Creating passwords the easy way
You need passwords more and more these days, and making a strong one that is easy to remember can be a hassle. Here's an easy way to create passwords. You don't have to remember them, and they are typically very hard to guess.
- Go to YouTube.
- Find a video you like, for example, one of the many amazing jamoyt videos.
- Note the URL, which has the form: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DFGeFRfE4, where 'DFGeFRfE4' is a garbled string of letters and/or digits.
- Use this garbled string as your password. Whenever you need to remember the password find the video on YouTube and copy-paste the string.
Please note the following:
- Make sure the video does not contain any possible violation of YouTube's rules, or it might be taken down.
- Do not use this as your PC's password, since you must be logged on to your PC to find the video.
- If you want to use separate passwords for different sites, make sure you remember which video belongs to which site. You might try to find a connection between the two, e.g. a clip from one of your friends to access your MySpace account.
Blog Action Day 2008: Poverty
Poverty is a disgrace, a disease and a disaster.
Poverty is a disgrace because we, the human race, have proven millions of times over that nobody needs to be poor. The basic amenities needed to sustain each and every human being on this planet are readily available and cheap. Distributing material wealth to those who need it wouldn't be more of a logistical challenge than, oh, your average war.
Poverty is a disease because all of society suffers. It's not just that poor people lose their sense of dignity and are derided and shamed for their lack of money (when it's the laughers themselves who ought to be ridiculed: what possible worth can you assign to a person based on the size on their bank account?). The problem is also that poor people, when backed into a corner, will turn to crime. The correlation between low income and crime is well-established, and is not limited to property crimes. Treat poor people with disrespect, as we all do, and they disrespect us in return.
Poverty is a disaster because poor people are of course no different from rich people, but society affords them little opportunities to develop themselves. Stop wondering if this millennium's Einstein may have been born, lived and died without revolutionizing the world, simply because she did not get the right chances. Instead, realize that massive throngs of Einsteins, Picassos, Shakespeares and Kubricks have already been lost to us. It's poverty that has deprived, and is still depriving, the world of its greatest achievements. What we as a global civilization have accomplished so far is insignificant compared to the humongous progress we could have made --if the world would know no poverty.
The reason that astronomical numbers of people are still poor today is because of the free market economy, which, despite all its achievements, promotes inequality and consumerism. On the one hand, people become poor by putting themselves into insurmountable debt, tempted by consumer goods. They stay poor for the same reason, sometimes even going without food if it means they can keep their TV. On the other hand, affluent people spend precious Euros buying things like bottled water or ringtones, money that could be better spent fighting poverty. Poverty is endemic to the system, which means that the system, at some level, is fucked up and in need of change.
- Whether you're poor or rich, don't give in to consumerism. Realize that a thing's value is not the same as its price, and avoid buying on credit.
- Respect poor people. Resist all attempts by society to make you judge people by their wealth, and to segregate the affluent from the destitute.
- Support politicians, charities and corporations that offer structural help to combat poverty. Be wary of those who mix their good intentions with ideological propaganda.
New weblog: 3 years ago
I've created a new weblog called 3 years ago. Don't bother clicking that link; the weblog is empty, and will remain so for the next 3 years.
Starting today, I will publish postings (pretty much diary entries) to this weblog, ideally every day, but probably a few times a week. The twist: I'll be setting the publish date to 3 years from the day I write it, meaning that the posts will only appear 3 years into the future. I'll be creating a time capsule weblog.
What will happen in those 3 years? Will Blogger, the blogging tool I use, still exist? What will have changed in my life? Only time will tell. I'm now adding the blog to my RSS feed, hoping that 3 years from now, I'll see the first post appear.
Usability Beef Bourguignon
Dear Microsoft Word usability team,
When I select Format | Styles and Formatting in Word, the following pane appears on the right of my document:
So I'm looking at available formatting, which is only 3 styles. So what is the dropdown control for? Let's see...
Aha, so there are "Available styles" and "All styles". So what's the difference?
Shudder me timbers! Apparently, there's a whole bunch of other styles, but they're somehow not "available". Whatever that means, 'cause they sure as hell are available now.
Can you guys explain to me what the hell this is about?
The Scrabble Writing Prompt: 40 percent
Liang and I next met a few hundred yards away from the treasure. He'd sent me a helio from the mountaintop, and I'd worked my way up across the aa until I reached the grot in which he hid. As I sat down beside him on the rya he'd spread out, I saw meteors dip across the ebon sky. "Jee" I sighed at the fat silhouette. "Let's make a wish for good luck," I said. "Mm", he replied. "Are we still on?" I asked nervously. "Sure, Ed. But I warn you: we may have some problems." "God!" I shouted. "Relax", Liang said. "Look down."
Surrounding the palace were four goons with fusils, walking with vacua of a dozen meters or so between them in a cwm around the building. "They're mostly mercenaries", Liang explained. "But one of them is a looey. If my info is correct, he'll enter the kitchen at 7, eat a plate of ziti sitting by the stoves, creating a gap for about 15 minutes. Then we strike."
