July 2006 Archives
July 30, 2006
Idly pushing pictures in front of my brain in a (remarkably successful) attempt to stop my brain from doing anything: the Iconfactory are rebuilding their website, and rather than just launching it like anybody else, they've taken it offline for a week and replaced it with barkingly whimsical and gloriously cute little animations of what we're supposed to believe is going on behind the scenes.
I mention this now because, presumably, if you don't visit over the weekend, by Monday there'll be a conventional (-ish) website there instead. And while there'll doubtless be lots of their customarily magnificent icon art, missing these little films would be a grave shame.
So: The Iconfactory. Go. Enjoy. Chuckle.
July 29, 2006
Yay! That was fun. I'd write a heap more, but this is more-or-less the first time I've stopped in a month, and I'm wrecked. So you'll have to wait. Sorry.
July 26, 2006
There's a campaign group with a mailing list and everything: Save Children's TV.org.uk.
To quote Colin:
If, for the sake of argument, we were instead facing the collapse of commercially funded adult tv, then we'd be losing shows like Corrie, The Bill, Taggart, Midsommer Murders, Tonight, etc., and replacing them with US imports. We would all have a sense of UK culture being under threat and we would want something done -- so why shouldn't children's culture be given the same protection?
Dang, I should be on the road to Manchester by now. I should also have written something -- anything, really -- for my project management session on Friday. However, I've just spent most of an hour tweaking a Christmas Lectures script snippet, about chickens.
Sir John and the RI bunch are in Tokyo, rehearsing for a British Council-sponsored run of last year's lectures. And the chickens are unhappy.
They're not, you see, the same sorts of chickens as we had in London. They are, however, real live chickens -- which is something of a shock, since we'd rather assumed they wouldn't be, and I'd tweaked the script to match. Some frantic last-minute tweaking has been going on, therefore, to write the chickens back into the script.
Such is my life.
July 24, 2006
James' Variety Show was a massive sellout, he reports:
The only publicity I had for this show was the website... owing to that fact, and the fact I was a one man band who was managing all the acts, I had to mainly use word of mouth to sell tickets, I could do little but expect a small turnout... I have only been in New York for 6 months and obviously don't know that many people... I didn't really expect it to be too big... I had only sold about 50 tickets a few days before the show.
Over 250 people turned up (we stopped counting); it was a massive success, have had nothing but positive feedback!
It was such a hoot -- it was everything it should be. It was chaos backstage, strippers and cowboys and contortionists warming up together, me running round like a madman, the bearded lady turned up drunk and I had to sober her up... everybody got really really pissed and we were shouting at the stage... it was a total hoot.
I am 'summering in Europe' (thats what i say to the New Yorkers, in fact, I have to come back to sort out a visa), but this week I am looking to take this to a big 500 seat venue where they may let me run the show fri and saturday for fall and autumn...
See, I told you you should have been there.
Am in the front carriage of a train back from London, where I was -- rather fleetingly, sorry Tom -- for an interview. The Dublin project sounds fun; people seemed pleasant; they hinted darkly that there's some delicate political juggling to be done (so what else is new?); either I'm way out of step, or they're going to struggle to get somebody for the rate they're suggesting.
Hmm. It was worth meeting them, anyway, and we'll see what happens.
It was also worth being down today to complete and hand over not just an invoice for SciCast, but also an expenses claim. The latter came to the best part of £2,000, since it includes all the kit we've bought so far as well as things like all those tapes I keep taking photos of. Those running the project don't seem to be entirely familiar with this sort of thing, and I'm trying to convince them that having their contractors cash-flow the project is, frankly, nuts. They may start to see my point now.
Tomorrow: Glasgow. Wednesday: Manchester again, for the BIG Event. I'm starting to get very nervy about the session I'm hosting that's about project management, though mainly because the way I'm planning to do it, I'm rather reliant on there being at least a modest audience. If there are only a handful of people, it's simply not going to work.
Aaaanyway, my real reason for posting is to note that at the very, very front of this carriage there's a young couple who, to all audible appearances, are having (mostly) furtive (but occasionally yelping) sex. The rest of us aren't sure whether to be appalled, to crack up laughing, or to marvel at our collective British reserve, which is proving to be so strong that none of us dares turn around to find out what's actually going on.
July 22, 2006
It's not just us who think Boing Boing may be drifting a bit of late -- Ian Betteridge has a dig at them over this week's 'YouTube owns your soul' blah.
