kirk.is | archive | 2005 oct

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but at least i SAW something

(2 comments)
October 1, 2005
Quote of the Moment
"I didn't learn anything, but at least I saw something."
--Willa Mae Buckner, "The Snake Lady", 1922-2000. Her biography and life as a performer is given an illustrated writeup in Harvey "American Splendour" Pekar's "Our Movie Year", along with many other obscure jazz and blues artists.

Study of the Moment
"Religious belief can cause damage to a society, contributing towards high murder rates, abortion, sexual promiscuity and suicide, according to research published yesterday", reported in this article form The Australian. I think you have to take both the study and the interpretation with a giant grain of salt, but the correlation between high rates of religous belief and high rates of strongly negative things is interesting, and an interesting retort to people who would assume the opposite.

mac daddy

(21 comments)
October 2, 2005
Geekery of the Moment
So, looking over Ksenia's shoulder as she used her Mac laptop, I had a bit of an epiphany that helped me "get" the dock-centric UI a bit more. I was asking her if she wanted to get rid of some of the apps that she doesn't use from the dock...I know in her place I would want to keep it as uncluttered as possible. She declined because she kind of like the way it looked, but something about the exchange let me finally "get" the Dock a bit more...it ties together the way that most users probably only use a small number of applications on a regular basis, and the original Mac idea of being an "information appliance"...I now understand the concept of a user not really caring if they had windows open in that application or not, because...well, I guess the tasks are more strongly grouped than that. Only if you press the yellow button does it give that window its unique place on the Dock, so you explicity kind of say "I'll come back to this later", whereas the Windows view kind of assumes everything is a task you want to come back to, because the user is multitasking. Windows' taskbar is all about, well, tasks, but Macintosh has a view that's more application-centric than that. I think I still prefer the Start Button / Taskbar combo however.

Joke of the Moment
Donald Rumsfeld is giving the president his daily briefing. He concludes by saying: "Yesterday, 3 Brazilian soldiers were killed."

"OH NO!" the President exclaims. "That's terrible!"

His staff sits stunned at this display of emotion, nervously watching as the President sits, head in hands.

Finally, the President looks up and asks, "How many is a brazillion?"

--Robert Underhill, rec.humor.funny

it'd be interstate guinea

(2 comments)
October 3, 2005
Geography of the Moment
AFGHANISTAN: "Everyone here wears long beards that suit them well, but it must be tough when they're drinking milk."
EQUITORIAL GUINEA: "It's called that because it's right on the equator. If it were under the highway, it'd be Interstate Guinea."
UGANDA: "There's a bird on the flag, but its inhabitants are human. It's not a country of birds or anything."
ETHIOPIA: "A nation famous for coffee and marathon runners. Maybe the coffee makes you run really fast."
MOZAMBIQUE: "The flag of this country has a gun, a hoe and a book. It must have gone through hard times."
THE PHILLIPINES: "A country comprised of over 7,000 islands. It must be hard to find names for them all."
PAKISTAN: "There's a city here called Harappa. But there aren't any rapping dogs."
--The King Of All Cosmos from "We Love Katamari", harvested by Nick B.

Seasons of the Moment
Fairly high up on the list of "simple self-built tools that have made my life slightly better" is that retrospect page that shows me the kisrael.com and Palm-journal entries for this day, reaching as far back as 1997 for the Palm stuff, with consistent coverage since kisrael's start at the end of 2000.

One thing it demonstrates is that there's...well, maybe not nothing new under the sun, but less than I would have imagined. It makes sense that stuff like birthday parties recur, but there's other stuff as well, like how Nick B. has been a guru leading to katamari for a while, or (and this was the larger surprise) I described myself as self-medicating with video games two years ago, something I've recently agen taken up, though currently I'm plowing through games I've been putting off rather than just going back to old favorites.

I guess I'm not surprised about the games-as-self-medication thing happening this time of the year. Specifically, the two-years-ago thing was a form of self-soothing as my marriage was falling apart, but historically this is far and away the karmically worst time of year, from the general sense of nature having to hunker down for the ice and the snow to it being the time of year my dad and at least half of my grandparents passed away.

I dunno. I guess I have this hope that maybe moving some place with less distinct seasons would somehow help get me out of this cycle. Dylan loves San Diego...and their football team did lay down the smack on our Patriots yesterday. (Not that football is such a big relocation determinent, but still.)

how far can new york climb into the sky?

(3 comments)
October 4, 2005
Pickup Line of the Moment
"Are you a magic feather? Because my heart just grew a tail, and flew away."
--from a set of Pickup lines for Mario...this was my favorite, bringing together two bits of geekly lore, obscure-ish Nintendoisms and those lists of pickup lines that have made the rounds over the years. (Thanks Mr. Ibis)

Image of the Moment
--Salon.com points out that newspapers used to be much prettier...I really like this one, and its sense of optimism tinged with concern.

Article of the Moment
On happiness, from evolutionary to practical perspectives. Weird how our brains aren't good at finding contentment. I liked the bit about how the happiest nuns were the longest-lived.

Idea of the Moment
Boingboing posted about amphibious houses. This might really be the way we slowly slide into a "Water World" type future, assuming sea levels keep rising. I'm sure many places are always going to be on dryground, but for the coastal areas...it's kind of interesting to think about how life would be, when every place is like Venice, but bobbing.

there must have been some magic in that old silk hat they found

(1 comment)
October 5, 2005
"What If" of the Moment
What if all snowmen could walk and talk, like Frosty?

They'd be gone as soon as we made them. You think snowmen would sit around here just to entertain kids, waiting until the first warm spell melted them? No way. Responding to some primitive instinct for survival, they'd hoof it for Antarctica, or climb Kilimanjaro. The only time anyone would ever see a snowman is by climbing a mountain. We'd expect them to be gurus, and ask them about the meaning of life. But they would just say things like, "Me want toy." Snowmen are idiots.

