Monday, May 2, 2016

Cast-Iron True

Here are a few items on the Lodge Manufacturing Co.  You know them, you probably have one or more of their pans in your kitchen.  I fried supper in one of mine about an hour ago, in fact.  Anyway, here we go:
The Guided Tour, at YouTube, 11:23 minutes.
How Lodge Pans Are Made, at YouTube, 11:21 minutes.  Similar content, different camera angles.
The Lucky Dogs of South Pittsburgh, article at The Bitter Southerner.

Amazing stuff and amazing quality at a dirt-cheap price.  But you know what's really amazing?  That they're hanging on, in fact doing quite well, in a world full of leveraged buy-outs and manufacturing fleeing to China ASAP.  Now that is amazing.  Go extrapolate to economics and presidential politics amongst yourselves.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Just Because I Feel Like It

And because I can:
It's Friday after a month like I've had.  Time to kick back.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Two more days of proposal writing...

As seen over at SMBC:
Two more days of proposal writing.  And then I get a week of meetings, yay!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Timeline of Bicycle Design

From over at xkcd.

Things got weird during the Cambrian Explosion of suspension mountain bike design back in the '90s, so Randall left that decade out.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016


... is a perfectly cromulent word.  Says so right over here at Wiktionary.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Why Internet Voting is an Awful Idea

In a 21 minute talk, as explained by a computer science professor who knows what the hell he is talking about (as opposed to the politicians pushing for this very bad idea):
Really, if you give a hoot about such things – not to mention your country – it's worth your time.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Too Tough to Die

Even though they called it quits 20 years ago and currently a bunch of 'em are dead, The Ramones keep showing up in the news.

Linda Ramone gives a guided tour of a new museum exhibit at Vanity Fair
The museum exhibit's web page
The Enduring Appeal of The Ramones at the Sidney Morning Herald

Not bad at all for a bunch of (mostly) dead musicians who's heyday was... well it's not over yet.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

EM Drive... maybe?

Here's a raft of links relating recent developments revolving around this thrustless space drive concept.  At least there are some independent measurements and some theory backing things up now, so it is sort of comprehensible.  Anyway, on to the links.

Please don't ask me to explain any of this to you.  I'm as befuddled as the next guy.  At first look, it is as if someone has added up a very long column of zeroes and arrived at a non-zero answer.  But it now seems that there is more to the story.

It's a small effect, if indeed it is there at all, in these testbed machines.  It may yet turn out to be a minuscule measurement error, it may turn out to be for real.  Or it may turn out to be real but such a small effect as to be of no practical importance, akin to muon catalyzed fusion.  Which is certainly a real thing, but a net energy-negative process.

Anyway, the way things are progressing, we'll know in a very few years.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016


From over at The Argyle Sweater.  I'm just going to go in to work now.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Psst, Wanna Win a Bike Light?

Bicycle Times is having a drawing for a NiteRider Lumina 600 (msrp: $75!).  The only hitch is that you've got to enter by midnight EDT tomorrow.  So get goin' and click here and enter yourself.
You want this.  So do I.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Book Review: Old Man's War

To be brief, this book is a mash-up of Heinlein's Starship Troopers and the Men in Black series, with a side order of Great Mambo Chicken and the Transhuman Condition.  If that sounds flippant, I assure you that it is not intended to be, but rather it is an accurate outline of what's going on here.

Here's what's going on in the story.  Earth is a backwater, a sort of giant park that doesn't take much part in humanity's expansion into the universe.  However if you really want to go see the universe, meet interesting aliens, and kill them, then just wait until you're 75.  The Colonial Forces need troops with a lifetime of experience and guile.  Sign up for a ten year hitch and you'll get a rejuvenation treatment that would make Lazarus Long jealous, a brain implant computer that's like everything you wish Siri really was, and all the training and weapons you're going to need.  Survive that hitch... and you get to help colonize the galaxy.  One catch is that you can never, never go back to Earth.  The other big catch is that you probably won't make it through the ten years.   But hey, you're 75 right?  In another ten years you'll likely be dead anyway, so what's to lose?

Parts of this book are deadly serious while other parts border on farce.  The old phrase "not only is the universe stranger than we imagine, it is stranger than we can imagine" comes to mind.  The alien threats faced by the Colonials troops are always novel and completely unexpected.  This is of course exactly why people with a lifetime of experience are needed for the job.  It is an interesting mix.  The author explicitly acknowledges that he's writing something for the fans of Starship Troopers, and on that level it works pretty well.  The downside to this is that it's pretty clear that there is no bright post-war future just beyond any horizon.  These wars will never end, and that is that.  I guess it makes for good job security (assuming you survive), and it also makes for an enduring line of sequels for the author.

Bottom line is that this book is entertaining as all get out, even if it doesn't have quite the zip and hopeful outlook of the Heinlein juveniles.  Sooner or later I'll get around to the sequels, but not just yet.  Like the wars in the books, they'll still be there when I'm ready.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Star Wars Rogue One Trailer, Analyzed

Yes, it's been out for a couple of weeks, but here we go.

Here's the trailer, and
here's the frame-by-frame analysis.

Huh.  Guess we'll all know soon enough.  Looks grim.  Ought to be good.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

They're Made Out Of Meat

And so am I, after a day of writing proposals.

I've posted it before, but it bears repeating: They're Made Out Of Meat
If you've never read this short story, take five minutes and do it.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Conference Guidelines

From over at PhD Comics:
But first you've got to write the grant proposal to get the money to do the research to present at the conference... and I'm working on three of them this month.  Stay the hell out of my way.  I may be human again sometime before hurricane season starts.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Random Wires

Hung out in the yard yesterday afternoon with a radio and a random wire antenna.  Tuner, counterpoise wire slung out along the driveway for a "ground" (well, it was close to dirt anyway), and the truck's battery made it all come together:

Squint, and you can just see the green wire antenna.
The tripod is just to hold the wire off the ground, enough that it doesn't completely sag down from the end that's hanging in the oak tree.  Nothing particularly engineered, beyond a 35-ish foot length of wire, 3 pieces of PVC, some painter's tape, and enough paracord to get the far end up 25' to a limb.  For all the improv here, it was still easy to hit stations on 40m all over Georgia – doubly so with the GA QSO party in full swing.  40m tuned up easily, as did 17m and up, but for some reason 20m didn't like the wire that day.  No great loss.  Not bad for what amounts to just about the worse damn antenna this side of a dummy load.  Stop by next next time and I'll introduce you to my friend R.F. Burns.

Yes, I have proper antennas too.  But the weather was nice, and sometimes it's fun to spend a few hours of a spring afternoon lashing up a rig like this in the side yard.  Because I can, and just to see how well it works.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Mind-Clearing Bonus Post on AI

Following up on my slamming the movie Ex Machina, you might want to listen to this podcast over at IQ^2 where people who actually do AI in real life and know what the hell they're talking about debate the proposition "Don't trust the promise of AI."  (note: not "Don't trust AI because T3rmnatorz!" but more of "don't trust the hype.")

You can get at the audio file here.
There, I feel so much better having cleaned out the drek left by that movie.  With the garden largely wrapped (just have to plant the okra next weekend), it feels like time for a bike ride.

Ex Machina: Put It Back

To be short, this was a pretty bad movie.  The Mad Scientist in his castle shocking The Monster into life has been replaced by a dot-com billionaire (DCB) in his mountain-jungle hideaway.  The DCB has a reality distortion field that Steve Jobs would envy, but no one around to use it on.  Enter... the innocent young employee, ostensibly to apply the Turing Test along with various other comp-sci buzzphrases to the DCB's creation.

