Thursday, September 30, 2010

Flintstone's 50th, Google Doodles, and All That

"Google Celebrates 50 Years of The Flintstones: A Doodle Flashback"
Ian Paul, PCWorld (September 30, 2010)

"Yabba Dabba Doodle! Google is celebrating the 50th anniversary of "The Flintstones" Thursday with a special Google Doodle featuring Fred, Wilma and the rest of the Bedrock crew. Long before "The Flintstones" were a lunchtime and afterschool favorite for kids across North America, the show debuted as a prime time comedy series on ABC on September 30, 1960. It lasted six seasons on television, and the franchise has been featured in theme parks, two live-action movies, and assorted merchandise including chewable children's vitamins...."

(Google Doodle, via PCWorld, used w/o permission)

Then there's that phrase from The Flintstones (1960-1966) theme that only a select number of folks can decipher:

"...Let's ride with the family down the street
"Through the courtesy of Fred's two feet...."

That was a fun series - that, and the (original/early) The Jetsons (1962–1988). In the Lemming's opinion.

Speaking of "select number," the PCWorld article displays a number of other Google Doodles of the 21st century, some of which appeared around the world: and some which didn't.
  • Global
    • Claude Monet
      • November 14, 2001
    • Sputnik
      • October 4, 2007
    • TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol)
      • January 1, 2008
    • Large Hadron Collider
      • September 10, 2008
    • E.C. Segar
      • December 8, 2009
  • Selected countries
    • NASA Moon Landing
      • July 20, 2009
    • Sesame Street 40th
      • November 10, 2009
    • Akira Kurosawa
      • March 23, 2010
  • Germany
    • Fall of the Berlin Wall
      • November 9, 2009
  • United States
    • Martin Luther King Jr.
      • January 19, 2009
Some of the regional selections made sense, like Martin Luther King's birthday: noteworthy to the dominant culture here in the United States, not so much elsewhere.

Others I'm not so sure about. Sputnik as a global celebration, the Yankee moon landing commemoration restricted to "selected countries," followed an all-too-familiar pattern: but Germany's Doodle about the fall of the Berlin Wall included this phrase: "Soviet oppression." That isn't politically correct, so there's probably some other reason for keeping the commemoration of humanity's first steps on another world out of some countries.

Then there's Elzie Crisler "Popeye" Segar - which was a global Doodle. and Akira "Seven Samurai" Kurosawa, which wasn't.

Google probably had a system for deciding which countries saw which doodles: but knowing that factoid isn't necessary. The Doodles are fun, by themselves - more so with the PCWorld descriptions.

Las Vegas Hotel Death Ray? Sounds More Like a Solar Furnace

"Las Vegas hotel guests left with severe burns from 'death ray' caused by building's design"
Mail Online (September 29, 2010)

"Guests at a new hotel in Las Vegas have complained of receiving severe burns from a 'death ray' of sunlight caused by the unique design of the building.

"Due to the concave shape of the Vdara hotel, the strong Nevada sun reflects off its all-glass front and directly onto sections of the swimming pool area below.

"The result has left some guests with burns from the powerful rays and even plastic bags have been recorded as melting in the heat....

"...Gordon Absher, a spokesman for MGM Resorts, which owns the Vdara hotel, said they was aware of the issue and designers were working with resort staff to come up with a solution.

"In fact it is claimed that the designers foresaw the issue with the reflecting sun but thought they had solved it by installing a high-tech film on the south-facing panes of glass...."

Then the Vdara hotel's trick windows zapped Bill Pintas, a lawyer from Chicago.


(from Mike Johnson, Las Vegas Review-Journal, via Mail Online, used w/o permission)

I suppose MGM Resorts/Vdara hotel have basically two options. Three, if you count leaving the guest-zapping south wall the way it is.
  1. Change the hotel
    • Make the south wall a less effective solar furnace
    • Provide shielding for the pool area
      • And hope that the Vdara death ray doesn't shoot down an airliner
  2. Make the south side solar furnace into an attraction
    • Contests to see whose plastic bag melts first
    • Call it a
      • Light show
      • Sustainable energy resource
      • Hottest poolside in Vegas
The Lemming's guess is that they'll pick option 1.

Gliese 581 Planetary System: Possible Habitable Planet

"A Habitable Exoplanet — for Real This Time"
Lisa Grossman, Wired Science (September 29, 2010)

"After years of saying habitable exoplanets are just around the corner, planet hunters have finally found one. Gliese 581g is the first planet found to lie squarely in its star's habitable zone, where the conditions are right for liquid water.

" 'The threshold has now been crossed,' said astronomer R. Paul Butler of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, one of the planet's discoverers, in a press briefing September 29. 'The data says this planet is at the right distance for liquid water, and the right mass to hold on to a substantial atmosphere.'

"The discovery is both 'incremental and monumental,' comments exoplanet expert Sara Seager of MIT, who was not involved in the new study. When a recent study predicted the first habitable world should show up by next May, Seager rightly said the real answer was more like 'any day now.'

" 'We've found smaller and smaller planets that got closer and closer to the habitable zone,' she said. 'But this is the first that's in the habitable zone.'..."

Gliese 581 is practically next door, on a galactic scale: about 20 light years away. It's also quite dim, a red dwarf star, so Gliese 581g orbits once every 36.6 days - about 13,000,000 out from its star.

Red dwarf stars haven't always been seen as particularly good candidates for hosting a habitable planet: but that view has been changing as we got to know more about the dim end of the stellar continuum. (July 7, 2010)
"Alien World Tour: The Exoplanets Around Star Gliese 581" (September 29, 2010)

"...Gliese 581 is a red dwarf located 20.5 light-years from Earth, in the constellation Libra. Like other red dwarfs, it's smaller and much dimmer than our sun. Scientists believe Gliese 581 is old - at least a few billion years - and relatively stable. Both are qualities conducive to the evolution of life, scientists have said...."

"...Gliese 581g is three to four times as massive as Earth, is most likely rocky, and may have an atmosphere, scientists say. It orbits about 0.146 AU from the central star.

"Liquid water could exist on some part of the planet's surface, which seems to have an average temperature between minus 24 and minus 10 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 31 to minus 12 degrees Celsius). Gliese 581g completes an orbit every 37 days or so...."

The length of Gliese 581g's year's been reported as 36.6 days and "37 days or so." Which could likely enough be two different editorial teams' way of expressing the same value.

Whatever the exact length of Gliese 581g's year is, the average temperature is on the chilly side: sort of like Minnesota during the winter. But that's an estimated average - and taking Earth as an example, we could expect quite a lot of variation in climate on the planet.

Whether Gliese 581g has an atmosphere, liquid water - and life? Good questions, that'll have to wait until we've got better ways of studying planets around other stars.

At the rate things have been happening, the wait may not be all that long.

Related posts:
More related posts, at More:

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Sky is Blue, Folks Sing the Blues: Just What does Blue Mean?

Jacci Howard Bear, Desktop Publishing,

"Calm and Cool:

"Blue is calming. It can be strong and steadfast or light and friendly. Almost everyone likes some shade of the color blue.

"Pantone has selected the color Blue Iris (PANTONE 18-3943) as the 2008 Color of the Year telling us: 'Combining the stable and calming aspects of blue with the mystical and spiritual qualities of purple, Blue Iris satisfies the need for reassurance in a complex world, while adding a hint of mystery and excitement.'

