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Avia S-199 in Israeli Air Force Service

Archive for 2006

The Intardweb takes notice of Child One

The photo of Child One’s pumpkin has begun to spread across the Intardweb like… – well, like a pumpkin vine.

A blog called Written Wyrdd – A Speculative Fiction Zone has reposted the photo and linked here.

Written Wyrdd is trying to write a novel. I’ll be sure to post the text here if and when he gets published.

I kid, sort of.

What I should have mentioned previously is that not only did Child One design her pumpkin, she carved it herself as well.


Japanese fishermen have captured a dolphin with a pair of hind flippers.

I love stuff like this. Some cetaceans (whales and dolphins) have vestigial hip bones and some occasionally have malformed protuberances where the hind limbs once were, but this example has a full-blown case.

The flippers are about the size of a man’s palm.

I hesitate to link to the Associated Press story (here at Fox News) because the reporting is so bad from a biological standpoint, but it’s what I can find online.

What’s wonderful about this find is not that these hind flippers show up right where hind limbs might have been predicted to reappear – and, I assume, contain the proper homologous bones. No, the wonder here is the theory of the hopeful monster. For those too lazy to click this link to Wikipedia, I’ll explain briefly.

Hopeful monsters are the engine of macroevolution. Mutations create instances of gross morphological change in organisms. Because these organisms are radically different than the normal form, they are monsters. The “hopeful” applies to the possibility that these gross changes will prove a benefit.

While most modern evolutionary theory remains based in the standard theory of very small mutations that accumulate over time, the appearance of these flippers seems to show that hopeful monsters exist.

Almost certainly, a four-flippered dolphin would be less equipped than a two-flippered dolphin. The flippers are not used for propulsion, so an extra set would lead to drag without much benefit. Still, consider this a stepping stone for an interesting thought experiment. What if a dolphin with four flippers learned to be a shallow-water ambush predator? Four flippers might provide a more stable base on which to rest and leap from the seabed. If so, the presence of hind flippers would make the animal better equipped, and its similarly equipped offspring would outcompete its two-flippered conspecifics.

Given enough time, these creatures might evolve into an animal that could forage on land for short trips. Mutations that strengthen the four flippers and make them sturdier might stick if that proved an efficient strategy. Before you know it, we might have land-dolphins terrorizing the small fauna.

What’s that? Something like this happened already?

Oh, I guess that renders my thought experiment moot. Or not.

“How Not to Make Movies”

How Not to Make Movies” is a fun satire of student short films, made as a student short film in Turkey.

I learned of filmmaker Nemo Ramjet (great name for a superhero, eh?) through Darren Naish’s blog. Nemo is an illustrator primarily, and he enjoys drawing the results of hypothetical evolution. Some of his work reminds me of “Alien Planet“, which aired on the Discovery Channel last May.

Enjoy the short.

Halloween chez Webs

First, Child Three:

By coincidence, he looks a lot like this fellow:

Geek test: what is that a picture of, and where can you find it?

Child Three’s pumpkin design:

Child Two:

And her pumpkin(s):

I love the face on the victim.

Lastly, Child One:

And her little masterpiece:

Bonus recipe:

What do you do with leftover bacon when you have no tomatoes? You make a BAM. That’s bacon, Granny Smith apple (thinly sliced), and mayo. I put this together the other day, and it’s delicious. Just make sure you have good bread. The quality of a sandwich relies on the bread. I used Portuguese rolls – well, the plugs of bread that were left over from turning the bulk of the roll into a breadbowl for soup. Yummy!

Laptop resuscitated!

With the help of the AGW hive-mind, I diagnosed the problem with my laptop. The battery was dead.

Wall juice comes into the laptop through the cord and is routed through the battery if it’s installed. A dead battery dams those electrons and not enough get through to power the screen or wireless card.

When I removed the battery, the wall juice followed a different path, and the laptop powered up normally.

Now all I’ve got to do is buy a replacement battery. That’ll run me $70 or so on eBay.

