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September 5, 2007

Filed under: random»linky

HeroRat

A gem from the Bank's intranet page: HeroRat is a program by Belgian and Tanzanian researchers in which African pouched rats are trained to sniff out landmines. The rats, which grow to the size of a small cat (around 6 pounds), are too light to set of the landmines if they crawl over them. They've also got an 80% success rate of identifying tuberculosis, with 10% false positives.

None of which will make Belle feel any better about six-pound rats crawling around. This will be a real complication if I decide to get a job in a mine-infested region of Tanzania.

August 9, 2007

Filed under: random»linky

Interviews and Office Furniture

Guess what I'm working on today?

  • Joystiq reported yesterday on Sir Ben Kingsley and his partnership with Uwe Boll:
    What were you thinking when you accepted a role in Bloodrayne? It's so hard to imagine someone so gifted not realizing what a terrible film that would be!

    "I don't know whether to be upset or flattered by that question," read his response. "To be honest, I have always wanted to play a vampire, with the teeth and the long black cape. Let's say that my motives were somewhat immature for doing it."

    And honestly, while I'm no great fan of the flick, I see his point. If I were Sir Ben Kingsley, internationally-renowned thespian, it would be tempting to do anything that came along, if it seemed like enough fun. See also: Sam L. Jackson.
  • I don't remember why I was looking for it, but part of the special making-of video for Bad Mojo is on YouTube. Caution--contains cruelty to already-deceased animals in the name of adventure gaming:

    Now I really want to find a copy of Bad Mojo.
  • From Hackaday, this guide to no-tech hacking is a fun read. But it also leads to a video guide for opening Kensington laptop locks with only a pen and a toilet paper tube. Yikes. Guess I'd better find another way to guard my new laptop.
  • Speaking of the Thinkpad, I'm extremely pleased with it. It seems stable, although there are a few hiccups in the OS that I hope will be ironed out by SP1--going in and out of sleep mode is fast and flawless, but shutting down takes a while, for example. Other than that, Vista seems quite nice. Very keyboard-oriented, which is awesome. The hardware exudes solidity--opening the lid, there's no flex as one side moves a bit more than the other. I've had one crash, but I think it was related to F.E.A.R. Gaming performance is good: the Lost Coast Video Stress Test clocks in at an average of 40fps, and clearly goes past 60 at some points if the video tearing is any indication. I'm running F.E.A.R. with everything at maximum but with pixel-doubling on, giving it an effective resolution of 720x450 without stretching artifacts, and it spends 80% of its time over 45fps. I consider this sufficient for what little PC gaming I do, and I imagine it will be overkill for my audio work.
  • The Torzal Twist bass is odd: its fretboard literally spirals gently as it moves away from the body of the instrument. The idea is to follow the ergonomic position of a player's arms, so that the wrists aren't ever bent unnaturally (which contributes to RSI). On the long neck of a bass, especially for players who spend their time down at the lower positions, it's easy to see how this would feel much better once you got used to it. The always engaging (if slightly geeky) Ed Friedland did a video review for Bass Guitar Magazine.
  • Leftovers from a while back: China Mieville discusses fantasy with the International Socialism Journal.
  • The server's being a little weird today. I'm back to writing posts in notepad and then uploading them when I can get a solid SSH connection. This must be what Blogger feels like. BAZING!

July 3, 2007

Filed under: random»linky

Contract Limbo Links

The Bank's HR system has a bug in it, where they can't start my short-term contract until my long-term contract wraps up, and they seem to be having a delay with that. So it's just me and Wallace hanging out right now. Say hello, Wallace.

  • Look, I don't know if the iPhone is good or bad. I suspect that, like most Apple products, it would drive me nuts. Lots of people seem happy with it. All I'm saying is, for any tech product, you should never trust a review written two days after release. There's just not enough time for the new-purchase glow to wear off.

  • Someone has released a chiptunes album on an NES cartridge. Which is all well and good, but I'd be dubbing that off into WAV as soon as I could recover from blowing the dust out of my NES.

  • Here's the thing about this Washington Post article: it's a fact-checker's nightmare.

    At the nadir of his presidency, George W. Bush is looking for answers. One at a time or in small groups, he summons leading authors, historians, philosophers and theologians to the White House to join him in the search.

    Over sodas and sparkling water, he asks his questions: What is the nature of good and evil in the post-Sept. 11 world? What lessons does history have for a president facing the turmoil I'm facing? How will history judge what we've done? Why does the rest of the world seem to hate America? Or is it just me they hate?

    The whole thing is a fluffy, loosely-sourced collection of flattery that largely comes from Republican policymakers and hacks, all of whom seem to be worried sick about the tremendous pressure that Bush faces. He seems to be holding up so well! they marvel. Although the article carefully places all the dots, it does not see fit to connect them: maybe he seems oblivious to his poor perception and his disastrous war not because of his faith or his stubbornness, but because he's truly unconcerned with any of it.

