2007.04.27

Lizard Love

23.50.02 - Mark

Lizard love

Lizards in Love



I've found (and photographed) at least three lizards creeping around in the yard, but these two are the most fun to watch, plus they're so preoccupied that after a minute or two they simply stop caring about any observers. I've got a short video of these two as well. I'll get around to putting together a video sampler in a few days - the S3 really does have a great video mode.

Right now I'm both looking forward and dreading tomorrow. There's an air show at the local airport and I plan on going over with my camera. The only problem with that is that I know going will flare up my desire to learn how to fly, which of course I can't afford...

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2007.04.26

As If I Really Forgot...

20.19.31 - Mark

I've got the democratic presidential debate on the TV right now. As anxious as I am to get Bush out of office, watching this political jockeying feels like watching a slow motion train wreak. I mean we've already had people announce and drop out, and as pointed out above we're seeing presidential debates 18 months before the election - and like all politicians they're doing a splendid job of not saying anything. The only thing I'm learning from this is that right now I really don't want to vote for any of the candidates, even if I do like and agree with what they have to say.

By the time the actual election comes around we're going to be tired of this batch of f**king jokers that no one will want them sticking around for 4 to 8 years. It's a shame that there's no way to stop this whole BS engine and put it on pause for 6 months or so.

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2007.04.24

For the birds

18.07.35 - Mark

Hawk in flight

One of several photos of Hawks in flight that I took at Pilot Mountain last week



A Robin perched on some rocks

A Robin that happened to perch on a stone retaining wall in the backyard earlier today



I love my zoom lens, but I really need to find a better way of posting photos online. Maybe time to fire up the flickr account again...

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F**k - It's a documentary too.

15.45.35 - Mark

I've been finding that Netflix's recommendations for me are pretty good anymore, so when Netflix started telling me that I would love F**k (4.6 out of 5) I went ahead and added it to my queue. It showed up over the weekend and I watched it yesterday. I don't quite regret renting it, but it also didn't live up to netflix's suggested rating.

F**k is a lot like The Aristocrats which I loved, except it's a whole lot weaker. Where The Aristocrats was comedy with a hint of documentary style story telling, F**k almost feels like a comedy film that had every intention of being a documentary. In an hour and a half there was plenty for me to laugh at, the producers were doing a great job of juxtaposing ultra conservatives like Pat Boone and Miss Manners with foul mouthed personalities like Ice T, Billy Connolly, George Carlin and others. So for about the first half hour they play with some of the urban legends surrounding the origins of the word, from Playboy's "Fornication Under Command of King" to it's appearance in Flen Flyys (a poem written around 1475). All in all a whole lot of good natured, foul mouthed fun. The problem with that is that I had almost written it off entirely as comedy by the time it actually got around to the 1st amendment and censorship issues 40-50 minutes into the film.

Even when it does start exploring issues and facts, they don't present much of anything. They shoot off a few well known facts about the Parent's Television Council for a couple minutes, go back to talking about profanity, and eventually try and make some weak connections between the PTC and the Bush administration, before going on and calling hypocrisy on various republican administrations for supporting decency standards while cursing like crazy themselves (of course Democrats get off easy - despite their various contributions to state sponsored censorship). The informative tidbits of information are so far buried in comedy routines that almost all of the value is lost.

I really wanted to like F**k. As deeply as profanity has entrenched itself into society, and with the regular threats to Constitutional rights and constant outcries from conservatives for decency standards to be made into law, I would really like to see a good documentary on profanity and indecency. Something that goes beyond simply reciting the Seven Dirty Words and goes into how and why we curse, why people take offense, why it continues to be a big deal in modern society, and when it comes time to call bullshit - not pull any punches.

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Shall we play a game?

01.53.46 - Mark

If you've never seen WarGames, and you regularly read this blog - what the hell are you thinking? Stop reading and go watch WarGames, it's a lot more worth while than reading my ramblings.

