Thursday, October 30, 2008

Accuracy Matters for Bloggers

"Errors By Bloggers Kill Credibility & Traffic, Study Finds"
ReadWriteWeb (October 30, 2008)

If you're still reading, I'm probably preaching to the choir.

Here's the first paragraph:

"Blogging is fast, informal and easy to do. Spelling, grammar and factual errors happen - but do they make a material impact on the success of a blogger? A small but interesting survey run by crowdsourced copy editing service GooseGrade concludes that they do...."

The article isn't long, but it's got a fair amount of information.

Recommended for anyone who takes blogging seriously - and who wants to be taken seriously.

Outer Space Guide

"Outer Space Guide"

Animated diagram of the first few miles up from Earth's surface.

Four things to click on.

Each clickable brings up a little card (looks like a window, but it's part of the picture) with a cartoon and a factoid.

The page gets points for imagination: Earth's center is toward the top of the screen, the deeps of space are on the bottom.

Fun - for maybe 10 to 45 seconds.

But, you might find yourself coming back, later.

CoffeeQuick by Paws, Inc: Short, Silly, Funny is a URL that Garfield visited, in a comic strip back in 2001.

It's also a real mini-site, run by Paws, the Garfield company. I recommend visiting it when you don't mind disturbing others: this site is wired for sound. Don't believe the "technical difficulties" sign, by the way. The nerdy narrator will get the menu up in just a few seconds.

Don't go to CoffeeQuick if you're looking for cutting-edge graphics and AI. It's a simple, click one; click the next; and so on; set of Garfield animations.

He starts out with a cup of Limp Latte, and goes up to - I'll let you discover that.

(My coffee preferences are somewhere between Old Train Whistle and Lava Java.)


Lemming Tracks: The Lemming Has Been Thinking, Again

I missed a lot of posts lately. This is the third time that The Lemming has posted about this lack of new material: I'm still not reaching that target of three posts per day: but it's looking less unlikely now.

(There's a larger version in my new Art Gallery.)
The Lemming's Been Thinking

Thanks, everyone, for checking back with The Lemming from time to time. I appreciate that.

What Happened?

The fact is, I'm not a lemming at all. (Shocking, isn't it?!) I'm a fifty-something married guy living in a small town in the heart of darkest Minnesota.

Life has been a little more than usually interesting lately.

I'm still figuring out how to make a living: a somewhat urgent matter, since I was laid off in the spring of 2006 and still don't have steady work. You don't suppose all this time spent blogging would have anything to do with that, do you?

My father's dying, which doesn't exactly make me gleeful. He's taking the situation rather well, but it's a huge transition for the whole family. My mother died last year, so we've had some practice: which helps. In a way.

The family house, up in the Red River Valley of the North, is empty now. My wife and kids and a brother-in-law did that job. They've been bringing the household back, one van and/or truck load at a time. And, my wife's somehow been getting that crowded household's stuff into this crowded household. How, I don't know.

One of my daughters has been getting very serious about a young man. He's a great guy, but following the situation and talking it over with her on those rare occasions when she isn't consulting with my wife has used up a certain amount of nervous energy.

And, although the doctors say it can't be happening, I'm still not entirely convinced that my antidepressant and the new blood glucose medications aren't playing racquetball in my brain.

Between that, trying to revive 2-year-old projects, and learning how to exercise without that exercise place in town, I've been just a little distracted.

What Next?

Good question.

Right now, I've got a little video editing job. Too bad I don't have the software for it. There's a post or three for other blogs that are time-sensitive. One's already past due. Tomorrow's Halloween!! And, I don't have the graphics ready for that.

But, hey: no pressure.

Keep an eye on Apathetic Lemming of the North: I found a fun micro-site tonight.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Daylight Saving Time: A Modest Proposal

This post is mostly for Americans, who have a Congress to tell them how to set their clocks.

Remember the old-fashioned Daylight Saving Time?

Remember when Congress decided to improve it, back in August of 2005?

