Showing posts with label technology. Show all posts
Showing posts with label technology. Show all posts

Saturday, September 17, 2016

90's Techno Watch: The Net (1995)



I remember seeing the commercials for the 1995 thriller, The Net, rolling my eyes, and making a firm decision that I would not see this movie.  Over the years, it's surprised me how many people have seen it, declared it terrible, and then expressed surprise that I hadn't seen it and never wanted to see it.

The kids will never understand what it was like in 1995, but we were on the teetering edge of a revolution in computing entering the lives of everyone on the planet.  Up to that point, computers had been, in the eyes of the public, a weird mix of science-fiction, radio-kit-bashers-gone-mad, a point of ridicule if people spend too much time with them outside of work, and seen as the key to god-like power as evidenced in everything from Weird Science to War Games to Ferris Bueller.  And, my God, such an overwhelmingly male-oriented hobby or interest.

My first introduction to what we'd wind up calling "the internet" was via the hand-waving plot explanations of War Games, but in real like, I only ever knew one kid, our own Groboclown, who had a modem in his house.  Aside from that, they were kind of a mystery.  By middle-school, I was aware of the "cyberpunk" literary movement, but mostly picked up the terms and ideas of "netrunners" second hand from my brother, who actually read the stuff.  But even at that - I got my head around the potential for use, for abuse, for second lives online (that would overtake meatspace).

When I got my first computer (a refurbished Pack-Bell 486 with Windows 3.1.  Like a @#$%ing BOSS, y'all!) and headed off to college, that was kind of an act of faith on the part of my parents.  They saw it as an over-powered Smith-Corona word processor, which was all we'd had in the house since I was 14 (the early Vic 20 and Apple IIe experiments had not made us computer whizzes).  And there was an assumption I'd do things with it, but no one could say what those things would be.

Fortunately at UT, I managed to move in down the hall from some guys who were already deeply computer savvy and who had actual modems and whatnot.  And, they weren't the kind of guys who sat in the dark and played Doom and didn't converse.  Instead, we were soon running wires down the hallway for networked play, and by Spring semester, with a used and battered 2400 baud modem installed in my computer and an account from UT, I was online.  Not that there was much to do online in 1994, but I was there!

But 1995's film, The Net, was less reflective of the techo-utopianism a lot of us were buying into thanks to pop publications like Wired.  The marketing and concept spoke a whole lot more to our parents' newspaper-headline driven concern over "this crazy, out of control technology", a future-shock echo that was rippling through the world that was just beginning to understand what it meant to suddenly start seeing monitors on every desk at every job and what was happening as we were having to give all those people our names, phone numbers, etc...

Those weren't just stand-alone ugly data-systems anymore, they were now on the Information Superhighway!*



My point is - the context of 1995 when The Net made it to cinemas everywhere with America's newest darling of the Star System-era of Hollywood, Sandra Bullock, was one of an already buzzing fear or discomfort.  Everything about the trailer reeked of the paranoia I could feel from my professors, from the general public and folks who were doing just fine in life without needing an email address, let alone a magic phone in their pocket that was a portal to all of human knowledge and able to access monumental computer systems to provide predictions and prescriptive behavior.*

Anyway, if The Net (1995) has one fatal flaw, it is not the absolutely terrible depiction of computing and the internet that boils away any goodwill the pretty-well researched first act sets up.  It is not a bad performance by Sandra Bullock, who is really very good in what limited amount of action she's given to take as a witness to her own life falling apart around her and a clunker of a script.

The movie is incredibly boring.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

90's Watch: Hackers (1995)



In February of 1919, some of the greats of the silent era - Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks and D.W. Griffith - came together to found their own studio: United Artists.  The studio was formed in reaction to studio and artist friction over salaries and creative control.  One could say that the idea of an artist's ability to produce an independent vision is baked into the DNA of UA, and, over the years, that spirit has brought us new perspectives to the silver screen, bold proclamations of artists unhampered by the small minds of businessmen, free from the the penny-pinching dream killers of accounting.

So, it should come as no surprise that, some 76 years later, UA would bring us a truly unique dream of the 90's, a clarion call to a generation, a mirror held up to reality showing us truths about ourselves in only the way we can truly get from a masterpiece like Hackers (1995).

This is maybe one of the worst movies I've seen in the last ten years.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Sci-Fi Sunday: Forbidden Planet and 2001: A Space Odyssey

It's Sci-Fi movie day on Turner Classic Movies, and I'm doing some encoding of home videos and watching of movies on cable.

I first saw Forbidden Planet during the Paramount Summer Film Series, probably around 97' or 98'.  With my buddy Matt, come to think of it.

None of this ever really happens in the movie, but, whatevs...

They tell me the movie is a sci-fi version of Shakespeare's The Tempest, but I have no idea.  I've never seen or read it.  But I have seen Forbidden Planet about seven or eight times, and every time, I like it better.  Sure, it stars Leslie Nielsen of Naked Gun fame in a dramatic role, which is weird, but it's such a great bit of its time and a snapshot of exploration sci-fi that is a now-kind-of-dead genre (and if you can't see the direct impact on Star Trek, you aren't paying attention).

The visual and audio FX in this movie make it an amazing experience, with the debut of Robbie the Robot, Krell architecture, amazing sets, spaceships, matte backgrounds that are truly massive and alien.  And even the hand-drawn animation of the Id Monster holds up amazingly well, in its way.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

SW Watches: The Imitation Game (2014)


Like a lot of historical drama, a quick Google search of the lead characters in the film will more or less fill you in on the details that might comprise the story.  And, of course, it's likely you've heard of The Turing Test and Turing Machines.  I dunno.  Maybe if you work in needlepoint or dog grooming it doesn't come up as often, but it's at least a bit in the zeitgeist where I work.

The movie stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing and includes Keira Knghtley, Mark Strong and Charles Dance (among many others).  Alex Lawther plays a young Turing, and should get some sort of junior award for one of the best performances I've seen from a young actor in a decade.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Coming Back From Outer Space


Hey, y'all.

Hope everyone is doing as okay as can be.

So, as some of you know, while I ceased formal blogging at this URL, I never really left the internet.  I kind of decamped to tumblr, twitter, facebook and whatnot.  But, I'll be honest with you.  It ain't never really been all that much fun.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

And then, in 2013, DC Comics discovered hypertext fiction

If there's any doubt that DC Comics has moved to a number crunching behemoth of creative despair, today form Randy I received a link pointing me to a story about DC's latest effort, Multiverse Comics.  Basically, digital choose your own adventure comics.

At this point in the tenure of Diane Nelson, any hope for a creative renaissance at the company should be replaced with more of a visual of someone selling t-shirts outside the Louvre with a picture of Mona Lisa in a bikini top with a knife gripped in her teeth.*

There's a lot of reasons to sort of want to put your head down on the table about this one.

In 1991 or so the first hypertext fiction appeared, which promised branching narratives and the ability to dig further into a narrative - all in standard prose.  If you were going to raves and enjoying smart drinks in 1994, it all sounded like a nifty part of our bright future of this series of tubes called "the interwebs".  Just get yourself a 1600 baud modem and go nuts.

"But, hey The League," you might say.  "It's 2013!  Where can I purchase some of this hypertext fiction that's clearly the wave of the future?"

Tragically, it went the way of the Dippin' Dots and may not have been the ice cream/ preferred narrative construct of the future.

Monday, June 3, 2013

The Internet Archive and What I Do For a Living

Pal JuanD sent me this video. I'm sharing it because it's a really, really good glimpse into the problems I work on every day at work.  Sort of.  Half the time I think I'm just looking for receipts or figuring out how many stuffed mushrooms we can afford on our conference's cheap-o budget.

Man, I wish I could just focus on the technical problems.


Internet Archive from Deepspeed media on Vimeo.

Our office actually has two missions. We're providing tools to enable researchers to publish born-digital content in both traditional ways (but using new technologies for peer review journals, etc..) and providing options for new media options such as blogs or other modes of scholarly writing. And we're doing this whole preservation bit of both scanned materials and born-digital materials.

What we're doing that's somewhat different from the video is that we're attempting to capture all of the scholarly output from universities and bring it up and online - not scan kid's books that we think someone else will likely handle.

Of course, a lot of people I work with are cogs who don't necessarily get the bigger picture, or work for people who can't pull it all together to get the big picture and so a lot of mistakes are made. A lot of preservable items are lost. The common consensus is that in 200 years, this early digital era will be a dark ages in many ways as we still aren't smart about keeping anything digital. We still think of print copies as the final edition.

As we also commonly say, it's going to take a lot of people retiring or dying before we have a generation promoted to decision making positions who will work with the technology to make sure the digital copies aren't seen as something to rot on a 3.5" floppy in a drawer.

Anyway, great video.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Canadian Astronaut aboard ISS covers Bowie's "Space Oddity"

Commander Chris Hadfield, Canadian Astronaut, is aboard the ISS and covered some Bowie - mixing it up a bit to reflect his experience. Really, after this cover, not sure there's any point in anyone else every trying their hand at this tune again.



We've all seen Earth from space a hundred times before, privileged as we are to live in an era when people travel into space. But, man...

Here's to Commander Hadfield and all aboard the ISS.

Thanks to Slicing Up Eyeballs for the link.

Let's hope Commander Hadfield gets to cover "Life on Mars".

Sunday, March 10, 2013

SXSW is here again - and, no, I am not going, again

I've never paid for a SXSW badge.  The only SXSW badges I ever got were through work for (a) the relatively new SXSW Interactive around 2000 and (b) about three years ago I returned to Interactive.  I've never paid for film or for music.

I've never been to a SXSW screening of a movie, and the few times I saw music at SXSW, it was near accidental and incidental.  It's probably safe to say that I'm not particularly interested in the scene, and the idea of dealing with the crowds, the lines, and sheer volume of people at all of these events has been off-putting enough that whatever appeal there might be to seeing bands or movies is significantly reduced when I weigh the cost factor of dealing with the scene around SXSW.

For those of us in town, SXSW is an annual period where we sort of just avoid downtown between certain blocks and as locals who feel the presence of the tide, we know to brace ourselves for:


  • The bizarre take on Austin that journalists mistake for Austin but which is really just the bubble of SXSW (East Sixth is not "no-man's land".  It's a few hundred feet from regular Sixth.  By the way, no one really goes to Sixth anymore but tourists)
  • The number of people who, based on the drunken revelry to be had during SXSW, associate those good times with a need to move here - and they do
  • The handwaving that SXSW isn't, basically, spring break for three industries and that this is somehow work 
  • People who are the True Believers in SXSW seeming shocked and indignant (and often demanding answers) when you say you don't want to spend the money or time

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The 2012 Not-a-List Rundown

author's note:  2012 is a year I have been looking to put behind me for quite a while for any number of reasons.  Obviously the events in my personal life marked a very sad end to the year for us at our house.  Perhaps we should declare 2012 Annus Horribilis and move on.

With recent events weighing so heavily on me right now (and with this post started a long, long time ago), I'm going to stick to pop culture and the original, intended tone of the post - and this blog - and take a look back instead at...  yeah, I guess comics and whatnot.

here we go.


The 2012 Not-a-List Rundown




My Totem for Everything About my Pop Culture Hobbies in 2012

My relationship fundamentally changed with my hobbies and past-times, and superhero comics have begun to dip below the horizon to the same place Star Wars went circa 2002.  Because of travelling and the fact I was sick a lot this year, I also didn't really make it out to the movies very often.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Technology Convo: The Lenovo Yoga

I am supposed to be talking about the Lenovo Yoga this evening, a computer I purchased last weekend as my Dell laptop decides to eat itself from within and I make a transition to new hardware before all is lost.

Steven reviewed his Chromebook, a computer I looked at long and hard before making a different and more expensive decision.  That said, Steven bought his Chromebook for a development box, something I heard was do-able just Saturday night.

I'm looking at Chromebook as a solution for Jamie for next year sometime, and I think it will meet all of her needs - except for figuring out how she can manage iTunes.  So if anyone wants to jump into this discussion, please help me out.

