January 31, 2009
B-25 Pilots from WWII
Jennifer, Piper, and I met Robert up at Fort Lupton, Colorado. The Vintage Aero Flying Museum (home of the Lafayette Foundation) had a free spaghetti dinner with two local WWII B-25 bomber pilots as the guest speakers.
The first speaker was Colonel Bill Bower(above). He is the only surviving pilot from the famous Dolittle Raid on Japan, immortalized in the movie Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo. Bill turns 92 in two weeks on February 13th.
Bill gave a short speech after lunch. I took notes during his speech, and have tried to convey his speech as accurately as possible. I'm paraphrasing him in the quotes, so if someone was there and says 'Bill never said that', well possibly that's true. But I've told it as accurately as I possibly could, and I wrote it in first person with quotes because it's a better story that way.
Bill said (roughly) the following:
"Shortly after Pearl Harbor, when I was 23 or 24, General Jimmy Dolittle came to me and said 'Bill...I've got a mission for you.' But the mission was so secret that they couldn't even tell me what it was."
January 30, 2009
Riding Lawn Mower DUI
The Doolittle Raiders
The story of the Doolittle Raiders is a made-for-Hollywood story. Unbelievable.
"The Doolittle Raiders have held an annual reunion almost every year since the late 1940s. The high point of each reunion is a solemn, private ceremony in which the surviving Raiders perform a roll call, then toast their fellow Raiders who passed away during the previous year. Specially-engraved silver goblets, one for each of the 80 Raiders, are used for this toast. The goblets of those who have died are inverted. When only two Raiders remain alive, they will drink a final toast using the vintage 1896 bottle of Hennessy cognac which has accompanied the goblets to each Raider reunion since 1960. The vintage was chosen because it was the year of Jimmy Doolittle's birth. The bottle of cognac and the goblets had been maintained by the United States Air Force Academy on display in Arnold Hall, the cadet social center. On 19 April 2006, the memorabilia were transferred to the National Museum of the United States Air Force.
As of 2008, only nine Raiders are still alive. Only eight were able to attend the 64th anniversary reunion held in Dayton, Ohio, in April 2006. Seven were able to attend the 65th anniversary in April 2007 in San Antonio, Texas. Six of the Raiders were able to attend the 66th anniversary in April 2008 in Dallas, Texas."
January 29, 2009
The Global Warming Scam
The key players are now all in place in Washington and in state governments across America to officially label carbon dioxide as a pollutant and enact laws that tax we citizens for our carbon footprints. Only two details stand in the way, the faltering economic times and a dramatic turn toward a colder climate. The last two bitter winters have lead to a rise in public awareness that CO2 is not a pollutant and is not a significant greenhouse gas that is triggering runaway global warming.
How did we ever get to this point where bad science is driving big government we have to struggle so to stop it?
Blagojevich Thrown Out!
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, the boy-faced Chicago Democrat swept into office six years ago as an antidote to the scandal and corruption of his predecessor, was officially removed from office today in the wake of federal corruption charges.
A state Senate tribunal found that Blagojevich had engaged in a pattern of abuse of power. It was a verdict based partly on his governing style of the past six years, and partly on criminal allegations that he tried to extort political donations with his official powers and plotted to auction off President Barack Obama's former U.S. Senate seat.
The 59-member Senate crossed the necessary two-thirds majority for removal -- 40 votes -- at 4:41 p.m. The final vote was unanimous -- 59-0 -- to remove Blagojevich, 52.
Over dinner of mashed potatoes, steamed green beans, and elk burgers, Jennifer took up one of her butter soaked green beans in hand and started flipping it around as though it were dancing.
"Cut that out. Don't play with your food," I barked.
"What about Taterhenge?"
"That was totally different", I replied.
"What about the 'Leaning Tower of Tater'?" she queried.
She was referring, of course, to some impromptu replicas of famous structures I'd built with tater tots in my dinner plate last weekend.
"Those were culturally significant...historical artifacts," I complained.
"So that's different than a steamed green bean doing the conga?" she clarified.
"Absolutely. Taterhenge is essentially a history lesson, taught through the medium of tater tots. Same goes for the 'Leaning Tower of Tater'."
I hate that she's getting older and wiser. I'm not sure how much longer I can convince her that "father knows best" at this rate.
The Brits Want Their Guns Back
Haha. Too late suckers. You'll never get them back. The key is not to give them up in the first place. Molon Labe.
Smart Robots Hunt For Food
Ok, maybe this is getting a little too close to bringing Terminator-like robots to life. For starters, eco-friendly engine builder Cyclone Power this week inked a contract from Robotic Technologies, Inc. (RTI) to develop what it calls a beta biomass engine system that will be the heart of RTI's Energetically Autonomous Tactical Robot (EATR).
The purpose of EATR is to develop and demonstrate an autonomous robotic platform able to perform long-range, long-endurance missions without the need for manual or conventional re-fueling - in other words it needs to "eat."
Ron Paul Speaks
January 28, 2009
Meet the Real Shrek - Maurice Tillet
"This may come to you as a surprise or a silly joke, but it's actually the truth. The popular CGI cartoon Shrek actually existed! Rather, his ogre-ific head was modeled after a real person; he was called Maurice Tillet, and he was actually a very intelligent person, a poet and writer who could speak 14 languages, and sure enough use plenty colorful idioms."
