Archive for January, 2013

On the Robot Beat #4

January 29, 2013

On the Robot Beat #4

robot is something created by humans (directly or indirectly) that performs tasks (autonomously or not) done by humans (or, more broadly, by other animals…a robot dog, for example, would perform work done by living dogs, including providing companionship). 

The word may conjure up an image of a mechanical man, perhaps clunky and made of metal. The way we use the term at The Measured Circle, it would include software performing human tasks, and non-anthropomorphic devices like an answering machine or a calculator.

On the Robot Beat presents news about our creations that are, even in small ways, replacing us.

Robot refueler

The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) announced in this

press release

that Dextre, the astrobot “handyman” on board the ISS (International Space Station) successfully performed a simulated refueling of a satellite in space. This is really significant, since it means that currently orbiting satellites, which were never intended to be refueled, can be safely “topped off” to allow their thrusters to continue operating to keep them functional.

That’s certainly a lot cheaper than replacing a device which may have cost hundreds of millions of dollars, not to mention the expense of getting a new one into orbit and the reduction in the amount of future space junk.

Well done, astrobot!

FDA approves autonomous telemedicine bot

Robot rights continue to expand. While the process has begun in Nevada and California to eventually give autonomous (self-driving) cars the equivalent of driver’s licenses (gee, will they be able to vote with those?) ;), the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has approved licensing an autonomous telemedicine robot for use in hospitals:

The Verge article

This is a huge step (um, roll) forward. A doctor can guide the robot, using an iPad app, to go to a patient’s bedside. The doctor’s face shows on a screen, and the doctor can see and converse with the patient. It’s also possible to transfer monitoring data to the robot.

The autonomous part is that the robot can steer around obstacles and such on its own. In hospitals, there can be a lot of surprising obstacles (wheelchairs, both occupied and not, gurneys), so it’s freeing for the doctor to just send the robot to a certain floor and bed, and then “become conscious” through it once it gets there.

It’s not always going to be about whether or not a robot can do the job…it will sometimes be whether or not we allow the robot to do the job.

The Verge: “Industry leaders claim robots will create, not kill, American jobs”

The Verge article

Can using robots actually mean the creation of more jobs for humans? Perhaps, although I might state the equation a bit differently. According to this article, Germany has twice the robot-to-human worker ratio of the USA. If robots are more efficient, not having robots when your competitor does can mean that entire markets can shift. If you lose, say, the manufacturing of cellphones to another country, you lose human jobs.

The International Federation of Robotics has this interesting


in which they argue that robots increase jobs…even in the robotics industry, the number is three to five human jobs per robot. They give this statistic:

“Total potential of job creation by robotics:
1.9 million to 3.5 million between 2012 and 2020″

Of course, that is arguably not an unprejudiced group, but it makes sense that it takes more than one person to create a robot that replaces one human worker.

“Um…Captain…is that a robot with a chainsaw?”


YouTube video

shows an amazing robot that carves two stools out of a log…trust me, you have to see this one to appreciate the precision, and perhaps artistry.

LS3 Follow Tight

The amazing Big Dog robot has been evolving over time, and now, to me, looks very much alive:

YouTube video

One of the differences is that the Big Dog (which is a real US military robot that can be used for transport) is now told verbally to follow someone…and just decides on its own the best way to do that. It may, for example, pick a different path if its easier and it can catch up.

It still has that weird thing with two sets of sort of human like legs, attached at the corners (like most quadrupeds), but with the “knees” both facing in. When I showed someone the video once, they described it as “two guys carrying a mattress”, which I think is a good way to put it.

Why did the iPhone cross the road?

If you can write a funny answer to that, Apple may be interested in hiring you to give Siri, the voice on the iPhone, more personality:

9t05Mac article

Although the ad had apparently been withdrawn, it seems that Apple was advertising for someone to write material for Siri, to help craft her into a distinct and funny personality. My Significant Other already thought Siri was pretty funny when the robovoice couldn’t recognize the name “Wozniak”, but my Android phone could…

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle.

