Monday, March 31, 2008

"Stitch Table"
Greg Zulkie / Industrial Design

"This coffee table has 3 stainless steel pots that hold anything from plants to pens."

Photos and description. This isn't your everyday coffee table.

History of the Web: See Top Websites, the Way They Were

Internet Archive Wayback Machine

Featuring almost a dozen old sites, from Yahoo! to The Well.

A good snapshot of early days on the Web.

Spiderman Suit: From CGI to R & D

"Now it’s not just Spiderman that can scale the Empire State Building"
Institute of Physics (29 August 29, 2007)

"Physicists have found the formula for a Spiderman suit. ... Recent research concluded that van der Waals forces – the weak attraction that molecules have for each other when they are brought very close together - are responsible for creepy crawlies’ amazing sticking power."

And, as of August, 2007, another bit of research indicates that nanotubes designed to take advantage of these forces might make "Spiderman suits" practical.

Join Them! Fight 2012!
Or, Not

"2012 Logo Campaign - Help fight 2012!"
Daily Common Sense (March 31, 2008)

"One of Daily Common Sense’s mission is to inform people. My most popular article is my article about 2012 and why it shouldn’t be feared. ... Now, I provide you with a couple 2012 logos you can use freely."

There's a discussion thread going, about that post, on BlogCatalog: "Help fight the year 2012 scam!"
Sound familiar? I've posted about 2012 before, in "New and Improved Conspiracy: 2012! And "They" are Hiding the Truth!" (January 20, 2008)

Hackers Post Flashing Images on Epilepsy Web Forum:
Big Joke, Boys

"Hackers Flood Epilepsy Web Forum With Flashing Lights"
FOXNews (March 31, 2008)

More at
"Hackers Assault Epilepsy Patients via Computer"
Wired (March 28, 2008)

Excerpt from Wired:

"Internet griefers descended on an epilepsy support message board last weekend and used JavaScript code and flashing computer animation to trigger migraine headaches and seizures in some users.

"The nonprofit Epilepsy Foundation, which runs the forum, briefly closed the site Sunday to purge the offending messages and to boost security.

" 'We are seeing people affected,' says Ken Lowenberg, senior director of web and print publishing at the Epilepsy Foundation. 'It's fortunately only a handful. It's possible that people are just not reporting yet -- people affected by it may not be coming back to the forum so fast.' "

I can almost hear the snickering of the uber-twits who pulled this clever stunt.

They may have made the record books, though: Their little trick, "possibly the first computer attack to inflict physical harm on the victims, began Saturday, March 22, when attackers used a script to post hundreds of messages embedded with flashing animated gifs."

I've come to accept that the Interent has many users whose lack of social skills, inability to communicate without abusing others, and at-best-vestigial comprehension of viewpoints other than their own, place them at the bottom of humanity's 'preferred companion' list.

This incident, however, is a new low.

Enough is enough. I think it's time to bring social expectations on the Web up to preschool standards.

Moms: The Questions Your Kids Should be Asking

ArcaMax Publishing (March 30, 2008)

Fathers, too, I suppose. If you've had teenagers, you'll understand this Sunday comic.

As Jeremy's father said, "Personally, I find it refreshing!"

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Homemade Gauss Gun

"Coil Gun version 1"
Projects (January 23, 2008)

"This my first build for my Gauss Gun project:
"I have wanted to do this for a long time but I never had any beefy SCR's or HV capacitors to complete the project."

This electromagnetic micro-cannon runs on house current, and pumps .187 joules of energy into a projectile.

Photos and description.

This looks like a moderately nerdy, and fun, project.

Discover Your Age in Mars Years, and Other Planetary Years

And, just for fun:

"Planetary Years"

"A year is the time is takes a planet to orbit the sun. Calculate what your age would be on other planets in the solar system."

I discovered that I'm thirty years old. Mars years, that is.

Debra Kayes, Artist

"Debra Kayes"

Mixed Media Projects, Canvas Works, Wood Works.

Online gallery of a talented artist.

The Skew Bookcase: Very Pink, Very Odd-Looking

"The Skew Bookcase"
Homistic Home Interior and Design Tips (March 29, 2008)

"Here is an interesting look of a bookcase from the Swedish designer Smansk. We are used to the regular straight horizontal type of bookcase for hundreds of years, and it was about time someone change that as technology develops new forms of art."

These things are bookcases. Pink, snap-together, slant-shelved, bookcases.

The effect is like giant Lego® blocks as imagined by Salvidor Dali.

Unquestionably creative and artistic. I'm not sure what sort of decor the things would compliment.

(If this post seems vaguely familiar, I did a micro-review of a Homistic Home Interior page recently: "Homistic Office Space: Looks Weird - Futuristic, but Weird" (March 21, 2008).)

World History Timeline

"HyperHistory Online / Over 2000 files covering over 3000 years of world history"

Categories include Science, Culture, Religion, and Politics. Resources include maps and a timeline.

This is a pretty good one-stop resource for quick historical research. I've used it quite often, partly because it includes a wide range of information. Also because it makes it possible to look across the timeline to see what events and people were contemporary.

Handy HTML Special Characters Resource

"HTML - Special Entity Codes"

This is a well-organized resource, showing HTML code for special characters, like letters with Accents - (e.g. ó, ò, ñ), other "foreign" (if you normally write English) characters, currency symbols, math symbols, other punctuation (like the ampersand and smart quotes), some discussion of how to use the codes, unicode codes (how many codes could a unicode code, if a unicode could code codes?), and links to more references.

Not bad at all.

Zero Dominance: Running Websites the Well-Rounded Way

"Zero Dominance / running websites the well-rounded way"

This is a very new blog, started two days ago.

Interesting premise: we'll see how it develops.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

SETI at Home: A Serious Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence


"SETI@home is a scientific experiment that uses Internet-connected computers in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI). You can participate by running a free program that downloads and analyzes radio telescope data."

This Berkeley project is, in my opinion, the best SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) projects around. And, the only practical one that I've encountered.

It records what the radio telescope at Arecibo picks up, stores the data, and then sends the data, one chunk at a time, to the computers of participants. There, the data is analyzed by software that stays out of the way when you're using the computer - like a screensaver. When that chunk is processed, the results are sent back and another chunk received.

In fact, it is a screensaver: except this one is looking for ET.

What makes this project remarkable, in my opinion, is that it is looking for weak signals, any weak signals that aren't the sort that nature produces.

The traditional SETI program involved listening for a relatively short period of time, to a particular section of sky, for strong signals. That would be fine, if someone out there was
  • Close to us
  • Near one of the stars that scientists think are most likely
  • Sending strong, simple, signals our way
  • Timed to arrive when the telescope is pointed in that direction
So far, that approach hasn't produced positive results. Maybe that's because there aren't other people out there, and maybe it's because they're there, but weren't sending signals at exactly the right time, in our direction.

SETI@home doesn't make those assumptions.
  • The project has scanned the entire sky twice, and is near the end of a third scan
  • Data is being combed for weak signals - something other than a loud and clear 'live long and prosper!'
  • In principle, the project should be able to "tease out" almost any sort of signal:
    • The hum of an alternating-current power grid (okay, a big, powerful one)
    • Radio-frequency noise from
      • Very large-scale industrial processes
      • The more heavily-populated parts of a planet, which would appear and disappear as the planet rotates
      • Propulsion systems (electrostatic sails, whatever - and, yes, again really big ones)
      • A really big rock concert
      • Something else
Or, maybe a message which, when deciphered, reads, "will you please stop transmitting "Captain Planet" reruns!"

There's more, at "How SETI@home works." "...In the next two years the entire sky as seen from the telescope will be scanned three times. We feel that this will be enough for this project. By the time we've looked at the sky three times, there will be new telescopes, new experiments, and new approaches to SETI. We hope that you will be able to participate in them too!"
Related posts, at

Sunspots, Flares, and Radio Troubles

"Surge of solar activity"
Astronomy Now Online (March 26, 2008)

"With little warning, three large sunspots have materialised [sic] in the last 24 hours, one of which unleashed the biggest solar flare so far this year."

More, with photos.

Photoshop Tutorials: For "Better Navigation"

"45 Photoshop Tutorials for Better Navigation" Vandelay Website Design (March 3, 2008 )

"Navigation is obviously one of the most crucial aspects of web design in terms of usability, but often it is also a focal point of the design’s appearance. Navigational buttons, bars and menus provide the designer with an excellent opportunity to be creative and add some style to the design. What better tool to use for this purpose than Photoshop?"

No question about it: the samples shown are attractive navigation elements.

Whether pretty buttons means "better navigation" is a debatable point, at best. It certainly means better-looking navigation.

Although I've used Photoshop, and am impressed with the software: "What better tool to use for this purpose than Photoshop?" deserves an answer.

If money is no object, you actually need the wide range of advanced features that Photoshop offers, and you need to impress clients (or your boss) with the word "Photoshop," then Photoshop is the better tool.

If you don't have transfinite financial resources, your graphics software has to do about 95% or so of what Photoshop does, and you don't have to impress someone by saying that you use Photoshop, I'd go for another package.

I use Corel products: when I bought the package that included "Photo Paint," that, and the other software, cost about half of what I'd have paid for Photoshop.

