Monthly Archives: November 2010

A Hair Cut Is A Hair Enhanced

When I was growing up, I would get my hair cut at Tony’s Italian Barber in Bedford. There was a big Italian community in the town, due to the brickworks I think. Tony the owner would snip away, while his friends would sit around playing with strange cards. While waiting I would take the opportunity to “read” the Sun and the Mirror, and listen to Chiltern FM (“transmitted from the mighty Sandy Heath transmitter“) – not my usual media. It was a spare but efficient place – I remember Tony’s straight razor scraping the back of my neck several times. They had the amusing black-and-white photos of the haircuts you could get, but would never want, and aftershave and cologne in bottles that looked like pinecones. Next to the rattly old cash register was hung a card of styptic pencils, which would stop any bleeding you walked out with. There may have been a topless pinup.

I had long hair for a while.

At college I got a set of electric clippers and would cut my own hair, No. 2 all over. Alternatively I would go to the 3-chair barber inside Afflecks Palace, and watch TV or listen to the latest 808 State while getting a £5 trim.

In London I went to a small local place, and sometimes a place at Euston Station where they vacuumed your head afterward to avoid post-snip neck tickle. When I moved to the US, Cassie insisted I go to her stylist in LA. A very pleasant experience, complete with hair washing, fashionable magazines and comfortable sofas, but it did take up to three hours, especially when she was having her hair done at the same time. In San Francisco I have succumbed to Supercuts a couple of times, through necessity and convenience, but I’ve never been happy with the results.

Finally I tried to find a regular gent’s barber downtown near where I work. There are some very trendy places in SoMa and around the Mission, but even when they’re regular barbers they are so teeth-achingly knowingly “authentic” I don’t enjoy being there. The Original Palace Barber Shop on the corner of Mission and 2nd Street, just a couple of blocks from my office, turned out to be just the place I was looking for. I nearly missed it due to a droopy awning and the fact it’s tiny, but inside are six chairs, no space, and a good basic haircut.

In fact it reminded me of Tony’s – scuffed laminate wall cladding, lino worn through to tile, strange bottles and potions on skewiff shelving. I poked my head in, a lady at the back beckoned me in and sat me down, and she only spoke to ask what I wanted and to state the price. I will be going back.

The Social Network Soundtrack

One of the best things about the movie The Social Network was the soundtrack by Atticus Ross and Trent “NIN” Reznor. It’s available here for only $5, and there’s a free five-track sampler available at the same link if you provide your email address. I’m downloading it now. What I heard on this site sounded really good, and that’s a great music and design site in general.

Update: I got the whole thing, and it’s really good. The main theme especially, Hand covers bruise, illustrates what I said about the growing rage and jealous resentment that the Zuckerberg character showed.

Ubuntu Desktop Choices

I updated my little Dell 10v to Ubuntu 10.10 “Maverick Meercat”, and so far all seems well. Because I upgraded rather than reinstalled, everything pretty much looked the same. I was curious  to see what the Unity desktop looked like, especially with the Mac-style global menu. Funnily enough, I had to deliberately install it separately to make it work.

I don’t like it. And I’ll tell you why.

It’s too mouse dependent. I use a tiny little laptop, with a terrible little trackpad. Actually it’s not so bad, for a trackpad, but I hate them. I usually use a regular external mouse, rather than try to click and drag using the trackpad, but for launching, I much prefer to use a launcher like the excellent Gnome-Do. Docks like Docky, AWN, etc etc etc are all very well, but they take up room on a small screen. A keyboard launcher just feels quicker to me – a couple of keys and I’ve launched an application, opened a file, or searched the web.

Side note – I’m always amazed at how much dragging is a key interface method in OSX. Drag to move stuff, drag to eject a drive. I have terrible trouble with Cassie’s Macbook – dragging an icon from the desktop to the bottom right, for example, takes several attempts, and both hands.

It appears that this new desktop will be the default on the next version of Ubuntu, 11.04 (due out in April 2011, hence the number – although it does use the ass-backwards date scheme this country is cursed with). As long as I can switch it off and use what I want instead of what Canonical thinks is a good idea, I’m happy. Otherwise perhaps Lubuntu is the way to go.

It’s a pretty dumb idea really. Netbooks and small laptops have limited power and screen size, and small trackpads or trackpoints. These Netbook launchers have graphically-intensive, intrusive, mouse-dependent screens. It’s the opposite of what is required.

My Own Research

I watched some of Bill Maher’s show on TV recently, in between sitting on the balcony hoping for a breeze and catching the odd stray alate that had flown in the open kitchen door. I don’t normally watch it because he annoys me, but one of his guests was Andrew Breitbart, a right-wing pundit. He talked the usual shit and made me angry, parroting the usual climate change denial wormery.

