I suppose I'm in the minority here. I want to work on some website updates, but I can't, because my host's SSH and SFTP servers are down for maintenance. Thats fine, I can configure a PHP script for doing photo galleries, "Gallery":http://gallery.menalto.com, I was going to set up for Madalene. Oops, no dice, "Sourceforge":http://sourceforge.net is down for maintenance too, so I can't download the scripts. And with Sourceforge down, I can't commit any changes for "iScrobbler":http://audioscrobbler.sf.net/iscrobbler.php either. Nor can I check out the XMMS code I wanted to look at.
I suppose I'll just have to 'relax' or something. What do you people DO on a Sunday afternoon?
Sunday 30 Mar 2003 |
Sam | Metacrap, Rants
Madalene and I briefly visited a graduate student organized event on campus that featured beer, Indian food, a DJ, and free tickets to a premier of a movie Madalene wants to see. The beer cooler was looking mighty lonely, since there were two kegs that were getting all the love. So I drank a beer from the cooler. Then we had to go grocery shopping, so I grabbed a second beer for later. We shopped, and I picked up pita bread and a tub of scallion hummus. I also have a little habit eating a single olive from their olive bar every time I go to the store.
So I get home, eat some hummus, drink that other beer, and approach Madalene for a hug. Instantly she shrinks away, moving as far from me as possible. Thats when I realized that I had been drinking beer, eating onion and garlic hummus and that olive. I don't smell nice at all. So I understand her reluctance to approach me. Nothing left to do but drown my sorrows in more hummus. So yummy...
Sunday 30 Mar 2003 |
Sam | Uncategorized
Here are some photos from recent events that I hadn't gotten around
to downloading from Madalene's camera yet. I hope you'll find them
interesting. Beware that the high-rez images are quite large, over 200k,
and 1280X1024 resolution. I'm always annoyed when I see a cool photo
online, but can't get in to see some detail. The flower picture could
also be suitable for desktops, which you are more than welcome to do,
should it strike your fancy.
The first photo is from the other day when Madalene's Japanese Acacia
began to bloom. She bought the acacia last year at a bonsai dealer as a
'starter'. They sell seedlings and cuttings that are healthy, but
untrained and unpotted, ripe for training as bonsai, or just growing as
nice small plants. We potted it in a blue oval ceramic pot, and it has
been doing very well since then. It didn't flower last year, which
disappointed us, but a few weeks ago I noticed a few flower buds. Now
there are quite a few buds, and this one glorious open flower. There is
a really nice sense of satisfaction that comes from nurturing a plant to
the point where it feels comfortable enough to flower. (high
Here is another image, from a wider point of view. The plant is quite
small still, yet there are lots of buds appearing. Acacia's often bloom
quite vigorously, in some cases covering the entire plant with flowers,
which makes for a striking display. (high rez)
The following photos are from March 14th, when we celebrated Pi
day by making
Pizza Pi's and a Key Lime Pi. This first photo is of our Key Lime Pi,
emblazoned with the greek symbol we use to describe the fantastic and
enigmatic number. In case you are wondering, the reason the pie is
orange, and not green, is that when we pulled out the food colorings, we
decided that it would be boring to make the pie green like everyone
else, so we made it orange instead. (high rez)
This is Dennis's Pizza Pi, which uses bell peppers to make the symbol
of the number were were celebrating. That pizza also got more cheese,
more peppers, mushrooms, onions, pineapple and mandarin oranges added to
it before baking. I call the combination the "big kahuna" and its very
tasty. They come out a bit moist, but the taste combination is
excellent. If you are into the whole "eating dead animals" thing, you
might like it with canadian bacon as well. The high rez version shows me
off to the side dutifully cutting peppers. (high
Caroline also made a pizza, but instead of following along with us,
she decided to buck the trend and make her pizza a tribute to another
number, that being The Sign of the Beast. I don't know what it is, but
there is something really funny about food that has The Sign of the
Beast scrawled on it. Plus Caroline is so proud of herself, you can't
help but laugh. That pizza ended up with more peppers, more cheese, and
mushrooms on it. (high rez)
Wednesday 26 Mar 2003 |
Sam | Personal
I've noticed a sentiment appearing in a few places that has me a bit puzzled. That sentiment is that discussion about the war on Iraq, and any pro-peace discussion, is somehow insulting to the people participating in the fighting, and that it is no longer appropriate. People who originally seemed open minded about the war, and willing to discuss anti-war options in an intelligent manner now seem reluctant to do so. I see people closing the comments on their blogs and discussion boards, and MTV Europe is, _under mandate_ from the "ITC":http://www.itc.org.uk/index.asp, "censoring their playback of music videos":http://www.drownedinsound.com/article.php?id=6474 that contain "representations of war, soldiers, bombing, destruction of buildings and public unrest at home" due to "heightened sensitivity."
