Tuesday, December 24, 2019

It's Christmas Eve, babe

... and this year, as always, I hope you've avoided the drunk tank. (Here in Singapore that would be an expensive proposition in many ways.)

Here's hoping that the new year brings us all dreams we can build around.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Airplanes! Tom Cruise! Footage!

So this is the best trivial thing that's happened in a year of non-trivial bad things: Top Gun 2 is upon us. And it has airplanes (plus, somehow, shirtless volleyball again).

A few observations:

-I was surprised at first that the Department of Defense didn't insist that the movie use the F-35 instead of the F-18. If there's any aircraft in need of good P.R., it's the F-35.

Image result for f-35
The poor, misunderstood, Lightning II.

But then it hit me: there's no two-seat version of the F-35, which means they can't create any footage of Tom Cruise in an actual jet. So the Super Hornet won by default, the most glorious way of winning.

-Why is Maverick wearing a pressure suit?

Image result for maverick pressure suit
Under pressure.

This is different from a regular flight suit in that, as you might expect, it's pressurized. That allows pilots to work at extremely high altitudes where the air pressure is essentially meaningless in terms of breathability. But the only aircraft the U.S. flies right now that requires that type of gear is the U-2, which flies (without Bono) at altitudes up to 85,000 feet. So what's the deal, is Mav flying a Cold War-era spy plane at some point?

-Maverick is a terminal captain. In the exchange with Ed Harris (Tom Skerritt is 85, which is even by Hollywood standards I guess too old to play an active duty Navy officer), we learn that Mav will never get promoted--the rank of captain is where he will end his career. I guess they had to build that in somehow, otherwise how exciting would a movie about "Admiral Pete Mitchell" be?

Anyway, I'm sure it will be a bad movie but I'm equally sure I will see it and react exactly like this as I walk out of the theater:

I feel the need....

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Turn up the radio

In recent years, astronomers have discovered new faraway planets, gotten close looks at distant objects like asteroids and comets, and driven lots of robots around Mars.

All of this is in service of exploring the physical universe and learning more about why things are the way they are, basically. That's exciting! But there is also this sort of deeper human need to find out whether we're all there is in terms of intelligent life. Scientists and philosophers argue about the odds--on the one hand, they're infinitesimal because shouldn't we have seen something by now given how old the universe is? On the other hand, they're quite good because the universe is as vast as it is old... that's a lot of planets.

Anyhoo, there's not much evidence to go on in that regard. There's the WOW! signal, which no one ever really figured out. And lately there have been "fast radio bursts," which are also mostly unexplained. This week, more of those bursts were announced, including an unprecedented repeating burst.

“When these bursts happen once only, it’s really hard to figure out what created them,” Cherry Ng, a radio astronomer at the University of Toronto and lead author on the paper about the repeating FRB, tells The Verge. “Now we’re showing, no, at least one other repeats.”

I've always felt like this is the way we'd get evidence of "other life out there"--something pretty inscrutable and outwardly mundane, as opposed to in the movies where detailed messages or even space ships arrive.

what will the aliens' morning drive zoo crews sound like?

To be clear, these bursts are almost certainly caused by natural (if distant) phenomena. That doesn't make them any less fascinating... it's a new physical mystery to unravel.

But it's sure fun to think about the tiny chance they're more than that.

It's been a rough few years for this planet, and finding life on another one would somehow make that feel more bearable.

Monday, December 31, 2018

Happy New Year

It hit me last week that the last two posts on this blog were tradition--Fourth of July Muppets and the Pogues on Christmas Eve. Not much in between. And by "not much," mean nothing.

Part of that is because I'm dealing with a lot more words at work than I ever have before. Part of that is that the world outside work is crazier than it has ever been. I don't think that's an exaggeration. I've been alive for [REDACTED] years, but I can safely say that even in the tense closing years of the Cold War I never felt like everything was teetering so close to the edge.

We also moved to a new city-state with a new imaginary mascot, the merlion:


Singapore presents its own unique challenges, such as schools with Cordon Bleu-trained chefs and a price tag to match, and an equatorial sun that will burn the health right out of your skin.

But for all that, there is much to be thankful for in 2018. Health and happiness. Good food. Loving family. A Chiefs quarterback that can do this...

... and is only like 19 years old.

No one can say what 2019 will bring. I suspect there will be many moments of global instability and wackiness, and if the two years since November 2016 have taught us anything, it's that expecting things to return to normalcy and stability on their own is... not a great plan.

So here's to hope, and action, and for good things in the year ahead.

Monday, December 24, 2018

It’s Christmas Eve, babe

It’s been a weird year... who knows what the boys in the NYPD choir are singing. But I hope, earnestly, that it ends on a good note for you. Sometimes that’s all we can ask.

Here’s to 2019, dear reader.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Happy America Day!

Things might be a little... off... in America these days, but there will always be muppets:

Monday, March 26, 2018

Rock Chalk

It's been a while since I have written about basketball. This is mostly, I think, because game time (usually in the early morning hours in Singapore) is often *exactly* the same as toddler time (usually the early morning hours anywhere). Don't let anyone tell you I'm indoctrinating my kids; I could easily have set them down in front of the TV to watch some KU hoops, but I've been good.

This year's Kansas team has been... interesting. I've woken up to see some really bizarre scenarios: three home losses! A five-star recruit quitting to go play in Europe! A near-total absence of depth! But at the same time, they have beaten more top-quality teams than any other program this season. There's something about the team that, when it works, works really well. They won the Big 12 regular season championship and the conference tournament.

The first trophy of, one hopes, many.

And this morning, they went to the Final Four for the first time since 2012.

I watched most of the second half on my laptop, in the dark, while I ate my cereal. Then suddenly it was overtime, and I was late for work, and I "watched" the last five minutes by getting score updates on my phone.

And they won. They beat Duke in what may have been the best heavyweight showdown of the tournament.

Basketball is fun, and a nice distraction from all the other craziness in the world. It would be an even nicer distraction if the Jayhawks, just as they did the last time they were in San Antonio, won their last two games.