30 January 2007

Be the next Nostradamus

The day you've all eagerly awaited is finally here--Microsoft's new operating system, Vista, has been released! Did any of you camp overnight outside your local electronics store to be the first to upgrade to this new gem of an OS? Well, you likely weren't the first in line; after all, you couldn't miss Bill Gates' celebratory webcast from Times Square. I know you were glued to your screen... and it's not as if you could connect to the Internet to watch it on your "approved for Vista upgrade" machine by wardriving via wireless cash registers at the store.

I just don't understand why I'm not seeing "Why I love my new Windows upgrade" postings leading Slashdot's current menu of articles...

I'll admit I'm planning to upgrade soon... that is, I need a new computer. Over the past four and a half years I've filled my computer up to the point of sloth, and am tired of hearing that I have less than 100 mb of freespace, or that my virtual memory is too low and my memory paging file size needs to be increased. I try to be a loyal person, but I'm sorry, Computer, I need to supplement you with the technological equivalent of your great granddaughter.

So, any predictions on how quickly consumers will turn to Vista? On when the first patch will be released?

Or do you just like the idea of making predictions, like Nostradamus did? A few days ago I was channel surfing (slowly, so as to SEE what was on, not so quickly you miss everything the way guys do it) and came across a National Geographic channel show on... well, actually, I have no idea as to the overall theme for the show. Anyway, they were talking about Nostradamus, and some famous academic expert type said that Nostradamus was "accurate" purely due to the large volume of prophesies he made. He theorized that anyone who wrote a prophesy a day would get it right a certain percent of the time. So if you've always wanted to be a Nostradamus, now's your chance! You can start your "prediction a day" composition right now. Take inspiration from the things you see around you. Be sure to throw in sadness, despair, and a little bit of catastrophe--people love that stuff. At least, they like reading about it...

Here's a doom and gloom prediction to get you started:

The fire sprang up from among the trees. It blazed north, then east, then north again, before a light wind carried it back toward the west. The raging furnace devoured all in its path, including all the cute little bunnies.

See? Anyone can do it.


You know how much you love watching slideshows of distant acquaintances' family vacations to places you wouldn't want to visit anyway? Well, lucky for you, you can experience similar joy by viewing these screenshots of Vista. It's so real, you'll feel as if you're living it yourself--startup, then loading. Then the installation process. If you want to experience the glory of the new OS without the drain to the bank account, just go through the slides! It's almost as good as using the real thing...

28 January 2007

You are getting very sleepy...

I'm back, and already going into withdrawal due to the lack of Danishes. That's right, I was in the motherland of the tasty pastry -- Denmark! I have lots to say about that trip... but as I just returned this afternoon, tonight I need to make sure I don't get jetlag. If you suffer from insomnia or otherwise want to readjust your sleep schedule, here are some things you can do to bring the Sleep Fairy:

- Origami instructional videos: I like origami. That said, narration-free instructional videos on how to make origami figures are sure to get your eyelids drooping. For example, see how long you can get through the one on making a paper angelfish. I can almost handle one minute... Almost.

- Practice drawing perfect freehand circles. Hmm, haven't I seen that guy before?

- Watch a lecture on a topic you know nothing about. For instance, I might choose something that relates to my arch-enemy: Economics. Even better--I could watch a video of someone sleeping through an economics lecture.

- Nature sounds. Trees blowing in a gentle breeze. Crickets chirping. Waves crashing. Crackling fire.

Wow, it really works! I've pretty much put myself to sleep...

20 January 2007

No matter where you go, there you are.

Today I'm going to try to help you learn. That's your fair warning. If you're not into that "learnin'" thing, I suggest closing your browser now.

*Begin enlightening/educational stuff*

On my trip to Denmark, I learned that I didn't know much about Denmark prior to my trip. Sure, I'd heard of Søren Kierkegaard, Hans Christian Andersen, and Hamlet (organized in descending order from most attractive to most fictional--more on them in a future posting). But beyond that, I really didn't know anything.

Here are some things I learned--items that can become new random facts in your collection:

- Danes love their Royal Family. The Queen is more of an international outreach/public relations figurehead than a political leader. She is also an artist. The Crown Prince and Princess are famous for their fairy tale romance. They met at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia. Most postcard stands are filled with pictures of the happy couple.