Its been explained to me that it insults the soldiers and their families to suggest that they don't need to be there, that they are risking their lives for nothing. What puzzles me though is that it doesn't seem to be insulting for us to stand by and say, "You just stay out there in the desert risking your life, until we tell you to come back." If someone is out in the desert waiting to die, and you believe that they shouldn't have to be there, then it is your duty as a compassionate human being to do everything in your power to get them out of there. War is not a time to _stop_ struggling for peace, its a time to struggle even harder.
There seems to be a rationalization for war that follows the conceptual line of, "The soldiers are brave and strong, and they are willing to die to protect us! We should respect that courage by sending them out to fight." I seem to hear this all the time. I took a class recently with a guy in the Army Reserves. He was dreading a war. He didn't want to go out and be expected to kill, and possibly be killed. His sentiment seems to be common. The soldiers might be willing, which is admirably courageous, but most of them probably don't _want_ to be out there. What about their families and friends? Do you think the mother's of those soldiers want them out in the desert rather than back at home? I seriously doubt it.
War is hell. If you don't believe that then you have watched too many Clint Eastwood movies, and haven't read enough about Vietnam, World Wars I and II, Hiroshima, the Serbian conflict, and thousands of other bloody, hellish conflicts. When you resign yourself to war, and agree to be complacent and let it go on as long as the president pleases, then you are condemning those soldiers you claim to be 'honoring' to a hateful life in the desert. You treat them like expendable thugs when you say, "I'm not going to bother arguing for peace anymore, I'm going to just let you stay out there."
I can't stand hearing all the, "Lets not say anything bad about the war, we have to be sensitive" talk out there right now. Anyone who respects human life will do whatever they can to prevent war. Even those who believe war is necessary to deal with Saddam should agree that ending the war in the fastest way, by whatever means, be it victory in battle or some democratic end, is the most sane and preferable solution, and that discussing ways to end the war, including democratic 'pro-peace' solutions, should be a priority. War is not a time to stop trying to end it.
Tuesday 25 Mar 2003 |
Sam | Rants
I know its silly, but today I celebrate the birthday of Mac OS X, one of the most innovative and powerful operating systems of recent years. OS X 10.0 was released two years ago today, and its been nothing but improvements since then. Thanks, Apple, for a quality product, and the only operating system I've ever felt compelled to purchase my own copy of (excepting a CD of FreeBSD I bought for 10 bucks long, long ago, when my internet connection was too slow to download it). Here is to another year of improvements and creativity!
Monday 24 Mar 2003 |
Sam | Announcements, Apple
Last night I enjoyed a few sets of Grateful Dead tribute band "The Schwag":http://www.theschwag.com at a local roller skating rink. It took everyone back to elementary school skate party time, except instead of insipid pop tunes streaming from the crappy sound system driven by a surly, pimply faced disc-jockey (if he could even be called such), we had the lively and improvisational stylings of The Schwag's original music as well as covers of the Grateful Dead.
I borrowed Madalene's rollerblades (which can be accurately called such without diluting trademarks, because they are in fact, Rollerblade(R) Brand Inline Skates). I had a pair of skates many years ago, but I grew out of them, and never bothered to replace them. I had forgotten how much fun it is to skate, and while I was a little wobbly at first, I had my confidence back in no time. Just like that operating that other proverbial wheeled vehicle, once you learn, you never seem to forget. I went with Billy, who is a competent skater (who even plays roller-hockey now and again) and his friend from out of town, Jason, who, like me, hadn't skated in a very long time. We stayed until about 2:30am-ish, and then headed back to Billy's to rest up from an evening of skating.
