Friday, December 26, 2014

A Light Look at Crimson Dark

(From David S. Simon, used w/o permission.)

An online comic by David C. Simon: a definite 'Star Wars' style to the technology and setting, except that it seems to be set somewhat after the 21st century. Pretty good characters and pacing, as far as the Lemming got: which was about 20 pages. The plot was going somewhere when the Lemming's attention — hey look at that, it's after 4:00 — and looks like something worth looking at, or reading, or whatever it is one does with an online comic.

A tip of the hat to Brandon Bailey, on Google Plus, for the heads-up on this.

Now, the Lemming has some serious goofing off to do.

Sort-of-related posts:

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas with the Lemming

Perry Como did a Christmas album, Dean Martin did his "Christmas at Sea World," and everybody's done their version of Dickens' "A Christmas Carol."

Then there's what the Lemming's been doing this year.

Allegedly-related posts:

Friday, December 19, 2014

From the Mind of the Lemming: Holiday Travel Plans

The Lemming's got his old — walking stick — out, and seems to be making holiday travel plans.

Related posts, in the Lemming's opinion:

Friday, December 12, 2014

Flashback: Baking-Foil Fashion and Taco Couture

The Lemming has been trying to forget what a fashion designer did to Hulga Fekrat for four years. But, somewhat in the manner of something that drowned in a swamp: Mr. Basler's worst fashions of the year, women's division, resurfaced.

"Yeah, it makes your butt look big; worst women's fashions of the year…"
Robert Basler, Oddly Enough blog, Reuters (December 9, 2010)

"It was a year when models hit the international fashion runways looking like kitchen utensils, nutcrackers, forest creatures and, well, the recently deceased.

"You know it was a bad year in fashion when my blog item that was headlined 'The worst dress in the history of Earth?' barely makes it onto my Top 10 Worst Fashions list.

"And yes, you know it was a very, very bad year in women's fashion when the hottest new model featured in this blog was Hulga Fekrat...."

That's Hugla, next to the headline, presumably The photo's file name is "worst-womens-hulga-200.jpg," and the one next to this paragraph is "fekrat-240-vertical1.jpg."

The hour is late, and the Lemming is reminded of Spike Jone's rendition of "Laura." Ah, memories.

Why, by all that is sane, would someone a model look like an extra in Star War's Mos Eisley Cantina - and let the result be photographed. Perhaps the answer is connected to another perplexing question: Why do fashion shows exist?

Mr. Basler's 2010 Oddly Enough post employs the familiar 'countdown' format for its list of "10 worst fashion creations" list: from "The worst dress in the history of Earth?" in tenth place, to number one: "All of you girls are named Bambi?"

The Lemming micro-reviewed the tenth-place post, movable wings and all: "Flying Cucumber? Psychedelic Skyrocket? Dress?!" (July 26, 2010)

left, a creation by designer Dimitris Dassios during fashion week in Athens March 27, 2010-REUTERS/Yiorgos Karahalis; right, a creation by Spanish designer Agatha Ruiz De La Prada during Georgian Fashion Week in Tbilisi March 28, 2010-REUTERS/David MdzinarishviliThe third-from-the-bottom entry in Mr. Basler's list — perhaps its designer suffered a traumatic childhood experience involving an umbrella and a taco.

Which reminds the Lemming of this excerpt from David S. Zondy's Tales of Future Past website:

"When evolution went 'huh?' I have no idea what is going on here. Our heroes seem to be confronted with a pair of men from a planet where calamari and pancakes developed intelligence and then committed crimes against nature...."
("Tales of the Stars," Tales of Future Past)

The Lemming's bridge from baking-foil fashion and taco couture is probably the food angle. Being ADD-inattentive helps. ("Brilliant, Talented, and On Medication," A Catholic Citizen in America (November 30, 2010))

Back, aesthetic sense anesthetized, to the depths of high fashion. Maybe that pink-and-purple-and-blue-and-white-and-black — thing — is foil gift wrap, not colored baking foil.

Anyway, here's number one on Mr. Basler's list. Among the fashions of 2010, this may indeed be the bottom of the heap:

Unique 2010 Autumn/Winter collection during London Fashion Week, February 20, 2010. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett
(from Oddly Enough, Reuters, used w/o permission)

To their credit, fashion designers create separate but equally grotesque wardrobes for men, as Mr. Basler demonstrated in another 2010 'worst' list.

creations by fashion designer Shunnoz-Tekasala, in his men's Autumn/Winter 2010/11 fashion collection during Lisbon Fashion Week March 14, 2010 - REUTERS/Jose Manuel Ribeiro

"My name is Cecil, I play the ukulele…"
Oddly Enough, Reuters blog (April 5, 2010)

"Hey there, Gorgeous! You come to this bar often?

"I myself make this scene a couple times a week. Gotta spread myself around where the hot chicks are, am I right?

"Yo Joey! My usual! Double Crème de Menthe on the rocks!

"Anyhoo, my name's Cecil. I'm a Leo, I play the ukulele, and I've been to ALL five of the Great Lakes.

"I sell homemade lunch meat door-to-door. It's a good living, Cutie-Pie.

"Oh, this outfit? It's IMPORTED. From China...."

The Lemming doesn't know who dreamed that up. Or why. Perhaps the designer had been forced to make one too many accordion pleat skirts.

Mr. Basler dubbed that orange thing a "rube tube:" speculating that the orange see-through cummerbund is intended for overweight middle aged guys — who want something to hold in their bellies on the beach.

And, of course, are color blind and devoid of aesthetic judgment.

British Colony’s 2010/2011 summer collection, Fashion Rio Show, Rio de Janeiro, May 31, 2010 - REUTERS/Bruno DomingosSorry, the Lemming can't take much more of this: but feels compelled to share one last designer — thing.

"Once upon a time, in a blog like this…"
Oddly Enough, Reuters blog (January 28, 2010)

"Blog Guy, it's me. Goldilocks. All grown up. Out here on the slag pile where fairytale characters go when they've outlived their usefulness. Wrung out, discarded like old porridge…

"Yeah, I get it. What are you doing in this sleazy dive? What happened to the three bears?

