April 2008 Archives
April 29, 2008
I missed this from Gia last week:
She had the script with her at the SciCast Awards last Friday, but would only show me her contract, stapled to the front cover, and that she wouldn’t let me read. She wouldn’t even fan the pages so I could confirm it was indeed a screenplay underneath.
Now, I more-or-less lost interest in the X Files after a couple of series, when it became clear that they didn’t know whether it was an episodic or ‘arc’ show either. I also became completely confused by the order in which episodes seemed to be broadcast, a situation not helped by my not having a TV in the early days. Of course, there wasn’t really a web at the time on which fans could write episode guides — I think the first such site to be anything like comprehensive was the Lurkers’ Guide to Babylon 5.
Nevertheless, if Gia carries on posting stuff like this I’ve a sneaking suspicion that her enthusiasm is going to infect me. Like some insidious black oil, presumably.
April 26, 2008
From my hotel this morning I managed to be just sufficiently coherent to publish the list of SciCast Awards 2008 winners to the SciCast blog. It’s taken me this long to muster enough strength to note them here.
We had a terrific afternoon with the ceremony yesterday — lots of excitement, lots of impressed guests, lots of palm trees, and hotdogs inhaled at a frightening rate. Huge thanks to everyone who helped out, turned up, cheered, clapped, etc.
Photos and video over the next week or so.
Personally, I’m going to have a bit of a sleep on this train. Yay for cheap weekend first-class tickets.
April 23, 2008
I’ve heard a rumour that John Gruber is pricing caravans in Kirkintilloch, that’s how good it’s going to be.
First meeting is tomorrow night. Sadly, I’ll be in London. Also… well, I’ve enough of a passing acquaintance with Cocoa to get the NS reference, but that’s about it. Is it possible to be a poseur at a developers’ meet? Is there any point?
Jem Stansfield, erstwhile of this parish (well, we’re on the phone monthly picking each others’ brains and he’s one of the judges on SciCast — does that count?) was featured on Treehugger earlier this week. It looks like the community there has taken his ridiculous machine a bit seriously, but I can vouch that the man himself regards it as one of his best builds.
Not ‘most useful,’ note, nor ‘most practical.’ Just ‘most pleasing.’
[tip o’ the hat to Flossie for the link]
April 21, 2008
Unless there’s a secret stash I don’t know about, I think SciCast is the third-largest producer of science video for children in the UK. We’re not far behind the big boys, either. In the last year:
- Nina and the Neurons (CBeebies): 23(?)x15 minutes = 6 hours approx.
- Royal Institution Christmas Lectures (five): 5x45 mins = 4 hours approx.
- Planet SciCast (NESTA/IoP/ETB): 100x2.5 mins = 4 hours approx.
So that’s why it feels like hard work. Crumbs.
April 18, 2008
Andy Baio has his mitts on what he calls ‘The Infocom Drive’. It’s the network share of the legendary adventure game pioneers, circa 1989. It contains emails, staff lists… and lots of stuff related to the never-finished sequel to the Hitch-Hikers’ Guide to the Galaxy adventure game. Parts of which are still playable.
Oh. My. Heavens.
This week, Eddie’s taken to introducing the business correspondent as ‘Nils “Bad News” Blythe.’ For reasons I can’t quite get my head around, this cracks me up every time.
April 17, 2008
BBC news have an article about photographers being (incorrectly) stopped by police while taking pictures in a public space. Surprising that it doesn’t link to this terrific resource.
A Vulcan flies again! My mum rang to tell me yesterday, excitedly, that she’d been watching this live on News 24. The ‘We Love Vulcans’ sticker in our Austin Maestro had, we always claimed, been hers. (There’s a much better takeoff video than the BBC’s here, which captures the authentic Vulcan howl.)
There’s always been something a bit special about the Vulcan. Concorde, the other great delta, was svelte and lean and pretty; the Vulcan was squat and dense and functional. Not to mention loud. But there was something about it, something just a little unexpected. Almost alien.
It was designed to drop nuclear bombs on the Soviet Union, but while the Cold War was hardly a happy period of history, there’s nevertheless a hopeful aspect about the Vulcan’s design. It first flew in 1952, yet somehow epitomised Wilson’s ‘white heat of technology’ vision of a decade later, despite the occasionally baroque testing procedures — see link on this entry.
The British public had seen these sorts of designs a few years earlier. In Dan Dare comics. Somewhere deep inside I still believe they hail not from more than fifty years ago, but from the near future.
Welcome back, Vulcan. I’ve missed you.
April 15, 2008
Announced at NAB this week: the Panasonic HMC150. This might, I think, be the camera which does for AVCHD encoding and flash card recording what the legendary Sony PD150 did for DV and miniDV tape. That is: get enough things right to make it a genuinely viable workflow.
The PD150 was the first camera that was small, light, and simple enough for production muppets like myself to use, that still produced more-or-less broadcastable pictures, and that hooked up to proper microphones. Sony sold bucketloads of them; I have one, and it still rocks.
HDV, in comparison, has always felt like a bit of a kludge. DV compression was already pretty nasty, and extending it to high-def produces some fairly grim failure cases. The cameras vary and some are rather good, but while tape workflows are fine for broadcast post-production and archiving, they’re clunky and restricting for fast turn-around web video. Specifically, capturing in real time starts to feel archaic when you’re standing in a lab with a class full of teenagers.
Over in the domestic world, meanwhile, there’s a revolution going on, with more and more cameras recording to flash cards. Convenient, efficient, but… ‘consumer.’ Eu.