--Gene Weingarten in the Washington Post, via Bill the Splut.

thoughts on thoughts

(12 comments)
October 6, 2005
Interesting piece Slate linked to with the caption How Amnesia Cured My Depression...the author's temporary utter loss of short term memory left him a more relaxed person.

As a guy with a chronic underachievement of certain kinds of memory, it's an interesting concept. One wonders if the brain is largely a zero-sum game, if an increase in, say, creativity need be balanced by a deficit in, say, short term memory. I guess that's a bit of wishful thinking, but there might be some trade-offs there.

As far as I can tell, I have a very tangental mind, and I think that it's one of my strengths (though it needs to be tempered when I'm trying to communicate with other people!) I've heard it argued that lateral thinking and the ability to see the parallels in dissimilar scenarios is one of the purest (and most difficult to replicate in AI) forms of intelligence we have. I often use trips to the restroom or to fetch water as a chance to roll a problem around in my brain, manipulating factors and statements as if they were worrybeads. And running through permutations is one of the things I do, just switching factors around and seeing if anything sticks, or triggers some further thought.

This habit, assuming some fellow geeks share it, might explain the unfortunate fondness for puns: our brains are frequently buzzing with alternate interpretations and takes on what's in front of us, and sometimes the alternate meaning a pun provides strikes us as amusing or insightful. I derive a lot of jokes from things I mishear, or misinterpret, from people I'm talking with. I can usually autocorrect and figure out the correct meaning ,but if the wrong one strikes me as amusing I'll deadpan that I misheard and don't understand, repeating the wrong version in the form of a question.

Bumper Sticker Retort of the Moment
The other day I saw that "Not All Who Wander Are Lost" bumpersticker. It's a nice thought, but...I don't know, it's kind of negative about "being lost"...you would think someone who enjoyed a good wander would appreciate the odd being lost now and then. I think a better slogan would be "Not All Who Wander Are Aimless", which expresses the idea that wandering is kind of the point of what they're trying to do.

Well, that's the bumper sticker I'd make, anyway.

ah waltham

(9 comments)
October 7, 2005
Quote and Scandal of the Moment
"Waltham: it's like our own little New Jersey right here in Massachusetts."
--"Adam 12" from a WBZNWBCN (thanks Candi) promo. Funny little idea...obviously meant as a bit of a dig, but both state and city have their own blue collar pride and character as they orbit a larger metropolis. My family has connections to both Waltham (my mom and aunt growing up, and then where I lived and owned a house for a bit) as well as the Garden State (a vacation home a few blocks from the shore that is slated to my relative's permanent residence heading into retirement.)

In other New Jersey news, Tuesday Morning Quarterback pointed out a truly scary result of the Supreme Court Ruling letting "eminent domain" be used for private development. In Union Township, it looks like an Assemblyman effectively seized land to allow a political contributor to build townhouses...ignoring the fact that's what the owner of the land wanted to do as well. A seriously frightening blend of cronyism and tyranny...I don't utterly disagree with the court ruling, but there needs to be some kind of check to make sure it's not abused and that getting your local politician to seize land for you doesn't become a cost-effective alternative to avoiding the free market.


Cartoon of the Moment
--Cartoon by Adam Green, who was the subject of the first lovblender review. Brilliant!


Video of the Moment
Actually I just emailed with Adam Green and he pointed out this Trailer for "The Shining", which does an astounding job of making it seem like a "feel-good-movie"...amazingly clever in its selectivity.

the print shop robot returns!

(14 comments)
October 8, 2005
Animated Clipart of the Moment
When I was in elementary school, there was a kind of nifty program called "Print Shop" for Apple II and maybe C=64...for a long time in the 1980s you could see its distinctive one-sheet signs and longer banners around at schools and small stores.

It came with a supply of clipart...I remember there were two robots, a kind of corny clunky one, and this one, which I was a bit infatuated with:

It was pretty cool by early-80s standards...I put out a call on AtariAge.com, and a guy was able to dig up the old files for me. It also came with some newer clipart files, including this one with cute little tanks, and then some spaceship imagery, and of course "I must obey the inscrutable exhortations of my soul" which in this case involved turning them into little animated GIFs:

and


These can both be tiled as follows:











(Of course, these aren't terribly original even by my own standards; if you like these check out these brilliant tiling microcosms of kinetic mayhem or my own Alien Bill Horde and/or the Etch-A-Sketch Wing of Small Gif Cinema.)

three rings, no waiting

(4 comments)
October 9, 2005
So Ksenia and I went to the circus yesterday! A coworker had an emergency trip so wanted to sell 2 great seats to Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey's at the Fleetcenter. (Actually it's not the Fleet Center, but the TD Banknorth Garden, and I heartily applaud the billboard that says "Go ahead, call it The Garden again"...a breath of fresh air in a world of call them "LEGO bricks" and not "LEGOs" and the Los Angeles Angles of Anaheim) Although the full, post-merger name of the circus is a bit much, I'm always glad to see the "Barnum" in there, given his connection to my alma mater Tufts University.

I was wondering what the show would be like in a post Cirque-de-Soleil world, and also how it would stack up to my childhood memories. It started slow...the clowns' crowd warmup seemed a little pathetic, frankly, but once it kicked into gear...wow. It is a tremendous show. (I was surprised the place wasn't more packed...if you're interested you could easily get tickets still. Not much publicity around here...actually I remember seeing last year's billboards (different "Tour", judging by the website) but nothing this year.) A grand event, some decent "theming" going on, a bit of sensory overload, sometimes a bit more focused...nice.

