Thursday, November 13, 2008

Another Solar System

The moving dot in the images is a planet about three times the size of Jupiter orbiting Fomalhaut at about 12 AU.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Monday, October 20, 2008

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Friday, September 12, 2008

John McCain's Ads Answered

I haven't posted anything genuinely political here before, but this should be seen by everyone of voting age. While the video clearly has a pro-Obama bias, the gap between what McCain's ads say and what evidence shows to be true needs to be in every voter's awareness so they might make the best choice possible.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Star Wars Auditions

Kurt Russel as Han Solo?!

It almost makes sense, but this...

Robby Benson as Luke Skywalker?!

Thank the Maker that didn't happen! And this! Yikes...

Cindy Williams as Princess Leia?!

She did much better in Milwaukee with Laverne. These next couple are more like it, especially with Harrison Ford reading the Solo part:

Carry Fisher's Princess Leia Audition

Mark Hamill's Luke Skywalker Audition

You can see why George Lucas picked Fisher and Hamill.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Monday, August 25, 2008

Los Lobos -- Kiko and the Lavender Moon

Kiko and the Lavender Moon is one of my favorite songs. "Haunting" is the word that best describes this underappreciated, magical song from Los Lobos' 1992 album Kiko.

Richard Dawkins reads his email

And Christians wonder why they have trouble being taken seriously. Can't you just hear the warmth of Christian forgiveness in these messages from the faithful?

What do you mean you don't know who Richard Dawkins is?!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Prunes of the Future!

Ray Bradbury: "I never mentioned prunes in any of my stories!"

Monday, August 18, 2008

Cats on Treadmills

Apparently, cats love treadmills. Who knew? Weirder still, their owners love filming their cats on treadmills.

Here's a sampler of some of my favorite cats on treadmills videos. Enjoy!

Front end only kitty (with show-off partner)

Nonviolent resister kitty

A matched set

Middle-aged kitty with techno beat

Poor Humphrey

The ol' switcheroo*

*I know, technically not a treadmill, but it's the spirit that matters.

Haven't had enough? My gift to you!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Group Mind 3D Photos

These guys have whipped up software that combines images of popular places taken by otherwise unrelated photographers into simulated 3D landscapes. The really cool part is being able to use the landscapes to feature your own photos of famous landmarks. Watch the video and then check out this website.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Fast as lightning!

This is just utterly cool...

Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Time of No Microwave

Dad! The microwave's on fire!

Those were the words that heralded a new era in our home: The Time of No Microwave.

How, you may be asking yourself--or not asking yourself, I really don't care, but this kind of writing works better if it seems like I've got an easy rapport with you--did we manage to survive without a microwave? Turns out it's pretty easy. In fact, we still don't have one, and we don't want one, either. Microwave ovens, along with HFCS, are part of the Axis of Fat that's turned America into the Home of the Lard-asses. They are an insidious evil and must be dealt with accordingly.

These, then, are my top reasons for not owning a microwave oven:

  1. They're a safety hazard. Anything in the kitchen that can bust into flames is bad news. I have only my own experience here from which to draw, but I'm a quick study when comes to getting burned up.
  2. They make coffee an all-day habit. Not only is this hard on the nerves, it costs money, too. Topping it all off, I'm an insufferable asshole when I've had too much caffeine.
  3. Here's the most important reason for getting rid of your microwave: They only cook junk. OK, sure there are some things you can cook in a microwave that might even be considered gourmet fare, but most of the crap that comes out of them is either wrapped in a tortilla or covered in nacho cheese. One word: hot-dogs. And, again, not only is that stuff bad for your body and mind, it's hard on the wallet, as well.
  4. Microwave ovens suck down a lot of juice. Besides the wattage they draw when they're in use, most microwaves have LED clocks and other internal electronics that never shut off. This one kind of pisses me off. Where do these manufacturers get off introducing features that cost me money without telling me about it? And, it's not just your microwave that's leading power and money, but that's another rant.
  5. Your microwave is just another damn thing you have to clean.
  6. You don't really need the thing. Water boils on the stove top as fast or faster than in a microwave. Fresh coffee tastes better. Pizza actually tastes as good as when it was delivered if you reheat it in a regular oven.
  7. Microwave popcorn tastes like crap. Invest in a hot-air popper and melt the butter (not that poisonous margarine) on the stove top. And use as much salt as you like. Your sodium intake is way down since you stopped eating hot-dogs and microwave burritos.
  8. They take up counter space. Unless you've got a built-in. In that case they take up potential cupboard space. And, there's no way to unplug the energy sucking beasts if they're built right into the wall.
  9. They're noisy. Burrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. Bing!
  10. Radiation! OK, I know it's not ionizing radiation and won't harm me in any way unless I actually get in the microwave, but I just had to throw that in there.

