Nigerian Scifi Movies

posted in: Art, Fun | 0

Technology has really opened up possibilities for independent film makers.

The great thing about the internet, and technology in general, has opened up a world of opportunity for both creators and consumers. When I was younger, the barriers to entry for the creative world were pretty steep and, in some cases, virtually insurmountable. But, now that so many people can get their hands on relatively inexpensive electronics and direct access to an audience via the internet, that paradigm is shifting. For instance, the self-publishing world has really exploded, pumping the markets full of cheap ebooks. Granted, their quality varies wildly, but at the price-point of some of these, more people are willing to take a risk on some new author than ever before.
The same, as it turns out, is true for video and movie production. It seems like more and more people are making movies of all kinds and sharing them directly with viewers, either through their websites or via a service like YouTube. Again, the quality varies significantly, but for a 10 or 15 minute movie, I’m definitely willing to take a look. In fact, I backed two movies on Kickstarter myself, the sadly unsuccessful Tube Open Movie, which was a total failure, and the actually really fantastic Ghosts With Shit Jobs, a wonderful scifi movie about a future where the Chinese economy outstrips our own and giant spiders wreak havoc.
This week, thanks to Boing Boing, I’ve got a link to a collection of Nigerian science fiction shorts. Boing Boing shares their ‘showpiece’ film, Z:The Beginning, but the Critics Company YouTube channel has a lot more where that came from.
These short films are definitely worth a look. It’s a whole other set of thoughts about the future than we’re used to seeing in the West. And, a great way to waste some time on a Friday afternoon!
Enjoy!

Ishkur’s Guide to Electronic Music

posted in: Fun, music | 1

A semi-visual guide to electronic music history.

I know sometimes when I share things on Friday, I’m a little late to the party. This week is no exception to that, but since this made the rounds a couple weeks ago, and the zeitgeist has a short memory in social media, I’m just going to share it again anyway. Seriously, you may have missed it when it came around, or already forgotten it, but this site is really good.
The quest to find new music has been something I pursue periodically. When I was in school, I wasn’t all that into music, really. I mean, I hung out with music majors in college, but that generally meant listening to jazz or someone from music history, not something contemporary. But, I read something once about how people get stuck in a musical genre or time-period and never expand their regular listening past that focus at some point in their lives. It sounded to me like a prescription for dying inside and becoming an old man before my time. So, vowing to cheat death, at least when it came to my inner child’s musical tastes, I’ve always sought out new music. And, by that I mean, music that’s new to me. That quest has led me down many a dark, internet alley in search of something new to groove to and resulted in a music collection that ranges from ABBA to Rob Zombie to Mongolian hard rock to hymns on the ukulele to, well, you get the idea. It’s pretty varied. But, I’m still always looking for more.
That brought me to Ishkur’s Guide to Electronic Music. It is just what the title says; Ishkur’s very personal guide to electronic music. But, let me tell you, it’s fabulous. First of all, it’s got a great interface that shows you how he breaks out the genres and the time-periods they were in. But, if you zoom in and click on a segment, it starts playing Ishkur’s, again, very personal, choice for the “best” of that genre in that year. When it starts playing, the information is displayed at the bottom of the browser, for your information and education. And, if you click the circled “i” icon, you can get a real education about the genre you’re listening to at the moment.
Whether you’re looking for new music or not, it’s definitely worth a look.
And, it’s a great way to warm up for your weekend!

Life Calculations

Just what is the cost of wasting time on Facebook?

One of the things that really impressed me in my college Economics classes was the idea of “opportunity cost”. Now, thanks to my ruthlessly practical upbringing and my father’s background in business and economics, I knew full well what “opportunity costs” were well before I got to college. I don’t think he ever called it that, but I grasped the concept early on. In fact, as I reflect at the theoretical half-way point of my life, preparing for my official mid-life crisis, it occurs to me that the greatest losses in my life are not financial or material, but lost opportunities and lost time. Really, for me at least, those two things are intimately linked. Every lost opportunity was lost due to me wasting time in some way. Of course, that’s a pretty ephemeral thing to try and quantify. It’s a little like trying to prove a negative event, which, if you haven’t attempted to do, trust me, is quite a challenge.
So, you can imagine how excited I was to find Everyday Life Calculators on the OMNI Calculator website. Here, finally, I could measure things like the cost of social media in real, measurable terms of money not earned and books not read, among other things, when I was wasting time on the social media du jour. (Which for me, lately has been Instagram, and Pinterest. Don’t judge! You’re wasting time reading my blog!)
So, now, before you spend all weekend getting jealous of the curated lives you see on Instagram or Facebook, calculate how many books you can read instead. Or how many calories you can burn at the gym. Or how much practice time you can get in on the ukulele. Yikes!
See you next week, when I’ll hopefully have something more motivating and less shaming for you to play with.
Enjoy your weekend!

