Sunday, December 13, 2009

The natural state of the human mind




Well, I won't worry about ALL of the natural state of the human mind. I will just focus on the topic of numbers. I listened to this recent podcast today of the WNYC program "Radiolab". The program starts out with exploration of the minds of babies. How does a baby experience numbers? Who knows? Who knew? How does one find this out? Well, if all this interests you, then this podcast is a really, REALLY fun way to spend an hour being exposed to scientific research and the interior workings of the human mind in a joyful, experimental way that makes one happy to experience. Try it!

Comments welcomed.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

A VERY different story: Christmas in Calgary


Well, now THIS is a story unlike any I have ever heard before. If you have three minutes for a lovely lady, who tells quite a good story (even if I do say so), lend an ear and sit back. It's THAT time of year.

Comments welcomed.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A parallel point of view

Since we observe things with both eyes at the same time, and all light that falls on our eyes is viewed at once, we don't really think about that concept too much. This is one man's way of showing the process.

Comments welcomed.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Asimov's fictional model used now

I grew up reading science fiction. One of my very favorite authors was Isaac Asimov. He brought hard science into his stories in ways that made them ever so much more engaging and "real" to me as a science-enthused youngster of the 1950's. My favorite of his longer works was his Foundation trilogy (at least in the fifties...he later wrote several surrounding stories to expand on that future world).

The stories of this series were started by exposing readers to a brilliant mathematician named Hari Seldon, who used his skills to forecast actions of the many worlds in his civilization far into the future. Imagine MY surprise when I find out current, real-world arithmeticians are using current computers to work down the path he created in his stories!

Here is the abstract of the work done:
The Seldon model combines concepts from agent-based
modeling and social network analysis to create a computation
model of social dynamics for terrorist recruitment.
The underlying recruitment model is based on
a unique hybrid agent-based architecture that contains
simple agents (individuals such as expatriates) and abstract
agents (conceptual entities such as society and
mosques). Interactions between agents are determined
by multiple social networks which form and dissipate
according to the actions of the individual. We have implemented
a Java-based toolkit to evaluate the dynamics
of social behavior and the specific dynamics associated
with terrorist recruitment described by expert social scientists,
creating an architecture for simple adaptation to
other group phenomenon.
A fellow science fiction fan/ham radio operator sent me this link today (it is a Portable Document File). I'm pleased to expose you to it.

And researchers at Virginia Tech are using 163 variables from 100 gigabytes of population data to help them to determine possible influenza spread. Discussion of the effort can be found here.

Comments welcomed.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Cheats Who Call Us

Even if you are registered on the National Do Not Call List, companies are finding lots of ways around it. I found this on the eHow site:

    Permission Tricks

  1. Some scammers trick consumers into giving the scammer permission to call, despite the fact that the consumer's number is on the Do Not Call Registry. Scammers do this in a variety of ways, but one of the most common is to ask people to fill out contest entry forms at a fair, convention or other event. If you don't read the entire entry form, including the small print, you may not realize that by filling it out you have just given a company and its affiliates the right to call you. Websites often ask for your phone number and bury the fact that you've given them permission to call you in the Terms of Use or other fine print.

Comments welcomed.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Compound complex "up there"

I like the way this flash-driven assembly action works to view this image of the International Space Station. It allows naming and possible future research or review on the major pieces.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Is YOUR R2D2 or C3PO spying on you?


I just got my electronic copy of the December issue of Nuts & Volts magazine. On page 11, there is a link to a University of Washington study partially sponsored by the National Science Foundation that addresses whether or not any of three currently available home robots could be hijacked and made to spy on the home it lives in. Their findings are that all three were vulnerable to different kinds of attacks. The models of robots were: Erector Spykee, and the WowWee models RoboSapien v2 and Rovio. If you own one of these models or are considering purchase of a home robot, it might behoove you to check out reports on whether or not your trusted servant may be forced to betray your confidence.

Comments welcomed.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Matrix as a silent film



There's more than a hint of slapdashery extant in this adaptation (?) of "The Matrix" by a Russian spoof group. Enjoy!

Comments welcomed, though I had nothing to do with this.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Mars scapes

Wow. An old friend who is an astronomer and science fiction fan sent this link. If you have any interest in Mars, visit
for some awesome pictures of our neighbor!

Please look at them. Comments welcomed.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Bike trees!




The idea of storing up to 6,000 bicycles in one spot has hit Japan. Tired of bicycles piled all over the place and locked to anything that will accept a chain, some cities have responded by creating vertical parking spots for the handy vehicles. See this for one story on them.

Comments welcomed.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Fall Reflection...


On one of my favorite blogs today, I read this:
http://katry.blogspot.com/2009/11/all-windows-of-my-heart-i-open-to-day.html
and it made me think of how all of us who have gone through a possible half or more than half of an expected life probably ought to pause from time to time and reflect on what we've seen and done. If this does not lead to delight, then it might at least lead us to share what we've seen and done in some way with some or at least one other person. After all, sharing one's life is a valuable thing in the growth of ALL of us as humans.

Peace...

