Saturday, March 31, 2012

Portlandia, "buying a cell phone"

Anna tipped me off to the TV comedy Portlandia. It's rather out there, so it took a little while to wake up to it (even that it's a sketch show), but I find it very funny. And it's clearly a hit, seeing how high it appears in suggestions when you start typing "portland" in Google.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Minister pushes for ban on 'pornographic miniskirts'

[Thanks to Susie Bright]
Minister pushes for ban on 'pornographic miniskirts', article.

Indonesia's powerful Religious Affairs Minister believes miniskirts are pornographic and should be banned under tough new anti-pornography laws.
In comments embraced by the country's top Islamic advisory body, Suryadharma Ali said that ''one [criterion of pornography] will be when someone wears a skirt above the knee''.

Different … Balinese would be excluded from the laws. Photo: AP

''Of course there are some exceptions for places like Bali and Papua. Balinese women, for instance, they have a unique way of dressing; the upper part of their traditional dress [does not cover their shoulders] but it's not pornography. They also dance gracefully and it's not considered pornography..."

So if we could teach porn stars to dance gracefully (not likely, I admit), then we may gain a beachhead. 
Then of course, if all they were allowed is to show their shoulders, then might see a drop in sales. 

It is very weird to me that you think you have a bullet-proof definition of something, like "porn" is "sexually explicit communication", and then it turns out that everybody *still* defines these things *so* differently! To some people, seeing a woman's thighs is actually "sexually explicit", and no amount of arguing can make them see it differently. 

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Twitter hyper, and what is important

This may be... whatever, but it strikes me: people who use Twitter, read and write, constantly... every day, many, many times a day, and use it every time they have two minutes free, and often if they don't... doesn't this just have a strong whiff of hyper-activity? The sort of thing we give school kids Ritalin for?

I'm not saying it is wrong, and I have a lot of these addictions myself, but I do think that obsessively skating as fast as you can on the surface of things (140 characters is superficial), in constant anxiety of missing what has been going on for the last hour you were away, indicates a mental state of inability to sit still, and to consider the deeper and less Right-Now-related issues of life.

And intuitively I feel that the very most important issues in Life, The Universe, and Everything are things which do not happen and disappear within an hour or a day, but which have relevance over hundreds, even thousands of years.

For example: what the current president has done today is less important than what he does over his career. And a specific president is less important than the basic beliefs and principles of politics. Which is less important than how democracy works, for example, and whether democracy really is the best form of government, and if not, what is.

Beyond that comes things like what is a good citizen? What is a good human being? Hey, what is a human being?! What's our relationship to the world and the universe? What is my purpose ultimately?

You'll notice these questions become more and more difficult/impossible to give short or simple answers to, and they stretch over more and more time in relevance, and they rise in importance.

Such questions also tend to induce great existential anxiety, which is for real and very uncomfortable, and for this we take pills, or large doses of TV, or Twitter.

The Dentist of Jaipur

I'm so thankful for First World dentistry.
The Dentist of Jaipur. Notice, the sidewalk dentist has a double thumb!

Self-Driving Car Test

This is early days, but I really hope that this technology won't be held back too long by social fears and conservatism, I really feel that it will be a great boon not only to special customers, but to society as a whole. It will save a lot of time as stress for many people (how many people dream of the gift of one or two hours extra per day to read, play, or work? And how many are seriously stressed just by driving?).
And once it becomes advanced and becomes the norm, it will surely also save an enormous proportion of the yearly traffic deaths and injuries.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

New Girl and Zooey again

The New Girl, TV show, is growing on me. Well okay, sometimes it's funny, and sometimes it's just a bit strange. But it always has... Zooey.

Here's a strange thing, one of many she tried to get out of being really bad at sex.  I like it, it's ridic and hot at the same time.

G.I. Joe heaven

[Thanks to Dave]
What blows my mind is that this is only the first part of an eighteen-part series about one person's collection of one toy!

Obey Hello Kitty

Shepard Fairy made the famous Obama red/blue poster, and the "Obey Giant" sticker. I think this kitty is one of his best though. It's funny, and combines simple graphic impact with more subtle rich visual complexity.

Harrods has the plasma for you

[Thanks to TCG]
If you’re in the market for a $1 million TV, Harrods has the plasma for you, article.
Already have a TV that's the size of — and costs as much as — a beachfront mansion? Harrods' electronics department also sells a $480,000 speaker dock for the iPhone and the iPad that stands 11' tall, and features a built-in ladder that you can use to climb up and connect your device on top.

ROTFL. Good flippin' grief.

Well.... you know, Asian women are pretty small...

Director Cameron starts record-setting Pacific dive

Director Cameron starts record-setting Pacific dive, article and two short videos.

He collected samples for research in marine biology, microbiology, astrobiology, marine geology and geophysics, and captured photographs and 3D moving images.
[...] The water pressure at the bottom is a crushing eight tons per square inch -- or about a thousand times the standard atmospheric pressure at sea level.

It must be a challenge to make porthole glass which can withstand that pressure,  and  be optically perfect for the cameras.

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Net shortens attention spans

We've talked a bit about how how, seemingly, the Net shortens attention spans. Or at least such a phenomenon has come about remarkably coincidentally with the rise of the Net.
Timo wrote this on the subject:

The shortening of attention span for Internet users is caused by dopamine addiction.

Discovering new information, i.e. an interesting site/page, gives a "rush" caused by the release of dopamine, the body's feel good chemical. Over time, you get desensitised to this "euphoric" effect, making you want to experience it more often.  Clicking your mouse then effectively becomes a dopamine release switch.

Except when you click only to find spam or some otherwise uninteresting information.  This results in withdrawal symptoms, making you want to click your mouse even more in order to get your fix.

So, if, upon discovering and interesting page, you find that you end up reading only the ingress of it, and then already feel the need to search for some other interesting information, you are addicted.

The key here is that the dopamine rush happens at the point of  discovery. Not when actually consuming the information.

Summer weather today (updated)

I've been a bit disdainful of the claim that LCD screens are no good in bright weather. Well, it turns out that's because we so rarely get really bright weather here in Northern UK! But today it was, astonishingly bright, and contrasty. And I really couldn't see anything on the screen in some places. So I was glad that the Fuji X10 also has an optical viewfinder.
I had to stand in the middle of the street to get this. What's life and limb compared to the chance of aaaarht.

(Click for big pic on both)

I think they each have separate merits. The color version has the rich interplay of hues in the red/umbra area. But the B/W one has the focus on the strong graphical show of the lines and composition of the dark shapes.

Fuji X10. Set on EXR (pixel-combining) for dynamic range, but honestly I think the effect it subtle. I wish it had in-camera HDR like the Pentaxes and the iPhone. The EXR is better in low light, I think. 

Car math

[Thanks to Charles]
Okay, a little cruel, but funny.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

A Fire Upon the Deep

A Fire Upon the Deep is the kind of SF I like. It is not an excuse for The Human Heart's Struggle With Itself, or about somebody's conflict with his father, it's a big story with very cool ideas. An example is an alien species, which looks like a large dog mostly. And when you have just one, it's about as intelligent as a dog too. But when they run in their native state, small packs, they communicate by hyper-sound signals, and their minds build up into a super-mind, very intelligent and civilized. If the pack gets separated beyond how far sound can reach, the mind breaks down. 
Another example is the idea that the closer you get to the galactic center, the more thought and radio-communication slow down, and vice versa. So nearer the centre, it is more primitive and very slow, but outwardly you have some super-civilizations which the main galaxy have no chance of even understanding. 

Upcoming video pan stand

Not a product yet, but it could have many cool uses. Article. Kickstarter page.