Back to the barter system

About two weeks ago I found a sweet site, Game Trading Zone. Basically, you list the video games, movies and CD’s that you want to get rid of, as well as ones you’d like to have, and then you can arrange trades with other users. It’s a pretty good system; in addition to automatically finding matches with other traders, you can browse through what you might be able to get for your stuff, or what you might need to trade for something you want.

I completed my first trade this week, and got a nearly mint condition copy of Darklands, with both the original 5 1/4″ floppies and a CD as well as all the documentation. Incidently, I was also given an authorized reproduction of the somewhat hard to find Clue Book for that game along with another CD of it, courtesy one of the people on the Yahoo Darklands group; someone else had bought it a while ago but never followed up, so the guy sent it to me for free. So now I have three legitimate copies of Darklands, when I had been running a downloaded version for so long. But out of respect for the awesomeness of the game, I had been trying to get ahold of a legit copy for a while (mostly on eBay). All of a sudden, 3 copies for the cost of mailing a DVD (and trading a DVD I was going to give away anyway).

eBay sniping

I’ve been outbid at the last second on eBay a large number of times. Sometimes, I got into bidding wars in the last minutes with other people, where we would each decide the item was worth a little more to us when we saw how much the other person wanted it. In fact, that’s worked to my advantage on several of the things I’ve sold on eBay; we dumped off our Harry Potter 5 audiobook set for more than we paid for it.

But more often, when I got outbid, it was someone who waited till the very last seconds, when it was too late for me to manually bid more. Most likely, it was sniping programs that did me in… programs that place a bid automatically in the last seconds of an auction. I found a quite good free sniper program, JBidWatcher, and I won my first auction with a snipe tonight while I was watching TV. For you eBay addicts, I highly recommended using the sniping method. Even if people think they put in their max bid, they often change their minds at the last second when they’re outbid; I know I do. So when you have a sniping program that bids automatically for you with 10 seconds left, you can save a lot of money from bid wars.

search results

The new massive expansion of Google’s site index has increased my web presence even more: over 250 hits. Also, the new Google Blog Search seems quite good; much better than any of the other blog search sites out there, to most of which you have to manually submit your RSS feed. I guess having all that site index data already gives Google a big advantage.

I did a search for “Sage Ross” on the Google blogsearch, and found one very interesting result. Someone is announcing the recent birth of “Kai Sage Ross.” My brother, of course, is Kai Ross, and I used to live in Washington (state). Could there be some connection? It’s a great mystery. Could this child grow up to compete with Kai and me for name recognition? Will he (or she?) usurp our web presence by becoming far more famous?

Also, I found an incoming link from MSN search results. Incredibly, my review of Dava Sobel’s The Planets is the first result for ‘sobel planets’ and several similar queries. It beats out other reviews of The Planets on much more important sites. It’s not even in the first 100 results on Google or Yahoo. Weird. Hopefully that MSN ranking will remain until the book comes out; then I’ll get tons of hits.

beginning of the semester round-up

My classes have finally stabilized in terms of the people, and all four of my main classes are really great.

I’m going to try to do brief reviews of the books I read for each class. We’ll see how long that lasts.

In Ole’s Science, Technology and Modernity class, the undergrads are really bright, and all of them seem enthusiastic about it. Sometimes undergrad discussions can be frustrating, but the first two have gone really well in there. And Ole requires little library assignments each week, which are kind of fun and actually (I’m ashamed to say) useful for me; I’m definitely less experienced with different kinds of library sources than I should be. We read The Railway Journey this week, which I thought was really great.

Fabrication and Uses of Knowledge also looks to be very stimulating; it has one other grad student (a sociologist from Denmark) and (I think) three undergrads, all of whom seem to be able to contribute on a high enough level for the class to really get deep into the literature we’ll be reading. It seemed at first like the undergrads would be a problem, as the class divided into two sides about the definitions we were trying to work out for “Knowledge” and “Information,” but the discussion actually went somewhere and everyone left with a much better idea of those concepts than we started with. (Unfortunately, the room the class meets in is loud and stiflingly hot, but that should change once winter arrives and we can shut the windows without suffocating.)

As for Narrative Histories, the discussions are very enjoyable. The other garden-variety history courses I took last year were somewhat stressful for me, since every discussion really engaged with history beyond the book of the week. It was hard for me to contribute on the same level as the garden-variety historians and Americanists without knowing more history. But this class is really about ways of writing history, so my lack of historical knowledge doesn’t hold me back. However, so far I haven’t been taken with either of the readings. I really like the concept of narrative history, so the reading have been a let-down (but great discussion fodder). We read Mirror in the Shrine last week and Dead Certainties this week, and for both books I simply couldn’t bring myself to care much about the stories being told (although most of the latter is moderately entertaining).

John’s Intro to the History of Medicine and Public Health will be enjoyable (the first week’s discussion went just fine), but I’m also afraid it will retread a lot of the ground we covered last year in his Grounding of Modern Medicine. The books are mostly different, covering a broader spectrum of medical history, but it will still focus more on “craft issues” of how to write (and more often how not to write) books on the history of medicine than on the actual content of the history of medicine. The presence of several non-historians will hopeful help to mitigate that, but even if it doesn’t the books will be good and the discussions will still be of some value to me despite some repetition. The first book we read was Medicine Before Science. Well, they read it; I read only a third, but I’m auditing so I don’t feel bad. But I would like to finish it some time. The last third was about the various and sundry philosophical systems of medicine that arose as the Latin tradition splintered; everyone else hated that part but it seemed from their descriptions to be the most interesting to me.

