Friday, August 31, 2007

I'm back

I'm back from Arizona and and home in good ol' Los Angeles. In case you were wondering, I had 4 letters, 1 magazine, 15 software updates, and 221 unread RSS feeds. Now time to get back to reading!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Another Nice Visitor

If you remember, a couple of weeks ago I had a view by a FreeBSD guy. We gave him(/her) a warm welcome. Well, I did. But now....... we have an even more welcome visitor from an operating system that I revere and adore. If you can't guess it by now, and you've read my blog for quite some time, I'm ashamed of you. Well, I'm not going to spoil it by saying anything. You know what they say, a picture is worth a thousand words:
Of course it's SunOS, what did you think? By the way, the stats fell even more with Windows users getting an even larger share of the views. However, it might be because I'm looking at my blog FROM a Windows computer (darn Arizona). I hope that statistic soon equilibriates to acceptable levels when I get back.

Project Open Doors

Sun recently (and I DO mean recently) published an article about their Project Open Doors initiative. Project Open Doors is Sun's way of giving back to the community. They have volunteers who do things like outreach, donating money, and even working on environmental issues. It started when a Sun facility in Brazil opened its doors to school children from poor communities, and showed basically what Sun does. Of course, some students were inspired and went on to get educated and work at Sun. Now, in the article, there's mention of Sun headquarters opening their doors to Menlo Park students. Now, Menlo park is in California (Northern). I live in California (Southern). It would SOOO be worth the trip up there to see Sun. I wish I could've gone. (Pssst.....Sun, you know you want to bring us from LA up there, right?)

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

I'm part of a planet!

Ok, I am now officially part of the Teens On Linux planet. Hi guys (and girl). BWAHA! All part of my plan to take over the internet!

AiG Research Essay Contest 2007 winner

Yes, I know, I'm about a month late on this story. But I'm in Arizona, so there's my excuse. Now shut up!

Well, anyways, Answers in Genesis held another essay contest for kids to "refute" some aspect of evolution in some way (accuracy optional). Bay of Fundie deals with this issue, and I will too. However, I'd like to mention that as of the writing of this post, I have NOT read Bay of Fundie's arguments. These refutations are entirely my own. This is to take some of the burden off of the adult bloggers who might be hesitant to attack a (homeschooled) high-schooler's essay. So, this is teen-to-teen. And plus, I feel obligated, I mean, winning an essay contest ON evolution should imply that I know what I'm talking about. So, I'll stop delaying and get to it.

The grand prize essay by Karin Hutson is essentially trying to refute the claim that evolution can account for morality. And evolution is leading to a breakdown of America's youth, yadda yadda. However, quoting is going to be rather difficult because AiG stored the paper as an IMAGE! Which makes text selection impossible. So, I'm going to take standard quoting procedures here, and any mistakes that are made without the little "[sic]" thing are mine. So here is the basic premise of the essay:

Darwin in Descent of Man claimed that if evolution were true, it has altered us not merely physically but morally (Horgan 149). Can Darwinian
evolution adequately account for an uphold human morality? This paper concludes
it cannot. Within a naturalistic worldview that denies absolute truth, morality
has no standards. Ethics then denegrates into fickle opinions and conflicting
preferences. Hence, evolution supports amorality, not morality!


Ok, so, there's the basic premise for the essay. Seems rather straightforward. So, lets move on to the actual essay. It starts out with a description of the Columbine shooting, with one of the shooters, wearing a shirt that said "Natural Selection", asking a girl if she believed in God. She said she did, and he shot her. As sad as that may be, that's a red herring. Mental stability is a much more accurate measurement for determining if someone is going to on a shooting rampage than if that person believed evolution. "Sociopath" or "deranged" is used to describe people who have done this, not "evolutionist".

Lets move on to the next section, "When evolution is taught". This page starts out with the no evidence for "macroevolution". Of course, a trip to Talk.Origins can deal with that. Which also answers that evolution is supported because it works, not because of any worldview that it bolsters. However, she believes the worldview that evolution supports is "Naturalism" (Pssst.. SCIENCE supports naturalism). She then says that the Creation worldview is just as valid as the Naturalism one because they both look at the same evidence, but have different interpretations (such as fossils implying both Noah's flood, and geologic gradualism depending on how you look at it). This is unfortunately wrong because gradualism supports the fact that rock layers do not have homogeneous distribution of organisms, but are stratified by TIME! Flood geologists try to accomodate that, but haven't succeeded much. So, the difference is, one FITS the evidence much better. She then gets to:
If creation offers just as valid answers for life's origin as Darwin, which Evolution Exposed reveals, why is it banned from public schools?

Ignoring the premise which has been dismantled, it's because it's religious. 1st Amendment for the win! If evolution was proved false, you'd still have to show that it was God that did it, not Allah or the FSM (I'd like to see the moral implications of THAT, heh). Anyways, she moves on to slandering the names of some good scientists:
Although our founding scientists--Galileo, Kepler, Newton--experimented from a
creationist perspective (Patterson 20), twenty-first century school officials
unfairly regulation evolution to the classroom as science and creation to
the church as religion.

