Friday, 29 June 2012

France's Minitel shutting down after 30 years

After 30 years of service, France’s Minitel information service is shutting down for good. Launched in 1982 by the French state telephone company Poste, Téléphone et Télécommunications (PTT), which later became France Télécom, it was France’s answer to the World Wide Web before the Web was even created. However, despite remarkable initial success, it proved unable to compete with the modern internet and on June 30, 2012 it will be switched off... Continue Reading France's Minitel shutting down after 30 years

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

The Rotten State of Britain

We were promised Cool Britannia and a People’s Government, but instead, we got boom and bust, injustice, surveillance, regulation, stealth taxes, interference, sleaze, lies, hoodies, and binge-drinking ladettes… Our whole relationship with the state has become adversarial, rather than collaborative.
The Library of Law and Liberty looks at Eamonn Butler's The Rotten State of Britian. As you can see from the above quote, it's not exactly a laugh riot.

Citroen U55 Cityrama Currus

Dark Roasted Blend looks at the career of the greatest bus ever.

Pointy Shoes

Tuesday, 26 June 2012


Only in Seattle could such a preposterous insult to the noble kilt take hold.

Water cyborg

I won't go into the technology here, as the flaws would fill a very large book. What really gets my odd toed ungulate is that people will look at this video's premise that Earth is on the verge of becoming a damp version of Arrakis and nod sagely.

And they think that people getting ready for the inevitable zombie apocalypse are silly.

Welcome to the 21st century

Dark Roasted Blend has a post on people and vehicles carrying huge loads that includes these ironic photos of Third World transport of First World technology.

It's a strange thing about the modern world.  I'll never forget the first time I stuck my head into an African hut straight out of King Solomon's Mines only to come face to face with a colour television run by a bank of car batteries.

The Adventures of Captain Marvel: Part 8: Boomerang

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Automated system detects and fills cracks in asphalt roads

They say an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, but when it comes to road maintenance, an ounce of prevention is worth several tons of tarmac. A tiny crack in the asphalt may not seem like much, but once it lets in rain and frost, it’s a ticket to potholes and a very expensive resurfacing. The problem is that crack repair is time consuming and labor intensive, so the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) has come up with an automatic pavement crack detection and repair system that operates at comparable speeds to conventional methods, but with fewer people and less exposure to hazardous fumes... Continue Reading Automated system detects and fills cracks in asphalt roads

Frankenstein: The True Story

Friday, 22 June 2012

Invade and destroy

From the BBC:
The EU should "do its best to undermine" the "homogeneity" of its member states, the UN's special representative for migration has said.
Translation: The UN's special representative for migration urges the EU to declare war against its member states.

It's time to invest heavily in tar and feathers.

The Day the Universe Changed: Part 6: Credit Where It's Due

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Libaries and studies

The nerve centre of
The Art of Manliness looks at the libraries, studies and writing rooms of 15 famous men.

Sadly, the one at Chez Szondy (seen here) isn't included.

Space: 1999: Breakaway

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Sexism at NASA is fine so long as it serves Feminism

From NASA:
Eighty-four female high school students (We used to call the "girls". Ed.) from 29 states will plan a simulated mission to Mars and experience life as an engineer or scientist when NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston hosts two events focused on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) in June and July.

The Women in STEM High School Aerospace Scholars project, or WISH, is sponsoring two six-day summer camps for rising high school seniors. The young women will work in teams with female NASA mentors to develop mission plans for launching to Mars, living and working there, and integrating the many components necessary for a successful planetary mission. They will work within the confines of a fictitious budget and build several small mockups of vehicles to demonstrate a successful launch and landing of the Mars spacecraft.
How splendid! So, NASA, when is the version exclusively for boys scheduled? I thought not.

Bread and Butter

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

No shoggoths yet.

NASA press release:
A new university-led study with NASA participation finds ancient Antarctica was much warmer and wetter than previously suspected. The climate was suitable to support substantial vegetation — including stunted trees — along the edges of the frozen continent.
They discovered this by way of borings that brought up samples of vegetation, pollen, elder signs...

A moment of cute

Slow down! I've got little legs!

Turning's century

Alan Turing would have turned 100 this year and the intertubes are loaded with tributes to him.  Unfortunately, while most articles pay attention to his invaluable services during the war and his contributions to computer science, there is also an obligatory tendency to refer to him not as a great man, but as a great homosexual.  Worse than that; as some sort of "gay martyr".  Indeed, the real irony of the man is that the very conviction for gross indecency that ruined his life is probably the main reason he's getting so much publicity today while the men who built Colossus remain in relative obscurity.  It's rather sad that the memory of this great man should be held in subservience to identity politics.

