Saturday, February 25, 2012

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita was nothing like I thought it would be. Nothing at all.

Prior to reading the book the things that came to mind when I heard the word Lolita were perversion (after all, it's about a psuedo stepfather's lust for his 12 year old psuedo step daughter), Don't Stand So Close to Me by The Police, and Amy Fisher.

I also thought Russian, serious, heavy, and classic. What finally got the book down off the shelf were several recent articles in which Lolita was named as one of the greatest novels of all time. Most recently, 125 current authors voted Lolita to be the top novel of the 20th century and Nabokov as one of the top 10 authors of all-time.

It was nothing like I expected.

You know how when you're out to dinner and you're choosing a nice bottle of wine? You get all serious and business-like while scouring the wine list and then there's the ritual of opening the bottle, inspecting the cork, and swirling that first glass. That's mostly all theater. All you really need to do is see that the cork is wet (for god's sake don't sniff it) and make sure the wine doesn't taste like vinegar. Then just enjoy. All the theater is a reaction to having to do something supposedly serious and important about which you are mostly ignorant. Wine is important, they say. Don't screw this up! But it's really just a drink.

It can be like that with good literature. Upon starting some books there's a girding of the mental loins as you brace for wrestling meaning from the author's words. But really you should simply read and enjoy. It sounds funny, but why not approach Nabokov the same way you'd approach Tom Clancy? I fell into the same trap I advise others to avoid with Shakespeare. Opera today is all hoity-toity but back in the day it was the equivalent of Guiding Light. But I digress.

Instead of a heavy dose of Russian prose, Lolita yields the darkly comical guilt of Dostoyevsky's Raskolnikov told with the rye wit and irreverence of Salinger's Holden Caulfield. There are no direct portrayals of sex in the book. Indeed, as Nabokov himself said in this two-part video interview (Part 1, Part 2), the book is about love, not sex. Forbidden love, certainly. But not sex. (In fact, you can make and argument that death is a central theme, but that'll take another reading for me to figure out.) Furthermore, Nabokov says the inspiration for Lolita was a news story he read about a gorilla in captivity who was taught to draw. The first drawing the ape made was of the bars of his own cage. Along these lines, Nabokov's protagonist is caged by his lifelong obsession with young girls and therefore his view of the rest of the world is quite distorted.

But drop the seriousness. Even Nabokov said he had no agenda, no goal, no intention in writing Lolita other than giving the reader a shiver at the base of the spine. His writing is wonderfully spry and twisted and humorous. The tragedy is all the more wicked because the protagonist is also the narrator and is quite self-deceiving, with flashes of stark guilt, about the nature of his crime. The narrator's lack of trustworthiness makes attention to the telling of the story that much more important.

Lolita will definitely get a second reading (and a third and...) if for no other reason than to start the book without the mental baggage I brought this first time. Do I consider it great? Not yet. But I can appreciate why others think so.

Excess on occasion is exhilarating.

I'm using Getty Image's Moodstream while writing this post and hoping, as advertised, that its music and images will inspire me (or stabilize me, or excite me). [Postfix: It didn't help.]

Politics I can support. The American Mustache Institute is sponsoring the STACHE Act (Stimulus to Allow Critical Hair Expenses) that will provide $250 of tax relief each year for mustached Americans. We can join their Million Mustache March on Washington too.

Terry Winters, Tessellation Figures (10), 2011. source
Are you more a summer or a winter? I took an online quiz that said I'm a summer which surprised me. As for seasonal color analysis, I don't know. But psychologists can tell whether you're a Twitter or a Facebook. If you're a Facebook, sorry - you're using it to combat loneliness. Things aren't much better if you're a Twitter - you're not very conscientious.

The fourth and final installment of the very well produced video series Everything is a Remix is now available.

I should be the poster boy for narcissism, especially its lesser known trait of a childlike need for affirmation (coupled, of course, with the overblown ego which makes for a nice paradox). Therefore, I was glad to see that Clarke, Corea, and White's album Forever won the Grammy for Best Jazz Instrumental Album after I had reviewed it glowingly.

This map of the U.S. is based on geo-tagged Tweets and photos. From Equire's The United States of 2012.
Wow. Check out this video about the number Wau. I need someone who pwns their maths to tell me whether this is a hoax or not.

