Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


Welp, it looks like winter is finally here.

It totally wasn't 43 degrees today, either. According to the weather station on CSU's campus, it only got up to about 40... so close, but not really.

Luckily (?), I was in meetings from 6:30 a.m. on, and now I'm heading to a class that goes till 9:30 at night! The only time I saw the sun today was when I took a box out to the trash at lunch. Grr.

Monday, November 27, 2006

...In with the new

Welp, this is, apparently the new Blogger. Which is still in Beta.

But since it is now a Google product, that should come as no surprise, since most of their stuff is in perpetual beta form. I mean, c'mon... I've been using Gmail for quite a while now (like a couple of years) and it's still in beta. But as long as it works, I don't really care what they call it.

But this new Beta thing with all its new-fangled fancy features is going to take a little bit to get tweaked just right. Like the Labels thing. I'm going to have to come up with some categories and stick with them if I want to have any hope of a cohesive experience for my (few) visitors. So far I'm thinking News, Nerds, Rants, Photos... and that's all I've got so far. We'll see where this goes, if anywhere.

Man, I hope this worked.

Out with the old...

My Last Post
...using the current version of Blogger.

Apparently, my new version of Blogger is ready... and I think I can take the plunge. Although, if all of my links and stuff get messed up or I lose some of my "content", I'm gonna be a little perturbed. It may not be obvious, but I put a decent amount of work into some of this.

Welp, here goes nothing... on to the New Blogger!
(The Blogger formerly known as Beta?)

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

JFK and Thanksgiving

[Okay, last post of my marathon pre-Thanksgiving blogging.]

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. The day which we thank God and each other for all of the blessings and other good stuff in our lives, and try to ignore the bad for a little while.

I am not going to go into the usual list of things that I am thankful for, other than that we live in the best damn country in the world. Instead, I would like to share a little bit of history.

On this day in 1963, President John F Kennedy was assassinate in Dallas, Texas, marking the end of a life cut too short and the beginning of an era of unrest in the United States. We had already dealt with the Bay of Pigs, Communist Russia, and the very beginnings of the Vietnam War (which France started, btw). But this was nothing to compare to the social changes of the rest of the 1960s; and with it, the death of the Democrat party.

John Kennedy was a democrat, but unlike his cousin Teddy, he was also a great and courageous man.

Here are a few lines from John Kennedy's inaugural speech on 20 January, 1961. (You can also listen to it here if you use Real Player.)

Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and the success of liberty.

This much we pledge and more.

To those old allies whose cultural and spiritual origins we share, we pledge the loyalty of faithful friends. United, there is little we cannot do in a host of cooperative ventures. Divided, there is little we can do -- for we dare not meet a powerful challenge at odds and split asunder.

To those new States whom we welcome to the ranks of the free, we pledge our word that one form of colonial control shall not have passed away merely to be replaced by a far more iron tyranny. We shall not always expect to find them supporting our view. But we shall always hope to find them strongly supporting their own freedom -- and to remember that, in the past, those who foolishly sought power by riding the back of the tiger ended up inside.

To those peoples in the huts and villages across the globe struggling to break the bonds of mass misery, we pledge our best efforts to help them help themselves, for whatever period is required, not because the Communists may be doing it, not because we seek their votes, but because it is right. If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.

I'll be a monkey's uncle if ol' JFK doesn't sound pretty Pro-America, Pro-Democracy, and, rare I say it, kind of Republican.

Now, I know that "times have changed" and that the worlds is different, etcetera, but where has this American Exceptionalism gone in today's Democrats, and even some Republicans?

This Thanksgiving, I would like to give thanks to those who came before us to make this country the great place it is, and those who defend it today.

No time to sleep? No problem. (So far.)

Many (most) of us don't get enough sleep, and we know it.

We know that we should get eight hours of sleep each and every night to maintain optimal brain function. But honestly, who can do that?

That might be a problem of the past with a whole new category of designer, "lifestyle" drugs that can keep you awake and aware without any of the side effects of caffeine, nicotine, or meth.

There are also a several new drugs that put you to sleep and actually get you rested instead of the crappy unconscious induced sleep that the current "hypnotic" sleeping pills provide.

Other than the device that charges parts of your brain with DC power to put you to sleep or wake you up at the flick of a switch, this stuff sounds like a pretty good deal to me... but I have the feeling that this will get abused, just like every other powerful drug designed to make out lives easier.

I would write more... but I'm just sooo sleeeeeeepy... ;)

Google to take over the world in six months

Well, okay, they probably won't take over the world. Not in six months at least. But that is when they are speculated to go ahead with some sort of "GoogleOS" that could compete directly with Windows Vista.

I tried out a couple of the "WebOS" applications (AJAX / Java based) that run inside of you browser window like Gmail and Google Calendar do, and they are pretty cool, but I don't think it would really compete with anything, since they run inside of another application that is running on a computer with an operating system.

Personally, I hope they do a full-featured Linux disto. That could make things interesting. Especially when you throw in the new graphical desktop features that open-source XGL hardware graphics acceleration can provide. (Check out YouTube for some impressive videos - search "XGL Linux")

Monday, November 20, 2006

Cool-Ass Sunset!

Here are some pictures I took about ten minutes ago outside of my office. There was a crazy cloud bank up against the Front Range all day today, producing some really weird lighting all afternoon. Luckily I snuck outside just in time to catch the tail end of it.

Looking pretty much straight West...

And looking South-West...
South-West close-up...

Again, looking South-West...

And another South-West close-up...
Yay for Colorado. :D

No more extension cords!

There's not a lot of things that I actually hate, but among those are hoses (garden-type water and compressed air) and extension cords.

They are always getting tangled, knotted, and kinked [there's nothing worse than those kinky hose]. Not to mention pinched, stepped on, tripped over, and generally being a pain in the arse to store.

Now, there is obviously no practical way to transfer water or air without some sort of hose or pipe, but it has always seemed to me that you should be able to transfer electricity without a cord. While it is true that electricity can and does get transfered from one wire to another through electrical induction, that is only over very short distances, such as in an electric motor, amplifier, or other power transformer.

But if current research being done at MIT pans out, all (well, some) of my woes may be relieved! As reported in MIT's TechTalk publication below (download the pdf) and elsewhere (title link), it may soon be possible to power consumer (and industrial) electronics wirelessly:
Marin Soljacic, [an assistant professor in MIT's Department of Physics and Research Laboratory of Electronics], realized that the close-range induction taking place inside a transformer—or something similar to it—could potentially transfer energy over longer distances, say, from one end of a room to the other. Instead of irradiating the environment with electromagnetic waves, a power transmitter would fill the space around it with a “nonradiative” electromagnetic field. Energy would only be picked up by gadgets specially designed to “resonate” with the field. Most of the energy not picked up by a receiver would be reabsorbed by the emitter.
That would enable laptops, mobile phones, digital cameras, and even factory robots to operate with no wired connections - just WiFi for data and MIT's new wireless power.

Now, this probably won't work for the toaster or skill saw, but dang would it be nice not to have to constantly plug- and un-plug all of my gadgety crap.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Swing Society feels no love from CSU

Woot! I was on the front page (below the fold) of our college newspaper yesterday!

[The caption reads "Summer Criswell, Sophomore, Graphic Design, and Matt Thompson, CSU Alumnus, kickin' it up Wednesday, September 20, 2006, at the LSC as they and fellow members of The Swing Society polish their dance routine."]

About two months ago, the Rocky Mountain Collegian, CSU's daily student newspaper, decided to do a story on the student organization that I am (still) involved in and our struggles to get a decent place to dance on campus. The title of the piece, "Swing Society feels no love from CSU" accurately reflects the general feeling of club leadership. [The Collegian's new site layout is pretty nice, too.]

Of course, the story didn't run when it was originally intended. It probably got bumped to make room for a story on the ski team, or something. But it did run yesterday(!), and luckily the writer called our president to update our situation... which has now somehow morphed into a struggle over our club's insurance status. (CSU wants the club to buy our own liability insurance because we are "high-risk.")

As a side note, I have heard from a reputable source that all the trouble that the Swing Society is having lately is the result of some new administration person's attempt to make a name for themselves. Hopefully I'll get a few more details on that later.

[Dun da dun dun... dun da dun dun daaaaa! The story you have just read is true, the names have been changed to protect the ignorant.]

Very shortly after this story was printed yesterday, my friend / sometimes partner / fellow blogger / club president was already getting worried phone calls from the student organizations administration people wanting to make sure that we don't "think no one cares" and "hope we know they are working towards a solution." Only time will tell if that actually happens.

But the point remains, I was on the front page of the newspaper!

And I wasn't naked or in handcuffs! ;)

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Spear Phishing?

"Security group ranks human error as top security worry" says this article on the Network World website.

My first reaction was a resounding "DUH!"

In this "spear phishing" experiment conducted on West Point Military Academy cadets (who should be really smart people), more than 80% fell for the trap by following a link from an unsolicited email to a website and following some sort of instructions. What's worse, 90% of freshman cadets clicked on the link, even after hours of computer security instruction.


Maybe I'm cold and heartless, but my faith in people to not do stupid things with their computers is somewhere around nonexistent.

Today, there are many options available for hardware and software to protect computer users from having their machine compromised without their knowledge or interaction. Anti-virus, Anti-spyware, Anti-this-that-and-the-other-thing. But there is nothing that will reliably protect people from themselves and their (our) own stupidity.

What's the saying? "Nothing is fool-proof to the creative fool." or something like that.

This is nothing like the spear fishing that you do on a frozen lake in northern Minnesota.

Friday, November 10, 2006

The Why of Mentos Eruptions

So, since I don't spend a lot of time on YouTube or digg or any of those other "popular" websites, I was a little behind on the whole Mentos + diet soda thing until I met Steve Spangler at the Magic in the Rockies conference in early September.

[Why do all of my posts start with "So,"? Anyway, moving on...]

Steve is a science educator, Director of the National Hands-on Science Institute in Denver, toy designer, television personality, and pseudo-magician. He is also the guy behind the popularization of the original "Mentos and Diet Coke" thing and the inventor of the contraption that drops the Mentos into the bottle. He is not the inventor of the experiment , however. That honor goes to science teacher Lee Marek, a friend of Mr Spangler.

The theory of why soda erupts out of the bottle when you drop Mentos candies into it is available on Steve Spanger's Science website, Wikipedia, and probably several other places, but the general idea is approximately as follows:

  • Soda is bubbly because there is carbon dioxide (CO2) gas disolved in the sweetener / water / other chemical solution.
  • The surface of a Mentos candy is covered with some huge number of itsy bitsy little pits and craters and spikes and stuff.
  • When the soda comes in contact with the sharp edges of the candy, nucleation sites are formed (more on that here) where the carbon dioxide comes out of solution with the rest of the soda and causes a chain reaction of rapidly expanding gas that forces the soda up and out of the bottle.
    • It's also handy that the candy sinks to the bottom of the bottle so that it has to force the soda up instead of just the gas coming out the top and foaming a bit (like when you drop ice cream into root beer).

So basically, it's just a physical reaction of the CO2 and soda coming out of solution, not a real chemical explosion. The soda isn't really altered in any way, other than it comes out of the bottle and does not have any carbonation left.

There are plenty of good videos on YouTube that (sometimes) show this in action. One nice adaptation is this one of two French guys making rockets out of soda bottles.

As an interesting side note to this whole thing, Mentos appears to be a big advertising winner, while Coke is a huge looser. Mentos estimates the free marketing generated by the viral-video phenomenon to be worth $10 Million in marketing, while Coke Spokeswoman Susan McDermott says, "It's an entertaining phenomenon. We would hope people want to drink more than try experiments with it." And that "craziness with Mentos doesn't fit with the brand personality."

Wowzers. When I try it this weekend, I'm gonna use Pepsi. Or store brand.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Derided Dylan musical is to close

The Bob Dylan / Twyla Tharp musical collaboration "The Times They Are A-Changin'," which has received horrible reviews, will close on the 19th of November, less than a month after it opened on Broadway.

The early closing has been described as a "mercy killing."

Apparently, the show consists of a young man's turmoils and tribulations while working for a struggling circus. Sounds like an edge of your seat thriller, don't it? On top of that, the story line is "nearly incomprehensible" and "failed to capture the magic of the songs."

Sounds kinda like a Dylan concert. Well, the "nearly incomprehensible" part anyway.

If only I could find out for myself just how disjunct and painful the show really is... Oh wait, I can!

I know people who know people who know people who do some illegal stuff. :D

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Votin' Day

Happy Birthday to the Republican Elephant!

This symbol was "born" on this day in 1874 to cartoonist Thomas Nast.

Hopefully his peeps will turn out and do a little votin'.

In other news, well, this speaks for itself...

Monday, November 06, 2006

Adopt a Microbe

This is kinda spiffy. Check it out. Maybe even bookmark it.

Plus, the author is a pretty Australian girl. Who is apparently 249 years old.

Extreme Diet Coke & Mentos Experiments II - The Domino Effect

251 bottles of Diet Coke + 1,506 Mentos mints = A mint-powered version of the Bellagio fountains.

... and one huge sticky mess!

The Press at War

Why do they hate us?

No, not the terrorists. We know why they hate us. (It's because we have freedom, liberty, and don't grovel to their prophet.)

The question is, why does the press hate us?
Focusing ever more sharply on the mostly bicoastal, mostly liberal elites, and with their more conservative audience lost to Fox News or Rush Limbaugh, mainstream outlets like the New York Times have become more nakedly partisan. And in the Iraq War, they have kept up a drumbeat of negativity that has had a big effect on elite and public opinion alike. Thanks to the power of these media organs, reduced but still enormous, many Americans are coming to see the Iraq War as Vietnam redux.
Very long, but good article from City Journal and the WSJ's Opinion Journal.

Saddam to Hang

<-- Insert Saddam Here.

Former brutal dictator and oppressor of the Iraqi people, Saddam Hussein, was found guilty of crimes against humanity and generally being a pain in the ass on Sunday. He was sentenced to death by hanging, but any death penalty verdict is automatically appealed to a nine judge panel with no time limit.

Personally, I think they need to kill him as fast as possible to eliminate any shadow of hope that the Saddam-loyal Sunnis might still hold for his return to power.

Obviously, there has been a difference in reactions between the different factions of the Iraqi populous. Here is my summary:
Kurds - "Hang the bastard, he killed my people!"
Shiites - "Hang the bastard, he killed my people!"
Sunnis - "What crimes? He only killed Kurds and Shiites."

Here's how a more respectable news-source summed it up:

Sunnis are likely to remain unhappy even if Saddam were to live. It is their diminished role in the post-Saddam Iraq that distresses them.

Saddam matters, without question, to the Shi'ites. The violence has reinforced the determination of the Shi'ites and Kurds, who suffered immensely under Saddam's rule, to put an end to any chance the former regime might make a comeback.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Bad Economy?

Okay, what the heck…  I just need to stop listening to NPR at all.  There are no redeeming qualities that they posses, especially in their election coverage.  I have no illusions that the republicans have drifted way too far to the evangelical camp and will probably loose the House or Representatives.  But when they talk about the economy, I can’t take it any more.  

We are currently living under some of the best economic conditions that we have had in the past twenty years.  National unemployment is at 4.4%.  The economy is growing at a sustainable rate.  Taxes are low.  The government’s tax receipts are up (because of the low taxes.)  And mortgage rates are still well within reach of a great many homebuyers.  

When these east-coast elitists go and talk to unemployed, uneducated, unskilled factory workers in the upper Midwest and then blame the Bush administration for our “failing economy” and the worker’s unemployment.  The reason these workers are unemployed is because the company they (used to) work for could no longer afford to pay them the wage than they demanded.  There is no logical reason that some guy who puts lugnuts on wheels should make $45,000 a year, have free health care, and 4 weeks of paid vacation.  

But somehow, starting in the late 1940’s, labor unions beat up their employers for more and more pay.  

Well, the labor union’s habit of wanting more, no matter what the cost, has finally backfired on them.  The company’s they harassed and blackmailed into submission have finally had more than they can take and are starting to go under.  They can no longer afford to pay these exorbitant wages to unskilled workers.  

So what happens?  The high paid workers get laid off.  (Since you can’t fire a union worker.)  Their jobs get outsourced to lower cost factories on another continent.  They get replaced with robots.  Etcetera, etcetera.  It’s not that hard to fathom that when a company cannot remain competitive, they will do something to fix it.  

But they often can’t just stop paying their union workers.  They have to pay benefits; pensions; health care.  So they end up paying money for zero productivity.  And this opens the door for Japanese auto makers, who do not hire union workers and therefore have substantially lower overheads, to step in, make their cars in America, and gain market share.  This further hurts the big, union auto makers, and the cycle continues.  

Conclusion: Don’t blame GM and Ford for 100% of your unemployed whining.  Blame Big Labor and their Leftist allies in Washington.  

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Dinosaurs 'lived for 300,000 years after Mexican meteor strike'

But I thought we knew everything there was to know about the dinosaurs and their extinction!?

                   boing         boing         boing
e-e . - . . - . . - .
(\_/)\ ' `. ,' `. ,' .
`-'\ `--.___, . . . . .
'\( ,_.-'
\\ " " a:f

Carve Your Own Pumpkin!

Check out my cool pumpkin!

I know it's a little bit late now, since its the 1st of November today (can you believe that?!), but I thought that this was pretty neat. It's just another random java app, but (until yesterday) was quite appropriate.

Still fun though!

(As usual, click on the title.)