Archive for May, 2005

It doesn’t get much nerdier than this *

* Actually, it probably does.

utf-8 t-shirt

I can’t get this unbelievably esoteric t-shirt idea out of my head, so I thought I might as well post it here. If anyone actually finds this funny, please check your dosage let me know and I’ll stick it up on CafePress.


UPDATE: Now available on Cafepress along with other designs.

Musical Batons

There have been two of these going around. One is being passed along like a chain letter and seems very successful, requiring people to discuss their personal music collections [size/variety/last CD purchased etc].

The other seems decidedly less popular, but much more fun in my mind. It started with Dave Winer singing Dixie [to horrible MIDI accompaniment] in one of his Morning Coffee Notes, which was then turned into a duet/trio/quartet etc by a bunch of different people recording themselves singing along with it. The most recent version I came across includes [in order] Rogers Cadenhead, Podbat, Amy Bellinger and Rex Hammock.

Needless to say, after five generations the fidelity of the original recording has suffered somewhat, but I don’t know that that really matters anyway– in fact it makes me feel less self-conscious about adding my own voice [nasal baritone in the center] to the mix :)

So please enjoy the delightfully ordinary vocal stylings of this progression of nerds, and of course join in, if you feel so inclined…


A Symbol for Atheism

Since this entry has become my main source of visitors over the past few years I decided it was time that the Athterisk got its own domain. Visit for more up to date information and designs. You can also post comments, questions, pictures there.

Was thinking today about religious symbols [brought to mind by the paraphernalia that people stick to / dangle inside their cars] and it occurred to me that I had no idea whether there was any kind of widely recognized symbol associated with . I decided I must find out immediately [before I forgot all about it and watched an episode of Gilmore Girls instead]. A google search turned up surprisingly little, but the following seemed the most prevalent:

This is the [trademarked] symbol of the American Atheists, which I had never seen before, and if you visit their about page you can see a full-color version which might give you some idea of why I went to the trouble of reproducing it in black-and-white. It’s all science-y and stuff, and IMHO conveys completely the wrong message [“We will suppress the believers by harnessing the LIMITLESS POWER of the ATOM!” ].

This is a popular variant on the Jesus fish, and although the gag works for me it seems an inappropriate symbol for atheism in general. Still great for fans of evolution though [except maybe the Christian ones] and because it’s self explanatory I’d kind of like to see a few more of these on the back of cars.

It seems my original question is answered; there is no widely recognized symbol for atheism – or if there is, Google is being strangely coy with me tonight.

And so, for the record, even though it’s pointless, no one really cares, etc etc etc, here is my humble submission(s):

TNR Asterisk

This is, of course, a [bold] Times New Roman asterisk, but I think it has many traits which would render it an ideal symbol for the godless:

  1. It is rotationally symmetrical, thereby privileging no single direction [actually it's not quite rotationally symmetrical, see newer version below].
  2. The odd number of arms means that no one is in direct opposition to any other, discouraging overly simplistic binary interpretations [good/bad, love/fear etc].
  3. As a typographic element, it alludes to the significance of writing without being [too] language-specific.
  4. It is easy to reproduce, and easy to describe. If someone asked “what’s an atheist symbol?” you could describe it over the phone (why you would ever need to answer this question over the phone is hair).
  5. The asterisk is commonly employed to draw attention to things, so it is kind of anti-complacent.
  6. The asterisk is commonly used as a “wildcard”, capable of representing a multiplicity of real things, and so it evokes the unknown without invoking the unknowable.
  7. It can be seen as a stylized representation of the Big Bang – currently the most workable theory to describe the origin of the cosmos.
  8. It looks a bit like a little person reaching out for a hug. Very .
  • Five is a very human/natural number– 5 fingers, 5 toes, 5 senses, 5 major appendages. And from the Pixies song: “if man is 5, then the devil is 6, and god is 7″
  • It also looks a little like a flower, and the is considered a symbol of free thought. Marvel at how some of these pictures of pansies are vaguely asterisk shaped!


UPDATE: Sunday, October 29, 2006 – 8:15 PM

Here’s an alternate version created from scratch for a slightly more “robust” symbol, less styled (and less proprietary) than the TNR asterisk above. Clicking on the symbol will open an SVG version which you can view at high resolution or open in a drawing program like Adobe Illustrator.

atheist symbol

This one really is rotationally symmetrical (almost!), and constructed from a continuous curve (made of ten cubic segments)– the whole thing can be drawn in one fluid movement, a bit like the pattern from a spirograph. I prefer it because it is simpler and there is more harmony (?) and tension in this design.


Ultimately any symbol has to be able to survive being restyled to work best given a visual context, so with this second design I am merely attempting to provide a more neutral starting point.

BTW All designs from this page are free to copy and reuse however you see fit, although only for the last two can I guarantee that there are no copyright or trademark issues.


Downloading a couple of Microsoft’s Visual Studio 2005 Express packages, since C++ is in beta 2 now [I tried beta 1 and it sucked big time, crashing all over the place]. I need to have a decent look at C# sometime I think, since I’m starting to feel like a dinosaur still using Visual C++ 6.0 [circa 1997!]. Since that classic version, various technologies have waxed and waned, and it’s probably about time I looked at what is useful right now…

Of course, I’m being disingenuous here; In truth I’m still holding out against Microsoft’s new way of doing things– I don’t even know what managed code is for chrissakes!