First, Some Links

Daylight Saving Time's Undervalued Bonus

It's that time of year again. For the benefit of those who can't afford airline tickets, Congress has provided America with Daylight Saving Time: thus bringing jet lag to the masses, twice a year.

I've read that having our sleeping schedules yanked around twice a year saves energy. That could be.

Daylight Saving Time: It Could Be Worse

In March, 2007, I realized that America's national leaders had failed to grasp the full potential of legislated time changes. Daylight Saving Time could be only the start of a wonderfully intricate time table, if Congress had but the imagination.

Here's what I proposed, about a year and a half ago:

Inspired by the sort of thinking that gave us daylight saving time, and now new-and-improved DST, here are three more ways that changing the clock (and, while we're at it, the calendar) could change our quality of life.
  • Set clocks back 12 hours during August
    • Keeping people quiet during the day could save enormous amounts of energy that would otherwise be wasted on air conditioning in stores and offices
  • Set clocks back ten hours and forty minutes at noon on April 15
    • This 10:40 time shift would
      • Remind those who wait until the last minute to file tax returns of the date
      • Give them more than a full business-day's-worth of additional time to get their forms in
    • Ten hours and forty minutes is a large time shift, so clocks should be set forward one hour and twenty minutes at 2:00 a.m.
      • For eight days
        • April 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, and 15
      • To minimize psychological stress
    • Although this stress-relieving measure might not save significant amounts of energy, the psychological effects could make a significant difference in quality of life
  • Finally, replace the evening of December 31 with Substance Abuse and Drug Interaction Study Time
    • Instead of over-indulging during New Year's Eve parties, citizens would be encouraged to learn about
      • Substance abuse
      • Dangers of mixing prescription drugs and alcohol
    • This should
      • Reduce deaths in drunk-driving accidents
      • Alleviate the need for expensive security measures in places like New York's Times Square
      • Promote sober, healthy lifestyles among the general public
Considering the sort of daft rules Congress could be foisting on us, maybe being jerked back and forth by an hour isn't so bad.

As we say in Minnesota, it could be worse.

Spaceport America: It's Real, and Open for Business

Spaceport America doesn't have bug-eyed monsters, curvaceous space aliens and testosterone-addled captains, or Galactic Overlords demanding tribute.

Right now, Spaceport America doesn't look all that much different from the rest of the land between Las Cruces and Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. The terminal hasn't been built yet, bids for better roads were taken this summer, there's only one tenant, and the only working launch facility is a 20-by-100 foot concrete pad.

But Spaceport America's tenant is launching payloads into space, and suborbital passenger flights are planned to start in 2010. That's when the prime tenant, Virgin Galactic, expects to have its White Knight Two and SpaceShipTwo ready.

Not everybody's happy about it: New Mexico's had to get a couple of counties to sign on with a new sales tax, which didn't go over too well for everyone.

And, if plans go ahead, someone's sure to complain about the Rocket Racing League, the 21st century's answer to NASCAR. In fact, the sort of growth that Spaceport America's expecting will probably have a "devastating" impact on the little valley between Las Cruces and Truth or Consequences. If rocket races don't aggravate someone, new people moving in, new jobs, and more traffic are just about sure to.

Related posts: In the news:

Spaceports: the Blog

"Spaceports will enable thousands of people from around the world to go to outer space. The Spaceports Blog endeavors to provide information linking those with interest in the pursuit of space to spaceport development and the people and vehicles that fly from them."
a blog

Crazy science-fiction stuff, a lot of wishful thinking from some Trek-crazed geek, right?

Nope. Spaceports are here. Get used to it.

Welcome to the 21st Century

The person who created the subject of my last micro-review (Dubai Architecture: A Photo Gallery " (October 25, 2008)) would probably think that the subject of Spaceports was imaginary. The last rendering in that was captioned, "The UAE Spaceport would be the first spaceport in the world if construction ever gets under way. I'm not joking... " [emphasis mine]

Actually, there's an operational commercial spaceport now in the American southwest: Spaceport America.

