June 19th, 2007


Wow ...

I never really got the sense of how many Russian users there are on LiveJournal until I stumbled over the LJ Images site (which shows the most recent 40 images uploaded to the system), seemingly half of which are captioned in Cyrillic! Being the inquisitive fellow that I am, I've had to go see what was up with some of these at their "home" journals, which led me to digging up a reasonably functional Russian-English translator ... as well as finding some very, uh, interesting communities!

Thought I'd share ...

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A productive "non-productive" morning ...

Well, I got stuff done this morning, unfortunately, none of it moving me any closer to getting a job, so it's officially "non-productive". :-(

However, I had picked up an external HD to back up my system (a logical thought after the recent computer chaos), but the unit I bought, a sleek black Western Digital "Passport" drive requires more juice from the computer's USB ports than it is providing, and the magic "accessory" cable (which plugs into two USB jacks and thus doubles the power) seems to not currently exist anywhere on the planet. I went through a few rounds with TigerDirect on this (first via their e-mail service, which never seems to get any attention), and was VERY frustrated by their on-line service rep who obviously had NO CLUE about what unit I was talking about, despite my sending her the URLs! Fortunately, after I gave up on that, I called their regular customer service folks, explained the problem, they checked to see if they (or anybody else) had the cable, realized that without the cable the unit was NOT going to work on my system, and immediately issued me a Return Authorization, given that I would exchange it for some other external HD. They had an Iomega unit with almost 3x the storage for only $10 more (actually, $20 less after the rebate comes through), so I opted for that, and should have it here in a day or so.

I must admit, TigerDirect is VERY good about this sort of stuff ... once you get to somebody who is actually interested in customer service (as opposed to the gal I had on the chat thing, who did not "get" what the unit was, obviously didn't "get" what the problem was, insisted that I go through warranty replacement via Western Digital despite the issue being an accessory that was needed and not available, and then suggested a power unit that was for internal drives ... MORON!). At least now I should have this puppy backed up by the weekend.

The other thing I got off the "to-do" list this morning was a Second Life issue. Yes, since I have my "transplant patient" machine up and running, I am now back on S.L. and in the last week I actually rented an apartment for the princely sum of about a buck a week (yeah, I know ... but that's less than one soda ... c'mon), or 250 "Linden dollars". Now, I had used up L$20 of my initial L$250 in uploading pics for my profile, so I had to borrow L$20 from "the real estate lady" to make my initial week's rent payment because, when we were doing this, the "Linden Exchange" was not working. Unfortunately, that has continued not working since, so I've not been able to "buy" any Lindens, and I was down to 2 days left on the rental. I finally contacted "the landlord" and worked out a deal where I sent him a few bucks via PayPal, he paid me the equivalent in Lindens, and I paid the "rental box" for the time. A bit convoluted, but at least I didn't end up "being evicted"!

That's a snapshot of me in my snazzy (although minimally furnished) high-rise apartment ... it almost feels like home!

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I'm just a cussy-mouth, ain't I?

Well ... based on my using the words "crap" (x3), "hell" (x2) and "dead" (x1 - WTF?) over the past 20 entries (I plugged in earlier ranges and the rating kept changing) ...

What's My Blog Rated? From Mingle2 - Free Online Dating

In real life I swear like a drunk longshoreman with Tourette's, so it could have been worse!

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How odd ...

This may be the most "popular" book that I've read over the past several years ... there are 1,780 folks on LibraryThing who have a copy, and 22 of them have already penned reviews. While I enjoyed reading this well enough, I really didn't get much "new" from it (which, I suppose, it not remarkable as this is the "30th Anniversary Edition", meaning that the concepts in it have been kicking around for quite a while), just more details to things "I already knew" for the most part.

I've been trying to "find an angle" for a review here, and am, frankly, coming up a bit dry. I would certainly recommend Richard Dawkins' The Selfish Gene to all and sundry as a very good basic book on the concept of genetics and what that whole group of ideas means, although many will no doubt find the basic thread (that people, like all "living beings", are simply machines developed by genes to ensure their survival and propagation) somewhat less than engaging. Now, I'm hardly the "religious" type, but I must admit coming away from this book feeling a bit, well ... irrelevant. Not only do the individual carriers of the genes not really matter except as a vehicle for those genes, but the idea that after not very many generations the recognizable inheritance of the individual is so diluted that it becomes almost meaningless. Frankly, I wish to have meaning, and I guess that's the rub on Dawkin's approach ... the individual plant, animal, etc., doesn't ultimately seem to have any.

On a brighter note, The Selfish Gene is chock full of fascinating tidbits (such as all the aphids on a particular plant are likely to be the "clone" offspring of a single mother, and are genetically identical, and could be thought of as a single entity expressed over a hundred or so discreet packages), and is a very interesting read. While intentionally shying away from going into the mathematics behind the science, there are some quite detailed looks at "game theory" elements like the classic "Prisoner's Dilemma" which are here used to chart out "evolutionary stable strategies" dealing with such things as in-group altruism and inter-species cooperation. Also, some of those inter-species arrangements (especially in the insect kingdom) that are described here are quite remarkable. I was also amazed to find that the very familiar Internet term "meme" was originated by Dawkins 30-some years ago to describe a self-replicating concept (the example he tracks was an attribution error in the title of a work that spread from two initial mis-typings to be a common error in the literature ... it would be interesting to see what he thinks of the like of "L.J. memes" so prevalent in "social networking" sites today).

The "30th Anniversary Edition" has two extra chapters which bring some of the ideas up to current understanding, and there are rather extensive notes (one chapter had almost as many pages of notes as there were of text), putting some of what had originally been written into a broader context of academic development on the subjects being addressed. I make this distinction in part due to the fact that used copies of the old edition are going at a fraction of what the new one is. In fact, at this writing, there is only about a buck separating the lowest used price from Amazon's discounted price ... and you'd be paying shipping on top of that for the used copy. While this is no doubt sitting on the shelves of your favorite brick-and-mortar book vendor, your best bet might well be Amazon (which has it new at 37% off of cover) if combined with other stuff to get free shipping.

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