Thursday, April 28, 2011

What I just tried today

This is another seasonal offering from the folks at Spoetzl Brewery, and I really like that this beer maker takes risks and tries new flavors. I happen to like quite a few of them, and I admire their experimenting spirit.

But I'm disappointed when they fail.

Just like my reaction to Shiner Smokehaus, I took one sip of Shiner Ruby Redbird and I said, "Blech!" See, my eye was caught by the pretty label and the snazzy, summery name (damn, I'm such a sucker for marketing sometimes!), and I was so happy the Spoetzl Brewery had a new beer for me to try that I didn't take just one small extra moment to read the label a little closer. If I had, I would have seen this, and I would have been warned:

Yep. You read that right. "Ruby Redbird" isn't just a cute little name for a summer beer, it actually describes the taste, as in GRAPEFRUIT!!! Flavored with ginger, to boot!

Oh, God.

Spoetzl, Spoetzl, Spoetzl ...... why, oh why did you think this would be a great idea? Didn't you learn your lesson with smoke-flavored beer? Stick to Bock, and Black Lager, and Hefeweizen, and even Holiday Cheer for the Christmas season, and then please, please stay away from any odd-tasting citrus fruits as flavor bases for your new beers.


Saturday, April 23, 2011

"A Member of The Iluminati"

As a Texan, I'm not sure if I should be embarrassed or impressed by this kludge.

Calling B.S. on a talking point

Some busybodies want you to feel guilty for using disposable diapers, so they organized this publicity stunt.
Dirty diapers can be a mess not only for parents, but also for landfills — a problem participants brought awareness to by setting a Guinness World Record on Saturday for the most cloth diapers changed at the same time.

The Great Cloth Diaper Change 2011, organized by a group of cloth diaper enthusiasts, had 400 sites across 24 countries help set the record. San Antonio supported the cause with 73 baby/parent pairs participating.

Using cloth diapers instead of disposables is better for the environment, safer for babies and cheaper, said Kim Webb, the committee chair for the San Antonio site, held at a La Quinta Inn & Suites.
(from the Express-News)

But the main reason I bring this up is not to give them publicity (which I most definitely have, I admit) but to draw attention to this little talking point.
“It can take hundreds of years for diapers to decompose in a landfill,” Webb said.
Really? How does she know?

I'm not being sarcastic, I really want to know how anyone can determine that it will take hundreds of years for an item to decompose when that item hasn't even been in existence for one hundred years. My complaint may sound silly, but I find claims like this to be flippant, as in frivolously disrespectful and shallow. Every time I hear something like this -- and it's always from an environmentalist that wants me to change the way I live my life -- my bullshit meter shoots to the red. I can't help thinking they are throwing out an arbitrary number to scare anyone in earshot because they don't think they can win the debate by the merits of their arguments alone. Why else would they use such a tactic?

Hundreds of years in a landfill before a diaper breaks down? Bullshit. Five hundred years for a styrofoam cup? Bullshit. One thousand years for a plastic bag? Absolute bullshit! (Take note, City Council.)

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for reducing waste where practical and for generally not dirtying up the air we breathe or the water we drink. But let's be reasonable, and let's propose new ways of reducing pollution and disposing of trash without resorting to crap statistics that cannot be proven or disproven for another couple of centuries.

(Crossposted at Strange in San Antonio)

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Not knowing a damned thing about the space program

I am very disappointed that Houston did not get selected as a site for one of the retired space shuttles. And, even though I think his actions are not going to amount to anything in the end, I do have to give credit to Texas Representative Ted Poe (Republican) for at least saying something about this poor decision.
"NASA made a mistake," Poe said during a Sunday interview with Fox News. "People understand the center of space exploration is at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. It has been for almost 50 years. It is a historical snub, if you will, to take the shuttle and put it somewhere else."

Poe added that sending Enterprise to New York was "like putting the Statue of Liberty in Omaha."
(from Fox News)

I don't necessarily buy his Statue of Liberty comparison, but I agree with Poe, and he does show at least a fundamental knowledge of the space program and its history. Sadly, the same cannot be said for Beth Sullivan, the journalist who wrote this article. Her penultimate paragraph states this:
Johnson Mission Control ran every shuttle mission, including Apollo 13, when the infamous line, "Houston, we have a problem" was spoken.

Really? Is Ms. Sullivan truly under the impression that this thing:

is the same as this thing?

And was there really no editor anywhere that could have caught this slip? If so, then journalism truly is in a sad state these days. I know, I shouldn't be surprised, but sometimes I still am.

Oh, and just to be picky, the actual line was "Houston, we've had a problem."

Saturday, April 16, 2011

"Iran Blames U.S., Israel For Stuxnet Computer Worm"

Glad to know us Texans could help.
A senior Iranian military official says experts have determined the United States and Israel were behind a mysterious computer worm known as Stuxnet that has harmed Iran's nuclear program.

Gholam Reza Jalali says investigations by Iranian experts show that Stuxnet originated from the U.S. state of Texas and Israel.
Does Texas Instruments handle software and programs? If so, it would be really cool if they were the ones that wrote the worm.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Not quite getting it right

Yesterday I was watching Pawn Stars (which is fairly entertaining and not a bad way to wind down at the end of the night), and some guy came into the pawn shop trying to sell them an R2D2 Pepsi cooler.

Like this.

They shop owners didn't buy it because the guy selling it wanted too much money, but they did talk about it, and when they showed a plate of the droid cooler with a description of it, they had some music playing in the background. And it was this:

Now, I understand that the producers were unable or unwilling to pay for the rights to use John Williams' actual music for their little pawn show, especially for such a short duration, but, c'mon History Channel! Who are you foolin'? Everybody knows that music is not the Star Wars theme! And, even though I absolutely love almost everything written by Dvořák, I found it a little insulting that they would use such a classic work, try to pass it off as Star Wars, and think nobody would notice!

I noticed. And it bugged me.

Do better next time, History.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

"Navy Laser Sets Ship on Fire"

The future is now.

Researchers mounted the Maritime Laser Demonstrator, a solid-state laser, aboard the USS Paul Foster, a decommissioned destroyer. Off the central California coast near San Nicholas Island on Wednesday, the laser fired a 15-kilowatt beam at an inflatable motorboat a mile away as both ships moved through the sea. As the above video shows, there was a flash on the boat’s outboard engines, igniting both of them in seconds, and leaving the ship dead in the choppy waters.

All previous tests of the laser have come on land — steady, steady land — aside from an October test of the targeting systems. But for the first time, the Office of Naval Research has proven that its laser can operate in a “no-kidding maritime environment,” says its proud director, Rear Adm. Nevin Carr.

Make sure you click the link to to watch the video. It's pretty cool.

Fish of the day

How can you not like a fish called the "sarcastic fringehead"?

Huh, how can you?

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

When is an orbit not an orbit?

When it is the orbit of a weird asteroid.
A newfound asteroid has been discovered to be trailing Earth on an oddball course: an orbit that looks a lot like a horseshoe.

The space rock, called asteroid 2010 SO16, has been following Earth as our planet orbits the sun for at least 250,000 years and is up to 1,312 feet (400 meters) wide, scientists said. It was initially spotted by NASA's WISE infrared space observatory.

"Its average distance from the sun is identical to that of the Earth, but what really impressed me at the time was how Earth-like its orbit was," said Apostolos Christou, an astronomer at the Armagh Observatory in the United Kingdom, who led the study that pinned down the asteroid's orbit.


Currently, the asteroid is at a point in its orbit that brings it near the horseshoe's tip that trails the Earth. But despite its apparent attachment to Earth's orbit, the asteroid poses no risk of smacking our planet.

"This asteroid is terraphobic," Christou said. "It keeps well away from the Earth. So well, in fact, that it has likely been in this orbit for several hundred thousand years, never coming closer to our planet than 50 times the distance to the moon."


Asteroid 2010 SO16 is not the only space rock known to circle the sun in a horseshoe pattern that brings it near Earth. At least three other asteroids are known to have similar orbits, though not as stable as that of 2010 SO16, researchers said. Those other asteroids will linger in Earth's neighborhood for a few thousand years before moving on, they added.

Horseshoe pattern? Looks more like a "C" to me.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Finding planets

How may planets are out there in the universe?

Oh, many thousands and thousands. And we've only just begun to find them all.

A photo may be worth 1,000 words, but a new depiction of NASA's Kepler mission is worth 1,235 potential alien planets. Created by a devoted mission scientist, the image takes stock of the Kepler observatory's prolific planet-hunting results so far.

The illustration shows all of Kepler's candidate planets — which await confirmation by follow-up observations — crossing the face of their host stars. This provides scale, and it's also a nod to Kepler's planet-hunting strategy: The spacecraft detects alien worlds by measuring the telltale dips in a star's brightness that occur during these planetary "transits."

The graphic is the brainchild of scientist Jason Rowe, who created it in an attempt convey Kepler's exoplanet discoveries to the masses in a clear, concise manner.

"The graphic itself has been great to show to people. There is lots of interesting astrophysics that one can present," Rowe, a member of the Kepler team at NASA's Ames Research Center and the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute, told "My favorite one so far is that planets can be just as big as some of the smallest stars."

In Rowe's graphic, the parent stars of Kepler's potential alien worlds are arranged by size, with the largest at the top left of the diagram and the smallest at the bottom right. For reference, our own sun is shown sitting by itself, just beneath the top row. Both Jupiter and Earth are depicted transiting the sun in the illustration, researchers said.
(from Fox News)

They're out there, all those planets, just waiting for us to get out there to them. Now, let's find a way to get going.