Canada Day Fireworks in Strathmore

07/02/06 | by Nimble | Categories: Distractions

Spending a pretty relaxing evening with the in-laws yesterday, we got out to see the fireworks. They moved it from the nearby pond to a bigger venue, which was understandable given the increasing population of Strathmore, but which robbed us of reflections in the water.

It was a mighty good show, as always. I do wonder whether fireworks technology really has just for some reason really advanced over the past five or ten years, or whether the really cool stuff is getting cheaper, or we're getting richer sponsors, or what have you. There were some very nifty effects on the go.

There were plenty of 'Rice Krispie'-sounding rockets. There were rockets that not only spewed a bright spiral trail on their way up, but had a grand regular fireworks explosion at the top. There was a cluster that burned really brightly on the way down and just lit up the place.

My favourite was one that exploded into some sixteen spinning white "spiral galaxies". They only had the one, though; it must have been pricy.

It's nice when you can get out of Calgary, whose fireworks are often amazing but impossible to get near without hours of advance planning, out to somewhere where it's still possible to park and just walk a couple of blocks, and where the fireworks are still pretty grand :)

 

Scotland Chooses a National Anthem

07/02/06 | by Nimble | Categories: Announcements [A]

Well, no' quite.

It may not be official, but it was chosen in voting run by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra.

They had a choice between:

  • Scots Wha Hae (Scots Who Have)
  • Scotland the Brave (eminently recognizable when played on bagpipes)
  • A Man's a Man (For A' That)
  • Flower of Scotland
  • Highland Cathedral

You can listen to the songs here, but note that they have been strongly... "anthemized" from their originals.

Apparently, they chose Flower of Scotland. Interesting amongst the choices for not being traditional, but being of the modern era originally by the Corries.

I still think they missed a great chance. They should have offered up "Donald, Whaur's Yer Troosers (in English: Donald, Where Are Your Pants?!) as a choice.

I guess it wouldn't have been dignified :)

 

What We Need More Of Is Science

06/30/06 | by Nimble | Categories: Distractions

Link: http://www.newgrounds.com/portal/view/233937

I must say, I just get a kick out of this video (click 'Watch This Movie').

I wonder what Hawking thinks of his icon status.

I'll bet he'd rather just be walking and talking.

(Found out that Hawking thinks it's pretty good Spitting Image-style satire)

 

Future Little Science Experiments

06/21/06 | by Nimble | Categories: Thoughts, Common Sense, Ethics, People

I have a casual plan in mind to call my future children "my little science experiments", with a twinkle in my eye.

It's odd to be contemplating children. I feel at once too young and well past old enough. You know it's an investment. You know your lives are not your own for the next twenty or so years. It will be worth it. Regardless of the mere concept of children, though, you can only be so prepared for the real thing when you finally meet them ;)

Everyone's got plans of some sort or another for their children. Thoughts about how to discipline them, how to bring them up, what battles to fight. I've put a little thought into that so far, and what follows is a perhaps meandering yet representative list of what I plan to do, without yet having the experience of children that may yet render some of my plans moot :)

Full story »

 

Firefly

06/21/06 | by Nimble | Categories: Reviews, Television

Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Firefly_(television_series)

After seeing the movie Serenity, Dena and I decided that we might like to see the series. After picking it up from HMV for a modest $25, we can see now why Firefly fans were choked about the very first season being cancelled when it was. Fox only aired 11 of the 14 episodes, so even those who caught it on TV will find something new here.

This is a smart, puckish, entertaining series. Every bit the charm and wit of the movie based on it.

Set in a future where there are the more established "core worlds" controlled by a somewhat smothering government, and well-to-poorly terraformed planets out on the edges with a very, very "frontier" feel to them, and a lifestyle to match.

To call it "Cowboys in Space" would be tangentially accurate, but doesn't capture the heart of the show.

Having studied Mandarin at university, I get the biggest kick ever out of the sprinkling of Mandarin phrases (sounded like Taiwanese influence) in amongst southern-sounding (e.g. "oughta should") but odd dialected English, with its own vernacular like "shiny" for OK or "sly" for gay.

The writing and the acting are just... smart. It would be hard to portray a captain more human and more loyalty-inspiring than the lead character, Malcolm Reynolds. I can honestly say I don't think I've ever witnessed character dynamics as fascinating on the small screen.

The proof is in the pudding, mind you. We lapped up the entire series over the course of five days, and now... we're just a bit desperate for more. *sigh* If there are signs of them trying to start it up again, count us in.

Highly recommended, even for those who aren't big science fiction fans.

Now, if I can only get the theme song out of my head, I'll be fine.

 

Tir Nanog

06/16/06 | by Nimble | Categories: Thoughts, Science

Link: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nature04914.html

Okay, so the Nature article is a little thick. How about the Register, then?

I've said for a while that embryonic stem cells were likely to be only a temporary stopping point, until we figured out what their "tricks" were, and could apply them to older cells. All of which made embryonic stem cell bans (even private enterprise had to go through incredible hoops to never touch anything 'public' in their research US-side) especially frustrating.

