Archive for February, 2011

Oscar’s Night ends with no surprises

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on February 28, 2011 by Trip Jennings
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By Susan King and Rene Lynch | 8:41 p.m.
Nominated for 12 Oscars — the most of any film — it wins four, including honors for Colin Firth for lead actor, Tom Hooper for director, and David Seidler for original screenplay.




A terrific song for a languorous Sunday morning

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on February 27, 2011 by Trip Jennings

John Darnielle, the driving force behind the NC-based group Mountain Goats, is a phenomenal songwriter whose lyrics double as how-to sessions in musical storytelling.

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The Mountain Goats – Cotton

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iPhone 4 vs. HTC Incredible

Posted in Uncategorized on February 27, 2011 by Trip Jennings

I’m not super techy, but for the past week I’ve had the chance to compare the iPhone 4 against the HTC Incredible.

Apple vs. Android.

Cupertino vs. Mountain View.

The former upstart vs, well, another former upstart

It seems fortune has thrust me in an intriguing position in a world gaga about tech. OK, not really. All the pros did their comparisons a few months back, which means I probably won’t offer any startling revelation for the truly geeky. What I hope to offer here over the next few weeks, perhaps months, is a periodic critique of the two smartphones by someone who doesn’t write code and only occasionally goes to Slashdot for news.

This is my first post on the subject. So bear with me.

So far, I’ve been able to compare the two phones for six days, and there’s no clear winner in my mind. Both phones have their upsides and downsides.

Yes, the iPhone can multi-task. I can listen to music, check my e-mail and scroll through the constant TweetDeck feed. The Incredible doesn’t multi-task well (as far as I know). But Android’s TweetDeck app is better than the one made for the iPhone. mainly because the Android app gives one more options with which to share a post, including Tumblr, one of my favorites. The same goes for the Android app for Pulse for the same reason. (Perhaps I haven’t fully learned how to use the iPhone’s apps yet, which might explain my disappointment with the apps so far.)

I’ve also discovered that the function allowing one to enlarge print in news stories I’ve pulled up using TweetDeck is better on the Incredible than the iPhone. The print adjusts to the screen on the Incredible. In other words, when I expand the script, the new larger print adapts to the contours of the Incredible screen. Not so with the iPhone. It’s a bit frustrating.

On the minus side for Android, I regularly have to force close an app because it is taking far too long to load (even after I’ve cleared the cache using the Manage Applications function, which is frustrating). Over the seven months I’ve owned the Incredible several times I’ve found myself so frustrated by Android’s sluggishness that I’ve taken the battery out of the phone’s back to re-start the phone. As frustrated as I was, at least I could take the battery out of the Android phone. Not so with the iPhone. A negative mark for Apple for not making their batteries accessible.

The iPhone isn’t without its meltdowns on the app side. Like a Droid, the iPhone accesses several e-mail accounts and even — and this is very cool — allows one to merge e-mails from separate accounts into one inbox. It’s called a universal inbox. But several times over the course of one day this week the iPhone informed me that my Gmail username and password were incorrect, even though I’d accessed the account for two days prior with no problems. I couldn’t access e-mails in the my Gmail account for several hours. The issue eventually corrected itself, leaving me befuddled about what caused it.

As storage space goes, the iPhone is the clear winner. It has 16 GB vs the more than 8GB the Incredible offers.

As I write this, I find that I have an emotional attachment to my Droid phone, perhaps because I’ve had it longer. Clearly, I’m blown away by some of the iPhone’s abilities. But it’s infatuation right now. We’ll see if it turns into a long-term love affair in the coming months.

Stay tuned.

Alchemists get their due

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on February 27, 2011 by Trip Jennings

I’m a a big fan of Carl Zimmer, especially his stuff on the history of neurology and the brain. Here’s a short article that samples his interesting work. Enjoy.

The Economist reports from this year’s AAAS meeting about a fascinating lecture delivered by the historian of science Lawrence Principe about his quest to figure out the real history of alchemy. Principe has done some impressive work to brush away the Whig history of modern chemistry and understand alchemy on its own terms.

Alchemy is saddled with such a bad reputation that many people don’t appreciate  how it played an important role in the birth of modern sciences, such as biochemistry and neurology.

Here’s part of a blog post I wrote in 2006 on this surprising link:

Jan Baptist van Helmont, a sixteenth-century Belgian alchemist, carried out a classic experiment on biological growth. He put a five pound willow sapling in a tube of 200 pounds of earth. For five years he gave the tree nothing but water, and then weighed both tree and earth. The tree had grown to 169 pounds, while the earth had lost a few ounces. “Hence one hundred and sixty-four pounds of wood, bark, and roots have come up from water alone,” he announced. Van Helmont believed that the willow was nothing more than transmuted water, given form by the willow’s inner soul.

