Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Future Begins


I really cannot wait for the new Star Trek movie. It looks like it might be one of the best in the franchise since The Voyage Home. I wasn't really very fond of the later ones, mainly because, as much as I love them and their work, the original cast and TNG cast just got old. Now we have a totally new cast, young and fresh- you know the action scenes will be much better than those Shatner and Stewart were able to muster lol. The visual effects look great, the ship looks great, and, oh yah, there are Orion slave girls. Nom!
On another note, what the hell is the deal with the Watchmen? I did not pay $10 to watch a giant blue williker swing around for two hours.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

VERA


As much as I hate Microsoft, I must admit that I love the speech recognition software introduced with Vista. I named mine VERA. I have been doing my homework with it for a few days now. Sure, it takes about three times as long, but it's so cool!

Little things like that excite me, mainly because I'm old enough to remember our first Commodore 64, and I realize that, with technology progressing as rapidly as it is these days, we will soon be able to give commands to our computers in the same way that they do on Star Trek.

Another exciting thing is the rapid development of quantum computing. Scientists at the University of Innsbruck and the Austrian Academy of Sciences, for instance, recently demonstrated that the entanglement of optical qubits can be transferred with high fidelity onto hyperfine levels of a calcium ion with storage times of nearly 100 ms. This does not sound impressive until you realize that just a year ago the best storage times were measured in nanoseconds. I really envy young people, because they will be able to see things so much more amazing than I'll ever know. I just hope I can help bring about such an awesome future.

To learn more about quantum computing, visit www.qubit.org

VERA, publish post.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Caltechazi!


So I was invited to a webinar being given by Caltech tonight. A general, "this is what we are all about" kind of thing. Should be fun. It starts in an hour. I will certainly update as the webinar progresses. I hope to learn what the chances are of a thirty-six year old transfer student being accepted lol. You know, you go to their website and see all these teenagers working on their bachelors and think, "wow. will I actually be able to compete with these fresh-faced wunderkinds?" I think so. And if all else fails, I can continue my graduate work at NM Tech- I'm sure I'll have no problem gaining admission there. I still have a perfect GPA and plan to keep it for as long as possible. Plus, I think my determination is a big benefit and will be a major factor in their decision. Well, the gotoweb site says I need to be running Windows (blah) so I'd better boot it up. Stay tuned!

OK, well, I have been logged into the webinar for twenty-one minutes now, and am still waiting for the organizer to log in. I am NOT impressed so far. It was supposed to start at 8pm. I logged in at 8pm. I'm sure most of the other people who were invited also logged in at 8pm. Meh. I'll give them another fifteen minutes, then I'll just finish watching Battlestar Galactica on Hulu. Meh.

Well turns out that it started an hour later than stated. Decent presentation, but they did not answer my question about transfer students, and honestly told me no more than I could have learned from the website. But I got to listen to the Caltech jazz band for an hour! Good stuff.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Legalese




I've been getting calls from TRS Recovery Services, claiming that I owe them money for a debt I have with Amazon.com. Now, I do have a debt with Amazon. I ordered a Shepard Fairey book in September of 2007. They sent the book December 2008. Well, in the interim between me placing the order and them shipping it, I changed banks. I even put my new bank account info on Amazon for future purchases. I even made MORE purchases with the new bank account, namely "Learning JavaScript", by Shelly Powers (great book) and "Linux+ Study Guide", by Roderick W. Smith (also a great book). Anyways, I called Amazon and informed them of what happened, asking them to just debit my current account for the total debt. They refused, saying it was out of their hands since they had already sent the debt to TRS for recovery. Sold the debt, actually, although they will not tell you that.

So I did a little research online, and it turns out that in this situation, there is a way to get a debt collector off your back. Since I never did any business with TRS, they cannot legally demand any compensation from me without showing, in writing, exactly what product or service the debt collection company gave me in return for the money I supposedly owe. It's all in a little law called the Fair Credit Act. If you happen to be pestered by these cockroaches of society, just print out the following letter, inserting your information as appropriate, and send it to the collection agency via certified mail. Unless they can respond accordingly (and they cannot), they will be legally obligated to leave you the heck alone.
_____________________________________

[Your Name and Address]

TRS Recovery Services, Inc.

