Big news today in the world of atomic physics: scientists believe they have proof that neutrinos have mass.

This may not seem like big news, but it shakes the Standard Model– the theories that describe all of atomic physics– to its core. I’m particularly interested because I’ve always been fascinated by the two extremes of physics: the very small (atomic physics) and the very large (astrophysics). This is a staggering change that will have profound implications for both.

There are those who say mankind has pretty much “discovered everything” and that studying things like subatomic interactions is a waste of time. To those people, I say THHHHPBT!

Zack was excited to get the mail today because there was a little remote-control key. Wrapped around it was a big red flyer advertising a sale at some local Ford dealership. Note the big text:


So apparently you go to the dealership this weekend and walk around the lot pressing your key, hoping it works. But wait, there’s some small print at the bottom of the flyer:

The winner’s name is registered with the promotion company; if your remote inadvertently unlocks the vehicle, no gift will be awarded.

Nice. You have to love fine print. In other words, if my remote unlocks the truck I might own it…

Seen on a Linux newsgroup to which I subscribe:

My experience with Linux so far has been like a man looking for a vehicle.  He finds a nice car, but it costs more than he has or is willing to pay for.  Then a good friend says, “I’ve got a free vehicle you can have.”  So the man goes and finds this free vehicle is a bulldozer (very powerful and big) that is in pieces. His friend says, “It’s yours for free– all you need to do is put it together.”

Sad but true. Linux is amazing, does everything I need, I love using it, and I love the principle of it. But it can be a bulldozer.

“I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.”

— Galileo Galilei

“Sure there are dishonest men in local government. But there are dishonest men in national government too.”

— Richard Nixon

A tortoise named Addwaitya (Bengali for “the one and only”) died today in a zoo in Kolkata, India.

What makes this news is the fact that the tortoise was estimated to be more than 250 years old. Imagine– he predated the Civil War, even the Revolutionary War. He was crawling around India when George Washington was chopping down cherry trees.

That sort of puts things into perspective: a human lifespan is but a flash in the pan on the cosmic scale, and even in the eyes of a common tortoise. Do what you can, when you can, and remember you only have a certain amount of time…

Yay! The government just raised the national debt limit to $8.965 trillion!

That means they can borrow another $781 billion to fund things like the Iraq war and all the other pork and idiotic programs floating around these days… all without raising taxes! Isn’t government spending great?

It’s worth noting that today’s debt limit increase is the fourth of Bush’s presidency– during his two terms the debt has climbed over three trillion dollars. Pretty soon we’ll be talking about some real money…

Alex writes a book report every week on something he’s read. He can choose the book (as long as it’s not too “easy”) and for last week’s report he selected Oliver Twist. Wow.

I remember reading it in early high school and hating it. It was long, boring, and depressing. I’ve never enjoyed Charles Dickens because all of his books seem to be that way. Well, all three of his books that I’ve read anyway.

I was surprised a nine-year-old would select that book, but he said he liked it. Next I suppose he’ll read another book I detest: Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. Funny kid.

For those who are counting, the net worth of all of Canada (people, businesses, and land) is roughly US$4.5 trillion. That’s about half of the debt of the United States.

In January, the Department of (in)Justice requested a million search queries from Google, MSN, Yahoo, and AOL. The latter three companies complied immediately, handing over their data without much question. Google, however, refused to do so. I applaud them for that move. The government, which these days seems to believe it is entitled to whatever private information it asks for, pressed its case and sued Google in an attempt to seize the information. Never mind that it is a clear violation of the Fourth Amendment.

Rather than write a lengthy analysis of the case, I’ll just fast forward to today, when a federal judge ruled in favor of the government. U.S. District Judge James Ware says that Google is required to hand over 50,000 web addresses and 10,000 search queries posted by users. Apparently he feels this is okay, because it’s “scaled down” and is more “reasonable” than the original list of one million. I guess the Fourth Amendment only applies to gross abuses of the search-and-seizure rules– smaller numbers are okay.

