I caught my cereus (aka orchid cactus) blooming. This one blooms at night for a single night. If you remember (aye, there’s the rub) you can see the enormous blossom – we’re talking a good 8 inches across – first thing in the morning. For your viewing pleasure:
As a follow-up to my word of the month, read this short essay by Bruce Schneier on the goals of terrorism. Hint – blowing things up is not a goal in and of itself, it’s a means to an end. If you don’t know who Mr. Schneier is, some general info is here and some fun facts are here (reload the page for more info).
Today is the anniversary of Joseph Kittinger’s third and highest parachute jump in 1960. Using a helium balloon, he reached an altitude of 31,300 meters; upon exiting the gondola, his speed peaked at something close to 618 mph. The film of the jump shows the curve of the earth and a sky that is quite black – he was a third of the way to the Karman Line (100 km up; the line that officially marks ‘space’). A couple clips, while I figure out how to embed videos into the blog: a short subject on Project Excelsior and a clip from the Discovery Channel showing the jump. Col. Kittinger is one of the unsung pioneers of the space age; prosit!
Update – Aug 16, 2012. In a classic case of link rot, both the above clips have been yanked from YouTube. Here are a couple others.
A newsreel piece:
There are a quite a few YouTube color clip assemblages with iffy soundtracks. This is not one of them:
This is the best commentary on/reaction to the London arrests I’ve read (so far – top it, somebody).
Maybe it’s just, I cast my eyes back on the last century …
FDR: Oh, I’m sorry, was wiping out our entire Pacific fleet supposed to intimidate us? We have nothing to fear but fear itself, and right now we’re coming to kick your ass with brand new destroyers riveted by waitresses. How’s that going to feel?
CHURCHILL: Yeah, you keep bombing us. We’ll be in the pub, flipping you off. I’m slapping Rolls-Royce engines into untested flying coffins to knock you out of the skies, and then I’m sending angry Welshmen to burn your country from the Rhine to the Polish border.
US. NOW: BE AFRAID!! Oh God, the Brown Bad people could strike any moment! They could strike … NOW!! AHHHH. Okay, how about .. NOW!! AAGAGAHAHAHHAG! Quick, do whatever we tell you, and believe whatever we tell you, or YOU WILL BE KILLED BY BROWN PEOPLE!! PUT DOWN THAT SIPPY CUP!!
… and I’m just a little tired of being on the wrong side of that historical arc.
To completely fubar something requires mid to upper management types and PowerPoint. I’ve sat through more than my share of mind-numbing bullet-point recitations – I tend to agree with Edward Tufte that PowerPoint has been, taken as a whole, a net loss to the sum of human knowledge. Crooked Timber’s John Holbo (he of the pony) has a great post on PowerPoint’s use and misuse in the Pentagon. It’s really quite chilling – slides as a substitute for orders. More info here.
I discovered it while looking for his famous classification of animals. The number is the population of books in the Library of Babel – a universe which contains every possible 410 page book using 25 characters and with 40 lines per page, 80 characters per line. Your complete life story (including the parts that have not happened yet) is in there – the trick is finding it.
The original search – for the classification – turned up an additional connection. The title of the essay containing Borges’ list is ‘The Analytical language of John Wilkins‘. Wilkins, mathmatician, cryptographer, founder of the Royal Society, figures into Neal Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle and Wilkins did in fact try to create an a-priori language.
Two thoughts… First, I really need to find a copy of Eco’s The Search for the Perfect Language. Second – Argentina looks better and better as a place to relocate to. Big sky, Buenos Aires, tango, horse culture, grills, and they produced Borges. Yow.
Third thought (later) – Artur C. Clarke’s Nine Billion Names of God.