Saturday, July 24, 2010

Potpourri CXLVII

Hoo boy. I got way behind. Expect a heapin' helpin' of links today.


Let's start with something fun. A new "flash mob" activity: singing La Traviata in the Reading, PA, train station. I still like the group that danced to a song from The Sound of Music in the Antwerp train station. Occasionally the internet can do fun things.

However, social media are like people: not always good, and occasionally subject to abuse. Take, for example, the effort made by two Venezuelan citizens for stating that the financial system in that country was unstable. Venezuela's dictator, Hugo Chavez, promptly had them arrested. Now the Tweet might or might not be true, but it says something very telling about a socialist government when even a <140-character>

Found by Dennis: Speaking of Twitter, some university researchers depicted the "mood" of Tweets across the lower 48 States graphically. I'm still not sure how this works, but it's an interesting visual.

From Doc: "Some Friday 'splode." I'd like to thank Doc and Widge for introducing me to the concept of 'splode, which is short of "kick'splode," which itself is shorthand for an all-encompassing type of movie that usualy includes violence (kicks) or property damage via explosions ('splode). What they call kick'splode, I usually call "big, dumb action movies." Anyhow, RED looks fun. However, the ultimate kick'splode movie of the summer might be The Expendables, which stars almost every single action hero from the '80s and '90s, including Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, and Dolph(?) Lundgren. To quote Widge, "Hijinks will ensue."

This has to be a joke or an industry-inspired made-up holiday, but apparently today is National Tequila Day. Don't American beverages need some support, too?

If you like space art, you might want to check out Pat Rawlings' site. He does work for SAIC, I believe, and was gracious enough to serve as one of the judges for the 2009 NSS Space Settlement Calendar.

Now this is useful! A light saber bottle opener.

A guy robbed a bank dressed as Darth Vader. I’ll say this: it’s creative.

Disney is taking another shot at making a Haunted Mansion movie. I’d forgotten about the Eddie Murphy version. Anyhow, my curiosity persists: what needs are films based on theme park attractions or old TV shows fulfilling?

Be careful which outdoor activity you practice this summer:

From Kate Down Under: a reminder that the U.S. has buried another Medal of Honor recipient. The summary of what he did to earn it, as always, is astounding:

In 1944, 2nd Lt. Baker was sent to Italy with a full platoon of 54 men. On April 5, he and his soldiers found themselves behind enemy lines near Viareggio, Italy. When concentrated enemy fire from several machine gun emplacements stopped his company's advance, Baker crawled to one and destroyed it, killing three Germans. Continuing forward, he attacked an enemy observation post and killed two occupants.

With the aid of one of his men, Baker attacked two more machine gun nests, killing or wounding the four enemy soldiers occupying these positions. Then he covered the evacuation of his wounded soldiers by occupying an exposed position and drawing the enemy's fire.

On the following night, Baker voluntarily led a battalion advance through enemy mine fields and heavy fire.

In all, Baker and his platoon killed 26 Germans and destroyed six machine gun nests, two observer posts and four dugouts.
Baker's MOH was delayed because he was black. Well earned, and long overdue, sir.
From Father Dan: a restaurant at Downtown Disney now has a meatball bar. As in the food on the menu includes different kinds of meatballs. As to whether there are meatballs sitting at the bar, well, you pays your money and you takes your chances.
Women are fighting abuse in rural India

Wood floors made from wine barrels. Cool! And here’s another bit: a coffee table filled with old computer parts. BoingBoing finds some weird stuff.

An interview with a technical writer and science fiction that is worth reading. An important caution here, but the entire interview bears attention:

Dr. Who themes from 1963 to 2010. You know: because everyone wants to know.

I can't recommend technical writing as a day job for fiction writers, because it's going to be hard to write all day and then come home and write fiction. Nowadays I work as a freelance writer, so I usually do contract technical writing part of the year and then I take time off and do fiction writing the rest of the year. It's too difficult for me to do technical writing at the same time as fiction writing - they draw on the same parts of my brain. So I can't say it's a good day job in that sense, but it's a way to make money.

My buddy Karl would like this…a little applied psychology, though I’m not sure I like the implications: 101 ways to influence others’ behavior.

Not sure what to make of this cartoon, but it’s got a space theme.

Looking to get arrested? Someone is selling stickers that make it look like you’re carrying a lot of drugs in your suitcase. Here's your sign...

This pug "singing" the old Batman TV show theme has been making the rounds on the internet. Oy. Please, make him stop! 

A young girl’s rocket-making video. Kinda reminds me of my niece. Wouldn't my sister love that!?

A Millennium Falcon guitar: now we're talkin'!

U.S. Politics

From Dale: Some folks are suggesting a moratorium on new business regulations for a year to help economic growth. Why do this? For an instructive tutorial on why adding more and more regulations can screw up the economy, I highly recommend Amity Shlaes' The Forgotten Man, a history of The Great Depression. However, the short version is simply this: governments might think they're "doing something for the people" by creating a lot of new regulations and laws to rein in "big business," but what really happens is that businesses big and small will refrain from investing or hiring new employees because they're afraid they might not be able to afford what government is going to do next. So when businesses stop investing and hiring, whom does that help? Exactly.

Sen. John Kerry, an old friend of forcing higher taxes on the rest of us, is docking his yacht(!) in Rhode Island to avoid paying higher docking taxes in his home state of Massachusetts (also known by some as “Taxachusetts”). Here’s a wild idea, Senator: try reducing taxes for everybody, not just when it suits your convenience. Or, if you truly believe that higher taxes are good for America, you should dock your boat in Massachusetts and gladly pay your “fair share.” Just sayin’.

Science, Technology, and Space

Some folks in India have announced the development of a $35 computer. Yeah, you read that right: $35, about $1,500 Rupees. The goal of the low-cost computers is to connect more schools and universities. Interestingly, the machines are run on Linux. Microsoft and Apple, please take note.

More on the internet...someone's figured out that we're running out of internet addresses. Expect more uneducated Y2K-type media frenzy as the problem becomes more well known (but not necessarily better understood).

NASA has released "the most accurate map of Mars ever."

Frank Morring at Aviation Week has a good assessment of the state of Constellation.

From Hu: has a brief history of laser weapons online.

From a friend at work: if the astronaut corps is about to be downsized, what will inspire kids to get into science and other technical disciplines? Good question.

A rapid-response team for oil spills—about bloody time.

Again, if you’ve not read his stuff before, my friend (and much more dedicated fellow space blogger) Jeff Foust has been providing excellent coverage of what’s happening with the NASA budget. The state of things right now is that both Houses of Congress have an authorization bill—a “vision,” if you will—stating what they want NASA to do, and those bills do not agree with each other. The Administration seems to agree with the Senate bill, but this ain’t over. Makes for an interesting working environment, I’ll say that.

Someone set up a Russian tank ballet. No, really.

Nanomaterial anti-bacterial surface. Cool!

A cloaking device? Not quite yet.

Foreign Affairs

The North Koreans are threatening “physical action” in response to U.S.-South Korean naval exercises. Yes, that ratchets up tensions in East Asia, but the Norks are known for raising heck to achieve just that result without any action to back it up. People take the Glorious Leader (Kim Jong Il) more seriously because he now has nuclear weapons. Imagine how much fun the news will be when Iran finally gets the nukes they want.

And I think I'm going to let it rest here for the time being. Lots of interesting stuff out there, but there's a limit, ya know?

Peace out,

Robotic scientists are now analyzing data and forming hypotheses. Perhaps we need to reevaluate the Turing Test?

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