Friday, March 27, 2015

Friday Links: March 27

A TV production of Casino Royale.

How to deal with a anti-gay bill. [link]

Wild baboons kidnap puppies. For protection or for pets? [link]

Sea lion pups wandering San Francisco. [link]

Oil rich Norway dumped all it's Walmart stock for being unethical. [link]

The entomology of "You're toast". [link]

Man thrown in prison for 5 days without food or water before being "discovered". [link]

The Tetris song has lyrics.

The most relaxing song in the world. [link]

Student suspended for not possessing marijuana. [link]

What causes old folks smell? [link]

Man released after 3 years without a trial. [link]

Army prostitution ring. [link]

Surfing on icebergs. [link]

How Neanderthals may have sounded.

Motorized ice sled/boat.

Tech degrees earn you more than arts degrees. [link]

What you'd find all the way to the center of the Earth. [link]
(not to scale)

Movie pitch for Leviathan. [link]

Shut Up and Dance to movie clips.

Even the official patent shows that toilet paper goes OVER. [link]
unless you have cats or children

Friendly owl lands on heads. [link]

Internet Explorer finally gets the axe. [link]

The White House edited CIA report that justified the Bush invasion of Iraq is now declassified. [link]
The White House edits tended to be to adjectives. "Unlikely" to "highly likely" sort of changes.

Street legal JetSki.

The cost savings of switching from cable to streaming video. [link]

How the brain changes as you learn physics. [link]

Download a free copy of Pixar's RenderMan software. [link]

A privately made and owned geyser. [link]

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Minecraft project

Awhile back I started building a giant sphere while playing Minecraft on my home computer. I never finished it and the computer died. I recently started playing on a server that's home to mostly Imgur users and started again. But this time I decided to go to the next step. I built the sun. Then I started moving on to the other planets.

Click to enlarge

The sun consists of two glass hemispheres. The lower half is 100 blocks wide, the top is 96 blocks wide leaving space for a 98 block ball of lava. Many servers don't allow you to pour out buckets of lava. They're too dangerous to work with. However, if you put the bucket of lava in a dispenser it can produce the same effect, just with more effort. So I set up dispensers on top of the sun and kept moving them around as needed. Due to the nature of the sphere and how lava behaves I was able to cover most of it with just 4 buckets. The rest was very dangerous work.

You can see Mercury peeking out from around the sun. Then Venus, Earth, and Mars. The picture is taken from what's done of Jupiter.

I tried to be fairly accurate with Earth. Africa looks pretty good from here. But the design was done by trying to manually convert 2D pictures to a 3D surface. There's flaws. And the parts we're most familiar with are all near the top where we can't see them.

Mars has polar caps. Everything else is made from Netherrack, which is reddish, but not very reflective. So at night it goes dark and would be invisible if not for the fact that it still blocks out stars. This picture was taken at sunset, so you can see Mars going black already.

Jupiter is being developed with colored bands and storms. I have some ideas on how to make the moons move. I figure I'll build a glass ring, put mine cart tracks on the glass, and release 4 carts driven by occasional powered tracks.

Saturn will have the hexagon, but I'll move it to the south pole, instead of the north.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Friday Links: March 20

The spring equinox is today at 6:45 PM EDT. That's when the Sun passes over the Equator.

Game: Suspense II - solve puzzles by shifting back and forth in time. [link]

Short story: A Funeral on Mars. [link]

Comic book characters discuss serious issues. [link]

Baby bats in blankets. [link]

cartoon: I got a phone call from my college rapist. [link]

You've heard about the really deep hole the Soviets dug. Maybe in conjunction with talk about voices heard deep in the well. Here's the real story. [link]

A Return of the Jedi alien spoke Kikuyu, a Kenyan language. [link]

People can learn to control their iris so they can focus better underwater. [link]

A book about the possibility of becoming Batman. [link]

Using sound waves to make things fly.

100 year old notebook found in Antarctic ice. [link]

The case for asteroid mining. [link]

Using gravitational lensing to see supernova reruns. [link]

Herpes is more common than you may think. [link]

Maggie Thatcher's government was covering up a pedophile ring. [link]

Finishing Minecraft in under 12 minutes.

Among the things brought to the New World by Columbus... earthworms. [link]

WellDeserved: A Marketplace for Privilege.

Wait, is that sarcasm?

Nifty stone walls. [link]

The phrase "climate change" banned from official use in Florida. [link]

Your fridge may be spamming you. [link]

A man who shipped himself from London to Sidney. [link]

12 highlights from the Ferguson report. [link]

February's CO2 levels match those of 23 million years ago. [link]

What various states are doing price checks on. [link]

Robert Downey Jr helps deliver a prosthetic arm to a kid.

The crates even say Stark Industries on them.

The first pictures from a new island. [link]

Icebergs washing up in New England. [link]

Lava devouring Coke cans. [link]
Be sure to watch the Lava devouring a Monster Energy Drink video that follows.

Cattle rustling. [link]

Powdered. Alcohol. I can't see how this plan could possibly go wrong. [link]

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

St Patricks day

The reason we associate green with the Irish, and thus St Patrick's Day, is because food was so scarce during the potato famine that they had to resort to eating grass.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Sir Terry Pratchett: RIP

Maybe you'll get links on Monday. We'll see. Instead I wanted to take today to tell you about Sir Terry Pratchett. He passed away yesterday morning at home, in bed, surrounded by his cats. He was 66.

