Archive for November, 2009

Some people have interesting dreams

November 30, 2009 Comments off

Last night I dreamed that I was rummaging through a dumpster full of books and other assorted items.  There’s nothing unusual about that, nor that I dreamed I found what looked like a book about electronic publishing from about 1988.  It was hard bound in yellow with a reproduction on the cover of a pencil drawing of Benjamin Franklin with a printing press.  But when I opened it, there were no pages; just a plastic gimmick that folded out like a pop-up with four floppy disks.  The mechanism was clear and brown in color and cleverly designed with a slight surface texture.  It raised up and held the tan-colored floppies, which were in an obsolete format, for easy removal. 

I smiled at the irony of that “book” and dropped it into my bag.  Blogworthy, for sure!  Or I would use it in a presentation on obsolescence and data archiving.  That’s actually a typical dream for me.

Today someone else told me that they dreamed they had to put off a presidential nomination because they were going to be on “Dancing With The Stars”.  OK, fine; I have nerdy, boring dreams.  Not boring to me, but I admit they don’t have much market value.  It’s never anything dramatic.

But what bugs me is that the dream I had was well-detailed.  I could see the book cover, feel the leverage and friction of the mechanism as it presented the floppy disks.  The dumpster, the other objects in it, my red windbreaker, my black shoulder bag, the temperature, the person I was dumpster-diving with, all perfectly clear.  But when I try to write stories, the details just don’t come easily like that.  Apparently some part of my brain can visualize story details, but it doesn’t usually share them with my daytime verbal mind. And I don’t dream often enough (or interestingly enough) to use it as a source for writing.  So if I had to make a living writing stories, I’d starve.

Categories: Uncategorized

That which passes me by in the time stream

November 29, 2009 Comments off

I am often surprised by the passage of time, on any scale.  Most work days, I look up at the clock and think; “Damn, already?  It was just getting interesting!”  And the same is true with years; I don’t know how I got to the age I am.  Where are my kids? What’s wrong with my muscles? Why do my hands and my knees hurt so much? Where did all these scars come from?  I fully expect my last words to be; “Wait!  I…”

It isn’t that I don’t own a watch, or a calendar, but somehow time just doesn’t register with me. It’s damned inconvenient and often embarrassing.  I often have to be reminded that it is my birthday, to say nothing of someone else’s birthday or an anniversary.  Holidays sneak up on me.  I rely heavily on computers to remind me of stuff, because there’s no internal clock that says; “Time for that thing you meant to do.”

Two months ago, a couple of my favorite bloggers, ***Dave and Dana Hunter, named me for a Kreativ Blogger award.  They said very nice things about me and I thought: “I’ll write something that will really express my appreciation.”  I figured, you know, maybe “later that week”.

Two months ago.  It’s a wonder I’m not asking; “Where the hell are all my friends?” People say or do nice things for me, and the moment passes while I am tongue-tied.  Anyway, thank you, friends.  I really appreciate it, and the truth is most of the time I’m trying to keep up with you.  I don’t know how you write so well and so much.

Part of the KB thing is to name my 7 favorite bloggers.  I can’t.  My favorite bloggers inspire me, get me thinking.  It’s easy to name someone and say; “One of my favorites” but drawing a line is agony. Please don’t ask me to do that.

Part of the Kreativ Blogger thing is to say what your 7 favorite authors are, that’s a lot easier because (to put it crudely) many of them are dead and the others are internationally famous.  In no order, they are: Carl Sagan, Isaac Asimov, Edward Tufte, Richard Dawkins, Larry Gonick, Arthur C. Clarke, and John Allen Paulos.  But I read a lot; only Sagan and Asimov would be on every version of the list.

Think I’m going to start doing summary posts of my Google Shared Items like many other people do; nothing says “you rock” like linkage.

Categories: Uncategorized

Unicycle progress

November 28, 2009 Comments off

Over five years ago, I had a bike accident that adversely affected my sense of balance.  It took me nearly two years to recover enough to be able to ride a bike again – even walking was a bit dicey at times and that was a long time with no bike.  But even as of this January I still had residual balance effects that I wasn’t happy about, so I decided to learn to ride a unicycle.  It seemed to my multiple-concussion-addled brain that I might re-train my balance if I could learn to ride on one wheel.

From my photo album, Muscle-powered transportation

Turns out ol’ brain-damage was right.  I had read somewhere that it would take me about two weeks to learn to ride a unicycle.  Scratch that: a healthy ten-year-old can learn to ride a uni in two weeks.  Took me two months of daily practice before I could make 100 feet in one stretch, dripping with sweat. And then I had that major surgery in May that took a 4-month chunk out of further progress.  But my balance on foot is finally back to where it was before my bike accident.