Spaceports: Reports on Spaceship Design Competitions, Second-Generation Astronauts: Humdrum Stuff Like That

If anything, the parts of Spaceports that I read suffered from being rather run-of-the-mill references to current events like:
  • The winner of a lunar lander design competition
  • A passenger on a Russian spaceship whose newsworthiness is that his father was a Skylab astronaut
  • No water-ice being found in Shackleton Crater at the Moon's south pole
  • A progress report on Virgin Galactic's WhiteKnightTwo-SpaceShipTwo commercial passenger spaceship
Spaceports is a day-to-day 'what's happening' report about the space industry. Which, when you stop and think, is a bit exciting, because it's real.

The most recent posts, to date:

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Dubai Architecture: A Photo Gallery

A page on

For the record, I don't agree with the title, or one possible interpretation of the the mildly-vulgar statements at the end of this page.

However, this collection of photographs and renderings is spectacular - from

(From, used without permission)
"Dubai in 1990 prior to the craziness"


(From, used without permission)
"The UAE Spaceport would be the first spaceport in the world if construction ever gets under way. I'm not joking... "

This page is mostly a gallery of photos and renderings of Dubai's architecture.

In my opinion, if you want to know what the 22nd century will look like, visit this page.

About Dubai's Spaceport

Based on Dubai's established record for outstanding and innovative architecture, I don't doubt that Dubai's spaceport will be spectacular.

But it isn't the first.

There's a commercial spaceport in use now. The passenger terminal hasn't been built yet, and the only in-use launch facility is a 20-by-100 foot concrete pad, but Spaceport America is up and running. That's a subject for another post: "Spaceport America: It's Real, and Open for Business " (October 25, 2008).

"Culinary Disasters:" Funny Food Flops, Fumes, and Fires

"Culinary Disasters" is a feature on Something Awful (The Internet Makes You Stupid), which is
  1. Funny
  2. Educational

Terrible Things From the Kitchen

"Culinary Disasters" is a collection of accounts from different people, of, well, culinary disasters. Tales of what can happen to innocent, wholesome food, when corrupted by some overly-optimistic and/or ignorant wannabe cook.

They're funny, and provide information that may save some grocery bag from becoming the stew that nobody can forget. No matter how hard they try.

For example, in the first few pages I learned that:
  • Parmesan cheese and tortilla chips don't make good nachos: no matter how often, or how long, you microwave it.
  • Pumpkin pies require sugar.
  • In a recipe for cookies, 1/4 teaspoon is not the equivalent of 1/4 cup: particularly when the ingredient is baking soda.

The Stew: A Murky Tale

This is, to date, my favorite. You'll have to go a few pages in to find the account, posted by Draceran.

The writer's father left for a vacation around Christmas, entrusting the house to his offspring: What could possibly go wrong?

Although potatoes, carrots, beef, onions, beer, Worcestershire Sauce, and French Onion Soup mix can be combined to form a good stew, the writer discovered that there's more to fixing food than just collecting the ingredients.

Not falling asleep helps.

A short excerpt:

"...cook goes to sleep for the non-interactive bits. No problem, right? Wrong. 0330 - A sudden pungent smell of smoke followed by a phone call. Apparently my stew is no longer food, but rather some kind of smoking bog like substance typically found in a cheap fantasy movie. Bubbles were rising slowly, plopping through the glop as a pocket of swamp gas through a mat of duckweed, each one giving a birth cry akin to an oatmeal jacuzzi...."

Eventually, an alarm company and the local fire department get involved.

I'll leave it to you to learn exactly why the father, on returning, asked: "What in God's name did you do to my house?!"

Thursday, October 23, 2008

X-Rays from Adhesive Tape: Pushing the Envelope by Peeling Tape

X-rays? From adhesive tape??

The five-dollar word for it is "triboluminescence." It's "an optical phenomenon sometimes seen when there is relative motion between two contacting surfaces...." (Nature (October 23, 2008))

You can get triboluminescence by rubbing sugar cubes or candies together. You may have seen a flash of light when you rip adhesive tape from a surface. I haven't, but then I don't often tear tape off something in the dark.

