A Fembot living in a Manbot’s Manputer’s world.

Little-known fact: The first computer programmers were all women. ENIAC was programmed by Jean Bartik, Marlyn Meltzer, Kathleen Mauchly Antonelli, Betty Snyder Holberton, Ruth Lichterman Teitelbaum, and Frances Bilas Spence.

Bartik and her colleagues debugged every vacuum tube and learned how to make it work, she said. Early on, they demonstrated to the military brass how the computer worked, with the programmers setting the process into motion and showing how it produced an answer. They handed out its punch cards as souvenirs. They’d taught the massive machine do math that would’ve taken hours by hand.

Jean Jennings Bertik and Francis Bilas Spence

what is this thing you humans call... love?

Littler-known fact: Many of the first computers were also women! In the days before ENIAC, ‘computer’ was a job, not a machine, and thousands of women were recruited by the US Military to do ballistics research to supply weapons trajectories to soldiers and bombardiers. Top Secret Rosies, a documentary about WWII’s female computers, was released last month.

Erickson’s documentary focused on women plucked from high schools and colleges to work at the University of Pennsylvania in the 1940s. They moved into dorms and apartments and went through a rigorous introduction to ballistics calculations in order to do the job. It paid well, and the women were close. They played bridge, shared dinners and danced together in the university gardens when the war in Europe ended.

Triumph 31

Saturday was my birthday, which capped off a week of the worst pain I have ever felt in my life. I thought ‘shingles’ sounded like some weird hilarious skin condition that made you look like a lizard or perhaps the roof of a country home. I am pretty doped up on painkillers at the moment but I believe it is fair to say I was off base there.

Anyway.

Saturday was my birthday! I received very nearly a hundred birthday greetings and well-wishes, which I am totally floored by. Thank you all so much.

Audra got me a present! It is a toothbrush!

Let me tell you about this toothbrush!

It is the ORAL-B TRIUMPH PROFESSIONAL CARE 9900, MOTHERFUCKERS.

Do not mock this toothbrush, it is SERIOUS BUSINESS! Witness this FLOSS-ACTION HEAD!

IT MEANS BUSINESS. Does YOUR toothbrush come with this much stuff?

I DON’T THINK SO! Does YOUR toothbrush have a base station that wirelessly monitors your use of the oscillating-rotating technology-enhanced brush using the 2.4 GHz ISM band?

IT IS UNLIKELY! Does YOUR toothbrush include a separate ProWhite polishing brushhead and a massage mode for optimum gum health?

If it does, you are the proud owner of a ORAL-B TRIUMPH PROFESSIONAL CARE 9900 and I would like to meet with you regularly to discuss how much better our toothbrushes are than everyone elses! Do you remember life before the ORAL-B TRIUMPH PROFESSIONAL CARE 9900? I hardly do. Can you imagine, MANUALLY moving the bristles around on the end of a stick like some kind of barbarian?

Neither can I.

So, thank you, Audra, for this amazing birthday gift! Thank you for elevating me over all of those people I once considered ‘friends’ to the lofty position I now occupy, which I do not think is hyperbolic to describe as ‘godlike’.

#93: Watch Grey’s Anatomy

The World’s Most Popular Goals (as compiled by 43 Things) is simultaneously fascinating and depressing.

As you might figure, health and weight issues top the list:

  • #1 lose weight 37876 people
  • #28 eat healthier 10505 people
  • #31 get in shape 9647 people
  • #32 Quit Smoking 8897 people
  • #49 Lose 20 pounds 6818 people
  • #55 Lose 10 pounds 6098 people
  • #63 exercise more 5282 people
  • #64 Lose 30 pounds 5274 people

These make me just want to give everyone on 43 Things a big hug:

  • #4 Fall in love 25197 people
  • #16 Make new friends 13138 people
  • #27 be more confident 10606 people
  • #65 make more friends 5273 people
  • #73 love myself 4640 people
  • #84 Stop caring what other people think of me 4051 people

We discover that it isn’t easy being German:

  • #12 Learn Spanish 16100 people
  • #24 learn french 11036 people
  • #30 Learn Japanese 9952 people
  • #57 learn italian 5915 people
  • #71 learn german 4703 people
  • #88 Learn another language 3906 people

…and we examine our culture’s ongoing existential crisis:

  • #5 be happy 22713 people
  • #22 To live instead of exist 11181 people
  • #43 identify 100 things that make me happy (besides money) 7449 people
  • #46 decide what the hell I would like to do with the rest of my life 7068 people
  • #59 live passionately 5608 people
  • #94 figure out what i want to do with my life 3711 people

Suck my diiiiiiick, I’m a shaaaarktopus

Q: What’s badder than the Battle of Tannhäuser and more dangerous than a swimming pool full of thumbtacks and facehuggers?

