Tuesday, June 28, 2011


Anyone on this yet? Looks like Google's pulling together some current functionality, renaming parts of it, and creating a platform for connecting with people. Also looks like the emphasis is on f2f interaction, unlike Facebook, which emphasizes Facebook interaction. Hard to say if the pendulum is swinging back toward f2f activities yet.

My Paint skills are UNRIVALED.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Heaven is not complete without a singing Neil Gaiman.

Quote from BoingBoing writeup by Maggie Koerth-Baker:

WITS is best described as the very nerdy, slightly tipsy, younger cousin of A Prairie Home Companion. There are authors, there are musicians, there are the creators of MST3K heckling from a balcony seat. In other words, you'd love it.

I very much miss this kind of environment. Aye, DC, I love you, but you're a bit dull.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The ring chose you. Use its power to defend our universe.

In brightest day, in blackest night,
No evil shall escape my sight.
Let those who worship evil’s might
Beware my power...Green Lantern’s light!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Finland: Explain, please.

On the one hand, I see its value. Looks like some good core strengthening work. Then they start galloping and jumping verticals. All I can think of are ponygirls.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Happy birthday, Alan Turing.

What a tragic life you led, Dr. Turing. I know you not so much through your own work, but through your characterization in Cryptonomicon. I would have liked to have known you.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Another sign of the apocalypse, or, Heather sees naked people and gets confused.

This gallery (totally NSFW) on BoingBoing has me confused. They're supposed to be naked, right? So why are they wearing clothes, body paint, and/or masks? And shouldn't the gentleman in this image be mindful of that bike seat?

Scratch that. I might find out that he's feeling inviting.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Woolite: Your demise is imminent, but your laundry is brighter.

Reassurances about your delicates courtesy of Rob Zombie. Now, if we could just get Treyarch to make commercials for Walmart....

Monday, June 20, 2011

There can be only one NIH Highlander.

Link is to an excellent, though brief, article in The Scientist about the first NIH researcher. Yes, there was only one. James Kinyoun was the NIH Highlander. He was such a badass that he did not require a sword to decapitate his foes.

Corollary 1: Scientific thought, as derived from rigorous examination and the scientific method, will lead us to ideas that will eventually become axioms.

Corollary 2: The more rigorously derived ideas we have, the better.

Corollary 3: It is important to distinguish between bad ideas rising to the surface for examination and dismissal, and bad ideas being recycled by those with even worse motives.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Science and truth: Couldn't have said it better myself.

This comment was posted by commenter Johan(tm) Strandberg in a discussion of a Richard Dawkins piece on preferential sex selection. Unlike numerous other Internet venues, on BoingBoing there's remarkably little Bible thumping and irrational sky gazing. Like numerous other Internet venues, though, there's a good bit of narrow or otherwise selective argumentation. Johan(tm) Strandberg makes some clear, well-considered points about science and its corollaries:

Science as a collective iterative process to get closer to The Truth. This goal is never attainable as such, but we can get arbitrarily close to it over time. Science in this sense is neutral and judgment free. In retrospect, it might also be wrong.

Scientific Investigations are not value neutral — although the best ones strive to be.

Applications of Science is by default to be considered biased and with selfish motives — but sometimes it rises above that. This should in no way reflect on the value of science itself, only on the entity who is [claiming to be] applying science. Sometimes the claimed use of science is based ignorance or other motives [e.g., homeopathy]. This should only reflect on the entity making the claim, not on Science itself.

You will never know for sure. The very essence of Science is that is a collective refinement over time. At best you later discover that some particular part of Science was wrong. However, once consensus — based on a large set of opinions — has been established, it is OK to assume that that particular piece of science is "true".

Get used to never knowing for sure, and be very suspicious of people claiming to be.

Nice use of simple typographic conventions to indicate distinctions among terms, too. I have long argued that science is the only way we'll get closer to understanding objective truth. The fact that I am convinced there's an objective truth at all is enough to make some people stop listening to me. (Eh, we all have our blind spots.) If someone wants to cling to subjective truth as an item of value, they're welcome to do so, just as long as they don't then try to make it into an objective truth through some fallacious appeal.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Cthulhu: He'll cure what ails ya.

Who couldn't love these lollipops?

After the cold I've been nursing for the past 10 days, I think Doctor Muñoz would give me one. Strange, I suddenly feel a draft in here...

Friday, June 10, 2011

Your blog is the new business card.

I read a fair bit about blogs, blogging, and how to do more/be better/all that. Reading about productivity is one of the biggest time sinks I practice. Ever since I got onto Twitter, which mind you was in June 2006 (yowza five years ago), I've been drawn to the production of social media. Early debates about Twitter versus blogs had to do with audience. Some argued that a good tweet could sum up a blog point (valid only if you're interested in communicating solely through topic sentences), others insisted that blogs would die off in the face of tweet competition, and yet others used Twitter to sell their blogs (which were usually about blogging itself) and blog services. Lots of recursive data in those early days.

I think it's clear now that there's space for both, though I am always concerned about the value of information versus the time spent reading it. I worry about shortening attention spans; perhaps I would be instead cheering the demise of assigned research papers of specific lengths.

So if it's okay to be a blogger, then how does one gracefully mention one's blog? Where does good taste fit into this?

I've decided that a blog should be mentioned with the grace and frequency that one would produce a business card. Nothing is more off-putting than having someone comment solely to mention his blog, just as nothing is more graceless than a party arrival who's plastering hands with his business card.

Be a good person, worthy of attention, and you'll be someone people will want to read.

This is harder than it seems.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

HP Lovecraft: Topology and Stephen Colbert.

Contrary to what most people think, HP Lovecraft was not a horror writer. In fact, he considered horror to be hack writing. Instead, he wrote weird fiction, and defined it thus in his essay, "Supernatural Horror in Literature":

The true weird tale has something more than secret murder, bloody bones, or a sheeted form clanking chains according to rule. A certain atmosphere of breathless and unexplainable dread of outer, unknown forces must be present; and there must be a hint, expressed with a seriousness and portentousness becoming its subject, of that most terrible conception of the human brain--a malign and particular suspension or defeat of those fixed laws of Nature which are our only safeguard against the assaults of chaos and the daemons of unplumbed space.

Or as I call it, Thursday. Interestingly, Lovecraft's feel for the tone of shifting perception was mentioned in this article on four-dimensional space and topology. The author, Richard Elwes, uses Lovecraft as an intro to his notion that four-dimensional spaces are remarkably similar to the shape of Yog-Sothoth as Lovecraft described it. Perhaps that's all we should say about that, lest eldritch horrors appear.

You're feeling courageous? What about an automatic sanity check fail? Here's a mashup of Stephen Colbert and Cthulhu, intended for 3D printing at Thingiverse. Never heard of 3D printing? It's just the most awesome thing ever. Almost as awesome as finding two Lovecraft references to start your day. Tip o' the hat to BoingBoing for both of these.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Solar blowout.

Holy crap--part of the sun just freakin' blew off. Tip o' the hat to Phil Plait of Bad Astronomy fame (@BadAstronomer).

Monday, June 06, 2011

Two sources for how to write.

Providence has dropped wonderful things into my lap once again. First up is Time magazine's list of The Best Blogs of 2011. I'm not going to debate blogs, or the legitimacy of their list, because what's important to me is the descriptions of what makes these blogs interesting. Want to know why anyone should read a given blog? Peruse and adapt.

Second is a list from Famous Writers about the process of writing a book. The range goes from David Crosby (yes, the one of rock music and liver transplantation fame) to Cory Doctorow. I cannot imagine two more different people. At this point, I am not in mind of writing a book, but this is a fine set of pointers from people who know, from my point of view, everything that needs to be known about the process.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Post Hunt 2011.

It's been a crazy two days, with a multicelebrant birthday party most of yesterday and last night, and the Washington Post Hunt today. I'm holding down the fort at Corner Bakery (14th and G NW) while the rest of our group of about 25 solves the puzzles.

This year's format is different, it seems; no opening puzzle to determine coordinates, no list of extensive red herrings mixed in with a few correct answers. Here's hoping that everyone has fun. If not, there's always dinner at Gordon Biersch tonight at 6.

Friday, June 03, 2011

General Electric's tumblr: Well done, sirs.

I'm a fool for scientific and geekly pics. And I'm going to ask the GE tumblr out on a date this weekend. They've even got a pic of an electric car charger from the 1900s. This, however, is my favorite:

As of this post, the "GE Instagram" (as they're calling it) has only two tumblr pages. Best get on it early to stay caught up. Happy drooling!

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Washington in 1814.

Now this is snappy.

While watching this, I concluded that the one message I would send those in our collective past would be, "Thank you." What was normal for them seems insurmountable to me. It's not just that we're soft today; I don't have the skills needed to make my way in that world. They're just as smart, crafty, and innovative as we are, yes, but still, there's something about the world of 1814 that reminds me I'm suited only for my current time at the earliest.

I'm also reminded that I have nowhere near the skills of the people who did the work on this mapping project. Thank you, geologists and geographers of the past. Your data has provided essential continuity for the lives of those who have followed you.