Thursday, December 25, 2008
Quotations from "The Book of Cataclysm", as featured in the mission briefings of the game Syndicate Wars:
To take one life is sin. To take a thousand is religion.
The apprentices asked the Master. "When shall we achieve immortality?" And the Master answered, "Not in this life."
A war refugee sought the Master. He said, "You are wise and serene. Teach me to escape the horrors of this world." And the Master blinded him with fire-irons.
Mark thine enemy, for all that separates the damned from the chosen is a dot of monochrome light, projected onto the back of a neck.
The Master has no need for money. But still he sits and counts it. As a meditation.
Not only will all eyes be on the leaders of men, but all combat sights as well.
The people stood like corn in the high fields and listened to the Master. As the reaper's blade scythed them all, the Master fell silent. The lesson would be learned by others.
Syndicate Wars - The Book of Cataclysm
The disc of Phaistos is the most important example of hieroglyphic inscription from Crete and was discovered in 1903 in a small room near the depositories of the “archive chamber”, in the north - east apartments of the palace, together with a Linear A tablet and pottery dated to the beginning of the Neo-palatial period (1700- 1600 B.C.). Both surfaces of this clay disc are covered with hieroglyphs arranged in a spiral zone, impressed on the clay when it was damp. The signs make up groups divided from each other by vertical lines, and each of these groups should represent a word. Forty five different types of signs have been distinguished, of which a few can be identified with the hieroglyphs in use in the Proto- palatial period.
Funnbee.info: The World`s 10 Most Famous Uncracked Codes
Friday, December 19, 2008
Still one of my favorite photos of 2008: the Beijing Olympic Segway Police.
In this photo released by the official Xinhua news agency, members of China's armed police demonstrate a rapid deployment during an anti-terrorist drill held in Jinan, east China, on Wednesday July 2, 2008, roughly one month ahead of the Beijing Olympic Games.
2008 in photographs (part 2 of 3) - The Big Picture - Boston.com
Slan by A. E. van Vogt, published in 1940 in Astounding Science Fiction.
His mother’s hand felt cold, clutching his.
Her fear, as they walked hurriedly along the street, was a quiet, swift pulsation that throbbed from her mind to his. A hundred other thoughts beat against his mind, from the crowds that swarmed by on either side, and from inside the buildings they passed. But only his mother’s thoughts were clear and coherent-and afraid.
‘They’re following us, Jommy,’ her brain telegraphed. ‘They’re not sure, but they suspect. Somebody reported us, and our house has already been raided. Jommy, if the worst comes, you know what to do. We’ve practiced it often enough. And, Jommy, don’t be afraid, don’t lose your head. You may be only nine years old, but a nine-year-old slan is as intelligent as any fifteen-year-old human being. Don’t be afraid, no matter what happens.’
Read A. E. van Vogt's Slan online
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Take these recountings with a grain of salt, I should think:
U.S. and Afghan soldiers in Zabul Province give high marks to the Lithuanian Special Forces, who like to ride these captured Taliban motorbikes to sneak up on, and chase Taliban fighters. The “LithSof” are on their way to becoming living legends: Both Afghans and Americans report that the Taliban are afraid of the Lithuanians. Stories about them are filled with dangerous escapades and humor.
Americans say that the Lithuanians are sort of a weaponized version of Borat, who think nothing of sauntering around a base in nothing but flip-flops and underwear. “They look like mountain men. They never shave, sometimes don’t bathe, and often roll out the gate wearing nothing but body armor and weapons. Not even a t-shirt,” an American soldier told me. The Lithuanians may be a little bit nuts, but the Americans love to have them around because Lithuanians love to fight, and when you need backup, you can count on them. That contrasts starkly with many of the NATO “partners.” Maybe when your country spends almost a half-century with the Soviet boot on its neck, its first generation of free soldiers know what freedom is worth — and that you sometimes have to fight for it.
Pajamas Media: On the Front Lines in Afghanistan, Part Two
More pictures at MilitaryPhotos.net
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Samsung and the University of South Korea developed an autonomous surveillance system equipped with a machine gun. Two cameras with zoom allow operation during day and night. Advanced pattern recognition algorithms ensure highest reliability and allow the system to even recognize people between trees.
"Invaders" (or victims, depending on perspective) can be warned via a speaker system.
"Trespassers will be shot. Survivers will be shot again!"
Oh boy, put some wheels on that thing and it's the first Terminator!
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Quoting the Foreword in the Instruction pamphlet: "The ability of units and individuals to survive and remain combat effective in a nuclear war will depend, in large measure, on the immediate actions which they take when confronted with radioactive hazards. The Commander's Radiation Guide provides the field commander with a valuable tool for the rapid evaluation of radiological situations."
Nuclear slide guides
Friday, December 12, 2008
Tens of thousands of Muslim pilgrims move around the Kaaba, the black cube seen at center, inside the Grand Mosque, during the annual Hajj in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2008
This doesn't even look real, more like a rendered graphic or something out of Sim City. The photo gallery at Boston.com gives a good insight in the immense logistical challanges posed by the hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca.
The Hajj and Eid al-Adha - The Big Picture - Boston.com
Concept map by Kalimedia, also known for publishing the "Atlas of True Names".
Denmark spills out of Jutland all the way down to Hamborg.
Poland’s new western border corresponds exactly to the old DDR one, with East German cities renamed Drezno (Dresden), Lipsk (Leipzig) and Berolinsk (Berlin), among others.
The Czech Republic extends into northern Bavaria, including Nuremhora (Nuremberg).
Austria has gone completely Italian (Salzburg is now Salcastello) and has overrun southern Bavaria, including Monaco di Baviera (Munich).
France reaches across the Rhine all the way up to Cassel (Kassel), and has frenchified cities like Aix-la-Chapelle (Aachen), Mayence (Mainz) and Charlesrepos (Karlsruhe).
The Netherlands reach Hamburg and touch Poland, and include Keulen (Cologne), Dusseldorp (Dusseldorf) and Willemspoort (Wilhelmshaven).
Strange Maps: Europe Without Germany
Ha ha yeah, this is right down my alley. Similar to the idea of the "American Archipelago", where the whole continent is blown away and only some scattered islands remain. Well this reminds me...
"According to this top secret Russian document," dated February 26, 1973, "Soviet military engineers" were interested in what they refer to as "assumed changes in geographical structure of Earth continents which may happen as a result of correction of gravity field of the Earth by the A-241/BIS device."
BLDGBLOG: North America vs. the A-241/BIS Device
Thursday, December 11, 2008
This letter, written in 1957 by Colonel Leslie S. Moore of the U.S. Biological Weapons Program at Fort Detrick, Maryland, to a member (whose name I've removed) of the A.S. "(Atmospheric Sciences") division, was basically a get-out-of-hell-free card for its bearer in the case of devastating nuclear attack.
Full story via boing boing
What are some of your writing habits? Do you use a desk? Do you write on a machine?
I am a completely horizontal author. I can't think unless I'm lying down, either in bed or stretched on a couch and with a cigarette and coffee handy. I've got to be puffing and sipping. As the afternoon wears on, I shift from coffee to mint tea to sherry to martinis. No, I don't use a typewriter. Not in the beginning. I write my first version in longhand (pencil). Then I do a complete revision, also in longhand. Essentially I think of myself as a stylist, and stylists can become notoriously obsessed with the placing of a comma, the weight of a semicolon. Obsessions of this sort, and the time I take over them, irritate me beyond endurance.
Daily Routines: Writers
If you think that the current economic crisis is something that has never happened in history before, you may be wrong! After the collapse of the agriculture sector in Zimbabwe in 2000, the inflation in that country skyrocketed to 231 million percent a year! Just think about it - 231 000 000%! Unemployment went up to 80% and a third of country’s population left it.
The Fun Stuff: What the real crisis is like!
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
"Death and Taxes" is a representational poster of the federal discretionary budget; the amount of money that is spent at the discretion of your elected representatives in Congress. Basically, your federal income taxes. The data is from the President's budget request for 2009. It will be debated, amended, and approved by Congress by October 1st to begin the fiscal year.
Death and Taxes started on deviantART many years ago, and has since turned into a huge globe spanning informational phenomenon.
mibi on deviantART
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Friday, December 5, 2008
Centuries of advances in chemistry and optics, including the invention of the camera obscura, set the stage for the world’s first photograph. In 1826, French scientist Joseph Nicéphore Niépce, took that photograph, titled View from the Window at Le Gras at his family’s country home. Niépce produced his photo—a view of a courtyard and outbuildings seen from the house’s upstairs window—by exposing a bitumen-coated plate in a camera obscura for several hours on his windowsill.
