Monday, December 29, 2008
No matter how short or long a time we're away, the return is always worth it. Driving into town from just about any direction always starts that resonating feeling that we're HOME.
The year is just about as short as one can get. We'll be finalizing the moments left until it winks out of human cognizance in any way but a memory with friends who live out in the hills.
All I can say to you who read this is:
Have a good today and a great tomorrow.
Thursday, December 25, 2008
Our 3-stop elevator at the church broke last Sunday night. As the resident electrical engineer, everyone came to me to solve the problem. We had a fellow in a 370-pound electrical wheelchair on the third space, who was trying to get back to the ground level to go home after the choir cantata. Ours is roughly equivalent to the model 300 here. Ours is an "Elevette" made by that same company and installed in 1983.
An hour or so later, I'd tried everything I could think of, checking limit switches, breakers, door closings, etc. We finally loaned the fellow a regular chair and helped him down the two flights of steps to exit the church.
We found out lots of things that aren't "up to snuff" about the elevator instructions, location of key, phone number for the repairman. It was definitely a learning experience. Standing out there Monday with the repairman in upper-30's temperatures was also a learning experience! He did find out that it was a special part that won't be able to be shipped to our location until after Christmas, so no joy for those who would attend the Christmas Eve service with definite needs to get up into our multi-story building with this device's assistance. Of all things that could delay the return to operation, it was a burned out coil on the main power contactor that directs the lift motor to send the car UP or DOWN. You just don't find those under the nearest rock.
No, they aren't cute little blinking lights from Peter Pan.
This article describes how you might be able to fix one in a display on your computer. The final fix might (just might) work on a display on some other kind of device that is exhibiting this maddening form of visual torture.
Good luck, and comment if you get success or want to vent at failure.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
To oh-pun on an old song title ("Open the Door, Richard"), I offer this short tale to give you smiles on a cold almost-winter day. It might make your foam mustache quiver from your melted marshmallow in your cuppa hot chocolate!
Ref: music here and lyrics here.
- Winter's Roads
- by Ron Carnell
The Winter of 1998 was the first time in over two decades that I found myself immobilized by heavy snow of Michigan. For three very long days. One result of that enforced isolation was a poem called Winter's Threads.Having read this introduction, if you want to read his poem, it is here.
Not being one to repeat past mistakes (I much prefer the excitement of making new ones), I packed my motor home the day after Christmas, 1999, with the intention of spending winter in California. I made it only as far as Louisiana, where I stopped to visit family (and instead became involved with family). Nonetheless, I stayed warm, renewed some familial bonds, and learned I'm really not very well suited to the travelling life.
Eight weeks later, with warm weather breaking in Michigan, I again headed North. While on the road, with little else to occupy my mind, I penned this sequel to Winter's Threads. And like its precursor, the poem is less about Winter and more about the choices we make in life.
A MAKE blog post shows how to convert an old soldering iron to cut plastic with X-ACTO blades.
Be calm, my beating heart! Oh. Well, then, that settles something I've needed for some time for projects out in the workshop.
Popular Mechanics and Google have teamed together to bring the entire history of this magazine to viewers on the Web. You can read about that here. I spent many hours when visiting relatives in west Texas, poring through the pages of old and new copies of magazines of one sort or another. But, suffice it to say, there were few that evinced my interest and attention like PM. I loved the science articles. The level of the science in the magazine matched my own and I thought I was in heaven. Strange that as an adult I never subscribed to this one. I have read many different magazines. I still will gravitate toward this one in a library filled with periodicals in a shelving system.
Friday, December 12, 2008
For those who've been keeping up with all the controversy and discussion of what the 2,000+ year old Greek device (Antikythera) found, crusty, rusty, and decrepit in the body of a sunken ship must have been originally used for, here is a video of a model a museum curator (Michael Wright) has constructed that includes all the known functions that have been identified for this old device. It is thought in some circles to be the first analog computer, though it is unlikely that this device was not based on earlier devices that used some of its principles. He constructed it in his workshop, which MUST be rather better filled with construction devices than mine is. You can see more about it here.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
We're only about 5 years away from launch, so work is in full swing on creation of NASA's next "big eye" in the sky, the James Webb Space Telescope, set to gather infrared light from oh, so far away, keeping it all straight and pure until it is digitized and stored away for scientists to talk about for years to come. Each image will be carefully examined and compared to existing knowledge.
Meanwhile, the mirror will travel hither, thither and yon about the country, getting each of its segments made, polished, checked, and finally plated with gold and checked again. The story of all this preparation is worth a read. The final device will be precious beyond compare.
Monday, December 8, 2008
This is a follow-up to my previous post on shorting our kids by taking any chance for real experimentation away from them by removing all chemistry sets worth the name from sales counters, etc.