Obama Reaches Out to Iran
Obama is already trying to make peace with the Iranians. Unfortunately, they want to build nuclear weapons and have threatened to escalate the Great Photoshop War of 2008.
A Better Way to Make Money
In Russell Hoban's novel Riddley Walker, the descendents of nuclear holocaust survivors seek amid the rubble the key to recovering their lost civilisation. They end up believing that the answer is to re-invent the atom bomb. I was reminded of this when I read the government's new plans to save us from the credit crunch. It intends - at gob-smacking public expense - to persuade the banks to start lending again, at levels similar to those of 2007. Isn't this what caused the problem in the first place? Is insane levels of lending really the solution to a crisis caused by insane levels of lending?
This is an interesting proposal, although I'm not at all convinced I agree with it. First of all, I don't think that it's legal to circulate another currency within the United States, though I may be wrong on this. I know that many states made it illegal for the coal mine industry to pay Appalachian workers in scrip.
But apparently, there is some discussion of issuing scrip on Obama's website.
I'm not an economist, so I'm sure I'm not in a position to say whether this is a good idea or not. But what occurs to me is that this is a brilliant time to re-open the debate of ending the Federal Reserve's monopoly on issuing money. And I personally would like to see us get out from under the thumb of the Federal Reserve in a big way.
Brian sent me this today. I think it's pretty cool.
January 27, 2009
John Updike Dead at 76
Sadly, John Updike lost his battle with lung cancer today. He was 76. I loved his short story "A&P".
"She must have felt in the corner of her eye me and over my shoulder Stokesie in the second slot watching, but she didn't tip. Not this queen. She kept her eyes moving across the racks, and stopped, and turned so slow it made my stomach rub the inside of my apron, and buzzed to the other two, who kind of huddled against her for relief, and they all three of them went up the cat-and-dog-food-breakfast-cereal-macaroni-ri ce-raisins-seasonings-spreads-spaghetti-soft drinks- rackers-and- cookies aisle. From the third slot I look straight up this aisle to the meat counter, and I watched them all the way. The fat one with the tan sort of fumbled with the cookies, but on second thought she put the packages back. The sheep pushing their carts down the aisle -- the girls were walking against the usual traffic (not that we have one-way signs or anything) -- were pretty hilarious. You could see them, when Queenie's white shoulders dawned on them, kind of jerk, or hop, or hiccup, but their eyes snapped back to their own baskets and on they pushed. I bet you could set off dynamite in an A & P and the people would by and large keep reaching and checking oatmeal off their lists and muttering "Let me see, there was a third thing, began with A, asparagus, no, ah, yes, applesauce!" or whatever it is they do mutter. But there was no doubt, this jiggled them. A few house-slaves in pin curlers even looked around after pushing their carts past to make sure what they had seen was correct."
Take a few minutes to read the short story A&P online, in tribute to the late John Updike. You'll be glad you did.
January 26, 2009
Movable Type Max Search Results
I've noticed lately that when I search my website, I don't get all the results that I should. After some testing, I realized that it's probably hitting a "Max Results" returned type of situation. Predictably, this is poorly coded and documented. But after some digging, I've discovered that the Maxresults default value is 20. I counted the results returned and it was, in fact, 20. So, I'm sure that the Maxresults variable is my problem.
Now - to change it. Maxresults is a Configuration Directive, and is apparently stored in the mt-config.cgi file. I updated the mt-config.cgi file and it fixed the problem immediately.
Guy Fairey Inspired Obama Art
Shephard Fairey, a well know left coast guerilla art plagarist, created some the most ubiquitous Obama campaign images. Fairey's Obama images were based on Fairey's "Obey Giant" campaign, which was based, in turn, on icons from the fascist regimes of Stalin, Lenin, and Castro.
Now Robert has stumbled across a website that allows you to create your own Fairey-Obama icons, and slogans to boot.
"Don't Suspect A Friend - Turn Him In"
"War is Peace"
"Love is Hate"
"Ignorance is Strength"
"Freedom is Slavery"
Here's my icon (sans .50 caliber sniper rifle).
I Want Some TARP
Rob H. sent me this today. Pretty funny.
January 25, 2009
Microsoft Songsmith = Epic Fail
Gawker is covering the Microsoft infomercial (above) promoting Microsoft's new karaoke software for critically white people with children. Whatever you do...do not watch the video above. You've been warned. The infomercial will make you cringe. It's every bit as bad as Hillary's worst campaign commercial.
The software they're pitching is astoundingly bad. It reminds me of Aldous Huxley's "synthetic music machine" in Brave New World:
"...the hotel too hopelessly old-fashioned-no television laid on in the bedrooms, no scent organ, only the most putrid synthetic music...[snip] A Synthetic Music machine was warbling out a super-cornet solo."
And then my sister calls me whining about how Microsoft is laying people off and I'm like...these people need to be laid off. They should hunted down and treed like coons and forced to confess, repent, and apologize.
Update: Apparently, this is a follow up to Microsoft Hit Wizard.
I found this article about Morgan Freeman's past on bannination.com. I had no clue he was on The Electric Company, a show on PBS in the '70's. Here's Morgan Freeman covering the Hit Songs of the Week on the Electric Company.
