Sunday, June 27, 2010

Calling All Ideas!

The Google Reader team often looks to you, our users, for feedback on the
changes we've implemented as well as for help determining our priorities for the
future. In that spirit, we're excited to announce the launch of Product Ideas for Google
: a tool that allows you to submit your best ideas directly to the
Google Reader team and to other Google Reader users.

Have you ever had an idea that would make Google Reader better, more
efficient, or just more fun to use? Using Product Ideas, you can submit your
idea as well as read suggestions from other users - and best of all, you can
vote on the ideas submitted and browse the highest-ranked ideas. We'll get a
chance to see and respond directly to the ideas that you, our users, are most
excited about.

In addition to submitting product ideas, you can also post links to your own
favorite custom
and Send To links
as well as browse links submitted by others. Using Product Ideas, you'll easily
be able to see (and subscribe to!) the highest rated bundles and Send To links
as well as expose your own content to a whole new group of Reader users just
like you.


Saturday, June 26, 2010

Seeing stars

Pussy cat footprints!


Trifid and Lagoon Nebulae

Living in the city it’s easy to forget that the world is bigger than just
what’s in front of our eyes. Spend some time today getting lost in the sky.

Photos from strongman, Nick Howes, VisualUniverse and arcemenel.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010



 Today at 6:45pm

Billy Corgan, vocalist, lead guitarist and songwriter for The Smashing Pumpkins, will pay tribute to the band as they accept their Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Billy joins Donna Halper, former radio personality at WMMS Cleveland where Rush received their first radio airplay with Working Man participate as well.

The ceremony will take place in front of the Musician's Institute at
6752 Hollywood Boulevard at 11:30 AM in Los Angeles this Friday, June 25th.

Mann Chinese 6 in Hollywood is going to have special screenings of 'Rush: Beyond The Lighted Stage' at their theatre this Friday in honor of Rush getting their Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame just blocks away. They're giving special screenings at 2pm, 5pm and 8pm in their biggest auditorium.

Come join RUSH accept their Star and then go see the documentary if you haven't already!

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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Crystal Ball pictures from Flickr


via Flickr Blog by Zack Sheppard on 6/22/10

save the depot {15/100}

Angkor Wat in a crystal ball

the tree with the pink balls

Crystallised Seven Sisters    328. the crystal ball takes a dip in the mad river

Photos from mlephotos, kees straver (I’m back!!!!!!), april-mo, suz or sooze, and *Firefox.



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The World of the Dark Crystal


