Motionographer videos

I’m traveling for the next week, but I’ll leave you with this excellent music video. It looks like it had to be done with stop motion photography, but then it doesn’t look like it could’ve been done with stop motion photography.

I learned about it from Motionographer site that’s good for finding fun animations and video compilations, typically put together by advertising studios. So much talent out there!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year…

Birthdays and happiness

My birthday was last weekend. I turned 42. In addition to being the answer to life, the universe, and everything, 42 also happens to mark a lifetime low point in happiness as reported by various happy researchers … I’m sorry, various happiness researchers. It’s possible to take this news badly, but I look at it like this: I’ve got years of rising happiness levels to look forward to. According to the theory, 42 is about the time you realize that you aren’t actually going to win the Nobel Prize, and so you might as well start enjoying what you’ve got. Please. The rest of us have known for years that you weren’t going to win that prize.

I find happiness studies fascinating. From an episode of the Quirks & Quarks radio program, I learned that there is almost no relationship between things people predict will make them happy and things that measurably lift their levels of reported happiness. Almost none! How did that evolve? Similarly, people grossly overestimate the impact of bad things (job loss, accidents, health crises) on day-to-day happiness levels. Back on the subject of age, older people generally overstate how happy they were in their youth and younger people overstate how miserable they will be as they age. Which all stands to reason, since if Hollywood has succeeded in teaching us anything, it’s that youth = happiness and that old people don’t deserve to appear in movies.

The perfect age

I’m curious to hear your answer to this: if youth equals happiness, then, pop-culturally speaking, what is our “perfect” age? Not the age that you happen to like, but rather that optimal cusp that glossy magazines push at us every day. It is the age that children yearn for and seniors fondly recall. Presumably it is post-drinking age, post-sexual maturity, pre-wrinkle, and pre-hair loss. It is a mysterious still point on a sociological map. I think it’s 24, but it may be 25. What do you think?

Biology parody site

I’m not sure who’s behind NEXTgencode, but it’s a well done parody of the commercial promise of biotechnology. Some of the things they bring up in joke form are sure to be real issues at some point in the future. How much would you pay for a terminally cute PermaPuppy? How much is the gene for blond hair worth if it is disappearing “in the wild?” Since NEXTgencode links to the (more serious) Ethics in Genetics site, I assume the parody is intended to provoke as well as amuse.

Friday games

I’m sorry to do this to you, but I recently came across not one but two long lists of good small games, any one of which you can start playing in seconds, any one of which you can blow thirty minutes on without breaking a sweat. Beware!

The first list I learned about through Kevin Kelly’s Cool Tools page. He was pitching Mark Hurst’s Good Experience site, and that’s how I came across Good Experience Games.

The other list is from a place called Cognitive Labs, which appears to be associated with Stanford: Free Cognitive Games from Cognitive Labs. It’s a weird, chaotic site dedicated to slowing down or reversing the cognitive effects of aging. The premise is that these games are good for your brain. I can testify that they are bad for your ability to go to bed at a reasonable time. Try out Vector Ball and Reverse Asteroids. Also I am specifically curious how long JMike can stay alive at the Impossible level on the type-fast-or-die Word Shoot game. If you’ve never seen JMike type, it is a wonder to behold.

Calibrating cliché velocity

During a work lunchtime conversation that touched on a rude topic, one of my co-lunchers remarked: “That’s so wrong in so many ways!” That sentence is an odd construction, I thought to myself. She didn’t make it up. Where did it come from? There was a time when it didn’t exist. Somebody made it up one day, and it started spreading. How does that process work? It occurred to me that search engines can help you figure out just how widespread a cliché is. In no particular order, here are some clichés that not only annoy me but also make me wonder about their trajectories.

When were they born? What helped them spread? How much longer can we expect to endure them? Search technology can quantify some of these very fuzzy questions. This is not a new observation. The web seems to be peculiarly thick with wordheads who obsess about things like this (i.e. people like me). You can find Wikipedia articles about catchphrases and Bartleby references for clichés. But the real find was coming across the Language Log, where they have coined a word, snowclone, for hackneyed phrasal templates. These people are prose… sorry, I mean pros … and they devote long discussions to forms like Homer Simpson’s “Mmmm, X” (which I used only the day before yesterday, but let’s not go there).

I came across the Language Log while researching the phrase “I, for one, welcome our new insect overlords“. This post on ant overlords and cliché velocity makes a good point: the distance between trendy and trite has grown increasingly short. At least that’s what all the hep cats say.

The earliest sunset

The earliest sunset
My part of the world was gray, dreary, dark, cold, and wet today. But it had one thing going for it, one very big thing: the sun set this afternoon a few seconds later than it did the day before. Ordinarily I wouldn’t bother splitting hairs over astronomical minutiae, but it helps get me through December to recall that, although the total number of daylight hours will keep shrinking until the 21st or so, the sunsets are now occurring later and later every day and so will continue until late June. Mmmmm… June. Why does the earliest sunset not match the shortest day? Here is a helpful diagram with ellipses and annotations to explain it.

Confusing ellipses

I hope that’s clear. If I work at it, I can understand how it all works for an hour or so, but then it fades.

That which must not be mentioned

Okay, having just moved to WordPress, I must almost immediately report a problem. I have, at great expense, uncovered a truly weird bug. Believe it or not, you can’t make a post with the word perl in it. I had to resort to some tag trickery to get this to display. Here’s what I actually had to type:

p<span>erl</span>

Utterly bizarre.

At least I figured out why my post a few days ago didn’t work. I’m running WordPress 2.0.5, freshly downloaded. Can any WordPress users out there confirm if they’re seeing this too?