Good day to you, my fine reader.

Time to take a break from the chaos and stupidity sweeping the globe. (But then again, when hasn’t there been stupidity and chaos sweeping the globe?)

As William Shatner said, “Live life like you’re gonna die – coz your gonna.” I try to remind myself every day that there’s still room in the darkness for truth and beauty.

They’ve been replaying “The World At War” on the History Channel here in Japan to coincide with the anniversary of the end of World War 2. That was 66 years ago. I am continually impressed by the scope of that documentary series, as well as its timeliness. It was released in 1974, so it includes a lot of eyewitness accounts and interviews with some of the protagonists. For historians, you always try to find primary sources, and this series is chock full of them. As the generation that experienced that war is passing away, it makes it all the more poignant. A lot of the remaining survivors of Hiroshima were infants at the time. Watching the episode on how Russia endured invasion by the Nazis and eventually turned them back, losing 20 million people in the process (basically the entire population of Australia killed in two years), I was amazed at how the Russians kept their spirit and determination alive through all that suffering.

There also lighter amusements keeping my interest in good things alive and well.

“You Are Not A Photographer” highlights the worst of so-called ‘professional’ photography done by spare-room hacks with a digital camera and free software. It’s hard to believe people get paid for churning out this stuff. I really like the use of their terms, “fauxtographer” and “fauxtography”. May it inspire us all to better and brighter things.

Some 153 photos of teeny tiny things. Gizmodo often has neat photo compilations.

Sand magnified to 250 times normal size looks cool. So do air bubbles frozen in ice.

There’s tilt shift photography, and then there’s tilt shift photography. I might have to go into making giant mockups of small things for fun and profit.

The cast of The Big Lebowski got together at Lebowskifest. How I wish…

Australia will soon have a boneyard of its very own. Time to rent a helicopter and a super 70mm camera and make my own version of Baraka…

Some very cool time lapse video.

The history of villains in American films makes for some interesting reading.

Japan hasn’t run out of cute girls, but the handlers of AKB48 decided to use computers to piece together bits of their stable to make a new one.

Faking it is huge in fashion photography, but I never realized how much models contorted and abused their bodies until I read this article.

Astronomers have found another moon around Pluto. That’s four, if you’re counting. 

A whole bunch of man-made passages have been found in Bavaria.

Somehow I keep alternating between Middle School and College.

Home made cola. I wouldn’t mind trying this out sometime. Just dump half the sugar and the colouring and I’ll be there.

Imagine batteries that last forever. Not oo far away, hopefully.

The key to longer life might lie inside cancer. What? Yes, cancer. There’s a mutation in the genes of pancreatic cancer that can lengthen the telomeres on the ends of DNA, thought to control when cells die.  

So, we can’t currently actually travel to another universe. However we could perhaps detect evidence of the multiverse in the Cosmic Background Radiation.

Closer to home, the recent discovery of fossilized life from 3.4 billion years ago that lived by metabolizing sulphur gives hope to finding evidence of life on Mars.

On a personal note, I would really appreciate a new spine.

 

You gotta love Science. Every week scientists continue to push back the limits of our knowledge and discover new things that astonish and stimulate the mind. Who can say how all this will change the future, but I hope it’s for the better. Here are a few things from the past few weeks.

Canadian researchers have created a cure for cancer, but thanks to the lack of reportage, no one really knows about it. Could it be because the pharmaceutical companies won’t be able to make any money off of it? Oh say it aint so!

The Voyager probes continue to send back data from the edge of the solar system, where they’ve shown that the sun’s magnetic field forms dynamic elongated ‘bubbles’ as it rubs up against deep space.

Maybe the sun might capture a wandering interstellar planet?

Scientists have been able to trap and study anti-matter for the first time, being able to trap such particles for longer than ever before.

They’ve been able to show that dark energy exists and it is the driving force behind the expansion of the universe. There’s no need to worry about a ‘Big Crunch’ causing the end of the universe, as it looks like the universe is destined to expand forever.

Speaking of dark stuff, dark matter’s strength seems to vary with the seasons. This could be caused by variations in te speed of the Earth as it whizzes around the Sun and causing the inetraction with dark matter particles (also called WIMPs) to vary. This could exaplin why these particles have been so difficult to detect, but on the surface it doesn’t seem to make much sense either…

One of the big problems with solar power is what to do about clouds, as well as night. A Japanese company has proposed a simple (?) yet logical , albeit extraordinarily expensive solution – building a giant ring or solar cells around the equator … of the Moon.

Speaking of the Sun. It seems to be emitting a new form of particle that’s causing a lot of heads to be scratched. One of the fundamentals rules of the cosmos was that particles decay at a steady, predictable rate. Note my use of the past tense there, since it seems this new particle could be causing decay rates to change. That isn’t supposed to happen. The idea that it is the Sun causing this could be very worrying indeed.

The universe was quite a sight 11 billion years ago…

Closer to home, PepsiCo has invented a new kind of salt, as well as a way to maintain the sweetness of their cola products while cutting the amount of sweetner they use. Coming to a junk-food aisle near you very soon.