"Nature of Blue:

"A natural color, from the blue of the sky, blue is a universal color. The cool, calming effect of blue makes time pass more quickly and it can help you sleep. Blue is a good color for bedrooms. However, too much blue could dampen spirits.

"Culture of Blue:

"In many diverse cultures blue is significant in religious beliefs, brings peace, or is believed to keep the bad spirits away...."

This is a pretty good resource for someone who's getting started in design.

An important point: it addresses how different cultures use the color blue differently. And not-so-differently.

The Lemming's opinion is that we're in an age where Western civilization is sorting out what's common to all of humanity - quite possibly hardwired into our brains - and what's assigned by cultures.

Like the color white, which is 'obviously' a color of purity. Also death and surrender. Depends on who's seeing it.

And that's another topic.

Related posts:Almost-related posts:More:

Russia Will Have First* Commercial Space Station?

"World's First Commercial Space Station Planned in Russia"
Managing Editor, (September 29, 2010)

"Two Russian aerospace companies are teaming up to build what they say will be the 'world's first commercial space station' - an orbiting outpost open to private citizens, professional astronauts and scientists. For a price.

"Called the Commercial Space Station, the orbiting space laboratory and hotel will be able to host up to seven people at a time. It is being planned under a partnership between the Russian companies Orbital Technologies and RSC Energia.

"The companies announced plans for the new space station today (Sept. 29) but did not reveal an estimated cost. The space station is expected to launch sometime between 2015 and 2016. The cost of individual trips may vary based on launch vehicle, duration and purpose of missions...."

(Orbital Technologies, via, used w/o permission)
"This artist's illustration shows a cross-section of the planned Commercial Space Station envisioned by Russian companies Orbital Technologies and RSC Energia. Credit: Orbital Technologies."

The Lemming thinks there will be quite a few "world's first commercial space stations."

Bigelow Aerospace already had two prototypes in orbit. (January 20, 2010") But those are prototypes, not rental property. Yet.

Then there's the 2003 proposal from Japan, for a hotel module on the ISS (International Space Station): a hotel; in orbit; but part of the ISS.

And the last I heard, a Spanish orbiting hotel was on schedule to go up in 2012. But those are hotels - maybe that doesn't count as "commercial?"

Maybe they'll all be "first" - with a footnote to explain distinctions like "first with sonic showers," "first with concierge parking," or "first with fur-trimmed exercise equipment." For all I know, the Russian module will be the very first.1

The managing editor may be aware of the global scramble to get first position in the orbiting hotel/tourism business: as evidenced by the article's first sentence.

The situation today reminds the Lemming of the Oklahoma rush of 1889. And that's another topic.

Sort of.

Related posts:More:
More, in this blog:
1 First with genuine Pyatizvyozdnaya Vodka and authentic samovar? Don't laugh: as long as the pilot's sober, booze in orbit shouldn't be all that big of a problem. Aside from cleanup.

Besides, there could be a secondary revenue stream from folks paying to delete videos taken of their sozzled efforts to move in microgravity.

Bose Television: Sounds Good

"A Bose TV? Sounds Good - Literally"
Robert S. Anthony, PCWorld (September 29, 2010)

"If Bose built TVs, you'd expect them to have exceptional bass and superb midrange sounds in keeping with its little Wave radios, right? Well Bose has done just that with the $5349 VideoWave entertainment system, which is a complete home-theater packed into a 46-inch LCD TV.

"A Bose TV? Sounds Good - Literally Using a proprietary internal design which includes 16 speakers and wide and narrow plastic audio-channeling conduits, the TV delivers impressive audio that's projected in such a way that it sounds as if it's emanating not from the TV, but from a wall of sound coming from multiple directions.

"During a theatrical press event in New York, members of the media got a chance to listen to the system in a room that seemed to have shrouded speakers mounted on the front and side walls. During a surround-sound demonstration which included audio of an approaching thunderstorm, the 'speakers' were covered with black cloths, leading attendees to assume that Bose was about to roll out a new series of tiny home theater speakers. Then, in a dramatic moment David Copperfield would have been proud of, the cloths were removed-revealing absolutely nothing. All of the sound that seemed to be firing from behind the cloths had actually come straight from the sole TV...."

There may be a fine line between good marketing and good showmanship, but it's mighty thin in spots.

The PCWorld article includes this video:

"Bose click pad remote control demo"

pcwnews, YouTube (September 29, 2010)

Which won't be displayed in Bose-level great sound - unless you've using a really good sound system with your computer.

The price tag ensures that my household won't be using one of those things - but the Lemming can see why folks with the disposable income might decide to buy the Bose television system.

The company sends a technician to set the TV up - and calibrate the sound system to the room its in. You'll need to be around for that, to so the tech sets it up for your preferences. Nice touch.

This paragraph in the review is particularly interesting to the Lemming:

"...Despite the high level of internal engineering, the 1080p HDTV supports a refresh rate of 120Hz, not 240Hz, which means that it's not capable of showing 3D content. At 97 pounds, the unit is not exactly light, but is still light enough to be wall mounted...."

Good heavens - a refresh rate of a mere 120 Hz? Back in my 'good old days,' which I don't miss all that much, television images came at a rate of about 30 Hertz: 30 frames a second. And "not capable of showing 3D content?" I remember when color television was new.

So: it's new, a tad on the pricey side, and apparently as good as a Bose television might be expected to be.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A Thought for the Day, About Knowledge

"If a man empties his purse into his head, no man can take it away from him. An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest."
Attributed to Benjamin Franklin

The History of Sausage - By a British Barbecue Company

Oscar Enterprises

"The manufacture of sausages began over two thousand years ago, and it is still a growing industry. While some of its basic practices are almost as old as civilisation, the industry is constantly adopting new developments in processing in the light of later scientific and technical knowledge.

"Sausage has been an important item in man's diet for twenty centuries. The first recognisable mention of this meat food is found in a Greek play called 'The Orya,' or 'The Sausage,' written about 500 B.C. Thereafter the word for sausage occurs with frequency in Greek writings. It's also a favourite food of the Romans, at one time becoming so popular for festive occasions that it was placed under the ban of the early church.

"The modern word 'sausage' is derived from the Latin ~salsus~, meaning salted. The term was probably originally applied to cured or salted meat generally. In the days of old people did not have refrigeration to preserve their meat and so making sausage was a way of overcoming this problem. ..."

The Lemming lives in a mostly German-Irish community in central Minnesota, where we appreciate sausage - and beer. And more sausage. And sauerkraut.

The Lemming is getting hungry.

The Lemming notes that this history of sausage does not mention exactly how sausage was originally made. Since it's on a commercial website, dealing with food: there's probably a good reason for that.

And don't get the Lemming started on the subject of haggis.

Phobos: Moon of Mars Formed From Rubble?

"Mars Moon Phobos Likely Forged by Catastrophic Blast" (September 27, 2010)

"One of the two moons of Mars most likely formed from rubble catapulted into space after a comet or meteorite slammed into the Red Planet, a new study finds.

"The moon, Phobos, looks a lot like an asteroid: It's lumpy, potato-shaped and very small. It has an average radius of just 11 kilometers (6.8 miles).

"Scientists have long wondered about the origin of Phobos — is it merely a captured asteroid, the leftovers from Mars' formation or evidence of a cosmic Martian hit-and-run with another object?