Everyone's favourite Mac software developers Omni Group (OK, OK... so we like Ranchero and Panic and Delicious Monster and... etc; calm down) are about to launch a new project management application, OmniPlan.
July 21, 2006
Remember that UGTV meet-up in London last Wednesday that I mentioned? Since I was in a school making, you know, films an' all, I couldn't attend. So I just hit the search systems to see if I could find out what happened there.
- UGTV'06 official site: no new information.
- Organisers' blog: no posts since July 3rd.
- YouTube videos tagged 'ugtv': 3.
- YouTube videos tagged 'ugtv06': 2. A subset of the above.
- Photos on Flickr tagged 'ugtv': 11
- Photos on Flickr tagged 'ugtv06': 11
- Number of people posting the YouTube and Flickr content mentioned above: 1.
- Number of those YouTube videos that appears to be about a washing machine: 1
- Blog posts indexed by Technorati mentioning 'ugtv': 25
- Number of those posted since the event: 4
Big thanks to Dug Falby for posting his entertainingly rambling cameraphone (?) thoughts -- they're enough to give a feel for what was going on, which sounds like a resounding 'meh.' Tips o' the hat also to Dierdre for her post, and I look forward to a report from Scott at The Stage in the hopes that I learn more about what was said there beyond 'cheap!'
But speaking of cheap -- is it a cheap shot to observe that, for a meeting about user-generated content, UGTV appears to have inspired spectacularly little content from... er... 'users'? I know we're hardly at the bleeding edge of blog take-up here in the UK, and I know it was a small event, but... four blog posts?
And come on, people, you're a cutting-edge new media company! You mean you haven't got a DV camera, tripod, and a copy of iMovie kicking around? For shame, we did better than this with NotCon!
Meanwhile, it's hard not to be proud of what we're setting out to do with SciCast. It's simultaneously more humble, but also more grand, and perhaps better thought-through (heh -- watch that come back to haunt me). We're not trying to make money out of it, which perhaps makes it easier. Then again, this week I've been standing in classrooms explaining copyright and Creative Commons licenses to 12 year-olds...
[update: Mint have published their own summary of the event, hurrah!]
Remember all that tape stock I bought a couple of weeks ago? Here's what it looks like now. Yikes. First off: slapped wrist that not all of it is labeled. Oops. Also, I'm going to have to assign sequential tape numbers... but hey, that's what spine labels are for, right? The good news is that most of these tapes only have five to ten minutes' material on them... the bad news is that about five of them are genuinely full. Mind you, DVCAM -- they fill up at 40 minutes, so it could be worse. The statistics so far, including the pilot from a few months ago, are:
- Tapes used: 41
- Films shot by students: 17 (±1)
- Films shot by @Bristol staff: 1
- Films shot by Glasgow Science Centre staff: 2
- Films shot by me: 8
I'm going to cart all the gear to the BIG Event in Manchester next week, so hopefully we'll break past 30 films. I doubt I'll manage to get them all edited before we run out of days for this stage of the project, but nevertheless -- there's enough material here to do an update a week for half a year.
Now, not all of it is great. In particular, the shoe plates haven't arrived for my tripods yet, so there's lots of wobbly handheld, with the emphasis on the 'wobbly' rather than the 'held,' but a few of the films are absolute gems. The wild west Coke/Pepsi fizz-off, for example, will make your day when you finally see it.
I'll post much more about how fab the workshops were, and how wonderful and creative and hard-working and sincere the kids were, and all that. For now: we had a blast, and there's some cracking stuff in that pile of tapes.
Gia neatly summarises everything you need to know about video blogs... in a video blog post. If you've been gritting your teeth through the ongoing train-crash that is Rocketboom, and maybe you've seen Hope is Emo from the (still-the-only-good-thing-out-there?) Ask a Ninja folks -- this is very funny.
If, however, it makes no sense, keep an eye on Gia's blog anyway. I'm interested to see what she ends up doing.
This morning I had cause to do a quick Wikipedia lookup on Samurai. Which, inevitably, led me to an article about Korean Turtle ships, the first ironclads -- dating from, would you believe, the early 15th. Century. The article suffers from some dodgy editing, but it all becomes a bit more clear if you also read up on the contemporaneous Panokseon vessels.
