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Two Great Science Videos I Saw Today

First, allow dogs to teach you about chemical bonds. I wish I was this skilled a dog trainer. My dogs know some tricks and my parrot talks a little, but this is well beyond my league.  My hat is off to you, snuggliepupppy!

Next is another cool video that’s significantly more serious in its message: we’re doing students a disservice by not teaching any knowledge more recent than 1865.

minutephysics certainly drives the point home.

Delayed Posting: Unintentional Hiatus

I’ve been unable and to be completely honest, unmotivated to post anything since the end of May. It’s a mess of factors that started with computer problems that just kept getting more frustrating, continued with working really long & hard in anticipation of being laid off and being gloomy about it.

So I think I’m going to embrace the need for a short break and kick things off with some lighthearted posts once I’m unemployed in a couple weeks.  I plan on chopping most of my hair off; I’ve been growing it out to donate and I hate it. It’s longer than it has been in more than 15 years (over half my life), and once I don’t have to be in a professional office every day, I’ll donate the bulk of it, cut it short again and dye it blue. I’m excited but a little nervous.

For those are interested, my computer problems are recounted below:

My household’s computer set up is not unheard of, but is certainly not typical for how most people use their main PC. Our main computer outputs to the television and it functions as gaming PC, movie and television player, DVR and just general computer stuff. We had initially thought a problem stemmed from issues with the PC. We went through a full wipe and reinstall, even though this is a pain given our highly customized setup. That wasn’t the problem.

Now it was probably getting close to time for a reinstall given how hard we work that machine and the length of time since we’d last done it.  But we had to take everything out of commission thinking it was an emergency (yes, I’m spoiled to think that the computer being dead is an emergency, but I’m hooked on technology).  We discovered as we were trying to recover backup data and set up the PC that there was a problem with our server.  We have data duplicated in case of trouble, but the very worst possible drive was failing: the system drive.  It takes considerably longer to deal with because you have to install the server OS on a new drive and painstakingly back up each drive (at 2 TB a piece) because as they are added to the server, they get wiped.  Do you know how long it takes to copy >5 TB of data even once?  It took days just to manage the data shuffle.

As for my job, it’s not completely unexpected and I bear my boss no ill will because he was ordered to eliminate my position, even though this will almost certainly overwhelm him.  I’m really trying to be optimistic about taking tons of credit hours and finishing my education (even though this comes with my first student loans), but on the other hand, I also get to dye my hair a funny color for the first (and possibly only) time in my life.

To the Lee of the Stone

I recently had to move my office, because it was just about that time again.  My department has been moved regularly since even before I worked here every year and half, on average.  This is my third move in maybe a year and half.

But although it’s always hard work to transport lots and lots and lots of files/banker’s boxes, this time I encountered something wondrous.  I don’t have the pictures available yet, so I’ll wait to do a full post on the item in question, but I have to say, I love technological archaeology.

Hypothesis Confirmed!

For ages now, Thrack has insisted that USB cables are in fact, three sided despite their visual appearance.  It appears that he has been correct all along (from SMBC).


When Did I Become Dependent?

Today is day 7 without internet access at home.  We predicted it wouldn’t be that big of deal because we have smartphones with unlimited data plans (actual unlimited, not the fake unlimited the larger carriers tend to offer).  But turns out there were a few flaws in that idea.

The first is that phone internet doesn’t really translate to providing access to Netflix streaming or the Rachel Maddow show we access through “Internet TV” in Media Center.  It also doesn’t provide connectivity for Steam, which has showed great reluctance to launch and work offline.

The second problem is that my house is located in a Sprinthole.  And my office is giant abstract layercake of concrete rectangles that doubles as a cellular bunker.  So basically the idea that having Android phones would cushion the gap between moving DSL lines last Monday to and having awesome fiber from UTOPIA installed this upcoming Thursday was totally wrong.

I found over the weekend that we really have come to rely on being connected electronically with pretty much everything.  It really must be the future when internet connectivity feels like a necessity, rather than a nice thing to have; also, it makes me feel old that this change basically crept up on us.  We don’t watch much TV, and we never watch live TV (hooray for being able to make the home PC/gaming computer/movie and television playback device into also a DVR) so we found ourselves rather lost on what to do with ourselves when waiting for laundry and whatnot.

We tried to keep ourselves occupied with things like the newly released (and beautiful) Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet, but we’ve been rationing it a bit, plus the level we’re on turns and twists in a way that has been making me motion sick and giving Thrack headaches.  We played Castle Crashers until it started causing Thrack headaches.

So in madness, we turned to terrible movies from the early 90’s.  Yesterday we watched both Surf Ninjas and the first Ninja Turtles movie.  Now, I know they were never a beloved part of my childhood, so they don’t have the same patina of nostalgia for me that they do for Thrack, but those are some godawful movies.  I was also struck while watching that there was a homophobic joke in Ninja Turtles that I totally missed when I saw it growing up.  Rationally I know there’s no reason for me to have noticed it was there (the movie came out when I was 7) but it still bugged me that I didn’t notice it.  As for Surf Ninjas, well, it’s simply consistently terrible.

I can’t wait for the tech to come wire the house for fiber optics on Thursday; service will start sometime after that, not sure of the date.  I’ll probably have a long and excited post about the local fiber we’re getting from UTOPIA once it gets up and running.  I get to ditch Comcast and Qwest-soon-to-be-Century-Link and move to what is actually a newer technology, while encouraging the city to invest in local infrastructure.  I’m very excited.

I’ve Angered the Technology Gods

It’s relatively frustrating when you’re mired with computer glitches in the best of circumstances. These are not the best of circumstances and this morning’s problems go beyond mere glitches.

The motherboard on my work PC is fried, and while most of my work is on the network, a few things I had been helping other people with were on my desktop because I didn’t need to keep the data. I’ve been doing as much as possible through my phone (seriously, aren’t smartphones a lifesaver?) but it is rapidly approaching the point where I could really use a computer, any computer to get some urgent stuff taken care of. We are supposed to be selling property this week and I urgently need access to some electronic forms in my files.

On the Edge of Another Cultural Shift?

I’m old enough to remember the shift to digital media when it was still fought tooth and nail by the RIAA. I think if we dug in a box or two, I could find Thrack’s old minidisk player from high school, actually. I remember “mp3 is not a crime” and the fear-driven drafting of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

I also remember when the first real change in attitude happened.  When digital music became mainstream, and suddenly everyone had an iPod. When everything was marketed as mp3 compatible, including random hardware.  (Yep, that modem is totally mp3 compatible and they want you to know it, that’s why they slapped a sticker on it!)  I want to believe we are approaching another big shift, this time about video, but I don’t know if it can happen the same way it did before.

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Better Than I Can

For a few years now, I’ve had a tea making suite™ that I have loved (by Zarafina).  I had wanted it for ages, but could never justify the cost to myself, so when I saw it go on crazy-Amazon-sale for the first time, I jumped on it.  When I first started reading the instruction manual, I was overwhelmed with pretension.  It was packed full of tea-snobbery: proper temperature, steeping time, proud tradition of blah, blah, blah.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I love tea, but it was a little daunting.  The manual read like a sales pitch.  Even the paper the instructions were printed on was heavy, self-important stuff.

But the fact is, it is a marvelous device with great settings that makes tea better than I (as a human who doesn’t have time to boil water and stick in a thermometer to get optimum temperature) ever can.  The number of settings for type, delivery style and strength of tea ensures you can get all flavor you want without improper bitterness or risk of burning.  I more or less retired my stovetop kettle except for the rare occasion I need it for something other than tea.

It tickled the gadget lover in me too, since the infusion basket (not pictured below, strangely) floats until the water is heated properly, and the tea maker sinks it using magnetic attraction to the steel plate in the bottom.  It’s weirdly fun to watch.  The Zarafina tea maker is also quite pretty as you can see:

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