Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Architecture of Star Wars: a List of Favorites

"The Architecture of Star Wars"
Sebastian J, ArchDaily (June 16, 2009)

"Many of us, long before we even knew about architecture[,] dreamed about a fantastic world in a galaxy far far away. Nowadays, Star Wars continue to surprise people all around the world, and we can now see the movie with a different eye. Perhaps, the architect's eye.

"At The Architect's Journal, they selected the best Star Wars buildings. The top ten, after the break...."

"...4. CORUSCANT, THE WHOLE THING. Like adding New York to Kuala Lumpur and Hong Kong, then squaring the result. The capital of the Old Republic takes urban sprawl to the extreme and realises the vision of Greek City planner Constantinos Doxiadis of an ecumeonpolis: a single city that covers the whole of a planet. The 'New Architecture' style common to the Senate Area of Coruscant is characterised by Manhattan-like skyscrapers nestled among blade-thin obelisks that resemble the soaring minarets of Cairo...."

Each of the countdown's 10 items has a picture - some of which look like clips from the Star Wars movies. It's mostly fun, but the Lemming thinks Sebastian J made an important point with that first sentence. It's likely that some architects got interested in that field after going 'wow!' during a Star Wars movie. Or seeing a warehouse getting built.

It's a huge stretch to call the Star Wars movies 'inspirational:' but the Lemming thinks it's okay for folks to let their imaginations get fired up by shows like that.


Here's what Wikipedia says about the word: "Ecumenopolis (from Greek: οικουμένη, meaning world, and πόλις (polis) meaning city, thus a city made of the whole world; pl. ecumenopolises or ecumenopoleis) is a word invented in 1967 by the Greek city planner Constantinos Doxiadis to represent the idea that in the future urban areas and megalopolises would eventually fuse and there would be a single continuous worldwide city as a progression from the current urbanization and population growth trends...."

It's a cool idea, and one that's been a science fiction staple for generations. We've got something that's almost like part of an ecumenopolis today: the stretch of urbanized land between Washington, D.C., and New York City, on North America's east coast. A word for real-world analogs to Isaac Asimov's Trantor, or Lucas's Coruscant, is "megalopolis." That's "a very large urban complex (usually involving several cities and towns)." (Princeton's WordNet) There's one on the east coast of North America, running from around Boston to Washington, D.C..

The Lemming's discussed whacking great cities in science fiction, in another blog:What Star Wars' architecture has going for it is partly that it borrows from more-or-less familiar science fiction art of the 20th century - and that someone saw to it that structures in the movies looked like someone might actually be able to use them.

And that's another topic.

Not-entirely-unrelated posts:

Monday, February 27, 2012

That's the Size of It: Eames Video of the Universe

"Powers of Ten™"

EamesOffice, YouTube (1977) (uploaded August 26, 2010)
video, 9:01

"Powers of Ten takes us on an adventure in magnitudes. Starting at a picnic by the lakeside in Chicago, this famous film transports us to the outer edges of the universe. Every ten seconds we view the starting point from ten times farther out until our own galaxy is visible only...."

The video zooms out from that picnic to the edge of the (known) universe, then back in - and keeps going until the viewer gets up close and personal with part of a proton.

It's a pretty good way to get a feel for just how big - and small - the universe is, and how much detail there is to study at just about every imaginable scale.

Related posts:

Friday, February 24, 2012

It's (Fairly) Big; It's Pink: It's a Diamond

"Australia's largest rough pink diamond unearthed"
BBC News Asia (February 21, 2012)

"An Australian mining company says it has found a 12.76-carat pink diamond, the largest rough pink diamond found in the country.

"The rare diamond was found at Rio Tinto's Argyle diamond mine in Western Australia's East Kimberly region.

"Estimated to be worth millions, it has been named the Argyle Pink Jubilee, and is being cut and polished in Perth.

"It will be sold later this year after being shown around the world, including in New York and Hong Kong...."

'Big' is a relative term.

Compared to your average charcoal briquette, the Argyle Pink Jubilee isn't all that large.

From the photo, it looks like it's what - less than an inch across? Maybe a centimeter?

Compared to the sort of diamond most of us are likely to see? That thing is huge. Also very definitely pink.

A Delightfully Defective Diamond

According to, red, pink, or brown diamonds get their color from defects in their crystal lattice - something that happens when they're formed.

Pink diamonds are also quite rare - so folks like the sparkly rocks, even if they are 'defective,' and are willing to pay a whole lot of money for them.

Related(?) posts:

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Sydney Opera House: Lego Version

"Sydney Opera House honoured with Lego Architecture model"
David Wheeldon, Architecture & Design (February 17, 2012)

"The Sydney Opera House is being made into an official Lego product, joining a select few architectural icons recreated in miniature architecture collection.

(Architecture & Design, used w/o permission)

"The Opera House is one of seven brick-built models in the new architecture range, which will also include New York's Empire State Building and Seattle's Space Needle. It's due to be released in March.

"Of course people have been making their versions of the iconic building with the famous toy for many years, although it is often cited as one of the most challenging of buildings to replicated in Lego...."

