Ask A Geek Anything issue two

Hi, and welcome to Ask A Geek anything, issue two.  This is the column in the Otherwhere Gazette that attempts to provide answers to any and all geek questions that won’t get us thrown out for sexual harassment.

We gained yet another staffer in this issue: Digital Pythoness, who introduces herself as follows: I started my first linux box in 1992, worked in tech support, as a digital artist, and web designer.  I have been a dedicated linux user since it took 42 floppies to install slackware on a used laptop. Also a dedicated SF fan, goer to cons, writer and technical nerd.

She gets the first question of the day:

Surly Surfer says: I use Firefox, which is developing problems. added to their political moves in the last year I am getting to the point where I am done with them. I dislike Chrome, and IE is of course IE. Any suggestions?

Note: All of the browsers I have chosen claim to be compatible with Windows, Linux and OSX (except Pale moon, which doesn’t like OSX, apparently he’s an ex)  Having done some asking around about the browsers I chose to list, this can mostly be trusted. As for net performance, that is a YMMV basis. It can vary by system, by OS, and by settings. So I give a selection of browsers that have different strengths in different arenas.

1. Waterfox: This is a browser which is a straight split from Firefox, meaning it is maintained by different people,(to avoid Imperial Entanglements) but still relies on the same code base . It is reconfigured to optimize specifically for 64 bit systems. Runs on Linux, and Windows 7. It is considerably faster than Firefox, but has all the familiar features. They have a credible clam to being the fastest browser on the web, though Opera says that, too.

2. Opera: And now for something completely different! This is a slick, professional, and rock solid browser that is a closed source project, but free as in “free beer”. It is highly customizable, and where I went when I fled Firefox ages ago. Personally it was much better at handling crashes than chrome is. It has an innovative tab management system, and innovated the bookmarks you enjoy in other browsers today. Personally, they’ve gone off the original vision a bit by trying to integrate live communities and file sharing into the browser itself… I hear they have since made it much easier to turn that stuff off.
ON top of that, Opera has some sharing features with your phone and tablet devices. I have not tested it, but I would have heard if this feature bombed.http://www.opera.com/

These are both great, and feature-full browsers. What if you want to ratchet back and get a more light weight experience? I have two more that may work, and a wildcard that I always keep as my backup browser.

3. Pale Moon: I’ll admit this was recommended by a man I respect. I have done a bit of digging on it, and it passes the sniff test. This is also based on Firefox, but with different priorities. A great many extras have been stripped away, and some optimizations have been worked under the hood. It is compatible with both 32 bit and 64 bit systems, and runs on Ubuntu, a portable platform for tablets and mobile devices, and the entire Windows opus. It even has a version for Windows XP. While it does not do a command preformance on digital preformance tests, it focuses on stability, speed and keeping the frills down to a college roar. Self-described as a “middle of the road” browser.

4. Midori: This is a multiplatform browser that works on any desktop. This means it is a child of Konqueror, which is the proud parent of Safari of OSX fame. You can trust this to run on OSX, in other words. It is light weight, it is fast, designed with simplicity in mind. It tests respectably against contenders like Firefox and Chrome. My only issue with it, is that you don’t get folders for your bookmarks, and it doesn’t handle SSL gracefully. I have heard that this has been rectified since the last reviews went live.
Bonus link for the best browser review ever: (also of Midori, least likely to be heard of) http://thesimplecomputer.info/1-month-with-the-midori-web…


Kevin Crowley asks, What is the specific gravity of unobtainium?

And our lovely Amanda Fuesting the Potentate of Physics responds:   After careful research, it’s been determined that the specific gravity of unobtainum is slightly higher than that of Mithril. However, the Dwarves have declared that any and all information regarding Mithril is proprietary. Legal proceedings to force them to reveal the secret have been problematic at best, due to the Dwarven claim that the human legal system has no authority over them, and the subsequent threats of declaring war on anyone who attempts to force the issue.  (Chief bottle washer’s note, I have determined by practical experimentation that Aetherium is on a close par, within .005% of unobtainium)


Cedar Sanderson- How do you cosplay a character from a book? And have people be able to recognize it? I’m not even sure that’s possible…

Our lovely Jonna Hayden, the costumer to the Gods, answers:

Good question, Cedar! Yes, it’s entirely possible to cosplay a character from a book. As a costume designer, my job means doing considerable detective work on scripts to bring characters to life on the stage. Any text will give you a variety of clues as to what a character looks like, what they wear, and who they are. It’s just a matter of close reading.