"The new study found that the moon's composition and density strongly indicate that, like the leading theory for Earth's own moon, Phobos is the result of a catastrophic impact with its parent planet...."

If Phobos is essentially a loose rubble pile, with open spaces left over from its formation, that would help explain why the Stickney Crater impact didn't shatter it. Hit a solid rock with a hammer - you may end with several smaller rocks. Hit a pile of gravel with a hammer - you'll get a pile of gravel with a dent in it.

Another indication that Phobos isn't from the Asteroid Belt is that it's chemically similar to the surface of Mars - including minerals that form when there's liquid water around.

We may know more, if the Russian Phobos-Grunt ("grunt" is "soil" in Russian) mission successfully scoops up some of the surface of that moon of Mars.

Related posts:More posts about Mars:

Saving the Environment Makes You Sick

Well, no: not exactly.

"Reusable Grocery Bags Breed Bacteria"
Theresa Marchetta, KMGH Denver (September 27, 2010)

"They are good for the environment, but reusable grocery bags are also a breeding ground for bacteria.

"Many responsible shoppers carefully choose their groceries and put them into the same cloth or plastic bags over and over again on every trip to the store.

" 'Did you ever wash your grocery bags?' asked Call7 Investigator Theresa Marchetta.

" 'Um, no! I never wash my plastic bags or my paper bags,' responded a 7NEWS colleague.

"Marchetta could not find anyone who regularly cleaned their reusable bags.

" 'Do you ever think to wash the bags?' Marchetta asked another colleague.

" 'No. Not really,' the other worker replied, laughing.

"The CALL7 Investigators tested several reusable bags used by 7NEWS colleagues and another from a woman going into a Denver grocery store.

"Marchetta brought the lab results to Dr. Michelle Barron, the infectious disease expert at the University of Colorado Hospital.

" 'Wow. Wow. That is pretty impressive,' said Barron....

"...Three of the samples had relatively low bacteria counts, posing little risk of causing illness.

"Two were in the moderate range, posing some risk, according to Barron.

"Two other bags had extremely high counts -- 330,000 to nearly 1 million colonies of bacteria.

"Four of the samples also had relatively high levels of yeast and mold...."

Hats off to the reporter - and the editor who let this one get through. Pointing out a problem is one thing: showing how to deal with it is, in the Lemming's opinion, better.

"...Fortunately, it is a problem that is easy to fix.

"Wash reusable bags or wipe them out with a bleach wipe after each use....

"...Another suggestion -- designate one bag for each type of food to prevent germs from spreading."

The Lemming remembers when one-use shopping bags were a relatively new feature in groceries - and regarded as another example of how young whippersnappers had no appreciation for the value of money, threw away perfectly good material, and all that.

There's something to that: the 'disposable' approach to packaging and goods leads to quite a lot going into landfills. "Recycling" sounds new, but it's the way the Lemming's parents lived.

Back to the shopping bags of doom: The article briefly discusses why it's not a good idea to grow bacteria in your shopping bag; and gives some common-sense advice for how to not get sick and not throw away perfectly good containers on each shopping trip.

The Lemming's household shops at stores that recycle their own bags: so we've got a bag for each store, fill them with matching bags, and carry them back when they're full. On the whole, it's easier for us: and takes up a little less space than reusable bags would.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Segway Boss, Dr. Frankenstein, and Getting a Grip

"Study: Segway Injuries on the Rise"
Health, CBS News (September 27, 2010)

"A new study about the safety of Segway transporters was released Monday, hours after Jimi Heselden, Segway's owner died after riding one of the motorized scooters off a cliff into a river.

"The study in the Annals of Emergency Medicine shows that injuries while riding Segway transporters are significant and on the rise.

"During the course of three years, researchers studied records of 44 patients who entered The George Washington University Hospital's emergency department with injuries sustained from Segway accidents...."

"...Only seven of those patients wore a helmet, which is not required by law while riding a Segway...."

Okay: injuries involving Segways are on the rise.

Is use of Segways on the rise, too? Good question: one that's not addressed in the article.

However, Segways -
  • Use scary stuff:
    • New
    • Technology
  • Are considered 'cool' by plain, ordinary people
    • Not just the 'right sort'
  • Actually do something about reducing urban congestion
    • What good's a crisis with a practical solution?
      • Solving problems isn't as angsty as complaining about them
No wonder Segways are a dire threat!

The Lemming has explained his sort of 'apathy' before.

Sensible Article, Silly Proposals

"Segway boss James Heselden dies after riding scooter off cliff in northern England" (September 28, 2010) (It's tomorrow in Australia by now)

"THE millionaire boss of the UK-owned company Segway died after he rode one of the firm's two-wheeled scooters over a cliff near his home in northern England, police confirmed last night.

"James William Heselden, 62, from Thrope Arch, died about 11:40am local time when he rode one of the Segway scooters off a cliff and into the River Wharfe in West Yorkshire, northern England.

"He was pronounced dead at the scene after his body was pulled from the water....."

Any death of this sort is a sad occasion: the Lemming will get to an article about Mr. Heselden at the end of this post.

Now, taking the standard-issue attitude of hyperventilated safety consciousness - with a liberal hefty sprinkling of technophobia - the Lemming proposes:
  • Segways Kill!
    • And should be banned
  • Cliffs Kill!
    • And should be leveled
  • Rivers Kill!
    • And should be drained
At the very least, this is proof that the River Wharfe is dangerous and should be drained, that West Yorkshire is a hazardous place for people and should be evacuated - and, of course, everybody everywhere should be clad in bubble wrap and locked in padded rooms?

The Lemming doesn't think so. But then, the Lemming is 'apathetic.'

Safety and the Lesson of Dr. Frankenstein

As is well known - or assumed without consideration in some circles - there are things which humanity was Not Meant To Do. Like:
  • Develop new crops
  • Fly
  • Get vaccinated for smallpox
  • Install lightning rods
We're long past the time when an author could sell many copies of a book warning of divine retribution, should the heathen habit of using lightning rods be continued.

Smallpox is extinct, thanks at least in part to vaccination programs. (WHO) Today there are still folks who are scared of vaccines, for one reason or another. A not-entirely-overlapping population are scared silly about new crops and farm animals.

As for airplanes being the work of the Devil: I haven't heard a joke about that for decades. My guess is that most folks have learned to live with the idea that people can fly through the air now.
Enter Frankenstein
Frankenstein, the fictional scientist who appeared in Mary Wollstonecraft (Godwin) Shelley's "Frankenstein | or The Modern Prometheus," is probably better known as the mad scientist of quite a number of movies.

Whatever the author's intention, Frankenstein and his creature seem to have become a sort of symbol of hubris, and a cautionary tale of what happens when we dabble in that which we ought to leave alone.

The Lemming is on the same page as the ancient Greeks: I think overweening pride is a bad idea. The problem is deciding where the line is, between pursuing an ambition and getting in over your head. I like the quest for knowledge: it's what a person does to get that knowledge, and how it's applied that can get us in trouble. And that's another topic in another blog.

Getting back to Frankenstein and that 19th-century bit of science fiction: it seems that quite a few folks - and not just the usual suspects - still think that there are things which Man Was Not Meant To Know. And that new things are dangerous.

Like riding Segways.

I don't doubt that Segways are dangerous. A stick is dangerous, even if it's not particularly sharp. You really can 'put your eye out' with one if you're not careful.

