Friday, December 31, 2010

So you want to hire little old me?

MoneyImage by TW Collins
Because many have asked, yes, I am for hire.

I have served as a professional writer, editor, speaker, community administrator, and software product manager for over 20 years. I had a regular radio show spot, my name on a provisional patent, and citations as a source in the Wikipedia to show for it. Google "Jay Garmon" and you'll get plenty of details. (Or just check out my lengthy bio page.)

I'm a reasonably smart guy who understands technology, and I'm offering my talents in exchange for your coin. Specifically, you can hire me as a...
  • Writer of blogs, proposals, ads, scripts, or pithy commentary. If you need words strung together in interesting ways, I can get that done.
  • Speaker on a variety of subjects, including how to use social media, emerging technology and the like. I also wrote a trivia column for ten years, which means I have a knack for making even the most obscure topics interesting, and I can probably do the same for you on most any subject. Particularly as it relates to tech.
  • Strategist for software and interactive applications. I've overseen the development of features and functions for Web sites, including revamping a multimillion-dollar e-mail marketing system. I've launched HIPAA and PCI-compliant SaaS solutions for industry-leading healthcare software companies. If you're trying to make smarter, more effective customer-facing technology, I have a few bits of hard-earned wisdom I can bring to bear.  
But before you contact me with a job inquiry, there are some things to know.
  • I don't work for free. If your inquiry includes any version of the phrase "we can't pay you," spare both of us the effort, as this will only end in an awkward e-mail where I explain I actually get paid for this stuff. Reasonably well, reasonably often. I occasionally amend my speaking fees for non-profits and charities, but those are handled on a case-by-case basis and I agree to them rarely. You've been warned.
  • I have a day job. This is not to say I am unavailable during normal business hours, but my undivided attention is not on the table (unless you're offering a great full-time gig at great full-time pay). 
  • I am a very public geek. Look over this blog, and you'll note a pervasive interest in science, science fiction, and online media. In the current online world, you need to have a certain measure of imagination to understand how all these new tools and trends work and evolve. Moreover, as everything is now public, pervasive, and persistent, communications skills have become more important than ever. There's no better thought-leader for the current economy than a sci-fi writer. But if having a loud and proud Star Trek fan associated with your brand is a problem, it is best we stop now, because that's who you're hiring, and your customers will figure that out pretty quickly.
If I haven't scared you off with all the above caveats, we can now discuss price. My consulting rate is $250 per hour, and my per-word rate ranges from $0.25 to $0.75 based on required research for the piece. 

I typically bid jobs based on how many hours I estimate they will require, and for speaking engagements this includes preparation, especially if you want a PowerPoint presentation in addition to my words and voice. 

For recurring jobs -- such as an open-ended blogging assignment -- I discount my rate based on how much recurring work is required. 

Finally, I am available on retainer, with the regular fee negotiated based on the expected level of time investment.

Questions, comments, or proposals should all be addressed to jay [at] jaygarmon [dot] net.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Truly Trivial: What names besides Rudolph were considered for the famous red-nosed reindeer?

CD cover
Wednesday is my birthday, which means it's the holiday season, which means the TV networks (and yours truly) are going into reruns, so here's a classic solstice special from my Geek Trivia days to tide you over:
Few and far between are the denizens of the industrialized world who can escape the secular trappings of the Christmas season, perhaps best exemplified by Santa Claus and his loyal team of nine enchanted (or, at least, telekinetic) reindeer: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen, and Rudolph — the latter also sporting the superpower of a hyper-illuminated red nose.
Eight of Santa’s flight-capable caribou can trace their origins to a poem: “A Visit from Saint Nicholas.” Better known by its revised title, “The Night Before Christmas,” the earliest version of this poem first appeared on Dec. 23, 1823 in New York’s Troy Sentinel newspaper. ...
Rudolph ... didn’t appear until copywriter Robert L. May dreamt him up in 1939 — and Santa’s red-nosed team leader almost received a different name.
Get the complete Q&A here.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

What unusual geek source provided the crowd noise for arena scenes in Tron: Legacy?