Pre-Halloween schmooze report

Alex hosted a pre-Halloween industry get-together at Hurley’s last night. I always get along great with Heidi and Doug, but I conversed with a few other people as well. Some dude name Martin was fascinated with my trouble with finding the spine of the “101” story, and was very helpful just by listening. I also met Michael Solomon, a 30-ish producer with whom I may co-produce a short, although not one of mine. (More on that as it develops.)

When Michael learned my last name, he asked me if I’m related to Mitch – who is my younger brother. Once upon a time at Camp Maromac, both counselors in Michael’s bunk left camp early, and Mitch took over the group. Michael idolized my brother, he told me.

Michael is going to look for photos of that summer and if he finds any, I’ll send them on to my brother.

Robert the director left a phone message today asking for my l33t editing skillz. He’s trying to land a book-to-movie project and he needs help with the synopsis. That may lead to something as well.

Bonus aggravation of the week:

My Dell Inspiron 8100 gave up the ghost, to use a seasonal phrase. I’m not sure what’s wrong, so I’m not sure if it’s a permanent or temporary problem.

I had the machine on upstairs. I closed the lid and unplugged it, then took it downstairs. When I plugged it back in, the screen remained dark and the wireless card wouldn’t light up. I turned off the laptop manually, with the power button.

Every time I start up the thing now, I get power lights, and I hear the hard drive spin up, but the screen remains black and the wireless card never gets power. The CD drive will open and close, so it gets power. I don’t even know where to start. My Mac, I can troubleshoot blindfolded. The Windows laptop stymies me.

A weekend in Ottawa

I’ve just returned from two days in Ottawa with nine other WarBirds geeks players. Some I’d met before. Vlasov lives here in Montreal and we see each other occasionally. RC I’ve met at official WarBirds conventions and I’ve also attended one of his own Ottawa gatherings, in 1998 I think.

We met in the hotel lounge Friday night and watched Vonmc and Muzz get plastered in their personal styles. Vonmc was loud and eager to regale us with tales of his virtual prowess. Muzz was quieter, sarcastic, and eager to deflate Vonmc’s balloon. Also, he dropped and broke a glass.

Saturday, we went to the new War Museum, which is much bigger than the museum’s old crowded quarters.

Vlasov drove the two of us into downtown Ottawa, but our way was blocked by a demonstration. Some 20 people and a large blue balloon were marching with signs that said “Big Oil”. I assume this was a protest against Big Oil and not for it. The Ottawa police were blocking streets as the marchers went on, and Vlasov had to loop this way and that to get to the War Museum, the old museum. A sign on the door told us the museum had moved.

Back in the car, we were again thwarted by the rolling blockade. We looped around the Rideau Centre, drove between the American and Kuwaiti embassies, and finally made it onto Wellington for the drive back west of Parliament, which is where we’d come from in our first attempt to avoid the protestors. We were late, and the other WarBirders had already gone in, but finally the weekend continued.

The museum has room for its amazing collection of vehicles, from all eras. With respect to World War II, the most fascinating pieces were a StuG IIIG that had been hit about ten times, a rusty Valentine that had been rescued from a Russian bog, and an early model Churchill Mk II (2-pdr gun, bow machine gun, and engine snorkels a la Dieppe).

Saturday was spent more soberly by some, again in the hotel lounge. I had to fend off repeated requests for me to join 400-series (i.e. Canadian) virtual RAF squadrons. I will not let the virtual 101 Squadron die!

That was about it. It probably sounds boring to you, but it was an entertaining way for me to spend a weekend.

Bonus news:

I’m up to page 53 in reading “Flyboys”.

More fun with the visitor log

Keratoconus International, a support site for patients who share my disorder, posted a list of personal anecdotes found online. This blog is one of them. I’ve started to see a trickle of visitors come from there.

A second set of visits is laced with irony. This semester, I teach Jour 319 from 9:15 to 11:30 Wednesday mornings. The class meets in the Mac lab, room 3.217 of the CJ building, which used to be the DS building.

My visitor log indicates that the computer known as visited my site at 9:38 Wednesday morning, and stayed until near 10:00. That means that the computer identified as maclab5 in the class – while I was teaching there – spent 20 minutes at my blog. Whoever was using that computer spent about 20 minutes reading what I wrote because what I was saying was too boring. That cracks me up.

