Sunday, September 20, 2009

Reading Anathem

Finally reading Stephenson's Anathem. Slow start--learning curve is steep for some, so it requires some commitment to get through the opening chapter. I think it's just his reputation that got folks to move past that point. I have been enjoying it, but it's big enough for inconsistencies to start to bug me. One of the devices in the story is a chemical called allswell that appears to be a mild euphoric/anti-psychotic. The problem I have with it is that all people living outside the cloisters consume it, as it is in all their food. Yet, even with that, there is still violence, smuggling, and illegal border crossings. In other words, it is a plot device that is inconsistently applied.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Cold Brewed Coffee

I came across a foodie blog entry about cold-brewed coffee, and thought I might give it a try. I had tried cold-brewed tea in the past. This was especially handy for green tea, which becomes rather nasty when steeped too long in hot water. Similar claims were made for cold-brewed coffee, that it is not bitter like hot-brewed, and has lower acidity. Claims on caffeine content varied all over the place, though, as I googled cold-brewed coffee. My dentist nags me about the acid in coffee etching my teeth, so this by itself made it worth a try.

Now, it's not so hot around here that I need iced coffee, so my plan was make some cold-brew, and then heat it in the microwave. I added 1 1/2 cups of coarse ground coffee to 6 cups of water, stirred, and left it in the fridge for about 24 hours. Then I filtered, first with a sieve, then with a metal coffee filter. Paper filters got clogged up too fast.

To look at, the coffee looked a little watery. Also, I guess because I am used to bitter coffee, it tasted kind of weak. So, in spite of recommendations to use a 1-1 dilution, I microwaved a full strength cup for a minute, and added my usual cream and sweetener. I would have to say that while I don't see much reason to change to cold-brewed from a flavor perspective (I'm not a coffee gourmet), I definitely got an enhanced caffeine kick this morning. This may be the first time I have felt a caffeine buzz in twenty years.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Science Gaps in Firefly

Over the last few weeks we have been catching up on Firefly and Serenity, the Joss Whedon "Sci-fi" series. Why the quotes? It's fine entertainment, good story telling, but on the second time through the movie, there are a few points that bother me more now than they did the first time around. Yes, they do the "no sound in space" thing right, but:
  1. This is really a "space western". It is a western seasoned with some sci-fi elements.
  2. The distance between planets is, literally, astronomical. How do they get from planet to planet so quickly? Not even mention of a device to traverse those distances.
  3. There is a scene where a region of space is described as "Reavers' Space". Are you going to tell me that there are enough Reavers to populate the whole space around a planet? That's a lot of cannibalistic psychotics to feed.
  4. And while we are on the topic of Reavers, operating space ships and running raids together sounds a bit beyond perpetually berserk killers. What keeps them from attacking each other?

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Proliferation of programming languages.

Maybe it's just me, but lately I'm feeling a little bewildered for our apparent need to keep inventing programming languages and frameworks. A short list, just consisting of my use, exposure, and/or interest: Machine Language, Assembly Language, Basic, Pascal, Lisp, C, Fortran, PERL, Python, TCL, C++, Java, Javascript, Spring, Ruby (on Rails), Smalltalk, Groovy, Grails, Trails, Erlang, Haskell, Scala, Clojure. Makes it challenging for someone with a short attention span to stick to one language long enough to get things. done.