You are viewing acw

ACW's Friends
[Most Recent Entries] [Calendar View] [Friends View]

Below are the most recent 21 friends' journal entries.

    Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014
    positive reinforcement for procrastination
    I got up at 7, when it was partly cloudy and the overnight rain was drying on the sidewalk.  I was planning to run, but then I ate, and dressed (after searching for a while to find clean shorts), and calculated the split time I was hoping for, and checked email, and set my watch, and by that time it was starting to rain a little.  I went to Arthur's car to see whether my hat was there (no, unfortunately).  On the way back to the house there was lightning so close that I could hear a crackle.  I just heard on the radio that one of the workers at the Lexington golf course may have been struck, and a house not far was set on fire at the time.  I had wondered, when I heard the firetrucks.  If I had left earlier, I would have been out running at the time of the storm.   Instead, I think I'll go to Zumba today (indoors).
    Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014
    98 miles in 5 days
    I would have gone the extra two miles today but I was already quite late for dinner. And it's going to rain tomorrow morning, besides which I have an early (for me) meeting and then I'm going square dancing after work so there's really no time to bike. I'll probably go for a walk in Prospect Hill Park in the afternoon. Or I'll use the elliptical machine at the gym if it's still raining.

    Friday: 12 to Jocelyn's school
    Saturday: 10 including moose hill and Dedham St. (both significant climbs)
    Sunday: 32.18 in 2:51 around Taunton and Norton, for an average of 11.2
    Monday: 25.14 to work in 2:23 for an average of 10.4
    Tuesday: 18.79 to store (the long way) in 1:44 for an average of 10.8

    After Sunday's ride, Ken figured out how to adjust my bike computer's idea of tire size without losing my odometer mileage to date. So I increased it by 1.36% (from 147 to 149 cm). I'll have to see next time I ride to yoga how close it is to the previous setting.

    No squirrels today.
    Monday, April 21st, 2014
    April's book: The Ocean at the End of the Lane
    I enjoy Neil Gaiman's writing, but it took me along time to start my April book. That feeling kept up for most of the book... I enjoyed reading it, but didn't really look forward to picking it up. On Thursday I hit a sweet spot, both in time and getting to juicy bits of the narrative and today I finished the book. It's short, quick, definitely young adult. Sweet, sad, a bit of a fable. Not one I'd recommend to another adult probably, though it is growing on me. Would definitely recommend it to tweens and teens. REAMDE remains my most recommended book currently.

    I'm pleased to keep my book a month trend up, though at the cost of some other reading I ought to be doing, and now it occurs to me that I don't have a May book picked out yet. I might look and see what is already on the Kindle, but feel free to leave a recommendation. Bonus points for books that can be read in no more than 20 minute intervals, several days apart.

    I have several physical books around I haven't read, but nothing I'm eager about. Maybe some Michael Chabon?
    Self portrait

    Not of my self.

    A good day for a run
    Prisca Jeptoo set a new women's course record for the Boston Marathon.  We watched the last six miles on TV, marveling at her speed and occasional smiles.
    I had a personal record for the Lexington Lion's Club 5 mile Patriot's Day (its 100th running): 40 minutes 52 seconds.  I ran 13 miles (slowly) on the 13th (a coincidence) but didn't run since then until today.  Is not running the best way to train?
    Here is a photo of me just before the start, unintentionally resembling the famous 1962 Diane Arbus photograph of the kid with toy hand grenades in Central Park
    imgap 009