There seemed to a few glitches: a slightly flubbed highwire jump (nothing with a dramtic fall, though) and two times needed for the "sway-poll" switch, some feisty lions (I think they aborted one pose thing halfway through), and I think a motorcycles-in-the-stell-ball-cage finale that they kind of called off unceremoniously. Still, it was a great time, more of a spectacle than the artsier and more-intimate circuses can pull off. Ksenia thought it held its own against the Russian circuses, grander in some ways, lacking in a few others.

Far and away the most amazing thing was a bit from "Upside-Down World" where they have this little 2 person tableau, a nice domestic scene, completely upside-down (or is it umop-episdn ?). The two performers are attached to the platform apparently only by their feet, and whether it's a special form of velcro, or magnets or what (they did seem to have to take baby steps but otherwise had good mobility) I just don't know...and then they do some clever bits playing with their predicament, juggling, tryingto pour a drink...

Of course, being a geek, I was as amazed by the sheer logistics of the set build-ups and tear-downs as by the performers. I was never really "crew" for anything at my highschool, but I the precision and effeciency of the folks dressed in black, along with the cleverness of the staging, was really something.

(Oh, by the way, don't be intimidated by the weirdly formal "NO BAGS/CAMERAS/AUDIO" (No Audio? What, it's a silent circus?) on the tickets. Lots of people take pictures and they don't seem to make a fuss about bags, at least small handheld ones. Even the Ringling site mentions non-pro photos are ok, depending on the policy of the site they're at.)

Passage of the Moment
The circus is the only ageless delight that you can buy for money. Everything else is supposed to be bad for you. But the circus is good for you. It is the only spectacle I know that, while you watch it, gives the quality of a truly happy dream. The big cats do things no cat would ever do. You can see them jumping effortlessly over Mr. Konyot's head instead of making that unbelievable low rush they close with in the dusk when the female lion shows her cubs the way to kill.
--Ernest Hemingway, writing in the "Circus Magazine and Program" for the 83rd Edition of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey...the Ringling Website has some great hidden gems like that.

todone

(10 comments)
October 10, 2005
I've been thinking about what my perfect "TODO" program would look like. Recently I reorganized the Todo category on my Palm, taking a cue from David "Getting Things Done" Allen's "What's on my Palm" article. (It used to be a simple webpage, now they made it a crappy PDF "free download" that you have to "Add To Cart" and go through a full checkout process to get. Way to be customer-friendly there, guys.)

The general idea is organizing tasks largely by where they need to get done, and then segregating out the "maybe/somedays". So I have categories
  • @anywhere
  • @call (calls to make, I might end up rolling that into @anywhere)
  • @home
  • @internet
  • @store
  • @waiting for... (useful to track dependencies seperately, or a reminder that you're expecting a shipment from Amazon, etc)
  • @work
There's also "Someday/Maybe" and a few legacy categories that are usually just a different flavor of "Someday". He also suggests a category for big projects that have multiple subtasks, but I haven't started to follow that approach yet.

The native Palm Todo definately isn't my ideal. For instance, I'd like to view all tasks in all categories on a single page, but when I do that on Palm it gives no indication what the category for each task is. There are some other shortfalls as well, including poor integration with a datebook. Here's what would make up an ideal TODO app for me:
  • TODOs are each assigned to one category (or more? There might be strength in allowing multiple, like Gmail's "tags") from an editable list of categories and an editable list of priorities. (And the "default" priority should be settable, I'd set it to "medium priority" rather than Palm's default of 1.) "View All" can be configured, then, to sort by category or by priority, but making both factors visible for each task.
  • Ones marked done are segregated to a seperate listspace but still viewable on the Palm (not Palm's own weird "archive completed on computer at synch") Then you can get that smug little "look at what I've done!" feeling.
  • Quietly (as in not displayed on the default display) the creation date and "done" date is stored, and there should be an option to resort displays by these dates.
  • Simple ability to make subtasks. I've seen this most easily done by little arrow buttons...the right arrow indents the task and makes it a subtask of the previous task, and the left arrow would restore a subtask to being a "sibling" of the previous tasks. None of that sophomoric "a task with 4 subtasks is 25% complete when one of those subtasks is done" graphical indicators. (There's a slight internal complication with this, as a list of completed TODOs might display a few unfinished parent TODOs for context, but I think it can be done in an intuitive way.)
  • This might be feature-creep but maybe my ideal program would embed a full datebook. I'm fond of Outlook's "Today" view, which shows a collapsed view of a days events (when you're scheduling time, you might want to have a typical one hour = one line view, but otherwise I prefer a simpler "list of day's events" formats) along with TODOs.
  • Tasks could be assign a due date and there would be a visual indicator of just how overdue something is. And you could also make non-task "Events" that still show up in the datebook but with no nagging.
  • Palm is pretty clever about figuring recurring datebook entries, giving you the option of saying, e.g. for a monthly event "the 9th of every month" or "the second Sunday of every month". It doesn't let you say "the last Tuesday of every month" however...my idealized TODO would take care of that as well.
  • There would also be "Recurring Floating TODOs". Say I'd like to be reminded to pay bills every 15 days, though I know I let it slide sometimes, but always want it to be 15 days ever I last did it. These TODOs would show you at a glance how long its been since you've done them as well as be able to remind and then nag you when certain thresholds are reached.
I guess that's about it. Dang, this got to be a long and rather eccentric entry, I hope some percentage of the regulars find it at least skim-worthy. Feel free to chime in with your counterpoints or new ideas. I'm not sure if I'll ever get to doing this, or what language I should write it in...maybe one of those specialty simple Form-based languages for Palm?

pocket veto

(16 comments)
October 11, 2005
This is the third entry that I wrote on Sunday, originally planning a single moster update, then decided that would be a bit much... Speaking of TODOs...I just Ebay-ed a combination cellphone/Palm that Samsung made. (Apparently they're the only ones who figured out how nifty clamshell designs can be for this kind of thing, though sadly they discontinued the line.)

