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  07:43:53 pm, by Nimble   , 1195 words  
Categories: Reviews, Books, Science

A Different Approach to Cosmology : Hoyle, Burbridge and Narlikar - Part 1


There's a lot to this book, so I'm simply going to have to split the review of the book into a few pieces.

There are a few main themes to this book: to provide some recent history of cosmology, to give some interesting astronomical observations, to explain Quasi-Steady State Cosmology or QSSC, to explain some mainstream cosmology, and to tie QSSC into modern observations.

The three authors are no slouches in the astronomy field. That's not to say that they're right, of course. Hoyle in a nutshell:

This is one more reason for paying attention to Sir Fred. Even when he was wrong he was extremely interesting.

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  02:59:44 am, by Nimble   , 102 words  
Categories: Distractions, Games


I can't believe that I didn't come across mention of this game. It's been in the works for a little while, and there's an extremely cool video from 2005 demonstrating the capabilities at that time.

The video from the next E3 in 2006 lacks some of the charm of the original presentation, but it shows how much smoother things are and the myriad tweaks that have been put in place since the original, and it features Robin Williams playing the game 24 1/2 minutes in (!).

Utterly mind-blowing. Will it be fun to play? I guess time will tell.

If you haven't watched the videos, you must.


  03:31:43 pm, by Nimble   , 622 words  
Categories: Journal

Replacing a Waltec 12

When our bathroom spigot started dripping a little, we were slightly nervous. When it started dripping a lot, we got anxious.

After all, we do not yet have a good relationship with a plumber.

That said, we have some minor D-I-Y capability here, so the hunt was on.

First, we decided that we would get a fancy replacement. You know, modernize the whole thing. When we dug the pieces out of the box, not only was something missing in the box (the silver faceplate), but taking a look at the shower area again made us realize that it was likely to be beyond our skills as well. So we took it back and went hunting for a replacement.

Turns out that there are hardly any replacements for units like the Waltec, that just come straight out of the wall as a bath spigot. Well, at least not in Rona. Has there been so much modernization that this style is just hardly ever sold any more?

It turns out that there were a couple of modern Waltec models available in the store, only one of which covered the same sort of area: Delta's Waltec 14F525 (less elegant a name, I must say). So, my wife cracked open the box today, and proceeded on a plumbing adventure.

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  12:56:02 am, by Nimble   , 225 words  
Categories: Announcements [A], Thoughts, Science



I have gone ahead and added some forums, since Halton Arp's site has been offline for "maintenance" for an awfully long time. It may come back, it may not. In the meantime, it's a decent excuse to experiment with new forum software.

I had a tough time choosing forum software, and it came down to a matter of personal preference on the features. Personally, I like seeing threaded posts, and I like seeing them in their entirety, a la Slashdot. There are precious few pieces of forum software that do this, and even fewer that do it for free.

So, the software I chose was MWForum. It's in Perl instead of PHP, which is not my preference, but it works relatively well, is free, and has the threading ability that I really like. I will have to gussy up the style sheet it operates with, though, and I do not yet like the way that it handles adding in URLs: I'd like to modify it to work like b2evolution's editor a bit more. [UPDATE: I did actually manage to do that - yay! Thank you, example b2evolution code]

Still, it's as or more forgiving than Halton Arp's forum was at the time.

The sole board in the forums right now is Alternative Cosmology, a particular pet interest of mine.

This one's for you, Ari :)


  02:58:47 pm, by Nimble   , 389 words  
Categories: Reviews, Movies

A Scanner Darkly


I missed this in its theatrical run, to my dismay, but it works just fine on the small screen.

Here is a movie that is perennially confusing up until close to the end, where the plot does actually get pulled together.

It's based on a Philip K. Dick story, though not as well done as blockbusters based on his stories like Blade Runner (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?), Total Recall (We Can Remember It For You Wholesale) or Minority Report.

The movie is visually striking because it is pretty much fully rotoscoped, akin to the way it was done in Waking Life. Particularly striking are the "scramble suits", which maintain anonymity at the police station.

This is set in a near future where a new drug, Substance D, has soaked into the drug scene. Highly addictive, its users slowly accrue some mental troubles, like hallucinations, but then have their hemispheres split to a degree, and in particular, their left hemispheres degrade.

The movie follows an undercover police officer, ostensibly set up as a dealer, who shares his household with a bevy of other drug users. (It seems oddly appropriate to have Robert Downey Jr. playing one of those drug users, based on his history of drug use)

Barris (played by Robert Downey Jr.) is smart, talks a mile a minute like a sort of lucid Rain Man, Freck (Rory Cochrane) seems to be just short of having his brain shut down, Luckman (Woody Harrelson) seems to be just plain high and dopey.