2013 Ridiculous Oscar Predictors: Best Actress

January 21, 2013

2013 Ridiculous Oscar Predictors: Best Actress

  • Every actor nominated for Best Actress named Jennifer has won, therefore Jennifer Lawrence must win (Jennifer Jones is the only other actor named Jennifer to be nominated for Best Actress…and she won)
  • No only child born outside the USA who has been nominated for the first time for Best Actress has failed to take home the gold, therefore Emmanuelle Riva must win (Natalie Portman, born in Israel, won for Black Swan; Charlize Theron, born in South Africa, won for Monster. Portman did not win when nominated as Supporting Actress for Closer, and Theron did not win with her second nomination for North Country)
  • Every movie primarily set in Thailand/Siam which has been nominated for an Oscar has won at least one. Since Naomi Watts has the only Oscar nomination for The Impossible, she must win (Anna and the King of Siam and The King and I both won Oscars. Around the World in 80 Days and Bridge on the River Kwai also won Oscars. American Gangster was nominated and did not win, but was not primarily set in Thailand ((although the country is part of the movie))
  • No actor nominated for Best Actress who was born in Louisiana has ever lost…therefore, Quvenzhané Wallis must win (both she and Reese Witherspoon, who won for I Walk the Line, were born in New Orleans)
  • In the past forty years, no 5′ 4″ actor from California nominated for Best Actress has failed to win, which means that Jessica Chastain must win (Liza Minnelli, born in Los Angeles, won for Cabaret in 1973. She had previously been nominated in 1970 for The Sterile Cuckoo, but that was more than forty years ago. Jeanne Crain was nominated for Pinky, which was released in 1949)

Data verified with

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle.

Jon Finch reported dead

January 13, 2013

Jon Finch reported dead

For me, what comes to mind first for Jon Finch is The Last Days of Man on Earth (originally The Final Programme). It’s a confusing, sweeping, moving movie based on Michael Moorcock’s novel, and at the heart of it lies the haunted, soulful eyes of Jon Finch.

You are likely to see mainstream stories about Finch’s passing highlight the actor’s starring role in Alfred Hitchcock’s Frenzy, and not undeservedly so.

However, for geeks like me, he has many notable credits.

He was part of Hammer Horror, appearing in Vampire Lovers with Ingrid Pitt and The Horror of Frankenstein with Ralph Bates.

For American television, he played Christ in the 1980 all-star miniseries of The Martian Chronicles.

Other geek-friendly roles:

Good-bye, Jon Finch…the world is less enigmatic without you.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle.

2013 Oscar noms!

January 10, 2013

2013 Oscar noms!

I follow the Oscars closely every year, but I don’t think I’ve ever been this excited to see what gets nominated.

As I’ve written, I think 2012 was arguably the best movie year since 1939. That makes this a difficult year to make choices, and will make our annual BOPMadness a particular challenge.

I’ll send this out pretty much right after it happens, then I’ll update the post.

First, there was probably collective forehead slapping at the Academy when Seth Macfarlane made a Hitler joke. How hard was it to go ten minutes reading off a teleprompter without offending such a large number of people with a great history of movie-making and movie going?

Emma Stone gamely kept going.

I was disappointed not to see John Goodman nominated for Argo. He was great in that, and very different and excellent in Flight. This would have been a good year to nominate him.

Not getting Best Picture nods? The Dark Knight Rises, Skyfall. they could have had up to ten nominations, but only had nine. Django Unchained was nominated.

Lincoln got significant nods, as did Life of Pi (an arguably geeky 3D movie). Silver Linings Playbook had multiple significant noms. Amour and Beasts of the Southern Wild were those darling movies that most people haven’t seen.

Tom Hooper was not nominated for directing for Les Miz, although Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway were…I guess we’ve matured to the point where you can nominate actors who have played Wolverine and Catwoman (Halle Berry was nominated before Catwoman, and has not been nominated since).

