The Unholy Tab Closing

OK, my open tab situation has got to the point where I was forced to research new Firefox plugins. I might talk about that soon, since that old “favourite plugins” post is waaaay out of date, and due for an updating. Right now, though, I want to run through a bunch of these things, attaching short, and hopefully pithy, comments to each.

  • Let’s start with Flogging Molly. I’ve been a fan of theirs for around a decade now, since Swagger found its way to me though my network of nefarious fellow travellers. Well, they have a new video, for your free streaming, to go along with a lovely new song, which they’ve made free to download, but it’s one that comes with some serious, and not a little gloomy, background. Check out both the song, and the information they’re trying to raise awareness of.
  • Many long term questions about Los Angeles are suddenly rendered transparent by the revelation of the Lost City of the Lizard People, which has lived beneath LA for rather a long time, and which, one presumes, has exerted a dark and sinister influence over the city all this time.
  • Speaking of dark and sinister influences, have you seen the trailer for The Last Lovecraft: Relic of Cthulu? It looks like just the kind of cheese I could enjoy.
  • I bet lots of Yanks who read Boing Boing were amused by the story of the NB MLA who gave another MLA the finger and then basically dared the entire assembly to go outside for a throwdown. Of course they might not be aware that there is a fine tradition of flipping the bird in Canadian politics–indeed we even have our own special slang to reflect this. (I do have to admit, though, that Pierre did it with a lot more elan and panache than this most recent example.)
  • I have a closet full of board games that never get played, because they require multiple adults who want to play something with complex and detailed-oriented rules, and my board game audience is typically made up of a single 5-year old who, while sharp, is usually looking for a short and simple board game experience. My experience with Warhammer and the related milieu is limited to some general background absorbed via osmosis during my D&D days, and what I’ve seen in the video games. And yet, even considering those two points, this video review of Chaos In The Old World makes me want to buy another board-game (not appropriate for 5 year olds) and set in the Warhammer world. I think it’s a combination of the presentation style and the accent. (While writing this, I just fell down the WH40K wiki hole–man, there’s a huge amount of utterly insane backstory to that world.)
  • Sarah and I recently took in the King Tut exhibit at the AGO. As part of that exhibit you can watch a 3-D movie about mummy history. The movie included a lot detail on the potential research benefits of modern DNA research using mummy samples1. The exhibit also included a display and film loop about medical research into what Tut’s medical condition was like, and what he died of. Since both of those ideas are still primed in my head from the recent exposure, I was a receptive audience for National Geographic’s story King Tut Mysteries Solved, which hits both of those points.
  • So it’s a nuclear power plant that comes in a sealed 4.5 by 7.5 box–i.e. smaller than the hot tub I owned in my party years–that provides enough power for 20,000 homes for 7-10 years? And it costs $50million? So what’s that work out to? Something between $250 and $350 per year per household. $20 or $30 a month for reliable power with no carbon footprint? Interesting. There are certainly by-product questions, but generally speaking I’m fine with trading off small amounts of long-lived radioactive waste for massive reductions in burning carbon for power, and the associated pollution. The security questions strike me as more relevant. Still interesting… interesting. I quite like the bit about being able to retrofit existing power generation sites with this as the source. Keep the all the infrastructure at the big old coal-burning power generation plant, just replace the burning coal with this box. That also leads to some interesting questions about the most efficient power generation using this as a power source in a new construction… hmmm.
  • Top 10 lists are kind of inherently cheap, but they can still be both fun and useful if the content is right. Take this list of Top 10 Common Faults In Human Thought. All the individual items are things we’ve seen discussed before in all kinds of contexts, but it’s nice to have them all there in one place for a quick review. And it gives you an excuse to argue about the ordering as well–in this case I am astonished that someone could think that the number one spot (out of the items listed) shouldn’t go to either Escalation of Commitment or Herd Mentality, both of which are more severe failings at the level of Humanity than the listed first choice.
  • Have you seen Worldometers? It’s a site that displays a number of global statistics, updating in real time. I’m sitting here watching the population count go up. It’s a little scary. But not as scary as some of them. The CO2 count, for example. Or the “Oil left” one, which is scary kind of regardless of what the number beside it is. Or the count of people with no access to safe drinking water–shouldn’t that be going the other way in this century? Seriously? Same with the cigarette number–that’s some scary shit. And the “Deaths of children under 5 this year” number–I can’t even process that. Joe was right.
  • One of the two things I concentrated on in the later part of my university education was Image Processing. I loved the math, and in this case it was math with readily displayed application. Given the chance I will bore you to death with discussions of the frequency domain, power spectra, the theory of the unsharp mask, and dozens of other things, even today–when I haven’t really done anything with that stuff for nigh unto 15 years. So, reading an article about how pretty much every piece of graphics software in the world screws up the math when doing image scaling is right up my alley. The pathological example of the Dalai Lama image is interesting enough as an illustration (and you’d better believe that I tried it out in Photoshop, Gimp, and PSP, as well as in-browser), but I think the other stuff under “Examples” really drives home how subtle, but important, error is introduced in scaled images. Neat.
  • As the kind of weirdo who loves the Calculus++ that is signal theory, I am pretty much impervious to ‘math anxiety’. Even the stuff I can’t remember, or never learned, doesn’t scare me–I’m pretty sure I could knock off that whole group/field theory thing in a weekend if I had to2. This means that I’m reading about a study at my alma mater with a definite feeling of distance–it’s a study into how math anxiety can have measurable effect even in cases where the task at hand is as simple as counting five to nine black squares. I’m actually pleased to see them doing research into the problem, and would like to be followed up by study in the surely connected area of computer anxiety. If fewer folks had math and computer fear, and the accompanying sense of incomprehensibility about those areas, I bet we could make a lot more rational decisions as a society–when you think something is utterly beyond understanding, “magic” for all intents and purposes, it’s easy to be irrational about it. Fear is the mindkiller, you know.
  • Why you want to be an engineer. (I have a minor in , and penchant for, philosophy, which I think only made me smile wider.)
  • And now from the I-can’t-satirize-this-it-comes-satire-proofed department, I direct you to the newspaper editor who fired a reported because, and I quote: “because he held on to the notion that there was an objective reality that could be reported objectively, despite the fact that that was not our editorial policy“. Seriously. I got nothing. I’d only be gilding refined gold.
  • I guess I’m a pretty weak-ass SF fan, since I can look over this list of 18 upcoming SF shows and not get excited at all. The only one I have any real hope for is Tower Prep, which is definitely targeted at people younger than me, and that’s only because of Paul Dini’s track record with the DCAU. I’m a fan of both Martin’s Ice & Fire books, and Farmer’s Riverworld books, but I’m pretty pessimistic about adaptations generally–although it must be said I have a lot more hope for HBO’s effort than for Syfy’s. I also like Kirkman’s Walking Dead comic, but here I’m troubled both by adaptation issues and pacing issues–maybe I’ll be surprised, but I don’t think the pacing that took 2 years to get to making the title-theme explicit is going to translate to TV. Nothing else on the list even raises my interest a little.
  • And finally, as a reward for those of you who made it this far, I give you the “That Guy” page, which has pictures and name for over 100 character actors you will recognize. You will mostly be amazed at how many of them you know from lots of places. Then you can argue about who is actually better than the list. (Cromwell, Ribisi, Chaykin, Rubinek, and Elliott(!!) at least should be people who you refer to by name, not as “That Guy”. In my circle this would also include GUZMAN, Frewer, and Ray Wise3 but I understand those are more debatable. Probably there’s someone going “come on, you didn’t know the name of the guy who played both Remo Williams and HP Lovecraft, the detective?”, someone else ranting about Mr, Gilmore, and someone else going on about Brisco County, Jr. villains.)
  1. It also included a lot of half-naked buff dudes, and lovely ladies in tight white cotton dresses that were lovely in 3D. I guess the idea was the put some “sugar” in with the medicine?(back)
  2. No, I’m not. It’s a joke. Roll with it.(back)
  3. Only because he recently made such a good Devil. Before that show he was “That Guy”.(back)

