Thursday, August 30, 2007

This one never gets old

What's the deal with the Russian Spam these days? Are others suffering similarly?

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Pravda. It's nice to know some things just don't change




Russian bombers and submarines continue to make unpleasant surprises for NATO
30.08.2007 Source: Pravda.Ru URL: http://english.pravda.ru/russia/politics/96504-russia_nato-0

The resumption of flights for Russian strategic bombers made NATO express serious concerns on the matter. In addition, NATO closely watches tests of a new Russian submarine. This news made "the most democratic country in the world" see that Russia is an equal rival for NATO. The NATO command is seriously concerned about the surprises that Russia makes.

When Russia’s strategic aviation recommenced flights in the areas of its traditional patrolling the Pentagon and European headquarters were shocked to learn the news. Russian aircraft have not patrolled the air space above the Atlantic waters within the past fifteen years, which made NATO believe that it held the absolute power there.

There are even some hysteric statements saying that the recommencement of flights by strategic aviation of the Russian Federation may mean the start of a new cold war. But some experts scoff at Moscow’s attempts to scare Europe with its outdated airplanes as they call the Russian strategic bombers.

Russia currently tests a new submarine called Amur in the Baltic Sea. The NATO Navy is closely watching the test, and the more information the NATO command gets about the submarine and the test the gloomier it grows.

The non-nuclear submarine of the Amur class is a fourth generation submarine that can deliver salvo missile attack at various targets. The level of its acoustic field is several times lower than it is registered with the world’s most noiseless submarines of the Kilo class.

The submarine is equipped with a new generation radioelectronic arming. What is more, the construction of the submarine allows supplying it with special power installations with chemical generators that help considerably increase its submerged endurance and cruising range.

Amur can operate in any part of the world ocean with the exception of areas covered with solid mass of ice, under any weather conditions, in shallow and deep waters. The Amur armament consists of ten vertical containers with cruise or anti-ship missiles together with missiles to hit surface targets. There are also four torpedo-tubes with multi-purpose torpedoes to deliver against a ship or above-water targets at short range. Amur can deliver a massive missile attack within at least two minutes.

Because of the low noise that makes it hard to detect such submarines experts in the West call them ‘the black hole in the ocean’. Chief designer of the project Yury Kormilitsyn said that the submarine was designed as an underwater hunter able to destroy any targets, surface battleships, transport ships or submarines, to deliver torpedo and missile attacks, to set mine barriers, and also to destroy targets with the help of soldier swimmers.

NATO experts fear that the submarine will be exported to other countries such as Venezuela that contends against the USA for domination in Latin America.

It is quite logic that Russia is actively reviving its military industrial complex and recommencing patrolling of the strategic aviation. In the past years, the West traditionally treated Russia as a weak part that regularly proposed peace initiatives and demanded peace for its own security. So, the West saw the role of Moscow as that of a petitioner.

But when Russia exhausted all the opportunities to make all countries friends it decided to pursue its own interests. That made the West and Europe first of all realize that Moscow would have its own way independently and may act even contrary to Europe’s interests.

After the breakup of the USSR the USA felt its global responsibility that later transformed into unrestricted domination over the world that allowed Washington to apply a neoconservative doctrine and intrude countries with unwanted regimes. Now the structure of the one-pole world is coming tumbling down.

Russia is not the only country that disagrees with the present-day model of the world order, and Moscow knows how to make others hear its opinion. Russia can definitely be an equal rival to NATO in the sky and at sea.

Vladimir Anokhin
Pravda.ru

Some new acronyms (courtesy of the NYT)

GI -- Google it
MOP -- Mac or PC?
FCAO -- five conversations at once
IIOYT -- is it on YouTube?
DYFH -- did you Facebook him/her?
BIOI -- buy it on iTunes
CMOS -- call me on Skype
GGNUDP -- gotta go, no unlimited data plan
WLF -- with the lady friend
JUOC -- jacked up on caffeine
12OF -- twelve-o'clock flasher (refers to someone less
than competent with technology, to the extent that every
appliance in the house flashes "12:00")
SML -- send me the link
RHB -- read his/her blog
MBLO -- much better-looking online
KYST -- knew you'd say that
NBL -- no battery left
CTTC -- can't talk, teacher's coming
TWD -- typing while driving
CMT (CMF, CMM, CMB) -- check my Twitter (Facebook,
Myspace, blog)
CYE (CYF, CYM, CYB)--check your email (Facebook, Myspace,
blog)
And a few just for iPhone owners:
WIWYA -- when I was your age
YKT - you kids today
CRRE -- conversation required; remove earbuds
WDO? -- what are you doing online?
NIWYM -- no idea what you mean
NCK -- not a chance, kid
B2W -- back to work
LODH -- log off, do homework
DYMK? -- does your mother know?
IGAT -- I've got abbreviations, too

Mini Restaurant Review: Fune on Simcoe Street



Went to Fune today.

100 Simcoe
Toronto, ON
(416) 599-3868

I first went there when I was taken by M2. It used to be good. But they really seemed to have pushed out the boat since last time I went. Indeed, it may have been the best Sushi I have ever had. Either that or I have been eating substandard fair. In any event, I recommend it highly. Get there before 12 and tell them I sent you. You’ll at least get a quizzical look on the house.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Nostalgia for DOS?




Remember WordPerfect?