Photo, which has nothing to do with a burning appliance but does show a microwave out of its natural environment so it kind of fits, by Beige Alert.

Monday, July 14, 2008

"A fresh cup of really hot tea"

From The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy:

The Infinite Improbability Drive is a wonderful new method of crossing vast interstellar distances in a mere nothingth of a second, without all that tedious mucking about in hyperspace.

It was discovered by a lucky chance, and then developed into a governable form of propulsion by the Galactic Government's research team on Damogran.

This, briefly, is the story of its discovery.

The principle of generating small amounts of finite improbability by simply hooking the logic circuits of a Bambleweeny 57 Sub-Meson Brain to an atomic vector plotter suspended in a strong Brownian Motion producer (say a nice hot cup of tea) were of course well understood - and such generators were often used to break the ice at parties by making all the molecules in the hostess's undergarments leap simultaneously one foot to the left, in accordance with the Theory of Indeterminacy.

Many respectable physicists said that they weren't going to stand for this - partly because it was a debasement of science, but mostly because they didn't get invited to those sort of parties.

Another thing they couldn't stand was the perpetual failure they encountered in trying to construct a machine which could generate the infinite improbability field needed to flip a spaceship across the mind-paralysing distances between the furthest stars, and in the end they grumpily announced that such a machine was virtually impossible.

Then, one day, a student who had been left to sweep up the lab after a particularly unsuccessful party found himself reasoning this way:

If, he thought to himself, such a machine is a virtual impossibility, then it must logically be a finite improbability. So all I have to do in order to make one is to work out exactly how improbable it is, feed that figure into the finite improbability generator, give it a fresh cup of really hot tea ... and turn it on!

He did this, and was rather startled to discover that he had managed to create the long sought after golden Infinite Improbability generator out of thin air.

It startled him even more when just after he was awarded the Galactic Institute's Prize for Extreme Cleverness he got lynched by a rampaging mob of respectable physicists who had finally realized that the one thing they really couldn't stand was a smartass.

Theremug from Kyle McDonald on Vimeo.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Monday, June 30, 2008

Walmart's Asshole

I guess the marketing geniuses over in Bentonville, Ark., home of the world's most hated retailer, Walmart, don't read much Vonnegut. Right now, up in heaven, Kurt Vonnegut is laughing his ass off. Or maybe it's his asshole.

Seems Walmart needs a new look, so after having ruined the smiley face for us, they've decided to screw up the good ol' asterisk. What they didn't know was KV was years ahead of them and had abused the asterisk so well I still giggle a bit everytime I see one.

Here's a quote from KV's Breakfast of Champions followed by the appropriate illustration:

I am programmed at 50 to perform childishly--to insult 'The Star-Spangled Banner,' to scrawl pictures of a Nazi flag and an asshole and a lot of other things with a felt-tipped pen. To give an idea of the maturity of my illustrations for this book, here is my picture of an asshole:

Oops! Sorry, that's not Kurt's asshole, that's Walmart's asshole, er, new corporate logo. And, I hope they spent a fortune on it! This is the asshole Kurt drew:

Notice the resemblance? I sure did. Kurt, even up in heaven you're still making me laugh, and you've taken the edge off my Walmart hate. I still won't shop there, though.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Monday, June 16, 2008

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Dumb Design

Porn commentary

I've heard a lot of people have their say about pornography. Here's Penn Jillette of the magic due Penn and Teller giving probably the best explanation I've ever heard of why so many "normal" people do porn.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Meet a Black Guy

I see a lot of fear these days in the United States. It seems to be on the decline as it slowly sinks into the heads of the citizens that we don't have much of anything to be afraid of, despite what our president might tell us.

Fear, it seems to me, comes from ignorance, and while familiarity might breed contempt, and I'm not sure about that, it also breeds comfort. Hence I think this guy has a great idea and a wonderful sense of humor.