Bret Victor is a guy who thinks big thoughts and advocates developing a personal and central principle around which all your work is based. Watch him give this presentation at the Canadian University Software Engineering Conference and see some really cool demos in the first half and some Kumbaya moments in the second half.

$150 for a limited t-shirt from the internet's best artists? Get 'em at

It's bad enough that you can't escape ringing cell phones no matter where you go. But this video about playing with your cell phone on the toilet takes things one step too far. If a cell phone really makes it "come out easier" you're doing it wrong.

 On the other hand, urinals at the South Pole have "dignity."

I don't suppose Siri likes it either. source
The camera in my iPhone has improved my photography solely by letting me take poorly composed and out of focus snapshots at higher resolution. On the other hand, this guy visits China and makes a beautiful film of his experience: Shangrila.

Only true hardcore fans of the ambient music genre need check out Nicholas Szczepanik's The Truth of Transience.

Shoot the Lights Out is a great film of Fort Worth, more specifically a nighttime view of the midway at the annual Stock Show and Rodeo.

The fine folks at Pragmatic Marketing have released their annual product management survey in which you can find interesting stuff like the top 3 duties of a product manager: understanding market problems, maintaining the product roadmap, writing product requirements.

Van Gogh's Starry Night like you've never seen it before: animated and interactive.
It's very easy to misunderstand one frame of an animated film which is exactly what the Out of Context Animation blog does.
I can only memorize the value of pi to 3.1415927. So it's handy that the first million digits of pi are online.

How many ways are there to tie shoes? Apparently, there are 37 (and each has been rated for appearance and ease of application).

Why is everyone worried about zombies? I think we're seeing the beginning of a rock uprising.

Boulders moving on Mars.
Where is this boulder on the moon going?
Moving rocks of California.
The Linux technology reference is a page of links to links about all things Linux. And also available online is The Art of Unix Programming by Eric Steven Raymond.

From Romulan Ale to Imperial Stout Trooper, the 14 geekiest beers.

Use Cuss-O-Meter to find out how much you swear on your blog or website.

You may have heard that Whitney Houston died. If I hear I Will Always Love You one more time I think I'll spew. You may have also watched the Super Bowl. I no longer bother to watch the NFL's geriatric Super Bowl halftime shows. Folks need to remember that Whitney sang the best national anthem ever at Super Bowl XXV. (To illustrate how fixated the NFL is on the elderly, note that they're still using Roman numerals.)

I love this ad for Convair's F-102A. If I could find an original I'd hang it in my office.
Alan Parsons (you know, the guy from The Alan Parsons Project and the guy who worked on Dark Side of the Moon) says that audiophiles spend too much time and money on equipment instead of considering room acoustics. "there are some decent budget surround systems you can buy at Costco or Walmart that really aren’t bad."

Approval has been given for construction of the first two nuclear power plants in the U.S. (Atlanta) since 1978. But natural gas is so cheap, we might not see more for a while. Nukes don't generate greenhouse gases - where are the tree huggers?

Clock fetish satisfied. animaclock
This is a fantastic video from 1960 of the SAGE computer and its BOMARC missiles for cold war air defense.

Nukes is good. A scientist at Los Alamos National Lab used a supercomputer with 32,000 processors to show that a nuclear missile could destroy an incoming asteroid before it destroyed the earth.

Nukes don't have to be all explosions and stuff. Check out these instances of nukes in pop culture during the Cold War era.

This story of Alcoa's 50,000 ton forging press sets off multiple triggers for me. It's in Cleveland, it was born during the Cold War, and it's making bulkheads for the F-35. But the big news is that "one of the great machines of American industry is being reborn." Think of it this way, this press is so big and so powerful it could lift the Battleship Iowa with 860 tons to spare while also upholding tolerances of a thousandth of an inch.

B-52, B-2, B-1 source
From the smudge to the unsolved crime, knowing your skid marks helps you decide whether to wash or toss. (Not for sensitive people.)

Author Henry Miller (Tropic of Cancer, etc.) wrote himself 11 commandments. #3 Don't be nervous. Work calmly, joyously, recklessly on whatever is in hand. (I like the juxtaposition of calmly and recklessly.)

I'm told the MoMA's Kraftwerk Retrospective sold out in record time.

