Into the Outdoors with Dog and Camera

I’m beginning to wonder if I shouldn’t just give in and write a program to auto-generate and post complaints about not having enough time to get anything fun done for me, since I don’t seem to have enough time to do it myself. Unfortunately, I don’t have time to write such a program…

I did manage to at least get out to spend some time exploring wooded sections of The Big Room with my pathfinder dog last weekend though. I’ll have to map it out when I get a chance, but in the meantime I’ve been posting pictures to the piwigo page I set up on my server here.

Can anybody spare a life?

I could use a life, if anyone has a spare one lying around.

a lake inlet in the woodsI do try to get out and wander around in The Big Room once in a while on weekends, though even then I don’t do enough of it. One might occasionally see pictures uploaded via my twitter feed when I am out wandering. Also occasionally my flickr page.

I really need to get some time when I’m not so dang tired to work on things. I’ve got a lot of projects I’d like to work on. I’ll try to post something more this weekend, but now, once again, Sleep calls me.

Good night, y’all.

Blogspammers are persistent little boogers

Just an observation while I wait for my lunch – I’m getting several obviously-fake user registrations a day here now.  It makes no difference, since registering as a user doesn’t immediately allow mass un-moderated posting, but seeing the stream of notices from the blog IS slightly annoying.

Also, blogspot sucks.  Apparently a few years ago some dork made a “blogspot” theme that hotlinked (idiotically) a blank white graphic on my other webserver.  Why they didn’t just use a background colo I have no idea, but now there is a mass of blogspot blogs in Indonesia, Pakistan, Azerbaijan, etc now clogging my webserver’s log with requests for this now-non-existent file.

I need to find a massive site-choking graphic I can redirect them to until they knock it off.  Any suggestions?

Stir-Fried Stochasticity Ep 04 (“TuberculosisBurgers”) is up…

Oh, I forgot to mention here that Episode 4 is up at, where I’m trying out the “Powerpress” plugin for WordPress to see how it works out. Please give it a listen and let me know how it is.

I’m still plotting to expand out to three different podcasts/oggcasts or so, including of course the current Stir-Fried Stochasticity podcast (Science news direct from primary sources: scientific publications), an intermittent “Perceptive Peripatetic” series literally based on random things that I happen to run into as I wander around which happen to amuse, interest, or inspire me, and a “The Computer Is My Friend” free-fun-with-computer-nerd-stuff podcast. Upcoming episodes being considered for each include:

    Stir-Fried Stochasticity

  • Episode 5: This Episode Is Garbage (concerning Landfills)
  • Episode something-higher-than-5: “Two Mass Spectrometers, High Performance Liquid Chromatography, and a Female Donkey” (concerning exactly what it says…)
  • Episode also-something-higher-than-5: “Is there anything Beer cannot do?” (concerning some interesting beer-related publications I’ve collected)
  • Various other papers from various fields have also been collected for consideration. Suggestions are welcome.

    Perceptive Peripatetic

  • “The Firebreathing All-Devouring Skybeast of the Gulf” (inspired by a photo I took recently, if I can get it to turn out the way I want it.)

    “The Computer Is My Friend”

  • Episode 01: “Freetarded” podcasting (concerning practical, ethical, legal, and technical stuff I’ve run into and considered while trying to support this new podcasting hobby of mine – hopefully useful for anyone else interested in producing their own audio and/or video for the web and for public participation.)
  • Episode sometime-after-01: “Enterprise Linux Must Die” (Tentative plot: it’s actually “pro-Linux” but is a rant against “Enterprise” distributions, or at least one in particular, and some praise for “rolling releases”).
  • Episode also-sometime-after-01: “Freetarded” mobility (concerning Android, Meego/Maemo, and my quest to get as much functionality on my cellphone while remaining as “Legally Free” as possible. Might possibly include instructions for making an external microphone adapter for various cellphone models, and might also include some (optional) video content.
  • Episode yet-another-sometime-after-01: Where? (Concerning geolocation, geolocated digital photos, other geolocated media, “geotagging” in general, and some verbal chastisement for people who say they are “geotagging” but [in my opinion] are not.)

The schedule for all this is still unspecified (but far quicker than “another year” until the next episode, at least), and as usual is heavily influenced on what anybody who is willing to listen might be interested in. I may be doing this for fun rather than profit, but the fun will be greatly enhanced if I’m not just sitting here talking to myself. Feel free to post in the comments (anonymously if you prefer – just put a fake email address in the field that asks for it.)

A bad case of “Now What?”

My schedule means I have virtually no time to do anything but work (including the commute) during the week, and increasingly the two days of weekend that I have tend to have an overflowing list of “stuff I’ve been wanting to do – often for quite a while – but can’t possibly do much of in the time I have this weekend”

I’ve got a minimum of two different podcasts/oggcasts that I can be working on (Episode 4 of “Stir-Fried Stochasticity”, regarding Tuberculosis and “heat-fixing” [and ninjas], should be ready to post soon. I also have plans to do an intermittent computer-nerd podcast, perhaps also to be submitted for “Hacker Public Radio“.) I have a bit of relatively minor but useful hardware-hacking to do (make a cable allowing me to plug an external microphone into my Android phone for potentially recording podcast/oggcast material and other things). I have work to do on (which I plan to turn into the main podcast/oggcast distribution site). I have vague ideas of general creative endeavors that I could work on developing. I have a seemingly endless mass of domestic chores that could be attended to (it’s quite frightening to think of myself as “the neat one” in this house…).

