Archive for July, 2009

Coming to the Normal Theater

July 11, 2009 Comments off

Normal, Illinois definitely has its points.  such as the chance to see these movies on the big screen:

Thursday, 16 July and Friday, 17 July, 7:00 pm:
The War Of The Worlds, classic 1953 version

Saturday, 18 July and Sunday, 19 July, 7:00 pm:
The Day The Earth Stood Still, classic black & white version

Thursday, 23 July and Friday, 24 July, 7:00 pm:
Monty Python & the Holy Grail

Those of you without a community-owned fully-restored 1930’s era Art Deco theater that shows foreign and classic films for $6 with $1 treats, sorry to gloat, but the Normal theater is awesome.

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You’d think people would demand smarter representatives

July 11, 2009 Comments off

BETTER OPPOSITION, PLEASE…. Rep. Paul Broun, a right-wing Republican from Georgia, spoke from the House floor this afternoon, to explore his opposition to a public option in health care reform. He concluded that a public plan would kill Americans:

  “…and that’s exactly what’s going on in Canada and Great Britain today. They don’t have the appreciation of life, as we do in our society, evidently. And, um. Dr. Roe, a lot of people are gonna die, this program of ‘government option’ is being touted as being this panacea, the savior of allowing people to have quality health care at an affordable price—is gonna kill people.”
Washington Monthly: Better Opposition Please

Wow.  “They don’t have the appreciation of life, as we do in our society, evidently.”  Um, what?

How would Rep. Paul Broun of Georgia explain the fact that Canada ranks ninth for life-expectency at 80.7 years, the UK ranks 23’d at 79.4 years, while our best-in-the-world health care country, the US, ranks 41st at 78.2 years?  Or that the United States does not even make the top 25 list for “Lowest infant mortality”?

How do people that stupid tie their shoes without help?  How do they get elected to anything?


  • Statistics from The Economist Pocket World in Figures, 2009 ed.

  • I have a 2008 ed. Pocket World in Figures to give away.  First person to email me a US address, I’ll drop it in the mail to you.  It’s an awesome compendium of statistics about, well, the World.  My email address is george dot wiman at gmail dot com.
  • We should really be looking at the health care system in a little country I never heard of called “Andorra”.  They’re #1 in life expectancy and they have a really cool name.
  • H/T to Dana at En Tequila Es Verdad for link
Categories: Uncategorized


July 11, 2009 Comments off

I used to take Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs, or NSAIDS, for my chronic pain and arthritis.  Following a perforated bowel and emergency surgery, I stopped taking them.

It’s been two months since I had any NSAIDS, and it’s becoming clear that I actually do need them.  But I can’t take them. 

I don’t know what the next step is.

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“Bamboo” keyboard and mouse

July 9, 2009 Comments off

I got one of those bamboo-framed keyboards and a bamboo mouse at Amazon, and just hooked it up in my office.  It looks really keen, though I am disappointed that the wood has a thick shiny coat of lacquer on it which I will have to remove.  (Why make something out of a “wood” as tactile-friendly as bamboo, then coat it with plastic?

My hands are painfully sensitive (no NSAIDs lately) so I’m pleased with the low profile and light-touch of the keys.

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There’s the sadness…

July 8, 2009 Comments off

We don’t have cable, and I almost never watch a TV series as it’s broadcast the first time.  Instead, I buy, rent, borrow or receive as a gift, entire seasons of TV shows on DVD.  A thoughtful neighbor lent me several sets when I was laid up recently.  I’m just now getting to know 30 Rock and enjoying it very much. (My favorite character is Kenneth The Page.)

There’s the sadness you get when you finish watching an episode, because you can never see it again for the first time.  Then another kind of sadness when you finish off a DVD full of episodes.  And yet another kind of sadness that comes when you watch the last episode, on the last DVD, of a season.  Altogether different from the feeling you get when you see Michael Jackson on the front page for days at a time, but it’s there all the same.

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Ain’t gonna study war no more…

July 7, 2009 Comments off

I’ve always been attracted to the idea that we need not have war.  Thinkers both religious and humanistic have speculated for centuries what a world we could make, if we should ever lay down our arms.  Of course, that is easier said than done. Writing in New Scientist magazine, John Horgan asks; “Can humans transcend warfare, or is it an immutable part of our nature?

…there is no doubt that any announcement of the end of warfare would be premature. At the very least, though, we can confidently reject the fatalistic belief that it is innate. That assumes “we’re some kind of automata where aggressive genes force us to pick up knives and guns like zombies and attack each other without any thoughts going through our heads”, says Pinker. War is not in our DNA. And if warfare is not innate then, surely, neither is it inevitable…

In the article, Horgan references many examples of the current state of peace studies from all over the world.  Promising signs?  Research indicating that the past is far overidealized, and that death by violence has been in a steep decline for centuries – even the twentieth with its mechanized destruction.  Increase in participatory democracy (“democracies hardly ever vote to wage war on one another”) – fivefold in the last century.  And key developments, if the dream is to be realized, include universal education, empowerment of women, and widely available clean energy.

None of these developments are impossible – they are all already underway on a small scale.  I’m not optimistic about an end to war, but it can be done. There’s no need to assume we must fail; if we succeed, it will be a success of our capacity for rational self-interest, of our imagination, and our will.

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Not calculus; statistics!

July 5, 2009 Comments off

So what’s the most important math course?  What top-level course should most people be aiming for?  How about calculus?

Or maybe not calculus.  Maybe it should be statistics.  Several people have sent me links to this video:

I think this is a good idea.  Sure, calculus is important for engineering and advanced business courses.  But statistics is key to allocating the use of limited resources (for example in health care), to mitigating risk, to epidemiology, even to understanding the environment – to lots of stuff.  It would be generally useful to a huge section of the public.

Suppose your doctor told you that your blood sugar was μ+σ.  Would you be reassured or should you start pricing insulin plans?  How about if you applied for a marriage license and your HIV test came back positive: you’d be concerned of course, but should you totally freak out?  Would there be rational hope that a more advanced test might turn up negative?

More importantly, if (as a culture) we could communicate in statistical terms, might that be a political game-changer?  There could be whole classes of idiotic rhetoric that politicians and journalists just couldn’t get away with anymore.  To say nothing of what it would do to the gambling and lottery industries.  That thought makes me smile.


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Wet firecracker day

July 4, 2009 Comments off

A steady, cool rain has settled over the Land Of Lincoln today.  Lot of events are canceled, the water park is closed, and there’s no fireworks, but a quick aroma-check out the back door tells me that a lot of people are still barbecuing.

But all those activities are ancillary to the real purpose of this holiday: reflecting on US independence.  The outrages of King George, the colonists’ demands for representation, the Declaration, the French-assisted struggle and our eventual victory. 

I understand that King George wrote in his journal on this day in 1776; “Nothing of importance happened today.”  He should have logged on and checked Google News!  Boy would his face have been red.

I had something of a milestone this morning as MrsDoF and I rode our bikes to McDonald’s for breakfast.  That was the first time I’d been on my bike since the surgery.  I had to use “granny gear” a good part of the way, but it still felt damn good to ride. 

I’m hitting the treadmill harder every day and tomorrow I will attempt some crunches and low-back extensions.  I’ve been lifting 2-pound weights, which is a pretty serious comedown from 25.

Yesterday I rebuilt my desktop machine with Ubuntu 9.x, and liked it so well that today I did the same for my X40 laptop.  I also set up a snazzy new HP 2159 monitor in place of my old ViewSonic 17” CRT, so I’m enjoying a lot more screen space.  Which is good, because I’m trying to learn more about CMS programs and the tutorials are a lot easier to view on the big screen.

Another project this weekend is to make a fractal VHF antenna for my TV.  I have a balun somewhere around here, and some PVC sheets I can use to mount the dipoles on – finding them is the challenge.

Happy 4th!  It’s been a busy day all around the world.

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Software installation in Linux is difficult

July 2, 2009 Comments off

Suppose you want to play the game “Hearts” on your computer.  And suppose, like me, you were cheap and wanted to get it for free.  Lucas sent me a screenshot-by-screenshot comparison of the installation on a Linux machine vs. a Windows machine.  It’s a joke written by a popular operating system.  (Hint: Linux plays the straight man.)

And that’s congruent with my experience too.  At work I’m building four Windows platforms that we’ll Ghost out to hundreds of machines.  It’s time-consuming to ferret out all the Windows ‘annoyances’ and create a build anyone would want to use.

But this evening, I came home and decided to rebuild my Linux machine.  I booted off the CD, made a few choices, and went upstairs for dinner.  After the meal, I made a few more choices and wound up with a ready-to-use machine.  My total keyboard time investment?  About twenty minutes.  Try building a Windows machine in twenty minutes.

Categories: Geeky, Software