There’s been a lot going on this month. April is always busy here in Japan, plus I had my mother visit, which was great, but really filled up my weekends. So I have a pile of links and random threads to thrust upon the world-wide-web. Strap in. Take a ride.

In TV, it’s great to see that Red Dwarf will be back for another season. I hope it’s a little better than the last expedition; Back To Earth. I found that one laid on the pathos and sentiment a bit too thinckly for my tastes. I hope they get back to the energy and wit of some of the earlier seasons.

Even though the situation in the Ivory Coast has been (in one sense) resolved, I’m sure the situation there, as in a lot of combat zones, is just simmering. I noticed that fighting has flared up again along the Thai/Cambodian border.

The situation at Fukushima continues to evolve on a daily basis. Declaring the disaster zone to be as bad as Chernobyl was pretty alarming. While the situation there isn’t good, at least it is relatively under control.

A major issue in Japan this year will be the customary summer loading as everyone turns on their airconditioning. It’s not unusual for Japanese homes to have 4 or 5 units PER HOUSE as ducted airconditioning is something of a rarity. Couple that with trying to boost industrial output back to pre-earthquake levels with four missing reactors’ worth of electricity probably will mean a lot of blackouts from the system overloading. It’s interesting to see that Sony, amongst other companies, have adopted a daylight saving system to try to offset that loading. I wonder if that will lead to the eventual adoption of daylight saving here. It seems quite logical since dawn in midsummer is at about 4am. 

The numbers of people who have left Japan are quite staggering. 531,000 foreigners left Japan in the four weeks after the March 11 quake, 244,000 in the first week. I don’t know how many have returned, like some friends of mine, since the situation has calmed down. More than half of those who left had re-entry permits. It’s expected that the number of travellers during this Golden Week (starting April 29th) will be down around a quarter this year. The number of foreign visitors was down 50% in March from the year earlier. Coupled with the theme of ‘self-restraint’ running through Japan at the moment (The number of Japanese going overseas was down nearly 20% for the same time period), means it’s going to be a tough time for tourism. It is good to see some proactive Japanese doing their bit though. You do need to come here. There is much more to Japan than Tokyo.

With Australian schools losing science programs and the curriculum in general failing to deal with the country’s position at the dawn of the Asian Century,  it’s interesting to read about why Finland does so well. Hint: it involves students having a life and very little homework or standardised testing. It was interesting to read about the technology making its way into universities, although I wonder how much it is helping boost academic levels, or just giving students a way to do their social networking mid-lecture…

There’s also concern at this Easter-time of how the secularisation of the education system may bereft the new generations of contact with older culture simply because they don’t understand where the stories came from. Now, I may not be the most holy of people, but I do appreciate the value of having learned about religion, at least from a cultural and philosophical standpoint. I would support the non-prosthelatising education of chldren about all religions in order to give them the necessary background for understanding where their culture has come from. The problem is most religious eduacation in Australia is done by one Christian organisation, who see their role as a mission. That doesn’t help. I htink any religious education should (at least) include Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism and pagan religions. These form the basis of our culture and serve to help us understand the major cultures Australians may have to deal with. Ignorance boosts hatred. At least a bit of education may help people understand and tolerate each other a bit.

Go to China, catch a highly contagious AIDS-like disease?

Some cool stuff to finish with.

Here’s a neat idea for a photoset: A Girl And Her Room.

Photos of TVs At The Moment They Turn Off – I have new wallpaper.

A British cloud-chasing photographer takes awesome nature photos.

People took a lot of nice photos of the recent ‘supermoon’.

Sock Puppet Army is a new (for me) webcomic that’s great for anyone who’s worked in hospitality.

Spy satellites are really helping archaeology along.

A scientist from MIT may have created an ‘artificial leaf’ to  generate solar power at 76% efficiency. In scientific terms that’s known as ‘bloody amazing’. It’ll probably disappear, along with this highly efficient internal combustion engine.

Life on Earth may be a lot more diverse than we realised with scientists finding evidence of another domain of life (the current three are eukaryotes, bacteria and archaea. Use Google or Wikipedia you lazy sod, or just read the article)

Two words: plasma rocket.

Sherry – it’s not just for grandma any more.

The search for the mother of all languages is getting interesting.

Yeah, it’s been a while. Apologies if you’ve been hanging out with baited breath for another ramble from my addled brain and journeys around the web.

The net is a wondrous way to spend hours, and hours, and hours of time. Truly a most splendid timewaster has never been seen before in civilization. So wide-ranging in its variety, so deep the level to which it can sink. It has truly brought the world together and at the same time has come to be a substitute for it for so many of us.

Allow me to share and continue to keep alive in some small way a few sparkly gems found along the road most travelled over the past few weeks.

