Saturday, August 09, 2008

Stable CDs and laser light

Bert sort of made fun of this amazing CD Stabilizer found for only $172. But I dunno, I always felt that unstable CDs were probably affecting my life in a negative way.

It reminds me of twenny years ago when CDs were new, an audiofile friend of mine bought a "special pen" with which you painted the edge of CDs green. It stopped the laser light from being reflected back and messing up the playing. Problem is that even if we assume that that would really be a problem, then painting on the edge would not have any effect, since it would not stop light being reflected. The light is reflected by the phase change and won't care if it's a plastic/air surface or a plastic/paint surface.

Oooh, reminds me of a logical error in an otherwise very enjoyable SF novel, Consider Phlebas. The protagonists are shooting with laser guns at enemies hiding in an old ruin which is overgrown with moss. And they are being shot back at with lasers, at a furious rate. But then they discover that there is nobody in there, only the ruin is built from crystal, and the lasers are their own shots, bouncing around inside all the crystal and then being sent back.

Sounds neat, almost a pity to ruin it with logic: if the laser shot had the power to break through the moss the first time, why did it stop doing it on the other side? Why not just go straight through? Also, not being mirror, the crystal would only reflect less than ten percent of the light, so after a couple of bounces it would have been reduced to nothing. And finally, after bouncing about in there, what would happen to make the beam suddenly decide not to do it anymore, but to burn through the moss suddenly and escape? If it could, wouldn't it have done it the first time?

Apart from that, a romping good action space opera book.

Quick download

I got my cable modem upgraded a few weeks back. The overall speed is limited by many things on the Internet, so generally I've been pleased, but not impressed. But five minutes ago somebody sent me a 94MB file via, and it was downloaded in 45 seconds! Over 2MB per second. When I think back to modem days, if you even cared to attempt such a file and succeeded, that would be more like 12 hours.

by Thom

Thom Hogan has some interesting speculation.

To wit that the upcoming Nikon D80 replacement, called the D90, will be an evolutionary upgrade, but will be the first SLR to have video recording.

And: what if one of the "APS" makers (of cameras which have sensors smaller than 35mm format, which is the bulk of them) where to do what Olympus/Panasonic are doing now with the Four Thirds format (which is smaller yet) and eliminate the mirror box? Could the Micro Four Thirds format compete?

Angel Of The North

Angel Of The North, in Gateshead, Northern England. The wingspan is wider than the height of the Statue of Liberty. Each wing weighs 50 tonnes.

[BTW, does anybody know how to make Blogger add images to where the cursor is instead of at the top?]

This video of the Angel has a nice ending, visually.

Bill Sienkiewicz

How I miss* Bill Sienkiewicz, and how sad I am that Big Numbers was never finished. Both from the writer (Alan Moore) and the artist, it was a work so original that it goes beyond "seminal" because I don't think anybody could ever have emulated it.

Like most powerful artists, it seems that both Moore and Sienkiewicz have strong egos, and like often happens, they came in conflict somehow, and the series ended after two issues out of twelve planned.

* He's not dead, but for many years it seems he has produced very little, and what I've seen looks like he's coasting on skills learned earlier.
Here's an audio interview.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Not Without My Handbag

Alex pointed to Not Without My Handbag, a seminal piece of animation.

It's an Aardman production, which would normally mean claymation. But it does not look like claymation. And it's from 1993, which makes it unlikely to be CG.

I think it's regular stop-motion animation. The characters may have been made in clay, but I think they have been burned and varnished, they look hard and glossy. And the sets have a wonderful abstract quality. I think that is the way they are lit and filmed, they were probably made from paper, then painted.

More on Micro Four Thirds

A good article about the promise/problems of the Micro Four Thirds system I mentioned a couple of days ago.
And another one.

The upshot of the whole thing is that if this thing pans out as it should, we might in a year or two be looking at cameras with about the image quality of, say, the Nikon D80 (top notch), but half the size and half the weight. They may not be cheaper though, and they may be a little slower, we'll see.

