The 2013 Circumnavigators Club Foundation Scholars

One of my best memories from the Navy was travelling around the globe in a submarine.  On that one deployment I picked up several “unofficial” certificates, but it also qualified me to join the Circumnavigators Club.  It’s not a travel club; it’s a club of travelers and since travelers don’t sit put much, there’s not a whole lot of meetings.

We can only travel so much, so we also send people to travel for us.  We have a foundation that provides merit-based grants to undergraduates on an around the world research trip.  Ok, so the travel is really for their benefit but I like to think we send out scouts to go report back on the mysteries of the world.

One of the requirements is that the recipient keep a blog of their travels.  This year, there are four scholars all with amazing stories.  I particularly liked Julia’s who took especially nice pictures in Austria and Switzerland.

You can also look at last year’s scholars here.  You can also watch a testimonial from Meixi Ng, a 2010 scholar below. Continue reading “The 2013 Circumnavigators Club Foundation Scholars”

A Veteran’s Disappointment with the NSA Spying

A practitioner of Zen Buddhism was talking to me about delusions.  I asked him to clarify what he meant and he explained that delusional thinking was a way of convincing yourself of a false reality.  It’s like when you believe the Double Down is good for you because it doesn’t have any bread (this is my example, not his…).  Don Quixote is the epitome of a delusional thinker who believed windmills were giants and subsequently attacked them.  Thinking that the NSA isn’t unconstitutionally spying on Americans is also delusional.

The original NSA spying leak was shocking but since then there continues to more damning announcements.  The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency is actively using the NSA database, but then lying about how it obtained evidence through the euphemism “parallel construction.”  The owner of the Edward Snowden’s email service decided to shut down his company rather than become “complicit in crimes against the American people,” warning:

without congressional action or a strong judicial precedent, I would strongly recommend against anyone trusting their private data to a company with physical ties to the United States.

And despite promises by officials to the contrary, the Guardian reported another leak that due to a Kafkaesque loophole, warrant-less spying on Americans is indeed allowed.

I am a proud veteran of the U.S. Navy.  I willingly took an oath to support and defend the U.S. Constitution.  While I’m no longer in the military, as a person who went to Afghanistan to fight for his country, I feel a civic responsibility to act when I see the Constitution being violated.  What the NSA and other agencies are doing is wrong and needs to stop.

Despite the attempts by his squire Sancho to convince him what was real, Don Quixote rushed into battle against false enemies and brought harm to those around him.  The War on Terror has become our windmill.  We’ve spent countless taxpayer’s dollars and disgraced ourselves chasing false giants.  Before his death, Don Quixote realized his delusional behavior and regretted his actions.  It’s time we have a similar revelation, “Now I see through [the] absurdities and deceptions, and it only grieves me that this destruction of my illusions has come so late that it leaves me no time to make some amends

I am not a “14-year-old in the basement clicking around the Internet,” but I do proudly wear my Happy Hacking t-shirt.  I’m a veteran who has had enough of the lying and it’s time to speak up.  If this matters to you too, please consider joining the Electronic Frontier Foundation and help them fight for our digital rights.

Hiking Devils Backbone

It was a nice morning on the trail at Devil’s Backbone.  Despite the ominous name, it was a nice, short hike.  The trail came highly recommend from a friend and it was covered in our new favorite guidebook, Hikes Around Fort Collins, by Melodie S. Edwards.  The name refers to the rock formations that span the valley.  Quoting Edwards:

The “hogbacks,” as they are known, which stretch from north of Fort Collins all the way down the Front Range and including Devils Backbone, are remnants of an ancient seafloor that has been exposed by wind and water over hundreds of thousands of years.

devil's backbone trail
The Wild Loop on the Devils Backbone trail which parallels the Front Range.

At the trail head a free trail map and interpretive guide are provided (aslo available here).  It’s an easy hike that is family friendly and it allowed me an opportunity to test out the 3D shots with the Nexus 4 (here).

Me sporting a Drexel cap in “Keyhole” on the Devils Backbone. The backwards cap actually does a good job of keeping the sun off of my neck…

Thanks for reading my 100th post!

A better Emacs configuration

I finally gave in and forked Bozhidar Batsov’s Emacs bundle, Prelude.  Initially I resisted using an out-of-the-box setup and tried to roll my own, but as I added more customizations I realized that I was slowly incorporating all of Prelude.  Then I recognized that Prelude’s organization is much cleaner than my approach.  It’s also very easy to fork the repo and add in personal touches as I’ve done here.

I’m working through some growing pains in the switch to Prelude from my spaghetti framework, but Bozhidar provided one line install scripts and I also like how all external packages are auto-downloaded from the package manager.  If you are new to Emacs or you want to use a customization that 409 other forkers are using, try Prelude (must have Emacs 24 btw).

My first live-blogging event: truck explosion

Sitting in my NY apartment, I suddenly hear a loud BOOM on the Queensboro bridge.  I ran to the window and I couldn’t see what happened but I did see all Queens traffic stopped, some people running and cars trying to back-out off the bridge.

The air quickly smelt of smoke and while something still didn’t feel right, there was no screaming or any other loud noises, so I started tweeting 🙂

Continue reading “My first live-blogging event: truck explosion”

Netflix now available on Samsung ARM Chromebooks

Yet another reason to like the $249 Samsung ARM Chromebook: Netflix streaming is now available via HTML5.  In ChromeOS, just visit Netflix like normal and say “yes” to allowing Netflix to store data on your Chromebook.  As stated in this Netflix support article, this is only required the first time you visit Netflix.

When I first used my Chromebook, I was a bit disappointed to learn that Netflix was not supported.  But since then, my satisfaction with this device has only gone up.  I’m dual-booting ChrUbuntu and getting a lot of mileage with Emacs 24 and using Emacs TRAMP mode over SSH, which makes my Chromebook a ultra-lightweight travel companion.  With a quick boot back into ChromeOS, I can now procrastinate even more, with Netflix.  If the dual-booting is too much for you, there is always Crouton.


New Pope brings end to Google Reader

White smoke was seen rising from my browser today; Google announced the sunset of Google Reader. The official Google Reader blog says it’s retiring Reader due to declining use, but I’m not sure we can rule out Papal involvement…

I’ve been using Reader for a while now and I have over forty subscriptions. That may sound like a lot, but it’s very easy to navigate the categories and quickly scan the feeds. Also, Reader support Gmail-like shortcuts, which make it even easier.

I don’t want email based subscriptions filling up my inbox, so a cloud based alternative would be ideal. IMHO, they are better than desktop based clients since if I read a feed on my phone, or on another browser, that status is synced across all devices. This feature alone made me switch off of client based RSS readers.

What’s everybody favorite RSS reader, or if you don’t use one, what do you do instead?