Jeff Oliver, a 21-year-old black man living in Oregon, set up a booth at the local farmers market called "Meet a Black Guy" in order to relieve some of that existential terror of dark skin some lighter-hued individuals indulge in.

The guy looks like a natural born prankster, and his approach to race relations is a stroke of genius.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Dancing Hitler

Don't ask. It's for a Photoshop contest.

Barack is the Real Deal

How can you tell? Check this AP article out:

WASHINGTON - Acting swiftly as his party's presumed presidential nominee, Barack Obama is keeping Howard Dean at the helm of the Democratic National Committee, while bringing in one of his top strategists to oversee the party's operations.

The campaign also announced that the DNC will no longer accept donations from lobbyists and political action committees, to comply with Obama's campaign policy. Party officials say they expect the DNC's staff to quickly expand to run an aggressive general election campaign.

The DNC will no longer accept donations from lobbyists and PACs. Pure awesomeness. How are they going to raise the money to run the campaign? We the voters are going to chip in and pay for it, $5, $10, $20 at a time.

Here the entire article. As the article states, Obama's campaign is not entirely lobbyist influence free, but this is a huge step in the right direction.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Funniest description of John McCain so far

Inspired by this image, a comic hero known only as Attaturk described the Republican nominee as "the cottage cheese in a lime Jell-O salad." How apt.

You Are Here

NASA has released a new map of our home galaxy, the Milky Way, and it turns out it only has two spiral arms instead of four, which is what we used to think the galaxy looked like. Old maps had Sol, our sun, in the Orion Spiral Arm, but now the sun is seated in the Orion Spur of the Perseus Spiral Arm, not that it makes much difference on planning your route to the grocery store, but it's always a good idea to know where you stand.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Ol' School Sesame Street

I grew up on this stuff, back when PBS for kids was almost as much about entertaining as it was learning. What is this video supposed to teach us other than exploration is fun?

Thursday, May 29, 2008

RIP Harvey Korman (1927 -- 2008)

Harvey Korman, one of comedy's funniest straightmen is no more.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Sol just 1/1,000,000,000,000th of Milky Way's mass

Astronomers, those clever bastards, have refined their techinques for measuring the mass of our galaxy. The results are in, and the Milky Way is just a hair under one trillion solar masses. That's a whole lot, or as Douglas Adams put it, "Space is really big."

Here's an article about the weigh-in at

How the media helps make you stupid...

Of course it's ultimately your fault if you're a moron, but if you're a dumbass you've probably had a lot of help acheiving that status. Here's a video about how you get dumbed down:

Typical media horsecrap

April new single-family home sales rose 3.3 percent

Isn't that great! Home sales are up! Woo-hoo! Er, right? Nope. Read the actual article underneath this Reuters headline and you'll find this:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Sales of newly constructed single-family homes rose 3.3 percent in April to a 526,000 annual rate but they were down 42 percent from a year ago, which was the largest year-over-year drop in nearly 27 years, government data on Tuesday showed.

Down 42 percent from a year ago?! Largest drop in 27 years?! Who exactly do they think is dumb enough to fall for this? You and me, that's who.

Just to make sure there's credit where credit is due, the people responsible for this sterling example of modern journalism are reporter Joanne Morrison and editor Neil Stempleman. I tried to find email for these folks so anyone who wanted to could tell them how much we appreciate this kind of reporting, but of course the addresses aren't readily available. Wonder why.

Sunday, May 25, 2008


Expert lectures on all kinds of subjects, including law, history, art, music, sciences and more.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Are you on the RADAR?

Is the U.S. government compiling a list of citizens to be rounded up if martial law is declared? It appears so.

According to a senior government official who served with high-level security clearances in five administrations, "There exists a database of Americans, who, often for the slightest and most trivial reason, are considered unfriendly, and who, in a time of panic, might be incarcerated. The database can identify and locate perceived 'enemies of the state' almost instantaneously." He and other sources tell Radar that the database is sometimes referred to by the code name Main Core. One knowledgeable source claims that 8 million Americans are now listed in Main Core as potentially suspect. In the event of a national emergency, these people could be subject to everything from heightened surveillance and tracking to direct questioning and possibly even detention.

What went wrong with the dream? How did we end up here? More important, how do we get out?

The author is Christopher Ketcham and the article was published, ironically, by Radar Magazine. Read the entire article here.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Your tax dollars at work -- way to go ICE!

Although the US immigration policy is ridiculous, I post this not as political commentary but just because it's so outrageously funny.