"You can't tell? They're still with me. They'll never leave. Baby Bear is now a grown-up chain-smoker with a gambling problem. All of us, wrung out, discarded, like…

"Right. Like old porridge. Take a load off and look at some fashion designs for you and your three friends...."

Looking at that first photo, the Lemming's immediate thought was that this could be a case of gene therapy gone horribly wrong.

Then, the Lemming took a look at the model's face.

One can't tell for sure, since photography hadn't been invented at the time, but the Lemming suspects it's the sort of look long-suffering ladies of Europe's colorful past may have had, before they stuck something long and sharp into an offensive person.

Manuel Bolano, creator of that — thing — she's wearing should be glad he's living in the 21st century, where skewering people for personal reasons is often frowned upon.

Barely-related posts:

Friday, December 5, 2014

Pip: Not Your Usual Fluffy Christmas Rhyme

'Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the shop
Nothing was stirring, you could hear a pin drop.
The sleigh was not ready, the toys were not packed,
Santa was fuming and quite lacking in tact.

"Pip!" he called out to the foreman on duty,
Where is your crew? And don't act so snooty!
Pip's feelings were hurt, but he wondered the same
Were they lost? Had they left? Were they playing a game?

"Never mind!" thundered Santa, while grabbing his sack,
"We'll do it ourselves: There are toys in the back."
So into the warehouse like madmen they flew.
Santa and Pip had much packing to do.

And then, down a corridor seldom in use,
They heard something like an hysterical goose.
But no, there were words in that hideous shriek,
It was music: now Santa was prone to critique.

Santa strode to the source of that hideous din,
Closely followed by Pip, who beheld with chagrin:
Three elves and four bottles and, there on a chair,
A boom box whose music was filling the air.

Santa stood for a moment, transfixed by the sight
Then he bellowed so loudly that Pip shook with fright.
"You! Chuckles! And Bubbles! And you, mister Suds!"
Why are you carousing while in your work duds?"

The fate of that threesome Pip would not relate,
Except to recall that the hour was late:
And Santa was anxious to fly in his sleigh,
And dealt with loose ends on the following day.

(This poem appeared originally in the Loonfoot Falls Chronicle-Gazette: December 25, 2009.)

Welcome to the Lemming's world:

Friday, November 28, 2014

Double Planets Possible

Earlier this month, some humans announced that they'd done the math: and collisions like the one involving Earth a few billion years back can end with two Earth-size planets, orbiting each other.

The Lemming found a pretty good writeup about their research, complete with an "artist's concept" that probably isn't all that inaccurate. It's certainly a cool picture:
Not just any old collision will do: but they got double planets in a third of their simulations.

How many double planets there are, what fraction are roughly Earth-size, and how many of those have the qualities that makes Earth comfortable for humans — that's something that the Lemming is confident humans will figure out. Given time.

About this post's picture? It's strictly fictional. Not a photo. Definitely not: and the Lemming's sticking with that story.

More from the Lemming:

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Two Turkeys: the Gift Store Gambit

(Desperation in a gift shop.)

Have these turkeys tasted freedom at last, or is their goose cooked?

Is the gift store gambit a recipe for disaster, or will it pan out?

Will the shopkeeper make mincemeat of their plans and squash their hopes?

And will the Lemming ever tire of holiday puns?

Tracking two turkeys:

Friday, November 21, 2014

"Metropolis," Plus 120 Years

(From King Camp Gillette, via Cornell University Library, used w/o permission.)
(Plates V and I, "Metropolis," King Champ Gillette)

"The Human Drift"
King Camp Gillette (1894)

"Under a perfect economical system of production and distribution, and a system combining the greatest elements of progress, there can be only one city on a continent, and possibly only one in the world. There would be outlying groups of buildings in different sections of the country for the accommodation of those who were, for limited periods, in the field of labor, and also others that would be occupied as resorts of pleasure in season; but the great and only 'Metropolis' would be the home of the people...."

A major problem with this proposal is in the third word of the first paragraph. It's been the Lemming's experience that humans don't do "perfect." "Not bad," "it'll do," "it could be worse," yes: "perfect," no.

To Mr. Gillette's credit, he realized that a city needs power: which is why his Metropolis was set east of Niagara Falls. Humans still draw energy from water flowing downhill, which helps explain Las Vegas. As usual, where humans are involved, it's more complicated than that.

"...The Whole World Would Contribute...."

"...Here should be located the great central city, which would be the home of all; and to the artistic beauty, grandeur, and magnificence of this wonderful production of the combined intelligence of a united people, the whole world would contribute its wealth and treasures...."

King C. Gillette was a smart man. He invented a very practical safety razor — he's that Gillette — and put quite a bit of thought into the physical design of his Metropolis.

He was also a utopian socialist, and thought all industry in the United States should be owned by one company, with everyone living in one city.

Bear in mind that this was back in the 19th century: long before anyone tried putting his nifty ideas into practice.

It's possible to build a city in some arbitrary spot, and make it work. Brasília, for example, is east of the Tocantins River headwaters, more or less, because Brazil's national government said that's where the country's capital should be.

Most cities, though, grow where humans are getting something done. Some of Earth's largest cities are break-in-bulk points, where humans haul stuff from one form of transportation to another.

That's why humans have been building at Londinium for some 10,000 years now. The locals are calling it "London" now, and it'll probably be a population center 10,000 years from now.

Crossroads are another favorite, and some cities grow because there's a valuable natural resource nearby that's needed for some industry.

But enough about real cities. Let's look at Gillette's Metropolis again.

"Sitting Rooms" and a Zigzag Outer Wall

(From King Champ Gillette, via Cornell University Library, used w/o permission.)
(Plates VI and IV, "Metropolis," King Champ Gillette)

Most American houses and apartments don't have "sitting rooms" these days, but Gillette's floor plan has features that could be used today.

That zigzag outer wall, for example, gives each apartment a dozen windows on the side walls: without having tenants staring into the neighbor's home.

Gillette's paper showed how these huge apartment blocks could be built, one tower at a time: presumably with the central dome added after the ring was complete.

Social and economic aspects aside, Gillette's residential blocks strike the Lemming as having workable features. That hundred-yard-tall domed atrium could be a really nice feature this time of year: where the Lemming lives, in Minnesota.