For everyone left, don't feel bad I'll be sending you away in a minute too. Almost perfectly timed with my relapse into Ambrosia Software titles, they've gone and release another game - DEFCON. Like Uplink (which started the relapse a few weeks ago), the new offender is a Mac port of an Introversion game (read: there's a windows version). The basic premise of DEFCON (if you haven't guessed from the post title, the command to watch WarGames, and/or the name of the game) is the same as Global Thermonuclear War. Nuke the hell out of your enemy, while keeping your enemy from nuking the hell out of you, and like Joshua you want to play the game until you "win". Which of course you can't do (it is nuclear war after all...) but you can try - and it lends itself to my favorite gaming philosophy (Easy to learn, hard to master).

Aside from its various cinematic inspirations (WarGames, Dr. Strangelove, Failsafe) it reminds me of Desktop Tower Defense or Missle Command on steroids, with a bit of StarCraft like Realtime Strategy for good measure.

I really wish there were different difficulty levels for the single player mode (I'm not big on network games), although I may register so I can add extra AIs and add a pause feature (a single round only takes 30 minutes or so) Single player against single AI really can't invoke the same paranoia the developer's aim for. Anyways. Go forth and download.(Mac | Windows)

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2007.04.22

Earth Day

13.18.41 - Mark

Google Doodle for Earth Day 2007 I completely forgot that today was Earth Day until Google's logo caught my eye. I think its one of the best Google Doodles I've seen in a while, maybe ever. I think I'll go back outside and enjoy the near perfect weather now.

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The Dark Side of Snopes

11.40.12 - Mark

Dark side of Snopes - xkcd webcomic

I love fact checking via Snopes. Depending on who sends me the urban legend email, I usually hit them over the head with a link to the relevant snopes pages. I also love xkcd's webcomics.

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2007.04.20

Damn good day.

23.55.55 - Mark

Me, sitting on some rocks at Pilot Mountain, in a very, very good mood. Today was a very, very good day. From waking up an watching a couple movies to taking my camera out to Pilot Mountain, or building a $2 macro photo studio and fixing some other stuff around the house. It's been a very enjoyable day. I didn't even need it and I feel immensely recharged, so right now life is very, very good. I'll save the writing and photo sorting until after I've had a good night's sleep.

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2007.04.18

Light Catcher

16.50.10 - Mark

I once again have a working camera, and all is good. Having worked out the features I wanted and needed nearly a month ago, I've had plenty of time to stew over various cameras and read almost literally hundreds of reviews. In the end what it came down to was size. I can get cameras that have all the features I wanted in just about any size I want, but to even get close to having it all I was looking at paying close to $800 for a compact camera. Compact cameras seem to command at least $150 to $200 more than their larger brethren, so with that in mind I opted to get a larger high end shooter. Specifically the Canon S3 IS (DP Review | DCRP) It's a year old, but newegg.com had it for $310 with 2GB SD card. On paper it meets every one of my wants and needs except for its physical size and the lack of RAW shooting modes (tho' there's a firmware hack that may fix that). In reality, I've very happy with the decision.

UPS showed up with the camera about quarter to 2 and I had it unpacked and taking pictures by 2, and it didn't take long to start getting used to the controls and start playing with the advanced features. The interface is quick and logical, the images I've been taking are stunning and the optical range is great from the super macro mode to the fully extended 12x zoom. The one thing that's really stunning is the movie mode. The quality is great, and although I haven't done anything more than a sample video the zoom while recording and stereo sound captured my heart instantly.

There are a lot of features I haven't tried yet, but I honestly can't wait to. I'm even going to read the manual to make sure I'm not missing anything (hint: I almost never read manuals). Now for the hard part of this post - picking sample pictures...

Macro Flower
Piano wires

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2007.04.17

Morbid Facinations

12.22.53 - Mark

If you've been under a rock for the last 24 hours, you might not know about the Virginia Tech Shootings. I didn't pay any attention to it yesterday, aside from opening up a CNN article or two, but this morning I was watching some of the various news channel coverage for a couple hours, and I really should have pried myself away from the coverage sooner than I did. The act of watching rampant speculation from a slew of talking heads - qualified or otherwise - and seeing the networks scramble for the next inconsequential piece of information like hyperactive 10 year olds looking for easter eggs was an eerie reminder of 9/11 for me.

