What Is Computer Programming?

12/11/05 | by Nimble | Categories: Thoughts, Programming

While I was chatting away in World of Warcraft, while I was on one of the interminable transport rides, someone asked exactly what computer programming was all about. It was an intriguing question to try to answer in a non-trite manner.

So, before my thoughts on it disappear, I thought I might just answer the question for all.

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Coca Cola Zero

12/10/05 | by Nimble | Categories: Reviews, Low-Carb

Now, regular Diet Coke is gross. It's just... gross. So when I started seeing some Splenda-based Pepsi products and the like south of the border, I got kinda excited.

Then I see Coca Cola Zero show up here, and the sweetener is... aspartame!??

I was agog. I thought they had just pulled a rename of Diet Coke. Well, recently, I decided to try a 591 mL experiment of the stuff.

You know what? It didn't totally suck. Still a little bit of that chewed chewing gum aftertaste, but nothing close to what Diet Coke has.

Aspartame is just a dipeptide - but it's unstable at high temperatures and may break down slowly at low temperatures. I'm pretty sure the usual nasty taste is from breakdown products.

Which leads me to wonder, what with Minute Maid Light and a few other non-sucky aspartame drinks, have they finally figured out how to stabilize aspartame so that it doesn't break down?

 

History of the Neoconservatives

12/07/05 | by Nimble | Categories: Thoughts, Politics

In following my typical spider-web of links when I get going on a reading spree, I came across a link to a pretty interesting article in Reason Magazine. Give it a read-see. You can skip a lot, but do not miss the Irving Kristol quotes.

I've read a lot of rants directed at the neocons, but this was one of the more interesting. It lays the foundation of neoconservative thinking as (perhaps ironically, in some cases) an intellectual aristocracy. In the words of Irving Kristol, the "godfather of neoconservatism",

Kristol adds that "Strauss was an intellectual aristocrat who thought that the truth could make some [emphasis Kristol's] minds free, but he was convinced that there was an inherent conflict between philosophic truth and political order, and that the popularization and vulgarization of these truths might import unease, turmoil and the release of popular passions hitherto held in check by tradition and religion with utterly unpredictable, but mostly negative, consequences."

Kristol agrees with this view.

The implication of all this is that the neoconservatives "know the truth", but wish a 'lesser truth' that keeps social order to keep the rest of the populace in line.

This might explain such odd little episodes as members of the current US neoconservative cabal going off to "bible camp", yet being unable to answer questions on what they supposedly studied when they came back from their little retreat. Not to mention the barely-concealed disdain for others and the seemingly limitless capacity for bending the truth, since there's already a "truth for us and a truth for you" built into the philosophy.

There are some interesting pieces in the article that point to why evolution is such a big target for these folks and their friends.

I may occasionally be cynical about peoples' smarts, but I've got nothing in that sphere compared to these guys.

A lot of what they say makes a creepy kind of sense, if you think of the population the way they do.

It's utterly antithetical to my own thoughts, though. I hope the rocks their secrets are hiding under keep getting overturned.

 

Electronics Kits

12/04/05 | by Nimble | Categories: Thoughts, Science

Ever since realizing that they have brought back those however-many-in-one electronics kits, and realizing that I totally missed out on the experience as a child, and that perhaps I could finally understand what the hell Keith is talking about when he talks about op amps and stuff like that, I've been focused on getting one of those kits.

I will wait until Christmas, but quite frankly, if I don't get one as a present, I'm going out to the stores and getting one myself :)

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I Hate Concrete Dividers

12/04/05 | by Nimble | Categories: Thoughts, Common Sense

Just realized something today. The only two accidents I've been in of any note, both of them involved concrete dividers.

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Wacom Graphire 4 Graphics Tablet

12/01/05 | by Nimble | Categories: Reviews, Toys

Link: http://www.wacom.com/graphire/4x5.cfm

Okay, it's a piece of hardware, but in many ways, it is totally a toy. Running around Christmas shopping, it can be utterly tempting to give yourself a Christmas present. Well, I succumbed :)

I picked up a Wacom Graphire[4] Graphics Tablet. I've always been frustrated with the ever-present mouse when it comes to doodling and the like on computers. I just can't get mice to work for painting.

So what do you get?

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Honeymoon Destinations

11/29/05 | by Nimble | Categories: Thoughts, Travel

We didn't get a honeymoon after our wedding - being in the middle of a teaching year. We got a little getaway at the Sheraton Cavalier right after the wedding, spoiling ourselves with a giant jacuzzi bath and the like for two days. We need a real honeymoon, though. We plan to have children relatively soon, so a 'big blowout' before this event sounds absolutely fantastic.

There are so many places we could go. We could go back to Europe, we could go to the orient (Dena taught in South Korea and I went on a student exchange to China once upon a time), but what has been really drawing us is Africa.

There are two things we're looking for in addition to the regular safari experience. We are looking to see gorillas, and we're looking to see Zanzibar. One outfit that looks interesting and still affordable is Kumuka. A coworker of mine did a Europe and Egypt tour through them and really enjoyed himself. The ultimate tour that's drawing us is this one - 35 freaking days. I, uh, have a lot of holidays built up :) Might be cutting things close with travel time, though, so we may have to check out other options.

I'll have to start brushing up on my Swahili. I only remember how to say "hello" (Jambo), "thanks" (Tafadhali) and "I have eaten all your children at home" (Mekula watoto wote nyumbani).

Comment by Adam:

Go for the 35 day tour. It may be the most enjoyable $3000US you get to spend in a very long time. If you do, I'll be most envious. Hmm, maybe I'll mortgage my house again and join you... :)

Comment by Ritchie:

That's $3000 EACH, and it doesn't include airfare, but it could still be a vacation we truly owe ourselves. I think it's about $2800 for two people round trip to Nairobi as well. Could get a car instead. But we'll likely not be able to do something like this ever again.

