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things I love – The Salt-Box http://www.jbj.wordherders.net "A man needn't go far to find a subject, if he's ready with his salt-box."--Uncle Pumblechook Thu, 09 May 2013 17:06:07 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.1 Adapting The Decemberists http://www.jbj.wordherders.net/2011/12/11/adapting-the-decemberists/ http://www.jbj.wordherders.net/2011/12/11/adapting-the-decemberists/#respond Sun, 11 Dec 2011 17:26:01 +0000 http://www.jbj.wordherders.net/?p=425 Continue reading ]]> Calamity War: Wizardry: Cover

The 8-yo spends a significant amount of free time drawing comic books (basically, whenever he’s not playing soccer or on his computer). And one of his favorite albums from the past year is The Decemberists’ The King Is Dead. So it is no surprise, probably, that he has made a comic book adaptation of their “Calamity Song” and “This Is Why We Fight.” His co-conspirator in this project was Alex Jarvis, who’s a co-founder of the comics site Spandexless (as well as his babysitter).

Here’re direct links to the pages:

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New Mars Discoveries from Viking, 3 Decades Later http://www.jbj.wordherders.net/2011/01/04/new-mars-discoveries-from-viking-3-decades-later/ http://www.jbj.wordherders.net/2011/01/04/new-mars-discoveries-from-viking-3-decades-later/#respond Wed, 05 Jan 2011 02:43:12 +0000 http://www.jbj.wordherders.net/?p=408 Continue reading ]]> Mars

Photo by Flickr user NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center / Creative Commons licensed

A couple of months ago, I did a “This Day in Technology” piece for Wired.com on the anniversary of Viking 2, and so I’ve been paying attention to Mars news.

This latter-day Viking discovery looks pretty cool:

Scientists repeated a key Viking experiment using perchlorate-enhanced soil from Chile’s Atacama Desert, which is considered one of the driest and most Mars-like places on Earth, and found telltale fingerprints of combusted organics — the same chemicals Viking scientists dismissed as contaminants from Earth.

Hope we go back soon, before these guys get all militant!

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Here’s a funny thing (actually, 2) http://www.jbj.wordherders.net/2009/04/29/heres-a-funny-thing-actually-2/ http://www.jbj.wordherders.net/2009/04/29/heres-a-funny-thing-actually-2/#comments Thu, 30 Apr 2009 02:28:56 +0000 http://www.jbj.wordherders.net/2009/04/29/heres-a-funny-thing-actually-2/ Continue reading ]]> Two announcements:

I’m mostly pleased to say that, as of this afternoon, I’m the president-elect (effective virtually immediately) of the CCSU AAUP chapter.  On our campus, that’s a union position, representing full-time *and* part-time faculty, librarians, and coaches.  I say “mostly pleased” because, while I care a great deal about the university, its faculty, and the role of higher education, these are obviously pretty miserable times.  The union will be voting soon on a wage/benefits concession package, and there’s no reason to think that funding for higher education will improve over the course of my term.  Frankly, I’m shocked there was another candidate!

The other reason I’m “mostly” pleased is that I’m on sabbatical for the fall, but obviously this will keep me on campus some . . . . Sigh.  That said, I’ve got debts no honest man can pay, so let the corruption and graft begin, am I right?

There may be some implications for the blog and twitter account, but they’ll probably be minor.  (Probably fewer jokes about corruption, huh?  Although I can tell you where the bodies will be buried: In the pond 2 blocks from my house. It’s convenient–I walk by it on the way home from campus.)

Anyway, to commemorate the election, here’s an obligatory Billy Bragg video, plus two by The Hold Steady: “Stay Positive” and “Constructive Summer.”

I’m less ambivalent about the other announcement, which is that I’ll be writing in a more official capacity for the amazing Wired.com blog, GeekDad. (As will CCSU student Alex Jarvis!) I’ve written a couple of one-off posts for them in the past, and am excited to be able to do so more regularly.

