One Aging Geek

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Dark Star

I just finished watching the 1974 movie Dark Star (The Director's Cut). This was, according to IMDB, John Carpenter's second film. Let's just say that he got better.

The reviews I read on Netflix and IMDB led me to believe this might be an comedy gem.

Bzzt! Wrong, but thanks for playing. There were basically three "bits" in it that were stretched into a mercifully short 83 minute movie (the "director's cut" was even shorter). If I hadn't pulled out the laptop and done some catchup research while it was running I would have turned it off about the time the opening credits started.

Not recommended.

Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town by Cory Doctorow

I finished reading this about a week ago, also a freely downloadable book.

I can't do it any better so here's the author's capsule summary of the book:

Cory Doctorow: Hmm-- it's not an easy book to summarize. Alan is a serial entrepreneur who moved to Toronto to get away from his family. His father is a mountain and his mother is a washing machine. He has several brothers, including one who is an island, three who nest like Russian dolls, a precognitive, and a demonic savage. When he was a teenager, he murdered the latter brother, with his other brothers cooperating. And now that brother is back form the dead, stalking them all. Alan has fallen in with a gang of anarcho-info-hippies who are using dumpster-dived hardware to build meshing WiFi repeaters in a mad bid to unwire all of Toronto, or at least the bohemian Kensington Market streets. Meanwhile, his neighbors-- a student household-- contain a girl with wings and a mean-spirited guitar player/bartender, who, it appears, may be in league with the demonic brother.

This book reminded me of a Seinfeld episode. Odd but kind of interesting characters. Stuff happens. No idea how these characters came to be where they are (or even came to be). But ultimately it's a story about nothing in particular. OK, if there's some metaphor here, I missed it. Entertaining book in an odd sort of way, but not for everyone.

An exhibition of geek laziness

It just occurred to me that the previous post was a true exhibition of geek laziness.

I'm reading the Stross book on my PalmOS PDA using a program called iSilo. I decided to blog about the book and I didn't want to retype the block of text I quoted. So I clipped it to the PDA clipboard and attached that as a note to a calendar entry. When I synced the PDA that entry got posted to my calendar on MS Exchange at work. From there I opened the calendar using Evolution on Linux (just because that's what I run here at home) and cut'n'pasted the text into the Blogger web UI.

Only a geek would go thru all that to avoid a little typing. :)

Accelerando by Charles Stross

I'm reading the legal free download version of the book Accelerando by Charlese Stross. This book is dense with imagery of a possible near future. It reminds me of the experience of reading Neuromancer by William Gibson when that was new. Here's a very small example from an expository segment in the fifth chapter:

Manufactured by Airbus-Cisco years earlier, the Field Circus is a hick backwater, isolated from the mainstream of human culture, its systems complexity limited by mass: The destination lies nearly three light-years from Earth, and even with high acceleration and relativistic cruise speeds, the one-kilogram starwisp and its hundred-kilogram light sail will take the best part of seven years to get there. Sending a human-sized probe is beyond even the vast energy budget of the new orbital states in Jupiter system – near-lightspeed travel is horrifically expensive. Rather than a big, self-propelled ship with canned primates for passengers, as previous generations had envisaged, the starship is a Coke-can-sized slab of nanocomputers, running a neural simulation of the uploaded brain states of some tens of humans at merely normal speed. By the time its occupants beam themselves home again for download into freshly cloned bodies, a linear extrapolation shows that as much change will have overtaken human civilization as in the preceding fifty millennia – the sum total of H. sapiens sapiens' time on Earth.

The book consists of a number of connected stories that span several decades beginning around 2010. I've read versions of at least two of the stories before, probably in Garder Dozois' annual "Year's Best Science Fiction" series. Very highly recommended (both Accelerando and the Dozois' series)!

Monday, July 11, 2005

Escape Pod promo

The promo audio for Escape Pod may be too full of in jokes to be funny to most people but I found it hilarious.

Link - NASA to use unprecedented methods to monitor shuttle

From 1984 to 1994 I worked for the worlds largest computer company as a contractor at NASA's Johnson Space Center. The best way to become disillusioned with the American space program as it stands now is to work in it. NASA of today is a far, far cry from the can-do engineering team that put men on the moon 35 years ago. Our only hope for a real space program is for private enterprise to move forward.

My prayers are with the astronauts who will be launched in an approximately 20-year old vehicle that has been called the most complex machine ever built.

I'm a little out of date on the status of the International Space Station but the last I heard the oxygen generation systems were barely limping along on backups. If the Discovery crew has to move in with the station crew I hope they have their own O2 along. - NASA to use unprecedented methods to monitor shuttle:

The shuttle Discovery will undergo unprecedented scrutiny from cameras and other sensors as it climbs into orbit and maneuvers toward the international space station on the first such mission since the Columbia disaster.

But efforts to determine whether the spacecraft has suffered the type of external damage that caused Columbia's breakup more than two years ago could easily stretch to the midpoint of Discovery's 12-day flight, said Wayne Hale, who chairs NASA's mission management team. - In cancer fight, a spice brings hope to the table

Not to self: Invest in Indian restaurants for the next two months as this craze plays out. - In cancer fight, a spice brings hope to the table:

The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, the epitome of the conventional cancer establishment, is reporting promising test results on an unconventional weapon: a common spice used in Indian cooking.

In a host of studies, M.D. Anderson researchers are showing that curcumin, the pungent yellow spice in both turmeric and curry powders, has potent anti-cancer properties. They say it may prove effective for both prevention and treatment.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Wired News: Congress Must Deal With ID Theft

This article lists a series of reforms that would greatly reduce the identity theft business. But they'd also cut into the profits of banks, credit card companies and credit agencies. And so they'll never happen because those businesses have the well-paid lobbyists to ensure that grease is applied in the correct places.

Wired News: Congress Must Deal With ID Theft:

Recent high-profile data security problems at companies like ChoicePoint, LexisNexis, Bank of America and Citibank make it clear that companies are doing little to protect sensitive data, despite assurances years ago that voluntary industry guidelines they established would pre-empt the need for government regulation.

Realizing that self-regulation isn't going to work anymore, several lawmakers have proposed piecemeal solutions to address the problem of identity theft. But many of them don't go far enough.

Following are the fixes we think Congress should make:

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Windows AntiSpyware Downgrades Claria Detections

AlterSlash ~ the unofficial SlashDot digest:

Windows AntiSpyware Downgrades Claria Detections - by Zonk

accihap writes “A week after word leaked out that Microsoft was negotiating an acquisition deal with Claria (See recent /. coverage), spyware researchers have noticed that the Windows antispyware application has downgraded Claria’s Gator detections and changed the recommended action from ‘quarantine’ to ‘ignore.’ Screenshots of the new default settings.”