The redesigned Light cycle as featured in the ...Image via WikipediaTron: Legacy opens in US theaters today, and with it ends 25 years of computer geek anticipation of a sequel to the cult-hit 1982 cinema classic about a programmer being pulled into the metaverse of a computer mainframe. First word of the movie broke at Comic-Con in 2008, when Disney showed off test footage of lightcycle combat to an unsuspecting crowd. Grainy, cellphone-captured footage of the promo soon linked to the Internet, and the raucous and approving crowd reaction assured the filmmakers the project was worth pursuing.

Every subsequent press release about Tron: Legacy has seemed to be an act of escalating fan service. Techno-synth artists Daft Punk not only composed the movie score, but threw a rave on set during filming. Recognizer battleships, lightcyle races and disc wars have all been updated for 3D appearances in the new movie. Above all, Jeff Bridges reprises his role as Kevin Flynn.

But perhaps the most noteworthy, and apropos, bit of insider geekery surrounding Tron: Legacy involves the sound sourcing for those aforementioned updated gladiatorial arena scenes.

What unusual geek source provided the crowd noise for arena scenes in Tron: Legacy?

Sunday, December 05, 2010

What cult hit game was the inspiration for the alt-holiday Day of the Ninja?

Day of the Ninja logo.Image via WikipediaIn case you missed it, Dec. 5 was the Day of the Ninja, the geeky alt-holiday counterpart to Talk Like A Pirate Day (which occurs on Sept. 19). Perhaps appropriately, Day of the Ninja has a much lower profile than Talk Like A Pirate Day, largely because Day of the Ninja hasn't enjoyed national promotion by humor columnist Dave Barry. Talk Like a Pirate Day, however, was highlighted by Barry in a 2002 column, and the holiday's founders appeared on a 2006 episode of Wife Swap as a "family of pirates." Thus, in the never-ending faux-war between pirates and ninjas, pirates have undoubtedly won the mainstream holiday PR battle.

In gaming circles, however, Day of the Ninja is as popular (if not moreso) than Talk Like a Pirate Day. That's due in some portion to ninjas making more compelling video game characters than pirates, but mostly because Day of the Ninja was created to help promote a cult classic tabletop game -- a secret origin that even most gamers don't realize.

What cult hit game was the inspiration for the alt-holiday Day of the Ninja?

Monday, November 22, 2010

What were the original system requirements for Windows 1.0?

Windows 1.0, the first version, released in 1985
Windows 1.0, the first version, released in 1985 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Microsoft's Windows operating system turned 25 last Saturday -- 27 years after the OS was supposed to be released. Windows 1.0 was two years late when it finally debuted on Nov. 20, 1985, and it took only two weeks in the wild before Microsoft had to release a 1.01 bug-fix update. Despite serious limitations and performance issues, Windows nonetheless outlasted its PC graphic user interface competitors, VisiCorp's VisiOn and the GEM interface, the latter of which was adopted by Atari.

What made Windows successful? A number of factors, but primary among them was the availability of third-party apps for the OS and immediate support for color monitors. Of course, it wouldn't be a Windows operating system if these advantages didn't come with a hefty hardware requirement.

What were the original system requirements for Windows 1.0?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

In what year did the last of New York's DC electrical power customers to convert to AC service?

Fig. 13 from Nikola Tesla's A New System of Al...Image via WikipediaIn 1882, the Edison Electric Illuminating Company began supplying direct-current electrical power to 59 customers in lower Manhattan, NY -- all of them within a square mile of inventor Thomas Edison's generator plant. This was the glaring drawback of Edison's proprietary DC system: it could not efficiently transmit bulk power over distances of more than a mile. While the "Wizard of Menlo Park" used his considerable fame, money and influence to promote adoption of his DC technology -- and the associated patent royalties Edison enjoyed -- it was a vain effort.

