New Zealand newspaper poll projects majority for National Party
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New Zealand newspaper poll projects majority for National Party

Saturday, May 26, 2007

A New Zealand Herald-DigiPoll survey has put the Opposition New Zealand National party so far ahead of the governing New Zealand Labour party that it would form a majority Government if a general election were held today.

The poll, taken in the week after the budget shows 50.9 percent of likely voters would give their party vote to National. Labour is more than 17 points behind, on 33.6 percent.

Translated into seats under New Zealand’s MMP electoral system, this would allow National to govern independently with 64 seats in New Zealand’s 120 seat Parliament with a two seat overhang.

In the preferred Prime Minister stakes, new National leader John Key has jumped 9.3% to 45.5%, ahead of the incumbent Helen Clark who has dropped 5.6% to 42.21%.

The poll follows a recent TV3 TNS poll which puts Mr Key ahead of Miss Clark as preferred Prime Minister, ending her eight year reign as preferred Prime Minister.

The New Zealand Herald-DigiPoll survey, polled 600 voters between May 18 and 24 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 per cent. The survey was started one day after the 2007 Budget announcement, which announced further details to KiwiSaver, a retirement savings scheme, but did not announce any personal tax cuts.

The next New Zealand general election will most likely be held in the second half of 2008.

Interview with Ton Roosendaal about Elephants Dream and free content movies
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Interview with Ton Roosendaal about Elephants Dream and free content movies

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Three days after the Internet release of the free content 3D short Elephants Dream (see Wikinews coverage), we exchanged e-mails with Ton Roosendaal about the reaction to the film, open source filmmaking, and the changes to Blender that resulted from the production. Ton Roosendaal is the lead developer of the Blender 3D rendering and modelling software that was used for the movie. He is also the chairman of the Blender Foundation, a non-profit organization which was formed in support of the software and projects like Elephants Dream.

How much money did the Blender Foundation spend on producing the movie? Has the money been fully recouped by DVD orders and donations?

We still have to finish the final bookkeeping for this project. It has been executed in co-production with the Netherlands Media Art Institute, and we each had our own internal budgeting for the project. When you exclude expenses of pre-production and producer personnel, the total budget was about 120,000 €, of which we covered half. Our contribution was roughly covered half by the DVD sales, and half by European Union support (http://www.uni-verse.org consortium).

One of the most common criticisms of CGI films is focus on technology over content. For instance, Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within flopped with audiences, in spite of being an undisputed technical milestone. I’ve seen many reviews that criticized the plot of “Elephants Dream” as too bizarre or confusing. In retrospect, are you happy with the story development process?

Haha, I knew the story and plot would get a mixed acclaim. There’s a couple of reasons I’d like to mention for it.

First of all; the criticism resembles how people witness Blender itself, too. Many people expect that Free Software is an easy accessible mass audience product. We get a lot of complaints by non-artists that they can’t get into the software easily, whilst the complexity of commercial products like Maya or Houdini is perceived as a confirmation of its “quality”. Apparently an Open Movie created similar expectations with the audience.

Luckily we also got many positive reviews of the artistic result of the movie. It is quite abstract, but definitely has many layers of information, inspiring many of the viewers to see relevant real life messages hidden here.

For this project we’ve teamed up with the Netherlands Media Art Institute, internationally renowned as a resource for video art. So for Elephants Dream, we’ve had the luxury to challenge ourselves to create real independent artistic content as well. The artists had a lot of freedom from the start; they were responsible for the concept, story and creative development of the entire movie. This has resulted in a lot of quite personal choices, based on what the artists liked to do themselves. I really cherish such an approach, it has resulted in a very motivated team working crazy hours the last months to get it all realized.

But, most importantly; the main target of our project was not only to create a 3D movie short, but to experiment with ways to improve the efficiency and quality of open source development. On this aspect only, this project was just a huge success, and the main reason for our sponsors (the DVD pre-sale) to support it. I know they might have liked a cartoonish funny movie with furry animals better, but for that you get already pretty well served by the bigger 3D animation studios. 🙂

I’m the first to admit that – looking back especially – certain aspects worked out quite weakly; there’s loose ends and questionable decisions, especially in story development and continuity. That’s just the risk of doing experiments, and nothing I regret really. The five artists from our user community who were invited to make the movie were young people with no professional background in filmmaking. Their personal incentive to participate in this project was also to learn from it, and to create a good portfolio for their future career. I’ve witnessed them grow in competence in the past year enormously, something I’m incredibly proud of.

On the technical level, the only major criticism I’ve seen of “Elephants Dream” is the character animation, especially in the opening scene — many reviewers felt that the movements seemed a bit unnatural. Do you agree with these criticisms? If so, what do you think can be done to improve on that level?

Yeah, the challenge the artists set themselves – to use quite realistic personages – is also something that easily works against you. In many animation movies they introduce characters in the beginning in a way you get used to their specific characteristic movements, so you accept a certain level of non-realism easily. (Check the weird walk cycles in The Incredibles for example). Another aspect is that we’ve started work on the first scenes, and ended with the last scenes. I can clearly see the animation quality increase, and that whilst the ending scenes were done in much less time due to time constraints.

We also didn’t schedule to do 9.5 minutes of animation either…. Originally it was more like 6. But, it’s always easier to look back to define the right decisions, eh? 🙂

I’m very happy with the reviews we got so far; luckily the movie was perceived as a professional quality product, and reviewed based on comparisons with what the big studios come up with. Even when we couldn’t satisfy all these quality demands, it has luckily not been branded as a pathetic presumptuous attempt by amateurs!

Do you think there is hope for a full-length open movie project in the near future? Would the Blender Foundation be interested in such a project, or do you intend to continue focusing mainly on shorts?

I’d like to wait a little while with defining what a next project would look like. Given the constraints of “organizing projects to improve open source development”, we might have not much choice either. It would probably mean to work with a new team each time, so most likely be based on shorts only. On the other hand, there’s also clear signals that this approach works well, and creates excitement and involvement of a lot of people, also from producers and sponsors. That might enable us to set up a next project based on larger targets. For a full-length feature film however, we should involve a sufficient amount of experienced film makers as well, and/or invite the first team to participate again. That would put a lot of pressure on the required budget…. You can’t do that based on a 1000 DVD pre-sale target. Would more be like 20,000 or so…. 🙂

How did the process of making the movie feed back into the development of Blender? Are there major technical changes that were made only or primarily because of the film?

Already during the pre-production phase the artists have defined the key targets for Blender development. This then was coordinated with the online development community too. I’ve done the most crucial (re-)development mostly myself, though. Especially on the character animation tools, on the rendering pipeline and compositing tools.

It is especially the latter I’m most satisfied with. In 3D movie production the compositing stage creates a giant content bottleneck. By transparently integrating this in our render-pipeline, a very efficient workflow has been achieved. And, not to forget, Blender now also offers the first production-level open source compositor on the market!

The current summary you can find in our work-in-progress release notes.

What are the key technical features in Blender you want to add or improve for future movie projects?

Depends on what the movie is about! There’s always hundreds of features you can work on. However, we’ll have to work on that anyway, movie project or not. There’s a lot of professionals using Blender now, and they can’t wait for the Blender Foundation to do movies! Look at this studio for example:http://www.plumiferos.com/

I read that at least one proprietary software package, Reaktor, was used for the sound effects. Is this because no equivalent free software solution exists yet? Will future projects have a “free software only” policy?

We’ve limited the “Open Source tools” requirement to our own Studio Orange only. That was what we could keep in control at least, and I can tell you it was not always easy even… 🙂

For sound and music we’ve decided from the beginning to seek an external sponsor. We have chosen to work with the best quality studio and composer we could find, preferably using open source, but not as a prerequisite.

My own competence is solely within the CG [computer graphics, Ed.] side of movie making. When it comes to music editing, or video encoding and DVD authoring, I could only decide to choose to work with external parties with proven competences in that area. I have to be practical in projects like this, especially to ensure it will be realized.

Hopefully, now we’ve got so much attention world wide, we can involve more non-CG open source next time, too. I will definitely strive for the maximum here, but it will fully depend on the amount of professional support we can get.

