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


Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Mom's tech support call

Send this to your ma next time she wants you to explain why the printer doesn't work.

From the maker of one of the first flash series I ever watched College University (here's my favorite). He's still around and doing other good work, including a cell phone reunion.

Friday, March 27, 2009

New twists on radio: Mixtape & Mixtube

  • Mixtape.me allows the listening of an unusual artist in a playlist format, creating -- for me -- Evol Intent radio. Type in your obscure artist of choice and see what comes up. Who knows how long it will last but its very good while it lasts.
  • Mixtube.org takes Youtube's has an amazing music collection, independent of its videos and turns it into a playlist?

(Not new but related: livemix and newmixes.)

Mac anti-theft trick

Found a hint that helps in case your machine ever gets lost or stolen, set the login to say:

"If you have found or purchased this machine, please contact Yourname at 713-555-5555 or yourname@email.com.  Reward for its safe return."

Using the OnyX software, go to the "Parameters" tab and then the "Login" tab below.  There you can customize your login message.  There's also other software that will just change the message without all the other fancy stuff OnyX does.

Definitely not foolproof, but helpful, easy, and free.


A great bit written on the importance of now. Kind of sad, kind of inspiring.

New favorite Mac program: Skim

Been working with a lot of PDF documents lately and fortunately found a great way to show them: two up on my widescreen, with the capability to scan around the page with two fingers on my touchpad. I work with a lot of software on a daily basis so its rare when I'm really impressed

Other great features of Skim:
  • Outstanding interface -- utilizes everything Mac seems to have been working for years to accomplish in terms of smooth minimalism.
  • Edit PDF documents using highlight, text, and other tools.
  • Open source (BSD) program and actively being worked on
  • Open multiple files and, optionally, have them re-open exactly where you left off.
I was disappointed that the search function isn't a whole lot better than Mac's own viewer, but it is a step above Mac's, finding parts of text rather than just whole words.

(To do the trick mentioned at the top, select "PDF" - "PDF Display" - and select "Facing Pages". Genius.)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Terminator: how to run a theme into the ground

[Before I begin, I'm compelled to say that Terminator 2 was and is one of my favorite action movies and was an overall great movie.]

For the fictional world of Terminator, writers who take up the mantle have a real problem because the series has written itself into a hole. The issue of narrative fidelity is a particular problem for the TV series but for the movies as well, assuming there will be more.

The story happens over more than a generation with the original happening in 1984 and the most recent story occurring in 2009, which is by itself an invitation to problems. How to address the issue of trying to connect culturally is one issue but the lack of any structure continues. We're going to ignore the whole series' hinge schwarzenegger since he was so easily replaced.

The first movie introduced the problem (robots gone bad) and the second movie solved it (destroyed the inventor of the robots). Director James Cameron wisely rejected that ending making armageddon a continued threat in our world, which of course it is. The third movie at this point was fucked -- they had to reintroduce and the not even try to solve the problem because that might prevent further sequels and spinoffs. Simple survival the only real goal here so T3 turned into a plain old disaster movie with lots of catchphrases and colorful explosions. Doing what little rewrites they could, they threw out the problem and took the machine's nuclear bomb (cold war fears) and then added a worldwide computer virus (current fears)!

The only thing left was to bring on armageddon so they could work with some unknowns that would create dramatic tension, such as whether or not the main character will live through it. Even the movie preview describes a new environment as "this is not the future my mother warned me about," thus creating a new page.

That said, TV has its own unique challenges and trying to attract new viewers is one of those. Shows that require you to have watched previous episodes to understand the current one are few and require a pretty dedicated viewership such as Lost and Battlestar Galactica. What happens this week on the Sarah Connor Chronicles? Oh something related to robots and armageddon ... and of course boom goes the dynamite. There's not much flexibility to bring in real writing with meaty stories.

So I'm more sympathetic to the TV writers, although Star Trek TNG milked the android Data's brush with humanity for at least 10+ episodes and a good chunk of at least two movies. No one accuses Brent Spiner of being an amazing actor so surely they can figure out something compelling for at least one season with Summer Glau.

Unfortunately, I won't be there to see if they succeed.

Update: I saw Terminator 4 and was impressed in parts, bored in others. There were elements of Sci-Fi and some outstanding action sequences, but too big a percentage of the movie was a dull homage to the previous movies (though far less than the "new" Star Trek).

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Not on the damn radio

Some plugging for music no one seems to know about:
  • DJ Spyhunter - Powderbreaks - an excellent mix of various different trancy-breaks electronic music - get whole thing for free
  • Hybrid - I Choose Noise - one of my favorite producer groups with some of the finest breaks I've yet heard.  Best album all last year.
  • Colour Revolt - EP - amazing blues-inspired rock album still brings me to tears.  (Ignore their other work.)
  • Mute Math - self-titled - the best in rock.  Sounds a little too conventional for my tastes and so it took a few listens to become a favorite.
  • Pendulum - In Silico - electronic music takes drum and bass into a band setting with amazing results.

Get an extension cord for my plug

A recent article on prolonging death makes me wonder: how hard should we try to stay alive? While the group presented -- strongly religious people -- are more likely to do whatever it takes to keep alive, is it even ethical to do so? Often, these efforts are expensive, futile, and if the subject is already very old, a very temporary solution. Our culture is so death-phobic -- we bury our dead in a distant cemetary and do anything to continue to look young -- it seems absurd. Still, a group that is more interested in life is more likely to last over time.

Also, this isn't entirely religious people: George Carlin, a very public atheist, was very much in favor of anything that would keep him alive (transcript - at the bottom).

Interesting videos

  • Amazing Royksopp video - very close to what I would have tried to do in their shoes. Pitch-perfect.
  • Really dramatic shows are sometimes off-putting.
  • Sad as it may be some people don't have the ability to emotively connect with those around them. For those that do, its not all bad news. Watch and relax.

Weird videos

Hilarious to me but your mileage will probably vary:

Monday, March 16, 2009

More Kitchen Sink

Yet another release is finally done on the Kitchen Sink project. All my recent focus went into this one so hopefully its a winner with users.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Death is a Dialogue between

Death is a Dialogue between
The Spirit and the Dust.
"Dissolve" says Death -- The Spirit "Sir
I have another Trust" --

Death doubts it -- Argues from the Ground --
The Spirit turns away
Just laying off for evidence
An Overcoat of Clay.

by Emily Dickinson -- from here

Monday, March 02, 2009

Erasing harmful memories

Drug Deletes Fearful Memories (slashdot.org). I brought this drug up with friends of mine who have difficulty sleeping due to events in their past. There's sort of an implied question here: would you want to press the reset button if you could? That is: instead of just a drug to solve issues with certain memories, start fresh? Maybe write out a sheet of instructions, setup a new residence and put some money aside? Keep all your skills and capabilities but otherwise get a blank slate.

I have to think that our memories are part of who we are and that makes them to some extent sacred or important. However, many people suffer greatly due to trauma in a lack of sleep, flashbacks, and other issues. Its reasonable to think they could interfere enough that starting over again may be either desirable or -- in the case of severe damage -- necessary.