Saturday, November 24, 2007

One element

I just had a realization:
It seems to me that pretty much all works of art which become hits have one single element which carries the work. One really strong bit.
In a song it might be the main melody line. Or the drum beat.
In a novel it may be the main character, or a setting.
In a picture it may be a combination of colors, or the lines of the central figure.

But it helps me to think of how to create a work, that to make something strong, I have to find/make one single very strong element, and compose the work around that.

Update: this is not meant to be an absolute statement, but mostly a help for creators. For example if you're working on something, and you can't point to an element which you are sure is really strong, the work is not likely to be successful no matter how much you fine tune it.

Mac buyers FAQ

Macintosh buyers' FAQ, by the Wall Street Journal's Walt Mossberg.

Canon on film

Public relations speak: Canon management was asked if Canon is ever going to release another film SLR camera. The answer was: "I can't say what products we have for the future, but in thinking about a question like that you have to look at the ratio of digital to film users in the market now. I can't really say more than that for commercial reasons."

That's answer enough for me. :)

It's funny to me that they apparently think it would hurt them in the marketplace to simply come out and say "no". The reason they won't develop a new film camera is that the market for it has all but disappeared. (I'd be surprised if they could sell a thousand of any new film camera.) So what's the harm in telling this vanishing market that they shouldn't have any false hopes?
If anything it should help sales of existing film cameras if buyers know that there will not be any new models. Or they may buy a digital camera sooner.

By the way, language question: if I talk about a book, I'd say "they sold a million copies in the first year". If I was talking about a camera, the word "copies" seem wrong... but which word would it be instead? You can't just use "cameras", because we are talking about just one specific model.

Update: thanks to Damien for suggesting "unit". That'll do well in the context I describe.
But less well in a situation I had last year: I had bought a camera on eBay, and the one I actually got was the same model (Nikon FM), but was more worn and had a different serial number. So it was a different... (blank).
Looking it up, it seems "exemplar" is a correct word for it. Which is funny, because that's exactly the word I would use in Danish. But I've never heard it used in English, so I wonder if everybody would understand it.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Secret underground temple

Secret underground temple built by private enthusiasts in Italy, over 20 years.

Rollerblading grace

(Note: it does not get really started until about 50 seconds. Poor edit.)


It looks like Beowulf is a hit, early sales are at the top of the lists. Lord knows why, the trailer does not appeal to me. It looks like a video game, the story looks like it's clich├ęd beyond words, and the main character can't pronounce his own name ("beahwoof").
I had hoped better, since Neil Gaiman is coauthor.


You'd think that easy online access to pricing information would have evened out pricing. But maybe not. It still pays to look around.

Recently I wanted an ethernet cable. I could get a 20-meter one online for £25. But I decided that I wanted it the same day, and went across the street to PC World, and they had a 15-meter one for £40. That's 60% more!

And look at this pricing: Apple UK: £370, Amazon UK: £240. That's a 54% premium at Apple.

And by the way, something good is happening to phone call prices. I can call the USA now from the UK for just over 1 pound (two dollars) per hour. Excellent. And that's without any special cards or codes.

Wiki on ads

Wikipedia on why they do not run ads.

Broken Back Mount

When Dances With Wolves was current, I didn't think a film would ever come around that I felt less desire to see.
But then Titanic arrived. This was surely the zenith of maudlin crap?
No, now comes Brokeback Mountain.
I shudder to think how this record will ever be broken.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

SanDisk II, The Vampire Strikes Back

Another in my faintly embarrassing series of notes on how fast technology moves: I did not dream five years (such a short span of time) that in 2007 you could buy a 4-gigabyte memory card, and a card reader, for around 30 bucks/18 pounds. It's just ridiculous.

(Funny, I seem to be fixated on five year spans. In my life, everything changes in five years.)

UK charger

I want to buy an Amazon Kindle from the US and have it shipped here to the UK (by a friend, Amazon won't ship them outside the US). It surely won't work connection-wise, but I just want one for reading, and lord knows how long it will take them to get the finger out and get it on the UK/Eu market (we can't even get the Sony Reader yet).

