Saturday, May 31, 2008

Mediation and Exercise

There have been many articles comparing both mediation and exercise, and so I thought I'd comment on the issue too. The result from the practice of either is very good for the body, and the feeling that results during that practice is also the same. I did some mediation for the first time in a while yesterday. I'm always exercising, so while I was meditating and supposed to be thinking about nothing, I thought about how I really felt like I was running, though I was dead still. Repeated, endurance-style exercise tends to be the most similar to mediation. For example, the last set of lifting or ab-workouts or long distance runs. More on this later!

Friday, May 30, 2008

Epithelium and Skins

So today in my Developmental Biology class we were learning about some of the various experiments and effects of over or underexpressing certain soluble factors. And it made me think of how intuitive this was, much in the similar manner to creating a skin for a computer program. When you take apart a template as such, you can begin to see how the pieces work immediately and as you make small tinkerings (changing numbers in the XML script, for instance) to larger ones (changing full lines or blocks of code), it is very much similar to messing with developing embryos to see what fate certain actions bring. This is the same with any kind of coding really, but I really got the same feel as I feel these scientists did yesterday when I was editing parts of the skin for my new modded XBox.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Modding the XBox

Well, I'm currently transferring the files to mod the XBox via FTP, now that the capability has been activated. I must say, this brings an amazing thrill to see that the insides of these electronic components are simply just a computer, with much more functionality than you would imagine otherwise; no longer is a console just a game box! I havn't had this thrill since last summer when I hacked my Motorola RAZR V3. With the cell phone being even more ubiquitous, perhaps that is more applicable to many of you, especially since the RAZR is the most popular phone of all time. With such popularity comes much work among the hacking community (as with the iPhone, whose insides were solved in a matter of days). It really gives you a sense of uniqueness when you take something that everyone has and modify it the same as you would your room or cubicle. In such a digital age, this is the way to be an individual!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

India's Development

There seems to be a lot these days about India's growth, and I recently wrote an essay on the challenges that India will face as it continues along this road. I identified infrastructural issues as being the primary challenge. The problem is, how do you fix something that broad, and what is the best way to go about that?

Yes, you can get the private sector and the international community (in the form of MNCs) involved and get them to have a stake in the success of the country. Still, is it possible to fix a country with such a high population density? And how do you ensure that you bring up the whole country and not just the middle and upper classes? This is especially important in India, as more than half of the country is under the poverty line.

And, which infrastructural issue should be attacked first to best allow for trickle-down benefits? Electricity? Water? Roads? This is a tough but crucial issue. The fate of 1/6 of the world's population depends on it.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

UPenn Archeology and Anthropology Museum

Today I visited the UPenn Museum of Archeology and Anthropology, primarily for the new "Surviving" exhibit. It goes into evolution, specifically human evolution, and how many of our current traits have ancestral (plesiomorphic) origins. However, I believe that the phrasing of the explanations in the exhibit is dangerous, because it indicates a erroneous cause-and-effect relationship in order to make it easy to understand. Whereas Darwin indicated that random changes in the population are selected for, which leads to the persistence of beneficial adaptations, the exhibit tended to explain that the reason we have certain characteristics is for a purpose. This is dangerously close to Intelligent Design, even though the exhibit's authors clearly believe in ancient, non-creationist origins. What we should be inculcating in today's youth and in all of society in general is that natural selection is the main mechanism of evolution and how this occurs, as this is what makes evolution the most clear. While it is certainly amazing that we are what we are and that our bodies are amazingly intricate, such phraseology leads to incorrect understanding.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Softmodding and XBox

So, my roommates and I bought a classic XBox off Craigslist for $40, controllers and games included. But that wasn't enough fun for us, especially since we're all avid torrenters as well with a penchant for free stuff. So we decided to mod the XBox. For some reason I had never heard of softmodding, perhaps because all my friends run chip modding businesses. Either way, watch out for the sweet setup that's coming (pics to be posted as well). At the bottom is the skin that we've chosen for the Box. Here's what I'm looking forward to:

- XBox loaded with XBMC (XBox Media Center)
- Streaming Movies, YouTube videos, and TV Shows to the Box
- Playing DVDs from the XBox
- Playing old-school N64, SNES, etc. games
- Downloading new (old) XBox games instead of sifting through the Gamestop clearance box

Oh. And checking the weather.

Software that some people use that should be more popular

VLC Media Player: hands down, the best media player out there.
Google Desktop: blows standard windows search and even the new one out of the water. Ridiculously fast.
WinAce: versatile, easy to use zipping software. .ace is one of the most compressed forms out there, and it also works with more standard rar and zip files.
uTorrent: very streamlined, easy-to-use torrent client. Takes up minimal hard drive and memory, and runs beautifully and dutifully in the background.

Please add your favorites as suggestions!

Software that I use that nobody does

Sometimes, people who use my computer get really confused. They look for iTunes and they don't find it. Or Firefox. Or AIM. Is it possible that I don't listen to music, browse, or instant message on my computer? Quite the contrary. Here's what I use instead:

Music: Windows Media Player. Nice and simple, and it gets the job done. If you already have all your music in a folder and its organized, there's no reason to use iTunes. Especially if you have a simple flash mp3 player like a Sansa or Creative one, it's very easy to drag-and-drop files right into it.

Browsing: Maxthon 2.1. Why? Because way back in the day, when Mozilla was really slow and I was looking to escape IE5, I found it and it made my day. I've stuck by it loyally ever since. Some of the best features that it has but Firefox doesn't have are Super Drag and Drop and special mouse commands. For example, if I move my mouse up and down really quickly, it refreshes the page. Sweet.

Instant Messaging: Trillian Pro 3. This is an absolutely awesome software that I've been using since 2002. The pro version needs a bit of keygen searching, but it may even be worth the $25 they charge. From one application you can connect to IRC, YIM, MSN, AIM, and ICQ. Furthermore, you can get plugins to give you all the functionality of the Vista Sidebar, which I've enjoyed for years. You can get slick skins and override people's obnoxious typeface settings. This way, I can stand the geeks who think its cool to have lime-green on black Courier or the Plastics who insist on Comic Sans violet on pink text.

Am I weird for all this? Perhaps. But try these three out, and they might just bring as much joy to you as they have to me. They should all be easily available with a good Google.



I've decided to create a blog just to catalogue and publish my many thoughts, ideas, reviews, hopes, dreams, jokes, and rants. Enjoy!