Friday, December 3, 2010

Words and Tales (and Spiders) and Lies, oh my!

Once upon a time, as all good stories begin, I was sitting in my car, with the younger two boys, waiting on my wife to find out how long the two teenagers (still in the church) would be. The boys were arguing, so to distract them from each other I started telling them about this giant spider I saw on TV recently: the eagle spider, so-named because it would spin its web across chasms to capture eagles flying through. The spider was huge, its body about the size of a man's head, and the webs were strong enough that, were a rock climber's rope to break, if he was lucky, he could find an eagle spider web and weave it into a rope which was usually stronger than the climber's original rope. Of course, if the climber had the misfortune of grabbing an eagle spider, he likely would be dead in minutes from the spider's venom. Not that they usually attacked people, no, they usually stayed to themselves, but would react in defense if a hand got too close.

They were interested, so I kept going, describing the odd coloring of the spider, which was green and purple. And, of course, its markings; like some spiders have violins or hearts or whatever, the eagle spider had a sort of bull's-eye target pattern on it. And markings on the bull's eye that resembled numbers; usually odd numbers, 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, but sometimes even numbers, or other patterns of numbers such as 1, 4, 7, 10, 13.

About this time my wife returned from the church with the news that the teens would be staying a bit longer (birthday party or something), so we would run over to Subway to get something to eat and then come back to pick them up. Of course, the boys were very excited to tell their mom about the fantastic new spider they'd just learned. By the time we got into Subway, the youngest, very excited, got to the coloring of the spider: "It's purple and green."

My wife: "Who told you about this?"

Youngest boy: "Dad."

Wife: "He Liiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiied!"

Now, you had to be there... the boy's face just drew up, slowly dropping to face the ground... I admit, I couldn't stop laughing. (I know, I know; evil father, bad dad... but it was funny!)

The "Eagle Spider" has been a recurring item of conversation ever since.

Now, lo and behold, I come across this article: "Gigantic Spider Webs Made of Silk Tougher Than Kevlar." Of course, I'm thinking, "Eagle Spider... no one's going to believe me when I mention this."

So, tonight, on the way home from seeing Tangled in ridiculously-overpriced-but-phenomenally-amazing-yet-definitely-not-quite-as-phenomenally-amazing-as-Avatar 3d, I mention the spiderwebs. And, of course, there is disbelief, and I can't stop laughing as I explain that I knew that no one would believe me, and the youngest - and my wife - are saying, "You'll have to show us before we believe that."

Well, at least I've taught my children some healthy skepticism, huh?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Illegal drugs and immigrants in the same post!

So, Arizona has approved "medicinal marijuana use" (15th state, along with DC, that allows such), and its tourism industry has suddenly seen quite a spike of activity. From the article,

"Sadly, patients in 35 states still have no legal protection if marijuana is the medicine that works best for them," Kampia said in a statement. "We will continue working in the years ahead to ensure that others are awarded the respect and compassionate care that seriously ill patients in Arizona will now enjoy, thanks to this law."

I guess, if your sickness is addiction to marijuana, and the obvious "medicine that works best" is marijuana itself, you're in luck! (You can find the remainder of the states in which marijuana is an approved medical treatment listed in the article.) I also found interesting this bit: "Patients who live more than 25 miles from a dispensary can grow their own marijuana." Quite the defense, huh? Cop: "Why do you have 30 acres of marijuana growing in your back yard?" Drug lord: "Oh, it's for my own, personal, medical use."

In other law-related news, California (Arizona's apparent antagonist in all things illegal-immigrant pertaining) has had its supreme court rule that illegal immigrants can pay in-state tuition. As long as the immigrant has, apparently, filed for legal status, they don't have to legally be a resident of California (or the USA even) to pay in-state tuition. Arizonians wanting to attend USC? Out-of-state rate for you, my fellow American.

Maybe I'll just move to Germany or Italy or Japan... nice cars in the first two, and nice food in the last. Better yet... when are we going to start colonizing Mars? Count me a volunteer!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse...


If you've thought reality television has nowhere else to go, nowhere any lower, anyway, check out  Bridalplasty - where potential brides are competing - in bridal sorts of competitions, like dress picking - for complementary plastic surgery of various kinds. First, how stupid can we get, people? Second, can't we get away from all of this "make yourself more awesome by surgery" junk? Seriously... there are times and places for plastic surgery, typically related to injuries, but I'd wager that the majority of people undergoing these surgeries don't really need the "fix" - they probably looked at least as good before (if not better), and definitely natural trumps artificial in my mind. Too much advertising and peer pressure goes into selling the lie that girls (or even guys these days) are flawed and need help to look better, or even acceptable. And now we have a tv show devoted to exactly that.

Totally unrelatedly, a train killed 20 cows the other day ( article ). Now, is that headline-worthy news or what?

And, as this is Veteran's day, thanks to all of you who've served our country in its military, defending our freedom and way of life.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Twinkie diet?

What can you say about this? Some professor goes on a diet of a variety of snack foods: twinkies, little debbies, etc. - one of these every three hours instead of meals. (Also he was taking in a serving of veggies - 3-4 celery stalks or a can of green beans - and a protein shake and a multi-vitamin.) Over 2 months, he lost 27 pounds - and, interestingly enough, his bad cholesterol levels dropped and good cholesterol levels increased. I think I may have to give this diet a go. :) (Read the article; he does not recommend or endorse the diet, but he also doesn't say it's bad - simply that there's not enough evidence to support a conclusion in either direction at this point.)

Unrelatedly, here's a good reason to call an ambulance rather than trying to get your loved one to the hospital yourself: you might end up in jail.

Now I'm going to post this since it may look like I'm copying a friend of mine (@jejily), when in actuality I saw this article independently. Later, all...

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Alliterative Asking


Just wanting some opinions: Is it possible as a practicing parent to undo unintentional implicit condonement of potentially perilous or halfway hazardous behaviors without seeming hypothetically hypocritical? Any thoughts on this poorly worded subject?

(In other words, if past actions or omissions might have led to certain behavioral conclusions in your children, reinforced by repetiton or lack of correction, is there any benefit to an abrupt "policy shift" or are there other ways that would be better suited to remove bad or introduce missing good to their teenage minds that might actually work?)

And, yes, I know that there is potential for my or other children to read this note, hence vagueness. :)

Friday, November 5, 2010

iPhone - smartphone? maybe not...

According to this report (from CNN), if you depend on your iPhone for your alarm clock to get up and go to work on Monday mornings, you should set a special alarm (non-repeating, as the issue apparently only occurs with repeating alarms) for this coming Monday, and then delete and re-add your recurring alarm, as the iPhone apparently isn't smart enough to keep up with time change. Already in Europe and Australia this has been cause for some to be late to work. (Personally, I think we should just rid ourselves of this silly DST thing anyway... it's not really that valuable any more now that we have artificial light sources.)

I really liked this line in the article, though: "If nothing else, we think the amount of interest in this glitch shows how fully dependent people have become on their smartphones.". They (CNN) even have an article about how dependent we have become on our technology.

As for me, I just want a G2 and for T-Mobile to get their high-speed mobile network into south Alabama. (The G2 isn't as slippery in the hands as my MyTouch 3G Slide, has a better processor, much more memory, and a better screen, as well as running the more recent and significantly more feature rich Android 2.2 vs. the 2.1 in my MyTouch.) Too bad I'm not eligible for an upgrade yet.

Bad Toyota, Bad!


I'm not talking about brakes or throttles (or even fuel pumps, as per a portion of their recent recall). I'm talking about advertising. Besides a really haughty, terrible-acting, jerk of a kid (sorry, family of the bad child actor, just calling it as I see it), the recent commercial series about the Highlander is, well, very insensitive, and just plain wrong.

First, minivans are not geeky or lame. In fact, in general, minivans are significantly more practical than most SUVs.  The cargo capacity is usually superior, passenger capacity is often superior, if not in number, at least in comfort, access, and cargo behind the passenger space (and, let's face it, who can beat the 84.5 cupholders that most modern vans have?!), not to mention the flexibility afforded by stow and go type seating (yeah, I know that is trademarked by Chrysler, but I think it's soon becoming a generic term in the vein of, say, kleenex).

And, second Toyota themselves make one of the most "non-geeky" (i.e., sporty) minivans on the market right now.