It’s grotesquely hot outside as usual (why is it that no matter what part of the country I live in, the temperatures seem to spend most of their time 5-10°F above supposedly “normal” for the last decade or so? My hypothesis is that the universe dislikes me for some reason), so outdoor activities are currently lacking from my list.

I need one of those “life” things I keep hearing about. I’ve heard they’re kind of fun.

Any suggestions from anyone (anonymous or otherwise)?

P.S. Motorola corporation sucks. Thankfully it turns out HTC (unlike Motorola) actually knows what “geotagging” means…

Also P.S.: only one post and one off-blog comment letting me know the “Breakdancing Ghost of Narada Falls” post actually worked. Did anyone else listen to it (or try to and find they couldn’t)? If so, how did it sound? Thanks…

The Breakdancing Ghost of Narada Falls

Gather around the campfire, boys and girls and everyone else. It’s story time.

(This is both an attempt to entertain AND a technical test – I’d be most appreciative if any or all of you left me a comment letting me know how this works for you. I’ll put some technical information at the end of the post.)

This story concerns a certain location in Mount Ranier National Park… you hear this harrowing tale, if you can’t make it out to Mount Ranier National Park to verify the story for yourself, you can see a picture of the monument online. Click or scan the QRCode image to the right to see it after you’ve heard the story.

Feedback is welcome and encouraged. For those who are interested, here’s what this post is supposed to do, technically:

If you are viewing this post in a modern (HTML5-supporting) browser, the “native” audio player in your browser should appear above, allowing you to press “play” and listen to the story. All but one of the modern HTML5-supporting browsers support the high-quality (and legally free to use) “Ogg Vorbis” audio format and will play that version. If you are in the minority of HTML5-browser-using population (Safari), an MP3 version should play instead. (The problem with Safari is that Apple doesn’t include a Quicktime component for Ogg media formats out of the box. Personally, I would recommend going ahead and installing the Free Quicktime Components, which will enable Ogg media formats for Safari, iTunes, and all other Quicktime-using programs.)

If you are NOT using a modern, HTML5-supporting browser at all (or are perhaps using one I’ve never heard of that supports neither higher-quality Ogg Vorbis nor MP3) – mainly Microsoft’s “Internet Explorer” browsers and really old versions of Firefox or Opera that may still be in use – if you have Java installed, a Java-based Ogg Vorbis player should appear instead, allowing you to play the higher-quality audio anyway.

If your browser doesn’t support HTML5 AND doesn’t support Java, a link to an Adobe Flash-based MP3 player should appear. Click on that, and you SHOULD have a window pop up that will play the lower-quality MP3 version of the audio.

In short, nearly everyone should be able to play the audio if I’ve done all of this correctly. Please let me know.

Even Scanning Electron Microscope manufacturers have marketers…

I got an unsolicited email asking for help boosting search-engine rank. Me! Complete with the particular phrase they wanted linked and everything. Normally, I’d be inclined to sneer and make mocking comments about marketers…except in this case it’s actually for something completely relevant…and kind of nifty, so I’m going to do it…

A tiny Scanning Electron Microscope manufactured by ASPEX A company called ASPEX makes what they’re calling an “Affordable Desktop SEM”. Not having a gigantic corporate budget, government grants, or wealthy patron/matron backing me I’m having trouble thinking of ANY Scanning Electron Microscope (there’s that phrase and link…) as being “affordable”, but I’ve got to admit I want one now.

That’s not all, though – ASPEX (no, I don’t know why they capitalize the whole name) has a mind-blowingly cool offer going on right now as part of their promotional campaign. “Send Us Your Sample” – just like the name suggests, they’re soliciting samples to image and post. I know I’m planning to go for it. It’d be nice to have both old-school light-microscopy images AND Electron microscopy imagery of Fred (my sourdough culture in progress) to post.

I’m not sure what kind of magnification they can offer – The submission form is pretty simple but doesn’t say – but I’d be really interested to know if I’ve got any bacteriophages in my sourdough slowing down the lactic acid bacteria growth…

I would like to add that I’m getting no particular compensation for this post, but if anyone from ASPEX corporation wants to upgrade me to “paid shill”, I wouldn’t say “no” to an SEM of my own…

No? Dang.

Anyway, for anyone who hasn’t given up on my blog despite the slow updates lately, thanks. There will be more photos, along with other impending microbiological nerdity. And food – sadly, I have not managed to get time to actually make the first of the new pie that I’ve invented in time for Pi Day (“3.14″…March 14…”Pi day”. Insert joke about doing something at 1:59am and laugh track sound here…), but “pigsfly pie” will actually exist soon. Honestly.

