when the status quo frustrates.

This Is So Much Better Than My Undergrad Intro to Engineering Project

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010

…but to give me credit where credit is due, the problem posed to us by our instructor was a lot less interesting, too. As I recall, he had us come up with something you could put on your shoes to prevent slipping on an icy sidewalk. The constraints were the same, though, in terms of cheap household objects etc.

The coolness:

Rice University undergraduates Lila Kerr and Lauren Theis were presented with an assignment in their Introduction to Bioengineering and World Health class. As Theis explains:

“We were essentially told we need to find a way to diagnose anemia without power, without it being very costly and with a portable device.”

In a solution short on cost but long on ingenuity, the duo modified a basic, every day salad spinner into an easy to use and transport centrifuge that successfully separates blood to allow diagnosis of anemia with no electricity. The device costs about $30, can process 30 individual 15 microliter blood samples at a time, and can separate blood into its component red cells and plasma in about 20 minutes.

Happier in real life

Saturday, September 19th, 2009

To be honest, I had a kind of a downer period going there for a while. I mean, I guess it’s natural– you move to a new city, in a foreign country, and you don’t have any friends there, it’s gonna be a little bit depressing for a while.

But I don’t think my internet connection was helping. While it kept me hooked in with the rest of the world, it also was a way to avoid sinking my teeth into the actual possibilities of life going on all around me.

So, I’ve been avoiding the internet a fair amount lately. For the past couple of months I’ve done a wee bit of blog reading and otherwise surfing, but to a purely minimal degree. Instead, I’ve been engaging in actual human interactivity. I’ve been playing a lot of music. Like, in front of people, I mean, not just in the privacy of my own room. I generally am playing somewhere around town in some capacity about twice a week, one of which is a steady (unpaid) gig as the house musician at a local open mike, singing Japanese pop songs, which the locals of course find quite amusing.

With all of this, my happiness level is generally up quite a bit. I think I’ve stumbled onto something here, this whole going out and trying to do real things with real people strategy. I heartily recommend it if you’re not already a practitioner.

So, I don’t plan on posting here all that much in the near future. Not that I’ve been posting all that much in the near past, either. I just wanted to let everybody know, though, “it isn’t you– it’s me”! And that it’s good.

I guess I just needed to get that off my chest.

Don’t put away your #amazonfail tags just yet

Thursday, April 16th, 2009

Amazon wowed and amazed us this week with their stunning ability to shoot themselves right in the feet, and while I haven’t seen what the formal resolution to that problem was yet, the general consensus was that they seemed to be trying to do something only moderately shady and fucked up hardcore. On Sunday the interwebs were furious, and by Tuesday they were begging Amazon to just fix the problem and give us a plausible mea culpa so that we could go back to loving them once again.

Unfortunately, they didn’t love us enough to give us even a plausible lie, and now people like my roommate, who care not for GLTB literature but do care about getting fucked on the internet, are seeking out – and finding – new reasons to never trust any Internet business that isn’t NewEgg.com.

A careful review of your account indicates that you have required refunds on a large majority of your orders for a variety of reasons.

In the normal course of business, the occasional problem is inevitable. The rate at which such problems have occurred on your account is extraordinary, however, and cannot continue. Effective immediately, your Amazon.com account is closed and you are no longer able to shop in our store.

There are so many things wrong with this, I feel sure there must be an error:

…3) I am now unable to access archived copies of the Kindle books I’ve purchased legally, and have no other way to legally purchase DRM’ed books on the device.

4) I also have no access to videos I have purchased from Amazon.

5) Since I can’t contact customer service, I cannot get any warranty service for my current Kindle, and the email explicitly states I can’t return anything (not that I’d want to!)

I’ve never had to return anything to Amazon, because I rarely return books and so far I’ve had good luck with non-book purchases, but this would make me pause before purchasing more from them. Returning too many products makes your Kindle not work? That seems a tad harsh. After all, not all Amazon retailers are selling top-quality merchandise (it’s easy to buy crappy electronics when searching for the best deals) and Kindles are not cheap. At any rate, heavy Amazon users might be well advised to look carefully at the terms of service before deciding to stick with what they know. I know I don’t often return things, but I’ve also stopped shopping at box stores if I heard too many scare stories about excessive banning of so-called expensive customers, and I don’t see myself making an exception for the internet stores.

Got any good ones..? Post ‘em!

Monday, March 16th, 2009

Oh, those workplace departure e-mails. (Thank you, Slate, for finally giving me something to actually call the things.) They’re so fun to write! and sometimes, they are really fun to read.