On the unicycle I’m now to the point where I can ride a quarter-mile or so, and fatigue, not balance, is the limiting factor.  I’m practicing riding a wavy path through pillars on campus, and I can do a 50-foot figure-eight.  When that gets down to a 10-foot figure-eight, I’ll be able to ride among pedestrians without worrying about running over someone’s foot.

My biggest challenge right now is to “hop ‘n ride” without holding on to a wall or something to get started.  But yesterday I did three “hop ‘n rides” (not gracefully) so it’s just a matter of continued practice now.

(h/t MrsDoF for the picture.  Click to the album for two other shots from that session.)

Categories: Uncategorized

A Thanksgiving at least as good as mine

November 26, 2009 Comments off

Well it has been a good Thanksgiving.  MrsDoF did all the actual work but seemed to prefer us out of the kitchen.  YoungSon and I went out to Wal-Mart to buy a copy of the new Star Trek movie*, which I finally got to see today.  Liked it a lot. 

MrsDoF cooked up a feast again.  She made pumpkin squares, about what she says; “Life is short, so yeah, we eat dessert first.”  And she prepared mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, gravy, onion-crisp green beans, and baked a tender, juicy fresh Amish turkey.  I assume this last detail means it didn’t use technology and was opposed to violence, but just look how the poor thing ended up. 

We also have something called “puppy-chow”, which she makes from Ghiradelli chocolate and natural peanut butter, simmered on a double-boiler before being rolled together with Crispix cereal.  Just what I need; another addictive crunchy sweet.

Also this morning I got some unicycling in, and organized some photos which I’ll be uploading to my photo stream tomorrow.  Not much going on tonight so we’re just taking it easy.

So I hope you all had a Thanksgiving at least as good as mine!

*(The new Star Trek movie came out the week of my birthday this year, and I had plans to see it in the theater. But plans change; I had to have major surgery instead.  On the whole, I would preferred to watch the movie.  Anyway, yea, DVD!)

Categories: Uncategorized

Notes to two strangers

November 24, 2009 Comments off

Sunday the weather was lovely, and I got lots of exercise, putting several miles on my mountain bike, probably a mile on my unicycle, and eight miles on my track bike.  This last entailed some country-road riding, which requires a high state of awareness at any time, more so in harvest season.  Anyway I saw a couple things that, if I could, I’d discuss with the people involved.  Here’s as close as I can get.

Dear smiling, waving coeds in the Mustang convertible that flew past me with butterflies wide open while I was stopped taking a picture:  I know the Ford 302 makes a lovely sound and the kick is a lot of fun.  But I wish I could tell you what a bad idea speeding is on rural Illinois roads during harvest season.  Especially across from the entrance of a grain elevator, which I was photographing.  Your little car would be a hood ornament stuck to the front of some of those tractors as they pull out.  Please think of your family and loved ones, if not of yourselves.

Dear pickup-truck-drivin’-guy who casually tossed out a burning cigarette, which I clipped with the front tire of my bike as it rolled across the road rather than see it roll into the ditch:  Littering is bad.  Burning litter is worse; don’t be a jerk.

That is all

Categories: Uncategorized

Monday Morning Music: Rap on Alexander Hamilton

November 23, 2009 Comments off

I would love to see more stuff like this in history classes.  Really.  You think any kid is going to see this and ever forget that Alexander Hamilton was an unstoppable man who fought his way up from total poverty to become George Washington’s chief of staff, secretary of the treasury, and be shot by Aaron Burr?  You think there’s a chance they might want to know some of Hamilton’s thoughts or check out The Federalist Papers? Could we get this kind of treatment on other historical figures? Teachers, start your Interwebs…

Hat Tip to Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub!

Categories: Uncategorized

2-minute review; Win 7 and Ubuntu 9.10

November 22, 2009 Comments off

I installed Windows 7 on the new computer that I built for MrsDoF.  Installation was complicated by the fact that it was an “upgrade” that couldn’t upgrade; even if you install it on an existing Win installation, it sets the old installation aside and you still have to re-install your applications.  But as this was a new computer with a blank hard drive, I did a bare XP installation and then 7; then it installed fine.  XP moved into a folder named something like “oldwin”, which I deleted.

7 is FAST, and I mean smoking fast.  It’s as if Microsoft looked at Ubuntu and had a vision of themselves selling Apples on the streetcorner and got to work.  It boots in twenty seconds and logs on in ten. It runs applications fast.  You couldn’t achieve that with a minor update of Vista, so they must have done something pretty fundamental.  (Of course it will be interesting to see if it stays fast after a few months of use by a non-technical user.)

