Evolution, Alberta and Headdesk Denyse - Part I

08/20/08 | by Nimble | Categories: Thoughts, Religion, Science

Rob Breakenridge wrote this article for the Calgary Herald, entitled "What is it about evolution theory that Albertans don't get?" in response to this Angus Reid poll. On the third page of the poll results, there is a percentage, by region, of the percentage of people surveyed whose views came closest to one of the following statements:

  • Human beings evolved from less advanced life forms over millions of years
  • God created human beings in their present form within the last 10,000 years
  • Not sure

Alberta was the embarrassing outlier in this poll, with only 37% of respondents going with the first option (the next lowest was Atlantic Canada with 56%) and 40% going with the second (almost double the 22% of the next highest three regions).

Breakenridge mulls over the problem and, apart from the general pro-evolution point of view, says something that is sure to bring a certain type of folk out of the woodwork:

Furthermore, although Alberta's model of school choice is commendable, is may also be a source of the problem.

Alberta taxpayers should not be subsidizing pseudoscience and religious dogma masquerading as legitimate curriculum.

The government recently announced an increase in per-capita funding to private schools, providing those schools meet a specific set of criteria. That criteria should include a ban on the teaching of creationism and its gussied up offspring, Intelligent Design.

Full story »


Greatest video evar!

08/14/08 | by Adam | Categories: Silly, YouTube

Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xpcUxwpOQ_A

Beaker from the Muppets does all of the parts of Ode to Joy solo. I can't find words to emphasize how good this is.


Tim McLean's Funeral Unmolested

08/10/08 | by Nimble | Categories: Thoughts, Common Sense, Religion

Tim McLean, the victim in the horrible stabbing/beheading incident on Greyhound, was being targeted by the clan at the odious Westboro Baptist Church of "God Hates Fags" fame as a protest site against Canada in general that the grisly murder was an act of retribution by God.

One of the purported two groups of the church's members attempting entry into Canada was stopped at the border, which was alerted to the group's intentions, and turned back. Another was, if Shirley Phelps-Roper's claims are true, able to make it into the country by couriering their protest signs in separately.

That said, they were either unsuccessful in making it all the way there, or they had second thoughts about their safety in a familiar-looking but foreign country. It looks like the service started without protest.

Kudos to the 250+ people ready to shield family members from any such crass protest, and for mourning with the family.


Upgraded Blog Software

08/02/08 | by Nimble | Categories: Announcements [A]

I finally got a little headspace to upgrade the b2evolution software from 1.8.1RC all the way up to 2.4.2. The upgrade scripts worked impressively; kudos to the b2evolution team for not leaving out those of us who were 21 versions behind :)

It certainly looks niftier from the administration and author side. There is not quite as much new in the regular user interface, but I have pulled down a few more new skins for you to play with.

The new version of b2evolution also had some sample pages for accessing the blogs more directly, which will be nice if any of us want to post just their personal page. Instead of using the blog ID, which can change, I have three direct links for my, Dena's and Adam's blog.

Let me know if you trip across anything not working as advertised!

Hmmm... the blogroll seems to be fouled up; I can't find anything in the forums that gives very good instructions on how to clean it up... I'll try again tomorrow.


US Customs/DHS have the right to seize laptops at the border

08/01/08 | by Adam | Categories: Technology

Link: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/content/article/2008/08/01/laptops.html?hpid=topnews

Well, it's been an unofficial option for the American customs for a while now but its documented:

they can take your laptop, or anything else, for no reason at all, forever, and disclose anything they find to anyone they feel like:

That's a remarkably broad mandate.

(Via BoingBoing; also via The Register)


Baby Friendly Fun Time at the Kinjo!

07/30/08 | by dena | Categories: Hoots, Raves

Friday last week was the possession date of my now-sold-money-in-hand townhouse, and when I went with Axel to pick up the cheque, I decided to continue on downtown, pick up Ritchie from work, and we all went out to dinner at Japanese restaurant Kinjo to celebrate. :D

Full story »


Yahoo cans their DRM music store

07/29/08 | by Adam | Categories: Copyright

Link: http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20080724-drm-still-sucks-yahoo-music-going-dark-taking-keys-with-it.html

Well, looks like the music industry is demonstrating once again as to why DRM is a bad idea for pretty much everyone involved.

(Via BoingBoing)


GPS location and real arrival times for buses

07/28/08 | by Adam | Categories: Technology

Link: http://www.startribune.com/local/25753804.html

Oh, why couldn't we have this on Calgary transit? Given their propensity for running early, running extremely late or not being run at all in -30 degree weather, I would truly love to know when a bus is going to reach my stop. The current dial-a-schedule is excellent but extremely limited in its use as it's based on a pre-set schedule and not reality.

