Saturday, February 21, 2009

this isn't Atlantis (but I can tell you where Atlantis is)

From Jonah Goldberg at NRO, I found this article about the discovery of Atlantis on the ocean floor. Here is the picture from the article:

They cropped the scale off the bottom of the picture, but if you find this image yourself on Google, you will see that the rectangle is about 70 miles across. No ancient city got anywhere near that size. And the lines can't be roads either, because they would be about a half mile wide.

If you look about 200 or 300 miles east of the Atlantis picture, you will see another area of perpendicular straight lines, only they are not as dense. And scanning around a bit, I found another similar area in the Mediterranean, north of Algeria. The lines aren't as straight and aren't perpendicular, but they look similar.

So what is it, a secret submarine base? No, it's way too big for that too. In fact it's way too big to be a real man-made structure. It's either a natural structure, or more likely, an artifact of the imaging process. The article itself has an enigmatic section on Google's response to the image:
Google today claimed the criss-crossing lines were sonar data collected as boats mapped the ocean floor.

But the internet giant said “blank spots” within the lines could not be explained.

A spokeswoman said: “Bathymetric (or sea floor terrain) data is often collected from boats using sonar to take measurements of the sea floor.

“The lines reflect the path of the boat as it gathers the data.

“The fact that there are blank spots between each of these lines is a sign of how little we really know about the world’s oceans.
So what does that mean? What are these blank spots of which they speak? Google never actually says (or the Sun never actually quotes them as saying) that the lines are just an artifact of the imaging process. And following as it does a long article about how this is sunken Atlantis, that incomplete discussion seems a bit, er, dishonest. One interpretation is that Google is saying that those lines are just places where we have sonar data and the spaces between the lines is where we don't have sonar data. But that doesn't make sense because there are features between some of the lines. Still, I'm pretty sure that what the Sun is doing here is reporting that Google claims the lines are imaging artifacts but doing so in such a confusing way that no one will understand it so that they can claim that they gave accurate information while still telling a lie about finding Atlantis.

So where is Atlantis? I actually think I know the answer to this. There is an island near Greece called Thera which was destroyed by a volcano in what is known as the Minoan eruption. This occurred about a thousand years before Plato. Now Plato said that Atlantis was destroyed ten thousand years before, but that's obviously impossible because that early there were no cities of the kind that Plato described. I think that Plato multiplied the time by ten and multiplied all of the other dimensions by ten also. The Atlantis he describes is about ten times bigger than the size that Thera would have been before the eruption.

Thera features in my story Mist Magic under the name "Kadlandith". There is a plausible path of word evolution whereby "Kalandith" becomes "Atlantis", especially if "Kalandith" is pronounced as I describe in the story. (By the way, I never thought I did a very good job in the historic parts of the story. I spent too much time playing with archeological, mythological, and linguistic cleverness and not enough on making the story a good read...)

Thursday, February 19, 2009

yet another song quiz

Other bloggers sometimes have music quizes and I always do badly on them. I guess my musical taste is just not the same as theirs, so here is a quiz that I would actually do well on. Each of the phrases below is the beginning of some song from the late sixties to early eighties. No googling. But if you know the answer, you can put it in the comments section. I'll give the answers next week.

Looking for a job in the city
working for the man every night and day
and I never lost a minute of sleeping
worrying about the way the things might have been
Feeling better now that we're through
Feeling better 'cause I'm over you
Just yesterday morning they let me know you were gone
Susanne the plans they made put an end to you
Was the dark of the moon, on the sixth of June
In a Kenworth, pullin' logs
He was a hard-headed man he was brutally handsome
And she was terminally pretty
She held him up and he held for ransom
In the heart of the cold, cold city
Big wheels keep on turning
Carry me home to see my kin
There'll be no strings to bind your hands
not if my love can't bind your heart.
And there's no need to take a stand
for it was I who chose to start.

UPDATE: added numbers to the song fragments
UPDATE 2: don't look at the comments until after you know your guesses...

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

a disaster in the making

It seems that British nuclear submarines have moved to the Windows XP operating system. I can't believe Microsoft even agreed to this this. No one knows better than Microsoft how insecure their operating system is. I guess they aren't worried about liability though, and for good reason. Microsoft malfeasance in the form of un-freaking-believable security holes must have cost billions of dollars over the years, and as far as I know, they've never been sued for it once. Just the feature of having the computer automatically run whatever program is on a CD when you put the CD in the computer should have been enough to bankrupt the company. You have to wonder what morons were involved in that decision, and whether they are still making significant decisions at the company. Why not, I guess, since there were never any consequence for Microsoft.

But back to the submarines. Do you think anyone has told them that Windows is subject to more viruses and trojans than any other operating system in history? That it spends 95% of the computer's resources drawing pretty things on the screen instead of doing useful work? That Microsoft intends to stop supporting XP in the near future?

They claim that they went to Windows to save money. But if that's true, they could have saved more money by going to Linux. I suspect there is more going on here than just the technical ignorance of British admirals.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

dreams of green youth

Some time back, Instapundit was pushing a book called "Old Man's War" by John Scalzi. I'm not the type to take reading advice from law professors, but a law professor who also writes for Popular Mechanics might know something about science fiction, so when I ran across the book in my local bookstore, I picked it up.

The first few chapters were surprisingly good, considering that there was no action. It was all about some old farts from earth who signed up to go fight aliens on other planets. Earth is kept isolated from the rest of the galaxy, so no one on earth knows exactly how all of these old people are going to be used to fight the aliens, but they all assume that they will get some kind of youthening treatment unknown on earth. Of course, the chance for a second youth is the main motivation for signing up. Part of the reason that the early part of the book is so good is the tension that is built up over what is really going to happen to all of these nice elderly people. Are their dreams going to come true or are they really being carted off to become alien lunch meat? BWAH HAH HAH HAH. Etc.

Unfortunately, the solving of the mystery doesn't live up to the masterful way it was built up, and the later part of the book is a pretty typical marines-in-space opera. Don't get me wrong --I like marines-in-space operas, and Old Man's War was a pretty decent example of the breed, but I felt a little let down after the very untypical beginning. First, the mystery was pretty non-unexpected and second, there was almost nothing to distinguish these 80-year-old youthened recruits from fresh high-school grads. That is, there was no particular sign of wisdom or knowledge gained from long years of life. Or for that matter, no indication of liabilities that long years of life might give you as a soldier, like the fact that you are no longer some dumb kid who thinks that he can't die.

ALso, I thought the world was implausible in several respects. Without going too deep into spoilers, I think I can say that the universe was supposed to be extremely dangerous, with no human colony being particularly safe from alien invasion --except earth which was so safe that they didn't even have space marines stationed there. And the galaxy was so dangerous that they had to give their marines special abilities to battle the aliens, they took those abilities away when the marines retired to become colonists. If life is really so dangerous, wouldn't they want a militia of retired super-soldiers around to help out in case of the surprise invasions that keep happening in the books?

There were other things, but I can't really discuss them without spoilers, so I'll take a deep breath and let it go.

Well, I'm not exactly raving about the book, but if you know me I don't rave about anything except food and people who cut me off in traffic. It's a pretty good book and if you are looking for something to kill a Saturday, you could do a lot worse. In fact, I picked up the next book in the series for the next weekend. It was like the first one only without the unusual beginning.

UPDATE: oh, I forgot to explain the title of this blog post. See, when these old dudes get changed into super soldiers, they are youthful and green. Get it?

Monday, February 16, 2009

what I miss about Tucson

It's been almost eight years now since I pulled up stakes in Tucson, Arizona and moved to California. I left my home town of over twenty years to move out here alone, leaving behind friends and family. Recent health issues have had me thinking about Tucson lately, and I've come up with a list of the things I miss most about my home town. Here they are, in no particular order:

1. Zack's Pizza on sixth street just south of the university. I've never had any other pizza that could fill me up with just two slices. The cheese is as thick as the crust, and it was a pretty thick crust.

2. Eegee's grinders. Eegee's is a small fast-food chain that specializes in sub sandwiches. Their Italian grinder is amazingly good.

3. Whataburgers. The Whataburger is by far the best fast-food hamburger there is.

4. Chimichangas. It's hard to find a chimichanga in California. In Arizona, you can't find a Mexican restaurant without them. I think it's a licensing requirement or something. According to Wikipedia, chimis were actually invented in Tucson (or in Pima county which contains Tucson). One horrifying mistake in that article must be corrected though. I have never had a chimi with rice in it. If such monstrosities exist, they are certainly the product of ignorant Californians, the only race so lacking in taste as to put rice in a burrito.

5. Steak. Sure, you can go to an expensive restaurant in California and get a great rib-eye steak for thirty or forty dollars, but in Tucson you could get the same steak for $12.95 at Cody's Beef 'n Beans or one of many similar small steak houses. They just don't have that in California.

6. Barbecue. In Tucson, there are great barbeque restaurants all over the city. In the San Francisco Bay area I have to drive 25 minutes to reach a good one.

Well, that's what I've been thinking of since the doctor told me I have to lose some weight. Of course I also miss my friends and family and yada yada.

the prodigal blogger returns

I've been off the computer for the past few months for health reasons. My back was causing me so much pain that I was barely able to work, so it would have been irresponsible to spend my limited pain-resistance powerups for blogging. I'm feeling much better now and may resume blogging.

It seems I have a condition where my muscles tend to shorten and tighten over time if they aren't stretched and exercised enough. And this condition tends to get worse as I get older, so as exercise becomes more uncomfortable, it's more important for me to do it (of course). The reason my back got so bad for so long, apparently, is that when it started to hurt, I did exactly the wrong thing --I stopped exercising. What my back needed was more exercise, not less.

Now I've got a timer on my computer at work that tells me to get up and walk around every half hour. I hate doing that because I have such a high-inertia personality. What that means is that whenever I'm doing something that I don't actively dislike, I tend to want to keep doing it rather than change what I'm doing. If I'm resting I want to keep resting and if I'm exercising I want to keep exercising. If I'm working I want to keep working and if I'm playing I want to keep playing. If I'm in bed I want to stay in bed and if I'm up I want to stay up (which is why I'm blogging at 12:30am). But I've been pretty good at taking those half-hour breaks and they are helping my back a lot.

So, here's a question: why do doctors always say "diet and exercise"? I mean, how lame is that? I know I should eat better and exercise more. I don't need to pay 120 feaking dollars to hear that. I go to a doctor for a magical pill that will make all of my problems go away without effort on my part. Why is the treatment always something I don't want to do? Why can't a doctor ever tell me that I'm not playing enough video games and that I should keep the freezer stocked with extra-rich ice cream for when I'm feeling peckish?

The first time this really got to me was when my back first started causing trouble some years ago. I thought, "Cool, an excuse to go spend time in the jacuzzi." Well, as it turns out, the jacuzzi didn't help my back at all and may have made it worse. You know what helped? Ice. Putting ice on my back made it feel better. You know how much it sucks to put ice on your back? A lot.