Capn Design

August 2007

This month I posted 34 entries, crafted 14 tweets, listened to 336 songs, watched 3 videos, bookmarked 4 sites, took 6 photos and favorited 1 thing.

You Got a Quarter?

Posted August 29, 2007

I get asked this at least once a day, if not more, from people on the street. Sometimes they have an elaborate schtick, performed while captive on the train, and sometimes they just sit peacefully with a coffee cup at their feet. I rarely give change to these people. It's not that I'm cheap or don't think they deserve, I'm just aprehensive about how they might use the money (a man who reaked of whiskey once walked down the aisle of a subway car asking us for change). Some people are happy to give what's in their pockets, even if it may go to ill pursuits, but I just can't stomach it. I'd rather see them go to shelters and soup kitchens or see a counselor to learn how to get back on their feet.

Instead of just talking about it, I've decided to put my money where my mouth is. Today I made a donation to the Coalition for the Homeless, a charitable group that fights homelessness in New York City. They offer the ability to give a monthly gift of any amount for any length of time. I would have preferred to give directly to a few shelters, but I didn't know which one to pick from the list provided by NYC DHS.

How did I pick Coalition? Of course, I did a google search first, but I also used Charity Navigator, which gives you a breakdown of the financials and inner workings of the organization and a 1-4 rating. Coalition Against Hunger scored a three, which is a very good rating. A key indicator is the percentage of their gross income that goes to program expenses — good charities keep this above 70%.

If you don't live in the city, I also recommend National Alliance to End Homelessness (4 stars on CN). Another great option is Habitat for Humanity, which Jori and I may volunteer for early next year.

If you're like me and hesitant about giving money without knowing how it will be used, do something about it. Do some research, find a cause you're passionate about, and donate in whatever way you can.

Video: Columbian Village Travels via Zip Line at 1200 Feet

"When I was your age, I traveled 500 vertical feet on a wing and a prayer!"

Spots Open in My Fantasy League

Posted August 28, 2007

I run a small fantasy football league among friends. We have a few open spots. Here are things you should know.

  • We play for pride, not money.
  • The live draft is at 10pm EDT on Thursday, but you can let it autopick for you.
  • Team, not individual, defenses.
  • The best you can do is second as I am going to win.

I also have a pick'em league that I just set up for any all who'd like to join. No spread, just pick the winners. I'll buy the man or woman who wins a Shack Burger. Here is the info to join both leagues:

Fantasy League
Link to Join
Group ID: 579408
Password: stanger

Link to Join
Group ID: 47104
Password: gross

Update: Whoops! Didn't mean for that to be a quick post. No more rushing!

HT Review: Denon AVR-2307CI Receiver

Posted August 27, 2007


I am a sucker when it comes to brand loyalty. I bought another Sony television, another Tivo DVR and another Denon receiver. Unlike the other two, which offered significant upgrades, I bought the new receiver for one essential reason — HDMI inputs.

HDMI, like DVI, is a way to send video signals from your source to your display completely digitally (aka it makes things prettier). Unlike my AVR-3300, the 2307CI offers the ability to send in two HDMI signals and switch them out with one cable to the television. If I want to take advantage of my beautiful new television, this was a (home theater) necessity. In addition to the HDMI, it also accepts three component inputs and seven RCA or S-Video inputs.*

In the past, for every type of input you had to have the same type of cable going out to your TV. THe 2307CI will upconvert all of your other audio and video signals to HDMI. This means that no matter how many cables are going in, only one comes out. Brilliant.

The receiver also supports 7 independent channels at 100 watts a piece, a plethora of digial audio standards (e.g. Dolby Digital), a super easy setup with included microphone, XM and iPod integration and multiroom capabilities. There are fancier receivers, but this one does everything I need. My biggest complaint is the lack of a third HDMI port. Eventually I'll be adding a PS3 or XBox 360 and I'll be short one HDMI port. Since adding a third HDMI port would cost an extra $800, I think I'll pass.