Let's pause for a moment and ask: Why does advanced AI have to be embodied in a largely life-like android body?  After all, one or the other problem is difficult enough.  (Just ask DARPA.)  If the DCB wants to whip up a batch of hard AI and is evidently having trouble completing that part of the task, why complicate matters with a a robot body?  "Because movie nonsense" is all I can come up with here.  It's yet another riddle wrapped around a cliche encircling a particle of nothingness presented by this movie.

Back to the plot and all that, it's just a two century old gothic horror story remade in a "high-tech as Hollywood imagines it" shell.  There are no tech wonders here, only movie makers' imagination of what those wonders might be.  It's trite decades-old stuff.  I could go on, but it's pointless and flickfilosopher had already sliced and diced this one for us.

Bottom line: 1 out of 4 stars.  The acting was passible, the effects were up to par, and the sets were beautiful.  Outside of those basics this thing is worthless.  How the hell did it get a 92% positive score over at Rotten Tomatoes?  Critics these days have mush for brains.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Happened to Me, Once

Really!  About 20 years ago I flipped my mountain bike off of a creek side trail and managed to grab a tree and the front tire on the way down.  Nobody got wet, but it was a close-run thing.  The trick photo's from over at Hooniverse, by the way.

Gonna go dig in the garden now.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

So Bad It's Good


Tough week of a lingering chest cold, meetings, and a mysterious coupling coefficient.  I'm taking tomorrow off to dig in the garden and get my head on straight to enjoy the weekend.  But first I'm going to watch The Disc of The Movie.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Merle Haggard, 79, RIP

Complete article at Rolling Stone, ongoing coverage at WSM Online.

Appropriately, it is a cold and rainy night in Nashville.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

The Truth About Quicksand

Article over at the BBC.  Turns out, it's the dry stuff that'll get you.  That, and the shovel.

Monday, April 4, 2016

A decent ham tech review site.

Amateur Radio Tech.  Specifically, they've reviewed a couple of my favorites recently, the Yaesu FT-2900r 2m radio, and KB9VBR's copper pipe j-poles.  Go scope out the site, it's pretty nice.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

One Last, Great Album from The Replacements

But you'll have to rip it for yourself.

Live, from the Seventh Street Entry, September 1981, Twin/Tone posted six contiguous segments of sound with video over at youtube.  Here's the first, the rest are linked from there.  All totaled, it's an amazing album that should've been released in early 1982.  Unfortunately, Twin/Tone was having trouble scraping up the cash to produce the Replacements' first studio album at the time, so projects like this were OBE and DOA.

The sound quality, ah hell, what sound quality?  It's adequate for the sort of thrashing around these guys were doing at the time.  Played loud through a decent stereo, it's about as good as the sound quality you'd expect in an early 80's punk club.  That, and you don't have to breathe the cigarette smoke or drink cheap beer.  (You can add those if you feel like it, but they're purely optional.)

The set primarily consists of songs off their first album Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash and the follow-up EP Stink.  After that, some outtakes from those albums, songs that didn't quite make it.  The whole glorious mess ends with a very credible cover of Hank Williams' Hey Good Lookin'.  Eerie, ironic similarities in some of the artists' lives there.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

BBC World Service Times & Freqs

With a tailwind, you can often pick up the Ascension Island / West Africa transmitter in the south east U.S.  Here's the complete listing (good through 29 Oct 2016), and here's a downloadable PDF of this image:

Friday, April 1, 2016

Thursday, March 31, 2016

New Road Bike Tires

Every time I put a new set of Vredesteins on my road bike, especially if I'm changing from another brand of tires, I'm happy.  It's as if I'm suddenly a 10% better biker.  They take about 20 psi more pressure than most brands, roll fast, corner well, and wear like iron.  What was I thinking?  Why would I ever switch?  "It's what the shop had."  "They were on sale."  Whatever.  I won't switch away from Vredesteins again.

