Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Me, a Famous Author and 2 Functional Nerds vs. The Avengers, Garageband, Arkham City and Kickstarter

Avengers (comics)
When my pals over at the Functional Nerds podcast decided to retool their format, they couldn't come up with a better guinea pig to pair with multi-talented multi-media author Matt Forbeck than me. The evidence of their desperation is enshrined forever in Functional Nerds Episode 082 – FN vs. The Avengers, Garageband, Arkham City and Kickstarter.

Batman: Arkham City
I am blissfully silent while the big kids are talking, but manage to get my meta-nerd shots in about the new Marvel movie meta-franchise, and its consequences for the career of some guy named Joss Whedon. Sandbox Batman and the revenge of online author donations also come up, and we even discuss the virtue of having a recording studio in your pocket (or are you just glad to see me?).

This podcast features original music by John Anealio. That alone is worth a listen.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Techtalk Trivia: What was the only manned space flight mission to take off on Halloween day?

If you've seen 1970's vintage cylons, you know...Image via Wikipedia
My latest TechTalk podcast/radio appearance was suitably seasonal: Ep. 248 – Every Day is Halloween!

TOPIC: Mike and Dave get together right before Halloween this year to tell you spooky tech stories … well, maybe not so spooky, but Dave does apologize for his comments about Steve Jobs from a few weeks ago, and an apology from the TechTalk show can seem almost supernatural in it’s rarity. Tablets and a possibly too-long discussion of IVR rounds out the show before …

Jay “Encyclopedia Garmonica” treats us to a totally a propos Halloweeny geek trivia question:
What was the only manned space flight mission to take off on Halloween day?
And that leaves us ample time for some great seasonal coolsites of the week!
  • PumpkinPatchesAndMore – Find all the local pumpkin patches in your area! Plus carving templates, recipes, and more.

  • HalloweenPrintables – From the great folks at, come some cards, puzzles, and coloring pages just in time for Halloween!

  • FantasyPumpkins – These are cool to look at all year, and include templates for many of the coolest pumpkins you’ve ever seen!
This week we treat your ears to a speed metal version of the classic “Every Day is Halloween” by Ministry.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Geek Gifts 2011: Star Wars: The Complete Saga Blu-Ray Collection

Geek Gifts 2011: Star Wars: The Complete Saga Blu-Ray Collection: Star Wars fans, do you need The Complete Saga Blu-Ray Collection? Someone paid me to answer that question in this review, which is to say I turned a profit by spending two consecutive Saturdays with a houseful of friends watching a free copy of every Star Wars film on Blu-Ray. Yes, you can hate me now.

Thanksgeeking 2011: 12 things geeks can be thankful for this year

Thanksgeeking 2011: 12 things geeks can be thankful for this year: A dozen or so events, items, and ideas from 2011 for which the geek-o-sphere should give thanks. (Or, at least, MY list of what geeks should be thankful for. Still blows my mind I get paid for this stuff.)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

What unlikely outside group forces the Large Hadron Collider to shut down for three weeks every winter?

The Large Hadron Collider/ATLAS at CERNImage by Image Editor via FlickrThe Large Hadron Collider may be the most influential scientific instrument of the early 21st century, but it still has to play ball with all the various agencies and interest groups that dominate modern life. One of these organizations holds some rather unexpected sway over the LHC -- enough to force the particle accelerator to shut down its atom-smashing for three weeks or more every winter.

Want to know who the mysterious power behind the Higgs Boson throne is? As usual, you've got two ways to found out:

The former includes some rather awesome counter-theories from TechRepublic's online readership. The latter includes a vivid discussion of the fallout from Google's acquisition of Zagat. Both are worth your time, despite my involvement in each venture.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The most horrible things in science fiction

The Fly (1986 film)Image via WikipediaThere are two ways of interpreting the post title:
  • A clever pun on mashing the horror and sci-fi genres
  • The description of my contribution to SF Signal podcasts
Both are likely true, as those poor, foolish fools at SF Signal had me on their podcast again discussing the best examples of science fiction horror stories. Don't worry, it's not just me blathering about Ridley Scott and David Cronenberg (that happens, but there's other stuff, too). Lee ThomasAshley CrumpDerek JohnsonJeff Patterson, and Patrick Hester make legitimate statements about genre that tend to drown out my own sonic idiocy.

My content will horrify. Their content will edify. Either way you win, assuming horror is of interest to you. Give it a listen.

