Sunday, 17 January 2021

it depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is

Breaking a story that Newsweek had delayed publishing on the liaison, Matt Drudge first brought to the public news of the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal (previously here and here) on this day in 1998. The on-line aggregator not acknowledged by the established press until four days later when the Washington Post following up on the scoop that investigative reporter Michael Isikoff’s editors had sat on and then killed.

Thursday, 11 July 2019

skyfall

At around four-thirty in the afternoon universal coordinated time (plus eight hours local time) on this day in 1979, debris from NASA’s abandoned but not unsuccessful space station project Skylab that was not incinerated upon its uncontrolled re-entry landed in the Shire of Esperance on the coast of Western Australia.
Fortunately the space junk caused no injury or damage and there was a media frenzy of speculation of where and when the craft might crash-land with contests and wagers made. A few days afterwards local farmers recovered a huge oxygen tank and it was decided by show masters-of-ceremonies to display it as a prop on the stage of the Miss Universe pageant that had been scheduled for later in the month in nearby Perth—hosted by The Price is Right’s Bob Barker—whose weight combined with seventy-five contestants assembled to sing a rousting rendition of Waltzing Matilda made the dais a little structurally unstable. Fortunately no beauty contestants were harmed in this mission either. Having garnered valuable lessons from the first attempt, the US planned next for Space Station Freedom whose programme would eventual merge with the International Space Station, commissioned in 1998.

Tuesday, 4 September 2018

i’m feeling lucky

Originally developed as a search algorithm provisionally called “BackRub” that ranked websites by the number of other pages backlinking to them in 1996 as a graduate studies project, Sergey Brin and Larry Page filed the paperwork for incorporation on this day in 1998 for their search engine and web crawler, Google. The name was selected as a misspelling of googol, shorthand for imparting the concept of ten duotrigintillon or a one followed by one hundred zeroes, as an illustration of the vast amounts of data circulating on the internet.
Liberal estimates of the mass of the Universe fall short of that by fully ten powers of ten—or in other words just one ten-billionth of a googol of kilogrammes. Google assigns the number in scientific notation “1e100.net” to its array of servers to identify them across the internet. The corporate headquarters “Googleplex” is a much later backronym, homage referencing the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy super-computer Googleplex Starthinking (same spelling) that can calculate the trajectory of each mote of dust in a blizzard and contemplates the very vectors of atoms since the Big Bang—which is again a bit of over-engineering seeing that the value, a googolplex being ten to the googol power, something physical impossible to express outside of our imagination, and far outstrips the total number of subatomic particles in the Cosmos, reckoned at 10⁸⁰ or thereabouts.

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

independent counsel

Twenty years ago on this day, the internet news and gossip aggregator Drudge Report beat Newsweek and the mainstream press to the punch by breaking reports of the scandalous affair between President Bill Clinton and White House intern Monica Lewinsky.
Clinton’s initial denial, clamouring for answers whilst the administration was mired in a few other personal affairs (Whitewater, Travelgate) eventually led to Clinton’s impeachment by Congress in December of the same year. Acquitted of the impeachable offenses of perjury and obstruction of justice, Clinton was allowed to remain in office or the remainder of his second term. We cannot know of course the collateral scandals that were either obscured through fatigue or propelled to the fore of public consciousness because of the manner in which this played out nor image how on-line media and personas might have been otherwise informed if their moment had not been limned by the salacious and the scornful. What do you think? We can’t condemn the follies of two decades hence on balance of where that’s landed us but times seem strikingly inverted and while welcome progress is evident in many areas in terms of what we as a culture will tolerate, the forces of regression have taken hold elsewhere.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

cinematic titanic or play MSTIE for me

The name PfRC is a nod to the series Mystery Science Theater 3000—the 1998 episode lampooning the 1958 Jack Arnold feature, The Space Children. Just ahead of the abduction—encounter, the children gleefully announce the discovery of an ominous cave—to which one of the Bots quip, “It will be perfect for our delicious Roquefort cheese.” MST3K premiered 25 years ago on Thanksgiving Day on a UHF broadcast station in the Minneapolis area. Mental Floss has more on the show's history, legacy and some trivia. The Mads are calling.