AndFarAway

A Blog from Amman, Jordan, Online Since 2004.

Month: March 2014 (Page 1 of 2)

Motion-picture industry reports super-high income… even with piracy

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Via BoingBoing:

Once again, the “piracy-stricken” motion picture association has had a banner year, with box office revenue breaking all records (as they’ve done in most recent years). The biggest gains this year come from China — a market condemned by the studios as a hive of piracy.

See the Singularity Form in News Clippings In Front of Your Eyes

oculus

My life is now complete… Anne Rice has shared AndFarAway

You know what one of the best feelings ever is?

When one of your all-time word heroes shares your words.

anne rice

OHMYGOD.

I’ve written a hundred million times about how important Anne Rice has been in life. She influenced many of my choices, from why I decided to study the fine arts to my fascination with ancient history.

Then one day, 16 years after I read “Pandora”, Anne Rice shared AndFarAway.

Stop Stretching Images

I know that not everyone is a trained designer, but my mind absolutely refuses to accept some things, like stretched images.

FOR HEAVEN’S SAKE, CAN’T YOU TELL THAT YOU SHOULDN’T STRETCH AN IMAGE? THE HEIGHT AND THE WIDTH SHOULD ALWAYS REMAIN PROPORTIONAL CAUSE IT LOOKS REALLY WARPED OTHERWISE, WHICH JUST DOESN’T WORK. HOW DO YOU FEEL WHEN YOU TURN ON YOUR FRONT-FACING CAMERA AND YOUR FACE IS SKEWED OUT OF PROPORTION? NOT NICE, RIGHT? THAT’S HOW IMAGES FEEL TOO. SO STOP STRETCHING IMAGES.

I mean, it’s common visual sense, no?

Why are Amman officials so obsessed with super-tacky lights?

What is it with government officials and really ugly lighting in the city? For the past ten years, there’s always been a new and hideous way to pollute the city with horrendous light decoration.

Eight years ago, it was “xenon” stringy lights over all the bridges and tunnels in the city.

Three years ago, it was those Independence Day lights on every single street pole in town. It would have been okay if they were there for a month, but they stayed up for an entire YEAR. Last year, they turned the 8th Circle into a scene from an horror movie with waterfalls of string light attacking the trees.

It never ends.

Yesterday, I was driving home and I saw them install a BACKLIT SIDEWALK on the 5th Circle. In BLUE AND WHITE.

Aside from the ugliness… let’s talk about usability. Why the hell is this backlit sidewalk on a roundabout? What if someone crashes into the roundabout tomorrow or hits it by mistake? IT’S A ROUNDABOUT FOR GOD’S SAKE. People crash into roundabouts all the damn time. Vulnerable, backlit plastic just doesn’t work.

What is this stuff.

WHO DOES THAT? WHO DECIDED TO DO THAT? WHAT THE HELL WAS HE OR SHE THINKING?

tacky
Image by Luma from BeAmman

Stop wasting the thousands of JDs I pay in damn tax money on wasted energy and ugliness.

Coolest Visual Illusion I’ve Seen in a While

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All Night I Dream of… Solutions

I think I have a superpower. I can’t really be sure, but I never met anyone else who also uses their brain best when they’re sleeping.

You see, I almost never dream.

At least, I never have those story-like dreams where I’m in a particular scene in my head, living life normally in a parallel universe.

Instead, my brain seems to continue to function normally when I sleep, and I have no problems whatsoever remembering my exact thoughts when I wake up the next morning.

I first discovered my night-time superpowers when I was a highschool student. I noticed that when I have an exam, all I had to do was read over the parts I needed to know right before going to sleep. When I would wake up the next day, the information would have “settled in” nicely into my repertoire of data.

When I went into design schcool and we were assigned particularly difficult projects that needed a lot of creative thinking, I would always wake up with the perfect solution, even if it was just after a nap. It worked like a charm. Even today at work, when I’m stuck with something or when I have a task that needs inventive solutions, the answer always comes to me at night.

It’s convenient, to say the least.

I’m not sure if this is related to the way my family sleeps. One of the perks of being a Assi is what I refer to as “conscious sleeping”. We all sleep with our eyes open, talk in our sleep, and have the wonderfully powerful ability to carry out proper conversations while completely unconscious. It was brilliantly practical when we were kids. Whenever I’d do something I wasn’t too proud of, I would tell my mother about it when she was napping. When she’d later ask me why I didn’t tell her, I’d say “But mama, I told you the other day after lunch.” She’d have a vague recollection of the conversation, and I’d be on the safe side because she knows that her eyes were open and that she was talking back in her sleep.

The funniest part though is when I wake up and my brain is still stuck on the last word I had thought of before it dozed off, even if it’s midsentence.

Happy birthday to the first love of my life

I was 12 when I met you. I already knew a little about you. I was so excited.

My father brought you home that night. He was sitting on my favorite chair, the one with the red metal legs, and the computer’s screen reflected brightly on his face. He fiddled with the wires of the modem, configured the NoorNet dial-up connection, and lo and behold… I heard the magical sound of connectivity for the first time in my life. It was a sound that would become dearer to my heart than any song or television show or jingle. It was the sound of the beginning of you, the beginning of the Internet.

Beep booop eeeeeeeeee beep boop.

Imagine the scene. My father, in front of a big, fat computer screen, excited to show his little kids this new genius technology called the World Wide Web. I was 12. My youngest brother was six. How do you show your kids the potential of the early, text-heavy web?

We were lucky that my father worked at a company that was the first to bring the Internet to Saudi Arabia, and we were among the first familites to “test it”, before it was rolled out to the public. But none of our friends had Internet connections yet, and so we had no idea this new, virtual thing was.

But back to the question. How do you show your little kids the potential of the Web? My father being my father, he opened the website of CNN. Look, he said. You enter an address here by typing it, and it takes you to a website.

As the website rendered (it took 15 minutes), a button clicked in my head. The magazines I read had recently started including a little string of characters starting with “http://” every now and then, and I knew they were related to the Internet. But I had never seen the Internet, and I didn’t understand how it functioned or what you could possibly do with a string of characters starting with “http://”. I ran to my room and pulled out one of the magazines, and insisted that we all visit the website of the Spice Girls.

It was much less entertaining than my CD of Encarta 1995.

That’s when my father had a genius idea. He called his cousin, who also had an Internet connection, and asked him to log on to Yahoo! Games. There, they played a game of cards simultaneously together, while we watched with amazement.

This was 1997, and IT WAS THE MOST MAGICAL THING I HAD EVER SEEN IN MY LIFE. There couldn’t have been a better way for my dad to make us all fall in love with the Web. Again, it was 1997, and that shit was straight out of science fiction. I instantly fell in love, and I knew that the Web was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

Today, it’s the web’s 25th birthday, and 17 years since that fateful day when we hovered around my dad as he played cards with his cousin online. A long 17 years.

Happy birthday, Web. You were the first love of my life.

And you will always be the love of my life.

Autism Therapy Through Disney Movies

I was greatly moved by this beautiful piece written by the father of an autistic child, on how they learned to communicate through Disney movies.

It’s long, but worth every second.

In our first year in Washington, our son disappeared.

Just shy of his 3rd birthday, an engaged, chatty child, full of typical speech — “I love you,” “Where are my Ninja Turtles?” “Let’s get ice cream!” — fell silent. He cried, inconsolably. Didn’t sleep. Wouldn’t make eye contact. His only word was “juice.”

I had just started a job as The Wall Street Journal’s national affairs reporter. My wife, Cornelia, a former journalist, was home with him — a new story every day, a new horror. He could barely use a sippy cup, though he’d long ago graduated to a big-boy cup. He wove about like someone walking with his eyes shut. “It doesn’t make sense,” I’d say at night. “You don’t grow backward.” Had he been injured somehow when he was out of our sight, banged his head, swallowed something poisonous? It was like searching for clues to a kidnapping.

After visits to several doctors, we first heard the word “autism.” Later, it would be fine-tuned to “regressive autism,” now affecting roughly a third of children with the disorder. Unlike the kids born with it, this group seems typical until somewhere between 18 and 36 months — then they vanish. Some never get their speech back. Families stop watching those early videos, their child waving to the camera. Too painful. That child’s gone.

In the year since his diagnosis, Owen’s only activity with his brother, Walt, is something they did before the autism struck: watching Disney movies. “The Little Mermaid,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Aladdin” — it was a boom time for Disney — and also the old classics: “Dumbo,” “Fantasia,” “Pinocchio,” “Bambi.” They watch on a television bracketed to the wall in a high corner of our smallish bedroom in Georgetown. It is hard to know all the things going through the mind of our 6-year-old, Walt, about how his little brother, now nearly 4, is changing. They pile up pillows on our bed and sit close, Walt often with his arm around Owen’s shoulders, trying to hold him — and the shifting world — in place.

Read the rest of it here.

How to be happy, according to Roba (and science)

If you follow this space, then you would have noticed that I’ve been obsessing about the philosophy of happiness and contentment for the past few years.

Maybe it’s because there are a gazillion self-help books on happiness (which I find absolutely absurd). Or because I’m a happy person amidst a generally unhappy world. Or because depression is such a common disease these days, and I can’t even begin the fathom the psyche of depression. I don’t know.

What I do know is that I came up with a pretty simple formula for my own happiness, and it all stems around contentment. You can read my thoughts about that in different places:

How to Be Happy
How to Be Happy in Five Easy sSteps
How I Discovered the Secret to Happiness, and Other Things I Learned in 2012
Hope is Foolish

A small excerpt:

Once you start truly and deeply grasping the importance of your insignificance, you automatically become happier. After all, you won’t have to deal with the emotional issues that stem from self-destructive attitudes arising from an inflated view of self-worth.

Once your ego is tamed, you can start thinking about the mechanics of happiness. Do you start searching for happiness when you open your eyes in the morning? Do you look forward to your night out, because you feel that it might make you happy? Do you move from one thing to another seeking more pleasure?

There lies the paradox of happiness. You can seek only what you do not have. Thus, to seek happiness is to lack it. When you have it, on the other hand, what remains to be sought? A way for it to last? That would mean fearing its cessation, and as soon as you do that, you start feeling it dissolve into anxiety. Such is the paradox of happiness, and the futility of hope — the hope for tomorrow’s happiness prevents you from experiencing today’s.

Instead, the way to happiness lies in “Memento mori”, Latin for “remember you shall die”.

And apparently, science agrees:

STOP IT. Stop trying to be happy.
If you take away one thing from this post, let this be it: to be happy, there’s a decent chance you’ll have to stop trying to be happy. Sorry to get all zen-master on you, but that’s the way it is.

Nevermind the fact that measuring happiness is a lot like trying to weigh an idea in pounds and ounces. Yes, there are ways to gauge happiness, whether chemically or with a questionnaire, but when you get right down to it, “happiness” means different things to different people, and is one of the single most nebulous ideals in existence — and one of the biggest downsides to this truth is that setting a goal of happiness can actually backfire.

Some of the most important research on happiness to emerge in recent years stands in direct opposition to the cult of positivity typified by bullshit positive-thinking self-help books that place a lopsided emphasis on setting grand personal goals of happiness. In a review co-authored in 2011 by Yale psychologist June Gruber, researchers found that the pursuit of happiness can actually lead to negative outcomes — not because surrounding yourself with positive people, mastering a skill, smiling, getting therapy or practicing self-governance aren’t conducive to happiness, in and of themselves, but because “when you’re doing it with the motivation or expectation that these things ought to make you happy, that can lead to disappointment and decreased happiness,” says Gruber.

So be the zen master. Stop trying to focus on becoming happier and just be. Surround yourself with people not to become happy, but to enjoy their company. Master a skill not to increase your happy feels, but to savor the process of becoming.

Via io9

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