The article says this Lego model of the Sydney Opera House has 260 pieces. It doesn't look a whole lot like the original: but that's probably not the point. Folks who like snap-together models of famous buildings should like Lego's new contribution to world culture. The thing would probably be fun to assemble.

Parents might buy Lego's Sydney Opera House in hopes that it would be 'educational.' As a recovering English teacher, the Lemming thinks that kids would probably enjoy the model anyway. They might find creative ways of re-arranging the components, too. Some of the roof segments look like they'd look good on a giant robot.

According to the article, Lego's got a small line of 'famous buildings' models:
  • Jorn Utzon
    • Sydney Opera House
  • Mies van der Rohe
    • Farnsworth House
  • SOM
    • Burj Khalifa
  • Frank Lloyd Wright
    • Fallingwater
    • Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
    • Robie House

Parking? What Parking?

New South Wales has a pretty good history of the Sydney Opera House on its website:
They don't, understandably, emphasize a curious point about the Sydney landmark: parking. But - hats off for government transparency - the website's chronology has the facts:
  • 1955
    • (September 13)
      International competition for Opera House design opens, attracting
      • 233 entries
      • 32 counties
  • 1957
    • (January 29)
      Jørn Utzon wins first prize
  • 1966
    • (February 28)
      Jørn Utzon resigns
    • (April 19)
      Utzon replaced by a government panel
      • E.H. Farmer, Government Architect
        Peter Hall, Design Architect
      • D.S. Littlemore, in charge of supervision
      • Lionel Todd, in charge of contract documents
  • 1972
    • (December 17)
      First test concert
  • 1973
    • (September 29)
      First public concert
  • 1993
    • (March 17)
      Parking for Sydney Opera House built

Two decades before parking facilities were retrofitted into the Opera House area? That was a long wait for a parking spot. Seriously, the Lemming is sure that folks in Sydney found a way to park somewhere within walking distance of the place - or that there was a really big demand for taxi service before the in-house parking came. If memory serves, Minneapolis, Minnesota, realized that their Metodome might need parking accommodations after it was built, too. There's a lot of parking lots around that place now: where a neighborhood or two used to be. And that's another topic. Vaguely-related posts:

Monday, February 20, 2012

Tuning in on the Brain's 'Voice'

"Science decodes 'internal voices'
Jason Palmer, Science and technology reporter, BBC News (January 31, 2012)

"Researchers have demonstrated a striking method to reconstruct words, based on the brain waves of patients thinking of those words.

"The technique reported in PLoS Biology relies on gathering electrical signals directly from patients' brains.

"Based on signals from listening patients, a computer model was used to reconstruct the sounds of words that patients were thinking of.

"The method may in future help comatose and locked-in patients communicate...."

So far, this sounds great. The fascinations of 'pure science' aside, this research could help folks whose brains are in good working order - but who have problems with connections to their bodies.

'What Could Possibly Go Wrong?'

"...Several approaches have in recent years suggested that scientists are closing in on methods to tap into our very thoughts; the current study achieved its result by implanting electrodes directly into a part of participants' brains.

"In a 2011 study, participants with electrodes in direct brain contact were able to move a cursor on a screen by simply thinking of vowel sounds.

"A technique called functional magnetic resonance imaging to track blood flow in the brain has shown promise for identifying which words or ideas someone may be thinking about...."

Okay, so let's assume that someone works out a way for a machine to focus on someone's brain, and display what they're thinking: at least give a real-time list of words they're thinking. What could possibly go wrong?

How about Big Brother using a supercomputer to keep track of citizens' thoughts, except the supercomputer develops a mind of its own and takes over the world? Think "1984" meets "The Terminator" on its way to "The Matrix."

It's 'good enough for a movie.' Quite a few, actually.In the Lemming's opinion, someone's going to find a way to misuse this new technology. That's nothing new. Folks have misused technologies from fire to fax machines. Technology's not the problem: it's the people using it, and that's almost another topic.

It's the Lemming's opinion that if this 'brain reading' technology becomes practical: the benefits will outweigh the problems. Also, that someone will be convinced that this newfangled gadget means the end of civilization as we know it.

That cantankerous Luddite will probably be right: and the Lemming thinks we'll all benefit by the change.

Related posts:

Friday, February 17, 2012

Lemming Tracks: Online Dating Advice

How good is the Lemming's judgment, when it comes to romance? Let's put it this way: On Valentine's day, the Lemming posted a picture of two dragons not-quite holding hands.

Happily, the following advice doesn't come from the Lemming

This Article's Online Dating Tip #1: Don't be Creepy

"Three boneheaded online dating moves to avoid"
Andrea Bartz and Brenna Ehrlich, Netiquette, CNN (February 15, 2012)

"Ahh, yes, February 15, the joyful day when singletons can finally collapse in exhaustion after weeks of maintaining a nonchalant front. Finally, you think, finally, the incessant stream of hearts and cupids and reminders that romantic partnership is the apogee of human achievement will come to a merciful end.

