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w00t! Cowboys & Engines has met its funding target. ^_^ Obviously, I'm delighted - it's such a fun project, after all. I hope we'll see much more of this kind of thing, and larger still; I'm sure we could all name a good few books that could make fantastic films. (Me, I'd go wild for a big screen adaptation of A Fire Upon the Deep. Spellsinger would be a pile of fun, too, and perfectly feasible now, with the ease of availability of CG - though, I admit, I'd still prefer to have top-notch fursuits playing a major part. There's something additional about knowing the creatures on screen really existed)

I finally got to see Made in Dagenham. It documents a strike in Ford's bitterly contested 1968 strike by those termed "machinists", responsible for stitching together the seating in the cars. Being women, they were deemed worthy of half the pay of their male colleagues on the main assembly lines, as "unskilled labor". From their efforts arose the Equal Pay Act. ^_^ Yes, it's a highly political film - go see it. It's uplifting, and inspiring. See it, do!

Perhaps not unique, but certainly food for thought - Adioso is a flight search engine aimed at broader searches than you'll usually find. You can specify "anywhere", if you're really open to possibilities, or geographic regions, like "east Asia", specific countries, or even something vague like "somewhere warm". ^_^ Similarly, the return date can be something like "within 14 days", or "within 30-60 days". Results are presented as attractive squares on a grid, each containing the city, country, price, set against a photograph from the region.

Here, have a random bit of furry CG animation. ^_^ Маша и Медведь: День варенья. No subtitles, but other than a song, there's very little speaking involved. Good if you're wanting something amusing and cute.

Sigma posted a look at their Aizu factory, offering a glimpse into the manufacture of their lenses, and the factory's setting. Even if you've no special interest in photography, it's rather enjoyable just as a combination industrial and nature short.

Or, on the cute ad front, Harvey & Rabbit. It's adorably sappy. ^_^ (Via jessie_pup)

Sort of like a latterday Sonic Spinball, Momonga Pinball Adventures is an iOS title you might like to look at, starring a flying squirrel.

Fancy a break that's not one of the usual tourist destinations? FarRail offers tours by steam train around the world, aimed at photographers, with forthcoming destinations including heavy coal trains of Dona Teresa Cristina in Brazil, narrow gauage steam in the Carpathians of Romania, from Mallets to Aasmara in Eritrea, and the Wallah Gorge Spiral of Namtu, in Burma.

Or you could satisfy yourself with reading and watching two travelers take a long journey into North Korea, on a line not officially open to tourists - and thus, with no handlers. And, here's an older travelogue, from 2002, of a more conventional trip, arriving by air from Beijing to Pyongyang.

However, if you're a North Korean citizen, the penalties for skirting the rules can, as you know, be severe in the extreme. How bad? Here's what life is like in Camp 14, by someone who eventually escaped. I should note that it's very difficult reading - be prepared.

If you're in Europe, and thought your cellco's service was too good, rejoice! For the WSJ claims that AT&T is apparently pondering a large acquisition. 'The paper quotes people familiar with the carrier’s thinking who say AT&T is considering buying a European counterpart in order to “escape constraints” on domestic growth by jumping into a new wireless market where it can “upgrade technology and roll out more lucrative pricing strategies”.' And relatedly, Octopus Group^W^WSky has bought up O2/Be from Telefonica, so those customers are back in Murdoch's tentacles.

It's from the spammers' professional organisation, the DMA, but this press release notes the story of one guy who "turned the tables on a company that persisted in making unwanted calls by invoicing them for his time. Richard Herman charged AAC £10 a minute and sent an invoice for £195, which the company went on to pay after Herman applied to the small claims court."

