Stale Thoughts and Broken Links

Old posts from my weblog.

(Click here for posts on geophysics and the energy industry.)


Slate: Waiting to XP.

"You'd have to be a fool to buy a PC today with Windows Me, the overburdened, critically-unacclaimed last-gasp version of the dying old Windows code."

> Note: Slate is owned by Microsoft.


If you think China is especially bad for jailing foreign academics on questionable charges, you should consider the plight of Dmitri Sklyarov.

[link via Scripting News]

And if you have way too much time and bandwidth, you may want to screen this eight-minute version of George Orwell's 1984, titled "Me and the Big Guy."


Slate: Two Cheers for the V-Chip.

"Turning on a TV set is one of those activities (Xeroxing is another) that, sometime in the last decade, went from being something any moron could do to something that required sustained attention and skill. Once, all you had to do was plug the television in and turn the channel."

> As long as I'm on this topic, maybe I'll program my V-Chips this weekend --

A Parent's Guide to the TV Ratings and V-Chip.


Scientific American: A Spin on Spin Foam.

"All roads to quantum gravity, when they have battered their way to a common vision, will probably suggest that space and time, like matter and energy, come in quantized, indivisible units and that relationships, rather than things, are the fundamental elements of reality."

> That makes a pretty good mantra: Relationships, rather than things, are the fundamental elements of reality.


Old article, but I just came across it on the NetIdentity web site --

LA Times: Name Recognition Is Virtually Essential.

"What's in a name? If you ask the owners of, and many other people who have registered their fairly common birth names as dot-coms, the answer is jealousy."

Doonesbury: Accessing Cheney's Defibrillator.


Via Scripting News --

Wired News: What If Napster Was the Answer?


CNN: Mysterious black hole could be nearby.

"The M33 galaxy, a mere 3 million light-years from Earth, may have a medium-mass black hole, no more massive than 3,000 Suns, the researchers wrote in the journal Science."

> CNN kind of misses the point for this story. Here's the abstract of the actual report in Science. M33 may not have any central black hole, just like it doesn't have any central bulge.

> I don't think anyone has a good theory yet for how supermassive black holes form, but two important pieces of the puzzle are in place. 1) There is a direct relationship between the size of a galaxy's central bulge and the size of the supermassive black hole at its center. 2) Galaxies bulges are formed by colliding with and tearing apart other galaxies.

> I pointed to this last month, but you might want to take another look at this report from NASA.


I stuck my toe into the gun control issue earlier this month, so now I need a follow up post. Here's a summary of the current situation from California's Sen. Feinstein --

New York Times: Senator Says Most Americans Want Controls on Light Arms.

"`If a sawed-off shotgun is not protected by the Second Amendment,' she said in the Senate, 'why does the administration seem to be taking the position that the Second Amendment protects the international trafficking of shoulder-launched missiles?'"

> O.K., that's enough politics for this week. Except for the global warming stuff.

CNN: Giant star is a dying water world.

Science News: Earliest Ancestor Emerges in Africa.

Reuters: Microsoft to Ease New Windows Anti-Piracy Measures.

"Windows XP will look at 10 different hardware components and will let users change four of them within a certain period of time before asking for reactivation.... In the event reactivation is need, users will still have to dial a support line to receive a new code to restart Windows."

And speaking of Microsoft --

Foot-and-Mouth Believed to be First Virus Unable to Spread Through Microsoft Outlook. Researchers Shocked to Finally Find Virus That Email App Doesn't Like.


I attended my twenty-year high-school reunion last weekend. Maybe 200 people attended, out of a graduating class of 480.

The people who organized it did a great job. They didn't try to produce a repeat of the senior prom, which would have been pathetic. It was a tasteful, low-key get-together. Two observations:

  1. It was great to see all those people from my adolescence as mature adults. I enjoyed talking to a lot of people I never really associated with as a teenager.

  2. I'm getting way old.

If you are planning a vacation, /usr/bin/girl points to some travel sites that may be useful.


Nature: Oracle's secret fault found. Ancient prophesies made at Delphi may have been inspired by natural gas.

"The oracle at Delphi made the site a major religious centre for 2,000 years. Greek and Roman rulers flocked there, seeking advice on private and political affairs. The oracle was originally sacred to the Earth goddess Gea; later, a temple was dedicated to the Greek god Apollo. The oracle was finally forbidden in AD 392 by the Christian emperor of Rome."


WSJ (subscription): Consumer Internet Adoption Rate Slows, Mimicking Patterns of Past Technologies.

"Getting the first 63% of households to buy a TV set took about eight years, from 1947 to 1955, according to the Consumer Electronics Association. That's about the same amount of time it took the Internet to get to its current 57% household penetration from 1994, when it was in its infancy... It took the TV industry about 30 more years after 1955 to reach the current 98% penetration rate among U.S. households."

WSJ (subscription): The Beat Goes On: Alternative Services Improve on Napster.


New York Times: Faking It: The Internet Revolution Has Nothing to Do With the Nasdaq.

"The instant message has fast become a staple of European corporate communication. The technique spread from Finnish children to businessmen because the kids taught their parents. Nokia employed anthropologists to tell them this. Finland has become the first nation on earth to acknowledge formally the childcentric model of economic development: if you wanted a fast-growing economy, you needed to promote rapid technical change, and if you intended to promote rapid technical change, you needed to cede to children a strange measure of authority."

[via Scripting News]


Washington Post: New Insight into Reason Matter Exists.

"The scientists are studying a process they call `CP violation' (shorthand for `charge-parity violation') which, as Russian physicist Andrei Sakharov proposed in 1967, could account for the abundance of matter in the universe. In simplest terms, the concept involves the idea that the physical interaction should be the same if all particles are replaced with antiparticles (`charge conjugation,' or C) and it ought to be the same whether viewed directly or in a (3-dimensional) mirror (`parity,' or P)."

[via bottomquark]


Speaking of authors -- Scott Detiveaux, my undergraduate apartment-mate, and a member of my wedding party, has an article this month in Paint & Coatings Industry, titled "Hold Onto Your Greatest Asset."

(I giggle everytime I read that title.)


Patti Ann McEwin tried to trade in her Ford Explorer.

WSJ (free!): Microsoft Cracks Down On Sharing Windows XP.

"What if your PC malfunctions, and you have to reinstall Windows XP? Well, you'll have to explain the situation to Microsoft, and beg the company to allow you to activate it again. What's more, Windows will keep monitoring your setup to check that it's still running on the same machine."

> Walter Mossberg, the computer columnist at the Wall Street Journal, has really been ripping into Microsoft in the last few months. I thought Windows XP looked pretty good, but the bad publicity is starting to make me wonder.


Congratulations on 225 years, USA!
(Graphic swiped from Kids Domain.)

Slate: Rating the Founding Fathers.

"... there's also a less comforting reason, it seems, for the founders' current fashionableness: a popular taste for uncritical hero worship."

Hey, today isn't just about idolizing the long-dead wealthy aristocrats who started it all. The greatness of our country's seeding was the principles on which it was founded. The Founding Fathers might have been a bunch of petty phalandering white supremacists, but they earned their places in history by articulating some great principles as a foundation for governance, principles that, however imperfectly, were encoded into our country's establishment.

The rest was, well, history.

It shouldn't be a surprise that the Founding Fathers didn't always measure up to the principles that they are famous for establishing, or that they really couldn't even comprehend the consequences of following those principles. That's the reason people need "guiding principles" in the first place. Principles are a vehicle through which we can transcend our petty nature, and ultimately create a world that we weren't even capable of understanding at the outset.

If the FF's could see us now, I doubt that they would approve of the society they created. That's o.k. with me. The FF's could not have even imagined living in the amazing society we live in today.

What happens next is up to us.

So if you have a chance today, spend a little time thinking about your principles, and what you could do to improve this country.

(I think I'll devote my meditations to science education and handgun control.)


Scientific American: Like New Moms, First-Time Dads Experience Hormonal Changes.

> That solves a long-standing mystery. I have always wondered about these two essays that I wrote in 1996, two weeks before and two weeks after Christopher was born. They're so mushy.

> Seriously, though -- the article states that they plan to investigate "what these hormone changes do physiologically to new dads." I wonder if anyone involved in this research has entertained the thought that they may be confusing cause and effect, or at least over-simplifying the situation. I admit this is complete conjecture, but I don't think expectant fathers experience hormonal changes because of some outside stimuli -- e.g., the smell of their pregnant partner. I think these men are experiencing hormonal changes because they are experiencing paternal thoughts -- a kind of a mind over matter thing, although what actually happens is probably more like a feedback loop.

> I'm no new-age spiritualist. My point is that your brain is a physical organ that you use to control your body. And that goes beyond just moving your muscles.

Walter Kessinger

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