Category Archives: Science & Technology

A Touch of Lunacy

(No, this one isn’t about fencing.)

At 6:23 pm PT, the effects of the partial eclipse were clearly visible in the tree shadow on our driveway. (And the shadow looked blurry in person, too.)

My husband and I decided that this evening we’d make of  our occasional excursions for a meal at In’N’Out (not directly relevant for the story, but I just had to toss off the mention for those of you who suffer from In’N’Out envy), but we took some time before we left to take a look at the shadows in our driveway.

Took a bit of fiddling to get the right angle and reduce the jiggling.

We were off the main track of the eclipse, so all we got was a partial instead of the annular eclipse visible further east of us. But that was enough to entirely change the ambient light. Sunset tonight isn’t until 8:15, but at 6:15 this evening the light looked as though the sun was right at the horizon, about to set. Not quite as weird as the partial eclipse I saw back in 1970, when at mid-day in a cloudless sky, the light was comparable to a solidly overcast day, but definitely out of the ordinary.

Dave got out his binoculars (he’s a physics and astronomy guy, so he’s usually ready for science-y opportunities like this) and held them up so the sun could shine through them onto his shadow on the driveway. It took a couple of minutes to find the right angle and steady his grasp enough so that the sliver of sunlight was clearly visible:

Got it!

Then when we got to the In’N’Out, the tree shadows in their parking lot were even better:

Tree shadows in the parking lot at 6:35 pm.

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Filed under Just Because, Learning, Science & Technology

Insanely Great

I’ve been thinking about that phrase this morning. It’s a goofy phrase, easy to dismiss as typical Jobs hyperbole.

I’ve decided it’s quite a precise phrase, though. At Apple, at NeXT, at Pixar, Steve Jobs was by most accounts incredibly difficult to work for, but in a way that made people want to make products that met what were, compared to those of typical corporate leaders, insanely perfectionist standards.

That drive to achieve his vision, to drive everyone to make whatever it was better, to make it better than they could even imagine, resulted in some insanely great products—”cartoons” that are great films, phones and computers that remain pleasures to use long after their novelty wears off (if it ever does).

One could wish, hoping for a better world, that exacting drive on more executives in all fields, except that in those without a focused and inspiring vision like that of Steve Jobs, we wouldn’t get insanely great—we’d just end up with a bunch of megalomaniac martinets who were merely insane.

“Insanely great” is not an easy standard to pull off, and Steve Jobs did it routinely.

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Filed under Just Because, Science & Technology

Far more than 1,000 words

Unspeakable

More than any other I’ve seen from the Gulf, this photo from the Guardian captures for me the magnitude of the disaster BP has wrought. It’s not just the random oil-soaked pelicans or the dead crabs on the beaches or the tar balls clumping in the marshes. This stuff permeates vast expanses of water. We’ve not even begun to grasp the ultimate consequences.

(Click here to see the full-size photo.)

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Filed under Miscellaneous ranting, Science & Technology

OK, maybe just one more cool app before I get back to work

When my iPad came, my friend Dianna said, “And we’ll never hear from her again.” (She has one, too, so she knows.)

I keep meaning not to check the App Store or Engadget or TUAW to see if there are any more nifty apps I should add, but somehow I always manage to ignore the plaintive call of my current book draft. Somehow there is always another app I absolutely, positively must have—and then, of course, I have to play around with it for a while, just to rationalize having downloaded it.

My app mania does seem to be subsiding, though. I think I’ve got pretty much all I need (for the time being, at least). Weirdly, part of what’s letting me get back into my normal routine is the last app I bought: Instapaper Pro.

Why didn't I ever find Instapaper before?

I can’t believe I never got around to checking out Instapaper before I got the iPad. You see, I’ve always been a fan of good nonfiction writing, but more and more recently, I’ve found that I just don’t read long articles on the web through to the end. Maybe, I thought, it was my deteriorating vision or even that shortening of the attention span that technology doomsayers lament.

It turns out, though, that I’m just irritated by the time it takes to stop and load the next page of a multipage article. (I have the same problem with eInk devices like the Kindle—the time it takes for each page to load is just long enough to be distracting.) Instapaper does away with all that—when I find a long article I want to read later, all I have to do is click on the “Read Later” bookmarklet in my browser’s bookmark bar, and Instapaper concatenates all the pages into one long file and saves it to my Instapaper app. (It also saves it to my account at the Instapaper website, so it’s not iPad dependent at all.) It’s been lovely rediscovering how much I enjoy reading long-form articles free of all that web-distraction.

And that focused feeling I get reading in Instapaper actually puts me in the mood to get seriously down to work. How can I argue with that?

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Filed under Reading, Science & Technology