tecznotes

Michal Migurski's notebook, listening post, and soapbox. Subscribe to this blog. Check out the rest of my site as well.

Nov 29, 2004 2:40pm

worst. band. ever.

I saw "The Invisibles" perform at the Rickshaw Stop saturday night. I thought the group might be a clever joke on the coke-fueled electroclash scenester plague, but I found this today:

For those who haven't yet heard The Invisibles' first single, "Liebeschokolade," Langan describes the band's sound as "definitely dance oriented with some techno influences and punk influences. (It's) two-parts no wave, two-parts Detroit techno, one-part goth, one-part electro, two-parts punk rock, two-parts glam, two-parts post-punk, two-parts '86 Chicago house, one-part new wave, one-part synth pop, one-part industrial, a half-pint of gabber and a pinch of ghetto tech."

...and ten parts suck. Turns out they were merely the worst fucking band I have ever had the misfortune to witness live, and I like pop music.

So I don't sound like a complete grump, I should point out that Doormouse and 396, two other performers that night, both completely rocked.

Nov 25, 2004 1:02pm

buy a mac, john

"The computer knows me as its enemy," says John Maeda. "Everything I touch doesn't work." Take those plug-and-play devices, such as printers and digital cameras, that any personal computer (PC) allegedly recognises automatically as soon as they are plugged into an orifice called a USB port at the back of the PC. Whenever Mr Maeda plugs something in, he says, his PC sends a long and incomprehensible error message from Windows, Microsoft's ubiquitous operating system. But he knows from bitter experience that the gist of it is no. ... Yet Mr Maeda is not just any old technophobic user. He has a master's degree in computer science and a PhD in interface design, and is currently a professor in computer design at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

- Make it simple, The Economist

Nov 22, 2004 8:41pm

announcing reBlog 1.0

Michael and I have been working on this one for the past few months, and we hit 1.0 this weekend.

The reBlog concept includes a super-sexy online RSS/Atom Aggregator/Reader (play with an example) that is geared towards filtering and selecting items for re-publishing/re-syndication.

This is accomplished with an outgoing RSS feed, and through plugins into your favorite blogging software (Movable Type, WordPress) that allow for the importing of selected posts, and the publishing of those posts with the appopriate meta-data for attribution to original authors.

If you're into blogs, feeds, personal publishing, and/or syndication, we think it's worth your time to check out reblog.org, and maybe even install and try using the software.

Nov 22, 2004 8:32pm

birds and dogs

From Aquarius Records' review of Caninus:

We know you've been waiting for this one. At least judging by the rabid (tee hee) reaction to the recent 7" by the band Hatebeak, a death metal outift fronted by a parrot. Well now, along comes Caninus to up the stakes. Sure, the parrot in Hatebeak is able to squawk up a storm, and his maniacal screechings fit perfectly amidst the churning riffs but a parrot on its own is hardly a scary proposition. But with Caninus, you've got the same crushing, downtuned metal juggernaut, only this time the vocals come from the drooling fanged mouths of Budgie and Basil, two snarling pitbulls! That's right, pitbulls. Thankfully, barking is kept to a minimum, and instead Basil and Budgie spend most of the time growling furiously, their gutteral grunts and grrr's WAY more evil than even the scariest of death metal vocals.

Courtesy of Tomas.

Nov 17, 2004 3:45pm

welcome, dogg

Snoop Dogg made his first appearance in In The News today. From running drills with the USC Trojan football team, MC'ing on Spike TV, to starring in movies or video games, he's a busy guy.

Nov 16, 2004 3:07pm

everything is right with the universe

As I was leaving Adobe yesterday, I noticed the title of the exhibit: There Is Nothing Wrong In This Whole Wide World. I was reminded of a recent New Yorker article about Edward Stratemeyer, the brains behind Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, and other factory-written kids' fiction series of the past century:

Wirt gave the early volumes a "New Woman" flavor, but the core of Nancy's appeal is similar to the Hardys'. The mode is adventure with a flourish of mystery. The plot is furthered by coincidence. Nancy discovers "clues" everywhere: A tire tread? "A clue!" A ransom note with a fire-dragon crest? "It may be a clue," Nancy cries. Needless to say, these "clues" don't function as a puzzle that the enterprising reader can piece together for herself, as they do in Sherlock Holmes or Encyclopedia Brown mysteries. Instead, they are reassurances that order reigns behind the scenes. Nancy later happens to walk into a store in Chinatown and discovers that the store sells notepaper with a fire-dragon crest. Happily, the owner recalls not only that Nancy's suspect had been in the store several months earlier but also his name and build. The message is confidence-inspiring: The world is rife with crooks, but it is negotiable, and fundamentally rational. Hard work pays off. The damned remain damnedunless they repentand the wronged (long-lost maharajas' sons, heirs to candlemakers' fortunes) are restored to their rightful life at the intersection of High and Elm, among the rangy Colonials and the tall trees.