Nikola Tesla's alternating current technology could transmit power efficiently over great distances, eliminating the need for a power station every mile or so down the road. The 1895 debut of Tesla's George Westinghouse-financed Niagara Falls alternating current hydroelectric plant irrevocably demonstrated AC power's practical superiority, and every major consumer electrical utility initiative since has been based around an alternating current infrastructure.

That doesn't mean DC power went away overnight. There were still many vested interests in the DC power industry, and many customers already had DC power appliances and lighting they weren't eager to replace. Thus, many New York residences and businesses remained on DC power decades after AC power became the norm. But the actual longevity of consumer DC power in New York is still startling.

In what year did the last of New York's DC electrical power customers to convert to AC service?

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Shuttle mission STS-2 featured the only all-rookie crew in space shuttle history -- except one of them was already an astronaut. Wait, what?

Mission patch for STS-2 Space Shuttle missionImage via WikipediaOn November 12, 1981, the space shuttle Columbia launched its second mission -- the first and last shuttle flight with an all-rookie crew. Neither Commander Joe Engle nor Pilot Richard Truly had ever flown in space before mission STS-2; NASA hadn't sent an all-space-novice team into orbit since Skylab 4 in 1973 and has never sent one since.

Before you jump to conclusions, the performance of the STS-2 team is not the reason NASA informally banned subsequent all-rookie spacecraft lineups. While Engle and Truly did violate NASA orders during the mission, their performance was both laudable and daring. And if that seems counter-intuitive, wait until you realize that one of these two NASA rookies already earned his US astronaut wings before he ever entered the space program.

How did NASA send up an all-rookie crew on STS-2 if one of the crew members was already an astronaut?

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

'Medieval mysticism explained with lolcats and action figures' ... +19 more must-read links

    lolcat adaptation #1Image by Kevin Steele via Flickr
  1. Medieval mysticism explained with lolcats and action figures
  2. How the Republican Congress will abandon Tea Party ideas and legislate toward the center
  3. Jon Stewart to Reddit: you don't matter
  4. NASA Once Again Auctioning Off Patents Your Tax Dollars Paid For
  5. Blekko, the "Slashtag" search engine is slow, cumbersome, and just plain broken
  6. 15+ Google Chrome extensions for better privacy control
  7. Win Free Comfy Cow Ice Cream for a Year
  8. Larry And Sergey Wanted Steve Jobs To Be Google's First CEO
  9. Pushing back on mediocre professors
  10. Points of control = Rents
  11. Google Suggest Venn Diagrams
  12. Reminder: Despite What You May Have Heard, Happy Birthday Should Be In The Public Domain
  13. Turns Out The Evil Halloween Candy Poisoners Was Just FUD That Got You To Buy Prepackaged Candy
  14. Our Government Can’t Prevent A Digital 9-11: Entrepreneurs Need To Step In
  15. What You Should Know
  16. One in Five Facebook Employees Has No Imagination Whatsoever
  17. Read John Scalzi's Election-Themed Short Story...Free!
  18. The SF Signal Podcast (Episode 014): Interview with Paul Levinson + What are your favorite zombie books, movies or comics and why
  19. Google's 2006 NetScape Moment Recalled
  20. What comes after Facebook

Monday, November 01, 2010

Of the 75 artificial objects on the moon how many weren't put there by the US and USSR?

Surveyor 3 on the moon, photographed by Alan BeanImage via WikipediaThree years ago this week, China's first lunar probe, Chang'e 1, entered orbit around the moon. Roughly 15 months later, Change'e 1 was intentionally crashed into the lunar surface (after recording the most complete and accurate 3D survey of the moon ever made), adding yet another item to the growing list of man-made objects on the moon.

Humanity has been chucking technology at the moon for over 50 years. The first human creation to contact the lunar surface was the Soviet Luna 2 probe in 1959. Since then, a total of 75 man-made objects have achieved lunar touchdown (or impact). Most of those items are of American or Soviet origin, products of the Cold War space race. Twenty years ago, Japan broke the Russo-American duopoly on lunar littering by crashing the orbiter portion of the Hiten probe on the moon. Since then, four more non-US and and non-Soviet/Russian space agencies have placed objects on the moon -- but the rest of the world has a long way to go before it overtakes the American-Russian rivalry in lunar tech-tossing.

Of the 75 artificial objects on the moon how many
weren't put there by the US and USSR?

Monday, October 25, 2010

What method did Harry Houdini use to debunk psychics even after his death?

Houdini and the ghost of Abraham Lincoln, c. 1...Image via WikipediaA scant 84 years ago this Halloween, the legendary stage magician and escape artist Harry Houdini died from appendicitis mere hours after performing on stage. Adherents to mysticism would no doubt ascribe some occult significance to Houdini -- a magician so successful as to be accused of actual sorcerous dematerialization -- dying on All Hallows Eve. Such suppositions would also no doubt irritate Houdini, who spent much of his life and career debunking fraud psychics and spirit mediums.

This professional skepticism earned Houdini the ire of many of his contemporaries, including Sherlock Holmes creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who was himself a staunch believer in supernatural phenomena. Ironically, it was Houdini the non-believer who developed a technique for continuing to debunk pyschics from beyond the grave.

What method did Harry Houdini use to debunk psychics even after his death?

'Internet TV and The Death of Cable' and 3 more must-read links

    P3260059Image by NathanReed via Flickr
  1. Internet TV and The Death of Cable TV, really
  2. New Scientist announces flash fiction contest judged by Neil Gaiman
  3. How Mint beat Wesabe
  4. Top 10 Important Blunders of Ancient Science

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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

What unit of measure was created specifically to describe the energy output of supernovas?

Supernova haloImage via WikipediaHere's a fun fact for you: I am approximately 56 attoParsecs tall. Contrary to what Han Solo would have you believe, a parsec is a unit of distance. One Parsec is roughly 3.26 light years, or 3.085 x 1016 meters. The prefix atto describes 10-18 Parsecs. Carry the math and you get 3.085 x 10-2 meters, or 3.085 centimeters. Thus, at 5'8" I am roughly 56 attoParsecs tall.

There are lots of oddball units of measure like the attoParsec that have fallen into regular scientific usage, though many of them have more than mere amusement behind their origins.

Take a barn, which is equal to 10 square femtometers (10-28 m2). That's the cross-sectional area of a typical uranium nucleus, which is a scale of area that comes up a lot in nuclear magnetic resonance research. Describing the nuclear cross-section of uranium as "big as a barn" is ironic, but the unit has practical applications. Scientists don't enjoy using scientific notation much more than the next geek, so they create units of measure that let them use conventional numeric terms when describing observed experimental values.

Besides, it's much more fun to talk about barns than it is square femtometers.

Not all unconventional units of measure are there to accommodate extremely small scales. Quite the contrary. The Galactic Year (GY), for example, is roughly equal to 250 million years -- the length of time it takes for the Earth to complete one revolution around the Milky Way. Earth is roughly 20 GY old, and the Cretaceous-Tertiary Extinction Event that wiped out the dinosaurs occurred roughly 0.4 Galactic Years ago.

So what's the most out-of-scale unit of measure in use today? How about one that can describe the entire lifetime output of our sun without sneaking up on double digits. It's the same unit of measure explicitly designed to describe supernovas.

What unit of measure was created specifically to describe the energy output of supernovas?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

What name for a 10th planet did authors Douglas Adams, Larry Niven, and Arthur C. Clarke coincidentally "agree" on?

