Tuesday, August 30, 2011

August 31 - And Movies were Born

On this date in 1887, Thomas Edison received the patent for his Kinetoscope, the precursor to modern projection film.  Early versions were used by a single person who viewed the film through a window on the top of the device.  The Kinetoscope worked essentially the same way as modern film.  Sequential images are shown at high speed over light to create the illusion of movement.

As time went on, improvements to the design created the ability to add sound and earphones to the films using a phonograph.  Later, it was also able to project film, in a manner not much different than we use today.

The first copyright for an identifiable motion picture was given to Thomas Edison for "Fred Ott's Sneeze," which, predictably, depicts a Fred Ott's sneeze.

I don't know about you guys, but I always think it's interesting to look back and see what kind of 100 year old technology we still use today.  We make leaps and bounds in areas, but film doesn't change much, neither have radios.  Any other kind pieces of technology that haven't changed a whole lot over the years?  Things we still use?

Monday, August 29, 2011

August 29 - What the hell IRENE?!

So after days of media blitzes about the incoming catastrophic storm, turned out Irene wasn't quite as vicious as we had been led to believe.  New York didn't quite float away, and the mandatory evacuations turned out to resemble offhand suggestions.

Kind of makes me wonder.  I had always considered the weather channel and weather people a special case.  They were never right, but I had never really pictured them as fear mongering.  But, just like other members of the media, it pays for them to be outrageous.  Fox News gets to complain about the socialists and gays, basically everyone else gets to complain about the uncaring, callus conservatives.  They cater to their demographic, and I don't fault them for that.

But the weather channel?  Unlike other members of the media, they don't fall upon party lines.  They are generally seen as information to all.  I know what to expect when I turn on Fox, but I tend to think the weather is neutral.

So here's the problem: the weather channel gets more viewers coming up to a disaster.  The worse they make the disaster sound, the more viewers.  So do you trust the weather channel to tell the truth?  Even when it is against their best interest to?  Is my tinfoil hat on a little too tightly?  Should I just let bygones be bygones with the weather channel and they can do what they want?

Saturday, August 27, 2011

August 27 - I'm thinking ebook readers.

So I've done some cursory research about ebook readers lately, and I've come to the decision that I'd like to own one.  So basically, I thought I'd spew out my almost entirely malformed and half-assed opinions about the three on the market now that have any appeal, and then you can tell me how wrong I am.  Ready?  Go!

Kindle 3

Ahh, the Kindle.  Mainstay of the public, bringing ebook reading to the masses, so long as you buy the file from Amazon.  Closed system with a friggin keyboard.  What's that about?  Are people really writing notes in their books?  Now convenient is that with an eink screen, no touch, and a directional pad?  Seems like it takes up an awful lot of space (and makes companies like iRiver decide it's a great idea and blatantly copy with the Story).  On the upside, the Kindle is pretty cheap right now, especially if you go for the ones with ads.  A lifetime of inconvenience for merely $25!

Nook (2?  Wifi?  Rubbery?  Touch?)

The Nook.  I had high hopes for you to begin with.  Your big brother looked so sweet and worked so poorly.  I would have bought him if page turns didn't take 45 minutes.  Yes, you got better, but by then, it was already too late.  But wait, a new one was on the horizon!  A Nook with a touch screen!  Rubbery back, contoured for easy holding!  As cheap as a regular Kindle!

As a side note, I have a child.  I was reading him a Dr. Suess book and there was a creature named the Nook.  The Nook cannot read.  What the...?  Look it up.

Kobo (Touch?  Shiz?  Out of business?)

Screw you Borders.  That is all.

Well there it stands.  I think we can clearly see where I fall on this list.  Anyone have an ereader?  What kind?  Do you like it?

Friday, August 26, 2011

August 26 - The Hurricane Cometh

Hurricane Irene is it on its way to the east coast of the United States, so I wanted to take a few minutes to wish all my friends good luck through the storm.  So.  Good luck yo.

