Thursday, September 30, 2010

Woohoo! Road trip!

A cool new headline in the old feed reader this morning read: US scientists find potentially habitable planet near Earth".

It turns out that planet Gliese 581g (orbiting the Red Dwarf star Gliese 581 — only 20 light years away) may have areas that would support human life.
The planet… is orbiting in the middle of the "habitable zone" of the red dwarf star Gliese 581, which means it could have water on its surface.

Liquid water and an atmosphere are necessary for a planet to possibly sustain life, even if it might not be a great place to live, the scientists said.

The planet… has a mass three to four times that of Earth and an orbital period of just under 37 days. Its mass indicates that it is probably a rocky planet and has enough gravity to hold on to an atmosphere…
Given the close proximity of Gliese 581g to Earth, it seems a road trip is definitely in order. But before you pack your bags, there are a few things you might want to keep in mind.

First, scientists say the planet is "tidally locked" to it's star, meaning it's always daytime on one side and always night on the other. The planet is theoretically habitable in the "twilight zone" where it's perpetually evening (or morning, depending on your perspective).

This isn't terrible, given that you potentially would have a nice romantic sunset all day long. Unfortunately in that habitable area, temperatures are thought to range from -24 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit — much like North Dakota.

The other hitch is that the planet is three to four times more massive that Earth. This is good, since it means that it can hold an atmosphere, which is nice if you plan on breathing.

But you'd better be in some pretty good physical shape by the time you get there. If you weigh in at a svelte 180 pounds on Earth, you'll have to lug around a 720 pound body on Gliese 581g. And that Quarter Pounder with Cheese that you packed for a snack just became a One Pounder with cheese.

Still, it may be cold, rocky, and dark, and it may make your butt look fat in those jeans, but I bet Gliese 581g is still ten times nicer than Uranus.

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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

YouTube Tuesday: The adventures of Dot

Today's edition of YouTube Tuesday is a cute little stop-motion animation in it's own right. But even more interesting, it was filmed with a cell phone camera using an attachment called a CellScope…
Professor Fletcher's invention of the CellScope, which is a Nokia device with a microscope attachment, was the inspiration for a teeny-tiny film created by Sumo Science at Aardman. It stars a 9mm girl called Dot as she struggles through a microscopic world. All the minuscule detail was shot using CellScope technology and a Nokia N8, with its 12 megapixel camera and Carl Zeiss optics.

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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

YouTube Tuesday: Extruded light art

Most people who don't have posters of Steve Jobs on their bedroom walls agree that the Apple iPad is pretty much useless. And I totally agree.

Which is why I guess it's good for Apple that there are people out there with more money and time than they know what to do with who can work on coming up with gimmicks and cute ways to try to find SOMETHING worthwhile to do with these things.

Enter the creators of Making Future Magic, Dentsu London. The creative agency put their considerable talents to work developing a new sort of stop-motion animation using the iPad's screen.
This film explores playful uses for the increasingly ubiquitous ‘glowing rectangles’ that inhabit the world.

We use photographic and animation techniques that were developed to draw moving 3-dimensional typography and objects with an iPad. In dark environments, we play movies on the surface of the iPad that extrude 3-d light forms as they move through the exposure. Multiple exposures with slightly different movies make up the stop-frame animation.

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Monday, September 20, 2010

The Hunt, Part 3: Parting shots

Capturing a good photo of the elusive white squirrel proved more challenging than I had originally expected.

I can only assume that growing up a white squirrel in a gray squirrel's world must be a lot like Johnny Cash's Boy Names Sue. You either have to become very quick and elusive, or you get eaten by hawks.

That being the case, it wouldn't have taken me this long if I hadn't had some of the defections among my crew. When my plan to trap the beast met with mixed results, I decided to hire a couple of guys to help out with this little project. But one by one they abandoned me the the quest.

First, Ishmael decided go to back to teaching when the school year started again. Then Starbuck decided to go open a chain of coffee shops (Hope he's doing well with that. There's a lot of competition in that sector these days.) And Queequeg had to quit when one of his new tattoos became severely infected.

Be that as it may, I persevered. Camera in hand, finger on trigger, er, shutter release as I passed through the beasts feeding grounds daily. I spotted it often, but as I've said before, a clear focused image remained out of my grasp for weeks.

Until one still, lazy afternoon in the late summer, after the season's heat had broken, but the sun was still bright, I decide to take a leisurely stroll up up the street. Almost out of habit, I'd taken my camera.

I walked casually up the street to the squirrel's feeding grounds. Sure enough, there he was. I stopped for a moment, not evening bothering to raise my camera. I knew from experience that in a split second it would bolt up the tree or into the bushes, so why bother taking off the lens cap.

But for some reason, this time was different. I don't know why. Maybe Moby had grown accustomed to my face, or scent, or whatever, because I'd stopped by so often. Maybe at this point he sort of considered me the squirrel equivalent of a friend (a squirrelfriend?).

Perhaps he was just tried of the whole game, tired of continually being pursued and running away. It could be that in his tiny squirrel brain, life just wasn't worth living when your always on the run.

Whatever it was, this time he didn't bolt right away. He sat there, still as a statue, his little black eyes watching me. He twitched his tail a few times as I raised my Nikon and removed the lens cap. He put his paws to his mouth, nibbled a bit on an acorn, then proceeded to ignore me.

By now of course, I'm clicking away like mad, capturing as many frames as I can with Moby posing like a Vogue model during fashion week. After weeks of hunting, the actual moment of capturing the prey was exhilarating.

The photo session seemed to go on for hours, but I'm sure it only lasted for a minute or two if even that. Soon, it seemed the white squirrel's survival instincts took over. After a quick glance back at me, he took two long hops and landed on a tree trunk.

He ran a lap around the base of the tree, and then instantly shot up into the branches of the of the oak canopy 30 feet above me.

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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

It's a mad, mad Mad Men world

One of my favorite local bloggers recently tried to watch the hit TV show Mad Men, but couldn't get through an entire episode because it's so booooooorrriinnnnggggg.
People blather on about how beautifully the show captures the 1960s—the clothes, the sexism, the smoking. I got over that in about 15 minutes. Yes, you’ve done your research. Now have your characters DO something.
And you know what, I'm with JJS on this. I mean, if something doesn't have loud music and sparkly jingly things within the first five minutes, I say "see ya, wouldn't want to be ya."

It's like, what am I watching TV for, to be intellectually stimulated? To have to actually THINK about what I'm seeing? Hellz no! I'm watching TV so I DON'T have to think, so I can just see some holier-than-thou never-was tell some untalented nobody that "You Suck!"

Now THAT'S entertainment!

And I don't want to hear any of you book lovers tell me to go read a book, either! Have you ever TRIED to read something like The Great Gatsby?! Yeah, right. "Great" my ass. If it's so great, why doesn't anything happen until, like, the second chapter.

No thank you. Give me some good wholesome Deal or No Dancing with America's Top Survivor Idol. At least something actually HAPPENS in those shows.

But Mad Men? Yeah. Nothing EVAR happens.

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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

YouTube Tuesday: Instant Billy Joel

If you keep up with tech news — which is way less depressing than the real news — you no doubt heard about Google's launch of Google Instant last week.

Google Instant is an essentially useless feature that allows you to get "instant" search results rather than having to wait 0.8 seconds. I say it's essentially useless because it's only available on the Google home page, which, let's face it, nobody uses anymore.

But it is useful for the production of a nifty and moderately entertaining keyword search video set to the music of Billy Joel's We Didn't Start The Fire1. You might want to click full-screen mode to get full enjoyment from this video.

1. When is someone going to do an update to this song using references to the first decade of the current century?

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Friday, September 10, 2010

Random Photo XXXVIII: PACing KC

A few weeks ago I got a nice shot of the continuing construction of the new Performing Arts Center in Kansas City.

Shot from atop the Liberty Memorial, I think it's clear this building will be a great addition to the downtown skyline.
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Thursday, September 09, 2010

Soy un perdedor

It's been growing, like another wart on the ugly face of American pop culture, for a few years now.

I'd hear these rumors and rumblings and increasingly regular references on popular fake news television shows. Like jungle drums starting in the distance and getting closer… "beck"…"Beck"…"BECK"… For some reason, everyone seems to be talking about Glenn Beck. Especially the people who hate him the most.

They have virtually canonized him in the social media circle jerks like Twitter, where it's common to see attempts at wise cracks from 140 character pundits such as ... The thing that doesn't make sense to me is why, when so many people dislike him so much, do they devote so much of their cognitive energy him.

I mean, it's one thing to listen, read, talk to people with whom you disagree. This is a sign of healthy intellect. But have to realize where a person stands and that person isn't likely to change their position (especially when their career and their millions of dollars are dependent upon them being in that position).

I mean, if you're a hemp wearing, flag burning, drum circle sitting hippie and you've regularly listened to Rush Limbaugh for the last 20 years -- well, you might want to reconsider the hemp thing.

You know what I'm sayin?

If you're one of those delusional Hope&Change suckers with your head stuck firmly in Nancy Pelosi's assets and your pink blinders filtering out all rational evidence that both so-called political parties have failed The Republic (if you can still call it that) miserably and you still bother to scour YouTube for Glenn Beck's latest screed, then I can only conclude that you're either not-so-bright or you're some kind of rage addict.

Or both.

Look, I like you guys. I really do. That's why it's so awkward to try to explain to you how you're being used. But I'll do it anyway. Because when you care about someone, you keep their best interests in mind even when it's uncomfortable.

You see, son, Glenn Beck doesn't give a flyin' FOX what your opinion is. I suspect that he doesn't even care what his own opinion is. To Beck, it isn't important to have the "right" opinion, or even to have a well considered and rational opinion (obviously). It's only important to have an opinion that a lot of people (not to put too fine a point on it, but YOU) disagree with.

In fact, the more irrational and polarizing his statements, the better. This will get people reacting, talking to their friends, posting on Twitter and Facebook and blogs. That keeps him on the top of the consideration ladder. Keeps his audience numbers high (again, that's you).

And that keeps the advertising dollars rolling in.

It's a pretty old game. Something that Limbaugh and Howard Stern have been doing for years, not to mention a certain dumbass from the west side of Topeka and even local bloggers. People like Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow do it as well, they just don't seem to be as good as Beck at manipulating large numbers of people who both agree and disagree with them.

So to sum it all up: You are being used1.

If you hate Glen Beck so much, you should stop paying attention to him. To be ignored is the biggest injury you can inflict upon his ilk.

1) Yes. I do realize that by posting this on my blog I have been drawn into the whole affair of promoting Beck by criticizing him. And it does make me ill. But it's a sacrifice I'm willing to make to try to get you people to see that you're being manipulated

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Wednesday, September 08, 2010

YouTube Tuesday: History of Greed

Another animated short from the Vancouver Film School examines the roots of greed and lust in the human condition. It's cute and profound.

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