The Big Think

May 31, 2006

Woot! Woot!

Filed under: Technology — jasony @ 1:07 pm

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Our Robomower now has a sibling! We just got a Roomba vacuum from Woot! today. Our current vac is about eight years old and is starting to show its age. Reportedly, the Roomba does a good job as long as you don’t ask too much of it. It’s the same way with the robomower. If I let the backyard get really long the robot has a hard time mowing, but there’s really no reason to let it go that far. I just set it out once a week and it does its thing perfectly. I’ll use the big mower on the back yard for the first cut of the season or occasionally to pick up weedeaten shavings along the edges, but the yard zamboni does most of the work.

Erin pushed me over the edge on both devices. She absolutely LOVES the robomower, even though I’m the one it helps. We both vacuum but it’ll be nice to have this do 90% of the work for us. And I even like the color…

Woot still has some left until midnight. nudge, nudge…

May 30, 2006

U.S.S. Brick

Filed under: Games — jasony @ 2:49 pm

How about an aircraft carrier made of Lego bricks? 200,000 Lego bricks.

Quoth

Filed under: Quoth — jasony @ 12:04 pm

You shouldn’t speak until you know what you’re talking about. That’s why I get uncomfortable with interviews. Reporters ask me what I feel China should do about Tibet. Who cares what I think China should do? I’m a f—ing actor! They hand me a script. I act. I’m here for entertainment, basically, when you whittle everything away. I’m a grown man who puts on makeup.

Brad Pitt, Time, October 13, 1997

Gabriel’s Cello

Filed under: Music — jasony @ 9:37 am

The other day Erin and I were strolling through the Austin Barton Creek mall and happened across the Apple Store. We went inside to look at all the shiny and expensive things and I tried on a pair of Bose headphones. I cued the attached iPod up to the first of its demo tracks and was floored to hear Yo Yo Ma performing “Gabriel’s Oboe” by Ennio Morricone. “Gabriel’s Oboe” is one of my favorite pieces of music in the entire world, and to hear it done by a cello master like Ma was a rapturous experience. I stood there in the middle of the Apple store with tears in my eyes. I’m sure Bose and Apple’s music programmer would be happy.

The next day I logged in to the iTunes Music Store intending to download the song. It turns out that Ma and Morricone collaborated on a CD of Morricone’s music. I almost broke my mouse button mashing the “buy album” option. It’s been 24 hours and I haven’t stopped listening to this beautiful, transcendent, heartbreaking set of recordings. It’s playing as I type this.

If you get a chance, listen to “Gabriel’s Oboe” on the iTMS, or on Amazon’s site. Also, don’t miss “Deborah’s Theme”. Don’t be surprised to find yourself .99 poorer, but richer nonetheless.

This… this, is why I’m a musician.

May 29, 2006

Thank You

Filed under: Disclosure — jasony @ 8:53 am

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My thoughts exactly.

May 28, 2006

Birthday Girl

Filed under: Disclosure — jasony @ 5:50 pm

Happy Birthday to my lovely wife Erin!

May 26, 2006

Oddjobs

Filed under: Uncategorized — jasony @ 9:06 am

Forbes has a list of seven very intriguing (and offbeat) jobs. Star Wars movie prop replicator, kiddie ride refurbisher, fountain pen repairman, gumologist. My favorite- ski trail map painter. Heh. These guys (and girls) provide all the proof that there’s a perfect job out there for everyone to do, all you have to do is invent it.

May 25, 2006

Ho, Durb

Filed under: Current Reading — jasony @ 11:40 pm

The last paragraph of this post just makes me so happy. Now if the rest of you would just get on board. :)

ITERrrific

Filed under: Technology — jasony @ 2:24 pm

The ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor) has received approval. This is great news for the future of energy. The ITER has the potential to completely replace modern nuclear fission reactors with far safer fusion technology. Fusion produces very, very little nuclear waste compared to fission (like, almost none- fusion does produce some radioactive waste, but it’s so miniscule compared to fission that it’s laughable).
Fusion technology could also provide a boost to space programs since one of the easiest sources of fusion fuel (helium three) is found on the surface of the moon.

With current technology it’s possible to produce H3 here on earth, but there is a LOT of it just sitting around on the lunar surface. When sunlight hits the lunar regolith, it reacts with the soil to create helium 3. You still have to mine the soil and heat it (with the by-products of this process being, helpfully, water and oxygen), but you get a lot of bang for your buck. It’s estimated that a kilogram of helium three burned in a fusion reactor has as much energy as over 20 million gallons of fossil fuels.

The ITER will be the largest and most advanced fusion reactor testbed to date. Need more proof that it’s a good thing? International environmental organizations oppose it on the grounds that it’s “too far from reality”. geeze louise. I’m a huge environmental advocate (you don’t spend five summers as a wilderness guide and not come to care for the environment), but these folks don’t get it. Sure, fusion is future technology in its current state, but at some point, so was solar and wind. Heck, at some point even the concept of damming up a river to use hydro power was considered “too far from reality”. Good thing these people aren’t involved in actually, you know, getting things done.

May 24, 2006

Good Advice

Filed under: Humor and Fun,Music — jasony @ 11:05 am

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May 23, 2006

Time to Wipe the Computer

Filed under: Mac OS X Crashes — jasony @ 11:50 pm

Well, the issues with my Mac have become so widespread lately I’ve almost decided to just wipe the thing and reinstall everything. I don’t really want to, but I’ve reached the limit of what I can do under OS X. My current problem is with Mail. I got it up and working with the new SBC connection. It was working fine today, but now when I try and send an email via Mail I get a weird problem. I’ll hit “send” and the email will go to the “Drafts” box and sit there. The program won’t even try to send it. It happens with each of my five (!) email addresses. I’ve got email from every address to a variety of places that won’t get sent. There’s no warning or error or anything. It’s like I’ve just hit “save” and left it for later.

So if I don’t answer an email from you for a few days, it’s because of this ridiculousness.

When I tried to log into Apple’s support pages to post a question I got a message saying that my account had been disabled for security reasons. Huh?!?

At least my blogging software is working… I hope.

*UPDATE* I may have found a solution here, but it’s too late for me to try now. I’ll wade into this mess tomorrow. Thank goodness for Google. Oh, and thank goodness for Giles, too who helped me with some very late night troubleshooting. Off to bed…

Worth Defending

Filed under: Science — jasony @ 3:51 pm

The Large Hadron Collider at CERN will be completed in a year. Lawrence Krauss has some poignant thoughts on why we need it.

May 22, 2006

She’s at it again

Filed under: Music — jasony @ 8:41 pm

Madonna kicked off her “Please pay attention to me” Tour. I want to know when she and Tina Turner are going to launch the “Grandma” tour. sheesh, I’m getting tired of her (Madonna, not Tina. Tina still rocks)

Just Return the Money to your Shareholders, Mike

Filed under: Computing — jasony @ 8:28 pm

Dell opens up two retail stores. One in Dallas and one in New York… in the same mall as Apple Stores. It’ll be interesting to see if their numbers, traffic, and buzz come anywhere close to those of the Apple Stores, or mirror Gateway’s numbers.

Here’s an odd thing about Dell’s brick-and-mortar stores. None of them will carry inventory. As a friend of mine says… doubleyou tee eff?

Bob Hoover

Filed under: Hobbies — jasony @ 4:09 pm

Legendary pilot Bob Hoover demonstrates pouring iced tea while executing a barrel roll in an aircraft. I remember doing some zero-G maneuvers while getting my pilot’s license. Very fun and unusual feeling. I can’t imagine the precision required to do this type of flying. Well, I can, actually, because learning to fly requires learning very precise movements and developing a feel for the airplane unlike what you develop in a car. It’s more akin to the feeling you develop learning to ride a bicycle, or even a unicycle. What amazes me is the fact that Bob is able to fly a consistent one-G barrel roll while he’s pouring the tea backhand. Now that’s coordination.

One of my favorite things I did in flight training was learning to cross-control the airplane. If you think about it, an airplane’s flight surfaces (ailerons, rudder, elevator) do their normal jobs with respect not only to the forces of lift, but in relation to the force of gravity. Once the airplane gets past a certain point with respect to gravity (past 45 degrees, that is), the flight surfaces start to behave in weird ways. For example, in normal flight, pulling back on the yoke will cause the elevator on the tail to move up, thereby causing the nose of the plane to rise and the aircraft to gain altitude. So pulling back means going higher. But what if the plane is twisted over on its side? Then pulling back means that the airplane goes into a tight turn with respect to the horizon. This is the origin of the so-called “death spiral” that has caught out many pilots when they’re in limited visibility conditions. It’s one of the reasons that you need special training to fly IFR (Instrument Flight Rules-in the clouds, basically).

VFR (visual flight rules) training gives all pilots a little bit of exposure to this type of flying. Enough to be able to recognize problems and extricate ourselves from them. Anyway, back to cross-control. Part of training involves getting the airplane into all sorts of weird orientations and then trying to fly a consistent path. I really liked flying the airplane at slow speeds and torqued over on its side. At that point, you have to use the flight surfaces in a very non-intuitive way- the rudder becomes the elevator and the elevator becomes the rudder. Once you get the feel for it it’s like trying to drive a right-seat car with the stick-shift on the left, with your feet, backwards, while looking through the rearview mirror. Very challenging and fun. Since there’s nothing to hit up there, and since you always do this at altitudes you can recover from in the event of a mistake, it’s a fun exercise.

I want to go flying now.

New DSL Installed!

Filed under: Bandwidth Speed — jasony @ 3:03 pm

After a series of false starts, we finally got our new DSL installed. According to the tech guy who just paid our house a visit, the errors are probably the result of a breakdown in the chain of connections that have to happen between the time we call to order the service and the time it actually happens. There are lots of people between here and there and somebody temporarily bobbled the balls.

Anyway, it’s up and running now. Our download speed is around 2-2.5mbps, which is theoretically slower than the “up to 4mbps!” that Cox was advertising (we normally got around 3mbps at the high end and as low as 128KBPS (yes, that’s right) when it wasn’t working well. Upload with Cox was around 256kbps. With DSL it’s 419.

I’ll keep you posted on how good the service is.

Current Reading

Filed under: Current Reading — jasony @ 1:36 pm

I’ve read every one of Alastair Reynolds’ books. Starting with Chasm City, then his Revelation Space trilogy, and his short story book “Diamond Dogs, Turquoise Days”. Reynolds favors large canvas, epic, science fiction with a heavy emphasis on how future technology changes humanity, and the repercussions our society faces with Singularity-type advances. What happens when some people adapt to and adopt advancing technology while others reject it? How do we deal with societal schisms? What does it mean to be human in an increasingly technological landscape? He poses some profound questions as only a member of the generation seeing this type of change first-hand can do.
I have mostly enjoyed his books (the exception being the final book of his “Revelation Space” trilogy- Absolution Gap), but it seems to me that he is getting better and better at plotting and pacing the more he writes. In his most recent book,Century Rain, Reynolds keeps a tangle of plot elements in the air while still telling a very fast-paced story, and wrapping the loose ends up in a satisfying way while still leaving room for future sequels (please!). He weaves a great yarn while staying thematically cohesive. Part noir, part hard-boiled private detective story, part who-dun-it, part race-to-save(one of the) Earth(s), and all set against a future Nano-tech landscape, this is the best book I’ve read this year. How quickly I read a book is often a good indication of how much I like it. I plowed through the 500 pages of this sucker in less than 24 hours. Great read!

Happy Birthday!

Filed under: Uncategorized — jasony @ 11:06 am

To my brother Ross. He hits 35 today. Happy birthday, Woth!

Okay, I’m officially Jealous of Patrick

Filed under: Space — jasony @ 11:06 am

We went to DC a few years ago, but we didn’t get to see this.

May 20, 2006

They’re Made out of Meat

Filed under: Movies — jasony @ 12:54 pm

A movie of the Besson short story. Excellent!

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