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Month: January 2008

Englightening

Englightening

This is a graph of the ‘majority’ faith of each county in the US as of 2000.  According to the chart, a ‘majority’ religion can claim more than 50% of the county’s population.  I didn’t realize how Catholic most of the country is.  I’m also surprised there aren’t more gray counties where it’s split between 3 or nobody has a ‘majority’.

I happen to know the Oregon numbers seem strange.  The local paper listed Catholics as only 35% of the general population (statewide).  Yet it is still the largest denominational church attended in Oregon by a wide margin.  Why?  Because more than 50% of the population don’t profess to belong to any denominational faith.  Hence  I was expect more grey squares.

I think a lot of folks (especially the average person in the pew) do not realize how powerful and how much they can influence things in our country.  With voter turnout averaging less than 50% in a good number of elections, 50% of the country isn’t being represented.  So in essence, each person that is voting is getting 2 votes (one for the guy that didn’t vote).  Seen in that light, it’s no wonder our president and our congress have such amazingly low approval ratings (you did know congress has a lower approval rating than Bush right?)

Are we in a spiral?  We’re dissatisfied with our public leaders so we don’t think our vote will matter – so we vote less.  This makes our public leaders elected by fewer, more active/vocal voters who likely do not represent us or our values well. Wash, rinse, repeat?

Yet the cure is very simple – get out there and vote.  Participate in the process, and it will start reflecting you.

The Sultans Elephant

The Sultans Elephant

I heard about this earlier, but then didn’t see anything until again recently. Back in the spring of 2007, a spectacle of sorts took place in London. First, a large wooden egg/ship/whatever ‘crashed’, then a little girl (about 50″ tall) emerged a few days later to be greeted by a 3-4 story fully animated wooden elephant. Over the course of the next few days, it walked through the city – run by puppeteers – and was called The Sultan’s Elephant. It was run by Royal de Luxe – a gang of street performers. All I can say is amazing.

One of the things that I think we miss out on in our modern society is spectacles of giant scale like this. In some background research, it looks like the troupe took about 5 years to get this together (while doing other things of course).  But spectacles of this sort are still rare in our time.  The closest we usually come until now has been big-stadium games or arena concerts – maybe the Apollo rockets of the 70’s. But things that are done on a large scale like this have a much different and more impactful experience than I ever expected. I remember seeing the Sharon Apple concert sequence of Macross Plus and being absolutely floored (still one of the most amazing Anime sequences ever shot) at the time (early 90’s). But as increasingly amazing/unreal generated images are shown every day via tv and movie – I think we are slowly becoming accustom to this level of fantastical-ness. But to see something real like the Sultan’s Elephant, larger than life, and mind blowing – is something really unique still – and powerful.  Those that can do this, and with amazing skill/artistry – win big.  Witness Cirque du Soliel success – but also the fountains of Las Vegas’ Bellagio, the collection of folks that participate in online viral marketing, etc.

Makes me as where are our ‘7 Wonders of the World’ today.  For the pinnacle of our human technology and knowledge, we don’t seem to be making as many as our past.  Ones that really pull together the best of the best of our technology and artistry on a grand scale to leave a real mark on history. We’re not doing it because we can’t – but because we aren’t. Now I’m not a big fan of dumping money into huge pits – but we are the most technologically advanced generation that has ever existed, but yet we don’t do things like the ancients did with far less.  But I feel that is ripe for change. If people are no longer wowed by the effects they see on screen or on TV – it’s time to pull them into reality and really amaze.

The Little Girl (video)

The elephant in the streets of London 1, Finale

2008 Indianapolis car show

2008 Indianapolis car show

It has been about 3 years in a row that I’ve gone to the Indy car show with my brother-in-law.  Not a bad way for guys to spend time together. I have some pictures up from the event. Particularly interesting things I noticed from last year:

  • Folks aren’t touting all the hybrids like last year. Yes, they’re there, but the hybrid pickups and so forth, were toned back (probably because most of them didn’t get much better mileage than their non-hybrid counterparts but cost many $k more)
  • Acura TL’s jumped almost 10k in price.  I looked into these cars in the past and while they were great value while they were in the $20,000 range, I don’t think they’re worth the mid-$30’s their now asking.  This especially since they haven’t changed much in them. But maybe that was just the TL-S’s I saw the price on…
  • Hummers have been dropping in price a lot year-to-year (about $10 less this year than last) – probably because of fuel prices
  • The new Cameros are wild looking – especially the retro console/dash controls
  • The Bentleys were back and about $25-50k cheaper this year (still $170k)
  • The new Nissan GT-R/Skyline is amazing looking – but no price listed
  • Whole thing felt more sedate
  • I still can’t get excited about domestic cars – but they are improving in style greatly. Maybe in another 5 years…
BluRay+HDDVD+burning – now we’re talking

BluRay+HDDVD+burning – now we’re talking

Well, it appears blu-ray has won with the fall of another studio giving up on HDDVD. However you feel on the matter, it sure has lead to the fastest comoditization of players/burners of the new formats. My prediction is that by this next christmas, you’ll only see Blu-ray.

But to test things out, I picked up the nearly-impossible-to-find-online-and-is-$100+-more-when-you-do-find-it LG GGW-H20L at Fry’s this last weekend for $399 to give it a whirl. It plays Blu-ray movies. It plays DVD movies. It plays HDDVD movies. Ah, but this one also BURNS blu-ray. And it’s the first dual-layer blu-ray burner. So, the other night, I burned a 50GB blu-ray data disk consisting of 12 full DVD’s of my pictures – on one disc. Wow. So far I’m really happy with the drive. But a few interesting notes:

1. Right out of the box, the last step of the install procedure installs a tool to download the latest firmware for the drive and flashes the drive bios.  And mine was already a full rev behind right out of the box.

2. It uses a slightly crippled PowerDVD suite to play movies (2-channel audio only – surround sound requires buying the full version).  It works fine, but putting in a BluRay or HDDVD disc with the default install only pops up a dialog saying it needs to download a patch. The patch just happens to be over 60 megs. Neither HDDVD nor BluRay discs will play with the default software in the box. So, in other words, this drive didn’t even WORK as packaged. Worked just fine with the patch, but that was disturbing folks.

3. It took about 1 hour 20 minutes to burn a 50meg dual-layer Blu-ray disc.

4. 50gb Dual-layer Blu-ray blanks are $25, and single-layer 25gb are $9.99. So for data storage, unless you need the contiguous space, both DVD’s ($.04 $/mb) and even hard drives ($0.20 $/mb) are cheaper per megabyte than the blu-ray data discs ($.40/$.52 $/mb)

5. Scratch resistance and longevity – Data is stored on the TOP (i.e on the label side) of the disc. If you scratch the top, you destroy the disc. The video store I rented my movie from already had signs up educated their employees and customers to this fact. So, the youtube clips of folks using steel wool on the bottoms of the disc and they still playing are pointless, try scratching the top. I’m somewhat concerned by this fact, but am reluctant to blow $9 to find out exactly how resistant those tops are to scratching. I think we’ll find out in the next 6-8 months. HDDVD stored in the center – something that should have lead to better longevity and scratch resistance. We’ll see.

I’m just evaluating this drive so far, but I know I’ll be buying a High-def player now. The picture does look considerably better. But I might still take this one back and wait for the price to keep dropping.

And not bother with the HDDVD compatibility…