Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Buying local produce maybe not better

I wrote previously about an article in the Economist that challenges presumptions about FairTrade, organic, and locally produced food. Now there is an article in the New York Times specifically about locally produced food maybe being worse for the environment. I am probably on the more conservative side of this issue. I am of the opinion, for instance, that pesticides, herbicides, and massive transport of food allowed the green revolution and ensured that everyone in the world could be fed, even if geopolitical and infrastructure problems prevent that. However, the best part of this article is that people are thinking critically for themselves, and challenging the assumptions of the status quo (the status quo in this instance being that buying local is better). Even if someone comes to a different conclusion than me, if they have thought through all the ramifications of their actions, I am generally pretty happy.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Um, Howdy

Well, it has been a little while since my last post. I have been pretty busy, but I've decided to take a little more time for blogging. Tis the season to ramp back up on blogging, eh? Pretty soon I'll have a little post on Mike Huckabee. Woooo, Pig Sooooie!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Ian and Whitney

Courtney and I had a nice little time in Arkansas, even if it was a little short. We flew in on Saturday morning and headed straight up to Fort Smith to meet Ian McLellan, my new nephew. He is pretty short still, but has some weight on him. We were only able to stay until Monday afternoon, when we had to fly back up here to DC.

However, while we were down, we were introduced to something other than Ian, and that is Karaoke Revolution. Wow. It seems like every time Courtney and I visit Michael's we come home wanting another video game. I had no idea, but it turns out that I am quite a good singer. It took me a bit to get started (I was booed off the stage for my first attempt), but after I got the hang of it I was basically the best singer in the room. It is fair to say that when I sang "I will always love you," in the style of Whitney Houston, there were quite a few tears from my audience (including Courtney, Michael and Melissa).

A good time was had by all. Definitely.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Biofuels starve the poor?

A friend of mine sent me an interesting article from Foreign Affairs, asking if biofuels might starve the world's poor, by diverting corn used for eating to corn used to drive your car. I think it is a tremendously interesting argument, but it has been constructed in such a way to be a little sensational. As you read the article--which is somewhat lengthy but worth the time--you find that it is the government subsidies and industrial favoritism of corn that might starve the world's poor, and not specifically biofuels. I was pleased to read in the final sections that the authors recognize the potential benefits of cellulosic (from trees or grasses) ethanol over corn or soybean derived ethanol. I am reminded of the excellent research that I mentioned in an earlier blog post on native grasslands producing a better biofuel. Native grasses can be planted on agriculturally degraded lands, so they aren't displacing crops, and they are carbon-negative, meaning that growing native grasses, converting them to biofuels and burning them actually puts more carbon in the ground (in the growing phase) than in the air (in the burning phase). Using soy and corn to create biofuels is better than fossil fuels, of course, but they are still carbon-positive. It's a great article if you have the time.

Friday, April 27, 2007

New "habitable" planet

Some astronomers know how to write press releases. Some don't. The European team that announced they had found a small rocky planet knows how to write a press release.

For years the salvation of the transit method of planet discovery (as opposed to the doppler method) was that it could provide the essential information that radial velocity could not: namely, the actual mass of the planet and the radius (essential components for determining if a planet is 5 Earth-masses, small and rocky, or 5 Earth-masses, and big and gassy.)

I know see that we were wasting our time with the transit method, and we should have just stuck with the doppler method and released a press release that says "Habitable planet found!!!1!!" That would have saved some time.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Wow. Apple does it again.

A lot of people accused Steve Jobs of being disingenuous when he released his "Thoughts on Music", because they said that it was a marketing move that the labels would never allow him to execute (that is, to sell music without the DRM). However, apparently, instead of the music labels calling his bluff, he has brought EMI on board. Now, EMI will release DRM-free, higher quality tracks on the iTunes Store for just $1.29, with a goal of having half the iTunes library DRM-free by the end of the year. Wow. Sometimes I wonder if Apple has any more tricks up its sleeve, and I then realize that it must be a really big sleeve (on a black turtleneck, of course.)

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Microsoft Arrogance

I am no hardcore gamer. Not at all. I play the occasional video games on my Mac, but mostly things like SimCity, not Halo. However, when Courtney and I were in Arkansas over Christmas we played the Wii at Michael's house, and thought it was fantastic. It made me want to buy a console, which I have never thought before (not since 1988, at least).

That is why I was a little offended by a comment by a Microsoft Xbox product manager in a New York Times article covering the new Xbox model:
“We don’t feel like the Wii customer and the Xbox customer are the same thing,” he said. “We think that as soon as the Wii customer turns 14 they want something else.”

Hmm...I am 27, and I like the Wii. Courtney liked the Wii. I feel like Microsoft has just insulted my intelligence a little (or a lot). I know they want to push their consoles, but if they aren't frightened of the Wii, then why insult its users?

Friday, March 23, 2007

Changing default page size for TeXShop

I realize that this post may have a very limited audience. I have had trouble moving my latex documents between A4 size (which i need in Britain), and Letter size (which I need in the US). After much searching, I have found that the command
sudo texconfig pdftex paper a4
sudo texconfig pdftex paper letter
put in at the command line will do the trick. Be sure to re-typeset your paper after these commands.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Frustrated with WD MyBook drives

I have two MyBook 500GB external drives I have been using for a few months, and they have been great. So, when they were on sale at Costco I thought it would be a great time to pick up a couple more so that I could start mirroring my data for backup. However, when I plugged in the two new ones, they didn't work, together. They would work separately, but when you plugged both in, they would disconnect. After some sluething, I think I have found the problem, but I don't know much about firewire, so I am not certain. The Firewire connection ID (found with Disk Utility) on both drives is identical. As far as I can tell, the connection ID should be unique to all firewire drives, but these are not. I actually returned one drive to Costco thinking that it was just funky, but when I got the new one home, the same exact thing happened. Does anyone who knows more about firewire care to illuminate me if I am on the wrong track completely?

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Huckabee for president

I am watching Mike Huckabee on Meet the Press this morning, and he said that tomorrow he is announcing his run for president. He says that in Iraq, he generally agrees with President Bush. I think that is a killer for his ambitions. However, in terms of Republicans, I think Huckabee might be the kind of Republican I would like. He is pro-life, but he also supports affordable or free health insurance for children, so that those babies born are healthy. He doesn't support gay marriage, but also thinks we should support strengthening heterosexual marriage. He seems internally consistent, much more than some Republicans who seem to support some Christian ideals (in order to get votes) but then cut welfare programs designed to help people. However, I am not sure he is "enough" to be president. I will be watching him closely.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

"Doctor." "Doctor."

It took me four years, but I am finished now with book-learnin'. On the 10th of January I defended (think swords and armor) my thesis to Ian Bonnell of St. Andrews and Phil Lucas of Hertsfordshire. After four hours, they decided the research (and by extension, I) was fit for a Ph.D., and congratulated me. Over the next couple of days, I made the minor corrections they asked of me, and printed out my final copy of my dissertation. Now I need to get it bound and into the library at St. Andrews, but in general I have completed all the requirements of my doctorate. Woo-hoo!
There were quite a few times when I didn't think this would happen, but at the end of it I can honestly say I was enjoying the research. But, all good things…

Monday, January 08, 2007

Heading over

So, I am headed to Scotland this afternoon. There are many things on which I would like to comment, like the article in the Economist about how ethical food (fairtrade, organic, and locally produced) might do worse for the world. And the response article in Grist about how the Economist is wrong. However, I have other things (warning: large link) to think about right now.