Home sick with a cold today.  Maybe ride tomorrow, but it's doubtful.  Even with these tires.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

More on The Replacements Bio

Here's a link to a review at Consequences of Sound.  Chiefly worthwhile for the live video of them performing the song Alex Chilton on Jimmy Fallon's show; you may need to turn off ad blocking to view.  The appearance is from their all-too-brief 2013-2015 reunion.  Said Tommy Stinson of the reunion's demise:
"It was one of those things: We dipped our toe in the water, and it didn’t feel so good."
And that... is that.  If you blinked, you missed it.  I sure did.  At least they wound it up when they found it wasn't working.

Of Hobbits and Dragons

No, not from LoTR.  This is IRL.  Article over at NatGeo.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Book Review: Trouble Boys, the semi-authorized Replacements Bio

Rainy day, so I just cranked through it.  There's very little outside of a previously-linked article by Caryn Rose at Salon for me to add, so I'll make a couple of comments and steer you over to there.

(1) TMI.  Exhaustive detail of what they were wearing and where the puke landed (ceiling, in one case) when things got out of control.  Interesting for a while, and maybe it adds to the flavor of the story, but damn, after 500+ pages it got to be a bit much. Hard to see to forest for the trees, although this level of detail does show you the pine needles.  Probably best read in one rainy weekend gulp.

(2) Started grim, turned fun, then turned into a slog about 1986.  Then I started to hate a formerly favorite band.  "Here, here's the brass ring, let me hand it to you!" "*SLAP*clang*".  Wash, rinse, repeat, until even the deep-pocketed, used-to-Keith-Richards'-nonsense, coked-up record company execs had had enough.  But by the end... I began to see again why things went down the way they did, and mostly can listen to their music now.  Again, probably best read in one rainy weekend gulp.

OK, got nothing more to add.  Go read over at Salon now, that'll tell you everything else – no spoilers, btw – you need to know.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

The Robots of False Dawn

After all the promising youtube footage (bittage?) of these things ambling about in impressive and slightly ominous ways, it was beginning to look like, yes in fact, useful robots were soon to leave the factory floor.  Then word hit earlier this month that Google had unloaded Boston Dynamics.  Now the ugly truth is coming out from DARPA's most recent robot competition: these things are not ready for prime time, and probably not getting there anytime soon either.  Article at Popular Mechanics.
Slap on an "ACME" label and ship it...  to the scrap heap.

bonus article: EmDrive to finally undergo peer review.  About damn time.  If anybody can give me a coherent explanation of how this thing is supposed to work, I'll buy the beer, or a coffee, or whatever drinks are desired.  I strongly suspect that my wallet is safe on this one.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

30m Digital Group

An interesting web site:  30 meters is an extremely interesting band: good long-throw, combined with decent regional coverage.  You don't even need to learn CW, just pull out your smartphone and do some PSK31.

Tnx for the QSL cards, KB9UMT!

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Game Theory, Where You Least Expect It

No wonder that movie was so great:
The Dark Knight, The Joker, and Game Theory all linked up together at Den of Geek!
Undreamed of depth in a popular movie.  So that's why it's still so watchable after all these years.
"Wanna play a little game?"  Oh hell no.

Are you literate?

Scientifically literate, that is?  Take this quick test over at the CS Monitor and find out!  Fifty questions, shouldn't take you more than a few minutes.

No, I will not tell you my score.  But it was not perfect, so don't feel intimidated if you miss a few yourself.  BTW, the current average running score is about 66%.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Shortwave Blues Times Update

With the beginning of DST and all, here are the current showtimes for Last Radio Playing, pulled from the pdf listing at WWCR's web site.  All times are U.S. Central Daylight.  Schedules change, days get longer, frequencies get higher, so there will probably be another update soon.
  • 1:00 am Saturday, 4.840 MHz
  • 1:00 am Saturday, 3.215  (yes, same time slot, different transmitter)
  • 2:00 pm Saturday, 12.160
  • 6:00 pm Friday, 9.350
  • 7:00 pm Friday, 4.840 (just on the first Friday each month)
Makes it easier to find "that ol' devil music" scattered amongst all the preaching.

Ethanol Gasoline Explained

The fairytale energy economics of this spooge is pretty accurately depicted here.  Except that they left out the parts about aquifer depletion, fertilizers causing a dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico, and billions in Big Ag subsides.

Who ever thought that this was a good idea?

Friday, March 18, 2016


Probably so.  It hit like a sledgehammer yesterday evening with hurricane strength winds for a couple of minutes.  Quick article at the Sea Coast Echo, and here's a picture from my side yard:
If the wind had been from the other direction, I'd likely be car shopping about now.  As it was, there was no real damage to the house or yard items beyond a couple of VHF antenna masts getting bent.  Should be back in business with those sometime tomorrow if the rain holds off.

Updated article at the Echo.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

A Year Clean, and Now Defeat

It's a Fish

Sort of, about the way a basic kite is an airplane.  Anyway, it was up in the air just what the Tully Monster was until some results were published recently showing that it had a rudimentary spine.  Pretty good article at the Washington Post.  Jury's still out on its neighbor the H-animal however.
I swear, the more I learn about biology and paleobiology in particular, the more H.P. Lovecraft's tales of alien strangeness seem down-home and comfortable.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Noteworthy Comics from this Morning

xkcd: It Begins
SMBC: side ramifications of the Rare Earth Hypothesis
what if?: Eat the Sun
PhD Comics: Supermassive Black Holes!

Just a cosmic alignment of slightly-funnier funnies this morning.  Or maybe I was up too late last night.

Rough luck on the dyno.

Hard to watch.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

New book about The Replacements is out...

... and it looks pretty good.  Commentary over at Salon.

Here, have some mood music while you read.

Review will be along in a matter of a week or two.  Pulled it on kindle last night, and am literally one line of text into the thing.

Beware the Ides of March

And you thought our 2016 election season is rough.  More at CNN.

Monday, March 14, 2016

RS-25 Testing Resumes

Enough of this pi business, here's the real post for today.  Last week NASA tested a used and now surplus RS-25, aka Space Shuttle Main Engine, in preparation for some upcoming manned deep-space missions.  Article at Fox and video at collectSpace.
The personal angle is that this is literally out my back door at work.  I was in a meeting at the time, in a rather substantial concrete building, and heard the rumble faintly but clearly.  Interesting.  Go watch the video.

Everybody Else is All Wrapped Up in Pi Today

Might as well post something too.  From over at The Argyle Sweater:

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Sometimes, it's time to hang it up.

Scott Kelly retires.  Sometimes, it's just time.

And sometimes, a resemblance is purely coincidental.
Just sayin'.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Art Bell Returns... again

It's a good end to a tough week, and Art Bell has returned to his show to give the permanent-stand-in-host an evening off.  Taxes are in, dog-and-pony shows are dogged, and, while the whisky is cheap it is ample.  This is a good world.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

More Theremin Madness

One from our European Correspondent.  Orkestra Obsolete performs New Order's Blue Monday, over at the BBC.


Wednesday, March 9, 2016

It's Clara Rockmore's 105th Birthday

And you can celebrate it by playing a virtual theremin over at Google's main page today, or anytime later at their Doodles page.

Be careful.  What a duck call is to ducks, a theremin is to flying saucers.

Hat tip to The Darling Daughter on this one.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Another Nice Space Picture

This time much the same view, just on the other side of the planet.  Instead of the eastern seaboard of the U.S., here it's Japan.  (permalink to NASA's APOD site)

Remember when things like space stations were the stuff of sci-fi?

ps: Busy week.  Meetings.  Taxes.  Going to leave this pretty picture on top for a few days.  Will be back with more two-wheeled adventures and bone crunches ASAP, which may take a bit.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

As if on cue for my week of meetings.

This popped up over at PhD Comics (permalink).  Exactly describes my next week:
No bucks, no Buck Rogers.  The things we do to make it all happen.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Monster from the Id

I've been making references lately to the "monster from the id" in the old sci-fi movie Forbidden Planet.  For those who need a refresher, here's a key clip from the movie:
My only question is, will Walter Pidgeon awake in time?

