Mike Beversluis

Monday, December 29, 2008

Ground Control to Major Tom

The Straight Dope: Is anyone in charge of keeping satellites from colliding? [via]

Dear Cecil:

As I stare into the beautiful dark sky above my home in Hawaii and see all the stars and satellites, I ponder the possibility of "space accidents." With all those satellites up there, are there any collisions? I don't suppose anybody is handing out OUIs (for orbiting under the influence), but how do they decide what satellite should go where? Who oversees all those orbits? Is it just a stellar free-for-all?

— Roy Orbits Son

Cecil replies:

No, but it's not iron discipline either. To date we've been content to let just about anybody heave stuff into orbit, requiring only minimal reporting for most launches. But with increasing commercialization of space, things are starting to get crowded up there — the Union of Concerned Scientists lists 898 active satellites, operated by everybody from the U.S. to Luxembourg. Given the vastness of space, even in earth's immediate vicinity, it's not like we're talking bumper-to-bumper traffic.

It's worthwhile, before you get too worked up, to calculate the space junk density. It's really, really small.


Thursday, December 25, 2008


Spoke too soon. Opera kablooeied too, and then when I went to uninstall the 8 latest Java updates, the control panel blued up too. I won't bore you anymore, but I feel like if I get rid of enough Java/Flash updates, stability will return.



I don't know quite why, but the latest update of Firefox (3.0.5?) broke my computer something hard, with a string of BSOD's (Blue Screens of Death) and gory reboots.

I've been running XP on this sucker without the need for rebooting for years, and so I was gravely concerned that my trusty Fujitsu might be finally giving up the ghost. I'm now writing this via Opera, and so I can jury rig my way to a few more years of lightweight web surfing. Yea!

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Feliz Navidad!

Mexican Shoppers Go North, Seeking Bargains.
Published: December 23, 2008

TUCSON — Mexican shoppers with fists full of cash and long Christmas lists are pouring across the border into hotels, restaurants and shopping malls here, providing an economic boost in a downward spiraling economy.


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

All I want for Christmas

Airblown Animated Santa in Helicopter: Little valves in the rotors cause them to spin. I saw this out front of a shop in Alexandria last week, and it was awesome.

(My interest in this signals my eventual ascent into becoming that guy in the neighborhood who puts up a million lights, starting sometime in October. Along with the absolutely requisite Santa Kneeling at the Baby Manger. This vision also involves driving a pickup truck with skinny tires and dog-dish hubcaps, and a baseball cap with an absolutely straight bill, a la Lou Pinella)

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A Christmas tradition

They really need to release Fitzwilly on DVD. ($135 for a used VHS tape?) Dick Van Dyke's fake accents are hilariously terrible as always, but Barbara Feldon is an angel.

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Monday, December 22, 2008

A bit of travel advice

Don't fly cross country during a massive winter storm. My old theory was that if I bought a direct ticket from DC to Seattle, I would avoid getting stuck somewhere intermediate. That has worked for years, but not this one, as we were diverted 300 miles away to Spokane. Along with twelve other flights. Alaska Air bounced 71 in total that night, leading to a bit of a jam the next day and so forth. I was booked onto a special flight Sunday, but they blew a sheet of ice into the aux power unit before take-off, and by the time they got that jury-rigged, Seattle closed again. Three days later, I lucked onto one of the few running buses home, which once I was on it, went surprisingly well. I'm writing this with the free WiFi on the Seattle ferry boat to Bainbridge. The weather in Seattle is absolutely perfect. Merry Christmas.


Sunday, December 21, 2008

A boy named Sebastian

Hipster Baby Names.

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Friday, December 19, 2008

Yielding to temptations

Now and then I have the temptation to translate something that I read in Italian and found funny. Then I don't do it because after all it is not so funny. To be more precise, either it is of local interest, or maybe not of interest at all. But in any case I am not going to spare you this one, just for the sake of it.

