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A scientist has discovered a way to put animals and possibly people into suspended animation with a poison gas:

This stuff just amazes me. Too bad it almost always turns out to be impractical or impossible to develop.
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Sometimes I find surprising things on the web. Such as this.

It's a copy of Alfred Bester's 5,271,009, which happens to be my favorite story of his. What makes it interesting (or intereeesting, as my fingers originally told me) is that 1) it includes a few preliminary paragraphs apparently by Bester himself about how he happened to write the story, and 2) it's a dead link - the only way to reach it is to view Google's HTML version of what was originally a PDF document. The cache is a little screwed up, however, if you want to read the last page, you have to do a print preview or print it.

The missing tagline is, as I recall, "There was a blinding flash, and Jeffrey Halyson was ready for his 2,635,505th decision."


Feb. 1st, 2009 10:27 pm
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Saturday morning Sebastian and I joined his Cub Scout troop on a visit to the WPRI, channel 12 FOX Providence. We met Pete Mangione, one of the weatherman there. He gave the kids a talk about being a weatherman, answered a lot of questions (not all of which really made a lot of sense), and let the kids play on the blue screen a bit. I even got on the blue screen myself, since I was wearing a plaid blue shirt that made me look as if I were riddled with holes. The kids loved it.

I took some video and photos before my batteries ran out (damn it, that happens too often). Several of us sent photos to the troop Yahoo group, and the Cubmaster sent one of mine to WPRI. To my amazement and delight, they showed the picture on the broadcast! Pete even circled Sebastian and one of his friends, football-diagram-style, because they were the only two who had actually been looking at my camera instead of the one to my left.

I have the broadcast on tape, and I'll convert it to some computer format soon. I wonder if it's already online somewhere?
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There was an amazing game that I only saw once, in the basement of a huge old hotel-mansion somewhere in upstate New York. I'm not sure if you could call it a video game, exactly. Part of it was actually a diorama, with a whole scene of little plastic trees and things. There was a little tank in the middle of the scene, and appearing on top of it was a glowing missile that seemed 3D, but also didn't seem solid. I think somehow a mirror was involved.

Anyway, enemies (planes? missiles? I don't remember, it was long ago) would shoot towards your tank from the night sky, and you'd launch your missile and try to shoot them down. The neatest thing was that you could steer the missile after you launched it. Once it blew up the target, a new missile would appear on your launcher.

I never saw that game again, and I don't remember the name of it. I don't even remember the name of the hotel. But the memory of that game has stuck in my mind for thirty years now.

And now thanks to Google I not only have been able to find the name of the game (S.A.M.I., or "Surface-to-Air Missile Interceptor") and a cheesy old ad for it with a girl in a silver lamé jumpsuit, but I've found video of it in action as well!
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Did I already post this link? This Dahl story has stayed in my head forever.
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I'm still annotating old zines; there are a number of new ones online now. And did I mention that thanks to [ profile] unquietsoul5 I've been able to post a complete copy of Interregnum #1? You can find it on the Zines page on my RQ site.

Anyway, I was reading my comments and ran across several references to a story by George Phillies that I'd liked very much: "Who Slays Satan". On an impulse I Googled, and sure enough, it's available as a free sample for his online book!

George is (or was) running to be the Libertarian candidate for President this year, incidentally.
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The Magic Tree The Magic Tree
Arnold Arboretum, May 2008

To reach it, go to the Arnold Arboretum and take Beech Path from the western, Hemlock Hill Road side to just over the crest of the hill. The magic tree is to the left, perhaps 100 feet off the path across a grassy meadow. Look carefully for a parting in the curtain of the leaves; it's the easiest point to enter. Watch out for branches, and prepare to be amazed!

Here's a shot with Sebastian to give you a sense of the sheer size of the inside of the tree. It's like being in a magical room with green walls all around. The birds still sing, high above you - much higher than you'd expect from the outside. You can hear people outside, but they don't know you're there. I've said all this before, and it's still inadequate.

Please be kind to the tree. Many people have carved things into it, and it deserves better treatment.
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This is my first attempt at a substantive post over on the beta version of Salon's new "Open Salon" blog-like thingy. I was excited to find a link to Fredric Brown's wonderful short story "The Waveries" for it; if you haven't read that story, you should!

