On the plus side, we got Mrs. Fungus on her motorcycle yesterday, and started the process of learnin' her how to ride the thing. She didn't get her driver's license until age 24 and has never operated anything more complicated than a car with an automatic transmission, so she finds the whole "clutch and shift and throttle" thing a little confusing. Still, I'm encouraged by how well she did in our initial session yesterday, as she picked things up pretty quickly. She was, for example, able to get the bike moving under its own power without stalling.
Hoping to do more today, of course, but we'll have to see how the day goes. I don't want to complicate things by trying to teach her to ride on wet pavement....
* * *
So there's this site where you can watch a live video feed from ISS and watch the Earth roll past.
It does not, however, play nice with NoScript, so on my computer all I can see is a blank space where the video feed should be. Argh etc.
It works on the Nook, at least.
...learned of it on Thursday or Friday of last week, but the feed was down and wasn't back up until some time Tuesday evening. And when I finally got to see video from ISS, I got to see a thin crescent Earth for perhaps two minutes before the camera switched to a view of a pole in front of a black background.
Now, the "pole" in question is some component or other of ISS, and the black background was space. Technically this is a live view from ISS, but it's not a view of anything. You can't see the stars (the presence of a sunlit object in the image forces the exposure to be too short, and in any event the camera is not sensitive enough) and the Earth is on the other side of the space station. Whee!
Then the view switched to another camera that showed some module or other, also sunlit, also against the infinite black of space. Worse, it looked fake, like a moderately expensive special effect from about 1985--not one of the good and expensive ones from ILM, I mean. Just realistic enough: "Okay, the folks watching this movie know it's not real, so their suspension of disbelief will cover for the fact that this doesn't look 100% realistic." (In an era of hyper-realistic computer graphics I'd expect a genuine fake image to look better than this, so that inversely proved that it was authentic. No one would try to get away with claiming a fake image that bad was, in fact, real.)
So after periodically checking the web site all weekend, my reward for my efforts was two scant minutes of looking at a thin smear of blue that--at first inspection--I thought was a lens flare.
That was a little frustrating.
Overall I consider this effort a "bust", because there's no intelligence behind the camera rotation ("Okay, we can see Earth; now let's switch to the cameras that can't see the planet!"). A better solution would be to feed all three or four cameras at one time, in one video stream, as segments of a larger frame. Sure you lose some resolution, but it gives the casual viewer the opportunity to see the Earth from space without having to camp on the video feed for an hour.
And why it won't display video on my computer? All I can figure is that it's NoScript, which I run because I prefer to spend my time at the computer doing things I enjoy rather than delousing my system.
* * *
JayG talks about solar power.
Solar power is simply not cost-effective in a world where you can make a kilowatt-hour of electricity for $0.05 in bulk by burning coal. Example: here we have a junior college in New Mexico spending five million dollars on a solar power plant, in order to save themselves $200,000 per year. Yeah. As Jay notes, amortizing that cost will take the idiots 25 years--a quarter of a century--and that's without considering maintenance of the damned things.
You can't just set up solar panels and forget about them, after all; they have to be kept clean. Wind blows and panels shift out of alignment. Stuff falls from the sky and causes damage. And like every other thing made by man, solar panels fail. All these issues have to be rectified, and that means maintenance, and that drives up the annual cost and makes the amortization period even longer. The solar array is apparently "guaranteed" to last 25 years, but shouldn't it be guaranteed to last longer so the college can, y'know, actually realize some savings from making the investment?
This is why the solar power industry does not flourish in the absence of government subsidies. It cannot. As a source of energy solar is too diffuse to harvest in industrial quantities, and it simply makes no sense to replace existing generating capacity with ground-based solar arrays. (We can discuss the utility of space-based solar power, but since no one has any real plans to build solar powersats at this time, the discussion would be entirely theoretical.)
* * *
As an early birthday present, Mrs. Fungus bought me a new brain bucket.
The new helmet is day-glow yellow, it's a modular helmet (meaning you can lift up the entire front of the thing and expose your whole face) and it has a drop-down eyeshield which takes the place of sunglasses. The drop-down shield is actuated by a control on the left side of the helmet, and I found that I could have it down and the face shield up and have near-perfect eye protection without my glasses fogging up. But the biggest bonus is that now I have something standing in for sunglasses and no longer have to squint against glare. Sun's in my eyes? A quick flip of the lever, and I have sunglasses! Whee!
I had hoped to have the ability to put the thing on without having to take my glasses off, but unfortunately I can't do that even with a modular helmet. Upon learning this I tried the store's other helmet that I liked--full-face helmet, same color, with the inner shield--but they didn't have it in my size, so I took the modular one.
Now I'm thinking about getting it vinyl-wrapped, maybe in a Fairy Tail motif of some kind....
(Yeah, and while I'm dreaming, I'd like the next winning Powerball ticket, please.)
* * *
So there's this song that plays on my Bluetech channel on Pandora, and I can't buy it.
No, that's not strictly true. I could pay about $10 to download it from Amazon (yes, just the one song) or I could pay about $35 to buy the CD from an overseas seller, because shipping would cost so much.
I think I might have found the CD for under $20, maybe--but of course it's the beginning of the month and I have a whole ton of bills to pay, and I don't get paid until Friday.
The beauty of the iTunes model is that $1 for a song is well into "impulse buy" territory for a lot of people. That's why so many songs on Amazon can be purchased for $0.99; it just works as an ideal price point when your cost-to-distribute per copy is negligible.
But the artist who produced the song needs to agree to digital distribution and to charge that price. If he doesn't--
I'd buy the damned song in a heartbeat if it were $0.99 like just about every other song on Amazon. It's so good, I'd buy it with only a little more reflection if it were $2 or even $2.50. But $10? Hell no. Not when I've bought entire albums for $9 from Amazon.
So what's my alternative? Well, I always have the option of using Sound Recorder to record "What U Hear" and gank the song that way. It's less than ideal because I'll miss the beginning of the song, and I'd like the artist to be compensated for his work, but at least that way I get the song without having to pay out the ass for it. Of course, I then have to wait for it to come on again.
* * *
Anyway, it's a nice warm day and I have things to do, so why am I sitting here?