via Sci-Fi-O-Rama by Kie on 6/17/10

The World of the Dark Crystal
The World of the Dark Crystal
The World of the Dark Crystal
The World of the Dark Crystal
The World of the Dark Crystal
The World of the Dark Crystal
The World of the Dark Crystal
The World of the Dark Crystal
The World of the Dark Crystal
A selection of imagery scanned from “The World of the Dark Crystal” a 2003 compendium of conceptual art, design and illustration produced for Jim Henson’s 1982 fantasy movie masterpiece “The Dark Crystal”.
For those of you not familiar with the story of the Dark Crystal – it’s a powerful and dramatic tale of a lost world and Jen, a young ‘Gefling’ who set out on perilous quest against sinisterm dark forces. 28 years after it’s original release the award winning Dark Crystal is firmly embedded as a true cult classic and even to this day a is a tour de force in special effects featuring breathtaking animatronics and puppetry… The whole film just oozes quality – there’s never been anything quite like it since – a remarkable odyssey suitable for adults and children alike, although I have to be honest, parts of it still freak me out!
I’d really like to write more here but I’m once again I’m a little time restricted, I think I’ll post here and then revisit again soon – anyway I’m guessing that most of you a familiar with the film. If not – wow! – your in for a treat! I recommend the 25th Anniversary Edition DVD with excellent special features or the BluRay version
The award winning design as shown here is the work of Devon based English Fantasy Artist Brian Froud, who in addition to producing of 20 illustrative book has also lent his considerable fantasy artist talent to several other famous film projects including as Labyrinth (1985) and Peter Pan (2003).
Ok so some notes on the Images I’ve featured from top to bottom (some spoliers here!):
Top: A conceptual sketch of an ‘Ur-Ru’. The Ur-Ru are the ying to the Skeksis yang, Ur-Ru represent light and good, the Skeksis dark and evil. Each Ur-Ru is inextricably linked to it’s Skeksis counterpart, both share a divided soul and are part of the higher being known as the ‘urSkeks’. This omnipotent super-race was violently spilt apart in an attempt to harvested the full power of the planets three suns known as “The Grand Conjuction”
2nd Top: A conceptual sketch of a ‘Skeksis’. For me creature and costume design doesn’t get much better than Skeksis – it’s not that the regal/Afghan hound looking Ur-Ru aren’t beautifully designed too (they are!) – there’s something memorably horrific about the Skekis, their shrill voices and bloated, twisted bodies wrapped inside fantastically elaborate but rotting clothing!
3rd Top: A perfect example of the fallen decadence – “skekEkt the Ornamentalist who made clothes above all for himself, rich fabrics that dripped jewels, the death of a 100 birds for 1 cloak. He first discovered the art of anointing the skin with a paste of clotted blood and diamond powder, to restore the sparkle of youth.”
4th Top: Another superior sketch, check the ruff, ruched sleeves and carefully balanced Tri-Spectacle action! “skekOk the Scroll-Keeper kept the record of the Skeksis; he was the smallest finest-featured, least honest of them all. He wrote and and rewrote his accounts, and kept changing them one or another of his shifting allies, The truth was soon lost.”
5th Top: A close up detail sketch of Skeksis head. A fair visual description would be to say the Skeksis are a kind of avian reptile, perhaps like an Archaeopteryx but also taking the most heavy visual cue from the Vulture .
6th Top: The contorted chaos of “The Castle of the Skeksis”.
7th Top: A design for the floor plan of the Crystal Chamber, the symbols of the original 18 urSkeks can be seen around the edge whilst the crystal hangs above the inner ring…
8th top & Bottom: Concept drawings for Jen the Gelfling, his costume and accessories – love the man bag!
For more on Brian Froud visit his official website: or read more about him over at Wiki
And finally, for nostalgia purposes here’s a youtube video of the original 1982 trailer…



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Picture of Hunter at the Smokey Mtns. - Greenbriar Cove

Hunter, I found a picture of you at the Smokey Mtns. - Greenbriar Cove that I thought you may like to see, from 3/27/2004.

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Windows Live Messenger full or compact view—you decide

via Inside Windows Live by Piero Sierra on 6/22/10

For over ten years now, instant messaging applications have shared a common user interface pattern – a slim window with your contact list in it that you can keep docked on the side of your screen. This makes it easy to keep the window open without taking up too much screen space. Because really, all you’ve ever needed from instant messaging is a list of friends, which allows you to launch popup conversation windows.
With the new Windows Live Messenger, we are expanding that paradigm and introducing what we call “full view” – an expanded mode of Messenger that allows you to access rich media and updates from your social networks, MSN, and more. This view doesn't replace the more traditional “compact view” of your contacts. Rather, it is available in addition to that view, and you can switch between views at any time using the view switch control:
Switch views with this button

Full view – designed for social networking users

Introduction of the new "full view" acknowledges the growing importance of social networking for many users. We believe people want an always-available “social dashboard” at their fingertips, to help them stay in touch with the people they care about most. This is a window that we expect you'll want to come back to several times a day. In fact, for those of you who choose to automatically start Messenger when you log into Windows, this may become the first window you see each day.

Messenger in full view

As you can see, we’ve also incorporated the latest headlines and news from MSN (see “MSN” next to “Social” at upper-left), so you can start your day with the news or weather if you like. And soon we’ll be adding social games from Xbox LIVE here as well.

