Archive for General


Listening to a segment on WBEZ’s Worldview about the a recent massecre I came to a very simple realization: Philippines starts with ‘Ph’ and Filipino starts with ‘F’ (also there seems to some disagreement on the necessary number of ‘p’s). I know it isn’t Earth shattering, but what’s up with this?


Documentary about ATLAS physicists: Colliding Particles

There is so much reporting about the LHC and ATLAS that it seems much more common to find new items via my general browsing rather than the ATLAS announcement lists. CERN is big these days it’s even staring alongside Tom Hanks this summer. This is one example. I found it on BoingBoing Gadgets:

A well produced documentary series called Colliding Particles: Hunting the Higgs follows a small group of ATLAS scientists. It’s not overloaded with flashy shots from the ATLAS cavern, but it does integrate some fun little animations and solid explanations. There is definitely a nice personal angle to it and an effort to show the practicalities of work as a theorist and as an experimentalist. The first episode is embedded below. There are a total of four episodes: Codename Eurostar, Bing Bang Day, Conference Season, and Problems.


Hipster Olympics

Consider this video posted with an overall level of nonchalance and a reticent air of superiority.

YouTube Preview Image

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Bottled water on the rise

The NYTimes week in review has “A Battle Between the Bottle and the Faucet” about the meteoric rise of bottled water.  What’s most interesting, and truly surprising to me is the beverage share graph in the sidebar.  I had no idea that half of all the liquid Americans drink comes in the form of soft drinks.  I knew soft drinks were big, but I would have never guessed they were that big.  For some reason coffee took a dive in the late 90’s, and beer and milk have been neck-in-neck for a while.  At least it is nice to see that soft drinks are finally in decline.  Certainly a rise in bottled water at the expense of tap water is bad for our environment, but as an alternative to soft drinks you have to admit there is some progress there.


World Cup Football

Considering that half the Australian team is also Croatian, it is nice to see that their match had a sort of fitting end, a tie. Of course in a slightly grander scheme of things it wasn’t a tie, Australia advanced and Croatia didn’t. But, in the end Australia didn’t make it very far. Sadly, of course many other teams are now out of the tournament, notably the USA, which finally scored their first and only goal of the tournament in their losing game against Ghana. The US was ranked 5th going into the tournament, so we might have had some hope, but I hear those rankings aren’t very meaningful. Of course if we had won we would have advanced to play Brazil in the round of 16, the conclusion of which is probably inevitable (Brazil has won more World Cups than any other country and the US has never come close to winning.)

Speaking of which… Jeremy has some recent comments on his blog about his fondness for the “overdog”, and just today at lunch I happend to read about overdogs in a slightly more prestegious source, National Geographic magazine. I am one of those “stupid” people who has no problem rooting for the underdog, but according to John Lanchester, if you have to root for the overdog then you should probably choose Brazil. National Geographic brought together a flock of short essays about the significance of the World Cup as a whole and the meaningfulness of soccer to people in countries around the world. It is a really great feature that I couldn’t stop reading. I was using the dead-tree version today while I enjoyed some buns at iced tea at Eastern Accents, but the web site has even more content.

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Fat Wallet

Since arriving back in the States my wallet has been feeling strangly fatter. What gives? I only have one currency to carry. The power of exponetial growth hasn’t graced my investments in any dramatic way. There is no fresh check-marks next to “Marry money” in my inventory of personal goals. Yesterday, apon further inspection, I discovered that despite the uncomfortable fullness I had only $20 in my wallet. Damn you singles and fives! Of course, a month and a couple unfavorable exchange rates ago this would mean more jangly stuff in my pocket, but is that really a disadvantage? It’s not as if I can avoid carrying a wide selection of metal pieces around in addition to this bloated wallet; the 6.59321336% sales tax gods must be apeased.


Tiled Mini

Anyone who has spent a moderate amount of time with me in recent years knows I think the new Mini Coopers are intensely cool. In case you are a wealthy philanthropist with concerns for the downtrodden and carless I might note that there is one special boy out there with unfulfilled $23k dreams: Cooper S + purple haze body color + black roof + premium & convenience packages. Keep me in mind*.

In further Mini news, a lucky few have their Mini Cooper kitchen/bathroom ready: Bisazza presents tile mosaic Minis. The concept has some strange appeal, though the patterened one at the top is a little too grandma’s-tea-set for me. The RGB stripes aren’t bad, though, and the black and white checker is quite classy (all formal-wearish up close, but fading to a nice grey at a distance). Of course you need to watch for mildew and regrout after 60,000 miles.

Slapping a few tiles on a Mini isn’t anywhere as cool as rebuilding it into a robot, but thankfully it lacks that whole enslaving the human race downside.

* Alan Wilson is not a 501(c)(3) organization. Donations are not tax deductable.


Mmmm, That Fresh Cedar Revolution Smell

Lebanese Flag
I’m sure it was our own Pascale who really got the ball rolling: 800,000 come out to protest Syrian presence. That’s one-fifth of the country’s population!

By the way, while chatting with my friend James, I realized that Lebanon might have my favorite flag of any country. I’m a big sucker for a nice green tree. And given that fact, it will come as little surprise that my second favorite flag is Canada’s.


Acedemic Freedom Lecture

Noam Chomsky
Today I’m listening to the Noam Chomsky lecture “Illegal but Legitimate: A Dubious Doctrine for the Times” which is part of the Acedemic Freedom Lecture Series at the University of Michigan. Among other things, Chomsky discusses some interesting stuff about Kosovo that I didn’t know much about. I’ll have to listen to it again when I’m not distracted by work. Also, did you know Chomsky has a blog?

Some Alan trivia for you: one of only two Academic Freedom lectures that I have physically attended was on September 11, 2001, it probably was the only academic thing I did on that day.

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Grokster Brief from FSF

The title on this Boing Boing article says it all “Free Software Foundation tears MPAA a new one in Grokster brief.” The whole brief is great, not just the Boing Boing quote. One additional example is the following, which brackets the Summary.

Contrary to petitioners self-serving announcement, this is not one of the most important copyright cases ever to reach this Court. … The Court below quite properly rejected petitioners novel and untenable claim that the doctrine of contributory copyright infringement affords a few copyright-related businesses power to define the technical structure of the Internet.

In the teeth of this Court’s clear statements extending back almost a century, without the slightest statutory justification, petitioners claimed below that they had a right to veto the technological design that organizes the majority of contemporary traffic on the global Internet. Not surprisingly, they lost, and now resume their blustering before this Court. In referring to this as a very important case, petitioners characteristically mistake self-importance for the real thing.

These are the times when being a lawyer seems like it might actually be good fun. How do you like that sharp stick of rationality in the eye, MPAA?


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