Our Spaceship Earth

Earth from satellites: Wikipedia

Earth from the moon: NASA

Earth and moon from 7.25 million miles (11.66 million km), taken by Voyager. September 18, 1977.

The Pale Blue Dot. 4 billion miles from earth. Voyager, Sep. 12, 1996

Seeing our planet from space has some interesting effects on people. This video about the “overview effect” is presented for your consideration.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

The Pennwood Numechron Chronometer

Before digital clocks, there was Pennwood.


As a senior in high school (Cheshire Academy, 1968) I had one of these on my desk, and although I was not one of the popular crowd, I frequently had my housemates in my room just watching it go. Powered by an electric motor, the individual rotors would slowly click over at the appropriate moments, just like an odometer.

Then, as time moved on, it was discarded. Fool! Cretin! Blistering simpleton! I wish someone had told me things like this would be valuable.

But, thanks to eBay, I was able to find a replacement. Not exactly the same model, but close enough to feel as though I had an old friend back.


This one even has a light, and I’m assuming one can put a picture of a loved one in the appropriate place, which I’ve never gotten around to doing.

But I love it. It’s phenomenally accurate. There’s something about old timepieces that just floats my boat.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

The Useless Web: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

First, we’ll start off with the bad. That’s simply when you go to a page you thought would contain the content you were looking for, and all you get is this:


Of course, many websites (such as Livejournal in this case) have very creative 404 pages, which tends to reduce the sting a little bit.

Then, there’s the Ugly. These are data aggregators which are designed by black-hat SEO types; their only purpose is to get you to click on links for which they will be paid. For example, this morning I was looking for a reference to the “smiler“, an alternative punctuation mark which I first heard about in the early 60’s, about the same time as I learned of the interrobang. The “smiler” looked like this: ‿ and was designed to function as an irony mark, this long before the invention of the emoticon. Unfortunately, the preponderance of the latter, combined with the ubiquitous “smiley face,” has all but buried any possible reference to the mark I was looking for, and indeed it might have had a different name.

At any rate, I Googled for “alternative punctuation,” and the first hit on the list was this:


This, children, is called “spamdexing.” The Wikipedia article referenced above also calls it “search engine poisoning,” and that’s about as accurate as you could want. I left a comment on their website, to wit:

“Here is a perfect example of one of the worst evils of the Internet – aggregators that offer nothing but hqiz , and pollute valid search results. This page has virtually zero to do with alternate punctuation (for example, the interrobang) and instead plugs in an SEO search phrase plus reams of unrelated camel ejecta. Thank you very little.”

Unfortunately, the web is full of this sort of douchebaggery; even “more legitimate” information aggregators such as Ask, FixYa, or Yahoo Answers tend to be full of sound and fury but signify nothing. For a diligent web searcher, it means “looking for the ruby underneath the rot,”[1] shoveling through the horse manure to find the pony, processing 10 tons of ore for one ounce of platinum.

Lastly, there’s what I consider the Good. This kind of website can be found at The Useless Web, an aggregator of totally useless but often downright amusing or intriguing single-service web pages written by everyone under the sun. More fun to waste your time with than watching the bread rise. An example of one which made me laugh is here. You can thank me later.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

[1] Life Is, Kander and Ebb, from “Zorba.”

“After reading this blog, you’ll think Shakespeare was a penny dreadful hack!”

Yup, that’s a “blurb”. We see them everywhere, but tend to notice them most on movie advertisements. We ignore them or laugh at them, but for better or for worse they influence our consumption habits.


Seeing the blurb on this dime store pulp made me chuckle – “damned with faint praise” is the first thing that came to mind. You’d think they might have come up with something a bit more riveting, but what it shows is the absolute necessity in some editor’s mind that a blurb – any blurb – must grace the cover.

The word “blurb” itself was coined by American humorist Gelett Burgess, author of Goops and How to Be Them (you can see a sample here.)


Burgess handed out a limited run of his book Are You a Bromide?  to a trade organization dinner, and the dust jacket included this image:


Blurbs are everywhere, and well-known authors are often solicited for blurbs about other books. The New York Times published “Riveting!’: The Quandary of the Book Blurb,” a series of essays on blurbing including a piece by Stephen King; the upshot is that blurbs are a necessary evil, but they can have a certain value. On the other hand, however, sometimes the writers should probably have stayed in bed.