Apparently, Gene Wilder did the voice of Letterman, on "The Adventures of Letterman", a regular skit on The Electric Company.
January 24, 2009
When Does 65" Not Equal 65"?
I was down at Best Buy today and the place was packed to the gills. Parking lot was full. Store was a zoo. Trucks were driving up and carting away those enormous hi-def 1080p televisions that I can't afford. Jennifer and Allie were running around spending money like there's no tomorrow. And I'm sitting there watching the Hulk in High Def on a $6,000 60" television.
It was a pretty cool movie. They were shooting at him with M16's and then they had a Black Hawk try to take him down. Plus some type of Pulse Weapon/Particle Beam/Force Field. All way cool.
Now, this television is a wide-screen TV. By that, I mean it has the widescreen 16:9 aspect ratio that you normally see in movie theaters. The old school televsions like mine have the boxier 4:3 aspect ratio.
So, what I'd like to point out is that a 65" widescreen (16:9 aspect ratio) television's screen is not as large as a 65" standard aspect ratio (4:3) television.
Probably you don't believe, so I'll throw some math on you real quick like. Television screens are measured diagonally. From corner to corner, if you will. For a 65" 16:9 aspect ratio television, the dimensions of the screen would be approx 56.65" wide and 31.87" high. (This is all based on Pythagoras theorem. Feel free to check the math.)
Area = L * W = 56.65 * 31.87 = approx 1805.44" sq. So, for a 16:9 aspect ratio 65" television, the total viewable surface area of the screen is 1805.44 square inches.
But, for a 4:3 aspect ratio 65" television, the width would only be 52" while the height would be 39". Again, Area = L * W = 52 * 39 = 2028 square inches. So, a 4:3 aspect ratio television has 12.3% more viewable surface area than a 16:9 aspect ratio television with the same diagonal measurements.
And then, of course, most idiots go home and configure their widescreen televisions to stretch their 4:3 aspect ratio programming to fill up their widescreen television so that everyone looks short and fat and now you know why I don't leave my house much. I can't cope with that. I can't sit in someone's house and watch a television where are circle appears as a flattened oval. I just can't do it.
Monty Python Sees The Light
Month Python put all over their videos on YouTube for free. Just dumped them all out there. Everything. Basically, they did exactly what the MPAA and the RIAA have been deathly afraid of doing for years. And guess what happened. Monty Python's DVD sales went up 23,000%. That's right. Suck it MPAA and RIAA.
I wanted to start working more with Jennifer on her Math and tonight I found this website which I love.
Tonight, we worked on long division and long multiplication. Very cool program.
Watercolor Projects for Kids
January 23, 2009
Canadian Boy Saves Birds
Eighth grader Charlie Sobcov wants to stop birds from dying in collisions with windows, but he doesn't want to ruin anybody's view.
For his latest school science fair project he has invented painted, plastic decals that can be placed -- discreetly -- right in the middle of a window pane.
"This paint is a colour that birds can see but humans can't," he said Wednesday on CBC Radio's All in a Day. "It's like putting a big stop sign in the middle of the window."
The colour is ultraviolet, beyond the range of colours visible to humans. That means the "stop sign" lets birds know the window is solid, but is nearly invisible to humans.
January 22, 2009
Slow Windows Computer
How to diagnose a slow windows computer.
Those of you that know me know that I've always been close to the Kennedy family, but Caroline was not the right person for the job. She announced today that she's dropping out of the senate race for 'personal reasons'. It astounds me how the media can claim the governor of Alaska is unqualified to be President, but then basically give Caroline Kennedy a pass. I mean, I know that the media isn't biased or anything...
Nothing made me happier than to hear how badly Team Obama screwed up the inauguration, with people waiting for hours in some tunnel of doom and never getting to even glimpse "the one".
We pushed through the crowd and finally got to another Metro to escape and get home only to have missed the entire ceremony. We never saw any Jumbotrons anywhere which would have made this disastrous experience somewhat worthwhile. DC and the Federal Govt. don't know how to do anything right and I will never attend another event like this in this town again! Thank God for Obama; maybe he can clear this up."
This is what is so priceless, however. This dolt is so stupid he thinks Obama can clear things up when Obama is the one that was in control. The government is not an omniscient, sentient being. It is a risk-averse, myopic, doddering embicile. And anyone that doesn't know that doesn't know a thing about government.
Whitehouse.gov Contradicts Obama's Gun Claims
Despite numerous public claims in the past that he would leave gun owners alone, reinstating the Assault Weapons Ban and enacting other restrictions are very much on Barack Obama's "Urban Policy" agenda.
Boy. That didn't take long, did it? I knew he'd get on this right away. That's why I bought my AR-15 A3 last year. I knew he was lying when he said he'd leave gun owners alone. ;)
January 21, 2009
Change You Can Believe In
Jennifer and Allie have been drawing up plans for their palaces, apparently. Every time I look at this one, I keep expecting a coked-up Al Paccino to pop up with with an M-16 and th M-203 grenade launcher and shout, "Say hello to my little friend!"
These sketches remind me of the drawings that Maury Dale and Pam Wilson used to make in grade school. They were planning for their future houses - making detailed architectural plans complete with kitchens, bathrooms, bedrooms, etc. I swear you could have built a real house from their plans. I was just like...WTF? I was hoping I'd end up in a trailer that was a long way off the highway so the road noise wouldn't bother me too much.