"And then you voluntarily read to the second paragraph of our weekly netiquette column, silly! That's right, we're here to take you waist-deep into that cesspool of romantic endeavors and bad decisions: online dating....

"...We've told you what not to do with your first message to a prospective date. We've told you what not to do with your photo. Yet real, live online daters continue to find bizarre and almost impressively original ways to turn us off...."

The Lemming has a few words to say about online dating, common sense, and using "password" as a password. First, though, a 'don't do' list for online dating, according to Bartz and Ehrlich:

  • Being
    • Creepy
    • Scary
    • A stalker
    • All of the above
  • Revealing little-to-nothing about yourself
    • No photo
    • Terse text
  • Using a stupid user name, like
    • MoldyBill
    • JustBrowzin228

Online Dating, Losers, Grownups, and a Ranting Lemming

Dating sites seem to have gotten the reputation that singles bars had (and maybe still have): vaguely sleazy places where losers go to get scammed, or catch loathsome diseases. Or, sometimes, get in the papers when their bodies are recovered.

Are the reputations deserved? In their extreme form, probably not. On the other hand, the Lemming runs across this sort of thing now and then:
In fairness, that last item was a matter of an "aspiring model and actress" who seems to have been using Craigslist to advertise a masseuse service: not online dating.

What the Lemming sees as a common thread here is folks who apparently didn't ask themselves 'what's the worst that could happen?' Or gave themselves the wrong answer. Human nature being what it is, even the sharpest, most people-savvy, person can make mistakes.

Are online dating sites populated entirely by immature losers and the predators who stalk them? Unlikely in the extreme: if that were so, some news service would have a daily body count as part of it's social-media programming.

Another point: 'Online dating sites' aren't always about online dating. Some serve folks who are looking for something more than a one-night stand; or even a summer fling. Some even come right out and acknowledge that their members want to get married.

Either way, the Lemming figures that at least some of the folks we meet online really are who they say they are: and have logged enough life experience to make rational decisions.

"Password" isn't a Good Password

Back to amazing blunders, like using "password" as a password.

Long before Nigerian scam entered the language, folks occasionally:
  • Learned that a long-lost uncle
    • They'd never heard about
  • Died in Australia
    • Leaving them an improbably large fortune
You guessed it: there was no uncle, no fortune, and the 'legal fees' they paid were gone - along with the ersatz law firm.

Between financial scams, credit card fraud, and counterfeit postage stamps, a sufficiently fretful person might decide to disconnect Internet, cable, and telephone service.

That, in the Lemming's opinion, would be over-reacting.

Being cautious about the online acquaintance whose creepiness makes Norman Bates seem wholesome? That could save a person's life.

Then there's the matter of not acting like the motel proprietor in "Psycho:" and that's another topic.

Slightly-related posts in this blog:

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

It's Bright, Shiny, and Spins: the Mall of America's Americana Carousel

"Minnesota Carousels (page 1)"
Bloomington, MN

"The 'Americana' Carousel at the Mall of America is a reproduction style carousel ('a hand-painted contemporary version of the classic American merry-go-round'). It features 34 figures and one chariot. Despite its lack of historic value, it is in great shape and wonderful in its garishness which will hopefully instill appreciation for carousels and ensure their preservation."

"Garishness?" One of the photos of's page shows a (horse? hippocampus? seahorse?) that's a bright, intense blue - and very shiny. If the photographer had taken a step to the right or left, light might not have been reflected into the lens quite so much.

That said, the carousel critters are new. And still have that fresh-from-the-factory shine. Which, along with the amusement-park colors, make them anything but subtle.

Here's a photo of the carousel, taken by someone else: who used existing light. Interestingly, the animals don't look quite so garish this way:

(Baseball Bugs, via Wikimedia Commons/Wikipedia, used w/o permission)
Mall of America Carousel

Maybe, decades from now, when the Americana Carousel isn't quite so shiny, folks will remember those shiny horses, cat, goat, and - thing. Then it'll be 'historic.'

Which is pretty much what happened to the Cafesjian carousel: which is another topic.

Posts, related and otherwise:

Monday, February 13, 2012

Really Big Amphipod: 11 Inches Long

"Terrifying giant crustaceans found in deep sea"
Andrea Mustain, LiveScience, via (February 3, 2012)

"Scientists on an expedition to sample a deep-sea trench got a surprise when their traps brought back seven giant crustaceans glimpsed only a handful of times in human history.

"The 'supergiant' amphipods are more than 20 times larger than their typical crustacean relatives, which are generally less than a half-inch (1 centimeter) long, and thrive in lakes and oceans around the world. They are sometimes called the 'insects of the sea.'

" 'We pulled up the trap, and lying among the fish were these absolutely massive amphipods, and there was no inkling whatsoever that these things should be there,' said Alan Jamieson, a lecturer at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, and leader of the expedition that turned up the fantastical creatures in November 2011...."

(From Oceanlab, via FoxNews, used w/o permission.)
"An elusive supergiant amphipod, recently plucked from the deep sea. (Oceanlab, University of Aberdeen, UK)"

Oh, wow. That's a big bug. Critter. Amphipod.

