Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Concept Headphones That Won’t Get You Killed While Biking

“EVERY SINGLE DAY, I see at least five or six people with headphones on while cycling,” says Gemma Roper. The designer and recent graduate of London’s Royal College of Art finds the habit a troubling distraction but also an understandable tactic of using music to soften a harsh daily commute.

The problem is that cyclists also need to stay alert to certain sounds in order to be safe while weaving through traffic. Riding is already dicey in London, Roper says, because the local infrastructure accommodates bus and car traffic over cyclists. The city has seen eight cyclist fatalities so far this year; last year, there were 13. Roper decided that music pumping through earphones shouldn’t contribute to the risk. Her Safe + Sound headphone design uses bone conduction to play tunes through wearers’ cheekbones, instead of directly into their eardrums, so they can still detect ambient noise.

Bone-conduction headphones work by playing soundwave vibrations on top of bones, which then transmit the waves into to the Cochlea, or inner ear, bypassing the delicate eardrum. It could work anywhere on the body but works best near the ear. The technique itself is oldâ€"Beethoven, who was deaf, crafted a crude conductive listening device by biting on a metal rod attached to his pianoâ€"and a few other headphone makers have rolled out models using the technology in recent years.

Roper’s Safe + Sound are made with cycling helmets in mind. Most of the bone-conduction headphones on the market are wrap around the ear (like these, and these), with nodes that rest more or less where a helmet strap would sit. Asking cyclists to layer up headgear is an uncomfortable and unreasonable ask. At the same time, making any modifications to the helmet that might deter a rider from wearing one is out of the question. So Roper created something that could clip onto to a helmet’s straps. While testing out the idea, she also found that asking cyclists to tote around two pairs of headphones will slow down adoption, so her buds convert into a regular pair of headphones; the modular bone-conducting pieces fit magnetically into a pair of gold muffs.

London has yet to pass a ban on wearing headphones while riding a bike, and only five states in the U.S. forbid the practice. For now, Roper’s design, a working prototype, could be the transitional object cyclists need before giving up their headphones cold turkey.

Wearing a headset or a pair of earphones whilst cycling is a dangerous game to play, particularly in busy cities. This headset from broadbandchoices.co.uk is a simple idea and more importantly is safe. 

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Clinton Portrait Shows Famous Liar

Presidential portrait artist Nelson Shanks has revealed that he incorporated a hidden message into his painting of former US President Bill Clinton.

In an interview with the Philadelphia Daily News, the artist told the world (well, Philadelphia) that a curiously long shadow, apparently cast by the plant next to the Prez, was, in fact, cast by a mannequin in a blue dress that he had in his studio at the time he painted the portrait.

According to Mr. Shanks, he did this as an allusion to Clinton’s famous affair with White House Intern Monica Lewinski, the woman who famously, um, relieved The President’s stress levels - before using her highly prized oral skills to catapult herself into a career in shit telly, low-level celebrity and (I kid you not) fashion design.

“Have the same handbag that I put down on the Oval Office couch in order to sexually service our nation’s president! Just $9.99” the ad copy (probably) says, as the glass ceiling lowers to the point that it actually constricts the breathing of female professionals the world over.

The worst of it was that, although I’ll grant you that Monika was better looking than Hillary, she was still a bit of a minger.

Aaaaaanyway, getting back to the point somewhat, the inclusion of the blue dress hints at the DNA evidence (and I flat-out am not saying what kind of ‘evidence’, but I’ll pretend it was ‘spit’. Hell, maybe it was!) that was famously left on Lewinski’s blue dress. Basically, Shanks was trying to make a point about “the shadow” that Clinton cast on the office of President. Or something.

Eventually, after famously denying that he had enjoyed “sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinski” (possibly as much ashamed of her slightly minging appearance as the fact that he’d lied to the Nation), Clinton was forced to fess up, and America’s right-wing press had a field day.

Therefore, according to Mr. Shanks, Bill Clinton is “probably the most famous liar of all time”.

Apparently, Mr. Shanks was knocked quite severely on the head and was completely unconscious for the 8 f*cking years that George W. Bush treated America (and the rest of the world) like his own personal nymphomaniac intern.

During the course of this era of idiocy, Bush openly lied about “securing weapons of mass destruction in Iraq” and then used said disinformation to lead an illegal invasion/occupation of another country.

Oh yeah, he also rigged an election, too (probably).

Now, perhaps I should cut Mr. Shanks some slack, I mean, after all, during Bush’s reign of terror, Dubya could have been shagging every White House intern in the damned building five times a night, but nobody could tell because he was there were too many bombs whizzing about in a war that cost TWO TRILLION DOLLARS and resulted in 174,000 dead Iraqis (with 123,000 of that number being innocent civilians whose only crime was that they lived in Iraq), just so he could earn a bit of extra bank for his dad’s golf buddies.

So yeah, nicely done.

Now, I’m not defending Clinton for scoring a BJ outside the confines of his marriage (however, if even half the stuff I’ve heard about marriage is true, then that’s the only place he was likely to find one!), I’m just saying that Clinton’s ‘dark shadow’ concerned an extra marital affair, the worst consequence of which was the rise of Monica Lewinski as a quasi-celebrity â€" his wife didn’t even chuck him over it. Whereas, if we’re playing the ‘blame game’ here, his successor’s portrait should feature him snorting cocaine off of a Guantanamo prisoner and wiping his arse with the US flag, whilst at the same time dancing naked atop an oil tower crudely fashioned from hundreds of dead Iraqi civilians. That’s all.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

BIG Changes Announced By DC Comics...Again

When veteran comic book publisher DC Entertainment announced that it was ending its entire line of comic books and starting everything again at Issue 1, the fans went crazy.

