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It is a mind-bogglingly beautiful day in Cambridge, MA. Sunny. Warm, but not hot, with a gentle on-again, off-again breeze to provide a little variety. The sky a lovely shade of blue, with nary a cloud....

The most clear indication that our culture is screwed up lies in how, when provided such a day, we do not shoo all non-essential personnel out of their offices, classrooms, and work-halls to enjoy the day, and compensate all those essential people handsomely for what they have missed. For, if there is anything at all that humans work for, it is enjoyment of such days.

I managed to take my lunch outside, under a tree, with a good book, at least. So there is something.
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Over at the National Institute of Health, an interesting article on distinguishing Denial from Debate of sciences in the public forum, why we can't, and why we have to...

At the conference Lupia told the audience, “We get the idea that if we just tell [people] what we know, they will change how they think and what they do.” As scientists and science communicators, we have something of value to share, he explained, and we expect our message to come across like a shiny new sports car wrapped in a bow—but the reality is often more like an old rust bucket rolling into a lake.

http://ehp03.niehs.nih.gov/article/fetchArticle.action?articleURI=info:doi/10.1289/ehp.120-a314
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I seem to be a chatterbox today...

A couple interesting-looking books coming out in September (stolen from io9):

The Moon Maze Game by Larry Niven and Steven Barnes (Tor)
LARPers on the Moon! Seriously. In a nutshell, it's the year 2085, and humanity is living all over the solar system — and a lunar colony is seeking independence. When the young heir to a small African country, Ali Kikaya, visits the Moon for a Live Action Role Playing event, a man who grew up on the Moon comes along as a bodyguard. But soon enough, terrorists target Ali — and how do you tell the terrorists from the LARPers?

Slow Apocalypse by John Varley (Ace)
What if all the oil was just gone? It's a particularly provocative take on the apocalypse — and possibly, an especially relevant one, if the Peak Oil theorists are correct. A scientist named Eddie Parker develops bacteria to clean up oil spills, and then works on a method for increasing oil production by boosting the pressure — but Eddie has a secret agenda, to punish Saudi Arabia for 9/11 by getting rid of all the Saudi oil. Unfortunately, Eddie's plan works too well, and soon all the oil in the world is becoming a thing of the past. Screenwriter Dave Marshall, in Los Angeles, discovers that his disaster-movie script is coming true — and he has to find a way to safeguard his family.
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In October 1927, the Fifth Solvay International Conference was held. From it, there's a semi-famous picture of many of the greatest minds in physics and chemistry of the day*, who had gathered to discuss that new and interesting thing: quantum mechanics.

A redditor (called "mygrapefuit") has done a major work in colorizing the original black and white image, and is making her version of it available for free.

http://www.mediafire.com/view/?9tcdr7dnmty8blr


*Einstein, Curie, Bohr, Heisenberg, Dirac, Compton, deBroglie, Plank, Lorentz - half the collection eventually got Nobel Prizes (and Mme Curie is still the only scientist to have ever won the prize in two different fields!)...
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Scientific American and ScienceDebate.org partnered to get Obama and Romney to answer 14 questions on major scientific and technological challenges facing the nation. You can read their answers at the link, and decide what you think of them yourself.

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=obama-romney-science-debate
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A bunch of pranksters, intending to engage in one of the usual forms of internet jerkitude, are attempting to force Taylor Swift to give a concert at a school for the deaf, thinking that would be awkward and funny. Turning the tables on that, however, the school principle thinks it would be an awesome educational opportunity for his students, and the world at large:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/31/internt-users-attempt-to-_n_1847491.html
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From NASA.gov:

"Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon during the 1969 Apollo 11 mission, has died. He was 82.

His family has released the following statement:

“We are heartbroken to share the news that Neil Armstrong has passed away following complications resulting from cardiovascular procedures.

Neil was our loving husband, father, grandfather, brother and friend.

Neil Armstrong was also a reluctant American hero who always believed he was just doing his job. He served his Nation proudly, as a navy fighter pilot, test pilot, and astronaut. He also found success back home in his native Ohio in business and academia, and became a community leader in Cincinnati."

http://www.nasa.gov/topics/people/features/armstrong_obit.html
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I am reminded of a section of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy:

"And what's this thing coming toward me very fast? So big and flat and round, it needs a big wide sounding name like 'Ow', 'Ownge', 'Round', 'Ground'! That's it! Ground! Ha! I wonder if it'll be friends with me?"

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For those of you in the Boston Area who are interested in showing up to cheer for my Lady and her compatriot as they walk the 3-Day for the Cure, information on the public cheering stations is below. A couple of notes:

I cannot, at the moment, tell you exactly when Becky will be coming by a given station. She may call me to give me an estimate of her pace on Friday, from which I could get an estimate - that worked pretty well last time, but is really a *very* inexact thing, and it can be kind of easy to miss them going by if you try to cut it close. I would generally expect them to be coming by a given station earlier, rather than later, but that'll vary with weather and such.

