Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Saint Andrew's Day

Happy Saint Andrew's Day
Ephemeral Isle

Why don't you try acting?

"Man, I don't drop character 'till I done the DVD commentary."
From the Telegraph:
At some point in the past 30 or 40 years, our acting tradition turned against the integrity of the words themselves. Forgetting that they are almost as carefully written as notes in opera, it pressed them into the service of production ideas – shouting them, mumbling them, slurring them in search of a more ''natural’’ style and a new interpretation. There have been some gains – the importing of greater physical energy (Mugging and scenery chewing.  ed.), for example – but they have been outweighed by the losses. 
Translation, modern actors are a load of lazy, pretentious buggers who take easy shortcuts that involve everything except doing any actual acting.

Maybe that's because there's no mystery to acting.  It doesn't involve any absurd rituals or arcane exercises.  It is a craft that consists of, in the words of Noel Coward, "Just say the lines and don't bump into the furniture".  After that, it's down to talent and experience.

Read the fine print, mate

The TSA's molestation search procedures a bit too much for you?  Then get a bit of your own back with these undergarments with the 4th amendment printed on them in radio-opaque ink.

It's either that, or rude comments about the idiots who thought body scanning everyone with a boarding pass was a good idea.

Tip o' the hat to Marek Utkin.

TEM500 Egg-and-Muffin 2-Slice Toaster and Egg Poacher

Back in my bachelor days, this would have been bloody brilliant.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Review: Cold War

A new Quill & The Keyboard post is up

British Things

Queen Victoria was a dotty idiot who deserved nothing better than to have sugar poured on her head by a servant, the British Empire was a monstrosity built entirely on slavery, conquest, and pillage, and "there are no British things".

Quite a servings of lies, distortions, omissions, and half-truths here–too many to deal with at the moment.  So, what is it?  Left-over Soviet agitprop?  A university Trotskyite society screed?  A remake of an old Lord Haw Haw broadcast set to music?  A clip from some late-night "comedy" show?

Nope.  It's from "Horrible Histories"; a BBC "educational" programme aimed at British children.  That's right.  Children.  Apparently, the brief of the BBC is now to make British children ashamed of their country, their history, and their culture.

Okay, fine.  So be it.  I now await the next installment when the BBC returns the favour and gives the same gleeful muck-throwing treatment to Imperial China, the Ottoman Empire, the Soviet Empire, or the career of a certain middle-eastern camel salesman turned prophet by the name of Mohammed.

I shan't, however, hold my breath in the meantime.

Update:  Not surprisingly, Captain Scott gets the same libelous treatment.

Flying aircraft carrier

Can't decide if you want a flying aircraft carrier, a hybrid airship/aeroplane, or a vacuum propulsion system?  Then throw caution to the wind and adopt all three untrested technologies at once.

What could possibly go wrong?


Anthropogenic global warming propaganda is so exciting–until someone is churlish enough to do the maths.

Party poopers.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

To our American readers: 
Happy Thanksgiving 
Ephemeral Isle.

Update:  Thanksgiving...of the FUTURE!

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Glace Rare iceberg Water

Does your bottled water cost $15 for a 24 ounce bottle?  No? Then you're not as big an idiot as some people.

Not getting it

Hate the TSA body searches so much that you've given up flying?  According to Homeland Security Secretary Mrs Janet Napolitan, it won't do you any good.
I think the tighter we get on aviation, we have to also be thinking now about going on to mass transit or to trains or maritime. So, what do we need to be doing to strengthen our protections there?
It's at this point that I stock up on seeds and rely on shooting game for food.

Here's a crazy idea, Mrs Napolitan:  Instead of treating American citizens like maximum security inmates, what say that we drop the euphemisms about "terrorists' and call the enemy what they are: Jihadists.  Let's admit openly and without embarrassment that the United States and the rest of the civilised world is at war with a load of 7th century barbarians who want to kill and enslave us.  We know who they are, we know what they want, and we know how they're likely to go about getting it.  Instead of pretending that a 95-year old Pennsylvania Dutch nun is as likely to be a terrorist as the 25-year old Saudi guy clutching a Koran in one hand and a giant black ball with a fuse sticking out and BOMB written across it in letters eight inches tall, why don't we, oh, I don't know, profile suspects so we can pick out the likely Jihadists while running the odd spot checks to weed out any ringers?

