Saturday, March 15, 2008

The mantis cannibalism myth

The mantis cannibalism myth.

Interfaces, a rant, and Buffy

"I'm just not the one to settle. It's like when I go shopping, I have to get the most expensive thing. Not because it's expensive, but because it costs more."
-- Cordelia, Buffy The Vampire Slayer
I am so tired of the lousy interface on electronic media, like DVDs and players. For example, whether it's the fault of the programming of the discs or of the players, the fact is that something as simple as the Subtitle button usually does not work, either on my Blue-ray player or my moribund HD-DVD player. I mean, what the heck? They have the standards all lined up, why don't they just follow them?

And I just started re-watching the complete series of Buffy The Slampire Conveyor (on DVD, but in my blue-ray player), and after the first episode I checked out the commentary track... and then when I started watching the second episode, I could not get rid of it! No matter how I restarted the episode or even the machine, the friggin' commentary track was still on. Through experimentation and intuition, I realized that if I changed the audio language to French and then back to English, probably the commentary would be gone. And it was. But how stupid an interface is that. I mean, the engineers are making machines and discs for a multi-billion dollar industry, you'd think they would take the care to get the basics right?

I could continue for pages about the menu interface on the DVDs and the layout of the remote controls, but I'd get bored, and you already are, so I'll try to calm down.
By the way, why Alyson Hannigan (Willow on Buffy) is not The Next Nicole Kidman yet, I don't know. She is awesome.

Fortunately I now discover she is having new success on the highly praised "How I Met Your Mother" show, which I've hurriedly ordered.

And this is promising. :)

Alyson on YouTube is a mixed bag, but this is kinda cute. (Where do talk show hosts get those questions from though? They are all over the place.)

Update 16.3: I found a few old fave pics of Alyson. Goodness me.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Green players

David Pogue's newest video, about "green" MP3 players, is a hoot and a holler. It's a bitch trying to find a permanent link for these videos, but currently this one is featured on the right side of this page.
(If you subscribe to the video blog via iTunes, you get higher resolution.)

Standing out

Stephen Shapiro on how to stand out.

Blue-ray article

An article about Blue-ray. It's pretty good, even with the headline "After Winning the Format War, Blu-ray’s Future Looks Bright"... No, really??

Funny detail: after the advent of DVD-players for prices not much more than those for a pack a cigarettes, the technology owner this time around are not giving licences to Chinese manufacturers! :)

Liebhaver cameras

Digital cameras have reached maturity in just a decade. My breast-pocket-sized Canon Ixus 960 (or SD950 in the USA) has image quality to match any camera I've ever used, an astounding feat.

Now I'm just waiting for somebody to make digital cameras which look as nice as for example this Zeiss Ikon ZI, which is new, but it's a film camera. Dang me if I'm gonna run around getting film developed and scanned again.

("Liebhaver", is a danish-germanic word meaning something you own just for the love of it. Beautiful things for those who can afford it, in other words. Collectors' items in the best sense of the word.) (The worst sense of the word would be items which are made solely to prey on people who consider themselves "collectors". Like the same comic book in five different covers.)

(Mike J's review of the Zeiss Ikon inspired this rant.)

Custom camera leather

Here's a cool site which Bert alerted me to.

Alphonse Mucha Masterworks

I've just bought and started reading Alphonse Mucha Masterworks.

It is informative and a big hardcover book with quality color illustrations throughout. And I can't get over that the list price in the UK is only £20, with Amazon selling it for £14. How is this possible?

Mucha is one of the artists I admire most, in terms of technique. Man, how did he do all that precision decoration work? (If anybody knows...) I'd like to do something similar, but even on the computer it seems daunting.

(I would have included a link to high-quality scans of his work, but I didn't find much.)

Bert said:
"how did he do all that precision decoration work?"
I guess that part of the explanation is given by the picture on this page. He worked on large surfaces.

Hopping off the rocket

I think that one of the factors which prevent many people from attaining success is quitting on a success.

Seven years ago I was talking to an old friend, and he asked me how long I'd been doing DOMAI. I said it'd been four years. So he asked me: "so what do you plan on doing next?"

"Next?" I said. He then said that most people he knew, when they'd been doing something for three to five years, then moved on to something entirely different.

I forget what I said, but it may have been something on the lines of: "I have a fun business, not too difficult, and it's earning good money. Why would I go do something else?"

I'm sure people have many explanations for why they changed tacks in the middle of something successful. But I suspect that the real reason is not rational, but compulsive. Otherwise it would not be so ubiquitous when it's clear that one of the main factors in achieving success is keeping doing something and get better and better.

