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Skewing old

Amazon released a Kindle 2.5 update this week. The big news about the software upgrade is that it finally includes support for collections—being able to group books based on some criteria. This is the functionality we’ve been asking for since the Kindle was first released. Great!

Great, except that the software upgrade is for Kindle 2 and DX owners, not the Kindle 1. Amazon seemingly perceives the Kindle 1 as an early, failed experiment, and Kindle 1 owners, early adopter guinea pigs who should be content with just being there in the beginning.

When Kindle 1 owners expressed disappointment in the Kindle owner discussion forums, we were told that this is the way it is; that companies don’t support old, obsolete equipment. Instead of bitching about the software update, we were told to upgrade to a shiny new Kindle DX. One wit even quipped that yes, he also wanted support for his Commodore 64.

Ignore for the moment that the Commodore 64 is 28 years old, and my Kindle 1 is a little over 2 years old…

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An obese Gina Lollobrigida

Things too good to pass up:

The Life Issue I checked out featured some fun ads, including one for a portable TV that looked like a tank, and one in the back by the American Petroleum Industry about the cheap cost of gas. The issue also featured stories of the time, including the recovery of a kitten washed out by a ocean wave, and the explosion of the world’s fastest seaplane.

The main focus of the issue, though, was on a story and photos of the beautiful Gina Lollobrigida, still considered one of the sexiest women of all time. The magazine covered her extensive wardrobe, and described how she created a catalog of our her outfits in order to make it simpler for her maid to fetch the correct one. She even drew pencil sketches of the outfits, annotating them with numbers so she could call and ask for the outfit by number.

The magazine described Ms. Lollobrigida as a perfect size 12. I choked at that, because in a recent discussion about “plus-size” models, several people accused a size 12 model of being “obese”. Something for James Fallows to consider in his ongoing series about obesity and America.

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Fly me to the moon

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

Today marks the 40th anniversary when a group of three men shook the dirt of this mud ball from their shoes, in order to plant their feet where no man has gone before. Today marks the anniversary of the take off of the Apollo 11.

You might be considering dusting off your version of “The Right Stuff” to honor the occasion, but I’d like to recommend another film, a gentle, quirky charmer from Australia, called The Dish.

The Dish is a semi-fictional, semi-biographical accounting of the part that the telescope at the Parkes Observatory in Australia played in the Apollo 11 mission. Late in the Apollo 11 planning mission, NASA officials decided to telecast the first moon steps via television, and the Parkes telescope, along with the telescope at Honeysuckle Creek, also in Australia, would be the primary receiving stations for the signals. They would then send these signals on to NASA in the US, which would, in turn, broadcast the show to the world.

The movie focuses on fictional members of the Parkes Observatory crew, and one individual from NASA, as well as the people in the town associated with the observatory. Though based on a real event, some of movie’s storyline was fictionalized for artistic purposes. However, much of the movie reflects history as it happened, including the gale force winds that kicked up just when the telescope was needed, putting both it and the people operating it at physical risk.

The cast of the movie includes Sam Neill as the leader of the Australian crew, ably assisted by Patrick Warburten as the NASA rep. In my opinion, though, the story line that takes place in Parkes, where Roy Billing plays mayor, was just as compelling.

No mad chases, no computer graphics, or robots that turn into cars. This is a movie about a telescope in the middle of a sheep paddoc. And it’s the story, ultimately, of Apollo 11, and how one single event made the world just a little smaller.

You can catch “The Dish” online at Amazon Video on Demand, iTunes, Netflix Watch Now, or wherever you get your DVDs. If you’re considering a double feature, you might also want to check out Space Cowboys, another charmer that doesn’t disappoint.

And in celebration of Apollo 11:

update Fascinating comment thread related to a review of the book “Rocket Men: The Epic Story of the First Men on the Moon”. Note that the Gene Kranz referenced in the thread is the Gene Kranz who was the flight director for the Apollo missions. He was played by Ed Harris in the movie, “Apollo 13”. Sometimes comments, even acrimonious comments, are like little snapshots of history.

Plus, irreverent look at the moon landing, by The Onion. And there’s a video, too. Neither is safe for work, kids. No, really, I mean it.