Friday, May 16, 2008

I'm getting stimulated today!

In honor of the scheduled delivery today of my economic stimulus prebate I'm posting this graphic that explains how our government can give us FREE MONEY!!!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

$%@( Walmart!

One of the many reasons I LOATH Walmart--besides its degradation of the environment, its treatment of employees, and its importing of goods from countries where children and prisoners are used as labor--is because someone routinely stops me on the way out to check my receipt, or at least someone did when I used to shop there. The last time it happened I told the very nice little old lady who asked if she could see my receipt "No, but thank you for asking" and walked away, receipt unchecked, never to return. David Pelfrey of Birmingham's Black & White City Paper wrote about the insulting and degrading practice of treating every customer as a suspected criminal this week and has some useful advice:

Here’s a scenario that is familiar to anyone who has ever set foot in Wal-Mart, CVS, Rite-Aid, or any of a dozen other major retailers. After you have made a purchase, collected your bags, or packed everything into a shopping cart, you head for the exit. Just as you approach freedom an alarm sounds (usually a sequence of ugly, electronic grunts) and a robotic voice (always female) announces: “Please return to the checkout.” Other customers immediately look in your direction, and an employee begins to approach you. What’s your next move?

If you possess an ounce of personal pride or perhaps two ounces of fortitude, then the 100 percent correct move is to proceed immediately out the door. Why? There are many reasons, chief among them being that rational adults should not instantly obey mechanical voices (unless that voice instructs us to exit a burning aircraft). Also, if you haven’t stolen anything and therefore do not require interrogation, there is absolutely nothing that should compel you to linger post-transaction. It’s depressing enough simply being there in the first place. Another good reason to make a quick exit is that you aren’t being paid to assist some giant retailer with its security measures. You aren’t part of the team, and you didn’t clock in. The clearest reason for leaving the store, however, is that there exists absolutely no legal obligation to remain there, and the store has no right to detain you.

OK, so that part is about those annoying anti-theft alarm systems, but I wanted to get across that the store personnel have no right to detain you if you have not committed a crime despite the assumption that we don't remain private citizens with our rights entact once we step though the automatic sliding glass doors. Read the original piece at or at Stand Up to

ACME Catalog online!

Once available only via snail-mail to customers like Bugs Bunny and Wil E. Coyote, the ACME Catalog is now available on the Internets! I'm going to get myself some Super Speed Vitamins [tm], a Bat-Man's Outfit [tm] and an ACME Atom Rearranger [tm]! Oh, and a ton of anvils!

Monday, May 12, 2008

I'm secretly in love with Lisa Beightol

Ms Beightol is the blogger at's Astronomy Center. There's a picture of her on the blog. She's gorgeous. I crushed the moment I clapped eyes on her and knew I was looking at a beautiful woman who enjoys astronomy and writes! My wife laughed at me. She's not into astronomy.

Today Ms Beightol knocked me head over heels again when she announced she was a fan of Monty Python! Be still my heart! She also said the members of Monty Python all have asteroids named after them. I did not know that. Did you know that, Ed?

Give the post -- The Ministry Of Silly Asteroids -- a read and sign up for the blog.

Here's the bottom line: Ms Beightol can be a tad dry on occasion, but it's hard not to be when discussing science and technology. It doesn't matter since her own sense of wonder with astronomy makes it through when she's telling her "astro-nuts" about the latest. (That astro-nuts thing used to bug me. Now, I kinda enjoy it. I'm proud to be an astro-nut.)

Thursday, May 8, 2008

NASA to announce discovery

NASA's found something they've been looking for and are going to announce the discovery next Wednesday in a press conference. The press release comes from the Chandra X-Ray Observatory, so that limits what the mystery object can be, likely something large and energetic. But, since it's in our galaxy I'm at a loss as to what it might be. Here's the NASA MEDIA ADVISORY : M08-089:

NASA to Announce Success of Long Galactic Hunt

WASHINGTON -- NASA has scheduled a media teleconference Wednesday, May 14, at 1 p.m. EDT, to announce the discovery of an object in our Galaxy astronomers have been hunting for more than 50 years. This finding was made by combining data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory with ground-based observations.

