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Month: June 2009

flying backwards in time

flying backwards in time

I’ve been listening to Iron and Wine, Fleet Foxes, Devandra Barnhart, etc. just like everyone else (who doesn’t listen to the radio) for the last six months (or more).  Only today did I notice when watching this video how much these bands are a complete throwback to the 70s hippy singer songwriters. Obviously they have long hair and plaid and all that. And when you put it all together they’re all “aping” Nick Drake. But the beautiful thing is that unlike people like Jack Johnson they’re taking the best parts of Nick Drake and adding something to it (usually a folksy “mountain people” feel). Being that the music is a throwback to a time without synthesizers, autotune, etc. it is a welcome change from overproduced completely digitized music. JayZ thinks he brought on the “death of autotune,” but it was really these guys who are taking acoustic songwriting rock and roll back to basics, perhaps infusing even more emotion into the music than Paul Simon or Cat Stevens Mr. I Hate My Name.  The sad or poignant songs that Paul Simon wrote were great, but they were about 1/10 of every album.  Here we have a new crop of musicians (all about my age… which makes me think I’m wasting my life again) who “bring the pain” with every song.   Of course it isn’t real pain.  This isn’t acoustic emo.  To some pain simply means crying for how beautiful the world is to behold.

or…. you could turn on KROQ and listen to this shitpile:

king

king

you know that new burger king commercial where a transformer bursts through the wall of a burger king and the robot looks like the “king” character? That was shot down the street from my house about a month ago. They built a wall/room onto the side of the BK at Winnetka and Sherman Way… and then blew open a giant hole in it… and left it that way for two days. Kinda funny actually seeing the commercial and thinking “oh yeah!” and realizing you may have watched them filming, because all you would have seen was some dude pretending to see a giant robot. So apparently my neighborhood is an “average looking” neighborhood suitable for commercial filming. okay. Guess that is better than another warning from the mayor about the Canoga Park Alabamas.

Palm Pre review

Palm Pre review

 

Wednesday night I came home from class to find a box from Sprint.  As I’ve mentioned before, I’d been considering the Pre for some time.  Last week I stopped by a different Sprint store in the valley and tried it out.  I have a friend that is a Sprint corporate rep and she “hooked me up” with a cheaper plan and cheaper deal on the phone than the general public would get.  Lets just say I’m paying for an iphone 2G and getting a Pre… and paying for Verizon 450 minutes and no data… but getting 450 minutes and unlimited data…

At least that is what she said.  I’ve been dinged $340 up front and supposedly the money will come off in a rebate and then discounted on subsequent bills after the first.   Unfortunately my Pre has the same two little lighter colored sections of the screen (or “burnt” sections) on the bottom corners.  These spots are only noticeable when looking at a black screen or white screen (they appear yellow against white), but don’t otherwise detract from the experience. My rep friend says that I can just exchange the phone for a new one at any store – so I’ll do that soon.  Supposedly since all my data is stored with palm in the cloud I can swap phones without worrying about data loss. Other than those screen spots I like the device.  A lot.

I suppose anything would be great compared to a MotoQ, but my friends with Storms and WinMo devices liked it as well.  The layout (specifically the choice of fonts) is very nice; Palm hired a font foundry to create a new set of fonts for the phone and I’m sure any typographer would agree they’re delicious.  The “gestures” are completely intuitive.  The phone activation intro teaches you how to use the “back” gesture for five minutes, but everyone I’m sure understands after one example. What you don’t see in the ads or on the websites is that there are LEDs that glow in the gesture area when you use this gesture, and the little ball (not a trackball) lights up as well.  The use of an off screen gesture area is great and speeds up the process of doing things like calendaring appointments and making task lists… not to mention web-browsing.  There is also a slight “ripple” effect when you touch anywhere on the screen, which is nice feedback.

As for physical keyboard vs. on-screen I’m not sure there is a great difference.  If I had to choose one I’d probably lean towards the physical keyboard because I’ve gotten used to texting on the keyboard of the Q, and every time I’ve tried to do it on an iphone or LG or whatever my texts become a garbled mess.  So far I’ve IMed three people on the Pre and not had to fix my words once.  There is something about the tactile sense of pushing the button down that lets you proceed to the next one that much faster.  I don’t have to wait for a letter to light up before going to the next.