That doesn't mean that the Lemming thinks sticks should be banned.

Or Segways, or automobiles, or buckets. And, yes: buckets are deadly. ("Injury - a Risk at Any Stage of Life," CDC; "Baby Drowns in Bucket at South Side Home," NBC Chicago (September 19, 2010))

The Lemming thinks part of the reason that we don't see outcry against the dangers of unlicensed buckets is because buckets are a very old technology.

Segways, though, are still where automobiles were a few generations ago: largely in the hands of early adapters; and feared by folks who don't care for change. In the Lemming's opinion.

Jimi Heselden: We'll Miss You

"Tycoon who gave away £23m killed in scooter cliff plunge"
Yorkshire Post (September 27, 2010)

"TRIBUTES have been paid to a 'remarkably selfless' Yorkshire millionaire and philanthropist who died while out riding a two-wheeled electric Segway scooter which plunged off a 30ft cliff and into a river.

"Jimi Heselden, a former miner turned wealthy entrepreneur who owned the Segway company, was found in the river Wharfe at Boston Spa, near Wetherby, not far from his home in Thorp Arch.

"Police said there were no suspicious circumstances and Mr Heselden had died at the scene...."

From the sounds of it, James 'Jimi' Heselden was one of the 'good guys.' A man who knew how to make money - and how to handle it afterward.

But then, the Lemming thinks that charity is a good idea.

And that's yet another topic.

Related posts:

Hong Kong's Mid-Level Escalators (It's About Time!)

"Hong Kong's Central-Mid Levels Escalator - The Longest in the World"
Rory Boland, Hong Kong / Macau Travel,

"Perhaps one of the city's stranger attractions, the Hong Kong Central-Mid-Levels Escalator is used to ferry thousands of workers between the bedroom community of Mid Levels and Central Hong Kong. Built in 1994, the Hong Kong Central-Mid Levels escalator now carries upwards of 60,000 people a day.

"The escalator is Hong Kong's very own piece of Futurama, elevated above street level and covered; it allows the transportation of workers from their beds to their desks and back again. This is Hog [sic!] Kong at its most modern and efficient. From 6.A.M – 10A.M. the escalator moves downhill and then uphill from 10.15A.M.-12A.M. The complete system of several escalators runs for 800m and climbs a total of 135 meters, some of the ascents can be very steep.

"On the way up you'll cut through the booming Soho district, packed with restaurants and bars...."

K.C. Tang, Central-Mid-Levels escalators, Central, Hong KongAside from "Hog Kong," which is probably a typo,'s discussion is largely positive about "Hong Kong's very own piece of Futurama."

The "Futurama" reference seemed odd to the Lemming. The World's Fairs of 1939 and 1964 had exhibits called Futurama and Futurama II, respectively. "The subject of Futurama was a gigantic model of an America transformed by progress...."1 (Tales of Future Past)

Both iterations of Futurama weren't particularly 'about' moving sidewalks or escalators: although there were elevated walkways in the 1939 version.

Outside of world's fairs and science fiction stories, escalators and moving sidewalks aren't particularly new. Part of the basic technology was patented in 1859 (The Elevator Museum), and products like Virginia Elevator Company's moving walkway have been part of airport terminals for decades.

Of course, we're living in "The Future" now, so quite a bit that was science fiction in 1925 - or 1964 - isn't any more.

For example, Hugo Gernsback's "Images of Life 50 Years Hence" (1925), had an item about moving sidewalks. Also teleportation and electrified crops.2 (Paleo-Future)

Back to Hong Kong

The BBC put together a short video on this Hong Kong urban transit system:

"Close-Up: Escalator system in Hong Kong's Mid-levels"
BBC (January 10, 2010)
video, 2:41

"In an ongoing series, BBC News focuses on aspects of life in countries and cities around the world. What may seem ordinary and familiar to the people who live there, can be surprising to those who do not.

"One of Hong Kong's smartest residential areas is called Mid-levels, and is served by an unusual form of transport: the longest outdoor covered escalator system in the world.

"The Central-Mid-levels system consists of twenty escalators and three moving walkways - and it runs in one direction in the morning, and another in the afternoon...."

KC Cheung, February 26, 2004One point that impressed me in the video was how the escalator system transformed a residential/light industrial neighborhood into an entertainment district. Before the escalators, folks could walk into the area - if they had to. Print and pottery shops were typical businesses, according to the BBC. After the escalators made the area more accessible, it's got a whole lot more restaurants and related businesses: and is a place where folks go to enjoy off-work hours.

Made in - 1932??

Here's another look at that part of Hong Kong:

"Hong Kong Island: Western District"
Go Travel Hong Kong

"Hong Kong Island's Western District is a blend of old Hong Kong with its' traditional lifestyle and the new Hong Kong dominated by its' modern skyscrapers. The western district has some of the main sights of Hong Kong including the ones listed below.

"Hong Kong's SoHo district refers to Staunton Street and Elgin Street which both lie 'SOuth of HOllywood Road'. This thriving area is packed with trendy international restaurants, cafes, bars, art galleries and the nightlife centre of Lan Kwai Fong which can be found just beneath Hollywood Road. The nightlife centre is filled with bars and snack shops where party goers can top up on food and drink into the middle of the night.

"Central Mid Levels Escalator
"The central to mid-levels escalator opened in 1932 & at around 800 metres high, the escalator is the world's longest outdoor escalator and runs from the central market in Central to halfway up Victoria Peak at Conduit Road. The central to mid-levels escalator was created to reduce traffic and ease congestion. The escalator only goes one way. It goes down before 10am and up after 10am. ..."

zh FongCYu, 中環至半山自動扶梯系統的, Elgin Street entranceThe page is on a travel and tourism website, and is geared for tourists. That's fine with the Lemming - but this seems odd: "...The central to mid-levels escalator opened in 1932...."

The basic technology for escalators and moving walkways was around before 1932. (The Elevator Museum) I rather doubt that the system is quite that old: since all other references to its development put the start of the project in the early 1990s

The page paints an attractive word-picture of that part of Hong Kong, though: and includes a street map.

Still, although what we see today doesn't have quite the style of 1930s urban transportation technology: a system of walkways and escalators much like what we've got today could have been built any time during the last century.

Why Weren't Hong Kong's Mid-Level Escalators Built in the 1930s?!

The Lemming's guess is that the technology was around in 1932: but that folks in Hong Kong didn't have an economic incentive to build the Mid-Level Escalators.

Today, with more people around and maybe a better understanding of what it takes to make a city work, Hong Kong had both the technology and good reasons for building this huge set of moving sidewalks and stairs.

Which seem to be 'single lane.' The system has to be put in reverse for folks wanting to go the 'other' way.

Let's see; 1994 (when part of the system apparently was built) - 1939(the first Futurama) = 55. Maybe in another 55 years, 2065, they'll have made it a two-lane system: the kind you see in multistory stores and shopping malls.

Hong Kong, Manhattan, and Nigeria: Lots of People

Finally, the Lemming didn't find the term "overpopulated" in these articles. No problem there: I don't think Hong Kong has 'too many people.' Even though more folks live there than we've got here in Sauk Centre, Minnesota.

