Saturday, January 31, 2009

More Writing Prompts

Dan Wiencek, McSweeney's Internet Tendency

#1 is "Write a scene showing a man and a woman arguing over the man's friendship with a former girlfriend. Do not mention the girlfriend, the man, the woman, or the argument."

#13: "A man has a terrifying dream in which he is being sawn in half. He wakes to find himself in the Indian Ocean, naked and clinging to a door; a hotel keycard is clenched in his teeth. Write what happens next."

Looks like a pretty good resource. #13 has me wondering: what would happen next? And, how did he wind up on that door?

Cool Bedroom: Practical, Maybe Not - But Cool

"The coolest bedroom in the World"

(mystemornings, via Natuba, used w/o permission)
Posted on Natuba (June, 2008)
I agree: it's cool. One of the comments mentioned the acoustics: which could be quite, ah, interesting.

What struck me first was that it looked great, could be a wonderful place to sleep, and that about two and a half steps in the morning could drop you in the pool.

Flip Table: Cool Design, Cool Video

"The flip table"
flip furniture

"The flip table flips and slides, simply and solidly from coffee table to dining table in two easy moves.

"Made from sustainable wood (FCS, PEFC certified) the table is available in either an European oak or European walnut finish. We also offer a bespoke service;..."

There's a rather cool high-contrast video on the page, showing how the flip table works.

This looks like a nice, versatile, piece of furniture.

About the "sustainable wood," though: I've been running into the word "sustainable" for some time now. I think I understand the concern that people feel about using precious resources like wood. The way some builders and designers talk, you'd think that wood grows on trees!

Getting Paid to Write: Not the Worst Idea in the World

"10 Online Publishers That Want To Pay You to Write"
Bukisa (January 24, 2009)

"The Internet has made it possible for ordinary people like yourself to write and make money from the very thing that you already enjoy doing. Webmasters are consistently on the lookout to partner with eager writers that desire to share their passions with other people around the world. Most smart webmasters have already learned that in order to attract and maintain a healthy population of amazing authors is to share the ad revenue or just pay them well for their services.

"Personally, I have always enjoyed writing and...."

First: a disclaimer.

I haven't researched Bukisa, or any of the outfits listed. They all look fine, but that doesn't mean that I endorse them.

In fact, I'd appreciate comments from people who do have knowledge or experience with places like Triond and MatrixMails.

The idea of getting paid to write isn't new, to put it mildly. And, it looks it's catching on, on the Internet.

Remember Political Correctness? - Superperson, Dicjanetionaries, and an Article in a Processed Tree Carcass

Remember when terms like "womyn" and "waitron" were accepted (or required), but "battered spouse" wasn't? When, if you were a college student, every week or so you were informed of the currently correct term for persons whose ancestors moved across the Bering Strait about 20,000 years back?

If you don't, you missed one of the more colorful periods of America's cultural history.

Nostalgic About the Thought Police?

It's not to late to enjoy the afterglow of political correctness. Lists of words and phrases from the glory days of the thought police are online.

A small selection, with a mini-micro review for each:
  • "A List of Politically Correct (PC) Terms" (
    • Listed for laughs, this compilation is flawed, and (IMO) funny
  • "Politically Incorrect Dictionary" (part of the Newspeak Dictionary - as of today, over 2,000,000 thought criminals served)
    • Takes the Orwellian aspects of politically correctness rather seriously
    • Features a quite short list of PC terms
  • "Politically Correct Terms & Phrases"
    (Joke Break,
    • The most comprehensive list of the lot
    • Includes terms which I remember from the seventies and eighties, which do not appear in the other two - like
      • "Animal companion" for "pet"
      • "Legalized rape" for "marriage"
    • Is opinionated
      • "Politically correct" for "rude"
    • Needs to be taken with a grain of salt
      • Puts opinion, sarcasm, and straightforward records in one list
As a handicapable person in a relationship of legalised rape (I'm not making that up) with a domestic engineer, I've learned to ignore the silly seriousness of political correctness (being leagues away from a college or university helps), and enjoy the humor.

Criticism of the Word Police - in The New York Times

I think a sign that political correctness has been recognized as an alternatively relevant philosophy is that The New York Times published a cautiously critical article on the subject. Almost 15 years ago.

I found it, after stumbling across this letter to the editor:

"Advancing The Gender-Neutral"

The New York Times (February 7, 1993)

"To the Editor:

"Brava to Ms. Kakutani for her informative and insightful article on politically correct word usage. I have not read the dic(Jane?)tionaries that Ms. Kakutani mentioned, but found the excerpts she cited most interesting. Let us do away with such obviously offensive terms as 'bull market'...."

Michiko Kakutani's article:

"The Word Police"
The New York Times (January 31, 1993)

" THIS month's inaugural festivities, with their celebration, in Maya Angelou's words, of "humankind" -- "the Asian, the Hispanic, the Jew/ The African, the Native American, the Sioux,/ The Catholic, the Muslim, the French, the Greek/ The Irish, the Rabbi, the Priest, the Sheik,/ The Gay, the Straight, the Preacher,/ The privileged, the homeless, the Teacher" -- constituted a kind of official embrace of multiculturalism and a new politics of inclusion.

"The mood of political correctness, however, has already made firm inroads into popular culture. Washington boasts a store called Politically Correct that sells pro-whale, anti-meat, ban-the-bomb T-shirts, bumper stickers and buttons, as well as a local cable television show called "Politically Correct Cooking" that features interviews in the kitchen with representatives from groups like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

"The Coppertone suntan lotion people are planning to give their longtime cover girl, Little Miss (Ms?) Coppertone, a male equivalent, Little Mr. Coppertone. And even Superman (Superperson?) is rumored to be returning this spring, reincarnated as four ethnically diverse clones: an African-American, an Asian, a Caucasian and a Latino...."

"...For the dedicated user of politically correct language, all these rules can make for some messy moral dilemmas. Whereas "battered wife" is a gender-biased term, the gender-free term 'battered spouse,' Ms. Maggio notes, incorrectly implies 'that men and women are equally battered.'..."

