Don't forget to look up to the sky today, fellow astronomers, friends, and noders. Today, on 05:51 EDT, planet Mars will be in the closest point to Earth in a period of 73,000 years. It will outshine all of the other planets (except Moon and Venus), and will appear brighter than ever, allowing for a best viewing opportunity.

Mars will get within a distance of 55,746,199 kilometers of Earth (34,646,488 miles for the SI-challenged). Mars is in its perihelion and Earth is in its aphelion.

reference: http://www.space.com/spacewatch/mars_preview_021108.html

Update (August 28, 2003): Here are some links about the recorded event:

http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/mars_hubble_030827.html
http://space.com/scienceastronomy/mars_ground_sharp_030826.html

Mutual friend Jen is visiting the sam512/Ed collective here at Ed's geek "pad" in the suburbs. We are feeding her hot chocolate and cookies. Jen is more geeky than most girls - not geeky enough to actually write her own operating systems, but certainly geeky enough to appreciate the effort when someone else does. At the moment we are trying to persuade her that the rather inferior chatterbot she has been talking to for the last half-hour is, against all evidence, actually sentient.

"It's just an Amiga 500, after all," she says.

"Any Turing machine can emulate any other Turing machine," explains Ed. "Even if it means going at ten to the eight operations per second instead of ten to the seventeen. If you don't believe us, that's fine. Just don't blame us if you let it loose on the internet and we all end up plugged into a--"

At this point a loud alarm starts blaring somewhere in the house. Ed immediately puts down his drink and runs out of the kitchen. Jen and I follow him through to the lounge, where he has quickly taken a position in front of the television, holding the Xbox's controller. On the screen, a pre-rendered cutscene appears to be playing itself out. A gigantic robot is lifting off on two pillars of flame, ascending into the clouds.

"What's this?" asks Jen.

"It's one of these real-time, all-pervading reality game things," I say. "Do you remember Majestic? That game which kind of took place in the real world - you'd get messages from NPCs on your mobile phone, by email, by fax, all involved in sorting out some mysterious conspiracy. Every month you'd have a different adventure. It felt a little too linear for most players, but it was a pretty spooky and enjoyable experience for all concerned. For me, anyway. This is like one of them, on the Xbox this time. Ed and a whole bunch of other subscribers are involved in this real-time alien invasion of Earth. At any hour of the day or night, one of them might get called up to help defend the planet."

By now Ed's robot has flown all the way out of the Earth's atmosphere and the screen has switched to a first-person shot from inside the cockpit. There are various readings and dials and crosshairs and weapons of unimaginable destructive power. Ahead of him, radar shows a wave of alien invaders circling in fast towards Earth.

I motion for Jen to sit down. "Ed has to stop all the invaders reaching Earth. It's an age-old concept, but pretty addictive."

A preliminary run over the outskirts of the wave reveals the approximate number of enemies involved and attracts a small amount of fire. Ed shoots a couple of the drones, dives around behind the wave and begins to wreak multi-chaingun havoc. Miniature explosions blossom on the screen.

"Scenery's a little dull," says Jen.

"Space is mostly nothing with a dash of hydrogen."

"There's no sound either."

"'s called realism," says Ed, blowing up two larger drones with well-targeted missiles. Earth looms large behind him - weight of numbers mean that this wave is taking longer than usual to take care of.

"Realism? In a game with aliens and giant robots?"

"What can I say, they were going for total immersion, and believe me, it works..." says Ed, manoeuvring dextrously and dodging incoming fire by mere metres.

"Can I have a go? It looks like fun."

"Uhhh, no," I say. "There are high scores and performance records and such 'n' such. It's quite important that Ed wins this round." Ed nods, but keeps watching the screen. According to his altimeter, he's only a hundred and fifty kilometres above western Europe, and descending fast. Beneath him, the scenery is gradually becoming clearer.

"Are you gonna do it?" asks Jen. There are still four drones left on the screen, each carrying a lethal explosive payload, and targeted on a major European city. Ed is undeterred. He moves to a position directly between all of them, and detonates an electromagnetic pulse. The four drones explode in unison. The robot swoops out of its dive and turns back to base, and Ed puts the controller down and leans back in his seat, relaxing considerably.

"You won!"

"Yup," says Ed, rubbing an eye. "Close one, though." He is sweating quite a lot. His hands are shaking slightly.

"Well, I gotta take off," says Jen, checking her watch. "Thanks for the cookies."

"No problem," says Ed as I see her to the door. We wave through the window as she walks home.

"Nice save there, Sam," says Ed. "Quick thinking."

"Thanks. We're gonna have to tell her one day," say I. "She's not an idiot, and she'll be very upset if she finds out on her own. Are you okay? Need a lie down? That was a close-run thing."

"I'm fine," says Ed, gradually recovering his composure. "But I think they got to within a minute of ground zero that time. That's the closest they've ever got." He looks up at me and sighs. "I could sure make use of that huge base of subscribers you mentioned."

Overhead, there is a dull roar as the robot comes in to land.


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People who know me personally will know I'm a Linux fiend and a geek in almost every respect...I mean, I just got incredibly over excited over my recent (as in last hour) purchase of a scroll mouse. Yes, a scroll mouse, though I attribute the overexcitement to my general hyperactivity and my consumption of a bottle of Qibla Cola. But life before Linux...brr...

I was interested in getting hold of Linux about a year or two before I actually got it installed...I picked up a Corel Linux disc from the front of a computer magazine, then promptly lost it. Clever. Around this time, I was an MS junkie, with every single Microsoft/MSN doodad around. I asked for a copy of Windows ME for Christmas because it was "better". Yes, I'm paralytic with laughter as well. But then I saw the LIGHT...

I downloaded Corel, and installed it upon a PC I had given to my brother. Then I saw it and, well...

I took it back.

Since then, I've experimented with Lycoris Desktop/LX (gorgeous, but no devel tools or files...it's hell), Mandrake 8.0 (A nice desktop but it pissed me off too much in the end) and eventually Red Hat 8.0 (Bluecurve=yuck, and they fucked up KDE something bad-I compile my own now, it's worth the pain). I invented a packaging system, Spiff and finally realised...

Who the fuck really needs Windows when you have all this?

So there you have it...my transition from Bill groupie to, uh, Linus groupie. Lesser of two evils? Probably.

well...I'm showing myself back into the world of e2. I lost touch with technology for almost a year, but I find myself with the eerie, blue glow the monitor emits on my face.

a lot has changed in this once compulsive noder's mind. we'll see what the future brings...

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