Monday, April 30, 2007

Open blogroll day @ Pharyngula

That's right kids, today is the day that PZ Myers accepts requests to be put on his blogroll. Now, I don't think I'm quite that ready to be put on his blogroll just yet. However, I'd like to leave it up to you, my readers. Do you think I can do something better here? Add some actual high school science experiences? Comment on stories already floating in the blogosphere and help consolidate them? Or do you think my linux-saturated blog is already to your liking? Leave a comment.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Don't I feel stupid

Wow, did anyone see House last week on Fox? Well, if you didn't, skip this paragraph, because it'll be how my computer problems relate to it. If you did, and don't remember the episode, it's the one where Foreman tries to cure his patient by radiation, but ends up killing her because the disease turned out to be an infection, and he just decimated her immune system. Because of that, he feels extremely guilty because he caused her to die.

Well, I feel the same way about my computer. The problems got progressively worse. The success rate of reaching the Ubuntu screen was getting lower and lower on boots until I was unable to get there. However, I did do a few more memchecks, and it turns out that they all came back saying that my memory had TONS of errors in it. Well, I ignored that.

All of today, I was thinking that the problem lay in the BIOS, I mean, the screen always froze at a step during BIOS. Either right after the memory check, or right after the hard drive detection, or at the Ubuntu screen, or even during the memcheck itself. However, as time wore on, I wasn't even able to get to GRUB, which enables me to choose what I want to boot from. It was during this time when I thought of two options, buy a new motherboard, or flash the BIOS. My dad already bought the motherboard, but he always likes to have an extra motherboard handy, in case of emergencies such as this one. And I was ready to flash the BIOS. However, it's hard to boot from a floppy disk if the computer freezes one second into operation. So, my dad then suspected it was a problem with the memory.

So he took out a memory card, and it boot from the floppy perfectly. By now I'm like, wait, if it boot from the floppy, let's check to see if it'll boot from the hard drive. I also added that if it booted successfully, I would go crazy. Since I'm writing this post right now, you can infer that I'm a lunatic *wink*.

So yeah, I almost flashed my computer's BIOS, a very risky operation, for nothing. I am so glad my dad had the idea to check the memory card. I may be good with the software of a computer and how to program, but he is the king of hardware troubleshooting. I don't know where I would be without him. And what disturbs me is that I had the information to deduce this, THE FAILED MEMTESTS!!! But I just dismissed them. Wow, I have a lot more to go than I thought in computers.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Help my friend

Ok, so, I know I'm in absolutely NO position to ask for you, few readers, for anything. However, my friend, Minke Zhang was chosen to be a Junior Statesman Scholar and study politics over the summer at Princeton. Unfortunately, big colleges are kinda punks when it comes to money. He applied for financial aid, however they have yet to reply on that. In any case, he needs $4,150.00 for the trip.

Yeah, that sounds like a lot. However, you can either give what you can, or spread the word. Either one will be good. Both would be better.

I know Minke personally, and think it would be really awesome if he could go. He is quite interested and involved in politics. If you read his xanga, you will be able to see how, ummm....., enthusiastic he is. I think he would be great addition if he was incorporated in the political world. And also, he reads Fundies Say The Darndest Things, so he's also very knowledgable about the dark side of the world.

For those of you who haven't the time to read his xanga, he is basically a pro-church-state-separation, pro-gun-control, pro-choice, pro-science liberal. The best kinds.

And this is about all the discussion about politics you'll see here for a while, unless it's science politics, or open source politics.

I didn't know computers had PMS

Ok, maybe not, but this is a really weird experience I went through. It started out yesterday, when I first turned on my computer. Right after I turned it on, I got an error that said, "BIOS ROM checksum error. Detecting drive A media. INSERT SYSTEM DISK.", or something to that extent. I was like, ok..... I restarted, still got that. I looked up the error on the internet and a solution was to flash the BIOS, unfortunately, all the solutions were Windows-dependent.

It was just then, when I remembered something Mr. Butler does with computers whose BIOSs are screwed up. He unplugs them and takes out the battery, then puts the battery back in, and turns on the power. I tried this, and it worked. I was like, "phew, I'm glad I got through that". However, after that, something was weird with Ubuntu, and the internet didn't work. Ok, so I restarted, then my computer went back to normal for the rest of the day.

However, I turn on the computer this morning, the EXACT same error comes up. My dad and I came up that the battery on the motherboard was not working well, so we replaced it. However, afterwards, when I tried to boot into Ubuntu, the progress bar just froze at the splash screen. This was consistent, so I decided to do a memory check. First, I did a memory test from the Ubuntu Feisty Live CD, and there were 2000 errors. I'm like, what the...? So, I restart, and do the memory test that is installed with Ubuntu. I run that, and NO errors. By now, I'm confused, so I just restart and try to boot into Ubuntu again. It works and now, I'm in.

