08 November 2007

Know Myers-Briggs?


What're you?

More info at Wik.

(Incidentally, let me tell you what... that INTJ description is spookily accurate for me.)

17 October 2007

At Least The PS3 Is Good For Something... ;-)

In today's Wired:

Suffering from its exorbitant price point and a dearth of titles, Sony's PlayStation 3 isn't exactly the most popular gaming platform on the block. But while the console flounders in the commercial space, the PS3 may be finding a new calling in the realm of science and research.

Right now, a cluster of eight interlinked PS3s is busy solving a celestial mystery involving gravitational waves and what happens when a super-massive black hole, about a million times the mass of our own sun, swallows up a star.

Don't get me wrong, I'm sure the PS3 has awesome capabilities & all. It must, since this researcher's "eight [PS3] consoles are equal to about 200 of the supercomputing nodes he used to rely on." The question is, what level of hardware is needed to make games that fit your target market? It seems to me that Sony (and to some extent Microsoft, with the Xbox 360) overshot on the hardware front in terms of making games that satisfy the broader swath of the playing public. As a friend points out, the Wii has now "gone from release, through two Christmas seasons being a rarity in stores... talk about a win."

Well played, Nintendo, well played.

(Link from By The Way....)

24 September 2007

BFitz on Boing-Boing!

To those of you who know who I mean when I say 'BFitz', you'll find this link to be mightily awesome. :-)

More BFitz-containing photos here, here, here, here, here (original Boing-Boing pic before cropping), here... probably even more in there...

(For those not familiar, Boing-Boing is one of the more heavily trafficked sites on the 'Net. Thus, BFitz is now either famous or infamous, depending on how you look at it. :-)

21 September 2007

Headline Gripe

MIT coed with fake bomb 'art' arrested.

Ok. Firstly, granted: the girl should probably have realized that wearing a circuit board of any kind to the airport while carrying Play-Doh equals BAD IDEA. No doubt there.


The headline? "Fake bomb 'art' "? Come on. Implying that the girl was trying to make some sort of political statement or something by walking into the airport wearing it? I don't buy it, and it's pretty disingenuous for the AP to headline it that way. Odds are, having worked with circuitry so much, it didn't occur to her that most other people wouldn't know the breadboard was innocuous. It's probably similar to the (perhaps apocryphal) story of the chemist going through airport security with his calorimeter: when asked about the nature of the shiny, round metal object he was carrying, he responded, "Oh, that's just my bomb."

So, yeah. Shouldn't have happened in the first place, foolish mistake on her part... but this reporting tack just irks me. :-P

11 September 2007

Notable Safety Point

Last Friday on Slate:

A couple of weeks ago, I was sleeping in the front passenger seat of our car when it slammed into the vehicle in front of us. We were on the highway coming home from a family trip. The other three people in our car weren't hurt. But I'd reclined my seat, and my seat belt, which was riding high, left a long welt around my rib cage and along my stomach. As it turned out, I had internal bleeding from a lacerated spleen and three cracked ribs. I spent the next two days in intensive care.

I've recovered nicely, thank you. But the more I thought about my accident, the more I wondered whether I'd inadvertently done myself in by tilting my car seat back—as I do on just about every long drive....

S'pose it's pretty easy not to think about how catastrophically a seat belt can fail to protect you if you're not sitting upright. Beware!

Also, I personally think it's terrible that the clout of the carmakers keeps anything from being done in terms of regulations for warning labels. I'll freely admit that I never read the manuals of the cars I drove all the way through — odds are I missed a number of things that might've been good for me to know...ah well!

(Linked from By the Way.)

04 September 2007

Rational Politics Is Doomed, It Seems

Research shows that attempting to refute false information can actually reinforce it

From the Washington Post:

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently issued a flier to combat myths about the flu vaccine. It recited various commonly held views and labeled them either "true" or "false." Among those identified as false were statements such as "The side effects are worse than the flu" and "Only older people need flu vaccine."

When University of Michigan social psychologist Norbert Schwarz had volunteers read the CDC flier, however, he found that within 30 minutes, older people misremembered 28 percent of the false statements as true. Three days later, they remembered 40 percent of the myths as factual.

Younger people did better at first, but three days later they made as many errors as older people did after 30 minutes. Most troubling was that people of all ages now felt that the source of their false beliefs was the respected CDC.

Extend this to politics, and indeed the mantra of 'Who cares about facts or truth, all that matters is what people think' does indeed make good sense. (Not that research is really needed to discover that such an approach works.)

Politics aside, though, it's an interesting thing to consider. I remember from somewhere that if you want someone not to do something, it's better to use a positive sentence with a 'negative' verb, rather than a negative sentence with a 'positive' verb. (Example: 'Leave that cup on the counter' will tend to work better in the long run than 'Don't move that cup off the counter'). <shrug> Makes pretty good sense to me...

10 August 2007

Good Thing It's Not Real Anti-Helium

Hilarious video here.

