Saturday, January 17, 2009

Crash Proof

Crash Proof is not a Tarantino movie, but it's about as scary as the last one was (hint: plenty).
I've only read part of it so far (on audiobook, I love those), but I already feel like It's been explained to me, in simple terms, vital data about how economy works. Data which really should be part of everybody's basic education, but which it seems that even many economists are ignorant about, or lying about.

For example how "money" is different than "wealth". Money is an exchange medium. Wealth is the things you can buy with money.
And how inflation is actually money supply going up faster than good supply, while rising prices is only the result of inflation.

For example data about how the problems of the Western economy go much deeper and longer back than I knew, and what a trade deficit really means. And how when economists say that the economy is doing better than ever because consumption is bigger than ever, that's like saying little John is more educated than ever because he is now watching 10 hours of television per day instead of 8. The base of economy is savings and production, and those have been declining like all-git-out in the West for decades. The "boom" in recent years have been borrowed money.

He explains how the fact that the US has gone from production to service is not progress, but disaster. And getting a whole big production economy going again is obviously not going to be a trivial matter, holy cow.

He's talking about the US economy mainly, but it seems to me at the very least Britain is in the same boat, seeing as how the Sterling is falling too, and that Britain has also stopped producing things which can be exchanged.

If he is right, and I think so, then the current crisis is only the beginning. Could be grim.

I'm looking forward to the last half of the book where he promises to talk about how one can avoid going down with the ship.

Note from wikipedea:

Schiff was once accused of "anti-American" views for his pessimistic assessment of the US economy. In October 2007 Charles Payne of [] accused Schiff of "Anti-Americanism in the guise of financial advice." on Fox News' "Bull's & Bears" program.
In the same segment Mr. Payne suggested purchasing the stock of Washington Mutual, a company which less than 52 weeks later was seized by federal authorities in what amounted to the greatest bank failure in history.


[Thanks to Mark.]


XKCD, whatever that means.

iPhone apps goldmine for some

Talk about the age of opportunity. Cool app too.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Gaia brains

Gaia brains.

Microsoft Songsmith Commercial

"Microsoft, huh? So it's... pretty easy to use?" ROTFL.
Warning: this exercises your gag reflex.

LEGO camera

LEGO camera coming soon. (Can't be taken apart.)
I want one. I hope it isn't too crappy, it would be cool if you could take quality pictures with a camera nobody would take seriously.

French game show

Hmmm, this game show seems to only have female contestants. I guess they are going for the female viewers.

What is it about bosoms? You just can't keep your eyes off them. If they are really obvious, even straight women can't, I've heard that more than once.
And of course that makes it problematic in the western world, because it's been made into a thing of shame if you look. Never saw the logic of that.

Domai pinups

New feature on Domai: pinups.

His name is Earl

"You know what I think about prison? There are a lot of guys in here without clearly thought-out plans."

"I'm gonna wear you like a glove on my fist, and then get in a fight with a man made out of razor blades!"

Both are from My Name Is Earl season 3 which I just started watching. Some fans are upset that season three does not keep the old format of the show (Earls amends list), but I think a format is just a format, and so far I think it's its same old great self.

It's filmed with tons of extras, and either in a real prison or a huge set. That show must have quite a budget.


Futurologilogical (or words to that effect) video. It has some pretty frivolous parts, but also some interesting ones, like one about how in the future robotic cars may save 40,000 traffic deaths a year in the US alone. Forty thousand! If you think how a million people will move the heavens and Earth to save just one kid cancer patient, that's a lot.

The amusing thing is that you can be f***ing sure that when a single robotic car fails and kills the driver, there'll be a big surge of public outrage against them. People are not afraid of the familiar, even when it's a thousand times more dangerous than the new.

Robotic cars are clearly quite embryotic yet, though. My guess is at least thirty years before commercial models come out, and fifty before they become common.

MacBook Wheel

This is awesome. The resources it took to make a video like this.

