Tuesday, December 20, 2016

MassDebater: A Social Debate Platform

I came up with this idea and wanted to share with the world. The name was selected as a joke. You'd have to change the name (obviously). But, if you have the means to turn this idea into a workable product... please do! Make it happen, and go make gazillions of dollars! *


The purpose of MassDebater is to allow two participants to have an organized, civilized, public debate. The public, who are watching and participating, can interact on Social Media and link to 'stats' and ratings.  In the end, the public decides who wins the debate and final scores and reviews are posted. Debates can be created, organized, updated, reviewed and shared via links to Social Media. Think of it like the ideosphere's very own ThunderDome. Remember the rules of ThunderDome? "Two men enter, one man leaves." Simple. Direct. To the point. Someone wins, and someone loses.

A Long Time Ago...

In the olden days there were two methods of communication: written and spoken word. There was no way to record sound or light. Written and (live) spoken word were your only options. That's it.

Systems of debate evolved over time in ancient cultures.

There were organized ways to present new ideas, challenge old ideas, and discuss pros and cons of doing things differently. Having a platform for people to ask public questions and defend their own positions created stronger, better arguments.

Old public debates were live. The only knowledge that you had access to is what you remembered or what you had written. No Internet. No smartphones.

Here and now...

Everyone has split into groups. Each group determine which facts they will accept and which ones they will not. The other groups are the sworn enemies and everyone fights about everything. It was bad enough when people did it with their brains and mouths. Now, we all have access to Google. It makes everyone an instant Einstein on any topic in the world. We have a bunch of poorly-educated idiots misquoting geniuses on sites all over the Internet. There is no rhyme or reason to arguments on the Internet: it's just mass-stupidity with an open-mic. Anyone can quote anything from anywhere and claim it's a fact. Nobody checks any facts. Many idiots believe everything they see online. Some parrot it back to other idiots. Everyone is talking, nobody is listening.

There's got to be a better way...

What's needed is organization and structure for online debate. A framework with pre-established rules that both sides agree to before the debate begins.

MassDebater (Rules for Internet Debate):

1. Everyone signs up for an account using real names and photos. Celebrities or high profile accounts are "verified" for ID (similar to Twitter). No fake names. No anonymity. If you want to debate, you do it as yourself. The real you.

2. Topic Ideas can be discussed first, and then officially 'proposed'. This creates a New Undebated Topic. Invitations can be sent, along with links to an official topic page which registers response. Once a topic is 'accepted' by a contrarian, the selection and vetting process begins.

  1. When will debate officially start? (Date / Time)
  2. What are agreed-upon sources for information?
  3. What are rejected sources of info? Why?
  4. What are the agreed-upon 'facts' in the debate?
Both sides write their 'official' argument. They state their case in a simple statement written in layman's terms (no more than a single printed page).

3. After 'opening arguments' are agreed upon, each side has to learn the opposite side's argument well enough to answer questions about it. A neutral (unaffiliated) 3rd party 'judge' makes sure both sides understand each other's argument. (Example: via quiz, interview, or verbal/written assignment). Once a judge is convinced that both sides understand what they're debating, the official arguments are posted to the public Topic page. 

4. The public can sign up to participate in the debate. The level of participation is controlled by the debaters. Some options could include: 
  • View Only (no participation)
  • Ask official public questions (Q&A)
  • Voting
  • Leave comments or chat
  • Live Debate (live audience / realtime interaction)
  • Share links to specific info / argument / rebuttal

5. Once the debate starts, the entire data stream is recorded and archived. This includes video, audio, text, images, links, quotes, references, sources, etc. The debate is broken down into smaller chunks and deep-linked for direct access. At the end, the Topic page becomes the 'summary' page for that official debate. Who participated, what the polls indicated, facts, questions, answers, comments and a thumbs up / thumbs down rating system that is tied to individual identity (no bots or brigading armies stuffing the ballot box.) One person gets one vote. That's it.