The big deal here is the amount of energy released when tape is pulled up in a vacuum. There's a lot of energy released, it's very concentrated.

What's really exciting is that there's more energy released than current theories say there should be.

On the practical side, with so much energy available so easily, UCLA and the researchers have applied for a patent covering gadgets like hand-cranked X-ray machines. That would be great for paramedics, or any sort of medical field work where electrical power is iffy or non-existent.

And, now scientists know that there's more to learn about what happens when you peel tape. It's like boating on a familiar lake, and finding an inlet you hadn't known was there.

Or, as the journal Nature put it, "The energy concentrating process at work here poses an interesting challenge for the theorists, since the limits on energies and flash widths involved are beyond the predictions of current theories." ("About the Cover" (October 23, 2008))

Juan Escobar said: "The power you could get from just peeling tape was enormous." He's a graduate student at the University of California, Los Angeles, California (where else would UCLA be?), and one of the people whose report about peeling tape is in today's Nature journal.

Peeling Tape in the News

I know: that sounds like 'in the news: linoleum peeling in Paducah.' But this story is really hot! (A little 'inside' physics joke there.)
  • "Scotch tape's surprising power: X-rays"
    CNN (October 22, 2008)
    • "NEW YORK (AP) -- Just two weeks after a Nobel Prize highlighted theoretical work on subatomic particles, physicists are announcing a startling discovery about a much more familiar form of matter: Scotch tape.
    • "It turns out that if you peel the popular adhesive tape off its roll in a vacuum chamber, it emits X-rays. The researchers even made an X-ray image of one of their fingers.
    • "Who knew? Actually, more than 50 years ago, some Russian scientists reported evidence of X-rays from peeling sticky tape off glass. But the new work demonstrates that you can get a lot of X-rays, a study co-author says...."

  • "Peeling Scotch Tape Powers X-Ray Machine"
    80beats / Discover Blogs (October 22, 2008)
    • "Peeling a roll of ordinary sticky tape can generate 100 milliwatt pulses of X-rays, enough to capture a human finger on X-ray film, according to a new study by UCLA scientists. They claim to have found the cheapest way to produce X-rays of that scale. “At some point we were a little bit scared,” says Juan Escobar, a member of the research team. But he and his co-workers soon realized that the X-rays were only emitted when the kit was used in a vacuum [Nature News]...."
  • "The Sticky-Tape X-Ray Machine"
    YouTube video (October 22, 2008)
  • "Correlation between nanosecond X-ray flashes and stick–slip friction in peeling tape"
    Nature (October 23, 2008) p1089
    • "Relative motion between two contacting surfaces can produce visible light, called triboluminescence. This concentration of diffuse mechanical energy into electromagnetic radiation has previously been observed to extend even to X-ray energies. Here we report that peeling common adhesive tape in a moderate vacuum produces radio and visible emission, along with nanosecond, 100-mW X-ray pulses that are correlated with stick–slip peeling events. ... The limits on energies and flash widths that can be achieved are beyond current theories of tribology...."
[emphasis mine]
(About that Nature journal letter: it's rather technical, and you need to have a password to see the whole thing. Which I don't have.)

About the Russian scientists: I haven't been able to find out who they were. The most specific mention of them I found was in a comment on "And now, a new use for sticky tape... X-rays" ( (October 22, 2008)). Here's the comment, including the header:
Posted by earls 18 hours ago
Rank: 5/5 after 3 votes
"Who knew? Actually, more than 50 years ago, some Russian scientists reported evidence of X-rays from peeling sticky tape off glass."

"As long ago as 1953, a team of scientists based in Russia suggested that peeling sticky tape produced X-rays. But "we were very sceptical
[!] about the old results," says Escobar. His team decided to look into the phenomenon anyway, and found that X-rays were indeed given off, in high-energy pulses."

