Saturday, July 26, 2008

Eyes of Nostradamus

I just purchased The Best of Manfred Mann's Earth Band. I'm surprised that Eyes Of Nostradamus is not on it, it's my favorite of his. Very catchy song, and yet very avant garde.

In fact, while their early work is nice, I prefer the much richer and more disciplined sound of Somewhere In Africa.

Story on the web

There used to be these books where at the end of each chapter you made a choice for your character, and then you jumped to the chapter corresponding to what happened then as a result of that choice.

What's the technical name for that kind of story? And has anybody made such things on the web?

Tobler and Anthon Berg

Gee, Toblerone is 100 years this year.

It might be the worlds' best chocolate if not for Anthon Berg's liqueur bottles. I've given these as gifts many times, and they never fail to get enthusiastic reviews.

On being good

"Being good" is such a plastic concept. In Copenhagen, if you want to go out and kill unbelievers, you'll be shunned or locked up. In Beirut, if you don't want to go out and kill unbelievers, you are not a man, and you're an enemy of the people and of god.

I guess you can only follow your own rudder, and try to be sensitive to what others think so as not to get into too much trouble.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Stopping SMS spam

[Update: It seems "SMS" is not used universally. It means: "Short Message Service (SMS), often called text messaging, is a means of sending short messages to and from mobile phones." I used "SMS" because I think "text" is another of those words which are too generic to be really useful.]

I'd e-mailed T-mobile UK and asked them how to stop their promotional SMS messages. They'd answered by e-mail before, but this time I was called up on the phone, and a guy asked me to verify my identity in various ways... I couldn't remember what my "account" was, it seems it was my password, and I had actually not called out for three months it seems, I use the phone mainly for backup and for those who really need a phone number, but I prefer e-mail, and so I couldn't give a recent phone number I'd called... and he finally gave up and just came to the point.

It turned out he had only called to give me a very simple way to turn off T-Mobile SMS spam. I guess they want to keep it secret.

So here it is: text the word "stop" to 49011. Boom.

In various countries and for various companies there are various ways to stop SMS spam, also from all companies. Because they are always sent by computer, not phone, and they can block computer-generated messages. So just look into it, you'll probably find a way.

1928 airplane ride

This looks like fun, could feel like flying. But I think it'd be hard to make safe, especially for windy weather.

Of course since adulthood, I can't go on rides which go around, I only get badly dizzy for a long time, quite unpleasant.
On a different note, here is an amazing BW photo.

This one illustrates well why I think it's so important to get digital cameras with greater dynamic range. I think it's the main attraction of those old photos I've been showing recently, the large format and BW film had great dynamic range and exposure lattitude.

... The super-sized version (from the text link) looks absolutely fantastic on my 30-inch Apple screen. If you'd shown that to me ten years ago...

What The Duck

Stripes, the movie

"We're Americans with a capital A. You know what that means? It means our forefathers were kicked out of every decent country in the world."
-- Bill Murray as John Winger in Stripes

I can't believe I never came across this movie before. It's really funny, and it has several top names, Murray, Sean Young, John Candy... All were unknowns, save for Murray, who was barely known.
Kim Basinger almost got in the movie, but she was unknown yet, and her agent had priced her at $250,000. How stupid is that? I'm guessing she changed agents, seeing as she actually got a career.

In the director's commentary they refer to movies of thirty years ago often have a lot of casual nudity or at least toplessness, and how that went away since. Generally I much prefer now to the seventies, but I admit that this free-spiritedness getting buried was a step back. Let's hope it turns again soon. Not just because it's stimulating, but because it seems to me that nudity is an expression of openness and freedom, and it's just a healthy sign psychologically. And so also a healthy influence psychologically and socially. You don't see nudists wage war. (In fact I find it interesting that those people most opposed to nudity are often also much in favor of war.)

No reciprocity

"There is no reciprocity. Men love women, women love children, children love hamsters."
-- Alice Thomas Ellis

Thursday, July 24, 2008

3D printing

Through The Lens points to a news item about a new company, Shapeways, which aims to make three-dimensional printing accessible for the people. Even in metal one day. It sounds very promising for artists and so much more.
Do I have to learn to use 3D software though? I don't think that's gonna happen.

