Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Wednesday Weekly Bits and Pieces - 20 Nov 2013

Well, the last fifteen years have been a wild ride in orbit around the Earth. Fifteen years ago NASA successfully out the Zarya module to the International Space Station into permanent orbit. NASA completed the ISS a few years ago and it now houses six astronauts full-time.

Congratulations to everyone involved! Go have some cake!

NASA has a new spacecraft, MAVEN, heading to Mars, too. It launched on November 18.
CNN has a nice video for the MAVEN mission.

NASA also transmitted an image of the Mona Lisa to a satellite orbiting the moon using a laser. The transmission rate was only 300 bits per second, but I remember using that speed when I was starting graduate classes a few decades ago. You have to start somewhere.

President Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address a hundred and fifty years ago. His original manuscript is still preserved, using modern technologies to keep it from degrading.

Darling's new phone is Android. After years of using an iPhone, it will take time to be comfortable with the new OS. There are Android Launchers that mimic an iPhone, though. That might help for a while!

Forbes published the results of a new study by the Cato Institute showing that welfare pays more than a minimum-wage job in 35 states. They do state that "not all of these benefits apply to every welfare beneficiary, and some are time-limited." I know some people on welfare and they are barely getting by. Without help from family members, their children would be very, very hungry. (And they also have no medical insurance, so they are part of the forty-five million people who will be helped by the Affordable Health Care Act, assuming the government starts working that program like a company would and get it fixed and in place for use.) The USA seems to have some problems with welfare, though.

I don't really want to talk about Bitcoin, mostly because I just can't figure out how it is real currency. As far as I know there is nothing backing the value of the Bitcoin. Wait, what is backing the USD now? I give up on all this financial stuff.

I guess the Bitcoin is a fiat currency designed to be used outside of governmental regulations. I'll have to think about that.

If I was Warren Buffet I might understand money better, but maybe not. Three of his Berkshire Hathaway holdings lost him over $1.4 billion in value from the second to third quarters: Coca-cola, IBM and Proctor and Gamble.

I hope he at least has some Boeing stock. Boeing just got more than $95 billion in new orders at the Dubai airshow.

I wish I had more Boeing stock in my 401K. I sold it all just before the government shutdown. Silly me. That buy high-sell low strategy never seems to work for me at all. Here's how John Maxfield is investing his IRA. Maybe I should follow his lead.

I'm a big fan of 3D printing technology. Right now most of the home versions use plastics, but metal is certainly on the horizon. Here is a home version that uses metal clay to print an object, which then must be put in a kiln. "So once the kiln process is complete, the end result of the 3D printer's output is a very durable metal object built to a specified digital file's standard."

There is already a company that uses 3D printing to print organic tissues. Organovo can't print complicated organs, but they can print tissues that are usable in labs. What a crazy world we live in!

If you're not familiar with Brain Pickings, it's a weekly digest of cool things each week (like this, right?). Maria Popova reflects on seven years of her weekly postings in this article. Her seven insights are so good and so well-written that I can't even summarize them. It's worth a look.

Maria also printed some of Hemingway's advice to aspiring authors in this article.

This guy writes about his travels for a living - and he doesn't ever plan to return to Singapore. No offense to Singapore, but I never planned to travel there in the first place.

In the X-Men they had a 3D display to plan their assault on the Statue of Liberty. It's closer to reality than ever!

Microsoft plans to offer some good deals on Black Friday this year on their Surface tablet and maybe their new Xbox One.

Apple doesn't seem to be offering any good deals, but they do expect a holiday blowout for their iPads. The article makes it sound like a bad thing; I guess Apple doesn't have enough inventory to handle projected orders.

The head-to-head contest between gaming systems is reaching a current crescendo. The PS4 and Xbox One are both in stores now.  The Xbox One is much larger than the PS4. Over 1 million PS4s sold in the first 24 hours after the release. The Xbox One is a full-fledged entertainment device, too, and it responds to voice commands. According to ars Technica (they have an awesome and thorough review), the Xbox One has a rough time with local television channels right now. They also used the Xbox One successfully to make Skype calls. I'm not sure I want people to see a full-body view of me sitting on the couch, though.
Computer vision is getting better all the time. Look at your computer. Is it looking back yet? The Xbox One apparently listens all the time when on standby. Soon…

I like this guy. He has modern computers and still uses the old IBM keyboard. I loved that keyboard!

There will be a new smartwatch on the market soon. I gave up on mine, but the Toq smart watch from Qualcomm still looks pretty.

Wired came to the same conclusion about smart watches that I did a few weeks ago. Smart watches won't be popular until they are useful instead of a gimmick.

This guy decided to make a useful microwave using the raspberry pi mini-computer. It is remote controlled, the clock syncs with the internet and the microwave can follow multiple cooking instructions at once, for instance "heat on low for a minute, wait thirty seconds, heat on high for ten seconds."

According to experts, you should have seven things in your schedule every week. You don't need to read the article. Create a schedule, Finish a project, Devise a priority list, Don't try to do too much, Dedicate time to a personal project, Don't work more than eight hours a day and Use the waste basket or recycle bin liberally. I'm good with a couple of those, like not working too much. Does that count?

I really like the looks of the new twelvesouth BookBook Travel Journal for iPad. I'm not getting one - I'm just sharing.

I also really like the looks of the new FiftyThree stylus, but don't plan to get one (yet).

King, the company that made Candy Crush (darn you, Candy Crush!) topped $1 billion in earnings this year, just in time for their IPO.

If you have a few minutes, scroll through these "65 Amazing Facts." They might not be amazing, but they are interesting - and there are 65 of them.

If you love puns, try this site. There are only 46 of them on this page. Here's a seasonal one: "Santa's helpers are subordinate clauses."

I'm playing Skyrim again, this time as a mage. I didn't know about the hidden chests in the game when I first played a few years ago. You just have to know they are there, though you need to exploit game glitches for a few of them. I won't use those, but the invisible ones are fair game as far as I'm concerned.

This weekend is the second part of The Hunger Games. Darling and I are both looking forward to it, but we read the books.

And lest I forget (and I almost did!) THREE DAYS until the Doctor...

Thanks for reading and God bless!

ISS now

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