from "Elite: The Dark Wheel"

In space, everyone can hear you scream . . .
As long, that is, as you're equipped with a RemLok survival mask.
An instant after Alex Ryder hit the hard vacuum, a skin of plasFibre had been shot across his body from nozzles on the face piece, keeping him warm against the cold, tightening and protecting him, securing him against the void. The oxygen flow in his body was cut off to all but his heart and brain. Needle-doses of adrenalin and somnokie were held ready, just within the skin area of his mouth, ready to alert or depress his body functions according to circumstances.
And the RemLok screamed through space for help.

It was a standard survival device, an instantly recognisable distress call indicating that it was being sent out from a small, remotely located, dying body. The alarm screeched out on forty channels, shifting wavelength within each channel four times a second. One hundred and twenty chances to catch attention . . .

A cumbersome Boa class cruiser, loaded down with industrial machinery, slowed its departure run from Leesti and turned to scan space for the source of the signal . . .

Two police vipers came streaking from their patrol sector, near the sun, scanning for the body in trouble . . .

An adapted Moray Starboat, a vast glowing yellow star on its hull--the sign of a hospital ship-- came chugging out of the darkness . . .

Messages from ships to both the planet and its ring of Coriolis stations were abruptly broken as the split second message came screaming through. TV programmes were interrupted, the screen dissolving into a permanently recorded display of the space-grid location of the RemLok. Every advertising space module changed its garish display to flash, in brilliant green, the same information.

In the orbit-space around Leesti, a million heads turned starwards. That split second of panic, that moment's cry of distress, was a sound they knew too well to ignore, and were too frightened of to take for granted.
Robert Holdstock, "Elite: The Dark Wheel".
This was a novella that came packed with the video game "Elite". I think about it every time we get an AMBER alert.

April 2, 2023


same applies for banks and trains which is why big moods of deregulation are often misguided.

April 2, 2022


Open Photo Gallery

April 2, 2021


Open Photo Gallery

The makers of the early talkies dismissed the silents as an embarrassment of wild-eyed emoting. The later talkies dismissed the early talkies. The Forties prided themselves on their increased social consciousness, the Fifties on their perceptive cynicism, the Sixties on their anguished absurdism; the Seventies now flaunt their noble nihilism.
Andrew Sarris, writing in 1975's "The Myth of Old Movies"

Photos of the Month March 2020


Open Photo Gallery

march 2019 new music playlist

Music I added to my ever-increasing playlist last month - as usual, 4-star stuff in red, listed in decreasing "you need to hear this" order.
TIL we do not know the secret name of bears - not even our own word for it:
Our ancient ancestors were so worried about bears, they didn't even want to name them because they feared [the bears] might overhear and come after them. So they came up with this word -- this is up in Northern Europe -- 'bruin', meaning "the brown one" as a euphemism, and then 'bruin' segued into 'bear'. We know the euphemism, but we don't know what word it replaced, so bear is the oldest-known euphemism.

march 2018 new music playlist

8 of the 16 songs this month were 4-star (marked in red) and then "'Til It's Over" was 5, so pretty good month! Listed in a rough descending "you gotta hear this!" order.
Man. It is really impressive that such a precise looking behavior like this could evolve. (Not as impressive/unlikely as it being designed from scratch or taught to a little spider brain tho) I wonder to what level the spider brain is modeling what it's doing - I mean it must be at least a small feedback loop, since webs have to fit various-shaped places, and so it can't be just a tape-recorder like playback of movements...

Jon Batiste's "Battle Hymn of the Republic" features in my "music I added last month" playlist, a cover recommended to me after we flashmobbed with him.

The song is such a terrific earwig, yet terribly bellicose and apocalyptic. End-times Religiosity is such a damaging outlook, I'm kind of bummed in features so prominently in this song and the staple "Saints Go Marching In"

Mark Twain wrote some parody lyrics based on American Imperialism in the Phillipines:
"Mine eyes have seen the orgy of the launching of the Sword;
He is searching out the hoardings where the stranger's wealth is stored;
He hath loosed his fateful lightnings, and with woe and death has scored;
His lust is marching on."

Credit Cars finally giving up the security theater of signatures. Reminds me of the (defunct) ZUG site's Credit Card Prank and Credit Card Prank II where they went to see just what stupid stuff they could pass off as a signature without a problem (SPOILER: very stupid)
I wish there was an equivalent to the "bitch you live like this?" image for boring minimalist spaces:

Interesting point. Not sure I 100% agree (in theory if you do a really good job decluttering, over time the out of sight out of mind rule might kick in once and finally you can reclaim that focus but still...)

