What's next?

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The prepared text of a speech given at the Engineering Science Alumni Dinner, Friday 04 April 2008.

Good evening. I have been asked to speak briefly about my personal experience, and about student development and leadership in the Division of Engineering Science. This is an extraordinarily difficult assignment. Not only do I follow Prof. Cheng and others of intellect and stature, but you, my audience, are a variety of Engineering Science undergraduates and alumni. If the Registrar's office is correct, at least three quarters of you are smarter than me. So though I resolve to avoid truisms about the Division …

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Personal mission statement

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As part of the excellent course APS501 Leadership & Leading for Groups & Organizations, we were offered leading (ha) questions and guidelines for writing a personal mission statement. Before you scream "Flake!" you should know our professor did more or less the same in his mid-20s, and considered it instrumental in attaining his eventual position as president, CEO & chairman of DuPont Canada.

That's not easily dismissed.

Here's what I came up with:

To become a balanced, thoughtful & serene person, so that I may always approach life and people with care and respect, and through doing so become a model of goodwill for …

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Very large structures (2 of 2)

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Carrying on from the previous post

Though we can't simply dismiss Carl Sagan's universe-architects in Contact by saying 'a π is a π is a π,' it's still true that the task of creating a universe is inconceivable, given that we hardly understand what our universe is and how it came into being. Another inconceivable endeavour is the building of a Dyson sphere—a structure completely enclosing a star so as to capture all its radiation on the inner surface.

But of course as soon as 'inconceivable' is aired, someone's going to bring up that Princess Bride quote: "You keep …

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Very large structures (1 of 2)

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I was trolling (in the conventional sense) through Wikipedia today, reading about the Oort cloud, cosmology, and various superstructures and -voids in the Universe.

I also read about the shape of the Universe. For anyone without a math or science background, this is should be as baffling as I found it to be at first. More easily grasped is Gauss' Theorema Egregrium, which has to to do with curved surfaces, for example the surface of the Earth. The Theorema describes a characteristic of flat maps that anyone can observe: when displaying geographical features, flat maps distort shapes, distances, or both …

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Solving the wrong problem

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I missed Nuit Blanche last year, so I had a great time this Saturday and Sunday wandering around with some teammates from the Iron Dragons. I won't say more, but you can view some photos at Torontoist or on Kim's Flickr account. Also, I have to go back to Bau-Xi sometime for a less hurried look.

Around 1 AM we were passing through Yorkville and squeezed into the packed Bay & Cumberland Starbucks to get some java (Disclaimer: I'm still a Second Cup nut! A friend passed me a $20 Starbucks card he was given but didn't intend to use). I …

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Will Butler

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"Either way, it takes up too much space in your mind. It's not what you should be thinking about. "You should be thinking about how good the cup of coffee you're drinking tastes. Everything figures itself out from there. At least it has up to this point. And I assume it'll keep figuring itself out without too much bother." —Will Butler of Arcade Fire V. Wagner. "The Heat Begins To Rise." Toronto Star (Feb. 11, 2007), sec. C p. 4.

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On Rousseau

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I'm reading Jean-Jacques Rousseau's The Social Contract (Goodreads, Penguin, Wikipedia) and really enjoying it. Either translation from French to English is a perfected art nowadays, or the originally writing is good. Both is more likely both. Whatever the reason, the prose is very clean and many good points are made simply and strongly in every paragraph.

The book clarifies one's thoughts on the roles and authority of citizens and governments. Of particular usefulness is the distinction between the general will and the will of all. The former is the opinion of the whole civic body, whereas the latter is merely …

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All The Small Things

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Contrary to popular advice, I often sweat the small stuff. Today, cups.

Coffee shops generate litter. Ideally, we should each tote around a mug to whip out whenever we need a caffeine fix. I try and do this as much as possible, but the paper cup is unlikely to be obsoleted.

Paper cups are not terrible because they can be recycled or composted, unlike (in most locations) styrofoam. Second Cup (my favourite coffee chain) uses cups by Dover Cup in Brampton, Ontario. Tim Horton's and several other shops and use a cup branded Conference Cup, made by Dopaco. I wonder …

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Comments

Date Tags Drupal

After reading this, I've installed several Drupal modules:

Now anyone should be able to comment without logging in by answering a simple math question. If you have cookies enabled, your user information can be saved for future use. The system should be familiar to users of Blogger and similar sites.

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Writer's Block

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After another long hiatus—five months—I now have a list of topics on which I have concrete ideas, which might be enough to start regular writing. Writing six or seven items in quick succession will hopefully establish a habit.

Apropos the long delay, a discussion of writer's block, for the delay testifies to a lack of confidence in the value of my writing. I address the various aspects of this doubt in turn.

What authority can I claim? The cliché "the more I learn, the less I know" is painfully relevant. It has become habit, as I form an …

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Earth Challenge

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The Earth Challenge (Wikipedia) was announced, an occasion for some hand-waving math.

