Monthly Archives: May 2008

Steampunk Goodies

Newbe asks, “What Is Steampunk to You?” I know that steampunk is “a subgenre of fantasy and speculative fiction” and I have read one such novel, The Difference Engine by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling. I didn’t much care for it and haven’t gotten around to reading any others. When I think of steampunk I think of everyday things dressed up in brass, wood and leather. I am attracted to these things because they are not simple, plain, boring, strictly functional plastic boxes.

From all the stuff I keep seeing on the Web it is apparent that I am not the only one who longs for things that have a more substantial look and feel. Brass Goggles is a group blog devoted to all things steampunk. The Steampunk Workshop is another blog with lots of images and the occasional brief book review. The Steampunk Librarian‘s tag line is “all hail Verne and Tesla” which sounds very promising. Lots of links on this one. Voyages Extraordinaires is not strictly steampunk but a general retro-futures blog with a lot of Japanese art. Sara at The Steampunk Home believes that “Steampunk is more than just brass and watchparts” and her philosophy makes for a very interesting blog.

Those were the blogs. Here a few more sites and individual items that I found. Anyone who’s interested in steampunk has probably come across Datamancer already. Phil Masters has a few links and images. How about some steampunk Nerf guns. A lot of steampunk gadgets at Gizmodo. Here’s a steampunk gift guide. Steampunk Lab has a lot of stuff, organized by category. And here is How to Draw Steampunk Machines, with several photos too. And of course there’s a steampunk pool at Flickr.

Postcards

Antique French postcards – the site is in French but even if you can’t read it it’s fun to look. Click on “Themes favoris” in the sidebar to see more. The cards open in a pop-up and then you can roll over the image to magnify parts of it. Mostly scenic but there are some funny and some naughty postcards there too.

Via Drawn

A Few More Blogs

I think I might have linked to one or two of these before but I’m not sure. Stuff like that starts to happen when you’re my age.

Dear Jane Sample – about working in advertising

Godammit I’m Mad – not as much anger as you might expect with a title like that; a lot of pop culture stuff and various interesting odds and ends

Deceptive Media – an artsy “photoblog” though it’s not really in a blog format

Daily Dreamtime – a fascinating and unique culture blog; various topics

1 x semana – fantasy art

Luminiferous AEther – various interesting stuff. This might be the most bizarre and scary thing I’ve ever heard of. (Haven’t listened to it yet but the very idea…!)

Quotes From Here and There

On the internet you can always find someone who has even more time on their hands than you.here

Not to be outdone, Quentin Tarantino is reportedly updating a 1960s Disney caper flick, and will be asking original stars Hayley Mills and Dean Jones to do cameos. Working title is That F***ing Cat.there

This ‘n’ That

I like these chess pieces

Hottest to Coldest – world capitols arranged according to current temperature. (via Grow-a-Brain)

Strange futuristic designs – cars, aircraft and trains

The Campaign for Drawing

Natural Collection – Earth friendly products; clothing, household products, etc. (via Hippyshopper)

OMG!!! One more thing to be paranoid about.

Weirdest Shoes Ever!

10 free Web-based Photoshop alternatives (via Sally and Sam)

Bugs In Your Cupboard

Laura Zindel Ceramics. Fascinating. Dishes with pictures of various creepy crawlies and a few butterflies and birds.

I’ve always been fascinated with pretty and unusual dishes and when I was a kid I dreamed of someday having a dozen or so complete sets – one for every meal of the week plus some special sets for each holiday – Christmas, Thanksgiving, etc. You know… any excuse to buy every pretty set of dishes I see. In reality I have very few dishes and no room for any more. My “good dishes” are a late 70s set of blue and white Corelle and they are rapidly becoming my only set of dishes as the plastic dishes are cracking one at a time from age and too many trips through the dishwasher. My original plan was for the Corelle set to become my “everyday dishes” when I could afford “good china”. I really have no need for “good china” because when we have people over we usually use paper plates. Practicality is sad.

Anyway, Laura Zindel’s creations are very interesting. They’re art pieces so they’re rather expensive and I’m not sure I’d want to actually use them (and I’ve never liked the idea of having dishes that are “too good to use”. I like pretty dishes but I want to use them.) but the mugs are tempting. One can always find room for another coffee mug. 20 ounces is too large though so I’ll pass. Sometimes also I have to find excuses not to buy things.

Found at Ectoplasmosis

Recycling

Do you know what the “recycling symbol” really means?

In 1988, the Society of the Plastics Industry developed a resin identification code — a numbering system from 1 to 7 — categorizing different types of plastic. The code is centered in a triangle made of arrows chasing each other. This mark is commonly misidentified as the recycling symbol. Though the system was instituted to “facilitate the recycling of post-consumer plastics,” the chasing arrows graphic is meaningless. Plastic imprinted with the arrow symbol doesn’t indicate that the material is made from recycled content nor that the plastic can be recycled, misleading many.

