Musings and a place to store stuff

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The Expendables

Pearl and I watched this film the other night, and I have to blog on how bad it is.  captured_Image.pngIt is frighteningly awful. It’s cast read like a ‘who’s who’ of action movies including Sylvesta Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lungren, Mickey Rourke, Bruce Willis and Arnie.

But watching it, it just makes no sense whatsoever. It seems while you’re watching it, as though all of the big actors have decided that the writers are holding them back, and have deludedly come up with the decision that they don’t need writers and can just make stuff up (Sylvesta Stallone did write it.)

It’s as though the Mona Lisa had decided that as her pictures so popular she can probably knock up a few self portraits herself, and do without the stroppy painter.

We started to get suspicious after the leading men are variously seen on various expensive looking motor cycles and parking them in a cool looking sort of macho man hang out complete with neon signs and pool tables, where they sit and sharpen knives, and give words of wisdom to each other (like the building that Wesley Snipes hangs out in with Kris Kristofferson).

Then suddenly they’re whisked off to some representation of a tin-pot country somewhere, where generic looking bad guy soldiers rough up the populace, except they’re not all whisked off they seem to have suddenly found a sea-plane and can all fly – oh and it has a huge machine gun in the nose and drops kerosene bombs. Then there’s suddenly a love interest who needs saving which a 70 year old Sly looks really creepy chasing after. Then CIA involvement and then we had to turn it off because we couldn’t watch any more. It was just the most awful film ever made.

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The Top Ten Daily Consequences of Having Evolved

The Smithsonian institute have posted captured_Image.pngan interesting article that lists ten draw back to having evolved rather than being created. These run from hiccups to back aches and hernias.

Read the full article here

Hiccups for example:

The first air-breathing fish and amphibians extracted oxygen using gills when in the water and primitive lungs when on land—and to do so, they had to be able to close the glottis, or entryway to the lungs, when underwater. Importantly, the entryway (or glottis) to the lungs could be closed. When underwater, the animals pushed water past their gills while simultaneously pushing the glottis down. We descendants of these animals were left with vestiges of their history, including the hiccup. In hiccupping, we use ancient muscles to quickly close the glottis while sucking in (albeit air, not water). Hiccups no longer serve a function, but they persist without causing us harm—aside from frustration and occasional embarrassment. One of the reasons it is so difficult to stop hiccupping is that the entire process is controlled by a part of our brain that evolved long before consciousness, and so try as you might, you cannot think hiccups away.

I have also read somewhere that one of the reasons that we frequently wake up suddenly with the sensation of falling, is that this is an ancient protective mechanism caused by the downsides of sleeping in trees (the falling sensation alerting us to grab on to a branch).

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Be It Resolved That Religion is a Force for Good In the World


There was a debate this week on the question of whether religion is a force for good in the world with the 2 principle debaters being Tony Blair (Pro) and Christopher Hitchens (Con).

You can watch it online here for a few dollars.

Christopher Hitchens was excellent as ever. The audience voted before and after with the results below. At the start 57% were already against the motion and this increased to 68% afterwards but those for the motion also increased from 22% to 32% so I think it just proves that both Blair and Hitchens were persuasive.

I wish they’d talked a little bit more about existentialism and the transcendent which they only touched on at the end. So the start was Hitchens listing all the bad things in the name of religion – how we should of abandoned the old testament. Blair responded by listing good things done in the name of religion and unfortunately gave the working out of the peace process in Northern Ireland as an example, which Hitchens rightly leapt on – 400 years of religious stupidity. Blair responded that it was normally more about politics and less about religion.

Hitchens brings up that Rwanda genocide capital of the world is the most Christian African country and Blair again responds that it’s not about religion.

An audience member asks why America one of the most free and most democratic countries can also have the largest and most mixed religious groups. Hitchens responds that the separation of Church and State has left people to not only do what they want and not be persecuted but has also prevented them from being allowed to subjugate each other (saying those religious groups would seem less ‘furry’ if they were in power).

One of his comments being “I don’t care what you do, but don’t bring religion into my school or try to convert my kids with your nonsense” but that religions can’t do this because their books tell them to push it into everyone’s faces.

Blair agrees with this but again talks about how religion can bring differing sides together.

Blair brings up the wonderful things done in the name of religion, and so Hitchens brings up the wonderful things done in the name of communism, but points out many of those people ultimately abandoned communism realizing that it was authoritarian and that they should stand up and be free, and this was the same with the church. Hitchens points out that if it were just about following Jesus he would have less problems with it, but you can’t and have to follow the self proclaimed vicar here on earth the pope. Nice line about not wanting to be part of the flock (or any kind of sheep).

Blair and Hitchens then both talk about the transcendent and the possibility of a power outside of human existence –  which Hitchens says is OK but you don’t need a religious leader or ancient book or cave for – and points out that these religious books make claims about land and cutting the genitalia off of new born boys with sharp stones which some people take seriously. Sam Harris said recently “it’s not the religious fundamentalists that are the problem, it’s the fundamentals of religion”.

Blair then explained that he doesn’t really take the bible literally in that sense and that it was written from the view point of that century – but that it’s the central message of loving others that he takes from it and that it inspires others and is not felt by him as servitude to a higher power. It would be great if that was a 10 commandment (Hitchens line was “Take 10 commands a day in tablet form”). “Do unto other…” is in the Bible but even that was written pre-bible and was around in Ancient Greece and Egypt.

Blair was ever the politician and never sounded like he was arguing, he was very relaxed, more so in the second half. Hitchens is looking very pale (poor bloke) – he was very good to do the debate considering he’s got terminal cancer of the esophagus.

Some bloggers have unkindly suggested that his cancer is some sort of divine punishment – Hitchens response was that how unimaginative a god to give him exactly the type of disease that someone of his age and a habitual smoker would be prone to get. He wonders “Why not a thunderbolt”.

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New Phone–Samsung Windows Phone 7

I should be getting my new phone shortly.  Microsoft have released Windows 7 Phone their new phone OS in the last few weeks and it’s a complete departure from any other phone operating system out there.

Utilizing an OS style called metro Microsoft have done away with trying to shrink Windows down to hand-held size (I always hated scroll bars on a phone) and have completely abandoned their old Windows operating system which while feature rich was clumsy, prone to slow downs and almost unusable as a phone.

The new Windows 7 phone relies on a couple of key new features.

  • Tiles – The home page displays rectangular tiles, each of which represent a window into the underlying feature that the tile has been assigned to. These are not static pictures or icons, but live animated windows which developers can use to provide the most important content into the home page. The facebook tile for example will rotate around the updates of friends and family, the email tile will display the number of unread messages – and so on.
  • Hubs – One of the criticisms aimed fairly at the iPhone, is that it’s like being in a hallway, and as you start an application it’s the same as stepping into a room. You use the application, and then leave the room to go back into the hallway before stepping into the next app. With people having mixed content all over the place this becomes problematic when you may find that you have contacts in google, facebook, exchange and on your phone, and pictures on flickr, facebook and your home PC. Hubs are Microsofts solution to this, by creating areas of common content that can represent data from various sources. Go to your contacts and you’ll see contacts that originated from a variety of sources.
  • Standard Equipment – Microsoft have required that the phone manufacturers using Windows phone 7 meet some pretty hefty hardware requirements. This should prevent too much variety creeping into the mix which always seems to be the nail in the coffin for Microsoft. With the previous Windows phone OS phone manufacturers were coming out with all sorts of different screen resolutions making it impossible to develop for.

There’s a chance that this phone will really make a dent in the iPhone and Android market but we will have to wait and see. The Android is infinitely customizable which is a strength and a weakness – there are so many thousands of different elements out there now but it males it impossible to reach any consensus. Apple are completely locked down which provides a robust consistent interface but one which is expensive, hard to develop for and is getting a bit old now. So maybe Microsoft can do something here.

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Lightzone Photo Editing

One of the most common problems when taking photographs is that a picture can be both underexposed and overexposed in places. In the picture below Pearl was too dark in the foreground and the background were totally bleached out (look at the sky and sign).


Modern SLR cameras that can take photos in RAW format hold an unprocessed copy of the image which is normally lost the second you convert the picture into a viewable/printable format such as JPG/GIF. RAW editors are normally supplied with SLR cameras that allow broad brush adjustment of the picture, but this is normally little more than the ability to undo/redo some of the settings that you made when you took the picture (such as white balance) and a contrast adjustment.

An add-on to photoshop provides some better tools for editing the RAW picture before it gets added into photoshop but this suffers from being destructive and a one way process.

Lightzone a $99 photo editing tool allows you to apply changes to the picture which are completely none destructive (the original picture is untouched) and all changes are made on the fly and can be undone/modified.

You can selectively pick portions of the picture to apply edits to and this can be based on regions or colour ranges or combinations of the both. For example I was able to fence Pearl and adjust the underexposed areas, and select the rest of the picture and adjust the overexposed areas. I was then also able to pick the blue of the sky and selectively adjust the sky contrast and hue without affecting blues elsewhere in the picture.



More lightzone info can be found here

A Flickr Pool for Lightzone users here

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I See It In My Own Way (unfinished)

A partial song which is a bit like the “You’ve lost your faith” – perhaps I should join them together.
It’s nothing more than a verse and then me playing guitar with an octaver type effect.
Another one where I like the tune though, and I especially liked the backward cymbal crash that I recorded forwards and then reversed to bring the drums in.

I see it in my own way
I see the lights are on
I won’t ever believe it wasn’t you

I see you sit beside me
I never run and hide
Just in case you hold the answer deep in side

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Round this Sun and Down

I wrote this song in a bedsit just before buying my bigger recording equipment, which explains why it’s finished (no toys to distract me).
One of the songs that we used to play at gigs in the band, but I recorded this at Bobs. I like the key change towards the end which lifts it.

You can’t love no one else except me
Lets put some time between us
When all is said and done we’re never free
We need some time between us
Love between my eyes

Seems like we go round this sun and down, and down

I can’t remember much so sue me
I’ll write a book about it
I’ll tell you all my lies if you’ll tell me
There is no doubt about it
Straight between my eyes

Seems like we go round this sun and down, and down
Seems like we go round this sun and down, and down

Love is a segregation, of what you seem to need
It’s not any revelation, it’s animal instinct to me

The forests from the moon, are evergreen
That’s what it seems like to me
Is she in my heart, or in my dreams
What will be is what will be
Acid in the skies

Seems like we go round this sun and down, and down
Seems like we go round this sun and down, and down
and down, and down