The 2307CI is being replaced with the 2308CI, which offers similar functionality but includes Faroudja scaling (this is good).

Learn more from Denon
Buy it from Onecall (love these guys)

* Take note that the 2307CI can pass 1080p signals via HDMI. They downplay it in the official description to try and upsell you.

HT Review: Oppo DV-981HD DVD Player

Posted August 25, 2007


I realize it's odd to buy a DVD player at this point, especially with the nicer equipment I'm purchasing, but I refuse to choose a camp in the HD-DVD/Blu-ray shootout. When it gets close, lemme know. In the meantime, I had no DVD player and I needed something new.

Instead of going big name, I took a chance on a small company called Oppo, as their players get great reviews. The DV-981HD I purchased uses one of the best upconverting algorythms — Faroudja. Upconverting takes a standard definition signal and converts it to HD. In this case, it can convert it up to 1080p. The DV-981HD's other neat trick is the ability to play just about any format (e.g. SACD, DivX, XVid) so long as it's on a 5-inch optical disc. Aside from those features, it sports all the other stuff you'd expect from a DVD player.

But does it actually look better? Yes, it does. I haven't done a side-by-side comparison, but it's not as grainy. You can't expect a super-sharp picture from a little known film from the 1940s, but it makes newer films look great.

At $229, the player is a great deal. It has the same features as many high-end units, but at a mid-range cost. If you need a DVD player that's not a throw-away, buy this.

Buy it at Amazon
Learn more at Oppo

HT Review: Bello AVS-422T TV Stand

Posted August 24, 2007


My gear sits in a small space. Sure, I'd love to get a big, beautiful entertainment center, but I have about five feet and a whole lot of stuff. Part of the problem with my old Ikea stand was the lack of air flow. In the summer, my apartment is ninety degrees on a good day and one inch of clearance makes for an unhappy receiver. With that in mind, my two goals were better airflow and cable management.

Clearly, I wasn't alone because Bello built both of these requirements into the AVS-422T. All of my components easily fit the space and the main strutural support is hollow so you run your cables through it. It's a great feature. On the downside, it's really heavy and doesn't do a great job blending into a small space. I'm really not looking forward to moving it one day.

To put it simply, this is a functional piece of equipment that looks nice. Bello is geared for the home theater audience and they have the product line to back it up. While this may not be the perfect piece for me, I definitely recommend it and highly recommend the company.

Buy it on Amazon
Learn more at Bello

Hellz Yes. NBC is Filming New Episodes of American Gladiators

Screw you summer. I'm so ready for the fall.

HT Review: Tivo Series3 HD DVR

Posted August 23, 2007


Tivo kept me from upgrading my equipment. See, I couldn't live without my Tivo and they didn't offer a way to record HD content. When the Series3 arrived last fall, my interest was piqued. Unfortunately, as a loyal customer of DirecTV, I wouldn't be able to use the new box. Since the Series3 requires CableCards, a technology the FCC does not require the satellite companies to offer, I was S.O.L. In the end, it came down to my love of Tivo vs. my love of the NFL Sunday Ticket (DirecTV has an exclusive arrangement with the NFL).* DirecTV has an HD DVR, but I'd heard very mixed reviews. At the end of September, when a deal on the Series3 was scheduled to end, I took the plunge and moved to Time Warner and a new Tivo box. I'm not sure it was the right choice.

Don't get me wrong, the machine is a fantastic piece of technology. It can tape two HD programs at once while you watch a previoiusly recorded show and the audio and video is fantastic. It also has the best interface of any set top box I've used. When it comes to watching and recording tv, it does an amazing job. Unfortunately, there are two major problems that have made me consider selling the box and starting over.

First, their TivoToGo software, which lets you move files to and from your computer, is still not available for the Series3. It's six months since I bought the box and nearly a year since it was announced. For me, this is rough because I download a lot of video and the only screen in the bedroom is my 20" LCD Monitor. I'm not sure what the hold up is, but it's frustrating.

