Monday, December 7, 2009

Orson Wells Meets HG Wells

The title of this post says it all: An audio program where Orson Welles meets HG Wells. The connection between the two men (besides the similarity of their last names) is that Orson Welles adapted HG Wells' War of the Worlds for the radio. A radio program that apparently caused some panic among... uh... certain... uh... credulous people...

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


If you ever need to prototype a physical object or perhaps make repairs, it can be handy to have material that is easily worked. In the past, I've used a product called Shape Lock (it may also be known as friendly plastic). It's not difficult to work with, it sets as quickly as it cools, and it can be reworked easily and indefinitely.

Similar to Shape Lock, there appears to be new product just launched called Sugru that could also prove to be useful for some of the same applications as Shape Lock, and it has applications that Shape Lock does not have since it is adhesive and has a higher operating temperature. The biggest weaknesses compared to Shape Lock (that I see) is that it appears Sugru cannot be reworked once it cures, and Sugru has a relatively narrow 30 minute working time before curing starts.

However if you need the adhesive qualities as well as the higher working temperature ranges, then perhaps that doesn't matter. Also, if you don't need to rework, then Sugru could be worth a look. It's best application may be repairs, but I can see other uses as well.

I haven't had a chance to use Sugru, so caveat emptor, of course.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Short Film from Pixar

If you haven't seen Pixar's movie Up, then this short might not make a lot of sense. But if you have, then enjoy.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Slightly Used Bookmark

Whenever I find myself writing some code, it seems a doodle or two pops out. Seahorses are one of those sinuous animals that are easy and fun to draw. Just make some pleasant curves, add a few embellishments, and voila!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Bobby McFerrin and the Pentatonic Scale

Wow! Another video! How original! But it is pretty cool. I found this video via the Create Digital Music blog. In it you will find Bobby McFerrin "conducting" an audience through a little musical interlude. His comments at the end seem to indicate that he's done this before all over the world, and people seem to readily grasp the pentatonic scale he wants them to use.

It's a neat example of our common humanity. See if you can follow along.

World Science Festival 2009: Bobby McFerrin Demonstrates the Power of the Pentatonic Scale from World Science Festival on Vimeo.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Another Great Animated Short From Gobelins

Here's an animation that's just terrific on any number of levels.

This animated short is from some animation majors (Marion Stinghe, Meryl Franck, BenoƮt Guillaumot, Nicolas Caffarel and Elen Le Tannou) at the Gobelins school in France. From what I've heard, the school has a seriously good (but hard to get into) program and as such manages to attract some very talented students. Many of the best animated shorts I've seen in recent years has been the work of the students from this school. "Pandore" above is from third year students. If I could just keep track of where the students go after their schooling...

Here's a link to the video on youtube in case the embedded video isn't showing up in your reader or if you want to be sure to watch the movie full size.

(Via Charley Parker and his Lines and Colors blog.)

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Edgar-Allen-Poe-meets-Classic-Disney (but better)

The Cat Piano from PRA on Vimeo.

From the cats over at People's Republic of Animation. I was pleasantly surprised to hear Nick Cave perform the narration. He has a fantastic speaking voice and was an excellent choice for this film.

(Via CGHUB.)

Friday, September 4, 2009

One Hundred Year Old Color Photos

Here's some color photos from Russia that were taken around one hundred years ago! I found the introductory photo (which is also photo 21) to be quite nice in a romantic sort of way. But they're all very interesting. The photographer's name is Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii. (Thank you, cut and paste!)

These aren't painted over color photos like you may have encountered before. These are "true" color photographs. The original pictures were taken as three separate black and white images through red, green, and blue filters. This produced three separate black and white plates of each color. To reproduce the photos during the time they were taken, the photographer would use a light projector and project each of the black and white plates through appropriate colored filters onto a single area. When overlapped in that manner, the projector could display the color photographs.

Very clever. Very clever, indeed...

Anyway, to create the digital copies that you can see online, it was merely necessary to digitize the three black and white plates, align them, and then combine the red, green, and blue channels (this last step is essentially how our computer screens work). This is practically child's play with the sophisticated tools we have today, and now everybody gets to enjoy these images!

The people at the Library of Congress are the ones who have preserved and digitized these plates. You can get more information and photos here.

(Via Tim Bray's twitter stream.)

