Saturday, 31 December 2011

The Mole People

Friday, 30 December 2011

Service interruption continues

My satellite modem has died, as in it's now an inert lump of plastic and silicon that won't even power up, and the serviceman can't get a replacement until Thursday, so my only Internet time is now the few hours I can manage in town between now and then when everything isn't closed up for the holidays.

Given that this has completely kicked over all the deadlines I have looming, it means that posting here will continue spotty through the next week.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Cheetah (1931-2011)

Like Marlon Brando, Cheetah was a keen ham radio enthusiast.
Cheetah has passed away at his retirement home at the age of 80.

This event will no doubt show the venal hypocrisy of Hollywood.  Here was a solid, journeyman actor; a true veteran of the golden age of film.  He left behind a respectable body of work including a a string of A-list pictures, got out while he was on top and dedicated his remaining years to simianitarian works by helping in a chimp sanctuary.  And what recognition did he get?  None.  No lifetime achievement award, no Oscar and no star on the Walk of Fame.  Heck, I'll bet that he doesn't even show up on TCM's annual retrospective of entertainers who passed during the year. Why?  Because Cheetah wasn't a player.  He didn't schmooze and get mixed up in the "celebrity" game.  He was a true artist who turned his back on the system with the dignity of a gentleman and they resented him for it.

 He was a chimp's chimp.

Standards of Spelling

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Rejoice for utopia is nigh!

The Economist looks at the impact of Hugo Gernsback

Then imitate the action of the pigeon

Let slip the birds of war
Cyberneticzoo looks at the ultimate in doomsday weaponry:  The pigeon bomb.

Moon room

This 1961 take on lunar colonies shows a quaint optimism about having giant caverns readily to hand, but I do like the layout of the quarters complete with computer that's probably a videophone.

The camera pointed at the bunk for making sex tapes is a nice touch.

Slow Week

We have family visiting Chez Szondy this week at the same time I'm facing a string of deadlines that Christmas has already kept me away from for too long.  Therefore, though I'll be posting the usual video features on Ephemeral Isle, other posts will be as and when I can find time.

Normal service will resume as soon as possible.

The Master Mystery: Part 8

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Happy Christmas

Happy Christmas
Ephemeral Isle

Back after Boxing Day

Friday, 23 December 2011

The Christmas curse

The above clip is how I suspect some people treat the word "Christmas", such as in this post from
Three spaceflyers who launched on a Russian rocket Wednesday (Dec. 21) are preparing to dock at the International Space Station tomorrow (Dec. 23), just in time for the holidays.
Let's leave aside the idiocy of using a neologism like "spaceflyer" for "astronaut" (Yes, I know that one was a cosmonaut, but as far as I'm concerned, that's just the Russian word for astronaut and the article is written in English).   If they're getting there on December the 23rd, what "holidays" are they talking about?  It's not Ramadan or Hanukkah or Diwali–it's too late in the year for any of them.   Could they mean (pause) Christmas?  

It's a bit like an internet discussion I was reading yesterday about CE and BCE as a Newspeak substitute for AD and BC.  Don't get me started on these.  As a retired archaeologist and history lecturer, this really gets on my wick.  At any rate, one commentator claims that he doesn't use AD and BC because he isn't Christian.

Well and good, said another, but what does he do on a Wednesday, which is sacred to Woden?

I'd go a bit further in that the gentleman must be very uncomfortable on all the days of the week–not to mention every month of the year until October.  And if he's an Atheist, how can he stomach taking holidays?  Does he scream and stop his ears every time someone says "goodbye" to him because he can't bear to be wished that God be with him? Does he froth at the mouth when someone accuses him of pontificating or if he sees a ship being christened? The Solar System must fill him with rage. Looking at a poop deck must be as torture to him. And for heaven's sake (sorry) never mention computer icons in his hearing. This is one step away from G K Chesterton's character who loathed the cross so much that he screwed his eyes shut whenever he saw a fence or a window pane.

Why isn't this the case?  Because it isn't about not subscribing to Christianity; it's about objecting to its functional existence.

It's the hypocrisy of it all that grates.  If you want people to stop saying "Christmas" because you hate Christianity and want it banned from the culture, then come out and say so.  That at least is an honest position that can be defended.  Don't hide behind smarmy appeals to intolerance masquerading as tolerance.  

Space launches by year

Just in case you're curious.
Notice the massive bulge in Soviet launches during the Cold War.  A lot of pictures being snapped there.

Problem, meet solution

The alternative
Instapundit looks at the European Empire and its alleged reason for existing: Keeping Germany from starting the Third World War.

