Saturday, November 19, 2011

Flying fists Panda Too

I just watched Kung Fu Panda II. I recommend it. Of course the comic surprise of a martial arts panda has worn off a little since the first one, but I think the new elements, the story, and the technical fireworks they've brought into it more than makes up for it. Just for one example, they have a whole big city created as a whole in CGI with all kinds of things happening in it, including a car chase with little carts.

Like another crew did with Madagascar 2 and a third with Ratatouille (both of which are also mega-rich visually), this crew physically went to the home of the story to research the look and feel for the place, and they got amazing amounts of details and looks and atmosphere out of it. It's actually so deep and rich (for example in how dark it gets in the dark parts of a set) that it can be difficult to follow. Of course this goes doubly for the fighting scenes where they apparently use genuine kung fu fighting techniques, and where everything goes so fast and often has so many characters fighting at once, that you don't have a dumpling's chance in a panda kindergarten of taking it all in the first time.

All the characters are fun. And I'm amazed that they have managed to make a snake look pretty and sort of sexy. In contrast, I wonder why they made Tigress so masculine-looking. I feel she could easily be as tough as she is, and yet have a hint of a feminine figure, particularly hips. She has no hips at all, and there's just no way that's a woman.

But of course that's just detail. It's well worth seeing for the aforementioned, plus the humor and the grand new villain, a weapons-of-mass-destruction assembling peacock of all things, and the grand scenes of action.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Thandie Newton: Embracing otherness, embracing my self

Square Provides Easy Alternative to Cash and Checks

Square Provides Easy Alternative to Cash and Checks, TidBITS article.
Square opens up to individuals the option of accepting the third major payment method we use today — credit/debit cards. The payment side is far from new — we’ve all been paying for things with credit cards for decades — but until Square, receiving money via credit or debit cards was far beyond many small companies, much less individuals, due to the effort of setting up the necessary “merchant account” and dealing with the fuss of processing cards.

A very nice improvement in personal/small commerce and money exchange.

It doesn't seem to be for web merchants though, only for when you have the customer and his card in front of you, or at least on the phone. I asked Engst about it:

It's not clear to me if you can use square over the Internet. Take payments from your web site for example?
He said:
Technically speaking, yes, but people would have to send you their credit card numbers for you to enter by hand. It's really made for in-person transactions.

Monday, November 14, 2011

A selection of 3D characters

A selection of 3D characters.

(BTW, it's confusing that now "3D" both means computer-made, realistic, rounded images, and actual 3D, which gives the illusion of space by different images to the two eyes.)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Yes or Yes?

Here's a neat little sales trick: when somebody is halfway on board, you give them a choice, but not between Yes and No. Between two different yeses.
"This car is great for you, would you like it in blue or red?"
"You and I will go out, would you prefer lunch or dinner?"

For one thing it's difficult to tell somebody that their question is wrong, it's much easier to just pick one. For another thing it takes away the responsibility of making the actual decision, one can pretend that has happened, when the seller is pretending it has. For a third thing it saves face for those who have a hard time letting the seller "win" by saying yes, if they perceive it as a contest.

Of course this gimmick is also good to know about on the receiving end, so one is aware of when it happens.     :-)

Update: Timo said:

This is called the Alternative Close. It is one of the best known of all sales closing techniques. Sales literature knows tens of others, some very clever.
The more interesting discussion is where to draw the line of ethical and unethical salesmanship. Personally, I'm leaning towards the opinion that most active sales is unethical.

Yes, I agree that real "selling" is ethically questionable at best, since it assumes to know what's best for the customer.

And of course since it often embraces basic fakeness, you "put on" anything which will make the potential customer like you and trust you.

Interestingly, one of the best sales people I know, a lovely woman named Eva, who is always ahead of the pack in her large organization, doesn't seem to use any sales techniques. My guess is that her 100% belief and her inner and outer beauty does all the sales for her.

Update: Bruce points to this comprehensive list of sales techniques. Or to be more precise, closing techniques. The "close" is how to end the sales pitch with a Yes decision.

Country barriers

It's a bit astonishing to me how strong country- and language-barriers still are, this far into the 21st century. If I'm mentioning Paypal to my friends in Denmark, for example, the answer is often "what's that?".
OK, so probably Paypal doesn't have a Danish operation, but to not even have heard of the biggest online payment system in the world is to me, amazing. I first heard of Paypal about 11 years ago, and I've heard about it in various ways probably once a week since then on average.
I even heard from a modern, educated, Danish woman: "Amazon, what's that?" Same comments apply. The biggest, most famous, most successful online allround store in the world.

I guess one of the differences is that for me personally, there's a strong drive to be involved with the Internet, as a creator and a user. The instant global communication is absolutely fascinating to me, has been since I first heard of it in 1994, and is still.  But for most people, if they can get all they need from TV and the stores they've always used, well, they're satisfied.

Magic Window

I been sighing for years to get a live wallpaper for my Mac. Just a slowly changing scene on my desktop. I didn't get why it didn't exist, given the supposed great power of the processors and sophistication of the system. But it seems it's finally here, at least the first attempt I know of.
I've long enjoyed Magic Window for the iPad, which shows long, beautiful time-lapse videos, where you can adjust the speed yourself. And now there's a Mac version too, use the App Store for Mac and search for Magic Window. I haven't heard of any Windows version.
It is pretty powerful, it runs in real HD, and can run two different shows on two different monitors at once.
It's nice, if you set it slow it does not distract from work, yet still presents you with a changed scene next time you notice, as the sun has gone lower or the weather has changed. And despite running two big monitors, it's not a huge resource hog, 5-10% processor use on my Mac Pro.
The first two scenes I tried, below. Notice I took the screenshot as the desktop was changing between two pics taken as the bridge was being pulled in.

(As I write now, the foreground plane has gone, but planes are passing by, being towed in the background. Fun.)

Most scenes are picturesque like the sunset. One of my faves is a sunset filmed from a mountain in Hawaii, during it you have clouds forming and disappearing *under* the camera viewpoint. This one seems to only be on the iPad though, and they have made it a for-pay scene (a buck). But most are real purty anyway, and a bunch are included.