athelind: (Ommm)
... well, you know; we all want to change the world.

2011 draws to a close today, and for the first time in a long time, the farewell I bid the passing year is a fond one. I know it's been a hard year for many of us, and certainly, in the Big Picture, there have been grim tidings and outright catastrophes. I hope 2012 is better for every one of us.

On the small scale, on the personal scale ... 2011 has been a good year for Your Obedient Serpent. I haven't mentioned it often, but I finally landed full-time work that taps at least some of my science background, and while there were a few rough patches mid-year, I think I've settled in solidly now. Better yet, it looks like I'll be getting to do even more sciencey stuff in the upcoming year.

As for me, personally ... well, as Gloria Gaynor once sang, 2011 was the year that "I grew strong, and I learned how to carry on." I'm not the person I was, and for the first time in a long time, it feels like I'm starting to become someone I want to be.

So ... thank you, 2011. I know you won't be hearing that from many people, but you did right by me.

As for the Shape of Things to Come:

If the theme for 2011 was Crawling from the Wreckage, then 2012 is Building from the Wreckage. I've found my place to stand, precarious as the footing might be (it is on a pile of wreckage, after all); now it's time to get my levers into place and see if I can move the world, just a little.

Really, it comes down to Extropy, and the Extropian Ideal: Live your life to improve the human condition ... starting with the local human. I'm still assembling a solid foundation for Maslow's Pyramid, but I can at least start sketching out the higher levels.

So, here's the Outline for 2012. If you don't like calling them "Resolutions", think of it as a TO DO LIST ... )
That seems like a good start.

Again, my best wishes to all of you, and I bid you all joy and hope for 2012.

footnotes )
athelind: (eco-rant)
... This is just a quick note. No substance, no references, no citations.


A lot of people are up in arms about how the situation in Japan underscores the "dangers of nuclear power".

To this point, the radiation leaked into the environment is minimal. Things are Very Bad Indeed if you're within a certain radius of the plant, but my suspicion is that the increased health risks and hazards caused by this amount of radiation will still be substantially less than those caused by fossil fuel plants.

Let me emphasize this:

The environmental and human impact of a complex of nuclear reactors failing catastrophically after a major disaster is less than that of fossil fuel plants in the regular course of their operation.[Citation Needed]



I will endeavor to find numbers to confirm or deny this next week, after I return home.


Yes, I just used the Lorax as an icon in a possibly-pro-nuclear post.
athelind: (green hills of earth)
As if to demonstrate that Life Goes On, I just had an Archimedes moment: I ran out of the shower, towel wrapped 'round my waist, shouting "EUREKA!"

You see, I finally figured out a series of graphics that would explain to observers just what I was seeing in all that Elkhorn Slough data back in 2004-2005. I was trying to get a coherent article out of three or four different studies, each of which insisted that the Big Erosion Hotspot was in a different part of the Slough. Unfortunately, because their studies found erosion and deposition occurring at opposite ends of the Slough, the PhDs responsible for two of the papers each had ... issues ... with the other.

Bear in mind that these gentlemen were supposed to be my co-authors.

Bear in mind as well that I'm the only guy who looked at all four and a half data sets spanning 15 years.

Of course, any hypothesis that reconciled these supposedly-contradictory datasets was going to get lambasted from both ends.

Of course, after staring at all that data for three years, I came up with one:

Elkhorn Slough would experience Big Erosion Events that would dump a lot of sediment at the head of the Slough, and it would work its way down to the mouth over a period of years, thus giving the pattern of "Erosion here, deposition there" in one study, and "Erosion there, deposition here" a few years later.

I just figured out how to make maps that show the bulge of sediment moving down the slough.

It's clearly visible in the "flip chart" of cross-sections I carried around with me during that whole project, but I just figured out a way to display the data in four or five Q&D maps, rather than making people scrutinize Excel graphs for three years to see the pattern emerge.

So, yeah, "Eureka".

And you know what's even better?

When I rattled this off to [livejournal.com profile] thoughtsdriftby, who's an engineer, he said, "oh, yeah. that's plug flow."

So:
  1. I still have all that data on my desktop hard drive.
  2. And I have an open-source GIS program that I've been wanting to figure out.
  3. And I want closure, dammit.


I may have material for a Master's Thesis here.


athelind: (green hills of earth)
From The Rachel Maddow Show, a few nights back:

Right now, we have a catastrophic uncontrolled petroleum gusher in the Gulf of Mexico, and another spill up in Alaskan waters.

Who needs new footage? We can just rerun reports from 1979, when almost exactly the same thing was going on.



To recap (no pun intended):

  • A blowout on a rig in the Gulf of Mexico.
  • A rig run by the company that eventually became Transocean.
  • Exactly the same techniques used to stem the flow
  • In exactly the same order
  • With exactly the same results:
    • BUPKIS.

  • After months and months of gushing oil, matters were only alleviated when relief wells were drilled.
  • Why didn't they just go for the relief wells first this time?
  • Have "top hats" and "top kills" ever worked?*


The only difference is that in '79, the well was 200 feet down; now, it's over five thousand.

My father used to have a saying about four wheel drive vehicles: "They won't keep you from getting stuck. They just let you get some place even farther from help when you get stuck."

The oil companies keep talking about how their technology has imnproved—but it's just let them get even farther from any solutions. If When shit hits the fan, they don't actually have any new solutions; they're just trying the same things that didn't work before.

"But that trick never works!"


*Yes, that is a request for specific instances, if anyone out there feels like dredging them up. Like Wikipedia, however, I want citations.
athelind: (far call)

Something is consuming hydrogen and methane on Saturn's moon, Titan.



This isn't as obvious, exciting, or definitive a "yes" as, say, an ancient city atop Olympus Mons, or giant tentacles pulling a space probe beneath the ice, and most people are going to react by saying, "aw, that could be anything".

And yes, it could be a lot of things.

But it's an anomaly. The concentrations of at least two chemicals are far from what we'd predict if only simple physical and chemical processes are involved. James Lovelock, before he got famous for his controversial Gaea Hypothesis, postulated that the best way to search for life would be to look for exactly that: "anomalous" concentrations of compounds, far from chemical equilibrium, that are nonetheless stable.

NASA scientists have been saying for years that Titan and a few other gas giant moons have "all the requirements" for methane-based life, if such a thing is possible. I've largely smiled, nodded, and moved on, because, up until now, it looked like the "perfect conditions" on the Outer Moons were at chemical equilibrium.

But now: missing hydrogen and acetylene.

As someone whose entire college curriculum was built around the application of systems theory to biology, that makes me sit up and take notice.


athelind: (green hills of earth)
People are always sending me "cool" links from places like BoingBoing, but it's always stuff related to SF and fantasy, or gaming and superheroes, or gadgets and space travel.

Among my various job titles over the years is "Historical Bathymetry Change Analyst", and that's the one I got to pick myself. I love maps. I love history. I love teasing out patterns from reams of data. Examining the way bodies of water change over decades and centuries fascinates me.

Ladies and gentlemen, This is Relevant to My Interests:



That's the course of the Mississippi River, as it's changed and meandered over tens of thousands of years.

Look at that incredible image.

Just look at it.


HOLY CRAP

Apr. 8th, 2010 01:54 pm
athelind: (green hills of earth)
I have today off, so I decided to go for a walk. My usual walking route, since moving here, has been along Coyote Creek Trail.

It's a nice, warm, sunny day, and we've been getting plenty of rain. The trail was lined with tall stands of tasseled grass on one side, and bright, colorful wildflowers on the other.

Now, Your Obedient Serpent has had allergies all his life. That's four-plus decades, folks.

Usually, though, the cause and effect are subtle, even if the symptoms are anything but. If I get the sniffles or sneezes or random patches of irritated skin, if I get the Sinus Attacks of DOOM, there's usually a delay between exposure and symptom, and there's usually some difficulty trying to pin down the trigger.

Not this time, boy!

As soon as I passed the first patch of grass, I sniffled and coughed.

By the time I realized that this was hitting now now now, I was at a point in the trail loop where turning around would have taken me just as long to get home as plugging on. By this point, I was sniffling, sneezing, coughing, my eyes were watering, and I was even having some trouble breathing.

And as soon as I got out of that chunk of the trail, I instantly cleared up. Oh, I was still a little sniffly, I still had to cough a few times, but the worst of it was gone.

Real allergies don't work like that! Cartoon allergies work like that!

I've had reactions to obvious, visible irritants, like smoke, but to the naked eye, that Allergy Hellstorm was completely invisible. Not even a bit of haze. I've never experience anything like that before—not even yesterday, walking along the exact same part of the trail.

I'd say it was like getting tear gassed, but tear gas doesn't affect me.


athelind: (cue howard)

Warning! Two-topic post!




There's a discussion on CNN right now, where Rick Sanchez is talking to a guy from the Census Bureau about why we have to count everyone instead of using statistical methods to take a sample, and extrapolate the population numbers from there. Evidently, Rick's List is an "audience-driven" show, where Sanchez presents stories based on viewer questions; this explains some of his eye-rolling as he tries to hold up "his" side of the interview ("TV ratings extrapolate the opinons of a thousand viewers from a poll of a hundred, and we know how well that works.").

To me -- and, I suspect, anyone who's really studied and used statistical methods -- the answer is obvious

The U.S. Census is one of the rare opportunities to get the baseline data upon which we can base our statistical analyses.



In the Geospatial Analysis/Remote Sensing field, we call this "groundtruthing". It doesn't matter how good you think your digital data is -- at some point, you have to get down on the ground, take a look at the place you're mapping, and make sure the Map Resembles The Territory.

It's funny -- I'll lay odds that the guy who posed the question on Rick's site is also one of those people who bitches that "statistics don't mean a damned thing -- they can make'em say anything they want." Too many people will lambaste statistics as a lazy shortcut that fabricates meaningless data -- until they find themselves in a situation where rigorous, complete data collection inconveniences them.


And, yes, statistics can be misused, massaged, and abused. More often than not, it's because the people reading them aren't doing so fairly or rigorously, and the people viewing them don't really know how to read them.


This segues into a subject that was running through my head earlier this morning:

The people who are most resistant to accepting the principals of Evolution by Natural Selection in a biological context are those who most eagerly accept the same principle in an economic context. They call it "Capitalism". Darwin cheerfully admitted that he got a lot of ideas from Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations.

There are those who will argue that the biological and economic systems are very different, and you can't assume that a model that works for one will hold true in another.

True enough, but from a century or two of observation, the model holds more true in the biological context.*

Even more, they tend to embrace it in a social context, as well, condemning programs that "coddle" the poor. If the poor were worthwhile -- in other words, if they were fit -- they wouldn't need support. If they were worthy, they wouldn't be poor, now, would they? So it's Right and Natural to leave them to their own devices.

Creationists tend to be Social Darwinists.




*Actually, the model works just fine in either context -- the mix of stable periods, instabilities, conditional oscillations, and mass extinctions look very similar whether you're looking at graphs of the fossil record or of economic trends. When you're on the ground in the middle of it all, however, the Panglossian hypothesis that the Invisible Hand of the market will produce the most desirable results depends heavily on how "desirable" you consider a regular pattern of decimation.


athelind: (coyote drives)
[Error: unknown template qotd]

At the moment, my Dream Car is the Aptera:




Every time I post a link to the Aptera, though, I get a lot of people whining about how impractical it would be in the snow, and that sort of thing. So, if money is truly no object, it would be sharing my garage with this cinematic classic ...



Yes, it still exists, it's been restored, and it's out there.

And if you make fun of my Aptera, I will take my Landmaster, run over your silly little SUV, and drive through your HOUSE.


athelind: (Default)
[Error: unknown template qotd]

At the moment, my Dream Car is the Aptera:




Every time I post a link to the Aptera, though, I get a lot of people whining about how impractical it would be in the snow, and that sort of thing. So, if money is truly no object, it would be sharing my garage with this cinematic classic ...



Yes, it still exists, it's been restored, and it's out there.

And if you make fun of my Aptera, I will take my Landmaster, run over your silly little SUV, and drive through your HOUSE.


athelind: (Magnum Opus)
http://www.treehugger.com/files/2009/12/roadtown-linear-city.php

http://www.archive.org/details/roadtown00chamgoog

A linear city, built over and around a train line or other transportation conduit.

Interesting for practical potential; moreso as a setting or artifact in the kind of steampunky science-fantasy setting I want to write about.


athelind: (Default)
http://www.treehugger.com/files/2009/12/roadtown-linear-city.php

http://www.archive.org/details/roadtown00chamgoog

A linear city, built over and around a train line or other transportation conduit.

Interesting for practical potential; moreso as a setting or artifact in the kind of steampunky science-fantasy setting I want to write about.


athelind: (eco-rant)
I announced today, to my FurryMUCK clique, that I didn't want to see any more trailers for Monster Hunter 3. The game doesn't just annoy me: it actively pisses me off, and worse, it makes me think badly not only of gamers in general but of Japanese culture, in wide, bigoted swaths.

The game is beautifully animated, and the eponymous monsters of the title are magnificently designed. Every trailer looks like a wonderful Discovery Channel nature documentary of a world that never was, full of dinosaurs and dragons and even more exotic creatures -- right up until you get to the gameplay, which involves killing things and dismembering them for their body parts to make cheesy, tawdry consumer goods kewl weapons and armor and magic items.

It's jarring.

The generation that grew up on Cute And Fuzzy Cockfighting Seizure Monsters has graduated to Heroic Head-Bashing Harp Seal Hunters. Look at these marvelous creatures! The loving detail that went into their creation! The magnificent, balletic fluidity of their motion! LET'S HIT THEM WITH CLUBS!

This is a game that comes from one of the last whaling nations on Earth. I'm sorry -- this is that "wide, bigoted swath" I mentioned -- but I can't help but see a connection.

This doesn't piss me off as a guy who pretends to be a dragon online. This pisses me off as an Environmental Scientist, and a human being raised with some semblance of decency and empathy toward the natural world.

I don't put much credence into combat games as "murder simulators", but I do think the prevalent attitude these games have that animals serve no purpose other than to exploit, enslave or slaughter provides a bad example.

I wish I could believe that this was meant ironically, or as a commentary on the exploitation of the natural world. The unambitious modeling and jerky animation of the player avatars certainly suggests that; they're raw, brutish intrusions on the elegantly savage ballet of the "monsters". A decade of Happy Cartoony Cockfighting Games For Little Children makes that hard, though.


And after all that self-righteous ranting to my homies about how terrible it is to brainwash kiddies into seeing the slaughter and exploitation of magnificent animals as something fun and exciting, I announced that I was gonna go grab a burger before work.
And then, at work, I was chatting with two of my regular customers, and one of them said, "you really need to get a PSP. Do you have any consoles at all? There's this game..."
"Funny thing, that", said I...

athelind: (Default)
I announced today, to my FurryMUCK clique, that I didn't want to see any more trailers for Monster Hunter 3. The game doesn't just annoy me: it actively pisses me off, and worse, it makes me think badly not only of gamers in general but of Japanese culture, in wide, bigoted swaths.

The game is beautifully animated, and the eponymous monsters of the title are magnificently designed. Every trailer looks like a wonderful Discovery Channel nature documentary of a world that never was, full of dinosaurs and dragons and even more exotic creatures -- right up until you get to the gameplay, which involves killing things and dismembering them for their body parts to make cheesy, tawdry consumer goods kewl weapons and armor and magic items.

It's jarring.

The generation that grew up on Cute And Fuzzy Cockfighting Seizure Monsters has graduated to Heroic Head-Bashing Harp Seal Hunters. Look at these marvelous creatures! The loving detail that went into their creation! The magnificent, balletic fluidity of their motion! LET'S HIT THEM WITH CLUBS!

This is a game that comes from one of the last whaling nations on Earth. I'm sorry -- this is that "wide, bigoted swath" I mentioned -- but I can't help but see a connection.

This doesn't piss me off as a guy who pretends to be a dragon online. This pisses me off as an Environmental Scientist, and a human being raised with some semblance of decency and empathy toward the natural world.

I don't put much credence into combat games as "murder simulators", but I do think the prevalent attitude these games have that animals serve no purpose other than to exploit, enslave or slaughter provides a bad example.

I wish I could believe that this was meant ironically, or as a commentary on the exploitation of the natural world. The unambitious modeling and jerky animation of the player avatars certainly suggests that; they're raw, brutish intrusions on the elegantly savage ballet of the "monsters". A decade of Happy Cartoony Cockfighting Games For Little Children makes that hard, though.


And after all that self-righteous ranting to my homies about how terrible it is to brainwash kiddies into seeing the slaughter and exploitation of magnificent animals as something fun and exciting, I announced that I was gonna go grab a burger before work.
And then, at work, I was chatting with two of my regular customers, and one of them said, "you really need to get a PSP. Do you have any consoles at all? There's this game..."
"Funny thing, that", said I...

athelind: (hope)
To my surprise, I find myself praying.

This is hard to admit, this year, this hour. Not only am I an avowed agnostic, but the Religious Right has been so soundly mocked for praying for the victory of their Chosen Candidate, as if they could command their God.

The last eight years, however...

It's not much of a prayer, as prayers go. It's just a single word, but one that keeps echoing in my soul as I read Barack Obama's speeches, or watch them on video, or see the words and images of those who have come together, having finally found someone that they can genuinely support, rather than a mere placeholder for their opposition.

It's a single word:

Please.

Last night, [livejournal.com profile] ounceofreason said, It's Christmas Eve, except that there's a decent chance that Santa will burn my house down.

That single sentence perfectly encapsulates how I feel right now.

Please.

Perhaps I'm praying to Old Man Coyote. The last election, for me, moved "Coyote Loves Us" from a wry acknowledgment of Murphy's Law to something akin to an epiphany. It staggered me that Americans could put that man back into the Oval Office even by such a slim margin after seeing what he'd done to this country in that first term; what better evidence that our little corner of the universe was in the paws of a prankster, a practical joker with a penchant toward the scatological, who'd just pulled the national-if-not-global equivalent of a banana peel?

Nice one, Coyote. But just this once...

Please.

I'm going to work now, to while away the next several hours in the ever-so-important task of unpacking and inventorying this week's shipment of comic books and pop culture trinkets.

I welcome the distraction.

When I leave the back room refuge of the comics shop, perhaps there will be good news.

Perhaps I can allow myself to hope.

Please.

athelind: (Default)
To my surprise, I find myself praying.

This is hard to admit, this year, this hour. Not only am I an avowed agnostic, but the Religious Right has been so soundly mocked for praying for the victory of their Chosen Candidate, as if they could command their God.

The last eight years, however...

It's not much of a prayer, as prayers go. It's just a single word, but one that keeps echoing in my soul as I read Barack Obama's speeches, or watch them on video, or see the words and images of those who have come together, having finally found someone that they can genuinely support, rather than a mere placeholder for their opposition.

It's a single word:

Please.

Last night, [livejournal.com profile] ounceofreason said, It's Christmas Eve, except that there's a decent chance that Santa will burn my house down.

That single sentence perfectly encapsulates how I feel right now.

Please.

Perhaps I'm praying to Old Man Coyote. The last election, for me, moved "Coyote Loves Us" from a wry acknowledgment of Murphy's Law to something akin to an epiphany. It staggered me that Americans could put that man back into the Oval Office even by such a slim margin after seeing what he'd done to this country in that first term; what better evidence that our little corner of the universe was in the paws of a prankster, a practical joker with a penchant toward the scatological, who'd just pulled the national-if-not-global equivalent of a banana peel?

Nice one, Coyote. But just this once...

Please.

I'm going to work now, to while away the next several hours in the ever-so-important task of unpacking and inventorying this week's shipment of comic books and pop culture trinkets.

I welcome the distraction.

When I leave the back room refuge of the comics shop, perhaps there will be good news.

Perhaps I can allow myself to hope.

Please.

athelind: (hope)
The interview went very well, I think. The job sounds fascinating -- exactly the kind of thing I've hoped to get into.

When I told them I didn't know more than the basics of AutoCAD or Illustrator, the response was, "are you willing to learn more?"

OH HELL YES I AM.

It looks like knowing esoteric stuff like hyperspectral image analysis may trump a lack of familiarity with more common stuff.

I should hear from them by the end of the week.
athelind: (Default)
The interview went very well, I think. The job sounds fascinating -- exactly the kind of thing I've hoped to get into.

When I told them I didn't know more than the basics of AutoCAD or Illustrator, the response was, "are you willing to learn more?"

OH HELL YES I AM.

It looks like knowing esoteric stuff like hyperspectral image analysis may trump a lack of familiarity with more common stuff.

I should hear from them by the end of the week.
athelind: (work)
I have an interview today at SRI International, up in Menlo Park, for a job as a GIS Technician.

Of the ten items listed under "Experience" in the job requirements:

  • I am solidly confident in my abilities in four.
  • I have brief, passing experience in four more ("I have opened and modified files in this software").
  • I have only theoretical experience in the remaining two ("I learned how to use the DOS version of software in this general category in the early '90s, and I have a book about more recent versions that I've flipped through.").


I am hoping that the quality of my in-depth experience ("Yes, I did that at NASA"), and my eagerness to get more experience in the other points, will overcome the more dubious qualifications I may have.

Wishes of luck are appreciated, but we're past the point of random fortune: skill and poise will see me through this.

athelind: (Default)
I have an interview today at SRI International, up in Menlo Park, for a job as a GIS Technician.

Of the ten items listed under "Experience" in the job requirements:

  • I am solidly confident in my abilities in four.
  • I have brief, passing experience in four more ("I have opened and modified files in this software").
  • I have only theoretical experience in the remaining two ("I learned how to use the DOS version of software in this general category in the early '90s, and I have a book about more recent versions that I've flipped through.").


I am hoping that the quality of my in-depth experience ("Yes, I did that at NASA"), and my eagerness to get more experience in the other points, will overcome the more dubious qualifications I may have.

Wishes of luck are appreciated, but we're past the point of random fortune: skill and poise will see me through this.

athelind: (weird science)

Nanomaterial turns radiation directly into electricity - tech - 27 March 2008 - New Scientist Tech



Can we get a "whoa"?

Combine this with the nantenna, and it's looking like nanotech is going to bring about dramatic transformations in energy production and distribution.

November 2016

S M T W T F S
  12345
6 78 9101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
27282930   

Tags

Page generated Sep. 22nd, 2017 01:21 pm
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios