Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Sarah Palin:

October 24, 2008

ARLINGTON, VA -- Governor Sarah Palin today delivered the following remarks as prepared for delivery in Pittsburgh, PA, at 9:00 a.m. ET:

Thank you all very much. I appreciate the hospitality of the people of Pittsburgh, and I'm grateful to all the groups who have joined us here today. The Woodlands Foundation, the Down Syndrome Center at the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, Autism-link, the Children's Institute of Pittsburgh: Thank you for coming today. .... [emphasis mine]

... And in the case of parents of children with disabilities, there are enough challenges as it is, and our children will face more than enough closed doors along the way. When our sons and daughters need better education, more specialized training, and more individual attention, the doors of opportunity should be open. ...

... This is a matter of how we prioritize the money that we spend. We've got a three trillion dollar budget, and Congress spends some 18 billion dollars a year on earmarks for political pet projects. That's more than the shortfall to fully fund the IDEA. And where does a lot of that earmark money end up? It goes to projects having little or nothing to do with the public good -- things like fruit fly research in Paris, France, or a public policy center named for the guy who got the earmark. ...

I'm an idiot, and perhaps Palin was tired on the campaign trail that day, but really, how can anyone who's ever studied high school biology not notice the jarring dissonance of the two highlighted phrases above?

Thomas Hunt Morgan would flip in his grave.

Update: More facts, and a link to the Youtube of her speech.

Friday, October 24, 2008

I assume that one has better things to do with one's time than run all over the Web figuring out how to make Java work to its fullest potential in Linux on a 64-bit computer. So here goes.

[19 May 2009: Instructions below are slightly outdated since Sun Java has released JRE 6 update 12, which has a 64-bit web browser Java plugin. Follow the Sun Java installation instructions on "fedora 10 mjmwired" first Google hit, although I would suggest /opt/jre1.6.0_updateversionnumber/ instead of /usr/java/default/ . I've just installed JRE 6 update 13, which also works. My Firefox is 3.0.10 now, by the way. I only needed to restart my Firefox this time instead of rebooting my whole computer.]

First, some particulars:

OS: Fedora 9
Hardware: 64-bit, x86_64 (try "uname -a" in a terminal to see what your computer is)
Firefox: 3.0.2 x86_64
Existing 32-bit Firefox (FF) plugins that work on my 64-bit FF: Adobe Acrobat Reader, Adobe flash-plugin

Then, the steps. At first I was optimistic about getting the 32-bit Sun Java plugin to work on my 64-bit FF. So this is what I did:

1. Confirm that the Acrobat Reader and flash plugins work on your 64-bit FF.
2. Run "nspluginwrapper --help". If "nspluginwrapper not found" comes out, you'll need to uninstall your existing version of nspluginwrapper and install the functioning older version downloadable from the Web. First hit for "nspluginwrapper" on Google search should be the one. Confirm that your nspluginwrapper now works.
3. Now you're ready to try a 32-bit Sun Java plugin on your 64-bit FF.
4. Save the latest i586.bin version of Sun Java JRE 6 (at this time it's JRE 6 update 10) somewhere in your hard disk. It's under Java SE in Downloads, from java.sun.com . Make sure this is not the rpm version.
5. Follow the Sun Java installation instructions on "fedora 9 mjmwired" first Google hit, although I would suggest /opt/jre1.6.0_updateversionnumber/ instead of just /opt/jre1.6/ .
6. Run "nspluginwrapper -v -a -i" so that the 32-bit Sun Java plugin can get nicely wrapped for use in your 64-bit FF.

Or so I hoped. It didn't work, though. My 32-bit Sun Java plugin refused to get wrapped. It also refused to run as it is on my 64-bit FF (even when sudo /usr/sbin/alternatives --config libjavaplugin.so.x86_64 was pointing to it and I'd rebooted my computer to make sure everything was being read). Some of my Java test applets, at javatester.org and firstglance.jmol.org, didn't work.

So then I had to get a 32-bit Firefox just to look at the Java applets I wanted to look at.

1. Download a Firefox i686 from mozilla.com . It is a compressed .tar.bz2 file.
2. Unzip it somewhere safe and far far away from any system-wide Firefox things. This means nothing that starts with /usr/ . The /home/user/Downloads directory worked fine for me.
3. Run your 32-bit FF (it is the executable script called "firefox" in the unzipped directory) and look at what plugins work in there. If your Adobe flash plugin works, good for you. Mine didn't. But that's not important for this exercise.