To participate in the teleconference, reporters must contact the Chandra Press Office at 617-496-7998 or e-mail Live audio of the teleconference will be streamed online at:

A video file about the discovery will air on NASA Television on May 14. NASA TV is carried on an MPEG-2 digital signal accessed via satellite AMC-6, at 72 degrees west longitude, transponder 17C, 4040 MHz, vertical polarization. NASA TV is available in Alaska and Hawaii on AMC-7 at 137 degrees west longitude, transponder 18C, at 4060 MHz, horizontal polarization.

For information about NASA's Chandra X-Ray Observatory on the Web, visit:

- end -

Watch Mercury rise and fall all through May

My latest astronomy column published today:

If you go outside about half an hour after sunset tonight and look just above the western horizon where the sunburned sky has yet to fade you’ll find bright pink Mercury, fastest of the planets, shining in the Sun’s wake.

Elusive Mercury--the smallest of the planets at 3,032 miles wide--is putting in its best appearance of 2008 during May. But, you’ll still need to be quick to see it.

You can read this column in its entirety as well as all five years of my past columns at the Starry, Starry Nights Blog.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The Moon and Mercury

The very young new moon and tiny Mercury were in conjunction at sundown this evening. Mercury is the bright "star" in the lower lefthand side of the image, above my neighbor's rooftop. The image was taken about half an hour after sunset. That's the time Mercury is best viewed until it gets too close to the Sun to be seen toward the end of the month.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Journey of the Sorcerer -- The Eagles

For some friends who have never heard the entirety of this song, which is a) My favorite Eagles tune, and b) The theme music to the various incarnations of that wholly remarkable book The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy:

I'm voting for Obama

This isn't an endorsement, it's a statement of my intention and an explanation. Sen. Barack Obama gets my vote because he still has the respect of the world. Check this Reuters report out:

Rebels who have stepped up attacks on Nigeria's oil industry in the last month said on Sunday they were considering a ceasefire appeal by U.S. presidential hopeful Barack Obama.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) has launched five attacks on oil facilities in the Niger Delta since it resumed a campaign of violence in April, forcing Royal Dutch Shell to shut more than 164,000 barrels of oil per day (bpd).

"The MEND command is seriously considering a temporary ceasefire appeal by Senator Barack Obama. Obama is someone we respect and hold in high esteem," the militant group said in an e-mailed statement.

George W. Bush couldn't pull this off. John McCain wouldn't want to. I'm not sure what Hillary Clinton would do, and I don't think she knows either.


There's I-am-Napoleon-Bonaparte crazy, and then there's just completely nuts. Here's a practical demonstration of the latter (OK, yeah, it does sort of look like fun, but in a completely out-of-your-mind way):

Monday, May 5, 2008

Who will tell the people?

No one needs to tell them. They already know. They just can't believe they've done this to themselves.

Here's a quote from Thomas L. Friedman, columnist for the New York Times, that strikes at the heart of how we've screwed ourselves and are allowing ourselves to be screwed:

A few weeks ago, my wife and I flew from New York’s Kennedy Airport to Singapore. In J.F.K.’s waiting lounge we could barely find a place to sit. Eighteen hours later, we landed at Singapore’s ultramodern airport, with free Internet portals and children’s play zones throughout. We felt, as we have before, like we had just flown from the Flintstones to the Jetsons. If all Americans could compare Berlin’s luxurious central train station today with the grimy, decrepit Penn Station in New York City, they would swear we were the ones who lost World War II.

From the Flintstones to the Jetsons. That about sums it all up right there, except Friedman is far easier on his readers than I would have been.

We don't need to tell the people, they already know, so here's the real question: What are we going to do about it? Anything? Or are we just going to slip into obscurity?

Friday, May 2, 2008

Oh what Phun!

What a totally cool, nifty toy! Get it here!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Marijuana smoking may prevent lung cancer

Pot smokers have one less thing to be paranoid about: lung cancer.

"We hypothesized that there would be a positive association between marijuana use and lung cancer, and that the association would be more positive with heavier use," he said. "What we found instead was no association at all, and even a suggestion of some protective effect."

This from Donald Tashkin, a pulmonologist at UCLA who studied marijuana use for 30 years. An article about Tashkin's findings is available at the Washington Post's website.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Man regrows fingertip

Using a powder made of an extract of dried pig's bladder (no, really), 69-year-old Lee Spievak regrew a fingertip cut off by the propeller of a model airplane:

Mr Spievak re-grew his finger tip. He used a powder - or pixie dust as he sometimes refers to it while telling his story.

Mr Speivak's brother Alan - who was working in the field of regenerative medicine - sent him the powder.

For ten days Mr Spievak put a little on his finger.

"The second time I put it on I already could see growth. Each day it was up further. Finally it closed up and was a finger.

"It took about four weeks before it was sealed."

Now he says he has "complete feeling, complete movement."

It's been known for years that children under 11 who lose a fingertip will regrow it if the wound is left open, but this is the first time the process has been induced in an adult (or in anyone of any age). The scientists behind the "pixie dust" say organ and limb regeneration could be a possibility.

Here's a link to the BBC's article about Spievak's new digit, including a video with images of the finger as it grew back.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Life explained

A bit of wisdom and humor stolen the intertubes:

Life Explained

A boat docked in a tiny Mexican village. An American tourist complimented the Mexican fisherman on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took him to catch them.

"Not very long," answered the Mexican.

"But then, why didn't you stay out longer and catch more?" asked the American.

The Mexican explained that his small catch was sufficient to meet his needs and those of his family.

The American asked, "But what do you do with the rest of your time?"

"I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, and take a siesta with my wife. In the evenings, I go into the village to see my friends, have a few drinks, play the guitar, and sing a few songs. I have a full life."

The American interrupted, "I have an MBA from Harvard and I can help you! You should start by fishing longer every day. You can then sell the extra fish you catch. With the extra revenue, you can buy a bigger boat."

"And after that?" asked the Mexican.

"With the extra money the larger boat will bring, you can buy a second one and a third one and so on until you have an entire fleet of trawlers. Instead of selling your fish to a middle man, you can then negotiate directly with the processing plants and maybe even open your own plant. You can then leave this little village and move to Mexico City, Los Angeles, or even New York City! From there you can direct your huge new enterprise."

"How long would that take?" asked the Mexican.

"Twenty, perhaps twenty-five years," replied the American.

"And after that?"

"Afterwards? Well my friend, that's when it gets really interesting," answered the American, laughing. "When your business gets really big, you can start buying and selling stocks and make millions!"

"Millions? Really? And after that?" asked the Mexican.

"After that you'll be able to retire, live in a tiny village near the coast, sleep late, play with your children, catch a few fish, take a siesta with your wife and spend your evenings drinking and enjoying your friends."

And the moral of this story is: Know where you're going in life; you may already be there.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Japanese underground bicycle-parking robot

This thing is made of pure awsomeness.

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

You've seen it. I've seen. We've all seen officers of the law breaking the very laws they're employed to enforce. I don't mean theft or murder or anything of that magnitude. I'm talking about officers casually and seemingly epidemically violating traffic and parking codes just because they can.

Who watches the watchers? Not everyone is willing to put up with it, and here's what a couple of folks have done about it:

First is the story of a recent law-school graduate who issued a parking citation to a cop when he became flippant about illegally parking his patrol unit in front of a Japanese restaurant in Portland, Ore.

Stensgaard walked into the restaurant wearing his police uniform, but did not make any arrests or citations. Instead, he turned his attention to the basketball game on television, according to Bryant. When Bryant asked Stensgaard about his vehicle, Stensgaard allegedly acknowledged being in a no-parking zone but asked Bryant, "If someone broke into your house, would you rather have the police be able to park in front of your house or have to park three blocks away and walk there?"

Bryant returned to his seat, and says shortly afterward he watched a restaurant employee hand the officer a plastic bag before he left. Unfortunately for Officer Stensgaard, Bryant had recently passed the Oregon bar exam, and decided to pursue the matter further.

"If he had acknowledged and corrected his error, we could have avoided this whole thing," says Bryant. "But instead, he kept watching basketball and told me he wasn't doing anything wrong."

You can read the entire article here. The cop has been issued a summons and faces up to $540 in fines.

Second is a video shot in New York City by Jimmy Justice, a amateur videographer whose hobby is filming cops breaking the law. Here, he confronts a parking enforcement officer who has parked her police car in front of fire hydrant while eating lunch in a nearby restaurant. While filming he's confronted by a retired NYPD officer who tells him it is illegal to film a police officer "because of the terrrorism."

Riiiight. (Some of the language and the officer's behavior is NSFW.)

Mr. Justice has more than a dozen more similar videos posted on his YouTube channel. I'm glad I haven't gotten on Mr. Justice's bad side. He can be a bit of a jerk when he thinks he's right.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Mountains of the Moon

If you love the Grateful Dead, and I do so love the Grateful Dead, then you're going to love this:

Monday, April 21, 2008

How duct tape saved the Moonbuggy

Apollo 17 Moonbuggy fender repaired with duct tape.

From Science@NASA:

Cernan: "And I hate to say it, but I'm going to have to take some time to try … to get that fender back on. Jack, is the tape under my seat, do you remember?" (He's referring to a roll of ordinary, gray duct tape.)

Schmitt: "Yes."

Cernan: "Okay. I can't say I'm very adept at putting fenders back on. But I sure don't want to start without it. I'm just going to put a couple of pieces of good old-fashioned American gray tape on it...(and) see whether we can't make sure it stays."

In spite of his thick gloves, Cernan managed to unroll and tear off the needed pieces, but moondust foiled his first repair:

Cernan: "…good old-fashioned gray tape doesn't want to stick very well." (At a post flight briefing he explained: "Because there was dust on everything, once you got a piece of tape off the roll, the first thing the tape stuck to was dust; and then it didn't stick to anything else.")

His second attempt succeeded, however. "I am done!" crowed Cernan. "If that fender stays on ... I'd like some sort of mending award." And with that, they were off.

Forklift Driver Training auf Deutsch!


I have an old-time clock sitting on my computer monitor, the kind made out of brass and topped with bells and a little hammer on a wire that blurs when the alarm goes off because it moves so fast. And it ticks.

It runs on a spring that I wind every day, and as it unwinds it ticks, the sound of some hidden cog slowly turning away the seconds. It’s not a subtle tick, but a hard, industrial sort that I will never be able to love hearing as I might the gentle ticking of a grandfather clock or whispering tick of a dust covered mantle clock.

This clock, the one that towers over me as I sit here at my desk, isn’t there to tell me the time, though I do occasionally use it for that. It’s there because of that no-nonsense tick. At best I’m completely unaware of it. When I’m working away and whatever part of my brain it is that approves or disapproves of my current behavior, my conscience, it allows me to become so attentive I can tune out that incessant tick. But, when I’m off task it becomes something awful, a never ceasing reminder that life and opportunity are always slipping away. That ticking becomes a countdown.

The good news is that as long as you can hear the ticking the countdown hasn’t ended yet. And, one cannot continuously sit on the edge of oblivion, staring in the face unblinking, without the occasional day off. Sometimes, I let the clock run to a stop and leave it.

I did that not too long ago and left it unwound for several days. It just sat there not moving, not ticking, not reminding me of what I don’t want to be reminded of, but I couldn’t leave it alone. I thought about putting back in the garage, back in the box I dug it out of, but I need to have that subtle nudge. I wound the clock, set it running again.

It’s late. Time to go to bed.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

When galaxies collide

There's one hell of a lot of science going on in this image, but I just thought it was a beautiful photo. Click it to see the full-size version, or click here to visit NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day and get an explanation of all that sciencey stuff.

If you're interested in learning more about astronomy you might find my monthly astronomy column worth reading.

Friday, April 18, 2008

"New" Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Infocom Game

For a fan of the work of Douglas Adams this is like reading of the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls!

Journalist and computer programmer Andy Baio (no relation to Scott) received a copy of the internal network drive from the now-defunct computer game company Infocom, which in the early 1980s produced a text adventure version of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Among the treasure trove were "two playable prototypes" of the sequel to that game: Milliways: The Restaurant at the End of the Universe.

Baio, who is my newest hero, has made one of the playable prototypes available online in a Java version. Here it is! You know where I'll be for the next day or two.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Crank up that old Victrola!

Put on your rockin' shoes!

Maybe we deserve it?

I just posted a reddit about helping the ACLU hold Bush accountable for torturing people. I asked people to do the right thing, take a small step toward ending the pain and suffering, take a little control of their government.

The first comment I got back was the ACLU will send you junk mail. Junk mail?! You bastards won't stop people being tortured to death because of junk mail?! WTF is wrong with you people?!

UPDATE: The same guy who was afraid of junk mail now says we're helpless anyway so why bother? That's what you're supposed to think, folks. Haven't you figured out this game yet? We're supposed to feel afraid and helpless!

Damn, maybe we do deserve this sh*t.

Monday, April 14, 2008

I cannot believe...

No one had this great name! Woo-hoo!