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Here's a neat competition: the ScienceBlogs 500,000th Comment Contest (currently at 473,593 as I type this, passing about 10k per week). "Grand prize: A 5-day trip to the greatest science city in the world — as nominated by our bloggers and as voted on by you." The contenders are Cambridge, Cambridge, and San Francisco. =;) (The first Cambridge is way ahead in the voting) It does appear to be open to anyone over 18, not restricted to inhabitants of any given sliver of the planet.

Simply wonderful. I'd suggest just watching Robbie Dingo's video (low resolution YouTube version here), before reading the story behind it, of how one master's painting was beautifully brought to life in SL. It's fascinating to watch, but it's the final result that's simply breathtaking.

What was most likely a Yangtze River dolphin was caught on film in August. ^_^ Of course, that still leaves them on the brink of extinction, but at least, on the right side of it.

shep_shepherd pointed out a track that I'd long lost in the recesses of what passes for my brain - Space's "Magic Fly". I'd never even known it was called that. ^_^;

[Edit: the article's since been pulled. Hopefully just a hoax, though this story it cited from the Daily Telegraph, a conservative UK broadsheet, illustrates the current state of thinking in the White House and Tehran remains pronouncedly tense] The drumbeat for more US war's been getting louder recently, with Iran in the spotlight. Nothing new - supposedly that's been in the works almost as long as invading Iraq (and may well have come close, of course. The US vs USSR standoff had one or two extremely close calls). Still, this report supposedly comes from "an LSO [Landing Signal Officer] on a carrier attack group that is planning and staging a strike group deployment into the Gulf of Hormuz", claiming that "all the Air Operation Planning and Asset Tasking are finished. That means that all the targets have been chosen, prioritized, and tasked to specific aircraft, bases, carriers, missile cruisers and so forth" and "I don’t think it’s limited at all. We are shipping in and assigning every damn Tomahawk we have in inventory. I think this is going to be massive and sudden, like thousands of targets. I believe that no American will know when it happens until after it happens."

loganberrybunny spotted an eminently worthwhile read: Jeremy Paxman's James McTaggart memorial lecture, on the nature and purpose of British television. It's an eloquent and amusing discourse on just what the industry does, and should, stand for, particularly in light of scandals such as a phone-in competition, using a premium rate number, where the outcome was already predetermined. It's not a brief piece, but highly enjoyable, even if worrisome. Comment 53 particularly hits on some pertinent issues. And as 102 quotes, "Because if they are right, and this instrument is good for nothing but to entertain, amuse and insulate, then the tube is flickering now and we will soon see that the whole struggle is lost. This instrument can teach, it can illuminate; yes, and it can even inspire. But it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends. Otherwise it is merely wires and lights in a box."

Here's a sequencer/instrument that's best seen, rather than described - Yamaha's Tenori-On. It's essentially a multitouch-aware frame of a 16x16 matrix of LEDs, with some quite cool software behind it.

Bunnies selling air freshener! They could've got patch_bunny for that role. (And there's another with a raccoon too, as well as in this rather disturbing fable)

An inspiring journal entry on resistance to war, with the author invoking less famous figures and situations including Te Whiti o Rongomai, Julia Howe, the Levellers, and the Wilhelmshaven mutiny.

I don't often go for hiphop, with rare exceptions, but "Katia, Tania, Paulina y la Kim" is just a coolly funky track (seemingly Brazilian in origin), from the eclectic North/Central/Southern American "Piñata" from the Mexican Institute of Sound, aka boss of EMI Mexico. ^_^

Seeing it was a lovely (well, there was certainly some blueness in the sky) Thursday, I thought I'd take an extended wander around, given I needed to head into town anyway. So, Hyzenthlay came along as well, for the first time in quite a while, even if it didn't see much use, in the end - no open WiFi to be seen, and the sunlight had the inevitable effect upon its matte display. (If you have a glossy display laptop, can you compare how it fares outdoors? I've read highly favorable reports from MacBook owners that they're much better in such situations) The PSP fared similarly; that said, both were surprisingly usable. What nudged me away was more the number of rugrats nearby, as quiet as can be expected. (Simian babies and children are always so noisy. Even canids can control themselves far better, for the most part)

A relaxing afternoon, all the same. I visited the library to fetch a couple books I hadn't finished last time - Stephen Baxter's "Evolution" (having been quite taken by "Space", less so by "Origin"), and Pablo Tusset's "The best thing that can happen to a croissant". Seems they've reworked the layout a little, within the tragically small confines of the building, making it somewhat less confining in the process. It's a small library, but they manage to maintain quite a good variety. The DVDs tend towards the mainstream, though there is a good number of less well-known titles amongst them. Oddly, they carry PSP games, but not DS.

