Pale Blue Dot

It’s been a few years, but I can still remember the exact feelings that were inspired within me the first time I heard a recitation of the Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot segment; I can remember those exact feelings because they’re still inspired with each viewing/hearing.

Last time I posted about Bad Science, calling it one of the books that has had the most impact on my life. Today I’d like to say that, while he might not have had the most impact on my life, Carl Sagan has definitely been one of the greatest influences in my life. The first time I ever saw cosmos was a segment where Sagan used a bowling ball and a bed sheet to explain the concept of time-space; it was completely captivating. Sagan is the primary reason I gained an interest in Astronomy; he’s the origin point for a desire that has lead me to take math and physics more seriously, to spend many cold nights with a telescope in the front yard, and to read a number of books that I still barely understand. He also provided me with a perspective about life, my own and that of everyone else on the Pale Blue Dot, that has done more to fill me with a sense of purpose than any other philosophy I’ve ever encountered.

Happy Birthday Carl Sagan, the Pale Blue Dot is a little less significant without you.

p.s. If you’ve never checked out/donated to SETI, you should go ahead and check them out over here

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Bad Pharma

I just got done pre-ordering Ben Goldacre’s Bad Pharma, which is something everyone everywhere should do. Goldacre’s previous book, Bad Science, is definitely in the top five of my all time favorite books; it’s unquestionably the book that has had the most impact on my life, in that it was the first thing to come along in 20+ years to make me understand why math, science, statistics, and critical thinking were more important than being just a means to an end in academia and career opportunity.

I hate that the U.S. release is delayed behind the U.K.’s, but it’s worth the wait (as well as paying for dead tree over digital) to have Bad Pharma in hard copy. Bad Science is one of the handful of dead tree books that doesn’t eventually make it to the grave yard (corner bookshelf) of books; it’s always floating around for re-read of various sections and quotes. It is the book I think I’ve recommend the most frequently to the most people. I expect Bad Pharma to be no different.

Rambling now, anyway if you haven’t read Bad Science go do that, and then pre-order Bad Pharma. In the meantime here’s the man himself being awesome at TED.

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Biden’s Speech

It’s incredibly easy to dehumanize politicians; to think of them only as an embodiment or mouthpiece for their platform or party. In that way it’s easy to dismiss them, idealize them, or make fun of them.

Moments like this – especially from a guy like Biden whom can say something so stupid, even when taking a good stance – are, in that sense, almost shocking. To hear something so real, so genuine, and so human from someone who it’s so hard to really think of in that way.

Anyway, here’s the Vice President giving one of the most touching and sincere speeches of any politician’s career.

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<< Hello World

Alex Jabel Smith

Alex Jabel Smith – 6:45am 19.05.2012, 6lb 14oz, 19.5″.

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Zen Pencils

So last night I jumped over to Zen Pencils to see about picking up a small print of the wonderful Tyson and Sagan illustrations. While browsing through the shop I noticed a few quotes I’d missed or maybe read over. One of them happened to be a comic set to O Me! O Life! by Walt Whitman.

Now I’m not, and never have been, a poetry person, my preference always being prose; however, I have a soft-spot for Whitman specifically because of this poem. Illustration Here, poem at the bottom.

O Me! O Life! is by far and wide margins my favorite poem, and one of my favorite works of art in general. And it’s really cool to stumble across an illustration that seems to go with it so well, including and especially the last few panel sets (Spoiler Alert, the image below may be a spoiler, I guess).


Walt Whitman – Zen Pencils – Click for Full Comic

Incidentally, if you haven’t ever been to Zen Pencils GO NOW! Browse his work, and maybe pick up a print. They’re definitely awesome, and this level of awesomeness needs to be encouraged.

O ME! O life!… of the questions of these recurring;

Of the endless trains of the faithless—of cities fill’d with the foolish;

Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)

Of eyes that vainly crave the light—of the objects mean—of the struggle ever renew’d;

Of the poor results of all—of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me;

Of the empty and useless years of the rest—with the rest me intertwined;

The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?


That you are here—that life exists, and identity;

That the powerful play goes on, and you will contribute a verse.

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Working with HTML after…

5 Minutes: Dull, tedious, not horrible.

30 Minutes: Maddeningly painfully frustrating.

1 Hour: HTML is the greatest sin every committed by man. 

2 Hours: Forgot how powerful this can be, HTML should be used for more things.

2 Hours 5 Minutes: Rage-Quit. 

Rinse and repeat for experiences with Python. 

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Not Moguls

This quote from Chris Dodd (article here) really caught my attention.

“We need to engage in a far better education process. People need to know … that 98% of people who work in the entertainment industry make $55,000 a year. They’re not moguls and they’re not walking red carpets.”

Mr. Dodd gave this quote in defense of the recent SOPA/PIPA legislative attempt. The reason it stood out to me, and the same reason it upsets me, is because this is more or less true. The vast majority of folk in the entertainment industry are just working out a modest living; and not a single organizer/serious-participant in the SOPA/PIPA project needs to be “educated” about this. If any efforts were being made to protect these people or their livelihoods, most of us techies would be all ears and supportive.

But that’s not what SOPA/PIPA are. These two bills were designed to assist that ~1-2% who are moguls better capture all possible use-value of entertainment. Contrary to the heartless pirate image Mr. Dodd and his fellows like to portray the bulk of us as, we don’t believe that entertainment should inherently be free, and the most of us aren’t even opposed to the existence and enforcement of copyrights. Of course a content creator and producer should be able to earn a living from what they put out there. The problem we have comes from this notion that the only alternative to starving artists creating film and music purely as a labor of love, is allowing a ridiculously small number of corporations to hold absolute control over the use and profit of our culture.

SOPA/PIPA represent this massively anti-free-market, anti-creativity, corporatist effort to cripple new mediums and bleed any potential value out of the old, at the cost of any and all progress. And for Mr. Dodd to operate under the pretense that any of it was meant to defend the working class, non-moguls, isn’t just absurd and bold, it’s insulting.

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