Hm. Australia appears to be on fire.
Via USENET: Dieselpunk!
Ehem. Updates will be slightly less frequent from now until January 8 or so due to vacation and, of course, Final Fantasy 10. Thank you, please drive through.
Via USENET: Tired of getting spam from mainland China? Here's a new option for you. Social engineering at its best.
Update on previous items: It turns out that Fleep got yanked in the middle of its run. It's possible to acquire the complete story directly from the author, though. Meantimes, the same site that has the C-130 Hercules carrier landing mentioned below has many other unusual aerospace-related videos, including the Hercules taking off again, launching an F-100 fighter from inside a barn, and an alarming flight under the Eiffel Tower.
Got a burning question that can only be answered by a stereotypically aloof and uncaring RPG hero? Why not consult the Magic 8-Squall?
Eerie. Two photographs of the Space Shuttle Endeavour being escorted by F-15 fighter jets during rollout for launch back in November. I think I saw this in a video game once. For other aerospace-related fun, you may wish to peruse these videos of a C-130 transport plane landing on the aircraft carrier USS Forrestal, or consult this real-time orbital tracking data that will let you know when the International Space Station is overhead. Let the page sit open for a little while; you'll see the icon for the ISS change position as the station moves in its orbit. Truly we live in wondrous times.
The man's got a good point. Why is Jerry Falwell still in business, anyway?
Oh well. Ya know, a few years ago we didn't have to worry about problems like terrorists attacking major American landmarks; indeed, it was a halcyon age, when young and old were free of care and all we had to fear was the complete annihilation of human civilization in a global thermonuclear war. This document examines the roots of a war scare that took place during Reagan's first term, when the Soviet Union was genuinely convinced that the United States was plotting a surprise nuclear attack. Pleasant dreams!
Extrasolar Visions is a catalog of the increasing number of planets that have been discovered orbiting other stars. Once space-based interferometer telescopes such as the Terrestrial Planet Finder and Darwin start to come on-line over the next ten or twenty years, we will be able to directly image these planets, analyze their atmospheres, and look for evidence of life. The eeriest discovery so far is a world only slightly bigger than Earth, located in an immensely distant galaxy. It was only detected through pure chance: light from a quasar, Q0957 +561, happens to be distorted by the galaxy in front of it in a phenomenon called gravitational lensing. Light is affected by gravity, so its path bends when it travels near a large mass such as this galaxy. If the mass is positioned just right, it acts as a natural distorting lens when seen from Earth. And in this case, a tiny fluctuation in the distorted image of the distant quasar is consistent with a planet in the galaxy passing directly in front of the quasar. The odds of this happening are, as one might imagine, quite small, and the odds of it ever happening again in the same place aren't worth talking about. It's likely we will never know anything more about this strange, distant world.
This article in Slate analyzes the origins and life of the "Afghan-war-is-really-about-oil-pipelines" conspiracy theory. It's very depressing -- not the snappily written article, but the mere existence of its subject matter. Speaking as a loyal Democrat (just to get all the biases out on the table here) the most vile thing I saw going on in America during the 1990s was the lengthy campaign on the part of our political right wing to smear Bill Clinton. Those who had convinced themselves that Clinton was the root of all evil had no problem believing any story, no matter how absurd, as long as it agreed with their preconceptions, and dismissing out of hand anything that didn't; rules of evidence, thoughtful analysis, and in the end simple rational behavior were long lost to them, casualties of politics. It breaks my heart -- although in retrospect I really shouldn't be surprised -- to see people on the left succumb to this particular brain-eater too. As Stevenson concludes: "What's absurd about the pipeline theory is how thoroughly it discounts the obvious reason the United States set the bombers loose on Afghanistan: Terrorists headquartered in Afghanistan attacked America's financial and military centers, killing 4,000 people, and then took credit for it. Nope -- must be the pipeline."
However, on the other hand it's impossible to dislike U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
Fleep is an epic 42-page comic book story about a boy trapped in a phone booth encased in solid concrete. Read it. That is not a request.
Google has opened a brand-new wing of their USENET archive containing posts all the way back to 1981. I was able to locate my earliest post from when I was an undergrad at Penn State, dated April 21, 1992. (And in my first post, I'm already pining for the good old days. That has to be some kind of record.) Indeed, as I read I'm realizing the same thing everyone else who browses for their own old posts is finding. Namely, what an embarrassment this is! The number of inane posts I made to USENET during college boggles the mind. Why, back then I was just an arrogant, self-absorbed, know-it-all geek, obsessed with sci-fi and computer games, spending all his time in front of a screen, whereas now I... er... oh.
Speaking of Google, another handy feature is that you can browse it in L33T H@XX0R SP33K.