- Danish food is excellent! Even local chain restaurants presented their food like fine art. Unfortunately, they also priced it like fine art. It was worth the cost. I am now addicted to Danish pastry (the cheap imitations you get here in the US don't compare). My favorite is like a pecan pie in a pastry shell. Amazing. Danish people are much too thin--it's clear they show insufficient appreciation for their fine pastries. In other food news, smørrebrød (an open sandwich) is great as well. If you're in Copenhagen and want to try this lunchtime treat, try Domhuskælderen. Speaking of restaurants... for some reason, there are many Mexican restaurants in Denmark.

- Danes like bicycles. Bikes are everywhere. They ride them everywhere as well--including on snow and ice-covered cobblestones. It was impressive and distressing at the same time. Be careful not to wander off the pedestrian walkways and onto Danish bike lanes, because the punishment is death (that is, they'll run right over you).

- Danish fashion is very casual. They like to wear funky boots (over their jeans, not under). They also wear kafiyas as scarves. I saw some people with really fake looking tans. It just didn't seem right in such cold weather...

*End enlightening/educational stuff*

If you cannot convince them, confuse them.

I watched a great show on the History channel a few years ago on the history of advertising in America. We like to invent products, and then invent a need for them. Apparently it's a lucrative profession. Why do you need a different soap for your face than for the rest of your body? It's all about marketing.

A failed advertising campaign is one that produces commercials that everyone remembers, but for which no one seems to recall the actual brand name. "That commercial was amazing. What was it for again?"

At any rate, here are some of my favorite commercials of all time:

- Learn English
- I'm Batman
- Tainted Love

I've also found that I learn about good new music because of car commercials. This commercial is the reason I discovered J. Ralph. I also first heard Ringside's song Struggle in a car commercial.

Advertising: it doesn't just entertain, it informs!

All good things must come to an end

Today I have a special treat for you. Since I'm going to be out of town for the next week and a half, I'm going to post not one, but TWO blog entries today. Amazing but true. One now, one just before I head to the airport.

Let the first one begin...

Today is my last day as a volunteer at the Amazonia exhibit at the Smithsonian National Zoological Park (that's the "Washington DC zoo"). It has been a great experience, and I'm sad I won't be able to continue enjoying the tropical atmosphere in the wintertime. If you live in the DC metro area, go visit! It's always summertime there!

Here's a taste of what's inside:

- An assortment of fish - Sometimes you can watch the 6' long arapaima on one of the zoo's webcams. When it's working. You just can't trust technology, can you?
- Lots of birds - The sunbittern family just grew by one.
- Vegetation - It has everything from the giant kapok to trees that produce the things that keep us alive.

If you are bored on weekends and looking for a way to amuse yourself, think about volunteering at the National Zoo!

OK, I think that's enough advertising for the morning posting... Soon to come: entertaining videos! Stay tuned.

19 January 2007

What color is a mirror?

Now that I've gotten you thinking with my deep and philosophical subject line, I'm going to point you to two amusing but otherwise completely unrelated video clips:

1. All good stories are really the same.
2. Money can't buy everything.

That's some food for thought...

17 January 2007

A pessimist is never disappointed.

Everyone loves motivational posters. Nothing inspires integrity, commitment, excellence, or any number of other positive things quite like a glossy piece of paper stuck to the wall.

For those of us who are more inclined toward despondency, there are always demotivational posters. In fact, you can create your own demotivational calendar to help maximize depression throughout 2007.

Here is how I expect my year to go:

- January - problems
- February - loneliness
- March - worth
- April - underachievement
- May - irresponsibility
- June - bitterness
- July - fear
- August - power
- September - motivation
- October - mistakes
- November - inspiration
- December - individuality

If we could expand the year by a few months, my year would also consist of dreams, doubt, humiliation, meetings, pressure, sacrifice, success, and leaders.

I hope you all have an appropriately mediocre year, or at least one that lives down to your lowest expectations! :)

15 January 2007

Like sailing a ship up a mountain

Every now and then I have an experience that makes me question significant portions of my life. I had such an experience a few days ago. According to my mom, my aunt recently took a violin to a specialist to see about getting it repaired. This happens to be the violin that I borrowed through junior high and high school for orchestra classes. The expert looked over the violin, then said, "You do realize that this is not actually a violin. It's a mini viola, strung like a violin." So, it was all a lie. All those years, and I never even realized I wasn't playing the violin. I wonder if anyone noticed. Probably not -- they were too busy staring at this guy.

