Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Asleep in a tree

The other day, I watched a squirrel wake up from a little nap on the middle of a branch on a cold, windy day.

Then it stretched its front legs (arms? paws?) far out in front of it, like a cat! Pretty damn cute.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Deja vu

I'd like to see an old movie remade almost exactly in its original form. Of course, there would be new actors, crew, soundtrack, film equipment, special effects, etc., but I'd like to see the director mimic the original as faithfully as possible.

Classical music is recorded and performed all the time. Conductors infuse their own interpretation into the old works for sure, but typically don't modify the compositions in any other way.

It'd be an interesting experiment to see if the same could be applied to movies.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Chips are Loud

Salty snack makers are always proclaiming how crunchy their snacks are. TV commercials zoom in on mouths crunching down on crunchy things. The ads yell out: We're crunchy! We're really, really crunchy!!

To that I simply say, Why?

I'm constantly trying to hide my snack-eating habits from my wife and family. Try sneaking a chip from the chip bowl when it has been designed to create mini sonic booms. And every bag of chips I touch announces itself with a loud crackle.

What is it with snack makers? By selling crunchy products in crackly packaging, they are decimating their bottom line. How many bags of chips have gone uneaten, because a spouse came downstairs? Or because you didn't want to wake your next door neighbour?

Imagine a quiet bag with tasty quiet chips inside. Soy-based, zero trans-fat, quiet vegetable chips of course. Mmm.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Full Metal Cans

I've been getting a lot of cola on me lately. Every time I crack open a can of pop these days, Diet Coke flies everywhere. It's not a significant amount really, but when you're talking about splashing pop, every drop matters.

The pop level actually looks higher in the cans I've opened recently. Could this be? Are the robots at the factory having a bit of fun? Is this happening to anyone else?

All of this blogging is making me thirsty. You're thinking "Don't drink pop, drink water or juice" right? Water and juice just don't have the same zip. Maybe if the water and juice companies made it more fun to open their products, I'd think about it.

Here it goes... (anyone know an onomatopoeic word for a can of pop opening?) ... and nothing. Blogged too soon I guess.

"Dot" Comms

Recently, in an article on Wired News, products were profiled which could track a woman's fertility cycle. So a woman's cellphone could tell her that her period is starting, or perhaps her PDA could tell her that now is the best time to try to make a baby, or her feminine napkin could alert her with a ring tone to indicate that it's time to ...

Perhaps that last one could be left for a bad SNL skit.

Carl Sagan blog-a-thon

Today marks the 10th anniversary of the death of Carl Sagan. To mark the occasion, the blogosphere is talking about Sagan and the effect of his work on its constituent lives.

I remember reading Comet as a kid. This was a big, difficult, but enjoyable book. Not sure how much I've retained (a comet's tail always points away from the Sun!) but it did feed and fuel my interest in science. I remember watching Cosmos on television, and taking in Sagan's obvious deep respect and admiration of our universe.

Later, I was enthralled by Contact, Sagan's only novel. I recall the wonderment towards science in the book, as expressed by Ellie, the main character. Sagan's ideas and descriptions were so fascinating that I remember feeling almost dizzy with awe during certain sections.

When SETI@home offered me a way to take part in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (Sagan was a big proponent of SETI) over the internet, I jumped on board immediately.

Perhaps as a tribute, I will finally read Sagan's The Demon-Haunted World, which I have on my shelf but have never read.

"As I got off the plane, he was waiting for me, ..."

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

You Only Live Twice

After watching a few James Bond title sequences (here, via BoingBoing) I got the urge to watch You Only Live Twice because of its Japanese setting (and because my wife is Japanese). At the time of the movie's release in 1967, Sean Connery had suggested that this fifth Bond movie could be his last, although he ended up returning for two more (the last being unofficial) in 1971 and 1983.

I enjoyed the movie as an historical curiosity, but otherwise it was not great. It got mixed reviews when it came out (one critic expressed hope that it would be the last Bond film ever) and it appeared in the same year as the 007 spoof Casino Royale which starred Peter Sellers and many others as James Bond (scenes of which you can probably find on YouTube.)

I was very surprised to learn that Roald Dahl, author of some of my favourite childhood stories (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach, among others), wrote the screenplay for You Only Live Twice.

The writing seemed fine, but the special effects were none too special. Probably the best effect in the movie was Donald Pleasance's makeup as Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Blofeld is the forerunner to the Dr. Evil character.) Source material for the Austin Powers movies is plentiful and it was fun to watch Blofeld prance around in a somewhat effeminate manner. Bond-san's makeup was laughable when he was transformed into a Japanese farmer, and his chest hair grew back remarkably fast for the last scene in the lifeboat.

Can't wait to watch the other early Connery Bond films.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Coffee music

Does anybody know why the sound of my spoon against my coffee mug increases in pitch as I stir? Can you check this with your mug of coffee?

Pour instant coffee into mug. (Yes, I'm lazy.)
Pour boiled water into mug and stir.
Listen to pitch of the coffee music.

I think this also happens when I make hot chocolate, and Orange pekoe tea with sugar.

I assume it has something to do with substances dissolving into the water. I initially thought it was the speed of the water turning in the mug. But I slowed the water down (even reversed it) but the pitch stayed constant.

Any chemists out there care to explain?

Digital vs. Analog

Recently, I’ve been getting a touch ticked off with digital technology.

If I pick a CD at random from my collection (say Soundgarden, or some Prokofiev), chances are pretty good that at some point, one of the songs will start skipping. I’m not sure what to do when this happens. Do I whack my CD player? Do I stick a paperclip in there somewhere? Maybe I’m supposed to hook a cable to the back and send in some hex codes?

I rent DVDs from a variety of places: convenience stores, the big rentals shops, the independents, even the online shipping services. Very often, and regardless of source, the DVD will slow down and eventually stop somewhere near the middle of the movie. Wonderful - what to do? Ah, but here I have a remedy. Follow: One, stop DVD. Two, go to menu. Three, choose next chapter. Four, rewind until close to defective area. Five, repeat process many times, as I usually get too close to defective area. Six, press play. (I suppose I could apply this method to my skipping CDs, but there’s a difference in media here. Songs have a much less linear importance to them. I don’t often stop a song and later feel the urge to start listening again from where I left off.)

I have regular cable TV where I live and have had no digital occurrences. However, I used to visit a home whose occupants subscribed to digital cable. They invariably had to sit through blocky patches of black dancing around their screen. Actors and actresses morphing into patchy goblins and then snapping back to their beautiful selves. When I visit my parents, who have no form of cable, I’ve seen a few episodes of this same black pixelation. I guess some stations are broadcasting signals which at some point in their transmission are digital.

I am definitely not a Luddite, but recently I’ve been cursing digital’s name. I’ve been thinking of seeking out alternatives. I’ve been reminiscing of the days of old: static on an old Beatles LP, and nudging a skipping needle; adjusting the tracking on my VCR; positioning the rabbit ears above my TV in just the right orientation.

With analog, when a problem occurred, I could typically see or hear “through” it. A bit of static or white noise. I could deal with these minor annoyances. But now, I’m starting to feel a bit of rage each time I experience a digital defect.

Are we moving forwards or backwards? Or perhaps we’re in the midst of a really long lateral play.