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Showing posts from April, 2005

'Actually, I'm a pretty cheery reaper' - The Whole Death Thing

Part of it was probably triggered by a death in my extended family. But most of it was just thinking about life as usual.The first thought I had, a couple weeks ago, was that I've had an interesting life. Not to say that it's not still interesting, but basically, if a telescope fell on me or something, people would think of my life as having been interesting. And I find my own life interesting, too. Sometimes in the "may you live in interesting times" ancient Chinese curse way, but always interesting in one way or another.
More recently, I realized that I don't have an "I must do this before I die!" list. Most of the general, mundane things I figured on doing in life, I've done. I've got a wife, a kid, a house, a car. I've had a career or two of sorts. And the particular way all those things have played out has tended to be decidedly non-mundane, in terms of things like who my wife and friends are, where the house is, what work I&…

Tiger, my precious!

I knew I'd have to buyTigersooner or later. But I just wasn't sure how I wanted to buy it.A single DVD can be used to install it on any number of Macs, so the possibility of forsaking ethics and just buying one license was always there. On the flip side, there's a 5-license "family pack" that would be nice and legit, and since we don'thave5 Macs (nor do we want to - maybe 3, maybe 4, butnot5!), there'd be room for expansion. And the family pack lists for $199, quite a bit less than even two individual $129 licenses.

But there's no academic pricing on the family pack in the US, while a single license can be had for $69, and since we're only actively using two Macs, $69 times two would be far less than $199. But what if we got more?

And then, of course, there was Amazon, which had mail-in rebates for $35 off a single retail box, or $50 off the family pack. And an offer for $30 off my first purchase made with an Amazon VISA card. With instan…

Internal (EP)

"Quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger... IS WHAT I SHOULD BE!"Thus begins Forthfading's impressive debut EP, Internal. Aptly named, it contains a half-dozen lucid, thematic songs dealing with the internal challenges we all face - hypocrisy, stress, lack of self control, lack of focus, fear of failure, and change.

Two vocalists (both can sing; at least one can also scream, growl and rap), two guitars, bass and drums. Hard. Loud. Musically tight. Sort of like an all-male Evanescence, but louder. Lyrically intelligent. No, I mean really intelligent. I could draw parallels to Carlos Castaneda, scripture, and other things... but I won't.

Track listing:

1. Treading Water & Tasting Victory (2:36)
2. Perfect Imperfection (2:34)
3. Know Where to Run (3:38)
4. Fear (3:21)
5. Push (3:39)
6. Sleeper (3:06)

Fear is a definite 5-star song for me; Treading Water & Tasting Victory, Know Where to Run, and Sleeper are 4-star; Perfect Imperfection and Push are 3-sta…

Progress = Shinier Toys

Everyone's getting shinier toys, over time. Even the ophthalmologists, as I learned at this morning's eye exam. Now, I'm not saying they've got toys of the same scale and quality as, say, astrophysicists. But something that can take pictures of the backs of my eyes... is pretty cool. (They look, incidentally, sort of like plasma spheres, but pinker.) Even if they wouldn't email the pictures to me. :(

Anyway, after testing all sorts of things with various machines (all of which, sadly, did not go "ping!") the doctor put a bunch of DelusionalDrops™ in my eyes, did some more tests, and pronounced me good to go, after which I went around town feeling very unfocused for a couple hours.

End results? Uncorrected, my right eye is around 20/25 and my left one is still almost 20/20. That's somewhere around 6/7 and 6/6 respectively, for you metric sorts. I can get glasses if I want them, but I don't have to at this point. Maybe if I get a job with visi…

Egg-stremely worrisome news

I don't know if I like this particular news coincidence. April 14: ABC News runs an interesting story about "Resurrection Ecology," in which eggs laid years or even decades ago by aquatic species were found by scientists in lake-bottom mud and actually hatched, allowing the scientists to do "then and now" comparisons between the species.

April 15: CNN runs a story about shelled eggs found in the fossil of a 10-to-13 foot tall carnivorous, bipedal oviraptorosaurian.