But, third, this type of commercial may give kids a complex about the (practical) mode of transportation chosen by their parents. Also, what about the parents whose only transportation happens to be that mid-80s Chrysler minivan "featured" in the commercial as "ultra geeky and lame" (quote from the commercial: "we're the geek family") that they can't afford to replace because dad's been looking for a job for the last year and a half? And what about the boy hiding in a recent version of that commercial?

Come on, Toyota, find a better way to advertise your Highlander. There's no reason to start trying to sway sales by influencing the kindergarten and elementary school children, making them feel bad about something that's 1) untrue; 2) not anything under their control.  And, worse, you're potentially promoting bullying and ridiculing those whose parents are more practical (and who may even be driving a Toyota product in the minivan category).

Bad Toyota, Bad!


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Death by caffeine


I think I've blogged about this before, but check out http://www.energyfiend.com/death-by-caffeine - if you're sensitive about your weight, be sure to visit in private since you'll need to put your weight into the blank to see the results. Why is this important? Because people tend to underestimate the potent effects of caffeine. Such as this guy who washed down two teaspoonfuls of caffeine with an energy drink on a one-way trip to the local morgue.  The real hidden danger is the fact that caffeine is becoming so readily available in large, sometimes deceptively hidden amounts.

For example, consider  5150 Semi Sweet, a "concentrate" that is intended to be added to other drinks. According to the death by caffeine web site, if my 13-year-old son downed 6 of these four-ounce bottles (that is, a 24-ounce total, which is not even the largest cup from your local convenience store), he would suffer the same fate as the guy mentioned above. I'm not sure of the cost of the 5150, but I could easily see this as either a prank or a dare gone horribly wrong. Oh, and the cost of the caffeine powder the guy mentioned above took? About $5.26. Death comes cheap, it seems.

Anyway, the point is this: be wary of the dangers of caffeine, and especially make sure your kids (if you have any) are aware of them, too. Better to be considered a wimp than to submit to the pressure of a dare only to end up an example of how stupid it was to do so.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Grammarcide

"Give it to I." "It was a good day for he." Why can't people think this through and use grammar correctly? "It was a good day for he and the other guy" - should be, "it was a good day for *him* and the other guy" - and "give it to Bob or I" - should be, "give it to Bob or me" - please, America, think when you speak. "I" and "he" (and "she") are SUBJECTS, not OBJECTS - they go before a verb, not after a preposition. (With the exception, of course, of the case where a clause is the object of a preposition, such as "It was a good day for I found my true love" - that could, of course, be punctuated like this: "It was a good day, for I found my true love." However, "It was a good day for my true love and I" - no, that's not correct - it should be, "It was a good day for my true love and me" - think it through: you'd say, "It was a good day for her" and "it was a good day for me" - not "she" and "I" in either case here.)

This is becoming more and more prominent in "modern" English. All over the place you'll hear people talking and using subject-form pronouns as objects of a preposition after a conjunction (and, but, or, etc.). Please, stop this tragic slaughtering of the English language. If you are using this incorrect grammar yourself, get help... there are places you can go (e.g., junior colleges), people you can call (I'll be happy to help; feel free to send me a direct tweet ("@kingdad") and I'll do my best to reply swiftly with the correct form of the statement you wish to make, or contact your local English professor). If you find yourself in a situation where someone is performing such awful grammarcide, you have some options:
  1. If you are comfortable with the person, are a risk taker, or don't mind confrontation, you may approach the individual directly. Note that it is recommended that, if the person is in a public speech situation, such as giving a lecture, in a pulpit, or live on the radio or TV, it is highly recommended that you wait until a more private moment to confront the offending individual.
  2. If you are not comfortable with the person, please contact your nearest office of grammatical correction for assistance.
  3. If you are a jerk, blatantly post the offender's offensive speech in a public scenario, such as a web log ("blog") or other media outlet which has an indefinite lifetime.
Regardless, we must rise up and retake our language. English... it's not just for professors anymore!

Monday, October 25, 2010

It's a little bit funny...

this feeling inside, I'm not one of those who can, usually hide. I don't like the Cowboys, but, for this one night, I'm going to be pulling for them, but it's alright.

You see, in the NFC East, Washington is 4-3, Philly is 4-3, Dallas is 1-4, and NYG are 4-2. If the Giants lose, then Washington will be in a 3-way tie for first in the East, and has the benefit of being 2-0 in the division (Philly and Dallas are both 0-1, NYG are 0-0). So, yes, for this evening, I, a Redskins fan, am pulling for the Cowboys.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Random thoughts (really? Again?)


Last night I got to bed somewhere between 1:30 and 2:00 am (ok, that's really this morning). So, I'm a little tired now, and this blog post may or may not make sense. Just giving you a heads up in case you want to check out now.

Why so late, you might ask? Well, we were having car trouble (that seems to be one consistently dependable thing in my family: car trouble). We'd taken the van into our regular mechanic (Trax Tires), and they'd recommended a throttle body and tps cleaning (the codes I'd read from the OBD indicated that was likely the culprit, but research seemed to indicate the replacement part was an upgraded unit that required ecu reprogramming). We also wanted them to do the oil change (I don't normally do the van because it has a weird filter) and check the brakes (they'd done some brake work a year and a half ago, so if it was related, it should be covered).  Well, that whole visit was over $300 (they'd previously done the front brakes, this time it was the rears). That, of course, failed to correct the issue.

Well, yesterday we made an appointment to take the van in today. In the meantime, we were borrowing my parents' van, initially because I've bought my dad's BMW (a 2003 525i Sport), but it was in the shop getting the front bumper cover reattached where someone had scraped it and knocked it loose in a parking lot.  Anyway, it was now out of the shop, and since we were taking our van in, we were going to go ahead and pick up the Bimmer so I could drive it today and my wife my parents' van while ours was undergoing what we'd been told were expensive repairs ($400 for the part). So we got back from my parents' house kind of late, and then I needed to get some work done for one of the software systems I'm working on but hadn't been able to much during the day at work because of having to do some support training on another system yesterday.

Well, I was successful with fixing the issues that were significantly hampering use of the system, but that made it rather late of a bedtime.

On another positive note, the guy who initially told us that the van repairs were going to be expensive apparently didn't know what he was talking about. The total was $133.94, and there was apparently an open recall on something unrelated that they fixed, too.

And I have a BMW now.  (My dad bought a Mini Cooper because he was having trouble getting in and out of the Bimmer- yes, it's easier for him to get in and out of a Mini than a 5 series BMW because of the fact that the Mini is a two-door and the BMW a four-door, meaning you have to twist into the BMW since the front seat back is behind the B pillar.)

Unrelated, someone recently asked about potential part-time, non-food and non-retail evening work. My thought? Cat burglar. You're your own boss, set your own hours, work only the nights you want... just not sure how the cat market is these days- might not be such a high paying gig, but still, the flexibility of the work schedule is nice.

Ok, going to finish watching The Office now, and then head to bed.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Ice and water


I was watching a show on the preview channel Planet Green about scientists doing research on arctic pack ice (that is, the artic ice cap, which floats on the arctic ocean, not on land). A statement was made to the effect that if the arctic ice cap (the pack ice) melted, sea levels would rise worldwide. This threatens my intelligence, and I proceeded to perform an experiment to disprove this falsehood.

I took my McDonals's cup, put a large chunk of ice in it, and filled it with water to one of the lines on the side of the cup. Then i let the ice melt (with the lid on the cup to minimize evaporative loss) and checked the level after most of the ice melted. As expected, the water level was unchanged.

You see, floating ice displaces its weight in water volume. Thus, when the ice melts, the resultant water volume exactly equals the volume displaced by the portion of ice that was under water, resulting in no change in the water level.

Now, land-based ice is, of course, a different story. However, check out  this guy's article about Myths and Realities of "What If All the Ice Melts?"  Good info there. Further, read his  article on global warming - I've only skimmed it, but again, good, clear info there.

Totally unrelated, why must tv shows pad their air time with pre-commercial previews of what's coming after the commercial, and post-commercial summaries of everything that has happened in the show before the last commercial? Waste of time, it is. Just show me new material while it's not in commercial, not rehashes of what's come before or is to come next. Ok, maybe not totally unrelated, as I did mention I was watching a show, sparking the experiment and thoughts on global warming and ice vs. sea levels.

Ok, then... later!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Levitating frogs and one-atom thick graphite


Check out this article about a pair of nobel prize winners from England or somewhere. I'm not so interested in the guys, but in the stuff in the article. Apparently one time they levitated a frog in a magnetic field (I wonder whether the frog was affected by the mag field like people who live underneath major power transmission lines), which, while pretty cool, is not the source of their Nobel prize (they did get an Ig Nobel prize for that one).

