buildingonthepast

29 February 2004

Superb winner of the Creative Commons moving images competition. Justin Cone has a good career ahead of him; it’s inventive, witty, and stylish. You’re building on the past right now.

Photovore

29 February 2004

Now open for business: Photovore. Updated infrequently, it’s more an album, less a photolog; every couple of days, I’ll try and put something onto it. I’ve been taking photographs for years now; I bought my SLR when I was 12, and still use it today. So it’s a chance to exercise myself, to improve my processing skills, and to show people that occasionally, I can do things quite well.

Back from London – internship over, most successful, learned a lot and have taken much onboard for future. Next week: two job interviews. In so many ways, things are looking up just about now…

conconfright

22 February 2004

OK, I’m scared. So far, 87 people have said they’re going to ConConUK. That’s a lot of people. I don’t think the Dover Castle are going to know what’s hit them…

Enlightenment

22 February 2004

British Museum, Room 1, 21/02/04: The Enlightenment

The British Museum is currently using Room 1 to display a fantastic exhibtion, simply entitled Englightenment. It’s full of collections made in that era, of stone, of vases, of animals, of plants; men collecting vast amounts of things to see if patterns will emerge. It’s a period that fascinates me, because it’s when natural philosophy turns into science, when science as we know it is born. Joseph Banks and Sir Hans Sloan travel to far-off lands, bring back what they can, and try to work it out. It’s also when our understanding of ancient cultures blossomed – when cuneiform Babylonian was decyphered, when the Rosetta Stone was found. The Three Age classification system – Stone Age, Bronze Age, Iron Age – that was pioneered back then still exists today. And it was in this era that men, through fossils and sediment, began to realise that the world was far older than the 4004BC creation date the Bible put forward. What follows are my unedited notes, made on the way home from it. It was all rather exciting…

  • Tax rods – wide bits of wood which you score the payment in and break down the middle; used in England from 1100-1826. Apparently the vast collection of these at Westminster contributed srtongly to the fire that burned down the Houses of Parliament. Now we have endless paperwork and receipts. What’s the difference?
  • Wonderful ideal – if you collect enough stuff, patterns will emerge. By “enough”, it seemed we mean “tons”. But there is certainly an element of truth, and the BM present this wonderfully by using large expansives of wall, where bookshelves once stood, filled with stuff. A wall full of black-and-red Greek vases, twelve feet high by about thirty across, sorted by size; and sure enough, patterns and trends in the design of vases suddenly become obvious – it’s like a thumbnail view for things. There’s a wonderful selection of slices of marble and rock; almost look like 18th century Pantone swatches. Lots of interesting stuff of Sir Hans Sloan’s – notably, his drawers of medicine and minerals, sorted by dividers and an arcane system of classification. He came up with a classification for creatures but Linaeus caught on better.
  • Slightly overwhelming. And in some ways the big room makes it worse, not better; Sir John Soane’s house I can cope with, because the rooms whilst entirely rammed are quite small. At the BM, it’s this huge space, and I want to see it all, and my brain starts whirring.
  • The Rosetta stone. Seriously, wow. I’d never seen it before; the hieroglyphics are so perfect, they almost seem unreal. They’re so similar to the things we did when I was seven at school. Reading the Greek, which is written without spaces, listening it to aloud, maybe understanding the odd word, seeing where the breaks fall – just knowing tha these words were written in the other languages on it was really exciting for no reason I can satisfactorily pin down.
  • “Is that Chinese?” “No, it’s Greek and Hieroglyphics, dear.” “Why not?” “Because it’s not from China” – the idea that, to a three-year-old, all unrecognisable glyph-like languages are Chinese. Makes complete sense!
  • Oh, the scientific equipment, especially the orrery; beuatiful. Wonderful that these contraptions of glass, brass and wood can be almost as accurate as stuff we have today. They certainly get the gist right. Also, they remind one of the craftsmanship that goes into scientific instruments – perfect prisms, made by hand. All the stuff they were glimpsing, all the things they’d have like to have been able to do.
  • Drawings of creatures by Joseph Banks – again, really exciting to see someone depicting stuff for the first time. To be a scientist, it seems you also needed to be a talented artist.

Window Overload

21 February 2004

I understand what Tom’s going through; so many times I’ve ignored an important application update because I basically have too many things open to close.

