? Like seeing robocop naked.

... Dang! Lookkit all the tech we get for our money! Awesome.

Update: see comments by Bert about high tech production. 

(Thanks to Nikonwatch.)

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Big-camera match

In Professional Photographer's April issue there is a comparative test between Nikon's flagship camera, the D3, and Canon's ditto, the 1Ds mark III. I report this because the conclusion is a bit surprising: Despite the Canon's 21MP and the Nikon's 12MP, the picture resolution actually gave the edge to the Nikon! (At least with the lenses used, which one must imagine were carefully chosen.) And all other features are very comparable.

So this means that choosing Nikon at the moment, you get pretty much the same power and features, but smaller files to handle, and you save about 40% on the price! (And that's no pocket change given that the Canon is the most expensive digital SLR on the general market at around $8,000.) Oooh, and not to mention that the Nikon D3 has significantly better low-light capabilities.

Last year I thought Nikon was hopelessly behind in the high-end market, but oh, they came back hard.

As an aside, not long ago, I was still looking forward to higher pixel counts than 12MP in a compact and affordable format. But the increase in the quality of pixels recently has convinced me (even before reading this test) that anything higher than 12MP really is for very specialized purposes.

Update: Mark Megerle and I are having a little debate in Comments. And he linked to this cool picture of his own.

BTW, I mention this lens in the comments.

Movie screensaver

Does anybody know a screensaver for Mac which simply plays movie files, like MPG or RM? (I can find them for flash files.)
Apparently "electric sheep" are in MPG format, but it seems it must be a special format, for when it plays ordinary MPG films, they are full of errors and artefacts.

... I have to say that Electric Sheep are pretty, and has a lot of variety, which is important to me, I get bored very quickly. They are not really rendered for a 30-inch screen, but from a couple of meters away they look great.