Comments welcomed.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Real is as real does

Photorealism is perhaps even more fun for me than realism in enjoying art. I recall my first and second shows of photorealism I saw in the U.T. art gallery in Austin during the last century. The first exhibit had every canvas containing some reference to aviation (as I recall, it was sponsored by an airline company). I was fascinated by one painting where there was an old, riveted and shiny-surfaced airplane, captured with all its reflections as in life. But the puddle below the wing of the plane (it was raining in the painting) captured the essence of a real rain puddle. It did not look like a painting of a puddle, but it looked exactly like I would see a real puddle. The difference is subtle but striking in the extreme.

The second show was even more wonderful...I recall three of the exhibited works from it like the show was yesterday: one was a canvas with a bright light shining from above the canvas from a wall-mounted lamp. The canvas was covered with painted droplets, each one captured in full, seeming three dimensions and the bright light from above was refracted in each droplet, just like the bright light above the canvas could have been expected to appear if the drops had been real.

The second work in this show was a 4x8' canvas that represented a piece of plywood, complete with grain, "boats" (the little replacement pieces shaped like boat bottoms to replace bad places in the thin sheets of wood that make up the surface of a piece of plywood), incidental drips of paint and wear places in the wood of the plywood. It was about as perfect as one could expect a painting to be. I loved it.

The third work in the show was a sculpture of a woman. This wasn't just any woman off the street: This woman had no clothing on. She was life-size, standing upright and relaxed with every pore and hair intact...right down to her eyelashes and arm hair. I would say that she attracted quite a crowd of folks who were intently trying to find some mistake on the artist's part and failing.

But this NPR photo blog piece on a modern photorealist artist, Ralph Goings, is about as good as it gets. It contains an interview with the artist on his reasons and thinking for doing what he does, and each of the eight paintings of his in the piece is preceded by the photo from his collection (he does his own photos to work from to produce the lifelike paintings) that inspired the canvas. After you see the blog piece, there is a link to small samples of the 40 years of his work on his own Web site.

Comments are welcomed.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Turkish "pass it on" music video



Friend (Joe Nation) sent this link along for enjoyment. I'll share it through my blog. It is definitely worth your listen, and it is similar to the music videos I've seen from folks playing folk music all across the U.S.A., one person playing a bit and seeming to pass it along to the next performer, but it is done in Turkey. Very nice, indeed!

Comments welcomed.

A line on energy use vs. property restrictions




I thought just about everyone was okay with saving energy by drying clothes on a simple line out in the yard vs. turning on a resistive heater and an electric motor to accomplish the same thing. Turns out I was wrong. This NYTimes article tells of fairly heated battles being waged over this simple and expedient effort that has been followed through most of human history as a daily or weekly ritual. What curious creatures we modern humans are!

A fellow electrical engineer and ham radio buddy says:
This article about restrictions on clothes lines reminds me of
restrictions against antennas, solar panels, power lines, cell phone
towers, boats in driveways, rusty Ford pickup trucks on cinder
blocks, and weeds in the front yard. Some people just don't
recognize the beauty in these things.
May we find our way through the tangled web of social pressures and elevated expectations to a plateau of sensible ways of leading our lives before we exhaust the ready energy we need to carry on modern civilization.

Comments welcomed.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Retreats are good

At the annual clergy spouse retreat for folks in that position from the Southwest Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church last weekend in Kerrville at the Mount Wesley Retreat Center, I again experienced one of those aha moments that stretched to most of the weekend. In the almost 14 years I've been attending the event, some years stand out in their closeness and cohesiveness...the sharing of attendees and ability of folks to see the world through the eyes of others in similar situations seems to be acute. This year was one of those times. "Rest -- Relax -- Renew" was the retreat theme.

For the last several years, the long trek to Kerrville (about 170 miles from our current home) has been assisted by podcasts played through the vehicle radio from a trusty MP3 player. I choose the podcasts for favorite musicians or interviewees in order to keep myself awake on the fairly boring trip. That part worked well, too.

The trip didn't start out well, as I discovered a rear tire was flat within a half block of the driveway (Note to self: Go back to checking the tires' pressure BEFORE a long trip.) after already being an hour late (Note to self: Go back to being completely packed the day before leaving for a long trip.) getting started on the journey.

On Saturday, I got to sing with a really talented guitar player/singer, reading lyrics from her one copy of them in a loose leaf notebook (I can NEVER remember lyrics to songs, so the notebook pages were very helpful). Besides the three musicians who accompanied us during the retreat, singing hymns both old and new, she pulled out some old 60's and 70's pop music pieces that were SO FUN to sing!

In between rain showers, I got to throw Frisbees with a total novice. I surely got my exercise for the day, but with careful tutelage, he certainly was throwing much better by the end of the experience. We had quite a bit more unfocused time at this year's retreat: time to sing if we wanted to, play games if we wanted to, take walks up to the top of the hill and spend time up there with nature and the big cross. The rain cooled things down so outside wasn't an oven. That surely doesn't always happen!

Sunday morning's worship service was so free and easy that I will remember it for some time. The birds outside the open windows of the little chapel on the retreat center grounds added measurably to our voices and thoughts. The stained glass windows seemed to be crying out to us through their subject matter and images to honor World Communion Sunday. We shared Communion and sang our final songs of the occasion, happy that this ceremony sealed the end of our weekend together.

