Life is a Mystery

28 July 2009 . Comments Off on Scanning Documents with iPhone at Ponoko

Scanning Documents with iPhone at Ponoko

I ran across a story about a cool iPhone apparatus that makes scanning documents with the iPhone simple. This is a neat idea, the iPhone can make a serviceable scanner in a library or at home, a great alternative to copying costs.

But even better was the service the creator of this apparatus had used to build and sell it. Called Ponoko, it is a website that lets you build almost anything you can imagine. You design it, you price it. Ponoko makes it, ships it, your customer assembles it.

I love sites like Jakprints where I can print almost anything and CafePress where I can design and sell t-shirts and other swag. Now I can come up with a crazy idea for a physical object and have that instantiated in the world. Cool.

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12 June 2009 . Comments Off on Bike maps social

Bike maps social

The GroupLens team at the University of Minnesota has a new project, or at least one I just noticed: Cyclopath. This is a map of the Twin Cities with a social ability to mark blocks of the city with regard to their bikeability (potholes, hills, traffic, etc.). You can give it two addresses, describe your preferences (I like bikepaths and bikeroutes, but dislike hills), and it will find a route for you. After trying it out you can grade the route and leave comments for future cyclists. Very cool. If you bike around the Twin Cities you should check it out and get an account. Too bad they don’t let you save or share routes.


26 May 2009 . Comments Off on Making music

Making music

So you don’t think you are a musician? Give this a try. You may change your mind, or at least spend a fun hour trying! (Hat tip, who else: Andrew.)


15 May 2009 . Comments Off on Fun for geeks

Fun for geeks

Ah well, I was not sure which movie to watch this evening, but Stephen Wolfram may have solved my dilemma. At 7pm central time the team at Wolfram will begin a live webcast of the process they go through to “throw the switch” and bring WolframAlpha online.

Watch live as 150 staff bring over 10,000 CPUs up to service thousands of queries. Will it melt down? Will the thunderstorms predicted for this evening throw a power outage into the mix? Can kakis and button down shirts outdraw black turtleneck and jeans on a webcast?

Gotta say: team Wolfram knows how to hype its product!

If you don’t know what WolframAlpha is about, make sure to peek at the screencast introduction.

UPDATE: It looks like is (more or less) up and running, give it a try!

11 May 2009 . Comments Off on Not so holy

Not so holy

Apple seems to think religious folk can’t take a little ribbing by an iPhone app. In order to avoid offending religious sensibilities, Apple has rejected the “Me so Holy” app from the iPhone store.

This app lets you use the iPhone camera to place your friend’s face into a picture of Jesus. Or a nun. Or other religious figures. Is Mohammed among them? Good thing Apple does not publish comics.

I think Apple is getting seriously off course by putting itself in the position of policing what uses tools might be put to. Of course “Me so Holy” could create something offensive. But so can virtually any drawing or photo collage application. What makes religious content so sacrosanct? (Um, ok, maybe that’s a dumb question.) Are we really so thin skinned? What makes apps like “iFart” OK, but “Me so Holy” taboo?

Apple needs to back off this policing kick. It is a no-win situation for Apple and will only inspire covert shenanigans that will serve nobody. The only criteria for App Store rejection ought to be concern that an app damages the system or itself contains illegal media (child pornography and the like). Otherwise, open the doors.


11 May 2009 . Comments Off on FFR: Youuutube

FFR: Youuutube

See your YouTube videos in a whole new way. It is fun how these mainstream services reach a scale where people write cool tools to manipulate them. (Hat tip: Andrew)

8 May 2009 . Comments Off on How would it be

How would it be

I was just bowled over tonight. This evening we went to the Performers for Peace concert Mary mentioned a few weeks back. Katie Korpi did this as a senior project at her school, but this was so much more than a project. It was an evening of peace, prayer, and performance that lifted my spirits and gave me a raft of new performers to listen to. If you have not heard of Ellis, Chastity Brown, Chances R Good, or Colleen Buckman, now is your chance. Give them a try. But for me, the song that turned me upside down was Ellis’ “How Would It Be” (also at iTunes). Enjoy.