A schedule

"A schedule defends from chaos and whim."
-- Annie Dillard

This is funny, because in my life it is totally opposite. I can't imagine having a schedule.

It seems that many people need a well-ordered schedule to be productive. They need to have put down exactly what they will be doing each hour of the day. And they need a big chunk of time for each task, otherwise they won't get anything done.

Whereas for some reason I seem to be most effective when I have no clue what I'll be doing from one minute to the next. Whenever somebody asks me "so what will you be doing today?" I have no answer for them.

Of course it helps that I've arranged my life so I'm not dependent on anybody else's schedules. If I had to meet up with others and so on, I'd have to plan ahead.

I think that my interest is very fickle, changing rapidly and often. But what it is on at the moment, it's on strongly. So I work fast. I wonder if most people have a strong tendency for work-avoidance? So that if they don't know absolutely that the next two hours is for doing so-and-so task, it will not get done?

Rejsen Til Saturn

It seems that the Danes are making an animated feature movie of the most unlikely book imaginable: The Trip To Saturn (Rejsen Til Saturn), an odd little satiric comic strip from the seventies.

Despite being mostly in English, the trailer is clearly aimed at a Danish audience, and I think you have to be Danish to get it or find it funny. But then again, maybe not, and it looks cool.

Near the end he says "det kan kun gå galt". It means "it can only go wrong", and it's a Danish expression similar to "what's the worst that can happen?" Except of course in this context it's expected to be taken more literally, as a joke.

D300 review

Nikon D300 review by Thom.

Thursday, March 13, 2008


Talking about hubless wheels, Alex points to monowheels.
(Some modern ones.)
Cool, I never heard of those before.
Can't be easy to steer though.

Your camera matters, says Mike

Michael Reichman reached the end of his rope and patience, and posted an article rebutting all the claims that The Camera Doesn't Matter.
(Me, I have a foot in each camp.)

Oooh, just made up a joke:
A few painters sit together drinking their espressos, absinthe, and paint thinner, when one of them finally flips his lid and exclaims: "Brushes! Pig hair! Camel hair! Oils! Acrylics! Water based! Canvas, fine, rough, medium! Why do we always talk about technique? Do you think photographers use all their time discussing cameras? No, they just get out there and take their pictures!

W. C. Fields

"Would you like to make a few honest dollars for yourself?"
"Do they have to be honest?"
- W.C. Fields

Nike car

A Nike car?

The hubless wheel design is interesting. I wonder how well it would work?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Night Time (Is The Right Time)

Update: doesn't this work for anybody?
It's a great fun clip, so I have uploaded the video to my own server. Get it here (15MB). (It's also better quality than the version on YouTube, which for some reason got pretty blotchy this time.)
It's the Cosby family lip syncing to a Ray Charles song.
Update: Oddly, this video now generates a "not available" message after only hours. Even odder, for me it still plays if I go to youtube. See if it works for you here.

... And odder yet, I also get a "not available in your country" (???), but only in Mozilla. It works for me in Safari and Firefox.

God, The Devil, and Bob

Just a quick plug for the animated show God, The Devil, and Bob.
Not a great knee-slapper perhaps, but funnier than King of the Hill, better drawn than South Park, and better stories than Family Guy.
Of course the Intolerant Christians' Association got it shut down. (What, there's no group by that name? Well, there should be.)

Score advice

Seems interesting: Score, free business advice.

Flaws in presidents

ABC clip of women discussing flaws in presidents. (I think you'll get a link on the right side. Though these sites never make it easy to link to a specific video.)
I still can't get over how many people seem to consider it as serious a "flaw" to cheat on your wife as it is to start an unprovoked war. What I didn't really realize for a long time was that many, many people get really upset about what Clinton did with Monica. I couldn't care less, so I thought it was just a political attack.


Oh, it's selling sweaters...

New Soul song

Nice pop song. Apple uses this in the Macbook Air demo video.

(I actually think that, like often happens with a good song, the song does better without the video.) (Aqua ruined Barbie Girl with the video. The song had no animousity, the video has.)

iPhone software

Apple is finally releasing software development for the iPhone. Much excitement going on. We'll see what people come up with.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A Dark and Stormy Knight

It's a dark and stormy night. The rain and the wind are rattling my windows. It's on days like this that I'm particularly glad to be working from home. Allll Riiiiight! (Quagmire voice.)

Slashes unite

It seems there's yet another term for a "scanner" or a "renaissance soul": a "slash".
It was popularized by Marci Alboher. (Ooh, ain't she pretty.)