Thursday, August 07, 2008


[Gee, this is turning out to be one of those abundant-posts days.]

There's a new up-and-coming photo magazine, Photo Icon. It turns out it's from the mind of our ole pal Petter Hegre.

I haven't read any of the paper issues yet, but from browsing a little on their site, it seems slick, professional, and dedicated. Perhaps a little on the slick and flash side for my taste, I sort of get the feeling that it's made by and for young professionals who, while they care a lot about art, are very strongly into their career and therefore into presenting the biggest possible impact all the time.

The same goes for the galleries (you can find list of pages/galleries on the lower left side of the page). Many nice pictures though. Petter himself has a nice art nude gallery.

The dog and the fence I like, fine art that:

While these below are more of the "career" type pictures, if you understand me. (Not that they are bad, maybe I just don't really get them.)

No Name, No Slogan

Our new slogan was inspired by a song by Ministry/Acid Horse, No Name, No Slogan. Old favorite. Sample on iTunes.

Lonely robot

I am watching Wallace And Gromit: A Grand Day Out, apparently for the first time, and I think I know what inspired Wall-E. That lonely moon robot is just ab fab.

Amazingly hard to find a good picture of, though. Does anybody know an image search which works better than Google's?
(I see Google is trying a system which awards people for labelling lots of images on the web. I wonder how that is going.)

BTW, I suddenly realized that (Wallace and Gromit creator) Nick Park is from these parts. Wallace keeps calling Gromit "lad", which normally means "boy", but is used in Lancashire for grown men too (and apparently anthropomorphic dogs). And in A Close Shave, the love interest Gwendolin has the last name of Ramsbottom, which apart from being funny is the name of a town not far from where I live. And her dog is named Preston, also a town close by, where Nick Park was born.

PPS: A Close Shave is just fantastic. Especially the last third, with the little airplane, the sheep balancing on the motorcycle, and the big shearing machine. I'm on the floor. (It took a little while, by the way, before I got the pun in Shaun The Sheep.)

Convenient Parking

And a cover version, weirdly set to a slide show of thin girls.

New Coolpix cameras

We can feel we are nearing the biannual Photokina exhibition (late September), the camera announcements are coming thicker.

Nikon has announced several new Coolpix (compacts) cameras. Most interesting for serious users (heavy addiction) would be the P6000 and possibly the s710. The former for sure looks very pro for a compact.

And they have very ambitious high-sensitivity ISO settings, but let's see how they perform in practice.

Air screen

It's only 2D yet, but it's still sort of a touchable hologram.
Obscura VisionAire Interface

The display part is musion eyeliner.

Toyota Winglet

New device, a "Segway lite".
It's not planned for the commercial market in the near future, though.

Pity is, many countries, like here in the UK, do not allow such a device on the sidewalks, and I'm not about to ride on about amongst the cars.

Promotional video.
I wonder who made, it does not look like an amateur site, but not like a big-corporate site either.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Could there be a Batman

I hate to blog an article about Batman "for real". But the article is in Scientific American, so that shows it's a serious subject, so there!
"How would all those beat-downs have affected his longevity?
Keeping in mind that being Batman means never losing: If you look at consecutive events where professional fighters have to defend their titles—Muhammad Ali, George Foreman, Ultimate Fighters—the longest period you're going to find is about two to three years. That dovetails nicely with the average career for NFL running backs. It's about three years. (That's the statistic I got from the NFL Players Association Web site.) The point is, it's not very long. It's really hard to become Batman in the first place, and it's hard to maintain it when you get there."

The article, though, does not go into what I consider more interesting: the psychological and sociological reasons why there is no Batman. Or just any serious and lasting vigilantes (if unlike Batman you don't mind using a gun, it'd be a lot easier). Given the everlasting popularity of vigilantes in popular fiction, it's clearly a deep-seated fantasy.