Well, first thing, Galileo, Kepler, and Newton lived BEFORE evolution was discovered. Second, their line of work had NOTHING to do with creation/evolution. They worked in physics, not biology. Third, they also all believed in astrology; this argument would make more sense for astrology, but would still be wrong. And the twenty-first century school officials are correct in their regulation.

So, we're moving on, slowly but surely, to "...morality is undermined". This starts with how evolution is supposed to explain how morality evolved. She picks the "selfish gene" theory, "reciprocal altruism", and "kin-selection". She then paraphrases Daniel Dennett to say that altruism isn't found in mammals. Unfortunately, I don't have Darwin's Dangerous Idea to check for quote mining, but I highly doubt he would hold that point. I point that Rhesus monkeys care more for each other than humans. Hutson then goes into a quandary about the explanations which account for moral codes. I have a simple explanation for explaining morals, "empathy". I don't steal, because I wouldn't like to be stolen from. I don't kill, because I don't want to be killed. That's a very basic and quite solid foundation for morals. Let's take one case Hutson makes:
One society may believe that "sending airplanes into skyscrapers is evil and
wrong, and another may believe it is pleasing to God an correct (Ramsey, Get
Answers).

Let's apply my reasoning. I wouldn't like it if some country sent an airplane into my skyscraper, so I won't do it to another one. See, it's quite easy and effective. Now, I'm not saying this is a bullet-proof argument or that it ACTUALLY happened. I'm just saying this is a reasonable alternative to having morals come from a divine force. All of the arguments Hutson makes toward the end of this section can be explained by simple empathy except for two, cheating on tests, and marijuana. First, I'd like to know when God said, "Thou shall not smoke pot". It think that's an example of moral decision that society came up with on its own because marijuana is considered harmful. As for cheating, this may just be my perspective, but a test is considered a measurement of your knowledge. If you cheat, you've thrown off the measurement and wasted your time on it. Good job!

Now on to "Response of Evolutionists". Hutson uses a quote from Richard Dawkins when he was told that many people don't accept evolution because they think it leads to a breakdown of morality. He replies, "All I can say is, That's [sic] just tough. We have to face up to the truth". I agree with him. If these people need to be deluded to behave, then that just scares me. Once the delusion is popped, they'll go psycho. If they don't learn how to empathize (which most people learn to do at around 13), they'll be a ticking time bomb. Hutson then quotes R.C. Sproul Jr. who essentially advocates a sort of dualism, where we are more than our genes and nerves. PZ provides a good rebuttal on the mechanical view of altruism. Hutson eventually comes to the conclusion that evolution = nihilism (???) Ok, let's move on to "The Nihilist approach"

Hutson how tries to argue that evolution makes life meaningless, and quotes Sproul (who I'm starting to get really annoyed at) saying:
We either have God with meaningful morality and meaningful lives, or we have no
God, and all of life is meaningless, without any trace of hope.

Now, that's just unjustified right there. Ask a mother if her life was meaningless. Heck, ask Charles Darwin if his life was meaningless. They were not. Both had an impact on the future. That's certainly meaningful. A mother did raised a child, something that could not have been done without her. Darwin came up with his oh so popular theory of evolution. Every evolutionary biologist will attest that his life had a ton of meaning to them. This kind of thinking makes me sick. Hutson concludes this section with:
While evolution doesn't directly cause sin, it's naturalism presents a good
excuse because it denies that morality is universal, that sin is sin, that a
Judge will requite! Hence, studies show moral decline among those who accept
evolution.

Yeah..... and here's anothing thing that empathy explains well. According to the "research" that was cited, morality is not accepting premarital sex. If people are like me, and have empathy deal with their morals, they understand that what goes on in people's bedrooms is none of their business. Heck, I think it's quite immoral to try and control people's intimate lives (there we go with the moral relativism again). So, what makes the commanding nature of God more moral than the tolerant nature of the FSM? Morality still isn't universal even if you have the Ten Commandments (Sorry, I just had an "aha" moment right now).

