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WEEK 16 2005

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Saturday 23 April 2005

Saturday - 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 rain.

Friday 22 April 2005

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 that fulfilling.

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.

Riley Yawning
Boy, those were particularly tasty food pellets tonight!

Thursday 21 April  2005

Thursday - 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:

gmail error page


Later: Everything is working, on all the accounts. One person emailed me today...

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.

Interesting times.

I like capitalism: it looks like Yahoo! Mail is going to try to compete with Google Mail:

yahoo mail increase

Wednesday 20 April 2005

Wednesday - working away on things. Not a lot to say about that.

Book Review
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. Clarke's  The City and the Stars - which was itself an expanded version of his original Against 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 Stapleton's Last 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 evil entity?

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:

Meyer's Law states:

When the same set of facts can be explained equally well by

  1. A massive conspiracy coordinated without a single leak between hundreds or even thousands of people    -OR -
  2. Sustained stupidity and/or incompetence

Assume stupidity and incompetence

Tuesday 19 April 2005

Tuesday - working away on work things. Did some bills.

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 Tambora volcanic 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, possibly:

"How powerful 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 this 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 previous. 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 meticulous weather reports in the logs of British naval vessels to reconstruct the worldwide 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.

Monday 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:
full hard drive
The hard drive isn't quite full...

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 swap space.

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.

The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia just played. And I was thinking - those guys on CSI or NCIS 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 2005

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 Lancaster.

The festival is held at the Lancaster City Park ( old timers with a yen for causing trouble call it Stanley Kleiner Park, 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 a 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...

Picture of the Week
a falcon returns to it's owner

Photo Notes: This is a falcon, returning from a flight about the poppy festival.

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