"Any more surprises once we're inside? Dogs?" "No worries, I have minced meat with tranqs mixed in. Two bites and they'll sleep like a bairn."
We headed out to the al, our only place of hiding, and cowered in its moonlight shade. I looked at an ant crawling across the tree, and compared it to the old me, who eked out a lowly existence on the Shanghai quai. Tonight, that would be over. The ring would bring me fortunes untold, and I could retire with Jennifer, a lez whom I'd managed to convince that she was actually bi.
"Oy!" whispered Liang, visibly vext, "Are ya deaf?!" I didn't answer. I wondered if I could trust Liang. He himself seemed impervious to danger, said his chi had saved him. He always said I didn't let my id speak enough. But then, Liang was known for his fibs. "Ah, what the hell', I said, threw aside the herl I'd been rubbing between my fingers, and joined him.
100 important words: chromosome
Means: threadlike bodies that carry genes in a linear order. Humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes.
Review: Not sure why this made the list, but "DNA" did not. Of little use outside the realm of genetics.
First Google link is to dictionary: No, to a Wikipedia entry, a good sign that the concept, rather than the word, is important.
Example: During the debate, the candidate suggested that his opponent was lacking a chromosome.
Hits for media sites:
|New York Times||549|
The Mouse Drive
Holds 2 GB!
The best, funniest, most disgusting and most embarrassing quotes made on the IRC chat program are collected on the site bash.org. One recent quote ran:
One time, my mom asked me if she copied something, and then unplugged the mouse and plugged it into another computer she could paste it.
The speaker's mom had a strange notion of what her mouse could do, but maybe she was on to something. USB drives are getting tiny, and the innards on which you store your data are getting smaller and smaller. Both your mouse and your USB drive plug into your USB port and frequently get in each other's way. So why not combine the two into a mouse that is also a removable drive? This would be ideal for laptop users who could use a mouse anyway.
The Scrabble Writing Prompt: 30 percent
Liang and I met next in the dinges of one of the suqs of Cairo, one and a half ar of shady dealings. He'd left me a note at the arboretum, hidden, as always, under the ala of the pea plant between the ilex and the fern. I must avow that I was nervous. Why was Liang meeting me in this fair, full of yobs and ogres, under this unrelenting sky?
"Hello, guv", I heard behind me, and there he was, dressed in a jean robe, walking around on getas and, from the look of his ab and the morsel of food on his lip, recently fed by his maid.
"I got your message on the Web", I said. "Is everything ok?"
"The jewel is heavily guarded in a palace, a jinn couldn't get to it", Liang said."The local rex carries the key to the jewel box on his person at all times."
"Something big is afoot. Next week, the king weds Princess Mahudi. To get to her ring, the giver must open its box. That is our chance. Those two are madly in love, so while those loved anes coo like a couple of elhi kids, we grab the diamond, head down to the river, and ford our way across for a lotic escape that will send the bloodhounds off our track."
"How do we get into the palace?"
"That's the pith. We disguise ourselves as beggars suffering from farcy. His Majesty's father had farcy, so they'll let us in. I ordered special masks made of zein, and a zit here or there wouldn't hurt either."
"You've thought this through, haven't you."
"Ed," he said solemnly, "I know how many mho the electrical fence around the compound has. Leave nothing to chance. That's a rule of mine."
I whistled a high si of approval. "Liang", I responded, "we're so alike, you'd think we're from the same clade."
100 important words: chicanery
Means: using sly, evasive language or reasoning to trick or deceive; a tricky or deceitful maneuver; subterfuge
Review: useful in that it acquired a fairly specific meaning relating to legal or commercial trickery. Also, the sound of the word somehow suggests its meaning.
First Google link is to dictionary: No, to a Word of the Day site though.
Example: Johnny Cochran's elaborate chicanery could not prevent Simpson's lifelong imprisonment... in Bizarro World.
Hits for media sites:
|New York Times||216|
The Scrabble Writing Prompt: 20 percent
I recently reinstalled Networdz, an application for the PC that lets you play Scrabble online or against a computer player. It's fun to let two computer players play each other, to see the words they come up with.
I then got the following idea: take all the words from such a game and use them in a single story. I call it the Scrabble Writing Prompt, and here's my first attempt with the players' difficulty level set at 20 percent. All words in bold are played words, and the only words not used are the ones whose meaning I couldn't discover in dictionary.com. (What the hell is 'ose'?) Feel free to look up a word if you don't know it.
I met Liang in one of our mews, in a cove a few li west of the old weir. As I approached him, he broke out of his "om" trance and spat on the ground.
He got in the rowboat. "Yar, laddie, hold on tight," I said, grabbed an oar in each hand and pushed off.