We had a unofficial, final, Dutch treat meal at a local gigantic Mexican food restaurant with about two-thirds of the retreat folks present. I took the opportunity to load up on coffee for the trip home and tried hard not to eat too much to ward off the sleepy feeling while driving just after a meal. All went well on the way home, which is to say that it was singularly uneventful. I enjoyed the music from NPR's "Mountain Stage", listening on the final leg of the trip to Arlo Guthrie and the Guthrie Family (which included his son, daughter, and son-in-law) singing stuff by Arlo's dad, Woody Guthrie, and newer material, too.

I pulled in the driveway of the parsonage, fulfilled, happy, and so ready to be home.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Do NOT remove your dog from the scene of the crime!


Today's post concerns a non-shaggy, pit-bull dog story from the Austin American-Statesman newspaper. The story tells of what happened to sisters who removed a couple of criminally charged pit bull dogs from the scene of an alleged crime, hiding them from police.

Comments welcomed.

Monday, September 14, 2009

What to Do If You See an ‘Antivirus’ Pop-Up Ad


The NYTimes had a problem recently, as did at least one friend, who reported the problem to me. You're using your browser, cruising along, when...all of a sudden...POP!...up pops a problem. Here is the NYTimes situation. The solutions they give in the article are well worth your time to read and remember.

Comments welcomed.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Whither wander modern words?




This article tells of some trials and tribulations of modern dictionaries and old ones, too. I have spent some non-small portion of my life with my nose in one or the other of these books: hardbound, paperback, Spanish-English, unabridged, collegiate, even elementary or Scrabble. If you like words and wordplay, read the article. If you value your dictionary and wonder if it will be around some day soon, read the article.

Comments welcomed.

Garden benches from chairs




This looks like a really good way to re-purpose old pipe-frame chairs into garden benches. I saw this today on the MAKE: blog.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Texas governor's list of music pioneers

I was doing some research tonight and found this list of music pioneers of Texas. It is worth a read. There are many links for various folks from the list. Enjoy.

Podcasts and listening in today's world


I don't know about you, but it seems to be harder and harder for me to be somewhere I can listen or watch something at an appointed time. Maybe I'm alone in that regard, but I don't think so.

Podcasts of favorite shows are saving my mind, allowing me to catch the shows any time I want to. I now hang an FM transmitter in my Prius' cigar lighter jack, wrap the external audio cord over the rear-view mirror (it is used as the antenna to communicate with the vehicle FM radio), and slap the plug into my Sansa 4 Gb e260 earphone jack. When I turn up the sound, it will let me travel for miles and miles that I have to go to get anywhere significant in Texas without getting sleepy or succumbing to highway hypnosis. Before I travel, I fill up a 2 Gb micro-SD card with podcasts.

While I sit here at my computer, I keep from getting in the way of other things I might want to use the sound card for by plugging the e260 into an inMotion player and listening to those same podcasts.

Some programs I like to catch are these:
Mountain Stage
http://www.mountainstage.org/mtnstagepodcast.aspx

Woodsongs Old Time Radio Hour
[I just wish the emcee wouldn't talk so darned much.]
http://www.woodsongs.com/showlist.asp

WHYY's Fresh Air
[Again, I just never seem to be in front of a radio at the right time.]
http://www.npr.org/templates/archives/archive.php?thingId=13

NPR All Songs Considered
http://www.npr.org/templates/archives/archive.php?thingId=37&date=07-27-2009

NPR Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz
http://www.npr.org/templates/archives/archive.php?thingId=24&date=08-07-2009

And, since I'm an inveterate short-wave radio listener, I like things like
Radio Australia podcasts
[you can choose from the large selection of programs at]
http://www.abc.net.au/rn/podcast/

BBC podcasts
[again, a huge choice at]
http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/

Deutsche Welle
[a smaller set in English from the main German broadcaster at]
http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,2144,1719252,00.html

As you can see from this small slice of the world's offerings, you can find enough audio to entertain you, even if you were a NYC cabbie doing 20 hours shifts for the rest of your (much shortened) life! This piece doesn't mention how to get these automatically sent to your machine. If there's interest, I can do another piece on that.

Comments welcomed.

Monday, August 24, 2009

"Take Back the Beep" Campaign


Frustrated by the time it takes to access your cell recorded messages left by others? Well, then, this article may allow you to vent and possibly affect how the phone carriers are doing business in that regard. The author, NYTimes writer David Pogue, tells of the obscene profits generated by all of us waiting 15 seconds or more to gain access to our messages or leave messages on another's service. Check it out!

Comments welcomed.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

A Memory

I am an unabashed fan of photography. If you have time, PLEASE look at this one:
http://www.pdngallery.com/legends/parks/large_pages/13.shtml
which comes from this wonderful spread from a photographer of note:
http://www.pdngallery.com/legends/parks/mainframeset1end.shtml

That photo was titled "A Memory, 1993". I could hardly take my eyes off of it when I saw it. It is to me the most striking image of the small collection.

And there seem to be more thumbnails than large photos. I am not sure why that is so.

[Originally gleaned from NPR Radio Pictures blog]

Comments welcomed.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Cardboard "Frisbee"-like device


Well, Frisbee is is NOT. But this project from Make:/Instructables is cool looking. Maybe you would like to make one? The link shows how to do so.

Comments welcomed.

