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User Journal

Journal Journal: One year anniversary

Not only does this mark my one year anniversary with AGU, it marks the first time I've been in a position that's hasn't been cut out from under me.
User Journal

Journal Journal: The evolution of a scientific journal


By Arthur Schuster, F.R.S.,
Professor of Physics at the Owens College, Manchester.

Thus opens the first research presented in Terrestrial Magnetism (shortly thereafter renamed Terrestrial Magnetism and Atmospheric Electricity). It had one editor (L. A. Bauer) and was published by the Ryerson Physical Laboratory at the University of Chicago. Subscriptions were $2 a year, single issues being available for 50 cents. Manuscripts were accepted in English, German, and French.

Almost 112 years later, it is called the Journal of Geophysical Research. It has seven sections covered by 20 editors and is published by the American Geophysical Union in Washington, D.C. A personal subscription for all JGR articles published in 2008 costs $700 (online only), $1900 (print only), or $2400 (both). Manuscripts are accepted in English only.

Why am I writing about this? I have a 1908 reprint of the first volume sitting on my desk as I check the electronic files. Within a matter of weeks, every paper ever printed in the journal will be made available online.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Book crunch time

AGU's annual meeting is 2 months away and most departments are undergoing a crunch. I've been taken off my usual job and set to checking the chapters for the books that are scheduled for release at the meeting.

Post-Perovskite: The Last Mantle Phase Transition This is complete and will be sold at the meeting.
A Continental Plate Boundary: Tectonics at South Island, New Zealand This is almost complete and will probably be sold at the meeting.
A book on the exploration of Venus (title unconfirmed) This book wasn't even scheduled to be printed until 2008, but almost all of the material has been submitted and it will likely be sold at the meeting. This is my favorite by far. I find myself reading the first line of a paragraph, thinking "Really?" and then finishing the rest of the section. Incidentally, this one will have the smallest print run.

User Journal

Journal Journal: My experience with Creative's Zen Micro 1

A year and a half ago, I went off to Europe for 7 weeks. Given the choice of lugging around a case full of cds, a cd player, and a pack of batteries or buying a mp3 player, I chose to drop a few hundred dollars on the latter. I went with the Zen Micro, since it was a) not too expensive, b) had excellent battery life, c) was harddrive-based, and d) wasn't an iPod.

(For the record, I have nothing against Apple itself, just their marketing department. But I didn't want a player that didn't give me access to the battery.)

On my trip, I experienced my first problems. They were:
1) My current version of the firmware caused the batteries to drain when the headphones were plugged in, even if the player itself was off.
2) A USB charger is a pain in the ass when you don't have regular access to a computer.
3) It won't charge unless the computer is running Windows and is running an account. Waiting at the log-in screen doesn't count.
4) The headphone jack is prone to breaking.

On paper, only 1 and 4 look like are actual problems, and 1 could have been avoided if I had looked for updates when I got my player. However, 1-3 is a really nasty combination when you're going on vacation.

When I got back, I was still within the 60 days free warranty period, so I called Creative tech support. They were happy to take it back and send me a new one.

Less than a month later, the headphone jack broke, again. They took it back and I bought the extended warranty plan ($25 for 2 years). As it turns out, this was a very good move to make.

Last spring, after much wear and tear (dropping it on linoleum floors, banging it around while not constrained, etc) the headphone jack broke and the system itself would occasionally fail to boot. A quick call and it was exchanged.

It's been most of a year since the last time it broke, but a few weeks ago I noticed that some tracks that I could have sworn were loaded on simply disappeared. "Huh," I thought. "That's odd. Maybe I deleted them to make room for some new stuff."

Last week, it started crashing while in the middle of some specific tracks. Then it refused to allow me to delete tracks via the computer (it allowed me to delete them via the player itself). Then it started freezing when I would try to make it start playing those tracks, only to suddenly catch up to all the directions I gave it, only to lock up. Then it deleted entire albums.

Today I waited on hold for 45 minutes, talked to tech support for 5 minutes, waited on hold 5 more minutes, and then talked to tech again. "Yeah, there's a problem with the harddrive."

In a nutshell, here are the things I've noticed about owning a Zen Micro:

Excellent customer support when you talk to a real person.
Good battery life, but make sure you turn off the backlight.
Nice computer interface for uploading and mucking around with files on the player.
The harddrive appears to take a good bit of abuse before it has problems.
The screen is indestructible. I've never had any problems with it.
Drag-and-drop files while in harddrive mode.

