Discs Of Despair
May19

Discs Of Despair

In 1969 an independent publisher called Flimflam Books put an advert in local newspapers across the Pacific Northwest area of America looking for authors willing to engage in a novel (no pun intended) revenue-sharing scheme. One of the first books that appeared in the stores of Seattle in early 1970 as a result of this advertisement was Discs of Despair by E.C. Clamp. Discs of Despair followed the story of two best friends, George and Henry, abducted by a UFO whilst playing with their flying disc on a beach at twilight. They effect an escape from the craft, destroying it in the process, but in doing so find themselves stranded on an alien planet. With just what they can salvage from the wreckage, their wits, and their disc to keep them occupied they search for a way home that ends up taking them through interstellar portals and eventually into a bloodthirsty disc-throwing competition with family members of the aliens who originally captured them. The novel revenue-sharing scheme revolved around playing rock-paper-scissors to determine cut of the profits. E.C. Clamp lost all three rounds against the publishing house and ended up with no royalties from sales of the book. This experience turned Clamp off writing for the rest of his...

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NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts
May18

NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts

Found via the Space Girl page on Facebook is the NIAC 2016 Phase I and Phase II Selections, featuring – as you might have worked out from post title – NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts, its programme to fund work on revolutionary aeronautics and space concepts. Some of the concepts include Brane Craft – “an ultra-light dynamic membrane spacecraft, with 3-axis attitude determination and control plus navigation, that can significantly change both its shape and orbit” – and Tensegrity Approaches to In-Space Construction of a 1g Growable Habitat – “[an] economically feasible approach to building habitats that can grow, spin, and [be manufactured] in space” – among many others. A lot of good stuff and interesting ideas for the science and possibly science fiction fan...

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South America Cruise Videos
May09

South America Cruise Videos

A companion post to the two articles that I recently posted outlining our recent cruise from Buenos Aires, Argentina to Valparaiso, Chile on board the Princess Cruises ship Star Princess, containg the videos that I’ve subsequently uploaded to YouTube along with some brief notes. To read a review of the cruise see: Star Princess: South America Cruise (Part 1) Star Princess: South America Cruise (Part 2) A quick pan around the admittedly not terribly photogenic dockside area in Buenos Aires from our mini-suite stateroom balcony. We boarded a steam train in order to get to the winery at Juanico in Uruguay. This is a few minutes of the countryside and small towns rolling past which sadly doesn’t capture many of the happy, waving, or just plain gobsmacked locals who stopped to stare at our mode of travel. A zumba session taking place out on deck. People who know me will not be surprised to learn that not only did I not partake I also didn’t even consider partaking. The Star Princess outside the influence of the River Plate and on the South Atlantic, as seen from our balcony once again. A Magellanic penguin wandering past us as we strolled through its rookery at Punta Tombo reserve in Argentina. Two dancers showing off some Argentina Tango moves in the piazza to the enjoyment of three decks of viewers. The dancers were very good but they weren’t as good as the Uruguayans who danced for us as the winery and with whom I “danced” in front of everyone. And nobody was as good as the dancers who put on the tango show in Buenos Aires. But still good, as you can see. You’re probably looking at this and thinking “nice filters” or “nice processing” or something along those lines. Well, stop that. The sunset that you see here was exactly as it appeared as the ship made its way southwards from Argentina towards the Falkland Islands. We’d been sitting down in one of the bars (shock) when we noticed the sudden colour of the sky outside so, along with a great many other passengers, headed out onto the promenade deck to stare at it and take some photos and video. A quick pan around on our Falklands War Battlefields tour that we took on the Falkland Islands. As you probably could have guessed. Fascinating tour that you can read more about on the first article I wrote about the cruise. The next three videos are from our cruising around Cape Horn. The theme of these videos is “grey”. Now for three videos shot on a catamaran trip out onto the Beagle...

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Lillian F. Schwartz Movies
May08

Lillian F. Schwartz Movies

Some extraordinary videos, mostly from the 1970s, showcasing innovative computer animations or filming techniques in artworks produced by Lillian F. Schwartz. From Lillian.com: Lillian Schwartz, resident artist and consultant at Bell Laboratories (New Jersey), 1969-2002. During the 70s and 80s Schwartz developed a catalogue of visionary techniques for the use of the computer system by artists. Her formal explorations in abstract animation involved the marriage of film, computers and music in collaboration with such luminaries as computer musicians Jean-Claude Risset, Max Mathews, Vladimir Ussachevsky, Milton Babbit, and Richard Moore. Many more of Lillian’s films can be found...

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Star Princess: South America Cruise (Part 2)
May08

Star Princess: South America Cruise (Part 2)

This is the second part of the article outlining a holiday with Princess Cruises on the Star Princess from Buenos Aires to Valparaiso to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of our first date and the fact we’d managed to save up long enough to afford it. The first part of this article can be found here: Star Princess: South America Cruise (Part 1). The Beagle Channel One of my favourite sights on our trip was waking up to discover the cruise ship was docked in Ushuaia and surrounded on three sides by towering mountains made more ominous and oppressive by the dim pre-dawn light of day. What can I say? I like the sea and I like mountain ranges; put them together and you’ve got yourself something I like twice. Now, unlike the Falkland Islands where we’d been told it could be cold and wet but it wasn’t, in Ushuaia we’d been told it would be cold and wet and it certainly was. It was very cold. And it was very wet. Fortunately, the wet part eased off early but the cold part persisted. How cold was it? It was long-sleeved top and thick hoodie and wool hat and waterproof coat, with hoodie done up and hood raised, and coat done up and hood raised, and gloves on cold. And we’d booked an excursion on a catamaran out onto the Beagle Channel to look for wildlife so it was all that type of cold plus out on an exposed stretch of water cold. Still, only one mad, mad person decided to ignore the spray and biting wind and spend the entire catamaran venture out on the deck of the boat rather than taking in the views from inside. That was me. So, sure, I was cold. Frozen, you might say. But I knew I’d recover and I got some wonderful views and fabulous shots of mountains, birds, sea lions, and a lighthouse, as well as the fond memory that there was probably at least one person on board other than my wife thinking “What is that loony doing out there?” Cruise Tip Maybe two pairs of gloves next time I head out onto the Beagle Channel. Ushuaia Now, we’d been told on the Falkland Islands that the majority of people who were really a little bit, er, antsy where it came to that place’s sovereignty were the Argentinians in and around Ushuaia; whether this was because the harsh living and economic conditions there simply brewed anger couldn’t be said with absolute certainty but most other people in that area of the world had a more liberal live-and-let-live attitude. We’d also...

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Invictus Games: UK Versus USA
Apr30

Invictus Games: UK Versus USA

When Barack Obama and Michelle Obama challenge Prince Harry with respect to the upcoming Invictus Games he brings out the big gun in response…...

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