It's a brief, interesting thesis and it shows where we went wrong at the end of the Cold War.  Far from supporting reunification of Germany, once the Communist Menace was pronounced well and truly dead, the EU should have disbanded, then NATO should have expelled Germany as a member and demanded that it split into it's component states again.

Or else.

Civilisation Part 6: Protest and Communication

Thursday, 22 December 2011

UFO: Exposed

Five in five

IBM's take on the advances of the next five years.

My take on all this:

  1. I have an idea, let's build those things called "power plants" instead.  Then we won't need to reinvent the butter churn.
  2. I'll believe it when I see it.
  3. My mind isn't a very nice place to be.
  4. A 7th century barbarian with a smart phone is still a barbarian.
  5. If I didn't ask for it, it's junk mail.

Review: Kindle Touch

The Amazon Kindle Touch is quite a remarkable little machine. In many ways, it can be seen as a halfway point between the Fourth Generation Kindle" target="_blank">fourth generation (4G) Kindle e-Reader and the Kindle Fire Tablet. However, it's not simply a glorified reader, nor is it a stripped down tablet. Rather, it is another way in which Amazon is building on its lead in the e-Reader market by optimizing the reader interface and user controls. With the Kindle Touch sure to find its way under many a tree this holiday season we put the device through its paces with a hands-on review... Continue Reading Review: Kindle Touch

BBC: "Will British people ever think in metric?"

No.  Next!

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

A Terry Gilliam Christmas

Our co-pilot was a flask of coffee

Regular readers will know that I prefer to fly on small planes against those airborne cattle cars any day.  When I lived in Seattle, it was magic.  Whenever I had to go to Victoria, Canada I could just walk from my flat to the seaplane terminal at Lake Union, ask Janice at the desk if there was a seat going and I'd land literally outside my hotel a couple of hours later after swooping over the San Juan Islands watching whales.  Now I can do pretty much the same thing, but it means driving 15 miles into town to the municipal airstrip and remembering to pick up bread on the way home.

That being said, small plane travel can be a bit casual and the chocky biccy question does rear its head from time to time.

Caution: This is Eddie Izzard, so the language is a bit blue at times.

Hot lions crave human flesh

Quick, man!  Turn up the air conditioning!
Global warming causes man-eating lions to attack!

This has to be the silliest global warming story I've seen in the past five or six hours.

TV Rudeness

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Je ne regrette rien!

Scientific American, 10 January 1891
The Eiffel Tower is one of the world's architectural wonders, but what would really get people to go see it?  How about a ride where you stick customers into a giant bullet and drop them a thousand feet into a shaft filled with water.

Wave to the camera

We are entering an era where we will control our devices by gesturing at them.

The opportunities for howling and cursing as the miserable little oiks turn themselves on, off or generally misbehave because you're gesturing while talking to someone will be endless.

A little jig of grief

Mourning: North Korean style

According to the BBC, North Koreans are in deep mourning for the passing of Dear Leader.

Apparently, one North Korean funerary custom is wail like a banshee in public and then slip into the back room  to perform a quick Charleston.

The Master Mystery: Part 7

Monday, 19 December 2011

Back to the Anglosphere?

A flag I could get behind
At a dead run without a glance behind, if anyone has any sense.

I've always contended that the Anglosphere was a better starting point not just for a free trade zone between sovereign nations, but also as the core of a free-market democracy, invitation only free-trade zone and mutual defence pact replacement for the UN and NATO.  No micro states, free-loaders or dictators need apply.

Though, come to think of it, Churchill had the best idea of all back in the '30s: Unite the British Empire and the United States, then move the capital to New York.  But, we must look forward now.  Anglosphere, ho!

Highways by Automation

Paleo Future looks at the automatic highways of yestertomorrow.

Uh, yeah

According to the Associated Press, half of all households have an income below the median average.

Moral: Never let stupidity get in the way of a story.


Sunday, 18 December 2011

Kim Jong Il dies

So ronery
North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il is dead.

The question remains whether his son is bat guano crazy enough to succeed him.

Update:  It annoys the heck out of me that he died in bed, but I console myself with the thought that maybe someone suffocated him with a pillow.

The Outer Limit

Click here to listen.
The source for our current serial "The Day of the Triffids"  is no longer available, so we're going on to our next series: Dimension X

Friday, 16 December 2011

The tide turns

DARPA is looking at using tobacco to save soldiers who've been exposed to nerve gas.

And so it begins.

At least one RN warship gets respect

HMS Victory undergoes a £16 million restoration.

