Saturday, January 30, 2010

I've never heard of comedian Mark Malkoff before, but I'm willing to pay more attention to him after watching him shatter the stereotype of New Yorkers as being some of the most ornery, mean people in the nation. His experiment to disprove this notion was to have people strolling the streets carry him the entire length of Manhattan, roughly up Broadway--and he mostly did it. He reached 140th St. in the Hamilton Heights neighborhood before the big blizzard of mid-12/09 hit, a distance totaling 9.4 miles.

To those that say this disproves nothing, fuck 'em. This is the very best kind of science and I look forward to testing it out myself, except in my case I'll be carried by eunuch slaves in a palanquin.


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Captain Planet is No Match!

We don't typically see product reviews here, but I'm borrowing my friend Pat's Aerostitch Roadcrafter one-piece suit and I have to say the thing is magnificent--as magnificent as a unicorn in mid-leap. Not only is it the most comfortable motorcycle suit I've ever worn, it's also the fully impervious to the elements. I went out in the rain and cold this morning on my way to Sausalito and I couldn't feel a thing through the layers. Like wearing a body-sized condom.

So, a shout out to all of Captain Planet's nefarious enemies, buy this suit and be impervious to the elements, whether it be earth, fire, wind, water or, umm, heart.


Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Rising Waters

Ugh, I just woke up from a dream where I was basically adopted as a Swedish citizen just by drinking and singing with some soccer fans from that country. We then all went to fight the forces of darkness in some Buddhist temple at the top of a mountain. This event was preceded by me being a wheelman for Kevin Costner, who happened to also be a cocaine smuggler.

I think the Sweden thing is a direct result of Massachusetts becoming a red state the other day. You know, flee the sinking ship for high ground...and Volvos. I seriously told some Japanese folks that CA, NY, and MA would never ever become red states. I was wrong, and now the Swedish are fighting for my soul.


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Breaking the Law, Breaking the Law

It struck me just now that the storage capacity of Johnny, sneakernet agent/main character of William Gibson's excellent cyberpunk short story Johnny Mnemonic, had an in-brain memory capacity of 80 gigs. Just 80 gigs! Silicon Power just released a compact flash card for pro-level digital SLR cameras that stores 128 gigs and isn't much larger than a Cool Ranch Dorito. That Johnny, what a sucker--he traded his childhood memories in 2021 for a wetware storage bin that could barely hold a respectable mp3 collection in 2010. Well, he gets Molly as a concession, so if that's losing out I don't want to win.

Moore's Law states that the number of transistors on an integrated circuit will double every two years and has held more or less true since 1970. And though this law has been invoked for computer hardware on the whole I just found out that when referring to storage devices specifically the phenomenon is actually called Kryder's Law, named after Seagate VP of research Mark Kryder. So, interesting little tidbit there. To me.


Going in a completely different direction, I spent about an hour today re-lacing all my shoes in various configurations I found from Ian's Shoelace Site, your one-stop-shop for shoelace tying information. Not only have a I laced my Sketchers into a lattice formation, but I've learned how to tie an effective reef knot that virtually never comes undone. Huzzah!

...It is so monumentally important that I start this job next week. It'll prevent me from doing stuff like this too often.


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Life is Good!

It's like 50-degrees outside, darker and gloomier than any amount of MDMA could push back against, the rain could douse a person at its whim and none of the buses run on time. Today, statistically, life should suck.

But a man on the phone said I just got a job--a good job!--and now I feel like frolicking through alpine meadows carpeted in wildflowers, drinking Cristal and pushing over Julie Andrews. I'll dance around a campfire throughout the night and welcome the dawn with a blast from alpenhorn, then vomit into it.


Monday, January 18, 2010

Not Fit for Window Display

The idea of Hollywood being bankrupt of ideas is certainly decades old, and statements to that effect must slip from people's tongues in virtually all languages every thirty seconds somewhere in the world. Each time a beloved novel or children's book is adapted, TV series compressed, franchise rebooted or characterless National Lampoon block slid into place you will hear that sentiment.

Aside from the rare gems, like '09's Moon, it's oh so utterly true.

Moviehole is reporting that...*shudder*...the resurrected studio of deceased producer David Begelman (suicide after producing Weekend at Bernie's--definitely the easier way out of that debacle) is planning a reboot of everybody's favorite Reagan-era inanimate object romance comedy, Mannequin. Now, having recently re-watched both Mannequin and its extremely ill-conceived sequel, Mannequin 2: On the Move, this hits especially close to home for me. So close, in fact, that the bile in my throat threatens to spew forth in a sensation not unlike being sucker punched in the gut. Are they going to stage a Starship reunion to record a new theme song? Ugh...Pygmalion wept.

If this isn't straight-to-DVD fodder I don't know what is.

File:Mannequin movie poster.jpg


Thursday, January 14, 2010

A Warm, Fuzzy Feeling

Man, do you ever get that feeling of cosmic goodness, like things are going to be OK no matter what kind of crap the world throws at you?

