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I often need to copy text from adobe pdfs and paste it into other programs (Word, Mozilla), and something that happens in Windows XP is that when pasting words containing ligatures* ("fi", "fl", and presumably other ligatures that are less common) an extra space gets added after the ligature in the pasted =document: eg, I copy "efficacy" and it becomes "effi cacy". Is there a way to turn this off so I don't have to waste time deleting these extra spaces?

*this is a new vocab word for me... just learned it when trying to google for this problem.
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Our nation's agriculture policy in a simple graphic:
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If you didn't already know, Othar has a Twitter account:

Also, almost 2 feet of snow in DC is great fun!!! Fortunately, I wasn't scheduled to fly out until tomorrow...
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I can't remember who among my livejournal friends recommended this... I was blaming firstfrost, but didn't find it in her archives, nor in the archives of the 2nd most likely candidate, arcanology... but I wanted to thank them. It was a neat book, which I really enjoyed over the last 2 weeks, mostly in metro rides and over breakfast until Tuesday when my life was my own again.

I found the premise really neat, and fairly original. I'm still not sure that I'd totally buy it if I looked too closely at it, but I thought the author did a good job in making it believable enough at first glance that I was easily able to suspend disbelief.

Anyway, thanks, oh livejournal friend of mine.
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Superfreakonomics is the sequel to Freakonomics. Chapter 5 is on climate change. You can google it to find out that dozens of people from Krugman to the Nature Climate Blog to Realclimate have weighed on in how wrong chapter 5 is. A quick summary: Levitt & Dubner are basically claiming that geoengineering by shooting sulfur into the stratosphere is the quick easy fix to global warming, so why aren't we doing that instead of trying the expensive option of reducing CO2 emissions? While there are quite a number of factual errors in their chapter, the counter is basically several-fold: 1) stratospheric sulfate cooling will not perfectly counter all the effects of CO2 warming. 2) stratospheric sulfates have other effects other than just cooling. 3) if we keep emitting CO2, then we'd have to keep increasing the sulfate injections... and if we then ever _stopped_ the sulfate injections, we'd get decades of warming happening in a year - it would be catastrophic. 4) CO2 has other effects than just warming: eg, ocean acidification.

Well, Levitt apparently finally got around to responding to this last point on an interview on the Diane Rehm show (and it is odd that he didn't address it in his chapter, given that one of his main sources for the geoengineering information was Ken Caldeira, an acidification expert), and stated:

"Of course, ocean acidification is an important issue. Now, there are ways to deal with ocean acidification, right, it's actually, that's actually, we know exactly how to un-acidifiy the oceans, is to pour a bunch of base into it, so, so if that turns out to be an incredibly big problem, then we can deal with that."

I don't know about anyone else, but... I would think that the average 3rd grader could figure out that this could be a problem. After all, we're basically injecting several gigatons (that's several billion metric tons, equal to, well, the weight of all the coal and oil and natural gas that we burn every year) of CO2 (and therefore, a weak acid) into the oceans. In order to neutralize that, we'd presumably need several gigatons of some kind of base. Now, aside from the difficulties of producing several gigatons of base and scattering it in the oceans, one might think that there could possibly be some side effects from this? Of course, I bet Levitt could find a solution to that too. Perhaps terraforming Mars and moving us all there?

I have two pieces of homework for Mr. Levitt:
1) Read classic children's songs:
2) Watch Futurama: "Thus solving the problem once and for all!"
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I believe that my address may have stopped forwarding as long as a month ago. Things that I now know that I missed (and some things that make more sense in hindsight)

Not getting an email from a listserve about an Ernie Moniz talk at AAAS (found out about it 2 hours beforehand, snuck in without RSVP'ing: this was the one that tipped me off, though I was thinking that maybe I had just overlooked the email because I've been busy)

Not getting a notice about overdue books (this happened before, as a library snafu, so I just chalked it up to that)

Not getting an auto-confirmation from Delta about a ticket acquired with frequent flyer miles: I manually had it email me the itinerary later, when I couldn't find the confirmation in my inbox (and now I know why I couldn't)

Not getting an email from an MIT colleague asking some questions about code I'd written. She's a facebook friend, so emailed me again when I posted about the snafu there. She'd assumed I had been on vacation or something.

Not getting an email from an MIT friend who was going to be in town this Sunday and wanted to get together (and just resent the mail after hearing from me about the email problems)

That's all I know about so far. I'm a little nervous that I may have missed something important (one of the journals that I have a paper in review at has my @alum address): also I don't like the fact that not only did I not get the email, but apparently in the two personal email cases I know about they didn't bounce back to the sender either. Fortunately, most people seem to directly email my address (or my EPA address, or my gmail address, or...)

