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WEEK 8 2006

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Saturday 25 February 2006

Saturday - Book #11 is Shadow of the Giant, by Orson Scott Card. It was a nice evening's read, and not a bad book, but not particularly exciting.

Card, by the way, has a blog: The Ornery American. This week has a very interesting article about the United States and Iraq, "Iraq -- Quit or Stay", and it's well worth reading. Not that it'll change anyone's mind...

Victor Hanson has another essay on Iraq. Not that it'll change anyone's mind...

Are you a gadgeteer? Want to tinker with digital cameras, legos, gps, robotics, or bluetooth? Then MAKE is a site for you! Pretty cool stuff, actually.

More Olympic Curling news: streakers!.

Curlers probably feel a little safer than most athletes — it's hard for intruders to run across ice, especially if they're naked.

Personally I'd leave my shoes on. Heh. Remember that song about streakers?

"I said, don't look Mabel, but it was too late..."

Some Headlines:

Curling History: 1st US Medal, 1st Streaker.
Streaker cuts no ice at curling match
With streaker, curling gets some extra exposure.

Apparently it was a well known streaker, advertising for some gambling web page. Professionalism has now even taken over the streakers in the Olympics!

Friday 24 February 2006

Friday - I was thinking of visiting my Dad this weekend, but I wasn't feeling 100% and he is just getting over a cold, so we agreed to put it off. No sense in going up just to swap diseases. And, though it's been warm, there is supposedly a storm arriving in the next couple of days.

So, spent some time today fooling about with the beowulf cluster at Dryden. Sigh. It's deja vu all over again... Compiler issues, MPICH issues. No doubt solver issues, should I ever get it working. I'm tempted to rebuild my cluster at home, just so I can practice installing MPICH properly. I suspect a bad (or at least incomplete) install is part of the problem.

I said I haven't followed the Olympics. I really haven't - I've no idea how many gold & silver & bronze medals "we've" won. But I did hear that we won a gold in curling. Curling? Is that the thing on ice with bombs from 'Help!'?

PDA pic:

Cats napping
It's not as innocent as it looks. Riley, to the left, is actually trying to nudge Phoebe off...

Some days are like that.

Thursday 23 February  2006

Thursday - The Dirigible: wave of the future! [via Ghost of a Flea]

A question I've asked myself before: would I ride on a dirigible called 'Hindenburg'? Absolutely.

My friend Tim gave me a gift card, to thank me for PC help last year. I'm embarrassed - he's always been the most helpful and generous man I know with his own time and effort. Among a hundred other things: he replaced all the locks in my home when I bought it, he helped me rebuild both side fences more recently, once he even chopped up an old white elephant of a piano that I didn't know what to do with - the list goes on and on. So, I refused it took it down to Barnes & Noble and bought some cool stuff on Saturday:

Books from Barnes and Noble
Thanks, Tim!

Book #10 is Fastnet, Force 10 by John Rousmaniere. This is about the infamous 1979 Fastnet disaster, when a sudden summer storm devastated an offshore race involving over 300 boats.  Rousmaniere himself was sailing in the race. He writes:

Of the 303 boats from 22 countries, 5 sank, 100 were rolled down so far they put their masts in the water,  and at least 75 were flipped down, their mast (or what remained of them) aimed straight down, and their rudders waving uselessly in the air.

He writes quite a bit about several different boats, and how different boats experienced and reacted in different ways to the strange unpredictable seas that were the primary menace. Larger boats like his powered on through (as they later did in the infamous Sydney-Hobart race) while smaller boats had to ride out the chop.

There are cautionary tales aplenty, about bad radios, bad safety equipment, and so on. But in the end Rousmaniere comes down with the Royal Offshore Racing Club investigation - it was just a terrible, terrible, storm. The RORC put out a survey for all the participants to answer, and Rousmaniere summarizes the results:

Answers to various questions indicated that all four traditional storm tactics - lying a-hull, running before it with warps dragging and without dragging, and heaving-to - worked equally well. Three quarters of the respondents said they would use the same tactics again. In the words of the committee, "No magic formula for guaranteeing survival emerges from those who were caught in the storm. There is, however, an inference that active rather than passive tactics were successful and those who were able to maintain some speed and directional control fared best."