By applying the stereotype that nearly every stand-up comedian makes about girlfriends being unpredictable, I think my computer could be, in fact, a girl. I find that really weird.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

A backup plan for Global Warming?

Well, we're hearing about the effects of global warming, and they are just around the corner. One would wonder if it would be possible, even now, to curb these. Luckily, Roger Angel, an astronomer at the University of Arizona, thought of a short-term solution to buy us time.

The basic idea is to launch giant discs to shield Earth from the Sun's rays. The basic idea is illustrated here:


These discs basically refract light from the sun so that it misses the Earth (shown by the unfocused stars). Giant mirrors would exactly be the best idea because the Sun's radiation still has energy, and after a long enough time, will move the discs out of place. Refracting is less affected by this phenomenon than reflecting.

So, what's the cost of this? A measley $5 trillion. Ok, the sticker shock might seem a bit severe, but this is expected to work for 50 years, a pretty long time, which amounts to $100 billion a year, which is not that much, globally. Only .2% of global GDP. I think the future is worth it.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Alliance for Science Essay

There was an essay contest I entered in a couple of weeks ago by the Alliance for Science. The essay was about "Why I would like my doctor to have studied evolution". I spent a pretty long while on that essay. Longer than most others. And, my work paid off. I made it as a finalist. I am extremely happy right now, and be prepared to feel that the day after tomorrow if you are at school with me.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Finished my novel

Wow. I just finished reading Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel, and I must say, it was a very thought-provoking book. The basic premise of the book is a 5-year-old girl is adopted by a clan of Neaderthals. Although it wasn't entirely scientifically accurate (duh, it's a novel), it did predict a discovery that occurred 25 years after it was written *gasp*. And, it's also a pretty good book. A theme that occurs, more often in the last part of the book, is the fact that the antagonist gets OWNED!!!!!!!!11111!!!!!one!!1!!!!1!!1111!!!1!eleven! by a Cro-magnon. So yeah, if you find yourself bored, read it.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Name change

Ok, as some of you may (not) know, I'm highly opposed to frequent name changes. It's highly annoying, and on a forum, you forget who everyone is. However, as many of you may have noticed, my original name, The Science Onlooker, was kinda awkward and didn't have a flowing sound to it. You actually had to think about saying it. Well, just as in science, where theories get refined, and in computers, where programs get debugged, names get better and better. So, I'm proud to announce, this blog will from now on be Scientifically Open Source (except for the URL, I need to think of something for that).

If you feel strongly about this, then by all means, discuss in the comments. Actually, I'm kinda desperate.

I love Sun Microsystems

I just ran into this inside Geek joke on the Sun Blog. If you want to attempt the geek version on your own, you're brave. Otherwise, here's a translated version. The joke is written in the bash shell, which is a terminal that I use, so I can somewhat understand it. It is basically how the bash shell would look at the war on terror. It's absolutely hilarious. However, even if you try to be brave, still read the translated version, it has subtleties. Have fun!

Friday, April 20, 2007

Postcard from Feisty

[EDIT: My Ubuntu hat. I know the photo is not rotated, but this is the best Blogger will do. Wah]


After over a day of upgrading, I finally have Ubuntu Feisty on my computer. Unless you have a ton of free time, and aren't stingy about leaving your computer on overnight, I would recommend you wait to upgrade. Right now, the servers are being raped heavily overloaded by people trying to upgrade. Normally, the upgrade would only take about an hour on a DSL connection, however, things got really slow around when I tried upgrading (I was lucky to have a 40Kb/sec connection, which only lasted a couple of seconds at a time). I had to leave it on overnight, and then some. So yeah, I would wait. However, I have a very good reason for being impatient.

Remember the messing up of my DVD drive? Well, as I predicted, the update would fix it, and it did. Now, I am being extremely cautious about my stuff. Oh, and graveman is out of my computer. I'll wait till the stable one. So, my overview of Feisty. I've only been using it for about 10 minutes now, but it seems really cool. The visual effects only got better. There are new tools for playing proprietary formats (which I don't need, but still cool). And I have nothing bad to say about gaim 2.0.0beta6. New games, chess and sudoku, bye bye to Ataxx, a game I've never played. It's a gain for me. It's good.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Ubuntu Fiesty to come out tomorrow

To those of you who are as rabid dedicated to Linux as I am, you should know that tomorrow marks the release of Ubuntu Fiesty Fawn (7.04). Of course, I will upgrade my personal computer to the new release, because it's so awesome, and I have to keep up with the not-so-bleeding edge. So, have a good time with that, and this brief message.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Work delay

Sorry everyone for the delay. I'm currently being swamped with work because of the totally awesome trip to Costa Rica. At the beginning of the week, I had to finish a history assignment because I couldn't do it over spring break. I finished an assignment which would normally take a week free of school in four days, with two school days. THEN, I had to do two essays on HPOZ which I just finished proofreading and are due in less than an hour, but I think they're rather good.