Blender itself was originally closed source freeware, until it was “liberated” through a fundraising campaign. If you could choose one proprietary application to “set free” where such a goal could be realistically achieved, which one would it be?

Well, the “realistically achieved” demand makes it quite difficult. 🙂 Looking back at similar cases, like Mozilla and OpenOffice.org, it was always very circumstantial. It just happens sometimes, you can’t organize something like this to happen in advance. The only common denominator is “a company in troubles”… so, who’s in trouble now?

What is your personal favorite computer-animated full-length film?

Uuuh… that differs every week! Probably Ice Age (the first one). Mostly because they didn’t overdo showcasing 3D technology so much, but created truly adorable characters and great funny gags.

Belgian Indymedians discuss participatory journalism at open door day
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Belgian Indymedians discuss participatory journalism at open door day

Monday, February 18, 2008

Volunteers and interested people could visit the Belgian Indymedia headquarters in Brussels on Sunday during their second open door day. Around 50 people came to hear about the organisation’s evolution during 2007 and what’s coming up for 2008. A book about citizen journalism, with contributions from both mainstream journalists and several alternative media experts, was also presented. And the Indymedians mingled, with loungy Creative Commons music in the background.

Indymedia.be was founded in 2000, only a few months after Indymedia’s inception at the alter-globalist protests at the World Trade Organisation‘s summit in Seattle. This made them the first Indymedia on the European mainland. The Independent Media Center’s trademark is politically left, social reporting. The initial growth was slow, but during 2007, the organisation grew to around 110 regular contributors, with the first steps towards regional groups in Brussels and Antwerp. The public today could also visit the brand new media centre with new equipment. And although readership has increased exponentially to around 7000 visitors per day (and with it, server costs), finances have not, leading to a fund raising campaign.

Several projects during 2007 aimed to increase the quality of the articles; research projects such as those on the Belgian elections and formation crisis centred on social issues, where the mainstream media itself recognised that the political debate was often monotonous and lacking content.

Nevertheless, bringing analysis and background will continue a challenge during 2008. During the photographer’s workshop, the possibilities for photo documentary and photo-based interviews vs. simple photo reporting were illustrated as an alternative to bringing “just a bunch of pictures from another street protest.”

As a central player in the field of alternative media in Belgium, Indymedia also wants to stir the debate about participatory journalism. This has led to their first ‘media reader’ about the topic, and the creators hope more versions will follow.

Mini Dollhouse Accessories: Formational Suggestions}

Mini Dollhouse Accessories: Formational Suggestions

by

dolly c

Lighting your way to a great look

Lighting and dollhouses is a little like magic at Christmas time, it adds a tremendous awe factor, but you have to be at the right point to get started. Adding Lights removes your miniature set from being just another toy to a display item that will sit no longer in the toy box, but on the living room mantel. It is really a lot of fun to light your dollhouse and at the same time a challenge to learn new things. At the same time, isn’t the challenge why we are in this hobby?When you break it down, lighting is simply connecting electricity through a wire and a plug. In fact with the instructions at hand you will be surprised at how easy it is. Don’t expect to do it perfect the first time, try it out, make a mistake and learn from it. We recommend getting a small electrical kit to start, they are simple to set up and get started with. Remember if in your mind it is too hard then you are correct. Miniatures and Contrast: Beauty with an EdgeThe definition of a contrast is two distinct or different items that draw attention to one another. Contrast in interior design makes the eye roll over certain areas of the room and focus on a couple of segments or patterns. If you are planning to use color as your primary medium for contrast then refer to a color wheel – the colors opposite from one another will bring the most contrast. And remember, one can put too much contrast in a room very easily. A good rule of thumb is if you are going to be using contrast to have one major contrasting item per room. An Addition that can make a Big DifferenceAs you are building and tweaking your dollhouse you will discover some great time saving secrets. There are some great things that you can add to your house, and I just simply came across one that helped out a lot. I simply created a floor board to use for the trim around the floor of the dollhouse. Floor Trim is not a new creation, but what I found is instead of buying it, to use a very thin balsa wood found in most craft stores. Simply paint it the color of your dollhouse and attach it to the foot of your walls. My biggest discovery is when the trim hid most of the fine mistakes between the floor and the wall. It also prevented the wall paper to come unglued because I was covering the bottom edges with the trim. I realize that this little invention, though not my own, really made my flooring look flush and neat against the wall. Planning and Preparation with your MiniaturesIf you fail to plan you plan to fail. A plan of action is crucial because it will keep you on a track leading to success. A basic floor plan and a budget should be the minimum of your list; these at least will get you started. A floor plan will consist of measurements, color, furniture pieces, and a good rough outline of the room. In order to help you look for some room examples to start on the internet and in local stores. Take a note book and jot down things that you would like to add, modify, or change with your plan. If you see something in your notes worthy of changing your plan, then go ahead and do it. Once you have a good idea of what you would like you will need to budget accordingly. Remember, this is a hobby and constraining yourself to a budget allows control and happiness over your financial situation. If you find a piece of furniture that is over your budget apply your patience and save until you can purchase it.

