Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Cheerleaders Take Off Skimpy Uniforms at Request of Fans

It's not what you think.

In the news: The Idaho U. cheerleaders' bare-midriff, mini-skirted, laced-up uniforms drew complaints from spectators. As the L.A. Times put it, " 'A number of fans were concerned that the uniforms were inappropriate,' said Bruce Pitman, dean of students. 'To be fair, there were a number of fans who liked them.' " I can see both points.

The uniforms aren't all that revealing, by contemporary standards, from most angles, provided the young women don't move around too much. What I still don't understand is how they can do some of the usual cheerleader moves, without that skirt riding up, turning inside out, and becoming a cummerbund.

(From The Argonaut, via FOXNews, used without permission.)
"...'Most of the girls loved them and looked great in them.'..." (The Argonaut)

(From NWCN.com via Chicago Sun-Times, used without permission)
"...'Girls are just bigger these days, not everybody's a size zero,'...." (Los Angeles Times)

"I still think the purpose of cheerleaders is to distract the other team." (A Minnesotan, after hearing about the Idaho cheerleaders)

Re-Thinking This Galaxy's Habitable Zone

This won't make a bit of difference in how your coffee tastes, or whether the Mets will win the pennant.

But I thought it was interesting.

"Sun May Be Galactic Hitchhiker"
Space.com (September 22, 2008)

There have been assumptions about how stars orbit in the Milky Way galaxy, and what areas of the galaxy would be more - or less - favorable for life to exist. Those assumptions were reasonable, based on data that astronomers had, and mathematical models that they'd developed.

Now, there's a new model that may be a better fit with the real world. And, it shows that circular orbits in this galaxy shouldn't be that unusual - and that the orbits can shrink or grow and stay circular.

Which means that stars, including our sun, don't necessarily stay near where they were formed. It also means that the idea of "habitable zones" in the galaxy needs to be re-thought, since stars shift around more than we thought.
Related posts, at

The Million-Dollar Umbrella

"Judge tosses restaurant owner's umbrella suit against model Le Call"
Daily News (September 12, 2008)

A Manhattan judge tossed out the case of a chap who lent an umbrella worth $5,000 USD to a model, and got it back "in pieces."

On top of that, the judge fined the bereaved umbrella-owner's lawyer for $500 for "wasting the court's time on a matter that belonged in small-claims court."

For someone like me, $5,000 doesn't feel like "small claims," but then I don't live in Manhattan and own a limited-edition leather umbrella.

I suppose I can see the umbrella-owner's point. He says that he loved that umbrella. He misses it. And he doesn't think the model was very polite.

I wondered why he would loan a treasure like that to some stranger, until I saw the model's photo, in the Daily News article. I've known men to do dafter things, faced with someone who looks like that.

Lemming Tracks: The Lemming Fell Behind

There's a slogan on a coffee cup that reads something like "God put me in this world to do a number of things. By now I'm so far behind, I'll never die."

That's about the way I feel right now.

Taking a look at the Lemming log, I see that it's been a week since I posted anything here. My target is still "Three micro-reviews, plus the occasional rant, daily! (on average, technology and the nature of the universe permitting)."

Eventually, I may catch up. There have been, and probably will be again, days when posts seem to jump from my mind, through the brain, to my fingers and the keyboard, like caffeinated chihuahuas.

Those days haven't been happening lately.

However, I did find a few odd, interesting, and/or informative items on the Web recently: which I'll now write a little about.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Arrr! It Be Talk Like a Pirate Day Tomorrow

The Official Site of International Talk Like A Pirate Day

"September 19th (every year) is International Talk Like A Pirate Day"

I must be seriously out of touch. Talk Like A Pirate Day (or TLAPD), has been growing for at least six years. And this is the first I've heard about it.

Arrrr! That be most distressing!

Happily, The Official Site of International Talk Like a Pirate Day is helping me make up for lost time. They've even got a page that gives a quick explanation of why you should talk like a pirate, and how. With mmp3-format examples in German, Swedish, Mandarin Chinese.

Yes, it's an international phenomenon.

The Official Site of International Talk Like A Pirate Day website has a online software, too: like an English-to-Pirate Translator. It be no substitute for proper study o' t' pirate dialect, but tis sufficient to get a lubber started.

And, a personality test: "Find yer inner pirate."