But this is about the Lenovo Yoga, the Windows 8 machine I picked up that's part tablet, part laptop.

Windows 8

I'm a longtime Windows user, and the quirks of Windows are so seamless to my everyday existence that they're usually fairly transparent to me.  You probably read that Windows 8 has been redesigned for the tablet, but that's not altogether true.  Windows has created an interface for the tablet with brightly colored "tiles".  And, sorry, it's mostly intuitive.  If you can use an iPhone or Android phone, this isn't any better or worse.  I also expect that the "tiles" will become more customizable over time, but they work just fine for now, and whether you hold the tablet in landscape or portrait, it's all pretty easy to use.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Pardon us as we deal with some new technology. I bought a new device/ laptop/ tablet.

One thing that I do that drives everyone I know absolutely crazy is:  be perfectly happy with Microsoft products.

Well, sort of.  A few years back I obtained a new laptop PC with Windows 7 to replace my dying Windows Vista desktop box.  Well, the Windows 7 laptop had been acting up for a while, and I have now upgraded to a Lenovo Yoga with Windows 8.  It's a sort of tablet and PC in one running a full version of Windows 8.

"But, Mr. Blogger, why do you stick with MS devices?"  I work in MS all day long, and it generally works fine.  Except when it doesn't.  And I'd rather eat my own hat than deal with someone called a "Genius" while getting my ankles nipped at by mall rats.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Toys That Should Not Be: The Steve Jobs Statue

When I started blogging the collectibles market was just really taking off.  We quit doing Toys That Should Not Be as, really, what I'd advise is to just open the Diamond Previews Catalog and flip through the thing.  Every page or two, you'll find something that makes you die a little inside.

And I'm not even talking about the import Manga statues with the removable clothing.

If you're not done grieving Apple Overlord Steve Jobs, you can now make everyone who enters your home or office stop and ask the exact same question in under two minutes:  Is that Steve Jobs?

Indeed it is.



Syco Collectibles has introduced the Steve Jobs statue.  Only $100, this fantastic piece of artistry looks pretty much like a tiny Steve Jobs, complete with jeans, scrubby beard and black turtle neck and posed like Scorpio planning his attack on humanity from his undersea base.  Only, you know, tiny.  Standing on the edge of a MacBook in discount store sneakers.

I have to say, I think it's a hell of a conversation piece, and that conversation may just be your co-worker leaving your office and commenting to your colleagues about how you're still really hung up on losing the guy who yelled at people until the iPhone was cooler.

To their credit, Syco is sending part of the proceeds to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and we find that admirable enough that we've ordered four of these, so Steve Jobs can look down upon us from every corner of the room.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Signal Watch reads: Mark Waid's "Insufferable"

You guys know I'm in the bag for everything Mark Waid has done for the last...  I dunno.  Ever?

Somehow I completely misunderstood that his new online comic, Insufferable, was completely free online.

No, I have no idea what model Mark Waid is using to turn a profit on this, or if there is a profit to be turned.  But at the moment that's not my issue, nor should it be yours, because more great Mark Waid comics are online, and they're free at his new site, Thrillbent.

Waid has re-teamed with Irredeemable artist Peter Krause to tell the story in Insufferable, his second work in his new format, one that uses the native landscape (16x9ish) format we've become familiar with as computer users, and the fact that he can set pacing to some extent with a mouseclick to manage the storytelling.  Its far less intrusive than the limited animation of prior webbish comics experiments I've seen, and manages to use the page pretty well,  I think.

But I'd rather talk up the actual comic than the experiment, because at the end of the day, its about the content.

Waid turns to the urban vigilante brand of superhero after sort of blowing up the heat-vision-bearing version of superheroes in Irredeemable and Incorruptible, and in just four week's worth of the online book, he's done an astounding job of bringing a story to life that works right out of the gate.

Its a broken up version of Batman and Robin with their own issues that surpass those of Bruce and Dick (or Jason or Tim or Stephanie or Damian or Carrie), and its the kind of thing that I think sort of sucks you in from that last panel of the first installment and makes you click "Next".

And, of course, Krause's illustrative-style of art works terrifically well with the world he and Waid are creating, giving a believable view to the character-driven story and capturing the beats and expressions exceedingly well.

Anyhow, give it a shot and be there as it unfolds!


Thursday, May 3, 2012

Amanda Palmer, Kickstarter, ROI and The Future

One thing any comics-fan who immerses themselves in social media will now see on a daily basis is at least one Kickstarter campaign to produce a graphic novel or comic.  Sometimes its more than one.  Often its a RT on Twitter from a famed writer or artist who is doing nothing but RT'ing a pleading Tweet sent to said famed artist, and for whom RT'ing the original Tweet is an action of about 2 seconds reading and clicking.

I am not dubious of the Kickstarter technology, rules, etc...  If you are unfamiliar, Kickstarter is a site that enables folks working on creative projects to raise funds.  Basically, you get a description with web content attached (video, images, too much text in many cases), telling you what the artist is doing, why and who they are.  Then a dollar total they are raising, and what it'll go towards.  The answer is not: putting food on my table.  It's usually something like "production costs".  Its basically intended to keep the artists from going deep into debt while they produce the record, comic, statue, indie film, whatever...

There are then levels of support.  Artists are obliged to usually offer something better at each level.  $1 gets you a thank you.  $30 gets you a copy of the album.  $10,000 gets you a a day with the artist and a big thanks, plus a t-shirt.  Something along those lines.

For a better idea of what this looks like, I invite you to visit Kickstarter.com, but to look specifically at the page for musician/ performer Amanda Palmer.  

when someone asks you if you're a (rock) god, you say "yes"

If you've properly budgeted for your project, then its possible this can work very well for you.  Especially if you know a whole lot of people, so you're not counting on that one person to give you $10,000.

The established artist

Amanda Palmer recently asked for $100,000 from her network (and it IS a network).  She had a month.  In a few days, she's raised almost $450,000.  I count myself among those who have chipped in.


Not all that long ago, Palmer was signed to a label both with her breakthrough act, The Dresden Dolls, and then as a solo performer.  Dissatisfied with the work Palmer thought they were doing on her behalf that she knew she could do herself, she ended the contract and is now a woman without a country, unless you count her actual fanbase as a country, which, really, she should.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Report: Alamo Slaughter Lane is pretty great

The newest Austin location of The Alamo Drafthouse has opened very close to my house, and I am extremely impressed.  The tradition of service and experience continues, as well as the obvious differences at this location which reflect The Alamo's continual desire to improve their theaters.

It should be noted, the other Alamo locations are hampered a bit by the fact that all were built out of existing structures.

  • The Original Alamo - I have no idea, but it was an old space dowtown, and the fact that you climbed about 50 feet of stairs and the space was kind of flat never worked terribly well
  • Alamo South - a former Fiesta Grocery
  • The Alamo Ritz - the Ritz movie theater/ venue/ lousy club I used to go to in college
  • The Alamo Village - took over the old arthouse theater in town where I'd seen plenty of films from 4th grade through about 2001.  It was an old theater then and showed it.
  • The Alamo LakeCreek - took over the multiplex LakeCreek, which I think was an AMC, and never my favorite theater.  Its no doubt better as an Alamo, and used to be the only location with this great Turkey Sandwich.  But you can still feel the 90's movie-chain vibe.

The new space is laid out with ideas like audience management in mind.  The queues of the Alamo South don't exist.  Instead, it works almost exactly like Southwest Airlines' seating, with groups going in by letter and number (something I'm becoming pretty damned accustomed to of late).   My lesson on this:  get your tickets as early as possible.  Yeah, if you're a "let's go to the theater and see what's showing!" at 7:00 on a Friday kind of movie-goer, the Alamo may not be for you, but its probably not for you, anyway.  You're going to want to know up to five days in advance if you're going to take in a film.  Now, you're going to also want to organize your friends a day or two ahead of that, so you can all enter together.

The menu hasn't changed much from the other locations.  However, I'd note the following:

  • The coffee is now French Press and easily 10x better than their old coffee service, which was just never as good as I wanted it to be.
  • Thanks to their co-habitation with a new cocktail bar, they've added a Maker's Mark Milk Punch which was even better than it sounds. 

The Alamo South has had a great "UFO's Blowing Up Texas" theme since it opened.  The lobby is full of old-timey carnival ride parts suggesting an epic battle between airplanes and flying saucers, with a mural of a drive-in getting vaporized.

The new location has gone for a sort of "man-eating plant is out of control" theme.

nom nom nom

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Signal Watch Watches: Transcendent Man (2009)

I really wish I had seen this movie when it came out, but it was just recommended to me by Co-Worker Ladd this morning.

As much as I like a good, Thunderdomish Dystopian look at the future, from a technology and academic standpoint, I fall much more in the camp of pointing at the shinier spacecraft and rocket pack visions of the future.  Prepping for a time of Robot Shock Troopers tends to make you start stocking ammunition and buying property in Queen Creek, Arizona, and I'm just not ready to cut the sleeves off all my camo jackets yet, and I look terrible in a crazy-man beard.

In fact, I like my job partially because its all about the future where we get flying cars and can download dissertations directly into our noggins.  Digital libraries!  Hoorary!



It seems that technologist and futurist Ray Kurzweil showed up as SXSWi 2012, and Co-Worker Ladd (yes, his name is Ladd) managed to see him speak.  Kurzweil is one of those names I've heard on and off for two decades, not quite the way you hear of Tim Berners-Lee, but he pops up on BoingBoing and is a name that technology hipsters tend to throw around.

Frankly, I should pay a lot more attention to these sorts of figures, because Kurzweil's personal innovations are incredible, even if that's not really the topic of the documentary, Transcendent Man (2009).  Instead, the doc follows Kurzweil as he moves around the planet as a bit of a Conference Personality, but as he also meets with figures from Colin Powell to William Shatner to an arena full of Church of Christ Conference attendees discussing the concept of The Singularity.*

As we all know, technology is advancing from all angles in ways predicted clumsily by Moore's Law.  What Kurzweil is looking at and discussing is that its not just processing power, but other technologies, falling into three areas of interest:  Genetics (bioinformatics), Nantotechnology and Robotics (or AI).  The Singularity is a point at which those things hit a point on the graph where the nature of humanity will be forced to change by the technologies so profoundly that it will rewrite our definitions of everything from technology to humanity to consciousness.

Basically, we're in a mad race to see if we create a race of super artificial intelligences, if we can rewrite our DNA to beat disease and aging while recreating the human body, or if nanotechnology will be merging us into machines while it has the ability to connect us to the super robot brains while rewriting our bodies into all looking like Fabio in 1994.  Or will we upload our consciousness to Facebook?

Here's the thing:  I think I know just enough about technology and SCIENCE to know I don't know anything, but I also tend to think that Kurzweil, while maybe jumping the gun on the timing, is probably right.

I intended to watch part of the show this evening and then return to it, but instead I watched the entire thing, slack jawed and in awe.  The movie manages to find genius after genius, players at the tops of their fields who all have different reasons to agree or disagree with Kurzweil in whole or in part, and its an absolutely gripping 80 minutes or so.  Especially as the director humanizes and builds a portrait of Kurzweil (a seemingly approachable gentleman, certainly) and digs into the basis for his quest and to see what drives him.

There are a tremendous number of questions occurring in the film, the sorts of things that have the longterm effects of global change, all without the pressure cooker or drive of a Manhattan Project.  Its happening now, and the minds pushing toward the future seem aware of the pitfalls and risks of the world they're creating, and seem to be sure that somebody else is going to deny the dinosaurs their Lysine.  Its absolutely riveting stuff.  And, again, this is a documentary.

The crowd that drifts into this blog is pretty smart and tech savvy, and I'd love to see what you guys have to say, if you've seen it or you get a chance to stream it from Netflix.

Highly, highly recommended.


*see my hilariously uninformed argument with my brother about the concept at his blog post from about a year ago.