The bigger frustration is their decision to use CableCards. This is a very new technology and Time Warner, one of the biggest cable providers, can't seem to figure it out. The box takes two of these to decrypt encoded signals and I am about to replace a card for the fourth time. I'm not sure if it's the box or the card, but I sure as hell wish I knew. Either way, it was risky of Tivo to go this route and I think it was a mistake. I would rather have paid more for two cable boxes, which isn't even an option, than go through this headache. While I don't know anyone with a case as severe as mine and both Time Warner and Tivo have tried to help, I know I am not alone. Sure, we're early adopters, but this is unacceptable.

It's too bad really, because this is a slick machine. Is it worth the extra money over the new Tivo HD? If having the best quality audio and video is important to you: yes. But really all you lose is the OLED screen and the THX certification. If I had to choose, I'd go with the Tivo HD. Right now, I'd just settle for a box that works.

Learn about the Series3 at
Buy the Series3 at Amazon

* Don't think I'm living without my beloved Bears. I'm most likely purchasing a Slingbox Pro and setting it up at my parent's place in Chicago.

Make Your Own Bacon

This is impractical for most, which is why you should live vicariously and this post.

Content-Aware Image Resizing

Programatically resizes an image without distorting the content. People are smart. [via lots of people]

Imogen Heap sings "Just for Now" Live with Amazing Vocal Layering

It's all a cappella and it's fantastic. I've watched half a dozen times.

First Episode of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia is Online

Myspace is hosting the first episode right now, but season three premieres on September 13th

HT Review: Sony KDL-V2500 40" LCD TV

Posted August 22, 2007


In my relatively short history of television buying, I had owned two Sony sets &madsh; a 19" TV/VRC combo and a 27" WEGA flat screen (not flat-panel). Both of these were in excellent condition when I put them to rest and continue to work to this day. Still, when I decided to upgrade to an HD set, I kept an open mind.

When the process began, I walked into Circuit City and Best Buy a half-dozen times checking out prices and, more importantly, noticing which sets stuck out. Immediately I was able to narrow it down to the Samsung and Sony LCDs. I had heard that LCDs couldn't produce deep blacks or truly rich colors like Plasma screens, but these sets looked great. I also noticed that the 1080p sets looked much better than their 720p brethren (understanding HD resolutions), but I learned it had less to do with the additional pixels and more to do with the extra filters and improved hardware in these more expensive models. On my third or fourth trip, I had decided I wanted a Sony set. It came down to personal preference and some helpful folks on the AVS Forums. In my due dillegence, I concerned the more expensive XBR2 model, which was a step up, but the picture didn't look a whole lot better and I preferred the clean lines of the V2500.

I bought it from and they delivered it and plugged it in before they left, which was a nice perk. While I'll talk more about the quality of different sources in the next couple days, the set performed really well with both HD and standard definition content. One of my big complaints with HD sets is how crappy most programming looks. The Sony did a pretty good job out of the box, but after turning down the sharpness the standard content looked nearly as good as my CRT set. Getting to the point, the quality of the picture on the V2500 is phenomenal and I'm incredibly happy with this choice.

While I'm using a surround sound receiver and a universal remote, a plethora of inputs and a very capable remote are included with the set. It has two HDMI inputs, some component (Y/Bl/Gr) and some composite (RCA) inputs. All in all, there are 7 inputs possible (should be plenty), including a PC input for those who want a 40" monitor. If I were the only one using my system, I probably would have skipped the universal remote and stuck with the Sony one. Their remotes are solidly built and very easy to navigate.

It's also worth noting that I'm quite happy with the 40" model. While I could have gone as big as a 46", I'm glad I didn't. Not only did I save some money, but I really didn't need the extra viewing area. And if you have a NYC apartment, I highly doubt you need a 46" either.