I'm afraid we're going to have some slowing in the future. I have history terms on the Industrial Revolution, and a brief essay comparing and contrasting Adam Smith with Karl Marx (oh joy!). After that, I have to study for a couple of Julius Caesar tests I missed during English. So, expect some delays. However, I can guarantee that the maximum delay would be next weekend. I think I'll be able to find some window of free time to blog this week.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Found my budget

Ever since I got back I was wondering what happened to my spending money in Costa Rica. It turned out that I finally tracked down where all that money went. I started out with $200 and ended with $20. Now that's a tenfold decrease, so of course I'm surprised because I didn't really buy that many souveniers. So, that means I spent $180 over the course of the trip. A large expense was tips, which added to $60. That leaves $120. Then I converted $20 to colones as spending money, so that leaves $100. I then spent $55 for the optional horseback ride, that leaves $45. I then did not spend $27 for the trip I never took. So, $18. Now that's a bit easier to dismiss to random costs here and there. So, yeah, the most expensive things were those being optional in the tour, not actual Costa Rican stuff. I find that interesting.

Astronomy day is coming up

I just got The Observer from the Santa Monica Amateur Astronomy Club(SMAAC), an astronomy club that I'm associated with. The Observer is a monthly newsletter that reminds us of upcoming meetings and general news on astronomy. So, in this issue, I was reminded of Astronomy Day. It's coming up on Saturday, April 21. I remember last Astronomy day. I tried to do some solar observing with my telescope. I used the method where you use a regular telescope and project the image of the sun onto a card. However, when I did this, I just saw a white circle. I then e-mailed Phil Plait if he knew what was going on. This was the first time I sent an e-mail and corresponded with a major blogger. However, I think after a long conversation, I got a bit too personal and Phil stopped responding. So, if you read this Phil, I'm sorry!

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Back from Costa Rica

I'm back from Costa Rica and I must tell you, that was one of the greatest experiences in my life. As Costa Ricans say, the experience was "pura vida" or "pure life", which is basically a Costa Rican phrase for good. Some interesting things I learned about Costa Rica I've learned. Costa Rica is a country with no army; it was abolished in 1948 by the president José Figueres Ferrer. This means that Costa Rica is extremely stable; with no military, there are no coups to overthrow the government like that happen in other Central American countries. Thus making Costa Rica an extremely good place for tourism. Another thing, the Costa Rican government made a choice to conserve the rainforest. Over a quarter of Costa Rican forest is protected under the national park system. Over half is is protected when you include private reserves. And because of this protection, Costa Rica is cashing in, big time. Tourism is by far the largest industry with an extremely long lead (61.8% according to Wikipedia). Next is industry. In fact, one of Intel's headquarters are in San Jose, the capital; I saw it. After that, it's pineapples and coffee. Ok, I've bored you enough with my background, time to describe the trip. Unfortunately, I do not have pictures yet, but those will come later:

Day 1: We get off the plane, which is flown by TACA, the major airline servicing Central America. After that we left the airport and went to our hotel, which was a Country Inn. It turned out that my group had the suite, which was a two story room with three beds. However, 5 people had to share it, but it was still awesome having the largest room of all of the groups. That day was our rest day, and I had a very good time.

Slept at: Country Inn

Day 2: After that, we packed our bags and left to hotel to go to a volcano called Poas. It is an active volcano, but it doesn't emit magma, only steam and sulfur. We stayed there for twenty minutes, until the crater got covered with clouds (there was a lot of fortunate timing in this trip). After that, we left to go to the hotel near the Arenal volcano, called the Hotel Cataratas. There was a pool there, and the rest of the night was basically finding the room and swimming.

Slept at: Cataratas

Day 3: We woke up at the Cataratas Hotel and had a pretty busy schedule. In the morning, we went kayaking, something I don't want to do again for a long while. It was extremely strenuous, but fun also. I was extremely tired at the end. However, this only lasted until noon, and we still had a full schedule in front of us. Next, we went to the Arenal waterfall. This was essentially a river that is fed by a huge waterfall, a very large tourist attraction, but not that crowded. Over there was basically more swimming. Because I was able to swim upstream through the rocks, I was given the title of salmon (because salmon regularly migrate upstream) by Yani and Beryl (two girls who I hung out with for most of the trip). After braving the current and going upstream, we had to leave and go to hot springs, heated by 100% volcano. Only Yani and I braved the 152 degree Fahrenheit hot spring, by far the hottest spring in the area. So, I have some bragging rights. The last thing of the day is to look at Arenal during the night to see it erupt. Now, these are small continuous eruptions, not the big deadly ones. However, I must admit, I spent more time listening to Mr. Laderman talking about the night sky than looking at the volcano. After this, we went back to the hotel and found out that there was another EF group at the hotel, made up of elementary school kids. After this, I just decided to try and go to sleep. However, it was also this night where I was persuaded to take the optional horseback riding which would be the next day. So, after some last-minute scrambling to change my option, I went to bed.

Slept at: Cataratas

Day 4: We packed and left Cataratas. We hit the road and came to an elementary school in rural Costa Rica. This school was extremely poor, and supported nearly entirely by donations from tourists. However, it put on a type of cultural presentation for us, which was really cool. After that, we went horseback riding. My horse was called Gunion, a pretty cool name. Gunion seemed a bit like me, he was kinda indifferent to the experience. Didn't really interact with the other horses. I loved him. So, after this, we went to Monteverde, which is up in the mountains near the continental divide (the line that divides the pacific tectonic plate from the Carribean). It is a cloud forest, which is basically a high rainforest. That hotel had a very good pool table which I loved, and dominated at.

Slept at: Hotel Villa Verde

Day 5: We got up, and went to a forest trail and walked. Over there, we heard a bell bird, which has a very interesting call. It sounds like, a high-pitched "pang". After walking and listening to the forest, we went for our canopy tour. This is basically a zip-line where you're put on a cable, and you roll across on a pulley. It was really fun, and you get to see the tops of the forest. In the middle of the zip-line was a Tarzan swing, where you're hooked on a rope, and you fall to be swung. I swear, free-fall is one of the weirdest experiences you can have. After that, came back home, played more pool, and Mr. Laderman gave one of his talks on astronomy.

Slept at: Hotel Villa Verde

Day 6: For those who wanted to get up early, our tour guide was going to lead a birding expedition to find a quetzal, which is a fairly rare, but beautiful bird. Unfortunately, we didn't quite find one, but we saw several other birds. I found out that I like birds better in pictures than in real life. They're too hard to see in real life. After that, we left to go to Jaco beach. As we were driving, we came across a very spectacular sight. There were four scarlet Macaws just flying on the side of the road. Scarlet Macaws are one of the bright tropical birds, and finding four of them accidentally is a really rare achievement. So, after we got to the hotel at Jaco beach, we basically had the day at the beach. The hotel was right across from the beach for easy access. Though I'll have to say I'm more of a sand person, I swam. It was also this night where there was an extremely short-lived and rare tornado. Unfortunately, I didn't get to see it, but there were a couple of people who saw a tornado just go across the street. Now that was a rare sight.

Slept at: Hotel Balcon del Mar


Day 7: Ok, according to my group leader, this never happened. I never went to Manuel Antonio beach. I never swam in the ocean there. I never took a look at the wildlife over there. No one saw spider monkeys or white-faced monkeys. I never got my first sunburn in 5 years. We just stayed at the hotel and didn't go shopping and eat pizza.

Slept at: Hotel Balcon del Mar

EDIT: Wait, something's missing here. I'll try to remember
EDIT: Discrepancy solved

Day 8: We came back to San Jose. Today was another free-like day. After we arrived at the hotel, we were encouraged to go to a small shopping center and do what we want (ok, not encouraged, but allowed). Over there, a small group of friends and I ate at a bakery called "Spoons" (you can imagine the laughter that entailed). I didn't particularly order anything because my money was drying up. I just freeloaded off others. After that, it was more relaxing.

Slept at: Hotel San Gildar

Day 9: Today, we woke up and went on a 2 hour drive to go white-water rafting. That was really fun. Our group was really awesome, and although we weren't the best splashers, we were in 2nd place. Out of 6 levels, 1 is still water, 6 is a waterfall, we did 1-2+. Although I felt confident we could go all the way to 6. This is also the last day we're staying in Costa Rica. There's a lot of sentimental stuff going on. People are sad about leaving Costa Rica. Since it was the last night, a lot of the rules went lax. The rule that said members of the opposite sex are not allowed in rooms was kinda loosened. Now, all we had to do was leave the door open. This was good for me, because the closest friends I had over there were, in fact, girls. (Becha didn't see THAT comin') It was also today when Ms. Chung took us out to dinner to an Italian place. I was the daring one and ate a Sdrufolo, which no one had an idea of what it was. It turned out to be ham and cheese tied inside of a tortilla. So yeah, basically, this was when the trip drew to a close and our last big socialization.

Slept at: Hotel San Gildar

So yeah, that was Costa Rica. I had plenty of fun there. If I could, I'd probably go next year.