The HMC150 (surely the ‘150’ is no accident?) looks like a proper ‘pro’ flash media camera: proper audio inputs, likely to have decent low-light performance, wide-angle lens, zoom ring with bobble thing on it.
AVCHD is still a pain to work with, but nevertheless… this could be it, folks. This could be it.
Question is: do I buy a Canon A1 in the near future, or tough it out until the autumn and jump to the Panasonic? Tricky…
Flossie is a girl of simple tastes. She doesn’t do fluff, nor fluster, nor faff. She likes ‘simple.’ Not ‘elegant,’ nor ‘minimalist,’ nor ‘ascetic’: ‘simple.’
This should not be mistaken for lack of sophistication, however. That’s going on too, but her fondness for the straightforward is more practical: fussy stuff merely distracts her from whatever is the focus of her attention. Hence, it is not favoured.
You may, therefore, expect her house to be a pristine haven of spaciousness. Not so. Current decorating efforts notwithstanding, it’s a modestly randomised heap of stuff. Not ‘clutter’ per se, since she’s not much of a hoarder; simply that organising and sorting and stacking and filing and filtering are activities which, in Flossie’s world, border on the faffy. Why expend such efforts, when any object can be found at a moment’s notice, just so long as it’s not moved since it was placed… there?
In the kitchen, Flossie is a cook, not a chef. No florid three-line descriptions in mangled French for her. What few recipe books there may be are treated as suggestions, as starting points, as inspirations — most certainly not as methodical reference or dictate.
It is with some pleasure, therefore, that I have managed to sully and complicate this world of simplicity.
Coffee, in Flossie’s life, should be black, fairly strong, and sweetened just a little. To simplify: it should taste like coffee. Coffee purchases are therefore packets of grounds; fairtradey; otherwise nondescript. There’s no particular preference, nor brand loyalty. Until now.
Behold, then, Illy. It comes in cans, glistening silver things which open, initially, with a hiss of pressurised nitrogen. It demands forced filtration, in a machine of some description. The result is rich, smooth, aromatic, and … coffee.
Now, Flossie may attempt to maintain that there is no conflict here. Perhaps, she will argue, Illy coffee is the canonical coffee, the paradigm of all coffees. Ur-coffee. Hence, it is about as simple as coffee can get.
But no, we know the truth. Illy coffee is not merely simple coffee, it is indulgently simple coffee.
Such indulgence should not, perhaps, be encouraged, but with Flossie I think I may be safe. Further, it makes me happy to see her put herself first, for a change. ‘Simple’ is all well and good, but it doesn’t relax, it doesn’t comfort, it doesn’t cosset. Flossie deserves those things, and if she finds them in coffee, then so be it.
There was the mildly extravagant vintage Laurent Perrier at Christmas. She liked that, too.
Oh shit. What have I done?
April 11, 2008
I’ve been in Cardiff all week, mostly editing. To keep you happy in the meantime, see this. Gosh.
April 9, 2008
For the record, I think Flickr’s imposition of a 90-second limit on video is inspired. It doesn’t necessarily help what I’m trying to do, but somebody has to take a stand against the proliferation of turgidly long films. Flickr realising that, as a still photography site, they have the perfect excuse, and then making it a hard rule — bold and brave. Bravo!
Likes: Creative Commons video hosting. Oh yeah.
Dislikes: No downloads?
April 5, 2008
April 3, 2008
Still too much for you? Here’s a video summarising the main points.
Things to remember, though:
- YouTube isn’t the only video site that’s important. It’s merely the most visible one. It’s a very broad, unfocussed audience. Is that what your video needs?
- 100,000 views is, in the UK, minority cable/satellite channel territory. The rule of thumb for BBC2 evenings used to be that one million viewers was a bit low, two million meant a recommission. 100,000 views globally is trivially small. Hence:
- What matters isn’t volume, it’s proportion. What proportion of your target audience sees your video?
It’s entirely valid for your video to have a target audience of one. If that person sees your film, and they react the way you’d hoped, then the other 99,999 viewers are either bonus or irrelevance.
This may not be the sort of thing that will scale to 60 million people, but still — good on them for trying.
The new Sterling coin designs: how much genius is on display there? I can’t begin to say how much I love this throw-out-the-rulebook take on currency tokens.
- They’ve set back the cause of entering the European single currency by at least a decade. These things are just too damned pretty to give up.
- They’ve given me hope that the 2012 Olympics might be Dashed Good rather than the UK-default A Bit Crap. After all, everyone visiting will be handing around these tokens of British modernity — how could they not be enjoying themselves?
- I think this is the official end of Steampunk. At least until some smart artist realises that the coins are to steampunk as The Next Generation was to The Original Series.
April 2, 2008
Those of you waiting for an interesting post to come along can rest assured that, by the law of averages, you’ve probably less than a decade to go.
My first post to collect comments, by the way, was from July of that year, and concerned John Prescott. I’ve no idea to whom those commenters thought they were writing.
April 1, 2008
What’s with ‘Recent posts’ lists giving the titles of the articles that are already on the front page? What’s the point of that? Does anyone ever click those links? Quick, someone install a heat map thingy and find out. But even if they do click, wouldn’t it make more sense for the heading to be ‘Current posts’?
Now, I realise that Movable Type and WordPress’ respective widgets default to being set up like this, but it’s never made any sense to me. This is why I’ve always added
offset="10" to the
<MTEntries> thingy in the sidebar doofah.
Next pet blog hate: bloggers who don’t bother with categories and keywords and tags and so on.