July 13th, 2005

smirking-winslet

Entropy Issues

Sigh

Don't talk to me about Entropy. I had this entry almost ready to go and moused on the wrong X -- thought I was killing the Preview box but killed the Mozilla session instead.

Good move.

Why Did They Bother?

After all the upheaval of moving my campus e-mail from the VAX to the lousy new web-based e-communications site, after all of two whole weeks, I find that they have installed an entirely different web-based e-mail suite. Gee, guys, don't I feel like I've had a good time learning a new system and setting up options, only to have a totally different setup, with different options -- and oh-by-the-way, all my deleted e-mails are back and I had to delete them all over again because we never got the one month expiration and auto-destruct of deleted e-mails...

Geesh. Whatta waste of time.

Several have wondered if I can use some other system like Thunderbird -- and the answer is probably "yes", but since I move around a lot and might not be on one of my own systems, including PDAs on WiFi, I thought it best to learn the new system.

Doesn't the university, which pays my salary, think I have "better" things to do than keep on upgrading my e-mail -- which I didn't want upgraded in the first, damned place?

Ooops, Sorry!

As we wait the last few hours before NASA tries to resume manned space flight, we heard last night about the window protector panel which, uh, fell and damaged some tiles near the orbital engines at the base of the Shuttle's tail.

I tell you, entropy is a bitch.

UPDATE: They've called off today's launch attempt. Faulty fuel sensor. You might think that's not all that important, but the Shuttle's main engines have turbo pumps which run at tremendous speed -- they require the cryogenic liquid fuels to cool themselves and keep from melting/tearing themselves apart. If the computers thought they were running out of fuel prematurely, they might decide to shut down the engines, leaving the Shuttle in any of several dangerous Abort and Return scenarios. RTLS -- Return To Launch Site -- involves jettisoning the "stack" with the external tank and solid rocket boosters while upside down and then trying to glide back to the Cape. MECO Press to (Site) involves Main Engine Cut Off and trying to make it to one of the landing sites on the other side of the Atlantic: Rota (Spain), Dakar (Africa) or Press to Orbit using the Onboard Maneuvering System (OMS) engines.

Trust me. Caution on the bad sensors is a good thing -- much more problematic than having the Check Engine light come on your dashboard of your car...

Bzzz, Zzzzoom

There is this fly -- some big noisy fly -- which has been around for a week or so, assuming it is just one -- and it goes up and down the corridors of the Physics Dept. and takes a turn in various offices which happen to be open.

Now sometimes I am real death on flies, but this bastard will not light on anything, so I can't do my patented Kung Fu Fly Clap Of Death maneuver on it.

It didn't come by yesterday, so I thought maybe it was gone. But maybe it just found someone else to love or got caught behind a closed door.

Of Course It's Not Available Here Anyway

Imagine a Windows XP Pro machine about 6-1/2" x 4-1/2" x 1" and weighing 1.2 pounds. I was just reading about the Sony VAIO VGN-U71p. It's an odd combination of touch screen, PSP-inspired thumb controls for mouse actions, etc., and an external folding keyboard, so it's like an oversize PDA which isn't running some Pocket Version of software but The Real Thing. There are people in Japan, Hong Kong and Europe who will sell them to Americans -- about $2400 and so way out of any discretionary funding of mine -- but there's something awesome in seeing pictures of something that small which apparently really works. And this is sort of the third version of the machine, so it's not like a first-off glitchy mess.

A lot of people complain about Sony's pricing and their continued use of Memory Sticks. I dunno -- I have Sony laptops, a tiny Sony camera and a Sony digital voice recorder for dictation which all take Memory Sticks and find them pretty useful. Our HP photo printers have slots for Memory Sticks, so I don't see what the big deal is. Oh, yeah, that price thing.

Frankly, most of the Sony products I've ever owned have had decent engineering, sturdy construction and (trying to resist sounding like a shill for their website) a certain style which is lacking in a lot of other people's gear. If you don't like Sony -- and I don't for all things -- then don't buy Sony.

But that U71p is awfully cute...

In The P.O. Box

Besides junk mail, fliers and a bill, got a new issue of Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet and a similar-sized envelope with a pretty blue butterfly on it from Australia -- first issue of my subscription to Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine. The LCRW is fairly bursting with things stuffed into the pages and held closed with tape. The first issue I got on my subscription came in a big envelope with a book I ordered -- this one came on its own. I wonder how they ship if you get the subscription which includes a bar of chocolate with each issue?

The pretty mailing envelope from the Australian Post reminds me that many of the national postal systems do a nice job of making un-boring stamps and such available. The USPS provides some excellent envelopes for things like Priority Mail and Global Priority Mail, but they aren't artistic, just highly functional. And the USPS does have some decent stamps, yet they also do some monochromatic jobs such as the 23cent, 60cent and 83cent stamps which can be hard to read, let alone "admire" the artwork.

Now that I'm getting mail from around the globe -- okay the U.K. and Australia -- I have to say that I've gotten some really nice stamps from both countries.

London Hurts

My heart goes out to the families of the missing in London. The bombing sites in the Underground are being treated as crime scenes and the work is going very slowly and they haven't recovered all (most of) the victims.

Dr. Phil
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smirking-winslet

More Entropy

BTW- When I said I lost my entry, I should point out that most days I trust computers as far as I can throw them... and I have a bad back. So usually (but of course not now) I write up the HTML code in Wordpad and paste it in. What I was missing when I closed the wrong window, was I had pasted URL's directly into the Update Journal entry, so the Wordpad version wasn't quite up to date. Look, Ma! No hands...!

Eventually It Will Fall Off Your Arm

Anyone who sees me wandering around knows that I usually carry too much crap with me. And the one "important" thing is not a man-purse, it's what I call a "technology bag." (Hey, I see you snickering over there...) Digital camera, cellphone, PDA, Victorinox Swiss Army Knife and Swiss Army Card, etc. The black bag itself is a Case Logic product that I've had for several years. Actually the same bag was marketed to hold portable CD Players and the Iomega ZIP-100 drive, but with different model numbers.

Alas, after years and years of use, the zippers have been going bad for a while -- staggering to realize how long one can "use" a zipper that is either missing critical teeth or has lost both its zipper pull and the front part of the attachment point -- and the stitching holding one strap in place started tearing just the other day. So when the main zipper jammed and came partway off its track before coming home last night, it was time. Time to pull a CD player out of its Case Logic case and swap things around. Gave me an excuse to pull the excess junk out of there, too, and now it's functional and light again. Hoo-yah! And I think I may still have a third Case Logic case in this form factor for an old ZIP drive, so in five years...

Flotsam and Jetsam

The weirdest thing I found in the old bag, was in the bottom of an outside pocket, underneath a bunch of old receipts, there were two pieces of petrified McDonald's french fries. Now, I have no idea how long ago I might've eaten McDonald's french fries where they could've fallen there -- years probably. But that was odd.

Runner ups included a gold-toned silver dollar (I'm not going to try to spell Sacajewea without looking it up) and a ten-year-old voter registration card.

Cheap Can Be An Expense

It sure feels like they shut down the AC in my building on campus earlier these days. No doubt it saves money, but once the air begins to feel like it is devoid of most oxygen and it all gets sticky and my boxes begin to smell like humid cardboard -- it's probably time to think about wrapping this up and heading home. And potentially earlier than I might've otherwise. So much for getting productive value for one's money.

The NPR Scary Doom and Gloom Report

Last night on the long drive home, there was yet another story about a possible environmental catastrophe which We Don't Know What It Means Yet. This one was about a lack of plankton in the Pacific Ocean off the West Coast. Normally one gets upwelling, where fertilizer rich cold water from the deep is pushed up to the surface by colder waters coming down from the north, and creating the bountiful plankton blooms for many sea creatures to eat. But very little this year. Kind of an El Nino effect, I believe they said.

They went on to talk about how some of the rockfish and other things out there live to be over a hundred years old and one year isn't a big problem. But right at the end of the story, when I tuned the radio out to concentrate on merging onto the highway and all, they mentioned how this was like the third year this has been going on...

Hello!? I keep noting this little things and have notes to start an end-of-the-world story. Two actually. One is about this guy who works for FEMA or some other government agency, who keeps thinking up these terrible disasters in order to justify his job and write up possible strategies -- only then they come true..., and another along the lines of I didn't worry about the loss of the frogs... or the fish... or the trees... until...

It's what happens after the ellipses that'll be the fun part. Along with hoping we aren't on a dying planet.

Dr. Phil
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