The question is: the charger will be with an American plug and 110 voltage. Does anybody know: what's the likelihood it will adapt to UK voltage or that I can jury-rig another solution to charging the thing?

A sophisticated insult

What's a sophisticated insult? Pascal suggests "Go to the Wizard and request a brain". Perhaps it would be even better if it really required a familiarity with Oz, like: "comb your straw and go petition the wizard."

I was once treated exceedingly rudely by somebody on an otherwise very educated mailing list, so I said something like:
"I acknowledge and appreciate your input, pointed though it was, and humbly suggest that you take advantage of your next available vacation time by a protracted, if possible permanent, visit to the netherworld."

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Background patterns

Sometimes I get tired for a while of having a distracting photo on my desktop ("wallpaper"). But on the other hand, just a solid color is very boring. So I got the idea of making these subtle patterns. They are both based on photos, and made to a tiling pattern with a Photoshop plugin called Terrazzo, and then bled of most of the contrast. I quite like them, whaddayathink?
They are designed for my 30-inch screen, I don't know if they suffer if used on smaller screens.
Update: Goshdarn, I forgot that Blogger allows maximum of 1600 pixels. Here is a link to a zip file of both, in full size.

Is the new iMac a pro machine?

My pal Laurie Jeffery is a bit of a gear-head and a busy professional photographer. He knows what's good. This guy is now using one of the new aluminium iMacs for his main machine (The 24-inch model I'm sure.), and he loves it. *

And Laurie is not the only one to be in doubt about the alleged "amateur" status of the new iMacs.

*I once told him I almost bought him an Apple Cinema monitor for Christmas, but I decided that he "would just be embarrassed by such a display".

TTL said:
I am not sure I understand the question. But clearly Apple sees the iMac as a consumer product. That's why they have a separate Mac Pro line.

Whether you can use an iMac in a profession successfully is a different matter. It's certainly very usable for writing software -- even if not in the specific field and style of programming Alex is involved in.

On the other hand, in the field of music production it's generally not considered "pro" because there's no PCI expansion slots. But you could still use it for many music production tasks in a professional manner.

When it comes to editing and retouching of photos it's probably not considered pro because you can't change the monitor (as I understand, current LCDs still are lacking in gamut compared to high end CRTs). Of course you could always add an external secondary monitor for colour proofing.

The difference between an iMac and a Mac Pro is the same as that of a compact camera and a DSLR. Your question therefore is like asking whether a compact camera, say Nikon Coolpix P5100, is a pro camera?

I beg to differ. I the (meant to be rhetorical) question is more kind to asking whether the Nikon D300 is a pro camera. Which I tend to think it is. And interestingly, it is descended in a direct line from Nikon D100, which was definitely an amateur camera.

Of course there are no final answers to these questions, since it all depends on where you set the lines. But the lines are clearly moving up continually.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Public libraries

Does anybody know if a public library pays more for a book than normal, to compensate for the lending?

From wikipedia:
In December 2004, Salinas, California almost became the first city in the United States to completely close down its entire library system. A tax increase passed by the voters in November 2005 allowed the libraries to open, but hours remain limited. The American Library Association says media reports it has compiled in 2004 showed some $162 million in funding cuts to libraries nationwide.

Oh yes. I think that will pay for about 3 or 4 minutes of warfare abroad. A good deal.

Amazon e-book reader

Interesting development: the Amazon Kindle.

Here's video and a report and discussion.
Notice: there are more interesting videos lower on the page. (I had not even noticed the one at the top of the page until now, because for some reason that page does not display well in Safari 3.)
Update: Newsweek article. Quote:
The awesome technology of original books—and our love for them—will keep them vital for many years to come. But nothing is forever. Microsoft's Bill Hill has a riff where he runs through the energy-wasting, resource-draining process of how we make books now. We chop down trees, transport them to plants, mash them into pulp, move the pulp to another factory to press into sheets, ship the sheets to a plant to put dirty marks on them, then cut the sheets and bind them and ship the thing around the world. "Do you really believe that we'll be doing that in 50 years?" he asks.

Looks very promising. But typically, there's no word when it may be available outside that big country in the middle of North America.