That’s from Design Observer. Interesting article about recycling and marketing.

Alexander Courage (1919-2008)

Alexander Courage, composer of the original Star Trek theme died on May 15th.

To be honest, I didn’t know whether or not he was still alive. I’ve never known much about him except that he wrote the music for Star Trek and I occasionally noticed his name in a few other credits. I had never even seen a picture of him until today. Ever since I was a little kid I’ve always thought he had one of the coolest names ever.

Here’s more about Alexander Courage.

Mars: We’re There!

Remember when space travel – real space travel – was exciting? Remember when the TV networks – all three of them – preempted regular programming to broadcast every rocket launch? Remember watching blurry black and white pictures of spacesuited figures bouncing around on the moon? Remember when there was nothing in the world that could keep us away from that? There are a lot of people who don’t remember any of that because they hadn’t been born yet.

Well, space travel is still exciting to some of us. And now we have the Internet. Who cares if the major TV networks have gotten bored with space travel? We can look at the pictures – actual photos from another planet! – any time we want, for as long as we want. It’s not quite the same as sitting breathlessly on the edge of our seats watching blurry black and white video of spacesuited figures bouncing around on the moon but it’s still very cool and maybe, in some ways, even better.

Since those first primitive rocket launches in the 1960’s, science fiction has given us more exciting space travel. How can the mundane reality of routine trips into orbit or a robotic lander on Mars compare to the exciting fiction of traveling to distant stars and meeting humanoid aliens that look pretty much like us except for pointy ears or superfluous head bumps and ridges? And it’s all so close. We can get there in a few days. Mars is just our next door neighbor. But the point of science fiction is not really to predict the future; (although it occasionally does a fairly good job of it) the point is to create a setting where things can happen that couldn’t happen in a realistic Earthly setting. Centuries ago authors only had to take us across the ocean to unexplored lands. As recently as the early 20th century Mars was far enough away but now we know, generally, what’s there and what isn’t so it’s too close.

We know, because we are told over and over again, that even our neighboring planets are very very far away but most of us just can’t wrap our minds around that much distance. Think about this. If you built an accurate scale model of the solar system using a standard size classroom globe, Earth would be three miles from the sun and Mars would be four and half miles from the sun. Now picture scale models of us on that Earth globe. We’re not even as big as fleas. Our largest vehicles are not even as big as fleas. Now imagine something smaller than a flea finding its way to an exact point more than a mile away. And both the starting point and the destination point are moving. That’s how hard it is to get to Mars and we did it. And did it again.

But why go to Mars anyway? Most of us will never get to go there ourselves. And what if they do find a few fossilized microbes, or even living microbes? What’s that to us? People who were hoping to find something will be excited. Most of the people who didn’t believe it was possible still won’t believe it’s possible. And most of the people who just don’t care, still won’t care. There are many reasons. My favorite reason: it feeds the imagination. I can’t go to Mars but I can look at the pictures and imagine walking around out there. No matter how good the set designers and CGI artists are, when we watch science fiction we know we’re still looking at Earth. When we look at the pictures of Mars we know we are actually looking at the surface of another planet.

Speaking of imagination and Mars, I’m currently in the middle of Blue Mars, the third book in Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars trilogy. I like this one the best of the three. I think it’s mainly the terraforming that appeals to me. I suppose all the detailed descriptions of the topology and emerging ecosystems would bore a lot of people but to me it’s fascinating – much more interesting than the politics of the earlier books, although this one does have politics too.

Random Linkage

A modern retro McDonalds. Still ugly and I bet their food isn’t any better either.

Bridges – I like that first one. Very interesting.

Snow Owl – Native American history and culture

The Scientific Indian (India) – a Science Blog

Nick Bostrom, director Future of Humanity Institute – transhumanism, ethics, philosophy, speculation

Pick Up As You Go – a blog. Neat background image.

Wifezilla’s Way – another blog. Low carb dieting; recipes, food reviews. Often funny.

Carol Harris Heirloom Fabrics

Waechter’s Silk Shop – not just silk, all kinds of natural fiber fabric, notions, patterns, articles.

Chocolate flavored… (via Dark Roasted Blend)

Why Me? – a nice art blog

The best of Nearing Zero – I had never heard of the Nearing Zero cartoons before I saw this on Neatorama. These are great. Some science cartoons and some outrageous puns. I like the one with the brussels sprouts and the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Genetic Engineering 101 and…. lots more.