Astronaut Aptitude Test

posted in: Fun, Red Herrings | 1

Could you cut it as an astronaut?

Last month was the 50th anniversary of the Apollo Moon landing, which means that I’m about as old as our modern space program. Or, as I like to think of it, I’m a child of the space age. That seems much more palatable than being almost as old as NASA.
In any case, for the past month or so everyone has been talking about space and the Moon and possibly returning to the Moon on the way to Mars. All that got me thinking about how every kid’s dream was to be an astronaut when I was little. We all thought we’d somehow be able to go to space by now. And, I mean, everyone would be there, as regular as air travel is now, like they were in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Sadly, it takes a little bit more than just booking a ticket to get into space, and I probably wouldn’t have ever been eligible. But, in the spirit of dreams and our hopeful return to the Moon, this week, I’m sharing a link to The Astronaut Test, so you can see if you have “the right stuff” to qualify as an Astronaut Candidate. The questions are drawn from the actual, official NASA Astronaut Candidate requirements and tests.
Why not take the 15 question quiz and dream of the stars while you take a break from work?

Augmented Reality Pets

posted in: Art, Fun | 0

Not all uses for technology are recommended.

Look, I love technology and all the incredible things it can do for us, but even I know that too much reliance on some of it can really be a problem. The potential of augmented reality is pretty awesome, but, like anything, it can go awry. And, I’m sure you’re wondering what that has to do with my regular Fun Stuff on Friday post, right? Well, this week I have a free, short film for you about the upside, and potential downside, of augmented virtual reality “pets” titled Strange Beasts. And, yes, it is fiction, but it’s pretty good especially for being a short. I won’t spoil it by revealing too much, but definitely go check it out.
What else are you going to do to waste time on a break on Friday?

Technochanting and Tinnitus Relief

I am my own white noise generator, thanks to tinnitus from too many years working in server rooms.

Seriously, you have no idea, if you don’t suffer from tinnitus, just how distracting omnipresent sound in your ears can be sometimes. Most of the time, I don’t have a big issue with it, but some days, it can be quite maddening. I’ve tried all kinds of things for it and, so far, all the doctors I’ve talked to about my tinnitus basically have said that it’s just something I’m stuck with forever. But, the other day, while looking at a website for generating semi-random Gregorian chants for background music, which is pretty awesome all by itself, I found something called Neural Symphony, Neuromodulated Tinnitus Relief. They’re both using the same sound generation enging on a site called MyNoise.net. Honestly, I was just going to serve up the Gregorian chant toy for a strange, fun thing on Friday, but then I tried the other one. I can’t say I got the same results that others have talked about, but I can promise I’ll try some more combinations of settings to see if I can improve the results.
It works like this; go to the link and let the sounds play over your headphones. In theory, the sounds, developed by Steve Harrison from the Tinnitus Talk Support Forum work to cancel out the sounds in a tinnitus sufferer’s ears, either while we listen to them or, if we get the right settings and sounds, for some time after we listen to them. So far, I haven’t had a lot of success with the after listening part, but the rest definitely helps. If you have tinnitus, check it out! And, if you don’t, count your blessings and try the Gregorian chant toy, instead.

Burning Daylight

posted in: Art, Fun, Personal Care | 0

There’s only so many hours in a day.

And, only so many of them are lit by the biggest nuclear reactor in our solar system; the Sun.
Not too many weeks ago, we passed the Summer Solstice which is the day of the year that has the most sunlight hours. For the next six months, or so, each day has less and less light until we get to the Winter Solstice and that process reverses. In Houston, a lot of those hours are too hot to really enjoy, but I still like to know how many I have left in a day. Now, I don’t have to wonder, or fumble with an app on my phone. Instead, I can go to Sunshine.fyi and see, in real time, just how much of my visible day is left. Also, there’s a link to add it as a Chrome app, but that link seems to be broken at the time of writing this post. Hopefully, the creator will fix it.
So, save the page and watch your time!
And, most of all, get out there before the Sun is gone for the day!