Back in 2007 he was diagnosed with an embuggerance (his word). He had a variety of Alzheimer's that he admitted was the best kind to have if you absolutely must have Alzheimer's. It soon took away his ability to read and write. The words on paper just didn't make any sense. However, he was able to hire Rob to take dictation and read back to him. Together, they were able to produce several more Discworld books as well as a trilogy of sci-fi books that allowed Terry to break away from the series that has dominated his work.

Having been diagnosed, Sir Terry became interested in assisted suicide. He created a documentary on the subject and gave a talk. The hour long documentary is available here. The talk was partially given for him since he was unable to read his own notes. Baldrick of Black Adder fame was a friend of Sir Terry, having done many of the Discworld audio books, and finished the speech for him. It can be viewed here. But, I believe that Mrs. Pratchett talked him out of it saying that she'd rather have him and have to care for him rather than not have him around. The BBC is saying that it wasn't suicide.

Sir Terry was still making regular appearances in England, not allowing his health to interfere until last July. His hat attended in his place.

Looking at some recent posts to his Facebook page, they knew this was coming. Last Friday they were asking fans to say how much Sir Terry's work meant to people.

His twitter feed announced his passing in the style of the character Death from Discworld.

Terry took Death's arm and followed him through the door and on to the black desert under the endless night.
The End.

But so far I've been talking about his death. His work is what made his passing so notable.

I picked up "Good Omens" from the BooksAMillion in Dupont Circle not long after moving to Washington, DC. That's the book that introduced me to both Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman and it remains firmly in my top 10 most recommended books ever. Terry Gilliam is the only one allowed to make a movie of that book and he would sometimes call either Terry or Neil in the middle of the night and curse them out for writing such a hard book to film.  Alas, as Pratchett himself said "'s not absolutely certain that it won't happen..."

From there I started in on the truly massive Discworld series. This is not a series that requires you to start at the beginning and work your way through. In fact, it's not at all recommended. The Discworld universe contains many characters and storylines that run independent of each other. The diagram below should serve as a good guide. The only exception I might take to it is to skip "The Colour of Magic" and "The Light Fantastic" and come back to them later. Or watch the movie made of them and skip the books. Those were the first books that Sir Terry wrote and it shows. Years of refining helped make the movie much better.

I started with "Mort" and would recommend that or "Guards Guards" as a starting point. "Going Postal" and "Mysterious Regiment" stand alone nicely, but these later books don't have the same sense of humor of the earlier books. "The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents" is more of a children's book, aimed at pre-teens, but that didn't stop Yummy and I from listening to it on a car trip and naming a cat "Beans" after one of it's characters.

You can also find movie versions of the various books. The cartoon versions of "Wyrd Sisters" and "Soul Music" were horribly done. There was something wrong with the timing. Do not watch. The live action version of "Hogfather" really only works if you've read the book. However, "The Colour of Magic" and "Going Postal" were brilliantly done. Check Netflix or find them for sale online somewhere, because they're nigh impossible to find in brick and mortar stores.

My own book, which I've submitted to absolutely nobody, was developed in no small part because of these books. I'd read them on the subway which got me into a mindset that allowed me to develop a collection of interesting characters on my hike to the office. Once there I'd write down what I'd developed on the hike. I keep a collection of unread Discworld books handy for when I'm ready to start writing, again.

You've also seen me review his more recently release serious sci-fi novels developed with Stephen Baxter, "The Long Earth", "The Long War", and "The Long Mars". These books talk about a world where easy access to parallel dimensions was discovered and mass settlement begun. Actually, I'm still waiting to find "The Long Mars" in paperback. They were contracted for two more books, but I guess Baxter will have to finish on his own.

A good book can take you to another place and make you consider new ideas. Pratchett would laugh at society and make you laugh along with him. His books could not just change how you view the world, but how your brain processes ideas. He could literally make you think differently for awhile. He spend time as the second most read author in England, second only to J.K. Rowling. His passing is a loss to the literary community, the Alzheimer's and dementia community, a personal loss to millions, if not billions, of fans, and to his cats who were really looking forward to eating him.

Friday, March 06, 2015

Friday Links: March 6

Mice go extinct in mouse utopia. [link]

Facebook cover photo art. [link]

Another religious group protecting it's pedophiles. [link]

Anti-pirating ad music stolen (improperly licensed). [link]

Nested microwave ovens being used as a time machine.

10 jobs to enter if you like crazy-ass bullies. [link]

Marilyn Monroe was not a size 10/12/16/whatever. [link]

The manufacturers of Buck Knives will heat treat your homemade knives for you. [link]

The construction and operation of Jabba the Hutt. ~20 minutes [link]

Mary Poppins death metal.

Birds give this kid gifts. [link]
So, Disney princess meets Tim Burton film?

Patrick Stewart sees himself everywhere. [X-Men] [Star Trek]

How they put the heads on fancy pins. [link]

Some damn impressive CGI water. [link]

Nifty rooftop houses. [link]

Gods. You again? [link]

George Harrison killed by beetles. [link]
Once upon a time, kids, there was a band called The Beatles...

Photos of great rappers in history. [link]

How to deal with Twitter bullies. [link]

Stock photography to use to see if anyone is paying attention. [link]


Free movie soundtracks. [link]

Dynamic topographic map projected on a sandbox.