Scott points to this interesting thing:

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Pogue on twitter

David Pogue weighs in on Twitter.
"I found one rule, though, that answered a long-standing question I had about Twitter: "Don't tweet about what you're doing right now." Which is weird, since that's precisely how the typing box at is labeled: "What are you doing?"
I've always wondered who the heck would be interested in the mundane details of your life. As it turns out, though, most people broadcast other stuff in their tweets."

David, apart from his books, videos, and whatnot, also has two columns per week. The other one is here this week. It doesn't have a subject, he is soooooo lazy.

Kite aerial photography

Bert found this cool video, budget aerial photography.
(HD version here. Well, not real HD like Apple streams, but a little bigger at least.)

Economical, but not exactly simple. I would like to do this, but I don't have the skills or patience to build the parts, so I hope somebody will make a commercial kit for it.

He has a site for it.

An early kite-camera from a hundred years ago weighed a hundred pounds! (I wonder how they got a sharp picture with the exposure times of those days.)

Isn't it typical English that "aerial" does not start with "air"? Just "speech" is not spelled "speach" despite the common root with "speak".

Out of time

I passionately hate the idea of being with it, I think an artist has always to be out of step with his time.
-- Orson Welles

I agree insofar as that a book/film/song which is outdated in five years has limited its own value. But I think it would be better to state like this, that an artist (or businessman or scientist) should have a Bigger Perspective.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Astro photos

Kool astronomical photos.
One of my faves, of the M31 galaxy. (Right next to the M32 motorway.) (It's aka the Andromeda Galaxy.)


There's a long discussion, just updated, under an old post about Hiroshima.

Steve Jobs on leave

Apple CEO Steve Jobs takes medical leave, article.

Did I call it or what. Although in this case I'd have been plenty happy to be wrong.

What's the Net like?

I think there are two different perceptions of the Internet, even after all these years.

There's one which is that the Net is where socially isolated people, perhaps even dysfunctional, go to hide from the world and real people.

And there's one which sees the Net as the single most powerful communications medium ever invented.
In 1994 a friend told me about the World Wide Web, and web sites. "That's for me, I want one!" I said.

I think life and ideas and communication is much too big and important and alive! to limit to sharing with the handful of people you happen to share a room with normally.

Alex said:
The net is a small town, everything you need is a short stroll from everything else. There just happens to be a worlds worth of stuff in this town.

Still, you can get groceries without having to stand in line. You can buy books without having to put up with the stench of someone elses coffee and trying to climb over the teens spread out on the floor in the manga section.

You can drop into a pub or coffee shop like this blog and talk to people, without the noise of other people or a busy kitchen. You can talk with time to think between sentences, like playing chess by mail. You can pickup and drop penpals globally. The lower (emotional) entry cost makes it easier to walk up to a stranger and say "I couldn't help but overhear and ...".

The internet is the perfect village in the heart of a metropolis.

Scott McCloud on TEDtalks

Bert found out that one of my favorite writers Scott McCloud is on TEDtalks.
You can get TEDtalks for free via iTunes podcasts, and in HD too, which might be worthwhile since many of them are quite visual.
McClouds book Understanding Comics is groundbreaking, and goes well beyond that people normally understand as "comics".

McCloud shows this one, that might be something that might get me interested in comics on the screen. The ability to zoom in and out makes all the differ.

Another good one: skycars. By pioneed Moller, who for decades has invested amazing amounts of time and money in this field which won't give any returns in the foreseeable future. I hope it pays off in his lifetime, he deserves it. I'd loooove a skycar. (Especially if it's fully automated like he says.) Maybe a problem is, I hear they're pretty noisy, I don't like that aspect.
Update: he says you drive it to a local place where it's OK to take off. Once you're in the air, you're a passenger.
The stabilization system mustn't fail... "nothing comes down faster than a VTOL craft upside-down."

Report Calls Online Threats to Children Overblown

Report Calls Online Threats to Children Overblown, NYT article.

Bruce and MJ

Because I've just bought a Blue "Snowball" USB microphone (because Stephen Fry uses one and I had yet to find a good one), I got to talking to TTL about microphones and sound. He said some interesting things:

Yes, microphones and microphone preamps are like lenses to camera people.

