Tweet of the Day: @TheOnion

This is the funniest tweet I’ve seen from The Onion lately:

Vine’s 6-Second Video Loops: The New 140-Character Tweet?

vine-logoWell, it’s been nearly a couple of weeks since Twitter launched Vine, its new microvideo sharing app, and the buzz has finally led me to check it out.

Examples of the buzz…headlines like this:

Why Vine will be as revolutionary as Twitter was

Why Vine’s Going to Grow Into Something Huge

In case you haven’t heard of Vine yet, it’s an app that lets users create 6-second long video clips on infinite loop and then share them on Vine, Twitter, and Facebook.

So, basically, the buzz is all about stuff like this:

I know. Thrilling.

But seriously, I had the same reaction to Facebook status updates and Tweets when I first learned about them, so I shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss.

And besides, along with the mundane (MY NEW THERMOS!!!), there are cool “vines” to be found, like this one:

(By the way, you can pause a vine by clicking on it.)

One seriously HUGE feature missing from Vine is the ability to share videos posted by others. I can’t fathom why they didn’t roll the app out with functionality that allows you to select someone else’s vine from the app and then reblog it, share it to Twitter, Facebook, blogs, etc. As of now, the only way I was able to include them here, in this post, was to search for vines in Twitter tweets and the post the tweets. It limits browsing vines in the app to simply viewing them, liking them, and commenting on them.

While some vines have already gone viral, these 6-second clips won’t realize their full viral potential until sharing is enhanced.

In the meantime, consider me intrigued.

I don’t see myself creating vines. Video is not my thing. But browsing and sharing my favorites here already shows signs of being a potentially fun new form of entertainment.

Tweet of the Day: #ColinStetson

colin-stetsonPeeps, this video of Colin Stetson is unfrickinbelievable.

It’s just about the most freakishly awesome musical performance I’ve seen in a long, long time.

Oh, and if you’re wondering, that’s a bass frickin’ saxophone!

As the description of the video on YouTube points out:

If you look closely, you can see he’s miked all over the place, including his throat and several other spots on the sax besides the business end.

Innovative and amazing. Check out the second video, where Colin mechanically breaks down some of what he’s doing.

Eyecatchers: 3-D Aerial-view of Central Park

This is one of the coolest photographic images I have ever seen, and it makes me miss New York City in a big, big way (must be clicked on and enlarged!):

3-D Central Park

This really captures what a precious jewel the park is, an oasis of nature in a desert of concrete and steel and glass. I can’t imagine Manhattanites surviving without it.

About the photo (via The Atlantic):

Sergey Semonov, a Russian photographer, submitted the image to the Epson International Photographic Pano Awards, and took first prize in the amateur category.

Semonov works on a small noncommercial team called AirPano, which travels the globe creating these 3D aerial panoramas. They shoot from helicopters and then stitch the images together. Mostly, they produce these spherical panoramas that I find confusing to navigate, but clearly this one has been flattened for our viewing pleasure.

Nice Timing, Gorilla Glass. Thanks.

gorillaSuch is the pace of advancement in technology, it either enamors or pisses off.

I was enamored enough to buy an iPhone 4 in April 2011, as I wrote about at the time.

Then, this morning, I learned of another latest, greatest technological advancement, Corning’s new scratch and crack resistant Gorilla Glass 3.

But, it wasn’t just any ordinary morning. It was the morning after I dropped my iPhone 4 on a rock, cracking the forward-facing glass, repairable for $80, when a new iPhone 4 with a 2-year contract is, by now practically free.

So, like I said, enamored one day, pissed off the next.

Best of Fish & Bicycles: Hot Metal Action

Originally Published: May 24, 2010

This past Saturday, the family unit and I attended what may be the coolest event in a town that has a thing for cool events.

The Welding Rodeo, held at Bellingham Technical College, is, if anything, a celebration of creativity. For I would wager that most people, when they think of art, don’t think of suede-clad teams of individuals wearing masks and wielding sledge hammers and welders. The Welding Rodeo shatters the cliché of the beret-wearing, palette-holding intellectual, dabbing oil paint delicately at a canvas with sable brushes.

Think of it this way: In high school, you’d usually have no problem distinguishing between the kids in metal shop and the kids in life drawing, the former destined for an auto repair shop, the latter for an art gallery. No such segregation at the Welding Rodeo.

The event’s format is simple. Teams of four have eight hours to fabricate a metal sculpture using only the scrap metal available to them at the 8am scrap dive:

The teams retreat to their booths with their materials and go to work, sparks and hammers a-flyin’.

Slowly but surely, the sculptures start to take shape, all of them, in some way, representing the theme chosen ahead of time. This year’s theme: Human Form.

One of the teams has traveled to the Welding Rodeo five years in a row…

…from Denmark!

