The internet does have everything
At this point, I have stopped being surprised by the internet. Enough time has passed, and enough people are involved, that there is a space on the internet for everything. No matter how niche, or bizarre, it’s out there… somewhere. Do you need summaries of the 1200 episodes of the weird gothic soap opera that aired in the late 60s? They’re out there. Yoga with your cat? Right here. 75 years of Band-Aids? Of course. Toilet paper museum? Yep.
The proliferation of strange, and so very specific, things on the internet was why I wasn’t surprised to stumble across a site for buying islands. Of course there would be a site specifically for buying your own private island. This is the internet. What did surprise me was just how many private islands there are. Unless you are very diligent with your geography studies, it’s easy to miss the fact that all of the big land masses are dotted with little islands on the periphery.
Starting at $40 thousand and going up to $110 million, the basic building blocks of the evil lair where you will craft your plan for world domination, like so many things, are just a point and click away.
A computer controlled rifle for long range shooting
This is pretty incredible technology. Trackingpoint makes precision guided firearms. In a nutshell, their system does the heavy lifting for long range shooting. Normally, a long range shot is an exercise in mathematics. As soon as a bullet leaves a gun, it’s falling. And if there is any wind present, it’s getting pushed to the side. Configuring how much the drop and shift are for this grain of bullet, fired at this fps, at a target that far away… is complicated. The Trackingpoint system does all of that for you.
After selecting where you want the bullet to go and inputting the wind speed, the system makes the necessary adjustments so when you put the crosshairs on your target you will be aimed properly. The shooter still pulls the trigger, but the rifle won’t actually fire until it is pointed in just the right spot. The gun also has wifi. This lets it stream video of everything the shooter is seeing to an included iPad. It’s cool living in the future.
Is the Steam Machine a fourth player in the console wars?
The big story in video game consoles is the coming battle between the new systems from Microsoft and Sony. Nintendo, given their library of characters, will always be a player as well. But lurking in the shadows is a usurper to the throne, Valve. Over the past week they have been making some announcements, and they just might be crazy enough to work.
The rumor leading up to the announcements was that we were going to hear about the SteamBox. Finally, Valve was going to make its own hardware to work with their Steam software. That was an intriguing idea. The actual announcements are even more interesting. First, this goes way beyond making their own hardware. This is more akin to what Google did with Android. Valve is going to be releasing the Steam OS and you will be able to put it on whatever hardware you wish. And it is Linux, so the system will be very customizable. For those that don’t want to roll their own, there will also be Steam Machines from a variety of manufacturers, at a variety of component levels.
It’s all supposed to go down in 2014, and it should make Valve a part of the console conversation. With so much of gaming moving online, Valve is in a perfect position to enter the fray as all companies battle to take over the living room. Whether or not they can ultimately compete with Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony remains to be seen, but it should make the whole thing a lot more interesting.
Never drive in Russia!
There is no shortage of dash cam footage from Russia on the internet, and there is are good reasons for that. Along with the insanely dangerous prospect of just driving on the roads, insurance fraud is rampant. And the best way to protect yourself from it is to have your own video evidence. If you wonder what that might look like, have a look at this video. It’s unbelievable.
When do we just do away with youth football?
Admittedly, that post title is me just being a tad sensationalist. But it does get us started on the path of what I think is an interesting conversation. This stems from another death over the weekend where a 16 year old high school athlete dies after a helmet-to-helmet hit. That is tragic, of course, but the more disturbing news comes from The National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research.
Over the ten years of 2003-2012, 25 high school players have died playing football. Another 78 suffered irreversible brain damage. And 71 received ‘catastrophic’ cervical injuries. That is 174 kids. Just over 17 a year. I bring it up because I think there does exist a number where we would have to throw our hands up and say, ‘Ok, that’s enough. We just can’t have this happening anymore.’ Apparently, 174 isn’t that number. It gets a bit creepy if you think about that. Taken from that perspective, what we are saying as a society is that destroying the lives of 17 kids a year is a reasonable price to pay to keep football in the equation. So where is the line? Is it 50 kids? 100? 1000?
Take football out of the equation. Imagine if the playland at a restaurant chain was randomly killing and maiming children. The kids that didn’t die or suffer life-altering injuries were having a great time, but there was still this pile of statistics that showed that every year a certain number would die or be catastrophically injured. What would the number be for that? I’d wager it’s a far shot lower than 17.
