Friday, December 22, 2006

The year of ID in a nutshell

I know I'm kinda late on this, but for those who have been keeping track (I am extremely bad with time), John Lynch has summed up the Intelligent Design in the past year.

But, for those of you who want it in an easier to digest form, here it is in the form of a Christmas carol. That'll really spread the holiday spirit.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

To one of the greatest public (and one of my personal) heroes: Carl Sagan

Note: This post is for the Carl Sagan Blog-o-thon.

Carl Sagan's influence on my life was probably one of the oldest things I can remember. In fact, all I CAN remember are brief snippets of Contact wayyyy when I was young. Although the only thing I could remember is when Ellie was in a wormhole (and all those cool special effects), and when Hadden was in Mir, I'm pretty sure that had a profound effect on my life. I never knew that I was watched Contact, until probably, last year; but nonetheless, it had an impact on me. What The Magic School Bus had done for me to turn me to science, Contact probably did to me to turn me to astronomy. That's the only explanation I could come up with. And I think it's pretty solid.

Now, I'm not really a big science fiction reader (unlike most people who like astronomy). One sci-fi book that I really enjoyed was [drumroll please] Contact. Now, in my opinion, it was wonderfully written. And if you think you don't have to read the book because you saw the movie, you are WRONG! The book and the movie turn out to be much more different then you think. Something I recommend to everyone is to read Carl Sagan's books.

Now, his other books are also very interesting. The ones I've read are Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors, The Dragons of Eden, The Demon-Haunted World, and Pale Blue Dot. And I recommend every single one of them. Now, one that I recommend to creationists is Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors. It challenges the very assumption that there is something physically about humans that makes us special. The Demon-Haunted World is an all-purpose skeptical guide, so, you gotta read that. And for those cynics who think the world is going to end due to human stupidity, Pale Blue Dot is the book for them. It may go over some bad qualities about humans, but it also conveys a sense of hope, that humans will exist far beyond Earth and spread throughout the universe (or galaxy, I forget which).

I just want you to know Dr. Sagan, you've changed my life, and probably the lives of many other people. Thank you!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Solaris, on hold

Ok, I'm going to just leave Solaris alone for a long while, until they make Solaris 11 (which I don't know when it will come out), or until they have D-link DWL520G on the Hardware Compatibility List (which is highly unlikely). But I'm not going to eliminate Solaris from my hard drive completely. First of all, because all my live CDs are at school with the FreeBSD system, so, I don't want to do something stupid. Second of all, Solaris makes my GRUB look sexy.

By the way, Solaris and sexy ALWAYS go together.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Winter break

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention. IT'S WINTER BREAK!!!! Which means another three weeks of loneliness for this nerd. Hopefully, I'll be too drenched in homework to pay any attention to that.

Su and FreeBSD

Ok, I can't believe I forgot to tell you about my adventures with FreeBSD. The computer teacher at school dedicated a box for me to use with FreeBSD. Unfortunately, I have no classes with him; I have to go work during nutrition and lunch. And since it's winter break, I won't be making any progress on it anytime soon. You won't be hearing about it for at least three weeks.

So, to the point, something the absolutely wonderful FreeBSD Handbook didn't mention was using the "su" command. For those of you unaware of the special peculiarities of the UNIX operating system, su basically gives you privileges of the root user. The root user is the all-powerful user that can do anything on the computer. Typically, you use a limited user account (in BSD terms, "mere mortal"). This is a security feature. You won't be able to modify system files and accidentally do something stupid and mess up your computer (although, as I have demonstrated, "nothing is foolproof to a sufficiently talented fool"). Now, if you need to modify system files, you temporarily gain root privileges; this is done via the "su" command.

Now, when you first install FreeBSD, the computer is not programmed to give your account root privileges, you have to add yourself to something called "the wheel". Users in the wheel are allowed to use the "su" command and temporarily gain root privileges. By default, only the root user is in the wheel.

To add yourself to the wheel, you'll have to log in to the root account. This is done by putting "root" as the username, and the root password as the password (duh). Now, you'll have to edit a file in /etc/groups. For experienced UNIX command-line users, this can be done with vi, the command line text editor. For the rest of us, we can use the given "ee" (Easy Editor) editor or the "emacs" editor. I used "ee". After that, you'll see a line that starts with "wheel" and followed by "root". What you want to do, is put a comma, then your username. Save and exit and you're done. Now you can invoke root privileges with your user account. Give yourself a pat on the back, and try configuring X (I'm still working on it).

