Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Captain Planet!

Recently, I was made aware of a playlist on YouTube of Captain Planet episodes. Captain Planet is one of the great old science-themed cartoon. (not the greatest, Magic School Bus holds that title, hands-down. And I am categorizing environmentalism as science). Unfortunately, the creation of Captain Planet preceeded me by a year. And since I didn't start watching TV when I was born (something this generation could probably claim), I missed it entirely. However, my interest in it came around 8, when playing a computer game which was themed on Captain Planet. I can't find that game, or remember where it was, but it was pretty good! It was one of those move-by-grid games where you control the planeteers and strategically place them to fight pollutant enemies.

Anyway, after watching a couple of episodes, I find the series AWESOME! Yet, it inspires mixed feelings. On one hand, it makes me proud of see how far back we've realized that we can make a significant impact on the environment. On the other hand, it shows that we've known about these issues for 18 years, but still haven't worked hard enough to solving them. Even though our cities are (thankfully) not like 19th century England or even present-day (well, right before the Olympics) Beijing, we still have problems with pollution. Though, these days, we have much LARGER problems to deal with, such as global warming which I don't think even Captain Planet saw coming (I haven't watched far enough into the series to tell, but I wouldn't have thought that it was that publicized back then) and the barrage of problems that come with it (like ocean acidification, glacial melting, etc.) There's also deforestation and habitat destruction, which hasn't slowed down at all in the last several years. I'm pretty sure I could start naming more as I keep watching.

Yet, things have still changed. Now, more than ever I believe, people are more aware of the environment and their impact on it. Especially with global warming and dying polar bears taking the head of the campaign. And now, with the internet, people are more able to communicate about these environmental impacts. Which brings up a point I'd like to address to Ted Turner or any of his affiliates who own the rights to this show. Keep the videos up on YouTube. While it would be good to have these episodes air on TV, TV is a very geographically limited medium. If some major network wants to air it, it might only be in a single region of the United States, and most certainly will not be broadcast outside of it. Only on Youtube could anyone from any place in the world (maybe except countries where Youtube is blocked, but that's still a significant increase) see this television series. And isn't that the point of Captain Planet? To spread the word on how to protect the environment? And additionally, saving the environment IS, in fact, a world-wide effort. The bulk of the degredation cannot be pinned to the United States as a superpower (a majority, yes. But nowhere near the entire problem) And with the spread of responsibility for harming the environment, shouldn't we also spread the information on why it occurs and how to protect it? So, there is more reason to leaving these up to be shared than me just wanting to freeload off of Youtube. Now, time to watch more episodes!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Obama reasserts Space Exploration

Yeah, I know this news is kinda old. However, I just read Wired Science reporting that Obama has retracted his statement of cutting NASA funding to fund an early education program. Previous to this, that policy played a huge part in making me hugely less enthusiastic about Obama, however, I always thought in the back of my mind that he would end up supporting science and space exploration in the end. Turns out, I had a lucky guess! However, I'm not going to go into All Hail Obama mode and lose all measure of skepticism. It's still important to question, "So who will end up paying for this?" As far as Wired Science has been able to discern, "Obama said he has told his staff to find another offset to fund his early education program". I'm still interested in from which department that will come from.

And, of course, this is an unequivocal statement to support NASA. Any backtracking on this now can be brought up against him. So, I hope this is one promise that Obama will end up keeping. And it'll be tough not to, because Congress has been absolutely crazy about NASA. Not even the Bush administration, which has been against funding increases for NASA, could stop them. So, this issue is most likely one that Obama will encounter very little resistance from Congress. But... let's hope and see of what comes in November!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Global Bug Jam

Last Saturday was the when the Ubuntu California LoCo team hosted their Bug Jam at Chapman University. And I, being the new-found environmentalist decided to carpool with someone also going (thanks Dennis). And I have to say, like most Ubuntu things, it was awesome. We arrived a little late and missed some of Nathan's talk on GPG keys, but afterward, we just bugged him to repeat the information. I've already signed the Ubuntu Code of Conduct, so it wasn't all that critical to me, but now I know what you can do with GPG keys. And it's pretty cool.

And Joe taught us a little big about filing bugs. Apparently you can start out with low bugs that don't need too much expertise and work your way up. I, for one, started out confirming bugs in XChat. A nice little thing to do. However, I may try to deal with crashes when I feel confident enough. The thing about bugs is that when you first try to triage, you can get VERY intimidated. The experienced triagers REALLY know their stuff, and you wonder how you'll ever get to be as useful as they are. But, every long journey begins with a small step... and that step was in this Bug Jam. Hopefully, as we have more bug jams we'll get more comfortable getting to the expert point. And as more people become experts, it's easier to teach others. So... we're working on that.

But, in my opinion, the coolest part was what Dennis gave to me. He was leaving to go back to Germany, so he left Neal a bunch of electronics, but left me his 12-year-old laptop. It runs Windows 98, and is totally alien in its configuration. It has no ethernet, USB, or CD drives. It has 2 PCMCIA slots (but wireless cards don't work). It has some huge port that I have no idea what it is. A parallel port, a VGA port, and a serial port. And it also has a floppy drive. It also has 16 MB of RAM, which I find to be the most hilarious aspect of it. I recently found a good use for it. Whenever I need to do work without being distracted, I use WordPerfect to type it up, and print it out through the parallel port. It's actually pretty efficient, and I could get used to it. And plus, what's cooler than running Windows 98 on your laptop (other than running Windows 95, but that'll just be a pain). Though, I'm wondering how I can upgrade the RAM on this thing. The memory extension is a large rectangular box. I'm not even entirely sure how to remove it, and if there are any other extensions of its type beyond 8MB. Anyway, that's the cool stuff that I got out of the Bug Jam, in addition to meeting the people in IRC. Hopefully, we'll be hosting more of this kind of stuff later on.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Solving the astronomical questions from the bottom quark up

Sorry again about the break but as I said, the week has been pretty busy (not busy enough to forgive not posting, but still pretty busy). However, to make up for it, every day this weekend, I'll put up a post of a recap of an event that happened in the past week. Starting today!

So, exactly one week ago, I gave my presentation on CERN. I would put up a video, but it turns out that it's a 14 GB AVI file which would take a week to upload onto Google Video. That's not exactly the best thing, I'll be trying to figure out how to compress it so that it won't be such a crazily large file.

The talk itself went pretty good. There was some technical difficulties because I... don't have a laptop, so I borrowed one and ran an Ubuntu LiveCD off of it. Only.... I made the mistake of accidentally picking up a Gutsy CD. The problem with that was that Canonical started massively improving projector support after Feisty. Oh well! I had to swallow my pride and do it in a Windows machine. I managed to get it onto the projecter, but there was some resize issue and the right side and bottom were cut off. But, at least I managed to give it.

Now when the presentation started, THAT'S when the fun began (and I'll try to get you into that fun later on). I can't exactly summarize the content of the talk, but this video actually does a good job of it, in... 5 minutes. I hope you enjoy it for now.

After the talk was really something. Not only did I get the customary gift (a box with the pleiades) but he also gave me his copy of Arthur C. Clarke's posthumous book, "The Last Theorem". And I am DEFINITELY going to read it as soon as I can. And I mean that... more than I did Harry Potter a year ago (but I DID actually read it). And apparently, from the reception, people enjoyed it, so I'm glad I did it!

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Presentation coming up

Sorry I haven't blogged about anything recently. But I was getting ready for a presentation I'm going to give tomorrow at the Santa Monica Amateur Astronomy Club about CERN. So, I apologize, but if you're not gonna see the Olympic opening ceremony tomorrow night, drop in!