A: ROGER CORMAN’S SHARKTOPUS, motherfucker!

Sharktopus

oh no little man what are you going to do it's a fucking SHARKTOPUS

News of Sharktopus’ imminent approach came to us by way of Karen O’Hara’s Twitter:

Just got off the phone with the legendary Roger Corman who’s doing a new movie for us this year. Yes, it’s the long-rumored SHARKTOPUS! . . . Spent half an hour discussing what a sharktopus should look like, how many mouths it should have and how it should kill.

THAT’S RIGHT

HOW MANY MOUTHS IT SHOULD HAVE

SO FUCKING AWESOME ASDJFIASDJFASIOFDOAFWKO

overdrawn at the irony bank

i⋅ro⋅ny [ahyruh-nee, ahy-er-]
–noun, plural -nies.

  1. the use of words to convey a meaning that is the opposite of its literal meaning: the irony of her reply, “How nice!” when I said I had to work all weekend.
  2. a technique of indicating, as through character or plot development, an intention or attitude opposite to that which is actually or ostensibly stated.
  3. pointing out to a heckler who is having a laugh because you’ve seen almost half of the Wikipedia list of films set in the future that not only is the heckler in one of the films set in the future, but that this film was in fact heckled by robots in the even more distant future.

If I am not me, then who the hell am I?

A moment to remember screenwriting legend Dan O’Bannon, who left us yesterday:

Dan O’Bannon, one of the scriptwriters behind such seminal SF flicks as Alien and Total Recall, has passed away in Los Angeles following a bout of ill-health, at the age of 63.

O’Bannon was a lifelong SF enthusiast, and got his first experience of filmmaking when he worked as writer, editor and special effects producer on John Carpenter’s brilliant, cynical debut Dark Star. O’Bannon and Carpenter had studied together at USC prior to the film’s 1974 release.

He went on to do special effects work on the first Star Wars film and was involved in the early stages of comic writer Alejandro Jodorowsky’s unsuccessful attempt to bring Dune to the big screen in the mid-‘70s. But it was when he began to concentrate on writing over production and effects that his career really took off. O’Bannon is credited with writing the original screenplay for Alien (alongside Ronald Shusett), and his influence on that film extended to bringing into the fold a certain Swiss artist called H.R. Geiger, who had also been involved in the failed Dune project.

O’Bannon’s other hits included the gloriously OTT Schwarzenegger vehicle Total Recall, an adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s We Can Remember It For You Wholesale by the O’Bannon-Shusett partnership. He was also involved in a number of cult classics, including Lifeforce, Heavy Metal, and Screamers, while his Moebius-illustrated comic The Long Tomorrow was the inspiration for the art style of Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner.

O’Bannon changed the face of science-fiction (and horror, inventing ‘fast’ zombies in his 1986 directorial debut Return Of The Living Dead), and I’ve been hoping for years that he’d make a return to the big screen (possibly with the perpetually-delayed Silvaticus 3015) to show all these modern ‘sci-fi’ writers what’s what.

A public memorial for Mr. O’Bannon will be held sometime in the next few weeks at my apartment in the form of a movie marathon. Interested parties please reply within.

It’s time to kick ass and chew bubble gum. And I’m all out of gum. Also, money.

It is a sad day today for old-school PC gamers. 3D Realms, the developers of Duke Nukem Forever, have shut their doors.

Duke Nukem Forever, the game that was promised to be a Quake II killer.  The game that was already so late by 2001 that they stopped announcing release dates. The game that had won the Vaporware Lifetime Achievement Award in 2003.

Now, we will likely never see the pixelated stripclubs and alien cops that were promised to us back in 1997.  All we have are a few minutes of footage from E3, and a handful of leaked screenshots and promo art.

In memory of what could have been, I will end this post with highlights from a list of things that have happened while DNF was under development:

  • Over 25 Final Fantasy games and 2 Final Fantasy movies
  • The entire Sims and Grand Theft Auto series.
  • Also Unreal, Dance Dance Revolution, Tony Hawk, and Halo.
  • The rise of P2P filesharing, including Napster.
  • All three Star Wars prequels, and the LOTR film trilogy.
  • Bullet time, Family Guy, South Park, and Harry Potter.
  • Two Mars rovers and the International Space Station.

…and things that happened in less time than DNF’s development took:

  • Everything The Beatles ever did.
  • The United States moon program.
  • World War I.
  • World War II and the entire Manhattan Project. Including the fucking atomic bomb.

Rest in peace, Duke.

It’s not the years, it’s the mileage.

In 1981, before George Lucas was killed in a tragic accident and replaced by a robot that hates all art, he made a movie called Raiders of the Lost Ark with Steven Spielberg and Lawrence Kasdan.

Three years earlier, Lucas and Spielberg sat down with Kasdan for five days to talk about the ideas they had for the movie, and flesh out the storytelling. Today, a transcript of the story conference has just leaked online, and it is fucking awesome.

Indiana Smith

There’s also a fantastic analysis of the transcript that anyone who loves film should read.

Now where’s the one for Blade Runner?

(Via Rob Sheridan’s Twitter)

In the trenches

Just came back from PodCamp Toronto, where Audra and I gave a presentation on Social Media in the Public Service. It went over really well, and it’ll be up on SlideShare once the video/audio archives are up at PodCamp so I can stitch it all together.

I spent a fair amount of the trip feeling ill, and to my horror, I’ve realized that I always started feeling sick about twenty minutes after having a few cups of coffee. Caffeine is one of my most treasured addictions, and I don’t know how easily I would be able to function without it. I don’t think there has ever been a period in my life where I was caffeine-free.

I’d like to go back and spend some more time wandering the city once it warms up a bit. I think I’m slowly coming to terms with my relationship with Toronto. We’ll never be what we were, but I think we could learn how to be friends.

5mCCs

I’m not a big fan of Kevin Poulsen’s writing, but he’s put together a solid article for the latest Wired: One Hacker’s Audacious Plan to Rule the Black Market in Stolen Credit Cards

He worked for two straight days; when he tired, he crashed out on the apartment’s foldaway bed for an hour or two, then got up and went back at it. Butler sent an email under the handle Iceman to all the thieves whose accounts he had usurped. Whether they liked it or not, he wrote, they were now members of his own site, CardersMarket.com. In one bold stroke, Butler had erected one of the largest criminal marketplaces the Internet had ever seen, 6,000 users strong.

It’s funny, good hackers never get caught because they were defeated in some cyber-battle or because they left a door open behind them somewhere, they only get caught because they’re greedy or they love to talk.

If we had time machines someone would soooo be fired

Thanks to Life Magazine, a pre-war German espionage cypher has been revealed:

What you see here is a photo that never should have been allowed to be taken, and one which provides an amazing, one-of-a-kind glimpse into the world of WWII espionage and counter-espionage. As far as I can tell, what is shown in this picture is an FBI agent in New York encrypting a message, passed from “DUNN” – Duquesne – through Sebold, prior to transmitting that message to Germany via shortwave radio.

There’s more discussion on this photo taking place on Bruce Schneier’s site that’s worth reading for any crypto fans. Incredibly fascinating stuff.

You got your art in my architecture!

Design done right: Using technology to build a bridge between problem-solving and art. The Dutch have always had stunning currency design (I will forever lament the loss of the guilder, and what is perhaps the most beautiful banknote ever produced), and their new coder-designed 5 euro coin is amazing:

5 Euro Macro Crop

The Dutch Ministry of Finance organized an architecture competition for which a selected group of architectural offices (unstudio, nox, …) and artists were invited, including myself. The goal of the competition was not to design a building, but the new 5 euro commemorative coin with the theme ‘Netherlands and Architecture’. The winner will be rewarded with a nice price, but most of all with the honor: his design will be realized and will be a legal coin within the Netherlands.