Though it doesn’t work on water

Hoverboard by MattelIt doesn’t actually work on land, either, come to think of it, but that’s not going to stop the WANT reflex:

We’ve all been demanding hoverboards ever since Marty McFly took off on one in 1989’s Back To The Future II, but now you could own the real thing.

The actual hoverboard used in the film is up for auction at Vue Cinema’s entertainment and prop store live auction, which takes place at Westfield in Shepherd’s Bush in October. It’s one of 375 lots of original props, constumes and production material from a host of movies.

Expected selling price: £15,000, or several gigawallets.

(Via Fark.)

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Songs of braise

Let’s say you want some of that neat Alternative Energy, and the very next item on your list is killing as many birds as possible. So you put up a wind turbine, right? Not necessarily:

A new study from the National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Laboratory [pdf] obtained by KCET gives some depressing and gruesome details of bird deaths occurring at industrial solar facilities.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife employees and energy company staff found 233 birds of 71 different species at three California solar facilities — Ivanpah, Genesis, and Desert Sunlight — during random surveys over two years. That’s not a huge number of birds (though the limited scope of the collections means it’s just a fraction of the actual deaths), but what’s shocking is the way some of these birds are dying: They are literally being burned alive, in midair.

And some of them are perishing in a different manner entirely:

Researchers found an unusually high number of water birds dead at the Desert Sunlight facility. These birds, including grebes, herons, ducks, and even pelicans, died not from the heat but from blunt force trauma. The cause was clear, as stated in the report: “A desert environment punctuated by a large expanse of reflective, blue panels may be reminiscent of a large body of water.” These birds — tired from flying over the hot desert — home in on what looks like a calm lake but instead crash into hard panels. They either die instantly or, as researchers found, lie helpless for land-based predators.

Of course, mean, nasty, wicked coal gets soot all over their feathers.

(Via Tim Blair.)

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Expert timing

I remember both ends of this equation entirely too well:

I asked him if he remembered a particular Commodore 64 file, about fourteen seconds of the Carl Douglas dance classic “Kung Fu Fighting,” which used every single one of the 38911 bytes set aside for BASIC programs plus several K more. Of course he had, and he directed me toward this loop:

Now the C64’s SID chip was capable of more than the usual electronics bloops and bleeps — it was just this side of a full-fledged synth — but I had never imagined that it could do that. Now we have music files that use more disk space than used to be available on hard drives.

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Count your McNuggets before they’re lunch

Trust me, I do not want to know how many calories sit on the plate before me, so I am not a likely candidate to test this prototype:

Here’s how it works: the device that [Matt] Webster and his team are working on analyzes fat content, water content and weight. With that data, Webster says, it can reasonably estimate the amount of calories someone will be consuming.

Engineers aren’t using solid foods yet. They’re still working with mixtures, but the goal is to develop a product that can scan a sandwich and tell someone exactly what he or she is eating.

Fortunately, this contraption seems a long way off. (Video below the jump.)

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Here we go loop

Why we don’t have 8-tracks anymore, as explained by Roger:

Because the eight-track was a stupid technology. I remember exactly when I realized this. I was in a car listening to someone’s Beatles Again/Hey Jude 8-track. The song “Rain” came on, and IN THE MIDDLE OF THE SONG, it did that weird grinding noise in the middle of it. I should note that “Rain” is a three-minute song.

I think I decided this about three seconds after I had one jam on me, opened it up to see what I could do about it, and discovered that this mechanism couldn’t possibly work.

Lots of that particular title out there; I didn’t have one, but then I already had the LP. At the other extreme, 1982’s 20 Greatest Hits by the Beatles, which Capitol scrapped right before release: the number of copies which managed to escape the label is believed to be in single digits, and only four have ever been seen.

My last-ever 8-track tape was Janis Ian’s For All the Seasons of Your Mind (1967), the second of her four albums for Verve/Forecast, featuring the slightly bitter tune “Shady Acres,” which remains a favorite.

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Shaking and stirred

Given my stand on energy generally — we need to produce so damned much of it that the marginal cost eventually nears zero, which happy event will bring us closer to utopia than any scheme yet imagined in Washington — I derive no joy from picking on the oil and gas guys that pay a lot of the bills around here. But dammit, there are still some questions that need to be answered:

Are all these recent earthquakes, some in the 4.0-magnitude or larger range, capable of damaging homes over the long term? Could the repeated shaking damage house foundations or window seals or roofs, for example? Can the oil and gas industry be held liable for the damage? What is the possibility of a larger quake in the 6.0- to 7.0-magnitude or larger range? Would lives be lost if the big earthquake hits?

In the absence of definitive data, these are my guesses: almost certainly, almost certainly, they’ll be sued but the outcome is not clear, about even money, depends on where it hits.

What I see as a best-case scenario: the industry, grumbling, revises the fracking process to reduce the threat, and even manages to cut down the enormous water use. Chances of that: don’t bet your life savings on it.

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Business un-taken care of

Lots of people have pointed to this article about “classic rock” by Walt Hickey at FiveThirtyEight, and as usual with something from Nate Silver’s baby, it’s meticulously researched and presented with an eye toward actual clarity.

