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Last update: 15 Feb 2010 -- 0:15am
31 Jan 2010
The iPad Quandry

Apple's newest device: the iBistick


30 Jan 2010
Kermit - The Inside Story

He Can't Do It Alone: Enlist Today!

iPad: Meh AND Woot

My main impression of the iPad announcement is that it is unimaginative and boring. It's a double-sized iPhone, without a camera. That's pretty disappointing. Apple's track record for designing and executing cutting edge and game-changing devices is amazing, and what they showed me was a bigger version of less than what we've got now. That's not the kind of thing I was hoping for from Apple when they finally decided to come out with a tablet.

You see, I've been dying for a real slate computer for many years. In 1989 or so, I designed (in concept) a computer which would replace my note-taking system at college. Ever since, I've wanted this electronic clipboard. The 90s gave us Go and PenPoint, and later the Newton. Microsoft replied to these with Windows for Pen, which was not even quarter-assed. Jobs returned to save Apple and murdered the Newton. Palm completely took over the PDA market. Palm filled that niche so well that it pretty much killed touch computing until Microsoft tried again with Windows XP for Tablets. That sank and fell into the swamp. And then Microsoft tried again with their Origami projects. That burned, sank, and fell into the swamp. Each time, I was hoping that it would be "the time". But it never came.

I have a HP TC1100, which is a slate computer. It runs Windows XP Tablet. I mostly use it to read email and browser the web when sitting in bed or on the couch. It's not touch sensitive, but requires a pen, which is a little irritating. It's just enough for me to want more.

And then I got an iPhone. I suddenly had the sum of human knowledge available at my beck and call (AT&T's weakness notwithstanding). I knew where I was all the time. And take pictures of it. I could twitter and blog and verb2.0 anything I wanted. All in the palm of my hand. I've never been more amazed by a piece of technology.

So, Apple was FINALLY going to make a tablet. Squeee! How could it not be the culmination of human technical achievement?! Gimme! Gimme!

But the iPad is merely the fantastic awesomeness of the iPhone in a much more attractive and usable form factor and an unheard of price point. Myself and other techno-geeks were hoping for something out of left field. A Wow! moment of some kind. But there really wasn't one for us. And hence the general consensus: Meh.

But the reality is different. The iPad is an amazing device and they're going to sell a bazillion of them.

28 Jan 2010
27 Jan 2010
26 Jan 2010
25 Jan 2010
I Hate iTunes So Much I Can No Longer Measure It

How on God's green earth did "podcasting" ever survive this travesty of a user interface?

Here's what I expected: when subscribe to a podcast I would get all of the episodes I haven't listened to from that point forward. Like what a Tivo does. So simple. Instead, it recently decided to download some of them and not others. It has festooned my interface with a variety of unidentified and un-tooltipped icons.

I think that the blue dot means that I have listened to it. To this day I have not figured out what the checkmarks are truly for. I've been told that they indicate what you're going to sync to the iPhone, but there's an option somewhere which seems to turn that on and off or something. If you click on the exclamation point (which, incidentally, is highly dangerous to do in iTunes because it can just BUY things in a single click and stopping from doing so makes it a chore to use the software at all) it says that it stopped updating the podcast because I haven't listened to it recently enough.

How jolly of it to decide for me. I haven't listened to hardly anything on my iPhone for months, including ALL of the other podcasts in my list. But strangely, only this podcast has been marked as unwanted. Also, if it stopped updating the podcast, then why do I have the most recent episode? I assume the other random episode is from the last time I synced my phone in the same situation. Perhaps syncing it to the phone would have been cause enough to do what I asked it to do at the beginning, which is SUBSCRIBE to the podcast.

Just because I haven't read the last two issues of The Atlantic, I don't want them to stop sending it. I just want them to stop printing so much crap. Ah, but that is a different rant for a different day.

Stay well, Children, and remember that whatever amazing and life-changing device Apple announces on Wednesday it will only work with this piece of software.

24 Jan 2010
23 Jan 2010
Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth by Apostolos Doxiadis and Christos Papadimitriou

This graphic novel about the life and philosophy of Bertrand Russell has been very popular, showing up on several hip web logs and being recommended by newspapers and so on. I honestly didn't think it was very well done. It's written as a clumsy story within a story within a story. Sometimes the top-level story (which, of course, is of the authors actually making the comic) jumps in and says "but you didn't explain X" and then explains it for us. I feel like that's a bit of a lazy cop-out.

They could have used this nested, self-referential construction to highlight the philosophies discussed in the narrative. There's plenty there to work with (Russell's hierarchy of set types, paradoxes with self-reference, and so on) but they didn't capitalize on it. The authoring of Logicomix just isn't a compelling story.

Also, the explanation of some of the paradoxes and philosophies wasn't well done. Examples chosen were sometimes weak, and once again the narrative of the internal story of Russell would be interrupted with "but a better example would be". And then the example wasn't really better.

The art is fine, and when the comic stays on task and in the story it does pretty well. But as soon as it moves towards the more heady philosophy or mathematics, it stumbles.