As the song said, "...the times they are a-changin'."
I ran across some of these pages while doing research and Web surfing recently. In the interests of bringing these gems from the wonderfully weird world of human nature to your attention, I wrote this post, and "Now there are Two "Heroes of the Hudson " (January 31, 2009).


Now there are Two "Heroes of the Hudson"

Now there are two "Heroes of the Hudson" - US Airways pilot Chesley 'Sully' Sullenberger and an online video game. The online game lets players save the lives of everyone on an airliner, and be a hero.

And some people feel that it's - you guessed it - "offensive."

From today's Sky News article:

"Outcry Over 'Hero Of Hudson' Game"
Sky News via Yahoo! News (January 31, 2009)

"Web-users have been given the chance to become the 'Hero of the Hudson' - but some have branded the online game as 'offensive'.

"US Airways pilot Chesley 'Sully' Sullenberger's heroic splash landing into the River Hudson earlier this month saved dozens of lives and was heralded as a miracle.

"Now a team of developers has created an online video game that lets users try their hand at his landing...."

Yesterday, Sky News posted:

"Be Your Own 'Hero Of The Hudson' "
Sky News via Yahoo! News (January 30, 2009)

"Web-users have been given the chance to become the 'Hero of the Hudson'....

"...But the new game has had a mixed response online.

One blogger comments: "The game is about as primitive as you can get.

"Most of the comments below the game hit it on the head. It's boring, stupid and offensive."

Yet it is spreading fast across the web and has already been played by several thousand people.

I wanted to check out the game, at, but all I got was a "This Account Has Exceeded Its CPU Quota" notice. Looks like quite a few people are about as insensitive as I am.

"Offensive?" Seriously?

I don't know whether the people who think that "Hero of the Hudson" is offensive because they think it
  • Is boring, primitive, and stupid
  • Celebrates heroic acts
  • Will cause mental anguish and emotional pain (or is that mental pain and emotional anguish?) to the survivors
  • Exploits Jennifer Hudson
Whatever the reason, a whole lot of other people enjoyed it. As for the chronically-offended, that's a matter for another post.
I ran across some of these pages while doing research and Web surfing recently. In the interests of bringing these gems from the wonderfully weird world of human nature to your attention, I wrote this post, and "Remember Political Correctness? - Superperson, Dicjanetionaries, and an Article in a Processed Tree Carcass" (January 31, 2009).


Friday, January 30, 2009

How Deep is Minnesota Snow? Now You Can Know!

"Weekly Snow Depth and Snow Depth Ranking Maps"
University of Minnesota's Minnesota Climatology Working Group (last update January 29, 2009)

If your life won't be complete, if you don't know just how much snow has fallen on Minnesota, there's hope! The University of Minnesota's MCWG puts maps online at weekly intervals (more or less), showing how much snow is where in the Land of 10,000 Lakes and 10,000,000,000 Mosquitoes.

(from Weekly Snow Depth and Snow Depth Ranking Maps, used without permission)

From what I see on the map, and what's outside where I live, my guess is that the color coding goes to feet and inches after the color for eight inches. I wouldn't mind seeing an explanation for that somewhere.

For what it's worth, that means that there's a foot and a few inches of snow on the ground around here - on average.

There are "snow depth ranking" maps, too, and an explanation of what that means.

They've got maps going back to the winter of 1996-97.

"Kittens Meet Roomba" - the Video

"Kittens Meet Roomba"
TechEBlog (January 30, 2009)

Need one say more? The blogger thought so:

"If there were theme parks for animals, the Roomba would definitely be a main attraction. In this video, a litter of kittens prove just how fun, or not, it is to ride the robotic vacuum."

There's a photo and a video. The video had over 8,000 views when I saw it - and it was posted today.

Cute! And, although I can't see their faces, their body language indicates that the kittens weren't particularly concerned about the robot. They may even have been enjoying their ride.
There's another video, with fewer but larger cats:

"roomba, kitties. kitties, roomba!"

funkia, YouTube
video (1:04)

"the kitties meet the new roomba."

The Lemming is Getting Caught Up

Sorry about missing yesterday's three posts. I'm starting to get caught up.

The Lemming's life has been a bit more exciting than usual. Wednesday afternoon, my wife and one of our daughters were in a vehicular accident. Aside from a broken wrist and a couple of sprained bodies (that's not what the doctors said, but you get the picture), they're okay.

And, I've been a bit distracted. (More, at Through One Dad's Eye (The most recent post there, as of now, is "Medical Meets Creative").)

"Hetalia: Axis Powers" - an Equal-Opportunity Offender, and Very Funny

"Hetalia: Axis Powers"
Online comic, Manga

"Think of it like WWII, except every country is a pretty boy instead. A hilariously stereotypical pretty boy. America loves burgers, Russia is into the vodka, and China has pandas and a Wok.

"It is centered mostly around Italy, who has both a North and South character. The Hetalia portion of the name is probably mocking Italy, as Hetare means 'Useless'...."

Unlike almost everything else the Lemming does these micro-reviews on, several linking services think this online comic has 'adult' content, or isn't suitable for pre-teens.

They're probably right. There's a bit of rather rough language in "Hetalia: Axis Powers" - and it is politically incorrect. Really non-PC, not the sort of tepidly daring stuff I remember from "Politically Incorrect" and other mainstream forays into the world we share.

Did I mention, it's funny!? That's my opinion, and that of one of my daughters. She's the one who steered me to "Hetalia: Axis Powers" in the first place.

The character Germany seems to be the most likable of the lot - and he has problems with his boss. America is over-energized and has a hero complex, Italy has a thing about pasta, and China - I'll let you work that out for yourself. That's assuming that you want to risk exposure to this comic.

Here's a sample, from commentary, of the sort of heartless insensitivity you'll run into: "Because he boiled pasta even in the middle of the desert, Germany had to bail him out when he ran out of water and was dying of thirst."

I can't recommend "Hetalia: Axis Powers" to anyone who
  • Is offended by national stereotypes
  • Has gone through sensitivity training
  • Thinks "Hogan's Heroes" isn't funny
  • Subscribes to any magazine with "Oppressed" in the title
Everyone else, though, should be able to read it with minimal risk. You might even think it's funny: but that's a matter of taste.

It seems to start here.

A sample (some are in color):

"Here, the Italian front, where Italy and Germany continues to stare down each other..."

(from Equivalential, LiveJournal, used without permission)

I understand that it's being translated into English. And, that an anime version got into the planning stages, but was scrapped. For obvious reasons.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

New York City World Trade Center Updates

Wonder how the New York City World Trade Center reconstruction project is going?

The "Project Updates" page of has links that are supposed to tell you.

Looks like a good idea: they say the pages are updated when there's a significant change. They've got photos, and, for the Freedom Tower page, links to animated flybys.

From some angles, in the flybys, the Freedom Tower looks an awful lot like San Francisco's Trans America Pyramid.

Nigerian Scam on Facebook - an Example

"What A Nigerian Facebook Scam Looks Like"
Silicon Valley Insider (January 24, 2009)

"Facebook is arguably one of the safer corners of the Internet, with fairly complex security and privacy controls. But when passwords get busted, even on Facebook, not everyone is whom they're pretending to be. Like a Nigerian scammer, posing only slightly convincingly as one of your real-life friends, trying to get you to send them a $900 wire transfer.

"A former university colleague ("Evan") passed along this Facebook conversation, which he promises really happened to him. In it, a scammer takes over one of his real-world friend's accounts...."

Pretty good account of what happened - and Facebook's response.

Also, a reminder to be careful - and think before sending money, giving personal or confidential information, and all that.

Analog-to-Digital Television Switch - Back to February 17

"House Kills Digital TV Delay; Still Set for Feb. 17"
Wired (January 28, 2009)

"The House, led by minority Republicans, killed a bill Tuesday that would have delayed the nation's switchover to digital television by four months. The legislative sideshow threatened to push back the rollout until June 12 (not really, but read on) which is now still on track to occur Feb. 17 -- ready or not.

"And while the bill actually would not have exactly solved the readiness issue it is a virtual certainty now that something in the neighborhood of 6 million U.S. homes will be seeing snow instead of their favorite programs on the family set in less than three weeks -- unless this inaction by Congress somehow spurs tremendous behavior modification by analog stragglers to do the things they haven't bothered to do for the past three years...."

I still think we could have held out for the right to free widescreen digital television sets, and a constitutional amendment that would require all TV news anchors to be beautiful women. But maybe Congress has more pressing matters to consider.

Related posts:

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Digital Television Delay Vote Delayed

"Digital TV switch could be delayed by vote"
CNN (January 27, 2009)

"WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Congress postponed until Wednesday a vote on an emergency measure to delay until June next month's scheduled death of television as you've known it.

"Senators, worried about the static they'll see when the plug is pulled on analog television broadcasts in the United States, approved the bill by unanimous consent Monday...."

At this rate, it could be June before Congress actually votes.

While they're at it, maybe we should all ask for free digital television sets. Widescreen, of course.

Related posts:

The Lemming Got Geeky

I see that the Lemming has been a bit more geeky than usual lately. Considering my interests, that not so surprising.

Still, I'll keep an eye on what the Lemming posts.

Exoplanets - Wired's Top Five Most Extreme

"Top 5 Most Extreme Exoplanets"
Wired (January 21, 2009)

"Searching for planets beyond our solar system is a bit like playing Goldilocks — we keep looking for that one that will be just right to host life. While astronomers haven't found a perfect fit yet, they have found plenty that are too big, too hot, too cold, too dense, too close to their star, or too distant...."

Wired's picks are: CoKu Tau/4; PSR B1620-26 b; SWEEPS-10; OGLE-2005-BLG-390Lb; and HD 149026b.

None of them are anywhere near Star Trek's "class M planet," but at least OGLE-2005-BLG-390Lb seems to be made mostly of rock. The bad news is that it's colder than Minnesota in January.
Related posts, at

"Online" by Brad Paisley - Funny, and True-to-Life

"Brad Paisley - Online"
BRADPAISLEY, YouTube (July 10, 2007)
video (5:51)

There's a sort of frame story, but the lyrics of the song start with:

"I work down at the pizza pit, and I drive an old Hyundai
I still live with my mum and dad....

"...But there's a whole 'nother me that you need to see:
Go check out MySpace....

Funny? You bet!

True-to-life? For too many people, probably.

And, yes: that's William Shatner, as the over-age-in-grade geek's father. Rather appropriate, for a "scifi fanatic."

I'd have embedded the music video, but it's "Embedding disabled by request" - which is okay by me: B.P. has a living to make. This 'making of' video is available, though:

On The Set Of "ONLINE"

BRADPAISLEY, YouTube (July 04, 2007)
video (8:06)

LHC Peril! Large Hadron Collider Black Hole Will Eat Earth!! - or, Not

Almost certainly not. But three scientists published a paper earlier this month about very interesting theoretical possibilities involving CERN's Large Hadron Collider (LHC) that they uncovered.

So What if the LHC Makes a Black Hole?

Here's the deal: CERN's LHC is expected to go online this summer. When it does, it might produce a really, really small black hole. The odds of that happening are about 1 to 50,000,000. If the Large Hadron Collider did make a black hole, it would have the mass of two protons, be much smaller than an atom, and won't have much of an effect beyond a few proton-widths.

Black holes that size 'evaporate,' fast. These three scientists worked out a scenario where it takes the black holes a little longer to evaporate.

Here's where the tabloids could have fun: If the Large Hadron Collider created a black hole that didn't evaporate, it would eat Earth: LHC, Europe, the Atlantic, Louisiana's Superdome, and all.

Doomsday Machine to Destroy Earth in 2009? Not Likely

Teeny, tiny, geriatric black holes are interesting, even intriguing, but not all that worrisome. The scientists wrapped up their introduction with "we argue against the possibility of catastrophic black hole growth at the LHC."

In other words, 'it ain't gonna happen.' And, since they live on the same planet as the Large Hadron Collider, my guess is that they're pretty confident that they're right.

These aren't crackpots. All three have gotten published in the Journals of the American Physical Society. (That's the bunch that publishes Physical Review Letters, Physical Review, and Reviews of Modern Physics - a sort of physicists' Sports Illustrated.)