Great stuff. So much information visualization and data mining work rests on this assumption as well: there are patterns out there, recognizing them points to truth. Last week's Ten x Ten illustrates this beautifully, showing a frequently-updated batch of images gleaned from the news, owing much to Flickr's Daily Zeitgeist display of recent photos.

My own In The News project from last summer relies on this underlying order as well, so I was thrilled to see that sometime Saturday, news.google.com switched its algorithm for choosing the top ten "In The News" items back to the previous, pre-August 2004 version. The visual difference in display is striking, with a greater and more subtle range of names making the cut showing a more accurate (I hope) picture of the topics making the headlines.

When you're feeling blue about War and Politics, it's helpful to believe that the universe is negotiable, and fundamentally rational.

Nov 15, 2004 10:24pm

clockwise web traffic

Yum:

Design Weenie writes:

Working with log data from webservers, I wrote software that looked at the referrer data and created a site tree. This map of the site is interesting because it is formed by how the users travel through the site. It is the aggregate view of how the user base views the hierarchy of the website.
Simple straight lines between pages are not used. Instead all traffic moves clockwise around the map. A clockwise circular pattern is used because directionality can not be clearly labeled with straight lines.

Nov 15, 2004 6:52pm

books by color

Tomas and I swung by Adobe Books this afternoon. Artist Chris Cobb has rearranged every book on Adobe's shelf by color, for an unsettling faded-rainbow effect:

Especially cool is the shelf where the enormous white book collection abruptly moves through a few grays, and switches to black:

The floor is littered with tiny scraps of paper that seem to indicate which shelf each book was originally pulled from, to aid in next week's herculaean reorganizational effort when the show ends.

Nov 13, 2004 3:02pm

boozled!

So, we've been working on a new website for Patron Tequila (with local design agency Gershoni for some time - the initial soft launch was last week, and we're polishing off some final elements this week.

It's a great site, etc. etc., but it's built in flash and has an age verification entry screen, so it's not quite as "google friendly" as it could be. Yesterday I discovereed that our page about the project had a higher PageRank for the term "Patron Tequila" than the company's own site:

If that weren't enough, we also received a phone call from a bar owner in New Orleans who was hoping to deal with some interruptions in his tequila shipments. Could we put him in touch with marketing? How did he find us? Google, of course.

Nov 10, 2004 6:47pm

three about the uncanny valley

I saw three items today written about the "Uncanny Valley".

The Beat confirms my suspicions that the new Polar Express movie will be a creep show of the first order:

While the POLAR EXPRESS trailer is supposed to fill tots with joyful feelings of glee and awe and meeting Santa, the actual result of these not-quite-humans is more likely to be a deep sense of insecurity and fear. Take it from The Beat : the beds of American children are going to be soaked with anxiety pee after watching a creepy digital Tom Hanks shout "All aboard!!!" and wave his arms for a couple of hours.

My thoughts exactly - every time I see the trailer, all the children seem to move like reanimated corpses, dead eyes and lips channelling speech from beyond the grave. It's the same fundamental problem exhibited in the Final Fantasy movie from a few years ago, when I first read about the Uncanny Valley. The characters in that movie were also too close to real.

Pixar generally takes the opposite route, forgoing hyperrealism for cartoon realism. You can see it in the models for the new Incredibles movie: characters' ears are left undetailed, eyes are enormous, and the motion is sleek and stylized. RobotJohnny says as much in a post about the movie (which I saw and loved - go see it!):

The moment I saw the trailer for The Incredibles, I knew that Pixar had done something that no 3D film had done yet--they had created human characters that had some style to them and that didn't try to emulate life. ... Whats great about the characters in The Incredibles is that they are first and foremost cartoons. They look like they've jumped out of a Chuck Jones short or something Disney might have produced in the 60s.

