Travels and Images
WEEK 16 2005
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Picture of the Week
Saturday 23 April
- hmmm. I updated this, but it didn't appear on the server. Odd.
Anyway, on the road Saturday, up to my fathers. Broken clouds and some
Friday - still spring
cleaning. It's incredible, I've been cleaning for days,
and hardly seem to have made a dent. The place is messy and dirty, I
hate that. But I'm not obsessive - cleaning and ordering is not all
Over at Knowledge Problem
Lynne Kiesling writes on energy issues, and talks a bit
about this years energy bill. Short recap: business as usual, nothing
innovative or useful for the long run. I'm not sure what LK has against
CAFE standards - they already exist, they may as well be made useful.
Nonetheless, it seems clear that the U.S. governments position on
energy essentially hasn't improved and changed since the 1970's. An
energy train wreck is probably on its way, but only another prolonged
crisis will cause any real change.
Jane Galt on the (possible) housing
bubble coming to an end.
It's hard to believe here in Southern California, while watching the
remarkably fast and extensive building and construction in both homes
and retail business centers - but I've seen it happen twice before here.
Boy, those were particularly
tasty food pellets tonight!
Thursday 21 April 2005
- I think I've posted on the subject of Yahoo! Mail getting slower and
slower (probably because of the fancy graphics they use in the
advertisements on the mail page), to the point where it can take a
couple of minutes to log in. I've been thinking of going with my Gmail
account as a primary account, but this morning I saw this:
Everything is working, on all the accounts. One person emailed me
On the new Pope: one interesting thing is that I've seen approving
remarks on the
selection, from a number of religious non Catholics who appreciate someone taking a stand, even if
they don't agree on particular issues. Some other faiths and churches
are actually losing members,
who have become weary and distrustful of all embracing
multiculturalism. Establishment of The
Church of Nigeria in America,
for example, is a direct response to the ordination of homosexual
ministers in the Episcopalian church here.
I like capitalism: it looks like Yahoo! Mail is going to try to
compete with Google Mail:
20 April 2005
Wednesday - working away on things. Not a
lot to say about that.
I finished Gregory Benford's Beyond
Infinity. It was readable, a sequel or expansion of the novella Beyond
the Fall of Night, which was in turn a sequel to Arthur C.
City and the Stars - which was itself an expanded version of his
the Fall of Night.
It was, though a good read, somewhat uneven in plot, character and
science. The science problem is understandable I think, and it cascaded
into the character and plot development.
Most fiction that involves truly advanced science runs into a problem.
If the science is truly advanced - like the genetic engineering and
intelligence augmentation that plays a strong part in this story - then
it causes enough change that the consequences are so large and so
unpredictable that they make almost any author's description both
grandiose and vague. When combined with time spans on the order of a billion years,
and all the changes that implies, it becomes hard to write about such a
future in a convincing and engaging way. It's a bit like reading
and First Men, a chronicle interesting but remote from the reader.
Benford tried to overcome this by making his protagonist someone we can
emphasize with - a teenage girl, who is somehow needed to prevent
the destruction of the Earth and the Galaxy. She is 'Cley', an Original
or Ur-human, only slightly advanced over our current humanity, who,
along with a super-racooon sidekick must repel the 'Malign'. I didn't
find Cley's character all that interesting - perhaps middle aged
physics professors shouldn't attempt such characterizations - and find
the idea that a 'Original' human, close to 'nature' would be useful in
repelling immortal super beings of pure energy rather silly.
The argument for this is apparently that a normal human focuses their
attention primarily on objects and events in close proximity to
them, and that their awareness falls off in a logarithmic way in
sound, space, and time; and that this makes them uniquely valuable in
dealing with current threats. The truly advanced humans of Benford's
future - the 'Supras' - are immortal, and apparently lack this ability.
But the future Benford imagines is full of creatures with genetically
enhanced intelligence - dogs, cats, raccoons, trees, and so on - who
are often depicted as living in the now.
Why can't they deal with the
I also felt the choice of the name 'Cley' was juvenile
and off-putting. Benford is an accomplished author, he doesn't need to
telegraph his punches with a name like that. It annoyed me on the dust
jacket, and it annoyed me on the last page.
So, I would say: interesting but unconvincing. I'm not sorry I read it,
but I am glad it was a library book and that I didn't pay $25 for it. I
own and enjoyed his 'Galactic Center' series, but this is not as good.
I found this little gem at Coyote Blog:
When the same set of facts can be explained equally well by
- A massive conspiracy coordinated without a single leak
between hundreds or even thousands of people -OR -
- Sustained stupidity and/or incompetence
Assume stupidity and incompetence
Tuesday - working away on work things. Did
I went over to Lowe's Hardware, and bought a small spring and fastened
the new heat sink to the PVM unit via the nonstandard eyebolts on the
motherboard. Lowe's did not have a good selection of springs and the
one I bought was too small - if stretched far enough to reach both
eyebolts the tension was great enough to make me fear for the integrity
of the motherboard and/or PVM chip. So I used a paper clip to extend it
to the motherboard eyebolt - it (the paperclip and heatsink) seems to
be holding. The computer runs
quieter, roughly on par with the 2.4Ghz box, but it is still noisy
compared to the 3.2Ghz P4 in the case with the 120mm fan. I believe it
is an Antec Sonata case and power supply.
