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November 22, 2004

How Hangovers Work

How Hangovers Work

Cool, I didn't know How Stuff Works added a health section. This article on hangovers is a good read. Not that I actually have a hangover, but I was trying to remember the chemical in alcohol that doesn't really exist in sake, making it less prone to give you a hangover. Turns out it is congeners. Another handy URL is a list of all their articles.

November 21, 2004

Credit Card Debt

Credit Card Debt

Who do you know that doesn't carry a credit card? On one hand a credit card enables you to easily make large purchases but you will easily screw yourself over if you don't pay in full. Some of the updated statistics from the article:

  • To a degree, they subsidize the 40 percent of credit card customers who pay in full each month without incurring any fees or charges.
  • The typical household has eight cards with $7,500 on them.
  • Last year, card issuers made $2.5 billion a month in profit before taxes.
  • Last year, they collected $11.7 billion in penalty fees, more than half of the total $21.5 billion in fees they collected from cardholders, according to CardWeb, a research firm.

November 20, 2004

A Short History of Nearly Everything

My main reading material during my trip to Bangkok was Bill Bryson's “A Short History of Nearly Everything”. A wonderful book that covers a lot of ground but helps fill in gaps from what you learned in school while updating you on research and offering plenty of chuckles along the way. Before my trip I also started Edward O. Wilson's “The Future of Life” for the Boston Museum of Science's book club. Between the two I must conclude that we humans are on the way out. Mind you neither of these books makes that mention, but that's a conclusion I draw. A few tidbits that I managed to jot down while read Bryson include:

It is easy to overlook this thought that life just is. As humans we are inclined to feel that life must have a point. ... Life, in short, just wants to be. But-and here's an interesting point-for the most part it doesn't want to be much. [336]

It cannot be said too often: all life is one. That is, and I suspect will forever prove to be, the most profound true statement there is. [415]

I mention all this to make the point that if you were designing an organism to look after life in our lonely cosmos, to monitor where it is going and keep a record of where it has been, you wouldn't choose humans beings for the job.
But here's an extremely salient point: we have been chosen, by fate or Providence or whatever you wish to call it. As far as we can tell, we are the best there is. [477]

It is this last statement which under scores my thought that we are deluding ourselves to justify our existence. Life does just want to me. The problem is humans have the ability to “evolve” outside the confines of nature's scale. That leads to thinking we are the “best” since we can't think that nature might produce a mutation that given 10,000 years would be better and could maybe live in equilibrium with nature instead of constantly destroying it.

the five people you meet in heaven

After missing an earlier flight back to Boston by two minutes, I had a six hour layover to kill in LAX. I passed most of it reading “the five people you meet in heaven” by Mitch Albon. It's a delightful read and you can easily find yourself lost in the main character since he presents a little bit of all of us. The following are a few lines from the book that stuck with me:

“No life is a waste,” the Blue Man said. “The only time we waste is the time we spend thinking we are alone.” [50]

“That's the thing. Sometimes when you sacrifice something precious, you're not really losing it. You're just passing it on to someone else.” [94]

All parents damage their children. It cannot be helped. Youth, like pristine glass, absorbs the prints of its handlers. Some parents smudge, other crack, a few shatter childhoods completely into jagged little pieces, beyond repair. [104]

“Learn this form me. Holding anger is a poison.. It eats you from the inside. We think that hating is a weapon that attacks the person who harmed us. But hatred is a curved blade. And the harm we do, we do to ourselves.” [141]

“Life has to end,” she said. “Love doesn't.” [173]

The biggest thought for me is the author's view that everything happens for a reason. One may never know what that reason is, but it's there. I myself have to reject that notion since it implies some higher purpose or meaning that I don't believe exists.

Bangkok Pictures

Bangkok Pictures

The first week of November I took a vacation to Bangkok. I had a wonderful time and really got to explore the city. I've finally gotten around to putting up my pictures and getting some descriptions added.

November 17, 2004

Beowulf Talk Notes

Random notes from the BLU Beowulf Talk

Kurt Keville

The old formula for possible cluster speedup didn't account or map to what ultimately was observed.

Linpack still used

The Space Simulator Cluster

Low latency is still key, different topologies, machine design versus OTSC.

MIT Roofnet

Flash Mob Computing

Co-processor

Cluster administration is still one of the biggest problems

The Aggregate

MPI, custom NICs, Interprocess communication, MOSIX, SMP, RapidIO, Enfuzion

Differences in Theory, Building, and Simulating clusters

File systems PVFS

Green Destiny low power cluster.

Cluster in a box software: OSCAR and HA OSCAR

General information: Beowulf (the original), Linux Clustering, Cluster World,

November 16, 2004

The Urban Archipelago

The Urban Archipelago

If you can wade through the author's ranting and inflammatory remarks, there are some statistics and points worth thinking about. A couple that I found interesting:

And John Kerry won every city with a population above 500,000. He took half the cities with populations between 50,000 and 500,000.

Ruby's walk to class on the first day of school inspired Norman Rockwell's The Problem We All Live With. In this painting ..., a very black Ruby Bridges is escorted to school by four big white U.S. marshals. The image is powerful because it represents the federal government as an institution and enforcer of reason. ... This image of the federal government is now in a coma. The lawmaking bodies that are clustered in Washington, D.C. ..., no longer form the enlightened center from which reason and justice emanate.

November 11, 2004

Rotation Game

Rotation Game

The site says it all. The higher levels offer a good challenge.

Give Bush a Brain

Give Bush a Brain

Neat little flash game.

Origami

Origami

This guy does creates amazing origami pieces. Most of them use just a single piece of paper.

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