Update: resource for 3D printing, fab@home.

Bert points to RepRap.

Pogue videos

Pogue's new video today reviews the Sigma DP1. Remember, the DP1 is one of the first attempts to make a compact with a large sensor. David agrees with everybody: the pictures are great, but the camera is way too expensive, too slow, and too limited.

Don't miss the last two videos too, about the iPhone and its new apps, dead funny. Or totally hil, as we say around here. We have too many contractions, def. It's ridic.

Got my bread

So I got my Poilane bread by courier yesterday. Very quick service.

As you can see, the "Signature Loaf" is huge (I put the camera there for size comparison). It's also the one that, to me, is a bit blah. I don't know, maybe because it's not a type of bread I'm familiar with, it's not white, it's not dark, and it's a little sour.

The walnut bread and the raisin bread, both sort of snack breads really, are both delicious. Great stuff, even with just butter. Danish Lurpak butter for pref.

(I love that with the new digicams with stabilization I can just snap these pictures indoors without flash or tripod.)


I am physically lazy, and mentally hyperactive. Consequently, I love moodling.
"This week I learned a brilliant word, “moodle,” or in its gerund form, “moodling.” To moodle is to engage in an act of divine laziness, that lovely inactivity that leads to moments of creativity and inspiration. [...]
Our culture (by this I mean Puritan-based American ethics) frowns on moodling. Platitudes such as “Idle hands are the Devil’s workshop” (forgive me if I’ve misquoted--I’ve spent the last ten years trying to forget sayings like that) are drummed into the American consciousness from birth."

The Money Myth

A parable to understand money and banks.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Nikon D700 overview

Nikon D700 overview by Mike Reichman. Can't say I have any arguments.

The D700 is considerably smaller than the D3, but still, me I'm hoping it won't be too long before we have such excellent image quality in a camera maximally the size of a Nikon D60/Canon 450D. It's the same thing as with a laptop for me: what I really want is something under a kilo.

Healing touch

Jim in Seattle wrote to me:

"I noticed a blog comment about giving an "assist" to an injured person* and intended to post but got distracted. I've experienced the phenomenon from both sides and can attest to its effectiveness.

Once while building a rockery at our spiritual Group center my helper prematurely let loose of a large boulder we were placing in the wall, crushing my left ring finger at the last joint. As a classical guitar player it was distressing to say the least. I went straight to our teacher, a true spiritual master, and he simply grasped it tightly for about 20 minutes. Within a couple of days it was completely healed including the mangled fingernail, miraculously so, as if nothing had happened.

I had an ability to heal wounds after that, especially burns to children (I was nearly fatally burned as an infant).

It seems that the person receiving the assist has to believe in its effectiveness or be "open" to receiving it in some way for it to be effective, although I don't know really. Children are very open to the reality of miracles and seem to be better receivers of the healing touch."

* What I wrote about was not in fact healing, but just a way to direct the injured/sick person's attention around in his own body so he'll heal himself.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Court Throws Out Janet Jackson Fine

"In a decision that clears CBS of any wrongdoing for airing the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show that featured Janet Jackson’s infamous “wardrobe malfunction,” a federal appeals court overturned the $550,000 fine that the Federal Communications Commission levied against the station, calling the fine arbitrary and capricious.
[...] "...the judges said that CBS could not be held responsible for the exposure, and went on to question the extent of genuine public outrage over it, saying that “the record is unclear on the actual number of complaints received from unorganized, individual viewers” as opposed to advocacy groups."


"The 2004 incident prompted the commission to step up its enforcement of indecency rules. In the years that followed, the agency has levied larger fines on broadcasters than before, and in 2006 Congress agreed to increase the maximum fine for a single violation tenfold, to $325,000."

I am guessing this may hasten the flight of viewers from TV onto the Internet, where censorship is much harder to impose.

Matt 2008

"Where the hell is..." Matt's best yet. If this doesn't cheer you up...

(Large version here.) (The downloadable version is only an earlier video.)