But, like I said, the keyboard isn’t why I bought this phone.  I bought this phone because of its reliance on push notifications, OTA information syncing and account conglomeration.  Within a minute of using the phone I was looking at a calendar that combined my work exchange (note, EXCHANGE, not just outlook) calendar, google calendar and facebook calendar (not that I know what the hell that is…).  At first I was disappointed that it didn’t sync my google mail task list with exchange.  Then I realized that the google mail task list was one of those “labs” features that isn’t official yet.  Now that I have the phone I’m switching back to the outlook task list since I can add notes, due dates, etc. ALL FROM THE PHONE.  And once I’ve changed something on my calendar, email or notes, it is updated immediately OTA (over the air).  This is so convenient.

Also, I really don’t know how iphone (or any other smartphone users) can put up with not being able to multitask.  I can make a phone call, put the phone on speaker, respond to an IM or text from somebody else, check ESPN, watch a youtube video and check my GPS location on google maps … all without stopping any of them to do the next.   The “cards” system is a very intuitive way to display this.  Basically the “cards” are the same as windows on a PC, and instead of hitting an “x” to close you just push them off the top of the screen.  Oh, and the Pre was developed to save the battery by leaving wifi on all the time (which is the opposite of every other phone).  What this means is when I go into a wifi area I automatically get the speed of that network without even thinking about it (which means my phone is incredibly fast at home of course).  The Sprint 3G network is also pretty fast, I don’t notice a discernible difference between the 3G network when I’m at work and my own broadband wifi at home.

There have been many complaints about the lack of apps.  I agree partially, as there only around 20.  However, this phone JUST launched and developers were just given the development code weeks ago.  Doesn’t anyone remember the “apps debacle” back in the early days of the iphone?  There was nothing available and Apple was severely limiting who could make apps.  The lack of a tetris app for the Pre is shocking though!   Although, I won’t need Tetris to kill time now that I can surf the web…

Apparently Sprint’s own phone support people aren’t very knowledgeable about the phone either.  I had to call support to port my number yesterday and spent an hour on the phone with the guy because he couldn’t figure out how to do anything.  He would tell me to hit keys on the phone that didn’t exist (I think he kept confusing the Pre with the Centro).  But, in any event, I eventually DID get the number ported and everything works fine now.  Having the phone delivered next day AM was a nice touch by Sprint.  Of course, maybe this is due to the fact that my friend handles corporate accounts and I wouldn’t have received this treatment as a regular joe… who knows?

To emphasize its competitive nature with the iphone the Pre comes with ear buds.  I tried them out last night, they aren’t terrible, but I think I’ll get some “real” headphones for travelling.  The mp3 player is decent and the headphone jack is a standard one (big plus!).  However, as an audiophile I do have to complain about the lack of EQ on the player.  Also, the 8GB storage limit is a downer since they decided to remove the removable storage from the phone.   I may get a Zune HD to listen to music instead, haven’t decided yet.  (maybe I don’t need a DAP at all, I’ve gotten by just fine so far)

Perhaps the most pleasant surprise on the phone is its “synergy” component.  The phone merges data from all contact sources, email, outlook, facebook, etc. into one profile.  For example, by just entering my account info on activiation I now automatically have a dossier on everyone I know, including birth dates, photos, all their phone numbers, all their emails, etc…. without doing anything more than entering my email accounts (which I was doing for email retreival and calendar…not this…).  I didn’t realize how in depth this went – and was surprised when I tried to “test” call Cindy wednesday.  When I pulled up her contact info -boom! – there was a big picture of her.  turns out the synergy also pulls everyone’s facebook profile photo and uses that for their contact photo in your addressbook.   I remember trying to assign each of my motoQ contacts a photo and what a hassle that was – and here the Pre does it without thinking. 

I was worried that the Pre would feel big in my pocket as it isn’t as flat as the Q.  However, it actually fits better because the entire surface is one even curve.  So it feels like dropping in a big polished pebble, whereas the Q had odd angles and points that would catch on things.  Since it is smaller in most aspects it also feels easier to hold in one hand and operate than the iphone.  Of course that comes at the sacrifice of some screen real estate, but not in resolution – the Pre actually has a higher res screen because it packs the same amount of pixels as the iphone into a smaller space.

