Archive for February, 2003

Set this House in Order

The essential problem with my favorite writers is that they tend to write one book every 5 years.

Last night Matt Ruff read from his latest to a small group of fans at the Elliott Bay Book Company. I feel like such a fan. I’ve loved his books since I first found Fool on the Hill 12 years ago. A quote from Sewer Gas and Electric has found residence in my .sig for the last couple of years.

And now there’s Set This House in Order. From hearing the first couple of chapters, I can safely say that it follows the theme of barely controlled chaos. What more can you expect from the story of the friendship between 2 multiple personalities?

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OSX Web Development

Are there any good Javascript debuggers on OSX? I know about the one in Mozilla 1.1+, but it’s not clear from google searches if there is one for Chimera (or whatever it’s called today), Safari, or MSIE.

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More on the Columbia

The NYT reports that it appears that the foam insulation’s mechanical properties did have some thermal dependence. The article mentions that when the insulating foam gets very cold (such as in the range of liquid gasses) the foam gets 5-15 times harder and stronger, increasing the damage it could do when breaking off. It turns out that in 1999, NASA had catastrophic failure of the liquid hydrogen tank for an X-33 due to foam peeling off.

This is slightly a diferent dependency than I suspected, but I’d keep watching. I’m now especially curious about the thermal tile toughness vs. temperature relationship. If the tiles are more brittle at low temperatures, that could also increase the damage done by an impact.

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Copyright and the Music Industry

I was poking through my collection the other day, and I ran across this:

Public Domain Recording

And I was puzzled. I was looking for the date of the recording, normally availiable from the copyright indication, but investigation of the album showed no signs of a date. Well, there were two copyright dates for the liner notes, but none for the music.

Public Domain. Where were the heirs of the composer, the orchestra, the chorus? What corporate entity owned the recording? Who did CBS pay for this?

Now given that this recording was once in the public domain, what rights do I have to the recording? Am I allowed to rip and post it online? Is it still in the public domain? Have they snatched it back?

As for the composer, I’m not sure he was ever paid for it. There was something of a fight between him and his patrons, as the work was several years late and not exactly what they were expecting.

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Columbia Questions

A few random questions suggested by correlation that may or may not lead anywhere:

  • What was the temperature at launch?
  • How do the mechanical properties of the foam insulation change with temperature? In particular, is there a glass transition temperature anywhere near freezing. I understand that the inside surface of the insulation is at between 2 and 50 degrees kelvin (-400 to -325 F), but the outside skin is most responsible for structural integrity at speed.
  • Do the tiles have any sensitivity to below freezing temperatures?
  • Columbia has been reported to have had trouble with heat on re-entry in the past. Is there any correlation with tile damage or launch temperature?
  • Insulation has flaked off before. What is the correlation with launch temperature?

I’ve read Tufte’s explanation of the charts and graphs that lead to the Challenger launch decision and his rerendering of all the data. The more complete renderings show a pretty inescapable conclusion that launching was not wise. I’d like to see similar graphs of insulation damage, tile damage, and heat troubles vs. launch temperature. I hope that these graphs don’t show a similar correlation that would lead to a no launch decision. But given that this year has been unseasonably cold in Florida I’m not sure that I can dismiss it.

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William Gibson read from Pattern Recognition and answered the usual and unusual fan questions last night at Elliott Bay Books.

I can say with some relief that the book is better than his reading of it. But then, he’s an author, not a speaker. Not to mention getting tossed into the 4th chapter of a book can be somewhat disorienting. Sort of like jet lag with everyone talking at you in a wierd language.

One question threw him: What gender is Case? Neuromancer has a pretty explicit answer in his sex scene. So what’s to answer, other than the reader’s intrepretation is an interesting reading.

I didn’t get to ask him how the current copyright situation affects him. I know some of his work is out there, as I first read Neuromancer as a 500k html doc. One small statistically insignifiant data point.

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