~ Archive for Glory, glory, glory ~

Picture of the Day

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A glorious experiment… hooking up an old rocket engine to a shopping cart. This fabulous picture highlights the metal of the engine and exhaust pipe, mid-trip, while it is glowing red with the heat. Wow! While I’m at it, all the other links in its conceptual cluster (1, 2) are also pretty fly.

It’s a mapped, mapped, mapped, mapped world

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Lots of good news on the mapping front these days.  After years
with no real improvements to mapquest, yahoo! maps,  et al, there
are some new mapping tools gaining attention and server-farms. 

My favorite at the moment is map24; which does five huge things right:

  1. Clear, intuitive internationalization:
    follow the “international” or “choose map” links at the top, to get a
    localized interface and map (in 12 languages).  As crazy as it sounds, there is NO WAY to get to, e.g.,
    mapquest.de from mapquest.com
  2. Interactive zooming,
    letting you choose the rectangle you want to zoom into.  This is a
    sexy concept — useful for maximizing the effectiveness of printouts —
    and brilliantly executed (it is done smoothly, as if panning in). 
    Also of interest: they dynamically update the location of street and
    region names so that they all fit on your map. 
  3. Highlighting of one-way streets
    For whatever bizarre reason, many major map companies (Y!, G) still
    don’t do this, and mapquest only offers it at the highest level of
    zoom..
  4. Providing excellent in-map tools:  A distance measure,
    that both shows you interactive distance-circles around a point, and
    lets you plot out a multi-leg path, adding the distances of each leg to
    the map; and a reorient yourself tool that quickly zooms out and back in.
  5. Allowing you to have a big map:
    one 98% the size of your screen.  Speed is proportional to the
    size of your map is, but this still rocks my geographical location.

Unfortunately, map24 isn’t fast; it can take a good half-minute to load
initially, depending on how well your machine handles its Java
applet.  They offer a static mode which is significantly faster, but still not as fast as the other big map providers.

Other amazing mapping services that are steadily improving: 

  • Google Maps, which has hit the review circuit recently: fast and cute; offers
    maps 75% of your screen size; currently ad-free, and only for the US.  (Note that Google partners w/ map24 to provide maplinks for the European Google sites)
  • Mapblast, now part of MSN, which offers maps 50% of your screen size, and some excellent fonts and icons for marking up their maps
  • Terrafly, offering satellite and aerial images of much of the world (NYT review; supported by NASA and IBM); also slow, but gov’t-sponsored and ad-free.
  • Keyhole,
    offering high-resolution, high-quality flyby views of much of the
    world; via a free 7-day trial or $30/year subscription.  Talk
    about sex appeal!

And here are some mapping overviews for more:

Hoom! maps have sadly shut their doors…

Language-free Flash in the collective Pan

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You all know I’m a huge fan of language-free communication.
That is, using definitions of “language” and “communication” that are
productively different.  (If they are synonyms in your idiolect, I
may have a hard time expressing this notion to you in English!)

Done properly, it is faster and more thorough than any language could
be.  So I collect stories, puzzles, instructions, snake-charming
techniques — anything with a didactic, connection-forming, or
otherwise predictable effect — that are independent of language. 
The more universal the effect, and the more specific the concepts
conveyed, the better. 

Here are from two [groups of] animators whose work I love, though each
is sprinkled
with morsels from specific languages or cartoon-cultures… for the
first, you should know what cats, rabbits, and love-icons look like in
cartoon form, and live in a world with coffee-vending machines and
elevators.  For the second, well, you only need some experience
with hammers and nails, and with larger creatures eating smaller ones.

  • SamBakZa‘s There she is,
    an gem of conceptual and visual collage; full of broadly-evocative
    human emotion, shared experience, and instinctive thought processes;
    with a rich and crystal-clear plot that is an object-lesson in
    elision.  The background music, like the producers, is
    Korean.  The whole is the greatest animation short I’ve seen in
    years.  [Here’s an FAQ about it; here is the sequel, “Cakedance“.]

  • Walk-smash-walk, a simple animation by Sakupen
    inspired directly by a dream, captures the essence of some elaborate
    relationships, emotions, and motivations, without wasting effort on
    characters, dialogue, or plot.  I cannot imagine having this
    vignette described to me in words.

  • Adam Phillips’s Prowlies at the River, about a half-hour’s
    interaction among a collection of unfamiliar creatures in a somewhat
    familiar forest.  There is introduction text, but the vignette
    does just as well without it.

If you have a fave olde-tyme cartoon or bit of wordless film, past or present, let me know. 

Central Park’s glory days

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Go see the latest park-dressing for yourself.

One of Albert Maysles’s favourite moments with Christo occurred during one of 17 hearings the artist had to attend to obtain permission for Running Fence. “Some of the ranchers were complaining that it wasn’t art,” he remembered. “Then one farmer’s wife stood up and said, ‘Sometimes I cook a meal for three hours, and it’s a work of art. But then it’s eaten, and it’s gone.‘ Ah! That was so great! She got it.”

– from the Globe and Mail

Veggie Planet!

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I want to let everyone know about this fabulous restaurant tucked away in Harvard Square; community-oriented, vegan-friendly,
and moughty tasty.  It’s not one I visit very often, just because
its location keeps it out of my normal speed-walking through the
square, but I’m headed there soon.  Ill try to give you thorough
details on some of their cuisine, and how they handle a large crowd

Delicious search exaltation

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This has nothing to do with del.icio.us, but is instead a WPsearch
update.  Kate”-” and bbc-tom combined their efforts to produce yet
another
masterpiece of wikitomfoolery : A honeyed search enhancement to make
your jaw drop and your lower lip quiver with excitement.  A smooth
match-as-you-type javascript confection
drops down a dynamically-changing list of page titles that begin with
what is being entered in the search box.  Then, once you’re done
searching, you get two lists of possible spelling corrections : a list
of common keywords similar to one of your search terms, and a list of
page titles with fuzzy substring matches against your search string.

All of this is handled outside of the database, by software parsing a
static copy of the relevant db content.  This can be updated
incrementally ever 10 minutes or so, providing fast, timely sarching
with minimal db load, which could easily be served from a separate
machine.

Happy Hanukkah! and new transcripts

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To all… and to all a good night 🙂  Note the updated
transcripts
for the sessions below.  Sorry it took so long to get
the last two sessions up there.  Cleaned transcripts will be
available at the end of the weekend.

Sweet things are made of these… [KPAQs–]

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I have on the table before me a device designed with the utmost
brilliance.  I
haven’t seen such a quietly pleasing design in a gadget-package in
recent memory.  Some of you know that I was aiming to purchase
at
least a phone and a laptop this week, but I did not end up with the
Danger Sidekick I
was angling for…

The sidekick I understand – delightful design, with a number of
charming flaws, and a few unfortunate barriers to improvement; a good,
and reasonable inexpensive, 1-year purchase to replace my ailing
phone.  A few troubles arose: 1) they no longer offer the
‘old’
sidekick in-store, in favor of the ‘new’ one (which is admittedly
sturdier and a better heft, but $100 more and with a less perfect
keyboard), and 2) I fell in love, just in time, with something
else.

I discovered the first functional pda-phone I’ve ever seen.  And I
discovered it by chance, simply because its attachable thumb-keyboard
is so brilliant. 
As I was filling out the paperwork for my sidekick, I was chatting with
the rep about good mini-keyboards (or the lack thereof) and he showed
me the attachable keyboard for the iPaq 6315. 
It was light, the width of the pda, looked breakable, but had smooth,
responsive buttons that didn’t rattle or distress.  crazy
It was only then that I stopped to look at the awful pda-sized blob of
plascrete, no doubt like ever other such blob, and thought, ‘hmm, not
execrable.’  I cancelled my pending order… (more)

Team America v. The Pit of Jalalla!

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Or is it Jararra? I saw “Team America: World Police” the other day, and the Pit of Jalalla is only the last part of the film; not nearly the best. Like the directorial duo’s last great film, “Cannibal, the Musical”, this one works as a crudely popular farce, but is littered with brilliant wit… read more

Guardian : “you’d be insane to bet against Wikimania”

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All the stars from headliners past comes out of the woodwork for this one : Dan Gillmor, web guru; Dale Hoiberg, Britannica editor-in-chief; a mention of the c’t content review; the IBM research paper on how quickly vandalism gets removed; a token naysaying librarian (“practically, I wouldn’t use it; and I’m not aware of a single librarian who would.“); a charming anachronism (in this case, the spectre of retro-cased BarnStars being used as universal rewards for good deeds done); a hopeful glance toward the horizon and Wikipedia 1.0 — Stable Edition. It’s like down-home week on the “In the Press” page.

And it’s a great article. It touches on a hundred facets of the project with only the smallest of misperceptions. It seems to have had prominent placement on Tuesday’s front page

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