I was going to look for some more 'talk like a pirate' links, but The Official Site of International Talk Like A Pirate Day website beat me to it: with a page called, logically enough, "Pirate Links."

I feel like a bilge rat that's poked it's whiskers above deck to behold a vast and brighter world.

I best be shovin' off now.
But before doin' so, a word about that personality test. I ventured a run through it, taking to particular care about accuracy or verisimilitude, and came up with this:

You are The Cap'n!

Some men and women are born great, some achieve greatness and some slit the throats of any scalawag who stands between them and unlimited power. You never met a man - or woman - you couldn't eviscerate. You are the definitive Man of Action, the CEO of the Seven Seas, Lee Iacocca in a blousy shirt and drawstring-fly pants. You're mission-oriented, and if anyone gets in the way, that's his problem, now isn't? Your buckle was swashed long ago and you have never been so sure of anything as your ability to bend everyone to your will. You will call anyone out and cut off his head if he shows any sign of taking you on or backing down. If one of your lieutenants shows an overly developed sense of ambition he may find more suitable accommodations in Davy Jones' locker. That is, of course, IF you notice him. You tend to be self absorbed - a weakness that may keep you from seeing enemies where they are and imagining them where they are not.

What's Yer Inner Pirate?
brought to you by The Official Talk Like A Pirate Web Site. Arrrrr!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

CERN's Large Hadron Collider Goes Full Circuit

Something really big happened today:
(From The Daily Mirror, used without permission.)

The CERN Large Hadron Collider (LHC), is a 17-mile-long circular tunnel under a couple of countries in Europe, filled with an extremely powerful particle accelerator.

Depending on who you read, today either: An international team of physicists made a huge step toward understanding how matter works, and what happened in the first moments after the big bang, or; A gang of mad scientists created an entity that will destroy the world.

Putting today's even in more ordinary terms, physicists at the LHC powered it up today, and shot particles all the way around the circle. It's a huge step toward making full use of the research tool, and a remarkable achievement.

As National Geographic wrote, the Large Hadron Collider "actually worked."

What's This About the End of the World?

Otto E. Rössler thinks that the 'mini black holes' that the LHC makes will fall to the core of the Earth. This is what Rössler says he thinks will happen:

"Nothing will happen for at least four years. Then someone will spot a light-ray coming out of the Indian Ocean.

"A few weeks later we will see a stream of particles coming out of the soil on the other side of the planet. The weather will change completely, wiping out life. There will be a Biblical Armageddon." (The Daily Mirror, September 10, 2008).

Sounds dire. And, by accident or design, four years from now is 2012: remember that Mayan 2012 doomsday that was all the rage a little while ago?

Otto E. Rössler is Dr. Otto E. Rössler, PhD. He's a scientist. He seems to have gotten his degree by studying medicine, biochemistry, and chemistry. Not physics.

Although he was a "Visiting Professor of Theoretical Physics" at a Danish university in 1993.

His background in biochemistry and medicine, and interest in Dr. Art Winfree's biorhythms (blending mathematics and life science to study how fireflies blink, among other things), apparently give him insights into high-energy physics that the scientists at CERN don't have.

Then again, he may be wrong.

My guess is that I'll be watching video coverage of New York City's Times Square toward the end of December 31, 2012: and there won't be any mysterious bright light at the bottom of the Indian ocean.

And, I hope that I'll be reading about what the CERN scientists and their Large Hadron Collector are up to.

I've been following CERN's LHC for a while now: More:
Finally, a little background about:

Sunday, September 7, 2008

A Really Big, Expensive House

"Camelback Contemporary, Estate of the Day"
Luxist (August 28th 2008)

"Today's estate would be a lot to live up to, the cool factor is pretty high. Out of the sleek modern homes perched on Camelback Mountain with views of Phoenix, Arizona, this is one of the best. The three-bedroom home features glass walls which open out onto terraces and a cantilevered pool and submerged Jacuzzi...."

With lots of photos.

Cool? Definitely. Also spectacular, extravagant, lavish, huge, and includes a two-bedroom guest house.

This is an upscale residence that I can imagine someone wanting to live in.

Awww: Lots of Animal Pictures

"Some people are great with cameras..........."
Bin's Corner (undated)

I liked this collection of appealing photos of animals, like the giraffes here. Also dogs, cats, horses, ducklings, and assorted other critters.