6. A "lopsidedness" score is calculated too (based on demographics and size of audience participating). Heavily-one sided arguments are displayed with pie charts to indicate percentages of people voting. This way debates which lean heavily one way or another are flagged as "lopsided" and presented as such. Debaters who have a high "lopsidedness score" will be given a chance to expand and diversify their audience and hold the public debate again to increase the balance level. If a high number of mixed demographic authenticated users votes a certain way, it's a more reliable indicator of true public opinion. It all comes down to sample size and demographics.

7. Debate rules would be agreed to before official debate started. The list of acceptable sources and facts would be viewable by everyone. The rules would be different depending on the type of debate (e.g., live event or written word).

  • For live debates you'd have to figure out timing, moderation, audio/video, etc. These would be structured after traditional debate methods but, with transparency and accountability. These would probably come later and would be done by professionals or high-profile people.
  • Written debates would be executed like a turn-based strategy (TBS) game. Each player would submit their reply, or rebuttal, and the turn would pass to the other player. The end result can only be: win, loss, or tie (and this would be a very rare occurrence where there are tied numbers.) The end of the debate is reached via various methods: a.) both sides agree b.) public decides c.) never-ending (unresolvable) d.) point-based victory
  • After the debate is finished, the Topic page becomes the archive site. Debaters can decide whether the public can participate only during the live event, or whether they can continue to participate even after the debate has ended. The Topic page has links to the "stats" of the debate: high level points, rebuttals, number of sources, quotes, final conclusion. There could also be an addendum or update tool for debaters to keep their facts and references current and respond to public questions or comments.
  • During the debate, arguments would be broken down to their components. A "sniff test" could be applied to determine if the debater is guilty of using logical fallacies. Using a strawman or an appeal to authority? The public could quote you and point out issues with logic. These sub-points could be voted on too. Did he really use a logical fallacy there? Public says.... YES. Over time, arguments could be improved, fallacies removed and concerns addressed. A new debate could be scheduled again with a more developed argument.
  • Points are deducted for things like ad hominem arguments, personal attacks, hostility, language, body language, lies, disinformation, manipulation, etc. If you're acting like a jerk, the public will call you out and deduct points.
  • Violence (or inferred violence) towards an opponent is an automatic loss.
  • Repeated threats or name-calling results in a banned or negatively-rated account which other people can filter out. Users can block or mute others.

8. At the end, you'll have an 'on the record' debate about ANY topic that is organized, structured, and searchable. Users can share the debates with others or they can fork your topic and start their own version. People are held to facts. Terms are agreed to in advance. There is no way to move the goal posts or engage in ad hominem arguments. Attempting to cheat works against you and reduces your total number of points. The more you cheat the less chance you have to win.

Future ideas:

  • Blockchain-trackable voting records
  • Authenticated users (biometrics)
  • Systems to filter, search and sort based on criteria
  • API to allow easy embed of debate everywhere
  • Facebook plugin / Android / iOS apps
  • Offline tools to facilitate live debate
  • Anonymize user data 
  • Monitor abuse / gaming the system

So, yeah, .... if you built it. They will come. *

* (Just give me 1% for royalties, and we're good). 😊

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Careful! That term is loaded...

Loaded questions and terminology have slowly been creeping into the American mainstream dialogue. This is most likely done intentionally by strategists, agencies and think tanks to influence public opinion.

Most people ignore the "loaded" part of the question and jump right to the answer. This allows the people who created (or asked) the loaded question, or terminology, to spring the trap and yell "Ha! I've got you now!" It's a way of arguing or debating that starts with a conclusion and then backfills to support the argument. Take, for example, this trick question:

Wife beater holding a belt "Have you stopped beating your wife?"

If you answer "NO", it means you're still beating her. If you answer "YES" it means that you used to beat her, but you've stopped. Either way, you lose because it makes you a wife-beater. There's no correct way to answer this question other than saying: "I've never beat my wife and I never will."

But, this is how loaded questions (and terms) work. Many of the people who come up with these loaded questions are fans of NLP (Neuro-linguistic programming). NLP has been discredited by mainstream scientists and psychologists, but there are many people who learn it, and follow its principles.