The one thing that I thought was silly about the Pre was the curved screen edges.  The screen itself isn’t really curved in the corner… just the way the OS displays.  I get it, the phone is curved itself, so this echoes in the OS… but… c’mon.  Not a big deal, but please, I can tell where the screen “ends” are just some black pixels that look like curved corners.   I’m an old screen real estate guy (30″ + 20″ multi monitor set-up at home), so sacrificing those 20 or so pixels to make the corners curved seems like a waste.

uh-oh

uh-oh

Doesn’t this sound like the beginning of an old science fiction invasion story?

triggering a six-mile-high explosion that scientists hope will confirm whether water is frozen in the perpetual darkness of craters near the moon’s south pole.”

Instead, the overeager scientists unleashed the fury of the Moon Men, who had lived peacefully for eons underneath the moons crust.  Like battering a beehive for imagined honey, man’s insatiable curiosity would soon feel the sting of a thousand Moon Lasers.   As the massive lunar nuclear dust cloud billowed into space, not flattening out like an earthbound explosion, strange things started to happen.  As the dust poured into the cosmos in a straight line, set adrift on the currents of the sun’s gravity, strange new elements began to emerge from the caverns and depths of the rock below. 

Astronomers first looked in their telescopes and thought to see what was black ash streaming into the lunar sky.  At first the scientific community was abuzz; was the moon volcanic?  (Had we created new life, like Xenu?)

When the unmanned spacecraft following the blast failed to send its observations upon landing, excitement turned to grave concern.  When scientists noticed “strange new meteorites” in the sky heading in our direction, concern turned to panic.

When the meteorites landed, panic turned to fear.  And when the Moon Men emerged, fear turned to chaos and death.  Not even a valiant speech by President Eisenhower on the steps of the capital before the Supreme Moon Man could sway the beasts fury.  Soon the Earth would be another crater-filled lifeless ball hanging in the night sky, peered at by future inhabitants on a far away planet bathed in red dust, also wondering if they too were alone in the emptiness of space.

riding past

riding past

On Saturday I drove past this.  Kind of weird that all the Iranians in America are shocked about this.  At least the Iranians didn’t have the supreme court appoint their “winner.”  (instead they had – like out of a sci-fi film- their “supreme leader”)  You tell me if this looks like “thousands of protestors.”  Of course this was taken at 5:30 (from the rooftop LA Fitness parking down the street) and by 6:30 they were all gone, so maybe this was the dwindling from the larger crowd earlier.

I also drove past this on Sunday.  Sam and I were on our way to Pearl Art Supply so I could buy a tiny brush for one of the portraits I’m doing (stubble is not easy for acrylic paint).  This was of course after watching Moon.  I won’t say Moon was great, but it was pretty good for a low budget film.  Clint Mansel did the score, but it wasn’t really noticeable (and maybe that means it was done right) until one of the last scenes where the “sad piano” starts to get laid on a little thick.  The special effects were good for the most part, certain exterior shots of the moonbase and vehicles were obvious CG, but with a small budget I think they pulled it off fairly well.  Better than something like thisanyway.  I could see most of the surprises ten minutes before the characters in the movie, but thankfully the “wow” moments were done realistically (no close-ups on gaping mouthed actors).  Most of my gripes (of which there aren’t many) would give away too much of the movie to anyone that hasn’t seen it (which, for a while, is anyone not in New York City or Los Angeles).  One thing I can give away though is that the movie appears to take place (due to dates on “old” video that is watched) between 2015 and 2030.   This creates a problem with the multiple “flights home” that Sam watches.  Since we later find out that a key character from his past is a teenager, that means there could have only been a maximum of five “missions” on the base, yet we watch more than five astronauts on the tapes.  This may have been something that the director chose to overlook for effect. However, everything else, the logic the characters use about their situation is very scientific (they are astronauts after all), so for them not to deduce that there would have only been 3 or 4 astronauts before them is kind of weird.  The true purpose of the “rescue” crew was obvious to everyone in the audience long before the characters on the screen, which was weird because they should be the most suspicious.  And why were they suspicious?  Because one of them overheard the station computer, Gertie, talking to the bosses on Earth.   Surely the computer could talk to the bosses on earth on their end… not requiring an actual vocal response at the  moon.  This would be like me checking my email by calling the google server on my telephone and having it verbally read me my mail instead of logging into my account via the internet.  Surely video transmissions from the Moon are more expensive than data.