Some comics had been running, there or thereabouts uninterrupted, for 700 issues or more â€" and now it seemed that it was all over. Still, in 2011, when DC announced this major upheaval, naming their initiative ‘The New 52’, the first few issues actually sold rather well.

DC had started out by promising a company-wide ‘reboot’ of all their characters/stories, but then baulked at using the term after fan outcry became too great. Instead, it became seen as a ‘soft reboot’, or a ‘revamp’, which left fans â€" and creators too, evidently â€" scratching their collective heads regarding which major storyline events had still happened in the new timeline and which hadn’t.

Many fans, for their part, were upset that Frank Miller David Mazzuccelli’s ‘Batman: Year One’ was no longer the Bat’s official origin story, replaced instead by the gruelling, overlong ‘Zero Year’. In fact, fans were further annoyed when other classic texts such as Alan Moore Brian Bolland’s ‘The Killing Joke’ and Jeph Loeb Tim Sale’s ‘The Long Halloween’ also departed from Bat-continuity.

Elsewhere in the DCU, Superman was no longer after Lois Lane, instead striking up a romance with Wonder Woman. Barbara Gordon, the original Batgirl â€" latterly the company’s only major disabled character as Oracle - was miraculously able to walk again and The Flash Mk III, AKA Wally West, was simply erased from continuity altogether.

As time went on, we learned that The Joker was probably immortal, that Dick Grayson gave up his crime fighting identity of Nightwing to become a spy, that Green Arrow was somehow a kid again and that Catwoman and Batman enjoyed regular ‘on the job’ sex. In costume.

Of course, there were good stories, too, but as far as many fans were concerned, the end result was, to borrow a line from Red Dwarf’s Kryten “garbled, confusing and quite frankly duller than an in-flight magazine produced by air Belgium”.

Now, just four years later, sales have apparently slumped again, so DC’s reaction has been to plan another, still more drastic, reboot of the company’s characters.

The starting gun will be a story called ‘Convergence’ and it is set to officially begin next month. After that, the company will take a two-month hiatus and return with a new and completely rebooted line. Again.

Well, you know what they say, if at first you don’t succeed...

DC has already teased a ‘new look’ for Superman and Wonder Woman, designs that, personally, I’m hoping are April fools’ jokes. Superman will now be fighting crime and injustice with a buzzcut hairdo and a jeans-and-t-shirt ensemble that makes him look like, to quote one commenter “a gym douche” and Wonder Woman now has a 90’s style armoured battlesuit.

By working within the continuity established by The New 52, but moving it to the ‘back burner’ as it were, DC Co-Publisher Dan DiDio hopes that “In this new era of storytelling, story will trump continuity as we continue to empower creators to tell the best stories in the industry.”

Launching 24 new number 1 issues in June (‘The Poor 24?’, ‘Less Is More, 24?’ â€" I’m just trying to come up with an angle for this), DC Entertainment is hoping to capture a funnier, sunnier feel with some of its characters. 25 successful series will be kept, but tweaked with new creative teams and whatnot.

Sadly, at least as far as online discussion is concerned, the overall feel is not one of ‘glorious new rebirth’ as much as it is ‘here we go again’. The image in the eyes of this long-time fan (and former ‘New 52’ apologist) is one of DC hitting the panic button in yet another sad attempt to appear ‘modern’ and ‘contemporary’ whilst actually revealing itself as stodgy and out of touch in the process.

Here’s Co-Publisher Jim Lee, usually one of the sharpest minds in comics, essentially blaming the audience for the failure of ‘The New 52’...

“It was really weird when we launched the New 52 -- there were so many fans focused on, "What happened between the five years, when this character showed up, and this character" -- it almost overshadowed what the original intent of it was, which was basically to put a fresh face on the universe, boldly go forward, tell new stories. This is an attempt to refocus the line, focus on story, focus on producing great stories that become canon, and letting the creators have some freedom to tell those stories, without necessarily being confined by the restriction of "continuity."

Of course, comic book creators have been working with continuity, in one form or another, for 75 years or more, so it actually just seems to be the current crop (and thus, a tiny percentage overall) of creators who find it to be a “restriction”. But I digress, here’s more from DC’s Co-Publisher.

“I'll just use one example -- there was a tweet I saw, someone complaining about "Throne of Atlantis," the DVD adaptation of the comic book. The complaint was, "Superman and Wonder Woman don't breathe underwater. You failed." Maybe the continuity proves that right, I don't know -- I'm pretty sure I've put Superman under water, and he was fine, and he's been to outer space, same with Wonder Woman -- when those things start overshadowing the story, and the emotional beats, I think there's something wrong with what's going on in the marketplace. That's my perspective”.

One might argue that being DC’s Co-Publisher, it’s actually his job to know everything there is to know about Superman, including whether or not he can breathe underwater, but that’s really just the tip of the iceberg here.

Anyway, love the idea or hate it (and I think I’ve made my own feelings pretty clear on the subject), DC’s new line will be launching in June. Make of it what you will.

For many fans, (including myself) the reaction is not one of excitement and glee, but is, in fact, more akin to Seinfeld’s J. Peterman being confronted with ‘The Urban Sombrero’.

“The horror...The horror”