I'm guessing a person who is obsessed enough to do it won't have the skill and persistence to actually do it. And also, society just won't allow it. If somebody actually did, the fear of the vigilante would quickly become greater than the fear of the criminals, and the police would be forced to hunt him down. The Dark Knight Returns actually dealt with this question, one of the reasons it was such an outstanding book.

Math and politics

Yes, we have to divide up our time like that, between our politics and our equations. But to me our equations are far more important, for politics are only a matter of present concern. A mathematical equation stands forever.
-- Albert Einstein

I agree with Albert, and I would put art and philosophy in there too.

I don't direct myself too much, but I do have one personal policy which has needed enforcement occasionally: not to be concerned with politics, even in the widest sense. It's ephemeral like Mr. Einstein said, it's a rat's nest of insanity and territorial squabble, and what's worst, it's nigh impossible to accomplish anything of deep and lasting value.

Trouble is that it can be very hard not to get involved and get worked up about it, since your ego insists that it knows better than most people what would be right for most people.

But it can be done. I've done a lot of work with emotional release and "advanced forgiveness" (not mainly in this area), and I really am a lot less bothered by these things than I used to be.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Micro Four Thirds

Olympus and Panasonic has announced an off-shot to the Four Thirds system, called Micro Four Thirds. It has the lens closer to the sensor (by a dramatic 50%), so it won't allow for a mirror system, but will allow for more compact cameras, something which I have wished for often. Quoth the maven:
"... if a digital SLR camera can be designed to exclusively use Live View for shooting, the mirror box is no longer necessary and the camera can be designed with the kind of slim profile previously considered impossible, without compromising the high picture quality."

And I've also said that I consider using the LCD for framing to be in some ways superior to traditional viewfinders, and since omitting those will save money, bulk, and weight, I think this is very promising.

Of course the thing is that it will require all new lenses, new camera bodies, and possibly new sensors, so it may be a while before this pays off.

The reason the original Four Thirds system had a longer distance between lens and sensor was partly to make room for the mirror, but also because sensors demand a light entry angle pretty close to 90 degrees. But it seems they are finally making inroads on helping this problem.
Nut-shelling and press release post.

Of course a question might be: how many compact-camera users need or want exchangeable lenses?
And another: can they make the autofocus fast enough? SLR cameras have fast autofocus because they use "phase detection" technology. Compact cameras, and Micro Four Thirds ones, have to use "contrast measurement", which uses the image-forming sensor itself and which so far has been rather slower (though it's picking up a little in recent models).

Wouter said:
I personally would love to have a compact camera with interchangeable lenses. Hopefully these cameras will be equally sized as my Ricoh GX200.
I can be perfectly happy with the AF too. My compact camera is fast enough for me.

eolake said:
Yes, unless they really mess up, this should produce highly interesting cameras for the travel, street, hiking, and wilderness photographers. As well as just anybody who like good quality pictures but don't feel like having a separate bag for their camera.

I think though that they will be larger than your Ricoh, since the sensor is much larger.

Variety in music

All Indian music sounds the same to me.

Is that just my limited upbringing? If I had been brought up in India, would I find the same rich variety in Indian music as I do now in Anglo-Saxon music?

I could say the same thing, for me, about Arabic music, African music, or South-American music. Is it just me being a bigot, or does the European/American tradition really have more variety than music from other continents? Enquiring minds want to know. Perhaps readers with a richer life experience than me (not hard to find!) can enlighten me?

Bert stepped up:

It has been demonstrated for a while now that the decoding of visual information is a complex process, carried out by multiple mechanisms located in different areas of the brain.

For instance, the ability to instantly recognize familiar shapes comes from the pre-processing done in the optic stem, and not the brain itself (which is too slow). This pre-processor is trained mostly in the early ages, and will adapt to any given environment. The older you get, the harder the retraining.

Conscious exploration of an unfamiliar scene (like, say, an artist's rendition of an alien society) takes much time and effort, when compared to just looking out your window. People who have traveled far will know the feeling too.