Still, those are cool graphics. And, the tutorials probably have knowledge that can be adapted to whatever graphics software you use.

Nature Photos: Lots of Nature Photos

"Great Nature Photos by Paul Wakefield"
Stylish Web (March 7, 2008)

Over a dozen photos of the first page: and there's a second page.

Japanese Architects

"NKS architects"

Detail about a Japanese architectural firm.

Today, this page includes a photo of their Onigiri House's Living Room and Kitchen, (Oita, 2005)

From "japan-architects /
Profiles of Selected Architects"

Toyota's Power Split Device (PSD) for Prius

"Toyota Prius - Power Split Device (PSD)"

"The Toyota Prius is packed with some pretty high-tech stuff, but at the heart of the Hybrid Synergy Drive (HSD) is a simple little device called the Power Split Device, or PSD. The PSD is a planetary gear set that...."

Graphics, one of them animated, description, and links.

This is a pretty good place to learn about the Toyota PSD - and mechanical transmissions.

Rubix Cube Meets Robot

"The Lego Mindstorm Robot Solves the Rubix Cube for You" Walyou (March 20, 2008)

"The Rubix Cube is one of the most fascinating puzzle toys ever created.

"It demands logic, patience, and skill in order to be solved, yet it is wrapped up in a colorful and innocent looking package."

And now, there's a robot made of Legos, with the sole purpose of sorting out a Rubix Cube.


What Your IT Guy Wants You to Know (and People Who Got Peeved by It)

"10 things your IT guy wants you to know" The Java ME Blog (from a deleted original posted August 4, 2007)

A 10-point list, from "If you ask me technical questions please don’t argue with me because you don’t like my answer...."
to "And finally, yes, I can read your email, I can see what web pages you look at while you are at work, ...."

This post pricked the (thin) skins of quite a few of the vast Anonymous family. They have a point: IT support people shouldn't be rude.

On the other hand, I've done IT support (and customer support) in my day, and "10 things" shows that the writer knew what it was like.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Interactive View of Saint Ann and Holy Trinity Church

"Saint Ann and Holy Trinity church" seen from the organ. (The organ's being repaired or maintained: there's a technician in the photo.)

It's one of those 'you are there' interactive images. "Click inside the image and drag in all directions. Zoom in and out with "shift" and "control" keys."

Very impressive architecture.

Don't Confuse Me With the Facts: Urban Legends and Science

"Science and the Urban Legend"
Science Junkies (March 20, 2008)

"The following are actual science related urban legends that have been circulated as truth - some of them for decades. ...

Pretty good resource and/or an amusing read.

Press Embargoes: Old Custom Defended

"Embargoes: Time to break the habit?"
CenterNetworks (March 26, 2008)

"Embargoed press releases---a hold-over from public-relations practices in the world of print---remain a constant source of discussion in the world of online publishing. Should they still be in use? Should they be honored? Is "breaking an embargo" warranted?"

"...I would argue it does. Perhaps now more than ever."

Informed, and informative, post about press embargoes: the custom of sending press releases with a 'do not publish before' date.

It's a custom from the days of print. The author argues, persuasively, that the custom has a place in the information age.

Russia Tower: Big, Futuristic, and "Sustainable"

"Russia Tower" Russia 2006
Foxter + Partners

"Moscow City Tower - taller than any other building in Europe - is a striking new addition to the dynamic high-rise skyline of Moscow City. The mixed-use project - incorporating apartments, hotel, office and leisure space - will have an ‘energy cycle’ that will pioneer sustainable architecture and reinforce the economic and social vitality of Moscow City."

"Sustainable" must be a very important thing to be, these days.

Cycle of photos. Links to more.

Little Yellow Robot: Artificial Intelligence of a Sort

"robot drummer has plenty of rhythm"
technabob (March 22nd, 2008)

"This little yellow robot does one thing really well. He likes to play drums. What’s funny about the little guy is that he likes to play music on just about any surface other than an actual drum."

And he looks for things that make cool sounds.

YouTube Helps Contributors Plan Pitches

"YouTube tells contributors who's watching"
MSNBC (March. 27, 2008)

"The free program helps anyone time the release of a new video"

"The popular video-sharing site YouTube is giving contributors more details about who's watching their video clips and when, offering advertisers additional insights they can use to target their pitches."

Sounds like a pretty good idea.

Petra and the Paddleboat: No Swan Song for Their Romance

"Petra the Black Swan, Paddleboat Mate Get Back Together"
FOXNews (March 28, 2008)

"MUENSTER, Germany — Petra the black swan has been reunited with her beloved swan-shaped paddleboat after a failed romance with a real bird."

Well, some women go for the strong, silent type.


The Rules of Cats

"The Cat's Version of the Rules"

Starts with "BATHROOMS: Always accompany guests to the bathroom. It is not necessary to do anything. Just sit and stare."

Whoever put this together knew cats.


Wonderful Words and Funny Phrases


1. A bicycle can't stand alone; it is two tired.
29. Marathon runners with bad shoes suffer the agony of de feet.


Thursday, March 27, 2008

Did Someone Rip Off Your Blog? You're Not Alone, and Not Helpless

"Another despicable scraper to watch out for"
BlogCatalog (discussion thread started 7 hours before this post)

This thread starts with:

"Saw a ping back from this site today and followed it to see what it was. I found my post reproduced in its entirety along with posts from many other blogs. I did some research but can't see an easy way to shut them down. Frustrating!"

There's some good advice and discussion here.

If your content has been stolen, there are things you can do.

Jayci, Jason Yaeger: Father and Dying Daughter Meet

"Father Released From Prison To Visit Dying Daughter" KETV (March 26-27, 2008)

"An imprisoned father went to his dying daughter's bedside Wednesday, a visit federal authorities allowed only after being deluged with letters and phone calls from across the nation.

"Jayci Yaeger, 10, has terminal brain cancer. Her family has been pleading with federal prison officials in Yankton, S.D., to allow her father, Jason Yaeger, to see his daughter before she dies."

Photo, links.

And more, at "Dad Allowed to Take Leave From Prison to See His Dying Little Girl" FOXNews (March 27, 2008)

Additional photos.
Update March 28, 2008

"Cancer-Stricken Girl Whose Last Wish Was to See Inmate Dad Has Died"
FOXNews (March 28, 2008)

"Jayci Yaeger Loses Battle With Cancer"
KOLN KGIN (March 28, 2008)

"At 1:47 Friday morning, Jayci Yaeger died.

" 'I think Jayci was hanging on for her daddy . She just let go after she knew daddy was here to be with her. We're glad that she got to be with him one last time,' said Ed Yaeger, Jayci's uncle."

Better Ideas from Japan:
Space Age Origami

"Japanese Scientists, Origami Masters Hope to Launch Paper Airplane From Space"
FOXNews (March 27, 2008)

"Japanese scientists and origami masters hope to launch a paper airplane from space and learn from its trip back to Earth.

No kidding.

"At this point, the proposal faces just one challenge, but it's a potentially crippling one: There is no way to track the paper craft or predict when or where they may land.

"Critics say that makes the test pointless."

On the other hand,

" 'But what... is it good for?' -
IBM executive Robert Lloyd, speaking in 1968 microprocessor, the heart of today's computers."
"Top 87 Bad Predictions about the Future"

More ideas - good, dubious, and strange - at "Better Ideas From ... "

Brother Claus Field Chapel

"Peter Zumthor - Brother Claus Field Chapel" Mechernich, Germany (June 11, 2007)

"The recently inaugurated Brother Claus Field Chapel is located in Mechernich near Cologne, Germany.

"The Chapel, dedicated to the holy Niklaus von Fluehe, called Brother Claus, was donated by farmer Hermann-Josef and Trudel Scheidtweilerand, and built by local farmers on the edge of his field."

Photos and description of a remarkable piece of architecture.

Just be Glad He's Not Your Employee

"Stupid Client Quote #6072"
Clientcopia: Coping with stupid clients (March 26, 2008)

"A number of years ago, I headed up a web design company which handled a handful of higher profile clients. One of the projects we were working on was for a client who was a major designer in the art world and did these amazing murals and such."

Sometimes it isn't the client. Sometimes it's one of your employees.

Just be Glad He's Not Your Boss

"Stupid Client Quote #1338"
Clientcopia: Coping with stupid clients (November 15, 2004)

"I went into a new clients office to meet with them about a project they wanted done for their website."

What follows is so monumentally dumb, that I'm inclined to think it actually happened.

Science and Sentiment: The Latest Shuttle Mission

"Space Shuttle Lands Safely After Construction" (March 26, 2008)

Much of the article is about the mission's "construction marathon at the International Space Station."

It also gives a brief look at the crew, including this excerpt: "Behnken, who is engaged, took his wedding ring and that of his fiancie along for Endeavour's flight. Linnehan took a photo of a young boy from New Hampshire - his home state - who died as a child, but dreamed of being an astronaut.