Without saying a word, he took a nap, exposing his unwashed feet and an ab through a jag in his outfit. Only when we arrived did he wake up. This deserted island was one our perfect dens for talking business. "So," I said as he rubbed his eyes, "What's the gen on this new shipment of dex?"
"Nae, it was a con", he sighed. "Turned out to be a barrel of koi."
"Damn", I said. "Curse that cad Wong. Remind me to kayo him so hard that he'll spin on his axis. I got my eye on that rat!"
"Ease your mind," he answered. "I got dibs on the next load."
"You did sell those fish, though, eh?", I said, taking the ouzo and nuts from the bottom of the boat. "Would be a sin to waste them."
"Ha! You betcha!" he chuckled as we walked through the dense ti.
We entered the hut.
"You know, Sean", he said as he bit on an almond, "It's high time we do something dramatic. Ae final heist, to be remembered through the ages. Be revered in the naoi of crime. We err too much on the side of caution."
"I don't-- what's that?" I heard footsteps.
Liang laughed his head off as a doe passed by the window. "See?" he said. "You're nervous and repressed. Let your id do the talking."
"What did you have in mind?" I said casually, fingering the weft of the tablecloth.
He came closer. A spotted warbler whistled a high ut in the underbrush.
"The Ring of Wuxia", Liang whispered. "Oft pursued, but never found. Sith time immemorial, men have sought this treasure. It has the shape of a nu, containing the largest pearl ever found east of Ulaan Batar."
"But how do we find this thing?"
Liang leaned forward and said, "Confucius say, 'He who mops the lav may find unexpected treasure among the waste.'"
"Did he say really say that?"
Liang shrugged. "Who knows? He said so many things."
"I'm intrigued. Let me brew a pot of java. I don't want to get a DUI from some dumb cop on the way home."
He revealed his plan to me that night. In the early morning, we rowed back to the mainland.
"I'll see you next week at the agreed time and place," he said. "Patience, my friend. Soon the Ring will be ours!" And with that, he disappeared into the Shanghai crowd.
"Bye", I called out, but he had already vanished.
Open Letter to the Dutch Post Office suggestion box
Dear Dutch Post Office,
Recently, your mailman tried to deliver mail to my house that required an ID. I was at work, so he left a note to go to the local post office (only open during working hours) to pick up the envelope.
You've pulled this stunt before, and frankly, I've had it.
I have a full-time job, so I'm not at home when the mailman comes. It follows logically that I also don't have time to pick up mail during working hours.
That mail you make me pick up is for me, not for my house. So you should deliver it to me, not to my house. I can tell you where I am during working hours, and you can send it there. It's not like your mailmen don't visit my office anyway. They can easily take my mail there as well.
Many millions of citizens will join me in thanking me for not having to work late.
Parking Space Detector
In the center of any parking space in a city, embed a small electronic eye that detects whether no object is over it, that is, if the parking space is free. A central software application somehow (existing cell phone technology would probably work best) contacts these electronic eyes when needed, and retrieves each eye's status and location.
Car owners can now use GPS on their cell phones (or in their car) to communicate with the central software application to find a free parking space near their current location. Finding a parking space costs the user the price of an SMS.
Budgetting with Excel
When I was young, I snickered when I listened to the sales pitches for what were then called 'home computers'. One of the main benefits, it seemed, was the ability to use spreadsheets to keep your personal accounts. Wowee, I thought, and resumed flying my alien ship through the many minefields of Katakis on my C64.
But now, baby-shit brown keyboards that are the computer, and that can be hooked up to a TV, are a thing of the past. Gone are the days when you could hit your custom-made reboot button and have most of your data still in memory. Now we have mortgages, energy bills and credit cards. Now, we actually could use our computer for keeping our personal accounts.
I've set my Outlook to remind me once per day to check my monetary situation online and take note of the ever dwindling sum of money on my account. Once per month is the happy news that the new salary has arrived; the rest is spent looking at the plummeting graph in the Excel sheet. But if it does nothing else, it keeps me informed of my money status and prevents me from getting any surprises. I recommend it heartily.
Chatspeare: Macbeth II.iv
Drowning by Movie Numbers
This snowstone posting mused about having a movie marathon with color as the main theme. Let's try numbers now:
- One from the Heart
- Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels
- The Third Man
- Four Weddings and a Funeral
- Five Easy Pieces
- Six Days and Seven Nights
- Otto e Mezzo
- The Whole Nine Yards
- Ocean's Eleven
- Twelve Monkeys
- The Thirteenth Floor
- 101 Dalmatians
The Isidore Boullu insurance
One of the best books in the famous Belgian comic strip series "Tintin" is called "The Jewels of Bianca Castafiore". It features Captain Haddock, one of the main characters, trapped in his mansion with a screeching parrot, the obnoxious opera singer Bianca Castafiore (his arch-nemesis) and a broken foot, courtesy of a loose step on his marble staircase.
