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Tuesday, April 22, 2008


Bargearse was a overdub of the 70's Australian cop show 'Bluey' shown on the hilarious Aussie tv show 'The Late Show' in the 90's. Fantastic stuff! Hope you enjoy it.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Wombats - Kill The Director

I've just started to listen to my favourite Australian radio station, triplej again over the net and this was the first song that played last night. Quite good, I likey likey. Malaysia radio appears to be all top 40 stuff unfortunately.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Dancing man wearing a horse mask cooks wild mushrooms

broke trek ;)

Monday, April 14, 2008

Morning snacks from my girl

the flaneur

.. the deliberately aimless pedestrian, unencumbered by any obligation or sense of urgency, who wastes nothing, including his time which he spends with the leisurely discrimination of a gourmet, savoring the multiple flavours of his city.

.. wikipedia entry on the flaneur
.. further reading

Sunday, April 13, 2008

the rise of Urban Nomadism

Wireless communication is changing the way people work, live, love and relate to places—and each other

AT THE Nomad Café in Oakland, California, Tia Katrina Canlas, a law student at the nearby university in Berkeley, places her double Americano next to her mobile phone and iPod, opens her MacBook laptop computer and logs on to the café's wireless internet connection to study for her class on the legal treatment of sexual orientation. She is a regular here but doesn't usually bring cash, so her credit-card statement reads “Nomad, Nomad, Nomad, Nomad”. That says it all, she thinks. Permanently connected, she communicates by text, photo, video or voice throughout the day with her friends and family, and does her “work stuff” at the same time. She roams around town, but often alights at oases that cater to nomads.

Christopher Waters, the owner, opened the Nomad Café in 2003, just as Wi-Fi “hotspots” were mushrooming all around town. His idea was to provide a watering-hole for “techno-Bedouins” such as himself, he says. Since Bedouins, whether in Arabian deserts or American suburbs, are inherently tribal and social creatures, he understood from the outset that a good oasis has to do more than provide Wi-Fi; it must also become a new—or very old—kind of gathering place. He thought of calling his café the “Gypsy Spirit Mission”, which also captures the theme of mobility, but settled for the simpler Nomad.

As a word, vision and goal, modern urban nomadism has had the mixed blessing of a premature debut. In the 1960s and 70s Herbert Marshall McLuhan, the most influential media and communications theorist ever, pictured nomads zipping around at great speed, using facilities on the road and all but dispensing with their homes. In the 1980s Jacques Attali, a French economist who was advising president François Mitterrand at the time, used the term to predict an age when rich and uprooted elites would jet around the world in search of fun and opportunity, and poor but equally uprooted workers would migrate in search of a living. In the 1990s Tsugio Makimoto and David Manners jointly wrote the first book with “digital nomad” in the title, adding the bewildering possibilities of the latest gadgets to the vision.

But all of those early depictions and predictions of nomadism arguably missed the point. The mobile lifestyles currently taking shape around the world are nothing like those described in the old books. For this the authors cannot be blamed, since the underlying technologies of genuine and everyday nomadism did not exist even as recently as a decade ago. Mobile phones were already widespread, but they were used almost exclusively for voice calls and were fiendishly hard to connect to the internet and even to computers. Laptop computers and personal digital assistants (PDAs) needed fiddly cables to get online, and even then did so at a snail's pace. Reading and sending e-mail on a mobile phone—not to mention synchronising it across several gadgets and computers to create one “virtual” in-box—was unheard of. People took photos using film. There was no Wi-Fi. In short, there were gadgets, but precious little “connectivity”.

Astronauts and hermit crabs Without that missing piece, several misunderstandings took hold that now require correcting. One had to do with all those gadgets. The old mental picture of a nomad invariably had him—mostly him, at that time—lugging lots of them. Since these machines, large and small, were portable, people assumed that they also made their owners mobile. Not so. The proper metaphor for somebody who carries portable but unwieldy and cumbersome infrastructure is that of an astronaut rather than a nomad, says Paul Saffo, a trend-watcher in Silicon Valley. Astronauts must bring what they need, including oxygen, because they cannot rely on their environment to provide it. They are both defined and limited by their gear and supplies.