In their famous parody Bored of the Rings, Harvard Lampoon lost no opportunity to make fun of blurbs themselves, publishing this page of blurbs in the front of their book:

“Much have I travelled in the realms of gold, and many goodly states and kingdoms seen; round many western islands have I been, which bards in fealty to Apollo hold. Oft of one wide expanse had I been told, which deep browed Homer ruled as his demesne. Yet never did I breathe its pure serene, till I heard Bored of the Rings speak out loud and bold!…”
JOHN KEATS, Manchester Nightingale

“This book… tremor… Manichean guilt… existential… pleonastic… redundancy…”

“A slightly more liberal reading of the leash-laws would keep books like this off the stands. I don’t know how you’ll fare, but my copy insists on long walks around suppertime, bays at the moon, and has spoiled every sofa cushion in the place,”
WILMOT PROVISO, The Rocky Mountain Literary Round-Up

“0ne of the two or three books…”
FRANK O’PRUSSIA, Dublin Gazette

“Truly a tale for our times … as we hang suspended over the brink on a Ring of our own, threatened by dragons and other evil people, and, like Frito and Good­gulf, fighting a cruel Enemy who will stop at nothing to get his way,”
ANN ALAGGI, The Old Flag

“Extremely interesting from almost every point of view.”
PROFESSOR HAWLEY SMOOT, Oer Loosely Enforced Libel Law! 

Scott Adams, author of Dilbert, sponsored a reader contest to provide a blurb for his book Stick to Drawing Comics, Monkey Brain!; the grand prize winner was Nicolas Feia who came up with this gem:

“‘What a perfect companion for my afternoon milk bath,” I thought while picking up this little gem on my way home from work. Within the hour I had laughed myself into a neck-deep tomb of butter. My wife came in, sipping her eggnog, and topped me with meringue.”

The others, however, are good for a laugh as well.


“Keep reading this blog and you’ll soon see that Mark Twain has met his match!”
SIMPLOT Q. ANALEMMAOn the Rising Value of Badgers, Mushrooms and Snakes in the Modern Commodity Market

The Old Wolf has spoken.

London: Milk Bar, 1936


Milk bar, Bear Street, around 1936 ©The Image Works

I found this image at Frog Blog, but as is my wont I will hunt around for the original source if it can be found. That led me to a couple of interesting sites – it appears this image was included in a book by Reuel Golden entitled London, Portrait of a City which looks absolutely beautiful. I must needs find myself a copy of this volume.

Additionally, I found the same image at People and Places, which has some stunning shots of London, both early and modern. Definitely worth a look-see.

The Blue Dog at night, 1934

The Old Wolf has Spoken.

The IBM 702 and the Univac 1



The IBM 702 was a business answer to the Univac 1 computer, which was the first mainframe computer which used magnetic tapes. The 702, using Williams Tubes (CRT Memory) had some technical problems and did not last long on the market, being replaced by the 705, which used magnetic core memory instead.

Early Laptop


The Eckert-Mauchly Univac 1, 1951. 1000 words of 12 characters. $159,000.00.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Who can afford this stuff?

The Eclipse


The Eclipse, a yacht whose price tag could well be as high as $1.2 billion, owned by Russian “businessman” Roman Abramovich. Those scare quotes are a deliberate insertion – anyone in Russia with that much money and power, and you wonder how high the pile of skulls is upon which that fortune rests.


Annual operating costs: $50 million. Fuel cost: $600,000 per tank.

The $100 Million Penthouse

in 1993, Steven Klar paid $4.5 million for a penthouse in Manhattan’s Spire building. He’s since put $5 million into improvements for the 8,000 square foot residence. Now he wants to sell it for $100 million, giving him a modest 800% return on his investment. Who says the rich are getting richer? And greedier? Naah…


A dining area in the penthouse, which occupies the top 3 floors of the building, with 360° views from every floor.


The Spire Building, showing the top 3 floors which comprise the penthouse.

The Lamborghini Aventador LP700-4


Price tag: betwen  $387,000 and $445,000, depending on whom you talk to. But it comes with everything you’d expect in a car with Lamborghini on the hood. The 700hp V-12 will get you anywhere you want to go, as fast as you dare to drive it. Breaker breaker, got a picture-taker, old smokey’s at 43…

Crespi Hicks Estate

Romanovich’s Yacht makes this home look like a piece of camel ejecta in terms of price, but this property is currently listing for $135,000,000 – the most expensive residence on the market today.


The Crespi Hicks Estate



42,500 square feet of luxury on 25 acres of wooded land in Dallas, certainly on a par with the luxury mansions of the railroad tycoons of yore. Alas, the real estate market has hit the super-rich as well as the middle class… Forbes estimated this property was worth $1.4 billion in 2008.

The Vertu TI Android Phone


This phone will run you about $10,000. Of course, it has a titanium case and a “virtually unscratchable” screen, but like the short-lived “I Am Rich” iPhone app, this phone simply screams “Lick my boots, peon!” Good for a high-powered CEO, I guess – the kind that enjoys an annual $145 million bonus for firing 37,000 people.


This kind of money is being spent around the world on a daily basis by the super rich and the ultra-rich. Now, the global economy is much larger than anyone can really imagine; for example, $700 billion (an unimaginable amount of money) would only be sufficient to buy 2 cups of Starbucks every day for a year for every person in Brazil. On the other hand, how many schools would that build or equip in our own country? How much farther would that kind of money go in India, or Pakistan, or Mauritania?

Each of us will someday be held accountable for what we do with our stewardships, either by God or by history, depending on how you look at life.

Just something to think about.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Scott Adams: Clairvoyant.

On February 27, 1994, Scott Adams published this Dilbert strip:


Almost 20 years later, we have this news article about Tesco’s:

Work is Becoming More Like Prison As Some Workers Forced to Wear Electronic Bands That Track Everything They Do (Including Bathroom Breaks)

Grocery giant TESCO has strapped electronic armbands to their warehouse workers to measure their productivity.

The human body, with its need for rest, nutrition and hydration, is such an inefficient tool for capitalist production. But while machines are unlikely to replacehuman workers anytime soon, new technologies can deftly strip workers of their humanity!

The Irish Independent reports that grocery giant TESCO has strapped electronic armbands to their warehouse workers to measure their productivity, tracking their actions so closely that management knows when they briefly pause to drink from a water fountain or take a bathroom break. These unforgivable lapses in productivity impact workers’ performance score, which management then apparently uses to terrify them into working faster.

(Click through for the full article.)

The Dilbert cartoon seemed absolutely terrifying because of its impossibility… now that employers have begun stripping the last shred of dignity from their workers, I really don’t know how much lower humanity can sink.

I am beyond astonished. 

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Beware the Stealth Install

I get a lot of use out of a program called Free Studio from DVDVideoSoft. I really appreciate their product, and I get to use it for nothing, so I have no axe to grind with this company – but they get to be the teacher in the moment.

They have a cluster of products that operate under the Free Studio Manager head, and periodically one of them will update. Every time I download and install a newer version, I have to be careful that I don’t install something that I don’t really want, commonly known as crapware or foistware.

Here’s the first menu that I see:


Notice that the “Express” option is going to give me the AVG toolbar. Now, in this case again, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I used AVGFree for years before migrating to MS Security Essentials (the latter program uses far less overhead), and was very happy with it – I never had a single infection in all the years I was using it. But I just don’t use toolbars, so I didn’t want this one.

In order to decline the install, one has to hit the “Custom” radio button – but notice that it’s greyed out, which will cause some people to miss it, and others to think it’s been disabled. It is, however, completely functional.


Clicking the “Custom” button allows you to uncheck all the options for AVG and continue. But we’re not done – there’s another menu to get past first.


I have no idea what Sendori is, other than some sort of security program, but I don’t care to install it – so I have to uncheck the “I accept” statement, and hit next. At last my program installs.

I get that DVDVideoSoft needs to monetize their product in some way, so again I’m not really complaining – but be sure that you carefully read all the menu options you are presented with when installing sofwtware – even the stuff that you have bought and paid for. Particularly annoying is any program that wants to install the “Ask” toolbar – it will also infect your browsers, change your homepage, alter your default search engine, and your default keyword search options. Oracle is a major offender here; fortunately, Java is less and less needed for anything useful. If you want to go the second mile, there’s a Change.org petition asking Oracle to stop bundling this piece of crapware with its products.

So just be careful… it’s a jungle out there.

EDIT: Click through for another superb article about this sleazy technique.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Faites-vous du remue-méninges?

From Vie Moderne, date unknown

(This article is in French. The title translates as “Do you brainstorm?”)

Pursuant to my previous post, I provide here a list of French terms for the broadcast industry which are recommended to replace their English counterparts. I’d be curious to know how well they have done in exterminating these heathen terms from their vocabulary over there, or if they still have people using English terminology on a regular basis.

Une liste de nouveaux termes et expressions destinés à remplacer les mots étrangers fréquemment employés dans le domaine de l’audiovisuel et de la publicité a été publiée au Journal Officiel, le 18 février dernier.

Ces néologismes seront obligatoirement utilisés à compter d’un délai de trois mois suivant la publication de cet arrêté dans les décrets, circulaires, diplômes, instructions émanant des ministres et des fonction­naires de l’Etat placés sous leur autorité.

Un délai plus long, six mois, est accordé pour l’utilisation de ces néologismes dans les correspondances “et documents des ad­ministrations; dans la rédaction des con­trats et marchés avec l’Etat; dans les édi­tions ou rééditions des ouvrages de renseignement, de formation ou de recher­che utilisés dans les établissements dépen­dant de l’Etat, soumis à son contrôle ou bénéficiant de son concours financier.

Voici ci-dessous une liste partielle de ces mots nouveaux choisis parmi les termes les plus souvent utilisés (les lettres « A » ou « P » Indiquent le domaine dont relèvent ces mots: Audiovisuel ou Publicité)

Achat groupe (n.m.) – Package. (A)
Achat d’un ensemble de programmes à un même vendeur.

Aguiche (n.f.) – Teaser. (P)
Phase initiale d’une campagne publicitaire se présentant sous forme d’énigme destinée à inciter et à maintenir l’attention du public.

Amplificateur de sonorisation – (n.m.) Public address amplifier. (A)

Baladeur (n.m.) – « Walkman ». (A)
La terme « walkman », qui est une mar­que déposée, ne doit pas être utilisé.

Bande vidéo (n.f.) – Video-tape. (A)

Bande vidéo promotionnelle (n. f.) Video clip. (P)
Court programme réalisé à l’aide de moyens techniques perfectionnés, pour mettre en valeur un sujet donné.

Base de campagne (n.f.) – Copy platform. (P)
Ensemble de réflexions qui permet de passer à la réalisation d’une campagne publicitaire.

Cabiliste (n.m.) – Cableman. (A)

Cadreur (n.m.) – Cameramen. (A)

Carton publicitaire (n.m.) – Display. (P)

Ciné-parc (n.m.) – Drive-in cinema. (A)

Commanditaire (n.m.) Sponsor. (P)
Personne physique ou morale qui sou­tient l’organisation d’une manifestation, financièrement ou au moyen de presta­tions de services, afin d’obtenir la con­trepartie des effets publicitaires.

Commanditer (v.tr.) – To sponsor. (P)

Crayonné (n.m.) – Simple lay-out, rough lay­out, rough. (P)

Débordement (n.m.) – Overlap. (P)

Distribution artistique (n.f.) – 1. Casting; 2. Cast. (A)

Document (n.m.) – Artwork. (P)

Embargo (n.m.) . Release. (A)
Délai à respecter avant de diffuser une information ou un programme .

Evanouissement (n.m.) – Fading. (A)
Diminution momentanée de la puissance d’une onde radio-électrique au point de réception, pouvant aller jusqu’à sa disparition totale.

Fondu (n.m.) – Fade out. (A)

Gros plan (n.m) – Close-up. (A)
Journalisme électronique (n.m.) – Electronic news gathering (E.N.G.). (A

Maquette (n.f.) – Advanced lay-out. (P)

Média (n.m.) – Media.
Note: Le pluriel est médias.

Médialogie (n.f) Etude des médias

Médialogue (n.f.) Spécialiste en médialogie.

Parrainage (n.m.) : Sponsoring. (P)

Présentoir (n.m.) – Merchandiser. (P)

Prêt-à-monter (n.m.) – Kit. (A)

Publicitaire (n.m. ou adj.) – Advertising person. (P)

Publipostage (n.m.) – Mailing. (P)

Remue-méninges (n.m.) – Brain-storming. (P)

Retour en arrière (n.m.) – Flash-back. (A)

Radiocassette (n.f.) – Radiorecorder. (A)

Régisseur de distribution (n.m.) – Casting director. (A)

Sonorisation (n.f.) – Public address. (A)

Sonal (n.m.) – Jingle. (A)
Message ou élément de message diffusé sur les médias audiovisuels, généralement fondé sur un thème musical répétitif et destiné à provoquer un réflexe de reconnaissance.

Souche (n.f.) . Master. (A)
Bande magnétique originale de montage

Suramplificateur (n.m.) – Booster. (A)
Amplificateur de puissance supplémen­taire, notamment pour un véhicule automobile.

Stylicien -ne (n.m. ou f.) – Designer (P)

Stylique (n.f.) – Design. (P)

Styliste (n.m. ou 1.) – Stylist. (P)
Il peut être à la fois, ensemblier, ac­cessoiriste et costumier.

Télévision à péage (n.f) – Pay-T.V. (A)

Test aveugle (n.m.) – Blind test. (P)
Test de comparaison entre deux ou plusieurs produits anonymement présentés.

Test d’évaluation (n.m.) – Copy testing (P)
Procédure destinée à déterminer les réac­tions d’une clientèle visée face à un message ou à une série de messages publicitaires.

Test du lendemain (n.m.) – Day after recall. (P)
Mesure de l’impact d’un message publicitaire vingt-quatre heures après sa diffusion.

Travail da terrain (n.m.) – Field work. (P)