Thursday, January 22, 2009

World Community Grid

So lately I have been crusading for the World Community Grid. The Grid is a program that links computers all over the globe to form supercomputers to conduct nonprofit research on topics like cancer, AIDS, and outer space research. It's a really cool program that was originally constructed by IBM for their own supercomputer research. They decided it was so cool that they maintain it for free for the Grid and have every single computer they own hooked up to it. The World Community Grid is guided by a board of directors who accept bids for Grid time from various nonprofit research agencies around the globe, in pretty much the same manner as a company would bid for supercomputer time.
The Grid works by detecting when the computer is idle, and then using its processing power to help perform research. In this way it won’t slow computers down while they are being used, merely use the computers’ downtime more efficiently. It doesn't even need that much downtime. Say you are checking your e-mail, but decide that you want a glass of water. Those couple of minutes that it takes you to go downstairs, fill up a glass, and come back, are all used by the Grid to conduct scientific experiments. So really, you don't even need to leave your computer on all night and rack up huge electricity bills; any time you give it, it will use, thereby maximizing the amount of work that your computer gets done per day.
The website for the Grid can be found here, and here is a podcast made by IBM that details how the Grid works. For those of you IT superninjas out there, I assure you that the Grid is in fact safe; I'll have a link to their safety concerns section up later tonight.

In other news, some wacky websites!
Daily Street Art
Myna Bird Chat
New languages
Magic 8-Ball Dissection

Until next time...

"In the laboratory there are no fustian ranks, no brummagem aristocracies; the domain of Science is a republic, and all its citizens are brothers and equals, its princes of Monaco and its stonemasons of Cromarty meeting, barren of man-made gauds and meretricious decoractions, upon the one majestic level!"
- "Three Thousand Years among the Microbes" by Mark Twain

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Sea Kittens!

So, we all know PETA, right? And how they want to save the world's creatures, no matter how ugly, scaly, slimy or tasty they are? Well, they now have a brand new plan for stopping people from plundering the worlds oceans. Here is there announcement of their new campaign:

"People don't seem to like fish. They're slithery and slimy, and they have eyes on either side of their pointy little heads—which is weird, to say the least. Plus, the small ones nibble at your feet when you're swimming, and the big ones—well, the big ones will bite your face off if Jaws is anything to go by.

"Of course, if you look at it another way, what all this really means is that fish need to fire their PR guy—stat. Whoever was in charge of creating a positive image for fish needs to go right back to working on the Britney Spears account and leave our scaly little friends alone. You've done enough damage, buddy. We've got it from here. And we're going to start by retiring the old name for good. When your name can also be used as a verb that means driving a hook through your head, it's time for a serious image makeover. And who could possibly want to put a hook through a sea kitten?"

So, of course what we had to do was make our very own sea kitten! Meet...

Create Your Own Sea Kitten at!

Man oh man, nothing has EVER made me want to eat sushi more than this campaign. Just think of it- raw sea kitten! Or you could have sea kitten sticks! Or kitten steaks! The possibilities are endless! Thank you PETA... thank you.

Until next time...

"Do not tell fish stories where the people know you; but particularly, don't tell them where they know the fish."
More Maxims of Mark, Johnson, 1927

Monday, January 12, 2009

Not much to report over the past couple of days. Work at Skyline has been kind of a roller coaster recently- on Wednesday one of my headphones was stolen by a particularly ballsy kid, which put me in a pretty bad mood, but on Saturday my students actually showed up, brought more students, and we had a really nice class where I taught them to surf the web in cool new ways. Now on Monday the internet in the lab is down on 6/9 computers. The other 3 do, but when we tried switching the router on and off 1 of the 3 working computers stopped working and one of the disfunctional 6 started functioning, leaving me with no choice but to wait for IT.

IT and I have a special relationship now. I send them requests, and they comply with about half the request right away, but then take forever on the second half. 3 months ago I asked IT to take in a computer and fix it, which they did promptly. I still don't have the computer back, and to my knowledge it hasn't been fixed yet, leaving me with 9/10 computers in the lab. Other times they'll fix my half of the internet but screw everybody else in the building. I'm just hoping that the guy will be here quickly and fix the problem quickly, or I could have a mutiny on my hands.

Now for your geek report. The war is going badly for the Eldar. Even with evenly matched forces I can't seem to pull even a close match out against the daemonic horde. The autarchs have decreed that scatter lasers will win the day against our foes, but my hope for the two battles tonight are few and far between. Where tactics fail, strategy will have to win the day. Unfettered expansion on my western and southern borders will have to be enough to carry us through this long night. Meanwhile in Granada my brother/ghoul Niccolo has fallen to the unclean hands of William, Nosferatu primogen and all around dirty, evil Englishman. Massimo has gone into mourning, but will now use his increased wealth to hire and ghoul/embrace an army to take down William and anyone else who was implicit in Nico's death. Other weapons will have to be sharpened as well, in the event of the eventual fallout. Elsewhere, in the far North of the United States, on the shores of one of the Greatest Lakes of the World, a musty, black and white tome with the picture of a raven on the cover has been opened, its words sowing the seeds for a Year of Frost, itself merely the harbinger to a Day of Iron... have I mentioned I like foreshadowing?

Until next time...

"In America, we hurry--which is well; but when the day's work is done, we go on thinking of losses and gains, we plan for the morrow, we even carry our business cares to bed with us...we burn up our energies with these excitements, and either die early or drop into a lean and mean old age at a time of life which they call a man's prime in Europe...What a robust people, what a nation of thinkers we might be, if we would only lay ourselves on the shelf occasionally and renew our edges!"
- The Innocents Abroad, by Mark Twain

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Frost/Nixon and Political Star Trek

On Saturday Jason, Caroline, Rachel and I headed down to Edina to see the movie Frost/Nixon. I came into the movie not exactly knowing what to expect- I knew that there was a famous interview that showed Nixon in a bad light, but that was about it. So, I didn't think that the story would be especially gripping, more just good.

Well, I was half right and half wrong. The story was good, but it was also surprisingly gripping, dragging us the whole way while we were on the edge of our seats with worry and/or anticipation. There's a whole lot of factors that make it so intense- the excellent way that Frost is portrayed as a potential nitwit who might be way in over his head, especially through that vacant smile he's always wearing; the mounting debt that the production runs up, even during the final day of filming; and the strangely likeable malevolence of Nixon. Speaking of Nixon, the actor, Frank Langella, is amazing. He looks nothing like Nixon, but just from the way that he speaks, walks and gestures you are convinced that he is Tricky Dick. This effect was pulled off so well that about halfway through the movie I could've sworn that he had actually physically morphed into the former president, despite the aforementioned discrepancy in their appearances.

In other news, Rachel and I are working our way through Star Trek: TNG. Last night we came across an episode called The Outcast which was really good and surprisingly relevant. It concerns the Enterprise coming to the aid of an alien race that is completely androgynous. Throughout the episode we come to realize that the race is not, in fact, completely androgynous and that some of them realize that they are of a gender, either male or female, and are scorned for it. In all it was a really neat look at the gay rights issue, except kind of reversed and of course in an alien setting. I recommend that you check it out- it's worth the watch.

That's about it for now; till next time...

"History has tried hard to teach us that we can't have good government under politicians. Now, to go and stick one at the very head of the government couldn't be wise."
- Mark Twain writing in the New York Herald, 8/26/1876

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Videos and the New Doctor

...and a second post for today! I have recently come across some very geeky and hilarious videos, and I thought that I sould share them with you. First is a site filled with mash ups, mostly involving either the Doctor or original Trek... by far his best one in my opinion is the classic Trek/Dr Who crossover one, which should be at the top of the page.

Another is Star Trek: TNG versus Star Wars; also exceedingly high quality.

Finally here is a video of a British man thumbing his nose at the police by convincing them that an 8 foot tall alien from outer space was wandering around down town.

Also, while we're kind of on the subject, they've released the identity of the next Doctor. Will he match up to Tennant? Probably not, but here's hoping!

Road Trippin' in the MidWest: Holidays Edition

Hey everybody, welcome to 2009! It's been a while since I rapped at ya (yeah, I actually just said that), so let's do a quick recap of the past two weeks:

1. F%(& a Duck Day: Friday before Christmas, the day before I planned on going home, we get news that snow will cover the entirety of the eastern half of the United States from Saturday evening to Tuesday morning, forcing Ms. Carroll and I to flee home much, much earlier than expected. I cancelled my appearance at work the next day, bundled everything into the car, and conked myself out with meds to sleep. At 4:30 in the morning we roared off into the night... and had quite a pleasant drive. It was still F%(& a Duck Day because I had wanted to get a lot of things done on Saturday... but oh well.

2. What is the What: while driving home we listened to What is the What, by Dave Eggers. It's a biographical tale based on one of the Lost Boys of Sudan and his surviving the genocide and eventual migration to the US. The man, Valentino/Achak/Dominic (depending on the year, as he has many names) is hit with one disaster after another, continuing through his life in the US. But, it's a great listen (and read as well I presume), can be funny at times, and has a very unique and engaging storytelling style. Highly recommend it, though it is incredibly long (approx. 20 hrs on cds)

3. Home: home was good; the entire fam (+ auxiliaries) was there and everyone was actually nice to one another for once... a genuine Christmas miracle. I made lots of heffezupf (German sweet bread), played in the snow, and got all sorts of wonderful things for Christmas. I also played a lot of Wii, in particular Star Wars Lightsaber duels (blocking is for sissies!) and Rayman Raving Rabbids (a bunch of psycho rabbits capture the main character and force him to fight in a gladiatorial arena through various ridiculous and hilarious mini games, i.e. shooting bunnies with plungers, making the bunnies dance, cow flinging, etc.). Now I need to get one for my house. Grr.

4. Trip back: started off on Saturday night but first made a detour to Barnes and Nobles. Ran into friends, got dragged into a Euchre game, but eventually made it out and on the road. Winds were very intense, forcing us to stop midway through Indiana to rest and wait it out a bit. 1.5 hours later I said screw it and we continued on through the howling dark. When the sun came out everything was fine, though, and we managed to make it home and watch Dr. Who and eat pizza. Side note: wisconsin can be very pretty on a cloudless day at dawn with snow and frost blanketing the countryside.

5. Duluth: Went up to see Rachel's parents on Monday night, and Rachel actually drove most of the way! Had a lot of fun and good food up there, and actually got some presents from Rachel's parents. First is Fallout 3, the most awesome game in teh history of ever. The other is a wacky websites page-a-day calendar, which is also amazing. For instance, today's website is Everyday's A Holiday, which, you guessed it, tells you what holiday it is today. I think I'll just randomly link in websites from now on from there. Today happens to be the festival of sleep! Anyway, purchased beer and root beer at Fitgers, did some more reconnaissance for my secret project, and eventually headed home.

6. New Year's: we had a booze train, lots of good food and drink, good friends and a glowing polar descending from a tree in lieu of some oversized disco ball. 'Nuff said.

7. For the entirety of New Year's Day I played either Warhammer (I have shiny new Eldars now!), Order Of The Stick, saw people playing games, or watched Spinal Tap. I may have OD'd on fun.

8. ...and that brings us to today, where I am sitting in the computer lab, watching people watch YouTube.

So, until next time...

"New Year's Day--Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual. Yesterday, everybody smoked his last cigar, took his last drink, and swore his last oath. Today, we are a pious and exemplary community. Thirty days from now, we shall have cast our reformation to the winds and gone to cutting our ancient shortcomings considerably shorter than ever. We shall also reflect pleasantly upon how we did the same old thing last year about this time. However, go in, community. New Year's is a harmless annual institution, of no particular use to anybody save as a scapegoat for promiscuous drunks, and friendly calls, and humbug resolutions, and we wish you to enjoy it with a looseness suited to the greatness of the occasion."
- Letter to Virginia City Territorial Enterprise, Jan. 1863 , by Mark Twain