Monday, January 30, 2012

The roads must roll

When a state is unable to service the infrastructure under its purview, it means the state is decadent. We've known for a couple of years that California is broke, but for California to explicitly say it's not going to look after some roads...that's the beginning of the end. 

Here, we learn that difficult roads are toast, so to speak. 

In a standoff with federal forest officials, Caltrans is proposing to abandon a popular, cliff-hanging highway in the San Gabriel Mountains because it is too expensive to maintain.
Caltrans' proposal to walk away from California Highway 39, enjoyed by an estimated 3 million people a year, comes as the state struggles to close a $9.2-billion budget shortfall.

Auto play turntables and coitus interruptus

A couple of weeks ago, John Scalzi posted a video of his 13 year old daughter reacting to her first sight of a vinyl record.  She did not believe that anything so primitive could possibly have existed.

It caused a bit of a fuss, as a lot of people assumed it was staged or rehearsed.  So much so that Scalzi disabled comments on the video and put up a rebuttal, here, which MIGHT be staged.

It is hard to believe that she lived for 13 years in a house with LPs and never opened one before, I admit. Then again, some years ago I came home after Cleaner Monthly Visit Day and found the record player was on, with the stylus gouging a deep groove into the rubber mat. I thought that it was possible to hit the "auto play" button by accident, though, so I bought a new stylus and gave them the benefit of the doubt. A few years later, it happened again. I phoned the cleaners' firm and tried to describe what had happened, and the owner said, "You can't possibly expect the cleaning crew to know what a record player is!"

I retorted that a crew who rubbed cleaning cloths across buttons on equipment ought to be aware that "on" buttons activate things, and he agreed to come out and watch the record player in use. He grudgingly admitted that  there was enough clicking, arm movement and subsequent loud noise that maybe someone should have known that they had pressed a button, even though he clearly felt that no normal person had ever seen a turntable in action and couldn't be expected to recognize one.

Scalzi junior's rebuttal was an interesting development for me today, of all days, as my biggest news this fine day - and probably biggest news all month - is that renowned vinylphile Jack White announced he is releasing his first solo album.  It will be available, on vinyl of course, on 23rd April. The single is available for download (equally of course) tonight, but the vinyl single will be on sale on February 7th. The album is called Blunderbuss and the single (on vinyl!) is called Love Interruption. The b-side, in the classic way of vinyl, is not on the forthcoming album, and is called Machine Gun Silhouette. Rob Jones is said to be involved.

The single is streaming at Jack White's new website at this very moment.

Enjoy, assuming your daughter and/or your cleaning crew have left you with a workable stylus!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

How thick is your bubble?

How Thick Is Your Bubble?

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Score » 11 out of 20  (55% )
Result   On a scale from 0 to 20 points, where 20 signifies full engagement with mainstream American culture and 0 signifies deep cultural isolation within the new upper class bubble, you scored between 9 and 12.

In other words, even if you're part of the new upper class, you've had a lot of exposure to the rest of America.
Quiz SchoolTake this quiz & get your score

It's a quiz, so I took it. Since I was born in Britain to parents who strived mightily for middle class but began and ended up working class, and am naturally socialist, it's inevitable that I have a window in the bubble. And some of the questions I disagree with anyway. But YMMV.

Charles Murray is responsible for "The Bell Curve", so I'm not sure I want to read his book.

Also it took me about a week to fix their terrible HTML for the "certificate" so it would display.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Fashion news

Disney is selling a Mickey Mouse Joy Division t shirt.

This may mean that the Mayan apocalypse really is round the corner. Mickey Mouse and Joy Division? Disney knows the origin of the band's name, right? They know the lead singer committed suicide? They have like, listened to Joy Division? And also, FWIW,  have they considered whether the waves really could form a face and ears?

Actually, I like the shirt. Except the model's ultra-pc 'pick any three races from five' look is a bit off-putting, as is his banana-bent face.

Via Pitchfork, who are frothing at the mouth. 

Harmonica - Graham Bond Organization

Hella rare video of Ginger Baker, Graham Bond and Jack Bruce.  The Graham Bond Organisation playing Harmonica.

From the film Gonks Go Beat. 

Song penned by Marty Wilde.  And that's Dick Heckstall-Smith with the stuffed tiger.  If you've ever wanted to see Ginger Baker poked with a cane by a disappointed schoolteacher, this is your clip.  I really like - or perhaps I should say totally dig - British R&B. 

My new beauty regime

Photoshop by Adobé.

Fotoshop by Adobé from Jesse Rosten on Vimeo.

I have to admit it works. The initial cost is a bit steep but the effects are quite long lasting. I like how after the Liquefy demonstration improves her contours you can see a resulting bend in the forearms. That's Fotoshop. By Adobé.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Megaupload - Filesonic

Looks like Filesonic didn't wait to be busted the way Megaupload was. There's a unilateral change on their front page.


This does make me wonder how to share legit files - it seems like thousands of people have had their files seized during the MU bust. At least Filesonic is trying to do the right thing.

No one knows how the camera lucida...

As a kid, one of my obsessions was Egyptology. One of my favorite books was C.W.Ceram's Gods, Graves and Scholars (Goetter, Graebe und Gelerhte),  which I think I almost learned by heart. In my teens I got hold of another of his books, The March of Archaeology, which was pretty much identical except for a larger format with many more good-sized pictures. Each page began with the first phrase of the text in bold on a line of its own, and one page was headed, "No one knows how the camera lucida".

It went on to add, "...was used by [Edward William] Lane to obtain this picture. The camera lucida was a device much favored by draftsmen of the period. It is still used by beginners in art schools. In principle the instrument is extremely simple. By means of a rotatable glass prism, the artist can cast a reduced image of the object upon a sheet of paper. [...] Lane's remarkable "air view" shows the pyramid of Chephren from above the north-east corner of the Great Pyramid."

Today I thought I saw the equivalent viewpoint from a modern camera obscura, or camera as we call them.  It's from a Nova article investigating who built the pyramids.


Excitedly, I went back through all my books. (Would you believe that "no one knows how the camera lucida" doesn't bring up any Google hits? (Well, until tomorrow when the Google bot finds this, of course.) Usually you can find these phrases through Google books.) After a while I remembered March of Archaeology and found the picture Edward William Lane projected and drew between 1826 and 1827.


Ceram was right - the viewpoint on the top of the pyramid is not the same as Lane's drawing. His really does appear to have been drawn in mid-air. The cut stones on top of the Great Pyramid (now called Khufu's pyramid) are accurate (as this detail shows) and Chephren's (now called Khafre's) capped pyramid is completely accurate also. But it's from above!

How about that? How did the Victorian drafstman guy get this particular shot?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

RIP, wait, what's that knocking I hear?

Today, the FBI took down exceptionally popular filesharing website Megaupload.  It's hard to see it as anything less than a power-play after the anti-SOPA and anti-PIPA strikes yesterday, but on the contrary, it appears that the Fibbies have been after Megaupload for about two years. Since the company has servers in Virginia, they had an 'in', and since New Zealand has an extradition treaty, it was possible to go out and arrest the company's owners, seize their bank accounts and take down their domain name. The owners face up to 55 years in gaol. Yep, 55 years for hosting files in cyberspace. Those annoying FBI warnings at the beginning of every legitimate DVD (but not on pirated DVDs) are true. They mean business.

When I heard about it, my first feeling was, "Great! Since Megaupload has 50,000,000 visitors every day, then we can quickly find out if MPAA and RIAA's stupid claims that every download is a lost sale is true. Because on Friday, we are going to see fifty million downloads of paid MP3s, movies, games and porn.

Edit: I originally posted a new IP address for them, but I've removed it as it may not be legit and may host malware. Don't visit it.

In which case a) sorry and b) now we can watch for those five hundred million paid downloads that are due to happen Friday and every day subsequently!

[Picture carefully cropped from a royalty-free Dover image
taken out of one of their free mailings I get on a weekly basis]

Megaupload makes a fortune, and it will be hard for them to claim that all their files were fair-use, or home movies of Gramps pushing Little Billy on a swing, so naturally they were a good first place for the FBI to go. However, it does make you wonder - if the FBI can take down infringing "pirate" sites like Megaupload, why do they need PIPA or SOPA? They already have the necessary powers to take down and prosecute.

They need the bills passed because they give them the ability to censor websites and insist they are removed from search engines. By also insisting that websites self-police, the new bills would simply cause the hated YouTube to disappear. YouTube couldn't possibly check every video and every soundtrack and of course, certainly couldn't tell if a video or soundtrack gave a link to a censored site. YouTube is home to videos showing such things as abuse of power, and the US government would be just as happy as the Chinese government, or the Arab dictators, if YouTube didn't exist.

In an exciting development, anonymous immediately went after several government websites and shuttered them. We'll soon see if they can recover as fast as Megaupload.


Normal media on the bust (LA Times).