No, the reason they won the Nobel prize was their work with graphite. That's right pencil lead material. Not satisfied with 0.9, 0.7, or 0.5 leads, or the not so familiar buckeyball or carbon nanotube, these guys decided to make ultrathin graphite layers using good ol' Scotch tape. Seriously: they took a small pile of graphite and began peeling layers of the carbonic material off using Scotch tape. Then, with a small flake of graphite, they kept folding the tape over onto it (I would assume a fresh, clean patch of tape each time) until they'd arrived at a layer of graphite that was one atom thick. That's what I found remarkably interesting: Scotch tape can rip off a one atom thick layer of graphite! That is, given a two-atom thick layer of graphite, if that's too thick for you, put it between two pieces of Scotch tape, pull it apart, and you get a one-atom thick layer of graphite on each side.  How's that for cool?  Quite an endorsement for Scotch tape!

Now, go read the rest of the article for more interesting properties of this cool new ultra-thin, super-strong graphite. Might be making some really awesome body armor before long, or all sorts of other cool applications.  Later...

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Model S Specifications | Tesla Motors

Model S Specifications | Tesla Motors

I think I could use one of these, despite my goal to continue to burn dino fuels (I need to get my 67 Mustang, complete with no emission controls whatsoever, up and going again!). Anyone want to contribute? I'll take you for a ride... :)

Alternatively, here is one of my "ultimate dream cars" (note: the name is, I believe, mispelled "muira" in the link - should have been "miura") : http://www.canepacollection.com/detail-1971-lamborghini-muira-p400s-used-5854346.html

Either will do... :)

Monday, September 27, 2010

Shortage of drug holds up some U.S. executions - Health - More health news - msnbc.com

Shortage of drug holds up some U.S. executions - Health - More health news - msnbc.com

Really? "Sorry, Mr. Death Row Inmate, we can't execute you this month because we can't get the drugs to do it 'humanely.'"

Really? I thought the whole point of execution was to be inhumane, to punish someone and, at the same time, send a message to everyone else that the action for which the person is being executed is not an acceptable behavior.

As my wife said, "Bullets work just as well." I might add, they're cheaper and readily available, too.

And, of course, there's always the option of using the death row inmates as large-cat food at the zoo. I'm just sayin'...

Monday, September 13, 2010

Mislocated


Apparently now you can make a reservation, donate blood, and get a ticket to a Redskins game. Really wishing I still lived in the DC area about now. Of course, I'd probably have to buy at least one more ticket to the game for my lovely wife, and it'd probably end up being nowhere nearby. (Unless, of course, the "ticket" from the blood donation is a voucher for a ticket, in which case maybe you could buy two adjacent tix for the price of one with the voucher.) I was glad to see the skins knock off the cowboys last night. Yeah, you might say the boys should've won on that last play except for the holding, but likey Romo would've been sacked had the holding (blatant, it was) not happened.

Totally unrelated, my youngest boy is eating french fries and M&Ms, and the HOA of the house we're renting finally complained about the 14' box truck I bought and have been parking in my driveway. They recommended i park it in my garage. Um, hello? In my garage? It's a box truck, you silly HOA, it won't fit in my garage. Their other recommendation? The back yard. I'm renting, and there's only a single 4' gate into the back yard, so that's not an option, either.   Dumb HOA. I can't wait to get out of here... hope the new place isn't as bad.

Why'd I buy a box truck, you ask? Well, we were moving stuff out of my grandmother's house (she went to heaven earlier this year), and I'll be moving to a new house in a couple of months. I figure, rather than rent twice, I'll just buy a truck (cheap, off Craigslist), use it, then sell it. No hassles of trying to get the truck loaded and unloaded quickly; instead, I can unload at my leisure (and load, too, for that matter). So far I think it's working according to plan, despite the issues the truck's had along the way. A few more months and hopefully I'll still be thinking the same thing.

Ah, well, guess I'll get back to eating my fries, and maybe finish up with some M&Ms.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

A Hero


In a slight break from the norm of this blog (if there is a "norm" to this blog), I wanted to share an experience I had recently on a flight out of Atlanta. Joining us on the flight were several Army Air Corps personnel, one of whom occupied the seat next to me. A pleasant fellow, I believe his name was Roger or Robert (I wish I'd thought to ask him for contact info).

Over the course of the flight we conversed off and on, and I learned that he had served for about 18 years now (meaning, I've realized in retrospect, we probably enlisted about the same time). He's now an officer, having completed OCS about 6 years ago; he was on his way home for a couple of weeks. I asked about rotation in the area, and he said it's been typically one year there, one year back in the states, for the last 9 years or so. (I don't think I've revealed any particularly sensitive info, and do not intend to do so; in fact, I've edited some info out of this post before publishing already, info that I still don't consider to be sensitive, but wanted to be as careful as I possibly can while still getting the point of the post out.)

He talked about how it is hard to get the point across (of why we are there; he used the term "illusionary war" - the soldiers mainly see violence, and the true impact of why we're doing what we're doing won't be seen for a while, not in the next year or the next, but maybe in ten; his and my children will see the benefit) to the troops on the ground, and I mentioned how it's probably harder to get the point across to the average American. He commented that the average American doesn't even know the first four amendments to the constitution; if he did, he would be much more likely to understand the reasons behind our involvement overseas. As long as Americans take for granted our freedom, our way of life, we'll not understand the necessity to defend it.

This soldier has a family. He has children that have spent half of the last decade with their father out of the country, a wife without her husband every other year. He has a daughter who was (at one time) 6 months old when he went away and was 15 months old, not knowing her father, when he returned. He is home for a couple of weeks, and will soon be returning to resume his duties in defense of our freedom, our way of life, yours and mine.

This soldier is a hero. An unsung, unthanked hero (I did offer my thanks and appreciation while sitting next to him on the plane). And certainly underpaid, as well (all of our military are generally underpaid, perhaps with the exception of those at the rank of general or higher). To our military, I wish to say thanks, and I will be diligent in my prayers for your protection.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

3G?


So, I'm sitting in the Atlanta airport, and have only Edge speed on my T-Mobile smart phone. In Fayetteville, NC, I had 3G speed, faster, I think, than even my DSL Extreme at home. You'd think Atlanta would have the edge on mobile high speed (terrible pun fully intended).

Friday, August 13, 2010

Blogging from my android phone. On the road.


So, I'm the proud owner of an android based phone now, a T-Mobile MyTouch 3G Slide. Ok, it's really and HTC phone, but that's not really important right now. What's important is that I've failed you, my three readers. For that, I apologize, but only in words, not in crisp new $100 bills. For that, I don't apologize, although it might up my readership a bit.

I have been rather busy over the last few weeks, you see. I'm currently en route to deliver my daughter (and my dollars) to Bellhaven University (it's in Mongolia, Mr. Stalker/Kidnapper), we've been looking at nearly every four bedroom house for sale in the Spanish Fort school district (in Spain, of course, Mr. Stalker/Kidnapper), and I've started a new job (still in Mobile) that's been keeping me busy, not to mention spending a lot of weekends out of town, watching my young nieces for a week (not to worry, Joe and Teri, they were fun!), fixing cars, searching for a car for my daughter to drive across the Atlantic, Europe, and Asia to Mongolia (she's pickier than I, I think! I even got a sunburn on my head one day from the exposure when I didn't think to wear a hat), and who knows what else.  So, I haven't taken much time for blogging over the last month and a half.

Anyway, the other day I was talking with my brother about the world and how it really hasn't changed much until the last one to two hundred years. Really, the only major revolutions that the world has seen are 1) the internal combustion engine, which made man's expansion into the world much quicker, made the world a smaller place, allowed men to travel with ease and spread out, increased productivity through farming and other implements; and 2) the electric/electronic revolution. (My brother also pointed to the printing press as a third major change, but, while bringing printed material to the masses, I feel its impact was not quite as revolutionary as the other two mentioned.) 

If you stop and think about it, things really don't seem that different throughout history until the late 1800s, when the internal combustion engine and man-harnessed electricity came on the scene, and the mid 1900s, when electronic devices started to join the party. Now, going back to that printing press idea, perhaps the recent influx of technology owes to improved teaching and learning from the widespread availability of educational material. However, the "widespread" aspect really began to take off with the coming of age of the internal combustion engine and the vehicles it made possible to deliver those printed media to various locales.