Taken from the sport section of the Corriere della Sera, the most authoritative Italian newspaper. The journalist has a sharp pen.

Holyfield, punching down his own legend

46 years old and on the ring in Zurich in order to pay alimony. A match that seems fit for a circus rather than for an arena.

There are two guys that tomorrow night in Zurich will boxe in front of 12000 people and someone should really step in and split them off. The most superficial examination shows that someone will get hurt: one is 46 years old, 6 feet tall, weighs 220 pounds and has gotten to the point where his speech is slurred. The other guy is ten years younger, but most of all weighs 60 pounds more and is 7 feet tall. But just since a gentleman from Germany decided that this must be the take-off for boxing in Switzerland, then not only they will go ahead, but the bout will be valid for the Heavyweight WBA crown.

If we wanted to have a bitter laugh on it, we could say that boxing is back to its origins. That is, when bouts were organized outdoors during cow fairs, without gloves, matching up any two guys without any criterion to ensure compatibility. A way like any other to raise up some cash.

The 46 years old guy we are talking about is Evander Holyfield, and he will need the million dollar he is going to cash in order to quiet down the various wives that along his honored career he wasn't able to send ko (legally speaking). He literally escaped from the USA where no one is anymore available to grant him a medical certificate. He says criticism does not worry him, because he is stronger than ever, after all they were saying he was finished and he was able to turn the tables on Tyson. It's a pity that this happened in 1997.

Holyfield lost four out of the last eight bouts (the latest in a way that made us cringe, fourteen months ago) and doesn't even think about stopping. He can boast a suspension for steroids as well, and we fear that the German gentleman, the organizer Mr. Sauerland, will not use care for such fine details since, in his words, he "wants to put Switzerland on the world map of boxing". Evander will confront Nikolai Valuev, a Russian that became rich by appearing in circuses as a "phenomenon" and built his career with the same level of integrity that Putin would use in allowing journalists to inquire on the source of his revenues.

He is a meat mountain, without any boxing quality, his only talent being the ability to resist the impact with a tractor travelling at moderate speed - and being able to evade opponents whose hands are not too skillful. He eats six pounds of meat a day and therefore is pretty aggressive. A parking attendant in St. Petersburg knows something about his aggressiveness having received some kind rubbing (he received then compensation in court). In his free time he is an actor, he already acted in a few German movies, the last one about a boxeur that loses his memory. We hope the spectators too will be able to lose their memory, and they are not just a few, since the match has been bought in one hundred countries: still difficult to think that it has been bought under the category "boxing".

Riccardo Romani
19 dicembre 2008


New Discovery - The Heaviest Element Known to Science: Governmentium:

Lawrence Livermore Laboratories has discovered the heaviest element yet known to science.

The new element, Governmentium (Gv), has one neutron, 25 assistant neutrons, 88 deputy neutrons, and 198 assistant deputy neutrons, giving it an atomic mass of 312.

These 312 particles are held together by forces called morons, which are surrounded by vast quantities of lepton-like particles called peons.

See also Capitalium.


Thursday, December 18, 2008

Fleet Foxes


Germany is different

I can't explain this at all, but it's fascinating. I am doped to the gills with cough medicine, and so this is more than a little trippy. [via]

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Monday, December 15, 2008

Hmm, I wonder why this didn't catch on

"Scooter Cannon"

I'm sure that the boys in Rancid or the A-Team would have given their eye-teeth to have come up with this.

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Thursday, December 11, 2008


As I get older, I find myself becoming more susceptible to vertigo (vertiginous?). I'm not Jimmy Stewart fainting in a clock tower, yet, but I could definitely feel a tingle of paralysis by imagining myself climbing up this abandoned radio antenna.

