Efforts to understand, improve, or do less harm to the world around me.


Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Mutemath backwards show

The tendency is always to think of musicians as focused on nothing outside of songwriting and maybe energetic playing, as well as their social life. Clearly some push the envelope to something that may be considered genuine performance art.


There is a strange and unique relationship between a comic and his audience. There is no more prominent example of this than with unhappy (often drunk) audience members. In dealing with hecklers, comics that don't have an understanding for human foilbles come off looking like they should pick another profession, while those that do impress me even more. Carlos Mencia, despite having his record tarnished since I saw him a few years ago, was a master at audience interaction.

Unfortunately a lot of the time, hecklers represent something painful and sad about how vile people sometimes are -- are very obviously in the wrong. George Carlin -- a notoriously nice guy -- had nothing but contempt for them. A lack of any patience for the subject might have some merit as sometimes heckling doesn't go well AT ALL (Peter Anthony).

Still, hecklers can improve the show as with Joe Rogan (probably the funniest), Kevin Smith, and Richard Herring. Similarly, some of the best work I've seen by Zach Galifianakis came from hecklers, although his distaste and frustration is obvious.

Finally, although some commedians really hate to be heckled, sometimes not liking what you see and writing an online review isn't a crime.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Thunderbird plugins

More e-mail client customization:
  • Adblock Plus - turns off advertisements, really only necessary if you get some spam. Nice.
Once installed, be sure to go into "Tools - Add Ons", select "Adblock Plus", and choose "Preferences". Then from the "File" menu that appears, select "Filters - Add Filter" and choose a location close to you. Expand the window and click "subscribe".
  • Image Zoom - adds functionality for images
  • Lightning - the Calendar client I'm warming up to. Its not as clean as iCal or Outlook but not as annoying either. Right now its competing with Rainlendar.
  • Provider for Google Calendar - lets you subscribe (and publish) to Google Calendar stuff, also something I'm warming up to
  • Thunderbrowse - lets you browse web sites inside thunderbird so you don't have to start up a copy of Firefox. This is especially important with my portable programs thing.
  • Enigmail - you probably don't need this (very few people do) if you want to do signed / encrypted e-mail. Signing is really important if your e-mail goes out to a lot of people or folks who NEED to know the recipient is genuine. Encryption is important if you want extra privacy but your recipient has to have some kind of GPG-compatible tool.Remove Duplicate Messages (alternate) - I found I needed this a few times for when mail servers thought I didn't already have a message
  • Zindus - e-mail contact sync for Google (automated, unlike what I describe here)
See also: my first Thunderbird post.

I feel inadequate

Its true -- these small shopping carts make me feel like less of a man.

[My friend Wes replied: "Same here. That is why I shop with this."]

Downloading Gmail with Thunderbird

Gmail is arguably the best thing to happen to e-mail in the last 10 years. But I can't back up my e-mail or work on my e-mail when I don't have a net connection so I've turned to Thunderbird. There are a lot of reasons for this including being free, able to run on almost any computer, openly developed, and customizable to an amazing degree. So much so that I started seeing what I could do. One of the big changes I've made is setting the program up to look more like Gmail:
  1. Threads. View things in the style of gmail -- listed by subject rather than date or sender. Here's how to set this up permanently.
  2. Contacts. I used this guide to manually move contacts from Gmail to Thunderbird. There are automated tools that will do this but I'm not sure how secure they are.
See also: Thunderbird Plugins

Good, evil, and a virtual world

Developers of a multi-award-winning video game "Fallout 3" talk about their "Karma" system in the game and, inadvertently, a lot about good and evil as concepts. We have expectations that our activities will have either positive or negative consequences, but in an effort to make a more indepth game, the makers take their evaluations further.

Okay so he killed a FEW of us ...

In one of those perverse moments when you wonder just how history remembers (or forgets?), Joseph Stalin is voted 3rd greatest Russian. Clearly, history's great mass murderers can look forward to a time when killing millions isn't a big hit on your character. I guess nobody in Russia reads Solzhenitsyn.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Modern day slavery

Unfortunately, despite the deaths of many to try and prevent it, forced working among children remains a persistent reality with no easy answer.  Desperate parents and working conditions that are -- while terrible -- still better than where the children come from make upholding human dignity a difficult task.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Art: photo, impressionism, and computer

Moving these over to an official entry...

One of the best "club" picture I've ever seen. From Rich's in Houston (don't know the owner).

Impressionist-style work done using free ArtRage2

From the game Halflife

(As usual, click "download" for full size.)

Recent and old photos

Click "download" for full size.

Mac space saver program

Monolingual is free software for the Mac that helps eliminate extra languages included in Mac OS (like Bulgarian and Portuguese) as well as binaries optimized for systems other than your own.  I got the idea from this MacWorld article that also has some other tips on slimming down your OS X computer.

My G4 saved about 500 megs, my Intel Mac saved about 3 gigs.

Side note: despite all this, I'm very interested in moving everything over to Linux.  If something happens to my Mac Laptop, I don't have the money to buy another one.  Still, it helps to maintain what you've got.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


An art piece I did back in September using a few different art tools, most especially Pixia (a portable program for Windows)

Click "download" for the full scale (and full quality) PNG file.

Christmas photo

Was outside and saw a nice sunset and a single star. Was a very good description of the holidays.

Click "download" on the drop.io page for full size.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Robots, flying cars and sex

From "inventor builds [female] robot" concerning a beautiful -- if someone creepy -- Japanese robot female:
"Like a real female she will react to being touched in certain ways. If you grab or squeeze too hard she will try to slap you."
This article is probably stretching; the key word is "try", which is likely raising one arm partway. The fembot is obviously a modern version of the flying car and easy to report on because its really just a fluff piece nobody expects any real facts from anyway. Like any minute now, we'll all have one and they'll all have features like they're advertising -- sure. But really, 20 years from now, some super rich people will have one that can actually do some of those things.

However, the article isn't all fluff: it openly points out something that is already becoming a reality: that the robot may be used for sex. With the increasing prominence of extremely human-like dolls, who knows? Maybe the sex industry will be the primary drive for artificial intelligence. Asimov (among other futurists) thought sex with robots was kind of obvious and expected, but I don't know if they considered the causes could be reversed.

(Link care of my friend Jordan)

Friday, December 05, 2008

Netflix PR hilarity


Just read this site and found a netflix statement about pulling like 100+ videos from the online instant watch (including Casablanca, Smith Goes to Washington, Ghostbusters, and Dog Day Afternoon):
"As watching instantly becomes a more prominent part of the Netflix service, our goal is to have all of our streaming content available for all of our partner devices. We're doing well in this area, but it will take some time before we fully achieve that goal. Today, titles regularly come in and out of availability and there is a natural ebb and flow to what we have available at any given point in time."
I love reading corporate PR responses ... I think its genuinely an art to say nothing at all. And you have to worship Satan with ALL your heart to put out stuff like this.


A forum I post to had this response:
"What's even better is that a large majority of people are quite satisfied with receiving a response to their questions that doesn't answer them at all..." - David
Oh absolutely -- these guys wouldn't have a job if they didn't placate people with meaningless but vaguely poetic phrasing like "ebb and flow".