(Via Atrios)


Reuse versus replacement

07/27/08 | by Adam | Categories: Technology

Link: http://www.preservationnation.org/magazine/2008/january-february/cautionary-tale.html

Link is to an interesting article on the difference between sunk energy values versus sunk economic ones when it comes to buildings. One of the major discussions over environmentally-friendly changes is whether or not the net result is better. In any building there is a fundamental value: it's built. A new one would need to be significantly more energy efficient in order to offset the destruction and replacement costs. Yes, there are externalities. If a building is too costly to maintain and labour and material are cheap, it makes economic sense to replace it. If the building is inappropriate to the wanted use, but is in a required location, it makes business sense to replace it.

Full story »


Recording and geotagging car accidents

07/26/08 | by Adam | Categories: Technology

Link: http://www.brickhousesecurity.com/voyager-car-camera-gps-logger.html

Functionally this devices serves a similar purpose to a police car dashmount: it records what's going on around a period of interest.

Having been involved in a collision, my first reaction on being hit was "What just happened?" shortly after the world stopped spinning around. In that case both vehicles were write-offs and while I was pretty sure I was in the right I wasn't certain. Fortunately in that case there were witnesses who saw the other driver run a red light and my testimony wasn't needed.

Having a camera to record the circumstance would have been nice to have though as there's no guarantee that the next one will be so well observed. Besides, as Wired notes, it can also be used for more entertaining pasttimes such as recording interesting trips.

(Via Wired)


Xkcd on Literary Criticism

07/25/08 | by Adam | Categories: Silly

Link: http://xkcd.com/451/


That said, the English Literature degree was an excellent way of learning bullshit detection for use later in life...


Wired on Facebook

07/24/08 | by Adam | Categories: Technology

Link: http://www.wired.com/culture/lifestyle/news/2008/07/portfolio_0718

Wired has an article commenting on how Facebook is inappropriate for business. I entirely agree; that's why there's also LinkedIn. Similar concept, similar implementation, totally different attitude. You don't tend to mix personal and business in your normal life, so why do it online?



07/23/08 | by Adam | Categories: Macintosh

Recently my preferred OSX-based RSS newsreader, NewsFire, stopped pulling down new articles. I couldn't find anything wrong with its configuration nor was there any apparent problem reported on the net. It seemed to work fine: it would check for updates, display existing articles with graphics and so forth but it simply wouldn't pull down any new articles.

After much faffing about, I found the problem. Or what I think was the problem. I ran out of harddrive space a couple of days ago (hey, it's a laptop) so decided to pull out the PPC code from all of the programs on the harddrive. OSX uses fat binaries which contain both Intel and PPC code so all present-day Macs can use the same software; in theory (hah!) you only need one of the two depending on the architecture of the Mac you're running. Well, Monolingual freed up a lot of space by doing this (which was the goal after all) and everything seemed fine. Until NewsFire.

The solution to the solution is relatively simple: reinstall NewsFire by dragging and dropping a new copy on the one on the harddrive. It's working fine now. I suppose the problem is to find out what other applications now aren't quite running properly.

(Answer: MissingSync and anything with an installer package.)



07/23/08 | by Nimble | Categories: Reviews, Games, Programming, Science

For a fan of biology, as well as of puzzle games in general, this is one of the most amazing things I have seen in a long time.

Now, we already have things like Folding@Home, which is a distributed project that attempts to find low-energy conformations for proteins. Basically, the proteins that we are interested in are just chains of amino acids that get spewed out when DNA is transcribed. The protein "backbones" have side chains, which are just the side bits of the particular amino acid, and they vary in their love of or repulsion to water.

Proteins will settle into shapes that are lower-energy. Finding what those shapes might be so that we can deduce a bit about their function has been the aim of projects like Folding@Home.

Well, what if you took that whole concept and turned it into a game?

Not just a half-arsed game, either, but one with tutorials, warm-up puzzles, online teams and a pretty good interface to boot. It comes in Windows, Mac, and now Linux flavours as well.

That's just crazy nifty. Kudos to the folks who came up with that!

(One note: the link to the Windows version just after I signed up was pointing to the wrong place. I had to get the setup from this link. It's correct on the main page)


Four Minutes

07/22/08 | by Adam | Categories: Technology

Link: http://honeyblog.org/archives/193-Survival-of-the-Fittest.html

According to current studies, the average time for an unhardened Windows PC on the net to be infiltrated is four minutes. It's not actually enough time to download a patch. The linked-to test didn't actually use a Windows box but one that emulated standard weaknesses and calculated when those were used by appropriate attacks. This means there's no specific version of Windows (or service pack) that can be mentioned. There's further analysis in the comments below the main article which expand on some of the grey areas.

The recommendation is to always use a firewall or something that allows out going connections but not incoming until you're absolutely sure it's secure. Other options include going Linux or OSX but that's simply not an option for most people; sticking with the hardware firewall is probably still and always will be the best bet.

(Via The Register)


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