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Summer Pictures IV - Sunflowers

Along with the modest vegetable garden we planted, I also planted some flowers. Why not? Everybody likes flowers. I'd never grown them before, but I decided to grow some sunflowers. I tried a variety of sunflowers. Maybe a half dozen different types.

I haven't been dutifully recording the progress of each variety as any self-respecting gardener probably would, but I'm sort of new to the whole concept of having land, and I haven't fully adapted to the concept since I don't believe it will last. There's also the fact that I spent the majority of my life dwelling in arid deserts where land was often plentiful but growing non-desert plants was usually much more trouble than it was worth (because I am lazy). It was probably out of necessity, but I learned to respect the innate beauty and sheer will to live expressed by most desert plants. Heck, even cactuses and yucca plants have flowers to enjoy.

Anyway, back to the sunflowers. Not only are sunflowers pretty with their large green stalks and colorful flowers, they also attract and support a variety of bird and insect life. You'll see a couple of picture below where I attempted to capture some of that. Also, I'm not going to list each variety's name. Except for the last variety shown below, I'm just going to post some pictures without more comment (because I am lazy).

The one sunflower that I will make an exception to point out is called, I believe, a chianti hybrid. The flower has a wonderfully dark but warm color. In full sunlight, the petals glow from within. These photos don't really do it justice.

While the flower is first growing, it looks a lot like any other sunflower with thick green stalks. However, as the plant matures and it gets ready to bloom, a dark color begins to work its way up the plant. Before long the stalk and the veins in the leaves have this dark color. All the darker colored flowers do this to a certain extent, but for these very dark flowers, the total effect of the dark color is slightly sinister (but very beautiful). If I ever grow sunflowers again, I will grow some of these, and I will make the patch as large as I can. You know, to warn off the neighbors.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Summer Pictures III - Frolicking Fawns

Being somewhat out in the boonies, we are frequently visited by deer. You can be walking around out back minding your own business, and suddenly you're staring down the accusatory stare of a couple of deer.

I'm normally tolerant of deer. They give me plenty of space, and they seem to have enough problems with hunters and highway vehicles, and I see no need to harass them further. However, for a short period earlier in the summer, they were using our barely established garden as a buffet, and I lost all tolerance for their presence. I even went so far as to chase after and run off a suspect deer who had the temerity to eye our garden while I was standing right there! It didn't really help, but it made me feel a little better.

After that, we worked out some makeshift barriers that seemed to dissuade them, and right now the deer seem to be happy to munch on the apples that are falling from the trees.

Somewhere in the middle of all that excitement, we had an extremely blustery day, and we spotted two fawns playing around in the back. We'd seen a doe with two fawns a couple of times before, so we suspected that the fawns became separated because of the weather. Does will call to their fawns, but in the wind, we doubted they could hear her. At any rate, the event afforded me the opportunity to get some action shots of these fawns.

(I apologize for the graininess. I couldn't get too close, and I was using a point and shoot camera with 6x zoom in low light conditions. I'm amazed I got the photos I did.)

Friday, August 28, 2009

Summer Pictures II - The Fair

Whenever summer nears its end, you can always find some fair or other running. The Montana Fair recently made its run here, and we made a trek to see it.

I enjoy fairs. I'm not really into the rides, or the "games", or the crappy and expensive food. I know what you're thinking, "That's all there is to fairs, so you don't really enjoy fairs, you dummy." First, name calling is uncalled for, and second, you'd be right except you forgot about the exhibits. You know, the exhibits showing off people's baking, knitting, sewing, painting, photographing, place setting etc. skills. I enjoy viewing exhibits of people's industrious efforts. For instance, here's a picture of somebody's giant flower... thing.

I really don't know what sort of flower it was, but believe me when I tell you it was impressive in person.

Some other things people like to exhibit at fairs are various farm animals large and small. I admit that I don't appreciate the farm aspect of fairs as much as I should even though that is probably the traditional purpose of fairs. I just don't have enough experience and knowledge about animal husbandry (*snicker*) to really appreciate what I'm looking at. Usually when people inform me we're heading over to the animal exhibits, my initial reaction is pretty much that of this fair goer I spotted near one of the animal exhibits (I empathize completely).

However, I have to admit that if I give it half a chance that there is usually something interesting to look at in the animal exhibits. So, I try to keep an open mind.