No? Me neither, but at least I'm pretty sure we'll never have the massive quantity of fashion disasters that the 70s and 80s spawned. Like this:

Or this:

It makes me happy. Really.


OMGWTFBBQ...The Legend of Koizumi

I'm practically in tears over here after watching the following clip. Every time I think Japan's neurons have stopped firing off original and good ideas something comes and kneecaps me while I'm looking away. Today, this something is The Legend of Koizumi, a short animation (that looks to be part of a series) about former PM Junichiro Koizumi and his, umm, "diplomatic efforts" with North Korea's Kim Jong Il. Koizumi was a charismatic and popular PM during his tenure and this video demonstrates just why the people loved him so. Let's watch the show:

There's so much goodness here, from the apoplectic G.W. Bush falling over on a segway to former PM Taro Aso (whose hometown is just a couple cities over from Kusu) taking out a sniper with a bit of fancy shooting of his own.



Monday, January 11, 2010

I Love it When a Plan Comes Together

These promos for Milwaukee's KITI news anchor team surfaced about two weeks ago and I neglected to post them until now, but it was worth the wait. Like Laughing Squid said of them, it's as if Anchorman met The A-Team...but in real life.

There are also individual spots for each member of the team that are equally clever. Collect them all!


Sunday, January 10, 2010

Warning: Put Away Any Psychedelic Substances Before Proceeding

Some celestial words can describe it...

They should have sent a poet...


Math's Never Looked Quite This Good

Somebody call Warren Ellis. This post from New Scientist's science and math page isn't the start of a new Planetary story arc, but it sure sounds like one.

E8 in all its glory! Kinda looks like the LHC detector.

In all fairness, Ellis's inspiration for the (non-spatial) 196,833-dimensional "snowflake" Wildstorm Multiverse came from the Fischer-Griess Monster group, not the E8 group, but, as I tenuously understand, they're both important parts of group theory mathematics. What caught my attention about this discovery in the 248-dimensional E8 group being visualized for the first time is its possible link to string theory, particularly in relation to Garrett Lisi's unified field theory.

Now, I'm obviously not a mathematician or a physicist, so I can't be expected to explain everything in exacting technical detail, but I'll try to describe the fundamentals as I understand them. Unified field theory is, currently, the holy grail of the math and physics world: with an understanding of this "theory of everything" scientists could tie the interactions between elementary particles together and understand matter, energy and the universe in a fundamental way. I think gravity is the odd force out right now, meaning that nobody knows how to fit it into the mix. Just to give an idea of what kind of mind it might take to crack this sucker, working on a unified field theory basically broke Einstein and there are even some people that suggest the stress brought on by the exertion cut his life short.

There are plenty of theories of everything and they're all ridiculously complex. Garrett Lisi's theory fascinates me mainly because the man's biography is equally fascinating. It starts in Southern California where Lisi was raised and educated, earning two B.S. degrees for mathematics and physics with honors from UCLA and a Ph.D. in physics from UCSD. Somewhere along the way he became a big, big time surfer and spent his post-doc years transitioning between surfing the Maui shoreline and cooking up his paper "An Exceptionally Simple Theory of Everything"--living the dream I think every serious geek wishes they could. In addition to surfing Lisi has also participated-to-a-degree in virtually every type of adventure sport you can think of, possibly including simultaneous Mexican cock fight/shopping cart demolition derby. (It's the next hot thing!)

Lisi's unified field theory as laid out in the aforementioned paper envisions each point of the E8 group as a different elementary particle having a distinct link to all the others and resting in our four-dimensional spacetime. Many physicists think Lisi's theory is wishful thinking and I wish I knew enough about the whole movement to express anything approaching a thoughtful comparison of all competing models. Still, his model, on the surface, sounds logical and elegant enough to allow my brain easy access to its message, so I like it.

Now, as the New Scientist article explains towards the end, these experiments with supercooled cobalt-niobium crystals where E8 as observed have no direct relation to string theory or Lisi's theory, but they do show that the group does show up in the real world and not just on paper. Still a very, very cool advance.


Ork Powered

For those of you that wanted to check it out, here's my Ork Design-inspired Oita Prefecture painting I finished a couple months back. Not the world's most perfect place, but it's what I call my second home.

Let it be known that I am taking art commissions: if you are desperately needing to part with your cash I'm willing to negotiate any reasonable offer to reproduce my version of your dreams in acrylic.


Friday, January 8, 2010

At the Edge of the Foodie Cliff

If there's one thing I extracted from The Kusu Experience--no matter the resulting pain--it is an acute appreciation for good food. A person can only take so much tori-ten, tonkotsu ramen, solid blocks of tofu, and other Japanese working-class fare before losing one's mind and taste buds. I'm not talking foie gras mousse spread like butter on artesian breads or daily lunches at French Laundry, no, just being knowledgeable enough about ingredients to make food that melts my troubles away while it melts in my mouth. And if they're more healthful than some of the dross I make these days all the better. Having an income would help this endeavor, of course...

