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Tech journalist since the dark ages. Windows Secrets, LangaList newsletter, Windows Magazine (NetGuide, Home PC), Byte, Popular Computing, yadda yadda yadda. Google me, if it matters.

This feed is mostly personal interest; it's NOT my professional writing. There's tech here, yes, but also lots of general science and some politics and weird humor thrown in.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Great new iPhone Feature!

Important! Read this first: http://tinyurl.com/npku8jt    :)

Friday, September 19, 2014

The 2014 Ig Nobels

Among other treats, a formal tribological study on why banana peels are slippery; and a nasal tampon made of bacon, to stop nosebleeds:  http://www.improbable.com/ig/winners/#ig2014

The High Holy Days of Pastafarianism

Today is one of the two holiest days in the calendar of Pastafarianism, or more formally, the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

As Wikipedia explains:
The Flying Spaghetti Monster (FSM) is the deity of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster or Pastafarianism (a portmanteau of pasta and Rastafarian), a movement that promotes a light-hearted view of religion and opposes the teaching of intelligent design and creationism in public schools.
A man named Bobby Henderson wrote a letter in 2005 to the Kansas State Board of Education protesting its decision to permit teaching the so-called "intelligent design" as an alternative to evolution in public school science classes.

In that letter, Henderson satirized creationism by professing his belief in a religion that --- like all religions everywhere --- depends on untestable assertions, knowledge gained through private and subjective revelation, and the actions of an invisible deity.

He eventually spun an entire codified belief system, as rigorous and detailed as any of the world's other myriad religions and mythologies.

Henderson's point, of course, was that if you teach any religion as science, than you must teach them all: One set of untestable assertions is as valid as any other.

One of Henderson's 'revelations' is that pirates were the original Pastafarians, and that a decline in the number of pirates over the years is the cause of global warming. Here's his proof:

This was, of course, intended to highlight a mistake made in virtually all religions: correlation is not causation. (E.G. "I prayed for something and it came true!")

Building on his revelation, Henderson said that Pastafarian priests should dress and talk like Pirates.

That makes two days --- Halloween and Talk Like A Pirate Day (today, Sept. 19) --- the two High Holy Days of Pastafarianism.

Yes, it's good fun, but with a serious intent: To make people realize that even deeply-held subjective beliefs are not the same as objective facts; that correlation is not causation; and to be deeply suspicious of anyone who says "God told me..." or "My religion told me..." as justification for imposing their beliefs on anyone else.

Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster: http://www.venganza.org/

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flying_Spaghetti_Monster

Pastafarian dress: http://www.venganza.org/category/pirates/

Talk like a pirate translatos: http://talklikeapirate.com/translator.html

Pirate name generator: http://gangstaname.com/names/pirate#.VBwgAPldXkU

Friday, September 12, 2014

20 gorgeous pix of unusual weather phenomena


Catatumbo Lightning:

Penitentes Snow:

Volcanic lightning:

17 more: http://www.wherecoolthingshappen.com/20-spectacular-and-bizarre-weather-phenomena-that-really-exist/

Rosetta's comet, with ISS superimposed for size perspective.

You've probably seen spectacular images like this of comet 67P, taken by the Rosetta spacecraft. Science texts will tell you it's "3.5×4 km (2.2×2.5 mi)" in size, but that's dryly intellectual.

Humans are visual creatures, and with nothing in the image to provide visual scale, there's no "gut feel" for the size of the thing.

So, Will Gater (@willgater) posted the next image: "For a bit of fun I dropped a scaled ISS into that great new  image of Comet "

In case that's hard to see, I added a circle:

And then, the comet's size snaps into focus.

Rosetta's not a particularly large comet, either.

So now, statements like "The dinosaurs may have been wiped out by a cometary impact..." make a lot more sense, eh?

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

"The 100 most iconic shots in movie history"

I formally studied film in college, and still watch a lot of movies today --- including some very obscure ones --- but some of these shots were still a total mystery to me. Hmmm.