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WEEK 43 2006

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Saturday 28 October 2006

Saturday - not a lot to say. Worked around the house, did some homework (though not enough) and some reading. In the evening went over to a friends for dinner, and to help out with balky computer software.

It was some Ebay stuff. She wanted to take some large pictures in TIF format, reduce them to smaller JPEGS, then transfer them up to a web site, then tell EBAY where the images were. It was all a lot harder than it needed to be, but we eventually ended up with a working process. But these S/W writers were pretty second rate.

None of the software writers, for example, had ever heard of  "drag and drop". Rather than just dragging the images to where you want them to be, you have to instead individually click on them, get their name and URL, copy and then paste it into a text field in another window. Ludicrous DOS or Win3.1 type of stuff.

On the bright side I got some great chile verde and lemon meringue pie out of the deal.

Odd. A year ago this week I was talking about a different Riemann problem, and losing money because of a different baseball team. Things change, and yet they stay the same...

After mentioning Monday the free books available, it occurred to me to see about readers. The Sony Reader is out, and uses E Ink, but is  remarkably expensive. The Sony Librie is older but cooler, and it had a keypad, but it is apparently crippled by DRM. (Sony, apparently, is now like many American companies - it has technological ability but has lost it's way in the market, designing great products and then hobbling or destroying them with self imposed stupidity such as DRM or proprietary formats.) The iliad reader also uses E Ink, and is again very expensive. These products led me to the maker of E Ink, and thence to the $100 Laptop, and finally to the OpenBook. The Open Book sounds cool, but is pretty much vaporware at this point in time. The Cybook doesn't use E Ink, but is still incredibly expensive.

And all of these machines are fairly pointless - a book is cheap, durable, and doesn't require batteries. A similar niche is the address book. For a couple of dollars one can pick up an electronic address book at almost any store. I've never bothered - it has no advantages over a slip of paper in my wallet.

Books are heavier than an address pad - there might be some value to an ebook for mobile users. Students who have to lug around a backpack of books (one of the physics students I met a CSUSB was probably carrying half her weight in books), people on the go - business travelers and vacationers.

Depending on the actual cost of the E Ink screen & associated hardware, it sounds like a bit of an opportunity for someone to make a decent ebook reader and make some money. I would guess, to a first approximation, one can simply take the wholesale price of components and calculate a retail price point.

Friday 27 October 2006

Friday -  I didn't go to work, .but I intend to get paid anyway.

Sounds criminal? No, I was on an  road trip  professional visit to the California State University at San Bernardino. There was an education outreach person going, and she wanted some engineers along (for some reason). So I got picked.

It was fun. I thought it was twenty five miles east of the I-15, but it's only about five miles or so, so it's just over an hour from Lancaster. We met - and had lunch catered by - the physics department and physics club, saw a rocket, a EPR spectrometer, multiple beowulf clusters and looked at their robotics lab. Pretty cool stuff.

I like the students. They are like puppies, all full of energy and eager to play with their new knowledge.

Via The Onion:

Mars Rover Beginning To Hate Mars

Unmanned Vehicle 'Bored Out Of Its Mind'


"Granted, Spirit has been extraordinarily useful to our work," Callas said. "Last week, however, we received three straight days of images of the same rock with the message 'HAPPY NOW?'"

Mission Project Scientist Bruce Banerdt said that Spirit will often roll down Gusev crater and up the opposite side for no apparent reason, missing "countless" potential opportunities for scientific discovery.



Stupid Tigers'. Now how will I finance a trip to Tahiti on my boat? I'm glad I got home too late to actually watch the game. Though I still need to call Dad and eat some humble pie.

bee on a dandelion
Bee on a Dandelion

Thursday 26 October  2006

Thursday - so close, so close. But you can't make a bunch of errors in a world series game and hope to come out ahead. The box score doesn't reflect how badly the Tigers actually played. They just can't seem to catch fire.

Or even play professional level baseball.

Not that I'm bitter.

I've been listening to 'The Path Between the Seas' on the way to work. What a great book! Right now it's covering the French attempt to build a sea level canal in the late 1800's - after a promising start it's starting to go bad.

I'd say that they needed a systems engineering process, but after a couple of meetings this week I'd rather have my tongue pulled out.

My take is that systems engineers are like fire and lawyers - good servants and bad masters. ( I think I've used that line before, but it's probably worth repeating). It's probably better to have too few SE's rather than too many.

And I quote, from a particularly notable failure:
"...there were entirely too many players and not enough workers."
(from the Wikipedia entry)

Wednesday 25 October 2006

Wednesday - Game 4, rained out. You have to stand in awe of the stupidity determination of the St. Louis fans, sitting in the pouring rain for hours, hoping.

Tuesday 24 October 2006

Tuesday - two flights. Things went well, and I went home after just 8 hours, tired.

Book #45 is A Beautiful Mind, by Sylvia Nasar. I liked the movie, and I liked the book. There is a lot that the movie left out, and changed, but for Hollywood it's fairly accurate.

When he had his first breakdown John Nash was working on the Riemann Hypothesis. Amazon shows 700+ citations for the subject...

detroit tigers
Well, I'm down a quarter again. But it's just one game. They'll come back.

A list of books read, over at Chicagoboyz.

 Monday 23 October 2006

Monday - back to work. Looks like a flight tomorrow, so I can't stay up too late.

Marginal Revolution (always a fun linkfest site) has a post up on someone's list of 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die. Most of the books I don't recognize. Those that I do seem to be "intellectual" books - stuff you'd see on the coffee table in a New Yorkers' apartment.

So, must I read them? I mean, if I don't read them - what's the punishment? After all, I'll be dead.

There is also a list of top recently downloaded books from Project Gutenberg. A rather sloppy list, but then, the books are free (as in beer). For example, Don Quixote is on the list three times: (74), (91) and (96). Perhaps it is different translations or languages? The Art of War is there twice, (11) and (61).

Burtons' The Anatomy of Melancholy (80) is in there, as is The Little Match Girl (46). In a more perfect world they would be side by side.

Somewhere I have a paperback copy of Clifton Fadimans' Lifetime Reading Plan. Not that I ever followed it.

Heh. Courtly and carnal Lovers' of Books. Gotta love those european chambermaids...

Sunday 22 October 2006

Sunday - went down to the boat and did a bit of work. One of the aft cabin handrails was broken, so I'd bought a new one, and drilled it out in the drill press here at the house. It was a 1/4-20 brass screw, and I put a 1/2" counter bore upon the top of the hand rail for a teak plug.

Then, at the boat there was a wipe down with acetone to remove the surface oils in the teak, and we then bedded it in a sulfide caulk and bolted down with good sized washers under the deck. I think my counter bores were a bit deeper than the original - the bolts stick out just a little from the nuts. I'll try to get in there with a dremel tool and cut off the excess one of these days.

I still can't get the DC running lights to work, so we didn't go sailing afterwards. None the less, any day you get even one thing done on a boat is a good day - that's my rule now!

Looks like the Tigers' won that quarter back for me! On to game three!!

Picture of the Week
A bountiful tomato harvest

Photo Notes: Fall bounty.

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