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RIP, Doug Englebart

He was one of the most influential, important and visionary computer scientists of all time. He died peacefully at home, in his sleep. Goodbye, Dr Englebart. Thank you for all you did. Cory 2

Ken Macleod on Iain Banks

CBC radio's excellent magazine show As It Happens conducted a short, lovely interview with Scottish sf writer Ken Macleod about Iain Banks, who had been his friend since high school. It's a beautiful piece of audio, and a heartfelt one. My condolences, Ken. Cory

Detailed obit of Iain Banks

Iain Banks died yesterday. The Guardian's John Mullan does justice to the long and important career of one of the best writers in two fields:

In 2010 he gave an interview to BBC Radio Scotland in which he spoke with painful frankness about the breakdown of his relationship with his first wife. But then the media interview seemed his natural forum: it is difficult to think of a more frequently interviewed British novelist.

While his science fiction spanned inter-stellar spaces, his literary fiction kept its highly specific sense of place. The place that gives the title to his 2012 novel Stonemouth is fictional, but, like other fictional places in earlier Banks novels, it is a highly specific Scottish town. Like The Crow Road and The Steep Approach to Garbadale –it is the story of a man coming back to his family home, and it is difficult not to think that this is Banks's story of himself.

Iain Banks dies aged 59

RIP, Jack Vance

Stefan Jones sez, "SF&F titan Jack Vance has died at age 96. He had a mighty good run, continuing to write for many years after losing most of his eyesight. I think I'm going to reread The Eyes of the Overworld this week, in tribute."

Sad news, indeed.

JACK VANCE, IN MEMORIAM: 1916 - 2013

Divinyls singer Chrissy Amphlett dies of breast cancer, MS

The charismatic lead singer of Australian new wave band The Divinyls, Chrissy Amphlett, has died in her New York home of cancer and multiple sclerosis. She was 53. Above, "I Touch Myself," the autoerotic anthem of '80s teen females that became the Divinyls' greatest hit.

Last month, on her Facebook page, she wrote about the experience of being a breast cancer patient since 2010:

"Unfortunately the last 18 months have been a real challenge for me having breast cancer and MS and all the new places that will take you. You become sadly a patient in a world of waiting rooms, waiting sometimes hours for a result or an appointment. You spend a lot time in cold machines... hospital beds, on your knees praying for miracles, operating rooms, tests after tests, looking at healthy people skip down the street like you once did and you took it all for granted and now wish you could do that. I have not stopped singing throughout all this in my dreams and to be once again performing and doing what I love to do."

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Great dad dies (also, he was a scientist)

Handsome Dad of the Year (a former brunette) took out the garbage without fail, did the family shopping, and is remembered fondly by his step-daughters/first-cousins-once-removed. Also, outside the home, he discovered something called "relativity". Jennie Dusheck has a great follow up to a story that Xeni posted about earlier today. Maggie

Worlds longest cat dies

"Stewie the Cat, the longest domestic cat in the world at more than 4 feet long from nose to tail, has died." [AP] Rob

Bam Bam the car-ramming sheep dies of natural causes

"A bighorn sheep named Bam Bam because of his habit of butting vehicles at a Wyoming park has died with his horns, likely of natural causes." [Standard Examiner] Rob

Ravi Shankar, RIP: A performance on the Dick Cavett Show, and a reporter's recollections of a visit with Raviji

George Harrison of the Beatles, studying sitar with Pandit Ravi Shankar.

In the clip above, the late Indian music legend Pandit Ravi Shankar (web, Wikipedia, Amazon) performs on the Dick Cavett show, in an episode where his friend George Harrison of the Beatles introduces him to the viewing audience.

His family and his foundation have released a statement on the day of his death (PDF), with an obituary by Oliver Craske, a writer and editor who worked on Raviji's autobiography, ‘Raga Mala.’ Snip:

It is with heavy hearts we write to inform you that Pandit Ravi Shankar, husband, father, and musical soul, passed away today, December 11th, 2012. As you all know, his health has been fragile for the past several years and on Thursday he underwent a surgery that could have potentially given him a new lease of life. Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of the surgeons and doctors taking care of him, his body was not able to withstand the strain of the surgery. We were at his side when he passed away.

Read the rest here at the Shankar Foundation website. He had upper-respiratory and heart problems, and underwent heart-valve replacement surgery last week. The surgery was successful, but recovery was too much for the 92-year-old musician. His last performance was with his daughter, sitarist Anoushka Shankar, on November 4 in Long Beach, California. It was a celebration of his tenth decade of creating music.