Strange-Looking House

"House on hazardous hill, The Treehouse, Victoria, Australia"
Architecture and Design News - Nikiomahe.com (August 18th, 2008)

"Jackson Clements Burrows Pty Ltd Architects were formed ten years ago and have since been making architecture which with its surroundings and according to their mission, their design methodology “is often informed by making intelligent decisions about perceived constraints”. Such constraints are not obvious in this angular design perched on a steep hillside at Separation Creek in Victoria, Australia.

"The hazardous-looking balcony ledge appears so large as to...."

I'm not so sure about someone writing that a building "empathises" with anything. It's a real word - the third-person singular simple present indicative form of empathise - but I rather doubt that a house is capable of that sort of understanding.

The article has photos, an elevation, and a site plan.

I think the house is nicer to live in, than to look at.

But Wait, There's More! The Paralympics Starts in Beijing

"Fireworks, spectacle open Beijing Paralympics"
CNN (September 6, 2008)

"BEIJING, China (AP) -- The Paralympic Games opened in Beijing on Saturday with a burst of fireworks as China welcomed another chance to cement its role as a global player to an international audience.

"Thousands of cheerleaders and dancers in puffy, rainbow-colored suits performed a dance routine in the center of the field at the National Stadium before athletes from 148 countries were introduced. The crowd cheered and waved flags as China's Communist Party leaders and foreign dignitaries looked on.

"The guest list included Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, German President Horst Koehler and South Korean Prime Minister Han Seung-soo...."

The Paralympics is a remarkable display of swimmers with one leg, runners with no legs, and assorted other people who manage to perform in sports, despite daunting physical limitations.

More, at the Paralympics website.

And, of course, the official website of the Beijing Paralympic Games: "one World - One Dream."

Saturday, September 6, 2008

The Purple Hills of Earth?

"Early Earth Was Purple, Study Suggests"
LiveScience (April 10, 2007)

"The earliest life on Earth might have been just as purple as it is green today, a scientist claims.

"Ancient microbes might have used a molecule other than chlorophyll to harness the Sun's rays, one that gave the organisms a violet hue.

"Chlorophyll, the main photosynthetic pigment of plants, absorbs mainly blue and red wavelengths from the Sun and reflects green ones, and it is this reflected light that gives plants their leafy color. This fact puzzles some biologists because the sun transmits most of its energy in the green part of the visible spectrum...."

The key word here is "might." The idea is that early photosynthetic organisms might have used retinal, instead of chlorophyll, to get energy from sunlight. There are microorganisms around today that use retinal this way: halobacteria. They're not actually quite bacteria: halobacteria are part of a very ancient group of organisms called archaea.

There's a rather mind-numbingly technical discussion of halobacteria at "MICR 425: PHYSIOLOGY & BIOCHEMISTRY of MICROORGANISMS - HALOBACTERIA" (Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, College of Science (August 3, 1999)).

I can't see how this will help you find a better prices at the grocery, or help me attract more hummingbirds to the feeder.

On the other hand, it's a fascinating bit of informed speculation about what Earth was like a few billion years back. Also, when looking for life around other stars, it's likely that we shouldn't assume that plants are always green. Or, for that matter, that photosynthetic creatures are always plants.
Related posts, at

Google's Chrome Fast: And I Won't be Using it Soon

My son thought Chrome was pretty cool when he first tried it. I think he still does.

I've read about it, and am impressed with Google's new browser, but I won't be using it any time soon.

It isn't the automatic download and installation of updates. That makes some sense: although I generally set things up so that the updates download in the background, but let me know when it's time to install them.

CNet and FOXNews noted some "creepy language" in Chrome's TOS.

If you use Google's Chrome, you keep the copyright to any of your content that you use in the browser, "By submitting, posting or displaying the content you give Google a perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive license...." That's the start of two long sentences that keep me away from Chrome for now.

I understand that Google wants to - and needs to - market its services and products, but as professional writer, I have to be cautious about what intellectual property rights I give away.

As FOXNews put it, "...Google claims the right to use anything you create using its Web-based applications, such as the Google Docs office suite, the Picasa photo organizer or the Blogger blog creator to promote its own services, without permission or compensation...." I suspect - and hope - that Google will step back from the rather sweeping language quoted in both articles.

Aside from the TOS, and some 'verson 0' issues, Chrome seems to be a fine browser: and very fast.


Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Ancient Art and Computers


"TheOrigins has helped people add unique cultural art to their homes and offices since 1998. With art inspired from temples, tombs, pyramids, ancient cities, archaeological digs, and medieval castles, theOrigins has helped create a unique atmosphere to many homes and offices...."

This company gives you the opportunity to dress up your work space with reproductions of Ancient Egyptian statues and plaques, Celtic jewelery, and computer equipment.

(from theOrigns, used without permission.)

A little weird, and quite cool.

Flag Day's History

"The History Of Flag Day"

"The Fourth of July was traditionally celebrated as America's birthday, but the idea of an annual day specifically celebrating the Flag is believed to have first originated in 1885. BJ Cigrand, a schoolteacher, arranged for the pupils in the Fredonia, Wisconsin Public School, District 6, to observe June 14 (the 108th anniversary of the official adoption of The Stars and Stripes) as 'Flag Birthday'. In numerous magazines and newspaper...."

If you read this page, next June 14 you'll know why America has Flag Day.

Earth's Shadow

"Partial Lunar Eclipse: 2008-08-16"
Solar and Lunar Eclipse Image Gallery (August 16, 2008)

"Ever since man's first appearance on this planet, eclipses have been regarded as both mystical and devine [!] with some cultures, for example, associating a lunar eclipse with the imminent arrival of death, war and/or famine. Although the distance of the moon and sun from earth...."

The photo on this page is worth looking at: a multiple-exposure shot of the moon, showing quite a bit of Earth's shadow.

How to Draw a Hug and a Kiss

"How to Draw Romantic Couples"
How to Draw People (August 26, 2008)

"Couples are a unique challenge when learning how to draw people. Not only do you have to draw two people accurately, but you often need to draw them in a way which shows the closeness of their relationship with each other. The easiest way to do this...."

The post is short, with three simple illustrations, but it's got a good information-to-fluff ratio, and represents one of the few discussions of this aspect of drawing I've run into.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Binder Clips and #2 Pencils: Deadly Weapons?!

"Binder Clips into Office Weapons"
Shoplet.com (August 18, 2008)

Wow, if you thought working at your white-collared job, sitting in your well equipped air-conditioned office, thinking that this is probably one of the safest place to be… you may just want to think twice about that. The office is a jungle. Beside having to watch your back...."

The process of weaponizing binder clips, rubber bands, and pencils is described and illustrated with photographs.

Very interesting. Also, one of the few times I'll have a disclaimer. I don't recommend the use of weaponized binder clips. This post is for informational (and entertainment) purposes only.

Monday, September 1, 2008

New Orleans: There's Good News Here

Today, New Orleans is a case of good news/bad news. For example:
Bad News Good News
As of 2006, neighborhoods that weren't doing very well before Hurricane Katrina - still weren't doing very well. Neighborhoods that hadn't been sinking, economically, before Katrina were recovering.
A great many people left New Orleans, escaping Hurricane Katrina. As of last summer, About 50,000 people had returned eastern New Orleans.
The New York Times described the pre-Katrina New Orleans school system as "stagnant" As of last summer, New Orleans students' scores were improving.

There are other improvements, too. As Katrina bore down on New Orleans, city leaders told police officers to forget about their families. Some forgot about their jobs, instead. "It's a double-edged sword, and it's either your co-workers or your family," one New Orleans cop said. "And I will choose my family every time." This time around, all 1,485 or New Orlean's police officers got paid time off, so they could get their families to safety.

At least, I think it's an improvement. I'd be a little worried about someone who could say, 'sure, why not?' when told to let the spouse and kids drown.

Evacuation of New Orleans wasn't the mess it was before, and during, Katrina. I even see one of the 'failures' as good news. The city had a bar code system set up to track people leaving the city. The system failed: so New Orleans' leaders dropped the system, and got people on the buses anyway. They say they'll collect information from people at the other end.

Failure? Yes: but when the bar-coded wristband system wasn't working, the powers that be in today's New Orleans didn't stop the evacuation. Job one was getting people out of harm's way, and that's what they did.

Right now, late on Labor Day, waves are going over the top of some levees in and around New Orleans, but the levees are still there. Including the Industrial Canal levee that broke during Katrina.

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New Orleans isn't out of trouble yet. It looks like Gustav is going to be around for a while, and there's been some damage.

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