Thursday, July 27, 2006

I Need Some Stamps

I wonder if these are available at my local post office.

Update: Indeed they are. :)

Monday, July 24, 2006

The Look of Bias

WaPo has an article today about the perception of bias in the media. A sample case of news coverage from the 1982 war in Lebanon was used to gauge how much bias people perceived. Each side (in this case, pro-Israeli vs pro-Arab) perceived more bias against their own position than for it. Also, the more informed the observer, the more bias they perceived. Why? Lack of context. There is only so much information you can fit into a news story, so it can be difficult to lend proper perspective to current events, especially ones that are complex and ever-changing. Imagine trying to summarize the history of the Middle East every time you did a report on the latest outbreak of violence. It would be interesting to see if people perceived longer reports as being more balanced than short reports, since longer reports have more space in which to provide context. Of course, they also provide more opportunity for perceived bias.

What Part of the Name "Death Valley" Don't You Understand?

A heatwave in the southwest has already killed several people, but the Badwater Ultramarathon is still a go. I've always thought is was kind of silly to have a race based on the story of a man who died at the end of his run. But this race is even worse. 135 miles over 3 days from Death Valley to Mt. Whitney, 13,000 feet of cumulative vertal ascent, all through the the hottest area of the country in one of the hottest times of the year. Why? Just... why?

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Could Private Industry Beat the U.S. Back to the Moon?

I saw this artcile about Space Adventures' new offer to let people do a space walk outside the ISS. They said the first one could happen around 2007 or 2008. But then there's this sentence:

"The following year, the firm plan to go one stage further and launch the first commercial trip around the moon."

I can't find anything on Space Adventures' website about moonshots. But NASA's Crew Exploration Vechicle that will replace the shuttle and also serve as transport to the Moon isn't suppose to be ready until 2011. And even then, it will be at least another 7 years before the next moon landing.

Now, going around the moon and landing on the moon are, of course, two very different things. A round trip with no stops is much less complicated and requires less fuel and fewer supplies. So getting there and back is a much simpler goal and easier to achieve. Maybe private industry will do fly-bys of the moon for a decade while NASA addresses the much more complicated task of landing and colonizing.

But in the meantime, can anyone spot me $100 million?

*Disclaimer: I have no inside info on any of this. This is just me being a space geek.

Mako, RIP

One of my favorite voice actors, Mako, is dead at the age of 72. Yes, it is perhaps sad that I watch enough cartoons to have favorite voice actors, and perhaps even more sad that I am less familiar with the rest of his long career, since he has apparently done a lot to pave the way for Asian actors in Hollywood (although, looking through his filmography, it's obvious I need to go back and watch some movies again). For those of you who watched Samurai Jack, he was the voice of Aku. For those who currently watch Avatar, his is(was) Zuko's Uncle Iroh. With subtle shifts in tone, he could go from light and jovial to warm and caring to downright sinister and back again. And he had wonderful comedic timing. He will be missed.

Crazy or Cell Phone?

There's an article on WaPo about those nearly-invisible Bluetooth headsets that make it difficult to tell if someone is having a conversation with someone on a cell phone or a conversation with themselves (or whether they're talking to you or someone on a cell phone). So, all I have to do is put one of those things in my ear and I can have a conversation with the voices in my head out loud? That would be an interesting experiment, actually. Just walk around with one of those things in your ear and see just how far fetched you can make the conversation before people start to question it.

"Yes, Tuesday. They're landing Tuesday... I'm not sure where, exactly. They seem to like corn fields. Nebraska, maybe?... Cows? I don't know. Um, Texas, probably... I should hope not, especially after last time. How exactly can you be your own grandfather, anyway?... Very strange quarks indeed..."