As always my chronicle of past SF Signal podcast atrocities is available here.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Dragon*Con 2011: A n00b's Tale, Part III

English: People in Star Trek costumes, at Drag...
English: People in Star Trek costumes, at DragonCon Parade in Atlanta in 2009. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
[In the wake of Thursday and Friday awesomeness, the Saturday infodump continuous apace.]


I awoke slightly later than usual, which is to say 9:00 am, as I had burned the midnight oil at the Star Trek Reboot Review on Friday. My original plan was to attend the 10:00am "Give Me The Bottom Line" writers panel with Mike Resnick and Peter David, but after the Friday disappointments with the Writer's Track, I decided to bow to convention and take in the legendary Dragon*Con Parade. After a quick foodcourt "breakfast" (scare quotes intentional) I staked out a spot betwixt the Hyatt and Marriott along the main parade route.

Now, the parade doesn't start until ten, and when I arrived at 9:30 the crowd was already three-deep along the street. I snagged a view behind a group of parents, as it's easy to see over kids. By the time 10:00am rolled around, the crowd was 8-10 deep on every side. Despite not being in costume, I got compliments on my Diesel Sweeties t-shirt, to the point someone snapped a photo of me. (I tweeted said event, and R. Stevens himself acknowledged my nano-infamy.)

And then, the parade.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

What were the 'controversial' call signs for the Apollo 10 spacecraft - The ones that got astronauts' naming rights taken away?

Logo Apollo 10Image via WikipediaLittle known fact: Apollo 10 was the last NASA mission in which astronauts were allowed to assign call signs to their spacecraft. Since then, NASA public relations has had final say on naming rights, in no small part because the Apollo 10 crew chose "controversial" names for their command module and lunar lander.

So, what were those rights-robbing call signs? There are two places to find out:

Old-school comics fans will get a kick out of this one. Promise.
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Tuesday, October 04, 2011

What English township is the official technical namesake of broken profanity filters?

Cartoon of a person waving fistImage via WikipediaOf the various and sundry reasons we're all anxiously awaiting the semantic web, perhaps the most overlooked motivator is a desire for smarter profanity filters. This is especially true of two groups: Residents of certain English township which is the namesake of semantically dumb text filters, and a medieval aficionados who suffered rather comically at the hands of a rather famously stupid online profanity blocker.

Here's where you can learn about both:
Both items answer both questions, but from opposite ends. I encourage you to consume both and decide which is better, and not just because I like farming page views to my friends and sidejob employers. (OK, mostly that, but not entirely.)
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Which Manhattan Project scientist won the betting pool to determine the explosive yield of the first atomic bomb?

Trinity test (LANL)Image via WikipediaRemember when those wacky Los Alamos boys inaugurated the nuclear arms race by detonating the world's first atomic explosive?

Well, as humans are wont to do, those Manhattan Projectors laid out a little wagering action as to exactly how explosive said atomic gadget would turn out to be. So the question becomes: Who won the Trinity Test betting pool? 

You can find out one of two ways:
  • Audio, via one of my appearances on TechTalk radio in Chicago (which includes some additional content about Chip Bell and John Patterson's new book Wired and Dangerous)
  • Text, via a recent Geek Trivia column (which includes pithy commentary from my Geekend readership)
Hint: The guy who won the pool is probably more famous in medical circles than he is in the halls of physics. Maybe.
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Thursday, September 15, 2011

Dragon*Con 2011: A n00b's Tale, Part II

A Meeting Of The MindsImage by Cayusa via Flickr[Be forewarned, this more a memory core-dump than structured narrative. It's gonna get rough.]


Despite the rather exhaustive and enthralling nature of the preceding day, Dragon*Con doesn't actually begin until the Friday of Labor Day weekend. Being the early riser (*cough* non-drinker *cough*) amongst my roommates, I awoke about 8:00 am, quietly showered and dressed, then descended the only slightly overcrowded elevators in search of food, and the location of my first panel.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Dragon*Con 2011: A n00b's Tale, Part I.

Dragon ConImage via WikipediaAs some are aware, I was ordered by my wife to attend my first Dragon*Con this year. Now, I help run my local con and I attended Comic-Con in 2002, back when it was only twice as large as Dragon*Con, so I figured I was prepared for whatever D*C could throw at me.

Woe, the hubris of geeks.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

How many parents did Dolly the cloned sheep actually have?

