Day 276 – A Dive into Poetry

90 – Top 100 Poems

Upon close count, not quite 100. But I’ll go by the claim, over reality.

Poetry is hard. Often I don’t have the patience for poetry, because it is too short. Where a 500 word article would walk leisurely through its idea, a poem might distil that same idea down to a mere 50. Reading poetry is decompression, writing it is compression. Both take effort.

This makes poetry both harder to read and harder to write. But much more satisfying and meaningful. Often for overcoming the challenge. But often also by having discovered how to hold the entirety of a complex thought in mind at once.

The Link Above

The Road Not Taken – by Robert Frost

We all face significant decisions with insufficient information. We cannot tell what’s wrong or right, better or worse, shallow or righteous up-front. Best to choose the best we can, because we’ll claim we made the right choice in retrospect anyway.

America – by Allen Ginsberg

I cannot claim to understand much of Allen’s poetry. Never had the patience to study it. But I loved the scene in the movie Howl where the equally named poem is performed. There is something hypnotic about the performance; the angry spitting out of words of condemnation and the almost-caressing of others.

I think the power of his poems lies more in the performance of them than the actual poem itself. These are definitely superior when watched rather than read.

A Poison Tree – by William Blake

Not a fan. Although the first stanza promises, the rest doesn’t really deliver to my mind. It appears to take as self-evident that the conclusion is to be avoided; but festering fights with foes would easily lead to a desire to see karma realised.

Well written, and well described, but lacking in enlightenment (to my eye).

The Past Below

I don’t really have a memory for poetry.
I enjoy the reading, and then it slips out of my head again. Same with jokes.

But…

There is one exception. I cannot recall all the specifics, but I think it was on the news, while I was still in the Netherlands, about 20 years ago. There was a youth poetry competition for all ages (I assume it was up to 18).

The winning poem was by a young boy though; maybe 6-8 or so.
I doubt he realised all the ways in which what he wrote was aesthetically pleasing. At least to me, and presumably the jury.

In Dutch (from memory):

Als juf thee drinkt
drink ik water
Ik word meester later!

Rough translation:

When teacher[female] drinks tea
I drink water
I’m going to be a teacher[male] when I grow up!

Just 11 words long in the original, but there’s so much there in symmetry and contrast, sympathy and aspiration, present and future; all three lines mutually interlocked in a precious little gem. Even if everything that is there probably hasn’t been put there intentionally, I really couldn’t care less.

Day 275 – Bad Shots

91 – The 100 Worst Family Photos of All Time

Everybody has “bad” family photos. A shot taken at just the wrong moment capturing a weird face. A shot with something very personal taken out of context… Or a shot that really… just… shouldn’t have been taken.

Somewhere there are photos of me with a mullet in front of a computer back in the Netherlands. I cannot possibly think what I was thinking at the time, but I’m sure it made sense at the time. Unfortunately (*cough*) I cannot right now find this picture, so I’ll have to leave you without the evidence.

But I did find one with some very unkind timing.

I'm sure it was great ice cream, but... ouch!

I’m sure it was great ice cream, but… ouch!

Today’s link has a great many pictures that are just merely unfortunate. People enjoying their hobby a little too much. Trying too hard to make something remarkable. Or just being obliviously candid.

But for a handful:

  1. They should never have been taken
  2. Once taken and developed, they should have been destroyed
  3. If not destroyed, they should have *never* been shared with anyone…
  4. …especially the internet

Who are these people?
And how much therapy did the kid need?


This is the kind of photographic urge we must suppress at all costs. This is really not a picture you could ever share with anyone and not look like an incredible weirdo. The only person that might laugh (nervously) at this is the kid in the picture at age 15.

A bird… okay
A gun… well… sure… I guess, if you must
A bayonet… who?! wh… no… just no.


There is something about the juxtaposition of two favourites; a bird and a bayonet. I imagine he wanted his bird in the shot, and she would only relent if her gun could be in too. Or vice-versa. But really… whomever started it should have just given in.

It would have been merely an unfortunate picture if not for the “expertly” added inset feline face.


I don’t know what the inset cat is for. Is the cat they are hugging dead? Stuffed? Did they think it’d look cool to have their cat looking over them? Instead it just looks a little creepy.

Day 274 – Gym Songs

92 – 100 Best Workout Songs of All Time

This list cannot possibly be right. It’s absolutely clear that the no.1 best anything-song of all time is “Everything is Awesome”. Ever. (Also: do yourself a favour and go see the LEGO movie!)

Having said that, there are some good work-out songs on that list.
Ones that I’ve specifically enjoyed hearing around the gym, below.

98. Seven Nation Army – White Stripes
Perhaps a little up-tempo, but it kinda works with a weights routine. As long as the weights are modest, because otherwise it might kill.

66. Joker and the Thief – Wolfmother
Better tempo for weights on the off beats, or alternatively punches on all the beats. Maybe a bicep routine? Or just running on a treadmill.

47. Live and Let Die – Guns N’ Roses
Maybe lunges for the slow parts and some heavy cardio for the fast parts? Or just pretend you’re James Bond and you’re running for your life. That’d do the trick.

24. Unbelievable – EMF
Rowing. Definitely rowing for this one.

16. One More Time – Daft Punk
That moment… just when you think you perhaps should leave the gym. One more time through?

9. Another One Bites The Dust – Queen
Push-ups till you actually bite the dust.

I may actually have to see about turning these into a playlist for the gym, or for walking at night. Haven’t done that for too long either. And now, sleep.