Anyway, have any of you been through any particularly interesting storms?  Years ago (and I don't feel like looking up the date) I went through a Super Typhoon.  Paka was the name, I lived on Guam at the time.  Damage didn't seem too severe at the time, but then again, I was pretty young.  I lived on the airforce base.  The housing was basically bomb shelters.  They all looked the same, concrete rectangles.  Not particularly water tight.  I spent the night helping my family mop as the wind blew water into the house.

Share some storm stories!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

August 25 - Bobbing for Apple

So Apple co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs recently resigned his post citing health problems.  I'll be the first to say that I'm no Apple fan.  My first and only piece of their equipment was an iPad I got as a present.  I skipped iPods for sansas and Zunes and never felt the need to pay extra for a similarly spec'd PC.  Be that as it may, no one can deny that Apple changed the landscape of consumer electronics, and I would have to say for the better.

Apple certainly wasn't the first to come up with a portable drive based music player, but they certainly did it with the best style and marketing.  It is easy to fault Apple with having a cult like following, but such things don't simply pop into existence.  A company doesn't magically gain a following.  Whatever Apple did, it did it well.  Products such as the iPhone and iPad continue this trend.  Slick looking electronics, in the price range of a wide variety of people.  Clearly, "It just works" appeals to people.

What do you think?  Has Apple done the world good?  What will happen now that Jobs is stepping down?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

August 24

On this day in 1989, Pete Rose was banned from baseball for gambling.  This has always struck me as kind of strange.  It was my understanding that he never gambled as a player and only admitted to gambing ON his team as a manager.  I'm not entirely sure why he is therefore banned from baseball.  I suppose it is a fine line to walk between betting on and against, but that's basically what managers do every night.  What do you suppose happens if they start losing?  They are fired.  If they win?  They'll likely get a raise.  If Rose had bet against the Reds, and managed to make them lose somehow, 1) it would probably be pretty obvious, and 2) he would essentially be shooting himself in the foot unless this were a monumental bet.  In the end, he is certainly a baseball great, who may have made poor decisions.  He certainly wouldn't be the worst guy to enter the Hall of Fame.

What do you think?  Betting as a manager ok or not?

Saturday, August 20, 2011

August 20

On this day in 1980, Italian Reinhold Messner completed the first solo ascent of Mt. Everest.  Without oxygen.  The highest peak on Mt. Everest is some 29,000 feet above sea level.  When you get that high up, the levels of oxygen in the air drop dramatically.  Think about having to take three breaths for every one closer to sea level.  This, while performing the most physically demanding ascent in the world.  Lower oxygen levels, beyond simply causing difficulty in physical exertion, also takes its toll on brain power.  Combine that with freezing temperatures and the need to make quick, accurate decisions, makes attempting Mt. Everest without oxygen a monumental task.

I live in a place that is about a mile above sea level.  Right around 5000 feet.  When I first moved out here from Florida, I could barely climb stairs without gasping for breath.  It would be pretty interesting to find out how Mr. Messner trained for this.  How does one prepare to not breath and climb at the same time?

Anyway, any mountain climbers out there?  Share some stories, or make some up!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

August 18

Nothing serious today, lets talk about cheap eating.  How many of you are in college?  I graduated a year ago, and looking back, I ate some weird stuff.  Of course we all have the ramen.  What kind of things did you put on it?  I never used the salt packer.  A dollar bottle of alfredo sauce will last quite a while.  Minute rice with some canned chili or something.  Looks like dog food, but takes decent enough.

Ok team, what kind of cheap meals do you enjoy?  I'm talking a dollar or less here!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

August 17

On this day in 1945, Indonesia declared independence from the Netherlands.  I don't know if any of you stop and think about how much the world changed in the 20th Century, but it really is amazing.  Let's just focus on our topic today though: colonization.  For half of that century, colonization was alive and well.  Vast expanses of land were ostensibly owned and run by many different foreign countries.  Just off the top of my head, France in northern Africa, the United States in the Pacific, and England just about everywhere.  What different ways of thinking must have these people had to think it was ok to to subjugate a people and steal their wealth.

This wasn't so long ago.  When I think colonies, I generally think the 1700's, the American colonies, the race for land in the Americas.  But even in our great-grandparents' time, in the 1940's, England held India as a colony.  In Africa, these were often violent, oppressive regimes.  These regimes shaped the futures of countless people.  And generally, not for the good.

