Sunday, September 30, 2012

Dune by Frank Herbert

If you read science fiction long enough, sooner or later you'll read Frank Herbert's Dune. Called the greatest scifi novel of all time it has the pedigree to back that up, including a Hugo Award in 1966. If you haven't read the book you've probably at least David Lynch's 1984 film version (or only bits and pieces of it if you're like me).

In my opinion, a measure of the novel's strength is the fact that its setting is only loosely scifi - I can imagine it being easily set in 18th century Europe. Sure, it's set in the year 10,000 and involves conflict over the substance that makes intergalactic travel possible (something called spice). But everyone runs around with swords and knives and, at least in Lynch's movie, dresses like extras from Master and Commander and travels in a post-modern steampunk world.

And actually, I can do more than imagine when and where it might be set. To me it's quite obvious we're talking about the invading ruling houses (Americans, British, French) occupying the desert planet Dune (the Middle East) solely to exploit its energy source (spice/oil) and repress the native Fremen (the Arabs). There's even a single sidelong reference in one of the appendices that cast the Israelis in the role of the Sardaukar, the emperor's bloodthirsty shock troops. (That's just mean.) And course there's a nefarious corporation in the background.

The story is actually quite enjoyable and flows along quite nicely despite the length and some of the fine level of detail. Yes, there were times when I mired in some of that detail but then realized I was simply getting anxious by anticipating scenes from the film. I would not hesitate to read Herbert's other books in the Dune series.

Because the novel and film are so intertwined in my personal experience (I watched the DVD all the way through upon completing the novel), I have to end by pointing out that as much as I respect David Lynch as a director, the Dune film is an uncomfortably compressed version of the novel. It's too much material crammed into too little time. I'm told the Sci-Fi channel's version of the film is truer to the novel.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Nothing is so firmly believed...

The U.S. Navy is commissioning littoral combat ship USS Fort Worth (LCS 3) today in Galveston.

We all use crutch words when speaking (and sometimes when writing). I am guilty of excessive use of "OK" and "So" among others.

The U.S. interstate highway system drawn in the style of a subway map.

Those wacky scientists at IBM have taken the first ever photograph of the bonds within a molecule using a technique called noncontact atomic force microscopy. This is probably the coolest thing I've got this week so I won't blame you if you stop reading now.
Who's hiring college graduates? Tech and engineering are two of the top 10 fields attracting new talent according to However, one questions whether the list is truly insightful because it spans from those two to social work and accounting.

Good news: companies expect to raise base pay in 2013 by more than they did in 2012 and 2011. Bad news: the average raise in 2013 will be 2.9%.

Texas Rangers owner and numismatist Bob Simpson purchased for $1 million a rare 1943-D penny mistakenly made from bronze instead of zinc-clad steel.

Jacqueline Lou Skaggs, Field of Sleeping Peasants, 1971, oil on penny
And if you like painting on pennies you might like carving on nickels.

Will this report of room temperature superconductivity prove as elusive as cold fusion?

Judge for yourself: a Pakistani version of Dave Brubeck's Take Five. (Part of me wonders if this is for realz.) There's a sitar for sure, but the dude on the bongo drums is rockin' it. For fun, listen to the Dave Brubeck Quartet's version from 1966 immediately after. The latter is a wonderful example of west coast jazz, so open, spacious, and almost minimalist. (Kinda reminds me of Steely Dan.)

The other day on the way home from work I saw a police car pushing a disabled vehicle along the shoulder with its bumper. Now imagine doing this in an F-86 over enemy territory during the Korean War, a feat that will land you on the cover of Time magazine.

My gawd, look at all that sausage! source
And what better to wash down sausages than a refreshing sauerkraut drink?
And after eating and drinking all that, I hope you ladies are wearing your Knock Out! brand Smart Panties with NO TRACE odor absorbing technology otherwise things might get a little funky.

There are two problems with Let it Bean, a rendering of the Beatles' Abbey Road done with the components of a full English breakfast. 1) The image has strict copyright protection preventing me from reposting it here. 2) Only the Brits would eat baked beans with breakfast.

These faux kids books are truly LOL material. See them all here including A Good Place to Hide the Body Parts.
There's a right way and a wrong way to program Javascript. This is JS: The Right Way.

Settle back for a little blast from the Cold War past with GAMBIT - The Eye of the Eagle, a declassified video about the KH-7 reconnaissance satellite.

Didn't I recently share scale drawings of sci-fi spacecraft? Here are more called 2 meters per pixel.

"Cursing is beautiful, it extends the horizons of expression, and perhaps most of all, it provides a kind of profane pleasure."

