Lego gets it, you get it

Chris Anderson has a couple of posts about a Lego product line called Factory; you download the software, you design your whatever-it-is, then you order the bricks. No more buying more bricks than you need; you get exactly what you want. Apparently that was a bit of logistics problem for Lego at first, but they have now found a way to fulfill your order, your whole order and nothing but your order.

(Oh, by the way, the installer is evil. First you must agree that you cannot use the things you design with the software commercially, then the software sends data about your computer to the Lego death camps. Or something like that.)

Sight on Side of Everest

[kids looking at their own film] Harry Kikstra, bossman of the Mount Everest expedition that my brother is part of, has taken some great pictures of the daily life of Taschi Dzom, the village at a mere 4000 meters above sea level that the group has been using the past four days for acclimatization. My brother is the guy waving and carrying the video camera.

The expedition features a climber who loses sight the higher he gets, so he’ll be climbing the last part blind. The goal of the expedition is to raise money for the Himalayan Cataract Project, which aims to provide people with a curable blindness with the operations they need.

Photo: kids looking at themselves in my brother’s viewfinder.

Twisted twins

This strange face is a spectrogram, a plot of nine seconds of frequency (vertical axis) against time (horizontal axis) of Aphex Twin’s song Equation. Spectrograms are usually used for analysis of sound, and require a lossy domain shift. (Sound is the result of small pressure changes on your ear drums over time; the two elements that define it therefore are pressure/energy and time.) This is the first time I have heard of a case where the sound is derived from the spectrogram.

Edit: changed the order of two words that implied spectrograms can be made from a recording without a domain shift, which I do not think is true. 13-4-2006.

A visit to the end of the world

Maciej Ceglowski visits the southern-most city in the world:

They realized they were not the first to pass that way, for the path that led around the left of the Great Plain was well-worn and dotted with booths. At one they bought a box of fudge, which had been baked in an oven in a cave in the mountain, which was heated by the fire of the letters that formed God’s Final Message to His Creation. At another they bought some postcards. The letters had been blurred with an airbrush, “so as not to spoil the Big Surprise!” it said on the reverse.

OK, so that wasn’t by Maciej Ceglowski, and it wasn’t about the southern-most city in the world. But this Douglas Adams quote shows that entrepeneurs are the same everywhere, whether they work at the end of the world, the end of time, or any of a dozen or so locations that are the end of the world. This is Maciej:

The only substantial city on Tierra del Fuego is Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world. You will learn this interesting fact at the (southernmost!) airport and have it repeated it to you a dozen times before you can get to your southernmost hotel. Downtown, next to the Falklands Memorial, you will see an enormous sign reading “Welcome to the End of the World!”


Most of the visitors in Ushuaia don’t fly in, but arrive on one of the giant cruise ships that dock here during the summer, on the South American circuit. As a result, the city is an empire of steakhouses and porphyry penguin gift shops designed for people with five hours of shore leave. You can pretty much buy the southernmost anything you want, if you can stand the markup.

There’s more… Anyway, this is the third time I mentioned the Idle Words blog, you should be able to find your way there on your own now.

From the Dictionarie of the French and English Tongues

Currently making the rounds at Distributed Proofreaders is Cotgrave’s “Dictionarie of the French and English Tongues“.

– In the category They Have A Word For That?
Empiné: m. ée: f. Turned into a Pine tree.
Dessonger. To breake off sleepe with a snort, or start; to awake out of a dreame, starting.
Ichthyophagie: f. Fish-eating.
Icosaëdre. One of the fiue regular bodies in Geometrie; consists of twentie equiangle triangles.
Cacochymie: f. Euill disgestion; or, ill iuyce in the bodie.
Grumer. To shite grapes; or, to void a dung that shewes the dunguer to haue eaten grapes; (a word applyed most vnto wild Swine.)

– In the category No British Word For.
Estrindore. A kind of Brittish daunce. ¶Rab.

– In the category Ducks.
Estonnez comme canes. Dismayed like so manie Ducks.

– From the category Speak English, Man!
Iargonneur: m. A chatter, gibridgemunger, counterfeit rogue that speakes fustian, or a language whiche either himselfe, or his hearers vnderstands not.

– In the category Proofreader Only Remembered The Definition. Vaguely.
???. a type of play wherein one person gave something into the keeping of another person who then lost it to yet another person through trickerie on behalf of the third person’s part.

– In the category Heed That Second Definition And Its Juxtaposition:
Camisade: f. A cold Pie; also, the thin filme, or skin, which inwraps a child in the bed, or after-birth.
Calamine: f. A certaine yellow minerall substance, which fire consumes, but melts not; mixed with copper, it changes it into a fine brasse, that lookes like gold; also, the heauier foyle of brasse, or copper; which comes of the sparkles, and smoake that arise from the furnace, and cleaue to the roofe, and vpper sides, of the house, wherein it is melted; also, a kind of apple.

And of course, we’re also processing “Queen Anna’s New World of Words”. Again, from the category They Have A Word For That?
Ador[ee]a, the glory and honour belonging to corne in generall.

Furthermore, we’re working on “Etymological Dictionary of the Scots Language”, which has, in the category Words That Need Introducin’ To The English Language:
Constable, s. A large glass, the contents of which he is obliged to drink, who has not drunk as much as the rest of the company.

And finally from the category I Have Seen So Many Of These Things I Forget Which Dictionary This One Is From. The first one doubles in the category Missing The Point By A Continent:
Atheists (if they think there be a God) haue good cause to thanke God, acknowledging his mercie toward them in sparing vs.
Pet de masson. A fart in syrop; the fart that brings durt after it.

Have a nice meal!

Some 1500 proverbs from the French dictionary have been translated in renaissance English at

Kudos to all who posted these at the Distributed Proofreaders “Most amusing (or astonishing) text you’ve come across” forum topic.

Planetary Society’s 2005 in pictures

On December 31 last year (yes, I know, I am late) the Planetary Society, or rather its head blogger Emily Lakdawalla, posted it’s Year in Pictures, photos resulting from the exploration of our solar system. Apparently our ability to photograph or videotape space is becoming greater and greater, because there are some real beauts in there, from the continent that Huygens landed on to the Deep Impact video, from our newest (discovered) planet to the spongy surface of Hyperion.

And there probably wasn’t room for everything, as I seem to be missing the photo ESA took of what looks suspiciously like water on Mars.

[photo of an ice lake in a crater on Mars]
Photo credit: ESA
Photo of a crater made by ESA’s Mars Express, published 28 July 2005. The crater is located on Vastitas Borealis, a broad plain near Mars’ north pole. It is approximately 35 kilometers wide and the height measured from its floor to the top of the rim is approximately 2 km.

Of course this is just the space stuff that the Planetary Society concerns itself with. Last year also produced photos of a mock-up of the new Russian space shuttle Kliper, and of the Firefox star cluster (it’s not actually called that, but I find the name I gave it much better).

It’s incredible how much we learned about space in just the last year.

P.S. I cheated. The Firefox star cluster is from 2004. But I only cheated because I wanted to, not because 2005 needs it. Because it doesn’t.

P.P.S. The photo of the crater was made by Mars Express, not the crater itself.

P.P.P.S. Don’t you just miss writing real letters, on real paper?

The Lost Son

A long, long, long time ago, I used to help publish an amateur comic strip magazine called Iris. We had a couple of artists on board that went on and made a name for themselves, entirely deserved (Maaike Hartjes, Mark Retera), but the ones we liked best are still relatively unknown today.

I (we?) called these cartoonists The Big Three: Jan Krol, Gnoe and Paul Hoogma. What made their comics work was that their authors were stark raving mad, or, to put it nicely, busy hacking away several yards outside the mold. I think if you had shown them a mold, they would not have known what to do with it. In other words, they were light-years ahead of us.

To my delight I discover on this my birthday that Gnoe has started a website several years ago. A bit out of character perhaps, but I’ll take it.

[sample cartoon]
Translation: “Another one of those dubious achievments from the sixties: gay men kissing in public. They frighten our muslims and give us a bad name in Poland.”
(Cartoon copyright 2005 by Gnoe. Part of a series mocking the Christian fundie Back to the Fifties movement.)

Dear sirs and other assorted animals

People want to believe that their car is special, individual. When I was working the lot at the used car place, we used to keep a car out back and we would shove dead pigeons under the hood. Dead pigeons, man. That car was waiting for the perfect customer, a little old lady with a wicker purse. We convinced her the car ate pigeons. She was thrilled. We sold haunted cars, cursed cars. We sold cars that made you lucky in love. We sold cars that famous people had spat on.

(From an application letter to Toyota.)

As Goldfinger said: “Once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, and third time it’s enemy action.”

Well, this is the second time someone refers me to Joey Comeau’s fake job application letters, but I am a lazy git, so I already declare enemy action. By which, of course, I mean writing this entry.

Here’s some more, from a letter to Microsoft:

You have billions of dollars, and I will spend as much of it as I can. I don’t know what I will spend it on, and that’s part of the point. Tomorrow I’ll wake up and I’ll want to fund robotics research to make prettier butterflies that land on the fingers of children. I’ll want to give the world another credible Loch Ness Monster sighting, another downed UFO in the desert, another moon landing.

Tomorrow I’ll wake up certain that money can make the world into the best kind of theme park, where nobody knows they’re being had, where the suspension of disbelief is reinforced by seeing everything on the news at night. The news at night should have more smiling faces.

Let’s hope Joey will never ever get a job.

(Via Clancy’s.)

God, too, recommends Firefox

After one of the two head-rabbis of Israel admitted to using the Firefox webbrowser over Satan’s Internet Explorer, because it “keeps out the schmutz”, and almost all of New York admitted to same, now God has been discovered to give a glowing recommendation.

Source: Köllner Stadt-Anzeiger

To the left in the picture is the variable star V838 Monocerotis, to the right the Firefox logo. Skeptics may point out that the image of the V838 is much older than the design of the Firefox logo, and that it merely took the light of the former a long time to reach earth, and to them I would like to say: Pfrllt! Go back to masturbating!

Next up: Bill Gates getting wedgies from Invisible Man.

(Via Sargasso. Skeptics will take a break from their physical excertions to tell me that this is old news. As if I look like I care.)

The Right likes Microsoft

The Sargasso blog has tested it, and it turns out that people who read right-wing blogs have a slight preference for using Microsoft’s Internet Explorer web browser (Dutch), whereas the visitors of left wing blogs are split 50/50 on the whole browser issue.

Of course the methodology used is entirely unsound, as opposed to a recent survey held by video blog Rocketboom, which found out that everybody uses Firefox. The trick to statistical validity: have a good-looking blond chick present the data, and I will believe anything. Anything, I tells you!

Both items found through Ini Kim, who has quit his maternity leave, and is now blogging again. Marriage/fatherhood apparently does wondrous things to one’s hormonal balance, as Ini is the only one who manages to make somewhat lucid statements (Dutch) about Rocketboom’s “research”: if the survey proves anything, it is that regular people now understand the internet to the point that “they understand questions about it and are able to formulate a coherent answer”.