In light of HMV's demise, here's one guy's insight into the company, from someone who worked on their advertising from their heyday onwards. 'Not long after HMV's stock market listing [in 2002], Beechwood, (the agency I founded and ran with my business partner, John Wood) was asked to re-pitch for the business as a new marketing director and managing director had come in to the company and they felt other agencies should cast fresh eyes on the business. As I had worked on the account for so long and felt it was in my blood, I really wanted to give it my all, so we pulled out all the stops in this five-way pitch. The day of the presentation came and we stood in the boardroom in front of the new MD, Steve Knott and his directors. For some time we had felt the tides of change coming for HMV and here was our perfect opportunity to unambiguously say what we felt. The relevant chart went up and I said, "The three greatest threats to HMV are, online retailers, downloadable music and supermarkets discounting loss leader product". Suddenly I realised the MD had stopped the meeting and was visibly angry. "I have never heard such rubbish", he said, "I accept that supermarkets are a thorn in our side but not for the serious music, games or film buyer and as for the other two, I don't ever see them being a real threat, downloadable music is just a fad and people will always want the atmosphere and experience of a music store rather than online shopping".'

Ever wanted to be trapped inside an Alien egg made of 0.5mm or 0.8mm latex? ^_^

I'm not sure it'd lure me back to flying with United again (for some reason, all US airlines are uniformly dour), but, they'll apparently be first with intercontinental WiFi service, running between $4-15 (depending on the length of flight) or $6-20 for "accelerated" service.

Quite a fun map: California rail, plus connecting buses and ferries, covering the entire state. I never even knew about the line from Petaluma to Santa Rosa, but more fun would probably be heading along the coast to Fort Bragg, then back to Willits and then up to Arcata.

A game a few folks might be interested in: Knitted Deer. (As the YouTube promo notes, the soundtrack is Den Derty's "8-bit", which you can find over here - you'll need to enable pop-ups to download, unfortunately, as the download links are served in them, alongside some (presumably) ads)
 
 
 
 
 
 
Very annoyed over the BE internet sell off. It's even worse than if the ISP was being flat sold to Sky, because it's not really. Sky are buying the Brand, and buying *the customers*. Telefonica will be keeping their network, staff, and only selling wholesale 'business internet'. All existing domestic BE subscribers will be transferred to Sky's shoddy network, and woeful support.

So I'm going to have to find a new ISP, and really choice for true-unlimited is very sparse now.
Eep! Wow, indeed - that's even worse. Though, I'll admit, when we had Sky's DSL (until a few weeks back - I'd been feeling that BT Infinity or a similar offering would give us much better speeds, and take us away from that wretched empire), the connection seemed fine, if unimpressive, at around 700K/s in.

If you're in an area served by BT Infinity, you could look around for resellers, though they're likely to be quite expensive by comparison to BT themselves, unfortunately, and seemingly always with specific traffic allowances. The housemate (being the owner) went with BT themselves, simply out of cost. Customer service is as awkward as you'd expect from a gigantic company with largely outsourced callcenters, but they do eventually get things done - on installation, we were getting about the speed predicted by the line estimator, but that soon fell by half. An engineer turned up, spent much of the afternoon rewiring from the pole to the modem, and it seemed fine, only to fall back again. Second visit, and they switched over to a different line from the pole to the cabinet, and that cured the matter.

So, for about £20/mo plus the line, we now get about 4.2MB/s in, 700K/s out. Not too shabby! As far as we can tell, there doesn't seem to be any traffic shaping going on, though neither of us use BitTorrent much.
On the California trains, there are only two, one northbound and one southbound, that run between San Francisco and Los Angeles each day. Usually that trip involves a long bus ride between the Bay area and San Luis Obispo and a train from SLO to LA.

A lot of those lines shown on the map also run on commuter schedules (one way in the morning, the other way in the evening) or other very limited schedules.
Indeed - I've taken the mostly-bus inland route, and the much more fun Coast Starlight that runs down from Oakland, through Monterey, through Vandenberg AFB's land, Oxnard, and finally LA. Quite a gorgeous ride, especially if you park yourself in the observation car, which is mostly windows.