Meanwhile, I’m considering going to an alternate colloquia series for a few times this semester; every talk but one for HSHM will be history of medicine (and that will be about Kinsey, too social science for my tastes generally, but also provocative enough to make it worthwhile). Meeting at the same time is a history seminar series on “Transitions to Modernity,” which they scheduled also on Mondays at 4:30. It’s staggered oddly, so some of them conflict with Holmes Workshop talks and some with HSHM colloquia; I’m less inclined to skip workshops out of respect for my immediate colleagues. It’s frustrating after last year’s colloquium line-up, which included some really prominent historians of science (and some less prominent ones who gave really great talks).


Tonight I’m spending the night with my fellow historians Steve and Julia in New Haven. I normally don’t come to school on Thursday or Friday, but this week I have to both days, because of a moved class and a department luncheon. So I figured now is as good a time as any to start taking advantage of their hospitality; in the winter I might have to do it more often, and not just to save gas and driving time.

There isn’t much new to report… I’ve wanted (and had time) to write more, but haven’t had anything to say. I have been doing some more exploring in the woods in back of the apartment, and I have a new bonzai; I haven’t named it yet, but it’s another evergreen with shorter needles than Euler.

Classes are cookin’ now and I really like them. I have enough audiobooks to last the whole semester, I think. We finally have money again, too, although I think I’m still going to avoid buying the course packets for any of my classes. It’s nice that Faith is enrolled at UConn now, because I can take advantage of her library privileges. At Yale, the books I need for classes are very often either checked out or on reserve, but I can also get books from UConn, so I think I’ll be able to either check out or find online all the course packet material. We had been nearly broke for several weeks, because of the move, but last week and this week we the cash flow going again… last week we got our deposit from the old apartment, some birthday money, and over $300 from selling books online, just in the nick of time before we missed our rent payment.

more hits, more Linux

I’m happy to report that Dogpile now lists a total of 51 hits for “ragesoss” on the major search engines, up from less than 10 in the not-too-distant past.

As for the desktop woes, they do indeed continue, but things are mostly OK. Apparently it’s a hardware defect in my processor (the northbridge, to be specific) that is causing my remaining memory errors. But I got some really great advice for free (and pretty quickly) from the Open Tech Support forums. Definitely a site worth checking out when you run into computer problems.

Meanwhile, I did yet another reinstallation of Linux, this time Ubuntu. Definitely the easiest install I’ve had yet, and there are some features that make actually using it quite a bit better than than basic Debian (upon which Ubuntu is based), particularly a graphical installer program that lets you select software to install from a menu. Unfortunately, the networking that worked instantly before won’t work with this installation, despite some monkeying with settings. Overall, Linux definitely has a long way to go in terms of user friendliness before it becomes an acceptable Windows replacement, but from what I can tell it’s closing the gap pretty fast.

I also found out from an IT employee that Yale has a general policy of not revealing the identities of students when copyright enforcers track file-sharing to Yale IPs. They give you a warning, but they don’t stop you from doing it again (and good luck if anyone tries to go up against Yale’s lawyers). And when you log into the Yale Virtual Private Network (which allows access to online journal subscriptions and other secured content) all your internet traffic goes through Yale first. So by using the VPN, a file-sharer can essentially become anonymous. Hypothetically.


My classes are set now: I’m auditing John Warner’s course and taking the others from the top 4 below. I’m also sitting in on Humans and Animals Since Darwin with Bettyann Kevles. In particular, I think the Demos and Molvig classes will be really great.

Ole also mentioned the possibility of starting a reading group on popular science where we would read contemporary science writing, since he and I are both quite interested in that. I hope we can rustle up some more people and get that going. I think it might even be eligible for some financial support, although I’m not sure if we could buy the books with the money. Of course, I have an enormous backlog of popular science books from the remaindered shelf at Hastings in Oklahoma, which grows every time I visit. I count at least 20 on my bookshelf that are unread, plus a few legitimate history of science books. And I only buy the very most interesting ones… I feel like a cheapskate for not buying twice as many at those prices. Maybe I can do some sort of research paper based on reading an enormous number of these things. That would be convenient.

On a sadder note, Ed Larson canceled the talk he was supposed to give next week. Apparently he’s doing an interview with Jon Stewart instead. I guess all the ID stuff in the news made him too hot a commodity for a mere Yale colloquium. I was really looking forward to meeting him. But he’s been in the news lately, partially clarifying some of the questions I had for him:
Washington Post
LA Times
And there was a New York Times article that is now in the pay-for-access archives, where he discussed briefly his reasons for leaving the Discovery Institute (basically they were becoming too political for him, he says). I would have liked to ask him about his religious views, though.

School on Labor Day is Yale’s birthday present to me.

School started on Wednesday, and it looks like it will be an enjoyable year… even though it’s hard to say what the final composition of my classes will be people-wise, the ones I’ve been to and the people I’ve met so far seem great.

Unfortunately, I think I might not get into the class I was most looking forward to (Narrative, and Other, Histories) because I forgot to email the professor as soon as I was supposed to, to confirm my interest in it. I thought I had until Saturday, but my memory is kind of hazy on that, and someone today told me they already got an email saying they didn’t make the cut. I still haven’t gotten an email back about it.
[Edit]: I’m in the class… Yahoo’s spam filter decided I didn’t really need that message.

And of course, I’m still fairly depressed about the Horned Frogs debacle, but my second favorite team, Florida State, helped ease the pain a little bit with the long-overdue win over Miami. Any game where Miami gets sacked 9 times is good in my book.

We went to the Congregational church at the corner of the UConn campus on Sunday… won’t be going back. There were maybe 6 college-age people there, and the sermon was one of the most generic I’ve heard in a long time.

Meanwhile, the cats are doing well, and our new neighbors are some really nice UConn undergrads.