Archive for November, 2005

Time to update.

Wednesday, November 30th, 2005

Yesterday, the Mozilla Foundation has released the new stable version of Firefox. I definitely recommend downloading and installing the 1.5 release if you are on windows. It is more stable, more web compliant, and of course, it includes some security fixes. If you’re using Internet Explorer please give Firefox a test drive for a few days. If people would stop using Internet Explorer versions 6 and prior, the web would become a much more efficient and accessible place because websites could be coded using modern standards without tons of hacks to work around the catastrophe that is Internet Explorer’s rendering engine.

Enveloping myself.

Sunday, November 27th, 2005

I like to travel, but there is one major downside to traveling: noise. It is worst in airplanes. Even if the flight is just an hour long, I feel totally knocked out during the flight and probably for the following hours too. The noise inside the plane is just too much for me. In trains the noise is more subdued, depending on where one sits, depending on the train, and on the quality of the tracks. Nonetheless, after more than four hours the noise starts to nag at me, producing a certain feeeling of unrest – a feeling between being tired and being over-sensible.
More than a year ago, I read about a new generation of consumer headphones that have built-in active noise cancellation technology, which was said to reduce noise by neutralizing it with anti-noise (you should know a bit about the nature of waves to guess how this works). Since then, such a noise-canceling headphone has taken one of the highest priorities on my gadget wish-list.
A few weeks ago, after finishing some tiresome work optimizing the HTML code for a friend’s website I decided I’m in for a reward, checked the current offerings for noise canceling headphones, and decided that the Sennheiser’s PXC series is what I am looking for. After doing some price comparisons I decided to place a bid for the 250 model on eBay. I got lucky and bought the thing for 78 € including shipping.
The PXC 250 is a foldable headphone that is designed to be easily transportable. The one thing that differentiates it from other portable headphones is a stick about as thick as my thumb and about twice as long. This stick is home to two AAA batteries and (at least I would guess so) the noise-cancellation electronics. The cable from the headphone jack goes into it and another cable leads from the stick to the headphones. The stick is probably the biggest drawback to the whole thing, because one has to decide where to put it. At least it has a clip that allows attaching the stick to your belt or, as I usually do, to one of the pockets of my pants. The length of both cables is a bit less than a meter. If you’re not taller than 2.10 meters this should work for you. The headphone itself is light and comfortable to wear. It is, however, not as comfortable as my Koss Porta Pro, because the earpads exert a bit more pressure on your outer ear. This is necessary though – the pads will passively filter out the higher frequencies thus they have to fit tightly enough to not let sound pass by unobstructed. Still, after several hours of wear it is a relief to take them off for a while and massage your ears a bit.
On the stick there is a well-designed sliding button that turns on the noise cancellation. Before turning it on in a train you will hear rumbling and other lower frequency noises. After turning it on you will hear … less. The rumbling fades away to a gentler, smoother lower frequency noise. This general reduction of volume along with the smoothing has a soothing effect. The noise is definitely not gone, but it surely is less bothersome. You can use this feature without having the headphone plugged in to another device. This noise reduction is also great if you want to listen to music: you don’t need to turn the volume as high as you would have to without the noise cancellation. This makes listening to music less stressful too. Great stuff. Excellent investment.
If you turn the thing on in a silent environment you will notice a subtle hiss in the speakers. This hissing noise is, at least to me, practically inaudible in a train or a similarly noisy environment. If you want to use the headphones without the noise cancellation turned on you will be disappointed. The bass will be much to low – there seems to be some kind of loudness function associated with the noise filter. Other than that the sound quality of the PXC 250 is very good; I would say it is in the same league as the excellent Porta Pro. All in all I can definitely recommend this device. I am looking forward to test it in an airplane, but I am quite confident that it will make flying a less bothersome experience.
The only real drawback that I am feeling is that this thing will make the envelope that I build around me while traveling even less permeable. Of course I can work better and listen to music in a more relaxed manner when wearing these headphones. Nonetheless, it also lessens my contact to my surroundings. I am less approachable, won’t hear people having a conflict, won’t hear the chatter of others around me, won’t hear nice stories people might tell each other. Some chances will just pass by without being noticed. *sigh* Such is the nature of envelopment.

I want style, not superpowers.

Thursday, November 24th, 2005

As a tribute to the superbly entertaining The Mask of Zorro (1998), Olli and I went to watch The Legend of Zorro. We were watching it on a monday at 22:45 h – and were the only people in the theater. Actually, the second part of Zorro was not as bad as I would have feared. Neither the political subtext nor the overall story and style were real disappointments. One thing bothered me during the opening sequence: Zorro was doing to many superhero-like feats when he fought the villains for the first time. I think it would have been better to make him a really stylish fighter who also is very dangerous and skillful than to present him as a superhero with style. Well, well. I liked the boy, cast as the son of Catherine Zeta-Jones and Antiono Banderas, and, of course, Banderas and Zeta-Jones are still a dream cast for a Zorro remake. If you’re really into Zorro you might want to consider watching it in the cinema, otherwise you should probably skip this movie or wait for the DVD…
IMDb entry | Trailer

Wunsch erfüllt: Pfeeeeiiiiff!

Monday, November 21st, 2005

Jippiehjahey! Endlich. Nach immer wieder neu unternommenen Ansätzen, Versuchen und peinlichem Rumgeatme ist es soweit: Ich kann auf den Fingern pfeifen! Ich hätte es kaum noch zu hoffen gewagt. Damit ist die Scharte ausgewetzt, die durch die mangelnde Beherrschung eines Musikinstruments geschlagen wird. Ich kann auf den Fingern pfeifen… Das war für mich seit eh und jeh eine hinreichende Bedingung zum cool und bewundernswert sein. Und jetzt gehöre ich dazu! Ich kann es kaum fassen! (Deshalb auch die vielen Ausrufezeichen.)
Wie kam es nun zu dieser bemerkenswerten Entwicklung, fragen sich vielleicht die werten Lesenden. Olli und ich haben uns darüber unterhalten, dass wir beide Looser sind, weil wir diese nahezu unerlässliche Fertigkeit nicht beherrschen. Anstatt wie sonst beim Denken dieses Gedankens mit gesenktem Haupt da zu sitzen und Trübsal zu blasen, hat mich dieses Mal der Kampfgeist gepackt. Flott griff ich also in die Tasten und googelte “auf den fingern pfeifen”. Unter den Treffern haben mir die beiden folgenden Links ausreichend Variationen des Themas geliefert, damit auch ein Pfeifstümper wie ich unter ordentlichem Gepruste und Gezische irgendwann begreift, worum es geht: Tutorial: Auf den Fingern Pfeifen? und Kurze Frage? Schnelle Antwort!
Nun sitze ich tief beglückt, allerdings mit etwas angespucktem Bildschirm und veritablem Schwindel in der Birne an meinem Schreibtisch. Hört es euch an:

Echte Gespenster.

Sunday, November 20th, 2005

Der neue Film von Christian Petzold lief vor einiger Zeit in den Kinos. Eine bestimmte sehr persönliche Stimmung hat für mich schon den Film Die innere Sicherheit ausgemacht. Auch in Gespenster ist eine junge Frau die Hauptfigur, eine Frau, die eine große Distanz zu ihrer Umwelt hat, die vorsichtig ist sich umschaut und zögernd durch’s Leben geht. Die Art der Regie, die Kamera und die zurückhaltenden Dialoge zusammen mit den sehr guten Schauspielerinnen machen es möglich, sich in die Ängste und Hoffnungen des Mädchens Nina einzufühlen. Gleichzeitig behalten Handlung und Charaktere etwas mystisches. Mir hat es sehr gut gefallen. Ein Film, den ich weiterempfehlen kann.
IMDb entry

Solid magics.

Saturday, November 19th, 2005

The Kulturbrauerei‘s cinema 4 wasn’t exactly stuffed on this Friday night’s showing of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. The most recent Harry Potter has has a new director, Mike Newell, and he does a decent job – much better, actually than the two first movies which were directed by Chris Columbus. However, it does not come close to the last one, which was directed by Alfonso Cuarón. That film was magic, strange and had a dreamlike atmosphere encompassing both fear and delight. This one evokes amusement and a small shudder here and there. Solid work, nice effects, good cooking down of the story, but not fantastic or inspired.
IMDb entry | Trailer

Close-up portrait.

Friday, November 18th, 2005

Yesterday, I saw L’enfant (English title: The Child); the portrait of a thief. His relation to his girlfriend, who just gave birth to a boy a few days before the action sets in, is shown in this movie, and it is paralleled to his relation with life in general. It quickly becomes clear that Bruno, the thief, is living the moment, involved in his immediate surroundings, be they people, his partner, the stick that he strokes through the water, everything. Everything only for the moment. Out of an unplanned situation he decides to sell the new born baby, and is confronted by the consequences of this almost immediately afterwards. The movie does a very good job of showing how Bruno deals with this change in his life, how he adepts to a changed situatedness. The consequences he has to face are dire, but – and here the movie stands out – they are neither Hollywoodesque nor totally bleak and depressing. A good movie.
IMDb entry | Trailer

Freunde, Musik, Oslo.

Tuesday, November 8th, 2005

Lars Saabye Christensen ist einer meiner zeitgenössischen Lieblingsautoren. Ich mag sowohl seine Kurzgeschichten als auch die Romane, die ich bisher gelesen habe. Hier möchte ich etwas zu Yesterday schreiben, einem seiner älteren Romane. Der Held der Geschichte ist ein Junge, der mit seinen Freunden, zwei großen Jugendlieben, Eltern, Lehrern und Nachbarn aufwächst. Die Sprache ist direkt, die Geschichte weitgehend chronologisch erzählt – das Thema, das sich durch den Roman zieht, wird im Titel angekündigt: die einzelnen Kapitel und Lebensabschnitte werden mit den damals veröffentlichten Liedern und Alben der Beatles parallelisiert. Dieser schöne Aufhänger wird nicht überreizt und behält seinen Charme, auch für Leute wie mich, die bisher eher wohlgesonnene Passivhörer der Beatles sind. Die Geschichten und Lebenswege kommen einem nah, rühren an und erinnern an Episoden aus der eigenen Vergangenheit. Das Lesen dieses Buches von Saabye Christensen ist ein schönes Erlebnis, viele Bilder sind bei mir hängen geblieben und bereichern meinen Alltag an den Tagen nach Yesterday.

Design by Christine Kitta #2.

Friday, November 4th, 2005

Florian Schui is the second member of the Schui family for whom Christine Kitta has provided pleasant web design. You can check out his site, including cv, list of publications and so forth under the address I am looking forward to visiting Florian in his new home in Ireland… (Perhaps Tini should add a few leprechauns to the design in an easter egg fashion – hover over Florian’s face and a funky leprechaun pops up.)