Posters and decorations are welcome. I may be doing some poster-making Friday evening - if you want to join in (Hey, arts and crafts are fun!), or want me to make an extra for you, I can do that. Please contact me.

In general, if you want updates or to check in with me to see if the ladies have passed a given station, drop me a line (LJ message, e-mail, or what have you), and I'll get you contact information.

Unfortunately, most folk work on Friday - the public cheering stations close before 5 PM, largely because the walkers are back in camp before then. But, if you have the time, showing the ladies you care would be awesome!

Friday, July 27

9:15 a.m. - 12:15 p.m.
St. Paul's Church
502 Washington Street
Wellesley, MA, 02482

12:00 p.m. - 4:45 p.m.
DCR Boat Launch
53 Woerd Street
Waltham, MA, 02453

Saturday's the prime cheering day - the stations are in Arlington and Lexington - at these, you may look for me hanging out with a cooler of drinks and a camp chair.

Saturday, July 28

7:30 a.m. - 10:45 a.m.
Robbins Farm Park
51 Eastern Avenue
Arlington, MA, 02476

10:45 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
Depot Square, Massachusetts Avenue & Depot Square
Lexington, MA, 02420

There are also cheering stations on Sunday - I won't be at these, as getting to them and then to the closing ceremonies (where I pick the ladies up) is exceedingly inconvenient. So, anyone interested in going to these could give the ladies a needed boost when they're really, really tired, as those last miles are tough. I know they'd appreciate it!

One of these is down in the Boston Public Gardens, which are lovely this time of year.

Sunday, July 29

8:15 a.m. - 10:45 a.m.
Cambridge City Hall
795 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA, 02139

9:15 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.
Boston Public Garden (between Paul Revere and Swan Boats)
Intersection Commonwealth & Arlington Street
Boston, MA, 02127

I will be going to closing ceremonies, and traditionally we head to dinner (somewhere - we don't plan this ahead too much) afterwards. Anyone interested in coming to closing ceremonies - again, me with the camp chair.

Closing Ceremonies
Sunday, July 29, 4:30 p.m.
University of Massachusetts
100 William T. Morrissey Boulevard
Boston, MA 02125
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A couple days back, I posted a reference to the Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus, and a plea for help for the arboreal cephalopods...

But, in reality, I am a bit of a treehugger myself. I realized that I was enjoying a little poking of fun at conservationism, but that I hadn't actually done much about it recently. Not able to do anything huge in the immediate term, I figured I could at least do something - I need more work-appropriate clothes anyway, so I went over to the World Wildlife Fund's website, and ordered myself a black polo shirt with the WWF logo on it*. All was good.

I got an e-mail last night: Sorry, we are out of the black polos. We can back order one for you, but that'll be three or four weeks. Or, we can send you *two* white polos right now, at no additional cost!

If that's not good customer service, I dunno what is!



*I find the irony of "killing two birds with one stone" in this context pleasant, don't you?
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I don't post such things often, but it is so horrible when we risk losing part of our nations natural heritage....

I speak, of course, of our critical need to save the Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus...

After reading that, what more could I possibly say? You know what you need to do...
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Mostly for [livejournal.com profile] jducoeur...

Ifttt: If This Then That, a service that provides triggered actions on social media sites. Things like, "If I am tagged in a photo on Facebook, then save a copy of that image to my DropBox". It looks to have simply taken the APIs of any number of services, and gives you a bridge for actions between them.

For examples of what the system does, you can look at their "Recipes" page.

Not that I'm a big user of social media, but I can see how interesting this could be to some.
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So, CNN and ORC International (the gamer in my loves that name) did a poll*, with lots of questions. The answer to one, and the historical trend of answers, I find interesting...

The Question: Do you happen to have a family member or close friend who is gay or lesbian?

YearYesNo
199432%66%
199841%57%
200745%55%
200949%51%
201049%50%
201260%40%




*Insert standard disclaimer about statistics here - yes, I know the issues surrounding such polls.
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So, with Bradbury's passing, I was considering the list of Golden Age authors who are still with us, and how long until they were all gone.

Then I considered Harlan Ellison - the most ornery man in science fiction. Death itself probably doesn't want to deal with Ellison. Ellison may be immortal. The other Golden Age authors could move in with Ellison, and get protection from the Spectre of Death just by proximity! They could all live forever!

Except, that'd be a forever living with Harlan Ellison. You pick your poison, I suppose.