Throughout the book, he is desperately trying to get one Isidore Boullu, a local handyman, to come and fix the staircase. But Mr Boullu is either too busy, or he has the flu, or there is some other pressing matter such as his newspaper that has priority over his repair work. Haddock's furious frustration in the face of such indifference is, unfortunately, all too familiar to me.
Let me explain how things go where I live. You call a repair man. You arrange for him to drop by somewhere two weeks from now (he can't fit you in sooner). He will set a time slot ranging from 4 to 8 hours, in which he will be dropping by. Your job is to stay home during that time, do nothing and wait patiently for your savior to arrive. If he said he'd come between 8 AM and noon, don't be surprised if he shows at 3 PM. He then charges you an ungodly amount of money for 10 minutes' work. And sometimes, he doesn't show up at all (without informing you, of course).
In short, getting repairs done means having to take off half a day (or an entire day) of work do sit at home and do nothing. What a waste of time and salary. Here's what I'm wondering: could someone invent an insurance for this? You pay an X amount of money per month, and the insurance company pays you back your working hours when the need for a repair man arises. I'd gladly pay a modest amount to be reimbursed for this.
Productivity Need: "Deadline" tag in e-mails
At work, I use Outlook as my todo list. Almost every request or task comes in through e-mail, and I can send myself a mail for the others, so it makes sense to do so.
The only problem is that it's hard to organize my todo list by urgency. Something that is to be done asap might be pushed down in the list by other tasks that are not due for days or weeks.
So I was thinking. Why can't e-mails have a "Read Before" tag? That is, whenever you send out an e-mail, you have to indicate when (if ever) you need a response. Very often, you can provide a concrete date and time. By default, the deadline for an outgoing e-mail is set to "Never", which means your mail ends up at the very bottom of the list. Recipients could then sort incoming mails by urgency.
How this system works out will say a lot about how you and your coworkers interact with each other. If everybody sends each other "ASAP"-tagged mails, maybe your organization is just not ready.
Outlook probably won't let you develop this plugin, but how about Thunderbird? Anyone know if such a plugin exists?
Has anyone thought of this little feature on your mobile phone?
Most, even primitive, phones have an alarm clock. Set the time and the phone rings at that time.
Many people use their mobile phone as a portable digital notepad, saving drafts of SMS messages they never send, but only read back as reminders to do a certain task. (You can also use it as a permanent storage of useful little texts, such as all the ingredients for chili con carne --very handy if you're in the supermarket and just happen to have forgotten your doorstopper "1001 Delicious Recipes".)
So, why can't alarm clock + notes = reminder system? That is, type in a note, set a (date and) time, and save. At the specified date and time, your GSM not only rings, it also shows you the message. Tadaa!
Maybe my phone is just too cheap, and this is a standard feature on the phones that all the cool kids have.
Request for the weblog gods
As weblogs mature, weblogging has produced its gods. Whether they (or you) like it or not, people like Kottke, megnut and Ernie inhabit the Olympus of the blog world while a vast multitude of bloggy ants crawl in the valley beneath.
That's a shame, because while no one weblog has something fascinating to report every day, all weblogs combined have lots of fascinating things to report every day.
So here's my proposal: gods or demigods, create a weblog using MovableType and create two types of users: one who can author, another who can publish (that would be you). Mention the community weblog and the MT author login credentials on your weblog. Now, every day, let anyone contribute entries. Once per day, go through the submitted entries and pick exactly one that is worthy of publication (there's always one). Publish it and delete all the other entries.
The Virtual Milk Carton
The idea of printing information about missing kids on a milk carton was a stroke of genius. People see milk cartons every day, they get bored during breakfast and start reading the text, and before you know it, another child has found its parents again.
So what else is there that people see every day when they're bored?
That's right. Weblogs.
snowstone's manifesto defiantly states that there are "no banners here". That is now a blatant lie: on the snowstone homepage, between the random entry at the top and the regular blog entries below, you now see a banner from the US National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. That's right, snowstone is now your digital milk carton.
So what's the point? Hardly all three of you visitors will make that much of a difference in finding a missing kid, will you? Well, no. The strength of bloggers is in their quantity, not in each individual blogger's audience of six. Which is why I will do my best to spread the word. The three of you reading this are probably bloggers. Which means you probably know bloggers, who also know bloggers. If everyone put up this banner, there would be more chance of saving a kid.
Put the banner up forever, or just for the holiday season. But put it up. I know it's not the pinnacle of Web design, and it may make part of your blog look ugly, but hey, the NCMEC is probably too underfunded to pay a decent Web designers. Who knows, maybe someone among you think they can do a better job --for free!
Learn here how to put up a banner on your blog.
Sorting the laundry
Doing the laundry is annoying. It's a chore you want to get over with quickly. I spend too much time sorting my laundry. There it is: the big, intimidating bag of laundry. There's dark stuff. There's colored stuff. There's white stuff. This I can handle. But there's more.
