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Monday, March 29, 2004

Wormwood

I found Elena's story of riding her motorcycle through the Chernobyl exclusion zone, the area surrounding the nuclear plant that has been largely evacuated and abandoned, absolutely spellbinding. The photographs are amazing. As Elena notes, probably the closest analog is the way Pompeii was frozen when Etna erupted. But she didn't have to dig anything out to travel through this time capsule (via JOHO the Blog).

Posted at 11:59 AM
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Sunday, March 28, 2004

New toy

I bought a neat new toy on Saturday. A friend of mine who is a part time professional photographer decided to upgrade some of his equipment, so he had a telephoto lens for sale. It's a Canon 70-200 mm lens, f2.8 across the entire zoom range, L-series professional glass. I had been looking to buy the f4 version of this lens, but when the opportunity presented itself to buy the faster version for not much more money, I jumped at it. Well, it's an expensive lens, so I thought about it for a while, asked my wife what she thought, and then jumped at it. After all, the ability to add lenses like this was the reason I bought the Digital Rebel in the first place.

Burlington-Bristol Bridge from underneath

I drive out to Levittown, Pennsylvania, the last Saturday of every month as part of publishing a magazine about shortwave radio that I do layout for, and my friend also lives in the suburbs of Philadelphia and is friends with the publisher, so we met in Levittown. The lens is in good shape; it appears as good as new, in fact. After the exchange of money for goods, I gave the new lens its christening on my drive home.

Cramp's Liquors, Beverly, New Jersey

I was quite pleased with the lens' performance when I saw the photographs. I never dreamed I would have such a good lens. Now I just have to make sure I take care of it.

You can see the results of my day's shooting on my photo site.

Posted at 12:48 AM
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Thursday, March 25, 2004

Wake up, blue Suzy

Sometimes I like to let albums I buy age like fine wines. One such album is a collection of world music from the year 2003 put together by the estimable Charlie Gillett, called, naturally enough, World 2003. I brought the CDs to work today and listened to them while I was working. There's some neat stuff on there; the track that seems to have lodged itself into a deep crevass of my brain is "Go" by Dusminguet, a Catalan band. It's an amazingly catchy chune, and has one of the fastest-singing vocalists I've ever heard. And it prominently features accordion, always a plus in my book. According to the English language section of the band's web site, "Go" is the title track of their third album. They don't have much information about the album itself, though. The BBC posts a review of the album on their world music reviews site, written by Charlie Gillett. Since he put them on his record, you can assume that the review is a positive one. Unfortunately, the links on the BBC site to music samples are broken. I haven't been able to find another one that works, either, because pretty much every site that comes up when you enter "MP3" in Google is the same advertisement for an anti-spyware program that won't even run on my computer. Bleah. Even more unfortunately, the version of the album "Go" released in Spain isn't a compact disc. It's copy protected, so they can't call it a compact disc, and can't display the usual CD logo. And it won't work on many computer disc players. So I guess I'll just have to be satisfied with the copy on Charlie's compilation. Pity. I would have liked to hear the rest of their music. And even more of a pity, I really wanted to find a place to point out where you could hear some of this insanely catchy music, but it just doesn't seem to be available. Feh. I just don't know about this web thing, if it's got a future....

Posted at 11:24 PM
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Sunday, March 21, 2004

Spring springs a leak

In honor of the arrival of spring yesterday, this photograph of our backyard the day before.

A snow-covered back yard with creek

Posted at 12:06 AM
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Thursday, March 11, 2004

Nasty or nice?

The very first paragraph of The Guardian's interview today with user interface guru Don Norman states that "he was a sort of Nasty Norman, the academic who told you why your product was bad. Now he's become Nice Norman, who smiles and tells you how great everything is." Which is interesting. Back in the good old days, when the economy was creating jobs rather than destroying them, the company I worked for thought it was a good idea to periodically pay to have me learn how to do my job better and sent me to a couple of CHI conferences about human factors in computers. At the second conference I attended, there was a session where Don Norman was on the stage with two other people to debate something or other. I have a tremendous amount of respect for Dr. Norman, having read two of his books and explored the fantastic and charming CD-ROM he did based on them for Voyager some years ago. But he was so obnoxious during that session that I almost walked out. The other "expert" on the stage and the moderator could barely get a word in edgewise while Norman stepped all over whatever they said. So if this change that The Guardian notes extends to his interactions with his peers, I'd say it's a welcome change.

His new book, Emotional Design, sounds interesting based on the article (not surprising, given that I liked his other books). The book is about how to go beyond usability, to make products that have beautiful form as well as great functionality. Given the reputation of his company, Nielsen/Norman Group, that's a bit of a twist. But it's not surprising. Norman uses the example of the 1961 Jaguar, a car that people buy because it brings them joy, not because of how well it works. In my own life, I see this in the example of two shortwave radios I own. I have a Drake R8, which I describe as the Toyota Camry of shortwave radios. It's fairly large, solid, and a decent performer that just keeps chugging along. I don't use it much. Then there's my AOR AR-7030 Plus, a quirky, difficult-to-operate, temperamental radio that I just spent a small fortune to ship back to England to fix. I describe it as the Triumph Spitfire of shortwave radios. But it's a blast to operate once you get the hang of the controls. I had resisted buying Norman's new book because of the bad taste in my mouth from that conference lo! these many years ago, but I think I'm going to have to get it now.

Incidentally, I drive a Toyota Camry, not a 1961 Jaguar. It's nice to know there's room for the inspiring product and the reliable but stodgy performer. It's even nicer to see a leading light in the usability world recognize that.

Posted at 4:51 AM
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Monday, March 8, 2004

Synesthesia


two colors

Posted at 10:17 PM
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Wednesday, March 3, 2004

¿Quién?

Listening to the radio on the way home this evening, I heard that George Bush is going to start airing ads tomorrow, including one in Spanish where he speaks briefly in the language.

So I wondered, what would George Bush sound like in Spanish?

(Everything goes blurry at this point....)

¿Quién es más guapo, Juán o Jórge?

Jórge Bush (izquierda) y Juán Kerry (derecho)

Juán es más guapo que Jórge. Jórge es más feo que Juán. Jórge parece un chimpancé.

¿Quién es más macho, Juán or Jórge? ¿Quién tiene más huevos?

Juán fue a Vietnam.

John Kerry receives a medal for his service in Vietnam

Jórge fue a Alabama.

George Bush goes AWOL from defending Texas and runs to Alabama

Juán es más macho que Jórge. Juán tiene más huevos que Jórge.

No voto para Jórge.

Posted at 8:40 PM
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Tuesday, March 2, 2004

Ready


Three shovels, an axe, and a pick-axe, lined up against a cinder block wall

Posted at 6:30 PM
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This site is copyright © 2002-2017, Ralph Brandi. (E-mail address removed due to virus proliferation.)

What do you mean there is no cat?

"You see, wire telegraph is a kind of a very, very long cat. You pull his tail in New York and his head is meowing in Los Angeles. Do you understand this? And radio operates exactly the same way: you send signals here, they receive them there. The only difference is that there is no cat."

- Albert Einstein, explaining radio


There used to be a cat

[ photo of Mischief, a black and white cat ]

Mischief, 1988 - December 20, 2003

[ photo of Sylvester, a black and white cat ]

Sylvester (the Dorito Fiend), who died at Thanksgiving, 2000.


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