It's odd, in a way. Places like Hong Kong, Manhattan, and San Francisco aren't called "overpopulated" all that much - although it's often noted that these areas have a high population density. Places like India and Nigeria? They're often called "overpopulated." The Lemming has written about this before:Related posts:More:Photo credits: K.C. Tang; KC Cheung; zh FongCYu; all via Wikipedia.
1 That was back when 'progress' was seen as a good thing, and we weren't supposed to be facing a future of ice ages, global warming, reactor-destroying bees, and mutant frogs. Not that even the most hysterically earnest prognosticator came up with all those at the same time.

I've discussed 'The Future,' and how folks have looked at what hasn't happened yet, before. Including these posts:2 The sort of "teleportation" that Star Trek series used may not be possible at all. On the other hand, researchers are doing a sort of teleportation in the laboratory. That word sounds a whole lot cooler than "quantum entanglement," which is another topic. (January 23, 2009)

We don't have "electrified crops," but the Green Revolution and developments in genetics have a noticeable number of folks scared silly:

Lemming Tracks: Monday Morning

Monday has struck with unusual severity, and the Lemming won't be posting until later in the day.

Please be patient: There's something interesting on the Internet.

(Now there's a profoundly obvious statement!)

This attack of Mondayitis may be connected with last week's excitement:

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Lemming Tracks: 2010 Commonwealth Games and Bad Publicity

An important issue, for the Lemming, is why it took India five years to get started on "proper preparations" for the 2010 Commonwealth Games.

Maybe the leaders didn't realize just how much work goes into putting together an international sporting event. Maybe there was political and/or bureaucratic wrangling over who got credit for India's triumph. Or maybe it's part of that non-western relaxed approach to tasks that Americans of the sixties were told was such a wonderful idea.

Whatever the underlying cause(s), today India is not getting particularly good publicity.

"Snakes?" Only One was Reported

"India removes snakes, filth to ready Games village"
Reuters (September 26, 2010)

"Workers painted walls, drained out rain water and removed a snake at the Commonwealth Games Village as India raced on Sunday to address complaints of filth and hygiene a week before the start of the showpiece event.

"The Games were supposed to enhance India's image of a rising power, but shoddy construction, filthy accommodation and security fears have underlined governance and accountability issues, hurting the runaway pride of Asia's third largest economy...."

That's not the way someone who likes India's image as "a rising power" would want a global news service to start an article about their 2010 Commonwealth games.

Turns out the games' Village is built on the plains of the Yamuna river. Building on a flood plain isn't as daft as it looks. It's easier to design and build any large structure or set of related structures, if the surface they're on is flat. A river's flood plain, where sediment collects after floods, is often the only really large expanse of flat real estate in an area.

There are going to be water-relate issues, of course: so some sort of drainage system, probably involving pumps - and dikes to deal with the next flood - should be near the top of a developer's priority list.

"Some Minor Issues"

Back to India.

"...'All finishing work is going on in full swing,' said Dalbir Singh, mayor of the Games Village where the athletes will stay.

" 'It's a world class facility with some minor issues and work is going on to fix those problems.'

"Indeed, most of the 34 apartment blocs are gleaming and spacious and fitted with Italian marble. But much of what is good about the facility has been overshadowed by athletes' complaints of filth and unfinished work in some of the living quarters...."
(Reuters) [emphasis mine]

That's the good news.

Collapsing Bed Shocks Indian Boxer

The bad news is that there may still be undiscovered booby traps, when athletes who haven't pulled out of the games arrive.

"Booby traps" may be an unfair term. There's no evidence that anybody's trying to hurt the athletes. Besides, would an Indian work crew want to take out one of their own country's athletes?

"...The Times Now news channel said about 150 rooms meant for athletes were unliveable. Indian boxer Akhil Kumar was in shock when his bed caved in on Saturday. It was found the mattress had just been placed on the bed frame without any support underneath.

" 'Laborers have done a very bad job. They had spit 'paan' (chewing tobacco) on the walls, stains of which are almost unremovable,' Lalit Bhanot, secretary general of the Games organizing committee, told Reuters.

" 'We are identifying rooms which are dirty and shutting them down. But we have adequate rooms so there is nothing to worry.'

"The Games are estimated to have cost $6 billion. India was awarded them in 2003 but did not begin proper preparations until two years ago. Michael Fennell, chief of Commonwealth Games Federation, has said India's image has taken a beating...."

Spit on the walls? In America, that would indicate possible labor grievances. Maybe in other cultures, folks don't spit on something to indicate displeasure or dissatisfaction. Not that we do it in America, all that often. The habit's considered a bit uncouth in this culture.

China's "Spectacular 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics"

Apparently China did a wonderful job, putting on the 2008 Summer Olympics. Reuters presents those games as a sort of benchmark, a goal which India may one day hope to achieve:

"...India had hoped to use the Games to display its growing global economic and political influence, rivaling neighbor China which put on a spectacular 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics.

"Instead, they have become a major embarrassment for the world's largest democracy, where infrastructure projects have progressed slowly and are a drag on economic growth...."

Reality check, please.

The Lemming will grant that China put on a "spectacular" show in 2008.

Impressive, too, considering how many tons of algae they had to fork out of the Olympic Sailing Course. Then there was the little matter of air quality.

Still: the fireworks were spectacular. After some CGI.

Under the circumstances, the Lemming thinks that China's current leaders did quite well in handling the Olympics. All things considered. (more, in Related posts, or click "2008 Olympics" in this blog's label cloud)

It's possible that the reporter and editors who put that Reuters article together don't remember little details about the 2008 Summer Olympics, or have decided that selected televised images are what really count. There are many possible explanations.

Then there's this Reuters article:

"Analysis: Games chaos exposes India infrastructure challenge"
Reuters (September 25, 2010)

"The chaos surrounding the Commonwealth Games exposes how far India still needs to go in executing on big-ticket projects and building infrastructure of the kind that helps make China an economic powerhouse...."

There's more, about bureaucratic chaos and potholes.

Ah, China: that economic powerhouse. An inspiration to workers' paradise leaders everywhere, which only last month produced a 60-mile-long traffic jam. (August 25, 2010)

Yes, India has a long way to go.

Related posts:

Sleepy Baby Rabbit

"Sleepy Baby Bunny "

aftertherainrabbitry, YouTube (September 19, 2009)
video, 2:32

"This is my 2 week old Holland Lop bunny, Sean Jr. He loves to just relax in my hand and fall asleep (or clean himself). This is why I absolutely love Holland Lops... they have such snuggable personalities!"

That is one relaxed - and trusting - little rabbit. The video has a soothing music background.

This footage is strong evidence that for rabbits, as for cats, one of their behavioral principles is 'when in doubt, wash.'

Finally, it's cute.

A tip of the hat to Cute Overload (September 24, 2010), which featured this video.

A Few Curtains, a Little Physics, and We're Set

"How can I Make a Room Soundproof?"

"Even if one isn't building a recording studio, there are times when a home or business owner will want to reduce the amount of sound coming into, or out of, a room. While many methods are available, choosing one will depend on the room itself and the amount of money the owner is willing to spend.

"To understand how to soundproof a room, it is first necessary to understand a little about 'sound.' Sound is composed of waves that travel through a medium. Some mediums, or materials, are more resistant to sound than others. Air, for example, offers little resistance and is therefore a major contributor to unwanted noise in a room. To soundproof a room, however, more is needed than just blocking the flow of sound through air...."

