31 March 2010


Eumerdification: writing to impress academics

Deep in the notes at the back of philosopher Daniel Dennett's 2006 book Breaking the Spell, there's a funny little story:

John Searle once told me about a conversation he had with the late Michel Foucault: "Michel, you're so clear in conversation; why is your written work so obscure?" To which Foucault replied, "That's because, in order to be taken seriously by French philosophers, twenty-five percent of what you write has to be impenetrable nonsense." I have coined a term for this tactic, in honour of Foucault's candor: eumerdification.

The word is much nicer in French, since in English it would be something like shittifying. So here's the definition:

Making academic writing at least 25% incomprehensible crap, to seem smarter.

I love that. I suspect there's some eumerdification in this article I reformatted several years ago.

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25 February 2010


Venti sherry

Speaking of Craig Ferguson, watch this excerpt from three years ago. Not as funny as most of his pieces, but it cuts:

Thanks to T for the pointer.

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24 February 2010


I wish I'd discovered Craig Ferguson five years ago

2009-11-13 345 at Flickr.comI've only occasionally stumbled on The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson since he started hosting the program in 2005. It starts after 12:30 a.m., after all, and I'm not the night-owl musician I used to be. I always found him funny.

Since we got an HDTV and a PVR in January, we're not only easily able to record whatever shows we want, but we also have access to channels such as CBS Detroit that are on East Coast time—so Ferguson is on at a much more reasonable hour. I've been watching him pretty much every day.

That's because he's both extremely smart and entirely hilarious. I don't think I've ever laughed as much at any other late-night show, not Johnny Carson, not David Letterman, not Stephen Colbert or Jon Stewart. Interestingly, while The Late Late Show has a fairly traditional talk-show format, with a monologue and guests, Ferguson has no co-host/sidekick, and no band. And he's better for it.

He's also keen to disassemble how talk shows work, to change the format, to take humour out of awkward pauses and improvisations. (His 1000th episode last year was performed almost entirely by puppets.) It clicks completely with the kind of humour I like.

His memoir, American on Purpose, is also a great read as I recommended before. And you can follow him on Twitter. But he shines on late night, and you should watch him there. I wish I'd discovered his show five years ago.

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15 January 2010


Olympic mascot Quatchi visits the Downtown East Side

I like the Olympics, but I have to say the Flickr photo set where Quatchi the 2010 mascot tours Vancouver's poor Downtown East Side neighbourhood is clever and to the point:

Get up, sir from The Blackbird on Flickr

Quick PR tip to the Vancouver Olympic Organizing Committee: trying to shut this piece of satire down as trademark infringement or something would probably be a bad idea.

I'm off to chemotherapy this morning, so don't expect much in the way of blog posts and such for three or four days while I sleep it off. Actually, it turns out my chemo is postponed a week: my neutrophil, platelet, and hemoglobin levels are borderline, so I need to recover more. Yay for no nausea for now; boo for offsetting plans we've made this month and in February based on my previous chemo schedule.

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24 December 2009


Noodlemas Eve

In the spirit of the Pastafarian season, I'd like to say thank you to our friends Tara, Morgan, and Simone for a wonderful last-minute addition to our Christmas tree:

FSM ornament

We're off to a European-style dinner with my side of the family tonight, Christmas Eve, before we join Air's side of the clan tomorrow. I hope you have as much fun as we will.

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24 November 2009


Mama? Mama?

This video might just possibly be the best thing ever (via Alex):

It will be horribly overexposed any minute now, but I don't care, because it is so awesome.

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24 October 2009


What would you do for a Klondike bear?

A couple of weeks ago, my wife Air pointed out to me that the sidewalks in front of convenience stores throughout Greater Vancouver have recently sprouted large, inflatable polar bears promoting Klondike ice cream bars:

What Would You Do For a Klondike Bear?

