Archive for: September, 2007

Ukraine Travelogue, part 5: beautiful Kiev

Sep 28 2007 Published by under Travel

I'm going to wrap up my discussion of the Ukraine with a collection of pictures, some panoramas, from its capital and largest city, Kiev. Lots of big pictures below the fold... (Note: some of the pics have been 'squashed' to fit the frame.  You can right-click on the pic to view it in its original form!)

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Quantum computing creeps forward

Sep 27 2007 Published by under Science news

Researchers at Yale have apparently managed to take an important step forward in the development of quantum computers: they've gotten atoms to talk to each other coherently over a long distance.

What is 'quantum computing'? To understand this, we begin by mentioning a classic problem in mathematics: the traveling salesman problem. Suppose a salesman needs to visit N cities during a round-trip sales route. Assuming the costs of travel between all pairs of cities are known, what is the cheapest route possible which visits each city only once?

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Founding father follies

Sep 26 2007 Published by under [Politics]

While in Amsterdam, my girlfriend and I got into a political discussion with my post-doc advisor about the founding fathers of the United States. Basically, my advisor argued that the founding fathers (FFs) are treated essentially as religious figures, and given an unreasonable amount of deference in the U.S. political world.

The discussion started over the "Scooter" Libby pardon, and the question of why the President has the unconditional ability to pardon anyone he sees fit. My advisor argued that this power is simply a holdover from monarchical rule, while I suggested that the FFs intended this to be another 'check' in the system of checks and balances that makes the government run (of course, I also pointed out that it isn't working quite as intended). This led right into the question of why we care so much what the FFs think in the U.S.: evidently there's no other country in the world where a political figure's thoughts are treated as 'the ultimate truth'.

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Darn! No alien invasion... yet!

Sep 25 2007 Published by under Science news

I'm terribly disappointed.  Last week, a story out of Peru had all the hallmarks of a good alien invasion story -- a mysterious meteorite crashes near a small town in Peru, and local residents start to fall ill.  ('Personal Demon' tipped me to the story a few days back.)

Speculation ran rampant, but much of it went against the locals story - some arguments suggested that it was an underground gas explosion that caused the crater.

Well, the verdict is in: it was a meteorite, and its crash to Earth did result in people falling ill - though they fell ill not due to some space-borne illness, but due to arsenic deposits in the groundwater being released into the air.

Alas, I was hoping for some sort of ray-gun toting aliens to leap from the crater.  Scientists like me always get to be the heroes in stories like that...

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Ukraine Travelogue, part 4: Building to impress

Sep 23 2007 Published by under Travel

One thing that strikes you about traveling in Eastern Europe is that everything seems BIG. Buildings, monuments, and other things are not only built large, but somehow conspicuously large. For instance, here's a photograph of one of the government buildings in Kiev:

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Heroes returns! and driving shows into the ground

Sep 21 2007 Published by under Entertainment

Rejoice, one and all, for Heroes returns on Monday with its season premiere.

Truth be told, I'm only in the process now, on my trip to San Jose, of watching the DVDs of season one. Although many, many people whose opinions I respect told me it was a good show, I've assiduously avoided watching it until now (I caught an episode on the BBC while in Amsterdam, and got hooked). After I thought about it a bit, I realized that I'm afraid of getting hooked on yet another television show which promises intricately crafted plots, complex characters and real development of the story line, but fails to deliver after I've invested lots of emotion into it.

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Ukraine Travelogue, part 3: This one blew my mind (updated)

Sep 19 2007 Published by under Entertainment, Travel

So I was sitting in my Kiev hotel, watching local television, and I came across the following television show:

This is undoubtedly a Ukrainian/Russian television show. Does it look familiar at all?

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I know your secret, Belasco!!!

Sep 17 2007 Published by under Entertainment

I would be remiss if I didn't point out that today is the late Roddy McDowell's birthday.  This wonderful actor played his best role, in my mind, as a cowardly actor/vampire slayer in Fright Night.  Most people will probably remember him, however, for his role as an ape.

Looking over his massive filmography, however, I'm most intrigued that he played Chiun in a failed TV pilot of Remo Williams.  If you know who Chiun is, you'll agree he's perfect for the role.  If you don't, well, I'll come back to that story in another post...

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The Terror

Sep 17 2007 Published by under Horror

Well, I'm back home for a couple more hours, then I head off to another meeting in California for a few more days. In the meantime, I thought I'd quickly comment on one of the best horror novels I've read this year: Dan Simmons' The Terror.

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Ukraine Travelogue, part 2: People can surprise you

Sep 15 2007 Published by under Travel

So I forgot the cable which powers my battery charger. I’m wandering the Ukraine, I’m low on power, and there’s lots of stuff to take pictures of that I’ll likely never see again.

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