Saturday, September 05, 2009

The man in the brown van

I have an account with UPS for my little company. I am not aware if you need to be/have a company to have such an account, but I find it practical, because I don't like to go to and stand in line in the P.O. I don't think UPS is much more expensive, and they come to your door and collect!

But I hate filling out those friggin' labels. There's so little space, and it's so difficult to make sure it's all legible and go through three layers. So I asked my friendly UPS driver if there wasn't such a thing as a service where I filled in (or picked out) an address on their site, and he would have labels ready when he came. No, he said, but you can print the label from the web site, and you don't need a special printer to do it.

Wow, did that make it easier. Especially the subsequent times you use an address, you don't even have to type (or copy/paste) the whole address again, it's saved in your address book.

So it just printed a neat little label for me*, less than half an A4 page (for Americans: A4 is about 8x12"**), and I taped it well to the UPS back, inserted the Nikon D40 I'd rolled in bubble wrap, and bingo, waiting for the brown tank of a van to pull up Monday and do all the work. Oh, and I paid by the company cc too, it saves writing a check later, that also stresses me because it takes time and you mustn't make mistakes.

I realize that this might be oooooold news to some people. But they still automatically give you those hand-filled-out labels when you get an account, so apparently it is far from known and used by all, not even all existing UPS customers.

I love all this computer- and Internet-shit.

*Funny thing, the normal labels have three copies, but the printed one needs only one printed page, it seems. Maybe because they save the data about the shipment from their web site, I guess.

**From wiki: "The most frequently used of this series is the size A4 (210 × 297 mm). A4 paper is 6 mm narrower and 18 mm longer than the "Letter" paper size, 8½ × 11 inches (216 × 279 mm), commonly used in North America."

Industrial Town Eksthetic part Trois, 3

Industrial Town Eksthetic part Trois, 2

I'm sometimes indecisive about color. Some pictures can have charm in different ways both as color and BW.

Lord Clyde here is a little, unkempt pub not far from where I live. I don't know how they make their living, for they are not near any other pubs or shops, and there's virtually no foot traffic. Perhaps they have some Other Business going on, a couple of times I walked past and looked in through the door in passing, somebody came out and looked at me, like they were expecting somebody.

Britain is being modernized like most countries, but parts of it still looks "like Denmark did in the fifties" as one of my friends said.

I sorta like these pics, whaddaya think?
Note the pink flower, it was there before me.

I could decipher some of that remarkable board/sign, but Alex who grew up in these parts made a full translation:







All day breakfast, with tea and toast. 3.00

Fresh Sandwiches made on request. 1.20

Steak Fries served in a white bread hamburger bun. 1.20

I'm not sure I want to eat there, with those prices and the level of literacy.

... French fries in a white bun?!?

Well, with your ciggy and lager, that's about that day's nutrition done with.

Friday, September 04, 2009

The Importance Of The Mac: What's In A Pretty Face?

The Importance Of The Mac: What's In A Pretty Face?, article by yours truly. I'd forgotten all about it, but somebody found it, loved it, and did me the kindness of looking me up and telling me.

Ask the Net

Got a Burning Question? Ask the Net, article by David Pogue about a very interesting social-networking question/answer service named Aardvark (until further notice you need to be on facebook for it to work).

How Canon Chooses Camera Names

Regarding the new Canon 7D, which based on the name would be expected to be full frame, but isn't, Mike J reminds of this wonderfully funny article of his. It seems the monkey has not improved since it was written.

Cameras go open-source

Bert found this interesting video/article about people working on an open camera platform. This could have a big impact in the long range.

There's talk and an animation of how the "Frankencamera" might work to combine a few near-simultaneous exposures to expand the dynamic range, with contrasty subjects. Interesting because it seems that for me the bulk of difficult subjects are so because of too high contrast.
Of course a single exposure would be best, and there is progress made. For example, RED camera claims their newer chips will be exceptional in this area.

