I was committed

| Jul. 31, 2007

When I was first admitted, I didn’t know what to make of the place. It all felt a little odd to me, but I was committed by now. Where else was I going to go?

Cuckoo!A girl sits rocking back and forth in the corner. One of the people who worked here was trying to coax a disoriented man up off the floor. Another older man lies on his back, trying to swing his legs over his body in a very peculiar way — he does this maybe 20 times before he stands up, quite normally, as though it never happened. I know the staff is there to keep the inmates from hurting themselves, and sure it’s better they’re here than out on the streets, but you can still see the hollow look in their eyes. When not being coralled by the staff, or daydreaming in their own worlds, the committed mill about, looking with vacant stares, but still careful to avoid eye contact.

I suppose I’m still adjusting to life at the insane asylum athletic club.

Harder, Better, Faster Guitar Hero

Blog | Jul. 27, 2007

I have a lot of friends who are into Guitar Hero, and several friends who are into Daft Punk, but in their Venn diagram, there’s no overlap between friends who are into GH and those who are into DP. Woe is me, for I have no one with which to share this clip of Daft Punk on Guitar Hero awesomeness:

Yes, err… remember that part in “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” with all the killer guitar riffs?

Should I stay or should I go?

| Jul. 25, 2007
If I go there will be trouble, if I stay it will be double.

Getting back from a scant three days in my hometown, I’m starting to admit that I miss the place. At home I feel relaxed, I feel centered, I feel like making something of myself. Home is nothing but free time, open skies, quiet evenings and still, starry nights spent listening to crickets chirp and owls cry out from the darkness. Nothing but free time. And with it, absolutely nothing to fucking do.

Then there’s L.A.: everything you could want to do, places to go, people to see, the world at your fingertips. And you sit chained to your desk, just trying to eke out a living. Kinda-sorta keeping your head above water while all the reasons you came here pass you by.

So c’mon and let me know… should I stay or should I go?

I saw Daft Punk perform!

| Jul. 23, 2007

Gallagher’s Copyright Infringe-O-MaticBut before I can tell you that story, I need to tell you about Gallagher and Andy Kaufman. The watermelon smashing prop comic, well known as Gallagher, has a less-well known brother. A twin brother in fact. And so when Gallagher’s comedy career began to take off, there were plenty of places for him to wield his Sledge-O-Matic and similarly cudgel-like wit. In fact, there were so many places for Gallagher to perform, it turned out to be more than one man could do alone….

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The Synesthete’s Alphabet

| Jul. 13, 2007

Much has been made of Daniel Tammet, the “Brain Man” who could recite Pi to 22,000 places. How the savant achieved this feat was by picturing the digits that make up Pi’s infinite and complex string of numbers. The condition facilitating this monumental task is called synesthesia, where the mind unconsciously blends together two different sensations. In this case, it is grapheme-color synesthesia that causes his mental picture of a number (or letter) to appear as more than just an abstract numeral, as it would on a page. Instead he perceives it to have a great deal of unique, identifying characteristics. To a non-synesthete, 3 is just 3, but to him, “every number up to 10,000… has its own color, has its own shape, has its own texture.”

“For example, 289 is an ugly number, I don’t like it much.” And he’s got a point. Yellow, inky-blue and reddish-pink? Yeck, what an ugly color combination!

Though my degree of grapheme-color synesthesia is nowhere near as profound as the Brain Man’s, I’ll share the colors I associate with the letters of the alphabet, as well as the numbers 0 through 9.


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The Swiss will destroy us all!

| Jul. 10, 2007

Reader ThePete apparently pays closer attention to my sources than I do, because when reading up on the particle physicists reassuring us that no, their supercollider won’t, in fact cause the destruction of the earth, I inadvertently linked to a statement from scientists at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider at the Brookhaven National Laboratory in Long Island, and not the Swiss physicists working at the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva… which means the evil Swiss may yet have designs on destroying you, me, and all the pocket calculators in the world. Yeah I know, easy mistake to make, right?

It’s a lot like the line from that famous movie, “Once again Dr. Jones, we see there is nothing you can possess which I cannot collide with a stream of charged particles at near the speed of light.”

Oh, and it turns out the CERN collider won’t be in use until May of 2008 because the eggheads broke the damn thing.

Sleep tight!

Internet on the iPhone: separate but equal?

Work | Jul. 10, 2007

Much has been made of Apple’s lack of support for Flash on the iPhone, with Apple passing on it in favor of open standards, using AJAX, canvas and the HTML 5 spec to achieve the same slick interfaces that have until now only been seen within Adobe’s Flash player.

Apple has famously proclaimed that the web on the iPhone isn’t the mobile internet; not the “watered down internet” — and yet, it’s not quite “the” internet either.