April 2, 2017

Free Vintage Posters, guess they lapsed ito the public domain- cool stuff

(In response to a Lost In Mobile post about CD Nostalgia

Allegedly Japan still has a big love for the format - - though some people on the ground via Quara don't seem to agree.

CDs were the pinnacle of album technology. As a guy who never acquired a taste for albums as more than a somewhat arbitrary collection of songs, I don't miss 'em that much, though after ripping my collection en masse I kept a bunch for years (in 4 massive black binders, with the booklets carefully included too)

Thinking about shuffle - I remember some CD players would offer shuffle, and some of those 3 or 5 disc carousel beasts would even do it across disks, though the wait between songs (clunk, whirrrrrrrr, clunk, spinnnnnn) was silly. Actually in terms of interacting with music, those carousels were weirdly unique, right? With LPs and cassette tapes and most CDs, each album stood alone, you physically got it off the shelf or rack, prepped it, and played - a bit of ritual, especially with vinyl... CD carousels invited a few attempts to optimize, like maybe you'd put in the next CD while the current one was playing (tricky! - sort of like ordering a series of songs on a jukebox) or you'd keep a couple of really loved particular CDs loaded in the other ones at all times, for fast-switching... mostly it was a mess. (Oh and some people had a similar multi-CD player for their car... though the ones where you'd have to go to the trunk/boot to swap seemed a lot weirder and less convenient to me than the traditional single disc reader in the console model.)

CDs also have a special relationship to mixtapes. Some of it was timing in my life, but in general CD to tape mixtapes were more common than tape to tape or LP to tape. Being able to make a custom playlist was empowering. (Hm, actually when I assemble playlist like things now, whether for listening, or even in picking numbers for my street band to play in a show, I much prefer alternating paces. Maybe that preference for back to back diversity and contrast is why whole albums seemed less pleasurable to me.)

Final nostalgia tinted analysis: for a while it was cooler to have a CD player than a tape deck in your car, at least once it was more or less affordable to burn mix CDs. But then when all music was in mp3s on a device, it was better to have a tape player so you could use of those funky adapters, since it took a while for car makers to put in an aux input, or (now) USB port.

Man, had not thought about all this physicality in music for a while - so much of it so particular to rather brief eras!

(and lets not talk about 8-tracks :-D )

April 2, 2016

Pretty good month for One Second Everyday! I like how halfway through on the 15th my Aunt Susan says "And then..." to set up the second half, and then Celtics Dunk Team footage on the 23rd was fun. (Also two different Cora events, the Bubbles on the 12th were hecka cute)

march 2015 new music playlist

Ok month for new music... 4-5 stars in red. A lot more instrumental stuff than usual.

--from ...

"C'est la Vie!"
accepting that
"this should not be!"
but coping
more stoically; philosophically--
"C'est la Vie..."
A poem I wrote 7 years ago...
I had forgotten about it, but really it was the same idea I rediscovered recently, the concept that if you expect life to be suboptimal, and stop demanding that it live up to all of your momentary hopes and expectations, it can be easier and less scary when small(ish) things do go wrong -- SNAFU usually won't lead to FUBAR.
[On worrying about "Skynet" scenarios] Humans are going to die on this planet. We're not going to go through a wormhole to another galaxy; it's just not going to happen. What will survive on our behalf is AIs--if we manage to create them. That's not problematic, it's desirable.
Alex Garland, talking with Wired about his new film "Ex Machina".
I really agree with his point here. (Also, is he getting a dig into the film "Interstellar"?)

march playlist

An OK month for music. Video wise, Turn Down For What and the Pomplamoose Pharrell Mashup are definitely worth checking out.

Reverse chronological order for these, which is the way I listen to 'em.
Michael Jackson would lay out tracks a cappella...

April 2, 2013

Praise is very hard to come by in Cleveland. People here are bitter; I can't blame 'em. I still haven't gotten over how we lost the 1954 World Series.
Harvey Pekar.
I highly recommend "Harvey Pekar's Cleveland", one of his final works. He's in top form, and the art by Joseph Remnant is perfect.
Omnia quae sunt, lumina sunt -- All things that are, are lights
Johannes Scotus Erigena / Ezra Pound, Canto LXXIV

You know when I was younger I was under the impression that quick sand was going to be a serious issue in life...

