Ohio weather in a nutshell

Today: 76° and sunny.

Tomorrow: 78° and sunny.

Tuesday: Chance of SNOW, low of 30°.

Ohio’s weather has been brought to you by the letters W, T and F.

Farewell, the Rani

Last couple years have sucked for us classic Who fans, between Liz and Sarah Jane and the Brigadier and Romana I; now comes the word that Kate O’Mara, who played The Rani against both the Sixth and Seventh Doctors, has passed away. Kate masquerading as Mel in ‘Time and the Rani’ was one of the most deliciously looney scenes in all of Doctor Who, and it’s a great pity that she will not be able to re-create her role on the new series.

Whurf. If Capaldi’s Doctor really is moving to a more serious style, a confrontation with The Rani would’ve been magnificent. Cheers, Kate. You’ll be missed.

Alas. Even though I expected it.

Made another submission for professional publication. This time I met their submission requirements, so it got read.

And I failed to make the sale. Which I expected, because no one sells their first story. Lesson learned: I can be rejected on content and quality reasons and not die. I’m happy with the lesson, even though it would’ve been far cooler to have sold the story.

In contrast to the last time, I had to expand the story to meet their requirements. The original was about 470 words; of course, it was written presupposing you already knew the characters — it’s meant to be a later entry in my overall anthology. So I had to add a few things to introduce the characters and scenario, and it ended up about 670 words.

That was probably as educational as trying to compress a 7000 word story into 4000.

So I’m pleased, even without getting accepted.

Good riddance to bad rubbish.

Fred Phelps is dead.

And the world is, in an instant, made a better place.

For the record: I don’t hold with the idea of not speaking ill of the dead. Dying didn’t unmake him as an evil asshole who gloried in the agony he caused others for no reason other than his own delusions and self-promotion. I repeat: his death makes the world a better place.

Meanwhile, his family reports they’re not holding a funeral. Cowards and hypocrites to the end, I see.

Happy anniversary, H2G2

It was 36 years ago today that a certain radio program(me) made its debut on BBC Radio 4.

Radio 4 is celebrating by rebroadcasting the original series, and re-releasing the (in)famous text game in a modern browser-friendly, illustrated way… with DNA’s original hints.

And if you’re in London and get very lucky, you should know that I can make myself available on the morning of March 29.

Something recently noticed

You can pretty smoothly sing the Mystery Science Theatre theme to I Dreamed A Dream from Les Miz.

Or maybe that should be Les MST now… :D

A Valentine from NASA

They want to capture a small asteroid and put it into lunar orbit so it can be studied at our leisure.

THAT is the sort of balls-out mission NASA hasn’t had in a very long time. They’re targeting a 20′-40′ asteroid, or a comparable sized chunk of a larger asteroid. That’s planetary system engineering. And it arguably moves us, for the first time, up a notch on the Kardashev scale — if not all the way to Type I, then at least Type Nought-Point-V or so.

And it gives the moon a moon of its own.

Good night, Pete

It’s hard to say that someone’s passing at the age of 94 is unexpected, but it was starting to look like Pete Seeger was indestructible.

I had the great good fortune to hear (and from where we were, only barely see) him perform at the 1981 March on the Pentagon; hard to believe that was more than thirty years ago, but time does move on.

Go raise some hell with the powers-that-be in his memory.

Looks like I made the right decision

I looked at Google Chrome when it first came out, during a period that I was unhappy with Mozilla for one thing or another (needless to say, aIEeee was never an option), and ended up never installing it because of a clause in the user agreement where Google retained the right to reach out over the net and turn off any plugins they chose, ostensibly for ‘security’ and ‘stability’ reasons. That was a book-slammer, so I never even began the install.

Looks like it was the right thing to do for even more reasons than I thought. Apparently there’s a bug in Chrome — one that they’ve known about since last year, have known how to fix since last October, and still haven’t updated the Chrome code with — that allows Chrome to access a microphone attached to your computer and listen in on… well, on whatever you might be chatting about within its range.

Now, there are always bugs. The only code that’s bug-free is very tiny code. Large programming projects — like, say, an internet browser — always have bugs in them, and all you can do is hope you’ve got the vast majority of them before going gold. Inevitably, something that no one even considered possible slips through.

That’s fine. That happens. You fix the bug, patch the software, and hope that was the last of them.

But Google has fixed the bug… and sat on it. Their explanation? They say they’re waiting for direction from the W3C on what to do next, and that the current iteration of Chrome is fine because it’s still “W3C compliant”.

Yeah, right. It also remains vulnerable to allowing what I can only describe as a pretty chilling invasion of personal privacy. We have — or we should have — realistic expectations of our online privacy, and we can take steps to protect ourselves, but this is not something that falls under that. If you haven’t started any voice-recognition software, you have a fair and reasonable expectation that your computer is not listening to your voice, or recording it, or transmitting it elsewhere.

Google evidently doesn’t care about that. One wonders how long they would have sat on this if someone else hadn’t blown the whistle on them.

It really is hardly worth asking, “Whatever happened to “Don’t be evil”?” anymore, is it? The only shocking thing left from their behavior is that they have the unmitigated gall to try to blame the World Wide Web consortium for their failure to patch their own software.

And for your searching needs, may I recommend Duck Duck Go instead?

Entering the Total Perspective Vortex

(note: this is essentially a re-post of something I wrote on Flickr this morning, but hey, my blog, I get to do that once in a while)

Exoplanets.  Lots of them.

Every one of the green spots in this most-of-the-sky view is an exoplanet, as downloaded by a plugin for Stellarium this morning; I don’t know how complete it is, but two things are crystal clear: everywhere we look, we find planets, and everywhere we look closely we find lots of planets — the two clusters are the Kepler and OGLE projects.

I take away two lessons from this.

One: we, humanity, are not the point of creation. We are incidental to it. We are not the center of the universe. The universe doesn’t care about us. So we need to grow the hell up as a species and start taking care of ourselves, because ain’t nothing out there going to do it for us. We are insignificant; the universe will not notice if we wipe ourselves out by war, disease, or environmental stupidity, and it will not step in to make sure we don’t. It has plenty of other planetary experiments going on, and it won’t notice if our little test tube flames out. That’s the bad news.

Now the good news.

Lesson Two: if we’ve found this much in less than two decades of looking, think how rich the diversity of planets must really be out there. As sure as I can be without any data to back it up, I am convinced that there’s other intelligent life out there. I don’t know where. I don’t know when or whether we’ll ever contact them. But just on the basis of statistics (and modesty), one almost has to assume there are other inhabited planets with intelligent beings on them.

I mean, there are estimated to be anywhere from eleven to forty billion potential habitable planets–planets in their star’s habitable zone–just in our own galaxy… and there are an estimated half a trillion galaxies in the universe.

Using the Milky Way and the lower estimate of eleven billion Earth-like planets, just taking the odds of hitting the MegaMillions jackpot (1:2.59×108) as the chance of intelligent life would mean somewhere around 40-44 inhabited planets. Powerball odds are even better–1:1.75×108 or around 60-65 inhabited planets. If the odds are like winning my local state lottery, about 1:1.4×107, it’s the jackpot all right — over 780 inhabited worlds. And everyone’s favorite guess for long odds (“Oh, that’s gotta be one in a million!”) gives eleven thousand inhabited worlds.

Eleven thousand.

Just in our own galaxy.

Now multiply any of those by five hundred billion.

If that doesn’t make you go ‘wow’, do the math again until it does.

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