On a tangentially related note, here's an interesting documentary about the movie.  Two parts, totaling about a half-hour.  It's worth the view.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

A Car from Back in the Day

Back in the day, when BMW's really were The Ultimate Driving Machine, there was this little fun screamer called the 2002.  Over at Hooniverse, they have a test drive video of a recently restored '74 model.  Truly a thing of beauty.  Go see it here.

Unfortunately the "skinny tin box" has gone the way of the bare-bones Jeep.  Looks like Mustangs are filling the gap these days.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Gravel Grinder Lore

Digging around on the web for the last couple of weeks has yielded all kinds of advice:
With so much free advice that's maybe even worth what you paid for it out there on the net, I'll add some things I either tried or learned from last weekend.
  • Go paleo/low carb well in advance (say, months) of the ride.  That way you don't have to eat during the event, and you'll avoid the dreaded "gut rot."  Here's a motivational book that'll tell you everything you need to know: Eat Bacon, Don't Jog.  Of course, effortlessly losing 20 lbs doesn't hurt any either.
  • A little bit of non-carb electrolyte powder or squirt-tube concentrate helps the water absorb better.  It's light to carry, and you can pick up water along the way – usually.
  • When it comes to gear, go with proven stuff you know.  Even if it is a little worn, so long as it's still serviceable it's better to go with familiar gear.
  • When it comes to gear, when in doubt, go with the heavier duty option.  Skip the flyweight CX competition tubes for heavy butyl with kevlar tire liners, that sort of thing.  You're out there in the elements, not zipping around a short closed course.
There.  Notes to self before the next grinder complete.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Serious Pirate Radio

This isn't about "playing good music when you can't get an FCC license."  Rather, this is "passing the news when people are trying to kill you."  Raspberry Pi-powered transmitters broadcast Syrian radio, over at the BBC.

Don't try this at home kids.

That's right, don't try painting a tunnel on the side of the house and driving your car through.  No really, I don't need the repair bills right now.
Yes, it's been bouncing around on the net for a couple of months, with various degrees of veracity claimed here and there.  Doesn't matter, it's still a funny scenario.  Hat tip to The Well-Informed Son for pointing it out.  Pictures above are from this link.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Gravel, Ground

As previously pointed out, the first annual (I hope) Camp Shelby Gravel Grind was today. I did the 50 mile option, and I must say that it was about all that I could handle, maybe a tad more.  Several miles of gravel were loose like roller bearings, the climbs were killer steep, and the friend I was riding with had three flats before calling it a day and flagging the sag wagon.  Wouldn't have it any other way!  Well, except for the three flats/sag wagon part.  Will be back next year.  I rolled in well after the cut-off time to cheers and a hot bowl of chili.  A good end to a hard day on the CX bike.

Here are a couple of pictures:
Tanks.  I wonder which is heavier?

Meanwhile, down at the starting line...

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Movie Review: Spectre

This movie is pretty good, but not as good as it aspires to be.  Taking turns at giving brutal action and the surreal setting, it is a feast for the eyes and the gut.  I only wish it gave more thought to the brain.

Starting with the requisite slam-bang opener action, Bond is on the trail of a shadowy group that he can only guess about.  A posthumous message from the previous M gives him the clue he needs to begin unraveling the mystery.  Ultimately he does trace the group to its core and do what needs to be done – that always happens in a Bond movie, otherwise there would be no sequels.  In that sense the story is predictable.  What gives it its strength is the style with which Bond does his detective work.  It doesn't always make sense, but it is fun to watch.

The cast is impeccable, with Christopher Waltz's part as the head villain especially standing out.  He always plays the intelligent, purely evil – evil to the point of seeming charmingly innocent – character so well, and he is perfect here.  Also he has an amazing Evil Mastermind Desert Lair.   Just as the Bond Girl has an amazing Alpine Glass and Steel Clinic.  Both were stunning, but.... well, sort of high-profile.