Clothing has labels that tell you what you can and can't do. Don't wash a 30-degree blouse on 40 degrees or you'll ruin it. Don't wash a 40-degree T-shirt on 30 degrees, or the stain won't come out. So I spend precious minutes of my otherwise dazzling life turning shirts inside out to find the label and its instructions.
That said, the symbols on the labels are also puzzling to say the least. It must be obvious to any normal person that an equilateral triangle pointing upward indicates 'bleach', but for some insane reason I keep forgetting.
So here's my solution: the Laundry List (see link below). This is a PDF document that not only explains what each of the symbol means, but also lets you fill in descriptions of your clothes and check which symbols apply. This does not seem as time-consuming as it sounds: items like "towels" and "sheets" can be grouped under one item since you wash them all the same way (unless you're one of those glib characters who has silk sheets). So: download, print, fill in and hang in the damp, cramped room that is your laundry location.
Please note: This document is for European use only. For some reason, Americans and Europeans use slightly different symbols on their laundry labels. (Wouldn't they just.) Also, Americans call these things 'care labels', meaning that if you don't care, you can ignore them.
Chatspeare: Macbeth II.iii
Chaspeare: Macbeth II.ii
Chatspeare: Macbeth II.i
Chatspeare: Macbeth I.vii
When we were on holiday, my girlfriend and me were ringing up quite some costs with our mobiles. Remember that if you're staying in X and you live in Y, a call placed to a number in X costs as much as a call from X to Y and back from Y to X. Also, we were constantly trying to find numbers of tourist agencies, boat rental companies, etc etc.
Which got me thinking.
Why not have a tourist mobile phone? This phone would be a local phone, so the costs of calls would be low. It would be loaded with a prepaid card and, what's more, the phone directory of the mobile would be filled with all kinds of local numbers: hotels, museums, restaurants. Rather than find out the number, the user would just select the name of the place they wanted to reach and press Dial. The user would have to pay a deposit or insurance premium to cover loss or theft.
I really wonder why nobody thought of this before.. or have they?
Chatspeare: Macbeth I.vi
Chatspeare: Macbeth I.v
Chatspeare: Macbeth I.iv
Chatspeare: Macbeth I.iii
The Hold DJ
Being put on hold on the telephone is probably one of the most annoying things in the universe (that and the Crazy Frog ringtone). I like to check how long it takes the person on the other end of the line to finish their yoghurt or clip their toenails by counting the number of songs I'm listening to.
I'm always disappointed by the choice of songs. Usually it's something 'appropriate' like Janet Jackson's syrupy "Let's Wait a While", when of course it should be something appropriate like "Break Stuff" by Limp Bizkit.
Which got me thinking. With the number of callers being put on hold, why not have a Hotline Hold DJ who will take requests? "That was The Whiners with 'In Your Heart'. And this next little number, 'I just called to say I love you' by the one and only Stevie Wonder, was requested by Frank, who's been on hold for 40 minutes. Frank, this one's for you."
In a movie, if a killer is trying to drown somebody in a bathtub, why doesn't the victim try to pull out the plug (pulling the chain with their leg if needed)? Surely, the bathtub would be half-empty fast enough for our victim to survive?
Chatspeare: Macbeth I.ii
Based upon the amazing success (ahem) of Hamlet's LiveJournal, I've decided to pick up Chatspeare, an old project I had planned. Read this page to see what this is all about, then enjoy scene i of act I...
Let's make a deal
The worldwide recording industry is part of a vast media conglomerate with billions of dollars in turnover per year. They primarily help to market, promote, and occasionally even create, bands and 'artists' (there's a devalued word for you) with a proven track record. Which means that these performers themselves also earn millions upon millions.
The RIAA's fruitless battle against the harsh reality of downloading illegal music is mostly ridiculous because of the relative insignificance of the damage being done to these music moguls. Does anyone seriously believe that, say, Jennifer Lopez will be deprived of even one diamond-encrusted Rolls Royce because some teenager in an attic downloads one of her songs (say, "Jenny from the Block" or "My Love Don't Cost A Thing")?
So let's be honest about it, recording industry. You're obscenely rich, and so are many of your favorite performers. Neither you nor they need to get any richer. So here's my proposal:
Any musician or group of musicians who has made 10 million dollars or more from their music must now put their songs on internet for free within six months of the release of the CD that contained those songs. I think you'll notice that this will hardly affect your bottom line, while many more people enjoy your music. Because after all, that is why you went into the music business in the first place, right? RIGHT?
You've probably heard the news about the Helsingor massacre in Denmark: a husband, wife, her son from a previous marriage and a family friend all dead in some swordfight gone horribly wrong.
I discovered a first-hand eyewitness account of the massacre that I thought you might be interested to read. This is not in the official media, but on a weblog. Anyway, it's very revealing and quite different from what I've been seeing about this on CNN. Check it out.
Can you dig it?
Oh no! Hamlet is in grave danger!
Get it? Grave danger?
I crack me up sometimes.
Flight 211 to Elsinore, now boarding
Read how the Prince of Denmark makes a narrow escape.
