Eightface

by Dave Kellam

The Wire in HD

David Simon wrote a piece about The Wire’s conversion to high-definition and a 16:9 aspect ratio. I remember watching the series while it was airing and reading about the intentional preservation of the 4:3 ratio. I just figured we’d never see a widescreen release.

At the last, I’m satisfied what while this new version of The Wire is not, in some specific ways, the film we first made, it has sufficient merit to exist as an alternate version. There are scenes that clearly improve in HD and in the widescreen format. But there are things that are not improved. And even with our best resizing, touchups and maneuver, there are some things that are simply not as good. That’s the inevitability: This new version, after all, exists in an aspect ratio that simply wasn’t intended or serviced by the filmmakers when the camera was rolling and the shot was framed.

Glad to hear that Simon is down with the new treatment (for the most part).

Gmail fixed itself

Earlier this year, Google’s Gmail service fixed itself before the engineers did. From the post-mortem blog post:

Users began seeing these errors on affected services at 11:02 a.m., and at that time our internal monitoring alerted Google’s Site Reliability Team. Engineers were still debugging 12 minutes later when the same system, having automatically cleared the original error, generated a new correct configuration at 11:14 a.m. and began sending it; errors subsided rapidly starting at this time.

Found this sifting through some old bookmarks, hat-tip to Kyle Neath.

The chicken of tomorrow

Apparently, most of the chickens that we eat today are derived from the winners of A&P’s 1948 Chicken of Tomorrow contest. They worked with the USDA to increase the growth of the poultry industry.

It was an alliance with a specific goal: The “development of superior meat-type chickens.” The winning chicken would have broader-breasts, bigger drumsticks, plumper thighs, and above all, more white meat. And they would grow faster, too, so that the consumer would eventually come to depend on the bird as a reliable kitchen staple.

So who won? Arbor Acres White Rocks’ white feathered birds beat the competition in the purebred category, but Red Cornish crosses from the Vantress Hatchery definitely outperformed them. And as it happens, those two breeds would eventually be crossed and become the Arbor Acre breed — whose genetics now dominate poultry farms worldwide.

Makes me think I should make an effort to find places that produce some of the heritage breeds.

Lou Reed on Kanye

I recently heard about Lou Reed’s take on Kanye West’s Yeezus album and I’ve gone back to the album with a renewed sense of interest. Worth reading and re-listening to the album, if you haven’t already.

He knows about all kinds of music and popular culture. The guy has a real wide palette to play with. That’s all over Yeezus. There are moments of supreme beauty and greatness on this record, and then some of it is the same old shit. But the guy really, really, really is talented. He’s really trying to raise the bar. No one’s near doing what he’s doing, it’s not even on the same planet.

Unearthing Atari’s E.T.

The video game tie-in for E.T. was an epic failure. Atari sent hundreds of thousands of unsold copies to the dump. Joshua Wheeler reports on their excavation in The Glitch in the Video-Game Graveyard

In Alamogordo, New Mexico, a documentary crew has descended on my hometown to dig up our old dump in hopes of resurrecting hundreds of thousands of copies of E.T. the Extraterrestrial video-game cartridges that in September of 1983 were reportedly hauled 90 miles from an Atari warehouse in El Paso, Texas, and left for dead thirty feet down.

And apparently punk archaeology is a thing.

Behind me some guys in hard hats are complaining about not getting to gather more data and complete more analysis of the Pit before the public arrives tomorrow. They’re a group of self-proclaimed “punk archaeologists” who bullied their way into participating in the dig by insisting that it has sufficient value as cultural heritage to deserve some measure of archaeological methodology. Even though I’m unclear about the exact nature of punk archaeology and what this crack team of scholars hopes to accomplish here, I dub them the Arch Punks and resolve to fall in with them the next morning.

On Diplomacy

In The Board Game of the Alpha Nerds, David Hill, participates in an international competition of Diplomacy.

I still don’t know whom I should have trusted, if anyone. All I know is that I felt stupid, stressed out, humiliated, and sad. I had several shouting matches with a few of these guys. Some of them got personal. And all I had to show for my loyalty to Brian Ecton and my righteous indignation toward the other players was nothing at all. I was physically exhausted and emotionally abused. I hated Brian, the other players all hated me, and I hated myself most of all. I had to purse my lips extra hard to fight the urge to cry.

Settlers of Catan, eat your goddamn heart out.

I want to play, but at the same time, it seems sort of terrifying.

On booting up a PDP-11/34

The NYC Resistor hacker collective recently got an old PDP-11/34 up and running again.

We rescued two PDP-11/34 computers and their associated equipment from a storage unit in the Bronx and have been working on getting them running again. The computing system included multiple RK05 hard drives, two RL02 decpack drives, a TU11 tape drive and tons of media, including “digitized monkey brains“.

Unsurprisingly, the operating system is not y2k compliant.