Anyway, I wanted to mention I'm reluctantly calling the whole omnipresent courier bag instead of loaded pockets idea a bit of failure, because I'm just not carrying the bag everywhere, and sometimes I'm caught short sans camera or Palm at (semi-)crucial moments. But I don't want to cram my pockets as much as I use to, so combining cell and Palm will be a good first step, and maybe getting an even smaller camera. I notice more people danging cellphones from a belt or waistband holster...apparently that doesn't have the stigma that "fanny packs" (stop sniggering, UKers) do. Other alternatives include:
  • Said "Fanny Packs" or a smaller "Man Purse"...the former lacks dignity and the latter would probably get the same treatment as the Courier bag.
  • a Marvin Minsky-esque photographer's vest, but I can't see myself wearing one ALL the time with dignity intact.
  • Utilizing the extra pockets on the cargo pants that I've been wearing on a regular basis...the trouble is how odd small dense electronic gizmos feel dangling about from about thing level where the pants are relatively slack. Plus it seems like it would be harder to remember what goes in what pocket.
Sorry the site has been so Kirk-minutiae-centric as of late. I'll try to get back to more links and quotes.

Articles of the Moment
I'm not a big fan of anti-PC sentiment (mostly because I think efforts to get people to be polite in public should be applauded, in general) -- especially when the only links I can find seem to be of rightwingers, but is it true that Piglet figurines (and all other pig paraphenalia) have been banned from a UK Council office, in order to avoid offending Moslems? And ditto for the UK flag, with its Crusades tie-in? Yeesh.

Obviously, some Moslems seem to have a more relaxed view about all things swine. And then there's that idea where Pigs could be Kryptonite for Moslem Terrorists, though I suspect this would be a gimmick of limited practical use in the long run.

Schadenfreude of the Moment
NYah NYah Yankees! That $85 million more you spent than the Red Sox (a difference that's actually greater than the entire payroll of 2/3 of all MLB teams) bought you a net difference of 2 wins in the postseason. Now you get to go play some golf! This after your historic, world-beater, record setting choke last year. Neener-neener!

yugo igo weallgo for yugo

(2 comments)
October 12, 2005
Zinger of the Moment
Last week, Zastava, the Serbian company that built the now-defunct Yugo, signed a deal to begin producing Fiats under license. The first step will be to rebuild Zastava's factory, which was bombed by NATO in 1999. A Fiat-Yugo alliance -- can you think of a worse conjunction of low quality? It's like saying you've invented a new food that combines Spam and corn husks
--The Tuesday Morning Quarterback who goes on to suggest that if it Yugo (which is, in retrospect, a clever pun on the company and the action) was out today, they could target a female demographic with the "Yugo Girl".

this site was made for ramblin'

(2 comments)
October 13, 2005
Thought of the Moment
Can you make an Impressionist game? A game where the formal system conveys the following?
  • The object you seek to understand is not visible or depicted.
  • Negative space is more important than shape.
  • Repetition with variation is central to understanding.
The answer is, of course you can. It's called Minesweeper.

--Raph Koster, "A Theory of Fun for Game Design", talking about Impressionist art in different media and how Games could follow some of the same ideas.

Ramble of the Moment
I've been thinking about the conventional wisdom concerning the similarities between Apple and Nintendo. (Heh, back in 1988 then Apple-president identified "Nintendo!" as Apple's biggest threat.) Neither is the market leader in their fields, but both are well-respected, with a rabid fanbase (plus a few naysayers), and producing some really striking design work.

It was when I was temporarily unable to recall the name of the iPod "Shuffle" that it hit me how many products Apple has churned out lately. I suppose many companies churn out wide product lines, but no one combines the innovation and sense of design of Apple. (The effect may be exaggerated by my personal sense of "time speeding up"...I couldn't find a complete product timeline.) Consider the online Apple Store... desktop-wise there were those old fruity iMacs (which of course harkened back to the original Macintosh, which was probably the most innovative thing of all!) and that was it for a while (except for the brilliant but ill-fated silent Mac cube...) but more recently there was that one with the swinging arm (no longer sold I guess), the other one where the CPU, DVD etc are built into the back of the screen (an idea I saw on a few PCs in the 90s, but crappily done), and the Mini. Laptop-wise, less distinction but great execution, and I admire their realization that some people prefer smaller, more lappable laptops (and shouldn't pay hugely inflated prices for it, ala Sony's pintsized models.)

iPod-wise, it was that one for a long while, then came the Mini (now totally eclipsed by the Nano, which is probably why Ksenia was able to get a 100% rebate on one when she bought her powerbook), the screenless "stick of gum" Shuffle, the impressive Nano, and then newer models with screens and, finally, video.

I can't think of any company that has matched, though Nintendo comes close. Most famously they're known for the terrible flop of the Virtual Boy (strain your neck peering through the binocular-like, ugly red goggles, and just generally feel like a total tool even further removed from the real world...) but they've done a lot of industry-advancing things...cross pad arrangement of buttons and shoulder buttons on the SNES controller, analog stick with 4 built-in ports on the N64, the cool clamshell of the GBA SP, and the twinscreen / touchscreen of the DS.

Nintendo seems to be taking another gamble with the "Revolution" and its controllers. Initial images of the remote-control looking controllers are almost alarmingly reminiscent of the Phillips CDi system. (My Aunt enjoyed the Backgammon game, but that's about it.) Supposedly, though, they're very good at tracking position and rotation. They used similar gimmicks on certain GBA titles (most notably "WarioWare Twisted") and the responsiveness of the new "in space" controllers should be much better than similar gadgets in the past.

These should allow for some unique and distinctive gameplay forms, ones that might have an appeal to a huge swath of gamers. Nintendo is fighting against the "elitism" of games (described by Raph Koster in his "Theory of Fun" book) where game designers start catering to their hardcore fan-base 'til finally the barriers to entry are surprisingly high. Anyone could step-up to Pac-Man or Space Invaders and start interacting, but not so much for, say, Halo or Mario Sunshine. It's a gamble, but it's refreshing--especially since Microsoft's Xbox 360 and Sony's PS3 seem geared around "more of the same, but prettier."