And now, here I am, writing a note about the world on a pad that's smaller than my hand, and my daughter will be able to read it in Mongolia the instant I push "publish" (well, if she read my blog she could, but you can read it wherever you happen to be, and I'm publishing it while on the road in an internal combustion engine powered vehicle that's making it possible for me to take my daughter off to college hundres of miles from from home over a weekend).  Cool.  What's the next revolution that may actually change the world, do you think?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

What do YOU do when you get in trouble?

When you're a kid, and you get caught doing something, and you get in trouble, what do you do? You straighten up and fly right. We don't need a six-month ban on offshore drilling, and that's exactly what the white house wants (even when Louisiana itself does not want it!). Who's going to pay all the workers for the six months they're out of work? I saw it said, "This is already an environmental disaster, let's not make it an economic disaster, too."

My point is twofold:

  1. When one child (or group of children) in a neighborhood does something bad, you don't ground the entire neighborhood for half a year.
  2. In the wake of BP's disaster, don't you think that offshore drilling will be handled with excruciating vigilance by the people doing it so they're "not the next one"?
There's really no need for this insane ban on drilling. Yes, we need to investigate, and yes, there are likely lessons to be learned. However, shutting down an entire economy - at the whims of one individual (the President) - is not the correct answer. When a tanker turns over on the interstate and dumps oil or gas or some poisonous substance all over, we don't shut down the entire interstate system, or stop all tanker-related shipping. We may shut down that one section of road during the cleanup (similar to the ban on fishing: that is something directly affected), but not every tanker truck and every interstate in the surrounding area. That would be silly.
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Thursday, June 17, 2010

New layout?

New layout on my blog - what do you think? ( PS: I've "gone green" with my blog! :} )

Brilliant (no pun intended - well, ok, maybe...)

Wicked Lasers, out of Hong Kong, makes lasers (really, they do). Now they've created a monster of a laser, the Spyder III Pro Arctic Series. What's so "monster" about this laser? Well, check out this image:


And the warning on their website (this is a direct quote, hence the misspellings):

Warning: Extremely dangerous is an understatement to 1W of laser power. At close range, this Class 4 beam will cause immediate and irreversable retinal damage. Use with extreme caution and use only when wearing proper safety goggles with an O.D. of 3+ is required and 4.4+ for longer exposures. Customers will be required to completely read and agree to our Class 4 Laser Hazard Acknowledgment Form.

Yeah, that's right: this laser WILL CAUSE immediate and irreversible (i.e., permanent) retinal damage. This isn't your garden variety laser pointer (which, kids, you still shouldn't point at someone's face, or at a reflective item like glass or a mirror or anything shiny - only at cats, or the floor in front of the cat, rapidly moving it towards an immobile object like a wall - that's for the cat's benefit, of course: exercise, and collision avoidance training). In fact, this laser is so powerful that it can burn skin, light fireworks and cigarettes, and cause vision damage even reflecting off diffuse surfaces (in other words, the reflection off a non-shiny wall can still cause permanent blindness or blind spots). Serious laser, and only $200 plus shipping (and that includes one set of laser safety goggles so you can go blind all your friends permanently while retaining your own eyesight - what a great gag, huh? NOT!). (I can think of a great dad's day present... although likely it'll be a late one.)

If you want more info about lasers and laser classifications (and damage they can cause), check out the Wiki laser safety article. In the meantime, let me get to torturing exercising my cat using my garden variety laser pointer.
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Thursday, June 3, 2010

Environment, child dangers, and other goodies

First, have you checked out the live BP ROV feed lately? Fun to watch, although I have no idea what's on there at the moment. I like this guy's take on why we're even drilling out a mile under the surface of the ocean, anyway: environmentalists. They don't want us drilling where it's easy to do so and easy to "fix" when there's a problem (on land) and where it's not as likely to impact major ecosystems and "way of life" for many, many people (like remote, unpopulated areas of Alaska). Not even where it's reasonably accessible (both for drilling and in the event of a disaster) like shallow coastal waters. No, we have to go drill WAY OUT in the DEEP waters of the gulf, where, if something goes wrong, it's not so easy to get to to fix (and where we have to push the envelope of technology in order to drill there in the first place). Way to go, environmentalists!

Also, did you hear about government wanting to tell businesses how to run themselves (oh, wait, that's not that new)? Some senators want BP to suspend its dividend to its shareholders. Isn't it enough that those who have money invested in BP have lost, what, closing in on half their investment value already? Now these senators want BP to not pay the dividend on that stock. Wouldn't that require some sort of SEC filing, and/or be a violation of SEC shareholder rules or something? Seems like that sort of thinking runs along the lines of "government with unlimited power" - which this article warns against. That article is a very interesting read - I recommend you take the time to give it a gander (and I don't mean an adult male goose!). Seriously: go read that article (but come back here afterward).

Now, if you're having trouble paying your rent, don't worry about it. According to that article, it'll be over a year before you're evicted if you stop paying. Apparently that's become the new "in" thing to do - quit paying your mortgage, but keep paying everything else. After all, it's the bank's fault that you're in over your head, can't make your mortgage payment, and your house isn't worth what it used to be worth. Nothing at all to do with your own bad decision making.

If you have children, take heed of these warnings:
  1. "Sack tapping" - a "game" where boys try to punch each other's testicles - boy, doesn't that sound like fun? - which can lead to ruptures, bruises, and other serious damage. Talk to your boys about this - it's more serious than you might think.
  2. "Silly bandz" - those cute little bracelets in animal shapes. Yeah, they're of the devil, he wants to take your kid's arm. OK, probably not really of the devil, but they can cause circulation issues, especially if worn in great numbers.
So, there you go. Lots of fun things for this blog post! Stay tuned next time for my plans to solve electric vehicle range issues (to make it where an all-electric vehicle can have an essentially unlimited range) and nuclear waste storage issues.
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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Accident, reaction...

So, there's this accident, and now Obama plans to ban offshore (deepwater) drilling.

If there's a major tanker accident on an interstate that spills oil (or some other environmental toxin), will we ban the use of tank trucks on the interstate?

Why haven't we banned the use of alcohol when a person KILLS another person from driving under the influence - or perhaps privately owned vehicular transportation altogether?

Why don't we ban air travel after people are injured "by" turbulence? (Really, I don't think it was turbulence that injured the passengers, it was more likely contact with a hard object inside the aircraft; it would be just as accurate, I think, if not more so, to say they were injured by the designers of the aircraft who put the hard surfaces so close to the passengers.)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Found!

I think I've found the missing child mentioned in this article! It looks like my 3rd child! I think he time traveled into the future!

Wait, maybe not. OK, then, how about this: live video of the oil leak/top kill right in my blog, thanks to PBS! (Here's the link on their site if you're reading this on Facebook.)


In other news, a Madagascan bird has gone extinct. Supposedly this is due to introducing carnivorous fish to the largest lake in Madagascar. I wonder what King Julien would have done about it? The most fantastic thing about this news report, though, is the name of the communications officer of BirdLife International that was quoted in the article: Martin Fowlie.

Also in short supply is paint for restriping roads after construction or reconstruction. From the article, "Without adequate markers, drivers can drift out of their lanes and cause accidents." Really. Um, I thought things like inadequate sleep, distraction (such as blogging, texting, talking on the phone, and facebooking) or inattention, and intoxication (whether alcohol or drugs) would be to blame for the drifting.

But back to the oil for a moment. Check out this page, which contains a video of and excerpts from a speech by President Obama, in which he makes this startling observation (regarding BP's top-kill attempt): “If it’s successful — and there are no guarantees — it should greatly reduce or eliminate the flow of oil now streaming into the Gulf from the sea floor.” Really. Um, isn't "greatly reducing or eliminating the flow of oil" the definition of "success" related to this top-kill effort?

And if you haven't checked it out already, be sure to read my previous article, where I mention the likelihood of government censorship over a CNN article in which the president blamed America for the spill ("He also blamed the failure of the country to transition away from fossil fuels toward green technologies").

One of these days maybe I'll get back to some amusing blog posts. :)


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Who's responsible for the oil leak in the gulf?

According to this news article, Obama "blamed the failure of the country to transition away from fossil fuels toward green technologies." That's right: the President blames the American Public for the oil spill.

Just thought you'd like to know what you're responsible for, you bad people, you! (As for me, I plan to drive my 1967 Mustang as much as possible once I get it running well and have it local again.)