(And yes, I so totally am trying this if I ever get the chance. :-D )

Incidentally, when I first saw the caption to this, as a chemical engineer I immediately thought it was a mocked-up video of Jay Leno inhaling something and then having his head (and studio, and most of Upper Manhattan) vanish in a huge matter/antimatter annihilation event. Instead, it's live (and thoroughly entertaining) footage of Leno inhaling something that's probably sulfur hexafluoride (SF6).

<shrug> There are worse things to be mistaken about. :-)

27 July 2007

Garden @ Church

In an effort to get myself back into the habit of posting here, I present a link to a photo diary (of sorts) of the progression of the garden currently growing on the grounds of the Cambridge site of the Boston Vineyard. It's meant to be a team project with the kids I work with on Sundays (4th–6th graders), and seems to be going well. No real clear idea of what we'll do with the produce once we have it, but hey... shouldn't be too hard to find folks to take it off our hands, if worse comes to worst. :-p

View of the garden plot as of ~2 weeks ago:

(Link also goes to PicasaWeb)

Incidentally, one of the administrative folks in the church said that the garden might become a more permanent fixture... the church rents building space on site to a charter school, and I guess the(? a?) biology teacher there is interested in making garden-planting a unit for the end of the spring. So, that would be pretty cool if this turned into an ongoing project!

01 June 2007

Food Doesn't Actually Spoil

Melon survives for >2000 years (AP, via Yahoo News)

Technically speaking, food doesn't spoil... other things in its environment spoil it. It's kind of counter-intuitive, since everyday experience says otherwise: if you leave a hunk of raw meat out on the counter it's gonna get really nasty really fast, through no directly visible means. But, as has been known for some time, it's actually all the bacteria & such on the dust particles floating around that actually are the problem.

Louis Pasteur demonstrated this first, with broth. (His experiment, and others, are described here.) Basically, he put the broth in a glass flask, boiled it to kill the existing (at the time still hypothetical) spoilage-causing 'germs', and then heated & bent the neck to make a trap for the ambient dust particles. He could then leave the broth for days and (in most cases) no fermentation or spoilage was observed.

Same thing with that melon, sounds like... it managed to get holed up in an environment hostile to microorganisms, and just kinda sat there until the archaeologists dug it up. It's kind of an ironic find, though, 'cause now that it's been exposed to open air it'll probably go bad within a couple of days.

Still... 2000-year shelf life? Hard to beat, that... ;-)

21 May 2007

Windows XP Won't Return Ping, Otherwise Fine

I make this post in the hope that it will help some other poor sap who's run into the same head-bangingly frustrating problem with Windows that I did.

(some incidental keywords for Google: windows one-way ping doesn't respond to ping Internet works no ping can't connect)

Here's the situation: A couple of weeks ago, I bought a refurbed Tablet PC (Toshiba Portégé 3500, for anyone who's curious) off of eBay, mainly to allow me more mobility. (The Toshiba weighs 4.1 pounds... the department Dell laptop weighs >10 pounds. Yeah.) However, there are some applications on the Dell that I'd really like to be able to use remotely, so I was trying to set up TightVNC (third-party open-source remote desktopping application) so's I could log into the Dell from anywhere.

Soooo, I installed TightVNC on both computers, set up the server as a service on the Dell (so it automatically loads the server on boot), and tried to connect. Nothing. On further investigation, I found I actually couldn't even ping the Dell (from anywhere); nor could I ping the Toshiba. Even after disabling Windows Firewall and McAfee entirely... nothin'.

So. After trying an interminable number of combinations of settings and plying Google for at least ten hours, I came upon what must be the single forum post that had the answer. Namely, the Cisco VPN client that MIT uses for remote network localization (important for things like Matlab licensing and access to journal subscriptions) itself includes a firewall, which in this case was shutting out both the pinging and the TightVNC connection. Two quick clicks in the menu of the client, and both functions work slick as ice. G'bah!

So. This might not be the magic bullet fix for some people, especially if they don't have Cisco VPN installed. But... check every application you can think of for a firewall setting and make sure it's disabled! (I suppose this seems pretty obvious in retrospect, but... at least nobody else I asked thought of the VPN as the possible culprit, so... I'mma not feel too bad on this one!)

Ain't technology grand? :-p

16 May 2007

Pokin' Through xkcd Archives...

...I ran across this comic. And yep, I laughed pretty much right where it indicated. :-p

15 May 2007

Would You Buy A Rock Off Of eBay?

Proof that you really can buy just about anything on eBay... how about rocks? 800+ hits' worth, no less.

This one actually looks pretty nifty, I think...

Incidentally, I'm sure there's value in this one to someone who knows their geology, but... $175 asking price, wow.

Okey, done rambling now.

04 May 2007

Dragons Are Cool

Most of you probably know who Peter Jackson is. Most of you probably have seen and enjoyed (or not) those couple of movies he made back whenever.

Well, I'm telling you right now, be excited about this upcoming project (article on Guardian.co.uk):

First hobbits then a giant gorilla and now Peter Jackson is turning his hand to an air force of dragons, manned by crews of aviators.

Téméraire, a historical fantasy book series that sees squadrons of dragons fighting in the Napoleonic wars, has captured the imagination of the Lord of the Rings director.