This year we went to the fair just a day after it had opened. By the time we usually visit the fair, all the animal judging has already happened. But this time we visited the animal exhibits while judging was going on. I caught some of the cows being shown. Even kids get into the act (#141 had better be quick on his feet).

I can judge the heck out of people, but with cows, I wouldn't know where to begin. After each round, the judge would helpfully explain his choices as the cows were moved out of the pen single file. However, I still couldn't follow him. He said things about round flanks, feminine somethings, and straight backs. He also talked about the way they walked as they were led around the judging area. Actually, the only thing I could really appreciate was the straight back. The rest was lost on me, especially the whole "feminine" thing. I'd appreciate it more if I was a cow connoisseur. (Man, I sure hope somebody in the world has "cow connoisseur" on their business card.)

However, I have to say that this gentleman's cow (which won its judging) did have a straighter back than its competitors. Also, he was very adept at moving his cow around and getting it to do what he wanted. I assume that helps the judging quite a bit.

Before seeing the cows, we passed through some of the bird areas. The birds are always a lot of fun to see. There's just such a wild variety of birds. This is especially true of chickens. This year there were quite a few excellent examples, but I'll just highlight two I really liked.

Here's a proud fellow. He isn't the showiest rooster you'll find, but his solid, dark, iridescent color is striking, and his shape is just classic rooster form.

Then there is this hen. Again she has a simple feather pattern, but I find it striking and very beautiful.

Beautiful birds are cool, but apparently there is also a whole category for ugly birds. While it's nice of them to try to provide opportunities for the less endowed birds, it seems a shame we have to be so judgemental about it. Here's an example of one of the poor benighted hens entered into the ugly category.

Before you ask, apparently that is a "healthy" bird. They're bred to be that way.

Finally, there's one other thing I like about the fair: all the cute chicks you'll get to see.

Yeah. Lame pun. Well, there's nothing you can do about it except to futilely shake your fist at the monitor.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Summer Pictures I

I didn't used to be much for snapping photos, but now that I have a digital camera, I've steadily increased the number of pictures I take. It's just so dang easy! As a result, I've got a little pile of pictures I've built over the summer. Nothing dramatic, but I thought I'd share some of them over the next few days.

First up, baby pumpkins! Actually, I don't know what to call them. Pumpkin buds? I'm no gardenologist, so cut me some slack.

Anyway, we started a modest garden this summer in an attempt to make this land give a little something back. One of the things we planted was jack-o-lantern type pumpkins. I really like the light and limited color scheme in this picture.

Just to prove the thing was growing, I came back a week later. The lighting wasn't as good this time, but the growth is evident.

More pictures tomorrow!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

When Comics, History, and Computer Science Combine!

I'm sure you are familiar with the fascinating story of Charles Babbage who, long before the invention of transistors or vacuum tubes, designed and attempted to construct a general purpose computer he called the Analytical Engine.

[cricket sounds...]

I'm sure you are also aware of the story of Ada Lovelace who was one of the very few contemporaries of Babbage who fully appreciated what he was trying to achieve with his Analytical Engine. She's credited with being the first programmer since she published notes describing how the Analytical Engine could be programmed. Sadly, she never had the opportunity to see her programs run on an actual machine.

[more cricket sounds...]

Well, if you've longed to read an appropriately appreciative comic treatment about these far seeing intellectual giants, you owe it to yourself to read this stunning work by Sydney Padua.

In the remote chance you are not familiar with this rich piece of history, Padua provides plenty of resources at the bottom of the comic. Additionally, for a brief look at her motivation for creating this comic, Padua provides a FAQ.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

And Now That it is Summer

Well, my previous worry about peacock population collapse may have been premature. One of the females around here has some chicks following her around now.

There's actually three of them. She does her best to keep them safe. She tries to keep them under cover and guide them around. She'll cluck warnings to them when danger approaches (like me). She'll sit on them or otherwise try to obscure your view of them by keeping them under her wings. But peahens aren't the most ferocious of birds, and she spooks pretty easy depending on the situation. So, we try to give her room.

Of course, the chicks aren't only in danger of predators. Some of the other peacocks and peahens initially followed her around pretty closely. They seemed very curious about the chicks, and not all their interests were benign. My mother says that in the past she's seen peacocks flinging the chicks around. I've heard of this aggressive and sometimes lethal behavior in other animals, and you can readily find possible explanations, so I won't horrify you with an explanation here. Regardless of nature's cruel reasons, it's not really something I want to see.