Today, a much greyer and cooler day, but still pleasant for a walk. Bemusing moment of the afternoon.. well, a couple minutes' walk from home is an old castle (albeit not of the kind that could host a furcon), complete with wide moat, which is now in the center of a moderately well sized park. Too much for one wag, it seems, to resist climbing up inside and playing the part of the French Knight.. who duly engaged in verbal battle with someone who really, painfully, did not get the joke. ^_^;

Pinky and Bunny research why did the US fight in Vietnam (FLV)? It's a detailed piece, at forty minutes.

If you buy many DVDs, or just follow new releases, what have been some particularly memorable packaging styles you've seen? I admit, I'm quite taken by the special edition Simpsons Movie OST, and who couldn't love a Cyberman box set?

GIT's working on what could emerge as Bluetooth's successor. Operating around 60GHz, the current prototypes offer 5Gbps at 5 meters, rising to 15Gbps at one meter - enough bandwidth for high quality wireless video links, or downloading a movie from a vending machine in a matter of seconds.

Thus spake Mr Gaiman: "Let's see. Pandas. I knew about the Chengdu Panda reserve because I had a friend who worked there for a summer. Really, it was all I knew about Chengdu. It's lovely. And it's a wonderful thing being an honoured foreign guest somewhere like that -- you get shown all the cool stuff, get to see Pandas, red ones and giant ones, and then find yourself put in a blue disposable smock and gloves (to protect the pandas from you, asnd not the other way around) and you get a year-old Panda placed on your lap. Utter, utter happiness. Better than any number of awards. Makes being a writer completely worthwhile. I suspect that world peace and harmony would come about in weeks if people just got to put pandas on their laps every few months. Honest."

If you're a musician in the south of England, one Apple vendor's offering a free hour of recording studio time, in Brighton, Bournemouth, or Hove. "The company is inviting musical types to bring along an instrument, their voice, or just turn up with ideas. Solutions Inc. staff will help record, edit and re-mix a track."

"A call by Puerto Rico's governor for a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq earned a standing ovation Saturday from a conference of more than 4,000 National Guardsmen."

Well, this should be fun.. Twice Upon A Time, a relatively unknown animated feature from 1983, with something of a split personality - two versions were produced, one of which supposedly ventured into more risque territory and aired about once on HBO, before being supplanted by a milder version strongly favored by the other producer. It's the former version I'll be (hopefully) enjoying.

An early look at the ZunePhone. =:)

It's only a tiny start, but it is a start: two modules of the SL server code have been released. Which Linden says "This is some of the server code, and more will be coming out sometime in the future, and I don’t really know any more detail than that. :)"

"The Reflexive Architecture project, created by RL 3D Experience Architect Jon Brouchoud (Keystone Bouchard in SL), is an attempt to change the way we think about the until-now static nature of architecture in virtual spaces. When people naysay about SL, saying that it's just a glorified chatroom, I point with pride to locations like this one."

Might be worth playing around with: Fauxto, a free online image editor.

When you die, would you leave your Second Life - or other virtual worlds - belongings in a Will to someone?

Rather a cool SL build: the Kölner Dom - Cologne Cathedral, the result of a collaboration between German SL developer teams and the curator of the real thing, Dr Barbara Schock Werner. Perhaps even more impressive, though, is Red Square, which debuted at 8pm on Moscow's 860th anniversary on Sep 1.

More Linden Lab fun.. the Electric Sheep Company's one of the most well-known design boutiques for organisations and companies wanting a professional presence in SL. One employee was running a stress test on a project, and wound up getting banned for the weekend.

Some good discussion on Linden Lab's new "ID Verification" scheme.

Joust: The Movie?

"In response to a lawsuit brought last year by conservation organizations, Federal District Court Judge Saundra Armstrong issued an order finding the Bush administration in violation of the Global Change Research Act of 1990 for failing to produce an updated Research Plan and a National Assessment as required by the statute.