[I do believe that a great deal of an artist's quest in the visual arts resides in going beyond this automatic understanding of our perceptions. To "unlearn" what has been automated, in order to view things as they truly are. But I digress.]

It has been my opinion for some time now that the same must be true of hearing. The most obvious signs come from the processing of spoken language. For example, it has been demonstrated that natural and second languages (i.e. learned pass the age of about six) are processed in different areas of the brain.

As a consequence, while one will effortlessly decipher any variation on his own mother tongue, localized accents in a second language often are a problem (for me, anyway).

I believe that in this regard, music should also be considered as a form of language in its own right, and that some training of specialized sub-processors is involved in the decoding.

If the parallel with speech holds, it is therefore likely that "alien" music (let's call it that, for we are all somebody's alien ;) is not processed in the same way as the music one has grown up listening to. It would require some re-training of the hearing centers before alien music could be fully "understood", and even then it is likely to never become completely familiar.

Note that differences in hearing between people go much deeper than that. For instance, I do believe that musicians and non-musicians do not hear the same thing when listening to music. For example, when two different musical pieces are played at the same time, I hear mostly unpleasant noise, and separating the two requires a great deal of conscious effort. Yet I have seen musicians write down the score of a part they were "working on" while humming to background music. And by "working on", I do mean listening to it. To a tone-deaf person like me, this kind of feat does appear impossible.

Yet, in my years as a sound man, I did demonstrate an ability to decompose and debug "sound images" that was uncanny to many musicians. This often led to strange situations where, while both the musician(s) and I were working on the same piece, we had the hardest time communicating (while we managed to make fun of this most of the time and did manage to achieve good to outstanding results, it was extremely inefficient and that's what ultimately led me to pursue other endeavors).

It is likely that there are many more forms of hearing, apart from the two I describe above, although I cannot easily imagine what those might be. Anyway, such variations certainly explain in part why we are constantly puzzled by others. Brings us back to this old cliché: reality, as filtered be our own abilities, simply isn't the same for each of us. [Perhaps bigots see something really ugly when they look at the naked body. =8O ]

Note that the above is only an opinion of mine, supported by little scientific fact... much more would need to be said and done to fully explore the topic.

Porn/rape connection

People and organizations who want to ban pornography usually claim that porn causes sex crime. This seems unreasonable to many of us, since porn is a safe outlet. And it seems to me that the typical rapist is a very repressed individual, not a permissive one.

Pascal pointed me to this article, which is the most scientific coverage of this issue I've seen yet. It has some focus on Japan, since the data from there are more abundant and clearer than most of the world. Quote:
"It is certainly clear from our data and analysis that a massive increase in available pornography in Japan has been correlated with a dramatic decrease in sexual crimes..."

Remarkable: the best data available points to pornography helping to decrease sex crime!

I am sure that when those ultraconservative pressure groups hear about this, they will change their mind. They will. I'm sure. They must. Surely.

High school popularity

When I was in high school in Denmark, I did not notice any particular ranking of the students, like how "popular" somebody was, whatever that means. But if one judges by American movies and TV shows, it seems that popularity in high school is spectacularly important there, even decades after one has left. I wonder if that is true in real life too?

Really, it must be an American phenomenon. Whether now or as a kid, if somebody told me something like "he's very popular", I'd go "huh?" I have no idea what it means. And I don't recall a single time in my entire life anybody has said something like that.

"So, weren't there jocks and nerds in Danish high schools?"

There kind of where, if you think about it, but there was not the heavy compartmentalizing and labeling and competition-mindedness I hear about. Everybody just did their own thing.

"Didn't the jocks get all the chicks? Did no one care about sports?! Say it ain't so!"

It is so.

Maybe these days they have organized games between schools and so on, but I don't recall any from my day (late seventies).

I think it's one of the best traits of the Danes that everything in life is not regarded as a competition. They are very laid-back. Winning is not a life or death issue.
And despite this, they have world class athletes, I guess this tells us that being super-stressed about success is not too helpful.

