January 8, 2009
Once every 27 years or so, the mysterious binary star system of Epsilon Aurigae undergoes an eclipse, lasting nearly two years. This gives this system the distinction of having both the longest eclipse and the longest period of any known binary system. However, it is not clear why the eclipses last so long, or even what the structure of the system actually looks like--the main star is a supergiant, with a radius as big as the distance from the earth to the sun, and yet its light is dimmed for two years by something yet bigger. The next eclipse is due to begin in August of 2009, and as part of the International Year of Astronomy in 2009, amateur astronomers are being called on to make their own observations of the changing brightness of Epsilon Aurigae. If you want to try it yourself, you can read the training guide to find out how to do your own observations and report them. In addition, the two scientists who organized observations of the previous eclipse both have webpages [1, 2] which are coordinating the organization for the upcoming observation. If you want to learn more about the science behind ε Aurigae, a good rundown with links to papers is available here.
Eartheasy is about sustainable living. It offers information, activities and ideas which help us live more simply, efficiently and with less impact on the environment. [more inside]
Three US veterans testify. (If the interrogator is too Christian for you, skip to the Vietnam vet.) Also, Shministim. Utah Phillips on pacifism. A First World War Christian Conscientious Objector Remembered. [more inside]
Here's to Ray Dennis Steckler, the independent filmmaker who wrote, starred (as Cash Flagg) and directed influential films including The Thrill Killers, Rat Pfink a Boo Boo, and his masterpice The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies. A visionary artist whose influnce is clearly seen in contemporary cinema, Steckler was prolific (producing movies from 1963 until last year), economical (his films were self-produced, shot on 16mm film and later Hi-8 video), and brilliant (as clearly evidenced in this dance sequence from Creatures, "The First Monster Musical"). It hasn't been widely reported yet, but fans are mourning his passing. He died in his sleep yesterday, January 7th, aged 70. [more inside]
Amazing Food Art by Carl Warner My mind was going to these places as I pushed my mashed potatoes around on my plate with my fork as a kid.
Remember Palm? In the 1990s they created an industry and ate Apple's lunch when their smaller, nimbler Palm Pilot 1000 did the PDA right and blew the MessagePad away. Today they unveiled the Pre, a phone running their new "WebOS" and aimed straight at the iPhone's weaknesses. With one of the guys behind the iMac and iPod running the show, can they pull it off again?
Microsoft has just announced Songsmith. What is it? I think it is some Karaoke / Garageband / Guitar-hero like thing.
All I do know is: The promotional ad video for it is a trainwreck.
All I do know is: The promotional ad video for it is a trainwreck.
Wonderful Nintendo art! A deviantArt user has taken action shots from NES games and placed them in real world scenes. Just a few: SMB 3, Streetfighter, and Excitebike. But be sure to check out the whole gallery.
The Recently Deflowered Girl. The Right Thing to Say on Every Dubious Occasion. Full text and illustrations of an etiquette parody from 1965, illustrated by Edward Gorey. via Jezebel
Songs to Make Dogs Happy. (Or your cat, or bird, or gorilla.) I'm not saying this is a good thing, but it's certainly a....thing that one can buy. Composers have used SCIENTIFICAL STUDIES to create a CD that dogs love. They had a scientist work with them and everything. From that study they perfected tunes like "Squeaky Deaky" and "Scratch my Back". Says one of the musicians, "It's actually a bit nauseating for humans, although people do get addicted to it," said Haynes. "Especially Squeaky Deakey." Doesn't work on everydog, apparently. I can't wait for the mash-ups & remixes.
There's dancing and syrup. Also: cheerleaders and rapping. And mullets.
Title This is a cable-access game show "where art critics and celebrities compete to title Mark Kostabi's paintings for cash rewards." Kostabi hosts, and is sometimes featured playing piano with a jazz combo (e.g. here, with Ornette Coleman). Here's the episode with Mason Reese and Michel Gondry as guest panelists.
Track Stars: The Unseen Heros of Movie Sound (1979) 10 min., 16mm, Terry Burke and Andy Malcolm. A split screen contains on one side an action thriller while on the other side two sound effects artist keep their eyes on the playback and work their tails off. [more inside]
If you’ve got a shabby old suitcase and want to give it a makeover, you could always découpage it. Or disguise it as a watermelon. If it doesn't have wheels, you can add some. If you aren’t traveling much these days, you could put a synthesizer in your suitcase. Or turn it into a pet bed, or a planter. Suitcases can be used as an end table, or turned into chairs and ottomans. The pockets from old suitcases make useful additions to bulletin boards. And if you have unused purses, here are some ideas on how to repurpose them. For info on getting rid of/transforming other types of baggage, see AskMe.