What I would really like is to come up with some kind of brilliantly simple web-services based concept, code the whole thing in PHP and then sell it to Google and retire. It would probably have something to do with SMS and social networking bla bla bla podcasting bla bla bla…

So what I’ll probably do today– once this ~400 MB install is complete– is launch Visual C++ Express, compile a sample app, nod and raise my eyebrows, read some docs, feel bored, sigh loudly, quit it, and go back to good ol’ VC6 to make a few more tweaks to my own humungous pile of not-quite-finished software. Then I’ll curse myself for not having invented internet dating or online blog aggregators, and maybe go for a walk.

Speaking of online blog aggregators, Bloglines is not living up to what it should be, and so I won’t be recommending it anymore. It still feels like version 1, it’s frequently out of action [this morning it wouldn't show the bodies of articles for some reason], offers almost no useful API, and has no options for sorting all posts by time [when you view a page with entries from multiple blogs, it sorts by blog rather than timestamp]. Didn’t Ask Jeeves buy them for $20M a while back? Surely they can do better than that.


Related: Crossroads

Some things

From 5ives, this made me laugh:

Five things I’d like to see engraved on little rubber bracelets

1. Nap Strong
2. My Other Bracelet is Fighting Colon Cancer
3. America: Shut Thy Pie Hole
4. Kiss Me, I′m Trendy
5. Please Watch Arrested Development

And from my links in the sidebar [does anyone look at those?] a link to a brilliant set of mind-bending flash games.

For the 3D graphics nerds, be sure to check out “Dual Photography”, a mind-numbingly clever way to reconstruct a scene for virtual lighting [without building any 3D models].

Screencast: Jujusketch

Not sure if I’ll keep it up, but for now I’m still very interested in the idea. Last week’s Drivey screencast was downloaded/streamed in full at least 30 times in the last seven days– Thanks to those people who watched it, and thanks for the feedback too!

This week’s is a lot shorter (at just under 10 minutes) and it’s about JujuSketch. Please bear in mind I’m still getting the hang of this format, so my intro talking about object-based drawing might seem to run a little long [it takes a while before you get a decent look at JujuSketch in action– if you get impatient you might like to skip forward to about the half way point].

One thing I’m learning is that it’s really quite hard to remain coherent without a script to follow, especially if you’re trying to control an application at the same time. Next time I think I’d better prepare a written list of things I want to demonstrate/talk about, since I think I forgot half of what I was going to say by the end of this.

Still interested in watching…?


Note: When I decided to do a JujuSketch screencast I think I had a sort of unrealistic fantasy that it might come out looking something like this… But unfortunately it turns out that drawing is really hard!

Screencast: Drivey

Hey kids! Ever wanted to hear me murmur awkwardly while you watch highly compressed video of my screen? Well now you can!

This is my first attempt at [to use the term coined by John Udell]. It’s basically a movie of my screen as I run various versions of Drivey with live audio commentary, the worst of which has been edited out to bring it in just under 20 minutes long.

I was quite impressed with the turnaround; from the beginning of recording to the final edit was under four hours [ and since this is my first time that included quite a bit of time mucking about and getting the hang of the software ].

Although this presentation is probably a little on the rambly side, in the long run I hope that this technique might prove useful for “proper” demonstrations of my other software, since often the quickest way to appreciate the features of an application is to watch someone else use it.

(Updated late 2011 moving video to Youtube and editing it down slightly)

The Story of My Life

There was to be some kind of pageant, and everyone in my class was invited to perform. I think we were expected to form groups, but I wanted to go it alone to show what I could do. I decided that I wanted to be a spaceman, and so of course a space ship would be required. I spent ages on the damn thing, making it from a large cardboard box with the top front edge taped down so as to create a wedge shape. I’m pretty sure I stuck fins on too, and I certainly painted the whole thing, such that it looked nothing like a cardboard box and every bit the modern spaceship.


Incredibly pleased with my ingenuity, I couldn’t wait to blitz all the Santas and elves with their costumes that they didn’t even make themselves. Hmmm… Santas and elves… I guess that means it was a Christmas pageant. Can you see where this is heading?

Anyway, come the big day and all us kids are being bustled about with cotton wool beards and felt hats etc. Since my main prop was also my costume, I only needed a bit of makeup on my face [I'd like to think it was silver, but realistically it was probably just white with green spots or something]. Then we all lined up outside the classroom where the performances were to take place. As I stood there, waiting for the awful tuneless droning of the previous act to finish, I was giddy with anticipation. I mean, this was going to blow everyone away! No one would believe that I had made this prop all by myself! And who doesn’t like spacemen in spaceships!

Then finally it was my turn to take the stage… and I swear, it was only at this exact moment that it finally occurred to me that I had prepared no act. I had no song, no dance, no nothing. I was just this stupid kid wearing a cardboard spaceship, with absolutely no reason to be there. And so I started crying and ran away.

Untitled #456

It is utterly staggering how crap it is programming windows UI stuff in C++. It’s been a while since I really did any, and I always forget the pain… the pain…

[ have been working with property sheets, both for JujuEdit and for a job I'm doing, and ye gods it is a clumsy thing to implement ]

Well this month’s off to a crappy start…

Ah well, ’twas bound to happen, sooner or later. I have this genetic predisposition to avoid paperwork you see– It’s not like I’m trying to avoid paying tax, rather that I just never get around to lodging the forms.

Now let’s see, where did I put that big pile of money…