“Stir-Fried Stochasticity” podcast: pilot episode

Cornelia the Happy Mutt with a tennis ballI’m still not sure I know why I have a desire to push recordings of my voice onto a more or less innocent worldwide population, but I do. And now I have a real theme to wrap an attempt at a podcast (or as I prefer – “oggcast”) around: scientific papers.

I finally got annoyed at press-release-based science stories one too many times, and thought to myself “why does almost nobody who does these stories at least cite the dang thing so I can go look it up and see what’s really in it, if they can’t be bothered to actually read and report on it themselves rather than just the press-release?” The story in question was the recent one about how babies understand dog-language (or something like that). Since I consider the dog to be a philosophical role-model, I wanted to read the actual paper and see if it was as silly as the headlines made it sound or (as I suspected) less flashy but more solid…but even “Science Daily” didn’t cite it.

Finally talking myself out of putting off doing audio recording, I tracked down the original paper, read it, and whipped out a rough show discussing what I found in the paper. I had fun doing it, so I’d like to turn it into a series.

I’ve put up a utilitarian page at with both a built-in <audio> tag interface and direct-download links for both Ogg Vorbis and MP3 versions.

I’m still deciding exactly how I’m going to decide on the papers to cover – should I pick obscure, forgotten ones that almost nobody else would ever read again without me stumbling on them and talking about them? Classic papers? Papers related to recent news stories like this one? All of the above? Depending on how long I end up trying to make the episodes, perhaps starting with some kind of scientific question and then reporting on a selection of papers I dig up to address the question, or just a selection of papers on the same subject? I’ve already gotten a request for an episode on the theme of prokaryotic extracellular polysaccharides…

The rate at which I can convince myself to try to crank these out (and improve their quality) is directly proportional to how much interest there might be out there in them, so please don’t hesitate to let me know if you think this might be interesting. Please don’t let me slack off! Also, feel free to correct me if I’m wrong about anything I mention in the show or the attached show notes.

If you don’t want to comment here, you can also email me at epicanis at

Thank you, and good night…

Firefox, Bacteria-snot, and job-hunting geologist

'Human Statue' striking a constipated looking pose on a toiletI have to say that suffering through periods of chronic blogstipation is seriously annoying.

There have been a number of things I’ve been wanting to post about, but I’ve been way too loaded down to have time to sit down and compose them. Therefore, lest anyone think I’ve abandoned, I’ll throw a few of them out here in shortened form.

First, a public service announcement: HTML 5 is not just about turning the internet into Television. I keep seeing articles about “HTML5” and they all seem to focus obsessively on the <video> tag. The same is largely true of articles about the recent Firefox 3.5 browser release, since arguably the biggest feature of the new version is HTML5 support. Although there are quite a few other new features, the main one I wanted to briefly remind everyone of is that there’s also an <audio> tag. I think audio is important, because it’s a lot simpler for people to generate audio for the web than to produce a video. Also, the “Vorbis” audio codec is a definite step up in quality from the de-facto “mp3” codec. The latest Opera, Google Chrome, and Firefox browsers all support the <audio> tag with “Ogg Vorbis” files. Apple’s Safari browser doesn’t by default, but that’s easily fixed. If you install the free QuickTime® component from Xiph, it teaches QuickTime about Ogg files, allowing you to watch and listen to the same HTML5 audio and video that everyone else (aside from Microsoft, as usual) can. It apparently also allows you to create Ogg files through QuickTime, so you can make your own content available for everyone else to watch and hear if you want to.

If you’ve seen some of my earlier map-and-pictures posts, you can probably guess that I’m also interested in the new geolocation feature. As far as I can tell, it’s currently natively implemented in the new Firefox, but will be showing up in Safari, Opera, and Chrome (at least) in the relatively near future. My only real complaint is that right now Firefox can only get the location through Google via your current IP address, and that isn’t at all accurate (when it works correctly, the precision is limited to “somewhere around this city” – when it doesn’t, where it thinks you are depends entirely on whose network your internet connection comes from.) It’s still baffling to me why they didn’t include a simple “manual entry” option for geolocation. Anyway, I’ve not had time to dig into this either, so enough said about that. For now.

And now a question of science and microbiology enthusiasts who may read this – I may soon, finally, be able to buy a microscope. Any recommendations on where to get one? The only “special” features that I really want (and can afford) would be a sufficiently bright light source and ability to swap in a darkfield condenser from time to time.

Penultimately, bacteria snot Xanthan Gum is hereby declared my Favorite Food Additive of the Month. It turned out to do exactly what I hoped it would do in the lemon-ginger ice cream I made a couple of weeks ago. I must play with this delightful edible substance more.

Finally, is anybody in California actually hiring geologists? As if marrying me wasn’t proof enough of insanity, my wife really wants to move back there. We can’t stay here forever in Southeast Texas on just my meager academic staff salary, as nice as the job itself is, and although for months she’s been firing off applications all over the country (and even a few beyond the borders) she’d really prefer to take her geophysics experience and PhD in Geology from UC Davis back to California. Although I’m personally a bit less enthusiastic about the idea, the possibility of getting into UC Davis’ Fermentation Science or Food Science graduate programs definitely has some appeal. Plus, I’d be able to listen to This Week In Science live while it’s being broadcast.