Now, from the CNN story, I can't tell whether the eggs are fossilized. I presume they are. I hope they are. But if they're not, I just want to issue a heartfelt plea to the scientists to not try to hatch them. I'm very allergic to 10-foot-tall carnivorous bipeds, you see. Make an omelet, scramble them, hard-boil them, make a really large amount of egg nog- I don't care. Just don't hatch 'em.

Shuffling Toward Legitimacy

I've mentioned before that I work part-time as a "casual hire" at the university. "Night watchman" stuff, of a kind, for about 12 hours a week on average. I've been doing it since roughly the start of the last school year.One of the strange things about being a "casual hire" is that I'm relatively undocumented. Yes, there's a piece of paper in a file somewhere that says what I do, where, for whom. I even have a copy or two of it. And yes, I get paid and have pay stubs. I have email, I have a homepage, and so on and so forth - I'm even in the state's odd "retirement plan for part-time employees." But I don't have an office, a campus phone, union membership, or medical coverage, and no one outside my department can ever find me when they try to look me up in computer databases. It's almost like I'm a secret or something.

Gradually, though, I've been working on getting to the point where I can say…

Once again, I'm in three places at once!

A few months back, I told my beloved and very progressive long distance company to take a hike, canceled a bunch of "services" on my local line, and signed up for BroadVoice voice-over-IP service. A few days later, a little tiny box called an ATA (that stands for Analog Telephone Adaptor, not any sort of IDE drive technology or airline) showed up, and after connecting it to my LAN and a phone, I was able to make unlimited calls to something like 21 countries for $19.99/month plus tax. Pretty spiffy, huh? For another buck and a half or so, I got a second number somewhere completely different. Anyway, about 10 days ago, I noticed that I had no dial tone on that line. Couldn't figure out why. E-mailed them, but didn't get a reply, so I called instead. (On my cell, ugh, since I have no "normal" long-distance service now!) It took the tech and me (okay, that makes two techs) a while, but eventually he got me into the ATA's web-based administrati…

SCIgen

SCIgen is a program which uses "context-free grammar" to automatically generate papers for computer science journals. The papers make about as much sense as ones written by humans...

What I'm up to musically of late.

I might ramble a little, so if I do, I apologize.I heardThe Hand That Feeds, the new single from Nine Inch Nails. Then I heard that Trent Reznor had taken the audio tracks from whatever pro audio application he used to make the song (on a Mac) andmade them availablein the form of a song project file forGarageBand 2... which I just happened to have recently acquired as part ofiLife '05. Hmmmm, interesting. Downloaded it. Had fun turning various tracks off and on. Sounds different without drums. I haven't gone and changed any of the instruments totally around... yet. But I could if I wanted to. Which is really pretty neat.

Then the nice folks from the Department of Sociology atColumbia Universityemailed me the results of a project they'd done on social networking, and mentioned that oh, by the way, they were now studying how people's taste in music developed, and participants inthat projectcould, after listening to and rating songs (or at least the first few se…

Still Working on the Earth-Shattering Kaboom

Well-meaning scientists have managed to drill a hole in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean that goes all the way to the bottom of the Earth's crust. Not content to rest on their laurels, they now want to keep drilling 'til they break through to the mantle.Yes. The mantle. The hot liquid molten part. The "stuff that comes out of volcanoes" part. After all, it's not like we have enough volcanoes without them going and drilling a new one. What could possibly go wrong, anyway? Releasing stuff from the Earth's mantle... hmm... so maybe there's a wee tiny risk of it erupting violently, triggering tsunamis that go wipe out the East Coast and all that... ;)

But yeah, it probably won't happen like that.

Oh, poop.

A decade or so ago, some of my friends and I got to be involved in hooking my parents' house up to the new sewer line on their road. It was a lot of work, since we went with human power rather than paying for a backhoe.
When I bought this house in 2002, I entered into a joint agreement with 5 other homeowners pertaining to a shared large-capacity cesspool, which happens to be located in my back yard.

At the time, no one told us that the EPA had passed rules in 1999 banning the construction of any new large-capacity cesspools (anything serving multiple houses, or more than 20 people, is considered large-capacity) and furthermore, setting a deadline of April 5, 2005 for removal of existing ones. We all found out that we'd have to get rid of it... right around February 28, 2005.

So anyway. We've all joined together, formed a community group to deal with it, gotten a civil engineer on board, who's filed plans with the EPA so we don't get fined $32,000 a d…

Funding our local library

January: My daughter gets a library card.February: She checks out Charlotte Zolotow's "William's Doll," illustrated by William Pene DuBois.

March: the due date comes and the book is nowhere to be found. My daugher has taken it to school. A day or two later, it comes home. It gets put in the car so it can go to the library, but then she goes somewhere with a friend, and takes it in the friend's car, where it gets left. Then, right around the time we figure out where it went, the friend's car breaks down and winds up in the shop - with the book still in it.

April: We got the book back today, and I returned it to the library. $3.90 in fines... thank goodness she doesn't have to pay fines at the adult rate. Sheesh.

Now with satellite imagery!

Google Maps now has satellite imagery. In some areas - including the island I live on - it's not high-resolution enough to zoom all the way in, but the pictures are very impressive. In others, it's quite good.
For example, here's an overview of the Air Force base a short distance from where I grew up - and you can zoom in another 3 levels from that. (Don't worry, folks, it's got cargo planes and Air National Guard tankers - nothing exciting!)

Donnie Darko

Over at theInternet Movie Database, there are few surprises among movies IMDB users have voted as the best science fictionmovies of all time. "Star Wars" is joined by "The Matrix," "2001," and "Alien" among others.One surprise is a movie which is ranked in the top 15 of all time, despite having been written by someone fresh out of film school who had the audacity to insist that he be allowed to direct it, having cost only $4.5 million to make, and havingfloppedin its original limited box-office release, bringing in only $500,000, only to become a "cult movie" upon its release on video.

That movie is, of course,Donnie Darko, a sort of bizarre fusion of 1980s teen movies likeThe Breakfast CluborFerris Bueller's Day Offand sci-fi thrillers. If you've seenThe Butterfly Effect, this is the movie it wastryingto emulate.

The plot? Simply put, a psychologically disturbed teenager has visions of a giant evil bunny-rabbit that tells …

Among our weapons are surprise, fear, and redundancy!

I'm not sure what a "Headquarters Headquarters Company" does. Maybe they handle all the forms that have to be submitted in duplicate? 
I saw these folks from the Headquarters Headquarters Company of the 2d Battalion, 299th Infantry, marching in the Royal Parade of the Merrie Monarch Festival today here in Hilo.

April Fool's Day

Not bad overall. Went up the mountain. Drove an Expedition (fullsize SUV) instead of the Explorer (midsize SUV) I usually drive. The Explorer is a lot nicer on the road; the Expedition just wallows along. But on the steep dirt road near the summit, the Expedition is a bigger, heavier, more powerful vehicle, so it doesn't bounce around as much.

Got up there, spotted some tourists, gave them a quick tour of theobservatory. They were from the Los Angeles area. Got my work done. Gave some more tourists a quick tour. They were from New York, but had grown up in India. This was funny since I was in New York early last month, and in India last fall. Drove back down. Recorded my trip as Hilo-Mars-Hilo in the vehicle's mileage log, since it's April Fool's Day.

Watched part of theMerrie Monarch Festival, except when my daughter demanded that we channel-surf over to "Trauma: Life in the ER" on Discovery Health.
Eventually, got some sleep.

Recipe: Saint George and the Graham Cracker Dragon

Special Consideration:KidsServings:300

Description:
Cryogenic crackers turn science fair attendees into "smoke"-breathing monsters.
Ingredients:
Liquid Nitrogen (in a styrofoam bowl)
Graham Crackers (not iced)
Tongs

Directions:
Make sure you have an audience.
Break graham crackers into bite-sized pieces.
Use tongs to dip each piece into liquid nitrogen for 5 seconds
Use tongs to wave cracker piece in air for 10 seconds (cracker will appear to "smoke" or "steam")
Juggle cracker piece between hands until it is safe to touch (spots of frost on your hands mean juggle faster!)
Hand the cracker piece to someone who will eat it quickly
OR eat it yourself.

The continued gasification of the liquid nitrogen in which the cracker was dipped creates cold nitrogen. As the person eating the cracker exhales, the cold nitrogen causes the temperature of the air it mixes with to drop below the dew point, resulting in condensation of water vapor in the air, and clouds of &q…