I can see that they did not suceed in getting Jonathan Ive to design this gadget. It looks like it was made by the Empire in the first Star Wars movie.
OK, maybe the Kindle's design is not that bad. Though I think white was a poor color choice for it, it makes the e-paper look dirty-white. At least in pictures.

A good e-book reader would solve a problem I often have: I like to read in bed, but many of the books I like to read are just too big and heavy to do this comfortably. I shock my friends by cutting books into two or three slices for easier reading.
(OK: breathe. It's just a book. :) And if it's an important one, I buy two copies.)

TTL commented, re Europe:
There may be issues with the wireless connection protocol it's using, EV-DO. I don't think this is very widely deployed here in Europa. In fact, this is the first time I even hear this acronym.
Not that it means anything. I hate wireless communications and pride myself in not knowing anything about it.

Eolake said...
That's how I feel about sports. Beckham who? Oh, Posh's husband.

Anyway, it uses normal cell phone technology it seems, so it should be able to made work here.
Of course they have to make deals with the phone carriers first.

Viewing the videos, I'm getting quite interested in this device. And if I got out more and travelled more, I'd be really interested, because I never go anywhere without reading material, but many books and magazines are quite heavy, so you can only have a couple, this thing can have hundreds or thousands, and can get new stuff on the road, near-instantly.

It will be nice when you can get almost all new books for this kind of device. Another advantage I just though of is that some books just have too tiny type. There is one book I have which I really want to read, but the type is so damn tiny that it's almost painful to read. E-book readers will solve this. We are not all as young as we were. (My middle age hit last year at 43, when I suddenly got long-sighted. I bought some expensive varifocals, but they are not all that great, sharpness is not good when you look to the left or right. This is so for all varifocals.)

Man, with these videos, Amazon has really taken a page from Apple's (e)book, they are totally similar to the promotional videos Apple has been making for the last couple of years. And no surprise, really, those are well worth emulating, a wonderful promotional tool, with the celebrity testimonials and all.

I wonder how Amazon and Apple produce those testimonials. They sound just too perfect, they sound like actors have been paid to say just what the company would love to hear them say. But these are always big names, and I'm sure that they are not bribed and that most of them wouldn't take bribes anyway. It's not that I can't believe that they like the products so much, it's just that the way they say it is too perfect.

... Oh no: Neil Gaiman calls the device "an e-book". That's what these things are going to be called when they get popular, isn't it? And the files are called "e-books" too, so there will be no end to that confusion.

I just found out from Neil Gaiman that he lives in a part of the US where they can't get same-day delivery of any of the major national newspapers. Coming like I do from a small, well-connected country like Denmark, this is totally astonishing to me.

... Holy frick, Jeff Bezos is a year younger than me.

Iko iko update

Natasha England's new recordings of Iko iko are now published.
9 versions of the same song... talk about milking it!

I had expected that this would be well overkill and I'd be way sick of the damn song before I'd even heard them all. But I took a chance and just bought the "album". And I must say so far I'm positively surprised: the versions are not "remixes", they are radically different versions of the song, and they are all good. I like it.

Monday, November 19, 2007

google site issues

It seems like Google/Blogger servers are having lots of problems this evening, I keep getting disconnected from them.

... Also sometimes with my mail servers. And it's on both my DSL and my cable connection. Weird.

Classical on Pandora

Pandora Internet radio now has classical music too.

The Sopranos

Joe said:
I liked the Sopranos, though not as much as a lot of people seem to have. It seemed like the same ground covered by movies like Goodfellas, but not as good.

I have to say, I'm surprised you liked it, when overall it does kind of glorify gangsters. You panned Unforgiven for that reason.

I tried Goodfellas once again recently, just because it's such a respected film. But it just didn't keep my interest.

I really don't think that Sopranos gloriefies gangsters, on the contrary. My problem with Unforgiven was the "glorious" climactic gun fight which went contrary, emotionally, to the message of the rest of the film's message. The film "said one thing and did another".

The violence in Sopranos is not glorified. And the characters are shown as what gangsters in all likelyhood are: complex human beings which have big flaws like most people, except they tend to have a really big one that some of them struggle with (Tony does), and some don't even recognize: a huge violent temper, out of control.

