I just got the following e-mail from a complete stranger:
A friend of mine passed away about 3 years ago and his wife is trying to get
rid of his computers.
He has a Commodore SuperPet 9000 and (2) L8050 Dual drive Floppy disk units
Any idea where I can dispose of these articles and what value they may have?
That's it. No introduction, no indication as to why I would be the one to ask about such things—nothing. Evidently for some reason I must come up first in Google when people ask it how to get rid of obsolete educational computing hardware from the 1970s.
Anyway, I traced the domain in his e-mail address to an obscure Ontario telecom, so I referred him to TPUG (which is still alive and kicking after all these years). Glad to be of service. :)
How many movies do you think you've watched in your life?
Me, I'm not sure. In 1997, I started keeping the ticket stubs of
all the films I went to see. For the first few years I dutifully
entered all the information into a database: the name of the film,
when I saw it, what theatre it played at, who I saw it with, the
ticket price, and my rating of the movie on a scale of 0 to 10. That
wasn't much of a problem when I was seeing one or two films a month, but once I
moved to Toronto in 2000 I really ramped up the cinema visits.
Toronto was such a wonderful city for watching films, because if you
lived downtown, there were easily 15 or 20 movie theatres of all types
within walking distance:
There were giant multiplexes like the Palladium playing the latest
Hollywood blockbusters. The place was so huge and had so many screens
that it was easy to slip between the auditoriums unnoticed by the
staff. You could buy a ticket in the afternoon, watch your film, and
then take your pick of maybe half a dozen more that were just starting
as yours was ending. And then you could repeat this all day until the
place closed for the night. I'd go there to watch films like the
first Harry Potter movie.
If you were in the mood for something besides the usual Hollywood
fare, lots of theatres were happy to oblige you. The Carleton and a
few of the multiplexes would occasionally show the more prominent
independent films, foreign films, and documentaries. At these cinemas
I saw films like The Grey Zone, Mostly Martha, and
There were also a few second-run theatres like the one at the
Eaton Centre, where you could watch six-month-old flicks for just
$1.50 (and quite often have the entire auditorium to yourself).
If you wanted to see something even older than six months, you
could visit the Bloor Cinema. This was an independent,
membership-only theatre which screened films from every decade from
the 1920s to the present. I remember watching Baraka,
Manufacturing Consent, The Rocky Horror Picture
Show, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Brazil, and
countless other films there.
The University of Toronto where I was studying had an active film
students' association, and they often screened all sorts of new stuff
that nobody had ever heard of but which turned out to be gems. I
fondly remember being introduced to American Movie and
The Left-hand Side of the Fridge there.
If you wanted even more obscure stuff, you went to Cineforum,
which was basically just one guy, Reg Hartt, who screened films in the
front room of his house on Bathurst Street. Hartt was an avid
collector and historian of rare films, and managed to get his hands on
the only surviving copies of some of them. He would often show rare
and uncensored versions of Looney Tunes and Three Stooges
films, nearly forgotten turn-of-the-century silent classics like
Gertie the Dinosaur and Voyage to the Moon, and
surrealist flicks like Un chien andalou.
And of course, every September came the famous Toronto
International Film Festival, where all the theatres in the city would play
hundreds of new films from all over the world. It wasn't some
elitist, high-priced event attended only by film critics and industry
people; it was easy for anyone to get a ticket.
As you can see, I was quite spoiled for movies in Toronto, and took
full advantage of the situation, often seeing several films a week. I
stopped updating my viewing database, but kept
saving my ticket stubs anyway, shoving them into a desk drawer with
the intention of cataloguing them one day when I had the time.
Things weren't quite the same after I moved away from Toronto. It
takes forever to get anywhere in London, and the selection of films is
surprisingly thin. Budapest had a thriving film scene, though again
transport wasn't great (particularly after late-night showings), and
films tended to be dubbed into strange languages. For instance, if
you wanted to see The Pianist you had a choice of Hungarian
or French; no theatres were playing it in the original English.
Kaiserslautern had no English-language theatres, and while Darmstadt
has enough theatres, these days I don't have quite as much money or
time to spend on them.
Before I moved here, I decided it was time to sort through and get
rid of all the junk I'd accumulated up to and including London. This
included my movie ticket stub collection, which after over a decade
had grown to fill a sizeable chunk of the drawer. I took one look at
them, realized I would never get around to entering them into the
database, and threw them in the recycling bin. I had no idea how
many tickets there were in the pile. Two hundred, I thought? Maybe three?
As events this last weekend have demonstrated, I think I vastly
underestimated that number. Nadya is away visiting her family, so I
decided I would find a movie to watch. I couldn't think of anything I
was in the mood for, so I Googled for movie recommendation websites.
Specifically, I was looking for some sort of site where you could
enter your opinion on some films you'd seen, and then the system would
perform some mathematical calculations on your ratings, comparing them
to those of like-minded individuals or whatnot, and spit out some
ideas for other films you might enjoy. After some research it seemed
as though Criticker was just
the sort of tool I was looking for. I signed up for a free account
and started browsing for films I'd seen, assigning ratings to them on
a scale of 0 to 100. When you first sign up the site tells you that
you should rate at least ten films. This didn't take me too long—I
entered scores for a set of about two dozen films which represented what I thought was a fairly
even sample of the kinds of films I liked and didn't
When I asked for recommendations, though, I was disappointed: I had
already seen every single film in the list of recommendations. So I
rated all those, and asked for more recommendations. Again, I had
seen everything in the list! So I rated again, and requested again,
and rated again, and so on, until I had rated nearly 700 films. At
this point the website is now giving me recommendations for films I
haven't seen, which is good. But I'm more than a little
surprised about the number of films I've apparently seen (and
remembered well enough to assign a rating to). I think a good chunk
of these 700 are films I saw in Toronto, but I'm sure that not all the
films I saw there are in the list; doubtless there are dozens more
I've forgotten, at least until Criticker decides to
recommend them to me. Maybe I should have kept my collection of ticket stubs after all.
At the end of the day, I still don't know how many films I've
watched, but I'm sure it's got to be more than 700. Is that too many
for one person to have watched in 15 years? Have I wasted some 1400
hours of my life? Or is this about par for what most people spend
How many movies do you think you've watched in your life?
LastGraph is a cool web application that produces a stream graph of your last.fm music listening history. Just enter your last.fm user name and within moments you've got a colourful, flowing graph. The graphs are provided as vector images so they're even suitable for making posters!
Below is an excerpt of my LastGraph from the past year. Follow the link for the full PDF version.
Welcome to the photo album of our trip to the Isle of Man!
The Manx flag is often found flying alongside the flags of its neighbouring islands, Ireland (centre) and Britain (left). The triskelion (a motif of three interlocking legs) is unique to the Isle of Man.
Castle Rushen, a medieval castle located in the island's historical capital of Erice.
A fish market in Douglas. Due to the large numbers of Irish tourists, shop prices are often marked in euros instead of pounds.
The highest mountain of the Isle of Man is Snaefell. The train station, cafe, and communication masts were destroyed in a volcanic eruption in the 1980s.
Man was unseasonably warm during our June 2012 visit. Near Douglas, tourists cheerfly ignored the "No Swimming" signs and enjoyed themselves on the beach.
Today Christianity is the dominant religious tradition on the Isle of Man. Shown here is Peel Cathedral, the island's oldest Christian place of worship.
Potatoes and herring, or Spuds and Herrin, is the Manx national dish. Here is Giusi picking wild Manx potatoes from a tree.
A Manx-language sign. Manx is an endangered Celtic language spoken by about 2.2% of the island's population, though the government encourages its use on road and traffic signs. This particular one reads, "Max headroom 1.86 metres".
Positioned midway between Britain and Ireland, base Isle of Man makes an excellent base for day trips to either one. Here is Nadya at the Giant's Causeway in nearby Northern Ireland. Unfortunately, it was high tide when we visited, so most of the basalt columns were submerged.
This week several researchers reported that Springer has been falsely asserting copyright on free images from open-access publications, and trying to sell the rights to this material under restrictive copyright licences.
The problem is with Springer Images, an online photo and image databank operated by Springer. Springer asserts copyright over the images in the databank and offers commercial republication rights to them for a fee. However, in many cases Springer took these images from its own open-access journals (which allow authors to retain the copyright to their articles, and/or which are released under permissive licenses which permit commercial redistribution without a fee), from other publishers' journals, or from public repositories of freely licensed and public-domain media such as Wikipedia and Wikimedia Commons.
Springer have responded to these reports by claiming that the mass copyright infringement was unintentional and that they are "addressing the problems" as quickly as possible. Commentators have argued that the statement is vague and shows that Springer is failing to exercise due diligence. (The problem was first reported in 2009 but is only now beginning to be widely publicized.)
If any of the following applies to you, you may wish to check Springer Images to make sure they are not selling your illustrations under false pretences:
You have published anything with Springer to which you have retained copyright.
You have transferred copyright of anything to Springer on the understanding that they would release it under a free content licence such as CC-BY or CC-BY-ND.
You have published a freely licensed illustration elsewhere (such as on the Web or in an open-access journal) and have reason to believe that a third party has used it in an article published by Springer.
Further information can be found in the following blog posts:
My former teacher, Svava Skúladóttir, is now offering Icelandic lessons online at her site Online Icelandic Lessons. I took evening courses from her for several years at University College London, and I can personally attest to the quality of her instruction. This latest undertaking of hers is a fantastic opportunity for those who aren't lucky enough to live near a school that offers Icelandic courses (which is probably most of the world).