If you've know me well, you know I obsessively research new purchases, especially anything tech-related. After all my research and six months with the TV, I have zero regrets. It's the perfect size, has amazing picture quality and has plenty of inputs if my receiver were to go on the fritz. If you're in the market for an HD set, you'd be foolish not to consider the V2500.

Buy the KDL-V2500 40" LCD from Amazon
Read posts from the V2500 Thread on AVS Forums
Get info straight from the Sony Store

Reviewing my Home Theater

Posted August 21, 2007


This week, I'm gonna talk about my new-ish home theater setup. I upgraded most of my equipment this winter and I've had six months with everything now. Thus, it's time to take everything to task. Between now and Friday, I'll be talking about the following items:

Sony KDL-V2500 40" LCD TV
Tivo Series3 HD
Bello AVS-422T TV Stand
Oppo DVD-981HD DVD Player
Denon AVR-2307CI A/V Receiver

The Tivo Series3 review will also include a lengthly discussion of Cablecards. Believe me, I have quite a bit to say. The first review will come later tonight (would have come yesterday but I've been under the weather) and it'll be the television.

Some Tunes for the End of Summer

Posted August 17, 2007

Until I get the reviews up and running again, I thought I'd give a little rundown of three records I've enjoyed in these late summer months.

20070817albums1.jpgGlen Hansard & Markéta Irglová - The Swell Season

I've dragged Jori to plenty of shows in our time together, so when she asked me to see the Swell Season, despite knowing nothing about them, I accepted. They are the stars of Once and Hansard is also the lead singer of the Frames, whose show I once walked out on. I'm glad I didn't know about the Frames connection in advance as my jaded hipster side would have emerged. Instead, I was taken away by their harmonies and amazing chemistry. Glen has a fantastic voice and Markéta complements him beautifully (I'm a sucker for harmonizing hipster folkies). While the album is excellent, I'm not surprised to find that the live show is better. The magic just didn't translate to the studio. Of course that hasn't stopped me from playing the record several times already.

Buy The Swell Season
Buy the Once soundtrack

20070817albums2.jpgThe Hood Internet - Mixtape Vol. 1

Okay, I'm friends with half of the Hood Internet, but their mashups are awesome. They mix up indie rock and hip hop with great aplomb. Sure, everyone has a mashup blog these days, but STV SLV and ABX have found their calling, which is why you keep hearing about them. The first mix tape is almost all winners. I especially enjoyed "Girls Just Wanna Fix Up" (Madonna and Dizzee Rascal) and "Rock Yo Sea Legs" (Crime Mob and the Shins). You can download the whole thing or just hit up the blog and download the tracks individually. As long as you're there, check out today's track, which was especially awesome.

Download Mixtape Vol. 1

20070817albums3.jpgThrow Me the Statue - Moonbeams

Somehow, I landed on the mp3 blog I Guess I'm Floating (a link from a link from a link, probably) and found a couple songs by this Seattle band. For the first time in a long time, I went straight to their label's site and bought a copy of the record. The album starts out twee but isn't the slight bit abnoxious. It feels like I just happened upon a really cute coffee shop with Throw Me the Statue playing and bopped along as I ate my egg salad sandwich. Then it starts rockin' a bit, albeit quietly. The album won't win awards and won't sell a million copies, but I'm enjoying it and it's perfect for summer. If you pick up the record, check out "About to Walk" and "This is How We Kiss".

Download "Lolita" and "Conquering Kids"
Buy Moonbeams from Baskerville Records

Hey SlingMedia: Where's the SlingCatcher?

Their TV-to-TV placeshifting box hasn't gotten a single mention since it's announcement in January. I just want to know if I only need the one box, or two boxes or a Slingbox as well. Come on dudes, football season is nearly upon us!

Xbox 360 vs. PS3: Which is Less Bad?

Posted August 16, 2007

Although I am a proud owner of the Nintendo Wii, I've decided my home is big enough for another game console. Unfortunately, I can't choose. I've been bouncing back and forth between the two for a few weeks now and I'm still deadlocked. I'm hoping you all can help me decide. Here's my list of pros and cons for each device.

