February 28, 2012

The World at Your Feet

Check out this time-lapse video from the ISS. I think it might be the coolest thing I have ever seen.


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February 26, 2012

I Hardly Knew Ye

Sadly, just before noon today, my girlfriend's last remaining grandparent passed away. I didn't know Betty all that well, but she was always kind and friendly to me. She had a brush with death by pneumonia a few months ago, and while she surprised the hospital staff that time, it clearly did some damage. She just wasn't the same afterwards.

Last spring, my GF, her sister and brother-in-law, and Grandma Betty went to the finest BBQ joint in Buffalo. That's how I choose to remember Betty: smiling, laughing, full of joie de vivre.

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February 23, 2012

I Have the Power

I bought my current laptop back in 2006 or 2007. It was rather cheap, because life onboard ship is hard on electronics, so I didn't want to spend a lot of money on an item that was at daily risk of destruction.

It is still going strong, except the battery is dead. Even idling, the battery dies in less than 15 minutes. Sleep mode can be sustained for only an hour. I have to plug it in whenever I want to use it. It's still useful in some circumstances, as it is much more portable than my desktop machine; but it's utility in the academic setting is limited by the need to keep it plugged in at all times.

Thus I had to decide between getting a new battery and getting a whole new laptop. For $500-$700 I could get a low-end "ultrabook" which would be much lighter and yet still more powerful, with the benefit of half a decade of Moore's Law. But the old one's resale value is very very low, and it hurts my soul to throw it away. It's not like I need more processing power anyway, as I use it for office tasks and watching videos, not playing games or anything else processor-intensive.

Shopping for a new battery, I discovered I could buy an off-brand replacement battery for about $70, an official HP replacement for $90… or an official high-power battery (with twice the life) for $95.

Having received the new battery today, I am guessing the reason the high-power one is cheaper is that it was repatriated from a market where it was overstocked. The battery was made in China, but the packaging was all in Portuguese. The Brazilian market's loss is my gain.

I'm looking forward to seeing how long the laptop can run now. It will be lovely to do presentations without needing to stretch an extension cord to the nearest outlet.

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Music Over Time

We live in a time where we can review "live" works of art that happened in the past. It's kind of strange, really, what can be done with that ability.


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February 17, 2012

From the Academic Trenches

My adviser is perhaps ten years older than I am. She tells me that in a recent undergraduate lecture, she talked about riddle songs for a little while, and used a recording of the most famous one as an example. Most of the students in the class found it utterly hilarious, which confused her: the riddles are clever, but not in a very laugh-out-loud kind of way.

It was left to the TA to remind her of a particular scene in the movie Animal House. The professor swears she has seen the movie, it had just slipped her mind…


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February 08, 2012

Birthday plus Championship of American-Style Rugby

My girlfriend's birthday falls unfortunately close to America's most important secular holiday, Super Bowl Sunday. I am told that, in the past, this was annoying to her, because not everyone wants to go to a Superbowl party and a birthday party the same week.

So the parties have been combined. The plan was to have the Puppy Bowl on the upstairs TV and the Super Bowl on the downstairs TV, but the flaw in that was that people were more interested in socializing than anything else, and breaking the party in half did not advance that goal. There were about a dozen people, which is enough that both groups could have maintained minimum social mass, but it didn't happen. Perhaps next year we shall drag the upstairs TV down to the living room, and have both shows in the same field of view. The Puppy Bowl audio track isn't really all that important anyway.

There was the obligatory mountain of food, which is to say we still have multiple pounds of chips left over. Luckily chips take a while to go bad.

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