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I was delighted to see this tidbit announced at Farnborough the other week, wherein Reaction Engines is now on a track to produce a demonstration engine by 2020. =:D The sheer potential for SABRE is phenomenal, not to mention Skylon, the fully reusable single stage to orbit spaceplane based thereon. SABRE operates as a precooled jet engine below Mach 5, made possible by an insane cooling mechanism that brings the high pressure incoming air down from 1500C to -150C in one millisecond. Above that speed, the inlet shuts off, and it transitions to being a conventional (well, sort of =:) rocket engine, using LOX carried on board. By using air for as long as possible, the takeoff weight is reduced tremendously, and with the same engines able to bring it from ground to low earth orbit, they're looking at an aircraft that can be turned around in timeframes from perhaps weeks initially, down to a matter of hours later on.

This is a long article c/o the Guardian which I must recommend: The Very Quiet Foreign Girls poetry group. It's an engrossing, fascinating piece, a veritable joy, despite its desperate roots. I'll excerpt the opening here:

It all came from Priya’s poem, and Priya’s poem came from – well, I had no idea. It was an unlikely thing to turn up in a pile of marking. Yet there it was, tucked between two ordinary effusions, typed in a silly, curly, childish font, a sonorous description, framed with exquisite irony, of everything she couldn’t remember about her “mother country”. This was the opening:

I don’t remember her
in the summer,
lagoon water sizzling,
the kingfisher leaping,
or even the sweet honey mangoes
they tell me I used to love.


I typed up a fresh copy of the poem in Times New Roman, removing a stray comma, marvelling at its shape. I printed out a copy and taped it to the staffroom tea urn, then made another, and took it across to the head of English, Miss B. She stuck it on her door, just above the handle, so that everyone entering or leaving her classroom had to read it.

Then I took it into my next class, Miss T’s year sevens. Our school, Oxford Spires Academy, despite its lofty, English name, meets every marker for deprivation and its students spoke more than 50 different languages. Miss T’s class, fairly typically, had students from 15 different mother countries. Some were born in Britain to parents from Bangladesh and Pakistan, some were migrants from eastern Europe or Brazil, a few were refugees from war zones: Iraq, Kurdistan, Afghanistan.

But none of them talked about it much. We are always, in this country, obliging refugees to tell their arrival stories: border officials, social workers, charity workers, housing officers all want to know, and the consequences of telling the wrong tale are dire. In our school, there is a code of silence. Teachers, on principle, accept each new arrival as simply a student equal to all others, and try to meet their needs as they appear. Students follow suit, speaking to each other in English, of English things, in mixed racial groups. This, mostly, is a good thing, but it does leave a layer of stories untold, and some festering, because very few people make it out of war zones by being exceptionally nice at all times. The more terrible the place they have fled, the more likely they are to have seen things that leave an awful, lingering sense of shame.

“I don’t remember,” our students say. “I came from my country when I was six but I don’t remember it. I don’t remember my language. No.”

Priya’s poem, though, was like a magic key. I read it to my class, then asked the students for a list of things they definitely didn’t remember, not at all, from their childhoods. In half an hour, we had 30 poems. Sana had written about her mother tongue: “How shameful, shameful, forgotten.” Ismail, who had never written a poem before, who rarely spoke, covered three pages with sensual remembrance, ending: “I don’t remember the fearless boy I used to be / no, I don’t remember my country, Bangladesh.” So many of them – and so good, so clear. I decided to create a poetry group.

There's apparently more of their work, presented by the article's author, in Radio Three's We Are Writing a Poem About Home, available on iPlayer (probably globally; I believe the BBC only geoblocks TV access, not radio).