This evening's plans involve a trip to the nearby auditorium to see Dennis perform in another music ensemble. Very entertaining. I need to get dressed, and I'm not sure where Madalene is at, hopefully she comes back in time for the concert.
Speaking of Madalene, I have some excellent news to report. She presented a poster about her current eye lens replacement research at a graduate student symposium, and won First Prize out of the entire college of Engineering! She was nervous, but I had told her that her research was good, her data interesting, her poster professional and clear, and her speaking presence confident. Turns out I was proved right. She walked away with a small cash prize (which will probably be transformed into a ticket to the "Michigan Womyn's Music Festival":http://www.michfest.com), but more importantly, a great start to her research career. Three huzzahs for Madalene!
Sunday 23 Mar 2003 |
Sam | Announcements, Personal
There has been worldwide uprising against the war in Iraq. Each opposer of the war fights it in their own way, and I thank everyone who takes the extra time and energy to make their impression. Today I'd like to give special props to someone who can make an impression in an amazing way, Saul Williams.
Saul Williams is a legend of hip hop, and an amazing poet. In concert with "Coldcut":http://www.ninjatune.net/ninja/artist.php?id=3, "DJ Spooky":http://www.egs.edu/djspooky.html, DJ Goo, "Ninja Tunes":http://www.ninjatune.com and No Man's Land Radio, he has released a single entitled "Not in My Name", which will be available on CD and vinyl shortly.
The album contains four excellent songs of protest, as well as remixes by DJ Spooky, Coldcut and DJ Goo. Don't miss the live No Man's Land track! You can also download the entire
single, as well as live radio presentations, in mp3 form on the website "NotInOurNameMusic.com":http://www.notinournamemusic.com and I highly recommend that everyone go download these tracks, as they are a powerful form of expression, and are suitable for blasting loudly and proudly. The track "Pledge of Resistance" comes in an acapella form, suitable for remixing and DJ sets (DJs should get this on vinyl as soon as it comes out), as well as mixes by Coldcut, DJ Spooky and DJ Goo. All very good.
So thanks to everyone who stands up against war, and a special thanks today to Saul Williams and crew for creating and freely giving this album to the world.
Saturday 22 Mar 2003 |
Sam | Uncategorized
This year I'm invoking a late New Year's Resolution (which is fine, seeing as how I didn't make any at New Year's anyway), and resolving to make it to Burning Man finally, after roughly 3 years of trying and getting sidetracked/running out of money/needing to move cross-country/etc. How am I going to get there? Undecided. How am I going to afford it? Well, now that I have a job, I have until August to save up. Maybe someone wants to give me a birthday (Aug. 14th) present to help? Also, my tax refund this year leaves room for my regular plan of donating some to good causes, and still leaves enough for a Burning Man ticket. Once I have the ticket, I can't back down, so it should provide some good impetus to save carefully until then. Also stating my goal publicly like this helps me stay focused. Must focus. Anyway, assuming all goes well, I'll be seeing you at Burning Man
Friday 21 Mar 2003 |
Sam | Personal
I enjoy eating with chopsticks. One reason I like them is that they make me more mindful of my food, by forcing me to slow down a bit, and grab each item of food individually. One Buddhist concept is that of 'mindfulness' where being aware of your surroundings and your interactions with your surroundings is encouraged. The food you eat is a very critical part of your day, and what you eat can affect the health of your body as well as your mind. When we shovel food down as fast as possible, we aren't being mindful of what we are eating. We aren't paying attention to it, enjoying it, or taking the time to really experience eating. This isn't a good habit, so things that help you slow down can be nice.
Chopsticks require modest concentration, and are best suited to picking up each piece of food separately. While some people can certainly eat very fast with them, they aren't well suited to 'shoveling' your food down with the same voracity as say, a large fork. Each bite of food is distinct, and can be contemplated and enjoyed on its own merits. A bit of pepper, a piece of tofu, a slice of carrot, each one comes to you, presents itself, and proceeds to be eaten. You are very aware of what you are eating.