    We went to Wellesley to watch the marathon, and failed to see all the runners we were looking for, even though we got there in time and lingered for about an hour and a half.  They all finished, but at a slower pace than they started. It was 70 degrees by the time we went home, sweaty work for speed or distance.  We did see the Hoyts, though, in their final year.  (planned final year).   Other marathon trivia - Meb Keflezighi was wearing Skechers in his winning race. Not a brand one usually considers high tech running shoes.
    I wandered through the marathon Expo yesterday at the Hynes Convention Center.  All I bought was a pair of socks (although the device to hang up your shoes seemed clever, and I sampled some high-priced aloe skin creme).  I kept being enticed by booths for races in scenic places.  I don't really need to go to Prince Edward Island to run a race, but it made me wonder whether an Anne of Green Gables impersonator would be in attendance.  I've had very good luck with weather for out of town races. Arthur wondered aloud whether if we traveled some distance and the weather was unpleasant we'd skip the race and go to a museum instead.  Hmm.
    Squirrel count
    We were catching more than one a day in the new trap for a couple days, then nothing for a couple days, then this morning we had a squirrel, for a total of seven in the new trap. None of them were apparently repeats. But it seems like they almost have to be. Seven is just a lot, especially considering how many we had before when we did have repeats. I'm concerned that this professional livestock marking paint is not actually working. Cows probably don't groom themselves, and squirrels probably do.

    I'm considering a control experiment with the cat. Or maybe my hair. (I always did want to try green.)
    EastOver 2014: Destruction of the Calla Lily
    90 seconds of hysterical giggling from our house on Sunday morning.

    (Always interesting that cutting a flower and letting it die in a vase is socially acceptable, but this tradition is viewed somewhat as cruelty, but c'mon, when's the last time flowers in a vase gave you as much joy as my housemates are clearly getting here?)
    Friday, April 18th, 2014
    Squirrel tragedy and the next steps
    The "loose in the house" squirrel I posted about last week was sighted several more times over the week. Sadly, it drowned in a toilet sometime early Thursday morning. Valerie had heard it scrabbling around in the middle of the night and declined to investigate and in the morning discovered it in the toilet.

    My mentions of loose squirrel sightings on Dhalgren prompted llyrica to comment, "I imagine a squirrel wearing a slinky, revealing red dress, garter belt and fire-engine red lipstick, smoking up a storm..."

    We bought a new trap, and I wrote it up, with pictures. I might enhance this page to include various materials from earlier blogs after the squirrel episode is concluded. Assuming it is concluded...
    Two talks next week in the UK
    With the end of Lent comes the end of my staying-at-home. Having fasted of going somewhere fast, I am now looking forward to two talks in the United Kingdom, the week after Easter.

    On Friday, April 25, at 6:30 pm, I will be appearing at Leeds Trinity University to speak on "Would You Baptize an Extraterrestrial?" This will be the first time I include material from the upcoming book of the same name in a public talk. We'll see how it goes.

    On Saturday, April 26, I am speaking at the Spring Conference for the Society for the History of Astronomy in Manchester; mine is the final talk of the conference, and has the title "Angelo Secchi and the Jesuit Influence in Astronomy." According to their web site, "The SHA Spring Conference 2014 will take place on Saturday 26 April 2014 between 9.30am-5pm at Chetham’s Library, Long Millgate, Manchester. M3 1SB. Chetham’s Library, founded 1653 is the oldest public library in the English-speaking world. Owing to limited seating (65 max), early pre-booking at £5 per SHA member (£10 non-members) is strongly advised." The setting itself sounds like it might be worth the price of admission.

    I have no idea if these venues are anywhere in range of anyone reading my "specolations" but if you are, feel free to come along.
    Wednesday, April 16th, 2014
    Simultaneously regretting how booked I am this weekend and sad about all the activities I'm missing.
    Can Rachel borrow a graphing calculator?
    Does anyone local have a graphing calculator that Rachel can borrow while she takes a GRE class? She loaned hers to someone back in her sophomore year of college...
    Sunday, April 13th, 2014
    The Pinball Arcade returning to XBox 360?!?!
    I first got into playing Farsight's The Pinball Arcade on the XBox 360, which, according to Farsight, has also been their main development platform.

    These days, I play it almost exclusively on Android, which isn't quite the same quality of experience, but at least you can get the updates on Android.

    Unfortunately, I don't think you've even been able to buy it on XBox Live for some time, and there have been no updates after the first 10 tables or so. Early on, this was mostly Farsight's fault. Their releases, especially early on, were buggier than they ought to be, and for a while Microsoft kept rejecting them for having stability problems of some sort in their qualification testing for release on XBLA. The turnaround time for getting a patch released was fairly long, so this tended to delay the XBox versions of new pinball tables for months.