Case in point is this absurd plaque resting at the foot of Turing's statue at Bletchley Park.  "Victim of prejudice"?  Hardly.  Turing was convicted of gross indecency and he did lose his security clearance.  However, his conviction was entirely in accordance with the law and the revocation of his clearance was standard procedure since clearances weren't issued to people seen as at risk of blackmail.  The only "victim" status that Turing could reasonably be awarded is that he was the victim of misplaced compassion.  Rather than the court finding him guilty of a minor criminal act and punishing him, it took the "enlightened" view that he wasn't a criminal, but an unfortunate with a condition in need of a cure, so they gave him the option of oestrogen injections, which may (or may not) have contributed to his suicide.

When judges take it upon themselves to act like doctors and come to regard criminals as patients, justice is ill served.

Update: Suicide? Maybe not, but that doesn't serve a "martyr" narrative.  Let's stop this nonsense and remember Turing as a great man, not a sacrificial lamb to identity politics.

The Adventures of Captain Marvel: Part 7: Human Targets

Monday, 18 June 2012

DARPA looks at developing robots to sew uniforms

U.S. military uniforms may not be the most fashionable of clothes, but there are a lot of them. Every year, the Pentagon spends US$4 billion on uniforms and over 50,000 people are employed in their production. In an effort to cut costs and increase efficiency, DARPA has awarded a US$1.25 million contract SoftWear Automation, Inc. to develop “complete production facilities that produce garments with zero direct labor is the ultimate goal" - in other words, a robot factory that can make uniforms from beginning to end without human operators... Continue Reading DARPA looks at developing robots to sew uniforms

Lawyers with the instincts of commissars

Life is not worth living if somebody thinks he has authority over you.
Robert E Howard

Ministry of Pee

The Swedish Left Party wants abolish men's lavatories.  Sorry, I mean require that offices have only "unisex" toilets without urinals.

In other words, they want to abolish men's lavatories.

To add insult to injuries, they also want to require men to pee sitting down.

If this piece of idiotic tyranny isn't met with howls of derisive laughter before being torn up and the scraps literally thrown in the authors' faces, then we have reached a very dark crossroads.

Counting bears

Okay, Bear. I know what you're thinking. "Did he fire six shots or only five?" Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement I kind of lost track myself. But being as this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you've got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?
From the BBC:
Black bears have demonstrated counting abilities, in a first for the species.
Great.  Now I have to carry extra rounds just in case the bear is trying to draw my fire.

Launch & Recover

Friday, 15 June 2012

Hippo steaks

Popular Science looks back at the meat of the future: Hippopotamus.

I don't know.  I've been up close with hippos in the wild and, frankly, I'd lay better odds on domesticating leopards.

Bye, bye, Lenin

Do a Cromwell on him, I say.
Now that Mr Vladimir Putin is in for his fourth third term as president of Russia, it looks as though the mummy of Communist dictator Lenin may be taken out of its tomb and buried. Hopefully that red pillbox will be dynamited afterwards.

I for one am absolutely opposed to this.  It should be removed, beheaded as a regicide and its coconut stuck over the Kremlin gate.

Then turn his tomb into a McDonald's franchise.

Our future is a potato

Our "green" future
I'm becoming more and more convinced that the media is laying the groundwork for abandoning CAGW in favour of reviving that old chestnut of Malthusianism and resource scarcity.  Today's exhibit: An article in Slate about "food security" written by someone who clearly knows nothing about livestock and hopes you don't either.

The point of the article is, no surprise, to declare that the only answer is for us all to resign ourselves to becoming peasants–except for the enlightened oligarchs, of course, who must hold onto their high-tech lifestyles complete with air-freighted arugula.

For our good, of course.

The Day the Universe Changed: Part 5: Infinitely Reasonable

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Sous vide cooking heading mainstream?

Boil-in-a-bag takes on a whole new meaning thanks to Eades Appliance Technology's (EAT) SousVide Supreme Demi. Using a cooking technique that was once the reserve of laboratories and upmarket restaurants, the SousVide Supreme Demi aims to provide home chefs with the means to create perfectly cooked dishes with laboratory precision in a compact, affordable, countertop “water oven” that’s as easy to operate as a slow cooker and only consumes as much power as a 60-watt incandescent bulb. .. Continue Reading Sous vide cooking heading mainstream?


