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Still Working on Our House July 31, 2015

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Mostly sanding and painting.  It seems like it may never end.

Wicked Appetite, by Janet Evanovich July 14, 2015

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Wicked Appetite, by Janet Evanovich is a funny little story of inherited talents (ability to find magic gizmos and enhanced muffinry, for particular examples), magic talismans, dangerous magicians and distractingly handsome men combining to throw our fearful[0] protagonist Lizzie Tucker into a maelstrom of magic. Also, there’s a fruitcake with a sword[1].

An evil magician[3] seeks Lizzie’s peculiar talent (the location one, not the muffin one) to find seven stone embodying the Seven Deadly Sins[tm], which will allow him to unleash Hell On Earth[tm].  Lizzie doesn’t think that a good idea, but evil magicians can be very persuasive[4].

She is saved from persuasion by Diesel, a kind of a beach bum lookin’ dude[5] with a certain weird charm and with inherited talents also, none of which involve muffins.  Lizzie and Diesel get their hands on the first part of the Gluttony stone, which hilariously derails normality by making everything about food, punishment or hoarding (depending on who has the thing).

Lizzie is helped by her friend Gloria and her discount book of spells, which also hilariously derail conversation.  For this part I strongly suggest the audiobook, so you can hear Lorelei King deliver gibberish.  I would pay full price for this audiobook for that alone.

The link above is to Amazon, but this is available at sfpl.org, where the cognoscenti get their books for free.

___

[0] She’s not the heroine type.

[1] He is, curiously enough, not the comic relief. He’s just nuts.

[3] Distractingly handsome; see above.

[4] See footnote 3, above.

[5] See footnote 3, above.  I begin to detect a pattern here.

10% Happier, by Dan Harris July 10, 2015

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Books, Brain, Brilliant words, Science.
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10% Happier, by Dan Harris is the story of ABS anchorman Dan Harris’ journey through Buddhism to mindfulness in the most torturous of routes: trial and error from Eckhard Tolle, Deepak Chopra and a host of what he calls affectionately “Jew-Bus”, Jewish people who have come to embrace Buddhist practices (Harris is Jewish).  In his guise of newsman he cheats his way into getting real answers to the deep mystery: how do you meditate, and why (he even got face time with the Dalai Lama along the way, which is not that easy).

The real juicy part of this book is not so much who he met or how he learned this or that thing, but his blow-by-blow account of his thoughts and reactions as he began learning meditation.  Especially interesting was his reaction to a ten-day Zen retreat of six-hour daily meditation, wherein he finally felt he “got it” and later the emotional outpouring he experience when meditating upon compassion for the first time.

The reason I loved this book is that his story resonates closely with my own, especially the embarrassing awareness of the banality of my own thoughts, the ease of distraction and the lack of rigor in focus or awareness of anything but the voice in my head.  That, and I’m hoping to get a little guidance on my own practice, and I think this book helped.

The link above goes to the Audible audiobook version, but it is also available at sfpl.org.  I do recommend the audiobook, as it is read by him and guarantees his nuances will not be misunderstood (c.f., “Jew-Bus”, above).

Audiobook Roundup July 6, 2015

Posted by stuffilikenet in Books, Brilliant words.
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Some of my readers know I am renovating my house to rent and spend long days doing repetitive work like sanding and painting and minor repairs. Little of this involves thought, so I listen to audiobooks. I liked the ones I have been listening to, so here goes:

The Girl with All the Gifts, by M.R. Carey is the most horrible horror book I have read in a long long time. The things the UK Army does to a classroom full of children infected with the zombie parasite makes you wonder if the monsters are inside the fence instead of outside. This juicy little novel posits that the parasite involved in creating zombies is a strain Ophiocordyceps unilateralis (a fungus infects an ant, whereupon the insect becomes compelled to climb down to one of the lower leaves and clamp down with its mandibles until it dies. The fungus consumes the ant’s tissues — all except for the muscles controlling the mandibles — and grows inside of it. After a couple of weeks, the fungal spores fall to the ground to infect more ants. Ants infected by this particular fungus are often called “zombie ants.”), and the sciency-flavored horror is lovingly detailed and acted well by the narrator. Most highly recommended, and very depressing.

The Magician’s Land by Lev Grossman is likewise well-acted by its narrator, but is in another vein entirely. This novel (part three of the series and probably the last) follows the adventures of a skilled magician after banishment from Fillory (the lamb version of the lion Aslan’s Narnia). Unlike magicians of other books, this one grows up to be thirty-something, copes with his father’s death (natural causes–this ain’t J.K. Rowling), stops drinking, resurrects his dead girlfriend, kills a couple of gods and creates two new worlds.

I know this makes him sound like an overachiever, but Grossman tells it so well you just go with it. Spectacular use of language; most highly recommended, not depressing at all.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman is another horror book  read by him which is a real treat, as he is very good. The horror is that of a young boy haunted by an elemental spirit of some kind and is pretty terrifyingly brought to life. He has a couple of kindly neighbors who help him with this, and they seem pretty competent so far. One of them is eleven years old…although at one point the boy asks “How long have you been eleven?”

I’m not done with this one yet, but I like it already.

The Antibody by Christopher Lukas June 28, 2015

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Brain, Brilliant words, Video.
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I haven’t been able to find it on Amazon1, but The Antibody by Christopher Lukas is a gripping tale of a man’s struggle with suicide, depression, cancer and loss.  Written, directed and starring only himself, it is hilarious, tragic and real. I cried at the end, and I don’t cry for much. Watch it at the link above; no telling how long it will last.

—-

1. Seriously, Amazon?

Peel Away 7 June 27, 2015

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Peel Away 7 is a non-toxic paint remover which is supposed to remove paint after applying, covering with butcher paper to keep it wet and active and waiting for an indeterminate amount of time before magically peeling away multiple layers of paint.

Hmm.  Your mileage may vary.  Our first test of this consisted of applying a thin layer (1/8" or so–more just drips down the wall) and waiting 48+ hours.  It peeled away down to a yellow layer that may be of a different type (I should explain that our house is a hundred years old and could have lead paint or whatever those folks in the caves at Lascaux used, and might require the high-octane solution known as Peel Away 1 . Or a jackhammer).  In any case, we are now on our second 48-hour test with thicker application and hope for the best.

Things to note for future victims users: put on as much as does not drip off.  Use butcher paper to cover.  Wait 48 hours, since it does not seem to destroy the wood.  Pray that the house burns down before you have to actually work.

I promise to update this exciting chemistry experiment as results become available.

Exciting update:

IMG_20150629_144311

This is with the thicker coat and full coverage of the paper.  And it’s the second try on the same spot.

Justice Considered as a Symplectic Manifold: June 18, 2015

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Alternating symmetry, no local invariants but everywhere orientable. And mercy?  Not lumpy but curly.

From The List That Cannot Be Named:

> But if the quality of mercy is not strained, how is it prevented   from being lumpy?

Weren’t we just discussing this?  Let justice be a mapping from  aggravations to retributions. Recall that Exodus tells us "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a 
tooth".  This suggests the mapping is structure-preserving.  (Q. does  Mos have coproducts?)
Legal systems generally recognize that injuries are asymmetric. This  suggests the mapping is alternating.  (Ex. verify the difficulty of  recovering damages from oneself)
The Battle Hymn of the Republic mentions the Groups of Wrath.  This  suggests we can come up with a basis for the mapping.  (Q. the Groups  of Wrath are often depicted as purple; are they in fact abelian?)
Under the exponential, we can then examine a range of justices, from  the Mikado’s (retribution-increasing) through the Mosaic (unital) and  the Nazaretic ("turn at least one other cheek") to the Epitectic  ("didn’t I tell you, if you kept that up, you were going to break my  leg?"), and we call the retribution-decreasing cone in this space  "mercy".  But due to the structure-preservation, all these justices  are scalar multiples of each other.  (Ex. check that mercy is well- defined)
Mercy is not lumpy, by definition.

Cute Attack!! June 16, 2015

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Hello Kitty, Mutants, Octopus, Photography, Science.
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cute-octopus-620.jpg

Wild flapjack octopus (Opisthoteuthis sp.), a deep sea octopus, spotted on a dive made by the ROV Doc Ricketts. This species is on display in the special exhibit "Tentacles" at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

ROV Doc Ricketts, ©2013 MBARI / Monterey Bay Aquarium

"As someone that’s describing the species you get to pick what the specific name is," researcher Stephanie Bush told Science Friday. "One of the thoughts I had was making it Opisthoteuthis adorabilis — because they’re really cute."

