Daily Archives: August 14, 2013

Mike Morwood Obit

You know about the Hobbit. Not The Hobbit (TM) but the hominid from Flores, Indonesia. Mike Morwood was a key investigator in that research (though he did lots of other research as well).

He was born …

… in Auckland, New Zealand, studied archaeology at the University of Auckland and gained his PhD at the Australian National University in Canberra. From a position in the Queensland Department of Aboriginal and Islander Advancement – the public service body with responsibility at that time for Aboriginal cultural heritage – he joined the University of New England (UNE), in Armidale, New South Wales, in 1981, and worked there until 2007. Mike then moved to the University of Wollongong, also in New South Wales.

In his PhD thesis, on the rock art and archaeology of the Carnarvon Ranges in Central Queensland, Mike had pioneered the inclusion of rock art into other archaeological studies, and continued to work on projects which sought such integration until his death. He turned his UNE course on the archaeology of rock art into the book Visions from the Past (2002).

And there is much more to his bio than that.

In fact, you can read about the “Archaeologist whose discovery of a ‘Hobbit’ skeleton sparked a controversy over human evolution” in this writeup by Iain Davidson, in The Guardian.

Things Are Heating Up in the Tropical Atlantic

There are at present two systems in the Atlantic that have a good chance of producing tropical storms and possibly, eventually, hurricanes. One is east of the Yucatan, the other is very near the coast of West Africa.

Here’s the report from the National Weather Service. I’ve used a rough routine to convert case so it is not screaming at you (the NWS has not yet implemented the rumored policy of not using ALL CAPS FOR EVERYTHING.

1. The broad area of low pressure in the northwestern caribbean sea is moving toward the west-northwest at 10 to 15 mph. Cloudiness and showers associated with this low continue to show signs of organization…And a tropical depression could form before the disturbance reaches the yucatan peninsula on thursday. After that…This weather system is forecast to move over the gulf of
mexico…Where upper-level winds will likely be a little less favorable for development. This system has a high chance…60
percent…Of becoming a tropical cyclone during the next 48 hours…And a high chance…70 percent…Of becoming a tropical
cyclone during the next 5 days. Regardless of whether or not a tropical cyclone forms…Heavy rains and gusty winds are forecast
to spread over the yucatan peninsula and belize during the next day or two…And interests in these areas should monitor the progress
of this disturbance.

2. Cloudiness and showers associated with a low pressure system located a couple of hundred miles southeast of the cape verde islands
remain well organized…And a tropical depression could form later today or on thursday. This system has a high chance…70
percent…Of becoming a tropical cyclone during the next 48 hours. After that…The low will be moving into a less favorable
environment for development. This system has a high chance…80 percent…Of becoming a tropical cyclone during the next 5 days.
Regardless of additional development…This system will likely bring showers and gusty winds to the southern cape verde islands
later today and thursday as it moves westward at 10 to 15 mph. Interests in these islands should monitor the progress of this

I Thought We Solved This NSA Thing Long Ago

Or, at least, I’m surprised that this earlier implemented solution has not been mentioned in all the discussion about NSA spying.

Richard Stallman invented an approach to obviating the NSA’s attempts to spy on email. He included it in emacs, the world’s greatest text editor. Here how it works, from the manual. The “M” is the “alt” key (for all practical purposes) and “M-x followed by a word implements the command attached to that word.

32.6 Mail Amusements

M-x spook adds a line of randomly chosen keywords to an outgoing mail message. The keywords are chosen from a list of words that suggest you are discussing something subversive.

The idea behind this feature is the suspicion that the NSA1 and other intelligence agencies snoop on all electronic mail messages that contain keywords suggesting they might find them interesting. (The agencies say that they don’t, but that’s what they would say.) The idea is that if lots of people add suspicious words to their messages, the agencies will get so busy with spurious input that they will have to give up reading it all. Whether or not this is true, it at least amuses some people.

You can use the fortune program to put a “fortune cookie” message into outgoing mail. To do this, add fortune-to-signature to mail-setup-hook:

(add-hook ‘mail-setup-hook ‘fortune-to-signature)

You will probably need to set the variable fortune-file before using this.

[1] The US National Security Agency.

That is from the current, on-line emacs manual but it also appears in my hard copy of the manual which I believe dates to the last quarter of the 20th century.