MathML Sucks

I’ve been try­ing all damn day to get any­thing (any­thing!) to ren­der in Mozil­la that I’ve writ­ten in MathML. Noth­ing.

I’ve been try­ing all damn day to get any­thing (any­thing!) to ren­der in Mozil­la that I’ve writ­ten in MathML. Noth­ing. Even if I copy their stu­pid exam­ple page, it does­n’t ren­der. WTF? Is is pos­si­ble that I’m actu­al­ly that lame of a writer? If I can’t fig­ure this out, how is this sup­posed to be read­i­ly adopt­ed by any­one?

And I read today that Microsoft is plan­ning on hav­ing all of their Office suite save to XML file types for the next release. Good luck! If this is the wave of the future, I’m going to revert to tables and .gif spac­er images. Suck a nut.

Mowing

When I was kid, I hat­ed to have mow lawns (but I liked the mon­ey). No one pays me to do it now, but I love yard work.

When I was kid, I hat­ed to have mow lawns (but I liked the mon­ey). No one pays me to do it now, but I love yard work. This after­noon, I walked straight through the house after arriv­ing home from work and to the shed to get the string trim­mer. I bought a gas-pow­ered string trim­mer a few weeks ago and I’ve been try­ing to mas­ter edg­ing with it. I did­n’t even both­er change clothes. I just start­ed edg­ing.

After get­ting the back yard done, I let the dogs back in (they were trau­ma­tized enough from 20 min­utes of buzzing sounds). I actu­al­ly changed into my mowing/painting clothes and came back out to fin­ish the front yard. I then pulled out the mow­er and got down to busi­ness. I began to think about when I was a teenag­er and I mowed lawns around the block and at the church for mon­ey. I used to lis­ten to thrash met­al (Anthrax, Tes­ta­ment, Pan­tera and Death Angel, how could I for­get DA!) real­ly loud­ly on my old Sony Walk­man. I still get flash­es of head­bang­ing when I’m out whip­ping my push mow­er around.

Now, I see mow­ing the lawn as a kind of relax­ing. The repet­i­tive­ness and pat­terns appeal to my OCD nature. There’s the sense of accom­plish­ment as I close in on the last lit­tle strip of tall grass. The feel­ing of tam­ing some­thing wild. It isn’t because I’m try­ing to impress the neigh­bors, because God knows, my lawn looks like shit (and I have the pho­tos to prove it). I sim­ply enjoy doing it for myself.

Also, Angela recent­ly point­ed out that dur­ing the warm months when I’m mow­ing the lawn reg­u­lar­ly, she thinks I’m slight­ly less of a lazy hus­band than dur­ing the rest of the year. That’s cool, too.

This evening, when I was all fin­ished, I just sat down on the deck bench and began to doze off to the smell of fresh­ly cut grass and gen­tly hum­ming thrash met­al tunes to myself…


Memorial Day Vacation

Mag­gie Pack­ing — It’s a long hike to TN, Mag­gie, but well worth the trip!

We (Angela, Mag­gie, Har­ry, and myself) had a great trip to Ten­nessee over the week­end. We drove down to Cookeville and Jamestown to vis­it with fam­i­ly and friends. I sup­pose that when you have so lit­tle time and a lot to accom­plish, you make the most out of only four days. Of course, we were absolute­ly exhaust­ed today, and I had to go back to work. There are a num­ber of pho­tos on Flickr of the trip, and many more on my hard dri­ve now. Thanks to Ange­la’s and my fam­i­ly and all our friends for all putting up with our crazy sched­ule and mak­ing time for us. It means so much to get to see every­one, even if we only got to spend a few hours.

Science And Religion

Excel­lent Sci­ence Fri­day show on sci­ence and reli­gion, via pod­cast.

If you’ve nev­er lis­tened to a Pod­cast, well let me make a rec­om­men­da­tion. Talk of the Nation’s Sci­ence Fri­day, on NPR, began releas­ing their shows in Pod­cast (mp3’s) a few weeks ago. I grew up watch­ing Ira Fla­tow on New­ton’s Apple, and I love get­ting to lis­ten to the grown up ver­sion today. Well, last week’s show, was two hours devot­ed to dis­cussing Sci­ence and Reli­gion. I had a cou­ple of posts last week on Reli­gion (one of which was worth read­ing), so this seemed some­what time­ly for me.