A reader sent this, which I thought worthy of a follow-up post here:
This fellow is now a full-fledged technology person, earning his money by real hands-on electronics design, prototyping, and programming. He credits his arrival at the shores of the more-than-burger-flipper at least in part due to his exposure to science, scientific thinking, and experimentation. Nuff said.I just read the Wired article youlinked from your blog entry about chemistry sets. Ihad no idea (but I shoulda guessed) that hands-onscience has practically been removed from education.That is discouraging to hear. When Iwent to school we did some sort of hands-on labs inscience classes from 5th grade onward. We used real(gasp) glassware, from about 9th grade on each pairof students used their own (shudder) Bunsen burner,we learned how to do things like (oh how subversive!)fractional distillation, and even worked with (OMG!OMG!) some radioactive materials.To protect the guilty, I'll not comment about thechemistry and electronics that went on at my houseoutside of school hours. The cops never did figureout who caused the BOOM that upset so many concernedcitizens and did substantial damage to the concretedown in the flood control channel.
Sunday, December 7, 2008
The catalog lists ham radio equipment, as well as laboratory test equipment. The components and how they are named and specified in the text tells much about that era's equipment. You learn the popular component voltage ratings, resistor wattages, radio chassis sizes, and the tools it took to work with the components and build your own equipment.
Viewing this catalog is more than just turning pages without the dust and musty smell: these are the pages of radio history.
Saturday, December 6, 2008
My wife is a United Methodist pastor. Today we went out in the country to have lunch with some folks who have visited our church many times (and who speak fluent Spanish). In the midst of our lunch, I happened to see an old, console radio of the type that was in many living rooms in the 1930's. I asked if it worked and the lady of the house said it did and we could try it out after lunch.
Being an engineer, I had a short mental lapse from the after-lunch conversation about what this and that in the Bible REALLY means. I thought of the radio. I got up and the lady of the house turned it on by plugging it in. After some warm-up time for the tubes, I tuned around and found a couple of AM radio stations. There were only 4 control knobs, so the band switch was easy to locate. I switched to shortwave. No joy, even after tuning all across the band (3-18 MHz, as most of that era radio sets did). I asked her for an extension cord. She found one of about 12 feet length. I hooked it onto the wire I found dangling in the back of the set. The first shortwave station I tuned to was about 15 MHz and was in fluent Spanish. It was a religious broadcast. The folks we were visiting were amazed, since with the 3-foot antenna inside the case, they had not received anything. They may now have another source for receiving broadcasts that had been sitting inside their home for years.
Friday, December 5, 2008
Every once in a while, you hear of a project that seems to be a use of technology that is, well, appropriate. In my opinion, music is sublime, as is poetry, photography, and some social interaction. What could be better than hooking really exceptional technology up to produce music? Well, there could be some things, but this is the subject of this post.
A ham buddy in Austin sent me links to the Kosmophone Project and some of the music produced from that effort. The images and text concerning the effort are really a nice preface to listening to the music itself.
Thursday, December 4, 2008
I was reading a blog today, when I got a serious shock to the system. I read:
(emphasis is mine)
Kits Today: Wimpified
Compared to their robust ancestors, chemistry sets today are wimpy. They revolve around low-energy reactions and the quiet creation of crystals and polymers. The average set from the mall has no burner to provide a flame, no chemicals that go bang. It’ll let you prepare solutions that change colors or glow like a light stick, but that’s about it for excitement.
Why? It’s common sense to delete highly toxic compounds, and we’re certainly more focused these days on insulating kids from risk.
But mostly it’s fear: of liability, of terrorists, of the neighbors. Overreacting to methamphetamine trafficking, Texas has outlawed the Ehrlenmeyer flask. In August, panicky Massachusetts police ransacked the basement lab of retired chemist Victor Deeb, who was simply fiddling with experiments in his home.
The post concerned making your own chemistry set in this modern age, where the chemistry sets of yore do not appear in stores before Christmas like they did back in the 50's. I got my large, Gilbert set for my November birthday in 1958, just in time for a parental divorce and in time to become familiar with it before entering the halls of high school chemistry lab. After a sulfur smell came from it, my mother banned me to a tiny outbuilding reminiscent of an outhouse in shape, but a trifle larger. I built in a shelf for a lab table, put a lock on it to protect my set, and poured a bag of ready-mix concrete in front of the door to solidify to keep it from getting mired in mud. It was all the way on the back of the property, so it was far away from danger to the house. Since there was no electricity, all the experiments had to be done during light hours. That was probably a good thing.
I replicated almost all the high school lab experiments at home, where I had more time to appreciate them and think about how they worked. But I did not have access to sodium, nor did I want that. I was in rapture over the "spinthariscope" that showed me some evidence of "atomic energy". Woo-hoo! What adventure.
Well, back to the shock of Texas law and the (almost) death of the chemistry set. The Texas Department of Public Safety (state troopers/state police) entered into a memorandum of understanding with higher education folks in the state to prevent glassware of chemistry nature from coming into the hands of the public, some of whom might use it for nefarious and illegal purposes.
Who knew that we would come to the situation of failing our kids by incapacity to provide them with chemistry sets to stimulate their science leanings because of laws to "prevent" folks from creating illegal drugs. Whew. I'll have to think about that for a while.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Here is a solution for needing to reach a little farther inside your house or to your patio.
Here is one solution for intermediate distance with a path to either locations in a line or one distant location.
Here is another solution, using the can antenna from the above solution as the launching pad to reach up to 10 miles if one of these antennas is used on each end.
Another, commercial solution is any of these antennas from a commercial company MFJ Enterprises, Inc. They also sell the connection cables to your WiFi box.
I hope this helps your efforts. You must have an external antenna with an antenna connection jack for the last three and the first one requires just an external antenna upon which to hang the directional reflector.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Miles Abernathy, N5KOB, sends this news along:
All this brings to mind the interesting sociological aspects of how folks will live their lives away from the heavy dose of planetary gravity grip in the International Space Station and future orbital environments. Will they overwhelmingly adapt their environments to mirror the life below or will they choose the opportunity to come up with new ones, changing social situations along the way?This is remarkable! Watch the 2-minute video of the zero-G coffee cup for astronauts, invented by an astronaut.
More explanation is here.
Monday, November 24, 2008
Or tell me why you don't want to.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
I was catching up this afternoon with the news on the ARRL (American Radio Relay League) site, when I found an article that floored my sensibilities. This article dealt with a young man who listened to other countries' shortwave broadcasts back in the period of time we call the "Cold War" era. A large percentage of shortwave listeners collected verification cards to show their friends which of the stations they had actually snagged on the receivers they so dearly loved. To get one of these cards required (in the era before email and the Internet) the listener to send a letter to the station, requesting the card and giving details of the signal strength of the station received, their receiver and antenna setup, and details of the program(s) listened to, along with the date and time the station was received.
The teen received a card from (among others) "Radio Habana" in Cuba. As the article explains, his "mom -- who was the local draft board lady -- got a call from the FBI and Greg had to explain why he was 'in contact' with Radio Habana. When he explained that he was just a shortwave listener, the FBI told Greg that if he never contacted Radio Habana again, his mother could keep her job!"
That threat to the livelihood of the mother of a teen radio listener and hobbyist...a hobbyist who was doing nothing wrong, and who was pursuing an innocent hobby, seems to me very shocking. But, at the same time, my own veneer of hardness continues toward my government's frequently misplaced and probably illegal actions towards its own citizens through the decades of my life.
How else can you view something reported like this?
The makers of the video series came up with a really different take on interviewing: the interviewees don’t actually say anything. The series leaves only body language, pauses for thought, and interjections to do the communicating, while removing all the actual words the interviewees use to answer the question put to them by the interviewer.
The description on the site says, "Each episode is a selfcontained expression—mysterious, bite-sized, entertaining. But it isn’t until you watch several in a row that you begin to see the beauty of it, and it starts to work on a different level."
Saturday, November 22, 2008
An almost lost April, 1962, Australian performance of Dave Brubeck Quartet hosted by Digby Wolfe. The film was saved from destruction in 1984 and now is with the Australian National Film and Sound Archive. A 1" PAL telecine transfer of the film was sent to Dave Brubeck's management in the mid 90s.
This version of the quartet was:
Dave Brubeck, piano
Paul Desmond, sax
Eugene Wright, bass
Joe Morello, percussion
Craven Filter Cigarettes sponsor, #1, "I'm In a Dancing Mood"
#2, "It's a Raggy Waltz"
#3 "Unsquare Dance" with dancers! dancers Carlu Carter and Bill McGrath
#4, "Rule Brittania"
#5, "When You're Smiling"/"Don't Worry 'Bout Me" (Laurie Loman, singer)
#6, "Blue Rondo a la Turk"
#7, closing credit (I don't recognize the piece)
If you have problems watching this resolution, delete the "&fmt=22" off the end of each URL when you watch it. Comments welcome.
on the end of the URL for the video and click Enter again to see it in much better quality. Comment whether this works for you or not. It worked well for me tonight.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Here's a link for a collection of 22 images concerning painted animals and such on hands (and feet). This one is a commercial site for "fine art bodypainting". I'm sure there must be some odd level of satisfaction in doing so, but I cannot for the life of me understand why someone would pay lots of money to paint their cat. Perhaps they are starved for conversation topics or have some fetish. I just don't think I want to go there in any case.
