September 12th, 2015

Nerd alert from Lio

Fun with endocrinology

I should like to encourage you to read jakebe's essay on When I Talk About Bigotry. It'll occupy a few minutes of your time, but, those moments will be well spent.

We finally saw a flick I'd been vaguely hankering after for a while: Hector and the Search for Happiness. I'm very pleased to discover it is indeed as much fun as it promised. ^_^ It's not perfect, but I'll happily recommend it. (I do rather wish they'd actually named the locations, but then, I also feel that with Baraka et al)

Saw half of San Andreas, which was as silly as it sounded, followed by a Thai production, Chocolate, which was markedly better than we'd expected, with some surprisingly adventurous camerawork, and a storyline straddling the best martial arts flicks' choreography and humor, with panache Tarantino could learn from. Not exactly my usual fare, I have to say, but they pulled it off very well. (Tonight? No idea. ^_^ The Wind Rises might be a good option.. I'd say Predestination, but he's already seen it. I'd also be up for seeing Jupiter Ascending again - maybe even as a double bill with The Fifth Element. Or triple, with The Black Hole =:)

Bah. Looks like Inside Out's completely vanished from the screens, so I'll have to wait until November or so, for its home debut, along with Tomorrowland, which I somehow managed to miss, despite particularly wanting to see it. (Think it was one of those irksome times where each Bargain Tuesday was occupied by other pressing matters)

A peek into the path toward the practicality of fusion reactors producing more power than they consume, this time looking at superconducting tapes providing the magnetic containment field, making for much smaller, cheaper reactor designs.

I hadn't realised quite how far of an outsider Jeremy Corbyn had originally been (200 to 1!), nor quite how far that had reversed, going by Oddschecker's summary, placing him currently at 1/8 or so, versus Yvette Cooper at around 7/1, Andy Burnham at 10/1, and Liz Kendall at some 200/1. Of course, what the results of the voting actually declare remains to be seen - I shan't disguise my enthusiasm for the prospect of a genuine political opposition in Labour again, following their Blair-led drift into being the friendly face of Conservatism, introducing zero hours contracts and workfare, amongst other delights, not to mention Blair's wholehearted support for Bush's misbegotten adventures in the Middle East, the CIA's abominable, formalised torture, and complicity in universal surveillance.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Corbyn won, with 59.5%, Andy Burnham 19%, Yvette Cooper 17%, and Liz Kendall 4.5%, on a 76.3% turnout (422,664 votes) of an electorate of 554,272. It's encouraging that the margin is quite so substantial - hopefully, supporters of the other candidates will be able to accept the result, and work forward. It's also pleasing to see Natalie Bennett offer a positive welcome message on behalf of the Green Party, being similarly opposed to the ongoing "austerity" and sell-off of public assets.

An article with quite a few interesting points made, by someone with a lengthy background in the field of transportation planning: The Future of New York City Transportation: Goodbye Cars, Hello Rails.

The Interactive Advertising Bureau, alarmed by the rise in popularity of ad blockers, is looking around for options to counter the trend. Amongst the more insane is the notion of suing the developers of such ad blockers. =:D (Meanwhile, I'm delighted to be using Safari Adblock on the iPad - sites like Not Always Right are actually enjoyable again! Small note: enabling all the supplied blocklists does result in being unable to log into a Sainsbury's groceries account. Whitelisting the site lets everything work as expected. The developer's written up a good account of how Safari's Content Blockers approach differs from the usual method, with practical outcomes in speed and memory usage)

If anyone's interested in seeing The Martian free, ShowFilmFirst are sponsoring a few 3D screenings at 6.15pm on Monday, Sep 28, in 19 Odeons around the UK. (General release is on Sep 30 in the UK, Oct 2 in the US)

Here's a superb teardown of the BB-8 droid, from a design and manufacturing perspective, affording insight into why certain things were done a particular way.

Speaking of droids, here's a robot TF story I'll very happily recommend: Repossessed, by demurePet. It's up there with The Offer and Invasion of the Bunny Bots in examining from a more personal, psychological perspective what such a transformation might actually be like.

