The Sunday Diigo Links Post (weekly)

February 27, 2011 at 1:30 am | In links | Comments Off on The Sunday Diigo Links Post (weekly)
  • Exploring (and exploiting) the niche (of hyperlocal).

    tags: hyperlocal news gigaom aggregators topix patch

  • Fascinating; not exactly art + biomimicry (something I thought about a lot in years past), but resonant, nonetheless.
    Duprat, who was born in 1957, began working with caddis fly larvae in the early 1980s. An avid naturalist since childhood, he was aware of the caddis fly in its role as a favored bait for trout fishermen, but his idea for the project depicted here began, he has said, after observing prospectors panning for gold in the Ariège river in southwestern France. After collecting the larvae from their normal environments, he relocates them to his studio where he gently removes their own natural cases and then places them in aquaria that he fills with alternative materials from which they can begin to recreate their protective sheaths. He began with only gold spangles but has since also added the kinds of semi-precious and precious stones (including turquoise, opals, lapis lazuli and coral, as well as pearls, rubies, sapphires, and diamonds) seen here. The insects do not always incorporate all the available materials into their case designs, and certain larvae, Duprat notes, seem to have better facility with some materials than with others. Additionally, cases built by one insect and then discarded when it evolves into its fly state are sometimes recovered by other larvae, who may repurpose it by adding to or altering its size and form.

    tags: art biomimicry larvae flies hubert_duprat cabinet artist

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Putting blame on the shelf

February 26, 2011 at 12:40 pm | In just_so | 1 Comment

While I used my iPod Touch to check email yesterday – and briefly look in on Twitter for news (and MetroCascade for local Victoria BC news) – my laptop stayed on the shelf all day. And all night. I had no particular agenda in mind, it just happened that way – but I did consume much less online media as a result.

People make fun of “digital diets.” I know I certainly do, for being connected is, for me, the point of using digital media. But I’m keenly aware of how much I get distracted, too. It’s possible to blame distraction on all kinds of things. Heck, I could blame my family, I could blame my pet, I could blame my house, or a job or volunteer commitments – or my commitment to being healthy and fit (going to the gym). I could blame the web, and if I had television, I could blame TV. Hey, I could blame myself (yippee!).

All useless. Blame is  just another big distraction. The real problem is a lack of focus.

Every distraction is another way to lose focus, every attempt to focus forces you to ignore distractions.

Sometimes there’s no choice (or not much of one), …and sometimes there is.

Knowing how to discriminate between the two is incredibly important.

That is all. 😉

Not more cowbell, please

February 23, 2011 at 8:18 pm | In just_so, scenes_victoria, victoria | 5 Comments

It snowed today. Depending on what part of the world you live in, this might not cause you to raise an eyebrow. But if you were where I am, you’d be really surprised – especially since this snowfall was a) unpredicted; b) unusual (for us); and c) really substantial.

Just a few days ago, while out walking at Summit Park, I took photos like these:



Today, however, we woke up to this:


…And that was just the start. Check out this photo from a friend who lives in a high-rise in James Bay – it gives you a good idea of what the roads looked like.

It snowed on and off for most of the day – we’re on a corner lot and shoveled the sidewalk on both streets three times. In the end, for just one day, it was fun, …in a weird sort of way. That said, I would appreciate a big melt now, with a return to regular (for here) programming, thank-you.

Late this afternoon, I went out to “beat the bushes.” Lesson learned: you don’t know how much you have until you have to take care of it. Years ago, I wrote a blog post (My Dominion) about my secret garden in the back, enumerating all the shrubs and trees. They are legion, squeezed into a tiny footprint of land. And there are more in the strip of side-yard and the border that runs along the front of the house. By the time I was done beating the heavy snow off their branches (the temperatures will fall tonight, and those branches would be likely to break under the weight), I was half-way cursing the abundance.

