If there is…

… a more magnificent piece of music than Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, played in it’s entirety, I don’t know what it is.
XM Radio Classics did a wonderful 1/2 hour introduction / lecture on the piece before hand, and then presented the entire symphony, on period instruments, beginning to end. I ended up driving past the house and up the highway again to catch the 4th movement without having to pause to put Zach to bed (we were on our way back from Maine).
During the intro, I had forgotten this bit of history. When the piece was first performed in Vienna in 1824, Beethoven’s hearing had deteriorated completely. He was completely deaf, and therefore never actually heard his masterpiece performed. As related on the wikipedia entry for the Ninth :

At the conclusion of the performance Beethoven had to be forcibly turned around to accept the audience’s cheers and applause According to one witness, “the public received the musical hero with the utmost respect and sympathy, listened to his wonderful, gigantic creations with the most absorbed attention and broke out in jubilant applause, often during sections, and repeatedly at the end of them.”

Can you imagine being in the theater and hearing this piece performed for the first time, not knowing what was to happen next, and being blindsided by the masterful 4th movement? And there, in front, the composer himself, not hearing the public’s jubilant reception of his final work, not knowing of it until one of the members of the orchestra stood up and turned him around to see the audience’s applause and cheering.

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any weirder.

While reading my favorite weekly column by James Randi, I happened upon a discussion where certain individuals were taking some of the Mars orbital photographs, magnifying them past all levels of sanity, washing them through photoshop several times so that all the JPG compression anomalies stood out bright and shiny, and then pointing to these anomalies and going “LOOK! BUILDINGS! IT’S A COVERUP!”

Now, this -must- be a characterization out of line of what these people were saying. Right? Mustn’t it?

Sadly, no, it isn’t.

I direct you, for your own entertainment, to the… comments of one Joseph P. Skipper, of MarsAnomalyResearch.com. Mister Skipper goes on for many many pages about how there is this vast coverup by scientists about existing advanced civilizations right here in our solar system.

Now, sure, give a guy some slack. The tin-hat folks can say “But, how do we KNOW? They’re feeding us bad information!”

But, for argument, let me present Skipper’s commentary on banding on the moon as presented by the Deep Space Program Science Experiment, aka Clementine. Skipper comments on this ‘banding’…

Note that these poorly seen rows of artificial structures of some kind do not give the impression of buildings so much as of giant solid, sectional, possibly contoured, appearing reinforced alternating clamping system structures. Note how precisely horizontally distance separated one vertical row is from the other forming a clear definitive rigidly uniform south/north north/south orientation and precisely spaced apart pattern. So, not only does each of the individual bands speak clearly of artificiality, so to does the over all pattern of the many bands. It is very difficult to regard this as anything less than conclusive definitive proof of massive scale artificiality present on the Moon and on a colossal scale.

Now, it’s quite easy to dismiss this fellows rantings as the standard woo-woo “The aliens are there!” twaddle, and that “the public is simply being deceived about the reality” and other bits, but Skipper tries to back up his rantings with ‘facts’ pulled from known sources.

But here’s where it gets fun. The images that Skipper posts are pulled directly from the Clementine Lunar Image Browser, an online database of all the images from the survey. Skipper himself says how to retrieve the images, and he states that you should set the query to “1 pixel = 1 kilometer”. His sample images are 768 pixels wide, which would make the pictures he’s viewing 476 miles across. The moon has a diameter of 3,476 miles, so the pictures he’s looking at would be about 1/7th of the diameter as we see it here from earth (not taking into account parallax errors due to curvature, etc). So, given those numbers, don’t you think we could see those bands just standing out in a field and looking?

No? Lets go closer. A $100 pair of binoculars would give you a 10x resolution. Heck, lets go nuts – spend that $99 and get a 420x resolution telescope, and take a look at the moon. At that resolution, you should be able to discern objects down to something about 100′ across. According to Skippers page, there is apparently a building that, according to his scale, is about 40km across. Should be pretty easy to see it, don’t you think?

Alas, Skipper spends no time even considering the inanity of his arguments, and continues with the ‘obvious cover-up’ chatter and the declaration of deliberate obfuscation by the government.

Because the entire Clementine Moon imaging is visually a sea of a great many different types and levels of image tampering applications and obfuscation techniques covering and hiding evidence and creating false illusions as to terrain detail in the process and essentially covering and obscuring most of the Moon’s entire surface as well as these bands.

It’s amazing how people will persist in their delusions when all they have to do is walk outside and look up to see that what they’re proposing is so ludicrous it defies explanation.

By the way, the ‘banding’ that Skipper goes on about was due to the fact that the Clementine probe was inserted into a polar orbit around the moon. When you take interlocked pictures of a globe while orbiting it, and piece them together to attempt to display them on a flat surface, there is interference where they overlap. That, combined with the fact that the CLIB database consists of JPEG images – compressed versions of the original imagery, which introduces ‘square’ and ‘noisy’ artifacts into an image, resulted in the ‘bands’ and ‘buildings’ that Skipper latches onto with such tenacity.