I'm got an East Africa guide from Lonely Planet. I think I'll check out the outfits there as well, though it's hard to see how the safaris can get a lot cheaper than that based on what I've seen so far. You never know, though. I think even Kumuka is based in the UK, so they have that bit of overhead. Another interesting UK outfit is Dragoman Overland (http://www.dragoman.com/search/tripresults.php?where=G&start=10)... they're the one that has things like the half-YEAR trips.

We'll see :)

 

Religion

11/28/05 | by Nimble | Categories: Thoughts, Religion

Okay, this is going to be controversial.

I don't know what sort of disclaimer I can offer other than to say this is about me. They're my views, and even if you disagree vehemently with them, you may be able to see, at least, where they come from.

Diving in...

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Survival : Julie E Czerneda

11/21/05 | by Nimble | Categories: Reviews, Books, Fiction

I'm a science fiction afficionado of sorts, but I must say, my collection is not that big. Out of the reams of books on shelves, it can take a considerable while to sort out the wheat from the chaff. Also, good fiction keeps me awake until dawn reading it, which is not always good!

I usually go with authors I have read previously, like Vernor Vinge or Robert Charles Wilson, but my favourite authors only write so fast.

So I took my birthday present gift card from Dena and spent some time looking at the summaries and flipping through pages to get a sense of author's styles. Julie E. Czerneda's "Survival" was one of the two I chose. I was very pleasantly surprised.

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Button Quails Now Call Here Home

11/21/05 | by Nimble | Categories: Announcements [A]

We added to our menagerie this weekend with a pair of button quails. We've been enamoured of these little critters for probably a couple of years. I've only ever seen them at Pisces Pet Emporium in town (they have some great store pets as well, including marmosets and goodly-sized koi, and they're a great source for different aquarium plants).

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Dance Dance Revolution Extreme 2

11/05/05 | by Nimble | Categories: Reviews, Games

Link: http://ps2.ign.com/objects/746/746768.html

The accusation always goes that computers and video games make you gain weight because you're sitting on your duff instead of getting some exercise. That's not without some truth to it. Heck, I can feel it even just blogging here :)

That said, there are a few games that totally and utterly break this trend. The "Dance Dance Revolution" series certainly cannot be labelled as a "sit on your butt" game (unless you have an extraordinarily talented butt, which you might).

This is one of the latest in a line of home versions of the arcade dancing games, where you have to hit the arrows with your feet at the right time. Now you could theoretically use a regular controller for this, but it's just not the same without laying out the $20 (or maybe a little more, but you can get them for $20 easy) for a dance mat controller.

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Pluto Has Three Moons

11/02/05 | by Nimble | Categories: Thoughts, Science

The Hubble plus really good researchers just keeps on coming up with surprises. It's been ages since I've kept up with Pluto. Last I left it, they had figured out that it had a pretty big-sized moon around it, Charon. I didn't even know that it had a confirmed atmosphere, however thin. Now this poor rock who people have been trying to take "planet" status away from has two new moons. Who knew?

The outer solar system is shaping up pretty interestingly. One thing that seems a little strange so far is that there is still no sign of an Oort cloud, which was hypothesized as being where long-period comets with odd orbits, like Halley's comet. Everything past Pluto has so far been in pretty much the same angle of orbit as the rest of the planets. How long before we can prove or disprove the existence of the Oort cloud?

 

Virtual Photons

11/02/05 | by Nimble | Categories: Thoughts, Science

Have you ever wondered where forces in nature come from?

In mainstream physics, the theory goes that forces happen because matter exchanges little particles between them. Now, these are no ordinary particles, these are virtual particles. They 'borrow' energy from space, exist for a while, and then give it back.

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Telling Where People Come From

10/28/05 | by Nimble | Categories: Thoughts, Languages, People

I've always had an interest in spoken languages. We boarded foreign students to help make ends meet once upon a very long time ago, so I got exposed to quite a few people whose first language was not English. I thought it was the most fascinating thing ever. My maternal grandpa, bless his heart, gave me two phrase books for my ninth birthday, Collins German and Collins Spanish.

That said, I can't really claim fluency in any of the languages I've studied, really. I've got enough of a lot of different languages to know the alphabets, some fundamental grammar, and to know how they work. A lot of the pronunciation errors that people make in English can be directly traced back to pronunciation rules or lacks of particular combinations in peoples' native tongues. Sometimes you can use these to trace where someone comes from, even if just in general. Sometimes you can look for clues if you hear them speaking their native language.

Let me give you a few samplings...

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Light-Hearted Monkey Trial

10/27/05 | by Nimble | Categories: Thoughts, Religion, Science

I'm always interested in things that go on south (or, perish the thought, north) of the border here, to see what the latest shenanigans of creationism, or its smartly-dressed, smooth-talking brother, Intelligent Design.

So, the goings-on in the case where the Dover, Pennsylvania school district decided to put Intelligent Design into the curriculum (causing some science teachers to ask that their names be withdrawn as authors of the rest of the curriculum that they designed), has me most intrigued.

When I'm up late at night, flipping through channels, I see the ads for the injury lawyers and the like, and I cringe. Judges seem like they might be a mixed bag. Reading the transcripts of trials like this, though, are a refreshing change from whatever conceptions and misconceptions I have about the professions. Seeing a lawyer in a transcript saying things to Michael Behe like, "And to say this very colloquially, you conclude that it will take a large population a long time to evolve a particular function at a disulfide bond, right?" is utterly surreal.

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