I'm not disputing that the VT shootings is an important news story, but the morbid fascination that the news networks and by extension the American people have with it, and any number of other disasters, is frankly disturbing. They present continuous coverage of these drive by disasters, with limited commercial interruption, but what point is there to watching 24/7 coverage when most of it is speculation and none of it helps resolve the situation?

It almost feels like a form of manipulation. We all know that yesterday's events is going to be dredging up a handful of hot button issues, from gun control and security to immigration policy. Is the media just preparing us for the debates that will occur over the coming weeks and months?

I'm ready for the real stories to come out from this. From the uses of social networking and the technology gaps between organizations and individuals, the use of camera phones and 1st person accounts online to get the story, to how security theater failed and situational awareness succeeded. I've just had enough with the speculation, repetition, shallow political condolences, and false empathy. Let's move on. There are much better uses for our time.

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2007.04.15

Thanks?

23.42.13 - Mark

To the unknown soul who shared those scripts with me - Thanks, I guess. Really would have preferred have learned that info via email tho' - I've got it in my profile block if you'd like to drop me a line

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2007.04.12

River Run Film Fest

19.05.22 - Mark

I had intended to post this last week after I went to a free preview screening last week, but the River Run Film Festival is taking place in Winston Salem next week. It's been going on for a few years, but its new to me. Even if they did a free preview though the local arts council, I got the impression they don't care that much about attracting people down from Mount Airy.

Even so, wish I had the money to get a pass, the animation panel looks interesting and there are several short films I'd like to see. Thinking about volunteering, but their site has just short of nothing about what's involved. Most places have at least a FAQ - they just a form.

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2007.04.11

Uncilivilized

10.27.57 - Mark

I've been trying to figure out what exactly I want to say about Tim O'Reilly's proposed Blogger Code of Conduct. Others have posted on the issue and looked at the proposed code in more detail than I will.

That said, this post has gone from it's a bad idea, to it won't work, and now to I don't really give a damn. This isn't something I'll be joining up with because I don't see any of the problems that this claims to be a solution for. I've had anonymous commenters I've disagreed with, trolls I've been tempted to delete, arguments and embarrassing things go public. I've never deleted a post I've made, and I've only deleted two non-spam comments intentionally, and even then I wouldn't make the same decision today since they were rooted in a misunderstanding rather than problematic. All in all I've broken nearly every one of the proposed codes of conduct in one way or another, from posting copyrighted material (if you can find it) to not requiring email addresses from commenters.

The only thing I can say about my blog is that it's mine and I'm responsible for it. I don't need to sign a pledge for that to be true.

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2007.04.08

Free clicking.

21.25.31 - Mark

Bring Back Free Clicking at the New York Times I ranted about the New York Times referance search popups a while back, and it still bugs me that there's no obvious way of disabling it via the site. Did they miss the memo about web2.0 being about user freedom? It doesn't take much to allow a user to disable a feature they don't like, but nope no way of disabling it. I'm not the only one, there's one comment on that rant, and when I checked his site he had a link to more disgruntled clickers, although they have a couple hacks to get it disabled. The easiest is this greasemonkey script, which works fine, buts it only works on one browser on one of my many regularly used computers. This really should be a user preference on their site, there's no good reason for it not to be.

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Random thought:

14.31.43 - Mark

I'm fairly sure that "Intellegent design" gets you the easter bunny.

You have a rabbit, except over grown and it's bipeddal. Its fur (a mammalian trait) is colored in pastel colors not commonly found in nature, and it lays bird eggs (an avian trait) which rather than the natural calcium carbonate, tend to have plastic or chocolate shells.

Yes its cool, but I'm not sure that it will survive in nature for very long.

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2007.04.07

Digital Crack.

