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03 December
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Book Review: Bold by Peter Diamandis

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bold_bookI’ve just started reading Bold by Peter Diamandis and I’m already hooked.  It is a fascinating book.  In the first chapter he mentioned the company Quirky, that helps inventors get their products into the market.

3D Printing

And now, in chapter two I’m reading about the company 3D Systems.

They make 3D printers and I want one of those so bad now!  Only a thousand dollars.  Very cool stuff!  Did you know those Invisalign braces are all 3D printed per person?

Made in Space creates 3D printers that are being used in the International Space Station!  Also, discovered Shapeways, think Etsy for 3D printed stuff!  And yes, there are even 3D printed dolls.  Each one custom made.

Local Motors is a whole 3D printed car; the first one ever.  We can currently print ten single family homes a day.

The book is not due out until February 3, 2015, but I was able to get a review copy from Netgalley.  If you are a big book reader I highly reccomend you check them out.

I looked into getting the book because I was present at a Partners 2014, a technology conference,  where Peter Diamandis was one of the keynote speakers.

Key Points

This being a net galley pre-reader, I’m not allowed to quite the book, but here are some interesting tidbits that I’ve read about so far:

  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) will do everything better than humans by 2029.
  • Robotics is the fastest growing industry and will be the largest be 2020.
    • Robots don’t unionize, no lunch, and can work an assembly line for approx. $4 an hour!
    • Within the next 2 decades 45% of American’s will lose their jobs to Robots and AI
  • Flow: the state of optimal human performance, I love this new word!
  • People who retire at 55 are approx. 90% more likely to die ten years after they retire, than those who wait 10 more years to retire.
  • If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it, this and many other sayings in the book remind me of Lean Six Sigma.
    • He has other great rules like this on his website.
  • Another crowdsourced website called Threadless is great to find some awesome shirts.
  • Tongal crowdsources TV ads and other creative projects.
  • Kaggle – crowdsourced data scientist that compete to solve real world problems.
  • Approx. 150 members is the point at which the community itself begins to carry the conversation
  • Almost anyone with a passion has the power to bring real change into this world.
  • abundancehub.com

Make Some Money

  • Fiverr – users submit small tasks that they need done and pay a minimum of $5.
  • 99designs – If you are graphically inclined you can make some money here.
  • Freelancer – Exactly what it sounds like a site to get small, short jobs for various amounts of money.
Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk

Raptor by Rob Shenk from Great Falls, VA, USA

Diamandis’ kind of thinking was behind the creation of super top secret (Skunk Works) projects like the Nighthawke and the Raptor.

He also discussed how companies now release a “minimum viable product”.  Basically, the beta of a device just to get something out there and bet the competition to the market.  Then the make small updates to the product over the years until it is where they had first envisioned the product.  This reminded me of the iDevices from Apple.

Diamandis is involved in 6 companies:

  1. Planetary Resources
  2. Singularity University
  3. X-Prize
  4. Space Adventures
  5. International Space University
  6. Zero G Corporation

I’m a big fan of Elon Musk and his car company Tesla, but I didn’t know that he was also the one responsible for SolarCity.

Further Reading

Books that Diamandis mentions that I want to read now:

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17 October
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Revolutionizing the Historic Slot Machine

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The one-armed bandit is one of those things that every casino gamer who lived around the early 1900s is familiar with. Well, actually, anyone who sees an old slot machine – whether a novice or experienced gambler – will know how to play it. After all, how much simpler could a machine get? You pull a lever, wait for the reels to stop spinning, and hope that you get matching symbols.

The Liberty Bell is considered the godfather of the modern slot machines. It was created by Charles Fey, a car mechanic based in San Francisco, in 1895. It is a three-reel model that is still used in some casinos today despite the newer and more advanced 5-reel slot design. The original Liberty Bell slot machine is on display in a saloon in Nevada as a historical artifact.

A few decades after the creation of the original Liberty Bell, gaming developers have begun revolutionizing the way slot machines operate. This is evident in both online and offline slot machines, and gamers and gamblers from all over the world are enjoying the change. Dragonfish Tech — a leader in developing high-tech slot machines — has made a name for itself by creating hundreds of titles that changed the face of the slot industry forever. Some of its slot games can be seen at affiliate sites including Gibraltar-based entertainment hub Total Gold.

