Blender 2.66

One of my favorite applications is sadly one for which I have no capacity to master. I’m speaking of the outstanding, open-source modeling tool Blender. Version 2.66 of this fantastic tool has just been announced. And while I’m sure almost everyone who uses the tool already knows about it, I mention it just in case someone drops by here and isn’t familiar with the tool but possesses the skills necessary to create something great with it.

Understandable standards for system and components

I love this Tech Report article on setting standards for computer systems and components, but don’t have any idea how we could make this reality.

Discrete or integrated, nobody knows what graphics solution to choose anymore. No, I’m not talking about people like you and me who actually read hardware reviews. I’m talking about the vast majority of the market, composed of regular, non-technical people who simply want to buy or upgrade a computer. That apparently simple task has become an ordeal. I mean, you know there’s a problem when even my most computer-literate friends come to me for clarification—and I often can’t help without looking at Scott’s graphs.

I confess this is even true for me, and I try to keep myself moderately well informed of what is going on in the world of graphics cards. I’m still running an nVidia 670 card in my desktop, and would love to upgrade (don’t need to, but I want to), but I don’t have the time right now to properly evaluate the current generation and make sure I get something that’s a legitimate upgrade while still maintaining a reasonable spending budget.

Skyrim best mods?

I’ve started playing Skyrim again. The kids love it. I love it. It’s just a really well-crafted game. So now I’m looking over the newest Steam Workshop mods available for Skyrim. There have been loads of good community add-ons done since I stopped playing a few months. Anyone have recommendations of the best game enhancements? I love mods which add to the atmosphere of the game, simplify gameplay, or which make small but nice tweaks to the overall game experience. I’m not looking for anything to make my characters super powerful from the beginning.

As examples of what I like and use, I have the Stones of Barenziah Quest Markers mod. I use Unread Books Glow. I find something like Towns and Villages Enhanced to be nearly mandatory. And Realistic Ragdolls and Force just makes beating enemies a tad more realistic without increasing gore and so adds a nice bit to the play. I also have a few audio/music mods to increase ambiance, and some map mods to improve the quality and usefulness of the in-game map. So with these as my primary interest, can anyone suggest some more really handy mods for the game?

Blogging burnout, returning a Blahg

Three and a half years ago, I posted a picture of the awesome and beautiful Alyson Hannigan then quietly disappeared into nothingness. I was burnt out on blogging. More specifically, I was burnt out on the deafening silence from the audience. When I started my Blah, Blah, Blahg, I did so as a way to keep track of interesting things I found online. It was for me. Then, I started getting a visit or two from the outside. I wasn’t trying to write for others, but I also wasn’t trying to hide from others what I found interested. If I wanted to do that I could easily have used del.ico.us or any similar bookmark tracking service. Continue reading

Conservatives respond to DHS report on “right wing extremists”

Very interesting video compilation of various conservative commentators on the report issued by the Department of Homeland Security earlier this month regarding risks of right wing extremists:

What is particularly interesting is the last 10-15 seconds of the report.  This is the part almost no one seems to be reporting when expressing their false outrage over this report:

. . . this is an element of the story which has largely gone unreported.  There are two assessments.  One looks at right wing groups as you mentioned, and a second focuses on left wing groups.  Significantly, both were requested by the Bush administration, but not finished until President Bush left office.

But of course, that’s the kind of information entertainers like O’Reilly and Limbaugh wouldn’t want you to hear.

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Dental care in the UK?

I don’t know if the story I am about to link to is a very widespread issue or not, but if you believe the article it would seem that it is, and growing worse.  This is an article about a young lady who could not find proper dental care under the new national program put in place in April 2006 by the British government.  I am neither in support of nor opposed to nationalized healthcare here in the US.  I believe both sides of this debate make some preposterous claims as well as some viable claims.    Setting aside your own beliefs over whether nationalized healthcare is good or bad, read at the Daily Mail about a young lady who had to have all her teeth removed due to long-term gum disease issues that she could not find a dentist to help resolve.

Like so many young women, Amy King always took great pride in her appearance.

Standing in front of the mirror to check her make-up before a night out, the 21-year-old would always try a smile – friends told her they loved the way it lit up her face.

Eight weeks ago, all that changed. The student from Plymouth was admitted to hospital where, in a single operation, she had every tooth in her mouth removed.

Amy, whose dental problems were caused by untreated gum disease, does not go out any more. And when she looks in the mirror she hardly recognises the face staring back at her.

This is absolutely an extreme case.  It is not indicative of how nationalized medicine does or does not work.  The problem here appears to be over the management of the nationalized dental care, not the mere fact that it is nationalized.  I point this out, because one cannot look at this one case and claim nationalized care programs do not work.  On the other hand, proponents of nationalized healthcare cannot wave this away as a complete aberration that should not be evaluated when discussing nationalized coverage.

According to the article, teeth extractions in the hospital are up a statistically significant amount.  There is also an increase in the time it takes to get dental care, as well as suggestions that more advanced problem cases are not getting proper treatment due to how the national dental contract works.  Furthermore, there is an increase in home-care for dental issues.  This article even mentions a specific case of a woman pulling her own teeth when she couldn’t get to see a national provider.  Ouch.

As I said above – I’m neither for nor against national healthcare programs.  I see problems and benefits for providing universal coverage as well as for staying with what we have now.  I don’t think it’s a simple problem, and anyone who tells you one side or the other is clearly correct can only say that because they haven’t studied the cost and benefits well enough.  I do believe there is a true push toward nationalized care here in the US that will eventually succeed.  I do believe there will be benefits for many people as a result.  I also believe that some people will be left worse than what they have now, and that while some people will pay less overall for this coverage, many will also pay more.  I think it’s an important discussion to have, but I also think that knowing more than just the facts that support your own side are vital.

And a final note – the story says that Ms. King doesn’t like to go out any more, nor to smile.  But honestly, looking at her picture I still think she looks great.

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Laptop 64 – Ben Heck strikes again

Commodore-64 portablized

Commodore-64 portablized

Is there anyone else out there capable of pulling off the work Ben Heck does? Honestly, I’ve seen a few people do similar mods to portablize game consoles or vintage computers, but no one with the breadth of neat hacks that Ben has done. The latest bit from him is the rejiggering of “Classic” computer the Commodore 64.

While I can’t say I personally would want one, this really is a pretty cool project for folks who have to get their retro on. (via MAKEZine)

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