However, when things are going well, the guys are pretty fun to watch. I actually saw some behavior that I don't know what to make of. Sorry for the low quality picture below. It was dusk, and the exposure was a little long (I didn't want to use the flash). You see one of the chicks below sitting on the mother's back. What you don't see is that he was hopping on and off her back for a good minute. I managed to catch him in the middle of perching on her back. She just sat patiently while he did this, but I was wondering if this was a form of play behavior. I didn't know birds did that. Well, except maybe crows and ravens and types of parrots (Okay, maybe I did know birds played).

Anyway, I've never seen peacocks exhibit play behavior, but this little guy seemed to be having fun. Oh, and it has nothing to do with trying to fly. These guys have been able to fly around for a while now. He just seemed to enjoy trying to perch on her back.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Weird but Wonderful

I've seen this animation posted in multiple places, and I just remembered I could share it with you. I really love the flat coloring combined with the fluid animation. Also the sound is strangely effective.

This one time... from nelson boles on Vimeo.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Cannes Short Films

If like me you couldn't make it to Cannes this year (again), you might be happy to hear that you can get a little bit of the Cannes film festival online. The National Film Board of Canada has been hosting an online short film competition they call Cannes Short Film Corner. This is the fifth year. Several films are presented, and you get to vote for the ones you like.

As of this posting, I've only watched the movie you see above. I have no idea what other types of films you will find, but there's bound to be a few gems (if you like short films).

Found via the Drawn! blog.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Playing for Change

This morning NPR did a story about a music project called Playing for Change: Songs Around the World. I was previously aware of this project, but the NPR news story prompted me to write about it here since I realized it has progressed much further since I last heard about it.

The basic idea of the project is musical collaboration. But this isn't simply getting some well known musicians together and having them hammer out some songs. The vision of this project is larger. The idea is to record individual musicians and groups in their own settings all across the world. The collaboration occurs across time and continents via recordings of the other musicians that the producer brings along with him to the different sites. The result is quite beautiful and moving.

But my words aren't really doing this project justice. Here's the video that first introduced me to this project (you can see more videos if you click the above link to their website):

The project is also associated with the Playing for Change Foundation which appears to be trying to build music schools. I don't know enough about that foundation to comment one way or the other about it, but I'm always game for having more music in our lives, and more music schools sound like a worthwhile goal to me.

When I sat down to write this, I thought I was going to say something about how this project could be seen as a metaphor for all human endeavor. But I just realized that this musical collaboration isn't a metaphor, it's simply a wonderful example of the global human jam taking place all the time. We're all building off of what each of us have done. Ideally we do this in peace, but we know that isn't always the way we do things. Regardless, we keep trying. The project isn't metaphorical. It is better than that. It is inspirational.

Sunday, May 3, 2009


Irene Gallo has just posted that MicroVisions 4 auction is open! MicroVisions is a fund raiser for the Society of Illustrators scholarship fund. The idea is that several talented and well known artists create and donate 5"x7" works of art to be auctioned off. So far they've held the auctions through eBay. This is really cool because it allows anybody with an eBay account to have an opportunity to bid and win one these items. In fact, I won a nice piece one year.

I recommend following the link to Irene's post for more information, but click here if you want to go directly to the list of items being auctioned off.

All the pieces look good, but for me, the stand out items this year are from: Gregory Manchess, Michael Whelan, and Justin Gerard. (All those links go directly to their respective eBay pages.)

Gregory Manchess (website) is an established artist and illustrator. Even if you don't know him, you have very likely seen his work since he has done illustrations for many magazines (National Geographic being a notable example) as well as book covers. He has an energetic, painterly style I enjoy. I always look forward to seeing more of his work. I think his soaring spaceman would make an inspirational piece of art to have hanging around your home.

Michael Whelan (website) is an "old" favorite of mine. I discovered him through his book covers to the Memory, Sorrow and Thorn fantasy trilogy from Tad Williams, but he has done much more than that. Just go to your favorite bookstore and browse the fantasy and science fiction section. You will easily find his work gracing the covers of many of those books. He's one of those illustrators with the exquisite ability to distill a book's contents to a single, symbolic image while retaining wonderful compositions that make you want to find out what's the story behind that image. From what I understand, he has been focusing more on his "fine art" work, and his MicroVisions entry is a nice example of that. If you'd like a piece of art that makes you wonder and contemplate, I think his entry would be a way to go.

