This webpage is an ongoing list of interesting, worthwhile things I've found. I'm excluding great things
that are well-known, since there's no point in recommending something most people already know about. For example,
the New York Times podcast 'The Daily' is great, but its already one of the most
popular podcasts in the world.
- Photography software that can create neat effects by combining raw digital pictures taken at different exposures (known as HDR).
- I've used this software to
create photos like the second below from the first.
- Photomatix was first released in 2003; I've been using it since 2008.
- I'm a bit stuck in my ways, but Aurora HDR is another competing piece of software that might
actually be better.
- Trey Ratcliff, whose moniker is StuckInCustoms, has an influential travel blog where he uses
a lot of HDR. He helped popularize the style and apparently had some roll in developing the Aurora HDR software. I think I learned how to use Photomatix
with one of his tutorials (long before Aurora HDR existed)
Baba is You
- Baba is You is a collection of very difficult logic puzzles, which are solved by the player manipulating
the laws that government the enviroment and objects therein.
C. Thi Nguyen has argued Baba is You is an excellent example of how games can be
art even when they aren't cinematic and don't have a story—that just pure
logic and puzzle solving can become a form of art.
- Grandia is a 1999 Japanese role playing game for the original Playstation. I played it as a kid shortly
after it was released and it was one of my favorite games (although I never beat it). I replayed the game and
finally beat it 20 years later in late 2021 / early 2022. Although clearly designed for kids, this is a great
game that held up very well 20 years later.
- Aesthetically, the game starts off in a Victorian steampunk 'old world', and ends in a fantasy infused
frontier continent (early America mixed with Lord of the Rings). The game tells the story of a young
'adventurer' in the old world, who sneaks away from home to board a steamship to the 'new world' in
in search of adventure. He finds friends and adventure and gets mixed up in a supernatural conspiracy along the way.
- Turned-based Japanese RPGs aren't as popular as they used to be in the 90s and early 00s, and they could be
tedious even back in the day. However, Grandia really had a rich combat engine where time (how long things take)
and space (where characters are on the field) matter. I love how the combat engine allows players to create
and deploy different strategies for different types/configurations of enemies.
There's an HD Remaster of Grandia that's available on PC and Nintendo Switch. At risk of sounding obsessive,
I'd try to stick to playing the original on something like RetroArch since the original art wasn't designed
to be high definition, and when artists and AI try to make sharper it often looks weird and blurry. RetroArch
offers tube TV shaders that emulate the scanlines and distortions found in American (NTSC) TVs common
in 1999. By projecting the original image onto a emulated CRT display, it can enlarge the screen while
keeping the art looking the way it's intended to. Compare the origional game with RetroArch's shaders to
the HD Remaster below, and click to compare at higher resolutions.
- According to the games clock it took me 99 hours and 35 minutes to finish, including the difficult
hidden dungeons. Most people can beat the game in about 50 hours if they aren't doing the hidden content
and spending extra time leveling.
Despite it's length it didn't feel tedious; there's a lot of story and exploration
and it really gives the player the feeling of being on an adventure.
It's a Thing
- Podcast hosted by Tom Merritt and Molly Wood about recent trends in populuar culture and technology.
- I love finding out about what new things people are doing. Often new things people are into are cool
and become things I have get into. At the very least, knowing what people are up to gives you
sense for which direction the winds of culture are blowing.
- Tom and Molly are great hosts who I've been listening to since they hosted CNET's Buzz Out Loud from 2005 t0 2010. For context, iTunes added podcasts in
June of 2005 (podcasts had several proto-forms birth of the contemporary podcast) and Buzz Out Load launched in March 2005.
- A small sampling of "things" I've learned about ahead of the curve thanks to this podcast:
- This podcast is a great respite from news and politics.
- Podcast hosted by Cindy Yu about life in China, economic conditions, chinese national politics,
global politics, culture and history. Her podcasts typically
consists of her interviewing one or more experts (usually established professors and journalists)
about the areas of their expertise.
- In my opinion, what makes this podcast special is that I percieve it to be relatively ideologically neutral. I'm interested
in China, but looking for information you find there's a creepy tendency for media to be
really pro China or really against it. Cindy Yu
defends China and tries to present things from a Chinese point of view, while owning up'
when things are problematic and invites guests on who are often critical.
- Hosted by The Spectator, which this podcast seems editorially independent from and I don't endorse (it's a British
magazine, which, if you're an American, you might understand as being cross between The New York Post and The New Yorker).
Headphones and Accessories
Sony MDR7506 Headphones
- These are fairly cheap ($100) wired 'studio' headphones that I've been using since
- These headphones crispy and accurately reproduce sound the way it's intented
to be heard. If I'm watching a Netflix show with these headphones, I feel confident
what I'm hearing is pretty close to what the audio engineer was hearing when
the sound was being mastered.
- I've gone through 3 of these in 10 years, so these things are cheap and produce
high quality sound, but they aren't that tough.
AfterShokz Aeropex Headphones
- ~$130 bluetooth 'bone conduction' headphones
- If you hike, walk, exercise or use a laptop in a room with other people, 'bone conduction' headphones will
make your life better, because they don't cover your ears at all.
With totally uncovered ears you can stay connected with your surroundings when hiking, walking or just
using headphones with other people around.
- Sound quality is passible, but not great compared to earbuds or over-ear headphones in the same price range.
These won't be anyone's main headphones, but they are unbeatable if you want to listen to a podcast on
a walk (and hear bikes coming up behind you) or practice Spanish on your phone while in a room with others (and not ignore them).
- I only have experience with AfterShokz Aeropex, but what I'm really recommending is that everyone
have a pair of> 'bone conduction' headphones for when they need to be aware of their surroundings.