... seeking simple answers to complex problems, and in the process, disrupting the status quo in technology, art and neuroscience.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Dust Art

Talk about sculpting in butter!

The Dust Art of Scott Wade

Think what he could do on the playa!

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Eat Your Heart Out, Icarus

You've probably already seen this, but I just HAVE to keep it for my archieve...

Gizmodo Details

Movie - no jet but VERY cool flight.

From BusinessWeek :

Humans have come a feather closer to soaring like birds. Aided by a set of 6-foot-wide carbon-fiber wings, paratroopers can now jump out of planes at 33,000 feet and glide as far as 120 miles before popping their chutes and floating to earth.

Recently designed for Germany's special operations forces, the Gryphon wing-and-chute system is made by a joint venture between ESG Elektroniksystem-und-Logistik and Dräger. The Gryphon's compact size and stealthy materials make it both silent and nearly invisible to radar. In battle, winged soldiers carrying up to 200 pounds of gear could jump from planes far from a danger zone and glide in undetected.

With production slated for late 2006, the wings' designers next hope to add compact turbo jets. The extra thrust would help parachutists travel even farther -- or let them jump from lower altitudes. No word yet on whether the U.S. military is interested.
By Adam Aston

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Does Butter Fly When Churned with Water?

I was out for my morning miles, just getting started actually, and totally lost in thought that shall now never be recalled. 

All of a sudden, I was distracted by a huge butterfly the color of it's namesake lying open on the path, not moving at all. Did it pick this very moment to die?

It stopped me in my tracks with it's rich yellow hues, as if it were freshly churned. And it stopped me in my train of thought to wonder, what is it doing here?  Spring ended yesterday. Why was this guy still hanging around? And why hadn't a bird snapped it up for breakfast? If the early bird gets the worm, does the late hiker get the butterfly?

This creature would bear further inspection. I needed to get it home where I have one of those magnifying lamps on my desk. But how could I best carry it? I had just started my walk and still had miles to go. I had no Ziplock or easy way to hold a butterfly.

As a student of Zen, THIS was a worthy challenge - even a bit poetic. Could I carry a dead butterfly for miles without breaking it?  Would this task bring enlightenment?

I pulled my shirt sleeve down over my right hand cupping it against my belly hoping the cloth would do less damage. Next I picked up the butterfly by the tip of the wing and put it on it's prepared shelf. I started out slowly then headed on up the path at a faster clip. This was easy I thought, keeping an eye on my passenger.

I was wrong. Carrying a butterfly is more difficult than you might think. Even the breeze from walking buffets it about. It fell off twice in the first mile. After that I got better with my balance. Or so it seemed. I carefully moved on.

There is this one steep hill just before the highway. As I went down carefully a serious breeze caught the butterfly's wings. But it held its position against the wind! It was holding on to the cotton with its feet!  Was this a death-spasm?  Or maybe just a contraction from the process of dying?  Well then, it would die in my arms, I laughed to myself as I cupped him with both hands and ran across the highway.

Back at the house I looked for something to set it on so I could check it out under the magnifying glass. There was a stiff advertising post card with the power bill. That would work for now. Later I would want something completely white as a background for photos. Its feet were definitely attached to the threads of my shirt. I could feel them pull away as I picked him up by the wings.

Under the glass it was even more beautiful than before. The color was amazing. Then his legs started moving. Was this another spasm? The butterfly had a spiral tongue, and it unwound - like a dog waking up from a nap. This creature was alive! Or was it?  I watched for minutes.  It didn't move any more.  This WAS becoming an exercise in Zen.  So was that another dying gasp?  Or just yawning? I turned off the light and went to work at the computer.

A while later I checked again. No movement. And there was no change by the time I left for breakfast. It was laid out flat on the post card - perfect for mounting.

When I returned a couple of hours later it had moved. It was now on its side with its wings closed. Damn, I thought, I didn't want it dying in that position. I needed it flat for display.

I gently pulled its wings apart. But back they went. Do butterflies get rigor mortis? Again I carefully pulled them apart. They flipped back.  I was curious.  I turned on the light for a closer look - no other movement. Maybe it had died and then dried out in that position. Water might relax it a bit. I took it to the sink and splashed it with a couple drops. No change.

I let it soak a few seconds then pulled the wings apart again. It flapped out of my fingers and into my face! It then flew across the room banging into my dining room window. That settled that. It was definitely alive. It just needed a drink of water.

I quickly moved to catch it but it went up high. I stepped on the chair. Still not high enough. I stepped up on the table and caught him cupping my hands over the window. He stopped flapping. Did it remember my smell? Or was it just scared?