Compo of the week: win Spanish holidays worth £8,000. Rather nicely, the top prize is effectively £8k credit, to be used with one of six tour operators, with options including "Paradores: offering a tour of Spain staying at various different Parador hotels across the country" and "Great Rail Journeys: offering the chance to take a winding journey through stunning Spanish scenery across the whole country". =:D Entries should convey "Your Spain", in the form of a photo, movie, or even a short story - and there's time to ponder, as it doesn't wrap up until Dec 31 2015.

Or (UK only), win a Nikon D750 plus kitchen sink bundle worth some £8,000.

Apple stuff! =:) Apple TV - that's actually quite interesting to me, although not relevant right now, as the BD player downstairs manages most files fine, and exceptions aren't too much hassle, either via Chromecast or transcoding. But something with the flexibility of a full-blown media box is appealing, let alone with that readily extensible search functionality, working along the same lines as iOS and OS X, where search results can derive from applications - searching for where some particular show can be bought or streamed will be as easy as the vendor agreeing to make that possible, which is only to the mutual benefit of the viewer and provider. The previous versions of the box were of fairly limited use to me, but this'll be vastly more flexible, given tvOS is essentially a lightly tweaked iOS, making for far greater flexibility - indeed, Plex is confirmed as on its way. It'll be an easy matter for existing iOS apps to be made compatible, so existing purchases will become available.

Some of the videos in the event were quite geekily fascinating, too - it's a very small matter, yet also worthy of the attention paid in its development, with the iPhone's "taptic engine" able to deliver its full vibrational energy within one cycle, versus a conventional buzzer's 8-10, permitting briefer, more precise feedback. I love such attention to detail.

The iPad Pro - I'll have to wait until that display makes its way to the "main" iPad. ^_^; It's a really nice device, but it's a bit too large for buses, trains, and planes. Probably great fun as a MIDI keyboard, though, and I'm going to be keenly awaiting reports from artists as to how well it really performs as a drawing medium. If it's even a respectable fraction as good as a Cintiq, I'll be keeping a close eye on it. I'd love to see the speaker setup (modulo physical space availability) migrate to the iPad Air - I've long been puzzled why that wasn't done a while back. I'll still use headphones for any serious listening, such as music or a film, but it would be fun to enjoy a game with something of a sound stage without having to use them. I keep wishing Apple hadn't been so ham-fisted with Aperture, and had rather offered up a roadmap for migrating from Aperture to Photos in the course of the next few OS releases. Still, the iPad Pro suggests Photos could become a viable option for that segment, once it supports matters like RAW fine tuning, and brushes, given they were talking of it being capable of juggling multiple 4K videos simultaneously - D7100 or D810 RAWs ought to be a breeze.

The iPhone 6s - well, unsurprisingly, no new 4" model, just more for people with huge hands. *sigh* TBH, I'd prefer a 3.5", so the entire display's easily navigable with just my thumb, as with the 3G - even the 5s at 4" feels a touch cumbersome. The addition of force touch is rather neat, and a pleasant evolution in UX. And I love the look of the new rose gold finish. I wonder if the new Taptic Engine will provide a more forceful alert buzz as well? I can easily miss the one on the 5s if I'm out and about, though anybody wanting to reach me knows to use email anyway.

The watch demo was rather cool. Interesting to see Hermès participating in some straps (the double wrap design looks very cute), alongside some of their signature watch faces. Given their high end status, I probably shouldn't look at the pricing, when it becomes available[1]. =:) watchOS 2's obviously much more capable, though I don't currently have a need for a watch. That may change, depending on where I wind up in the future.

[1] Apparently, the Double Tour edition will run $1250, with the other Hermès offerings at $1100 and $1500.

Chip du jour: Manomasa's "Manchego & Green Olive" tortilla chips. Positively nommy! It's a lovely combination, with that characteristic rich, creamy cheesiness, married to a gentle olive flavor.