Completely offensive and inappropriate is the best way to describe Ghetto Hikes, a Tumblr blog supposedly about things overheard when city kids go camping. Things like "Them sheeps is funny looking homie wearin a snuggie full time." (Posting shit like this is why I'll never be able to be elected to public office. As if you were concerned.)

This photo of a Gemini-Titan launch in 1966 is one of several recently posted by NASA on Flickr.
Why does Adele's Someone Like You make everyone cry? Frankly, I've never been a fan of Adele despite her Grammy success and am likely to change the station when she comes on. Overplay? Perhaps. Anyway, a psychologist's study blamed tearjerkers on appoggiatura, ornamental tones that are dissonant with the melody. Resolution of that dissonance leads to a calming reaction. Other studies identified changes in volume, timbre, and pattern as chill-inducing. In either case the true culprit is our brain which releases dopamine when it hears this kind of stuff. Maybe a better example than Adele is Barber's Adagio for Strings.

Fish Inside Out like this x-rayed orange bellowsfish
OK, so this guy only owns 15 things, "to be precise" as the article says. But that doesn't count socks and underwear or the contents of his toiletry kit or the accessories for his laptop. So like most things in life, it all depends on where you start counting. I only own 15 things too. A house (includes all contents), car, etc.

My high school physics class was the last for which the slide rule was required. I still have mine in my desk but even that's obsolete with this online slide rule simulator.

Hooray for short attention span fornication! Science tells us that good sexual intercourse lasts only minutes with as little as 3-7 minutes deemed acceptable. Kinda like speed dating. Which means using this music service is hardly worth the trouble. (Not for sensitive people.)

Find a flower dead for 32,000 years and bring it back to life (from a specimen dug up from a squirrel burrow). What could possibly go wrong?

I don't know why scientists are worried about all that growing a woolly mammoth from DNA. They can just go to Siberia and catch a live one, like this one captured on video.
Sometimes history isn't really history at all. It's contemporary. Here are several examples of living witnesses to history, like the witness to Lincoln's assassination who was interviewed on TV in 1956. If this stuff doesn't make you do a mental double-take, something's wrong.

Speaking of seeing historical things, here's a video from 1965 of Igor Stravinsky conducting the New Philharmonia Orchestra as they perform his Firebird Suite.

And more history: 1937 video of the Hindenburg disaster.

Will concussions and lawsuits related to them be the end of football?

H is for Homer. And 25 other letters of Simphabet, a Simpsons-based alphabet.
Neatness counts, even in space. If the Swiss can build CleanSpace One, a satellite to clean-up space junk, maybe they can make a boat that'll clean-up that floating island of trash in the Pacific.

For fans of the photograph, check out the winners of the 2012 World Press Photo Contest.

The bigot's guide to the world - maps of stereotypes. Quite hilarious. (Mississippi is labeled "lard reservoir" in one.) C'mon people - they're jokes.

A LONG interview with musician Steven Wilson. Serious fans only, please.

Looks like 07 Aug 1997 was a rainy day in DFW. This is one frame from a video of 14 years of U.S. weather. For weather junkies like me, this is a MUST SEE.
Texas Monthly named Fort Worth's Shinjuku Station one of the ten best new restaurants in the state.

What does a tree sound like? To find out you need this turntable that plays slices of wood, using the color and texture of the rings and some programming to create sound.

You ever wonder why when they find crazy old recluses they're living with 100 cats and not 100 dogs? It seems that a parasite in cat feces (the reason pregnant women are advised to stay away from cats) makes cat owners crazy.

Where tanks go to die. The 7 most incredible tank graveyards on earth.
Would Thomas Edison hire you? He probably wouldn't hire me based on this list of his interview questions. What's the first line of The Aeneid? Of what is brass made? Who invented logarithms?

Why don't Americans elect scientists? Is it because they smell bad, spill food on their shirt, and wouldn't be able to look female world leaders in the eye? Nope. It's because their "abstract, scientific approach to problems and issues often leads to conclusions that are at odds with religious and cultural beliefs and scientists are sometimes tone-deaf to the social environment in which they state their conclusions."

Spend all day at the airport photographing takeoffs, composite them all, add a little tilt-shift effect, and voila.
The town of Point Roberts is "like the foreskin of America." Not necessarily of chamber of commerce moment.

I'll give Stack Soap an A for effort. The new bar of soap has a little groove into which you insert the sliver of the previous, almost entirely used bar. But anyone with half a brain knows that the way to solve the sliver problem is to make bars of soap hollow so there's nothing left to form a sliver. Duh.