Sit down at a table with a pad of paper and your book, and start reading again—but this time, pay particular attention to anything that refers to the character visually—height, weight, color of hair, any description of any kind that refers to the shape of their body, what they may be wearing. Words like rumpled, sharp, conservative, wild, particular colors, etc. Don’t stop at the first description the author provides you—read the ENTIRE book again, with this filter in place, making notes as you go.

While you’re looking for descriptive terms, also pay attention to how the character manipulates the clothing. Comments like “he removed the blaster from the hidden holster at his ankle” tells you 1) He carries a blaster, 2) He has a holster that fits at the ankle, and 3) it’s hidden, which tells you the pants must be wide enough to cover both the holster and the blaster, and 4) The blaster can’t be as long as his arm.

Once you’ve gotten through the entire book, take some time to organize your notes by category. Shirt (or top), vest, pants, boots, coat, accessories, any mentions of color of the previous, layers, shoes, hats. This part may seem tedious, and may include several different looks. Don’t give up! You’re developing a database of information.

By the time you’re done with your data organization, you’ll probably have a strong mental image of what your character is wearing.

The next stage is to go investigate what other people may have come up with—do a google search on the character and see how others may have interpreted the design, either through artistic expression or cosplay. You’ll find commonalities in a cross section of them. You may also notice that others may have missed major points that you have in your notes. Collect images that resonate with you as being good representations (Pinterest is great for this) making notes on each pin as to what in that image works for you.

Finally, make decisions on each section of clothing and accessories, and begin to put it all together!

That’s a quick overview of how you can pull a character’s “look” out of a book.


Jolie Lachance asked, “How do you tell a primary source from a secondary source? Where are the REAL peer review journals? How you sort wikipedia from shinola in a research paper (any specialty).”

Our Research Goddess Amanda Zufall answers:

This is an excellent question. Because the distinction between primary and secondary sources is easier to explain as it relates to history, I will focus this part of my answer there. Primary sources are sources that are straight from the horse’s mouth, as it were. Good examples of this are personal diaries from the time period in the question, works of art, and birth records. Secondary sources are sources that contain analyses of primary sources. Good examples of this include textbooks, nonfiction books about the time period, or a journal article that compares census data. Princeton has an excellent explanation on the distinction that can be accessed for further nuance http://www.princeton.edu/~refdesk/primary2.html. They even have a list of links to some primary sources http://www.eduplace.com/ss/hmss/primary.html.
As to the question about how to find peer reviewed articles, I have found Google Scholar to be an invaluable resource to those who don’t have access to a database of scholarly journals (https://scholar.google.com/). For peer-reviewed articles in the medical field, PubMed is a very good source (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed). A list of other free sources of scholarly articles is available http://www.iss.nl/library/information_resources/free_scholarly_resources/. Some of these are better than others, and it will be largely trial and error to see if your preferred source is available and how good each engine is at meeting your needs. My experience is largely limited to medical/nursing journals. While fascinating, it’s certainly not all-encompassing.
The thing to be aware of is that peer-reviewed articles, particularly the recent ones, will be behind a pay wall. In order to read the full article, one has to buy it from the publishing journal. Still, being able to read the abstracts can give you a good idea of what you’re looking at before you cough up the money. If you’re serious about reading scholarly articles, a subscription to a database can certainly be a good investment. EBSCOhost is excellent (https://www.ebscohost.com/academic/academic-search-complete). I received a subscription to it while I was in nursing school, and made extensive use of it for both class and personal research. I have actually considered buying a subscription for personal use, but haven’t yet checked on the pricing.
When you’re reading a research paper, the only way to really tell the good information from the crap is to check citations, unless you already know the subject matter well enough to know that it’s crap. Even then, checking citations is always the way to go. In some subjects (like medicine), information can change so quickly, there’s a chance that something more recent came out since you last researched the material.


John McDonald asks: What is the difference between making wine and brandy?

I’ll be taking that one as I’ve been a brewer, vintner and mead maker for about 30 years.

Well John, the fast and flippant answer is: about ten years in the federal lockup if you get caught.