On the other hand, one of those 25-story apartment buildings would have 450 units. At six people per unit, that's 2,700 folks living in one building. Two of them would have room for everyone living in the Lemming's town, with room left over.

It's a little hard to imagine a good reason for going to the trouble of building something that size here, though.

More posts that aren't completely unrelated:
More about cities and hexagons:

Friday, November 14, 2014

Philae on 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko: Kudos!

(From European Space Agency, used w/o permission.)
(ESA's European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) in Darmstadt, as Philae lander touched down on 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. (November 12, 2014))

Those humans had good reason for being cheerful. They were at the European Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt, Germany — and were getting 'I'm here' signals from their Philea lander.

Kudos, humanity: one of your robots landed on a comet. Granted — Philae bounced a few times, fetched up, maybe on its on its side, and definitely not where it should be — but it's working, sending back data, and may have enough power in its battery to last until tomorrow afternoon. Maybe longer.

It could have been a lot worse: and is pretty good for a first try.

"...The Key Issue Vexing Controllers..."

(From European Space Agency, via BBC News, used w/o permission.)
("Some radio data suggests the probe may be about 1km from the intended landing site"
(BBC News))
"Rosetta: Battery will limit life of Philae comet lander"
Jonathan Amos, BBC News (November 13, 2014)

"After a historic but awkward comet landing, the robot probe Philae is now stable and sending pictures - but there are concerns about its battery life.

"The lander bounced twice, initially about 1km back out into space, before settling in the shadow of a cliff, 1km from its intended target site.

"It may now be problematic to get enough sunlight to charge its battery systems....

"...Telemetry indicates it is on a slope or perhaps even on its side.

"Certainly, one of its three feet is not in contact with the surface.

"The key issue vexing controllers right now is the lighting conditions.

"Philae is receiving about 1.5 hours of illumination during every 12-hour rotation of the comet.

"This will be insufficient to top up its battery system once the primary charge it had on leaving Rosetta runs out. That was some 60-plus hours...."
The Lemming appreciates that phrase: "...the key issue vexing controllers...."

To "vex" is "to annoy, as with petty importunities."

Sure, Philae may not last as long as mission planners hoped: but it landed, is in one piece, and still on speaking terms with its orbiter. This is pretty much good news.

From what the Lemming's read, nine of 10 experiment packages Philae carries are in good shape: and scientists may even get a chance to use the lander's drill.

Besides, what is it you humans say? "Any landing you walk away from is a good one." Philae has "legs," but couldn't walk anyway: the point is that this robot landed.

Philae didn't crash. It's still got power, and mission planners have most of a day before the batteries run out. Maybe engineers will get the robot right-side-up and in full sunlight before then. Even if they don't, right now it looks like the Rosetta lander will get some serious science done before it's done.

Optimists, Pessimists, and the Lemming

Someone said that an optimist sees a glass that's half-full, a pessimist sees one that's half-empty, and an engineer sees one that's twice as big as it needs to be.

From the Lemming's viewpoint, some news about Philae's landing was written by pessimists who see the glass as half-empty and leaking. Not that BBC piece. Jonathan Amos did okay.

And of course there's the usual kvetching about how many resources were 'wasted' on the Rosetta mission, instead of being spent on the reporter's — or, more likely, editor's — pet peeve.

The Lemming thinks you humans deserve a Lemming's 'thumbs up' for a job well-done, on the Rosetta mission so far. There's more to life than landing on comets, of course: but you've got brains, and in this case you used them.

Slightly-related posts:

Friday, November 7, 2014

From the Mind of the Lemming: Mr. Chuckles

Pictures in the Lemming's album are labeled: cryptically. The note for this one says "Mr. Chuckles."

Not-entirely-unrelated posts:

Friday, October 31, 2014

Flood, Fortune, and Fillet of a Fenny Snake

There comes a time in the affairs of the Lemming when, taken at the flood, leads on to slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.

One the other hand, fortune cookies seldom mention furniture polish, although both begin with the letter "f."

No, wait, that's not it. Let's try this again.

Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.

Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the cauldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt and toe of frog,
Wool of bat and tongue of dog,
Adder's fork and blind-worm's sting,
Lizard's leg and owlet's wing,
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.

And Macbeth didn't think their advice might not be entirely reliable?!

That's all the Lemming has time for this week. People from Porlock are at the door.

More, from places where the mome raths outgrabe:

Friday, October 24, 2014

3D Sensor: Counting Doughnuts, Reading Tires, and a Rambling Lemming

"DS1000 3D Sensor for the Food and Beverage Industries"

CognexTV, YouTube (June 7, 2013) video, 1:45

"DS1000 3D Sensor for the Food and Beverage Industries"

"3D laser profiling food and beverage manufacturing applications include: identifying improperly filled packages by verifying object heights, detecting defects like skewed caps, and measuring volume and dimensions to verify portion size, to name a few."

The Lemming spent most of yesterday listening to folks talk about assorted gizmos, gadgets, and thingamajigs: and industrial robots. Rethink Robotic's Baxter was there, too, but that's not what's on the Lemming's mind today. Not so much, anyway.

For the Lemming, spending a day looking at actuators, valves, and industrial control components; and listening to folks talking about ROI, HMI, and OCR, is a nice break in routine. Your experience might vary.

Cognex has two more videos, showing why that yellow and black box is a good thing to have in the automotive and electronics industry, too. One of its not-so-obvious tricks is reading embossed lettering or numbers: like DOT codes on car tires, using Optical Character Recognition (OCR).

That 'food and beverage industry' video gives a quick run-through of how the DS1000 3D Sensor can 'see' if there's the right number of doughnuts in a try, and measure the volume of portions. There's more, but the Lemming figures you've probably got time to look at a one-and-three-quarters-minute video: no voice, but they've got some pretty good music.

The Lemming likes it, anyway.

Remembering the Will-be that Was

HAL "Look Dave, I can see you're really upset about this...."
("2001: A Space Odyssey," via

Back in the Lemming's 'good old days,' computers and robots were common: in science fiction stories. Somehow the evil scientists never learned that robot minions generally turned on their masters, and that's another topic.

Now that the Lemming is living in 'the future,' flying cars have been invented several times, and still haven't caught on.