Jennifer's Easter List
January 20, 2009
Allie's Whish List
Jennifer has long labored under the singularly peculiar misapprehension that the Easter Bunny is roughly equivalent to Santa Claus. In her mind, the Easter Bunny is another deity to send a list of demands for presents. She has, as a matter of course, presented the Easter Bunny with letters, emails, public notices, and thinly veiled threats for as far back as I can recall. Somehow, she has now drawn our neighbor under her Svengali spell, and now they're both hustling the Easter Bunny like a south side pimp.
January 18, 2009
Jennifer's Interest in Watercolors
One of the things that I learned from Ken Kesey is that it's a parent's job to provide their kids with paint. Today Jennifer and Allie attempted to reproduce a painting she'd done previously at a local art gallery, but it didn't turn out very well. The painting was too watery and it looked pale and weak when they finished. So, I went out on eBay and ordered some better watercolor paint (Reeves 24 color set) and 60 sheets of 9" x 12" watercolor paper. So, hopefully, the next time she and Allie try to make a painting, it won't come out like the one they made today. :)
The Cardboard Twins
The American Form of Government
This is a brilliant video explaining the American form of government. I doubt that one person in a hundred knows that our country is not a Democracy, nor was it ever intended as such. If you thought America was a Democracy, then this video is for you. ;)
Merry Christmas To Me
Jennifer has decided that her favorite food on earth is grilled cheese sandwiches. Sunshine taught me how to make them when I was out in Tennessee. But we only started making them here at the house fairly recently. Probably some time last summer, I suppose.
The trick to making the perfect grilled cheese sandwich is to slice the cheese to an even thickness. If you don't then you don't get even melting throughout the sandwich. I was hacking away at the cheese first with a knife, which isn't easy. Then, I bought a couple of cheese slicers, but even with a nice metal one with a wire cutter, it's impossible to make consistently straight cuts.
Then, over Christmas break, I saw something like this in Ann's kitchen and I was like "I have so got to get one of those." Well, I finally broke down and bought this one for myself as a late Christmas present.
In 2009, in the "Gaza strip," one of the ancient Philistine cities, an Islamic group called Hamas has the goal to, as part of its charter, destroy all Jews in creation.
It lacks the military resources or competence to do so for now, but it satisfies itself with merely attempting, however ineffectually, to kill whatever Jews lie within the range of its unguided rockets. While few of them hit their marks (which, were they to satisfy their wont, would apparently be kindergartens and ice-cream parlors, or wherever young Jews would most likely be present in the highest density), they are of sufficient danger to continually disrupt the lives of those at whom they are aimed, if such a word can be applied to so crude a weapon.
Here's a photo from the interior of Penn Station, a Beaux-Arts building in Manhattan with groined vaulted coffered stone ceilings. Unfortunately, this building was demolished some time ago. Lots of black and white photos of Manhattan in the 1800's at this site:
January 17, 2009
The Orange Juice Queen
This morning, we had grits and bacon and orange juice for breakfast. Jennifer opened a new carton of orange juice and put the little plastic circular tab on her finger and announced that she was the "Orange Juice Queen". Then today, they made costumes out of cardboard boxes they found in the basement next door. Jennifer claims to be a Caribou and Allie is a Bunny, apparently.
The Dating Triangle
Update: From Alice
The Emperor's New Clothes
Jennifer and I are reading "Freddy The Pilot", a favorite of mine from middle school. After I put her to bed, I watched You, Me, and Dupree which my sister forced me to watch when it came out a few years ago. I love the movie, and of course I'm a huge Owen Wilson fan. And I'm always Jonesing for new tracks and I heard this song on the movie which I loved, but of course, it isn't on the soundtrack, which just drives me nuts. So, I backed it up with my DishPlayer and searched for the lyrics on the web.
I was surprised to discover it was a Coldplay song, as I figured that I would have heard it before. The trick is that the song is named "Fix You" and, I did know the song, but I didn't recognize it because they cut into the song about midway through, which makes it worlds better, IMHO.
So, I did the same thing. I imported the .mp3 file into Audacity and trimmed off the first 2:40 of the song, which they should have done if they had any sense. But I digress.
Once I had the song, I figured I'd cobble together some shots of Jennifer rehearsing for her school's adaptation of "The Emperor's New Clothes".
These images are compiled into a 12 Meg (2:43) Adobe Flash slideshow(fixyou.swf) that you should be able to open and view with any browser (Internet Explorer, Firefox, etc.). To view the slideshow, just click on the photo above.
These images were all captured with a Canon EOS 40D with a Canon BG-E2 battery grip. The lens is an image stabilized, ultra-sonic telescopic zoom lens (EF-S 17-85mm f/4.0-5.6 IS USM). The flash is a Canon Speedlite 580EX with a Gary Fong Light-Sphere II diffuser.
If you want to view the slideshow as a Windows executable, you can play this version (fixyou.exe), and it allows you to play, pause, skip forward, backwards, etc.
The soundtrack is a modified (shortened) version of Fix You by Coldplay.
Click here to view the other slideshows.
Lyrics in the extended entry.