Of course, your definition of “too many” will depend on who you are. When Safari gets more than a certain number of tabs, it scrolls them off the tab window into a dropdown. When that happens, I always work to reduce them immediately – just because the point of tabs is that I can see what I’ve got open. I have been known to use multiple Safari windows, but we’re talking two; one for browsing, perhaps the other for a specific set of tabs – a project, a job application, a single site tabbed out to logical extremes. That’s my breaking point. One afternoon last week, I was busy working at work, and getting more and more tense, and I realised that one of the major contributions to this stress was the sheer number of windows I had open; the taskbar was overloaded with tiny buttons. This is partly because of the pain of having to use IE instead of a browser with tabs – I had about 10-12 IE windows (webmail, two or three with content management/production sites from work, two or three with the actual live sites in, plus several reference ones), the Outlook Inbox, some emails, and two Notepad windows. My brain went: “too much!“. So I hit Windows-M, and went through them, one by one, culling anything bookmarked or saved, let the pressure off, and started opening windows again.

It might come down to screen resolution. My Powerbook runs at 1024*768, and I don’t have Expose, so I tend to make good use of the Hide function; quite often, almost everything runs hidden, and I tend to hide when I’m swapping between several apps – say, Dreamweaver, Photoshop, Safari and Fetch. Both Dreamweaver and Photoshop are screenwhores – all those palettes – so they’re the first to be vanished. I really like the hide function; I’ve been using it since almost day one of my OSX life and it makes a huge amount of difference on the small screen.

I can see why Tom wants to save states and bookmarks. Part of my new portable-computing regime is that I can read lengthy posts or articles on the web at leisure. After breakfast, whilst getting dressed, I pull everything I want to read into seperate tabs, and then hide Safari. Presuming it doesn’t crash, I can work my way through them on the train. Obviously I can’t follow links, but that’s not my goal. I deal with overload faster than Tom does; I open almost every new link into a tab, but I close them sooner. For instance, when I have a Google search, I’ll open a result into a new tab; if it’s appropriate, I’ll leave it, if not, I’ll close it. When I’ve got enough result-tabs open, the original tab disappears. And so on. So, whilst not quite as window-overloaded as Tom (perhaps because of his higher screen resolution) I’m still using my browser more in the way that groc can’t understand. And whilst software and hardware companies offer us the choice and ability to work in this way, they ought to support it too.

Or else I’m never going to upgrade my software ever again.

Outboard Brain

21 February 2004

I’m beginning to discover the usefulness of the portable computer. I’ve already been introduced to the joys of Wifi inernet access; but now I’m discovering where the laptop really makes a difference to me.

Essentially, it makes good use of downtime. Every day, I have an hour long commute, and it’s usually about half an hour before I hit the underground. So I get 30 minutes of good, unbroken time. Now, I’m often not very awake in this hour. Sometimes I’m able to read – usually because my brain only knows it’s tired when it’s not got anything to divert it. Recently, though, I’ve had odds and ends to work on – site layouts, email, documents to read, articles to write – and have discovered this unbroken 30 minutes to be invaluable admin-time. I don’t have any net access for the laptop until I get home at night, either, so it’s a good time to work on things entirely unrelated to the internet (yes, there are several). For half an hour, I can’t check facts online, or grab my email, or open a chat client. I can look out the window, true; but basically, it’s half an hour of work. And it’s proving really productive; it’s a great time to do all the little things before I get to a net connection and need to be a reader, not a writer, again. Odd bits of image editing; covering letters; CSS jiggery-pokery. All these things are getting done, and it’s not taking up extra time; I’m just using my time differently.

giant microbes

18 February 2004

Cuddly little germs: Giant Microbes. Stuffed toys that represent a whole host of common microbes. I want a Common Cold, now!

fourohfour

17 February 2004

Beautiful 404 page, linked from minor9th.

Beautiful

13 February 2004

I swear that wvs:daily dose of imagery is one of the most beautifully brilliant sites on the web. The photograph linked to, in particular, is beautiful. I’m not a bad photographer, and sometimes the restricted column width of infovore hampers my ability to display good photographs. Something in the back of my brain is saying photolog. That way I can go wider than 420 pixels. Sound like a plan? Or no? (Time to investigate more storage space on the host, methinks).

zackattack

13 February 2004

What the hell is Zack from Saved By The Bell doing in NYPD Blue?!

Links & notes for this month