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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.