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NEW ABBA NEW ABBA NEW ABBA AAAAAAAH "One of the two new songs that resulted, called I Still Have Faith in You, will feature in a TV special to air in December. The statement concluded: “We may have come of age, but the song is new. And it feels good.” Abba’s Björn Ulvaeus revealed details of the band’s forthcoming project in Brussels earlier this week. The centrepiece is the two-hour TV show co-produced by NBC and the BBC, which will see the band perform as computer-generated avatars. Ulvaeus said the band had been digitally scanned and “de-aged” to look like they did in 1979, when they performed their third and final tour. The avatars are then set to tour the world from next year."

So, it looks like Netflix is moving into producing original anime now. ^_^

Here's a rather wonderful interactive novel, taking place on a late 1990's computer, with a core theme of self-discovery and acceptance: Secret Little Haven (macOS, Linux, Windows; pay what you want, $5+). It does relate to some quite deep-seated themes - beneath the cute surface lies familial gaslighting and rejection, so, be prepared.

I originally watched it (or rather, began to) as a rental, but wound up buying it - but then, food-related films of quality can earn a particular resonance with me. ^_^ See also: Tampopo, a true classic; "East Side Sushi" has some similarities in theme with that, and indeed, Jon Favreau's "Chef", but it's its own film regardless. Here, we have a single Latina mother in Oakland (yes, the East Side doesn't refer to NYC, for once =:), who winds up being tempted by the prospect of not cleaning toilets, and gaining medical benefits, on seeing a Help Wanted ad outside a local sushi restaurant. The joy of sushi is thoroughly on display, including her introduction to eating it for the first time, and discovering, for example, just how different raw tuna is to the usual tinned stuff. Bit by bit, she grows intrigued by the skill involved - already being very handy with a knife, through previous kitchen experience, she manages to gain the assistance of one of the chefs in teaching her some of the fundamentals, like preparing sushi rice. Of course, there's plenty more, but I'll leave it there. =:)

Looks rather fun: Hiveswap, a point & click adventure in 90s style, all hand-drawn, set in the Homestuck universe. And at a mere £4.19 from GOG, quite affordable too. ^_^ (Or £6.79 bundled with the soundtrack) Being from GOG, there's no DRM, and it's available for macOS, Linux, and Windows.

Did you know SFO has a Wag Brigade? They're "a fleet of specially trained therapy animals who volunteer to bring joy to airline travelers. SFO launched the Wag Brigade in partnership with the San Francisco SPCA back in December 2013 to help ease the stress of holiday travel. Clearly a hit among travelers, the Wag Brigade has been growing strong ever since. The crew now includes 20 kind-hearted animals who wear "Pet Me" vests and roam the halls of SFO with their handlers, distributing kisses, nuzzles and tail wags just to put smiles on travelers' faces."

This suite of ads for bubblegum form a miniature ten-minute soap opera, and it's hilarious. =:D Need I mention they're Japanese? (Do be sure to watch the final "episode" =:)

Well, that was commendably good customer service! I'd placed an order with Master of Malt, for a couple nice bottles, and wondered if there might be some latitude to waive the early (and Saturday) delivery surcharge. Some ten minutes later, in the middle of the night, they graciously confirmed they'd happily do so. ^_^ (In all, there was an old Scotch, an aged rum, an interesting sounding sake, and a calvados whose blending apparently has remained possibly continuous since the house's founding) To whit, Diplomático Ambassador dark rum, Akashi-Tai Genmai aged sake, Château du Breuil Calvados Royal, and 1964 Invergordon (bottled in 2017 by Nectar of the Daily Drams):

Here's a track which caught my ear recently: The Wombats "Cheetah Tongue". The video's just amusing; this is much more about the track, which has that bouncy nature of Studio Killers' "Ode to the Bouncer" or "Eros and Apollo".

I recently fired up Google's "Introduction to Light Fields", now up as a freebie tech demo on Steam, and compatible with the three main VR headsets (Oculus, Vive, PSVR). If you have such a device, I'd highly recommend taking it for a spin. Whereas almost all of what you see in VR at present is CG, there, they've taken a radically different approach, using a rotating array of cameras to capture the lightfield of the scene as viewed from that spot. From that data, new views can be synthesised, so you can look all around, side to side, and everything moves just as you'd expect, including subtle behaviors like imperfections on real surfaces changing the reflectivity or opacity. The overall result is one of greatly heightened realism. It's only suitable for stills at present, as the process of capturing lightfields is highly computationally intensive, and the data files for the entire scene can be huge - but, people are working on that. =:)

Are you human? Getting older? Good news, everyone! "A newly released study is the first to show that healthy older people continue to produce new brain cells."