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“Creationism and intelligent design have no place in the UK science curriculum” says UK Government
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“Creationism and intelligent design have no place in the UK science curriculum” says UK Government

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Government is clear that creationism and intelligent design are not part of the science National Curriculum programmes of study and should not be taught as science.

The U.K. government defined Intelligent Design along with creationism as religion and ruled that neither has a place within the country’s school science curriculum.

This was in reaction to an electronic petition launched by James Rocks of the “Science, Just Science” campaign, a group formed to oppose “Truth in Science” and other groups in the anti-evolution lobby in the UK. The petition was signed by 1,505 people.

In the petition details, Rocks wrote, “Creationism & Intelligent design are greatly featured in the media and are being used disingenuously to portray science & the theory of evolution as being in crisis when they are not. Moreover groups such as Truth in Science are targeting our nation’s children and their science education with material that is not only non-scientific but have been rejected by the scientific community. These ideas therefore do not constitute science, cannot be considered scientific education and therefore do not belong in the nation’s science classrooms.”

A spokesperson for the Prime Minister’s office wrote: “The (UK) Government is aware that a number of concerns have been raised in the media and elsewhere as to whether creationism and intelligent design have a place in science lessons. The [UK] Government is clear that creationism and intelligent design are not part of the science National Curriculum programmes of study and should not be taught as science.”

The government will also be “publishing guidance for schools, on the way creationism and intelligent design relate to science teaching”.

Partizan Belgrade kicked out of 2007/08 UEFA Cup
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Partizan Belgrade kicked out of 2007/08 UEFA Cup

Thursday, July 26, 2007File:FK Partizan.png

FK Partizan of Serbia have been kicked out of this season’s UEFA Cup after crowd trouble during their first qualifying round match against Zrinjski Mostar. They were also fined 50,000 Swiss francs. Partizan Belgrade won the 1st Leg 6-1.

Trouble started early in the first half when play was stopped for ten minutes after fans from both teams clashed with riot police and stadium security while throwing rocks and flares at each other. Fans also ripped-up stadium seats. 36 people were injured and six people were arrested.

UEFA‘s reasoning is that Partizan Belgrade have been fined 25 times in 36 matches over the last five years. UEFA have taken a tougher stance on fan violence having kicked out Feyenoord in last season’s UEFA Cup and Legia Warsaw in this season’s Intertoto Cup. Partizan Belgrade have within three days of receiving official notice of this decision to appeal.

Viktor Schreckengost dies at 101
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Viktor Schreckengost dies at 101

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Viktor Schreckengost, the father of industrial design and creator of the Jazz Bowl, an iconic piece of Jazz Age art designed for Eleanor Roosevelt during his association with Cowan Pottery died yesterday. He was 101.

Schreckengost was born on June 26, 1906 in Sebring, Ohio, United States.

Schreckengost’s peers included the far more famous designers Raymond Loewy and Norman Bel Geddes.

In 2000, the Cleveland Museum of Art curated the first ever retrospective of Schreckengost’s work. Stunning in scope, the exhibition included sculpture, pottery, dinnerware, drawings, and paintings.

Athletes prepare for 2012 Summer Paralympics at the Paralympic Fitness Centre
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Athletes prepare for 2012 Summer Paralympics at the Paralympic Fitness Centre

Monday, August 27, 2012

London, England — As Paralympians ready for the Games which are set to open later this week, they have access to a world class fitness center inside the Paralympic Village which is designed to maximise their pre-Game preparations.

