October 28, 2014

Idea: Pop Culture Twitter Lists

It’s been five years since Twitter introduced Lists and frankly I never found a use for them. It’s not that I don’t see the value in curated lists, but I never remembered to look at them, preferring to watch my complete stream of tweeters, signal, noise, and all.

But I finally came up with a use for them. So without further ado, here are a bunch of Pop Culture Twitter Lists you can follow, in apparently random order, with notes about what you’ll find there.

(You can also see them with nicer formatting but without the notes, and easily to subscribe to them, here on Twitter).

Am I missing your favorite cast that’s on Twitter? Let me know at @ironicsans and maybe I’ll add it when I get a chance.

(Wow, a bulleted list of links sure highlights how dated my site’s design feels)

Update: I’ve since added…

May 6, 2014

New York City photographed with the Game Boy Camera in 2000

Back in 2000, I was playing around with a Game Boy Camera, trying to use it to take color photos. (I finally got that to work.) When I first got the camera, I took a walk through midtown taking pictures. I just came across the images and thought I’d share them here for posterity (scaled up to 200% for visibility on our fancy modern displays).

Rockefeller Plaza:

The New York Public Library:

A Giacometti statue at MOMA:

A slice of pizza:

A park bench:

Toy taxis being sold on the street:

A subway car speeding past:

A subway passenger:

Another subway passenger:

Selfie sporting a goatee:

March 26, 2014

How Captain America Got His Stripes

With a new Captain America movie about to be released, I think it’s time I tell the story of when I was 14 year old, and I saved Captain America from appearing on the cover of a Marvel comic without his famous red and white stripes.

The year was 1989. I was a huge comics nerd, and a big fan of artist Todd McFarlane. At first I thought his style was weird, with too many lines on elongated faces, but it quickly grew on me. He was making an appearance at a local comic shop in Phoenix, so of course I went. I got there early and stood in a long line. And once I made it to his table, I hovered.

I’m pretty sure I hung out at his table for two hours, asking him question after question while he signed comics for people who I hope I let get their own questions in. He never let on if I bothered him, and I felt like I was spending quality time with a huge celebrity.

Todd (I can call him Todd now, right?) had brought in some photocopies of artwork he’d recently finished for upcoming issues of Amazing Spider-Man. Among them was this cover of issue #323:

I noticed something was wrong. “Where are his stripes?” I asked.

“What?”

“His stripes. Captain America is supposed to be wearing a blue chainmail half-shirt over a red-and-white striped long sleeve shirt. But this doesn’t show any stripes.”

As I remember it, Todd then said something like, “Oh my God! I have to take care of this right away! If I don’t fix it, the colorist will do it, and he’s going to mess it up!” and then he pulled out his cell phone to call Marvel HQ right away. But of course he didn’t have a cell phone in 1989 so my memory must be wrong. I think it actually went more like this:

“Oh, no. Thanks for catching that. I need to get that artwork back so I can add the stripes myself. If I don’t do it, the colorist will, and he’s going to mess it up.” And then he wrote himself a reminder note on the back of the photocopy.

“How would the colorist mess it up?”

“He might not follow the contours of Cap’s body. He’d make the stripes too straight.”

“Oh.” I beamed with pride that I found a mistake and he seemed to appreciate it.

A few months later, the issue came out, and I was glad to see that Captain America had his stripes. But I was a little sad that nobody would ever know how he got them.

Bonus: Here’s an awesombarrassing picture of me and Todd the first time we met, a summer earlier at Comic-Con 1988:

I can’t believe in Phoenix he acted like he didn’t even know me.

February 21, 2014

House of Cards Season 2 Opening Credits Comparison in Animated GIFs

Are you watching House of Cards Season 2 on Netflix? Did you notice that they changed the opening credits since Season 1? There are still 37 time-lapse shots of Washington DC, and the cuts are in all the same places, but almost half of the shots have been changed. In some cases, the new shot is a slightly different view of the same place. In others, it’s a radically different view, or a different time of year, or a shot of a completely different location altogether. The time-lapses were shot by District 7 Media based just outside DC. They did a beautiful job. Let’s see what’s changed between seasons.

The following are all comparisons of the images. In all cases, the top image is Season 1 and the bottom image is Season 2:

Shot 1:

Shot 2 (are those the same clouds? Same time of day? Same cars? I think this might be the same shot recolored.):

Shot 3:

Shot 4:

Continue reading “House of Cards Season 2 Opening Credits Comparison in Animated GIFs” »

February 18, 2014

Idea: A sign at the top of Mt. Everest

[This post is part of an idea dump.]

Is anyone heading up Mt. Everest soon? I have an idea. Put a sign at the top for future travelers that says “Thank you Mario! But our princess is on another mountain!”

Idea: A new automatic setting for cameras

There’s a rule of thumb for long lenses and shutter speeds: to handhold a camera without noticeable motion blur, your shutter speed should be no slower than the inverse of your focal length. So for a 50mm lens, you can safely handhold at 1/50 of a second or faster. If you have a long telephoto, like say a 200mm lens, you shouldn’t try to handhold at slower than 1/200 of a second.

But what if you’re using a zoom lens, and your focal length varies from one shot to another as you capture wide shots and close-ups to tell the story of whatever you’re shooting? Wouldn’t it be great if your camera had a setting to automatically adjust your shutter speed (and appropriately your aperture to maintain exposure) when you zoom so your tight shots are still nice and sharp?

You already have an aperture priority mode that adjusts your shutter speed if you change the aperture, and a shutter priority mode that does the opposite. So why not add focal length to the automatic equation, too?

It will not be useful in all situations, of course. In dim light, your lens might not be able to open up enough to compensate for the loss of light when the shutter speed increases as you zoom. But in other situations, this setting could be just the thing that keeps you taking sharp photos instead of smeary messes.

November 5, 2013

Check out this creative teenage hip-hop artist in Nashville

I don’t usually link to other people’s stuff on here. But when I stumbled upon this guy’s videos on YouTube and saw that they only have a couple thousand views, I thought he needed a larger audience.

His name is Matt Morris. I first saw him starring in this funny video that came out shortly after the iPhone 5S was released. It shows off some of the phone’s new video features in a creative and amusing way, and features catchy music that’s actually remixed from the iPhone’s built in ringtones:

Out of curiosity, I Googled to see who the heck this Matt Morris guy is and that’s when I found his YouTube channel. I didn’t know until I hit play on the first video that I was going to hear him rapping, and it turns out his lyrics are really clever, and his videos are quite nicely produced.

Take for example this video about that angst of not being sure your night out with a pretty girl is a date:

And the songs are really catchy. Here’s “Regular Guy”, which you’ll be singing along to before it ends:

I think some of my favorite lyrics are in “Art Official” which was Matt’s first video. “Lost my keys in the Prius now I’m in the car diggin’. / Lookin’ like my grandpa in my cardigan.”

What impresses me about Matt is that he’s only nineteen years old but he has the skills, confidence, and tools to do something like this. The songs are funny, catchy, and inoffensive.

Oh, and he has collaborators who shouldn’t be overlooked (and probably should have been mentioned sooner). Matt writes the lyrics, but the music is by Ben Worley (who also did the remixed iPhone ringtones tune). The videos are by Nick Serban.

I asked Matt for his story and he said, “Right now I’m just a 19 year old kid in school and working and hoping something happens with the music. Lived south of Nashville my whole life. That’s the story in a nutshell I guess.”

October 9, 2013

Interview with me on the “Unprofessional” podcast

I’m the guest on this week’s episode of Unprofessional, the podcast where Dave Wiskus and Lex Friedman have conversations with people about anything other than their profession.

Okay, we talk about my profession a little bit. But we also talk about ideas, hotel service (perhaps a little too much), and John Turturro’s daily routine, so if any of these things sound remotely interesting, give a listen below or check out their website where you can also hear previous episodes.

Thanks for having me on!

October 8, 2013

I wrote it, you made it: A Spoiler Tag

Well that was fast. On Thursday I proposed a new standard HTML tag for redacting spoilers. It could be customized with an expiration date (for things that don’t need to be redacted long term) and had some other features I’d like to see.

Well, it’s not an HTML standard yet, but Google Engineer Michael Ashbridge did come up with a way for people to add this feature to their own websites using Google’s Polymer library.

Check out his demo to see what his implementation looks like and how you can use it.

Awesome. Now do any of my readers have a contact at the W3C?

October 3, 2013

Idea: A Spoiler Tag

I think HTML needs a <spoiler> tag. Compliant browsers would automatically redact anything contained within it.

For further granularity, you could have support for <spoiler kind=”XXX”> where XXX might be “Breaking Bad” or “US Open” or “Cheers Final Episode” or whatever. Then when you visit a page, your browser would note at the top: “Warning: This page contains spoilers for Breaking Bad, US Open, and Cheers Final Episode” with an option to redact some or all of those things.

Your browser could remember your preferences across websites, so if you chose to redact spoilers where kind=”Breaking Bad” on one site, that will be the default behavior on other sites until you turn it off in the spoilers preferences, which keep a running list of spoiler kinds you’ve encountered.

September 10, 2013

Idea: Content-Sensitive Transcription Formatting

We all know that WHEN SOMEONE TYPES IN ALL-CAPS it’s interpreted as shouting. So why shouldn’t it work the other way, too? Now that everyone has devices capable of transcription in their pockets, maybe we can work on making transcription easier by using vocal tones for formatting cues.

IF I SHOUT A SENTENCE INTO MY PHONE, IT SHOULD BE TRANSCRIBED IN ALL CAPS.

If I only shout one word of a sentence, it should be italicized, especially if it’s an adverb.

Someone must be working on more seamless formatting of transcription, right? Nuance, the company which makes the speech recognition engine behind Siri, has a feature in their own software that they call Natural Punctuation, but even that’s limited to just automatic periods and commas.

Could we have a setting that automatically interprets upspeak as an indication to end a sentence with a question mark?

What other kinds of formatting could be managed easily by changing your inflection rather than your content?

July 29, 2013

HeadBlade Inventor Todd Greene

I started losing my hair way back in college. I went through some years that were not very attractive as I tried to figure out what to do about it. But I never shaved my head. If the HeadBlade had been around at the time, I might have given it a try. Todd Greene invented the HeadBlade as a way to make head shaving easier, but has since built the brand into a whole line of head care products. His original HeadShave design is now part of MoMA’s permanent collection. Here’s a video portrait of Todd Greene talking about the origin of his product and the process of bringing it to market:

See more episodes of my PBS INVENTORS series here!

July 3, 2013

Douglas Engelbart (1925-2013)

I’m sad to learn that Douglas Engelbart, father of the computer mouse, passed away today. I spent an afternoon with him and his wife Karen in 2009 photographing him at home and work as part of my inventor portraits project. He was charming, even flirted with my assistant. I will have more thoughts to share, but for now here are a few photos from my shoot with him.

June 18, 2013

Julie Brown and Charlie Brown

Julie Brown (no, not that one or that one) is the latest inventor in my PBS Inventors series. But don’t watch this one for the invention, which is a simple little thing. Watch it for the inventor. She’s a former Navy electronics technician who later started a construction company where she worked until retirement; now she spends her golden years traveling in a motor home with her dog Charlie Brown (no, not that one). Take a look:

June 12, 2013

Idea: Person-based reminders

[Perhaps this already exists for jailbroken or Android phones; someone tell me if it does.]

It’s great that I can get location-based reminders. But how am I supposed to remember that thing I keep meaning to tell my wife, who I see in a variety of places? Or the question I keep meaning to ask my friend the next time I see him?

I’d like a reminders app that will remind me of those kinds of agenda items 30 seconds after I come in close proximity to a person, regardless of where we are.

That should be doable, right? (Obviously assuming they have a compatible location-aware device on them with permissions set to allow proximity awareness, etc.) Perhaps Apple could add it to Reminders, hooking into Find My Friends permissions.

May 31, 2013

More From The Idea Dump Pile

[This post is part of an idea dump.]

Here are more ideas on my list of blog posts I won’t get around to writing:

• A house on stilts that resembles an AT-AT

• isthisasingleservingsite.com

• Arnold Schwarzenegger doing a British accent. This is just something that I want to hear. Unfortunately I have no access to Arnold Schwarzenegger. Has he ever done one in any of his movies?

• A video game where the player’s perspective is from beneath an invisible floor, looking up. That’s as far as I got. I’m not sure how this would factor into the game mechanics. What kind of game would use this perspective? Maybe you’re a janitor and you have to scrape gum off the bottom of desks?

• Gwhack-a-mole. It’s a wackamole game but instead of plastic moles popping up that you hit with a mallet, they’re avocados. And as you whack them, they get mashed up. And when you’re done, you have guacamole. Just add cilantro, onions, salt, lime juice, and some diced tomatoes.

