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Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘computers

[PHOTO] A beautiful day in the park, under a tree with a good e-book

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A beautiful day in the park, under a tree with a good e-book

E-books are an interesting technology. The main problem, depending on the model you have, is how long it takes to charge the reader.

Written by Randy McDonald

May 18, 2015 at 3:33 pm

[BLOG] Some Wednesday links

  • Anthropology.net notes the discovery of some Neanderthal skeletons showing signs of having had the flesh carved off of them.
  • Centauri Dreams looks at the messages carried by the New Horizon probe.
  • Crooked Timber makes the case for the continued relevance of Bob Marley.
  • The Dragon’s Tales looks at recurrent streams on Mars carved by perchlorate-laced water.
  • A Fistful of Euros’ Edward Hugh argues that Spain is still digging out of the long crisis.
  • Joe. My. God. notes the story of a Louisiana trans man fired from his job for not detransitioning.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes that China is not really a revisionist power.
  • Justin Petrone looks at ways in which young Estonian children are demonstrating and developing a fear of Russia.
  • The Planetary Society Blog examines the failure of the Dragon rocket.
  • Towleroad notes that the Russian-language version of Siri is quite homophobic.
  • Understanding Society looks at the criticial realist social theory of Frédéric Vandenberghe.
  • Window on Eurasia looks at trends in violence in the North Caucasus and warns of Central Asian alienation from Russia.

[BLOG] Some Monday links

  • Anthropology.net notes the embarrassing discovery that one of the vertebrae believed to have been part of the skeleton of early hominid Lucy actually belonged to a baboon.
  • Antipope Charlie Stross comes up with another worrisome explanation for the Great Filter.
  • BlogTO visits the Toronto offices of photo community site 500px.
  • Centauri Dreams features a guest essay from Ashley Baldwin about near- and medium-term search strategies and technologies for exoplanets.
  • Crooked Timber examines problems with non-copyright strategies.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper noting oddities in the protoplanetary disk of AA Tauri.
  • The Dragon’s Tales considers how how to make enduring software.
  • Mathew Ingram notes that Rolling Stone encountered ruin with the story of Jackie by wanting it to be true.
  • Joe. My. God. notes a New York City artist who took pictures of people in adjacent condos won the privacy suit put against him.
  • Language Hat looks at foreign influence in the French language.
  • Language Log links to a study of Ronald Reagan’s speeches that finds evidence of his progression to Alzheimer’s during the presidency.
  • Languages of the World considers the geopolitics of a military strike against the Iranian nuclear program.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money argues that Jonah Lehrer was not treated unfairly.
  • Marginal Revolution approves of Larry Kramer’s new GLBT-themed history of the United States.
  • Justin Petrone at North contrasts Easter as celebrated in Estonian and Russian churches.
  • Savage Minds features an essay in support of the BDS movement aimed against Israel.
  • Spacing engages David Miller on the need of urbanites to have access to nature.
  • Torontoist notes the popularity of a bill against GLBT conversion therapy at Queen’s Park.
  • Towleroad observes the beginning of an opera about Grindr.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy takes issue with Gerry Trudeau’s criticism of cartoons which satirize Islam.
  • Window on Eurasia looks at a Tatar woman who kept Islam alive in Soviet Moscow, argues that the sheer size of Donbas means that Russia cannot support it, looks at the centrality of the Second World War in modern Russia, and suggests the weak Ukrainian state but strong civil society is the inverse of the Russian situation.

[LINK] “A Bold Plan to Plant 1 Billion Trees a Year With Drones”

Discover‘s Carl Engelking writes about an innovative use for drone technology.

An engineering firm in the United Kingdom wants to change the world 1 billion trees at a time, and they’re relying on drones to do it.

The team at BioCarbon Engineering has developed an experimental system that uses drones to plant thousands of trees per day in deforested areas. The aerial technique is cheaper and faster than planting trees manually, and makes it possible for conservationists to counteract voracious industrial appetites for trees. BioCarbon is so confident in its drone tree planters, the company expects to plant 1 billion trees every year.