New headphones acquired! Now to see how well I actually get on with them. =:/ Beats Studio3, in porcelain gold. Checking the more audiophilic corners of the net suggests this revision's quite a matter of personal taste - the overall performance seems very good, but they still have something of the old bass-boost in them, though greatly toned down now. On the other paw, the noise cancellation seems very good, though some rank the competitive Sony and Bose higher, and the fluidity of pairing and switching between devices is supposedly especially good. We shall see. ^_^

And we have. =:) I'll be keeping them. They're comfortable to wear (though, like the Sennheiser HD25-1 II, they do fit quite snugly - as you'd imagine, this is quite a matter of taste), and even without the noise cancellation, the isolation's quite significant, being over the ears, but without becoming huge in the process. The sound quality's quite different to the HD25s, being somewhat heavier, but not awkwardly so. The instructions could stand improvement, not actually saying that tapping the button twice advances to the next track/station, and three times goes back.

The noise cancellation works well, reducing all manner of outside distractions to a comfortably minimal level. Battery status and power on LEDs are discreet - the latter point downwards, so nobody'll see them in normal use, and the status only shows if you press the power button to have a check, although I tend to just peek in on the battery level in the menu bar (macOS) or music control pane (iOS). Initial pairing's easy - just hold them close to your iPhone and keep the button pressed for a couple seconds, and up'll pop an iOS dialogue box offering to pair with "YourName's Beats Studio". Battery life looks good: I can use them most of the day without getting even close to the end of a charge - Apple claim 22 hours, with noise cancellation on, which feels about right. Charging's via a mini-USB cable, taking around 15 mins for 3 hours usage time, and you can connect a 3.5mm cable if you want. Signal reliability seems excellent - I can walk anywhere in the house and the music doesn't skip a beat. There's the option to invoke Siri, but I'm not one for voice assistants.

Importantly, they fit snugly enough that it's possible to lie in the bath, or on my back in bed, and they remain where they are - I don't have to give them any consideration. Overall, I'm very happy; I'm surprised how much I really like being free of that cable. It's one of those subtle points, as with the difference between finding a website on a laptop and wanting to show that off to a friend nearby, versus on an iPad.

There's 3DS emulator, Citra, under active development, with what looks like quite good compatibility already. ^_^ It's FOSS, as you might expect, and available for macOS, Linux, and Windows.

Here's a rather nifty bit of Icelandic design, in the form of a mountain shelter.

Miss Nightingale sounds like a rather spiffy time, what? ^_^ I may well go along to this.

An intimate underground cabaret club opens in the heart of London. A saucy new star shines under the spotlight. Two men struggle to bring their illicit love out of the shadows. The war-torn capital has never been so revealing!

Welcome to the Glitz of the Blitz; where showgirls, secrets and scandal abound. A world where aristocrats jostle with black-market spivs, songwriters take to the streets and nothing is quite as it seems.

There are some outstanding photos of mountain hares in this feature from a wildlife photographer who specialises in such chilly work.

Marta looks like a very promising macOS file manager. It's still under development, having just reached 0.5, and is now in open beta. It's currently free, though the final product will be paid (one time, and affordable).

A cute series of cartoons: Programming Languages as People. ^_^

So, the bunnycam received something of an upgrade. ^_^ Still the D7100 body, but now with the option of a (used) Nikkor 200-400mm f/4 VR, offering more reach, the flexibility of pulling back as necessary, and the benefit of optical stabilisation, which proves helpful in acquiring an accurate focus lock on more stationary subjects (given the DOF at 400mm f/4 is fairly shallow - one shot following the beneath had them heading roughly 45 degrees away from the path, and their head was clearly in focus, and already quite out of focus by their tail. Or, it can be a pleasant option to drop the shutter speed right down, whether for coping with weak light, or simply improving the quality of a shot with reasonable lighting.

I should perhaps note that the section to the left of the gold ring is simply the lens hood - the lens itself isn't the entire length shown. =:) The ring just to the left of the nameplate (genuinely a separate metal plate, screwed onto the lens body!) is the zoom ring, and to the left of that, the focus ring. The lens is, as you might expect, a bit longer than the 300mm f/4D, at around 15" vs 9", which unfortunately means it doesn't fit into the bag in the manner intended - there's a padded inner compartment, with a couple padded dividers which can be moved around c/o velcro, so you can keep a body and a couple lenses inside without them bashing against each other. Previously, I kept two dividers in there, with the lens in the middle, the body to one side, and a space for sundry items like a couple reusable plastic bags for grocery shopping, suntan lotion, and secateurs. But the newcomer's too tall for that to work. But - it's the perfect length to lie down within the bag itself! So, for now, I'm resting that lengthways in the bag, then placing the divided compartment on top, now with two sections, one for the body and a short lens, and the other for all the other bits and pieces. It's a touch convoluted an arrangement, but it works well. ^_^

There are quite a few improvements and goodies coming to SL this year, its fifteenth anniversary, including - finally - the return of last names. =:D True, I set up my account long enough ago that I was still able to choose my surname, but that's a welcome change, given the somewhat funky selections available helped define the SL community. The advent of "themed learning islands" might help newcomers' first experiences be more fun, and Experience scripting will be available gridwide, unless a landowner's blocked it.

