Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Fidelity

My dear friends, let me tell you a tale. T'was a bright and sunny morn and I was driving to work, listening to the radio as I sometimes do, and I heard a song that lodged itself in my head and took up residence to stay. The traffic became slightly interesting and required my concentration and when my mind was free enough to listen to the radio once more I found I had missed the name of the song... worse still, I could only remember a single word of the song, sung in a catchy way, endlessly repeating in my mind.

Now this was no pop station, instead a local alternative station called FBI who often play emerging Australian music. This was going to be a challenge. If I had remembered more than one word of the lyrics I might look it up that way, as I have done before, especially if it contained any interesting word combinations that might not otherwise be common. I went by the radio stations website to see if there was any help there... as it happened the radio segment I was listening to had put up a playlist for that day, score!

Dutifully i copied down all the songs of the segment and one by one I tracked them down (myspace proved very helpful for this by the way)... those I could not find clips of directly I found other music by the same artist and tried to determine if it was in the same style. I ruled out half the list, then three quarters, finally getting it down to one or two songs. Imagine my despair when I was forced to cross off these last vestibules of hope as well... NONE of the songs on the playlist had been the one I'd heard, was I going mad? No. I decided that the DJ had simply overlooked this one song when writing them out that morning.

So where do I go from there? I started querying the web for the single word I remembered, "heart", along with phrases like "sung in an interesting way" or "catchy tune"... it was like looking for a piece of hay in a stack of needles, painful and pointless. Thinking myself very clever I emailed the radio segment itself, surely they could help with my query! I waited... one day... two days... three days... no reply. Too good for their admiring public eh? Bastards.

So anyway a couple of days later they played it again and I caught the name. It was "Fidelity" by "Regina Spektor". Just goes to show, sometimes the web isn't the answer.


Monday, July 31, 2006

Headphones

As this is a blog of cool I thought I'd put in a mention for my headphones, which are pretty cool. Consisting of two individual earpieces which clip over the ear and no intrusive little bulbs sticking in and fidgeting around in your ear canal.

The really cool part though is that at the press of a button the headphone cord retracts right into the headphones themselves. I used to carry around foldable wraparound headphones that, to be honest, I was quite happy with... until the day I was bending down to change the brain of a robot dog and caught the cord around my knee on the way up, snapping it in twain. However the one drawback was that when I used to keep them in my pocket the cord would continually wrap itself around whatever else I had in there, so I really appreciate the retractability of these new ones.

Sound quality is very good, to be honest though I've never really been able to tell good headphone quality from great headphone quality so if you're an audiophile I can't guarantee orgasmic levels of sound reproduction (though they could be there). So in case my rambling has got you interested, here's the site; Sony MDRQ66LWB.

Orisinal

Orisinal has been providing the procrastinators of the world with high quality time wasting minigames since around the year 2000 (as near as I can make out) and let's face it that's practically back in the dark ages. It's also the only site I know of that comes with it's own (kickass) trailer.

Boasting a lineup of 57 original games Orisinal is not the largest browser playable minigame site around, but it's not the smallest either. Should the quantity for some reason fall below your obviously insanely high standards this is more than made up for by the quality. Each game is hand crafted in flash by the site's creator, Ferry Halim, to an exacting standard of charmingness. As with most flash creations they are small and generally quick to load, but unlike most flash creations they are not annoying advertisements designed to suck out your soul.

Many, though not all, of the games follow a theme of repeatedly completing a small task for a small payoff, while a larger payoff will come from completing multiple small tasks in one swoop or taking advantage of special temporary tasks. For example, in the game Bubble Bees you must capture bees in bubbles from your bubble wand as they fly by, multiple bees in one bubble increase the points from the capture exponentially whilst bubbling falling clocks gives time bonuses. Most of the games also come complete with their own enticing but subtle background music. If you've got an important assignment due tomorrow or the boss needs those TPS reports on his desk by lunch then I suggest checking out this site asap.



Crux

Crux is latin for Cross, and is the name of a constellation which you may know better as The Southern Cross. Visible from anywhere in the southern hemisphere, including here in aussieland, there is something I find exceptionally cool about this scintillating skypattern.

Sometimes on a very clear night I can look up from my driveway and see not just one, but hundreds of southern crosses! All blinking down at me daring me to determine which one is real in a crazy cosmic game of Where's Wally (or Where's Waldo if you're in a part of the world that's so inclined). But I just laugh at their mocking ways, because I know that the real southern cross has two pointer stars, as shown below, and by those I can always find the real one.

Now here's the really amazing part, the outer pointer is a star called Alpha Centauri, well actually it's three stars lumped together... but I'm not going to get into that. And this star just happens to be the closest star to our solar system, at a distance of 4.39 light years. Meaning that if we could travel through space at the speed of light it would take us four and a half years to reach it. Of course we can't travel anywhere near the speed of light and I like to use this star as a reminder that we're going to need to develop stuff that's a whole lot faster than LS if we want to make a real go of exploring the universe.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Megatokyo

I find myself drawn to many things once considered the sole domain of the very young. Spongebob Squarepants is a good example, Kim Possible another... and let's not forget Winnie the Pooh. I never miss the Sunday comics either, in fact that's the only thing I get out of the Sunday paper since I read the news online. But to the constantly connected generation two pages of comics every Sunday will never be good enough, we want more variety, we want more quantity (quality too of course), and we want it 24/7.