Anyway… What the heck does cowbell have to do with any of this, you may be asking (in case you’ve read this far). “More cowbell!” is a SNL parody (see the video here) of Blue Öyster Cult recording the song “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper.” A fictional band member plays cowbell and wrecks the piece – all the while encouraged by a daft record producer (played by Christopher Walken).

“More cowbell!” means a stupid obnoxious noise that interferes with real signal.

The cowbell I heard this morning on Twitter sounded along the following lines:

“Snow on the ground and Victoria grinds to a halt, again.”


“Snow: Grinding Victoria to a Halt Since 1872.”

Now, I’m not trying to single out those two voices – they’re merely echoing a refrain (that Victoria “grinds to a halt”) sounded each and every time it snows here.

It doesn’t snow here very often. But every time it does, the cowbell chorus starts up: Oh gawd, Victorians are soooo stupid, they’re such wussies, they’re such wimps, they can’t handle snow, blah blah, and so on. We’re such wimps – the rest of Canada laughs at us, we can’t handle real weather, …and more along those lines.

Here’s the thing: Victoria did not anywhere near “grind to a halt” today, and given the extreme snow at such an unexpected time of year (for us), it was actually a miracle that so much continued to function normally. Yes, there were fewer cars on the road, but that’s because the roads weren’t cleared. Why weren’t they cleared? Because: what we need isn’t more cowbell-in-a-chorus, but more snowplows.

Schools were closed, but I’ve seen schools close for less …in New England, that alleged mecca of snow-hardiness. The grocery stores were open. The used bookstore was open, as was the used furniture store. The restaurants were open, ditto the cafés. One hairdresser was closed. Just as well, it was a bad hair day anyway.

Many of these places were open because the buses were running, regularly, which meant staffers could come in to work. People who did drive were driving responsibly – not, as the cowbell mythos would have it, like silly snow-scared ninnies.

In short, the reality did not mesh at all with the perception that Victorians are soft and inept.

So what’s up with all the cowbell?

I think people need the dissonance, the wrong noise, the clang of disharmony because it confirms their specialness. Seriously: we would be just like “everyone else” if we didn’t have this handicap of being the stupidest people in Canada (who happen to live in one of the nicest places in Canada) who can’t even deal with just. a. little. bit. of. snow.

It actually wasn’t just a little bit of snow, and we dealt with it rather well, thank you. And that makes us merely stinkin’ normal, doesn’t it? Whereas “more cowbell” is the dissonant clang that insists we’re different and special. Too bad it makes such a dumb noise.

The Sunday Diigo Links Post (weekly)

February 20, 2011 at 1:30 am | In links | Comments Off on The Sunday Diigo Links Post (weekly)
  • Fantastic article. Eben Moglen’s ideas tie in well with Lewis Hyde’s on common wealth and copyright copyduty. More power to them.
    “We have to aim our engineering more directly at politics now,” [Moglen] said. “What has happened in Egypt is enormously inspiring, but the Egyptian state was late to the attempt to control the Net and not ready to be as remorseless as it could have been.”
    In the first days of the personal computer era, many scoffed at the idea that free software could have an important place in the modern world. Today, it is the digital genome for millions of phones, printers, cameras, MP3 players, televisions, the Pentagon, the New York Stock Exchange and the computers that underpin Google’s empire.
    Social networking has changed the balance of political power, he said, “but everything we know about technology tells us that the current forms of social network communication, despite their enormous current value for politics, are also intensely dangerous to use. They are too centralized; they are too vulnerable to state retaliation and control.”

    In January, investors were said to have put a value of about $50 billion on Facebook, the social network founded by Mark Zuckerberg. If revolutions for freedom rest on the shoulders of Facebook, Mr. Moglen said, the revolutionaries will have to count on individuals who have huge stakes in keeping the powerful happy.

    “It is not hard, when everybody is just in one big database controlled by Mr. Zuckerberg, to decapitate a revolution by sending an order to Mr. Zuckerberg that he cannot afford to refuse,” Mr. Moglen said.

