Roger Ebert writes a bittersweet review of the very, very last big-budget action flick ever.
Now you can create any number of solar systems with the click of a button. Convenient for the power-mad and other would-be gods! In an ideal world this simple algorithm would be the foundation of any number of thrilling video games about exploring unknown solar systems. Unfortunately, this is not an ideal world, and other than Frontier: Elite II and First Encounters more than seven years ago nobody else has even tried it. Yet. While we're on the topic of Elite and its relatives, though, you can download a reverse-engineered version of the original for your PC at this site.
Here is Boeing's page for their X-45 UCAV (Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle). The UCAV you've probably heard of before now has actually been a simple UAV: the Predator, a spy drone hastily refitted with anti-tank missiles before being deployed in Afghanistan. The X-45, however, is desgined from the ground up to be a combat vehicle, not a spy plane, and promises to open the era of wars fought entirely by robots. And my country is on the robots' side! Take that, suckers! Hoohah!
A fascinating personal history of Islam by noted raving-lefty intellectual Tariq Ali. Read it over your lunch break, it's rather long.
The home page of Warren Robinett, telepresence engineer, inventor of the virtual reality nanoscale manipulator, and, oh yes, the guy who wrote Atari 2600 Adventure and the poetically lovely Rocky's Boots, an Apple II educational game I wasted endless hours with when I was a small child. (I had no idea the same guy created them both, although in retrospect they have remarkable similarities in their design.)
For your awe and inspiration, here's stunning pictures of the supermassive star Eta Carinae.
And thus we slip, slowly and gently, into a Ken MacLeod novel.
For Star Blazers/Yamato fans: You've never seen the ol' Argo look this good! This page includes gorgeously intricate drawings of SCY spaceships and hardware. Some of the pictures, such as Zero on the Catapult, make Yamato's completely imaginary mecha look as real as any modern-day warship. Link shamelessly stolen from Mike Ryan. Hi, Mike!
Thought about playing lengthly online RPGs such as Diablo II or Everquest? A few rounds with Statbuilder, a new game that perfectly distills the essence of those titles, should swiftly cure you of that notion.
Here's a rather nice proposal for what should go up on the site of the World Trade Center. It's rather pretty, actually, centering around a two-block memorial park surrounded by intricate Art Deco-esque skyscrapers that give the whole enterprise a lovely City Of The Future look. The skyscrapers support both residential and commercial space and the road grid displaced by the huge WTC plaza is rebuilt. The World Trade Center was one of my favorite things ever and part of me still wants to see something even taller go up in its place, but I have to admit this kind of concept is not too bad. Found on 9.11 Memorial, a weblog that's keeping track of this issue.
Happy Australia Day!
To update a previous item: It appears that the folks characterized by a desperate urge to take no action whatsoever are finally budging. There's absolutely nothing about this situation that's worth any kind of happiness, but at least that's a start. Unfortunately, on the other side it looks like the folks with the dark, long-held prejudices are having quite the field day. Didn't we go through this already?
My goodness. According to this, the carefully annotated and thumbed-over "atomic bomb plans" found by reporters in an abandoned building in Kabul back in December are actually from a parody article, originally printed in the Journal of Irreproducible Results, that has been circulating on computer networks since the Internet was a mere academic's toy (I remember seeing it back in my 300-baud BBS days.) If you squint carefully at the sample photographs of the documents, they match. It's really true. One must laugh. Is it untoward to hope bin Laden and his friends spent much effort trying to follow along, and kept their plutonium in an old coffee can as per the instructions?
I'm not really a big Kevin Smith fan, but I have to admit that the bit from Clerks where they talk about Star Wars is pretty darn snappy.
The humble forty-foot shipping container! It's the backbone of the global economy, not to mention providing plenty of low-polygon space filler for video game levels set in seaports and warehouses, yet how many of us have truly stopped to ponder its magnificence? Well, How Much Is Inside? certainly has.
All right. The zany and funny is fine and all, but if I can be serious for a moment? Just for a moment? Thanks. Okay, I'd like you to clear your mind of pre-existing opinions and ponder some harsh facts: the "cycle of violence" that we hear so much about between Israel and Palestine is a lie -- a comfortable lie, in some quarters because it removes any obligation to take genuine action, in others because it snugly conforms to dark, long-held prejudices, but nonetheless a lie. On one side is a democracy that's attempted over and over to negotiate peace with its neighbors; on the other side is a vicious collection of autocrats using their own people as cannon fodder in an unending terrorist war. Yes, sometimes the world really is as black and white as that, you know. Winston Churchill said something pithy once about refusing to be neutral as between the fire brigade and the fire; when are our own leaders going to step up and follow his example?