Speaking of things that should have been obvious that people apparently didn't notice... Have you ever been sailing a 19th century three-masted square-rigger with your 21 crew members, when you suddenly realized that you were leading the ship toward the base of a mountain? No? Me neither. But the crew of the Glenesslin managed to do just that, when it shipwrecked in October of 1913 off the coast of Oregon. On a calm, clear fall day. In the middle of the afternoon. The exact reasons are unclear, but alcohol was suspected. Thankfully, no one was injured. Nice job, Captain Owen Williams.*

The end result is a collection of amazing shipwreck pictures. Unfortunately, I can't find an online copy of my favorite (caption is "Glenesslin - by Wood"). I just have a picture that I took of that picture.

Ah, well, these are pretty good alternatives:

- The first thing you should do after you wreck your ship is get your picture taken in front of it.
- Old postcard of the shipwreck
- Another historical picture

* I have no idea if this picture is of the right Captain Owen Williams. But the guy in the picture is your standard salty sea captain from the right time period...

14 January 2007

Goths are people too!

This is the point at which I admit to being a nerd. Yes, I have a degree in Computer Science. It's true. So here's the caveat: I think that the main topic of this entry--a British comedy called The IT Crowd--would be funny to non-nerds and non-geeks... but I can't entirely be sure. I'll give you the details, and you can be the judge.

I came across this show by accident, and was instantly convinced that I should purchase the DVD. It was worth every £.

Reasons I like this show:

1. A catchy opening sequence.

2. Maurice Moss. Is there a fire in the office? No problem--just e-mail the fire department.

3. Richmond Avenal--a.k.a. "The Goth Guy." Incidentally, when I researched the name (I figured it must be an anagram or something) I learned that Avenal, CA is "...the smallest city of approximately 16,187 people." Can anyone tell me where I can find the largest city of approximately 16,187 people?

4. The DVD lets you display l33t subtitles!!

- Episode 1 - some l33t, plus random tech speak/quotes/cultural references. Example: As Jen goes down the elevator, the subtitles state, "You are standing in an open field west of a white house, with a boarded front door." I miss the days of text-based games. It was the golden age of computers.
- Episode 2 - The subtitles are a monoalphabetic substitution cipher. More specifically, they are ROT-13 encoded. If you love browsing the Windows registry, you know all about this.
- Episode 3 - All the words from the episode's entire script sorted in alphabetical order
- Episode 4 - MIME base 64 encoded. Kinda like an e-mail attachment, before the computer turns it back into something you can double click to open.
- Episodes 5-6 - direct l33t translations

5. Great quotes:

Jen: Goths are people too.

Moss: Roy is stuck underneath a lady's desk.
Jen: What? Still?
Moss: Look, I know that normally this would be very funny, but he's been under there too long for reasonable explanation. If that woman looks down she's going to assume he's a desk rabbit.
Jen: What's a desk rabbit?
Moss: I just made that up. But that's probably going to be what they start to call people like Roy. But Roy's not a desk rabbit, he's my best friend.

Denholm (looking at the frame of a broken computer monitor with a raging fire behind it): Nice screensaver!
Later: I love the way the smoke seems to be coming from the top of it.

Moss: I am a giddy goat!

Moss: Events seem to be taking a downward turn.
or, if you have the l33t subtitles on: 3V3N7$ 533m 70 b3 74KiNg 4 d0wNw4rD 7uRn.

If you want even more details, check out the Wikipedia page:

Also, it sounds like a US version of this show is going to air sometime this year. If it's like other copycat/recycled show ideas, it won't live up to the UK version. Not that I'm cynical.

13 January 2007

Sundance Film Festival 2007

Since I don't have anything clever or creative to say today, I'm going to point you to someone else's creativity. My brother-in-law recently graduated with a degree in Computer Animation. While in school he served as the Director of Animation and a producer for a short film called Der Ostwind.

This film was accepted to the 2007 Sundance Film Festival, in the "dramatic shorts" category.

Description: In search of a worthy opponent, a German WWI ace pursues a mysterious and invincible American pilot only to discover the true cost of honor.

