September 2006 Archives


Grrr ... it sure has turned out to be one of those weeks!

Okay, first of all, New York was grand. There was much good conversation and good food and catching up with folks I see far too infrequently: especially my sister, and friends like Paul and Connor and Jess.

But now I'm back, and I seem to have brought back with me the latest respiratory virus being passed around in the Big City. I suppose I should just be thankful that I didn't bring back any bedbugs, 'cause the City has those as well of late. But I really, really didn't have time to be sick this week, since people are waiting on some hardware testing results that I'm working on, and it's exactly the sort of work that somehow takes forever when I'm fuzzy-headed.

Teaching while feeling like crud wasn't enormously fun, either; thankfully I had no interacting-with-others responsibilities yesterday, when I was feeling worst.

The real topper qualifies as completely freakish icing-on-the-cake coincidence -- the hard drive in my lab computer has died. Tentatively I think much of the data will be salvageable, and the important stuff is of course mostly backed up. It will be righteously annoying to pull all that stuff back together, though, so I'm left looking forward to a week or so of reinstallations and restoring things from backups and generally not having a workstation. And there's lots of little things that aren't backed up anywhere -- individually kind of trivial, but they would add up quickly to a lot of annoyance if I can't salvage the drive. E.g. recently added email addresses and bookmarks, some of my post-processing astrophotography, the spreadsheets my house uses to divvy up expenses.

So, wish me luck with that.

Weekend Away

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A heads-up: I'm in New York for the weekend, so starting tomorrow morning I'll be sort of sporadically reachable. Will be spending my birthday hanging out with assorted folks I haven't hung with in far too long. Good times.

Check it out: an entire online store devoted to slide rules! Handy next time you're stuck in the woods and have to take a cube root, or, you know, in case of apocalypse.

This conference would have been fascinating; wish I'd heard about it sooner so as to finagle my way in. The abstracts are online, though. And speaking of pale blue dots, an epic photograph gets an update.

And on the topic of entertaining science, some genius has gone and put a bunch of talks by our very own "comic book physics professor" on YouTube.

TLAPD and Like Mixed Fare

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Yarr. Talk Like a Pirate Day is actually kind of lame when it happens on one of those days that you only talk with maybe three other people, none of whom are much into piracy. (Not counting people on collaboration conference calls, who really just wouldn't get it.) I will have to instigate some extra bonus mayham later to make up for that.

I wound up posting a mini-essay as a comment on Virtually Cleistogamic that is sort of riffing off macroeconomic trends and WalMart and Mayor Delay's veto of the big box living wage ordinance, coming at it roughly from a Kunstler-esque direction. But the thread in question was already old by that point, so I'll highlight it here to see if anyone has any thoughts about my take.

Just noticed Coturnix's post about the new NC law requiring schools to make time for students to say the Pledge of Allegiance every day. The kids aren't required to actually say the thing, so while it's a fairly silly thing to legislate, it's difficult to get too outraged. As always, it's the implementation that can be trouble:

As a naturalized U.S. citizen, I follow the stereotype of foreign-born citizens knowing American history, geography, civics and law better than many locals (because I had to study it, instead of just organically grow in it), so I was quite aware what the constitutional/legal issues are regarding the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance in schools.


On Monday, after I picked him up, he was really distressed. He chose not to say the Pledge. He told the teacher that he is an atheist and does not believe in that stuff and does not wish to say a pledge that includes "under God" in it.

She threatened to made him call his parents if he does not shape up and he immediately went to the classroom phone and started dialing, but she stopped him. At the time, I was still at home and she would have gotten an earful from me, as you can imagine.

Then he told her that his Dad told him that he has the right to remain silent. In the end, after much questioning and threatening, both in front of his friends and out in the hall, she FORCED him to say the Pledge, every word of it. She was giving him mean looks for the rest of the first two periods.

Attending school in Texas, it was never even insinuated that saying the Pledge was optional, and since the practice was universal I tend to assume that a law along these lines was already on the books (although maybe one wasn't needed because everyone else assumed that too). I doubt I gave it any thought until sometime in middle school. From that point on I was reasonably content to stand each morning and say:

"I pledge allegiance to ... (pause) ... (pause) ... (yawn) ... (pause) ... liberty and justice for all."

Primary Day Link Post

Today's the Minnesota Democratic primary election -- locals: go vote! Hit the Minnesota DFL to find your polling place or to see which candidates the DFL caucuses endorsed. Even if you don't have specific a dog in this race, your ballot has the useful effect of demonstrating the strength of Minnesota's blue grassroots. (Unless you're actually on the other side of that line, in which case ... we'll have words later.)

This one's largely in case Paul hasn't seen it, but others might find it interesting as well: Wally Wood's 22 Panels That Always Work. Finally online!

Centauri Dreams has a good article on one of the Long Now Foundation's spin-off projects: Long Bets.

And here’s my favorite, pitting Danny Hillis against Nathan Myhrvold: “The universe will eventually stop expanding.? I don’t know how to figure the time frame on that one, but Hillis says yes and Myhrvold says no, and $2000 rides on the outcome. The accrued interest should light up the eyes of any surviving philanthropist.

Still Alive


The busy bit continues; I should have things nearly under control again; I shall resume regular posting when I resume; I have not abandoned EGAD.

That out of the way, miscellaneous updates. It looks like I'll actually be in New York twice this season -- once in a couple of weeks to visit folks, and then again in mid-December when our collaboration meeting is hosted by Columbia.

We still have one room to fill in my house; my Craigslist posting got called "inspiring" and otherwise praised, but despite showing the place to a half-dozen or so prospectives the deal remains unclosed. Krys will probably declare that I need to attract a scarier crowd.

Tomorrow is 9/11 5.0, informally known as the start of the Republican Campaign Season Against Treasonous Non-Republicans. Your local ABC affiliate probably aired the fraudulent 9/11 docudrama tonight, and will air part 2 tomorrow. Call them to complain, and promise to call their advertisers. Then do so. ABC/Disney deserves to feel pain over this one.

Finally, between lightning strikes, tropical storms, and balky sensors, Atlantis has had a time of it getting off the ground. So, props to NASA engineers, even if the balance of the people reading this are of the opinion that if the shuttle program can't service Hubble then the whole thing's a waste of resources.

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