A real car-free city

Tommy pointed to this mini-docu about a German town, Vauban, without cars.
An interesting point brought up is that the lack of the constant background noise of cars make stress levels fall. I have felt this myself for years. Cars make a lot of noise. I've noticed it especially at night when it's relatively quiet, and a big car or truck go by you, it's just such an impact of noise.
And then of course there's the dramatic lowering of air polution and the heightening of everybody's health when they use bicycles. And the drop in car-related deaths and injuries.
I guess some people need a car for purposes of their work or otherwise, but I think the example of this German town without any cars shows that maybe most people's "need" is more of a "want" or a habit.

Update: here's a NYT article about Vauban, it has more info.

... and showed enthusiasm!

A page translated by machine from Japanese:
"However, especially in the 20-30 female demographic potential needs of teens are still many digital cameras with interchangeable lenses, that there is room for suggestions. Given that fact, DMC-GF1 is expanded to target 20 to 30-something women. "I now appeal to the most spirited woman." (Mr. West Entrance) and showed enthusiasm."

Gotta love 'em.

Pascal commented:

Sky, name of a smoking pipe!
Good evening! These Levantines are of funny cocos, good blood of holy blue!
That's terrible, sensation, how that they jackass in their tech talk. Too pure, my good bloke! Go there, how that he insures, the other one, hey!
This is nuts, too melting the delirium. He cuts a bib from Hell.
I am green, venerate, are too strong.
Leave concrete. They grate too hard. Respect, man.

Blogger tells me: "spitch"! (A nice one, I hope?)

Translation of the above, "mechanically" translated from French:

Ciel, nom d'une pipe!
Bonsoir! Ces Levantins sont de drôles de cocos, bon sang de sacré bleu!
Terrible, sensass, comment qu'ils jacassent dans leur jargon. Trop pur, mon bonhomme! Z'y va, comment qu'il assure, l'autre, hé!
C'est dingue, trop coule le délire. Il taille une bavette d'enfer.
Je suis vert, vénère, sont trop forts.
Laisse béton. Ils râpent trop fort. Respect, man.

Okay, okay, I'll show some mercy. Here's the translation of the above french slang, made intelligible:

Heavens, by Jove!
Jeepers! These Japanese are funny types, goodness gracious!
Awesome, splendid, the way they chatter in their lingo. Far out, dude! Yo, check it out, that cat's SWINGING!
It's wild, way cool, ker-ray-zee. When he chats, he's bad.
I'm SO green with envy, upset, they're too talented.
Forget it. They rap too great. Respect, man.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Sound insulation question

[By the way, this photo was taken with the camera, Panasonic G1, held out the window at arm's length, and the hinged screen turned back to front so I could frame the picture!]

I have two indoors air conditioning units. Each one has two vents as seen on the photo. I guess each vent is about 15cm x 15cm (six by six inches).

The noise, especially when the unit is actively cooling and not just the fan going, is bothering the downstairs neighbor. Last year I had the company come out and put some foam inside the pipe (I think only one of them for some reason). This helped about 50%, and since the neighbor didn't mention it again, I figured it was OK. Or I hoped so, at least. [Update: it was mentioned that it could be noise coming through the wall. I asked him, he says it is the vent, it's when his window is open.]

But now it turns out it still bothers him. Is there a noise engineer in the audience? What I figure is, I get a local craftsman to make a box which just fits around the two vents, and is open to the front so the air can move through. And then fit some waterproof foam inside the open box so the noise going directly up or down will be dampened.

It'll have to be a smallish box, because the housing association won't allow us to change the exterior of the building (which is why I had to get indoors units). But I think this should make quite a difference, since I have observed* that a huge percentage of noise travels in straight lines, like with light. What do you think?

*Observed this way: on an early morning, I was walking along a long and tall brick wall. The wall was shielding the sight of a noise source, a tall chimney. And I noticed the noise I heard, mainly reflected in the building opposite, was oscillating... And then I saw that it was oscillating in time with the reflection in the windows on the building, as I was walking along. When the chimney was reflected in a window, the noise was half of what it was when it was it was not!
Clearly the bricks of the building reflected the noise much more than the glass of the windows. And since the oscillations were so very clear, that must mean that the bulk of the noise traveled in straight lines.