Some weird statistics emerged, of course. In the Phoenix radio market, Creedence gets about half again as much airplay as might be expected. I assume this is sort of induced nostalgia, since nobody in Maricopa County has ever seen a river, green or otherwise, let alone a bayou. Furthermore, Bostonians have a curious love for the Allman Brothers Band. And Billy Joel does well in Miami, which made no sense to me until Hickey explained: “Think about who might be listening to classic rock stations in Miami: retired New Yorkers!”

Still, one thing puzzles me about the entire enterprise, to the extent that it challenges my very definition of “classic rock”: I contend that the one song the format must contain is “Takin’ Care of Business”, yet there is not a single mention of Bachman-Turner Overdrive anywhere in the article.

(I was originally sent the link by Dr. Pants.)

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Semi-square meal

This is the sort of thing that causes sadness to well up from somewhere this side of the duodenum:

So, it turns out that a habanero ranch bacon cheeseburger with fries in Buffalo sauce followed by a half pound of Skittles and a Drumstick ice cream cone isn’t something my system is prepared to handle any more.

Man. This sucks.

Especially since the Drumstick is basically the anti-Buffalo: they’re supposed to cancel themselves out sometime before you need to break out the Tums.

Also at that link: a potato salad recipe that you won’t need to raise tens of thousands of dollars to produce.

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Say yes to Z Dress

I might be excessively impressed by this, largely because I have no idea how difficult to live with it might be, but what I can see, I sort of like:

Z Dress Lookbook from Anastasia on Vimeo.

Then again, I used to own a couple of reversible ties. If you must judge me, judge me for that.

(Seen here.)

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Quicker loads

Not to be confused with “Quicken Loans.”

In an effort to speed up the load time on the front page, I cut the number of entries displayed from 20 to 12; after noticing that it made me look like I’d been screwing off, I brought it back up to 16.

If you have a preference, now’s the time. (Archive pages and such remain unchanged, mostly because I have a plugin that lets me do that, or not do that, as the case may be.)

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Evidently not a fan

I normally don’t like to quote an entire article, but this is so short, and so lacking in obvious break points, that I’m just going to do it and urge you to read his Other Stuff:

So apparently Rosie O’Donnell is returning to The View.

This is going to be a big problem for me in the event that my coffin is placed upright in cement in front of a television set tuned to the only frequency remaining after a strange phenomenon wiped out the entire electromagnetic spectrum other than ABC’s signal and the off-switch was sealed with a gallon of Shelob’s webbing.

See what I mean?

Now go read, oh, let’s say this, from his Younger Days.

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And sitteth at the left hand of .GOP

This passes for Republican strategy, or strategery, these days:

The Republican Party has come into the Internet age, just barely, or is at least cynically attempting to acknowledge the existence of the Internet by allowing young people to pour money into the RNC’s coffers one $20.16 domain name at a time (yes, $20.16). Or they’re just screwing with everyone and distracting the wider Interwebs by challenging them to find every last domain name on the RNC’s .GOP block list (for the record, porn.GOP was not available, even though all we were going to do with it is put up a black screen and make some awkward shuffling noises).

Does this mean we can expect to see Republicans In Domain Name Only? [Answer: yes.]

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Not getting with the program

Take that, “SmartHours”!

I am NOT, however, going to hew to the “set it to 80 for the hours of 2 to 7 pm” like some power companies recommend. When I come home, hot and tired, from doing fieldwork or teaching in a hot building, I don’t want to have to wait several hours to be able to cool myself off again.

When it gets up around 110, you’re going to end up with close to 80 anyway: these semi-miraculous machines can only do so much.

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One of the safer aspects of Tornado Alley

We’re a long way from any of this carnage:

Though I suppose a funnel cloud could pick up a shark from Galveston Bay and drop it over Moore. Maybe.

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Reporting from hell’s 0.2 hectare

That Sunday quickie about the metric system has generated a concurrence:

I’ll let you in on how I feel about the metric system: it’s great for stuff that is too small to see and for stuff that is too far away to touch, but for everyday existence, I prefer American. A foot is a foot, a mile a minute is a good speed for getting somewhere by car. One hundred degrees is hot, zero degrees is cold. What are the values for these in the metric system? Prime numbers from the planet Xylorcanth. And before you go trying to tell me that we could have a kilometer a minute as a good speed, if we only changed the length of a second to a more metric-centric value, let me remind you that your heart beats once per second, or it would if you were a real human and not some Eurocentric cyborg wanna-be.

If we must have metric, let us have Metric, a Canadian band whose 2012 album Synthetica has been boiled down to a bunch of lyric videos, including this one:

The guy who’s singing with Emily Haines? Lou Reed, in what might have been his last studio performance. He sounds downright upbeat at times.

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Faye accompli

Faye Emerson, born on this date in 1917, sticks in my mind because she did all manner of television in the 1950s: variety shows, game shows, you name it. Of course, she didn’t start out that way: in the 1940s she was on the Warner Bros. studio payroll, and while she never made it up to the A-list, she was pretty much always working, and pretty much always pretty:

Faye Emerson, starlet

Curiously, while I was out looking for additional photos, I encountered this phenomenon:

Faye Emerson wardrobe malfunction

This 1950 clip, once you get past the Pepsi promotion, illustrates how such a thing could be possible in that sanitary age:

Bonus: Steve Allen in his late twenties.

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