I've mentioned Edward Tufte's books here before; he has a new one out, and Kottke has some lovely notes about it. Interestingly, it seems to be something of a cult amongst the digerati, in the same sort of way that Moleskine notebooks are. As Kottke points out, however, that doesn't make it mainstream -- the book is self-published, and there are precious few reviews kicking around. My cursory inspection of Google turned up precisely none. Which is mildly frustrating, since amateur reviews tend to focus on how uncommonly beautiful the presentation is, making only passing reference to the content.
I've tried before to buy The Visual Display of Quantitative Information in the UK, and have failed miserably -- Amazon eventually cancelled my order -- and I have a sneaking fear that Beautiful Evidence may be in the same boat. It's an import job, it seems. When Tufte's book are available here, they tend to be sold at a spectacular markup.
Perhaps I should think to dropping the $150 for all four of his data visualisation books, and see how far 'postpaid' goes?
[update: hold the front page! IT specialists Holborn Books claim to have pretty much all of Tufte's ouvre in stock, at sensible prices -- there's even a section right on the front page of their site. They're in Hampshire, not Holborn, but I won't hold that against them.]
July 20, 2006
Terrific -- and terrifically bizarre -- article in the New Yorker about hip-hop station Hot 97, carpenters' unions, the Mob, and a man who got shot in the arse, did a radio session, and then went to hospital. Probably.
(via Kottke, I think.)
July 18, 2006
This is a terrific idea for a community art event -- photographing Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte with real people. Article about the event; more photos; via iMark's sidebar links.
Interesting (if you're interested in informal education, I guess) interview with a designer from Mattel, talking about HotWheels and play patterns and so on. Via Slashdot, of all places.
- Fingers crossed I have an interview in London next week, for a job in Dublin. Ooooh!
- I'm making what I hope are the final changes to the scripts for the Ri Lectures tour to the Far East. Andy and the props are already heading out, but it seems lots of things rather fell apart yesterday. Currently, for example, there isn't a GM researcher for the Japanese lectures. Which is mildly catastrophic, since we spent ages over Christmas trying to think of an alternative ending to the lectures and failed. I don't think there's much I can do about it; they'll just have to find someone. Eek.
- I've been invited to join Vox, Six Apart's new social network-cum-blogging service. I doubt I'll use it much -- I've a fundamental aversion to people making advertising revenue from my writing, unless I've been paid for it -- but it's an interesting place to explore. I'm quern.vox.com -- let me know if you're on the system and we can do the 'friends' thing. Or is that gauchely 2005, now? I forget. Oh, and I think I can invite people in -- let me know if you want a play.
- I need to buy trousers. Today. In Chester. I'm not sure why you need to know that.
- James' Variety Show -- now with correct spelling of the host's name and links to most of the acts -- is tomorrow night, in New York. Please, somebody go, then blog about it to tell the world how marvelous it was.
That is all.
Three of four schools' workshops down, and about 12 films made -- maybe 13 if the aeroplane boys pulled something out of the bag in the closing minutes yesterday. I've a huge pile of editing ahead of me to finish everything off, and I'm rather looking forward to that.
I've also done some shooting with the good folks at @Bristol and the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester. Those days weren't quite what I'd hoped for in terms of numbers of people involved, but we got something out of them and they were useful nonetheless. MSIM has a magnificent engine shed with real, working live steam engines, which as you can imagine is something of a sauna in weather like this. There are all sorts of spooky weird machines around, so we shot a Prisoner-pastiche chase sequence with a polystyrene tile glider.
Last night I was sitting on the balcony of my chums Daniel and Mary, watching the sun go down over the Cheshire plains, with a cold beer, starting to cut that sequence... giggling until I think the neighbours were rather worried.
July 14, 2006
Needless to say, things got a bit better as the week went on. Two schools' workshops, with absolutely fantastic kids; they made some barking crazy films. The production values aren't wonderful (they're not bad -- it's more that they're rushed than anything), but the ideas are great and I'm astonished at how complete they all are. Two things stand out: firstly, 12 year-olds are really good at thinking non-linearly, and that's not an oblique reference to their being hairbrained eejits. More on that later. Secondly, they can be astonishingly ruthless with their own material, hacking out swathes of stuff they slaved over shooting because it just kills the pace of the final film. I heard the phrase 'I liked that... but it's better out. Delete!' often. Excellent.
If only... if only RocketBoom was made by 12 year-olds? They've replaced Amanda with -- and I'm sorry, this is really catty of me and may not even be accurate, but it has to be said -- somebody else who can't present. I lasted 1 minute 14 seconds. How about you?
