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District 9 August 31, 2009

Posted by baldricman in News.
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There has been a lot of excitement around the release of the new Sci-Fi movie, District 9, over the past few weeks and months. A lot of the hype stems from, in my opinion, 2 things: the first, that the movie has been created on a remarkably low budget (around $30 million), and the second, that both the director and the lead actor are South Africans. Directed (and written in part) by Neill Blomkamp, with Sharlto Copley taking the lead role as Wikus van der Merwe, the movie is glaringly short on big-name Hollywood “talent”. Yay!D9-1

District 9 grossed around $37 million on opening weekend. It is interesting to note that Transformers 2 grossed closer to $100 million, but its production budget was double that. (Oh how it pains me to even compare the two films…) Part of District 9’s success has been attributed to the very clever viral marketing campaigns, started back in 2008. Giant signs (such as the “For Humans Only” sign pictured here) were erected in public areas, long before the movie was released.

So anyway, I managed to go and watch District 9 this weekend with wifey and friends, and I must admit, I went in very critical and demanding like many South Africans do, when watching any “local” TV or film. I was also trying to ignore all the mixed reviews I had read snippets of (I hate reading reviews before a movie: I think reviews prescribe opinions too much) However, now that I’ve seen it, here are some of the reviews I thought had merit:

a sharp-edged science fiction parable that mixes metaphor and violent action with such dizzying confidence that you leave the theater feeling charged and alive – James Kendrick

The film’s message, that compassion and humanity extend far beyond our own species, isn’t subtle, but it is effective. – Robert Roten

Copley’s wild-eyed performance as the luckless Wikus has a lot going for it. The fact that he’s so ridiculous — and so dogged — adds to the pathos, for it’s patently clear Blomkamp has no taste for easy endings. – Sandra Hall

So, what did I think?

I liked it. I liked it a lot.

It was funny, intense, and shocking. Funny, because of the simple-Afrikaner that Wikus was. Intense, because there wasn’t much room for reflection during the storyline, never time to think over what has just happened. (Just how Wikus felt, I’m sure). And a little shocking at times mostly because of the realism added from the documentary-style, and the very South-African-ness of it all (it didn’t feel like a movie a lot of the time)

The acting was great (with very few exceptions, perhaps such as Wikus’ wife), and the effects were top-notch too, in my uneducated opinion. (They didn’t look like effects at all 🙂 ) I think one of the things I enjoyed most in the movie was the sound. The music was quite subtle most of the time, and very South African, but the sound of the helicopters and vehicles was just completely and entirely real, and loud, and immersive. It didn’t sound like a typical Hollywood action flick with “enhanced” sound and extra bass added to every thing. It just sounded like there was a frikkin helicopter landing in the cinema.

Was it a socio-political commentary? Did it descrive the human condition? Did it ask tough questions? Yes, to all three. But, before we get too carried away on whether this was a ground-breaking, maiden-head of the genre, I’m not convinced there is a whole lot of depth to it. Which is why I want to go and watch it again, soon.

Check out the official site for District 9, and once you’ve seen the movie, read some of the reviews at Rotten Tomatoes.

D9 - 2

Discovery and ISS Docking Visible this Weekend August 28, 2009

Posted by baldricman in astronomy, News.
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nasa-discovery-launchThanks to Allen for sending me an excerpt from the JHB Planetarium newsletter, telling us about the docking of the space shuttle Discovery, to the International Space Station, on Sunday. And, it should be visible from South Africa.

The International Space Station (ISS) passes directly over South Africa on Sunday evening (Aug 30th) – possibly accompanied by the shuttle Discovery!  Discovery is scheduled to launch Friday evening (SA time) to deliver crew and equipment to the orbiting station, but has been delayed twice this week due to a technical problem.
The orbit of the ISS takes it over southern Africa a few times each month.  On Sunday, it passes directly over Cape Town, Bloemfontein and Gauteng, moving towards Zimbabwe.  Start looking for it at about 6:48pm if you’re near Cape Town, 6:51pm for  Gauteng. Look towards the south-west, for a very bright “star” that is moving slowly up over your head, if you are under the path of the ISS. If you’re to the north of the path, the ISS will appear in the south-south-west, and will move upwards across the sky to your left. If you’re to the south of the path, the ISS will appear in the west-south-west, and will move upwards across the sky to your right.