Whenever I see a shirt worn off the shoulder I can never get enough shoulder

Yeah, you catch more flies with honey, but shit gets more attention.
David J.

ice skating

went ice skating with EB and his 2 gals... Holy Crap. 1800+ people playing Asteroids Arena. Node.js has some amazing power!

the planetary love of yee & lan

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yee & lan - story by kirk israel - art by marissa saradpon

A story I made up a long time ago... I thought I could add it as a "comic" feature here, and also give it nicer bit of UI to go through the pages...

Marissa created the art as a school project a number of years ago, mentioning it after the fact-- it being easier to get forgiveness than permission, but no forgiveness needed, I was really happy with her treatment of the work. (And unlike people who translated it into Chinese, she kept my name on it.)
They say there are no atheists in foxholes, and this is a good argument against atheism. I think it's a better argument against foxholes. - if you've ever wondered if the Supreme Court majority might be callous to the point of evil, here's your answer.
"Adjustment Bureau"- most brutally romantic film since "Eternal Sunshine", setting personal achievement vs. romantic fulfillment...

oh YEAH!


--From a piece on Dating Older Women. (I think it's kind of a reference to Franklin's "The Case for An Older Woman") -nudity in "mumblecore" films. It's terrible that NC-17 is boxoffice death; sex can't be part of the art.
Tic-Tac-Toe is subtler than you may think. If X plays center, O MUST play corner; if X takes corner, O must play center AND play offensively! This means if you get to go first, you can often win - something many adults don't realize. (As we found out to general amusement at my birthday party.)
On a long enough time frame, water beats paper, scissors and rock.

Oh and RIP Henry Edward Roberts, inventor of the Altair, THE first home computer.

more fun than laughing

--Obama, Berlusconi, Medvedev (and some other guy below) at the G-20 summit. I'm all for projecting confidence, but this seems to be veering dangerously near a Bush-like "Mission Accomplished" disconnect.

Things my tattoo has taught me: when your arm rotates 90 degrees (vert to horiz in front), the skin on your deltoid only rotates around 45. - att'n Tofu advocates: as you demonstrate there are worse things Tofu being bland. (Cloony-flavored? Really? And it wasn't April 1?)
"It was my first time. Did you like it?"
"Me? Are you kidding? More fun than laughing."
Woody Allen's "Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex*" - man I had forgotten about the webcomic "The Parking Lot is Full" - great, twisted stuff.
Too useful for words:
Woo. Just got some contracting work despite F/T irons in the fire, in part to help an old mentor. In some ways a consultant life sounds cool.

paradox'll do ya

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You know what Google or somebody needs? Some basic date parsing for blogs, so that you can sort results from that kind of site by date. THAT'S what Google or somebody needs.

Link of the Moment
Oooh - creepy-ish CGI girl's head and shoulders, disturbingly lifelike as her eyes track the cursor. Boingboing had a discussion-heavy post on it explaining some of the "how it's done" and "where it doesn't work" - part of the trick in some simple rules about what grabs her attention.

Short Story of the Moment
Great sci-fi non-narrative story Wikihistory, where the established editors keep the n00bs at bay.

who's treated you the best in love?

For a long while, the Blender of Love had an ongoing freeform survey question feature. But for about four months now it hasn't been updated (I'm kind of worried about the guy who was coming up with the questions.) The last one that it's been stuck on is a great one, though:
Who's treated you the best in love, and what did they do?
Assuming you limit the scope to romantic love, and also aren't in the relationship you believe could be the "love of your life", it's a tough question! I really don't know what my answer would be. (Despite its time up there it's one of the few I hadn't answered.)

It raises many further questions... would my answer be based on one extravagant, lovely gesture, or a pattern of grace? Can it be retroactively undone when the romance went bad? Does it have to be something that was reciprocated?

Video of the Moment

(was )

--Erin sent me the Japanese trailer for the movie "Transformers". She was most amused by Steven Spielberg and Michael Bay speaking Japanese, but I thought the whole "direct appeal from the author" pitch was the oddest... ""a grand scale experience with ground breaking visual effects that will take your breath away". I wonder if that approach is more common in Japan, or if it's just odd.