I loved it.

Finally, my handwriting did not get in the way of my writing.

In fact, I once had a dream in WordPerfect. I still remember the f commands to this day. Of course, real men only used Edlin. But for you quiche eaters -- like me -- out there, WordPerfect (before the evil Michael Copland got his dirty Corel hands on it) is available here:

http://vetusware.com/download/WordPerfect5.1/?id=164

See how bloody damn fast it is. Makes you wonder how far we have come along. In any event, many other great examples of "abandonware" are to be found here:

http://vetusware.com/

Wolfenstein 3D anyone?

http://vetusware.com/download/Wolfenstein%203D/?id=3405

Mr. Bean's Holiday -- I loved it!




We went out as a family to see Mr. Bean’s Holiday yesterday. Normally, I am neither a fan of Mr. Bean or Rowan Atkinson for that matter (except, of course, for the brilliant Black Adder series) but I really rather liked this film.

Although it started out with what I really dislike about Mr. Bean, his selfishness, irritating mannerisms, facial ticks, and odd lexicon of grunts, the film evolved into something really very sweet, a buddy road trip from Paris to Cannes via St. Jean Cap Ferrat and Ville-France in a restored Mini Minor.

Both Emma de Caunes as aspiring actress and Willem Defoe as narcissistic auteur shone. Seeing the French countryside pass by was also lovely.

If you were thinking of taking out any of the under four foot set to the cinema and are tired of talking computer generated animals with voices you know, I don’t think you would go far wrong taking them to see this film. Somehow, in a way that I have not seen done since perhaps Louis Malle in his heyday, has France been caught so well on film and by Mr. Bean of all people.

Not a recipe to be tried at home






SPAM CONFETTI PASTA

Recipe By :
Serving Size : 6 Preparation Time :0:00
Categories : Main dish

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method
-------- ------------ --------------------------------
Vegetable cooking spray
2 c Frozen corn, thawed
1 cn SPAM Luncheon Meat, cut in
-2″ strips (12 oz)
1 Red bell pepper, chopped
1 Green bell pepper, chopped
3/4 c Chopped red onion
1 1/2 c Whipping cream
2 tb Chili powder
1/4 t Pepper
12 oz Angel hair pasta, cooked
-and drained
2 Tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1/4 c Minced fresh cilantro

In skillet coated with cooking spray, saute corn, SPAM, bell peppers,
and onion over medium heat 5 minutes or until tender. Transfer
mixture to bowl; keep warm. To same skillet, add cream, chili powder,
and pepper. Bring to a boil; boil 5 minutes or until cream has
slightly thickened, stirring occasionally. Pour over pasta and toss
well. Spoon SPAM mixture over pasta. To serve, sprinkle with chopped
tomatoes and cilantro.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Colbert or Bush?

The argument that America's presence in Indochina was dangerous had a long pedigree. In 1955, long before the United States had entered the war, Graham Greene wrote a novel called, "The Quiet American." It was set in Saigon, and the main character was a young government agent named Alden Pyle. He was a symbol of American purpose and patriotism -- and dangerous naivete. Another character describes Alden this way: "I never knew a man who had better motives for all the trouble he caused."
Colbert is smart. But some stuff you just can't make up.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Friday, August 24, 2007

AC/DC Sin City 1978

I am rather embarrassed to say that my taste for the boys down under (particularly the one in short-pants) came quite late in life. Indeed, when I was young, I rather disliked them. Either I was very wrong then or I am very wrong now. I hope for the former. Enjoy.

This will work, not!


Sun Microsystems is going to leave the roots of its name -- Stanford University Network -- behind and change its listing on the Nasdaq stock exchange from SUNW to JAVA.

In 2000, SUNW traded above US$61. Today, it's under US$6.

I can't say how much I disagree with these words



From (someone will have to show me how to do block quotes:

http://chronicle.com/free/v53/i50/50b00801.htm

If the plays had been written with a word processor on a computer that had somehow survived, we still might not know anything definitive about Shakespeare's original or final intentions — these are human, not technological, questions — but we might be able to know some rather different things... We might discover the play had originally been called GreatDane.doc instead of Hamlet.doc. We might also be able to know what else he had been working on that same day, or what Internet content he had browsed the night before (since we'll assume Shakespeare had Web access too). While he was online, he might have updated his blog or tagged some images in his Flickr account, or perhaps edited a Wikipedia entry or two. He might even have spent some time interacting with others by performing with an avatar in Second Life, an online place where all the world is truly a shared virtual stage.
...
We may no longer have the equivalent of Shakespeare's hard drive, but we do know that we wish we did, and it is therefore not too late — or too early — to begin taking steps to make sure we save the born-digital records of the literature of today.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The photo Dr. Jeff does not want you to see

Many have wondered about the Rabin Household’s IT. Some, well one anyway, says it rival’s Google in terms of innovation, scope, and capacity. While details (and ultimate purpose) are a closely guarded secret (some have suggested Skynet or the Matrix) the above photo (date unknown) was recently smuggled out. What we do know is that the operator is not Louise.

I don't know who the people are who build these websites, but their work is much enjoyed.

www.spamradio.com

Welcome to Spamradio

"Serving up delicious helpings of spam to all who are hungry."

Using a complex arrangement of pipes and funnels we turn the junk mail that we receive into a streaming audio broadcast that can be enjoyed from anywhere on the Internet.

Could you ask for more?

Why does today's music sound like (not that it is) crap?



Compare the two waveforms above.

Is it merely nostalgia – and by enjoying such nostalgia are you only showing your age – or did music use to sound better? (I am not saying that the music was any better, only that it sounded better.) Well, it’s not just nostalgia – though there is a bit of that – there is reason behind the claim: compression. Here’s a good article laying out the problem:

http://spectrum.ieee.org/aug07/5429

There’s also a very good ‘multi-media’ presentation at:

http://spectrum.ieee.org/aug07/5480

You see, I am not making this all up.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Is your internet down? Could be lead poisoning

Sponsored by:

ISPs in the U.S. experienced a service slowdown Monday after fiber-optic cables near Cleveland were apparently sabotaged by gunfire.

TeliaSonera, which lost the northern leg of its U.S. network to the cut, said that the outage began around 7 p.m. Pacific Time on Sunday night. When technicians pulled up the affected cable, it appeared to have been shot. "Somebody had been shooting with a gun or a shotgun into the cable," said Anders Olausson, a TeliaSonera spokesman.

The damage affected a large span of cable, more than two-thirds of a mile [1.1 km] long, near Cleveland, TeliaSonera said.

The company declined to name the service provider whose lines had been cut, but a source familiar with the situation said the lines are owned by Level 3 Communications. Level 3 could not be reached immediately for comment.

Cogent Communications warned that some customers may be experiencing disruptions because network lines had been cut somewhere between Montville, Ohio, and Cleveland. "Splice crews are currently doing preparation work on the new fiber cable before splicing begins to resolve the outage," Cogent said in a note to customers.

According to Keynote Systems' Internet Pulse Report, Cogent was experiencing significant latency problems on Monday.

The outage caused headaches for Christopher McCoy, a system administrator for a Web hosting company in Atlanta. "This Telia outage is really causing a pain," he wrote in a blog posting. "Telia is one of my company’s main network providers, and explaining to your average Webmaster the details and specifics of a fiber break isn’t all that easy."

Why this topic obsesses me so, I can’t say.

Well, and I am glad of it, the Space Shuttle Endeavour has safely returned to earth a day before its original plan.

My larger point, however, remains. It’s an unsafe ship well past its sell by date engaged on a costly and dangerous enterprise for which there is no rational justification.

NASA says it will keep the Shuttle grounded until the foam problem is resolved, which, after a fashion, is good news, but what of it when the Shuttles are repaired: more expensive and dangerous manned space posturing.

I don’t say I rest my case. I only state that the whole manned space industry is stupid -- if there is anything worthwhile to do up there, why can’t a robot do it safer and cheaper?

Many of course will argue with me. But I am not sure if I really care. The space race was won long ago, 37 years ago to be precise. May we not give it a break?


Please Stand for the Kazak National Anthem!













Once again, I had the pleasure of seeing the movie Borat on Friday with Sarah S. and John P. K. who had not yet seen the film. Of course, I was eager to fill this cultural lacuna in their character. On seeing the film again, I noticed a number of little things that I missed the first time around which gave me a smile, but what was especially interesting was listening to my friend’s laughter while they watched the movie for the first time. This laughter by proxy (or is it avarice) reminded me of when I first saw the movie. But on subsequent viewings, I have started to see something, albeit complimentary, quite different. And I think that is the integrity and openness of the Anti-Semitism (in the absence of Jews) and Nationalism (in the presence of other nationalities, including ‘assehole Uzbeks’ and gypsies) in Kazakhstan and the gentile racism, nostalgia for a mythical antebellum South, and sheer Xenophobia of the US. (Canada, I would like on the record, aside from the South business is no different.) There is without doubt genius in Sasha Baron Cohen, though I am not sure there is much more to be done with Borat. Please stand to attention for the Kazak National Anthem:

Kazakhstan greatest country in the world.
All other countries are run by little girls.
Kazakhstan number one exporter of potassium.
Other countries have inferior potassium.

Kazakhstan home of Tinshein swimming pool.
It’s length thirty meter and width six meter.
Filtration system a marvel to behold.

It remove 80 percent of human solid waste.
Kazakhstan, Kazakhstan you very nice place.

From Plains of Tarashek to Norther fence of Jewtown.
Kazakhstan friend of all except Uzbekistan.
They very nosey people with bone in their brain.

Kazakhstan industry best in the world.
We invented toffee and trouser belt.
Kazakhstan’s prostitutes cleanest in the region.
Except of course Turkmenistan’s

Kazakhstan, Kazakhstan you very nice place.
From Plains of Tarashek to Norther fence of Jewtown.
Come grasp the mighty penis of our leader.
From junction with the testes to tip of its face!

Friday, August 17, 2007

Harmless Diversion Alert: Zork!
























Never having very good hand-eye co-ordination, I didn’t play many video games when I was young. It was embarrassing to be so bad at them. I did, however, like text adventures. My favorite text adventures where by Infocom, synonymous with the Zork series. Imagine my delight at finding Dave Lebling and Marc Leblances Zorks I though III available at:

http://www.infocom-if.org/downloads/downloads.html

Download them, unpack, double-click the batch file and you’re smack dab beside the mailbox with the leaflet inside which reads:

"WELCOME TO ZORK!

ZORK is a game of adventure, danger, and low cunning. In it you will explore
some of the most amazing territory ever seen by mortals. No computer should be
without one!"

I couldn't agree more!



While the CD turns 25 today, L Ron is sticking to vinyl






















From today's Times, The industry may dismiss this as a fleeting trend [DRM free Music], but one group is taking it very seriously indeed. Having decided that no digital format is stable enough for posterity, the Church of Scientology has been pressing the collected thoughts of L. Ron Hubbard on to futuristic, nondigital, unbreakable, good old-fashioned vinyl.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

A Very Boston Tea Party Moment For Me


















On arriving home yesterday, I found a nice young women on my doorstep issuing licenses to our two pussy cats, Harry and Gracie. Licenses for pussy-cats? Since when, I asked. Since 1988 she said. Where is it written, I asked. It just is, she says. Here's a brochure. It read, in part:

Animal licensing
The Toronto Municipal Code Chapter 349, requires that all dogs and cats owned in the City of Toronto must be licensed and wearing a tag. By licensing your dog or cat, Animal Services will make every effort to reunite you with your pet.

Every effort? Bullshit! It turns out that the municipal bylaw only came into practice (by stealth?) on January 1st of this year. Why does my cat need a license? Well, because of all the services the city provides to our animals. Provides? Neutering and spaying of cats, the brochure says? I remember putting that on my Visa. My cats have private health. When my cat has gone missing, the humane society did their bit. All Toronto did was give me the Humane Society's telephone number. Cat rescue? Never, ever has the city done anything for my cats. The one time I requested help after my Siamese had spent 3 days in a tree in deepest January after having been chased there by an unleashed dog, no one would help. 'You've never heard of a cat falling out of a tree dead from starvation, have you?,' they said. No, I admitted I hadn't. What of the cat we found last year. The city didn't do anything except details. It turned out that when we took the cat to our vet a week later hoping to adopt him, one scan with the chip wand revealed that he was a patient of the very surgery. The grateful owners had been searching for their pet for weeks and had (as had we) contacted the city numerous times about the cat. And what if I don't get a license for my cat? I will be subject to a C$250 fine. There are tax grabs and there are tax grabs and this one takes the friskies. Further investigation reveals that the city has hired students over the summer to go house to house to license moggies and note the unlicensed ones. What is this? Eastern Germany. And what are the economics of sending people door to door with glossy literature licensing cats for the princely sum of C$15. The mind boggles. In any event, I can sleep soundly at night knowing that my cats are legal. How will you sleep?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Straight lining it!


Now that's a chart (VMW-N) you can get to like.

The biggest flotation since Google, VMW supplies software that everyone will use but no-one will ever see. Say goodbye to rack computers and hello mainframes? I am not sure. But it will be interesting to watch this one. When Google (GOOG-N) floated using a dutch auction it the market running at $108 and is now US$505 (as I write). Now if Google could just make entry into the Enterprise!

UFOs over Haiti; Even Lincs Can't Beat This!



OK. I am a hypocrite. On the one hand I doubt the efficacy of the Space Shuttle. On the other hand, I would be very surprised if we were all alone in the Universe. And I enjoy the sociology of UFOism. And while undoubtedly, the above is a prank. It is a very good prank nonetheless.

Doesn't Look Good Does It?


To the right (the other right!) you can see the damaged tiles on the Space Shuttle. While the scale is hard to work out, you can see how deep the chip goes, practically to the Space Ship's inner hull. I am almost sure they will have to repair this. And while I know I have been harping on about the Space Shuttle, but I really do think it has become an expensive, and, moreover, dangerous anachronism. There may have been a time and place for manned space exploration -- and even here I have my doubts -- but if there is still a case for Space Exploration (which is itself rather an oxymoron) can't it be conducted without living, breathing humans.

Monday, August 13, 2007

It's Good To Know That Some Things Never Change

Russian news agency Interfax is reporting that thieves have stolen a three-tonne meteorite from the yard of the Tunguska Space Event foundation, whose director said it was the part of meteor that caused a massive explosion in Siberia in 1908. The massive three tonne rock was bought to Krasnoyarsk after an 2004 expedition to the site of the so-called "Tunguska event'' - a mysterious mid air explosion over Siberia in 1908 was 1,000 times more powerful than the nuclear bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945 and felled an estimated 80 million trees over 2,150 square kilometers (830 sq mi). The foundation's director Yury Lavbin claimed to have discovered the wreckage of an alien spacecraft during the expedition.

"It winds up that it disappeared said Lavbin. "Our colleagues are establishing what got lost, where the rock is and why they only came to us about it now,'' he said.

Via - Interfax

I knew it!

When Nazi's Have it Right


Gather 'round while I sing you of Wernher von Braun,
A man whose allegiance
Is ruled by expedience.
Call him a Nazi, he won't even frown,
"Ha, Nazi, Schmazi," says Wernher von Braun.

Don't say that he's hypocritical,
Say rather that he's apolitical.
"Once the rockets are up, who cares where they come down?
That's not my department," says Wernher von Braun.

Some have harsh words for this man of renown,
But some think our attitude
Should be one of gratitude,
Like the widows and cripples in old London town,
Who owe their large pensions to Wernher von Braun.**

You too may be a big hero,
Once you've learned to count backwards to zero.
"In German oder English I know how to count down,
Und I'm learning Chinese!" says Wernher von Braun.

Wernher von Braun, perhaps NASA's most famous Nazi, had it right through when he argued that
rockets must be symmetrical from tip to tail. Having irregular protuberances anywhere along
the profile of the rocket -- solid rocket boosters, an auxiliary fuel tank and all the pipes,
cables and trusses holding everything together -- at the speeds and forces that a spacecraft
is subjected to shaking off its earthly shackles and re-acquiring them is bound to folly. And
so has it proved with this last space shot. NASA reports today that they will extend the mission
by another three days to determine (and repair if necessary)this twenty-odd year old's spaceship's
space-worthiness. Isn't it time to give the old bird a rest?

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Today is Vinyl Record Day, Supposedly

Supposedly, one hundred and thirty years today, Edison made his first recording. Edison was however so closed-minded that he imagined recording as an office efficiency device and not a music carrier. Indeed, when recorded music did come into fashion -- just showing how pigheaded he was -- he personally surveyed every singer that came by his door dismissing them if they even deviated once from what he considered good singing out to be. Some of these recordings are now known to have survived. Fortunately, cooler (and less anti-semitic) heads prevailed and a music industry was born. While there are those that still play and collect vinyl -- for god knows what reason --the lowly CD is most probably on its way out too. I don't however think people should get too upset about the diminished sound quality of the MP3 -- they really can be that good and you need good equipment to hear the differences of recordings made below 160 kps -- memory and bandwidth will be so cheap that all will be delivered without loss. I'll be sure to spin an lp or two today.
Yours in PVC.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

See. I told you so!


NASA has discovered a chunk missing from the underside of the space shuttle Endeavour. It was discovered after the shuttle docked with the ISS earlier today. Technicians theorize it may have been caused by ice ripping free of a fuel take during takeoff. From the article:'The gouge — about 3 inches square — was spotted in zoom-in photography taken by the space station crew shortly before Endeavour delivered teacher-astronaut Barbara Morgan and her six crewmates to the orbiting outpost ... On Sunday, the astronauts will inspect the area, using Endeavour's 100-foot robot arm and extension beam. Lasers on the end of the beam will gauge the exact size and depth of the gouge, Shannon said, and then engineering analyses will determine whether the damage is severe enough to warrant repairs. Radar images show a white spray or streak coming off Endeavour 58 seconds after liftoff. Engineers theorize that if the debris was ice, it pierced the tile and then broke up, scraping the area downwind. Pictures from Friday's photo inspection show downwind scrapes."

Friday, August 10, 2007

The Beastie Boys' Mix Up



Beastie Boys: The Mix Up

Original Release Date: June 26, 2007

Number of Discs: 1

Label: Capitol

ASIN: B000PY32CE

Last week I was feeling a little blue so popped into the big HMV on Yonge Street in Toronto for a little retail therapy. While the selection of vinyl at HMV (Toronto’s largest record store!) I thought I would try my luck. I came out with the Beastie Boys new LP of instrumentals, The Mix-UP. As ‘Groove Holmes,’ named after the great organist, from Check Your Head is one of my all time favorite pop instrumentals, I plunked down my $20 (only marginally more than it would have cost on CD) and took my treasure home.

On placing the marginally warped record on the table and lowering the needle, I found the LP to be more than aptly named. There is not a great song on it, the whole thing is a mix-up, and sonics are nothing to write home about. Indeed, the whole thing sounds like outtakes, bad-ones at that. Indeed, there is little original or fresh here. And those great Beastie lyrics (and the amazing delivery of them) is conspicuously absent. I’d like to say more, but just don’t have that much to say. In writing this note, I did learn a little about Groove (nown and verb) Holmes and look forward to hearing more. I recommend that fans of the Beastie Boys give this one a miss. If you need Beastie fix, go Check Your Head.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

A to Nowhere? Why?

Well. After yesterday’s successful launch of the Space Shuttle Endeavour into space yesterday evening, this is the latest news from NASA,

Endeavour Undergoes Heat Shield Inspection.’

The article goes on:

‘Pilot Charles Hobaugh, and mission specialists Tracy Caldwell and Rick Mastracchio are using the shuttle’s robotic arm to unberth the Orbiter Boom Sensor System (OBSS) to take an extensive and detailed look at the orbiter’s thermal protection system. Mission specialists Dave Williams and Barbara Morgan join Mastracchio for the latter part of the survey.’

No doubt they will find a missing tile or three, or a rip in the foam, and there will be much hand-wringing as to whether the Space Shuttle is safe to return. Amidst the parade of Astronaut Wannabes spokesmen and experts opining about the dangers of the lucky 7 returning to terra firma, and though the astronauts may fix the broken gyroscope and install the truss on the outdated space station, and replace a few tiles, few will ask that most jejune of questions: ‘With such risks and costs, why go in the first place?’ Trips are supposed to be from A to B, not A to nowhere (for is that not what space is, nothing).

It’s true that there are certain trips that do not have a set destination and are for the pleasure of enjoying the journey but not the joys of the destination. A Sunday Drive or hoot through the back roads on a Motorcycle, for example, that Starts at A and ends at A are both fine examples of journeys that take do not have destinations, but I don’t think we can scale these examples to that of the folly sending 7 astronauts in an asymmetrical vehicle to nowhere where they will primarily engage in preparing to return to somewhere at enormous cost and risk to human lives broadcast on the NASA channel like a reality show, but this is a reality show with a body count.

(Werner Von Braun, incidentally, warned years ago that the only safe vehicle for going to space was a rocket symmetrical all the way down. With wings, external tanks, and all manners of eccentricities, at speeds more than Mach 7, something is bound to come loose.)

Kennedy may or may not have had his reasons for starting the space race, but surely they must be over by now.

Postscript:

The launch went well, but a problem developed when the craft reached orbit. The Block A central core booster did not separate properly, and it tore away thermal insulation. The cylinder containing Laika became subjected to vast extremes of temperature as it orbited Earth, passing from light to shadow and back to daylight. Laika soon died of heat related ailments. The capsule eventually reentered the Earth’s atmosphere on April 14, 1958, 162 days later.
--www.astropof.com

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Neat: A MAC 128 On A Stick

Very soon we will see the launch of VMWARE’s IPO.

VMWARE, which started out pretty much as a science project of EMC (EMC-N) the Network Attached Storage Kings, makes software that allows large computers to run many smaller computers virtually.

It’s a neat trick and I remember running Windows 98 through VMWARE under Linux a few years back. It was very slow and on the hardware I had there was not much point and it seemed, very, very difficult to exchange data from the computer’s principal Linux OS to the virtual Windows 98 PC running within a window. It was useless – to me anyhow – but neat.

I would like, however, to point out that virtualization is just a short step from emulation and that bright nostalgic geeks have been writing emulators (sometimes with legal ROMS, sometimes without—their status is somewhat vague) for years. Mame, the 80s Arcade Simulator, is probably the best known, but there are also ones available for PDP-8s, Commodore 64s, and of course Apples. One great one I just came across is called ‘Apple-on-a-stick’ where you emulate an early 128k Apple MacIntosh off a USB key. You can find all you need to know about how to run an Apple off a USB stick or in my case an IPOD (now there’s an irony) here: http://nothickmanuals.info/doku.php?id=minivmac

Scroll to the bottom for the easy way. Voila!!! What can you do with it? Pretty much what you could with an old Mac 128 running OS7 – not much, but what was Shakespeare able to do with only pen and paper? – but I think that’s beside the point unless someone can find me a copy of Risk.

There’s a sweet geek nostalgia to all this that the principals of VMWARE will do very well by. No one of course has any spare time, but if you should happen to want to revel in a bit of eighties Mac nostalgia, I can think of no better way. It is, really, pretty cool. Perhaps not as cool or useful as an Iphone. But certainly cheaper?

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

I love these words....


Mock Turtle
Beautiful Soup, so rich and green,
Waiting in a hot tureen!


I'd like to say that reading M2s Mock Turtle Blog at http://blog.snappingturtle.net/ reminded of these fine words of Lewis Carroll, but that would be telling an untruth. A little research into these words that have been recently rolling around my head (from Wikipedia) reveals:

'Traditionally, mock turtle soup takes the parts of a calf that were not frequently used and often discarded, including the head, hooves, and tail; and uses the non-muscular meat to imitate turtle meat. Tenniel's illustration [shown above] shows the Mock Turtle with the body of a turtle, and the head, hooves, and tail of a calf. The complicated pun, then, is both word-play and picture-play, and is quite as satisfying in a literary sense as the soup presumably was in the culinary.'

Mock Turtle Soup, I imagine is more satisfying in the literary rather than the culinary sense, but I have been mistaken before.

Anyone need any stock?

Sunday, August 5, 2007

If it was good enough for 1775, what can over two centuries of submarine design add?

When I saw on the news the curious pomegranate of a submariner vessel that had the temerity to approach the Queen Mary II in New York's harbour, a curious bell rang. Hadn't I seen just such a boat before while reading books to my son before bed the night before last. A quick consult of my son's bedside table and the bell authenticated itself. Sure enough, the basic design of this week's unterseafruitboat was taken from a hand operated (and by this I mean also hand propelled) vessel that had last been used in the United State's so-called War of Independence!

Just compare exhibit A from CNN and exhibit B from the very good Wikipedia entry on the history of submarines.























Although the US undoubtedly won their divorce from the surly Brits in 1776, their success had very little to do with this imbecilic submersible. And it is still more than a bit unclear what in fact the three morons arrested for approaching the QM in a ship that had more to do with the family Punicaceae than that of Nimitz had in mind before donning their swim trunks. They were certainly not of the same class of those behind the attack on the USS Cole.

Among my strange obsessions, we can also add the sea. Indeed, if I had the chance to go to University all over again, I'd like to have become a marine biologist.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Who's the Odd One Out?

It's the Cimabue of course, and my personal favourite, and I suppose it's rather a banal observation following the transformation of the women in white from driven snow through come up and see me sometime on to friends with JFK, but I still find it remarkable. I have deliberately left out the material girl (though own more than a few records by her) because of her, unlike the others, very materiality.






Friday, August 3, 2007

An Island of Bliss in a Sea of Buffet Hell

To those who know me it should come as no surprise that when I am hungry I like my food.

Those who know me even better know how much I hate buffets, particularly Chinese ones. The very idea of an all you can buffet sends over me waves of nausea as I imagine the weird, ugly heat of the hot lamps, the stainless steel trays full of rice and unidentifiable meats in unidentifiable sauces, that insult to hens everywhere, chicken balls, and of course those Homerics jostling among us at the steam tables looking for you to nod in agreement when they say ‘You can go up as many times as you want and you won’t have to have dinner either. Just look at all these Egg Rolls.’

Thai Island, in the basement of First Canadian Place, appears on first look to be just such a place. Buffet Hades. You could not be more wrong. Just adjacent to the revolting steam counter with its revolting ‘sneeze guard’ there is another cashier with a small window behind. From a board you choose a Vietnamese (I believe) bowl of delicious soup. The restaurant maintains it is Thai and has a massive orange tray of stuck together Pad Thai cooking under an artificial sun. But sitting in a mild vegetable broth -- if and only if you order from the other order taker, after a small wait holding your number, you find an island of translucent vermicelli noodles, shredded lettuce and carrot (I know the bowls are bespoke as I have often asked them to hold the lettuce), wonderful barbecued strips of pork, great and crunchy spring rolls. Unlike Pizza Pizza there are set combos. How are the noodles? They are so good as to beggar belief, even Dylan Y agrees. Indeed, Thai Island (which Louise first discovered, though knowing her I believe she hit the buffet for the green curry—which may be great, but I’ll never know). I won't be going there today, but we will not long be apart.

(China not quite as shown.)

Robert Graves' Goodbye to All That


I just finished reading my wife's copy of Robert Graves Goodbye to All That, one of those books that you always plan to read but never do. Indeed, the book has been kicking around the various places where we have lived over the years. I finally did read the work with a great long plane ride -- delayed by 30 hours!!! -- to finish it. I had thought it would simply be a war memoriam of a war that I know little about. It was that, but as well a picture of an age of Britain long since gone. And I think, in part, that is what the title implies, Good-Bye to All That. For on Graves' return -- far younger than me -- and the failure of his marriage, he quite simply says, Good-Bye to All That and moves to Spain. The country has changed, so has he, and there is only one option, to leave. The prose is as unfamiliar as is the England and Europe Graves depicts with Graves somehow letting life pass by (and coming home from the war relatively unscathed) as that life passes and the world finds itself another place. I dare not count up all the dead on this text, 3 and 4 on a page at times. Countering the horror, there are also lovely portraits of George Mallory -- who ascended Everest in hob nailed boots and tweeds -- and T. E. Lawrence.
In summary, highly recommended. I don't believe I have ever quite read a book like it.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Super Mario My Ass

The Worst Heat Wave In Toronto History


Many things are world famous in Canada, but anyway you slice it, today was an infamous one.

'The Worst Heat Wave In Toronto History' is what the headlines read and I have no doubt that they are true. What I do not, however, understand is this continual refrain, lovely weather isn't it, said without detectable irony. Well I for one don't like it and it certainly doesn't give me that loving feeling. Downtown wearing a suit and tie, inhaling the revolting smells of street meat, I was not a happy bunny. Perhaps it is my Russian heritage, but I just don't believe I am made for this weather. I will take cool (and even wet) any day of the week.

Works for Me

There are worse restaurant goers than me, honest.

I Rather Feel We'll Be Seeing More of This

Anyone taking one of those clapped out cabs with 1/2 a million miles on the clock and a suspension more akin to a rent by the hour hotel than an automobile, can not fail to note the discrepancy between the cab, the broken down bridges and potholed roads upon which you are conveyed to New York, and the unmistakable fact that when the cab arrives, you will soon find yourself in the center of the known universe. The one place, Pirsig mentions in Lila, where you don't have to ask what they are doing in New York City because you are the one doing it. Compare this with a ride in from Orly. It is not news to anyone that North American (and Canada's Laval overpass was no different) infrastructure is falling apart and that little is being done to revive it. Road infrastructure collapses like the Minneapolis Bridge and the Laval Overpass will become more and more common.

Russian Sub Places Canister of Flag on Bottom of Ocean Floor Below Ice Cap?


(If you look very closely, you can see the set of Nasa's best ever April Fool's Joke.)





It would seem that the Hoax Moon landing of depicted in O. J. Simson's Capricorn One would be that much easier to verify -- telescope anyone -- than a bunch of submariners swearing on their copies of Moby Dick that they have placed a flag -- in a canister, mind you -- where the longitude lines join up and a polar bear has no other choice than to head South.






The Mir-I is one of two Russian craft diving to the Arctic floor
Submarine footage Two Russian mini-submarines have reached the seabed below the North Pole on a mission aimed at boosting Moscow's claims to the Arctic, reports say.

Explorers have planted a Russian flag in a metal capsule on the seabed 4,200m (14,000ft) below the pole, an official told the Itar-Tass news agency.

A Russian official said the "risky and heroic" mission was comparable to "putting a flag on the Moon".

Melting polar ice has led to competing claims over access to Arctic resources.

Russia's claim to a vast swathe of territory in the Arctic, thought to contain oil, gas and mineral reserves, has been challenged by other powers, including the US.

The mission's leader, explorer and parliamentarian Artur Chilingarov, told Itar-Tass news agency that Mir-I's landing on the seabed was "smooth".

"The yellowish ground is around us, no sea dwellers are seen," he said.

'Heroic mission'

The two mini-submarines, Mir-I and Mir-II were brought to the North Pole by the two ships in the Russian expedition - a nuclear-powered ice-breaker and a research vessel.


It's a very important move for Russia to demonstrate its potential in the Arctic... It's like putting a flag on the Moon
Sergei Balyasnikov
Russian Arctic and Antarctic Institute

The expedition set off last week from the port of Murmansk and is looking for geological evidence to back up Moscow's claims to the resource-rich Arctic seabed.

Scientists aboard the submarines also plan to collect samples of Arctic flora and fauna.

Russian media reported last week that the ships were briefly tailed by foreign aircraft, but this claim was played down by the expedition leader.

Itar-Tass reported on Wednesday that the expedition's ships had arrived at the North Pole.

The submarines' return from the seabed to the surface is regarded as the most dangerous part of the journey.

The vessels will have to navigate back to the exact point where they started from, or else risk being trapped beneath the Arctic ice.

"This is a risky and heroic mission," Sergei Balyasnikov, a spokesman for Russia's Arctic and Antarctic Institute, told the RIA-Novosti news agency.

"It's a very important move for Russia to demonstrate its potential in the Arctic," he said. "It's like putting a flag on the Moon."

Competing claims

President Vladimir Putin has already described the urgent need for Russia to secure its "strategic, economic, scientific and defence interests" in the Arctic.

Moscow argued before a UN commission in 2001 that waters off its northern coast were in fact an extension of its maritime territory.

The claim was based on the argument that an underwater feature, known as the Lomonosov Ridge, was an extension of its continental territory, but it was rejected and Russia told to resubmit with more evidence.

Several countries with territories bordering the Arctic - including Russia, the US, Canada and Denmark - have launched competing claims to the region.

The competition has intensified as melting polar ice caps have opened up the possibility of new shipping routes in the region.

Current laws grant countries an economic zone of 200 nautical miles beyond their land borders.

This zone can be extended where a country can prove that the structure of the continental shelf is similar to the geological structure within its territory.

The North Pole is not currently regarded as part of any single country's territory and is therefore administered by the International Seabed Authority.

RUSSIA'S ARCTIC CLAIM
1) North Pole: Russia plans to leave its flag on the seabed, 4km beneath the surface, as part of its claims for oil and gas reserves
2) Lomonosov Ridge: Russia argues that this underwater feature is an extension of its continental territory and is looking for evidence
3) 200-mile line: Shows how far countries' agreed economic area extends beyond their coastline. Often set from outlying islands
4) Russian claimed territory: The bid to claim a vast area is being closely watched by other countries. Some could follow suit

Eagle Eyed Reader Dylan Notes that Vonnegut Said Almost the Very Opposite of Dear Ludwig

I tell you, we are here on Earth to fart around, and don't let anybody tell you different.
--Kurt Vonnegut
(I feel Mr. Vonnegut may have been closer to the mark. I hope so anyway.)

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Even Witters Would Eschew Debate with E. E. Coleman

A dear friend sends me this missive from Lincolnshire, England. What's unclear to me is whether this has been written in the spirit of good fun or not. I am also not entirely sure that dear Ludwig would disagree either.

SHAPE-SHIFTING LIZARDS ARE USING GLOBAL WARMING AS A DISTRACTION

Date : 31.07.07

I Must say I wholeheartedly agree with E.C.Coleman (July 27).

I've long thought there's been some kind of massed rank conspiracy brewing for some time. Get everyone worrying about the weather then they take their eye of the ball.

Clearly it's a prelude to alien invasion. Let me explain.

For some considerable time switched on bods like myself and E.C.Coleman have been able to cut through the rubbish on the telly to what's really going on in Europe - Euro takeover by the back door.

Now I've gone even further - the leaders of the free world are actually shape-shifting lizards bent on world dominion.

They are altering our climate and melting the ice caps to distract us and get us squabbling over the cause.

It takes sensible people like us to fight for the truth. Greenhouse gases, as I've said before, are sucked up by a mini black hole in the upper atmosphere and flown off to Alpha Centauri - ironically where the alien lizards hail from.

JOHN KESTER, West End, Lincoln

&

FACT: SUN IS SMALLER THAN EARTH!

09:45 - 31 July 2007

E. C. Coleman states at one point in his missive "For the technically minded the climatic cycles correspond perfectly with the effects of the earth's spin known as the Milkanovitch Cycles" (July 27).

If Mr Coleman looks out of his window when the skies are clear at dusk or dawn during this midsummer time of year, he would see that the sun sets at about 20 degrees west of north and rises about 40 degrees east of north.

This indicates that the earth doesn't spin but the sun goes around the earth.

Furthermore, as the sun travels one foot across the sky every two hours and one foot corresponds to the distance of the object from the viewing point, it follows on through a perfectly straightforward mathematical equation that the sun's distance is 3,330 miles from the earth's surface and is roughly 70 miles in diameter.

I am well aware that this goes against all that is known as 'received wisdom'. As far as I am concerned the conclusions to be drawn from this observed evidence are incontrovertible.

MICHAEL R KEMSHALL, Wragby Road, Lincoln


Sub Specie Aeternitatis

I don't know why we are here, but I'm pretty sure that it is not in order to enjoy ourselves.
--Ludwig Wittgenstein

This is of course from the man who on learning he had cancer felt relieved at the fact that he no longer needed to consider suicide.