A pacemaker wrecks a family's life#

Then came the autumn day when [my mother] asked for my help, and I said yes. I told myself that we were simply trying to undo a terrible medical mistake. I reminded myself that my dad had rejected a pacemaker when his faculties were intact. I imagined, as a bioethicist had suggested, having a 15-minute conversation with my independent, predementia father in which I saw him shaking his head in horror over any further extension of what was not a "life," but a prolonged and attenuated dying. None of it helped. I knew that once he died, I would dream of him and miss his mute, loving smiles. I wanted to melt into the arms of the father I once had and ask him to handle this. Instead, I felt as if I were signing on as his executioner and that I had no choice.

Fishy gene hints at how limbs evolved from fins#

The genes' removal from zebra-fish embryos resulted in the loss of actinotrichia -- a basic fin component -- and made their proto-fins resemble appendages seen in ancient fossils of the first four-legged creatures.

Lincoln's Great Depression#

Of Lincoln, William Herndon, his law partner, said, "His melancholy dripped from him as he walked."

In 1841, after coming out of his second major depressive episode, Lincoln wrote to Herndon:

I am now the most miserable man living. If what I feel were equally distributed to the whole human family, there would not be one cheerful face on the earth. Whether I shall ever be better I can not tell; I awfully forebode I shall not. To remain as I am is impossible; I must die or be better, it appears to me.

The article is an 8000-word must-read.

Atomic John#

The fascinating story of one unbelievably determined man's obsession with every facet of Little Boy and Fat Man.

Fanboyism and brand loyalty#

To combat postdecisional dissonance, the feeling you have committed to one option when the other option may have been better, you make yourself feel justified in what you selected to lower the anxiety brought on by questioning yourself.

Fix broken scrolling in mid-2010 MacBook Pros

May 28, 2010

I recently bought a spec'd-out 15" Core i7 MacBook Pro (to replace my late 2008 model) and for the most part it's been a perfect performer, and notably, for my day-to-day use, it runs much cooler than my previous Core 2 Duo notebook, despite all the reports I've seen that tell me it shouldn't. (Relatedly, I put a 256GB Crucial RealSSD C300 in the new machine and it just screams.)

The only problem I've had with the new MBP is that sometimes (and without prompt as far as I can tell) scrolling within programs, and the process of moving a program's window, are delayed significantly. For example, if I grab a window to move it across the screen, the window won't move at all until 2-4 seconds after I let go of the mouse, and then it just appears at the final position. This hasn't happened too often (three times in ~two weeks), but you can imagine my frustration when it does. Oddly, no other GUI interactions seem to be affected (e.g., cycling between tabs and open programs always works as expected).

After trying everything I could think of to right this behavior, including killing both the Finder and WindowServer, I remembered reading about an app — Cody Krieger's gfxCardStatus — that lets you switch manually between the machine's graphics subsystems. As you may know, these newer MacBook Pros come with two independent graphics solutions (integrated Intel HD Graphics, and a discrete NVIDIA GeForce GT 330M) that switch on/off dynamically depending on current processing requirements.

I downloaded the app, used it to switch from the NVIDIA card to the integrated Intel graphics and immediately everything was back to normal. I then activated the NVIDIA card and it too was now acting as it should. So, it seems Krieger's little app provides a simple solution (that doesn't require a reboot or even a logout/login sequence) to this annoying scrolling/window-position problem, which I suspect will be fixed in the next Mac OS X update.

The thrill of flying the SR-71 Blackbird#

One moonless night, while flying a routine training mission over the Pacific, I wondered what the sky would look like from 84,000 feet if the cockpit lighting were dark… I slowly turned down all of the lighting, reducing the glare and revealing the night sky… To my amazement, I saw a bright light outside my window. As my eyes adjusted to the view, I realized that the brilliance was the broad expanse of the Milky Way, now a gleaming stripe across the sky. Where dark spaces in the sky had usually existed, there were now dense clusters of sparkling stars [and] shooting stars flashed across the canvas every few seconds. It was like a fireworks display with no sound… Despite our speed, we seemed still before the heavens, humbled in the radiance of a much greater power. For those few moments, I felt a part of something far more significant than anything we were doing in the plane.

Trust me, this is a must-read, even if you've zero interest in jets, etc. (Like many kids of the '80s, I kind of obsessed over the SR-71; I'm pretty sure I had the Revell model kit the author mentions, and distinctly remember loving my metal Matchbox version of the plane.)


Homebrew is the easiest and most flexible way to install the UNIX tools Apple didn't include with OS X.