We now go to "The Creation Answer". Hutson notes that creationism ADDS morality because we come from God. We were made in God's image (who an FSTDTer might say is a xenophobic, genocidal control freak) so we should feel proud and blessed, unlike those darn animals. Ok, I paraphrased, but she DOES say "... a creationist student knows she is fundamentally unlike animals". She also compares it to naturalism and says, "[A creationist student] is not a heap of atoms evolved from a crock-pot of amino acids but uniquely designed by a Creator God". First I say, as opposed to dirt? Secondly, that's not necessarily a bad thing. I mean, it took four (or fourteen, depending on how far back you go) billion years to make ME. I find that pretty awesome. More than being a toy of some supreme being who can't even design a decent body. Oh, and here's my favorite part:
Therefore, life is intrinsically valuble. Suicide, euthanasia, abortion, and embryonic stem cell research are no longer ethical dilemmas to debate in an ethics class but utter evils. Human dignity and rights are not mere ideals extolled in word by politicians but worth bestowed on every culture, race, gender and individual.
All life is valuble. However, if that's what she really believed, I would understand that. However, an EXCEPT is kind of missing. All life is valuble, unless you're an adulterer, gay, a witch, a disobedient child, someone who eats seafood, someone who works on Sunday, and so on. In which case, you deserve to be stoned and be sent to hell. There goes the value of life. Hutson moves on to say that creationists know they will be judged and thus act accordingly to get into heaven. I repeat that I am afraid of someone if the only thing keeping them from killing everyone is a ticket into heaven. They haven't seem to have matured to gain that sense of empathy. Hutson now asks the question, will teaching creationism cure us of immorality. And she thankfully answers no. There are still things that could be done, and she also says:
The answer to Fyodor Dostoyevsky's question is no, man cannot be good
without God.

Ok, she just pulled Dostoyevsky out of nowhere. After that initial thought, I think, "Where is there an example where man HAS been good" Without that data point, you have no reliable data to determine whether you need God. I mean, at least SETI has one data point, us, as an example of life, and even that's statistically useless. There are no conclusions you can draw without an example of a civilization that was good. After that, it's apologetics.

Finally, we reach the conclusion. She talks about how in order to spread morality, evolution must be eliminated. Of course, by this time, we ought to know that it's not true. Thanks for sticking through this with me.

[EDIT: I almost forgot an important part. Here's one positive thing about her. I compliment her on her appearance, she does look good. At least that's what I think.]

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

No New Content

Ok, I don't think any original content is going to be posted while I'm in Arizona, because I don't get any research done over here. I haven't been keeping up with the science. And since I'm not on linux, I have no programs to talk about. So, whenever I'm devoid of ideas, SUN VIDEOS!

Here is one that's just plain cool:

JavaOne: Open Possibilities

And this one is cool, fascinating, and informative:

A Helping Hand - Real Time Java

Have fun!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Pastafarian Values!

Ok, I think I've gotten much more sane by now (or not). But I am tempted to comment on a trailer I saw for the new VeggieTales movie: The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything. Now, I haven't watched Veggie Tales, but I think they're highly associated with Christian programming and have been mainly used to promote values and such (The last movie was about Jonah, I'm pretty sure the same Jonah who was in that whale (or giant fish)). When I saw pirates, I immediately thought, FSM! Also, in the story on the web site, it states:

The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything--A VeggieTales Movie continues the hit series'
values-based lessons on teaching kids what it really means to be a hero.

Hmmm...... since the movie is so overtly pro-Pastafarian and tries to teach values, it makes me think Pastafarians actually have values! Heh, just kidding. But I just found this to be a decent dose of irony.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Thoughts from Windows

Ok, as you know, while I'm in Arizona, I am using a Windows laptop to do all of my computer-related stuff. I've forgotten what it was like to use Windows XP, and I must say, I miss my Ubuntu computer. Now that a slim majority of my readers are Windows users, I'll have to be more fact based. Attacks like "Winblows" or "Windoze" or "Micro$oft" don't cut it anymore. So, here are some of the problems (from my perspective) of using a Windows computer.

One thing I greatly noticed was that Windows programs tend to be HIGHLY obtrusive. For example, my dad needs Microsoft Live Messanger on this computer. Something that really ticks me off is that it by default runs when the system boots up. If an open-source program did that, that feature wouldn't remain very long. If that program was a real tangible thing, I'd slap it. The thing that really ticks me off is that it starts like that BY DEFAULT. And there's no way to stop it from starting at bootup (at least not one I could find in the help files). [EDIT: Ok, after enough searching, I was able to find something that looked remotely like a menu bar, and was able to find the button to disable that feature. Though a menu bar would have been a lot of help] I'm sure there's a way to do it via some registry editing (which I'm also not too fond of), but you have to actually hunt around for that. Now I know that you do a lot of hunting in open-source software. But you should hunt if you want to ADD a feature. If you have to hunt all over the internet to REMOVE a feature that could be considered obtrusive and inconvenient, there's something wrong with the program. For example, pidgin has a feature that lets you start it at startup, but that's DISABLED by default. And I, as the computer user, would like to keep it that way. I find it really annoying when I start up the computer to get windows in my face, especially MSN news. Uggghhhh.....