The first hour was with three physi­cists (a Pres­by­ter­ian, a (hard­core) athe­ist, and a Hin­du) and a Roman Catholic the­olo­gian. This was the most respon­si­ble con­ver­sa­tion on the top­ic of the dual­i­ty of sci­ence and reli­gion that I have ever heard. After speak­ing to their indi­vid­ual back­grounds in per­son­al reli­gion, they dealt with the obvi­ous ques­tion: is the ques­tion actu­al­ly sci­ence ver­sus reli­gion, or do they co-exist? They all go on to dis­cuss the roles of reli­gion and sci­ence in per­son­al choic­es as well as soci­ety. One of the most enlight­en­ing dis­cus­sion is on the answer to ques­tions on “why?” I even found the indi­vid­u­als who called into the show as con­tribut­ing a great deal to the dis­cus­sion (which is so rare, even on a show I respect as much as Sci­ence Fri­day).

The sec­ond half of the show is ded­i­cat­ed to how reli­gion effects the ethics of sci­ence and to what extent it should play a role in the process. Judaism, Islam, and Chris­tian­i­ty are all rep­re­sent­ed. Fur­ther (and at least one of the guests speaks to this), the dis­cus­sion is put forth in the frame­work of want­i­ng to dis­cov­er and under­stand. The argu­ments that sci­ence is some­how inher­ent­ly evil are all kept very much to a min­i­mum here, which is refresh­ing. It’s a shame to see that some­how cov­er­age of that atti­tude is rep­re­sen­ta­tive of being fair and bal­anced.

My favorite part, I think, came from not one of the sci­en­tists, but from the the­ol­o­gy pro­fes­sor, who described “lay­ered expla­na­tions”, in get­ting to the why. His sim­ple anal­o­gy is this: a pot of water boil­ing on the stove. Sci­ence explains the boil­ing as excit­ed mol­e­cules. How­ev­er, step­ping back, the water is boil­ing because one turned on the stove. From an even wider per­spec­tive, this is because the indi­vid­ual want­ed a cup of tea. This expla­na­tion reminds me of the (very won­der­ful) Pow­ers of Ten book, which also is all about per­spec­tive. The guest con­cludes that reli­gion and sci­ence are not at odds, as they do not work at the same lev­el. The why to which they speak are not the same, even for the same phe­nom­e­non. This won­der­ful­ly encap­su­lates a por­tion of my own world view. I would per­son­al­ly describe the two at per­fect right angles: over­lap­ping, but not oppos­ing.

This isn’t to say that I agree with all of the guests or callers, as I most cer­tain­ly don’t. How­ev­er, their dis­cus­sion is enlight­ened and refresh­ing in the age of cable TV shout­ing heads. If you want to see just how cool pod­cast­ing can be, and lis­ten to some great con­ver­sa­tion on some pro­found top­ics, take a cou­ple of hours in your car or at work and lis­ten.

Until iTunes 4.9 is avail­able, you should use iPod­der to grab your pod­cast feeds. Get iPod­der 4 here and find the Sci­ence Fri­day Pod­cast here. I also sub­scribe to Sci­Fi Wire, Engad­get, and Make Mag­a­zine pod­casts, if you’re inter­est­ed.

Sanity Prevails

No More Nukes! At least in the Sen­ate.

Yes­ter­day evening, I’m very hap­py to say, san­i­ty took back one of Amer­i­ca’s hal­lowed insti­tu­tions: the Sen­ate. A group of 14 Sen­a­tors, half of which came from either par­ty, came togeth­er and actu­al­ly gov­erned. Rather than pan­der to their “base” con­stituents, these men and women worked to pre­serve the func­tion­al­i­ty of the Sen­ate. (Sto­ry at NPR)

I’m not going to give any back-sto­ry on this. You can use Google News for that, if you wish. How­ev­er, I will just say this. No mat­ter how far to the left I may be (either from the cen­ter, or just where you may think the cen­ter is), I am hap­py to see the Cen­trists pre­vail. I know I get worked up from time-to-time about the Right, and come on like I want noth­ing but pro­gres­sive pol­i­tics from now until the sec­ond com­ing of Noam Chom­sky. How­ev­er, I tru­ly believe that it is through the cen­ter that our coun­try is the most sta­ble. I believe that was the inten­tion of the founders of this coun­try in writ­ing a flex­i­ble doc­u­ment that gives weight to delib­er­a­tion and dis­cus­sion. Nowhere in the world of pol­i­tics is that ide­al more evi­dent than in the U.S. Sen­ate (minus the past cou­ple of months).