" 'I just thought it would be appropriate. It's kind of something we all dream about as we grow up,' Linnehan said in a televised interview late Tuesday. 'So we flew his picture and I'm going to return that to his parents when I get back.' "

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Just a Little House on Sam Snead Drive

"Residence: Sam Snead Drive - The Greenbrier, WV"
Kawalek Architects

"Situated between a trout filled stream and a golf course fairway, this home enjoys close proximity to the amenities of The Greenbrier Sporting Club in West Virginia."


Writing House

"Michael Pollan - A PLACE OF MY OWN"

"Readers of A Place of My Own have often asked to see pictures of the writing house described in the book. Here are three images, taken by John Peden."

This "writing house" is a charming building: structurally a shed, with windows, bookshelves, and information tech. I wouldn't mind having a place like this, myself.

Homemade Aerogels and a Ten Year Old

"Ten Year Old Child Produces Homemade Aerogels"

"Very few people have even heard of aerogels, the lightest and rarest stable form of solid matter. Even fewer have seen them, but William T. Wood of Bakersfield, California is changing that."

Storage Decor, Eggs, and Architecture Awards

"Brilliant Book of the Week: "
High Fashion Home Blog (March 26, 2008)

Earlier posts include "It's About That Time...," " How Funky Is Your Chicken?" and " American Institute of Architects 2007 Housing Awards."

Photos and discussion of a coffee table book, storage gadgets, eggs, architecture awards, and more.

Bedroom Interior Designs

"21 Modern and Stylish Bedroom Designs You Are Dreaming Of!"
Home Interiors Zone

"Here is your chance to do something extraordinary for yourself…Get some ideas from these modern, contemporary bedroom designs."

Photos, with high-rez versions available.

Well, I wasn't dreaming of these, but they're attractive: and they don't all look alike.

Coming Soon to a Spaceport Near You

"SpaceShipTwo Revealed"

"Virgin Galactic unveils designs for its suborbital spaceliner. Credit: Virgin Galactic/Scaled Composites"

Video, about five minutes.

I think we're looking at the world's first commercial space line: or one of them.

More, at "XCOR to Unveil New Suborbital Rocketship " (March 26, 2008)More:

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

A Collection of Very Strange Technical Documentation

"Hall of Technical Documentation Weirdness"

With graphics of bizarre documentation, like:

"Ambidextrous Knife
"Apparently from instructions for a left-handed kitchen knife. It's odd, then, that it's a right hand in the picture. (From--also ironically--Dirk)"

"Bathroom Advice
" 'No leaves in the toilet, no swan dives off of it.' (Thanks, Anne)"

A word of caution: some of the humor is mildly risqué. And brings up an interesting question: what were the people who designed these (real) signs thinking?! Like this sign in a Japanese subway: "Confusing japanese subway signs" College Humor (March 9, 2004). This one is risqué, and genuinely funny.

(If this looks familiar, it should: This is one of the websites mentioned in a previous post, "Ten Really Odd Websites" (March 25, 2008).)

Ten Really Odd Websites

"Who Gave Them a URL?! 10 Totally Oddball Websites"
WebUpon (March 23, 2008)

"Just when you thought that the world couldn’t get any weirder, you found it on the Internet. The following ten websites are bursting at the seams of the weird, strange and bizarre."

"Corpses For Sale" (ersatz ones)
"The Really Big Button That Doesn't Do Anything"
and including "Hall of Technical Documentation Weirdness" (My favorite).

Unconventional Interiors, from a Mosque to a Kitchen Sink

"Alternative Interior Design and Remodeling ideas - pictures, images, and photos"

"Interior design and remodeling pictures - alternatives to conventional architecture:"

Quite a few photos (with links to hi-res versions) of interiors, including a living room, a bedroom, the Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque (Isfahan, Iran) and a kitchen sink.


A Gmail Inbox for Firefox

"Getting Things Done with Gmail"

"GTDInbox is an addon for Firefox that transforms Gmail into a powerhouse of productivity and manageability. GTDInbox gives you a better inbox."

Ferrofluid Going With the Flow: the Video

"Amazing Ferrofluid"
Metacafe (January 22, 2008)

"Ferrofluid is a magnetic liquid. It is composed of tiny nanoparticles of magnetic material. It flows like a liquid and attracts to a magnet."

Video, 2:19.

Better Ideas From Japan:
Meow Lingual Cat Translator

"Chat with your cat"
Shiny Shiny - A girl's guide to gadgets (March 29, 2008)

"If you are having communication problems with your cat the Japanese have got the answer. On sale now is the Meow Lingual Cat Translator from Takara, a device that turns all those miaows into human speech."

It's for real. Photo and description.

(Thanks to my oldest daughter, for bringing this to my attention.)

More ideas - good, dubious, and strange - at "Better Ideas From ... "

Project Wonderful Looks Good

Project Wonderful

"Everybody wins.

"Project Wonderful is an online advertising broker with an innovative model that brings fairness, transparency, and profitability to the advertising process.

"We're all about making online advertising more profitable and easier for everyone involved!"

Looks like a good idea. I haven't made up my mind about Project Wonderful, but this discussion thread on BlogCatalog will help make up my mind: " 'Project Wonderful' Sounds Wonderful: Is It?."

Monday, March 24, 2008

Photos of the Mushroom Houses of Charlevoix

"Mushroom Houses of Charlevoix"

Photos, lots of them.

Sand Dunes of Mars

"Astronomy Picture of the Day" March 3, 2008

Sand dunes thawing on Mars - seen from orbit.

GPS Devices - Underwater - Yes, Underwater

"Cool solutions for using GPS devices underwater"
CrunchGear (March 13, 2008)

"There's a pretty interesting MSN group made up of diving enthusiasts dedicated to using GPS devices while underwater."

If you're radio-savvy, you'll realize that the signals GPS devices use don't go through water, for practical purposes. These are working gizmos, though, with a low-tech solution.

Non-Running Un-Program Wins 16 Software Awards

"Buyer beware: pointless text file wins 16 software awards"

Excerpt: the first three paragraphs.

"An amusing story over on Successful Software.Net highlights the risky side of relying on freeware and shareware for any mission-critical purpose.

"Andy Brice, a UK-based software developer, had grown suspicious about "awards" ascribed to freeware and shareware programs that he knew lacked functions and features of rival offerings. So he invented a program named AwardMeStars. It didn't run; in fact, it wasn't actually a program. It was a text file comprised solely of the words, "This program does nothing at all," and renamed as an executable (.EXE). He had a third party submit his file to just about every software aggregation site; then he sat back to watch the results.

"His non-operating, do-nothing program won 16 awards. Various cites labeled it 'Certified 5-Star,' 'Editor's Pick,' and 'Cool Discovery.' All of them, obviously, from sites that didn't even bother to note the blatant name of the program, nor try to run it even once." [emphasis mine]

There's more, including links, in the WatchGuard article.

Titanic Watch Auctioned

"Titanic watch up for web auction"
BBC News (March 19, 2008)

The watch isn't particularly large: it's "A pocket watch found on the body of the last victim of the Titanic to be recovered ... Dumfries-born steward Thomas Mullin...."

Free Stuff - Software That's Actually Useful

"The Free IT Support Engineers Toolkit"
Run PC Run - Dan White's blog (February 4, 2008)

PDF Viewer
SQLyog Community Edition -
a pretty good list of free software utilities.

Neanderthals Didn't Look Like Us: and it Didn't Matter

"Study: Neanderthals Not Doomed by Skull Shape" FOXNews/LiveScience (March 24, 2008)

But they weren't helped all that much, either.

Now, paleontologists, some of them, say that the people who became our ancestors don't look much like Neanderthals, but that didn't help them much, and it didn't hurt the Neanderthals.

That changes about 150 years' of assumptions about human evolution. The new idea is based partly on studies of DNA and how fast the genetic code changes, when there's nothing forcing a change.
Related posts, at

101 + 101 = 202 Resources for Writers

"101 Essential Freelancing Resources"

"... Well it’s actually 126 resources now, thanks to all the people who added resources in the comments. ... to help all you freelancers out there we have compiled a gigantic list of resources, categorized up for your benefit. If you know a resource that we’ve missed, let us know as we’re always looking to grow this list!"

Despite the "101," this isn't the same as "List of 101 - A Promising Resource for Writers and Bloggers" (December 30, 2007).

Not bad at all.

COM-BAT Makes Conceptual Bat-Bot

"Bat-Like Robot To Spy For The Army"
DoScience (March 19, 2008)

It's from the Center for Objective Microelectronics and Biomimetic Advanced Technology, or COM-BAT.

"Scientists have developed a spy robot which will help the army and soldiers gather as much information as possible. The robot measures six-inches and is designed like a bat. ... The Bat is only a concept for the moment, ...."

Quite an interesting idea. And just a tad spooky.

"Learn Something New Today"

"Learn Something New Today"
Interesting website: and good advice.

"Welcome to the website! Here, you can learn about cooking, news events and useless stuff! Please come back daily as we will be growing quickly and have alot to read and learn."

A Deer With His Own Blog, Sort of

"Deer Blogs His Own GPS Position in Google Earth"
Google Earth Blog (March 17, 2008)

"In what may be a short-lived cool geo hack of the day, a deer named "Thor" now has his own blog where he shares his GPS position every five minutes...."

Ahoy! Navy Terms and Trivia

"Navy Terms and Trivia"
Goat Locker

Some of the accounts, like where coat buttons come from, are debated: but overall, this is a pretty good place to learn what jumper flaps, scuttlebutt, or head mean: and where the terms come from.

Lemming Tracks: The Lemming took Easter Off

I took Easter Sunday off.

I'll be back Monday, getting caught up. See you again, in a few hours.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Chekhov's Gun: the Literary Technique

"Chekhov's gun"

"Chekhov's Gun is the literary technique whereby an element is introduced early in the story, but whose significance does not become clear until later on. For example, a character may find a mysterious object ...."

Interesting. Even more interesting is the fine-print disclaimer at the bottom: "This article is copied from an article on Wikipedia® - the free encyclopedia created and edited by online user community. The text was not checked or edited by anyone on our staff. Although the vast majority of the Wikipedia® encyclopedia articles provide accurate and timely information please do not assume the accuracy of any particular article. This article is distributed under the terms of GNU Free Documentation License."

Cat Cartoon


A cartoon: "Will Ignore You and Destroy Your Furniture For Food."

Not cute, but funny in the tradition of "Garfield."

Trying to Write for Television? Learn the Tropes

"Television Tropes & Idioms"

"What is this about?: This wiki is a catalogue of the tricks of the trade for writing fiction. We dip into the cauldron of story and place it in front of you to read.

"Tropes are devices and conventions that a writer can reasonably rely on as being present in the audience members' minds and expectations. If a trope gets used too much, then it becomes clichéd. The word cliché means 'stereotyped and trite'. In other words, dull and uninteresting."

Looks promising - for wannabe television writers, and others who write short fiction.

Digital Artwork, and Very Few Words

"Manu Jävinen - Digital Artwork

Quite impressive. Work by Manu Jävinen, a digital artist born in May, 1984 in Finland.

London Megastructure

"Populararchitecture: Supertower

"A tower of unprecedented scale conceived not as a building so much as a vertical
extrusion of the city..."

Very cool pictures, but with a page design that requires either a great deal of scrolling, or a monitor with very impressive resolution.

This proposed London megastructure is an interesting design: but I would like to see how the architects handled the vertical transportation and other design issues mentioned.

Still, very cool pictures, and artistic design. Even if it does look like a perforated paper towel roll.

New Technologies: Be Afraid! Be Very Afraid!

"The most Dangerous New Technologies" (March 22, 2008)

The ones mentioned are:
  • Nanotech
  • RFID (Radio Frequency IDentification)
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Mobile Payment
  • Digital Identities
I'll give the poster credit: the potential issues with each of these new technologies are real enough.

On the other hand, I remember when computers were going to take everyone's job away, when credit cards and Social Security numbers were the 'Mark of the Beast' (to some particularly fevered imaginations), cheap Japanese imports would ruin the American economy, and everything caused cancer.

Oddly, now that I'm living in the bleak future of the sixties, I'd rather live now, than then.

Geek Humor: a Photo


This photo is a visual gag for geeks: and, I suspect, nerds.

My oldest daughter and I 'got it' in under a second: see how long it takes you. ;)

Friday, March 21, 2008

Homistic Office Space: Looks Weird - Futuristic, but Weird

" Office Space In Nendo’s Vision"
Homistic Home Interior and Design Tips (March 21, 2008)

"The Japanese guys from Nendo have designed an office space near Meguro river in Tokyo and they made something really innovative with it. The walls were cut away almost down to the floor and now the employees can walk easier through the office and that makes me wonder what will happen with their privacy, but why would they need it while working?"

Why want privacy while working? Maybe a confidential phone call with a client, telling an employee something without calling the person to your office. Oh, well: With reservations, that's still a reasonable point.

About the design: It's futuristic.

"Sensory deprivation" was the first phrase that came to mind when I saw the photos. Then "egg cartons." The office interior is white. All white. Nothing but white. No, wait: Wheels on the chairs are black, the chair supports are chrome (I think), and there are two green plants visible in one of the photos.

Photos, description and discussion.

And, the blogger may be right: "I guess it will be nice to work in this office."

Do People Understand Your Poems? Does Your Poetry Make Sense? Now You Can Fix That!

"7 Easy Steps to a More Pretentious Poem" Writer's Resource Center (March 20, 2008).

How to go from

Roses are red,
Violets are blue,
Sugar is sweet,
And so are you.


OMG Grandifloras
Doth B
Damask err
Viola ping
Azurite tener azucar
RT interfaced
Sandwich girl

As a man who appreciates good poetry, I enjoyed this good-natured spoof of the "artistic" stuff.

Glow-in-the-Dark Tap Water

"LED Tap Creates Glowing Water" GeekAlerts - Gadgets and Designs (March 14, 2008)

"This little device fits onto most taps and lights up a set of LEDs when you turn on the tap, transforming the stream of water into a beautiful waterfall of light."

I've posted something like this before: "Better Ideas From China: Color-Coded Shower Head Lights" (December 31, 2007).

Online Tool Gives Your Blog's Film Rating

"What's My Blog Rated?"

"Find out the film rating of your blog, profile, or website"

It's vocabulary-based, of course. According to this free service, I have three "G" blogs, and one each of "PG," "PG-13," and "NC-17." That "NC-17" is "Another War-on-Terror Blog." Given what I discuss, the rating was probably inevitable.

"What's My Blog Rated?" provides code for a badge that you can put on your blog, or whatever: and explains the rating, sort of.

In the case of my "NC-17" blog, it got the rating 'based on the presence of the following words: bomb (9x); kill (6x); torture (3x); drugs (2x); rape (1x).'

Thanks to "What is your blog rated??" for pointing this URL out to me. It's a BlogCatalog discussion thread.

Trading Money for Words

"10 Killer Internet Companies That Want To Pay You to Write"
Writinghood (March 13, 2008)

"Its every writer's dream to make money doing exactly what they already enjoy doing. The Internet has created new opportunities for writers around the world to express themselves and get paid for doing exactly that, to write."

This looks promising.

Just remember: I know nothing about this post except that it lists 10 companies that apparently pay writers to write.

Methane in Extrasolar Planet's Atmosphere: A First

"First Whiff of Methane in Extrasolar Planet's Atmosphere"
Scientific American (March 20, 2008)

"Astronomers report they have detected methane for the first time in the atmosphere of planet outside our solar system and corroborated a report last year that picked out water vapor in its atmosphere. The finding comes from extrasolar planet HD 189733 b, a gaseous "hot Jupiter" locked in a tight orbit around a star 63 light-years away."

The blurb, "Can extraterrestrial ruminants be far behind?" is a bit far-fetched: but it's exciting news, just the same.
Related posts, at

Yes, Virginia, There are Still Heroes

"Subway Miracle: Hero Beats Long Odds To Make Save" (March 20, 2008)

"Columbia U. Worker Leaps Across 3 Tracks During Rush Hour To Save Much Bigger Man"

As Veeramuthu Kalimuthu - call him Kali - said, "People should help people," Kali said. "If all of us get along well in this world then we'll get a better world to live."

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Curta Calculator: Well-Designed, Compact Mechanical Calculator

"Curta Calculator - System Curt Herzstark"

"The astounding Curta is very famous, and deservedly so, for its extremely compact and pleasing design, as well as its fascinating history."

Photos and (blurry) video.

And, something that earned the Curta Calculator a special place in my heart: It was made in Liechtenstein.

Fast New Fiber Optics - Think Speedy Gonzalez After Too Much Coffee

" Optical Data Transmitted Over 1,500 Miles At 16.4 Tbps" Dodevice (March 2, 2008 )
Caffeinated Fiber Optics
Fast enough for you?

"Alcatel-Lucent researchers disclosed researches that are most likely going to revolutionize the internet transmissions, by increasing speeds dramatically."

Haunted UFO Houses!

"Abandoned Sanzhi UFO Houses!!!" Bad-Control (March 18, 2008)

"I came across a flickr set today with some amazing pictures of an abandoned housing complex called San Zhi outside of Taipei, Taiwan."

There's more, including why there's a story about the place being haunted.

Photos and description of futuristic, abandoned, houses.

CERN Large Hadron Collider: Photos

"Time Machine: CERN's Large Hadron Collider" Dark Roasted Blend (March 16, 2008)

The title's a bit speculative, but this page is a pretty good photo collection of the CERN supercollider.


Now That's Cute!

"Homeless bear - Will cuddle for food."

Photo of plus toy in a box.

Now You, Too, Can Bathe in a Huge Kitchen Sink!

"Stainless Steel Double Seat Japanese Bath"

"Shown is a double seat stainless steel Japanese bath, designed for two bathers. All work is handcrafted exhibiting a strong artistic flair."

I recognize the design's quality and how appropriate it would be in many settings, but I'm sorry: To me, it looks like a titanic kitchen sink.

They Must be Artistic: These Photos are Weird

"Creative Photos by Agan Harahap" (March 14, 2008)

A collection of photos, no descriptions.

These are of the 'gotta be weird' school of art, but are technically excellent. And, show a very good use of color and form: and CGI.

Better Ideas from America: Strap-on Automotive Dog Sack

"Quite Possibly the Worst Invention Ever - Dog Rides Comfortably in Sack on Running Board"

Illustrated, with description, from Popular Mechanics, June 1936.