  3 comments for “The Unholy Tab Closing

  1. Lachlan O'Dea
    February 25, 2010 at 1:31 am

    Those modular nuclear power plants sound really good. I really hope it goes somewhere. Could be good for developing nations too.

    It’s hard to be scared of Cthulhu after seeing this:

  2. Richard B.
    February 25, 2010 at 8:39 am

    Re: bullet item the second … you’ve read Lew Shiner’s Lizard Men of Los Angeles, right?

  3. February 25, 2010 at 10:04 am

    Lachlan–yea, I’ll be following that. I’d actually like some more details on the process, since the whole “Water not used as coolant; cannot go ‘supercritical’ or get too hot” thing piques the engineer in me–I’m pretty familiar with conventional engineering in this area, especially the CANDU designs, after my time working at AECL, and I’d like to see how this differs.

    On the plush Cthulhu front I am proud(?) to say that we have two of those at our house: one that’s a standard teddy bear size, and one that’s about 3 feet tall. We call them “big Cthulhu” and “little Cthulhu”, and Sarah has been around them since she was about 4 months old (along with her Deep One, Shoggoth, Moon Beast, Nyarlathotep, and Gug–oh, and that big Necronomicon book/pillow she had when she was an infant.). When she was just learning to talk, she kind of freaked out the people at one geek store that she accompanied me to by correctly identifying Cthulhu in a poster.

    Richard–I have read it, in that big SubPress collection. Nice to see that it’s free online for everyone–more people should read Shiner.

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This work by Chris McLaren is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 Canada.