NY Times!

Oct. 16th, 2009 11:50 am
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And no, I don't know why my name is linked to a friendster account that I haven't updated in ages... now I need to go sanitize that account, just in case.
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That explains why I haven't been getting as much email lately: for some reason, my MIT alum address stopped forwarding to my real MIT address. I've fixed it, but if you've emailed me in the past couple weeks, you may want to email me again... I hope I haven't missed anything crucial.

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I've gone to actual movie theatre thrice in the last month... which, I think might be more times I've gone than in the entire past year (Milk and Star Trek are all that come to mind). I'd recommend all 3 movies, though with different caveats:

No real spoilers, but cutting just in case )
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I'll be hanging out in Central Square tonight from about 5:30 on (with dinner happening somewhere nearby - Mary's, maybe? - at about 7:30). If anyone wants to meet up, just give me a call...
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I've always been a little dubious about the whole thing-athon idea, inasmuch as it seems like if you're going to give donations to stuff, why do it by sponsoring a friend in a thing-athon rather than just donating directly to the organization? And yet, I do sponsor friends anyway. So, now that I'm doing a thing-athon of my own, I figured I might as well ask for sponsors. *shrug*.

Click here to donate money to Greater DC Cares through my Servathon page


Mar. 8th, 2009 01:42 pm
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Ugh. I was in CVS today, trying to figure out what the difference was between two brands of Colgate (my suspicion being that they have a high-priced brand which is basically identical to the lower-priced brand, but that a certain percentage of customers will buy it because "more expensive must mean better, right?") and I noticed that the young, black guy next to me was taking an odd number of floss packages off the shelf, and didn't have a shopping basket with him. While my brain was slowly going through analysis and options (is he shoplifting? am I being unduly suspicious because of his skin color? what is the right thing to do - call the store management, ask him what he's doing?) he took the opportunity to grab some stuff, move close to the exit, and then run. A clerk ran after him, but he was long gone...

Anyway, I feel vaguely soiled by the whole experience. But, for future reference, should this happen again - what is the right course of action? Tanatoes, I know you have shoplifting problems at your store - do you have suggestions?

(in other life, things at the EPA keep heating up. It is exciting, but life-consuming - I had dinner at work the last two nights... I look forward to sharing what we're working on when it goes public in a couple of months)
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Some thoughts on 5 days in office )
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So, I recently read the Inkheart trilogy, and was curious about the upcoming move. A Salon review

tipped me off to the fact that the scriptwriter is David Lindsay-Abaire, known for various odd theatrical plays, one Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and the script for the musical versions of Shrek and High Fidelity, but perhaps best known in my circles as the director of my 8th grade production of Harvey (starring me as Dr. Chumley and arcanology as the telephone, among others) (he has appeared in this livejournal several times now).

Alas, the review is only so-so about the movie itself.
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We had a fairly uncrowded inauguration, past the WWII Memorial, but got to mingle with the crowds on the way back. There was a great couple, an older black man and an middle-aged white woman dancing away near the Memorial which summed up the general mood of everyone. I enjoyed the speech, including the references to climate change, and of course the music by Perlman and Yo-Yo Ma etc., but what I'm really looking forward to is going to work tomorrow morning and being greeted with new pictures of Obama and Biden above the security desk!
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I was trying to remember how my social circle got started with telephone pictionary.

My hazy, reconstructed timeline starts with games of "traditional" pictionary in the ET living room, and one day arcanology deciding that the words we were drawing were too easy (eg, "tongue") and getting a dictionary with which to inflict upon us "abusive pictionary" words like "gratuitous" and "honor". This was perhaps sophomore year?

Sometime between then and going to Caltech I acquired telephone pictionary as an obsession, because I remember trying to spread it to my Caltech social group with limited success. On one return trip to Boston I think I remember bringing back telephone pictionary to the new undergrads, it having temporarily died out in the interim. But I have no recollection of whether we invented it (presumably an example of convergent evolution with other telephone pictionary inventors around the world and throughout history) or whether it was brought to us from the outside world (or whether it had been around ET before arcanology and I ever arrived). Does anyone know or remember?

(Wikipedia has a reference to a 1995 games books including the game:
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So, Becca and I went to a games party last night. The hostess suggested that we play telephone pictionary. I perked up a lot, and she said "funnily enough I learned about this game from MIT people. Maybe we have some connections!"

And it turned out she learned it from nonnihil and ukelele and crew through the "Death & Pineapples" email list.

Small world.

Also, "Chaos" can turn into "A butterfly saved Romeo & Juliet" and then back into "Chaos".
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