DollyImage by Bigod via FlickrEverybody remember Dolly, the first real-life clone that ever got significant mainstream press coverage? Well, as is often the case, the science fact of Dolly is rather more bizarre than your typical clone-oriented science fiction. Turns out Dolly had a rather unorthodox number of parents, depending on how you define the term. How many? I'll tell you two ways:

The latter podcast also has some nice ancillary material about the fate of the human brain from Matt Richtel and a tidbit about Intel's Museum of Me.

Need more trivia? Try one of the labels at the bottom of this post.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

What two movies created by a famous Hollywood geek pushed the PG rating so far that the MPAA created PG-13?

"PG-13" rating of Motion Picture Ass...Image via WikipediaYet another of my infamous TechTalk radio appearances has been archived online, wherein I ponder what two movies created by a famous Hollywood geek pushed the PG rating so far that the MPAA created PG-13?

More importantly, there are vague implications that Google's self-driving cars may be a secret contingency plan to stave off a Decepticon invasion. You decide.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

So I've been ordered to Dragon*Con

Dragon ConImage via WikipediaMy wife has informed me that I am required to attend this year's Dragon*Con. I've never been, and as we're expecting our second child in December, this may be my last chance for quite a while. Thus, if anyone has any tips for a Dragon*Con n00b -- fair warning, I've been to San Diego Comic-Con, so I'm acquainted with cons at large scales -- I'd be glad to hear them. Moreover, if you're a known acquaintance attending Dragon*Con and are interesting in splitting a ride and/or hotel digs, look me up.


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

ReaderCon, the pros and cons

The logo used by Apple to represent PodcastingImage via WikipediaI spent all of three hours at this year's ReaderCon, the famous Boston-based literary science fiction and fantasy convention. Somehow that qualified me to expound upon the features of the event via my latest appearance on the SFSignal podcast. Not to worry, the panel discussion includes actual informed opinions from the likes of:
Give it a listen, especially if you're a lit-centric sci-fi nerd.

Per usual my rap sheet of past SF Signal podcast transgressions is available here.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

What 2 modern game console rivals almost collaborated on a single game system?

My Console CollectionImage by Andrew-LGP via FlickrOnce again, I posit a question in the form of Geek Trivia in not one, but tow different formats. You can learn which of the modern console-cranking triumvirate -- Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft -- almost tag-teamed the video game market in efficient text form in my latest Geek Trivia column on TechRepublic's Geekend blog.

If you want to auditorially luxuriate with the question, check out my TechTalk radio version of the tidbit, with additional content on Bitcoin, public education and other web-based minutia of interest.

Friday, July 08, 2011

I love manned spaceflight and I'm glad the space shuttle is dead

English: The April 12 launch at Pad 39A of STS...
The space shuttle is the last vestige of NASA's poltical theater era, when big, showy, hideously inefficient and unsupportable technical projects were its bread and butter. It's Nixon-era tech -- literally -- strung along for all the same government inertia keep-the-contractors-happy idiocy that's bankrupting our national treasury.

Consider, the shuttle is a reusable spacecraft that isn't actually reusable, given that the SRBs and main fuel tank are either lost or nearly 100% refitted after every launch. It's a construction platform for a spacestation that only needs a construction platform to assemble because it was badly designed by a lets-get-everyone-involved international consortium. The shuttle can retrieve cargo from orbit -- a task that no one wants or needs. And it can ferry crew and cargo to orbit simultaneously, which is actually a terrible idea as it's cheaper -- and far safer -- to send crew and cargo up separately on smaller, task-specific craft. The Progress cargo ships and modern Soyuz capsules are examples of this principle.

Like most government projects, the shuttle looks good on camera and makes for great press, but is actually a terribly impractical and inefficient solution to a complicated set of problems.

And don't get me started on how bad the ISS is at every task it's been assigned.

Human spaceflight is 50 years old. We're past the "do it just to prove we can" stage. It's time to be grownups. It's time to build space technology that solves real problems in practical ways, rather than in ways that make contractors and photographers happy. We can achieve low earth orbit really easily and keep humans in that environment for months or years. We get it. We're good at it. Time to move on.

Now, if you want LEO cheaply, that's not what the government is good at. That's the job of the private sector. Government paves the way. The market makes it profitable. It's time for profitable LEO and human orbital habitation. NASA's job is to pave the way for the next level of hard stuff, and the next level is REALLY HARD.

Where is my advanced asteroid detection and deflection system? That's a serious problem that NASA should be solving and isn't.

Where is my proof-of-concept Helium-3 extractor for the moon, which would give us a legitimate reason for going there?

Where is my methane-oxygen autofactory for Mars, which is required before we even think about sending humans in that direction?