Around the turn of the century, as some astronauts, typically executive road warriors, got smarter about packing light, says Mr Saffo, they graduated to an intermediate stage, becoming hermit crabs. These are crustaceans that survive by dragging around a cast-off mollusc shell for protection and shelter. In the metaphorical sense, the shell might be a “carry-on” bag on wheels, stuffed full of cables, discs, dongles, batteries, plugs and paper documents (just in case of disc failure). These hermit crabs strike fear into the hearts of seated airline passengers whenever they board, because their shells invariably bang into innocent shins all the way to their seat. They carry less than astronauts—and are thus more mobile—but are still quite heavily laden with gear, mostly as a safeguard against disasters.

Urban nomads have started appearing only in the past few years. Like their antecedents in the desert, they are defined not by what they carry but by what they leave behind, knowing that the environment will provide it. Thus, Bedouins do not carry their own water, because they know where the oases are. Modern nomads carry almost no paper because they access their documents on their laptop computers, mobile phones or online. Increasingly, they don't even bring laptops. Many engineers at Google, the leading internet company and a magnet for nomads, travel with only a BlackBerry, iPhone or other “smart phone”. If ever the need arises for a large keyboard and some earnest typing, they sit down in front of the nearest available computer anywhere in the world, open its web browser and access all their documents online.

Another big misunderstanding of previous decades was to confuse nomadism with migration or travel. As the costs of (stationary) telecommunications plummeted, it became fascinating to contemplate “the death of distance” (the title of a book written by Frances Cairncross, then on the staff of The Economist). And since the early mobile phones were aimed largely at business executives, it was assumed that nomadism was about corporate travel in particular. And indeed many nomads are frequent flyers, for example, which is why airlines such as JetBlue, American Airlines and Continental Airlines are now introducing in-flight Wi-Fi. But although nomadism and travel can coincide, they need not.

Humans have always migrated and travelled, without necessarily living nomadic lives. The nomadism now emerging is different from, and involves much more than, merely making journeys. A modern nomad is as likely to be a teenager in Oslo, Tokyo or suburban America as a jet-setting chief executive. He or she may never have left his or her city, stepped into an aeroplane or changed address. Indeed, how far he moves is completely irrelevant. Even if an urban nomad confines himself to a small perimeter, he nonetheless has a new and surprisingly different relationship to time, to place and to other people. “Permanent connectivity, not motion, is the critical thing,” says Manuel Castells, a sociologist at the Annenberg School for Communication, a part of the University of Southern California, Los Angeles.

This is why a new breed of observers is now joining the ever-present futurists and gadget geeks in studying the consequences of this technology. Sociologists in particular are trying to figure out how mobile communications are changing interactions between people. Nomadism, most believe, tends to bring people who are already close, such as family members, even closer. But it may do so at the expense of their attentiveness towards strangers encountered physically (rather than virtually) in daily life. That has implications for society at large.

Anthropologists and psychologists are investigating how mobile and virtual interaction spices up or challenges physical and offline chemistry, and whether it makes young people in particular more autonomous or more dependent. Architects, property developers and urban planners are changing their thinking about buildings and cities to accommodate the new habits of the nomads that dwell in them. Activists are trying to piggyback on the ubiquity of nomadic tools to improve the world, even as they worry about the same tools in the hands of the malicious. Linguists are chronicling how nomadic communication changes language itself, and thus thought.

Beyond technology This special report, in presupposing that a wireless world will soon be upon us, will explore these ramifications of mobile technology, rather than the technologies themselves or their business models. But it is worth making clear that technology underlies all of the changes in today's nomadic societies, so that its march will accelerate them. Wireless data connections, in particular, seem to be getting better all the time. Cellular networks will become faster and more reliable. Short-range Wi-Fi hotspots are popping up in ever more places. And a new generation of wireless technologies is already poised to take over. Regulators have grasped that the airwaves are now among society's most important assets. America, for instance, has just auctioned off a chunk of spectrum with new rules that require the owner to allow any kind of device and software to run on the resulting network.