I was going to rant about the nonexistent delay of signal between the earth and moon as well, but it turns out that is only about 3 seconds in real life, so I’ll give the movie a pass on that point (I think I was thinking of Mars, which is something like twelve minutes of signal delay).

Gertie, the station robot, was an obvious nod to HAL9000, although at a crucial point in the film, it seems like we’re presented with a far better vision of how humans and robots interact.  Perhaps this is only because Gertie is somewhat “dumber” than HAL.

In that same vein, before Moon is the new trailer to 9 which reveals the cause of humanities destruction… once again… “the machines.”  Kind of disappointing, but it explains the machines that are hunting “the 9.”  The new trailer also explains how these little puppet men are “alive” – they were given “the essence of life” by a scientist before the humans were destroyed (by the machines).    But… why?  If all humans are going to die, why would a human care about giving inanimate objects “the essence of life.”  I hope we’re given a reason in the film, because otherwise that doesn’t make much sense.  I guess we’ll find out in September.

Oh, and the “AMC preview” (the crap BEFORE the “real” trailers start) was a piece on District 9 that actually shows a lot more about the movie than any of the trailers so far.  We see more of the aliens, some action, and actually the main character/s in the film (which we don’t see in the current trailers).   And we also learn that Peter Jackson (the film’s producer) lost a LOT of weight (but not any of that crazy hair).  Although this “preview” basically reveals everything about the aliens, I think this was a calculated decision by the director and producer.  I think they’re showing that the movie is more of an action drama and not dominated by reveals of aliens and their ships/weapons/etc.  Very similar to how Moon was not dominated by special effects shots, there is nothing effects wise that you don’t see in the trailer, but that is okay, because the story is a drama play about the value of life and what “human” means.  …which is similar to District 9 as well.  This new era of cheap but passable computer generated effects means that directors are free to make movies about the story, rather than about the effects (I’m sure Michael Bay hasn’t got the message yet).  Indie films can be set in space without looking cheesy, revealing a cheesy effects shot can sometimes ruin a film no matter how great the actors are.

More spinning apples

More spinning apples

This ridiculous article now circulating on the interwebs intends to “prove” by research that Iphone users are “younger, richer and more productive” than other smartphone users.

If you actually look at the data this is another case of interpreting results as creatively as possible.

Let’s break it down…

Younger:  The results show that 30% of iphone users are generation Y and 38% are generation X.  And?    So what?  Since that is the percentage of those polled that HAVE a smartphone that means over 60% of each generation is using something else… and I doubt it’s a RAZR.

Richer:  Among those carrying smartphones, 67% have an iphone.  This is another example of suggestive display of data.  In a large city a college educated adult making $70,000 a year is hardly a huge acheivement (especially if you’re in your 30s).  “Ah, but that is not just those making 70k, but everyone making above 70k as well – and of all those 67% have iphones!” you say…  Well, think about this.. how many 500k salary CEOs are there and how many 75k middle managers are there?  Do you think it is a 1:1 ratio?  And which of those two types (the boss or the employee) is using an iphone?  Think!

Which brings me to the most hilarious assumption: Iphone users are more “productive than other smartphone users.  Why, you ask?

“Those who carry Apple’s handheld device are more likely to stay connected to their employer’s network.”

#1 if you dig deeper into the “data” their explanation for this is that the Iphone users “often leave their laptop at work” suggesting they use their iphone to do work the rest of the night.  Another reason is that the iphone users use the internet on their phone much more.  What do either of those have to do with productivity?  Thus the sly usage of the work “likely” in the statement above.  Twittering from the coffee shop after work does not count as “being more productive.”  Neither does leaving your company laptop AT WORK when you go home… Who makes $70,000 or more and doesn’t have another computer at home??!

It is also a careless assumption that this internet usage is spent working because the iphone does not have the same “network connection” tools available on other smartphones (running windows mobile).  Ask an IT specialist.  Yes, you can rig an iphone to sync with outlook – but it falls flat when doing things like OTA outlook syncing, exchange server syncing, remote desktop applications, etc.  The iphone couldn’t even send an MMS message until…well… as of this writing it still can’t since the “S” model isn’t out yet.