Below is an image from the Planetarium website, showing the path of the ISS (click the image to see the full version):

ISSPath

Moon Rock – Who Wood a Guessed? August 28, 2009

Posted by baldricman in astronomy, News.
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A piece of moon rock held by the Dutch National Museum has recently been found out to be nothing more than a lump of petrified wood. (See News24 article here)

The rock was originally, and supposedly, given by the 3 astronauts of the Apollo 11 mission to the then Dutch prime minister, Willem Drees, in 1969. After the PM’s death in 1988, the rock was then donated to the museum. The rock, not on permanent display, was seen in 2006 by a “space expert” (who knows….) who immediately pointed out the unlikelihood of it’s authenticity. Researchers from Amsterdam’s Free University quickly confirmed the rock as a fake.

AP: "Moon rock", with note to PM

AP: "Moon rock", with note to PM

So what does this mean? Did the yanks hand over a fake as part of some twisted cosmic-frat-boy prank? Is this finally proof that the moon-landings were faked, and a piece of petrified-wood was the best they could come up with for a cheesy (pun-unintentional) “moon-rock” gift, on short notice? Or does it prove my long-held theory that there have long since been trees growing on the Moon?

Either way, the good news is that the Dutch museum will be keeping the piece, as a curiosity.

Maptor: the GPS Map-Projector August 27, 2009

Posted by baldricman in Tech.
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Tired of ignorant people telling you to ask for directions, when you know you’re not really lost? Do you find using a map awkward and clunky? Does your wife fold the thing incorrectly? Well, the Maptor might be a novel solution to all that.

Maptor
I got sent a link to this cool new gadget earlier this week by Deems, and thought I’d pass it on. Basically, the Maptor (from “Map + Projector”) is a miniature portable projector – it can download and store maps and then project them onto a nearby surface. However, this in itself is not new. So the designers at Samsung’s Art and Design Institute have added an integrated GPS unit that will pinpoint your location, on the projected map.

You can watch a short video of it below, but I suggest you turn off your sound. There is no speech, just music that was used in the concentration camps for misbehaving residents…

So will it be useful? I’m not really covinced it has any real value beyond being a cool option for sight-seeing in a foreign city. But, it IS cool…

You can read the original cnet article here.

Cederberg Hike – August 2009 August 20, 2009

Posted by baldricman in Hiking, Uncategorized.
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And so, this past weekend it was with no small sense of achievement on my part, that we donned our packs and once again headed out into the mountains to take another stab at one of our favourite pasttimes, this time in the Cederberg Wilderness.

IMG_2046

Why? Well, it was a year ago, almost to the day, that wifey, friend Dawie, and I, did our last hike, in the Groot Winterhoek Wilderness area. It was a weekend with weather of epic proportions, which saw us walking almost entirely at night, and almost entirely while it was raining. (I believe the Cape had one of its highest recorded rainfalls on this weekend?) The wind was high at times, and there was the odd spot of hail and sleet too. To top it off, wifey sprained her ankle quite badly in the last stretch – the only positive in this being the fridgid water in the hole she stood in, acting as an automatic and immediate ice pack lasting just long enough to get us back to the car!

Then, a few weeks later, Dawie, our trusty encourager and hike-organiser, was involved in a serious motorcycle accident, which saw him out of action for a very long time (operations and rehab galore!). 2 weeks after that, I tore ligaments in my ankle (and bruised the bones), while playing some touch rugby, which put me out of action for a very long time too… (though not as impressive as Dawie’s excuse)

Wifey, Sunday's Walk

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Gadgets: Optimus Keyboards August 19, 2009

Posted by baldricman in News, Tech.
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I got sent a link to this page earlier this week (thanks Tim 🙂 ) which showcases some funky designs of various items ranging from mugs, to hoodies, and to keyboards. Most of the product can be purchased from the site, but some are still in concept stages, which makes for some very interesting browsing.

