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Archive: October 2005

Premium Channels Just Aren’t

With the finishing of the basement and the installation of the new TV, it was time to dump the cable company.  As a result of the feedback I got from people, I ended up choosing Dish network.  (Thanks to everyone who commented!)  Oh, did it feel good to jettison at least one localized monopoly.  I never liked Adelphia, not from the day they arrived in town.  The criminal indictment of their founder and some of his family members didn’t do much to improve my perception, either.

Of course, when you sign up for any new media service these days, you get swamped with a zillion deals and promotional packages.  I ended up with three free months of movie channels—HBO, Cinemax, Showtime, and a variety of offshoot niche channels.  There’s something like twenty-five of them.  At the end of the three months, I have to cancel or else they start charging me for the movie package.

I’ll be cancelling.  It’s kind of handy having all those movies available, and I’ve caught a few I wanted to see in theaters but didn’t.  However, there is something about these “premium” movie channels, every last one of them, that kills the deal for me.

They all broadcast pan-and-scan formatted movies.  Not a letterboxed, widescreen showing to be found anywhere.

Last night, I found myself gritting my teeth over the ruination of several shots in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, a movie I was only half watching as it was.  Characters just vanished from shots that were, of a sudden, horribly balanced.  I can only imagine what outrages would be perpetrated on some of the classics of cinema.  I mean, come on.  The frickin’ SciFi channel shows letterboxed movies on a regular basis.  If the geeks over there can figure it out, you’ve got no excuse.

In short, there’s no way I’ll be paying to have mangled movies delivered to my home.  Fix that problem, and I might be tempted to sign up.  Otherwise, I’ll spend my movie-related money elsewhere, thank you very much.

Signing Up

After my recent post about teaching Carolyn sign language, several people, many of them new or soon-to-be parents, asked for advice on the basics.  Right up front, let me say that I’m not an expert in signing, or early childhood development, or any of that stuff.  I’m just a parent who’s tried to do his best for his daughter.  That counts for a lot, but this is still just one person’s perspective.  Before embarking on any program, consult your physician, blah blah blah.  Get me?  Cool.

So here’s what we learned, and what we plan to do with our next child.  (That’s not a stealth announcement, by the way.)

When we started out, it was with the book Baby Signs by Acredolo and Goodwyn.  The Baby Signs program—and it is a whole program now, with franchises and everything—employs a reduced and somewhat simplified subset of American Sign Language (ASL).  Many of the Baby Signs are in fact copies of ASL signs, but there are a few that are not.  The simplifications are meant to compensate for the lack of fine motor skills in infants.  For example, one sign for “dog” is snapping one’s fingers.  There’s no way most infants, or even toddlers, are going to be able to snap their fingers.  (Heck, some adults can’t manage it.)  So the Baby Sign for “dog” is to stick out your tongue and pant like a dog.

Where I think the book really helped us was in laying out the path for where to start, and how to proceed.  The basic advice is to start with needs like food, drink, and so on.  You make the association by speaking the word and making the sign as they interact with the thing.  So when you’re feeding your baby, as the spoon goes in, you say and sign “food”.  You do this often at each meal.

The time Acredolo and Goodwyn say to start is when your baby starts waving hello or goodbye to people.  This indicates that they have made a connection between a physical movement and a concept.  Kat and I, on the other hand, started when Carolyn was six months old, long before she started waving.  We kept it up for four months, demonstrating the same few signs over and over as part of our routine.  When she ate, we signed “food” and “bottle”; when it was bed time, we signed “sleepy”; and so on.  The important things were that we didn’t make a huge deal out of it, and we didn’t stop.  We just did it as if it were an everyday thing.

By ten months, Carolyn started to get it, right around the same time she started waving goodbye.  By her first birthday, she was able to stay with her grandparents for two days and nights and not throw any tantrums.  When she wanted something, she said so.  The grandparents, may I say, were astonished; here they had this 12-month-old who would just come up to them and say “hungry”—no fuss, no tears, no tantrums.

(And note the phrasing I just used in that paragraph.  To Kat and me, “saying” is now equally applicable to speaking and signing.  This experience has altered our view of communication in ways we couldn’t have imagined before we started.)

We most likely could have started at nine months, or even waited until she started waving, and still been successful in teaching her to sign.  On the other hand, it may well be that the reason Carolyn has taken her signing so far is we laid a broad foundation for it.  On the third hand, it could be that she’s become so proficient in signing due to the Signing Time videos we got her.  Each video has music, visual reinforcement of concepts, and demonstrations of signs from a woman who speaks it fluently.  (You can read more about the back story on their site.)  Carolyn loves music, and the songs are some of her favorites.  We bought one of the music CDs, and sometimes Carolyn will try to sign along with the songs.

