Chumby — I’m strangely intrigued

I’m strangely intrigued by the Chumby. I was recently reminded of it after reading David Pogue’s review. While I heard about it ages ago, it only recently has gone to regular production.

What is it? Well, it’s essentially a little screen with some speakers and other sensors. Most importantly it has a wireless internet connection so that it is always connected.

What does it do? Whatever you want it to, and a little bit of everything. There are a ton of little “widgets” that have been written for the Chumby. They apparently include alarm clocks, little games, live weather for anywhere in the world, your photos from Flickr, and a bunch more. You can even write your own if you’re so inclined.

It seems like a really neat thing to have on your desk or bedstand. I think you can even program it so that it shows different things at different times of the day. It would be AWESOME if it showed weather and the status of the London Tube lines in the morning and late afternoon. (I hate making my way to the station only to find out there are delays; right now I just have to remember to pay attention to the radio in the morning. Having a bit of warning makes the delays easier to deal with.) During the day it would be great to have a Flickr slide show on the desk.

Anyway, I don’t plan on purchasing one anytime soon, but it seems like a neat little gadget. It will be interesting to see how the company develops.

Rowing update

So I had what was billed as our last 2k test of the season last night. While I think I still can shave a few seconds off, I pulled my best score of the season, and also a new personal best!

For this test our entire VIII (bar one guy) all did it at the same time. It’s so much easier to keep your race pace rhythm when you’re sitting next to your teammates. While it was painful, doing it as a crew really helped.

Our coach may still end up sneaking another one in on us in the last few weeks of this summer, I’m glad to have completed a good solid test before the summer racing season really kicks off.

Iraqi art exhibition in New York City — Opens Thursday!

This Thursday, May 22nd a very unique art exhibit will open in New York City. It features art from Iraqi artists, most of whom cannot even be publicly identified for their safety. It was a Navy Lieutenant serving in Iraq that found this art and worked to bring it over to the United States to exhibit and sell for the artists. I served with that Lieutenant, Chris Brownfield, for about two years when we were both stationed on the same submarine. He’s a very unique guy, as this initiative suggests!

From 2006 to 2007, a military liaison officer in the U.S. Embassy of Baghdad worked on the sidelines to develop relations with the artists of Baghdad. Under extremely unlikely circumstances, several of Baghdad’s artists trusted this military officer to share their art with the world. It is the first collection of art in the United States comprised entirely of works from wartime contemporaries of Iraq. The scope of the exhibition is unprecedented, including works on Iraqi refugees, the children of war, genocide, and an Iraqi perspective on Shock and Awe.

The exhibition is taking place at the Pomegranate Gallery on 133 Greene Street in SoHo (see map here). The opening reception runs from 6–8pm on Thursday May 22nd, and the exhibition will be open through June 21st.

Jake Halpern wrote a great article about the exhibit in New York Magazine. He even managed to speak (via phone) to a couple of the artists involved. One of my favourite parts of the article describes how Chris had to pull rank with the military postal clerks in order to send the 100+ paintings back to the US!

If you can’t make it to the gallery, Chris has also produced a book that includes much of the same artwork. It’s tri-lingual in English, French and Arabic. You can buy it from here: Oil on Landscape; Art from Wartime Contemporaries of Baghdad.

If you live in or near New York City, I hope you get a chance to drop in on the exhibit; it should be interesting.

Twenty years of film in one computer window

So I read this article in the New York Times the other day about how last year was such a blockbuster for films that this year will almost certainly look bad in comparison. But what absolutely blew me away was the “interactive chart” that went with the article.

You HAVE to check it out by clicking here.

It shows in one single graph every major film that’s been released in the last twenty years, how much it made per week by week, and how much it made total. WOW!

I’m sure Edward Tufte would be proud of this. It’s an absolutely amazing chart. It definitively shows that the blockbuster films are put out in the early- to mid- summer and Thanksgiving to Christmas periods. It’s also interesting to see how some films die quite quickly, but others last for quite a bit. Oscar winners in particular seem to have a January to March boost, or at least “extension”.

The first time I saw the chart I thought it was pretty interesting, and then I realised it went back twenty years. As a kid who grew up in the Midwest, I saw a lot of films growing up; it seemed to be the standard thing to do on dates. Scrolling through the chart was a pleasant trip down memory lane.


So I saw this video online… a bunch of metronomes start at different timings and then, without any adjustment to the metronomes themselves, sync into the same timing.

Check it out here:

Rowing training camp

I’ve been meaning to post about this for a while, and finally have gotten around to downloading the photos. (My wife’s photos; she’s the photographer in the family.)

Thames Rowing Club spent just over a week in Temple-sur-Lot, France, which is about a 90-minute drive southeast of Bordeaux. The area is apparently well known for its pears and prunes. This year was my second training camp with the senior squad; I spent two years on the novice squad which had a four-day camp in Devon in southwest England.

Training camp involves at least three outings a day, and often concludes with an additional stretching/core stability/general pain session. The outings are fairly long, and are often filled with “pieces.” You can pretty much eat as much as you want and you won’t gain weight with the kind of training you do on camp. I generally got eight hours of sleep a night, and also caught an hour or so nap just to let my body recover in the middle of the day.

This year our new coach (Lubo) added something else to camp; evening entertainment. Instead of a few drinks at the pub (standard Brits on holiday routine, even at a training camp), each squad was responsible for entertainment one night of the week. The women kicked things off with a games night, where we had wheelbarrow races, passed oranges under our chins, and also had a clothes-swapping race between a male and female member of each team!

The men followed with “The Y Factor,” after the British hit show “The X Factor,” which is very similar to Pop Idol/American Idol. I was part of a three-man team that did the “You’ve lost that lovin’ feeling,” Top Gun-style. The novices did a piss-take of the coaches and a pub quiz.

We also organised an evening’s dinner at a local restaurant. It doesn’t have a Michelin star anymore, but did just a few years ago. The food was fantastic, and the views were incredible. It’s situated at the top of a ridge, and the sun set across the valley from us while we were eating. It was fantastic!

Not all of camp was brilliant. The weather was grey and cloudy for about four/five days. The dam that keeps the water level stable had to be lowered for a few days (supposedly because of rain upstream?) and that actually prevented us from rowing for a day and a half, which was very frustrating. We couldn’t get the boats down to the water safely, and even if we could have, logs the size of telephone poles were coming down the river. Luckily the coaches found plenty of other things to keep us going. Long runs and seriously hard-core cycling kept our legs quite tired until we could get back on the water.

The final thing I have to say about training camp is that the last night is legendary. At that point we’re all done with rowing, the boats are washed, cleaned and tied down to the trailer for the trip back, and we’re largely packed to go home. There is nothing left except to get completely and totally pissed. Then…. well… what goes on camp, stays at camp.

More photos are below for your curiosity/enjoyment.