Some of the more enjoyable parts of the movie are from exchanges between the members of this crew. The heated argument about the 18-speed bike is amongst the more enjoyable :)

I felt confused throughout most of the movie, although I did enjoy it somewhat. I constantly felt like I must be missing some reference or implication. The punchline did come, and it was pretty good, but there were a lot of unanswered questions, it seemed. The main character often thinks he has two little ones. There's a flashback which vaguely implies things, but the implication itself seems more unlikely once you get to the punchline. What happened to his family?

I wonder: did the high cost of rotoscoping the movie convinced them to leave some explanatory pieces out?

All in all, an interesting if confusing movie.

  02:31:18 pm, by Nimble   , 349 words  
Categories: Reviews, Movies



'Tis the season for movie rentals over Christmas and Boxing Day, where there is either too little to do elsewhere, or there are boxing day sales, the likes of which mortals are not prepared for.

This movie was surprisingly interesting.

It's a Canadian movie, and relatively low-budget, but it actually has a really good story to it, and poses some interesting questions.

It follows an awkward but good-hearted nerd, Norman (well-played by Perry Mucci; this appears to be his first film) working for a brokerage company, working with his laptop in the storage room. Maybe that's the importance they place on him, and it certainly adds to the vaguely oppressive atmosphere, but there are also indications that office space is very limited. He seems to watch a Windows task manager a lot of the time.

In his spare time, he helps out at a comic book store, trading his computer services, including setting up an online store (!), for comics. The owner, Chuck (played by Daniel Baldwin), is a rough but kind sort, and is the one Norman goes to for comic book questions.

At night, sleeping pills and earplugs keep the sounds of his neighbours arguing and/or having sex from letting him sleep.

Norman discovers that one of his coworkers, Victor, a somewhat cocky broker, seems to have some sort of power. Sure, it seems at first to only prevent coffee cups from smashing to the ground, but Norman sees an opportunity to, perhaps, create a superhero.

I won't going into much detail past this point, save to say that it gives a grittier, less comic-booky view of how one would go about trying to do this, and that process is what gives the movie its power. Take the perennial questions: "Alright, it's 3 AM, let's stop some crime. So what do we do?" and "What about costumes?".

One thing I appreciated on the DVD was that the special features had out-takes. I love out-takes.

From the looks of the deleted scenes, poor New Guy really got short shrift on the cutting room floor.

Thumbs up on this movie.


  01:09:41 am, by Nimble   , 666 words  
Categories: Thoughts, Travel

Africa In Retrospect

Now that I've had some distance in time away from the trip to East Africa, it's a nicer recollection. I remember some of the bad toilets, but the memories no longer affect me viscerally. I remember the nice people and the annoying people, and it's cool to put it into a bit of perspective.

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  09:39:55 pm, by Nimble   , 170 words  
Categories: Reviews, Programming

Photo Acute


A friend of mine had pondered putting together a program where you could take a lot of photos of the same scene, with a tiny bit of movement in-between, and then you could do some interpolation and get a sort of super-resolution that your camera could not achieve on its own.

He then found out that someone had already made a program like that.

There seem to be two very good uses for this program:

#1: Get really good resolution out of lesser pictures

#2: Remove interlopers from a scene

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  11:49:46 pm, by Nimble   , 143 words  
Categories: Internet

Alt Keys in Firefox 2.0

Since I am running this blog on b2evolution, and since the built-in editor has a lot of ALT key shortcuts that I really like, when I upgraded to Firefox 2.0, it drove me nuts. The shortcut keys for italicizing and making links no longer operated.

Well, I did some investigation online, and there are two solutions at hand:

#1: Add in the SHIFT key. Firefox 1.x let you do Alt+A for links (anchors) in b2evolution. In 2.0, simply go Shift+Alt+A.

...but Shift+Alt+A is annoying.

#2: What you really want to do is go into about:config and change ui.key.contentAccess from 5 to 4. These represent the key codes for a lot of the built-in editors. From zero, add 1 for Shift, 2 for Ctrl and 4 for the Alt key.

I am now sane again, after having performed that obscure bit of surgery.

  11:42:28 pm, by Nimble   , 307 words  
Categories: Announcements [A], Thoughts, People, Science

Calling All Yumans

Today is the 10th Anniversary of the death of Carl Sagan. Joel Schlosberg has organized a Carl Sagan Blog-A-Thon.

Nick Sagan has a very nice retrospective of his own, providing some interesting, and nice, views of Carl Sagan as a father. There is also a series of retrospectives here, on Celebrating Sagan.

Ah, Carl Sagan. He had a style and accessibility to him. Nobody since has captured the public's eye and drawn it to science the same way as Sagan, with his measured pauses, his incisive turns of phrase, as well as his obvious wonder and delight in the natural world.

We have been without a true science popularizer for a decade now.

Who now can act to reach out the hand of science to clasp peoples' hands, and help them up from where they lay?

Richard Dawkins could almost do it, though his mission is slightly different right now, and too urgent. He has the mannerisms and the ability to bring many a jargon-laden science phrase to light. A documentary version of The Ancestor's Tale could be a worthy successor to Cosmos.

Who else could it fall to? I wonder sometimes why Bill Nye was popular, yet he is not omnipresent.

We need someone who audiences can walk with to enjoy the wonder. That was the thing about his Cosmos series in particular. You did not feel pandered to - you felt as though he was taking you someplace he had been, and was in awe of, and that while he brought you there for you to contemplate the wonders as he had, that he was still awestruck. It felt like sharing, not teaching.

Sagan has left a deep impression on many. I wish he had left an heir to the throne.

I miss you, Sagan, and all that you did for us and shared with us.


  10:52:37 pm, by Nimble   , 1141 words  
Categories: Reviews, Books, Science

The Long Tomorrow : Michael R. Rose


The full subtitle: "How Advances in Evolutionary Biology Can Help Us Postpone Aging".

This was a good book, although almost too simple in spots. Since aging is a topic I follow (and, apparently unusually, since I was fairly young), the impact of the book was more emotional than informative, though it was informative. I will explain why shortly.

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  07:29:53 pm, by Nimble   , 616 words  
Categories: Announcements [A], Thoughts, Programming

My Software's 10th Birthday

My software turned ten today.

I had mentioned that my software would turn ten this year to a coworker of mine, and he watched the date listed in the header of my oldest source code file like a hawk, or an egret, and sent out our traditional birthday cake image, edited with I imagine none other than good ol' Microsoft Paint, wishing the software a merry tenth birthday.


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  06:36:50 pm, by Nimble   , 192 words  
Categories: Distractions, Thoughts, Common Sense

The Attraction of Bus Exits

Over the past few years, on the buses I take to work, I've noticed more and more that teenagers seem very, very attracted to standing or, in some cases, even huddling by the bus exit. In many cases, it's not even a matter of lack of available seating. As I get out fairly early on most of these routes, I notice that they move rather unwillingly, not usually all that much to my detriment, but they regularly get hit by the doors.

I must admit that I'm puzzled.

I haven't worked up the courage to ask them why.

In some cases, it's obvious. Three people standing together by the bus exit is just an easier way to make conversation between three people.

Other times, though, you wonder. Are they afraid to sit with other people? Did they have a traumatic experience once from missing their bus stop because of people in the way? Is there some need some of them have to shrink into a corner? (That possibility makes me sad) Are they just afraid of touching people for the inter-bus-stops journeys?

I wish I knew. Not knowing is driving me crazy :)


  06:35:51 pm, by Nimble   , 750 words  
Categories: Thoughts, Ethics, Internet, People

Sock Puppetry/Happy Esperanto Day!

Sxtrumpetmarionismo/Felicxa Esperanto-Tago

In honour of Esperanto Day, December 15, I am also translating this blog entry into Esperanto. I'm sure it's quite an awful translation I've done!

Honori Esperanto-Tago, la 15(dek kvin)a de decembro, mi ankaux tradukis cxi tion blogenskribigon en Esperanto. Mi estas certa ke gxi estas malagabran tradukon tiun mi faris.

(pronounced, 'honoree esperanto-tahgo, la deck-kvina deh detsembroh, mee ang-cow tradookeess chee tee-on blohg-en-skreebeegawn enn esperanto. Mee esstass t-sertah keh jee esstass malagabran tradook-on tee-oon mee farees)

[The 'x' seems to be standard Esperanto orthography for a ^ mark above the previous letter, softening it, so s="s", sx="sh", c="ts", cx="ch", g="g", gx="j", j="y", jx="zh" as in French 'je', since most fonts don't have letters with a hat on an s, c, g pr j :) Also, u="oo", ux="w"]

Resources: A good dictionary, a good pronunciation guide, a good language course

Rimedoj: Bona vortaro, bona gvidilo por prononco, bona lingvokurso

On with the show...

"Sock puppets", to use the term as refers to its use in chat rooms, forums and blogs, are different names used by the same poster, mostly for evil...

"Sxtrumpetmarionetoj", uzi la vorton tiel ke gxi estas uzita kiam oni parolas pri babilspacoj, novajxgrupoj kaj blogoj, estas plejparte diferencaj nomoj uzitaj per la sama verkinto, kutime por diableco.

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  07:37:00 pm, by Nimble   , 1178 words  
Categories: Thoughts, Science

Crossovers, Mutations and Assortment

Something someone wrote today reminded me that in the discussion of biology and evolutionary theory, everyone looks at mutations, mutations, mutations, but they miss out the extremely powerful silent partners, chromosomal crossover and its most excellent cousin, independent assortment.

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