Archive for August 2010
I took a trial subscription on NRC Next, the edition of the NRC Handelsblad paper targeted at the internet generation. In other words: a daily newspaper in tabloid format with lots of short articles, and more articles on Hip New Things™ than its parent publication. The NRC has the name of being a high quality news paper, so I was quite surprised and annoyed to discover a rather bad article on astrology today.
Granted, it’s a slow news week and technically their article was about an astrology society, but that doesn’t mean a proper journalist shouldn’t at least ask some hardline questions. Instead what they printed was an easy human-interest interview in which the astrologers get the opportunity to make unsubstantiated claims about how wonderful their nonsense is.
Tonight I watched the Mummy 3 with a friend, and it was rubbish. Not because the acting or the CGI sucked. It was just too fucking predictable.
As a teenager I was a big fan of blockbuster action movies. Coming into my twenties I’m having trouble staying interested throughout these films. It is trivial to see that these movies are the same stories over and over again. After some brief conflict during their first meeting the hero eventually always gets the girl (note the gender roles). The villain, who is pure evil come to life, always gets his ass kicked by the noble hero in the end. There is usually one silly awkward guy around for the cheap laughs.
The CGI has gotten better and there are a few new tricks every couple of years, but that sort of thing gets old pretty quickly too. Numerous movies (300, The Mummy 1-3, Lord of the Rings, Panthom Menace, …) feature long action sequences with huge armies fighting each other.
Indiana Jones was the first to come across an ancient temple that was filled with booby traps to keep unwanted visitors out. After the success of that movie everybody appears to be stumbling across ancient hidden tombs – see National Treasure 1-2, the Mummy 1-3, Tomb Raider or pretty much any recent movie that involves archeology.
I can go on and on.
I’m sure the movies I watched in my childhood were the same unoriginal crap, and there was nothing new exciting about them either. But at least then it was new and exciting to me.
Gasoline-based cars are bad – they produce green house gases, pollution, smog, noise and leave us with a dependency on foreign oil.
However, I get annoyed when I have to hear that electric cars are, contrary to traditional cars, the ultimate solution to all the car-related environmental problems. This rant is triggered by claims to that extend by some of the car makers on last weeks NPR Science Friday, but it seems to be a widely held public impression.
Just because a cars engine no longer emits waste does not mean it is neutral to the environment. Electricity (just like hydrogen) is just a means of transporting energy – the electricity itself still has to be generated somewhere, and chances are that is going to involve burning fossil fuels. Likewise, producing the parts of the car and its disposal also produces toxic waste.
Does that mean that driving a Prius is worse for the environment than driving a Hummer? No, not in the long term: a Prius is an investment in electric car technology; the next generation of electric cars and hybrids will be more efficient and environment friendlier. So will the generation after that.
So why are electric cars a good thing in the long run? Unlike oil, there are actually clean ways in which we can generate electricity – using water, solar, wind or nuclear power. Without investment in cleaner ways to generate electricity we’re just trading in oil for coal.
Cars that run on anything more durable than oil are a part of the solution to the energy problem, but there is no way that the next generation of electric cars is going to magically solve the pollution problem by itself. And there’s always going to be some pollution from producing car components.
No sane DJ is going to burn their fingers on a song title like this:
“And by Our Own Hand Did Every Last Bird Lie Silent in Their Puddles, the Air Barren of Song as the Clouds Drifted Away. For Killing Their Greatest Enemy, the Locusts Noisily Thanked Us and Turned Their Jaws Toward Our Crops, Swallowing Our Greed Whole.”
Travel usually makes me feel more relaxed and, strangely enough, more productive – despite all of the distractions and time spent in queues and waiting on train stations and airports. Perhaps part of why I enjoy it so much is that I have a high tolerance; I can sleep pretty much anywhere, and if my surroundings get too annoying I can always distract myself with a good book or some music. I’ve done an awful lot of travelling recently, spending almost half of my time away from home last year.
However, near the end of April it was starting to become a drag – being away while still sticking to 9-to-5 work days (conferences, ash clouds..) clearly didn’t work for me anymore and it drained my energy. Being frustrated with work at the same time didn’t help either. Now, not having left the country for the past month for the first time in more than a year, I finally feel the urge to travel again.
Despite its public support for net neutrality earlier, Google seems to think that it does not apply to wireless networks and that, if money changes hands, some traffic could be more equal than other traffic. Sigh.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-10920871 (via, yes, Google News)
It looks like Google’s internal culture is (albeit slowly) changing for the worse, or at least its outside policies are. Last year saw a couple of incidents surrounding privacy, most worryingly Google CEO Eric Schmidt’s comments on the value of privacy. There was also the hasty rollout of Google Buzz, and the incidents with collected wireless network information.
Google is still doing better than a lot of other tech companies, but it’s going downhill. I hope this trend can be reversed.