    By contrast, with tens of thousands of individual encrypted servers, there would be no one place where a repressive government could find out who was publishing or reading “subversive” material.

    In response to Mr. Moglen’s call for help, a group of developers working in a free operating system called Debian have started to organize Freedom Box software. Four students from New York University who heard a talk by Mr. Moglen last year hav

    tags: eben_moglen internet freedom security democracy software

    We need to focus, ironically, on ends, not means. For example, in passive solar buildings, focusing on the end goal (thermal comfort) rather than the means (heating air) changed the design approach dramatically. It turns out that human comfort has more to do with surrounding surface temperatures than with air temperature in a building, so massive walls that absorb and store the sun’s gentle heat also provide a more comfortable environment without all the hot air. Or, if lighting is the goal, electricity and bulbs are just one potential means; a building that welcomes daylight is the simple, elegant solution—even better than a complex system of wind farms generating green electrons for efficient fixtures. Likewise, the goal of transportation is access, not movement or mobility per se; movement is a means, not the end. So, bringing destinations closer together is a simpler, more elegant solution than assembling a new fleet of electric cars and the acres of solar collectors needed to power them. Call it “passive urbanism.”

    tags: sustainability cities urbanism energy streetsblog peter_calthorpe climate_change

  • Corporate Knights’s Issue 34 on Sustainable Cities (Canada).

    tags: cities sustainability canada corporate_knights

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

The Sunday Diigo Links Post (weekly)

February 13, 2011 at 1:30 am | In links | Comments Off on The Sunday Diigo Links Post (weekly)
  • Interesting comment on tumblr and how its form changes content:
    “The purpose of it is just pretty different,” said the Web guru Rex Sorgatz, who recently gave up his personal blog for a Tumblr. “Because I see the audience and I know who they are, see who they are. I talk in a completely different way and post pictures of my dog and make jokes about people without linking to them because everyone knows who I’m talking about. And certainly it changes the way you talk about things.”

    tags: blogging tumblr writing

  • Not sure I agree that dynamiting Pruitt-Igoe in 1972 was the defining watershed moment – I think the impetus for archispeak is economic – but, regardless, Witold Rybczynski gives a conise critique of the beast…

    The destruction of the utopian “towers in a park” signaled the demise of heroic Modernism and its idealistic foray into social engineering. It also rattled the profession. What were architects to do? A few, such as I.M. Pei, soldiered on, seeking inspiration in a more monumental and stylish version of minimal Modernism. Some adopted Postmodernism, which turned out to be a short-lived fad. A few turned back to Classicism, while some, like Richard Rogers and Norman Foster, redefined architecture as an advanced technological craft.

    Other architects, especially those teaching in universities, reacted to the collapse of Modernism by attempting to reinvent the field as a theoretical discipline. The theories did not come from the evidence of the practice of architecture, as one might expect (that was left to Christopher Alexander), but from arcane historical tracts and the writings of French literary critics in hermeneutics, poetics, and semiology. Thus began a new phase in professional jargon.

    tags: architecture archispeak witold_rybczynski slate_magazine

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

The Sunday Diigo Links Post (weekly)

February 6, 2011 at 1:30 am | In links | Comments Off on The Sunday Diigo Links Post (weekly)
  • Brilliant article by Paula Scher on the current craze for info-graphics. Conclusion:
    All of the charts, graphs, diagrams, and maps look interesting and involving. They are designed to appear scientific and very believable. They are immediate, even urgent, and you have the sense that you are about to learn something. They are all part of an increasing trend away from reading, reflection, and understanding the world in a broader context. Information becomes style. Information is an end in and of itself: it exists by itself, with no over view, no history, no context, and demonstrates that almost anything can be measured. It is faux info.

    Ask a designer to make a diagram of your clothes closet and how many white and black articles of clothing you have worn and on what days and see if there is a pattern. There probably is one. It will make a sensational chart. Compare the amount of homeless people in relationship to the amount of trees in various neighborhoods. It sounds important, doesn’t it? A diagram with those statistics might really look significant.

