Friday, February 27, 2009

Samsung RMA

Well I've never had to RMA a monitor before. But as I mentioned my 22" Samsung went out and I finally got the RMA posted this morning. It was quick and painless, and they have an option where they will advance the replacement to the nearest UPS store, and I can take the old one in and swap. Sweet! We'll see how fast it is.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


I don't know if I've ever even heard of Barry Schwartz before. All I have seen is this:

Which was downright awesome.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Baby Pants Music!

One of my favorite 3 bands - I mean, averaged over time, seriously probably #1 - is The Presidents of the United States of America. I was about 13 when 'Lump' was in the top ten and I bought the self-titled cassette at Tower Records in Sacramento. Well let me tell you I wore out that cassette and hunted down everything I could find from the guys, which wasn't much at the time! I bought II when it came out and ate it up. It was the first CD I ever bought - I bought it at the little short-lived CD shop in Myrtle Creek in the front of the old movie theater. When their 'indefinite break' happened I was devastated.

Well anyway after a while PUSA re-formed and made some cool new albums. I've lived on the same coast as these Seattle locals - I've even seen Metallica and Clutch up there - and never seen the guys live. I just don't follow these things closely enough.

I do love singing PUSA songs and there are a couple that they sometimes have at karaoke bars. 'Lump' which is not really my favorite, 'Mach 5' which is a lot of fun and 'Kitty', which is slow and simple and has the word 'fuck' in it at the end. So one time I made the infamous local karaoke jockey Jared very angry by singing it in a theoretically all-ages establishment. Despite the fact that that very night he'd been humping an inflatable dolphin on stage as some college girls sang 'Baby Got Back'. Anyhow.

But this is the digital age, and at some point I discovered that the band has a website with a blog, and front-man Chris Ballew posts a lot! It's so fun reading about these guys. Chris started posting about he was so excited about making kids music. Well he's got his first CD out at Baby Pants Music and has a bunch of songs up for free. I LOVE the songs, they are so lighthearted and fun but stimulating and unpredictable in true Chris Ballew style.

You can tell Chris is doing this for the love of it: he's only charging $10, shipped, with an autograph! Squee! Needless to say I PayPal'ed right up and will be eagerly assailing the letter carrier till it arrives.

Now I just need to pay attention so I can see PUSA the next time they are playing the west coast!

Saturday, February 14, 2009


I am in Salem's historic waterfront carousel park. A lady on a PA tells me that there is cake somewhere. I am skeptical. For a while I had to hold a white square napkin with a heart shaped cookie on it.

Monitor woes

My nice new 22" widescreen Samsung LCD monitor is not behaving properly. It seems to stop working whenever it hits a non-native video mode - including at boot up. If I boot the system from the other monitor (which is smaller and has a lower native resolution) and upscale to 1680x1050 it works until the first time the screen saver blanks the screen.

It's really a bummer. I am a serious screen real estate hog. Good thing it's less than a year old and surely under warranty...

Friday, February 13, 2009

Man-made margin of error

For a few months I've been reading the blog 'Watts up with that?' Anthony Watts comments on many things, but mostly focuses on collecting evidence of bad scientific technique in the measurement of climate conditions. Anthony is a global warming skeptic - and so am I.

Today Anthony continued his ongoing series, 'How not to measure temperature'. This is part 75 of that series. Anthony and the people he works with have uncovered STAGGERING numbers of weather stations which should be considered invalid due to various effects.

Check out the links at the top for a selection of worst offenders. My favorite is the one next to the barbecue grill.

Anthony also runs an effort to physically survey all the weather history stations in the country: One of the worst offenders listed there is right here in Oregon: a weather station 10 feet from an air conditioner in forest grove.

Just look at these sites and see if you start to see a different correlation than CO2 to this supposed temperature increase. Maybe someone should make a graph of 'global warming' versus the cost of window-mounted air conditioners.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Energy origins

I had several good discussions in response to my little alien conversation a while back. Unfortunately they all happened either offline or in the (private) FreeAllegiance/Steel Fury forums. Post in the comments next time you slackers! I know you all have Google accounts.

Anyway so something several people mentioned was, 'how could an intelligent species develop a photovoltaic cell before figuring out how bump the right two rocks together?

I see the following possible answers:

* They are in an environment unsuited to combustion (underwater, highly humid, delicate chemistry)
* They saw an example in nature

The first is so strikingly simple: underwater beings would have to find other ways of creating energy. The bouyant and tidal forces would be amazingly useful if you lived your whole life underwater. Particularly if you had an easily accessible atmosphere above the surface of your sea. But solar isn't particularly useful unless you're willing to spend enough time underwater.

The second possibility fascinates me even more. What if there was a simple animal or plant evolved to take advantage of the photovoltaic principle? It may sound far fetched, but electronic potential is a fundamental force.

One such fanciful creature: imagine colony of spores, whose natural enemy were small, slow-moving insects. Suppose a mutation emerged which resulted in the development of photovoltaic potential. In the daytime, this small potential might be enough to discourage the pests. Natural selection continues, and soon there is enough voltage developed for a sentient creature to notice and study. Perhaps given the right environment and enough time this effect could even produce theoretically perfect efficiency.

Imagine also a sentient creature who burns neither plant material nor fossil fuels because the smokey output is displeasing to a sensitive respiratory system. Such a creature would not have taken to steam powered conveniences as we humans did. When we discovered the photovoltaic principle, its output paled so far in comparison to what we could get from coal-fired steam or even the early internal combustion engine that it was not pursued with the same vigor as dirtier technology.

If we were, for some reason, unable to burn coal, how revolutionary would have been the discovery of the solar cell? In our vigor, how soon would we have discovered Cadmium Telluride? Perhaps most strikingly, would we still measure the economy of such devices to such a high standard as the one we hold now, the standard of the abundant-petroleum economy?

Essentially all the sources of energy we have at our disposal come ultimately from the pre-primordial cloud from which our solar system formed. So many elements essential to our life have come from generation after generation of stars who have fused together heavier and heavier elements. But two of the most common things in our solar system - photons and hydrogen - are really great sources of energy. It just happens to be really inconvenient way down here in our gravity well. In the scope of time the idea of painfully separating hydrogen from carbon, the idea of moving mountains to uncover rare uranium will seem just as alien as the idea of killing whales to make oil for light.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Astrology Apology

Good ol' Phil Plait once again demonstrates how silly astrology is. Ever since I read about it in his Bad Astronomy book I've been sorry about humoring the notion for all these years. I'm sorry, and I promise to no longer play along with all the damaging antiscientific mumbo-jumbo that is astrology.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Units of measure

Most people think in terms of familiar units they become acquainted with in their youth.

I think a lot of people think of energy in terms of the measurement 'trips to the 7-Eleven per gallon of gas'.