27 March 2008

A gaggle of links - from Edison to layoffs!

Hi -

This is an email from the head of C|Net regarding layoffs that Valleywag correctly described as Dilbert-esque. Can you imagine getting this internal reorganization memo?

Part of one of the "it's not you, it's me" lead-in paragraphs actually is: "Our focus was on creating a leaner centralized organization that provides expertise and best practices around areas of excellence, efficiency, and governance such as IT architecture, SEO, yield monetization, facilities, legal, HR and communications; evolving our editorial teams so everyone is focused on content creation; innovating our technology infrastructure to embrace open APIs and drive more efficiencies throughout the organization; and finally, simplifying our sales approach by building on the traction of our partner account strategy."


Type Camp (ie typography camp)

"The World's Worst Toaster" (Seth Godin) on product design and knowing one's customer.

Pretty glitch art

From the analog design files...

Do any of you engineer-readers remember the Smart Dust military project? Check out Figure 2 of this journal article from IEEE SSC (pdf), "An Ultralow-Energy ADC for Smart Dust."

Gray and Meyer on MOS op-amp design (pdf)


25 March 2008

Late to the party: Google SketchUp

Hi -

Sure, it took me several years before I finally tried the (free!) Google SketchUp, a surface modeling application for XP and OS X. Yes, it's ironic, being in the 3-D business, and all. I found out that it's fun!

In 10 minutes you can follow a tutorial in (yes) Google SketchUp for Dummies to make a simple doghouse:

You can change the time of day (and month) to move shadows around:

Then, you can even click some buttons to make it look like you sketched the model freehand, using some non-photorealistic rendering:

Now if I can just figure out how to insert photos in Blogger at the cursor location, rather than having them default to the top of the post...

18 March 2008

The pain of web browsers, in a way that...

...I found much more interesting and informative than I was anticipating. What will IE8 do? What websites will "break"? Why? Where's the HTML test fixture?

"Martian Headsets" by Joel Spolsky.


13 March 2008

An easy one for the engineers...

This episode from the webcomic PHD Comics, "Downright Pathetic," is for the engineers out there. It reminds me of the ranting about the quality of undergrad literary analysis on some friends' blogs, but the scary/funny-because-it's-true element of it is that the spelling can be completely overlooked in this case.

I think I overstated that.

Whereas Matthias was generous enough to offer 10 whole bloggie points for answering his recent font nerd question, I think this one is only worth 1, redeemable for... for what... for the guilt-free right to completely ignore my blog for a week? I don't know. (NB: correcting the spelling doesn't count.)


ps BONUS FOR LINGUISTS AND THOSE WHO READ ENGLISH, GENERALLY! "WTFCNN?," a blog of deserves-a-second-look CNN headlines.

11 March 2008

IMAX U2 3D will blow your f-ing mind... OMG!

My adrenaline is still pumping after caching a late showing of "U2 3D" at the local IMAX (Jordans in Reading, MA). I've been in the 3-D field for what, 20 years?, and am still trying hard to tone down the adjectives that describe how exciting and engrossing this experience was. To say that I was blown away seeing this rock concert from the audience and band members' points of view is an understatement. I couldn't believe my eyes, my ears, or for that matter my body, which felt like I was inside a subwoofer for an hour, dancing with the crowd.

If you're near a good, modern, 3-D theater - like IMAX, Real D, or Dolby - and if you love or perhaps can just barely tolerate U2, please take my word for it and go experience this show.

Heck, here's what an actual journalist has to say about it at Wired.



The most sciencey-sounding words

Hi -

A funny thread on an xkcd forum entitled, "The Most Sciency-Sounding Word You've Heard." Magnetohydrodynamics? Anisotropic? You be the judge!

After all, it's a way for you techies to escape the nonstop stories about SXSW (and the failed Zuckerberg / Lacy interview.) If I have to hear "twitter" or "flickr" or "pownce" or "meebo" a few more times I'm gonna get all magnetohydrodynamic on them...


08 March 2008

Contemporary Art: Catherine Sullivan

At long last, I visited the new ICA in Boston - it was nearly empty, so I got to enjoy the pristine glass-and-metal forms of the architecture. (Unfortunately, I was less impressed by the current exhibition, with a few exceptions.) For such a large structure, isn't it odd that only the fourth floor is used as gallery space? I must be spoiled by Mass MoCA.

If you enjoy contemporary art, you might enjoy seeing Catherine Sullivan's video installation of "The Chittendens," clips of which I had seen on PBS's Art:21 series and also down in Chelsea... If a non-artist like me keeps bumping into something unusual like this, perhaps I should suspend disbelief and try to understand it, right?

