Saturday, November 22, 2008

Fujifilm 3D camera (prototype)

Fujifilm 3D camera (prototype) preview.

... It seems CNET Asia calls a camera a "shooter". I thought a shooter was like Jack Ruby.

Getting text read aloud

One of the things I looked forward to about Mac OS X Leopard was its excellent new voice Alex, which is a big step forward in computer voices from the old ones. I imagined I'd have it read long text from the web, then import it to iTunes and get it read from my iPod during a walk or in my bed.
But doing this is so tedious that I just don't do it.

But now I found an Automator macro which does it all automatically! And it does not even need the time to actually have the text-to-speech facility read the text aloud, somehow that step is skipped. I just tested it, it worked perfectly first time. Just select and copy the desired text, and run the macro, and boom, scant seconds later the sound file sits in iTunes for you. Kewl.

Here's the file of it reading the text above. (It can't separate present tense "read" from past tense "read", it seems. Ah well.)

Tip: "songs" made for iTunes like this (or many other ways) do not automatically remember how far you've played them, like audiobooks do. This can be fixed by selecting the "song" in iTunes, selecting Get Info in the popup menu, and under options selecting "remember playback position".

Update: I'm testing Infovox' voices. They're maybe a little smoother, but I'm not sure they are worth 99 bucks. Before Leopard it would have been a clearer choice.

Guns And Roses (updated)

I never really knew Guns And Roses, but their new release sounds like good hard rock.

Except maybe I never really understood the branch of heavy metal which involves the singer singing falsetto, sounding like a little girl. Doesn't seems all that manly to me. But of course after the tights, the long hair, and the make-up, what do you have to lose?

Update: China bars the album.

By the way, I spell it "Guns And Roses" because I think the habit of using "n" for "and" is a bit childish. Just my subtle chiding there. (Surely too subtle by half.)

The fearless vampire hunters

[Thanks to Paul]
You know, sometimes I forget that we don't live in a sane world, and then something like this happens.

Buddha Boy

Batgirl, Superboy, and BuddhaBoy?
"We do not believe he is Buddha. He does not have Buddha's qualities," said Mahiswor Raj Bajracharya, president of the Nepal Buddhist Council, a centre for Buddhist study and research in Kathmandu.
"He may have achieved great heights in meditation, but that alone does not make him a Buddha. A Buddha needs life experience, a young man who has not seen the world at all cannot be a Buddha," said Bajracharya.

I doubt this young man is Buddha, but the statement above seems weird to me. For one thing, in all I've read about Buddhism, I've never heard that achieving bodhi depended upon life experience. For another thing, why would somebody who believes in reincarnation dismiss life experience from previous lifetimes? If one has to start from scratch in every lifetime, that would dismiss the whole basis for their beliefs.

Camera comparison

There's another new and interesting camera comparison site.

"Contrary to conventional wisdom, higher resolution actually compensates for noise", article.
"This Insight uses currently-available DSLRs to demonstrate the technique for objectively comparing noise for cameras with different levels of resolution. Such comparisons conclusively show better results overall for high-resolution sensors, despite the increase in noise."

More film vs digital

Nikon F5 versus Nikon D700, video. They make huge blowups of pretty much the same picture, made on film and on digital. (We're talking big prints here, they took two days to make.)

Friday, November 21, 2008


I just came across these postcards that I drew years ago. Some of you may not have seen them. I'm quite pleased with the line work I achieved.

Giving thanks

Woa, my head cold seems to be over. That's a real good item for thanksgiving, yesterday I was so miserable I just wanted to blow my itching noggin' off.
Feeling good today.

Also I got a bank statement today, and I'm happy that the Sterling, much to my surprise, has slid compared to the dollar. The opposite direction over the past few years really hurt my bottom line, since I earn in dollars but live in the UK. It was almost down to 1:2 and it's now closer to 1:1.5, that makes a huge difference for me.

Since I'm doing this... 2008 has been a good year for me personally. I've worked diligently on my spiritual journey in the mystical (non-duality) way, and it has often been hard, but I feel I've made amazing progress, and I can't wait to see how the rest of it turns out.

Had too much to drink

Today's youth can't hold their drink.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Toothpick sculptures

Scott Weaver builds amazing sculptures from toothpicks. Video. Photos.

I like that his sculptures have so much air in them as well as imagination, both are almost unique in such art. Usually it's just fairly representational art of famous buildings.

How the hell do you transport something like this, and expecially his massive Rolling Through The Bay sculpture?

I wonder if they mean "matches" (headless ones from hobby shops) when they say "toothpicks". Matches are much better for building. I was interested in this as a kid. And I picked it up again some years ago, for fine art. Though I did it with painted matches, it'll last better and adds a lot of dimension to it. I wonder why I've never seen anybody else do that.

Head cold

Blogging less since yesterday, I have a head cold. Never had it like this before, besides using a million tissues, every two minutes my eyes start burning and watering like crazy. It's damn irritating. I guess it's infection of whaz-names, the spaces around the eyes.