Monday, August 17, 2009

HAM: Spacesuit satellite answers YOUR call




Ham radio enthusiasts will go to just about any length to extend their reach into space at a little-or-no-cost boost out there. The latest thing is to have a satellite that grabs and repeats ham radio transmissions INSIDE discarded spacesuits tossed out from the International Space Station to eventually burn up in Earth's atmosphere. You can see an article on such satellites HERE. The next one is scheduled during 2010.

If you are interested in becoming a ham operator, information is available HERE. This month, I'm celebrating 49 years of being licensed in the service, so am offering a hand to YOU to join in the fun. It is a never-ending kaleidoscope of directions to go and think and do, helping others and learning new things. There are always folks to lend a hand in ham endeavors, far and near.

Comments always welcome.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

ART: Typewriter ribbon tins




Another mind-boggling art form that I'd forgotten existed. I recall now seeing some of these back during my very first days of noticing things about typewriters. This series of photographs is stunning for the most part. To think of companies putting such design art effort into something as mundane as containers for single typewriter ribbons! Worth a view: here.

Comments welcome.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Morse Code practice



At a garage sale across the street today, I picked up a Midland model 25-109 Morse Code practice oscillator (not the one in the photo). It wasn't the pristine device I first imagined from its exterior. The wife RATTLED it loudly and asked if it were supposed to sound like that. I told her it wasn't and hurried off to run some errands. While we were at the grocery, I took the opportunity to whip out my Swiss Army knife and see what made it rattle.

Ouch! As I supposed it was, the previous owner had left the two C cells in their holder to rattle around inside the case. It was the most crud and corruption I'd ever seen come out of two cells, equaling about three tablespoons of corroded mess to be dumped. Most of the aluminum holder had dissolved away at one end, leaving the solder lug to dangle loosely. The cells had holes in them and had gotten rid of any gel or liquid they could during their long years of being abandoned.

But, the single transistor, two potentiometers, audio transformer, speaker, slide switch, pilot lamp, terminal strips, and 3.5 mm earphone jack are all in pretty good shape for having been exposed to such corrosive mess for many years. I may have to replace the two-screw-terminal key connection, if the screws are in too bad a shape to allow future connections. Otherwise, I think liberal application of water and 91% alcohol with Q-Tips will fix it right up. And I will need some new battery holder or other to replace the old one.

Morse Code is well worth your while to learn. You never know when a post-apocalyptic world will require you to communicate in that fashion!

Comments always welcome.

Crabs don't throw stones




The really fine dance of art and science with the natural world has just made another leap. I saw this wonderful image shown above and an accompanying article & video which show how it was done and for what reason. It is worth a visit, I think.

Monday, August 3, 2009

A Pail of Air


I got into a discussion recently with a friend, who asked what I thought would happen if the Earth were snagged by a rogue wanderer, captured from our calm orbit and pulled out into the cosmos of dark and death. Immediately, my thoughts ran directly to the story "A Pail of Air" by Fritz Leiber, which was indelibly etched on my brain from when I read it during my grade school years. You can see the book cover above, from the paperback collection of his stories that contained the piece.

In this link from Wikipedia, you can find links to the text of the story and to the radio dramatization audio file from the old "X Minus One" series from NBC Radio.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Central & South Texas Suffering Alone


A friend just sent this link, which tells of our woes in the no rain department. All you have to do these days is go outside the air conditioned house to slowly begin sinking into the pavement around you.

I walked a very long block in Corpus Christi about lunch today and wasn't sure I was going to make it to the other end. The air is suffocating, the heat beating down on your head is like someone pounding a 10-pound hammer right on top of your head. Your feet begin dragging very soon, like you're crossing the Saharan wilderness. The city around you seems to spin and spin, scenes from normal, workaday world views passing in front of you like a kaleidoscope. The end of the block starts receding before you, faster than you can walk, even though you pick up your pace, it is moving away, away, away.

When I got to the next mall, I headed straight for the first door in sight at the J.C. Penney storefront. As I got there, I was intercepted by three young women, all of them fluttering anxiously about. They blocked my entry and I was asked if I wanted to pay a bill or something they could do for me while one of them spurted out that the store had a possible liability that some customer might slip and fall, so they'd closed the entire store. Closed the entire store! I didn't think I could stand another moment, but I turned, muttering not-very-nice things under my breath, staggering back into the blistering parking lot, weaving toward the sidewalk, making my best shot at shaving any step I could from the remainder of the trip I'd started rapidly and blithely.

Sweat was pouring from me as I rounded the corner by the STOP sign. I was greeted by front-end loaders and hydraulic-assist digging machines, lines of yellow tape and (at last) a small sign that was propped up against a wall not 200 feet in front of me that said in small letters: Mall Entrance. I kept my feet moving, trying not to shuffle, knowing that would sap even more strength from the reserve whose gauge was on EMPTY!!

I entered the mall side entrance, gasping for the cool air that now surrounded me, looking for someone who might know where I was supposed to find the business I sought. I'll spare you the walk down the WHOLE LENGTH OF THE MALL and the quick ascent of the escalator. I found the business and used up three whole paper towels to mop up the sweat before I could begin to enjoy the cool air there.

It is hot in south Texas. 101F here at 5 p.m.!