So far, so good. Then came this:

"...Another source of unwanted noise in a room can come from vibrations. A vibration occurs when a sound wave travels back and forth from one object to another. This can happen, for example, when a sound wave strikes one wall in a room, bounces off that wall, and transfers its energy to the opposite wall. That vibration can create an annoying noise problem...."

The Lemming is pretty sure that the author meant "reverberation" instead of "vibrations" in that paragraph. ("Reverberation: the repetition of a sound resulting from reflection of the sound waves" (Princeton's WordNet))

Still, it's a pretty good introduction to how to deal with a room's accoustics.


"Sound Dampening Curtains - Three Types Of Uses In Your House Or In A Music Studio"
Jason Stark,

"There must be a good reason for you to be looking for sound dampening curtains. Sound dampening curtains or soundproof drapes are basically just like the regular curtains, except they are made of thick and heavy, sound dampening fabric, or plastic. Are you a parent of a budding musician who is delighted that their offspring plays a musical instrument or sings, yet would like to get some more privacy in other parts of the house when the kid is practicing? Or perhaps, you are a musician and know that sound attenuating curtains can improve the way your voice sounds or the way your instrument projects its voice.

"Regardless of why you are looking for sound dampening curtains, in this article you will find three types of uses which are good reasons for anyone to purchase them. The types of uses are: Blocking the sound from the outside, Blocking the sound from the inside the room, and Sound absorption. Let's see how these play out with what you are trying to accomplish...."

This article focuses more on the practical aspects of making a room usable for singing or instrumental work. And, has two links near the end - which the Lemming appreciated.

The Lemming had a personal interesting while researching this post. I learned that my youngest daughter isn't satisfied with the acoustics in the room we've assigned as her music studio. Taking a look, I can see why. The six surfaces - walls, ceiling and floor - are hard and flat. Great for dust control, but not so hot for making - or teaching - music.

These two articles were the first resources the Lemming found that weren't geared for industrial applications. The foam-core high-density quilted vinyl sheets I'd found earlier might have contained the sound of a drill press: but the Lemming is nearly certain that his daughter would not have been happy with their aesthetic qualities.

Chile, Miners, Rescue Capsule, Time: "There's No Use Speculating"

"Chile miners: Family joy as rescue capsule arrives"
BBC Latin America & Caribbean (September 25, 2010)

"A cage specially built to help rescue 33 men trapped underground in a mine in Chile has arrived at the mine head.

"The steel capsule will be used to pull the men to safety one by one, once a rescue shaft wide enough to haul them up has been drilled.

"Relatives of the miners were allowed to get into the narrow cage, which is little more than 50cm (20in) wide.

"It is expected to take between 20-30 minutes to pull each miner up from their shelter at a depth of 700m.

"The long - and extremely narrow - steel case has been named Phoenix, and its designers hope it will lift the men to a new life overground much like the bird in Greek mythology rose from the ashes...."

The capsule has 90 minutes worth of oxygen, communication gear, and an escape hatch in the bottom - so if the capsule gets stuck along the way to the surface, he's got a shot at winching himself back down to the shelter.

The idea, of course, is to get the miners up, one at a time, with no problems along the way. It's good to know that whoever's planning the rescue has backups like that hatch in the capsule's base.


"Rescue cage arrives at Chile mine"
CNN (September 25, 2010)

"...[Chilean Mining Minister Laurence] Golborne said the capsule weighed 420 kilograms (924 pounds) and its interior height was six feet, four inches (1.9 meters)...."

"...Its [the rescue capsule] arrival Saturday, far ahead of the government's initial estimate that was around the end of next week, is the first hint rescuers could be accelerating the timeline for recovering the men from a cavern some 700 meters (2,300 feet) underground.

"Asked about a media report citing Chilean government sources saying the rescue could come as early as October 15, Golborne replied: 'This will be over when it's over. There's no use speculating.'..."

"This will be over when it's over...." Sounds sensible to the Lemming.

At six feet, four inches high by 20 inches - a bit under two feet - in diameter, the inside of that capsule is around the size of an old-fashioned phone booth. Sounds roomy. For someone who's not being pulled up a half-mile-deep shaft for 20 or 30 minutes.

Still, the Lemming doubts that any of the miners will be be very hesitant to get into the capsule. Not after spending a few months in that chamber.

Related post, in another blog:

Saturday, September 25, 2010

A Thought for the Day, About Rivals

"He that falls in love with himself will have no rivals."
Benjamin Franklin, via The Quotations Page

Ah, to be On Titan in the Spring

"Springtime for Northern Titan: Seven Years of Clearer Skies" (September 24, 2010)

"The clouds are clearing on Titan as spring takes hold in its northern hemisphere, signaling a shift in the weather patterns on Saturn's largest moon, a new study finds.

"Titan is poised for a mostly sunny spring, one that will last seven Earth years, researchers have found. Seasons on Titan last so long because it takes the moon and Saturn about 30 years to orbit the sun. [New photo of Titan clouds.]

"Scientists analyzed data from the last six years of observations by NASA's Cassini spacecraft to piece together how Titan's weather cycle works. They found that conditions have changed since August 2009 - when the sun was directly over Titan's equator during its latest equinox..."

As the Lemming has written before, sometimes data shows that the mathematical models scientists developed to account for an earlier set of data don't fit what's really happening. Other times, they do. Either way, something's learned.

In this case, so far, it looks like the models are on the same page as the reality.

"...These findings match predictions by computer models developed by other researchers in the past. Rodriguez and his team combined those models with the actual Titan observations to understand Titan's evolving cloud patterns.

"Different cloud-formation mechanisms are likely at work in the different hemispheres, the researchers said...."

It a way, Titan is more like Earth than is Mars. Both worlds have a relatively thick atmosphere with lots of nitrogen, lakes, rivers, clouds and rain.

There are differences, of course:

"...Titan and its weather have intrigued scientists for decades. Some think Earth resembled Titan before life took hold — only not nearly as cold. Titan's surface averages 290 degrees below zero Fahrenheit (minus 179 degrees Celsius).

"Titan has a thick, nitrogen-rich atmosphere, and its surface features have been carved by the action of liquid hydrocarbons like methane, which is the chief component of natural gas here on Earth. Methane rain drizzles from Titan's clouds, pooling in frigid liquid lakes...."

Which brings up another point: Earth might have been more like Titan, only warmer, before runaway photosynthesis polluted this planet's atmosphere with that dangerously reactive gas, oxygen.

Sure: (Most) animals use oxygen these days - and (most) other organisms can endure it. But we're pretty sure it wasn't always that way. (April 9, 2010)

Change happens. And the Lemming is repeating himself again.

Related posts:

A Kitten, Milk, and a Video Camera: What's Not to Like?

"Hungry Baby Kitten (Cute, cute, cute)"

destructokitty, YouTube (September 21, 2010)
video, 1:16

"Bob Charlee is impatient for his meal."

This video has appeared on "Video: Feeding a Hungry Kitten With a Syringe," Serious Eats (September 24, 2010): with four frames taken from the video.

The Lemming imagines that somewhere in the world, since the time when cats first appeared, there was a kitten that wasn't cute: but such things are a rarity. As for this video? The kitten got a bit of milk - all that it wanted, apparently, triumphed over the syringe, and has provided entertainment, as of this post, 47,142 times.

47,143 or more, if you've watched it by now.
A tip of the hat to williamcooks, on Twitter, for the heads-up on that post.

Lemming Tracks: Lazy Saturday Morning

The Lemming is taking Saturday morning off. See you later today.