July 10, 2006
It's 11pm. I should be in Bristol. Unfortunately, I'm still in Glasgow. This is, I think, indicative of just how badly today has gone.
It started with Word losing four hours' work on me, and progressed through my spending in excess of 2 hours in various and sundry queues. In shops. Somewhere in the middle there I managed to book a room in an hotel that, on closer inspection, turned out to have quite the worst reviews I have ever, ever seen. Dozens of them.
Then there was the argument with the car hire company, who tried to claim that a Daewoo^H^H^H^H^H^H Chevrolet Matiz is 'exactly the same' as a Fiesta. Their argument rather fell apart when they attempted to demonstrate the luggage area with the rear seats folded, only for the rear seat lever to shear off in their hand.
Once I had the Fiesta home, I managed to do the exact opposite of locking myself out of my Smart. See, it has a flat battery, so the only way in is the secret squirrel handshake dipsy-doodle. That I happen to know said maneuver is lucky, since the handbook describing it was locked inside the car. Deftly I did the ... thing ... and retrieved my road atlas. Then I tried to do the reverse thing, only to find that it doesn't work. Contrary to what the manual says (easy to check, at this point), you can't actually lock the car that way. Huh.
Several hours later, I finally managed to get the doors locked again via the slightly more brute-force involvement of a charmingly accommodating chum, his Alfa, and a set of jump leads. It's a sad day when you have to use an Alfa to jump-start a Mercedes, but there we go.
Somewhere in the middle of all this my PowerBook spontaneously powered off, I think because there's something screwy with the power adaptor.
But really, I should have been in Bristol by now. Oh, damn.
Early start, M6. @Bristol (if you see a man blundering about with a camera, that'll be me. Please say hi. Or buy me coffee). Thence to Bath, and what gives every impression of being a glorious little family hotel (as opposed to the shit-hole I'd previously booked). Hopefully I'll be refreshed for my first school on Wednesday. We'll see.
Wish me luck. And no, don't worry -- I'm not going to drive tired. If I am, I shall stop. If that means I don't make it to @Bristol tomorrow... well, tough. They'll survive.
July 9, 2006
UGTV'06, in London in a couple of weeks' time. Full. Drat. And I'm in a school in Warrington anyway... making 'user-generated TV' directly, ironically enough.
All set up, it seems, by Mint Digital, founded by an ex-RDF chappie and chaired by their founder and CEO. Rosie -- who was the RDF chap you were listening to this week, what were they talking about, and what, specifically, did you tell them about SciCast? Just, you know, idly interested. Ahem.
[update: OK, look -- on closer inspection, it's a 45-minute panel discussion followed -- one presumes -- by a networking event. I'm going to assume the discussion part at least will be on camera and bunged online ASAP. If it isn't... they're rather missing the point, aren't they?]
I love wikis. I think they're a phenomenally subtle, clever concept that can be usefully applied in many distributed group situations. And yet, all my own wiki projects -- notably ScienceDemo.org -- are on hold. I'm waiting for the software to catch up.
In my view, wiki software falls into two categories: too limited/expensive (JotSpot), or too hard to use (everything else). I generalise, but you get the point.
It's not that, in itself, wiki markup is a difficult thing to get one's head around -- CamelCase is ridiculous and bracket markup is almost as ugly, but it only takes a brief explanation to make them comprehensible. I'd prefer WYSIWYG, but that's hard to do well with document linking, and I'm not sure I've yet seen the slap-forehead-of-course-that's-how-it-should-be-done UI.
It takes a little longer to 'get' the idea of wikis. The idea that you're supposed to edit the web page you're looking at is a bit alien, and it takes some training/encouragement to understand the power of that.
Then it takes a little longer to understand Creative Commons licensing.
See, none of the hurdles are particularly difficult. It's just that, currently, there are rather a lot of them. And it's that stack of concepts that, in my experience, makes wikis a hard sell. If you can afford to gather people together and train them properly -- great, get on with it. But lobbing something up and hoping that its evident utility will shine through is, currently, being far too hopeful. You might get lucky, and maybe it's worth trying, but don't expect a flood of willing participants.
This, of course, is one reason why I'm introducing schoolchildren to Creative Commons licenses with SciCast -- it's one less hurdle for them when they next encounter this sort of circumstance. See, some of these problems we'll solve with technology, some with design, and some, I think, are cultural/education issues.
