Into the future

OCULUS. 1: a circular or oval window. 2: a circular opening at the top of a dome. Origin of OCULUS. Latin, literally, eye – more at eye.

You can now add another definition to the word “oculus” – a virtual reality headset that turns a plane into a space, that allows you to run and jump and move around in space-time, with all six axes in play, backward and forward, side to side, up and down, giving you the illusion that you are physically there in a digital world. Palmer Luckey and his Oculus Rift virtual headset invention has enticed social networking giant Mark “Facebook” Zuckerberg into purchasing Oculus VR for a cool $2 billion.

“Mobile is the platform of today, and now we’re also getting ready for the platforms of tomorrow,” Zuckerberg said in his Facebook blog.

“When you put it on, you enter a completely immersive computer-generated environment, like a game or a movie scene or a place far away,” Zuckerberg writes. “The incredible thing about the technology is that you feel like you’re actually present in another place with other people. People who try it say it’s different from anything they’ve ever experienced in their lives.”

He continues, “Imagine enjoying a court-side seat at a game, studying in a classroom of students and teachers all over the world or consulting with a doctor face to face – just by putting on goggles in your home.”

An early prototype for the Oculus Rift, which raised $2.4 million on Kickstarter - Courtesy of Oculus VR

Zuckerberg concluded, “Virtual reality was once the dream of science fiction. But the Internet was also once a dream, and so were computers and smart phones. The future is coming, and we have a chance to build it together.”

Into the past

Blogger “MessyNessy” recently posted a collection of fascinating images depicting what life was like in 1940s Oak Ridge, Tenn., a federally created community whose residents worked on creating the atomic bomb. The photos are captioned with descriptions that give the reader a glimpse into a community that no longer exists.

Nessy writes, “Most of the 75,000 residents of Oak Ridge, Tenn., had no idea they were processing uranium until the bombs dropped on Hiroshima in 1945. They had settled in the mysterious town, a ‘secret city,’ with very little knowledge of what they would do there, other than the promise that their work was going to help end the war. Sure enough, on Aug. 6, 1945, a nuclear superbomb that the young men and women of Oak Ridge had helped develop effectively ended World War II.”

The photographs were captured by Ed Westcott, the only authorized photographer, who documented the “everyday moments of a seemingly normal suburban American town, to the residents performing their ‘tasks’ and ‘duties’ inside the secret nuclear facilities.”

Speaking of history …

Here’s a site that looks at the history of music, going all the way back to 1752. More than 3,000 pages chronicle musical events over the last 250 years in chronological fashion, along with general historical events. The site’s creators also look at how music fits and in many ways defines the culture and historical period.

Thrifty people, unite!

Here’s a practical website for all us value shoppers! Next time you want to find a new thrift store in your area or anywhere else, just enter the zip code at This site gives you all of the stores listed in that area, complete with their hours, location, how to sign up for their mailing lists and even reviews from other shoppers. Search for Thrift Store Listings in the National Charity Resale, Secondhand, Vintage and Consignment Shops Directory, join an online thrifting community and learn more about thrift shopping.

When I was a young mother with a very limited budget, my depression-era grandmother – who loved a good bargain – shopped her local Goodwill Store for an entire layette for my newborn daughter, outfitting her from infant to two years in baby clothes she purchased for pennies on the dollar. She laundered each item, repaired them if needed before pressing them and neatly tucking them in tissue paper and a large gift box. It was a gift I deeply appreciated, and I’ve had a warm spot in my heart for thrift shops – and my dear grandmother – ever since.

As long as we’re in the “wayback” machine, here’s a look at something that has been going on for plus-or-minus 500 million years. I found this video of a microscopic world at Gerard Vanderleun’s American Digest, who found it at Microworld Photography, where Daniel Stoupin shows how you can “experience the invisible worlds.” It’s a kaleidoscope of unimaginably beautiful colors.

From micro to macro!

Here’s a time-lapse video taken from NOAA’s GOES-East satellite that shows the U.S. East Coast snowy winter.

“The Winter that Was” is a once-daily image that “creates a stroboscopic slide show of persistent brutal winter weather,” according to Dennis Chesters of the NASA/NOAA GOES Project at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. who created the animation, using cloud data taken from the satellite, overlaid on a true-color image of land and ocean, created by data from MODIS (Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer), an instrument that flies aboard NASA’s Aqua and Terra satellites. Combined, the data created the storm and its movement.

Guerilla warfare!

Website designer “Windy” and “E Dee” live thousands of miles apart and have never met, but they’ve put together a website to recommend the most constitutional candidates running for Congress, both Senate and House.

“We avoid the feds because we’ve spent less than $50 and will not spend a dime more; we don’t take donations; we don’t allow advertising on our website, and we post the FEC required authority line. We also aren’t an organization, so we don’t solicit dues,” E Dee writes.

“This is another reason why we are not of interest to the FEC – at least not yet,” the site’s creators explain. “We are two American women who look at the state of our nation and weep. That’s why on Feb. 1, 2014, we started our website to voice our own First Amendment right of free political speech. We’ve made a commitment to continue our work all the way up to the general election in November.”

Check it out!

Care to uh … zxy?

This DUI pull-over left me doubled over. I have a feeling you will be too. Watch this man’s amazing – and hilarious – antics when he is pulled over for weaving while driving.

O Mio Babbino Caro

Wrapping up this week’s column, I’ll leave you with something astounding. Meet nine-year-old Amira, who sings Puccini, leaving everyone in disbelief.

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