January 16, 2009
Obama's Ever-Shifting Gitmo Policy
"...this week alone we've gone from Club Gitmo closing in 100 days to Obama announcing it on Day One to now maybe making sure it gets closed by 2013. Nothing like taking a firm stand, Barry."
The Economy is Not a Machine
" It's more like an ecosystem, far too complex for any central planner to "fix" -- or even understand.
[...]the whole idea of fixing, running, regulating, designing, or modeling an economy rests on the notion that, if the right smart guys are at the rheostats, the economy can be ordered by intelligent design. But the economy is no mechanism. There is no mission control. Government cannot swoop down like a deus ex machina to explain the inexplicable and fix the unfixable. Why? Because the knowledge required to grasp each of the billions of actions, transactions and interconnections would fry the neural circuitry of a thousand Ben Bernankes. This is what F. A. Hayek called the knowledge problem. Knowledge, Hayek reminded us, is not concentrated among a few central authorities but is dispersed around society. That's why bad unintended consequences follow government interventions like black swans."
January 15, 2009
National Geographic Geography Bee
As you may or may not know, Jennifer was a finalist in the National Geographic Geography Bee. It's not that she's ever studied or anything, but she's fairly well traveled. By chance, she got asked questions about Ireland, France, Hawaii, California, Florida, etc., all places she's been. So, it's not like she's ever cracked a book or checked a map, but she got a lot of questions right just because she'd been there, apparently. Plus, she made some good guesses, I think.
Yesterday, she was eliminated, but I told her I was really proud of her and today, they actually gave her a medal. Pretty cool, me thinks.
Update: I had initially called it a "Spelling Bee". It was, in fact, a "Geography Bee". Thanks for the clarification.
Slashdot Discovers 'Crayon Physics'
For some reason, Slashdot has just discovered Crayon Physics, a game Jennifer and I were playing with in March of last year. We've actually spent much more time with Phun, however. I noticed that they've released a newer version, so she and I upgraded to the latest version of Phun about a week ago.
The video above is an all-wheel-drive rover with full suspension I created in March of 2008 on an old release of Phun. I used Camstudio screencasting software to record the video. Phun is a great (and free) program that's educational, entertaining, and easy to set up and use.
I like this website called Environmental Graffiti.
Llama - It's What's For Dinner
30-06 rifle with Leupold Scope: $950 dollars
Out of State Montana Elk License: $600 dollars
Gas to drive from New York: $700 dollars
Taking a Trophy Montana Llama: Priceless...............
Is it true? Oh yeah.
Photos in extended entry:
Update: This story reminds me of nothing so much as the story the late Papa Bear Whitmore taught us in Wilderness Survivor Class. Papa Bear was raised by Indians. He was a brilliant instructor, God rest his soul. In any event, he told me that a guy came out from Kansas on a mule hunt here in Colorado. He was hunting up in NW CO, as I recall. The guy got lucky and got a shot on an animal. It went down, and he gutted it, skinned it, tagged it. He was doing it all legal like. He took it to the game warden station to have it checked. (Back then, there was a game warden station on I-70 in Idaho Springs at the tunnel - it's closed now - but you were supposed to stop and check in with any game you shot.) In any event, he came rolling up in there with his trophy in the back of his truck. Papa Bear said the guy had killed not an elk, but a mule. Some guy's mule had gotten out and this idiot from Kansas shot it and was taking it home to eat. He laughed and said they should have just let him take it home to Kansas and eat it.
Necco Is Crap
It's time, once again, to buy Valentine's Day candy. And, don't get me wrong. I don't have a Valentine. The candy is for me. I have no problem with this. It means I don't have to share, and I'm OK with this. But every year, I have to ask Carol what the best kind of Valentine's Day candy hearts are. I can never remember.
I was in Safeway the other day and I figured I'd get a bag and risk it. (I hadn't checked with Carol). I bought two bags of those Necco hearts and they are crap. Just total garbage. They' as hard as concrete and they taste like @ss. I despise those things. I threw them out back and even the deer won't eat them. They're starving and their ribs are sticking out and they won't touch the Necco hearts.
So, once again, I consulted Carol on the Valentine's Day heart issue. The conversation went like this:
Me: "What kind of valentineʼs candy is the good kind? I can never remember."
Carol: "Brachs conversation hearts baby!! Necco sucks."
Me: "I bought two bags of this Necco crap yesterday. Total sh1t."
Carol: "Not sure about your area, but on the West Coast I can usually only find Brach's at Target now. Seems like all the drugstores carry Necco."
Now, for clarification, here in Colorado, the Safeway's carry the Necco Crappo. Target stores don't have any Valentine's Day candy in yet (WFT?). King Soopers has the Brach's Small Conversational Hearts. I got four bags tonight, but I'm not as neurotic as Carol(who is?)....I don't separate them into little piles and eat them color by color. But I do miss her and her charming little quirks. Thanks for the tip, Carol.
Now, if I can just get my sister to tell me which candy canes are best.
Second Guessing NASA
NASA & Its Discontents: Frustrated Engineers Battle with NASA over the Future of Spaceflight
A group of renegade space vehicle designers, including NASA engineers bucking their bosses, are publicly crying out against the current Shuttle retirement plan. Their proposed plan, called Jupiter Direct, is an affront to NASA's current plans for the Ares I rocket, which they say is more costly and time-consuming than it needs to be. This is their story.
