Category Archives: the web

Warning Educational Materials ahead

So Sunday I was tooling youtube and other video hosting sights, looking for interesting films and such to watch. (No, not porn. Get your mind out of the gutter.) I ended up searching for a World War II training film I had caught part of during a TCM Memorial Day Marathon. (I did find it, it’s called Resisting Enemy Interrogation. It’s got a cool story as German Interrogators try by hook and by crook get information from 5 down airmen.)

However, while looking for that video I found several others that were very interesting. One on flak (anti-aircraft fire) how it works and how to evade it, and a Sad Sack cartoon on the importance of maintaining you weapon properly. The most informative video I found though was one on the basics of small arms and how they work. I have friends who collect guns, and I remember shooting rifles as a boy with my father, however nothing has every made the mechanics of modern firearms as easy to understand as this WWII training film. I present it here for your education or enjoyment. (It is about 40 minutes long.)



My mind’s been blown to the 70′s

As a teenager in the 70’s there was a lot of thing I wanted that I could never have. My family never had much money so while I never wanted for the essentials of life and a few basic pleasures, I spent lusted for things in catalogs that I knew would never be mine.

One of my favorite catalogs to daydream in was from Edmund Scientific. Oh what wondrous items they had. Tonight on a whim I went to their website. To see what sort of things might still inspire and thrill me.

Here’s what I found.

That my friends is the CARDIAC cardboard computer. It as an educational tool for teaching someone the basics of how a computer worked. Seeing this at the website blew my mind because I remember by Brother-In-Law Thom (Pronounced ‘Tom’ he was and remains unique.) putting one of these in my hands. It was a throughly engaging and engrossing device.

Had I been a teenager a decade later that event would have sent me spinning down a life in computers. I am certain of it.

For decades later I would remember this device — never by name — and wonder upon its coolness. Edmund Scientific is selling them for $20 and it’s really tough to resist.


I love modern technology

So All the reservations have been made for my Vegas Trip! I have my room, my tickets, my car, and even a dinner reservation for friday night at a Brazilian Steakhouse in the Mirage Hotel and Casino.

While working with my rental reservation I explored the option available to me with the Hertz Never Lost navigation system. I expect just your basic GPS unit, but it’s really much cooler than that. I had planned out my trip on-line, all the key destination I want to hit, and saved all the data to my geek-stick. Now when I pick up my car, I’ll plug the stick into the GPS system and it will be pre-loaded for my trip.

I love to plan in advance and this just make me smile.


Sunday Night Movie:Ikarie XB1

This past Sunday was a bit different for my Sunday Night Movie feature in that is was a movie I watched together with my Sweetie-wife.

After writing on Saturday about the late lamented Creature Feature from my youth, I went on line to see if Planet Of The Vampire had been re-released on DVD again. (nope, not yet.) However I found the trailer for the movie at YouTube and of course I had to give it a go. While I was watching the trailer for Planet Of The Vampires, I spotted a clip for something from a ‘soviet-style SF film’ about exploring a derelict spaceship. It fascinated me and I wanted to watch the movie it came out of.

There were 198 comments on that YouTube post and a great deal of them were flame-wars over the fact that the film was Czechoslovakian and not Soviet or Russian. However there were very few posts naming the damned movie. Eventually I did discover the film was called Ikarie XB-1 and was made in 1963.

A quick searched showed that the filme was released on DVD in 2006, was out of print, could not be rented and used copies were going to sum too great for me to buy. (I’ll spend money on movies I know, but its rare that I will buy a movie I have never seen unless I get it dirt cheap.)

By the time Sunday came around I laid my hands on a copy of the film and me and my sweetie-wife watched it.

The film is about the flight of the first inter-stellar craft, Ikarie XB-1, en route to Alpha Centauri. (I am told by my lovely wife that Ikarie is Czech for Icarus.) The navigation must have been off on this trip as the round trip will take the ship fifteen years from earth’s perspective but just 28 months by ship-time. Sounds like the ship is going very nearly the speed of light, but round trip to Alpha C would then be about 9 years, not 15 Earth time.

Anyway the ship is manned by forty people, both men and women, single and married. The film is entirely about the trip and the hazards they face. It was a very serious, though flawed, attempt to do dramatic action and not wild action in an SF environment. There is an attempt at showing a different culture than what was standard in 1963. The crew are dealing with a  number of interpersonal issues and the stresses of the close-quarters living.