A bonus for the day: anyone who wanted to try welding could sign a waiver and get a taste for the metal-on-metal action. Here’s my son Julian going for it:

These few photos really can’t do the event justice, so you either need to come to the rodeo next year or check out the extensive photo galleries they already have posted.

Best of Fish & Bicycles: Stuff We Need: Electric Roadways

Originally Published: November 4, 2010

I read some great, hope-inspiring stuff on the automotive front today.

While I’m a big fan of mass transit, I tend to think that sustainable transportation plans that aim to eliminate cars altogether face way too much resistance. Car culture is just so firmly embedded in the human psyche, and not just in the U.S.

And so I like to watch the trends in electric car technologies, and I came across the following items making my regular rounds at Inhabitat.

First up:

Sweden-based architect Mans Tham went halfway around the world with this design for a serpent-shaped solar skin for the Sana Monica Freeway…

From afar the solar structure looks like a long scaly serpent winding its way through the stucco and palm tree studded neighborhoods. Inside is a shaded tunnel-like roadway. Outside is a massive array of solar panels that produce a peak of 150 mWhs of clean energy for the local population.

An intriguing idea for sure, and the computer mock-ups are incredibly cool-looking:

And yet, I don’t really see much chance of L.A. residents supporting the idea. With the amount of time the average person spends stuck in traffic during their commutes on the Santa Monica Freeway, I can see folks complaining that they can’t at least enjoy unhindered scenery while they creep along. Others might complain of claustrophobia, since even the longest road tunnel to-date is only 15.2 miles long.

So, one of the commenters at Inhabitat, possibly thinking about these issues or others, provided a link to an article on what seems to be a better solution:

Putting the solar panels on the road itself:

“Julie turned to me and said, ‘Can’t you make those electric roads you’ve always dreamed of out of solar panels?’ At first I said, ‘No. Solar panels are very fragile and you can’t even step on them, let alone drive on them.’ So we started batting this idea back and forth and thinking of things like a black box on an airplane. That’s a little case that houses sensitive electronics through the worst of airplane crashes and protects them. If we could make a bigger version of that—a structurally engineered compartment for solar cells that would withstand the beating of an 18-wheeler—then, yeah, we could make a solar panel that you could actually drive on…

On the visit to the University of Dayton, Scott found them working on what was called bomb-resistant glass; for vehicles in war scenarios, a bomb could go off at point-blank range and the glass wouldn’t blow inward creating shrapnel for the vehicle’s occupants. One researcher on that project looked over Scott’s specs. “He said we could take that formula, tweak it a little bit, lay it down on the road and it would take anything an 18-wheeler could do to it,” Scott recalled. “That was exactly what I wanted to hear.”

The project began progressing from there. “I knew then that we could take this glass surface and put solar cells underneath it,” said Scott. “They wouldn’t be touched by the traffic and they would just collect power from the roads that are baking in the sun anyway.

To sum up the rest of the article, they got funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation, determined that the roads could actually pay for themselves over a projected 20-year lifespan (they generate very valuable electricity, after all!), they’ve built a prototype, and now they’re in search of more funding in order to move the idea forward.

Now, in that article, Scott Brusaw relates that his idea grew out of childhood memories (memories I have too) of a toy racing car track that had electrified grooves in it. The toy cars, then, had small metal pieces that protruded out from the bottom, the cars would be placed on the track with the metal piece in the electrified groove, and a handheld controller with a trigger allowed the “driver” to control the flow of electricity, making the car move, and the more you pulled the trigger the faster the car went.

Well, back at Inhabitat, there’s this news that electrified roadways may soon be a reality for more than toy cars:

World’s First Wireless Electric Car Charger Launched In UK

The company (HaloIPT) is planning to electrify parts of England’s M25 motorway by using magnetic induction, a principle that was first discovered in the 1800s. The Inductive Power Transfer system allows a car fitted with a simple integrated receiver pad to be charged automatically when parked or driven on roads with HaloIPT’s special charging pads beneath their surface. If major road routes such as the M25 are ‘electrified’, then it will greatly increase the range and the appeal of electric vehicles.

The IPT is designed to be compatible with all vehicles (including eBikes and heavy goods vehicles), and it has been designed to function under any weather conditions — even if the driver doesn’t align the car properly with the pads embedded in the asphalt. The system was tested by HaloIPT on a Citroen C1, named Evie, to see the charging performance of the IPT. It took six hours to fully charge Evie from 20 percent capacity, with the energy sourced from a regular household socket. The company also says their system can charge even at distances of up to 40 centimeters.

“We’re using IPT to break down the barriers to mass-market adoption of electric cars,” says HaloIPT’s CEO, Anthony Thomson. “Keeping electric vehicle costs down is a key priority for us.”

Now THAT is exciting!

The Hobbit & 3-D: Movie or Amusement Park Ride?

HobbitOk, a few weeks ago, I wrote about how much I was looking forward to seeing the first installment of Peter Jackson’s new trilogy based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit.

And now…I have seen it…and, while I don’t do full-on movie reviews, I do find that I have something to say about it, something, I think, important..

Back in November 2011, I wrote about my feelings towards High Definition and 3-D, declaring that I’d take 2-D any day, even at the risk of being labeled an old fogey.

Well, as you’ll see in the comments, that’s precisely what a close friend of mine did. It’s the price I pay for taking a stand.

But still, when The Hobbit came to town in 3-D, on a brand new IMAX screen at our brand new multiplex movie emporium, I overcame my initial resistance, reframed it not as a movie necessarily, but as some other kind of spectacle, a spectacle that would be fun, especially with my wife and 15-year old son, just for the experience of it, because, it turns out, that’s what people do for entertainment. Go figure.

Anyway, it was big, it was loud, it was a feast for the eyes, and…


Frankly, the reframing didn’t work, I REALLY wanted to see the movie, but I found the 3-D glasses terribly uncomfortable and the hyper intensity of the visual feast, amplified by the 3-D and the sheer size of the IMAX screen, to be more annoying and distracting than anything approaching an enhancement. In fact, it was SO distracting that I came away from the experience not even sure what to make of the film itself; the way the story was adapted, the quality of the acting, directing, music, etc.

I feel I need to go see it again in 2-D in order to assess those things separately, and that just sucks, especially if you consider that it cost over $50.00 for the three of us to see it the first time.

Listen, I’d just been to another movie this past Saturday, at the same new multiplex movie emporium, an ordinary 2-D movie in a state-of-the-art theater, with stadium seating and the comfiest seats I’ve ever sat in at a movie, and it was fantastic!

In my mind, the 3-D and IMAX formats combined, if they were really worth the big extra bucks, would have blown the other movie out of the water, no contest.

But, that just wasn’t the case.

So, I’ve come up with what I think is a pretty good analogy to make sense of it all, and that is to categorize these next generation movie experiences as being more like amusement park rides than a traditional cinema experience.

When you’re done with an amusement park ride, sure, it was a lot of fun, but it doesn’t tend to stick with you. You tend to go on to the next ride and the next one after that or you leave the park and go about more normal activities.

On the other hand, a good movie, or a good film to be all analog about it, has the ability to leave you feeling like you’ve just witnessed a work of art, or even feeling like you’ve been transformed by the experience.

I guess I’ll just chalk it up to an apples-to-oranges comparison, since I was given the choice to see it in 2-D if I wanted to.

I guess I’m just a cinema guy rather than an amusement park guy.

And, you know what? I’m ok with that!

Tweet of the Day: @Inhabitat

THIS is SO awesome!

I would definitely use something like this and hope that it makes it from design to the marketplace.

Fantastic Voyage II: The Gaseous Network

So, part of my day job concerns Internet service for students living on campus at the local university here, two years ago we began a 2-year project to implement Wi-Fi in all of the residence halls, it’s been a bumpy ride, with the wireless networking having to tackle numerous complexities, from aging network equipment to buildings loaded with concrete and rebar, through which Wi-Fi doesn’t like to travel.

Still, despite the many challenges, at least I didn’t have to deal with cow farts and belches.


Via Gizmodo:

Wireless Networks of Cows Will Keep Gas Under Control

I’d hate to be the IT guy fixing this network. By dropping electronic devices into the stomachs of cows and networking them together, researchers hope to reduce the climate-warming farts and burps they produce.

Emissions from livestock – much of which is methane released when they burp – are a serious component of global greenhouse gas emissions. But some individuals are a little more, erm, ‘gassy’ than others. By breeding “low methane” animals, and modifying farming practices slightly, their emissions could be lowered by up to 50 per cent, says Chris McSweeny from the CSIRO’s Sustainable Agriculture Flagship in Brisbane, Australia.

But, as fabulous, albeit disgusting, as this might be, the part of the story that makes it super fantastical, as in Fantastic Voyage (the 1966 Sci-Fi film) fantastical, is this bit (emphasis in bold added by me):

The problem is it’s hard to measure how much cows burp while they’re roaming around the paddock. So McSweeny and colleagues developed a gas-sniffing submarine that lives in a cow’s stomach. Coated with a special membrane that helps it survive the harsh conditions inside, the plan is to pop them in the stomachs of whole paddocks of cows and connect them with an ad-hoc wireless network.

The device stays in the stomach for weeks and measures gas concentration using infra-red sensors. A pair of wings pops out after it enters the stomach and stops it from moving beyond the rumen – the chamber in a cow or sheep’s stomach where much of the gas production occurs.

No way!!!

Yes way!!!

Now, as gross as this might sound, I might just be willing to do it if 1966 Raquel Welch was on the crew with me.