One thing about the Signing Time videos is that they teach straight ASL, with no simplification for toddlers.  (They’re really meant for pre-schoolers and later, though the company has since come out with a set of Baby Signing Time videos.)  That’s something we definitely plan for the next child: to teach regular ASL, and not use the simplified signs from Baby Signs.  The child may not get every sign exactly, but they’ll get close and we’ll know what they mean.  We see that with Carolyn now, and if you think about it, it’s no surprise that a signer would not do every sign exactly as the manual shows it.  Do those of us who speak say every word, and construct every sentence, exactly as the rules of our languages dictate?  I think not.

We will, however, use the approach from Baby Signs: start with needs, demonstrate signs as we say the corresponding word, and be patient.  And we’ll probably start early, like we did with Carolyn.  If she’s still signing when the baby arrives, then it’ll be exposed to signs even younger than was Carolyn.

Something to point out is that neither Kat nor I knew any signing when we started.  We’ve learned with Carolyn, and thanks to the videos, I think she knows a few more signs than we do.  So even if you don’t know signing now, that’s no barrier to trying this.  At the outset, it will be simple enough that you’ll have no trouble remembering the signs you’re teaching.  After that, if the signing takes off, you should easily be able to keep up with new signs.  In expanding our signing vocabulary, we’ve found the ASL Browser (as seen in a recent episode of Alien Loves Predator) to be very valuable.  It doesn’t contain every word you can imagine, but it has just about everything you’ll really need.

The other thing is that you’ll probably have quite a few friends, relatives, and such ask you if you’re doing the right thing, or why you’re wasting your time.  If you know a speech therapist, you may have to be prepared for dismissiveness of, or even outright hostility to, what you’re doing.  If you’re going to be easily discouraged by that sort of thing, it might be better not to start at all.  The first few weeks or months of effort will be discouraging enough, as your baby will likely just look at you with a puzzled expression when you sign.  (Of course, most babies that age are puzzled by half of what they see, so it’s not like you’ll be alone.)  Babies, like most of us, crave routine and are bothered by inconsistency.  If you’re going to start, you have to stick with it.

Obviously, I can’t guarantee that every child will take to signing as well as Carolyn did, or even that they’ll take to it at all.  Some parents I’ve talked to said they tried signing, but their kid started talking at ten months so there was no need for signs.  Others have said their kids just never showed much interest in signs—including, astonishingly enough, some deaf children.  But I can say that signing can very definitely work, and work well.  We’ve been talking with (as opposed to talking to) Carolyn for a year now.  Had we not used the signs and her speech had developed at the same rate, we’d just now be starting to talk with her, and only in very limited ways.

I hope this little glimpse of my experience will be a help to some of you out there.

Akismet

Matt Mullenweg announced Akismet yesterday.  It’s a comment-spam defense system for WordPress, and I’ve been using it for a few weeks now.  (This is why Gatekeeper disappeared from the site near the beginning of the month.)  It isn’t perfect, but it’s darned close, and it’s been getting better as time has progressed.  That’s one of the promised features: the longer it’s used and the more people who use it, the better it gets.

I don’t pretend to understand all the details of Akismet’s workings, although I have a fairly good idea of how it works.  I have some concerns, mostly in that it seems like spammers could poison the well by injecting tons of false “not spam” data into the service in order to get their messages through.  I also worry about attacks on the service itself.

Furthermore, I have to say it’s a bit frustrating that you have to have a wordpress.com API key, which means you have to have a wordpress.com account, which means it’s not a one-stop plug-and-play solution.  (Especially since getting an account is, currently, an invitation-only sort of thing.)  On the other hand, having to have an account probably confers some control advantages—if an account is found to be consistently marking things as “not spam” when everyone else is marking them spam, it can be kicked out of the service.

Some have raised privacy concerns because every comment submitted to your site gets analyzed by the Akismet service.  This doesn’t bother me, but it might some.

Overall, I’ve been pretty happy with Akismet.  It has let through less spam than Gatekeeper did in the weeks before I disabled it and all my other anti-spam measures to test out Akismet.  You’d think a Gatekeeper setup wouldn’t let anything through, but you’d be wrong; I assume there was a hole in my PHP.  Akismet may not be the end-all solution—after all, if it becomes effective enough, the spammers will have major incentives to defeat it, and will most likely find ways to do so—but it seems to be working very well for now.