Naked November

Pascal told me:
CJ Burgandy is a webcomic artist, a female, she's going to publish a naked babe drawing every day this month, and I find her dancing avatar just irresistibly cute.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Miss Piggy on Scrubs

I love that the Scrubs stars (unlike many guests on Muppet Show back when) play it absolutely deadpan.

The one below must have taken a ton of work. So far as I can see, it's the sound track from an episode of Scrubs, with bits of Charlie Brown retrofitted and synchronized to fit it. Don't you think?

Driving practice

Michelin loves this guy.
Holy f**k, he can drive.
What impresses me the most is when he rounds a cone at full speed, and the front of the car is a foot from the cone the whole way around.

TC points to this one.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Formality vs what matters

Nerds don't just happen to dress informally. They do it too consistently. Consciously or not, they dress informally as a prophylactic measure against stupidity.
-- Paul Graham, September 2004, What the Bubble Got Right

For example, teenage kids pay a great deal of attention to clothes. They don't consciously dress to be popular. They dress to look good. But to who? [...]
Nerds don't realize this. They don't realize that it takes work to be popular. [...]
The main reason nerds are unpopular is that they have other things to think about.
-- Paul Graham, Why Nerds Are unpopular

Clothing is only the most visible battleground in the war against formality. Nerds tend to eschew formality of any sort. They're not impressed by one's job title, for example, or any of the other appurtenances of authority.
-- Paul Graham, September 2004, What the Bubble Got Right
(This article also has highly interesting observations about the Net and finance.)

I guess I'm a nerd at heart, even though I've never written a line of computer code.
I always had this instinctive reaction against formality. My reaction is that if formality is very important to a person, there's something wrong. I'm guessing forms has replaced simple observation and perception. If the fact that a person doesn't wear a tie or is using the wrong fork blinds you to what qualities that person has, then you have a problem.

When I was at the United Nations hosted event for the Writers Of The Future event no. five, nigh twenty years ago, I turned up in a bright red shirt and without jacket. The organizer, Fred Harris, was worried about perceptions, I guess (I would be on stage getting my award), so he made me go to his hotel room to loan a jacket and tie. His senior, being more perceptive, asked me if I minded doing this. I said that actually I did, since my attire was a statement. Harris, not being slow, then thanked me nicely for doing it.

Seriously, I might not even do it today. If whether I'm wearing a tie/jacket or not is more important that who I am and what I've written, then they can go frig themselves. I don't have to pander to anybody.

And I notice that some of the most successful people in the world (Steve Jobs springs to mind) dress very informally. And I don't think any CEOs would refuse a meeting with any of them. So maybe people can learn.

Update: re the Nerds article: I've blogged about this before... I can't believe the differences between what I hear about American high schools and what I experienced in school in my day in Denmark. This cruel and insane "popularity" war? Never heard of it. Don't understand it. What does "popular" even mean? Why would somebody admire somebody for being popular?
And the school administration's main aim is to keep the kids on the premises? Wha? When I was in school, we left the school any time we wanted at recess, to go buy snacks or to go browse stores in town. What are American schools, reform institutions?

Jes said:
I would much rather be a nerd anyway. Cool people have to conform to being cool. A nerd can be whatever he wants to be.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

A political victory, a rise of rents, the recovery of your sick, or the return of your absent friend, or some other favorable event, raises your spirits, and you think good days are preparing for you. Do not believe it. Nothing can bring you peace but yourself.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

"Do not seek yourself outside yourself."

Jefferson Airplane - White Rabbit

Funny enough I was just conversing about psychedelic poetry when Pascal sent me this.

Is she nice or what? Beyond the name I was not aware of Jefferson Airplane and I did not know it had a gorgeous chick in it.

Jan points to, of all things, a Star Trek version. It uses the studio version which is even better. 
I remember many years ago when I first heard of William Shatner (Star Trek was not shown on Danish TV in my youth), and somebody being a big fan of him. Somehow I got the idea that he was the writer of Star Trek, and I thought: finally somebody acknowledges the importance of the writer instead of just the actors. No such luck. 


Update: above is a picture of the "opgang" I lived in, in 2001 in Copenhagen.

In Danish, a set of apartments connected to the same stairwell is called an "opgang". But what's the English (or American) word for it?

OK, you have a street with many apartments. No space between the houses. And each door leads into a stairwell with, say, six apartments. "Opgang" is used both for the stairwell itself (the word means "walk-up") and the whole set of apartments connected to it.

Maybe this arrangement of apartments, so exceedingly common in Copenhagen, is not very common on a global scale.

I don't think there's a word for it. But it would be very useful for city dwellers. A guy today called it a "unit". Like:

"I spoke to somebody from your unit yesterday, they said you got a new back door."

"When we moved in, we held a housewarming party for everybody in the unit, to get to know them."

"I've lived here for two months, and I still haven't met everybody in the unit."

I've also heard it called a "block". Though that's also used for all the houses between four streets.