15 March 2009 . Comments Off on PD: Celeste Family Edition

PD: Celeste Family Edition

Today’s front page of the Cleveland Plain Dealer feels like a Celeste family edition to this far-removed Clevelander. The Sunday PD’s painful article about the closing of parishes in Cleveland includes an image of St. Colman’s and another of St. Malachi’s. St. Colman’s is the church I went to as a boy, it is where I had my first communion. I remember waiting on the street after Sunday School there, thinking heretical thoughts about our lessons. St. Malachi’s is where we worshiped as a family when I was a bit older, though high school. I learned to love the music now in the Gather hymnal there. My sister was married there. It looks like St. Colman’s will be closing as the Cleveland Catholic Diocese adjusts to new demographic realities. St. Malachi’s will stay open, though the picture in the paper is a far cry from the standing-room-only crowds I remember there in my youth. Sad news, though I must say the church is bringing this on itself.

Meanwhile, at the bottom of the front page a glimmer of happier news from the Cleveland International Film Festival. My sister has worked with the film festival for years and next week I may have my first chance to attend since she has been involved. Happy news!


5 March 2009 . Comments Off on ThruYOU without you

ThruYOU without you

A big hit I’ve missed until now is Kutiman’s ThruYOU mix of YouTube videos. It is an amazing demonstration of what a huge supply of media can make possible, a whole set of songs mixed from nothing beyond YouTube videos.

Though he gives full credit to the videos he uses in his mixes, I don’t have any sense that he asked permission of the original creators. He has created something new, this is our culture of the network. Collaborators who don’t even know they are collaborating! Ask yourself, would a young singer in her living room keep her voice off YouTube after seeing the way Kutiman used this wonderful singer?

In fact, I would have never known Sarah Amstutz existed without ThruYOU. But Kutiman’s credits led me to her original version of this song and from there to some of the other great music Sarah is writing. Watch for her, I think she’ll be much more well known soon.

What a wonderful journey this standing on the shoulders of everyone makes. Here’s to hoping we never become so wise we outlaw creativity!

9 February 2009 . Comments Off on Not real stuff would get creepy

Not real stuff would get creepy

I got to see Coraline with the kids this weekend. I really liked it, like the tone, liked the tunes, liked the message. A few things really impressed me.


The movie relaxed me. How often does an animated movie feel relaxing? Much less a scary movie, or a kids movie? Yes, it was scary, truly so. But it somehow did not wind me up in a nervous ball.

As I left the theater I noticed that the real world looked brighter and more inviting than the movie world. I usually leave theaters and feel the opposite: that somehow it would be wonderful to live in the movie world of bright colors and grand adventures. But somehow the production values of Coraline, which was a super-beautiful film, made the real world feel fresh and exciting.

I thought about this again as I read a review of the film today. Here’s how one seven year old put it…

That’s what the scary parts mean… they aren’t scary really, they just aren’t real. Stuff is boring a lot, but it’s real, and you wouldn’t trade even though you think you would. Like, when you’re at Disneyland you’re thinking, “I want to live here forever,” but you don’t realize that you don’t really, because pretty soon it would suck, because it isn’t real… and living all the time in not real stuff would get creepy. That’s what that scary part is about. Coraline is really cool though, because she’s brave and does what she knows is right. It was awesome.

Yes! Exactly! And that was accomplished not only through story, but also in the way the film presented itself. I’ve never felt anything like it. An attractive experience that left me wanting my own life, flaws and all.

What was scariest? For me it was the presentation of Coraline’s parents. They hit way to close to home. Do I ignore my kids the way they do? I’m afraid all too often the answer is yes. That scares me, maybe I can do something about it!

Eric Celeste / Saint Paul, Minnesota / 651.323.2009 /