Saturday, July 30, 2005

martian ice

Here's the best picture I've seen of the frozen lake on Mars.

Friday, July 29, 2005

hail and farewell

Today is the 29th of July, which once again marks the appearance of Julie (HBTY HBTY HBDJ HBTY) and the disappearance of Scott (RIP).


Thursday, July 28, 2005

Day 1: Up the Khyber

You can now read all of Michael Palin's travel books, inluding the current series Himalaya, online for free.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

industrial menu

Einstürzende Neueküchen: recipes contributed by fans of Einstürzende Neubauten.


massive irony hemorrhage

In the news today:

U.S. seeks new UN condemnation of violence in Iraq

The United States circulated a draft resolution at the United Nations on Wednesday condemning a surge in violence in Iraq that has killed hundreds including two Algerian diplomats and a Sunni Arab helping to draft a new Iraqi constitution.

I feel like I'm living in an unpleasant cartoon... although I guess it does make sense, if the US's concern is that this other violence is a copyright violation that is diluting our trademark.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

taking the fight to the... 11-year old girls?

A girl walks down the street. Some boys pelt her with water balloons. She's too young to know that the boys are going to behave in roughly the same manner and at roughly the same maturity level until well into their 30's, but she's not going to put up with their shit regardless, and she pegs one of them in the head with a rock. Fresno police respond to the scene with three cop cars and a helicopter and arrest the girl for felony assault.

Maribel Cuevas speaks little English, so they read her rights twice... in English. She was held for 5 days in which she was allowed to speak to her parents once for 30 minutes, then placed under house-arrest. The boy who got pegged admitted to starting the fight, but the cops aren't going to back down on this one because it will make them look like idiots. Errr... *more* like idiots.

OK so 'Free the Fresno One' isn't quite as catchy as Free the West Memphis Three, but still...

Monday, July 25, 2005

taxonomy of the tale

From the 'Trojan Moral' to 'Closed Captioning for the Sight and Subtlety Impaired', Ian Bakke presents the Types of Stories My Mother Tells.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

y for why bother

OK, so last night I read V for Vendetta cover to cover. Today I watched the trailer for the film again, and the thing that struck me the most was the ingenious way in which almost a hundred clips, which average about a quarter of a second in duration, manage to convey quite clearly the extents to which the Wachowski brothers fucked the original story.

Aside from the general theme of the main character's vendetta, the most important aspect of the story revolves around the evolution of Evey, played by Natalie 'hold me like you did by the lake on Naboo' Portman with the same Britoid accent she used in the Star Wars films ("I will not condone a cohhhse of action that will lead us to wohhhhh.") Sadly the preview manages to show that the key to Evey's involvement in the storyline has been written out of the story, and if the second and third Matrix films are anything to go on this gaping plot hole will be filled with... nothing.

Remember remember the 5th of November,
pay no mind to the holes in the plot.
It's hard to make flicks
when you reach for your tricks
and bullet-time's all that you've got.

Friday, July 22, 2005

v for vendetta

The trailer for 'V for Vendetta' is up at the film's site... I am dreading this film for a number of reasons.

First, this is a story that should have been left alone, and especially by the Wachowski's. Turning comics into movies is a big fad right now, but 'V' is generally considered to be one of Alan Moore's best works, and Alan Moore is generally considered to be one of the best comic writers ever. I wouldn't want to try to put them in any sort of order, but Moore, Neil Gaiman, and Mike Carey are wizards. The Wachowski brothers, who managed to completely fuck up the last two films of the Matrix series despite the enormous potential the first film afforded them, are trolls.

Second, conservatives everywhere are going to have a fucking field day with this film. The tagline for the film is 'People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people', something quite the opposite of current political trends. There is a very strong terrorism theme in the storyline... it's terrorism in the same sense that the Boston Tea Party and the US War of Independence were terrorism, but with today's myopic viewpoint regarding 'safety' I expect to hear a lot of noise about this issue.

Finally, some of the events in the film won't need to be abstractly compared to current events... (mild spoiler, highlight to read if you already know the story) how are they going to handle the tube bombings, including the 'Viking funeral', in the light of recent events in London? I fear they'll fuck it up in the same way they wimped out on so many films after the US was attacked.

I suspect I'll have to see the film... I just hope that doing so is not like slowing down to look at a car wreck.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

he's dead, Jim

James 'beam me up, Scotty' Doohan died today, although I seem to recall that he turns up again sometime in the future... but that may be in some other time-line or parallel universe, I'm not sure.

I just read that the Milwaukee School of Engineering granted Doohan an honorary degree because his role as Chief Engineer of the Starship Enterprise inspired many students to study engineering. I can't say that he was what inspired me, but he was responsible for harshing my mellow when I was studying semiconductor physics.

