We now know that Trump told the wife of a fallen Green Beret that the soldier knew what he signed up for. Technically true, but not what a real president says to a newly minted widow.

We now also know that he told the father of a fallen soldier, one who died in Afghanistan, that he, Trump, would send him $25,000 cash. He never did that.

Trump has claimed that he’s called each of the 30 or so American military personnel who have died since Trump took office. Reports are that he may have not called about half of them.

But that’s OK, because the right wing, who would have crucified a President Clinton over this sort of thing, will not be mad at Trump. Rather, they will simply start to believe that respecting the fallen soldiers is not necessary. Like the same individuals have decided that the NFL is bogus, because they oppose Trump.

This is because Trump’s main reason to exist, in the eyes of his deplorable followers, is to oppose things, mainly Obama. But other things too. Other things including whatever occurs to him.

Trump is truly changing America. He is making American something again. Not sure what that thing is. Or if it really anything again. But, that is clearly how it works now.

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I just got this Makey Makey kit (which, by the way, is on sale at the link provided, at this moment).

A Makey Makey is a device that allows a do-it-yourselfer to create a closed loop electrical signal, that the Makey Makey device converts into a specific serial signal that is sent via USB to a computer. The signal is a keystroke or mouse event. So, you can hook the Makey Makey to, say, a banana and a laptop, then when you touch the banana the laptop gets a mouse button click or a space bar or something. The kit is designed to give easy access to the key signals most used in gaming, but I think it allows the full range of keystrokes, and it can also interface as a sensor to an Arduino or similar, so you can use a banana to control, say, your robot. Or whatever.

I’ve not used it yet, so this is not a review, just a note that I’ve got one. Do you have one? This should be fun.

OK, off to get the bananas.

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Ahem. I followed my own advice from yesterday, and went ahead and upgraded to Ubuntu 17.10, and it did not go well.

I can’t explain exactly what went wrong, but eventually I ended up with a dialog that required that I click “OK” followed by the same dialog, again and again, long enough that I figured it was infinity time.

I eventually followed a procedure that I’ve found to work sometimes. First, I turned the computer off and the back on again (always a last resort) and the desktop never loaded, so I knew something was pretty messed up.

So, I did this. I hit alt-ctrl then a function key. I started with F6 and worked my way down until I got the desired result, which is a prompt at the command line, with no graphical user interface, to log on. You can actually do this any time you want in Linux, even when things are working fine. These are called “virtual terminals” but I prefer to think of them as actual terminals, as they are more actual than virtual, given that actual actual terminals don’t exist any more. But I digress.

Once at the terminal, I logged on (with my user name and password). I then had the system update

sudo apt update

(It will ask for your password, enter it.)

Then, I did an upgrade

sudo apt-upgrade

Then follow instructions if there are any.

Then, go back to the original plan explained here

Everything will be fine. If not, you might be in trouble.

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These are all $1.99 in Kindle form, presumably for a limited time only, so act now!

The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century is a book by Stephen Pinker in which he explains to everyone else why they are such bad writers.

Why is so much writing so bad, and how can we make it better? Is the English language being corrupted by texting and social media? Do the kids today even care about good writing—and why should we care? From the author of The Better Angels of Our Nature and the forthcoming Enlightenment Now

In this entertaining and eminently practical book, the cognitive scientist, dictionary consultant, and New York Times–bestselling author Steven Pinker rethinks the usage guide for the twenty-first century. Using examples of great and gruesome modern prose while avoiding the scolding tone and Spartan tastes of the classic manuals, he shows how the art of writing can be a form of pleasurable mastery and a fascinating intellectual topic in its own right. The Sense of Style is for writers of all kinds, and for readers who are interested in letters and literature and are curious about the ways in which the sciences of mind can illuminate how language works at its best.

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Fermenting Foods (Idiot’s Guides) by Wardeh Harmon is science applied to making stuff you can eat.

Continue reading

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Go to Software and Updates (in your control panel or system area, depending on your flavor). Go to the tap for “updates” and set the “notify me of a new Ubuntu version” to “For any new version.”

(See picture above.)

Then, in either a terminal or in the box you get when you hit Alt-F4, type the following and hit enter:

update-manager -cd

You might get something that looks like this, and you can hit the upgrade button and follow instructions. Good luck. Have a backup. Should work fine.

If things don’t work fine, try THIS.

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The next release of Ubuntu, the most commonly used and thought of by normal people and a few others version of Linux, is set to be released on Thursday, October 19th. The exact set of changes and improvements is not known, but a few key ones are, and some can be guessed at from the multiple pre-release releases.

This is a momentous occasion because this will be the first version of Ubuntu’s main flavor that does NOT include Unity as its default desktop.

If you don’t know, Unity was a menu and control system for the desktop, your main interface when working with the computer other than, obviously, while using a particular application. It was the look and feel, the essence, of the operating system. Unity was supposed to unify things, like diverse features of a typical desktop, like Ubuntu running on a cell phone, a desktop, a laptop, a whatever.

