Monday, March 19, 2007

So friggen cool

On March 3rd I posted a quick summary of a book I was reading called "A Beginner's Guide to Immortality" by author Cliff Pickover and just a quickly forgot about the post. If you haven't read the post yet, I encourage you to do so.

Today I was checking Pickover's Reality Carnival, a link-blog he maintains daily. It's kind of like Fark, but more science/art influenced. I've had a link to it on the right side of Dropmystraw since Mandy and I first started it. It's the first thing I check whenever I hop online. It's always one link and it's always interesting. Especially the 3/17/2007 link.

I was amazed to find that he, of his own volition, linked back to Drop My Straw! If you click on the reality carnival link on the right side, look for the link for 3/17/2007 - it links back to my post! The coolest thing is I never submitted the blog or my post to his site. He must've found it by googling his name, book title, or some combination. Either way, it's really cool. It's amazing how enabling the internet is becoming. I read a cool book, post a quick review, the author finds the review, link back to my site, I post about the linking and everyone knows everyone. It's really cool.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Exploding Sand Castles!

I haven't posted anything in a while. Been real busy working on my reel, string theory thing, and the project for Mandy's parents. Also no one ever posts comments. Last weekend, when Mandy and I were town, nearly every person quoted something from the blog and yet so few posts.

Here's a quick primer for those who are comment-deficient:
1. Click the comments hyperlink at the bottom of the post
2. Type either "Good" or "Bad" in the text box
3. Click Publish Your Comments

That's it. Really easy, isn't it?

As a gift for being such a good student, here's a really sweet video of sandcastles blowing up in reverse. It reminds me of my 'Revo' days when the favorite pass time of my friends and myself was recording things then playing the tapes in reverse. We were easily amused.

(Man, this is awesome)

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Product Review: V-MODA Earbuds for iPod

If you own an iPod (really, any portable MP3 player) and find the stock earbuds that come packaged with it lacking, I have a great alternative.

'The V-MODA Bass Freq' earbuds. I picked up a pair of these babies for $35 from Amazon about two months ago and they're so far above the listening experience of the stock iPod earbuds it's hard to describe.

If you listen to your iPod with a pair of unpowered earbuds, you'll find these little guys to be the single best investment of $35 you can make to improve your listening experience.

(Sexy earbuds)

I listen to my iPod, through earbuds, for about 6 hours everyday at work. Anyone that has worked with me knows this isn't an exaggeration. I listen to a wide range of music, podcasts, vidcasts, and everything in between. I basically got tired of getting headaches from listening with the stock headphones, not to mention the sound is atrocious, and started doing some research into a better set. I found out about these via this review on CNet. While they may not be up there with the Sonhiser or Sharp in terms of sound clarity, they'll only set you back $35 compared to the $100 - $200 you'd have to spend to get a really good set. Again, if you listen to portable music devices often, do your ears a favor a buy a pair.

  • Good sound insulation
  • They come with three ear canal adapters to fit various sized ears holes
  • Non-fatiguing sound: I can leave them in for hours at a time without them bothering me
  • Comfortable, ergonomic design
  • Sound quality is amazing for a set of earbuds
  • They are biased towards being bass heavy, due to how little SPL the drivers can pump out
  • The cord is really short
  • I know it's nitpicky, but it's really hard to read the tiny 'R' and 'L' indicators on the cans

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Yeah Marvin, what is really going on?

I was sitting at work, watching my scripts crawl like digital cats across the application, seeking out bugs to snack on, when I heard something amusing on my iPod.

I had been listening to a collection of Marvin Gaye tunes (I’ve been on a Motown kick for some reason) when the golden standard, “What’s Going On?” came on. The song begins with ambient sounds of the beginnings of a party which ends up being the foundation for the song. For about 15 seconds, the listener can only hear a clamoring of saying things like, “This is a groovy party, man.”, “Everything is everything.”, and, “I dig it.” Alone, this is worth a grin because of how dated the phrases are, but something oddly coincidental is said just as the music kicks in.

Once the beat starts, and mid-way through the first Saxophone note, you can distinctly hear my friend Esquire in the background answering the question, “Hey man, what’s your name?” with “It’s Dennis.” The voice sounds just like Esquire and the fact that it’s saying its name is ‘Dennis’ at a party at Marvin Gaye’s crib c. 1972 is the coolest thing I’ve ever heard. If Dennis existed in some alternate dimension, this is where he’d hang out. If you know, or are, Esquire, you’ll understand and smile knowingly.

It's hard to hear, but if you turn it up and listen to the right speaker, you can make it out.

(Click on Marvin to listen to / download the clip)

Monday, March 05, 2007

Weekend recap...

Wow, what a great weekend. I’m not surprised that it went so fast, I was having so much fun all weekend long.

Friday, Matt and I relaxed at home. We practiced more on perfecting our pizza. What would pizza be without beer?...and the Sopranos?....and some Beatles? We ended up watching the last episode on our Sopranos disk (from Netflix), and then watched another hour of the Beatles documentary. If you like the Beatles and have never seen this documentary, you should. It is 8 hours long, and it packs all of the Beatles goodness in!

