24 March 2013

Calibre e-book management

Calibre is a free and open source e-book library management application developed by users of e-books for users of e-books. It has a cornucopia of features divided into the following main categories:

- Library Management
- E-book conversion
- Syncing to e-book reader devices
- Downloading news from the web and converting it into e-book form
- Comprehensive e-book viewer
- Content server for online access to your book collection

The best e-book management and conversion software on the market. And it's totally FREE!

Click HERE to check it out.

My Calibre library can sometimes be found HERE.

22 March 2013

Solutions to the Fermi Paradox

Where are all our galactic neighbors that probability says must be out there?

Most people take it for granted that we have yet to make contact with an extraterrestrial civilization. Trouble is, the numbers don’t add up. Our Galaxy is so old that every corner of it should have been visited many, many times over by now. No theory to date has satisfactorily explained away this Great Silence, so it’s time to think outside the box. Here are eleven of the weirdest solutions to the Fermi Paradox.

There's no shortage of solutions to the Fermi Paradox. The standard ones are fairly well known, and we’re not going to examine them here, but they include the Rare Earth Hypothesis (the suggestion that life is exceptionally rare), the notion that space travel is too difficult, or the distances too vast, the Great Filter Hypothesis (the idea that all sufficiently advanced civilizations destroy themselves before going intergalactic), or that we’re simply not interesting enough.

But for the purposes of this discussion, we’re going to look at some of the more bizarre and arcane solutions to the Fermi Paradox. Because sometimes it takes a weird explanation to answer a weird question. So, as Enrico Fermi famously asked, “Where is everybody?”

Read the full article at iO9.com HERE.

09 March 2013

MUSIC: Lost in the New Real - Arjen Anthony Lucassen

What: Album - Lost in the New Real
Who: Arjen Anthony Lucassen
When: 2012

Lost in the New Real is the latest solo album from Arjen Anthony Lucassen - and it's pretty damn good. A 2 CD set of awesome tracks in the progressive rock/crossover prog genre, with a cast of incredible musicians. Arjen does the lead vocals himself on this album which is unusual for his work. He's got a very good voice and it works well with this material.

As is standard for Mr. Lucassen, it's a concept album with a science fiction-esque theme and t
he story follows Mr. L, a twenty-first century man who was cryo-preserved at the moment of clinical death from a terminal disease. The album begins as Mr. L is being revived at a point in the distant future, when technology has advanced enough to cure his disease. Mr. L finds himself in a world that has drastically changed - to the point that the line between what’s real and what’s not is no longer clear.

Mr. L’s appointed psychological advisor (voiced by Rutger Hauer) is tasked with helping him emotionally adapt to this strange new world. The story follows his emotional journey as he is confronted with both serious and comical aspects of the “New Real”, and desperately tries to decide if he can find a meaningful place within it.

There's some wonderful lyrics and great song titles such as "Pink Beatles in a Purple Zeppelin", "Dr. Slumber’s Eternity Home" and "You Have Entered the Reality Zone" along with some of Lucassen's unique interpretation of 5 great cover tracks, and these fit into the story line very well. I particularly like his chunky and haunting rendition of Pink Floyd's "Welcome to the Machine".

All of the material (with the exception of the covers, of course) was written solely by Lucassen.

Click HERE for more info about the album from Lucassen's website and HERE for a good review of the album on YouTube.

An excellent album that I've enjoyed listening to quite a few times now.


07 March 2013

STORY: A Positive Alien Encounter

Here's a flash-fiction story from 365 tomorrows that I think is quite cool...

A Positive Alien Encounter
J.D. Rice

There’s an alien in my kitchen, and I’m not quite sure what to do. My wife stands by the stove, humming quietly to herself while chopping away at some vegetables for the stew. My son sits at the table next to the alien, trying to teach it how to play his favorite card game, but I don’t think it understands. Its big, blue head just nods along an awkward imitation of our own mannerisms, its big, dark eyes looking back and forth between my son and the little pieces of paper he’s setting down on the table. Meanwhile, my dog sits curiously at the base of the alien’s chair, sniffing at its dangling feet.

And here I am, standing the doorway, briefcase in hand, with no idea what to make of the situation.

“Honey…” I say, walking slowly and methodically around the outer edge of the kitchen, keeping my distance from the alien. “Tell me again where you found it?”

