Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Two States

Any questions?

Apollo 18 - the horror flick

The whole shaky-cam / found footage thing has been done to death, but this movie was surprisingly good.  The story was a B+ grade tale right out of the golden years of sci-fi, the action was (mostly) believable, and there were enough "holy crap, what was that?!?" moments to keep my interest – several of which revolved around space hardware.  Whoever wrote the script had a pretty good reading of Aviation Week, or at least the Wikipedia condensed version of it.
In the end, it is nothing more and nothing less than a competent monsters-in-space movie.  It was made, its viral marketing campaign didn't really take off, film critics (*sniff*) didn't get it, but it still made a little bit of money.  And there's nothing wrong with any of that.  If that sounds good to you, it's worth a rental.  3 out of 4 stars.

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Seventh Seal

Woke with a stabbing pain in my lower back (600 mg of ibuprofen later, all better, thank you) so I stayed home and lounged in my very-carefully adjusted easy chair while waiting for this back thing to sort itself out.  So naturally, I had time to catch up on movies.  I'd been trying to get to The Seventh Seal for something like 25 years now.  If you haven't seen it, don't wait as long as I did.  It's everything good that people have been saying about it for the last 55 years.
And do it right, watch it with subtitles.  After watching (with subtitles) one time through, I went back and watched the first 15 or so minutes with the English dub.  Not the same at all.  Do it, and do it right.  You don't want any lingering regrets like "I watched the dubbed version," 'case, you know, well, you just don't want to have any lingering regrets.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Two Odd Links

No content today folks, just links to sorta-funny stuff.
Movie posters from an alternate universe.
Cats for Gold!

Friday, January 20, 2012

SOPA & PIPA (and their problems) Explained

Via Khan Academy.  Best 11 minutes you'll spend all week.
OK, that's all for SOPA & PIPA for now, unless some unfortunate motion begins again.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

No Fourth Ward Cleaver for you!

As seen near the top of The Fourth Ward Cleaver's site:
Please note, there will be no January issue as our volunteer staff will be taking time with family and friends during the holidays.  We'll be back with a special Mardi Gras issue in February!!  
OK, I can see that.

So far so good: SOPA & PIPA lose support.

SOPA and PIPA lose key supporters at ComputerWeeekly.com  And Forbes gives yet another (but mercifully brief) plain language explanation as to why SOPA & PIPA are the worst things since barbed wire Halloween treats.  And the BBC has a slightly longer write-up on the whole topic, giving a little more background and context.
Keep you eye on the ball with this one folks.  These sorts of bills usually re-surface and get passed in "emergency" holiday-eve sessions, or get tacked on as amendments to unrelated must-pass legislation.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Sunday, January 15, 2012

It's only funny...

...if you're not in the business.

Shamelessly re-posted from PhD Comics.  Follow the link, and in the footnote there are links to three more quantum gradnamics comics.  Along with their classical gradnamics counterparts.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A Planet So Strange

Last week, I finished reading the wildest sci-fi book, “A Planet So Strange.”  It has a ridiculous amount of back story, but it picks up at the action-packed part and the history is skillfully woven back in.  Purportedly based on two after-action reports (one by an improbably named “Exchequer Albert Cowshead”), the tale is so bizarre that this short synopsis really doesn’t give anything away, so I won’t burden anyone with a spoiler warning.
The back story is that (yet again) Western civilization has crashed.  Militant Moslems filled the power gap and ruled things for over half a millennium in the new dark age, but were ultimately beaten back by a resurgent West that finally shambled back onto its feet.  Then, as fate would have it, just as the key victories over the Caliphate were being consolidated, a crude interstellar drive was developed by the West.  A few nearby star systems have been colonized, and some high-value resources have begun trickling back to replenish Earth’s war-depleted stocks, but the prize, the real prize, is in sight – a world peopled by seemingly barbarous natives, who may have the goods the West is after.
As a side-note, Earthmen have trouble pronouncing the indigenous name of the planet, about the only constant between different groups’ pronunciation being some variant of  the consonant “X.”  Naturally this leads to the unfortunate appellation “Planet X," later shortened to just “X."  Well, this is science fiction, after all.
The explorers sent out from Earth are not in the Neil Armstrong “we come in peace for all mankind” mode, nor are they of the James T. Kirk non-interference mindset.  No, in the wake of  the brutal re-conquest of the West over the Caliphate, they most definitely do not come in peace, and fully do intend to interfere.  And following a rash but very, very lucky first expedition to X, it is clear that the place is teeming with resources.  Resources for a war-impoverished West, yes, and wealth beyond dreams for successful explorers.  A second colonization expedition is launched, this time to the far side of X.  Naturally in order to make an interesting story, things have to go very badly for the second expedition, beginning with a rookie interstellar navigation mistake.  In the end, of the initial contingent of 300 explorers, four survivors  (now barely distinguishable from the natives, due largely to radiation from the star X orbits) link up with Earth forces after nearly a decade of warfare, wandering, and – get this – running a traveling faith-healing medicine show.
OK, sounds like a ripping tale, but it’s probably too far-fetched to keep the suspension of disbelief thing going, right?  Think again.  It’s a history book.  It’s already happened.  (Yeah, well, I fudged the part about the warp drive, they just used sailing ships.)  Two more hints: 1528, not the future.  Mexico and Texas, not “Planet X.”  And the real title?  “A Land So Strange: The Epic Journey of Cabeza de Vaca,” by Andres Resendez.

Folks, if you think history is boring, your professor’s doing it wrong.

BTW, here's a short-short take on the whole story, at Wikipedia: Cabeza de Vaca.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

You know...

...this is about the way it is.
Or at least close enough to give a good laugh.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

No, I haven't quit blogging.

Just been... busy.  Had a nasty, subtle bug in a program at work, it'd been dogging me since a couple of weeks before Christmas.   Found and eliminated it yesterday afternoon around 3 o'clock, stumbled home with victory in my teeth, as well as a splitting headache.

But no, I haven't quit blogging, and have a couple of pretty good posts in mind already.  Stay patient, stay tuned – the weekend is young.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Welcome to the Future

It doesn't look anything like what Chesley Bonestell imagined it would but it's pretty cool anyway, with all the iDevices and carbon fiber bikes and whatnot.  Meh, it's the only future we got, might as well make the best of it.  And, as a practical matter, we do have the space station, ferry rocket, and space telescope from this painting – even though their final forms are quite different.
BTW, there's a ton more Bonestell art here, and the official site for obtaining permission to use his art is here.