“Grandpa, tell me again the way video worked in the old days. You know, back when you were a kid!”
The old man chuckled as he rocked the child on his withered knee. “Timmy, we didn’t call it video. It was television or TV.”
The child squirmed angrily. “Tell me, grandpa! Tell me about TV!”
“Alright, young pup. I’ve told this story so many times. I still can’t believe you want to hear it again …”
“I do! I do!” interrupted the child.
“… but here goes. The TV was a box we kept in a special room. Just like we usually keep the refrigerator in the kitchen.”
The kid nodded, indicating he understood the strange concept.
“Television wasn’t something you did at your computer. Or carry around in your pocket.” The old man pointed at the device held in tiny hands on which Timmy’s total attention was affixed.
“Sure, it took a minute for the TV to warm up. But once it did, you could turn a thing called a dial as fast as you wanted. Oh no. There were no remote controls back then. You had to earn it. The point is, if you listen, goddamn it, that the picture would change just as fast as you could turn that dial.”
The old man paused for dramatic effect.
“Back then,” he whispered conspiratorially, “there was not such thing as … loading.” He punctuated the sentence by spitting on the floor.
An angry female shout came from the other room. “Pops!! Cut that out.”
Gramps had to get in the last word. “Pah! That’s before you youngins came along with your so-called digital and ruined it all.”
Continue reading →
I’m not always that bright. We were playing Trivial Pursuit and someone (not me) got the question: “How many people perished in the Challenger Space Shuttle disaster?”
As my opponent took an interminable period of time to ponder their answer, I couldn’t contain myself. “Holy shit! Come on! I can name all seven!”
Well played. I just gave my opponent the answer and another little wedgie piece for free. Dammit.
Then I did name all seven, from memory: Smith, McNair, Jarvis, Resnik, McAuliffe, Onizuka, and Scobee.
I’ve heard that most people remember exactly where they were when they heard the news about JFK being shot. That was slightly before my time. But I grew up with the NASA quest for the moon. The Mercury missions, then Gemini, then Apollo. And the Space Shuttle program.
For me, Tuesday, January 28, 1986, is my JFK moment. I remember that day vividly. Shortly after sleeping in, I found my roommates in front of the TV. We sat and watched the coverage for hours. Continue reading →
See that little doodad widget over there? No, not there. In the column on the side of this blog where stuff is. Yeah, there. The one that says, “Blog with Integrity.”
What does that mean?
Yes, even a Guru of Negativity can still maintain his integrity.
One of the ways I try to blog with integrity is by respecting intellectual property rights. I try to write my own stuff, and when I use a source, like Wikipedia, I give credit where credit is due. I do this with links and sourcing excerpts.
When it comes to images I try to do the same thing. Stealing isn’t nice so I try not to do it.
Here are some fun techniques I use for finding images for use in blog posts and respecting the rights of others.
Do It Yourself (DIY)
When possible, create your own stuff. Get off your ass and take your own photos. Of course that isn’t always workable or possible. So keep reading.
Search government sites
In most cases, images created by the government are open season and free of copyright. Makes sense since we own the government. (At least in theory.)
You can easily use a Google Image Search (GIS) to peruse these images. (This is just one way to do it.)
- Go to http://www.google.com
- Search for something (let’s try “paper airplane”)
- Search results for “Everything” will be displayed by default
- On the left column, click “Images” to narrow your search
- Near the top of the page, under the Search button, click the link that says “Advanced Search”
- Find the box that says “Domain” and enter the following to limit your search to government web site domains: *.gov
- Click the “Google Search” button to search again
- This time the results should only be from images hosted on government domains
I found the image on the left in the search results. I clicked it and was taken to a web site owned by the Federal Aviation Administration. I saved the image to my desktop and then loaded it into my blog.
Viola! It’s that easy.
Note: You should keep in mind that not all images on GOV domains are copyright free. You sometimes have to do a bit of research. Find the “policies” link and see what it says. You can usually get a pretty good idea whether an image is usable or not.
I have seen some city and county government web sites that claim a copyright on their material. I’m not sure what’s up with that. In those rare cases I just shrug and move on.
So don’t forget about the government when you’re looking for a photograph. You might get lucky. NASA is a great source for images. So is the CIA World Factbook and the Library of Congress.
Photographers on the Flickr service have the option of making their pictures available for other uses (or not). One way of letting others share your work is by using a Creative Commons (CC) license. This is a great way to legally find photographs for your blog.
- Go to http://www.flickr.com
- In the search box at the top-right, search for something (lets try “mardis gras”)
- A bunch of pictures will be displayed
- Just like before, find and click the “Advanced Search” link
- Scroll down and find the CC section and check the box that says, “Only search within Creative Commons-licensed content”
- Click the SEARCH button again
Now you’ll only be seeing images where the license holder allows sharing. Neat, huh? You’ll be amazed at the quality and also the number of pictures available for most searches. There are some great finds here!