The Dave Brubeck Quartet

Jazz can sometimes be an uphill climb, with time signatures and chord progressions that defy my ability to enjoy them. Solos launch off into the void or spin around tunelessly (at least to my ears). I am not a fan of "squirrelly jazz".

But when a soloist takes me off to destinations unknown only to return me back, safe and sound, it's magical. Which is why I love the Dave Brubeck Quartet. They epitomize the "west coast jazz" sound; cooler, calmer, and more controlled than the other jazz coming in to vogue at the time. Its pieces have the structure which I can't find in squirrelly jazz. I never feel entirely lost when listening to Dave Brubeck.

Their most generally recognizable cut is "Take Five". It's got a crazy 5/4 time signature and a catchy theme. But what I find really amazing is how the basic structure of this song still allows infinite variation in its performance.

I've posted here one of the better videos of "Take Five". It opens (as always) with the basic beat on the bass and percussion, then the piano starts pounding away: dun-DUN dun-DUN, DUN DUN. Then the sax comes in with the basic melody. Then a sax solo, a piano solo, and a drum solo. Each time the soloist pulls away, shows you something new and unexpected, and brings you right back. (To be honest, drum solos are something I still don't quite get or enjoy, but the one in this video makes me believe I might someday. Also, in video linked here, you can just barely hear Brubeck singing with his solo.)

So, feel free to skip the drum solo. But don't stop at the end of this video. Search YouTube for "Dave Brubeck Take Five" or look at the related videos and choose another version of "Take Five" by the Quartet. They all start with the exact same recitation of rhythm and theme at the top of each performance. In fact, this section begins to sound rushed and perfunctory after the third version you hear. But then it opens up. Every solo is different every time. And not just by a little bit. And yet somehow they all fit in the framework.

It's what brilliant musicians do, I guess. And the Dave Brubeck Quartet in the 60s had an amazing line up. Dave Brubeck on the piano, obviously. Paul Desmond on the saxophone. Joe Morello on the drums. Gene (Eugene) Wright on bass.

There's at least four different Brubeck versions of "Take Five" with that same band composition on YouTube (they're all in B&W). Try them all.

20 Jan 2010
Mighty Octopus

I guess I've got thing about submarines and cephalopods.

Santo vs "The Evil Mind"

18 Jan 2010
Crayola's Law

Crayola's Law: The number of colors doubles every 28 years.

17 Jan 2010
The Pre-Beatles, 1957

George Harrison is 14; John Lennon is 16; Paul McCartney is 15. The cove on the far right is lost to history.


15 Jan 2010
Dazzle Camouflage

Dazzle camouflage, also known as Razzle Dazzle or Dazzle painting, was a camouflage paint scheme used on ships, extensively during World War I and to a lesser extent in World War II. Credited to artist Norman Wilkinson, it consisted of a complex pattern of geometric shapes in contrasting colours, interrupting and intersecting each other.

Dazzle did not conceal the ship but made it difficult for the enemy to estimate its type, size, speed and heading. The idea was to disrupt the visual rangefinders used for naval artillery. Its purpose was confusion rather than concealment. An observer would find it difficult to know exactly whether the stern or the bow is in view; and it would be equally difficult to estimate whether the observed vessel is moving towards or away from the observer's position.

Besides this camouflage being very cool, I love this painting as well.

30 Ways to Die of Electrocution

Movie Title Screens

13 Jan 2010
12 Jan 2010
Blessed Saint Architeuthis by Skot Olsen

Can't sleep, clowns will eat me.

10 Jan 2010
The Sweep


"If you ask me which of all human beings is happiest in proportion to his means, I would answer, the sweep. He is not proud in his dress, small are his wants, and great his independence. Wealthy men make way to let him pass, and truly he is a man of high calling. He fears little for his capital in trade, for his brush and shovel are nearly the whole. Humble as he is, he can set his foot under the grate; Insult him and you become a marked person.he seldom accumulates riches, though to he often rises in the world.In the delicate feelings of his heart, he spurns not the negro, because his face his black ; no, he hates such pride, lives independent and comfortable, and above all he is content with his business, because he knows it suits him."

9 Jan 2010
Mr. Rogers

Fred Rogers - Pittsburgh, August 17, 1998

YouTube - Mentos and Coke

That's me, my Dad, and my nephew. He had gotten a special nozzle built for foaming soda bottles with Mentos and it was a moral imperative to try it out.

Healthcare Spending and Life Expectancy

Star Wars on Facebook

7 Jan 2010
6 Jan 2010
The Old-School Basement Bar

Besides the obvious effort put into the bar itself, it amazes me how well-stocked these bars are.

Growing up Heroes

Stop! Tea Time!

Love the style of this illustration. More like it at the site,

5 Jan 2010
4 Jan 2010
Josh Finkle

Very awesome handmade wood toys of extinct animals. (Has some cool pictures of the building process too.)

3 Jan 2010
1 Jan 2010
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Pictures of Max - popplers - Snuffy's photos