Moderation disabled

We’re going to give a try to running without comment moderation for a while. So folks posting / commenting on things should be able to see their posts immediately. Let me know if anything odd crops up.

Aliens sighted over Florida! Or not…

This is sort of interesting. If you go to a few specific spots in Google Maps, you can see what appears to be huge spheres over parts of Florida.
A bunch of folks have been chatting about this, and several theories (“It’s a Mentos ad!”) have been suggested (“Swamp gas from a weather balloon got trapped in a thermal pocket and refracted the light from venus.”).
Curiously, there appears to be several of these ‘Florida Spheres’ aligned in a loose grid pattern. I’m sure the tin-foil hat crowd will leap on this as either proof that the invasion has started, or to explain the sporadic voting record in Florida. Hmm.
What seems the most likely answer is this is a bit of condensation within the camera body itself (if it were on the lens it would be invisible). These pictures were taken via an airplane flyover, so it could very well be water. In fact, on the Flickr site above, you can see the ‘drop’ has evaporated or moved around a bit.
Not to say this’ll stop the UFO-ites, but it should be interesting to see what spin(s) folk take on this.

Another great idea on ‘solar’ power

Saw this one over on GizMag

Want cheap, green electricity? The Australians have a simple answer. First, build a 20,000-acre greenhouse to trap and heat air. Then build a colossal tower 1 km (.62 miles) tall in the middle of it. The warm air from the greenhouse will rise through the tower as it would through a chimney, turning turbines and generating enough electricity to power 200,000 Australian homes. It may sound like science fiction, but the project is on track to get approved by the Australian government. If completed, the $800 million solar tower will be the tallest man-made structure in the world.

Time Magazine had it in their 2002 ‘Best Inventions’ category.
$800 million, powers 200,000 Australian homes, and uses up no fuels, and has very little maintenance. AND the greenhouses can be used for other things – all they have to be is hot. I’ll take it!

CSS noodling, PHP coding, and other geek fun.

I’ve just arisen from my death-like existence for the past 2 days, and it appears I’ve just about shaken off the evil cold that has had me in it’s grips since Sunday night. I wasn’t even able to read email for more than 5 minutes without getting woozy. Talk about tragic.
So, in a burst of “I’M BACK!” I’ve done a bunch of LONG needed updates to Planet-Geek and the MT Comments Counter:

  • Fixed the Comments preview function so it actually renders properly.
  • Revamped the color scheme in the individual archive view – so comments and their authors are no longer in that weird green tint. Not sure what I was thinking there.
  • CSS layout on individual archives and the main page were blocked wrong so it was very easy to have the ‘links’ sidebar disappear, relegated to the bottom of the page. This should be fixed so that sidebar will only move if you make your browser VERY narrow (comments on this please, I’m only evaluating with Firefox).
  • We still don’t have TypeKey support enabled, but we’re still working on it! Anyone who has suggestions on how to get it working properly in MT 3.14 I’d love to hear it.
  • On the MTC counter, I’ve changed from a single-image stream function to generating the graphic totally on the fly. This allows multiple-digit displays for very comment-heavy postings, as well as removing the need for a directory full of graphic images.

A good few hours of noodling. Check it out, let me know if anything needs tweaking, or if things just Look Terrible [tm].

Bob Parsons goes off the deep end

Recently I was pointed to a series of postings on Bob Parsons blog regarding some decisions made by the company that administers the .US domain (that being Neustar).
Mr. Parsons, who is the founder of GoDaddy, a very successful domain registrar, goes on to comment that the recent decision by the NTIA made it ‘illegal to have a private registration’ of a domain.
While the decision by the NTIA may be poorly founded, and Neustars interpretation of the decision flawed (nowhere in Mr. Parsons postings, nor on Neustars site, nor on the NTIA’s site did I find a link to the rule change that is being talked about), I feel Mr. Parsons reaction to be overly dramatic and in fact harmful to the clear and informed process that should be followed when things like this arise.
From Mr. Parsons posting on March 29th :
But Mr. Parsons doesn’t stop there. This is not a poor decision by a government beaurocracy. This is an ASSAULT on our RIGHTS to PRIVACY! I will quote here:

It’s ironic that we lost our right to privacy on the one domain name that says we are Americans!
I find it ironic that our rights to .US privacy were stripped away (without due process) by a federal government agency that should be looking out for our individual rights. For them to choose the .US domain name is the ultimate slap in the face. .US is the one domain name that is specifically intended for Americans. Think about this for a moment: These bureaucrats stripped away the privacy, guaranteed by the first amendment and that you’re entitled to as an American, on the only domain name (.US) that says that you are an American. I am outraged by this — you should be also.

