Noctilucent Clouds and Aurora Over Scotland

August 26th, 2013

Noctilucent Clouds and Aurora Over Scotland.

Best viewed in full screen mode at the highest available resolution.1

  1. Actually, that should read 'Best viewed in person.' But this video is the next best option.

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WildHelp App

August 26th, 2013

The WildHelp App is a really nice idea:

Every day, people encounter wild animals in need of help. Animals are found sick, injured, displaced, trapped, entangled, and in serious trouble, but, the task of finding help can be arduous.

Too often, finders must make multiple phone calls, using critical minutes, even hours, in search of the right person or organization that can help.

Delays in finding qualified help is one of the greatest, most pervasive issues faced by wildlife casualties and the people who find them.

There is a missing link. WildHelp is the missing link.

The WildHelp mobile application will streamline the reporting process, expediting aid to wild animals in need and the people who find them, helping save thousands of lives every year!

[Via Chuq Von Rospach]

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26. Who you are is what you do between notifications (or blog posts?)

August 26th, 2013

Nicholas Carr's Theses in tweetform (2nd series):

21. Recommendation engines are the best cure for hubris.

[…]

23. Hell is other selfies.

24. Twitter has revealed that brevity and verbosity are not always antonyms.

[…]

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Make some noise!

August 25th, 2013

Mike Relm: The Cornetto Megamix

If you listen to the first thirty seconds or so and find yourself thinking that it's not that great, stick with it; it takes off from around the 45 second mark, and gets downright amazing once Blue Monday gets a mention.

[Via The Onion AV Club]

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Pretty pictures

August 25th, 2013

[Boeing 747-256B via x planes; life via swissmiss]

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PRSM – coming to a network near you, whether you like it or not

August 22nd, 2013

PRSM – The Sharing Network:

Get PRSM

[Via Memex 1.1]

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Aliens

August 21st, 2013

The other day I came across UX designer Fred Nerby's mock up of his idea for a new look for Facebook.

Fred Nerby's Facebook concept

There's a lot more to it than that one screenshot, so I urge you to click on the link or the image to see the full presentation. It's neat and unquestionably it showcases one way to look at what 1.15 billion people want from a social network.1

I can't help looking at it and thinking that I'm never, ever going to want a Facebook account, because these people just aren't the same species as me.2 The thing is, this vision of the world seems to demand that everyone is constantly performing, living their lives on camera and incessantly telling anyone who'll listen about how awesome a time they're having and how fabulous their round of drinks looked when the light caught the glasses just so, and everyone seems to have a gallery of pictures of themselves looking smiley and sexy and fabulous. Doesn't all that performing for the camera just get a bit exhausting after a while?

Also, I assume that this is a proposal for some future version of Facebook that offers a paid-subscription option, because there's not an ad in sight and young Zuckerberg isn't going to be able to pay for all those servers without some source of income.3

  1. Or at any rate, what some people want and some people simply have to use if they want to remain in touch with some of their less IT literate friends and relations, whereas others moved to Facebook once they found there was nobody they knew left on MySpace and they don't want the hassle of moving to the next big thing and re-establishing their social graph all over again. Then there are all the spammers and scammers and people who don't use the site any more but never got round to deleting their account. Whatever: any way you look at the numbers, rather a lot of people use Facebook.
  2. Ignore the fact that the designer has populated his site with a bunch of youngish, attractive friends whose lives are filled with visits to picturesque locations: that's just a matter of showing his design in the best possible light.
  3. Unless of course this is a future where the NSA has taken to funding Facebook directly, because why go to the time and trouble to spy on people's online communications when they'll give out so much information about their whereabouts, their plans and their social circle gratis.

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Magic Beard

August 21st, 2013

Magic Beard:

Nothing creepy about that. Not at all.

Not until the shaving foam, anyway…

[Via MetaFilter]

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'Our security forces have it back'?!?

August 21st, 2013

Novelist and former MP Louise Mensch, demonstrating her deep understanding of how digital technology works:

Louise Mensch on data security

She probably thinks the Guardian no longer has access to the files on that laptop too.