This fellow seems obsessed, since he spent about 30 hours with the various levels of paint on the front of his body during this video of the seemingly frantic period of painting those who have influenced his life on that canvas. He says it represents:
30 different people that influenced my life were painted one on top of another on my torso. I either painted a picture of the person or an object that represents the person.
Monday, November 17, 2008
The performance linked above was "Difficult Listening Hour" from "The Kitchen Presents Two Moon July" television show and was from the UbuWeb Film and Video page. The page states:
UbuWeb is pleased to present dozens of avant-garde films & videos for your viewing pleasure. However, it is important to us that you realize that what you will see is in no way comparable to the experience of seeing these gems as they were intended to be seen: in a dark room, on a large screen, with a good sound system and, most importantly, with a roomful of warm, like-minded bodies.And then they suggest that you buy the films and videos of the artists represented, as well as that you go to see the performances in venues near you. I live in a small farming community in the middle of nowhere in south Texas. This is as good as it gets for a while for me. But you...? That's another story, isn't it? Do what you can.
However, we realize that the real thing isn't very easy to get to. Most of us don't live anywhere near theatres that show this kind of fare and very few of us can afford the hefty rental fees, not to mention the cumbersome equipment, to show these films. Thankfully, there is the internet which allows you to get a whiff of these films regardless of your geographical location.
We realize that the films we are presenting are of poor quality. It's not a bad thing; in fact, the best thing that can happen is that seeing a crummy shockwave file will make you want to make a trip to New York to the Anthology Film Archives or the Lux Cinema in London (or other places around the world showing similar fare). Next best case scenario will be that you will be enticed to purchase a high quality DVD from the noble folks trying to get these works out into the world. Believe me, they're not doing it for the money.
A good friend sent a link to the movie segment of this project today. I watched the movie, I looked at the rest of the site, and now I'm writing this introduction to it all. There is not a lot for me to add, other than my profound appreciation for the effort that went into the whole task, the foresight of the founders of the project, the acuity of the book and movie authors/producers in selecting these segments or photos to have available as the final mark of the effort expended and the wisdom to be passed along.
Inspired by the idea that one of the greatest gifts one generation can pass to another is the wisdom it has gained from experience, the Wisdom project, produced with cooperation from Archbishop Desmond Tutu, seeks to create a record of a multicultural group of people who have all made their mark on the world. Presented against the same white space, all of the subjects are removed from their context, which not only democratizes them, but also allows for a clear dialogue to exist between them. In an attempt to create a more profound, honest, and truly revealing portrait of these luminaries, the project encompasses their voices, their physical presence, and the written word. This comprehensive portrayal of such a profound and global group is an index of extraordinary perspectives.Please follow the link above.
Sunday, November 16, 2008
It is just so very good to see that you're back. Back in the saddle; back from overseas; back from the land of dreams that you stayed in too long that day; back from the nadir of nada. Back from the clouds that darken, drain and deceive. Back from desolate days with dry rain of loss of hope and dust storms of gain of fear; running from the sun and baying at the moon as it bounces off the mirrored skins of nearby buildings in your town.
There's a bounce in your keyboard that didn't come from JAVA...or FORTRAN...or FLASH in the pants. It didn't even come from BASIC. Or a little doggie pill. Or even a blue human one. Your words wash and twist and turn like Ali getting ready for a fight, training with arms held tight and body loose, sweat dripping off and steady with the knowledge of what's to come.
I can tell that sometimes (not always) smiles wreathe your face like the imaginary smoke from your jostled subway commuter neighbor. Brightening those in the store, in your vicinity and even strangers who glimpse you from afar.
You don't need a chip or a tee (no matter the size, don't bother to look) to win the race that used to be outside your range of triumph or defeat. It's in your grasp now. Suck in some wind and blink away the sunshine and grip the grimy street surface with your shoes and SPRINT! There's no water or juice or carbs or hydrates needed for this race.
The finish line isn't in sight, but you're almost there. Your heart won't burst, but you run as if there's no tomorrow, legs pumping, heart pumping, a rictus of a smile pasted on your puss.
You forget gravity and the last couple of years and time flies by and conversations happen and music is heard, dances danced, people clapped on their backs...
and then you blink and look in the BIG MIRROR and gasp as you realize that...
You're happy again.