Hmm. I'm not sure if I have much of a point with all this, except...Hooray for scrappy companies doing good design!

a fifth of...oh nevermind

(2 comments)
October 14, 2005
Joke of the Moment
Q. What was Beethoven's favorite fruit?

A.

--The only way I could think of showing a sound based joke...

Geek Fashion of the Moment
WOW. an LED-tanktop that plays "Conway's Game of Life".

I wonder if the idea could be modified to scroll text as well...

virtual kirk

(1 comment)
October 15, 2005
Office Antics of the Moment
--I took a sickday Thursday after hurting my neck in yoga. My coworkers made up a "Virtual Kirk" which I then enhanced on my return Friday VK with a printout of a headshot for his face rather than the hand-drawn cartoon. (In defense of my coworkers, it didn't take quite as long as it looked in all, and there's a bit of a mid-release lull in the workload at the moment.)


yarrrrgh

(2 comments)
October 16, 2005
Line of the Moment
Greg Goss wrote:
> Old Spanish money prior to the English take-over
> of most of North America could be broken into eight
> smaller bits. Think of the pirate stereotype,
> obsessed with "pieces of eight".

"Pieces of nine."

Awwwk! Parroty error.

(Geeks only need apply.)

--"Blinky the Shark" on alt.fan.cecil-adams

bumper2bumper

(13 comments)
October 17, 2005
Bad Game Idea of the Moment
--I made up this (poor) mockup for this AtariAge thread about "Games you would never play". The scary part is the name and idea is something I came up with in 1997 on r.g.v.c....in 1997.

when you're really good, they call you cracker jack

(17 comments)
October 18, 2005
Cracker Jack Prize of the Moment
Too clever to just discard but not really worth keeping, I decided to make an online version of this Cracker Jack prize:

(Click To Rotate...)

It's an optical trick I hadn't seen before. (There might be a slight delay the first time you click.)

I used to be kind of mad at Cracker Jack, given that their "toy surprise" was always something flat and cardboard. (Though I've gotten some decent stickers from 'em once or twice.) Now I realize part of the problem might be that the FDA has a stick-up-its-butt "no toys in food" guideline...that's why we can't get Kinder Surprise Eggs here, outside of import shops.

FWIW, I put together a decent little image swap in Javascript...it doesn't preload the images but it's nicely resuable, because the IMG tag carries all the information. View source if you're interested.

Covers of the Moment
ASME's Top 40 Magazine Covers Of The Past 40 Years...some good stuff there, with fullsize scans. Whoops -- try this version instead.

http://elf.org/doodle rocks!

(2 comments)
October 19, 2005
Vacation Filler of the Moment
Usually if I'm going away on vacation I prepublish content on kisrael, just in case I can't get to the Internet. When I'm vacationing at home, as I am this week, it's a little different. I just get lazy about updating...so I've decided to dump 32 images I made with doodle for Palm, a delightfully minimalist little drawing program. So for the next 4 days I'll post them in groups of 8...if I'm feeling lazy, that'll be about it for the day. And today...I'm feeling lazy. Just dumping the files to my computer, renaming and uploading took it right out of me.





pretty sketchy

(2 comments)
October 20, 2005
Doodles of the Moment




The top left might be the server at the same place the booze glasses were doodled in yesterday's set. There's an attempt at a sketch of Mo there, and as for the last two...errr. Well. Isn't it interesting, my friend Erica taught me that it's much simpler to write in cursive with a low-fidelity sketch pad such as this than with my usual printing.

Film of the Moment
Last night Evil B got me to go see the film MirrorMask...pretty decent, and it's too bad there's not more publicity for it. It's a collaboration between Henson Studios (the similarities with Labyrinth and I've heard The Dark Crystal are pretty strong) and author Neil Gaiman...visually, it's incredibly rich, though the story is thin, surprising given the Gaiman influence. I was going to say that it's kind of lile "Through The Looking Glass" meets Salvador Dali, but it turns out that the overarching art influence is Dave McKean...I'd recommend his page (have to click...they're playing some stupid games preventing a direct link) over the official Sony pictures one.

Unfortunately, it might be a "wait for the DVD" kind of thing, given its poor distribution...here in Boston it seems like only the artsy cinema is showing it.

Article of the Moment
Slate on the inverse relationship between an institutions health and its tendency to make interesting architecture, the logic being that companies that are still enganged deeply in doing cool work don't have time to make the perfect HQ. I've seen this in action, in a small way, with my dear departed dotcom Event Zero; moving to the new offices (with a conference room sharing the oval shape of the company's logo and with the late-90's cliché blue/orange color scheme) was one of the death knells...a big capital suck that any company hoping to ride out the dotbomb crash of 2000 couldn't afford.

even sketchier

(2 comments)
October 21, 2005
Wonder of the Moment
Dan Ellis and the 10,000 year clock. I love how it's built to be self-winding, but also seems to thrive on human attention.

Doodles of the Moment




Ummm...yeah. The top left one might be a reference to "sex rodeo style". Don't recall if that Young Astronauts in Love is a copy or the origin. The guy with the dartboard is Dave from my Darts team, having a bad night.

I find it interesting how the limitations of the Palm's screen and touch digitizer influence my style, making it even simpler and less nuanced, since I can't generally depending on getting delicate features in.


doodlebuggin'

(3 comments)
October 22, 2005
Final Doodles of the Moment





Well, that's it. I like the guy at top right. The Angriest Eggplant is a rehash. "You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman" was to amuse Erica during an sQ concert when the guest group was singing that song. As for the breasts...umm...well...I think I was imitating some stylized cartoon I saw somewhere, with the breast drawn with a straightish topside and roundish bottomside (in contrast to the not too inspiring twin hemispheres my unfortunate cartoon women usually end up with.)

