December 30, 2008

Really Interesting Documentary about Photography

Got 6 hours to burn? Watch this BBC documentary about the history of photography. It's even been chopped into handy 10-minute segments for you.

September 12, 2008

Large Hadron Collider Webcam

The Large Hadron Collider started up this week, and unsurprisingly the Earth was not sucked into a black hole. See for yourself, they've got a live webcam.

July 23, 2008

Chocolate Cake In 5 Minutes!

Since just about everyone else on the internet has already tried this (or been too disgusted to bother) I thought I would too. I happened to have all of the right ingredients and followed the Chocolate Cake recipe to the letter.
Surprisingly, it tasted OK. If you were utterly desperate for chocolate cake, you could do worse. The 5-minute timing gives it a distinct advantage over many other recipes.

Notable points:
  • It doesn't taste very chocolaty. I used Ghirardelli cocoa, which apparently included ground chocolate rather than being pure cocoa. Next time, something better?
  • It tastes a bit oily (I used rice bran oil, which doesn't taste of much). Melted butter ought to be a good substitute. Cake must have butter in it!
  • It could do with a bit of salt. Just a pinch.
  • The texture is surprisingly good. Steam leavening, apparently.
  • It could do with frosting... Nutella, perhaps?
  • This cake is for times of cake starvation, not for weddings or similarly special occasions.

July 22, 2008

This must be LEGO week

Gizmodo takes you Inside the Lego Factory. The whole thing is run by 3 people and 10,000,000 robots. Approximately.

July 18, 2008

James Blunt on Sesame Street

Words escape me.

July 13, 2008

Buy n Large : they're here

If you haven't watched WALL·E then this will make no sense.
For those that have, you'll be pleased to know that Disney bothered not only to register the domain, but they put content there too.

July 03, 2008

Lustro - Mac address book exporter

Lustro is open source and lets you export to CSV or Gmail. I haven't tried it yet but it looks good.

June 30, 2008

Short addictive game of the week

Hedgehog Launch - you have to launch a hedgehog into space in as few days as you can.

June 21, 2008

Journal of Misheard Lyrics: Joe Cocker

I always had trouble understanding what Joe was singing. Now, thankfully, we have subtitles.

June 18, 2008

Dreamworks Laziness

As Phil Plait recently pointed out, Dreamworks has a giant continuity glitch in most (all?) of their movies that feature the boy fishing from the moon. We all know that he can't be sitting on the crescent like that, and that he'd have trouble casting a fishing line that far*. There's something more subtle that you might not have noticed: The moon and clouds reflected in the water are the same as the ones above - but they didn't bother to do the required vertical flip. Observe these two frame grabs, a few seconds apart:

Unfortunately, I'll probably never be able to watch one of their movies again without this bugging me.

* To get the line from the moon to the earth, the boy would have to launch it at 2.28 km/s (over 5000 miles per hour); and it would probably burn up in the atmosphere; oh wait it's a movie, never mind.

May 12, 2008

Buy something

If you like surprises, buy something. They make great gifts for somebody.

April 30, 2008

Subway Living Room in Prague at Improv Everywhere

The really strange thing is that this parallels a dream that I had a few nights ago, in which people built a plush waiting room in an otherwise sparse station.

March 24, 2008

The Century of the Self

Interesting BBC series about how the research of Sigmund Freud and his nephew Edward Bernays laid the ground for controlling crowds based on the desires of their subconscious rather than rational thought. The series follows this thread the way to present methods in Public Relations and Marketing in both business and politics.
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

February 29, 2008

Best. Subtitles. Ever.

Sorry I didn't post this weeks ago when I first saw it.

February 11, 2008

The Conet Project

Out on the short wave radio bands are (or were) radio transmissions that could be described as dull and pointless, yet which are at the same time fascinating. Some possess a peculiar kind of beauty, particularly when combined with the other short wave transmissions that weave in and out of them.

I have no idea how many of these stations are still transmitting (and don't have the time to poke around on the short wave to look for them), but you can download 150 of them for free from the Conet Project. If you do nothing else, at least read the booklet. Apparently I'm 10 years late on this, but this is a very interesting resource and I just recently discovered it; maybe you're even later to the game than I am.

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February 02, 2008

I went to the tech

And all I got was this lousy web page.

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Ron Giles unleashed

Many readers of this blog don't know Ron Giles. Those of you that do know him will be delighted to see him displaying his awesome moves here.

January 31, 2008

Awful Infomercial Of The Week

The infomercial is entertaining enough, but the Ellen Degeneres show piece is priceless.

January 30, 2008

Proof that the Mars photos are fake (and that bigfoot is real)

1. Go and grab the Mars panorama from NASA.
2. Open it up in Photoshop or equivalent.
3. Delete the black background:

4. Crop out the obviously fake spacecraft:

5. Now you have nothing but land and sky.

6. Use "Auto Levels" to fix the obvious problem with the white balance and contrast.

7. Yes, that's right, the sky turned blue! Zoom in (left foreground) and check out Bigfoot.
Clearly these pictures were taken in the Canadian desert, then manipulated to look like they were taken on the Red Planet.

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January 22, 2008

You too can have great espresso at home

Around Christmas, my household got a super-auto espresso machine. For the uneducated, that's a machine that takes coffee beans and water in one end, and produces espresso at the other end (it also complains occasionally about being dirty; cleaning is easy).
The machine in question was a Saeco Incanto Sirius (no link provided, because I don't want to encourage you to buy it). After making a few adjustments, it was producing respectable shots of espresso. The cleaning process wasn't too bad. It produced tolerable hot water and steam when requested. Unfortunately, it had a bad flow sensor (apparently a common problem on this model) which made it refuse to do anything at all for days at a time. Thankfully Costco has a no-questions-asked return policy, and back it went.

I went back to researching machines, since this model was no longer available for the crazy-low price I paid. Eventually I decided that an old-school machine would suffice. The grinding and tamping thing isn't that bad, you know. I settled on a Rancilio Sylvia with accompanying Rocky grinder. I got them from Great Infusions in Santa Cruz (Sebastian, the owner, offers a load of useful free stuff if you buy both machines).

What I found interesting is that the coffee I get from Sylvia is consistently better than the best shot I ever got from the super-auto. I'm using the same beans (Peet's Espresso Forte) but the shots are hotter, better extracted, and have better crema. I have yet to learn to produce art-quality foamed milk, though.

The amount I paid for the Sirius was about the same as my new setup (within $10) so I am convinced that the convenience of a super-auto is not worth the quality and reliability penalty. Sylvia's electronics are simple and reliable (3 thermostats, 4 switches, a heater and a pump) but a super-auto has all kinds of sensors and computer controls to go wrong.

And, to top it all, Sylvia appears to be very hackable.

Update: a coworker tells me I should roast my own coffee too.

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January 10, 2008


GREYCstoration lets you remove unwanted objects from photos, and magically infills the gaps. Also does noise reduction. Good for removing zoo cages.

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