Friday, November 26, 2004

The Urban Art of John Felice Ceprano

Every year, parts of the Ottawa River become so low that its bottom is revealed. Ceprano has taken advantage of that fact to give way to his imagination. He says that the "sculptures are free-standing, unattached and temporal, dismantled by nature each winter season." Each winter, the ice topples them. As soon as the water level is low enough, Ceprano rebuilds them, looking totally different one year from the next.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Saturn's latest daughter

Thethys, one of Saturn's 33 moons, was photographed quite clearly by Cassini, just under the planet's south pole.

"This latest image in Saturn’s family album was captured on 18 October at a distance of 3.9 million kilometres from Saturn by the Cassini spacecraft. It clearly shows the Ithaca Chasma, a vast trench about 65 kilometres (40 miles) wide, on the surface of Tethys."

The Cassini spacecraft will soon launch the Huygens probe, which will hopefully pierce through the beautiful planet's dense gas cover, land unharmed, and send back pictures of the surface. And maybe an alien or two??

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Speeding outhouse

Gives throning a new definition.

"Powered by a 50-year-old, 750-pound Boeing jet turbine that Stender bought for $5,000, the “Port-O-Jet” can top 46 mph with a tailwind. “It’s not real aerodynamic,” he allows. That said, he’s beaten buddy Tim Arfons’s jet barstool two of the four times they’ve raced."

From Popular Science online.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

3D Holograms are here

3Dsolar Ltd. has introduced, on October 25, a "Holographic-like 360-Degree 3D Imaging Hardware and Screen Technology". They are using a 2D projector to create 3D images, thus making it relatively inexpensive and easy to fit into household PCs:

"The 3Dsolar device projects the Windows or MAC desktop image into the air whereby users click on icons for manipulation. Its high resolution guarantees quality output with ideal contrast, brightness and color behavior, thus enabling accurate and precise visualization without straining the eyes.

3Dsolar devices in small-scale production cost approximately US $5,000. However, the company anticipates large-scale production to reduce costs to approximately US $1,500."



Isaac Asimov, move over.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Unwrapping the mummy, virtually

Using a CT scan, radiologist Frederico Cesarani was able to take dozens of pictures of one of the fifty mummies the Egyptian Museum in Torino, Italy, is currently studying. Using techniques similar to the movies SF/X, he was then able to reconstruct the mummy's face.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

It's not us, it's our mercenaries

In an article on the Guerilla News Network website, PR Watch reports that Blackwater USA, a Private Military Contractor, cheered Bush's reinstatement for another four years.

Private Military Contractors? I had a vague idea that the US hired mercenaries in places where they didn't want to show their political face, but wanted to exert their influence (e.g., South America), but I wasn't aware that their use was so pervasive. The private military industry has "several hundred companies, operating in over 100 countries on six continents, and over $100 billion in annual global revenue" (From Policy Review Online)

Disinfopedia states that "since 1994, the U.S. Defense Department has entered into 3,061 contracts valued at more than $300 billion with 12 of the 24 U.S.-based PMCs."

For the most part, these arrangements proceed without sufficient if any accountability or oversight. In an excellent article warning about the growing reliance upon and political influence of PMCs, Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman note: "The mechanisms by which the contractors are held responsible for their behavior, and disciplined for mistreating civilians or committing human rights abuses - all too easy for men with guns in a hostile environment - are fuzzy... They do not fall under international law on mercenaries, which is defined narrowly. Nor does the national law of the United States clearly apply to the contractors in Iraq -- especially because many of the contractors are not Americans." Specifically, in Iraq, "many of the security contractors work for the Coalition Provisional Authority, as opposed to the U.S. military, [therefore] they are not integrated into the military's operations."

It's no wonder that we see unwarranted killings such as the killing of an unarmed Iraqi by a US Marine. When the laws of war become blurred, it then becomes difficult to define what is right and what is wrong.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Breakdancing Transformer

These machines that transform themselves into a fighting anthropomorphic persona have become part of children's culture. This videoclip may be a sign that the children who grew up with transformers are becoming adults...

Hey, you need to chuckle once in a while.

From randomurl

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Dating through the Ether

Lately, it seems many of my single friends have thrown themselves into Internet Dating. It hasn't worked any better for them than for Judy Wolf, who tells us of her "Reasons I Came Up with to Discontinue My Internet Dating Membership", one of the featrues at cautionarytale.com. Here's some of what she says:

I'd originally thought, when I started this type of pro-active dating experience that it would work for me because I do not go to bars and when I do actually leave the house, it's to go to work, do something with my kids or to just spend time with myself.

NOW I'm thinking these are GOOD reasons to leave the house. I'm thinking I am FINE with these reasons.



It's a wild world, out there.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Currently Reading...

Brunelleschi's Dome, by Ross King, is the account of the construction of the dome of the Cathedral Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence, with "its immense, terracotta-tiled cupola". It is a marvel of architecture, still incredibly imposing more than 500 years later. Brunelleschi, its creator, a predecessor of Michelangelo, Da Vinci and Palladio, lived at the beginning of the 15th century. The book is also a story of his life.

Very well documented, and with pictures as punctuation, the book is easy to read even though the techniques used to erect the Dome were far from simple. King brings out Brunelleschi's genius through dozens of accomplishments, including the first crane, which enabled the masons to lift 5-ton blocks of granite up 300 feet in the air. The writing is lively, far from dry. A well-worth read.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

In Remembrance

For all those soldiers who fought for peace during the two Great Wars, and for all those after and now, who lost their lives in armed conflicts.

In Flanders Fields
By: Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918)
Canadian Army

IN FLANDERS FIELDS the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.


Wednesday, November 10, 2004

What's under the surface...

...can ruin a nice sail.

Thanks to my friend Ron Purvis for sending me this picture.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Grammatical Rant

On many writers' listserv I've participated, I've been accused of being an anal language snob, because I keep insisting that, in order to showcase your abilities as a writer, you have to know not only the basic writing techniques, but you also have to be able to use correct spelling and grammar.

English is not my mother tongue, so maybe I've made more efforts at learning it properly than most natives, although I strongly feel that if you want to be a writer, knowing your stuff is the first rule of the day. Now Sarah Bunting, of the Tomato Nation, has summarized everything I feel about bad usage of grammar and spelling mistakes:

"You don't have to know how to spell everything in the dictionary, and you don't have to have the serial-semicolon rule embroidered on a pillow, but if you have reached voting age in the United States, you need to know the basics of English usage, because if you don't, you look like an idiot. No, don't. Don't start with that "grammar Nazi" business. Don't get all "nobody gives a shit about that crap" and "it's so anal, who cares" and "well, you know what I mean." I give a shit about that crap. I know it's anal, but I care, and so do a lot of other people -- people who respect you, but might respect you less when you dash off an email to the effect of "I'll meet you their"; people in a position to give you a job, who won't because you didn't proofread your cover letter and they don't appreciate your addressing them as "Deer Ms. So-And-So." And no, in fact, I don't know what you mean when you write me a hate mail that reads, "You're site sucks," because that doesn't mean anything. Because it's grammatically incorrect. Because you've substituted a contraction of a verb phrase for an adjective, thus rendering the sentence nonsensical. And it makes you look stupid, and therefore I cannot take you seriously."

She continues on by giving specific examples of usual mistakes, so she does put her money where her mouth is, and gives a helping hand to all those people unsure about usage.
Found Sarah's site via Wordlust, another fantastic blog I recently discovered.

Monday, November 08, 2004

The "Ultimate Sex Machine"

MIT's Technology Review recently posted an article about a new startup which claims to have reinvented online sex with the iVibe, a "sex toy controlled via the Internet".

What is troubling me about this article is its last sentence:

Just this summer in Alabama, three judges in the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld its ban against the sale of sex toys, stating that the Constitution does not include a right to sexual privacy.

As Pierre Trudeau once said: "There's no place for the State in the bedrooms of the nation. What's done in private between adults doesn't concern the Criminal Code." His caveat, of course, was ""When it becomes public or when it relates to minors this is a different matter."

When the State begins to decide on the manner in which consenting adults may exercise their sexuality, it becomes an attack on democracy and personal freedom. I'm amazed that Alabama's court decision didn't become a national issue, especially since Americans are so touchy about their freedom and their Constitution.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Oh, Oracle, a sniff, please

Came across this article on archeological discoveries at Delphi. It seems the Oracle were sniffing gas --ethylene for the most part-- which can produce hallucinations:

"Reporting recently in the journal Geology, the team said that tests on the Delphi rock and the waters of a nearby spring showed the presence of methane and ethane, which can be intoxicating, as well as ethylene, widely used as an anesthetic in the first half of the 20th century.

Ethylene, Spiller explained, produces "stages" of anesthesia. Low doses induce "disembodied euphoria, with periods of excitation and amnesia," he said. But at higher doses, "you get delirium, hysteria and a combative, agitated state," he added. Further along comes unconsciousness and, if one is not careful, death.

All of this squares nicely with historical accounts. As a high priest at the temple in the 1st century A.D., the biographer Plutarch noted that the pythia delivered oracles from a tripod in a small below-ground chamber bathed in gases carried up by underground springs."

Read the entire article here

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Profitable toenail clippings

An interesting article from Technology Review about Novartis's ability to transform the treatment of a mundane --if ugly-- disease, Onychomycosis into a multimillion profit venture. Here's an excerpt of the article:

No smirking please. Onychomycosis is an ugly fungal infection afflicting the toes of more than 35 million Americans. On occasion, it can be excruciatingly painful. More commonly, however, the disease turns toenails into unappetizing strips of calcified decay. Yech.

But what makes onychomycosis so infectiously intriguing is not its tendency to attack toenails while leaving fingernails untouched, nor its stubbornness in taking root in nail beds. No, what truly makes this parasite provocative is its profitability. In barely seven years, treating onychomycosis has grown into a business worth hundreds of millions of dollars annually for Novartis, one of the world’s largest pharma firms. Millions of people have paid roughly $1,000—more than $100 per infected toe—for pills made by Novartis that rid them of the evil fungus causing this unappealing condition. That’s real money.

The article goes on to state that it wasn't the efficacy of the drug that made it a success, but its marketing to the right people. Viagra, step aside.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

It's not my fault, it's the hormones

A case in point where reality is weirder than fiction. A woman, formerly a man, almost beat to death her (his?) former wife, then blamed it on the estrogen she (he?) was taking after a sex-change operation he (she?) had without mentioning the fact to his (her?) wife and son.

Internet's junkyard

An interesting article on the thousand of dead or outdated websites and blogs on the Internet.

It reinforces the idea of caveat emptor (buyer beware) when it comes to using information gleaned from the 'net. Because it's there, it doesn't mean it's true. People have a tendency to use the info on the 'net the same way they'd use an encyclopedia. There is an inherent danger in that, especially if you don't examine the source very closely.

Monday, November 01, 2004

How to write an internet business plan

Writing a business plan is always a scary proposition --except maybe for the precious few mutants. You have to not only forecast your profits/losses, but use the appropriate bullshit--ah, jargon, I mean. It seems that the more inscrutable the proposal is, the more chances you have of your plan being accepted. Here's a site that will help you generate the appropriate content if you're trying to start a dot com.

I submit this site knowing full well that some people will actually use the Internet Bullshit Generator. Sad but true.