Back to the story... Once again, MI6 is under threat and only an off-grid James Bond can bring it back from certain extinction.  Wait, didn't that just happen in the last Bond move?  Can't pull out that plot element too often, maybe every fifth film or so.  Too soon here.  Also, the plot elements don't always evolve naturally into the next scene.  The move ended up feeling like a series of set pieces that made sense in and of themselves, but were not tightly coupled enough to be a satisfying story.

But that's OK because it was still a lot of big glossy action-packed fun to watch.  It is not what it could have been had the story line been better, but it was good enough to advance the series.  Three out of Four Stars.

Friday, February 26, 2016

The Global Web of Caffine

Wake up!  Here's the story over at NPR.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Just a Nice Picture from Space

Remember when pictures like this were just paintings by guys like Bonestell?  Well, this is 2016.
From NASA's APOD site.  permalink

Yes, those are Russian spacecraft in the foreground hanging off the International Space Station.  It's OK, the Cold War's been over for 25 years.  While world peace(tm) has not exactly been reached and maintained, at least we're getting along well enough to do things like the ISS.

Imagine someone seeing this picture and reading this post 35 years ago.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The (online) Museum of HP Calculators

You either get it or you don't.  Go ahead and ENTER

If you don't get it, here's a two page tutorial on RPN.  Look, learning to use RPN (a) dead easy, and (b) akin to moving up to a well-built unix system after a serving hard time using MS-DOS on 5 1/2" floppies.  You don't even need to buy an expensive HP calculator anymore, there are emulator apps for smart phones available.  No, really, it is that good, and now it's even that inexpensive.

Monday, February 22, 2016

More Music

Following up on last weekend's I Fought the Law post, here are two protopunk classics:

Gravel Grind Update

This just in from the event organizers.  Even though you may not get a tee shirt, it's still not too late to get with this thing.  Now, the only remaining question... to camp or not?  Weather's going to be good, but probably not.  With only an hour and a half drive up, the time that would be spent breaking camp in the morning makes it about a wash, and I know which is easier.


Good day gravel grinders! I wanted to email everyone with a little bit more information about the event. 
--As mentioned in the flyers and on the registration site, you will need a photo id, vehicle registration, and proof of insurance to get on base, and no weapons are allowed on base. Please remember this, Camp Shelby is an active military base and has rules about being allowed on base. You will enter through the SOUTH GATE off highway 49 and there are signs to get to the museum. Directions can be found at
--Hotels are available in Hattiesburg, some along the intersection of highway 49 and interstate 59, and others around the intersection of highway 98 and interstate 59. As far is which is closer, they are both about the same. Staying along highway 49 you can just head sound on 49 to the gate, staying along highway 98 you will want to go south on interstate 59 to the highway 98 east exit 59, then exit onto highway 49 south toward the MS gulf coast. 
--Camping, cottages and cabins are available at Paul B. Johnson state park which is very close to the Camp Shelby gates. Fees and rules are available at and information on booking is at  
--Registration/check in will start at 8:30am, day of registration is allowed, so if you know anyone who decides last minute to come ride, please bring them! The ride will start at 10:00am with the 50 mile riders in front and 25 behind. The 25 mile is a lolipop loop with an aid station that will be passed twice. The 50 mile is a loop with 2 aid stations along the way. Aid stations will have water, fruit and gels. There will be a course sweeper so if you have trouble someone will be coming along to help. 
--After the ride stick around for chili, chips and soft drinks. 
--Most important of all... have fun! This is a relaxing ride on some fantastic gravel roads.
Thank you all for registering and we will see you on Sunday!

Sunday, February 21, 2016

I can see doing this.

Italian coffee king Renato Bialetti buried in coffee pot, over at UPI.  There are many other  write-ups around the web if you really care to look, but this one photo from the funeral says it all.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Two versions of "I Fought the Law"

Was listening to some late-night shortwave last night when "I Fought the Law" came on, the Bobby Fuller Four version.  I don't know, it's pretty good in its own way, but the Clash cover is the one I know.  Guess that's more a function of when I grew up.  Anyway, here they both are, pick your poison:

Bobby Fuller Four                                       The Clash (live)

Friday, February 19, 2016

Movie Review: Deadpool

No wait, I'm not going to give a full review.  Here's what I thought of it: great fun, 3.25 stars out of 4.

