image captions

Since mouse-over message-area text doesn't work any more in this modern world (and since I hate the use of tooltips as image captions) I played around with putting text directly in the images on the gallery snapshots on the DNA front page. What do you think? <LJ-CUT text="I think...">

I think it looks crummy for two reasons: first, aesthetically: I just prefer the look with no text cluttering up the images. Yet, that means the text doesn't get presented anywhere at all for most people.

Second: technically. The text is often hard to read, because it has no dropshadow, and the background colors vary. I tried putting the text on with my ppmcaption program, but it looked like crap. This version is using ImageMagick to do it, but I don't see how to put a dropshadow on. Also, it's insanely slow: it appears to be firing up GhostScript to render the text!

I'm generating them like this: is there a better way?

    convert large.jpg \
    -geometry W2xH2 \                 # twice the target size
    -fill '#00DDFF' \
    -font HelveticaBold \
    -pointsize 16 \
    -gravity southeast \
    -draw "text 5 5 'DATE\\nTITLE'" \
    -geometry WxH \                   # actual target size (to antialias the font)
    thumb.jpg

Update: I guess it's a little better if I fake a dropshadow by drawing the text five times:

    convert large.jpg \
    -geometry W2xH2
    -gravity southeast \
    -font HelveticaBold \
    -pointsize 16 \
    -fill '#000000' \
    -annotate "text +4+4 'DATE\\nTITLE'" \
    -annotate "text +4+6 'DATE\\nTITLE'" \
    -annotate "text +6+4 'DATE\\nTITLE'" \
    -annotate "text +6+6 'DATE\\nTITLE'" \
    -fill '#00DDFF' \
    -annotate "text +5+5 'DATE\\nTITLE'" \
    -geometry WxH \
    thumb.jpg
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"for the ultra hip"

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the 10,000 year clock

The cover story of this month's Discover is about one of my favorite gizmos ever, the Clock of the Long Now. It goes into some technical details that I hadn't heard before.
Any description of the clock must begin and end with that ridiculous projected working life, that insane, heroic, incomprehensible span of time during which it is expected to serenely tick.

Ten thousand years.

The span of time from the invention of agriculture to the present. Twice as long as the Great Pyramid of Giza has stood. Four hundred human generations.

Hillis's plan for the final clock has it built inside a series of rooms carved into white limestone cliffs, 10,000 feet up the Snake Range's west side. A full day's walk from anything resembling a road will be required to reach what looks like a natural opening in the rock. Continuing inside, the cavern will become more and more obviously human made. Closest to vast natural time cycles, the clock's slowest parts, such as the zodiacal precession wheel that turns once every 260 centuries, will come into view first. Such parts will appear stock-still, and it will require a heroic mental exertion to imagine their movement. Each succeeding room will reveal a faster moving and more intricate part of the mechanism and/or display, until, at the end, the visitor comprehends, or is nudged a bit closer to comprehending, the whole vast, complex, slow/fast, cosmic/human, inexorable, mysterious, terrible, joyous sweep of time and feels kinship with all who live, or will live, in its embrace.

Or so Hillis hopes.

Incidentally, I see that there is finally an iCal feed for the usually-awesome Long Now lecture series.

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Domino

Domino is an incoherent train-wreck. If you've seen the trailer, the whole movie looks and sounds like that: it's the same washed-out look that Tony Scott used in some of the more surreal parts of Man On Fire, but this time the whole movie is like that. Also, the stuttering, echo-delayed voiceovers are also like that, through the whole movie. It's a cute trick once or twice, but not for two hours. It's a cute trick once or twice, but not for two hours.

The plot, such as it is, is about a bank robbery run by idiots. They end up dismembering somebody because of basically a pun. There's an interminable Jerry Springer bit -- it was probably ten minutes long but it felt like hours -- that has absolutely nothing to do with the plot of the movie. Like, someone thought, "ha ha, I wrote this funny thing about how Jerry Springer is funny, let's just stick that in here too." It is not, of course, funny. At all.

And yet, this movie couldn't decide whether it wanted to be a stupid slapstick comedy, or a bleak look at some fucked up peoples' lives, or a music video, or just an excuse to watch Keira Knightley pout for two hours. They really should have just gone with that last one.

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recent shows

Miss Kitten: She spun trance, which was a little surprising, and occasionally sang over it. It was not bad as such things go. It took about 30 minutes before the crowd realized that there was no need for them to all just stand there and stare at her.

Halou: I love Halou, but this show was fucking intolerable. There was this insanely loud hum through the entire show: it was almost loud enough to drown out the vocals. I think it was even harder to take because I knew and liked the songs. It was like this little hammer that kept whacking me in the head: "Ow, quit it. Ow, quit it. Ow, quit it." I can't believe they continued the show with this instead of just stopping and fixing it.

Robin Guthrie: They finally got the hum fixed before he started, but by that time I think I was too annoyed to give him much of a chance. I only stayed for about 5 minutes of his set, which, as far as I could tell, was him playing the first ten seconds of "Welcome to the Machine" by Pink Floyd over and over and over and over and over again. And they weren't even selling heroin at the bar! What were they thinking!

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dnalounge update

DNA Lounge update, wherein you should definitely not accept that lollypop.
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convert PAL DVD to NTSC?

Dear Lazyweb, I've got the VIDEO_TS files from a PAL DVD, and I want to convert this to NTSC and burn it to a DVD that I can play in an American DVD player. I suspect there are some options I can feed to ffmpegX to do this, but it's not obvious to me what they are. Help?

It says the files are "mpeg-2 704x576, 9586 kbps, 25 fps; ac3 48kHz, 256kbps". 4GB of data. This thing didn't start out its life as a commercial DVD, so I assume there's no region-locking or CSS going on.

It has menus and stuff; it would be nice to preserve them.

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window.status

Dear LazyWeb: has the ability to change the mouse-over status-area text on links fallen out of favor in recent browsers?
      <a href="..." onMouseover="window.status='FOO'; return true">
seems not to work in recent versions of Safari and Firefox. TITLE="..." gives you a tooltip, but I hate those. Is there some still-in-favor way to put text in the status area, or have the spammers ruined it for everyone?
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nooooo

Oh, Not Great Men, why must you taunt me so?

The Gang of 4 show has apparently been cancelled. I don't know why.

What I do know is that this is the fourth tour for which I've held tickets in my hand over the last sixteen years, and the third time they have cancelled. A 25% hit rate is Not Good.

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another stupid video question

Dear Lazyweb... I was able to save this video as a WMV with:
mplayer -dumpstream -playlist http://... -dumpfile out.wmv
But now how do I convert that to a Quicktime? ffmpegX 0.0.9t writes a 0-length file with no error messages.

Update: It would appear that this simply cannot be done, as there are no decoders for WMV3.

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