Last­ly, and I was­n’t expect­ing to be say­ing (Edi­tor’s Note: You typ­ing this, Jason) this, but I am very proud of Vir­ginia Sen­a­tor John Warn­er ® for being one of the 14 lev­el head­ed indi­vid­u­als behind this com­pro­mise.

If Not Now, When?

I’ve decid­ed to knock off a few things on my life-to-do-list. Num­ber 1: run 26.2 miles.

This sort of ties in with yes­ter­day evening’s post. I’ve decid­ed to knock off a few things on my life-to-do-list. So, I’ve signed up to run the Rich­mond Marathon this Novem­ber. Angela is going to do it as well, so we can encour­age one anoth­er. I believe this has almost noth­ing to do about whether my body can han­dle the run­ning of 26.2 miles (although my left knee scares the shit out of me). It is going to be about com­mit­ting to doing some­thing that I’ve want­ed to do all my life. When I was a kid, I thought I would some­day want to run the Boston Marathon. Well, come to find out, they don’t let just any jok­er like me sign up for that (some­thing about qual­i­fy­ing). So, I’ll be okay just run­ning a marathon, rather than what many con­sid­er to be the marathon. None-the-less, if I were to just wait to do this until I was absolute­ly sure that I was capa­ble of tak­ing the time and effort to fin­ish, then I’d like­ly nev­er do it. I’m tak­ing a chance on myself, and this is some­thing I have real­ly want­ed to do for a long time, now.

I sup­pose Ange­la’s rea­sons are sim­i­lar, although it’s not real­ly been some­thing she’s talked about doing so much. I think she wants the chal­lenge as well. To do some­thing that most fam­i­ly and friends would think she’s not capa­ble of doing. Again, this isn’t about com­pet­ing with any­one, but our­selves. And that means one thing: run­ning (or walk­ing, for that mat­ter) across the fin­ish line.

Anoth­er thing is, Angela and I are both the kind of peo­ple who know peo­ple who have run marathons. How­ev­er, we both don’t want that to be our expe­ri­ence: to be the friend of the peo­ple who do things. That’s no real way to know life. We’re going to have to do things like this for our­selves. Have an expe­ri­ence, not just some sto­ries we’re heard.

For the record, I esti­mat­ed my fin­ish­ing time at 4 hours and 15 min­utes. Is that being opti­mistic? Prob­a­bly, but so isn’t the very idea of me fin­ish­ing a marathon?

Something More

I’ve had a web site now for the past 5 years, and I’ve been run­ning a blog for the past 5+ months. I keep telling myself that I’ll get around to post­ing some more mean­ing­ful things here, but I nev­er do… it’s become a per­fect metaphor for my life.

I’ve been inspired. It often comes from the small things in life as much as the large, ground shak­ing events. This comes from my friend, Sta­cie. I have many friends who have web-blogs, and most of us approach it from a geek stand­point. Sta­cie writes hers like a per­son, and I real­ly found myself enjoy­ing her posts more than most about web and tech stuff.

I’ve had a web site now for the past 5 years, and I’ve been run­ning a blog for the past 5+ months. I keep telling myself that I’ll get around to post­ing some more mean­ing­ful things here, but I nev­er do. I tell myself that I’ll even­tu­al­ly post the sorts of things that friends, fam­i­ly, and per­fect strangers alike can read and actu­al­ly get to know me. Maybe I’ll learn a lit­tle about myself in the process. Well, it’s become a per­fect metaphor for my life. I keep say­ing to myself that I’ll be that per­son as soon as I get through all the rest of this crap, nev­er real­iz­ing that real time is pass­ing right now. Peo­ple know me now, and just like a blog not worth read­ing, they’ll not have much rea­son to come back if I’m noth­ing more that a shal­low exis­tence. I don’t real­ly want this to be record of noth­ing­ness. I want it to be a means of com­mu­ni­ca­tion. That was my orig­i­nal goal for main­tain­ing a web site, and I should con­cen­trate on that more.

I don’t real­ly believe I’m that shal­low, I just let life go by. I’ve know­ing­ly done this for as long as I can remem­ber. I make great plans about the indi­vid­ual I want to be and how great it will feel, but nev­er actu­al­ly make effort to do those things. I say to myself, “when this real­ly counts, I’ll do it bet­ter and take it more seri­ous­ly.” As if this is all just some prac­tice run for when life real­ly gets going. I have this feel­ing that I should­n’t com­mit until I’m 100% ready. How­ev­er, being an engi­neer has ingrained in me that there is noth­ing that is 100%, espe­cial­ly not me.

Here’s where the blog (and hope­ful­ly my friends, fam­i­ly and per­fect strangers) come in. I need these thoughts out in the open, and then oth­ers can call me a flake when I don’t act on them. That’s fair, right? That way my lit­tle metaphor here, and my life, will hope­ful­ly stay on track. Will any­one be impressed? I doubt it, but I’ll be hap­py and ful­filled; after all, this is about me here, right? Back to my friend’s blog (all of my friends’ blogs for that mat­ter), it real­ly is won­der­ful to read what a day-in-the-life-of is like. How else can we know those things? Any­way, thanks Sta­cie and every­one else who reads here, posts here, writes their own blogs, etc. Keep­ing up with you all inspires me and is time well spent.

To be lit­er­al about a cliche, life is what you make it, not what you plan to make it when you both­er to get up of the couch.

“Star Wars Episode III — Revenge of the Sith”

For the man who’s great­est sin was Jar-Jar Binks, all has been for­giv­en.

Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

Anx­ious­ly wait­ing in line for the film, won­der­ing what to say to the 100 or so peo­ple behind me when Angela final­ly shows up after work. (Did­n’t mat­ter in the end, as she did­n’t get there until after I sat down.) I was clutch­ing my tick­ets with the kind of glee reserved for a 4 year old on his birth­day. Hell, it was my birth­day: the final Star Wars film was here and I was in the line to see it; the pin­na­cle of geek highs.

And I was­n’t let down.

The final Star Wars film is a sol­id piece of work. There aren’t real­ly any sur­pris­es here: you know where it begins and you know how it ends. The rest is 2–1/2 hours of intense light saber bat­tles and anguish (on the part of Anakin, not me). This final film has more of an artis­tic flair than pre­vi­ous films. Sure, the cheesy ser­i­al film scene change effects are still there and Lucas isn’t known for his abil­i­ty to bring out Oscar-wor­thy per­for­mances.

How­ev­er, there are some scenes that are much more moody or com­posed than any of the pre­vi­ous install­ments. Case in point (and I’m not spoil­ing any plot here): The scene where Anakin final­ly is put into “the mask.” The screen is filled with the pro­file of Vader’s mask as Anakin lies prone and motion­less. Dead silence in which you can hear the col­lec­tive mouths open­ing at the dra­ma. Here is a bril­liant­ly lit, motion­less scene of one of the great­est icons of the 20th cen­tu­ry. And then, in the silence you hear the famil­iar click­ing and breath­ing of Vader’s res­pi­ra­tor. For all the puns, humor­ous sketch­es, and par­o­dies made in the past 28 years, you can still feel the immense grav­i­ty of this scene. See­ing the mask is the line bind­ing back on itself to form a per­fect cir­cle. You know exact­ly where you are know.

There were a few things I had expect­ed to see that weren’t there. While the Mil­len­ni­um Fal­con can be seen briefly near the begin­ning of the film, it’s not real­ly involved in the sto­ry like I would have imag­ined (let along a men­tion of what the Kessel run is, for you fan-boys and girls). I expect­ed to see more of the for­ma­tion of the rebel alliance, as well. Last­ly, as cliché as it has become in my life­time, I real­ly want­ed to see more of Darth Vad­er in the black mask. Not in some sort of fan-boy desire to see more Sith lords, but because I felt almost as if it was my her­itage as a geek-child-of-the-sev­en­ties to see him. I’d wait­ed all my life to get here and I deserved all the time I want­ed to spend with him, sto­ry be damned.

Lucas does a fine job at fill­ing in that gap between two known points. He pro­vides us with a sense that this is the way it had to hap­pen; that Darth Vad­er is less of a über-vil­lain, and more of a sto­ry. Rather than using the Dis­ney-esque vil­lains-are-bad and heros-are-good mod­el, Lucas also allows each of the char­ac­ters to have moti­va­tions, doubts, and human involve­ment. Most impres­sive is Sen­a­tor Pal­pa­tine. You get a sense that while he is no doubt evil and cor­rupt, he real­ly forms a bond with Anakin. Sure, he only wants Anakin becuase he real­izes that the young Jedi is the strongest of them all and easy to manip­u­late, but he no less seems to look out for the boy.

There was no applause after the film. I did­n’t applaud, not because I did­n’t like the film or enjoy myself, but because I was gen­er­al­ly depressed. The sto­ry ends on a stun­ning­ly sober note and as the lights came back up, I real­ized that this was it. Applaud­ing would just be more nails being dri­ven into the cof­fin. There’s no point in my rec­om­mend­ing this film. If you know me and read this, you’ll go see it. Not because I told you to, but because it’s your her­itage as well. You’ve earned the right to see Darth Vad­er, too.

Lord of the Race

This week­end con­sists of Sym­phonies and Road Races.

Last night (Sat­ur­day), Angela and I went to see the Rich­mond Sym­pho­ny per­form the Lord of the Rings Sym­pho­ny. It’s not that I was­n’t amazed at Howard Shore’s score already, but I was com­plete­ly floored last night. Angela and I both decid­ed that this score ranks up as one of our favorites (indi­vid­u­al­ly, and col­lec­tive­ly). Fur­ther, with all due respect to John Williams, who is anoth­er favorite, this was all com­plete­ly orig­i­nal scor­ing. Williams often uses famous pieces for direct inspi­ra­tion in movie scores, which isn’t all that uncom­mon in film score com­po­si­tion as I under­stand it. Case in point: Carmi­na Burana is an obvi­ous influ­ence on the Darth Maul theme in Star Wars: Episode I. Of course, Williams has plen­ty of orig­i­nal com­po­si­tions to his cred­it (not the least of which, the main theme to Star Wars). How­ev­er, I think that Shore has raised the bar in how com­plex, both musi­cal­ly and emo­tion­al­ly, a film score can be. He weaves in tra­di­tion­al music, pop music, and sym­pho­ny hand­i­ly. All this, and it was very nice get­ting to see the home town sym­pho­ny play it at the Land­mark.

This morn­ing, I ran the Cary­town 10k. My goal: to run the race aver­ag­ing an 8 minute-mile. For those of you who don’t feel like doing the math, that would have been at sub-50 minute race. I had even been run­ning dur­ing lunch breaks the last cou­ple of weeks to make sure the heat would­n’t both­er me too much and that I could keep a good pace going. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, I can’t keep a steady pace for long enough. After run­ning a nice 7:50 pace for three miles, I dropped off sharply for most of the next mile-and-a-half. I end­ed up at 51:26, which is whole minute slow­er than my last 10k. What was the dif­fer­ence? I’d say it was the fact that last month, the larg­er race had wave starts, so I start­ed with a whole group of peo­ple to pace with. This race was a pack start, so I was just with what­ev­er group hap­pened to fall in about the mid­dle of the crowd. The les­son here is that I’m going to have to use the pace alarm on my Fore­run­ner if I hope to be able to train for a cer­tain pace. Then, I think I can break the 50 minute wall and reach my next run­ning goal. After that, I hope to work more on dis­tance than speed. After all, I’m not like­ly to ever win any of these (which is a stretch of the term “not like­ly”). How­ev­er, I can at least have some brag­ging rights for run­ning far­ther some day.