It's good to see that they're taking care of the old girl. I always loved visiting her and I even have a chunk of her original oak taken from her last refit in the '80s that I one day hope to have carved into the rudder for a model of the great ship.

Radial-arm space station

Unfoldable, rotating goodness from 1962

Civilisation Part 5: The Hero as Artist

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Insane psychology

A psychologist wants members of Parliament to undergo annual mental health examines to make sure that they're fit to take their seats.

Translation:  A psychologist wants to establish a third house of Parliament made up of psychologists wielding absolute power over the other two.

China descendant

Onward, comrades, to a glorious lost decade!
The credit bubble has finally popped and it looks like Red China's dream of inevitable world domination has gone the same way as the USSR, Japan, the European Empire and all the others pegged as unstoppable economic juggernauts after a growth spurt.  As one commentator put it, the BRIC nations are falling like a brick.

Let's hope the Chicoms are smart enough to manage the fall so it doesn't become a crash.

It'll be fish next

Apples mysteriously rain from the sky in Coventry.

Somewhere, Charles Fort smiles.

UFO: Survival

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Time to go?

The European Empire is cracking wide. Is this the time to go?


Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic hasn't even got as far as its first powered test flight of SpaceShip2 and already Paul Allen is turning the concept into a launch system that waltzes past the space shuttle.

With the private sector finally shifting into first gear, it looks as if the Space Age is really starting.

Update: As usual, Gerry Anderson was there first–and his were VSTOLs

Card Radio

The ultimate triumph of marketing over sense:  Build an FM radio in a cardboard case like something out of the Soviet Union that won't last a week and sing it's "green" virtues until people are willing to cough up £25 for the wretched thing.  It isn't a bit of cheap tat slapped together in a Chinese garage and sold for two and a half times the price of a decent radio, it's "recyclable"!

That's like calling a Reliant Robin "safe" because it's certain to flip over before you hit another car.

Beer Advertising

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Plane-mounted camera detects hazardous volcanic ash in the air

A new invention out of Norway promises to keep the skies of the world open. When a volcano in Iceland erupted in 2010, it spewed out invisible clouds of ash that spread across Europe–effectively shutting down all civilian and military air traffic, stranding millions of people and costing the world economy billions of dollars. Now, a new camera has been developed that will allow pilots to see and avoid volcanic dust clouds, making similar eruptions in the future much less disruptive. Read More

Damn clever, these mantis shrimp


The US government has been blowing the trumpet for some time about its efforts to make the US military "green" and now there efforts have borne fruit.  The Navy has bought 450,000 gallons of biofuel for the low, low price of only $16.00 per gallon–over four times the price of petrol.  And the whole thing stinks of cronyism.

In other words, the "green" movement in a nutshell.

The torch passes

Gambian dictator president Yahya Jammeh declares that he can cure AIDS with herbs, make infertile women fruitful, that the murder of one of his critics that remains strangely uninvestigated doesn't matter because "other people have died in this country" and that he'll reign for a billion years.

Looks like Mr Jammeh is carrying on the tradition of barking mad African tyrants that I though extinguished after Colonel Khaddafi (he of many spellings) did the Mussolini two-step.

The Master Mystery: Part 6

Monday, 12 December 2011

Cutting the Harry Potter knot.

Just shows how badly plotted the Harry Potter books were. The bit with the gun crossed my mind back about volume three.

Blue plaque

Honouring the great

The question answered

I've often wondered what would happen if I fell into a pool of lava–and once it wasn't just an academic question, but that's another story.

Anyway, here is the answer that was previously known only to Gollum and Darth Vader.

Inventions that Changed the World: The Telephone

Friday, 9 December 2011

Weather weapon

One reason why I have little truck with the global warming alarmists is that they fail to see a problem as an opportunity.  Man can alter the weather?  Make a weapon out of it, old boy.  Make a weapon out of it.


Dark Roasted Blend looks at the Great American Concept Car

Operation Petticoat

You know what would really make these boats effective weapons?
Put women on them!
The Royal Navy is in a financial black hole, there's no fighter cover, no aircraft carriers until 2030 and then only one, the fleet is smaller than it was at any time since the Armada, there's no defence of home waters and warships go to sea unarmed.  But, by the powers, we're putting women on the submarines!

Our enemies are shaking in their boots... with laughter.

If the traitor David Cameron and the illegal junta that occupies Britain really wanted to strike a blow for feminism, maybe they should reconsider their priorities.