Then I thought that, you know, if Ellison saw this, he might well just kick off tomorrow just to show me. Ellison would do that, just to prove a point. He's that ornery.
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Several sources now reporting, classic Sci-Fi author Ray Bradbury has passed away, at a ripe age of 91.

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2012/06/author-ray-bradbury-dies-at-91-daughter-says.html

And I'd just finished re-reading, "Fahrenheit 451" a few days ago. Thank you, Mr. Bradbury.
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Mostly for [livejournal.com profile] usernamenumber...

From Ars Technica:

In one of the truly bizarre incidents we've seen out of the e-book publishing world, a translation of Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace for Barnes & Noble's Nook platform has replaced all mentions of the word "kindled" with "Nookd."

It appears to be a case of Ctrl-F gone wrong. An astute reader named Philip broke the story on his blog, noting that his reading of the classic was interrupted by the sentence "It was as if a light had been Nookd in a carved and painted lantern…" The blogger noticed more and more uses of the word "Nookd," leading him to examine a paper copy to find a more accurate translation that used the word "kindled" instead.
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It is stories like this that make me feel our species is doomed.

From "Lowering the Bar":

Hot on the heels of this weekend's news that somebody tried to run over another person for canceling a taco order comes this report that a 23-year-old man crashed his truck into a Taco Bell after it failed to fill his taco order. (Both the Taco Bell and the taco-canceler suffered superficial injuries but neither was seriously harmed.)

According to a police report posted by the Smoking Gun, a 23-year-old Ohio man allegedly rammed his vehicle into the entrance of the restaurant and then fled, making this the first hit-and-run involving a Taco Bell of which I have been made aware. Unfortunately for the perpetrator, his truck was leaking fluid and police were reportedly able to follow the trail to the man's home.

Police said the man admitted "intentionally striking the building after realizing he did not get one of the tacos he ordered," which suggests the threshold for Taco-Bell-related violence may actually have dropped slightly. Last year, it took an unexpected fifty-cent price hike on each of seven Beefy Crunch Burritos to cause a San Antonio man to open fire, leading to a three-hour standoff at the end of what the local newspaper termed a "burrito-triggered spree."


Good gods, people, it's a taco.
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Les Miserables - release date December 14th, 2012.



Hugh Jackman as Valjean
Russel Crowe as Javert
Anne Hathaway as Fantine...

I wonder at the script. It is a very long show...
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So, as I'd planned here, I've gotten myself a new laptop. Many thanks to those who gave advice. It led me to what seems to have been a good choice.

And now, the follow-up question: Is anyone planning to play Diablo III multiplayer, and is going to want teammates?
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As folks probably saw in My Lady's journal, I am, once again, employed. Woohoo! Those interested in the details may ping me by e-mail - I'm not the sort to put work details here. Suffice it to say that I'll be working someplace pretty near to home, doing something I can feel good about, and pulling down a healthy paycheck.

So, with that out of the way...

I have, for something like seven years, been using work-castoffs for my home computing needs. Since I left employers on good terms, I'd buy my work laptop off them - and thus had a few nice, solid, affordable laptops already set up to do what I wanted. Unfortunately, when I started doing contract work, I stopped getting replacements. And, just after my last contract ended, my laptop died. While My Lady urged me to just go ahead and buy a replacement, I found it difficult to justify the expense when I wasn't working. I'm not good at buying things for myself at the best of times, and these were not the best of times.

Times have gotten better. It is perhaps acceptable to get myself a bit of a present*.

However, over those years, I've largely fallen out of the loop on hardware and makes, having gotten used to just taking what was cheap and convenient. So, what are my requirements?

  • While I can drool over Alienware as much as the next person, I have to admit that money spent on that kind of power is probably wasted on me. I don't need cutting edge. I'm mostly an office-productivity, web-surfing, small amounts of media kind of guy. If I have the option of playing Diablo III with a passable play experience, I'll be happy.

  • Given time and motivation, and a large swear-word allotment, I could probably bumble through building my own, but I honestly don't want to work that hard on this.

  • While I'm thinking laptop, I don't need something ultra-portable. Given my past habits, this machine is unlikely to leave the house often, so it can be big and heavy. Likewise, it is apt to spend most of its life plugged in, so I don't need extra-huge battery life.

  • I'm primarily a Windows-user for my home machines, but I am not concerned about being ready for Windows 8 touchscreen stuff.

  • I'd like to have a reasonable level of confidence that the hardware is reliable - I don't want to have to send this thing back to the manufacturer in two months to be fixed already.


Thoughts or comments from the peanut gallery?



* It's either a laptop, or a tattoo - but the planned tattoo is a piece with a bit of spiritual relevance to me, and I'd promised it to myself "when I got a permanent job". I'm still on contract (long, well-paying contract, but contract), and I am reluctant to sully the promise. Plus, the laptop is somewhat more useful, eh?
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