Saturday, November 15, 2008
Everything that can hurt does hurt...a lot. As I told one correspondent: these hands are used to throw Frisbees and type on keyboards...not smash shovels into hard, dry dirt, swing grubbing hoe/picks for hours on end (with rests about every ten minutes...I am getting on in years) and using leather-palm gloves to use tin cans to scrape and toss all the dirt in the trench. Two Aleve tabs and prolly an early-to-bed for me. The hands will get over the cramping, trembling and bruising in a few days. All is well.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Well, this isn't great, but it reminds me of using a cell phone camera in a pinch out in the field, when the proper tool isn't available. It seems that this version is very limited in that it can only analyze the sounds that come into the microphone hole in the phone. Therefore, in many circumstances, you would have to put yourself into odd positions to aim the microphone at the source you are trying to analyze, while simultaneously trying to hold the phone where you could view the results. That seems not only a challenge to do, it was quite a challenge to adequately describe in a meaningful way.
If any readers actually try this, I would surely like to read the results.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Watch a tribute to composer John Williams and "Star Wars".
Once you've regained your composure from that and you're ready,
then move along to a funky breakdown to "Waste Time".
If that seemed good to you and you're still okay, then this more expansive
tribute to the spiritual piece, "Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho" might impress you.
Are you ready to be amazed? Here's a tribute to Michael Jackson's "Thriller" in 64 parts! done by François Macré.
That concludes our tributes for this post. I hope you are now in the mood to hang around and SING! a cappella.
There is that time each year when Veteran's Day rolls around. Just about to a person, each person I know who IS a veteran of military service during a foreign war think that they really don't deserve the high praise that abounds on this holiday celebration. "We were just doing our job," is the statement heard most often. As a matter of fact, the speaker probably WAS just doing their job. There is little room for showboating or trying to stand out in the rigid confines of the military world. One does their work and follows orders to the best of whatever level of ability they possess.
People come up after church when the veterans are recognized and say, "Thank you." What else can one reply except "You're welcome" to that statement? Well, I've always wanted to speak out when we are recognized in church.
I've wanted to say to the assembled, thankful people, "No, thank YOU. Thank you for the money to pay our salary that sustained us during our national service. Thank you for taking care of our loved ones while we were away on active duty. Thank you for not caring that we came into the work force late or finished our education a few years later than we 'should have' by normal standards. Thank you for holding up that standard of societal rule of law that we could look back to returning to in civilian life after living in the midst of war and turmoil, strife and danger. Thank YOU!"
Monday, November 10, 2008
A friend sent this video under the subject of "Cure for self pity". After watching it and having damp eyes during the inspirational speech concerning the ministry of Nick Vujicic that is telling folks about faith in the future as seen by someone without arms or legs in this modern world, I have decided that I'd more like to characterize it as "Walk of faith: no matter the length of stride" and let the viewer approach it from another direction.
Here, check it out!
Sunday, November 9, 2008
A more technical discussion of the effect with graphics is here.
Friday, November 7, 2008
Thursday, November 6, 2008
Their home page is here. They do accept monetary support, but that is not what I'm telling you about. Their podcasts are found here. Grab a bag o' podcasts & your MP3 player, warm up the car engine, and HIT THE ROAD. All of Texas awaits your mindful travel. [Heck, gas prices are getting more reasonable all the time...if you have a Prius.]
What is The Moth?
The Moth, a not-for-profit storytelling organization, was founded in New York in 1997 by poet and novelist George Dawes Green, who wanted to recreate in New York the feeling of sultry summer evenings on his native St. Simon's Island, Georgia, where he and a small circle of friends would gather to spin spellbinding tales on his friend Wanda's porch. After moving to New York, George missed the sense of connection he had felt sharing stories with his friends back home, and he decided to invite a few friends over to his New York apartment to tell and hear stories. Thus the first "Moth" evening took place in his living room. Word of these captivating story nights quickly spread, and The Moth moved to bigger venues in New York. Today, The Moth conducts six ongoing programs and has brought more than 3,000 live stories to over 100,000 audience members.
Why "The Moth"?
The screen around Wanda's porch had a hole where moths would flutter in and get trapped in the light. Similarly, George and his friends found that the characters in their best stories would often find themselves drawn to some bright light—of adventure, ambition, knowledge—but then find themselves burned or trapped, leaving them with some essential conflict to face before the story could reach its conclusion. So George and his original group of storytellers called themselves "The Moths". George took the name with him to New York, where he hoped that New Yorkers, too, would find themselves drawn to storytelling as moths to a flame. They did. With no advertising, through sheer word of mouth, every show to date has sold out in 48 hours or less.
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
As the Make text mentions, this brings to mind the images almost all of us have seen of the now antiquated zoetrope loops that were popular in arcades at the turn of the previous century. But the synchronizing aspect that causes the images to seem to move is the camera shutter speed itself. Jim LeFevre calls this the Phonographantasmascope.
Monday, November 3, 2008
I just read a post on the Make Magazine blog. The post describes how current musical groups are going beyond just providing their listeners with music for their ears: They are providing (what seems to me to be) crude images in the musical files folks listen to that are only visible when you use particular programs to make them visible.
C'mon now...why should listeners go beyond listening to a group or watching them if they either provide a window of opportunity for live viewing or a music video on broadcast/cable/satellite/YouTube?
This seems to me to be a launch into esoterica that is not needed to enjoy the group's sound output, has very little to do with lyrics composed for production of the numbers, and has small reward for the effort required to view the images.
Just in from a correspondent...
Magnetic Portals Connect Sun And Earth (November 2, 2008) -- During the time it takes you to read this article, something will happen high overhead that until recently many scientists didn't believe in. A magnetic portal will open, linking Earth to the sun 93 million miles away. Tons of high-energy particles may flow through the opening before it closes again, around the time you reach the end of the page. ...The full article is here.
Picturing the orbits and paths of all the vehicles and sensors that it took to solidify that background for that news release is fairly boggling. The foresight of folks who created the vehicles, convinced governments to pay for the launch vehicles, provided test budgets to make sure they would work for lengthy periods in the wild and wooly reaches of interplanetary space, provided the design expertise for the communications that gets the information gathered back safely to earthbound scientists is well deserving of praise and positive thoughts. It also deserves our continued support through conversations with elected officials who may be wondering if spending money in space is something our country needs to be doing.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
I've just been passed a note (like in grade school class) that contains such a delightful and droll poem that I must pass it on. Whatever can we read but poetry that brings such a spreading of delight? It settles like sugar on warm cookies as the reading continues through the verses. Here is today's sweet delight!
A sample few lines from the beginning of it:
The queens and grand poo-bahsand the title of it:
In their postmodern palaces
Had time on their hands
But no grist or analysis!
Deconstructing Dr. Seuss - An "Owed"Now, if that doesn't tickle your mind's ear and cause prickling in your punny, funny bones, then this poem might not be for you. So sad if it isn't. So glad if it is.
Monday, October 27, 2008
Every once in a while, there comes on the world scene something that causes earthquakes in the midst of large continents. This time, I discovered it in a grocery store. The Nestlé Signatures Treasures "Limited Edition" Hazelnut candies were what happened to me on the way to grandma's house. When I discovered them, I purchased almost every bag I could find...certainly all I could afford. I've kept them frozen for several years, hoping that Nestlé would bring them back. Alas. Today I searched the Web for them, only to be disappointed. I called Nestlé with the same result.
To unwrap one of the little chocolate treasure chests and munch away at it is to be transported to some pirate treasure lagoon, waves lapping in the background and large parrots screeching in far-off trees. Warm breezes rustle through your hair as sand cradles you on the beach.
I'm sorry if you missed out on them. The last bag is rapidly disappearing from our freezer. Then...no more.
Friday, October 24, 2008
Today I read a blog entry about a new Brit effort to capture the imagination of school children in order to convince them that they should pour their future educational efforts into science and engineering directions. A 1,000+ mph ground vehicle and huge engineering feats are planned.
The effort involves years of effort. Many people are involved in this endeavor (some of whom might lose their lives in the process...or gain fame; some may lose their fortunes...or gain more). The designers even think the possible future of their nation is at stake in some sense. They posit that if something like this isn't done, the country will sink into a morass of little expansion of ideas and become technologically moribund.
All this effort is based on adults' views of what the children of today are going to do with the world presented to them as they come into adulthood. It is a view that is slanted by the kids they see spending all their time with video games, growing less interested in the world around them (as represented by science) than the world of fantasy and play.
However, the world has always seen children play and use fantasies to either escape or deal with the harsh realities they see around them on their way to adulthood. I suppose these fellows see today's children as never giving up their play and fantasies in order to deal with the real world they will find as adults.
Is all this placing too much into these fellows' read of the path of growth of today's children? Will lives be sacrificed in vain? Fortunes squandered for nothing? Your comments are welcomed.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
and log in with your Google or Gmail ID and password. With that, you can agglomerate all your blog reading, including your own for quick reference in one place. I use it EVERY DAY. I recommend it to you.
Kept up with in Google Reader:
as well as these blogs
Keep the Coffee Coming
Keyhole Full of Lollipops
I Was the State
News of the Weird Daily
Strange Horizons Reviews
Thick Air Gallery
NYT > Personal Tech
The podcasts I follow via iTunes podcast agglomerator are:
APM: A Prairie Home Companion's News from Lake Wobegon
APM: American RadioWorks
CBC Radio: Words at Large
for other means
Smithsonian Folkways -- The Folkways Collection
[I can no longer find a way to the treasure trove of wonderful podcasts.]