Robots are showing up in more places every year, but so far they've shown a remarkable lack of ambition: compared to their fictional counterparts, that is. Which, in the Lemming's opinion, is just as well.

Vaguely-related posts:

Friday, October 17, 2014

Fusion Power, Mirrors, and a Rambling Lemming

(From Eric Schulzinger, Lockheed Martin; via Aviation Week & Space Technology; used w/o permission.)
("The CFR test team, led by Thomas McGuire (left), is focusing on plasma containment following successful magnetized ion confinement experiments."
(Aviation Week & Space Technology))

"Skunk Works Reveals Compact Fusion Reactor Details"
Guy Norris, Aviation Week & Space Technology (October 15, 2014)

"Lockheed Martin aims to develop compact reactor prototype in five years, production unit in 10

"Hidden away in the secret depths of the Skunk Works, a Lockheed Martin research team has been working quietly on a nuclear energy concept they believe has the potential to meet, if not eventually decrease, the world’s insatiable demand for power.

"Dubbed the compact fusion reactor (CFR), the device is conceptually safer, cleaner and more powerful than much larger, current nuclear systems that rely on fission, the process of splitting atoms to release energy. Crucially, by being 'compact,' Lockheed believes its scalable concept will also be small and practical enough for applications ranging from interplanetary spacecraft and commercial ships to city power stations. It may even revive the concept of large, nuclear-powered aircraft that virtually never require refueling—ideas of which were largely abandoned more than 50 years ago because of the dangers and complexities involved with nuclear fission reactors.

"Yet the idea of nuclear fusion, in which atoms combine into more stable forms and release excess energy in the process, is not new. Ever since the 1920s, when it was postulated that fusion powers the stars, scientists have struggled to develop a truly practical means of harnessing this form of energy. Other research institutions, laboratories and companies around the world are also pursuing ideas for fusion power, but none have gone beyond the experimental stage. With just such a 'Holy Grail' breakthrough seemingly within its grasp, and to help achieve a potentially paradigm-shifting development in global energy, Lockheed has made public its project with the aim of attracting partners, resources and additional researchers...."

The Lemming started reading about fusion reactors about fifty years ago. At the time, humans said they'd have working fusion power stations in about fifty years. Looks like they'll be about ten years late: not bad, under the circumstances.

Warning! Rambling Lemming Reminiscing

About 94 years back, humans started working out what makes stars like their sun so hot: hydrogen nuclei fusing into helium, releasing energy.

A little later, they discovered that atoms release energy when their nuclei break apart, too: only not as much energy, and it generally won't happen unless you've got a very big nucleus.

Oddly enough, humans developed fission reactors long before coaxing hydrogen nuclei into fusing. Their early reactors were notoriously temperamental.

The trick wasn't to keep the fission reaction going: it was to stop it before it destroyed the reactor. That, and a global war that happened around the same time, may explain why the first 'practical' nuclear device was a bomb. Not, in the Lemming's opinion, a fact that's likely to help humans feel good about nuclear power: and that's not quite another topic.

Roughly 50 years back, humans invented the tokamak, a gadget that generates a doughnut-shaped magnetic field. Deuterium and tritium plasma, held in that field, would fuse into helium: releasing energy.

That's the idea, anyway. One of the problems with a tokamak is that fusion works best under extreme pressure — like in a star's core — and a tokamak starts leaking plasma at fairly low pressure. Still, tokamak reactors looked like the best bet for practical fusion reactors.

Another — it's not so much a problem as an issue — is that the physics involved in a tokamak mean that the things have to be big.

A 35-nation team is building the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER). When they're done, they'll have the world's biggest experimental tokamak nuclear fusion reactor. It'll be at the Cadarache research center in southern France.

They're planning to start experiments with it in 2020. Actually, it's next to the Cadarache research center. ITER will be big: 19.4 meters, 64 feet, across by 11.3 meters, 37 feet, high. That photo is of a much smaller tokamak, MIT's Alcator C-Mod.

They Do It With Mirrors: Magnetic Mirrors

Humans have been using magnetic mirrors for some time: mostly for research. In the 1960s, someone got the idea of using magnetic mirrors to hold plasma in a fusion reactor. That's what the Skunk Works team is doing.

Instead of trying to hold plasma in a doughnut-shaped volume, they're using magnetic mirrors to make a vaguely hourglass-shaped volume of plasma. One of the advantages of this shape is that as the plasma tries to expand: the 'bottle' gets stronger.

Lockheed's Skunk Works: Five Prototypes, Then the Production Model

(From Lockheed Martin, via Aviation Week & Space Technology, used w/o permission.)
("Neutrons released from plasma (colored purple) will transfer heat through reactor walls to power turbines."
(Aviation Week & Space Technology ))

"...The team acknowledges that the project is in its earliest stages, and many key challenges remain before a viable prototype can be built. However, McGuire expects swift progress. The Skunk Works mind-set and 'the pace that people work at here is ridiculously fast,' he says. 'We would like to get to a prototype in five generations. If we can meet our plan of doing a design-build-test generation every year, that will put us at about five years, and we've already shown we can do that in the lab.' The prototype would demonstrate ignition conditions and the ability to run for upward of 10 sec. in a steady state after the injectors, which will be used to ignite the plasma, are turned off. 'So it wouldn’t be at full power, like a working concept reactor, but basically just showing that all the physics works,' McGuire says.

"An initial production version could follow five years after that. 'That will be a much bigger effort,' he says, suggesting that transition to full-scale manufacturing will necessarily involve materials and heat-transfer specialists as well as gas-turbine makers..."
(Guy Norris, Aviation Week & Space Technology)

The Skunk Works has been around since the 1940s. Someone at Lockheed wondered if maybe engineers might get projects done faster, if they didn't spend most of their time filling out forms: requesting forms they needed for their semi-weekly reports.

Basically, the Sunk Works is run by engineers who get exact specs on what they're expected to produce: and are the sort of folks who keep working at a project. (August 31, 2009)

With any other outfit, the Lemming might think they were overly optimistic. When the Skunk Works says they'll have a production model in a decade: the Lemming's inclined to think they're serious.