Solaris

So, after finally hearing enough about how sexy Solaris is, I've decided to try it out for myself. And, I have to admit, it's VERY sexy, but not really as simple as linux. First of all, it won't detect my wireless network card, which means NO INTERNET!!!!!! That's just horrible. Apparently, my network card isn't compatible with Solaris, and apparently, there are only four wireless network cards known to be compatible with Solaris. That's right FOUR!!! Now, if I can find a workaround, my opinion of Solaris will increase. But as of now, the UNIX operating systems I find to be in order of user-friendliness are Linux (duh), Solaris, FreeBSD (I still can't get X to run, grrr). Apparently, there goes another use of the phrase, "it's what's on the inside that counts" .

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

My Endorsement

Well, this was a very tough decision to make, and I finally decided to vote Bad Astronomy for Best Science Blog. You do the same.

Friday, December 08, 2006

This printer shall be the death of me!

Ok, my printer is being really really annoying. It won't print. Whenever I set it up, it works for three seconds, then stops being responsive. And my computer displays an evil "Parallel port busy; will retry in 30 sec". I've been looking for a solution to this for days now. If I can't fix this now, I'm going to have to try it with my dad's printer.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

RESEARCH!!!!

This is an experiment by Acephalous to see how fast a meme goes through the internet. The idea is to basically track his link as it spreads. Now, all of you readers with blogs, go to Acephalous's site (link above) and follow the directions (only three steps). And help with SCIENCE!!

Via PZ Myers

Friday, November 24, 2006

Debian fixes

When using Ubuntu Linux, you have to learn the workings of it's big big brother (maybe even father), Debian. Ubuntu is based on Debian due to it's use of packages, and the apt-get command. In fact, packages on Ubuntu and Debian are often interchangeable. So, when I installed pydance, I noticed that I couldn't run it, and I got the error message "pygame.error: SDL_ttf render failed". So, I used the wonderful tool of google, and it turned out that someone already submitted a bug. Now, the solution is fairly complicated, and it took me a couple of tries to understand it. But as you will see, a comment said that the Debian fix was here. Now, you might see that it's just a page full of text, even kinda intimidating. That's how I felt, but I managed to decode some of it. If anyone knows how to further use it, please comment, I would love to learn. Well, here's what I know.


I'll take the first chunk of code, and put it here:
--- pydance-1.0.3.orig/docs/man/pydance.6
+++ pydance-1.0.3/docs/man/pydance.6
@@ -8,7 +8,7 @@
Display a brief summary of command line options.
.IP \-\-version,\ \-v
Display the version of pydance (and features found, e.g. Psyco).
-.IP \-\-filename\, \-f
+.IP \-\-filename,\ \-f
Load and play a single file, then quit. By default, this is in
SINGLE (4 panel) mode, on BASIC difficulty.
.IP \-\-mode,\ \-m

Now, I'll just tell you what I know. Where you see the triple minus signs and triple plus signs, I figure that that is the file. As you can see, the file is located at pydance-1.0.3/docs/man/pydance.6. Now, I have no idea where that is, but I found that if I look for pydance.6 on my computer, it has the same function.

Now, you come to the double @s. I'm not too sure about these, but here's what I think. The negative value is the line number, the number of lines after that line number which are displayed. For example, for @@ -8,7 +8,7 @@, that means that you'll be on line 8, and the next seven lines are displayed (not including the line with the - sign). Now, I think the plus means where it will be AFTER you make the changes. In this case, you just replace a line, so it won't be changed, but if you go further into the fix, you'll see.

Now, you have the text with nothing in the margin. I think this is just to give the lines around the bug so you'll know where to look. You don't have to do anything with them.

Now, here's the important part:
-.IP \-\-filename\, \-f
+.IP \-\-filename,\ \-f
The - means remove this line, and the + means add this line. As you can see, this is basically the same as replacing the line.

