Look and Feel Update, 9/23/11

So, yes, I’ve gone ahead and changed the blog theme here at Whatever, for two reasons. One, I was getting bored with the old theme, as I do about once every year. Two, the previous theme did not allow for some new functionality I thought it would be useful to have. And thus: New blog theme. This current theme is called “Minimum” and I imagine that barring some horrible implosion of something or other, I’ll keep it for about a year or so, until I get bored with it and move to something else. I suspect the look you see now (10pm Eastern, September 23, 2011) is going to be close to the final look; I may tweak things here and there but by and large this is it.

One new functionality that the theme offers is additional flexibility when signing on to make comments; now you may sign in to comment with WordPress, Twitter or Facebook IDs (as well as signing in the old fashioned way or just leaving your e-mail). This will undoubtedly make some of you happy. You’re welcome.

The minor drawback to this new theme as regards comments it that it doesn’t number the individual comments, which is a little annoying (this is because — I assume — the theme allows for threaded comments, which makes numbering the comments somewhat useless. I won’t be threading comments, incidentally). For those of you used to referring to previous comments by thread number, allow me to make another suggestion and refer to those previous comments by the time they were posted — so instead of say “John@75,” just write “john@3:34pm” instead. Same effective utility, slightly different referring number.

I had made mention a couple of posts ago that I was thinking of using IntenseDebate as a comment system; I haven’t yet done it primarily because I can’t figure out how to activate it. This is a WordPress VIP account, which means things have to be done slightly different than they could be with a freestanding WP install; I can’t just install any plugin I want. I may still try to figure out how to get it to work, but then I might also just decide to be a lazy-ass, as I so often do.

And that’s where we are at the moment.

Don’t Panic

I’m fiddling with the look of the site. Everything will be fine in a bit.

A Book With an Oddly Resonant Title for These Here Parts

The folks over at National Geographic sent along to me one of their latest books, figuring I might appreciate it, given its title. And, well. Yes. It does intrigue me on the title alone. It’s also a pretty interesting book aside from the title; what it does is track technology through the ages, showing how the world got to where it is by a series of (yes) big ideas. The book’s conceit, however, is to go at it backwards, starting with recent developments and then moving back through time to show how development steps one from one idea to the next. So the information technology chapter, for example, starts with Linux and head back to the abacus, which was developed circa 3000 BC. It’s a useful way to do things, in terms of putting it all into a slightly different perspective.

This is exactly the sort of big, pretty, information-dense book that I would have geeked out about when I was 12 years old, which is nice because I have a 12-year-old in the house. But it’s a fun read for anyone interested in how ideas connect together over time. And of course: Great title.

Various & Sundry 9/23/11

What’s up? Well:

* For those folks still interested in the follow-up to the Redshirts auction will be happy to know that I met with the library folks today and they are very happy about everything that’s happened, and that they are making plans on how to put that money to its best use for the library — i.e., they’re not going to go out and spend it on gum or anything. More details as they happen, but in general, everything’s groovy over here.

* People are asking me what I think of the suggestion of sub-atomic particles going faster than light. One, it would be really interesting if it were true, since it would basically upend our model of how the universe works; Two, I suspect strongly that it’s an error somewhere along the chain of observation and we’ll find that out sooner rather than later; Three, that if that’s not how it plays out, this particular observation will have to be replicated a few dozen times before people are comfortable throwing a century’s worth of physics into the “obsolete” bin. Even the people publishing it is all “please check this for us, will you?” Which is what scientists do.

If you want to take a look at the paper that describes all this itself, it’s here. I looked at it and was reminded that my ability to understand it was only slightly better than that of an average monkey, so I will rely on actual scientists to tell me if it holds up. If it does, well. Exciting times. Physicist Brian Cox talks about it here (this is an audio file).

* I’ve also been asked for comments about the Republican presidential candidate debates. The short answer here is that I don’t have many, since I haven’t been watching them, on account that I don’t really want a shoe in my TV. I’ve been reading transcripts and follow-up commentary, none of which convinces me that any of these fellows (and one lady) will be coming remotely close to getting my vote next year. I heard about the booing of the gay soldier from the floor at the debate, but there’s some question of whether it’s the work of more than a couple of idiots, so I’m choosing not to get too worked up about that.

All of it is a reminder that 2012 is likely to be an especially aggravating election year; I’m happy not to devote too much of my attention to the election just yet.

* What I am devoting my attention to: Checking the copy edit of Redshirts. I’m happy to say that generally speaking it’s been well done, and the copy editor in question here is making me look like I’m more grammatically ept than I actually am. Which is always a positive. The CE and I have a small difference in opinion about commas (not necessarily relating to the Oxford comma, incidentally), which I will win because I get to STET. But it really is a small difference of opinion and in the main this is a good copy edit, and I’m happy to have it. If you get a final copy of the book and there’s a screw-up, blame it on me, not the copy editor.

As a small aside to this, I will note that that I have to be careful when typing out the title of the new book, since the omission of a single letter changes it from “redshirts” to a vulgar term for “bloody stool.” And I’ve unintentionally omitted that letter a couple of times already. Diligence, always diligence.