July 27th, 2013

Cookie swiping bunny

More on the morrow

Bah! I've been completely unable to catch up. I'll have to consign myself to losing that time. Please forgive me for entries I've not read, and do point out any that I ought to see. I'll be trying hereon to keep up with LJ properly.

In the interim: something that'll appeal to almost nobody! =:D Anomaly. The impression I get is it's something you might like if you've enjoyed Tarkovsky's works. Not single-concept, but rather deeper, more abstract. It came to my attention courtesy the Sampler of Upstream Color. (I'd hope I'm not the only person who's seen that, and Primer, but I don't see much discussion about film on LJ)

Talking about films, I finally got to see Oblivion the other night. ^_^ Worth a rental, absolutely - but it could so easily have been brilliant, not just good. I shan't say more here, for now, to avoid spoilers.

Anyway - yes, I'll be updating properly shortly, likely on Saturday. It.. might not be overly concise. ^_^;

Pork in calvados

Want to see what Terry Gilliam's been up to? 'Course you do. Here's a trailer for Zero Theorem. It seems to have been leaked, given the watermark "Not for distribution", and the sound isn't quite in sync - but FSM, it looks stunning. Still a little way off, unfortunately - IMDb only lists two release dates at the moment: Dec 19 2013 for Italy, and Jan 2 2014 for Russia.

Meanwhile, word's escaped that Charlie Kaufman is adapting Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five for Guillermo del Toro. =:D

Now, this raffle might appeal to one or two friends.. first prize is a flight in a Spitfire, parallel to the sole remaining airworthy Vulcan, XH558. Proceeds go towards said Vulcan's maintenance. (And the other prizes aren't exactly unappealing, either - eg 4th prize is a day for two at RAF Scampton with the Red Arrows) Tickets are £2 each, and unfortunately, available to UK residents only, per terms of their lottery license. Flight prizes are subject to medical fitness, and a cap of 6'2" and 16 stone. The drawing itself will take place on Tuesday, Sep 10 2013.

The Open Rights Group notes that - surprise! - the proposed pornwall will actually be rather broader in scope. "After brief conversations with some of the Internet Service Providers that will be implementing the UK's "pornwall" we've established a little bit about what it will be doing. To be fair, the BBC were pretty close. The essential detail is that they will assume you want filters enabled across a wide range of content, and unless you un-tick the option, network filters will be enabled. As we’ve said repeatedly, it’s not just about hardcore pornography." Ah, but who wouldn't want to filte on porn, violent material, alcohol, anoerxia, terrorist content, or web blocking circumvention tools by default? (But hey, it's voluntary =:)

SDCC saw many announcements, but the one that's particularly caught my eye is that 2014 will see a Firefly MMORPG launch, for iOS and Android. Details are thin at the moment, not going much beyond "players take on the role of a captain, who must recruit ship crew and lead missions, while trading with other players. Firefly Online features customizable ships and cross-platform functionality." Here's the teaser trailer.

So, Saints Row IV apparently has some furriness, of the macro variety. =:D

I'm hardly a fan of the UK's current government, to say the least, but, they do appear to have made a forward-looking investment, providing seed capital of £60m toward the development of the Skylon, a fully reusable spacecraft aiming to provide orbital insertions for around 1/50 of current costs. It'll achieve that by being based on a new engine, partially ramjet-based: "Having passed vital tests in November 2012, it is the first time a heat exchanger that is light and efficient enough to go into space has been developed. By managing the hot air entering it at high speeds, SABRE would be able to get some of the oxygen it needs from the air rather than it having to be stored onboard the spaceplane. Reaching Mach 5 at 26,000 feet, a SABRE engine could switch to full rocket mode to reach orbit, using on-board fuel supplies. This advantage enables a spaceplane to fly lighter from the outset and to make a single leap to orbit, rather than using and dumping propellant stages on the ascent - as is the case with current expendable rockets." Excitingly, they also note (ambitiously, perhaps) "A prototype SABRE is expected by 2017, and flight tests for the engine around 2020."

Near the Institute of Cytology and Genetics in Novosibirsk sits a 6' statue of an anthropomorphic rat, knitting a double helix, to commemorate lab rats' contributions to scientific understanding.

Are these not some of the absolute coolest leggings you've ever seen? ^_^ Easily the most fun range I've laid eyes on since Sub4's days. (Whatever happened to them? Once upon a time, they were offering a great range of running leggings, and then something seemed to extinguish their creativity, followed by them vanishing. Did they go out of business, or merely into obscurity?)

