So there's that content-aware scaling feature in Photoshop CS4, which just judging from the still images would seem to make it the most significant advance in digital photo processing since, oh, the original Photoshop.
Well, that's nothing compared to this video demonstrating how the technology works, from SIGGRAPH '07:
That is just devilishly clever.
Then again, so's this. I loathe this feeling: that these things are so obvious in retrospect that I know I could have come up with them, or something just as cool, if only I were just a tiny bit more imaginative.
And here I thought that in Soviet Union, all prices for factory equipment were set by central commissariat, and not subject to competition through ads featuring dancing kopeck. Am I being lied to for all this time?
Maybe that's not Vlad after all.
UPDATE: Crapski! Someone else already had this reaction.
Apparently people aren't any better at driving in adverse weather conditions here than they are back in California. This morning, in well-anticipated medium-weight rain, the Saw Mill Parkway was brought to a 90-minute standstill, right at the Reader's Digest City turnoff, by an accident involving what I counted to be nine cars by the time I got there and they were cleaning it all up (seven on the right, two on the left).
And it's not even cold today. Not like the fifteen it was a couple of days ago.
Oh, but that was as nothing compared to the way home. Picture, if you will, a T-intersection where... well, like this:
In the mornings, I have to turn left from A onto B; and C has no stop sign proceeding downhill onto A, so I have to come to a stop on the uphill slope and wait for the intersection to clear, then turn left. Doing this sort of thing with a manual transmission—without slipping back down the hill and crashing into the guy behind you—is a tricky skill to master, but it's one of those skills that, once honed, one can be justly proud of. Just like avoiding ending sentences with prepositions.
So anyway: on the way back, I have to turn right from B onto A, heading downhill. As I'm coming to the intersection, I hear some high-pitched honking that rises above my stereo for a second or two; I think it's probably just the song I'm listening to (I recently re-synced my car iPod, and it seems to have realized after rebooting that "shuffle" really means "shuffle everything, not just a subset of songs Brian is sick of by now", so now it's playing things at me that I don't know all that well, and might very well have things like car horns in them), and I proceed to the stop sign and look for traffic coming downhill from C. All seems clear.
As I turn right and head into the intersection, I notice something odd: there's two cars at the head of a long line at the stop sign on A, and the driver's doors on the first two of them are open. Now, bear in mind that it's dark, it's raining, and I'm staring into the glare of headlights for just a brief couple of seconds as I rotate through this intersection on my way down the hill; but in that brief time, I see what to my best approximation appears to be Santa Claus clambering out of Car #2. Red-faced, stocky guy on short bow legs, with an enormous white beard, waving his arms and stomping up the hill toward the guy in front of him. WHAT THE HELL YOU DOING?
And then I'm gone, and I can't see anything of the scene in my mirrors. I guess the guy in front is getting coal in his stocking this year. Or maybe a BMW with one of those hill-hold features.
One other regional observation before I close: arms extending out of drivers' windows to deposit cigarette ash? Everywhere. Even in pouring rain.
Oh, but those road plates are finally gone from the Tappan Zee Bridge. Truly a red-letter day, this, as now a half hour is shorn from the westbound commute in the absence of an unmoving thirty-mile jam-up across Westchester. It's downright enjoyable now.
I applaud Nissan for making the 370Z smaller and lighter than its predecessor. That's something we hardly ever see these days; the prevailing impetus is generally to get a little bit more interior room, a little bit more luxury, a few more features. Who ever asks for less car in their car? Manufacturers always have to keep bumping up their cars little by little, year over year, until the BMW 3-series is now bigger than the 5-series was when it got started, and they've had to introduce a whole new 1-series at the bottom end of the scale (and even it is way bigger than the 2002 or any of the Fiat 124-sized cars that a whole generation got used to thinking of as the default size of "car").