Land-based slot machines, however, are a much better illustration of this change. While players used to be able to play by just pulling a small lever on the side of the machine, nowadays, slot machines also require a lot more interaction. We take a look at Bally Technologies’ All That Jazz machine, which takes full advantage of the interactive iDeck and allows players to play a familiar tune on a virtual piano in the bonus round.

Many slot machines now also require players to spin a wheel for their bonus multipliers, and these have made playing on slot machines all the more entertaining. Having replaced the well-known lever with buttons on most video slot machines, developers seem to be in the process of overhauling the slot machine altogether. Pretty soon, we might be seeing machines that are less slot machine, and more arcade game machine in casinos.

Contributed Post

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05 March
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Sinclair ZX81

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I wasn’t lucky enough to own a Sinclair when I was younger.  When the Sinclair ZX81 was released on March 5, 1981, I was only two years old.  Although, my father a fellow geek did give me his old Compaq portable when I was old enough to use it.  It was released two years later in January 1983.  But enough of my childhood memories this post is about the Sinclair.  The ZX81 was originally released only in the United Kingdom in March 1981 and later came to the shores of the US as the Timex Sinclair 1000.  It was designed to be a home computer.  It was designed on the cheap to keep cost down.  It didn’t even come with a monitor you had to connect it to a TV instead.  It used audio cassette tape for programs and had only 1KB of memory (could be expanded to 16KB).  I’m pretty sure the watch I’m wearing has more memory than that.  You could by the kit for 50 BP or assembled for 70 BP (162BP and 227BP in 2014 money).  It was hugely popular, selling more than 1.5 million until it was discontinued in 1984.  The entire thing only weighed 12 ounces.

Although they keyboard was laid out in standard QWERTY format, there may be some surprises for modern keyboard users.  Such as the RUBOUT key (delete) and the NEW LINE key (return or enter).

Clive Sinclair the owner of Sinclair research had a very good year when the ZX81 came out.  The company’s profit went from 818k BP to 8.5M BP in 1981-82.  He got a million pound bonus on top of his 13,000 salary.  He was knighted in 1983.

“…Sinclair, the British inventor, had a way of getting things right, but also exactly wrong. Foreseeing the market for affordable personal computers, Sinclair decided that what people would want to do with them was to learn programming. The ZX81, marketed in the United States as the Timex 1000, cost less than the equivalent of a hundred dollars, but required the user to key in programs, tapping away on that little motel keyboard-sticker. This had resulted both in the short market-life of the product and, in Voytek’s opinion, twenty years on, in the relative preponderance of skilled programmers in the United Kingdom. They had their heads turned by these little boxes, he believes, and by the need to program them…

…”But if Timex sold it in the United States,” she asks him, “why didn’t we get the programmers?”

“You have programmers, but America is different. America wanted Nintendo. Nintendo gives you no programmers. Also, on launch of product in America, RAM-expansion unit did not ship for three months. People buy computer, take it home, discover it does almost nothing. A disaster.” -William Gibson’s Pattern Recognition

Learn More:

Sources:

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04 March
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USS Cyclops disappears in Bermuda Triangle

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USS Cyclops

USS Cyclops

I’m a sucker for a Bermuda Triangle story, and this one fits the bill.  On March 4, 1918 USS Navy ship Cyclops set out for Baltimore.  She was heading there most likely to make repairs as her starboard engine had a cracked cylinder and in the previous port water had been seen above the Plimsoll line, the line on the hull that marks the legal limit to which a ship sits in the water.  The Cyclops was a collier, which is a cargo ship mostly used by the Navy to haul coal.  It was launched on May 7, 1910.  Cyclops was last known to be traveling through the Bermuda Triangle when she disappeared.  To add to the mystery both her sister ships were also lost as well during world war II, also in the Bermuda triangle.