Where are our flying cars? The hell with that. Where are our breast washers?
David Byrne, he of Talking Heads fame, seems to agree with the adage "form is liberating" but stated a little differently as it pertains to music: "music is shaped by context."

Zimoun is a artist who creates sound installations. Anyone who is a fan of ambient music will also be a fan of Zimoun. (Be sure to watch all the videos.)

Airplane! The funniest film ever according to a study of laughs per minute. Enjoy a few deleted scenes. And what tribute to Airplane! would be complete without a few of Johnny's scenes.

If ei π = -1 makes your insides all wiggly perhaps you ought to watch this video explanation of Euler's formula. (It's about traversing a circle.)

"I feel that the disjunctive perturbation of the negative space verges on codifying the inherent overspecificity" Painting by Ad Reinhardt, No. 6 1946, critique from the Instant Art Critique Generator.
If you use Chrome or some other modern browser, you can spend the rest of the day enjoying 500 Chrome experiments otherwise known as cool browser tricks.

If you're overwhelmed by 500 different things to choose from, make teh interwebs your coloring book with Hippo Paint. Type in a search term (for example, T-Rex), select one of the resulting pictures, and color away.

Still not happy? You must've been one of those kids who liked getting dizzy. Try this: The revolving internet. what we least know. ~Michel de Montaigne

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Everyone is trying to accomplish something big...

Angelo's BBQ in Fort Worth was named the 11th best BBQ restaurant in the country by HuffPo. (Personally, I prefer Cousin's BBQ.)

Why experts often suck at public speaking. (Note that they all involve the speaker's relationship to the audience.)
  1. The curse of knowledge - they don't remember what it's like to not know what they know and therefore talk over their audience.
  2. They don't connect with their audience and remain aloof.
  3. Related to #1, they don't respect the audience because of their lack of knowledge.
  4. They offer no call to action, no food for thought.
  5. They fail to provide a single scintilla of significance.
PowerPoint doesn't bore people - people bore people. The main idea from these tips for improving your PowerPoint is replace bullet text with pictures.

Galaxify your text with photos of real galaxies.
Calculating pi on a Raspberry Pi using MPI - building a 64-core, 1 TB memory supercomputer out of Raspberry Pi and LEGO for only £2,500.

Instead of a supercomputer, you could just customize a LEGO minifigure with your own head.

The banana hanger is one the greatest kitchen inventions. But you can take things too far. They say this is what happens after 3 months. source
Who says the Chinese don't have a sense of humor? Read this sarcastic account of why the U.S. is foolish.

...not realizing that life is made up of little things. ~Frank A. Clark.

[If you are thinking this post sucks more than usual, it's because of an unfortunate and unexplained accident that deleted a week's worth of bookmarks.]

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Holding on to anger is like...

This is a pretty good version of Fleetwood Mac's song about an old Welsh witch, live from 1976.

It's opening weekend for NFL football and that means folks across the country will be settling down with their favorite beer and their favorite team. Here are some great craft beer - home team pairings. The Dallas Cowboys are paired with a Deep Ellum Brewing Company Dreamcrusher Double Rye IPA. The Philadelphia Eagles are paired with a Flying Fish Exit 4 Belgian-style Tripel (as recommended by The Alemonger, a friend of Horse Bits!).

More beer! More Philly! More presidents with beer. Try Yards Brewing Company's Thomas Jefferson's Tavern Ale, from the man's original recipe.

Musician John Cage would've been 100 years old on 05 September. Whether you love or revile Cage's 4'33'', consider these five ways of understanding Cage's music.

Speaking of reviled music, when it comes to progressive rock you either love it or you hate it. The innaugural Progressive Music Awards were held this week and winners ranged from Genesis (Lifetime Achievement) to TesseracT (New Blood).

Part of me thinks the Fliz, a velocipede bicycle concept for "healthy, ecological mobility in overcrowded urban space" is a joke.
This is not yellow, the latest episode of img.

Conceptual and minimalist artist, Syracuse alum, and Cleveland Indians fan Sol Lewitt will be biographied by author Lary Bloom.

OK, Star Trekkers, get yer geek on. Star Trek Points at Things, a Tumblr blog. And which Star Trek actor is related to baseball player Kenny Lofton? This and other Star Trek trivia is posted at Geek Tyrant.

Programmer's corner: an interactive map of the Linux kernel. Or you can drive this little toy car around the screen.

They're what's for dinner. source
Listen to Mozart's Lacrimosa. Now imagine being born deaf and hearing that work, and music in general, for the first time.

If spending around $350 will still leave you with some cash to carry around you might want to buy one of these limited edition wallets made from vintage baseball gloves from Coach.

