Friday, October 31, 2008

GMU is GONE! [#wotw2]

Finally got a signal again. It's been a very long day. After the tripods - as they're now being called - left, they were engaged by the military at some of the big city centers. I hear DC is pretty much a crater. It looks like our troops lost because they came back in a big sweep to blow the hell out of everything!

Specifically in Fairfax they came and promptly knocked the spire off of the JC....and then took out the rest of it too! My housing area got flattened and I barely got out with my laptop, cooling fan, charger, headphones, and external tact. I've been hiding out in Ike's Diner because I was able to hack together a wireless network off the hard line and they have a freezer full of food that's still good (someone was smart enough to close the freezer door before taking shelter elsewhere).

To any other survivers, good luck!

-Google #wotw for more information if you're interested.

All Hell is Breaking Loose!!! [#wotw2]

I thought today was going to be a boring Halloween, but after class today I heard about giant cylinders that came down last night and landed all over the DC area. A couple even landed on campus!

I wandered over to the one that was sitting in the quad and all of a sudden a bunch of steam and smoke started coming out of it and seams started making their way up the cylinder. After about a half an hour, the segments became legs and pulled a sphere to the a walker of some kind. 3 legs!

Several people - students, campus police - started to get near it (still pretty hot from atmospheric entry I guess) and the were VAPORIZED by a laser. After that we all ran for cover...they're going wherever they want and taking out anything in the way! Nobody knows much at all. CNN claims Obama is willing to negotiate without preconditions according to innismir.

I've been trying to get a better grip on the situation through Twitter...getting a lot of updates from sea_dot and jaxxonxx.

Got to go...just grabbed some wifi before the network goes down...details later! Follow my tweets or Google the tag in the title if you want more info!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Plurk Themes Can Make Your Profile Look Awesome

A while back I was surfing through the interwebs and happened upon Gino Carteciano's blog, Plurk Customized Themes Emporium. Gino makes Plurk themes for users who have enough karma to upgrade their profiles with a custom CSS theme. As I just got to Plurk Nirvana (>80 karma), you better believe I have enough karma for just such an upgrade. I asked for something neat and techy and here's what he produced: Metal Power.

It's a really nice looking theme (though the updates on the left are a tad dim on the black background) and it is a pleasant diversion from the overtly "happy" theme of a normal Plurk profile. Thanks a bunch to Gino for making this for me! You can get it yourself here and never fear, the install is automated, just push the "install" button and you're off and running! If this theme is too dark for you, Gino has lots of themes on his blog, so I definitely suggest you check them out.

If you want to see it on MY profile, click the "Come Plurk Me" button on the left column of my blog. I can't promise I'll have it up forever, but I'll definitely hang onto it for a while!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Anathem Rocks My Socks [Anathem Review]

"Have you ever read a book that completely changed your view of the world?" I posed this question at a dinner with several adults once and their response was a unanimous "No." This surprised me a great deal, as you can imagine, but when I elaborated with an example, they softened their reply with "Oh, well maybe when I was your age." This tells me one of two things. Either my fellow diners were less deeply philosophical people than I first thought, or my mind will not always be as malleable and thoughtful as it is now. Whatever the answer, I hope that you have not already reached this sad point in your life. This latest book is proof that I haven't, that's for sure.

Anathem is a novel by Neal Stephenson that I recently finished reading. Finishing it is a fairly weighty statement, as Anathem is more on the "tome" side of the book world. At over 900 pages, it can be a bit intimidating. Despite this, I was excited to read it for two reasons. First, I have read Stephenson's Snow Crash and found it a thrilling example of the cyberpunk genre. Second, the book just came out in September and was immediately selected as the feature book for the Sword and Laser podcast. I'm not a very active member of this book club, but I do pay attention to their SF selections (they alternate between science fiction and fantasy novels) and have found their analysis and background fairly helpful.

Anyway, I was fortunate enough to receive some birthday money from my friends in the blogging world, so I went out and grabbed myself some serious tree-matter. It happened to be very cheap on Amazon that day so I lucked out, but sadly the price has risen steadily since I purchased it (it's now around 20 dollars, which is still a pretty good deal if you get the free shipping). Once I got it in the mail, I could tell it was something special. The hardbound version was very tastefully decorated, with gold leaf adorning the spine and the "N.S." on the cover. Inside, the pages are separated into separate books with finely illustrated pages depicting Mathic architecture.

So with all this literary foreplay, how did the book turn out? To say the least it is my favorite book at the moment. While going into the plot and even the set-up might be too much of a spoiler, here's what I can tell you. The story is set in a timeline that is actually very similar to our own. This is deceptive because the part of the world we live in ("the Saecular world" as it is known in the book) is largely irrelevant to the overall story. They have largely gone through the same cultural, scientific, and philosophical advancements that we have, but the process has been streamlined (mostly to simplify a complex system).

The protagonist, Erasmas, lives in "the Mathic world," which, over a thousand years ago, segregated itself from the rest of society. Those that live in these scientific monastaries only come out and interact with Saecular society every 1, 10, 100, or 1000 years, depending on the level of commitment they have chosen to devote themselves to. A book describing this kind of scientific monasticism would probably be an interesting read unto itself. Fortunately, Stephenson delivers a large chunk of it initially and then sprinkles it throughout the rest of the ensuing adventure.

Beyond the bizarre lifestyle of the monks, there is an underlying philosophical and cosmological argument being formed throughout the entire book. To go into it would probably weaken the way that Stephenson himself introduces it to the reader, so I will simply suggest that you be patient with his "teaching method" and enjoy his brilliant fusion of modern multiverse theory and Platonic forms (just let that one sink in for a bit).

Overall, I loved the book and I am going to lend it to just about anyone who will let me impose it upon them. It may also make up a significant portion of my Christmas gifts to others. Originally I reviewed the book (having only half-finished it) on I've also actually written a bit of fanmail to Mr. Stephenson, so I feel this post is the last bit I can do to plug the book.

Here are some extra resources (watch out for spoilers):
I hope you liked my review of Anathem. If you plan on buying the book (or any of Stephenson's other books) please uses the widget below and support my blog!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

I Love a Good Woot-Off

I haven't been to Woot in a while, but they decided to leak the fact that a Woot-Off was occuring tonight so I, in turn, decided to check it out. This was the first thing I was greeted with (click for larger view):

Yes, what would we do without Woot?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Science and Publication

To follow up on my previous post, the poster session and grant competition went very well but unfortunately I went home without one of the prizes. I'm a little disappointed, but I feel I held up the reputation of my lab very well and all of the winners had very impressive work behind their presentations. This also gets me out of having to present again in the Spring to the Virginia Academy of Science (which would be after I had already finished doing lab work).

This week and weekend have been full of an enormous number of ups and downs for me, many of the downs in my personal life. That being said, I had a fun little surprise on Friday that makes me happy. I received my 3 authors copies of the 14th Volume (Issue 4) of The Journal of Commercial Biotechnology, which hold within its pages my review of Welcome to Biotech Nation by Moira Gunn. [Note: it's not viewable online for free unless your institution subscribes to it through a database.]

It is my first publication in anything reputable and I am very proud of myself for it. Hopefully I will eventually gather some publications related to what I'm doing, but until then, a book review isn't too shabby for an undergrad.

Here's to better days ahead!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Off for the Weekend - Science Time

This weekend I will be traveling to my hometown of Richmond, VA (Henrico County to those in the know) and visiting my parents, getting a haircut, seeing friends, etc. While I'm there I'll incidentally be...spending all day Saturday presenting a research proposal for the project I'm working on.

I'm a bit apprehensive about it because I'll be going it alone, without the aid of professors or fellow students, but as long as I can actually get my darn poster made, it should all work out fine. Wish me luck! There's a $500 grant for five of the presenters this weekend!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Tech for Obama Talks About the Tech Issues this Election Year

If you're interested in technology and the future of the internet, check out this promo for Tech For Obama. They're a group of tech overlords that see fit to endorse a candidate for his stance on technology infrastructure and other important internet issues.

Personally this was one of my first reasons to go with Sen. Obama because he really gets technology like few politicians do. His team's use of the internet and social networking has been fantastic for them and I think it is because they understand what the web is. Compare this to Sen. McCain, who really doesn't use the internet beyond maybe a basic level.

[via Gizmodo]

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Thanking My Donors

A few weeks ago I put out a post to see how much money I could raise solely through my blogging efforts. While the results weren't mind blowing, the speed of the donations and the generosity of the donors was very impressive.

Below are the people who helped me raise $40, split between the AIDS Walk in DC and Light the Night (which benefits blood cancers):

Will Mueller
Advanced Tech Solutions

Elmyra Jemison
ultimate geek girl

Ann and Jim Rogers
My Parents

Thanks to everyone and if you're reading this, please click through and check out their blogs!

Maybe it doesn't look like a lot of donors, but I'm still glad we did it and it was my first attempt at raising money for something like this. I had a great time at the AIDS Walk and it felt nice to know I wasn't just volunteering, I was actually helping to solve the problem. I plan on doing this type of thing again in the future (probably the spring) and I hope to really get an even larger turn out next time.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Singing About Food Is Always Win!

I'll be honest I almost didn't finish this video but the semi-boring drunkenness is redeemed by the eventual singing. Short and sweet!

Oh and it's a shame but these two don't seem to be doing much more online. Maybe their recent internet success will inspire them to do more videos...maybe even a musical!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Using Words As Art

Here are a couple of really neat examples of how letters and words themselves can be used for artistic purposes.

The first is from Brazil's Folha de S. Paulo newspaper [via GeeksAreSexy]. They wanted to show that famous people are really hiding inside their issues. Kind of a silly campaign, but the art that came out of it is fantastic. I mean James Dean's hair is awesome!
Click On Each One For A Larger View

The other nifty bit of word art out there (nothing like the kind designed by Microsoft) is called Texorizer. Just take your favorite picture - hosted online somewhere - and put in a word or two. All of a sudden you'll get something like this:

It's harder to set-up than it looks, but eventually you'll figure it out. Picture choice is key. I suggest something with a lot of white space like the one above. Note that Ann Torrence went with her first name as the main word and it came out pretty well!
The content of this page is completely the creation and opinion of James Rogers. He is affiliated with Connect Mason and formerly Broadside Online but the relationship only governs republication, not content.

Further, in the interest of full disclosure, this author holds minor financial investments in Apple, Inc. and Advanced Micro Devices.