WGLT-FM Public Radio -- GLT Jazz Next
http://www.wglt.org/podcasts/jazz_next/audio/081016_javon.mp3 <= download latest manually
NPR: Fresh Air Podcast
NPR: Talk of the Nation Podcast
BBC Radio Scotland -- Scotland Introducing
Chicago Public Radio -- This American Life
The Woodsongs Old Time Radio Hour Podcast
And here's how to pick your favorite NPR program podcast
Saturday, October 18, 2008
The home town has taken a few hits on downtown business continuing to flee to the west mall and beyond. That's just life in the not-so-big city. But, telling the (patient, but never-resident) wife about what used to be and where it was WHEN it was there provided some sort of closure and happiness to my elder heart.
A two gigabyte micro-SD card provided far too much freedom to snap and snap and snap digital photos. At the size I have the camera set, I was warned at one glance that I (only) had 3,000 photos left to shoot before I would run out of room! Everybody had their chance in front of the lens, though there were a few reluctant ones that only got captured in the effort to wander about during our final evening meal together and snap whole table sides of folks during their nurture. Back at home, I'm faced with manipulating all those images and storing them until I decide where and how to display them for the friends and classmates who actually care about them. I, of course, can for the nonce just dip back into my memories of the night and feast on what I saw as I snapped the camera.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
Brian writes in about the Blender Defender. He writes -...be sure and click on the link to his Web page above in the quote and watch the three soundless video loops! Hint: it uses X-10 technology, but does not blend up the cat. I personally think it is a very high-tech, but hilarious solution to the problem. Since the video loops cover the time from July to October of 2008, it is apparent that the cat hasn't been taught much...yet.
- Hi MAKE! I just finished the web page for my latest project: the Blender Defender. I have a problem with my cat jumping up on the counter and eating my plant up there, so I pointed a network camera at it and ran some motion detection software. As soon as my computer detects motion on the counter, it sends a signal to turn on an extremely loud blender and a strobe light, scaring the cat off the counter.
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
I'd have thought were too old to have missed out on analog clock
faces, give me a blank look and say "I can't tell from that." They
only know how to read a digital clock, but they still use expressions
like "Half past two" or "quarter to five."
In this day and age when everyone with a cell phone has connection to almost exactly the correct time, that is mind boggling. As an engineer, I seldom think about the technology (or lack of it) that is displayed, moving from one form of display to another.
As a writer and sometimes editor and proofreader, I used to give this test to folks who said that fonts REALLY matter to the comprehension of the material. I'd say (and to you who are reading this, don't peek, just give the real answer with your eyes closed after you read the question):
Did the last item you read have the lower-case "G" with an open or closed tail below the line?
Comments and discussion welcomed.
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
This came to my attention today:
Keep that image in mind while you listen. The recording of his performance is after about 1hr22m into this concert.
And if you resist this whispery-voiced intrusion into your status quo, there's probably a truth in the matter of you just didn't hear it all or listen closely enough. He's aged well.
His home page. He's married to Iris Dement, lives in either Iowa or Kansas City, and can play and sing well. I recommend him to you.
The show that is represented by the above link is Mountain Stage, which has persisted for about 25 years on the radio. The longevity indicates there is something good about it. It is billed as "live performance radio from the mountain state of West Virginia". Believe it. It may be too country for you, but there is bluegrass, rock, punk and just about every other genre of music peeking out between the slats.
He first came to my attention on the Prairie Home Companion show.
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
I know everyone isn't at all interested in using their phones for more than phone calls to family and friends (of course the old saw of "well, I only have it for emergency use on the road" has been laid to waste for all those having seen less than about 70-80 summers on this planet), so I offer this link and chance to comment open only for those who DO use their phones for more than the wire-line equivalent.
What really brought this to my attention was an off-the-cuff comment by a person that the killer app for this phone might be to use the camera to read bar codes put in front of the lens, then process the bar code, then look on-line for other local (or remote) retailers' prices to allow comparison shopping wherever bar codes are in the clear.
What say? The comment line is open.
As I told the friend who'd suggested the uke version was better, I said it was more complex, but the fellow who wrote it sang the other two versions AND the title suggested it was the guitar, not the uke, that was weeping.
Then I was reading last Sunday's post on "Keep the Coffee Coming" blog by Kat that mentioned "Blue Shadows on the Trail" with a mystery singer. I couldn't identify the singer, so I ignored her requests not to wander over to YouTube to figure out who it was. I couldn't identify it, but came up with more fun there. One of the first singers I sampled was Roy Rogers, who had a hit with it in 1948.
My mind and hands continued wandering and one thing led to another. I wound up listening to The Sons of the Pioneers sing "Cool Water". Then I listened to Eddy Arnold do it justice. Just as I thought I'd exhausted the versions YouTube had to offer, up popped this one with, of all strange duets you could imagine, Joni Mitchell and Austin's own Willie Nelson! Worth a listen, all of them.
