Friday, April 29, 2016

Just Because I Feel Like It

And because I can:
It's Friday after a month like I've had.  Time to kick back.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Two more days of proposal writing...

As seen over at SMBC:
Two more days of proposal writing.  And then I get a week of meetings, yay!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Timeline of Bicycle Design

From over at xkcd.

Things got weird during the Cambrian Explosion of suspension mountain bike design back in the '90s, so Randall left that decade out.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016


... is a perfectly cromulent word.  Says so right over here at Wiktionary.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Why Internet Voting is an Awful Idea

In a 21 minute talk, as explained by a computer science professor who knows what the hell he is talking about (as opposed to the politicians pushing for this very bad idea):
Really, if you give a hoot about such things – not to mention your country – it's worth your time.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Too Tough to Die

Even though they called it quits 20 years ago and currently a bunch of 'em are dead, The Ramones keep showing up in the news.

Linda Ramone gives a guided tour of a new museum exhibit at Vanity Fair
The museum exhibit's web page
The Enduring Appeal of The Ramones at the Sidney Morning Herald

Not bad at all for a bunch of (mostly) dead musicians who's heyday was... well it's not over yet.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

EM Drive... maybe?

Here's a raft of links relating recent developments revolving around this thrustless space drive concept.  At least there are some independent measurements and some theory backing things up now, so it is sort of comprehensible.  Anyway, on to the links.

Please don't ask me to explain any of this to you.  I'm as befuddled as the next guy.  At first look, it is as if someone has added up a very long column of zeroes and arrived at a non-zero answer.  But it now seems that there is more to the story.

It's a small effect, if indeed it is there at all, in these testbed machines.  It may yet turn out to be a minuscule measurement error, it may turn out to be for real.  Or it may turn out to be real but such a small effect as to be of no practical importance, akin to muon catalyzed fusion.  Which is certainly a real thing, but a net energy-negative process.

Anyway, the way things are progressing, we'll know in a very few years.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016


From over at The Argyle Sweater.  I'm just going to go in to work now.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Psst, Wanna Win a Bike Light?

Bicycle Times is having a drawing for a NiteRider Lumina 600 (msrp: $75!).  The only hitch is that you've got to enter by midnight EDT tomorrow.  So get goin' and click here and enter yourself.
You want this.  So do I.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Book Review: Old Man's War

To be brief, this book is a mash-up of Heinlein's Starship Troopers and the Men in Black series, with a side order of Great Mambo Chicken and the Transhuman Condition.  If that sounds flippant, I assure you that it is not intended to be, but rather it is an accurate outline of what's going on here.

Here's what's going on in the story.  Earth is a backwater, a sort of giant park that doesn't take much part in humanity's expansion into the universe.  However if you really want to go see the universe, meet interesting aliens, and kill them, then just wait until you're 75.  The Colonial Forces need troops with a lifetime of experience and guile.  Sign up for a ten year hitch and you'll get a rejuvenation treatment that would make Lazarus Long jealous, a brain implant computer that's like everything you wish Siri really was, and all the training and weapons you're going to need.  Survive that hitch... and you get to help colonize the galaxy.  One catch is that you can never, never go back to Earth.  The other big catch is that you probably won't make it through the ten years.   But hey, you're 75 right?  In another ten years you'll likely be dead anyway, so what's to lose?

Parts of this book are deadly serious while other parts border on farce.  The old phrase "not only is the universe stranger than we imagine, it is stranger than we can imagine" comes to mind.  The alien threats faced by the Colonials troops are always novel and completely unexpected.  This is of course exactly why people with a lifetime of experience are needed for the job.  It is an interesting mix.  The author explicitly acknowledges that he's writing something for the fans of Starship Troopers, and on that level it works pretty well.  The downside to this is that it's pretty clear that there is no bright post-war future just beyond any horizon.  These wars will never end, and that is that.  I guess it makes for good job security (assuming you survive), and it also makes for an enduring line of sequels for the author.

Bottom line is that this book is entertaining as all get out, even if it doesn't have quite the zip and hopeful outlook of the Heinlein juveniles.  Sooner or later I'll get around to the sequels, but not just yet.  Like the wars in the books, they'll still be there when I'm ready.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Star Wars Rogue One Trailer, Analyzed

Yes, it's been out for a couple of weeks, but here we go.

Here's the trailer, and
here's the frame-by-frame analysis.

Huh.  Guess we'll all know soon enough.  Looks grim.  Ought to be good.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

They're Made Out Of Meat

And so am I, after a day of writing proposals.

I've posted it before, but it bears repeating: They're Made Out Of Meat
If you've never read this short story, take five minutes and do it.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Conference Guidelines

From over at PhD Comics:
But first you've got to write the grant proposal to get the money to do the research to present at the conference... and I'm working on three of them this month.  Stay the hell out of my way.  I may be human again sometime before hurricane season starts.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Random Wires

Hung out in the yard yesterday afternoon with a radio and a random wire antenna.  Tuner, counterpoise wire slung out along the driveway for a "ground" (well, it was close to dirt anyway), and the truck's battery made it all come together:

Squint, and you can just see the green wire antenna.
The tripod is just to hold the wire off the ground, enough that it doesn't completely sag down from the end that's hanging in the oak tree.  Nothing particularly engineered, beyond a 35-ish foot length of wire, 3 pieces of PVC, some painter's tape, and enough paracord to get the far end up 25' to a limb.  For all the improv here, it was still easy to hit stations on 40m all over Georgia – doubly so with the GA QSO party in full swing.  40m tuned up easily, as did 17m and up, but for some reason 20m didn't like the wire that day.  No great loss.  Not bad for what amounts to just about the worse damn antenna this side of a dummy load.  Stop by next next time and I'll introduce you to my friend R.F. Burns.