BTW, how come the "high school kids" in Grease were in their twenties? Hell, the heroine was twenty-nine!

Brian said:
Eolake, a lot of your posts here seem to be a lot of "see how inferior everything Americans do is." Maybe that's not the case but it sure seems like it some times. I'm not convinced that the hierarchy that exists in American high schools isn't a good thing. What's wrong with social competition? It sure happens in the world beyond high school.

I don't wish it to seem like I want to knock Americans. I sure as heck consume with pleasure a lot more American culture and art than from any other single country, and lots of my friends are American. (Not to mention business connections and customers.)

Maybe it's the huge impact American culture has had on me which suddenly makes it stand out when I spot something I don't understand well and want to think about or talk about. I try to do it with love.

I think competition is a great thing. If it is friendly competition. If people realize that competitors are not enemies which need to be trodden into the dirt.

And I think social competition is unfortunate, because it does not judge accomplishments, but people.

Monday, August 04, 2008

No more trap door?

Oh, poot. Maybe somebody has solved how to get past the visual code system for comments on blogs and so on. And seems proud of it, deeming from the moniker he used on a spam comment I just got on the 'male nudes' post:


Download our desktop themes and animated scenery screensavers: waterfalls, butterflies, tropical fish aquariun, mountains, forests, suns of beaches...
Cheap! Click NOW! (Come on, you know you want to. Why wait?)
Also available: girl dances and strips on your desktop (not out #1 selling item, but still a favorite)


1: it's from a guy calling himself "spammer through the trap dooor".
2: It has those odd top and bottom codes I mentioned I'd seen on YouTube.
3: ... There's no link to his site! How will he sell anything?

Ivory Coast scam

Wow, it's been years since I got a decent Nigerian scam mail. But here's a new, funny one, from a "Miss Piapota Solange from Cote d'ivoire".

"Please note that the security company does not know the content of the box. Your suggestions and ideas will be highly regarded. Now permit me to ask these few questions: - 1. Can you honestly help me imagine I am your child? 2. Can I completely trust you? 3. I have decided to offer you 20 % of the total sum. 4. How can you assist me also in moving away from this place? Thank you so much. Solange"

Draw in the air

Bert points to this cool 3D sketching method.

It seems to me that if it were combined with some kind of 3D display method, so the lines appeared in the air instead of on a screen, then you'd really have something.
... Maybe something with smoke particles and lasers... where two laser beams hit a particle, it lights up, otherwise not...

Global animation community

I've sometimes thought one of the coolest things to do would be to write and design an animated movie. And TTL rightly points out that when you do it in CGI, you don't need people in the same place and time, which is a huge advantage. And points to Wreck a Movie, which seems to be a very promising venture for helping people collaborate.

I love to write and design, but I'd never have the patience to do the animation myself, so it's a very interesting idea this.

So far they're in alpha stage and only working on the Iron Sky, which looks gorgeous.

Sunday, August 03, 2008


Judging by the vanishingly small number of comments on their blog, even with art previews, Spawn, which threatened to be the next big thing in the nineties, now has fewer readers than I have. No wonder they apparently are ending the comic book.

I read Spawn for a while there, but as the numbering approached a hundred issues, it began to feel to me like they had no idea where to take the character, and they were not in a hurry to find out.

Also, in typical Image Comics style, the comic was a continuing quest to find stronger and stronger effects, regardless of any much content. The number of lines in a drawing and the number of spikes-and-shit on Spawns costume just reached levels where people unfamiliar with comics surely had trouble figuring out what the heck they were even looking at.

I think the syndrome is the youthful one of the non-stop quest for MORE AND MORE EXCITEMENT! And it's like a drug which will keep the unaware audience member trapped and keep him oblivious that he is starving to death. Well, he is doing it to himself, of course.

The Were-rabbit

I just re-watched Wallace and Gromit: The Curse Of The Wererabbit.

Like I said, you can't go wrong.
I'm particularly impressed by the sets. The buildings, landscapes, vehecles, rooms greenhouses. They are just gorgeous. Detailed, huge. Realistic, yet somehow meta-real.
And they way they've filmed it, the lighting and the movement, it creates a world in a way I can't immediately compare to many, if any, other animated films.

See these pictures, for lord's sake: can you believe these are sets from an animated movie?


More on LX3

More image samples from the Panasonic LX3. Not bad at all. I don't think I've seen a better 800 ISO performance from a compact.

The Dark Knight

I haven't seen The Dark Knight yet, but I'm looking forward to it more than I was to the first one, because of the new incarnation of the Joker. He is just fabulous, he oozes psychotic threat. Not just the make-up, but the way he is played, the posture, the voice, the sort-of-relaxedness.

I wonder if it's a coincidence that it features Harvey Dent and the Joker, just like the Frank Miller book of the same name?

Amazingly, this creepy joker was played by a young, pretty actor, Heath Ledger, who I was not familiar with. Sadly he died later by prescription drug overdose. I was just looking forward to more power performances by him.

From wikipedia:
Heath Ledger described the Joker as a "psychopathic, mass murdering, schizophrenic clown with zero empathy". Nolan had wanted to work with Ledger on a number of projects in the past, but had been unable to do so. When Ledger saw Batman Begins, he realized a way to make the character work consistent with the film's tone, and Nolan agreed with his anarchic interpretation. To prepare for the role, Ledger lived alone in a hotel room for a month, formulating the character's posture, voice, and psychology, and kept a diary, in which he recorded the Joker's thoughts and feelings. While he initially found it difficult, Ledger eventually generated a voice unlike that of Jack Nicholson's character in Tim Burton's 1989 Batman film.

I'll bet he found it difficult, Nicholson was powerfully seminal in that film.

Is it just me, though, or are action film trailers in a rut? Just hear those deep booms which for no reason fill the first seconds of the trailer. How many times have we heard that now? Dozens? Hundreds?

First bread

[Update: does anybody know why one only adds raisins or nuts near the end of the kneading cycle? They'd dry out the dough or something?]

From my new bread machine comes the first bread I ever baked as far as I recall.

It is delicious.
I started with the simplest recipe: just wholemeal flour, quick-yeast, butter, water, and sugar and salt. (I always thought the sugar was for taste, but it is in a tiny quantity and is there to influence the rising.) I think one could even do without the salt and the butter, maybe I'll try just for kicks.

Only imperfection of the loaf is a faint odor of either dough or yeast, I'm not sure which. I did use a whole sachet of yeast though, next time I'll use less like the recipe says.

Mike said:
You can't leave out the salt when baking bread. It enhances the texture by stopping the yeast operating so it controls the fermentation rate of the yeast. It also strengthens the effect on the glutens n the dough.
h2g2 says: "Salt is an essential ingredient, so don't skip it. Bread is insipid without the addition of salt. It also conditions the dough, making it firmer and more resilient and it tempers the yeast, thus making the bread more digestible. On a simple level, the more salt there is, the longer the dough takes to rise. Generally, longer-maturing doughs require more salt than shorter-time doughs.
How about the quality of the salt? Table salt and free-running salts available in the supermarket have magnesium carbonate and other chemicals added to keep them dry and free-running. If the aim is to make and eat 'real' bread, pure salt should be used. Fortunately, seasalt and rocksalt are both easily sourced these days."
TTL said there'd be a riot if I posted something which pushed Nigella Lawson down on the page without a new picture to make up for it. I aim to please.

By the way maybe this and definitely the first picture of her I suspect of being much retouched, based on snapshots elsewhere. Nobody is that beautiful, and she does not appear to be in snapshots.
If I hadn't seen it I wouldn't have thought of it, but they can really alter features in Photoshop. For instance, in the picture below, I suspect her smile has been widened.