“I already told you,” she says, still smiling at her chopped vegetables. “He was out in the garden. Poor little thing is all alone and hungry.”

“How can you even KNOW that?” I ask, my strained voice betraying my attempts at remaining calm. “Why is it in our house?”

“He’s hungry,” my wife says again, using her knife and hand to dump the finished vegetables into the pot of hot water on the stove. “I can’t turn away a stranger in need.”

“A stranger in… you can’t… it’s…”

But words really do fail me. My son is now trying desperately to get the alien to play a game of cards with him, grabbing the alien’s four-fingered hands and practically stuffing cards into them. I almost call out for my son not to touch it, but I know it’d be futile. They all seem to think this is perfectly normal.

“Why don’t you sit down and have some soup,” my wife says. “It’ll be ready in a few minutes.”

“I… I’m calling the police,” I finally manage to say. “We can’t keep him here. This is absolutely ridiculous.”

“He’s just hungry,” my wife says again in a sing-song voice. “Just have a seat and we can call the police after.”

“No,” I say, more definitively. “I’m calling them now. We don’t know what this thing is or what it could mean to the world. We can’t keep him here.”

Suddenly my wife’s hand shoots out, grabbing my wrist and forcing it down into the counter top with freakish strength.

“No.” she says again, all joy having left her voice. I stare up at her, eyes wide, and watch as she slowly raises the knife over her head. “He’s just hungry.”

Before I get a chance to scream, the knife drives into my chest, piercing my heart and sending blood gurgling into my throat. As my body hits the floor, my family doesn’t move, not even the dog. My body twitches, once, twice, then goes still as the feeling leaves my limbs. Just as my vision starts to fade, I see the alien stand up from its seat at the kitchen table, kneel over my body, and sniff at my blood as it flows steadily from my chest..

“Ah…” a voice says in my head. “A-Positive, just what I needed. I’m really sorry about this, but I was simply famished.”

04 March 2013

E-books or 'real' books?

Paper or electronic? We can have both.

Sometimes I think that it is just as well that we're going to more and more digital format books these days. At least they don't take up as much room. I can't imagine what my library would look like if I had as many paper books as I do e-books. Most people I know who are avid readers are now utilizing the electronic formats more and more. I guess you can't stop change.

That said, the worldwide trade for 'real books', ie. paper books is still huge - as the following news article suggests:
From the start, e-book purchases have skewed disproportionately toward fiction, with novels representing close to two-thirds of sales. Digital best-seller lists are dominated in particular by genre novels, like thrillers and romances. Screen reading seems particularly well-suited to the kind of light entertainments that have traditionally been sold in supermarkets and airports as mass-market paperbacks.
These are, by design, the most disposable of books. We read them quickly and have no desire to hang onto them after we've turned the last page. We may even be a little embarrassed to be seen reading them, which makes anonymous digital versions all the more appealing. The "Fifty Shades of Grey" phenomenon probably wouldn't have happened if e-books didn't exist.
Readers of weightier fare, including literary fiction and narrative nonfiction, have been less inclined to go digital. They seem to prefer the heft and durability, the tactile pleasures, of what we still call "real books"—the kind you can set on a shelf.
E-books, in other words, may turn out to be just another format—an even lighter-weight, more disposable paperback. That would fit with the discovery that once people start buying digital books, they don't necessarily stop buying printed ones. In fact, nearly 90% of e-book readers continue to read physical volumes. The two forms seem to serve different purposes.
Source: WSJ: Don't Burn Your Books—Print Is Here to Stay

Whatever the medium, there is something very, very addictive about books. They are still proving to be one of the best ways to present information, whether it be a story or facts & figures, etc. For me, reading delivers an experience like no other.

Yes, I'm a book geek, and I couldn't be happier about it!

02 March 2013

Teletubbies - pure EVIL!

Tinky Winky, Dipsy, Laa-Laa and Po are four brightly colored aliens whose sole mission is to occupy the minds of toddlers and begin their process of becoming mindless slaves of the television. They are a fever dream come to terrifying, Technicolor life; their dead, black eyes are belied by the TV sets in their stomachs, which frequently displays the souls of the actual children they have abducted. Also, according to their opening credits, they have set a baby's head on fire and are using it as their sun.