Actually, cancel that. I'm sure she's perfectly well aware that digital data can be – and in this case, was – backed up. To my mind, she's just doing her bit to help the government to deflect the focus of the discussion away from the Guardian's story and the doings of the surveillance state and on to the government's preferred law-and-order/keeping-us-safe-from-terrorists/nothing-to-hide, nothing-to-fear agenda.

[Via Charlie's Diary]

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Pretty pictures

August 18th, 2013

[road to the north via swissmiss]

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The double bill from Hell

August 16th, 2013

My favourite fact I learned today, from a MetaFilter thread prompted by the release of an English-subtitled trailer for Hayao Miyazaki's The Wind Rises [Previously.]:

[…] Grave of the Fireflies and My Neighbor Totoro were released together as a double feature. Target audience: ?

posted by The Tensor at 5:39 PM on August 15

I can't imagine any way to sit through that pairing without ending up a sobbing wreck. One poster said that Totoro played second, possibly in an attempt to lift the audience's spirits after Fireflies had stomped them into the ground. Me, I doubt that even the appearance of a real-life catbus could make me feel good in the wake of the gut-punch Grave of the Fireflies delivers.

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Mesmerising

August 14th, 2013

Watching this Chocolate Mill in action, I was delighted at the variety and complexity of the patterns revealed as layer after layer was scraped away. I was also really peckish by the end of the video.1

[Via BLDGBLOG]

  1. It didn't help that there wasn't a bar of chocolate, or even so much as a single chocolate biscuit, in the house.

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Jaws: The Previous Generation

August 14th, 2013

Ever since seeing Jaws back in 1976, I'd taken it as read that Americans had always been afraid of shark attacks. Apparently this was not the case:

In 1891, Herman Oelrichs, a multimillionaire with a thirst for adventure, made a peculiar offer in the pages of the New York Sun. Oelrichs said he would provide a reward of five hundred dollars for "such proof as a court would accept that in temperate waters even one man, woman, or child, while alive, was ever attacked by a shark." Fond of diving off yachts to swim with whatever creatures might be lurking in the deep, Oelrichs conducted an annual "shark-chasing" swim off the coast of New Jersey's most fashionable resorts. Like his friend Theodore Roosevelt, Oelrichs believed sharks were merely part of a larger ecosystem that had been conquered by science and American enthusiasm. In a time when men could vacation in Africa and come back with hunting trophies twice their size, how could we have anything to fear from the natural world? […]

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The 39 stats

August 13th, 2013

The 39 stats:

Had he survived his three-steaks-a-sitting diet Alfred Hitchcock would have been all of 114 on 13 August. To celebrate, we're charting the great director's films in numbers – from character deaths to longest journeys – and finally answer the question: which is the most Hitchcockian Hitchcock of all?

The 39 Stats

Interesting to see that the biggest-selling Hitchcock on DVD was North by Northwest, which comes out on top and by some margin over the next best seller, The 39 Steps. I'd have assumed that Vertigo, Rear Window and Psycho would have been right up there. In fact, the raw data shows that there's a fairly steep drop-off in DVD sales after those two and third-placed Psycho.1

[Via MetaFilter]

  1. Of course, it may just be that some of those films had better DVD editions than others. Come to that, do these figures include sales as part of a themed collection of, say, Cary Grant or James Stewart's films. More research required.

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BUGGER

August 10th, 2013

Adam Curtis on the awful truth about spies:

The recent revelations by the whistleblower Edward Snowden were fascinating. But they – and all the reactions to them – had one enormous assumption at their heart.

That the spies know what they are doing.

It is a belief that has been central to much of the journalism about spying and spies over the past fifty years. That the anonymous figures in the intelligence world have a dark omniscience. That they know what's going on in ways that we don't.

It doesn't matter whether you hate the spies and believe they are corroding democracy, or if you think they are the noble guardians of the state. In both cases the assumption is that the secret agents know more than we do.