In his ruling, Judge Ware makes the astounding statement:

“The court gives the government the benefit of the doubt.”

That phrase should give anyone pause. Apparently a federal judge, when faced with a difficult decision, believes that in such a situation the government should be declared the winner simply because they are the government. If there’s anyone who I think should not be given the “benefit of the doubt”, it’s the government!

This is how liberty is eroded: one small thing at a time. It may not seem like a big deal that Google is being forced to hand over confidential company information at the behest of a government, but it is just one more example of how the groups running this country continue to shove aside the rights and freedoms they have sworn to protect in order to obtain short-term (and short-sighted) goals.

It will only end when there is nothing left to take.

Yesterday Zack went for his first drive.

Keep in mind that Zack is four years old. And yes, he actually drove Laralee’s car.

According to her story (corroborated by witnesses), Laralee had pulled up to a friend’s house where Zack was playing. She left the car running and went to the door to get Zack. He climbed into the car while she chatted with her friend. Finally, she said something like, “Well, I should get going before Zack decides to drive off without me.”

At that moment– you couldn’t have planned this any better– Zack slipped into the front seat, put the car in “drive”, and started down the street. Laralee tore after him, catching the car and frantically grabbing the door handle to get in.

Zack had locked the doors.

So here’s Laralee, running alongside the car, screaming at Zack to unlock the doors. He’s steering the car (mostly) and just smiling like a devil. The car is on course to smash the fence of a neighboring house. Laralee is frantic.

Zack finally concedes and unlocks the door; Laralee jumps into the front seat and orders him to the back. Just as the car is about to hit the fence, she slams on the brakes. Zack, in the midst of climbing into the back seat, is thrown forward and knocks himself right on the dashboard. There is much wailing, compounded by the stern lecture about don’t you ever do that again and so forth.

Parenting is such a hoot.

There’s a Dilbert cartoon where Dilbert is defragmenting his hard drive or something, and he comments about how happy he is that his computer is running smoothly, and how he’s entered a transcendent state. Dogbert calls it “Nerdvana”.

That’s a great word. I don’t know if Scott Adams invented it, but it’s such a perfect word to describe someone who has passed beyond mere “geekiness” into a whole new level of technologic bliss. I can say that I’ve probably done so.

Today I finished reading Linux Server Hacks, which contains a hundred tips and tricks to tweak your favorite Linux server. The scary part is that (1) I learned a bunch of new things, and (2) I’m excited to test them on my servers. The key word there is “excited”. Yes, I’m actually looking forward to hacking my servers to get another few clock cycles of performance out of them, or to shave a few seconds off the time I spend monitoring them for problems.

Truly, I have achieved Nerdvana.

“One machine can do the work of fifty ordinary men. No machine can do the work of one extraordinary man.”

— Elbert Hubbard

Craig strikes again with a graph showing how a particular project at work is sucking his will to live.

According his calculations, he can only work on the project for 0.7 hours before he has to switch to something different or risk losing his will to live.

Today’s political wrap-up:

Bush: Dubai rules! Give ’em the ports!
Congress: Blow it out your ear, Dubya.
Bush: I’ll veto it. I swear.
Congress: Fine. Here’s your $90B bill for the war. Notice that attached clause about the ports.
Bush: Hmm. Crap.

And in related news:

Rumsfeld: Where’s our $90B for Iraq?
Congress: What’s up with the civil war breaking out?
Rumsfeld: Umm, what civil war?
Gen. Abizaid (head of U.S. Central Command): Open your eyes, Rummy.
Rumsfeld: No, really, there’s no civil war. *

* Actual quote: “There is a high level of tension in the country, sectarian tension and conflict. But it has not yet become a civil war by most experts’ calculation.”

Sheesh. Watching this kind of stuff is like craning your neck to see the car accident on the side of the freeway.