DesignLibero seems to be giving Yanko Design a run for their money with this idea that combines two incompatible objects: A dish rack (Does anyone still use these?) and a pot plant.

The only question remains, how much compost do you get on you dishes before the plants die?

No lifeboats left

Nigel Farage once again states the blindingly obvious.

Don't forget shotguns

Miami Herald Sun headline:
Election apocalypse: Greeks hoard canned food
I'd say when serious food hoarding starts, it's time for the European Empire to get ready for the end.

UFO: The Long Sleep

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

How to fight a skeleton army

Finally, someone is taking on a question I've been pondering since I was six-years old.

All in the name

Remember when buildings used to be covered with ivy, but then people were told to tear them all off because they destroyed the brickwork and acted as a highway for vermin?  Silly Outer Party members!  Just call them "vertical gardens" and you'll have the benedictions of the priests of Blessed Gaia

Disassembly line

Popular Science has a short piece on a New Zealand company that build robotic lamb processing plants.

The video is fascinating and slightly creepy in a Wilt sort of fashion

Climate Change

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

AGA iTotal Control Cooker

The AGA iTotal Control Cooker that you can control from your tablet anywhere in the world.

I thought the whole point of an AGA was that it didn't have any controls.  Things fall apart, the centre does not hold.

Don't give up, change the subject

I think we can declare the global warming scare if not dead, at least on its way to the grave.  The BBC is already setting up the new threat to Blessed Gaia by rolling out that discredited Malthusian bogey man: Resource depletion.

And guess what the solution is?  Yes!  Exactly the same as for global warming.  What a coincidence.

OHEA Smart Bed makes itself

Unless you’re an obsessive “morning” person, making the bed first thing after waking ranks right up there with banging your knee on the night stand. Understanding that most people would just like to turn around and see the bed magically made, Spanish furniture company OHEA is offering a self-making “smart bed” that tidies the sheet and pillows the moment you stand up. .. Continue Reading OHEA Smart Bed makes itself

The Adventures of Captain Marvel: part 6: Lens of Death

Monday, 11 June 2012

Malaria doesn't just go away

Ah, malaria; scourge of the tropics, the reason why I can't donate blood, and, thanks to her flat-out lies about DDT, why Rachel Carson is responsible for more deaths than Hitler. Andre Malcolm at has a fascinating article on the disease that includes this telling observation:
Today’s generation – healthy and robust, beneficiaries of earlier, concerted efforts to wipe out malaria from America evidently have little empathy for doing the same efforts for Africans. Despite proof it can be done, a lazy argument that ‘we just have to live with it’ is making the rounds. Our forefathers didn’t accept that, why do the beneficiaries of their hard work shrug off their duty to the next generation or to those in this generation who are still under siege from this ruinous parasite? Our means are more than ever before in history, so why the unnecessary surrender? 
The second the world believed it might be vulnerable to dying by avian flu, the media gushed and money surged to the cause … evidently the same people who panicked about avian flu cutting their own lives short don’t think malaria can reach them, so they aren’t interested. No skin in the malaria game. The ‘we have to live with it’ is really, ‘they have to live with it. Yet, if malaria re-appeared in Philadelphia or in Washington, DC where it once flourished, how long would it take for the massive public panic and a frantic outcry to DO something?
People who don't read history forget that malaria wasn't always a tropical disease.  In the 19th century it ranged as far north as Minnesota and in East Anglia it was so endemic that the pubs used to put opium in the beer as a prophylactic.

It made the coaching inns every interesting when coach parties of outsiders not used to the stuff had a pint or two.

Archaeology Today

I spent twenty years in the field and this is pretty much what it's like.

GTRI develops prototype chicken-deboning robot

Chickens have another reason to lose sleep thanks to roboticists at the Georgia Tech Research Institute’s (GTRI) Intelligent Cutting and Deboning System. Using 3D imaging technology, this robot can debone an entire chicken with the skill of a human butcher and has the potential of saving the poultry industry millions of dollars by reducing costs and waste... Continue Reading GTRI develops prototype chicken-deboning robot

Skylab: Space Station I

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Quatermass and the Pit

Basically covers the same ground as Prometheus, but does a much better job.

Friday, 8 June 2012

What is a "green" job?

Next up: What is a Potemkin village?

Let's not be beastly to Barry

The Ministry of Truth Mainstream Media have had a pretty rough time lately.  Mr Barack Hussein Obama is unable to run on His dismal domestic record, Obamacare faces overthrow by the Supreme Court, His "smart" diplomacy reaped little except derision, His "shiny object" attacks backfired in spectacular fashion, Romeny refuses to repeat McCain's conceding gracefully instead of fighting and the Wisconsin recall ended in a defeat so bad that His supporters are in denial.

