"The Barack Obama of automobiles"

07/05/08 | by Adam | Categories: Technology

Link: http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200807/general-motors

The header is an interesting quote from the Atlantic's article on the Chevrolet Volt, GM's answer to the hybrid. What's interesting about it -- and what I didn't realise -- is that Chevy is attempting to invert the usual hybrid electrical/gas relationship. Instead of primarily being a petrol-based vehicle with an electrical assist, Chevrolet is going for an electric vehicle with a gasoline generator for longer distance driving.

I wish them well.


The Hubble Telescope's "Pillars of Creation"

07/04/08 | by Adam | Categories: Technology

Link: http://harvardmagazine.com/2008/07/eye-on-the-universe.html

The Harvard Magazine has a good write-up on the Hubble Telescope and includes a couple of photos. One of the photos is a stunning picture of "The Pillars of Creation" in the Eagle Nebula. The explanatory text says:

This is a ghost image of a past cosmic disaster that we won’t see here on Earth for another thousand years or so—and a perfect example of the fact that everything we see in the universe is history.

This has me scratching my head. I -- more or less -- get the relativity angle in that it takes time for light to reach Earth across the magnitudes of space and therefore when we see something it means it's already long since happened. What I don't understand is the implication how we can see a ghost image before we see the real thing? With the speed of light being the limiting factor, how can we see results before the original happening?

I've run up against a similar "I don't get it" before. Back in 1999, Alan Parsons released a quite good album called "The Time Machine" which included the following narration from Professor Frank Close (www.theavenueonline.info/site3/lyrics/temporal.htm):

When you look out into the night sky, and you see the stars far away, you're seeing them because of the light that has traveled from them to you.

But it takes time for the light to travel here. So what we're doing is seeing the stars as they were in the past, in the amount of time it has taken for the light to reach us. The further, and further away the stars are, the further back in time we're looking.

Now we're seeing a star that, let's say, is 6,000 years ago. Imagine somebody on that star looking at us. They would be seeing us as we were 6,000 years ago.

Which of those two is "now"?

So space and time are linked together. We are looking across the space, we are looking back in time.

It's the "now" question and explanation that bothers me. Just because I can't see what you're doing for a bit, and you can't see what I'm doing for a bit, it doesn't mean that what I'm doing happens when you observe it or vice versa. Therefore "now" is not relative but absolute as otherwise there's a wonderful paradox going on. This is probably why I'm not a physicist; there are just some things I simply cannot get my mind around.

Anyway, for a rather more prosaic example of observation and the speed of information, take a look at this article on the firing gun giving a measurable advantage to sprinters marginally closer to it. (Via Kottke)


Jim Prentice's Stampede breakfast

07/03/08 | by Adam | Categories: Copyright

Link: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=17795093906

...may not be quite as cordial as he'd like, but the Children's Cottage Society should probably do well out of it.

(Via Michael Geist)


Should Microsoft pull an Apple-style architecture migration?

07/02/08 | by Adam | Categories: Technology

Link: http://db.tidbits.com/article/9674?rss

An interesting article from TidBITS suggesting that perhaps it's time for Microsoft to rebuild their operating system from the ground up in order to handle performance and stability issues.

The argument for the feasibility of this: Apple has successfully done it three times in the last fifteen years.

The instigator for the article appears to be one from the New York Times which is also worth reading (via Daring Fireball).


Happy Canada Day!

07/01/08 | by Adam | Categories: Canadian

Celebrate Canada's birthday! Enjoy yourselves.


The Impasse

07/01/08 | by Nimble | Categories: Religion, Science

Despite all the labels and posturing and rationalizations, when it comes down to why evolution is a particular target for many of the Christian (as well as Jewish and Muslim, though we hear less of those perspectives here), it is relatively simple, and to be found in a few short paragraphs in an exchange on Conservapedia...

Full story »


Bishop's University has a new principal

06/30/08 | by Adam | Categories: Silly

Link: http://www.cnw.ca/fr/releases/archive/June2008/27/c8649.html?view=print

After the somewhat unfortunate affair of staff striking over the choices made by its then-principal, Robert Poupart, Bishop's University in Quebec now has a new one. I have no comment on this since I only met Poupart once (he seemed a decent fellow at the time) and don't know the replacement at all.

What I do have a comment on is this:

"The Search Committee was unanimous in its recommendation to the Bishop's
community and the Corporation," said Dr. Robert "Squee" Gordon, President of
the Corporation (Board) and Chair of the Search Committee.

"Squee"? What grown man, especially with a doctorate, calls himself "Squee" on a press release about a university appointment?

(Update (08/07/01): Paul Wells of Macleans likes the new hire.)


Laurell Hamilton's "Anita Blake" books

06/29/08 | by Adam | Categories: Reviews

Link: http://penny-arcade.com/comic/2008/6/2/

The comedians over at Penny Arcade nail this one. Well, almost.

My personal suggestion for similar genre reading after the Blake novels get a bit much is to try Karen Chance's "Cassandra Palmer" series or Jim Butcher's most excellent "Dresden Files" series. That said, the last time I popped into Chapters/Indigo I saw the style pretty much monopolizing the fantasy section. There's lots of choice now but I imagine most will, um, what's the word, bite.


The end of the commercial banana

06/28/08 | by Adam | Categories: Calgary

Link: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/18/opinion/18koeppel.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

Interesting article on the banana from the New York Times covering its history (political, genetic) and future (environmental, political, genetic.)

(Via Matthew Yglesias)


Apparently I really am a financial naif

06/27/08 | by Adam | Categories: Whining

Recently I changed from using a no-frills low-interest Visa card to one that apparently had a few benefits built into it. It seemed reasonable to me as I never leave a balance month-to-month so I might was well see some other benefits.

Full story »



06/26/08 | by Adam | Categories: Copyright, Games

Link: http://torrentfreak.com/crazy-video-game-drm-prism-1980s-style-080617/

I had completely forgotten about this innovative and utterly daft piece of DRM technology form the early '80s. Fortunately it was quite expensive and unreliable so it was quickly dumped for the cheaper black-text-on-red-paper word lookup solution. I didn't like that one either.

The most amusing variation was that of "Birds Of Prey" for the Amiga wherein an incorrect entry made possible by a hacked binary resulted in unstable aircraft handling that became progressively worse the longer the game was played. I guess it was sort of like a demo-mode but for the pirates it made for a very time-consuming experience to ensure that their crack was 100% complete...

(Via BoingBoing)


Plagiarism in the games industry

06/25/08 | by Adam | Categories: Games

Link: http://www.gameplasma.com/limbo_of_the_lost_or_oblivion/

A games development house in the UK put out a point'n'click Myst-like adventure game that curiously resembled the in-game graphics of a number of other major releases. They've since been called on it

What I don't get is how they expected such blatant pilfering to go unnoticed; I mean, when you're grabbing the art from "Oblivion" and "Unreal Tournament 2004" you're choosing some of the most prominent games in the last five years as your source...

(Via The Register)


Rules lawyers and the Joy Of Cooking

06/24/08 | by Adam | Categories: Silly

Link: http://www.wired.com/culture/lifestyle/commentary/alttext/2008/06/alttext_0618

Anyone who has played a game -- particularly tabletop RPGs or boardgames -- knows that there'll be some pillock who knows exactly how to manipulate the written word of the rules to work exactly how they need.

Now imagine that applied to cooking...


Evidence-Based Graphology

06/24/08 | by Nimble | Categories: Distractions, Common Sense, Science

I have a small passel of graphology books. They were fun, especially when I was younger and wanted to see whether my peculiarities of handwriting were "good" or "bad", and was indeed happy with the bevy of "good" signs.

Revisiting the craft, though, the claims seem puffed up, and worse, in a way, is that it is deeply steeped (the material I have, at least) in simplistic Freudian terms: the upper zone is the superego, the middle zone the ego, the lower zone the id, left-leaning is maternal influences, and lots and lots of sexual issues.

When I went poking around looking for an evidence-based graphology, I got by and large two things: places (e.g. here) that purported graphology to be evidence-based, but that looked quacky (e.g. it's evidence-based, but just for fun you could find out if your wife is pregnant with a boy or a girl?!), and those (e.g. here) that skeptical of the whole enterprise with links to some studies of existing graphology methods that showed them in rather a bad light.

I'm inclined to think that there are bucketloads of chaff in graphological methods. There seem to be some general correspondences, but they are the sort of thing that the untrained eye can certainly see.

If current graphology methods are bogus, it would be nice to be able to start from the ground up and get some evidence-based correlation checks going on.

Not just taking current methods and seeing whether they stack up. Start from scratch.

Correlating questionnaires and measurable writing characteristics may find something, little or nothing.

Either we fix graphology or consign it to the entertainment heap along with the other forms of fortune-telling.


Roomba and pets

06/23/08 | by Adam | Categories: Silly, YouTube

Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kAGZwGgQZR0

Nice little video on Gizmodo's page (itself linking to the Wall Street Journal article) about trying to get pets and Roombas to co-exist. Given I have both at the moment, it amused me.

(Via Gizmodo)


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