And, they picked a catchy title for their paper:

"On the Possibility of Catastrophic Black Hole Growth in the Warped Brane-World Scenario at the LHC"
Roberto Casadio, Sergio Fabi, Benjamin Harms, High Energy Physics - Phenomenology,, Cornell University Library (January 19, 2009)

Here's the entire introduction:

"In this paper we present the results of our analysis of the growth and decay of black holes possibly produced at the Large Hadron Collider, based on our previous study of black holes in the context of the warped brane-world scenario. The black hole mass accretion and decay is obtained as a function of time, and the maximum black hole mass is obtained as a function of a critical mass parameter. The latter occurs in our expression for the luminosity and is related to the size of extra-dimensional corrections to Newton's law of gravitation. Based on this analysis, we argue against the possibility of catastrophic black hole growth at the LHC. "

You might want to read the paper itself: it's only eight pages, and available in several formats. It's a little technical, though, like this excerpt: "...our world is a four-dimensional brane (with coordinates xμ, μ = 0, . . . , 3) embedded in a five-dimensional manifold whose metric, without other sources present...."

More posts about CERN's Large Hadron Collider (LHC) : More:

Monday, January 26, 2009

John Adams, on What Constitutes a Congress

"In my many years I have come to a conclusion that one useless man is a shame, two is a law firm, and three or more is a congress."
John Adams

Quotation #30219, from The Quotations Page

John Adams was a Harvard graduate, and a lawyer, as well one of the signers of the American Declaration of Independence: more at "John Adams" (, a website published by the Independence Hall Association)

There are days when I feel like these words should be engraved on the walls of the House and Senate, as a reminder: and an incentive, to not live down to this opinion.
(The Lemming doesn't write about Congress very much, despite three recent posts: "Congress May Delay Television Digital Switch - I am Not Making This Up" (January 26, 2009); "Analog-to-Digital Television Switch: Oh No! How Will I Ever Afford a New Television Set?!" (January 8, 2009); "Analog-to-Digital Television Switch Coming February 17 - Or Not" (January 8, 2009).)

Congress May Delay Television Digital Switch - I am Not Making This Up

"Delay in analog TV shutdown presents challenges "
Wired (January 23, 2009)

" WASHINGTON (AP) -- With the clock ticking toward the Feb. 17 deadline for TV broadcasters to shut off their analog signals and go entirely digital, analysts say more than 6.5 million households are not ready. Now Congress appears poised to postpone the transition to June - but a delay could bring its own problems.

"To avoid blacking out TV sets in unprepared homes next month, the Obama administration is seeking the delay to give the government more time to fix a subsidy program that has run out of money for coupons that help consumers pay for digital converter boxes for older TVs...."


Let's review.
  • For about three years, we've been hearing and reading about
    • Analog television going away
    • Digital television coming
    • In February, 2009
  • The federal government has been spending money telling us about it.
  • The television industry has been spending money, getting ready
    • And has plans in place, deals made, and people ready to make the change
    • February 17, 2009
    • Less than a month away, now
Now, some politicos in Washington discovered that they didn't authorize enough money to pay for their coupons, so they want everybody else to wait?!

Honestly: How Many People Couldn't Get Ready?

I suppose that there are people in remote rural areas (like where I live), who either didn't hear about the switch, or heard about it and couldn't raise the $50 or $60 dollars it takes to buy a converter box - in three years.

(I got the $50 to $60 price rage from "Digital TV converter boxes: First Look" (Consumer Reports (March, 2008)). I checked a few minutes ago, and I can get a Magnavox Digital-to-Analog TV Converter Box at at Walmart for $49.87, so those Consumer Reports prices should still be in the ballpark.)

My opinion: it might feel good to wait until everybody, everywhere, could be given a converter box - and a television set to go with it, while we're at it. But the other 300,000,000 or so Americans would be in for a long wait. And, we'll wait even longer, if we're going to wait for Congress and the bureaucrats to 'fix' the system. (I'm not cynical: I just think that they don't get things done very fast over there.)

I've written about this before:

"Cloud Computing?" Sounds Familiar

"Google plans to make PCs history"
"Industry critics warn of danger in giving internet leader more power" (January 25, 2009)

"Google is to launch a service that would enable users to access their personal computer from any internet connection, according to industry reports. But campaigners warn that it would give the online behemoth unprecedented control over individuals' personal data.

"The Google Drive, or 'GDrive', could kill off the desktop computer, which relies on a powerful hard drive. Instead a user's personal files and operating system could be stored on Google's own servers and accessed via the internet.

"The long-rumoured GDrive is expected to be launched this year, according to the technology news website TG Daily, which described it as "the most anticipated Google product so far". It is seen as a paradigm shift away from Microsoft's Windows operating system, which runs inside most of the world's computers, in favour of 'cloud computing', where the processing and storage is done thousands of miles away in remote data centres...."

Well, that's interesting. People who don't like Windows and/or Bill Gates would probably be dancing in the streets: except they may be like people I know, who don't particularly like corporate giants in general.

My guess is that, published opinions notwithstanding, Google's GDrive and "cloud computing" will have their chance in the marketplace, find their niche, and become last week's news.

"Cloud Computing" - New Name, Old Idea

Remote computing isn't a new idea. It's been around since 1940. Actually, the desktop computer was a 'breakthrough' of sorts, which made it possible for people to store data and use computing power literally at their desk. It was quite an improvement over the 'good old days,' when computing power was shared with everyone else on the network.

Personal computing has a long history: the basic technologies have been around since the mid-seventies. One thing that's stayed the same in the last 30 years is that things change.

Change Happens

Heraclitus said: "Nothing endures but change." That was about two and a half millennia back, and I think he's still got a point. Change happens.

Particularly in information technology. We're in a very exciting period.

Quite a few technologies are supposed to be the one that will replace desktops. I used "end of the desktop" (in quotes) on Google just now, and got about a million hits. And, discovered that the laptop (Reuters (January 7, 2009) is the "end of the desktop" this month. Or was, until "cloud computing" came up. Last year, WiFi wireless networks were going to end the desktop (MC Press Online (September 24, 2008)").

I'm waiting for someone to rediscover the abacus. It could be called the ZitherCalc, and be the end of the pocket calculator: no more hard-to-read displays; results at the flick of a finger!