Oh, and try rewriting code remotely on your company server without being able to copy and paste… or even sending the server location of a file to another employee without being able to copy and paste…   Good luck.

Oh, and accessing the network when not at work doesn’t make you more productive.  It means you can’t get your job done when you’re at work… which…usually means you’re not productive (or you’re suffering under mismanagement and have too much work).

I’m positive you could spin these same numbers to support Blackberry except for the “younger” part.  The Blackberry was never seen as a toy with a billion apps/games to download for fun.  I guess Apple wins there.

PS – the Storm and Pre don’t have 50,000 apps in their catalog because they aren’t two years old.  I’m sure the VCR manufacturers used this argument to convince people not to buy DVD players in 1997.  You could use the Apple App Catalog argument to explain why we all still have cassette decks in our cars, analog broadcast television, encyclopedias on our shelves, a booming postal service delivering more personal letters than ever, ever-growing usage of land line telephones and so on….

oh wait… that’s right, the network effect (in economic terms) only holds until a superior product is released and all those things I mentioned, despite having a vast network of available products were replaced by a new product with few options (at first).  Having a lot of something only works if it is something people still want.

The only reason people still “want” the iphone is because there are so few other valid choices to replace it in the United States.

Little known fact:  Despite the fact that I’m sure the new 3GS commercials will tout the phone as the fastest out there – the Pre has a processor 100 Mhz faster.  Apple may be technically right, the iphone probably will seem faster… because it can only do one thing at a time.

Okay, I think I’ve spent more time refuting this article than the original author spent researching it…

calm down, Andrew… (counting to ten slowly)…

Editor’s Note:  I’m actually disappointed that Apple didn’t come out with a “real” new phone last week.  Apple (recently) has been a force in the industry to spur technological development in its competition.  A teeny tiny iphone would have forced competitors to do the same… I hope this 3GS nonsense doesn’t convince BlackBerry and Palm (and HTC) that they can just sit back and shove slightly faster processors in their phones instead of innovate.  Oh, and yes, 32GB would be nice to have on my phone – Palm was incredibly stupid to remove their removable media slot from the Pre – since a new 64GB SD card is about to be released….

Art Walk June 2009

Art Walk June 2009

After work I hurried downtown to meet Alan and Sam for the Art Walk.  This month was not as good as last month.  Strangely, a few galleries didn’t even stay open past 8pm. 

Here are a few of the highlights and low lights:

At one of the buildings (this one had a political exhibit in October the last time it was open) there was a motorcycle exhibit.

Just down the block was the infamous “traveling art gallery;” a gallery made inside of a truck.  The guy at the steps said “Everybody said that last time we were the best gallery.”  Take a look at their centerpiece below and let me know if you think they’ll take that honor for June:

Next up we went to Phartika (or something like that) gallery on the corner.  As always, the art is mediocre, but this gallery has more art snobs stuffed in than any other.  At the back was a guy playing a strange instrument.  Despite looking like a Roman shield this thing actually sounded like a combination of a classical guitar and theramin.

I don’t know what these girls were selling, but I wasn’t buying..

and I especially wasn’t going to be buying if they were selling this Mike Rivero thing…

Around the corner was the “upstairs” gallery.  There were a few things there that I kind of liked… and I thought I photographed the artist names, but apparently I only got the names of the pieces, so I’ll just list these without any info.

I couldn’t decide if I liked this one or not:

There were a few of these cool blurry tree paintings by a girl named Michelle (something).

The gallery had a DJ (a lot of galleries are doing this now, and it gets annoying when they get loud).

At another gallery we were treated to this masterpiece:

my god… stairs… that go nowhere… so groundbreaking!

This Deborah Martin large painting was decent though:

At a nearby small gallery (the one by Phyliss Stein that has all the pornographic books and comic books) there was a photography exhibit about cosplay – and to make it more real they had a girl in cosplay herself, although her costume looked more like just a regular goofy goth girl one… shame I couldn’t get a better shot.

Next we came across a very ornate building that perhaps used to be some kind of theater (unclear).  There was a band performing in a large room with a screen in front of them.  On the screen was a projection of a puppet that someone was jiggling around in front of the light of the projector.  I’m sure it seemed more impressive in their imagination.