The Lemming won't be surprised if tightly-wound humans get conniptions in late 2025 or so, when the first commercial fusion reactors hit the market, and that is another topic.

One Million Years of Singed Fingers

Humans started using fire about 1,000,000 years back. Since then, they're learned to cook without killing themselves, incinerated their cities at irregular intervals, and developed less flammable buildings. (April 9, 2012; A Catholic Citizen in America (April 27, 2014))

The lesson here, in the Lemming's opinion, isn't that fire is bad: it's that fire, string, or any technology can be dangerous.

Humans are clever critters, though. They've managed to use fire, lightning rods, and fission reactors, with only the occasional disaster. The Lemming figures that they'll learn to deal with fusion reactors, too.

On the other hand, some humans can be — surprisingly daft.

Back in 1946, some of them learned why "tickling the dragon's tail" is a bad idea: survivors did learn quite a bit about what extreme radiation levels do to humans, though.

As the Lemming said, any technology can be dangerous. There will be so much energy flowing through a working fusion power plant that 'leaks' could be hazardous.

Sure, eventually humans would run out of seawater: but that'd take a long time. Decades. Centuries. Maybe more. Earth is a very wet place.

Long before there's a 'seawater shortage,' it's the Lemming's guess that humans will have replaced fusion reactors with something else. They're clever that way: and a good thing, too, or they'd have long since run out of flint.

Maybe they'll have worked the bugs out of antimatter reactors, learned how to extract useful levels of energy from phenomena like the Casimir effect, take the "un" out of entropic uncertainty, or discovered some other useful quirk in this universe.

A tip of the Lemming's hat to Jeff Stevens, on Google Plus, for the heads-up on Lockheed's reactor.

More-or-less-related posts:

Friday, October 10, 2014

Shadow of Mordor and a Rambling Lemming

(From Monolith Productions, Behaviour Interactive, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment; via Steam; used w/o permission.)
Middle-earth™: Shadow of Mordor™
Steam (

"Fight through Mordor and uncover the truth of the spirit that compels you, discover the origins of the Rings of Power, build your legend and ultimately confront the evil of Sauron in this new chronicle of Middle-earth."
User reviews: Very Positive (6,301 reviews)
Release Date: Sep 30, 2014

Apparently Shadow of Mordor was released on September 30 of this year, except for folks in Australia, where they had to wait until Wednesday this week.

Actually, it's the game Shadow of Mordor that was released. As far as the Lemming knows, not shadows from Mordor have actually been released: nor are likely to be, since Mordor doesn't exist outside J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle Earth. At least, that's what the Lemming's read.

Shadow of Mordor: Premium and Otherwise

Folks can probably buy Shadow of Mordor elsewhere, but the Lemming only checked prices at Steam. There, it's $49.99 for the game. Spend $74.99 for the "Premium Edition" and you'll get items: Middle-earth™: Shadow of Mordor™, Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor - Season Pass.

Here's why Steam says you should get the "Premium Edition:"

"Upgrade to the Premium Edition to receive a digital download copy of Shadow of Mordor and Season Pass. The Season Pass gives you access to future content including campaign missions, additional challenge modes, quests, skins, and runes."

The Season Pass by itself goes for $24.99 — which is $24.99 more than the Lemming has to spend on entertainment just now. Travel — being a flannel-wearing lemmings has its advantages, and that's another topic.

Acclaimed by (some) Critics

Apparently Shadow of Mordor is a AAA game: big studio; big budget; big expectations. Wikipedia has a pretty good page about the game, including this excerpt:

"...The story involves the Rings of Power, but the story is separate from The Lord of the Rings canon. The Monolith team is working with Middle-earth Enterprises, Peter Jackson, and the artists at the Weta Workshop to make sure that the settings, characters, and story align within canon. Tolkien stated that, aside from Beren, dead men did not return to life in Middle-earth. The beginning of the game is set during abandonment of the watch on the Black Gate, despite that watch ending some 1,300 years prior to the game's start date.


"Talion, a ranger captain, is part of a Gondor garrison stationed at the Black Gate. The garrison is attacked by Sauron's Uruk forces led by 3 Black Númenórean captains; the Hammer of Sauron, the Tower of Sauron, and their leader the Black Hand of Sauron (Nolan North). Talion, his wife Ioreth, and his son Dirhael are captured and ritually sacrificed by the Black Hand in an attempt to summon the wraith of the Elf Lord Celebrimbor. However, Celebrimbor (who suffers from amnesia due to his status as a wraith) instead ends up merging with Talion, saving him from death. The two of them set out to uncover Celebrimbor's identity as well as to avenge the death of Talion's family...."

Not surprisingly, Shadow of Mordor has been "acclaimed by critics," and other critics haven't been quite so enthusiastic. If the Lemming looked around, there's probably someone who utterly despises the game because it doesn't mention Space Pirate Captain Harlock. Not once.

Speaking of Space Pirate Captain Harlock, apathy is still rampant: but nobody cares.

That was a great deal funnier a few decades back. It wasn't particularly funny then, but moreso than it is now. Probably. Your experience may vary. For external use only. Not approved for off-road travel. Caution: may contain peanuts. Seriously, does anyone really think daft warning labels are a good idea? And that's yet another topic.

More than you may want to know about this game:
Vaguely-related posts:

Friday, October 3, 2014

World Architecture Festival Entries: Big, Small, Shiny, and Otherwise

(From Wingårdh Arkitektkontor AB, via CNN, used w/o permission.)
("Until Aula Medica was built, there was no large auditorium at the Karolinska Institutet (a medical university in Solna, Sweden). The building houses a 1,000-seat auditorium and other facilities.
"Category: Higher education and research
"Architects: Wingårdh Arkitektkontor AB (Sweden)")

"In Pictures: Spectacular buildings from Singapore's World Architecture Festival"
Maggie Hiufu Wong, CNN (September 28, 2014)

"Zaha Hadid's spaceship-like Dongdaemun Design Plaza, an avant-garde new home for Singapore's oldest Buddhist Temple, and a private bunker sprawling on top of a lake are some of the shortlisted entries competing for architectural honors at the World Architecture Festival in Singapore this week.

"Now it its seventh year, the event is the world's biggest celebration of building design.

