Geek Month in Review: April 2015

by JB Sanders

Spring flowers!

World’s Largest Airship Nearly Ready for the Skies
The airship is set to return to the skies (with helium!), now in an industrial capacity.

Fiction to Invention: Timeline
Great infographic on the time it took for something that appeared in science fiction to turn into fact.

All the Best Supervillains Have Them
Elon Musk made a twitter post that seems especially appropriate.

Chinese Farmer Builds Transformer Figures
Doesn’t sound all that exciting, does it? Did I mention that these “figures” are life-sized (as in 20-feet tall)? And made out of car parts? They look pretty awesome.

I Think There’s a Movie In This
The U.S. Bureau of Land Management is looking to find people to live in an abandoned mining town that has a reputation for being haunted. You should totally do it! All the cool kids are. And I’m certain that nothing would ever go wrong with living in a haunted ghost town. Definitely.

Wanna Buy a Village?
Speaking of abandoned properties, there’s a little village in Connecticut — all 64 acres of it — that is up for sale again. It was a mill town, then the mill burned, then it was a Victorian recreation village, and then it was planned to be a created community.

The Invisible Infrastructure
Really fascinating visualization of all the airplanes going into and out of the UK airspace in the course of a day.

Ancient Computer Festival
Marvel at the vacuum tubes! Wonder at the giant cabinets! See the original iMac doorstop. All this and more at the Vintage Computer Festival East.

Chernobyl Fox Makes Sandwich
Yup, we got us some mutants. No doubt.
Note: auto-playing vide

GM Futureliner — the Car of the Future, In the 1950’s
They just don’t make ‘em like that anymore — because they NEVER made them like this. A vehicle both huge and odd-looking, it does have the whiff of a 1950’s future. They were put together by General Motors as traveling exhibits to showcase GM tech. And they are monstrously big: 33 feet long, 8 feet wide, and 11’ 2” high.

The Internet of Cows
Researchers in San Francisco are attaching special pedometers to cows. They’ll track all sorts of data about them to help dairy farmers with their herds.

About John:
John’s a geek from way back. He’s been floating between various computer-related jobs for years, until he settled into doing tech support in higher ed. Now he rules the Macs on campus with an iron hand (really, it’s on his desk).

Geek Credentials:
RPG: Blue box D&D, lead minis, been to GenCon in Milwaukee.
Computer: TRS-80 Color Computer, Amiga 1000, UNIX system w/reel-to-reel backup tape
Card games: bought Magic cards at GenCon in 1993
Science: Met Phil Plait, got time on a mainframe for astronomy project in 1983
His Blog:http://www.glenandtyler.com/

Geek Month in Review: March 2015

by JB Sanders

Snow, snow go away…

Jurassic Park Computer System
So, there’s this website out there that simulates the computer control system in the original Jurassic Park movie. Give it a whirl.

Low-Tech Old-School Secret Drawers
Lovely antique small writing desk, with a TON of secret drawers and hidden compartments.

Oldest Surviving Movie Footage of New York City, Annotated
Great video showing what appears to be the oldest movie footage of New York City, from May of 1896. Annotations show a map of the current NYC on the left. Pop-up highlights over the video call out landmarks and other points of interest. There’s movie footage from 1896 to 1906, going backwards in time from newest to oldest. Fascinating stuff.

Geek Makes Secret Door Into His Home Theater
But that’s not the best part — the awesome thing is that it’s a secret door, modeled on the secret back entrance in Moria. Yes, that Moria — as in, Mines of Moria, Tolkien, Lord of the Rings, etc. It even — oh, but I won’t spoil it. Suffice to say it has features.

That’s Not a Table! It’s a Machine!
Watch this crazy complex table go from a small size to a larger size simply by turning. It’s based on an 1835 patent.

Easily Build a Hidden Safe
Ok, it hasn’t got a TON of room, but it’s got the nice benefit of being difficult to spot. Plus who doesn’t like hidden drawer-type-things that you can do yourself for $3?

Zombie Infection Simulation
Watch as zombies spread out from the point of infection, in hour-by-hour time, until they engulf the US. You can even slider-bar the parameters to make zombies faster or slower, and more or less infectious. Science!

Comic Book Cartography
Some 4-color plates of famous geography from yesteryear. Browse the contents of the Bat Cave, or the hidden secrets of the Baxter Building.

About John:
John’s a geek from way back. He’s been floating between various computer-related jobs for years, until he settled into doing tech support in higher ed. Now he rules the Macs on campus with an iron hand (really, it’s on his desk).