Now, will you like it?  That depends a lot on you.  It's full of profanity-laced graphic cartoon violence, and that does not appeal to everyone.  Here are two reviewers who I regularly read and respect, one who loved the move (Reelviews), one who hated it (Flikfilospher).  Scroll down on the Reelviews review and there's the red-band trailer.  Watch that, it's an honest trailer, it's a fair sampling of the move.  If it appeals, then you'll like the move.  If it appalls, then you'd best not go.

Two more bonus reviews.  First from a friend who's a fan of the comic book source; he gives it a thumbs-up, said it's true to the source material.  Finally, there's the review over at Liberty mag, which sports the tagline Not for everyone – and that's OK.  Yeah, that's about right.  Watch the trailer, you'll know very quickly.

Anyway, I thought it was pretty damn good.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

New Willie Nelson Record, "Summertime"

On his latest album, Nelson dives deep into the Gershwin standards catalogue.  To a casual observer that would sound improbable, but he pulled off a similar feat 38 years ago on his perpetually-listenable album "Stardust."  Review and tracks over at NPR, so give it a test listen and see for yourself.  Pretty good stuff.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Mad Scientists Through the Ages

OK, we've had enough of this good science gravitational wave stuff.  Now for some bad science.  Here's a list of fifteen mad scientists spanning from ancient times through the 19th Century.

Now, I have seen plenty of enraged scientists and several slightly eccentric scientists, but those were more of personal affairs.  The quality of their research didn't suffer though the quantity occasionally might.  The classic weird old dude in a castle seems to be creature of the past, when proto-science was the best horse running.  One might mourn that the world is a less colorful place for the lack of true mad scientists, but honestly, the real stuff we're doing these days is far more interesting and arguably even more bizarre.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

More New Astronomy Coming: Webb Space Telescope

Slated to launch in 2018, Webb is the Hubble's replacement.  It is primarily an infrared telescope, which allows viewing of extremely red-shifted objects.  In other words, stuff really really far away.  Here's the Wikipedia article on this device.  Back to the Hubble comparisons, here are the relative sizes of the mirrors:
Between the Webb and LIGO, the 2020's are going to be boom times in astronomy.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Gravitational Wave & LIGO Follow-Up

Here's an informative article over at the Christian Science Monitor: Why This Gravitational Wave Finding is Such a Huge Deal.  Read the whole thing, but here are the punch lines:
  1. Einstein was right, gravitational waves really do exist.  We sort of knew this already, through indirect observation of the orbital decay of binary neutron stars.  But it is awfully nice to observe these directly.  Now the subject is 100% nailed down.
  2. For the first time, black holes have been directly observed.  You can't see them with light, but now we can directly "see" them by the gravitational waves they radiate.
  3. Now for the important part, so pay attention: Think of all the new and interesting science we can do through this way of seeing out into the universe.  That's the real story here.  This is the equivalent of the first telescope being pointed out at the planets and stars.  Something unexpected is sure to pop up, and in unexpectedness there is discovery, new knowledge, and maybe even a path to some wisdom.
Bonus link: the Wikipedia entry on LIGO.  You ought to go skim that article too.
Image shamelessly stolen from the linked article.

That is all for today.

Might be doing better than stocks these days...

Ten Best Car Investments over at Fox.

"But honey, it's an investment!"

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Gravitational Waves, So What?

The big So What explained over at  Whatever the announcement today brings, there's the background.

Meanwhile, over at NASA's APOD site:

ps: And they found them!  Well, at least to five sigmas.  (5!!!!!  That's 1 part in 1.7 million.)    Good to have that one in the bag.
Science.  Damn straight.