The 32-bit FF coexists well on my computer with the 64-bit FF. I'll explain how.

4. Both /usr/lib/mozilla/plugins and /usr/lib64/mozilla/plugins show symbolic links for libjavaplugin.so . But the symlink for lib64 is to /etc/alternatives/libjavaplugin.so.x86_64 , whereas the symlink for lib is simply to /etc/alternatives/libjavaplugin.so . This makes the 64-bit FF and 32-bit FF java plugins separately configurable by the sudo /usr/sbin/alternatives, example sudo /usr/sbin/alternatives --config libjavaplugin.so.x86_64 , sudo /usr/sbin/alternatives --config libjavaplugin.so . We are going to look at only the libjavaplugin.so , since that is the 32-bit Java that we want the 32-bit FF to recognize.
5. Do this: sudo /usr/sbin/alternatives --install /usr/lib/mozilla/plugins/libjavaplugin.so libjavaplugin.so /opt/jre1.6.0_updateversionnumber/plugin/i386/ns7/libjavaplugin_oji.so 20000
6. Do this: sudo /usr/sbin/alternatives --config libjavaplugin.so , and choose the Sun Java one you've just installed.
7. I assume that sudo /usr/sbin/alternatives --config java is already set to the Sun Java you've installed, if it isn't, do that.
7.5. I assume that sudo /usr/sbin/alternatives --config libjavaplugin.so.x86_64 remains at /whatever/path/gcjwebplugin.so , which is the 64-bit OpenJDK Java that came pre-installed with Fedora 9.
8. Now reboot your computer. This is important for everything to be properly recognized.
9. Open your 32-bit FF, and clear the cache. Test your 32-bit Sun Java installation on your 32-bit FF at firstglance.jmol.org . Wait for the applet to load, as instructed. It should work. Or you could try javatester.org as well.
10. Now clear your 32-bit FF cache.
11. Open your 64-bit FF, and clear the cache as well. This makes your 64-bit FF clean for the next step.
12. Test your native 64-bit OpenJDK Java on your 64-bit FF, at the same testing locations. It should work for some Java applets but not all, same as before you installed the 32-bit FF in your computer.

When I considered using only a 32-bit Firefox and destroying the 64-bit Firefox entirely, I found the process of my 32-bit FF plugins breaking my 64-bit FF plugins to be too traumatic to watch. Thus the coexistence method.

Hope this has been helpful.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

I cannot remember the taste of bread, nor the smell of grass.

(paraphrased from ..................................).

Saturday, October 11, 2008

"The perfect is the enemy of the good." - Voltaire

Two men each very different from the other, both saying the same to me a week apart. One indicating disappointment when I could not tell him what my Holy Grail was, the other expressing a heartfelt prayer for the success of his new venture (which sentiment I wholeheartedly concur with), both sounding like they believed this saying totally. What do they see in it that I do not? I do not know.

I am, of course, here assuming that no one settles for merely the good in the long run, when perfection is attainable through persistent and purposeful work. The good first realized is expected to evolve into perfection through some process. No? One cannot have visionaries without artisans as well, to pick up the good and turn it into something outstanding. Probably outstanding also in budget, but eventually the cost will amortize.

Who then is to say that artisan work is any less valuable than visionary work, in such a broad-brush fashion as how I am presently interpreting this saying to be? Neither one is effective without the other.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

On anatomy dissections, from here:

Although anxiety may be present in students during the experience, 'suppression and repression' are used to cope with these feelings; the anatomy laboratory aids the process of detachment.... The laboratory is the place where students 'prove' themselves by controlling their feelings.

This reminds me of the work I did ..., let us see, seven years ago now. I was working in the Singapore Science Centre as an exhibition educator, dissecting a cow's eye in real time for a live audience of ~100 people. Twice a day or so. The squeamishness of 10 or 20 medical students in an anatomy lab in that article does not compare to the mass distaste of civilians which I had to respond to.

A response of "grim humor that is at once offensive and defensive"? How juvenile. Instead I took the approach of confronting their distaste directly, bringing it out into the open, explaining why I was doing what I was doing. I acknowledged their distaste. I described that I was not doing it to enjoy it hedonistically, cutting into a piece of flesh formerly belonging to a sentient being, but instead that I knew the fear, terror and revulsion at doing so, and continued to do it anyway because I wished to communicate some purpose of learning about the anatomy of the eye in the doing.

Thereafter my talk became much more successful at its purpose of education, when I described and illustrated it that way.

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