The plot centres on British naval captain Will Laurence, who seizes a French ship and discovers an unhatched dragon egg - a gift from the emperor of China to Napoleon. When the egg hatches, he is forced to become the dragon's keeper. The monster is called Téméraire (meaning "Daring" in French).

A few months ago I was looking around for something to do with the rewards points I had accumulated on my credit card, and I decided I'd try to find myself some new fiction authors to read. I was poking around Amazon, looking at various authors I'd seen recommended around the 'Net, trying to find some stuff that appealed. One book that did appeal was His Majesty's Dragon, the first of the Temeraire trilogy (now a quadrilogy - the fourth book will be out mass-market later this year) by Naomi Novik. I bought it, it came, and I stuck it on my bookshelf along with the five or six other titles I'd gotten.

Then, after reading a couple of other books — I reread Ender's Game and read a mystery-suspense novel by Dick Francis, Risk (Francis's main site here) — I pulled HMD off the shelf. Now, bearing in mind that I have a hard time putting books down anyways, I tore through at least the first half of the book (~160 pages, give or take) in my first sitting (This probably meant a bedtime of about 4AM. :-p), and read the rest of it over the next two days. I liked the book so much, I actually didn't want to read anything else before I could get my hands on Throne of Jade, the 2nd book in the series. (And, in reality, didn't... I just last week bought the 2nd & 3rd books and am about 120 pages into ToJ.)

So.... If Jackson & Co. do as superb a job artistically on this film as the reportedly did on LotR (I haven't actually seen them yet. =8-O) and hew pretty closely to the quality of character development that's in HMD the book... should be something you don't want to miss!

02 May 2007

Because It Annoys Me

An interesting story over on Yahoo, via AP. I really can't imagine (a) how that would actually work well, or (b) how people would think that it's not going to get them fined and/or jail time.

But, that's not why I linked to it. Why I linked to it is in the very first paragraph. Dictionaries, people!! M-W.com, if nothing else!


30 April 2007

Painful Commute

I would so totally not want to be a driver in the Bay Area right now:

OAKLAND, California (AP) -- A gasoline tanker crashed and burst into flames near the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge on Sunday, creating such intense heat that a stretch of highway melted and collapsed.

Officials predicted a traffic nightmare for Bay Area commuters for weeks or months to come.

Flames shot 200 feet in the air, but the truck's driver walked away from the scene with second-degree burns. (Watch I-Reporter Paul Kochli explain his video of the aftermath of the fiery truck crash Video)

No other injuries were reported in the 3:45 a.m. crash, which officials said could have been deadly had it occurred at a busier time.

"I've never seen anything like it," Officer Trent Cross of the California Highway Patrol said of the crumpled interchange. "I'm looking at this thinking, 'Wow, no one died' -- that's amazing. It's just very fortunate."



21 April 2007

Incisive Dilbert

I leave it as a psychological exercise for the reader to determine why I felt today's Dilbert was worthy of a link.

Addendum (4/21/07 4:45PM): This post refers to the comic about pay raises, which actually is a replacement for the comic originally scheduled to run, which is about the new product invented by Dilbert. The original comic made an incidental reference to 'serial killing', and was pulled given the recent events at Virginia Tech. For more info on and discussion about the Dilbert comic switch, see the link in the comments.

17 April 2007

Too Bad This Is Bio, Not Origami



Let's see... in Japanese, it'd probably be called something like 'shiniori' 「死に折り」... I can picture the scene ... dark room in a seedy bar someplace ... two nervous men look on as the Mafia head man works on an intricate origami design. One says to the other:

"Oh no, Kotaro-san... he just made the death-fold!"


'Taihen da, Kotaro-san...shiniori tsukutta!'

Incidentally, I'm sure my advisor is really glad that I'm putting my language learning to such productive use. :-p

11 April 2007

This Is The Kind Of Thing...

...that Christianity ought to be known for:
Windows Media

Note: these links will probably break around the end of April.

(From site of Joyce Meyer Ministries)

01 April 2007

Most Awesome Thing, Like, EVAR

I knew this day would come: Hardcopy Gmail, and it's even delivered right to your doorstep!

Oh, the infinite versatility of post-consumer soybean sputum...

28 March 2007

For Want of a Semicolon

From today's Dayton Daily News, page B6:

Funds to build the [Dayton Dragons stadium] came from several sources, including Mandalay Sports and Entertainment, which owns the franchise, the city and Montgomery County.

My my, that's a big company! :-p

14 March 2007

Yeah, This Makes Sense

Well, the weather was nice recently... :-p

(Click to enlarge)

05 February 2007

Bad Science Joke

And now we find out how many people are actually still checking this thing after being idle for so long...

Two biology grad students walk into a bar.

"Ok, now remember: if an if/then proposition is true, then its contrapositive is also true," says the first.


"Okay, an example: 'If a cell is E. coli, then it must be Gram negative.' The contrapositive would be, 'If a cell is not Gram negative, then it cannot be E. coli.'"

"Ohh, of course," says the second. "Quite obvious. Entirely bacteriological."