Image of x-rays being emitted: http://www.nature...85-1.jpg

Image of finger x-ray: http://media.bonn...d472.jpg

Short Video: http://www.youtub...RvYU0e3Q

Earl didn't say where he found the information about the scientists and the year 1953.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Spaceship to the Moon: This One's from India

There's a 'race to the moon' again: this time in Asia:

"India Launches Moon Mission in Asian Space Race" (October 21, 2008)

"NEW DELHI (AP) — Scientists have better maps of distant Mars than the moon where astronauts have walked. But India hopes to change that with its first lunar mission.

"Chandrayaan-1 — which means "Moon Craft" in ancient Sanskrit — launched from the Sriharikota space center in southern India early Wednesday morning (Local Time) in a two-year mission aimed at laying the groundwork for further Indian space expeditions.

"Chief among the mission's goals is mapping not only the surface of the moon, but what lies beneath. India joined what's shaping up as a 21st century space race with Chinese and Japanese crafts already in orbit around the moon....

"Lunar mission blasts off"
The Strait Times (Singapore) (October 22, 2008)

"SRIHARIKOTA (India) - INDIA on Wednesday successfully launched its first lunar mission in a major boost for the country's space programme.

"There were cheers in mission control as the unmanned lunar orbiting spacecraft Chandrayaan-1 was launched with an Indian-built rocket from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota on the southeastern coast...."

Getting a spaceship to the moon is a pretty big deal. Five organizations have sent missions to Earth's only natural satellite so far: the United States, Russia, the European Space Agency, Japan and China. If all goes well with Chandrayaan-1, India will make it six.

And, for those who like an international flavor, six of Chandrayan-1's 11 payloads come from other countries. Including, apparently, some mapping equipment from the USA.
  1. Terrain Mapping Camera (TMC): Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)
  2. Hyper Spectral Imager (HySI): ISRO
  3. Lunar Laser Ranging Instrument (LLRI): ISRO
  4. High Energy X-ray Spectrometer (HEX): ISRO
  5. Moon Impact Probe (MIP): ISRO
  6. Chandrayaan-1 X-ray Spectrometer (C1XS): European Space Agency (ESA) with collaboration between Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, UK and ISRO Satellite Centre, ISRO
  7. Near-IR Spectrometer (SIR-2): Max-Plank-Institute for Solar System Science, through the Max-Plank Society, Germany and ESA
  8. Sub Kev Atom reflecting Analyser (SARA): ESA, in collaboration with Swedish Institute of Space Physics, Sweden and Space Physics Laboratory, Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, ISRO
  9. Radiation Dose Monitor Experiment (RADOM): Bulgarian Academy of Sciences
  10. Miniature Synthetic Aperture Radar (MiniSAR): USA through NASA
  11. Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3): Brown University and Jet Propulsion Laboratory, USA through NASA
(More about the Chandrayan-1 payloads at "Chandrayaan to carry 11 payloads" ( (October 14, 2008)).
Chandrayan? Chandrayaan? The first spelling is used in most of the articles I read, the second in the This is the sort of thing that happens when words from one language - and writing system - are dropped into another. I'm using the first for what I write in this post, and leaving the 'double a' version in the article.

Monday, October 20, 2008

That's Fishy: Woman's Odor is All in Her Head, Her Breath, and Her Genes

"Woman's fishy-smelling mystery solved" (October 19, 2008)

"A WOMAN who spent four decades puzzled by a pungent body odour 'resembling rotting fish' has finally had the smell explained by Australian doctors.

"The woman has been diagnosed with an incurable genetic condition called trimethylaminuria, or fish malodour syndrome, which affects the smell of sweat, breath and urine...."

"...Part of doctors' examinations included 'being sniffed', with all writing her off as a hypochondriac.

" 'She was repeatedly told that she had a hygiene neurosis,' the specialist said...."

Let's not be too hard on the doctors who said that her smell was all in her head: it can be embarrassing to admit that you haven't a clue. And, it still seems to be 'well known' among doctors that women are hysterical and make up all kinds of ailments. Like PMS.

Oh, yes: and teething babies don't feel pain.