When Bruce Swedien (the recording engineer who recorded Michael Jackson's Thiller among others) starts a recording project, a big truck will arrive at the studio and out of the truck comes a number of huge flight cases. What's in them? Bruce's personal mic collection and his mic preamp collection. No studio in the world has mics and preamps to match Bruce's or to satisfy his requirements. Other recording engineers can only drool at the stuff he has. :-)

Bruce explained how Michael has the habit of dancing when he sings even in the studio! Singers normally never do this as they want to concentrate on producing an unrestrained voice and giving their best possible vocal performance. But for Michael dancing is apparently so much a part of his art that he can't just stand still and sing.

Now, the job of a recording engineer is to capture events in audible form. So Bruce, the undisputed king of the craft, came up with the idea to have a special hard plywood platform (I think he said 12x12 feet) built just for the purpose of recording Michael. He would have him on the platform when singing. The difference being that the unpainted wood surface would make his dancing AUDIBLE! The sound of his steps would then bleed into the vocal microphone and become part of the rhythmic texture of the song! (Every song, in fact.)

As a demonstration, he played the vocal track from "The Way You Make Me Feel" which blew away absolutely everyone in the audience - most of whom were seasoned recording engineers. Bruce relates another Michael anecdote at the end of the clip.

(eolake:)"Brilliant. And how daring, since he no longer will have a clean lyrics track."

Yes, daring indeed. Also, what I forgot to mention is that if you listen to the YouTube clip you will notice that his rhythm is perfect. He is like a metronome. It is only because of this inherent quality that Bruce even came to ponder how to make the dancing audible.

Slings and Arrows

Slings and Arrows. It's surprisingly good.

Michael Burton said...
Why surprising?
There are three seasons of this show. This season, the first, was at least partially inspired by Keanu Reeves being cast to play Hamlet at the summer-long Shakespeare festival at Stratford, Ontario.
The main story thread in the second season is about a performance of Macbeth, and the third season is about a performance of King Lear by a great old actor who's dying of cancer.
Each season tells a complete story, but there's a larger story arc that crosses all three seasons. The show is funny, sad, and thoroughly entertaining throughout.

eolake said:
It's surprising because something that good I would have expected to hear about it from all sides like the Sopranos, but I only found it by accident.

And it's also good in a surprising fashion because I could not imagine a TV show about theatre and actors which was not a bit over-the-top in various ways, but this is very subtle and complex, while still being funny.

Peter Schiff

I don't know this guy very well, but man, was he right. This is from March 2008!

Here's another one.

Nina Hagen: Auf'm Rummel

Update: I decided to make it myself:

Update: She was born in 1955. I can't believe she was barely twenty when she did her groundbreaking work in the seventies. Isn't it amazing how in music, very young people can be very mature artists?
Update: examples: Sirena Huang and Jennifer Lin.

Nina Hagen: Auf'm Rummel

Appears on the album Unbehagen (1979).

wir standen auf'm rummel in treptow
tranken auf die schnelle mal 'n kuehles bier
eigentlich wollt ich laengst nach hause
da sagte einer, ich bin 'n kavalier
leute, ich gebe 'n korn aus

und wir tranken das bier und den korn aus
fuhren noch mal schnell mit der gespensterbahn
eigentlich wollt ich laengst nach hause
da sagte einer: die minelli is hier
hey lasst uns sehn ob es wahr ist

aber nichts hat gestimmt, denn da stand nur
nina hagen, da is nix dabei
eigentilich wollt ich laengst nach hause
da sagte einer: vorne spielt 'ne band
hey lasst und sehn und mal gehn

geh ick nu oder blieb ick nu
irgendwie muss man was tun
geh ick nu oder blieb ick nu
oder wer weess wat
what i can do

die band brachte grad nen jethro tull hit
die spielten so mies, mann, da stimmte kein ton
eigentlich wollt ich laengst nach hause
da sagte einer: ich gebe
bei mir im garten eine fete

und wir fuhren mit der s-bahn nach dahlem
wir sassen dann rum und wir hoerten musik
eigentlich wollt ich laengst nach hauses
da sangte einer: hier is nix los, eij,
hier is absolut nix los

Suddenly I love this song which I've known for thirty years. Here's the text.
I'm not sure it's correct, I thought "I" in German was "ich", not "ick".
AB informs: "ick" is Berlinisch

Through The Lens points to Nina singing a Shiva song.
Personally I'm hesitant about mixing my beliefs with my art, it's really too different things and your belief are not relevant to your audience.

We're standing around the carnival in Treptow
Drinking a quick cool beer
Lemme buy you all a shot of Schnapps.

And we finish off the beer and the Schnapps
Take one more fast ride in the chamber of horrors.
Actually I wanted to head home long ago
When somebody says: Minelli's here
Hey, let's see if it's for real.

But it was all a bum steer,
Only Nina Hagen, nothin' happenin'
Actually I wanted to head home long ago
When somebody says: a band's playing up front,
Hey, let's go over and give a listen.

Like I should go, or should I stay
I mean, you gotta do somethin'
Should I go, or should I stay
Or who knows what
What I can do.

The band was just doing a Jethro Tull hit
They played so rotten, man, not one sound was right
Actually I wanted to head home long ago
When somebody says, c'mon over to my place,
I'm throwing a garden fete.

And we take the s-bahn out to Dahlem,
Sit around listening to music.
Actually I wanted to head home long ago
When somebody says: ain't nothin' happenin' here, nah,
Ain't absolutely nothin' happenin' here.

Long Bets site

Long Bets site. I think it's encouraging that somebody is trying to think further than this week.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Great Britain

I've just watched Bill Bryson's TV documentary about the UK, named "Notes From A Small Island" after his book.
One of the points he makes, which applies to most of Northern Europe as well, is that there is precious little dangerous nature here, unlike most of the world including the US. For example we don't get weather like this. (Interestingly, minus 40 degrees is the same in Fahrenheit and Celsius, I don't know how that happened.) And we don't get really hot summers either. I love it.

A thing I noticed during the multi-hour show was that everything interesting or impressive he had to tell about Great Britain happened centuries or decades in the past. Almost everything he mentioned, he then ended up by saying: "but in the past few decades, this has been disappearing" or words to that effect. I don't think amongst all of the many places he visited there was a single growth area. How can such a great nation with traditionally a disproportionate number of great minds in science and arts just taper off like this? It's odd.

Maybe an exception was central London, though that was mentioned for sort of negative reasons: people who grew up there can't afford to live there now. For some areas, apparently even people who earn a quarter million pounds ($0.4M) per year can't afford to live there, because the house prices are driven up by people earning millions per year. (In my native Denmark nobody is poor, but virtually nobody earns more than a quarter million pounds per year, I think.) This kind of situation must be artificial, it seems so weird. There's no way a modest-sized house can be worth ten million pounds, or an executive can be worth a bonus of such a sum.

Answering mails (updated)

I've blogged about this before, so feel free to ignore. I just had an added thought.

A friend of mine had talked about how I often answer emails with just one sentence. I asked why that was so remarkable. She said:

[it's interesting] because the one-sentence is a nice compromise between answering in detail to a message (that takes a lot of time) and not answering at all (that happens when one has answered in detail to too many messages and doesn't have time left). If one does not answer, the messages are there waiting, it is uncomfortable.

I have often marvelled at how many people are apparently *not* uncomfortable with having unanswered emails. Many people (most?) seem quite happy to let their in-box be perpetually full. And to never actually answer many mails. I don't get it, I want to ask them: there's a mail sitting there from a friend or a customer. And apparently you make a conscious (?) decision to delete it without answering it... what's going through your head at that moment? "This person is not important." ? "This mail is not important." ? "I'm too busy for that one." ? "I'm sure he/she will understand if he/she never hears back from me." ?
You just hit the delete button without thinking at all?

Another friend of mine once said that when his inbox has built up to great proportions, he just deletes it all in a fit. I wonder if that is common. To me it seems like letting the mess in your living room pile up until every half year you just empty it all into a garbage container without sorting it at all.