23.24.23 - Mark

I know a couple people who suffer from a world of warcrack addiction, or at least did. I completly understand the addiction, Blizzard makes kick ass video games. I've been known to play Starcraft for insanly long periods of time, and the only reason I'm not nursing a WoW addiction is because I'm not a huge fan of MMORPGs.

I'm being reminded of what that addiction feels like tho'. I installed EV Nova on one of my Macs earlier this week, and I've sunk at least 24 hours of time into it (probably more, it doesn't have a game play clock and I've more or less lost track of what day it is). I've finished two of the six major plots, but because they're slightly evil, I need to start a new character for each plot, then get them a nice bank account and a decent ship while trying to navigate into the right story line (and I've covered the easiesst two.)

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2007.04.03

DNS Swindlers Update

17.26.41 - Mark

So, the domain I was hunting for a month ago lapsed last week, so we enter into a whole new realm of DNS hell. Due to the low budget of the site, we opted not to try and play "the drop" with the evil companies that really just DoS whois servers and try and buy the domain name when it becomes available.

You would think that there isn't a profit involved when no one bids on the domains (which is the case here), but as far as I can tell, the main company for domain auctions, Snapnames seems to run a few side business that take part in Domain Kiting (link goes to a blog post by Founder/CEO of GoDaddy.com), so now there are a few domain names I'd like to have that are perpetually being bought and returned so these con artists can run link farms, display popups, and try and sell the domains back at exaggerated prices ($90+).

And to think, my day was going so well before I started looking back into this cursed domain issue.

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MacGyver CD repair

02.38.50 - Mark

I've heard for years that the best way to fix a scratched CD is to use toothpaste to polish the scratches out of the plastic. Thankfully I haven't actually had to test it out, but when working on an iMac I needed an Mac OS 9.1 CD. The bad part is that I only have one full OS 9.1 CD (plenty of 9.0) and I haven't taken the best possible care of it and its been scratched all to hell. So, out came the toothpaste, and after a couple passes, a couple minor scratches had come out, but not the major ones that were corrupting the disk. So, a quick google search and it turns out Brasso is the best CD scratch remover, so out it comes and after one pass it had done far more than the toothpaste.

I still had to do a couple more passes with the Brasso before the disc was usable (I don't have a photo, but this disc was seriously scratched) but its done the job and saved me $20 (going rate for a OS 9 cd on eBay)

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2007.04.02

Ethics of Pranking

22.30.35 - Mark

I like pranks, that's all I'm really going to say about that. April Fool's day (which has come and gone) brings out the occasional original prank, a few variations on classics, and a lot of dreck. For example, I think Think Geek has always come up with at least one funny but plausible fake product in their April Fool's jokes (this year it was Surge Stix), while Google's TISP and Gmail Paper were both let downs (then again I don't think Google will be able to top Gmail's April 1st launch three years ago ) There's a whole list of 4/1/2007 internet gags here but most aren't worth your time.

The reason they aren't worth you time is that so many of them don't meet the requirements of the Pranks Code of Ethics, which is basically a ripped off version of the definition for MIT Hacks, but I don't think I've ever heard an objection to pranks that fall under these guidelines:

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2007.04.01

Old games

23.04.23 - Mark

Rather than hunting out all the April Fool's jokes out there I've wasted most of today playing old video games (and moving a pile of 1970's reject carpet from the basement to the curb).

I don't know of anyone around my age who doesn't have fond memories of playing Oregon Trail. I almost forgot how long it takes to play, but after a couple hours I finished the trail with a score just shy of 12,000 (which on my copy was 3rd place.)

After that I had intended on playing the hyperaddictive Escape Velocity (my first shareware purchase, when they sent out registrations via postcard. Think I still have that one too) but didn't want to mess with getting it onto a working computer, so went off to download the sequel Escape Velocity: Nova and in the process got site tracked by Uplink and played that for several hours. If you couldn't tell, I'm addicted to Ambrosia Software products, and have been for over 10 years. Not that that's a bad thing

The nostalgia is almost enought to make me forget about moving carpet. Almost

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