But the strange fact is that often when you look into the history of spies what you discover is something very different. […]

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'If you have 1 bullet to take down 3 guys in close quarters you are betting your life on some lucky breaks, so try not to let it happen.'

August 7th, 2013

One of the most enjoyable aspects of Burn Notice is lead character Michael Westen's laconic voiceovers, letting us non-spies in on the tricks of the trade as he's setting up a scam / undertaking surveillance / planning to insert himself in a situation where he's not welcome. Spy Training 101 consists of transcripts of these voiceovers from the first three seasons. From the pilot episode:

If you're surrounded by hostile aspiring warlords when you get abandoned by the CIA do anything to remove yourself from being surrounded to even the odds a bit. If you get in a fight be careful not to hurt your hand: elbows are effective and bathrooms with lots of hard surfaces also help. A dirt bike is a good choice for an escape vehicle. Wearing a bathing suit eliminates some suspicions because hiding a gun in a bathing suit doesn't work so well. […]

Good to know…

[Via Zed Lopez]

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How We Got To Now

August 6th, 2013

Steven Johnson is working on a TV series, a six-part PBS series to be distributed outside the USA by BBC Worldwide1 called How We Got To Now:

Alongside the bizarre coincidences, intense rivalries, terrible failures and moments of heroic achievement that made theories into realities, HOW WE GOT TO NOW uses historical precedents and modern-day analogies to explain why it's not always the smartest person in the room who has the best idea. From frozen foods entrepreneur Clarence Birdseye to Internet visionary Tim Berners-Lee, Hollywood "Golden Age" actress and inventor Hedy Lamarr to mother of radioactivity Marie Curie, and from Thomas Alva Edison to Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg, the series shows how the best ideas can come from surprising places (and take years to shape), as well as how amateurs can revolutionize specialist fields, and why patents are sometimes a big idea's worst enemy.

[Via stevenberlinjohnson.com]

  1. So with any luck it'll turn up on the BBC eventually…

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#15,678 and rising?

August 4th, 2013

Stiff Records' press release about the first week sales performance of Johnny Borrell's solo album is putting a brave face on things:

Stiff Records is proud to announce first week sales figures for its latest album – Johnny Borrell's 'Borrell 1' – of 594.

'Borrell 1' is the début solo LP from the former Razorlight vocalist and is the first new album on the highly prolific Stiff Records since 2007.

That last album was the multi million-selling two-volume set, '30 Years Of Stiff Records' (although admittedly that was a free cover-mount with 'The Independent on Sunday').

"First week sales of 594 makes 'Borrell 1' the 15,678th best selling album of the year to date," comments a Stiff spokesperson. "So far we've achieved 0.00015% sales of Adele's '21' – and 0.03% sales of this week's No. 1 album from Jahmene Douglas – so we feel like it's all to play for as we move into the all-important week two."

"We might even break the Top 100."

Or possibly taking the piss. Hard to tell.

[Via No Rock And Roll Fun]

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Fantasy

August 3rd, 2013

Tokyo Traders Gear Up for the 'Curse of Ghibli':

TOKYO – Most people know Studio Ghibli as the Japanese film house behind animated hits such as 'Spirited Away,' about a girl trapped in a supernatural bath house, and 'My Neighbor Totoro,' featuring a giant raccoon-like creature.

But among Japan's stock and currency traders, Ghibli has a darker association.

Once every few weeks [NTK…] airs a Ghibli movie in the prime Friday evening spot. During the trading session after that, market veterans say, bad things happen.

Yen watchers expect the worst when a Ghibli flick airs at the same time that nonfarm payroll data is released in the U.S. […] In eight of the past nine such convergences, the data came in weak. In seven of those cases, the dollar tanked versus the yen and Japanese stocks fell. […]

Someone please remind me why news programmes listen so respectfully to analysts from major financial institutions…

[Via The Morning News]

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Research in Progress

August 3rd, 2013

Be sure that you have a free couple of hours before visiting Research in Progress.

Office politics as a PhD student

[Via Crooked Timber]

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