(UPDATE: video went away, so I replaced it with this more recent one with Marky Mark, but a similar idea of "artist to audience" conversation.)

a Transformer's tribute to Michael Bay. It's a parody of the song from the first Transformers movie (back when it was still a cartoon.) I think the best part is, thanks to the song's cameo in Boogie Nights, you never have to worry about how bad you sing it.

Link of the Moment
Thought provoking Slate piece on Utiliarianism and Neuroscience, where science and morality collide on the synapse-y level.

kirk "sweet life" israel

Holy cow, it's Daylight Saving Time? I only heard about it once on the radio beforehand. (Hmm, though if it's always the first Sunday of April, I can program that logic into my Palm.)

Dream of the Moment
I had an odd dream last night. Dizzy Gillespie was giving some kind of concert playing multiple pianos at once, big stride piano stuff. (yes I know that wasn't his primary instrument.) Something happened to him and he wasn't able to finish, so they did some kind of operation to me that copied his skillset so I was able to take over the show... finishing up Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor he had started (don't know what happened to the stride piano stuff) in front of an audience on these multiple pianos, but they were specially rigged so that they had some organ keys as well. It was very athletic, moving from piano to piano, and my general memory of the piece helped keep things moving as I read the sheet music, though my ability to play piano like that was new from the operation.

Afterwards there was an audience Q+A though most people were hoping to have asked a Dizzy a question, not me.

Finally some guy was encouraging me to take a middle nickname for myself. He explained that back in the day, talented performers would take a name that implied their ability to put themselves on easy street, though recently the practice had fallen out of vogue because people didn't want to tempt fate that way. So I chose the name Kirk "Sweet Life" Israel.

Link of the Moment
Continuing my miniset of new (to me) video game links, Hardcore Gaming 101 reviews some old highly-regarded favorites, with a special emphasis on series of a single title, including the ports to the various systems.

event things and thing things

So, lately I've been thinking about what I spend my leisure dollars on.

I declined an invitation to get tickets to see Lewis Black live, in part because the tickets are $42. And, leaving aside for a moment the risk of me being a serious cheapskate, it got me thinking about what people are willing to spend their entertainment dollars on.

Roughly, there's a great divide of entertainment "things": one time "event things": trips with hotel stays, live performances, restaurant meals, movies at the cinema. Then there are "thing things": books, DVDs, CDs, video games, assorted toys.

"Event things" tend to be ephemeral; you experience them, and then you have mostly memories from then on in. (Though sometimes there's a chance to buy or make a memento, like taking photographs.) In general, their value is that hopefully, they enrich part of your life, or do a really good job of entertaining you, in the case of live performance. And that's one issue with "event things": our own memories are so unreliable (or at least mine is) that unless something makes a really deep impression it will likely not come to mind except when explicitly triggered. That's one of the reasons I keep a daily journal as well as a separate "media consumed" record, though those cover both "event things" and uses of the "thing things".

Hopefully, say, live performances entertain you more than the equivalent "thing thing" media representation....I think one of my hesitations with Lewis Black was the thought that I could probably buy a DVD for one half to one fourth the price. And indeed, I caught an older performance on Comedy Central the next day, for "free". But, in retrospect, I probably didn't laugh as much on my own as I would have as a part of an audience. There's definitely an enjoyable kind of synergy that goes on with a bunch of people laughing at the same stuff...hence laugh tracks (I've read that they were introduced so lone home viewers didn't feel so lonely.) And there are other intangibles: possibly socializing with a big group of like-minded people, bragging rights. I'd say that in a capitalist society, paying a premium price for a ticket is a kind of like voting, a small way of expressing support in the cultural marketplace.

So, back to "thing things". I will spend money on the first release of a video game I really like, currently that's around $50. That's a bit more than the Lewis Black ticket, but, assuming the game isn't a dud, it's many more hours of entertainment. (Counterpoint: it's often a lot of padding and plodding as well...and shouldn't hours be reckoned as part of the cost, not the value, of a game? Depends on how entertaining it is and how satisfying it is to complete.) Also, it enters my library of games, and I can repeat it in the future, or lend it to a friend, and of course if it has a great multiplayer mode, it can remain valuable for a long long while.

Books have similar value propositions, and building a library is a pleasure in and of itself. Public Libraries lack that, as well as being generally less convenient, often with a wait for the book that you want. Also with books you get "bragging rights" and hope of "life enrichment", very similar to what you get with "event things". With all of that, it's pretty strange to think about how many thousands and thousands are invested in my book, music, dvd, and game libraries. On the other hand, they do form my cultural identity, and they tell guests in my house a bit about who I am...and the guests can borrow from them as well.

