Friday, December 31, 2010

Sprinting to the finish line

Got a new (FREE) Android phone and a new carrier, Sprint. I almost feel like I'm in the 21st century.
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Sunday, December 26, 2010

Ancient humans, dubbed 'Denisovans', interbred with us

Ancient humans, dubbed 'Denisovans', interbred with us
By Pallab Ghosh | Science correspondent, BBC News
22 December 2010 Last updated at 13:03 ET

"Scientists say an entirely separate type of human identified from bones in Siberia co-existed and interbred with our own species.
The ancient humans have been dubbed Denisovans after the caves in Siberia where their remains were found."

Wow. This is, as Mr. Spok would say, fascinating. I wonder what it would have been like if there were two different sentient species on Earth. No, it would never happen. We'd kill off the other one.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

You know you're getting old when. . .

It's Christmas morning (well, afternoon, really). We go down to open presents and what do I find for me under the tree?

A six-pack of underwear.

Guess what? I was THRILLED! I really needed some new underwear. My son got some cool things and a bit of ca$h and I was probably as excited as he was.

Yes, I'm getting old.

Friday, December 24, 2010

BioWare Defends Gay Relationships in its Games

BioWare Defends Gay Relationships in its Games
December 24, 2010

"Dragon Age senior writer David Gaider and author of the prequel novels, defended BioWare's decision to include same-sex romances in its fantasy RPG. Posting in the BioWare forums, Gaider said that romances are optional content, so it did not make sense for players to rail against content they would not see unless they actively pursued it. In other words, unless you are seeking a gay relationship, you will not see it in the game."

This seems like a reasonable situation to me. If you have a problem with homosexuality then don't go looking for gays to hook up with in game. Is that really so difficult to understand?

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Solstice-eclipse overlap first in 456 years

Solstice-eclipse overlap first in 456 years
BY REBECCA LINDELL, POSTMEDIA NEWS DECEMBER 16, 2010

OTTAWA — "This year's winter solstice — an event that will occur next Tuesday — will coincide with a full lunar eclipse in a union that hasn't been seen in 456 years."
[...]
"The eclipse will start just after midnight Eastern Time on Tuesday, with the main event starting at 1:30 a.m. ET and lasting until 5:30 a.m., when the moon reappears."

This should be at it's zenith at 3:17am Tuesday morning. Well worth setting your alarm for.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Mobile Format Added

Blogger has added a mobile layout feature. This is supposed to make things better for mobile access. Since I don't have a smart phone (yet) I can't tell if it's worth using. However, I've enabled it just in case. If anyone "out there" hits the blog on a mobile device could you let me know how it looks? Thanks.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

LHC spots no black holes, eliminates some versions of string theory

LHC spots no black holes, eliminates some versions of string theory
By John Timmer

"The results continue to pour out of the LHC's first production run. This week, the folks behind the CMS detector have announced the submission of a paper to Physics Letters that describes a test of some forms of string theory. If this form of the theory were right, the LHC should have been able to produce small black holes that would instantly decay (and not, as some had feared, devour the Earth). But a look at the data obtained by CMS shows that a signature of the black holes' decay is notably absent."

More cool science news from the LHC.  A while back I remember watching something on the Science Channel (if I remember right) about the origins of the Universe and how the mathematics of String Theory wasn't working.  Here's some practical experimentation to go with the theoretical side of things.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Study: Depression, Not Violent Media, is a Predictor of Aggressive Behavior

Study: Depression, Not Violent Media, is a Predictor of Aggressive Behavior
December 14, 2010

"New research by one Dr. Christopher Ferguson from Texas A&M International University finds that depression in young people has more of a correlation to aggressive and violent behavior than gaming does - at least among Hispanics. While the study was narrowed to one demographic, the conclusions are nonetheless interesting."

Anyone who's into gaming knows that this is true.

Is WikiLeaks DDoS a cyberwar? Not by a long stretch

Is WikiLeaks DDoS a cyberwar? Not by a long stretch
December 14, 2010 — 10:43am ET | By Paul Mah

"Angered at various companies who declined to help keep WikiLeaks online, a loosely associated group who calls themselves "Anonymous" have banded together to exact vengeance against companies such as Amazon, PayPal, Mastercard and Visa. And what better way to demonstrate their displeasure than to launch crippling Distributed Denial-of-Service attacks on these companies and bring their business-critical infrastructure to their collective knees?"

It's all about perspective. Read this and then imagine what a real attack would be like.

Navy’s New Railgun Shoots at Mach 7, Can Hit Targets 100 Miles Away

Navy’s New Railgun Shoots at Mach 7, Can Hit Targets 100 Miles Away
December 13th, 2010 3:58 PM | by Jennifer Welsh in Physics & Math, Technology

"Last week the Navy took its best shot – and it was a doozy. The shot, fired on December 10th, broke the world record for the most powerful shot, as the 23-pound aluminum projectile rocketed out of the Navy's electromagnetic railgun at a reported speed of Mach 7, or seven times the speed of sound."

Awesome doesn't begin to describe this feat. When this technology becomes field operational it will have a serious impact on the battlefield.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The wind is no longer at Voyager’s back

The wind is no longer at Voyager's back
December 13th, 2010 3:13 PM | by Phil Plait in Cool stuff, Space

"But now, after 33 years, that has changed: at 17 billion kilometers (10.6 billion miles) from the Sun, the spacecraft has reached the point where the solar wind has slowed to a stop. Literally, the wind is no longer at Voyager’s back."

This is a distance that is mind boggling. That is 515,151,515.1K a year; 1,410,407.98K a day; or just under 58,767K an hour. Thirty-three years at nearly sixty thousand kilometers an hour and we've barely left our own neighborhood.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Czech "peter meter" test for gay asylum seekers slammed by EU

Czech "peter meter" test for gay asylum seekers slammed by EU
Andrea James at 7:16 AM Thursday, Dec 9, 2010

"If you think a TSA grope is bad, gay men seeking asylum in the Czech Republic are forced to drop their pants and get hooked up to a penile plethysmograph to find out just how gay they are. After the "peter meter" device is attached to their penises, they are subjected to all kinds of pornography to see what happens to their junk. This test then determines if they can seek asylum."

This is a multiple reminder of how great it is in the US. We complain about the TSA pat-down when others are forced to endure much worse. Second, we are in the middle of a debate for the rights of gays to marry when gays in other countries are lucky if they aren't killed or imprisoned. I am, and have been for a long time, a supporter of gay rights. But every so often it is sobering to see how much better the situation is in our little corner of the planet.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Got Game: How to Keep Girls Interested in Computer Science

Got Game: How to Keep Girls Interested in Computer Science
By Suzie Boss 12/9/10

"When the regular school day ends at Maryland's Springbrook High School, the fun begins in earnest for girls who are part of an after-school club that focuses on game programming. They not only excel at technology challenges, says their teacher, Pat Yongpradit, but they are breaking a longstanding -- and worrisome -- trend in the field of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). Instead of avoiding higher-level classes in computer science, these girls are signing up in droves."

This is a great program that more schools should be implementing. Getting girls involved in STEM is, in my view, a critical need. Recent studies have shown that girls are not inherently inferior to boys when it comes to the "hard sciences." They may, in fact, be inherently better. The biggest impediment for girls are the social biases most cultures have. Even now, ten years into the 21st century, in the US, there is still a cultural bias that penalizes smart girls. It is getting better, slowly. To slowly, in my opinion. Luckily, there are a number of places on the web where girls can find like minded peers. . .
These sites aren't just for girls, though.  Anyone who likes anything related to techieness[1] will find all kinds of fun and interesting things there, regardless of gender.

[1] Yes, I made that up

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Belmont faces criticism for gay coach's departure

Belmont faces criticism for gay coach's departure
By TERESA M. WALKER, AP Sports Writer – Wed Dec 8, 9:54 pm ET

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – "Students at Belmont University protested the departure of the women's soccer coach again on Wednesday, calling on the school to make amends after her players say she was let go for telling them she is expecting a child with her same-sex partner."

Someday someone is going to explain to me why the hell people care about who others are sleeping with. And I'm not talking about fabricated nonsense like the rhetoric spouted by the pseudo-religious zealots. I want a honest, meaningful, rational reason. But I think that is where the problem lies. There is nothing rational about hate.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Sexism in the Open Source world

Recently, I ran across a number of great posts about women in the open source world that, realistically, could be extended into the entire tech industry. I encourage everyone to read them -
I have been in the tech industry for almost 30 years. I've seen this kind of behavior and, to my regret, been an occasional party to some of it in my much younger days. As a male techie, I realize where this comes from. However, it doesn't take much for any person to overcome these kind of actions and reactions. There truly is no reason for women to be seen as anything less than the great minds and quality techies that they are.

Due to this behavior, some have come up with an "Example anti-harassment policy for conferences." This is a good place to start to try and squash this scourge from our industry.