One principle is that language and words are the building blocks of thought. If sentences are molecules, words would be the atoms they're made from. When you're thinking, your inner monologue or the voice in your head strings together words to create thoughts.

It all comes down to semantics. Meanings and definitions are created and stored in our brains. When we're thinking, reading, talking, or writing we're constantly "looking up" word meanings. The brain instantly retrieves stored memories of word meaning and definitions. Therefore, if you change the definition, you're altering future thought. Every time your brain recalls that new definition, it'll be used to construct a thought. If you change the meaning of words, you can control (or alter) the thought-building process itself.

Some of the more recent 'loaded terms' to enter public dialogue are:

  • Climate change denier
  • Common sense gun control
  • Progressive

These terms come with the CONCLUSION already built in. There's no need to even have a public debate if the conclusion's right there! There are no other options. It's either: agree with me, or you're wrong.

By adding the modifier "denier" after "climate change," they're implying that if you deny (or question) any part of their argument, you're denying actual scientific measurements and sensor logs too. There's no middle ground and no room for discussion. Either you accept EVERYTHING I say as fact, or you're the enemy.

By adding the modifier "common sense" in front of "gun control," they're saying that if you don't agree with EVERYTHING I say, then you have no common sense. Anything that's not my argument is NOT common sense, and should be shut down. There is no room for debate or discussion. "You're either with us, or you're with the terrorists!"

By identifying as a "progressive" people are insinuating that anyone who is not with them is against progress.  Not progressive? You must be anti-progressive! There are no other options. You have a choice of two: either my way, or the highway. The Green Party is 'progressive'. So are Libertarians. All human beings want progress (i.e., improvements to society.) But, we don't agree on what the definition of "progress" is. Each group has their own definition.

Most of the people using these loaded terms don't even realize they're "loaded". They see something that agrees with their philosophy on life and they want to share it with others. But, the strategists who've created these terms know what they're doing. They're weaponizing words and controlling public dialogue.

Most of the people fighting about these loaded terms fall for it hook, line, and sinker. They jump head first into the answer and don't realize that they're being manipulated. If the question is not correct, how can the answer be?

There are multiple branches of "IF-THEN-ELSE" scenarios that play out in these debates. You can 'win' an argument in X number of moves by following the program for the dialogue. If user answer "YES", then say this. Then print this info, then quote this fact, then say this thing. Otherwise, if user answers "NO", then.... It's basically a flow chart. At each point where a decision is made, the choices have been predetermined. The conclusion has been pre-decided. It's just a matter of walking the user through the branches of the decision tree. Either way, you get to the same end point. It's a binary system.

"You're either with us, or you're with the terrorists."

In the end, what it's going to come down to is that we will have a Ministry of Truth. This will be an 'official' government entity with gravitas. They will determine which 'facts' are true and which ones are false. You either believe what they tell you, or you are wrong. People who are ALWAYS wrong will be 'eliminated' from society via censorship, jail, or execution.

At some point there will be no room for individual thought or choice. George Orwell nailed it EXACTLY when he wrote 1984. In a future dystopian world, the Government will control everything you watch, read, hear and say. Anything not from the Ministry of Truth will be labeled "fake news" and it will be a punishable offense to read it or write it.

Everyone sees this happening every day. We know our Government is turning in to a totalitarian state but, we overlook the warning signs. Not my Government! That couldn't happen here! Other Governments may do horrible things but we are trying to do good. If only more people just went along with the program, it would probably work. Many people think: "As long as they're going after the assholes that I hate, I'm fine with it."

Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler rose to power in the 1920 and 1930s and lots of average Germans helped him. Many of them probably hated him but, they saw a means to an end. They probably figured: "If I can get Hitler to crush my enemies for me, I'll be better off, and then, I'll deal with him later." The problem is, after Hitler finished off their enemies, he came back for them.

So did Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong, Fidel Castro and every other tyrant throughout recorded history. They appeal to one side, and get them to attack the other side. Then, after the competition is eliminated (and the dictator is in power) he implements his totalitarian regime and removes the dissenters. The same thing has happened again, and again, and again throughout the history of the world.