BeerCam June 13, 2015

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Taylorsville is the home of a number of, um, colorful characters. This fellow had a unique approach to the self-documented life.

Maker Fair’s Idea of a Photobooth May 17, 2015

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Souvenir May 13, 2015

Posted by stuffilikenet in Music, Toys, Uncategorizable.
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My stepdaughter has been out and on her own for a year or more and very successful, too.  She took most of her stuff with her when she went, but I found this in the attic yesterday, and it brought back a bunch of memories of her teen years, when she found my electric guitar (a gift from a friend; thank you, Shabnam) and started noodling with it.  Eventually she became good enough to write songs and I was just as proud as any father could be…but somewhere along the way I bought her this:

guitar amp

Cute, isn’t it?  Battery-powered and takes standard jacks and is loud enough for practice but not too loud for Dad. Also dirt cheap and comes in lots of retro styles.

Perfect for Father’s Day–except that my kid has the guitar. :(

OctoTranslator May 11, 2015

Posted by stuffilikenet in Applications, Awesome, Brilliant words, Geek Stuff, Star Trek Technology.
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is my latest app in the Google Play store (in fact my second). It is intended to help language learners create custom flash cards for use with Anki, which is possibly the best free flashcard program for Android phones (also available on iPhones, but who has those?).

Octotranslator - screenshot

OctoTranslator can take input from your microphone in any language your phone recognizes and can translate it to any language your phone can pronounce (this is called OctoTranslator because I used to have seven languages choices other than English…but I got upgrades, and so did OctoTranslator), by sending it to Microsoft Bing for translation (the same algorithm used in Skype).  It can return a text-only translation or it can read it to you using your Android phone’s TTS, which is pretty robust these days.  The real fun is saving to a data card to be mailed to you all zipped up in a single file, suitable for importing into Anki.

This is free. I would like reviews and testing, so feel free to take it and play with it, especially you Anki users, and lovers of foreign tongues (“My name is Inigo Montoya.  You killed my father. Prepare to die.”).

I must say I had fun testing this (I seem to have a macabre sense of humor when it comes to test phrases.  People overhearing me say things like “Spanish eyes is not really a casserole” and “Is your Mexican food made with real Mexicans?” make for real headturning fun in line at the bank.  Takes the shine off it when they realize I’m joking, more’s the pity.

Get it here. (Offer not good after curfew in sectors R or M).

Servant April 24, 2015

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When a doctor dies broke serving his fellow man he’s really served them.

This is the Virtual Keyboard/Monitor I Want March 19, 2015

Posted by stuffilikenet in Applications, Awesome, Geek Stuff, Star Trek Technology, Toys.
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I Should Just Quote the Whole Darned List March 19, 2015

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“It’s not really a small world, but we are embedded on a strangely folded thin manifold.”—from The List That Cannot Be Named

The Singularity Started With the Wheel March 16, 2015

Posted by stuffilikenet in 3D Printing, Applications, Awesome, Brain, Brilliant words, Mutants, Science, Star Trek Technology.
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As difficult as it may be to comprehend, the wheel is the basic unit of technology. It made the repetitive business of carrying stuff easier. When tasks can be easily repeated (preferably automated), they can also be tweaked to do them better, maybe each time.

With computer controls, these tweaking steps can be automated, and the results don’t even have to be seen by a human.  These results can be used to produce new methods to experiment, ad infinitum. This is precisely why we should not allow AIs any autonomy whatever in creating new AIs.

But I digress.

The tools of automation are now cheaply available, giving everyone who wants it access to finely-controlled stepper motors which can be used in the trial and error methods heretofore mentioned.  Cheap microcontroller systems to run them combined with said stepper motors give us robotic assemblers, 3D printers and molecular assemblers.

Yeah, you heard me.

Usually, small-molecule synthesis usually relies on procedures that are highly customized for each target. Martin Burke, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) early career scientist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, used a single, fully-automated process to synthesize fourteen distinct classes of small molecules from a common set of building blocks.