Here's rather a fun little aircraft being designed by Electroflight - it's a high performance racer, fully electric, and almost all carbon fiber. Add the crazy torque of electric motors and a light frame, and they're expecting it'll be able to climb vertically at some 9,000 feet per minute. =:D

Don't suppose anyone knows more of the seamy underside of web advertising? I just noticed ABP's concept of "non-intrusive" advertising includes the sheer crap peddled by Outbrain/Taboola. Do they really pay that handsomely? Surely must do, given how widespread their infestation spreads, and to be able to pay ABP for the privilege of (by default) not being blocked.

It's an ad for Bentley, but still, it's a pretty cool one: a very high resolution car photo, apparently 53 gigapixels. Zoom in. =:) (Seriously not sure about that car's color scheme, though!)

Voice-commanded digital assistants present an interesting attack vector, as demonstrated here, where the commands are obfuscated in a YouTube clip so as to make them nigh unintelligible to humans, but perfectly understood by Google.

There's never any shortage of rumors about what Apple might buy next, though usually fairly nonsensical, based on little more than "their cash is greater than this company's market capitalisation". Still, this tidbit suggests that they might be angling to buy a chunk of Formula One racing, on the premise that the broadcast rights would be worthwhile as something to share on Apple TV. And perhaps it could be a venue for some of their own car's tech options to get put through the paces too, invisibly. Who knows? It's at least one of the more entertaining bits of speculation I've seen. ^_^

I happened upon quite a neat variant of the SLR concept the other day, made by only one manufacturer - the quite wonderfully named Corfield Periflex, where rather than having a mirror normally down, guiding the light path to a viewfinder, and flipping that briefly up for the exposure, it used a separate miniature periscope dipping down into the light path for judging the focus through the lens, which was brought up out of the way for the shot.

I was quite surprised, out rabbiteering on Thursday, when I came to casting out the last of the bag of raisins I've been going through (or rather, they have). There was one bun maybe 20' to my left, looking quite relaxed, if a touch cautious; but, I felt I really ought to use the last of the bag up, and thought I'd try tossing said goodies in their direction, quite expecting to have to, regrettably, disturb their peacefulness. But, no, they saw me toss raisins a few times, scattering nearby, and remained where they were. Better yet - a couple minute later, they gingerly ventured closer to me, apparently seeking out what I'd cast their way. ^_^
 
 
 
 
 
 
Don't suppose anyone knows more of the seamy underside of web advertising? I just noticed ABP's concept of "non-intrusive" advertising includes the sheer crap peddled by Outbrain/Taboola. Do they really pay that handsomely? Surely must do, given how widespread their infestation spreads, and to be able to pay ABP for the privilege of (by default) not being blocked.

Technically, to qualify advertising only need to be non-intrusive, i.e. not consisting of garish animated GIFs, Flash ads that autoplay videos and sound, ads that overlay page content, and so on. It's not being said that the ads allowed through need to be relevant, honest, or peddling worthwhile products.

That said I do agree, it is a bit of a shakedown (for advertisers) / sellout (for users, who're now suddenly the product being monetized).
Oh, true, their detritus is hardly the worst the web has to offer - I'm more intrigued by how widespread those companies seem to have penetrated high visibility news sites, and plenty of larger weblogs. (Now complicated by Disqus getting in on the act, serving up that junk for them, providing me with a good incentive to visit TouchArcade only on Safari, rather than OmniWeb, with the latter, unfortunately, never having been updated to accommodate plugins. Still, at least Safari's a pretty solid browser these days, even if no other browser's tabs come close to OmniWeb's)

Likewise, it fascinates me that Project Wonderful hasn't been replicated widely, when I'll happily whitelist PW's ads, as they're genuinely relevant, and indeed, have led to discovering plenty more sites I now frequent. Instead, it's all this bizarre mash of Google busily trying to sell you something you've already bought, or thinks might be relevant based on a different meaning of a single word you recently searched for. Not that eBay or Amazon are any better, with the former set on focusing on ads for terms you've specifically excluded from your search. ^_^; At least Amazon heads off into the weeds early on, possibly on the basis of happy discoveries. =:)