Anyway, let's open this up.  What do you think was the biggest factor in the 20th Century?  Technology?  Cold War?  Colonization?  War?  Ace of Base?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

August 16

I read an article today about the Starbucks CEO calling on other businesses to stop contributing to political campaigns and to start creating jobs.  Makes me think that either he, or Warren Buffett, is planning on running for office.  What is with these displays of public awareness and altruism that are suddenly in the news?  I like the ideal as much as the next guy, but is this anything more than publicity?

First off, when I think Starbucks, I don't think of a company that particularly cares about helping people.  $4 cups of coffee and dry muffins.  Secondly, why is it that my first instinct with Starbucks is, "put up or shut up" when my first instinct was just the opposite with Buffett?

I guess when it comes down to it, Buffett's stance makes perfect sense.  If this country collapses, his money is gone too.  Raising taxes, even on himself, is more of an investment in the long term.  Starbucks' stance however simply strikes me as a stunt.  They spend less on politics, they have less clout.  They hire more workers, they spend more money.  Where is the benefit, besides the publicity?

What do you guys think?  Am I being too cynical here?  Will other companies heed the call to spend more on employment and less on political campaigns?  Are you more or less likely to drink Starbucks after learning about this?  What is your favorite Starbucks drink?  Do you even like coffee?  What's wrong with you that you don't like coffee? 

Monday, August 15, 2011

August 15

Today, noted businessman Warren Buffett declared that the government should raise taxes on the wealthy.  Some responded, Michelle Bachmann for example, with a call to put up or shut up.  I find this rather odd.  What good can a single billionaire do to our deficit and economy in general.  Buffett's net worth is around 50 billion.  Pretty similar to Bill Gates.  When our deficit  is in the trillions, what can he do alone that will help?

It seems odd to attack someone saying that he is not paying his fair share for this country.  No one donates to the United States.  Really, why would they?  America sells bonds that, while low in return, are far better than simply giving away money.

Perhaps Buffett isn't espousing this view for the good of the country or any degree of altruism.  So what?  He recognises that the country is spiraling out of control in debt.  At the very worst, he knows that his fortune is gone if the dollar becomes worthless.  An organized effort to raise taxes on the super rich might be the only thing that prevents total collapse in the future.

The danger that some people see is that these people are the job creators.  Raising taxes might push them elsewhere.  But the problem is that companies are sitting on record profits and not hiring.  The economic times cause them to clamp down their bank accounts.  It perpetuates the problem.

The debt ceiling debacle highlighted some very real problems in this country.  We are borrowing too much.  Very difficult cuts need to be made in spending to go hand in hand with tax increases.  Warren Buffett, one of the richest men in the world, realizes that in order to stabilize the country, taxes need to rise because the pattern of lowering taxes to increase employment is not working.

What do you think?  How would you balance this budget?

Sunday, August 14, 2011

August 14

I don't usually talk about politics.  Generally just starts fights.  I live in a very republican state.  I don't identify very well with either party.  Therefore, I often simply don't vote.  I did in the last presidential election, only because my sister worked on the Obama campaign and I wanted to tell her out I voted for McCain.  She almost had an aneurysm, and it was completely worth it.  It didn't really matter whom I voted for, my state's electoral votes were going republican, but I didn't let that fact get in the way of anything.

Why not vote?  The hope and change rhetoric rubbed me all the wrong ways and I don't know how I would feel about McCain taking orders from Palin.  Neither one seems superior to the other.  Who is to say how McCain and Palin would have handled this current economic climate, but its not like we are sitting pretty right now.

For those of you living under a rock, the Iowa straw poll was conducted recently.  Michelle Bachmann won by a thin margin.  Ron Paul second and some guy, who even now I can't remember, dropped out because he was in third.  I refuse to look up his name.  I wonder how much money he spent to simply bow out.  What a character.  He is who I would like to be president.  It is one thing to run for president and lose.  It is quite another to run and then quit at the first sign of trouble.  I wonder if he thinks he can try again sometime.  Opponent campaign ads basically write themselves.

