October 20, 2015


Today Catching Up With Tomorrow

We are living in the future!

This week marks a cinematic milestone. Tomorrow, the 21st of October, 2015, at 7:29pm Eastern time (4:29pm California time), will be the precise moment when Doc, Marty and Jennifer arrive in a flying DeLorean from the year 1985 (as depicted in the film Back to the Future Part II). In that movie, there were some really fascinating technological achievements displayed in that 1989 version of 2015. And with a few exceptions (flying cars, hoverboards), we are living, or on the verge of living, in a world where much of that technology is a real part of our lives.

The smartphone alone accomplishes much of what would have seemed unbelievable 26 years ago. There is not much depicted in that film that we have not yet accomplished or are not working steadfastly towards accomplishing. We might be approaching an 'innovation event horizon', where we are no longer able to be innovative, but instead we focus on being efficient.

Some examples: these technological advances which were once considered futuristic science fiction are all part of our reality: Cloning, replicating materials (a.k.a. 3d printing), life extension, space colonization, time travel, flying cars, giant fighting robots, virtual reality, flying robots, hyper personal advertizing (ie Minority report), etc. It can't be long before even flying cars are a part of our reality...when the technology of drones mixes with self driving cars, self flying cars are sure to follow.

If you have doubts that we're living in a radically futuristic age, then here are some recent headlines to back up my argument:

For the time being though, where we're going, we still need roads.

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October 16, 2015


Distance To Hill Valley (in 1985)

We are on the verge of a major cinematic milestone – this coming Wednesday, October 21st at precisely 7:29 pm Eastern time (or 4:29 pm California time) is the moment when Doc, Marty and Jennifer will arrive from 1985! It's hard to believe that this date, from the movie Back to the Future Part II, which once seemed like the distant future, is nearly upon us.

One thing that kind of annoys me in movies about time travel, is that they rarely take into consideration the movement of objects in space. I guess they are taking for granted that as they travel through time they are also traveling through space, and very rapidly, or else time travelers would find themselves in some interesting places.

Doing some rough math, and knowing that the Solar System moves 250km per second through the Milkyway, and that the Milkyway is moving 300km per second through space in our local cluster of galaxies (and not taking into account leap days, or that the Earth spins at 1/2 km per second)...

(300 km/s (galaxy speed) + 250 km/s (solar system speed)) x 602 (seconds per hour) x 24 (hours per day) x 365 (days per year) x 30 (years since Doc Marty and Jennifer left 1985) = 520,344,000,000 km!

...that exact spot on Earth where they left 1985 would be up to 520.344 billion kilometers removed from the same location in space in 2015, give or take a few million kilometers (depending on the affects of the rotation of the planets and the solar system within the Milkyway)...which would put the DeLorean half way between Earth and Alpha Centauri. Well not really. Alpha Centauri is 41.32 trillion km from Earth but that's still pretty far from Hill Valley. Hopefully Doc packed some extra oxygen for the ride back! Great Scott!

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October 14, 2015


Charting Middle Earth

I just picked up a copy of The Art of The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien after reading about it in Wired, and I can honestly say, this is the kind of book that I couldn't love more. Many of these maps and illustrations were never published before. Included is the first comprehensive map of Middle Earth.

As a map enthusiast and LOTR fan, its very interesting to look through the hand drawn maps and illustrations Tolkien created as guides as he wrote the trilogy. You get a glimpse of what Tolkein was thinking when he plotted the course of Frodo and Sam, and Aragorn Legolas and Gimli.

When you consider that many of these maps, though beautiful, were drawn on graph paper, you can appreciate that their purpose was the guide the author as he imagined the world of LOTR. The drawings provide a unique insight into Tolkein's creative process.

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October 11, 2015


October/Halloween Movies - A list for 2015

October is a great time of year for movies. Here is a list that all have scenes that take place in or around the Halloween season, or are generally good for watching at a Halloween party.

  • The Cabin in the Woods (IMDb) (wiki)
    All the traditions in your typical teenage horror film morph into an unusual tale with a Joss Whedon sci fi and comedic twist.
  • Donnie Darko (IMDb) (wiki)
    A moody elemental sci fi 80's-era period piece set in the month of October. The scenes of rolling mountains and suburban give it a unique and genuine Northern Virginia atmosphere. Soundtrack alone is amazing! This is the kind of movie you have to watch a few times to make sense of the plot, but there is plenty going on to make it interesting each time.
  • The Guest (IMDb) (wiki)
    A story about a soldier who upon returnign to the states pays a visit to the family of his friend. This one is also set around Halloween and filled with lots of 80s style and references. It also features an interesting twist.
  • The Nightmare Before Christmas (also a great Christmas movie) (IMDb) (wiki)
    From an idea of Tim Burton, this stop motion story is a whimsical and creepy merging of Halloween and Christmas.
  • E.T. (IMDb) (wiki)
    It was not until I re-watched this classic as an adult that I really saw all the layers of context and family drama unfolding. I completely forget that this story takes place during Halloween.
  • The Karate Kid (IMDb) (wiki)
    Is there a better story about an underdog fighting against the odds? Yes there are many: Rudy, The Princess Bride, Revenge of the Nerds, Star Wars, Titanic ... that's basically every movie, but none of them have Mr Miayagi teaching the virtues of patience and practice.
  • Ghostbusters (IMDb) (wiki)
    With a long awaited sequel around the corner, now is a great time to watch the original.
  • Frankenweenie (original short film, or 2012 feature remake) (IMDb) (wiki)
    Now a stop motion feature film, I suggest watching the original live action film that was it's inspiration and launched Tim Burton's career.


October 10, 2015


Web Design: Comparing Text Editors

If you're interested in learning to code for the web, there are some excellent editors available now. I'm going to talk about four of them: Notepad++, Sublime Text, Atom, and Brackets. The latter two I only recently discovered.

All you need to build a website is a simple text editor, such as the one bundled with your computer's operating system. Notepad on Windows, TextEdit on Mac, or gEdit for Linux will do just fine. If you're serious about coding you should consider trying a more advanced text editor that helps make coding more intuitive. A good text editor is worth it's code in gold. (But note, the four options I describe below are either free, or low cost).

Clockwise from top left: Notepad++, Sublime Text, Atom, Brackets.

Text Editors vs WYSIWYG Editors vs IDEs

Before I get into text editors I'd like to point out that in the world of web authoring there are primarily three kinds of tools often used: Text editors, WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editors, and IDEs (Integrated Development Environments). IDEs manage the whole process of web site management from editing the code, to managing the files locally, to uploading to a web server.

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October 1, 2015


Movies to get excited about - Fall 2015 and beyond!

There are a lot of exciting movies to look forward to!  In fact, tomorrow one of the movies I'm the most excited about comes out – The Martian.  I read, and loved, the book!  Everyone is surprised when I say how much I enjoyed how funny it was; I guess because the movie's trailer shows off how serious the story is, which it is, but it's the humor of the main character Mark Watney that is the soul of the book.  Watney is one of the most genuinely funny characters ever imagined in my opinion, and I get the feeling that a lot of author Andy Weir's personality was channeled into his creation. 

Here is a list, with some notes, for the rest of the films I'm excited to see this year: