Archive for August, 2008


Rise in sea levels are a lot more complex than I thought…

August 15, 2008
Sea temperatures changes from Jason-1

Sea temperatures changes from Jason-1

While it seems common sense to me that sea levels would be the same worldwide – the water level in your tub doesn’t change from one end to the other, does it? – apparently that’s not so. According to data from the Jason-1 satellite, sea levels have been rising, but not the same everywhere. Warmer water causes higher sea levels. (I resist the obligatory Al Gore joke that belongs here.)

I first found a reference to this article trying to link it to global warming. The actual NASA article hedges its bets a lot more. Seems to me the oceans are a very complex system, and not any easier to model than the atmosphere…


Upgrading my old PowerBook G4

August 14, 2008
Looks like mine, but shinier

Looks like mine, but shinier

I’ve been using a PowerBook G4 at work, along with the Toshiba tablet that is required for each teacher, for several years. I still like it and use it a lot. There are certain network PC-specific things I have to use the Toshiba for, like the way Outlook is set up, but for an awful lot of stuff I can still use the PB. Last year I upgraded it to 2 GB of memory. Today I replaced the 80 GB hard disk with a 120 GB version.

Why only 120 GB? Because that was what our tech guys had lying around unused. Since it’s an ATA drive there is not much use for them at school any more. I would have liked a 160 GB drive, but this one was free, so that’s what I used.

I had to go to Micro Center to get a Torx-6 screwdriver for two screws – just two – on the top of the keyboard. I used a repair manual from to open it up successfully. This was more involved than replacing the drive in my old G3 WallStreet back in the day. Watch out for the little clips behind the front of the DVD drive – they are very easily bent.

I used Carbon Copy Cloner and a firewire enclosure from New World Computing to copy my entire drive to the new drive first. (I had the enclosure from a few years ago, with an old 40 GB drive in it – I think it was from the WallStreet.) Then, once the ‘book was opened up, it was a simple thing to swap drives.

All in all, a successful swap. You’ll need that Torx-6, and a couple of small screwdrivers (the smallest one I needed I bought in a $ 1.99 set while at Micro Center; it’s a #1). Tweezers help a lot to grab those tiny screws to remove and replace them.

Now I’m considering installing Leopard on this machine. I’m a bit nervous about doing it, figuring a pretty big performance hit on a machine with a single 1.25 GHz G4. It works OK on my iMac, but that’s a 1.8 GHz G5. Comments on the web have been inconclusive at best.

Anybody know if this is a bad idea?


China, land of things not quite as they seem…

August 13, 2008
You can't get me to believe this stupid-looking stadium is really there, either

Is this really there?

Note: for this post, the sarcasm light is definitely lit.

So the Chinese, in an effort to produce a more perfect Olympic experience, faked some of the fireworks in the opening ceremony for broadcast using CGI. They also substituted a “better-looking” little girl singer who lip-synced for another ceremony. They made people leave over a million cars at home to reduce the smog level in Beijing. Aren’t they caring? We want you to have a good experience, and we’ll fake it until we make it.

Other things they could do:
• Change all those spellings back to what I remember growing up, like “Peking” instead of Beijing.
• Be nice to Tibet.
• Become a democratic nation.
• Quit picking on Taiwan – yo, it’s just a little island; give them a break!
• Give the British back Hong Kong. Poor guys, the Brits need a boost right now, what with all the nanny-state socialism running rampant, continuing poor dental care, a huge influx of Muslims, and Scotland talking independence. And they really miss Tony Blair, even though they will be too “stiff upper lip” to let on.

Chicago’s mayor-for-life, Richard “Elmer Fudd” Daley, wants the 2016 Olympics in Chicago so bad he can taste it. Here are some suggestions to help improve his chances:

• Bribe the Olympic officials way more than the other guys do.
• Build a “homeless village” at the Lincoln Park zoo and move ’em in there. It shouldn’t cost more than Millennium Park – maybe a half billion or so.
• Build flyin’ cars so we don’t have to use the Eisenhower Expressway, which always sucks.
• Bribe the Olympic officials way more than the other guys do.
• Promise the Olympic officials that they will get to meet David Hasselhoff, Jerry Lewis, and Jessica Simpson. (I just threw the last one in. I don’t know if she’s popular in Europe or not.) Maybe Will Smith. Maybe Michael Jordan – I mean, who doesn’t want to meet Michael Jordan?
• Bribe some more Olympic officials. Who’s it gonna hurt?
• If they still won’t give the Olympics to us, send in Mike Ditka. Nobody says no to Mike Ditka. You know this is true.

I’ll have to work on that some more. I mean, Chicago is a pretty neat town already, except for the cabs, the expressways, and that extra sales tax in Cook County. I’m not a big reality TV fan, but I’d watch a series where random Chicago cabbies are driving Olympic participants around town. The term “language barrier” was invented for that…


Maybe the Anniversary of the Battle of Thermopylae is today

August 11, 2008
Spartan phalanx

Spartan phalanx

I read someplace only partly reliable that today is the anniversary of the Battle of Thermopylae, which occurred late in the summer of 480 BC. Immortalized in the movie The 300, it was one of those battles that shows the kind of bravery and sacrifice of which man is capable. (The movie’s not very historical, but it sure is fun.) It’s worth studying this battle and the history around it in more detail. I recommend Stephen Pressfield’s The Gates Of Fire. It’s a historical novel, but he tries to get the details right while adding a personal slant to the story.


“I-AM-SPARTACUS!” – DCI Finals, 2008

August 10, 2008

Well, they finally did it! After all the years of striving, hoping, more than a little resentful griping, and just plain hard work, last night the Phantom Regiment finally captured the gold at the Drum Corps International World Class Finals for the first time. (Back in 1996, they tied with the Blue Devils for first place – sparking controversies galore and a number of rules changes. This was their first solo win.)

I didn’t go to finals this year, even though it was relatively close, in Bloomington, Indiana. We had just returned from vacation on Friday, and turning around and going to Bloomington the next day just wasn’t in the cards. However, my daughter and I saw the Quarterfinals live broadcast at a Regal Theater in Royal Palm Beach on Thursday. I have to say the Phantom Regiment’s show even on video was so powerful it elicited a standing ovation from the theater audience – me included. My son an daughter were members of the Phantom Regiment Cadets back in the mid-1990s, so we have a certain affection for the Regiment organization. We’ve always loved the music, from back in the Jim Wren-scored days; this year the corps had the whole package. They beat the Blue Devils by only .025 points, which probably was only possible because of the scoring changes made this year. (I’ve not studied the recaps yet.)

A couple of other highlights: Carolina Crown in fourth, the best finish ever for that corps, with a show that was cleverly built around the endings of famous classical works. The Blue Stars, now a for-real World Class corps, doing a show built around the Tour de France and making it work, with a truly brilliant ending. The Bluecoats doing a show built around boxing, with a standstill brass chorale from Paul Simon’s “The Boxer” that was incredibly moving even on video. And, of course, the return of the Madison Scouts to the top 12…with a show I liked, but wasn’t knocked out by. Still it was good enough, and I hope this demonstrates the corps has it back together and will begin the climb back to the top. They have a great history and have done some magnificent work over the years, and I’d love to see them make it back into the top six.

Some serious shuffling in the top 12 from just a few years ago. The Boston Crusaders have never really thrilled me, but they are still firmly in the top 12, as are the Blue Knights, who never seem to have “that show” that is talked about at the end of the year. The Glassmen are hanging on, but the Colts missed the top 12 this year. Santa Clara is still strong but I can’t remember the last time I liked their show, and this was a good year for the Cavaliers – good enough for third place – but not their best.

The Cadets show was gutsy to put on the field. It went through a lot of changes. George Hopkins is truly an innovator and knows how to push the edge of the envelope, but as with any innovation, there will come failures as well as successes. This show just had a disconnect between the narration segments and the music that was very difficult to overcome. Still, it was an impressive attempt, one that took courage to spend the entire summer on, knowing the payoff may not be as great as the corps might hope.

This was a much more entertaining and musical year than we’ve seen for a while. I hope it points to better shows in the future. For a while the shows were getting incredibly complex but not very moving…now, maybe, the tide has turned. There certainly were some good examples of how to involve the audience this year. And once again, congratulations to the Phantom Regiment – you folks certainly deserved it!