Saturday, September 29, 2007

The Wealthy Barber

The Wealthy Barber, a book on personal economy. His "humorous" style with fictional characters debating and chiding each other is an acquired taste, but the book has much sage advice.

I've been thinking a little about the "penny wise and pound foolish" principle. Meaning of course that many of us often can't see the forest for the trees. (If you can explain a proverb with another one...)

For example, many people, including myself, will use a lot of thought and effort saving a few cents in the groceries and the daily life, and then we might suddenly spend hundreds of dollars on a purchase without considering if we really need it or want it. Or if we could get the same or similar much cheaper with a little comparison shopping. (Very easy after the Internet arrived.)

In my experience, a bit of thought going into prioritizing pays off big.

My sister and her husband both work hard and long hours to pay for their nice life and the two boys. And they have a large house which is well heated due to my sister's liking for a warm room. I asked my sister what their heating bill is like. She said she has no idea. I asked her husband the same. He said the same. They have no idea.

That's silly. I have no doubt that they could save serious money if they paid just the bare minimum of attention to such things. And such savings could go towards more leisure time with their kids, or towards a rainy day, or towards the education of the children.

Final Identity said...
My "right path" is (as would be a similar case for nearly anyone) lots of sex with nubile co-eds, and lots of sitting on the beach reading good books, and lots of hanging out at sidewalk cafes discussing politics and philosophy. Any thoughts about how "finding" that "right path" leads to profit?

Eolake said...
I think you took a wrong turn off the right path before this lifetime. You should have been born into a wealthy family with a lezzie-faire attitude to work ethic.
(Lezzie-faire: lesbian sex with blondes.)
Anyway... it seems to me that the objections to this book, that it won't work in practice except if people are already predisposed for it, can also be levelled against The 4-Hour Work Week. N'est pas?

Hacking the iPhone

Hacking the iPhone, another funny video from David Pogue.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Amazon MP3 store

Amazon has opened its MP3 music store.
The files are free from digital rights management code, so they can be played on any device or computer you want, unlike previous online stores, including iTunes. Generally in the past you could use an iPod or other devices, but not both.
TidBITS article about this.

... I notice that today's top band on Amazon is Pink Floyd. Man, do those guys have stick-around power! I heard once that Dark Side Of The Moon has been on the top 100 for decades. An astounding accomplishment in pop music, a business which more than any other is known for one-hit wonders and three-year careers.

TTL ventured:
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to recognise that the whole idea of a centralised MP3 store is passé to begin with. Fer heaven's sake, just upload your MP3s on your web server, put a PayPal (or Google wallet, or whatever) buy button on your page, and have a simple script e-mail the song to whoever buys it from you.

It's a bit like when the web was new, there were all kinds of "shopping malls" where you were supposed to rent a page to sell your wares. Shopping malls make sense in the physical world because otherwise it would take a lot of calories to move your body from shop to shop. But here in cyberspace it's just a mouse click no matter what the distance.

The only reason these MP3 stores exist today is because artists have signed their work away to record companies. But if you want to buy older music you might as well buy the CD from Amazon and get a physical backup of the data.

For newer music, why have Amazon/Apple/Wal-mart as a middle man? I don't get it.

You're not alone. I've been thinking about these things myself. And I think you're right... but... there is another side to it:

1: Most people can't handle the technical side of things. It took MySpace and Blogger to make many people get their own web sites. And taking payments is still a couple of technical steps beyond that, easy as it looks to a geek like you.

2: I may be biased, being a publisher and editor myself, but I think those may still be needed. Look at all the drek and the horrible web interfaces you have to wade through on the web just to find one good song (or picture or whatever). A good publisher/editor can remove the bulk of the crap and make the interface much more pain free.

Low light

Some of the first low-light photos to be show, from the Nikon D3. Highly interesting, to say the least, for people who like to photograph in available light.

These are small samples, though. There are some large samples here.
These are awesome. It's at least a two-stop improvement in low light performance over the D2x. If you consider what a two-stop improvement costs you in terms of money and weight in a lens...! For those not familiar with that, we are talking something like a half or a whole kilo more weight-wise, and a thousand dollars more, maybe two. And beyond that you also "pay" in much reduced depth-of-field and more critical focus. None of these things applies to a gain in the camera sensor, it's "free". Fantastic.