What happens when you drop a Slinky? Do you know? Really?

First of all, why would you need to fight 20 children? (You're tired of their bullshit, of course.) Here are tips on how to win a fight versus 20 children.

Just go poop! Best medical advice I've read in a long time.
Play time: Imagination, Fanfare, iDaft (Daft Punk console)

It prevents moderation from acquiring the deadening effect of a habit.  ~W. Somerset Maugham

Monday, February 20, 2012

Little Books from Red Gate and CD Baby

In less than an hour this afternoon I was able to blaze through two short books I received at the Business of Software Conference, Anything You Want by Derek Sivers (founder of CD Baby) and The Book of Red Gate from Red Gate Software.

A cynic would label these two books "vanity pieces" by successful businesses. Someone more gullible would say the authors just want to share some of the secrets of their success. Because I lean toward gullibility, let's throw them a bone and try to benefit from their sharing.

Because of the books' brevity, there's not much left to do but summarize.

Anything You Want

Sivers' book distills the secrets for his success.
  1. Business is not about money. It's about making dreams come true for others and for yourself. (This in spite of selling his company for $22 million. Repeat after me: a business exists to make a profit.)
  2. Making a company is a great way to improve the world while improving yourself. (A little too Kumbaya, too lofty for me.)
  3. When you make a company, you make a utopia. It's where you design your perfect world. (This topic is covered in depth by Red Gate.)
  4. Never do anything just for the money.
  5. Don't pursue business just for your own gain. Only answer the calls for help.
  6. Success comes from persistently improving and inventing, not from persistently promoting what's not working. (This seems obvious.)
  7. Your business plan is moot. You don't know what people really want until you start doing it. (The corollary to this is that people don't know what they want until they see what you implement.)
  8. Starting with no money is an advantage. You don't need money to start helping people. (Having no money also means you won't be wasting any.)
  9. You can't please everyone, so proudly exclude people. (True, true, true.)
  10. Make yourself unnecessary to the running of your business. (Was I ever necessary?)
  11. The real point of doing anything it to be happy, so do only what makes you happy. (Easier said than done.)
The Book of Red Gate
Red Gate's book is a manifesto for their company's culture.
  1. You will be reasonable with us. We will be reasonable with you. (The way we say this is you act like a professional, we'll treat you like a professional.)
  2. Attempt to do the best work of your life.
  3. Motivation isn't about carrots and sticks. (Carrots don't work anyway.)
  4. Our best work is done in teams.
  5. Don't be an asshole. (Now they tell me.)
  6. Get the right stuff done. (Easier said than done.)
  7. Visible misteaks are a sign that we are a healthy organization.
  8. No politics.
  9. Do the right things for our customers.
  10. Profits are only a way of keeping score, not the game itself. (I'm glad they acknowledge that profit exists.)
  11. We will succeed if we build wonderful, useful products. (Notice that wonderful comes first. I like that.)
  12. We base our decisions on the available evidence. (And often the available evidence is slim to nonexistent.)
  13. We count contribution, not hours.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Put first half of title here...

Roses are red.
Violets are turquoise.
Length is reduced,
but quality still stinks because what the hell rhymes with turquoise?

...and second half here.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Ethics of Belief by William K. Clifford

A business acquaintance I follow on Twitter posted that he often likes to reread William K. Clifford's essay The Ethics of Belief. The author, a mathematician by trade, originally published the essay in 1877.

Let's cut right to Clifford's point: "It is wrong always, everywhere, for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence."

It is wrong to believe. Not to act. But simply to believe.

Without deep consideration this seems to draw from Socrates, "An unexamined life is not worth living." Certainly there's nothing ominous about trying to know and understand all you can about life and the world and then use that knowledge as the basis for taking action.

But Clifford spins things a little differently. "The question of right or wrong has to do with the origin of his belief, not the matter of it." Ethics depends on the thoughts not the actions which may result from them. Clifford using the example of theft to illustrate the true harm to society is not the loss of property but rather the disposition of the thief. The fact that a man has bad thoughts is more harmful to society than any action based on those bad thoughts. He clarifies this: "No one man's belief is in any case a private matter which concerns himself alone." In other words, your thoughts are part of the fabric of society and, by implication, a matter for public scrutiny.