And, it all starts by controlling language and thought.

"You're either with us, or you're with the terrorists"

Monday, December 5, 2016

Cultural Appropriation Lessons

Or, Why We Shouldn't Pretend to be Indians

I'll start by saying: I'm just some random, average, white dude from California. In 2012, I was working for a software development company as a project manager. I liked to send interesting and/or funny links to my co-workers via email (they all seemed to get a kick out of it).

We had a crazy boss who declared people were going "off the reservation" whenever they didn't do things his way. He'd get upset and scream and yell and call them crazy. I got sick of his antics and I quit my job. That was January 2012.

In February 2012, I bought the domain offthereservation.net and set up a blog named "Off The Reservation" as an inside joke for my former co-workers. The blog was my way of staying in touch and, it gave me something fun to do while looking for a new job.

The former name of my blog

Blogger forces you to select a username for your profile. Since I had the "off the reservation" theme going, I figured: "why not use an Indian?" I randomly picked the username "Chief Crazy Horse" for my Blogger profile. I also changed my Twitter name to "Chief Crazy Horse." I downloaded some photos and decorated my blog & profile page. It seemed harmless at the time and, I figured, "I don't know any real Indians anyway, so who's going to complain?"

Between March 2012 and 2015 I had less than 100 followers on Twitter and averaged about 20-30 pageviews a day on my blog. During 2015-2016, I was very busy so, I stopped blogging altogether and started using Twitter more. My Twitter account grew from 100 people to about 300 and I was pretty excited. I mostly tweeted about tech stuff, science, research, politics and humor.

Then, something strange happened....

It started with my avatar. I had previously selected a photo labeled "Chief Crazy Horse". I cropped it, and made it my Twitter & Blogger avatar. But, then I found out that it might be a fake. You may have seen this historical picture before?

Photo labeled as Chief Crazy Horse
Photo labeled as Chief Crazy Horse

As I was doing some research, I found that the real Chief Crazy Horse never sat for a photograph in the 1800s. So, this couldn't be him. But, if it wasn't him, who was it? It turns out it was probably a performer in Buffalo Bill's Wild West show. I didn't want to propagate the hoax, so I changed my avatar to something more artistic.

Strange Man of the Lakota 
by Kenneth Ferguson
This was from a painting done by an artist named Kenneth Ferguson titled: "Strange Man of the Lakota".

As I learned more about the real Chief Crazy Horse, I found out that the warpaint depicted in the painting was what the real Crazy Horse actually wore into battle and it was revealed to him in a vision. I continued to study the Lakota and other First Americans.

This was interesting stuff. Seems that I didn't know a whole lot about Native Americans. And, a lot of what I thought I knew was just plain wrong.

Trouble brewing...

In the summer of 2016, the Dakota Access Pipeline started making US News. I follow a lot of environmental and clean technology news. I remember it was probably September when I saw my first #NoDAPL hashtag on Twitter. What was that? I clicked and started following the news. It was the usual shit: government & oil companies working together to screw people out of their land and pollute the environment for profit.

I remember that I was more concerned about the environmental aspect of #NoDAPL than I was about the plight of the Native Americans who lived there. I knew I hated big oil companies but, I didn't really know much about Indians. As a white person who lives in the city, I've never had to seriously think about Native Americans. I'm not prejudiced, and don't think negatively about them... I've just never had to think about them at all.

For many, Indians are just some group of people who were a part of American history hundreds of years ago. They were put on reservations out West somewhere and, now, they run casinos and make lots of money.

Occasionally, I'd think about Native Americans during the Holidays. I'd remember all the stupid stuff they taught us in schools; about the Pilgrims and Indians. (Even as a kid, I knew it was bullshit.) It was a made-up fairy-tale. The REAL Indians in Massachusetts got screwed over, killed and had their land stolen. I remember when I lived in Boston, I used to see Native Americans on TV marching and protesting at Plymouth Rock on Thanksgiving.