So, I guess that’s it.  Union chapter president.  GeekDad writer.  If you think about it, it’s deeply, deeply funny that Merlin Mann mentioned me in a post about priorities. But, that’s why he’s brilliant.

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For my CT readers: Merlin Mann is @ CCSU next week! http://www.jbj.wordherders.net/2009/04/20/for-my-ct-readers-merlin-mann-is-ccsu-next-week/ http://www.jbj.wordherders.net/2009/04/20/for-my-ct-readers-merlin-mann-is-ccsu-next-week/#comments Tue, 21 Apr 2009 03:15:47 +0000 http://www.jbj.wordherders.net/2009/04/20/for-my-ct-readers-merlin-mann-is-ccsu-next-week/ Continue reading ]]> On Tuesday, April 28, Merlin Mann (of 43folders.com, You Look Nice Today: A Journal of Emotional Hygiene, 5ives, 30 Seconds With That Phone Guy, Kung Fu Grippe, and too many awesome things to mention) will be at CCSU.  Mann will give, not one, not two, but THREE public events.  All are free and open to the public, and are located in Alumni Hall in the Student Center.

  • At 5.30pm: Inbox Zero.  How to stop answering e-mail and get on with the work you love–or, at any rate, were hired to do.
  • At 10am: Broken Meetings, and How You’ll Fix Them.  Everyone complains about meetings, but no one does anything about them.  How to change that in a few easy steps.
  • At 3pm: Future-Proof Your Passion: The Job You Never Knew You Wanted.  Merlin Mann explains how he went from “maybe I should repair cash registers” to “comedy podcasts” and “creativity guy.”

Mann is an engaging, funny speaker–as seen at places such as Google, Pixar, Apple, Yahoo!, &c., and at places like sxsw and Macworld.  For my two cents, his steampunk penis pump parody video is among the funniest 4 minutes on the internet, and You Look Nice Today, his joint venture with  Adam Lisagor and Scott Simpson, hits my comedy sweet spot like nothing since the heyday of Suck.

If you’re in Connecticut on Tuesday, I hope you can stop by for one of these three events!

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Even art critics need fact checkers; or, how ahead of his time *was* Darwin? http://www.jbj.wordherders.net/2009/03/15/even-art-critics-need-fact-checkers-or-how-ahead-of-his-time-was-darwin/ http://www.jbj.wordherders.net/2009/03/15/even-art-critics-need-fact-checkers-or-how-ahead-of-his-time-was-darwin/#respond Mon, 16 Mar 2009 03:15:46 +0000 http://www.jbj.wordherders.net/2009/03/15/even-art-critics-need-fact-checkers-or-how-ahead-of-his-time-was-darwin/ Continue reading ]]> In this morning’s Times, at least in the CT editions, Benjamin Genocchio reviews Endless Forms: Darwin, Natural Science, and the Visual Arts, an exciting show at the Yale Center for British Art.  By way of setting the exhibit up, however, he wanders off the path:

Darwin is to biology as Einstein is to physics, a towering genius so far in advance of his time that people thought he was out of his mind. His theory of evolution, the foundation of modern biology, was largely rejected and ignored when it was first published in 1859. And for decades scientists were skeptical about natural selection, the process that Darwin proposed to account for evolutionary changes.

Of course Darwin deserves all manner of credit, and I’ve no real objection to the comparison to Einstein.

Having said that, almost everything else in this paragraph is wrong.  Alfred Russel Wallace, for instance, would be very much surprised to hear that Darwin was so very far ahead of his time, and the vigorous debate over the Origin of Species, and its several editions, suggests that the idea was not “ignored.”

As to whether it was rejected, Michael Ruse, in the “Prologue” to the second edition of The Darwinian Revolution, notes one circumstantial, but telling, detail:

But if we want to draw our boundaries more closely and consider the main question to be the theory of evolution–When and how did people get converted to the idea of evolution?–we can narrow our study to about a twenty-five year span.  Consider: In 1851, when Cambridge University first offered exams in science, one question was as follows.  “Reviewing the whole fossil evidence, shew that it does not lead to a theory of natural development through a natural transmutation of species” (Cambridge University 1851, p. 416).  By 1873, however, a question told students to assume “the truth of the hypothesis that that the existing species of plants and animals have been derived by generation from others widely different” and to get on with discussing the causes (Cambridge University 1875, qu. 162).  If one makes the reasonable assumption that by the time something gets into undergraduate examinations it is fairly noncontroversial, it follows that in no more than a quarter of a century the scientific establishment had made a complete about-face on the question of evolution. (xi-xii)

Genocchio is right to state that the mechanism of Darwin’s theory was poorly understood until the 20thC, but it’s wrong to imply that the Victorians were just dismissive of evolutionary ideas.  Even Wikipedia gets this right:

The fact that evolution occurs became accepted by the scientific community and much of the general public in his lifetime, while his theory of natural selection came to be widely seen as the primary explanation of the process of evolution in the 1930s, and now forms the basis of modern evolutionary theory.

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My current tech crush: Dropbox http://www.jbj.wordherders.net/2009/02/24/my-current-tech-crush-dropbox/ http://www.jbj.wordherders.net/2009/02/24/my-current-tech-crush-dropbox/#comments Wed, 25 Feb 2009 03:51:43 +0000 http://www.jbj.wordherders.net/2009/02/24/my-current-tech-crush-dropbox/ Continue reading ]]> Anyone who regularly accesses multiple computers knows how hard it is to keep track of files.  That’s why Zotero now offers online syncing & backup, why MobileMe offers Back To My Mac, why flash drives are so popular, and why, in general, cloud computing has become such a buzzword.

I do ok managing my research files, but managing teaching and committee-related files has been an increasing problem, especially after I moved to electronic-only paper submission a couple of years ago.  I’d save student papers to a folder on one computer and start grading.  I probably could’ve put the folder on a flash drive, but my experience with flash drives is spotty–usually I fail to have it at the right place.  Typically what I do is zip the folder when I’m done on a particular computer and then e-mail the file to myself.  During a semester, I’ll accumulate scores of folders and zips with helpful names like Paper 1 grading, Paper 1 grading 1, Paper 1 grading 2, etc.  And sometimes, as I start grading, I’ll realize I need to tweak a rubric.  Great–which folder, on which computer, is it in?

Madness.  But I know I’m not the only one who does the e-mail-it-to-myself thing.  My wife does it. My students do it.  I’ve seen colleagues do it, here and at other institutions.  I’m happy to tell you that there’s a better way: Dropbox.

Dropbox does something amazing: It sets up a folder on your machine, a folder apparently like any other, except with magical powers: Whatever you put into it is automatically backed up into the cloud, and is accessible by you from any computer with a web browser, immediately and without any fussing.  If you make changes to the file, the Dropbox servers maintain previous versions.  If you install the Dropbox software on, for instance, your work and your home computers, then the Dropbox folder on both computers is always synced.  With no worries, no settings, no configuring–easy.  So, for example, to grade a recent set of papers, I set up my folder in a dropbox, and–there it was.  At home and at work.  Always the same.  I accessed it from another computer through the web interface–no sweat.  I accessed it from my iPhone.  Dropbox works on multiple platforms, and it makes syncing and backup impossibly easy. (Watch Jason Snell explain it here.)

What’s also great about it is that you can specify sharing on particular folders.  For example, at the risk of name-dropping a bit, I was invited to join Dropbox by this guy so that he could share some information with me about an upcoming visit to our campus.  So, we have a folder that we can both access, although we can’t see the rest of our respective folders.  You can also make a public folder, so that you can share pictures and such with anyone.

2GB are free, and then you can pay for more.

There are a lot of web services I like (delicious, 30boxes, pbwiki, twitter, gmail, flickr), but Dropbox is the most intuitive and gamechanging one. You should try it.

*Local readers will say, “but you could just use your M:\ drive,” which is true, but it’s irritating to use with a Mac, and you can’t do–as far as I know–the nifty sharing-with-other-people trick.  What I value in services is how painfree they make my life.

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