Comments welcomed.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Electronics parts yield articulated animal robots

I ran across this post today on the MAKE: blog that discusses robot art pieces that are fashioned from large numbers of electronics and mechanical parts into the most interesting animals you can imagine. Very imaginative and inventive, to say the least!

I was following some of the links about this and I found this post of the artist's own making, that takes a few of the robot pieces even further to make extremely short videos of them going through their articulated paces! They amazed me no end!

Comments welcome.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Case of the Missing Sunspots




Ham radio operators and shortwave listeners have been pretty discouraged at the lack of our sun to build an appropriate number of sunspots. To the average person, this seems like either a tempest in a teapot or angels dancing on the head of a pin. But to folk who depend on the ionosphere of our planet to reflect radio waves, it is important. The number and size of sunspots on the part of the sun facing the Earth is closely tied to energy coming from the sun to energize the ionosphere's reflection regions. Here is a good discussion from NASA of why those sunspots have not been created and a good story why the folks waiting for them should not lose hope.

Comments welcome.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Bach to the computer

This is the best computer visualization aid I've ever seen for music. As soon as you click to play it, immediately click on the HQ "button" and the "full screen" "button". It is quite a display. The particular piece involved in this demonstration is Bach's "Toccata and Fugue in D minor" for organ.

Comments welcome.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Amazing software for my Canon S3 camera




I stumbled onto this software site tonight. I have a hard time explaining how wonderful this software add-in sounds to me. There are a number of things that I've been wanting to do and was disappointed that my camera couldn't do that now are possible through this software!

If you want to read about it, the main page is here.
I found out about it through a kind of roundabout means. I read the MAKE: blog. It is a blog for folks who enjoy making things. The post I read on that blog is interesting enough. It is about making an automated robotic device that allows you to create panoramic views with your digital camera at the push of a button. The post is here.
While I was reading it, it linked to the actual construction instructions here.
And on that first page of the 13 steps to make the robotic controller, the CHDK program was mentioned. I did not know before that moment that anyone was mucking about, adding software TO the already existing instruction set inside my Canon camera. I wouldn't have thought of it, though that is the domain of a lot of the MAKE: projects: "hacking" or changing either hardware or software of modern devices to make them do things they couldn't before or extending the possibilities of the device far beyond the manufacturer's thinking. CHDK makes use of the microprocessor that controls the camera (every digital camera contains a microprocessor) to act as a programmable computer that provides the extra capabilities.
This software does that with a vengeance! Here's a partial list of things possible through using CHDK, divided into six categories:
a. Enhanced ways of recording images - you can capture still pictures in RAW format (as well as JPEG), and for video images you can have increased recording time and length (1 hour or 2 GB), and a greatly increased range of compression options.
b. Additional data displays on the LCD screen - histogram, battery life indicator, depth of field, and many more.
c. Additional photographic settings that are not available on the camera by itself - longer exposure times (up to 65 seconds), faster shutter speeds (1/25,000 sec, and faster in some cases), automatic bracketing of exposure, etc.
d. The ability for the camera to run programs ('scripts', written in a micro-version of the BASIC language) stored on the memory card - these programs allow you to set the camera to perform a sequence of operations under the control of the program. For example, a camera can be programmed to take multiple pictures for focus bracketing, or take a picture when it detects that something in the field of view moves or changes brightness.
e. The ability to take a picture, or start a program on the memory card, by sending a signal into the USB port - you can use the USB cable to take a picture remotely.
f. The ability to do a number of other more useful (and fun) things, such as act as a mini file browser for the memory card, let you play games on the LCD screen, etc.
And (just think about it), the possible things that the software can do for the camera and user may GROW in number, because, now that the genie is out of the bottle, there are a host of folks out there, poking and prodding away in multiplicities of experiments, trying to create new features no one else has thought of. I'm boggled...and excited...and anticipating my camera getting much more use.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Run for the hills...er, uh


The article sent by an ex-Texan friend is about a Kansas spectacle: a land-based spout of debris rising far up into the lower atmosphere. It is the land-based equivalent of a waterspout. Those are frequently seen near the shore, and they are not usually associated with the radical damage we see from tornadoes. The image and article are here. The photo is this month's cover photo for the respected National Geographic magazine, so I do not have any right to display it here. I recommend viewing it, however, as it is truly magnificent, as landspouts go. [I've shown an image at the head of this post of a much less impressive spout.]

Comments welcome.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Power of the photograph: LOOK3 exhibit


LOOK3 YourSpace Online - Images by Festival of the Photograph

Looking through this kaleidoscope of slices of life in this world causes me to reflect on how both music and images can affect mood and outlook at the same time. Take a while to see what's here. Or go to the Web page of the slide show and look at it full screen! Look and reflect and rejoice and grovel in pain at what happens and can be seen in this world! All I can say in response to this overwhelming cavalcade is, "PEACE!"

Comments welcome.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Console radios: old friends

I was driving down the main street of my new home town yesterday, when I passed someone using an unused building's sidewalk for their own downtown moving sale. As usual, I shopped to see if there were something I couldn't live without. The pictured console radio just called my name. For not very much, it was mine. Now I have to take out the chassis, check the tubes, replace all capacitors, measure resistors to see if they need replacing, align the radio's tuned circuits, replace the power cord, rewind or replace the AM flat coil antenna, and enjoy the results. Maybe I can even talk the wife into refurbing the cabinet.

