Geek Month in Review: September 2010

By JB Sanders

Here it is, the September Geek-a-view:

All things geek-related in September 2010. Well, all the things I thought were cool enough to mention.

Self-replicating Solar Cells
The future of power generation or one of the signs of the Impending Robot Overthrow of Humanity? You decide.

How Good is Your Geek Movie-Fu?
No, not another mindless multiple choice quiz-of-the-week. Not a rabidly obnoxious FaceBook app. Not a quiz at all. Just a seriously great bunch of t-shirts with extraordinarily obscure references to some great movies. Man, wish I was getting a cut from these guys. Note: mouse-over the t-shirt to see where the reference comes from, then smack yourself in the head for not remembering it. Or go “Huh?” because the reference is just THAT obscure.

Duke Nukem’ Forever
The longest running joke in computer game history*, born from one of the best first-person shooters ever made. Ars Technica (a tech site largely without peer) has done a detailed story on the long, twisted tale of a computer game promised since 1997. Let that sink in a moment. 1997. Bill Clinton was just beginning his second term. Pathfinder landed on Mars. Steve Jobs returns to Apple (and Microsoft bought $150M share of Apple). Titanic was on the big screen. That 1997.

* Not as old, but more long-running than the “When is In Nomine coming?” in RPG circles. And In Nomine actually did come out. Eventually.

Hugo Awards
All the year’s best SciFi. Because this stuff is just that cool. Also, Dr Who nominated for an award.

Tractor Beams Coming Closer
To you! Really, scientists have cooked up the precursors in their lab.

A Game So Small….
This java-script game is so small, it fits in 1k. That’s SMALL. Like, play it on your watch small. Play it on the fancy controls for your refrigerator small.

Making Stop Motion Animation With Light
Take an iPad, add some custom software to generate animation frames for you, and then a custom app on the iPad to show the frames as you move around. Result? This.

For those of you who remember this particular card-game and cartoon-based craze, this video may amuse you. It may also cause you have seizures. It’s 50/50.

Monsters Close Up
A more detailed review of that giant monsters movie I mentioned last month, only this time with more technical production info. The movie was made for very little money (comparatively), and with mostly off-screen gore.

Las Vegas Death Ray
It’s even the title of the article! Apparently some badly-planned hotel in Vegas has mirror-style windows all curved and fancy. Which is great, only … certain times of the day (and during a specific seasons), the sun hits the building, focuses it and super-heats the pool area in a very Archimedean fashion. As in? “The surface of the building acts like a parabolic reflector, concentrating solar heat into a specific target area.” Yes, Archimedes would be proud.

Social engineering with fake mold
Quick blurb about a sandwich bag (ziploc-style) that makes your home-made sandwich look moldy. How cool is that?

WWI Ends October 3rd — 2010
No, really! Apparently Germany’s debt for starting the war, set by the Allied victors in the 1919 Treaty of Versailles, gets it’s last payment October 3rd.

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:

Think Before You Pink!

It is October again, which means it’s time for me to remind you all about Breast Cancer Action and the great work they do! This month you’ll be assaulted with public service announcements, television specials, pink versions of any item you can color, and pink ribbons everywhere! Yes, it is breast cancer awareness month, and yes, breast cancer is bad, but the ladies at the BCA ask that you “Think Before You Pink”.

What does it mean to “Think Before You Pink”? Simply put, before you buy a product with a pink ribbon on it to support “the fight against breast cancer”, you should ask a few questions (from the “Think Before You Pink” website), such as:

How much money actually goes toward breast cancer programs and services?
Where is the money going?
Which types of programs are being supported?
What is the company doing to assure that its products are not contributing to the breast cancer epidemic?

Why year after year do I devote a post to Breast Cancer Action? Primarily because of their core principles and values (as found on their site):

1.We are a membership organization.

2.We honor each person’s commitment and energy to our mission.

3.We are not afraid to examine all sides of all issues.

4.We cannot be bought.

5.We tell the truth about what we discover.

6.We serve individuals while reaching the broader population.

7.We value the involvement of grassroots activists throughout the country and around the world to further our mission.

8.We encourage people to participate fully in decisions relating to breast cancer.

9.We believe access to information is vital.

10.We recognize that structural changes in society are needed to accomplish our mission.

One of the main things I’ve learned from BCA that I have used repeatedly in my life is this, if you really, truly, care about a cause or organization, donate directly to that organization.

Dear Rebecca,

Breast Cancer Action is deeply grateful for your generous online donation of $10 dated September 15, 2010.

We are able to be the watchdogs of the breast cancer movement because of your support. We are in the unique position of being able to tell the truth because we are the only national breast cancer organization that refuses funding from corporations that profit from or contribute to cancer. Our policy, and your support, will ensure that we continue to demand that corporations clean up their products and practices so that your health is put first. Thank you very much for donating online.

Barbara A. Brenner
Executive Director

This letter fulfills the IRS requirement that donors receive a receipt issued by Breast Cancer Action. We confirm that no goods or services were provided in exchange for your contribution. Your gift is tax deductible to the fullest extent allowed by law. BCA’s federal tax ID # is 94-3138992.

You can print this email as a record of your donation for your tax purposes.
Donation Summary:

Confirmation Code: VTJE5EA876F8
Donation Amount: $10
Donation Date: September 15, 2010
Donation Made By: Rebecca Elson

To learn more about Breast Cancer Action, visit their website. Also be sure to check out BCA’s “Think Before You Pink” campaign site as well!