The derelict spaceship sequence that tripped me onto this title is from about the middle of the movie and really was quite nicely done. It was something much better than what we are normally used to seeing from SF of the late 50s and early 60s.

That said the film was on the slow side and I think the mountain the writers and film-makers set out to conquer was beyond their skills.

Still, I am glad I got a chance to see it. It is always interesting to see genre films of the period made from a decided non-western viewpoint.


A questions of ethics

So I was looking for a soundtrack that I thought was out of print and it cause me to ponder the ethics of downloading it.

I fully support buying material to support the artists. I buy my books, I buy my DVDs and Blu-rays, and I buy my music, but there are times when what I want is not in print. I cannot buy a copy that will support the artist. (Buying a used copy generates no royalties for the copyright holder.)

So in that situation is it ethical to download a copy? Certainly on the legal front it is illegal, but I’m asking a question of ethics.

I think so. I will support the legal methods of reimbursing the artists and such whenever I can, but if the copyright holders do not make it possible for me to pay them for the product I then I really do not feel bad about finding a copy on my own.

My story had a happy ending for the copyright owners. Not only was the soundtrack to The Wicker Man (1973) in print it was available from iTunes!


New Theme!

As you can see I have switched themes for my blog. I particularly like this theme because it is customizable by the user to a pretty good degree.

You can expect the background image — currently courtesy of NASA — to change a bit as I look for the perfect space image for my SF blog.

Comments are of course welcome.



So as you can see if you have been to the blog before — and I suspect that is likely the case — I have selected a different theme for the blog.
Tell me what you think.
Is the new one better?
No real difference to you?

Today was a frustrating day. I was late getting out of work due to a last minute call (Luckily I was able to help the pt so it didn’t feel wasted.) Then my sweetie-wife and I ran to the wrong FedEx location to pickup my package which is my new e-book reader.

We couldn’t get a consistent answer as to when the location with the package would close. Some said 5pm — and I don’t get off work until 5 pm, and others said 9 pm. I finally located the number for the facility — both answers were correct from a certain point of view (there were two facilities at the same address.) — but it didn’t do me any good today.

Luckily a very nice woman at the facility was able to re-route the delivery so I should have it delivered at work tomorrow.

We’ll see.


The mendacious postings of Instapundit

I have a number or friends who trust Instapundit as reliable and non-partisan source of information on the web.
Just due the prodigious number of link and the vast number of subjects they cover his site is a valuable site as a jumping off point to the wild and wooly web.
However, he is not a non-partisan source of information when it comes to things political. Here’s a classic example of how his post can be tilted in their wording.

IT’S ONLY WRONG WHEN BUSINESSES DO IT: VA workers given millions in bonuses as vets await checks. “While hundreds of thousands of disability claims lay backlogged at the Department of Veterans Affairs, thousands of technology employees at the department received $24 million in bonuses, a new report says.”

If you just read the post – and given the number of posts per day at his site people will rarely if ever follow each and every link — you get the impression that someone is defending the bonuses given out at the VA. After all it’s only wrong when businesses do it. I suspected that there was more to the story than his quip and one quote. (My guess would have been just a large number of employee bonuses over the course of a year.)

If you click through to the story — which I recommend — on, you’ll find the that the tone of the story is very different than the tone presented by Instapundit.

A report issued by the VA’s Office of Inspector General said the department issued millions of dollars in awards over a two-year period in 2007 and 2008.
“The frequent and large dollar amount awards given to employees were unusual and often absurd,” the report stated.
The reports also called the payments “not fiscally responsible.”


The VA said it is pursuing a thorough review of the situation and it “does not condone misconduct by its employees and will take the appropriate corrective actions for those who violate VA policy,” according to a statement provided to CNN.

So while Instapundit posts it with the tone that Liberals and Democrats and other outraged by the huge bonuses recently given out on Wall Street are being hypocritical when it comes to government bonuses, the story itself is about how these abuses have been discovered by the inspector general and are being investigated and reviewed for action.

Instapundit is a cool site to visit and he presents lots and lots in link and information, but he is far from a non-partisan unbiased source.