Texas: The Big State

I have a deep love for The Lone Star State. Every inch of Texas feels like home to me. I was born in Texas, and I would prefer to be buried there.

It’s a place that is seemingly boundless in resources, kindness and wholesome kinships (for those unaware, the state motto is simply, friendship). I advise everyone to take a road trip sometime through the heartland of Texas via its highway arteries: I-35, I-30, I-20, I-45 and I-10 and befriend some Texans in far-away places. There are so many treasures that dot the landscape in pretty much any direction. Buc-ee’s, Whataburgers, kolaches, and breweries and all! Texas has thick forests, wide canyons, rocky mountains, wild rivers, deserts, beaches, thousands of gigantic lakes, farms, big cities, sleepy towns, historic sites and BBQ like you wouldn’t believe.

Texas also has a history unlike any other state in the union. One might say that turmoil, drama, oil, entertainment and entrepreneurship are the tenets of Texan culture. Speaking of entertainment — enter Dallas SMU’s G. William Jones Film & Video Collection. It has a remarkable video/film archive. Within its vast collection are film prints, tapes, reels, and television tapes. The archive was originally known as the Southwest Film/Video Archives, but was later renamed after its founder Dr. William Jones. Yesterday, they posted a new video, highlighting Texas treasures and culture from 1952:

This film in particular is interesting. It was produced by The Dudley Pictures Corporation. The motion picture company takes its name from the esteemed and legendary travelogue producer, Carl Dudley. The company completed a number of remarkable and charming travelogues which have been compiled into a handy YouTube playlist here. The playlist description reads:

Carl Dudley was best known for his 1958 production of Cinerama’s South Seas Adventure, but throughout his career produced more than 300 “travel adventures” as he preferred to call travelogues. Dudley was born in 1910 in Little Rock, Arkansas aboard his father’s Ward & Wade Minstrels Show train. In 1935, inspired by seeing the film Mutiny on the Bounty, he traveled to Tahiti, Australia and India, supporting himself by working on film crews. He landed back in Hollywood in the late 1930’s and worked briefly as a screenwriter. In 1944 he started Dudley Pictures Corp which produced the series This World of Ours and This Land of Ours for theatrical and educational distribution. He died of a heart attack in Hong Kong on September 2, 1973.

Without further distractions, here’s Texas: The Big State (skip to 13:18 for Fort Worth and TCU)

5 True Tales of Manhattan

Lorri Cramer, is a New Yorker who re-habilitates turtles in her Upper West Side apartment. The last Cuban-Chinese restaurant (La Caridad 78) in Manhattan. The best Jazz in NYC can be heard in Marjorie Eliot’s apartment in Harlem every Sunday. New York can be a tough place for the birds — meet the city’s only bird clinic called the Wild Bird Fund. Lastly, NYC can be lonely, Mr. Jones Supper Club aims to solve that problem.

100 Drone Light Show

Firefly is a company focused on delivering highly choreographed drone shows for venues, performances and entertainment. It takes a lot of time and money to get FAA certified these days for piloting a single drone. Programming a fleet of these is really remarkable, and takes some serious planning and skill. If you ask me, this much much cooler than a fireworks show.

A Lab-made Primordial Soup Yields RNA Bases

Looks like Stanley Miller and Harold Urey were onto something with their experiments back in 1952. Their classic abiogenesis research continues to be refined in a new experiment spearheaded by Thomas Carrell. From Nature:

Carell, an organic chemist, and his collaborators have now demonstrated a chemical pathway that — in principle — could have made A, U, C and G (adenine, uracil, cytosine and guanine, respectively) from basic ingredients such as water and nitrogen under conditions that would have been plausible on the early Earth. The reactions produce so much of these nucleobases that, millennium after millennium, they could have accumulated in thick crusts, Carell says. His team describes the results in Science on 3 October1.

The results add credence to the ‘RNA world’ hypothesis, says Carell, who is at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich in Germany. This idea suggests that life arose from self-replicating, RNA-based genes — and that only later did organisms develop the ability to store genetic information in the molecule’s close relative, DNA. The chemistry is also a “strong indication” that the appearance of RNA-based life was not an exceedingly lucky event, but one that is likely to happen on many other planets, he adds.

The results, are essential to the Hot Spring Hypothesis and the origin of complex life on Earth. Pretty awesome!

FarmWise, and the Rise of the Agribots

From TechCrunch:

Automating agriculture is a complex proposition given the number and variety of tasks involved, but a number of robotics and autonomy companies are giving it their best shot. FarmWise  seems to have impressed someone — it just raised $14.5 million to continue development of its autonomous weeding vehicle.

Currently in the prototype stage, these vehicles look like giant lumbering personnel carriers or the like, but are in fact precision instruments which scan the ground for invasive weeds among the crop and carefully pluck them out.

A pretty impressive, lumbering, weed-pulling, beast-of-a-prototype. It looks like an absolute unit too:

Image: FarmWise

These sorts of bots have became very well known in the auto industry, the textiles industry, and now they’re coming to agriculture. Simply put, they’re designed to replace mundane awful tasks previously occupied by human hands. In the long-scheme of things, this is a good thing. Not-so-fun jobs should be automated. Improving the quality of life for mankind is a good thing.

But, if you think your job can’t be automated, think again. We have robots writing headlines and blog posts, self-writing their own programs, nailing roof tiles, and just about everything else (questionable or otherwise) in-between. That may sound really scary (and it is a little bit). The long-arc of these sorts of innovations will make create abundance with little effort, and will ultimately lead to a world where a majority the human-race are unemployable. I won’t claim to know the solution to that problem, but is an unavoidable outcome (see below) we should debate and talk about more freely, because it’s happening faster than you think.

I’m serious about the nail-gun wielding roofing-robot. It’s really something to behold:

Further Watching:

If you have 15 minutes and you’re convinced your job can’t be occupied by automation, I urge you to watch CGP Grey’s film, Humans Need Not Apply. It’s a gripping must-watch short.

The Mask of Sorrow

Image via Wikipedia, Сергей Ковалев

From Wikipedia:

[The Mask of Sorrow] is a monument perched on a hill above MagadanRussia, commemorating the many prisoners who suffered and died in the Gulag prison camps in the Kolyma region of the Soviet Union during the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s. […]

It consists of a large concrete statue of a face, with tears coming from the left eye in the form of small masks. The right eye is in the form of a barred window. The back side portrays a weeping young woman and a headless man on a cross. Inside is a replication of a typical Stalin-era prison cell. Below the Mask of Sorrow are stone markers bearing the names of many of the forced-labor camps of the Kolyma, as well as others designating the various religions and political systems of those who suffered there.

Lost at 15

From SyFy Wire:

What separated Lost from the pack is that it had compelling characters, a great cast, and an enticing mystery that invited fans to solve it. Lost was one of the first shows to embrace AR storytelling, which has now become ubiquitous. Other networks, and even ABC itself, tried to recreate Lost‘s magic formula … and have yet to find a way to recapture that lightning in a bottle.

But all good things come to an end, and that’s the biggest problem some people have with Lost: the ending. It must have been impossible to craft a conclusion that would please everyone, but the Lost finale was unusually divisive. Some even claimed that it retroactively ruined the show for them. We wouldn’t go that far. If the Lost finale had truly been that bad, we wouldn’t still be talking about the show’s beautifully convoluted mythology a decade and a half later.

LOST was monumentally epic (just read through some of the comments on this forum thread at MacRumous, classic). It had a mythology that captivated millions (and continues to do so to this day). It was ahead of its time, inspired countless sci-fi series, horror anthologies, films, and kicked Bad Robot Productions into override to produce sleeper hits such as, 10 Cloverfield Lane. It led Abrams to the directorial helm in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Lastly, until HBO’s Game of Thrones, LOST previously held the contrarian title of worse series finale ever.

LOST was and continues to be so important to me. I think I might be overdue for a re-watch. We have to go back…

16.6M Personal Details of Ecuadorians Leaked Online

From Forbes:

Some 20.8 million records, within 18GB of data, were exposed on an unsecured server located in Miami, Florida, which appears to be owned by an Ecuadorian company, according to the researchers. The entire population of Ecuador is 16.6 million; the difference can be accounted for by way of duplicated records and others which are not related to citizens of the South American country.

Terrible news. You read that correctly. The entire population of Ecuador has now been put at risk of identity theft. This was about on par with the Experian Breach that exposed 15M consumers accounts which including social security numbers and tax information.

At this point, the entire country of Ecuador should declare identity bankruptcy (that should be a thing), and re-issue everyone new personal identification secrets and give everyone affected notice. Oddly enough, this leaked private information also included Ecuador’s favorite squatter, Julian Assange.