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Watching this week

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

Good times for science fiction fans. This week marks the return of the popular series, Eureka, on the newly named SyFy channel. No, not “see-fee”, “Sci Fi”.

This week also marks the debut of the new series, Warehouse 13. If you don’t have the SyFy channel on cable, the pilot for the show can be found at Hulu, at the SyFy show site, and also available, for free, in HD quality, at Amazon Video on Demand, and iTunes.

I watched the show using my Roku box and via Amazon VOD. The digital quality was excellent, the streaming more than sufficient.

Warehouse 13 is about a secret government-run warehouse in the badlands of South Dakota, which contains all manner of supernatural and super science oddities. The main characters are a mysterious woman, known as Mrs. Frederick (played by C. C. H. Pounder), who recruits members for an organization to locate, and bring back, whatever dangerous oddities still exist in the wild. The crew consists of Arthur “Artie” Nielsen (played by Saul Rubinek), the long time team member, who is newly joined by two Secret Service agents: Peter Lattimer (played by Eddie McClintock) and Myka Bering (played by Joanne Kelly). He’s loose, she’s uptight, and yes, this has been done before. However, they pull it off well, especially the Bering character. And Saul Rubinek is excellent in the show, taking his character, Artie, beyond the typical mad genius who is above emotional turmoil. The man gets mad, looses his cool, worries about people, but still manages to come off quirky, and fun.

The pilot has the team hunting the jeweled comb of Lucretia Borgia, allowing for a strong female protagonist, making a nice change from the typical science fiction program, with male or monster baddies.

Will you like Warehouse 13? If you like Steampunk, Eureka at its more serious, X-Files, at its lighter and quirkier moments, you’ll probably like Warehouse 13. At a minimum, you can check out the pilot for free.

Other things to watch this week:

  • Watching “Maxed Out” on Netflix Watch Now. “Maxed Out” is a documentary on the credit card business, and is both fascinating, and more than a little chilling. If you don’t have access to Netflix Watch Now, it’s also available as Amazon VOD, and on iTunes. Recommended.
  • Watching the Doctor Who special show, “The Next Doctor” via iTunes on my AppleTV. This show features the tenth Doctor Who, David Tennant, who will be ending his stint this year. A pity, too, as he was an excellent Doctor. Frankly, I’m not sure about the next, much younger Doctor. It’s an interesting experiment on the part of the series, but could backfire. Regardless, “The Next Doctor” is prime Doctor Who, and any Doctor fan will want to view it. It’s free for you folks in the UK. The rest of us will have to get it through iTunes, or via DVD or TV (BBC America).
  • Watching “The 3D Sun”, on Hulu. This 30 minute documentary put out by NASA covers Stereo, positioning satellites in parallel, equidistant from the earth, in order to provide a 3D look at the Sun’s activity. The show features excellent interviews, a nice overview of how the Sun’s activity impacts on the us, and wonderful visuals. Of course, what we’ve come to expect from NASA. If you can’t access Hulu, you can access the video at the STEREO Mission site. It’s also been released to theaters as 3D, but I hate the stupid glasses. Watch it on your computer instead.

    3d Sun

  • For all you old Star Trek fans, You can access shows at YouTube, as well as the CBS.com site, in addition to accessing on Watch Now, and on iTunes. In other words, there’s always some Star Trek to watch. It has to be better than watching the latest episode of “You Can Dance!”

Happy viewing.

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A new countdown to DTV

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

The switch to digital TV within the US will happen in less than three weeks. However, according to the Government run DTV web site, 42% of the TV broadcast market has already made the transition.

If you’re reading this page via the Internet, I’m guessing you’ve already made your DTV switch. However, just in case I’m wrong, or you have family or friends who don’t understand the DTV switch, the FCC has contracted with vendors to provide DTV support centers and events, which can be located in this DTV help center map. There are also DTV converter box coupons still available, though it’s probably too late to get the coupon before the conversion.

As for antennas, based on my own experience, I recommend the Terk HDTVa Indoor Amplified High-Definition Antenna. Once I installed it, I was able to pick up an additional 5 channels, and I’ve had a much more consistent signal from all the channels. It’s one of the larger indoor antennas, but the price is good (I purchased at Amazon, where it’s currently listed for $36.85), as is the performance.