January 14, 2009
Sudden Collapse of Mexico is Possible
"EL PASO - Mexico is one of two countries that "bear consideration for a rapid and sudden collapse," according to a report by the U.S. Joint Forces Command on worldwide security threats."
January 12, 2009
WWII-era Mass Grave Unearthed
Hitler always said that the war on the Eastern front was to be a war of extermination. They needed Lebensraum (living room) and the people of Eastern Europe were in the way. Heinz Guderian led the charge into Russia in the Barbarossa Campaign, in direct violation of the non-aggression pact they'd signed with Stalin. So, when the Soviets turned the tide the Germans beat a hasty retreat. They were anxious to surrender to the Allies on the Western front. They wanted to surrender to the British, French, Americans....anyone but the Soviets because they knew that the Red Army wasn't taking prisoners.
The news today is that a previously unknown mass grave of 1,800 men, women, and children has been discovered.
Sen. Inhofe's YouTube Channel
The current economic strategy is right out of "Atlas Shrugged": The more incompetent you are in business, the more handouts the politicians will bestow on you. That's the justification for the $2 trillion of subsidies doled out already to keep afloat distressed insurance companies, banks, Wall Street investment houses, and auto companies -- while standing next in line for their share of the booty are real-estate developers, the steel industry, chemical companies, airlines, ethanol producers, construction firms and even catfish farmers. With each successive bailout to "calm the markets," another trillion of national wealth is subsequently lost. Yet, as "Atlas" grimly foretold, we now treat the incompetent who wreck their companies as victims, while those resourceful business owners who manage to make a profit are portrayed as recipients of illegitimate "windfalls."
IRFanView Batch Rename
One of my New Year's Resolutions was to get away from Canon's miserable image numbering schema. It's so obtuse that you wouldn't believe it if I told you. And, if you have two cameras, and a couple of CF memory cards, and you swap the cards back and forth while you're shooting in the field, well let's just say that the file numbering is downright ugly. It's enough to make you want to start Killing Strangers.
So, I'm toying around with IRFanView version 4.23. It works fairly well. There does appear to be a small bug though, in that it converts my ":" mask to an underscore ("_"). Not a huge deal. I can live with it.
The mask I'm currently toying with is the following:
So, right now, it's renaming a file named IMG_0010.JPG to 2009_01_01-15_41_02_IMG_0010.JPG. Which is better, IMHO. I mean at least you can shoot images with two cameras and then put them in a single directory and then sort them by when they were shot. So, I've got that going for me.
Robert - What mask are you using?
Update: Mask now changed to $T(%Y_%m_%d-%H_%M_%S)_$N
Update 2: Mask now changed to $T(%y%m%d-%H%M%S)_####.jpg
So now, my filenames look like this: 090101-154008_0033.jpg
I changed it because I wanted a shorter filename so that I could view the entire filename when I'm looking at thumbnail view of images in XP. I have to have some type of counter on the end because my camera frequently takes more than 1 frame per second, which means that if I go with a strict file name based on date hours mins secs, I have duplicate filenames which is a problem obviously. So, the counter gets around that problem.
January 11, 2009
How FDR Prolonged the Depression
"President Roosevelt believed that excessive competition was responsible for the Depression by reducing prices and wages, and by extension reducing employment and demand for goods and services," said Cole, also a UCLA professor of economics. "So he came up with a recovery package that would be unimaginable today, allowing businesses in every industry to collude without the threat of antitrust prosecution and workers to demand salaries about 25 percent above where they ought to have been, given market forces. The economy was poised for a beautiful recovery, but that recovery was stalled by these misguided policies."
January 10, 2009
Trivia For The Masses
I was tormenting some woman on an airport shuttle yesterday with some useless trivia. She was so sure I was wrong, that I figured I'd look it up to make sure my memory hadn't failed me. Sure enough, I was spot on, per usual.
The trivia I laid on her was this:
1) Where is London Fog based?
2) What country is Häagen-Dazs from?
3) Denver is home to a chain of Mexican fast food restaurants named Qdoba. What does Qdoba mean in Spanish?
Go ahead and give up. You won't get any of them right.
London Fog is based out of Eldersburg, Maryland. I know because I did some work for them at their corporate headquarters back in '93. They're not originally from London. They're nothing to do with London. London Fog is now, and always has been, an American company.
Häagen-Dazs is an American ice cream company founded in the Bronx in 1959. The name is not Scandinavian, Bulgarian, or Dutch. It's a a name that they made up. It doesn't mean anything in any language.
Qdoba doesn't mean anything in Spanish, or any other language. The restaurant chain was originally named Z`teca, and they got sued due to copyright infringment and had to change their name. To make sure they'd never be sued by anyone else, they created the name Qdoba, which means nothing in any language.
Happy Birthday, Tess!
One of Jennifer's girl friends had a birthday party tonight. They met at a cool little art studio down the hill called Piggy Toes. I lingered and snapped a few shots, some of which I've posted some as a 6 Meg (3:52) Adobe Flash slideshow(adagio.swf) that you should be able to open and view with any browser (Internet Explorer, Firefox, etc.). To view the slideshow, just click on the photo above.