On Apple’s iTunes page, you get a very cool interactive slider listing all of the company’s hot iTunes-related products, all presented using CSS and Ajax. All done in the browser, all done using open technology. Yeah, holy shit is right.

iTunes store on the web

Now take a look at the same page on the iPhone. It’s similar, but it ain’t the same.

iTunes store on iPhone

Since Javascript can detect which browser you’re using, Apple seems to be slightly modifying its web interface to account for the iPhone. But how many web designers are going to get caught up in Apple’s iPhone-led redesign of the web, only to find out that their spiffy new interfaces won’t work on the very device they’re redesigning their websites around?

Sweetened with CocoaAn internet built on open standards, pioneered by Apple would be pretty spectacular, but Apple is going to have to work out these ‘gotchas’ first. Otherwise, I feel this open initiative will go the way of many of Apple’s previous efforts: Cocoa (the other one, but that’s a whole other article), OpenDoc, interactive QuickTime movies, the Pippin game console and other promising technology that Apple left to rot on the vine.

I for one will support Apple’s initiative because I like open standards and I like the idea that when publishing my videos I can “encode once, run anywhere” — on the internet, iTunes, the iPod or an iPhone… pretty much anything starting with a lower-case i.

And in a perfect world, I wouldn’t be the only one. But I don’t see Jobs’s idea of the standards-based open internet catching on. For better or worse, the web is a heterogeneous place, so any kind of consistency is rare indeed. And for all his shrewd maneuvering, Jobs still has a very pie-in-the-sky idea about human nature. Would you expect anything else from an aging hippie? He should already be able to tell that consumers don’t always choose the best products, and quite understandably, people will make choices that immediately benefit themselves.

It made sense for YouTube to re-convert all their videos into the open H.264 codec to get an exclusive spot on Apple’s hottest new product, but would every Tom, Dick and Harry go out of their way to re-encode their entire collection of failed motorcycle stunts, backyard wresting clips and lip-syncing videos, just in support of open standards? My guess is no.

It would be great if we lived in a world where everyone drove a Prius, roommates would wash their dishes, and everything on the internet was open and free for anybody with a good idea, but as a poet once said, “We live in a world where good men are murdered and mediocre hacks thrive.”

It’ll take some very real incentives for Apple to lure web developers away from closed, propriety systems and into an open and free internet, not just because it’s the right thing to do. If I were to offer my two cents, it would be to make the tools for realizing your vision more available, and make them easier to use. Make it easy for people using your software to get results. (I think you used to have an OS that did this back in the mid-’80s.)

Finally, for those of you at home who want to see the web the way the iPhone does, just modify your browser’s user-agent to this string:

Mozilla/5.0 (iPhone; U; CPU like Mac OS X; en) AppleWebKit/420+ (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/3.0 Mobile/1A543a Safari/419.3

…just resist the temptation to touch the screen.

I wasn’t working out

| Jul. 5, 2007

I was programming for the internet and editing video in my spare time. I was eating a lot of junk food. I wasn’t working out.

So my first day at a gym was a chance to turn things around.

The Machinist workout planThe problem with working out more in an afternoon than you had in June, May and April combined isn’t just that your muscles are incredibly ill-suited to the task. After my exhaustive first workout, my trainer explained the importance of strengthening one’s core muscles to the gaunt, sweating corpse seated across from him.

“Your body is like a sausage casing. And no matter how much you force into one end, if the other isn’t strong, whatever you put in will just come out the other.”

“Please don’t mention food.”

He stopped in the middle of his routine to notice my glassy stare. “…do you feel a little nauseated?”

I slowly inhaled through my mouth and completed half a nod. He told me to sit there while he went to get me something to drink.

And then I did something stupid.

I said to myself, “Just don’t think about throwing up.”

At that point, it was all over. It’s been so long since I vomited in public, in front of chinese girls getting in shape to be trophy wives, trainers trying to sell new signups on their premium fitness package and everybody, that I forgot what it sounded like. That stifled staccato. That gurgling, unending blaaaarrrggg. It sounds just like what people pretend it sounds like. And I was experiencing it in technicolor and sensurround.

Having successfully wrapped up my first day at the gym, I felt just awful. I was working out.

Go back to bed, America

Blog | Jul. 5, 2007

About a year ago, I had expressed some apprehension about the dangers of the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva and how the experiments it was designed to carry out could spell disaster for all the atoms that make up my body and all my stuff.

Since then, the project’s scientists have quashed suggestions that the experiment could cause the destruction of the Earth. Meaning we can all breathe easy now. Or as Homer once said (sorry, not that Homer), “I’m alive! From this day forward, I vow to live life to its fullest!”

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a bag of pork rinds to eat in front of the TV.