Monday, October 31, 2011

A Little Something Scary for Halloween

Zombies, vampires, ghosts.  These are the fodder for the usual Halloween stories.  But there are some stories that people don't want to tell on this night.  Stories that could shake the very foundations of your reality.  You already know where to look to find these stories, but you avoid it.  You watch your Real Jersey Shore Housewife Wipeouts and smile, because the specter that is too horrible to contemplate looms ever just over your shoulder.  Oh yes, you can't escape it.  It's... it's... the news.  Duh duh duuuuuuuuh!

Obviously, there are bad things afoot in the economy, the worst seen in quite a while.  But I was surprised to see some comparing the current economic conditions to the failure of communism in eastern Europe.  Opinions vary, from it's alive, just not for us to my personal favorite about the myth of eternal growth, and the debate is nowhere close to being finished.

Perhaps you are an optimist about the economy or just find the whole debate a bit abstract.  Well what if I told you that a magma pocket under a volcano in Bolivia is filling at the rate of 27 cubic feet per second.  And that volcano is part of a cluster of volcanoes that form a potential super-volcano.  This particular super volcano last erupted about 300,000 years ago, spewing out a thousand times more material than the famous Mt. St. Helens eruption.  Also, the super volcano erupts on average about once every 300,000 years.  Should a super-eruption happen, it would be a natural disaster on a scale that literally has not happened since before the dawn of mankind.

OK, you've had enough of the scary stuff.  I get it.  Tomorrow's just Tuesday.  Here, have a listen to the world's most relaxing music, at least according to UK scientists.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Reaching for the Stars

While it is quite true that every journey in life begins with a single step, sometimes when you want to reach the stars...

Sorry, your browser does not support the canvas element, so you are not seeing the thing that's supposed to be here.

taking a second one can make all the difference.

Sorry, your browser does not support the canvas element, so you are not seeing the thing that's supposed to be here.
For posterity, here's the parallax star field code:
    Hi! This is also a canvas:<br />
    <canvas id="canvas2" width="320" height="240">
    <script type="text/javascript">
      var sf = {};//short for starfield, used as a namespace/pseudoclass.
      sf.numStars = 50;
      sf.brightStars = [];
      sf.midStars = [];
      sf.dimStars = [];
      sf.canvas = document.getElementById("canvas2");
      sf.context = sf.canvas.getContext("2d");

      sf.initStars = function(){
        var canvas = document.getElementById("canvas2");
        var i = 0;

        for (i=0; i<sf.numStars; i++){
          sf.brightStars[i] = {
            x: Math.floor(Math.random()*sf.canvas.width),
            y: Math.floor(Math.random()*sf.canvas.height)
          sf.midStars[i] = {
            x: Math.floor(Math.random()*sf.canvas.width),
            y: Math.floor(Math.random()*sf.canvas.height)
          sf.dimStars[i] = {
            x: Math.floor(Math.random()*sf.canvas.width),
            y: Math.floor(Math.random()*sf.canvas.height)

      sf.moveStars = function(){
        var i = 0;

        for (i=0; i<sf.numStars; i++){
          sf.brightStars[i].x = (sf.brightStars[i].x + 4) % sf.canvas.width;
          sf.midStars[i].x = (sf.midStars[i].x + 2) % sf.canvas.width;
          sf.dimStars[i].x = (sf.dimStars[i].x + 1) % sf.canvas.width;

      sf.clearCanvas = function(){
        sf.context.fillStyle = "#000000";
        sf.context.fillRect(0, 0, sf.canvas.width, sf.canvas.height);

      sf.drawStars = function(){
        var i = 0;

        //Draw the stars.
        sf.context.fillStyle = "#aaaaff";
        for (i=0; i<sf.numStars; i++){
          sf.context.fillRect(sf.brightStars[i].x, sf.brightStars[i].y, 1, 1);
        sf.context.fillStyle = "#aaaaaa";
        for (i=0; i<sf.numStars; i++){
          sf.context.fillRect(sf.midStars[i].x, sf.midStars[i].y, 1, 1);
        sf.context.fillStyle = "#aa7777";
        for (i=0; i<sf.numStars; i++){
          sf.context.fillRect(sf.dimStars[i].x, sf.dimStars[i].y, 1, 1);

      sf.drawFrame = function(){
        setTimeout(sf.drawFrame, 60);

      //setInterval(sf.drawFrame, 250);

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

It's Finally That Time of Year Again

Fall arrived in fits and starts this year, but it appears that it is going to finally take hold this week.  As usual, when Halloween begins creeping closer on the calendar, the desire to walk paths a little off the beaten track kicks in.  This year, I present a couple of looks back to the last century.

If you are the sort who enjoyed Luke Skywalker's or Indiana Jones's adventures, recognize the name Flash Gordon, or doesn't picture a fiber overdose when you hear the phrase "pulp serial adventure" you might just enjoy the web series The Mercury Men.  In 1975 mysterious, hostile beings appear in an office building; what nefarious plot have they hatched?  Only the dashing guy in the flight jacket with the fancy pistol can save the day, but he can't do it alone...  The series attempts to evoke the vibe of the old movie serials, and it pretty well knocks it out of the park, complete with the dodgy pacing and somewhat stiff acting.  I suspect at least part of that is on purpose.  Given the tiny budget for the series, the villains are exceptionally well done, and there are some real classic sci-fi moments in the series.  And hey, at less than ten minutes per episode, if you don't like it you won't have to wait long to find out.

If pulp fiction isn't your cup of tea, how about a dose of what once passed for reality?  Visiting topics from the RAND corporation, to drugs, suburbs, flying saucers, and nuclear war, writer Ken Hollings's Welcome to Mars provides a twisting trip through science, science fiction, and culture in the early years of the cold war.  I recommend using iTunes for ease for access, but they are also available via a link on the author's blog.  It really makes one wonder what people fifty years from now will see when they look back on the first decade of this century.  Did I mention there is theremin music?

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Video Interlude: Things That Wouldn't Have Been

I wonder if the scientists and engineers that created the Internet really ever suspected it would provide a new outlet for creative people to be creative in the ways we are seeing now.  Thankfully, it did.  Whether by coincidence or rising demand, the digital film revolution happened alongside the growth of computer storage and connectivity.  All of this together has made becoming a competent amateur at all manner of things far easier than it was in the days when knowledge was less motile.  And for professionals and weekenders alike, the tools are getting ever cheaper.  So today I have a trio of videos that wouldn't have been nearly as easy to create a decade ago.  They are all very different from one another, and they are all very, very awesome.

First up we have "LOSSES", a short action film by the folks who do Revision 3's Film Riot show.  (Itself a source of knowledge for those interested in film making.)

Second, SanguinDrake's haunting "Brand New Truth".

And an upbeat note to take us out, "it tastes like heaven, but it looks like..." The Bacon Song.