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Schadenfreude is One of My Favorite Things April 19, 2014

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http://i.imgur.com/cOOr8lL.jpg

but I also like hedgehogs.

Some Videos Are Better Seen Than Described April 18, 2014

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This is no exception.

Ice Cave Adventure April 14, 2014

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ice cave adventure

New things I learned in the ice cave:

1. Gloves may actually give you purchase on an icy surface (your frozen, numb fingers will not be much help).

2. Boots without crampons are pretty slippery. You will find it hard to catch yourself when your feet slide out from under you on the downward-sloping ice sheet that is the floor of the cave (see #1, above).

3. All caves have painfully low ceilings.

4. Stalactites can muss your hair somethin’ fierce (see #3, above). Split scalps are available at no extra cost (see photo, above).

5. Shorts, though excellent summertime wear, are inadequately warm in a cave whose walls, ceilings and floors are (at least) many inches thick in ice.  Ditto t-shirts, no matter how otherwise fitting they may be (see logo in photo, above).

6.  The eight-year-old girls in front of me were braver in the face of the unknown.

Fascinating Photo Gallery March 25, 2014

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Brain, Geek Stuff, Hello Kitty, Mutants, Photography, Science, Uncategorizable.
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Google Image search for “snot otter skull” yields the most interesting mix of photos it has been my serendipitous pleasure using to keep me from Real WorkTM in some time.

Chasm City, by Alastair Reynolds March 24, 2014

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Chasm City, by Alastair Reynolds is the second in his Revelation Space series and a worthy successor.  It seems completely unrelated to the previous book, but I promise the connection is made plain in the NEXT book in the series, Revelation Space .

Chasm City is just that; a city with a breathable atmosphere inside a huge hole in the ground from which vapor pours, some breathable and some steam.  Chasm City was once a beautiful high-tech nanite paradise until the Melding Plague came and ruined it and most people (those with nanites inside them).  Now it’s insanely chaotic and this of course makes for great storytelling.

Alastair Reynolds does not disappoint. The visitor to Chasm City describes the jumble of a city with a sort of noir detective’s eye; cynical, jaded, world-weary.  He’s there nominally on a mission to find his boss’ killer, and take revenge.  He has holes in his memory from hibernation sleep, and the holes get filled in with..strangeness.

Surprisingly, the strangeness of his new memories is more interesting even than Chasm City.  I can’t help but wonder about the metaphor, intentional or not.

Great writing, great series of books. The audiobook version I heard was well-done, and helped put me in this guy’s head…which turned out to be a very uncomfortable seat.

You Think Your Dog is Special March 24, 2014

Posted by stuffilikenet in Mutants, Toys.
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3D Printed Calipers–Printed Fully Assembled! March 23, 2014

Posted by stuffilikenet in 3D Printing, Awesome, Star Trek Technology, Toys.
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angrymonk55 is printing himself a 3D toolbox.  This is his caliper set, which he printed fully assembled.  A very nice little hack.  His videos show a pretty well-rounded guy:

Vox Populi March 21, 2014

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Brain, Brilliant words.
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vox populi

The voice of the people screams “coffee!”, at least in my workplace.

EXCITING UPDATE: My sources tell me that vox populi is to be ignored by The Man.

Bummer.

The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi March 20, 2014

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Books, Brilliant words, Mutants, Toys.
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The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi is a horror story disguised as science fiction. Set in a Thailand surrounded by engineered plagues, the various players (Environment Ministry officials corrupt and ethical, paranoid Malaysian Chinese refugees, foreign devils, corrupt-only Trade Ministry officials and our central character) it is the story of a “new person”, a Japanese geisha creation discarded by her Japanese master because it costs too much to transport her back to Japan…trash.  She works in a brothel, displaying for brutal customers her genetic differences in a frankly inhuman way: no human would tolerate the treatment she endures (this book is hard to read at some points because of this).

She isn’t the only one brutalized here; the whole country has taken a beating, running out of food as plagues destroy staple crops, kill livestock and destroy even trees. Wars and rumors of wars over calories abound in southeast Asia, filling every page with existential dread.  The Environment Ministry tries to keep the plagues out;  the Trade Ministry wants to bring more foreign trade (and bribes and graft) into the country.  It isn’t long before Environment’s champion is betrayed by a co-worker, publicly shamed and then killed setting off a small war with Trade…into which the Windup Girl finds herself a pawn, and then perhaps a player.

Claustrophobic, emotional and visceral, the prose in The Windup Girl puts me inside the head of the major characters, which is pretty uncomfortable considering what they suffer.  Outstanding writing, even pacing and well-drawn characters make this horror story a real treat.

Buy it; the mp3 CD I link to above is only $23 and worth every penny for the great reading.  Even the women’s voices this guy does are unnervingly convincing. I mean, you realize it is a man reading, but the inflections are very convincingly female.

Ham Lett, P.I.–Rude Awakenings March 20, 2014

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Books, Brilliant words, Mutants, Uncategorizable.
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In 2005, I wanted to blog my way to a beautiful career as a Serious Writer, blogging my way to Fame and fortune using Big Ideas nicked from the classics, like Hamlet.  The following is the first and only few paragraphs of the never-completed novel, A Ghost in Elsinore which I put up on blogger.com and then promptly lost my password to it.

Fast forward to 2014, and my logins have all coalesced as Yahoo and Google bought everything, and now I only need to remember two passwords.  Fortunately for all, my need to Write Serious Works has passed like a kidney stone.

 

"Wake up."

"Donwanna."

"Wake up."

"Mmmm!"

"Wake up."

"Woah. Horatio. Dude"

"Ah. You are awake." he said, like the wooden cut-out he was.

"Well, yeah. The slapping and the ice water will do that to all but the undead, Horatio. What are you doing in LA, and do you wanna drink?" I asked, knowing his response. Jesus, the inside of my head. I wondered briefly what I looked like on the outside.

"Thanks. " Big surprise. "I came for your father’s funeral." Bigger surprise. He hardly knew my old man.

"Really? I thought you came to see my uncle’s wedding." I reached for the office bottle of Old Smuggler that I usually kept in the bottom drawer, but it wasn’t altogether there, like me. I mean, it was nearly empty, also like me.

"Indeed. It followed hard upon."

"Huh?"

"Nevermind. Listen, about your father…there has been talk."

"Jesus, Horatio, the poor bastard’s dead. Can’t anyone leave him in peace?"

"Possibly not…I mean, he may not be in peace."

"Ah, just a minute."

The tiny chorus of miners digging inside my skull had resumed their drilling, and the noise in there was probably loud enough for Horatio to hear, which I would have found embarrassing, but he had known me since college.

Nanotube Advance for Plastic Solar Cells March 18, 2014

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Geek Stuff, Science.
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a team of physicists and chemists at Umeå University have joined forces to produce nano-engineered carbon nanotubes networks with novel properties; specifically, engineered into complex network architectures, and with controlled nano-scale dimensions inside a polymer matrix. “These networks increase the conductivity of a polymer composite by as much as eight orders of magnitude compared to a traditional random network.”

You can see where this is going, right?  Plastic solar cells (lighter and cheaper by far than silicon cells) are already a reality, but they perform poorly in carrying their generated charges to any collection point.  With a 100,000,000x improvement on plain ole’ nanotubes, the charge-transport issue may be no issue at all.

Homework:

“Nano-Engineering of SWNT Networks for Enhanced Charge Transport at Ultralow Nanotube Loading.” David R. BarberoNicolas Boulanger, Madeleine Ramstedt and Junchun Yu