These images were all captured with a Canon EOS 40D with a Canon BG-E2 battery grip. The lens is an image stabilized, ultra-sonic telescopic zoom lens (EF-S 17-85mm f/4.0-5.6 IS USM). The flash is a Canon Speedlite 580EX with a Gary Fong Light-Sphere II diffuser.
If you want to view the slideshow as a Windows executable, you can play this version (adagio.exe), and it allows you to play, pause, skip forward, backwards, etc.
The soundtrack is Adagio For Strings. I think that I first heard it in the movie Platoon, and then later in Amelie. It was composed by Samuel Barber in 1936.
"In January 1938 Barber sent the piece to Arturo Toscanini. The conductor returned the score without comment, and Barber was annoyed and avoided the conductor. Subsequently Toscanini sent word through a friend that he was planning to perform the piece and had returned it simply because he had already memorized it. It was reported that Toscanini did not look at the music again until the day before the premiere. The work was given its first performance in a radio broadcast by Arturo Toscanini with the NBC Symphony Orchestra on November 5, 1938 in New York."
Click here to view the other slideshows.
These Go To Eleven
Jennifer was in some Geography Bee at school. Apparently, she won, which is nothing short of miraculous as she couldn't find the United States on a map unless you gave her "hot/cold" assistance.
But she won. So then, tonight, one of the parents told me this. She said the following:
"One of the questions they asked my son was "What country has the highest and lowest point?' "
"I would guess Nepal or China, as that's the highest point in the world." I replied.
"Well, he guessed Chile, but the correct answer was Argentina," she explained.
"Oh. Then they must have asked "What country has the highest and lowest point in South America?" I countered.
"No." She continued. "In the world."
I was, of course, taken aback. I'm always shocked by the people around me. I never learn.
I'm really starting to question what they're teaching up there at her school. Last night, I asked Jennifer to multiply $315.00 x 32, and she couldn't do it. She's 11 years old, and halfway through the 5th grade, and she can't multiple a 3 digit number by a 2 digit number without using a calculator. So I'm not clear what they're learning at school. And she knows zero about geography, so for her to win a geography bee is concerning on many levels.
"But, that makes no sense," I complained. Intelligence is a curse. An abrasive grit that wears on those that you encounter. "There is no single country with both the highest and lowest points on Earth. That country doesn't exist. The highest point is in one country, and the lowest point is in another country. Maybe, if they had said 'what country has the greatest difference between their highest and lowest points...maybe then the correct answer could be Argentina,' " I offered.
But she couldn't be swayed. "Well, no. It makes sense that the country would be on the coast. The correct answer is Argentina."
Update: Of course, I had to look it up when I got home. The highest point in the world is obviously the top of Mount Everest, which is on the border between Nepal and China. So, the highest point in the world is in either China or Nepal. Take your pick. But it's clearly in Asia.
The lowest point in the Earth's crust is at the bottom of the Marianas Trench in the Pacific Ocean, but we'll assume they meant on land, for argument's sake.
The lowest point in the world on land, is on the shore of the Dead Sea, on the border between Jordan and Israel. So, the lowest point in the world is in either Jordan or Israel. Take your pick. But it's clearly in the Middle East.
This is why I hate Google Maps...
Pirates Reap The Whirlwind
Five Somali pirates drowned when a wave washed off their getaway boat as they squabbled over over how to split their $3 million ransom.
The ransom had been paid to the pirates to end the world's biggest ship hijacking.
Henry Ford and the Model T
Uncle Jay's Review of 2008
January 9, 2009
January 7, 2009
Caffeine As Fuel For Web Workers
"The western obsession with caffeine has some interesting roots. On the NPR Science Friday podcast this week, Steven Johnson talked about how Age of Enlightenment in England coincides with the arrival of caffeine and the growing popularity of coffee shops as places where people with different backgrounds, like Benjamin Franklin and Joseph Priestley, came together over coffee and tea to talk about issues and new ideas. The coffee houses also introduced caffeine as a daily habit in people's lives. At the time, one of the only other safe beverages was alcohol, since the water quality was poor, so some people went from being drunk by mid-morning every day to being caffeinated and alert throughout the day."
January 6, 2009
How the City Hurts Your Brain
"The city has always been an engine of intellectual life and the 'concentration of social interactions' is largely responsible for urban creativity and innovation. But now scientists are finding that being in an urban environment impairs our basic mental processes. After spending a few minutes on a crowded city street, the brain is less able to hold things in memory and suffers from reduced self-control. 'The mind is a limited machine,' says psychologist Marc Berman. 'And we're beginning to understand the different ways that a city can exceed those limitations.' Consider everything your brain has to keep track of as you walk down a busy city street. A city is so overstuffed with stimuli that we need to redirect our attention constantly so that we aren't distracted by irrelevant things.
This is something that I've believed for some time. Humans forced into close proximity are more productive, and possibly more creative as well, but if you never remove yourself from that environment, it fries your brain and rattles your nerves. Being around the office water cooler during the day is crucial to staying in the loop, but if you go to sleep listening to car alarms and police sirens, and get up at 4:00 a.m. to do it all over again, then you're probably not getting enough down time.