We have to get used to being publishers/editors/contributors far more than we were ten years ago. We're so used to being treated as consumers of information that we tend to limit ourselves to that rôle even when we're invited to pitch in. This will change, but it's going to take time.
I've just drafted two rambling posts about this, but I'm going to let them ferment a little longer because I'm not yet happy with the thrust of them. However, the hand-waving version goes something like this:
'That's so old media' is a common insult in the blogosphere. Scoble seems proud of the minimal production values of Microsoft's Channel 9; Amanda Congdon slates her former business partner in rocketboom as 'very old media'; heck, I've used the phrase myself, recently, when comparing SciCast to a superficially-similar project being planned by a major national media organisation [cough-can't-talk-cough].
As insults go, slamming something for being 'old media' is not only patronising, it's self-defeating. Sure, let's throw away the baggage, excess, and surrounding bollocks of broadcast, but let's not pretend that we know more about what they do than them. Think 'all TV is crap'? Think again. Sure, lots of people watch TV because it's all they've got, or out of habit, or whatever. But the proportion of the TV audience who watch because they like it? Tiny, you think? That group is still bigger than your audience, sunshine. Even if you're RocketBoom.
And that audience isn't built just by being lucky. It's built by caring about the details, making deliberate choices, and getting it all right. You can dismiss that expertise if you like, but be very clear exactly what you're dismissing.
Just like 'Web 2.0,' 'Old media' is a label that's wrong enough to be occasionally useful. But it's still wrong.
There will be more on this.
July 8, 2006
Chopping up politicians' speeches to make them say something different is an old gag. Pitch-bending them this skillfully is, however, a whole other level of time-consuming genius. Respect due.
Somehow I missed this on the Today programme this week -- Sharrow Vale Road in Sheffield, which I've a sneaking suspicion I know, has a piano. In the street. It was almost taken away by the Council, but at the last minute they relented. This is its tale.
Ever since the 'switcher' ads, it's been my suspicion that one of the brief goals for Apple's adverts is that they're ripe for parody. The new 'I'm a Mac / I'm a PC' ads certainly live up to that, and there have been several valiant efforts to put the boot in. The best I've seen are these, though I'm mightily confused as to who made them.
I'm not quite sure what I find funniest, though -- the ads and spoof ads, or the complete humour failure of the disparate computer users viewing them.
July 7, 2006
More deliveries. I'm a little intimidated by this, actually -- to put this much tape in perspective, the whole series of Scrap It!, shot two-camera and with graphics rolls, dump tapes, backup stuff, and a few things rendered on my PowerBook and transfered to the online Avid, came to, as I recall, 103 rolls of DV. The 50 tapes you see here represent just the first part of SciCast. I've probably over-ordered. At least, I hope I have.
Yikes. This is not a small endeavour.
Pictured at left: my breakfast, this morning. Large coffee; croissant; biscotti; magnifying loupe. Er... yeah. Magnifying loupe. Bit weird, that. But it turns out that you can take surprisingly good macro close-ups using a loupe and... um... a mobile phone camera. It takes a little fiddling around -- my coffee went cold, boo! -- but you can get some decent shots. I'm particularly fond of the croissant close-up.
July 6, 2006
List of things I've loaned to somebody and have now, apparently, lost forever:
- Netgear 8-port 100-Base switch. This is particularly annoying to have lost, since I'm trying to hang three new computers off my LAN, and I pigging well can't without this. Plus, I can't help thinking that I used to have three of them. I think Martin bought one off me, one was mine and I loaned out... but what happened to the other one?
- Netgear 4-port 10-Base hub. Less useful, but: the most amazingly dinky pocket-size piece of network hardware ever. Plus it was from that period when Netgear's kit came in natty little metal boxes, all painted dashing dark blue, with enough flashing lights to be considered gauche these days.
- The TV I mentioned here a few days ago.
- DVD of Takeshi Kitano's Zatôichi. Twice. Apparently I don't learn.
- DVD of Drop Dead Gorgeous, which I consider a comedy classic.
I have managed to reclaim all my scattered wireless network gear, but tragically it's all 802.11b -- too old for g.
I can hardly complain, given that I met a chum in the pub last night and he gave me £400-worth of tripods, but nevertheless:
All your kit are belong to us.
July 5, 2006
Now, I'm not about to claim that my post about RocketBoom caused this -- I mean, hey, it's not like anybody of any influence reads The Daily Grind, pfff! -- but nevertheless, Amanda Congdon has been, so far as one can tell, fired. By her own company.