Hamlet and the Hooligans
Read how Hamlet gets bored at the airport.
That's right, airport.
If you don't get it, it's high time you read all of Hamlet's LiveJournal.
Paging Dr Freud.. paging Dr Freud
A boy's best friend is his mother, as Norman Bates said.
Or is she?
Read all of Hamlet's LiveJournal here.
Meme invitation: what's in your Room 101?
Here's a meme: I invite bloggers reading this entry to compile their own Room 101 entries.
Room 101, as you all know, is the room in George Orwell's 1984 in which Winston is confronted with his worst fears.
But rest assured, I will not be relating my irrational fear of shop window mannequins, but rather following the lead of the BBC show called "Room 101", in which (local) celebrities may explain their worst dislikes and can hope to have them included in the Room 101 vault.
To start off, here's a pet hate of mine:
Vigilante movies, that is, any movie in which truly disgusting crimes (rape, torture, serial killings) are swiftly dealt with by a no less disgusting crimefighter. The Death Wish series ranks lowest in this category because the films are not only truly revolting in their brutal morality, but also filmed so poorly that they make the average porn movie look like Citizen Kane (not that I would know, of course... I never watched Citizen Kane).
It's bad enough that these types of movies suggest that the best way to fight violence is with more violence (that philosophy is working like a charm right now in the streets of Baghdad). But what revolts me most is the invitation to the viewer to cheer at the bloody justice being done. I'm not denying that violence can be beautiful and poetic, but in this type of movie it's only banal and depressing.
Geography of rock'n'roll
I've always been fascinated by fictional worlds, places, TV shows, and books. I was wondering whether it would be possible to make an Atlas of Rock'n'Roll. Not filled with actual rock'n'roll locations such as Detroit (or, rather, Motown) and Memphis, but nonexistent lands and places. Here are some maps that show you what I mean.
"Excuse me sir, but won't you take me to Funkytown?"
"I'm sorry ma'am, but I'm going down to Lonesome Town."
"I'm sorry, do you know where I may find Heartbreak Hotel?"
"Sure, it's down the end of Lonely Street."
As a non-native speaker of English, I try to expand my vocabulary whenever I get the chance. What I find is that there are some words that I never learn, even though I keep running into them. So, in a way, this entry is a sort of "note to self". cro, remember these words (in their most frequent meanings):
- playfully jocular; humorous
- seeking and enjoying the company of others; sociable
- making, given to, or marked by noisy and vehement outcry
- ill-tempered and quarrelsome; disagreeable
- quick and changeable in temperament; volatile
- difficult to understand; recondite
However, there is a flip side to all this learnedness. Many people don't know the meanings of these words (especially in an international environment such as Internet). So using them can make you harder to understand. So why bother learning them if you can't really use them?
You might argue that I could be writing for the kind of audience that knows these words. But I'm not one of them, which means I'm probably writing below their level. Hmmm. Quite the conundrum.
To Be or Not To Be, updated
Hamlet's LiveJournal, updated:
Hamlet hates women.
Here are some bands I'd check out if I came across them in the CD shop:
The Alleged Terrorists
Not Them Again
The Men in Question
To see what others have come up with (and actually turned into a band), check out the Canonical List of Weird Band Names, which gets quite disgusting at times. One that for some reason always sticks in my mind is Biff Hitler and the Violent Mood Swings.
If only I had the time: WalletGlove
Wallets are annoying. They're easy to lose, hard to store (especially when it's too hot to wear a coat), and they're always in your other jacket. Not to mention that people try to steal them.
Wouldn't it be useful if you had a wallet you could never lose, was always where you needed it, and didn't get it in your way?
Introducing... the WalletGlove©!
The WalletGlove is simply a compartment stitched onto the back of a glove. The glove is fingerless so you can wear it in warm weather. No one will suspect that your money is there, and even if they did, it would be impossible to steal it without you noticing. You wear your WalletGlove on your 'other hand' (i.e. right hand if you're left-handed).
The only drawback I can imagine is that it won't hold much money (bills will have to be folded over twice, I imagine, unless you have giant's hands like me), and that it may bend, fold or mutilate your credit card (that could be fixed by reinforcing the pocket).
The actual manufacture, marketing and sale of this fine product is left as an exercise to the reader.
The fair Ophelia
Our princely blogger doesn't hit it off with the ladies.
Several years ago, Jack Nicholson was making the rounds in Europe promoting his latest movie. (It's telling that these days, movies seem to "belong" to actors rather than directors.) As is customary these days, he was put in a hotel room and visited by a number of journalists who all asked roughly the same questions in the ten minutes that were allotted to them.
Then, one rebellious journalist dared to respond to Nicholson's standard "How did you like the movie?" by saying that he thought it was crap. Not only did the movie star spend the entire interview having an interesting conversation with the reporter, he also waved the studio executive away who came in after the ten minutes were up.