Devices, too, are on a steep trajectory. Just as Sony's Walkman once planted the notion that music can be mobile, the BlackBerry by Research In Motion (RIM), a Canadian firm, has since 1999 made e-mail on the go seem normal. And just as the personal-computer era entered the mainstream only in the 1980s with Apple's commercialisation of the “graphical user interface”, the mobile era arguably began only last summer when the same firm launched the iPhone, with its radically new and user-friendly touch interface. As a result, Google, for instance, has received 50 times more web-search requests from iPhones this year than from any other mobile handset.

Cumulatively, all of these changes amount to a historic merger, at long last, of two technologies that have already proved revolutionary in their own right. The mobile phone has changed the world by becoming ubiquitous in rich and poor countries alike. The internet has mostly touched rich countries, and rich people in poor countries, but has already changed the way people shop, bank, listen to music, read news and socialise. Now the mobile phone is on course to replace the PC as the primary device for getting online. According to the International Telecommunication Union, 3.3 billion people, more than half the world's population, now subscribe to a mobile-phone service (see chart 1), so the internet at last looks set to change the whole world.

To people in early-adopter countries such as South Korea and Japan this will come as no surprise. (Five of the ten bestselling novels in Japan last year were written on mobile phones.) Nor will it come as a shock to people in their teens and twenties elsewhere who have never known life without text messages; or to itinerant salesmen and executives who have for years been glued to their BlackBerries day and night. By contrast, many older people will strain to recognise themselves in the behaviour patterns described in this report, and indeed may never adopt them. But the lesson of history is that what the geeks and early adopters do today, the rest of us will probably end up doing tomorrow or the day after. It is the pioneers that set the direction; the mainstream will follow in time.

The most wonderful thing about mobile technology today is that consumers can increasingly forget about how it works and simply take advantage of it. As Ms Canlas sips her Americano and dives into her e-mail in-box at the Nomad Café, she gives no thought to the specifications and standards that make her connection possible. It is the human connections that now take over. Since humans, as Sigmund Freud put it, must arbeiten und lieben, work and love, in order to find fulfilment, this report will start off by examining how they will work.

The Breeders ~ 'Saints'

oh i'd forgotten how much i love this song :)

Space junk

Space junk, space debris, space waste — call it what you want, but just as junk and waste cause problems here on Earth, in space spent booster stages, nuts and bolts from ISS construction, various accidental discards such as spacesuit gloves and cameras, and fragments from exploded spacecraft could turn into a serious problem for the future of spaceflight if actions to mitigate the threat are not taken now.

The European Space Operations Centre has put together some startling images highlighting this issue. Above is a depiction of the trackable objects in orbit around Earth in low Earth orbit (LEO–the fuzzy cloud around Earth), geostationary Earth orbit (GEO — farther out, approximately 35,786 km (22,240 miles) above Earth) and all points in between.

Between the launch of Sputnik on 4 October 1957 and 1 January 2008, approximately 4600 launches have placed some 6000 satellites into orbit; about 400 are now travelling beyond Earth on interplanetary trajectories, but of the remaining 5600 only about 800 satellites are operational - roughly 45 percent of these are both in LEO and GEO.

aah Delicious, life-affirming coffee

Now that I have a coffee plunger, I can indulge in such delights as the above, purchased from my local Coffee Bean
(just outside Low Yat)

Parasols are good for more than just decorating those fruity tropical cocktails. For example, Parasolar, a design concept by Oded Shorer, has an easily carried case that opens up to reveal a cloth canopy with integrated photovoltaic panels. Neat.