This is a really strange invention: simple, elegant design; coupled with diabolical lack of common sense.

More ideas - good, dubious, and strange - at "Better Ideas From ... "

"Hot Hot Sex" YouTube Video Gets Attention: Good and Bad

"YouTube chart topper provokes web backlash" TimesOnline (UK) (March 19, 2008)

For a YouTuber, it was good news, bad news:
  • Good news:
    The music video he posted, including "Music Is My Hot Hot Sex," shot to the top of the charts.
  • Bad news:
    Someone may have been rigging the ratings, and now the poster is getting angry messages.
It isn't just the number of hits that the video got, that raised suspicion.

Generally, videos get rated every 500 times they're watched. The "Hot Hot Sex" video got a rating for every 21,000 views. That suggested that the "views" weren't from "legitimate external sources."

One possible explanation that doesn't involve deliberate rigging is that the words "hot" and "sex" in the video post attracted the traffic. That and "iPod" and "touch."

That could be. Getting hits depends very heavily on what words show up in the text of a post.

Which, to be honest, is one of the reasons I posted this item.

Besides, it's an interesting look at how ratings and YouTube work, and online culture.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Now You, Too, Can Procrastinate!

"Procrastination Flow Chart (flowchart1.jpg)"

If you have trouble procrastinating, this chart could help you put off projects. If you have ever procrastinated, I think you'll find this funny.

Blogging Ideas: A System to Keep Them Coming

"How to have a Constant Stream of Blogging Ideas" Problogger (March 18th, 2008)

At first, I thought the monthly-plan system outlined would eat more time than it saved. Now, I'm not so sure.

In fact, breaking blog entries into "diary stories" and " 'off-diary' stories" makes good sense: particularly for someone who wants some structure and predictability in a blog.

Once Upon a December: Anastasia

"My friend playing piano (Once upon a December - Anastasia)"

iori57, YouTube (September 21, 2006)
video, 3:23

Very nice music: the video is just what the title says it is. But it is very nice music, from the movie "Anastasia." Audio quality? Not so good.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Well, Most of them are Stupid Questions

"Actual questions asked of National Park Rangers"
"(From the May 1995 issue of Outside; sent to me by Karyen Chu)"

  • Was this man made?
  • Do you light it up at night?
  • Is the mule train air conditioned?
  • So where are the faces of the presidents?
You get the idea.

Move Over WiFi, GiFi is Coming

"Science: GiFi Networks Could Reach 5 Gbps Speeds" GearRater (February 25, 2008)

Five Gigabytes per second? That's fast. The technology should be ready for retail in about a year.

With a one-millimetre-wide antenna, and drawing less than two watts of power, the technology is impressive for its size and efficiency, too.

Green Architecture: Madrid Museum Garden-Wall

"Green Vertical Garden (wall) in Madrid" Green Packs (we care for the environment) (March 17, 2008)

It's green. It's a wall. It's the newest museum in Madrid. Three photos and description.

Swiss architects Herzog and Meuron put 250 species, 15,000 plants in all, on an exterior wall.

It looks good. One of the photos was the sort I appreciate: an eye-level shot, giving a view of the building as a visitor sees it. Right now, there's a rather interesting abstract pattern on the 'garden wall.'

I trust that the architects took maintenance into account: so that as the plants grow, age, and (I resume) require replacement, the building will still look good.

Recycled Recycled Tealight Tree

"Recycled Metal Tree of Tealights"

Three photos. I don't think the sculptor used tin cans for the candle holders.

It's an attractive piece of art.

Online Rhyming Dictionary: and it's Free

"Free Online Rhyming Dictionary"

Lets you choose what sort of rhyme to want. By choosing the default, I got these rhymes for "orange:" challenge, expunge, lozenge, lunge, orange, plunge, scavenge, sponge.

Female English for Men

"The Man's Guide To Female English"

A list of What She Says / What She Means, strictly for laughs, starting with
We need = I want
It's your decision = The correct decision should be obvious by now.

It's far from pc, but it's funny.

Monday, March 17, 2008

'Just When You Thought it was Safe to Plug in Your iPod...'

This just isn't a good month for China, when it comes to public relations.

Remember that special lead paint used by Chinese toy manufacturers? Well, the Middle Kingdom has come up with a digital equivalent: pre-infected consumer electronics.

"Electronic gadgets latest sources of computer viruses" CNN (March 13, 2008)

You've probably heard this already, but there's a new wrinkle to viruses: Electronic gizmos with viruses already loaded. All you have to do is plug them into your computer.


"From iPods to navigation systems, some of today's hottest gadgets are landing on store shelves with some unwanted extras from the factory: pre-installed viruses that steal passwords, open doors for hackers and make computers spew spam.

"Computer users have been warned for years about virus threats from downloading Internet porn and opening suspicious e-mail attachments. Now they run the risk of picking up a digital infection just by plugging a new gizmo into their PCs.

"Recent cases reviewed by The Associated Press include some of the most widely used tech devices: Apple iPods, digital picture frames sold by Target and Best Buy stores, and TomTom navigation gear.

"In most cases, Chinese factories -- where many companies have turned to keep prices low -- are the source."

There's quiet a bit more, including a little about how to protect your computer.

Another article, "China denies U.S. computer hacking agenda" CNN (March 4, 2008). This one is about China's government saying that the United States should stop thinking that they're trying to hack into American military computers.

YouTube Banned by China: Online Censorship?

"China's Communist Government Blocking YouTube" (March 16, 2008)

And who can blame them? Here they are, trying their best to look like a fine, upstanding country for the 2008 Olympics: and someone on YouTube started posted video of what's going on in Tibet.

China blocks YouTube over Tibet protest videos International Herald Tribune (March 16, 2008) points out that, "Chinese leaders encourage Internet use for education and business but use online filters to block access to material considered subversive or pornographic." "There were no protest scenes posted on China-based video Web sites such as, and"

Be Careful What You Ask For

Next time you read about some wonderful-sounding idea about regulating the Internet, remember Tibet, China, and YouTube: Deciding who can watch what can have undesirable consequences.

Okay, I'm off my soapbox - for now.


Tibet's been a province of China for quite a while. "Xizang," is China's preferred name for the place. China invaded Tibet/Xizang in 1951, and have been re-educating Buddhist monks and improving the place ever since. More about Xizang, or Tibet, online:

Wise Quotes from from Kids

"Instant Humor | Wisdom from Kids"

  • "Never trust a dog to watch your food."
  • "When your dad is mad and asks you, 'Do I look stupid?' Don’t answer."
  • "Never tell your Mom her diet's not working."

Perpetual Motion, Exotic Matter, and Practical Applications

"NIST Creates Perpetual Motion ... But Only for 10 Seconds" DailyTech (December 3, 2007)

Another decade or so, and this could be a cutting-edge technology.

Or, more accurately, a rolling-donut technology.


Well, it is Funny: Wendy's Billboard Vandalism

"Difibulator? Can I get fries with that?" The Billboard Liberation Front (February 2, 2008)

I generally skip examples of arrogant self-righteousness like this.

But this one was funny! At least, I thought so.

Erin go brea, Erin go deo, and All That

Or, for the Americans, Erin go braugh

Guess what!

This isn't St. Patrick's Day!

At least, it's not the feast day of St. Patrick.

There's more about this in an earlier post.

And Now, for Something Completely Different:
18th Century Coloring and Dyes

Now here's something that is sure to be an overnight smash pop sensation:
"The Creation of Color in Eighteenth-Century Europe" by Sarah Lowengard

Okay, this isn't the stuff of which pop culture icons are made: but I thought it was interesting, and you might, too.

If you've wanted to know more about acid dye, fustic, venetian scarlet (that's a dye, not an interplanetary femme fatale), and the people who used them, this is a pretty good resource.

"Monday, Monday:" Gerbil:0; Exercise Wheel: 1

20070515.gif, via (May 15, 2007)

I think this is a gerbil, and an exercise wheel. I'm not all that familiar with domesticated rodents.

The animated GIF shows the little nibbler jump on the exercise wheel: and have what I'll call a "Monday" experience.

And You Think You Had a Bad Day:
Bear Stearns Employees, Management Lose Big

"Bear Bailout: Employees’ Fortunes Vanish" FOXNews (March 14, 2008)

Bear Stearns is an investment company, many of whose 14,000 employees got stock in the company as bonuses. That "poof" you heard Friday was the value of those stocks disappearing.

(This is one of the reasons that I'm glad that, for the most part, I've been paid in cash. That way, if I foul up with the money, it's my fault. This family even refused a company insurance plan: good thing, too, since I was laid off the year that I spent getting operated on.)

The next post will be more upbeat, I promise.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Restaurant Planner's Resource

"Home > Starting a Business > Business Ideas > Restaurant Center
Restaurant Center / The Ingredients of Restaurant Success"

"Here are the restaurant basics you need to write your own recipe for success."

Checklists, sample floor plans, top 5 full-service and quick-service franchises.

Looks promising, for someone thinking about opening a restaurant. But, what do I know?

Jake Parker, Artist

"The Art of Jake Parker"

"Jake Parker makes movies at Blue Sky Studios like Dr Seuss's Horton Hears A Who. He also draws comics of space mice, monsters, and funny ...."

Quite a few examples of his work.

Online Personalized Time Capsule: 'On This Date' Service

"dMarie Time Capsule"

" To begin, enter a date in the box above and click either:

"Quick Page - this button will automatically generate a Time Capsule page for you. - OR -

"Advanced Page - this button will lead you through a "wizard" that allows you...."

This looks like fun: and it works. I goofed the first time, by not reading the directions (the date has to be in a particular format).

Have fun!

The Antikythera Mechcanism: A Really Old Calculator

"The Antikythera Mechcanism"

"One of the oldest known astronomical calculating devices is called the Antikythera Mechanism. It was discovered somewhere between Greece and the Island of Crete."

It's somewhat the worse for wear, due to being in sea water for the last two millennia.

The thing's been called the world's oldest computer, although I think that's a stretch: There doesn't seem to be any way of reprogramming it.

The writing style of this website isn't the best I've seen, but it looks like a pretty good resource for information about this remarkable old mechanism.

Special Olympics Minnesota: a Pretty Good Group

"Special Olympics Minnesota"

"Special Olympics Minnesota is founded on the belief that people with intellectual disabilities can, with proper instruction and encouragement, learn, enjoy and benefit from participation in individual and team sports, adapted as necessary to meet the needs of those with intellectual and physical disabilities."

I got a call from them a minute or five ago, and thought I'd pass this along. They're looking for help: dollars and volunteers. They've got a regular telephone number, 612-333-0999, and one that's toll-free: 800-783-7732.

The St. Patrick's Day Surprise

St. Patrick's Day, as a rule, falls on March 17. This year, it happened yesterday, on the 15th of March. The change is quite reasonable: Holy Monday is on the 17th this year, as well. And there would have been no end of confusion if St. Patrick's Day were to fall on the same day, during Holy Week.

As it is, the confusion is quite over for the year, and the next St. Patrick's Day will be on the 17th, as it nearly always is.

About Norbert, up there. It seems that young Mr. Nerdly was no more aware of the date this year, though the both of us should have been, on which St. Patrick's Day falls. As a regrettable result, he was not prepared, as he should have been, for this year's picture.

And so it was that, late and unready as the two of us were, we quick snapped a picture, and display it here: along with the wish that you had a fine St. Patrick's Day!

Coming Soon: Glasses That are Smarter Than You Are! (More Observant, Anyway)

"Japanese Scientist's Glasses Can Find Anything" FOXNews (March 13, 2008)

"Simply tell the glasses what you are looking for and it will play into your eye a video of the last few seconds you saw that item."

Quite impressive: A fusion of ordinary (these days) hardware and a really sophisticated AI algorithm.

Be Careful About What You Ask For: a "FoxTrot" St. Patrick's Day Comic

"FoxTrot" (March 16, 2008)

Featuring Andy Fox, whose kids should have remembered what "green" means to their eco-friendly mom.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

NanoScan: Another Fast Online Anti-Virus Scanner

"NanoScan:The Fastest Online Virus/Malware Scanner" TechBuzz (March 12, 2008)

An enthusiastic review, with quite a few comments posted. The comments are at least as interesting as the post.

English-Language Idioms: A Sort of Glossary

"Home > Reference > Idioms > Categories > General
Idiom Category: General"

Idiomatic words and expressions in English, from "A bit much" to "Zigged before you zagged," with their definitions.

A pretty good resource. Quite a bit of information here.

Writing for For Profit? Too Many Unbillable Hours? Think Virtual Assistant

"Bill More, Work Less: The #1 Way Freelancers Can Make More Money" Write to Done (February 14, 2008)

The virtues of a virtual assistant. A pretty good discussion.

Information Age Nostalgia: Writing With Retroware?

"Unclutter your writing with self-imposed limitations"

"Two ideas recently converged for me in one device. The first idea is the notion of self-imposed limitations, and the second is the concept of retro-computing. The device is the AlphaSmart Neo. Here’s how it all fits together."

Interesting ideas, gadgets, and software.

If you like gizmos, you'll probably like this article. It's a curiously nostalgic bit of writing.

Crotoniidae Mites, DNA, and Obscure Science

"Against All Odds, Sex Has Returned" Discover Magazine (June 19, 2007)

"A mite reevolves sex after hundreds of millions of years without it."

Three-paragraph article. More DNA research, this time showing that complex traits can reevolve, something thought to be wildly improbable.

Rube Goldberg Lives! Another Crazy Device

"Crazy Rube Goldberg Device" YouTube (September 25, 2007)

"Description: This is a crazy chain reaction using regular household items.. Very creative."

Fun: And seems to take up most of a house.

Instant-Messaging Clients: Reviews

"Reviewing the Instant Messaging Clients" PluggedOut (March 14, 2008)

Reviews of iChat, Skype, Yahoo Messenger, Windows Live Messenger (formerly MSN Messenger), Google Talk, AOL Instant Messenger (AIM), and ICQ. With links.

One response, so far: mentioning Meebo, Pidgin, Adium, and amsn.

Find a Brewery with Google Maps! Plus 49 More Cool Things

"Top 50 Things You Didn’t Know You Could Do With Google Maps"

"Check time anywhere in the world."
"Make your own map."

Even "Find a brewery anywhere in the world."

What Should We Say to Space Aliens?

"How We Present Ourselves to Aliens " (March 13, 2008)

Let's say we find space aliens, and can transmit something to them. What do we send?

A fascinating, if hypothetical, question.

Suggestions include the complete works of Bach (J.S., probably) and CAT-scans of human beings.

It's a good read.
Now, a little philosophizing: The author makes the familiar assumption about 'highly evolved' civilizations: that they'll have "long ago conquered war, poverty, and disease ...." That 19th century optimism about what science and technology can do dies hard. (They thought they'd have poverty, disease, and war licked soon. Today, an opposite view seems fashionable - me, I think that people were human in Aristotle's time, are still human, and will be human two and a half millennia from now: Far from perfect, but not doomed, either.)

Remember "Ministry of Silly Walks?" This Will Remind You


These look like profiles of John Cleese, from the "Monty Python's Flying Circus" "Ministry of Silly Walks" sketch.

A funny set of 12 small pictures in one graphic: even funnier for anyone who's seen teh "Ministry of Silly Walks" sketch.

Just a graphic, no text. A caveat: these couldn't be from the sketch, but there could still be copyright issues involved.

I.E. isn't E.G. - How to Remember Which to Use

"the difference between e.g. and i.e. and when to use them" regularjen (February 11, 2008)

"When writing, there are often times when the Latin abbreviations of 'exempli gratia' or 'id est' are needed ...."

Don't let the Latin put you off: there's pretty good advice in this post. And, a way to remember when to use which of these abbreviations.

Seven New Deadly Sins!!! (No, But it Made a Good Story)

Short version: A second-tier Vatican official got interviewed by L'Osservatore Romano, a Vatican newspaper. He talked about "new forms of social sin" in our era. A few hours later, traditional news media was spreading the word that the Vatican had a list of "new sins."

You gotta admit, "Vatican Declares New Sins!" or "Seven Deadly Sins Replaced!" make good, attention-grabbing headlines.

I'm not as hard on the news media's cluelessness as some are. Many reporters trying to cover religious news, particularly Catholic news, seem to be as ill-suited to the task as art critics would be at the Super Bowl. Brilliant people, but with little-to-no knowledge of what they're reporting on.1

You've probably seen something like this:
  • "Seven new deadly sins: are you guilty?" Times Online (UK) (March 10, 2008)
    "Drug pushers, the obscenely rich, environmental polluters and “manipulative” genetic scientists beware – you may be in danger of losing your mortal soul unless you repent.
    "After 1,500 years the Vatican has brought the seven deadly sins up to date by adding seven new ones for the age of globalisation. The list, published yesterday in L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, came as the Pope deplored the 'decreasing sense of sin' in today's 'securalised world' and the falling numbers of Roman Catholics going to confession."
  • " Vatican official: New sins on horizon" CNN (March 14, 2008)
    "Fifteen hundred years after the Roman Catholic Church introduced the original list of seven deadly sins, a Vatican official last week suggested an updated roster for a new age.
    "Although it doesn't reflect a change in official doctrine, the expansion of sins brought on by technology and science aligns with Pope Benedict XVI's emphasis on communal rather than individual piety, observers say."
But, odds are that you haven't seen this:
  • "Media muddle over new seven deadly sins" CathNews (March 14 2008)
    "The Episcopal Conference of England and Wales has dismissed reports that a new list of seven deadly sins has been approved by the Vatican.
    "Zenit reports the conference released a statement clarifying an interview published by L'Osservatore Romano with Bishop Gianfranco Girotti ... - regent of the tribunal of the Apostolic Penitentiary - saying it was misinterpreted in the media as an official Vatican update to the seven deadly sins.
    " 'The Vatican has not published a new list of seven deadly sins, this is not a new Vatican edict,' the statement said."
  • "The Forum: Not 'new sins' but an old media blind spot" Catholic World News (CWN) (March 11, 2008 )
    "When he finished his interview with L'Osservatore Romano, Archishop Gianfranco Girotti probably thought that his main message had been an appeal to Catholics to use the sacrament of Confession. Little did he know that the English-language news media would play the interview as a newly revised list of sins.
    "Archbishop Girotti, the regent of the Apostolic Penitentiary, spoke to the Vatican newspaper about 'new forms of social sin' in our era. He mentioned such transgressions as destructive research on human embryos, degradation of the environment, and drug trafficking. Within hours, dozens of media sources were suggesting that the Vatican had radically revised the Ten Commandments, issuing a list of 'new sins.' "
Actually, the CNN report did pretty well, pointing out that "it doesn't reflect a change in official doctrine...."