Eye tracking issues and learning

TC Girl told me about her son, who used to have a lot of trouble learning to read, and she introduced me to some interesting knowledge I never heard of before. She said her son early on had trouble learning to read, and she said: "I found out that he had a vision problem that could not be detected w/a regular eye exam."
I asked what those might be, I couldn't imagine. And she wrote me an interesting answer:

Many things, really: there is the "teaming" of the eyes; the synchronicity... how they move while reading; the movement on the line of words from left to right; the jumping from the end of one word to the beginning of the next and is called "tracking". If the eye muscles (and brain) have not been "trained" to do this, properly, a eye "overshoots" and then has to go back to find the proper placement; ALL, of course in split-second timing but... imagine having to do this over and over, word for word, sentence after sentence. It "exhausts" the eyes. So... there is that.

Then... there is the ability of the eye to focus, quickly, and then to be able to "retrain" on something several feet out, and then refocusing back to the original spot. If the eye/brain coordination is not there, this will also be a struggle. Now, think of being in the classroom having to copy stuff off of the board. A LOT of struggle if there is a delay in that re-focusing.

Anyhew... so... there is an initial exam that costs $400 (here, anyway) where they do all kinds of tests -- some even w/a headset put on where the thing tracks the eye movements for efficiency in how it performs all these functions. It's VERY FASCINATING and... then they set up an approximate number of times that it might take to work at improving these issues. The brain is a fascinating "machine": when it is shown how to do something, properly, it will function more efficiently at doing this task, in the future. So... basically, there are MANY exercises used to improve these functions and... when the eyes/brain have been "re-trained" the person won't struggle with reading, watching t.v., etc. anymore.

All this stuff can even improve behavior of a kid. Saw it happen... with my own eyes with my son.

This eye doctor we saw believes so much in what she does (and she has 2 FULL 3-inch binders of people writing about how it has helped their situation) that she wants to go to congress, after she retires, and try to put this vision exam in place for all children before they even start grade school she feels that it would improve a child's school experience that much. And I, of course, would like to endorse/promote her cause WAY before then by having her come in to talk to ALL the schools' parents [in our district] NOW to make families aware of it.

The good news is that... even as an adult, these challenges can be addressed and corrected so... that -- to me -- was WONDERFUL to hear.

TC Girl

I myself (Eolake) worked for a couple years in a small private after-hours classroom where we helped children who had trouble learning to read. We used such methods as simply teaching the *sounds* of the letters, not just the names, and then the other sounds they sometimes have. And making the pupil show concepts in clay (play-do). Personal attention and making sure one step was complete before continuing. Almost all our pupils made remarkable progress within three months.

Bad Company: Feel like making love

Below another fave song. I could only find a live version on utoob, but it's a good one.

But actually I first heard and loved the song in Type O Negative's version. (Thanks to Magnetic Mary for pointing me to TYN.) I could find that on utoob only in a single video. Fortunately it's the studio version, but it has a silly picture side and a clown (literally) talking for the first 50 seconds, so disregard all that.

And I stumbled over another cover I really like. Again, disregard the picture side, it's stupid, but the hard version by Goldfinger is kewl.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

The Panasonic GF1 camera and Lumix G 20mm f/1.7 ASPH. lens

The Panasonic GF1 camera and Lumix G 20mm f/1.7 ASPH. lens, article.
Every year, we get a little closer to a real "street camera".

Me, I'm still waffling: zoom or no zoom. I'm attracted by a compact, fast, and sharp lens like this 20mm promises to be. But on the other hand, when I'm out photographing, I find myself zooming constantly for different framing.
Back on the first hand though, if I only have the one lens and focal length, maybe I will only think in that view angle, and maybe even work more efficiently? Waffle waffle.

Snow Leopard

David Pogue and TidBITS reviews Apple's new OS, Snow Leopard, which like Win7 is a "smoother, not bigger" upgrade.

