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Week of 10 May 2010

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Monday, 10 May 2010
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08:10 - My experiment with Facebook is over. I've concluded that Facebook is too evil to live. Here are some interesting articles about Facebook.

I've already paid the price--Facebook has my name, birthdate, email address, and IP address--so I'll leave the account active and just lurk. I've de-friended most of the people I friended, leaving only a few actual close friends.

More money down a rat hole. The Greece bailout continues to the tune of a trillion Euros, and looks to be turning into a real mess. No surprise there. The surprise was that the European Union ever allowed Greece--a small, poor, profligate Balkan country--to join the Eurozone in the first place. Once they did that, the outcome was predictable and inevitable. The Greeks are rioting to protest "austerity measures" that amount to little more than a band-aid. What the European Union should have insisted on as a condition of providing any assistance was immediate and permanent cuts of 50% to 80% or more in Greek government spending. What they got instead was essentially a small reduction in the rate of increase. 

This massive bailout simply delays the inevitable, and not for long. Greece is heading for default, with Spain and Portugal not far behind, and Italy not far behind them. As the weaker dominoes continue to topple, they'll drag down the stronger nations in the Eurozone until only Germany is left, as a shell of its former self. The UK will come to bless the day that it refused to join the Euro.


Tuesday, 11 May 2010
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10:35 - Still churning away on the PC book. I'm working on the home server chapter right now.

Boy, this really pisses me off. I see that the local, state, and federal governments aren't the only ones who want tax money from us. Now the UN is trying to get its snout into the trough, with plans to directly tax residents of the US and other first-world countries, supposedly for the benefit of third-world countries but in reality for the benefit of the UN. I say not just NO, but HELL NO.

It is long past time that the US withdrew entirely from the UN and expelled it from US territory. The UN does not and never has acted for the benefit of the US or US citizens. The UN is our enemy. It's bad enough that we pay any attention to anything the UN decides, let alone pay a grossly disproportionate share of UN costs. Pull out of the UN, eject UN personnel from the US, and tear down the UN building. We can decide for ourselves what is or is not in the best interests of US citizens, and take unilateral actions accordingly. If someone takes strong exception to our actions, well that's what our carrier battle groups are for.


Wednesday, 12 May 2010
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09:30 - Are you qualified to edit a book? Find out now by taking this simple test. Which three words in the following paragraphs from the home server draft is my editor likely to flag?

Even today, a re-purposed older system is by far the most common type of home server. That's unfortunate, because an old system is about the worst possible choice for a home server. Granted, a typical home server doesn't require much processor horsepower, but that's about the only way an older system fits the requirements for a home server.

Think about it. You'll probably load up your home server with gobs of data that really matter to you: irreplaceable digital camera images and home video footage, your porn collection, all of your documents, your old tax returns and business records, and so on. Do you really want all of that precious information residing on a system that's near the end of its design life, with a five-year-old motherboard and power supply? That's a disaster waiting to happen.

I finally saw something in the MSM that I'd been wondering about since the Gulf oil leak hit the news. When Barbara and I were watching an early news report about it, I turned to her and asked why they didn't just detonate a baby nuke near the bore hole. They could dial it down to a kiloton or ten, and the detonation would crush the borehole and melt enough of the rock to seal it forever. The environmental impact would be small, certainly much smaller than a continuing 200,000 gallon per day oil leak. Any residual radioactivity would be quickly diluted down to the parts per billion and then parts per trillion level, indistinguishable from background radiation.

Now, as it turns out, that's just what the Russians are recommending. I wasn't aware of it, but they've actually used that method on five similar oil leaks over the last few decades, and it worked on at least four of them. I don't know what happened on the fifth, but I'd guess they used too little yield.


Thursday, 13 May 2010
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10:26 - My editor, Brian Jepson, has weighed in. He says the only change he'd recommend is to correct a spelling error: "porn" to "pr0n".

I'm still cranking away on the book. We should begin actual builds in the next couple of weeks. Based on which components we already have and which we're still waiting for, we'll probably build the mainstream system first, followed by the home server, the media center system, the budget system, the appliance system, and finally the extreme system.

We put the extreme system last in the queue because we're hoping to build it around an unannounced Antec case, which we may or may not be able to get a sample of before the book deadline. I can't say anything about it yet, but it looks to be a very nice product. The extreme system will be my new main office system, and will be more than twice as fast as my current main office system. Ironically, despite its age, my current main office system (a Core2 Quad Q9650) is still much faster than any of the other new systems we're building. In fact, with performance higher than the fastest Intel Core i5, it's faster than 99% of the new systems currently sold. We'll probably clean up the Q9650 system and turn it into Barbara's new main office system.

The appliance system will become my new den system, replacing the current Core2 Duo E6750, which is about as fast as the new budget system and about three times faster than the Intel Atom system that will replace it. That new Atom system will be in an Antec ISK 300 case, which is bigger than a Mac mini, but smaller than any other case we've ever used. The E6750 system ended up as my den system because it was available, not because I needed that much power for web browsing and the other casual tasks I do on it. The Atom system will be fast enough, and much less obtrusive.

The system Barbara is anxiously awaiting is the media center system, which will sit next to our new HDTV. In particular, she's been waiting almost a year to watch series two through six of Crossing Jordan. We rented series one from Netflix last spring. At the time, the official Crossing Jordan web site said they expected to release the other series as soon as they were able to clear up some music copyright permissions. They apparently weren't able to negotiate permission, because that page has since disappeared and it now seems series two through six will never be released for home video. We'd be happy to rent these other five series from Netflix if they were available. If necessary, we'd be happy to buy these other five series, if they were available. But it looks like that isn't ever going to happen, so if we really want to see them BitTorrent may be the only option.


Friday, 14 May 2010
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08:36 - One of my friends suggested that maybe I was a little too high-profile to talk about BitTorrenting television programs. IANAL, but my understanding is that it's not against the law to download copyrighted material, only to upload it. Certainly, in all the lawsuits by the RIAA/MPAA, the plaintiffs charge that the defendant uploaded files. In practical terms, the MAFIAA hounds locate their victims by downloading copyrighted material from their IP addresses. Short of seizing server logs, they have no way to know who else is also downloading that material.

So, although I can't offer legal advice, it seems to me that anyone can legally grab television programs and other copyrighted material via BitTorrent simply by setting their BitTorrent client to throttle uploads to 0.00 KB/s, thereby ensuring that they never upload a single byte. Of course, by doing that, they become a leech, but there are worse fates.

I've been working heads-down on the book, but I need to take some time this weekend to get a couple of things done in the lab. One sink is full of glassware that had a preliminary washing and has been soaking for two or three weeks in what originally was sudsy water. I need to get all that stuff washed, dried, and put away. I also need to make up 500 mL or 1 L each of 20 or 30 bench reagents, mostly 0.1 M or 1.0 M solutions of various acids, bases, and salts.

Doing that individually as each solution is needed is very inefficient. It's much more efficient to do it in large batches, a dozen or more solutions at a time. That way, I can be weighing out the 105.99 grams of anhydrous sodium carbonate I need to make up 1 L of 1 M solution while the 249.68 grams of copper(II) sulfate I'd just weighed out is dissolving (which takes a long time). I'm not all that skilled a juggler, but I can generally keep a dozen or so such procedures going simultaneously without losing track of what I'm doing for each.


Saturday, 15 May 2010
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09:53 - We had dinner with Mary Chervenak last night. The conversation was wide-ranging, as usual.

Although I disagree with just about everything Grace Slick stands for politically, I've always admired her for her rigorous intellectual honesty. There's nothing phony about her. An interviewer once asked Grace what she'd say to her daughter, then in her mid-teens, if she found out she was using drugs. Grace replied, "What could I say?" I sometimes find myself in a similar position because of my YouTube videos.

For example, one young German scientist-to-be frequently corresponds with me. He's 15 years old, and he's doing things that make me very concerned for his safety. For example, yesterday he told me that he'd just produced metallic sodium by electrolysis from molten sodium hydroxide. In his home lab, which is in his bedroom. I try to discourage him from attempting such hazardous experiments, but he won't be dissuaded. And who am I to discourage him? By the time I was 15, I'd done much more dangerous experiments than he's currently doing, including synthesizing what I now realize were horrifying large quantities of mercury fulminate, nitroglycerin, PETN, RDX, and HMTD, to name just a few.

I find it very hard to take myself seriously when I tell him, in essence, "do what I say, not what I did." Still, that's what I'm doing. I just about choke on my own words, though.

John Albert Gardner III was sentenced yesterday to three consecutive terms of life without parole for raping and murdering 17-year-old Chelsea King and 14-year-old Amber Dubois. That's not enough. That's not nearly enough. Torturing this evil creature to death, slowly, wouldn't be enough. At least we can hope he'll be killed by another inmate. Prison inmates don't like scum who rape and murder kids any more than the rest of us do.

A modest proposal for a new type of sentence for Gardner and others like him, which should satisfy both supporters and opponents of the death penalty: life in prison without food or water.

11:15 - Another opportunity lost. The woman who lives across the street from us is dating a guy who restores old cars as a hobby. I was helping Barbara drag big tree limbs that we'd had trimmed from a huge pine in the back yard up to the curb. Malcolm was loose and helping me. Just as Malcolm and I arrived at the street, Bill pulled out of Paula's driveway in his restored 1951 Packard. He came to a stop and said what a beautiful dog Malcolm is. He then offered to trade the 1951 Packard for Malcolm. Of course, I told him he had a deal, and was just about to shake hands with him when Barbara arrived and put a stop to it. "It's a 1951 Packard!," I cried. She was not amused. So he still has the Packard and we still have Malcolm.

Which reminds me of another intellectually honest woman I knew when I was in college. We were sitting discussing prostitution one day, and I asked her if she'd have sex with me for $20. (This was the early 70's, so think more like $100+ in today's dollars.) She said she wasn't a whore. So I asked her if she'd have sex with me for $1,000,000, expecting her to deny that she would. Instead, she thought about it, and eventually replied, "You know, I probably would." Damn.

And, speaking of prostitution, I just watched a YouTube video that features a bunch of real feminists, all of whom I adore. ZOMGitsCriss leads it off.


Sunday, 16 May 2010
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Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 by Robert Bruce Thompson. All Rights Reserved.