Your thoughts are my business.

A practical concern cited is whether one has the time to scrutinize in long detail all the questions and factors of life to which the reply is "then he should have no time to believe."

You have no right to believe.

I have a few fundamental problems with Clifford. Although he addresses it in his essay, the implication that all things are knowable I find false. Even whether all things are knowable to a substantial degree is debatable. Whether study of an issue will lead all men to the same (presumably) correct conclusion is almost certainly false.

A large part of the problem here is that beliefs being tested are themselves qualitative leading certainly to lack of agreement. Consider these beliefs: abortion, capital punishment, taxes, religion, country music, and the designated hitter. Regardless of your belief, try to imagine a fully considered study. Upon what would it be based? Whether having the belief is good or bad? And what exactly do good and bad mean in this context?

Even in his own theft example, Clifford states the true problem is that a society of thieves is bad. But one might make the case that people who don't sufficiently protect their property deserve to have it stolen and one who is able to steal has demonstrated great skill. Clifford has chosen for us his desired outcome.  Who will society get to decide on the one true belief? Just look at the chaos of having the DH in the AL but no DH in the NL. Who in the hell decided pitchers shouldn't hit?

Baseball levity aside, Clifford is using this argument to skewer religion. Because the existence of a higher power is untestable and discontinuous with our daily existence, because religion is foisted upon us by unknowing parents and perpetuated by unqualified clergy, and because even thinking these untested beliefs is a burden on society they should not be permitted.

Clifford (maybe because he's a mathematician) acts as though everything is 100% knowable leaving absolutely no mystery or uncertainty or flaw in life. It is that lack of certainty and the inevitability of error that makes life wonderfully worth living. Shades of gray.

Nothing in human existence is 100% knowable and belief fills that gap whether it's in the form of religion or politics (as if there's a difference) or art. Certainly examination makes life worth living. But that examination is my personal business - society can just deal with any resulting actions.

Love is grand.

Clayton Christensen's book The Innovator's Dilemma concerns itself with the idea of disruptive innovation, how a new entrant to the market can push out the incumbent. This independently created video illustrates the idea nicely.

Scale of the Universe 2 is an interactive visualization from the Planck Length to the size of the universe, kinda like the classic film Powers of 10.

Today's Smile is a hypnotic animation. Watch it here or read about it here.
Ambient music aficionados: check out Disquiet.

Electronica aficionados: check out the work of Jeffrey Plaide. "I am very interested in creating synthetic and electronic compositions, treatments and arrangements and using electronic music and visual synthesis techniques to realise complex and abstract concepts"

In case you missed it on Nat Geo, check out this brief video about 3D printing. Think Star Trek replicator.

Worldmap of countries driving on the right (red) or wrong (blue). This and 13 other geography facts can be found here.
125 living American and English writers chose the greatest books of all time. The top work of the 20th century is Nabokov's Lolita. (That does it. I'm reading it for the first time this week.)  Faulkner's The Sound and The Fury came in at #7. Topping the 19th century is Tolstoy's Anna Karenina. Top 10 authors includes Shakespeare, Faulkner, Dickens, Dostoevsky, and more. Check it out - there's plenty to argue about.

Perhaps sci-fi reading is your cup of tea. Check out the list of the 100 top sci-fi books. At the top you'll find the usual suspects - Ender's Game and Dune.

Or maybe you prefer music to books. Check out this visualization of songs per artist in the top 500 rock songs of all time. (Beatles, Stones, Who, Zep, etc.)

Which is more genius? Robert Rauschenburg's Erased de Kooning Drawing 1953 or STAR.ME's Redraw de Kooning's Erased Work?
Pennies in space. If you send a 1909 VDB cent (worth around $1,000) to Mars will it be worth more than the 1943 copper alloy cent ($1.7 million at auction)?

Aviation pr0n of the week: video of F-35B ship suitability testing.

This close up is only part of a delicious illustrated map of Italy and its foods.
I may have linked to this before but here it is again anyway: a fun little animation of Animator vs. Animation.

In case you missed it, Rango won the Annie Award for Best Animated Feature. All the results are included in this Cartoon Brew post.

Google thinks I'm a 25-34 year old male who's interested in music, law, and government. Google ain't too smart, is he? See what he thinks of you by searching for "Ads Preferences Manager."

