Friday, June 30, 2006

Retro Appliances as Classic Weaponry

This stuff is too good to pass up. Old vacuum cleaners and blenders converted into pulp style sci-fi weaponry.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Watching the Watchers

Personal property rights barely survived a vote in the Senate. I'm referring to flag burning if you didn't read the article. And yes, I believe that I have every right to burn an American flag if I wish to. The flag is a powerful symbol of America, and burning it can be an equally powerful symbol. It certainly gets the attention of certain politicians who should have more important things to do. Unfortunately an election is coming up, and the clowns are seeking talking points.

On the war front, a proposal by insurgents is either a diplomatic breakthrough or a nasty catch-22 depending on your point of view. The administration has said all along that timelines are a disservice to the cause, and I agree with them. Detractors of the war believe we should pursue a more diplomatic approach. The groups that put forward the proposal appear (according to the article) to be the ones who are fighting the U.S. rather than committing random terrorist acts. So, what is the right decision? Or is this another case where there really isn't one?

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Words From the Front

The story is negative, but it's first hand. One way or another, there needs to be more reporting like this. For the people to be informed enough to make the right decisions in the election this fall, we need the story straight from the mouths of the people involved. Iraqis and soldiers both.

To Go Boldly...

Star Trek, the gateway to geekdom for many a kid. It was actually second or third for me behind the original Battlestar Galactica and the immortal Doctor Who, but I am still a fan of the original Star Trek. The modern series don't get my attention as much, mainly because I've been exposed to (slightly) deeper fair such as Babylon 5, Firefly, and the new Battlestar Galactica. (DS9 and TNG had their moments, but the rest were bland to horrible.) The idea of recreating the original Star Trek has gained traction recently. Normally I wouldn't be that interested, but what if the writers involved were Babylon 5's J. M. Straczynski and Dark Sky's B. Zybel? What would their idea of Star Trek look like? Well, now we know. (That's a PDF link, FYI.)

If there is anyone reading this who has never seen Star Trek, or doesn't get what it was about, the description given in the document is about a clear and concise as I have seen. Yes, this project didn't happen. Given what would have been an almost simultaneous release of the "reimagined" Battlestar Galactica, it's probably just as well. But I for one would have watched. And I would have been much more interested in a new Star Trek than a new Battlestar, if only because the original material set the bar so much higher for a recreation.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Summer Warning Trend

Apparently we are warning Iran, warning North Korea, and otherwise rattling the diplomatic pens. Turns out we found chemical weapons in Iraq too, but they weren't emphasized because they are quite old.

It's been a busy day for Al Quaeda threats too. Apparently they want vengeance for us killing one of them. Hey man, you already vowed to wipe all us infidels off the planet. You can only kill us once, and the multiple threats just make you sound like a blowhard.

Three Moons Over Pluto

Charon is joined by Nix and Hydra. On the issue of whether it's a planet or not, I expect it will be downgraded to planetoid or something similar before all is said and done.

Headline Hunting

"Politicians held in sex scandal." Funny, I thought you had to be more than just held to have a sex scandal.

Contains the Best Description of the House Ever

A link via Dubious Quality, this video is the Daily Show's coverage of the Congressional hearings on video game violence. It's very, very funny. And yes, I'm a boy in a man's body...

Friday, June 16, 2006

Things That Don't Work

File this under my silly item of the day. Normally I can't stand having celebrity crap mixed in with my news, and this is why: Britney says she wants privacy. In a national media interview. Sigh.

I'm Sure God Willed It

Scientists are increasingly able to create new species in the lab that actually breed with themselves, but not the parent species. This is pretty clear evidence that the process of speciation can occur using known methods. When I asked God for His statement on the matter, he just winked at me.

Watching the Watchers

The Supreme Court has made another controversial decision. This time it essentially allows police to enter houses without announcing themselves. I can see how the throwing out of evidence can be bad for catching obvious criminals, and in that sense the decision is a victory for common sense. On the other hand, given the propensity in this country of late to imprison first and fabricate charges later, I don't know if I'm comfortable having yet another civil right go down the drain.

Updates from the Fronts

According to some sources, things are looking up in Iraq. Here in NC, Secretary Rice maintained a realistic viewpoint. One hopes that Iraq stablizes, because things in other parts of the world such as Venezuela and Somalia aren't looking quite as rosy.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

No Boom Today. Boom Tomorrow. There's Always a Boom Tomorrow

I've been waiting for this article for years now. Ever since I learned that the halflife of tritium is about twenty-four years, meaning any thermonuclear bombs we have sitting around loose quite a bit of effectiveness in two decades. The authorization for the design of new nukes happened last year, but I don't recall it making the news. It looks like Ronald Regan's ideal of no nuclear weapons will have to wait a few more decades.