Monday, September 29, 2008
I still can't find any locals in Mathis, TX to throw Frisbee with. //double sigh// This is the 50th year of my doing that pastime, and I hate to have it pass with no major or even much minor activity in that dimension. One day I will be unable to throw them, so I'll adapt the "gather ye rosebuds while ye may"* by saying "throw I Frisbees whilst I can."
My first Frisbee was termed a "Pluto Platter". The inventor is shown above and an article about him and his invention is here.
* Quoted from: Robert Herrick, b. London 1591, buried Devon 1674
- Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
- Old Time is still a-flying,
- And this same flower that smiles to-day
- To-morrow will be dying.
Sunday, September 28, 2008
As Frank Zappa said in his song, "I'm the Slime":
You will obey me while I lead you
And eat the garbage that I feed you
Until the day that we don't need you
Don't go for help...no one will heed you
Your mind is totally controlled
It has been stuffed into my mold
And you will do as you are told
Until the rights to you are sold
A journey across the US in songA good friend sent this link tonight. In it, the BBC correspondent, filling a position as a stranger in a strange land, details how far one can be in knowing the meaning of the words in a song lyric from knowing the meaning of the song itself, as expressed by that lyric. Although he removes himself from the poetry he finds, the words he uses to tell his short post is itself a kind of poetry. The imagery of the song lyrics he discusses is mixed with images of how they are misunderstood by someone young or old AND if that same person is from another English-speaking country.
Worth a read, I believe.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Monday, September 22, 2008
and some suggested road tours of Texas, along with weather for major cities and other details at
Thursday, September 18, 2008
But, once we got to the destination, we were all wowed by getting to sit on chairs on a LARGE porch in the style of the early 20th century for ranch houses. It went all the way along the front of the house and part way down the northeast side. We sat in rockers and chaise lounges and comfy chairs, having conversations and enjoying the cool breeze passing over us. We discussed the HUGE palm tree in the front yard of the home, planted many years ago by the current owner's mother, to the upset of the owner's father. Now it sits, recommended to be cut down by many, full of woodpecker holes, home to birds and roaches. Who knows when it will fall on the ranch house? But it certainly IS a conversation piece.
After pie and coffee, we settled down to discussing the future of our church with the folks who direct that future as parishioners. Although I didn't think I'd like it when these meetings began, this is truly my favorite part of the get-togethers, surpassing even the tasty morsels of food. Finding out about folks' origins, abilities, wants and needs. What shapes their ideas, as well as how well they can discuss them, along with the terms they use, all are part of the conversation that I don't miss out on at all.
When we got home and got out of the car for the short trip into the house from the driveway, I thought again of the delicious nature of fall and cooler weather. And I waved at the moon as I went inside; a perfect end to a perfect day.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
There are just some things that shouldn't be done IMHO. The idea of avoiding the learning of a few color-number ties by using your iPhone to call them up may be a step over the edge. Carrying a resistor color code card around with you or learning some mnemonic sentence that will recall the relationship to you is a time-honored tradition. They are both just steps until you quickly learn the values you need to proceed on your building or repairing of electronic devices or projects.
Living in a small town on the coastal plains of Texas in a rural county, there are more things here than meet the eyes and happenstance of the average city dweller. One of my ham buddies here, Fred, has a small spread out in the country. He recently told me about his almost finished plans to erect the aged windmill tower he'd purchased. At first I thought the plans were for the tower to hold antennas for his ham activities. But, Fred said he had also purchased a similarly aged mill to go on top of the tower and was in the middle of refurbishing the gears inside the mill and cleaning up the housing. He used his machining tools to remake pieces needed to get the blades back in shape to spin again.
Fred disappeared from the ham scene for a while in late summer, working on this and many other parallel projects. So, I was surprised when I received a call yesterday, telling me I only had twenty minutes to get over there to his house (about ten minutes away from mine) in order to take photos of the final rigging and raising of the windmill.
I grabbed my camera and an extra set of recharged batteries to dash out the door. The job turned out to be much longer than either of us had anticipated, but that is the way of all projects, I fear. I got there while he was still getting the several gallons of diesel fuel needed to power the combination front-end loader/backhoe that would be one of the mainstays of the project.
I had asked if I could photograph the project as a means of documenting it. I'd always been curious about windmills and had never been present at taking one down, putting it up, or even been close to the mechanisms that surmount the towers that, well, tower over Texas ranches and farms, doing their work in a way that never failed to lull me to sleep as a kid. That sound of creaking pumping of water, the taste of water out of a tin cup usually placed on a wire hook at the bottom with a faucet ready to supply water fresh from the well...those memories came flooding back.
Almost three hours later and over 150 photos later, he put the finishing touches on parking all the vehicles and closing down the project as I wended my way home. What an afternoon! I surely will never forget that event. And I got to play Sancho Panza, besides!