Xbox 360

+ Cost $349 (X360 Elite) + $49 (Xbox Live) = $398
+ All of my friends are on Xbox Live
+ Big library of titles
+ Has GTA 4 Extras
+ Madden looks better on it
- consoles completely die on a regular basis
- HD-DVD add-on is $200
- No Little Big Planet, Metal Gear Solid 4 or MLB The Show


+ Has Little Big Planet, Metal Gear Solid 4 and MLB The Show
+ Includes Blu-Ray
+ Includes online play
- Cost $499
- I only know one person who has one
- Developers continue to complain about the difficulties of development

In the end, it seems somewhat even. The gist is that PS3 is expensive and I won't have friends to play with online and the Xbox 360 is missing some exclusives, can't play HD movies and has severe quality control problems. I am completely torn and I'm dying to play Madden 08 and pick some other next-gen titles I've been missing out on. If you've got any insight, I'd love to hear it as I'm completely deadlocked.

Addendum: I forgot to mention when I wrote this last night that Dan was kind enough to let me try out both consoles at his place. Sony definitely won style points for the menu systems and their extras were great. I liked the X360 as well, but wasn't quite as impressed. And this morning my buddy Jason sent me info on getting $150 rebate on the PS3, which is currently tipping the scale in Sony's favor.

A Font-astic Calendar

Posted August 15, 2007

Noa Bembibre Calendar

I saw this calendar on Swiss Miss and immediately wished I could buy it. I have a slight love of fonty calendars though, as my wall is currently adorned by the Stendig Calendar and I previously had the Pentagram Calendar, which was equally elegant. Hopefully Noa Bembibre will eventually let me add to my collection.

Stendig Calendar

The Shoe Project

Pretty photos of people and the shoes they're wearing. I kinda wish I could see just the top photo first and the click to see the shoes.

Don't Put Down That Mag

Posted August 14, 2007

Magazines are a dying breed. As Khoi pointed out today, he's bored with magazines and does his reading online. For the most part, I can't argue. Growing up I subscribed to three video game magazines as it was the only real source for news (sidebar: I miss the early days of EGM). Now, I not only get all of that same news online as soon as it happens, but I can watch a high-def trailer of upcoming titles. The internet is just a better delivery tool for niche content.

Then why do I subscribe to nearly ten magazines? One of the reasons, as Khoi points out, is to soak in some delicious print design. Print and web designers both yearn for the other side and I agree; magazine design seems to offer so many interesting options and constraints. I've really enjoyed the spreads from NY Magazine, Good and Edge in recent years.

More importantly, it's still very difficult if not impossible to get news on the net in a satisfying environment when you're out and about. The iPhone is on the right track, but the small screen is good in a pinch, not for long reading sessions. Magazines are just easier to digest. The web may have revolutionized distribution, but it still lacks the nuances of presentation.

Khoi is right in that buying magazines for their content is pointless — you can get 95% of the same information online. Instead, I'm buying it because I prefer the experience. The typography, layouts and photos are much more palatable on the printed page. If forced to choose, I'd have to side with the convenience of the internet, but it's not too long before I won't have to make a choice. The iPhone has made mobile web much more palatable, but some day soon digital paper and flexible screens will give us mobility and design, which will put the magazine to bed permanently. Without a doubt, I'll welcome that day with open arms.

The Charmr: Adaptive Path's Redesign of an Insulin Pump and Monitor

It's hard to tell if the technology exists to create the product as-is, but it's beautiful and seems leaps ahead of what's available now. Here's the original request for help from Amy Tenderich, who runs

Why Be a Cop When You Can Beg?

Posted August 13, 2007

Before I start, I wanted to mention that the Freakonomics blog has been awesome since moving to I've always liked their stuff, but I think they're hitting us with a bunch of great topics and I actually prefer the quick descriptions to the full content in the RSS feed.