Friday, July 8, 2011

This Moment in History: The Final Space Shuttle Mission

The Atlantis lifts off for the final time

My heart breaks a little knowing that its the end of the Space Shuttle era. I'd be simply nostalgic if it meant that in 2012 the X-39 or a similar program were geared up to take the place of the Shuttle Program. But, instead, for the foreseeable future we'll be taking rides on Russian rockets to visit our own space station, and remaining earthbound after a half-century of touching the cosmos, even if it was only ever a glancing touch.

We looked into the face of limitless possibility as a nation, and we blinked.

In the years to come, they'll say it was a fool's errand, and a waste of resources. I'll be an old man, and the highest aspiration for kids will have long ago quit being being "Astronaut", which will sound antiquated and sad, almost how we smirk knowingly when you imagine being referred to as a "First Mate" on a ship.

And when we're old enough, or when we're gone, they'll say it never happened (just you wait). They'll say they never had the technology, that the will of a nation to spend the resources and capitol necessary just a few decades after the Wright Brothers flew their first place and the first rockets criss-crossed the skies... it was impossible. It'll be called illogical, fantastic and a hoax, written off like the sun-chariots in carvings in Egypt. And when that's said often enough, it'll be true.

Perhaps we went to fast, too soon.  Perhaps the kids I grew up with who squirmed their way through math and science took it for granted when we got to start making the rules, and maybe we were just a little disillusioned that they'd never asked us to suit up and go.  Like everything else, maybe we thought it would always be there.

As always, all we can do is hope that the tide will turn, and one day (perhaps when we're more deserving) we'll be ready, honestly and for real this time.

Until then, I thank the scientists, engineers, visionaries, and brave women and men who suited up and saw the Earth for us, and who went as close to the stars and further and faster than any of us.



The New York Times
AP Story at The Austin American Statesman

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Dealing with the truth, journalistic integrity and the world of "choose your own reality"

yesterday I stumbled across a pair of articles that I thought intersected nicely.

First, I came across this article on The Backfire Effect.  I suggest you read it, its food for thought.  The core idea of the article is that presenting conflicting evidence to folks with a belief based upon faulty evidence, heresay, rumor, faith, conspiracy, etc...  doesn't convince the believer otherwise.  It merely reinforces that belief.

This shouldn't be a shock to anyone who has had the pleasure of hanging out with a conspiracy theorist.  Suggesting that 9/11 was not an inside job just makes you a sucker, fool and a patsy (or, in a worst case scenario, ONE OF THEM).  But it doesn't need to be the case that one bring up something as inflammatory as 9/11 conspiracies or as ridiculous as Hitler-UFO-JFK conspiracy theories.  Our everyday politics hinge on this entrenching of our beliefs.

Surely it can't be that all conservative beliefs are statistically and factually correct while all opposing liberal beliefs are wrong.  And surely it cannot be that all liberal beliefs are statistically and factually correct while all conservative beliefs are wrong.  Its not even a question of a "happy medium" somewhere between the two.  Occasionally, someone is going to be wrong.  One policy is going to reduce teen pregnancy and one is not, and statistics can help us figure this stuff out (anecdotes, while moving, are not hugely useful).

I know that I have knee-jerk reactions to all sorts of things.  The article points out that this seemingly innate desire to argue and fight over what we already "know" or are comfortable "knowing" is essentially part of human nature, and our responses likely have their roots in evolutionary biology (see: something I'll readily accept because I don't find the idea that we're fancy apes at all offensive).  But tell me that we've got all kinds of fossil fuel in shale, and I'll raise a skeptical eyebrow and quote you science I vaguely remember from middle school ( I honestly haven't read up on this issue very much).

This is basically how I see you people.  Well, me.  You're more like hobo chimps.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

iPhone comes to Verizon

It looks like iPhone is finally coming to Verizon in February. I am not one who cares all that much as I haven't drunk the Kool-Aid on Apple product, but it's nice to have the option. Its time for my upgrade, and I am well aware that the iPhone has a lot more apps, etc...

Really, part of me wants to get an Android just so I can give that blank look to Apple-Zombies when they start insisting I've made the wrong choice. I confess, that look of anxiety and consternation I get in reply is just really gratifying.

Verizon's announcement page.