Change I Can Count On

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On my first day of University five years ago, whilst shopping for dorm supplies, I bought this large beer-and-hockey themed piggy bank. Since then, I have deposited any coins smaller than a quarter (ie pennies, nickels and dimes). Today, just 2 weeks shy of moving to the US to start grad school, was time to finally cash in.

2L bottle provided for size-comparison.

Before counting, I wanted to see if I could reasonably estimate how much money there would be. I considered doing a “random sample” approach, counting the value of a small portion and scaling up to the full weight. However, unfortunately the only means at my disposal to weigh the samples was a bathroom scale inteded for weighing people in 0.1kg increments, so I didn’t think this would be accurate enough. Instead I weighed the entire piggy-bank (which came out to an impressive 4.2kg) and made some simple estimations of what the relative proportions of the coins would be as so:

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Milky Way Nights

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I just got back from the University of Calgary’s fantastic Rothney Astrophysical Observatory.  Since there is a new moon in Calgary, we have had late night open houses yesterday, today, and one tomorrow from 10PM until 2AM.  Since I am exhausted, let me show you the awesome picture of the beautiful tendrils of cool dust in the Eagle Nebula we were able to capture using the 16″ Clark-Milone Telescope:

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Messier 16, the Eagle Nebula

Are Password Lockers Safe?

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Well, I was hoping to make a more interesting post today, but seem to have lost the route through my cluttered mind to get to the synapses that store my github private key passphrase.  So, in an attempt to keep up the quantity if not the quality of my blogging, let me turn to this dire state of mnemonic affairs.  I can’t remember my passwords very well anymore.  I’ve always been leery of password storage utilities, but I think I need to rethink them.  I keep my machines with full disk encryption, and commit those passwords well into my memory, so I should be somewhat secure, right?  Talk me in to this, dear readers, or tell me the path of folly I am embarking upon.

Backup Your Google Life: gback

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You should all be watching Steins;Gate There was a rant that bounced up and down the tubes of the internet this week, talking about how one poor fellow migrated all of his important data into google services, only to have google pull the digital rug out from under him by deleting his account after it was algorithmically flagged.  This sucks, but one thing I have always been pestered about is the importance of regular backups.  Just because google is “the cloud” doesn’t mean your data is in a deadly limbo state of potential destruction if you don’t back it up.  The problem is, backing up a machine you control is damn easy, while backing up your cloudified data is not. Continue reading

What The Hell Is Wrong With My Computer?

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So, after my machine ran out of battery power while suspended, I booted it up to be greeted with the most strange bug I’ve ever seen on a linux machine:  All my text was screwed up.  In every application, including GDM.  It disappeared after I ran an apt-get upgrade and rebooted.  Has anyone else ever seen this bug?  I’m running Ubuntu 10.04, for the record.  Screenshot after the jump.

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Battlestations!

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I’m a huge redditor, and one of my favourite little-known subreddits is r/battlestations.  It’s a nifty page where people show off their computer/desk areas and compare notes for cool monitor setups, epic workstations, and efficient office layouts.  Check it out if you want to kill some time and drool over other peoples offices. That was a short lame-o link post.  Sorry about that, I’ll be including vouchers for free nothing in the next post.

Morbid Statistics & The 27 Club

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Sorry about the late post, I was out far too late yesterday evening, and I missed the last train out of down town.  I had to bike for 2 hours to get home, ugh.   Anyways, as I’m sure many of you are aware, Amy Winehouse died today, at the age of 27.  There is a semi-common urban legend that for celebrities, and musicians in particular, 27 is something of a cursed age.  Jimmi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, Janis Joplin, and others all died at age 27.  I was intrigued by this idea.  It’s entirely possible that 27 is just the median age in a distribution of ages for celebrities dying from drugs and alcohol, and that this has been picked up on in the pop culture.  So, I figured I would do some back-of-the envelope type research to see if this idea is plausible. Continue reading

Sunk Cost Fallacy

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I consider myself to be a pretty rational person, and try to avoid the cognitive pitfalls that, as a human being, I am prone to falling into.  One logical fallacy that always seems to get me, no matter how much I try to banish that mode of thought, is the sunk cost fallacy.

This fallacy is the idea that you’ve already invested enough time/money/whatever into something, so to stop now would be a waste.  It has its root in a number of frailties, from loss aversion to simple pride. It is a fallacy though, because how much you have invested so far in a venture has no bearing on whether that venture is going to be a success or not.  If you wouldn’t have started it, it is wasteful to continue it, rather than the opposite.

Despite knowing full well the fallacious nature of it, whenever I am making a big decision, it always creeps into my head.  How about you, dear readers, what logical fallacy have you had the hardest time keeping out of your mind?

Solid Reasons Humbly Offer’d

Avast, a post! My first in over a year – Ben has been putting me to shame of late. I was in Dublin this past week visiting my Grandparents. I had a day in town to “see the sights”, but as I’ve been to Dublin several times I wasn’t interested in hitting the standard tourist attractions (Guinness Brewery, Book of Kells, Grafton St. etc) which I have already seen. I did a quick Google search for more obscure Dublin attractions, and happened upon Marsh’s Library, the first public library in Ireland, opened in 1701 by Archbishop Narcissus Marsh and “one of the very few 18th century buildings left in Dublin that is still being used for its original purpose”.

The library is quite a treasure – All of the original shelves and books are on display, dating back to the 18th century. Also on display are the wrought-iron cages in which scholars would be locked with certain valuable tomes. The whole thing reminded me of The Archives at The University of Imre. Most astonishing, the library is still a working library – the majority of the books are still available for perusal by scholars or interested members of the public.

In addition, they had two exhibitions (on The Bible, and on Medicine), with display cases showing books and passages relating to the subject. One piece in the Medical exhibition caught my eye in particular – a glorious Satyre entitled “Solid Reasons Humbly Offer’d to the Consideration of the Publick for Castrating Physicians, Quack-Doctors, &c.” published in 1725.  I have posted this below, with the kind permission of the Marsh’s Library Keepers. What is remarkable is how relevant this piece remains in our era of dishonest “Alternative Medicine” practitioners on the one hand, and iniquitous Medicine-for-Profit on the other (so long as you can look past the distasteful reference to violent colonialism in the first paragraph).

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