Corporate Office

5251 Westheimer

Houston, TX 77056

Reference: Claim # 255357519-3 Reference # 20834 LD #7

To Whom It May Concern:

You are in receipt of notice under the authority of The Fair Debt Collections Practices Act regarding your Claim # 255357519-3 Reference # 20834 LD #7. It is not now, nor has it ever been my intention to avoid paying any obligation that I lawfully owe. In order that I can make arrangements to pay an obligation which I may owe, please document and verify the "debt" by complying in good faith with this request for validation and notice that I dispute part of or all of the alleged debt.

1. Please furnish a copy of the original contract redacting my social security number to prevent identity theft and state under penalty of perjury that D&B Receivable Management Services is the bona fide party in interest of the contract and will produce the original for my own and a judge's inspection should there be a trial to contest these matters.

2. Please produce the account and general ledger statement showing the full accounting of the alleged obligation that you are now attempting to collect.

3. Please identify by name and address all persons, corporations, associations, or any other parties having an interest in legal proceedings regarding the alleged debt.

4. Please verify under penalty of perjury, that as a debt collector, you have not purchased evidence of debt and are proceeding with collection activity in the name of the original contracting party.

5. Please verify under penalty of perjury that you know and understand that certain clauses in a contract of adhesion, such as a so-called forum selection clause, are unenforceable unless the party to whom the contract is extended could have rejected the clause without impunity.

6. Please provide verification from the stated creditor that you are authorized to act for them.

7. Please verify that you know and understand that contacting me again after receipt of this notice without providing procedurally proper validation of the debt constitutes the use of interstate communications in a scheme of fraud by advancing a writing that you know is false with the intention that others rely on the written communication to the detriment of [Your full name].

Disputing the "debt",

[Your Name]

_______________________________________

If the collector refuses to stop contacting you despite your demands and without producing the demanded evidence, you may then report them to the FCC, your state's AG, their state's AG, and may even file a claim against them in your local small claims court, as per the Fair Credit Act, federal No Call List acts, etc.

Good Luck!

PS: the image above is "The Debt Collector", by Peter Gerasimon. I like it because I have a thing for the eye of Horus, for some reason, and yes it was relevant to the post. You can see more or purchase a print at www.gerasimon.com.au/thedebtcollector.html.

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Big Bang

I'm sitting here watching season two of my favorite sitcom in the whole world, the Big Bang Theory. Specifically, season two, episode eight, titled 'The Lizard-Spock Expansion.' I love anything involving physics, comics, and people that are ten times geekier than I am. Though just starting community college at thirty-two, I am determined to study physics at New Mexico Tech and, later, Caltech, researching in the field of quantum computing. I will have my doctorate at 40. Sometimes I think it's hardly worth it; what difference can I make? But then I think back to all the dreams and desires I had as a child, the awe I felt about our earth and our universe, and I realize that I want that sense of awe, excitement, and optimism that I had in every science class, and it gives me the motivation I need to suffer through all the mindless monotony while I achieve what I should have achieved years ago.

In the Lizard-Spock Expansion, Wolowitz, in an effort to impress his date by showing off his work with NASA, ends up getting the Mars Rover stuck in a ditch. Hilarity ensues as he, Sheldon, and Koothrappali try to hide the evidence linking Wolowitz to the accident. The kick is (spoiler!), Wolowitz' mistake ends up proving the existence of life on Mars, which, of course, Wolowitz cannot take credit for. The relevence to my life is that, after I dropped out of high school, I got stuck in my own ditch. For sixteen years. But that just enabled me to find that I was still that Star Trek watching, textbook reading, curious geek I was as a child, and I like being that person. Wolowitz, of course, couldn't benefit from his mistake. But I will benefit from mine, and I will help make the world a better place in the process.