Ben Affleck was not nominated for directing…I thought Argo was expertly directed.

Oscar nominations:

Best Picture

Beasts of the Southern Wild (nice to see this small geeky movie get it)
Django Unchained
Les Misérables
Life of Pi
Silver Linings Playbook
Zero Dark Thirty

Best Actor

Bradley Cooper for Silver Linings Playbook
Daniel Day-Lewis for Lincoln (this seems like a lock to me)
Hugh Jackman for Les Misérables
Joaquin Phoenix for The Master
Denzel Washington for Flight

Best Actress

Jessica Chastain for Zero Dark Thirty
Jennifer Lawrence for Silver Linings Playbook
Emmanuelle Riva for Amour (I think the oldest nominee ever at 85)
Quvenzhané Wallis for Beasts of the Southern Wild (the youngest nominee ever…currently nine years old)
Naomi Watts for The Impossible

Supporting Actor

Alan Arkin for Argo
Robert De Niro for Silver Linings Playbook
Philip Seymour Hoffman for The Master
Tommy Lee Jones for Lincoln
Christoph Waltz for Django Unchained

Supporting Actress

Amy Adams for The Master
Sally Field for Lincoln
Anne Hathaway for Les Misérables (great performance…tough category, but I’d figure she’s in front)
Helen Hunt for The Sessions
Jacki Weaver for Silver Linings Playbook (excellent performance)


Michael Haneke for Amour
Ang Lee for Life of Pi
David O. Russell for Silver Linings Playbook
Steven Spielberg for Lincoln
Benh Zeitlin for Beasts of the Southern Wild

Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen

Amour: Michael Haneke
Django Unchained: Quentin Tarantino (Screenplay? Really? Did they see the Baghead scene? Was this really a coherent script that held together from beginning to end? On the other side, quote me three one-liners?)
Flight : John Gatins
Moonrise Kingdom: Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola
Zero Dark Thirty: Mark Boal (should get some pushback from people unhappy with the opening)

Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published

Argo: Chris Terrio
Beasts of the Southern Wild: Lucy Alibar, Benh Zeitlin
Life of Pi: David Magee (an undeniably difficult task)
Lincoln: Tony Kushner (great adaptation…more of an inspiration, I think)
Silver Linings Playbook (2012): David O. Russell

Best Achievement in Cinematography

Anna Karenina: Seamus McGarvey
Django Unchained: Robert Richardson
Life of Pi: Claudio Miranda (note that this is a 3D movie nominated for cinematography)
Lincoln: Janusz Kaminski
Skyfall: Roger Deakins (I thought this would happen…amazing imagery)


Argo: William Goldenberg
Life of Pi: Tim Squyres
Lincoln: Michael Kahn
Silver Linings Playbook: Jay Cassidy, Crispin Struthers
Zero Dark Thirty: William Goldenberg, Dylan Tichenor

Best Animated Feature Film of the Year
Brave: Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman
Frankenweenie: Tim Burton
ParaNorman: Sam Fell, Chris Butler
The Pirates! Band of Misfits: Peter Lord
Wreck-It Ralph: Rich Moore

Best Foreign Language Film of the Year

Amour: Michael Haneke(Austria) (also nominated for Best Picture)
War Witch: Kim Nguyen(Canada)
No: Pablo Larraín(Chile)
A Royal Affair: Nikolaj Arcel(Denmark)
Kon-Tiki: Joachim Rønning, Espen Sandberg(Norway)

Production Design

Anna Karenina: Sarah Greenwood, Katie Spencer
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey: Dan Hennah, Ra Vincent, Simon Bright
Les Misérables: Eve Stewart, Anna Lynch-Robinson
Life of Pi: David Gropman, Anna Pinnock
Lincoln: Rick Carter, Jim Erickson

