The color Nook: interesting tablet, bad reader

Barnes and Noble announced a LCD tablet-reader today.  It has a 7-inch color touchscreen, WiFi, a web browser, and runs Android applications.

I own an e-ink Nook and love it, but I'm not that excited by the LCD Nook. Why?

  1.  The best thing about the Nook is that it supports e-pub, a format that my public library also supports.  So, I can "borrow" e-books from my library, read them and return them (or they expire in 3 weeks).  Pretty nice.  The LCD Nook will also do this.
  2. e-ink is very easy on the eyes. I have read for 12 hours straight (on long airline flights) and not had any problems.  LCD screens are not as pleasant to read.  Besides, the battery life is only about 8 hours.
  3. Even though the e-ink Nook has WiFi and a web browser, the touchscreen is so clunky that I've used it only a couple of times.  With a LCD reader, the web is only a touch away.  I doubt that I'd be able to read for long on a LCD Nook without being tempted to check my email, or check Facebook.
As an e-reader, the LCD Nook is lousy -- it preserves only one of the three key advantages of the e-ink version.  The one huge improvement it brings is color.  Maps, illustrations and kids' books are unworkable on e-ink. 

On the other hand, a 7" tablet for $250 is a nice proposition.  This could be an iPad replacement.  Half-the-screen-size for half-the-price.  Android vs. iOS.  As a tablet, this is interesting.

Why the US will never get serious about climate change

This map sort-of explains why a majority of the US senate is opposed to climate legislation:
California, Florida and a narrow sliver of the East coast  will be adversely affected by climate change.  The rest of the country will be just fine. Because the senate is divided according to states and not population, the adversely affected states will always be a small minority -- regardless of which party is in power.

In the world too, there is a similar disparity of impact. Most climate change impacts will be on the highly populated parts of Asian and subsaharan Africa.  Matt Yglesias sees this disparity of impacts -- where the rich countries reap the benefits and the poor countries deal with the impacts -- as a morality play:
Presumably “I should be allowed to steal this Bangladeshi man’s land and sell it for profit” is not a free market position. Nor is “I should be allowed to have my cattle eat this Bangladeshi man’s grass and then sell it for profit” a free market position. I don’t think “I should be allowed to cut costs by dumping the toxic waste byproducts from my family on this Bangladeshi man’s agricultural land” makes a ton of sense as a free market position.
But I see this as just so much real-politick.

The biggest and the worstest

According to the USGS, the epicentre of yesterday's earthquake was about 10 miles east of the weather center, in the middle of Lake Thunderbird.  At a "moderate" magnitude of 4.3 (5.1 according the Oklahoma Geological Survey), it's not in the category of the monster earthquakes they get in Alaska or California.  Still, it felt like you were standing in an underground station while an express train rumbled through.

The kids were excited (the earthquake was around 9am local time) and in the evening, they were talking about everything they'd learned about earthquakes, faults, depth, population impacts, etc. It was heartening to see that both their teachers had discarded regular activity and converted the entire morning into a research session on earthquakes. Kudos to Norman public schools and to the American education system --  this sort of flexibility would not have even occurred to the teachers in the African and Indian schools that I attended.

It was also interesting that the kids had each picked up on a different aspect of "biggest".  S1, our 9-year-old boy, reported that Alaska had had the biggest earthquake because it had a magnitude of 9.2.  He was aware that this was only the biggest in the United States, but didn't know that the largest earthquake in the world was in Chile. Did you say "typically American?".  Well, I suppose. He's less interested in the world than I am, that's for sure.

Meanwhile, S2, our 6-year old girl, was more globally aware.  The "worstest" earthquake, she insisted, was in China.  It was in the 1500s and killed 800,000 people, so it was by far the deadliest (for comparison: the one in Haiti last year led to 200,000 deaths).  And of course, that was when the world had far fewer people than now.

I found it interesting that S1 focused on magnitude while S2 focused on population impact. This is something that we constantly talk about with respect to weather forecasting.  Meteorologists and engineers focus on getting forecasts more timely and more accurate while social scientists we talk to tell us that the real problem is one of getting the general public to understand and mitigate weather impacts.