And with all "thing things", there's the prospect of clutter. That's a big issue with me. Not only did I pay to assemble my libraries, I keep paying for it: pay enough rent to have space for it, it adds inertia to changing living quarters, and adds to the intangible cost of having a less zen-like life.

I guess one place you see "event things" and "thing things" go head to head is the battle between watching movies in cinemas vs. DVDs, especially now that cheap DVDs and decent home theater setups bring the costs more in line. Cinemas offer a bigger screen, but mostly I think it's the chance to engage in the cultural conversation while it's still a hot topic. DVDs offer better seating, normally-priced food, and the ability to pause, along with the "library" factor I mentioned above.

Heh, one thing about me in this's much easier to grab a great quote from a "thing thing" than from an "event thing", where often I'm stuck with a paraphrase. And grabbing a funny or smart quote from something is a great way of extracting and preserving value.

Just some thoughts. One other note/gripe: I went to see "Sin City" with friends last night, and it was very good...violent in parts, but the superpower/Noir thing was extremely cool. But as I noticed in the parking garage there at the Fenway complex, they should really consider labeling themselves something more than "Fenway Theater"...another couple looking for the movies shared the same uncertainty I did...without the phrase "cinema" or "movie theater", we suddenly wondered if there was a stage-performance area there instead, and that we had to keep searching for the directions to the movies.


Poster of the Moment
They have these posters for a fundraising walk all over my office building. Not to take away from a worthy cause, but I have two issues with this poster: from even a small distance the main logo is difficult to make out (it always reminds me of an ostrich when I see one down the hall), and the slogan "Making Domesic Violence Our Business" always makes me think "worst idea for an business plan EVER, I hope they don't plan to go IPO."

Photos of the Moment
Camera Obscura: "[Old] Random Photos of Strangers Compiled For Your Pleasure". Somehow it seems rude to subject these sincere-looking people of the late-1800s to a level of irony and jaded detachment that is totally alien to their world, but what the heck, it's good for a giggle, and they're dead anyway.

Quote of the Moment
However many jobs I have, 'this one' is always the worst one.
It's a good quote, but not quite true, I think I tend to have a realistic view of all my job situations even when I'm in them. And like Rob Baum says (paraphrasing here) "hey...this programming may suck but you're sitting's not heavy lifting."

blue pill, red pill, whatever

Quote of the Moment
--You know what my first big problem with [the Matrix] was? Why use only humans as your energy source? Why didn't we see pods with elk, or some higher-metabolism life form that's easier to please, like puppy dogs? They wouldn't even need some fancy-pants simulated world; just give 'em a loop of chasing rabbits and having their bellies scratched and you've quelled all possible chance of rebellion!
Of course geeks love to point out that there's no way you would get more regular electricity from people than you'd need to feed and take care of them. On the other hand, this slashdot article about people who want to process turkey guts into high grade oil is something that's a lot more plausible...I could just see the evil robots squeezing humans for their juices, acne-ridden greasy geeks a specialty.

Link of the Moment
Mr. Wong's Soup'partments are an exercise in collaborative pixel design...very cool.

one mother of invention

Link of the Moment
Inventions that shouldexist, but don't...kind of a more sincere verion of the halfbakery I posted the other day.

Gaming Link of the Moment
Did you know the relative goodness of a First Person Shooter (a genre of videogames, the ones where you're running around a 3D environment, usually with a gun) can be scientifically determined? (An older article, but pretty funny anyway.)

Funny of the Moment
"A real woman could stop you from drinking."
"It'd have to be a real BIG woman."
from Arthur, RIP Dudley Moore


Wow. Was up til 6 or 7am at Kyle's party. Mostly playing Worms Armageddon. It's these funny little take-turns game where you have 3 or 4 opposing armies of these tiny worms... each packs quite a little arsenal, from bazookas to shotguns to explosive sheep and airstrikes. Blow up your enemy worms, or just push them into the sea below...

Quote of the Moment
They say comedy is tragedy plus time.. but you throwing a grenade and having bounce right back on your worm's head... that's just frickin' funny!
what I should have said last night

"Guarded Optimism" says the BBC- that's pretty much my watchwords as well.