Some firmware versions have problems. Big ones.
The headphone jack is prone to breaking, though that may have been fixed in the newer models (I haven't had a problem with my last one).
Overpriced wall charger.
The shape. No really, it's awful. The curved back feels nice in your hand, but it's slick plastic and will fall off of any non-level surface you place it on.

I like my Micro when it works, but it seems to break far too often, even for a small piece of electronics. If you do decide to get a Creative mp3 player, do yourself a favor and buy the extended warranty.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Lack of Earth logic 12

So, my cubicle-mate calls me over to his screen and points at a note added to one of the drafts. The chapter's theme is farm life and there's a cartoon cow on one page.

"Why does it say to delete the udder?" There are small horns on the cow, so we wonder if they're trying to make the cow male.

A bit of time later, we come to the conclusion that female cattle definitely can and do have horns, but that the horns are frequently removed. So, what was the reason for deleting the udders?

"We can't show such body parts in the books."



This is a book for Texas. There are 14 million cows in the state (Jan 2003, NASS)and 23 million people (US Census Bureau, estimated 2005).

Can anyone explain the logic in this position?

User Journal

Journal Journal: One week at the job. 1

This is the start of my second week at Houghton Mifflin (I started last Tuesday, hence this is my 6th day). I'm working on the grade school math textbooks for bilingual (or eventually such) children for California and Texas.

Unfortunately, I'm using a Mac, and so I have to relearn all of the various command shortcuts involving the keyboard. It's a huge pain when I go home and keep on hitting the wrong keys for copy and paste.

The worst problem is that my computer appears to hate Firefox, and every time I attempt to type something in a text box (Gmail, Slashdot, etc), there are problems involving the cursor being several spaces ahead, several spaces back, letters not showing, old words I've deleted still appearing underneath the new ones, etc etc etc. Anyone know what's going on?

User Journal


At work, I use a fairly specialized piece of equipment for FACS analysis, a technique that counts cells that have been tagged with fluorescent markers. There are only a few other people who work with the machine, let alone know how all the options.

Something(one) screwed up and a bunch of settings disappeared. After banging my head against their nonsensical UI and their useless documentation, I finally found someone who was able to show me how to fix things. Kinda. Unfortunately, the settings for god knows what are off, and neither I nor my boss can figure out how to change them back to what they were last week.

I've wasted 45 minutes on the thing, and now I won't be able to get through it because it's too late and I'm going to leave work in 15 minutes.

Fucking technology.

User Journal

Journal Journal: T minus 45 minutes

Nintendo's pre-E3 press conference will start in 45 minutes. Sadly, I'll be going off to lunch in 15 minutes. Not so sadly, it could be a repeat of last year's performance (it started a full hour late). Worst case scenario is that it's on time and I have a few updates to read when I get back.
User Journal

Journal Journal: Job @ 5.5 months 1

Last week I talked to my boss about my worries about health insurance, etc and found out that the company hasn't been earmarked enough money to hire anyone new (except for those positions that they feel are much more important than mine, which is pretty much everything), and so I won't get a full-time position unless they get a new investor.

Given that my boss said that he would try to get me hired full time, this has made me rather pissed. Given that I'm inelligible for benefits unless I'm rehired with a new contract, I can look forward to paying out of pocket for health insurance for a while longer.

It's time to hit the job sites. I'm sick of being taken advantage of.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Finally!

After 5 months with my employer, I finally got around to asking IT if I could have Firefox on my computer. When I poked at it last week, the installer wanted admin privileges. As I'm waiting until my co-worker gets in (boss is out of town for two weeks), I figured this would be a convenient time.

I missed tabs.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Interesting review of wine/health studies

It looks like the studies that most scientists have done on the possible benefits of cosuming small amounts of alcohol may be invalid. Here is Reuters' write-up for anyone who's interested.
User Journal

Journal Journal: How to whore for^W^W earn points on /.

1. Wait for an article related to your job to pop up. Read it early.

2. Make a snarky comment bashing the article and/or the submitter and/or the editor, all of whom have failed to realize that the "news" is in fact something that even a novice within the field would know.

3. ???

4. Profit!

User Journal

Journal Journal: Any biotech/pharma people reading this?

At the company where I'm working, staff positions get 19 days vacation during the year, plus the last 10 work days of December, plus 6 federal holidays. This applies to people who are just starting.

Is this normal? 19 days is somewhat mind-boggling. I remember that Harvard offers 14 days to start, and that seemed like an awful lot.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Behe at UMass-Amherst 5

Erik just contacted me to say that Michael Behe of "Intelligent Design" fame will be speaking at UMass-Amherst on Feb 9.

Does anyone have questions they'd like to see him try to wiggle out of?

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Over the shoulder supervision is more a need of the manager than the programming task.