I say all this because I was blown away by a quote on the Freakonomics blog from the book Blue Blood by Edward Conlon. It's worth re-republishing as its that good.

I handed Tommy some money, he held up his hands and said, "C'mon, Eddie, you don't have to, it's okay." I said, "It's all right, you guys work, you take risks for us, you should get paid." He took the money, but he shook his head.

"Don't take this the wrong way, but I feel a little funny, since you guys pay out of your own pockets. Do you know how much we make out here, panhandling, during rush hour?'

"No, how much?"

"About a dollar a minute."


I didn't take my money back, but I saw his point. Charlie and Tommy made more money than us. I should have realized that earlier, as the math was not complicated — we took home less than a hundred dollars a day, while their habits were at least that. I tried not to dwell on the fact that, economically, a New York City police officer was a notch down from a bum.

First, I can't believe panhandlers make that much money! That's eye-opening to me and helps explain how so many people can afford to live on the street. It also makes it frustrating that they're still on the street if they could theoretically take home several hundred dollars a day. I have enough concerns about giving to panhandlers as it is, but that's a whole other blog post.

Second, I'm sure most cops aren't in it to get rich, but that's gotta be frustrating. It mostly shows how little people understand what a little bit of money can do. We tend to piss away small sums of money all the time that could be terribly useful when pooled together. I guess it's hard to grasp that in the same way it's hard to convince someone their vote is important in a sea of 100 million.

Third, I really want to buy this book. Ever since my obsessions with the Wire began, I'm fascinated by realistic tales of police work. Thanks for the recommendation, Freakies.

Crowd-Powered Technology

Posted August 10, 2007

20070810mit.jpg Two MIT graduate students have found a way to harness the power of steppin'. They've developed technology that generates electricity when you walk over a special sub-floor that shifts slightly as you depress each square. This magic device then converts the movement into energy. While a small step from one person won't do much, if you install this in a train station or concert areana, you're suddenly generating enough electricity to make it worth while.

While I love any renewable energy resource, the idea of directly effecting the energy output is exciting. It could become a game. Maybe they put a huge sign in Yankee Stadium that shows how many joules have been created this month. They could then compete with Mets fans at Shea. In some ways, this reminds me of the Hong Kong gym that generates electricity from treadmills. The more you exercise the more you help the community.

Not nearly enough useful technology incorporates fun. It's depressing hearing about how global warming is going to kill us all, so give us a fun way to help out. Sure, I'll still do the boring things like unplugging gadget chargers, but isn't it more pleasing to think my spastic game of tag in Grand Central is actually helping the environment?

HTML 5 Makes Me Yawn

Posted August 9, 2007

This morning, my buddy Gil pointed me to a run-down of the new features in HTML 5. There are a slew of new tags, some of which I think will be useful I mostly think they're poorly implemented or unnecessary.

  • Structural and Block Semantic Elements: The major addition is a set of tags for organizing content (e.g. <header>, <nav>, <article> and <aside>). This is designed to replace stuff like <div class="header"> and I think it's a great idea. It'll make it much easier to re-use DOM javascript to manipulate a wide variety of sites since you won't have to guess if a class is named masthead or header or top-box or place-for-thingies.
  • <time>: The idea is great, but the implementation blows. Currently you enter <time datetime="2007-04...">April 2007<time>, when it should be the other way around. You should be able to specify a format and have the browser change it programatically, which could hopefully be done by a future version of CSS. It'd look like <time format="%h:%m%P">2007-04-07 13:12:00<time>. That would be infinitely more useful.
  • <meter>: Similarly, the code for meter is all wrong. They suggest using <meter value="88.7" min="0" max="100" low="65" high="96" optimum="100">B+</meter> but imagine doing that for thirty grades. Instead, create a container tag, something like <meterset>, and assign all the common values there and just keep the value as a parameter of meter.
  • Embedded media: Finally. So there will soon be <video> and <audio> tags at your disposal, which is great but incredibly short-sighted. What if there is something else that comes down the line? Instead, it should just be <media type="audio" />. At least this way we can one day have <media type="kabuki theater" />.
  • <details>: This would hold meta-data that you might not want to show, but might want to use in another way. Apparently the details are a little fuzzy, but I'm hoping this can hold some rss-like info to make it easier to parse XHTML in feed readers. I'm guessing this is wishful thinking.