Representation of the Hitchhiker's Guide to th...Image via WikipediaI'm overloaded this week, despite it being the 31st anniversary of the publication of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Thus, today's truly trivial is another recycled Geek Trivia with a Douglas Adams bent:
The "formal" search for a 10th planet (to abuse the term loosely) began in the early 1900s when none other than Percival Lowell — the astronomer who basically bankrolled the search for the eventual discovery of Pluto — predicted that another Jupiter-esque gas giant must reside at the edge of the solar system. ... It turns out Lowell and his contemporaries just didn't have good data on Uranus and Neptune. When Voyager 2 finally did flybys of these orbs in the late 1980s, suddenly all the mathematical basis for Lowell's "Planet X" disappeared. Nonetheless, the Planet X concept was now a part of public consciousness, and an untold number of writers set about to use the "10th planet" as a plot device in their stories. ...
Still, one name seems to appear more often than most when authors and screenwriters christen a fictional Planet X. Inspired by the traditions of naming local worlds after figures from Greco-Roman mythology, several notable science-fiction scribes — including Douglas Adams, Arthur C. Clarke, and Larry Niven — coincidentally managed to "agree" on this planetary moniker.
Get the answer here.
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Monday, October 04, 2010

What class of aircraft does the FAA consider SpaceShipOne?

Spaceship One, the first privately funded and ...Image via WikipediaOn Oct. 4, 2004, SpaceShipOne completed flight 17P, its second manned spaceflight in five days, thereby securing the Ansari X Prize as the first viable private manned spacecraft in human history. To get there, SpaceShipOne first had to get US Federal Aviation Administration approval to fly -- which was somewhat complicated given that there was no existing registry category for a private passenger spaceplane.

Scaled Composites, the manufacturer of SpaceShipOne, applied for the registry number N100KM. N is the prefix for all US-registered aircraft. The 100KM was a reference to the 100-kilometer altitude that SpaceShipOne needed to achieve to qualify for the X Prize. Unfortunately, N100KM was already listed, so SpaceShipOne instead got the registry number N368KF for 368 kilo-feet, which is roughly equal to 100 kilometers.

To get that aviation equivalent of a license plate, SpaceShipOne had to be shoehorned into an existing passenger aircraft classification.

What class of aircraft does the FAA consider SpaceShipOne?

SpaceShipOne -- the first viable private manned spacecraft -- is officially classified as a glider by the FAA.

Yes, the FAA's Office of Commercial Spaceflight licensed SpaceShipOne's rocket motor for suborbital flight. Yes, you wouldn't expect anything with a rocket motor to be called a glider. That said, for most of SpaceShipOne's independent flight, it is an unpowered glider.

After the White Knight parent launch aircraft drops SpaceShipOne, it engages the rocket motor to achieve suborbital flight. Once space altitude is achieved, the motor disengages and SpaceShipOne deploys its "shuttlecock" glide planes that allow it enter a controlled glide back to Earth. For the entire descent portion of its flight, SpaceShipOne is a glider -- if a wildly unconventional one.

That's not just some non-traditional technical taxonomy, it's an aerodynamically extraordinary example of the Truly Trivial
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Friday, October 01, 2010

Six Sentence Sunday: No Good Deed

The inestimable Graylin Fox and Sara Brookes have inexplicably allowed me to contribute to Six Sentence Sunday, wherein authors (a group which I aspire to include myself in) offer six sentences from their current works in progress.

Below are six sentences from "No Good Deed", a short story I am revising in a perhaps futile attempt to get something fictive published. Judge with appropriate harshness. (And, yes, I am aware today is Friday, not Sunday, but the posts are aggregated for Sunday publication. One must have the work up for linkage in advance.)


“But if your friend isn’t burning, I wonder where the smoke is coming from.”

“Good question,” I replied. “His clothing, perhaps?”

“Engulfed in a pyre of mystical flame, and naked in public. Not your friend’s day, is it?”

“Actually, it’s his birthday.”


Comments are welcome. I may yet post the entire work (temporarily) for feedback before I sub it out again.

Monday, September 27, 2010

According to Einstein's famous equation, how many food calories are there in a single gram of mass?