Update: his blog is cool. Here's an entry about Denmark, which has no talk at all about Denmark, but lots about the rest of Europe.

Update: TTL said:
There's a lecture given by Matt on the about page of his site. It is three YouTube clips of about 20 min each. Filled with fascinating anecdotes of all kinds of things (travelling, photography, life, etc). Highly recommended.

Where the Hell is Matt? (2008) from Matthew Harding on Vimeo.

The dollar dance

This article is a bit alarmist and probably politically slanted, and it's over two years old, but it has some interesting data which ring true and which I was not aware of.
In 1971 several countries simultaeously tried to sell a small portion of their dollars to the US for gold. Krassimir Petrov, (Ph. D. in Economics at Ohio University) recently wrote, "The US Government defaulted on its payment on August 15, 1971. While popular spin told the story of `severing the link between the dollar and gold', in reality the denial to pay back in gold was an act of bankruptcy by the US Government."
[.... ] Dr Bulent Gukay of Keele University recently wrote, "This system of the US dollar acting as global reserve currency in oil trade keeps the demand for the dollar `artificially' high. This enables the US to carry out printing dollars at the price of next to nothing to fund increased military spending and consumer spending on imports. There is no theoretical limit to the amount of dollars that can be printed. As long as the US has no serious challengers, and the other states have confidence in the US dollar, the system functions."

Belladonna advices a church

US porn actor Belladonna gives advice to the Catholic church.

"The Pope has indicated he might apologise to victims of sexual abuse and that is a positive thing to do," the heavily tattooed Belladonna said today.
"But unless he follows up with some practical advice that addresses the sexual needs and desires of clergy, the problem will simply continue.
... Belladonna has offered 300 of her own films to the Catholic church in Australia for distribution to priests.

Sound advice, methinks, the problem being where it comes from... the church would rather hop in bed with The Church Of Satan International than take advice from a porn actor.

What they might consider instead is just to reverse the 1400-years old policy against priests marrying. But I'm not holding my breath.

Through Paris in a Ferrari

"C'etait un rendezvous", famous old short movie. I got it on DVD a while ago.
Through Paris in a Ferrari* in 8 minutes one early Sunday morning.
The chief of Police was forced by the mayor to confiscate his licence, then gave it back and said "don't ever do that again".

Like everybody, I'm struggling with two emotions: "Man, cool trip", and "Fuck, what a stupid thing to do!"
I get the feeling though, that this guy could really drive, and if he were to kill anybody, it would only have been himself.

*Some say it was actually a Mercedez, with Ferrari motor sounds dubbed over it. This seems to be confirmed by a Making-of, but it's in French and there are sadly no English "subtleties" as I call it.

Bert informs:
Indeed, from the making-of interview, the car used for the film was Lelouch's own Mercedes. The same run was later redone in a Ferrari to record the sound track and add the sport feeling to the movie, but he explains that he needed the Mercedes's suspension to get a decent image.

He comments extensively along the way, mentioning places where they reached 160 to 200km/h. He had posted his assistant with a walkie-talkie at one spot where there was no visibility for incoming traffic, but later learned that the radio was busted and the assistant could not have warned him anyway. Towards the end, he was pushing very hard for he was really afraid that the camera would run out of film too early.

The one really stunning thing about this movie is that is was done on the spur or the moment, planned during that very night and shot a day break, as soon as there was sufficient light...

It was Lelouch himself who was driving (they were three in the car).

Monday, July 21, 2008

New compact camera

Update: it is irritating that sensor sizes are always given in arcane language that nobody understands. In this case "1/1.63-inch CCD sensor". What the hell does that mean? It sounds like it's pretty big. But the lens is only a 5-13mm zoom, which makes the diagonal of the sensor 9mm. A quite small sensor. This limits what we can expect from this camera.

A new Panasonic compact camera looks interesting. It has a larger sensor than most compacts, a quite wide zoom, and claims to be aimed at the market for connoiseurs and to have good low-light capabilities, for instance the F:2.0 lens is very unusual for a compact. It certainly has a premium price, £400*, so it will be interesting to see if the picture quality and usability lives up to that.
* Some sources predict a price in the states of $500. If this is so, I am importing one, given the current two-for-one aspect of the dollar/Sterling!

