Thursday, December 15, 2011

Eye of the beholder

It is interesting what technology can do and even more interesting what technology can uncover ... if you look hard enough. There is a website that chronicles photos that were extracted from Google Street View. This is one of those images:

Morrone Del Sannio, Italy
Google Street View, for those who don't know, is a tool that takes 360-degree images at about 10-metre intervals. From those images, they are synchronised with Google Maps so that you are able to navigate the photos in something approaching a virtual world. The fact that photos such as this can be extracted is amazing.

It still takes a human to define what is aesthetically pleasing, but even this can be taught to a computer, given enough parameters of what is pretty. In the end, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Technology allows us to travel to places we can only dream of going to. We are able to travel thousands of miles with nothing more than a double-click. We can gain a greater understanding of what it would be like to be in this part of the world but, of course, nothing beats experiencing it for real.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Left of center

Tom Waits is an interesting guy.

He breaks conventions in two and then proceeds to destroy it further; not just willing to break it, but decimate it.

I'm not sure I can say I like his music, but I do like some of his music. He actually has a lot of skill when it comes to composition and he can actually can hit the notes, although rarely does. He prefers a gravelly cookie monster rendition to singing. Singing might not be the right term to use, but it is still musical. He can sound like Bruce Springsteen sometimes (Hold On), although rarely chooses to.

He truly is an enigma. As he ages, his level of unbridled conviction increases, rather than diminishing - his new stuff improves on his previous stuff. I'm not sure that most people will find him easy on the ears, but he is worth at least noting. His aim, it would seem, is to push convention to the side and focus on the unknown. 

I cannot help admiring him for that.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Been there done that

At what point does life become an exercise in monotony? I've seen a million babies, I've seen a million sunsets, I've seen a million beautiful vistas, I've tasted a million nice things. 

Sure, there are still differences, but the differences are negligible. I find that there is little new to experience outside of minor revisions to existing things. To me the world has become one of repetition rather than wonderment.

I guess I can still find sources of entertainment, like learning to administer the heimlich or learning the piano or changing a car tyre in one-minute flat, but really, who am I doing this for? I certainly don't need to affirm my ability to learn - I've done that my whole life. I know I am capable of learning the piano (given enough time). I might not be a virtuoso in the end but I won't be terrible, either.

I constantly strive to experience something different, but it is getting a little harder to find something I haven't tried or that doesn't remind me of a combination of things I've already experienced. Any suggestions on where to go for something uniquely different, let me know - I am all ears :) So, what things keep you going?  What things motivate you to wake up in the morning?

Friday, December 9, 2011

Following the scout's credo

'Always be prepared'

I would like to think I am able to mould my future towards something I can live with. With that in mind, I also familiarise myself with what the doom-sayers'/futurologists' forecast for our bleak future. Whether it is mass-famine, oil shortages, currency implosions, solar flares or rising water levels, if you were to follow all of that, you would probably end your life right now than try and work through it.

One date a lot of nut-jobs are fixated by is 2012. Apparently the Mayan calendar ends on that year, so a lot of them believe that the world ends with it. My belief, however, is more along the lines of this:

One thing that seems more plausible is the collapse of the US dollar. Now, before you call me a psycho, let me explain why this has a degree of credibility.

For the past 50 years, or so, the US has been the default currency for oil. This was brokered in the early stages when the Middle East required financing by the US to be able to extract the vast resources sitting under their feet. In exchange for this loan, they paid back the initial investment and reinvested a portion of the earnings back in the US economy. Since that time, no country has been able to buy oil without using US Dollars and this has given the currency a good amount of stability.

This is about to change.

With China and Russia trading oil in Yuan and Rubles and a lot of money being converted into Gold and Silver bullion and the US printing (and diluting with) Trillions of dollars to cover their Trillions of debt, it is just a matter of time before the rest of the world decides that the US Dollar needs to go as the default currency.

One of the conspiracy nuts states that at the point where Oil hits $250 a barrel, marks the end of the USD as the default currency. I'm not so sure that's an accurate marker, but all I know is that it's probably not a good idea to have US Dollars in the very near future. I'm not sure which currency is the best - your guess is as good as mine.

I don't think it is long till the US Dollar will look more like a Zimbabwean Dollar...

How to market your <item>

This video details how to market your indie game, but could quite-as-easily be related to any other product that you wish to put your mind towards. The points that he raise are quite interesting and certainly detail the do's and dont's of how to drum up business for your product in question.

One of the interesting points is that he personally believes that buzz has little worth, because interest from buzz is not what a developer wants; it's sales. He believes that once you have a great working product is when you need to get the word out. If you get glowing reviews, then you would want the person who reads that to have the chance to purchase it, rather than sit on their hands waiting in anticipation for the product to finally be released. Wouldn't you?

Obvious statement is obvious.

It seems that the large majority of development houses still fall into the category of hyping something that has yet to be released. Sometimes hype breaks what would be a reasonable game just because the anticipation exceeds what the game can actually deliver. Games like Fable, Spore, Dead Island, Duke Nukem Forever, for instance. None of them benefitted from the hyperbole given to their demo's and spruiking from their lead douches designers.