Post WE05: Matrix Madness

Sunday in Sydney was a day of truly beautiful weather, and after breakfast I accompanied Tantek, Amber, and Derek on a “makeshift Matrix” tour of Sydney.  Amber had done some digging online and found out where a variety of scenes from The Matrix were filmed in Sydney.

Now, you have to understand that Tantek is a major Matrix fan—he’s one of the few people I know who actually liked the sequels, and having discussed it with him, I understand why he did.  As anyone who knows Tantek will be unsurprised to learn, he liked them for some very deep philosophical and intellectual reasons; and yes, he has solid ground on which to base those reasons.  Now consider that Tantek and I are both perfectionists, and that he had a 12″ Powerbook loaded up with his DVD of The Matrix along for the tour.

Yeah.  We geeked out.  Big time.

Thanks to Amber’s research and our obsessive analysis, we established fairly exact shooting locations and angles for:

  • The “Adams Street Bridge” sequence, including exterior shots seen during the car ride after Neo gets picked up.  It turns out that he tried to get out roughly seven feet further on from where he was picked up, despite having ridden in the car for a minute or so.  See Tantek’s posts “Then go to the Adams Street bridge“, “Stop the car“, and You know that road” for pictures and more commentary.
  • The fountain sequence, from the crossing of the street at the beginning of the sequence to the walk through the crowds and the side angles on Morpheus, Neo, and passers-by (including my finding a slice of the Sydney Harbor Bridge just barely visible over a series of green scrims); and, of course, the fountain itself, which is kind of hard to miss.  We think someone should do a flash-mob recreation of the “freeze program” bit and document it.  (Further, we acknowledge that convincing the pigeons to freeze will be a bit of a challenge.)  See also Tantek’s post “Agent training program, part 1“.
  • The exterior shots of the building where Morpheus was being interrogated.  See also Tantek’s post “Agent Training Program part 2, Westin Sydney stairwell, Morpheus interrogation.

We also noted where the urban landscape had changed since shooting.  For example, there’s an entire building missing from the background of the initial Adams Street Bridge shot, and we deduced that construction had just started when they filmed.  You can see the construction fencing in the background, but no girders or walls.  Similarly, the building across the street from the interrogation building has either changed or been replaced; also, none of the lobbies of the building look anything like the lobby where the shootout took place.  I was able to identify the building visible through the window of the interrogation room, but we were unsure of the location of the room itself.

We also determined that it’s incredibly unlikely that the spiral staircase scene where Neo experiences déjà vu was shot in the Sydney Westin.  Several web sites claim that it was, but while we found a number of staircases that had similar tile patterns (only rotated 45 degrees), none of them were even close to being a match with what appears on-screen.  (See Tantek’s post Sydney Westin: Not the Matrix hotel” for more.)  And we seriously plumbed the depths of the Westin, at one point getting onto a guest floor without having the required guest card and, at another, taking a service elevator to the kitchens.  We also found an unlocked, unguarded Ethernet router with a number of open ports.

So that was fun.  On the spot, I dubbed it “urban spelunking”, which is no doubt a completely unoriginal formulation but I was proud of it anyway.

It’s too bad that Google Maps has such low-resolution images for downtown Sydney, or else we could combine screen captures of the movie with some GMaps API magic to create an interactive virtual shooting tour.  Oh well.  Some day that problem will cease to exist.

After a very lovely and enjoyable dinner at Circular Quay, a short wandering tour of the Sydney Opera House, and a few hours’ sleep, it was off to the airport for the long, long flight back to the United States.

[Updated 10 January 2006 to include links to Tantek's blog posts.  Also: Hi, Kottke fans!  Nice to have you drop by.]

Post WE05: Manly Jazz

On the Saturday after WE05 concluded, I took the ferry over to Manly Beach with Doug, Kelly, and Erik.  It just so happened that the Manly International Jazz Festival was being held that weekend, and with weather so beautiful and clear, it was impossible to resist heading over.  Once we got there, I kept snickering to myself at all the localized signs; I simply could not resist repeating them in a deep, booming voice: “MANLY T-Shirts!  MANLY Boatshed!  MANLY Frozen Custard!  MANLY Ocean Foods!  C’mon, try some!  It’s MANLY!”

As a result, I got curious about the origin of the name, so I asked a couple of locals.  According to them, the beach got its name because the aborigines who lived there were very manly, and enough so that the invaders gave the cove that name.  This, to me, sounded like the kind of jokey answer you give foreigners to find out how gullible they are, but if that’s the case, then it’s a joke they tell to each other as well.