Fun food find of the week: Create A Crisp. Each multipack contains five 25g bags of ridge-cut crisps, and ten seasoning sachets, such as tangy prawn, steak, cheese, lime, and garlic. Tangy prawn and lime is rather nommy. =:9 Same price as any other multipack, too, normally £1.70, currently down to £1. It's unclear who makes them - they could indeed be an independent product, as the bags don't give anything away but the titular company name, but a quick search suggests they're an indie, c/o The London Crisp Co.

And here's an example from the above lens' inaugural outing. ^_^ An expectant (or indeed, new) mother, gathering grass as part of the nesting for the newborns:

If you read this and groan, you might be a nerd. =:)

Late sleepers are tired of being discriminated against. And science has their back. "In 2016, I reported on the science of chronobiology, which finds we all have an internal clock that keeps us on a consistent sleep and wake cycle. But the key finding is that everyone’s clock is not the same. Most people fall in the middle, preferring to sleep around 11 pm to 7 am. But many — perhaps 40 percent of the population — don’t naturally fit in this schedule. There are night owls among us — whose whole circadian schedules are shifted later — and morning larks, who are shifted earlier. (If you’re curious, you can assess your chronotype with this quiz here.) These traits are determined by genetics and are extremely hard to change. What’s more, the research is finding that if we fight our chronotypes, our health may suffer." I definitely empathise. As the article notes, "These people have a hard time falling asleep before 2 or 3 am, and prefer to sleep until around noon." - I'm not rigorously late, but that's certainly my natural inclination - 1am is on the early side for me, and I'm fine with seeing the sun rise before going to sleep. Well, to some degree - whilst that does come naturally, the rest of the world continues with "conventional" schedules, so if I'm on a late schedule, the idea of going out for a meal and having to come back at 10pm feels crazily early.

BTW, as anyone using Flickr is doubtless aware by now, they've been bought by Smugmug, a long-established outfit specialised in providing websites and storage for photographers. Thus far, I don't think there've beena ny further details released, particularly whether this will simply be a transitioning of corporate ownership, or a full-on uprooting of some/all of the staff and new infrastructure. For the staff's sake, as well as everyone using Flickr, I'd obviously hope it's of the more seamless sort of acquisition. Ultimately, it's encouraging to see it in the hands of owners who have photography at their core, rather than being just one part of a diverse web portfolio. I'd certainly hope they'll avoid breaking links, and won't hike rates for Flickr Pro; if anything, I'd love to see them try the opposite, and make the paid option very cheap - say, around $5-10/year, and base the business on that, rather than the rapacious datamining practiced by the likes of Facebook, and eschewing the ocean of crap peddled by ad vendors large and small.

I think I'm going to have to try my paw at making these onsen tamago - essentially, very slowly poached eggs, traditionally prepared in Japan using the waters from hot springs, but more readily accomplished using some form of sous vide apparatus, be it a well regulated dedicated cooker, using an insulated cooler, or simply attending to the pot with a thermometer in hand. I'd like to get a sous vide cooker, but space is very limited. =:P

Here, have a pheasant as well. ^_^ Beautiful, but not exactly what one might deem as songbirds. =:)

Here's rather a fun comic: Backlash. It's a bit tricky to describe. ^_^; If you liked Sapphire & Steel, this might well appeal.

For the flight back, I watched my 99¢ rental of Leap!, which was actually very enjoyable. ^_^ Certainly flawed, with the writing sometimes being rather clumsy, and sometimes giving the feeling the writers had a larger budget in mind, as the way in which the film was almost entirely without any background characters felt a bit as if they were playing this out in a ghost town. But when they simply let the spirit of the writing take them, and lead the animation, they did very well.

Interesting.. Bloomberg's claiming that Apple's working on microLED displays at a secret R&D facility in Santa Clara, with an initial goal of producing their own displays for the Watch. That'd only be for the development, of course - for mass manufacture, they'd probably go with an outside company, given the timescale involved in constructing an entire plant themselves. It's quite a manufacturing challenge, as the process literally involves creating millions of tiny LEDs, and affixing them to the screen with the accuracy required, and all in a sensibly short space of time. Somehow, it does seem as if such panels will be on sale in 2020 or thereabouts. As for why: one big reason is power efficiency, which can be much higher than OLED, though that does diminish as the size of each LED is reduced - they seem to be expecting at most 50% of OLED consumption for a comparable display, though, so obviously, highly desirable in any small electronics setting.

Coo! I've just learned that RISC OS, at some point, finally went open source! (For a long time, it remained commercial, as the owners attempted to carve out a market in the embedded arena. That worked for a while, but as Linux matured, even that niche vanished) And they even now offer downloads for various popular boards, such as the RasPi and BeagleBoard.

Well, there we go.. I'm committed now. =;) I've just placed an order for a new memory card for the DSLR body I'm intending to purchase. Whilst SDXC can now go quite fast, XQD has the edge.

w00t! A Fantastic Woman has a home release date set: May 22 2018. ^_^ Whilst iTunes doesn't show anything yet for A Wrinkle in Time, other sites are claiming June 5 2018. (The iTunes Store only shows preorder dates for four weeks ahead) I haven't seen either yet, but I'm sufficiently intrigued by both to have them on order.
She's not a quiet nan

*grin* You see why I had to include that. =:)