Another thing, when I want to install a program, that's EXACTLY what I want to do. Install THAT program. For this, I'm mostly looking at Yahoo!, but there are several other companies which also do this. If I want to install Yahoo! Messenger, that's all I want to install. Not Yahoo! Toolbar, just Yahoo! Messenger. Merely asking me if I'd like Yahoo! Toolbar would be OK. However, you ask if I'd like it, and have the check box already checked. That check makes a big difference. It's the difference between asking if I'd like to install your product, and imposing that product on me. If I wasn't really paying attention (cycling through the next buttons which I'm sure many of you do), I just installed a piece of software on my computer without really knowing it. That's really sneaky. Again, if someone did that in the open-source world, they'd deserve a slap. Of course, it's also much more difficult to install a separate program in the open-source world namely because it's simple to catch, and the ./configure, make, make install cycle is much more involved. You're not asked for input unless it's REALLY needed.

The next thing that ticks me off is Internet Explorer. Yes, I know most Windows users have evolved past the point of Internet Explorer. But there's still that 18% of people who read this blog who still use Internet Explorer. Now, let me tell the truth: It's a piece of crud. I'm not even going to get into the security issues because those are more in depth. Right now, I'm just talking about the cosmetic and usability issues. For one thing, IE7 tries to look like Firefox, but fails. Miserably! The tabs are a joke! One thing that consistently ticks me off and makes me laugh at the same time is when you open up a new tab. You get an HTML file that says, "You've opened a new tab!" I'm just like, "NO DUH!". I pressed Ctrl+T or went File>New Tab. Of course I've opened a new tab. Then it starts talking about all the benefits of tabs, blah blah, yadda yadda. Also, the classic browser view is gone. For some reason, Microsoft decided to stick the address bar between the forward button and the refresh button. That was kinda confusing. And the search bar, in addition to being a blatant ripoff of Firefox, is very poor. You can only search MSN or Yahoo! I'm not sure, but it seems like they left out the most powerful search engine for their own anti-Google agenda. [EDIT: You can get it, but you need to work for it] Oh, I've gotten really conspiracy-theory-minded now. I better stop before I get a stroke or something.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

SpaceFest #3

Ok, today was the last day of SpaceFest, and I got to do some last-minute shopping. I bought the "Traveling Star Show" by The Big Bang Band. It has a couple of good songs and is for a good cause, some of the money raised by the CD goes to the Robert Ferguson Observatory in Sonoma County (Phil should know that). Speaking of him, I managed to bother him a little bit before SpaceFest was over. Other than that, not much happened other than the talks. So, I'll get right to them.

The first talk was by Mike Joner about "Image Processing" in Astronomy. This was about how professional and even amateur astronomers develop those amazing images. Well, for a professional, you take a big telescope with high-quality CCD, and you basically get back numbers. You normally take three images. One in red, one in green, one in blue. You then clean each of them up using various image manipulation techniques. After that, you put them together and you have an amazing photo. Amateurs also do this to a degree. However, instead of working with numbers, they can work with photoshop. Some of the amateur photos he showed were actually pretty amazing.

The second talk was by Jim Rice on "Spirit and Opportunity: Three and a half years roaming Mars". Now, these talks are pretty common. It was an overview of the science and emotion of the two Mars Exploration Rovers. You could probably find most of the science at a local lecture series, or on the Mars Rovers JPL web site. You could also find information on this blog when it arises. Not much I can say about this talk.

The third talk was by Doug Griffith called "The Crash of Galaxy SL-292". It was about a fictitious explosion of a passenger-carrying spacecraft called Suborbital Launch("SL") vehicle 292 which was launched by Galaxy Space, Inc. He explored the litigation which would have most likely ensued that crash, and how the scenario would probably have turned out. It was also a presentation on how the now-budding spaceflight industry is developing on a legal scale. It was really quite interesting. I found out that the Federal government really doesn't want to get involved in the spaceflight industry, so the job of litigating would fall to the states. And since states have different laws, it could get really complicated. Way too much for me to explain. Well, this was the last talk of SpaceFest, now it's time for the ultra-boring stay at Arizona. I miss my Ubuntu computer.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

SpaceFest day 2

Ok, today was back to SpaceFest for day 2 of 3 in this event. Today had a good line of speakers, though in my opinion not as good as yesterday. I didn't buy anything today because I spent all fo the money yesterday, but I didn't see anything new to get. I also took today to bother Phil some more. I even managed to get a picture of him with me:

Yeah, it looks like we don't really know how to pose. But it's my fault, I kinda cornered him and asked for a picture. Anyways, that's about all the non-lecture news I have.





So, the first talk was by Chris McKay on the "3 stories of life on Mars". It was a really good talk. It was basically about issues involving life and other features of Mars and exploration. Story #1 was about if life did develop on Mars, and its implications. If Mars had life, then that bumps up the statistics of life forming in the universe dramatically. Story #2 is human involvement in Mars. It would be inevitable that if we don't blow ourselves up. This is a mix of planetary protection and terraforming. He brings up the concept of growing a flower on Mars that follows planetary protection guidelines. He also brought up that the Moon would be a good place to practice because it's Planetary Protection level 1 (i.e. no one cares, it'll STAY sterile) while Mars has level 4 (we need to be really careful). And also how would Martian life compare to Earth life, and what questions could it answer. Story #3 is how would we terraform Mars while preserving its environment. On Earth, nature and life are considered the same thing, but on Mars, it isn't. If there is no hidden life, do we want to preserve some of Mars's sterile area, or should we allow terrestrial life to spread. This was actually a really fascinating lecture.



The next one was by John Young, a really prolific astronaut. He talked about how humans need to go into space and colonize. Kinda like Stephen Hawking, but it's much more convincing to hear it from a guy who was actually IN space several times. His talk was really quite detailed, and there's not much I can summarize in writing right now. It was just so interconnected and flowing that I feel I would do him a disservice to try and leave out parts of his presentation. It basically consisted of spaceflight when he flew, new developments which are occurring right now, and what other obstacles we need to face to make colonization more feasible.



The next one was by Martin Tomasko, but I missed some of the beginning because I was still stalking Phil. However, I did get the gist of most of his presentation, and it was about his work on the Cassini-Huygens mission. He also gave some overview of the problems which were encountered during this mission, and how they were worked around, and some of the science which was done by the Huygens probe. He had some neat footage which I'm pretty sure you could find somewhere on ESA's web site (I'm kinda tired now). So although I missed some, the presentation still made a lot of sense. Props to Martin!



The last talk of the day was by the all-so-famous David Levy. David Levy has tens of books out about astronomy, and if you haven't read anything by him, you're missing something. This talk was entitled "A Nightwatchman's Journey: My life and hard times as a comet hunter during the first generation of the space program". It was mainly about what brought him to astronomy, and his experience as a comet hunter. However, he also showed that astronomy was a very inviting subject, and most anyone could get hooked to it. For him, it was seeing a meteor when at a camp. Now, I never had a switch like that. For me, I just though, "this is sooooo cool". I can't remember any singular event. Then again, I make a pretty bad amateur astronomer. Anyway, this was mostly a talk about the romance of astronomy. There was also some talk about the comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 (which was co-named after HIM, of course). If you don't know, comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 was a really popularized comet around 1993-94 that was broken apart by and impacted into Jupiter. I know people in my astronomy club who saw that, so it was a widely publicized event. He decided to become a comet hunter as a younger boy, and kept to that dream. Now isn't that a story?

Friday, August 17, 2007

Arizona and SpaceFest part 1

Ok, yesterday I drove to Arizona from my home in Los Angeles. That's right, I drove the entire three-hundred-something miles. So, I hope you could understand that I was really tired when I got there, and didn't blog. Anyways, I'm still getting used to the heat around here. I prefer the mild humidity of California. Screw the dry heat!

Since I'm in Arizona, and away from my very beloved computer, I have to use the family laptop, which runs Windows. Yes, the open-source advocate is forced to use Windows. Make all of the jokes about it now. However, I'm not SO stubborn that I pop in a KNOPPIX CD just to avoid using Windows. That would be even more inconvenient and annoying than Windows (which is pretty inconvenient and annoying). I shall remain pining for my Ubuntu box at home!

Today however, was a good day for Arizona (something that I predict will be in short supply). It was the first day of SpaceFest, and was the day we went all-out to do and buy stuff. A large part of the SpaceFest booths were areas where famous (and not-so-famous) astronauts would be giving signatures, even Buzz Aldrin (the guy who went to the moon, remember him). However, I wasn't all-to-crazy about this section. My generation isn't one that reveres these people like the previous ones. I'm not saying these people are anything less than what they are, heroes. But I'm merely just not as interested in their legacy, and prefer to look toward the future which will have new heroes. Along with the astronauts, there were many vendors who sold various astronomy-related things. I bought apparel, some T-Shirts and ties (Ties were important, I would finally be able to stop using my dad's). There was also an art gallery which housed space-related painting. However, we didn't buy these because they're super-expensive. But some were pretty good to see; my favorite was called "A great mistake for mankind" or something like that, and featured the lunar soil with car keys which were left behind by an unlucky astronaut. That tickled my funnybone.

The parts I really enjoyed were the great number of talks that were given. The first one I attended was "The Origin of the Moon" by William K. Hartmann. Dr. Hartmann is an engineer who is also an artist. The talk spanned from the birth of the solar system to the future of mankind, and was essentially guided by the paintings he made of the events over the years. At the end, he tied his whole talk together by saying that the events of the solar system are so connected that these needed to be included even when discussing the Origin of the Moon (at least, that's what I think he said). Dr. Hartmann was one of the original developers of the impact origin of the moon (where the moon was created from the debris of a large object smashing into the Earth early in its history), which is now the leading theory in its field.

Next came Seth Shostak, the director of the SETI institute. His talk was called "SETI-the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence". He basically gave an overview of what we're looking for in space, why we're looking for it, and what we should expect. He is a really great speaker, and I highly recommend going to a talk given by him. However, I was surprised to learn that SETI(at)home was not really directly contributing to the actual SETI work. They're two different projects which have roughly the same objective. Eh, but I'll still proudly run SETI@home on my (home) computer.

The next talk will be the last, but most certaintly not least one I will discuss. It was Phil Plait's talk "The Great Moon Hoax Hoax". This was by far the most entertaining talk that was given (and I'm CERTAINLY not biased towards him). Of course, this stuff was covered on his web site and his book, but hearing it from the actual person in a multimedia presentation has it stick much better. Plus, he has a LOT more pictures in his presentation than his web site, which makes it a lot more fun. Now, as you've seen me emphasize on this blog several times, community is very important; I believe that the community of this talk added a lot to the lecture. Since this was in a convention WITH some of the Apollo astronauts in the OTHER ROOM, most people who came to the talk already knew that the moon hoax was utter crud. So we could all essentially laugh at this silliness together. After the talk, I bought (another) copy of Bad Astronomy, and got it autographed by Phil too. I feel very content today! And there are two more days of SpaceFest, so prepare for more awesomeness!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Creationists have now left California

Ok, I wish that headline could be absolutely true, but us Californians will still have to deal with the occasional loonie. However, the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) is moving their headquarters from Southern California to Texas. Zeno has the story.

For those of you who don't know, the Institute of Creation Research is one of the original creationist organizations. It was founded in the 1970s by the well-known (if you study this stuff) creationists Henry Morris (who died last year), Duane Gish (the inventor of the "Gish Gallop", where you spout out lies faster than your opponent can rebut them. Ok, I'm sure he didn't invent it, but it's named AFTER him for goodness sake), and Harold S. Slusher (who isn't as famous). The Institute of Creation Research was one of the first organized and successful group which tried to make creationism look like science. Well, they're not our problem anymore. You have my deepest condolences, Texas.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

What's wrong with you people?!

I was just checking my Google Analytics, then I saw this shocking statistic!

Six Linux boxes better visit my blog or else........I'll be very disappointed.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Rover situtations look optimistic

Good news! According to a NASA press release, the rovers are STILL alive, and the dust storm seems to be settling down slightly. The storm has settled enough for the batteries on Opportunity to become fully charged again; Spirit's batteries are almost charged. The rovers are also back to doing science, Spirit moved its arm for the first time in three weeks! For a synopsis of how things have improved, here it is:
Energy production from solar arrays increased to 295 watt hours on Spirit's 1,276th Martian day, or sol, which ended early Aug. 6, and to 243 watt hours on Opportunity's sol 1,255 which ended midday Aug. 5. The solar panels generate electricity from sunlight. Dust storms obscuring the sun have cut daily output as low as 261 watt hours on Spirit and 128 watt hours on Opportunity in recent weeks, compared with levels above 700 watt hours per sol before the current series of Martian dust storms began in June. One hundred watt hours is what it takes to run a 100-watt bulb for one hour.

The increased output from the solar panels, though slight, has allowed Opportunity to fully charge its batteries and Spirit to bring its batteries to nearly full charge. Also, the temperature of the core electronics module on Opportunity, which was of concern when it fell to minus 35 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 37 Celsius) last week, has increased to minus 28.1 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 33.4 degrees Celsius).

Those indestructible rovers!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Tunak Tunak Tun

You tell ME how this video ties in with this blog:

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Get Ekiga working

Ok, I've also been plagued by a problem where whenever I try to start ekiga, I get a "registration failed: timeout". After being frustrated for a while because of this, I decided that google was my friend, and by searching for the problem, I came across this thread, by someone who had my problem. If you look through it, there really isn't a solution, UNTIL you reach the second page. There, I found the solution:
I use Ekiga, and finally managed to get through.

Don't use stun.ekiga.net ...it is down.

I use stun.voxgratia.org . It saved my day really...
There you have it, don't use the STUN server with ekiga, since apparently they're having problems. However, I technically didn't need a STUN server, so I just disabled it. Apparently I enabled a STUN server just because I thought I should use it, big mistake on my part. Well, I hope this'll be a solution for some of your problems.

Friday, August 10, 2007

aTunes

Figures. The day after I say I'm not going to post, I have something to post. Anyways, this is about a music player called aTunes. It's supposed to be like iTunes, but written in Java, so it's cross-platform and is compatible on all java-enabled systems (which is essentially everything). Unlike Apple, which doesn't have a linux version of iTunes. The surprising thing is that this program is NOT slow AT ALL! So take that you anti-java people! Java is no longer considered sluggish, get over that argument. Anyways, this is my pro-Sun statement for the day.

On to the actual music player. If you're part of the devil's empire (use Windows) it's a standard .exe file. You shouldn't have any trouble with that. The installation is kind of different for the *NIXs. You don't do the ./configure, make, make install cycle, because....it's written in Java. It's a big more complicated, but if you don't do extensive Java programming like I do, it'll be easy. You need Java 6.0 to run it. If you want to install it (i.e. have it more integrated with your operating system) download the .jar installer. You run that by typing "java -jar /path/to/.jar/file". If you don't want to install, (Windows or *nix) just download the .tgz package then unpack it. You'll find all of the binaries in there.

If you installed, you'll see a directory at "$HOME/aTunes" ($HOME is your home folder). That directory contains all of the files that the binary package had. Now, for *nix users, just run the aTunes.sh script by typing "$HOME/aTunes/aTunes.sh" in the terminal. Or if you installed it, you could go via a menu. If neither works, then you probably have the problem I had, and I'll go over a quick band-aid solution to that. Once you run it, you have to pick your repository, which is where all your music should be stored, you select it by right-clicking. After that, I'll let you loose to explore aTunes.

Now, aTunes is not the right player for ME, but I think it's just my music habits that make it that way. My music library is composed of many little-known songs that I harvested over the internet. That means that I can't use many of the features that come with aTunes such as lyrics and album covers etc. Also, aTunes lacks the ability to subscribe to podcasts, so I'll be sticking to Rhythmbox. However, aTunes looks super cool, I'm amazed at the power of Java Swing. If you're the typical music-listener who uses iTunes on non-linux machines, I'd highly recommend aTunes. It's an amazing tool, I'm saddened that it's not exactly what I want.

Anyways, the quick band-aid solution for people have problems. Well, the problem I had was that the version of Java that the OS uses by default is 1.4.2, not 1.6. I tried to make links and symbolic links to the version 6 one, still didn't work. So, here's the plan I came up with. I basically have the computer explicitly choose the version 1.6 binary. In ubuntu, the binary is in "/usr/lib/jvm/java-6-sun-1.6.0.00/bin" What I did was I created an environment variable called JAVA6. You do this by opening ~/.bashrc. In there, put the line "export JAVA6=/usr/lib/jvm/java-6-sun-1.6.0.00/bin" without quotes. Now, in the place with the binaries, you'll see a script called aTunes.sh. Open that, and instead of the "java" command, put "$JAVA6/java" That should call the version 1.6 compiler.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

No Posts

Sorry, but with CENS and all, I've really used up much of my free time. Heck I haven't even managed to finish my RSS feeds and they've been piling up day after day. So it's going to be a while until I post again. However, when I do find the time, I'm pretty sure it'll be one good post.

Monday, August 06, 2007

First day at CENS

Today was my first day of "working" at CENS (Center for Embedded Networked Sensing) at UCLA (I don't get paid, but the hours are terrific!). And I must say, it was a really revealing splash into the day of the average working person. I took the Metro bus, had to transfer once, to UCLA (14 to the 305). In the morning, the buses were on time and it was great. I got to UCLA on time, despite taking an early stop (I had to walk the rest of the way). However, the way back was a nightmare. I had to wait 40 minutes for the next 305 bus to arrive. So that kinda sucked. When waiting for a bus, you tend not to read very well.

Well, on to the actual experience. When I got there, I got a free CENS T-shirt, so I could be easily identified as a CENS person, instead of some other guy from another project. After that, I was given my assignment. I only had ONE assignment today, however it was not schmexy. I had to take down information on all the computers in the labs (well, as many as I had access to). Information such as make, model, IP address, MAC address, and other network information. This was about 60 computers. It was very tedious, and I had to disturb some people who were working on them. However, I don't think they minded much. After that, I typed it up in an Excel spreadsheet (yes, EXCEL, couldn't get OO.org spreadsheet). That wasn't too bad, except the MAC addresses, that was EXTREMELY tedious. Since every single machine had one, and every single one was unique. However, after I got the MAC addresses done, it was ok. Tomorrow, I'll hopefully do something more fun!

Friday, August 03, 2007

The Tonight Show with Jay Leno

Today, I went to be in the audience of the Tonight Show with Jay Leno. I really wanted to go for a long while, and today, my 16th birthday marked the first day I would be able to go. However, it wasn't as awesome as I thought it would be.

I arrived in line at around 2:15 PM (they started letting people in at 3), and there were about 100 people ahead of us. That wasn't so bad. So my family waited in line, but then a group of people just showed up, and were being let in before our line. I was really confused at this, but it was later explained to me. Those people were at Universal Studios, and were given the opportunity to go to the Tonight Show. And apparently they're guaranteed admission, unlike the rest of us. I didn't like that. To me, someone who just happened to be at Universal Studios at the right time should be given more priority than someone such as me, who sent in a request for tickets a year in advance, only to be given a tentative opportunity to see the show. The tickets I received in the mail did not guarantee admission, I still had to wait in line and hope that the studio wasn't filled. Luckily, everyone made it in today. But it still kinda ticks me off that those people were able to get the seats in front, while I was seated in the very back.

While waiting, we were also given two slips. One was to pick people for the segment, "Vacations from Hell". You submit your bad vacation stories, and NBC executives sift through them apparently while we wait, and find the good ones. After that, they pick the people with the best stories in the segment. So that's how that works. And there was also one that asked "if you could ask any expert anything, what would it be?". It was to be answered by Adam West (Batman, and the Family Guy mayor). That didn't become a segment. However, I highly recommend filling those out if you could. You might end up on air! So, after all this waiting, we were finally brought into the studio. You have to go through a metal detector to get in so it's kinda like an airport, and they say you need ID, which I don't think they really even asked for. Then you were seated, which is how we got our seats in the back.

Now the thing about the studio is that it's way smaller than it looks on TV. I was in the back, but that wasn't all that far away, I was very surprised. So, before the show, a guy comes up, and preps the audience, he picked 8 random people and they danced in front of the audience just to loosen things up, then the guy threw merchandise in the audience (I didn't get any). Afterwards, Jay Leno came and told us what's going to happen, and what we should do as an audience. He also got to know several members of the audience and have a picture taken with them (I was not picked). Then he left, and we were once again entertained by that other guy.

Eventually, the show started, and Jay Leno came on, and did his monologue. I'm not sure, but if you watch the episode tonight, at 11:35 on NBC, you might hear my characteristic laugh. During commercial, the Tonight Show band performed and the crew prepped up the stage for "Vacations from Hell". That was also pretty funny. After that segment, the Tonight Show band played again, and then the first guest, Hank Azaria (guy who did a bunch of voices on The Simpsons) came on. All that you could watch on the show. However, I was really disappointed on the next commercial break, where Jay and Hank started speaking to each other. In the show, you see them talking, but you can't hear them. The same happens in the audience, you just hear the band, but don't get the info they're talking about. This was a pretty big disappointment.

After Hank Azaria, came the judges from America's Got Talent, David Hasselhoff, Sharon Osbourne, and Piers Morgan. That was a pretty crazy segment, worth watching. After their encounter, we went to the performance which was by Daddy Yankee. Latino rap; I should've seen that coming. After that, it was basically it.

During the show, I've noticed that it's really not as great to see the show in person than on TV. For one thing, when you see it in person, you hear the audience more than the stars, so you miss a few words; on TV, the stars come in clear because they speak in microphones. Another thing is that in the audience, you only have one point of view, while on TV, the cameras can get much better views on the stage. In my opinion, you should stay at home and watch if you just want to see the Tonight Show. The only reasons I could see for going there are if you REALLY like the Tonight Show band, you hear a lot of them; and if you want a cheap date, it's free and entertaining. Other than that, stick to TV. Eh, but my birthday was good enough for me.

The Sun Way

Ok, I've noticed I blog A LOT about Sun, and that's not represented in the sidebar. So I added a section called "The Sun Way", which contains a video that basically sums up Sun's motto that "The network is the computer". It also has many of Sun's goals and accomplishments. As you can see, Project Black Box makes a huge debut on here. So, if any newcomers see that I love Sun, but don't know exactly what Sun is, that section ought to explain it to them.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

A Brief History of .... Nerdcore

Of course, the music of rap has started being hijacked by nerds of all stripes to form the musical genre of Nerdcore. A short news clip about it in New Zealand:


Anyways, I still think science nerdcore is the best. It'll take a LOT to beat MC Hawking, that's for sure!

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Mars Rover Update

I was prompted to look into the Mars Rovers by an extremely strange dream I had. It consisted of me taking a joyride on a rover (couldn't tell which one). I managed to steer it via bluetooth on a cell phone (which I don't have). After my little ride, I got into a bunch of trouble, but I'm glad it was only a dream, or else I would be super screwed! Well, on to the latest about those brave rovers!

Things still don't look too good. The sky above Meridiani Planum (Opportunity) is still extremely dusty, and it's getting colder, which means it'll take more energy to keep the electronics warm. Right now it's -37C (or -35F), which is close to triggering Opportunity's "survival heaters" which would be a further drain on the battery, and would cause a net loss of energy, rather than its current position of producing a little more than breaking even on ultra-low-power-mode. Remember when I said the dust storm cleaned off Opportunity's solar panels, which was good. Well, all of that dust is now settling, which kinda screws over Opportunity's energy supply even more. As you can see, the change is HIGHLY DRAMATIC:
Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech.

Spirit is also having a few problems. Things are dusty over there at Gusev crater, and Spirit's panels getting dustier than usual. But, we're all fairly confident Spirit will survive this, given that Opportunity is doing SO MUCH worse.

By the way, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter also has a perspective on this dust storm (just in time, eh?). And as you can see, it's REALLY big:
Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech (click for better resolution).
It's huge! The top image is the dust storm as it was developing. As you can see, you can see some areas of dustiness to the left of Opportunity. The bottom image is of the mature dust storm a few weeks ago. As you can see, it's all over the planet. Heh, luckily I don't think we have dust storms this bad on Earth. We should count ourselves lucky! Well, best of luck to the rovers and the guys at JPL! I hope they manage to get through this.