Thursday, January 31, 2008

Stick Figures in Peril

This is the name a terrific Flickr group. It lead me to this sign:

Moving Gate Can Cause Serious Injury

There is so much gated parking here in Heck that this graphic has seared its way into my consciousness. The drama of the figure is quite arresting, but i'm confused about how the victim's arm is apparently behind the thing s/he's being squished into. (Perhaps this is meant to portray a man; in Sign-Land, only men wear pants. Does this mean women don't have anything to fear from moving gates? Or maybe all the victims have been men so far?)

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Caffeine Test Strip

After a sleepless night followed a supposedly decaf afternoon coffee drink, I'm anxiously awaiting the development of these caffeine test strips. I envision them to be like the pH test strips above.

(cite: Ladenson RC, Crimmins DL, Landt Y, Ladenson JH. Isolation and characterization of a thermally stable recombinant anti-caffeine heavy-chain antibody fragment. Analytical Chemistry June 1, 2006.)

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Another book I want to read: Johnny One-Eye

Being besotted with Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin series, I'm newly respectful of historical fiction. Here's a book that sounds like fun:

Here's part of the blurb:

Jerome Charyn now delights with this picaresque tour de force. He reanimates a war-torn Manhattan overrun by Redcoats and deserted by all but the Loyalists—and Mrs. Gertrude Jennings, the tempestuous, redheaded queen of Manhattan’s most spectacular bordello. When the novel opens, young double agent John Stocking is being interrogated by Washington, a rebel commander far removed from the dour, silent man of most history books.

New book by doctor on trial for manslaughter via abortion in 1971

I just heard about this book, and it sounds terrific:

Broken Justice is a true story about Dr. Ken Edelin, a young, black doctor who arrived in Boston in 1971 to do his residency training in Obstetrics and Gynecology at Boston City Hospital. In April 1974 he was three months away from completing his residency when he was indicted on a charge of manslaughter by a secret Grand Jury. The indictment concerned an abortion he had performed on a 17-year old girl, and the alleged victim washer aborted fetus. The indictment was sought by an over zealous, anti-abortion prosecutor and because of the racial, political and religious climate which existed in Boston the indictment received national and international attention. In January of 1975 his sensational six week trial began before a jury which was all white, predominantly male and overwhelmingly Catholic.

A better fall-back position for Scrabble

The future of Scrabulous on Facebook remains uncertain. It turns out that Hasbro sold digital rights to Scrabble to EA, who have certainly shown they make an excellent computer game, although I'm not wild about their online games. And they certainly don't have the user-interaction aspects of Facebook. Still, I think EA is more in touch with the current online markets than Hasbro is, so hopefully they can work out the Scrabble-on-Facebook thing in a way that benefits everyone, as I suggested before.

Friday, January 25, 2008

The question you want, not the one you got

As always, I love Miss Manners. Here is her advice to an engaged gay man who doesn't want to deal with people's questions about the legality of his upcoming nuptials:

Just follow Miss Manners' rule of answering the question you want to deal with rather than the one that was asked. It got her through school.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Don't be the demented lost cause


Subject: Removing scrabulous from Facebook

Hello -

I am concerned about your request that Facebook remove the Scrabble-like application Scrabulous from its site. I think you're entirely within your rights to make this request, but I think it's a terrible idea. You have already benefited from the situation: Scrabble has gained in popularity because of Scrabulous. With licensing and partnership, you could do much better by capitalizing on the current situation than trying to shut it down.

If you are considering hosting your own online Scrabble site, do not expect the same level of use as Scrabulous gets. People like Scrabble, but it's a notoriously long and slow game. Putting it in the context of Facebook is what makes it accessible. People don't need to convince friends to sign up for a new site. They can play asynchronously without forgetting about the game, because they're coming to the site for other reasons as well.

Remember too that Facebook is a social networking site: it's entire purpose is shared information. There are 10,000 people in various "Save Scrabulous" groups. You must act quickly to correct this mistake. I suggest you consider the existing benefits, devise new ways to capitalize on the situation, and change your position. By requesting the removal of Scrabulous from Facebook, you've positioned yourselves as the out-of-touch creaky old-guard. You now must pick between two roles: the old-fashioned but ultimately rational uncle or the demented lost cause.

Good luck,

Inquisition at JPL: Pocket protectors with the right stuff

From an editorial in the LA Times today:

As custodians of a great human adventure, the men and women of JPL deserve better from their own country than to be victimized by a shabby crowd of apprentice Torquemadas.* By resisting this bargain-basement inquisition, JPL plaintiffs have rendered us all yet another service. Who would have guessed that the folks with the pocket protectors would turn out to be the ones with the right stuff?
* Torquemada was a prominent leader of the Spanish Inquisition.

I'm not sure why this hasn't gotten more media coverage. Are there similar things going on at other organizations?

Expensive = good, according to me

"The more expensive a wine is perceived to be, the more likely a person is to enjoy it, according to a new study out of the Stanford Graduate School of Business and Caltech."

I was a participant in the survey portion of this study ("Come, drink wine for free."). Of course, I don't know what my results were, but the overall conclusion of the study is pretty depressing about human nature.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Select multiple drawing objects in Excel

This problem was giving me an enormous headache. I had a bunch of images of my results in a spreadsheet next to the quantification of each image. I wanted to reuse all the formulas and layout etc, but remove the images from my old results. I had too many images to happily Shift-Click them. I wanted a single command to select all of them. I knew they were in the drawing layer, but I couldn't get any further. Google gave me nothing. Finally, just fiddling around, I discovered that if you select one of the images, then you can select all of the rest with the Cmd-A shortcut (that's Ctrl-A for those of you on Windows). A caveat: I'm using Excel 2004 for Mac; Leopard on Macbook Pro. There were relatively few pictures that I wanted to keep, so it was easy to use the mouse to de-select those before I deleted the rest. I'm posting this in hopes that it won't take as much time for the next poor sucker who uses some obscure Excel functionality to solve this problem.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

A battle won in JPL background check struggle

The New York Times reports that "The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in California, issued an opinion allowing the scientists to continue working until the question of their privacy challenge can be addressed at a full trial."

Here's a brilliant soundbite: “This is truly a vindication for these scientists and engineers,” said Dan Stormer, a lawyer for the plaintiffs. “They’ve been loyal and hard-working and committed to science and this country — and they’ve been threatened with the loss of their jobs simply because they stood up for their constitutional rights.”

The court called the background checks "an inquisition." Unfortunately, the 9th circuit is the most overturned court of appeals. Hopefully this ruling will stick.

The AP reports about Caltech involvement:

The decision appeared to reverse a ruling by Wright late Thursday dismissing Caltech as a defendant in the lawsuit. The 9th Circuit said any injunction must also apply to Caltech.

It said the case "raises serious questions as to whether the university has in fact now become a willful and joint participant in NASA's investigation program, even though it was not so initially."

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Before the rain

There was dry time at the dog park. Jeff Quebral was shooting at the dog park and kindly sent me these pictures.

Friday, January 04, 2008

With enemies like this, you don't need friends

The Union of Concerned Scientists wikipedia entry has a "criticism" section. Each entry in the section features a crack-pot and essentially adds to the organization's credibility. This might be the result of some clever editing, but it's representative of the critics found on the web. Here's an example from the wikipedia "criticism" section:

Televangelist Jerry Falwell endorsed Chicago Tribune op-ed columnist Dennis Byrne's description of UCS as the "inexhaustibly liberal and self-appointed guardians of scientific purity [who] try to corrupt science for [their] own ends",[31] and accused UCS of leading evangelicals to "[fall] for all of this global warming hocus-pocus" and "[run] down meaningless rabbit trails that get our focus off of our heavenly purpose."[32]

I'm so glad the argument about whether global warming exists is substantially behind us, as indicated by George Bush conceding the existence of climate change and acknowledging some role of humans in it.