Friday, September 24, 2010

How to Grill a Pizza: Instructions and Advice

"Grill a Pizza"
Wired Wiki, last modified (September 23, 2010)

"The idea may seem crazy at first -- tossing a sheet of dough on the grill. But grilling produces a killer rustic pizza with a crispy, flavorful crust.

"Learning to grill a pizza lets you keep the backyard grill in action even as we move into the colder months. Besides, didn't you already grill more than enough burgers this summer?..."

The Lemming almost clicked away at that point. There was a little too much white space after the 'this is a wiki' announcement, and it looked like those two paragraphs were it.

Interesting, but hardly useful.

There's what appears to be a coherent set of procedures:
  1. Proof your dough
  2. Prep your toppings
  3. Roll your dough
  4. Prepare
  5. Grill the dough
  6. Bake the dough
  7. Taste, adjust, re-test
The last section ends with "...As you eat, assess your work. Is the crust nice and thin? Nicely crisped? Fragrant? That's the way we like it.

"Experimentation is key. Change up how long you let it sit on the heat, which ingredients you use. Have friends chip in. Ask for their feedback. And remember, this is a great year-round grilling dish, so you can practice whenever the mood strikes."

Looks like a pretty good recipe - with photos.

Coming Soon: Touchy Aircraft

"Sensor-Equipped Spider Webs to Coat Aircraft"
Eric Bland, Tech News, Discovery News (September 23, 2010)

"Aircraft could soon be covered in new technological cobwebs. Inspired by the gossamer strands of spider webs, scientists from Stanford University have created an ultra-fine mesh of strain and temperature sensors.

"Wrapped around an aircraft, the sensors could help craft monitor their internal well-being. This added awareness could prevent microscopic cracks from developing into catastrophic failures. Beyond aircraft, the new technology could create a new breed of intelligent automobiles, packaging and medical devices.

" 'We want to make airplanes that fly like birds,' said Fu-Kuo Chang, a scientist at Stanford University who developed the sensors and co-authored a recent article about the technology in the journal, Advanced Materials. 'Aircraft that have all the sensing information about what is happening around them, just like birds do.'..."

It's a pretty good article, discussing a new wrinkle in aircraft design - one that's being developed for other applications, too. (January 7, 2010, for one)

On the other hand, there's the occasion stumble:

"...But aircraft lack nerves. Unlike birds, they don't have a way to sense tiny changes inside their bodies. For instance, a bird in a dive can sense, through its nerves and other tissues, whether the strain is too great and if they need to pull up before their bones break...."

The sort of aircraft that the Wright Brothers built: those didn't have anything analogous to nerves. Contemporary fly-by-wire aircraft, with their avionics and data feeds going to and from various parts of the aircraft? The Lemming thinks those are analogous to nerves - even if the control system as a whole isn't all that smart.


What's new isn't data being sent back and forth in an aircraft: It's aircraft that have a sense of touch, or something very close to it.

And that's exciting.

Sort-of-related posts:More:

Nuclear Weapons, Space Aliens, Conspiracy Theories, and Getting a Grip

"Aliens Are Monitoring Our Nukes, Worry Ex-Air Force Officers"
FOXNews (September 23, 2010)

"Captain Robert Salas was on duty in Montana in 1967 when a UFO shut down the nuclear missiles on his base. And he's hardly the only one to make such a claim.

"On Monday, six former U.S. Air Force officers and one former enlisted man will break their silence about similar events at the National Press Club, all centering around unidentified flying objects and nuclear missiles. They plan to urge the government to publicly confirm the incidents, stating that they were ordered never to discuss the events.

" 'We're talking about unidentified flying objects, as simple as that, Salas told They're often known as UFOs, you could call them that, he added. Salas, a former U.S. Air Force nuclear missile launch officer, will host the event along with researcher Robert Hastings, author of UFOs and Nukes: Extraordinary Encounters at Nuclear Weapons Sites.'..."


Captain Salas could be right: about spaceships hovering over USAF and other military bases.

It's not that I "believe in" flying saucers.

It's possible that we're the only people in the entire universe. Given the scale of the place, I'd be mildly surprised if we were.

On the other hand, saucer enthusiasts notwithstanding, there's precious little evidence that space aliens have been here recently. If 'they' really exist, and have been here, I'd expect us to be hip-deep in the space-alien equivalent of six-pack rings and oil drums, selling souvenirs to non-human tourists.

Still, it's possible that we're not alone. We live in a big universe, one that's been around for quite a long time. Maybe somebody else got a head start on us. Right now, cosmologists think that the universe is very roughly 13,750,000,000 years old; and the planet we're on formed about 4,500,000,000 years back.

Nuclear Weapons, Space Aliens, and Time

4,500,000,000 years. That's a pretty big number. Let's compare it to something more 'our size.' Imagine that the (roughly) four and a half billion years that Earth has been around is mapped on a 24 timeline: one day.

If we call the moment Earth got started "midnight," we're at the first midnight after that. There are (24 x 60 x 60 =) 86,400 seconds in 24 hours. 1/86,400 of 4,500,000,000 is about 52,083, so one second on our 24 hour timeline is equivalent to roughly 52,000 years.

Now, let's say that folks who live on another planet in this part of the Milky Way galaxy started building spaceships a little earlier than we did, but not by much. Let's say that they started building spaceships at 23:59:59, one second before midnight.

At a ratio of 4.5 billion years to 24 hours, one second is 1/86,400 of 4,500,000,000: If I did the math right, that's only a little over 52,000 years ago. By then, our ancestors had been making flint tools and weapons for a very long time: but the invention of that ultimate (for a while) super-weapon, the bow and arrow, was almost 40,000 years in the future.

Let's get back to those hypothetical space aliens who started building spaceships 52,000 years ago: a mere moment before we started doing the same thing. They come to the Solar system. They notice activity on Earth. They discovered that there are people here! And the Earthers are using nuclear energy!!

Oh, wow.

One can scarcely imagine the concern those space aliens might have, learning that humans had nuclear weapons!!

Maybe we can.

Comparison time again.

Threat From Boogabooga!

Let's say that there's an island called Boogabooga, that's so far off the beaten track that the folks living there don't even have satellite television. A military reconnaissance team from the Pentagon has flown over several of Boogabooga's larger centers of activity.

Top brass of the United States' army, navy, air force, coast guard, and marines are gathered in a heavily-guarded room in the Pentagon, tensely awaiting a report from Project Boogabooga.

Captain Smith, head of Project Boogabooga, stumbles into the room: ashen-faced, the report clutched in his hand. "Our worst fears are realized" he gasps. "The boogaboogans not only have flint tools: They have BOWS AND ARROWS!!"

Make no mistake: the bow and arrow is a deadly weapon. Particularly if flint arrowheads are used. Those Boogaboogans are a potential threat to anybody landing on their island.

And if they decided to invade, say, New York City, there's a good chance that they might get on the national news that day.

On the other hand, flint warheads on bows and arrows, even if the Boogaboogans advanced to the next level and had composite bows, probably wouldn't strain the defensive capabilities of the United States military. Too much.

Actually, my guess is that the Boogaboogans would be lucky if they were captured by the armed forces: instead of tangling with a street gang or meeting rush-hour traffic on an expressway.

Back to Captain Salas and the Space Aliens

Maybe there are space aliens. Really, really nervous space aliens.