Geek Credentials:
RPG: Blue box D&D, lead minis, been to GenCon in Milwaukee.
Computer: TRS-80 Color Computer, Amiga 1000, UNIX system w/reel-to-reel backup tape
Card games: bought Magic cards at GenCon in 1993
Science: Met Phil Plait, got time on a mainframe for astronomy project in 1983
His Blog:http://www.glenandtyler.com/

Witches of Echo Park

If you’re like me, you’re a fan of Amber Benson because you loved the character Tara from the television series “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”. Once the show went off the air, she kind of fell off my radar. Well unbeknownst to me, while I’ve been sitting around letting my butt get wide Benson has been building an artistic empire. An empire I tell you!

She’s written, directed, and produced a few independent films. She has her own production company, Benson Productions. Not the most exciting name, but still. She worked on the Tara and Willow comics that were done for the “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” comic book series. With Christopher Golden she straight created a fantasy franchise, “Ghosts of Albion”, that started as a BBC online movie that now has a couple of books with it, an anthology, and a roleplaying game based on the setting. Bam! And now I also learn that she’s written a bunch of other books besides those! It’s one of those books that brings us together today.

Once again, the good folks at Audible.com have brought an interesting book to my attention, “The Witches of Echo Park”. As their summary is nice enough to explain:

Unbeknownst to most of humankind, a powerful network of witches thrives within the shadows of society, using their magic to keep the world in balance. But they are being eliminated – and we will all pay if their power falls… When Elyse MacAllister’s great-aunt Eleanora, the woman who raised her, becomes deathly ill, Lyse puts her comfortable life in Georgia on hold to rush back to Los Angeles. And once she returns to Echo Park, Lyse discovers her great-aunt has been keeping secrets – extraordinary secrets – from her. Not only is Lyse heir to Eleanora’s Victorian estate; she is also expected to take her great-aunt’s place in the Echo Park coven of witches. But to accept her destiny means to place herself in deadly peril – for the world of magic is under siege, and the battle the witches now fight may be their last…

And who, oh who, would narrate this book? Duh, of course Amber Benson. Here’s a taste of what that’s like:

To learn more about this title, visit Audible.com.
To see just some of the stuff Amber Benson has been up to, check out her Wikipedia page.

A Boy and His Comics

Ugh, my right hand and wrist are killing me. I just spent hours scrolling through Amazon.com’s comic and graphic novel sale and then their selection of DC comic graphic novels. My faux nephew Jacob’s birthday is at the end of the month and along with the stuff I know he wants, Nerf guns and/or Pokemon cards, I have my mind (or probably more accurately my heart) set on getting him a graphic novel. For those of you who don’t know, a graphic novel is a collection of comics bound together into a book. It usually covers a story arc.

Now the sticky wicket of course is that Jacob is still young and most of the comics I read are definitely adults only. It’s on days like this that I miss my old comic book store. Both owners were insanely knowledgeable and I have no doubt they could have taken my taste in comics and cross referenced it with Jacob’s age and the next thing I know there would be several graphic novels on order. With them out of business, I’m left reading online reviews and making judgments based on cover art. If you have a good local comic book store, support them!

There I am, scrolling through the DC comic category of the comics and graphic novels of Amazon.com. So many memories surface scanning through the titles. The first comic I read was the graphic novel “Sandman: Preludes & Nocturnes” and it’s still available and came up in the search. “Watchmen”, which was the book Jim gave me to read while we were dating. I saw the first Batman graphics that I read. “Preacher: Gone to Texas” and “V for Vendetta” that a customer loaned to me when I worked in retail. The list goes on. I was surprised by how many emotions just remembering the books evoked.

But perhaps not this Batman for the boy.

But perhaps not this Batman for the boy.

And eventually those are the feelings I want for Jacob. The DC universe is often criticized for being relentlessly dark. Sadly, in many ways, that is the real world that my faux nephew is growing up into. People are right, the DC universe is populated with crumbling utopias, corrupted paradises, and realities coming apart at the seams. Often the heroes in these worlds are mentally unstable billionaires, fallen angels, humans that court demons, animated vegetable matter, stage magicians, orphaned aliens, and fairy book characters on the run.

Yet despite how messed up the world is, and how screwed up they are, they always find something worth saving in the world, and something worth saving in each other. There’s a beauty in that. It’s that kind of shit that helps a boy become a man.