Sunday, December 20, 2009

On the Bridge of the Enterprise

I just returned from a visit to the Tech Museum of Innovation in downtown San Jose, where I saw  StarTrek:  the Exhibition.  The StarTrek franchise, through four TV series and 9 movies, has become an iconic part of our culture, adding new terms to our language, and shaping our vision of the future.

The exhibition included costumes, props, video clips, and ship models that were actually used in filming the shows.  In addition, there was a replica of the bridge from the  original series, and a replica of the transporter room from the Next Generation.

Whether or not you consider yourself a "trekkie," it's hard to resist the appeal of seeing a phaser close up, peaking into Captain Picard's quarters, or sitting in Captain Kirk's seat on the bridge of the Enterprise.

Beam me up!

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

No Longer a Newspaper Subscriber

After decades of reading the San Jose Mercury News, I allowed my subscription to lapse this year.  A few weeks after it expired, a got a phone call from the Mercury News, "reminding" me that I hadn't renewed.

I said that I didn't intend to renew, and the caller politely asked me why.

I said, "The paper is thinner now than it's ever been, but the price keeps going up.  And I really don't read it much anymore.  I get most of my news online."

I expected the usual sales pitch...  perhaps an offer of a lower price, or some persuasive argument about the unique value of local papers.

Instead, the caller said sadly, "Oh OK.  Have a nice evening."

Perhaps he was just having a bad day.  Perhaps he would normally go into full "sales" mode, and fight for every last subscriber.  But I can't help thinking that, even for the people who still work for newspapers, the handwriting is on the wall.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Airships Return to Moffett

Some time back I wrote about the historic Hangar One at Sunnyvale's Moffett Field. Hangar One was home to the Navy airship Macon, until it was destroyed in a crash in 1935.

Now, almost 75 years later, there is once again an airship flying from Moffett Field.  The airship Eureka, operated by Airship Ventures, is housed in Moffett's Hangar Three.  The Eureka is a Zeppelin NT (for new technology) airship.  At 275 feet long, it is less than 1/3 the length of the Macon.

Airship Ventures offers sightseeing flights of Silicon Valley, Monterey, and San Francisco.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

The History of Coke Bottles

Here's a fun look at the evolution of the Coke bottle... one of the most iconic shapes in the world (Coca-Cola is the most widely recognized brand, worldwide).

For more info on the history of the Coke bottle, with lots of pictures, visit

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Sand Drawing... amazing "Performance Art"

Ukrainian artist Kseniya Simonova uses a lightbox and sand to tell a story - in this case, Germany's WW II invasion of the Ukraine. Nothing I can say will do justice to this amazing woman's art... take a few minutes to watch it for yourself!

(Blogger 'crops' the embedded video on the right side - you can see the original at

Friday, August 21, 2009

Musical Highways

You may have seen the Honda TV commercial showing a car driving over a grooved stretch of road. The vibrations induced by the grooves of the road produced a passable rendition of the William Tell Overture.

Soon after the commercial was shot, local residents began complaining about the noise and traffic, and the city council decided to pave over the grooves. However, the small town was reluctant to lose a potential tourist attraction, and has since created a new "musical highway" on a more remote stretch of road.

Musical highways, or melody roads, are nothing new in other parts of the world. There are at least three in Japan, as well as others in South Korea and Denmark

Friday, August 07, 2009

Go Fly a Flyke

British IT teacher John Carverhas just embarks on an 800 mile journey from Land's End, Cornwall, to John o' Groats, Scotland - at the far tip of the United Kingdom.

What makes this trip unusual is that Carver will be traveling by Flyke... a propeller-driven tricycle suspended from a paraglider canopy. The Flyke can travel at over 20 miles per hour, buts need to land for refueling every two hours. Carver will pause at campgrounds along the way, and plans to take three to four week to complete his journey.

If successful, he will set a record for the longest journey by Trike. He also hopes to raise more that £10,000 ($16,750) for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation through sponsorships and donations.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Fun with 3-D

Click the image to enlarge

I've recently gotten into 3-D images... the old-fashioned technology that requires special glasses with red and cyan (or orange and blue) lenses.

These images are called anaglyphs, and they create a stereoscopic 3D effect when viewed with 2 color glasses (each lens a chromatically opposite color, usually red and cyan).

It's pretty easy to produce anaglyphs like the one shown here using a digital camera, and an image manipulation program like PhotoShop.

If you need 3-D glasses, here are some places that will send you a free sample:,, and

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

PEZ Lawsuit Leaves Sour Taste

Since 1995, the Museum of Pez Memorabilia has operated from a small storefront in Burlingame, California. The quirky museum, which features displays of virtually every Pez dispenser ever made, plus posters, comics, and marketing materials, has become a Mecca for collectors of the candy dispensers.

Now, however, the museum is being sued by the Pez company for copyright violation. The charges are based on a giant model of a classic "snowman" dispenser, which the museum's owners had made as an in-store display.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Unique Historic Structure may be Lost

Yes, there are many, many historic structures endangered by neglect. But you have to admit, Hangar One at Sunnyvale's Moffett Field is pretty exceptional.

This enormous structure, which covers more than 8 acres, was built to house the USS Macon, a Navy scouting and recon dirigible. The Macon itself was pretty exceptional - it was one of the largest helium airships ever built, and actually carried five Sparrowhawk biplanes, making it the world's only flying aircraft carrier!

The Macon crashed in 1953, after less than two years of service.

The historic Hangar One may become a victim of budget battles between the US Navy and NASA. The structure needs a costly environmental clean-up, and in these days of tight budgets, nobody has been willing to commit to the costs of restoration and maintenance.

For more about the structure and the battle to preserve it, visit

Monday, June 22, 2009

SteamPunk Macintosh

There's something wonderfully demented about modifying a state-of-the-art computer to look like it was built in the 1800's. Kudos to Dave Veloz for his beautiful Mac Mini conversion.

Read more about this project (and see lots of great photos) at the Steampunk Workshop website.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Word Oddities

I'm always intrigued by unusual words, or word trivia. Here are a couple:

A reflexive verb is one in which the subject and object are the same. In English, I've heard there is just one verb that can only be used reflexively: perjure. (You can perjure yourself, but you can't perjure someone else.)

Let me know if you can think of another example.

And here's an unusual word I hadn't heard before: bespoke, meaning "custom made." The term originally referred to custom suits and clothing, but is now applied to other luxury, hand-made goods. (Thanks to Michael's Custom Suits and Clothing of Los Angeles.)