But, it was all very far removed from the world I lived in. Nobody protested near my house. No big oil companies tried laying pipelines through my neighborhood. My town was just a nice, quiet, peaceful slice of America. Most people seemed happy and life was good with no big problems.

Escalating Tension...

Between September and October I followed the #NoDAPL hashtag on social media and retweeted stuff that seemed important or interesting. I thought it was a good way to protest oil companies. So, I kept tweeting about #NoDAPL and researching.

Sitting Bull
I also started reading about the Plains Indians. About the Lakota People, the Sioux, and about the way they live. I learned about the Seven Lakota Values: Prayer. Respect. Compassion. Honesty. Generosity. Humility. Wisdom. I learned that the proper name for the people commonly known as the Sioux is Oceti Sakowin. I learned a little about their history, and their beliefs.

As October turned to November, the #NoDAPL news increased. Things were happening out in North Dakota every day now. People were gathering, police were getting violent. The situation was turning ugly. 

Then, the pictures started coming out. Pictures that boggled the mind. Militarized police were spraying tear gas and pepper spray right into the faces of unarmed people. They were beating them with batons and clubs. They were firing 'non-lethal' rounds (beanbags, rubber bullets) directly at unarmed people just standing there and praying. They were using dogs to attack people. The police had loaded guns too, with real bullets. They also had snipers positioned all around. They were getting insanely violent. And, all of this peaked right around the time of the American Thanksgiving Holiday. 

While the TV was showing cooking shows, cartoon specials, live parades, and silly traditions like the President 'pardoning' a turkey, Native Americans in North Dakota were getting sprayed with firehoses in 27 degree weather (Fahrenheit). It seemed that the world had gone truly insane. Most Americans went about the Thanksgiving week laughing, eating, and planning for the Holidays. Most Americans didn't even know that there was brutal violence against Indians happening on the plains of North Dakota.

The corporate-owned media blacked out all news about the Dakota Access Pipeline protests. None of the mainstream media networks covered the peaceful protest or the violence from the militarized police force. The only way to find out anything about #NoDAPL was online. 

As I was reading all this news, and following the story on Twitter, I started to notice something. The same names and faces coming up in stories and tweets. Real Native Americans. These weren't historical actors or posers. They were REAL Indians who lived on REAL reservations, out in the middle of nowhere, conveniently forgotten by the rest of America. This wasn't just an environmental protest against an oil company for them, this was a fight for their own survival. They were real people who wanted to protect their source of clean drinking water. 

The oil company originally was going to run the oil pipeline north of Bismarck, North Dakota but, they re-routed it south near the Indian reservation instead. Why? They were concerned about the safety of the water for Bismarck's (mostly) white population. Nobody cared about the water for the Indians. Once again: out of sight, out of mind. Just like the Native Americans have always been.

The Government keeps them hidden away on remote reservations. You never hear about Native Americans in the mainstream news, or on TV. Real Indians are mostly invisible to the rest of the people living in America. They're gone, but not really forgotten. You can always head over to the casino to have a fun night of Native American-themed gambling, dining and drinking.

The romanticized idea of Indians continues to exists in the American psyche. We just never see the actual people. The real Indians live somewhere far away from our everyday awareness.

Indians have been reduced to two-dimensional caricatures that Americans use for entertainment and amusement. We have sports logos and mascots and slang terms and gestures and sounds all stealing some other group's culture and appropriating it for ourselves, and in our own way. People dress up like Indians at Thanksgiving and Halloween and throughout the year at various costume parties. People do fake Indian talk and make gestures to get laughs.

But, if you asked the people at those parties: "What percentage of Indians on reservations have access to clean water?" Most wouldn't know (or care).  

Cowboys & Indians
The IDEA of Indians lives on. But, we've forgotten that they are real people who are still here. Today. They live out in places that most Americans have never heard of. They have to fight to get the things that most of us take for granted (like clean water). The Native Americans are still being mistreated in 2016, and their culture is still being appropriated. Seeing real Native Americans posting in the #NoDAPL threads woke me from my slumber. 