[edit] : Apparently CNN was pressured to remove that statement from their article, as it no longer exists there. You can see the original version here, which includes the missing paragraph: "But he blamed more than BP. He also blamed the failure of the country to transition away from fossil fuels toward green technologies." CNN's article has been rewritten. You can possibly still see the CNN text highlighted at a specific Google search, from when the article was originally indexed by Google, but who knows how long until that page is reindexed and the text disappears from Google's search engine. Hmm... wonder who's bullying the media into reporting only what they want reported?

[edit 2] : Now the second "original version" reflects the new CNN version. I've found another version that's a copy of the original, though. Check it out before it gets wiped, too. (The statement is down below someone dressed as a fish lying on the ground, or search for "failure" until you find the quote.)

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Headlines...

So, I'm looking at my iGoogle page, where I have "Top Stories" and "CNN.com" as two of my widget things, and here are some of the top headlines making the cut right now:
  • Miami, Tampa fall in 2014 Super Bowl chase
  • Obama, GOP senators have tense visit
  • Owner of chimp that attacked friend dies at 72
Really? That's the best our media can come up with at the moment? I guess it's better than some of these headlines and stories.
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Monday, May 24, 2010

Gov't can't do it?

Various articles and news reports recently talk to how "the government doesn't have the expertise to handle the underwater well leak." (Sorry if I've disappointed you, but I haven't put any links to such articles here; you are welcome to use Google or Swagbucks to search them out yourself. Don't know about swagbucks? Neither do I, but it supposedly gives you gift cards from points you get by searching on the internet and other activities; I think I'll check it out after I post this blog.)

Well, take a look at this video of BP engineers (or somebody at BP) remotely modifying the blowout preventer valve a mile beneath the surface of the ocean. Pretty interesting, really, but what I want to mention is this: doesn't this look like something NASA could do? Or even has done, just in the near-vacuum of earth orbit (vs. the tremendous pressure of being a mile down in the ocean)? Point is, it's remotely operated vehicles performing maintenance tasks. I know that frequently the astronauts use spacewalks... but also, frequently, they use remotely operated machines to perform maintenance tasks. Surely NASA engineers and astronauts would be capable of operating these underwater ROVs as easily as operating space-ROVs. In other words, the government DOES have the capability of responding to the underwater well leak, just not in the typical capacity. Thinking "outside the box" affords the experience, capability, and expertise to respond.
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Saturday, May 22, 2010

Oily thoughts

Here's the BP live video feed of the oil leak under the gulf.

Some thoughts:

  1. Why not take something "like" a balloon, something expandable (but obviously more rigid), stuff it into the main broken riser, and expand it? If it's, say, 6-12 feet in length, there should be enough force/friction on the sides to keep it from being blown out by the oil in the riser (of course, I could be wrong, as I don't know the exact pressure). Sort of like one of those "drain unstoppers" of heavy rubber that you connect to a hose, insert in the drain/pipe, and turn on the pipe - it causes the rubber to expand, blocking backflow, and pressures the blockage through the drain. This would be similar, but only for blocking.
  2. Why not crush the pipe? It wouldn't stop the leak, but it might slow it a bit while they're working on the other alternatives.
That's all for now, about to head out to lunch.
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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Oil & artificial life

Well, the oil feed is live. Well, it was for 43 seconds. Shortly after the feed went live on a gov't web site (since BP apparently didn't want to host it), the site was overwhelmed by web traffic and broke. The live feed is still not working at the time I'm writing this.

However, BP has said, "We're capturing 5,000 barrels of oil per day through the suction tube." And the video shows (well, showed, for 43 seconds), significant remaining leaking oil around the siphon tube. Guess they were wrong about the estimated flow, eh?

On an initially unrelated note, scientists have 'invented' artificial life. Well, not really - they've synthetically duplicated DNA from a bacterium, implanted that synthetic DNA into a different host cell, and the host cell "decoded and became" the same as a cell that contained naturally occurring DNA that they duplicated synthetically (it further reproduced itself with the synthetic DNA strain). The next goal is to design bacterial cells that will perform various functions: produce medicines or fuels or absorb greenhouse gases ('cause we really need to freeze our planet to death by removing all the greenhouse gases). Awesome, huh? Self-replicating, fuel-producing, greenhouse-gas-eating, artificial bacteria. Kudzu gone wild, but at a cellular level! (This reminds me of the scientists that figured out how to create life; they went to God and said, "God, we don't need you anymore; we can create life ourselves!" God said, "Oh, really? Show me." So the scientists started to gather together some dirt, and God said, "No, no, no, wait, go get your own dirt...")

Why "initially unrelated"? Maybe they'll design bacteria that will alleviate the need to drill. Maybe they'll design bacteria that can eat away spilled oil without having to absorb the oxygen in the water. Maybe they'll design bacteria that will turn corn into pixie stix! Now THAT would be awesome! Go science!
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Sunday, May 16, 2010

Double promise

Hope this turns out well in electronic photo form; I'm sure it's nowhere near as beautiful or majestic as in person. The lower one is very bright and full across the spectrum.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Sign of the times

Saw this today. Found it amusing. If you can't tell, that's a Shell logo wrapped around what used to be a BP logo; the rest of the station still has BP Green all over it.

Friday, May 14, 2010

2 cents ... what's 'at worth, anyway?

Before I offer my 2 cents on the topic that you'll discover momentarily, what's 2 cents worth anyway? Less than one percent of a gallon of gas (or milk, for that matter)? You can't even buy a pair of gumballs for two cents anymore. Are we all saying our thoughts are totally worthless? In many cases, that's probably accurate... but even so, maybe we should revise our cliche, increase thought value due to inflation. How long has "two cents" been around (the saying, I mean)? From this site, it started as "two bits" (English version) and "two cents" is the Americanized version. Anyway, it says the first US reference he could find is from 1926.

From this site, $0.02 in 1926 would be equivalent to $0.24 in 2009. So maybe, instead of my two cents worth, I'll offer you my quarter's worth (and maybe it should be a dime and two pennies for your thoughts instead of a penny for your thoughts, although that's quite a mouthful, so I propose we just make it a quarter all the way 'round: my 25-cents worth, and a quarter for your thoughts).

So, on what am I offering my quarter's worth? The BP oil spill. Or is it the Transocean spill? Or the Halliburton spill? Regardless, it's a bunch of oil spilling into the gulf. Well, best I know, it's actually been pressurized and is now venting into the gulf. Regardless, BP has some options; they've discussed the "junk shot" or "top kill" method, which would be firing "junk" into the leaking pipe to plug it up. There's also a possibility of pumping cement into the blowout preventer valve (I don't have all the links right now, and I don't feel like digging them up, as I'm watching TV while writing this, so I'm distracted enough without Googling all the links). Personally, I thought about taking something stiff-yet-expandable, maybe six feet long, shoving it into the leaking pipe, and then inflating it, pressing the expandable "balloon" to the sides of the pipe and stopping the leak. Why haven't they tried these methods (or anything else of this nature)? Why do they keep trying the "let's find a way to funnel the oil back to the top" to "stop" the flow? Well, it's for the 2 cents I haven't quite given you yet. If they can get the oil to the top, they'll hopefully find a way to separate it and refine it and make a profit off it. They've started the "secondary wells" to relieve the pressure to stop the leak (by bringing the oil up through the new wells). They tried the large dome (which clogged with ice-like hydrates) to funnel the oil to the surface (to be collected into a receiver ship for processing). They are now trying to insert a new tube into the leaking riser which will allow bringing the oil to the surface (to be collected & processed).

Why haven't they plugged the leak? 'Cause that would mean the oil is stopped, and they couldn't get it back. Surely you don't think they'll be permitted to drill again immediately after getting the leak stopped? Thus, if they "fail" to stop it, all the while drilling the secondary wells to "relieve the pressure" and stop the leak, well, then they'll end up with functional wells to replace the one that's been damaged.

Am I way off here? I'm thinking it's still about profit for BP and maintaining access to the now-pressurized but leaking-into-the-gulf oil reservoir.

Regarding another 2 cents (or quarter), Tim Horton's is now planning to go global. Tim Horton's is all over Canada (and, I think, some parts of New England), but soon they'll be coming to a corner near you. Anyway, think I'm going to go for a walk now... just the thought of donuts from Tim Horton's (they're really going for coffee globally, I think) has caused my mass and its gravitational force to increase. Later...