It's big, for something with an exoskeleton. Even back in the good old days, when some dragonflies had a two-foot wingspan, that's not small.

Things like this were first discovered in 1899, the article says. That's when someone wrote about them, anyway. They haven't been seen much since: no great surprise, considering where these critters live.

Wow: that's a big critter.

Not-entirely-unrelated posts:

Where is the Lemming?

The Lemming hasn't forgotten about the Monday morning post. It's been deliberately ignored.

Here's why: Life has happened with high frequency over the weekend. Nothing major, just a horde of minor stuff.

So, the 'Monday' post for this blog didn't get done. The same goes for another blog, and that's another topic.

The Lemming plans to get something posted later today.

Friday, February 10, 2012

From the Department of Unintended Consequences: One Dead Rhino

It looked so good on paper: put poison in a rare rhinoceros, to discourage poachers.

Just one problem: now the rhino is dead. It wasn't the poison, though.


"Bungled conservation effort kills South African rhino"
Reuters (February 9, 2012)

"A group of animal conservationists in South Africa accidentally killed a rhinoceros they were attempting to make safe from poachers in a botched public relations event.

"Spencer the rhino went into convulsions and died after he was shot with a tranquilizer dart in front of a crush of TV cameras and photographers who had been invited to document an operation to insert a poison capsule into his horn....

"...'The rhino had an unfortunate reaction to the anesthesia,' Rhino Rescue Project spokeswoman Lorinda Hern said. 'Every time you dart a rhino, you take a risk that the rhino might not wake up and unfortunately today was one of those days.'

"Conservation groups insert poison capsules into the horns of rhinos, which release poison into the horn when it is removed from the animal and are meant to render the horn value-less for hunters seeking to sell it on for use in traditional medicine...."

Maybe it makes sense to spike a rare rhino's horn. Maybe:
  • The odds of killing the rhino are fairly low
  • Most poachers will
    • Know about the poison pill
    • Care about selling poisoned rhino horn
  • Rhino horn buyers will
    • Know about the poison pill
    • Care about buying poisoned rhino horn
That's a lot of 'maybes.'

In the Lemming's opinion, folks running the Rhino Rescue Project are putting a lot of faith in the humanitarian impulses of poachers, and the ethical standards of drug smugglers dealers in illegal animal parts.

Living in the Real World

In an ideal world, people wouldn't put rat poo in peanut butter, or sell toxic toys. But this isn't an ideal world:So what's the big deal about rhinoceros horn? Quite a few folks seem convinced that the stuff cures just about everything:Sort of like snake oil: except that a (genuinely) endangered species might go extinct.

The Lemming hopes that enough folks in Asia will take another look at their equivalent of high-octane patent medicines: and decide to stop contributing to the extinction of an odd sort of critter.

Or - here's an idea - maybe someone in South Africa will come up with a marketable substitute for rhino horn. The country raises beef, poultry, and sheep - apparently for local consumption. Maybe byproducts that aren't getting used now, like bone, could be turned into an exportable commodity.

Or maybe the Lemming's too optimistic, or pessimistic, about marketing and gullibility. And that's another topic.

Related (?) posts:

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

New York City Metropolitan Museum of Art Makeover, et Les Mots Français (Mais Oui!)

Ah, l'éclat, le mot français, le côté prétentieux! C'est magificent!

Now that the Lemming has got that out of his system, here's some fairly interesting news from the shining center of all universes. (Ask any New Yorker.)

Getting a Plaza with Pizzazz?

"Met Aims to Build Itself a Museum-Quality Plaza"
Carol Vogel, Art & Design, The New York Times (February 7, 2012)

"More than 40 years after its last makeover, the plaza in front of the Metropolitan Museum of Art is showing its age: the fountains are leaking, the sidewalk is crumbling, and the trees are dying. Overcrowding on the institution's grand front steps - one of the most popular meeting places in Manhattan - often causes bottlenecks for visitors trying to get to the front door.

"Now an ambitious plan is in the works to transform this four-block-long stretch along Fifth Avenue, from 80th to 84th Street, into a more efficient, pleasing and environmentally friendly space, with new fountains, tree-shaded allées, seating areas, museum-run kiosks and softer, energy-efficient nighttime lighting...."

En France, l'un des mots pour passerelles est allées.

The Lemming is grateful that there weren't more les mots français strewn around the article. Les gens continuent d'utiliser des mots français dans un effort pour paraître socialement supérieur? Incroyable!

Dropping back into the low-class habit of picking one language, and sticking with it, the Lemming continues.

"Allées" is one of the French words for "walkways," by the way.

Hey! This Makes Sense!

"...'Our first priority is to create an appropriate entrance to the greatest encyclopedic museum in the world, one that is attractive and welcoming rather than austere and forbidding,' said Thomas P. Campbell, the Met's director and chief executive. At the moment, he added, 'the plaza is a frying pan in the summer and a wind tunnel in the winter.' The museum will stay open during construction, although parts of the sidewalk may be closed at times...."