DOI: 10.1002/adma.201305843

The Obsessive Mike Davis March 16, 2014

Posted by stuffilikenet in Applications, Awesome, Brain, Brilliant words, Geek Stuff, Mutants, Photography, Publishing Tools, Science, Star Trek Technology, Toys, Video.
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Every once in a while you happen upon someone or something so fascinating you just have to stop and see, hear or read more. I found this guy’s webpage, and have to admit I read the whole damn thing.  Like Boy Genius, Mike Davis probably started out with only one hobby in mind: astronomy.  Of course, that sort of hobby is an open-ended sinkhole of time and money.
And genius.
Or, at least obsessive improvements.  He apparently got into grinding lenses and casting mirrors (because that’s how the big kids do it.  A high-quality telescope is an enormous expense), probably got into LINUX for governing the scope, recording the images and putting them on the web.  But wait, there’s more.
I am guessing he bought a property in Arizona far out into the boonies to avoid light pollution.  Since it is utterly remote, it is unsurprising that it’s got no electric service, so he made a windmill and later a sunmill (you know, solar panel system) to power his equipment and such…then put a cabin around it all (he didn’t build it but bought it, presumably because it had to be on-site and he doesn’t have that much vacation time available).
Go kill some time at his website: Mike’s World and you can thank me later.  I am still reading things from his Miscellaneous Projects page, like

  • Cutting Circles out of Glass
  • Home-Built Pen Plotter
  • Quick and Easy Car Laptop Tray
  • Making My Own Soap
  • New and Improved Charge Controller Design
  • improvised DC generator (lawn edger plus permanent magnet DC motor)
  • Home-Built Biomass Gasifier
  • Raspberry Pie based all-in-one computer
  • home-made swamp cooler (see also cabin in Arizona)

I’m not sure, but I think I met him at a star party on Mt. Lassen last year (~August 13).

Dear Mom, Please Watch This March 16, 2014

Posted by stuffilikenet in Brilliant words, Geek Stuff, Video.
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No Jell-o salad from my mom.  I get spinach salad—with bacon.

Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia T-cell Therapy March 13, 2014

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Brilliant words, Mutants, Science.
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http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/0e/Acute_leukemia-ALL.jpgA Wright’s stained bone marrow aspirate smear of patient with precursor B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

Cells from the patients’ own bodies are taken and trained to respond to CD19 protein, then re-introduced into them to their owners.  Overall response rate for this treatment was 88%; even better, with disease in progress (when the prognosis usually is pretty damn grim) the response rate was still 78%.  Among the best bits of news about this is the study is conducted by Memorial Sloan Kettering on 16 patients.  They had done another five in a previous study.

This technique can probably be applied to a number of other cancers and diseases as well; targeted immunotherapy is just in its infancy.

 

Homework: “Efficacy and Toxicity Management of 19-28z CAR T Cell Therapy in B Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.” M. L. Davila, I. Riviere, X. Wang, S. Bartido, J. Park, K. Curran, S. S. Chung, J. Stefanski, O. Borquez-Ojeda, M. Olszewska, J. Qu, T. Wasielewska, Q. He, M. Fink, H. Shinglot, M. Youssif, M. Satter, Y. Wang, J. Hosey, H. Quintanilla, E. Halton, Y. Bernal, D. C. G. Bouhassira, M. E. Arcila, M. Gonen, G. J. Roboz, P. Maslak, D. Douer, M. G. Frattini, S. Giralt, M. Sadelain, R. Brentjens.  Science Translational Medicine, 2014; 6 (224): 224ra25 DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3008226

Ten Alzheimer’s Diagnostic Candidates March 13, 2014

Posted by stuffilikenet in Brain, Science.
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Memory composite z-scores and trend plots for the ten-metabolite panel in the discovery phase.

University of Rochester researchers have found a group of metabolites whose relative (relatively) low concentrations can be a meaningful predictor of Alzheimer’s disease. Interestingly, the metabolites in question are members of the phospholipid bilayer making up cell membranes; it may turn out that Alzheimer’s proceeds by mechanisms we haven’t guessed yet.

525 seniors got a comprehensive cognitive assessment and gave a yearly blood sample for a five-year period.  The blood was examined for these lipids.

These ten specific lipids could predict with more than 90 percent accuracy whether they would either develop Alzheimer’s or a precursor condition known as amnestic mild cognitive impairment.  This early prediction can enable tracking of preventative therapies and development of new treatments…currently, autopsy is the best way to tell if someone had Alzheimer’s; usually, this is considered drastic.

 

More homework:

“Plasma phospholipids identify antecedent memory impairment in older adults.” Mark Mapstone, Amrita K Cheema, Massimo S Fiandaca, Xiaogang Zhong, Timothy R Mhyre, Linda H MacArthur, William J Hall, Susan G Fisher, Derick R Peterson, James M Haley, Michael D Nazar, Steven A Rich, Dan J Berlau, Carrie B Peltz, Ming T Tan, Claudia H Kawas & Howard J Federoff

We Might Not All Die Horribly March 12, 2014

Posted by stuffilikenet in Applications, Awesome, Geek Stuff, Mutants, Science, Star Trek Technology.
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Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) has become a global public-health problem since the 1960s through resistance to antibiotics. In the USA every year, a quarter-million are hospitalized and nearly 20,000 die from it, and there are only three drugs that (sort of) work, and some resistance to these is already evident.

The good news is that Big Data on the chemical level has enabled researchers to find models in software of a class of compounds that can mess with the penicillin-binding protein in MRSA and also the cell wall of the MRSA organism, which is MRSA’s secret for resisting non-penicillin-derived medications.  The class of compounds known as oxadiazoles were found by brute-force computer simulations (“brute force” here equals 1.2 MILLION compounds—outside of the scope of all the labs in the world for about twenty years, I would guess).

Good job, guys.

The guys in question are a team of University of Notre Dame researchers led by Mayland Chang and Shahriar Mobashery (see Homework, below).

 

Homework:

“Discovery of a New Class of Non-β-lactam Inhibitors of Penicillin-Binding Proteins with Gram-Positive Antibacterial Activity.” Peter I. O’Daniel, Zhihong Peng, Hualiang Pi, Sebastian A. Testero, Derong Ding, Edward Spink, Erika Leemans, Marc A. Boudreau, Takao Yamaguchi, Valerie A. Schroeder, William R. Wolter, Leticia I. Llarrull, Wei Song, Elena Lastochkin, Malika Kumarasiri, Nuno T. Antunes, Mana Espahbodi, Katerina Lichtenwalter, Mark A. Suckow, Sergei Vakulenko, Shahriar Mobashery, and Mayland Chang. Journal of the American Chemical Society 2014 136 (9), 3664-3672

NASA Imaging Triumph March 9, 2014

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Photography, Science.
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I am personally not surprised that NASA can tell when sinkholes will appear.  I mean, the stuff they do is just incredible, so why not this?  With plane-based imaging, they can probably tell what I had for breakfast (certainly the NSA can).

In a press release, JPL announced that NASA can tell when sinkholes will develop…after it happens.  Well, not exactly.  Let me explain:

NASA's UAVSAR radar captured precursory ground surface movement of up to 10.2 inches

Analyses by NASA’s C-20A jet Uninhabited Airborne Vehicle Synthetic Aperture Radar (UAVSAR) performed after the Bayou Corne, La., sinkhole formed show it was able to detect precursory ground surface movement of up to 10.2 inches (260 millimeters) more than a month before the sinkhole collapsed in Aug. 2012. This interferogram was formed with images acquired on June 23, 2011 and July 2, 2012. Colors represent surface movement, with one full color wrap corresponding to 4.7 inches (120 millimeters) of displacement. The event in question left a mark:

Louisiana sinkhole

Still I can think of more spectacular imaging:

Break Time March 6, 2014

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Photography, Publishing Tools, Toys.
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CIMG0698

On the roof a block away, two guys take a lunch break.  My new camera took this beautifully.

Cats and Octopodes Go Together like, uh, Well March 5, 2014

Posted by stuffilikenet in Hello Kitty, Octopus, Uncategorizable, Video.
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http://i.imgur.com/wTi0nDG.gif

Just because they are two things I like doesn’t mean they like each other.

Should Go Well With My Pet Penguin March 5, 2014

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Mutants, Video.
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Great.  Now I want a platypus.

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