Steampunk: the future in retrospect

This past Saturday a good friend invited me to a ball, yes a ball. Not just any shindig mind you, but a unique experience called a steam punk ball. A gathering of folks that can only be described as a cross between a historical reenactment and a science fiction convention.

Steampunk is essentially what would happen if the  ideas of Jules Verne’s and H.G.Well’s steam powered world dictated the course of our history. The airship and the locomotive would still be the main sources of transport, communication would be through wireless telegraph and society would resemble the best of Victorian England and/or the Old West. But enough history, lets talk about that night.

The little art gallery/cafe/curio store named Davenport and Winkleperry is situated in a little place called Pittsboro, NC. Think Norman Rockwell’s Main Street America and you’ve got the picture. Yet every other month or so the doors of this cafe (tastefully decorated in Dr. Who Tardis colors) swing open. My guide for the night, dressed for the part as Annie Oakley, introduced me to a cast of characters ranging from dapper Victorian gentlemen, rough mountain men types, corset and bustle clad ladies, itinerant scientists, brazen adventurers and the like. What they all seem to have a love for was a past that might have been. As a newcomer I was immediately paired off with a Parisian dancer, hitting the floor with gusto.

Dancing at this event was very open, for every couple swinging and waltzing there were at least a dozen more doing everything from salsa to gypsy stepping. And, In keeping with the theme, the D.J. played everything from The Decembrists, Gogol Bordello and Flogging Molly to classic pop songs sung in an 1800’s style.  The fun didn’t stop there. We had Tom Maxwell of the Squirrel Nut Zippers playing all his hits, UNC-TV doing interviews for one of their specials and even a marriage proposal. The future bride and groom received a standing ovation from the crowd.  One hell of way to end a Saturday, right?

Steampunk certainly has a large following, especially in North Carolina. If ever you want to step into a past that might have been, look no further than this little place.

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Rest in Peace Space Cowboy

Today the majority of the world has heard of the passing of Neil Armstrong, the first man to set foot on the moon and make humanity’s mark in space. He was above all things, a hero. In the midst of the Cold War he, along with his fellow Astro and Cosmonauts, were reminders that we as people are capable of daring things. Armstrong and his compatriots will be remembered as the first to cross our earthly boundaries and realize mans dream to literally walk among the stars.

As a child growing up overseas in Guatemala and Mexico, I learned about his exploits. Even now the quote that has the most resonance is: “I think we’re going to the moon because it’s in the nature of the human being to face challenges. It’s by the nature of his deep inner soul… we’re required to do these things just as salmon swim upstream”. That in itself is a reflection of our instincts.

When we are born, we naturally wish to do mighty things as our dreams tell us. It is a combination of overcoming fear and seeing the beauty of what life can offer us. Go forth and reach for your stars.

The first man on the moon, amazing bragging rights.

Oscar Pistorius: Overcoming the Impossible

Every four years the world’s audience takes time to watch the marvel of humanity’s physical abilities. We often see the great champions at their best. It’s awe inspiring to see the agility of Usain Bolt, the speed of Michael Phelps, The tenacity of Abby Wambach and the USA Women’s team and so many others. The story that seems to stand out the most is possibly Oscar Pistorius AKA “The Blade Runner”.

Pistorious, a man in my age group, is currently one of the most successful track and field runners in the 400m course. He is also a double amputee. His life’s story is, in a word, incredible. At the time of his birth, the doctors at his hospital discovered that he lacked a frontal fibula, a necessary joint for his lower legs to function. After having them removed his parents made it their goal to make their son’s life as normal as possible. In receiving prosthetic lower limbs he was encouraged to participate in rugby in a local youth league. An injury in 2003 forced him to evaluate what was important to him. In learning to run on his artificial limbs he found his niche. He started to compete in the Paralympics,  break numerous records, defied the impossible odds by competing in the Olympics as an equal before the commission and gave hope to thousands of physically handicapped people. Watching him compete in the London games raised a few thoughts.

In life we as people constantly think about what we could have, to make us perform or live better. We excuse ourselves when faced with a shortcoming. How some of us cannot live up to someone else’s expectations or do as well as others. I say look at the gifts that each of us possesses and go forward. Each of us has the ability to find out strengths. Only then can we find gratitude for ourselves.  If a man who lost and regained his mobility from birth, went against the expectations of those around him and walked off the field with dignity then they deserve nothing but respect.

Grenada’s Kirani James and Oscar Pistorius of South Africa. True sportsmanship.

Twitter: The go-to app for social interaction.

According to a recent article posted on CNN, We all have that first impulse every morning: wake up, stretch, check out twitter account. It’s central to our content consumption habits as much as Facebook, Reddit and other social media platforms. The question that should be central to everyone’s minds should be: What really goes on Twitter on any given day? We can be certain that content doesn’t stay put, It’s re-tweeted and sent out into the world.

Our Rapidly Changing World
With the advent of Instagram, more tweeters are sharing photos of themselves and their day to day lives than any other type of content. With this app everyone can singlehandedly customize their pics by adding filters and crop tools that were only previously available to programs such as Photoshop. The best part is, it is applicable to social media like twitter. This makes international file-sharing limitless. That said, it doesn’t end with your photo albums.