A day in the grasslands

Saturday, we went hiking in Northwest Oklahoma. It's a rugged, beautiful terrain out there. The reason that it is so austere is because the preserve manager did a controlled burn a couple of months ago, to clear the red cedar off the highlands. The lazily bending river in the photograph is the Canadian.
Rugged landscape (Northwest Oklahoma)
Red cedar after a controlled burn
A lazy bend of the Canadian river

Crazy candidate

How sick and crazy is the Republican candidate for Joe Biden's Senate seat? I'm not worried that Christine O'Donnell claimed to have dabbled in witchcraft.  Hillary Clinton consulted astrologers and  that didn't stop her from being an effective Senator.

What has me concerned is that O'Donnell claimed, in a 2006 primary debate with a Chinese-American, she had seen classified documents about the Chinese plan to take over America.  The family of the Chinese-American in question, Jan Ting, immigrated to the USA in the 1930s, and he is a staunch conservative (as you would expect of someone running in a Republican primary).  This is conspiracy-mongering of the highest order.

The last election (2008 -- the year of Obama), I voted for more Republicans than Democrats. Considering how unhinged the Republicans have become, though, I'm going to vote straight party-line Democrat this time.

TV 22

The lack of internet at my hotel(*) means that I can neither play bridge nor work.  The book currently on my Nook is  a downbeat memoir by a name-dropping journalist ("Hitch 22").  The book is bad enough that I have been watching TV at night.  Some observations about the Tee Vee from one who rarely watches:

  1. When did so many desis start landing bit parts on TV shows?  And they are not all just doctors or computer nerds either.  One of them was an office drone and the other an administrative assistant with a British (!) accent.  Asif Manvi, of the Daily Show, I already knew about, of course. Jon Stewart, last night: "We're holding the rally 206 miles from Ground Zero so Asif Manvi can attend".
  2. When did all the women starting looking so ... engineered? All the actresses on all the sitcoms seem have injected their lips with collagen and Botoxed their faces ...
  3. Have commercials always been this long? I would start reading Hitch-22 when a commercial came on, and go back to watch the show when the commercials stopped.  The commercials were so long (and the shows themselves so sparse) that I finished reading Hitchens' book in three evenings of TV watching even without meaning to.

Next book on my reading list is "Curious Incident of the Dog in the night time".  Here's hoping the book is interesting enough that I won't have to watch TV tonight.

(*) Naturally, the only hotel in the financial district of Manhattan that I can afford to stay in is a bit of a dump.  Now, my tastes are quite spartan -- all I want in a hotel are: a clean bed, free internet and free breakfast.  The Best Western near the South Seaport promised the trifecta, but it turns out that the internet isn't working.  The hotel claims the internet (and half the elevators) is down because of a storm last week. 10 days to fix this? Oh, whatever.

New York without the verve

The "slip" streets in the financial district of New York used to be water channels where boats would moor so that they could be unloaded. This was back in the days when New York was the Dutch trading port of New Amsterdam.

The hotel I'm staying at (left) is on Peck Slip and maybe it's the thought of sleeping on land-fill that has me feeling a bit morose. Or perhaps it's the city itself -- New York city seems to have lost its verve. The finance-types are making money again, as much money as they did before the crisis. But they no longer seem to be enjoying it. Where the young kids used to talk about their ambitions and conquests, they now describe their work as pointless and worry that they are actively harming society.

Not worrying enough to quit their jobs and do something more "productive" (their words), but wringing their hands nevertheless.

It's not just the financial people who seem beaten down.

A retail store advertised that it was looking for sales people and this was the line that formed outside its doors. The line snaked around the city block, with anxious looking people clutching pads with their applications filled out.

Incidentally, this is near Ground Zero, closer to the World Trade Center building site than the Park 51 Muslim community center would be. I've never New York like this.

Chinatown, though, remains what it was. The streets were crowded as were the restaurants.

A friend and I were looking for a hole-in-the-wall that'd gotten good reviews but we missed it and entered the adjacent restaurant instead. It turned out to be a happy mistake -- the watercress-and-pork dumplings were heavenly. We ordered two entrees and they tasted different; just imagine: a Chinese restaurant that uses different sauces for different dishes!

So, the simple pleasures of New York remain.
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The Nobel and the Ignobel

Russian-born Andre Geim, now of the University of Manchester, has won the 2010 Nobel Prize in Physics for extracting graphene from a piece of graphite (using very sophisticated lab equipment: a piece of adhesive tape).

He was last seen in 2000 winning the Ignobel for his work levitating frogs using a magnet.

p.s. How does it feel to be Michael Berry, his collaborator on the frog-experiment vs. Konstantin Novoselov, his collaborator on the graphite tape-ripping one?