A broadly applicable automated process could greatly increase the accessibility of [this class of compounds] to enable investigations of their practical potential. More broadly, these findings illuminate an actionable roadmap to a more general and automated approach for small-molecule synthesis (he used Csp3-rich polycyclic natural product frameworks and developed a catch-and-release chromatographic purification method).

As a former chemist, I must say this is plenty difficult and detailed…but it only has to be done once and this genie is not going back into the bottle.  This will step up the pace of novel moiety experimentation, especially now that we have computational chemistry on a sound footing.  Picture this: computer cranks out theoretical molecule families for research.  Magic chemistry machine makes them.  Another automated machine tests them.  Potential drug candidates can be screened without human intervention, for conditions that currently have no treatment, but do have a good theoretical model.

Honestly, I have been thinking of this for thirty-five years, when one of my classmates described the room-temperature chemistry that was just being used for automated peptide synthesis, a hot subject in my college years1.

Now, with  automated synthesis producing testable quantities of continuously-varying drugs, we can start continuously comparing them with standard drugs for, say, antibiotic activity in a Petri-like environment (I hope it is no surprise that this technology exists already, although it is not in concert with the aforementioned molecular assembler), quickly finding optimal candidates in what could be an entirely automated process.  Promising candidates’ structures can be continuously varied by the molecular assembler under the watchful eye of an expert system (it is fun to imagine the expert system eventually deciding that chlorine bleach is the optimal antibiotic; obviously safety trials against mammalian cell lines need to run in parallel).

Aha, I hear you cry, what about diagnosis?  I’m pretty sure I covered this already2, when I  talked about brute-force cracking the human medical condition through big data: thousands of tests administered cheaply, regularly through millions of peoples’ lifetimes.  This data would be trawled for correlations between medical conditions and test results, telling us things clinicians would miss just because human heads can’t hold that kind of data well enough to draw statistical conclusions, or even reasonable inferences…but computers can.  Frustratingly, the legal problems here are beyond human comprehension as well; the intellectual property costs to create this many tests would be astronomical, although once acquired it could be quite cheap to administer (this is already possible, just not done for greed’s sake).  This will require a revolution in thinking which is not, alas, forthcoming soon3.

Other science can be brute-forced in a similar fashion by automation in other chemical reactions; I picked drug discovery for illustration since that’s where the most money can be found currently.

These are delightful speculations and become even more possible as long as things continue the way they are going, at least in terms of physical possibility.  Cheaper, faster processors make it possible to control all manner of laboratory  and industrial devices, not just your toaster, son.

It all makes me wish I were a better writer, because these ideas deserve better advocacy than I can bring to bear.

 

Homework:

Synthesis of many different types of organic small molecules using one automated process Junqi Li, Steven G. Ballmer, Eric P. Gillis, Seiko Fujii, Michael J. Schmidt, Andrea M. E. Palazzolo, Jonathan W. Lehmann, Greg F. Morehouse, Martin D. Burke

______

1 We’re getting there, fellas.  Keep up the good work.

2 Please try to keep up.

3 If ever.

Because it’s Beautiful March 16, 2015

Posted by stuffilikenet in 3D Printing, Awesome, Geek Stuff, Science, Star Trek Technology, Toys, Video.
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This Lego-Modded Glue Gun is A Handheld 3D Printer

This hand-held 3D printer is made of LEGO and a hot glue gun, just the way God intended it to make bespoke hats and whatever else you can’t be bothered to scan, convert to pointcloud, convert that to STL, put in your (horrendously expensive) 3D printer and wait.  Like this tasty video (with cheery music) shows:

I Googled Ukulele Karaoke March 14, 2015

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The results were nowhere as terrible as you might have imagined.  I found that that “ukulele karaoke” is the best way to learn a few uke songs fast.  My sainted sister got a ukulele at Newtonmas and hasn’t touched it, so I lent her a hand.

Thank You, Terry Pratchett March 14, 2015

Posted by stuffilikenet in Books, Brilliant words, Uncategorizable.
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Thank you, Sir Terry, for countless hours of pleasure listening to your works.  I have enjoyed your work more than anyone’s except Will Durant. If there is an afterlife, I hope you are welcomed there with honor and love.

EDIT: That’s a cake, friends.

Good! I Can Skip The Learning Part! March 13, 2015

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Better for everyone that way.

Safer, too.

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