And it'll be a few years before the high-speed rail link is finally up and running, but certainly should be good once it's around - long overdue, really, given the popularity of that corridor, even if there won't be a heck of a lot to see for much of the ride. ^_^;

It's painful how long it took to get started, but, at least it is finally happening. Now for BART to fully circle the Bay, and reach into Marin.. =:)
High speed rail will likely be well after we've moved out of state - and the first years of construction seem to all be planned for Bakersfield and points south.
Or you could satisfy yourself with reading and watching two travelers take a long journey into North Korea, on a line not officially open to tourists - and thus, with no handlers. And, here's an older travelogue, from 2002, of a more conventional trip, arriving by air from Beijing to Pyongyang.

Oh, quite interesting. I wonder what people find so fascinating about travelling there, though.

However, if you're a North Korean citizen, the penalties for skirting the rules can, as you know, be severe in the extreme. How bad? Here's what life is like in Camp 14, by someone who eventually escaped. I should note that it's very difficult reading - be prepared.

Yes, that was quite horrifying. Gives you a good idea of what Europe would've been in for if the nazis had won, too.

Let's hope it'll all come to an end as soon as possible, ideally within our lifetimes, but whether I truly believe it will, I can't say.

It's from the spammers' professional organisation, the DMA, but this press release notes the story of one guy who "turned the tables on a company that persisted in making unwanted calls by invoicing them for his time. Richard Herman charged AAC £10 a minute and sent an invoice for £195, which the company went on to pay after Herman applied to the small claims court."

Heh. I should try that next time I get nuisance calls!
I'd say it's simply the fascination with such a severely insular state - so little's really known about the country's everyday happenings, or even at the leadership level. Of course, that doesn't improve much even with most visits, given you're always accompanied and guided, with everyone's tours hitting the same spots, unless you manage to work around the system, as those train enthusiasts did!

I wonder how North Korea will end? I rather suspect that even if the leader of the time decided to open things up, he might well be prevented from doing so. There's certainly more information leaking into the country than before, with Chinese cellphones not so rare along that border, and smuggled VHS tapes of South Korean programming. If the internet's ever made more generally available, even with censors watching, then all bets are off.. it could be done, of course, given the country does have a functional 3G network, but only foreigners are currently permitted access to international numbers. No idea if there's any data service offered to anybody.

Hopefully, it could be managed in an orderly transition - but it'd be a gigantic project, trying to lift a whole country up from a fairly dismal state. East Germany was no cakewalk, and that was in a far more advanced condition. What an amazing contrast.. one of the most heavily wired countries on the planet, next to one of the very least. Someday, someday.. *sigh*
Yeah, good question. Even if the current Kim decided to do a 180° turn and open up the country and give the people such things as freedom, justice and so on, he'd likely find himself unable to do so.

OTOH, I think it'll be inevitable sooner or later. I imagine it will happen in stages; I could well imagine that North Korea will emulate China and transition from.. well, whatever it currently is to a deeply authoritarian yet capitalist system where there is at least a little bit of personal freedom.

And certainly, the North Korean leaders can't be unaware of the fact that South Korea is, in practice, doing so much better and that their experiment has failed. ('course, one might also argue that THEY probably have it better than they would in South Korea, so who knows how motivated they'd be to allow things to change.)
Another wonderful collection of goodies and adventures! *wing hugs.... and fascinatedly peruses the silky ears* ... By the way... are you in the Silicon Valley area, or over in Jolly England... or Canadia...? With the mention of "invoice for £195" it does make me wonder.... :D
I have read several accounts of defectors from the Glorious Republic of the Kims...it is quite a shocking read, especially on how 'opponents' of the regime and their whole families often end up behind barbed-wire fences of numerous concentration camps. Guantanamo Base strikes me as similar kind of place, though administered not by the Kims.

Hee, alien eggie-weggie...I kinda dig that idea, especially if it featured a xenosuit :D