Costume Design

Anna Karenina: Jacqueline Durran
Les Misérables: Paco Delgado
Lincoln: Joanna Johnston
Mirror Mirror: Eiko Ishioka (that’s the “Oscar-nominated Mirror Mirror to you, buddy!”)
Snow White and the Huntsman: Colleen Atwood


The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Les Misérables: this is probably the surest bet for me out of all of these

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score

Anna Karenina: Dario Marianellit
Argo: Alexandre Desplat
Life of Pi: Mychael Danna
Lincoln: John Williams
Skyfall: Thomas Newman

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song

Chasing Ice: J. Ralph(“Before My Time”) (…because nothing says singing like time-lapse photography of glaciers)
Les Misérables: Alain Boublil, Claude-Michel Schönberg, Herbert Kretzmer(“Suddenly”)
Life of Pi: Mychael Danna, Bombay Jayshree(“Pi’s Lullaby”)
Skyfall: Adele, Paul Epworth(“Skyfall”)
Ted: Walter Murphy, Seth MacFarlane(“Everybody Needs a Best Friend”) (following last year’s nomination for a song from The Muppets…and some day, getting this movie on TCM)

Sound Mixing

Argo: John T. Reitz, Gregg Rudloff, José Antonio García
Les Misérables: Andy Nelson, Mark Paterson, Simon Hayes
Life of Pi: Ron Bartlett, Doug Hemphill, Drew Kunin
Lincoln: Andy Nelson, Gary Rydstrom, Ron Judkins
Skyfall: Scott Millan, Greg P. Russell, Stuart Wilson

Best Achievement in Sound Editing

Argo: Erik Aadahl, Ethan Van der Ryn
Django Unchained: Wylie Stateman
Life of Pi: Eugene Gearty, Philip Stockton
Skyfall: Per Hallberg, Karen M. Baker
Zero Dark Thirty: Paul N.J. Ottosso

Visual Effects (the Hulk versus Gollum…)

The Avengers: Janek Sirrs, Jeff White, Guy Williams, Daniel Sudick
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012): Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton, R. Christopher White
Life of Pi): Bill Westenhofer, Guillaume Rocheron, Erik De Boer, Donald Elliott
Prometheus: Richard Stammers, Trevor Wood, Charley Henley, Martin Hill
Snow White and the Huntsman: Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, Phil Brennan, Neil Corbould, Michael Dawson

Best Documentary, Features

5 Broken Cameras: Emad Burnat, Guy Davidi
The Gatekeepers: To Be Determined
How to Survive a Plague: To Be Determined
The Invisible War: To Be Determined
Searching for Sugar Man: To Be Determined

Best Documentary, Short Subjects

Inocente: Sean Fine, Andrea Nix
Kings Point: Sari Gilman, Jedd Wider
Mondays at Racine: Cynthia Wade, Robin Honan
Open Heart: Kief Davidson, Cori Shepherd Stern
Redemption: Jon Alpert, Matthew O’Neill

Best Short Film, Animated

Adam and Dog: Minkyu Lee
Fresh Guacamole: PES
Head Over Heels: Timothy Reckart, Fodhla Cronin O’Reilly
Paperman: John Kahrs
The Simpsons: The Longest Daycare: David Silverman (Yes, those Simpsons)

Best Short Film, Live Action

Asad: Bryan Buckley, Mino Jarjoura
Buzkashi Boys: Sam French, Ariel Nasr
Curfew: Shawn Christensen
Death of a Shadow: Tom Van Avermaet, Ellen De Waele
Henry: Yan England

What do you think of the noms? Feel free to comment on this post.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle.

2013 January TV preview

January 5, 2013

2013 January TV preview

We are now entering what’s called the “mid-season”, and there are some interesting new and returning shows having debuts.

For more and updated dates, you can see The Measured Circle current events calendar, but I thought I’d hit a few highlights.