I’ve quit three jobs in which a “workplace departure e-mail” seemed called for. I didn’t feel the need to generate one for any of my babysitting jobs growing up, nor did I whip one up for McDonald’s (dudes, not only did I not have an e-mail address, I didn’t even have a computer, and hardly anybody else who worked there at the time did either), and a field-based Army unit in Europe doesn’t really require an electronic notification when you’re outprocessing. However, once I graduated college, engineering degree clutched in my hot little hand, my subsequent corporate adventures did, indeed, sort of require some kind of generalized e-notification of various coworkers and bosses, both mine and other people’s, upon my leaving those jobs for greener pastures. So I had to start cobbling them together.

I’ve never really had too much trouble knowing what to say. Platitudes apparently come as naturally to me as breathing. It’s been a great experience working with all of you! I can chirp cheerily on command. I wish you all well in your future endeavors! I generally consider myself a very honest person, but apparently, there are some circumstances under which I can lie like a rug with no qualms whatsoever. Quitting a job that I may or may not have come to hate to the point where each new day brings a new outbreak of hives is one of them.

The part of the workplace departure e-mail ritual that always threw me for a loop was who, exactly, to send the missive to. Every place I’ve worked has strongly discouraged e-mailing the entire freakin’ company, a policy with which I heartily agree, sometimes to the point where the ability to put in the companywide e-mail address is locked out from most of the employees. (Now, if only they will start removing the ability of said employees to “reply ALL” to those emails sent out to the entire company by the original, authorized personnel. No, Cathy in the London office, I don’t care that you’ve lost your password to the document management server nor, Bob from Sacramento, do I care that you and your family will be unable to attend the local company community service awards ceremony.)

But who do I send it to..? Can I get away with not sending it to the people I can’t stand…? No, not really, because even if those people can’t stand me in return, they’re usually just the type to make a big stink about being excluded from my workplace departure e-mail. Well, in that case, can I not include my new e-mail address..? No, because I do want some people to have it, both in terms of personal warmth and business referrals, and if I send some people an edited version that does not include my new e-mail address, again, they’ll probably get offended even if they can’t stand me. And how about people I worked with but who are either several levels above me or in only distantly-related departments..? Is it presumptuous of me to e-mail the first and peculiar of me to e-mail the second? But if I don’t, again again, will somebody Get Offended..?

And so on and so forth. But to the best of my knowledge, nothing bad has ever come of any of my workplace departure e-mails, so I must have muddled through the whole situation well enough each time…however, I can’t say that’s been the case for every workplace departure e-mail I’ve ever seen. Heh. Actually, some of ‘em have been a scream–for me, the sadistic observer; probably less of a scream for the author and some of the recipients, but given the e-mails themselves, clearly there was a Situation there that long preceeded the email. A few of my favorites from over the years–each sent to either the entire company, or a large subsection thereof:

“I just want you all to remember, what comes around goes around, and you know who I’m talking to.”

“I’ve had it with this situation. If I don’t get a response to this e-mail in ten minutes, I’m sending it out to everybody in the company so they can all see what idiots you are.” (I don’t know if this was supposed to be a workplace departure e-mail, but it sure turned into one; the author was fired the next day.)

“I haven’t always enjoyed working here, but it has been a learning experience.”

“Please don’t ask me why I’m leaving, I can’t talk about it, but you’re welcome to e-mail me privately to get the whole story.”

As the title of this post says–if you know or have any good ones of your own, share! :)

Outer Space is So Awesome

Thursday, July 31st, 2008

Titan seen from outer space

Surface of Titan

NASA says liquid confirmed on Saturn’s moon Titan

PASADENA, Calif. (AP) — At least one of many large, lake-like features on Saturn’s moon Titan studied by the international Cassini spacecraft contains liquid hydrocarbons, making it the only body in the solar system besides Earth known to have liquid on its surface, NASA said Wednesday.

Scientists positively identified the presence of ethane, according to a statement from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, which manages the Cassini mission exploring Saturn, its rings and moons.

Mars seen from outer space

Surface of Mars

NASA probe confirms water on Mars

LOS ANGELES (AFP) — NASA scientists said Thursday the Phoenix lander exploring Mars had confirmed water on the planet after analysis of a soil sample from the Red planet’s surface.

The discovery was made after the lander’s robotic arm delivered a sample this week to an instrument onboard the lander that identifies vapors through heating samples.

“We have water,” said William Boynton of the University of Arizona, lead scientist for the lander’s “oven” Thermal and Evolved-Gas Analyzer, or TEGA.

“We’ve seen evidence for this water ice before in observations by the Mars Odyssey orbiter and in disappearing chunks observed by Phoenix last month, but this is the first time Martian water has been touched and tasted.”