None of the big, famous gangster films have really been big favorites of mine. But somehow they managed to make something completely different of the genre with The Sopranos. I am not sure how, it's just a different beast.


If you tell the truth you don't have to remember anything.
-- Mark Twain

Well, you still have to remember the truth, don't you.

TTL informs us:
Eolake, I think the meaning is clearer in this similar quote, also attributed to Mark Twain: "Always tell the truth. That way you don't have to remember what you said."

Ah, yes. This makes a lot more sense. Especially since Twain was an uncannily bright man, and is not likely to have said the sloppy first version.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The f**k-you "love" song

Have you noticed that in recent years the Love Song has become the "f**k-you" song? Fortunately some of them are good songs. Or at least have good melodies.

By the way, about those people who become so exceedingly disparaging about their former Significant Others: I guess they don't realize that it really does not reflect well on their own judgement in having shacked up with the guy/gal in the first place, if he/she is really that awful.

Memory card prices and new Canon compact

Have you seen that you can now get an SD flash card, 4 GB, for around 30 dollars? Holy crap, at those prices I think I will stop reusing the cards and just keep them for additional backup.

By the way, here is a really promising new camera that I'll get for myself for Christmas. Compact, nice looking, metal body, image stabilization, and really high image quality. And really reasonably priced too. Amazing.

From the review:
"I took a series of shots one evening just to show off what the PowerShot SD950 IS's image stabilization can do. The room was lit by nothing more than 60 watt bulbs (well, the fluorescent equivalent, which is a lot lower). ISO was set to High ISO, limiting it to ISO 800. And I got sharp shots with shutter speeds as low as 1/15 second, something I can't hand hold. [...] Considering that I couldn't do better than 1/60 second with the Canon SD900, that's easily a two stop improvement, and a great argument for upgrading to the PowerShot SD950 IS."

Look at this test image. Impressive.
This one is at the highest sensitivity, ISO 1600. Of course on such a small camera, that setting is very grainy (noisy). But I think actually the noise looks sort of interesting. Arty. Only not to be used if you need maximum detail.

(By the way, if you're interested in it and you're in Europe, be aware that many electronics manufacturers irritatingly still insists on different names for their products in Eu and USA, and in Europe this camera is called "Canon IXUS 960 IS". I fail to see that Canon or anybody else gains anything in the long run by this confusing tactic.)


Journalists have been known (oh yes) to make statements which may not always be balanced or strictly accurate, in order to attract the attention of readers.

Of course you don't believe me, surely the world's media scribes are scrupulous sticklers for truth and accuracy? Yes of course, anything else is really, really, really rare. :-)

But it does happen. Just for one example, see this article. Quote: "Now that everything electronic comes equipped with a video device, the question is not “if” you too will be the star of a YouTube Most Viewed/Top Rated/Most Discussed/Most Linked Favorite video. It’s 'when?' [...] Fortunately for us plebs, we’ve got other role models to show us how to — or more precisely, how not to — handle our inevitable uploaded abasement."

Inevitable? Give me a break. Less than one in a thousand people will ever see themself on video on the Net unwittingly. And less than one in a million will ever become a "star of a YouTube Most Viewed" video against his/her will.

But then at least she linked to the Star Wars Kid. Lord, that's one of the funniest things I've ever seen.
Funny enough I'd never seen this one. But I have seen it taken up in Arrested Development (one of the best TV comedies ever).


Elave, tasteful nudity in advertising. Should be encouraged.

Big camera

The super-pro camera Canon 1Ds Mark III on trial in Madagascar. Good pictures and good points made.

Iko Iko

Iko iko.

... The world is weird: This Natasha England version is on YouTube, but can't be found for love nor money on the Net or on CD. And the Cindy Lauper version conversely (which I may like more) is only on YouTube in crappy live versions, but it's easy to find on the Net.
And in one of the weird coincidences that seem to dominate my life these days, apparently a newly recorded version by Natasha England will be released tomorrow!

One of the reasons I got interested in the song was that it was played in Rain Man, which I've just re-watched for the first time (I think) since it came out in 1988. What a great movie that is.