Category Archives: Uncategorized

Do Recycle. Don’t Relax

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I have two quick things to say about recycling, and these are narrowly focused comments, but please feel free to discuss the issue more broadly in the comments, because I’m writing something more detailed and you can possibly influence that.

1) Do recycle. We have seen a handful of recent reports on authoritative (supposedly) media (like public radio) explaining how the entire recycling industry has collapsed and all the recycling goes into the trash, so YOU should therefore put your recycling in the trash as well. This is INCORRECT at several levels. More on that later. The short version: Let the recycling company decide what gets put in the trash. Your information will never be accurate or up to date compared to theirs.

2) Don’t feel too good about recycling, even if you do it all the time. It isn’t enough to save the planet. Do more. Now. More than that even.


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Language: The mysterious magical murmuring that we do

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Karen Stolznow is a well studied linguist and a spectacularly famous podcasting skeptic, who has published the following items:

God Bless America: Strange and Unusual Religious Beliefs and Practices in the United States

Haunting America

Would You Believe It?: Mysterious Tales From People You’d Least Expect (in which I have a chapter!)

Language Myths, Mysteries and Magic (see my review here)

Hits & Mrs.

Karen was our most recent guest on Ikonokast Podcast. CHECK IT OUT


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A History of Impeachment

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There are books about impeachment that are relevant today. I’ve already suggested that you have a look at Impeachment: An American History by Jon Meacham, Peter Baker, Tim Naftali, and Jefrey Engel. I also noted that the newest edition of “Impeachment: A Handbook” is out.

And now, there is a new volume:

High Crimes and Misdemeanors: A History of Impeachment for the Age of Trump by Frank Bowman.

For the third time in forty-five years, America is talking about impeaching a president, but the impeachment provisions of the American constitution are widely misunderstood. In High Crimes and Misdemeanors, constitutional scholar Frank O. Bowman, III offers unprecedented clarity to the question of impeachment, tracing its roots to medieval England through its adoption in the Constitution and 250 years of American experience. By examining the human and political history of those who have faced impeachment, Bowman demonstrates that the Framers intended impeachment to be a flexible tool, adaptable to the needs of any age. Written in a lively, engaging style, the book combines a deep historical and constitutional analysis of the impeachment clauses, a coherent theory of when impeachment should be used to protect constitutional order against presidential misconduct, and a comprehensive presentation of the case for and against impeachment of President Trump. It is an indispensable work for the present moment.


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Junction City, Off the Record: Tales From Ogden, Utah’s Notorious Underworld in the Roaring ‘Twenties

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The newly published book, Junction City, Off the Record: Tales From Ogden, Utah’s Notorious Underworld in the Roaring ‘Twenties, by Jim Spas, my one time brother in law, is worthy of a close look. Jim comes originally from New York State, but has lived in the west for most of his life. He has a strong sense of history and interconnections between things local and personal, like the development of a town or small city over time, the surrounding landscape, and broad historical events. To get a sense of this quality, have a look at Jim’s blog. Continue reading Junction City, Off the Record: Tales From Ogden, Utah’s Notorious Underworld in the Roaring ‘Twenties


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Alicia Plerhoples for Fairfax County Board Chair

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I know some of you are in Fairfax County, Virginia. If you are, please send this around to your climate-loving local people who are presumably voting in the upcoming primary election (June 11th).

From Adam Siegel, Virginia-based energy expert and climate hawk spotter:

Fairfax County Democratic voters face — for the first time in decades — a real choice as to their nominee for Chair of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. It isn’t just that there are four candidates seeking our support, but that a reasonable person paying even superficial attention to the race should be able to articulate reasons to vote for (or not vote for) each of the four. This is a good situation for voters, and a reason why I have thought long and hard before coming out with a public endorsement in this race. After consideration of many factors (see discussion below), the choice has become clear to me…

For the details, read: Alicia Plerhoples for Fairfax County Board Chair: Adam Siegel Explains His Choice

There is another endorsement of Alicia Plerhoples here.

Plerhoples herself is also covered here: Under my leadership, says Plerhoples, Fairfax will be a greener county

Also, look at Dick Saslaw’s race. I hear he is a fossil fuel favorer and it might be nice to have him not running in the election, so when the Democrats take back the Senate, their Majority Leader is not a Carbon-symp. This is Virginia State Senate district 35, where Yasmine Taeb and Karen Elena Torrent are primary-ing Dick Saslaw. I have nothing to provide in the way of guidance for choosing between those two candidates.


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Biden, Sanders, Harris, Warren, Are All About The Same

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How does this sound? In a two person race (among Democrats and LD’s),

Biden 43%
Sanders 41%

(statistical tie)

Biden 41%
Harris 38%

(statistical tie)

Sanders 42%
Harris 37%

(that may be statistically significant, but just barely)

Sanders 37%
Warren 40%

(statistical tie)

Conclusion: Among these front runners, they are all about the same, among Democrats, nationally. Note that recent polls showing Biden with a huge lead are all, as far as I know, among the First Four contests.

Source


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Celestial Calculations: This Book Promises To Not Hurt You

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To calculate the exact location of a star, planet, or satellite, read the appropriate chapter in this book, download the source code, data files, or binaries, as needed from the publisher, and off you go on a wild adventure that combines star gazing, mathematics, and coding.

I am especially attracted to science or technology books that contain something the reader can work with. A book about a programming language should walk the reader through developing a good example of useful code. A book about computational science should include templates for workflow in data analysis. It is rare, though, to find a book about a pure science (as opposed to technology) that does this. Celestial Calculations: A Gentle Introduction to Computational Astronomy (The MIT Press) by J. L. Lawrence is one of those pragmatic publications.

J.L. Lawrence comes from the world of technology. He is a CTO of a company that builds computer systems for satellite-launching customers including the government. So, one might imagine that he has an interest in pulling out the old slide rule and doing applied rocket science.

Consider the situation of a serious amateur astronomer. You can look at the stars and planets through a good set of binoculars, or an amateur telescope. After a while, you may want to upgrade to a telescope that can be linked to your laptop for positioning. Or you might build a star tracker to allow your camera to get a nice shot of a comet. And so on.

But eventually you may also want to get into the math of the heavens, combining that with some coding skills you can easily pick up, and figure out how to locate planets, find specific stars, track the moon’s behavior with great accuracy, and convert between all the values of time and space that happen when round objects of various sizes find themselves falling towards each other in great, seemingly infinite time, spirals. And so on.

Celestial Calculations is written for amateur astronomers who want to use accessible math combined with extensive ready to go code written manly in python, java, and visual basic.

The prose that discusses the math and astronomy is straightforward and accessible, and if you read the book just for that you will come away much better informed about the solar system and broader universe. If you do that, you will probably skip about 20% of the technical discussions and math (maybe a bit more). The math is very clear and you can work through the concepts in your head, more or less, to get the idea, and appreciate the dynamic relationships between things in space. The programming is all relegated (but with notes in the book) to a major on line archive that you can download and use on your own computer to make the calculations, and modify as you wish.

The software is developed with a Microsoft Windows user in mind. The software should run on any platform, but you may have to fiddle with paths and other environment issues if you are using a non-Windows machine.


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Hawking’s Black Holes and Baby Universes Cheap

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Black Holes and Baby Universes: And Other Essays in kindle form cheap right now.

In his phenomenal bestseller A Brief History of Time, Stephen Hawking literally transformed the way we think about physics, the universe, reality itself. In these thirteen essays and one remarkable extended interview, the man widely regarded as the most brilliant theoretical physicist since Einstein returns to reveal an amazing array of possibilities for understanding our universe.

Building on his earlier work, Hawking discusses imaginary time, how black holes can give birth to baby universes, and scientists’ efforts to find a complete unified theory that would predict everything in the universe. With his characteristic mastery of language, his sense of humor and commitment to plain speaking, Stephen Hawking invites us to know him better—and to share his passion for the voyage of intellect and imagination that has opened new ways to understanding the very nature of the cosmos.


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Cheap early Carl Hiaasen book!

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Fans of Carl Hiaasen who have not yet read his book Trap Line can get it right now cheap in Kindle form.

Though he is one of Key West’s most skilled fishing captains, Breeze Albury barely ekes out a living on the meager earnings of his trade. Meanwhile, Cuban and Colombian drug smugglers thrive all around—and they have their sights set on Albury and his fishing boat.

After the smugglers cut his three hundred trap lines and crush his livelihood, Albury is forced to run drugs to survive. But when he gets busted by the crooked chief of police and becomes a target of the drug machine’s brutal hit men, Albury becomes a vigilante on the seas of Florida, unleashing a fiery and relentless vengeance on the most dangerous criminals south of Miami.

Along with Powder Burn and A Death in China, this is one of the early suspense thrillers written by Carl Hiaasen and Bill Montalbano, a writing team praised for their “fine flair for characters and settings” (Library Journal). Perfect for fans of the Doc Ford novels by Randy Wayne White, Trap Line is an action-packed preview of Hiaasen’s stellar Florida-set crime novels including Sick Puppy, Tourist Season, and Razor Girl.

See THIS for more info on the author.


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Dune, ersatz Holmes, cheap books

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A Study in Charlotte (Charlotte Holmes Novel Book 1) by Brittany Cavallaro is the second in a series of Holmes Not Holmes books. The series consists of:

A Study in Charlotte (Charlotte Holmes Novel Book 1)

The Last of August (Charlotte Holmes Novel Book 2)

The Case for Jamie (Charlotte Holmes Novel Book 3)

And, Frank Herbert’s Dune Messiah also cheap on Kindle.


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A Smarter Open Recent Files Function in Office

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I’m talking about LibreOffice or OpenOffice, but the concept applies to any office suite. Specifically, we are talking here about the behvioar of the “Open Recent Documents” function under the “File” menu on the typical Office style application. This menu item shows you the most recent several documents you’ve had open, so you can re-open one right away. Continue reading A Smarter Open Recent Files Function in Office


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Practical Binary Analysis: Book Review

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A computer program is like a memo. Often, a vague memo.

You are the boss. You want a pile of files to be put away. You could do it yourself, but instead you instruct someone else to do it. There are a lot of them and they are all mixed up. So you write a memo to an employee that says “put the files away” and sis-bam-boom you’re all set.

Or are you? Continue reading Practical Binary Analysis: Book Review


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