After three months of development, I have finally migrated from Radio to Mylos, my home-grown weblogging software. It is far from finished, but there comes a point where you must just do it (the fact my laptop’s hard drive died on me was also a good catalyst). I have tested it with major browsers and RSS aggregators, but if you notice any errors, specially on the RSS feed, I would greatly appreciate it if you could email them to me.

How to ship books cheaply

A friend is moving from San Francisco to Paris, and I told him about a very low-cost option to ship books in bulk, the US Postal Service Airmail M-Bag. I used this service ten years ago when shipping books back from Yale to Paris, some of them were slightly battered in transit but all in all a remarkable service. It is also available for domestic use.

You basically buy the right to send a whole postal mail bag at a wholesale price, which comes to slightly under a dollar per pound for France. Interestingly, the French post office does not offer M-Bags to French customers but will accept those sent by the USPS.

SMS spam

I just had the unfortunate experience of receiving my first SMS (GSM mobile phone text message) spam. If this happens again, I will have to ask for a phone number change.

Batteries over two millennia old!

This BBC article (via Slashdot) describes the fascinating discovery of batteries in Baghdad dating to 200 BC. They were basically clay pots with copper cylinder cores that were to be immersed in some electrolyte such as wine or vinegar. Their purpose is still unknown.

Eat your heart out, Energizer bunny!

How the Rocky Mountains keep Western Europe temperate

Western Europe has very moderate winters compared to North American coastal regions at the same latitude, with a whopping 15°C (27°F) difference. New York is at about the same latitude as Rome, but its winters are considerably colder than those of Paris or London, which are at the same latitude as Québec or Newfoundland.

Conventional wisdom claims this is due to the regulating effects of the Gulfstream, that acts as a heat pump between both sides of the Atlantic ocean.

New research from Columbia (more details available from The Independent) debunks this theory. Apparently, most of the difference is due to atmospheric effects, and half of that due to global wind patterns whose meanderings are shaped by the Rocky Mountains (in simulations where the Rockies are flattened, Western Europe gets 9°C colder).The Gulfstream actually has only a very minor and almost negligible contribution to the difference.

I find it really amazing how mountains 9 time zones away can influence the climate so dramatically. It is a small world, after all.