Archive for January, 2010

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my brother rocks (and so does satellite radio)

January 31, 2010

Got a big fancy box full of Christmas presents this weekend (yeah…turns out my procrastination impulses are heriditary), and have been enjoying them quite a bit.  I made muffins to celebrate the arrival of a really nice mixer, and I moved my fancy speakers out to the living room to celebrate the arrival of…satellite radio!  My brother completely outdid himself and got me an XM Radio setup for Christmas, with a house kit, car kit, and subscription.  I was skeptical about how easy it would be to set up, especially since I live in a basement (and you’re supposed to put the antenna in a south-facing window, which I don’t have — or even a south-facing above-ground wall), but after some initial fidgeting to get the battery to charge properly in the cradle, it works like a charm.  There are some 180-odd stations!  I could listen to Oprah or Cosmo radio if I wanted to, that’s how many stations there are (I have not yet listened to these, and I think it’ll take me a long time — maybe forever — to get around to that).

Most exciting of all, there are three ACC sports channels.  Three!  Gone are the days of trying to hack a local radio broadcast on the internet with clever VPN use and a lot of weird browser plug-ins!  I can listen to any and all of Carolina’s games, announced by Woody himself!  There are not enough exclamation points to go around!  I was so excited that I even listened to us lose to UVA tonight.  Woo?

Anyhow, the disappointing bit of all this is that the person I most want to hear my excitement won’t get to read this, unless they suddenly start allowing Marine recruits at boot camp to have internet browsing time on base (riiiight).  I’ll have to wait until he gets in touch with me, or I get his address somehow.  Waaaah.  I’m impatient.

In the meantime, I will have to just shout it through the tubes — Lady Quantum salutes her little brother.

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things that make me grumpy

January 28, 2010

Oh dear, somebody had a grump-inducing day.  I’m going to celebrate by taking it all out on my blog.

Grump #1: climate change denial.  A certain brand of skepticism, I can understand; it’s healthy to question the degree of the problem and the timescale for feeling its effects, especially since prediction models vary widely on this.  What I can’t understand is outright refusal to admit there’s any possible correlation between our greenhouse gas emissions and global warming.  Greenhouse gases are so-called because they contribute to the greenhouse effect; the greenhouse effect makes planets warmer.  It’s basic middle school science, people.  Beyond that, we’ve burned millions of years worth of biomass (in the form of coal, petroleum, etc) in less than two centuries.  Is that really not going to have any impact other than powering the industrial age?  And remind me who it is exactly who stands to gain significantly by organizing a global conspiracy to make the whole thing up?  Ugh.

Grump #2:  the State of the Union Address is not a high-school pep rally.  Congress, is it really necessary to jump out of your seat every time the president says a keyword that your party is supposed to like?  Or hiss and boo and whistle when it’s a keyword that your party is supposed to hate?  We know your party hates these things; unfortunately, it’s pretty much all we hear on the news about goings-on in Washington (beyond the doofy human interest pieces about the First Lady’s new vegetable garden and the housetraining of their puppy).  So please, don’t slow down the president’s already-an-hour-long speech with your insipid displays of enthusiasm.

Read the rest of this entry ?

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badasses and bad ideas

January 26, 2010

Quick update here before I keel over asleep in my chair.  First, the badass part.  My dog is a badass, just FYI.  The neighbor who took this picture of his dog getting owned by my dog is also a photography badass (in addition to apparently being a software engineer).

Epic. Pecan takes Samantha down.

Who else is badass?  Oh, that’s right, Roy’s boys.  Did the Pack really hope to pull off two big upsets in a row, of Dook and Carolina no less?  That’s what I thought.

So, on to the bad ideas.  Sent to me this evening by a friend who is no stranger to bad ideas, here is one take on a State of the Union drinking game.  Hilarious, but a bad idea (even the page warns you, “If you actually drank as much as we suggested, you would die, so do not do that.”).  I do have to admit the idea of such a game intrigues me…but I’d have to start on the bus on the way home, living here in mountain standard time and all.

Oh yes, and neither badass nor a bad idea, but I have added a “pretty pictures” page to the sidebar.  It indexes links to all of my photo albums that I talk about, so they’re easy to find without digging through my posts.  There’s also some old ones I haven’t mentioned on here if you’re feeling nostalgic.

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finally, an honest report on climate change hits mainstream media

January 25, 2010

A short piece on BBC News this morning describes a new climate change report, by a group calling themselves the New Economics Foundation (NEF).  Suggestively titled, “Growth isn’t possible: Why rich countries need a new economic direction,” the report doesn’t beat around the bush and tells us straight up that there is no way to reconcile economic growth and carbon dioxide reductions.  From the BBC’s piece:

They then considered whether economic growth could be maintained while “retaining a good likelihood” of limiting the global average temperature to within 2C of pre-industrial levels.  The report concluded that a growth rate of just 3%, the “carbon intensity” of the global economy would need to fall by 95% by 2050 from 2002 levels. This would require an average annual reduction of 6.5%.

Of course, the report hasn’t been well-received, even skipping over the bit about carbon dioxide levels causing global warming — I’m not sure if folks in Britain take as much issue with that as some over here in the US.  The Adam Smith Institute (no, I’m not linking them like I did NEF.  It’s my blog and I never intended to give any impression of being unbiased.  Use google if you must read about free-market think tanks) has this to say in response:

Tom Clougherty, executive director of the Adam Smith Institute, a free-market think-thank, said Nef’s report exhibited “a complete lack of understanding of economics and, indeed, human development.”

“It is precisely this economic growth which will lift the poor out of poverty and improve the environmental standards that really matter to people – like clean air and water – in the process, as it has done throughout human history,” he told BBC News.

Methinks he’s the one with a “complete lack of understanding” of the environmental issue they’re actually trying to discuss, which is not clean air and water.  And since when has economic development improved the environment?  I must’ve missed that bit somehow amongst all the coal plants and mountain top removal mines that have produced the electricity powering this improvement of environmental standards.

Anyhow, I’m glad to see somebody cutting to the chase and getting something out there telling us like it is — that endless growth is not possible.  Granted, they’re only dealing with a minor aspect of why it’s not possible here, but still.  I’m not sure where the entrenched idea that endless growth is not only possible but necessary came from, and why it caught on so tightly (I’m no economist — I’m sure I could be quite fairly described as having a complete lack of understanding too).  But, just think for a second.  Endless growth requires endless resources.  We don’t live in an endless universe, or on an endless planet.  So one day, something’s got to give, and somehow I doubt that’ll come in the form of the planet suddenly coughing up more vital resources.

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the good thing about winter

January 24, 2010

Crazy thing — turns out I’m actually getting well this go-round, and now that my throat has stopped hurting and I’m no longer dripping and coughing up scary-colored mucus, I have pronounced myself well enough to do fun things again.  Hooray!

To that end, yesterday I went skiing for the first time this season (even though the resorts have been open since October).  As most of you would guess or may already know, I am by no means a good skier.  First off, I grew up somewhere somewhat flat and lacking much in the way of snow, and second, perhaps more important, I’m one of the clumsiest people to walk the face of the earth.  Some of you are no doubt expecting this to lead into a story of some horrific and/or comedic injury sustained yesterday, to add to the ranks of other snow-and-sports-related injury stories already in my arsenal.

The continental divide, right over the Eisenhower tunnel, as seen from my lift chair yesterday.

But HAH!  Other than being extremely sore and quite exhausted, I escaped the mountain unscathed.  Well, okay, I have a few bruises, but that’s nothing.  We had a fantastic time.  The conditions were great; a light snow fell all day, so the powder was constantly fresh, and there was almost nobody on the mountain, or at least the parts of it that we chose to ski on, so it wasn’t all chewed up right away.  I am finally a competent enough skier to appreciate why people get excited about cutting fresh tracks (but I swear I will never understand why people go to the lengths they do to make sure they get they are on the mountain first).  I have “new” skis this season, too (craigslist new), and they are at least 20 times better than what I skied on last year.  All in all, I was a much happier skier yesterday than I ever have been before.  Yay for Colorado!

Token lift ride shot.

In other news, “Avatar” is really pretty in 3D IMAX, and the plot didn’t feel nearly as inane as I expected (though it is quite predictable if you’ve seen any white-man-goes-native-and-saves-the-people story.  Or even if you haven’t).  The CGI alone, in my opinion, makes it worth watching, and even almost worth paying the 3D IMAX premium for.  Go see it if you’re skeptical — I was, and I was not at all sorry I went.

Hooray for doing fun things again!  Yay immune system actually working!

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announcing…the apocalypse!

January 21, 2010

The Supreme Court decided some seriously nasty things today, if you haven’t read the news.  In the words of a dear friend who’s much better informed than me (“I knew something was up when I had 12 emails between 9 and 11 am, all with the word ‘SCOTUS’ in them,” he says), this has basically legalized corruption.  So, yeah.  Legal corruption is bad.

Anyhow, that’s not the apocalyptic part, even though it doesn’t bode well for the legitimacy of our government.  The apocalyptic part is that Fox News and Obama agree that it’s bad.

Yes, Fox News and Obama agree.  Watch out for the four horsemen and the antichrist, the end is nigh.

As quoted by the NY Times, Obama described the decision as “a green light to a new stampede of special interest money in our politics.”   An editorial by Ellen Ratner on Fox News says, “We are going to have our ‘free’ society controlled by those who have made the most money from it. And they call this democracy?”

Indeed.  A process already effectively controlled by wealthy corporations is now going to be completely controlled by them.  Oh boy, can’t wait for the midterm elections.

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oh, those wacky young-earthers

January 21, 2010

Of all folks, Vanity Fair visited the Creation Museum in Kentucky.  The resulting article is a highly entertaining commentary on the museum and what it’s trying to do.  A favorite bit:

What is truly awe-inspiring about the museum is the task it sets itself: to rationalize a story, written 3,000 years ago, without allowing for any metaphoric or symbolic wiggle room. There’s no poetic license. This is a no-parable zone. It starts with the definitive answer, and all the questions have to be made to fit under it. That’s tough. Science has it a whole lot easier: It can change things. It can expand and hypothesize and tinker. Scientists have all this cool equipment and stuff. They’ve got all these “lenses” and things. They can see shit that’s invisible. And they stayed on at school past 14. Science has given itself millions of years, eons, to play with, but the righteous have got to get the whole lot in, home and dry, in less than 6,000 years, using just a pitchfork and a loud voice. It’s like playing speed chess against a computer and a thousand people with Nobel Prizes.

Anyhow, worth a read if you enjoy reading about the shenanigans of literal creationists from time to time, and/or how crazy the creation museum itself is.  Found the link, as I do with nearly all of these sorts of things, from the enjoyable atheist ranter Pharyngula.