Monthly Archives: June 2009

Don’t Masquerade With The Guy In Shades

OK so I got new prescription sunglasses. I felt (and I was agreed with) that my current simple metal frames were not cool enough, considering I now live (for the moment) in a city with plenty of sunshine. I’d seen a few reviews of these cheap online sunglasses stores, so I decided to take a risk and go for it. I suspect a lot of these places depend on the “for this price, why not” crowd. For $40, even if they sucked, it won’t be too bad.

After reading about a few places, I plumped for Optical 4 Less. They seem to get good reviews, and they had the frames I wanted, so I dug out my lenses prescription and went through the site’s ordering process. They give you many choices about lens type, materials, coatings and so on, and obviously that adds to the price. The website laid it all out pretty clearly, breaking it down into clear steps. I had to measure the distance between my pupils, which I did following these instructions. My sunglasses were pretty much the most basic you could get, with simple not-very-powerful lenses, no coatings and just a simple tint – “brown3”, the darkest brown they had. They came to $40 including shipping from Hong Kong. If you want special lenses, or any other fancy features, you pay extra – I saw one type of lens that would add $180 to the price. For that much I would probably visit a local store.

I ordered them on June 15th, and on Saturday June 27th I had a card in my mailbox to collect a parcel from the Post Office. I must remember to get stuff delivered to work, to save these lunchtime trips to collect parcels. When I finally got my hands on the box, here’s what happened. Look, an unboxing slideshow!

I’m very happy with the glasses. They are good quality frames – not flimsy, the lenses are working fine, and the shipping was pretty quick. If I had one complaint, the tint is not quite as dark as I would have liked. I chose the darkest brown, and they could do with being just a tad darker. But they are great, and I would recommend them.

The ones I chose are the “Freeway” model, which is an obvious ripoff of the Oakley Thump sunglasses so beloved of tedious renegade douchebags everywhere. Only joking, they are actually a copy of the famous Wayfarers from Ray-Ban, as immortalized by the Blues Brothers, that one line out of that one Don Henley song, and beloved of tedious hipster douchebags everywhere. They don’t have the little white Ray-Ban logo in the corner, but I can add that with Tipp-Ex, so that’s not a problem.

The link above is to The Blues Brothers 2000, which I’m sure you will agree was superior to the original because it had John Goodman and a child in it, John of course reprising his roles from King Ralph and The Borrowers. Hint: Never see a movie where the poster has John Goodman (or anyone else) looking shocked on it. He was great in True Stories though, despite David Byrne effortlessly acting him off the screen.

I actually got these frames in my continuing effort to more closely resemble John Cusack in Grosse Point Blank. Perhaps I should dye my hair and become attractive and talented too? Hmm? I got my black suit altered. Or perhaps Joachim “He’s Mad” Phoenix in Walk The Line. Either way, I will use them to watch you weave then breathe your storylines.

Personal Data Flow Diagram

With my Palm Centro, I’ve been playing with methods of keeping all my contacts and calendars up to date. I’ll admit it’s more of a geeky labour of love rather than a legitimate need for a solution. As the complexity of the links involved became clear, and after I had some problems with timezone shifting of my calendar events due to duplicated synchronization (always a bummer), I had started to draw it out as a simple data flow diagram.

Then I saw this beautiful Disney Organisation Chart from 1943, and I decided to create the flow chart in this style. The only tool I had immediate access to was Microsoft Visio at work, so one lunchtime I had a first crack at it.

One of the nice stylish features of the Disney diagram was the text wrapped inside the circles, fitted to the curves. Microsoft Visio doesn’t allow you to fit text to a curve, unlike pretty much all other drawing and paint software (even the “business graphics” packages do). The solution to this requirement according to the helpful souls up in Redmond is to create a Word-Art object in Word and paste that in. This would be fine except that it a) looks shit, b) can’t be edited in Visio, and c) doesn’t actually work anyway.

A quick Google found The Visio Guy and the Circular Text Generator Version 2, which is brilliant. Thanks, Visio Guy!

> wait
Time passes...

Since then, I decided I didn’t want to be trapped in Visio, so I transferred it over to Inkscape, the open-source vector graphics editing package. Inkscape is a work in progress, but so far it’s very powerful, and getting friendlier by the update. It’s default file format is SVG, so at a stretch you could edit the file in a text editor (if you were feeling crazy).

Inkscape is not yet at 1.0, so some features are a bit clunky, and many would be far easier to do in a mature commercial package, but I like to support these efforts. Particularly useful were the “Flow text into shape” feature, which is a basic tool in most other drawing software, even MS Office. The key feature for me was the Connectors feature, which is again the most obvious tool in Visio, because it allows you to connect shapes together with lines which stay connected when you move the shapes, and which can avoid overlapping other shapes if you want. Ideal for data flow diagrams.

Anyway, here is the current version of the graphic, as of today’s date.

personal data flowchart 2009 06

There is a bit of a gap in the lower left, where JPilot should really sync to Thunderbird, which would be sensible, instead of having all my C.E.N.T (Contacts, Events, Notes, Tasks) info go around the houses via Google Calendar and web. There are other weird things going on, and stuff missing, but it’s a start.

There was a box called Schedule World, which was a free service for syncing info over the web, but now the developer is charging, so bye bye. I’d bought a SyncML client for the Centro as well, which is now redundant. Guess I should remove it from the diagram.

Also, this is a PNG file exported from Inkscape. I could add links to the SVG and post that up here, but SVG support is not ubiquitous yet, so I won’t. Don’t want to deny the IE crowd.

“It Was 37 Years Two Days Ago…”

… as The Beatles never sang.

So anyway, my birthday. After last weeks trip to Las Vegas, I’m driving up to LA this evening, for a nice weekend involving the usual dinners with friends, brunch, dogwalking and relaxing. Oh and maybe some database design for Cassie, you never know.

In terms of gifts, I got a few nice things. My brother sent me some photographs of Marmite and Typhoo teabags, Cassie bought me an awesome new computer monitor amongst other things, and Joan and David got me this cool monogram stamp with which I am in the process of personalizing everything I own. On the way back from Las Vegas, we stopped at an outlet mall (I know, I know – I left them in a jar on the mantelpiece), and I bought myself a rather smart new Coach briefcase. Look at me, all growed up.

But just in case you’re feeling happy, I ought to announce this, the unspeakable truth. Time magazine’s cover for 19 June 1972, just days after my birthday, got it right. The lead article describes the shocking rise in occult practices and beliefs -or at least the shocking rise in the sort of people that believe this nonsense. But the cover made the truest statement of all – Satan Returns. Just days after I was born? Is there a connection (beyond the fundamental interconnectedness of all things)? I think we should be told.

(Reason.com article link from Boing Boing)

Discovery Institute Abuses DMCA To Censor Critic

After posting a video taking apart the arguments of The Discovery Institute’s Casey Luskin (who appeared on Fox News without an opposing view – fair and balanced my arse), Youtube user Donexodus was hit with a cynical DMCA claim from the Institute to take it down, citing copyright infringement. The twisted nature of the DMCA means that it was immediately taken down despite the source video being the property of Fox News, and it clearly falling under the “fair criticism” rules.

Here’s a replacement video. The Discovery Institute are a creationist tribe who dwell in Seattle, and peddle their blinkered blind nonsense to anyone who will listen, which includes Fox News.

And here’s a call to action:

Time, The Old Enemy

Well that’s the absolute end. I turned 37 today. I’m only updated this because these bastards told me to.

Actually it’s been pretty good, all told, so far. My brother called for his regular misanthropic slagging session. Friend Robin called (from his landline!) to have a chat, make vague promises about visiting in the late summer, and boast about how much tail he’s getting at the moment. Colleagues and I will be going for drinkies and maybe food later. It’s LA this weekend for friends and celebrations as well. Things are good.

Cassie had some pastries delivered to my office, which was a lovely surprise, and gave me an excuse to email everyone in the office to tell them it was my birthday and to grab the croissants while they could. One person saw the words “pastries in the kitchen” and went straight there, only to have to ask what the occasion was because they didn’t read further.

We went to Las Vegas at the weekend, to visit with Cassie’s “folks” and meet up with an old London Film School friend of  hers. Joanie made some great food as usual over the weekend, breakfast souffle stuff, calzone and yellow cake with chocolate frosting, and David allowed me to drink a lot of his Glenlivet. We went to see The Hangover which is exactly what it looks like in the trailer, despite what some reviews have said – it was funny though, if a little cheap in places.

We had a lovely meal at the Pinot Brasserie in the Venetian Hotel, which in stark contrast to the rest of the place is quite relaxed and genteel, albeit with a strange muzak tape on. I had rack of delicious lamb, and a nice choc dessert which the restaurant had written “Happy Birthday” on. We stayed in the Venetian for a night. It’s nice in there, big bed, remote control drapes, marble bathroom, great view of the HVAC units on the neighbouring rooftops. It’s a mad place, and as soon as you get off the strip, it’s the same stripmalls and outlets, only with a pyramid and the Eiffel Tower in the distance.

The journey to Las Vegas gets me every time. Big open spaces, mountains on the horizon, then as you sweep down out of the hills, you see places like Barstow and Baker, looking for all the world like Mos Eisley Spaceport on Tatooine. Cassie says I’m not the first Brit to have pointed that out. She’s so used to driving back and forth that she’s nonplussed by it now.

Today is also the birthday of one Sarah Brown, also known as “OMG Sarah Brown”, who I had the privilege to meet a couple of years ago, and we’ve kept in touch. Her blog is awesome, and Cringe is great fun.

It’s only halfway through my birthday this year, so maybe I’ll update later. In the meantime, cheers for your thoughts, and chin up, eh?