Sep 232015

Now this is interesting…  small book printing and binding company in San Francisco that makes books the way they were made a century ago, using machines a century old. Books are the sort of thing that can be fairly and properly produced in as cheap a fashion as possible. Many novels rate little more than the cheapest possible printing, good enough to last a few readings. Some rate no more than a pile of electrons for reading on a tablet or some such. But some books really would be appropriate for this sort of hand-made effort. Use the right materials, and these books could remain a millenium from now.


 Posted by at 11:28 am
Sep 222015

Saw this at a roadside rest stop day before yesterday. Through random happenstance, I was on the scene before the police or other emergency personnel; fortunately the driver, the sole occupant, was standing some distance away, unharmed and on the phone to someone. I can proudly say that I was relieved to find that I didn’t have to make the decision of whether or not to try to pull someone out of that.

WP_20150920_001 WP_20150920_003 WP_20150920_005

Someone else there on the scene in an RV mentioned, rather hesitantly, that she had a fire extinguisher. My point of view was based on two points:

  1. There are no humans or critters at risk
  2. That truck is, at that point, trashed.

A fire extinguisher would be unlikely to put out *that* fire (the truck driver told me that he had *just* filled the tank, so there were a whole lot of gallons of gas in it), and would stand a good chance of endangering the person wielding it. At best, you’d turn an “utterly ruined” truck into a “pretty much utterly ruined” truck. When the police arrived, their response was the same… cordon it off, let ’em burn until the actual firefighters showed up.

Until I found that the sole occupant was fine and standing *over* *there,* I had that uncomfortable feeling of “this is *really* gonna hurt” as I pondered the possible need of pulling someone out of that. Fortunately, sometimes the only real solution available is to do nothing., and this was one of those times.

Just a few days before that, I knuckled under and bought one of those $40 dashcams from Wal Mart. It records videos in 3 minute chunks, immediately starting a new file after the end of the previous one. When the memory card is full it deletes the oldest file and starts a new one, thus keeping a constant “loop” of video. Once I pulled away from the scene I decided to back up the relevant clips from the dashcam; there were four or five that covered the incident from the time I first saw smoke until I pulled away. The first video ends just as I pull into the rest stop. The second video, with the bulk of the “action,” such as it was… is corrupted and won’t play. *Of* course.

 Posted by at 6:07 am
Sep 202015

My old laptaps battery was turning into mush, so I ordered a new one. But the new one seems to have a problem… as soon as the power cord is unplugged, the computer shuts off, deader’n hell. Do I have a defective battery, or is there a problem with the computer? Sadly the old battery, which at least held a *bit* of a charge is unavailable.

 Posted by at 7:50 pm
Sep 192015

Remember a few years ago when the nations media was spellbound at the idea of a little kid trapped in a free-floating balloon, and it turned out to be a hoax? It seems that may be the case with Ahmed Mohamed and his clock, too.

Reverse Engineering Ahmed Mohamed’s Clock… and Ourselves.

In short, that clock this kid built? It seems that he didn’t so much build it as simply remove the guts of a commercially available mid-1980’s digital clock and stick them into a hard-shell pencil box. If this analysis is accurate – and it sure appears to be – this kid didn’t “invent” a damn thing except for a media circus. Note that his father is well practiced in the art of PR, having run for President of Sudan. You have to wonder how much of this was intended as a publicity ploy for the family, or an attempt to garner some of that sweet  “oh, boo hoo, come and see the Islamophobia inherent in the system” sympathy.

The clock the kid took apart was made by Micronta, a Radio Shack subsidiary. It’s an odd looking thing, but has the advantage of being pretty simple by modern standards… the sort of thing that might *look* like a a smart kid cobbled it together. But apparently…he *didn’t.* Still, for a minimum expenditure of time and resources, he’s looking to make out like a bandit.

Ahmed Mohamed gets a new Surface Pro 3, Band, and more from Microsoft

 Posted by at 12:37 pm
Sep 182015

Just a few minor things (conversion to PDF & EPUB, uploading, stuff like that) and the second Pax Orionis installment will be posted. This will be “The Deadliest Catch, Part Two,” the conclusion to that particular tale. The bonus will include diagrams and data on the first generation Casaba Howitzer weapon (which has evolved substantially from when i first illustrated it for the pages of APR issue V2N2, years ago), derived from the Orion pulse unit, and a short media piece that fits in with the one included last time. I plan on posting this tomorrow (Saturday).

Patrons who are signed up *before* the story is released will automatically get the story as soon as it’s published. If you sign up *after* the story is published, you won’t automatically get it… but you won’t be charged for it, either. However, patrons may purchase “back issues” for the same price, so you can catch up without any trouble. Each tale is only a buck; with the bonus diagrams and technical discussion, only one additional buck.

If interested, check out the Pax Orionis Patron.


Feel free to tell anyone you think might be interested.

 Posted by at 8:51 am
Sep 172015

Liquid nitrogen cocktail: Lancaster’s Oscar’s Wine Bar fined £100k

As I’m sure you can gather from the headline, a woman drank a cocktail containing liquid nitrogen, which evaporated in her stomach, overpressurizing it, bursting it, necessitating its removal and the surgical attachment of her esophagus directly to her intestines.

Describing the moment she drank the shot, Ms Scanlon told the court: “I turned to the man and asked if it was okay to drink. He said ‘Yes’.

Protip: if you have to ask if something is safe to drink… IT AIN’T.

Second protip: don’t drink cryogenic liquids. You wouldn’t think this would be a point that would have to be explained, but apparently it is.

And… then there’s this:

The prosecution said it would offer no evidence against him if he made a £20,000 contribution to the court costs prior to sentencing.


How is that not bribery??

 Posted by at 4:21 pm
Sep 172015

The internet is aflame over the story of Ahmed Mohamed and his home-made clock. In short, his piece of electronics got him suspended and arrested because the school thought it was a “hoax bomb.” As would have been entirely predictable, since the kid ain’t lily white, and since he is a Muslim, the claims are going around that this is clearly a case of unwarranted Islamophobia, a result of America’s racist demonization of our peaceful Islamic brethren.


You know, there might be a case to be made here. Except… hmmm. Let’s take a look at the clock in question:

Hmm. That’s kinda… dodgy. Sure, it’s probably just the electronic bits needed to make a clock (in a not-in-the-slightest-suspicious hard-shell case). But imagine trying to take that through the airport as a carry-on. Does it look like a bomb? Well, I don’t see any explosives. But does it look like what a lot of people seem to think a bomb looks like? Well… yeah, I guess. Is it over-reaction on the part of the authorities? Almost certainly. Is it Islamophobia? Is it racism? Hmmmm…









Now, if you can make a case that that Pop-Tart looks as much like a real gun as that briefcase-clock looks like a briefcase bomb, then *maybe* you’ll have a case that Ahmed is the victim of racism or Islamophobia, more than he’s a victim of “zero tolerance” policies. Let me know when any of these *other* kids get invited to the White House like Ahmed did.

 Posted by at 12:15 pm