    Then the relationship hit a more serious obstacle. On the 360, Microsoft required companies like Farsight to work through game publishers, which in Farsight's case was Crave Software, the same people who distributed Pinball Hall of Fame on disc to bargain bins everywhere.

    One day, Crave's parent company went bankrupt. Farsight tried to line up another distributor... but apparently the bankruptcy court treated the exclusive XBox 360 distribution agreement with Crave as an asset of the bankrupt company, which Crave and Farsight were no longer free to break while things proceeded. That was where it stayed for many months. Farsight has announced that they're going to be shipping on the new XBox One pretty soon, but I think 360 owners had long since given up any hope of the game resurfacing there.

    Just a few days ago, though, this happened. It sounds as if TPA really is coming back to the XBox 360, with all the tables they've developed in the interim (since they'd continued to use the 360 as a dev box all along).

    If true, this is pretty remarkable. Here's hoping they still remember who requested the 360 versions of the Twilight Zone and Star Trek: TNG tables as Kickstarter thank-you gifts.

    It also seems to me that the recent releases on Android have been of higher quality than the earlier ones. I think pulling back to just one table per pack helped with the quality, and I hope that carries over to the XBox. They've also been adapting some real classics recently, such as Fish Tales, Black Knight 2000 and High Speed, and they seem to be quietly fixing the bugs in some earlier ones like Black Knight in the background.
    weather forecast accuracy
    This morning I was surprised by rain when I was about finished with my run. I didn't remember that in the forecast. I checked  Not even sprinkles mentioned for a couple of days, and later it was (briefly) raining hard enough to make noise against the window panes.  Wunderground recently changed their layout and appearance to look suspiciously like  I wonder if they just lift the information wholesale - I checked weatherspark, and they didn't mention rain either.  I checked, and it showed rain until 2 PM.  It ended before that, but it was way more accurate than the others.
    My mini Bill Gates
    Just so you know, Max's life plan is to invest money and use it to cure all of the world's diseases. People will be so grateful that they will give him lots of money, and then he can buy one of every single kind of gadget.
    not sleeping late
    I got up at 5 AM our time to try to watch the London Marathon.  BBC world news has a crawl specifically following Mo Farrah, but otherwise nothing.  BBC America has SR:TNG, as they often do.  We have about ten sports stations, but no mention.  Switched to laptop.  Following tweets is not as entertaining as watching moving images.It's nice that Tatyana McFadden had a course record in the women's wheelchair race.  Natalie Dormer, of Game of Thrones fame may have started out too fast - her 2nd 5K was way slower than her first (I don't think I know anybody personally who is running, so I picked a famous person).  Prisca Jeptoo has fallen behind.  I think she is scheduled to run Boston next week.  Ethiopian Tirunesh Dibaba dropped her water bottle and had to pick it up! 
    Saturday, April 12th, 2014
    My busy Thursday
    Thursday I had an 8am conference call with our partner company's India team. So before that I checked on the squirrel trap, and it seemed to have a squirrel. I hadn't had breakfast, so I thought I'd leave it for a few minutes while I ate. But when I got to extracting the squirrel, the trap was empty. Huh, well, maybe I made a mistake, so I reset the trap and went to make the call. Finished a little after 9:30 (debugging with screen sharing, what a hassle, can't even read your email while they're cogitating on why it fails on your machine but not theirs), then rode my bicycle to work (more on that later).

    Got to work just in time to have lunch with coworkers (whom I'd kept apprised of my ETA so they'd wait for me), and as we were finishing up lunch the fire alarm started going off! I had another call scheduled at 1pm (this time with the partner company's California team), and here it was 12:58 and the fire alarm was going off! Well, it was a nice day, and I remembered the conference call access code, so I sat on the grass away from everyone else standing around outside and had the call. Fortunately this one was one of those daily scrum types which are only supposed to take 10 minutes, and it conformed to plan. Mostly I was reporting on the 8am call results. Got the all-clear to go back inside and the rest of the afternoon was uneventful.

