Quarter Life Crisis

The world according to Sven-S. Porst

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Walk don’t Run

1138 words

Time: Two weeks ago Die Zeit had a special about Time (no pun intended). In the opening article hey noted the change of time usage in the present and how people tend to do more things at once these day – at least women can, according to some book in our kitchen [so can I of course: say, watch TV, be on the phone, flip through a magazine, ignore my flatmates and burn a meal...].

Other articles dealt with punctuality, one in favour and one against it. While I tend to be in favour of moderate punctuality in most cases, I think both of their opinions missed an important point about punctuality: It really means you hit the time you want to meet/be there/finish something on the spot. Being punctual is an art. Everybody can be in time, make it to the train half an hour early – but only few things give you the kind of elation caused by making it up the steps to the platform – walking swiftly but not running – in the exact moment the train's doors open.

This week: In this week's news they have a couple of interesting items as well: Obligatorily about the deals for reconstruction in Iraq. Let's hope they don't fuck that up as badly as the cultural heritage thing – or to put Mr Rumsfeld's spin on it The images you are seeing on television, you are seeing over and over and over. It's the same picture of some person walking out of some building with a vase and you see it twenty times. And you think, my goodness, were there that many vases? Is it possible that there were that many vases in the whole country? Right, perhaps we already figured that bit when watching the pre and pro war propaganda. But hey, nice vases!

Then, the liberalisation of the phone market in Germany seems to have been quite unique: Basically Deutsche Telekom still owns most things but they're forced to let everybody else use their infrastructure at a prescribed reasonable cost. Best thing is you can use most other carriers by simply dialing a prefix code. No contracts, no signatures, billing is done by Deutsche Telekom. Very efficient – that's what I call customer's choice and e-Commerce well done. That way costs for calls is now as low as 1/15 of what it used to be six years ago (That's calls to landlines of course, basically with a tiny bit of research you can phone landlines anywhere in Germany, even Europe and other popular countries for something like 3c or less per minute. Just phoning a mobile phone 100 metres away will set you back 10-20 times that amount. Not a reasonable option.)

They also feature the 'visionary'/marketing guy that gave us Starbucks. Everywhere.

And a report on how internet filters for kids that is quite precise for mainstream media and points out problems such as overly restrictive filtering that may block legitimate content such as cultural differences (you can't subscribe to U.S. services, say as they are more restrictive on sex(-related) and less restrictive on violence or Nazi related content than is considered adequate or even legal in Germany). It boils down to trust being the most important thing.

AppleScript: In his piece on why everybody uses XPress despite knowing better, John Gruber dug out the old 'use an AppleScript to generate a catalogue in XPress running New York from your product database running on Filemaker in San Francisco' example. Yep that's what Uncle Steve demoed at some keynote. Sounds neat. Questions arising are: Does anybody really do this? Haven't people come up with something else yet?

Does Whitespace matter? No, we're taught when first learning HTML or even TeX. And once you get to use them a bit more, you'll run into little pitfalls, where it matters after all. The most recent example I ran into is the usage of :before and :after together with content in CSS. I really like the idea. But, say if you want to have automatic quotation marks at the beginning and end of quoted paragraphs you can't be as generous with whitespace around your tags as you used to be.

PNG is said to be a good and modern and even 'open' format for compressing images. And neatly it supports many colours plus an alpha channel. Yet, I keep being not-at-all impressed by its compression performance. JPEG seems to give me considerably smaller files at a seemingly similar quality. Is it the software or the format? I am using GraphicConverter, which is usually a very reliable tool for all graphics format needs.

Acid: It's probably a sick fascination people have with acids, knowing they can be both dangerous and tasty. Some cool trivia on acids. Quite strange how the freezing point changes with concentration.

Comments on a blog are a nice idea for actually discussing topics and getting that 'conversation' things going. However, they put everyone but the blog's owner at a disadvantage in that they'll have to check whether someone posted a follow-up to their comment. Wouldn't it be polite to send an e-mail parallel to your reply? Why can't you simply leave a Trackback URL with your comment?

Car: Erik Barzeski on people not feeling comfortable being passenger in a car. I don't agree. While I may be a control freak sometimes, I'm always happy to let other people drive. It may be because I don't like driving (well it's not the driving itself it's rather those other morons getting in my way). As far as fear is concerned, let me share a trick: don't pay attention to the traffic. Whoever is driving will do just fine – you wouldn't have gotten into their car otherwise, right?

Seating preferences? Strangely I prefer not sitting on the driver's side. That dates back to when I was little, so it's got nothing to do with not liking to drive. It applies to both cars with right and left-hand-side steering wheels. Otherwise, seats where I can sit comfortably are preferred. Car manufacturers seem to put great effort into building cars that even moderately sized people can't sit in, e.g. the new Beetle (roof too low in the back) or my dad's Audi estate (the seats in the back are too low and plainly uncomfortable when sitting there for longer).

And how do you see yourself in fifty years' time? [...]
We plants are happy plants. [...]
The more you drive the less intelligent you get.
Hit the road quick.
Oxygen should be regarded as a drug.
If you don't ask me out to dinner I don't eat.
[...]
On cover sleeve of Radiohead's I might be wrong live recordings LP

Cake's lyrics may also be adequate in this context.

April 17, 2003, 2:46

Comments

Comment by brian: User icon

not really related, but my wife studied at U of Gottingen while she was in college, and was very excited to see that you had posted on my site.

i’m still hoping for the notwist show next weekend! :)

April 17, 2003, 5:39

Comment by ssp: User icon

It’s a small world. :)

April 17, 2003, 14:38

Comment by d.w.: User icon

PNG is pretty much an ideal 1:1 replacement for GIF (as a matter of fact, I usually convert any GIF files I post on my site into PNG files, as they always turn out at least a few bytes smaller), but rarely will a PNG turn out smaller than a JPEG file for anything with photographic or gradient elements. PNG, like GIF, really shines when your dealing with files with large areas of flat color. If you need to squeeze a few more bytes out of your PNG files, try pngcrush ( http://pmt.sourceforge.net/pngcrush/ ), which will try several different colorspace optimizations on a given file, which can sometimes result in noticeable byte savings.

April 18, 2003, 3:50

Comment by ssp: User icon

Ah. I thought PNG was trying to be “best of both worlds”. So I’ll stick to JPEG for most of my graphics and try it instead of GIF sometime.

GraphicsConverter can also try different modes but in my experience all this does is make compressing take a lot longer without the results being significantly better. Thus I won’t go out of my way to try yet another uncomfortabel open source app…

BTW, is PNG lossless compression? If it is, not being able to compete with JPEG would be clear.

April 18, 2003, 15:45

Comment by d.w.: User icon

Yes, PNG is lossless. The nice thing about pngcrush is that it’ll run through 127 different compression strategies in a matter of a few seconds. “pngcrush -brute infile.png outfile.png” is about as complicated as things get. It’s the sort of single function tool for which interface is very nearly superflous, although I suppose one could always wrap an Applescript Studio interface around it fairly easily.

April 18, 2003, 16:15

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