Archive for the ‘tech’ Category

psa: email bounces

Sunday, July 13th, 2008

I’m changing some DNS settings via my registrar, and may or may not have screwed things up. I’ll have to wait 24-48 hours (so until late Monday night at most) to figure out whether it’s just a propagation issue. Meanwhile, if you need to get in touch with me by email, please send mail to vzafrin-bu-edu, with the appropriate punctuation.

Fixed by reverting to the old settings, for now. If there’s some weirdness with my email in the next few days, you know why.

GeekyQ: ticketing systems?

Thursday, April 24th, 2008

If you’ve used ticketing systems, do you have a favorite? And/or one you particularly dislike? It would live on a unix server with mysql or postgresql, or it could be a java app. (Edit: Of course, open-source and free is best. Way best.)

Why, yes, the new job is going well. My time management skillz as regards sleep, however, leave something to be desired. On the other hand, fine people and good food and spring. Today I had lunch on a lawn, in the sunshine. All the students are out playing frisbee and juggling and squinting through their sunglasses.

FCC is coming to town.

Tuesday, February 19th, 2008

From: "Josh Stearns,"

The FCC is holding a public hearing in Boston about the future of the Internet. Make your voice heard: attend the hearing in Boston.

Comcast, AT&T and Verzion have given us a glimpse of a world without Net Neutrality, and it’s a chilling sight.

In recent months, these cable and phone companies have repeatedly been caught blocking, filtering and spying on your Internet activities. If we let them get away with this, these powerful companies will continue to roll back our freedoms whenever we go online.

Now the Federal Communications Commission is coming to Boston to investigate. Will you attend this important event?

WHAT: A Public Hearing on the Future of the Internet

WHEN: Monday, Feb 25, 2008

TIME: 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

WHERE: Harvard Law School, Ames Courtroom, Austin Hall, 1515 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02138

More information:

The question before us is simple: Will we have a closed Internet controlled by a small handful of giant corporations, or an open Internet controlled by the people who use it?

With so much at stake, it’s encouraging that the FCC’s first move is to come to Boston for public feedback about the importance of a free-flowing Internet. Let’s hope this important hearing in Massachusetts is just the beginning of a national conversation that spreads to every town and city across the country.


Josh Stearns

Campaign Coordinator

Free Press

News of the strangeworld

Friday, January 18th, 2008

What I like about this small collection of links is that none of them came from News of the Weird. This is all off my feed reader – you know, BBC, Wired, ScienceBlogs, personal blogs, that sort of thing. On to the articles of interest:

If your surgeon is a videogaming geek and has played around with a Wii, you may be in luck! Chances are, her skills have improved.

I love Norway: “A millionaire real-estate magnate and art dealer from Setesdal in southern Norway has been fined NOK 425,000 (USD 85,000) for drunk driving, and been further required to chop wood for 30 days.”

Hey, baby, want to see my spy gear?

And on a slightly more serious note, here’s a well-written article on the politics of legal and illegal drugs. Even if the author get just a tad too earnest, I am thankful for publications like SFGate, which run these stories from time to time to remind us that the war on drugs has nothing to do with science.

maclust… well, sort of

Wednesday, January 16th, 2008

MacBook Air! So slim, so slick, such a great screen, so light!

…But only one USB port and no Firewire? What’s up with that? I guess I could live without an Ethernet port – they have an adapter for that – and maybe a small USB hub would be ok… but still! No Firewire? So it’d take forEVER to back up unless I buy a Time Capsule? Bah.

I’ll stick with my MacBook Pro for now, especially, you know, with the whole job thing. The biggest problem with my current machine is its extreme overheating abilities (burn baby burn!), and really, I’ll deal – plus, other gadgets and projects will have much higher priority even when I do have a job. But, as every year, it’s hard not to get excited about all the cool new Apple toys.

Zing! Wired delivers the smackdown on the iPod.

Tuesday, December 11th, 2007

That’s right, Wired recommends that you get Zune instead when you’re out holiday shopping.

For me the debate is (ha) academic, since I am quite happy with my iPod nano. I was going to rag on Zune about its lack of a solid-state drive – the single best feature of the player I use – but no, there are 4GB and 8GB solid-state versions of Zune as well.

But come on, pink? At least Apple does something socially conscious with its (better) color choices.

Wired interviews David Deutsch

Thursday, February 15th, 2007

Here‘s an interview Wired conducted with David Deutsch, the father of quantum computing. Deutsch explains what it is and why it’s useful in a very accessible way. The whole thing is fascinating and nifty; do check out the gorgeous chip in the photos. It can’t function unless its temperature is near zero Kelvin! I can’t wait to see where this goes, whether it will open any doors that our current thought paradigms haven’t been able to reach, only imagine.

In other news, and thanks to a friend’s formulation, this whole week up through today is totally fired.

Excerpted tidbit.

Tuesday, January 30th, 2007

Just because I feel like sharing. It’s a big ol’ world, and we’re not.

Internet usage worldwide varies more or less in direct proportion to national per capita income. According to the Google Gapminder World project (last accessed 28 January 2007, currently in beta), internet users per 1000 people are as low as 0.78 (Tajikistan). India and China, the two most populous countries, hover near the middle of the GNP/GNI range but count only 32 and 73 internet users per 1000 inhabitants, respectively.

(me, yesterday, in chapter draft)

Edited to add: the “children born per woman (fertility rate)” chart makes it pretty evident that the rapidly approaching overpopulation bogeyman is just that. Replacement rate (for a stable population numbers-wise) is 2.1. India may be above that, but China and a hefty portion of the rest of the world are below. Not only that, but since 1975 (use the nifty animation feature!) worldwide fertility rates have been on the decline.

In addition, the most rapidly growing populations (top left region of the chart) tend to be dark-blue, which means Africa, which means horrid infant mortality rate. (The mortality rate is another one of the charts available.)

Global warming and other calamities.

Tuesday, January 9th, 2007

Back from California, with a cold given to me by brother and nephew, who brought it with them from New York.

The funeral was… a funeral. It was sad. We cried.

I feel like my grandmother left so long ago, it’s difficult to find the words for talking about her death as something recent. Far more real for me was my mother’s pain, and my uncle’s. From this perspective, the family time was a very good thing indeed.

Now we’re back, and I would be diving right into the work if not for the cold that waylaid me in the morning and early afternoon. And I have a doctor’s appointment in an hour (unrelated)! Guess today’s a sick day.

Last week Ethan and I and other family had a long and at times heated conversation about politics, environment and other controversial topics. My mom and I have one of those more or less every time we see each other, and given that we’re on the opposite sides of the political spectrum from each other, you can imagine how they tend to go. One thing, though – we’re learning to not let the disagreements cloud our interactions for days. I guess that’s a good thing.

I’m all for providing information, but hate it when someone force-feeds it to me. So, WHEREAS I desire to share information on contentious topics with my mother, AND I love her, AND I don’t want to force all of it upon her, LET THEREFORE be established a new purpose for this weblog, BEING to more thoroughly document my perception of the world.

Let’s see if this lasts for more than a day, mm? I was always terrible at letter-writing, and diary-writing, and blogging. I’m hurtling headlong into the (hopefully?) final stages of my dissertation. But the world keeps going, and I need an outlet – and a tangible link to the outside of my head.

The evening after our big debate, I found the following interesting bits on the web.

Personal Responsibility

Wired reports that people can cause earthquakes! The 5.6 one that took place in 1989 in Australia was caused, National Geographic says, by 200 years of coal mining. And, HA ha, the extensive damage done by the earthquake cost more than all the coal they got out of that mine, put together. The damage and undoubted deaths aren’t funny, but in a perverse sense, the whole thing is. Remember, gang: what we do with our environment affects everyone.

Global warming isn’t new. It’s happened before, it’ll happen again. With or without us. Except that this time around, it’s us making it happen.

Fear not, though, some of us are acting to make things better. Jyllands-Posten reports that Danes will have access to bioethanol by 2010. Denmark is generally pretty cool, as Brad DeLong documents in “The Scandinavian Model.”

So what can you do? Well, for one thing you can offset the emissions you generate through travel by buying energy credits. Their calculator is flawed, but the money goes to developing renewable-energy projects.

Depending on where you live, you may also have the option of paying a little more to get your energy from renewable sources only. Here’s one place to start (in the US, at least).

You can even join Al Gore’s information troops.

Giving The Man The Finger


All passports issued by the US State Department after January 1 will have always-on radio frequency identification chips, making it easy for officials – and hackers – to grab your personal stats. Getting paranoid about strangers slurping up your identity? Here’s what you can do about it.

They do warn that tampering with these chips is illegal, and let me emphasize that I’m linking to someone else’s article here. Don’t shoot the messenger, Mr. Man!

Just Cool

Pleo the Robo-Dinosaur!

Off to the doctor’s. Y’all take care now, y’hear?

Hey there, LiveJournal feed readers.

Saturday, December 16th, 2006

Dear LJ feed readers,

Just as a reminder, since several people have left comments on the feed posts lately: there’s no way for me to get notified of them, and so I might not see yours if you make it on LiveJournal. Besides, your comment will be lost to the buzzing void when the post in question is dropped from the field.

So: if you’d like to make a comment, please to click on the URL that appears right below the title, and above the text, of each post. There, you’ll be able to make your comment – and it’ll be saved for posterity, too!

I’ve had a recurring conversation with LJ readers about whether I’m imposing too much work upon you. As I see it, you just gotta click on the URL instead of the “leave comment” link. The rest of the effort is pretty much identical, except that you have to enter in your name and stuff. So, sorry if you feel put out; but as I’m trying to distance myself from LJ a little,* I’ll be trying to not actively check past feed posts for stray comments.


-Words’ End

*”Distance,” in this case, means “stop obsessively reloading friends page, that won’t make people write any more or faster.”