Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Beware Flying Concrete and Moon Dust

"Watch Out for Flying Moondust" is an interesting NASA article on the dangers of rocket-propelled debris. On Earth that can mean hurtling boulders of concrete. On the Moon it means high-speed dust. It turns-out that the dust is the trickier problem.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Rockin’ the Saturn V

A bit of the (intentionally?) lost history of the Apollo program comes to light, complete with video.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Now Showing in Germany

Today, the contemporary art exhibition "BITTE FOLGEN - Projekt Elisabet Ney 2008" opens in the town gallery of Münster, Germany. Included in the exhibit are seven of the sculpture anaglyphs that I assembled back in 2002 from photos I took at the Elizabet Ney Museum here in Austin, Texas. I'm pleased that the artists group that assembled the show, and Elke Seppmann in particular, chose to include my work. I wish them success with their show.

January 26th is Elizabet Ney's 175th birthday. It will be marked by a party at the exhibition and by the opening of a separate exhibit at the town museum. The show runs, if I've interpreted the German-language invitation correctly, until the 29th of this month. From there, it will move on to two other town galleries in Münsterland. Those of us who can't nip off to Germany to have a look first-hand, can get some of the flavor of the exhibition from its associated web site, which is also used as the means to display my anaglyphs in the show.

©2008 Elke Seppmann©2008 Elke Seppmann
Elizabet Ney by Elizabet Ney, 1863. ©2002 Chris W. JohnsonSam Houston by Elizabet Ney, 1892. ©2002 Chris W. Johnson

I am grateful and amused that the copyright notices they've placed on my images refer to me as "Dr. Chris Johnson", thereby awarding me a doctorate that, for the record, I don't have. I'm a great believer in the importance of education, and I've devoted my adult life to The University of Texas at Austin, but, ironically, as a pupil, the educational system and I never got along. Looking back, I should have known that I was in trouble when, at some uncertain point in my early elementary school years, I failed a test due to the question: "Can fish fly?" I answered "yes", knowing damn well that some fish can fly, having read a children's book about the voyage of Magellan, which included mention of flying fish. I raised the issue with my teacher and was told that she was right and I was wrong, and that was that. Fish cannot fly, even if some of them do. My journey through the educational system was pretty much all downhill from there.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Random Friends from the Holidays

Most of my holidays were devoted to work on Qwicap, especially its nascent, optional-extra AJAX-based features. The work was painful (I thought Javascript was a bad idea from the moment I first encountered it, and—the success of AJAX-based web applications notwithstanding—my opinion of it hasn't improved), but those features are now working well in the Firefox and Safari browsers. I don't think the features are at the point where they can be enabled by default, but they are promising. Because I don't have convenient access to Internet Explorer (no Mac version, and even when there was a Mac version, it was too different from the Windows version to be a testing substitute), the code hasn't been tested against that. Internet Explorer being the non-standards-compliant disaster area that it is, I expect it will present problems. Given that Qwicap is 100% functional without these experimental AJAX features, or any Javascript at all, I'm not sure that supporting a non-standards-compliant browser is worth significant extra work, even if it is bundled with most of the computers in the world.

All that aside, when I wasn't working on Qwicap, I did find time during the holidays to see a number of friends, and even wound-up with a few pictures that're worth showing-off....

Susan in a Spacesuit. ©2007 by whoever took the photo.Susan in a Spacesuit. ©2007 by whoever took the photo.

Old friend Susan Karasoff, who I've known for more than thirty years, models a real, next-generation ACES (advanced crew escape suit) spacesuit, intended for use in the Orion CEV (crewed exploration vehicle). She was working on the suit proposal for Harris and unexpectedly found herself with an opportunity to try on their suit. She couldn't resist, and very sensibly had photos taken. I, of course, am seriously jealous. The fact that she was in Houston in order to work on the proposal meant that we crossed-paths for the first time in years.

Sallie, Owl and Bambergers. ©2008 Chris W. JohnsonWestern screech owl. ©2008 Chris W. Johnson

Other friends. From left to right, Sallie Delahoussaye, Margaret Bamberger and David Bamberger. (Margaret looks a lot healthier when she isn't motion-blurred, as she is here.) The owl is, oddly enough, a western screech owl (Megascops kennicottii), who was found injured in south Austin. Either the western screeches have expanded their range a lot, or this bird had a very strange life even before it was hit on the head with a car. (Or this isn't a western screech owl, after all.) In any case, after recovering from the head injury that had landed it in Sallie's care, she decided to find it a safer home, and the Bamberger Ranch inevitably sprang to mind. As luck would have it, a few phone calls provided us with permission to release the owl at the ranch, and an invitation to new-year's dinner with David and Margaret. (My own reason for being there was installing software updates on Margaret's Mac, but that's a lot less interesting, and photo-worthy, than the owl.) The owl was released near a creek, the dinner was delicious, and the fire and company were warm. Best new-year's day I can remember.