Saturday, I woke up and felt like baking a little. I made some blueberry-orange muffins and then made some chocolate-chocolate chip muffins. Matt worked on his reel, but was able to pull himself away for some tasting.

Saturday night we met up with a couple of our friends, Erin and Dean, at an Indian restaurant in Clifton. We ordered the veg dinner for two and they ordered the non-veg dinner for two. There also ordered a nice bottle of white wine for all of us to drink. There was a lot of food, and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

After dinner, we stepped over to the Esquire theater, with all intentions of watching Other Peoples Lives, but we were a bit late and probably would have missed 20 minutes. We were able to get tickets for Pan’s Labyrinth. Although Erin is not too keen on movies with insects and violence, she was a really good sport!

After the movie we went next door to a coffee shop named Sitwell’s – think it might be owned by Sally’s father (from Arrested Development). We each had a warming, and mighty alcoholic coffee/cocoa. It was a cool little shop – and we had good conversations.
I liked the Clifton area. Even though it was really cold, there are a lot of things to do within a short proximity.

Sunday, was low-key. We hung around the house until about 3pm, and then went shopping for some odds and ends. We came back with Chinese food, and watched Little Women - or I watched it and Matt watched some :)
He had some more work to do on his reel, so he left part way through.

All in all, I had a very relaxing enjoyable weekend.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Cliff Pickover and Immortality

Cliff Pickover's newest book begins, "Last night, I dreamed I was eating Truman Capote's brain. It tasted like black licorice, but smelled of blood."

I discovered Pickover when he was interviewed by George Norry, the host of Coast to Coast AM. First understand that Coast interviewees range from people who channel the ghost of JFK to the shrieking rants of conspiracy theorists. Most Coast guests have very unconvincing credentials and are a questionable lot, to put it lightly. So, when this mad scientist appeared one on the show one rainy summer evening, talking about similarities in DMT drug experiences experiences, time travel paradoxes, and comparisons between sushi and the native language of Hopi Indians, I didn't pay any more attention than the round-table discussions of the shape of alien eyes. Keep in mind I'm not trying to diminish how interesting these topics can be (though nearly all are patently false they sure are fun to listen to), it's just that they are as common on Coast to Coast as Brittany Spear's recent haircut is on more mainstream news shows.

Partially due to time, but mostly due to lack of interest, I never listen to a Coast interview twice. However, over the next few weeks, I found myself returning to that interview again. It was basically three hours of a very articulate person concisely describing fascinating thought-experiments that act as a kind of catalyst for thinking about the world in new ways. I did a little research and found that Pickover has published over 30 books and has real credentials to back up his science ideas. He received his Ph. D. from Yale in molecular biophysics and biochemistry.

On a whim I bought his then newest book, "Sex, Drugs, Einstein, and Elves" and have never looked back. As Mandy will tell you, it's not something to lightly attempt reading if you are suffer from any form of A.D.D. Most of the topics are covered in two or three paragraphs and whose thematic connections are loose and ever-changing. It's like reading a book that was created by using the linking, cross-indexing architecture of HTML to organize a jumble of loosely related subject material.

I'm mid-way through his latest book. "A Beginner's Guide to Immortality." It's structured in a much more linear fashion than "Sex, Drugs, Einstein, and Elves" complete with chapters and everything! It still wildly surges from dissections of the works of Capote to the esoteric genius of John Parsons creating surprising neural linkage in it's wake. As an aside, Parsons is the man, who, in the 1950s, was most responsible for creating the NASA space program, solid-fuel rockets, and the founding of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. He was also certifiably insane.

If you're in the mood for some strange, mind-expanding reading, you can't go wrong with Pickover. A good quote from Wired sums him up well, "Bucky Fuller thought big, Arthur C. Clark thinks big, but Cliff Pickover outdoes them both."

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Lunar Eclipse a' comin!

This Saturday, March 3rd, you will be able to see a total lunar eclipse. These aren’t particularly rare (the next one is in August), but they are interesting to see. Unlike a solar eclipse you won’t see one celestial body completely cover or “eclipse” another. The moon will pass through Earth’s shadow, causing it to change to a reddish brown color in the Eastern Time Zone. Unfortunately, it will be at moonrise, so it won’t be amazingly dark, and given that we live in the mid-west, clear skies are also rare.

However, if the skies are clear and you are so inclined, the moon will begin to move into the outer shadow (the penumbra) of the earth starting at 4:30. It will enter totality or the darkest part of the shadow (called the umbra) at 5:44 and float through it for about an hour and 15 mins. At 6:20, the moon will be at mid-umbra which is the time the moon will look the darkest, reddist, browniest of the eclipse. From 6:20-8:12 the moon will start moving out of the Earth’s shadow until it looks all nice and regular at the end.

Here is an amazingly bad video explanation of the eclipse. Note how the astronomer never looks up from the cue cards she is reading and the full shot of her with a red lighting her head and none of her body. I've said it before and I'll say it again: NASA cannot make space videos look good no matter how hard they try.

It’s great example of how the laws that govern things gravity causing my coffee mug to roll off my desk and splash me this morning are the same laws that cause the earth, sun, and moon to move through the cosmos. It's also a great example of shoddy government-sponsored video explanations.