I think everyone should try using chopsticks at least some of the time. There is some food it is better suited to than others, but most foods can be enjoyed with chopsticks. Eating with one's fingers is also a good way to better experience one's food. Far from being a childish game, this is actually the custom in parts of the world, namely India and Ethiopia. If anyone has any other interesting ways to make their eating experience more mindful, I'd love to hear about it.
Friday 21 Mar 2003 |
Sam | Waxing Philosophical
Ever want a simple way to put your SETI(Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) stats on your webpage? Well, now that SETI@home is publishing personal stats in XML(eXtensible Markup Language) form, its easy to put your stats on your page, in a highly configurable way, using this little PHP(PHP Hypertext Preprocessor) script!
The following script: Seti Display Script
parses the XML files provided by SETI@home, and provides tons of data about your stats, easy configuration, and features like adjustable caching to prevent hammering the SETI servers. Installation instructions are in the header of the PHP file, and should be pretty simple. The script was based on Phil Ringnalda's excellent "PHP Blogroll":http://www.philringnalda.com/phpblogroll/ script.
Update: Bigmad_drongo has cooked up a similar script
that does about the same thing!
Tuesday 18 Mar 2003 |
Sam | Web Development
The previous evening's revelry with Billy and Friends left me with quite the headache this morning. However, we still took the time to make a nice scoot through the park in the wonderful weather. After getting home, I promptly caught up on a few emails, took some Ibuprofen, and settled down on the couch to watch "Princess Mononoke." I think I'm going to go to bed now.
Sunday 16 Mar 2003 |
Sam | Personal
Update: My computer has been dragged to its knees by the C program "Roy Williams' pi to arbitrary precision":http://www.cacr.caltech.edu/~roy/upi/pi.txt which uses Machin's formula, π/4 = 4*arctan(1/5) - arctan(1/239). It has spent the last two hours working on calculating π to 1,000,000 digits, and I don't know how much longer it will take. 10,000 digits took only a few minutes. However, it felt good to know that while we were eating Pizza πs and Key Lime πs, the computer was celebrating in its own special way. Pictures of the π pizza and π pie are forthcoming.
As many of you may know, today is March 14th, or 3/14, or... 3.14 ~= π! Today is the day to celebrate the goodness that is the number π (aka, Pi).
The most common definition of π is the following familiar equation: π = A/r^2 where A is the area of a circle, and r is the radius of said circle.
You may have seen it written like this: A = πr^2 in school, when using it to calculate the area of circles.
The number is very old, and was known in its significance by the Egyptians and the Babylonians, though their calculations weren't as accurate as ours. The Babylonians considered π equivalent to 3 1/8 = 3.125, and the Egyptians had the more difficult to use, and slightly less accurate approximation of 4*(8/9)^2 ~= 3.160484.
π is an infinite decimal, meaning that as you calculate π, you will never find a repeating string of digits. The number never stops, you can continue to add digits forever. This isn't just shown by experiment, in 1768 Johann Lambert proved mathematically that a repeating pattern can never exist.
π shows up in some amazing places, like probability, and the "famous five" equation that combines 5 of the most unique and key constants in mathematics: e^(i*π) + 1 = 0
e is the base of the natural log, and another infinite decimal, which is approximately equal to 2.71828, and is found all over, especially when studying growth or decay (including compound interest at the bank), the statistical "bell curve" functions, and the shape of suspended wires, or the shape of arch's like St. Louis' own Gateway Arch). E is just about as amazing as π, but we'll talk more about it later, since today is π's day.
i is the so called "imaginary number" and is equal to the square root of -1. The astute among you will remember that it is impossible to take the square root of a negative number, because any number multiplied by itself equals a positive number. The explanation for i then is that it isn't a real number. The "real number set" is defined most generally as all the numbers you are probably familiar with. Negative numbers, zero, positive numbers. Number like π and e are considered real numbers, as are fractions. Basically, imagine an infinitely long number line, with zero in the middle. Any number that can be found on that line is a "real" number. You won't find i on that line anywhere, because there is another number line, perpendicular to the real numbers, that contains i. It is a difficult concept, but is crucial to mathematics. i is the most clearly defined imaginary number, and is used to build other imaginary numbers, like 3i, or πi.
1 and 0 you are familiar with, but they are still crucial to mathematics, despite being some of the very first numbers you learn as a child. In fact, the reason you learn them early on, is that you find them everywhere, from the simplest calculations to the most complex number theory. 1 and 0, indicating the most basic form of "somethingness" and "nothingness" respectively, are key to mathematics.
People have calculated π out to billions of digits. Here are a bunch of digits of π:
All in all, π is a pretty cool thing. To celebrate π, Dennis will be bringing over beer, and we'll make a pizza π, and watch the movie π, and maybe eat a key lime π, and maybe even calculate some digits of π. Cool, huh?
Friday 14 Mar 2003 |
Sam | Misc. Technical, Personal
I'm tentatively hired at a local science museum! They can't legally offer me the job until HR clears me, makes sure I'm not a multiple felon, makes sure I'm legal to work, etc, but I'm 99% certain that I've got the job, and its very exciting! The job consists of giving fun science demos and shows to kids and adults, helping with tabletop science experiments, and walking around the gallery asking people stimulating questions about the exhibits. The mission of the museum, which I would be entrusted with on a day to day basis, is making people excited about science, and keep learning about it fun and stimulating. Basically, my dream job. It doesn't pay a whole lot, and it doesn't have a lot of hours, but boy, it looks like a really fun, interesting job.
Its like the Simpsons episode where Homer quits his job at the power-plant to do what he always dreamed of doing. Work as a pin-monkey at a bowling alley. Now, some might feel that my dream job is a bit more refined, but its the same idea. Shrug off the shackles of your drudgerous work-a-day job, and go do what you really want to do! Now, I probably couldn't get away with this if I had kids or a big expensive car to pay off, but as a reasonably frugal person without a family to support, I'm in dream job city. Of course, it has taken me 4 months to find my dream job, which I couldn't have gotten away with if it weren't for the assistance of friends and family, but its finally looking like it'll pay off.
In other news, I'm getting a tax refund, and the original scooter thief is finally going to trial. Everything is comin' up Sam!
Thursday 13 Mar 2003 |
Sam | Personal
As some of you may remember, I had a night "several weeks ago":http://www.flexistentialist.org/archives/000194.shtml where I had terrible gas all night long. I had to get up every few minutes to keep from stinking up the whole bed. I had surmised that beer was to blame, since my father has been known to develop beer-related gas. However, much experimenting had yielded no conclusive results.
Well last night I suffered a repeat of the phenomenon! This time, I may have found a positive correlation between the two events. Dennis had come over with his new girlfriend Barb, and we went out to eat together. I had a portabella mushroom sandwich for dinner, along with some root beer. Then we came home and watched a fabulous movie called "The Price of Milk":http://us.imdb.com/Title?0249893 which is a delightful and incredibly unique movie from New Zealand about a dairy farmer, his girlfriend, and a mysterious family known only as 'The Jacksons.' The movie is a sort of modern fairy tale, with absurd humor, lessons about love, and hundreds of tiny shoes. The movie has been described as "The Princess Bride on acid," a summary I find reasonably accurate. Either way, I highly recommend "The Price of Milk."
Anyway, back to the farting! That fateful night several weeks ago when I suffered the same gas, I had eaten, you guessed it, a portabella mushroom sandwich! Now, it would be unfortunate if the mushrooms were giving me gas, but it is plausible. I'm planning some controlled experiments to see if I can duplicate the gas using a mushroom sandwich. Madalene won't be happy about it, but its a worthy sacrifice in the name of science. Stay tuned for more!
Monday 10 Mar 2003 |
Sam | Personal
I'm currently going through and categorizing every last one of my posts. Why go to such horrifying extremes, as to slog through page after page of entries, pigeonholing each and every one? Well, the reasons will soon be obvious. When I'm done categorizing them, I can implement new features, like browsing and searching by category. Couldn't care less about computers? Well you'll be able to leave out all the computer related posts! Love my witty rants? Well they'll all be collected into one nice little place. How exciting!
Monday 10 Mar 2003 |
Sam | Metacrap