Or, maybe, space aliens who like to scare the natives.

Or, maybe, your standard-issue benevolent and highly-evolved space aliens who are determined to help us. Whether we want it or not.

If the armed forces of the world really are hushing up what the X Files called "The Truth:" Well, somehow I think that the world can handle knowing that we're not alone.

If this is another flying saucer story: that's interesting, too.

Related posts:More related posts, at:More:

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Terry Cloth, Dobby Looms, and All That

"What is Terrycloth?"
WiseGEEK (September 8, 2010)

"Terrycloth is a type of pile fabric which is famous for its softness and high absorbency. It is often used for towels and bathrobes, and it may be utilized to make athletic warmups and other accessories. Many department stores carry items made from terrycloth, and it is also possible to purchase this fabric by the yard for the purpose of making custom towels, robes, and other objects. Many sewing suppliers carry terrycloth, and it can also be ordered online or directly from manufacturers....

"...Industrially, terrycloth is made on a dobby loom, a specialized loom which allows for greater control of the tension of the threads. People can also knit or weave it by hand, using several different techniques, although handmade terrycloth is time consuming to make. Industrial methods of manufacture have been in use since the mid-1800s, which is around the time that this specialized fabric began to achieve widespread popularity...."

It's a pretty good discussion of what terry cloth (AKA terrycloth) is, but doesn't tell much about where it came from, historically speaking. Happily, the Lemming found this piece:

"Terry Cloth" (June 8th, 2009)

"Terry cloth, also know as terry, is a fabric with loops that can absorb more water than a traditional cloth. There are many types of terry cloth in the market today....

"...Towels are a woven fabric made of Cotton or a Cotton-Polyester (Cotton-Poly) blend and are a usually loop or pile pattern. Special looms called Dobby Looms are used to weave the fabric into the finished product. Modern looms are fully computerized and make the job much easier than it was in the past.

"Early in the history of Terry cloth nearly everything was made by hand. Due to the time it took to make this cloth towels were usually reserved for the wealthy. Towels were generally smaller and most were hand and facial towels. ... By the end of the nineteenth century, weaving became automated and the terry cloth industry was changed forever.

"After the mechanizing of looms we started to see a greater variety of materials being used and a greater market for towels because they were less expensive. This also created a large market for Bath Towels for the first time. Like most textile cloth throughout the manufacturing process everything is bleached a bright white before it is dyed its final color. This is almost always done to the fabric in large rolls or yards before any weaving or other alteration takes place. Terry cloth is woven on a dobby loom, which means that it has two steps or processes. The first one is referred to as the ground warp and forms the body of the towel or cloth. The second one is called the pile warp, which forms it forms the terry loop or pile...."

There's quite a bit more - some of it a bit on the promotional side, letting readers know how many products are made of terry cloth. Naturally enough, since the page is on a commercial website.

Hats off to for this backgrounder on terry history.

Woman 'Cut in Half:' Journalistic Hyperbole, Remarkable Account

"Miracle mom: Mayo surgeons cut her in half, cleared out her cancer"
Carol Sanders, Winnipeg Free Press (September 22, 2010) (Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 18, 2010)

"Manitoban Janis Ollson and family are in magazine ads for the esteemed Mayo Clinic for a very good reason: she's the first person surgeons cut in half, removed much of a cancerous midsection, then put back together with a happy ending.

"On Friday, the Balmoral, Man., woman was at her daughter's school to talk to students about Sunday's Terry Fox Run, and how funds raised for cancer research are keeping people like her alive.

"Three years ago, the 31-year-old was pregnant with her second child and had been suffering years of horrible back pain when Canadian doctors diagnosed her with bone cancer, chondrosarcoma...."

Leiland, Janis Ollson's son, is okay: he was delivered by C-section.

Janis Ollson is okay too, for the time being: although Doctors at the Mayo Clinic, in Rochester, Minnesota, removed her lower spine, the left half of her pelvis, and her left leg.

"...Ollson became the first person to receive a 'pogo stick' rebuild, with her one good leg fused to her body with the reshaped bone from the amputated leg...."

The Winnipeg Free Press article doesn't say so, but my guess is that tap dancing is out for Jannis Ollson. Apart from that, though, she's doing pretty well:

"...Three years later, she is alive and kickin' -- snowmobiling and grocery shopping -- with her husband and two kids on their half acre in Balmoral.

" 'Where we live, we use ATVs and snowmobiles. I use my ATV to take my daughter to school... There really isn't a whole lot that stops me,' she said...."

As for being "cut in half?" Well, sort of. In a way. Separating a leg, removing quite a bit of the lower torso, and reattaching the leg using parts from the other leg - maybe "cut in half" isn't entirely journalistic hyperbole.

Last Flights of the First Space Freighters, New Construction at Spaceports

"Shuttle Discovery's Last Launch Pad Trip" image gallery

"Space shuttle Discovery is the oldest in NASA's fleet, but will be the first to retire after one final spaceflight. NASA pulled out all the stops Sept. 20, 2010, when Discovery made its last trip to the launch pad for its final flight. The shuttle is due to launch Nov. 1, 2010."

The Lemming remembers when the first shuttle returned from orbit. For that matter, I remember when the first satellite went into orbit.

I may indulge in a little nostalgia, as the Space Shuttle program marks various 'last' events. But only a little. The Shuttle fleet has done its job, helping build the International Space Station and demonstrating that it's possible to fly freighters to low Earth orbit and back on a fairly regular schedule.

"Morning Has Broken
"Space shuttle Discovery is attached to Launch Pad 39A as the sun rises over Kennedy Space Center in Florida...." (7th of 11 images)
(from NASA, via, used w/o permission) (reduced and cropped)

There's another spaceport in Florida now, about 25 miles southwest of downtown Jacksonville: one of over a half-dozen in this country. (January 19, 2010) Many more are either in operation, or being built, around the world. A quick look at a couple of America's spaceports, and one in Europe:Robots exploring the Solar system, spaceports popping up like mushrooms, being able to write about it on a blog: I'm living in 'The Future' right now. Not quite as it was imagined in the fifties, which is just as well. 'Serious' prognosticators missed the boat on several of the more exciting developments: including the Internet.

Exciting times, these.

Related posts:More:

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A History of Pottery, Basically

"A Basic History of Pottery"
Laura Evans, Life123

"The history of pottery stretches back millennia. People across the world have fired or baked moist clay to make pots, plates and ceramic decorations since prehistoric times.

"History of Pottery
"Most of the earliest evidence of pottery that has been found was made in the Middle East during the Neolithic Revolution, about 10,000 years ago, when humans started learning to domesticate plants and animals. However, our knowledge of the past is not complete. For example, scientists discovered a 25,000 year-old fired figurine of a woman made of clay and bone ash, called "Venus," at Dolni Vestonice in the Czech Republic.

"The next major innovation, the pottery wheel, emerged around 3000 B.C. in Mesopotamia. While no one knows who invented the pottery wheel or if it was developed over time, it allowed potters to make perfectly round pottery for the first time...."

The next time you feel an urgent need to review the first 10,000 or so years of pottery, here's a pretty good page. It's short, and has a quite favorable content-to-fluff ratio.

What, No Space Aliens?!

The Lemming cannot recall encountering a claim that space aliens taught 'primitive' humans how to make pottery. Not once. Not even during the heydays of the flying saucers.

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