Compact view – designed for IM purists

We're very proud of the new Messenger full view, and we hope many of you will find a place for it in your lives. However, we know that this new view will not work for everyone. Some of us don’t care about social networking, don’t feel the need for a social networking “reader”, or simply don’t want any window to take up too much room unless summoned to do so.
So, we designed the new “compact view” with IM purists in mind. Our goal with this view was to remove distractions and focus purely on IM (and no, we could not afford to remove the ad, thanks for asking Smile). As you can see, this new design is very clean, and focuses on your list of contacts:

Messenger in compact view

Compact view shows more friends than in the previous Messenger design, even when you choose to show user tiles. This is because we removed the Wave 3 “social ticker” that used to sit below the contact list, in order to focus this view on what it is really good at – seeing your friends.
As a bonus feature, we’ve made it so that if you drag the edge of the compact view window horizontally, you can make the compact view wider, so you see multiple columns of contacts. This is super handy for those of us with very large contact lists. If you maximize the window on a large monitor you can see five or more columns of friends!*

Compact view, scaled up to 2 columns

Combined with tabbed conversation windows, compact view is designed to ensure that the new Messenger meets the needs of hard-core IM users, even if they are not interested in the new full view.

You are always in control

Of course, you have complete control over which view you use, and can switch views at any time.
Messenger will not only remember which view you prefer, but also whether you were looking at the Social, MSN, or Xbox LIVE page in full view, and where you like each view to sit on your screen. So for example, you might want to start your day by catching up on the latest from MSN in full view, with the window centered on your screen, but then you might want to collapse it down to compact view and move it to the corner of your screen as you work on other things throughout your day. Messenger will remember these positions independently, so you can arrange your setup just the way you like it.
We've designed the new Messenger to be flexible enough to fit your daily routine, and we're excited to hear what you think as you try it out in the coming weeks.
- Piero Sierra
Group Program Manager, Windows Live Messenger & Mail
* Did you know? Our data shows that 30% of current Messenger users run it with the Messenger window maximized! Wave 3 Messenger doesn’t look very good when maximized, which is why we decided to add multi-column support for these users.



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Monday, June 21, 2010

SDExplorer for Windows Live Skydrive

skydriveHero SDExplorer: Get Windows Live Skydrive on your desktop [Free]These days there are so much talk about Cloudware (a.k.a software that you access through internet). And Microsoft doesn’t want to be left behind like they were back in the 1990′ies when they thought Internet were only going to be a hype.

One of the latest additions to Microsoft’s “Cloud Solution” is “Windows Live SkyDrive”, an online Storage Solution.

If you’re already using it, you already know that Windows Live SkyDrive is somewhat clunky and not very user-friendly. The web interface “add files” section only allows you to add one file at a time in individual fields. The existing ActiveX Controls that would allow you to Drag’n'Drop – only works in Internet Explorer.

Luckily there is a solution.


copydata1 thumb SDExplorer: Get Windows Live Skydrive on your desktop [Free]SDExplorer is a free, easy-to-use, yet very powerful extension for Windows Explorer. With SDExplorer you can perform all everyday operations with your documents on Microsoft Live SkyDrive using Windows Explorer, as if they were on your computer itself.

SDExplorer let you keep your SkyDrive on your Desktop as an ordinary folder. Using it as you would any other folder stored on your computer.

No More limits

While SkyDrive itself has limits on number of files to be uploaded at once, and has a folder structure limit set at 9. Using SDExplorer removes all those limits.

Moreover, you don’t need to install and configure any additional programs or ActiveX components. SDExplorer will take care of communicating with the online storage all by itself.

SDExplorer comes in a Free version and a Paid one.


Download SDExplorer

You can read more here:

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Friday, June 18, 2010

Will Internet Explorer 9 finally get a download manager?

Will Internet Explorer 9 finally get a download manager?

by Lee Mathews (RSS feed) May 22nd 2010 at 10:00AM

Just a couple days ago, Microsoft posted a new application on their download site. It's calledMicrosoft Download Manager, and it's pretty much you would expect from an app with that name.

Its features are fairly basic compared to the download managers you're already familiar with likeDownThemAll, LeechGet, Orbit, and Free Download Manager. Microsoft's app currently only handles HTTP downloads, but it can pause and resume transfers, automatically retry, and it supports up to 16 simultaneous connections. Here's what the MS page has to say:
The Microsoft Download Manager enables you to download files from the Internet in a more reliable and faster way than using a browser alone. Using the Download Manager makes it easier to download large files such as an application or multimedia files. The Download Manager has been specifically designed to manage file downloads from supporting Microsoft Web sites in a secure and reliable way.
Sounds good... but not quite true. While it handled smaller downloads with aplomb, the 570MB Windows SDK 7.1 ISO download gave it fits. Downloading the file in IE 8 proved to be faster and far more hassle-free.