Civilisation Part 4: Man-The Measure of All Things

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Kepler mission discovers most Earth-like planet to date

The ongoing search for Earth-like worlds has taken another promising step. On December 5, NASA announced the discovery of the planet most likely so far to sustain life outside of the Solar System. The exoplanet, given the undramatic name of Kepler 22b, was found by NASA's Kepler spacecraft as part of its mission to seek outEarth-type planets in our galaxy. Though Kepler 22b is not the first such planet to be detected in recent years, it is the first one orbiting a star similar to our Sun and at a distance where it is capable of possessing liquid water, which most scientists regard as essential for life to exist. Though this is a significant milestone, the question remains, how good a candidate for a second is Earth Kepler 22b? Could there be life there or is it a planetary blind alley?.. Continue Reading Kepler mission discovers most Earth-like planet to date


What's the difference between wind power and nuclear power?  One goes offline when struck by a giant earthquake, a fist-slam of a tsunami and rescue crew made unable to bring in power lines for a week.  The other explodes when it gets a bit gusty.

I'll take reliable over "sustainable" any day.

UFO: Flight Path

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Another nail

Now the government wants to grant hereditary peerages to women, which indicates that either they have absolutely no common sense* whatsoever or this "Conservative" government really is what I believe it to be:  a traitorous, illegal junta led by a traitor who don't give a tinker's damn what damage they do to what's left of Britain.

*How will it pass on?  Will it to a daughter like a ring?

Le futur des robots

Either they're here to save us or that open hatch is just to lure us into a false sense of security before that claw starts swatting us into the water.

I know which one I'm voting for.

Giving Flowers


There was a time when I racked my brains about how to either buy this set new or hunt down the volumes secondhand–never mind where I'd put them.  Now, I have them all on my Kindle and it didn't cost a penny.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Wall Street on Trial

Fender bender

Eight Ferraris, three Mercedes-Benzes and a Lamborghini were involved in a 14-car pile-up in Japan that clocked in at $3 million in damages.

The Geico gecko reported on suicide watch.

Sustainable energy

Scientists discover that the human body puts out enough heat to cook a pan of potatoes.

Sadly, to this day, the "green" dream of a human-powered potato pan cooker continues to elude us

The Master Mystery: Part 5

Monday, 5 December 2011

Duck mating is an arms race

A duck pond may seem like the ideal place to spend a peaceful spring afternoon, but during mating season it can look like the scene of a gang attack. Though ducks as a species are famously monogamous, unattached drakes can be extremely aggressive. They attack any female in sight in a mating frenzy that often ends in the injury or death of the victim. This has resulted in the ducks developing ways to prevent unwanted matings and the drakes ways to overcome their defenses. Researchers in North America are developing a novel way to study this "evolutionary arms race" that uses high-speed cameras, force transducers and model duck oviducts made of glass... Continue Reading Duck mating is an arms race

Kimball Kinnison, call you service

Using nuclear bombs to propel spaceships?  That's 20th century thinking.  These days the question is why build dinky little spaceships when you can hurl entire star systems across intergalactic space?

Just don't show this to the Eddorians.

Rare and nobody's complaining

And next up on Insect Friends, we have... Holy Mother of God!!!!

Toyota Fun-Vii

The car for those whose fondest dream is to take up residence in that horrid remake of Tron.

Danger Men

Friday, 2 December 2011

A breath of sanity

God, I've been waiting for someone to say this.


Croatian Future Past.  If you don't want to plough through the Flickr set, Popular Science has a gallery.

Space: The smelly frontier

NASA commissions a programme to develop a washing machine for the International Space Station.  This is a good thing, since the current strategy is basically to wear the same thing everyday until your underpants get crunchy.

Oddly enough, this was standard procedure for a lot of my colleagues in my archaeology days.

Action at last?

Recently, there have been a number of attacks against Iranian nuclear and missile facilities and several of their top scientists have been assassinated.  From the look of these satellite photos, this doesn't seem like the work of a dissident group out to make a point.  It's more like someone is escalating the fight against the mad mullahs to something beyond introducing Stuxnet viruses at centrifuge plants.

Keep up the good work, whoever you are.

Civilisation: Part 3 Romance and Reality

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Winter is coming

For some people, every problem is an opportunity.

Green Hotel

Did I mention that you have to climb a ladder to get into bed?
Another triumph for Yanko Design (the DREADCO of the design world). Welcome to the "green" future where your hotel is a ratty, under-powered shed with a dirty bike in the corner and a shared toilet and shower with no hot water because it's cloudy.

I can't wait.

I'm gorgeous!

The Corpora demonstrates Qbo; a robot capable of recognising itself in a mirror.

I hope they realise where this is going to end.

UFO: Computer Affair