The article didn't have the most promising lead paragraph. Apart from some unnecessarily obfuscatory erudition, the complaint seemed to be that "one of the most popular meeting places in Manhattan" had:
  • Leaky fountains
  • Dying trees
  • Crumbling sidewalks
On top of all that, this popular place was overcrowded.

The Lemming thought that someone in the Big Apple might have gotten tired of the riffraff cluttering up the entrance to the Met. Not knowing Museum Mile first-hand, the Lemming assumed that folks hung out on or near the steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art because they liked it there. Even if the place wasn't in like-new condition.

From what Thomas P. Campbell says, it looks like the hoipolloi have picked a remarkably uncomfortable spot to spend time in. Which makes the Lemming wonder why so many folks enjoy spending time there.

Let's hope that the 'new and improved' Met entrance leaves some room for the lower 90 percent. Or that there's a viable alternative to the steps of the Met.

Paris, New York City, and Victorian Niceties

"Niceties?!" No, that doesn't mean 'modest flannel nighties." Niceties are "conformity with some esthetic standard of correctness or propriety," or "a subtle difference in meaning or opinion or attitude." (Princeton's ) The second definition is sort of like "nuances," but with one more letter.

If the Lemming's memory serves, socially ambitious Americans used to make sure that folks heard them using French words. That was the 19th century, when America was still dealing with unfinished business from the colonial days. It took a major war to sort that out, and that's another topic.

Back then, France was sort of like today's New York City: a big, important place. And Paris - well, it was PARIS.

That was then, this is now.

By the last half of the 20th century, gratuitously shoving French into a sentence had gotten to be a joke. Think Miss Piggy, of the "Muppet Show."

More than a decade into the 21st century, either "allées" is what just simply everybody says when they mean "walkways:" Or someone didn't get the memo about changing their calendar. Or maybe there's something else going on.

Anyway, if the Metropolitan Museum of Art let groundskeeping and maintenance slide, and the place is as hideously uncomfortable as Mr. Campbell says it is: maybe tearing out what they've got and starting over makes sense.

Not-entirely-unrelated posts:

Monday, February 6, 2012

Lemming Tracks: States Provide Voter Information (and email addresses - EEEEK!)

If you registered to vote in one of these states, and put your email address on the voter registration form, you'll probably be spammed:
  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Missouri
  • Oregon
  • New Jersey
  • Rhode Island
  • Wisconsin
The government in these states decided to sell email addresses they'd collected during voter registration. Don't worry, though: they didn't sell to just anybody. Only the 'better' sort could buy your address.

States Sell Contact Lists: Legal, Yes; Smart, Dubious

"Move over robo-calls, states sell email addresses for campaigns to reach voters"
Kathleen Foster, (February 6, 2011)

"If your email inbox starts overflowing with messages from political campaigns this election season, it could be because your state sold you out.

"A Fox News study has found 19 states plus the District of Columbia, now ask for an email address on voter registration cards. In nine of those states, email addresses from the cards are then sold to political parties, organizing groups, lawmakers and campaigns who can use them to send unsolicited emails.

"If it were a Viagra ad, it be considered a crime in some states. But a political message, that's all perfectly legal.

"The CAN-SPAM (Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing) law enacted in 2003 puts restrictions on commercial mass emailing, but not on political mass emailing. Politicians can 'spam' and do. Political messages of any kind, including electronic, are protected free speech under the First Amendment...."

Here's where it gets interesting.

On the one hand, folks who cooperatively gave their email addresses to (some) state governments will be getting a whole lot of more-or-less coherent campaign stuff in their inbox. Assuming that their spam filters don't deal with it first. That could be annoying.

On the other hand, these spam lists are fairly well-focused. The only folks affected are those who:
  • State residents
    • Who registered to vote
      • Presumably have some interest in who
        • Runs
        • Wins
    • Wanted to give their email address
  • Politicos and their ilk
    • Political
      • Parties
      • Organizing groups
      • Lawmakers
      • Campaigns
People who vote presumably want to know something about the candidates they'll support, and the issues they'll support or condemn. That's the idea, anyway: and that's another topic.

Voters could reasonably be expected to be interested in what politicos and their marketing people have to say. Int a way, selling email lists is no more an 'invasion of privacy' than providing a list of names and addresses.

The difference is that it's a whole lot easier, faster, and cheaper, to email than to call or drop envelopes into the United States postal system. That can mean more efficient communication: or massive accumulations of drivel. So much depends on whether the folks sending emails have common sense.

What If the Government Wouldn't Share?

"...'Political communications are not spam. Political communications are a demonstration of free speech in America,' said Stuart Shapiro, president of iConstituent, a Washington, D.C.-based firm which uses state-generated email lists to send messages on behalf of clients on all sides of the political spectrum.

" 'There is a tenet in government that is based on communicating with our constituents, and email is one of the most effective ways to do it,' Shapiro said. 'People look forward to it and want it.'

" 'Politicians love the fact that their perceived freedom of speech is more important than voters' privacy,' said Shaun Dakin, president and CEO of The National Political Do Not Contact Registry, a non-profit voters' rights advocacy group based in Falls Church, Va...."