Thus endeth the doodles. Been one of the quietest halfweeks on the kisrael comments section, so I'm gonna count this run as "not so inpspring".


my vacation week, an apology of sorts

(12 comments)
October 23, 2005
My Vacation Week, An Apology of Sorts
Don't know why I'm a apoogizing, per se, except maybe for having a lamer than average week on kisrael, or maybe to myself for not getting through that many things on my project TODO list. Update: maybe I should pre-emptively apologize for this really dull entry.

I burned a great number of hours getting through a new (to me) videogame "Mercenaries". It's kind of like "Grand Theft Auto: Future Wartorn North Korea"...violent, but a lot of fun. (And unlike GTA penalizes you for killing civilians. 'Cause it's not murder when it's war, you see. [UPDATE: "and it's soldiers you're indiscriminately bringing to untimely ends, I meant to say]) I'm realizing I prefer "mission" based games which present different tactical situations and then let you select your approach (sneak around and snipe, run in guns blazing, bring some excessive weaponry or military vehicles to bear, etc) versus the more common "puzzle platformers" where there's one correct solution you have to figure out to get to the next stage. It's part of this larger game philosophy I'm trying to hash out, where "novel interactions" are what I'm really looking for in games...and the missions count as novelty, even though they're made from a small set of gameplay elements and routines.

The only project I worked on was a new edition of my "photobook" photo album (still a work in progress) but I got to do a reasonable amount of other stuff during the week:
  • Tuesday Ksenia took me to a gallery and panel discussion of Protest Posters at MassArt.
  • Wednesday I attended a light but technical lecture at my alma mater by Ben Shneiderman (Human-Computer Interaction Laboratory) on tools for visualizing multidimensional data. His work has led to some cool stuff, like recognizing certain correlations in the human genome, that kind of thing. (His message was first present an overview of all data, then let the user drill down and pick what relationships they want to check out, generally with 2D graphs.)
  • Thursday I had another call with the therapist I've been having weekly sessions with, and then I had a followup back massage appointment.
  • I started Friday with a pedicure (!)...my first. Cool to have my feet minus the usual cracking I get. Also I had a checkup with my regular doctor...he agreed with my assessment that I need to drop the frickin' wait I've packed on since the divorce.
So all in all a well-wasted week I'd say. Ksenia thinks I seem a lot more relaxed, could well be. Sorry for such a "minutae of my life" entry today.

Quotes of the Moment
"If you're not sick of Elvis by now, you probably never will be."
--Art Chantry at that MassArt panel, explaining a record cover for the Von Zippers where he cut-and-pasted a bunch of celebrities with their mouths zipped closed.

"Working with hippies is really hard."
--Art Chantry explaining a "Give Peace A Dance" poster, where he ended up having to throw in everyone's idea, 'cause that's the way hippies work.

"There's nothing more dangerous than a true believer."
--Art Chantry again. Anyway, he says his most reproduced work is his Ready For War poster, a bit like "The Scream" I thought.

"That's one thing I learned from politicains...don't answer the question, just say what you want to say."
--Robbie Conal during the Q+A after...he's probably most well known for his Contra/Diction poster. In general he was a bit too sardonic and trying overly hard to be funny, but still kind of interesting.

sky, tree, stones, water

(2 comments)
October 24, 2005







Three photos from three consecutive Augusts, added to my desktop wallpaper page. The water one is probably the best background... nice how it made kind of a squared off Yin/Yang.


Sports Note of the Moment
Not that I have a dog in this fight, but the injustice of a blown call in Game 2 of the World Series rankles me to no end. It just ain't right. The Umpire said it hit the guy, not the bat, every bit of replay showed he was dead wrong, but still, there was no recourse.

I hate trivial injustices almost as much as the big ones.

people place things

(1 comment)
October 25, 2005
photobook iii: people, places, things.

ksenia

family

friends

petermen

jane

roihls

brooke

alextonya

chicago

europe

shore

road/sky

b/b

signs

snow

random
I finally finished photobook iii and added it to my photobook page. It's divided by theme: 8 galleries of people, 4 of places, 4 of things. I aimed to be more selective than a "typical" photo albums, mostly focusing on photos that are visually interesting, with only a smallish percentage of ones in there just for nostalgiac purposes. Let me know which ones you think are good! It's been too quiet around here lately.


Funny of the Moment
Moderator: We're here today to debate the hot new topic, evolution versus Intelligent Des---

(Scientist pulls out baseball bat.)

Moderator: Hey, what are you doing?

(Scientist breaks Intelligent Design advocate's kneecap.)

Intelligent Design advocate: YEAAARRRRGGGHHHH! YOU BROKE MY KNEECAP!

Scientist: Perhaps it only appears that I broke your kneecap. Certainly, all the evidence points to the hypothesis I broke your kneecap. For example, your kneecap is broken; it appears to be a fresh wound; and I am holding a baseball bat, which is spattered with your blood. However, a mere preponderance of evidence doesn't mean anything. Perhaps your kneecap was designed that way. Certainly, there are some features of the current situation that are inexplicable according to the "naturalistic" explanation you have just advanced, such as the exact contours of the excruciating pain that you are experiencing right now.

Intelligent Design advocate: AAAAH! THE PAIN!

--The Abstract Factory...it goes on for another 4 or 5 exchanges. Funny stuff, nice to envision the scientist finally getting fed up with playing nice and by the rules with people who clearly have their own agendas they're trying to jam down people's throat the back way. At the risk of mixing a metaphor or two. (Thanks morecake!)

Passing of the Moment
Oh...and of course, RIP Rosa Parks.