I’m sure that the argument is that more work needs to be done to make football safer. Better equipment. Better coaching. I’m not buying it. It is a sport based on violent collisions. Short of putting everyone in those inflatable sumo suits, you’re not going to do anything about that. I’m just cynical enough to believe that much, if not most, of the inspiration behind the various ‘make football safer’ campaigns has as much to do with protecting the money machine as it does about actually improving safety.
Something completely new in cellphones
The Phonebloks concept has been making the rounds on the internet, and it is an intriguing idea. In a nutshell, the phonebloks device gives you a main board that you attach the bits you want to. So, if you want a great camera, you just pop off the old one, and add the upgraded version. If you don’t use bluetooth, you skip it and free up space for something else. You can even choose a full or half screen, for those that would like to snap in a hardware keyboard. The idea is very cool, and something I would certainly be interested in. I think the first rub comes with how they are marketing the idea.
One of the big selling points is how much more ‘green’ this is. There are so many devices being discarded as people upgrade their phones… etc. Does this really do anything to stem that tide? Presumably, advancements in processors are going to continue. The same goes for storage. And batteries will continue to be batteries. I suppose you may hang on to your main board a little longer than in the past, but even that will most likely be replaced. Because if you don’t have phonebloks main board 2.0, you can’t use the must-have widget just released by factory X.
And it would seem to open a pandora’s box of compatibility shenanigans. This OS upgrade requires this main board. Or this blok requires a minimum of that OS. And that hasn’t even touched on the big question of being able to get the phone companies on board. At the end of the day, it’s an interesting concept. But until there is real hardware addressing some of those questions, it’s really not much more. Here’s a video with a better look at the whole idea.
This video will blow your mind
You just can’t watch the first 22 seconds of this video enough times. The whole thing is really interesting, but that first shot will boggle your eyeballs. It’s all about research that marine biologist Roger Hanlon is doing on the use of camouflage in cephalopods. Even with that hint, do you see the octopus in the above photo? Watch the video at Science Friday…
Nature’s Wonders Never Cease – Son Doong Cave
The story of the Son Doong Cave in Vietnam is incredible on a couple of levels. First, it’s a 5.5 mile long cave that features a river and a jungle, and the ceiling soars so high in spots you could fit a skyscraper inside of it. That alone is amazing. Follow that link and take a look at the rest of the pictures. It’s incredible.
But what really fascinates me is that the cave was only discovered in 1991. And it wasn’t explored until 2009. That’s crazy! Now that the cave has been mapped and explored, Oxalis is going to be offering a six day tour. If you want to get in on it though, you had better hurry. There are only 220 permits available for 2014.
English is hard!
We’ll begin with a box, and the plural is boxes,
But the plural of ox becomes oxen, not oxes.
One fowl is a goose, but two are called geese,
Yet the plural of moose should never be meese.
You may find a lone mouse or a nest full of mice,
Yet the plural of house is houses, not hice.
If the plural of man is always called men,
why shouldn’t the plural of pan be called pen?
If I speak of my foot and show you my feet,
And I give you a boot, would a pair be called beet?
If one is a tooth and a whole set are teeth,
Why shouldn’t the plural of booth be called beeth?
Then one may be that, and three would be those,
Yet hat in the plural would never be hose,
And the plural of cat is cats, not cose.
We speak of a brother and also of brethren,
But though we say mother, we never say methren.
Then the masculine pronouns are he, his, and him,
But imagine the feminine: she, shis, and shim!
The Stasi is everywhere
ESPN has a fascinating article about Katarina Witt that coincides with their Nine for IX series of documentaries. It tells the story of what it meant to be a world class athlete behind the wall, and how a young Katarina learned to use the power that her abilities on the ice gave her.
Of particular interest to me, given the current climate in our part of the world, is the revelation of how the Stasi was tracking her. It’s like something out of a spy movie. Transcripts of conversations, tracking her movements. And perhaps most chilling of all… the young Katarina was dating a drummer in a band. The powers that be decided this could be a distraction to her skating, so they sent him away. Just like that. The story of the fall of the wall, and how that played out for Katarina may also surprise you. The whole thing is well worth the read.