End of the Desktop? No - Change of the Desktop - Yes

I think that Mike (The World Is My Office) Elgan is on the right track. last week he wrote about mobile computing, desktops, and (I think) common sense. He didn't mention "cloud computing," but made what I think is an applicable point:

"The big picture is that the whole desktop PC/mobile computing dichotomy is dying....

"...So is it the end of the desktop PC era? Well, sort of. But it's not the beginning of the mobile computing era.

"It's the end of the whole desktop-or-mobile concept, and the beginning of everywhere and anywhere computing."

Sooner or Later, I'll Probably Use "GDrive" - or Something Like it

There are many reasons, from security issues and the occasional gaps in Internet service to a preference for something cool on the desktop, for me to keep using a desktop computer. I also had a laptop, until it died on me: and intend to replace it when I've got the budget.

And, sooner or later, I'll probably use something like the "GDrive" - in fact, I have, by uploading files I'd need to work on to a server, later accessing them from another location.

I've nothing against using remote facilities. Right now, my websites are on servers that are about a thousand miles away from me. I regard what's on those servers as copies of the original websites, which are stored and backed up here in central Minnesota.

I don't mind working with Google, either: or Microsoft. Each are 800-pound gorillas, but got that way by good marketing - and by providing services and products that get the job done. (I also use the FireFox browser, since 'way too many hackers are dedicated to exploiting IE's weaknesses - and that's a whole different topic.)

I think that "GDrive" - or something like it - will catch on, as a service for people who want to store and access data: and whose preference for convenience and portability outweighs their need for security and control of the data.


Sunday, January 25, 2009

And Next Year's Top Ten Technologies Will Be - - -

"The PC Evolved: 10 Big Technologies for the Year Ahead"
GearCrave (January 23, 2009)

"We’re now one month into the new year. When it comes to computing, this year's CES was largely uneventful and uninspiring. We feel that, in spite of its slow start, the coming year can be a big year for the evolution of the personal computer...."

Their predictions for 'the next big thing' are:
  • Dual Screens for Laptops
  • 3G to 4G
  • Designer Netbooks

    (from GearCrave, used without permission)
  • USB 3.0
  • Touch Screens (a special sort)
  • Cloud Computing
  • 3D Visual Interfaces
  • Number Three: Smaller, Slimmer All-in-Ones
  • Intel Core i7
  • Solid State Drives (in laptops)
I don't know if I'll come back to this post, a year from now, to see how close GearCrave came in this 'top ten' list. It might be fun, though.

That "designer Netbooks" entry isn't so much a new technology, as marketing and fashion: but it made a fun photo.

Earth to VY Canis Majoris: Another Look at the Size of Things

"Our small world

r4ycluster, YouTube (June 4, 2008)
video (1:04)

The person who made this video says that the scales aren't exact - and tells where the information came from. Kudos on both points.

Also, this is a pretty good demonstration of the size things in the little corner of the universe where we live. It starts with Earth, then adds other objects in the Solar System, and the larger stars around us.

Largest Known (as of now) Star: VY Canis Majoris

The last one is the largest star known, VY Canis Majoris, a whacking great star about 5,000 light years away, in the general direction of Sirius. It's just as well that VY Camis Majoris is so far away: When, or if, it becomes a supernova, we should be well outside its kill radius. (Just how big that is is hard to pin down. There's a plausible opinion on Yahoo! Answers that doesn't say where the writer got the information, or how.)

Minnesota Connection

There's a Minnesota connection to that big star: "...A team of astronomers led by Roberta Humphreys of the University of Minnesota used NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and the W.M. Keck Observatory to measure the motions of the ejected material and to map the distribution of the highly polarized dust, which reflects light at a specific orientation...." (Hubblesite)


Downadup, Conficker or Kido: Whatever You Call it, it's Bad News

Somebody may have created the worm called Downadup (AKA Conflicker, Kido) just for fun, or strictly for bragging rights. That's possible, but I'm with the experts who "think it unlikely a worm so sophisticated at this one would have no ulterior purpose." (

Downadup Worm Spreading: The Lemming Opines

The British news follow CNN's line that Downadup might have come from Ukraine. PC Magazine, using a different security company as a source, says China. I'm not sure that it really matters, right now, where this worm came from. Learning where this worm originated is important, of course. Among other things, there could be legal trouble for whoever developed this bit of clever malware and set it loose. But, right now, there's a whole bunch of computers to disinfect.

The way Downadup/Conflicker/Kido spreads through USB drives and MP3 players reminds me of the worm that started eating the Pentagon's computers last year. (Downadap spreads itself other ways, once it's in a network: CNN did a pretty good job of discussing how that works under its "How does it spread?" subhead.)

Routine Updating, Scans, and Common Sense: Boring, but Necessary

CNN wrote that Downadup is spreading, "despite Microsoft's issuing of a patch to fix the bug." Quite a bit farther down in the article, it explains why the Microsoft patch may not be effective: the worm affects "...machines that have not installed a patch from Microsoft known as MS08-067."

Now, spelling it out, it's really important to:
  1. Get operating system patches promptly
  2. Once you've gotten a patch, install it
I've set my machine up to get Microsoft patches, as well as updates for my anti-malware software, automatically - and install the things ASAP. That way, the computer does the boring-but-vital stuff, leaving me free for other tasks. All I have to do is monitor the situation.

The advantages I have are a background in computer science, 20+ years' on-the-job experience using computers (learning how to deal with two arcane networks along the way), and now being my own boss.

I sympathize with IT people who have to deal with supervisors who don't understand computers, and who can't quite understand that someone lower on the organization chart may have superior technical knowledge. Make that "may have technical knowledge" - period.

And it's simply unrealistic to expect most home computer users to have a professional knowledge of what makes the things work, and how to maintain them.