The stage is set for the rise of the webcomic. For those uninitiated there are now a plethora of comics based entirely online, The Webcomic List is currently tracking just under 7000 of them. Where traditionally comics have been aimed at a very young audience most webcomics are aimed at any age group brave enough to read them. I have about 25 I try to read regularly, and of those there are only a couple I would consider interesting enough to dedicate a blog post to. Megatokyo is such a one.

Megatokyo follows the adventures of two gamers stranded in Japan, a mecca of sorts among the gaming community. Largo just wants to blow things up and save Tokyo from hordes of invading zombies. Piro does his best to keep Largo out of trouble while attempting to earn enough money to get them both home. The reasons I and many others find such enthrallment in this comic is hard to describe. Perhaps it is because Megatokyo so skillfully uses the eastern manga comic form drawn in a way that is easily accessible to a more western audience who sometimes face a cross-cultural understanding barrier when trying to read mainstream manga. Maybe it is the masterly blending of emotionally charged drama with fantastical comedic insanity relevant to geek/youth/internet culture. Certainly the way each strip is lovingly drawn down to the tinniest details does nothing to hurt its current ranking of 7th of (approx.) 7000 at The Webcomic List. Go have a read, who knows, you may even like it.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Minty

I am moderately addicted to caffeine, by which I mean that if I go a day without having any I get a moderate headache. But before you castigate me as a member of the milling masses chained to their coffee mugs (typed with coffee mug in hand... I lose more keyboards that way) I would like to say in my defense that my favourite hit comes not in liquid but in solid form.

Ah yes, the humble mint, for so long the social lubricator of kissing after garlic laden Italian feasts. Who knew the vast potential incumbent within this simple delicacy? Allow me to introduce you to penguin caffeinated mints, available in peppermint, chocolate and cinnamon. I am generally found to be carrying around an ├╝ber-stylish tin of the chocolate variety. I have one when I need a hit of chocolate, one when I need to freshen my breath and, of course, one when my caffeine level needs a top up.

Aside from these obvious uses there is also the dark delight I receive in corrupting those around me by offering them mints, and when all the mints are gone the tins are incredibly useful for storing things as well as a variety of interesting projects.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Skiing

I went skiing recently, the first time I've been in about 10 years. We got a very nice package deal which included the return coach, train, lift passes and ski hire for about AUD $140 from here. I had a lot more fun that I thought I would. Drove from Sydney to Canberra in about 4 hours on a Friday night with a quick stop off at the McDonald's that is the central hub between the two. It was exceptionally packed. We crashed the night at a friends place in Canberra and caught a coach early the next morning to Perisher (about 5:20am). Arrived 8:20, and after gearing up and catching the train to the snow hit the slopes around 9:30. Then, excluding our lunch and hot chocolate breaks, we were on the slopes till 4. A good full day of skiing, followed by a good long week of protesting muscles. It actually snowed while we were there!! Seems like forever since I've been in actual snow, it's not exactly a plentiful commodity here in Australia. I think the sensation, especially the being cold and soaked part, would get old very quickly but as we were only there for a day I took the liberty of enjoying it :)

We crashed again sat night in Canberra because the drive back is not something you want to do after a hard day of skiing. In case you were wondering the friend whose place we crashed at did come skiing with us, and we threw in a bottle of wine for her generous policy of house sharing, though I'm not sure it evened out the delicious breakfast she made us all the next morning.... and that, ladies and gentlemen, concludes the exciting tale of my weekend to the snow.

Meebo

When I initially started coding web stuff I confess I did not consider it real programming, HTML is about the simplest language out there and the occasional dab of Javascript did not do much to boost my opinion of the medium. However long years have passed since then and now the best webpages, the ones with the froodiest functionality, can easily leave their software equivalents in the dust.

Meebo is such a webpage, of the funky new Web 2.0 (tm) breed, I am now using it as my primary chat client. In the spirit of Trillian, Miranda and Gaim this plucky portal will connect you to most of the major chat networks and greedily hoard your contacts onto a single list. It's got chat history, a healthy dose of respect for your privacy, and a very sleek interface that really pushes the bounds of DHTML. Available in a slew of languages, with a matching pair blog & forum that are both highly active, and the promise of many new features to come it has definetly won me over.

Lest I start sounding like a walking advertisement I'll just mention it would be nice if the chat boxes came up in seperate windows (might have to add it to your pop-up blocker whitelist for this one) and being able to search and export your chat history would also be a welcome addition. But I'm sure this is the type of stuff that's in the works, it's only in Alpha after all. Ummm... yeah... anyway, have some eyecandy.