I watched part of a Discovery Channel special the other night, on the
eruption, and the effect it had on weather in 1815 and 1816. 'The
year without a summer"
was a description applied to 1816, and it was because of the vast
amount of stuff blown into the air. A hundred cubic miles of debris,
was the Tambora eruption? Such questions can be
misleading, but by any scale one chooses to measure the 1815 eruption
of Tambora was one of the mightiest and deadliest in history. On the
Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI), Tambora rates a 7, one of only four
in the last 10,000 eruptions to do so. For comparison, the famous
Krakatoa blast was VEI 6, and the recent Mt. St. Helen's blast of May
1980 was VEI 5.
Tambora was in a class all its own. Some understanding of this may be
gained when one discovers the definition of Krakatoa's Category 6 is
"colossal"----whereas Tambora's 7 necessitates the word
"super-colossal"! (Category 5 of St. Helens means "paroxysmal"). The
eruptive type is judged to have been "Ultra-Plinian", in other words a
mega-version of the outbreak of Vesuvius that gave its name to the type
and destroyed Pompeii and Herculaneum and 3,360 lives."
Anyway, part of the show
was a visit to the Tambora caldera. I would have thought a volcano of
size and magnitude would be infested
with scientists and instruments.
Not so - in fact in the documentary a rather elderly scientist claimed
that no one had
visited since his study 15 years
Good grief. There was also a segment on the excavation of a house
that had been in the path of the pyroclastic flows from the volcano,
where they exhumed some human remains that had been 'completely
carbonized'; and a segment on a scientist (Chenoweth?) using the
reports in the logs of British naval vessels to reconstruct the
weather patterns after the volcano. Very interesting.
I don't have a teevee guide, so I generally don't know what, aside
from standard network shows, is on. Shows like this make me wish I
wasn't so lazy - friends have offered me their guides out of Sunday
papers and such, but I just haven't taken them up on it. I mean, I'd have to go get
the guide on Sunday. My efforts to convince them to deliver it to my
door have so far proved fruitless, but I shall endeavor to persevere.
18 April 2005
Monday - trouble brewing with my main
development system, which is the older 2.4Ghz Northwood system. It has
most of my files, and reflects that fact:
Several gigabytes of this are images, scans, and movies from the last
five years or so. Most of the rest is various engineering projects, and
The hard drive isn't quite
I was trying to get the 2.8Ghz PC running with a new heat sink on the
PVM chip today. I almost had it, almost, almost, so close...and then I
broke the spring steel twig that holds down the new heat sink.
Actually, judging from the ease with which it broke, it wasn't
spring steel but was more closely related to the steel used in paper
clips. Bah. I'll have to go get something from Home Depot. Some
smallish springs with long leads, I think.
Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia just played. And I was
thinking - those guys on CSI
could have helped. I mean, did no one check the bullet caliber, powder
residues, or the footprints, or the time of death? And why shouldn't
you trust yourself to a backwoods southern lawyer, if the judge is an
idiot, out to hang you? You
need a lawyer at that point, and maybe one
familiar with the judge. And, more to the point - how come the sister
couldn't show up and admit guilt? I mean, if she'd just killed the
trampy wife, how far away could she be?
Sunday 17 April
Sunday - the Antelope Valley Poppy
Festival was this weekend. It's actually a rather mediocre year for
poppies, but the festival is held anyway. There really isn't any way to
know when a good year is coming and the various vendors probably rent
their booth space from the city months beforehand. The festival isn't
actually held out in the (hopefully) poppy covered boonies, but in
The festival is held at the Lancaster City Park ( old timers with a yen
for causing trouble call it Stanley
since at one point is was named after the first mayor of Lancaster,
which occasioned a short lived but amusing tempest in the city council
teapot among Stan's supporters and detractors, after which the name was
removed.) and buses run, no charge, out to the California Poppy Reserve.
Generally though, it is just a big craft fair, with lots of booths from
various craftsmen and artists, and a lot of booths from various local
organizations and charities. It seems to be getting bigger, year after
year. This year a friend scored seven tickets for free from the mayor -
thanks, Mayor Frank Runner - and I got in for free. It was fun and the
weather was cooperative, warm with just a bit of wind. There were food
booths, and artists who paint, turn wood, make gewgaw's out of tin
cans, whirlygig toys, leatherwork, custom motorcycles, custom cars,
booths with miniature cactus, booths on home schooling, booths for
Republicans and for Democrats, the electric company, the sheriffs,
falconers and the SCA, and much much more.
I particularly enjoyed watching the SCA people fight with their swords
and armor. I'm impressed - I fenced in junior college, quite a while
ago, and can recall how exhausting that was - and fencing is done with
much lighter blade. With the heavier weapons they seemed to be using,
and with the armor and padding in 80F weather it be an intense
experience. They did seem to take regular breaks...