I'm not sure I agree that no 3D film has done this before - director Brad Bird's previous feature film was the underappreciated Iron Giant, which features a remarkable robot modelled in 3D but rendered in 2D cartoon style. There's a revelatory moment about halfway into the film when the Giant smiles, and the motion is expressed perfectly through the movement of just four active pieces: one jaw, two eyelids, one head. The theatre lit up in response. Pixar's previous movies also exhibit such attention to the right level of realism - I'm sure it's no accident that their first few films focused on toys, lamps, bicycles and other inanimate objects, where you can get more mileage out of focusing on characteristic motion instead of rendering flesh correctly.

Some last thoughts stolen from Imomus:

The place where the 'credibility gap' or the 'uncanny valley' occurs is not at the point furthest from the truth, but at the point closest to it. When something is almost credible, it lacks credibility. When it's completely incredible, it has an odd sort of believability. Once a thesis gets overstated, the antithesis has a tendency to rush in, even if the truth lies closer to the thesis than the antithesis.

Nov 8, 2004 9:07pm

flash won, followup

I recently posted an excerpt from The Inquirer's article about interactive maps used during the election. Ben Metcalfe, software engineer for BBC Interactive, also has a collection:

We've been having a look at the way different news websites have been displaying their election results. It's fair to nearly everyone has been using maps to depict the state-by-state results. In almost all cases, Macromedia Flash has been chosen as the preferred presentation technology. Here are the links to compare, starting with BBC News' offering (obviously!).

More...

Nov 8, 2004 1:16pm

video riot 2004 photos up

Dimension 7's Video Riot came off smoothly for the third time last night. Instead of my involvement from past years, I chose to spectate and photograph this time around.

Photos can be found here, in a variety of sizes, freely licensed.

Nov 6, 2004 4:44pm

flash won the election

Fernando Cassia of The Inquirer writes:

...perhaps this presidential election will go down in history as the first one where Macromedia Flash was widely used for reporting the progress of the election count with Flash based "interactive maps". Some had nice animations, some were simple, and in one case... they were done in *shock* DHTML *shock*. Yes, you can do animated "mouse-over" interactive maps with DHTML, and ABC News did just that.

What great news. Eric and I spent a large portion of this election season working on interactive maps for MoveOn's various campaign efforts, and the heavy use of maps in all the election-night reporting we saw validated the strength that visual displays of information can have. It's also worth noting that some of these maps could deceive as well as enlighten: compare USA Today's busy, disinformative county-by-county map with Robert Vanderbai's more nuanced version based on the same data.

I plan to use our planned November downtime to work on a few other map-related projects, including the PEAR Map Projection toolset I'm working on to try to make complex flash-based map projections more accessible to users of PHP.

Nov 4, 2004 8:07pm

political signage

M. Kingsley writes A Contribution to the Ethical Taxonomy of Political Signage:

Delegates at both conventions had an uncanny ability to erupt with cued spontaneity, depending on who was speaking. When the Democratic candidate for Illinois Senate, Barack Obama spoke, they loved Obama... When Hillary Clinton, spoke, they loved Hillary... and when Teresa Heinz Kerry appeared, they loved Teresa.
During the Republican Convention, one minor item was occasionally mentioned in the news media and blogosphere -- the handmade signs visible throughout the week were not home-made by delegates, but actually mass produced by volunteers.

This article really underscored the scripted nature of politics in the U.S. It reminded me of two things, for better or worse:

  • Immaculately choreographed National Socialist Party rallies in Germany, as seen in Hitler And The Power Of Aesthetics
  • NASCAR hat advertising, where members of the crowd are employed to wear hats advertising beer, motor oil, and other products for specific periods of time, typically by jumping into and out of the throng of celebrants surrounding the winner of a race being interviewed by TV crews.

Nov 2, 2004 1:30am

three moves

I'm undertaking three simultaneous, short-distance moves right now:

  1. Gem and I have left the Otherworld. We've settled in a classy late-nineteenth century apartment near Lake Merritt, so we're still close to the warehouse.
  2. Stamen is taking the office across the hall. Good times, sunlight, 16th & Mission views.
  3. This weblog is moving next door, from /nb to /notes. I'm ditching Nanoblogger in favor of Blosxom, because it's a cleaner system, and I need to use a more popular program to test features with while I work on a new RSS project (more on that later).
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