"Hundreds of firms from more than 50 countries will be presenting and competing across 27 categories (Hotel and Leisure, Education and Display, others) in the three-day event...."

Some of the entries, like that Swedish auditorium, are shiny. Others, not so much.

(From Aedas, via CNN, used w/o permission.)
("The Administration Information Building is part of a joint international university founded by Xi'an Jiaotong University and Liverpool University. It's in Suzhou Industrial Park in China.
"Category: Higher education and research
"Architects: Aedas (Hong Kong, China)")

They're not all huge, or trying to look huge, either.

(From a21studio, via CNN, used w/o permission.)
("Vietnamese coffee shop Salvaged Ring is built from a collection of scrap wood stockpiled over the years by the owner, who is also a carpenter.
"Category: Small projects
"Architects: a21studio (Vietnam)")

Xi'an Jiaotong University and Liverpool University's Administration Information Building looks cool, and it's a good-sized structure: but it's not as big as those horizontal elements at the corners imply.

It's easy for an observer to see those alternating light and dark lines as rows of windows: which would make the building something like a hundred stories tall. Look at the windows at the center of each side, and the scale changes a bit.

It's a nifty optical illusion, in the Lemming's opinion: sort of like the strong vertical elements in Victorian mansions that made them look taller.

The entry shown in Maggie Hiufu Wong's article that particularly caught the Lemmings eye was the Salvaged Ring coffee shop. It's good to see someone making good use of "scrap" lumber. Long before "sustainable" design — real or imagined concern over resource management — became fashionable, folks were re-using wood, brick, or just about anything else that was lying around. And that's another topic.

Vaguely-related posts:

Friday, September 26, 2014

From the Mind of the Lemming: Night Flight

Humans are adaptable critters. Or perhaps the Lemming should say "adapting."

For example, although they've got top-rate color vision and see well enough to avoid trees at twilight, humans are most sincerely not nocturnal. But instead of accepting a role as day-dwellers, they keep developing new ways to stay active: no matter where a sun is relative to the local horizon.

They do, however, seem to like feeling "in control," even when the actual work is getting done — and quite well — by their tech.

The Lemming recalls a time when a train's "driver" didn't tell the train's AI that he was stepping out of the vehicle — and ran after the train as it left without him.

Vaguely-related posts:

Friday, September 19, 2014

King's Quest, Doom, and Candy Land: The Lemming Opines

(From Activision/Sierra, via gameinformer, used w/o permission.)
(King's Quest Returns.)

"[Update] Sierra's New King's Quest Won't Be Point-And-Click, Will Be Adventure"
Mike Futter, gameinformer (August 16, 2014)

"Update: The Odd Gentlemen, the developer working on the new King's Quest game, reached out to clarify an aspect of its still mysterious project.

"The game won't be a point-and-click title in the traditional sense, but it will retain King's Quest's adventure roots. Below, you will find our conversation with Activision's MacLean Marshall about reviving Sierra and King's Quest.

"Original Story:

"One of the more surprising announcements during Gamescom was Activision's revival of the classic Sierra brand. The original Sierra, founded by Ken and Roberta Williams in 1979, was known for the King's Quest, Space Quest, and Police Quest series (among many others). Activision has big plans for the brand that include classic franchises and brand new creations...."

Apparently the Sierra brand was owned by Vivendi, which was acquired by Activision.

Instead of fussing about corporate greed, why nobody should use Microsoft, or the sky being the wrong color: the Lemming takes this opportunity to ramble on about creativity and all that.

Creativity will be involved in the Sierra reboot, since The Odd Gentlemen will be "...doing a contemporary reboot of King's Quest...."

At least that's what Mike Futter says The Odd Gentlemen said.

The good news is that someone will be thinking about the new-and-improved King's Quest.

'The Lemming doesn't know yet' news is that someone other than the original creators will be doing the reboot.

If The Odd Gentlemen is/are smart, creative, and have tastes that correspond to those of a flannel-wearing Lemming, the results could be quite satisfactory. To the Lemming.

On the other hand — Roberta Williams, who designed the original King's Quest series, understood storytelling. She had a particular style that shows in the original series. The games had 'personality.'

So, for that matter, did id Software's Doom. The Lemming enjoyed playing Doom: and King's Quest.

But think about it: what if someone decided to reboot Doom with a Super Mario Bros. feel? Or Candy Land with Doom-inspired graphics?

The Lemming thinks these posts are related — your experience may vary:

Friday, September 12, 2014

It's Morning — Somewhere — Or Maybe Near Sunset

Or maybe it's near sunset. Or this is one of those places where the sun never gets very high.

And is the — steed? — mount? — pointing at something, or just stretching its fingers?

One of these days the Lemming really should get organized, and start labeling these things. Not the whatsit with the saddle. The rider must know what it is, and probably named it. The pictures, that's what the Lemming means: at least a locale, a date, something.

Posts that aren't quite entirely unrelated.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Robird: False Falcons, Ersatz Eagles, and a Rambling Lemming

(From 3D Print, Audubon Magazine, via The Tech Journal, used w/o permission.)
(Look, up in the sky! It's a bird, it's a plane, no: it's Robird!)

"3D Printed Robotic Birds Made To Protect Real Birds, Trials Undergoing"
Anatol Rahman, The Tech Journal (September 3, 2014)

"Birds are one of the most beautiful creations of God, but flock of these birds can be a menace for agriculture as they tend to destroy crops. Besides, they can pose a real threat to the aviation industry as they get stuck in airplane engines and raise serious issues. But don’t worry, there will be 3D printed birds that will be controlled via a remote control. These 3D-printed robotic birds are now being tested at airports, landfills and farms to scare away birds that can cause problems.

"Robird is actually a pair of 3D printed robotic birds that look like a real falcon and eagle. Full names of these robotic birds are Robird Peregrine Falcon and Robird Eagle. That falcon bird will be able to travel 50 mph speed. It has been designed to scare away birds. On the other hand, the eagle model will be able to chase off a bird of any size, because no bird dares to stand against an eagle...."

The Lemming thinks this is a pretty good idea: provided that birds loitering about airports either mistake patrolling Robirds for the real thing: or get spooked by high-speed flying robots.

