bunsen_h: (Default)
2017-06-11 10:36 pm

Doctor 5Ws

Someday in the Whoniverse, an evil alien invading force will threaten to disable humanity's defensive capabilities by making humans remember all of the invasions that they've bizarrely forgotten about.  When people are forced to notice things like the gaping hole in Big Ben, the weird monuments, the work camps, the missing family members, the damage to personal property, etc., humanity will be reduced to quivering catatonia.
bunsen_h: (Default)
2017-05-19 11:53 pm

"Go to bed!" script

I sometimes have trouble getting off my computer at night. Or, more to the point, staying off it.  There's always something I'll want to look up when I'm getting to bed.

I wrote a little program for my old machine that would fill its monitor with a full-screen window in obnoxious colours with a big message, telling me to go to bed. I made it as "stubborn" as I could, though there were still ways to minimize it. It was triggered as a scheduled task to go off every 10 minutes from 10 p.m. to 10:30, then every 5 minutes to midnight, then every 2 minutes until around 1 a.m.; every time it was triggered, it would stay up for a minute. The intention was to be annoying without making it completely impossible to look something up if it was really important.

It wasn't as effective as I'd have liked, because it was possible to make the nag go away -- too easy, really. And it didn't run under more recent versions of Windows.

So I've come up with a better version, which should run under any versions of Windows. It's a script using the AutoHotkey "language". One can change a variety of options: the message text, the colours, etc., as well as set whether it should be stubborn about keeping its windows in place.  The configurable options are at the top of the file.

Please feel free to try it, and let me know what you think. All you should need to do is install AutoHotkey, copy the following text into a file with the extension ".ahk", and run the script.

Here's the script... )

bunsen_h: (Default)
2017-05-13 12:57 pm

Stephen Colbert: Trump's letter to Comey, draft 23

Thursday night's "Late Show With Stephen Colbert" opened with the early drafts of Trump's letter to James Comey, informing him of his being fired. Several sites have quoted them, but I haven't found any that show draft 23, which was written in Russian. So, after a few minutes of tedious copy/pasting from a list of Russian letters, I have:
я прекращаю вас, потому что Владимир Путин сказал мне.
Or, per Google Translate, "I terminate you, because Vladimir Putin told me."
bunsen_h: (Default)
2017-05-10 12:57 am

Because I am not James Nicoll

The snake I was following yesterday turned out to be a gopher snake, not a rattlesnake, and anyway I did not try to pick it up.

We did see a rattlesnake today, though, and had to wait with our tour guide in the petrified wood forest until the snake could be collected for relocation.


My Nicoll number is 1.  That is, I have conversed with James Nicoll but am not Nicoll himself.

If you have conversed with me but not with Nicoll, your Nicoll number is 2.  And so on, as with the Erdős number.

If you are James Nicoll, your Nicoll number is 0.

If you are one of the James Nicolls who have perished in alternate universes, your Nicoll number is -1.
bunsen_h: (Default)
2017-04-13 11:24 pm

LJ: Exeunt ego

I'm not sure about the Latin. But I've joined the mass exodus from LJ. I've been get-around-to-it-one-of-these-days-ing about moving to Dreamwidth for quite a while; sometimes I need a kick in the pants.  LJ's new terms of service provided that kick.  I feel that if I want to quote Randy Rainbow in saying that P. and the Ritz "love dic... tatorships", that's valid political satire. Dreamwidth's automated migration tool should be copying all of my old LJ stuff to my new blog, bunsen_h.dreamwidth.org, sometime quite soon.

Meantime, here's a bit of lame chemist humour: (NbO)+[CH3(CH2)10CO2]-.

(Niobyl laurate.)

(Told you it was lame.)

bunsen_h: (Popperi)
2017-03-26 12:32 pm
Entry tags:

Speeding supermassive black hole

The CBC just reported the discovery of a supermassive black hole, of the kind that usually sits at the center of a galaxy, travelling at extremely high speed away from its galaxy.  It's believed to be the result of the merger of two galaxies, with their respective central black holes merging and being flung away.

My intuition explains this as being somewhat like the old children's game "Battling Tops".  In that game, players launch small spinning tops towards each other in a bowl-shaped "arena".  The tops are spinning in the same direction, so at the point of contact, the rims are moving in opposite directions.  The collision transfers some of the rotational momentum of the spins to the tops with respect to each other, slowing the spins and kicking the tops away from each other.  Eventually, the tops slide down the bowl again, and after a few collisions, at least one gets knocked over; the winning player is the one whose top is standing last.