I first came to appreciate the importance of alchemy in the rise of biochemistry while working on my book Soul Made Flesh, on the history of neurology. Thomas Willis, the first neurologist, started out as an alchemist, deeply influenced by Van Helmont. He came into contact with Robert Boyle through their shared interest in alchemy. And his first important work was a book that used alchemy to reinterpret physiology. Instead of the four humours, Willis saw body being made up of corpuscles of different sorts, borrowing concepts of Van Helmont and other alchemists. These corpuscles interacted with one another to produce changes, just as ferments made bread rise and grape juice turn to wine.

Willis later did groundbreaking work on the anatomy and function of the brain, which until his time had generally been considered a pretty useless organ. Willis envisioned the brain as an alembic, the distilling container of alchemy, in which some of the corpuscles of the blood were distilled into the animal spirits, which then flowed through the nerves. While some of Willis’s language and concepts are now hopelessly old-fashioned, he set the study of the brain–and thus the soul–on a new foundation.

The intersection of alchemy and biology is just further evidence that science does not advance by simply wiping the slate clean and starting completely from scratch. Some of the most dramatic revolutions were born within systems of thought that today seem hopelessly backwards. I wonder how twenty-ninth cenutry historians will look back at our own revolutions today. Who will be cast aside as the new alchemists?



Uprisings spread to Morocco

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on February 20, 2011 by Trip Jennings

The democratic movement spreads to another country.

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Tens of thousands march peacefully in Morocco for political reform

The mass rally was aimed at expanding democratic rights in Morocco, a nation that is a hereditary monarchy and at times has been oppressive.

By Borzou Daragahi, Los Angeles Times
Reporting from Rabat, Morocco —

In what is being called an unprecedented show of political unity and strength, tens of thousands of protesters from various political strains marched peacefully in cities and towns across the country Sunday demanding rapid political reform.

The mass rally, marchers said, was aimed at expanding democratic rights in a nation that has long been a hereditary monarchy and at times been as oppressive as its autocratic northern African neighbors.
“We no longer want to be subjects,” said Abdelilah Benabdeslam, a leader of the Morrocan Human Rights Organization. “We want to be citizens.”



Narrow legal victory or constitutional muster: Which strategy will Cali Supremes decide on?

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on February 17, 2011 by Trip Jennings
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California Supreme Court reenters Proposition 8 fray

Decision to take up a key issue over Proposition 8 again puts the court at the forefront of the same-sex marriage issue.

The California Supreme Court’s decision Wednesday to take up a key question in the fight over Proposition 8 places the court once again at the forefront of the legal battle over same-sex marriage.

The court, meeting in closed session at its San Francisco headquarters, decided unanimously to rule on whether sponsors of ballot initiatives have special authority under state law to defend the measures in court when state officials refuse to do so.

Last month, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which is considering a federal judge’s ruling that struck down Proposition 8, had asked California’s high court to decide the state legal question. The court’s answer probably will determine whether Proposition 8 is overturned on narrow, procedural grounds with limited impact or whether the case reaches the U.S. Supreme Court on constitutional questions that could affect same-sex marriage laws throughout the country.



Waiting for season 2 of The Walking Dead

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on February 14, 2011 by Trip Jennings

I’m not a huge horror fan. Zombie apocalypses don’t rank high on my all-time favorite films — or TV shows. So consider me surprised by how gripping, and moving, AMC’s The Walking Dead is.
I just made it through the first season, and I’m pretty impressed.
As my friend Joe Abeyta told me when he suggested I watch the show, The Walking Dead is not about the zombies but about the small band of human beings trying to stay alive in and around Atlanta.
Given the premise, you might think the show is about gore, of which there’s quite a bit. Or about frightening creatures. The zombies in The Walking Dead are truly scary. It’s not. The zombies are props; or more accurately, the capricious, environment in which these humans find themselves.
Against this terrifying backdrop develop the real story-lines, which occasionally ask some profound questions. How does one remain human in a hostile world, where the rules of society have broken down and one must grope to figure out where the line between being human and less-than human is?
The show’s writers know how to whipsaw your emotions, too, juxtaposing moments of spine-tingling terror with sublime beauty, gruesome violence with heart-rending gentleness. Along the way a stereotype or two falls away, knocked down by unexpected kindnesses.
About halfway through the first episode I realized I wan’t watching a horror show, but a show about life and what it means to live.
The Walking Dead is a good show. I’m waiting for Season 2.

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Waking up in an empty hospital after weeks in a coma, County Sheriff Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) finds himself utterly alone. The world as he knows it is gone, ravaged by a zombie epidemic. The Walking Dead tells the story of the weeks and months that follow after the apocalypse. Based on Robert Kirkman’s hugely successful and popular comic book series, AMC’s new original series, The Walking Dead, premieres with a 90-minute episode on Halloween night: Oct. 31 at 10/9c. Written and executive produced by three-time Academy® Award-nominee Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile), who also directs the pilot, and executive produced by Gale Anne Hurd (The Terminator, Aliens), the series debuts during AMC Fearfest, the network’s annual blockbuster marathon of thriller and horror films.

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