Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Excerpts from Thomas Carlyle's On Great Men (1840)

We have undertaken to discourse here for a little on Great Men, their manner of appearance in our world's business, how they have shaped themselves in our world's history, what ideas men formed of them, what work they did; -- on Heroes, namely, and on their reception and performance; what I call Hero-worship and the Heroic in human affairs. To evidently this is a large topic; deserving quite other treatment than we can expect to give it at present. A large topic; indeed an illimitable one; wide as Universal History itself. For, as I take it, Universal History, the history of what man has accomplished in this world, is at bottom the History of the Great Men who have worked here.

The Hero as Divinity, the Hero as Prophet, are productions of old ages; not to be repeated in the new. They presuppose a certain rudeness of conception, which progress of mere scientific knowledge puts an end to. There needs to be, as it were, a world vacant, or almost vacant of scientific forms, if men in their loving wonder are to fancy their fellow-man either a god or one speaking with the voice of a god. Divinity and Prophet are past. We are now to see our Hero in the less ambitious, but also less questionable, character of Poet; a character which does not pass. The Poet is a heroic figure belonging to all ages; whom all ages possess, when once he is produced, whom the newest age as the oldest may produce; -- and will produce always when Nature pleases. Let Nature send a hero-soul; in no age is it other than possible that he may be shaped into a Poet.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Open Source Penguin
[PDF] )(From free-penguin.org)

The free-penguin project page: This project provides 'executables' that enable you to make your own soft-toy Linux® penguin. To put it straight: You can find sewing patterns and a community to sew your own soft toy or stuffed Linux® Tux penguin here. To help Google finding this, once again: You can find sewing patterns and community to sew your own soft toy or stuffed Linux® Tux penguin here. All downloads come under GPL (GNU General Public License).


The starting point of this project was the question: "Why is it that on the one hand in the Linux® world all code of software is freely available and on the other hand the code to compile a soft toy penguin is still not open source?" This project will try to publish code that will enable people to sew soft toy penguins themselves provided they meet certain hardware requirements. [PDF]

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Accidental Suicide

Today, at approximately 4:31am, I "accidentally" killed Vista and was "forced" to reinstall Ubuntu. Windows failed to include a boot disk in their lovely package of coasters, so I'm "stuck" without it for now. While it seems strange, now that it's happening, for anyone to complain about not having Vista, my malaise stems from the fact that I didn't mean to wipe my hard drive; I didn't mean to free myself from the debacle that is Vista -- it was an accident. It was actually an accident. Somehow, despite knowing that nuking a drive takes at least two hours when you're trying to do it, despite the fact that I know how to use computers, I managed to destroy my primary operating system. This is due, I am ashamed to confess, to the fact that I have far more balls and far fewer brains when I am severely sleep-deprived. It was a tragic... accident. Note to self: when skating on the edge of creation and destruction thrills you more than usual, turn the machine off.

On the brighter side, I'm now forced, against all better judgment, to delve into the depths of Ubuntu, something I'm sorry to say I haven't done in almost half a month. There was something almost too satisfying, something too good to be true about Vista, it just... couldn't last. Too bad it's GONE! GONE HAHAHA YES GONE GONE HAHAHAHA. I'm here, again, my darling penguins. I've returned home.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Hardtack: A Hardcore Food

Hardtack, also known as pilot bread, ship's biscuit, seafaring wafers, dog biscuits, tooth dullers, sheet iron, or molar breakers, is a delicious food. It is a simple type of cracker, made out of only flour, water, and occasionally salt. It's dirt-cheap, lasts forever, and has an excellent history feeding soldiers and sailors during some of the worst voyages and military campaigns in history.

Because it is so hard and dry, properly stored and transported hardtack will survive rough handling and endure extremes of temperature. During the Civil War, 3"x3" hardtack was shipped out from Union and Confederate storehouses. Some of this hardtack had been stored from the Mexican-American War (1846-1848!). The insect infestation was so bad during storage of these provisions, soldiers had to drop the tack into their morning coffee, wait for the insects to float to the to top, and skim off the bugs to resume consumption. Yummy!

It was a staple of the diet of soldiers in World War I, as well as of gold-diggers heading West to try their luck in California (during the 1840's Gold Rush, as opposed to modern gold-diggers, who probably do not enjoy hardtack). Since hardtack has such a glowing history, I decided to make some to try it myself. Also, I am a poor student working in academia, and I'd like the comfort of some delicious sheet iron during the long nights at the lab.How is this stuff made? Voila! A recipe!


3 cups flour
1 cups water
~6 pinches of salt


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. That is, if you're not hardcore enough to use fire and a metal box.
2. Mix the flour, salt, and water until you have a dough.
3. Cut into biscuits; I used a cup to cut them into circles, but you can cut them into squares or anything you'd like. Place on a lightly floured/salted oven sheet.
3. Decorate! I poked cross-like designs into the dough with a fork to increase surface area and ease cooking, but you can do whatever you'd like.
4. Bake at 350 for an hour. Flip the crackers (optional, but recommended), and bake for another 2-4 hours at 250.
5. Some people recommend baking them up to four times at low temperatures (200-250 degrees), depending on the length of your conquest or journey.

I can personally assure you, they are delicious. And they last forever! Maybe not literally, but they were stored for decades and distributed to troops. Sailors would prepare them six months to a year ahead of a journey, and pack them away ready for use. Several museums display them; no preservatives were necessary. They resemble ceramic disks in texture and hardness. My cats do not recognize them as food. You can dunk them in coffee or soup, or eat them straight. They're super-tasty, plus they make you hardcore, and very, very awesome.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Airing of Grievances:

-Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative: What you don't know can hurt you.

-NIST's CNCI Challenge.
-This whole situation is upsetting. Ivins didn't have clearance at Fort Detrick to create the quality of weapons-grade anthrax he is accused of making. The claims of mental instability are a recent thing. Conveniently, he's dead now.
-The new border policy declares that agents don't need any reason to search, seize or copy travellers' laptop, PDA, or phones. No suspicion, no explanation. They can download all your data (everything on your hard drive, phone calls, contact numbers, schedule, etc) without letting you know or telling you why. The government spoke, and the Ninth U.S. Appeals Court has agreed.
-Chertoff gives the impression, in this interview, of being reasonable (or at least aware of his audience).

On a brighter note, here is a little poem written during the Dover trial by a very famous evolutionary biologist who has asked to keep it anonymous:

I think that I shall never see
A theory dumber than ID:
It says that God can make a tree,
A beaver or a honeybee-
That God can simply get a whim
To make the small E. coli swim.
He waves His hand through Heaven's air
And lo! Flagella everywhere!
But sometimes even God falls down
And makes a poor, pathetic clown:
Yes, poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make Behe.

And now I move to Canada.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

I am living... with four cats... four... one, two, three, four... four cats. Spock, Quentin, Raptor, and Calypso. They are not all mine. Calypso might be pregnant. They all sleep in my bed. I love them, but.... there are four of them. They meow incessantly. They scratch at my arms and face. They pounce on me in my sleep. One of them is sitting on my back. One of them is tearing through my closet. One of them is in a box. One of them is on my dresser. There are four cats... four cats... I am a dog person, living in a state of cataclysm. My sanity is wearing thin. Survival is a distant notion. May God have mercy on my soul...

Om nom nom.