The lesson here is: conflict makes for interesting copy. And in that vein, I would like to propose that some established entertainment journalist, the kind that the big media conglomerates simply can't ignore, create a show called "It Stunk" in which he invites directors, musicians, and movie stars to defend their work. The show would not be limited to box office bombs, nor would the host necessarily always be in the right. But at least there would be disagreement.
There is just one tiny flaw in my plan: any entertainment journalist that the big media conglomerates simply can't ignore, is today owned by the big media conglomerates.
Hamlet, the Weblog
Based on his angsty, indecisive character, I decided that Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, needed his own LiveJournal. I'll be updating the blog regularly, so check back often. Also, check out the UserInfo tab.
To or not to, that is the question
I recently discovered the idea of E-prime, a variant of normal English that leaves out any instance of the verb to be. Linguists and philosophers argue that this simple omission makes language more forceful and less obfuscated.
I started wondering if this meant that you could judge the forcefulness of a text from its E-prime percentage, which I defined as the relative amount of instances of "to be" in a piece of text. I wrote a simple perl script for it and ran it through a number of books:
|George Orwell, "Nineteen Eighty-Four"||4.73 %|
|Ernest Hemingway, "A Farewell to Arms"||4.31 %|
|JD Salinger, "The Catcher in the Rye"||3.51 %|
|JK Rowling, "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone"||3.25 %|
|Stephen King, "The Shining"||3.19 %|
|Stephen King, "The Green Mile"||3.15 %|
|Salman Rushdie, "Satanic Verses"||3.15 %|
|Jack Kerouac, "On the Road"||3.01 %|
Note, incidentally, that I wrote this entry in E-prime as well.
The Tenth Commandment of Blogging
Thou Shalt Link Back Unto Those Who Have Linked To Thee
The final Commandment is one of common courtesy. Bloggers should help each other out. The top 50% of websites account for 95% of all web traffic, and almost all blogs are in the bottom 50%. So anything you can do to thrust the little blog of the weblogger who linked to you into the limelight, may well come back to you a hundredfold. It's a tough internet out there, and you need all the help you can get. So link already. It's not like it's gonna kill ya.
The Ninth Commandment of Blogging
Thou Shalt Not Blog About Thy Life Unless The Story Or The Writing Are Interesting
How many people blog about their personal lives as if their weblog was their diary? It may help you to blow off steam if you commit all your woes and troubles to the screen, but don't bore (or embarrass!) others with it. Save it on your hard disk and leave it there.
This is not to say that blogging about your life is taboo, far from it. But only blog it if it's interesting, or if you can make it interesting (or, preferably, both).
The Eighth Commandment of Blogging
Thou Shalt Apply Journalistic Standards To Thy Journalistic Entries
If you write movie reviews, op-ed pieces, or news commentary, stick to the rules if you want to be taken seriously. Argue your point of view, back it up with facts, and link to the sources of these facts. Show both sides of a story. Don't curse without good reason, don't yell, and don't use dubious rhetorical tricks.
Failure to do this will result in you preaching to the choir. Those who agree with you will get bored; those who disagree with you won't expect you to listen to them.
The Seventh Commandment of Blogging
Thou Shalt Not Blog Merely For The Sake Of Blogging
|There's a flipside to the Sixth Commandment, and it's just blogging whatever pops into your head, 'because I have to blog today'. Don't. If you don't have anything interesting to say today, don't say it. If you don't have anything interesting to say this week, consider sharing a blog with somebody. There's no shame in that: most professional columnists, cartoonists and comedians would drop dead if they had to produce on a daily basis. And they have all day to come up with something, and get paid for it.|
The Sixth Commandment of Blogging
Thou Shalt Not Forsake Blogging Out Of Laziness
Being a lazy-ass slacker is no excuse for not blogging. Try to blog every day, and think about what you blog. Try to be disciplined; possibly reserve a time of day as 'blog time'. Write and save entries ahead of time if you feel a rush of inspiration.
Regardless of the reason, a blog that's rarely updated won't be visited. I have better things to do with my time than check your blog. Valid excuses for not blogging: holidays, work or study, sickness, personal stuff. Announce in advance if you can.
The Fifth Commandment of Blogging
Thou Shalt Be Brief
Most people won't be prepared to spend a long time reading your blog. Long blocks of text look intimidating and will make your visitors surf somewhere else. More often than not, you can shorten your entry without damaging it. Set a post length limit for yourself and stick to it as a rule of thumb. MS Word has a word count feature to help you.
If your entry is still long, divide it over several postings (case in point). If that's not working, show a teaser and put the full entry on a separate page.
The Fourth Commandment of Blogging
Thou Shalt Be Original
Avoid "Me, Too"-postings, in which you only state your opinion about some well-known issue (say, Nipplegate). Try to find an unfamiliar perspective to a familiar subject or, better still, an unfamiliar subject. By all means, avoid just saying that X either rules or sucks, especially if X is a movie, celebrity, politician, political hot potato, or your life.
