My comment on an App for “The Dish”

My comment to Andrew Sullivan‘s The Dish about creating an iPhone App for the blog got published. My comment is the first quote encouraging a web-and-link friendly Responsive Design mobile web site, rather then a walled-in App.

Unlike most blogs, The Dish has no direct commenting system, but readers are encourage to email if they have something to say. If Andrew (and his team) think you have said something interesting, then it will be quoted in a follow-up post. Interestingly, all the comments are unattributed, so readers can speak freely and know that their comment will be judged on its weight of reasoning, and not on their name or position in the political pecking order.

Caturdays Past

Our old family cat, Indy, had to be euthanized last week. He was my familiar for the past year and a half — always present to help with my goal of total world control (being a persian, he was particularly keen on having the washing machine converted into a centrifuge).

The pictures above are from an attempt to take a Christmas letter portrait of Indy and me with a webcam. It took 41 tries to get a single picture where both Indy and I are looking at the camera — mouse over the small multiples to see the full set. What is the internet for, if not to post slightly embarising pet portraits?

Although his official name was “India’s Jasper,” I always preferred my father’s re-naming of “India Ink” — he was a flowing black cat, not a rock.

Indy’s cat sitter and his daughters left this nice note the last time they came to play with him.

Love Indey

He was a constant bother pleasure, as only a cat can be. Thanks for all the Caturdays, Indy!

14 Tesla Whirling Dervishes: Circular swimming in mice after exposure to a high magnetic field

Today* the latest collaboration of the Brothers Houpt has hit the scientific newstands! The boffins at the Houpt-Lab are proud to present:

Circular swimming in mice after exposure to a high magnetic field
by T.A. and C.E. Houpt

Paper and PDF can’t really show the effect directly, so here is a video of a mouse swimming immediately after exposure to the magnet. The output of Tracker is overlaid on the raw video to highlight the counter-clockwise looping. As the paper notes, the effect quickly wears off.

Tom did most of the work of designing, executing, analyzing, plotting and writing up of the experiment. On experiment days at FSU’s Magnet Lab, Tom’s mentor and long-time magneto-collaborator, Dr. Jim Smith, helped with the magnet rigging equipment. I helped with the camera setup and then wrote the Tracker program to extract data from the raw video. Lab Tech Breyda Ortega helped with mouse wrangling.

With this publication, I’m right on track for my goal of one scientific paper per decade!

*The publication date on the issue’s cover is today, June 16th, but it appears that P&B posts its issues a month ahead of time. You’d think that the scientific press would be above the crass ploys of the commercial magazine industry, but apparently not. If I can’t trust the date on the outside of a scientific journal, how can I trust the data inside?

An Offering to the Singularity: The Sheep Enterprise

Once the Singularity arrives and we have all been uploaded to androids, we will surely dream of electric sheep. But how will we take care of these virtual flocks? Luckily, “The Sheep Enterprise” from 1950 explains everything one needs to know about raising and maintaining sheep, electric or otherwise.

Cover of "The Sheep Enterprise"

The Sheep Enterprise: How to establish and maintain the farm flock
Circular 657 (revised version of Circular 534)
University of Illinois, College of Agriculture, Extension Service in Agriculture and Home Economics
By W. G. Kammlade and U. S. Garrigus
May, 1950

PDF with searchable text, 8 MB, 48 Pages, slightly chewed by mice.

Written in Glory – a daily history site of the Civil War’s 54th Mass. Regiment

My good friend Ken Bowen is launching a web project on new year’s day: a blog named “Written in Glory”  at “Written in Glory” is a historical reenactment/reproduction of the year 1863 using the letters and memoirs of the 54th Massachusetts Regiment of free black men that was created to fight in the American Civil War. Almost every day for the next year, letters from the officers and soldiers of the 54th will be posted on the same day of the year the letters were penned in 1863. Readers can subscribe and follow the story of the 54th’s first year in the real-time of 1863 (i.e. letters delivered by horse and steam, and news by telegraph.)

I’ve had a front-row seat to the construction of the site. Ken scanned, OCR-ed and proofed letters, memoirs, photographs and maps, as well as trawled the New York Times archive of 1863 for relevant articles. The site itself is built on WordPress with some unique customizations. For example, historic maps are listed for each post based on the current location of the 54th and any locations mentioned in the post. Serializing history like this is a great way to get a sense of the scale and difficulty of life and war in the 1800s.

Barack Obama, the first Generation X President?

In all the media coverage of Obama’s historic election, he is often described as Kennedyesque, and the leader of a new generation. However, the media never names the generation he leads: Generation X.

The exact definitions of Baby Boomer vs Generation X are pretty fuzzy, but Wikipedia defines Generation X as 1961-1981, so Obama birth in 1961 makes him one of the first Gen Xers.

For the last 16 years, the US has been led by Baby Boomer presidents – with obviously mixed results. A baby boom is a population bubble, and I can’t help feeling the currently bursting economic bubble is somehow tied to the rise and fall of the baby boom bubble.