Now, every time after you see the --- signs, it means go to the next file. So, the lines after:
--- pydance-1.0.3.orig/fontfx.py
+++ pydance-1.0.3/fontfx.py

mean you should go to pydance-1.0.3/fontfx.py. Then do the commands in there. So, now I've given you what I think are the tools of Debian fixes. If anyone knows what directory these refer to, please speak up. I checked the pydance source files, it didn't match exactly. When I took apart Debian packages, didn't match either. When I looked for the files on my computer, I could find the actual bugged files, but not some the documentation, plus, everything was spread around. No pydance-1.0.3 directory. So yeah, if you can find this directory, I'll be thankful.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Timeline v3.0

Wow, it's been a long time since I've posted something, well, I'd like to inform all of you that my timeline version 3.0 is now available on Larry's Blog. I seriously encourage all of you to download it, especially if you have a history class. Hmmm....maybe I should refer people to my blog.

By the way, I've gotten a notice that the text file is collapsed without new lines, so the timeline couldn't read them. If anyone gets this, please comment either here or on Larry's blog, thank you.

Friday, November 10, 2006

I HAVE BEEN PROMOTED!!!

I am nerdier than 95% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!

I have finally been promoted to Nerd God. Before, my scores were in the 80s as a High Nerd, but luckily, this day has come. I would like to thank my chemistry teacher. I think the tipping point is now that I know ~ 80% of the periodic table. Let me see, there are so many other people I would like to thank for this award. My parents; of course, the physics teacher at my school, Mr. Laderman, without whom my knowledge of science would not be near where it is now; my very supportive friends, Valeriy and Josh. They are now marginally better nerds than me. I would also like to thank MarkCC for introducing me to this quiz, and the Sciguy, whose post made me take it again and achieve this high score. To all of you, I say, thanks.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Back to blogging

Whew, it was a really really odd month. It took me 3 weeks to fix my computer before I said, "ok, I give up". And another week for me to reconfigure my computer to its former glory. Well, somewhat. Now, here begins my story from the very very beginning:

It all started when I tried to install a new distribution of linux called Fedora Core. I had my computer all prepared and partitioned, so I installed it. That went good, the problem was, my boot loader (which is the thing that lets you select your operating system), that came with my current distribution, Ubuntu, didn't detect the new operating system. So, in the spirit of open source, I went to the internet for help. It was there where I was told to try and reinstall my boot loader from the live cd (which is basically a copy of the operating system, on a CD, pretty cool). So, after I did that, my boot loader broke (figures), so, I sought help for that also. Turned out, there's this file called the menu.lst file, it is the basis of the boot loader, and tells it what to display and what commands to execute. It turned out, when I reinstalled it, it overwrote the existing menu.lst. That was no biggie, luckily, I saved a copy of it on the internet, so that took care of that. But once I got back in my operating system, I did something stupid again.

The official Ubuntu Dapper mascot

So, I went back to the internet, and asked for more help. Someone suggested that I mount the partition of Fedora (basically, temporarily allow myself to access it) and check to see how its boot loader is set up. It seemed like a genius idea to me, except the tutorial I used was not very friendly to me. It was now when I messed up my system for good. But first, a detour:
Now, in linux, there are things known as file permissions. These basically state which users are able to access which files. The most powerful user is the root. The root has access to every file in every way. Now, one aspect of linux is that the human user of the computer is not the root account (in contrast with Windows, where the user is actually CALLED the Administrator, in linux, that's a big no-no). This allows it to be MUCH more secure, and also helps keep you from doing anything stupid to your computer (didn't exactly work on me). Now, because of these more restricted user accounts, file permissions come in. My user is only allowed to write to files in my /home folder (which is basically my personal folder, similar to My Documents). Because of this, if I wanted to change an important file that belonged to root, I would have to basically ask it for permission (with the command sudo, superuser do). Now, most files on the computer can only be accessed by root, and it's not recommended you tamper with them. Now, to get back to my story.
So, I boot from the live CD (you can do that), and mount my hard drive. Now, there is a very easy way to do this, but I took an evil tutorial, and ended up changing the permissions of my entire file system to only be accessed by root. This is a huge problem because most programs can't ask the computer to be root, and base themselves on my /home folder. Now, when I reboot, I find that my desktop won't boot up and I got an error message. As you should always do if something goes wrong, I submitted a bug, because someone told me this had something to do with an application called the gnome desktop manager (gdm). After a long discussion with the guy who debugs, I found out that gdm depends on my /home folder, and that was property of root, so, I changed THAT back to me. When I tried to boot again, my desktop STILL didn't start, and there was a problem with an application called gnome-session. After submitting a bug THERE, I found that there's a folder called /tmp which should be wide open to anything. I then took THAT from root, and was finally able to boot up. But it wasn't the end of my troubles yet.

When I finally got back on my computer, it turned out I had no internet. Now, all the others, I could handle, but internet has been my Achilles heel for most of my life. It always gave me trouble, so, I finally gave up. But before doing so, I learned this valuable lesson about linux, it's never too late to back up. So, remember my previous installation of Fedora core, I put my /home folder in there, just for storage, then reinstalled. Now, after reinstallation, everything worked fine and dandy, actually, even finer and dandier than I expected. When I brought back my /home folder, all my preferences were saved. My RSS feeds, everything. That's one of the reasons why configuring took a lot less time than I expected. Well, I've been rambling on for a long time, and it's about time I go to bed, but I'd like to leave with this note.
Despite this incident, I STILL THINK LINUX IS FREAKIN' AWESOME!!! Just, don't do anything crazy like I did.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Post delay

I probably won't be posting for a while because I totally ruined my Ubuntu OS, and it'll probably take me a couple of days to finally be able to fix it. Hope you can understand the delay. All right, see you when I finally fix it. Boy will there be a long post on that.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Centaurs and Chickens

There have been two VERY interesting articles absolutely PACKED with information in the prestigious Annals of Improbable Research. The first is the Anatomy of the Centaur, and the second is called Chicken Chicken Chicken. I must admit, being a fan of Ed, Edd n Eddy, I like the second one. For those of you who like what you see, you can subscribe to the magazine, or have the monthly mini-AIR delivered to your inbox.

Monday, October 09, 2006

A Pill Universe

Oh wow, apparently, there's the possiblity that the universe might be a slight ellipsoid. Now, it's not certain, and there's still a lot more evidence that could come in, but the thought of it is still pretty cool. Though, I must say, a universe like a Rubix cube would be MUCH more interesting. And if we were to control this Rubix cube, that would make interstellar travel MUCH easier. Although we might kill off an unknown source of life by rotating their Sun away from them, it'll still be cool.

Sick days

Ugghhh, I absolutely despise sick days. They're days of confusion and horror. If it were up to me, I would NEVER be sick. But unfortunately, I can't make that decision. Sick days bring an emptiness of knowledge and a hole of homework. It sucks to catch up. Every time I get sick, I always say to myself, "I NEED to get the phone number of a friend", but for some reason, I fall back on that advice. Well, now that I wrote it down, hopefully, I'll remember it. If you haven't guessed it now, I'm sick. But luckily, it's not that serious, and I'll probably be better tomorrow. I think oatmeal really helped. And why am I on the computer anyhow? Oh well.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Substitute Teachers

Subs, a blessing for some, a curse for others. Well, not really. At my school, substitues are synonymous with socialize. But unfortunately, they are the bringers of busywork. Where assignments from teachers are designed to keep you quiet. But I can't blame 'em, a room full of kids with nothing to do, won't be a pretty sight. Luckily, only a handful of kids disregard the assignment and socialize. But another common thing is working together, this I find good. Unfortunately, I typically the one who works by himself, but I finish early. Sometime, I pull out a book, other times, I join the socializing kids, depending on the class and substitue. I really can't imagine a situation where a substitute is bad news, unless you're really sensitive to noise. In that case, it'll be the worst-case scenario.

Now, to actually go somewhere with this post. I find that some of the most effective substitutes were those who took charge but were friendly. Those were the ones that people would wave hi to during lunch. One substitute I know always related to the kids. He said how when he wasn't at work, he swore like a sailor, but when he was teaching, he had to watch his mouth, and that the students should do the same. Another effective substitue was the one that had indoor activities, not like heads-up 7-up, but other games, especially those that are original. These games usually involve moving desks, and creating a rule that everybody has to be quiet is always a plus. These games are usually played when everybody finishes their work, or during the last 15 minutes of class.

I personally think these substitutes are the most effective. The first more with high school, and the second with middle/elementary school. I find that the more the substitute practices these, the more popular he/she gets, and the more he/she is requested by teachers. I recall some substitutes that I saw nearly every day on school campus. And when they were subbing, just about everybody had a good time, even the sub.

It's the weekend once again

Another week has gone by. Ever since last year, I've though how fast school has come and gone, one weekend at a time. Well, just 36 more of these and it'll be summer once more. Well, unfortunately, I'm not doing much this weekend, so if I find something to blog about I probably will. I might do a segment on substitute teachers.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Timeline 2.0

Hey everybody, I finally released my Virtual Timeline 2.0. It's available on Larry's blog, which was where I originally hosted it before I got my own blog. I decided to just keep it there. And leave comments on there if you have any, thank you, and hope you enjoy my timeline. This one took a FREAKIN' long time to debug.

The War on Evolution

So, there has been commentary on this editorial by Paul Hanle from a college professor, PZ Meyers, and a scientist, John Wilkins, so, I decided to add commentary from a student's perspective.
Proponents of "intelligent design" in the United States are waging a war against teaching science as scientists understand it. Over the past year alone, efforts to incorporate creationist language or undermine evolution in science classrooms at public schools have emerged in at least 15 states, according to the National Center for Science Education. And an independent education foundation has concluded that science-teaching standards in 10 states fail to address evolution in a scientifically sound way. Through changes in standards and curriculum, these efforts urge students to doubt evolution -- the cornerstone principle of biology, one on which there is no serious scientific debate.
First I must say, I am thankful that I never grew up in one of those states. Except for the Association of Christian Schools suing the UC university system there hasn't been much antievolution activity on the high school level that I know of. But for those who have grown up like, in Kansas or Georgia, I like to wonder. If I was one of those people, what would I be like?

These trends can only worsen if students come to regard evolution as questionable or controversial. Thirty-seven percent of the high school Advanced Placement biology examination tests knowledge of evolution, evolutionary biology and heredity, according to the College Board. Students who do not thoroughly understand evolution cannot hope to succeed on this exam; they will be handicapped in competitive science courses in college and the careers that may follow.


OOohhhhh, the AP Bio test. I can certainly aTEST (pardon the pun) to the role of evolution in it. There was even an essay question that required a pretty thorough knowledge of evolution ( I think I can disclose knowledge on the essay questions). But even in regular biology courses, there was ample time for stuff like natural selection and evolutionary relationships. But anyways, there aren't too many creationists at my school. Those that were, were usually not very old, and used the old straw-man arguments. But at other schools, I could probably understand a fairly large number of creationists. I think about the teachers in those schools, how they're able to cope with them (especially the verbal ones). My hats go off to them.

Last year, a report from the National Academies' Committee on Prospering in the Global Economy of the 21st Century showed us a glimpse of the future. Of all the patent applications reaching the U.S. Patent Office, the report noted, the most by far still come from the United States. However, from 1989 to 2001, the rate of increase of patent applications from the world's fastest-growing economies, such as China and India, was nearly three times that of the United States. By that measure, innovation in those economies will blow past ours in little more than a decade -- just about the time the current classes of high school biology students will be starting their research careers.


Oh great, the responsibility lies on us now. I swear, there better be a good turnout of scientists because of all the things we'll have to deal with. Oh wait, according to the article, there won't be. Aw great. I really really hope things change.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Canned food contest revisited

Wow, the statues were really fun. My favorite one was the one of the space shuttle. I've never seen canned tomatoes put to better use. Unfortunately, we didn't have a digital camera at the time, so, I won't be able to upload some pictures, but if you're near the Westfield Mall, you should drop by and take a look.

Canned food contest

Hey everyone. Today, I've just recieved news that we're gonna see a canned food contest. How I found out about it is a pretty long story. First I read this post on Pharyngula. Then I decided to check it out, so I followed the link to Apartment Therapy. Which then linked to an article in the Los Angeles Times. I looked in our recycling pile and there it was, the article. And now, pretty much the whole family is going to go to that. I'll blog about it when I get back home.

Here's an image of one I hope to see: