Nuclear Energy Roundtable

Is nuclear energy different than other energy sources? | The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

I recently found that The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has an ongoing roundtable of a series of articles about nuclear energy. I come down in favor of nuclear + renewable energy as the most recent article suggests. But there are a lot of articles both pro and con that highlight the issues with nuclear energy as well.

As a magazine put out during the Cold War whose symbol is a menacing doomsday clock counting down “minutes to midnight (Armageddon)”, The Bulletin is naturally a bit skeptical about nuclear power. Since the end of the Cold War the magazine has broadened it’s focus to talk about climate change as well, which gives them a really unique perspective. Their Fukushima coverage is also particularly good, it is really fascinating learning from real experts in nuclear energy and energy policy as opposed to general news reporters. I follow a lot of science blogs but The Bulletin is definitely one of the best issue-focused sources.

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Class Warfare Sounds Dignified in the Queen’s English

After the RiotsOwen Jonesaudio | RSA Podcasts

The RSA, my latest favorite podcast, just released this really great discussion about the London Riots. Before listening I was only vaguely aware of what was really going on in London, most of what I know about urban England I learned from Netflix (This is England | Fish Tank | Shameless). But I heard a lot of similarities, implications, and general trends that apply in terms of the ramifications of government austerity, gentrification, and a growing income disparity. The situation parallels the US in interesting ways: 20% youth unemployment, a resurgent right-wing criticizing the poor and unemployed as a “feckless underclass”, and a left (Labor) either scared of or incapable of creating a counter-narrative. The core causes seemed virtually identical to the structural employment and economic disparity that exists in the US; and the recession and government cuts to social services seemed poised to only exacerbate the economic situation. But the solution also seemed to be the same, education. In the new global economy first world nations don’t really have any place for an uneducated workforce. To stave off social unrest and in the spirit of equality, educational reform has to be undertaken.

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Once Upon a Time I Wrote Awesome Code

I’ve finally finished and released a coding side-project of mine that has gone neglected for 3 years.

About Truncator.js

So here’s what it does:

  • Truncates nested html content (not just flat text) to fit within a fixed height (or max-height) div
  • Allows more / less links to expand and restore truncated text
  • Runs automatically on all elements with the “truncate” class or Truncator.wrapClass
  • Can be run manually with Truncator.truncate()
  • Allows custom truncation characters (default is … / … )
  • Wraps long words using ­
  • Uses the jQuery Library

It can be run automatically on divs like this:

<div id=”1″ class=”truncate” truncate=”1″ expand=”1″ style=”width:X;height:Y;” ></div>

Or run manually in Javascript with this function call:

Truncator.truncate(HTMLelement, width, height, [optional] truncation string);

See it in action here

Download the source: svn | zip
jQuery Plugin Page

Why it Took 3 Years to Finish

I first created the clumsy ancestor of Truncator.js 4 years ago at my first job. It started off as a way to achieve cross browser word-wrap for a web-based instant messenger and ended up working similar to Hyphenator.js. It was based off a gem of found code written in Portugese and a lot of trial-and-error. The whole class was a terrible mess and a ton of work for functionality that CSS3 word-wrap would fix anyway, but it didn’t take long to realize that the code could be adapted to dynamically truncate text to fit within a div; a much more elegant solution than server-side truncation.

After leaving my job I re-wrote the class in my spare time and added improvements like a binary search algorithm; but it wasn’t until I revisited the project this past month that I managed to add the finishing touch of DOM navigation to allow truncation of HTML content. At this point I’ve tested the truncation on my blog and the included test.html and it works pretty well even with a large amount of text. There are probably still some quirks related to certain HTML elements. I can’t promise how responsive bug-fixes to the code will be, consider this alpha-stage code; but if it finds use out there I’ll try and keep it up to date let me know if you have any issues.

E-mail: contact@malcolmp.com

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How Not To Write an Interview Thank You Letter

Alternate title: Wherein Malcolm is a Grammar Nazi Procrastinating Writing His Own Thank You Letter

I know About.com isn’t exactly known for it’s quality content or insightful advice but this should not be the top search result on Google for interview thank you letter.

It was very enjoyable to speak with you about the assistant account executive position at the Smith Agency. The job, as you presented it, seems to be a very good match for my skills and interests. The creative approach to account management that you described confirmed my desire to work with you.

Ok, not a terrible start. But in general, business writing should be much more assertive. First, the job seems to be a very good match for my skills and interests? Do you not know if your skills and interests are a good match for the job? Drop the seems, it weakens the statement of your fit for the position. Second, using the passive voice in the last sentence is awkward. Again, even if you are horrendously under-qualified at least pretend to be Wall Street style assertive. In short write about yourself more like this.

In addition to my enthusiasm, I will bring to the position strong writing skills, assertiveness and the ability to encourage others to work cooperatively with the department. My artistic background will help me to work with artists on staff and provide me with an understanding of the visual aspects of our work.

It probably isn’t great to tout your writing skills in such an awkwardly structured first sentence. It is a bit of a pet-peeve of mine but if you are going to list your talents just list them clearly and simply (strengths: 1, 2, 3, and 4). The use of “I will bring to the position” also rubs me the wrong way. The sentence could alternatively be written “I bring” to be both more active and simpler. Also, didn’t you just interview for this position and cover this? I sure hope you weren’t that forgettable.

I understand your need for administrative support. My detail orientation and organizational skills will help to free you to deal with larger issues. I neglected to mention during my interview that I had worked for two summers as a temporary office worker. This experience helped me to develop my secretarial and clerical skills.

I appreciate the time you took to interview me. I am very interested in working for you and look forward to hearing from you about this position.

These two first sentences are both grammatically correct but abrupt; the break should really be removed to flow into the second explanatory sentence. I don’t expect everyone to use the awesomeness of semi-colons but a simple “and” would really smooth those paragraphs out. Detail orientation is another bad, mixed-up passive phrase.

Also, after talking with an actual person and not donotreply@companythatwonthireyou.com you hopefully had a personal connection and can be a bit warmer and personable than you were in the cover letter you emailed to those other 143 companies. At least this letter gave me a boost in confidence in the comparative quality of my own thank you letter writing as long as everyone else is using this as the benchmark.

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I Have Conquered Imperial

Los Angeles

In downtown Los Angeles, early sunlight often warms the west side of the tall white canyon called Flower Street. Beneath a lush awning of tree-leaves against the scaffolded coast of the University Club, a bus blinks its red lights. The shadow of one skyscraper upon another seems as ancient as any survivor of geologic or even celestial time. But bit by bit, the shadow shrinks and thins; the yellow-tan glow takes over, brightening all the while; and Flower Street becomes busy with people and cars.

… And she spun me along Mulholland Drive, winding down across Stone Canyon and around the moist green hills with the San Fernando Valley below; white houses, the more expensive the more precious, then came dark trees and more white building-squares and mountains until the San Fernando Valley opened up, with the long straight ribbon called Sepulveda shooting through the white-and-grey-green grid toward the mountains.

San Diego

In San Diego it is a cool summer day in December, palm trees whipping in the sea breeze, crisp shadows, blue sky. An American flag flies from atop an old hotel. Banana leaves wave above parking lots of littering cars. I see a billboard for Mel Gibson’s new movie “Apocalypto,” and an advertising blimp hovers over so many cars that the farthest ones are washed out by distance. The skyscrapers of San Diego’s core huddle compactly amidst the sprawl. The freeways are lush with ivy, ice plants and palm trees. This lively coast remains verdant between and among the concretions of humanity. But just outside the city we find this verdancy to be actually a human artifact; for the hills, though bushy, are semi-arid, the dirt tan or even white, showing through between grass-clumps like bald patches in a worn carpet.

- William T. Vollmann, Imperial

Book Review

In truth, Los Angeles and San Diego appear to be the antagonists of this book at times but these are just a few great illustrative passages that struck me. Imperial is the first of Vollmann’s books that I’ve read; at 1,132 pages that are alternately fascinating and dry it took a while. Imperial is an odd book that rambles and seems to reveal about as much about the author as it does the portion of California and Mexico Vollmann tries to study. I loved how richly descriptive his writing can be if you don’t mind wandering off on a tangent or two hundred with him. Everything about this book is stream of consciousness and it seems as if the author is constantly trying to understand what he is experiencing as the book goes on. The book jumps around chronicling the history of the region focusing on farming, land use, water, immigration, and industrialization all with meticulous if scattered detail. At times I had to struggle through this book or do some B-school style skimming but overall, it was an intriguing portrait of a region of my state that I know little about.

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