Jun 182014
 

obamaGiraffe

This is not photoshopped, this really happened. Last Wednesday, President Barack Obama mingled with inventors and young students alike at the first White House Maker Faire on the South Lawn in Washington, D.C. The electric giraffe in question is named Russell. He’s 17 feet tall, rideable,  and is loaded with a bewildering array of lights and motors that make him able to walk slowly through a crowd and light up like a rainbow supernova. It was a symbol of the quirky and clever creations Obama wanted to showcase on a day devoted to innovation.

The giraffe was one of the highlights of the Maker Faire. Based on Tamiya’s toy walking giraffe, the Electric Giraffe is a life-sized robotic giraffe that borrows this toy’s walking mechanism. The immense animal actually walks, just like its small-scaled design model, but towers at 17 feet tall when its neck is raised. The main frame where people can ride is eight feet off the ground, providing an impressive viewpoint of the surroundings. Though the beast appears to have wheeled feet, the giraffe actually walks on these wheels. The wheels are used to give it variable traction control, and more importantly, allow the 1,700 pound cyber-critter to be winched up onto its trailer.


The Electric Giraffe is actually based in
California, and makes appearances at raves.

Obama has been placing a fair amount of emphasis lately on the importance of new tools and techniques to start up new businesses, to boost manufacturing and to strengthen science and math education. “We’ve got to make sure that more Americans have the skills and opportunities to land a job in a growing industry or to create entire new industries,” he said. “That’s why I’m declaring today a national day of making.”

More than 100 makers from 25 states were at the White House as Obama focused on helping fledgling businesses create and market their products.

The White House says 13 federal agencies are teaming up with companies like Etsy and Kickstarter to help Americans access startup capital and tools to develop new products.

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Jan 142014
 
internet

This morning we were greeted by this tweet from Reuters:

 We looked into it, and here’s what we found out: the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia just invalidated FCC net neutrality rules that would’ve made it illegal for telecom companies to favor certain types of traffic over others.  They reached this decision by way of a loophole.  The Federal Communications Commission had chosen to classify broadband providers in a manner that exempts them from treatment as common carriers, like telephones are, despite the fact that in nearly all cases it’s the same companies providing the phone services as providing the internet services.  According to the Communications Act, they can’t regulate services they don’t identify as common carriers, so the telecomms are free to do as they please.

The ruling lets companies like Verizon and Time Warner to charge web sites to serve up their content faster, as well as now being gatekeepers to the Internet if they want to do that.  In a worst case scenario, you could be charged to access sites you like (like your favorite sci-fi radio station), or if you’re running your own internet business, you could have to pay extra to have your web site viewable by the public.  There is really no restriction on that, other than the latest federal court ruling on Verizon’s appeal to the FCC that telecom companies have to tell subscribers which sites they’re favoring.  That alone could have a chilling effect on how much of this actually happens, but it’s a regulation without the possibility of oversight at the moment, since the court has ruled that whatever the regulating body would be to control this, the FCC wouldn’t be that regulating body.  The further ramifications of this are that since the court’s decision means there is no regulatory body for internet providers, the telecomms are free to do pretty much whatever they want to their own customers without fear of punishment or reprisal.

All is not lost, however.  Since the ruling was from the Court of Appeals, it’s not the end of the road.  For one thing, it can be taken to the United States Supreme Court to be possibly overturned.  Common sense says that the FCC’s fuzzy definitions are a result of technology outgrowing the language of the original Communications Act.  Having been written in 1934, it could not have predicted the existence of the Internet as a communications medium. For another, all the FCC has to do is to reclassify internet providers as common carriers, and suddenly their existing rules apply to the telecomms again, and all is well.

The current chairman of the FCC expressed his strongest statement to date on the importance of net neutrality and the responsibility of the FCC to preserve it just last week according to this article in the Washington Post, so they have a lot of fight left in them.  Don’t expect this to be over.

What happened today is the exploitation of a loophole in legislation that was written so long ago that voice operators were still connecting every single phone call by hand, plugging phone jacks into connection panels, one call at a time.  While today’s ruling looks bad – and make no mistake, it is very bad and has the potential of taking the internet away from the people that built it and giving it to the corporations – it’s not the end of the story by any means.  Good may yet triumph.  Writing your congress critter about the problem may not be a bad idea.

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Dec 062013
 
Nelson_Mandela-2008_(edit)

by Susan Fox, executive producer

Nelson Mandela has passed away on December 5, 2013,  at the age of 95.  We found that sci-fi fan favorite filker Tom Smith (“Filkertom”) had written a tribute to the first leader of South Africa to be elected in their first fully representative election since the abolition of apartheid in that country.

Indie musician Tom Smith, better known to the science fiction audience as “The World’s Fastest Filker,” watched the annular eclipse of the sun, complete with “Baily’s Beads” shining like a diamond ring over the northern US on May 10, 1994, the same day as the inauguration of President Nelson Mandela in South Africa, and was inspired to write a song incorporating the imagery of the pageantry of the heavens and the start of a new political era on Earth.

Please listen via the first link.

Links

 

Here’s Tom Smith’s appearance on Krypton Radio’s The Event Horizon:

 

 

Sep 072013
 

backupRibbonSexual harassment has become an increasingly disturbing trend at large fandom conventions.  Up to now, there hasn’t been a way for fans to protect themselves against sexual predation at the conventions – it’s important to be able to feel safe at these large gatherings, whether you’re female or male. The Backup Ribbon Project is a project to allow fans to back up each other at science fiction conventions and other geek gatherings. 

Backup Ribbon Project co-founder Tina Beychok joins us on tonight’s show, with guest panelists Dr. Rebecca Housel, the Pop Culture Professor, a vocal activist for women’s rights and safety at sci-fi conventions, and  Corsair’s Closet producer Kristine Cherry.

If you miss our episode of The Event Horizon, it will air again on Sunday, September 7, 2013 at 4PM PDT / 7PM EDT.

The Event Horizon - It’s Sci-Fi for your Wi-Fi!

By the way, if you like what you hear, please come to Facebook and “like” us, and/or follow us on Twitter. There’s so much more in the offing, and you won’t want to miss it – and of course, bookmark this page!

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Links