For starters, the Church's focus has been and is on practicing the seven holy virtues: the healthy state, not the dysfunctional sinful state. This table may help a little.

The traditional
seven deadly sins
The seven holy virtues
Lust Chastity
Gluttony Abstinence
Avarice Temperance
Sloth Diligence
Anger Patience
Envy Kindness
Pride Humility

What the lower-level Vatican officials had actually been talking about was how new technology and socio-political conditions make it possible for people to foul up on a larger scale. And, they were focusing on wrong behavior involving groups, as well as individuals.

Finally, here's a list of those new "seven deadly sins"
(remember, these aren't official):

Genetic modification
Carrying out experiments on humans
Polluting the environment
Causing social injustice
Causing poverty
Becoming obscenely wealthy
Taking drugs
1 The biggest problem that most reporters have, writing stories like this, may be the currently-fashionable notion that "sins" are a set of rules, determined arbitrarily, which can be changed at any time. The Catholic Church's idea, that "sins" and "virtues" are objective realities, is something that they may never have encountered.

Warning! Humans!


A sign that reads, "WARNING Due to a shortage of robots, workers here are human beings and may react unpredictably if abused."

Confusing Words, Unconfused? Deconfused? Disconfused?

"Confusing Words"

" a collection of 3210 words that are troublesome to readers and writers. Words are grouped according to the way they are most often confused or misused."

Looks useful.

Friday, March 14, 2008

"Unattended Children" Sign


The sign says, "unattended children will be given an espresso and a free puppy."

If that looks familiar, you've got a good memory. I posted a link to the same graphic, on another website, back on August 22, 2007.

YouTube: Getting a Better View

"YouTube HD Hack" Hosting & Design (March 14, 2008)

"a quick little post ... to watch any video on youtube in high quality," and it might work.

Gadgets, Over Two Dozen: Cool

"25 Mind-Blowing Gadgets" Smashing Magazine (February 18th, 2008)

From "BeoLab 4 PC" to "Bonus: Computer and Coffee On The Go."

I'm not so sure what's so mind-blowing about a retro sixties-style radio that's available in yellow and pink: but what do I know?

Bookshelving: Dull No More

"30 of the Most Creative Bookshelves Designs" Furniture (February 25, 2008)

Photos and descriptions of bookshelving designs that just might be the thirty best in the world. My favorite, for looks, is the "quasi-hexagonal pattern bookcase."

Some are practical, many are anything but.

Engagement Ring Escapes: and You Think You had a Bad Day?

"Honey, will you marry... Oh. Never mind..." Reuters (March 14, 2008)

This is probably funny to everyone except the two people involved. It involves a clever marriage proposal gone horribly wrong.
" Superficial - The Mirrored Rock From The Woods" Mad Architect (March 13, 2008)

"This mirror rock sculpture, placed deep in the woods could prove very scary, especially at dawn if you have no idea about it and that is placed there."

Impressive. Very.

Photo, description.

Muse on Holiday? Write Anyway!

"How to Be a Writer When Your Muse Goes on Holiday" Copy Write (March 7, 2008)

Five tips: You've heard them before, but it doesn't hurt to review.

Treehouses: Really Fancy Treehouses

TreeHouse Workshop: "Olympic Peninsula Spring 2005"

One of several seriously upscale, grown-up treehouses featured.

Photos, descriptions.

Masdar City: Impressive Architecture, Ambitious Goal

"Enter the Planet’s First 0-Carbon and 0-Waste City" Techpin (February 29, 2008)

"Back in 2007, at Cityscape Dubai, the world’s largest business-to-business real estate investment and development event, Masdar Institute of Science and Technology presented an amazing project consisting of building a 0-carbon and 0-waste city with the finalizing date estimated for the year 2009."

The 0- part is impressive, but then I remember Biosphere 2.

Still, the Masdar City renderings look like very cool architecture, and the design ideas are valid.

Bread Kills! Who Knew?

"Bread Kills!"


"More than 98 percent of convicted felons are bread users."
"Fully HALF of all children who grow up in bread-consuming households score below average on standardized tests."
"Bread is baked at temperatures as high as 400 degrees Fahrenheit! That kind of heat can kill an adult in less than one minute."
"Most bread eaters are utterly unable to distinguish between significant scientific fact and meaningless statistical babbling."

- although I think the last one may be debatable.

Good for a laugh. And, might be a good anodyne for the next scare story you hear on the news. You know, the sort of thing where we're warned that nylon socks cause memory loss, or dental floss is a decapitation hazard.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

From the Asteroids to Ontario: Meteor Lands in Canada

"Meteor Videotaped Plunging to Earth" (March 13, 2008)

On March 5, 2008, a meteor came down in Ontario. One of the University of Western Ontario's network of all-sky cameras caught it on video.

Article discussing the fall, map of the area where it landed, and a video.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

That was Close! Near Earth Objects

"The Tetons Meteor of 1972, a near miss" (video of 8-millimeter color movie clip, August 10, 1972)

A few seconds of 8-mm film show a meteor about 58 kilometers (36 miles) up, headed north. Happily, it kept going and headed back into space.

There's another copy of the video at "The Tetons Meteor, A Near Miss - Video" - with somewhat less informed text

  • "PLANETARY DEFENSE Department of Defense Cost for the Detection, Exploration, and Rendezvous Mission of Near-Earth Objects"
    Airpower Journal (Summer 1997)
  • "1908 Siberia Explosion" Reconstructing an Asteroid Impact from Eyewitness Accounts"
    Planetary Science Institute (undated)
  • "Tunguska Event"
    earth science australia (undated)

"What is an American?"

"What Is An American?"

"A while back there was a report that someone in Pakistan had published in a newspaper that offered a reward to anyone who killed an American, any American!

"So an Australian dentist wrote the following to let everyone know what an American is, so they would know when they found one:"

Moroccan Homes and Contents

"Beautiful pictures from Moroccan Homes"

Nice photos, not much text.

The Web: Are You Surfing More Now, but Enjoying it Less?

"25 Ways to Break Your Online Procrastination Habit" (March 12th, 2008)

"The Internet is full of all kinds of valuable tools that can make researching, staying in touch, and amusing yourself easier than ever. For these very same reasons, the Internet can also be a huge source of distraction."

Twenty five bits of good advice, from "Install an online time tracker" to "Unplug."

One More Worry: Hackers and Pacemakers

"Researchers: Life-Saving Heart Devices Can Be Hacked"
FOXNews (March 12, 2008)

A hundred thousand people in America alone have new pacemakers.
  • Good news:
    The new pacemakers transmit data to bedside monitors, cutting down on the number of checkups needed
  • Bad news:
    The data is unencrypted, and contains personal information, like birth date, medical ID number and, sometimes, Social Security number
  • Worse news:
    The system can be hacked. Then,
    • The right signal might be blocked
    • A wrong signal sent to the pacemaker
      • Either way, it's bad for the patient
Pacemakers with transceivers: A good idea. Add some security, and they'll be even better.

Do You Know What's in Your Computer? Remember Sony's DRM Rootkit?

"Sony's DRM Rootkit: The Real Story" Schneier on Security ( (November 17, 2005)

Remember when Sony obligingly disabled part of your computer's security, if you put one of their music CDs in the slot?

You wouldn't, of course, because it took quite a while for that malicious DRM rootkit to be noticed - and longer for a critical mass of blog posts to build up.

By that time, a half-million computers were infected.

Bruce Schneier's article is a pretty good retrospective on the SNAFU's progress, up to mid-November of 2005. He has strong opinions and a bias or two (call it a definite point of view?) - but he also gives the facts.

"And the Lesson of This is"

Pay attention to what you let into your computer. Videos, music, programs, whatever.

Particularly since traditional media companies are still getting used to Information Age technology - and may not understand just how smart their customers are.

Inspired by the Molecular Structure of Cholestrol:
A Candle "Specially Designed for Long Romantic Dinners"

"Bravit, The Multi-flame Candle" (February 18th, 2008)

It'll burn for up to five hours, "...its structure was inspired from the molecular structure of cholesterol." And, I'm not making this up: "It is specially designed for long romantic dinners...."

Photos, description.

The thing looks pretty cool, actually.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Seven Select Sources for the Serious Scrivner

"For the Love of Words: Seven Wonderful Websites Where Words Matter" (February 29, 2008)

"Words are beautiful, and these seven wonderful word websites illustrate the reason why they are."

Looks promising.

