November 10th, 2007

The brain and music

An audio interview with my favorite Oliver Sacks, about his new book musicophilia. Four short video’s on that Amazon link too.

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Great! (from Science friday)

November 9th, 2007

The gravel in pocket

A while ago I got a link to apply for one of 25 new media players on the market. It’s from the resurrected Commodore and called a Gravel in Pocket. While I never win anything, this time I did, yeah! Here is an initial review.

The device comes nicely packaged, in charcoal-black. Included are a carrying case, neck band, earbuds, USB cable, driver CD and a charger. The charger has a USB connector only, so it charges through it’s USB connector. It;s basically a 2.8 inch screen with a index-finger “mouse” (like the joysticks Toshiba and IBM laptops had) in the back. Registration was a royal pain and it won’t run, even offline, without registration which I consider a no-buy. It’s a nice media player, playing audio and video, with a focus on Microsoft formats. A short pro-con-annoyance list, I will try to update once I have used it more.

Pros:

  • high coolness-factor (really);
  • crisp video, great audio;
  • nice user interface hardware;
  • great concept to stream over wireless; this is the future;
  • SD card slot for extra memory (works better for me than USB, SD shoves straight into my laptop).

Cons (software, software, software!):

  • crashed on me three times in one day. Screen blanks, end. A reset brings it back to life, including settings;
  • either heavily underpowered, or the firmware is poorly written. The user-interface is sluggish, taking a second to pause and multiple seconds to generate a table of contents;
  • flaky video player: the well known flight 405 video (mpg) played heavily flashing, Divx-in-avi “Shakespeare in Love” did only play audio. A heavily compressed Diana krall clip in .asf format played nicely;
  • bumpy or non working audio stream; I think this is more a problem of the chosen content providers. I don’t know if the streams are played through commodore;
  • no way to add streams *I* like;
  • can only upload photo’s and video’s (no audio) to a online “locker”. This really feels like shitty RIAA fear;
  • no uploading from the device (only from a PC) or sharing between devices;
  • audio out output is sunk in the device. Any normal 3.5mm plug won’t sink in deep enough. This is minor but so annoying. If the earbuds break (they do, really), one has to look very carefully at the width of the plug or they won’t work.

All in all I like it, but I would suggest Commodore to minimally make the following changes:

  • improve firmware quality, speed and add codecs;
  • stop forceful registration. It’s is a serious no-no. I would have returned it unused if I had payed for it;
  • add functionality to upload audio and to add streams. Stop even trying to preselect streams.
November 8th, 2007

The killing

From Wired News

If the courts decide that strapping some three-time loser to a gurney and pumping a lethal cocktail into his veins is, indeed, a violation of the Eighth, then there’s going to be some serious scrambling to find yet another “humane” way to kill someone.

They won’t find one. As sentient beings we want to live, and we fight for life with the last breath in our bodies. Dylan Thomas was merely stating the obvious when he urged us, “Do not go gentle into that good night…. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” Short of croaking in your sleep or while heavily sedated, few people go gently. (Incidentally, Thomas drank himself to death, so maybe the Department of Corrections should consider installing taverns on death row.)

There seems to be no way to end someone’s life deliberately and prematurely without pain or discomfort. So if the courts strike down lethal injection, where does that leave us? With the rope, the gun, the chair or the gas.

And then he fillets all of those one by one, plus some nice medieval additions like drawing and quartering and the guillotine. I won’t quote as you need to be a bit into it to appreciate.

So that’s not for me, either. I don’t want to spend the last 30 seconds of my earthly existence being aware that I’m 5-foot-1 instead of 5-foot-9, you know?

Actually, none of these methods, old or new, are very appealing.

We seem to be all out of options here. Well, there is another possibility, one so obvious that I almost hesitate to suggest it. Maybe the United States should rejoin civilization and just abolish capital punishment altogether.

Mildly related: In Iran, two illegal Afghan immigrants were publicly hanged yesterday for the raping of a woman from my country.

November 8th, 2007

The storm (2)

It’s spring-tide, meaning the moon is closest to the earth, so the tides are most violent. And there is a North-Western storm howling. Not a very powerful storm, about Bf9, but from the North-Western direction (full frontal on the coastline, and pushing up against the United Kingdom). And it will last for almost a full day. For the first time in 30 years, tonight full dike watch will be on throughout the entire coastal line. And the Oosterschelde storm surge barrier will be closed, and probably the Maesland barrier too, the two open dams.

These thingies are MASSIVE. Unless nature will seriously roar its head of course, but that will not happen tonight.

Added: All A-OK.

November 5th, 2007

The lousy vibrator

Too funny, www.ruiljevibratorin.nl (www.exchangeyourvibrator.nl)

Welcome!
Do you own a vibrator and you are not content with it? Maybe because it is bad, broken, wrong or old? Exchange it! On SUnday November 25th Mail & Female presents an exclusive Vibrator Exchange program. On this day, you can exchange your old vibrator for a high quality one. Free!

(…)

Why this campaign?

The vibrator is a ‘hot item’, everybody talks about it and more and more women have one. But….. what to look for when buying such a nice toy? There is so much on the market, but not all vibrators have the same quality. There is a lot of cheap crap that feels awful, contains toxics and (more importantly) is ineffective.

The consumer is not very knowledgeable in this area. Mail & female would like to inform vibrator loving users  about quality, or the lack of quality in vibrator-land. Mail & Female believes any woman should be good to herself and deserves a good, nice vibrator.

(…)

Disclaimer: My translation.

November 4th, 2007

The borders in the European Union

Border control between 15 European countries stopped a couple of years ago. That was and is quite a big issue, as we are talking sovereign nations, not states. Starting December 21st, most European countries will be added to that treaty. Added will be the eight East European countries and Malta. Not in the treaty are the United Kingdom, Ireland, Switzerland, Cyprus, Norway and Iceland. Especially for the East European countries this is truly a big deal, as this will make them more feel “part of the Union”. Welcome!

I would appreciate your honest opinion on a related matter. Should the EU countries photograph and fingerprint incoming US citizens?

November 3rd, 2007

The brain overruling the senses

Oh I love this.

If you want to do this yourself, make the dragon (print, cut, fold and glue. I did i, and believe me, it’s fun!)

November 3rd, 2007

The shock therapy

Sherwin Nuland, writer, former surgeon, held a very personal, emotional talk at TED about how he basically lost everything (read: his mind) and resurrected from it. Without him (then) knowing, actually, he didn’t knwo anything at all, he was on the brink of having a frontal lobe lobotomy, which would almost certainly have “cuckoo-ed” him. I know this sounds like an entry to skip. Don’t. Worth the 20 minutes.

Sherwin Nuland

Note: It came to me through the fantastic Miro, what I like to call Television 2.0.

November 3rd, 2007

The morning after (you died)

This morning you died. Care to know what happens next? Have a look at the French (English subtitled) Thanatorama.

Thanatorama

 Thanks Ursi, who thanked Miss Cellania at Neotorama.

November 3rd, 2007

The acknowledgement of motherhood

Suppose you are an unmarried couple, with children. To assume legal parenthood for the father is a relatively straightforward procedure here, circumventing the tedious adoption route. Basically, the (biological or not) father requests parenthood and the biological mother agrees, from  there it is a formal procedures, some paperwork. notary, city office, yack yack and done. I am don’t know how this works in other countries.

Now, a “committee of the wise” have produced a report to the administration advising to change the law to unify this procedure for lesbian couples: the non-biological mother applies for parenthood, and as long as the biological mother agrees, move on to get the rubber stamps so to speak et voila! What do you think? And how does this relate to laws in your country?