People who refuse to believe scientific evidence often use the phrase, “my own research”:

I’ve done my own research and I don’t think AGW is real

You should do your own research before you decide whether to vaccinate your children

So I googled the phrase “done my own research”, and found this excellent post about this very subject. I commented:

Good piece – I agree with you on both these counts. I googled “done my own research” to get here, because it makes me laugh as well. Do climate change deniers go to the South Pole and do ice core measurements, or launch satellites? Do anti-vaccination activists run drug trials? No, they use Google and read bias-confirming websites.

It’s ironic that Maher was taking the side of science and the climate change on his show on this occasion, because he has a rather unpleasant record of being a paranoid anti-vaccination conspiracist.

When anti-vaccination celebrities like Jenny McCarthy and Bill Maher say things like, “Do your own research before making a decision”, what exactly do they mean? Run your own drug trials? Experiment on people? Google “vaccines and autism”?

The “do your own research” thing is often very close to the “figure it out for yourselves, wake up sheeple” thing. For example, Jim Corr out of charming sanitized-Irish-folk-music-combo The Corrs uses several key phrases on his archetypal NWO conspiracy theory wesbite:

  • “My intention is not to sow fear, but understanding” (CRIB TO REEL THORTS: if you read my stuff, you will “wake up”)
  • “As you will discover with a little research…” (CRIB TO REEL THORTS: “…such as googling and watching grainy YouTube videos with slowed-down-zoomed-in bits”)
  • “I have been studying what is referred to as the New World Order…” (CRIB TO REEL THORTS: “I have been googling stuff and reading bias-confirming websites and self-published books”)

Another trope that crops up a lot is the “need for a debate”. There needs to be a debate. Why isn’t there a debate? Are you afraid of a debate?

Debate doesn’t change anything except opinions, and opinions can be wrong.

Imagine a live, televised debate between X and Y. X is a prominent and articulate climate change “skeptic” (read: denier). Y is a climate scientist, and climate change “believer”. During the debate, X makes several “gotcha” points, raising the UEA email scandal, the hockey-stick curve, sunspots etc. Y can debunk most of these, but in the atmosphere of live debate, X is able to score more points, and as a result, people walk away from the debate saying, “X won that debate. I don’t think I believe what Y says anymore.”

It makes no difference to the evidence. Even as the debate was raging, researchers and scientists all around the world were gathering data, and the vast majority of it supports the existence of anthropogenic climate change.

The thing is, science and the scientific method is a debate: a slow, step-by-step debate based on assertion and refutation. Someone puts forward an idea, creates experiments and models to find evidence to support or refute it, and publishes. Others then pile on, examining the theory and the data. If it works, it’s allowed to stand. For now. If not, it’s torn apart, and held up as an example. Later on, further data may help confirm the theory or help disprove it. It’s a process, not a big book of answers, and it’s always changing. As someone said, “Science doesn’t know everything. If it did, it would stop.”

As the US approaches the elections, there are a lot of ads and leaflets around which make claims about numbers of jobs, amounts of money, and actions by people. It should be easy to prove or disprove most of these claims, but in the end, you vote for who you want – never mind the evidence.

I can’t vote here, so I would ask you not to vote for Meg Whitman, because she would definitely cut funding for the California High-Speed Rail Project, despite the huge future job losses that would cause. She lives down the peninsula in one of the communities who are opposed to the project, so she’s bound to jump on that issue at some point. I have no evidence for this, but you can tell – it’s common sense.

Geocities Torrent

This is nice. A while back, Yahoo pulled the plug on Geocities, the old web host famous for resembling a post-apocalyptic Levittown, with nicely categorized avenues and cul-de-sacs populated by mutated nasties like animated GIFs, scrolling marquees and centered, flashing text. We can scoff now.

People tried to rescue stuff before the switch was thrown. I rescued a site which let you read scripts from A Bit Of Fry & Laurie, which the original poster seemed OK with. Other people have done this as well, here and also here, the latter with video clips and extra goodies.

But now, it appears that a big project to rescue the entire Geocities world has released it as a torrent weighing in at 652 gigabytes. Perhaps the whole thing can be hosted somewhere. I hope so – I never had a Geocities page (I was an Angelfire kinda guy) but it is a piece of history, and to be able to preserve a huge chunk like that is great. It’s a like an archaeologist  digging and finding an entire functioning society rather than just some shards of pottery.

QR Code Frolics

Arrrgmented Reality

This is a cool tshirt from Threadless. But it doesn’t work as a QR code – I just tested it as with my phone.

This is a shame. I’ve been wondering if there was a way to generate a QR Code where you fixed a few pixels to create an image, then let the generator use the rest to create the code. You’d have to use a larger grid resolution than would otherwise be necessary, because you’re using the extra pixels for your image.

How cool would it be to have a working QR code that contained your face, logo, or monogram?

Lazyweb, anyone?