"Presidential Fun Facts"

"Presidential Fun Facts"
Little Known Fun Facts


"...EIGHT PRESIDENTS were born British subjects: Washington, J. Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, J. Q. Adams, Jackson, and W. Harrison."

"NINE PRESIDENTS never attended college: Washington, Jackson, Van Buren, Taylor, Fillmore, Lincoln, A. Johnson, Cleveland, and Truman. The college that has the most presidents as alumni (five in total) is Harvard: J. Adams, J. Q. Adams, T. Roosevelt, F. Roosevelt, and Kennedy...."

"...THE TALLEST president was Lincoln at 6'4"; at 5'4", Madison was the shortest...."

I enjoyed going through this page, particularly since it was such a sharp contrast to the presidential election. I hope you do, too.

Friday, October 17, 2008

New Planet is Hot Find

"Hottest Planet Ever Discovered" (October 16, 2008)

"In the hunt for extrasolar planets, a new find is shattering records left and right.

"A planet called WASP-12b is the hottest planet ever discovered (about 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit, or 2,200 degrees Celsius), and orbits its star faster and closer in than any other known world...."

"...The planet, which orbits a star 870 light years from Earth, is especially notable because it pushes the bounds of how close planets can ever come to their stars without being destroyed...."

WASP-12b is exciting for people who study how planets are formed, because it is an extreme case. Any theory of planet formation now has to allow the existence of something one and a half times the mass of Jupiter, orbiting that close to the star.

And, information from study of WASP-12b will add to the store of facts that can be used to form or refine those theories.

WASP stands for Wide Area Search for Planets.

Press Release
University of California, Santa Barbara (April 1, 2008)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Use It Or Lose It: Web Surfing As Brain Exercise

"Internet Searching May Boost Brain"
LiveScience (October 14, 2008)

"For middle-aged and older adults, searching the Internet could be a boost to the brain, a new study suggests.

"In recent years, several studies have showed a link between pursuing activities that keep the mind engaged, such as crossword puzzles and memory games, and a lowered risk of cognitive decline later in life.

"As the brain ages, a number of structural and functional changes...."

Turns out, Web surfing uses circuits that aren't engaged when we're just reading. And, that should help keep the brain working better, longer.

Besides that, you learn the darndest things.

Lemming Tracks: The Lemming Has Been Thinking

I'm obviously not keeping up with my 'three posts a day' routine.

I'll post about that, later.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Minnesota Lakes Maritime Museum: Old Stuff in a New Place

Minnesota Lakes Maritime Museum
Alexandria, Minnesota

It's been open since May, 2007. Which may explain why I haven't seen the place. I haven't been getting around all that much lately, not out of Sauk Centre, anyway.

"The Minnesota Lakes Maritime Museum has been built and opened in May 2007 at their new location on 3rd Street West in downtown Alexandria. A beautiful public park complete with walking paths and picnic areas will be...." is part of what the website has to say about the museum.

Sounds like a neat place.

(Hats off to my oldest daughter, for telling me about the MLMM.)

Friday, October 3, 2008

The Damp Case of the Soggy Cell Phone: Jeremy and the Toilet

I got a much-needed dose of humor this week, in the Zits comic strip (nine years and still going strong).

Jeremy, the cell phone, and the toilet:
  • Monday
    Jeremy Duncan's mother learns that Jeremy dropped his cell phone in the toilet
  • Tuesday
    While texting
  • Wednesday
    No, I can't write this
  • Thursday
    I'm with Jeremy on this idea
  • Friday
    This approach involves Kitty Litter
Unique, innovative candles

Visit us online:
Spiral Light CandleFind a Retailer
Spiral Light Candle online store

Pinterest: From the Man Behind the Lemming

Top 10 Most-Viewed Posts

Today's News! Some of it, anyway

Actually, some of yesterday's news may be here. Or maybe last week's.
The software and science stuff might still be interesting, though. Or not.
The Lemming thinks it's interesting: Your experience may vary.
("Following" list moved here, after Blogger changed formats)

Who Follows the Lemming?


Family Blogs - Blog Catalog Blog Directory