The first act we caught was a Dixieland quartet that was filling time between stage acts.  I thought they were pretty good, especially considering they were all playing to a single microphone.  Then we saw Peter Ind from the UK, as well as some of his supporting players, The Ozboppers.  At least two of which were from America, but never mind that now.  Mr. Ind was really very good, but I took one look at him, turned to Kelly, and said, “Ladies and gentlemen—Gandalf on the bass.”

Seriously, that’s what it looked like.  I guess he would need a new gig after Sauron’s defeat.

Wandering onward, we stumbled across a small side-street stage where this absolutely incredible singer was belting out some jazz standards.  I was transfixed.  I mean, not only did she have this whole “hot librarian” look going, but her voice was simply unbelievable.  I can’t even properly characterize it, but my best attempt is the smoky expressiveness of Billie Holiday combined with the range of Ella Fitzgerald and the nimbleness of Anita O’Day.

It turned out we were listening to Elana Stone, who continued to transfix me and everyone around her through a few more numbers.  Afterward, I bought a CD (“In The Garden of Wild Things”, which she signed for me) and tried not to be too much of a gushing fanboy.  If Ms. Stone doesn’t become a major star, it will be a crime, although a part of me thinks that she was born several decades too late.  Had she been singing in the 1930s and 1940s, she would have been a sensation; her name would be up with those I mentioned previously.  I have this fear that her voice won’t have as big an audience as it should in the 21st Century.  At the same time, I very much hope that fear is misplaced.

The ferry ride back to Sydney was illuminated by a perfect (if cloudless) sunset and a dusky gloaming sky behind the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and marred by a terribly assembled Elvis impersonator and his even scruffier companion singing a number of Western ballads rather gratingly off-key, and twice nearly brained me with their guitar’s tuning pegs.  Even without the contrast with Ms. Stone, they would have been bad; so soon after hearing her, they were just short of abominable.  I’d have said something, except they appeared to be rather soused, and I try not to tangle with pickled Elvis impersonators unless there’s life and limb at stake.  It’s just one of my little guidelines in life.

Fortunately, the remainder of the evening was redeemed by a fine dinner overlooking Darling Harbour with assorted speakers and conference staff, great conversation about web design work and Australia going late into the night, and a leisurely walk back to the hotel with a friend.

Overall, a lovely day.

Web Essentials 05 Wrap-up

So, having been back from Australia for most of a month and having posted about other stuff in the meantime, what would make more sense than writing up some thoughts on the trip?  I mean, other than giving an ocelot a bath in a tub full of kippers?

Okay, don’t go there.

For this post, I’ll concentrate on Web Essentials 05 itself.  With all due respect and apologies to the other conference organizers in my life, the WE05 attendees were flat-out amazing.  I have not encountered a group of conference attendees as enthusiastic and focused in many years.  I have hopes that the folks who come to An Event Apart will rival them, but honestly, the bar’s been set pretty high.  I might be tempted to say that the lack of wifi access in the conference hall helped them stay focused, but the focus remained during breaks, when wifi was (mostly) available.  They were there to learn from the speakers and from each other, and the collective determination to get as much as possible out of the whole experience bordered on fanatic.  It was thoroughly awesome.

Just in case you hadn’t heard (ha!), the main-hall presentations were recorded and made available as podcasts.  You can go to the WE05 podcasts page and grab whichever ones strike your fancy.  Some of the talks have slides you can download, although mine don’t, since most of what I did was intensely visual and hands-on in nature, and I skipped around in my slides quite a bit.

Even if you’re uninterested in 45-minute talks with no visual component, you should totally grab the remixes: WE05 Upbeat Remix and WE05 Deep Remix.  They’re about two to three minutes each, with some fun / meaningful audio snippets taken straight out of the talks (different snippets for each remix) and laid over some techno music by Mr. John Allsopp.  Cripes, is there anything he can’t do?

Now all we need is for someone to create a music video for the remixes.  Who’s up for it?  There are a bunch of photos from the conference that could be used, both those tagged WE05 by attendees and the official Web Essentials photo stream  And if you need filler material for that grungy-shaky-blurry-throbbing text overlay effect all the kids love, don’t forget about the large number of tagged posts.