With Valentine's Day just around the corner, who can resist Brief Jerky, edible underwear you can make yourself.
I'm still trying to get my head around the work of artist Mark Bradford so this interview with him in ArtSlant was helpful. He describes his art as rundown and rough around the edges. Any beauty is a "two-fer", something extra you get for free. (Most artists will tell you that striving for beauty is the first step on the path to aesthetics and then decoration.)

Pro Football Focus has more information than the heartiest fan can absorb. For example, which cornerback gives quarterbacks the highest rating when they throw against him? (San Diego's Quentin Jammer.) You can probably guess who's on the other end of that spectrum.

Do your coworkers hang their kids' art in their office? Now you can mock it mercilessly at I Am Better Than Your Kids.
Do you donate to Goodwill? Do you claim the donations on your taxes? Did you know Goodwill's website has a donation valuation guide? Neither did I.

In 1979 an 11 year old fan created his own graphic novel (aka comic book) version of Alien. He's now releasing it online one page per day. Were you that big of a fan?

There's still time for a last minute appointment before Valentine's Day. source
This list of 11 things you didn't know about the world includes the initial theorization of black holes in 1783. (Not included in this list - what women want.)

This article about cars of the future is obviously a hoax because flying cars aren't mentioned even once.

Nobody puts my poop in a corner. See how it all ends here.
Tips for programming in C.

You call that searching? Try Jewgle.

I. Must. Have. It. from Jack in the Box

Divorce is a hundred grand. ~John Waters.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

15 Minutes: General Curtis LeMay and the Countdown to Nuclear Annihilation by L. Douglas Keeney

L. Douglas Keeney's 15 Minutes is an excellent Cold War history from the perspective of the Strategic Air Command (SAC), the organization led by General LeMay. The title refers to the amount of time given to SAC to get its bombers in the air in the event of an incoming attack by the Soviet Union.

The book is a linear chronology beginning with the waning days of World War II and the first use of atomic weapons and ends in 1991 when SAC was dissolved. SAC was created as a bomber and tanker force with the mission to deliver nuclear weapons in response to an attack on the U.S. by an adversary. In the beginning SAC didn't even control the weapons - those were maintained by the AEC, the Atomic Energy Commission. At its peak, SAC was as complete a force as you could imagine with its own intelligence, early warning, tankers, bombers, missiles, bases, and certainly an esprit de corps. (As an example, and for those who don't want to read the book, I highly recommend the movie Strategic Air Command starring Jimmy Stewart.)

The chapters are organized around pivotal events in SAC's chronology and each chapter consists of compact, almost newsy stories, of various incidents and personalities. This makes for a very easy read without sacrificing facts or interest.

Topics covered include the aircraft (B-36, B-47, B-52, B-58), the testing (with emphasis on the Castle Bravo test where the actual yield of 15 megatons vastly exceeded expectations and therefore caught everyone off guard with deadly results), the weapons, the missiles, the men, the strategy - it goes on and on. There are discussions of various nuclear weapon accidents where bombs were dropped, burned, crashed, and sometimes not recovered. There's the SIOP, single integrated operational plan, for targeting adversaries, Chrome Dome missions, and the two-man rule. And there's an emphasis on the Texas Towers and how the desire for a little more warning time for an incoming low-level attack from the Atlantic ended with the death of 28 men. (For those who prefer movies, I'll suggest 1964's Fail Safe starring Henry Fonda for a good tale of bombing the Soviets. I could've suggested Dr. Strangelove which is great, but everyone's seen that. Right?)

My interest in the Cold War and nuclear weapons has been extensively self-documented. I was born right around the time when SAC's use of aircraft peaked. After that, missiles grew into their predominant platform. I'm too young to have participated in any "duck and cover" drills in school. But my friends and I did play in a big field called the Nike Site - not for the shoe but rather for the Nike surface-to-air missile system deployed to defend the U.S. from incoming Soviet bombers and ICBMs. At the time I never thought too hard about what that big concrete bunker on the edge of our field had been for.

I remember a couple of years ago telling a younger co-worker that the DFW Metroplex would've been devastated by Soviet nuclear missiles if the Cold War had gotten hot. I thought she was going to pass out. (You can check out this target map of the U.S. It's probably more qualitative than factual but it doesn't seem unreasonable.)

