Archive of Posts from January 2009

January 22nd, 2009

  • Paintings of alchemists in their laboratories. Posted to Flickr by the Chemical Heritage Foundation.
  • "People went to Google to find specific information about the President-Elect and the ceremony. People go to Twitter and Facebook to share the experience with one another. That means, Twitter and Facebook are delighting users more than Google, because they are keyed into natural human needs and emotions that trigger far greater and more addictive endorphin rushes than just finding a piece of information." [via msippey]
  • Tom Armitage on journalists learning to code: "Learn to think like a programmer. What's really important is to not understand how to do magical things with code, but to learn what magical things are possible, what the necessary inputs for that magic are, and who to ask to do it." [via rc3.org]
  • "None of which is saying you shouldn't be talking to your sources, and questioning what you're told, and trying to find other means of finding stuff out from people. But nowadays, computers are a sort of primary source too. You've got to learn to interrogate them effectively - and quote them meaningfully - too." [via migurski]

January 20th, 2009

January 19th, 2009

January 18th, 2009

Sunny Newport

yaquina head lighthouse

eddie beach shadow

January 16th, 2009

January 15th, 2009

TurkSmith

You've probably seen Microsoft's Songsmith by now. It's a program that makes backing music like a Casio keyboard I had as a kid. You pick a style of music such as rock, jazz, or (my old favorite) bossa nova and you get chords and rhythm that changes keys as you press different notes on the keyboard. The innovation with Songsmith is that the software automatically detects your pitch as you sing into the computer. So instead of pressing keys to make the background music change pitch, Songsmith detects the pitch changes in your voice and tries to make the generated music fit. You can see how this could get hilarious quickly. And it did on MetaFilter: Microsoft Songsmith, and then even more hilarious when someone piped David Lee Roth sans Halen into SongSmith with spectacular results: Runnin' With The Songsmith. And don't miss the stupendous Microsoft Songsmith Commercial.

This morning I was thinking about Songsmith, computer automation, and Mechanical Turk. I've thought Mechanical Turk is a terrible idea since I first heard about it in 2006: Mechanical Turk, so I don't want to encourage more experiments with it. But after Andy revealed The Faces of Mechanical Turk, I can't help but wonder if someone could reveal the voices of Mechanical Turk. I wonder if you could break up a song into pieces like Francois Macre's A capella Thriller and farm it out to Turkers. (Not that anyone should do that.) But even that is a copy of something that already existed. Maybe having Turkers write a small piece of music that could be assembled into a whole piece would be a better experiment. Finding a way to have actual humans mass-compose music seems like it would be more interesting than teaching computers to write better music. Tagged: half-baked.

January 14th, 2009

January 12th, 2009

January 11th, 2009

Lightbox Experiment

I had some fun playing around with a lightbox for the first time today. I didn't have anything I wanted to take a picture of, but I enjoyed moving lights around and fiddling with camera settings anyway. Here's a clock that had some crazy reflective surfaces:

lightbox clock

And a shot with a black background (that I needed to crank down some in Photoshop anyway):

lightbox radio

I've been wanting to try out this type of lighting ever since I read an article about building your own box on Strobist: DIY $10 Macro Photo Studio. I didn't build this lightbox myself, but it's the same basic idea.

The best part is that objects don't move. So I could put the camera on manual, close the aperture, and set a long shutter speed. I spend 90% of my camera time taking pictures of a high-speed toddler in low light. This was a nice change of photographic pace. And if I ever decide to sell something on eBay I'll be set for pictures if it fits in the box.

January 7th, 2009

January 6th, 2009

  • "...asking users to input their email address and password from a third-party site like GMail or Yahoo Mail is completely unacceptable." This is still so true, and I'm surprised sites like Facebook haven't been shamed into changing their "Find People" features.
  • More photography in unusual environments: "When it thinks it's falling, the hard drive heads park themselves to prevent damage upon impact. Unfortunately, in zero gravity, the camcorder always thinks it's falling." [via waxy]
  • The hazards of commercial photography: "The doorway was about 12 feet away from the unit, so although I would be in the magnetic field, it wasn't strong enough to pull the camera off of my tripod."

January 4th, 2009

Sunday at the Aquarium



Some scenes from the Oregon Coast Aquarium today.

January 3rd, 2009

Creative Destruction

Sometimes you have to tear things down to make progress. That's the point I'm at with my poor, neglected weblog. As you can see (or can't see if you just read via RSS), I switched to a minimalist design here, and the backend is now some minimalist PHP. Some of this site's most popular features are gone including Google Smackdown, Amazon Feed Generator, SnapGallery, my past photo galleries, my quotations collection, and much, much more. And oh, the 404s you'll find!

Sorry about the inconvenience if you were a fan of any of these tools, but I need to reboot things around here for my own sanity. I hope you'll continue to stick around to see what develops. There will be new features, new photos, and in the words of John Lennon, it'll be...