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Labels

In case you can't read the label, it says, "Decoration only. Not a toy." You know, in case you were confused, and wanted to play with the desk plaque, you have the warning on the label.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Frogs

Probably hard to tell, but the two blobs on the sidewalk are frogs. I'm out walking, and walked right between these guys, who didn't move at all while I went between them. Yes, I'm walking on the uneven, unlevel sidewalk, not illegally in the street. And, yes, I'm texting while walking.

AP Writers

So, I'm looking at this AP news release, and I find yet again common grammatical and spelling mistakes in publicly released information. It says, "Thousands have fled there homes in Nashville..." - that should be "their," not "there." That's a common mistake that thousands of English textbooks across the US have included in their (not there) "common mistakes" listings. I am curious, though, why these types of mistakes are made in formal publications (vs. informal communication, such as email or instant messaging). I mean, this author is, presumably, paid to write for a living, yet he can't seem to take the time to proofread a four-(short-)paragraph article.

Am I being overly critical here? Or perhaps a little AR or OC? Is it really too much to expect that JOURNALISTS would actually PROOF-READ their (not there) articles BEFORE publishing them?

Chopstick instructions

Have I already blogged this before? Can't recall. Anyway, read the instructions: "now you can pick up anything!" Need to move your house? Use chopsticks! Car in the way and lost your keys? Grab some chopsticks and get it out of the way! Spilled your drink? No problem, pick up the fallen liquid with your handy chopsticks! Keep a pair handy for all your pick up needs!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Free GPS Navigation with Turn by Turn - Waze

Free GPS Navigation with Turn by Turn - Waze |

Yeah, I signed up. It's actually an interesting - and FREE - little navigation app, and works on a variety of platforms (well, I think it does, although I've only tried it on my Nokia E71 w/ S60). And it has neat little pac-man-like dots on roads that have not been traveled by a Waze user (at least I think that's how it works) that you get useless points for eating (by driving over them), and some sort of cupcake things. Anyway, interesting little - and FREE with NAVIGATION - maps app. Just thought I'd let all 3 of my readers know about it.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The post I forgot to title!

This is pretty neat. It's the new "Solar Dynamics Observatory" - that is, SDO, a new sun-observing spacecraft/satellite thing. It makes neat pictures and time-lapse movies of the sun, at better-than-high-def resolution. Of course, I still like to visit the Spaceweather site, which I assume may start providing some SDO images instead of SOHO images (in fact, they already have an SDO image on their home page as I write this).

In unrelated news, Facebook is once again making headlines for supposedly making it easier to "share" content across the web. Now you can "like" your favorite news story or other weird things without having to first copy them to your Facebook profile. To be honest, I haven't read up on all the changes, but I did see some new thing taking up the top of my Facebook page when I logged on briefly, but I quickly switched over to create this new blog post, so I still can't offer a real opinion on the changes.

I would like to offer some help to those who may be facing employment difficulties: North Dakota. They have tons of jobs; problem is, there's no place to live. So, at least you could be homeless WHILE employed instead of BECAUSE of lack of employment. On the bright side, you'd be pretty close to the Yellowstone supervolcano, so when it goes you wouldn't have to worry about your not having a home anymore. (Was that heartless and insensitive? I apologize.)

Now, if you have trouble sleeping, it may be because your circadian rhythm is messed up. If so, there's hope: the Center for Light Treatment and Biological Rhythms, part of the Columbia University Medical Center in New York, has some interesting treatments to help "reset" your internal clock. What's really cool is the term they have for the name of some of their treatments: chronotherapeutics. That's cool; just use "chronotherapeutics" the next time you're lacking for a conversational topic at a party or the water cooler at work. You know, like this: "Hey, what do you think of the latest advancements in chronotherapeutics?" That way you'll sound really cool and hip and smart. If someone challenges your knowledge by saying, "What's 'chronotherapeutics'?" you can just say, "Well, you really should research it yourself to see whether you believe in its effectiveness at treating circadian rhythm abnormalities." Then you really sound "in the know"!

And while we're talking about physiological (or at least psychological) issues (which, if psychological, still have some effect in the physiological realm), check out this article on exercise. As we all know, weight loss/gain really comes down to math: net caloric intake (i.e., the number of calories you take in minus the number you expend) essentially determines whether you'll gain, lose, or remain the same weight. Well, that leads to all sorts of interesting possibilities; in the article, it mentions some who cut caloric intake by 25% while others reduced caloric intake by 12.5% and increased caloric expenditure by 12.5%, resulting in the same net caloric change for both groups. In fact, both groups lost weight at about the same rate. However, the additional caloric expenditure in the second group required a solid hour of moderate intensity activity - recommended by the government's opinioners (I made up that word!) on weight loss, but likely "more than what many people would be willing or able to do" - and not only that, but exercise also has other effects, such as increasing appetite. Thus, you have to balance what you're doing vs. what you're taking in. Anyway, read the article, and maybe read it on an electronic reader while running around the block. Just be sure not to run on the road if there's a sidewalk available, and be careful not to run off a cliff while intently reading the article. While death is a sure fire way to lose weight, it's not a recommended method. (And, no, I mean no disrespect to either my or my wife's grandmothers; Grandmom B and Nana, we love you both tremendously!)

Ah, well, nose is running, wrist is hurting, Idol is playing... I'm outta here!
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Followed

The other day, I saw this chasing me down the highway (look in the rear-view mirror; you may want to click the image to see it larger).

Monday, April 19, 2010

What's the point?

I'm just curious. I saw a group on Facebook, "WE HATE CANCER (help me get over 1,000,000 people to join)." Now, don't get me wrong, I hate cancer; I hate that it is taking my Grandmom B, and I hate that it's taking my wife's Nana. But I don't understand this group: why? What's the point of making a group to "prey" on cancer victims solely for the purpose of getting a group to a 1-million member mark? Am I missing something? There's nothing in the group about "helping" cancer victims, or of raising money to help fund cancer research. The TITLE of the group says "help me get 1,000,000 people to join" - but there's no point, nothing to come of that magic number except one person now has a group with over 1,000,000 people in it. In fact, the "news" of the group has this: "Please help me get over 1,000,000 people to join my group." This "group" - it's just a social virus, with nothing of merit other than perhaps an outlet for people to post something - but they can already do that on Facebook! There's this "status update" thing... ever seen it?

I don't mean to be a downer... but this is frustrating. If all you want is a group with over 1 million members, then do something bizarre, or perhaps useful, but don't prey on those who may be in a point of weakness. It's kind of like "Christian Chain Letters" (or e-mails) - I don't forward those any more than any other chain letter or e-mail (which is to say, almost never). Now, if there's something useful or unique in it, I may forward it to select individuals, but nearly always with my own commentary added.

Totally unrelated, I just tried Blue Diamond Wasabi & Soy Sauce Almonds... quite a unique flavor, actually not bad at all! I may have to get a can to take to work to snack on during the day.

Anyway, if you have a Facebook group that will actually get results toward eradication of cancer, feel free to link it here - I might even join.

I apologize for the tone of this post... this is definitely not like my "regular" posts... hopefully those will return soon. Until then, "a topato."
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Sunday, April 18, 2010

Home, sweet home.

The title merely indicates where I am: at home. Getting here, today, was a challenge; at more than one point today we were stopped on I-65 South between Birmingham and Bay Minette (that's the exit we take, exit 37, on the way to our home in Daphne). It's hard to see in the pic (unless you click the pic to maximize it), but we're doing 18 in a 70 (I think it's 18; actually, the speedo isn't "cut in half" the way it looks in the pic, not sure why it came out that way, other than perhaps a refresh cycle that the pic managed to grab half-way through the speed update). That's the dash on my "new" Cadillac, a 1996 Sedan Deville with (now) a little over 107k on it, the replacement for the Lexus. That Lexus is no longer mine: in an interesting vehicular trade, I ended up with the Cadillac that had been my grandmother's husband's that she gave to my youngest brother when she quit driving, and he ended up with my parents' Honda Odyssey minivan (they couldn't reach their two girls in the back seat of the Cadillac from the front), and my parents bought a "new" (used) Odyssey (a top-of-the-line Touring model with every option except built-in nav; it's a REALLY nice van!), and I gave the Lexus back to my dad (who had originally bought it used in 1997 or so) to trade on the van (didn't get much, but maybe it covered their sales tax).