That's what the Lemming thinks: but of course, the Lemming can't leave it at that. Not when there's a perfectly good opportunity to warn humanity — hysterically, of course.

As anyone who saw Hitchcock's "The Birds" realizes, birds are just biding their time: waiting to wreak chaos and destruction upon an unsuspecting world. Or Bodega Bay, at any rate. Lovely place, really.

Birds, Black Vinyl, and the Stepford Wives

The real threat, of course, was from Mars: wearing black vinyl, accompanied by a robot named Chani. Ah, they just don't make movies like "Devil Girl from Mars" any more.

Now that the Lemming thinks about it, though: there's a fairly continuous stream of that sort of thing. Not always with black vinyl, of course.

Well, one doesn't get everything: for which the Lemming is duly grateful:
Let's see, where was the Lemming? Ah, yes: ranting hysterically about robots and black vinyl. Right.

Does nobody see Robird for the threat it really is?!! First they fly around airports, lulling humanity into false sense of security. Next, they'll turn to landfills: driving gulls away; and where will the gulls go?!!!

To supermarket dumpsters, of course!!!! There, they'll organize into small strike forces - - -.

No, the Lemming really should stop now. Somebody might actually believe that drivel.

Seriously? Robird: looks like a pretty good idea. Cool, anyway. In the Lemming's opinion.

More of the Lemming's view of robots, penguins, and other related topics:

Friday, August 29, 2014

From the Mind of the Lemming: Morning in the City

As a whole, humans are adaptable critters: and remarkably durable. Somehow, they've learned to use fire, string, and motorized vehicles without killing themselves. Not very often, anyway.

The Lemming hasn't noticed any perceptible decrease in human intelligence. If anything, those noisy opportunistic omnivores seem to be getting smarter. Individual differences apply, of course: some seem determined to demonstrate that there's no intelligent life on their home world.

Still, the Lemming thinks humans show great promise.

More-or-less related posts:

Friday, August 22, 2014

Rediscovering Timber Construction, and a Rambling Lemming

"Rethinking construction: introducing timber into our commercial buildings [video]"
Geraldine Chua, Architecture & Design (August 21, 2014)

"Following on from our series of articles looking at the possibilities and benefits of building with timber, we spoke to Rod Pindar, a principal at Fitzpatrick + Partners (F+P), about some of the work the practice is doing, with a focus on their Macquarie Park project.

" In this interview, Pindar shares why Australia's building and design industry will move towards mass timber construction (MTC) in coming years even though it has a long way to go.

" 'We think it's important that the knowledge of timber is out there and freely available,' he says.

" 'We'd like to see buildings get built in timber, we'd like to see multi-storey commercial buildings built in particular. We know CLT has been proven in the residential market and that will continue to grow, but the commercial market really is the tough nut to crack.'..."

"CLT?" That could mean Charlotte Douglas International Airport; Chile Standard Time; or the Oprah Winfrey Network, a Canadian TV channel that's now called Canadian Learning Television.

None of those make sense in this context, so the Lemming figures that Geraldine Chua means cross laminated timber, or glulam. It's plywood, only different: apparently.

Most readers of Architecture & Design might see "CLT" and immediately think Cross Laminated Timber. Then again, they might not. Surely the Lemming isn't the only reader whose interests span more than one specialty.

Acronyms, Pronoun Trouble, and a Latvian Bridge

Acronyms are useful when all readers realize what, say, ACK, BLS, CALABARZON, DTs, or ead. mean — and gibberish when they don't.

It's the acronyms that are gibberish for autochthons marginalized from the requisite cognoscente. And that's another topic. Topics.

The Lemming applauds Pindar on realizing that timber, in fact, actually does grow on trees: and was used by humans in the construction of large structures long before other traditional products like steel, fiberglass, or prestressed concrete.

There's a reason why timber isn't used in skyscrapers or long suspension bridges. Short ones — that's yet another topic.

(From Igors Jefimovs, via Wikimedia Commons, used w/o permission.)
(A suspension bridge in Ozolnieki, Latvia: photo by Igors Jefimovs.)

Very-nearly-related posts:

Friday, August 15, 2014

Robots With Attitude: Maybe, Eventually

Humans are a little closer to building robots with attitude: a very little closer.

It's been nearly seven decades since von Neumann helped develop the first electronic computers: the first ones that handled ones and zeroes, anyway. Since then, the Lemming has been impressed with developments like transistors, fiber optics, and pay-per-view cable television.

But humans were still building computers that stored data one place, moved it somewhere else for processing, and then back to storage for the next process. Sure, it worked better than pressing symbols into clay tablets: but even humans realized that the artificial intelligence of these "electronic brains" was emphatically artificial.

Now, finally, humans have made a new sort of computer. Some of them, including a team that works for IBM.

Well, actually, it's a new kind of computer chip. And it'll need an entirely new sort of software, so the Lemming figures it'll be years before you'll see them in the electronics department.

Here's what got the Lemming started —

"Brain-inspired chip fits 1m 'neurons' on postage stamp"
Jonathan Webb, BBC News (August 8, 2014)

"Scientists have produced a new computer chip that mimics the organisation of the brain, and squeezed in one million computational units called 'neurons'....

"...Each neuron on the chip connects to 256 others, and together they can pick out the key features in a visual scene in real time, using very little power....

"...Instead of binary ones and zeros, the units of computation here are spikes. When its inputs are active enough, one of TrueNorth's 'neurons' generates a spike and sends it across the chip to other neurons, taking them closer to their own threshold.

"Software has to be written completely differently for these spiking-network systems...."

And now, the mellow moods of Festo and the Flying Mechanical Penguins.

The Lemming is not making that up.

There's more — from the mind of the Lemming, and elsewhere:

Friday, August 8, 2014

Kulindadromeus Zabaikalicus: A Cute Little Dinosaur

Kulindadromeus zabaikalicus 100% accurate reconstruction by dimetrodone.That incredibly cute critter is what Kulindadromeus zabaikalicus might look like: in an Arisa manga comic.

Maybe someone will write the heartwarming tale of a Kulindadromeus — named Kuddly Zeke??

Or maybe not.

Dinosaur Feathers

Until paleontologists found Kulindadromeus, a dinosaur that lived where Siberia is now, scientists knew that some dinosaurs had feathers: but had only found them on theropods.

