Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Music of Sumer, Akkad and Points East

So a British musician has tried to recreate - or used as an inspiration - music of Ancient Sumer. Ur of the Chaldees rockin' the house...


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Three Simple Ways to Build Human Capital at the Syfy Channel

So. Human capital.

In my last post, I busted Syfy's ass for not having enough human capital - writers/execs who understood both the science and the habits of thought needed to create good science fiction. But the truth is, developing human capital in science fiction isn't easy. [NB - I was going to put a photo of one of Syfy's major content VPs here, but it was a professional headshot, and the guy STILL looked like a complete douche. It would have been unfair, so instead, you get a pic of the beautiful Andromeda galaxy...with which we're going to collide in just four billion years. Enjoy!]

A good science fiction writer is someone who can ask a significant "What If." What if we develop a technology that's mind-shatteringly dangerous, but also economically crucial? What if people live to be 180 years old...but only a few of them, and only because of family genetics? What if old age is actually a crucial stage in human evolution? In other words, What if the conditions of the world become different - how would we respond?

Monday, December 22, 2014

The Syfy Channel, Real Science Fiction, and Human Capital

Sharknado isn't science fiction, and neither is Syfy.

That's why the Science Fiction Channel changed its name to Syfy in 2009 - so that it could walk away from a commitment to the genre, and instead program low-grade monster movies, WWE wrestling, and reality shows where Tracy Morgan tries to make people wet their pants.

Now that they've become a textbook case of Fail, they're trying to walk it back. They've started production on The Expanse; they've shot Ascension; they're mounting series like Defiance. Lots of spaceships and aliens. It's even possible - just barely - that they understand why so many science fiction fans were offended by their rebranding.

But there's a problem: The people running Syfy aren't fans, they're TV execs. They know a lot about the complicated craft of creating stories for television, but they don't realize that creating science fiction stories that are compelling, surprising, and logical is just as complicated - and wildly different.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Ascension Does Not Improve; We Stop Watching [SPOILERS]

So the psychological inconsistencies mentioned last time get worse. Much worse. Much dumber. It's just on the cusp of possibility for the show to explain them, but it's too late for me. Disbelief is no longer suspended.

If you've watched even a bit, you know by now that the starship Ascension is a giant 1963-themed version of The Truman Show, with all 600 crew members enduring the ultimate fake-out; instead of two lightyears from Earth, they're living in a giant basement somewhere, monitored, poked and prodded by a second generation of spooky government lab freaks.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

So...Ascension. [SPOILERS!]

A while back, I wrote that Syfy's production of S.A. Corey's Expanse series would be the marker for how well the channel is changing direction. Judging by the first episode of their preliminary attempt, the in-house mini-series Ascension, that change in direction is sincere...but not necessarily successful.

Ascension's premise is charmingly insane: In addition to setting up the Apollo program, JFK also launched the human race's first interstellar probe. Ascension is a slower-than-light multigenerational colony ship heading toward Proxima Centauri, with a design based on the old atom-bomb powered Orion-class starship model. Inside the ship, it's still 1963. Mad Men in space. Lena Horne is playing over the PA system and the captain's wife wears pearls (and pimps out a string of attractive "stewardesses" to powerful men on the ship, but that's another storyline).

Monday, December 15, 2014

Medieval Recipe Day - Let's Make a Syllabub!

So, three things:

Number One: I'm posting this one mostly because I like the name.
Number Two: Strictly speaking, this is more of a Renaissance England than a Medieval recipe - or at least, our best records on syllabub "only" go back about five hundred years.
Number Three: You can find dozens of recipes for syllabubs. This is just one.

Syllabubs were a kind of custardy, frothy desert, served cold (or cool - this is pre-refrigeration). They were also a combination of ingredients that not too many modern cooks might think of...so if you actually try to make it, let me know how it tastes!

Take:

One Quart of Cream
One Pint and an half of Wine or Sack
Juice of two lemons with some of the peel
A branch of rosemary.