There are a variety of tree-planting techniques, but the two most popular are planting by hand and dispersing dry seeds from the air. Planting by hand yields good results but is labor-intensive and time-consuming. Spreading dry seeds en masse results in low uptake rates. BioCarbon’s drone planting strategy strikes a balance between these two methods.

The technique consists of two stages: reconnaissance, then planting. First, drones fitted with mapping technology fly over a selected area to construct 3-D maps of farmland and plantations in need of trees. Then, planting drones are sent out to conduct high-volume, precision seeding.

The tree-planting drones follow a pre-planned path and use pressurized air to fire germinated seedpods into the ground at specified locations from a height of about 6 to 9 feet. The pods are encapsulated in a nutrient-rich hydrogel, which provides food for the young trees. After planting, the same mapping drones can revisit reforested areas to assess their progress.

Written by Randy McDonald

April 8, 2015 at 10:18 pm

[OBSCURA] One photo and some links on the cherry blossoms of Japan

The above photo by Reuters’ Thomas Peter fronted a CBC feature article that reminded me the cherry blossoms are blooming in Japan.

Japan International has a nice page up including a map featuring predictions for the first cherry blossoms in different cities. In Niigata, on the Sea of Japan shore of northern Honshu, the first cherry blossoms were predicted to bloom yesterday. Subtropical Okinawa saw its flowers bloom in January, while Sapporo with its Canadian-like climate will see its cherry blossoms at the end of the month.

PRI featured an article (<u<"The 99,000 cherry trees Japan planted to salve the sorrow of a tsunami") an article describing how one Japanese town hit by the 2011 community has embarked on a campaign to plant cherry trees as a sign of hope and healing.

Cherry blossom season has once again returned to Japan. While the arrival of the delicate pink flowers means social media is filling up with some incredibly beautiful photos, the bloom also represents a chance to reflect, hope, dream, and come to terms with loss.

In Iwaki, the project, called Iwaki Manbon Sakura (which roughly translates as “10,000 Cherry Tress of Iwaki”) represents just this.

Iwaki is a little more than 30 miles south of the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power complex. The community was stricken not only by the massive tsunami that struck Japan’s Pacific coast following a massive earthquake in March 2011, but also by the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima power plant, about 30 miles away.

As part of the Iwaki Manbon Sakura Project, to mark the fourth anniversary of the massive disaster, 99,000 cherry trees have been planted on a hill overlooking the city. Tadashige Shiga, whose company helps sponsor the project explains:

“The effects of the March 2011 disaster have left a pall of sadness here. So let’s do something to fix that! Every year the cherry trees blossom. So let’s give kids 20 years from now, 30 years from now something to look upon when they gaze up at the mountain slopes above Iwaki. Even if for some reason no one can live in Iwaki, we can still express the love we all feel for our city for all time, and we can do that by planting cherry trees.”

The idea is that cherry trees and their spring blossoms will be able to soothe some of the memories of terror and sadness caused by the 2011 tragedy.

There are many wonderful photos there, too.

PC World notes the many apps created to support cherry blossom visits.

uch is the country’s passion for cherry blossoms, known as “sakura,” that the state-run Japan Meteorological Agency once deployed a supercomputer that crunched temperature, elevation and other data to predict when and where they begin and peak. Articles still discuss the agency’s mathematical equations to predict the pink explosions.

The agency provided cherry blossom forecasts for over half a century, based on sample trees and historical records, but stopped in 2009 to focus on other services. Since then, companies have stepped in with forecasts of their own and now compete to produce the best smartphone apps for timing hanami.

One of the latest is a crowdsourced feature called Sakura Channel, part of the popular Weathernews Touch app for iOS and Android, which has been downloaded 13 million times. It provides forecasts, based on user reports, for when cherry blossoms will bloom at 700 famous viewing locations across Japan. Users can see hanami calendars and get alerts about when their favorite groves of cherry trees will burst into pink-white flowers.

They can also choose from preferences such as public parks, cherry-lined roads and spots known for nighttime revelry under the boughs. A “sakura simulator” shows a low-res view of pink petals gradually taking over cities such as Tokyo as users click through the calendar from late March through early April, the usual season for sakura.

The Telegraph warns that aging trees and the effects of climate change and pollution are threatening the future of Tokyo’s cherry blossoms.

Already threatened by rising temperatures and pollution in cities that have combined to reduce the number of flowers, the iconic cherry blossoms are also falling victim to time.

Planted in huge numbers in the decades after air raids devastated large parts of Tokyo and other cities, cherry trees usually live about 60 years before they fall prey to disease or they become too large for their roots.

A survey conducted in 2013 by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government showed that 44,000 cherry trees dot the city. But an increasing number are ailing and need to be cut down, meaning that entire groves of trees that add a dash of pink to the unrelenting grey of Japan’s cities may disappear.

“Cherry trees usually live about 60 years so the ones we have in Tokyo are getting too big, are contracting diseases and are shedding branches,” Kiroyuki Wada, a spokesman for the Japan Tree Doctors’ Association, told The Telegraph.

The Wall Street Journal has a video report on the growing number of tourists visiting Japan to see the blossoms.

Written by Randy McDonald

April 3, 2015 at 8:14 pm

[BRIEF NOTE] On the demise of Future Shop

I was going to go to the Future Shop location at Yonge and Dundas today to pick up my newly-repaired laptop. After I woke up this morning, I checked Facebook to discover that the entire chain had closed down. The Toronto Star‘s Francine Kopun has a nice article outlining the case for the chain’s closing-down.

The Future Shop banner in Canada was shut down for good this morning as U.S. based owner Best Buy Co. consolidates the stores under the Best Buy banner, eliminating 500 full-time and 1,000 part-time positions.

In all 131 Future Shop stores were closed Saturday — 66 of them permanently. Another 65 will be closed for a week, reopening under the Best Buy banner.

“Currently, 80 per cent of our customers are within a 15 minute drive to a store and this won’t change,” said Ron Wilson, President and COO of Best Buy Canada. “We will continue to have a strong store presence in all major markets in Canada.”

Best Buy spokesman Elliott Chun said Best Buy will invest upwards of $200 million over the next two years, “to provide an improved single-brand customer experience, both in-store and online.”

Chun pointed out that many Future Shop and Best Buy stores are located next to each other — sometimes across the same parking lot.

“Best Buy stores have larger formats, which allows us to invest in appliances and in-store experiences,” Chun added.

In the particular case of the Future Shop at Yonge and Dundas, there is a Best Buy location a couple hundred metres away in the Eaton Centre. I wasn’t very surprised, then, to see as I approached the Future Shop’s doors earlier this afternoon a sign noting that this particular location was going to be closed down permanently.

In the case of me and my laptop, I was assured in person by the manager who came out after I knocked on the door, and again on Twitter after I posted my account, that I should be able to pick up my laptop in a week’s time, once everything gets shifted over. I’ll hold them to that.

Why, I wonder, was it impossible for Best Buy to give advance warning that this might happen?

Written by Randy McDonald

March 28, 2015 at 8:20 pm

[BLOG] Some Friday links

  • blogTO notes an upcoming group photo of prominent Toronto musicians.
  • Centauri Dreams speculates about the sort of starship a Kardashev II civilization would build.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze has a couple of papers noting the interactions between hot Jupiters and their parent suns.
  • The Dragon’s Tales reports on Russian nuclear submarine advances.
  • Joe. My. God. notes that same-sex marriage in Slovenia is safe and observes the advance of civil unions in Italy.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes how revitalizing neighbourhoods can lead to complicated politics, politely put.
  • Marginal Revolution considers ways to improve the allocation of water in drought-hit areas like California.
  • The Numerati’s Stephen Baker wonders if Apple might be able to regain its lost customers.
  • Torontoist approves of a Haitian restaurant in a Scarborough strip mall.
  • Window on Eurasia notes the complexities of language policy in the former Soviet Union, looks at the institutionalization of Islam in the Crimea, and examines the issues of self-identifying Ukrainians in the Russian Far East.
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