Unusual animals

Found some amusing photos of unusual animals. Wonder if some of them are photoshopped hoaxes. I was worried about the kid riding on a komodo dragon until I read that it is actually a bronze replica. Not sure what animal this is in the photo linked here, but it reminds me of my UNC philosophy professor.

AB 31 July 2009

Cool art print: ‘Big Evening’ by Jim Flora

Ran across this crazy, exciting art print just released by Jim Flora Art. If I was flush right now, I would consider shelling out the $175:

James Flora lived 1914-1998, and was known for his jazz album covers and children’s books. Looking at the Flora web site, I would say the family is doing a great job of marketing his art.

AB — 21 July 2009

Daylife: System for creating just-in-time content portals

Daylife cover exampleI read today in John Blossom’s ContentBlogger about Daylife, provider of content-development and -management applications that allow a publisher to create instant content portals — see “Life With Daylife: On-Demand Feature Content Development Grows Up.”

Blossom says Daylife permits a publisher to quickly put together content, marketing, and advertising resources from both internal and external sources. He believes this kind of toolset can allow publishers to duplicate the Huffington Post‘s successful integration of marketing elements and editorial content.

Daylife describes its management interface as simple and intuitive, designed for non-technical editorial personnel for point-and-click interaction.

It seems to me that the Daylife model offers a useful option for news organizations that are struggling to find a new and workable business model. Blossom says,

[A] service like Daylife cannot replace all of the editorial value of a traditional newsroom and more robust editorial content development platforms, but when it can provide most of the robust functionality that people expect from an online publication today along with access to deep and high-quality content, it’s time for publishers to think more actively about how they can use tools such as Daylife to enable their content to succeed in any number of topic-specific “instant portals” and other efficiently managed content presences far more actively.

AB — 21 July 2009

The couple in the iconic ‘Woodstock Photo’ – What’s wrong with this picture?

The other day I ran across a kind of cute story in the Daily News about the couple holding each other wrapped in a quilt, the photo of whom was used on the cover of the Woodstock album and has become one of those iconic 60s images — see “Woodstock concert’s undercover lovers, Nick and Bobbi Ercoline, 40 years after summer of love.”

Upon looking at the photo, though, what occurred to me was not how romantic or evocative the image might be, but how much litter is on the ground and what a mess the festival made. Here’s a link to the photo:

And here’s the same couple today (still married):

AB — 20 July 2009

New wristwatch uses a linear rather than circular clock face

Just yesterday I read on The Watchismo Times (a blog dedicated to unusual timepieces) about a new mechanical wristwatch designed with a linear time display rather than the traditional circular clock face. (See “Urwerk King Cobra CC1 Reintrepretation of 1958 Patek Philippe Cobra Prototype – Cylindrical Retrograde Linear Jumping Hour Display.”)

This design is thought-provoking: We normally conceive of time as a line, and yet for centuries the standard timepiece interface has been a circle. The author of the Watchismo site explains why this is:

Why do we think of time as travelling in a straight line yet display it rotating around a circle? The answer is straightforward: mechanisms that continually rotate are much simpler to produce than those that trace a straight line then return to zero. In fact, the latter is so difficult that, until now, nobody has ever managed to develop a production wristwatch with true retrograde linear displays.

It makes me think about how I conceive time personally. In the big picture, I think I do see time as a straight line going infinitely to the left and right.

In spite of the more linear design of the calendars I use, I believe I conceive of the calendar as a circle, as if the year were superimposed on a standard clock face. However, in my mind, the calendar runs counterclockwise with January at approximately the 11:00 position. I think my circular conception of the calendar comes from the periodic nature of the solar year. Why the year goes counterclockwise in my mind I don’t know.

When it comes to my conception of days, though, I see some ambiguities. I do conceive of them on some level as a circle of 24 hours, but on reflection I think that conception is at least partly based on the circular clock faces we use to keep time, as well as on the collective 24-hour standard we use to keep our society synchronized.

Certainly the new Urwerk King Cobra CC1 provides food for thought about how we think about time and about the user interfaces of the devices we use to keep track of it. Below is a link to Watchismo’s picture of the watch. Watchismo also provides many fascinating details about how the watch is designed and constructed.

Urwerk linear wristwatch
Urwerk linear wristwatch

AB — 10 July 2009

A pretty cool comic about Charles Babbage and his Difference Engine

Today I ran across this great comic by Sydney Padua on the BBC News web site. In the 19th century, Charles Babbage invented the Difference Engine, a mechanical precursor of computers.

The difference engine was never completed during Babbage’s lifetime, but here is a link to a photo of one at the London Science Museum built recently.

AB — 9 July 2009

‘The Fog of War’: Nuances of Robert S. McNamara

Robert S. McNamara, who was Secretary of Defense under U.S. Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, died yesterday at age 93 — see today’s article in The Washington Post.

As a teenager during the Vietnam war, my view of McNamara was two-dimensional, you might say. For the black-and-white morality of a young war resister, he was the enemy.

Years passed, and I didn’t think about Robert McNamara much until 2004, when the documentary The Fog of War – Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara came out.

Watching the movie, I was fascinated at the nuanced picture it presented of this once-controversial and divisive figure. The film includes comments from a long interview with McNamara. It would be over-simplifying to say that he admits he and other policy-makers were wrong in the way they prosecuted the Vietnam conflict. He really gives the viewer a sense of how hard it is for decision-makers to be certain they are doing the right thing.

Watching and listening to McNamara in his late-80s, I also remember feeling some shame at my previous attitude toward this somewhat stooped old fellow in his tan raincoat.

Can’t remember where I read it, but it was good advice: If you find yourself hating someone, try imagining them as a helpless little baby or as a very old person near the end of their life.

AB — 6 July 2009