The Book Cover Archive presents "an archive of book cover designs and designers for the purpose of appreciation and categorization". via
Although the evolution of the eye is often pointed to by evolution's skeptics as evidence of design, biologists have been quick to point out evidence to the contrary. Today, Julian Partridge of Bristol University's Ecology of Vision Research Unit has brought to light evidence of a Pacific fish that has evolved biological mirrors for navigating murky water.
You're Going to Die II: The always entertaining astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson discusses a few of the ways the cosmos could kill you, for City Arts & Lectures. [previously]
Rev. Richard John Neuhaus is dead. The founder and editor of the Catholic journal First Things, (I am a subscriber), and an inveterate gossip.
"5 Time management tricks I learned from years of hating Tim Ferriss", author of The 4-Hour Work Week.
Want to learn more about the sordid world of international honey production and distribution? The Seattle Post-Intelligencer tells... well, not all, but enough. The first story is my favorite, but there is something to alarm everyone.
"Did you hear a stalk of celery being cut? If you did, you understand the magic of the Foley Artist." A short film that is just too long about silent films from the previously mentioned podcast You Look Nice Today
Today Boeing completed the first test flight of a commercial jet-liner using a mix of conventional jet-fuel and a fuel created from algae and the african weed jatropha. Boeing hopes that biofueled flights will be common in just three years.
Lewis Lapham, the former editor of Harper's, is giving up his Harper's column to start a blog. There's a lot of other interesting stuff in this post. Like the fact that Lapham's Quarterly, a print literary journal Lapham founded after he left Harper's in 2006, has reached a circulation of nearly 25,000. Lapham warns the audience full of scholars against compromising their interests and simplifying their ideas for the sake of expanding readership.
2009 marks not only the 150th anniversary of the publication of Charles Darwin's On The Origin of Species* but the 200th anniversary of his birth as well. To celebrate, BBC Radio 4 presents a special series of Melvyn Bragg's In Our Time exploring Darwin's life and work: Episode 1 explores Darwin's unhappy childhood, his time at Cambridge University and his failure to become a priest, episode 2 focuses on Darwin's round the world voyage on the Beagle and the objects and the ideas he bought back, episode 3 looks at the publication of Darwin's masterpiece, On the Origin of Species, and the controversy it stirred, and episode 4 is set in Down House where Darwin lived out the final years of his life and which became both family home and experiment lab. [more inside]
NEVAR FORGET an important date ever again, with our handy-dandy calendar! Operators are standing by and listening to your call. Er, I mean waiting for your call. Yeah, that's the ticket.
"The National Counterterrorism Center is pleased to present the 2009 edition of the Counterterrorism (CT) Calendar. This edition... contains useful information across a wide range of terrorism-related topics: terrorist groups, wanted terrorists, and technical pages on various threat-related issues" such as recognizing the effects of an anthrax infection. "The Calendar marks dates according to the Gregorian and Islamic calendars, and contains significant dates in terrorism history, as well as dates that terrorists may believe are important when planning 'commemoration-style' attacks." Conveniently available in both online multimedia format (deep link to the timeline itself), as well as a printable version (63 MB PDF). [more inside]
Pink is still the colour where little girls are concerned, no matter where they grow up - some think propensity for pink is hardwired into girls. For a stark depiction of how many pink things a five-year-old could possibly own, a Korean photographer photographed boys and girls with their possessions arranged according to colour.
Fan of Simon Pegg? Robert Weide? Then DON'T buy the DVD of How to Lose Friends & Alienate People (at least if you are American) [more inside]
Today is Muharram, a holy day for all muslims. Why is it holy, whele, here, take a look for yourselves.
Congress must back sex! According to Larry, "Americans can do without cars and such", but it can't do without sex...and for an extra $5 billion US, he will help Americans do who ever, I mean what ever it takes to get people using porn. However, maybe, just maybe that the decline in sales is due to the free porn access on the net. Another article about it here
As we anxiously/eagerly/fearfully await the premiere of the long-in-coming (previously) remake (previously) of that TV Cult Classic (previously) "The Prisoner" (previously), I am delighted that AMC has put all 17 full episodes of the original Patrick McGoohan series online for you to see, unedited, uninterrupted, also not pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed or debriefed but, yes, numbered.
High-Kick Girl! That says it all but there's more to the story than just a kick to the head. Meet the star, teen karate girl Rina Takeda. Watch her take on a guy in a baseball uniform.