Anyway, I was pleased with my presentations, even if they weren’t as deep and meaningful as, well, just about every other international speaker’s.  When Doug Bowman managed to invoke the fight against poverty, the future of change, and Malcolm X in the same talk, I really started to feel like a pretty minor spear carrier.  (“Yeah, Doug just blew everyone’s mind with the infinite horizon of riches and wonder that our profession can enable.  Check out my super-cool use of position: absolute!”)

At least I didn’t have my Q&A period interrupted by an evacuation alarm.

For me, one of the most personally affecting aspects of the whole conference was talking with Lisa Herrod, who is fluent in Auslan and familiar with ASL.  The fact that we both knew at least basic ASL signs came in handy when we ended up at a King’s Cross club with a bunch of other attendees.  The music was, of course, so loud that one could hardly hear oneself speak, let alone anyone else.  At one point, Lisa looked over at me from a distance of four or five meters and signed “like” with a questioning look, perhaps picking up on my detachment.  I indicated mixed feelings, and she signed “OK?”  I indicated I was.  Reassured, she turned back to what she’d been doing.  Very handy, that.  Although our ears were effectively useless, we could very clearly converse.

Earlier on, Lisa and I had compared notes on differences between Auslan and ASL, which are substantial, and she told me about the origins of each (Auslan grew out of British signing, whereas ASL owes a large debt to old French signing systems) as well as the fascinating story of Martha’s Vineyard, where everyone in its early history knew a localized sign language due to the original settlers being mostly deaf.  It was in talking with Lisa that I came to realize I’ve developed a passion for signing and its history.  It’s a gift that Carolyn has given me, simply by entering and changing my life.  It isn’t her only gift to me, nor the last.  I’m just glad to have seen it for what it is, and thankful to Lisa for helping me see it.

Similarly, I’m thankful to John and Maxine for getting me to WE05 in the first place, and to the WE05 staff and attendees for making it a truly great experience.  I hope I’ll get to come back and do some more spear-carrying in the future.

Reading the Signs

Back in January, I wrote about teaching Carolyn sign language, and enough time has passed and things changed that it seems like a good time to revisit the topic.  (Also, our friend Gini wrote about it, and that spurred me into typing.)

As I mentioned back in January, we started out with Baby Signs but moved on to American Sign Language (ASL).  This has held true, and when the next child comes into our lives, we’ll use only ASL signs.  To me, the real value of Baby Signs is in showing you where to start: with needs like food, water, milk, and so on.  In moving to ASL, we’ve been immensely helped by the Signing Time video series, which Carolyn loves.  She watches one every other day or so, which is about as much TV as we let her watch, and she can identify each one with a different sign.

At the time I last wrote about it, Carolyn was using about thirty signs.  She’s now somewhere past two hundred signs—I don’t know the exact number, as Kat and I lost track a while ago.  This includes all the primary colors, emotional states, and much more.  She’s also started to speak, with about twenty or so verbal words.  It gets really fascinating when she combines them.

For example, she’s started asking me if I’m done working whenever I come downstairs from my office.  She does this by saying “Daddy?” while signing “work” and then “done”.  If I confirm that I’m done working for the day (or at least for the moment), she’ll do it all over again, except this time saying “Daddy” in a satisfied tone of voice instead of as a question.  Then we spend some time playing.

In fact, one of these exchanges led to Carolyn telling me what she wanted to do when she grows up.  After confirming that Daddy was done working for the day, she thought a minute, then signed “work” and emphatically pointed to herself.

You want to work?” I asked, a little bit surprised.  She nodded and said “yeah!” (one of her favorite spoken words).

“Okay”, said I, amused, “what do you want to do when you work?”

She thought a moment more and then signed “airplane”.  My mouth dropped open.

“You want to be a pilot?” I asked.

She said “yeah!” again, quite enthusiastically, and then ran off to kick a ball across the yard.

Now, it’s possible that Carolyn was saying that she wants to do whatever Daddy does, because when he leaves for a few days, he’s left on a plane.  But my gut feeling was that she was saying she wanted to work on or with airplanes.  Attendant, sure; engineer, why not?; but pilot was the first thing that came to mind.

Then again, about a week later, she told us she wanted to work on swings and slides.  So I guess she’s still evaluating her options.

She also can identify different bedtime stories through signs and speech.  “The Bear’s Water Picnic” is represented by the sign for “water”; “Goodnight Moon” by the sign for “moon”; “Pete the Sheep” by the spoken word “baa”; and so on.  Although she usually picks the same set of stories each night, she can clearly tell us when she wants something different.