As a standalone app, it's not too impressive. It would, however, make a nice feature addition to Internet Explorer 9. Internet Explorer has been able to resume downloads (at least in theory) for ages, but an actual download manager like the ones present in competing browsers would be a welcome improvement.

Microsoft has made it pretty clear that they want IE9 to compete with the browsers Like Chrome, Firefox, and Opera. A download manager would certainly help -- but this one needs a little more work before it's ready for prime time. IE9's release is still quite a ways off, so there's plenty of time for Microsoft to put a shine on Download Manager and bolt it on.

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Monday, June 14, 2010

Rush - Beyond The Lighted Stage

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Oil flow strains the system

Oil flow strains the system


An artist's conception shows atomized oil being burned off from an EverGreen smokeless burner — a process that will be employed in the Gulf of Mexico as soon as next week.

How much oil is being lost every day in the Gulf of Mexico spill? That’s one of the contentious issues surrounding the disaster, but another issue has to do with how much can be captured.

Two weeks ago, BP's medium-term strategy was to seal off the oil leak rather than suck up the leaking oil. The company pumped in thousands of gallons of heavy mud, hoping to overwhelm the upwelling oil and gas. Then the top-kill operation stopped, and BP switched back to the strategy of capturing as much of the leaking oil as possible.

Why the switch? Outside experts have suggested that the top-kill effort was leading to a "doomsday scenario," in which the pressure buildup ruptures the cement linings and rock layers surrounding the well, hundreds or thousands of feet beneath the seafloor. Such an underground blowout could cause oil to seep out uncontrollably from multiple fissures, which would be a nightmare for containment efforts. Some reports raise the prospect that we're already close to that situation. The Washington Post, for example, quoted an unnamed BP official as saying "we discovered things that were broken in the subsurface" during the top-kill attempt.

BP spokesman Jon Pack told me today that such concerns were indeed part of the reason for turning away from the top-kill strategy. "The possibility of an underground blowout - that could be a result if we were to carry on doing that," he said. But the chief concern was that experts simply couldn't predict the effect of putting extra pressure on the well, he said.

"Because we don't have enough accurate information about what was going on in that wellbore, the safest thing to do is move away from that and go to containment," Pack said.

Huge amounts of oil to be burned
That's why BP sheared off the top of the well pipe, and then attached a cap with a hose attached to bring up the leaking oil. Now about 15,000 barrels (630,000 gallons) of oil are being brought up to the surface every day. That oil is being transferred from the Discoverer Enterprise drilling ship to a barge, which will take it to an onshore terminal for processing. More ships are converging on the site to help with the transfer operation, Upstream Online reports.

But the current containment system can't capture all the oil, as anyone who has looked at the live video feed from the oil-leak site knows all too well. At best, the system can bring up and process only about 18,000 barrels (750,000 gallons) daily. To collect more oil, BP and its partners are retrofitting the plumbing that was used for the top kill to bring up as much as 10,000 barrels (420,000 gallons) more every day. The base of operations for this second system will be the Q4000 drilling rig, which was used earlier for the top-kill operation.

The only problem is that there's no capacity available for processing that extra oil on the Q4000. Instead, the oil will be atomized and burned off right at the site, using an imposing piece of equipment known as the EverGreen Burner. Its manufacturer, Schlumberger Limited, calls the EverGreen an "environmentally friendly" burner that is fallout-free and smokeless. But if it works anything like what you see in the artist's conception above, the EverGreen should put on quite a show.

Yet another Q4000-style system could be brought to bear by the end of the month, the Coast Guard says.

Running the numbers
Burning off hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil a day may seem like a colossal waste, but BP's Pack told me that "it would take much longer" to bring in the equipment required for processing that much crude oil. The current containment cap and the Q4000's capture-and-burn system are considered mere stopgaps, to be used while BP builds a more permanent floating-riser oil-collection system for hurricane season. That system should be ready sometime next month.