The automobile has been an essential part of the American national character for more than seventy years. It's arguably the definitive American characteristic, far more pervasive than pale pretenders such as baseball and apple pie. An America without cars is virtually unimaginable. But now that it has become painfully clear that we are witnessing the beginning of the end of petroleum as the dominant form of energy, can the American automotive dream survive?

Perhaps not. If the transition to new forms and sources of energy is handled poorly (or not at all), then the issue may not matter; people will be too busy scrabbling for food and the essentials to worry about personal transportation. Alternatively, a better-managed process might end up concentrating on mass transportation systems, most likely some form of light rail.

Local transportation would be by foot, by horse, or perhaps by bicycle. The author Fredric Brown painted a rather Utopian vision of such an American future in his classic short story "The Waveries". But such a peaceful evolution towards an idealized sort of 1890s level of technology is difficult to envision, at best. The United States government has not been noted for that degree of long-term planning and social engineering.

It is also possible that such a level of technology might not be sufficient to support current world-wide population levels; violence on an unprecedented scale would be the likely result. Whether or not the human species would survive is open to question.

But if one or more alternative sources of energy are developed and implemented throughout the US, the car is still in trouble. Developments in electric car technology do offer some hope; by decoupling the car from petroleum. Any energy source which can produce electricity on a large scale would be sufficient to charge an electric car.*

But driving habits would have to change, requiring a considerable change in attitude and behavior on the part of Americans. Long-range driving would be impractical or impossible. Cars would need to be charged overnight, every night before use.

The crux of the problem is this: gasoline, in addition to its relatively low cost and convenience to transport, is also an extremely dense form of energy. To refill the average gas tank takes a few minutes at most, and that full tank yields hundreds of miles of driving.

Even if battery technology improves to the extent that a fully-charged battery allows the same driving range, batteries simply cannot be recharged as quickly as a gas tank can be filled. Barring startling developments in battery technology, electric cars will require an hour or more to recharge. If you thought gas station lines were bad in the 1970s, imagine what they'd be like if it took an hour (or several hours) to refill at the pump!

The recharge speed limit also limits the long-distance range of electric cars. As such, it implies a fundamental rethinking of the American automotive experience (which might not be a bad thing, of course). But there is a way around it. While batteries cannot be recharged as quickly as a tank can be filled, the batteries themselves can be made quickly and easily replaceable.

The "gas station" of the electric-car future would maintain a stock of fully-charged batteries. These would have to be standardized on a national basis, although it is unlikely that only one type would be offered; larger batteries would probably be needed for trucks and heavier vehicles. On the other hand, it would be neither practical nor desirable for each manufacturer to use a proprietary battery - it simply wouldn't be possible for most stations to maintain a sufficient stock of each brand of battery to handle most eventualities.

The batteries would be designed to be removed and replaced quickly and easily, probably by machine. Security would be necessary, of course. Just as more cars are likely to have locks for their gas caps in the waning days of petroleum, batteries would be secured by lock and key.

Is such a future possible? It's fully possible using already-existing technology; it requires no technological breakthroughs. Is the US government and the American automotive industry capable of achieving it? That seems far less likely.

But would Americans adjust to it? Faced with Hobson's choice, of course they would - if the alternative is giving up on America's long love affair with the automobile.

* - There is also, of course, the matter of developing a non-petroleum-based industrial base capable of manufacturing such a car at a cost affordable to most Americans. But that's beyond the scope of this article. It is interesting to contemplate a future in which only the rich can afford automobiles, while the masses are forced to depend on less-advanced or convenient forms of transport. I rather suspect this would engender class warfare on an unprecedented scale.

Wavy Snow

Jan. 17th, 2008 10:47 am
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Check this out!

I snapped this with my cell phone when Teri was driving me to the train station a couple of days ago. Heavy, sticky snow had fallen the night before, and some quirk of melting made it fall into this odd pattern. Cool, huh? It looks like frosting!
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I was delighted to find one of the greatest episodes of MST3K ever over on Google video (it's not available on YouTube): Gamera vs. Guiron. The whole movie! It's downloadable in mp4 format, too.

bobquasit: (Sam - Holy ^@%#!)
Has anyone tried I read about it in the New York Times a while ago, and it sounded awfully interesting. It gives you a new phone number in your area code, and when that number is called, it can ring any number of phones. It also gives you a ridiculous amount of cool features; it tells you who's calling so you can decide whether or not to speak to them, and it lets you listen in while they're leaving a message - if you want, you can even break in and connect while they're leaving a message, just as if you were using an answering machine to screen messages.