Where is my Lagrange-point automated telescope, which would make the Hubble look like a kid's toy magnifying glass and would actually require us to deal with serious, complex at-a-distance systems maintenance -- the kind of thing space colonies will represent?

Where is my FRAKKING SPACE ELEVATOR, which would actually be a serious surface-to-orbit gamechanger?

NASA has better things to do than keeping 30-year-old tech around for nostalgic PR purposes. I, for one, am glad to see them putting away childish things and -- hopefully -- getting down to serious business.

Why does the last space shuttle flight have the smallest crew in a quarter century?

An exhaust plume surrounds the mobile launcher...Image via WikipediaI'm back in the Geek Trivia game full throttle on two fronts: TechTalk radio and TechRepublic's Geekend, asking why the final space shuttle mission will only carry four astronauts into orbit, which hasn't happened since Michael Jordan still wore Carolina blue.

Quoth the Geekend:

"Not since the maiden flight of Challenger in 1983 has a space shuttle operated with just a four-man complement. This reduced crew size can accommodate the extra payload on STS-135, but the payload isn’t the reason Atlantis is flying with the smallest crew in 28 years. That’s just a bonus."
I divulge NASA's secret in efficient text form via the Geekend, but go into more auditory detail on TechTalk. The latter podcast also includes an unrelated interview with the authors of The Techno-Human Condition (affiliate link), which is a fine primer on transhumanism. It's worth a listen above and beyond my trivial contributions.

Monday, June 27, 2011

The most popular thing I've ever written (makes fun of SyFy Channel movies)

When you Google my name, Jay Garmon -- and yes, I do this from time to time, for all the same reasons you'd expect -- only a single actual piece of writing earns first-page results. Winnow away all my social media profiles and bio pages and the intentional Google-bomb that is my blog URL, and you're left with a column I wrote in 2007 postulating on where Sci-Fi [sic] Channel movies really come from.

I take potshots at studio scriptwriting processes, B-list actors, the LA County sheriff's department, Perl and Corin Nemec (who is Parker Lewis and therefore a separate category from B-List) along the way. How this particular little gem of a column found it's way into Google's good graces I'm unclear, but I'll take the publicity where I can get it. My ego-surfing results change day to day (thanks, Panda), but this post has stayed a consistent first-page winner for a very long time.

I expect that the popularity is due to several factors, all obtuse:
  • Link equity: A few sci-fi and writer blogs cross-linked to this post when it went live 4 years ago, and I expect those links are still valuable
  • Longevity: As noted, 4 years is a long time to acquire link equity in Google's eyes
  • Authoritative URL: Say what you will about TechRepublic, but Google doesn't think they're a content farm
  • Keywords: I snark on a topic that many have snarked about before, and thus this is the most popular item to which my name is attached, Moreover, I hit a large number of topics and keywords in the progress of the post, which gives me a minor little Google boost along the way
If you're curious, I invite you to take a look at what I actually used to get paid to write, and the kind of thing I expect I'll be writing once more now that my noncompete has expired and I have clearance to work for CBS Interactive as a contractor again.

Oh, and the moral of the story? You never know which line-item on your bibliography will be the most long-lived or well received, so don't be any more of an asshole than absolutely necessary.
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Monday, June 06, 2011

My favorite unappreciated alien invasion story

Invasion! (DC Comics)Image via WikipediaMy favorite unappreciated alien invasion story is revealed -- alongside the more cogent and/or traditional selections from Jeff PattersonLisa Paitz SpindlerJamie Todd RubinFred KiescheJohn DeNardo and Patrick Hester -- in the latest edition of the SF Signal podcast. Comic book nerds will probably get a jolt from my nomination, especially if you're younger than 25.

Give a listen. You'll love it or your money back.

As always my rap sheet of past SF Signal podcast misdemeanors is available here.

Monday, May 02, 2011

TechTalk Trivia: What medieval poet and author is responsible for the modern day celebration of April Fool’s?

91/365 Happy April Fools Day!Image by Mykl Roventine via FlickrAnother Saturday, another horrifying example of my radio non-talent, courtesy of TechTalk WRLR in Chicago. This week, I enthrall listeners with the knowledge of which medieval poet and author is responsible for the modern day celebration of April Fool’s. Thankfully, the show is rescued from my pedantry with a discussion of how to recycle your old cell phones in service to a good cause. Give a listen.

Friday, April 29, 2011

TechTalk Trivia: What 2 types of propulsion was Mariner 10 was the first spacecraft to use?