As for the Caddy, despite my penchant toward more "sport" oriented cars, I've found that I actually enjoy it - I think it knows more what it was meant to be than the Lexus did, and does what it was meant to very well (and it's terrific on the highway - better, probably, than the Lexus was; then again, the Lexus had nearly twice the mileage of the Caddy). It is big, though; I think the length is about two football fields or something like that. My two youngest children said, "It's like a mini-limousine!" Superbly comfortable on the highway, though, and plenty of power when you need it.

Oh, by the way: if you have a phone that gets internet, and you don't have a GPS that lists rest areas (or maybe even if you do), be sure to bookmark this site; it will give you a list of interstate rest areas by state. We used it twice to optimize our stops on the way home today, a way that was plagued by accidents (our normal four-hour trip took more like six, or a 50% increase in travel time).

This week was an interesting and difficult one, but also had its share of bright moments. Early Thursday my wife and daughter left to head to Birmingham where my daughter participated in the All-State choir, her fourth consecutive year to qualify for All-State (twice in the SSA choir, and more recently twice in the SATB choir). My wife was chaperoning for the girls that went. We are both very proud of our daughter (who, by the way, has qualified for additional scholarship money on a vocal scholarship! Woo-hoo!). Friday night after work I took the boys and we headed up to B'ham. Saturday was the concert, and this year's concert was the best of the four that we have attended.

Afterward, we met up with my dad and both my brother's families for dinner, and then headed to my grandmother's house. Grandmom 'B', who is in the final stages of a battle with cancer. It was a wonderful, but tough, visit. Grandmom B was always "the constant" when we were growing up; despite the various moves throughout our childhood, Grandmom B's house was always "home" - I can't even recall the number of times we stayed there, the times we "camped out" on the back porch (we were real outdoorsmen, we were!), "TG&Y Days" (toys to be had!), mashed potatoes - Grandmom B's are the best (I like my wife's, too, but she understands), Christmas Eve at Grandmom B's... oh, the memories. We didn't move around as much as "army brats" do, I'm sure, but I can recall four different homes between Kindergarten and Graduation; during all that time, Grandmom B's house was still "home" - the place that we could go that never changed.

A wonderful, but tough, visit.

This morning we all went to church with my middle brother and his crew, where his kids were baptized into the Methodist church. Afterward, we parted ways with "my side of the family" and went to visit my wife's grandmother, also in the final stages of a battle with cancer. This, too, was a difficult visit; perhaps not as tough on me, I could tell that it weighed heavily on my wife.

Following lunch, we said our goodbyes and started the journey home. The journey took quite a bit longer than we'd anticipated, but we did (eventually) make it, all still intact.

We have some tough days ahead, and would be grateful for prayers offered on our (and our families') behalf over the next few weeks and months. I'll try to get back to my more "usual" posts in days to come, but it's been a long, emotional weekend.
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Saturday, April 17, 2010

Metallica ... On Flute?

Saw this in a music store: the best of metallica for flute!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Alternate Endings for and slight review of "Clash of the Titans"

Took the boys to see Clash of the Titans tonight; I thought the development of Calabos into the story was better than the original, but elsewise I prefer the original (of course, the effects were better in this one, and both stories were about at the same level of senselessness, but I felt the character development and some of the other story bits were better woven in the original).

Near the end, I came up with some alternate endings that might have added a little "zing" to it; and so, I present, my alternate endings to Clash of the Titans:

  • According to the story, Medusa's head will not turn females to stone; alternate ending #1: the Krakken is a female, Medusa's head won't stone her/it, and it either takes the princess Andromeda or destroys Argos (or maybe both).
  • Alternate ending #2: when Perseus pulls the head from the bag, he accidentally holds it backward, meeting its gaze, and turns himself to stone; the Krakken takes the princess and destroys the city.
  • Alternate ending #3: remove the "won't turn females to stone" caveat from Medusa's head; while flying across on Pegasus, Perseus accidentally reveals the head of Medusa, which casts its gaze on the princess Andromeda, and Andromeda is turned to stone; since the Krakken no longer has Andromeda to take as a sacrifice, it destroys the city (and, of course, Andromeda was turned to stone).
  • Alternate ending #4 (and this is my favorite, I think): while fumbling with the bag, Perseus accidentally drops the head of Medusa; unfortunately, it falls in front of Pegasus, turning the winged horse into stone mid-flight, and the statue Pegasus and Perseus crash into the cliff, mortally wounding our hero, who only has time to watch the Krakken take the princess Andromeda and destroy the city Argos before he falls into death's clutches.

And there you have it: my alternate endings to Clash of the Titans. Note: I did enjoy the movie, and will likely watch it again when it comes to "home theatre," but I am fairly certain I still prefer the original.
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Saturday, April 10, 2010

Good Weekend to You!

So, another animal trainer killed by its "pet" - in this case, an elephant tramples its circus trainer. From the article, "It was unclear what spooked the elephant." I wonder, are they considering murder? You know, someone let slip that the elephant trainer got paid a little more than the lion tamer, so Mr. Lion Tamer (Mrs. Lion Tamer if the use of "Mr." as a generic for "title of address irrespective of gender when said gender is unknown" offends you - nah, I take it back, forget I added this sentence and just read "Mr." in reference to "generic person" and get over it) places a mouse near the elephant's tent during cleaning time and then startles the mouse, causing it to rush under the tent and startle the elephant... "The incident was classified as a workplace accident" - nope, that's not being considered, I guess.

I mean no disrespect in the above; elephants are my favorite animal, and humans rank fairly highly up there as well. What I do really find amusing is this: "The victim is not being identified until next-of-kin have been notified." Hmm... the family sees an article about an elephant trainer being killed by its trainer (note the use of "its" to avoid the "his/her" issue as in the previous paragraph), at the Pennsylvania James Hamid Circus performing at the Irem Shrine in Wilkes-Barre, and they're not supposed to know who it is because "the victim is not being identified" - really. All that other info isn't identifying enough of the elephant trainer at the James Hamid Circus performing in Wilkes-Barre this week. Sometimes the "intelligence" in the media is, well, baffling.

On another note, dense fog cause the Polish president's plane to crash during landing. Thing is, they were told the airport was closed and they should land at a different one, and they tried unsuccessfully three time prior to the fourth - and final, fatal - attempt.

Now a question: why, when referring to guitars (specifically, the body of a guitar), is it "top, back, and sides"? Shouldn't it be "front, back, and sides" or "top, bottom, and sides"?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

I won! I won!

Today I received a letter, in a hand-addressed envelope and signed in ink, stating that I "have qualified for an award of 2 roundtrip airline tickets." It was addressed March 29th, postmarked on April 2, and says I must respond by April 7 (as an aside, the post office did a very poor job of postmarking this letter: I could very easily remove the stamp from the envelope, remove a corner of the stamp, and most likely reuse the stamp; however, being an honest person, I will not do such a thing). It has a very fancy letterhead proclaiming the company: Zimmerman & Cain. According to their website, they are "currently the leading awards management agency in the nation" - but, on the "about us" tab, it says they are "the country’s leader in incentive management" and that they "[assist] companies of all types with marketing and activities utilizing promotional gifts and sales incentives."

Hmm... sounds like a marketing gimmick company to me; you know, the kind where they offer "free vacation" as long as you listen to their "no obligation [i.e., 'high pressure'] opportunity [i.e., 'sales pitch'], with no obligation to purchase whatsoever [except that you'll then likely become liable for 'included' incentives that you thought were free with whatever 'free' thing you 'won' from them]" - that kind of thing. In fact, if you search Zimmerman & Cain, you'll find inquiries about them (and companies with other names) in the Tuscon, AZ BBB (Zimmerman & Cain, and the other "companies," are based out of Arizona).

A little more research shows that the person who signed my letter, Sara Bush (who claims to be the VP of the Travel Awards Division), has "published" various articles on articlesnatch.com, which, near as I can tell, is a big "link exchange" place (i.e., you post your links, and your links will be displayed on others' articles as their links are displayed in conjunction with your article(s)). She has "written" articles on "Who Is Afraid Of Stress," "Designing Your Childs [sic] Room," and "The Wonders Of Potatoes" - all of which are FULL of typographical, grammatical, and spelling errors, and, quite honestly, look like they are poor translations of Asian to English or written by someone Asian with a minimal command of the English language. In other words, they're designed to attract readers on a web search, provide links to the company, and advertise the company's services and/or perhaps legitimize the company. I doubt this "Sara Bush" is even an employee of Zimmerman & Cain, but would expect that if I called I might be able to talk to someone claiming that name.