You know, seperate "white" and "black" sections were bad enough...having the "white" section in the front and the "black" section in back was horrendous. But worse than those, it's not like they were even differentiated...when the white section "needed" to grow, the black section had to shrink. That's just horrendous in at least 8 different ways.

mr angry and mrs calm

(11 comments)
October 26, 2005
Illusion of the Moment
To view this content, you need to install Java from java.com
mr angry and mrs calm // source code // Built with Processing (0093 beta)

I made this applet to better view the Mr Angry & Mrs Calm Illusion as presented by Ian Rowland, but the original is by Dr. Aude Oliva and Dr. Philippe Schyns (see this MIT page for more cool and related stuff.)

Move the mouse over the image to shrink it. As it shrinks, the faces seem to swap places! No other image processing is done except the shrinking. Mr. Angry on the right becomes calm, and Mrs. Calm on the left appears angry. It's an amazing illusion, I think the applet makes it a little more fun to play with.


Article of the Moment
Neat little Slate Explainer about the spelling of the Red Sox and White Sox...I had no idea it died into that "spelling reform movement" near the end of the 1800s.

I still love names like the "Boston Beaneaters" and the "New York Porchclimbers"...more historical team names here.

Laffy Taffy of the Moment
Q. What kind of tea can be hard to swallow?
A. Reality
--Recent Laffy Taffy Wrapper. Ooooh, Snap!

Site Update of the Moment
I rejiggered by sidebar with the goal of making it easier to get to the interesting stuff. You can compare it old one and let me know if you think it's an improvement. I'm open to suggestions, especially for the section headings.

wun ate-un-hed fit-ee-oh AI-ent

(9 comments)
October 27, 2005
Ads of the Moment
There's a line of radio copy for "Giant Glass" that I've heard a few announcers read, something like "because if you're ever in an auto accident, your windhshield is the one thing between you and the open road"...I've never quite been able to wrap my head around that line (no pun intended.) I guess I think of "the road" as "the asphault", and generally it's the body of the car that's keeping me from that. So does "open road" mean..."the air"? The threat of other cars leaping at my car? I dunno, but I guess it sounds better than "because you don't want your windshield splintering into a thousand pieces and chopping your body and face".

Of course these are the same ads with that way too catchy for the good of humanity "Who you gonna call when your windshield's busted" / "1-800-54-GIant" tune. Sometime when I get angry at how much it's stuck in my head I enjoy singing along to the spot with grunty imbecilic monosyllables..."wun ate-un-hed fit-ee-oh AI-ent".

Trivia: Giant Glass is named after the NY Giants Football Team, the owner was a fan before the Patriots were added into the New England mix. (You know, I have a tremendous memory for factoids I find "interesting", and a terrible memory for anything my head brands as "mundane". Is everyone like that?)

Article of the Moment
The ChiSox win brings up the thought is GWB the new LBJ? and other thoughts about the possible Curses of Texas.

Geekular Essay of the Moment
Slashdot linked to Petzold on Does Visual Studio Rot the Mind?.

I remember the good ol' Petzold Win32 programming book back at Tufts' Curricular Software Studio. Around that time I also dabbled on my own with VB (version 3, getting into 4) and I designed and taught a for-credit class in it with Tufts' "Experiment College".

My life is Java and Perl based but I see some of the elements he's talking about, at least with the Java. And I feel some of the same conservatism he describes, and I'm never sure if I'm becoming a crusty old coot coder or if a longing for simplicity and opacity in the system we result in is a hallmark of how good programmers think.

Looking at some of the stuff Ksenia is doing for her Graphics Design major...a lot of seems pretty dull, like Typography class and it's kind of fetishistic view of fonts, but sometimes it seems really appealing. I still love fooling around with logos and branding and what not. I think no matter what I'd always program "for love" but sometimes I wish the "for money" part wasn't so much more lucrative than other paths I toy with following.

truth is hard and absolutely essential

(8 comments)
October 28, 2005
Quote of the Moment
Life sucks and you'd better get used to it. Sounds negative, but nothing could be further from the truth. The sooner you understand that politicians are liars, thieves, and worse, the sooner you stop waiting around for a leader to make everything better. Stop putting your faith in Gods, friends, family--hell, you may not be such a hot prospect yourself. Truth is hard and absolutely essential.
--Ted Rall, from his intro to Shannon Wheeler's "Too Much Coffe Man: How To Be Happy". He goes on to explain how it was his abstract expectations for the world that literally brought him to the brink of jumping off the top of a building, but the truth "It'll HURT" that brought him back.

Article of the Moment
It's a fun morning that starts out with Intelligent Design vs Monty Python.

Product of the Moment
Ksenia is the envy of her classmates after I gave her the Microsoft Wireless Notebook Optical Mouse...it's pretty slick. A bit smaller than a regular mouse but not too small, and the clever bit is that the USB plug/receiver snaps into the base of the mouse which makes it very portable and non-fiddly, as well as tells the mouse it can shut off to save battery life. Plus the basic model doesn't seem to suffer from the "featuritis" of many mice that stick on too many buttons. (As far as I can tell the site is misleading about the feature set...and I had to use Google to find that they had a feature comparison tool--and even that is a bit arcane. What's a "Smart Receiver"? and I'm vaugely amused by "Sophisticated Finish" and "Cutting Edge Design" and "Ergonomic Design" as seperate features.)

So thumbs up for that. In general I think Microsoft does very decent hardware work...I think they were the first to start pushing scrollwheels in a major way, and the split keyboards that I prefer (and that drive coworkers sitting at my PC nuts...) Though I'm a little unhappy with the number of multimedia buttons they've been adding to the keyboards, making an already biggish keyboard even more unwieldy.