  • The more relevant question, of course, is why the Washington Post felt like using its editorial power to write a puff-piece about how hard it is for poor President Bush, and how well he's doing despite all those inconvenient dead soldiers--not to mention his increasingly fascist legal stances.

  • According to a few of the bassists from the Lowdown, the UK put a smoking ban into place on July 1st. My understanding is that it's similar to DC's. Most people welcome it, but some are up in arms. Why not ban cholesterol, they ask, and Twinkies, and all the other harmful personal choices that someone can make? Which would be a valid point, if your second-hand Twinkie gave me cancer and made me smell funny. Although the Twinkie is a wonderful and many-talented thing, until it can do that there's just no comparison between the two. Smoking bans rock.

  • Virginia speeding tickets have just gotten an upgrade. Fines up to $2,500, and $350 taxes for three years is pretty hefty. I got a ticket on Sunday, actually, and the officer was kind enough to cite me for disobeying a traffic sign instead. The problem with traffic tickets around here, as far as I'm concerned, is that there's a lot of classism in action. When I was researching a story on DWI for NoVA Magazine, the traffic lawyers would come right out and admit that fighting a traffic ticket basically costs more, but wipes your record clean. People who can't afford the lawyer end up losing their driving privileges, which is no fun for someone who's already at the bottom of the employment ladder. I also tend to notice more "residential zone" signs and lower speed limits in wealthy neighborhoods. Must be nice to have the system looking out for your kids. Wallace just has to learn to look both ways.

June 28, 2007

Filed under: random»personal»memes

Pieces of Eight

We need a better word for "meme." It's not a good word, apologies to Dawkins. When read, it looks like "me, me," which may be appropriate but isn't flattering. When spoken aloud, it sounds like half a word (since it's based on the Greek mimeme, I guess it is).

Besides, the blog version of a "meme" is not really a contagious idea. It's a chain letter that's had the most irritating parts (the superstitious promise of good luck coupled with a veiled threat of catastrophe) removed, replacing those with the digital equivalent of a rapport-building exercise. That's not a meme, it's a well-meaning pyramid scam. Maybe we could call it a 411-9? (Yeah, if we wanted to restrict its audience to obscure wordplay.)

On the other hand, it's kind of clumsy to say "Lance just hit me with a well-meaning pyramid scam:"

Here are the rules: Eight random facts or interesting lies about yourself. Send me the link to your post when you're done. Tag 8 more people. Drop a comment on their blog to let them know they've been tagged. Don't sit by your maibox waiting for thank you notes from those you've tagged.

  1. I went to GMU with my Communication major declared from the start, but I didn't really decide to become a writer until my third or fourth year. Before that, I wanted to work for the Travel Channel. I thought I'd make a good host.
  2. It's not that I hate children. It's that I don't like people, and children just embody most of the things I don't like about them.
  3. Belle made me take one of those Myers-Briggs personality tests a couple of weeks back, and I came up INTJ. She had trouble understanding the introspective component until she saw me at a work party a few days later, and whenever she glanced over I was standing by myself--usually next to one of the food tables. Awkward and lurking, that's me.
  4. I played clarinet in middle school and high school band. I was a decent player, but it was all thanks to my ear--I never really practiced. I think that might be the first instrument that I was formally trained to play, that or piano. I still have the clarinet, which was a decent wooden model instead of the usual resin-molded starter instrument. I like keeping it, even if I don't play so well any more, because I grew up in a house filled with instruments, and I'd like to have that myself. It feels very inviting to me. Both my parents were brass players in college, and my dad worked as an instrument repairman for a time. We had a bassoon hanging over the stairs in our townhouse, which I thought was really cool.
  5. I am not a frakkin' cylon.
  6. Most people who know me know that I don't drink as a matter of habit. But I only recently loosened up to the point where I'll use alcohol--usually white wine--for cooking, even though the heat evaporates all the alcohol right out. It still kind of gives me the creeps, but the flavors are rich enough that I can suppress those feelings while I eat.
  7. I'm the youngest person in my division. I might be the youngest person in my vice presidency. Luckily, I doubt that I am the youngest person at the World Bank.
  8. I do think that European Nutella is better than the American, despite evidence to the contrary.

Do I even know eight people who will do something like this? Eight people online, who are both willing to do it and know I'm alive? Let's find out. Here's a tag for Wheat, Brinstar, Josh, Athenae (that's a long shot), Corvus (and/or Rachel), Dan, Orac, and Deacon.

May 25, 2007

Filed under: random»linky

Fabulous Links Were Revealed To Me

Now I have the He-Man intro speech stuck in my head. Thanks, Dan.