MrsDoF, after complaining bitterly about how slow/dysfunctional her XP machine was, has paid scant attention to how fast her new machine is, focusing instead on the inconvenient differences every new computer installation has from the old one.  But I think we’ve about gotten through that part now.

I’m using Microsoft Security Essentials, which seems to be faster and smoother than McAfee.

Friday I was in a meeting with a campus planner who was using a dual-core Thinkpad with 7 on it.  I commented on that and he said; “I was ready to frisbee this thing off [a dormitory] with Vista, but one of my guys put 7 on it.  World of difference; now I love it.”  And last week our student tech put 7 on an older P4 Thinkpad (also upgraded it to 2gig ram) and it’s now our fastest laptop, smoking dual-core machines with Vista.  So if you’re getting frustrated with your machine, and you have to run Windows for some reason, boost it to 2 gigs and put 7 on it instead of replacing it.

Or, if you don’t need to run Windows (and how many good reasons can there be for that?) then put Ubuntu 9.1 9.10 on instead.  I’m now running it on 3 machines including my laptop and it’s awesome.  Different, yes; but it does all that computer-y stuff maybe a bit faster than 7 and it’s free.  And though I’m hardly a Linux expert, I manage just fine with it – most of the time when I need an answer I just hit the Googles. I’d suggest at least 1 gig ram,  preferably 2. And when you install, put your /home in a separate partition so you can upgrade without worrying about losing your stuff.

9.1 9.10 is slick like 7, with lots of eye-candy that I really don’t care about and which seem like wasted CPU (or GPU) cycles, but it doesn’t seem to slow it down any.  Yesterday I put 9.1 9.10 on a P4 with 2 gig of ram and it runs great. 

On a related note, our network admin is running Ubuntu server as one of our web servers, and he loves it.  Wants to convert every box he can to it.

That may have been a bit more than 2 minutes, but wanted to share what I found out with you.

Categories: Uncategorized

Sunday Morning Sermon: Ray Comfort’s “Special Edition” of Darwin

November 22, 2009 Comments off

If you have not heard of Ray Comfort, I am sorry to be the one to inflict his existence on your consciousness.  But as he never tires of spreading creationist corruption in education and society generally, it isn’t wise to ignore him.  Last I heard, something like forty percent of Americans believe that the Earth was created less than ten thousand years ago.

You need to be in serious denial to get it that wrong.  It’s roughly proportionate to saying the distance between New York and San Francisco is 33 feet… and then arguing stubbornly against all evidence to the contrary.  It certainly undermines the scientific understanding that citizens should have to make responsible decisions about managing the commons.  That doesn’t bother creationists, though;

“Creationists spend their time telling non-ignorant people, including biologists who have forgotten more biology than a herd of creationists ever knew, that biologists don’t know what they’re talking about. This doesn’t faze them in the slightest. They are impervious to reality.
- “Mike, the Mad Biologist

If you doubt the Mad Biologist on this score, try “debating” a creationist sometime.

Just this week, Comfort and his friend Kirk Cameron undertook to distribute fifty thousand copies of Charles Darwin’s Origin Of Species on college campuses.  That might seem like a strange thing to do, but he had a master plan!  Each copy contained a 50-page foreward written by Ray Comfort himself.

I’ve read the foreward, and it’s standard creationist drivel.  He maligns Charles Darwin as a bitter man who hated god.  Not true: at worst Darwin was a conflicted man who withheld publication of his research because of the sh*tstorm that he knew its release would cause.  Certainly he was sad about the death of his daughter Annie, and there is some evidence that on the Beagle‘s voyage, he contracted Cagas’ disease, from which he suffered the rest of his life.  But he was, even by modern standards, a careful scientist who made exacting observations and excellent use of them.

The really dumb thing about all this assault on Darwin is; even if Darwin were a complete no-goodnick, it would make no difference to the fact of evolution.  And yes, evolution is a fact, in the plain sense that it really happens and we know it, and we can show it, and while we can debate particulars, the thing itself isn’t going anywhere. It’s also a “theory”, in the scientific sense of a well-developed and supported explanatory model, rather than the popular sense of a wild guess.  But I digress.

The fundamental mistake that Comfort seems to make is his apparent belief that Origin is some kind of holy writ among scientists, and that if it, or Darwin, could be discredited then evolution would lie in tatters.  I suppose it makes sense from Comfort’s perspective; after all, Christianity has a Bible and a savior, and he seems to think that every other model has corresponding features.  But there ain’t any such in science,  nor any sacrosanct theories.  If you can disprove evolution, go to it: a Nobel prize awaits you.  But your work is cut out for you.  Quoting bible verses and deliberately misunderstanding biology won’t get you there.

The reality is that people don’t sit around in biology class studying Origin; they’re more likely to read Futuyma’s Evolutionary Biology.  But after reading Comfort’s libelous foreward, and his blog and watching a few videos featuring him and Kirk Cameron, I doubt he could understand the first chapter.

The really amusing part is the “afterward” to Comfort’s foreward.  In it, he complains that evil scientists are conspiring to keep him from having his say on their turf.  Given the number of Americans who subscribe to creationist nonsense, he shouldn’t worry.  And I’ve seen him delete comments from his blog for failure to capitalize “god” – his perfect right to do so, but then you can’t turn around and yell; “Help help, I’m bein’ repressed!”


  • Biologist Ken Miller wrote a fantastic pamphlet about the RC edition A Great Book, Spoiled, here in .pdf form for your reprinting and distribution pleasure.

  • For another analysis of Comfort’s far-fetched introduction to Origin, visit Don’t Diss Darwin
  • Parts of Comfort’s introduction are plagiarized (surprise), but that won’t stop Ray from claiming others are plagiarizing him by analyzing his stuff.
  • Apparently some copies of Ray’s edition of Origin are missing crucial chapters.  When busted on that, he started including all the chapters.  This is a developing aspect of the story and time will tell.
  • For more on the alleged Darwin/Hitler connection, see Ray Comfort is a half-wit and a libelous scalawag.  But I include it here mainly because I like the word “scalawag”.  Scalawag! Scalawag! Scalawag!
  • Here’s Ray Comfort’s famous “banana” argument for creationism, on-screen with fellow rocket-scientist Kirk Cameron.  He really does seem to be unaware that the bananas you buy in the store are a product of careful artificial selection; they bear about the same relationship to a wild banana as a Shih Tzu does to a wolf. Comfort and Cameron later tried to retract the argument as a joke, but it’s pretty consistent with other things I’ve seen Comfort say.  Such as, that evolution is impossible because, how could males and females of a species just happen to evolve to be in the same place at the same time?  Really: he says that, in his recent book, You can lead an atheist to evidence, but you can’t make him think, which he thinks is a slam-dunk for creationism.
  • And at nearly the same level of ridiculosity, (parody sometimes being difficult to tell from creationism), here’s the Kirk Cameron Action Kit.  Supplies are limited, order now.
  • John Wilkins at Evolving Thoughts discusses whether Darwin was really received badly by the church in his time, or is that a modern thing?
  • Phil Plait talks Hemant Mehta’s interview of Ray Comfort in The Comfort Of Untruth
  • Though to tell the truth, I think The Onion says it best: Three eminent biologists and Kirk Cameron weigh in on evolution
  • Actually Comfort and Cameron are going about it all wrong.  Instead of books, it would be more effective if they were giving away free beer and porn.  After all, on the seventh day, God chilled out.
Categories: Uncategorized

ROMANCE, her bike and mine together

November 22, 2009 Comments off
From my photo alubm, Muscle-powered transportation
Categories: Uncategorized

Sweeney Todd

November 21, 2009 Comments off

Just finished watching Sweeny Todd and it was just the elixer I needed to get the taste of Stephen Spielberg’s AI out of my mouth.  Awful pies, indeed!  And the other Stephen (Sondheim), and Tim Burton and Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham.

Horror movies generally don’t do much for me.  I can give Dracula or Jason or Hannibal Lechter a pass, and Chainsaws and Saws or torture chambers and demons and such don’t interest me. And I am utterly unable to watch torture scenes.

But give a humor angle to horror and it’s a different story.  For instance there was one vampire movie I liked; Shadow of the vampire about a moviemaker who makes the mistake of hiring a real vampire as a star.  Or Bubba Hotep, about a nursing-home hero (played by The Chin himself, Bruce Campbell), who fights a mummy that is stealing the other residents’ souls.  Or the also-bechinned Evil Dead films.  Or Killer Condom, the German comedy-horror film about a gay Sicilian cop tracking down the mad scientist who unleashed carniverous condoms on the gay community in New York.  Or any of The Simpson’s Treehouse of Horror episodes… enjoyed all those tremendously. 

But back to Sweeney Todd;  I thought Judge Turpin and Beadle Bamford were the scariest characters in the musical.  Todd and Lovett couldn’t carry on their reign of terror for long without being stopped, and Pirelli was just a buffoon who blackmailed the wrong guy.  But Turpin and Bamford have real life counterparts who spread misery and death through their whole long, privileged lives.

Categories: Uncategorized