Micro-Kitchen for the Critically Cramped

"Single Person Cooker Makes Cooking For One Tidy, If Not Fun"

Think desktop kitchen. From the photos, I get the impression that the food takes up more space than the kitchen.

Photos, description: a pretty good look at a food preparation system for people with desperately small apartments.

Scientist Finds Pieces of "Mass Hysteria" at Bottom of Impossible Crater

"Big Crater Carved By Mysterious Meteorite " (March 11, 2008)

In September of 2007, something very bright streaked out of the sky near a remote Peruvian town. When it hit the ground, there was an explosion. When people came to investigate, they found a crater filled with boiling water and noxious fumes. Some of them got sick.

That's what the natives said, anyway. Scientists came, saw that what the locals reported didn't fit their models of how meteors are supposed to act, and said that it was a case of mass hysteria (" 'Meteorite' Crash Breeds Mass Hysteria" (September 27, 2007)).

One scientist decided to take a look at the crater, and found pieces of "mass hysteria" under the bottom of the 49-foot-wide crater.

If his colleagues listen to him, there may have to be a re-thinking of the way rocks fall out of the sky.

PC for Blind People: New Technology

" Siafu - The PC For Blind People"

"Today we bring good news for the visually impaired people. Jonathan Lucas has developed a PC, called Siafu, made of magneclay a concept material based on magnetized liquid. The computer creates a braille surface and also 3D pictures can pop-up from the device.

"Magneclay is a synthetic material based on oil and its morphing ability has no limit. Siafu also features a built-in microphone and the words can appear on the screen in braille (of course)."

Photos, link.

"We came in peace for all mankind"

"Flight Day Five: A Man on the Moon " (June 30, 2005)

An account of the first time that human beings landed on a world other than Earth.

Including how Armstrong pointed a television camera at "... a small, stainless steel plaque on one of the legs of the landing craft. He reads: "Here men from the planet Earth first set foot on the Moon. July 1969 A.D. We came in peace for all mankind."

Another retrospective on Apollo 11:

"Apollo program: No better example of American ingenuity" American (March 11, 2008)

When Apollo 11 landed, in the summer of 1969, I'd graduated from high school and was getting ready for college. I watched the moon mission's progress on television. After the landing, and the first day's work, I camped out on the couch and kept an eye on Tranquility Base overnight.

There wasn't anything going on: just a live television transmission of a space ship on the moon. I fell asleep several times during the night. Those images are clearer in my memory than anything else from that season.

I hope, when that area is developed (likely enough: it's one of the better launch sites for bulk cargo), I hope that Tranquility Base is preserved as an historic site.

Monday, March 10, 2008

For Astronomy Freaks Enthusiasts: New Ideas About Low-Mass Stars, Large Planets, and Planetary Nebula

"Finally, the 'planet' in planetary nebulae?" EurekaAlert (March 10, 2008)

A moderately technical look at the chemistry of stellar end-games.

Interesting, if you follow this sort of thing.

A Can of: Primordial Soup??


A photo, showing a can of "Fermilab's Primordial Soup." It's funnier, if you know a little about Fermilab and high-energy physics.

Pen Caps Double as Table Utensiles


a photo of three ballpoint pen caps that double as a knife, a fork, and a spoon.

Overused Words: Maybe

"Commonly Overused Words"

"When you write, use the most precise word for your meaning, not the word that comes to mind first. Consult this thesaurus to find alternatives for some commonly overused words. Consult a full-length thesaurus to find alternatives to words that do not appear here. Keep in mind that the choices offered in a thesaurus do not all mean exactly the same thing. Review all the options, and choose the one that best expresses your meaning."

A sort of specialized mini-thesaurus, with "overused words" from "about" to "want."

(As a recovering English teacher, I need to point out that the advice is to "use the most precise word for your meaning." Good advice: but sometimes the most precise word may be one of the "overused words.")

American Electrical Power Plugs:
Why Three Prongs?

"Why Three Prongs?"


Contemporary interiors

Contemporary (and quite pricey) interiors

Including Meti Bedroom Set, Kui Bui Resort (Thailand), Fly Bathroom (that's right: "Fly Bathroom"), Smeraldo Kitchen Collection, Malibu Estate, The Park Hotel (New Dehli, India): and quite a few more.

Lots of photos, not much text.

Magnificent European Cathedral

" Interior of Sankt Lozenz Kirche. Nurnberg, Bavaria, Germany"

Photo of one of those sculpture-in-stone old European cathedrals.

Writing One Thing Today: And Doing it Well

"Write Just One Thing Today, and Write It Well"

"I think sometimes we start writing with a fuzzy idea in our heads of what it is we want to write. For that reason, we might procrastinate on writing .... At the same time, if we do actually tackle the writing, we might be extremely unfocused .... [or] ... try to tackle too much writing each day....

"Write one thing today, and write it well. Here’s how."

A 9-point to-do list for writing. Pretty good advice.

Fiction Writing: Characters Rule the Story

"Fiction Writing: Characters Rule the Story"
Men with Pens (March 2, 2008)

"Sometimes the story makes the novel. A great idea, the perfect plot line, and you’re off and soaring. But have you ever thought that your characters might be the reason people want to read more?"

Online Software: Alternative to Traditional Desktop Apps

"Popular Desktop Applications And Their Online Alternatives" Tech Spikes (March 4th, 2008)

"Due soaring software costs, computer users are being pushed away from original software and towards piracy. However, internet has changed the scenario considerably with a lot of applications being available online. Microsoft Office has given way to Google Docs and Zoho, more and more internet users are using Meebo instead of all the instant messengers, and what’s more - all these online alternatives are free :)."

One Apartment's Worth of Furniture in a Box

"Casulo - An Entire Apartment’s Furniture in One Small Box"

An armoire, a desk, a height-adjustable stool, two more stools, a six-shelf bookcase, and a bed with a mattress: in box that measures 31 x 47 inches (80 cm x 120 cm).

Photos, description. Looks like a good idea for people who move often.

Never End a Sentence With a Preposition? Not!

"Top Ten Grammar Myths"
Grammar Girl (February 29, 2008)

Nothing about apostrophe abuse, but this is a pretty good list: and a good review for people who write.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Lemming Tracks: The Lemming's not Getting Caught Up Today

My nose has been running a marathon today. If my feet smelled, too, I could say that I'm built upside down.
  • Good News:
    I slept last night
  • Not-So-Good News:
    I'm still dealing with about 60 hours with very little sleep
And, more to the point for you, I'm not going to get today's (and yesterday's) posts done today. Tomorrow, maybe.

I did come up with something for this blog: but it's not ready for release yet.

And with that inadequate blurb, I'll quit.


Friday, March 7, 2008

Historical Futuristic Furniture

Atomare Furniture

"Furniture as ergonomic support of the human body and activity is an interesting and complex matter of design. On one hand it has to fit the human body, on the other hand it is an aesthetic and essential part of space and our environment. Fashion and function are therefore the primary design factors."

Photos and descriptions of some odd-looking furniture: the sort designed in the twentieth century. Some of it is, I understand, quite comfortable.

A commercial website

"Unbelievable Animation" -
Remarkable mix of FX and a Real Desk

"Unbelievable animation: close encounters of the desktop kind" dvice (February 14, 2008)

"You may never look at your cell phone the same way again after seeing this UFO landing on some innocent soul's desk. What a convincing special effect! Quick, look under your desk to see if any tiny aliens are crawling around down there."

Very, very good mix of special effects and a real desk.

Promoting Blogs With Social Media

"Freelance Bloggers: 12 Tips to Promote Your Work With Social Media" Daily Blog Tips (February 25, 2008)

Looks like pretty good advice.

Playgrouds: Yesterday and Today

"Playground Fun" Retrojunk - Your Memory Machine (undated, probably early 2008)

Metal to plastic, sand to woodchips: This is a pretty good look at how playgrounds have changed. Photos, personal reflections.

To Err is Human, To Really Mess Up, You Need the Internet

"Whoops! The 15 Biggest Screw-ups in Internet History"
Virtual Hosting Blog (February 13th, 2008)
By Jessica Hupp

On an Internet where foul-mouthed condescension and vitriol are too common, I very much appreciated this post's introduction:

"Everybody makes mistakes sometimes, but when those mistakes are made online by high-profile figures, it's hard not to stare at the train wreck. Whether you've accidentally launched a virus, or given control of your company blog to a stranger, it's obvious you've screwed up big time. Check out these 15 Internet screw-ups that will live in infamy."

From "Dreamhosts' $7.5 Million Billing Mistake" to "BBC Mistakes Cabbie for Internet Download Expert."

As she said, 'everybody makes mistrakes sometimes.'

Northwest London Scenes, Past and Present

"Past & present in NW London" Skyscraper City (February 15th, 2008)

Lots of photos, and a little description.

Online Typing Test

"See how fast you can type!"

An online typing test. Looks cool. I've no idea how accurate it is.

Bloxes: Smart Low Tech

"Bloxes are building blocks made of interlocking pieces of corrugated cardboard, folded together. Their unique shape and structure make them exceptionally strong and lightweight — you could build yourself a platform to stand on, and then pick it up and move it wherever you need to."

A commercial site. Looks like a good idea.
Unique, innovative candles

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