Saturday, January 10, 2009

New drawing, Girlface

(Marker and color pencil. About A4 size. Click to see very big.)
(Original for sale at £100.)

Pogue and Matt

[Thanks to TTL] David Pogue interviews Matt "Where The Hell Is Matt" Harding. Must-watch, very funny.
As is this one, related. And this graphic.

Einstuerzende Neubauten - The Garden

Talk about minimalist. Oi loik it.

Dave Sim's Glamourpuss

Dave Sim's Glamourpuss. Dave Sim making comics again. I honestly didn't see it coming. When you read his non-fiction writing in recent years he sounds like his mind has imploded, he honestly can't go for two paragraphs without turning whatever the subject is into a rant against feminism. But I'm glad he's making comics again, for he's an amazing comic artist, so I'll buy Glamourpuss.

Here the official comic site (no up to date info though), and here is, amazingly, his blog. But true to form, it's done by proxy, Dave Sim apparently regards any technology newer than the typewriter as... well, I don't know what, but he either can't or won't use computers.
He once had a rant about how viewing art on the web is like printing paintings on postage stamps. I wrote to him that it was just a matter of time, and resolution. I was right. He ought to see what color art looks like on my 30-inch screen, compared to the cheap newspaper-print black-and-white line art of his comic books.

Friday, January 09, 2009

The chicken head stabilizer

If I could do that, my pictures would never be shaken. Stirred, maybe.

Leica and water

"When photographer shoot on-site, having an excellent camera like Leica M8.2 is not enough, staying hydrated is also an essence."
I'm not even sure what this is. An article? An ad for Fiji Water? An ad for Leica?

What combination next? Mercedes cars and Kitty Litter? Apple Macintosh computers and styrofoam? Bang and Olufsen stereos and McDonalds burgers?

Stephen Fry on language

Stephen Fry has a podcast, kewl. In the latest one, he delightfully educates and waxes lyrical on the delights of language, particularly the English one.

Funny thing: when I heard that he was also railing against linguistic pedantry, I said: "hah, that's rich. I saw him on the TV show Q.I., giving a stern lecture to somebody about how it is supposed to be "there is none" and not "there are none". But then of course who is more likely to be interested in helping the world with a problem than those who themselves have suffered from that exact problem?"
And lo: it turns out that in the podcast, Fry admits he has had problems himself with excessive linguistic pedantry. And not only that, the "there is none" thing is the exact example he uses! He now proudly says "there are none". (The theory for "is", is that "none" is a contraction of "not one", and so is singular.)

I'm delighted in how he compares English to London, being a big, rich mishmash of times and styles, and in constant evolvement, so it can't be said that anything is "correct" or "incorrect". And I agree that we are better off delighting in the richness and variety, rather getting hung up on details of grammar.

I also applaud Fry for admitting in public to having issues also with "gluttony, anger, and selfishness" (me too), and saying part of his life is fighting these issues. I think recognizing our own issues and working on them despite the odds against fully winning any time soon is the mark of maturity.


I didn't know Stephen is a super-uber-geek.
"Tribal loyalties have riven the world of personal computing since Bill Gates came late on the scene and took every IBM-compatible user with him. A triumph of business manoeuvring, a triumph of opportunism, a triumph of financial acumen, a triumph of all kinds of things except computer science or technological advancement, in the opinion of people like me at least. Every time Windows had a rebirth I would get hold of it and buy a new machine to run it on believing that they must now have got things right and finally created an operating environment that could excite, impress and enthral me. But each time their system got more ham-fisted, more insulting and more indifferent to the pleasures and interests of the consumer."

"Weird to remind ourselves yet again of just how unanimous in their scepticism the press and professional techies were about the possibility of Apple being able to make a dent in the market as an untried newcomer while now we’re already thinking of them as the big brutal bullying champion. How could the major players have left a gap in the market so wide that a complete novice in mobile telephony could so instantly shame them? Shame them in the eyes of the world, at least, if not in their own. The excuses made by the CEOs and spokesmen of BigCell for their failures remind me of publishers I have met who have tried to explain why they turned down the manuscript of J. K. Rowling’s first Harry Potter novel. ‘Ah, yes. You see it was our publishing house’s policy not to consider MSS over 40,000 words for the children’s market… nothing I could do. No point even reading it….’ ‘Ah, yes, well, you see it’s not our fault it was the networks/It was not our fault it was the manufacturers.’ Hmmmmm."

UK police and photogs again

Seriously, what the f**k is wrong with UK police these days? They seem to take pride in intense harassment of photographers of any stripe.
(Links here to other recent cases.)