Anyway, to get to the meat of it, there are 2 keyboards which are just full of awesomeness. The first is called the Optimus Maximus (I think because it has a butt-load of optimal awesomeness). The trick? Each key on this baby has a standalone OLED screen, to display the function associated to it. Yes, you read correctly. The keys are completely customisable using the bundled software, which allows complete flexibility in what applications you use the keyboard for, and indeed in which languages. You can purchase this one for around $1600 or so…

optimus_maximus_01w

The second keyboard, which is even cooler I think, is called the Optimus Tactus (I think because there is no tactful way to tell your friends you have one, without them beating you senseless to get their greasy little fingers on it…). This keyboard is still in the concept phase, but the idea is to remove the restriction of fixed, physical keys. It is a “one sensor display keyboard”. (I’m thinking a big-ass iPhone-style screen, without all the irritating phone functions). To quote:

Optimus Tactus does not have physical keys, which means there are no restrictions on their shape and size.

Any part of the keyboard surface can be programmed to perform any function or to display any images.

optitact-textoptitact-color

So, who wants one? Go check our the Art Lebedev Studio site for some more awesome stuff. And be sure to check out the other Optimus keyboards while you’re in the neighbourhood.

IT Pro’s and Their Cars August 17, 2009

Posted by baldricman in Baldric-Man, Tech.
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4 comments

Following on from my last post, …It’s a Feature! (as in, not a Bug), I thought I’d put together a little compilation of vehicles I think are appropriate for the various roles in IT. (For some context, I’ve been working in IT for the past 10 years or so, almost entirely in bespoke software development….) So, I hope you enjoy it…. On to the list!

Graphics Designer

But, if it looks this good, nobody will notice the performance!

But, if it looks this good, nobody will notice the performance!

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…It’s a Feature! August 17, 2009

Posted by baldricman in POTD.
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A bit of Geek-Humour for this Monday:

Feature

Get it?

Taxijam August 14, 2009

Posted by baldricman in General.
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Hi folks, just a quickie to share with you a cool site I found via Poegeyed yesterday, about an awesome site called Taxijam. To quote a section from their About page:

Taxijam is the smallest gig around.
We provide a selection of some of South Africa’s finest creative talent performing in an intimate 5 minute taxi ride.
All clips are recorded and shot in exactly the same style, in one take and uploaded in their unedited format to our website.

I had a quick listen to some of the stuff, and its highly entertaining. I particularly enjoyed Cassette’s jam…. (my current fav)

I heartily recommend popping over and taking a look for yourself. I have deliberately not tried to include any videos, I think you will miss out if you just watch one clip here, instead of browsing there properly. 🙂  Check out Cassette‘s site too, while you’re at it…

Farryl Purkiss - by Clare Thomas

Farryl Purkiss - by Clare Thomas

5.7kgs of Glass and a Half Goodness August 7, 2009

Posted by baldricman in Baldric-Man, General.
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20 comments

At last, it arrived! Some of you will remember my previous post describing how I found out about winning a Cadbury’s hamper from 5fm, on Twitter. If not, you can read it here. Or, you can just look at the next post, seeing as I’ve been a little quiet on the post-front lately….

So, back to the arrival! I got in to work this morning to find a large cardboard box at my desk. I read the label to make sure it was addressed to me, and in doing so happened to notice the dimensions and weight section, where it was clearly stated that the package weighed in at a not-inconsiderable 5.7 kilograms!

Anyway, here are two pics of the hamper. You’ll need to think of them a little like wildlife pictures though, for three reasons:

1: The pictures are never as clear as you had hoped

2: The subject always seems much smaller in the photo, when the photographer just KNOWS that the animal was HUGE! (translation: hamper is bigger than it looks. Honest.)

3: The subject is fleeting, and you treasure the few photos you have because they were the only ones you had time to take.

choc1choc2