I could not ignore "Waterless Urinals Cause Floods of Pee" in this list of ways that going green can backfire.

Science proves that not having a butt hole is bad. Meet Demodex. You have one or two of these mites per square centimeter on your face. They have no anus so they never poop. But when they die (deep in your skin's pores) they burst and out comes the poop. There's bacteria in the poop and scientists think it may be the cause of rosacea. image source
Does the phrase mammalian thermoregulation get you all hot and bothered? If not, what about a device that's better than steroids at aiding muscle recovery? Enter Stanford University's glove.

Back to the boozing, I can't tell whether this video How To Drink Whisky from Whyte & Mackay is serious or a parody.

And this can't be serious: a site dedicated to those who wear a clown nose everyday.

But this is serious indeed: a regional guide to sandwiches. Don't worry Philly, the cheesesteak is in there. So is the hero. But not my favorite hero, the Romanburger.

Because I can. source
What do you expect from Monty Python? How about A Liar's Biography, an animated film about Graham Chapman that includes input from 14 animation studios.  (Working title: Graham Chapman: Dead in 3D.) Should have a limited run in U.S. theaters later in 2012.

More Python, but used in a manner I find regrettable. The Monty Python guide to user experience is based solely on a single quote from Life of Brian cited in the opening paragraph and never referenced again.

...drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. ~Buddha (Actually probably not really from Buddha but the attribution adds gravitas.)

Monday, September 3, 2012

Mark Rothko: Works on Paper by Bonnie Clearwater

When you think of Mark Rothko's paintings you usually envision large, richly-colored works on canvas. You rarely think of his works on paper, especially watercolors. This is what made me get Bonnie Clearwater's Mark Rothko: Works on Paper after a recent visit to Fort Worth's Amon Carter Museum. (Contributing to this purchase was the fact that the museum store was sold out of the catalog for their American Vanguards exhibit, my reason for visiting the museum that day in the first place.)

The book's introduction by Dore Ashton was almost worth the price of the book itself. It is educational at worst, insightful throughout, and illuminating at the very best. Rothko's influences are woven throughout this essay on the relative roles of media in his ouevre. I'll just quote one passage that I found to be very interesting about Rothko's goal of portraying tragedy in his work.
When Rothko spoke about the "tragic"... it was the tragedy of man's destiny - to be forever caught between birth and death - and aware of the strange disparity between the great space of the imagination and the material human fate.
Reluctant to bore you with the details of my Rothko fandom, suffice it to say that works on paper permeated Rothko's entire career, from his early formative days painting with Milton Avery, to his Surrealist period up to the point where he realized figuration would not yield the results he desired, to studies for his major installations (Seagram, Harvard, and Menil), to his very last days when health issues limited his ability to work on larger canvases.

Left: Untitled, 1969. Watercolor, tempera on paper. Right: Untitled, early 1950s, Watercolor, tempera on paper.
As you can imagine, the works on paper differ in many ways from those on canvas simply due to the demands of the medium. At a smaller scale the works are more architected and less haphazard, the application of pigment more refined and less worked-over, the dimensions more controlled and less immersive.

And when Rothko's canvas palette changed to darker tones, his way of distancing himself from being labelled a colorist, his works on paper continued the use of bright colors. In fact, the somber canvas works of the late 1960s were accompanied by paper works of brilliant lightness.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

After America by John Birmingham

Did I not write about John Birmingham's Without Warning, the prequel to After America? I guess not.

(And before you start going down the wrong path, After America is nothing like Fareed Zakaria's geo-political prognostication, The Post-American World.)

Here's the deal with Without Warning - everyone in the continental United States with the exception of the area around Seattle, everyone in Mexico, and most of the folks in Canada are inexplicably killed when an energy field (the Wave) descends over those countries. The Wave leaves plant life, most animals, and inanimate objects alone. Once you as reader make a leap of faith and accept the Wave as a plot device, it's very interesting to see how Birmingham portrays the worldwide reaction. At the end of Without Warning the Wave disappears as suddenly as it arrived.

You may rightly assume that I liked Without Warning. Otherwise, why would I be reading its sequel?

How does the new U.S. president (the former city manager of Seattle) rebuild this vast nation with its population virtually gone? Key are repatriation and immigration, but the latter riles some including the rogue governor of the Texas Administrative Division.

How does the president protect our borders when scores of pirates are looting the East Coast on a scale that makes the Rodney King riots look like a tussle during a sale at Filene's Basement? Is amputation sometimes the only way to save a life?

And let's just say the Israelis upset the apple cart with their actions in the wake of realizing the world's only superpower and their biggest supporter virtually no longer exists. And now some of those bad apples are looking for revenge.

