States are facing fiscal crisis soon

60 Minutes did a segment on the looming fiscal crisis that many states are facing in the near future, titled “State budgets: the day of reckoning”. I consider this an important story, because the states that are in crisis could cause another financial collapse like what happened in 2008. Meredith Whitney, a financial analyst interviewed for the segment, has done extensive research into the fiscal health of the states, and she said that there will be 50-100+ municipal bond defaults within the next year, despite what the ratings agencies say (which also misled investors in the real estate bust). She said it like you could take it (the information) to the bank. She also said it’s highly unlikely the problem will be corrected before the crisis hits, because there is so much complacency in the state governments towards this problem. It looks like we’re going to need to prepare for another “bumpy ride.”

My favorite Star Trek moment

I was not a fan of “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” when it was running, mainly because it ran so contrary to the Star Trek ethos of exploration. Instead it was mostly mired in the politics of the Star Trek universe. This one episode, though, called “Far Beyond The Stars” touched me in a way no other Star Trek episode, of any series, has. It’s about how Capt. Cisco travels back in time to the 1950s (though that assertion is somewhat nebulous given what happens: Is it a dream? And if so, which is the dream, and which is the reality?) In that time he is a science-fiction writer, having no memory of his existence as a Starfleet captain. Over time he has visions of his existence on DS9, and develops a story of a black captain on a space station (just like his own character in the DS9 series), but he runs into the racism of the time. He is put down by society, and though he tries to get his story published in the next issue of the magazine he works for, the issue is scrapped (“pulped”) when some people in the operation manage to get it put in, and he is fired, because the owner of the magazine doesn’t like the idea of a non-white character in a leadership role, even if it’s futuristic.

This one scene was a pinnacle achievement for Avery Brooks in the series. I’m sure he had done better work in other productions. He is most certainly a professional actor. In any case, I saw this scene and it made me tear up. It still does. What got to me is his sense of feeling alone, that the ideas he has are so tied up with his identity, and that he cannot share them with everyone. He exists in the present, but his mind is in the future, and he wants so badly for that future to come to be. The reality that hits him is the world he imagines has to stay only in his mind, and can only be shared with a few others who are open and can appreciate it. It’s a sad realization. He fights this, saying:

“You cannot deny Ben Cisco. He EXISTS! That future, that space station, all those people, they exist in here, in my mind! I created it! … You can pulp a story, but you cannot destroy an idea! … That future, I created it, and it’s REAL! Don’t you understand? It is REAL! I CREATED IT!”

The need to think beyond our good intentions–to real science

This is a great video illustrating how attempts to do good end up hurting people and the environment if the people taking action don’t try to think beyond their good intentions and test the real effects of what they do.

Another good example of this is what has happened in our national parks for decades. Michael Crichton talked about this in one of his last speeches, “States of Fear: Science or Politics?” Crichton starts by talking about reported catastrophes that never happened, and then gets to our inability to understand complex systems at 29 minutes into the video, where he discusses in detail our mismanagement of Yellowstone National Park (in case you’re interested in skipping to that part).

My tribute post to Blade Runner

I was thinking of writing this post on my Tekkie blog a couple years ago, but didn’t get around to it. Blade Runner is one of my favorite movies of all time. Some really great videos came out about it on YouTube. I share them here.

Herve Attia made this “filming locations” documentary last year:

A musician calling himself “meastempo” made this “how-to” video on “the Blade Runner” sound, using a Yamaha CS70M, and a Roland MV-8800, pretty close to the original equipment Vangelis used. It sounds awesome!

Recalling the CED player

I remember these from when I was a kid. All the department stores were selling them, and lots of movies were sold for them. They came in these large phonograph-record-sized caddies, which contained the disc. Just as you see in the video below, you insert the caddy, and the player removes the disc. When you want to “reject” the disc, you slide the caddy back in, and the disc is released, so you can slide it back out. This is how the disc remained protected from scratches.

I remember someone telling me that the discs were played using a stylus, and I wondered how that was possible. I was used to phonograph record players, and I understood the principle of the stylus being vibrated by the groove in the vinyl. I wondered, “How would this produce video?” It turns out the stylus did not contact the disc. CED stood for Capacitance Electronic Disc. A current is induced in the disc, and the resulting signal is picked by the stylus (I think. Either that or the stylus induces the current). The disc is totally analog, both video and audio. This was the first-of-its-kind video disc.

 

Here’s an interview with Richard Sonnenfeldt, the head of RCA in the 1970s. He talks about how CED technology changed over time as the engineering improved.

Wake up, America! We need to face this

“Wake Up, America!”, by Robert J. Samuelson, Washington Post, May 17, 2010

This is a bit old, but the problem is still current.

The following video pretty well sums up the problem. I don’t know about you, but I find this scenario horrifying.

The guy says, “If Obama has two terms, this is what will happen.” I don’t necessarily subscribe to that. I hope that we can arrive at fiscal sanity while Obama is still in office, whether he serves one term, or two.

The Real Milli Vanilli

Years ago I remember hearing about the lip syncing scandal with Milli Vanilli. The two poser singers were publicly humiliated and cast out of stardom for faking it, but we were never shown who the real singers were; the real people behind the voices. Well here they are, calling themselves “The Real Milli Vanilli” with “Keep On Running”, from 1990:

Hello

I’ve been sharing videos and article links on Facebook for a while now. That was fun (kind of), but I only shared with friends there. I’d like to expand who I share with. I’m going to try doing that here and see how it goes.