January 2, 2009
John Travolta's Son Dies at Old Bahama Bay
Sadly, John Travolta's 16 year old son has passed away. Reportedly, he suffered a seizure in the bathroom and hit his head, apparently. They were staying in Old Bahama Bay, which readers of the book "Killing Strangers" may recognize. (See "Her Majesty's Prison") :
"When you think of the Bahamas, maybe you think of Palm trees and groomed white sand beaches. Shallow aqua water. Casinos and hotels. I've seen the $500 a night resorts like Old Bahama Bay where a knit cotton shirt cost $126 and they run a Zamboni across the beaches in the mornings to erase the footprints from the sand. But that isn't the Bahamas that I know.
The islands that I frequent in the Bahamian archipelago are hopeless, low, limestone clumps overrun with palmettos and red mangroves, populated by a festering crisis of humanity bent on raping the islands to eek out a desperate living."
Killing Strangers: Her Majesty's Prison - Rob Kiser - Peenie Wallie Press - Copyright 2008
They really do run a zamboni across the beach every morning to erase the footprints. I'm not making that up. And it's the only place on earth I've ever seen it done.
At least he died in a beautiful place. May he rest in peace.
More photos of Old Bahama Bay in extended entry.
Panoramic View of Budapest
January 1, 2009
I recently hooked up the new Yamaha PSR-E303 (YPT-300) keyboard to the Sony Vaio laptop via a Yamaha UX-16 MIDI-USB interface. I followed the directions and loaded the drivers and got the interface working. That is to say that I could play a MIDI file on the PC through the Yamaha keyboard. It's pretty slick in that it's somewhat like an old school "player piano", as it shows you what keys it's playing as it plays the music.
But what I really wanted to do, of course, was record files on the keyboard and then copy them to the computer. So, I checked the User Manual(when all else fails, RTFM) and it said to download and install Yamaha's Musicsoft Downloader application which I did and I must say that Musicsoft Downloader is weak. It is precious little more than a miserable, pathetic little piece of watered down DRM. What it does, so far as I can tell, is this - It provides a confusing little GUI so that you can copy files between PC and keyboard. Great. But here is the catch - you can record up to 5 files on the keyboard, and when you "Back Up" these files to your PC, all five recorded songs come across in one file, logically named 05PK.USR. This is a proprietary file format and nothing on earth can open it. So, great Yamaha. Thanks for that.
Of course, I was royally p1ssed and ready to take the keyboard out back and put a few rounds through it with the AR-15. But instead, I settled down a tad and figured that, even though I couldn't find any posts describing a solution on the web, there had to be a way to do what I wanted.
So, I googled a bit for a free MIDI Sequencer and I found this website where they appeared to recommend trying Anvil Studio. So I went and downloaded Anvil Studio and in about 5 minutes, I'd figured out how to record tracks from my keyboard. The tracks are saved as MIDI files, and I tried to convert them in Audacity, but my version of Audacity (1.2.6) doens't offer much in the way of MIDI support. (The new Audacity 1.3.6 Beta has some new MIDI features, so you can import, cut and paste, and export MIDI files, but you still can't play them apparently).
I was finally able to convert the MIDI files to MP3 files by following these directions. Basically, what I did was set my Recording Control to "Stereo Mix", which essentially says "record what I'm playing through the speakers". Then, I launched Audacity 1.2.6, hit "Record", and then played the MIDI version of the file with QuickTime. When it finished, I saved the file as an .mp3 file and uploaded it. (Note: Every sound card will have different options when you go into the "Record" controls. The sound card in the computer I was working at did not have a "Mixed Output" or "Stereo Mix" option, so I just used a different PC that had a different sound card - I have 5 computers running here at the trailer, so this was easy.)
Of course, my main goal in all of this was to share my latest performance of Fur Elise with my sister Molly, as I was forced to listen to her learn to play this song 30 years ago, and I've heard tell that turnabout is fair play, is it not?
You should be able to play my latest miserable attempt at the first two pages of Fur Elise with either of the following file formats in Windows Media Player or QuickTime:
MIDI file - Fur_Elise_1.mid
MP3 file - Fur_Elise_1.mp3
Carts of Darkness
Visiting Family Warps Your Brain
A new study suggests that the human brain reacts on a more primitive level to other family members, found this article interesting since, like many people, I just spent a lot of time with the extended nuclear family over Christmas. It actually went very well, but probably this is because Jonathan and Catherine weren't there, so there were less people competing in "The Crying Game", as we call it. "The Crying Game" was actually a real board game that Jonathan made one year where the goal is to try to make other members in the family cry, by bringing up sensitive subjects that most family members have struggled for years, alone, and with expensive help, to suppress.
Molly and I described The Crying Game to Amy, and she was basically mortified and shocked that anyone could be so cruel. I tried to explain to her that we try to put the "fun" in "dysfunctional", as it were. Someone always ends up blubbering in the end anyway - that's why the game was created. May as well cut to the chase. In theory, the game could possibly cause people to become less thin-skinned, if you knew people were deliberately trying to "get your goat", whatever-the-hell that means.
But that's all theory and, in practice, I'm sure that Amy's right and that we're a truly collective basket case - a psychoanalyst's dream. But this study suggests that all families are constructed of the crooked timber of humanity, so this makes me feel somewhat better, for whatever it's worth.