Another thing that's notable about Without Warning and After America is that their stories revolve around three female characters. There's an assassin from an ultra-secret intelligence agency who's stalking a terrorist taking full advantage of the situation. There's a smuggler who pisses off some powerful people because she's actually a nice person at heart. And there's the daughter of an immigrant family come to get the U.S. back on its feet who craves revenge for what bandits did to her family.

I'm fully invested now and soon expect to add to my shelves the third and final book in the series, Angels of Vengeance. I've got to know how Birmingham works this all out.

John Birmingham's blog is Cheeseburger Gothic and he's on Twitter at JohnBirmingham.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

The man of knowledge must not only be able to love his enemies...

Today's soundtrack is Incidental Music by The Green Kingdom - "An audio accompaniment for a spontaneous still life." And there's a track from a year ago, Nicolas Szczepanik's Please Stop Loving Me. Not enough? How about Ghost Identifier from Lights Out Asia? OK, one more: Bleu Polar by Olan Mill.

For the Eno fans out there, take 40 minutes with this video interview titled Imaginary Landscapes.

Take a photo tour of the abandoned Soviet Foxtrot submarine U 475.
I suppose it could be worse. The fake followers report from Status People tells me 88% of my Twitter followers are good, 7% are inactive, and 5% are fake.

For Genesis fans, guitarist Steve Hackett will release Genesis Revisited II, his versions of Genesis' classic tunes. The album kicks off with The Chamber of 32 Doors which is a good sign. But in this video interview, Hackett calls the album "Wagnerian" and compares it to the Ring Cycle which isn't necessarily a good sign. It looks like the album is due for release in October.

Named for amateur art restorer Cecilia Gimenez, you can compete for the Cecilia Prize by trying to restore Ecce Homo yourself. Or just view the gallery of entries.

Plane Finder uses ADS-B feeds from aircraft to map them. All I can say is there are a lot of aircraft flying around. This picture is just Texas.
Freemium. You've heard of this, right? A web or phone app that has a free version but also premium versions you can upgrade to and pay for? That software sales model has made lots of money for folks like LinkedIn and DropBox. But freemium doesn't work for everyone.
  • It's not obvious which features to leave out of the free version. Too many and no one will use the free version. Too few and no one will upgrade to the premium version.
  • With users of the free version typically comprising 98% of your entire installed base, your app needs to have a user base numbering in the millions.
  • It probably shouldn't be offered B2B because businesses already have budgets for software so why give them something for free?
Has the NFL run out of good ideas?

What can business leaders learn from jazz? Think of it in terms of improvisation. It's an interactive group activity where individuals respond publicly and spontaneously to the actions of others with different people taking lead at various times while others support and complement them without criticism.

If you just like jazz and can do without all the business stuff, is dedicated to what might be the most famous photograph in all of jazz: the so-called Harlem Portrait from 1958. Everybody's in here: Count Basie, Art Blakey, Art Farmer, Dizzy Gillespie, Coleman Hawkins, Gene Krupa, Charles Mingus, Thelonius Monk, Sonny Rollins, and more.
Teh interwebs was made for stuff like this: the Candy Wrapper Archive.

You've heard the joke: the biggest lie in the technology world is "Yes, I have read and agree to the terms of service." Well, now  TOS;DR (terms of service;didn't read) is filling that void and grading various TOS for you. For example, on a scale from E to A where A is very good GitHub gets a B while Twitpic gets an E.

Science geeks: here's video of Curiosity's descent to Mars at 25 fps in HD.

Best of the visualization web for July 2012: Part 1 and Part 2.

The programmer's corner: How to Design Programs.

Geniuses, even Apple Geniuses, have to be taught what to do and say. That's where the Apple Genius Training Workbook comes in handy. For example, an Apple product never bombs, crashes or hangs. It unexpectedly quit or stopped responding.

Good advice. source
On an average workday an American sleeps for 7 hours and 39 minutes. More insight on our day can be seen at the link. I'd pay cash money for almost 8 hours of sleep. Also, I don't think it's necessary for them to cite work and commuting time down to the second.

From the I Had No Idea department, the U.S. government is still paying two active pensions from the Civil War.

Old news: the toilet paper mystery has been solved.

You've seen the worst album covers the creepy Santa photos so now feast on these creepy prom photos. If this is how the date started out when Mom was taking the picture just imagine the rest of the night. BOOYAH!
Tired of just drinking your beer? Try these other 31 uses for beer.

And now to leave you with two drawing things. Code::Brush and Harmony.

...but also to hate his friends. ~Friedrich Nietzsche