Feb 262015
 

What’s dumber than a western political leader calling for government funded homeopathy and astrology? How about a pack of Surt worshippers trashing their own cultural heritage? Gentlemen… behold:

And on top of trashing a museum full of artifacts, the Islamic State representatives did this:

Isis burns thousands of books and rare manuscripts from Mosul’s libraries

Remember, kids: you’re a racist if you think some cultures suck.

 Posted by at 6:21 pm
Feb 232015
 

So I was going through a pile of old “Analog” science fiction magazines, checking out which ones I have that are redundant and that I can – with luck – sell. One such issue is the March, 1974, edition:

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For no readily apparent reason, I pulled this spare aside and cracked it open to check out the contents. Lo and behold, this was the issue that had Larry Niven’s fact article, “Bigger Than Worlds,” where he explained to teenage version of me, sometime in the mid 1980’s, that humans could, at least in principle, build structures bigger than ships, bigger than cities, bigger than nations, continents, even planets. Bigger than solar systems. And perhaps, just maybe, structures to rival the scale of galaxies.

So in the interests of nostalgia, I opened the magazine to the article, and there I saw:

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Whoops.

Took me a second to remember just what I was looking at. And then a vague recollection: sometime, a few decades back, I went to a science fiction convention where Larry Niven was in attendance, and got him to sign this issue.

I suspect I should probably separate my “signed editions” of stuff. I’m not a big collector or seeker of such things, but I do have several… a number of Robert L. Forwards, an Allen Steele, I *think* I’ve got a Buzz Aldrin, and now that I think on it, I kinda think one of my several copies of “Footfall” is inscribed by either Niven or Pournelle (though that interesting factoid suddenly becomes difficult to verify, as *none* of my copies of Footfall are to be found just now).

Anyway… in a few days I’ll probably have a mess of books and Analogs and such available for anyone who wants ‘em… but this issue won’t be among ‘em. Almost was, though. Coulda been a  mite embarrassing.

 Posted by at 6:04 pm
Feb 202015
 

February is now FIRE TIME out here in the west. I can remember a time when fires were reserved for summer… but the environment *and* the people have decided, ah, screw it, let’s torch the joint. The past few days have seen a number of farm fires, and I heard about at least one wildfire on the radio news. Such as:

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And on the way home from some travels today, I saw smoke rising from not-far-from-my-house, which is always an attention getter:

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Upon getting closer (this was just a mile or so down the road from my house) this turned out to be a field fire… and a stack of *big* tractor tires merrily burning away. I don’t know if this was intentional or the field fire got away from ‘em:

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Very shortly after I got home a fire truck went scooting by, so, what the hell, I followed.

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WP_20150220_078Summer is going to be a blast.

 Posted by at 7:21 pm
Feb 202015
 

The hilariously named “Mariana Torch Tower” in Dubai is on fire. Rather spectacularly so. It’s a modest 79 stories tall, so that’ll make fire fighting efforts entertaining.

I have heard some interesting things about building codes and construction workmanship (by foreign workers who are often little better off than slaves) and use of materials in the UAE.

Fire rips through Dubai skyscraper

Some interesting photos and footage at the link above, and HERE and HERE.

 Posted by at 6:54 pm
Feb 192015
 

People practice martial arts for any of a number of reasons. It can be good exercise. It can be a sport. It can be a defensive or offensive combat technique. It can be some sort of spiritual thing.

That latter one is the one that’s most difficult to quantify, of course. But for the most part… who cares? Someone wants to wear their jammies and dance real slow while getting in touch with the Mysteries Of The Universe, hey, great, whatever. There are worse ideas. I suppose. But when the spiritual notions cross over into the more practical applications, that’s when it can become seriously silly. Take, for instance, the martial artists who believe (or at least profess to believe) that they can knock out another person without touching them. Yes, good old fashioned Jedi mind tricks. Now, if you could actually knock a person unconscious just with magical mind powers… the practical applications and implications of that would be profound. Not only self defense, but offense. Imagine if you could mug someone without touching them. Political debates would become entertaining as hell as the candidates try to force-blast each other off the stage. And then the technique would be taught to medical and police personnel: someone is drugged, psycho or injured, or just plain uncooperative… with a glance and a dramatic hand gesture, you could put ‘em into a stupor. It would be fabulously useful.

And these martial artists who claim to be able to knock people unconscious without touching them have the videos to back up their claims, with many and sundry students being shown going goofy when their “master” throws Chi Balls at them. That proves it’s real, right? Well… as it turns out, there is an armor against magic. Who would have guessed?

And this:

And this:

 

What is the armor that works against magical martial arts? Skepticsm. Simply put, if you don’t believe in it, it doesn’t affect you. (Alternative explanation: it doesn’t actually work on anybody; the students shown being knocked for a loop are just play acting. A shocking hypothesis, I admit.)

But perhaps the message to take away isn’t that disbelief renders you immune… it’s that belief renders you vulnerable. Because there is another form of “no touch knockout” that is regularly demonstrated, with apparently equivalent or even more dramatic success. Take a look at this little music video, a mashup of “no touch knockouts” using both “eastern martial arts” and “televangelists:”

On a certain level, if people want to believe in this sort of woo… well, fine, whatever. It’s a free country. But it’s the *promotion* of this sort of woo that’s problematic. If you think you can defend yourself with magical nonsense, the person most likely to suffer is… you. But if you try to convince other people that they can defend themselves with magic, then you are imperiling them, just as surely as if you were convincing them to not get vaccinated.

The televangelists are a slightly different situation. They are not, so far as I’m aware, trying to teach you how to harness this magical ability for your own ends; they are simply using it as a way to impress you at their power. Still, it’s the same level of ethics, and, really, in both cases, be it “chi masters” or televangelists, their goal is much the same: to gain power over the believer and to extract money from them.

But as the videos show, there is a defense against these dark arts: simply don’t buy their BS.

 

 Posted by at 10:29 am
Feb 182015
 

IMAGES: See inside ‘Slender Man’ stabbing suspect’s notebook

Yikes.

The trial of the two 12-year-old girl suspects in the attempted stabbing murder of a classmate (in order to appease fictional internet demon “Slender Man”) has produced evidence in the form of a notebook kept by one of the lil’ scamps. And it’s authentic nightmare fuel. Not so much because of what it shows; far more disturbing imagery can be seen in the work of a vast number of artists. What makes it disturbing is that for these kids… this stuff was *real.*

Bonus: mutilated Barbie doll.

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 Posted by at 12:14 pm
Feb 182015
 

Imagine getting this email:

Subject: [SCS::44621] CMU Admissions Decision

Cc: applygrad@cs.cmu.edu

Dear: [REDACTED]

Congratulations on your acceptance into the Master of Science program in Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon. You are one of the select few, less than 9% of the more than 1200 applicants, that we are inviting. We’re convinced this is the right place for you. Welcome to Carnegie Mellon!

If you were applying to the Carnegie Mellon Computer Science program, that’d seem to be pretty awesome, right? What’s not to like? Well… imagine the thrill when you then get this email, a full seven hours later:

Subject: CORRECTION OF PRIOR EMAIL / REVOCATION OF OFFER OF ADMISSION TO MS IN CS PROGRAM

Dear [REDACTED]

Earlier this morning, we mistakenly sent you an offer of admission to Carnegie Mellon’s MS in CS program. This was an error on our part. While we certainly appreciate your interest in our program, we regret that we are unable to offer you admission this year. …..

Oh boy.

Seems the Carnegie Mellon Computer Science program had a computer that accidentally sent acceptance letters to a whole lot of students who *didn’t* get accepted, and then had to send revocation emails. As mentioned at the link, seven hours was time enough for “accepted” students to inform friends, family, and co-workers, and to start the process of leaving their current jobs. One “accepted” student is apparently now not only no longer accepted to CM, but his current employment is now imperiled.

Yay, lawsuits! Lawsuits all around!

Looking HERE, it seems a *lot* of post-acceptance rejection emails were sent. Apparently 1200 people applied, only 9% of whom got it… but it may be that all 1200 were accidentally “accepted.” You can bet that at least a few of them are going to be the vindictive and litigious types.

 

 Posted by at 11:55 am
Feb 182015
 

Are you a replicant? How about your co-workers? Or your significant other? You don’t* really* know unless you put them through a Voight-Kampff test. But now rather than a dreary, time consuming series of questions about turtles and deserts, now you can simply present this series of images. If you don’t get “hey, it’s my allergies” on at least a 50% of these, you have a replicant on your hands.

Enjoy!

morning

sam

JMS

jbark

 Posted by at 12:38 am