I’ll make no secret of the fact that I find Asian women most attractive. Living in Japan just stepping onto the local train or taking a short trip is cause for celelbration in that my eyes always find something to appreciate. It’s also no secret on the Net that many of my fellow human beings have also found much to enjoy in the Japanese female form. Indeed the fetishists of this country and other have found much else to do as well. The schoolgirl fetish is one I can easily understand – and much has been made of it in this country, from the mainstream such as TV dramas and magazines, through to the more extreme perversions known to the human imagination. One interesting thing that surfaced of late was the Japanese media recently proclaimed that the sexiest school uniforms in the world were those of Thai university students. In the words of the Virgin Mary, come again? Well, it seems, that in a country where young women are forced to wear uniforms at tertiary level, they’ve taken it upon themselves to express their budding sexuality and individuality by pushing the limits of public decency. From time to time the Thai media reports that a crackdown on these uniforms is under way. From the regularity that this seems to happen, it doesn’t look like these crackdowns last very long, or are particularly succeessful. This post contains a couple of videos that illustrate the phenomenon in more detail – for research purposes, naturally. You may see a post surface on my sister blog that I’m off to Thailand again before too long… for research purposes, naturally.

 In Japan, the almighty Sega Corporation have devised a game system for men’s urinals. The article goes into each game in quite some detail, but there’s no word yet on when or where they’re likely to pop up.

When I was eight, I enjoyed digging holes in our back yard. Trust the Japanese to make an official competition out of it, complete with cash prizes and a ‘Golden Shovel’ to take home.

Speaking of Japan, for anyone who’s ever thought about visiting here, you have to be up to speed with the culture of napping that’s everywhere here.

And speaking of when I was eight, I enjoyed eating Vegemite. I still do – in fact this morning’s breakfast consisted of the Aussie classic, Vegemite on toast. Striking another blow against childhood is the advent of ‘Vegemite For Kids’. Hey, Vegemite IS for kids – sodium or no sodium. By the way, the body NEEDS salt. It’s not like the previous generations (plural) who were raised on regular, salt-infused Vegemite are all keeling over from heart disease. Another nail in the coffin of the death of childhood. ‘Health experts’, go jump in front of a large, heavy, speeding truck.

I did have a chuckle at this, and I hope Mark Knopfler did too. In Canada, the political-correctness-Nazi-patrol have done their number on the classic Dire Straits song, “Money For Nothing” since it contains the word ‘faggot’. It not has to be removed for airplay in Canada. They’re only 26 years late. 26 years. Blimey, what a hoot!

A storyboard artist for Dreamworks like to draw ninjas on his days off – a hobby I can get behind. He also knocks out kick-ass comics where Carl Sagan blasts the forces of superstition and myth out of the cosmos with the power of the Scientific Method. Love it.

The Oatmeal is also full of welcome advice and comments on daily life, like this.

I have a big heart for photography. I love the way anyone can take a simple device and make beautiful images with it.

Here are some amazing long exposure photgraphs.

And here are some very clever photographs of people levitating, along with helpful explanations of how they were done.

Maybe with practice I could capture a whole day in a single shot…. maybe not.

This is a wonderful idea: recreating photographs years later, with the same models, clothes, locations and poses.

The Cracked website can help along as well, but with an added dash of WTF to make things interesting.

I cam across this article through I Heart Chaos (in itself a wondrous site) about an American photographer named Vivian Maier. Her photographs were never seen by anyone by her – and were nearly lost forever until they were rescued by a collector with an astute eye. Now he is steadily sharing her incredible photographs with the world.

Here’s a list of ten women who made cinematic history. Excellent reading.

I recently went to Norway, which was an incredible experience. I thoroughly recommend it. Next time I go to Scandinavia I might have to find myself in Sweden for a while. The science nerd in me wants to see all the parts of the world’s largest scale model of the solar system. It would be quite a road trip though. I might need a couple of months… oh gee dang, what a shame…

I am enjoying the recent surge in ‘manliness’, ‘male pride’, whatever you want to call it. It’s probably something to do with the lack of a meaningful father-figure in my life. I do like the idea of these websites promoting and encouraging a place for men to share, discuss and encourage each other to be the best men they can be. I also like the way that this is being done without being opposed to other roles in society. We need all roles to make society work, and men are an integral part of that. I’m getting a lot out of ‘The Art Of Manliness” website, and am enjoying clicking away from it as well. Some of the style links are interesting, even though I sometimes don’t agree with what they recommend. The age of the Fedora is over – sadly.

In weird movie news, here’s one about space Nazis coming back to invade Earth.

In conspiracy theory madness, have you heard about how Denver International Airport was designed with all sorts of evil supernatural symbols embedded in it?

Speaking of the end of the world though, we also have asteroids coming for us in 2036, as well as more Icelandic volcanoes threatening to explode, along with Yellowstone’s caldera, so the news should be entertaining for quite a while to come. There’s also junk food lowering our IQs, the fact that language is dying, thanks to the internet and mobile phones, as well as children preferring their virtual lives to their real ones. Oh and Sarah and Bristol Palin are trying to trademark their names. But we can all take solace from the Church of the Latter Day Dude

Science news. The world’s most powerful optical microscope may be able to see viruses, as well as break the laws of physics. That’s one heck of a nerdgasm.

The Kepler Space Telescope continues to push back the boundaries of what we know about the universe, such as finding planets orbiting stars at incredible speeds, or in the same orbits.

Not quite Science, but here’s five things that were invented by Donald Duck.

Read how a homeowner was able to foreclose on his bank. You read that right.

Ah, Internet, how I love thee…