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Stuff that caught my eye

Posted by joeabbott on May 7, 2011

I’m categorizing this under “trivia” but it’s not trivia in the usual sense (def: unimportant or inconsequential matters). Additionally, I’m used to “trivia” being used in the sense of “minor details about things you may have heard of”; such as the fact that the Great Wall of China cannot, as it turns out, be seen from outer space.

Nope, here I’m using “trivia” to refer to stuff I’ve seen at one time or another when I was near email and I sent it off to my “blog about this cool thing later” account. Yup, I got one of those. So, here’s a sampling of things that are on top of the Ol’ Trivia Bag!

Technology, Entertainment, Design

T. Dolby & R. Garniez: “La Vie en Rose”

imageThe Internet has a bunch of junk on it. Literal junk … stuff not worth paying any attention to. And yet, there are a few destination sites, like TED, that make paying for high speed Internet service a worthwhile proposition.

TED started out in 1984 as a conference dedicated to bringing together people from the three worlds of technology, entertainment, and design to share ideas. And, not surprisingly, the TED slogan is: Ideas worth spreading.

According to the TED About page, they have posted over 900 talks representing the best performances from their conferences and are adding more weekly. You can search the site for speakers, themes or specific talks. A recent newspaper article about TED wrote that speakers for the conference will spend upwards of three months preparing for their talks. Getting on TED, and doing well, is a big deal.

I’m most familiar with TED talks that deal with technology: space issues, computers, aspects of “time”, and how  technology impacts us and is expected to evolve. It’s truly fascinating stuff.

They also have plenty of thought provoking design, business, and global issues videos.

I don’t often peruse the “entertainment” offerings, but clicked in just now and caught a short 2004 piece by Thomas Dolby and Rachelle Garniez. I’ve embedded that video here. I have to admit, I didn’t love this piece, but I loved that I could be exposed to it! A fascinating little peek into a performance I would have never otherwise seen. While it didn’t hurt that the talk was described as  “Featuring the vocals and mischievous bell-playing of accordionist and singer Rachelle Garniez…”, it was cute and enjoyable.

Never too old to learn

Khan Academy on Gates Notes

imageI first heard about The Khan Academy a few years back; I believe it came up in a short article noting Bill Gates referenced these lessons for refreshing topics and learning things. If this is a place where someone whose time is as valuable as Bill’s is, goes to learn, I should take a look! But, at that time I’d heard about these videos only on YouTube and didn’t bookmark or otherwise capture the details.

Fast forward a couple years and I heard about these lessons again … this time it was via a TED talk! I was instantly captivated by the backstory behind the Khan Academy: a guy, Sal Khan, was helping tutor his cousins and found that filming videos worked well for how they learned. He then posted the videos on YouTube and, before you know it, *boom*! He was getting questions from others, his videos were really helping people learn, and it was an idea that took off.

So, just as Wikipedia is trying to capture all human knowledge in one place, Sal Khan is trying to provide a site for all education. Noble and impressive!

I’m reading a few books on the elements (as in, atomic matter), but these books are primarily for entertainment. And while technically correct, they dispense with providing a deep understanding while targeting pithy stories, humorous turns of a phrase, and lighter story telling. I really enjoy the books (The Elements by Theodore Gray and The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean), but I was missing some of the details around the atomic structure and interaction.

I suppose I should come clean now and, at the risk of appalling my uncle, a (retired) high school chemistry teacher, admit to getting a ‘D’ in my Chemistry 101 class back in college. I went on to pass, but probably with a ‘C’. Chemistry wasn’t (isn’t?) my thing.

But, to the point … the Khan Academy helped clear things up with their classes on Orbitals and More on orbitals and electron configuration. Great stuff. Thanks, Sal!

FastStone Capture

imageimageOK, time to step away from the serious and weighty world of education and look into lighter matters. But, I’ll ease into it by talking about a small utility I heard about that makes building this blog a little easier: FastStone Capture.

FastStone Capture does a simple something (capture screenshots) in a simple way. The utility is nearly as small as the tutorial PDF that accompanies it, but the small size belies a lot of power.

While I don’t nearly use all the features in the product (notably, Screen Recorder), I do very much like the alignment guides and the zoomed-in feature so you know exactly what you’re capturing. I should also mention that I don’t use the editing window that comes with the tool, either … but, as you can see, I’m not really breaking any design barriers with this blog!

So, that’s it: a simple tool that works really well. Give it a look and, if you like it, please respect the author’s rights and send in your shareware fee!

Time for some laughs


‘Orders from Mordor’ a Lord of the Rings Remix

And, last up, let’s look into that world of “junk” I referred to above and check out The Obvious Winner!

The Internet doesn’t suffer from a lack of sites to noodle away your time. The vast majority of these target young men, so they’re rife with video game references, sci-fi movie tie-ins, and girls in bathing suits. I’m starting to push the age where interest in those things becomes a little suspect, so I don’t spend a lot of time farming these sites.

But, when I do check in, there’s always a ton of new stuff and things to tickle or entertain me. Like the embedded Lord of the Rings remix video to the left! Or, a different LotR video I think I like even more: Murmurs of Middle-earth!

Anyhow, a quick scroll down The Obvious Winner front page includes a couple items on cakes (one in the shape of R2D2, the other showing Ironman beating up some robot), a bit on bacon, a Bugatti concept speedboat (that looks ultra cool .. oops, in “today speak” I should say: is a sick amount of awesome), the Geek Zodiac (I’m a “superhero”, Suzy’s a “spy”), and I think you get the picture. Extreme nonsense that’s designed to appeal to young guys. And some of that nonsense also appeals to those who will be 50 sooner than they’d like.

There’s also enough crudity that I don’t spend too much time here, but it’s amazing how little that matters to me these days. I can’t stop it, I’m not about to impose my will on what others can like, and so I limit how it impacts me and move on. And while I move on, I take the parts that tickle me along … like my new buddy, the Elephatopus! heeheehee


One Response to “Stuff that caught my eye”

  1. […] A while back I talked about TED, the site with the tagline Ideas worth spreading. TED hosts a host of videos on topics ranging the vast areas of Technology, Entertainment, and Design and does a superlative job of mixing hardcore science, deep social issues, and lighter fare such as the piece on correctly tying one’s shoes. Yup, lacing on the ol’ high tops gets treatment on TED. […]

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