"Political communications are not spam" is true, to a point. Provided that the states sell lists to all political parties, and keep the cost low enough so that all but the best-funded are excluded. Then there's the potential for excluding parties and candidates who aren't sufficiently green, patriotic, or diverse.

"Privacy," and Getting a Grip

"...Like phone numbers, email addresses are not required to register to vote anywhere in the United States. Giving the information is optional, but that may not be clear to the average voter.

" 'I think this is really one of those untold stories. It's all going on behind the scenes,' said Kim Alexander, president of The California Voter Foundation, a nonprofit organization which produced the study "Voter Privacy in the Digital Age.'..."

Since the Lemming lives in a small town, "privacy" in the sense of anonymity isn't a factor. Like the old gag says, 'if you can't remember where you were today, ask someone: they'll know.' The Lemming loves it here: but folks who want to be part of a faceless crowd probably wouldn't like it. And that's yet another topic.

A key point here is that states aren't demanding email addresses as a voting requirement. That, in the Lemming's opinion, would be as bad an idea as the old pre-civil-rights voter registration requirements that kept the 'wrong sort' away from elections.

And 'not clear to the average voter?' The Lemming suspects that The Masses are nowhere near as stupid, ignorant, or irresponsible, as the establishment believes we are. Yet more topics.

These states ask for email addresses on voter registration forms:
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Colorado
  • District of Columbia
  • Delaware
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Maryland
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • Nebraska
  • New Jersey
  • Oregon
  • Rhode Island
  • Tennessee
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

Opting Out/Confirming and Common Sense

"...Receivers of political emails do have the right to opt-out from lists -- they just can't do it in one click. Instead, they must do it with every email they receive, clicking on an "unsubscribe" link, if the email has one or by replying to the sender with 'Remove Me' request.

"Shapiro says few people actually do this.

" 'iConstituent, last year, probably mailed more than a billion email records out throughout all of America for Congress for various other legislators and we have a very, very low unsubscribe rate. It is well under one-tenth of 1 percent.'..."

It's interesting that under 0.1% of folks respond to those "unsubscribe" notices. It may mean that folks on the voter email lists like getting the messages. Or it may mean that they've learned not to respond to such things.

It wasn't all that long ago that the Lemming learned by experience to ignore and delete unwanted email. That was when some outfits were collecting lists of working email addresses by sending to all more-or-less likely possible combinations of name ("local") and domain. Folks who clicked on the 'unsubscribe' link, or sent a 'don't bother me' email back, had confirmed that the email address was in use. And that whoever used it read their email. Spam by the bucket would follow.

Ah, the 'good old days.' Yet again more topics.

Related posts:

GJ 667Cc: Heavier than Earth, Maybe About as Warm

"Newfound Alien Planet is Best Candidate Yet to Support Life, Scientists Say"
Denise Chow, (February 2, 2012)

"A potentially habitable alien planet - one that scientists say is the best candidate yet to harbor water, and possibly even life, on its surface - has been found around a nearby star.

"The planet is located in the habitable zone of its host star, which is a narrow circumstellar region where temperatures are neither too hot nor too cold for liquid water to exist on the planet's surface.

" 'It's the Holy Grail of exoplanet research to find a planet around a star orbiting at the right distance so it's not too close where it would lose all its water and boil away, and not too far where it would all freeze,' Steven Vogt, an astronomer at the University of California, Santa Cruz, told 'It's right smack in the habitable zone - there's no question or discussion about it. It's not on the edge, it's right in there.'..."

(Carnegie Institution for Science, via, used w/o permission)

The planet's sun, GJ 667C, is so close that light only takes 22 years to make the trip to Earth's neighborhood. By galactic standards, GJ 667C is about as close as it gets. By comparison, the closest star, Proxima Centauri, is a little over four years away as the light beam travels.

Using technology we've got, or are developing, we could send a probe to GJ 667C that wouldn't take more than several centuries to get there. Getting funding for that sort of a project is another matter. Humanity doesn't often make plans that span centuries, and that's another topic.

Vogt? the Name Sounds Familiar

"...Vogt is one of the authors of the new study, which was led by Guillem Anglada-Escudé and Paul Butler of the Carnegie Institution for Science, a private, nonprofit research organization based in Washington, D.C...."

Steven Vogt's been in the news before, and the Lemming will get back to that.

Warm Enough, But - - -

"...'This planet is the new best candidate to support liquid water and, perhaps, life as we know it,' Anglada-Escudé said in a statement.
An alien super-Earth

"The researchers estimate that the planet, called GJ 667Cc, is at least 4.5 times as massive as Earth, which makes it a so-called super-Earth. It takes roughly 28 days to make one orbital lap around its parent star, which is located a mere 22 light-years away from Earth, in the constellation Scorpius (the Scorpion).

" 'This is basically our next-door neighbor,' Vogt said. 'It's very nearby. There are only about 100 stars closer to us than this one.'

"Interestingly enough, the host star, GJ 667C, is a member of a triple-star system. GJ 667C is an M-class dwarf star that is about a third of the mass of the sun, and while it is faint, it can be seen by ground-based telescopes, Vogt said. [Gallery: The Strangest Alien Planets]...