Holding it steady in its base is a battery that’s charged up by all that solar energy, and you can tap into it via a 12v outlet or two USB ports. And hey, if there’s no sun that day, it looks like it might also function as an umbrella in a pinch. The symbiosis of combining shade and solar energy just makes sense.

from dVice

Half Johnny Appleseed, half doomsday machine, the colorful CV08 "suburb eating" robot is a massive hexapod that'll crawl across the urban landscape, destroying the houses and everything within them in order to replant trees.

Each leg fulfills different functions, such as breaking down houses, planting trees, and even performing liposuction on the leftover suburbanites and spitting them back out nice and thin.

And all with a smile.

The CV08 is a design by Andrew Maynard of Australia that questions what society will do once we've all migrated from our suburbs and are left with abandoned sprawls of houses and pavement.

New tech to perfect your smile

The breadth of a smile can be measured by new technology from Japanese electronics and health care company Omron.

The software technology, shown to reporters on Thursday, scans a video image to detect faces. It can find up to 100 faces in an image, according to Yasushi Kawamoto of Omron.

"Okao Catch," which means "face catch", then analyses the curves of the lips, eye movement and other facial characteristics to decide how much a person is smiling using data collected from a million people and their smiles, he said.

In a demonstration, a camcorder took videos of journalists covering the announcement. Percentage numbers indicating how much each person was smiling popped up in bold blue letters next to their faces on a monitor, flashing higher or lower as their expressions changed.

The numbers ranged as high as 89 per cent for a person who was grinning, while a somber face registered 0 per cent.

Sony already has a similar Smile Shutter function for its digital cameras which automatically clicks the shutter when people in the image break into a smile.

But Kawamoto said Omron hopes to used its technology in the medical field, to assess the emotional state of patients, or pack it in mobile phones.

Okao Catch can also be useful for people who want to perfect their smiles, or for robot communication to make it easier for machines to decipher human reactions, according to Omron.

Okao Catch was part of a larger exhibition of new technology opening this week in Tokyo.

Also on display was a robot dog for home assembly from HPI Japan, a maker of radio-controlled cars. The robot is to go on sale worldwide for about $US800 later this year.

Far more primitive than Sony's pricey discontinued robot dog, Aibo, it managed to walk, hop, get back up on its feet and even stand on its head.

My Spoon, a robot arm with utensils at the end, helps disabled people feed themselves by using a joystick controlled by their chin. Tokyo-based Secom said it has sold 250 of the My Spoon kit for about $US4,000 each in Japan and Europe.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

what a great pic

Antwerp, 2002
Originally uploaded by rogr
I found this while cruising around on flickr, as one does (right? right? anyone?) and just loved it. Don't know anything about it other than it was taken by user rogr in Antwerp in 2002.
Do you know more?

" When we are generous
in small,
barely detectable ways,
it can change someone else's life
forever "

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Yesterday afternoon we went to see the Michel Gondry flick 'Be Kind Rewind' at Pavillion. While it wasn't anywhere as striking as his previous film 'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind' (which we watched last night actually), it was still really nicely done.

He's quite an experimental director, and it's interesting to see how he accomplishes various special effects in this film with such lo-fi technology.

I posted one of the videos he did for Chemical Brothers yesterday, 'Let Forever Be', check that out.
I might as well post the trailer for 'Eternal Sunshine' while I'm at it.

Here you go:

The Chemical Brothers - The Salmon Dance

Chemical Brothers: Let Forever Be

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Smart cities

Move over, Industrial Revolution: there's been a technological revolution that has been sweeping up everything in its path for the past two decades and changing society irrevocably in the process.

Let's call it the Digital Revolution - it is the impact of increasing computer power, cheaper silicon chips and a massive convergence of wireless communication for phone, internet and broadcast.

This revolution has changed the way we communicate, the way we travel, the way we live - and even the way that we use public space.

Our cities are increasingly moving from a collection of inanimate buildings to a living, technologically sophisticated entity.

And the smartest and most successful cities are those that combine design features that prevailed centuries ago with innovative applications of networked technology.

Bill Mitchell, a professor of architecture and media arts and sciences at the world-renowned MIT Design Lab in the US, points out that technology does not operate in isolation when it comes to changing cities."