ColAR is a rather nifty little coloring app, intended for kids, but looks like fun for anyone. ^_^ First, you color in one of the drawings on paper, as you might normally - then, you let your iOS/Android device look at it, whereupon it will rise from the paper, and show itself off (perhaps with a little dance or such) in 3D. ^_^ It's also temporarily free, until July 28 - normally, unlocking the full set of pages is an in-app purchase. (There's a little more information available on the creators' main site, HitLabNZ - Human Interface Technology Laboratory New Zealand - along with a Windows version)

I'm quite keen on this iPad 2-octave keyboard on Kickstarter, being exceptionally well-designed. Closed, it acts as a screen cover for the iPad. Take it off, press a button, and half of it raises up to provide a full-travel two octave keyboard, using opposing magnets rather than springs for its weighting, and optical key tracking for position/velocity sensing. It's Bluetooth and USB-based, so if you're using an iPad 3 or later, you can use Bluetooth Low Energy to connect, and avoid any wiring. There are even two touch-sensitive areas above the keyboard, with LEDs set along the line, offering two analogue sliders, with more possibilities afforded through an expansion slot, for application-specific physical controls. And at $99 for the first batch devices, it's entirely affordable.

Another KS venture: a hard sci-fi game, Lacuna Passage, following Jessica Rainer, "the only survivor of the crashed Heracles mission, investigating the disappearance of the first ever manned mission to Mars. You have several tools at your disposal, but most important are your skills of observation. You will need to uncover mission logs, recorded audio files, and other physical clues left behind at critical mission locations in order to uncover the story. An interplanetary trail of breadcrumbs is waiting for you."

Or.. how about a Unity-based game, based along the lines of Thief, in "a world inspired by, embodying and adapting the alternative avant-garde of the 20th century. Writers such as Burroughs and Ballard, artists within the Dada movement and the music and textures of Throbbing Gristle, Cabaret Voltaire and David Lynch all drive us. They are our motivations - often oblique, sometimes in open reference. You play an outsider to the world, an entity with a singular, enigmatic goal - to find and dispose of five other beings. Your arrival here has fractured the world; the city that these other beings resided in is now broken into shards across a broken, bleak landscape. You must infiltrate these cities, searching to discover your marks - investigating both precisely who, and where. Keeping to the shadows is to be encouraged - reality here is a fragile place. Your interactions with the world cause it to fall apart. In homage to Burrough's cut-up technique, the world collapses and rebuilds itself the more you interact with it - future areas rebuilt with the fragments and personality of places you mistreated. From this every play-through will, subtly or drastically, be unique to you." This is Tangiers, "surrealist stealth", which they'll be developing for OS X, Linux, and Windows - and on a remarkably modest budget.

How's this for a wonderful wedding cake topper? ^_^

As for the last entry, where I was torn between two post-rabbiteering venues for dinner, I went for the particularly good food option. ^_^ The skies clouded over around 7pm, and the buns weren't much in evidence, so I took off for the southeast. Only about a 30 min walk from that bunspot, and similarly back into the nearby town - and despite heading back around 2215, it proved entirely light enough to walk back without the aid of any additional light.

To start, scallops on a red pepper puree, followed by roast free-range chicken on black pudding puree, concluded with an inspired brioche tiramisu. I'm a sucker for scallops, so that was an easy choice, but combining tasty chicken with black pudding - that's not a combination I'd have thought of, but damn if it doesn't work well! But the finale - oh, that was just gorgeous. And all in a friendly atmosphere of a small village pub. I suspect that won't be my final visit. ^_^

A photoset by Iron Ammonite, showing off the awe-inspiring rugged beauty of Svalbard.

An amusing exchange, based around someone who set up a Quake 3 Arena server four years ago, and left 16 bots running, forever learning improved strategy. The outcome is wonderful, when he finally goes in to check up on them.

Undertale will be worth looking forward to - it's an RPG, but one where combat is entirely optional; you can negotiate. With a tiny goal of $5,000, it wound up raising over ten times that. =:D

Tickets for this year's tutored tastings at the Great British Beer Festival (Olympia, Aug 13-17 2013; Tuesday-Saturday. £8 per day, or £22 for all of it) are finally available! Unfortunately, they seem to've gone up in price sharply, at £15 a pop. Still, there are some very tempting ones - this year, there's one dedicated to cider, and one on Italian beers, as well as a quirky one from the sponsor, pairing beers with different varieties of pistachios. This year, I'm tempted to make it along on two or three days, rather than cramming the event into a single day. If you haven't been, I can recommend it: there's an amazing selection, arranged geographically, with each bar offering beers from a region of the UK, plus international offerings, and cider, which I'm delighted to see rise in recognition. You'll find beers there (all served from cask, on gravity) you'll seldom see outside their home locales, from Summer ales to hearty Winter brews, as well as scarce and wondrous Belgians, and noteworthy Americans. There's always a good variety of food on offer, from pasties and pies, through German and Polish sausages, to Thai and Indian curries, and more.