But that doesn’t really answer your question, so here’s the more complex answer.  Wine is made (as you may or may not know) by squeezing the juice out of fruit {usually grapes, but it doesn’t have to be, and I’m a huge fan of what wine snobs call “country wine” IE wine made from other fruits than grapes… In particular cherries, plums, and blackberrys make WONDERFUL wine.  In addition there are specialized sub groups that are wine by another name, to include Cider (apple wine done from whole apples and no water or sugar added) Perry (pears done the same way) apple wine (apple juice with water and sugar, no skins) and MEAD (Honey wine, with or without additives that can change the name still further, I could go on, but I teach a 6 hour course on this stuff in the SCA)}.  After you obtain the juice of what ever fruit you’re using, and there’s a LOT of different ways of doing this, this Book:  http://www.amazon.com/First-Steps-Winemaking-C-Berry/dp/0900841834/ref=sr_1_cc_4?s=aps&ie=UTF8&qid=1429759069&sr=1-4-catcorr&keywords=first+steps+in+wine was my primer on the art, you’re going to add water, and maybe sugar (depending upon the fruit you use) plus other additives like peptic enzyme if you’re using a high pectin fruit, and sterilize it, by heat or chemicals, then pitch in yeast and wait.  (it’s a little more complex than that, but not much, and you can do it without the sterilizing and pitching yeast if you’re willing to take the risk of catching the wrong yeast… Grapes have yeast on the skin naturally, as do apples, you kill and re-pitch for quality control, so as to ensure that you don’t have something that will make a bad batch). In the end you have wine.  Depending upon the yeast, starting sugar percentage, the minerals in the water, etc you’ll run somewhere from 8-22% alcohol.  All perfectly legal as long as you don’t sell it.  Now, to make brandy, you take half of that batch (give or take) and distill it. Run it through a Still, or hard freeze it, and pour off what doesn’t freeze, then add that back into the rest. This is what puts you into the area of pissing off Uncle SAM.  I’m not totally sure of the legality of freeze distillation, and IANAL (there’s your acronym for the day folks, I Am Not A Lawyer), nor am I a federal cop, my city cop days didn’t deal with federal booze making stuff, so I can’t and won’t advise you on this. If you were to do this, a single pass through a still, or a freeze gives you somewhere around 30-65% alcohol, which when added back into the wine should bring it up to about 25-35% or 50 to 70 proof.  There’s your brandy.  You can cheat, for home consumption by adding some grain alcohol (everclear or eq) to bring your proof up, if you’re not a purist, and don’t want to risk the wrath of our dear Uncle.  Under any circumstances, DON”T SELL IT, YOU WILL BE BREAKING A LAW THAT THE BATFE WILL PROSECUTE YOU FOR.

So we’ve already gone on way longer than we should have folks, remember, you can contact any of us directly through Facebook, (except Sgt. Schultz) or you can send your questions to this blog directly, and we’ll get to them as quick as we can.  Good Day.


About morrigan508

A retired submarine sailor and former cop, author of the John Fisher Chronicles, as well as a contributing author of the Otherwhere Gazette.

7 comments on “Ask A Geek Anything issue two

  1. At some point I’m planning on cosplaying a minor character from the Black Tide series. Is it ok just to use clothes from my own closet?


  2. that depends upon how ratty the stuff in your closet is…
    you gotta know that in that situation clothes are going to get used until Good will wouldn’t take them


  3. Use whatever you like-! You’d be surprised how many costumes for the stage come right out of closets…half of my wardrobe has been under the lights!


  4. Since I wore them in Iraq, I’m pretty sure they’d work for a minor boat captain. I have a pretty good idea of his taste in clothing and manufacturers.


  5. still think you’ll want to ratty it up a little.
    remember you’ve been living in it for a year or two with rocks and hand soap for laundry


    • I would think it’s not necessarily so that there has been a lack of access to modern laundry facilities, depending on the circumstances (since the OP didn’t mention which “minor character”.

      Someone out in the back end of nowhere, forted up like some medieval feudal lord without access to electricity? Yeah, not going to find a lot of functioning washers and dryers there.

      However, someone in Wolf Squadron, where they have regular electricity and running water, probably not out on the landed clearing teams? Not quite so dire a situation on the laundromat front.


  6. […] bit of self-promotion, I will also refer you to a question that was answered all the way back in Issue Two about how to distinguish between a primary and secondary source. This is included because it may […]


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