Fixing old radios is sometimes fun. Listening is always fun, if you can find any station worth hearing in today's vast jungle of AM talk radio.

This post was started in March. Still working to complete the workshop, so nothing has happened yet to the radio. It is awaiting some attention. Comments welcomed.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Tilting at Windmills, Part 2

Yesterday, I took a side trip to view the new wind farm near our coastal plains town. Here's an album for you to ride along with me. These gentle giants are between Taft and Odem, Texas. There is no generation now, since the substation to get the power into the transmission lines is not even begun.

The company plans to put up 109 wind turbines, which will be 400 feet high, on this 15,000 acres of farmland. It's expected to generate 180 megawatts of power. That's power for 54,000 homes, or enough to power more than 23,000 homes at peak time when air conditioners are running. Last December, CPS Energy of San Antonio signed a 15-year agreement to gain about 65% of all the green power this farm could supply.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Ogden Nash, poet extraordinaire


I found this page of his poems today, posted by his relatives. It is hard to go at his poems straight on, as he always found an oblique view to give you, most often leading toward the laughter end of the scale.

I recall seeing his poems first in high school American literature class. Although I thought at the time I didn't like poetry, I instantly had a rapport with his words. I laughed and savored the lines again and again. They certainly resonated with my lifelong affinity for playing with words, as he never failed to generate totally new words that fit his rhyme scheme. He also used ordinary, day-to-day words in ways that dressed them up for show, still managing to put on a patina of fun in his use of them.

Whether or not you've read his work before, check out the link above for some word fun.

Comments?

Monday, June 1, 2009

Time for Three Laws to Step In

I just saw this post and thought to myself, "Yeeks!" This device is definitely a human add-on that could inflict rather dire damage to humans if not properly controlled. It is not yet tied to an independent controller, but some safety features would certainly be nice to see. /sweat begins to roll off forehead/

Here are posted some of Christian Ristow's machines.

Comments?

Friday, May 29, 2009

Get the rust out

I was reading the MAKE: blog today and found this tidbit of helpful shop lore in the links to the Instructables site. I'm passing it along to anyone who might have OOPSed their way into having items covered in rust, due to unfortunate mental meanderings.

Here's the introduction to the effort:
This is a relatively simple, safe and cheap way to remove light or heavy rust from any ferrous object. I used this process to restore an old wood plane that I bought for $1 (it looked totally un-usable because of the rust). As opposed to grinding, heavy wire brushing and acid bath processes, this method removes none of the original steel and is not noisy or caustic.
Comments?

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Influential people painting with links

Three Chinese artists compiled their list of dozens of influential folks and created the linked painting. What is remarkable about the technology is that you can double click on each portrait for a Wikipedia article about the person.

This could keep you occupied for some period of time......up to you!

Enjoy .... click on the link below . . . (sent by a California ham buddy)

Monday, May 18, 2009

Fairytale - 2009 Eurovision song contest winner

It is quite likely that you also failed to note the contest. Here is the video snippet of the contest where the winner performed his winning piece. (Be sure to click on HQ for better video if you have the bandwidth.)

Sad to say, the performance is almost covered up by the video credits for the whole affair. But it is an exciting performance. If I were one of the dancers, I could really say, "Oh, my aching back!"

Comments?

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Surreal Saturday Entertainment


A friend sent the link to this completely surreal piece of video music a few minutes ago. I was boggled. My imagination buckles to its knees when faced by the idea of the Red Army Choir singing "Sweet Home Alabama" with a farcical rock band with fake hair from Leningrad!

But, on a less surreal note and a dollop of sweetness, there is this very nice worldwide sampling of folks working on a good rendition of Bob Marley's song, "One Love".

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Game Isn't Over


The road never ends and there's one more ball in the game! You can keep telling yourself both these stories, but neither one is true. But, as of today, there is just ONE manufacturer left making pinball machines. Maybe that doesn't affect you, but to some, it is time to run out in the street, placard in hand, proclaiming, "The End is Near!"

This article tells of that last pinball maker from the NY Times reporter's point of view. By the end of the article, you still aren't sure if the reporter "gets" the game or not.

Oh, for the days of three games of five balls each for a quarter! When all the bumpers and flippers on every machine worked because there was someone around who knew how to fix and tweak the machines if they stumbled. When the store owners didn't hike up the screws in the back of the machine until the ball makes a bee line for the exit chute. When a friend and I played all afternoon on a quarter. Or when we each took a flipper and knew the game and each other's minds so well that we won games playing only one flipper apiece.

But, there ARE determined individuals out there who, working with similarly motivated friends, keep the torch lit and the ball rolling.

Comments?

Beyond the pail with the Berrymans


Sometimes, there's a bucket you have to carry with you to hold all the laughter you can't get out at the moment. This duo is BEYOND THE PAIL (in several meanings/spellings). I'm sure they would agree. (grin) I think humor is one of their mainstays, but lo-o-o-ong Wisconsin winter days with nothing to do but write lyrics and music must add, measurably, to their repertoire. I found some YouTube tidbits for your perusal in order to see if their line of humor matches yours. I'm fairly sure it will, as they are all over the compass, humor-wise.

Here's Double Yodel, which is the Berrymans' unique look at this venerable singing technique.

Here's Mr. and Mrs. Noah, a story of compromises of a married couple in an unusual situation.

Here's Why Am I Painting the Living Room?, an absurdist essay.

If you enjoyed these and want more, well, I can't think of any way to assuage that need other than to drop you into their own Web music sales site, though this blog post is NOT a sales pitch.

Comments?

O. Henry Pun-Off World Championships


I've read quite a few "what it is" articles on the subject event. This piece, the second on the page, is just about the best of recent attempts to describe the event. Check it out...and the event, too. Since we live so far away, I've been missing the event, which is one of my favorite ways to spend an afternoon.

This year, for the first time, we who really can't make it there will be able to aim our data fire hoses at http://www.punpunpun.com/ and soak up the event...LIVE! Again, that will be May 16 from noon to 5 Central Daylight Time. Some photos of last year's event are here.

If you live in or around Austin, grab your sunscreen, hat, folding chair or blanket, some money (It IS a fund-raiser, after all!) and head for the corner of 5th and Neches streets at Brush Square Park. Support the museum by purchasing food and drink, a fun tee shirt. There are usually several means of showing your support available.

Comments?

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Robot bartenders and liquor organs


The wonderful Make blog contains this piece about robot bartenders:
http://blog.makezine.com/archive/2009/05/robot_bartender.html

And separately:

"Gallegher Plus"

(May 31, 2004)

From the November 1943 issue of ASTOUNDING, this is one of the five 'Gallegher' stories by Henry Kuttner. (Although they were first published under the Lewis Padgett name, his wife C.L. Moore has said she had nothing to do with writing these stories; a bit unusual, as the two usually collaborated on most of what they wrote.)

These tales are very clever and well constructed, with a surreal sense of humour. I personally found them more amusing than hysterically funny, but of course we all have different ideas on what's hilarious or not. The basic premise is that a young man named Galloway Gallegher drinks pretty much nonstop. When completely sotted, his subconscious comes to the surface and takes over but, instead of being a monstrous Mr Hyde, this Gallegher Plus is an inventive supergenius who cobbles together astounding devices from materials at hand.

The next morning, crawling about poisoned by his hangover, the regular Gallegher is faced with a bizarre invention he has no memory of constructing and which he has to deal with. Since our hero has absolutely no technical knowledge, he is completely lost when faced with this unlikely gizmos. One such invention is the recurring sidekick in the series, a narcissistic robot called Joe. (Joe by the way is a delight, obsessed with his own mechanical beauty and filled with withering remarks about we repulsive meat creatures. "I'll get you a robe. Your ungainly body offends my aesthetic feelings," he informs his creator, fresh from the shower.

In this particular tale, Gallegher is suffering his usual morning hangover as he realizes that most of his backyard was vanished, the soil apparently vaporized by a goofy looking contraption he must have worked up the night before. Giving the matter some urgency, Gallegher finds he has promised to come up with inventions requested by three different people, all of whom advanced him large sums of money he no longer has. Faced with summonses to appear in court and harassing messages from his clients, Gallegher has to muddle through the situation and solve all his
problems at once.

What makes the stories funny is that the dayime Gallegher (who is usually partly sober) has no memory of what the soused Gallegher Plus was up to. He has to go about his business as if he knows what's going on, making him something like a detective trying to solve his own mystery. In this particular case, after much turmoil and tense moments, he finds out the answers to the demands from all three clients are right in front of him. And he also learns why the gizmo plays "St. James Infirmary" while it's functioning....

The story seems to be set in some indeterminate near future – there are references to things like taxiplanes and dashboard teledirectories, as well as a man being hard to reach because he's away on Callisto – but it's not really necessary. Except for a few inessential details, we might as well be in 1943 Manhattan from the way everyone talks and acts. A man in a derby playing pinball in a saloon.... that's really not a futuristic image.

What gives the Gallegher stories a slightly bizarro atmosphere is the nonjudgmental attitude of the characters (and the narrator) toward our hero's alcohol habit. For at least the past ten or fifteen years that I've noticed, popular entertainment has really been dead set against drinking and smoking. Watching the Thin Man movies from the 1930s (where Nick and Nora seldom put down their glasses) or reading detective stories from the 1940s (where Mike Shayne seems to function better with brandy than with any sleep), I'm amazed to recall that until fairly recently, getting drunk was considered fairly amusing. (Remember that guy on the Jackie Gleason show who sang a beautiful song while plastered?)

Gallegher carries this to an extreme, even for that more tolerant period. It`s not like he's cold hard sober most of the time and just becomes Gallegher Plus after two martinis. No, this boy is hitting the sauce constantly. He has set up a "liquor organ" by his couch which dispenses various combinations of booze through a tube. At one point, he goes with a shady character on an alphabetical barcrawl ("You start with A – absinthe – and then work along, brandy, Cointreau, daiquiri, egg flip..."). They have to fudge a bit here and there, and must start all over after realizing they skipped 'N'. Egads, I can only imagine synthetic livers are inexpensive and readily available in this era.