What's really interesting about this clip is that as soon as she drops the 'Gee! I'm presenting!' façade and starts talking as herself, I find her instantly more watchable. But then, I seem to be in a substantial minority to have found Amanda the main reason I didn't watch RocketBoom.
[update 2: get the popcorn.]
This afternoon, I picked up a pair of ex-STV Sony PD100s. They're old and worn, but absolutely perfect for what I'm doing. Small, relatively light, easy to handle, and yet with much better image quality than most domestic gear. And the price was... shall we say 'right'? Scottish TV are moving buildings at the end of the month, and they're trying to get shot of as much old kit as they can.
Since with the PD100s we can also do professional sound -- and we'd saved a chunk of change on the cameras -- I splurged on some decent audio gear. So I've a couple of Sony shotguns, a Rode shotgun, and a couple of boom poles. One of which is tacky as heck and will sound a bit rustley, but the other is gorgeous. OK, so we'll be flying auto gain without a mixer, but as long as there are people tripping over XLR cables, it's professional. That's my new motto.
Tomorrow I'm going to grab a couple of tripods and a lavalier mic, then we're all set. Except that I forgot to pick up any stock today, which is a bit stupid.
The three 2GHz, dual-core MacBooks just arrived. First impressions:
- They're lovely, lovely forms. Just like the old iBook design, but turned up to '11'.
- The keyboard is excellent. Looks weird, works great.
- Trackpad's a bit weird. Will probably get used to it.
- I'm surprised not to have seen comment about screen illumination evenness. It's not, very. I'll report more, later.
- The whole unpack-boot-set up cycle is really, really well thought-through. Very nicely done, Apple.
- Given that Apple stuff is made in different factories scattered around the globe, how come all their stuff smells the same? Do they spray it all with eau de électronique nouvelle?
More later. Right now, I have to run out and pick up some cameras. Woohoo! Toys!
Wired has a bizarre story up about 'technology' that's 'banned' from the Tour de France. Since the technology in question is, basically, weight (there's a minimum cycle weight for the Tour), the whole post looks like an excuse to show pictures of expensive bicycles. There's no mention of what the weight-saving technologies are in the off-the-shelf, lighter-than-regulation exotica.
Oh, well, you can't ride a recumbent in the Tour either. But that's because people laugh and stare and point, it's nothing to do with the aerodynamic advantage.
I know, I've linked here recently -- but do yourself a favour and head over to the Daily Dose of Imagery again. Consistently wonderful stuff.
July 4, 2006
July 3, 2006
Philip Greenspun has posted an excellent summary of Nikon's camera and lens range, that's considerably more clear than anything I've seen in Nikon's own marketing materials. I'm particularly fond of the jargon-busting 'F-number: lower is better,' with no additional explanation.
What's frustrating is the absence of a wide-standard, fast, zoom. Well, there's a 17-55 f2.8, but at the best part of a thousand pounds I won't be dropping for that in a hurry. Mind you, Canon's equivalent is about the same price, albeit with image stabilisation.
I thought one of the advantages of the smaller sensor areas of digital SLRs over 35mm film was that it was easier (/smaller/lighter/cheaper) to make wider-aperture lenses? How come we're still stuck with f4.5--5.6 or, at best, f3.5--4.5 for kit zooms? That's exactly the sort of lens I'm wanting to replace!
My current thinking is to aim for a D50 or second-hand D70/70s, and drop as much on the lenses as I can. I can always buy a D200 body later. I guess I should take a hard look at the Sigma lenses, though I suspect you basically get what you pay for.
Not that I'm going to do any of this soon, you understand, but I've been trying to buy a new SLR -- or, specifically, to ditch my cruddy Minolta lenses -- for about four years now. Allow me to dream a little.
Oh, and before the Canon fanboys weigh in -- yes, I know the 350D is a terrific piece of kit, the 30D is utterly fabulous, and we'll not even mention whatever it is that Hammersley just bought (in part because he has a lovely eye for a portrait and I'm jealous of that more than I am of the camera). I'll try to like Canons again, really I will. I've just never got my head around the way they work, right back to the AE1. Cameras are a peculiarly tactile thing, and my taste hasn't, thus far, run to Canons. Strange, but there we are.
July 2, 2006
My friend James is, technically, on his way to New Guinea to discover a new species of shark. However, he's been waylaid in New York, where he's helping cast sit-coms (as you do) and -- more interestingly -- becoming a Broadway impresario. More-or-less by accident.
Thus: Vaudeville stages a triumphant return to New York in: A Variety Show, Wednesday July 19th at The Players Club. James can't say so officially, but as I understand it it's being written by the team behind The Daily Show. Yes, that Daily Show.
Website by yours truly, design by Nick Flugge. And now, I've had enough of CSS for a while.
Flickr user Simple Simon has posted images of a mobile phone/radio-control car mashup he made (via the Make: Blog). We did something very similar on The Big Bang a couple of years ago, using an ex-demo Panasonic clamshell blagged from the local Orange shop, a miniature capacitor-powered RC car, and a Dremel. Sorry about the blurry photos, they're all I happen to have -- and while I did have the thing in my hand a couple of weeks ago, I'm stuffed if I can find it now. I do have the rubber duck version Jack made, though sadly not the lightweight potted plant. For the record: in my opinion, the pot plant was the funniest.
I'll see if I can get the things running again, and we'll make some videos of them for SciCast.
Three weeks ago, my email Inbox contained 4,568 messages. Of which 250 were 'unread.' This was not, I'm willing to admit, an ideal situation.
As of today -- and following an inordinate amount of time I seem to have been spending on the train of late -- it contains merely 216 messages. Number of those unread: zero. And most, were I prepared to spend a few dull minutes, could be moved into my new 'Dealt With' folder.
But I'm not going to do that right now, because I've just spent a jolly couple of hours hitting squiggly-K in NetNewsWire, with the result that (at least until its next scheduled refresh at ten to five) I have zero unread posts showing there, too.
Do not worry, dear reader: I am unlikely to suddenly start subscribing to some over-fangled 'Getting Things Done'-type hoo-hah. For that matter, I'm unlikely to become noticeably better at replying to emails. But I am, for the moment, basking in a curiously open, spacious environment.
Next up: clearing the desktops of my Macs. Ugh, how does so much crap accumulate there?
I claim to be a cyclist, but it's all rather past tense at the moment. True, I have been out on the bike twice this week... but only twice. I'm far from fit, and one of the depressing aspects of trying to get back into it again is that... well... OK, 34 isn't old as such, but I'm certainly less readily adaptable than I was ten years ago.
And now there's a cock-a-mamie scheme by a bunch of bloggers to drag their sorry arses up Mont Ventoux, at the end of September.
Oh, I'd love to do that. And a few weeks ago I sort-of promised myself that I'd get fit enough to think about a little tour around that sort of time...
The worst thing is that I have a really good excuse: I've absolutely no idea what I'm going to be doing in September, but I pretty much have to be working in some way or another. Trying to get this SciCast thing off the ground required me to turn down TV work, with the result that I'm frighteningly skint. My best guess: lost earnings of about £7,000. Seriously.
It's been worth it, but the whole situation is sufficiently precarious that as of late July I'm seriously in need of work. Or maybe August -- something small and lovely might have come along. Anyway, committing to anything at the end of September isn't a great idea, right now.
(and before anybody says 'take a leap of faith! Sign up, it'll be fine' -- bog right off, OK? That's exactly what I did with SciCast, and while I've no regrets I'm not exactly in a gambling mood, m'kay?)
July 1, 2006
Something just struck me: a few years ago, the mobile phone industry in Europe was all about 3G networks, about how -- by now, note -- we'd all be viewing video clips on our mobile phones. That is, we'd all be streaming the World Cup (England vs. Portugal across my desk on the PC as I type here...) to our mobile handsets.
That didn't happen. 3G is technically quite interesting, but in the end we didn't want it. Or at least, we remain 'unconvinced by the value proposition.' That is: it's hopelessly expensive and we're about as likely to cough up for it as we are to auction our own grandmothers. The latter, note, would in most situation be more useful, too.
Is HDTV the same thing all over again?
Oh, sure, you can point to all manner of supposed HDTV success stories, and to some extent HD is inevitable -- there's enough of a move to high-def production within the TV industry that, just as with 16:9 widescreen, you're going to get it whether you like it or not.
But one could counter with the growing popularity of YouTube, RocketBoom, and the like. Far from demanding ever-higher picture quality, are we in fact increasingly comfortable with lower production values?
If that's the case, then anyone betting the farm on HD is going to be mightily surprised -- and will look mightily stupid -- in 5 years' time. Just like the people who coughed up billions for 3G licenses.