Find a picture you like, click to enlarge, then click the SHARE THIS button. Select the “Grab the HTML” option, choose a size, then paste that code into your blog post.
This will automatically create a link back to the original photo on Flickr. Be sure to leave that to say “thank you” to the photographer for sharing.
Here’s one I found for Mardis Gras that tells a nice story.
Sometimes you’ll find an image on Flickr that you want to use but it isn’t flagged as being part of the Creative Commons. Just drop the Flickr member and note and ask permission. I’ve done this many times and it has always worked. Be sure to link the image to the Flickr member’s account and then send them a copy of your post and say thanks.
Open Source Clip Art
If you want clip art rather than a photo, try the Open Clip Art Library for copyright free images. This is where the artwork for Hyppo and Critter came from.
So, that’s just a few ideas. There are many more. Feel free to share your ideas in the comments.
This time of year always gets me thinking about volunteering. Yes, even I can do it. Of course, you might not be surprised if I put my own special spin on it.
Helping to feed the hungry? A worthy cause but way overdone. It’s passe.
Build someone a new home? Sorry. Once there are 42 different reality shows on TV pimping the idea I’ll pass.
I need something new and trendy. I’ll volunteer, but only for something cool. You know, like me.
Wait? What’s this??? 😮
Well played, universe. Well played! You have my attention.
So, yeah. Since I spend so much time bitching about being on the “wrong planet” and all, you might think that I’d jump at an opportunity like this.
You’d be right.
You also, wisely, might think I’m too old, too ugly and too fat to qualify for a trip like this. Again, you’d be right. Except I have an ace up my sleeve. Mwuhahah.
Seriously. I can logically prove why I’m the best life form for the job. And I can even save them some money in the process.
My logic goes like this: Anyone willing to sign up and say they will go with three other human beings obviously needs to be immediately disqualified. That’s a warning sign if ever there was one.
Therefore you need someone willing to make the trip alone. Therefore you need me.
I have no use for other humans so I’m perfect. That’s a 75% savings in life support and food! (Just in time for Black Friday, too.)
So here is my “open letter” to NASA:
Please accept this as my official application to be the chief (and only) astronaut in the Mars Interplanetary Expeditionary force.
Tom B. Taker
Yes, money is a factor on this mission. For example, due to the costs involved, there will be no return trip to Earth. It is simply too expensive. So I’ll do my part and take a one-way ticket!
That’s also a 75% savings in spacesuits. A NASA spacesuit costs approximately $12 million. That might sound high, but remember: It comes with two pairs of pants.
No return trip. That’s genius. No heat shields. No space shuttle tiles. No parachutes. Someone is really thinking outside of the box.
Due to the distance, recycling on Mars will be taken to a whole new extreme. That means, among other things, that someone is going to have to drink their own pee and eat their own poop. Honestly, I can’t think of anyone better suited for the job than me.
So long, Earthlings, and thanks for all the fish!
The following are recent “Image of the Day” images from the excellent web site NASA Earth Observatory.
Above: Sunset on the Indian Ocean as seen from the International Space Station on May 25, 2010.
Above: When aurora occur near the North Pole they are known as aurora borealis. When they occur near the South Pole they are known as aurora australis. This image is aurora australis as observed from the International Space Station on May 29, 2010.
Early in the morning at 09:26:16 Universal Time (UT) on July 27, 1962, the Mariner 1 spacecraft was launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida.
293 seconds later the Range Safety Officer issued the command to destroy the vehicle after it had veered off course. It was determined that steering the vehicle was impossible due to a malfunction and a crash was eminent, possibly in shipping lanes or an inhabited area.
The command to destroy the vehicle came only six seconds prior to the point of no return after which separation would take place and destruction would no longer be possible. The radio transponder continued to transmit signals for 64 seconds after the destruct command had been sent.
The mission of the Mariner 1 was the first ever flyby of the planet Venus. Mariner 1, if successful, would have went on to by the first man-made object to fly by another planet and would have performed missions like measure the temperatures of the clouds and surface of Venus as well as fields and particles near the planet and in interplanetary space.
Luckily there was a backup. Mariner 2 was launched just five weeks later and completed the mission and became the world’s first successful interplanetary spacecraft on December 14, 1962, when it passed within 34,833 kilometers from the surface of Venus.
This incident may not ring a bell for most people, but if you are a computer programmer chances are slightly better that you may have heard about it. It turns out that the reason Mariner 1 was a single misplaced character in a computer program!
A hyphen, a hyphen. My kingdom for a hyphen!
According to the NASA web site, “the Mariner 1 Post Flight Review Board determined that the omission of a hyphen in coded computer instructions in the data-editing program allowed transmission of incorrect guidance signals to the spacecraft.”
I feel for that computer programmer. I really do. Been there done that. 🙂
For a variety of reasons the exact cause remains murky to this day although the Post Flight Review Board did issue a finding it was at least in part due to a hyphen.
And I thought my job was high pressure. 🙂