What I was doing with my "Chief Crazy Horse" name on Twitter and Blogger was essentially no different than what the Atlanta Braves or the Washington Redskins are doing with their names and logos. I was appropriating someone else's culture and using it the way I wanted to use it. I wasn't thinking of them as living, breathing humans. I just saw 'Indians' as some historical archetype or idea.

I had started my blog based on an inside joke (that was actually racist). Then, I picked a random Indian name that matched my Indian-sounding blog theme. I thought nothing of it. Just some stupid shit you do on the Internet, right? Everyone makes up dumb names and avatars on Twitter. But, then, I realized two things:
  1. Other people might think that I'm Native American based on my avatar and tweets. This dilutes the message and the plight of REAL Indians who are fighting for their very existence.
  2.  I was posting in threads, getting likes and retweets from people who might actually be related to the real Tȟašúŋke Witkó (Crazy Horse). This one freaked me out. 
Sketch of Crazy Horse
The relatives of Crazy Horse are still alive and they are just as real as he was. His ancestors are still fighting for the same rights that he was. Going on this journey made me respect the real Crazy Horse even more. He stood up for what was right, and the Government killed him. America killed him. White people killed him. We have done a lot of terrible things to the Indians. It's time that white Americans faced the truth. What we did back then was wrong, and it's still wrong to this day. We need to sit and listen to First Americans.

Let's stop talking about the idealized Indians that we have in our imagination and let's start talking to the REAL Indians who have always been here.

First Americans have a lot to teach about the history of our continent before 1491. They also have answers to a lot of questions that we have about the universe and spirituality. They can teach humanity how to live in harmony with nature and help us break free from the stranglehold that fossil fuels have on society.

Indigenous peoples can teach humanity how to save both the environment, and our collective soul.

So, from this day forward, I've renamed this blog to: One Crazy Chief Club. The old domain will redirect to the new one for now. Eventually, I'll let the name lapse and I won't renew it. I won't be selecting any more Native American avatars. I apologize to any relatives who I've offended by my choices. I see now that what I did was wrong, and I'm sorry. I will continue to study Lakota culture & history. The same people who killed Crazy Horse are still around, and they're still trying to control the world. If they can kill him, and get away with it, then they can kill the rest of us too.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Welcome to the new look

The old site name (offthereservation.net) has been retired. Chief Crazy Horse is now retired too. From the ashes, a new chief has arisen! A crazy fire chief who's mad as hell, and who isn't going to take it anymore. I am: "The Fire Chief"!

From this point forward, this blog will be known as:

Update bookmarks, alibis, backstories & links as needed.

For a more detailed understanding of what prompted this change, please read this post.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

The mysterious number 33K

The number 33,000 must have some magical powers. It keeps appearing again and again. Feel free to search for more, there are tons of them. Random coincidence? Or is the universe trying to tell us something? Check these headlines & stats:

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

World’s First Caffeinated Toothpaste now available!

World's first caffeinated toothpaste
You might remember reading about Power Toothpaste last November when they first announced their Indiegogo campaign?

In December of 2015, they sent me a sample tube and I tried it out. (Read my review here).

Verdict? It works and it has a nice minty flavor. I found myself wanting to brush my teeth more and more just to get a caffeine boost. In the morning, it helped clear the fog from my head. Unlike coffee, which takes up to an hour to fully absorb through the stomach, Power Toothpaste begins working immediately, absorbing through the gums and mouth.

Power Toothpaste was founded by Dan Meropol and Ian Nappier, two young entrepreneurs who became friends while attending Brown University. They decided to test the market to gauge interest in the idea and immediately encountered overwhelming consumer demand. They collected over 30,000 email sign-ups in eight weeks. Then, they launched a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo and began accepting pre-orders.

Ian Nappier & Dan Meropol (founders of Power Toothpaste)

The company raised over $40,000 in their crowdfunding campaign and now, this first-of-its-kind oral care product is now available to the public at: powertoothpaste.com

A single tube of Power Toothpaste contains approximately 90 brushes and runs about $15 a tube. And, for the launch, they have specials where you can get Power Toothpaste for as little as $10 a tube with free shipping.