Really, that's about it based on what's in this article. There is also a new tag called <datagrid> that will let you have easier access to a table or select via the DOM, but I can't imagine it will allow you to do much more than you can right now. As Gil put it, "Can't micro-formats take care of most of this stuff?" I do think it's nice to build it in, but creating specific tags for instances when I would normally use a div is underwhelming. I guess the key is to tighten up the data structures enough so that they're easier to manipulate with javascript and CSS, which is probably why I'd be more excited by a major update to either of those languages.

For the many of you here who aren't web geeks, I apologize — this is as nerdy as it gets. For those who are, enjoy this brief moment of super-geekery on Capn Design.

Advertising During a Tragedy

Posted August 8, 2007


Poynter's E-Media Tidbits called foul on the Washington Post for display an ad before a slideshow from the bridge collapse. They're absolutely right, it's completely distasteful. A smart commenter points out that tragedy drives a lot of traffic. So what to do?

To me, the issue is the way the ad was deployed and not its right to exist. Anything that keeps me from viewing content is going to cause frustration and when I am already distraught, my patience is non-existent. Whether it was due to the blog post or some other factor, the ad is now down. There is still an ad above the slideshow, but no on seems up in arms about it.

What really matters is respecting the mood of your audience. My best example is my local Fox newscast. No, I'm not talking about the ads between the segments, I'm talking about the news itself. I remember one time just after 9/11 when there was a teaser for the 9pm news that went something like this:

News lady: We speak to a family of one of the THREE THOUSAND killed.
News man: Two men were found brutally murdered by a group of unruly teens
News lady: Here comes fall fashion!
News man: Is your house safe from lead poisoning? FIND OUT.
News lady: Indian summer just won't quit!

All of this happened without skipping a beat and I nearly vommitted. In the end, it comes down to common sense. WaPo is a huge national newspaper and I'm sure leaving the ad there was accidental. From the brief glimpse, it appears to be an ad featuring a car racing around tight corners and I don't think they're stupid enough to leave that running intentionally.

Why I Love Macs

Posted August 7, 2007


This is a comparison of the new iMac and a Dell desktop. It's a bit over-exaggerated, as most people don't put everything on top of their desk and don't stare at it from the side, but you can't argue with the iMac's simplicity. Both computers are aesthetically pleasing, but the Mac is doing its part in the fight against clutter (inside and out).

I Reviewed Five Guys for Metromix New York

Five Guys = D.C.-based burger chain. Metromix = Tribune company city-based sites (like Citysearch, but with a focus on editorial). There's a stupid picture of me, some text and big image slideshow.

Thai Police are Punished with Hello Kitty Armband

"No matter how many ribbons for valor a Thai officer may wear, if he parks in the wrong place, or shows up late for work, or is seen dropping a bit of litter on the sidewalk, he can be ordered to wear the insignia." Love it. Could you imagine NYPD being forced to wear a Wiggles armband after using their siren to cruise through a red light?

Can Magnum Photography Be Irrelevant?

Posted August 6, 2007

Last month I attended a roundtable discussion with three Magnum photographers and a citizen journalist (he was actually a documentary filmmaker but he used the internet a lot). The moderator spent the beginning of their time discussing the role of technology in photojournalism. More specifically, he was wondering if today's technology would help an aspiring photographer ascend to the top of the field.

