Saturday, April 21
Apologies for the break in service but my account was being moved onto a new P3 1Ghz server, messing up the IP and DNS settings. Everything is fine now.
People have finally been arriving back in Cambridge now, which gave rise to this conversation I had:
"Yeah, it's great to be back. Are you ready for another term of doing... absolutely nothing at all?"
For the last couple of weeks, I've been musing about exactly what 'genuflect' meant, after I'd heard it in a mailing list. True to form, I couldn't summon up the energy to look it up in the dictionary and it was only a few days ago that I checked it out. The next day, after being sent a whole load of Disney songs by a friend, I was startled to hear the word being used in the song 'Prince Ali' in Aladdin. Very strange.
Random Trivia: Did you know that Angela Lansbury sung the signature song of 'Beauty and the Beast' as a teapot? Speaking of which, where is Angela Lansbury now?
I recently had an impulse to find out some information about the classic 80's TV series The A-Team. I found two particularly amusing sections.
In the FAQ:
DID ANYONE EVER GET KILLED ON "THE A-TEAM"?So it's true that when the various trains, buildings, cars, planes and so on were blown up and you saw criminals flying through the air in slow motion, they were never actually hurt.
There's also a synopsis of what someone believes the new Hollywood-ised movie of the A-Team will inevitably be like:
"...Act 3 will open with the A-team, crazed terrorists, the scheming Army official, who is secretly funding a lifestyle of opulence courtesy the terrorist leaders, and the rest of the US Army converging on Disneyland during National Orphan's Day Out. Explosions, chase scenes, gratuitous shots of adorable children in peril ensue. At least one part of the A-team plan will go horribly awry, preferably mere seconds before the team leader (Pullman) faces down the corrupt Army official and a gang of incoherent terrorists. At the last possible moment, Mad Skillz [B.A. Baracas] puts aside his prejudice toward the clinically insane to work with Murdoch, and the two execute a complex and statistically improbable rescue.[wipes tear from eye] Classic, absolutely classic.
Wednesday, April 18
I'm having a bit of a problem with the world 'functionality'. I seem to use it far too much in everyday conversation now, e.g. Yeah, if we add this to the website it'll have increased functionality or To be honest, I think that chopsticks have more functionality than traditional cutlery. I'm not sure why this has happened - the word seems to be a catch-all term for practically everything I want to it be.
Monday, April 16
For those of you interested and living in Canada, the co-ordinator of Generation Mars Canada, Katie Harris, is being interviewed about the launch of the competition on CBC Radio 99.1FM at 7:10am EST tomorrow.
BBC News Online have sunk to new depths by using a gratuitous image of Buffy the Vampire Slayer on an article that has absolutely nothing to do with the show, or the actor. The article is actually about the TV writers strike in America, and it just so happens that Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a TV that requires writers.
Earlier on this weblog I mentioned that NASA's next-generation Space Shuttle project, Venturestar (or X-33) had been cancelled by George Dubya. Unsurprisingly, for a project that has already had over $1.3 billion poured into it, it still isn't quite dead: the US military want to pick up the project and turn the X-33 into the world's first military spaceplane, capable to destroying any target on Earth in less than an hour.
While the sci-fi fan in me thinks this is a rather cool thing - for example, they propose using kinetic missiles which would carry no explosives but due to their incredible speed produce an explosion equivalent to a nuclear warhead - I still think it's a sad but telling fact that America's first fully re-usable spacecraft will have a primary mission of blowing things up.
As a military vehicle though, it's hard to fault it. It's out of the reach of any offensive system that any country, including America, can field due to its altitude and speed. Furthermore, it wouldn't cost that much compared to developing a new line of bombers and it could run unmanned.
On a lighter note, here is the Mars Society UK Development Website that I've been working on and off for a fair while now. It's looking fairly respectable now (i.e. not like the monstrosities that are Slashdot and Kuro5hin) and has a good chunk of added user interaction and functionality (there's that catch-all term again). Most of the work on it has been finished now and it'll probably be moved over to the proper Mars Society UK site in a week or two.
The site is running on PHP-Nuke, a Slashdot-style website engine that is good enough and easy enough to use for our purposes; I personally prefer PHP to anything else since it's more of an intuitive language (ASP, from my very limited experience, isn't bad either but it's not as widely supported), but we won't be using their horrible kludge of a forum system, we'll plug in the Ikonboard system that I'm using for this site.
Sunday, April 15
It's that time of year (no, not just Easter) that the good old BBC Reith Lectures have come around again. As I commented last year, the Reith lectures are really top-class stuff by the best lecturers, and this year the subject is on ageing. So far, the first two lectures have already been given and I've been impressed by the way that the lecturer, Professor Tom Kirkwood, has introduced the subject yet also gone into some amount of detail about the biological and ethical consequences of extending our lifespan.
Probably the best part of the lectures, however, are the question and answer sessions. There are some very intelligent questions asked, both in the first and second lecture, although I have to admit that the latter does go into a fair bit of technical detail; I learned something myself.
So if you're at all interested in learning more about ageing then I'd advise you to check out the lectures. They have the transcripts and recordings of the lectures on the BBC website.
While on my weekly visit to Snopes.com to disprove the various (but thankfully decreasing in number) chain emails I receive - this time it was some rubbish about what Neil Armstrong said before he went on the Moon - I picked up this gem of an article about the hoverboards in Back to the Future 2.
It seems that Robert Zemeckis, the director, was asked so many times how they filmed the hoverboard sequences, he said, "What do you mean, how did we do it? It's a real hover-board. It flies. Michael [J. Fox] just practiced a lot." Since a large number of people in this world fail to appreciate a good joke when they hear it, this was taken to be an admission that hoverboards actually existed; that, coupled with the fact that there was a 'Mattel' hoverboard in the film (so they must exist!) led many people to believe that they could buy one.
From the article:
Mattel was besieged with inquiries about where and when buyers could purchase hoverboards. "In most cases, we make it clear it was made specifically for the movie,'' said Glenn Bozarth of Mattel back in 1989 when the phones were ringing off the hook. "But if they've got a sense of humor, we tell them to wait until 2015.''Come to think of it, a while back on Vavatch I talked about the possibility of creating real-life hoverboards in a theme park by laying superconducting magnets under the ground and permanent magnets on the boards. Unfortunately I have a feeling this would cost a rather large amount of cash and create no end of difficulties with people wearing earrings, fillings, watches, etc.