Technology creates possibilities, then social forces and economic forces and human desires really drive what then happens to cities," he says.

As computers become cheaper and more powerful, and free software begins to rival expensive commercial alternatives, the economic barrier to the digital revolution is slowly disappearing.

Add cheap mobile phones, wireless internet and inexpensive international call rates through VoIP and the notion of "the world village" creeps closer to realisation.

Low-cost digital technology makes global networking accessible to everyone - and it has had a rapid and sweeping impact."

Networks like the internet have grown in a grassroots way without the huge amount of topdown planning needed by other infrastructures," Professor Mitchell says.

This has been a boon for some developing nations, allowing them to introduce rapid technological change.

In Bangladesh, a development project that introduced very cheap mobile phones to people in remote rural villages, has made a huge impact on local economies.

About 15% of people there now own a mobile and wireless internet is making significant inroads into rural villages that had never before had access to phones of any kind.

While rural villages in developing nations are fast-tracking their connectivity and rapidly taking to change, introducing change to cities in the developed world is in many ways a bigger challenge.

Professor Mitchell explains that cities have evolved over thousands of years developing complex networks from transportation to water and sewerage, to electrical grids and, now, information networks."

The functionality of any place is jointly constructed by its boundaries and its networks," he says. "The focus has shifted from the preindustrial era, where the world was dominated by boundaries, to the present where networks and connections dominate our use of space."

He says the most recent development in the evolution of the city is the impact of widely available wireless networks.

Using mobiles and other portable devices such as notebooks, people are constantly "connected"; they can access information, browse the internet, make a phone call and send email."

Most of us are never disconnected these days and that's a fundamentally new thing," Professor Mitchell says.

"When the internet first began it was kind of a stand-alone thing but now it's basically locked into everything that we do. Retailing is an obvious example of this. You can log into Amazon from anywhere in the world to browse or buy books, but at the same time there's a huge logistical system on the ground of warehouses and transportation and so on, which all now works together as one system."

He points out that this generates a new type of building: the large regional distribution centre. Many of these warehouses are almost fully automated and these epitomise the integration of the digital and the physical worlds.

"Every time you buy something on Amazon, something physical goes somewhere," Professor Mitchell says. Instead of people going into a shop to buy a book from a carton delivered to a retailer, a forklift in a remote warehouse grabs just one book, which is wrapped and posted.

When there are millions of these transactions taking place every day, patterns of transportation and distribution are irrevocably changed and cities must change to meet this.

The fully wired city is yet to occur in Australian cities, says Tom Kvan, who heads the architecture department at Melbourne University.

"Australia is still lagging behind on network technology compared to northern Europe and North America," he says.

Professor Kvan believes there are some fundamental reasons why cities here have been slow to adopt changes such as universal wi-fi and remote workplaces.

"Because our cities are so spread out, people are still commuting to their work rather than working from home or from a local centre," he says.

Professor Mitchell points out that until recently, office workers truly worked in an office. But work has become increasingly less tethered to a specific location. The wireless notebook and mobile phone allow you to work just about anywhere that has coverage of phone and/or wireless internet.

Many people have structured their work lives so that everything they need to do their work is available and accessible universally and this is changing the nature of our cities.

"Public space begins to operate in a different kind of way," Professor Mitchell says. "Public space is not only public physical space but it's public cyberspace."

He says in architecture there is currently a fundamental shift away from a dominance of private space towards public space.

"There's a great increase in demand for unassigned informal space that you can just appropriate it as you need it; space for little coffee shops, more usable space set in nooks and crannies and other public space where you can just sit down and do some work."

As the director of design and urban environment for the City of Melbourne, Rob Adams is heavily involved in the future planning for Melbourne.

He believes there are a number of elements that make a smart city, but the most important is sustainability.

"The smart cities of the future will be cities that not only have technological advances but that work with the environment to create a good living space for the people who use them, one that can be sustained," he says.

Mr Adams believes the strong divisions between work space, public space, recreation space and living space that currently characterise modern Australian cities such as Melbourne must change in the future.

"Nobody goes to the big commercial office blocks for a good night out," he says, adding that these areas might be deserted outside business hours but they continue to occupy space and use resources.

The time for the deep division between commercial and residential functions in cities has passed, he says - and many experts agree.

US architect Arrol Gellner argues that modern architecture is responsible for breeding urban isolation, blaming postwar planners who saw mixed-use neighbourhoods as old-fashioned, developing sharply drawn boundaries between residential and commercial zones.

"Under this doctrine, neighbourhoods - once self-contained social units - were quickly replaced by vast and isolated housing tracts bereft of services and accessible only by automobile," Mr Gellner says.

"The result was sprawling yet lifeless suburbs by day, forlorn downtowns by night, and a previously unknown schism between work and life in general."

The architect is scathing about the gated communities that abound in the US where "vast but barely utilised houses stand sequestered among acres of setback land".

Meanwhile, he says, Americans spend hours trapped on freeways where walls on either side shut out any view of the world beyond.

Urban sprawl generates all sorts of logistical issues, not the least of which is sustainable transport.
Professor Kvan says that here Australia also lags behind Europe.

"In Europe, as you look across the urban landscape there are vast numbers of small cars, but you don't see that here in Australia. People still are driving large vehicles."

He says densely populated European cities offer limited parking facilities and drivers value the ability to wedge into small spaces whereas here, where parking ratios are more generous, small cars are seen as less safe.

But with global concern about climate change on the rise, Professor Kvan believes this may soon change, adding that growing inner-city density will also have an impact.

"Over the past 15 years Melbourne has experienced a dramatic growth in inner city population - from 15,000 to about 80,000. That brings an increasing acceptance of smaller cars because the commuting distances are much smaller," he says.

Professor Kvan believes that car-sharing will also increase.

"The technology is not the issue," he says, adding that cultural change is needed to reduce urban sprawl.

The City of Melbourne's Mr Adams agrees that urban sprawl is unsustainable and says the solution is to move people closer together. "To make cities work you need higher density of population."

He says the technology to make high-density living work in a sustainable way already exists.
Solar collection, water harvesting and reuse, and sustainable urban transport systems together with energy-efficient housing are all keys to this, Mr Adams says.

"We have moved from the industrial revolution to the ecological revolution," he says.

Mr Adams was heavily involved with the development of Australia's greenest office building, Council House 2 (CH2), which opened in 2006 on Little Collins Street to international acclaim.

The building consumes just 15% of the energy and about 30% of the water of its non-green peers and is an example of bio-mimicry architecture, where a building uses sustainable technology copied from the natural world.

A facade of solar-powered sun-tracking louvres shade the western side of the 10-storey building and a variety of other technologies combine to control temperature; such as thermal mass and vaulted ceilings, windows that open at night to cool the building and wind turbines that draw hot air outside.

In the basement, sewer water is treated and filtered on site to reduce mains water supply. Throughout the building, light is filtered through plants.

"Technologies like on-site water purification means that as you increase population density in the city, you don't have to build new infrastructure," Mr Adams says.

He believes that much of the change can happen through policy - such as encouraging building owners to collect solar energy by paying more for power put into the grid through the day and discounting power drawn down at night - reducing the base load on the power station supplying the city.

Mr Adams says that one of the smartest cities he has seen is Barcelona, which is an old city with a high population density.

"The entire city is built to seven storeys," he says. "The whole roof of the city can be a solar collector so there is democratic access to solar energy, which is the technology of the future."

Mr Adams says that much of that city's advantages lie in "blindingly simple" configurations in which public life and private life are well defined.

Streets are set out with buildings surrounding a private shared courtyard so pedestrians walk around the periphery of the block.

Simple controls in cities such as a mix of street frontages and a combination of major streets with lanes and arcades can make a big difference, Mr Adams says.

"Smart cities are more about smart thinking than about smart technology," he says.

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