Even the Hive was dissapointing this time.  A lot of the usual painterly work was replaced by “sculptures” of found objects, silhouette cut-outs, etc.

This painting was kind of Beksinski-ish I thought:

The next door Infusion Gallery wasn’t great either.  They seem to be getting worse every time.  Here are some $1500 paintings…

   

And here are some steals for a thousand dollars…

 

Walking back from the Hive to the main hub of the artwalk (around 5th and Main) we saw this.  There was construction going on, so this had to be unintentional -but I’ll be damned if this wasn’t the best sculpture we saw all night… the heavy crane arm resting inches above the finely sculpted hood…life kept in such a precarious balance… 

A few doors down we came upon a small gallery with a performer.  I don’t know if she was trying to imitate Judy Tenuta or not… but whatever she was doing it wasn’t very good.

Back at the main hub the former parking lot had grabbed the band that usually sets up across the street in front of Phartika gallery.  They were once again doing their extended reggae edition of AfroMan’s “Because I got High.”

A lot of what was being sold and what was demonstrated in the lot was not great, but Michael Pukac had moved his live painting demonstration from the “upstairs gallery” to here:

Down into the deep end of the parking lot was the same “street artist” that is usually further down the block past the theater.  I think he figured out that the parking lot allowed him more space to “perform” than the sidewalk.  I always wonder if this guy has any work in the galleries, or if he is just doing these portraits (maybe, because he has obviously perfected it).

It was dissapointingthat there wasn’t a lot of good stuff on the art walk this time, but it does give me more motivation to continue with my own work.  I’m debating starting to post my “works in progress” on this blog like so many others do on theirs.  I’ve done 8 or 9 paintings in the last two months, and I’ve always got something in the oven.  I just finished four 2’x4′ paintings and now I’m working on personal portraits.  My intention is to paint enough 9″x9″ wood panel portraits to fill up a wall.  The wall will be filled with all the people (or at least some) that influenced my life.  Since our personality is made up partially from our interactions with others I’m thinking that once it is done it will be a collective self-portrait, as all these people made up some small part of me.

old man knife

old man knife

I noticed a peculiar generational gap this morning.

In a morning meeting with other “executives” of our company I noticed one of our older guys pull out a pocket knife to carve an extra piece of plastic off of his starbucks lid.

#1 I thought …okay, overkill, right?

#2 I thought… I know a lot of older guys that carry pocket knives… but I don’t know anyone under 50 years old that carries one.

#3 I thought… is this (the lack of a pocket knife) another one of those things (like gay marriage) that will be completely accepted without question by future generations, but would seem weird (at best) by past generations?

#4 I thought … Is this an example of the contrast between generations raised in fear of communist nuclear annihilation and the selfish struggle afterwards and generations raised on more hopeful and peaceful visions of the future?  John Wayne vs. Captain Picard?

Was the pocket knife a useful resource, as necessary for daily life as the cell phone is today?  Is the pocket knife the same as a concealed firearm, a tool to be used in distress very rarely but (in the past) thought to be better to have than not?

I’m 28 and I don’t know anyone my age or near it not currently in law enforcement or the military that owns a gun.  Yes, probably some of my high school classmates have them, but none of the classmates I regularly still speak with.  I have some friends in Los Angeles that occasionally go to a shooting range, but they aren’t bringing their own guns.

Contrast that with my father, who I’m sure already had started his own (now quite impressive) arms collection by my age.

Note also that I don’t see this disinterest in gun ownership as something linked to gun control.  My generation smokes less as well, but smoking was never made illegal.  The two are not corollary.  Instead guns have somehow (and pocketknives by association) been deemed an unnecessary protection mechanism.  I think years of “safety” information have instilled a sense of avoiding danger rather than preparing to counter it.  Women are told not to walk down the dark alley instead of walking down there with a pistol in their purse “in case.”

So, what did y’all (guys born before 1960) do with those pocket knives all the time anyway?  I’m hard pressed to find a reason to use one in day to day life.

And yes, I find it completely ironic that all these imbeciles that know having a gun in the house is bad news around small children see nothing wrong with a “cute” pet rottweiler…