With the black holes, getting flung away from each other after "contact" doesn't work so well.  So a massive pulse of gravitational wave energy gets flung in one direction, and the merged black hole heads in the opposite direction.

Or so my intuition says.  Dammit, I'm a doctor of chemistry, not a doctor of astrophysics.
bunsen_h: (Popperi)
2017-03-20 11:52 am

Musical political satire

Yesterday morning, CBC Radio's national Sunday-morning show played a piece by musical satirist and comedian Randy Rainbow: "Putin and the Ritz".  (Trump is orange.  And round and flaky.)  I went to his YouTube channel and found lots more, such as "Fact Checker, Fact Checker".  Lovely stuff.
bunsen_h: (Popperi)
2017-03-09 02:11 pm
Entry tags:

Dyes the cheez

Last night, I came home from work excessively drained, and looked on the pantry shelves for something easy to cook for dinner.  There were a few packages of KD, which I didn't remember having bought, but I decided that that would do nicely.  Comfort food.  I'd probably picked them up at some point when the grocery store was selling them at a ridiculously low price; it has happened from time to time.  For a few weeks last year, the equivalent Italpasta product was being sold at 16 or 19 cents a box.

And everything was fine until I opened up the packet of cheez sauce powder.  It was a kind of medium brown colour, instead of the expected bright orange; about the colour of an old apple core.  Okay, I thought, this might be because Kraft has switched to using natural food-colouring agents.  It'll probably brighten up when it's mixed into the pasta.

Except it didn't.  The "finished" potful of pasta was still brown.  It tasted a bit weird too.

Then I remembered where I'd acquired the package: Dad's pantry, when we were clearing out foodstuffs that he didn't need to take to the assisted-living place.  It might have been there... a while.

So I checked the best-before date on the box.  "98 AL 15".  Given the expected shelf life of KD, the package was probably more than 20 years old.

Now we know.  That fluorescent-orange cheezy substance does expire eventually, even in dry form, even inside its foil pouch inside the cardboard box, presumably stored under reasonably good temperature conditions.
bunsen_h: (Tuxbert)
2017-01-22 08:03 pm

Windows 10 or busted?

My employer may be loaning me a new(er) laptop soon, to enable me to do some work from home.  By default, it will probably have Windows 10 installed, though my work will really need to be done in a Linux environment.  Our usual way of handling that is to work in a virtual machine such as VirtualBox.

How hard should I be pushing to get our people to chuck out the Win'10 OS and install Linux directly on the machine?  Or to use some earlier version of Windows, such as 7 or 8 or 8.1?  We've got site licenses for at least some of those.

Originally, Win'10 had a host of "features" that many people considered utterly unacceptable.  Freely sharing network passwords with everyone in one's Outlook contact list; automatic and irrevocable installation of OS upgrades; snooping on user activity and uploading the results to μsoft.  Push advertising.  More.  Some of these have been pulled back, some haven't, but I'm under the impression that I still don't want a Win'10 machine on my home network if I can help it.  Have I got that right?

I suppose that one option would be to make the machine dual-bootable, and simply never boot up the Win'10 side.
bunsen_h: (Popperi)
2017-01-04 01:32 pm
Entry tags:

Poll: How much do you know about carbon monoxide?

I recently had a dispute with a colleague about carbon monoxide.  I generally avoid trying to "pull rank" based on my chemistry degrees, but I couldn't let his misinformation pass -- it's a real safety issue.  But it got me to wondering how much people know about the gas.  So, a poll:

[Poll #2060730][Poll #2060730]

It's okay to be 100% sure you don't know.  Knowing the limits of your knowledge is a very good thing.
bunsen_h: (Popperi)
2016-09-05 06:13 pm
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Conterpoint 2016 concert up on YouTube

I've just made my first (significant) uploads to YouTube: our concert at Conterpoint this past July. I'm medium-pleased with it; I was off-key a bit, a couple of times, but the audience reaction was good.

bunsen_h: (Popperi)
2016-08-18 08:20 pm
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I'm in CakeWrecks

One of my pictures made it into today's CakeWrecks.  It's the last one on that page, the "beach vomit" cake.

There were actually a couple of other cakes in the same "style" that looked even worse, but they disappeared before I could get back to the store with a camera.

bunsen_h: (Popperi)
2016-08-10 11:44 pm
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The Destruction of Big C

A somewhat weird British advert, worth watching.

bunsen_h: (Popperi)
2016-07-24 12:17 am
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Home cooking

It would not have occurred to me that one might create permanganate at home by dissolving steel wool in bleach.  Nevertheless: I've got that distinctive grape-juice colour that first-year chem students at Queen's used to ask me "is this a purple solution?" about.

I probably won't bother to try to save and purify it; it's likely to be much more fuss than it's worth, I don't need it, it's relatively chemically unstable and would probably decompose before I got to play with it.  My intended product is the rust, ferric oxide.  With which I will make ferric chloride, by dissolving it in hydrochloric acid.  With which I will make jelly.

I have also made some cupric (copper+2) chloride by dissolving fine copper wire in hydrochloric acid with hydrogen peroxide.  Combined with ascorbic acid extracted from vitamin C tablets, I'll be making copper nanoparticle jelly.  The two jellies combined can be used to copper-plate stainless steel so it can be soldered onto.

From there, I hope to be able to build a light-up propeller for my bike helmet.  I'm having some trouble sourcing some of the stainless steel bits, not to mention having to revise my designs as I discover that some items simply aren't available.  I've already gone through a fair bit of hassle getting some T-pins that were supposed to be stainless steel, only to discover (on prior testing, because I'm suspicious) that they were just ordinary nickel-plated regular steel and rusted rapidly when scratched.  (The seller tried to insist that their product was stainless and that I must have switched the pins.  Then that, well, yes, their stuff rusted, but it was still stainless, just really low-quality stainless.  "Of course if you scratch off the protective layer it rusts!")

bunsen_h: (Popperi)
2016-05-31 11:49 am
Entry tags:

Meeting the Buddha

"If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him." Because that guy is not built for walking.  Gasp, wheeze, "Please... kill me now."
bunsen_h: (Popperi)
2016-03-24 11:43 pm
Entry tags:

Murphion conservation

Part of quantum murphydynamics, we have conservation of murphions:

  1. If a thing is fixed, another thing will break.

  2. If a problem is prevented, another failure will become possible.

bunsen_h: (Tuxbert)
2016-02-26 08:58 pm
Entry tags:

No boom today

Trying to trace a fault in the stove which causes the right-hand warning light to be lit even when neither burner is on, traipsing up and down the basement steps to toggle the circuit breaker off and on in between rounds of disconnecting and reconnecting wires from contacts.  It is disconcerting to discover that one has missed a cycle of traipsing, and has been turning the power on, rather than off, before working on the device.

"Disconcerting" because I discovered it by eventually noticing that the breakers were matching the wrong set of neighbors -- the breakers for the former electric water heater, rather than the ones for the current clothes dryer -- at the wrong time.  Could have been worse.  I have felt 240VAC just once, and that was enough, thank you.
bunsen_h: (Popperi)
2015-12-27 06:16 pm
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POD sleaze

A different version of print-on-demand publication sleaze: Ronald Cohn and Jesse Russel are listed as authors of more than 200,000 books in the Amazon and Indigo catalogues.  What these "books" actually consist of is print-on-demand trade paperbacks of Wikipedia articles.  You order a book, they print off the W'pedia article and bind it, and it only costs around C$25.  But many of the catalogue entries don't include things like the number of pages, which in most cases will be very small, and none of them actually say in the listing that they're derived from W'pedia.  If you look at one of the covers, carefully, you can see an emblem which reads: "High Quality Content by WIKIPEDIA articles!"  The covers are auto-generated from the article titles, and even that process is sloppy -- they don't "sanitize" the text for HTML, so you get burps like the cover of Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time, missing the ampersand.

This is probably all legal, per Wikipedia's terms of use.  Wikipedia even makes it easy to generate a book from an article; they've got a system set up to do the printing, binding, and shipping... at a much lower cost than what these bozos are charging.  But it's grossly unfair to the buyer to sell such "books" to people without making it clear what they're getting.

Most print-on-demand books cannot be returned after purchase.  In most cases, that's a fair limitation.  When the product is as misleading as this... well, I don't know if the no-returns policy applies to these books, but I'd be surprised if it didn't.
bunsen_h: (Popperi)
2015-12-24 01:10 pm
Entry tags:

The mythology of climate change

I'm dreaming of a white Christmas
Like in my great-grandfather's days
Through blizzards howlin',
To school they crawled, twen-
Ty miles, uphill both the ways...
bunsen_h: (Popperi)
2015-12-15 06:40 pm


"When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth."  This is true as far as it goes.  But there are always an infinitude of remaining possibilities, of varying degrees of improbability.  You can't begin to think of most of them.  And you definitely shouldn't assume that the first one that comes to your mind must be the one correct one.

We are very tired of doctors who, having failed to find a probable cause of a symptom by anything they can test for, jump to some conclusion about something that wouldn't show up on any test they can think of... and insist that that MUST be THE answer.