With all of that facing the MSM's Messiah, they have come up with a new strategy:  Howling "Stop being mean to The One!" at their top of their voices with appropriate foot stamping.

Next stop: the MSM catching a dose of reality by discovering that their choice is to turn on Mr Soetoro or go down with him.

The US presidential election just got interesting.

The logic of empire

From the BBC:
Speaking on German TV, [German Chancellor Angela Merkel] called for "more Europe", including a budgetary union, saying "we need a political union first and foremost".
That makes about as much sense as treating a gunshot victim by pumping more bullets into him.

The Day the Universe Changed: Part 4: Matter of Fact

Thursday, 7 June 2012

New silicone plaster promotes wound healing

Even the smallest wound is potentially serious, so something as simple as a finger plaster and a little disinfectant can make the difference when it comes to preventing a nasty infection. But a dressing can do more than just keep out germs. That’s the idea behind work of the Laboratory of Thermodynamics in Emerging Technologies (ETH) in Zurich, Switzerland, where Prof. Dimos Poulikakos and his team of engineers and biologists are developing a new plaster that not only protects a wound from infection, it can also accelerate healing through the use of specially contoured silicone that promotes cell migration... Continue Reading New silicone plaster promotes wound healing

Inner Party members and guests only

This will go over well.  In honour of the 2012 Olympics and as a demonstration of what the illegal junata that occupies Britain thinks of the peasants, the government is establishing Zil lanes so that the Great and the Good don't have to drive alongside the hoi poli.

Welcome to Airstrip One.

NASA gets two Hubble-class telescopes from the military

NASA’s collection of space telescopes just got a bit bigger thanks to an extraordinary gift from America's National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) intelligence agency. The space agency announced on Monday that the NRO has given it two surplus spy satellites that are more advanced than the Hubble Space Telescope. If the money can be found for a mission for the spy “birds” then NASA will not only have two possible replacements for the retiring Hubble, but also an added ability to scan the skies for supernovae, locate new exoplanets and even seek the answer to the fate of the universe... Continue Reading NASA gets two Hubble-class telescopes from the military

It's all go

I was reading through tributes to Ray Bradbury when I came across this observation:
Without Bradbury there’s no Michael Chabon, no Cormac McCarthy, no Margaret Atwood.
Great.  Now I have to build a time machine, go back and kill Mrs Bradbury before she conceives him.

UFO: Mindbender

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Somebody call UNIT

Slashdot headline:
China Secretly Clones Austrian Village
Question:  Are they cloning the Austrian villagers as well?  Is there a space installation nearby?  If so, this sounds very familiar.

The Great River Turbine

This seems to be a bumper week for Yanko Design (The DREADCO of the design world).  What else can one say when confronted with their "green" power triumph?  Behold: An undershot waterwheel of incredible inefficiency sitting out in a stretch of water with no way to turn it.

The elegance of its idiocy is breathtaking.

The soda of liberty

Evil woman!
James Lileks wades into Mayor Bloombergs plan to tell New Yorkers how big a soda they may buy and he takes no prisoners.
A culture that redefines food choices as moral issues will demonize the people who don’t share the tastes of the priest class. A culture that elevates eating to some holistic act of ethical self-definition - localvore, low-carbon-impact food, fair trade, artisanal cheese - will find the casual carefree choices of the less-enlightened as an affront to their belief system. Leave it to Americans to invent a Puritan strain of Epicurianism.
This is on a par with why I dislike vegetarians and vegans.  It isn't because they won't eat meat (or claim they don't).  I have nothing but healthy respect for my friends who say that they don't eat meat because they don't like it or for health reason.  Heck, I'm married to a woman who won't eat any meat unless it's ground and my daughter is just as bad and I love them both dearly.  No, what I dislike is people who wear their diet as a badge of moral vanity–worse, as a mandate to tell me what to eat.  And, as Mr Lileks points out, the same goes for the rest of their ilk.

And I don't even like soda.

You will find me drinking rum,

Like a sailor in a slum,

You will find me drinking beer like a Bavarian

You will find me drinking gin 

In the lowest kind of inn

Because I am a rigid Vegetarian.

So I cleared the inn of wine,

And I tried to climb the sign,

And I tried to hail the constable as "Marion."

But he said I couldn't speak,

And he bowled me to the Beak

Because I was a Happy Vegetarian.