And while we're at it, instead of turning the Free World into a giant gulag, let's do what we started ten years ago before we lost the thread.  Let's take the war to the enemy, kill lots of them, take out as many of the tyrants sponsoring them as we can, and tell the rest that if they don't want to end up doing the Saddam Hussein two-step they'd better behave.

In short, stop molesting kids and little old ladies with week bladders and start winning the war.

L2-Farside Project

Lockheed Martin announces its proposal to send a manned spacecraft to park at the L2 Lagrange point.  Once their, the crew can spend a month controlling unmanned rovers on the far side of the Moon so that... They can... We need to...

Looks like we've got another one of those projects on our hands that looks cool but doesn't actually pay back the investment.

Air police patrol

We looked at this in Tales of Future Past.  And now that Modern Mechanix gives us the whole story, it looks even more ludicrous. 

Cigarette cards... of the FUTURE!

Paleo Future looks at the future as reflected by cigarette cards.

It's worth a look if only for the link to an under-appreciated art form.  And I'm saying that because I learned electronics from a set.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

The character of character

A new Quill & The Keyboard post is up.

Snow day

The family going to visit the neighbours at Chez Szondy
It's Thanksgiving week at Chez Szondy, so I'm faced with the usual freelancer's dilemma of a "day off" meaning extra work for the rest of the week.  With this in mind, I'd planned my week for two solid days of work.  Naturally I've ended up doing scarcely any at all.  And therein hangs the tale

Yesterday I saw the daughter off to the car pool to school and settled down (or at least, as much as two attention-staved dogs will allow) at the computer for a morning's bash when I looked out the window and saw snow falling out of the sky in a way that paperweights don't.  The weather radar showed the entire Puget Sound area socked in by a major winter storm and within an hour I was in the Blazer to pick up the daughter from school before the roads became impassable.

If you're thinking that I was hurtling over snow drifts and waving to passing dogsled teams, you'd be mistaken.  In fact, there was less than an inch on the ground, but the geography around here is so mountainous and the roads so winding that even the lightest fall can bring everything grinding to a halt.  Fortunately, the valley wasn't hit too badly, so once I was off the hills I could get around without any trouble.

Having collected the daughter and our neighbour's boy, who was in the same situation, we returned home.  The daughter went to play in the snow at the neighbour's house and I went back to work.  For about ten minutes.  Then there was a hue and cry that made me think that someone was being murdered.

Someone was.

Carl the Cattle Dog had spotted the neighbour's cat; a thick-headed moggy who lived indoors and on the occasions when it managed to slip out the front door demonstrated a singular lack of understanding of how things worked Outside.  One of these things is Carl, who has hated cats ever since he got popped in the nose by one as a puppy.  The neighbour's cat, not having sense enough to leg it, just stood there as Carl charged the invisible fence, bounded across the lawn, snatched up the cat, and proceeded to shake the life out of it.

The kids intervened, which resulted in the daughter receiving a skinned knee and the neighbour boy discovering what it's like to have a cat take refuge on top of one's head.

That put paid to the middle of the day.  Then the wife came home early because she didn't want to be on the motorway in the evening when the snow started to change to ice.  Since it still looked mild out, the worst of our road still free of snow at the bottom,  and the valley roads still passable, we decided to take advantage of the opportunity and get the last of the Thanksgiving shopping done.

It would have worked, except while we were in the Costco warehouse picking out a turkey and the odd bit of Stilton the real storm broke.  We tried to make it back to the main road, but on a steep hill there was a car stuck and we had to turn around.  In doing so, we had to face a steep hill in the opposite direction and got stuck ourselves.  Then we slid backwards and sideways toward a four-foot deep ditch.  If we went into that, we'd not only be stuck, but the drop would probably wreck the car for good.  We avoided that, but only by literal inches.  Sweating cold bullets, I tried to coax the Blazer back up the hill; hoping that there was enough traction for the four-wheel drive to bite into.

By a miracle we managed to get to the top of the hill, but by now the snow was falling in flakes the size of sparrows and I could barely see more than a car length ahead.  There followed a trip home that would normally have taken 25 minutes that now stretched to two and a half hours as I kept to the middle of the road while the wife kept a running comment on how close the shoulder was so I could find the middle of the road.  Every intersection was a question as to whether I was going to get stuck or skid.  Every encounter with another vehicle was a gamble with a possible collision with a momentary headlamp blinding thrown in for good measure.  Then there was the surreal touch of crawling along at 15 MPH on a valley road only to come up against some idiot walking his dogs in the dark without leads in a snow storm and having said idiot leaping in front of my car and screaming at me to slow down.

I don't know where they get them from, but I wish they'd put them back.

Then came the worst as we wound up into the mountains again.  Now the choice wasn't just ditches, there were steep banks crashing down into pastures and a river swollen with brown, icy cold water fresh from the Cascades.  Finally there was our home road that boasts a grade at the bottom usually associated with ski jumps and has to be negotiated from a dead stop because of the turn.  We powered up it.  I watched the speedometer for any sign that we were making headway.  The needle said 25 MPH, but through the driving snow I could see that actual progress was more like 5 MPH.  But at least we weren't standing still and we weren't going backwards, so it didn't matter.  If it weren't for the four-wheel drive I'd have been fishtailing all over the place.

After what seemed an eternity, we finally made it back to Chez Szondy, but conditions were so bad that even pulling into the drive was a white-knuckle event.

Ever have one of those experiences where you want a stiff drink afterward?  This was one of those times as I got through two G&Ts (heavy on the G) inside a quarter of an hour.

Today, the sun shines, the countryside looks like a Christmas card, and the roads are a thick sheet of ice that I have no intention of risking except in dire emergency.  The daughter is off sledding with some friends and the wife and I are trying to keep the house warm enough that the pipes don't burst.

And my prospects of getting any real work done have gone from slim to nil.

A well, at least there's brandy for the cocoa.

This is what it was like in Seattle last night.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Review: The Festival

A new Quill & The Keyboard post is up.

Bread, circuses, beds, and breakfasts

Liberal Democrat Mr Bob Russell MP wants the British government to subsidise holidays for millions of low-income families.

It isn't often that one comes across stupidity of such jaw-dropping dimness.  In cases such as this, a reasoned argument must stand aside for the more appropriate use of a rude noise.

The people's ceremony

From the Telegraph:
Prince William and Kate Middleton want their wedding to be a “people’s ceremony” with as many ordinary members of the public invited as possible.
I understand their reasoning and I'm sure their hearts are in the right place, but the couple does need reminding that when someone suggests "the people's" anything (whether it be republic, palace, army, or princess), they are invariably up to no good.

Related:  The ugly demand suggestion that if William's first born is a girl, primogeniture should be thrown out the window raises its republican head once again.  Ever notice how this sort of thing invariably comes from those who would be happy to defenestrate the Monarchy as well?

Ville d'océan

Presenting Leon Feoquinos's, a French engineer of Marseilles, vision of a mid-ocean city intended as a welcome break of the trans-Atlantic air traveler.

Rumour has is that M Feoquios had a dart board with Charles Lindbergh's face on it.

Welcome to the tinderbox

About the time it came out that New Labour was waging a secret war against the British people by deliberately encouraging an invasion of the country, I asked rhetorically if the New Labour invasion would cease before the Immigrant Problem became the Native Problem.

It looks as though that point has already arrived–at least, as far as columnist Mrs Yasmin Alibhai-Brown is concerned as she condemns the British working class as
"either too lazy or too expensive to compete" in the new era of multi-racialism, she wrote that "tax-paying immigrants past and present keep indolent British scroungers on their couches drinking beer and watching TV".
Leo McKinstry in the Telegraph points out that this is a load of racist tosh that would never be tolerated if the roles were reversed.  He then goes on to point out that while multiculturalism may give the Political Class a warm, fuzzy feeling, it's created hell on Earth for the White working class, who are made to feel that they are strangers in their own country.

I'm not as wholly forgiving toward the working class as Mr McKinstry is.  I've read enough of Theodore Dalrymple's works to be aware of how the Welfare State begat a parasitic underclass of frightening decadence.   However, I am certain that if things do not improve soon, we're going to see Mrs Alibhai-Brown's snobbish racism become more common until it quietly slides into the mainstream of political thought.

If that happens, we are all in a lot of trouble.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Friday, 19 November 2010

Hydrogen plane

From the wishful thinking department.

Comply with me

This is what happens when a government stops its ears, closes its eyes, and pretends that it has no idea who the enemy is–if it acknowledges that there is an enemy at all.

J R R Tolkien interview

A new Quill & The Keyboard post is up.

The character of character

A new Quill & The Keyboard post is up.

News you can use

From the BBC:
Astronomers claim to have discovered the first planet originating from outside our galaxy.
Unavailable for comment
According to reports, it is a planet revolving about an ancient, dying star that entered our galaxy from the cosmic depths of space; a star that has drifted for countless epochs upon the ethereal winds with its stony companion clutching its eldritch secrets within deep caverns of dank, hellish darkness that penetrate to the great black ocean at the very core of the sphere.  Who knows what abominations from the dawn of all beginnings slumber beneath the silent wanderer's mantle?  What foulness bides its time?  Their very substance alien to our universe and commanding a geometry that distorts the mind and blasts the soul.  A malignancy beyond all imagination; waiting once again to spread their wings and sail upon the stellar winds as they did so long ago.  To soar across the gulf of space and descend upon our unwitting globe where the foolish human multitudes go about their trivial affairs shielded in ignorance of the true nature of the Universe that would make them run screaming into blessed insanity.

Iä!  Iä! Chthulhu fhtagn!

The Things that once were and will be again come to claim what is theirs!  The Goat with a Thousand Young!  The horror as the Star Spawn burst forth from their hidden places in the Earth!  Great Rhlyeh rises!  Y'ai 'ng'ngah! Yog Sothoth!  Man's reign is but a brief illusion to be consumed in an unending orgy of ecstasy, pain, and madness from which there is no escape!

H'ee–l'geb!  They come!  THEY COME!  AH HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!!  AEEEEEAAAAAHHHHH!!!!

In other news...

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Poor judgment

Two drunks assaulted three soldier in dress uniform who were walking through central London.  The three turned out to be a Royal Marine and a British Army Captain who are holders of the George Cross, and an SAS man who'd won the VC.

It was not a wise move.


The UN, with its usual brilliance, plan to launch a satellite into orbit that runs on poo.

I intend to keep a tracking application running on my computer at all times and a large bottle of Detol close to hand.

Undeserving poor? What undeserving poor?

I prefer "Ban for life".
Mr Chris Bowlby of the BBC looks at the question of morality and the dole and can't imagine anyone who should be denied benefits. 

When Britain can't tell the difference between a conscientious quadraplegic who'd take a job in a second if only he could figure out how and an able-bodied layabout who has no intention of ever putting in an honest day's work in his worthless life when he can scrounge off the dole, then it's time to put up the shutters.

I offer this as a solution to this conundrum:  Instead of starting with the idea that everyone deserves benefits and working down, start with the concept that only those law-abiding citizens who want to, but truly cannot work and have no other means of support should be offered government support–and keep it there.  Permanently. Private charities, the Church,help from one's family, friendly societies, unemployment insurance plans (preferably private), or emergency relief in time of disaster are one thing.  Dole as a matter of course is nothing but parasitism.

And I speak as a man who has eaten a lot of sardines and Ramen in his day.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Man From Earth

Jerome Bixby isn't as well known a science fiction writer as Isaac Asimov or Arthur C Clarke, but he was more influential than most people realise.  If you've ever seen the Twilight Zone, the original Star Trek, Fantastic Voyage, or even It! The Terror From Beyond Space, then you've seen Bixby's work.  And if you regard someone wearing a goatee as evidence that they are an evil doppelganger from another dimension, then you have Bixby to thank for that.

Man From Earth (2007) was Bixby's last screenplay that he began working on in the early 1960's and completed on his deathbed in 1998.  Shopped around Hollywood by his son Emerson, it was eventually filmed by director Richard Schenkman for a budget of only $200,000.

Not surprisingly, this is not a film of action and special effects.  It's more of an old-fashioned television play that remains mainly on one set and relies heavily on dialogue to move the plot along. In fact, a stage version is available that is, as far as I can tell, nearly identical to the shooting script.

The premise is a simple one.   A group of academics throw a surprise going away party for a young professor named John Oldman who is inexplicably abandoning his career and moving away.  When confronted with this question, Oldman reveals that he is, in fact, a 14,000-year old Cro Magnon who somehow became immortal and who must now move every ten years to keep his secret safe.

Needless to say, Oldman's friends refuse to believe him and he has no proof to support his claim, but against their better judgment they are drawn into Oldman's story.  Soon they are using their specialist knowledge to pick holes in his narrative and find themselves faced with the question of whether he is lying, insane, or really a caveman who has survived into the present day.

Man From Earth is an intriguing story that strives to be one of emotions and ideas.  It tries to deal with the big issues of life, death, and religion to the point where it often lapses into a round-table discussion suitable for late night on Channel 4.  However, Schenkman keeps the emotional ball in play and the plot avoids becoming overly dry.

Where Bixby stumbles is when he falls for the Hollywood cliché of thinking that in order to be serious one must bash religion in general and Christianity in particular. It is at this point that Man From Earth becomes predictable and pedestrian as it trots out anti-Christian arguments that didn't fly in the 2nd century and today seem merely glib.  Apparently, Christ was actually John Oldman trying to introduce Buddhism to the Jews and when he seemingly came back from the dead it caused the Apostles to start running off in a whirlwind of myth making like the cast of Life of Brian.  It's an idea, but the "Jesus survived the Crucifixion" wheeze is so old that it would have made St. Jerome send back a form letter in reply.  It could work as a premise, but Bixby needed to do his homework better. 

Personally, I think that if Bixby really wanted people to question their beliefs and start some fresh discussion, he should have had Oldman say, "Yup, I was there.  Saw Him leave the tomb and was at the Ascension.  Good times." And then watch the secularists do a paradigm shift without a clutch. 

This isn't helped by the introduction of a "Christian literalist" who doesn't believe in angels or miracles, but can be relied upon to say "sacrilege" and "blasphemy" at the drop of a prayer book.  She comes across as an old-fashioned character as do all the others.  The idea of a group of academics as a serious, enlightened jury to weigh the case of an alleged immortal caveman may have flown in 1960, but today, when the dirty laundry of so-called scholars is on display for all to see, it comes very close to comic.  From my own experience in the faculty common room, I'd say that instead of a heated, yet sympathetic discourse, a real gathering of soft scientists in such circumstances would quickly degenerate into blustering, back biting, territory grabbing, egomania, special pleading, political bigotry, and out and out whining leavened with the intellectual rigour that is normally associated with a nursery school riot.

Overall, Man From Earth is a refreshing film that requires attention and patience, but this is rewarded with a genteel and ultimately entertaining story capped by a twist that neatly resolves the conflict. At 90 minutes, it is too long for it's premise.  I can't help thinking that if Bixby had finished his screenplay in 1960, Rod Serling would have taken it and turned it into a taut classic of 24 minutes with far greater dramatic impact.

An immortal Rod Serling; now there's a premise for a film.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

How Hitler killed a logo

Before Nazis soured the brand with that whole master race thing, the swastika was a fairly common symbol.  I once had a leather-bound set of Kipling that I displayed proudly in my home.  They were beautiful and the prominent swastikas on the spines caused some marvelously heated arguments with my more lefty friends.

Dream kitchen...of the FUTURE!

1955's vision of the kitchen of tomorrow.  I particularly like the monitor on the counter.  No, it's not the long dreamed of computer for storing recipes and (altogether now!) balancing the cheque book.  It's a television hooked to CCTV cameras strategically placed about the house so Mother can keep the family in a perpetual state of paranoia.

That's what we use them for.

Colim concept

The Colim Concept combined caravan/car.

So alliterative, so impractical, so uncomfortable.  I'll bet it's "green", too.

Monday, 15 November 2010

The Men Who Plan Beyond Tomorrow

New section for Tales of Future Past.


How's the holiday going?

Bad week, Barry?
Mr Barack Hussein Obama gets his head handed to him by the American voters, so he flees abroad to lick his wounds among the world "community" that welcomed him so warmly during the 2008 campaign. 

Unfortunately, Mr Soetoro discovers that presenting yourself as greater than your country that you then denigrate and bankrupt makes other heads of government regard you as more patsy than messiah.

And they act accordingly.

Hitting a moving target

From the BBC:
The British Bloodhound car will need "bullet-proof wheels" when it tries to break the land speed record in 2012.
I never knew that rivalry in the land-speed record contest was so serious.

A glimmer of sanity

Lancashire County Council decrees that from now on gingerbread men will be called... Gingerbread men.

Keep going like this and people will start thinking that government isn't run entirely by petty-minded bureaucratic busybodies hellbent on controlling freeborn Englishmen's every waking thought.

One way of doing it

Nepal Airlines had a spot of bother with one of its Boeing 757s, so they tried to fix it by sacrificing two goats to the Hindu sky god Akash Bhairab.

I've done a few contracts for the Boeing Company and I have it on good authority that animal sacrifices are not encouraged as an air maintenance protocol.  Indeed, the only time I've seen it practiced in the West is aboard US Navy Nimitz class aircraft carriers at about 2 AM when the crew gets a bit desperate about getting the fighter plane engine to start.

Friday, 12 November 2010

The Writing of Fantasy

A new Quill & The Keyboard post is up.

Free Electron Laser Weapon

Not bad despite the Stark Enterprises style of narration, but it still doesn't answer my question: Is it small enough to be fitted to a satellite and then lofted into orbit by an ex-Royal Navy Trident missile that one may have acquired somewhere?

As an example, of course.

Colon studies

Serious scholars.
James Lileks looks at the recent "student" riots in London and coins a phrase that I intend to use often:
I suspect they're mostly engaged in Colon Studies, meaning, every one of their college textbooks has a colon in the title. "Shearing the Flock: Mercantilism and Class Inequality in 19th Century New Zealand" or "Singing For Her Supper: Transgendered Nightclub Singers in Weimar Berlin.
I know the type.

Update: The rioters are thugs and criminals.  Their teachers are worse.

Brechtian bilge

Liquidate a few million class enemies and you get a reputation.
According to the New York Times, Communists are harmless eccentrics who are just gosh darn cuddly.

I guess all those tens of millions dead, one sixth of the planet enslaved for three generations, a decades long cold war, and a world teetering on the choice between nuclear destruction or a new dark age of Leftist tyranny was something that just "happened".  Try replacing "Marxist" with "Nazi" while reading the article and see if it's still as cozy.

Top Gear Live

The new Top Gear Live show starts its world tour and since it's not easy to nip 'round for the evening to Earls Court from Chez Szondy, I can't give a first-hand take on the event. 

However, any show that features a hot babe in science fiction armour sporting a pair of flame throwers is one that I automatically declare great.

Thursday, 11 November 2010


The caption under this image on The Telegraph:
Tanzil Choudhury, a law student from Bradford who studies at Manchester University, brandished a cricket bat he stole from inside.
So, we have a name, address, and a confession of rioting, vandalism, assaulting a police officer, criminal trespass, criminal disguise, and theft from the little monster's own mouth.  When will the arrest take place?   Or at least the expulsion from MU?  And is Mr Choudhury a British national or here on a visa?  If the latter, when will he be deported?

I thought not.  Welcome to modern Britain.

Goat bank

There is a bank in India that deals exclusively in goats rather than currency.

Must be hell at the cash machines.

Starting the plot

A new Quill & The Keyboard post is up.

A boy named sue

 The Daily Beast looks at, for want of a better word, parents who give their sons effeminate names because they, in the words of one commenter, want them to be little girls with penises.