The Research Plan and National Assessment required by the Global Change Research Act are intended to be the preeminent documents guiding federal research and policy-making on issues related to global warming. The Research Plan guides all federal climate research, while the National Assessment serves to provide an understandable summary of global warming impacts on the environment, economy, human health and human safety of the United States and is to by used by Congress and federal agencies in setting policy and responding to global warming. The last National Assessment was issued in late 2000 under the Clinton administration. Its use and dissemination was suppressed by the Bush administration, and the required update in 2004 was never produced. The Research Plan was required by law to be updated in 2006 but also has never been produced.

The Court ordered the Bush administration to issue the draft overdue Research Plan by March 1, 2008, with a final 90 days thereafter, and the National Assessment by May 31, 2008."

Los Disneys: "Your job is to infiltrate the Magic Kingdom (now the state capital) in an attempt to seek and destroy the cryogenically frozen head of Walt Disney. However, doing so inadvertantly triggers Eisner's doomsday device, sending a series of thermonuclear warheads deep beneath the surrounding waters of the peninsula to devastate every major city in the world - unless you can stop it."

worthyadvisor spotted this wonderful selection of geek wedding cakes. =:D

I wasn't really sure which painting was being "built" when I watched the video, but as soon as I saw the swirly sky come into place I almost squealed :P That's a pretty cool idea though, remaking a painting as a virtual place to explore and nose around in. There are certainly lots of paintings that come to mind that I wish I could just sorta hop in and wander about through (Though I think Mary Poppins might have had a bit of an influence there... :P)

There's seriously a lot more going on with SL than I thought, honestly I almost feel compelled to give it a try again, especially now that I have a faster connection and access to some faster computers...

As for "Static-nature of architecture in virtual spaces", after playing through the beginning of American McGee's Alice I'm quite happy to have all my virtual spaces stay exactly the way they are, thank you very much ;P

Oh BTW the article on Iran you linked to in the fifth paragraph seems to be gone :S I'm sure it probably isn't much but I can't help but get a Big Brother sense here...

Now if only I could get Chris a Teen Girl Squad birthday cake...
I suppose someone with more of a classical arts background - which most certainly (to my regret) doesn't include me, with a couple years of Latin the closest I can claim to such - would've picked up on the clues quite quickly. I had tiny tinklings going off, I think, but as with you, it was the sky that yelled out just what was going on. Lovely touch, ending with that frame, and the artist fading from the scene. I wish I'd known it was going on! Still, I suppose there wasn't much time for offering tourism.

It's things like that which make me long for the day when the server code is opened up, hopefully ushering in a heterogeneous, seamlessly linked web of SL servers. Something like that could be worked on in a leisurely manner on someone's home box, then later transferred to a colo box, or a facility such as Linden Lab's grid, if someone wanted to sponsor its public presence. Hopefully, if they are indeed working on migrating straight to Havok 4 for the physics engine, that might - as I understand it - reduce the processor load of a sim. (As things stand, it's roughly a 1:1 ratio of processor cores and sims, with the current servers being dual dual-core) Of course, bandwidth would still be an issue for many DSL connections, and some cable as well, but as with running Apache at home, it'd be fine for just light playing around, at a bit less than the current island cost.

Ah well - just have to wait and see. Or hypnotise the top Lindens into revealing their plans. =:)

Oooh, Alice! I need to dig up that demo again. Seemed like such a neat premise - though perhaps Bryan Talbot's Alice in Sunderland promises much more, given he's been responsible for the superlative graphic novel work of The Adventures of Luther Arkwright, and the potent One Bad Rat.

Indeed, it seems that article got pulled - I saw an opposing article posted, and went back to the original to see if someone had been able to dismiss it as a hoax, but the comments didn't seem to have any conclusive outcome to that effect. Hopefully it was just a product of an overactive imagination, though the situation does remain very tense, with the White House remaining utterly convinced - or at least, sending that outward message - Iran's destined soon for nuclear weapons. The Telegraph story I linked to by way of replacement is much less dramatic in tone, but not a great deal more reassuring.

I think if I ever had cause for a cake like that, I'd see if they could recreate that Soro pic by Fel, as in this icon.. =:) (Or maybe that wonderful Ken Sample piece with the brown bunny and those memorable footpads..) Hm. Wonder if Fel's ever tried his hand at artwork in icing.. surely must be very tricky, though I suppose one could cheat and print out an almost invisible layer to act as a guide sheet, or maybe project the image down onto the cake. Would make quite a change to see edible works in a furcon art show.. ^_^