I didn't expect to find out that a bunch of Scotsmen may well have the first steps to that very leapfrogging process. The Nanog gene seems to reset the specialization paths of entire colonies of cells, giving them back their ability to change into multiple kinds of tissue. This may open up a lot of opportunities for therapies.

I'll bet that Nanog operates on histone tails, the bits on a chromosome which physically allow access to the DNA in the chromosome. If it does, I'd be interested in finding out how.

Can always count on the biosciences for a bit of interesting news :)

 

Coulter and Carlin on Leno

06/13/06 | by Nimble | Categories: Announcements [A]

Tomorrow night (June 14th) on Leno: both right-wing hatemonger Ann Coulter and visceral ol' hippy George Carlin will be on.

Will they directly address one another at all? Will they have each other's love children?

I'm going to try to stay conscious for this one, and maybe record it for Dena :)


UPDATE: A little less in the way of sparks flying than I hoped for, but Carlin's a gentleman when it comes to other folks in arm's reach. They only showed a few camera pans when he was on the couch and Coulter was speaking - he seemed grimacy and uncomfortable, but trying to keep up good spirits. Leno asked a few of the hard questions, really seeming to want to get at the bottom of things (e.g. paraphrasing: have you ever been hurt by something someone else said or wrote?) but didn't really get to the bottom of things (e.g. paraphrasing: I was upset when the liberals didn't even get upset at blah). No, Leno, you're nice, but she's just not going to open up to you or anybody else :)

Myself, I keep wondering whether Coulter has that David Brock-esque feeling oppressed by college leftist culture living hypocritically spreading lies because the cause is more important than the truth type of thing going for her. I guess we'll have to wait for the diary after she dies - if someone disarms the self-destruction mechanism ;)
KT Tunstall was on the program - she had a one-man band setup and did a pretty good job. On her guitar was a sticker "This machine eats fascists" (I may only be approximating here). Didn't get to hear much of her Scottish accent, though.

(Dena on KT: She's a music nerd! [referring to her one-man band setup] I love nerds of all sorts!)

I wonder if Carlin will gear himself up for a new rant at all. Moments I am likely reading entirely too much into: near the end of Coulter's rant, he appeared to be trying to keep himself warm. Right at the end of KT's set, he went over and immediately clapped KT appreciatively on the back (for the song, the sticker, or both?). As I say, reading too much in :)


 

The Broken Plate

06/11/06 | by Nimble | Categories: Reviews, Restaurants

This is a fine little restaurant in the northwest of Calgary up by Crowfoot Crossing; a good spot for Greek food. Reservations are recommended for Saturday.

The appetizers were nice; we got the Greek platter, which had dolmades (stuffed grape leaves), keftedes (Greek meatballs), calamari and spanakopita. It's quite a large plate, definitely sufficient for four (unless you're college students), heavy on the calamari.

They seem to specialize in seafood, especially at this time of year. I had the salmon, which comes layered with spinach, spanakopita-style in phyllo pastry. It was good. My wife had the lamb, which was fall-off-the-bone.

Mildly on the pricy side, but not outlandish, especially given the quality of the food.

Apparently, you can break plates there, in a controlled manner. We got to witness such a controlled crash in the corner, but not partake, so I don't know what the real rules are for plate-breaking.

They also have flaming cheese. We were warned that a neighbouring table was about to enjoy this dish, prepared with brandy and flame. The warning was a good thing - there's a big flash of heat that comes off them. One thing that disturbed me was the name of the kind of cheese they use: kefalotiri. Literally, that seems like it would mean "head cheese", but certainly not the way we'd mean it. It's named after a style of hat, it would seem.

 

BrainAge

06/11/06 | by Nimble | Categories: Reviews, Toys

Link: http://www.brainage.com/launch/

I got to play with this oddball gem of a program for the Nintendo DS the other day.

The idea of this program is to help you keep up your prefrontal cortex activity. Dr. Ryuta Kawashima designed it, and I'm guessing it is he that is embodied in the Kryten-like excessively jolly floating head on screen.

Unlike other Nintendo DS games that I've seen, this one is meant to be used left/right, and takes advantage of some rudimentary speech recognition and handprinting recognition as well.

The game leads you through a number of different activities (they emphasize doing different activities), such as having calculations scroll up the left hand side, like 3x0, 15-7, 4+19, and you write in your answers on the right hand side as fast as you can. There's a variation on the old 'actual colour is different from what's printed' game, where you have to speak the colour the word is printed in (so they'll have "Red" in black letters, and you must say "black").

There's a low-to-high game, where you get to see an amount of numbers in varying shapes for two seconds, they disappear and you tick off the boxes in order from what the lowest to highest numbers are (the number of numbers increase as you get things right and decrease as you don't, which can make you crazy :) ). There's also a game in which various numbers of varying colours which may be spinning or pulsing or sliding appear, and the questions vary: "How many red #s are there?", "How many 4s are there?", "How many pulsing numbers are there?" There's a word memorization game in which you're given two minutes to memorize 30 words, and three minutes to write down as many as you can remember.

It's quite an intense brain workout, really :)

One thing I noticed is that they stick entirely to primary colours: there's black, red, blue and yellow. There is no green. I wonder whether this makes it usable by those who are red/green colour-blind?

The best "Brain Age" score you can get is 20 years old. (Everyone starts at 75 at the very beginning; don't be alarmed)

I'm just tickled 'cos I got 21 (and no, that's not easy to get). Booyah! At least my prefrontal cortex is in decent working order; if only the rest of me was :)

This has got to be good for keeping your brain sharp, though. There's a fair bit more depth to it than I got to experience in a single session. If you're retiring, and crossword puzzles aren't your thing, this might do you very well.

Fun.

 

Alternative Cosmology Group

06/11/06 | by Nimble | Categories: Thoughts, Science

Link: http://www.cosmology.info/

What got me going again was someone asking about the source of a very cool dodecahedral WMAP cutout on Vincent Icke's web page.

Well, I thought I'd put my Googling skills to the test again. I didn't find the source, unfortunately, but I was appalled at what I did find: dodecahedral universes - coming out through mainstream channels. Oh boy, the universe could be a soccer ball connected to an infinite number of other soccer balls!

It's funny that alternative cosmology is even called that, when it so often pushes for a rather ordinary view of the cosmos, and considering what passes muster for non-alternative these days ;)

Anyhow, these folks in the Alternative Cosmology Group started out with this Open Letter which was published in New Scientist. Their newsletter isn't much of a newsletter in and of itself: it's mostly links to scholarly papers.

If you can't read a regular astronomy paper, you won't be able to read these either. The papers are interesting, though, if you can slog through them. This one by Glushkov has some strange pieces to it, but the general idea is that if quasars, according to Big Bang Theory, are supposed to be galaxies in the earlier universe, if the Big Bang was smooth, as is also asserted, then the distribution of quasars should be isotropic, that is, basically equal any direction you look. However, they are not.

And so on...

Anyhow, I haven't heard much out of mainstream Big Bang Theory of late. There's one group rehashing Big Bang/Big Crunch. There's another reading more into WMAP data. *sigh* Stagnation punctuated by craziness.

 

Hello Yourself, Moto

06/09/06 | by Nimble | Categories: Announcements [A]

For Dena's birthday, we took the plunge into mobile phonedom.

There have been a few times out on the road where my poor wife has had car troubles, or we've crossed wires, or what have you, so I took her off on the Sunday to get a mobile.

(That, and I think I've finally overcome the association of cell phones with years of being woken up at three in the morning being sworn at by people on rigs needing technical support. Oof, not fun times.)

I got her a black Motorola RAZR, and myself a V317. They had a special on Bluetooth headsets, so we got those, too. Dana Green at the booth at South Centre took care of us very well.

The present came in useful almost immediately. My mother packed up the rest of the house and I drove her up to the airport, with Dena following in the PPE. Once we got up to the airport, Dena lost us behind some pedestrians and couldn't find us again. Talk about timely :)

Full story »

 

The Ideal Lawn for Mowing

06/05/06 | by Nimble | Categories: Thoughts, Common Sense

My Mom at last sold her home where we kids grew up from junior high to high school and a little beyond. It was a little bit of a sentimental occasion, but it's a very nice family from Ireland that's bought the place.

I got to take the old lawnmower for one last test drive. Boy, was that an exercise in frustration :)

Full story »

 

No Free Hunch

05/30/06 | by Nimble | Categories: Thoughts, Religion, Science

In following the "Intelligent Design" debate, when I'm not getting a bit sick to my stomach, I must admit to being thankful for the occasional humourous distraction.

The No Free Hunch list (a take off on Dembski's paper "No Free Lunch", which I've dissected elsewhere) is a great, dripping sarcastic list which despite its humour really does identify what's wrong with Intelligent Design, its proponents and Creationism in its various guises.

Full story »

 

Inventions To Cause The Downfall of Society

05/27/06 | by Nimble | Categories: Distractions, Thoughts, Ethics

I was musing over a theoretical invention that could cause society's downfall. No, it's not telepathy, though I'm sure that would do it.

If there ever was a device that let you hear what people said for the next ten seconds after you hung up the phone, I think that would be enough to do it. I'll bet technical support would be the first to fall :)

Well, unless people started watching their words for ten seconds :)

 

X-Men : The Last Stand

05/27/06 | by Nimble | Categories: Reviews, Movies

Link: http://www.x-menthelaststand.com/

We went to see this today, and quite enjoyed it. It's a little uneven in some plot points and flat in some interaction and fight scenes, but it was overall very enjoyable, and they certainly upped the stakes here. Grand altercations and a few surprises abound.

Yes, that is Kelsey Grammar as the blue-furred Hank McCoy a.k.a. Beast. It's a fun role for him.

Watch for the (nearly usual now) Stan Lee cameo :)

They do leave a crack open for a sequel, though this quite comfortably ends the series. There are no huge cliffhangers right at the end.

If you stay past the credits, you do get a little scene that only makes sense if you remember the talk about ethics earlier in the movie. I'll say no more than that.

 

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