I pulled the sliding glass door open with my elbow and took it out on the deck. As I opened my hands, it just sat there. Now it didn't want to leave. Go figure. I poked it and it took to the air. This was no timid departure. It went almost straight up about twenty feet landing on the top of a tree near my deck.

So does butter fly when churned with water? This one certainly did.

And did I find the path to Zen enlightenment?   Nope.  Not even close.

But I did learn not to make assumptions about life.

Or when it ends.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Did Greenspan fail us?

Alan Greenspan retired earlier this year garlanded with honors and accolades. One economist called him "the greatest central banker who ever lived." But one London fund manager begs to differ.

Tony Dye says Greenspan was a disaster.

Here's his contra view...

But then it's easy being a Monday morning quarterback.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Scameras - Our Government at Work

This is an excellent example of what happens when our government sets out to fix something.

In this case it's ticket cameras at red lights.

It's a great read.

Follow the money.

Sudden Disruption

Friday, June 09, 2006

Lights, camera, ACTION!

Anyone ever notice how so many stories on writing sites start out like the narrator is from a Disney movie talking to the gods of nature?

OK, Bullfrog. I'm not picking on you. I'm just using you as an example for something I've noticed a lot. The narrators seem SO disconnected from the audience.

How about starting from narration, then drop into your character's skin? Or at least something a bit more active? Especially when it's an action story?

"For just a second he stopped to rest. He let his breath catch up with his lungs. He started to notice things that had been a blur. The sky was not as black as it was when he started. This would make it harder to hide. He was far off course. He would have to fix that. He noticed how the wet ground pulled the sand up between his toes. At least his feet didn't hurt much yet. That would change if he stopped here too long. He needed the adrenalin.

He picked a direction and pushed off hard. Why had he become the hunted? Why had all his options ran out? He needed answers. But he had to get them moving."

Am I the only one that thinks a story should connect quickly?

And don't be afraid to drop out of lurk mode now and then Bullfrog.

It's only mild rejection.

Thursday, June 01, 2006


For years I owned and managed a retail computer store. We had Apple Macintosh, Atari and of course IBM PCs displayed at our demo stations. We also had lots of software to show off on these constantly advancing machines.

One of my pet peeves at the time was a lack of animated demos. It amazed me that other industries spent millions of dollars creating cardboard mobiles to hang from the ceiling trying to sell
soap or automobiles, while the software industry didn't even bother to animate a screen when they had such beautiful resources at hand.

As you might guess, I found the rare software that DID provide animated demos and left them running most of the time. These titles garnered a disproportionate mind share which I think helped
them prosper.

Now computers are available at Walmart and BestBuy, but much of retailing has moved to the internet. Google gives us a major search advantage, but we still under-utilize the magic of movement in
keeping the customer's attention once the page is displayed. This is a missed opportunity.

Even as software developers focus on the design of their user-interface, they often miss the most critical point of contact - it's your home page. You only have a few seconds to keep the user
from bouncing off to the next website. Animation is the key, but only if effectively used.

I've spent the last couple of weeks animating a demo of my text editor, Sudden View. I started with a free trial of Camtasia Studio 3 from TechSmith. It works as advertised though I'm sure I've
only tapped about 10% of it's features.

I'm still learning the editing process but I have a first cut on the website. Check it out. As you can see, the whole site is still a work in progress, but it's now doing a better job of
expressing just how strange yet effective Sudden View can be.

Since I was going for small file size to improve load speed, I produced in animated GIF format. I kept the screen shot at 640 by 480 and limited the loop to 125 seconds. Screen size seems to be more important than length of animation. The Cut-Outs didn't add much at all.

Running an animated GIF is also a great demonstration of the difference between Explorer and Firefox. If you have both loaded, do an A-B comparison and you'll never go back to Gatesware.
Which brings me to my second pet peeve about animation - too much of it.

The worst animations are the big Flash files that take forever to load. I'm amazed at how many of the big money sites still use them. One day they'll get a clue. Maybe.

Almost as bad are those little ads that constantly flash with absolutely NOTHING to say. Do we REALLY need to see lots of different product banners in the same little rectangle?

And they never give us a break. It's a maddening distraction while you're trying to read the content. To add insult to injury, they don't let us scroll off either. There's another copy flashing somewhere down the page. I don't stay long on these sites either.

So if you have a "moving" story to tell on your website, dive in and give it a shot, but only if it's worth telling in animation. There's no need for bouncing coffins or vibrating lake front

And remember, keep it small and short. And let the user scroll it off the screen after they've watched it. You DO want them to read the rest of your content, don't you?

Any one else have any animated web experiences?

Let me know.