  • The Guitar Zeros are a band that plays rock music using Guitar Hero controllers hooked up to a synth instead of guitars. Which kind of adds a new layer to the whole "why don't you learn to play a real instrument instead?" question.
  • For $250, you can get a tiny Linux-based computer called the Zonbox. It would be a great live musical tool--if it didn't run Linux, which is just not a viable audio platform as far as I'm concerned, for a variety of reasons: poor driver support for pro-level interfaces, limited plugin variety, almost no MIDI support, and an audio infrastructure that's a usability nightmare. Maybe in a few more years, but I have my doubts.
  • Slate asked several award-winning writers what font they prefer. Most of them say Courier New, because they either learned on typewriters or wanted to learn on typewriters. Luckily, nobody says Comic Sans. I write everything in Notepad, personally, and so the font is usually either Lucida Console or Tahoma, but I specifically write in Notepad so that I won't have any options to distract me. When I work on this site, it's all in a terminal window, so I guess that's Courier. How about you?
  • You can hear one of the IFC podcasts that I edited on the World Bank's Private Sector Development blog, here. I think it's the one that the interviewer conducted over Skype, so the audio quality is not fantastic.

May 24, 2007

Filed under: random»linky

Invisible Link

IT'S DANGEROUS TO GO ALONE! TAKE THIS:

  • You know that LOL Cats have become unhip when Slate does a slideshow on them.
  • Presidential candidates on MySpace should be careful with their template.
  • Musician David Byrne and neuroscientist Daniel Levitin discuss music and the brain.
  • Fair use doesn't mean what you think it does. In fact, it doesn't seem to mean very much at all.
  • Lucretius is heading off to college and needs money for a camera, a laptop, and a copy of Photoshop. He's selling his prints in a book form. $50 is a bit pricy, but it's a good cause. You can see the photos here. L., you might also consider selling singles or large prints.
  • Sound on Sound magazine is really good this month. There's an article on Dr. Who, an interview with synth expert and crazy person Ray Kurzweil, and a look at the $40 Reaper DAW. SOS also has the best online strategy of any magazine I've ever seen: subscribers get access to everything online, and then the magazine shows up in physical form a week or so later. I really can't recommend it highly enough.
  • And this one goes out to the World Bank Staff Association:

    Keep up the good work, guys.

April 29, 2007

Filed under: random»comedy_and_tragedy

Yippee-ki-yay

For my mom.

April 19, 2007

Filed under: random»personal»filthy_beasts

Oh, They Plan

In which I inflict more pictures of my pets on the world.

But seriously, they're just getting a little too close to each other lately.

They're beginning to synchronize. I think they may be plotting something. Besides, look at this cat:

Remind you of anyone?

Be afraid. BE VERY AFRAID.

April 2, 2007

Filed under: random»linky

Pretty As Homemade Sin

Developing photographer (and unfailing commenter) Lucretius wants more exposure. Ha! See what I did there? But seriously, Lucretius asked a week or so ago if I would help highlight his artwork, and I'm more than happy to do so. Here's his introductory statement:

My media is Digital Photography and Digital Image Editing. I chose this form simply because I do not like my drawing or other forms of art that require manual dexterity. I'm simply not good at it and cannot even draw a straight line. My drawings are childish, and not in that quaint, adorable way. More like the sad, man-child way that earns the wrong kind of "awww's." Only gets worse when I add paint and color. I find photography to be forgiving to the artists with a flair for mistakes, as I am. Photoshop is even more forgiving, allowing me to ruin an image entirely, yet still trace my steps back.

Early on, I started with, and often return to, the ever-popular form of digital art known as clones. From photo-shoot to Photoshop, you must have a substantial amount of control over what happens in the image. It can be hard and tiring, but it's worth the work once an image is completed. At the same time, I'm usually much more intrigued by side projects/series and other miscellanea, such as my recent series "His Last Few Papers," or my penchant for ghosts. Those are similar to the clones, yet much more satisfying and, to me, eye catching. In fact, I'm planning a new project based on the ghosts of inanimate objects.

Artists have a multitude of subjects with which to work. The world is full of things to draw, write, and sing about. And yet here I am taking self-portrait after self-portrait. For me, this is the purest form of art, because it's the most literal form of self-expression, and my most direct connection to the audience. I'm much more comfortable when that connection is made through myself, rather through something or someone else.

Be sure to check out those links to his portfolio. I think these are really very cool images that showcase a lot of potential, and I don't just say that to flatter a reader. Two of my favorites are here and here.

February 15, 2007

Filed under: random»personal»events»holidays

Kitchen Confidential

Michael Chiarello's Best Button Mushrooms are a pretty tasty Valentine's dinner, if I do say so myself. Seen here with roasted baby potatoes, hummus, and some kind of white wine that Belle said was pretty good for $7. The green tea root beer, unfortunately, was a little weak.

I'd show you the mango ice cream with triple chocolate sauce, but we had to devour it before all of the chocolate hardened, and then we just sat around for a while muttering because it was too rich to finish.

Future - Present - Past