5 things on Friday #12

Five things of note for the week ending Friday March 23rd, 2012

1. Obama using sign language

I’ve taken sign language lessons in the past and, as much as the simple (yet purposeful) sign for ‘thank you’ isn’t actually that hard, the fact the President of the United States was able to respond in such a way is pretty damn ace. Stephon, the chap that Obama was responding to, was understandably over the moon about it – as you’d hope you would be at such a fantastic moment.

Obviously it was reported on, and you could say ‘Yeah? And?’, but the point is knowing a different language – including something like Sign – can turn out to be useful at the most random of moments. I spent some time learning sign in my late teens (what I remember is basic, at best) but I’ll never forget, perhaps a week or so after my course finished and while working away at my local fast food joint (it was a college job!) being able to offer a deaf customer the option of signing his order to me. That understanding, that moment of surprise and delight was magical! ‘Wait, you know Sign?’  he signed to me. ‘A little’ I signed back, smiling.

This item goes in because it reminds me of that day.
And it makes me want to learn Sign again.

2. Where Good Ideas Come From
I’ve been reading the above book for a little while now (it’s not a huge read, but I have a tendency to read three books at once) and the current section on the strength and important of platforms when it comes to innovation – has led to one awesome discovery and one equally awesome reminder.

First: the invention of GPS –

“…inspiration for GPS came when the Soviet Union launched the first man-made satellite,Sputnik in 1957. Two American physicists, William Guier and George Weiffenbach, at Johns Hopkins’s Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), decided on their own to monitor Sputnik’s radio transmissions. Within hours they realized that, because of the Doppler effect, they could pinpoint where the satellite was along its orbit from the Doppler shift. The Director of the APL gave them access to their UNIVAC to do the heavy calculations required.
When they released the orbit of Sputnik to the media, the Russians were dumbfounded to learn how powerful American computers had become, as they would not have been able to calculate the orbit themselves. The following spring, Frank McClure, the deputy director of the APL, asked Guier and Weiffenbach to look at the inverse problem where you know the location of the satellite and you want to find your own location. (The Navy was developing the submarine-launched Polaris missile, which required them to know the submarine’s location.) This led them and APL to develop the Transit system.”


Er, so two young physicists wondered if they could spot the tell-tale radio signal of the Sputnik satellite  – from their office – back in 1957 and now, 55 years later, that exact same thinking is powering urban games, geo-tagging photos and generally baked into every single modern smartphone in the world. Amazing.

Secondly: the reminder of Delaware Subway Coral

I can remember reading about this when it happened, but the book touches upon it and it made me go and seek out the pictures again. It’s a great idea; use the hundreds upon hundreds of retired New York subway cars to help build a new marine ecosystem off the coast of Delaware – and it’s working.

Also – read this damn book.

3. The Nova Festival
With summer just around the corner the UK festival scene is preparing its sunglasses and its wellies for a season of muddy music-based merriment however, this year, two of my favourite haunts are taking a year off – there will be no Big Chill or Glastonbury in 2012.

So what to do?

Well, I’ve already booked myself a ticket for the Isle of Wight festival with some friends of mine and, given that I’ve never really done two festivals in one season before, I’m giving serious consideration to attending the Nova Festival too. Setup by two of the original producers of the Big Chill, it looks like it might be the soothing and dare I say it chilled way to spend a long weekend in July. Maybe. We’ll see…

4. Knowing when to unplug
This thought came back to me this past week. Being on your laptop / iPad / mobile phone from the moment you open your eyes to the moment you close them again is no way to live a life. Keep that thought clear, unplug every now and then and go out and enjoy the sunshine.

5. The Hunger Games

Hunger Games Premiere

Went to the premiere, which was pretty damn cool. I think this is a bit late mind (yes, it is – this was back on March 14th – I just forgot to write it up). I don’t feel like I gave the film a fair chance though to be honest. Because it was a premiere, once you’ve been ushered in you have to wait for all the stars to finish signing autographs etc before they start the film. Which meant we had to wait an hour after we’d taken our seats before anything got under way.

I haven’t read the books (bad Whatley), I didn’t think the film was ‘ZOMG!! LIKE BEST MOVIE EVA!!’ nor did I think it was particular rubbish. It was.. all right. Not brilliant, not bad, just OK. It probably deserves a second viewing.

And I should really read the books too.

Bonuses – another Prometheus trailer (I’m more excited about this than I think DKR or Avengers); a kitten playing with a super patient St. Bernard; Baboons that steal puppies then train them as guard dogs (for realsies); and a company called Calera seems to be doing things that completely blow my mind.