So yesterday one of those pleasant morning surprises I mentioned was a very helpful tool to achieve gastronomic nirvana: a beautifully laid-out guide to the northern hemisphere's seasonal crops, meats, spices...everything, really! Check it out:

If this is available as a poster it's going on my wishlist.


Thursday, January 7, 2010

I'd Buy That for a Dollar!

With all the talk about Darren Aronofsky's "upcoming" RoboCop reboot I thought it would be a good idea for us all to take a virtual walk through YouTube user murphy38's merchandise collection from that landmark sci-fi film. Let's watch...

Why--WHY!?--did they stop producing RoboCop bubble bath? Certainly not because it's made from glycerin and Peter Weller's armpit sweat.


His Name is Rio...

No, Duran Duran lyrics won't smudge the good name of this page.

The following is a painting I just finished for the birthday of my former VIZ coworker, Rio Yanez, now a mover and shaker in the Mission District arts scene. Hope he likes it (and doesn't read this blog).


Do Not Look Directly at the LASER

Wow, I'm kind of reeling from this morning of happy surprises, the best being this recent discovery of a round of monthly science and art lectures hosted by Leonardo/ISAST ("The International Society for the Arts, Science and Technology"). Some of these talks...whew: "How Can Art Help Create a Sustainable World?"; "Rubisco Stars--An Active SETI Message From Arecibo"; and "A Hitchhikers' Guide to Scientific Training of Moon and Mars-Bound Astronauts."

This is my pornography.

Anybody want to attend with me, next Wednesday, January 11? Another binary day, that.


Monday, January 4, 2010

When Setting the Periodic Table Thorium Goes Next to the Dinner Rolls

Running with the same theme of the web and education, last week I spent a couple hours at the University of Nottingham's chemistry department sub-site The Periodic Table of Videos, a YouTube powered tour through the entire, well, periodic table. Sound boring? Surprisingly it's not, coming across like an anthology of very short classroom educational video reels from the 50s that show us how life would be without zinc or whatever, but this time the narrators are lovable British chemists. The video collection's two main hosts, Drs. Poliakoff and Licence are like the Laurel and Hardys of chemistry, the former being the wiry archetype of a white-haired mad scientist while the latter wisecracks and likes to blow stuff up with the group 1 alkali metals.

Hide the tesla coil from Dr. Poliakoff if it's not too late. And yes, that is a periodic table tie he's wearing.

While sites like this probably account for a fraction of one percent of the net's available content they are nevertheless highly encouraging signs that Web 2.0 won't be used just to shill for the corporations or find better ways to deliver porn. The University of Nottingham's physics department has a sister site about some of the important symbology used in physics and astronomy that I haven't even begun to dig into yet. The videos there are longer on average so I should break out the popcorn and find some time over the next few evenings to view them all.


While the periodic table as a whole fascinates me to no end there is one entry that has on two non-consecutive occasions assaulted my vision last week: atomic number 90, thorium. Located way down near the bottom in the actinides, between actinium and protactinium, thorium is a fairly common (more than uranium at least) slightly radioactive element that has gotten the short shrift thanks to the Cold War. According to the article featured in Wired that caught my attention, and now some other supplementary info I've found since, thorium was more or less the fuel of choice when nuclear energy was on the drawing boards in the late-1940s and early-50s thanks to its virtually "green" properties when compared against uranium.

I say "virtually" because obviously thorium is radioactive and its use will still result in waste, but unlike the half life of transuranic wastes measured in thousands of years thorium's is only about 500 years. Not only that, but the volume of waste is estimated to be 0.1% of today's reactors. And the reactors are pint-sized next to the mammoth eyesores scattered about the world.

How this all works is with what's called a Molten Salt Reactor, or MSR for short. I'm sure this is a gross oversimplification, but basically what happens is that thorium gets dissolved into cannisters filled with molten fluoride salts and these containers boil the water to create steam to turn the turbines. The advantages to this system are multiple, but I would say the best two are that the waste from non-breeder type reactors isn't weapons grade anything, plus the reaction can not go into meltdown since the molten salts would simply boil over in its cannister and disperse into water or other liquid coolant.

The MSR-type reactor is getting a lot of attention from France, India and China, Russia's working on a variant and, damnit, this country should be too. The only reason America didn't pursue the very advance it spawned was because safe thorium reactors don't make the weapons-grade nuclear material our bloated military-industrial complex needed to roll out massive stockpiles of "Soviet deterrents." I'll be curious to see what Kirk Sorensen and his Energy from Thorium team cook up in the next decade or so.


Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Web Really Does Improve Education

Maia and I were frittering away some time today on the web and we both partook of, the net's take on twenty questions that guesses who you're thinking about. As long as you answer honestly. But that's just the thing: how much do you really know about many of the famous names we see in the history books or in the media? I for one had to refer to Wikipedia several times to get the details just right for author Paul Auster (not that he's in Akinator's database) and learned quite a bit about him. So bravo, Akinator, your persistent prodding and wondering "Is your character a warrior?" and "Is your character made of stone?" has spurred me to do some biographical research into the lives of people I may not have otherwise delved into. Bravo indeed.