Scientists are still pretty sure that Coelurosaurs, a particular sort of theropod, are the distant ancestors of birds. Oddly enough, though: theropods have lizard-like hips, or did.

Kulindaromeus is an Ornithischian: one of the 'bird-hipped' dinosaurs. It wasn't, the Lemming understands, just feathers that pegged theropods as the dinosaurs that eventually gave the birdseed industry a reason for existence: and that's another topic.

As far as the Lemming knows, there is no "Sir Richard Owen Zoological gardens." Not yet, anyway. Richard Owen did, however, give Mesozoic reptiles a name: Dinosauria. That was before other scientists realized that they weren't, or weren't quite, reptiles, and that's yet another topic.

(From Chris Masna, via Department of Earth Sciences, University of Bristol; used w/o permission.)
("Kulindadromeus zabaikalicus reconstruction by Chris Masna, non-threatening occupant of the Sir Richard Owen Zoological Gardens."
(Dept. of Earth Sciences, University of Bristol))

And no, to the best of the Lemming's knowledge: nobody has found Kulinda DNA, or grown a live dinosaur. Not yet.

Seriously, Though: That's a Cute Dinosaur

(From Andrey Atuchin, via Deptartment of Earth Sciences, University of Bristol; used w/o permission.)
(Kulindadromeus zabaikalicus in its lakeside environment.)

"Kulindadromeus, the feathered ornithischian
Department of Earth Sciences, University of Bristol

"The first ever example of a plant-eating dinosaur with feathers and scales was reported from Russia in 2014. Previously only flesh-eating dinosaurs were known to have had feathers so this new find indicates that all dinosaurs could have been feathered. This has important implications for our understanding of the biology and success of dinosaurs and for the evolution of bird characters.

"The new dinosaur, named Kulindadromeus zabaikalicus, meaning 'Kulinda runner from the Zabaikal region' as it comes from a site called Kulinda on the banks of the Olov River, in Zabaikal District, in Siberia, is described by Godefroit et al. (2014). Kulindadromeus shows epidermal scales on its tail and shins, and short bristles on its head and back. The most astonishing discovery, however, is that it also has complex, compound feathers associated with its arms and legs...."

The Lemming is pretty sure that an American would have written "...the evolution of bird characteristics...," or maybe the University of Bristol folks meant that the cute little ornithischian looks a bit like Tweety and The Road Runner. Then again, maybe not.

Not all scientists are sure that "Kulinda runner from the Zabaikal region" really had feathers. The stuff that apparently kept Kulindadromeus warm isn't shaped like bird feathers. Not the sort birds have these days, anyway.

Maybe the way scientists processed these Kulindadromeus fossils made the feathers look funny, or maybe feathers have changed in the last 150,000,000 years, or maybe some of Earth's critters grow hair or fur, some sprout feathers, and some kept warm with — something else.

If you haven't read enough about dinosaurs and all that yet, there's more:

Friday, August 1, 2014

"Tampering With Things Man Was Not Supposed to Know:" the Angst Continues

It the Lemming's opinion that humans are curious: some, anyway.

Others seem convinced that "tampering with things man was not supposed to know" will doom them all.

Somehow, though, humans have managed to survive one of Earth's glacial epochs: despite, or perhaps because, some of them wondered if fire might be useful. Eventually, reckless experimentation with sharp sticks led to flint tools and PDAs.

And some humans still seek knowledge: while others fear what the future may bring.

Not-entirely-unrelated posts:

Thursday, July 24, 2014

'Great View, Plenty of Privacy'

(From John Martin, via Wikimedia Commons, used w/o permission.)
(John Martin's "Sadak in Search of the Waters of Oblivion." (1812))

Captions —

" 'Just around the corner,' he says - - -."

— or —

"And you thought you had a rough day."

And here's food for thought: who, or possibly what, lives in those houses tucked into the mountainside?

More stuff the Lemming calls art, in case you're interested:

Friday, July 18, 2014

The Great Moon Hoax, Dihydrogen Monoxide, and a Rambling Lemming

(From The Sun, via Wikimedia Commons, used w/o permission.)
(Lithograph of the "ruby amphitheater:" part of The Sun's coverage of Sir John Herschel's (alleged) observations of moon people. (August 28, 1835))

Sir John Herschel didn't actually observe bison, goats, unicorns, bipedal tail-less beavers and bat-winged people on the moon: but that's what folks reading The Sun saw in 1835. The Lemming isn't surprised that some of them believed the Great Moon Hoax.

Antoine Lavoisier, Joseph Louis Proust, and John Dalton had been laying the groundwork for atomic theory Georg Ohm was bringing the world closer to spin dryers and rolling blackouts; and János Bolyai and Nikolai Ivanovich Lobachevsky released non-Euclidean geometry on an unsuspecting world.

Folks who didn't know much about science or mathematics may have been ready to believe just about anything written about scientists. Don't laugh: 43 out of 50 folks signed a petition to ban dihydrogen monoxide not all that long ago.

Then there's the story about the moon being made of green cheese, and that's not quite another topic.

Space Aliens and a Nearly-Blind Octopus

Humans still haven't learned whether or not they're alone in the universe, but those overclocked primates are getting closer to an answer every year.

Guesses, educated and otherwise, keep popping up about why humans haven't found their neighbors, and what they'd look like: the space aliens, that is. Humans know what they look like: or should.

That critter isn't from another planet, by the way. It's a drawing of Cirrothauma murrayi, a sort of finned octopus.

Another name for Cirrothauma et cetera is The blind cirrate. That's cirrate, not curate: they're not British, you know. They really are blind, or nearly so: the octopuses, not British curates.

The octopuses — or is it octopi? — don't have much of a retina, and their eyes aren't equipped with lenses. A chap named Chun, Carl Chun, described the species in 1911.

Some humans say that they have so been visited by space aliens: lots of times. Maybe so, but the Lemming wonders if anybody could get bored enough to bother the natives with such remarkable regularity.

On the other hand, assigned to some back-side-of-nowhere maintenance station for an extended tour of duty? Maybe borrowing a short-range vehicle and buzzing cars - - - and that's definitely another topic.

Somewhat-related posts:
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