It looks nice, too, though the back-sloping windows are a bit shonky; I guess they had to do that in order to avoid the HELP I'M DROWNING IN A BATHTUB feeling you get from the pillbox-bunker cars everybody's been designing lately (the 350Z being a prime example). Nice Porsche-esque interior door handles, too. Though I agree with this reviewer and every other one I've read: the fuel gauge wasn't broke, so they could easily have gotten away with not fixing it.
The same goes for this SynchroRev thing I'm hearing about:
On the big arteries, we used the 370Z's impressive acceleration and nimble handling to merge with traffic and change lanes adroitly. The shifter, while not a precision short throw like we've seen in some Hondas, is solid and sufficiently notchy. We put it into fourth, then fifth, then its sixth and top gear, finding usable acceleration in each powerband. This six-speed manual has a neat little trick called SynchroRev Match, which maintains engine speed between downshifts, matching revs to the next gear. As we played with the gearbox, shifting from sixth to fifth, then down to fourth, the revs didn't drop as we lifted off the gas to engage the clutch, making very smooth transitions.
The various magazines and review sites are all picking up on this latest entry into the Let's All Muck with a Winning Formula game being played by the transmission designers who can't let well enough alone. Now, granted, I like this idea better than a paddle-shift dual-clutch thing like the DSG or PDK, which (as I've said before) is interesting to indulge about once per friend, after which it just turns into an automatic. At least this makes you clutch and shift. But it steps in and elbows you aside just as you're getting comfortable enough with your skill as a driver to feel proud of a properly nailed downshift, and says, "'Scuse me there, lemme handle that for ya." Eliminates the need for heel-and-toeing, does it, Automobile Magazine? Well, a good photo album eliminates the need for me to go hiking in the Sierras, but somehow that doesn't bother me when the time comes to fulfill that need.
I mean, really—what I'd like to know is, what customers is this feature aimed at? Manual-transmission purists (the ones who would go for the Sport Package of which SynchroRev is a part will be put off by it. Automatic or paddle-shifter buyers will probably still go for the auto option. I know this makes no financial sense, but it almost seems like a sporting driver would want the other Sport Package features without SynchroRev, and SynchroRev should be saved for the base model. (But then, yeah, this is a feature that is only going to be noticeable in driving habits that involve powered downshifts, e.g. spirited driving by a connoisseur.)
I guess I don't really have any issue with it in concept, since after all it's an option and one is free to take or leave it. I guess what gets me is simply that there are so many variations on the age-old "manual or automatic" transmission choice these days. Full-autos in six, seven, and eight speeds. CVTs. Dual-clutch paddle-shifters. Computer-controlled F1-style paddle-shifters. Straight manual. And now this one, slotted into a gap in the spectrum where I'd never realized there was a gap before now. I guess the technology isn't really that involved; it's just a "Because we can" sort of thing.
Maybe what it reminds me of is the tendency for carmakers to build a model for every conceivable market point—BMW making not just one SUV, but a small one and a big one, and then a crossover too, and maybe a really small SUV, and hey, maybe there's a medium-sized SUV we can fit in there somewhere! I mean, do customers really respond to this kind of obsessive-compulsive pursuit of an imaginary buyer who is prepared to walk away if even the tiniest of little details is not exactly right?
I guess I can't argue with success, since it's not like it's BMW and Audi and Toyota and the like that are having to get bailed out. Still, I find myself a lot more attracted to Apple's marketing model, where there's a simple grid of products, covering the broad bases of need, and if you don't fit into that grid—you need something cheaper than what Apple makes, or you need X bell or Y whistle—well, Apple doesn't need your money that badly. They figure you'll change to suit the products more easily than the other way around.
Maybe that theory only holds true for computers, and not for cars; maybe, to paraphrase something someone famously said during the last time we went through all this bailout nonsense, if the buying public isn't buying American, it isn't because there's something wrong with the buying public.
Maybe it's because, as silly as it is, people prefer having a different real solution for every need rather than having an entire marque that consists of nothing but another marque's cars with different grilles.