Photo competition of the week: Woodland photography. Seems to be free to enter, and taken in any of the listed (UK) woods.

Here's rather a nifty four-minute peek at before and after scenes from the recent The Great Gatsby production, showing the extent to which compositing can be used on the big screen. Not just scenes one might expect effects to be used, but even constructing entire sets and backgrounds.

I've read comics purely digitally for years. Whilst it's been good to see the rise of digitally available comics, courtesy of players like ComiXology and iVerse Media (aka Comics Plus, one of the more awkward monickers around), they've remained unfortunately tightly bound in DRM - not much of a problem when it's been broken (I wouldn't buy iTunes video if I couldn't strip the DRM), but as far as I'm aware, they're both "safe". However, exceptions exist, such as the long-running 2000AD, available as plain (completely plain, with no watermarking of any kind) PDF or CBZ, and now, Image Comics is joining the party, offering their wares as PDF, ePub, and CBZ. In their words: "My stance on piracy is that piracy is bad for bad entertainment. There’s a pretty strong correlation with things that suck not being greatly pirated, while things that are successful have a higher piracy rate. If you put out a good comic book — even if somebody does download it illegally — if they enjoy it, then the likelihood of them purchasing the book is pretty high. Obviously we don’t want everybody giving a copy to a hundred friends, but this argument has been around since home taping was supposedly killing music back in the ’70s, and that didn’t happen. And I don’t think it’s happening now."

BuckHopper's released the voice acting workshop he hosted at Anthrocon 2012, with an impressive 17 scenes recorded.

It's a browser speed test. Really. Hamster Dance Revolution, courtesy of the IE team.

So, you're a student at the University of Wisconsin. And the NSA comes around, trying to recruit. Imagine, then, if said students asked inconvenient questions.

Some rather fun examples of dogs travelling at light speed. =:) (See, you wouldn't catch a rabbit doing that whole "head out of the window" gig. Far too sensible! And perhaps busy =:)

Interesting points mulling the social utility of a "basic income".

Is anyone familiar with the jailbreak situation with AppleTV? It's a lovely device, but I'd only be interested with a broader portfolio of formats supported. The main player works pretty well, but does sometimes stumble, ranging from refusing to FF on some files, to outright refusing to play others. Not a tremendous surprise, I accept, given how wide-ranging MPEG-4 is, from easily deployed for embedded devices, to somewhat more demanding. (Raspberry Pi isn't an option - solid 1080 performance is essential. We have one such already, with XBMC, but it's not up to the task)

Another competition - but not photography, this time. =:) This is one for the writers, sponsored by the Centre for Quantum Technologies and Scientific American. "What kind of story, you ask? Well, that’s up to you. Your story doesn’t have to be full of techno-babble or quantum-powered gadgets: we’re open to ideas ranging from the goings-on in a quantum physics lab (part of the genre known as lab-lit) to stories that involve quantum spookiness or parallel universes. But please only send us stories that we can share with a wide audience including young people - think no more than PG13 rated." And yes, there are prizes, with the main category first place winner receiving SG$2000 (about US$1600) and a year's digital subscription to SciAm, with a runner-up and "people's choice" each receiving SG$1000 plus the subscription.

Last weekend, I had the pleasure of finally meeting jayblanc, as well as enjoying sushi for the first time since April 2011. ^_^; (Bento Cafe - pretty good. Not the best I've had, but as some will know, I've enjoyed some rather good stuff =:) After that, we headed to The World's End, where I enjoyed a pint of World's End, before seeing The World's End. As he later noted, that cinema was apparently the progenitors' local haunt. =:D As for the flick itself, yes, definitely worth seeing - possibly the best of the Cornetto Trilogy, although Hot Fuzz remains quite brilliant nonetheless. (At this point, I'll shamefully confess to not having seen Shaun of the Dead yet) Later on, as the bun was running out of energy, we parted ways, and I headed to one of my favorite establishments, which had Sierra Nevada's Torpedo on cask - truly a rare delight. Indeed, I had no idea until the other week that Sierra Nevada even offered casks - apparently so, but only for their own brewery pub. But, the White Horse knows people. =:)

Finally, let me leave you with this soothing sentiment: 2 measures Thornton's chocolate, 2 measures Grand Marnier, 1 Jack Daniel's Honey, and 1 London Gin. =:9