One more day and then 10 days not.

Day 273 – Bad Design …

93 – 100 Best Designed Websites of 2012

… it could happen to anyone.
It could happen to you!

I feared the worst when I saw the words “Best Designed”.

About 60 of the linked sites are “okay” design.
About 20 of the linked sites are “good” design.
About 10 of the linked sites are “great” design.

And 10-or-so just plain stink for a variety of reasons.

7. http://www.mcmaster.com/
Just like the physical Bunnings experience. Yes, everything is technically speaking there. Yes, theoretically all the aisles are marked and organised. And yet… when you are looking for something it is almost impossible to find anything. Too many damn options. Too little design.

41. http://feefighters.com/
Possibly a victim to the fallout of HeartBleed, but… expired SSL certificate. All modern browsers display warnings for this these days, so either don’t build something that needs HTTPS, or just make sure you stay on top of the damned certificate!

78. http://jenkinstownmotors.com/
Aaaand we’re seemingly warped into the 70s? Such drab colours. Much bland. Wow! This design style makes me think of passable default templates, slightly mangled by an amateur trying to make it “their own”. With a fresher simpler colour scheme, it’d still be bland, but at least passable.

91. http://www.legalzoom.com/
And it’s not just little sites that have bland down pat. Some kind of vampire seems to have sucked all the life right out of this page. It was probably a lawyer.

80. http://get.wunderkit.com/
And eventually… all links die.

The Lesson

Not everyone can be a design-guru.
I most definitely am not; the design on this site is definitely not inspired.

But the trick is to know when you are not, be it for lack of time, or for lack of skill.

(sufficiently advanced ineptitude is indistinguishable from a rush-job)

Once you admit you have a problem, the answer is simple.
Literally.
Simple.

As in: keep-it.

When you are not a designer, stick with simple. Start from a solid design and make only minor tweaks (as I did here). Or build your own from the simplest of elements.

Keep variety to a minimum. One font, two at most. Only a few colours, and for the love of all that is beautiful, just use Kuler already to pick a set of well-matched colours.

Minimise distractions. Don’t put boxes and lines and dividers anywhere. Absence of things is the best natural divider. Space is your friend.

Focus. If the idea of adding space as dividers scares you. If it makes you worry about what’ll scroll of the bottom of the screen… Then you probably have too much on your page to begin with. Simplify, and try again.

There are many great books on design, which might be worth reading as well.
But even then, simple is always your best friend.

Day 272 – Into the Universe

94 – Top 100 Hubble Images

The Ring Nebula

Sadly, unless we discover a way to travel faster than light, there are many places in the universe we’ll never be. That doesn’t often weigh on the mind, except when viewing spectacular images from the space telescope.

There is a reason Cosmos is a great show to watch.
There is a reason Star Trek is a great show to watch; it is a way to imagine what all those other places might look like if we weren’t constrained by physics.

IRAS 20324+4057

Even if our imagination limits us to a universe populated with bipedal aliens.

The Pillars of Creation

I would have written a longer post… but I spent all my writing-time day-dreaming looking at pictures.

The Eagle Nebula

Day 271 – Cats! On the Internet!

95 – The Top 100 Cat Blogs

I Am the Shadow

I Am the Shadow

Cat pictures are like catnip to internet users (to mix some metaphors).

I wasn’t surprised to find a top-100 about cats on the internet… as much as I was to find a top-100* for blogs dedicated just to cats. It’s a bit like discovering 100 volumes written by R. R. Martin on just Daenerys alone. Not an unpleasant discovery, nor an outright disturbing one, but something that makes you wonder if there wouldn’t have been a more productive outlet for all that effort.

Unperturbed

Unperturbed

The list is adorned with more than a few examples of blogs written from the cat’s perspective. It’s an interesting conceit, and entertaining when well executed… but also hardly novel at this point. Just now, I briefly considered starting a blog from the perspective of our cats’ food bowls, favourite lounging spots, or the litter tray. Or maybe all the above?

That Hand... My Head... NAOW.

That Hand… My Head… NAOW.

There was also more than one blog dedicated to the review of pet accessories. I’m afraid to look on YouTube, because I suspect there will be a pet-accessory-review-by-cats-themselves channel. Let’s call this Rule 34-B of the Internet… if it exists on the internet, there is a cat version of it on the internet.

Obie Halfie

Obie Halfie

The list also has a blog of cats-with-synthesizers pictures … which we’ll call Rule 34-C of the Internet… no matter how narrowly you define the sub-topic, there are sites dedicated to cats in connection with the selected sub-topic.

Amber Halfie

Amber Halfie

The blog that I liked the most on the list though is “Stuff On My Cat“. I have no idea where people find these patient cats that allow stacking of multiple items… but I do know a few owners that are going to get violently murdered in their sleep (just look at those eyes!)

Catroissant

Catroissant

Most important in all this though; because the internet loves cat pictures so much, there is really no way to go wrong with a cat-post. So this can be my contribution to the decline of modern society for the week.


* Note: the link at the top has in fact only 23 blogs, but some further research has shown the existence of many more blogs in this CATegory. I have no doubt the total easily eclipses 100.