    Rode my bicycle to Waltham where a car was awaiting me and drove home, passing Ken and Peg on the way, who were also doing long-haul biking. Neither of them needed a sag wagon so I finished the drive and waited for them to arrive at dinner. Nearly 90 person-miles were biked that day; we all had seconds at dinner!

    After dinner I discovered that Valerie had bought half-dead bananas at the grocery store "reduced price for quick sale", and was hoping I'd make banana bread, specifically to take to work, since she's working for an accountant these days, and April 11 is a good day for an accountant to need extra sustenance and treats. So I obliged.

    Bedtime arrived, and time to check on squirrel traps. No squirrels. A few minutes later Valerie screamed -- a squirrel was loose in the house and had run over her foot on the stairs. Maybe the squirrel got out while I was eating breakfast? I dunno. We have had rather a lot of episodes of trap tripped, bait taken, no squirrel... We chased the squirrel around the house for a while. They are fast little buggers. With a mouse, it freezes periodically and you can slap a can or box over top of it and then slide something under the box to transport it outside. But the squirrel doesn't freeze for long enough to get the box on top -- or maybe I'm just not fast enough. Also, they climb, which mice mostly don't. Eventually we gave up chasing it, left a baited trap where we'd last seen it, and went to bed.

    In the morning, still no squirrel. We still don't know what happened to that one. The cat doesn't seem to have killed it.

    Bicycling stats:
    26.65 miles in 2:26 riding time, 2:35 elapsed including pit stops, for an average of 10.9. (Plus 3 to the car in Waltham later.)

    However, I think I may be being cheated. See, I replaced my tire a month or two ago, and didn't reset the bike computer for how big the tire is, and I think it might be larger. Because when I go to yoga it used to be 4.62 miles, and now it's 4.55. That's about 1.5%. So maybe I really went 27.06 miles, and maybe my average was really 11... I am considering resetting it. That would lose my current odometer setting, which is 388, so maybe I should ride 12 miles tomorrow and then do it, giving me an even 400 to add for the yearly total if I reset it next January like I did this year.
    Happy Yuri's Night
    The only spacy thing I might do is continue reading  The Martian by Andy Weir.
    Friday, April 11th, 2014
    Thursday, April 10th, 2014
    No writer is a genius to his copy editor
    Busy times here... I have had a boatload of visitors, all of whom were wonderful, and a boatload of writing, all of which has been a lot of fun. Funny how tired I feel now...

    Patrick and Teresa came to Italy. Apparently they had a good time. I have already passed on their recommendations about where to eat in Florence to other friends heading that way, and I will try to remember them myself when I get there this summer. Meanwhile I got to see them twice, one afternoon in Rome and one day when they came out here. I just so thoroughly enjoyed hanging out with them. I forget how much fun it is having friends on the same continent, much less in the same room.

    Among the other guests this past month were members of the International Astronomical Union's Working Group on Planetary Surface Nomenclature. We work regularly via email, but the last time most of us were all in the same room was in 2005 so we held a little meeting here to go over general policies and, in the process, get to meet those who have joined the WG in the last nine years. Again, it was nice just hanging out with people in my field, and show off our wonderful quarters and setting. I have known (or at least, known of) some of these folks for 40 years.

    Meanwhile, our book on Baptizing ET has come back from the copyeditor. No man is a hero to his valet, and copyeditor is someone who sees your writing, if not naked, at least in its underwear. For every five suggestions that are just wrong and idiotic, grumble grumble, there are fifty where I am embarrassed to say she is absolutely right, and why didn't I notice that when I was writing it? All praise to copyeditors. The rest of my life could use one.

    And an abstract has been accepted to a meeting; and an article about science fiction solicited from me by the magazine US Catholic has come back with nice noises and good suggestions from the editor; and I have a column due this weekend up in England.
    Throwback Thursday
    College marching band.

    Friday, April 4th, 2014