Sweeten it very well, then put a little of this liquor, and a little of the cream into a basin, beat them till it froths, put that froth into the syllabub pot, and so do till the cream and wine be done, then cover it close, and set it in a cool cellar for twelve hours, then eat it.
(from Hannah Wooley, The Queen-Like Closet, London 1649)


Friday, December 12, 2014

War Machines!

If you're obsessed with ancient ways of killing people and destroying cities, then Happy Holidays! The good folks at the British Library have a present for you: They've digitized Burney MS 69, a collection of Greek manuscripts on siege engines and other modes of making war. The documents range from Hellenistic engineers to Byzantine generals. Of course, they're written in Greek of various ages (so sucks to be me and probably you) but they also include illustrations. He-he.



This is part of a larger digitization of Byzantine manuscripts that include sermons, hymns, prayerbooks, letters, and an "Historium Romanae" by Appian.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Economic Warfare Goes "Whimper"

About four years ago, I did some writing (badly) for a small investment firm that was well...obsessed...by two things: natural resources (gold, oil, etc.) and China. Then along came a "crisis" that seemed to be tailor-made for it: China declared an embargo against Japan of REE - rare earth elements. Rare earths like neodymium and dysprosium are powerful ingredients in room-temperature super magnets, rechargeable batteries, wind power generators, hybrid cars, smartphones, and dozens of other high-tech, almost indispensable products, and at the time China controlled more than 90% of the global supply.

The embargo caused an epic freakout among news analysts and the good folks at Anonymous Investments. But in the end it turned out to be a dud. io9.com has an interesting article about why, and it gives a little insight into how a healthy market can correct itself.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Monday, October 20, 2014

Isaac Asimov, DARPA, and Creativity - WHERE DO THEY GET THEIR IDEAS?

So you all know about our Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency,
or DARPA, right? It contributed to (among other things) the genesis of the Internet, GPS, time-sharing, and hypermedia. These days it's examining things like adaptive vehicles, protein design, and converting brain waves into speech.

And it turns out that in 1959, DARPA hired ISAAC ASIMOV to think about creativity for them! And the paper he wrote is now available!

Here it is.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Place That No Longer Exists

When I was young - I don't remember how young, but I suspect it was before my family left Brooklyn - I visited the Twin Towers and went to the top. I remember floor-to-ceiling windows, without rails - nothing to get between you and the view. I wasn't fond of heights, and it took an effort of will to get close to the glass. I saw everything: Wall Street; the Jersey side, with its docks and its line of (then) rundown towns - Weehawken, Hoboken, Jersey City, Bayonne; the harbor and the islands - Ellis, Liberty, Governors, Staten Island; everything so far down and away that it actually looked curved, which is probably my memory playing tricks on me. I also remember how cold it was. The plaza around the towers was barren, straight-up early '70s Brutalist, so there was nothing to stop the Hudson hawk from stinging your cheeks and bringing tears to your eyes. I remember thinking that the place was pretty desolate. I was impressed by the size and the height, but not much else. Much later, I heard that a successful neighborhood had been bulldozed to make room for the WTC, much as had been done for Lincoln Center some years earlier.

I'm now a member of a weird, accidental fraternity, one of Kurt Vonnegut's granfaloons – the group of people who have been to a particular place that no longer exists. The group is filled with millions of bond traders, Japanese tourists, janitors, IT professionals…and inside it is a smaller group: the people who were there that day, and the first responders who tried to save them. The terrorist who killed them has been dumped like garbage into the sea, but their names are on hallowed ground.



Saturday, September 6, 2014

Want To Help Make a Hullabaloo?

Hullabaloo is an animated short project looking for funding on IndieGoGo. Its creators are former Disney animators who want to use genuine old-school 2D line-drawing instead of the rubbery computer-generated "uncanny valley" stuff (that I loathe and) that has come to dominate the animation industry. (Think Beauty and the Beast vs. Toy Story.) The story - hold on to your bowlers and millinery - is a steampunk Girl's Own Adventure, sort of Veronica Mars meets Jules Verne by way of Girl Genius and Marvel Comics.



In short, this sounds like a worthy project...and unlike Zach Braff, these folks won't make a million off this, and are willing to hand out producer credit.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Who'd Have Guessed the Atomic Bomb?

AMC, HBO Netflix and Amazon get most of the press for hot series. But I just saw an episode - a very good episode - of a new series on WGN America. The series is called Manhattan, and it's set at the Manhattan Project.

In this episode I didn't see anything that was flabbergastingly new, but the characters and their motivations were well-done, the period look was convincing, and I was hooked within the first couple of scenes. The actors were all pros, and the physical casting was good...they all looked like they belonged in the '40s, like they'd stepped out of an Eisenstadt photo.

Fingers crossed, this might be a happy surprise - vicious defense-nerd politics during WWII.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Life in Space!

And not some lame "astronauts live in space" cop-out.
It seems that there's actual sea plankton on the outside of the International Space Station!
How did it get there? How does it survive?
No answers yet.
BUT THIS IS SO COOL.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Did You Like "Pinky and the Brain"?

Then you might...or might not...want to see this video, done with Rob Paulsen and Maurice LaMarche, where the Brain finally snaps.

Narf. Poit.


[WARNING: NOT FOR KIDDIES.]

Thursday, August 21, 2014

What's As Nerdy As Climate Change?

The Governor
Nothing. Especially climate change in Florida, whose governor, Rick Scott, has publicly tried to disclaim any knowledge of climate science - and therefore any responsibility for climate-change policy.

I'd like to point to the suicidal recklessness here. The two BIGGEST, MOST IMMEDIATE, MOST LIKELY effects of global warming are increased storm activity and sea level rise resulting in coastal flooding. Most of Florida is nothing BUT coast, and if a hurricane lands anywhere in the US, it hits Florida first. A governor from Utah might shine on questions of climate policy - but for a Florida governor to do so reflects a level of meat-headed thinking that's exceptional.

What his state will look like
So a trio of Florida climatologists offered to sit down with Governor Doofus - sorry, Governor Scott, slip of the key there - and explain the science, why it leads where it leads, and just how strong the evidence is.

Scott gave them 30 minutes.
They took it.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Mind the Adjectives

Every now and then you read a "think piece" that goes right down the rabbit hole. I ran across this op-ed on Politico, saying that Mitt Romney might still have a presidential shot in 2016. The guy who wrote it was a Romney staffer, so my quest for context could have ended right there. But no, I had to read it. It started off by comparing Romney to Richard Nixon...and that's when things got really crazy.

You see, I thought Emil Henry had written the piece because he was a Romney loyalist. Turns out that what he is, is a Nixon loyalist. If you want a real index of just how far the GOP has wandered, how deep the Mad Cow Disease has eaten into the party's brain, this is it. Nixon isn't a vicious ratfucker who clawed his way to power and almost destroyed this nation's core institutions; he is a "mighty warrior" who is "tenacious" and "warm, charming...even gentle."

Now let me be perfectly clear...Nixon had some impressive achievements (ending Vietnam, establishing the EPA, rapprochement with China), but he was also, most importantly, an amoral criminal. A traitor, too: In 1968, while a private citizen, he tried to persuade the South Vietnamese government to abandon President Lyndon Johnson's ceasefire negotiations with the North in order to boost his own chances as a presidential candidate.

If GOP loyalists actually believe Nixon was a good president, there's nothing left to discuss.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Coffee Update #1

So, about a month ago I bought myself an old-timey, Mad Men-esque coffee percolator to see if it really was superior to Mr. Coffee and his brown, bitter brethren.

THE OFFICIAL VERDICT...is still out. Sorry.

There's definitely a little more body to the coffee, a little more of the aromatics, especially if you let the coffee brew in the percolator for a few minutes, instead of pouring it out as soon as the indicator tells you. But it isn't the coffee-nova-taste-explosion I was retro-anticipating from my religious experience at CPK (California Pizza Kitchen).

The percolator is also definitely a more complex beast than Mr. Coffee. You have to watch the grind more carefully (it's a coarse grind, like a French Press); you have to deconstruct and reconstruct the percolator assembly inside the machine for each batch; and you have to be sure the water's cold before you pour it in, and the tap water in my apartment is tepid at best. All of this becomes almost automatic over time, but it's a definite thing. And of course, cleanup is more complicated, too. On the plus side again, you can let the coffee set in the percolator for longer than it would in the drip machine without it becoming undrinkable.

It's been a worthwhile experiment so far.
We shall see...


MARVEL VS. DC

This pretty much says it all.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

You Can Make a Joke About Anything

I've said this for a long, long time, but since I went to a notoriously "That's Not Funny!" campus of the PC variety, many of my former classmates disagree with me.

Well, here's the proof that I'm right, and they're wrong...says the Jew.


ETA: Sorry - It looks like the eedjits at EPIX ended the clip right before Patton gets to his point of exactly why the Germans are so completely humorless...which is, of course, the point of this blog post.

I'm not going to reveal it. Try and catch the routine on Comedy Central. It's at the very end of Oswalt's Tragedy Plus Comedy Equals Time standup...as all edgy material generally is.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Washington, Jefferson, Satan

So, y'all might remember how the Satanists struck at the Oklahoma legislators who didn't quite understand the concept of the Separation of Church and State.

Well, they're taking it to the next level, and hitting the Hobby Lobby religious exemption where it hurts.

We now live in a country where the most innovative guardians of the founding principles of our nation are Satanists.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

One day, I drank a good cup of coffee.

Like, a REALLY good cup of coffee. We're talking coffee so rich that, without sugar and only a hint of milk, it tasted like coffee ice cream; coffee that took my nose, my soft palate and my tongue on a mellow voyage to Colombia. And it was served, of all places, at a California chain restaurant notorious for defiling the very concept of pizza with things like pineapple, guacamole, and chipotle jalapeƱos.

Astounded, I interrogated the server. Was this Jamaica Blue Mountain I was drinking, for only $2.50 a cup? Nope, she replied. Was there some special roasting process? She shrugged. Undaunted, I waited for my chance and sauntered behind the serving island to check out their coffee process, and I saw it. Giant machines with glass tubes and glass knobs on top, bubbling, steaming...

Percolators. The coffee was perked.

I've just ordered a percolator from Sears. I've read up on perc prep (clear water, coarse grind). And I will let you all know if it's truly just that good.

Friday, July 11, 2014

The Nerds Hate You - Even the Objectivists

[WARNING - WE LINK TO SEX STUFF IN THIS POST. 'KAY?]

We're all used to partisan takedowns on the Internet. Talking Points Memo points out the nonsense of Todd Akin, Sarah Palin, et al; Breitbart.whatever mocks the (frequently mythical) shortcomings of progressives. [Yeah, I'm a progressive. Get over it.]

But here's the deal: When you are so pig-ignorant that io9.com, a nonpolitical website devoted to science fiction and fantasy, has to highlight your stupidity, you have well and truly let down your team.

Like this guy.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

A Chunk of Denisovan DNA

Tibetans are uniquely suited to living at high altitudes where there's 40% less oxygen than at sea level. They're genetically similar to Han Chinese, except for one thing - a super-long string of DNA called EPAS1. It's that string that carries the traits that help them thrive, and now we know where they got it - from Denisovan Humans, a species we didn't even know EXISTED until we sequenced their genes from a finger bone four years ago!

Best guess, the ancestors of the Tibetans mated with the Denisovans, much like we mated with Neanderthals. (Some folks have 5% Neanderthal DNA in their genetic makeup.)

This stuff is so cool.


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Dark Side of Mindfulness

So, I've had a lot of friends recommend meditation and/or mindfulness as something that I should consider. I have, and I'm checking it out. But this article on Atlantic.com shows that meditation is not the unalloyed good that it's claimed to be. That doesn't surprise me, really...if you think about it, any program that has the real prospect of spiritual growth would also include risk and danger, just as any drug that's strong enough to be effective is also strong enough to have side effects. Something to think about.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Sometimes, I Weep for My Country

The Wyoming State Legislature has voted to kill the Next Generation Science Standards for kids...because it might harm the state's coal and oil interests. In other words, no teaching climate change as fact.

From Sword Fighters to Jet Fighters

We're about all things nerdy here, and there's nothing more nerdy than engineering...unless we're talking military engineering! Here's a video clip of Pierre Sprey, one of the engineers of the classic F-16 fighter, talking about why the F-35 JSF (Joint Strike Fighter) is such a mess, a dog's breakfast, a clusterf***...a kludge. On a personal note, more than 40 years ago, my dad worked at the Pentagon as a math/engineering nerd, helping to evaluate weapons systems. He told me the generals enthused about an assault rifle that could throw a slug the length of a football field and offered multiple fire modes and attachments. These came at the design cost of complexity, lack of user-friendliness, and lack of reliability. The generals didn't consider that the US was fighting in jungles with limited sight
lines, humid environments that were tough on delicate machinery, and a draftee army with limited training opportunities. The Viet Cong used the AK-47 - it lacked options and accuracy, but it was rugged, easy to make, easy to use, and cheap.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

A Bright Spot in the Eco-Catastrophe

It seems that more than a dozen "developing" countries - including Brazil, which is enormous - have been making successful efforts to reverse deforestation. They may be having more an impact on climate change than richer nations. Think about it.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Bill Murray is the New Chuck Norris Meme

Reasons why Billy Murray is awesome.... http://www.dumpaday.com/random-pictures/reasons-bill-murray-is-awesome-16-pics/
See, this is EXACTLY how a comedy legend should spend his time post-blockbuster. Woody Allen spends his time making tiny little movies that people pretend to like. Bill Murray takes the funny to the people and has an amazing time. (Although if this is what he's doing, it's kind of hard to understand how he feuded with Harold Ramis all that time. It seems right in his wheelhouse.) As I take a second look at these photos and captions, I realize- Bill Murray is the New Chuck Norris Meme.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

I Have a New Favorite Actor [SPOILER]

Pedro Pascal, the gent who played Oberyn Martell on Game of Thrones - and this video is why. Here he is, describing his concept of the Red Viper's funeral. I would kill to see them actually shoot this on GoT.

GoT Spoiler

So...as soon as I saw Oberyn do his fancy spins and flips before the trial by combat, I knew he would die. It's to the the show's credit that I actually suspended disbelief for a few moments during the fight, and entertained the notion that he might live. But alas, no.

 Here's the thing - I've heard a lot of people complain that they knew Oberyn was going to die because virtue never triumphs on Game of Thrones. The good always die young: Ned Stark, Rob Stark, Catelyn Stark, etc. But they're missing the point, of course. The bad die, too - Joffrey, Viserys - and the good survive (for a while anyway): Tyrion, Jon Snow, Sam Tarley.

The point isn't that the innocent die, or that evil triumphs: The point is that living or dying has nothing to do with good or evil. Instead, it depends entirely on whether or not you're paying attention. Oberyn took his eye off the ball, so no amount of training in the fighting pits of Dorne was going to save him. Joffrey is more interested in sadism than power. He thinks he's invulnerable. He's wrong. Ned Stark is more interested in justice than power. He dies. Rob Stark is more interested in honor and love than power. He dies. Jaime Lannister only cares about himself. He does okay, until he starts to care about Brienne. Then he loses a hand. You'd think he's learned his lesson...but probably not. Tywin Lannister is really interested in power...but he can't let go of those delusions, like "Tyrion killed my wife" or "Jaime is fit to lead." He's alive for now - but you just know those delusions will come back to bite him in the ass. A truly smart clan leader would never both abuse an underling (Tyrion) and give him power, and then indulge the spite of one of his other children.

 The characters with a single-minded purpose get farther than the ones who are distracted by fancy notions. Which should mean that the Hound lives forever. But maybe not.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Five-Hour Energy, Eat Your Heart Out

Over at io9.com, they've got a photo collection of 19th Century patent medicines that remind us exactly why we have "government interference" like the FDA.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Silicon Valley

Not the place, the show. Mike Judge is behind it, and it seems pretty good so far. You have to love a show where a character is shanghaied by the computer glitch in a driverless car.

Monday, May 19, 2014

People I Hate That I've Never Met

For years I hated Jim Morrison, frontman for The Doors. As a member of Generation X, I loathed most things having to do with the '60s, and to me, the Doors' catalog epitomized the pomposity and self-importance of the Boomers. (I've changed my mind about some of their songs since, but "Love Me Two Times" and "Touch Me" still piss me off.) And Morrison seemed like the essence of narcissistic '60s bullshit - the canned beans and LSD, the Venice Beach "meet cute" with Ray Manzarek, the bare-chested pouty album covers, the rocker flameout death in Paris, the liebestod romances with Rimbaud and Kerouac. But then I found a recording of a bit of an interview Morrison did with Howard Smith. Morrison is talking about putting on a freshman thirty at college, and how he liked being fat. He's playing around with the interviewer, and it's so friendly and and down to earth, it's hard not to like him. It reminded me that hating on people you've never met is a mug's game. Actor, athlete, artist, reality TV "personality," those are only personae. Anyone older than 18 knows that intellectually...but we all have to be reminded, from time to time.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

The Devil's Dictionary

A hundred years ago, freelance grump Ambrose Bierce wrote a book called The Devil's Dictionary, which was full of the snarkiest definitions he could invent for American sacred cows. Of course, such a dictionary could not be allowed to pass forever from the earth - so the good folks at TL;DR Wikipedia have updated the project for the Internet Age. Enjoy!

Monday, April 14, 2014

[SPOILER] The King Is Dead. Anyone Want To Be King?

Congrats to Jack Gleeson on helping to animate a character so vividly hated by so many people. Joffrey will be missed by all of us who enjoy a good sadist/coward combo (a classic trope of Western storytelling). I do hope Jack hasn't been getting blowback from unbalanced Game of Thrones fans who can't distinguish between the actor and the role.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Bad Science

One of the biggest problems facing us today isn't anti-vaxxers, or climate deniers, or Holocaust deniers, or creationists. It's the force behind them that makes all of it possible - a deliberate rejection of knowledge, a triumphant ignorance. This kind of ignorance can only flourish when we as a society lose our "herd immunity" to nonsense; and we keep that immunity by knowing how to think. By understanding the laws of logic and evidence, of separating truth from lies, of coming to correct judgments. Here's an article that helps a little.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Affordable Care Act

I just went through New York's ACA marketplace to change my health insurance. I'm now saving about $70 a month, with expanded coverage. Thank you, Obamacare.

Friday, February 28, 2014

It Didn't Hold Water!

When I wrote The Wrong Sword I assumed, like about a million other writers of historical farce/fantasy/drama/baloney, that folks back then preferred beer and wine to water because water could be "iffy." Turns out that's not true! Our ancestors were NOT morons. And here's the blog post to prove it:

http://leslefts.blogspot.com.au/2013/11/the-great-medieval-water-myth.html

It makes sense if you actually sit down and think about it. Contaminated water is a bugaboo of human occupation, especially settled, urban-ish occupation. We have a tendency to crap where we eat (and drink), after all. And in Medieval Europe, with far fewer people and far more untended land and unpolluted watersheds, the likelihood of finding clean water - from a spring, a well, a stream or even a sufficiently clean pond - was that much greater.

And there it is!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Harold Ramis, 1944-2014


Damn it.

One of the great funnies died today - Harold Ramis...aka Dr. Egon Spengler. He collaborated as a writer on some the best comedies of the '80s, from Animal House to Caddyshack to Ghostbusters, and he directed movies like Groundhog Day. Ivan Reitman, who directed Ghostbusters, credited Ramis with adding the best parts of the story - the romance between Billy Murray and Sigourney Weaver, the irony, and "all the adult writing." He also added that Ramis was the one who was responsible for the film's story structure.



I mention this because when I, like all film students, was struggling to wrap my head around the nuances of three-act structure, Ghostbusters was my go-to script. It hums along perfectly, like a freshly lubricated electric motor, so efficient that it seems effortless and you almost don't notice the transitions from act to act, the planting, the payoff...the mechanics. And, of course, funny. FUNNY. And I know, deep in my heart, that it was Harold was responsible for the two best lines in the movie:

"Your girlfriend lives...in the corner penthouse...of Spook Central."


&

"When someone asks you if you're a god, you say...YES!"

What were your favorite Ramis lines?

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Map Day - Pangea

Just found this map over at io9.com
- the supercontinent of Pangea as it looked about 200 million years ago, but drawn up with modern political borders to give us some idea of what went where. Don't know why, but for some reason the rift valley/fault line/river/inland sea separating the Americas from Africa is particularly intriguing to me.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Snow Day

It's worse than it looks. Click on the image and see.


Some Gorgeous "Red Mars" Artwork

This is a beautiful concept-art view of a colonized Mars taken from a space elevator leading down to Pavonis Mons. The white cable is the massive elevator cable. [N.B. According to the artist, Ludovic Celle, the cable's curve is an artistic choice, not some unexpected visual artifact of an alien environment - we could expect the cable to appear straighter if we saw it in reality.]


Saturday, February 8, 2014

Ham on Nye - the Dessert

If you're expecting an analysis of the debate between Average Joe Rational Guy Bill Nye and Creationist Power Suck Ken Ham, I'm sorry, I can't oblige. I didn't watch the debate.

Those of you who know me in person know that this isn't because I don't care; rather, it's because I care so much that hearing Ham come up with yet more warmed-over nonsense to support his erroneous interpretation of a sacred metaphor, instead of looking at the tangible physical evidence and being willing to revise his opinion as new data emerges, drives me freakin' loopy.

Yes, I have intellectual anger issues.

That said, the debate has spawned some fun stuff like this.


Monday, February 3, 2014

On a Personal Note-

- it sucks to have leftover business and emotional crap from childhood; it sucks almost as much to try to clear it away with the people involved; but every now and then, you gotta. Tonight wasn't as bad I'd feared...I just hope that the folks on the other side handle it well.

And there's still more to do. Sigh.

Would it were bed-time, and all well.


Saturday, February 1, 2014

Science Strikes Back

If you're like me, you have a minor, low-level burn whenever you hear yet another denialist parading his or her ignorance. Climate deniers, evolution deniers, anti-vaxxers, the whole sad, neurotic crew who demand, day after day, that the world be the way they want it, instead of accepting it for what it is...and trying to drag the rest of humanity down with them. If they were the only ones affected by their abandonment of reason, it would be one thing; but their craziness is guaranteed to harm the rest of us.

So it's nice to know that - every now and then - science, logic and reason strike back. Read about it here.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Read This!

First, apologies. It's been a while since my last post. Life sometimes gets in the way - selfish, I know.

That being said, here's an article that's very, very, very interesting. It plays tangentially on the geek side because it deals with a character type that's very common in crime and action movies; and it's also a unique look at one of the biggest issues in neurobiology.

Go!

Read!

http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/01/life-as-a-nonviolent-psychopath/282271/

Saturday, January 4, 2014

So I Got the Kvasir

So I have a bottle of the Kvasir I talked about here. Three blocks from my apartment!
But it's big, and it's got a bottle cap, not something you can reseal...so, all my NYC friends, let me know if you want to split a dram...

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Why I Love New York, Baby!

First of all, I can see the Central Park fireworks from my living-room. So that's excellent. But there's more:

Every now and then, I'm reminded that in addition to being a crowded, pushy, still-dangerous mass of 1% "takers" and violent assholes, NYC is also the official Center of the Frikkin' Universe©. Like today:

There's a brewery down in Delaware that is actually (this is so cool) recreating ancient booze with the help of an honest-to-goodness biochemical archeologist. Now I saw that one of those brews is Kvasir, which is a rough approximation of what the Vikings drank when they wanted to get hammered and declaim poetry (and which occupies a place in Norse mythology not unlike that of soma in Hindu scripture). So I thought "I could like that...but not if I have to order the stuff through the mail or spend an hour and a half on the train to get to Bay Ridge or Red Hook for it." So I look it up on the website's locater function...and it's being sold at the Duane Reade three blocks from my apartment.

Center of the Frikkin' Universe©, baby.