According to volunteers staffing the center, instead of being a single large room, as in Beijing, the building has numerous rooms. It, along with the adjacent Village Services Centre, is designed to be converted into a school after the games conclude. Rooms have been structured as a gym, an auditorium, and science laboratories.

Gym equipment is supplied by Technogym, an Italian firm that has supplied gym equipment for the Olympics since 2000. Equipment has been provided not just for for the Fitness Centre, but for gyms at all the Olympic venues. The newest equipment is oriented toward maximum flexibility, allowing athletes to exercise the particular muscles that they most require for their sport.

In addition to the equipment, the Fitness Centre also provides instructors trained in the use of the equipment, the likes of which athletes from many countries have never seen before. There are also a number of instructors available to provide motivational training.

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Report urges Kenya to ban plastic bags
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Report urges Kenya to ban plastic bags

Wednesday, March 9, 2005File:Plastic bag stock sized.jpg

They are cheap, useful, and very plentiful, and that is exactly the problem, according to researchers. A report issued on Feb. 23 by a cadre of environment and economics researchers suggested that Kenya should ban the common plastic bag that one gets at the checkout counter of grocery stores, and place a levy on other plastic bags, all to combat the country’s environmental problems stemming from the bags’ popularity.

Grass Choices For Better Arlington Heights Lawn Maintenance

Submitted by: Chris Carson

All the time and effort you exhaust for your Arlington Heights lawn maintenance will go to waste if the grass in your lawn doesn t suit the suburb s shade and weather conditions. Hence, when you ve done everything– chemical and organic pesticides and fertilizers– to ensure the upkeep of your lawn and the grasses still wither and make room for weeds and pests, it s time for you to replace the kind of grass that you ve sown there.

Grasses have different sensitivities and preferences. Some thrive in cooler climates while others prefer hotter temperatures. Grasses water and nutrient requirements and resistance to pests also vary. They also differ in how much sunlight they can tolerate. You must keep these in mind for your Arlington Heights lawn maintenance so you know what kind of grass to pick for your lawn and how to maintain it.

All over Chicago, the most popular kind of grass for home lawns is the cool-season grass Kentucky bluegrass. Able to recover fast from desiccation among other grass problems, it s ideal for the Arlington Heights climate, which is often cool yet tends to be extreme come summer or winter. Its ability to quickly recover can be attributed to its having rhizome roots, whose horizontal growth allow them to stretch to bare areas and form dense sod.

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Kentucky bluegrass need moderate to high levels of Arlington Heights lawn maintenance because of its need to be mowed regularly. The grass can reach a height of two feet when not tended to, so you better maintain a mowing schedule for it. Also, it has a preference for well-fertilized ground and full sunlight, qualities that some have found unappealing before cultivars with shade tolerance were introduced.

Despite these Arlington Heights lawn maintenance issues, the quality of the appearance of Kentucky bluegrass and its ability to withstand winter damage make it worth tending to and valued by Chicagoans. After all, no other type of grass comes close to the way Kentucky bluegrass handles Chicago weather.

To lessen Arlington Heights lawn maintenance, blending Kentucky bluegrass with fine fescues or perennial ryegrass would be ideal. Fine fescues, especially the red type, do not need to be fertilized often and require very little Arlington Heights lawn maintenance.

On the other hand, perennial ryegrass is similar to Kentucky bluegrass in terms of quality and in being a cool season grass. It differs only in the speed of growth, in which perennial ryegrass is faster, and in recovery ability, in which Kentucky bluegrass is stronger.

Because perennial ryegrass is a bunch-type of grass, its roots cannot fill in bare areas the way Kentucky bluegrass can. This is why it s not recommended to be used alone, but since it grows fast and therefore takes surface space before weeds do, it s a good complement to the slow-growing Kentucky bluegrass.

Your lawn-related knowledge should not end with grass types and their suitability for your Chicago lawn. For you to do the best Arlington Heights lawn maintenance that you can, you must also familiarize yourself with how to maintain your lawn across the four different seasons.

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