Rousmaniere later wrote another book - Desirable and Undesirable Characteristics of Offshore Yachts - which goes a lot more into what technical lessons were learned from the race.

And, looking at Amazon, he has a number of other books. Some day I'll have to take a look....

Wednesday 22 February 2006

Wednesday - I said the bug was fading, but it seems to have resurfaced. It was a tired and achey day at work - just finishing some work on a proposal (someone else's proposal). I left work on time, or even slightly before - something that I rarely do. So the cats have had more time to torment me as I try to nap on the couch.

Book #9 is Wildtrack, by Bernard Cornwall. Sort of an adventure/mystery, in the british fashion. It's revolves around a wounded veteran of the Falkland's war, who after recuperating discovers his beloved sailing boat has been damaged while he was in the hospital. The novel spins a story of a clean cut war hero, noxious English media personalities, sailing, evil American billionaires, beautiful women, and murder.

Tuesday 21 February 2006

Tuesday - interesting clouds over the valley this morning. They looked like giant white and grey jellyfish, with streamers of rain hanging down like tentacles.

A lot of personnel in the branch are on travel - it is quiet at work, like the week before Christmas.

 Monday 20 February 2006

Monday - the cold was just a 24 hour bug, and is fading fast. I visited with some friends - helped a bit with some PC problems - then went back home for a nice long nap and some teevee. Not very exciting, but I wanted to review some stuff in the evening.

 I did that, paperwork on my lap desk, while watching House (tivoed).

Bought some groceries, forgot to put gas in the Explorer. Not 100%, obviously.

Sunday 19 February 2006

Sunday - snow on the mountains this morning (see below), but none on the valley floor. A nice day, though I am now battling a head cold.

An astronomer, M. Turnbull,  recently came up with a list of  Stellar Candidates for Habitable Worlds. Of course others have done this before. On my bookshelf is a book written more than 40 years ago: Planets for Man, by Stephen Dole and Isaac Asimov, 1964. Comparing and contrasting their likely solar system candidates we have just a few matches:

Dole & Asimov, 1964
Alpha Centauri B
Epsilon Eridani
Tau Ceti

Alpha Centauri A
70 Ophiuchi A
Eta Cassipeiae A
Sigma Draconis
36 Ophiuchi A
36 Ophiuchi B
HR 7703 A
Delta Pavonis
82 Eridani
Beta Hydri
HR 8832
Alpha Centauri B
Epsilon Eridani
Tau Ceti

beta CVn
HD 10307
HD 211415
18 Sco
51 Pegasus

Omicron2 Eridani
Epsilon Indi A

Turnbull made a list of ten systems, five "most likely" to be good candidates for intelligent life (underlined in the table), and five that are good candidates to be seen (with very advanced space telescopes). Indeed, since she looked at 17,000 systems and rated them, there are probably more systems in common then I have listed.

Note that the link above for Planets for Man is almost useless. The date is wrong, and it only lists Asimov as an author. Dole had actually written a Rand Corporation report, Habitable Planets for Man, and then he and Asimov paired up to write the Random House book later. In Asimov's biography there's an amusing story about this. After the book was written Dole asked that his name come first, despite the fact that Asimov would normally be the lead author, since his name started with A and he was better known. Dole explained that Asimov had lots of books to his name (Asimov eventually wrote hundreds!) while he, Dole, might only have the one. Asimov laughed and agreed.

And while Dole does have a few other publications, they all seem to be rather dull Rand Corporation internal reports.

Amazon also has a separate link for Habitable Planets for Man, 1970. It's unclear if it's a reprint of Dole's earlier Rand Corporation study, a reprint of the 1964 book, or an updated and retitled version of the 1964 book.

Wikipedia also has a list of the nearest bright stars. Why bright stars in particular? Probably because there are a large number of dim  'red dwarfs' that nobody really cares about, as they are too small and cold to support life bearing planets, and of no particular interest to astronomers and physics from a science standpoint - they simple exist, glowing dimly, for billions and billions of years, without exploding, flaring, collapsing into neutron stars or black holes.

Picture of the Week

Snow on the hills above Palmdale, 2006

Photo Notes: Snow on the hills above Palmdale.

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