At least it's similar, although admittedly somebody with more than one career is not exactly the same as somebody with many interests.

Marci has some interesting columns, including this one about financing a career change.

Here's a radical viewpoint from our Finnish hacker friend, TTL:

Geeesh .... how wussy can these people get?
"financing a career change"? I gotta go puke ... ok, I'm back.

Here's the algorithm (please relay info to Marci Alboher):

Step 1: Ask self, do I love what I am currently doing? Do I find it fun? Would I do it even if no one paid me to do it? If yes, goto end. If not, continue to step 2.

Step 2: Stop immediately what you are doing. If it's an employment relationship, resign immediately.

Step 3: Ask yourself, what would I most want to do in life? Don't question your answer. Not even if its something illegal or immoral.

Step 4: Whatever your answer in #3, start doing it.

Step 5: If you run out of money, stop eating, sell belongings, beg, steal or borrow. But don't stop.

Step 6: When you have lost 20% of your weight, you can no longer see clearly and all your friends have left you, you know you are on the right track. Don't stop!

Step 7: Now living on the streets, health problems, busking to stay alive, DON'T STOP! You are almost there!

Step 8: GREAT SUCCESS! You have more money than you can spend. Everyone wants to know you. Suddenly all your old 'friends' are back (tell them to f*ck off!) People call you "lucky" (tell those to f*ck off, too!)

Step 9: Do whatever you like. Without apology.

Step 10: Go to step 1.

I'd say it'd be a good thing to think of all this before starting a family.

OSes under fire

Vista under fire.

Lest I should be labeled an MS basher... I hate to prove TTL right, but I'm a little pissed off at Mac OS X Leopard's instability. It crashes once a week at least, something which was rare before. And that's even after the major upgrade recently.

... disrelated, but... good grief.

iPod Reader

Adam Engst calls for an "iPod Reader".
I can get behind that. The Kindle has its moments, but the interface is slow and weak.

Related article.

Way Out West

Talking about Gøg Og Gokke, as they are called in Denmark, here's one of the most inspired moments in comedy.

Along with Honest John, it proves that humor can be an inherent quality, and does not have to attack anybody or be a comment on anything.

Moving pianos

Apart from Laurel and Hardy's one, Fred has an answer to How Do You Move A Piano.

It also answers the question of where did Right Said Fred get that stupid name from. I'm sure there similar answers to Wet Wet Wet, and Frankie Goes to Hollywood, and oh my goodness, the list is infinite, isn't it.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Pirates of the Caribbean

"You ignored the rules of engagement. In a fair fight, I'd kill you."
"That's not much of an incitement for me to fight fair, is it?"
- Pirates of the Caribbean

Besides being funny, it's a good example of how we all expect others to obey by the rules of logic and behavior that we are used to.

By the way, Johnny Depp surely looks dashing as Captain Jack Sparrow, but what's up with the black eyeliner? What need for that on the high seas?

Update: Another by the by: Johnny Depp is another near-contemporary of mine: born on June ninth, 1963. David Pogue was born on exactly the same day as myself: March ninth, 1963. (And TTL on May ninth, 1963.)

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Crystal "art"

And you thought the diamond-covered skull was in mediocre taste? Here's the crystal-covered model.
(They're really going to let them stay on her skin until the last one is sold? Yeah, right.)

Heathrow airport to take fingerprints

Wow, just when you thought Ole Blighty could not get more charming.

"Millions of British airline passengers face mandatory fingerprinting before being allowed to board flights when Heathrow’s Terminal 5 opens later this month."
- from The Telegraph

Dr Gus Hosein, of the London School of Economics, an expert on the impact on technology on civil liberties, is one of the scheme’s strongest critics.
He said: "There is no other country in the world that requires passengers travelling on internal flights to be fingerprinted. BAA says the fingerprint data will be destroyed, but the records of who has travelled within the country will not be, and it will provide a rich source of data for the police and intelligence agencies.
"I grew up in a society where you only fingerprinted people if you suspected them of being criminals. By doing this they will make innocent people feel like criminals.

Just my feelings. This is really offensive.

The audience

Here's a thought I got via Alfred Bester:

The essential element in theatre is the audience.

I suppose this pretty much applies across the arts.

If you think about it, you can take away pretty much anything else, but not the audience. Even the players: an animated movie is "theatre" without players. But even if somebody is just creating for himself, then he has an audience.

Of course a creator should not kowtow to his audience's demands. This will limit the art, since a specific audience always has a limited understanding. But an abstract audience is a different matter. And I find that considering such a thing makes me think differently about creating.