For months now, Carolyn’s been able to distinguish between being hurt and being scared when she falls down.  As we hold her, we just ask her if the fall hurt or scared her, and she tells us.  That alone would have made the whole effort worthwhile, because she has told us what the problem is, and so we know how best to comfort her.  It also seems to calm her down simply to tell us, the same way it can make an adult feel better just to say out loud what is upsetting them.

She can also tell us when we’re being silly, when she’s surprised, and more.  When a baby near her cries, she always looks concerned.  We can tell her that the baby is sad, or grumpy, or hungry, and she can sign back the emotion to indicate she understands.

So has signing delayed her speech?  There’s no way to know.  Her speaking vocabulary is on track, according to our pediatrician: some kids do speak early, but to have three spoken words at 18 months is normal, and she was at five.  Plus over 100 signs, which has caused our pediatrician to consider her bilingual.  According to the father of a deaf child with whom I recently conversed, most independent studies show that signing has no major impact, positive or negative, on speech development, at least across the whole study group.

Regardless of whether or not the signing has slowed or sped Carolyn’s development of speech, it has quite definitely accelerated her ability to communicate.  That, to me, was the whole reason to use signs.  For a year now, she’s been able to communicate her needs and wants, and for at least half a year she’s been able to converse with us in some fairly complex ways.

Perhaps as a result of this, Carolyn is entirely capable of following multistep directions, like: “Please go pick up the stuffed cow and put it where it belongs, then come back to Mommy”.  If she’s nervous about a person or situation, we can find out what’s bothering her and show her that it’s okay; conversely, we can tell her when something is dangerous when it might not appear to be, like a hot plate, and get confirmation that she understands.  We’ve been able to teach her to sign “please”, “thank you”, and “excuse me”, and she understands when each is appropriate, sometimes saying them without prompting.  We can get her to calm down for a not-desired nap by asking what she wants to do instead of napping, and then telling her she can do it later, after she takes the nap.  In other words, she’ll agree to delay gratification, so long as we assure her that she’ll get what she wants after doing something that we want her to do.

Remember that she’s not yet two years old.

While Kat and I sometimes augment our words with signs, most of the time we just talk to Carolyn, and she responds with whatever combination of words and signs is needed.  So she has all kinds of exposure to speech, and her development in that regard seems fairly normal.  It could be that she’d have spoken earlier without the signs, but then again it could be that she’d have spoken later.  Maybe the signs have reduced the incentive to speak because she can get by without speech, or maybe the signs have shown her how powerful communication is and thus increased the incentive to speak.

We have no way to know, now or ever.  All that I know is that she has been communicating with us for many, many months more than she would have otherwise, and that she’s almost certainly a much happier and better-adjusted child as a result.

Back in May, I said that “…if you’re a new parent or a parent-to-be, I strongly recommend that you try this with your own baby”.  Take that sentiment and increase it by an order of magnitude.  I truly believe it’s one of the best parenting decisions we ever made.

Big Screen, Small Screen

The gadgets in my life have recently reached a new level of extreme disparity.

At the enormous end of the scale, there’s the new television we put into our newly-finished basement.  It’s a 50″ widescreen high-definition DLP set, and even though it integrates fairly nicely with the shelving and cabinetry we had built, it still looks stupidly big to me.  When watching a movie, it really gives you a movie-theater experience, simply by taking up so much of your field of view.  The surround sound, I think, gets cranked down a bit to compensate.

I look at this thing and I think to myself, “Why?”  And the answer is: “Because it was in the budget, and plasma screens are still a bit too expensive for the value received.”  So perhaps this is a form of buyer’s remorse, or maybe I’m just being neurotic.  Either way, it has a vaguely looming presence that I’m not entirely sure I like.

At the tiny end of the scale, I recently got a 4GB iPod nano.  This was the early-registration and speakers’ gift given out at UI10, and I gotta tell you, this thing is God’s gift to daddies.  Mine already has a sampling of the best Carolyn pictures taken to date.  I can show them off to other people, or just flip through them when I’m on the road and missing my family.  It’ll also play those pictures as a slide show, using whatever transition effect I like most.  Plus it plays music!

I’m sure it helps that I didn’t pay for it, but honestly, I almost love the little guy.  No scratches (yet), and the sound quality is pretty darned good even with the stock earbuds.  I’m not one of those audiophile types; if the sound is basically clear, I’m good, so the iPod buds work for me.  It’s a bit disappointing, though, that the nano’s dimensions are roughly 1:6:13.  I was really hoping for 1:4:9.

Anyway, propping the nano up against the TV feels like a textbook exercise in totally ludicrous contrasts.

The nano propped up against the TV.

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