I interviewed him in 2003 at his home north of San Diego for Grammy Magazine. The article is no longer online, but I'll try to dig it up from the old print copy. His home was set up a little like an Indian villa, and I remember feeling like I was back in India as I sat on the floor in the room where he received guests and visiting reporters. He was very patient and attentive; very sweet to this starstruck and stuttering reporter.

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Russell Means, Native American activist and actor, dead of cancer at 72

Native American political activist and actor Russell Means, founding member of AIM, has died at 72 of esophageal cancer. A NYT obituary is here. More: russellmeans.com.

Iconic erotic film star Sylvia Kristel of ‘Emmanuelle’ dies of cancer at 60

Actress Sylvia Kristel died this week at 60 years of age. “She died during the night during her sleep,” her agent, Marieke Verharen, told the AFP news agency. The cause of her death was cancer. In recent years, she received treatment for throat and liver cancer, and suffered a stroke.

She is most famous for her role in the 1970s cult-erotic hit "Emmanuelle." Dangerous Minds has an obit, and the New York Times. Her memoir is a sad and illuminating read.

Herbert Lom, who played stressed-out boss of Inspector Clouseau in "Pink Panther" films, has died

Czech-born actor Herbert Lom, best known as the weary boss of Inspector Clouseau in the Peter Sellers Pink Panther movies, died today at 95 years of age.

His son Alec Lom told the Associated Press that his dad "died peacefully in his sleep at home in London."

A two-part series of clips on YouTube:

Part 1, and Part 2.

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Steve Jurvetson, on the recurring nightmare Neil Armstrong had for two years leading up to Apollo 11

Venture capitalist, photographer, and master-level space fanatic Steve Jurvetson has been digging in to his archives for snapshots and relics related to the life and legacy of the late astronaut Neil Armstrong. For instance: above, a vintage 11”x 14” X-ray of Armstrong's lunar EVA spacesuit boots dated 7-7-69, only 9 days before the launch.

You can scroll through more photos here, on Steve's Facebook page.

Steve shared some amazing conversations with the "First Man," from what I can tell. Here's one:

Tang is a farce. That was the first thing Neil Armstrong told me last night. “We did not use it on the Apollo missions.”

I asked him, of all of the systems and stages of the mission, which did he worry about the most? (the frequently failing autopilot? the reliance on a global network of astronomers to spot solar flares in time to get the warning out? the onboard computers being less powerful than a Furby?....)

He gave a detailed answer about the hypergolic fuel mixing system for the lunar module. Rather than an ignition system, they had two substances that would ignite upon contact. Instead of an electric pump, he wished he had a big simple lever to mechanically initiate mixing.

That seemed a bit odd to me at first. So, I asked if he gave that answer because it really was the most likely point of failure, or because it symbolizes a vivid nightmare – having completed the moon mission, pushing the button... and the engines just wont start.

He responded that he had dreams about that for two years prior to the launch.

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Coroner: "Top Gun" filmmaker Tony Scott did not have brain cancer

Filmmaker Tony Scott jumped to his death on Sunday, off a bridge in Southern California. Early reports from ABC News (which were copy-pasted by TMZ, HuffPo, and other outlets) that the "Top Gun" director killed himself after learning that he had an inoperable brain tumor were apparently false. Xeni

For Aileen.

My boyfriend Miles O'Brien lost his beloved little sister to breast cancer today. She was only 46 years old.

They both lost their mom to it a few weeks after I was diagnosed with the same disease.

There is so much to say about what a beautiful soul Aileen was, what a cruel and ugly and brutal disease breast cancer is, how torturous treatment is, how enraging it is that science and medicine have nothing better to offer us yet, how unjust the financial devastation a diagnosis brings to so many women is—and, most of all, what it means to those of us with cancer to have the kind of support in our lives that men like Miles provide, selflessly and heroically and with unconditional love.

But for now, I just want the world to see, respect, and remember this photograph Miles took of his sister this morning, shortly before her life ended. He brought her dog Jethro from her home to the hospice house so Jethro could also say goodbye.

Gone but still loved by all. RIP Aileen Crimmings O'Brien Graef - 10/30/64-8/21/2012

She is survived by two beautiful daughters, Katie and Aileen, whom she loved very much.

And, their dog Jethro.

Update: Miles and her daughters suggest that donations in honor of Aileen be sent to Visiting Nurses Association of the Treasure Coast (@vnatc), 1110 35th Lane. Vero Beach, FL 32960. This is the hospice center that cared for Aileen in her final days. Services at Strunk Funeral Home, 916 17th Street, Vero Beach, FL 32960. If you wish to send cards or flowers, this is the best address.

Image link (photo: Miles O'Brien).

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