Mike is vindicated

Mike is vindicated, consumers want specs, not quality.

Also there's the second article about diffraction.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

RED and obsolescence

Jim Jannard writes about obsolescence on a forum.

Just the fact that the founder of a company writes and reads on a user forum is remarkable. I don't think we'll see Canon's CEO do that any day soon!

And next, that they strive hard to make obsolescence (dang, hard word to write) as easy on their customers as possible instead of profiting on it, is fantastic.
They make each bit upgradable, and they have a great trade-in program. Very kool.

Soapy water

Since yesterday the root of one of my fingernails (I'm not sure if this is an English term also... I mean the section of skin just above the nail, where the nail is growing from) had been irritated more and more. I kept pushing back the cuticle, but no avail. Then I noticed the skin had gone red: dang, infected.

I made a glass of hot water and dissolved a bit of scrapings from a bar of soap in it. (I don't know if detergent or dishwash fluid would work, doubt it.) And I'd heard salt helped, so I put a little bit of that in it too. Then I sat with my finger in it, but only for maybe five minutes before I was interrupted.

And yet, next I looked at it, the redness had gone, and all the pain too. That's pretty durn amazing. (I'll probably have to do it again of course.)
It's good for an ingrown toenail too, they can be very painful, I had one last year. That takes several days and applications though, and it's good to start early.

Pascal, MD, says:

Hot water in itself is a very good remedy against infection. Simply from the temperature. Add to this that salty water AND soap each have an antiseptic effect. (Clean sea water is always good for cleaning a wound.)

Temperature had an amazing effect on immunity. The main reasons why we often fall sick in winter are:
- Cold weakens our body defenses
- Being cooped up inside because of the cold allows for germs to get concentrated by poor ventilation, increasing contamination
- Cold and moisture favor the growth of many germs in nature; not all of them like warmth

Fever is a classic response of the body to microbial agressions, be they from a bacteria or a virus. A few added degrees boost the efficiency of our immune system, antibodies, phagocyte cells, etc. As doctors, we were taught very early to RESPECT fever, and to not insist on "treating" it as such, because not only is it an indicator, it's also a good help with the healing process. The only two downsides of fever are:
- Above a certain threshold, it becomes harmful to the body. 40°Celsius is OK. 41°C is a problem. 43°C can kill a person in perhaps a couple of hours, exactly like heat stroke. So fever needs to be kept under control.
- It makes you very tired. All that extra heat is produced, of course, by an increase in body metabolism, like running your engine on neutral to warm it up. A lot of extra lassitude comes from the fact that the immune response in itself is an intense invisible metabolic effort. Lots of antibody proteins and lymphocute cells etc. to produce. This is why ill people NEED rest, and to be kept warm for a double reason: temperature itself, and saving on the energy that being cold uses up to keep body temperature.
Pretty much stating the basics, but they're not always obvious to the lay man.
So, fever needs to be lowered if it becomes dangerously high, or if it causes real discomfort to the patient. There IS no third reason.

Some cancers of the limbs are very difficult to treat with classic therapies. Among these, osteosarcoma, a very nasty malignant bone cancer that typically hits the young. Like, double "ouch", dude. In the past, fatal issue was usually averted by amputation, which is pretty radical. But limbs have one great advantage: they contain no highly specialized neurons, unlike the brain. Heat kills us by hurting the brain cells, essentially. The viscera also don't fancy it too much.
But the limbs? They're made of skin, muscle, bone, nerves, blood vessels, connective tissue. Pretty basic stuff, and all very resilient to heat. Can withstand 45°C with no problem. Think about when you dip your feet into very hot water, that ALMOST burns you, but if you can withstand the pain it soon goes away and makes your flu feel SO much better.
This is used against the terrible osteosarcoma. Provided the patient can tolerate the discomfort, their limb is put in a heating system that maintains a temperature of 45°C for a few hours, rinse and repeat every day. Wreaks havoc on cancerous cells. Because, although they're originally our own cells, by turning cancerous they become abnormal. 90 to 99% of cancers are naturally eliminated by the healthy immune system and we never even feel them. Heat helps it destroy a limb cancer.
Reversely, AIDS patients, whom by definition have a breakdown of their immune system, encounter a very high rate of cancers, including some which would NEVER evolve in a normal person. Typical example: the famed Kaposi sarcoma, incredibly rare before 1981.

As a conclusion: when using heat (along with salty or soapy water) to snuff out an infection, you just have to make sure you don't give yourself a burn by overdoing it. Burned tissues don't defend themselves very well.

Eolake's method should, by all acounts, also work wonders on warts.

Ministry - Lay Lady Lay (updated)

Like most Ministry videos (for some reason) the video sorta sucks, so just ignore it and listen to the music, it's a great Dylan cover.

I like this amateur video better. It's for Scarecrow, another favorite from that album.

Here's another good one, more recent:

Funny kids

If you don't care for toddlers being funny, don't go here. If you do, here's one, and here. and not the least, here.