Is it weird to do that - to test yourself like that? I did go up the CN Tower in Toronto a few years ago, which is probably 1.5 times as high as the antenna tower above, and walk out on the transparent floor they have up there (e.g.). That took a little getting used to, but I couldn't imagine walking outside on a steel girder. No way. I can't imagine working on the super-tall Burj Dubai.

And that concludes today's ruminitions on Mike's phobias.

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Joe Satriani's next lawsuit writes itself


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

funny cause it's true

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Good luck with that

Best of craigslist: I have a huge bathroom (for rent).

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Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Gas price update

Re an earlier discussion about our current gas-price free-fall: The current minimum price for gasoline is $1.23 in Kansas City. (and falling) [via] I think John owes me a virtual beer.


"It is your fault"

Just the flavour of returning to Italy. I went to the post office to do a mailing, but I arrived a bit late and the queue was too long: since I had to catch a train I gave up and postponed to the next day.
At dinner I complained with my sister about the slow-moving queue at the post office, so she asked me at what time I had arrived and at what time my train was scheduled to leave and then she sentenced "it is your fault". To which I was a bit unaccustomed after spending a few years in NY.

Political hypothesis

There is now a car-czar, or will be, to go along with our "drug-czars" and "education-czar" and "energy-czar" and "homeland security-czar". This is obviously kabuki jargon for "person placed in charge of a hopelessly daunting task that any examination of the political landscape will reveal to be essentially intractable without the socio-economic equivalent of Mt St Helen's blowing up."

So, is there anything or anyplace or anytime where the existence of a czar, with or without Faberge eggs, hasn't meant that the whole enterprise is doomed?

BTW, the automaker bailout is doomed. I don't see why bankruptcy is any worse for them than it is for the airlines. I'd be happy to list other reasons why I don't think it's a good idea, but that's sorta moot. You have to drink a lot of kool-aide to think that this "loan" will turn things around.

In any case, there's a political inevitability to it, even though it seems oddly capricious to me: our bailouts are going to be allotted like those service industry jobs where you tip them customarily, even though there are plenty of other folks who you don't. Waiters, yes; Grocery clerks, no. Cab drivers, yes; Bus drivers, no. Etc and so forth.

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Sunday, December 07, 2008

Sunday Night Jukeboxery

The Bravery - Believe

Placebo - Where is my mind?

Cornershop - Candyman

Picked just for you by my ipod (except I tried to find Hallowed Ground by the Violent Femmes, and didn't). Sorry, but three songs is all you get for a buck.

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Friday, December 05, 2008

Jersey Sucks

Latest sign that the Inauguration is going to be nuts: They're renting rooms in New Jersey.

Unless you're driving at, I dunno, 4AM on a Sunday morning, the 1.5 hour claimed drive to DC is pure fiction. Factor in the 5 million extra people, and you might as well be swimming in from Greenland. Florida's in walking distance, right? In that, people have at some point in history, walked from DC to Florida.

Also, DC bars are going to be open 24 hours a day.

I'm gonna work from home, I think.

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That's the newly opened Capitol Visitor Center, which rang up at $621 million. Hopefully they've put the lawn in by now. That number increased slightly from the initial proposed cost of $71 million. Even by DC and US Congressional Spending standards, that's pretty impressive bloat. In fairness, it was largely due to the rising cost of the adamantine and unicorn horns after 9-11.

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Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Ho ho ho

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Tuesday, December 02, 2008

It wasn't quite like that

"Take Luck!" - Brian Regan on Dr. Katz


Out of the mouths of babes

Via failblog.org


Monday, December 01, 2008

An unsustainable system must, by definition, come to a stop

The current state of GM, Chrysler, and Ford:

It's like a disgusting game of musical chairs where there are three people—a current employee, a manager, and a retiree—and the retiree is already sitting down in the only chair while the music's still playing.

NB, earlier, while the song was playing, management and the current employee destroyed one of the two available chairs. Same difference. See also Social Security.

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Interview Question

The Two Bowling Ball Problem

This is just a name that search algorithm, right?

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