    Faux info is seductive because it looks like a computer program has gathered all the data, put it in the proper order, quantified it, made all of the appropriate comparisons and links, and fed it to you in a scientific style that demonstrates authority and infallibility. The information does your thinking for you, and you don’t have to think at all. Buyer beware.
    This, from a designer. Take heed, people.

    tags: design information_design graphics chart paula_scher fast_company huffington_post

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Fun with camera apps

February 2, 2011 at 8:43 pm | In arts, creativity, just_so | 1 Comment

For my birthday at the end of December, I got a new iPod Touch (iTouch?). I flat out love this little gadget: it has a microphone, which means I’ve been able to use it to Skype (with video); to make voice notes on Evernote; and to send myself voice memos by email. It also has a camera, and since I always have it on me, I now always have a camera on my walks.

All you long-time iPhone users can roll your eyes, but since I’m still on a dumb phone, this is as close as I’ll get to mobile (and truly portable) computing. (Without a monthly data plan.)

I find myself willing to download various apps now, too. Never much for gaming apps, I mostly ignored apps when I was still using my old (“blind”) iTouch. But that has changed now that I have a camera.

I started with Camera+ and entered a whole new world of being able to adjust light and exposure on the iTouch camera before ever pressing the shutter. After I take the picture, I can mess around with effects. So. much. fun!


The above is a self-portrait (oh yes, these apps and gadgets encourage narcissistic self-regard!) – I’m using Camera+‘s “purple haze” effect (after having first adjusted the exposure …toward the light side). 😉

Of course landscapes aren’t immune to crazy manipulation. The following three photos (also via Camera+) are of the cell phone tower at Summit Park in Victoria: the concrete tower’s bottom section is illustrated (presumably, this deters taggers), while the top is starkly utilitarian. Here I left the colors unchanged and instead only used Camera+ to manipulate the photo “frame”: it seems to me that this really changed the feel of the scene, without changing any of the colors or effects.

Alors, regardez:

First, (1) a wider view of the tower’s base in true color, and without a fancy frame; followed by (2) a close up of the base and (3) of the tower, again in true color but with fancy frames on (2) and (3):


Here’s the second photo, zooming in on the tower base, with a white frame resonant of the 70s:


And finally, the top part of the tower, with a kind of ratty frame in white:


I find myself looking at things differently now, with an eye to using the app to capture how the scene is making me feel.

But wait, there’s more…

I also downloaded SynthCam, which lets you do shallow depth of field shots and more: use the app to sharpen one small area of what’s in your viewfinder, and the rest is blurred out. This can be interesting if you’re trying to eliminate “noise” – including passing pedestrians or other moving objects from a non-moving subject you’ve focused on.

So (drumroll…), another narcissistic move – a self-portrait (and since SynthCam doesn’t allow flipping the viewfinder, this got tricky: it’s almost impossible to focus on the face, and you end up getting the hand in focus instead):


But you get the idea, right? The hand is (more or less) in focus (ok, I was wobbling everywhere), while the other objects (in this case the rest of me) is out-of-focus.

Now check out what effect this can create in landscape/ other objects.

First, a photo taken of a small wooden toy in the same Summit Park location, shot with the Camera+ app. The colors are true (unaltered), but the photo has a “polaroid” frame for a nostalgic look:


And next, a photo of the same object taken with SynthCam, focused on the wooden toy:


In both instances, the apps let me explore emotional aspects in coming across this random, forgotten object (the toy) at the edge of a park.

So that’s it, my most recent fun-with-apps excursion. Together with SketchBook MobileX (which I wrote about here), the iTouch and its app-enabled affordances are tons of fun and a good excuse to use my eyes.

(n.b. the above photos are viewable in full size on my Picasa page; they’re down-scaled here)

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