"...The discovery of a planet around GJ 667C came as a surprise to the astronomers, because the entire star system has a different chemical makeup than our sun. The system has much lower abundances of heavy elements (elements heavier than hydrogen and helium), such as iron, carbon and silicon.

" 'It's pretty deficient in metals,' Vogt said. 'These are the materials out of which planets form - the grains of stuff that coalesce to eventually make up planets - so we shouldn't have really expected this star to be a likely case for harboring planets.'

"The fortuitous discovery could mean that potentially habitable alien worlds could exist in a greater variety of environments than was previously thought possible, the researchers said...."

The GJ 667 star system being metal-deficient probably means that planets around GJ 667C will be, too: assuming that current ideas about how planets form are anywhere near accurate. What Vogt said about planets is a bit intriguing, because Jupiter is mostly hydrogen: gaseous, liquid, and metallic. There's helium, too, and almost certainly a rocky core. ("The Outer Planets: What Are They, and Where Are They?," Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, University of Colorado)

If GJ 677Cc is mostly hydrogen and helium, it could be a very interesting place. But as a place to live? Maybe not so much. Life, the sort we know about, needs hydrogen. But it also needs lots of other elements, too: and in fairly high concentrations. Which is why we're not looking for life on, or in, Jupiter. ("The Habitability of Jupiter," NASA Astrobiology Institute)

If GJ 677Cc has liquid water in large amounts, one of the big questions will be "how?" There's hydrogen in water, of which the GJ 677 system has copious supplies. Water also contains oxygen, an element that's a "metal" in this context: heavier than hydrogen or helium.

Still: an Earth-size (almost) planet; nearby (sort of); at just the right distance from its star? That's big news.

Steven Vogt: Planet Hunter

If the name Steve Vogt sounds familiar, you may have been following astronomy news. His name came up in 2010:That time, the subject was planets circling Gliese 581. Steve Vogt was excited about the data he'd collected. He'd also been, quite sensibly, sharing what he'd found with other scientists.

Then there was the fellow who said that he'd intercepted a signal from near Gliese 581: and that's another topic.
Related posts, at

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Friday, February 3, 2012

Mayan Apocalypse Transition: Book a Galactic Cruise; or Take the Cosmic Bike Tour

"Cashing in on the 'end of the world' tourism"
Blane Bachelor, (January 30, 2012)

"For doomsday theorists, Dec. 21, 2012 could mean the end of civilization, according to some interpretations of the Mayan calendar. But for some tour operators and property owners, the end of the world also means a chance to cash in on the apocalypse hype.

"In the most prominent countries of the Mundo Maya - Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, and parts of Honduras and El Salvador - the tourism industry is gearing up for a record year, with dozens of Maya-themed offerings designed to lure visitors.

"The Guatemalan city of Tapachula will feature an 8-foot digital count-down clock in its main park, Mexico's Riviera Maya are planning reenactments of a popular Mayan ball game and the Sacred Mayan Journey, in which hundreds of paddlers travel in canoes to the island of Cozumel to pay homage to the goddess Ixchel. In all countries, there will be special solstice and equinox ceremonies, Mayan-themed workshops and music festivals...."

Let's look at some of the ways folks can spend money this year:
  • Get married
    • "Mayan Marriage of Many"
      • Join 35 other couples on an "actual Mayan ruin in Belize"
      • Ceremony held December 12, 2012
        • Plenty of time to spend more money
    • All this for only $14,030 to $24,030
  • Bike tour
    • Ancient Mayan villages in Guatemala's Lake Atitlan
    • Experience climbs of up to 1,200 vertical feet
    • Single-track, rocky, narrow trails transport you "to your own cosmic realm"
    • Starts December 17, 2012
    • Only $1,790
  • Get groovy
    • "Mayan Galactic Alignment" cruise
      • "Celebrate the ascension of humanity into a higher vibration"
      • Spend five days aboard the Carnival Triumph
      • Visit sacred sites along the Yucatan Peninsula
      • Witness the end of the Mayan calendar
        • "The epic metaphysical event of our lifetime"
      • Enter "the 'World of the Fifth Sun' together"
    • Spend $999
      • Or more
  • Visit Belize
    • See each of the country's main archaeological sites, including
      • Altun Ha
      • Barton Creek Cave and Caracol
      • Spend $25 for a Maya 2012 Passport
        • Available through Dec. 21, 2012
      • Plus expenses
    • Camp overnight at the Maya site of Caracol
      • Never before available
      • Witness sunrise at
        • Solstices
        • Equinoxes
      • Limit 100 guests per event
      • Cost?
        • Good question
        • 'How much do you have?'

Honestly, Now

"...(Of honorable note: one hotel operator in the U.S. we talked to is also hoping to cash in on the Mayan events. The 'Live While You're Alive' package at the swanky Hotel Teatro, in downtown Denver, Colo. includes a night in a luxe suite stocked with Dom Perignon and caviar, private butler, a six-course tasting menu with wine for two, limousine service, a helicopter ride, and a $25,000 shopping spree - all for a whopping $35,000. The price also includes an 'if you make it' extra for 2013: a one-night stay in a deluxe room, along with a bottle of Dom.)"

The folks at Hotel Teatro aren't the only ones who are keeping one foot planted in reality. Maybe it's basic honesty, maybe it's sensible caution - and a desire for repeat business from folks who survive 2012. Or maybe it's something else. Whatever the reason, the Lemming's glad to hear about folks who aren't being entirely wacky.

Can't Make it in 2012? Try Again in Just 5109 Years!

"...Dec. 21, 2012 is significant for the Maya because it coincides with the end of a 5,125-year period in the Long Count calendar. The date marks the end of 13 b'aktun cycles of 393 years each - not the end of the world, many Maya scholars say...."

One reason that so many folks get excited about the end of the Mayan calendar getting to the end of a cycle, or lizard men controlling the world, or End Times prophecies, may be that such things are exciting. Or maybe the lizard men put something in the water that makes humans suggestible.

The Mayan calendar getting to the end of a 13th b'aktun cycle is particularly nifty, the Lemming suspects, because 13 x 393 is a really big number: 5,174. That's a whole lot of years. Particularly for Americans, whose culture seems to encourage thinking of 'long ago' as anything more than a few years back.

The last time that the Mayan calendar passed this particular point, give or take a century:
This time:
Five millennia from now - no, that hasn't happened yet. Never mind.

Looking further in the other direction, folks have been using kitchens for hundreds of thousands of years. At least.

Humanity has gone through lots of b'aktun cycles: and sets of 13 b'aktun cycles. Odds are pretty good that humanity will go through quite a few more. Some folks may get excited each time the calendar clicks over. And if they do, others will be ready to help the first set spend money.

"Apocalypse?" Let's Say "Transition" Instead

"...In order to avoid perpetuating misconceptions about impending destruction, some tour operators have been careful to avoid references to 'end of the world' or 'apocalypse' in their marketing.

"In fact, in Belize, the message has been repackaged as an event celebrating a 'transition' in the Maya Calendar and the Tourism Board has recently come out with its latest brand: 'Where Will You Be When The World Begins Anew Belize? Maya 2012.'

" 'Without being archeologists or historians, from what we see and what we know there's a pretty big misinterpretation of what this calendar [ending] means,' says Jonathan Brunger, operations manager for Adventure Life, which is offering a 12-day 'Celebrate the Maya' tour that includes visits to Maya sites in Honduras and Guatemala. 'That's not going to be a theme of our trip, but I'm sure it's going to be a conversation piece.'..."

From the Lemming's point of view, the end of this particular Mayan cycle is about as momentous an event as taking down the 2011 calendar and putting up the one for 2012. Except that the Maya thing doesn't happen quite so often.

Then there was the Y2K thing, which actually did have something to do with legacy software and early programming strategies. And that is - what else? - another topic.

Somewhat-related posts:

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Houston, Texas; Civic Pride; Futuristic Architecture; and Admiral Horatio Nelson

"Houston's Trafalgar Square? Big name architects vie to design futuristic METRO Central Station"
Tyler Rudick, Rate Them Yourself, CultureMap Houston (January 27, 2012)

"Houston METRO and the Downtown District revealed the finalists in a design competition for Central Station — a new light rail transfer hub that will be built on Main between Capitol and Rusk at the intersection of the upcoming East End and Southeast lines.

"Two stops originally planned for the 600 and 800 blocks of Main were consolidated to create Central Station, which will sit at the center of a busy new transfer area at the heart of METRO's light rail system. For such a prominent location, architects plan to give the new station a landmark treatment.

"A panel of Houston leaders including deans Patricia Oliver and Sarah Whiting of the University of Houston and Rice University architecture schools, respectively, pared down a list of nearly 70 internationally-recognized firms to five high-profile candidates...."

There's a slide show with the article that shows the five proposals. One of them, Denari Architects', is a fairly bright shade of red. That one would definitely stand out. The others aren't quite so colorful: either the finished product is intended to be a sort of pale gray/white, or that's the way architects' renderings are done these days.

(SHoP Architects, via CultureMap Houston, used w/o permission)
This, in the Lemming's opinion, is the most emphatically "futuristic" of the lot. Looks pretty cool, and might be practical.

A list of the five entrants:

What's With "Trafalgar Square?"

That reference to Trafalgar Square gets explained about two thirds of the way through the article:

"...'Central Station will be the centerpiece of an area where people in the city collect,' he said, referencing London's Trafalgar Square and New York's Washington Square Park. 'Areas like this are often marked with an architectural element, something that celebrates the space.'..."

They could just as well have used Union Station (Washington D.C.), Union Station (Kansas City), or Union Station (Chicago), as a comparison. "Trafalgar Square" is a tad more distinctive, though, and doesn't take any more syllables to say: although it's three letters longer.

"Trafalgar Square" in the headline had the Lemming wondering if Houston planned to put a whacking great column with the statue of some admiral on top, and that's almost another topic.

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