Film Details/Trailer: http://www.derostwind.com/

MySpace Page: http://www.myspace.com/derostwind

Sundance Information/Schedule:

10 January 2007

Where bluebirds fly.

I have a birdfeeder. Most of the birds that visit the feeder are either squirrels (shake my fist at them) or avian creatures with names that you may feel uncomfortable saying in polite company. Thanks much, introverted male ornithologists of days past.

Interested in learning more about these winged wonders? Try this:

Yes, very educational. You probably didn't know about worker ducks or upside-down pigeons, did you? C'mon, you can admit it.

09 January 2007

You always saved the best for last

I don't always mind being last. After all, someone has to be the worst, or at the end of the line. For instance, that must be the reason I joined the cross country team in high school. Or why I took ballet in college. It was me being charitable. Subconsciously. People looked at my lack of coordination, speed, and agility, and felt much, much better about themselves. It was nice of me to help other people's self esteem by making them look good in comparison.

I'm resigned to my lack of athleticism, but I have to admit that I'm less keen on being last on MySpace. What's up with that? For almost every friend (or pseudo-friend or semi-friend or admirer from afar) on my list, I'm at the very, very, very end. Last one on the list. Pretty much always. Am I being punished for waiting so long to conform--holding out til the bitter end, not giving in to the MySpace fad, waiting to register for an account until 2007?

Or perhaps it is worse: the collective MySpace community has shunned me. "Of all the people I know--and I know 12,429 people--12,428 have to die before you'd be my best friend. Oops, I added a dozen more to my list. If 12,440 people kick the bucket..."

I guess someone has to be the last on the list... or last on every list... But I'm willing to endure it, if it makes the rest of you feel more loved and more confident. *sniff* The things I do for the betterment of society.

06 January 2007

Your lips are taste of wine

You may already have seen this video, lovingly dubbed "Worst Music Video Ever." It dates back to the days when MTV had something to do with music. Do you remember that time? I don't. I think it's a myth.

At any rate, my sister sent me a link to this video a few months ago. Now I'm doing my civic duty and spreading the joy. If you haven't already seen it, you're in for a pleasant surprise. This is why Finnish music is popular the world over.


You are hereby required to admire the following:

- Amazing choreography.
- Catchy tune. Seriously addictive.
- Excellent English grammar.
- Main character's blond Prince Valiant look.
- Best line: "your lips are taste of wine."

Also, despite the popular belief that the guy offers to be the girl's "loving fender," I think it's really "lovin' vendor." Either way, yikes! :)

04 January 2007

Of Chickens and Bookstores

Someone should stop me from going into bookstores. It's bad news. I always end up walking out with a light wallet and a heavy stack of books on bizarre topics. Seriously, I go for the really random ones. These are some actual books in my collection:

- The Nothing that Is: A Natural History of Zero. Incidentally, I've been fascinated with the number zero since high school; someone asked what topic I'd selected for the latest paper, and I said "nothing." That got me thinking... maybe I COULD write a paper on "nothing." So I did. I got an A.

- The Discovery of Time. A college lecture on the effect of standardization of timekeeping on international economics got me into this topic. Fascinating.

- Big Twitch: One Man, One Continent, a Race Against Time-A True Story about Birdwatching. I do like birds, but I'll be completely honest--I bought this one primarily for the cover.

Which leads to my latest educational acquisition: Extraordinary Chickens. Yep, this was because of the cover as well. You can just imagine the angry "BKAAW!" screaming out of the punk chicken on the cover. Amazing. Erase those misperceptions about chickens being nothing more than food and fun family pets. Indeed, chickens are also valued for their exquisite beauty. An entire industry (fine, a small one, but it exists) is dedicated to raising chickens for chicken beauty pageants. Who knew. Maybe I've found my next career. Breeder of Beauteous Chickenfolk. That'd look splendid on a business card...

02 January 2007

Look around you: Learn about music.

I love BBC America. It introduced me to one of my favorite TV shows: Look Around You. This show defies description... and it introduced me to one of my favorite songs: "Little Mouse."

Here is the BBC site for Look Around You:

Learn about music with Look Around You:

More about Little Mouse: (Canterbury rocks!! Go Jack Morgan, B.Sc.)
Full video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g09gOh2qwug

My second favorite video - Sulphur: