December 2004 Archives

I’ve spent the last week (give or take) trying to chase down some pesky problems with my main workstation. Along the way, I’ve purchased a new motherboard (didn’t fix the problem), some new IDE cables (ohh, shiny!), a new hard drive (seemed to help), and a new IDE card (didn’t hurt, but didn’t solve the problem). I’m now entertaining the theory that something is wrong with the power supply (or maybe just some of the power leads), since at one point last night one of the four-pin power connectors shat out a spark at me. It’s been an intensely annoying experience, because multiple times now I’ve thought I’ve solved the problem, and I’ve gone ahead and cable-tied everything back down nicely — and then the damn thing craps all over itself again, and I’ve got to pull everything out of the case and start over.

At the moment, it seems like I’ve got everything stabilized, and I’ve shuffled around a whole bunch of files so that the file server machine is now actually hosting the important files that it should be servering (MP3s and pictures, mainly). I’m thinking about declaring victory and just stopping where I am. The downside to doing that is that I’ll be tossing a pair of perfectly good 40GB hard drives into the closet. Of course, the upside to that is that the pile of parts I bought while chasing down the problem is about 40% of the way to being another computer…

If anybody out there has a Hugster account and wants to add me to one of their goals so that I can jump the queue waiting to get added to the system, I’ll give you a beer or help debug your Perl or babysit your cat or whatever. Thanks.

A little birdie tells me that Google is going to announce something very, very interesting tomorrow, in conjunction with some major educational institutions and perhaps even a certain grey lady. It’s cool what happens when you mix “don’t be evil” with a boatload of cash: fascinating possibilities open up.

Update: More, via Boing Boing — but remember where you saw it first…

Update #2: Now the NYT has the story

This week’s Economist reports on a study by Faurie and Raymond — to appear in the Proceedings of the Royal Society; PDF pre-print available from Faurie’s web site — that looks at why left-handedness persists in human populations. The authors hypothesize that in violent conflicts between left- and right-handers, that left-handers enjoy a competitive advantage, since their opponent won’t be used to their style. This is, of course, not a new hypothesis — it’s an obvious extension of the empirically-observed advantage lefties have in sports such as baseball, fencing, and boxing. What’s new here is that the authors took the next step: they hypothesized further that if this was the reason why left-handedness was maintained in human populations, then the frequency of left-handed individuals should correlate with the amount of violence in a population. The authors had to constrain their data to “traditional societies”, because firearms remove handedness from the equation, but when they looked at the data, they did find a strong positive correlation between murder rate and proportion of left-handers in the population. Almost 23% of the famously violent Yanamamo are left-handed, for example, compared to only 3.4% in a pacifistic group in Burkina Faso.

I am, of course, left-handed, and that’s why I found this article interesting. But the thing that tickled me enough to post about it is the penultimate sentence of the Economist article:

While there is no suggestion that left-handed people are more violent than the right-handed, it looks as though they more successfully violent.

Anyone wondering about holiday gifts for me: a tee shirt reading “left-handed, therefore more successfully violent” will be accepted with profuse thanks.

(The original Economist article is online, although you’ll have to be a subscriber to see it.)

This is the coolest thing I’ve seen all week: Google with auto-completion. To quote the co-worker that forwarded this along (hey George), “Woah.”