The Klondike promotions rep was obviously very busy around Vancouver in October. Both Air and I like the inflatable bears—they're cute, and large, and strange. Most effectively, they point out how many independent mom-and-pop style corner stores there still are in this city. I'm often tempted to assume that most have been put out of business by 7-Eleven and gas station shops, but that appears not to be the case.

My set of nine photos above resulted from my simply keeping an eye out for the bears during a couple of car trips on a single day this past week. Most of the pictures are from just one street, the main inter-city artery Kingsway. There must be dozens or hundreds of the beasts throughout the region.

One I didn't manage to snap is probably breaking the rules. On Canada Way, there's an independent Buffalo gas station that has covered the Klondike logo with a sign reading "HAND CAR WASH." That promo rep might be angry if he or she spots it.

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19 October 2009


Links of interest (2009-10-19):

From my Twitter stream:

  • My dad had cataract surgery, and now that eye has perfect vision—he no longer needs a corrective lens for it for distance (which, as an amateur astronomer, he likes a lot).
  • Darren's Happy Jellyfish (bigger version) is my new desktop picture.
  • Ten minutes of mesmerizing super-slo-mo footage of bullets slamming into various substances, with groovy bongo-laden soundtrack.
  • SOLD! Sorry if you missed out. I have a couple of 4th-generation iPod nanos for sale, if you're interested.
  • Great backgrounder on the 2009 H1N1 flu virus—if you're at all confused about it, give this a read.
  • The new Nikon D3s professional digital SLR camera has a high-gain maximum light sensitivity of ISO—102,400. By contrast, when I started taking photos seriously in the 1980s, ISO—1000 film was considered high-speed. The D3s can get the same exposure with 100 times less light, while producing perfectly acceptable, if grainy, results.
  • Nice summary of how content-industry paranoia about technology has been wrong for 100 years.
  • The Obama Nobel Prize makes perfect sense now.
  • I like these funky fabric camera straps (via Ken Rockwell).
  • I briefly appear on CBC's "Spark" radio show again this week.
  • Here's a gorilla being examined in the same type of CT scan machine I use every couple of months. More amazing, though, is the mummified baby woolly mammoth. Wow.
  • As I discovered a few months ago, in Canada you can use iTunes gift cards to buy music, but not iPhone apps. Apple originally claimed that was comply with Canadian regulations, but it seems that's not so—it's just a weird and inexplicable Apple policy. (Gift cards work fine for app purchases in the U.S.A.)
  • We've released the 75th episode of Inside Home Recording.
  • These signs from The Simpsons are indeed clever, #1 in particular.
  • Since I so rarely post cute animal videos, you'd better believe that this one is a doozy (via Douglas Coupland, who I wouldn't expect to post it either).
  • If you're a link spammer, Danny Sullivan is quite right to say that you have no manners or morals, and you suck.
  • "Lock the Taskbar" reminds me of Joe Cocker, translated.
  • A nice long interview with Scott Buckwald, propmaster for Mad Men.

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21 July 2009


My daughters made a Star Trek movie

Speaking of space stuff, you might enjoy this video my kids made (with a little of my editing help) this week:

Drama! Excitement! Evil croissants!

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06 June 2009


Han Solo, P.I.

I would have loved this show about 30 years ago:

Via All Things D.

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05 June 2009


Where the white things are

Where the white things areVancouver is a heavily multiethnic city, and most of the time you see that wherever you go. But there are some events—even ones that don't have a specific cultural or religious focus—that slice our population into a demographic so narrow that if you attended them, you'd think this place was a monoculture.

One of those was the Dane Cook comedy show that my wife and I attended last night. It was a fun evening, with three comedians mostly telling sex jokes. But holy crap, I don't know if I've ever seen so many white people in one place. Well over 10,000 fans at Vancouver's GM Place, and overwhelmingly it was young white boys with baseball caps, logo T-shirts, and plaid knee-length shorts; and girls of a similar age with long straight hair, spaghetti-strap tops, big sunglasses, and high heels or flip-flops. (The blazing hot weather outside surely contributed to the dress code.) We had to look long and hard to find the smattering of Asian, black, and Indian faces in the crowd. In Vancouver, that is damned weird.

Cook himself isn't the most laugh-out-loud comedian I've ever seen, but there's a mysterious appeal to his stage character, which is a sort of potty-mouthed Han Solo: roguish, handsome, kind of a prick, and yet strangely vulnerable and appreciative. He plays the same kinds of guys in his movies most of the time—the charming asshole best friend who likes to talk about his penis.

But back to the audience. While Cook is closer to my age (nearing 40), his fans skew very young. While there were a few of us approaching middle age, it was easier to spot a set of braces or the giddy emotions of someone whose prom dance might have been last week. And pretty much everyone completely ignored the three announcements that "cameras and recording devices are strictly prohibited." There were camera flashes and the orange glow of digicam and phonecam focus lights during the whole multi-hour show.

The concert brought back a memory of a very different event my wife and I attended about seven years ago. It was a show by Neil Finn (of Crowded House and Split Enz) at the Vogue Theatre, and while the crowd was almost as Caucasian, it was much smaller, and rather than young, everyone else was our age. It was a high-school reunion for the Class of 1986. Perhaps that's what a Dane Cook show will seem like in another 15 years too.

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30 April 2009


Photojojo has wonderful camera things

How the heck did I not know about Photojojo and the Photojojo Store before? Such awesome stuff!

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20 April 2009


Photos from the Sun Run

18 April 2009


Join me and The Neurotics at the Sun Run tomorrow

UPDATE: Here are the latest photos from the 2009 run.

Neurotics onstage at Flickr.comThe biggest shows I've ever played with my band The Neurotics have been our annual performances atop a scaffold, at the starting line of the Vancouver Sun Run. Tomorrow, Sunday April 19, 2009, marks the sixteenth time the band will play at the event, and is the tenth time I'll be there on drums. (I left the band for a few years in the '90s, and missed 2007 because of chemotherapy.)

Anyway, it's quite the crowd—last year more than 55,000 people ran past our stage, which is like playing for a sold-out B.C. Place Stadium. Sean, one of our guitarists (turning to the left in the photo) calls the gig a "heads-up hockey" show: there are lots of stops and starts, usually without much warning, as run organizers make announcements and start each wave of the run. There are few if any breaks. We have to be hyper-aware of what's happening for several hours in a row. But it's lots of fun.

This year we're taking a different approach than usual. Every other year we've had four musicians on the scaffold, but this time we'll have six, adding an additional percussionist and a singer. We'll be just as silly as usual, however, so if you're heading down to the Sun Run, wave hi. I'll be on either drums or percussion when you come by. Alas, chances are I won't be able to see you in the mob, but you never know.

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15 April 2009


Links of interest (2009-04-15):

Most of these come via Jason Kottke or John Gruber:

  • Nine science words that came from science fiction. See the (inevitably snipey) comments for some others, like robot, cyberspace, waldo, grok, avatar, and the delightful thagomizer.
  • "I can’t think of a way that the entire [computer] desktop metaphor can be overhauled without either everyone in the world switching over at once (which won’t happen), or becoming a 'data island' like the Newton or Classic Mac OS."
  • The MythBusters have a regular column in Popular Mechanics.
  • "If you're married to page views, never assume that I am. If you're angling for 1,000,000 Twitter followers whom you pretend to read, never assume that I am. And, if your project is based on generating compulsory year-over-year growth vis-a-vis market domination and fiduciary responsibility, never assume that I am."
  • Rush Limbaugh's 10 dumbest remarks.
  • Stephen Colbert won't get a space station module named after himself, but he will get a space treadmill instead.
  • Our pal Kris Krug takes great photographs of people, and is enormously prolific in publishing them online, and Miranda and Reilly Lievers make amazing wedding pictures. But when my other friend Alastair Bird, who's made his living as a photographer for many years, publishes the occasional portrait online, there's something about his shallow-focus work with a medium-format camera that I find just astounding.
  • A nice summary by "Bad Astronomer" Phil Plait of Jerry Coyne's book Why Evolution is True.
  • I am a photic sneezer, and it runs in my family (my grandmother did it, I think my dad does it, and one of my daughters does too). I'm glad to read an explanation.