Finally, Justin Gerard (website) is a recent favorite of mine. I discovered him by browsing the internet. I follow various artists' blogs, and those artists inevitably will lead you to other artists. I'm sure that's how I found out about Justin. I wrote about his series of Hobbit paintings a while back. He has since updated his website's gallery with those paintings. Those are definitely worth checking out. Additionally, Justin went the extra mile for MicroVisions. Although he only entered one painting, he actually painted several and chose one. I personally think he chose very well. His introspective portrait of a dapper looking faun is fun and mysterious.

So, if you've ever wanted to own some original art work from talented illustrators, now's your chance!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


Yes! It's finally spring where I am! No more of this (taken on a day when the power went out):

And no more having to run in this stylish ensemble (also the beard is gone).

The peacocks have come out in full dress.

Here is one silently (strictly in the aural sense) stalking a potential mate.

The peacocks and peahens like to roost up high. Many of them take advantage of the trees. This isn't all of them, but it's quite a few. I'm pretty sure there are peahens in there as well, but they're not as easy to see.

Actually, at the moment, the peacocks drastically outnumber the peahens, and we only have a handful of peahens.

Before too long, if these numbers don't change, we may be looking at the last of the peacocks.

The last of the peacocks in our yard, at any rate.

Finally, this is Noname (Noh-nah-mee).

He plays fetch.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Can You Scream Inside Your Mind?

I can't remember where I came across this film today, but it was a welcome diversion. I've embedded the standard quality video below, but I recommend watching the high definition one if you've got the bandwidth or the patience.

(It doesn't look like the embedded player has the high definition button. Follow this link for some high definition good times.)

!!! SPOILER ALERT !!! Don't read further until you've watched the film.

I've discovered that I don't appear to be able to scream inside my mind (you'll have to watch the film to know why I'm bringing this up). I can talk loudly and sing in my mind, but screaming doesn't seem to be a thing I can do inside my head. I can replicate the sound the hero of the film makes when he "screams" in his head, but it doesn't feel like a scream in my own head. It's just a copy of his distant scream sound. Maybe that guy did have a super power after all? Maybe he's the only guy in the world capable of screaming in his own mind? Maybe that's part of the reason why that apparently telepathic lady was so surprised?

Screaming in my mind was never something I've thought about before this film, but now it is all I can think about...

Oh wait. Nevermind. Now I'm thinking about sleep.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Her Morning Elegance

Yet another post about a music video, but what the heck. If that's all I've got for you people, then that's all I've got. I think you'll enjoy it. I not only enjoy the video but also the song. The chorus lines that begin "She fights for her life..." have an interestingly subdued power and subtle meaning.

If you can't see the video, then try this link. Also, there is some information about the making of the video here.

Friday, January 23, 2009


I don't have anything even marginally useful to contribute to the world at the moment, so I will point to another music video. This one is a fun, stop motion papercraft thing. I found it through the Drawn! blog. As they note in their post, the video acts as its own how-to guide. Very clever.

Bubblicious from Rex The Dog on Vimeo.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Coparck is a Band

I came across this video from Irene Gallo's blog. At first I didn't realize it is a music video (I missed that part of her original post), and I thought it was just a short until the band made a cameo appearance and just happened to be singing the song that I initially took as a soundtrack. Truthfully, it works either way. I think that is a rather refreshing change of pace from most music videos.

I'm not going to comment too much on any potential meaning behind the video and the song. I think we've all faced enough workplace (and even schoolyard) scenarios to understand the ways we restrain ourselves for the sake of a job. I found the irony of the ending to be delicious.

The band is Coparck and their website is here should you like to check out more of their stuff. I found the music video to Thoughts You Thought You Could Do Without (warning: brief nudity) to be as entertaining as the one above. In that one, the band makes as little appearance as in the video above. I wonder if there is a pattern here?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Slightly Nerdy Dragon

The following links may not be safe for work (if you work in a very uptight environment). Here's another take on dragons you might enjoy. And this is a new treatment of a well known fairy tale.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Silverbacks II

Another study of a silverback with notes (trying a little harder this time). Man, gorillas have some extreme anatomy. You think you've pushed the anatomy too far only to look back at the reference and realize you haven't gone far enough.