New frontiers

Articles come in second place at about 16%. Surprisingly the statistics for languages in articles are not even printed in English! The top language is Indonesian led by Detik.com followed by BBC.co.uk and rounded out by Globo.com, a Portuguese language site based in Brazil. This surprising evidence, presented by Diffbot’s page classifier API, brings up some interesting revelations. As wages go up in developing regions of the world, so to does the potential for users in those markets to have access to Social Media. This makes our world that much more connected. You ask why stop at static text? Why not embedded video?

A Force For Change                                                                                                                                                                                                        

Going back to the graph on CNN, we see that video has a huge niche as well. While video makes up roughly 10%. of all the video posted on twitter, YouTube predictably leads at hosting 6 out of 10 videos. The usability and easily gained posting space on YouTube accounts has increased its popularity over its rival content sharing sites such as Vimeo or Google Videos. This enabled such drastic world changing events such as the Arab Spring to occur. For the first time in history, individuals and groups that wanted to get their opinions across did not need a printing press or other tech. All that was necessary for groups of activists in Tunis, Cairo and Tripoli needed was a YouTube account, a camera or smartphone, a working FTP channel and, you guessed it, a twitter handle. Nine intense months later these three countries gained the right to have democratic elections. All thanks to human ingenuity and the availability of tech, anything is truly possible.

Final Thoughts
The future of social media is ever expanding as more new and innovative means are being created. One day we will see holographic imaging, improved voice powered searches (Siri is a good start), fingerprint activated saved searches and so much more! One thing that can be certain is the creation of twitter, the genesis of the global micro-blog and a force for change.

For referencing the graphic please follow the mashable link at the bottom.

http://mashable.com/2012/08/16/twitter-day-in-the-life-infographic/?WT.mc_id=en_top_stories&utm_campaign=Top%2BStories

Aurora: What we can learn

It’s already been two weeks since the tragedy at Aurora,Colorado as a dozen people were killed and over three dozen were wounded in a calculated attack by the mass murderer James Holmes. Putting this event into context, the situation was unique. A mild mannered PhD student, with a history of mental illness, accumulated an arsenal of over six thousand rounds of ammunition, two high powered pistols, a shotgun and an assault rifle fitted with a 100 round drum, making that weapon, for all intents and purposes, a military support weapon. After initiating his attack, Holmes left the theater, calmly walked to his car and surrendered to waiting patrol officers. Now he has been arraigned in court and formally charged with multiple counts of murder. Meanwhile, television interviews have been conducted on the survivors, an army of lobbyists and policymakers are hard at work to spin the story to their advantage, hysteria is being thrown around as weapon sales have now reached an all time high in this country. The question remains: what about those that are left behind?

In the aftermath of tragic events it is natural to attempt to apply logic, reasoning, or blind emotion in order to come up with an answer. Perhaps we should consider the background of our nation’s mixed relationship with the firearm. During the time period of Colonial America, A gun was a multi-purpose tool that could either be used to hunt game of defend a household from bandits of all ethnicities. It was written in the constitution that an American citizen has the right to be part of “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” And so here lies the conundrum: How does this law apply today? We already have a free standing military and a National Guard system that stands ready to defend our people. Our country has not been invaded for 200 years. Clearly a weapon’s purpose is to protect the community, period. So why are weapons a necessity? Hunting still requires the use of weapons as does home defense. A bolt-action rifle or pump-action shotgun is more than enough to take down wild game. A handgun is a practical weapon for someone to defend their home, should they choose to accept the responsibility and consequences of deadly force. So where do military grade weapons fit into this strange situation?

In speaking with friends of mine in the Army, Marine Corps, and Air Force, most came into agreement that an AR-15, the civilian model of the M16/M4 rifle family is fairly impractical for a n0n-soldier to use. When bringing up the topic of a 100 round drum magazine for the same weapon, they viewed such an attachment with distrust. It was explained to me that the direct impingement system of an American rifle cannot sufficiently handle that type of ammunition capacity, unless it had an automatic selection. Without automatic cycling, the magazine is almost always prone to failure. Making it practically useless in a civilian setting. It was also agreed that a military based weapon is only applicable when being faced by 15+ opponents, something that rarely happens outside of a combat zone. Yet that does not fully answer the question of the victims and their families.

A Beta-C Magazine, Capable of holding 100 rounds.

In spite of our nation’s history in needing these weapons, constitutional rights, and political routines does any of this truly matter to the young men and women that fill the hospital beds? To the grieving parents and spouses that lost their loved ones? Perhaps what is necessary is an institutionalized system of accountability. The responsibility of figuring out what exactly triggers these episodes should be at the forefront of these preventions. I have read news reports of how shootings like Aurora, Tucson and Columbine high school could have been stopped if individuals listened to the warning signs. These included erratic behavior by the suspect, a history of peer or family abuse, misuse of medication or alcoholism and social isolation. Perhaps the answer is not to retaliate as individuals but to come together as a community and address these problems in therapeutic manner. That being said, we as a society should not parade this story as a curio for a week and then revert back to our day time programming as though it never truly happened, leaving a grief stricken community in the wake.