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17 March 2009


Small victories

There it is: "In what must be the ultimate exercise in navel-gazing, an Austrian scientist has solved the mystery of belly button fluff" (via Brian Chin at the late Seattle Post-Intelligencer).

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04 March 2009


Another goldfish commercial

I'd forgotten yesterday that my friend Adam Woodall appeared in not one but two Goldfish Cracker commercials a few years ago. Here's the second one. No orange powder this time:

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02 February 2009


Ten worst best cars

Via Ken Rockwell, here's the kind of list you don't see very often: Car and Driver admitting to a list of 10 Most Embarrassing Award Winners in Automotive History, including many of their own choices. The Renault Alliance and Chevy's Vega and Citation were all award-winners at one point. That is embarrassing.

One of the reason car aficionados love BBC's Top Gear is that they rarely make such mistakes. They even have a category of "WTF? Car" for particularly egregious examples of bad or misguided motor vehicle design. Scroll down the Foreman Blog home page for a fun list of them.

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25 January 2009


Links of interest (2009-01-25):

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14 January 2009


Parlour tricks

Knowing that I can raise my lip, Stallone-style, my older daughter asked me to make this silly 20-second video:

No strings were harmed during filming. The song is my own "P and P," from 2005.

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07 December 2008


The final 42 days

The Onion is always biting satire, but sometimes they turn out to be chilling prophets:

Ah, but what would comedy writers have done otherwise?

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25 September 2008


You too can be Sarah Palin's gay friend

You've gotta love Dan Savage, the world's most straightforward (but not straight), no-BS sex advice columnist and podcaster, who's based in Seattle. If you want to get a sense of the true variety of people's relationships and sex lives, read his column online or in your local paper, or listen to his weekly show. (Be warned: there's lots of swearing and frank sex talk, as you should expect.)

Recent news in the American election reveals that, while vice-presidential hopeful Sarah Palin claimed back in 2006 to have some gay friends, no one has been able to find any of them. So Dan, in his generous way, offers himself as a candidate for the position:

He has some good suggestion for the role he could play in Palin's family life. He's asking other gay people to post videos outlining their qualifications too. While you'll need to be gay to apply (so neither my wife nor I can join in), I don't think you have to be American. Though it might help.

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16 September 2008


You have a point

The camera collage I posted to Flickr a couple of months ago is by now my most popular picture there, viewed more than 15,000 times. (Yes, Flickr is a haven for gearheads, never mind the photographic art.)

My favourite comment on the page comes from Axl: "I like the black one with the buttons and stuff."

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10 September 2008


Adam Savage laughs maniacally

I've never seen this effect (via Bad Astronomy) before:

Man, I just laughed and laughed out loud. No, you should not try it at home.

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15 July 2008


Who are those fuzzy brown rectangular monsters chasing the kitten?

ETech 2006 (Monday) at Flickr.comOne of the classic Internet meme images is the blocky stuffed monsters chasing a tiny cat. (The associated tagline is "Every time you masturbate, God kills a kitten.") I didn't know the origins of the image, or who the monsters were, so at a low level I wondered about it—but not enough to look it up.

Then Tod asked, in frustration, "What IS this anyway?" Since I was already in bed with chemo side effects without the motivation to do much else, that got me rolling. It didn't take much to find out, and inevitably the best explanation was at Wikipedia:

Domo is the mascot of Japan's NHK television station, appearing in several 30 second stop-motion sketches shown as station identification during shows. [...]

[Domo-kun is] described as 'a strange creature that hatched from an egg.' Domo's favorite food is Japanese-style meat and potato stew, and he has a strong dislike for apples, due to an unexplained mystery in his DNA. Domo-kun is known to pass gas repeatedly when nervous or upset. [...]

The popularization of Domo as an internet meme and cliche outside of Japan is often attributed to a Fark thread from July 28th, 2001. The thread became popular on the then-young site, prompted in part by its serendipitous ID number of 31337. From there, Fark users began using the image and likeness of the character in various image contests and as additional, humorous banter in threads.

Alas, most images in the thread are now broken, so Google Images and Flickr to the rescue.

In other words, it's one of those semi-fluky Internet memes that no one could possibly have predicted. But the meme-launching "Domo-kuns chasing the kitten" photo has just the right combination of cute and "blurry '70s Sasquatch documentary" creepy for me that, in a way, it needs no explanation.

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14 July 2008


Frightening photo of the day

Frightening if you were the doughnut, anyway:

13072008953 at Flickr.com

Photo by teh Boris, featuring the Mouth of the Travis.

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13 February 2008


Yacht Rock returns from the dead

Yacht Rock may be the greatest web TV miniseries ever created. At least in my opinion. And now, almost two years after the final episode, there is a new one, the official episode 11. (P.S. Language not safe for work.)

Smooth. Really smooth.

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16 June 2007


The story just rolls on

Fake Steve Jobs is supposed to be satire, but sometimes he cuts it so close it hurts:

The big thing to know about the media is that they're not out there "covering stories." The way to think about the media is that it's basically the same as one of those TV soap operas that's been on the air for twenty or thirty years. The story just rolls on, curving and unfurling, no matter who the actors are and no matter who the writers are. The story itself is bigger than the actors or the writers. The filthy hacks at the [Wall Street] Journal are basically no different than the aspiring novelists and screenwriters who take jobs writing for "General Hospital"; they've been hired on to the show for a few years and they're doing their best to keep it entertaining.

On an unrelated but mesmerizing note, if you want to see something roll on beautifully, install the Magnetosphere visualizer plugin for iTunes (via O'Reilly Radar). It's by far the prettiest music visualizer I've seen so far.

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21 May 2007


Rotary vs. iPhone: 11 ways my grandmother's old black dial phone was superior to Apple's upcoming iPhone

Telephone by Alastair Bird at Flickr.com
  • 11. Zero charge time, infinite talk and standby time.
  • 10. Impossible to lose or misplace.
  •   9. Built bicep strength with prolonged use.
  •   8. Always perfect reception within its coverage area (the kitchen).
  •   7. You could dial it while holding the receiver to your ear.
  •   6. Distinctive ringtone audible everywhere in the apartment.
  •   5. Simple, easy-to-understand rate plan with full carrier subsidy.
  •   4. Pleasant and firm tactile feedback for every digit dialed.
  •   3. Elegant, timeless design that never went out of style.
  •   2. Much more effective for hammering nails and bludgeoning robbers.
  •   1. Worked reliably for 27 years without replacement—or even, as far as I know, a single repair.

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20 May 2007



11 May 2007


What your T-shirt says about you

Hipster at Northern Voice 2005 - Vancouver, British Columbia 042 at Flickr.com"Somewhere near the middle of your T-shirt drawer," writes Adam Rosen in Gelf magazine (via Kottke), "lies dormant a secret weapon so witty, so elusively allusive, or just so damn hip it finds itself swathing your chest on only the most important occasions."

Here's mine. Hey, it got me labeled "hipster" two years ago by people who had no idea who I was at the time. Score!

(Thanks to Bill D. for buying it for me. The orange ones are now collector's items.)

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08 May 2007


Okay, maybe I will blog this

New 14 minutes of Spinal Tap!

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