Ars Technica on why the government selected Megaupload.

RT on the counterattacks.

Or follow #Megaupload on Twitter.

Edited: I've seen figures that put MU's traffic at fifty million a day, not five hundred million.  Edited to show the lower figure. But either way, are any musicians you know flush with cash over the last three days? No, thought not.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


In a couple of hours, several major websites will be going dark to support action against two "anti-piracy" bills which, if passed, would severely weaken the internet.

I like the internet. I'm sort of against piracy, but I certainly don't have any reason at all to believe that a person copping a free track or free movie off the internet would, if prevented from doing so, begin to pay money for them. And I'm certainly not convinced that the best way to stop them downloading something is to pass legislation that would make it impossible for Google, Reddit, boing boing, YouTube, all your favorite blogs including this one - and thousands of others, to function.

There's a nice flowchart about SOPA and PIPA here. Or you can check Wikipedia. For the next few hours, it's the only thing you can look up on Wikipedia, so there's plenty of netsurfing downtime you can spend on this project.

Eating that, I am not

I'm a sucker for anything Star Wars-related, and viola! (as they say on the internet) here comes another collectible to pique my interest.

The French burger chain Quick has designed a nifty line in Star Wars burgers. You can get the green Jedi Burger, the red Dark Burger, or if you dare, the black Dark Vador Burger.  I assume the red burger is Darth Maul - my favorite - but they seem to have chickened out on finding a word for Maul in French.  It means 'muzzle' (animal's mouth)  in German so I guess it's not a great candidate for international burger names. Various websites are happy to inform me that Dark Vador is Darth Vader - the French language apparently not being well-equipped with either a "th" sound, or a schwa on on the end of words - but no one seems to want to tell me exactly how they make a black bun for a burger.

I could probably come up with something relatively wholesome for that if I tried, however, but what has me really stumped is the stuff that looks like a ring of teeth on top of the Jedi Burger.  What is it? At first I thought it might be poutine, but that's the other Francophones, isn't it? Not the original old skool ones. It's evidently emblematic of the light side of the Force but as off-white melted cheese (if that's what it is) it just seems to emphasize the beigeiness, waffledom and slightly crusty look of the Jedi. The dark siders have always had more style.

Apparently the burgers are the equivalent of $6.29, which is cheap at half the price and I'd have one of each, except the air fare would be another $1,000 and that puts me slightly over my weekly burger budget.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Sunday, January 08, 2012

There's nothing quite like a Scotch education

And there'll never be anything like Ivor Cutler and his Life in a Scotch Sitting Room ever again.  (Or John Peel, to  popularize it.)

Friday, January 06, 2012

Santorum comes from behind

I once looked up Santorum on the internet's Urban Dictionary and apparently it means, "That frothy mixture of lube and fecal matter that is sometimes the by-product of anal sex."

Interestingly, it's also the name of a God-bothering moron who is running for president of the US on a ticket that can best be described as American Sharia. And so, when I read this headline on Catholic Online, I wasn't, at first, sure which type of santorum they were describing.

"Santorum comes from behind"?

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Cute Chimeric Monkeys!

Are these the cutest monkeys ever or what?

I've seen a few articles today saying that 'science' has now created 'genetically modified' monkeys, with the usual invective about playing god. Both the newspaper articles and the BBC World Service news I listened to were keen to mention the genetic tampering.  These two artificial chimeras are apparently the result of Frankenstein let loose. Except.

There isn't any genetic modification here. Many, many creatures are chimeras. Your mother is, for example. And so was mine. Whenever a human female gets pregnant, the fetal cells get into the mother's bloodstream and settle down into her cells, creating a body that's genetically more than one 'person'.. And that's true for any other placental mammal. Almost every adult female monkey - not to mention ape - is a chimera. It doesn't modify anyone's genetics, just complicates the immune response and of course any work PC Plod tries when trying to identify anyone.

These monkey chimeras are made by letting two embryos live side-by-side until they incorporate each other (as many do in real life).  I only hope they get chance to live as the cute chimeras, and don't get relegated to the experimental lab.

The Kills on Jo Whiley 12-22-2011

A nice 25 minute YouTube from 22nd December 2011. Not exactly flac quality, but great to listen to.

I adore The Kills. This is a balls-out recent video with the famous drum guys and scarlet Alison Mosshart hair.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Best Peromyscus joke ever

Possibly the only Peromyscus joke ever.

Carrie McN sent me a link to this Overboard comic from Halloween:

Thank you and happy new year, Carrie!


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