Chemical Halo

Chemical Halo

"By night, the Eco Halos hover in suspended animation above the busy junctions. Colour changes occur imperceptibly in response to environmental conditions or as programmed by artists. [...]

"The Halos will be solar powered and use a mix of low energy red, blue and green LEDs within a polycarbonate diffuser to create a spectrum of soft glowing colours which will be clearly visible in the daytime. The combination of directional LEDs and a directional diffuser controls night sky light pollution and unwanted light spillage."


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Current Music: New Wave City @ DNA Lounge

the CSS peanut gallery

So, as if I haven't been making enough friends lately... I have a question. Or really, some ridicule cunningly disguised as a question.

I seem to recall that the whole W3C peanut gallery, back when we released the Antichrist, I mean Netscape, totally lost their shit because HTML was supposed to be about MARKUP NOT PRESENTATION DAMMIT, and it was Fundamentally Wrong for people to do presentationy things in HTML: people should use <SHOUT> instead of <B> or whatever. And web page authors had better not complain if browser A laid things out differently than browser B, because all those tags are optional anyway dammit, and nobody made you any promises about how space would be allocated to table cells.

So, that's easy to understand. It's a consistent viewpoint, and while I don't agree that it's the most useful approach, it at least makes some sense.

    (These people also tended to pretend to care deeply about the blind and otherwise disabled. I am sympathetic to the needs of those users, but I can't help but think that those who claimed to speak for the blind were being more than a little disingenuous, just like those Hemp people who present their arguments in terms of their deep and abiding care for the textile industry, when their real motives are... something else entirely.)

And today, it's all about CSS. They gave up on trying to get people to use HTML the "right" way, and they invented this new meta-language for describing presentation. Perhaps it was an attempt at misdirection: "hey, over here! Shiny! Use this instead of abusing <TABLE>! Free beer!"

So now we have this bizarre situation where the anal-retentive W3C crowd (who are now and always have been slaves to the de jure standards, regardless of what reality and the de facto standards are) have converged with the equally anal-retentive (yet philosophically diametrical) "designer" contingent (who are now and always have been trying to fit web design into the pigeonhole of the kind of paper-based print-layout design they learned in art school.)

It used to be we had two groups:

  • Those who only cared about the text, and if there were tags at all, they could be visually interpreted any which way, since they were primarily there for indexing purposes or something;
  • Those who wanted to make their HTML look exactly like the mockup they made in Photoshop or Illustrator or Quark.

And today we've got just the one group, and their battle cry seems to be:

  • HTML must only be used for semantic markup, but that semantic markup must rigidly adhere to the pixel-accurate positioning in the spec, so that we can still design our web pages in Photoshop!

This is, of course, a complete about-face. It's really quite bizarre. I must have slept through the point when the transition occurred. Either that or it happened in almost complete silence: I would have expected that kind of coup to have left behind rivers of blood and mountains of the dead.

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Smile, dumbass!

Apparently a bunch of kids fucked shit up at a Guns and Roses concert. On video. See also The Transparent Society.

desktop cellphone

Desktop cellphone. It's a pushbutton phone, not a rotary dial, so it only gets partial credit. But still, good hack!
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I see no fembots with a penchant for evil here.

Silly flash animation...
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Hippos roam drug lord's ranch

Hippos roam drug lord's ranch

PUERTO TRIUNFO, Colombia (Reuters) - Ten hippopotamuses roam wild among the ruins of the late drug kingpin Pablo Escobar's abandoned country home, leaving huge footprints in the mud and scaring the wits out of the local cows.

The hippos are all that remain of Escobar's private zoo. In his heyday in the 1980s, Escobar imported elephants, rhinoceroses, lions, giraffes and other exotic beasts to his lavish ranch at Puerto Triunfo, 100 miles north of Bogota in central Colombia, as a testament to his fabulous wealth. Most of the animals were confiscated by the authorities and transferred to zoos after the cocaine lord was gunned down by police in 1993 in Medellin. But the hippos were left behind.

Despite the absence of a keeper, the Nile hippos -- some of which weigh two tonnes -- have flourished and reproduced on a muddy lake near the Magdalena River as if it were their natural terrain. And for six of the hippos born there, it is.

<LJ-CUT text=" --More--(14%) ">

"I've never heard of anything like this in my life," Steve Thompson, a hippo expert at Chicago's Lincoln Park Zoo, said in a telephone interview. He has travelled to Botswana, Kenya and Tanzania to study the behaviour and life of hippos.

"I've only seen hippos living in the wild in Africa but I guess that if they have the right food and the right water habitat they can do pretty well in Colombia."

The short-legged, hairless mammals share the estate with a few families of war refugees. The refugees fled their homes after leftist rebels attacked their villages and took up residence at Escobar's ranch. They live in the once-luxurious guest homes which stand decaying under the tropical sun. Hens strut beneath laundry lines hung with ragged clothing.