Unity used a modus operendus that many other interfaces were shifting towards. I hear there are versions of Windows that looked a bit like this, and Gnome from version 3.0 onwards had this basic approach. Continue reading

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Grizzly Man is Werner Herzog’s film about Timothy Treadwell, mostly using Treadwell’s own footage of his time living among grizzly bears (Ursus arctos horribilis) in Katmai National Park, Alaska. Treadwell spent each of thirteen summers up to 2003 mainly in two areas of the park where a community1 of grizzly bears lived and foraged. During the last three years of this stint, Treadwell went to the field with video cameras and produced quite a bit of footage. In 2003 he and his girlfriend, Amie Huguenard, were killed and mostly eaten by a bear.

Continue reading

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According to one of the leading experts on the human circulatory system, blood flowing through veins is blue.

I’m not going to mention any names. All I’ll say is this: A person I know visited a major research center last year and saw a demonstration of organ removal and some other experimental stuff. A person also visiting asked the famous high-level researcher doing this work if blood was ever blue. What he said was not recorded in detail, but it was very much like this statement I found on the Internet:

… human blood is red as soon as it is oxygenated. Blue blood flows through veins back to the heart and lungs…..
[source: Some Guy on Yahoo Answers]

My friend was disturbed by this, as s/he had been teaching high school students for years that blood is not blue. Her understanding of the situation was that people thought blood was blue because standard anatomical drawings and models depict arteries as red and veins as blue, and because if you look at your veins they are blue. Obviously veins are not clear, but if you don’t think that out you might assume that you were seeing blue blood.

Continue reading

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I remember reading Living Fossil: The Story of the Coelacanth by Thomson when it first came out. There actually were not a lot of science for the masses books back then, or should I say, the rate of production was low compared to recent decades. It is an interesting story.

In the winter of 1938, a fishing boat by chance dragged from the Indian Ocean a fish thought extinct for 70 million years. It was a coelacanth, which thrived concurrently with dinosaurs and pterodactyls—an animal of major importance to those who study the history of vertebrate life.

Living Fossil describes the life and habitat of the coelacanth and what scientists have learned about it during fifty years of research. It is an exciting and very human story, filled with ambitious and brilliant people, that reveals much about the practice of modern science.

Some day over a beer I can tell you my coelocanth-Stephen Jay Gould story. Good beer story, not a good writing story.

Anyway, at that link, the book is $1.99 in Kindle format.

Not strictly science but skepticism, so I thought it might be of interest, is Talking to the Dead: Kate and Maggie Fox and the Rise of Spiritualism by Barbara Weisberg.

A fascinating story of spirits and conjurors, skeptics and converts in the second half of nineteenth century America viewed through the lives of Kate and Maggie Fox, the sisters whose purported communication with the dead gave rise to the Spiritualism movement – and whose recanting forty years later is still shrouded in mystery.

In March of 1848, Kate and Maggie Fox – sisters aged 11 and 14 – anxiously reported to a neighbor that they had been hearing strange, unidentified sounds in their house. From a sequence of knocks and rattles translated by the young girls as a “voice from beyond,” the Modern Spiritualism movement was born.

Talking to the Dead follows the fascinating story of the two girls who were catapulted into an odd limelight after communicating with spirits that March night. Within a few years, tens of thousands of Americans were flocking to seances. An international movement followed. Yet thirty years after those first knocks, the sisters shocked the country by denying they had ever contacted spirits. Shortly after, the sisters once again changed their story and reaffirmed their belief in the spirit world. Weisberg traces not only the lives of the Fox sisters and their family (including their mysterious Svengali–like sister Leah) but also the social, religious, economic and political climates that provided the breeding ground for the movement. While this is a thorough, compelling overview of a potent time in US history, it is also an incredible ghost story.

An entertaining read – a story of spirits and conjurors, skeptics and converts – Talking to the Dead is full of emotion and surprise. Yet it will also provoke questions that were being asked in the 19th century, and are still being asked today – how do we know what we know, and how secure are we in our knowledge?

I’m not sure if this is a good find or not, but have a look. You will be out $1.99 for the Kindle version.

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A press release from Greenpeace provides information on this issue which I know some of you have been following.

SAN FRANCISCO, October 16, 2017 — Today, the United States District Court for the Northern District of California dismissed all claims in the controversial case that major logging company Resolute Forest Products [2] filed against Greenpeace Inc., Greenpeace Fund, and Greenpeace International, Stand.earth and individual defendants, including claims under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) act.

The court’s decision sends a clear message to corporations that attacks on core democratic values like freedom of speech and legitimate advocacy on issues of public interest will not be tolerated. District Judge Jon S. Tigar wrote in his order dismissing the case that Continue reading

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