Alternatively, be imaginative. Write a story, and be sure to make it up. Make a poem or comic. Take a picture. Only post stuff if you think it is good. "Develop a built-in bullshit detector." –Ernest Hemingway.
The Third Commandment of Blogging
Thy Blog Shall Be Readable
Learn to spell. Learn to construct sentences. Learn to construct texts. Use whitespace and blank lines responsibly. If you blog in English, use this; if you blog in another language, read your local equivalent.
Remember that the primary goal of language is to communicate. Stick to the point –and make sure you have one. Avoid rambling, going off on a tangent, repetitiveness or anything else that would make your conversation partners roll their eyes in real life.
Write invitingly. Draw the reader in with the first sentence of your posting and keep them hooked.
The Second Commandment of Blogging
Thou Shalt Have A Technically Correct Blog
The First Commandment of Blogging
Thy Blog Shall Look Good, Yet Simple.
Some things look good, some don't. This is not a question of personal style. Bright green letters on a bright red background: not good. Animated gifs: not good. Wacky layout: not good. Comic Sans MS font: not good.
Adhere to the KISS principle: Keep It Simple, Stupid. But beware a boring-looking blog. Your reader should be relaxed, not comatose. Include images. Avoid black-on-white only.
Make your site usable. Make the archives easy to browse. Include a search box. Give your hyperlinks an obvious color or style. Make the main content stand out.
The Ten Commandments of Blogging
The best thing about weblogs, according to blogvangelists, is its instantaneousness, ease of use and ability to make original content available.
My response to this is, Bullshit.
Instantaneousness and ease of use make it easier to post crap. And as for original content, too many blogs link to stale news or reiterate conformist opinions.
There are good blogs and bad blogs. This is not a matter of taste. Some good blogs I like, some I don't, but bad blogs are just, well, bad. Compare poetry and you get the idea.
The next ten postings state my Ten Commandments of Blogging.
Fear of open spaces
Here's my contribution to the excellent Idea a Day site:
Develop a Virtual Reality environment for agoraphobics. As part of their therapy, patients can put on a VR helmet and explore open spaces. Whenever they feel uncomfortable, they can either 'retreat' to a safe, enclosed space with the push of a button, or 'resize' the area to a more acceptable space. Thus, the agoraphobic can gradually adjust to larger and larger spaces.
Once the patient is cured, an army of DoomTM cacodemons and spider-demons is released in the VR world, just to check for any other phobias, such as arachnophobia, the patient may have.
OK, so I didn't put in the last bit.
Neo is a nutcase
I've just watched The Matrix for the third or fourth time, and as I was pondering the idea behind the movie, I suddenly realized that there was a way in which I hadn't looked at the film yet that seemed to make a lot of sense. The idea is this:
Thomas Anderson is mentally ill.
He is suffering from an extreme case of paranoid schizophrenia, and he has created an alternate reality for himself that he frequently retreats into. As the movie progresses, a Messianic, heroic self-image is added to the psychotic cocktail, and at the end of the movie, Neo has lost all sense of reality.
There's a great many unanswered questions in the movie that would be explained by this reading. For example, who is Thomas Anderson really? Who are his friends? Where is his family? Why does he, as Trinity puts it, sit behind his computer all night? If he's insane, it's because his erratic character turned him into an extreme nerd who avoids all social contact. And so, desperate and alone, he creates an escape from the reality that he very obviously finds dreary and pointless. Think about it. How did Neo find out about Morpheus? Who told him about The Matrix, and what did he hear that made him want to find out what it was? The answer: the Matrix and Morpheus are constructs of Neo's diseased mind.
But there's more. Neo's fantasy world is not even consistent. Events in the beginning of the movie (the instruction to follow the white rabbit, the scene with the FedEx'd cell phone ringing just as Neo gets it out) seem to imply that Morpheus and his gang have very advanced knowledge about what goes on in the Matrix. Later on, however, that control seems fairly limited. The electronic 'bug' that plunges into Neo's navel, too, is quite consistent with delusional paranoia ('they put transmitters in my teeth').
Note also that Neo never meets anyone (friend nor foe) who questions his belief in The Matrix, and that his new and only comrades (all products of his delusional mind) reinforce the idea that 'the outside world wouldn't understand'. And to top it all off, the hot girl falls for him, leather fetish included, and he saves the universe. No, Neo is ready for the funny farm, clear and simple. I just wonder why it hadn't occurred to me before.
- Why is it called 'whisky'? Does it taste better if you stir it?
Standing in furniture stores, I'm always intrigued by the books that are put on display in bookcases. These are books that are too boring to be stolen (except in Ikea, where they have Swedish books). Seeing them is not unlike seeing a group of homeless people, and similarly, I secretly yearn to take them home. At least to put them in my bookcase, at most to actually read them. If you think about the effort it takes to write a publishable book, it's heart-breaking to see any put on dummy display, mere filler for a piece of furniture.