"So there are Oliphaunts. But no one at home will ever believe me."

Random header image... Refresh for more!

Roger that

Toronto woman sues Rogers after her affair is exposed – thestar.com

Rogers probably did screw up here, but their actions obviously are the proximate cause of the husband leaving. What I like about this though is the histrionic protest, “I didn’t deserve to lose my life!”

And… you didn’t. So that worked out.

Case dismissed, Toronto woman.

May 18, 2010   Comments Off

The Iron Kitty

Some other people have, against my recommendation, adopted the feral kitty that used to live under my CHU. It’s pretty aggressive about getting attention, and attention in its mind means food. It tried to run into my CHU once but I stomped my feet and it backed off. I think my neighbor, before he left, was feeding it.

They claim it will kill mice, but I’m pretty sure that the cat is smart enough to know that mousing in 120°F heat is hard work and its a lot easier to sit inside the air conditioned hard shell tent and wait to be fed tuna and leftover chicken.

They have named the cat Margaret Scratcher.

That is all.

May 17, 2010   Comments Off

Blue Screen vs. Lethe

If this is true—and I think it is up in the air whether this is pure quackery or sound science—it would explain a lot here. There are many people who complain of the same problem, being tired and not being able to fall asleep. Virtually everybody uses a computer a night to read, watch movies or TV, etc. It’s sort of a chronic thing. I had always attributed to general stress and vague apprehension.

This is a big, long article in CNN that doesn’t seem have much science to it.  Theoretically, the light emanating from electronic screens is different from the light from a lamp that bounces off a paper book or a nonglowing screen like the Kindle. Much is made of blueness.

(From “Althouse: So now there’s this theory that the iPad is going to cause insomnia but the Kindle will not.“, via Ann Althouse.)

May 16, 2010   Comments Off

Dead air

I just saw that Law & Order was canceled. I don’t care about the show a whit. We only watch shows based on word of mouth/Internet recommendations, and I’m not really aware of what is or isn’t current on television these days. I was vaguely aware that Law & Order was still on, but I had no idea that it had finished its 20th season. 20 years! I remember when it was a relatively new show. So that’s a horrible marker of the passage of years. Yeah, now that I think about it I remember watching it in college, and it was already an established show. Horrible, just horrible.

Disappointingly, Flashforward is canceled. I’ve been receiving copies of that, and it was at least an interesting, slightly science fictional story. No, wait. Now I remember my original thinking on this. I’m glad it’s canceled since the entire premise is only good for a one season story, and I was hoping it wouldn’t be renewed so that the story could be told the way it was meant to play out, because if it were renewed it would force the producers to contrive some improbable way of extending the Big Mystery from the first season. They were trying to do exactly this in a recent episode with an absurdly transparent plot twist. So hooray, maybe the story will be told tightly and well, with a definite end in mind. More shows should be like this.

Heroes, gone. Good. Nice first season, but if you’re going to use a time travel paradox more than once to explain things then you have already failed at good story telling. Another show that should have been a well-told story in one season, although I didn’t hate the basically unrelated second season the way most people did.

V, renewed. Surprising. I assumed people would have given up on this one. It started out creepy and tense, and much smarter than the original 80s miniseries, but it’s become a pretty predictable and dull buddy-cop-fugitive-adventure show instead of an interesting commentary about power, deception, free will, and technology. It wanted to be Battlestar Galactica but now it’s more like… V. I’ll continue watching it for a while. It’s still fixable.

(From “Armchair Commentary: Breaking News: “Law & Order,” “FlashForward,” More Shows Canceled“, via Instapundit.)

May 15, 2010   Comments Off

Separation anxiety

Curious fact: in every position I’ve held in my current job (that’s three), my top assistant has been relieved of his position. The first one, I had nothing to do with, although I was immensely relieved that he managed to talk himself out of his job, since I was new, unknown, and didn’t want to rock the boat. I was involved with the second two, although my authority doesn’t extend to actually making personnel positions about people of relative stature.

In my fourth job here, I’ve inherited the local problem. We had to actually make up a position for him since he couldn’t be entrusted with genuine responsibility. Everyone knows he is doomed, his career over, a condemned man walking, except maybe for himself.

Well, after our chat tonight, I’m sure he knows.

Man I put on a good performance—a virtuoso negative professional developmental counseling. Tough! But fair!

Yeah, it’s harder than you would think to let people go here.

May 15, 2010   Comments Off

Credit rustworthiness

This is a cool little science project. All you need are some rust filings and a card with a magnetic stripe on it. Probably not a card you expect to re-use.

… finely powder some rust and then blow it over the magstripe on your credit card and you can see the zeroes and ones encoded on it by the stripes where the magnetic forces attract the ferrous particles.

Check out the picture in the original article. Neat.

(From “Use rust particles to reveal the data on your credit-card’s magstripe“, via Boing Boing.)

May 14, 2010   Comments Off

The escape

So Valve releases Steam for the Mac. Steam is like an iTunes Store for video games. That is, video games that work on a traditional computer, not on your iPod/iPhone/iPad. Of which the iTunes Store has tens of thousands. Steam is a big deal for Windows computers, and now that they have come to the Mac, Valve giving you access to your games on OS X even if you originally bought them for Windows. Classy. Browsing their store, they don’t have a lot for the Mac right now, but there were a few on sale that tempted me, until I remembered that I had stockpiled a bunch of games to play to while away endless hours here. And I have barely touched them. So I guess I’m good on games for the next few years.

Except for Wii games. And DS games. And iPhone/iPad games.

Anyway, I have to go play these games now or else I wasted the money. It’s like work.

May 13, 2010   Comments Off

Hang together, or just hang

There is so much news to process as things fall apart. I feel like I could spend the whole day reading and by the end of the day events will have rendered half the facts obsolete. Here in Iraq, I spend an hour and a half to two hours teaching math on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and I feel exhausted by the end of those days. I have no idea, none, how I managed to hang on through the same class for six weeks, teaching six days a week, not three last November and December. That whole time seems like a blur to me, and it was some of my busiest time during my “day job” as well.

Well, at least John Ellis has time to read and ask the right questions. He is consistently very good on the financialization crisis. My news reader’s gutter of “to read” articles is consistently of links from his blog.

Looming over the financial crisis of the developed world is the larger question of social cohesion. Given what is coming (higher taxes, sharply reduced services and a much diminished sense of financial security), do countries hold together or do they come apart. Clearly, “social cohesion” is being tested in Greece. The Irish, on the other hand, are holding together well, at least so far.

The social cohesion of the United States will soon be tested. Higher taxes and sharply reduced services are coming soon. Expectations of a brighter future are evaporating. The question that hangs out there is whether we are Greece or Ireland.

(From “Social Cohesion“, via Ellisblog!.)

May 12, 2010   Comments Off

The ball is not a ball

This is a really interesting fact, combined with some speculation. Apparently very intense magnetic fields, focused inside the brain, can cause visual hallucinations of glowing orbs and lines. The speculation is that at least part of the time, when people think they are seeing “ball lightning” they are actually standing close enough to a magnetic field induced by lightning to stimulate the same hallucination.

Focus the field in the visual cortex, for example, and the induced eddys cause the subject to ‘see’ lights that appear as discs and lines. Move the the field within the cortex and the subject sees the lights move too.

All that much is repeatable in the lab using giant superconducting magnets capable of creating fields of as much as 0.5 Tesla inside the brain.

But if this happens in the lab, then why not in the real world too, say Joseph Peer and Alexander Kendl at the University of Innsbruck in Austria. They calculate that the rapidly changing fields associated with repeated lightning strikes are powerful enough to cause a similar phenomenon in humans within 200 metres.

I assume this works by inducing current between synapses when the magnetic field moves. The experience would be unique to each person since it depends both on the precise orientation of the field, and the unique way each person’s brain is wired. So this technology could never be used to cause mass, shared hallucinatory perception. Presumably.

By the way, the Wikipedia article linked above describes creating a synthetic form of ball lightning using a microwave. Anybody got a spare microwave?

(From “Technology Review: Blogs: arXiv blog: Magnetically-Induced Hallucinations Explain Ball Lightning, Say Physicists“, via Slashdot.)

May 12, 2010   Comments Off

Signal to noise ratio

Some worthwhile thoughts on the European bail-out. Well done, violent protestors!

1. The fundamental cause of the financial crisis has been people and institutions thinking they are more wealthy than they are; this spread to Europe as well and now we are seeing the comeuppance.

3. The major European powers would not have come up with a nearly $1 trillion bailout, also involving de facto loss of ECB independence, unless they were scared ****less.

4. They are trying to do a version of TARP-in-advance-of-the-panic and in my view that panic would have come today.

9. This doesn't solve any of the basic fiscal problems, so ultimately it raises the stakes and creates a chance of even greater financial failure.  Simon Johnson comments.

Read the whole thing. Obviously I don’t have access to news about the finanical system other than what is publicly available, so I have to wonder how the basic market signals about debt and borrowers were misread by so many, for so long. It seems like the system is so full of noise (bad data) that assessing the true value of anything is impossible. Good luck to those who make their living placing bets.

(From “Simple thoughts on Europe“, via Marginal Revolution.)

May 11, 2010   Comments Off