Consider this. At the end of 1963 SAC had 922 bombers and tankers and 426 missiles on alert. Of those aircraft, I bet around 50-100 fully-armed bombers were in the air at all times. In total, the SIOP alert forces had 2,071 delivery vehicles with 3,976 megatons of explosive force.

Keeney's 15 Minutes is a great history of the Strategic Air Command. I recommend it strongly to anyone interested in history or aviation.

Just a few websites that provide additional information on topics covered in the book:
  • On 01 Sep 1952 a tornado struck Fort Worth's Carswell Air Force Base damaging many of its B-36 bombers.
  • Website of the now-defunct 7th Bomb Wing B-36 Association (nice photo gallery)
  • Film documentary of 1952's Operation Ivy nuclear tests (1 hour)
  • The USAF Texas Tower Association
  • The Nike Historical Society (watch the 30 minute movie)
  • The B-47 Stratojet Association
  • A B-58 Hustler website
  • SiloWorld, a website dedicated to ICBMs

We promise according to our hopes...

If you enjoy music and like intelligent discussions about music, check out

This review of Philip Glass isn't exactly favorable when it ends with "But he is less craftsman than musical trucker, tirelessly eating up the road." Drink yourself from the Glass with Koyaanisquatsi.

I've found the source of my headaches.
Did all you Rush fans geek out on 01 Feb 2012 (2.1.12) with your favorite tunes from Rush's 2112 album?

I like the last lines of this review of Writers and Their Books, another look at paper and ink versus e-books. "If our books are our second bodies, dissolution is inevitable. What is hard to imagine is a future in which we have no bodies at all."

Where ham comes from. More specifically Prosciutto di Parma.
Why do half of incoming engineering majors fail to graduate with an engineering degree? If I read this NYT article correctly it's because incoming students are all hyped-up on engineering because they've been told there's a shortage of engineers and engineers make lots of money. However, after beginning their college careers they find out that engineering is hard and takes a lot of work. So they're either lazy or stupid and change majors. Another interesting factoid: all students appear to have gotten lazier as the average study time per week has dropped from 40 hours (1961) to 27 hours (2003).

Warning: This video contains hardcore software nerd humor. Your enjoyment will likely be much much less than the audience's.

Just a little Formula 1 racing history.

Just in time for Valentine's Day - the Pupeko anti-aging mouthpiece
This still baffles me. In Argentina, a country known for its fantastic beef, all steaks are cooked bien cocido (well done). Fortunately, the flavor of the grass-fed beef doesn't suffer. Argentinians find the typical American medium or medium rare steak to be uncooked.

Laser. Guided. Bullets.

Slate proposes five changes to the keyboard.
  1. Get rid of CAPS LOCK. [I'm OK with that.]
  2. Add an em-dash. [If you don't know the difference between a hyphen, a minus sign, an em-dash, and an en-dash then you probably won't care about this one. I know I don't.]
  3. Put the ! and the ? on the same key. [Don't get this one at all.]
  4. Create a new button with @ and .com. [Not worth it.]
  5. Get rid of Insert. [Agree. I've never used it intentionally but often unintentionally to my chagrin.]
While not a huge fan of cats, I am a huge fan of the movie Alien. So Jonesy the cat's perspective on the "giant hairless cat" and the other goings on in the Nostromo is kinda fun.

Beer drinkers: check out Cans of the Month from Rusty Cans. Beer-gamer combo fans: check out this BioShock themed home brew called Brow Sweat.

I've seen a lot of weird stuff on teh interwebs but this blog post about the market for boneless pork rectums pegs the weird scale. Oddly, this is on a blog about statistics.
Interested in carpentry? Being a lookout? A journalist? How about pistol marksmanship? Our military has a manual for all of that and more.

If you have $75,000 (shipping extra) burning a hole in your pocket get on over to eBay and bid on NASA's vehicle power interface used for testing the Hubble Space Telescope.

Take 3 minutes to enjoy this animated history of aviation.

This film from 1930 demonstrates various types of mechanical device movements. Or you can watch pencils being sharpened.

A newly discovered contemporary copy of Mona Lisa (right) may help scholars learn more about the original (left).
Believe it or not, I found one online site this week that I simply won't include here. Even I have standards. Low, but standards nonetheless.

...and perform according to our fears. ~Fran├žois de la Rochefoucauld