What is staggering about this article isn't that the comments are nearly all of the "What the hell?" quality, nor that the author treats this sort of Feminist daftness as being so entirely reasonable that no alternative view needs to be seriously considered, it's that the United States has so many educated, well-off people who basically see their ideal society as one that is on a par with that of the Romans just before Alaric and his Visgoths smashed down the gates.

Remembrance Day

Menfish revisted

Stick to the mice demos, lads.
Scientists look once again at the idea of using oxygenated fluorocarbons for deep-sea diving and have gone the 1960s one better; it's no longer impractical, it's now insanely dangerous and impractical.

Anti-piracy weapons

Next Big Future looks at current anti-piracy weapons and presents a charming ensemble of fire hoses, boat traps, and dazzle lasers.

Might we suggest a couple of other items that have had some effectiveness in the past?  Like a 20mm Oerlikon deck gun with a couple of .50 caliber machine guns and the odd grenade launcher for balance?  Just a thought.

Meat good

I need calming down very badly.  With fried onions and mushrooms.
From the Daily Mail:
Women who want to calm down their husbands after a stressful day at the office should serve him a big steak, scientists said today.
I showed this story to the wife and told her that this was real science from scientists who do sciency-type science stuff, so it has to be really true, but we still had tomato red pepper soup and bread for supper.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

The Haunter of the Ring by Robert E Howard

A new Quill & The Keyboard post is up.

Robo sponge bath

No, thank you.
The Georgia Institute of Technology develops a robot that can give people sponge baths.

The mere thought of it gives me what doctors refer to technically as the "heebie jeebies".

Meanwhile, back at the volcano

Notice to heads of all departments Volcano 1 from No. 1:

The USAF have dismissed the incident as other than a missile launch, which indicates that our radar blackout device is acting properly.  However, this is no excuse for your appalling breach of security.  I am not amused and have no desire to raise the CIA's or MI6's suspicions before Operation Hammerstrike is too far advanced for them to stop us.  See to it that this is not repeated or the results will be most unpleasant–for you.

Additional:  Will Maintenance please remove the Launch Control Supervisor's body from my office and clean up the electrically-charged visitor's chair?  Thank you.

No. 1

Space nookie

"Horny Moon" shuttle.  How apt.
For those of you still unconvinced that modern society has reached a level of decadence that would have the Emperor Nero say "Steady on" and opt for an evening reading P G Wodehouse, we present Yelken Octuri's concept of an orbital brothel aimed at wealthy libertines so jaded that they need to spend two days in free fall to get any activity going.

All we need is red velvet wallpaper, overpriced Champagne and a pockmarked bouncer with no neck and an IQ to match his hat size and we've got the complete package.

Adam Smith, call your service

Future luxury commodity.
I used to love Popular Science.  At one time, it was the perfect light read for the mechanically and scientifically inclined –especially if you were a boy who had multiple models of American and Russian spacecraft with the odd USS Enterprise cluttering up the shelves in the late '60s.  The magazine always seemed to be writen by blokes who knew more about tools and electronics than I did, but were willing to share their enthusiasm with me.  Even now, the back issues on Google Books are where I keep finding myself browsing during the odd moments before going to bed.  If I had the time to set up a proper work bench, that's where I'd keep my old yellowing copies.

That's the very old copies, of course.  The modern one's I'd keep in the loo–and not for reading purposes.  In the last few years, Popular Science has gone downhill faster than a bobsled with greased runners.   When it isn't running articles that desperately try to recapture the gee-whiz feel of better days or playing its true role of a downmarket Skymall catalogue, Popular Science stoops to running lazy, bog standard "green" articles, such as this one about how cocoa prices are rising because cacao farmers don't have enough incentive to keep replanting.  In the current Pop Sci alternate universe, this can only mean that chocolate will vanish from childhood as small Dairy Milk bars trade for $11 a go.

Where did the editors learn economics?  From the New York Times?  Never mind the irony that cacao production is getting squeezed by pointless, heavily subsidised biofuel production that wastes land that should properly be used to grow food, did it never occur to the writer of the article what happens when a commodity shoots up in price by 1100 percent?  Like maybe an incentive to increase production, which causes supply to match demand and prices fall again? 

It's not rocket science–which Popular Science used to know a thing or two about before it became Mother Jones with car reviews.