Animated atomic bomb explosion.Image via WikipediaExactly 105 years ago today -- Sept. 27, 1905 -- Albert Einstein published his paper "Does the Inertia of a Body Depend Upon Its Energy Content?" in Annalen der Physik, introducing the world to his famous equation, E = mc2. Except E = mc2 didn't actually appear in Einstein's original paper; Uncle Albert described his formula in prose, using different variables to express both energy and the speed of light. Translating from the original German, Einstein wrote:
If a body gives off the energy L in the form of radiation, its mass diminishes by L/V2.
The V in this case is the 1920s-era standard variable for the speed of light (which Einstein argued was constant). Thus, if you wrote out the mass-energy equivalence equation as Einstein originally described it, you'd get m = L/V2.

The upshot of Einstein's mass-energy equivalence and the relativity it helps describe is that all matter can be converted into a predictable amount of energy -- a large predictable amount of energy. Fortunately, only in very rare circumstances can matter be efficiently and explicitly converted entirely into its equivalent energy. We don't unleash all of our food energy when we digest it, for example, because we're unlocking its chemical energy, not its nuclear energy. That's a very good thing, as E = mc2 would make your average slice of cheesecake exponentially more fattening (and destructive).

According to Einstein's famous equation, how many food calories are there in a single gram of mass?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

What was Super Mario's original name and occupation? (Hint: He wasn't a plumber)

A palette swap of Mario and Luigi, as seen in ...Image via WikipediaI'm totally hosed with work, so I'm copping out again and recycling a Geek Trivia column rather than writing a new Truly Trivial. Luckily, Nintendo was founded 121 years ago this week, so I've got an easy topic to milk. See below.
Mario first appeared as the ladder-climbing, barrel-dodging, gorilla-enraging protagonist of Donkey Kong, which made its arcade debut in 1981. ... It wasn't until 1983 that Mario would rate his own name on the game marquee, when he enjoyed three title releases: Mario's Cement Factory, Mario's Bombs Away, and Mario Bros. The latter introduced the world to Mario's brother, Luigi. (It was also the first time Mario squared off against evil turtles.)
...In an industry where an ever-increasing number of complex and hyper-real — and in some cases, hyper-violent — characters and concepts grab headlines and zeitgeist, it's nice to think that a simple Italian plumber named Mario still carries a lot of weight with avid game consumers. Of course, this world-famous character has come a long way from his humble roots — when his name wasn't Mario, and his gorilla-free day job was something besides a plumber.
Find out here.
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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

What was the original name of the Space Shuttle Enterprise?

Space Shuttle EnterpriseImage via WikipediaA mere 34 years ago this week -- Sept. 17, 1976 -- the Space Shuttle Enterprise was revealed to the public with a  Star Trek-themed press event. Gene Roddenberry and much of the original Star Trek series' principal cast were present, which was appropriate since it was a mass write-in campaign by Star Trek fans that prodded NASA into naming the original shuttle orbiter after the famous fictional starship.

The space shuttle designated OV-101 was originally intended to bear a different name than Enterprise, one which has some intriguing parallels to Star Trek canon.

What was the original name of the Space Shuttle Enterprise?

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

What work of classic literature was Gene Roddenberry's inspiration for Star Trek? (Hint: It wasn't "Wagon Train")

Star Trek motivational poster courtesy Echosphere.netA mere 44 years ago this week -- Sept. 8, 1966 -- the first episode of Star Trek aired on CBS. The debut of "The Man Trap" was the culmination of six years of work for series creator Gene Roddenberry, who had been developing and shopping his show concept since 1960.

Like all Hollywood pitches, Roddenberry had to relate his show premise to an already successful franchise in order to interest production studios. Thus, Star Trek was floated to TV houses as "Wagon Train in space" -- a description that many fans consider inaccurate, and perhaps even condescending.

In truth, Roddenberry was only citing the episodic, random-encounter-with-the-unknown aspect of Wagon Train. His inspiration for Star Trek, as he would later claim, was actually one of the most famous works of classic literature ever written.

What work of classic literature was Gene Roddenberry's self-professed inspiration for
Star Trek?

Monday, August 30, 2010

Who coined Google's unofficial motto Don't Be Evil? (Hint: It wasn't Larry Page, Sergei Brin or Eric Schmidt)

IMG_8283Image by tantek via FlickrTwelve years ago this week -- Sept. 4, 1998 -- Google was founded by Stanford students Larry Page and Sergei Brin. What began as a project to improve academic paper citations has since become arguably the most powerful media company on earth. No small part of Google's monstrous growth was the loyalty of the tech community, which the company won over with its upstart idealist motto "Don't Be Evil."

With repeated privacy gaffes like Google Buzz's contact list exposure or the Wi-Fi packet sniffing performed by Google Street View survey vehicles, people have begun to doubt whether the Don't Be Evil mantra is still practiced at Google. With Google's blatant net neutrality sellout to Verizon, some suspect Don't Be Evil was never a serious part of Google's corporate DNA.

To that end, it's worth noting that Don't Be Evil is a phrase that was suggested to Brin and Page, rather than suggested by Brin and Page. And it wasn't current CEO Eric Schmidt that brought Don't Be Evil into Google's company culture. Instead, it was one of Google's most influential early employees that coined Don't be Evil as a core company value -- an employee that, perhaps tellingly, is no longer with the company.

Who coined Google's unofficial motto Don't Be Evil? 

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Nerd Word going on hiatus

Due to a surfeit of commitments -- and the fact that it's starting to feel like a me-too feature nobody really needs -- the Nerd Word of the Week is going on indefinite hiatus. In fact, the entire content makeup of may be in for an overhaul here as soon as I clear some daylight in my schedule. Stay tuned for details.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

How many dwarf planets are bigger than Pluto?

This now obsolete 2004 artist's rendition show...Image via WikipediaFour years ago today, the International Astronomical Union voted to revise the current IAU definition of a planet -- adopting the one that didn't include Pluto. This, of course, led to some blowback in the astronomy community (and the sci-fi/internet community, too). Team Pluto, however, didn't have much in the way of empirical evidence to back the position Pluto deserved to stay -- especially since it wasn't even the largest member of the newly minted dwarf planet group to which it now belongs.

How many dwarf planets are bigger than Pluto?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Nerd Word of the Week: Schminternet

Net Neutrality protest at  Google HQ - GoogleR...Image by Steve Rhodes via FlickrSchminternet (n.) - A version of the Internet that does not operate under net neutrality standards and thus has tiered access and "surfing tolls" for certain content, services, or websites. The phrase is named after Google CEO Eric Schmidt who notably reversed course on net neutrality when Google forged a traffic prioritization pact with Verizon. The term was coined by Jeff Jarvis who snarked on Twitter: "The Schminternet = not the internet. Comes with new fees."

I bring it up because: The Google-Verizon wireless traffic pact just won't die. Wired referred to Google as a "net neutrality surrender monkey" (earning extra points for the Simpsons reference) and Jon Stewart took shots at Google from his perch atop The Daily Show. While some predicted Google would sell out years ago, it is nonetheless disillusioning that the company once seen as the champion of the open internet is now playing the same self-serving corporate games it formerly opposed. If things keep in this direction, the backlash is only going to get stronger and calling Google's tiered internet the Schminternet is the nicest thing web activists will say about Eric Schmidt or his company.
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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Why was the Compact Disc standardized at 120 mm wide?

Corrosion of a Compact Disc (Depeche Mode - Co...Image via WikipediaMy daughter is home sick and I'm behind on all three of my jobs, so let's just acknowledge the 28th birthday of the public release of compact discs with this CD-related Geek Trivia I wrote a few years ago:
Philips and Sony co-developed the CD, with much of the technology derived from Philips’ existing (though ultimately unsuccessful) LaserDisc video efforts. When the first compact disc rolled off the assembly line on Aug. 17, 1982, that line was at a Philips plant in Germany.
The two companies collectively developed and agreed on the specifications found in IEC 60908, but the basis for at least one of those specs — the 120-mm diameter of the CD — was somewhat controversial, especially when you hear the possible reasoning behind it. 
Get the answer here.
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