Day: January 2, 2012

Monday, 2 January 2012

08:50 – I sent off the chapter on arthropods yesterday and got a good start on chordates, although I decided to change the focus from chordates to vertebrates. Right now, I’m shooting lots of photomicrographs. I’m using lots of images to minimize the need for readers to have complete sets of prepared slides. The images are not a perfect substitute for slides by any means, but they’re better than nothing, which is what many readers will have.

If I were doing this book again, I’d start by finding a high resolution video camera, say 6+ MP, and shooting video of all the slides, tweaking the focus as the video was captured. I’d then use stacking software to build composite images to eliminate depth of field problems. Of course, that would have added a lot more work, both in the shooting and the processing. Even on a fast six-core system with gobs of memory, processing a large stack of high resolution images into the composite could require many hours of processing per image.

After nine days at home, Barbara just headed back to work. Colin, of course, is now used to having her at home, which means he’s likely to be demonic for the next few days. He’s sitting outside my office door whining right now. I’m taking that as a warning.

The good news is that Colin may get to see snow before much longer. We’ve had shirt-sleeve weather for a couple of weeks, but the high today is to be only 41 °F (5 °C), with the low tonight 23° (-5°) and the high tomorrow 35° (2°). There’s supposedly a 10% chance of some snow tonight. It’s always fun to watch a puppy experiencing snow for the first time. They all instinctively spread their toes, making what Barbara and I call “snow paws”, to get better traction and avoid sinking into the snow. Then, when they come back indoors, they lie there chewing and spitting on their paws to get the ice out from between their toes.

Someone at the house down on the corner just called 911 for the second time in about a week. An elderly woman lives there with (I think) her grandson, who’s maybe 12 years old. According to the neighbors, the kid is a perv. I’m not sure if he’s officially a sex offender or what exactly he’s accused of doing. Something like exposing himself to little girls, I think. At any rate, the fire truck just showed up, followed in quick succession by the police and ambulance. Last time, I waited until the ambulance hauled her off. Jasmine told me later that she has severe asthma, so presumably that’s what caused the 911 call this morning as well.

That got me wondering how (or if) 911 calls are billed by the city. Does each person get a certain number of free 911 calls per year with additional calls being charged for? It seems strange to bill for emergency calls if there’s a true emergency, but on the other hand I know that 911 is often abused. So do the fire department and police and ambulance just keep responding to frequent calls from one home, or do they start charging after X number? Or do they judge whether a reasonable lay-person would have considered the problem to be an emergency worth calling 911 for? I would imagine they have to show up no matter what, given the potential consequences, not to mention lawsuits and bad publicity. But there has to be some kind of boy-who-cried-wolf option for declining service to serial 911 abusers, doesn’t there?

09:44 – We’ve had some discussion here recently about free will and my arguments that it does not exist. Jerry Coyne has an interesting post up this morning, which links to his full article in USA Today. If you still believe that free will exists, which of course you must if you’re a Christian, read this article and think about it.

14:19 – Also found on Jerry Coyne’s site: a baby Linux getting a tummy rub.

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