Yes, I have proper antennas too.  But the weather was nice, and sometimes it's fun to spend a few hours of a spring afternoon lashing up a rig like this in the side yard.  Because I can, and just to see how well it works.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Mind-Clearing Bonus Post on AI

Following up on my slamming the movie Ex Machina, you might want to listen to this podcast over at IQ^2 where people who actually do AI in real life and know what the hell they're talking about debate the proposition "Don't trust the promise of AI."  (note: not "Don't trust AI because T3rmnatorz!" but more of "don't trust the hype.")

You can get at the audio file here.
There, I feel so much better having cleaned out the drek left by that movie.  With the garden largely wrapped (just have to plant the okra next weekend), it feels like time for a bike ride.

Ex Machina: Put It Back

To be short, this was a pretty bad movie.  The Mad Scientist in his castle shocking The Monster into life has been replaced by a dot-com billionaire (DCB) in his mountain-jungle hideaway.  The DCB has a reality distortion field that Steve Jobs would envy, but no one around to use it on.  Enter... the innocent young employee, ostensibly to apply the Turing Test along with various other comp-sci buzzphrases to the DCB's creation.

Let's pause for a moment and ask: Why does advanced AI have to be embodied in a largely life-like android body?  After all, one or the other problem is difficult enough.  (Just ask DARPA.)  If the DCB wants to whip up a batch of hard AI and is evidently having trouble completing that part of the task, why complicate matters with a a robot body?  "Because movie nonsense" is all I can come up with here.  It's yet another riddle wrapped around a cliche encircling a particle of nothingness presented by this movie.

Back to the plot and all that, it's just a two century old gothic horror story remade in a "high-tech as Hollywood imagines it" shell.  There are no tech wonders here, only movie makers' imagination of what those wonders might be.  It's trite decades-old stuff.  I could go on, but it's pointless and flickfilosopher had already sliced and diced this one for us.

Bottom line: 1 out of 4 stars.  The acting was passible, the effects were up to par, and the sets were beautiful.  Outside of those basics this thing is worthless.  How the hell did it get a 92% positive score over at Rotten Tomatoes?  Critics these days have mush for brains.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Happened to Me, Once

Really!  About 20 years ago I flipped my mountain bike off of a creek side trail and managed to grab a tree and the front tire on the way down.  Nobody got wet, but it was a close-run thing.  The trick photo's from over at Hooniverse, by the way.

Gonna go dig in the garden now.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

So Bad It's Good


Tough week of a lingering chest cold, meetings, and a mysterious coupling coefficient.  I'm taking tomorrow off to dig in the garden and get my head on straight to enjoy the weekend.  But first I'm going to watch The Disc of The Movie.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Merle Haggard, 79, RIP

Complete article at Rolling Stone, ongoing coverage at WSM Online.

Appropriately, it is a cold and rainy night in Nashville.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

The Truth About Quicksand

Article over at the BBC.  Turns out, it's the dry stuff that'll get you.  That, and the shovel.

Monday, April 4, 2016

A decent ham tech review site.

Amateur Radio Tech.  Specifically, they've reviewed a couple of my favorites recently, the Yaesu FT-2900r 2m radio, and KB9VBR's copper pipe j-poles.  Go scope out the site, it's pretty nice.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

One Last, Great Album from The Replacements

But you'll have to rip it for yourself.

Live, from the Seventh Street Entry, September 1981, Twin/Tone posted six contiguous segments of sound with video over at youtube.  Here's the first, the rest are linked from there.  All totaled, it's an amazing album that should've been released in early 1982.  Unfortunately, Twin/Tone was having trouble scraping up the cash to produce the Replacements' first studio album at the time, so projects like this were OBE and DOA.

The sound quality, ah hell, what sound quality?  It's adequate for the sort of thrashing around these guys were doing at the time.  Played loud through a decent stereo, it's about as good as the sound quality you'd expect in an early 80's punk club.  That, and you don't have to breathe the cigarette smoke or drink cheap beer.  (You can add those if you feel like it, but they're purely optional.)

The set primarily consists of songs off their first album Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash and the follow-up EP Stink.  After that, some outtakes from those albums, songs that didn't quite make it.  The whole glorious mess ends with a very credible cover of Hank Williams' Hey Good Lookin'.  Eerie, ironic similarities in some of the artists' lives there.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

BBC World Service Times & Freqs

With a tailwind, you can often pick up the Ascension Island / West Africa transmitter in the south east U.S.  Here's the complete listing (good through 29 Oct 2016), and here's a downloadable PDF of this image:

Friday, April 1, 2016