The Fun Guy (21791) writes "Writer Larry Kollar thinks about how to make sure his books are readable 25, 50 or 100 years from now. In the wake of stone tablets, crumbling paper, 3.5" floppies and other dead formats, what is his solution? Encoded HTML:
both MOBI and ePub are ZIP archives containing HTML files (with some control files that determine the order, among other things). HTML has been around since 1991, and any browser can display an HTML file written even 20 years ago. Even if HTML is superseded later on, the files are plain text with well-defined markup elements.
The Fun Guy writes "In what regulators are calling a first, a chocolate body spread sold in sex shops in the UK is being recalled due to contamination with the industrial chemical melamine: "The novelty chocolate spreads were manufactured in Zhongshan, China, and imported into the country by Scobie (Llarn) Ltd, according to Britain's Food Standards Agency. The agency said the sex shop treats had more than 50 times the allowed level of melamine." So how much melamine is allowed in chocolate sex toys?" top
Zvents aims to understand the nuances of time and place. Zvents can return results for "bluegrass this weekend" or "gallery openings next Saturday." If you're searching on Tuesday for a Mexican restaurant for Saturday night, Zvents guesses you're not looking for a Taco Bell. Robert Kempf, a vice president at Boston.com, believes Zvents will make his site even more local: "We want to know the youth soccer schedule in Waltham, and there's an advertiser who would find that audience very relevant. But we haven't had the technology to do that cost-effectively. Why shouldn't all ads be time and location aware?"
The Fun Guy writes "The International Food Information Council's newest report is required reading for pale, twitchy geeks everywhere: Caffeine and Health: Clarifying the Controversies. The review summarizes key research on caffeine's safety and health impacts. Topics addressed include caffeine and: heart disease, hydration, addiction, pregnancy, fertility and miscarriage, diabetes, cancer and caffeine content of popular caffeinated beverages, among others." Link to Original Source top
The Fun Guy writes "The New York Times is reporting that only one-third of America's eighth-grade students, and about one in four high school seniors, are proficient writers. James H. Billington, the librarian of Congress, expressed concern about "the slow destruction of the basic unit of human thought, the sentence," because young Americans are doing most of their writing in disjointed prose composed in Internet chat rooms or in cellphone text messages." Link to Original Source top
The Fun Guy writes "House Bill 282 of the Mississippi State Legislature is titled "An Act To Prohibit Certain Food Establishments From Serving Food To Any Person Who Is Obese". The proposed legislation would give the Mississippi state department of health the power to define who qualifies as obese, and to monitor compliance of the restaurants. Sorry, pal, you've obviously had too much to eat already — I'm cutting you off." top
The Fun Guy writes "ArsTechnica has an opinion piece on the ethics of using open WiFi hotspots. Is this stealing or not? Point "It's time to put an end to this silliness. Using an open WiFi network is no more "stealing" than is listening to the radio or watching TV using the old rabbit ears." and Counterpoint: "Really, there's only one time when you could argue that an ISP is being gypped, and that's when someone is repeatedly using his neighbor's open WiFi in lieu of paying for his own service."" Link to Original Source top
Proponents of the intelligent design (ID) explanation for how organisms developed claim that the bacterial flagellum (BF) is irreducibly complex. They argue that this structure is so complicated that it could not have emerged through random selection but had to be designed by an intelligent entity. One part of this claim is that each flagellar component is used solely for the purpose of making a flagellum that, in turn, is used only for motility. Further, each flagellar protein is assumed to have appeared independently of the other component proteins. Here, we summarize evidence from hundreds of laboratories, including our own, showing that these assumptions are false. Instead of by design, BF developed as modular systems, with components deriving from many different sources. Each BF module evolved independently from various primordial systems, which, in most cases, had nothing to do with cell motility.
Caffeine is a well-known stimulant added as an ingredient to various carbonated soft drinks, but which drink contains the most, and how can consumers know? A study in the Journal of Food Science used high-performance liquid chromatography to analyze the caffeine contents of 56 national-brand and 75 private-label store brand carbonated beverages. Caffeine contents ranged from 4.9 mg/12 oz (IGA Cola) to 74 mg/12 oz (Vault Zero). Some of the more common national-brand carbonated beverages analyzed in this study were Coca-Cola (33.9 mg/12 oz), Diet Coke (46.3 mg/12 oz), Pepsi (38.9 mg/12 oz), Diet Pepsi (36.7 mg/12 oz), Dr Pepper (42.6 mg/12 oz), Diet Dr Pepper (44.1 mg/12 oz), Mountain Dew (54.8 mg/12 oz), and Diet Mountain Dew (55.2 mg/12 oz). The authors found that store-brand beverages generally contained less caffeine, and they also suggest that consumers would benefit from having the actual caffeine content labeled on the beverage.
The Fun Guy (21791) writes "A piece on NPR discussed the merits of putting your keyboard into the dishwasher. Any real-world experience with this? Is this only for the old-style, robust Mac II clicky-clicky keyboards, or will modern soft-touch ones work too? What about wireless keyboards?" top
In addition to making the yellow cab brigade entirely green within five years, the city will require all new vehicles entering the fleet after October 2008 to achieve a minimum of 25 miles per gallon. A year later, all new vehicles must get 30 miles per gallon and be hybrid.
Shifting the taxi fleet to hybrids is part of Bloomberg's wider sustainability plan for the city, which includes a goal of a 30 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2030." top
The Fun Guy writes "Recent microfossil evidence casts fresh doubt as to whether an asteroid wiped out the dinosaurs. Prof. Gerta Keller of Princeton University: "We now have evidence that the Chicxulub impact occurred about 300,000 years before the end of the Cretaceous and thus didn't cause the mass extinction and, in fact, didn't cause any species to go extinct." These findings were presented during the October 2006 meeting of the Geological Society of America." top
Contaminated meat used to be deemed the big threat, but strict regulation and strong industrial efforts have reduced that risk considerably. Now produce has become a bigger problem than meat or poultry. There have been three multistate outbreaks from produce in the past three months, including an E. coli outbreak linked to spinach and a salmonella outbreak linked to tomatoes. Surely it is time to give government regulators the power and resources they need to ensure the safety of fresh fruits and vegetables.
Even as health officials and food distributors zeroed in yesterday on a California farm as the source of the contaminated green onions that have sickened Taco Bell customers, the E. coli outbreak widened considerably, with cases reported for the first time in New York City, Delaware, South Carolina and Utah. In all, the number of cases that have been reported ballooned, to at least 169 yesterday, with most concentrated on Long Island and in New Jersey.
Taco Bell ordered the removal of green onions from its 5,800 restaurants nationwide Wednesday after tests suggested they might be responsible for the E. coli outbreak that sickened at least three dozen people in three states.
The fast-food chain said preliminary testing by an independent lab found three samples of green onions appeared to have a harsh strain of the bacteria.
The Fun Guy writes "Coca-Cola and Nestle are getting together to introduce a new beverage "proven to burn calories". Enviga will be in the U.S. Northeast in November, nationwide in January 2007. How does it burn calories? With green tea extracts, calcium, and caffeine. No word on how many milligrams caffeine per can. Me, I just put cream in my coffee and get my calcium and 250mg caffeine the old fashioned way." top
The Fun Guy writes "We've got a visit scheduled tomorrow with a VIP. She'll be doing a walk-through tour of our facility, and will devote probably 5 minutes, maybe as much as 10 minutes, to our particular dog and pony show along the way. My boss just sent out an e.mail with last minute instructions, including dress code: "either lab coats or business casual". Given that I have no intention of wearing my lab coat outside of my lab, how does one dress for a VIP within the constraints of business casual? Tie or no tie? Wingtips or oxfords?"
After a talk I gave in Bucharest last year, my name has apparently gotten on somebody's list of "speakers worth paying for". This fall I'll be going to Prague, invited by the same parent organization as last year. Unlike the trip to Bucharest, where I was traveling alone, I've managed to convince my wife to come along on this trip. Expensive, but it's a great time of life to do it, and when's the next time she's going to see Prague?
Had a great time with Stoolpigeon in Bucharest last Saturday. I was in town for some business, and he was able to come over from Budapest on an overnight sleeper train. We walked around the old part of the city; here in the 21st century, "old" is a complicated term. Without moving more than a couple of dozen steps, you can see a multi-layered kaleidoscope of old French-style rococo architecture, Soviet-era flat concrete, post-collapse plywood and corrugated steel, and glittering mylar/neon/LCD/stainless-steel-and-glass. Often, these layers of history appear right next door to each other, or even on the very same building.
The big sight-seeing event was the Palace of the Parliament, which is an astonishing monument to dictatorial egomania. It was built to house the executive branch, both chambers of the parliament and all of the federal courts under one roof, with the dictator-for-life living in palatial splendor in the vast penthouse suite overlooking the city. It was astonishing. Neither Stoolpigeon nor I could relate to the bigness of it, or to the profound Me Me Me-ness of needing to build the biggest building in the world, then make the longest street in the world and the grandest fountain in the world around it. How disappointed Nicolae CeauÈ(TM)escu must have been (posthumously) when several of the side sections of the building were dropped from the final design, leaving it with 2% less square footage than the Pentagon, and just a bit less volume than the Great Pyramid of Cheops and the space shuttle hanger at Cape Canaveral.
The best part of the day was talking with SP and getting a much better sense of how societies function and interact in Central & Eastern Europe, from antiquity through WW I, WW II, the Soviet Era and in the 21st century. The relationships among the countries there are confounded by the strategic ambitions of the larger powers: the US, USSR/Russia, the EU member states, and, presumably, Japan and China. Thoroughly fascinating discussion.
We had a great dinner at Caru Cu Bere (link to the restaurant's homepage). Talking, eating and drinking was a bit too much fun, as it made SP miss his train. For this, I apologize to SP, Mrs. SP and the little SPs, and return him to you late but lauded. If you're ever in Philadelphia, a round of cheesesteaks awaits.
Moral: if travel ever gives you a chance to do a physical get-together with online friends, do it. I have always been glad I did.
"Does Carrier IQ believe that its actions comply with the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, including the federal wiretap statute (18 U.S.C. Â 2511 et seq.), the pen register statute (18 USC Â 3121 et seq.), and the Stored Communications Act (18 U.S.C. Â 2701 et seq.)?" Franken's letter asks. "Does Carrier IQ believe that its actions comply with the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (18 U.S.C. Â 1030)? Why?"
It is a disturbing thing to have a U.S. Senator contact you with a list of questions they want answered by some date certain. It's one thing when you hear talk about inquiries and investigations; it is an entirely different level of gut check when the letter is addressed to you personally.
The theme of the Lego Robotics competition this year is food safety. All it takes is a quick bit of Googling on "food safety", "technology", "processing", "awesome" and other obvious search terms to make me pop up to fore. In this morning's e.mail, I just got another request to serve as an expert adviser to a group of schoolkids. Given my soft spots for science, engineering and inquisitive kids, how can I say no?
Shadow Wrought's JE on saying goodbye to Slashdot made me want to post a JE about... something. Anything.
I'm reminded of how last year I finally made the decision not to renew my subscription to Scientific American. After almost twenty years, I stopped. The magazine had gotten too thin, too pretty, too political. For the last couple of years, I'd get each month's issue, flip through it, maybe read one or two articles, then chuck it. Pulling the plug on it meant turning the page and moving on, something that people in general are not especially good at.
Slashdot is like that. The stories on the front page are things I've already seen on DVICE or ArsTechnica. I never get involved in the discussions, and rarely read them, even when setting the filters extra high.
I've changed, Slashdot has changed. Time to accept that and move on.
It's been a strange year, one that has given me plenty of opportunities to change and grow as a person. The biggest surprise to me is how many times people have cited a good sense of humor as one of my chief attributes. Perhaps another surprise is that this comes as such a surprise to me.
2010 has been full of challenges, personal and professional. I've had successes and failures. I've also had successes that turned out to be mixed blessings or even failures and failures that turned out to be not so bad or even successes in disguise.
Why am I posting this here to Slashdot? Nostalgia, I suppose. My last JE here was in May; there's no way to know when my next one will be.
I just got a phone call from one of the world's leading experts in food safety to ask me if I'd be interested in writing a review article for one of the leading publications in the field. He said that one of the world's other leading experts mentioned me as a good person for the job, and the rest of the editorial board (all high power people) agreed.
Naturally, I said yes.
What's strikes me as funny about this is that the narrow technical field in question (cold plasma) isn't the the other narrow technical field where I'm (ahem) already one of the world's leading experts (irradiation). [I always feel strange saying that w.l.e. bit, but it's true, so I kind of have to accept it.]
This tells me that I've made decent progress toward having two separate feathers in my cap, maybe three depending on how you define them. Coming today as it does, this happening is doubly, even triply bizarre.
It's a strange life I lead, I'll tell you that much.
It was April 23, 2008 that I took over as Acting Head Honcho of that miserable, hideous nest of vipers. After five and a half months, I'd been used up and spit out. I was done with it, and walked away.
The experience made me reconsider a lot of things - about myself, my job, my career arc, what I wanted out of life. Although I'd never really examined it, I'd grown accustomed to people doing what I wanted. It always just seemed to happen that I found myself in charge; people deferred to me, looked to me for guidance, clarity, focus. That would be "leadership", I suppose.
It was quite the shock when I found myself amid people who not only didn't magically follow my lead. The active resistance and slanderous backstabbing was a new experience for me. Although I wanted to prove myself to the higher-ups, I truly went into that environment with the intent to help. However, my motives were assumed to be as venal and corrupt as they were accustomed to. My abilities were dismissed, my skills were denigrated.
That hurt. It took a while for me to regain ground with self-confidence and belief in the value of what I'm doing here. Even with time, it took a lot of effort, on my part and from others, to get me close to the level of performance I was at before.
Why re-hash all of this?
Because we've gone through a re-organization, and I've taken over one of the newly re-formed departments. It's on a temporary, Acting Head Honcho basis. When they open it up, I'll apply and probably get the job.
Why do this? Career management. Self-defense. To prove something to myself.
If someone has to hold the reins of power in my environment, I'd rather it be me than someone with a grudge against me.
It's here, unpacked but not yet up and running. Spent some time last night backing up the old one. At first I started copying individual folders onto a flash drive, then went for the easy route. I plugged a 700GB drive into a spare USB port and said, "Copy C:", then went off to have dinner.
It didn't work, naturally. Files in use, bizarre error messages, etc. So, I had to select files and subfiles for users, program files, all the photos from our digital camera, games, etc. Everything I've ever done for the last 16 years - my PhD, my wife's Master's, nine jobs between the two of us, two apartments, two houses, three cities, four kids, two churches, three public radio stations, innumerable committees, volunteer organizations, etc., etc., etc. - all of it comes to about 28GB. Including the program files for WordPerfect, Neverwinter Nights, Half-Life, Nethack, etc., etc., etc. which I don't use anymore.
Once the new machine is ready, I'll plug this drive in, copy over what I need as I need it. After a month or so, it will be gathering dust again on the shelf.
Our household budget is still running on QuattroPro. I made the switch to Excel at work years ago. That will be a project of top priority, since I don't want to install QuattroPro on the new machine. There's no point.
After something like 7 years, we're upgrading our computer. The new machine is one of these: Pentium E5400(2.70GHz) 4GB DDR2 750GB NVIDIA GeForce 7050 Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit. Monitor, keyboard & mouse will be carried over.
By modern standards, it's a decent machine for home use, light bookkeeping, light gaming. By the standards of the machine it will replace, my wife and I use, it's the Enterprise-D. This will be a huge step up for us. I should say for her, really, though, it's become my wife's computer almost exclusively, since I tend to use my netbook + WiFi. We bought a separate computer for the kids a few months ago, also with a WiFi adapter. The combination of going from dial-up to high speed cable internet plus the wireless router my brother-in-law gave us for Christmas a year ago has changed everything about how we do things.
What finally prompted us to scratch together the money for this upgrade was Plants vs. Zombies. My wife has gotten addicted to it, but our machine was having problems with it. Crashes meant I had to turn off the 3D acceleration and downgrade some of the other video acceleration, which makes it jerky to play.
This machine was perfectly adequate to run Age of Empires, Neverwinter Nights, and other games that are more complicated than PvZ, but they stress it in different ways. We discussed the possibility of just taking the machine out of service for a while so I could wipe the drive and reinstall WinXP. There are about a billion demands on my time at the moment, though, and finding the time to do that was an ongoing problem. The machine is old enough that replacing it is not out of line.
I have no idea what we're going to do with 750GB, though.
Just got off the phone with someone who wanted to talk over the possibility of a grant application. As we talked, I relayed facts when I knew them, expressed opinions and what they were based on, and made speculations (clearly identified as such). We each brought unique info and perspectives to the conversation.
At the end, although we'd pooled our knowledge, it didn't seem to me like we were any farther along toward any kind of a resolution or positive outcome. Still, he'd said mid-conversation and again at the end that he really appreciated the opportunity to tap into my "wisdom".
Wisdom? Hell, I don't know any more about it than you do. I just made sure to read the fine print in the documentation and draw a few pretty obvious inferences.
I don't know. Maybe that's what passes for wisdom these days, simple attention to detail and the willingness to look past the smoke and mirrors. People see a couple of million dollars hanging out there, ripe for the plucking, they get all excited. They don't think to look for the worm in the apple, or the thorns on the rose, or for any other metaphors for "this is more complicated than it seems".
I've been navigating through a reorganization at work. There's been a lot of uncertainty, rumors, and mixed signals. In particular, one guy that I supervise has made it clear that he doesn't want to work for me directly. He doesn't care for my style, my approach, my personality, etc. I think he's afraid of me or intimidated by me. In any case, he wants to work for another guy.
The guy he wants to work for doesn't do very much. I am currently without any technical support, and continue to have lots of administrative work to get done. Frankly, I not only need a senior support person more, it's a little silly that I'm the leader of this project and I have to put up with a string of low-level people, temps, summer students, part-timers, etc.
However, the last thing I need is to have my support person be sullen and resentful. I've tried to be as accommodating, reasonable and personally supportive as I can, but sometimes we are called on to do things that aren't our first choice.
Today, he initiated a conversation where he said how unhappy he was about the uncertainties of this coming reorg. He hinted that he might go elsewhere if he didn't get the job assignment he wanted.
I told him that uncertainty is hard on everyone, that I'd been part of negotiations to sort out work assignments that would make the maximum number of people maximally happy and/or satisfied. I told him that the plan we'd worked out was a good one, but that it might get thrown out the window by someone farther up the chain, in which case we would either take it and make do, or leave to find work elsewhere.
At some point in the conversation, he got a surprised look and said, "In all the times we've had this conversation, I've always tried to be up front about telling you what I want. I guess it never really occurred to me that you are kind of in the same boat with all this uncertainty. I never really thought to ask you what *you* want."
So, I told him. I told him in plain language exactly what I was looking for in a support person, both in skill set and temperament, and why I thought he'd be good for the job. I also made it clear that I understood he didn't want to work for me. If it would result in him turning sullen and dour, then our working relationship would degenerate until it would be worse that useless for both of us.
The expression of amazement and astonishment on his face was remarkable. All along, through everything, he's seen me as... what? A robot? A blue box on a management chart? A mannequin in the corner office? Certainly not as a person. It was clearly a new paradigm for him to consider that I might have some hopes and desires, some wants and needs that would either be fulfilled or dashed, depending on how things turn out.
He had been concerned solely with his own happiness. I'm not going to believe that his is now concerned with *my* happiness, but I think that he is now at least *aware* of my happiness, or lack thereof.
That's called empathy, or the beginnings of it.
Something to think about as I go for a walk over lunchtime, enjoying the spring-like weather.
Good game, good commercials. I went into this rooting for the Colts, but I had to respect the Saints for the come from behind effort. It wasn't that the Colts choked; far from it, I thought they played very well. The Saints simply dominated, with tight, precise playing.
In various places, I've seen people moaning about what a terrible thing has happened to Massachusetts with the election of a REPUBLICAN to Uncle Teddy's Senate seat. Oh, what a horrible day for Massachusetts and for the country! What a tragedy that Coakley didn't carry the day!
Today is a great day for Massachusetts. Why? Because the people of that state exercised their rights and elected the candidate that appealed to the most voters. Not the person who *should* have won, or the person who was *supposed* to win, but the person who made a stronger case to more people.
Will Brown be a good Senator? Will he represent the interests of the people of Massachusetts with vigor and honor? Or will he turn out to be the psycho neo-con wingnut he's been portrayed as?
We'll find out, won't we?
This is a great day for Massachusetts and for America. In this election, and in the rest of this Senate term, everybody will have a chance to experience the power of democracy. If he's good, they'll keep him. If he's a nut, they'll get rid of him. Solid one-party rule, either on the scale of an individual city or state or on the larger scale of a nation, leads to complacency, arrogance and corruption.
Under one-party rule, it doesn't take long for the party to stop serving the interests of the people and shift its focus to serving the interests of the party. Shaken and scared after having been thrown into the outer darkness, the no-longer-in-power have a chance to return their orientation to meeting the needs of the people. In the meantime, a viable two-party environment means that compromise becomes the order of the day.
Congratulations to Brown, and congratulations to the people of Massachusetts. The founding fathers would be proud of both of you.
Title of the journal entry pretty much says it all.
You can drink Bacardi Special Reserve Dark, the kind of stuff that comes with a ribbon around the neck of the bottle. You can sip it from a French crystal highball glass, with ridges cut so fine you could shave with them. Every swallow can burn your lips and melt your tongue like the memory of your first kiss, the fumes rising through your head like a sunrise over a frozen lake.
And in the end, you will be what you have been so often in the past.
Drunk and sad.
Therapy is really, really, really fucking exhausting. Like having one of your long bones broken so that it can be reset, properly this time.