• An internet cafe with a meme-themed menu like:
      • A sandwich on a Rickroll
      • A side of Godwin Slaw
      • Peanut Butter Jelly Time Sandwich
      • Chocolate Rain Sundae
      • 2 Sodas 1 Cup
      • Diet Coke and Mentos

More next time…

May 3, 2013

I wrote it, you made it: Cartoons I Didn’t Draw

A couple months ago, I posted some ideas for cartoons I wanted to draw but didn’t, for lack of time or (more likely) talent.

Since the internet is an amazing place, I received some absolutely fantastic responses from people who made my cartoon ideas real. And some of these people are actual working illustrators whose work you may have seen elsewhere. I’m humbled.

First, Sean Chen, who drew Iron Man for several years along with dozens of other Marvel titles, sent me this:

Awesome. I couldn’t believe how much work he did to illustrate something I just typed on my computer. This must be how Brian Michael Bendis feels.

Sean thought it would be fun to see how some of his fellow artists would take on the same concept as a creative challenge, so he passed it around. So next I got this take from Bernard Chang, who currently draws Green Lantern Corps and has a long history with DC comics:

The gator’s face in the rear view mirror is subtle. Click the image to see it big.

So awesome.

The next one comes from Gregg Schigiel, who both writes and draws for companies including DC, Marvel, Nick, Disney, Comedy Central, etc., and who notes that he wishes he spent more than 15 minutes on it:

Completely unrelated to Sean’s challenge to his artist friends, I got another take on the same idea from Ben Reinhardt:

Even though I listed 10 different comic ideas, all the above artists took on the same one. I only got one submission from anyone who tried one of the other ideas. This came from someone named Sam Saper:

Those are all awesome, and I’m totally humbled that such great talent went into making my silly ideas into art. I could never have drawn as well as any of the above people. If anyone wants to try their own hand at the “gator” comic or any of the others I couldn’t draw, feel free to send them and I’ll do a followup Part II.

Idea: A Natural History T-Shirt

I saw this drawing the other day on an informational sign about ungulates at the American Museum of Natural History. They should really put this on t-shirts to sell in the gift shop.

April 22, 2013

Idea: A Router Emergency Switch

In the immediate aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing, I saw a lot of tweets calling for businesses in the area to open up their Wi-Fi so people can contact their loved ones during a period where cell phone networks were so congested that calls and texts couldn’t go through. I wondered whether a business owner — or whatever employee happens to be around that day — would even know how to open their Wi-Fi in a crisis.

So what if business-class routers included a Router Emergency Switch? It could be implemented either as a big red physical button on the router itself, or an easy-to-find software trigger. In a crisis, it’s an easy way to open your network.

I know what you’re thinking: if it’s that easy to open the router, isn’t there potential for abuse? Couldn’t it be triggered in non-emergency settings? Not if it’s done right. When you set up your router for the first time, you would also set up the Emergency settings. Heres an example of what a typical setup might do when the Emergency Switch is pulled:

1) Create a new Wi-Fi Guest Network so your own network is still secure.

2) Change the Wi-Fi Guest Network name to “USE THIS NETWORK DURING EMERGENCY” or something similar so people know it’s available.

3) Automatically bring people who access that network to a portal page with links to local and national news websites, local and national emergency websites, popular webmail sites, and maybe some first aid tips or other similar information.

4) Optionally open access to the entire internet, or just to specific sites to use during an emergency, depending on how trusting/paranoid the business owner is.

5) E-mail the business owner to alert him or her that the emergency switch has been activated.

6) Automatically turn off the guest network after a preset time period (perhaps a week?) in case the business owner forgets.

It seems like there’s only a very slim chance you’d ever need to use this. The odds of your business being within Wi-Fi signal’s reach of a catastrophe seem pretty low. So maybe this is the sort of thing that doesn’t have enough payoff to make the trouble worthwhile. But in that rare instance, it could end up being useful.

April 18, 2013

Cell Phone Inventor Marty Cooper

Cell phone inventor Marty Cooper has a lot of interesting thoughts about cell phones and related technologies. It was tough distilling our 40 minute conversation into such a short video, but I’m pleased with how it turned out. This month marks the 40th anniversary of the first ever cell phone call, which he describes in the video below. Enjoy!

See more episodes of my PBS INVENTORS series here!

This page only holds the last 20 entries.
For more, please visit the Ironic Sans archives.