Saturday, January 5th

  • 9:30 AM: Star Wars: The Clone Wars 100th episode on Cartoon Network
  • 10:00 AM: Green Lantern (returning series) on Cartoon Network

Sunday, January 6

  • 8:00 PM: Once Upon a Time on ABC (returning series)
  • 8:00 PM: The Simpson on Fox (returning series)
  • 9:00 PM: The Family Guy on Fox (returning series)
  • 9:30 PM: American Dad on Fox (returning series)
  • 10:00 PM: The Mentalist on CBS (returning series)

Monday, January 7

  • 10:00 PM: The Haunting of (Michael Rapaport) on A&E
  • 10:01 PM: Castle on ABC (returning series)

Wednesday, January 9

  • 8:30 PM: The Neighbors on ABC (returning series)
  • 9:00 PM: The People’s Choice Awards on CBS…every favorite movie nominee is geek friendly, as are four out of five of the Favorite New TV Dramas

Thursday, January 10

  • Oscar nominations announced
  • 8:00 PM: The Critics’ Choice Movie Awards on the CW…some geek-friendly nominees, including Judi Dench for Skyfall
  • 8:00 PM: The Last Resort on ABC (returning series)

Friday, January 11

  • 9:00 PM: Fringe on Fox (returning series nearing the end)

Sunday, January 13:

  • 8:00 PM: The Golden Globe Awards on NBC…while the nominees this year aren’t particularly geek-friendly, there are some races to watch (The Hunger Games versus Skyfall…for best song).

Monday, January 14

  • 8:00 PM: Bones on Fox (returning series)
  • 8:00 PM: Continuum on Syfy (new series about a time traveling cop)
  • 9:00 PM: Being Human (American version) on Syfy (returning series)
  • 10:00 PM: Lost Girl on Syfy (returning series)

Tuesday, January 15

  • 9:00 PM: Face Off on Syfy (returning make up competition series)

Wednesday, January 16

  • 7:30 PM: Lego Legends of Chima on Cartoon Network
  • 9:00 PM: Ghost Hunters on Syfy (returning series)
  • 9:00 PM: Supernatural on the CW (returning series)
  • 10:00 PM: Ghost Mine on Syfy

Thursday, January 17

  • 8:00 PM: Haven on Syfy (returning series)
  • 8:00 PM: Vampire Diaries on the CW (returning series)
  • 10:00 PM: Archer on FX (returning series…set your DVRs for what may be the best series on television, even if it isn’t for everyone)
  • 10:00 PM: King of the Nerds on TBS: new reality competition show, hosted by Robert Carradine (and Curtis Armstrong), with the winner getting $100,000
  • 11:59 PM: Newsreaders on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim (with Rob Corddry)

Friday, January 18

  • 8:00 PM Fringe series finale on Fox
  • 8:00 PM: Nikita on the CW (returning series)

Saturday, January 19th

  • 9:00 Pm: Ripper Street gets its BBC America debut
  • 9:00 PM: Tasmanian Devils TV movie on Syfy (Danica McKellar and…Apolo Ohno?)

Monday, January 21

  • Midnight: Tron Uprising on Disney XD (season finale)
  • 7:00 PM: Ultimate Spider-Man on Disney XD (returning series)
  • 8:30 PM: Mad on Cartoon Network
  • 9:00 PM: The Following on Fox (new series with Kevin Bacon)

Wednesday, January 23

  • 10:00 PM: American Horror Story on FX (season finale)

Thursday, January 24

  • 8:00 PM: The Last Resort on ABC (series finale)
  • 9:00 PM: Beauty and the Beast on the CW (returning series)

Friday, January 25

  • 9:00 PM: Spartacus: War of the D*mned on Starz (returning series)

Saturday, January 26

  • 9:00 PM: Abominable Snowman (aka Deadly Descent), featuring Adrian Paul, on Syfy

Sunday, January 27

  • 7:30 PM: Ultimate Spider-Man on Disney XD
  • 8:00 PM: Screen Actors Guild Awards on TBS and TNT…not much geek friendliness here. Jessica Lange is nominated, so is The Big Bang Theory, and there are stunt awards

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle.

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