In the end, a good game will stand on its merits. It will naturally be revered because it is actually a good game, rather than defined by how much buzz was generated pre-launch.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Ode to eraserhead

New York Times did a special on cinematic villainy, with accompanying videos.

I think the stock in Brad Pitt has been elevated quite a few notches higher thanks to his portrayal of David Lynch's Eraserhead.  There are, in fact, 12 other actors who portay famous villains, although I like Brad's the most. It's actually quite funny how much Brad commits to the role.  By the end, he is unrecogniseable.

Follow this link now - I command you.

It is brilliant.  That is all.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Putting it in perspective

I went to a pub quiz last night and the first question that was asked was how much was a light-year in miles.  A light-year, for those uninitiated, is the distance light travels in a year.

The three choices were:
  • approximately 6 million miles
  • approximately 6 billion miles
  • approximately 6 trillion miles
..and the answer was (drum roll):  6 trillion miles.

To put that in perspective, a single beam of light takes, on average, about 8 minutes to travel from the Sun to the Earth. For the closest galaxy from us, light takes about 1.4 million years to travel to Earth or about 8.6 million trillion miles.

The time it takes a passenger plane to travel from Sydney to Los Angeles (7497.06 miles) is about 13 hours.  If that passenger plane were to try and travel the equivalent distance to the Sun, it would take about 18 years.  To the closest neighboring galaxy, it would take about 1.7 trillion years.

Certainly puts things in perspective, doesn't it?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Hacking banks

Some people have more interesting lives than others. Moran Cerf is one of those people. A french guy who grew up in Tel Aviv and had an interesting way of earning money.

This video is pretty amazing. In his earlier life, he earned his living by breaking into banks. He would hack their system and take around ten-thousand dollars and then contact the bank, return their money and then tell them how to fix the gaping holes in their security. That sounds like a pretty interesting way of drumming up business and honing your hacking skills.

There was one situation where his team got a carte blanche on how they could rob a particular bank, which included the choice of physically breaking into a bank. Whatever method they chose to use, they were free from being punished, which made robbing the bank 'the old-fashioned way' too much of a temptation to pass up. What happened next is best recounted by Moran Cerf himself.

I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall while that all went down. I'm sure there's a treatment in there for a film :) Unless he made it up, that's pretty incredible. 

Sometimes life is far more unbelievable than anything you could imagine.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Culture creep

I watched this interesting video on population growth and culture. It looks like most developed countries have a natural population growth of less than 1.6 per couple, while 2.1 is required to maintain the base population. This might sound like a value that would result in the population doubling each generation, but really, it's just maintaining the status quo. i.e. two (point-one) children for each couple.

The only way that developed countries avoid a quickly ageing population is through immigration. What this means is that the culture of each developed nation is gradually being diluted to a point where there isn't a 'French culture', there isn't a 'Dutch culture', there isn't an 'English culture'. It just becomes some culture, rather than a specific one.

I wonder, at what point, we stop using silly terms such as culture? Is it still a culture when a traditional meal is eating fast food? Is it still a culture if the general view of entertainment is going out drinking? I would like to think that people still appreciate the finer things in life but I don't see that continuing into the future. Survival of the Fittest dictates that cultural things will become less of a priority as we devolve into Idiocracy.

Whatever the case, our fate is sealed. Maybe I'm just venting to a non-existent audience or maybe I'm just getting old.

...damn kids.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The energy in profit

I've always been pissed off at the backwards way in which energy is generated and stored.

'Yeah. Let's burn some stuff, let the resulting expansion turn a piston to turn a crank to power a dynamo (or whatever)'

Even in the most advanced power plants like Nuclear, energy is still generated in the most elementary of ways; i.e. turn a crank and store the energy in a technology that was created over 150 years ago; commonly known as the battery. It's good to see someone actually thinking about energy in a way that is forward-thinking, rather than just changing the context of how the type of energy is sourced.

The video is compelling and covers some amazing things in the process. It sits on the border of magic, in relation to what carbon can do:
  • Form a transparent flexible film
  • Alternate between transparent and opaque through a small voltage pulse
  • Transform infra-red radiation into visible light
  • ..and finally, convert light into energy

His proposal is to extract the untapped energy inherent in the electrons that are contained in every element around us and agitated through sunlight. Just as I have believed for a long time, he believes in a 'grid-less power grid'. i.e. every household is its own energy generator and thereby avoids the large amount of energy lost in the process of travelling to your household. This has always horrified me and it should for you, too. Of course, this technology will never be used, because there's no profit to be gained from a market where the coal miners don't get their cut, the government don't get their cut and the power plants don't get their cut. It looks to be a solution; just not a solution that will ever see the light of day (get it). Of course, the best way of saving energy is to follow the doctrine set out by Mr Doug Stanhope - the sooner people realise they're destroying themselves, the sooner we'll see a real solution.