The Future: Sometimes It’s Fucking Awesome

A female astronaut living aboard ISS and a semi-retired British folk-rockstar (travelling in Russia at the time) perform a flute duet in honour of the 50th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s first manned space flight. NASA then posts a video of the event on YouTube.

Link to YouTube link, for after Planet Ubuntu gets done killing the video embed. Seriously, go watch this, it’s only two minutes long. Two minutes of awesome.

Excellent Little Apps: PDF-Shuffler

Rummaging through my blogposts related to Ubuntu, too many of them are grumbling or complaining posts. We forget about the awesome stuff in Ubuntu because it Just Works; it’s the stuff that’s broken or that we dislike that consumes our attention.

So, let us now praise excellent little apps. There’s a Unix/Linux tradition of apps that do one job, and do it well, and that has continued into the desktop/GUI era.

I’ll start with PDF-Shuffler. All it does is merge & break apart PDFs, but it does it very intuitively, with a UI consisting of four buttons and a main screen. You can even drag’n’drop between two different PDF-Shuffler windows.

I use PDF-Shuffler regularly as an adjunct to Inkscape, which can produce PDF very easily but has (so far) no mechanism for multi-page documents (this is an SVG-spec issue, not just an Inkscape issue). PDF-Shuffler makes blending a group of single-page PDFs from Inkscape into one document for publishing painless and brainless.

A recent project involved a mostly-text six page PDF created in OpenOffice and four graphic-heavy single page PDFs from Inkscape. Rather than chance OOo’s SVG import, or hack about with Scribus (a very powerful app, but not one I use enough to be fluent with), PDF-Shuffler allowed me to merge Inkscape’s high quality PDFs with the OOo text PDF.

I can’t promise this will become an entirely regular feature, but I want to do a bit more blogging on the smaller, more elegant, often forgotten apps and features available in Ubuntu. If nothing else, it’s a change from complaining!

Automotive Entitlement Revisited

Back in September of 2009, a cyclist was killed by a motorist in Toronto; I blogged about the beginning of the mess in Automotive Entitlement (Again).

Now the Guardian tells us Top Canadian lawyer told he will not face trial over Toronto cyclist’s death, while the CBC’s headline is Charges against Bryant in fatal crash withdrawn.

Even better, and even more flagrant, road-raging Bryant is considering a return to politics. Anyone running against Mr. Bryant would be well advised not to show up at political events on a bike.

So the moral of the story, folks: killing someone with your car doesn’t even need to be more than an eight-month interuption to your political career. It was only a bicyclist, after all. People who matter drive cars.

Seasonal(ish) Links

Tis the season, and all that…

The Big Picture started their 2009 Hubble Space Telescope Advent Calendar back on December 1st. (I’m of the opinion that the Hubble Space Telescope is the greatest public art project ever undertaken. The science is a bonus.)

The HP Lovecraft Historical Society does excellent mock-carols on Cthulhuish themes. Here’s a Youtube vid of Death To The World.

Bartender/blogger Jeffrey Morgenthaler has a excellent eggnog recipe. Easy, quick and yummy. Suggestion: cut the amount of sugar in the recipe in half; it’s still plenty sweet enough done that way. I’ll be doing this at a couple of Xmas parties in the next few weeks, as I did last year, and I’m sure it’ll be a hit all over again.

Oh, and December 25th is also Newtonmas (birthday of Isaac Newton), amongst other things.

Last year’s post on approximately the same theme.

Cool Links, 22 Jan/09

APOD’s famously broad definition of an “astronomy picture” (they decided that the awesome “Where The Hell Is Matt” video qualified) has lead to a really spectacular lenticular cloud photo from NZ being today’s image.

Not sure what a lenticular is? Think, “Gee, that looks like a UFO” and youŕe most of the way there. I’ve only seem them once – and had no camera with me at the time – but they’re amongst the most spectacular clouds in the sky.

Speaking of clouds: The Cloudspotter’s Guide (Wikipedia ISBN link) is a fun, non-technical book, devoted to both the science and the art of clouds & cloudspotting. Good book even if you’re not a fullblown weather geek like I am.

I hadn’t realized that Canada’s National Film Board was putting huge amounts of their back-catalog up online for anyone to watch; one I especially enjoyed this afternoon was a 18min short film called Blake from 1968, about a friend of the filmmaker’s who has a “flying hobo” lifestyle. Not sure you could get away with some of that flying these days, but it’s still a neat short, and classic NFB fare in it’s quirkiness.

The NFB has won scads of awards, especially for it’s animation work. The absolute, no-questions, classic piece of NFB animated Canadian coolness is, of course, The Log Driver’s Waltz. Go watch it, it’s only 3 minutes long and if it doesn’t make you grin, you’re probably clinically dead and didn’t realize it.

From APOD to the NFB via the Cloudspotter’s Guide… good thing I have a “random” tag on my blog already…