I may finally have gotten the answer after 13 years on the Net:
Anikó said:
I have been a not-always-answering person for long. Actually, it changed not long ago.

It's about how the mind works. You don't have to make the conscious mean choice not to answer. You just have to read the message and think: I will answer later. That gives you the good feeling of being a good and reliable person, and you don't think about it. And then, next time you open the mailbox, there are new and urgent things to read and answer, and you don't go back. Then the unanswered letter gets to the second page of your mailbox, so you don't see it anymore when you open your mail. And through the rules of geological stratification, it gets lower and lower and you never reply to it.

Maybe at a certain point, some moths later, you clean the whole thing. Then you may see it, but it is too late anyway. A slight feeling of guilt seizes you, but not for long: life goes on !
[Also: if it's been weeks and nothing happened, maybe it was not that important after all... -Eolake]

So, this is how I see the process.

To my defense, I don't think I left too many e-mail messages unanswered... But some, yes. And, from the time life was through real letters, I left quite a few letters unanswered. This was part of my cleaning this december: I went trough my mail and answered all of them. Some I received 10 years ago. Just a post-card in an envelop, wishing happy new year, giving my new address, saying sorry for not having answered, but wanting to keep in touch. More than 20 postcards. Felt good !

Actually it is not long ago I realized that if I don't answer to a not very important or unexpected e-mail right when I read it, then I will probably never. Without any bad intention. So I set myself a rule that if I want to answer, I have to do it right on the spot. because now I know that if I say to myself : I will answer later, it actually means I will never answer. And that's a serious decision!


I admire people with patience, I have so little of it myself. I've made many works of art in my life, but very few of them took over half day to make.

Peter Callesen (oh, he is Danish) also makes large papercuts.
(I can't seem to make a direct link. Click on "large scale papercuts" on the left.)

One wouldn't imagine it would be the same man who would make bizarre and funny performances.

Snow congregation

"You're probably wondering why I've asked you all to come here today."

The quote above is from an old Peanuts strip where Linus builds a whole bunch of small snowmen and then steps in front of them and says just that.

Williamson's tunnels

Williamson's tunnels. One man in the 1800s funded the building of an extensive network of tunnels under Liverpool, for no good reason, they mostly lead nowhere, except it was found after his death that he had access to the basements of a lot of mansions in one street. It's nuts, gotta love it.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Subnormality comic

I've bitched before about the quality of the "art" of many web comics. Well, here's one which is nicely drawn, and sometimes funny too.

Also kudos to him for publishing the comics in a decent size. Most graphics on the web seem to assume that we all still have 15-inch monitors.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Clint's best weekend yet

"LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Clint Eastwood set a new personal best at the North American box office on Sunday as " Gran Torino " sped to No. 1, hoping to grab the attention of Oscar voters a day before nominations ballots are due. The light drama, in which the 78-year-old actor/director plays a grumpy old man who takes on some neighborhood thugs Dirty Harry-style, earned $29 million during the three days beginning Friday, distributor Warner Bros . Pictures said. Eastwood's previous best weekend was " Space Cowboys " with $18 million in 2000."
- Reuters

Obviously there's only one way to measure one's "personal best" and "best weekend": $.
Clearly things like personal satisfaction, quality, or love, are worth nothing. Anybody can claim those! No, you need a number so you can keep score of how you beat the others!
(Um, that was sarcasm.)

Anyway, it's pretty amazing that such a veteran is still working, not to mention at the top of his game, at 78! Most other stars who've been in the game for many decades are barely clinging on with bit parts in other people's movies.
Seventy-eight! Holy cow. Most people I know at that age barely have the energy to take out the garbage.

Leo Babauta of Zen Habits

It's cool that you can record video chats as interviews. Not the greatest quality, but it'll get better, and it's all done for free and without any travel.

I asked the author, and he said that this one was recorded on the Mac using Conference Recorder.

Zen habits

Good article on the issue of the creator and the brave new world of digital works flowing freely.