Even if it doesn't, it's gratifying to see different companies trying for a good high-end compact camera, we're sure to get there some day.

... Lordy, it seems some people already have the camera. And it also seems that the image quality is really good, at least in good light. Other samples are more dubious, having noise suppression smear at merely 125 ISO. Not great.

"... the LX3 boasts its highest resolution in the sensor's native 4:3 format, although 3:2 and 16:9 aspect ratios are also available at a reduced resolution. A new 'Multi-Aspect Mode' also allows photographers to capture an image in all three aspect ratios simultaneously."

... One imagines this is for photographers who don't own a computer for cropping.

Bruce helps out:
"... the LX3 boasts its highest resolution in the sensor's native 4:3 format, although 3:2 and 16:9 aspect ratios are also available at a reduced resolution."
This is misleading. The sensor is oversize, which means each aspect ratio can use the full 24mm circle of light. For example, 16:9 images are wider than 4:3, but not as tall. Panasonic first used this oversize sensor trick in the TZ3.
Panasonic explains on this page.

On that page is a link to a couple of sample pictures. One of them, looks like a New Orleans street scene, is interesting in that it has a lot of very dark shadow areas, which I tried to lift in Photoshop, and I must say it responded well, got less noise and "mud" than many pictures from larger cameras. A good sign.

Rex The Runt

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Doctor Who

Stephen Fry sez about Dr. Who:
"We missed that episode and nothing that has transpired in my life since has ever, or could ever, make up for that terrible, terrible disappointment. There is an empty space inside me that can never be filled."

I've just again had a realization about something I never understood, but which is really simple... this time about why so many intelligent adult men have an intensely loving relationship with TV shows like Star Trek and Dr. Who, while I can't see the attraction at all. So simple: the grew up with them! And I didn't, since they weren't shown on Danish TV.

Dave Barry

It seems Dave Barry is writing the occasional column again, that's good news, he may be America's funniest writer. Warning, this column is pretty graphic regarding, uh, behinds and their products.
Somehow it seems appropriate that on that page I saw a link to a video entitled "Bush offers assurance on the economy".

I notice again that apparently in the USA, people are anesticized for a colonoscopy. This is remarkable, because I've tried it and I've also tried a gastroscopy, and the latter is challenging, the former is really not. The scope is much slimmer than the average feces, so there's no pain. I'm guessing the anestesia is pretty much just meant to quell homophobia. (I am not sure that's the right word. I don't mean "fear of gay people", I mean "fear of gay feelings".)

Lionel Poilâne

Lionel Poilâne. Very special bread. But what a dumb web site. There are two obvious buttons to press: "our shops", which leads to the physical shops' info, which I don't need since I'm on the web, and the bread icons at the bottom: these don't give any information about each type of bread, instead they just add a loaf to your cart, before you know anything about it.
Also it attempts to give a "virtual shop" experience with a big picture, something which was tried in the nineties and discarded because it's just stupid. And it's a poor Flash site, you can't use auto-fill of forms, and you can't enlarge the very tiny text. Further, it has animated arrows and a little dog's head (!) which keep distracting.

I don't think this is in the spirit of Lionel Poilâne, who was about simplicity. But I may persevere, since they apparently still make the bread in his spirit.

Update: I managed to find a description of the products: I clicked on "Company" at the top, and then at "bakery goods" at the extreme bottom.

TTL points to this, very funny.

Sexual ideas

After all these years somebody suddenly explained to me why children must be protected from seeing nudity: it might give them sexual ideas!

Wow. Yes. If you accept as a given that seeing nudity will make anybody think sex. And if you accept as a given that sex is evil. And if you accept as a given that children are always asexual, and therefore innocent. Then it's obvious. Seeing nudity will corrupt them. (Well, I guess you also have to accept as given that an asexual being can become a sexual one by casual visual input.)

In fact it's so obvious that nobody ever explained it! And, to me at least, the idea is so alien that I never understood it! So there we stand on separate little islands, totally foreign to each other.