I was learning about the band gap, the electrical potential difference between an atom's valence band (basically 'bound electrons') and its conduction band (basically 'free electrons'). When particle-ish things like photons or electrons strike a material with enough energy they make an electron jump across the band gap, but if they don't have enough energy to cause a jump they just pass right through the material. This is why semiconductors work - bias them with enough energy and the electrons pop up into the conduction zone, and the semiconductor acts like a conductor.

Metals, on the other hand, don't behave like this. They've either got a negative band gap (all the levels sort of fuzzed together) or open spots in the valence band, which at reasonable energy levels means they effectively have zero band gap. This means they pretty much always catch particles that hit them. And that means no transparent aluminum.


google moon

Today is the 36th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, and to celebrate Google has added the moon to Google Maps. Google Moon has the landing sites marked for Apollo 11-17, except for 13 which never actually landed on the moon because it would have made the movie go over budget.

Friday, July 15, 2005

message in a bottle

It's "Fuck with Foobario's Medication" time again, so half the time I don't know who/where/why I am, and the other half of the time I'm pretty sure I know, but I don't like the answers. I hope that This Too Shall Pass.

If you're waiting for an email from me, I apologize for the delay.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

well rounded

How many times have you heard a parent say they wish they could tap their kids' energy for something useful? They've figured out a way to do just that in rural Africa, where they're using a device that turns a merry-go-round into a water pump.

Harnessing the power of children in an almost Tom Sawyer-ish manner, this device has significant quality-of-life impact. The design is low cost, low complexity, and low maintenance, making it ideal for rural areas where water is usually carried from a water source by women. The water tank is ideal for advertising space; two sides are reserved for health messages, and the revenues from selling ad space on the other sides pay for the upkeep of the system.

I wonder how this will change the society, now that there is no need for people to gather at the watering hole?

Monday, July 11, 2005

dude, munchies

Today is 7-11, and that means free slurpees at your local Sev. It's good to see them giving something back to the legions of dope fiends who sidle in at 3am for a microwaved bean & cheese burrito and a ludicrously large soda, playing a couple of games of Black Tiger or Pinbot before returning to their dens of iniquity to dive back into another 6 straight hours of D&D or Call of Cthulhu or Illuminati.

Not that I'd know anything about that.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

he is risen undead undead undead


Bela Lugosi's played all the gruesome characters: Dracula, Frankenstein, ghouls, zombies, Jesus. I think his 1909 Passion play role was probably the gateway drug that opened the door to all of those other macabre stories... let that be a warning to you.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

dub will tear us apart

Jah Division does dub renditions of Joy Division songs. You can hear their version of Love will tear us apart (5.8MB MP3) or check out some video on Punkcast #250. and Punkcast #314.

BTW Punkcast has videos of hundreds of Brooklyn/NY shows covering the last 5 years. Keep your fingers on the pulse without needing to wash your hands afterwards.

Friday, July 08, 2005

more perspective

From our beleaguered friends across the pond: a letter to the terrorists, from London:

What the fuck do you think you're doing?

This is London. We've dealt with your sort before. You don't try and pull this on us.

Do you have any idea how many times our city has been attacked? Whatever you're trying to do, it's not going to work.

All you've done is end some of our lives, and ruin some more. How is that going to help you? You don't get rewarded for this kind of crap.

And if, as your MO indicates, you're an al-Qaeda group, then you're out of your tiny minds.

Because if this is a message to Tony Blair, we've got news for you. We don't much like our government ourselves, or what they do in our name. But, listen very clearly. We'll deal with that ourselves. We're London, and we've got our own way of doing things, and it doesn't involve tossing bombs around where innocent people are going about their lives.

And that's because we're better than you. Everyone is better than you. Our city works. We rather like it. And we're going to go about our lives. We're going to take care of the lives you ruined. And then we're going to work. And we're going down the pub.

So you can pack up your bombs, put them in your arseholes, and get the fuck out of our city.

Hrrmph... no "if this changes anything, the terrorists have already won" (immediately followed by changing everything), no France bashing, no Department of Homeland Security, no federalization of public transit workers... haven't the British learned anything from the U.S.?

Thursday, July 07, 2005

In stirring address to nation...

... President rekindles America's love affair with getting it's superpower ass kicked in Vietraq.

I hear from friends of friends, that the press - even the objective prophets of Fox News - can't help but mention the recent slew of flesh wounds and roman candles lighting up around Iraq. Now, normally, I just ignore the press. I also ignore reason, logic, and my conscience. I happen to believe that working class folk respect a man who's a straight shooter, who tows the line no matter what, even if you're making a historically tragic mistake. Let me put it this say: saving face is everything. Who cares if you're praying, so long as you show at church on time. Am I right?