Letting the Purple Smoke Out: DIY Computers I

Wednesday, July 30th, 2008

My computer recently died. I pouted, and then, I moved on.

And by “moved on,” I mean, “started to build a new one.”

So! I’m going to do a series of posts about diagnosing a problem with my computer and building a new one. I think this is a pretty Punkass thing, but if you don’t want to read hardware geeky stuff, feel free to skip these posts.

Part one: why won’t my computer start?


For Violet and Antigone, With Love

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008

And for me, and also anybody else who has a love-hate relationship with their computer. :)

Somehow, I’m sure the patriarchy is to blame.

Monday, July 28th, 2008

My computer stopped turning on over the weekend. (* cue sound of sobbing children *)

I push the power button. Nothing! I unplug her, wait a minute, plug her back in and push the power button. Nothing! I pray whilst pushing the power button. I am struck by lightning*, but my computer does not turn on.

So, until I can get a new** power supply***, posts might be a bit erratic. A bit, um, more erratic.

You have been warned.

* – The lightning had a funny, dismissive “you don’t even even mean it,” flavor.

** – I actually have two spare power supplies, but neither has the right power cord layout. Arr.

*** – At least, I hope it’s the power supply.

I Really Like Other Planets

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008

Water ice and evidence of historic rainfall on Mars.

Smaller, rocky exoplanets near the habitable zone around their stars are being found. For a totally awesome exoplanet slideshow, click here.

(Because I need to think about something other than people right now. Ugh!)

I Like Other Planets

Sunday, May 25th, 2008

Seriously, I had all the ones in the Solar System memorized when I was six years old. Yeah, back when Pluto (a) was not only a planet but the smallest planet and (b) didn’t have a moon, and when Jupiter only had 9 moons and Saturn only had 12 moons…oh, those were the dayz…

Of course I realized by age 12 that people who got carsick riding to Grandma’s house probably weren’t cut out to be astronauts, so that killed THAT dream (sadness!). However, it didn’t kill my fascination with all things extraterrestrial, with the sole exceptions of crop circles and Scientologists.

So here I am Sharing Teh Awesome outer-space news. Enjoy!

The first-ever landing of a probe near Mars’ north pole happened smoothly on Sunday, NASA confirmed.

Let’s just save time: I’m Kyso Kisaen, my SSN is 123-45-678 and I bank at Sky, online banking password: snoodles.

Sunday, January 20th, 2008

Everyone who is queasy about RealID will find this post to be helpful when explaining to people why:

The story of Fidencio Estrada, a drug runner who bribed Florida Customs agent Rafael Pacheco to (among other things) access multiple federal law enforcement databases on his behalf, suggests that when it comes to the government collecting data on innocent civilians for law enforcement purposes, privacy and security are essentially the same thing…

So the government wants to collect tons of detailed data on citizens in these large databases; meanwhile, the speed at which an attacker could siphon off that data is increasing, as is the frightening but real possibility that ever-larger swaths of that database can fit onto a single lost or purloined hard drive.

No less than two University-owned laptop computers with my social security number on their hard drives have been lost or stolen in the last year. I got a letter from a company I’d never done business with stating that my personal information may have been stolen by a rogue employee; turns out this was the company that handled debit and electronic check transactions for some store that I had done business with, although God alone knows which store.

Can’t wait for RealID. I’m beginning to grow accustomed to the low-level stress of knowing that pretty much anyone can find my information and fuck me over pretty much anytime and there’s little I can do about it, and I’ll need the sphincter-clenching awareness that identity thieves are about to be given convenient one-stop shopping to keep my anxiety levels at their usual high.

Why IE?

Friday, December 7th, 2007

I finally installed Google Analytics on PAB this weekend. We used to be on a dedicated server that gave me a fair number of standard reports on views, etc., but Google Analytics has much more usable data. For example, it’s cool to know that we’ve got peeps in places like Bahrain and Kuwait and Morocco checking us out. Assuming our international audience isn’t primarily made up of comment spammers, we’re delighted to have you!

At the moment, the question I have for our readership is this: why Internet Explorer? 37.77% of PAB readers view us on IE. Firefox is just over 51%, and I don’t personally know anybody on a PC who still uses IE as their browser of choice. Firefox is free, more adherent to web standards, and, well, not Microsoft.

So, IE users of PAB, help this IT geek understand why you use IE. Is it better for you somehow? Is it a pain to download Firefox? Do tell.

Bonus question: for the 3 viewers on a Playstation Portable (PSP), how’s that working out for you?