US site: PhotographyIsNotACrime. (Deadly Ernest pointed to this article.)
That site also has a video of the BART shooting. What I don't get is: a dozen people saw and filmed the copper shooting an unarmed man in the back, killing him. Why hasn't he yet been charged with anything, much less murder? How come police apparently can get away with shooting people? (Even in peaceful Denmark, there was a protest in the nineties where police shot at the crowd. So far as I know, nothing was ever resolved from the official "investigation".)

Subjects are where?

[Thanks to NeutralDay.] Short article on what to photograph.

Ponzi scheme, investing and gambling

Reading about the current affair with Bernard Madoff, I came across a term of something I was a bit familiar with, a Ponzi scheme.

Back just after the millennium, I met an old acquaintance who told me of some fantastic investment opportunities he had found: you could get 10-15% on your money per month, and you even got a special debit card to withdraw money from anywhere in the world. There were papers about it describing practice and theory, and my friend was an old hand and had been a very successful businessman for decades, so I believed it all. And lost around $5,000 eventually.

Sometimes these schemes collapse suddenly, and sometimes they are dragged out and there keep popping new explanations up about why you can't yet get all the money you were promised. For example they "have trouble from traditional banking institutions", who obviously are trying to suppress competition from this new amazing investment business!

Basically, what I have learned since then is that anything which promises you more than around 5% (per year!) has risk. The higher the return, the higher the risk, it's very simple. That's because the economy as a whole doesn't grow more than a couple of percent per year, and nobody can predict the future. (Track record is no indication.)

Investing is always gambling to some degree. Even for experienced investors. Don't gamble with money you can't afford to lose, no matter what hot tips you get. If something is certain, others will already have heard about it, and the price will have gone up.


That Madoff guy, jeeeezuz! Swindling for billions! Did he expect to get away with it? And what's the point? How much better will your life be at 100 billion than it is at 100 million?

TC said:
Who knows how many stories, like this one there will be to read, in the coming years!

Thursday, January 08, 2009

New mini-drawing

Pogue on the expo

David Pogue reports on this week's Apple Expo and the (fairly low-key) new announcements.
You can watch Phil Schiller's keynote here. (I am still stunned to be watching flawless streamed video in HD! Wow.) *
As you may know, Phil replaced Steve Jobs this year for keynote speaker. And it's the last year Apple is at that expo. I'm guessing Steve does not feel so well as he sounds, otherwise why would he miss his last year on the keynote stage? (Last even he was preciously little time on the stage too.)

Anyway... I am often a little shocked to find how few of technological advances I had predicted. I guess it shows there's lots new under the sun yet.
For example, iMovie '09's killer feature: software image stabilization! Pogue writes:
"This program can do an insanely great job of turning a bouncy, jerky handheld camcorder shot into something smooth and level (following a long period of analysis; let it run unattended while you go get lunch). I tried it on about five different clips, some of which were VERY unsteady. It works so well, a couple of observers complained that it looked unnatural; the floaty SteadiCam feeling is so noticeable, it doesn't look like home movies anymore. No big deal; you can double-click a stabilized clip to open up an intensity slider that you can adjust to back off the effect."

*Update: I see that now, not only don't I have a delay restarting the stream, but I can click on a future point in the stream, and there's still no buffer delay! Kool. Maybe now Quicktime buffers far ahead while I pause. It didn't used to, only last year if I paused there were often long delays on starting again, and sometimes connection failures.
... Hmmm, I don't know about buffering, because if I pause the stream, I can see downloading data stop too. So I wonder where QT gets the data to start immediately at any point. I guess my connection to Apple's server is just so darn fast the buffer is nearly superfluous. (I do have a fast connection now, it's often in the Tb range, particularly with Apple's great Akamai servers.) Impressive.
... Great, no sooner had I written this than I started having problems with stutters and QuickTime "quitting unexpectedly" as Apple calls it. Ah well.

Grim fairy tales and Simpsons movie

Ten gruesome tales described like they were originally, before they were sanitized by modern squeamishness.

Like the cop says in the Simpsons Movie when he shoots at Bart for being naked in public: "Stop! In the name of American squeamishness!"

I've just re-watched that movie by the way, this time on blu-ray, and I'm a little stunned. It's hard to think of films where you'd less expect to find visual richness than a Simpsons movie, but it really has it. It's just full of landscapes and sceneries which just glow in High Definition. Beautiful artwork. It makes me want to do more drawing.
And many of those wonderfully detailed pictures are only on the screen for one second or two. They really did not spare any effort with this movie.
(By the way, the movie looks a lot better on my HD tv than it appears to do on the photo below that I took of the screen, it's amazingly crisp. It seems screens always appear lousy in photos, interference patterns etc.) (TC points to these high res pics from the film.)

The movie is hilarious too.
I hear hints that some old fans think the Simpsons is not as funny as it was in the early years. I don't get that, I only thought it got really good after the first few years. I guess it's like with David Bowie: if you were a fan in the early years, you're likely to think he lost it later. Not sure why. Maybe it's just not what you expect anymore. Or maybe you changed yourself. I only started with the Simpsons after the millennium, on DVDs, so it didn't happen to me.

One of my favorite jokes in the movie is when something appears in the sky over the town which is so big it blots out most of the sky. A crowd of people come out of the church and a crowd comes out from the bar next door. The all stare in horror upwards, and then mortal fear sets in, and the bar crowd run into the church... and the church crowd runs into the bar.
It's funny because it's true, isn't it? We all have a solution to life, and then when that one is dramatically being shown not to work, we suddenly change to a new solution which surely must work.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Mood monitors

[Thanks to TTL.] Cute woman, this psychologist.

I think many people have a fear of "becoming too introverted". And it's understandable, it can temporarily hurt your productivity and such, and in most western countries introversion is something which is stigmatized as being an unhealthy condition. But who amongst us don't have feelings we would like to be without? And the more I learn, the more I see the astounding amount of feelings and mental phenomena we are not even aware about. Which I think, per this video, is a field which we now see embryonic technology to help us with.

Twitter and obsessive communication

Obama and Britney-Bitch (as she says her name is in "Gimme More", apparently) both had their Twitter accounts hacked.

Obama has a twitter account??!!

OK, I'm ready to become a dinosaur now. I'm one of the most "online" people I know, but I set the limit at a few things: phone texting... IMing... twittering...

I don't know, those things just seem to me to cross the line from being enhancing communication to becoming pure, compulsive "communication" without any worthwhile content at all, only a high addiction level.

Similarly those young people who always have a mobile phone glued to their hand, if they're not texting, they're chatting. What can they possibly be saying for 16 hours a day which has any substance? Seriously. I mean even if I include things with little substance I still can't imagine what they're talking about.

Update: I've created a Twitter account (eo_stob) as research, because I might be wrong, I might find some value in it.

It seems from their intro video that the purpose of Twitter is to answer the question friends ask each other on the phone: "what are you doing?"
Well, I don't ask that, unless it's just a gentle start to a conversation if it's been a long time. Why would I ask that? What's the value of finding out that my friend (or celeb) is doing laundry or feeding pigeons? Unless he can add an interesting thought about laundry or pigeons, but good luck writing that in 140 characters.

... It seems that other people can write on somebody's twitter stream? WTH?

TTL chimed in:
I too have pondered about twitter, and my thoughts have followed the exact same path as yours.
I have found one concrete and valuable use for it: some companies use twitter as a support channel and in those cases it is the best (or possibly even the only) way to alert them to something. Also, I've noticed that some high profile (=popular) people can be reached through twitter, if needed.
I've noticed that many people who have been critical about twitter have changed their minds. I think Steve Pavlina is one. But then, he is now also a Facebook user, so I don't think his opinion counts for much here.
Neeraj contributes:
I think, internet social services like Twitter have some similarity to the good old smalltalk between people ...
Years ago, I didn't like it in any form - I mean, what is the meaning of a conversation, where somebody asks you "How do you do?", and at the same time you can feel he really doesn't want to know it? Or to be connected with you on a deeper level?
Meanwhile I'm softer about this - I see it more like a verbal smile, maybe superficial, but nevertheless a kind of smile, acknowledging each other.

I have had a similar development. I think the significance of the words is not the only content of a conversation.

Here's an article which has some nice perspectives.

Well, after a day of using twitter, I find I'm out of things to say. I have a really boring life on the surface, and the deeper levels defy a 140-character limit.
And I also have not found anything much in other people's twits to stick around for.
There may be a slice between "nothing" and something demanding a blog post which might be worth something, but it doesn't seem to me to be worth signing up for and keeping up with one more Net service.

Magnetic Mary muttered:

"Plus you'd have to be pretty arrogant to think people want to know your every move".

It doesn't have to come from that place; no need to think "what I'm doing is so great everybody has to know it", it's more of a friendly chatter, or micro-blogging. I find it cool to be concise to fit a message in 140 characters, and it's also cool to follow the mental gibberish of certain brilliant, curious, creative, neurotic minds. And if you see yourself reflected, bonus!
Dale R Herbert cried out:

What did we ever do 20 years ago? Were we alive according to today's standards? There is a thing called "get a life" you know. Electronics are just simply getting out of hand. If you really want to communicate, go out and meet people, I mean come on people, let's get real. Use the computer for what you can not do on your own. With the rest of your life, develop yourself, learn to cook and entertain people, write a book, draw, sing, be an artist, learn to speak publicly. PLEASE, for everyone's sake, USE YOUR BRAIN and BE A CONTRIBUTOR RATHER THAN A COMPUSIVE COMMUNICATOR.

Now that I have that off my chest. We are losing the battle of life if we become so cloistered in our daily existence. We are becoming human peripherals of our own doing. Using electronic methods of communicating reduces our humanity. Will the things we write in Twitter and other such avenues be remembered by anyone? Remember, the days of your life are writing your life's biography. Do something that has meaning with your time and don't waste it, because time is what life is made of.
TTL said:
"I fail to see why communication on the Internet as such is less valuable than other forms of communication." (Eolake had said.)

Yes, and also, I don't think it has been shown that communication on the Internet automatically takes away from off-line communication. I know many people who without the Internet wouldn't communicate at all. I think, as a whole, Internet has made people more communicative.

Physical proximity is of course the richest form of communication. But it can also be very inefficient. I like to think that there are three levels of communication:

1. Spiritual (sensing each others' energies)
2. Mental (passing ideas on a physical medium)
3. Physical (meeting in physical proximity)

The point is, 2 always includes 1. And 3 always includes 1 and 2. But for many things you don't need 3. It might even be a distraction. And it takes a lot of calories to make it happen. (Not good for your ecological footprint ;-)

Tuesday, January 06, 2009


A chunk of the "Long Tail": Film Baby.

Progress in life

How do you measure progress in life? What's the goal?

When I was young, I took it for granted that the goal was to become BIG, or at least to have a big effect. If it's good to be a millionaire, then it's better to be a billionaire. If it's good to have ten employees, then it's better to have a thousand employees. If it's good be famous as an artist, then it's better to be the most famous artist in the world.

And many people I know who do the same as me (running a pay site), when one site is successful, they start another and another and another, going for an Empire. It seems a natural progression, but I wonder if it's not really more of a way to use up all your free time and then some.

Personally I found that once I'd covered my basic needs and gotten comfortable, I started losing the drive needed to expand more in the base world. It was not an easy transition, I had many false starts and changes of mind back and forth. Actually it may have been coincidence these things happened in the same period, after all many people are poor but still have little interest in expansion, and some are wildly successful but still strongly driven to be more so.

I think empire-building is basically a top-dog game. It's a game of who can dominate. How much admiration can you get.

The tricky thing is, if not Big Goals, then what? If you don't feel happy and satisfied, where do you turn for satisfaction? That's way too big a question for a blog, but I guess answers from various people would go to "family", "job satisfaction", "creativity", "love", "religion", "spirituality"...
I think what's common to them are non-material qualities. Very hard to evaluate even for yourself, and especially for others.

I guess a good term (I don't know if it's been used before) is "soft qualities". By which I mean those things that can't be measured with numbers. Love, beauty, spirit.

Wing suits

Wing suits, buzzing mountains, new extreme sport.

Pretty amazing, they seem to have a travel-to-fall ratio of at least two or three to one. And surely wing suits can be improved yet, the surface area seems very small.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Canine escape


I love a good cafe. (And it seems this town can feel it. When I moved here seven years ago, there was not a single real cafe, now there are half a dozen.) (I hope not too many of them will go bust since I now have an espresso machine myself.) But maybe the Starbucks culture is a little out of hand, particularly "pay fifty bucks (or whatever) for a cup of coffee the size of a Hummer, then get out of the shop in a hurry". For me, cafes are for sitting in, looking at life (meaning girls, mostly).
I did so today actually. The waitress was Petra, a foreign girl with good English, who I hadn't met before. She had a smile exactly like my friend Bettina's, and I told her so. She used it too, copiously and sincerely, very nice.

Dr. Laura

Letter to Dr. Laura, a fundamentalist radio personality. (By the way, is it normal for jews to quote the bible?)
"I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?"

Steve Jobs on his health

Steve Jobs talks, finally, about his mysterious weight loss.

It's nice that he's optimistic, but I think it's mainly to calm the waters. Just like life has taught me, I'm sure it has taught Steve that once we get beyond how a hammer or shovel works, nothing in this world is ever simple or straightforward.
Of course it's still possible that he will become and will stay sound as a pound for the next fifty years, and I hope so.


The world belongs to the energetic.
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson

They can have it. :-)