Is this going to REPLACE your regular toothpaste? No. But, as a supplement for daytime brushing, it's definitely worth the cost. If you look at it as a replacement for caffeine (e.g., coffee or tea) —and not an expensive tube of Crest— then you'll see the true value. Imagine skipping that second cup of coffee in the morning because you brushed your teeth.

More info: powertoothpaste.com

Friday, May 27, 2016

Remember when space was fun?

Space Shuttle metal lunch box from the late 1970's
Space Shuttle lunchbox from 1980
When I was a kid, NASA was super cool. The entire planet saw humans walk on the moon. Movies and TV shows all had astronauts and space-themed stories. Kids had space toys and, when we played, we re-enacted space missions. This "space fever" climaxed in 1981 with the launch of the Space Shuttle. After that, space travel became a routine occurrence.

Eventually, the mainstream media stopped reporting launches; the public grew bored. Throughout the 1990's and 2000's, NASA had their budget cut. They were forced to focus on smaller, cheaper, unmanned missions.

Hubble space telescope in orbit
Hubble space telescope
NASA did a great job with what little money they had. Space aficionados and scientists cheered as they sent missions to Venus, Jupiter and Mars. In 1990, the Hubble telescope was put in orbit and produced breathtaking images of the universe. Space became more about remote exploration, and images for most people.

The Internet helped capture the public's interest in space again. Millions downloaded and shared images from Hubble, Pathfinder, and Spirit. But, humanity in space was gone. Now it was machines, cameras and remote sensors exploring space. Most of us were distracted by the news, the economy, the Internet, politics, and television. Space became boring, and nerdy again. More Americans were interested in the outcome of American Idol than a boring space mission millions of miles away.

Luckily, companies like SpaceX are starting to change that perspective. I watched a live launch and landing of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket earlier and it was a blast! (*groan* bad pun... sorry.)

Space X webcast site during a live mission. The crowd in the background is clapping, cheering, screaming and going nuts as the rocket lands on the pad.
SpaceX webcast site during a live mission

They have a high-tech interface with a split screen showing live video. They have mission stats, live commentators, timeline explaining the mission, infographics, animations, cool music, and a live audience.

Infographics and animations explaining the mission
Infographics and animations

The live audience is the best part. You can hear them roar with excitement --cheering and clapping-- as various parts of the mission occur. It's a lot of fun. It brings back the excitement of watching Space Shuttle launches on live television.

Live steaming footage of space mission from SpaceX
Live footage of a space mission from SpaceX

This is why NASA was cool when I was a kid; they engaged the public. People wanted to learn more about space and how all this amazing technology works. SpaceX is bringing that back.

Animation explaining the orbit of a satellite from SpaceX
Animation explaining the orbit of a satellite

More info:


Live stream: www.spacex.com/webcast (available during missions)

Archive of today's launch: https://youtu.be/zBYC4f79iXc?t=8m31s

Technical webcast: https://youtu.be/wPYOtCFSLKw?t=8m31s

Motorcyclist catches drunk driver on cam

This happened about 10pm last Sunday night in San Diego, California. A motorcyclist was behind a drunk driver with two blown airbags, two blown tires, driving on rims. The drunk stopped in the middle of the freeway and told the motorcyclist not to worry... because AAA was on the way.


Thursday, May 26, 2016

Super Mario fish tank

Designer Kelsey Kronmiller turned her 55 gallon aquarium into a Super Mario level using Legos, PVC pipe, and vinyl stickers. Very creative! (The fish are coming soon!)

Here's some theme music:

More info:


Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Trippy Tree Swirl

This image caught my eye. The artist is using a trippy technique called slit-scan photography to produce this animation.

Pschedelic animation of a man swirling around a tree produced by special effect photography.

Slit-scan photography traditionally was a mechanical process; it has mostly been replaced by computer-generated effects. This technique was used in quite a few movies and TV shows. Most recently, it was used in the movie Interstellar to produce the tesseract scenes at the end.