So that leaves us with Bachmann (Palin-class scary), Ron Paul (a class all his own) and Mitt Romney (I'm not sure what to say about him).  Yeah, there are others, they mean nothing at this point.

Time for a gimmick Republicans.  You tried Palin, Mitt lost last time, I think its time you go for broke.  I want to see Rob Paul make it.  Do I think he can win?  Likely not.  But we would be in for a wild ride.

Also, I didn't spell check any of the names.  So there.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

August 13

On this date in 1521, the Aztec Empire finally collapsed.  The fall of Tenochtitlán to the Spanish Conquistadors ended an empire and began the Spanish rise to power.  The end of the Spanish Empire was told in the previous post.

Instead of discussing the battles and the eventual fall of the Aztec, much of which is common knowledge, let us discuss the rise of this Empire.  It is not as well known that the Aztecs came from very humble beginnings.  They arrived in the Valley of Mexico somewhere around the 12th century.  Up until that point, they were poor, nomadic and generally dominated by neighboring tribes.  It was not until the founding of Tenochtitlán that the Aztecs began to consolidate any power.  Even this process was slow however.  For the next two hundred years, they relied mainly on alliances and treachery to maintain their political autonomy.  It was not until the 15th and 16th centuries that the Aztecs began to assert their will through military force.

The Aztecs were a force to be reckoned with in the Mexican peninsula, but only for a relatively short amount of time.  They came from humble beginnings, but rose quickly.  Far more quickly than they rose, however, they were extinguished.  The hundreds of years of clawing their way to a position of power were undone in just a couple years.  The Aztecs were unable to leave a legacy on the world.  Their grand city, Tenochtitlán, which boasted a population some two or three times as large as London, was raised and the people subjugated.

Friday, August 12, 2011

August 12

On this date in 1898, a peace treaty, called the Treaty of Paris, was signed between the United States and the Spanish formally ending the hostilities known as the Spanish-American war.  The origins of this war are dubious at best.  Tensions had been building between the belligerents due to reports of Spanish atrocities in Cuba and elsewhere, and finally exploded with the sinking of the USS Maine in Havana Harbor.  While no real evidence existed that implicated the Spanish in this alleged attack, popular option made compromise impossible.  The United States demanded that Spain abandon Cuba; a demand that was summarily rebuffed.  Madrid declared war, as did the United States.

What followed was a 10 week conflict that can hardly be called much of a war.  It was one sided on all fronts, in favor of the United States.  Superior numbers in most battles aided the United States.  In the end, Spain was ejected from many islands, including Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippians.

While the main issue was ostensibly Cuban freedom, it is difficult to accept this as the actual cause.  The results of the war are too in line with the Monroe Doctrine and the expansionist policies of the United States at the time.  Unconfirmed reports, coupled with an unconfirmed attack to create a situation where the predatory nature of the United States at that time could be sated.  Much like the Mexican-American War 50 years before, the United States saw this as an opportunity to expand their holdings against an ailing foe.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

August 11

On this day in 1909, the liner Arapahoe, became the first ship to ever use the distress call S.O.S.  These letters, expressed in Morse Code, are three dots, three dashes and three dots.  The phrase was created during the International Radiotelegraphic Convention held in Berlin in 1906.  Contrary to popular belief, these letters do not express any particular words, but were simply determined to be easy to remember and transmit.

In the case of the Arapahoe, the ship had broken a propeller and was disabled while traveling north from Jacksonville, Florida.  Despite bad weather, the Captain of the Arapahoe gambled that the sister ship, Apache, should be in the vacinity.  He attempted to call the Apache wirelessly using the S.O.S. distress call.  The gamble paid off and the Arapahoe was rescued and taken to port.

In the United States, the distress call S.O.S. has fallen out of use.  While the meaning of the phrase is common knowledge, the Coast Guard no longer monitors Morse code transmissions.  Generally, satellite relays are used to transmit a distress call.  Another method is using radiotelephony to transmit MAY DAY.  So keep this in mind next time your ship is sinking!