The group was quick to say that technology may help keep your picture in focus but it won't help your composition and it certainly won't improve your passion (they were big on the passion). One of the photographers was in charge of overseeing portfolio submissions to the agency and felt that no one was doing anything original and, of course, the photos lacked passion. Calling them stodgy is unfair, but it was clear that they're incredibly skeptical of today's young photographers.*

During the question and answer session, I thought for a while about asking something; I wanted to avoid asking a softball question like, "What was the most inspiring thing you've seen in the field?" After looking over my notes, I decided to reframe the question posed by the moderator. While technology may not be able to create a great photographer, it certainly can help provide exposure. Right now, agencies like Magnum provide a stage for the world's best photographers, but search technology is constantly improving and it seems only a matter of time before the great Goog (or one of its competitors) is able to find beautiful, important and passionate photographs more quickly and more accurately than a photo agency. With that in mind, what role do you envision Magnum and other agencies will play twenty years from now?

Unfortunately, my question was the last one and the woman's response didn't provide an answer, but I don't know if this group was really the best suited to do so. Instead, I'll ask you. Will there be a time when an agency like Magnum becomes irrelevant? Or to wittle it down a bit, will search indexes ever do a better job of finding art than humans?

* As a funny aside, he referred to the hordes of people snapping photos of potentially interesting events "flickr photographers". I promise, it wasn't a compliment.

Lowering the Bar

Posted August 3, 2007

If you're a regular reader of Capn Design, you've noticed that I infrequently write full-length blog posts. Once upon a time I would post three to four times a day, but my blog was quite different back then. Still, it felt good to be writing consistently.

Thing slowed down when I start to feel internal pressure to only write posts when I felt the topic was "important". As a result, I would stop posting for long stretches and the site would lay dormant. I know lots of people follow this progression but I think I've had enough. As of August, I'm lowering the bar.

From now on, if I find something interesting, I'll get a post started right away and just see what comes out. If everyone has posted about a meme, maybe I'll have something interesting to say. If not, I'm leaving it up to you to tune it out. This is another way of saying that I'm passing more of the editorial reins to the reader. I'll do my best not to bore you, but I make no promises.

To kick things off, I'm going to post once every weekday for the month of August. This has confused and frightened some of my friends this week. "Where the hell did this bit of writing come from, you just posted yesterday!?!" Most of the discussion will lack any really theme, but for one week I will discuss the new components I added to my home theater this winter. I've been using them for a while and have a lot to say.

This is really part one of the redesign of this blog. Yes, I've been working on a new design for what feels like years, but the content is what really needed an overhaul. If this works out, I might actually finish coding the bastard.

By the Way, the Binge is Back

Posted August 2, 2007

With my lackadaisical approach to blogging, I neglected to tell you all that my other primary weblog is back, the Movie Binge. Last summer we set out to watch every major movie released from Memorial Day to Labor Day and succeeded. While it was a lot of work, it was also rewarding to get some attention and nice to have a new outlet for movie reviews.

We've been back at it all summer with a new cast of characters and some old faces. The new reviewers are Dan Beirne from Said the Gramophone, Erik Bryan from The Morning News, Kyria Abrahams, Bryan Charles, Meghan Deans and Todd Serencha. Returning for another year are Matthew Perpetua from Fluxblog and Karen Wilson of Cinecultist and Gothamist. You can read more about all of them on the Binge's about page. Everyone here is such an awesome writer and I'm proud to have birthed this baby.

We're already about halfway through the year, but it's not too late to catch up. If you missed last year as well, don't be afraid of the archives.

The Michael Showalter Showalter with Amby Samburg

You know, the guy from Dick in a Box. Check out the other episodes of the Showalter Showalter.

The Balcony Archive: 5,000 Clips from Ebert, Roeper and Siskel

They've got new and old reviews and you can search by movie, director or actor.

An Easy-Open Plastic Case

Posted August 1, 2007


I'm sure you're like me in that you hate trying to crack into these things. They're impossible to open at best and lead to profuse bleeding at worst.

Sony got smart and made a perforated edge along the backside of the packaging and it made my day. Sony has dropped the ball on a lot of big things (e.g. PS3, MP3 players) but seems to do some small things right.

Click the image to see a big version on flickr.

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