If Nikon manages to build in this image quality into a much lighter and cheaper body (similar to Canon 5D), they will have a huge bestseller on their hands.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

You don't know how...

Nicolas Refn, who made the Pusher trilogy (see post earlier this week) had been accepted to the Danish film school when he got the chance to make Pusher I for admittedly a low budget (a million dollars), even by Danish standards, but still much more money than he could have raised himself.

It is very hard to get into the Danish film school, and both of his parents urged him not to leave the school in order to make the film. "You haven't been to school, you don't know how to make movies!" said his mom.

He decided to go for making the movie without using four years of his life in film school. (Causing a minor scandal, nobody had ever left the school before.) And he ended up making one of the most popular and respected Danish movies of the nineties. And to continue from there to become one of the biggest directors of Europe.

Maybe we need to forget a little of all the "you don't know how" we are swimming in, especially in Europe.

About flirting

Why don't you get the chicks, but @$$holes do? It seems you don't flirt enough.


Thanks to Magnetic Mary's blog, I've discovered that I may be an "asexual". I had no idea such a concept existed.

Here's an article in New Scientist about it.

Coilin asks:
Re: "I've discovered that I may be an "asexual". I had no idea such a concept existed."

I am very puzzled by this statement. You write that you 'may' be an asexual. So, are you an asexual or not? Surely you know, one way or another?

I have read the New Scientist article, and in it it says that some 'asexuals' have sex with partners. What I don't understand is, how do they do this if they are male, as it requires physical arousal? If they are aroused by a female, how can they be asexual?

Of course, the most incredible thing about all this is that you produce DOMAI, a self-proclaimed 'dirty old man' website on which stunning images of delectable women in flagrante are posted daily.

I cannot imagine how you would spend so much time on a website like this, to great effect I might add, unless you spent a lot of your time fantasising about beautiful women, searching high and low for them, photographing them, and trying to get into bed with them. You very clearly know beauty when you see it.

I imagine you working by day but trawling streets, cafés and bars at night, seducing beautiful women and convincing them that a visit to your photographic studio would be in their interest, and that a quickie on your couch would see them jumping several rungs on the ladder to fame in the world of 'glamour' photography. (Of course I know that the photos are by others, but I'm sure you've taken your fair share.)

So, what's the explanation? How could you be so interested in beautiful women if you are not interested in getting the leg over? I could understand it if DOMAI was simply a business and nothing more. But even then, I'd be very surprised at someone getting into that business unless they had more than a passing interest in beautiful women.

You're quite right about the last bit.
I get strongly emotionally stimulated by beautiful women. But I very rarely get aroused sexually by them.
I hope to understand the mechanism one day. It can be very frustrating to have this abstract, but intense, attraction and then not to have an outlet for it.
I've tried sex, and it doesn't do it for me, I lose interest real damn fast. Which also hurts the partner, of course, she thinks something is the matter with her since I lose interest.
About the "surely you know" bit: well, it's all very confusing, both the me and to others. It's a new field.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Gentle eyes

The ultimate solution to life is to view the world and everything in it with gentle and loving eyes.

(Not an original thought, but the words are my own.)


I've bought a small, cheap cappunccino maker. I must say I'm very pleased. Of course you have to clean the various bits after every time you've used it, but it really gets much more out of the grounds. It seems to me it pulls about twice the strength and flavor out of them. The best coffee I have ever made. And perhaps even better than most of what I find in coffee houses.

Coffee has always been one of my favorite things. Along with communication. Which is why my company is called Coffeehouse Communications Ltd.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Mahna Mahna, more

The original Mahna Mahna, by Piero Umiliani. Very kool.

The toy which erased $800,000 worth of data

Look at these small polished rocks. How much more innocent can something look? Yet they almost cost me $800,000 worth of data.

These things are magnetic, and when you throw them in the air close to each other, they will click together with a brrrrrrrrrr sounds, because they touch many times before they settle down. Just a small, silly toy.

Except the thing is, those things are very strongly magnetic. Therein lies a tale.

I run a web business for which I have data on my computer worth over $800,000. So of course I make an off-site back-up. I have a large external hard disk, which is stored at a friend's house. Today when I got the disk home to back up, these two thing were stuck to it. And when I plugged it in, there were no data on it. None, zip, nada, diddley-squat. The disk was named "volume" instead of what I had named it. When I checked the disk with DiskWarrior, the graph for the disk was one smooth gradient. Not one kilobyte of data on it to resque.

I don't know how the formatting data survived, I thought they were just data on the disk like the rest of it. But no matter, there's no doubt that these magnets had erased the disk. If I had actually needed the backup today, I'd have been frigged. Fortunately my data did not depend on this disk alone.

I called my friend, and he told me that it seems his little daughter must have placed the things on my disk. And before that, they had ruined two credit cards, a photographic light-meter, and a friend's CRT Television set. When his daughter placed them on the screen of the TV, they pulled in the rays to one spot, and burned out the screen!

I don't know how they stayed in the hands of the little girl after that, but I know that I'm not letting them near any of my electronics.

David Pogue once tested the story about not letting magnets near your disks. He found out that it is exaggerated, he did not succeed in erasing a single disk, no matter how hard he tried. It seems like he just did not have strong enough magnets!

Update: here is a warning from a company which sells the "toy". The things can be harmful in all kinds of ways.

I got this email from them:

Thank you for your feedback.
It is the first time I hear that the chirping magnets have done some damage, as they are a lot weaker than all the other supermagnets we sell.

This is what we do in terms of warnings:

1) There is quite an extensive warning on our website concerning magnets in general.
2) There is a link to this warning-page from the footer of *every single* page from our website: It says: "Please read the important information regarding the handling of neodymium magnets!" and it links to the warning-page in 1)
3) Before a customer can complete the order with us he has to actively check the following check-box: "[ ] I have read and understand the important information regarding the handling of neodymium magnets.". In this sentence "important information" is again a link to 1). If you don't check that check-box you can't complete the order.
4) With each parcel we include the warnings *AGAIN* printed on *bright yellow paper*. The content of this leaflet can be seen here.
5) With each parcel comes a delivery sheet and/or an invoice. On this short letter we say in the third sentence: "Please note the enclosed leaflet with important information regarding the proper use of your new neodymium magnets."

I think we went to great length to ensure that each customer is reasonably informed. Please tell me, what we could do additionally to warn our customers? At some point the customer is in charge and has to take some responsibility too, I think.
BTW: We do not manufacture these magnets, we just sell them via our website. There are several hundred shops where you can buy these magnets and countless street-vendors as well.

Please feel free to publish above information on your blog - maybe some of your readers can suggest how we can improve our shop in this regard?

Kind regards
Matthias Ackermann

Monday, September 24, 2007

The Pusher trilogy

I am very impressed with how the Danish film industry has expanded in the past decade, both commercially/internationally and artistically.

It's no secret for instance that the "Dogma" film makers have had a big impact on the global film industry.

Different, but related, is the Pusher trilogy by Nicolas Winding Refn.

Basically I don't think there's been anything quite like it before. How often can you say that? The films are three loosely related stories about people stuck in the seedy underbelly of Copenhagen. They are highly realistic, often bloody, very seminal works of art.

They are not glamorous "gangster movies" by any measure. You can almost smell the fear and the sadness and the desperation that is seeped through these lives. And yet at the same time the films are captivating and interesting, and often funny. It's a monumental accomplishment.

I like the Hollywood blockbuster movie as much as anybody, but sometimes it's wonderful to see something groundbreaking, something different, something on the edge.

Noise and pictures

An Article by Mike Johnston about image noise and pictures and art.

Mike has some very good points. I think the grain in his Grimmy picture is irrelevant, or may even be enhancing it, making it more "documentary" looking.

I think noise can be distracting in two of my favorite areas: nudes and landscapes. In the first one I like smooth tones, and in the latter, I want detail.

And then on the other hand, Bill Brandt made wonderful nudes and landscapes with spectacularly grainy film. See: