< More Coffee Please >
It does help

Me: So how did the new raincoat work? Did it keep you dry?
Child: Yeah
(pause)
Child: …when I wore it.

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Neat Stuff from Elsewhere Wed Aug 08, 2012

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Neat Stuff from Elsewhere Wed Aug 01, 2012

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Neat Stuff from Elsewhere Wed Jul 25, 2012

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Teh coolth, it oozes out

Walking down the street:

M: ….it’s pretty cool. Temperature-cool, you know, not Daddy-cool.
D: I’m cool?
M: Yeah. But you’re never as cool as Mommy.

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Dear publishers: No.

At dinner the other night a number of people were surprised to hear of the absurd phenomenon of digital (and DRM’d to boot) books being more expensive than print versions — not just paperbacks, but hardcovers. So here’s one example.

This looks like an interesting book. A bunch of folks I know on Goodreads have read it and rated it highly. I feel like it’s the sort of book that might be worth throwing money at, so I add it to my queue and off I go to look up the Kindle edition, prepared to buy.

Here’s a screenshot from Amazon from sometime in June.

$19.16? Is the publisher crazy? When I could buy the hardcover, with its lack of DRM and other nonsense, for ~$17.00?

But am I going to buy a huge heavy hardcover book when I set out to buy a weightless ebook in the first place? No, I am not. I doubt anyone would. If I wanted a hardcover I would have bestirred my butt to buy it from the store down the street. But I do not want the hardcover, because it is heavy and annoying and then I have to find shelf space for it once I’m done with it.

You know what happens in this sort of case? Every single time?

That’s right. I shrug, then I add myself to the end of the hold list at the library. I’ll read it in 397 holds (plus mine = 398) / 39 copies x 3 weeks = ~30 weeks when it turns up. Fine. I can wait. There are plenty of other books to read in the meantime.

I will not, on principle, pay more for pixels — especially DRM’d pixels — than I will for a physical book. And I will also not go out and buy a physical book simply because the electronic copy has been artificially made more expensive. For me, pricing ebooks to exceed the cost of a physical book will, 100% of the time, equal a lost sale.

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Neat Stuff from Elsewhere Thu Jul 19, 2012

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Neat Stuff from Elsewhere Wed Jun 20, 2012

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Neat Stuff from Elsewhere Wed Jun 13, 2012

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Neat Stuff from Elsewhere Wed May 30, 2012
  • PLoS ONE: Globalization and Loss of Plant Knowledge: Challenging the Paradigm
    PLoS ONE: Globalization and Loss of Plant Knowledge: Challenging the Paradigm:

    The many effects of migration… interesting finding here that some knowledge was not lost.

    We compared one type of cultural knowledge about medicinal plants (number of plants reported to treat thirty common health conditions) among Dominican laypersons who self-medicate with plants and live in rural or urban areas of the Dominican Republic (DR), and those who have moved to New York City (NYC). Many plants used as medicines were popular Dominican food plants. These plants were reported significantly more often by Dominicans living in NYC as compared to the DR, and this knowledge was not age-dependent. These results contradict the popular paradigm about loss of cultural plant knowledge and is the first study to report a statistically measurable increase in this type of knowledge associated with migration.

  • Light pollution transforming insect communities
    Light pollution transforming insect communities:

    This study shows that groups of invertebrates living near to artificial lights include more predators and scavengers. This could be impacting on the survival rates of different species, having a knock-on effect on birds and mammals that rely on these species for food. The effects could be affecting entire ecosystems and even humans.

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Neat Stuff from Elsewhere Wed May 23, 2012

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Neat Stuff from Elsewhere Wed May 16, 2012

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Neat Stuff from Elsewhere Thu May 03, 2012

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Neat Stuff from Elsewhere Sun Apr 01, 2012

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Why wait?

A Softer World

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Not the SOUL!

Me, upon entering the kitchen and finding the child on the floor at my husband’s feet, clearly in the middle of a ticklefest: Are you torturing our child?

Him: Not in any way that’ll leave a mark.

Child: It’ll leave a mark on my SOUL!

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In Which I Read Stuff on Fancy Modern Devices: Fiction

So, yes, I caved in and asked for a Kindle for my belated birthday. Before this I read the first Book of Thrones volume on D’s Kindle, to see if I liked it: hell yes. I can hold this little thing in one hand and flip pages with a slight touch of a finger, vs. holding a 1000-page paperback and wearing out my arms. No contest. It fits in my purse without pulling my shoulder out of its socket! Also, for those of us who eat while reading, you don’t have to wedge a Kindle under your plate to keep it open while you eat.

Bonus: It not only remembers my page; it syncs across devices. I can leave off reading something on the Kindle and then if, say, I get stuck in a grocery lineup and I don’t have the Kindle on me, I can take out my phone and pick up where I left off on the Kindle app. Brilliant. And the books take up no shelf space.

I am a total convert*.

A few things I’ve read electronically:

The whole George RR Martin Game of Thrones series (so far). They’re fluff and while they’re not especially good (he’s better at character than plot), they are certainly involving. Excellent beach reading, and I can see how they’d make good TV.

A few Georgette Heyer novels, which are apparently “Regency romance” but which, if you can get past the extreme classism of the time and the odd bit of anti-Semitism, are quite funny. For example, this bit from Grand Sophy:

“Mama, I hope I am not an unnatural daughter, but I had rather be dead than married to James!” declared Cecilia, raising her head. “He thinks of nothing but hunting, and when they do have company in the evening, he goes to sleep, and snores!”

Daunted by this disclosure, Lady Ombersley could find nothing to say for a minute or two. Cecilia blew her nose, and added: “And Lord Charlbury is even older than James!”

“Yes, but we do not know that he snores, my love,” Lady Ombersley pointed out. “Indeed, we may be almost certain that he does not, for his manners are so very gentleman-like!”

“A man who would contract the mumps,” declared Cecilia, “would do anything!”

Lady Ombersley saw nothing unreasonable in this pronouncement, nor was she surprised that his lordship’s unromantic behaviour had given Cecilia a distaste for him. She had herself been sadly disappointed, for she had thought him a man of sense, certainly not one to be succumbing to childish ailments at inopportune moments. She could think of nothing to say to palliate his offence, and as Cecilia had apparently no further observations to make, silence reigned uneasily for a time.

I’ve been plundering the free stuff on Amazon for the Kindle. There’s quite a bit, although a lot of the recent stuff looks pretty bad. There’s an excellent selection of public-domain classics, however, so I’ve been plowing my way through Les Miz which somehow I’d never read. It’s excellent, of course. The language is lovely even in translation; it’s making me wish my French was up to reading the original:

Having neither opium nor hashish on hand, and being desirous of filling his brain with twilight, he had had recourse to that fearful mixture of brandy, stout, and absinthe**, which produces the most terrible of lethargies. It is of these three vapours, beer, brandy and absinthe, that the lead of the soul is composed. They are three grooms; the celestial butterfly is drowned in them; and there are formed there in a membranous smoke, vaguely condensed into the wing of the bat, three mute furies, Nightmare, Night, and Death, which hover about the slumbering Psyche.

And because I have an ongoing love for the library, and the library still provides me things mostly on paper:

Anne Lamott, Operating Instructions

I wasn’t wild about this book, which is an account of her son’s first year. I think she’s one of those parents who are destined to bring up feral children for fear of ever imposing limits and dampening the kid’s Speshulness. And she was far too religious for my taste. Still, the rougher bits are good:

We watched Mr. Rogers this morning. He was in an ebullient mood. When he was changing from his street shoes into his sneakers, he tossed the first one into the air with a much wilder sort of jauntiness than usual, and then caught it, and then acted so pleased with himself that he actually looked crazy. Pammy says he must have gotten laid.

And Seth Mnookin, The Panic Virus. Very, very good. He takes apart the vaccine danger hype piece by piece, with lots of solid data but still retaining sympathy for parents of autistic kids looking for a cause and a cure. This should quite possibly be mandatory reading for anyone who thinks vaccines are for other people and not their precious Snotleigh.

* Except for the DRM issues, which annoy me greatly. If I buy a book, I should be able to do what I like with it. But that’s another post.

** Brandy, stout, and absinthe. Together in a glass. Ponder that for a minute. Ech, ptui.

Neat Stuff from Elsewhere Wed Mar 07, 2012

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Neat Stuff from Elsewhere Wed Feb 29, 2012

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Neat Stuff from Elsewhere Wed Feb 15, 2012
  • (via Pictures: Shark Swallows Another Shark Whole)
  • Finding an optimal seating chart (PDF)
    Finding an optimal seating chart (PDF):

    We found that the most important assignment was to place guests who arrived as dates to the wedding at the same table. This was done by giving those guests a very high weight (50) in the  connection matrix. From there, one could construct a level of weights for guests of the same immediate family, same extended family, etc. If one already has an idea of which guests should sit at the same table, but needs help filling out the tables, weights can be assigned based upon guests who should sit together. This is the method we imposed in our problems. Dates were given a weight of 50, guests  who should sit at the same table a weight of 10, guests who know  each other but do not necessarily need to sit at the same table a  weight of 1, and guests who do not know each other a weight of 0. Additionally, negative weights could be assigned to discourage the model from seating two people at the same table (for example, divorced parents).

    Acknowledgments
    MLB gratefully acknowledges JDLP for still agreeing to marry her after writing this.

    (Or you could have the sort of wedding where there isn’t any need to seat people. It makes the math a lot easier.)

  • BBC News – Equation predicts ponytail shape
    BBC News – Equation predicts ponytail shape:

    The new equation takes into account the stiffness of hairs, the effects of gravity and the presence of random curliness or waviness.

    This will resonate with some in the computer graphics and animation industry, where a realistic representation of hair and fur has proven a tough challenge.

  • PLoS ONE: Monitoring Gaseous CO2 and Ethanol above Champagne Glasses: Flute versus Coupe, and the Role of Temperature
    PLoS ONE: Monitoring Gaseous CO2 and Ethanol above Champagne Glasses: Flute versus Coupe, and the Role of Temperature:

    The concentration of gaseous CO2 was found to be significantly higher above the flute than above the coupe. Moreover, a recently developed gaseous CO2 visualization technique based on infrared imaging was performed, thus confirming this tendency. The influence of champagne temperature was also tested. As could have been expected, lowering the temperature of champagne was found to decrease ethanol vapor concentrations in the headspace of a glass. Nevertheless, and quite surprisingly, this temperature decrease had no impact on the level of gaseous CO2 found above the glass. Those results were discussed on the basis of a multiparameter model which describes fluxes of gaseous CO2 escaping the liquid phase into the form of bubbles.

  • Leonard Cohen’s Old Ideas, and the genius of his lyrics. – Slate Magazine
    Leonard Cohen’s Old Ideas, and the genius of his lyrics. – Slate Magazine:

    If Cohen is the finest poet of our songwriters, he’s hardly a simple or a predictable one. You can never guess which direction a line is going to come from: cynical, surreal, earnest, bitter, exalted—no way to know. Eventually it adds up to a strange sense. Beside Dylan’s flights of fancy and rage, Cohen’s sentiments seem more immediate, more real. Or maybe I just have a touch more preference for Cohen’s familiar depression tinged with something like religion than for Dylan’s wit and wildness and biliousness.

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