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Monday, December 19, 2011

Friday, October 7, 2011

Steve Jobs: Say What you Want About Him, He's Left the World Changed.

Steve Jobs is gone now, but the engine of change he built is still there, and still changing the world.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Two Movies: of Beauty and Evil

A couple of weeks ago I watched a movie called Water, and a couple of days later I watched another one called Never Let Me Go. Although they're very different movies in many ways: Water was made in India, and takes place in Varanasi on the Ganges in 1938, and Never Let Me Go takes place in an alternate history late 20th Century England, they are visually and dramatically beautiful films made with great craft. and they are both about societies which accept, even profit from, great evil. I was deeply moved by both films, and couldn't escape being seriously disturbed by the evil in both. Strangely, I had not heard of either one before watching them (I usually at least read a review in the local paper of any new movie, though I've been missing them more lately because we've been going to the theater perhaps once a year), but after watching the second one I immediately thought of their similarities. I'll talk more about the films and why they are alike after the cut. Caution: there are spoilers for both movies.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Snarks in a M*****F****** Text!

Via Pharyngula, a generator for Lorem Ipsum babble text in the mode of Samuel L. Jackson.  After the cut, because, after all, it sounds like Samuel L. Jackson.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Congratulations Are In Order!

I just got an email from my older son, telling me that he and his wife were both unanimously voted tenure by the members of their department at LSU.  It's not official yet, there's lots of administrivia yet to be done, but that was the most critical step in the process.  This has been one hella summer for them: first the baby and now a major step in both their careers.  We're incredibly proud of them.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

More Pictures of Ellie

I've uploaded all the pictures I took last week of Ellie to Picassa.  There are two albums, "Ellie #1" and "Elllie #2". Link here.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

My Grandchild ...

My grandchild is, of course, the cutest baby in the universe.  She's just shy of 4 months old, and already knows all about performing, and holding the attention of the crowd. She's a happy baby, only cranky when she gets overtired or hungry.  She's good with strangers, and strangers (or at least the grandparents she's never seen before) graduate to friends and family very quickly.  Here's one picture, to give you a sense of why she's the best baby there is :-)

That's Eva (Grandma) holding Ellie. As you might expect, I've got about 60 or 70  more pictures of her, and I'll probably take a bunch more before we go back home on Monday.  I'll start putting them up on the net, on either Flickr or Picassa most likely, in the next day or two.

Her name is Ellie, short for Ellanor (combining Ella Fitzgerald and Nora Jones, two of her parents' favorite singers.  She seems to be quite at home in the heat and humidity of the Louisiana summer (which is more than I can say for myself).  She really wants to get up and boogie, or at least crawl, and not being able to frustrates her sometimes. I think she's going to be a great kid, even discounting my prejudices.

UPDATE: There are more photos on my Flickr photo stream: Ellie at 3 1/2.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Travels and Home Maintenance

Just so you know why my posts and comments are going to be coming in sporadic bunches: we're simultaneously getting ready to go to Louisiana for a week to meet our brand-new grandchild and boxing up everything in the bottom floor of the house so we can move it all out and have the floors redone. What we have right now is really crappy grey carpet, which picks up dog smells like you wouldn't believe, and is currently several shades darker than it was when we first moved in (and cleaning it helps only temporarily). And since kids and grandchild are coming to visit us here in a month or so, we need to toss the carpet. Also, because our TV set is an old CRT model that weighs more than 150 pounds, and even together the two of us can't move it, let alone carry it upstairs, we're going to replace it with a flatpanel and let the recyclers haul it off. So there'll be lots to do in RL here for the next couple of weeks, and not much time to push electrons around. But if nothing else I'll post some pictures from Louisiana by the time I get back.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Give Me That Old Time Politics (A Modest Proposal)

Unlike half the (semi-)civilized world I haven't yet posted anything in my blog about the political singularity1 in US politics that occurred a little while ago in the Great Deficit Debate2. That's mostly because I'm thoroughly disgusted by the sheer stupidity, cupidity, and general malfeasance our political "representatives" have shown.  But I have a modest proposal that might prevent such disasters in the future, one I first came up with many years ago, in a simpler time, when the crimes of our masters were simpler and perhaps more easily dealt with (and I didn't think my proposal was entirely justified.  Now I do).  After the cut, I'll give you the grisly details.

1. Where "singularity'is defined as a change in technology or culture so great and so rapid that no one trying to forecast its effects beforehand can possibly do so.  I think I can safely say that no one was crazy enough to predict as recently as a year ago the particularly insane and unnecessary game of "button, button, who's got the nuclear button" on the Republican side of the deficit debate countered by the response of "we win by caving in" that the Democrats and the President replied with.

2. It's clear to me that the deficit is in their intelligence, not in our budget.

Saturday, August 6, 2011


So last week I officially became a senior citizen: I turned 65, and am now on Medicare (thank Ghu: it's hundreds of dollars a month cheaper than the previous health insurance1 I had, with pretty much comparable coverage).  Of course this happened in front of the backdrop of OHNO DEBT DISASTER THROW MEDICARE AND SOCIAL SECURITY RECIPIENTS TO THE WOLVES!!!!  I was beginning to wonder if there would be any Medicare by the time my eligibility kicked in, but luckily my coverage started Aug. 1, before Standard & Poors could downgrade US Government credit and turn us into a Third World nation.</sarcasm>

Oh, and another landmark: I am now a grandfather.  My older son Alex and his wife Melissa now have a bouncing baby girl, Ellanor, born about a month ago.  Because they're in Louisiana, we haven't seen her in person yet, but we've seen lots of pictures, and she is, of course, the cutest grandchild ever.

1. And why, he asks rhetorically, do we need health insurance?  Just give me health care, and we can eliminate the 15 or 20% of the health care expenses in the US the insurance companies eat without providing any useful good or service.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

A Geometry for the Many-Angled Ones

You may know (or not) that I've become quite fond of the science fiction of Charlie Stross, a British writer living in Scotland, especially the "Laundry Files" series.  The Laundry is a highly-classified British Intelligence and Counter-Espionage agency whose primary brief is the protection of the United Kingdom against the depredations of evil extra-dimensional beings who wish to invade, possess, destroy, and otherwise prey on humans and their world.

The basic conceit is that H. P. Lovecraft's writings are true: there are beings of great power lurking just around the corner in a higher-dimensional multiverse, beings who can be called forth using forms of geometry and computer software.  In the world of the Laundry, Alan Turing didn't just invent the mathematical underpinnings of the theory of computation; the secret part of his work that the rest of the world didn't get to see shows how mathematics and computer programs can be used to do what amounts to "magic".  Stross' hero, Bob Howard, is a middle-echelon IT sysadmin and secret agent, recruited into the Laundry just before his university computer graphics project could invite in beings that would have leveled the city of Wolverhampton1.

Now it happens that I've been researching modern geometry in the last year or two.  One of the subjects I've been studying intensively, for use in a software project I hope to blog about in the near future, is a field called "Geometric Algebra"2.  And Geometric Algebra just might be the geometry that Lovecraft's "Many-Angled Ones" use in navigating their sinister travels through the universes..  I'll explain more after the cut.  Don't be too bothered by the mathematical terms; I'll try to summarize the meaning of it all so you won't have a mathematician to get it.  And I'll try not to get eaten by the Great Old Ones before I finish.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

... and One More Thing ...

Eek, yet another thing to take away time and energy.  A couple of weeks ago I noticed a bump on my back that was rather tender.  Went to the doctor and she diagnosed an infected cyst, so I went to a surgeon (who just happened to be the surgeon who performed Eva's lumpectomy last year, someone we both really liked and respected after that) who set up an outpatient procedure a week later, and pumped me full of antibiotics.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Still Here After All This Time

It's been a really long time since my last post on this blog.  That was caused by a number of things: recovery from surgery was slower than I expected, at least in terms of getting back the energy to do things during the day.  For awhile there it was all I could do to go to the park and sit for an hour while the dogs walked around.  It took almost six months to get up the energy to walk any distance myself, but once I started doing that, my energy started coming back at a faster pace.  Now I can do 3 or 4 hours of (mostly non-physical) work a day after walking the dogs.

But once I had the energy, more things intervened.  Our Lhasa Apso, Jemma,  suddenly (over the course of 2 or 3 weeks) went blind.  We spent some time going to vets and not getting a definitive diagnosis until we saw a veterinary opthalmologist.  He diagnosed SORD (Sudden Onset Retinal Disorder), a disorder whose etiology and mechanism are pretty much unknown, but whose prognosis is 100% blindness in almost all cases, and which has no treatment.  Jemma has been blind now for several months, and has mostly acclimated herself to it.  Dogs aren't as strongly affected by blindness as humans, because smell and hearing are so much more acute for them.  Jemma's only serious problem (aside from a non-related eye infection that lasted several weeks) is that when she gets excited or upset she gets disoriented and gets stuck in loops between obstacles, going back and forth until she accidentally goes off at an angle and misses one of them.  We''re working with her on that, but she is a very stubborn dog (a breed quality) and is having trouble taking direction when she gets that way.  Spencer, our Rat Terrier, has been very solicitous of her, following her and trying to help her (though not very consistently). He has come to get us a couple of times when she got into trouble in the back yard.

The other thing that's been keeping me from the blog is a project I've started.  Now that I'm able to do useful work at least part of the day, I've decided to come partially out of retirement and create software that, with a little luck, I can sell to bring in a little extra money; at least enough, I hope, to pay for the additional hardware and software I've had to buy for the development work (that's not really a lot, but retirement hasn't been quite what it was supposed to be, thanks to the Current Financial Unpleasantness).  I've got a project that I think I can do myself, one that I've been thinking about off and on for a year or so.  It will start out as a Macintosh application, sold through Apple's Mac App Store, and if that's successful, I plan to port it to the iPad. Details in a near future blog post.

I'll continue to post here, but probably not as often as I was doing last fall.  I'll be spending about 20 hours a week on the software project, and that will include some postings on a new blog I'm setting up now along with a website for the company that will sell the software.  I'll post the details for the new site and blog here soon.