I'd get Snow Leopard quick, if it was not for one thing: for my work, I am deeply... entrenched in a few old applications not being upgraded anymore, and they are all already running shakily under Leopard. What to do, what to do?

It's notably Eudora 6 (email), Golive 6 (web site editing), and iView MediaPro 1.5 (making thumbnail pages for my sites) (this latter is updated, but much more expensive now, and lord knows if the current version will run with my home-made templates for the pages). In all those apps I have painstakingly created auto-procedures which I use every day. (Well, not in Golive, and it sucks a little, but it keeps automatically track of links and such things...)

Update: Adam Engst mentions Postbox for email. Anybody tried it? (Same for Thunderbird, which Bert mentioned... ?) What I like is good handling of 50,000 mails per year, good filters, and good Search. Oh, and good ability to handle several accounts.

Update: Lou points to an article about a Flash vulnerability in Snow Leopard, it uses an old version of Flash, so it needs to be upgraded to latest version after installation.

Sex, Lies & Children

Sex, Lies & Children, article. (PDF file.)
"... just about anybody involved in the commercial production or distribution of adult material can be prosecuted for obscenity. That is one of the (many) reasons the obscenity laws are unfair, unconstitutional and inhumane in modern society."

The article is American, but most countries have similar inanities and insanities.

Industrial Town Eksthetic part Trois

Yes folks, contain your excitement, it's time for one more Industrial Town Eksthetic photo epic (use search field on upper left for earlier ones).
It'll come in a few installments over the next couple days, is my guess.

Click for big pic.
These images gain by a bigger size, because of all the texture. Maybe the big versions don't fit on your screen. Save favorites to disk and view them from there, they will be scaled to fit. (I may post a gallery on when all is done, there will be an option for medium versions.)

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Apropos lemon trees and Herb Alpert

My father and I did not have much in common, but a few thing linger, like my appreciation for the Swe-Danes and Herb Alpert. Here's his Lemon Tree by the latter.

Here's a version with lyrics, which Mike B pointed to by quoting them and reminding me of the song.
Isn't it amazing how it sounds like a completely different song? Apart from the lack of vocals, the different tempo and emphasis on notes (I'm sure there's a technical term for it), and of course instrumentation makes it of a whole different world.

Herb Alpert was also mentioned on the Gilmore Girls, which is always a big green flag for me, the writers of that wonderful show has great taste.

Wile E. Coyote, life after Road Runner

[Thanks to James.]
It looks and sounds like it outta Family Guy, though they usually don't have such long intermittent sketches.

Moving house

First, to forestall comments: yes, this building is indeed in need of a paint job, in places. It's in the works. It's been delayed. Somehow, despite the regular fee all of us pay to upkeep, the housing association have managed not to be able to find the money for it last year. (Normally done every four years.) And some of us have been arguing that they've been wasting money, because they paint the whole indoors and outdoors at the same time, and it all really does not decay at the same rate. There was also talk about it seemed they didn't use the best offer tradesman. Good grief...
[Update Wednesday: the first painter of the team actually arrived today, starting with our complex. He came in and is starting right now on the handrails by the stairs... which are in *perfect* condition, no need to paint them, except to make the layers of paint thicker and make the necessity of it's removal a couple years closer. Madness. Why not make an evaluation of the things which need doing?]

One of our neighbors are moving, small family. To a house with a big garden. Good for them. The guy has been stuffing their furniture and stuff in their station wagon for three days now, so far. What a job! You'd think you would find a way to rent or borrow a van, huh? And if he can't afford pro movers, at least he must have a couple of friends or colleagues to bribe with a beer come over so it gets done in an afternoon? But what do I know, that's his headache.

Lemon tree! Kewl. I actually didn't know you could get them to grow serious lemons at this latitude.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Meryl Streep singing I'm Checking Out

A huge favorite of mine. (A repeat, but the mood took me.)
The combination of technical virtuoso and sheer joi de vivre is just...
Find more info and MP3 file see here.