The overall point I'm trying to make is this: this is a legitimate looking (on the face of it) letter, but research shows it is likely to be an advertising scam or promotion of some sort. I don't think I'll be responding, and I hope that you, if you get a similar "offer" of award, take the time to investigate before you provide any personal information (or even a response indicating that you are the type of person who will respond to such offers, making you a more likely target for future "attacks" of this nature).

Then again, with airlines starting to charge for carry on luggage, maybe I should attempt to take advantage of this free airfare.

In a related airline story, these women tried to get their dead relative a seat on a flight out of London. The 91-year old deceased German man, seated in a wheelchair and wearing sunglasses, was not allowed to board the plane. Next time you're flying, imagine if you happened to be seated next to that guy!

In an unrelated story, the Aral Sea is drying up. And this IS anthropogenic ("human caused"). Check out the video:


You can read more about it on the Huffington Post. In short, it used to be the fourth largest fresh water lake in the world. A Russian project to divert rivers to provide irrigation to cotton farms have removed the supply source to the Aral Sea (click link for Google Map of the area), and 90% of the sea has disappeared since the project began. The video mentions that pesticides found in the now-Aral-desert have been found in penguins in Antarctica. Yeah, it's having a global impact. And it's human induced. Wonder if we could divert any "climate change" money in this direction?
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Saturday, April 3, 2010

Eggs!

This year my eggs were not very good. The good ones in the pic are my wife's. She generally has pretty good eggs, except for maybe four of them. :)

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

A tale of a Lexus and sudden, unintended lack of acceleration

dash lightsImage by Tony Kingdad via Flickr

Let me start my saying: "I AM OK!" :)

I was on my way home from work this afternoon, in my Lexus (1994 LS400), heading north on I-65 toward I-165, when it happened: the check engine light came on and I was suddenly thrust into a frightful situation: sudden, unintended lack of acceleration. Try as I might, regardless of how hard I pressed the accelerator, my car just would not accelerate. There was a slight, ever-so-hesitant increasing velocity (it could scarcely be called acceleration). The car would maintain interstate speed, but took a long, long time to achieve it. Fortunately, for me, I-65 in Mobile, despite its 65 mph speed limit, typically maintains a good, steady 27 mph pace (ok, that's slight exaggeration, but not much), but I was in a panic. What was I to do? I kept pressing the accelerator, harder and harder, but it just would not go any faster. I hit the brakes to let in a car from an on ramp, and that car quickly sped away as I struggled to get my Lexus back up to cruising speed. In a vain attempt, I rolled down the window, put out my head, looked back, and blew as hard as I could, but that did not help to accelerate the car.

I made the transition to the I-165 ramp and held my speed through the turn (fortunately it was not crowded with the usual traffic slowing to 14 mph around the 45 mph curve that I routinely take at, well, let's just say "more than 45"), so I was able to maintain my speed through the curve. I merged onto I-165 - well, I say "merged," but really it was more like staying in my lane since that's exactly what I did, as the lane that comes off I-65 is the same lane I need to be in to take the exit off I-165 to Bay Bridge Road. I managed to maintain my speed throughout this ordeal thus far, but this was just the beginning. At the bottom of the off ramp of I-165 is a stoplight, and numerous other stoplights dot the roadway between my exit off I-165 (which, actually, I don't own, despite calling it "my" exit) and home. With the car not wanting to accelerate, these stoplights could be deadly if the car behind me became impatient when the light turned green.

London Bridge (Tower Bridge) : Reflection on t...Image by Anirudh Koul via Flickr

Fortunately, an 18-wheeler was in front of me, thus justifying the unintended lack of acceleration from the Lexus. (Yes, I'd tried putting the car in neutral, turning it off, then turning it back on, but this did not cure the unintended lack of acceleration problem.) Actually, it may have been more than an 18-wheeler, as it was a double-trailer truck, but in the heat of the moment, under such duress as I was, I do not recall whether each smaller trailer had four or eight wheels (i.e., one or two axles). The next challenge was the Cochrane-Africatown Bridge (which does not look like this picture, but Zemanta won't give me a pic of that bridge even though there's a nice one at the Wiki article linked here), which has a fairly steep incline. Would the ailing Lexus and its unintended lack of acceleration be capable of climbing the menacing roadway? Fortune continued to smile, and we (the Lexus and I) made it up the bridge. (Down the other side was easy; gravity assisted there. And, once again, I tried the neutral-turn-off-and-restart procedure; once again it failed.) The 18(?)-wheeler continued to occupy the roadway in front of me and I continued to play the part of a person afraid to go around, instead accelerating extremely slowly, at the rate of an 18(?)-wheeler.

The multi-trailer semi stayed in front of me as I headed toward Spanish Fort on the Causeway (US 90/98), which fortunately is rather devoid of traffic lights. But again a decision had to be made in the midst of the strife of unintended lack of acceleration: once reaching Spanish Fort, there would be lights aplenty, along with (likely) cars stopping to turn left across traffic. All instances where unintended lack of acceleration could be a great bad thing. On the other hand, I could take I-10 into Spanish Fort and on toward the Malbis exit (and home), thus avoiding the lights, but presenting another challenge: the uprising on ramp and needing to attain interstate speed along the uphill slope. I watched the traffic on I-10, and it seemed there might be a good "merging spot" about the time I would expect to hit the interstate; I decided to try. The 18(?)-wheeler, though, decided to pull off the causeway not long before the onramp to I-10, and slowed in anticipation of his stop. Decision time: try to go around? or wait till he passes?

I decided to wait. Once he pulled off, I nailed the accelerator to the floor (not literally; I do have a lot of tools in the Lexus, from the recent door handle replacement, but nails and a hammer or nail gun are not among them), and waited as the car continued to fail to accelerate. Slowly, ever so slowly, the speedometer needle began to rise; fortunately there was no car in front of me as I reached the on ramp, so I was able to maintain my speed, such as it was, through the turn onto the on ramp, instead of slowing as most vehicles do. I had nearly attained 60 mph when I reached the top of the on-ramp, which I have now spelled three different ways in this discourse, and the anticipated break in traffic was marred only by one vehicle which, politely, moved to the other lane to let me in.

So far, so good. I tried the neutral-off-restart again (and noticed the car DIED when I put it in neutral), no change in the unintended lack of acceleration issue. No matter, I am now able to maintain nearly the speed limit, although the car now will not actually reach interstate speed (and, when I put it in neutral, it either dies or idles around 100-200 rpm). As I head into Spanish Fort, I consider the options and decide that I will take the Malbis exit (as planned), take the first right into the Sam's/Car Dealer/Gas Station/Lowe's/Food Places shopping-like area, park the car at Sam's, and see what can be done. Unfortunately, as I head toward the Malbis exit, I see that the off-ramp green light is turning yellow, meaning that I will not have a green when I arrive (fortunately, there will also be no traffic in front of me). As I remove my foot-nail from the accelerator, allowing the car to return to "idle-cruise" - it dies. It will not even stay running when in "D" at 40 mph.

This is a problem, as when the motor stops, so does the power steering. Now, I have had cars without power steering before (e.g., my 1978 Alfa Romeo Sport Sedan), but a car that is supposed to have power steering, when it doesn't, is a real beast to steer, and although I like steak, I don't like this situation. Fortunately, my manliness pays off and I am able to overcome the lack of power steering and avoid running into the cars that are trying to merge into the lane that I am not going to yield because I don't want to try to get this Lexus moving from a stop. I put the car into neutral, start, dies. Start, dies. Start, gas, keep the revs up, shift into drive, turn into the shopping area, foot off the gas, car dies, power steering is gone, car jerks, but I maintain a firm grip on the wheel and using my manliness keep the car in its lane. Neutral, start dies, start, rev, keep the revs up, drive, brake and gas simultaneously to keep the car from dying even though I'm slowing, no traffic, go.

Pull into a parking spot, gas and brake, off the gas, dies. Won't start - just spins the engine. Gas it while cranking and it will start, but won't stay running unless I keep the gas applied. Funny sounds, buzzy exhaust, lots of black smoke. Just for fun I pulled the mass airflow sensor plug and try to start it, but that accomplishes nothing.

Call my wife, she picks me up, and here I sit, lucky, fortunate not to have been in an accident from my Lexus unintended lack of acceleration problem, writing this, as the car waits on me to go see if it will run later tonight to bring it home.
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