A dozen refugee children play in the grounds all day, and the hippos watch them from the lake. Only the tops of the hippos' massive, reddish-brown heads and their constantly twitching ears show above the water. If the children come too close to the shore, the hippos snort and bluster and open their jaws menacingly, or make a rolling dive, to scare them away.

Nile hippos are plant-eaters, have a life expectancy of up to 40 years and can weigh up to 4.5 tonnes, Thompson said.

At nightfall, the hippo herd leaves the lake and wanders about the ranch, grazing on the grassy slopes and making sorties to the stables, where they savour the salt lick, a large block of salt for farm animals.

The refugees, unfamiliar with the ways of the giant African herbivores, have tried repeatedly to fence them in with barbed wire to thwart their raids on the salt lick and keep them from upsetting the cows. But to a hippo, a barbed-wire fence is an annoyance, not an obstacle.

"They tear down the fence every time I put it up and turn everything into a mess. But what can I do? They are huge," said Luis Perea, 64, pointing frantically at a flattened barbed-wire fence crossed by a trail of hippo tracks the size and shape of dinner plates.


The 7,400-acre (3,000 hectare) Hacienda Napoles, in Antioquia province, became the symbol of Escobar's billion-dollar empire and of his extravagant lifestyle -- a place of wonders, wild parties and debauchery.

Escobar built an airport, artificial lakes, swimming pools, a bull-ring, a garden with 100,000 fruit trees and towering cement dinosaurs. He assembled his menagerie to entertain guests, who included politicians, judges, soccer stars and beauty queens.

The zoo, which offered free bus tours to the public, had hundreds of exotic and rare animals from every corner of the world -- from black swans to Arabian camels to flamingos.

"The Godfather," as Escobar was nicknamed, purchased and imported the animals without bothering to get any permits and chartered ships to bring them home from Africa and Asia.

"I saw the hippopotamuses, the giraffes, the zebras, the lions enter the ranch on trucks," said Marcos, a 24-year-old taxi driver who sold lollipops at the gates of the ranch when he was a child. "This was paradise on earth."

All that is left of the zoo is a rusty, pocked sign that reads: "Welcome to Napoles Zoological Nature Park." For a while, there were some leftover zebras, but the last one grew old and senile and vanished into the jungle, witnesses said.

Napoles harks back to a time when flamboyant Colombian drug barons flaunted their riches and bombed and killed anyone who got in their way. Escobar, who rose from tombstone robber to one of the world's most famous and feared criminals, had amassed a fortune of $3 billion (1.85 billion pounds) by age 33.

Drug lords today maintain low profiles, largely because of new laws that allow them to be extradited to the United States. Still, Colombia exports more cocaine than ever.


After it was seized by the state, Hacienda Napoles fell into disuse and oblivion. The mansions were looted by locals in search of the fortunes rumoured to be hidden inside walls and floors. The light aeroplane used by Escobar for his first shipment of cocaine to the United States was lowered from atop the ranch's main gates and dismantled by souvenir seekers.

Napoles now belongs to the children. They explore the skeletons of Escobar's vine-covered quarters, where lizards sunbathe on walls. They play hide-and-seek in the empty, moss-covered pools where the drug barons once bathed and cavorted in luxury.

The carport still houses a number of rusting, gangster-era American cars with flat tires -- including one that Escobar riddled with bullets to make it look more authentic -- and the children sit on the rotting upholstery and pretend to drive.

They scramble over the abandoned hovercraft, motorcycles with sidecars and a colonial-era horse carriage. The tyrannosaurus rex and brontosaurus are their private jungle gyms.

Many of them have hair-raising stories of being forced to flee their homes at dawn after seeing relatives killed by rebels or right-wing militias fighting in the country's four-decade war, but in Napoles they seem happy.

"We have a lot of fun here. We have all this place to play," said Leo, 13.

Sitting under a cool, swaying acacia as he swatted at the droning mosquitoes, Perea, who scratches out a living with his cows and banana trees, said he sometimes misses his hometown in western Choco province.

"I used to play the guitar at night and sing and drink with my friends, but I had to leave my guitar in the village. I miss my country but this is my home now," he said, looking at the hippos in the lake. "I guess I am like the hippos. They also came from a far place but now they are happy here."

By Ibon Villelabeitia

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I hate you, slashdork.

I woke up to 95 new messages. I assumed cron or syslog had gone nuts. But no: each one is a personalized, heartfelt flame from some bleating knee-jerk linux apologist. I hate you, Slashdork.

Part of me knows I should just delete them all unread, but like a car crash, I cannot look away.

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recent input

  1. Back in November, I learned about this game called Rez. Well, exoskeleton has a copy for PS2, and he brought it over and we played it on my lovely new projector (which arrived today.)

    It is. The best. Game. Ever.

    I cannot, of course, find a copy of it for myself. I found one store that claimed to have it in stock, and three days after I ordered it, they said "oops! it's gone." And I don't even own a PS2: I was going to buy one just to play this game. (It looks like Amazon's used site has it, but I won't give Amazon money; there are occasional copies of it on ebay, but I find participation in auctions far too annoying to tolerate: I can only really deal with the kind of commerce where someone tells you the price and then you pay it, or don't. Haggling and auction-delay-and-uncertainty drive me insane.)

    So, I'm going to have to hit exoskeleton over the head and take his copy. Please don't tell him.

    Then we started kickin' it old skool yo:

  2. I picked up a copy of the Mind Candy DVD, which is ~4 hours of video of "demo scene" animations. These are, basically, little nightclub-background-video animations with bleepy computer-music soundtracks made by teenagers in the 1980s on computers that, at the time, you would think were way to wimpy to accomplish some of these effects. So that sounds interesting, right? Well, I've only watched a little bit of it but... it really doesn't stand up. The most cringeful thing about them is how they all spend 1/4th to 1/3rd of their time giving scrolling, spinning "shout outs" to their "homies". Who all have jolly pirate hax0r names like "acid burn" and "crash override". It's really pretty embarrassing.

    Anyway, the thing that amazed me most about this disc is that I kept guessing that the demos were way older than they actually were: like, I'd watch one, and think, "that's pretty impressive if it was 1988 and an Amiga." And then it turns out it was 1995... and an Amiga. WTF?

    Not that I'd turn any of these down if they were submitted for inclusion with xscreensaver, mind you. rzr_grl said I need to add an xscreensaver mode that just shouts out to the cru. Lest I fail to keep it real.

  3. We also played the PS2 version of Test Drive (Test Drive 8?) and for comparison, fired up Test Drive 1 (from what, 1988?) on my Amiga 1000. Test Drive 1 is a lot harder, but a lot less fun. (This may be partly because I couldn't find my good joystick, so we were using an Atari 2600 joystick, which was already oldskool when Test Drive 1 was cutting edge!)

    The audio portion of Test Drive 1 is like, totally electroclash. It could be a Miss Kittin song, all it needs is someone talking over it in a deadpan monotone going, "I'm playing the video games. With all my famous friends. It is, so glamorous. Ha ha ha."

  4. Also picked up the Cabaret Voltaire: Live at the Hacienda 83/86 DVD. It's interesting, but I'd recommend against it unless you're already an obsessive fanboy about the band (like... me.) I haven't watched it all yet, but from what I've seen it's mostly a really craptacular recording; the sound quality is awful, and the video is mostly black. But it is interesting to see how much live instrumentation they used back then, due to the fact that making those sounds was actually work. So, interesting cultural artifact, lousy concert film.

    There's are a few non-live video segments on it, one of which had several edits a second, leading me to comment, "wow, that took a hell of a lot of scotch tape."

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Can someone explain to me the concept of a "CD Bonus Track" on an album dated 2003? How's that work, exactly?

MAME cabinetry

So every now and then I get the notion in my head that having a stand-up arcade cabinet running MAME would be a good idea. The notion has come again.

(I already have stand-ups of Millipede and Star Wars. If I were to buy another stand-up, it'd probably be Tempest, since vector screens are just intrinsically cooler hardware than raster.)

So, there are four paths one could take:

  1. Build one from scratch, using someone else's plans.
    Pro: the controls would be where I wanted them, and it would only cost a couple hundred bucks;
    Con: I don't have much woodworking experience, though I could probably borrow the tools.

  2. Buy some crappy game just for the cabinet, and gut it.
    Pro: somewhat easier, and about the same cost;
    Con: fitting a new controller configuration in might be harder than it would be when starting from scratch. Gutting a game is somewhat sacrilegious.

  3. Buy a pre-built cabinet I can put a Linux box in, e.g,: ArcadePC ($3000 without computer); or MassSystems ($1200); or X-Arcade ($1000, and I think it's a lame `mini'-cabinet.)
    Pro: Shit would Just Work;
    Con: Jesus, Mother of Fuck! That's a lot of money! Plus shipping!

  4. Decide I'd rather play video games lying down than standing up, and just get a controller and figure out how to get the computer to display on my TV.
    Pro: moderately easy.
    Con: extremly low coolness factor.

Of course the real problem here would be figuring out how to lay out the control panel so that it works for the widest variety of games. Games are always designed with specific controllers in mind, and the quality of play goes to hell if you're using the wrong controller. (How could you play Tempest without a spinner? Star Wars without a yoke? Marble Madness without that gigantic track ball? Q-Bert without the joystick being at 45°? Even Joust with a space bar and arrow keys is horrid.)

So I'm somewhat worried about ending up with a big mess of controllers that aren't quite right for any game.

[ LJ Poll 94463 ]

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