Wasting Paper

Have you ever noticed how ridiculously long some stores’ receipts are? Yesterday we went to Lowes and bought four items. The receipt for those four items was twenty-four inches long! That’s not including a rebate form which was nearly as long. That is absolutely ridiculous. By comparison, a Wal-mart receipt with exactly fifty items on it was only eleven inches long. You know, for the most part I’ve come to terms with my status as an Internet nobody but sometimes I really wish I was famous enough to embarrass a major corporation that needs to be embarrassed.

Quotes From Here and There

As with all things that pass before our eyes that we can’t live without the majority of the watches were, of course, not for sale.here

I suppose this makes more sense than, say, Rose McGowan having an M4 Carbine for a prosthetic leg, but not much morethere

I want my fat dammit! Seriously, when is the last time you said “I’m so full! I just ate several million bacteria cultures.”?here

What I Missed!

I have never watched Masterpiece Theatre. I know… sad and strange, but true. There was always something else on at the same time that someone at my house wanted to watch and while I was occasionally sort of interested I just went with the flow. It’s not much fun to watch TV alone anyway. But now, after all these years I find out what I’ve been missing. To be honest, I’m not exactly sorry I missed that. I guess culture is not entirely what I always imagined it to be. But just imagine if the general population of the U.S. had any idea what was going in those “stuffy British dramas.”

Good News For Pears?

Scientists say that a big behind might be a good thing, but…

Researchers have known for some time that fat that collects in the abdomen — known as visceral fat — can raise a person’s risk of diabetes and heart disease, while people with pear-shaped bodies, with fat deposits in the buttocks and hips, are less prone to these disorders.

Huh? Don’t most people have both? I don’t recall ever seeing a “pear-shaped” person with a flat tummy.

Via 2 Blowhards

Sure, it seems like a good idea now

Remember I was just talking about tattoos and how they might be a bad idea 40 years later? Well here is one you definitely don’t want to see on a 60-year-old body. I mean, seriously, think of the poor defenseless nursing home attendants. It’s not an actual tattoo; it’s a vintage nude photoshopped to illustrate a tattoo idea but you know someone’s going to see that and want to go out and get one like it. (NSFW)

A Few Odd Links

Strange label.

World’s weirdest gadgets. I like the transparent toaster. (Warning: a couple of the items are “for adults only”.)

Downloadable paper models. Fantasy figures. Cthulhu, skeleton pirates, aliens, etc. (via Ectomo)

Flying Vibators. What the hell!? These two videos are Russian so I have no idea what’s really going on but it looks like the Russian political process might be more entertaining that we imagine. Probably NSFW.

Beard quest (via In4mador!)

Welcome to the World of Professional Cheese Racing. Amazing. (via Look At This…)

The End of the Internet (via Grow-a-Brain) Wait… this is The End of the Internet. No wait THIS is the End of the Internet. (that one is my favorite) Or is this it: Last Page of the Internet? (love that URL) Well, who knows where the “real” End of the Internet is but at least we can Shutdown the Internet. (No, I didn’t push the button. I’m not done with it yet.)

People

I’m not a fan of George Carlin but I like this quote:

I love and treasure individuals as I meet them; I loathe and despise the groups they identify with and belong to.

— George Carlin

That is a very good point. A lot of perfectly nice people belong to groups that we can’t stand. You know… groups like Republicans, Democrats, New England Patriots fans, etc.

Thoughts on Dr Who

Andrea has an entertaining review of the current season of Dr. Who. I guess I have to admit she’s right about most of that but I love the show anyway. Maybe it’s the British accents.

I actually know nothing about British culture except for what I have learned from movies, TV and of course the Internet where they don’t have any accents at all and seem almost indistinguishable from Americans except for when they start talking about strange sports like soccer and cricket so I want to make it clear that when I say I love British culture I have no idea what I’m talking about. Whatever I see on Dr. Who that is ridiculous and unbelievable way beyond any possible “willing suspension of disbelief,” I just tend to put down as more charming British weirdness and I love it.

So far I’m not totally charmed by Donna, The Doctor’s current companion. I don’t dislike her at all but I don’t like her as well as either Rose or Martha. Martha returned in the latest episode and we caught a quick glimpse of Rose in another episode this season. It’s sort of annoying that they haven’t gone anywhere with that yet – just that little surprise, which leads you to expect something, and then on to other, unrelated things.

Unlike Andrea, I liked the sad captive Ood song. On the other hand, I hated the, “Ood are so trusting because they carry their brains in their hands” bit. Oh come on! That almost goes beyond what can be excused as “just more charming British weirdness.” Also I’m getting tired of the – I can’t remember what they’re called – the green aliens who disguise themselves as humans and unzip their human suits at the forehead when they want to freak someone out. They’re gross and disgusting and neither funny nor scary.

Mostly though, I love Dr. Who. I can hardly wait for the next episode.