2 Kooky Book Toys

posted in: Art, Fun, The Infinite Library | 1

That’s two digital book-related toys.

Oddly enough, I found these two “living infographics” via two totally different paths, but they both ended up at the same site; The Pudding, a “…digital publication that explains ideas debated in culture with visual essays”. It’s a cool site, really, with some great data visualizations. I’m going to share two of them that, obviously, relate to books.
First, there’s the Hipster Summer Reading List 2019. It’s really what it says it is; a very snooty, self-important reading list. The idea is that kids in school get Summer reading lists to help keep their little brains engaged over the break from actual school where all learning takes place. But, when we become adults, no one programs literature for us the same way any more. This interactive infographic helps you generate one for yourself. There are settings for relative obscurity and difficulty as well as a publication year slider. I’m sure they’re all “classics” in some sense or another, but they were all books I’d never ready, which, I suppose, is partly the point.
The other interactive infographic is a page of 11 years of top-selling book covers, arranged by visual similarity. It’s kind of fascinating to see the way genres group together around certain colors and stylistic choices. It makes sense, really, since they’re all competing for the same eyeballs that they’d all end up looking similar. A kind of natural selection of book cover design. Either way, a fascinating way to spend a few minutes.

In fact, I think they’re both pretty fascinating ways to spend a few minutes playing instead of working on a Friday.
So, enjoy!

Free Windows 10 Tools

Two free utilities to help tame Windows 10.

Y’all know I love free stuff and share it with you often here, especially on Friday. Actually, I pretty much exclusively post and share anything at all on Fridays, but, still, you get my point. In any case, virtually all consumer laptops and desktops are sold with Windows 10 now, but most of us are still trying to get all the settings and configurations locked down the way we like. Or maybe that’s just the professional geeks like me. Either way, with the goal of taming Windows 10 just a little bit more, I have two utilities from the same company to share with you this week. Both are free for home (ie. non-commercial) users.
First there’s O&O ShutUp10, which lets you get tighter control over what parts of Windows 10 communicates with Microsoft and advertisers. You don’t even need to install it. Just download it and run it. It will give you suggestions and hints on locking down location services and privacy settings so that you aren’t leaking information you don’t want to share.
The other is O&O AppBuster which lets you remove the automatically installed apps that Microsoft includes with Windows 10, whether you want them or not. It also lets you remove the hidden apps that seem like they’re part of the operating system but really aren’t. So, for instance, if you wanted to get rid of all the XBOX 360 cruft on your Windows 10 laptop, since you don’t play games but are writing the great American novel, this app would let you do that. Also, just like the last one, it’s free and doesn’t need to be installed to run and do its magic.

So, not quite as exciting as free games or stories, but maybe more useful.
Enjoy!

Dimension Guides

posted in: Art, Fun | 1

This is actually cooler than it sounds.

No, seriously, it really is.
As a curious and creative person, I have often found myself wondering just how big certain things are. When I wrote more, I was especially interested in the standard size of things like rooms and apartments, not to mention cars and houses and so on. I mean, sure, it was probably a little silly on my part and just a distraction from actually writing, but it was concievable that a plot could hinge on the size of a standard shower in a regular apartment verses a luxury bath in a lavish mansion. You know, theoretically. If I wrote stories that took place in apartments or mansions. But, I digress. Again.
Well, now, I can have all those questions answered, and so can you, thanks to a website called Dimensions.Guide, which was created by the architecture practice called Fantasic Offense. They’ve created drawings of an incredible array of everyday, and not-so-everyday, things people may need to know the dimensions for. They’ve got IKEA bookshelves, swimming pools, parking garages, bathrooms, bedrooms, living rooms and more. And, some of that “more” includes things like the dimensions of a Golden Retriever, a velociraptor, Iron Man, C-3PO, and the Iron Throne. Not to mention a vast array of other useful, and fun, things to know the dimensions of.
Oh, and they’re adding more via a webform request page, so the database will continue to grow.
The files are downloadable in DWG, for CAD drawing software, SVG and JPG, too. As of this writing, all for free for you to use in your own projects.
Kooky fun from architects. What will they think of next?

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