Archive for July, 2005

Reward the Goodness

Sunday, July 31st, 2005

So Captain D’s now has lighter fare. For those who don’t know me, I am the “Captain D’s Guy”. The restaurant was founded the same year I was born, and I imprinted upon it at an early age when my mom would drop me off there for lunch while she shopped at the grocery store next door. Even now, I still eat there twice a week – sometimes even twice a day.

Flash forward ten years. My uncle Joe died of heart failure when I was in college – and my dad had quite the history of heart disease himself – so even though I’m adopted I figured it was time to start looking ahead to beat the family curse. I decided to focus on baby steps: going for a walk once a week, or ordering one less piece of fish for lunch, or switching from fries to rice. This was difficult, but over time the “baby steps” approach worked: I went from walking to running to the Peachtree, and from the three piece fried fish dinner to the two-piece broiled grill with veggies. It took another ten years, but I eventually DID manage to lose the college fat and bring the cholesterol (which never was bad, mind you) under control.

Fast forward to now. I’m developing a “your money is your voice” philosophy: I choose to shop at Whole Foods, and will soon choose to switch to a hybrid car, NOT because I’m a granola health food environmental nut but instead because I think there is value to healthy food choices and fuel efficient cars and I’m willing to put some price premium on doing things a better way. Hopefully if enough people think like me, businesses will notice, and will apply some of that crackerjack capitalist ingenuity to making me happy in a healthy, environmentally conscious way.

SO I was pleased to see that Captain D’s has indeed adopted lighter fare. In addition to the broiled lunch special I’ve been eating all this time, they’ve added low calorie, low carb and premium grilled selections which target any kind of health diet you so choose. And you know what? Surprise, surprise – they’re some of the tastiest meals on the menu. And this is speaking from someone who loves fried fish: it’s great to have something that tastes good be good for you, for a change.

Go check it out.

-the Centaur

Anthony Francis, Famous Quack

Thursday, July 28th, 2005

This never fails to crack me up:

Anthony Francis: Seventeenth century quack physician and alchemist. Claimed ability to dissolve gold into a universal remedy.

- Wedeck, Harry E.

A Treasury of Witchcraft: A Sourcebook of the Magic Arts., p196. Avenel, New Jersey: Gramercy Books. 1961.

If only I knew all the things I’ve been doing…

-the Centaur

Football vs Videogames: A good question

Wednesday, July 27th, 2005

Alright, I’ll bite: Why are we upset about videogame violence if regular sports also cause violence? Simply because videogames are new and different? Or, because they are the banner of a new generation, they are “safe” for an older generation of politicians to attack?

Clearly high school sports violence isn’t something new, and few people would consider banning it. How do we educate our public and politicians about how to think properly about things that are new and different?

And by “properly” I don’t mean “agreeing with me” — reasonable people can disagree about the possible dangers of things like videogames and still remain reasonable — instead I mean testing ideas against evidence, putting things in their proper context, and applying values formulated as universals, which means that in general you do NOT toss a call for ban or investigation onto the publicity trail of every pseudosensation that swims down the stream, but take a measured … dare I say “conservative” … attiude towards any call for government regulation.

-the Centaur

Wiki Hacked Again

Tuesday, July 26th, 2005

Well, the wiki is down again. Some idiot with a spambot corrupted all the pages – and when I tried to correct them, it appeared like the pages changed back to spam as fast as I corrected them. So it’s down. Up again soon, I hope. If only I’d written down all those cool things Bolot showed me … oh, wait, I did :-)



Sunday, July 24th, 2005

Wow. This set of screenshots on the evolution of Windows from 1.0 to Windows XP really brings back memories. I first started using Windows in college around version 2.0 – I remember seeing Windows 286 in stores but don’t recall using it. Windows 3.0 was a big step forward for us early adopters – up until Windows 2000 I always managed to score a prerelease version (though as a point of pride I always went out and bought a real copy as soon as it hit the stores). I held off on Windows XP, though, as long as possible, waiting until I bought a machine with Windows preinstalled.

But, while I relish the memories, I’d never go back (though I may end up going forward to Mac OS X :-) :

Here’s an early 10th birthday to you, Windows.


He Has No Idea

Sunday, July 24th, 2005

So Bill Clementson thinks he has too many books, eh?

The fact that I have too many books is, of course, even more apparent to me at the moment as I’m packing up for the move to Vancouver and I’ve just filled 15 boxes full of books in preparation for the move!

15 boxes of books. Uh-huh. He has no idea.

NO idea at all.


(P.S. What you can see there, is 25 boxes of books. What you can’t see along the walls and behind the archway, is another 25 boxes of books. What you can’t see upstairs, is another 75 boxes of books. Of course, some people say the first step in dealing with a problem is admitting you have a problem. On the other hand, I say the first step in dealing with a problem is buying a book written by someone else who has the same problem so you can find the best solution – What? :-)

Colorless green ideas sleep furiously … on the Internet

Thursday, July 21st, 2005

Recently, Henry Crutcher and I discussed Chomsky’s famous phrase “Colorless green ideas sleep furiously”, intended to be an example of a sentence which was grammatical but meaningless.

Henry was curious about whether a stronger example of a meaningless phrase could be found, as he could see ways of interpreting it analogically and wanted something stronger. However, he backed off when he thought about colorless green – a seeming contraditction in terms.

Not necessarily. I pointed out if you tweaked the words, you might be able to come up with usages. For example, in quantum mechanics, the Phi meson is a strange particle (a particle made from strange quarks) which has zero strangeness because it incorporates both a strange quark and antiquark. Or, more pointedly, ALL mesons are “colorless” particles because they contain quarks and antiquarks, each with its “color” and “anticolor”. So our sample Phi meson might reasonably be described as a colorless green particle because it is composed of green and antigreen quarks.

But this analogy seemed like it didn’t help because particles don’t really sleep … unless you consider the furious sleep of virtual particles in the quantum fluctuations of the vacuum. Modern theories of physics suggest fantastic numbers of particles that we can’t see are created all the time and just as quickly destroyed … which, curiously enough, funny quirks in the movement of particles that we CAN see. These “virtual particles” don’t really exist except through their influences on other particles, almost like how ideas don’t really exist except through their influences on the people that hold them. So in this sense an infinite number of colorless green ideas sleep furiously throughout the universe around us. But I digress, because neither of us were buying that interpretation.

Green ideas DID make sense, however, in the “novice” or “untried” sense of green. In that sense an idea can be green – and it can also be bloodless or colorless if it fails to excite anyone. Once an idea has failed to excite anyone, of course, it falls asleep. Henry suggested that sleeping furiously could mean an idea that had many sleeping copies, at which point it occurred to me: an idea that’s sleeping furiously is just a failed marketing campaign: millions of copies exist but fail to influence anyone, like New Coke or Windows DNA. In fact, in technology space it seems like every week someone pops forth with a new, green idea, standard or technology that’s hot only to their marketing department but is colorless and bloodless to everyone else. The idea is marketed furiously, then peters out and dies as its marketing money withdraws, leaving piles of detritus heaped across the landscape like glacial moraines, still green and untested, but too colorless for anyone to care to wake them from their prehistoric slumber.

So now we know where colorless green ideas sleep furiously: on the internet.

And then Henry and I were very happy, having found an interpretation of an uninterpretable sentence that at last made sense. “Dot NET is a colorless green idea sleeping furiously!” – or at least the marketing initiative is, though .NET is live and well in development land. But again I digress, because our jubilation over interpreting the uninterpretable didn’t last. We thought we were being clever … unfortunately, someone else thought of it first.

Oh well. It wasn’t a very good analogy, right bloodless in fact. And I’m sure everyone else who hears the phrase thinks of it too, at least the first time they tackle it like a novice. Perhaps it’s best to let this analogy rest, along with all the other thousands of colorless green ideas that sleep furiously beside it.

-the Centaur

File under “Links – Travel”

Wednesday, July 20th, 2005

Google Moon. Enough said.

The Bleeding Retro Edge

Tuesday, July 19th, 2005

Now here’s some coolness: a “wooden mirror” that can replicate your image (or a television signal, or whatever). Kind of like a macroscale version of a Texas Instruments DLP, which also works by having many small elements that can be individually tilted to create an image.


News Flash: Established Scientific Theory May Be Wrong

Wednesday, July 6th, 2005

Which one, you ask? Oh. Let’s see… uh, well, first of all, in health the low levels of radiation used in X-rays may pose a cancer risk after all, though it is a slight one – but on the other hand moderate sun exposure, long-derided for its potential for skin cancer, may prevent more cancers than it causes by helping the body generate cancer-fighting vitamin D. Or in particle physics and cosmology, it’s hard to keep track of who’s found a crack in the Standard Model and the Big Bang theory this week … and which of those from last week have then been labeled crackpots this week.

But the theory I was actually thinking of was the traditional story of how humans got to the New World: by a land bridge, 11,000 years ago. According to New Scientist, 40,000 year old footprints preserved in ash may upset this view. The scientists who discovered and studied the footprints have no idea how humans got there so early — but they are confident enough about the the dating of their footprints to ask other scientists to check their work.

This isn’t the first time that evidence has surfaced that humans were there earlier, but traditional scientists wanted to ignore the evidence in favor of their models: “The conventional view is that humans arrived in the Americas via Beringia around 11,000 years ago, when a land bridge became available between Siberia and Alaska. There have been claims about earlier waves of settlers, who must have made the crossing over water, based mainly on sites with signs of habitation dated up to 40,000 years ago, but these claims have drawn intense criticism.”

SO obviously this new evidence will need to be carefully vetted, as the scientists who put it forward themselves claimed. But, in the end, the truth will come out, found by people who are willing to look clearly at difficult problems with an open mind, clearing away the smudges from the screen until the phenomenon can be seen clearly, or not at all. The truth does NOT come to those who reject the data before them out of hand, on the specious principle that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”: that kind of thinking caused people to deny the movement of the Earth around the Sun, or of the continents upon the Earth, or of rocks from the sky to the Earth itself.

On that note, and of those people, I am reminded of Thomas Jefferson’s thoughts on meteorites: “Gentlemen, I would rather believe that two Yankee professors would lie than believe that stones fall from heaven.”

I, on the other hand, think we should let the data speak for itself.