Anyway, I'm a little nervous about trying it, so I thought I'd ask if anyone else has given it a go.
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Long ago I bought some cool stuff from some merchants at Arisia. They had a cool name, too: The Weapon Shops of Isher (from the A.E. Van Vogt books).

I picked up a cool little LED gun, and a beautiful magic wand. I splurged and bought an extra screw-on head for the wand, a very pretty crystal one. The wand itself was brass, I think, with a narrow plastic band separating two screw-together sections; to make it light up, all I had to do was bridge the gap with a finger. Fun.

The wand and gun are somewhere, I'm sure, but I don't know exactly where. Probably in one of my storage boxes. They're definitely not lost. But the best thing I bought was the Annoyatron.

It's a shiny metal tube with four clear plastic-covered ports. When it's turned on, it makes a beeping noise. And that noise varies in pitch and speed depending on how much light gets in those ports.

Sebastian loves it. I'm amazed that Teri hasn't thrown it out yet.

The Isher people used to be a regular feature at Arisia, but one year they failed to show up. They never came back again. I assumed that they'd gone under.

Just ten minutes ago, I found out that I was wrong; they're doing business as Isher Artifacts. Maybe they always used that name, and I've just been searching for the wrong one (although they definitely haven't been at Arisia under any name for close to a decade).

In any case, they're they're still selling the Annoyatron - as well as some gorgeous new stuff.

Damn. I wish I had money. My old Annoyatron is starting to sound a bit feeble.
bobquasit: (Me)
For the past nine days or so it rained. Pretty much non-stop. The last two or three days it rained heavily. Sometime last night, or early this morning, it stopped raining.

And the Woonsocket should have seen it. There were an amazing number of people downtown, just staring at it and taking photos. But photos don't do it justice, so I'm including, for the first time, a video clip. You have to see it to believe it.

Before you do, though, you might want to take a look at some photos of the waterfall as it normally is, here, in one of my earliest entries: Images of Woonsocket Falls. There are a bunch of photos in that entry, but they're all fairly low-res.

Go on, I'll wait.

And now take a look at this clip. It's short, only 7 seconds, and only 2.3 MB, so it won't take too long to load.

Woonsocket Falls, 10/16/2005

Pretty cool, huh? The water was churning and blasting so hard that it was as if it was still raining in the entire area; there was that much spray in the air. I was interested to see a large "Department of Public Safety" vehicle near the falls; later I heard that the flood gates of the falls had been opened three times during the night.

I don't know if you can tell in the video, but the water that was blasting against the large rock island under and next to the middle of the bridge (visible during seconds 3 & 4) was shooting about 20 feet up into the air.

Sebastian fussed a bit because he was afraid that the falls would be too loud, but we managed to get through without him getting too upset.
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Here. Here's a link to The Thirteen Clocks by James Thurber. It's a wonderful story; read it while you can, before the copyright police kill it.

And sometime you can do a favor for me.


Apr. 10th, 2005 09:48 pm
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Just a reminder that a number of my posts are friends-only, particularly of late. If you're not logged in, you're not seeing all of my journal. Of course, if you're not registered with LJ, you're out of luck.

In the last few days, particularly, there has been a major issue.

On other fronts...last night Teri crashed early, so Sebastian and I were on our own. I made dinner for him, and when he was done, he - without my asking for or expecting it - dumped the leftovers in the trash, rinsed off his plate, and dried it.

What a boy. It's hard to believe that he's only three years old.

I just finished re-reading Frank Herbert's Dune. I first tried to read it when I was ten, and it was the first book that was too complicated for me; I threw it across the room in disgust (which is very unusual, because generally I treat all books with reverence).

Years later I gave it another try, and was impressed. It was far and away the most complex work of fiction I'd ever read. And since then I've re-read it every year or so, and I always get something more out of it. I'll pause just a moment here to say that while I recommend almost everything by Frank Herbert, his son should have had his fingers chopped off before he ever got near a word processor.

That said, I found an amusing little bit in Appendix IV of Dune; something that I wouldn't have expected. See if you can catch it:
She is known in popular history as St. Alia or St. Alia-of-the-Knife. (For a detailed history, see St. Alia, Huntress of a Billion Worlds by Pander Oulson.)
Did you catch it? I'll place the answer behind an LJ cut:

Okay, I'm stumped! )
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I search for cool rare things. The internet has made that a lot easier, and I've found most of them. I can't afford them all, but I can find a source for them.

There are two exceptions. One is the TV movie Shadow On The Land, which I've been working on but will probably never be available (more about that some other time). The other was a song from a compilation of new wave/punk songs of the late 1970's called No Wave.

Someone borrowed that record from me in the 80's, and I never got it back.

So my extremely cool friend Steve had a CD sent to me of the album. The strange thing is, I had no idea that it was ever made into a CD! Turns out it's a Japanese disk that he found on eBay. The disk arrived today.

(I have to admit that I don't know why my friends like me, but I'm not complaining.)

I'd found lots of the songs on that album, but there was one that had stymied me: I'm Alive by a Canadian band called The Secret. I'd searched various peer to peer networks for years, and never found it. And now I have it legally!

I ripped it immediately, of course, and have put it up on my server overnight to download elsewhere.

The song is basically insane. You'll need a good sense of humor to enjoy it, but it's so bizarre that it's great. If you liked Ween's Push th' Little Daisies you might like this one very much.


Jan. 11th, 2005 06:57 pm
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My solution to VectorPark's "Levers".

I wish they'd do some new stuff.


Sep. 24th, 2004 08:43 pm
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I have in my hands something very rare and precious, thanks to the coolest guy I know. With any luck I will be able to scan it and somehow make it available online:

Casper, The Dead Baby!

The official title is actually "Kaspar, The Dead Baby in 'DIE, my baby, DIE!'"

These are 11x17 inch photocopies which I believe are from the original publication art, or in-house archive copies. I'm not sure I have access to a scanner that can take an image that size. If not, though, I'll find one.

Also on my to-do list is "The Story of Beef".

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Over the years when I've come across an interesting link that wasn't quite interesting enough to add to my Favorites, I've stored the link in a text file.

Many (most) of those links are dead now, of course, but I might as well dig up some of the old ones that work and post them here, just for the heck of it.

Here's the first one: Vector Park.
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On Saturday we went to the Bridge of Echoes in Needham, MA with my parents, my brother and his wife, and their kids. The videocamera died for some reason (I don't yet know if it's permanently dead), but I got some decent shots with the still camera.

On the way to the bridge we took a small detour to see this waterfall. Apparently that's some sort of restaurant in the shot; pity the water looks so dirty, as otherwise it looks like a lovely place.

It took a bit of climbing to get to the top of the aquaduct (the bridge is actually an aquaduct), but it was worth it. The part over the river must have been close to 100 feet high. Teri's agoraphobia kicked in; it didn't help that the walkway isn't flat, but rather has a peak shape that makes you feel as if you're being pushed to one side or the other. The view was incredible. Incidentally, those are the tops of very tall trees alongside the aquaduct. On the way back a couple of canada geese flew by, honking; they were high above the river, but actually just below the height of my head as they skimmed over the top of the aquaduct.

The iron railings on the sides were also quite interesting, because they were simply packed with yellowjackets. The railings are hollow and in some cases rusted out, and the bees were swarming everywhere. I tried to get some close-up shots of the bees, but maybe I was too nervous - when I downloaded the photos, the bees were just out of shot.

Creepy - you could hear the buzzing as you walked down the aquaduct.

Here's a shot from the middle of the aquaduct. That restaurant next to the falls is in the lower part, of course. Needham has some spectacular radio towers.

Another shot from the top of the aquaduct. These are the start of the steps down to the street. It's a long way down, particularly if you're carrying a 39-pound boy who's too tired to walk.

Top to bottom. It may not look that high in this shot, but that's because this is the shortest part; the river is actually well below the street level. That's my father down below, although that's not his truck.

Cross over the street and you soon reach the head of another staircase that leads down to the inner base the bridge, and the echo platform. I don't know what she sees in it, but since Teri likes this shot I'm including it here.

The staircase down to the echo platform. My father and brother are at the bottom, and Sebastian's head can be seen as refreshed (but not entirely willingly) he climbs down on his own.

An experiment: a composite photo of the entire span from underneath. I stood in one spot and started out with my head bent way back to get the side of the arch behind my back, then tried to space shots out evenly. Not perfect, but kind of fun to create, I guess.

The echoes were pretty cool; Sebastian enjoyed them, as did we all. If you'd like to know more about the bridge, here's an article about it. And here's a page with much better photos than mine.


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