Warming Up the Warming Debate

Al Gore is wearing his environmental activist hat again. This month's Skeptic column (by Shermer) in "Scientific American" called his presentation on the subject of global warming, "the single finest summation of the evidence for global warming I have ever heard." Over on Slashdot another perfect storm is brewing due to a Canadian Free Press article which quotes an Australian Professor saying, "Gore's circumstantial arguments are so weak that they are pathetic."

So, there we go. Another perfectly understandable series of press articles about global warming.

I'll give the Slashdot link, so ya'll can venture into the comments if you so wish.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Spacing Out

Stephen Hawking states the obvious: the long term survival of the human race depends on its ability to find places to live that aren't Earth. While his conjecture about what is possible doesn't pass the test of what is probable, it's nice to see such a high profile person in the scientific community keep such issues around.

Meanwhile, NASA is being weighed down with silly pork barrel projects and budget cuts. The link above is from ArsTechnica, and I just finished reading a similar one in the June 2006 issue of "Scientific American." The SciAm article focuses on the administration, both the federal level and at NASA, as bearing the brunt of the blame rather than Ars's viewing of Congress. But there are two sides to this battle, and both articles are probably correct.

And finally, the U.S. says we have every right to build defensive weapons in space. But don't worry, we'll play nice and abide by existing international treaties. I suppose I won't comment on this. I wouldn't want you thinking I was a cynic.

Watching the Watchers

It looks like alleged Republican mastermind Karl Rove will not be charged in the investigation of alleged leaks of an alleged undercover CIA agent's name.

Democrat opponents are allegedly in full denial mode. Sources also insist they really have a platform, "almost for sure this time." OK, I don't have sources. That's OK, the Democrats don't have a platform either. If only there were a viable third party right about now, things would be really interesting.

Oh, and don't be surprised if you e-mail account (or spam filter, as the case may be) receives more political e-mail this election cycle.

A Bird in Hand is Worth a Fraction of a Byrd in Congress

Robert Byrd becomes the poster "boy" for the need for term limits on Congress by being the longest serving Senator in history. With over 17,000 days in office, he just edges past Strom Thurmond's record (though Strom still holds the oldest-serving title). The article gives him responsibility for billions of federal (e.g. taxpayer) dollars going to West Virginia. I'm sure glad all that money over his tenure of 48 years has fixed all the problems in the state...

NC Gambles, and Loses

As many suspected, the NC government was overly optimistic about the proceeds from the new lottery. A couple of articles from the "News & Observer" break down the spending done to administer the lottery and give the latest estimate of the proceeds.

Quote for the Day

"Imagination means having odd ideas..." From this essay by Paul Graham.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

A New Battery at Last?

Batteries are holding technology back. Your iPod is only good until the battery goes, then it's an annoying (and costly) replacement. Laptops, UPSes, even cars all have batteries with batteries that go bad. They are also bad for the environment and relatively expensive. Chemical batteries are one of the few technologies that have not changed in recent years. Now that may be about to change. I have my fingers cross for this, it could be a real revolution.

Cats. What Can One Say About Cats?

The cats in my neighborhood climb on my roof. They are louder than squirrels... Cats are also getting a reality TV show of sorts. And if fame isn't enough, then perhaps genetic engineering is more you speed. Modern science is working to produce an allergen free cat. Either that, or it's a plot to help them infiltrate more homes before entering the next phase of the conquest.

Thursday, June 8, 2006

A Network Bows Out

The WB has a rocky history, but it did produce some memorable television. It makes me feel old to think that it has been eleven years since the frog network came into existence, and no doubt their retrospective exit will present a bunch of thespians who used to be close to my age looking young on film.

The WB will re-air the pilots of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Felecity, and Dawson's Creek on Sunday September 17th. If there is anyone reading this who has heard of Buffy but never got what it was about, I challenge you to watch the pilot. If you aren't interested at the end of the first hour, then you can happily await Dawson's Creek to end the night.

Tuesday, June 6, 2006

Trips to the Bathroom Still Normal Price

DVRs are giving the big content industries ulcers. Apparently people who record programs then fast-forward over the commercials. So, the advertisers don't want to pay as much. It's a wonder that they haven't done studies to show the average amount of commercial time is missed due to trips to the bathroom and the kitchen.

Headline Hunting

The headline: "Intermittent Explosive Disorder affects up to 16 million Americans"

That headline reads like a sci-fi movie. Throw in some alien influence causing the explosions... In reality it's another example of the medical industry coming up with some fancy name for behavior that is obviously not normal, but which they have no idea what could be causing it.

Biting the Hand That Feeds You

Meatloaf is trying to release a third Bat Out of Hell Album. Unfortunately, he's had a falling out with the songwriter from the first two albums by that name, Jim Steinman. Thus a partnership that sold millions of items is now left to the lawyers.

Monday, June 5, 2006

A Summary of the Content Wars

Don't know what the deal is when I refer to the content wars, IEEE Spectrum (the "flagship" publication of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) has a nice overview of happenings so far. It lacks all the sordid details, but it is a great introduction.

Friday, June 2, 2006

May or May Not be Hanzo Corp.

Slashdot can come up with some wackiness. This time it's intelligence agencies (or other forces fnord) using voice over IP to duplicate the function of shortwave radio stations

broadcasting apparently encrypted messages. Who knows if it is real or not, but if you haven't experienced Slashdot comments, this is as good a place as any to start.

Watching the Watchers

The Supreme Court delt a heavy blow to government overwatch by stating that government whistle-blowers aren't protected by the first amendment while on the job. How someone can claim to be a strict constructionist and vote in this manner escapes me. But then I'm not a lawyer.

Violating the First Rule of Fight Club

Techies have stress just like everyone else. Take a look at my previous post for one of many reasons. In this article about real life geek fight clubs, the sociology professor blames the usual suspects: cartoons, movies, and video games. Another claims it's a sadomasochistic fantasy. One of the participants said he wanted to get over his fear of fighting.

The professors are way off here. The urge is simple and much more primal (in my opinion) than any of the professionals admit. People are violent. Men tend toward physical violence and women tend toward "violence" in their social relationships. But as to the fight clubs, go watch the movie guys. It's all about people who feel like they have no control over their lives gaining empowerment. And don't forget, it was the people in the fight club, not the power brokers who play golf, who shut down the city at the end of the movie...

The Tangle of Foreign Competition

Today it was announced that the jobless rate is the lowest in the U.S. in five years. Sitting at 4.6% it is less than the magic 5% rate which used to be considered full employment. In theory, industries everywhere should be scrambling to get workers, especially good ones. Many point to the continuing illegal immigration issue as a reason why traditionally low end salaries are not increasing. In my field, there is a similar debate about H1-B class visas.

Whatever side you fall on in the continuing push and pull of employer vs. worker, you can not hide from the fact that unemployment in the high tech sectors remains higher than that of the general population. Yet somehow companies continue to protest that the U.S. isn't producing enough skilled workers to meet their needs. Meanwhile, the stigma of outsourcing and the general (and not incorrect) notion that computer science studies require one to sacrifice social activities and are generally "nerdy" has depressed the number of students enrolling in the program.

The long term results remain to be seen. As for me, I'd just like salaries to take a sudden spike upward. Or perhaps companies suddenly realizing that good people can be trained easily instead of expecting them to know the specific set of tools and technologies they want them to use.

Internal Conflicts

In America, we often have race baiting, but religion is often lumped together, no matter the sect. In the Middle East however, that isn't quite the case.

Opinions on Power

Don't mistake this survey piece as news, but it does reveal some interesting trends. First, it can be interesting to reverse the reporting of the statistics. For example, nearly twenty percent of the people polled didn't think the U.S. is currently a world power. And the French appear to retain their stereotypical arrogance. Well, a third of them do anyway. The different perceived priorities are notable too.

Building Your Castle in the Swamp

New Orleans has been sinking for a while, but apparently it is and has been going faster than expected. The best quote in the story? "We've made a pact with the devil by moving down here..."

When the Rubber Meets the Road

The British have a creative use for unused rail lines. Not everyone likes the idea, but I give it points for creativity.

Headline Hunting

Due to a busy week, this edition of Headline Hunting will feature headlines that you won't see in the news today (if nothing else, they are too long):

U.S. Soldiers Kill a Dozen Civilians, Militant Islamist Total Remains in the Thousands

Spelling Bee Winner Given Larger Reception in Home Town Than American Idol Loser