Let me be clear here. I think the NTIA’s decision was a poor one, and should be addressed, but I feel that Mr. Parsons has gone off the deep end equating a poor decision by a government agency with an all out assault on our rights as US citizens.
Domain registrations are a process of creating a space in the public forum where you wish to voice or present information that is uniquely associated with yourself. It is not an anonymous forum. “Private Registrations” are a false workaround to publishing Whois information, by registering the domain through a secondary proxy (in GoDaddy’s case, they are using DomainsByProxy, an affiliate website. The legality of this form of registration is already questioned, since the ownership of a domain could already be perceived as being misrepresented.
I wholly support the process of calling the NTIA and/or Neustar to task for this decision, but it should be pursued in a sane, intelligent way, not via rants and handwaving in the style Mr. Parsons seems to prefer.

NYYC to host 100yr Rolex Transatlantic Challenge

With its entry list now final, the Rolex Transatlantic Challenge 2005, hosted by the New York Yacht Club (NYYC) with the cooperation of the Royal Yacht Squadron (RYS), is holding true to its promise of being one of the greatest sailing races of the 21st Century. On May 21, 20 entrants—ranging in size from 70 to 252 feet (21.3m to 77m) and averaging 112 feet (34.1m)–will set out on a course from New York to The Lizard in England, recreating the Great Ocean Race of 1905. In that historic race, the schooner Atlantic, skippered by the legendary Charlie Barr, set a record that has not been broken by a monohull in a race for 100 years.

For those who like sailing pictures, there’s a fantastic gallery of high resolution pictures of all the entrants available at the NYYC site. Full story at nyyc.org

Why don’t I use the Livejournal Comments system?

I have a fairly large readership that uses Livejournal as a news aggregator for reading my blog postings. This posting is for them…
Ya’ll probably notice a tagline in the postings you see that ask not to use the Livejournal comments mechanism to post replies. The reasoning behind this is that I want to keep commentary on the postings in one place – on the blog itself. When you comment on the feed in Livejournal, you’re just commenting on ‘a copy of’ the article, not the article itself.
I do understand that there are elements of the Livejournal comments mechanism that I do not have available in Movable Type (my blogging software), such as threaded comments, etc. I’m working to add that functionality via plugins, but for the time being, I do ask that if you want to comment on my postings, please click through to the original article, and comment there.


Okay, maybe not quite that bad.
Ya’ll may have noticed that I’ve been posting some new reviews, and made a new section just for Linux and Mac playable webgames. I was getting tired of going to websites that advertise WEB GAMES! Play online for free!, only to find the links for the games are either ActiveX applications or simply a downloadable .exe file. The net is far from homogenous, guys, get with the program.
Anyway, as part of my fight against The Man, I decided to start collecting the best of the online games that are not windows-dependent. As I started working through them, I realized that my Flash player for Firefox was not working. While this doesn’t affect Java based games, it really does limit access to some of the more entertaining stuff.
What followed was 3-4 hours of arguing with multiple Firefox installs trying to get the libflashplayer.so plugin to work. Firefox would recognize it, and ‘about:plugins’ would show it, but nothing would display. I’m still not running, so until I do, no more game reviews. (If anyone has deep insight in to configuring Debian Linux and Firefox to run this correctly, I’d love to hear about it.)
The other chaotic element is we’re going to move all the MovableType based blogs off Homeport and onto Dwight’s machine, which is a managed system located at Serverbeach. This’ll give us greater bandwidth, better support, and less dependency on our home connectivity.
This will affect Planet Geek (Yours truly!), Emergent Chaos (Adam’s fine blog!), HandsOffMyBag.com (Voice your rights!), and Stonekeep.com (Conferences are cool!). We’re planning to do it in a way that will generate zero downtime, so even the people running the blogs shouldn’t notice the change, but there may be a bump or two along the way.
Fun right here in river city!

New MovableType version

This weekend blog goddess Lisa spent a couple hours and upgraded the blogging software that drives Planet Geek and my business site Stonekeep Consulting. It was a bit of a rocky upgrade, but tonight everything is up and running properly.
A HUGE thanks to her and all the work put in. Yay!
One sideline… MovableType can now use TypeKey to verify people posting comments on the site. This is a way to help cut down the amount of blog spam my site gets (hundreds of attempted posts per day). If you don’t use TypeKey, comments postings will remain ‘queued’ until I approve them, so things posted may take a bit of time to appear.

Trivia tidbit du jour

Did you know that Canadian coins stick to magnets?
I was carrying around one of the spiffy Google pins I got at Gnomedex in my pocket this weekend, and noted that one of the coins I had stuck to it (quite strongly). Fishing it out, I noticed it was a Canadian quarter.
Having been brought up with the knowledge that “Coins do not stick to magnets” this was quite an interesting discovery.