World's Firsts - Oddee.com
This is making the rounds a bit in Germany currently: Dutch singer Johannes Heesters, now aged 105, has taken Berlin author Volker Kühn to court. Mr Kühn is claiming that Heesters performed for the SS at Dachau concentration camp in 1941. Heesters admits that he did visit the concentration camp (as is documented in photographs), but claims that they were shown only unsuspicious and well-fed prisoners, and that he did not perform at the camp.
Two old men battle WWII controversy out in court - Radio Netherlands Worldwide
Thursday, December 4, 2008
Some years ago, I (GLS) was snooping around in the cabinets that housed the MIT AI Lab's PDP-10, and noticed a little switch glued to the frame of one cabinet. It was obviously a homebrew job, added by one of the lab's hardware hackers (no one knows who).
You don't touch an unknown switch on a computer without knowing what it does, because you might crash the computer. The switch was labeled in a most unhelpful way. It had two positions, and scrawled in pencil on the metal switch body were the words ‘magic' and ‘more magic'. The switch was in the ‘more magic' position. (...)
It was clear that this switch was someone's idea of a silly joke. Convinced by our reasoning that the switch was inoperative, we flipped it. The computer instantly crashed.
A Story About ‘Magic'
Eight-year-olds with automatic rifles were fighting for Charles Taylor in Liberia in 1996.
The New York Times: A Master Plan Drawn in Blood
A child soldier wearing a teddy bear backpack points his gun at a photographer in a street of Monrovia 27 June 2003 where Liberian President Charles Taylor's forces took control of the city.
Photo from Getty Images by AFP/Getty Images
Interesting visualization of disasters around the world -- even though it does make these calamities appear a bit like out of a computer game.
RSOE EDIS - Emergency and Disaster Information Service
The huge bronze and gold swastika shown in this photo was destined to be returned to the United States by Lt. Gen. George S. Patton, Jr., commanding general of U. S. Third Army. To indicate the source of his war prize, Gen. Patton also sent along this picture captured in Nürnberg, showing Adolf Hitler speaking to the Nazi faithful at the Luitpold Arena. Patton himself annotated the original photo with an arrow and the notation "THIS IS IT" to show that the swastika came from the podium at Luitpold.
Skylighters: Patton's war souvenir
Amateur footage of rather square procession for the German folklore festival. For the "Night of the Amazons" segment (shown in the last part of the video), the mayor of Munich obtained permission by the Gauleiter (the city's Nazi party chief) for a colorful parade, with some of the girls practically naked.
UnknownWW2InColor's Youtube channel
What you're looking at above is not a computer generated drawing, it is a full scale wireframe representation of a Lamborghini Countach created by installation artist Benedict Radcliffe. The car is the latest in a series of wire cars Radcliffe has completed. It's likely the most ambitious, painstakingly crafted from 10 mm steel tube welded together into that familiar shape we all know and secretly love. Upon close inspection you see fine details in the wheels and the intake gills, even the letters spelling "Pirelli P7" are worked out in tubing.
Jalopnik: Artist Creates Wireframe Lamborghini Countach
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Uh, Cameron, please stop being so seductive, no wonder John's mother is getting pissed off at you:
Cameron: "I understand that being John Connor can be lonely."
John: "Oh yeah?"
Cameron: "We talk about it a lot."
Terminator Wiki: Cameron Philips
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
I find Harry Harrison's "Mechanismo" a quite mixed bag, but this artwork stands out especially because of its detailed (and nerdy) description text, which is quoted in part here:
The illustration on the previous pages depicts the interior of the massive TRANSOLAR LINE'S ARRIVAL/DEPARTURES TERMINUS with its famous 'Biggest Window in the Universe". The year is 2488 SGT and the Divison Wars are hotting up throughout the Quadrant. Old Sol (Man's ancestral system) has allied itself with the Capellan Shards against the reactionary Sirian Axis (The Empire) and the legendary hero of Space vice-Marshall (later Primo Marshall of the New Empire Space Militia) TALIAN (extreme right), the most decorated man in military history, has arrived on Janus to help organise Sol's material support for the conflict. Sol was one of the militarily less well prepared systems and her assistance mostly took the form of seconded civilian craft and personnel. In particular Transolar Lines with its variety of large freight and passenger carrying craft was able to give very significant support.
In the illustration, in the background, can be seen the Transolar Lines' CLASS 4 CLIPPER 'India'. This craft is about to leave the system for the Arcturan System where it will undergo a military refit and thence to Arcturus IV to pick up a battalion of Shard combat-ready Marines along with their Biotronic Missile Unit 657 (one of the dreaded Gaussi Battle Robots or 'Two Step Toms' as they were known).
Transolar Lines employed a large number of female crew members and about to receive her orders from Talian is first pilot NIOBE-ARTEMIS VON FREYJA. She already holds the X-on Core Latch Secrifact just presented to her by Talian and her 3-pole Verity Satisfaction requirements will mean a rendezvous in Pluto proximity space. She pilots the Class 4 Clipper 'Italia' and will be ordered upon opening her secrifact to refit her craft in Arcturus. She will then go on to become one of the first female Gaussi fighter pilots. (...)
Port Security Guard CHALKY WHITE has had instructions to apprehend the notorious 'Planetary Wanderer' HUGO LE GRIFFE (later famous as the author of several books, notably 'To Pluto and Back on a Tandem', 'Stowaway on a Ripple Rider' and the award winning 'A Bent Pin on Rivel VIII--A Tantallium Star on my Chest'.) Later he was drawn into a magnificent career with the Shard F.U.E.W.E. (Foundation for Undermining of the Empire's War Effort). Port Security Guard White wears the regulation (and Quadrant wide) security helmet made of 80% plasto-beryllomolybactium and 20% quasi-dermodiamond plus. Helmets of these types will withstand a sustained pressure of 8000 tons per square centimetre without defoming or scratching although they are vulnerable to sustained heat-weapon attack. The port security man holds a non-lethal electro disabler in his right hand as well as a small and lethal Teedee gun in his holster.
Behind the main group is HAROLD D'ALGONQUIN DAZHBOG, adventurer, mercenary smuggler, one time politician, on time embezzler, ex-starship pilot, womaniser and extremely wealthy man. He is waiting to buttonhole Talian and offer his services in some mercenary capacity. Dazhbog succeeded in creating havoc, after Talian accepted his offer, amongst the Sirius System, making hit and run attacks on all manner of Axis targets. He thus earned large sums of money from the Shards and traded with Axis under a diguise, taking their money and then blowing them out of the Universe wherever his luck would allow. Eventually it ran out, however and he was identified while on a bogus commercial attaché trip to Novo Russe War Ministry. While making a dash across a Neorganika-defined auto-highway he slipped and was sucked into the vacuum-grab of a robo detritus-conversion unit where he was rendered, along with the detritus, into plant fertilizer. There is a small plot of land in the middle of a field on Sirius IV where the cabbages are said to grow 12 feet across!
[Harrison, Harry: Mechanismo. Reed Books 1978, p51]
The Nonist: Mechanismo
Werner Herzog about Abel Ferrara's announcement to fight the remake of his 1992 movie Bad Lieutenant:
Speaking of which, the original film's director, Abel Ferrara, has vowed to fight this project, and —
Wonderful, yes! Let him fight! He thinks I'm doing a remake.
Have you talked to him?
No. I have no idea who Abel Ferrara is.
Here's a wonderful clip from the original movie with Harvey Keitel:
Monday, December 1, 2008
Creating a nuclear reaction is not simple. In power plants, it involves splitting uranium atoms, and that process releases energy as heat and neutrons that go on to cause other atoms to split. This splitting process is called nuclear fission. In a power plant, sustaining the process of splitting atoms requires the involvement of many scientists and technicians.
It came as a great surprise to most, therefore, when, in 1972, French physicist Francis Perrin declared that nature had beaten humans to the punch by creating the world’s first nuclear reactors. Indeed, he argued, nature had a two-billion-year head start.1 Fifteen natural fission reactors have been found in three different ore deposits at the Oklo mine in Gabon, West Africa. These are collectively known as the Oklo Fossil Reactors.
Oklo: Natural Nuclear Reactors - Fact Sheet