What if you simply planted trees? They act as a carbon sink, sequestering carbon dioxide as biomass. One statistic says that one million trees will sequester 0.9 teragrams over their 40 year lifetime. That is:

0.9 Tg = 9×10¹¹ g

9×10¹¹ g ÷ 106 trees ÷ 4×101 a = 2.25×10⁴ g·tree-1·a-1

That is, one tree will fix 22.5 kg of carbon dioxide in one year. The Earth Challenge requires removal of 1 billion tonnes (1015 g) annually …

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Global Warming

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Weather in Toronto has recently taken a cold turn. Given the recent release of the First Working Group / Fourth Assessment Report of the IPCC, the joke du jour has become "What's all this fuss about global warming?" This bothers me for two reasons.

First, I feel it's heedless to joke about what is, by general consensus of the scientific community, a serious problem. It betrays a simplistic, "out-of-sight out-of-mind" naïveté. By analogy (here I corroborate Godwin's Law), consider how foolish they felt in 1945 who said, in 1940, "Holocaust? What Holocaust?"

Secondly—humour me for a moment while I indulge …

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CDRDAO

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For the LazyWeb: After wasting over half an hour searching for a free, simple Windows utility to clone a CD for my mother, I gave up and used Ubuntu. With the disc in my recorder, I opened a terminal and typed:

cdrdao copy --device /dev/cdrw

CDRDAO prompted me to insert a new disk but otherwise ran unattended.

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Harper's and Werner Herzog

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I subscribe to Harper's Magazine, which comes monthly and is always a good read. Wikipedia describes it as

a monthly general-interest magazine covering literature, politics, culture, finance, and the arts from a progressive, moderate left perspective in a fashion often not found in the ordinary news-media. It is the second oldest continuously-published monthly magazine (the oldest magazine being Scientific American) in the United States…

In the December 2006 issue, there's an interesting piece on thousands of scavengers living on an enormous garbage dump in Manilla, the Philippines. The phrase "economic Darwinism" is used, and the whole thing strikes me as …

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The Tyranny of the Automobile

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Each month and year, I become a more rabid cheerleader for public transit. Where once I was simply delighted by the cheap, eco-friendly idea of having one person drive scores of others around, I'm now enraged by the attachment of the average Torontonian to his or her automobile. I'm even more incensed by quixotic city-dwellers who aspire to saving for and buying a car as a mark of adulthood. Such a waste of money!

I allow that using Mississauga Transit or its 905 equivalents is a horrendous experience. Even more horrendous is getting anywhere by bicycle—a tiring, if not …

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Tactile Trackball

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The ball is 3 cm in diameter, held either magnetically so all but a small polar area is exposed. In addition to rotating smoothly, the ball registers (but does not yield to) pressure; "clicking" is emulated by squeezing or pinching the ball with some combination of fingers. An LED blinks or a sound is played to indicate a click is registered.

An internal gyroscope allows smooth scrolling by flicking the ball in any direction. The gyroscope restricts the rotation of the ball to that axis until deactivated by another tactile signal.

With a suction cup or other attachment on the …

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Corporus Colossus

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William Gibson's fiction is full of unique, near-future predictions about how society and culture respond to technology. The recent LonleyGirl15/YouTube story, closely mirroring the plot of his 2003 novel Pattern Recognition, invites serious consideration of some of his other concepts.

A theme carried by both the dialogue and narrative of his novels is the comparison of large corporations with biological entities. Hapless families and individuals of incredible wealth are cocooned inside corporate apparatus that has accrued with their fortunes.

This is a compelling idea, and not necessarily a new one. Economists and financial analysts have long recognized that any …

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Getting the Ball Rolling

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I'd initially planned to delay publishing anything new until I'd imported all my old blog posts, updated the code behind my books page, got some work done for skule.ca, and so on. I'm starting to realize those are all long term processes that shouldn't stand in the way of another attempt to blog regularly.

Another feature I've always had in mind was a page for all the links with which Dave and others keep spamming me, or which I dig up myself. Yesterday I realized that it would make more sense to use a service like del.icio.us …

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New Website

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This is my new website. The old one is at khaerukama-o.geodave.net, but won't be updated anymore.

I also have a new e-mail address: mail@paul.kishimoto.name. Please update your address books.

Stay tuned for unbelievably exciting (vis not exciting) things.

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September 11

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This will be the first in a number of articles meant to express my opinion on common topics. Often I find I can’t explain my view concisely without feeling I’m cheating someone out of part of the story. Referrals to this page should obviate the need to make editorial decisions that deny people information - decisions I justifiably hate making.

Today’s topic: the attacks of 11 September 2001.

The September 11 attacks were not faked or perpetrated by individuals under the direction of the White House, George W. Bush or his staff, the CIA, the FBI or any …

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