Mariner 10 (The Mariner 10 was a probe sent to...Image via WikipediaYet more damning evidence of my radio ineptitude courtesy of TechTalk on WRLR Chicago. This time around, I divulge what two types of spacecraft propulsion that Mariner 10 was the first spacecraft in history to use. If that sounds like your cup of tea, I promise the info survives my bludgeoning attempts at being entertaining.

More importantly, Mike Kastler explains how to use the Internet to up the efficiency and honesty of your charitable donations. Listen for that service, if nothing else. Skip over my trivia nonsense, if necessary.

Monday, April 25, 2011

TechTalk Trivia: What famous rock band wrote the theme to the original “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” radio plays?

42, The Answer to the Ultimate Question of Lif...Image via WikipediaMy streak of radio appearances which have yet to draw FCC fines somehow continues with yet another appearance on TechTalk in Chicago. This week, I reveal which Hall of Fame rock band lent their music to be the theme of the original “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” radio plays. I also pimp Backupify rather profusely, but that wasn't my idea.

You'll probably get more out of the iPad 2 vs. Blackberry Playbook discussion, since I wasn't a part of it. Give it a listen.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Why regulation should be about transparency, not outcomes

Credit cardsImage via WikipediaTake cover, there be ranting ahead.

Government regulation gets a bad rap. This is understandable, as most government regulations are pretty stupid. As I've written previously, making rules is admitting failure. That said, government regulations don't have to be stupid. As a product of political wrangling, it may be unlikely that regulations ever won't be stupid, but it is possible to make regulations effective, efficient and -- above all -- minimally intrusive. In other words, not stupid. Here's how.

Make regulations about transparency, not outcome.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

TechTalk Trivia: What world-famous web site activated its domain name on Valentine’s Day 2005

...And Then Sometimes Valentine's Day Sucks!Image by Sister72 via FlickrAgainst all odds, I was once again allowed on broadcast radio -- and the podcast proof has finally surfaced from TechTalk on WRLR FM in Chicago. This time, I reveal what world-famous web site activated its domain name on Valentine’s Day 2005. DOn't worry, the mental damage is minimal and the rest of the broadcast redeems my babblings. Give it a listen.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Perfection - My first professional fiction sale

On my bio page, when discussing my futile efforts to launch a career as a science fiction author, I made the following threat:
If [such publication] ever happens, expect the first announcement to appear on JayGarmon.Net along with a copious overuse of exclamation points... first professional fictional sale is online !!!!!!1!!one!!!

I'm nothing if not a man of my word.

As to specifics, the story is titled "Perfection" as was purchased by the fine folks over at Redstone Science Fiction. They actually snagged the story a few months ago but I held off noting it here until the link went live in their April issue. (The irony of my first fiction sale meeting the world on April Fool's Day is not lost on me.)

As to the story itself, I'd like to think I wear my Charles Stross influences rather proudly. This is also a considerably shorter piece than I usually write, which no doubt contributed greatly to its publication. Nonetheless, I commend its content unto you, and welcome feedback -- positive or otherwise -- in the comment spaces of this post. I thank you in advance.


Monday, March 28, 2011

TechTalk Trivia: What classic board game was used by the Allies to help rescue POWs during WWII?

Playing the Shogun (2006) board gameImage via WikipediaAnother of my various and sundry appearance on the TechTalk radio show has been archived online for long-suffering posterity. In this episode, I divulge which classic board game was used by the Allies to help rescue POWs during WWII?

I promise, this is far more useful information in the podcast than my trademarked pedagogical ponderings. I invite you to seek it out.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Louisville could be the startup hub of the Midwest

The indefatigable Terry Boyd over at Insider Louisville spliced together some older quotes from my colleague-friend-boss, Rob May, and myself explaining how Louisville could actually participate in the 21st century economy. There's a lot of wisdom (mostly from Rob) and a lot of criticism (mostly from me). I'd love to hear what other folks think of our fair city and its prospects for growing tech-centric jobs -- and whether the Louisville Digital Association is doing right by its mission.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Is Robert Heinlein still relevant?

The Worlds of Robert A. HeinleinImage via WikipediaRobert A Heinlein is considered one of the most influential writers in the history of science fiction -- but are Heinlein's works still relevant today? Thus is the question posed (and, ostensibly, answered) in my latest SF Signal podcast appearance.

Not to worry, my inane babblings are more than compensated for by contributions from Fred KiescheDerek JohnsonJohn DeNardoJeff PattersonPatrick Hester and the music of John Anealio.

As always, you you can hear my previous SF Signal audiocrimes here.