Oh, I know a Doctor Gluck,

And his nose it had a hook,

And his attitudes were anything but Aryan;

So I gave him all the pork

That I had, upon a fork

Because I am myself a Vegetarian.

I am silent in the Club,

I am silent in the pub.,

I am silent on a bally peak in Darien;

For I stuff away for life

Shoving peas in with a knife,

Because I am a rigid Vegetarian.

No more the milk of cows

Shall pollute my private house

Than the milk of the wild mares of the Barbarian

I will stick to port and sherry,

For they are so very, very,

So very, very, very, Vegetarian.
G K Chesterton


Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Quadrotor UAVs used to wirelessly deliver power

Not only are quadrotors fun, they're useful for applications like surveillance and are even showing promise inbuilding construction . Here's a practical use we hadn't thought of though - remote wireless charging. The folks from NIMBUS lab at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln are developing a quadrotor equipped with a system that uses strongly-coupled magnetic resonances to transmit power from its batteries to the receiving device without ever needing to make physical contact. The roboticists see this as a solution for powering devices that are otherwise inaccessible to conventional electrical sources... Continue Reading Quadrotor UAVs used to wirelessly deliver power

Shanghai dragon

Yanko Design (The DREADCO of the design world) inflicts a building in the form of a metal "dragon" in the centre of Shanghai.  Even the ChiComs don't deserve this.

Question:  Exactly when did architecture become an exercises in bad jokes that the rest of us have to live with?

But is it art? No, it's a crime.

If it looks real, it must be real.  Pull the other one, it's got bells on.
The BBC runs another one of those "Does it matter if a painting is a fake?" pieces.

Speaking as someone who spent two decades sorting fakes from the real thing, I can say that it dashed well does matter the same way as it matters if a cheque is a fake.  Not only do fakes detract from the artists reputation, but the very intent of the forger is to deceive.  He isn't painting a picture that others just happen to mistake for an old master, he is trying to pass off a fraud.  He carefully works in the manner of the original, never varying. He uses period materials, ages the product and generally does everything he can to foil attempts to verify the validity of the piece.  Worse, the fake is invariably inferior to the original and never fools everyone. there is always some critic or scholar who smells a rat.

Worst of all, the damage done extends far beyond the showroom.  Thanks to enterprising forgers over teh centuries, a huge fraction of the ancient coins in the British Museum are of dubious origin–and that collection is meant as reference material for studying the past.

If anyone pulls this sort of asininity in real life, offer to sell him a bridge and present him with your "genuine" deed to it.

Bat phone

Nokia has issued a bat phone.

Why?  Probably because at least one person wants one.

The Adventures of Captain Marvel: Part 5: The Scorpion Strikes

Monday, 4 June 2012

Diamond Jubilee

May we be celebrating your next one in 2027

Reviewed no more

In honour of her diamond jubilee, we present footage of the Spithead Review of the Fleet from her 1953 coronation and for her silver jubilee in 1977.

We'd show you footage of the one for the current celebration, but we can't because there isn't any.  Why?  Because there wasn't a review because the Royal Navy has suffered such appalling cuts that to mount a review of the pitifully few hulls available would be an exercise in national humiliation.

Time for a John Belushi-style rant, I think.

Possible base for Operation Hammerstrike

The Norwegian government is selling a surplus submarine base for $17.5 million.

It's not bad, though I'd have to see if there are any underground areas suitable for conversion into palatial living quarters and a Maze of Death.  Also, since the existence of the base is already public knowledge, it would mean spending a few years establishing a cover that was suitably innocuous, yet explained why I took such severe measures as armed guards to ensure my privacy–not to mention the installation of a satellite tracking antenna.


I came across the blurb about the medikit on Modern Mechanix and, having a great love for kits, hunted down more info on it; including some very nice images from ebay.

It's not perfect, but with some updating, modifications and additions I think that we could come up with something that Dr McCoy would be proud of.

The Coronation: 1953

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Tiny satellites will use Kinect to dock with one another

Little satellites grow up to be big satellites. At least, that’s what will happen if Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL) gets its way. Working in conjunction with the University of Surrey, the UK-based company plans to launch a pair of nano-satellites into orbit equipped with Kinect motion-control sensors that will allow the minisats to seek each other out and dock to form a new, larger satellite. If this technology proves successful, it has the potential to change the way satellites are built, maintained and even disposed of by changing satellites from individual machines into intelligent building blocks... Continue Reading Tiny satellites will use Kinect to dock with one another