The more likely explanation is that the ships had a weakened I-beam which runs the length of the ship at the keel.  Both the sister ships lost during WWII were lost with very full loads and Cyclops was loaded heavily when lost and may have hit a large storm as well, further weakening the keel.  She was deemed lost with all hands on June 1, 1918 by Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Books:

Non-Fiction:

Fiction:

Quantum Leap: The Complete Fourth Season

Quantum Leap: The Complete Fourth Season (Cyclops featured on episode 16)

Source:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Cyclops_%28AC-4%29

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26 February
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Blood and Tyrants: Chapters 17-19 *Spoilers*

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Blood of Tyrants Book

Blood of Tyrants

It has been a terribly long time since I posted any of my updates for this book.  Here is what happened.  First about 6 months ago my wife gave birth to a beautiful little girl named Emily.  Anyone who has a newborn knows that this means your personal times goes to zero.  And that is exactly what happened to me.  While I still had time to do a blog post here and there, I didn’t have time to read and highlight as I went through Blood of Tyrants by Logan Beirne.  When a little free time did crop up I realized that while I was enjoy this books content, I wasn’t enjoying read it as if for a book report, which is pretty much what these blog posts are.  But since I have started this I want to finish it.  So I will continue to do these posts, but it will take me long to get them done.  I hope you all can bear with me.  Here is a list of the other review posts I have done for this book:

Read more…

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25 February
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RIP Maria Von Trapp

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Von Trapp Family

Von Trapp Family

Maria Von Trapp was from the musical family whose escape from Nazi-occupied Austria was the basis for The Sound of Music.  She died at the age of 99 in her home in Vermont.  She was the last surviving member of the seven original Trapp Family Singers.  Maria was portrayed as Louisa in the film and musical.  She was the 3rd child and 2nd oldest daughter of Austrian Naval Capt. Georg von Trapp and his first wife, Agathe Whitehead von Trapp.  “The Sound of Music” was based loosely on a 1949 book by von Trapp’s second wife, also Maria von Trapp, who died in 1987.

Source:  

LA Times

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20 February
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Movie Review: The Monuments Men

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Monuments Men

TOP: Monuments Men commander Lt. Dale Ford and then 19-year-old Monuments Man Harry Ettlinger look over an original self-portrait by Rembrandt hidden by the Nazis in the Heilbronn-Kochendorf salt mines. BOTTOM: The discovery of the painting is depicted in the movie.  -Historyvshollywood

Earlier this week I wrote a book review of the  Monuments Men by Robert Edsel.  I just finished watching the movie and I did enjoy it even though, as I wrote in a previous article it didn’t get very good reviews.  The movie was filled with famous actors like George Clooney, Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett,  Bill Murray, John Goodman, etc.  I’m sure these names will be enough for some people to watch the movie.  But those who watch this film and have not read the book will be missing out on a lot.  Some of the scenes in the movie just didn’t happen.  Not according to the book.  I said it in my book review, but I’ll say it again.  The book is fairly slow, not too much exciting happens.  It is not a thriller by any means.  But it is real life and I believe the story is worth telling.  I don’t want to ruin the movie for anyone, so I’ll point out that this article may spoil things for you somewhat, but if you want to know where the history ends and the Hollywood begins, than this is a great article I found online.  It discusses the differences between what really happened and what made it into the movie and also of course what was totally fictional.  Here is an excerpt from the article:

Were all of the descendants of the real Monuments Men happy with the film?

No. The descendants of Ronald Balfour, a British medieval historian and one of two Monuments Men who perished in the war, were upset that the film didn’t more closely represent Ronald. Actor Hugh Bonneville’s character, Donald Jeffries, has been linked to Ronald. Like Ronald, the character is an English historian serving with the MFAA who holds the rank of major. However, one of Ronald’s nieces, Polly Hutchison, says that the actor is “so different.” She says the family was astounded when they heard that Hugh Bonneville was going to portray the character they hoped would be her Uncle Ronald. It should be noted that the official Monuments Men movie website does in fact pair Hugh Bonneville’s character with Ronald Balfour, in addition to other online sources that have confirmed the correlation. -TheGuardian.com

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18 February
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Book Review: The Monuments Men

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The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History

The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History

I just this moment finished the book the Monuments Men by Robert Edsel.  Initially I was very excited about this book, because I knew it was coming out as a movie.  It was released this month (February 7, 2014) .  As I write this the movie is number 4 at the box offices and has grossed $43.7 million dollars.  As far as how good the movie is, I don’t know…yet.  I plan on watching that now as I have finished the book.  I always like to read the book first.  However, I’m a little weary as its not getting great reviews.  On IMDB it has a score of 6.5 out of 10 and on Rotten Tomatoes it has a score of 34%.  Not steller by any means.

But this review is about the book, the movie review will come later.  First lets look at what others thought of the book.  Amazon reviewers seem to like the book, they gave it 4.3 our of 5 so far.  Goodreads reviewers were less kind to this historical work, giving it only 3.79 out of 5.  For those of you who don’t know the book is about  how WWII caused the greatest dislocation of cultural artifacts. Hundreds of thousands of items went missing. The main burden fell to a few hundred men and women, curators and archivists, artists and art historians from 13 nations. Their task was to save and preserve what they could of Europe’s great art, and they were called the Monuments Men.

I felt the book was slow.  Interesting definitely, but not being as cultured as some, I could not picture many of the artwork that was discussed in the book and often found myself wondering if the monuments men time would have been better served rescuing the victims of the Nazi’s.  But I also understand that the artwork had a huge cultural significance.  I’m torn about all of this really.  Should we have helped Europe so much in finding these pieces of art?  After all, wasn’t this whole mess their fault?  Or was it just the fault of a few misguided souls and the monsters who lead them?  This war brings up some very strong feelings in everyone, even those like me who didn’t live through it.

Lets get right down to it.  Should you spend your time reading this book?  I spent a month reading this 479 page book.  I did keep picking it up and looking for time to read it.  So, it was a page turner.  Not like a thriller at all.  But I did keep hoping that something more exciting would happen.  It never did.  My notes from the book are brief.  I highlighted the name Errol Flynn, to remind myself to watch some of his cool old movies.  I also found it interesting that the word salt was the basis of the English word Salary.  Then there is a huge gap until the end of the book where I took note of the books that some of the people involved the saving the artwork wrote.  For your reference they are:

Makes me sad that they didn’t print many copies of the above books and now they are almost impossible to find.  Also, sad that the movie is the only reason these people are no remembered and they were not remembered for their accomplishments during their life time.  The only one still alive according to the book is Harry Ettlinger.

Lastly, there have been a lot of other online articles being written about the Monuments Men.  Here are just a few:

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16 February
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First 911 Service in US

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While the first emergency service telephone number was 999 in the United Kingdom in 1937, it took the United States a little long to implement the service.  Things started happening in the US during 1957 when the National Association of Fire Chiefs recommended that a single number be used to report all fires.  In 1967 this was seconded and built upon by the President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice.  They suggested that it be used for all emergencies.  The project fell to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) which meat with AT&T in November 1967 to discuss a solution.  By 1968, AT&T had the system implemented.  On February 16, 1968 Alabama speaker of the house Rankin Filte placed a call from the Haleyville City Hall to Tom Bevill at the city’s police station using 911.  When Tom answered he simply said, “hello”.

The system was not widely used however as it took many cities and towns time to implement the system.  The number itself was not widely know about until the 1970’s and it took until the mid to late 1980’s before most places in the US has 911 services.

Other places’ emergency phone numbers:

  • 000 (Australia)
  • 100 (India, Israel, Nepal)
  • 101 (Argentina)
  • 108 (India)
  • 110 (Macau – for mainland tourists)
  • 111 (New Zealand)
  • 112 (European Union, Macau (overseas tourists), Kuwait and on GSM mobile networks worldwide)
  • 117 (Philippines)
  • 119 (parts of South and East Asia)
  • 133 (Chile)
  • 155 (Turkey)
  • 190 (Brazil)
  • 999 (Poland, Ireland (alongside 112), United Kingdom (where it works parallel to 112), Hong Kong, Macau and several other non-EU countries)
  • 1122 (Pakistan – Punjab and KPK)
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15 February
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The First Teddy Bear

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Theodore Roosevelt Teddy Bear

Theodore Roosevelt Teddy Bear

The first Teddy Bear was the brain child of Morris Michtom who was inspired by the political cartoon above.  The cartoon was drawn by Clifford K. Berryman and called “Drawing the Line in Mississippi,” where President Theodore Roosevelt is depicted showing compassion for a small bear cub.  Michtom liked the cartoon and showed it to his wife, Rose.  Rose went to create the teddy bear.  On February 15, 1903 the Russian Jewish immigrant placed the little teddy bear in his shop window at 404 Tompkins Avenue, New York.

It was donated to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History where it is currently on display.  After the creation of the bear in late 1902, the sale of the bears was so brisk that Michtom created the Ideal Novelty and Toy Company.  Through many mergers the company was eventually part of Mattel.

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