Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Wednesday Weekly Bits and Pieces - 11 Dec 2013



Pope Francis was named Time's 2013 Person of the Year, and it's even top news on CNN. Rightly so. I have to admit I like the guy. Maybe I should invite him over to dinner on Christmas. I wonder where I should send the Christmas card?

It seems that Curiosity found evidence of an ancient freshwater lake on Mars. A little terra-forming and we could turn the Red Planet into a Green Planet. And people are already volunteering to migrate to the new world!
About 200,000 people applied to live on Mars, and I guess the application cost about $40 USD apiece. Crowd-funding a trip to Mars… What a good idea. You can look at some of the profiles of people who applied.
Technical and funding problems abound. There will be a two year delay, though, at a minimum. So the first few humans could be on Mars as early as 2025 - but don't hold your breath on that one.

This is one of the better financial planning pages on the Internet, in my opinion. Put in your data and you receive calculations to help make major financial decisions, like whether to rent or buy a house (sometimes it makes more sense to rent) or whether it makes sense to go to college (it almost always does). I'd keep this link handy. The results are graphical, which helps me get a better grip on them. Make sure you read the assumptions made for the calculations, though.

These folks do weekly technology links better than I do, but with less attitude. One of my favorites on this page, though, is the one that says you can learn to code in one hour. Like fast food for your brain, I guess. Hello World!

I fly on planes occasionally. When I do, I certainly sleep on planes. But I never woke up in a plane that was already locked and shut down. Ouch.
I don't know much about WestJet, but if this WestJet YouTube video doesn't bring a few tears of holiday joy to your eyes, well, I don't know. Go watch The Grinch - again. Darling says it was a brilliant promotional move on the part of WestJet, and that's true since I'll sure make them my first airline stop now when I'm looking for flights. But beyond that, the fact that anyone - especially a large company - <spoiler> would take holiday wishes and fulfill them is a wonderful testimony to how good people can be. I'll bet the guy who said he wanted socks and underwear (and got them) is really wishing he said he wanted a 50 inch television though!

Two thousand mice were dropped on Guam by parachute to kill snakes. They used little cardboard parachutes. I don't know how they trained them to pull the little ripcords. Now Guam is trying to find a solution to cardboard pollution.

Male and female brains are built differently, and now science backs that up. I've said it for years and nobody listens to me. I even posted about it a few times (one of my favorites was last December).

Not only are scientists developing shots that don't require needles (hello, Star Trek), but now they are also developing nanoparticles that can deliver the medicines. Brilliant! I can see the warning label now: Please avoid all EMPs when taking this medication.



Ray Kurzweil isn't the only Futurist out there; I know quite a few others personally. He is, however, one of the most widely read, and it's because he writes articles for CNN that say things like This is Your Future. As far as I know, Ray's techniques are sound, but forecasting the future is always iffy business. I'll give my opinions, too. I was trained as a Futurist, but I'm not a professional. Even so, here's what he forecasts:

Within five years, search engines will be based on an understanding of natural language. (Very Likely -- but only because language is changing also. Siri is a good example, but even Siri doesn't do that well right now. Still, five years can bring a lot of positive changes.)

By the early 2020s, we will have the means to program our biology away from disease and aging. (Unlikely -- it might be technically possible to retard aging more and to fight some diseases, but it won't be practically available to everyone. Eternal youth just won't happen, but I'm a pessimistic Futurist.)
By the early 2020s we will print out a significant fraction of the products we use including clothing as well as replacement organs. (Very Likely -- and we're seeing some of this already, even if it is just wings on a Victoria's Secret model or just scanning feet to make shoes. Organs, probably not, because of the internal complexities, but I hope I'm wrong.)

By the early 2020s we will be routinely working and playing with each other in full immersion visual-auditory virtual environments. By the 2030s, we will add the tactile sense to full immersion virtual reality. (Likely -- we see much of this already in on-line gaming. There might even be a faction who rebels against this technological/social change, and violently so. The tactile stuff is making huge advances.)

By 2030 solar energy will have the capacity to meet all of our energy needs. The production of food and clean water will also be revolutionized. (Unlikely - I just don't see the social changes needed to back this one up, and I hope that I'm wrong. I guess it might be true for a subset of the world's population, but not for the entire world. There's also a significant cost/ROI factor that works against this one.)



If you're wondering what to get your favorite person for Christmas, and they own a tablet, here are some nice ideas! And the Chromecast is one of them! Ha!
I mentioned before that I really like the Chromecast device. More services are jumping on board, so it looks better all the time. It doesn't replace cable television yet, but we're getting closer.


Gamers come in different flavors, but we all have some addiction to gaming. Why is that? Because we are immersed in an environment where we have some control over the results, unlike real life. The New Yorker posted a good article on the psychology of gamers who prefer of first-person shooters.

It's hard for me to believe but Doom, the first First-Person Shooter, is now twenty years old. Ars editors remember their first taste of Doom, 20 years later. Wired interviewed Doom's creator, John Carmack. He's a funny guy, but if you played Doom, you already knew that.

Apparently the government decided that on-line games were the place to catch terrorists. That might explain why some of the folks in my pick-up-groups (PUGS) in World of Warcraft were such terrible players.

Google is releasing a method to download a copy of your Gmail and Google Calendar data. The calendar is available now and the mail will be released over the next few weeks/months. I don't know, but it might be nice to have a backup of all my gmail… No, no it wouldn't.

Right after Darling and I switched to T-Mobile, AT&T unveiled cheaper, no-contract plans. I'm sure it's because we left them. You're welcome.

You can download Apple’s “12 Days of Gifts” app and get free stuff later this month. Apparently BlackBerry had been doing 25 days of Christmas and has been giving away a freebie a day since the first of December.

PC Magazine has a review of the best anti-virus software for the year. They chose AVG AntiVirus FREE 2014 as their Editors' Choice for free antivirus. I agreed with that a few posts ago.

If you're like me, you have dozens, maybe hundreds, of old photos all around the house. A lot of those are holiday photos. At some point I need to scan them into a digital format. Here's a good article on how to digitize holiday photos and videos. I sent the old 16mm film out to get it digitized and they did a great job. Pictures I can do myself. One interesting bit was that they say for a typical snapshot, a scan at 300 dpi will suffice. That should save a lot of computer time and space!


I'll just end with an article that says they captured the Best TV Shows of 2013, and how to watch them now. Well, you have to have something to watch over the holidays!

Thanks for reading, and God bless you!


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