The charts in this PDF file show all the options for oil collection. If you tally up the numbers released by BP as well as the Coast Guard, you come up with a daily capture capacity of 28,000 barrels (1.2 million gallons) by next week, 38,000 barrels (1.6 gallons) by the end of the month, and 50,000 barrels (2.1 million gallons) by the end of July. That should cover even the high side of the estimates for daily flow from the oil leak. And the permanent fix may come in August, when BP is expected to finish drilling its relief wells and kill the well for good.

At least that's the plan. Over the past 53 days, we've repeatedly seen that the best-laid plans to end the Gulf disaster have often gone awry. Who knows what the next 53 days will bring? Feel free to weigh in with your comments below.

Update for 3 p.m. ET June 12: The plan to burn off hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil every day is sparking environmental concerns. The company that makes the oil-burning equipment may say the process is "environmentally friendly," but a McClatchy Newspapers report quotes health experts and environmental advocates as saying the operation could expose workers in the area to additional toxins. "It seems like a no-brainer that you wouldn't want to do this," Diane Bailey, a senior scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council, is quoted as saying.

Meanwhile, the Coast Guard is expressing unhappiness with the pace of BP's efforts to deal with the additional oil that can be brought up. Rear Adm. James Watson sent a letter to company executives on Friday saying they had 48 hours to come up with a better plan that can be implemented more quickly.

Update for 2:40 p.m. ET June 14: BP has given federal authorities a plan to raise its oil capture rate to as much as 53,000 barrels of oil a day by the end of June. Details are scant, but it sounds as if the plan would phase in the use of the floating-riser oil-collection system earlier than previously scheduled, and also hustle up the arrival of more production facilities at the oil-leak site.

More on the disaster in the Gulf:

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Frank Frazetta (February 9, 1928 – May 10, 2010)

Frank Frazetta - The Silver Warrior

Frank Frazetta - Death Dealer

Frank Frazetta

Frank Frazetta - The Gauntlet

Frank Frazetta

Frank Frazetta

Frank Frazetta - Portrait 1984

Earlier this month the we sadly lost one of the foremost and talented Fantasy
& Sci-Fi Illustrator/Artists of all time, America’s Frank Frazetta who
passed away on the 10th of May aged 82. Franks career spanned an almost
unbelievable 60+ year’s when he started working in the comic book industry aged
just 15, initially providing pencil clean-ups he soon progressed to drawing
comics an by the 50’s was producing work spanning a raft of genres including
Western, Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Historical Drama. Later a spoof Illustration of Ringo Starr for MAD
Magazine would bring Frazetta to Hollywood’s attention and he was soon producing
Poster artwork, the first of which for the 1964 feature “What’s New
” earning him $4,000 – then a years salary for an afternoons worth
of work!

Frank’s commercial work was primarily rendered in oils, but he also worked in
watercolours, Ink’s and Pencils – examples of which I’ve included above – a
style which incorporates brooding compositions of ultra-defined muscular heroes
and heroines, always poised for or in mid-action. Other telling trait’s include
tattered flailing clothing, powerful ornate armour and weaponry, all beautifully
lit beneath apocalyptic skies…

Read more about Frank: his obituary at The
at Wikipedia:

Here’s the notes on Sci-Fi-O-Rama’s visual tribute to Frank and his supreme
talent, vision and influence…

Top: “The Silver Warrior” – One of Frazetta’s most famous works. Image via
Flickr user mtkup

2nd top: “Death Dealer” (1973) Probably Frank’s most Iconic and recognisable
image, originally painted in 1973 the used by for rock group Molly Hathcet for the self
titled 1978 album.

3rd top: (1966) Not sure of the title here (please post if you know) image is

4th top: (1977) Movie poster for the Clint Eastwood 70’s action flick “The
Gauntlet” (not part of Dirty Harry series). Staring Clint Eastwood and then
partner Sondra Locke, this is one of my favourite movie posters of all time!
(movie’s not bad)

5th & 6th top : Samples of Frazetta’s Comic book / Black and White

Bottom: A portrait of Frank taken in 1984 at the Frank Frazetta Museum, prior
to opening. image via Flickr user: StevieB44

Recommended further reading & viewing:

Frank teamed up with Director Ralph Bakshi to create the 1983 animated
feature film “Fire and Ice
check the trailer at youtube:

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