If the computers are labelled by the department on the outside with the same scheme the network uses, that means that the bored surfer was either Lucas or Gabriella. I’m not sure which Mac is #5 in the class, but I’ll check next week.

Bonus comment on electronic voting:

Quebec’s chief electoral officer has released a report on a trial of electronic voting used in municipal elections last year, and recommends that Quebec continue to ban the use e-voting machinery. We’ll continue to rely on paper ballots.

With this in mind, it behooves anyone interested in the debate over the security of American e-voting machinery to read a new Ars Technica feature on how insecure these machines are and how one person of only moderate skill can hack election results. I hadn’t previously been swayed by claims of insecurity, or by claims of security, although I’ve never figured out why people are so eager to abandon the slow but reliable paper-ballot system. Is the speed of results that important?

Go read “How to steal an election by hacking the vote” and shudder at the hypothetical as well as the evidence that such hacking has already taken place. The only thing preventing mass election fraud in the US this November is security through obscurity, and that’s a mighty flimsy liferaft.

The hive mind makes – er, pays for a movie

Matt Hanson has launched a Swarm of Angels, an effort to create a film through massive collaboration.

He wants 50,000 people to help him make a £1 million film. He plans to release the final film online under the Creative Commons licence, which will allow anyone to recut it.

What does the help entail? Primarily a donation of £25, although Matt plans to open the scriptwriting process to a wiki style group project. In addition to joining a mob of script doctors, you’ll also be able to take part in marketing and other creative decisions.

How will this work? Let me quote from the FAQ:

We started the project with a deliberately unpackaged project — to make it clear I wasn’t paying lipservice to the idea of members influencing the content — but we had some loose parameters.

The genre was to be thriller based with soft sci-fi elements. We are now developing two scripts, The Unfold and Glitch on the forums, based on member input into initial drafts written by me. Angels will then dissect and improve upon (script doctor, and rewrite) via dedicated script wiki’s. A vote will be taken by all members to decide which script is chosen for production. This is what we talk about when we say as a member of the Swarm you involved in MAJOR creative decisions.

I see ASOA as a benevolent dictatorship, so I will endeavour to give/take as much creative input as possible from The Swarm to make a better movie, and in so doing, I also expect The Swarm to give me a similar level of respect to make creative decisions and flex my own creative freedoms to make what I believe will be the best film possible.


Hanson is known for his study of film, but his IMDb portfolio is suspiciously thin.

Am I too cynical?

Here is the forum thread with the story-breaking of “The Unfold“.

I don’t have high hopes for this. On the other hand, the project involves talented folk like Cory Doctorow and Warren Ellis (“Global Frequency”) – acting as advisors.

Can the hive mind build this movie? That’s not the right question. The right question is: will they pay for it to be made by someone else?

DUBB raves

Many local papers have reviewed Big Bad Bertha, thenew Disciples of Ursula album, and all have good things to say.

The Mirror gave the album a 7.5/10, and calls the band tailor-made for Jazz fest stages, which is ironic, because the Jazz Fest rejected the band’s application to play two years ago. The Mirror says the album “doesn’t just showcase their facility with brash swing, torchy lounge jams, Latin heat and snappy, uptempo ska, it also displays their collective knack for catchy melodies, vivid arrangements and carefully calibrated energy.”

Ici says more or less the same thing, and gives the album four out of five dots. So did la Presse and Voir. We haven’t seen Hour yet.

Take that, Jazz Fest.

Show tonight, 8 p.m.

CD Baby has copies of the first album for sale. You can listen to two-minute snippets of each song there, too. (That’s Child Three on the cover.) The site, and the iTunes Music Store, will soon have the second album.

Bonus airplane stuff:

There’s a group of hobbyists developing a simulation of the Israeli War of Independence for Microsoft’s Combat Flight Sim 2. I’ve been helping them out with colours and airfields.

Here’s an image of the work in progress. That’s an Avia S-199 flying over what will be Aqir (a.k.a Ekron, a.k.a. Tel Nof).

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