Aside from being an ingenious puzzle story, in which the hero has to figure out what his other self did, while pretending to be on top of things, "Gallegher Plus" is filled with amusing little touches. The vain robot Joe says he will allow people to watch him dance if they wish, but at the same time he has no problem with the idea of breaking a few heads ("I like blood. It`s a primary color.") Four Gallegher stories by Henry Kuttner appeared in ASTOUNDING in 1943, with a fifth in 1948. They were collected in an anthology with the puzzling title ROBOTS HAVE NO TAILS. Now, if someone would only gather his Hogben stories about the superpowered hillbillies into one book...

Above quote excerpted from this page.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Stretching the title: News of Klingon opera


I was boggled by hearing folks working on (among other things) Klingon opera this afternoon & George Thorogood music in Klingon. It was on All Things Considered. It stretches the title quite a bit. They are the Klingon Terran Research Ensemble!

Finding ever more obscure vacation sites

Just in case you need a really arcane place to vacation to rise to the top in the ever-increasing push to go somewhere nobody in your office has ever been? Well, this story tells of a place that is pretty unique. Good voyage and write when you get back. I want to hear your story.

Comments?

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Posting about a bit of beard ephemera


The title of this post is

Poets Ranked by Beard Weight


and it really gets into the subject. Some folks are put off by beards and others are attracted. I've seldom discussed the subject with someone with no opinion on them. In a lot of ways, they are like a temporary tattoo, in that they certainly mark a portion of your (male) anatomy in a way that you can make your own, but they are removable to be redone another day. If you at all interested, the pursuit of hirsute is but a click away.

Comments? (link is to "a journey round my skull" blog)

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Bending plastic for fun and use


I ran across this interesting how-to video today. Having a pile of scrap Lexan, my ears perked up. Making covers for keyers and other projects interests me, as well as short stands to support a ham radio transceiver while leaving room for a Morse paddle or notepad beneath it. Now, I just have to find an old hair dryer and some plaster of Paris to try it out.
http://blog.makezine.com/archive/2009/05/bending_plexiglas.html

More technical information on the material can be found at
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acrylic_glass
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lexan

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

File this under "Who Knew?"



I'm guessing you know lots of questions that you've never voiced. Perhaps you even know questions that no one has ever asked you. If you stretch a little and don't look too close, you might even be AWARE of questions you've never thought of.

Then there's this post about a topic that almost defies description. I'll leave it at that and see if you are curious.

Comments?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

This ole house



This is another of the wonderful images from the same collection as the last post. This one is from a place that commenters say is now practically downtown Houston, though in May of 1943 it doesn't appear to be quite the busy street that it likely is now.

I like the wraparound porches, the turret, the laundry, the spilling over of the baskets of fruit to the front of the house and the soft drink advertising on the store. I like the delivery wagon and the horse. The composition is excellent.

Comments?


This display of photos from much earlier times
needs folks to view it. The example image I included above is a good example, though there are both images of things and people in it. One person who commented on the photo decided it should have been called, "Burning Ring of Fire". That appealed to the punster in me.

But the image itself is a thing of beauty. This image shows a moment in the process of putting a new steel tire on a locomotive wheel. (Who knew they even DID such things?)

Comments? (either this shot or the whole of the collection)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Confused about the economy?




Confused about the economy and how we got here?

This show of Fresh Air from National Public Radio is the clearest and most humanly digestible view of how we got here that I've ever heard. Go to the linked page and click on the player to listen to the show. The show is from April 3, 2008, so it does not include happenings after that time, except, if you listen to it, you will see how they unfolded. It has all the main points wrapped nicely and presented clearly.

Here's what NPR says about the show:
Law professor Michael Greenberger joins Fresh Air to explain the sub-prime mortgage crisis, credit defaults, the shaky future of other types of loans and what we can expect from the U.S. financial markets.

Greenberger is a professor at the University of Maryland School of Law and the director of the University's Center for Health and Homeland Security.



Comments?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

David Wilcox "Native Tongue"

I was listening to the Village channel on XM/DirecTV audio today and
heard this piece. I could NOT avoid immediately running to the
computer and searching to see if I could find it to share with you.

Well, here it is. I hope you started it up even before you read these
words. It will envelop you like a warm blanket on a cool night.

It is a "must listen", even though the room echoes are bad and there's lots of treble. Worth hearing!!!

Comments?

Monday, April 20, 2009

A poem to a blueberry




I like them. I was invited to pick the end-of-the-year leavings after all the crowds had come and gone from a blueberry farm near Bastrop. I expected to pay. The owner-lady and I spent about two and a half hours, chatting and picking, discussing life and finding the berries. When she washed and put them up into bags, I was floored by the offer of the berries. We loved them and treasured each culinary delight made with them. I will likely never forget her generous gift.

Enjoy this poem if you like the berries. Or maybe if you just like poems. It is presented as part of Garrison Keillor's daily offering for a recent day.

Comments?

Friday, April 17, 2009

For a brighter day, click here!

Wow! A friend sent along this link, whose subtext on the YouTube page was translated by Google to say in slightly cracked English as:
Antwerp Central goes out of his roof because Looking for Maria is coming! View more than 200 dancers and dancers of the station on his head onto the sounds of the Sound of Music!
If you watch the short video, I don't think there is a whit of a chance that you won't have a better day for it. C'mon, now...join in the fun.

Comments?