As described by Heinrich von Kleist in the Feb. 2006 Artforum, "For this group of films, the artist asked sixteen actors to execute scripted sequences of what she calls "attitudes"--behavioral cues ranging from the emotive catatonia and melancholic loss to the physical bayonet in the back, golf swing, and speech to the senate--and to repeat this limited vocabulary of movements precisely. Yet as Sullivan's players engage these choreographies against the backdrop of modernday offices--the scene for a more abstract sort of control and role-playing--the actors' stutters, seizures, and spasms seem to speak more to psychosis than standardization."

Although I spend a fair amount of time looking at and reading about today's artists, I still have little confidence in writing about them, so I'll point you to three places that show and describe it:

(1) Videos of her work, archived at Art:21. If WMV files don't run on your computer, notice that you can click buttons for "quicktime" at the top of the window.

(2) Composer Sean Griffin's web page about "The Chittendens."

(3) A clip provided by the Tate.

Yes, there's a fine line between art that's "hokey" and well-executed, and perhaps that line is thinner if you don't spend a lot of time around this stuff. But when I saw "The Chittendens" projected on a giant screen, in the dark, I guess it just really grabbed me.


ps You might also enjoy: these four video clips of Hubband and Bircher, in which seemingly straightforward dialogues and situations can't really be read as such, and Laurie Anderson's introduction to one of the Art:21 series.

06 March 2008

Education. Or, teachers flipping out on their students.

Hi -

Seth Godin has a few comments about education, and links to a series of videos filmed on kids' cellphones of their teachers yelling at them, cursing at them, forcing them to stand for the Pledge...


ps On a side note, I was interested to learn that KP launched a $100M fund to encourage the development of iPhone apps, announced in conjunction with Apple's iPhone SDK.

04 March 2008

A mix for sitting there, with headphones

I don't know how this will play out, but here are the tracks of a CD I just burned. I suspect it'll be better for iPod-travel or quiet listening than work music, for which trance works a lot better for me. ANYHOW, perhaps you'll enjoy finding a new artist amongst these tracks.

1. "In the Air Tonight" - Phil Collins (yeah, yeah, I know; heck, at least I'll know if my speakers are set right)
2. "Silouans Song" - Arvo Part
3. "Peacock Tail" - Boards of Canada
4. "Just Like Paradise" - David Lee Roth (this is on heavy rotation at the Walgreens up the street. I only end up there in the evening, around 10pm, performing random chores. Something about the late hour makes the place seem spooky, like the too-sterile department store in the Romanek film One Hour Photo.)
5. "Hard Sun (main)" - Eddie Vedder
6. "Central Nervous Piston" - El Ten Eleven (Please do me a favor and listen to a few El Ten Eleven tracks on iTunes.)
7. "Let Go" - Frou Frou (I must be going through a Garden State phase, eh?)
8. "Resurrection Fern" - Iron & Wine
9. "Little Wing" - The Jimi Hendrix Experience
10. "Hummingbird" - Kris Delmhorst
11. "Thank You" - Led Zeppelin
12. "Closer" - Nine Inch Nails
13. "A Warm Place" - Nine Inch Nails
14. "Tears From The Compound Eye" - Boards of Canada
15. "Signal to Noise" - Peter Gabriel
16. "Nice Guy" - The Animators

In the rare instances that I've bought someone a CD as a gifts, it's usually been Arvo Part's Te Deum. Check it out if you like modern choral composers. It is one of the most beautiful pieces of music I've ever heard. Likewise, one of the few pop-folk groups that I've grown to like recently is Iron & Wine.

Have fun,


02 March 2008

The Neuronal Basis of Consciousness

Yeah, yeah, three posts in one night. We were out of town this weekend.

Caltech's "The Neuronal Basis of Consciousness," taught by Christof Koch. By the way, Prof. Koch now posts a list of what books he's reading (click "books I've read").


Questions to my erudite readership

Our memories are failing us. Does anyone recall...

...anything about a Japanese architect who proposed designing deliberately confusing and hard-to-navigate housing with the goal of keeping the senior citizen inhabitants' thinking sharp? (I imagine throwing the right-angle-free Morse and Stiles into a blender, adding an obstacle course, and painting it in day-glo colors.)

...what movie or TV show had a joke about a man on a desert island who encounters a mermaid, except that her top half is a fish? (This reminded J-Fav and I of an episode of "Thirty Rock" in which a writer wore a baseball cap reading "half centaur.")


Bunnie's Chumby launches

Hi -

"Chumby," a beanbag-shaped gizmo with WiFi, speakers, screen, and many available plug-ins has launched. Chumby is the brainchild of Andrew "Bunnie" Huang, an MIT alum, reverse-engineer extraordinaire, and author of Hacking the Xbox (yes, he'd grind down the cases of ICs to look at chips under a microscope to figure out their inner workings).

The Chumby web page

Wired's review: "Worth the Wait: Chumby Lands at a Desk Near You."

Bunnie's blog