Notice how she is still adjusting her earrings as she is starting to sing? Very casual, very relaxed, but I bet every iota of it is deliberate.

Recent movies, micro-reviews

It's work to write real reviews, but sometimes I just want to mention a movie (or show) I thought was worth attention (or not). So I went over my rental list of movies I've watched this summer, picked out those that were interesting, or should have been, and added a comment.

Meet The Fockers
Outstanding comedy. Sequel to Meet The Family, watch that first.

Scent Of A Woman
Can't believe I never watched this before. Excellent movie.

The Deep End
Should be interesting, but wasn't really, to me. Love Tilda Swinton, but the movie was very slow, and you couldn't see where it was going, so little interest.

Gavin And Stacey - 2008 Christmas Special
Not bad, but not quite as good as the regular series one and two.

My Sassy Girl
Should be interesting, but wasn't really, to me. Good basic idea (psycho girlfriend), but somehow did not hold my interest.

Over Her Dead Body
Could have been a lot more funny and interesting, given the ideas and Eva Longoria.

House Bunny
Very funny, I liked it. Love Anna Faris, she is hot, she is funny.

Gavin and Stacey
Outstanding comedy series.

Oz - Series 1 - Disc 1
I only watched 10 minutes, it seemed to clichéd and predictable.

My Best Friend's Girl
Good, funny.

Wall Street
Good film, but didn't hold my attention all the way the second time around.

Great flick, classic.

Life Stinks
After this, Mel Brooks was advices to stick to comedies, he said. Which I don't get, because it is a comedy. And I really liked it.

I Love Your Work
Should be interesting, but wasn't really, to me. I really like Giovano Ribisi, and the film had some promising aspects, but... I don't know... too slow and unclear maybe.

Rules Of Attraction
Should be interesting, but wasn't really, to me. Had this irritating gimmick of scrolling back in time (on camera) all the time to follow a different character.

Casino Royale
Best Bond movie I've seen. I've never cared much for them, but this one was raw.

Post updated

More cam pics and words on the camera design post.

Snail trail (updated twice)

[Update: data in the comments about how slugs and maggots are good for you. Comes from a doctor, so probably not a joke.]

Imagine what a desert trek this must be for a snail. It wanders on and on and on, without at least the sense to go towards the light. (But that would not make sense in nature, I guess.)
I've seen one before, they are these tiny, black things, without a house, so small they can get under the garden door. [Update: seems this one is not so black and slightly bigger. Also, by "house" I meant "shell", I was thinking in Danish there, it's called a "snail's house" in Danish.]

Coming in from my early morning constitutional today, I found another of the little Fokkers, not just trails this time. Or maybe the same one, because as you can see, I did salt the entrance yesterday. ... Maybe I locked it in! (Anyway, I found a leaf outside and carried him out.)
They're really small, less than an inch and thin.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

"Black Books" and "Spaced"

My food was just done (it had arrived and I'd paid), and I needed some light comedy to watch while eating (it gives pleasure with the least chance of aggravation, something I feel aids the digestion and relaxation). I didn't have something ready, so in desperation I grabbed the first season of Black Books. I thought I was taking a chance, because I've already watched it at least twice before.
But no, it's still glorious. Episode One alone is worth the price. I was on the floor so many times. If you like off-beat comedy shows, don't miss it. (US link and UK link.)

Bernard: "I didn't realize you were gay."
Manny: "But I'm not."
Bernard: "But you're interested in lamps."
Manny: "But I like women. And lamps. ...I actually thought you were gay."
Bernard: "So did I, for a bit. But then I found out about the prohibitive standards of hygiene. And all that dancing!"
Bernard: "I am gonna have to let you go."
Manny: "But I sold a lot of books and I got on well with the customers."
Bernard: "It's not that kind of operation."

Another great show is Spaced. And hooray, you can finally buy it in the US! (Or here in UK/Europe.) What I said about Black Books also applies here. A classic. Must-see-TV, as they say.