General Archive

Monday, October 29, 2007

A Note About the Amazon Links

If anybody looks around this blog and my main website, they may notice that I've begun putting more links to Amazon. Yes, I will earn a bit of money if you buy something after clicking on those links. I debated putting the links up, because it seemed an awful lot like advertising which would cheapen this site. But, I figured that since I'm only linking to books that I'd normally be writing about, anyway, that it's not so bad. I could look at it as providing a service, offering people a way to buy the books, instead of having to go search through Amazon on their own. It's not like I'm using Google AdSense or something obnoxious like that. So, I feel justified in putting those links on my site.

If anyone's curious, I've always had a small link at the bottom of my Autogyros page. I think in all the years that I've had my website, I've earned enough comission to buy two books from Amazon, so it's not exactly a huge profit making enterprise. I'm hoping that putting more links on my blog might get me a little more, maybe enough to buy a book per year, if I'm lucky. But it's certainly not anywhere near enough to pay the Web Hosting company that serves this site, or the yearly fee for my domain name, so my website's still a net loss, financially (but definitely worth the cost, as a fun hobby).

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

5 Degrees to Kevin Bacon

Modern Marvels Screenshot 1Modern Marvels Screenshot 2Last week, I had my 9 seconds of fame. Carter Aviation Technologies was featured in a segment of Modern Marvels on the History Channel, and they actually used some of the footage they shot that had me in it. Between one scene talking to my boss, and another looking past the back of my head to see what was on my computer screen, I was on screen for about 9 seconds all together.

So, now that I've been on TV, and my boss has been in several documentaries, I can count my degrees to Kevin Bacon (technically, I was very briefly in another documentary a few years ago, but it was so brief you had to pause the video to make me out). Anyway, here goes:

Jeff Lewis -> Jay Carter, Modern Marvels
Jay Carter -> Bob Simon, 60 Minutes
Bob Simon -> Larry King, Larry King Live
Larry King -> David Hayman, The Jackal
David Hayman -> Kevin Bacon, Where the Truth Lies

So, I've got a Bacon number of 5. (Yeah, I realize documentaries and news aren't exactly the kosher way to do it, but that's the only way I can.)

Modern Marvels Screenshot 1Modern Marvels Screenshot 2Added 2007-10-01: Well, I was in a hurry when I wrote this entry originally, and there are two things I'd like to add. First, I wasn't the only one to get some screen time. A few other co-workers who aren't normally in documentaries also got their chance to call up relatives about being on TV. (That shot where they're all walking out of the trailer took 3 takes to get it just right.)

I also wanted to add that we all thought the documentary was very good. Carter Aviation Technologies has been in other documentaries before. Sometimes it's such a short mention that it's hardly worth it, and sometimes the documentary makers just get things wrong. But Modern Marvels did a very good job of explaining our concept.

Friday, September 14, 2007

No New Entries

Well, once again I've been so busy responding to comments in previous entries, that I haven't had time to make a new standalone entry this week. But, I think my two responses in those threads are pretty good, so read them if you're interested.

I've decided to slightly modify my update per week goal. I will still try to post an update per week, but if I make a change to my main website, the entry where I describe that will count towards meeting my goal (I used to not count the Website Updates as a real blog entry towards my goal). It's all to do with the limited amount of time I have to work on this - it's mostly during lunch breaks at work, after all. So, if I take the time to modify my main site, I figure that's enough effort put toward the online world for that week. And hey, it's still new content that I've come up with being advertised on the blog. It's better than simply posting links to other people's web pages.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Highest Form of Flattery

Imitation may be the highest form of flattery, but plagiarism irks me a little bit. Look at these pages:

aerodynamics of the autogyro
how autogyros work

Now, look at my autogyro page:
Autogyro History and Theory

Notice anything familiar? (Hint, hint: look at the diagrams that somebody must have spent hours creating, and the text that somebody wrote to explain them.)

Why do people do that? I mean, all they have to do is ask. I've never told anybody that they couldn't use any of the information from this site, just that they give me credit for it and a link. It especially irks me that that the second of those pages is copyrighted. Don't go around copyrighting plagiarism!

Oh well, I sent them an e-mail. Hopefully my name and a link to my site will show up there pretty soon.


Update 2007-08-30
Well, the problem's been taken care of. There's now a note at the top of each of those pages, giving me credit and linking to my site. In response to my original e-mail, I received a reply from someone named John, telling me that a lot of the work on those sites was done as student projects. The students were warned not to plagiarize, but, alas, this seems to have snuck through. I can't say it's the first time. I've run across websites plagiarizing me before, and it usually turns out to be student projects. I wonder, just what type of software is out there for professors to detect plagiarism. Actually, a quick Google search found TurnItIn.com. I guess the challenge now is getting more professors to use it.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Being Happy with When I Am

I've often longed to be able to travel through time. There are so many things I want to know, so many things I want to see. I mean, can you imagine seeing a real live Tyrannosaurus? How about a pterodactyl? But sometimes, I just look around me at the world, and we've got plenty to marvel at now.

I mean, sure, I may never see an allosaurus attacking a brontosaurus (yes, I know, apatosaurs is the proper scientific name, but it'll always be a brontosaurus to me), but I can still watch a group of 7 ton predators attacking 100 ton prey (actually, blue whales can get up to 180 tons, but I'm not sure if orcas will still go after one that big). And I can see various flying animals that spend months, or even years, in the air without ever coming down to land. And how about an animal with a proboscis so well developed that it has around 40,000 individual muscles, sensitive enough to pluck a single blade of grass, but strong enough to rip apart trees.

My longing to visit the past isn't just about natural wonders - there are plenty of human accomplishments I'd like to see, too, like the Hanging Gardens, or to be alive during the golden age of aviation, and to think how exciting it must have been to see that revolutionary technology developing in front of my eyes. But you know what, we have some pretty damned good engineering marvels in the modern world, like the Sydney Opera House, or the Chunnel, or even just about any major sports stadium. I mean, not that I'm a big Dallas fan, but take a look at the new Cowboys Stadium. And you want to talk about living through the emergence of a radical technology - just look at computers and the Internet. When I was a kid, I was shocked to learn that my grandmother grew up without electricity. My grand kids will be just as shocked to learn that I can remember my family's first computer, and that it was years after that before we got Internet (and by modem!). When you look at it that way, these are exciting times we're living in.

And as much as I'd like to travel into the past to learn things, I'd just as much like to go to the future, to learn the answers to the questions I know won't be answered in my lifetime, like if there's any other life out there, and what it might be like. But we know a lot right now. I've read Darwin's Origin of Species, and I'm currently reading The Voyage of the Beagle. And one of the things I think is so fascinating, is to see the questions people had then, the things they would have wanted to travel to the future to learn, and to know that I'm living in the age when they've been answered. Like genetics - Darwin and Mendel knew that there had to be something that passed on traits from organisms to their offspring, but they had no idea what it was. You can tell by reading Origin that Darwin was really groping around in the dark on this. But we've discovered DNA. We know what it is, and the basics of how it works. And every day, we're learning more and more about it. And plate tectonics! That's another one that jumped out at me reading the Voyage of the Beagle. Darwin discussed how he found fossilized sea creatures on land, and how it indicated how the land must have been moving, but he had couldn't have known how it all happened. Now we do.

One of the biggest reasons I'd like to be in the future is space travel. I would absolutely love to be in zero gravity, to see the Earth from that far away, to travel to other planets, but I know it's something that realistically won't happen in my lifetime. But, just 150 years ago, people thought the same thing about flying. I know flying has become so commonplace today, that most people aren't too excited by it, and some people fly so often they even get downright annoyed. But just think about how amazing it is. For thousands of years, probably at least tens of thousands of years, and maybe even hundreds of thousands of thousands of years if earlier hominids were creative enough, we have looked to the skies and dreamt of flying like the birds, to have the freedom to go wherever we wanted. It's been in legends, myths, da Vinci's notebooks, but we'd never been able to accomplish it until just about 100 years ago. And now, I can go to the airport, rent a plane, and for a few hours live out the dreams of all of those ancestors, soar like a bird, and look down at the Earth from above the clouds.

So while I'll keep on wondering about all those things from the past that have been forever lost to time, and dreaming about the future and all the possibilities, I can't help but be awestruck by the world around me in the present, and be happy to be when I am.

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