I listen to only one person, and that's Jesus Christ. And you know what He tells me? "Hey, hey George – grab a crowbar and pry me down off this durned cross." HAR HAR HAR. That's a joke. Seriously though, He tells me that the only way that any President has pushed through a radical social agenda is to paint himself a "War President" and distract the retarded electorate with a magnificent kill show.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005


Fuck Natalee Holloway.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

mapping Area 51

Playing around with Google Maps I occasionally see areas that have been intentionally erased, like this big grey blotch northwest of Vegas:

The interesting thing is that they don't erase the same areas in the satellite view. Looking through that grey area I ran into this compund of buildings surrounded by circular... what, particle accelerators or something?

A little bit east of there I found out why they erased that bit of the map - it's Area 51, on the southwest edge of Groom Lake, home to spooky alien experiments:

Northwest of there, out in the middle of nowhere, is something that is either a large bombing range, proof that someone migrated to Nevada from the Nazca Plains, or a sekrit Illuminati base:

And much farther to the northwest, on the edge of another dry alkali lake-bed, there's a whole other kind of experiment going on:



Whatever happened to Tannu Tuva? Years ago Richard Feynman asked this question, and his search for the answer (documented in the book "Tuva or Bust! Richard Feynman's Last Journey") introduced the world to Tuvan throat-singing. (It's a matter of personal taste whether you think that's a good thing or not.) But Tuva, which is so remote that you get there by way of Siberia, isn't just about ancient obscure folk-singing. Turns out they've got a thriving punk scene.

OK, so 'thriving' may be a bit strong of a word since it appears that the whole punk scene in Tuva revolves around one guy, Albert Kuvezin, but he seems pretty dedicated. Trained in traditional folk-singing but kicked out of the choir for singing badly, he turned away from music until one day he heard Sonic Youth and it changed his life.

His band Yat-kha just released an album of covers that inspired them... everything from Captain Beefheart to Kraftwerk. You can listen to their cover of Joy Division's Love will tear us apart (1.43MB MP3) and Motorhead's Orgasmatron (1.76MB MP3) online. They're starting a European tour this month.

More info on Tuva can be found at Friends of Tuva and TuvaOnline.

grammatical graphics

Context Free is a programming language that generates fractals from simple grammar. For example, this code...

startshape SNOWFLAKE

SPIKE { r 60 }
SPIKE { r 120 }
SPIKE { r 180 }
SPIKE { r 240 }
SPIKE { r 300 }

rule SPIKE {
SPIKE { y 0.97 s 0.97 }

rule SPIKE 0.03 {
SPIKE { r 60 }
SPIKE { r -60 }
SPIKE { y 0.97 s 0.97 }

... generates this pic:

With only marginally more complex code, very organic forms can be made:

Context Free is a GUI for editing and rendering grammar code. It's available for Mac, Win, and Posix-based systems, and it's free as in beer and as in speech, but if you want to show the love they ask that you either donate $ to the EFF or buy something from their CafePress shop.

Monday, July 04, 2005

apparently math and art do mix

Researchers have created a program that uses the Boltzmann equation to model the interaction of ink and paper, enabling more realistic software painting techniques. The Boltzmann equation describes the dynamics of an ideal gas and is often not used for denser gases and liquids (like ink), but curiously it is used for modeling galactic dynamics... being mostly empty space, galaxies (at some very large scale and under certain assumptions about viscosity and collisions) resemble a gas. Hrmmm, that reminds me of a Steven Wright joke:

"I was walking through the park last night when a spaceship landed in front of me and a one inch tall alien got out. I said to him, 'are you really one inch tall'? 'No', he replied, 'I'm just really far away'."

The Boltzmann equation is known to have no closed-form solution for higher densities (i.e. it is a Serious Pain In The Ass to integrate, like most thermodynamics problems), so those researchers must have found a way to optimize the equations to get real-time results. Whatever they did, the end result is some pretty pictures.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

so here... i am...

If I were casting about for reasons to off myself today, I think that the fact that my neighbors decided to handle the music requirements for their party by putting a Journey CD on eternal repeat would be reason enough... I've heard 'Open arms' 4 times in the last two hours AND I'M BUGGING.

i am the lorax etc etc

Are you carbon-neutral? Coldplay is.

Combine this with the 'recycle your body' idea from the last post and leave the planet better than you found it. Well, in a CO2 sense anyway. Everything else will still be pretty much fucked, but at least you'll have tried.

Friday, July 01, 2005

ethical consumerism

Hippy Shopper is a sort of eco-friendly product consumer blog. They've got categories like Green gadgets, Recycling, Energy saving, and Design & furniture that separate the signal from the noise; so if you've just got to have a notebook made out of recycled circuit boards or a bicycle-powered cellphone recharger, they've got you covered.

I especially like the way a burial service that will compost you is listed under 'recycling'.