Lately I've been recognizing how I have some neurons that "compact design" rubs in just the right way...I get a little happy buzz when I see something just the right compact size (so long as it doesn't seem fragile.) This applies to the car I drive, cellphones I admire...sometimes I wonder if it might even tie-in with body types I find appealing. There's just something so karmically right about avoiding excess when it comes to design.

quantum foam of 10 dimensions containing planck length sized black holes continuously being created and annihilated with no cause or effect

(3 comments)
October 29, 2005
Science of the Moment
During the Planck era, the Universe can be best described as a quantum foam of 10 dimensions containing Planck length sized black holes continuously being created and annihilated with no cause or effect. In other words, try not to think about this era.
--James Schombert, Early Universe Primer. I found this while googling for the source of how there's "a difference between something and nothing, but it is purely geometrical", usually attributed to Martin Gardner, so I'm confused about proper attribution. (And besides, I like Paul Valery's "God made everything out of nothing, but the nothingness shows through." a bit better.)

they're made out of meat

(5 comments)
October 30, 2005
Don't foget, clocks went back an hour early this morning!

I've always been a big fan of the idea of having DST be all year long or so, though now that Ksenia has to get up at 6 and it's so dang dark, I can see the validity of the opposite viewpoint. Doesn't change my opinion much, but I see what they're getting at.

Story of the Moment
"They're made out of meat."

"Meat?"

"Meat. They're made out of meat."

"Meat?"

"There's no doubt about it. We picked up several from different parts of the planet, took them aboard our recon vessels, and probed them all the way through. They're completely meat."

"That's impossible. What about the radio signals? The messages to the stars?"

"They use the radio waves to talk, but the signals don't come from them. The signals come from machines."

"So who made the machines? That's who we want to contact."

"They made the machines. That's what I'm trying to tell you. Meat made the machines."

"That's ridiculous. How can meat make a machine? You're asking me to believe in sentient meat."

"I'm not asking you, I'm telling you. These creatures are the only sentient race in that sector and they're made out of meat."

"Maybe they're like the orfolei. You know, a carbon-based intelligence that goes through a meat stage."

"Nope. They're born meat and they die meat. We studied them for several of their life spans, which didn't take long. Do you have any idea what's the life span of meat?"

"Spare me. Okay, maybe they're only part meat. You know, like the weddilei. A meat head with an electron plasma brain inside."

"Nope. We thought of that, since they do have meat heads, like the weddilei. But I told you, we probed them. They're meat all the way through."

"No brain?"

"Oh, there's a brain all right. It's just that the brain is made out of meat! That's what I've been trying to tell you."

"So ... what does the thinking?"

"You're not understanding, are you? You're refusing to deal with what I'm telling you. The brain does the thinking. The meat."

"Thinking meat! You're asking me to believe in thinking meat!"

"Yes, thinking meat! Conscious meat! Loving meat. Dreaming meat. The meat is the whole deal! Are you beginning to get the picture or do I have to start all over?"

"Omigod. You're serious then. They're made out of meat."

"Thank you. Finally. Yes. They are indeed made out of meat. And they've been trying to get in touch with us for almost a hundred of their years."

"Omigod. So what does this meat have in mind?"

"First it wants to talk to us. Then I imagine it wants to explore the Universe, contact other sentiences, swap ideas and information. The usual."

"We're supposed to talk to meat."

"That's the idea. That's the message they're sending out by radio. 'Hello. Anyone out there. Anybody home.' That sort of thing."

"They actually do talk, then. They use words, ideas, concepts?"

"Oh, yes. Except they do it with meat."

"I thought you just told me they used radio."

"They do, but what do you think is on the radio? Meat sounds. You know how when you slap or flap meat, it makes a noise? They talk by flapping their meat at each other. They can even sing by squirting air through their meat."

"Omigod. Singing meat. This is altogether too much. So what do you advise?"

"Officially or unofficially?"

"Both."

"Officially, we are required to contact, welcome and log in any and all sentient races or multibeings in this quadrant of the Universe, without prejudice, fear or favor. Unofficially, I advise that we erase the records and forget the whole thing."

"I was hoping you would say that."

"It seems harsh, but there is a limit. Do we really want to make contact with meat?"

"I agree one hundred percent. What's there to say? 'Hello, meat. How's it going?' But will this work? How many planets are we dealing with here?"

"Just one. They can travel to other planets in special meat containers, but they can't live on them. And being meat, they can only travel through C space. Which limits them to the speed of light and makes the possibility of their ever making contact pretty slim. Infinitesimal, in fact."

"So we just pretend there's no one home in the Universe."

"That's it."

"Cruel. But you said it yourself, who wants to meet meat? And the ones who have been aboard our vessels, the ones you probed? You're sure they won't remember?"

"They'll be considered crackpots if they do. We went into their heads and smoothed out their meat so that we're just a dream to them."

"A dream to meat! How strangely appropriate, that we should be meat's dream."

"And we marked the entire sector unoccupied."

"Good. Agreed, officially and unofficially. Case closed. Any others? Anyone interesting on that side of the galaxy?"

"Yes, a rather shy but sweet hydrogen core cluster intelligence in a class nine star in G445 zone. Was in contact two galactic rotations ago, wants to be friendly again."

"They always come around."

"And why not? Imagine how unbearably, how unutterably cold the Universe would be if one were all alone ..."

--by Terry Bisson. It was circulating around unattributed for a long time.

baba boo! ey

(1 comment)
October 31, 2005
I finally got the t-shirts Kate and I worked on this summer...they're dark blue and say I've frequently not been on boats...so I'm wearing it today and telling people about my halloween costume... "I'm an Obscure Literary Reference!"

Quote of the Day
"Halloween is like Christmas for the Drama Club people"
--Baba Booey on Howard Stern...working in Salem in the month leading up to it, I have to say he has a point...

Image of the Moment
-- This is the third year I meant to finally link to this great and slightly disturbing comic ad...


Culture of the Moment
10 Things You Might Not Have Known About Iran's Popculture.

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