Downadup, in the news:
  • "Virus strikes 15 million PCs" (January 25, 2009)
    • "LONDON, Jan. 25 (UPI) -- A virulent computer virus has infected more than 15 million computers around the world so far, British experts say.
    • "The Independent on Sunday reported that the worm -- known as Downadup, Conficker or Kido -- had contaminated 6 million PCs in the past three days alone.
    • "The newspaper said more than 3,000 British organizations, including hospitals and the Ministry of Defense, have received the virus.
    • "Officials in Britain, the United States, Russia, China and India say they are waiting to see what the virus's effects will be, if anything...."
  • "Conficker/Downadup Worm Dubbed 'Epidemic' "
    PC Magazine (January 21, 2009)
    • "Approximately six percent of computers scanned by Panda Security are currently infected by the Conficker/Downadup worm, Panda said Wednesday, dubbing the outbreak 'an epidemic'.
    • "The worm, discovered earlier this month, exploits the Windows MS08-067 service vulnerability, a patch for which was released three months ago.
    • "It spreads through The Windows option menu that appears after inserting the USB device will USB memory devices like USB drives or MP3 players.disguise the option to run the program as the option to open the folder. Open the file and release the worm.
    • "Panda scanned two million computers and found that six percent are infected across 83 countries. Though it originated in China, it is now particularly virulent in the U.S., Spain, Taiwan, Brazil, and Mexico. Panda has identified about 18,000 infected machines in the U.S., though the number could be higher...."
  • "Downadup virus exposes millions of PCs to hijack"
    CNN (January 16, 2009)
    • "LONDON, England (CNN) -- A new sleeper virus that could allow hackers to steal financial and personal information has now spread to more than eight million computers in what industry analysts say is one of the most serious infections they have ever seen.
    • "The Downadup or Conficker worm exploits a bug in Microsoft Windows to infect mainly corporate networks, where -- although it has yet to cause any harm -- it potentially exposes infected PCs to hijack.
    • "Mikko Hypponen, chief research officer at anti-virus firm F-Secure, says while the purpose of the worm is unclear, its unique 'phone home' design, linking back to its point of origin, means it can receive further orders to wreak havoc.
    • "He said his company had reverse-engineered its program, which they suspected of originating in Ukraine, and is using the call-back mechanism to monitor an exponential infection rate, despite Microsoft's issuing of a patch to fix the bug...."
[emphasis mine]

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Ice Blocks, Hot Day, and Kids - a Photo

"Licking Blocks of Ice on Hot Day"
theleafpress / Flckr (June 10, 2008)

My guess is that this photo was taken in America or another English-speaking country, probably around the early 20th century. We don't use blocks of ice for refrigeration much, any more, but ice houses, trucks, and deliveries, were an important part of the economy and culture not all that long ago.

The photo comes in several sizes.

Better Ideas From Japan: 'Robocop' Rolled Out

"Scientists develop 'robocop' to capture suspects " (January 22, 2009)

"A Japanese robot maker has unveiled a prototype "robocop" security android equipped with heat sensors to detect intruders and armed with a net to hurl over suspects.

"Tmsuk Co developed its T-34 robot in conjunction with security firm Alacom Co and aims to develop squads of robots that will be able to keep an artificial eye on office buildings and industrial complexes.

"In the future, versions may also be developed to be used in homes, according to company spokeswoman Mariko Ishikawa...."

(from Reuters, via, used without permission)
'Resistance is futile. You will be entangled.'

A T-34 stands 60 centimeters tall, a little shy of two feet.

I'm not sure that I'd call it a robot: T-34 needs a controller, presumably a human. Given time, though, something like this with artificial intelligence could take over routine patrols in office buildings, warehouses, and the like. I suppose they'd call a human when something odd happened - like finding and restraining someone who didn't belong on their beat.

That setup would have some real advantages: T-34's 'descendants' wouldn't get bored, or take naps. They could be hacked, but can you imagine trying to bribe one of those things?

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

Video Proof: Space Aliens Land at Obama Inauguration

"UFO sees Obama become President"
SUN (January 23, 2009)

"ASTONISHING video of a UFO flying over President Barack Obama's historic inauguration has appeared on the internet.

"The video shows a dark object flying past the Washington Monument as nearly two million people gathered to witness America’s first black president be sworn into office.

"The clip shows CNN anchors Wolf Blitzer and Anderson Cooper discussing President Obama's historic speech, before cutting to a shot of the scene of Washington DC's Capitol...."

Several versions of the video clip are on YouTube, including this one:

"CNN UFO OVNI Obama Inauguration High-Def Version Clip of Object Double Message to Muslims"

YHVH72 / YouTube (January 21, 2009)
video (0:38)

And, this rather more imaginative version:

"Analysis of CNN Obama UFO OVNI Object at Inauguration 2009 ~ Doesn't Look Like A Bird To Me??"
YHVH72 / YouTube (January 21, 2009)
video (2:05)

(I know: the same YouTube account (YHVH72) seems to have posted both of those.)

Until CNN takes it down, you get a better-quality look at the news and commentary clip, on the CNN website:

" 'Double message' to Muslims"
CNN (January 20, 2009)
video (2:08)

"CNN's team of analysts say Obama delivered a 'double message' to the Muslim world in his inaguration [!] speech."

That streak doesn't look like a glitch in CNN's video to me, although I'm no expert. Assuming that it isn't a 'bug' in the video system, it is, literally, a UFO: Unidentified Flying Object: An object, that's flying, and which hasn't been identified. Since it seems to go behind the Washington Monument, it could be quite large, and moving very fast.

In the original CNN video, which I saw, the streak moved without stopping from right to left across the screen. The 'more imaginative' "Doesn't Look Like A Bird" video has the streak stop, back up, and then go on again - in true space alien flying saucer fashion.

I don't know what that UFO is. It's rather long and narrow to be a bird, and I don't know of any birds that are quite that featureless - and apparently wingless. But, applying Occam's Razor and a large dose of common sense, I'm not going to assume that it's a 'flying saucer.'

That won't stop people from speculating, though: "It started a huge discussion with some bloggers suggesting it could be a bird or a UFO.

"One wrote: 'Personally, I think the little green men rocked up to join the rest of the world in wishing Obama well.' " (Sun)

That 'little green men' statement got me thinking. Why not take what we see, plus the inevitable disappearance of the original video from the Web, as CNN cleans house, and have some fun.


Everybody knows that Elvis was a space alien government agent, who died recently in a tragic medical accident. Elvis was only one of many agents of the Grand Galactic Governance, whose mission it is to monitor and guide humanity on the path to truth, unity, and down-home music.

The inauguration UFO was a GGG ship, obviously one with a defective cloaking device. It was landing part of President Obama's support team. You see, Barack Obama is one of Them!

All those wild stories about where he was born, and whether or not he was an American, were part of a clever ruse to keep people from realizing that he's not human at all: but a Flibnian, whose appearance was altered so that he could walk among us, and carry out his covert mission.

Do I believe that? No. Certainly not. But I think it makes a good story.

And, when CNN removes the video from its server to make room for new material, I could go on about how CNN is involved in a cover-up, trying to keep us from knowing 'the truth.'

I could, but I probably won't: too busy.

Friday, January 23, 2009

An IMAO List of Top Interior Design Sites

"The 10 Best Interior Design Websites in
the Whole Wide World
Design Training (undated)

"Like all ten best lists this one is purely 'IMAO' (In My Arrogant Opinion). These are sites that, for me, capture the moment, extract the best from the physical world of interior design, and convert it in inspiration...."

The list goes from "10. This Ain't No Disco (it's where we work)" to "1. Ikea Hacker."

Photos, a brief description, and a link go with each entry.

As the writer said, it's a matter of opinion - but this does look like a list of pretty good interior design sites.

Fake Window Lights Up

"Natural Light No Longer Necessary with a Fake Window"
UberReview (November 26, 2007)

"This new fake window is just the thing to brighten up your dreary basement apartment. It makes use of electroluminescent sheets for the light source and you can adjust the intensity of the light by manipulating the shades...."

With photos.

Odd as it may sound, I think this is a really good idea. A business I went to, decades ago, was in a room with concrete block walls. To make it look better (and less like a bunker) for customers, they had curtains hung in a corner. That created the illusion of a window, which opened the place up.

This follows the same principle, plus it looks like a good source of diffuse light.

Teleportation: A Cooler Word than "Quantum Entanglement," it Seems

"Teleportation Milestone Achieved"
LiveScience (January 23, 2009)

"Scientists have come a bit closer to achieving the 'Star Trek' feat of teleportation. No one is galaxy-hopping, or even beaming people around, but for the first time, information has been teleported between two separate atoms across a distance of a meter — about a yard.

"This is a significant milestone in a field known as quantum information processing, said Christopher Monroe of the Joint Quantum Institute at the University of Maryland, who led the effort.

"Teleportation is one of nature's most mysterious forms of transport: Quantum information, such as the spin of a particle or the polarization of a photon, is transferred from one place to another, without traveling through any physical medium...."

This 'teleportation' is a "quantum phenomenon called entanglement which only occurs on the atomic and subatomic scale...." Which is just about the right size, I gather, for a next-generation information technology.

It's about time, too. I gather that chips we use for information processors now are getting about as small as the nature of matter and energy will let them go.

And, if we want faster, more powerful, computers: there's going to have to be a new technology. This could be it.

Exciting times, these that we live in.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

You, Too, Can Paint Flowers on your Wall

"DecoWalls XL, paint your own decorative murals"
Made in Deco Interior Design Blog (June 16, 2008)

I don't usually do this, but I'll quote from the only comment (so far) on this post:

"Thanks for sharing a very wonderful effects in wall paintings, I like the styles simple, elegant and can completely transform your home or apartment in a way nothing else can."

This post is essentially an advertisement for a commercial wall decorating product: one that makes it possible for you to make it look like you're an accomplished muralist, or that you've hired a rather good interior decorator.

Over a half-dozen photos show what's possible, using the product.

There's quite a range of styles, and it sounds like the peel-off stencil system doesn't require more than some attention to detail and a fairly steady hand.

Even if you're not going to paint something on your walls, the photos might be fun to see.

How to be Creative (Coming Soon...)

"How To Be Creative:" (August 22, 2004)

"...So you want to be more creative, in art, in business, whatever. Here are some tips that have worked for me over the years...."

Oh, yes - and "BIG NEWS: "How To Be Creative" will be coming out as a hardcover book in June, 2009. Titled "Ignore Everybody"...."

Quite a few of the points are common sense (I think):

"4. If your biz plan depends on you suddenly being 'discovered' by some big shot, your plan will probably fail."

"14. Dying young is overrated."

"16. The world is changing."

Some are, I think, debatable:

"20. The choice of media is irrelevant."

(Think of "The Matrix" as a flip book.)

"26. Write from the heart."

(Good advice, as far as it goes. But if you do, I'd advise having a good editor go over your work.)

Still, it's a rather humorous look at being creative: with some valuable nuggets.

There's a PDF version, too.

Johnny Cash's "One Piece at a Time" - Illegal, Unethical, and Very Inspiring

"Lyrics for: One Piece At A Time (Single Version)"
Yahoo! Music
(Lyrics © SONY/ATV SONGS D/B/A TREE PUBG CO, provided by Gracenote)

"Well, I left Kentucky back in '49
An' went to Detroit workin' an a 'sembly line
The first year they had me puttin' wheels on Cadillacs....

I like Johnny Cash's music: and "One Piece At A Time" is one of my favorites. Sure, there are very serious legal and ethical issues involved with this method of getting yourself a Cadillac, but I like the basic approach.

The way I see it, "One Piece At A Time" tells the story of some guy who couldn't, possibly, afford a car "that was long and black", but wanted one: bad. Instead of wallowing in self-pity, he came up with a plan. One that involved:
  • A big lunch box
  • His friend's mobile home
  • About 20 years
  • And "an A-daptor kit"
The car, when finished, was, well, unique. The innovative pilferer had started building his Caddy in 1949, and finished the job in 1970. Cadillacs had gone through a few changes in those two decades.

One of my favorite verses reflects the practical imagination involved in this project:

"Now the headlights they was another sight
We had two on the left and one on the right
But when we pulled out the switch all three of 'em come on.

Since the whole idea had been to drive a big black Cadillac around town, the car needed tags (gotta follow the law sometimes, you know). Which meant getting a title for the thing. According to "One Piece At A Time", "the title weighed sixty pounds" - and it took the whole court house staff to type it up.

Let's see: sixty pounds of ordinary 20 pound typing paper would be about 6,000 sheets, or a foot-and-a-half-tall stack. That's a lot of paperwork.1

"...What model is it?

"Well, it's a '49, '50, '51, '52, '53, '54, '55, '56, '57, '58, '59 Autommo-bile
It's a '60, '61, '62, '63, '64, '65, '66, '67, '68, '69, '70 Autommo-bile

Johnny Cash; Wayne Kemp; an Oklahoma Airman; Bill Patch; and the Lions club of Welch, Oklahoma

Johnny Cash sang Wayne Kemp's "One Piece at a Time" in 1976.

According to Michael Streissguth's book, "Johnny Cash," Wayne Kemp "came up with the song after hearing a tall tale about an Oklahoma airman who stole enough parts from his base to make a helicopter." ("Johnny Cash," Michael Streissguth, from Googgle Books)

I don't know about the Oklahoma airman's helicopter, I'm pretty sure that the Wayne Kemp/Johnny Cash song's car is fictional: but there really is - or was - a three-door Cadillac. According to the Antique Automobile Club (AAC) of America's website, "One Piece at a Time" inspired Bill Patch, of Welch, Oklahoma, to build "a magnificent, 1949-73 Cadillac Coupe Sedan Deville, three-door automobile."

Bill Patch gave the 1949-73 Cadillac to Johnny Cash, who heard that the Welch Lion's club was raising money for an auditorium. Johnny Cash wound up singing for the Welch Lions - twice.

(both car photographs from Antique Automobile Club of America, used without permission)

According to AAC, the car was at the Johnny Cash Museum in Hendersonville, Tennessee. Unhappily, the museum is closed, and the associated lakeside house was sold to Barry Gibb (The Bee Gees one). Then the house burned down. Something to do with restoration work, I understand. $2.3 up in smoke and a lot of history lost. The good news: nobody was hurt. The House of Cash has some pictures of the house, pre-fire. A CMT blog post ("A Year After It Burned, House of Cash Remembered" (April 10, 2008)) has a follow up on the house, and what may be a growing legend.

I'm trying to find out what happened to that car: and will update this post if I find anything.

Genre, Schmanra, 'One Piece at a Time' is a Good Song

I've read that the genre of "One Piece at a Time" is Country, Rockabilly, and (more prudently) [no genre listed]. My opinion is that it's a Johnny Cash song: and a good one.

I suppose that "One Piece at a Time" could be "rockabilly," since Princeton's WordNet says that's "a fusion of black music and country music that was popular in the 1950s; sometimes described as blues with a country beat" and Wiktionary says it's "A genre of music originating from the South (United States) and mixing elements of rock, blues, country, hillbilly boogie and bluegrass music."

Sounds to me like "rockabilly" is a sort of music that sounds country, is upbeat, and whose composer or performer doesn't mind being creative about mixing genres. And, (here's my biases showing) it's easier to say for people who would rather be dead in a ditch than caught enjoying a country song.

"One Piece at a Time" and

For a 32-year-old song, "One Piece at a Time" is doing pretty well, commercially. I checked out today, and found out that I could buy "One Piece at a Time mp3 downloads (one of them a Karaoke adaptation), LP records, and a "One Piece at a Time" T-shirt.
1 That's assuming that the courthouse put their records on "letter size" (Canadian/American standard) (8 1/2 by 11 inch) paper. I got the 6,000 sheet / foot-and-a-half tall numbers from 20 years' experience in a small publishing company, a little checking around online, and measurements taken from my own stock.

There's more about standards for paper, at "Paper Sizes and Paper Weight: Metric and US Standards " (Archive Builders) and "International standard paper sizes" (Markus Kuhn, at University of Cambridge, U.K.).

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

What's Inside Air Force One?

"Air Force One Floor Plan"
How Stuff Works

This is mostly a medium-size (800 x 615 pixels) floor plan on Air Force One, showing where things like the galley, medical office (right next to the galley), guest section, and flight deck are.

Just the place to go, if you want to imagine you're a guest, or the president, flying on the American president's airliner.

Pretty cool, actually.

Beware the Lizard People! (I'm Not Making This Up)

"The Best Conspiracy Theories (Lizard-People Are Running the World!)"
Wired (October 27, 2007)

"Nasa Faked the Moon Landings

"And Arthur C. Clarke wrote the script, at least in one version of the story. Space skeptics point to holes in the Apollo archive (like missing transcripts and blueprints) or oddities in the mission photos (misplaced crosshairs, funny shadows). A third of respondents to a 1970 poll thought something was fishy about mankind's giant leap. Today, 94 percent accept the official version... Saps!..."

Wired's 2007 article is fun reading - unless you happen to believe that lizard people run the world. One of the proponents of this idea ties Princess Di into it.

I liked the notion that shape-shifting lizard people were secretly running the world, that I used it as an example in another blog. (I ought to warn you: that link takes you to my Another War-on-Terror Blog, and over there, I'm not the Apathetic Lemming - or any other sort of fuzzy creature.

I'm not, however, scaly. Which, if I was one of Them, is just what I'd say. ;)

Obama Presidential Oath II: Retake of Oath Goes Fine

"Oath Is Administered Once Again"
The New York Times (January 21, 2009)

"WASHINGTON – President Obama was re-administered the oath of office on Wednesday evening by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., one day after the two men stumbled over each other's words during the inauguration.

"Mr. Obama and Mr. Roberts stood in the Map Room of the White House at 7:35 p.m. and recited the oath before a small group of advisers and a handful of reporters...."

After yesterday's stumbles in the presidential oath (""I will execute the office of president" - no, wait - "I will faithfully execute...": Obama Oath Bloopers"), it's probably just as well to take "an abundance of caution," and do the oath over again.

The TimesOnline pointed out that this is a case of 'been there, done that:' Calvin Coolidge and Chester Arthur re-took their oaths, for about the same reason.

This presidential do-over is starting to hit the news: My guess is that by next week there will be some odd explanations floating around, about the 'Real Reason' that the oath was repeated. Someone may even float the idea that the second oath was really something secret and sinister.

As a rule, I don't take conspiracy theories very seriously. But that's for another post.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

President Barack Obama: An American Made History Today

Barack Obama's inauguration as President of the United States was a pretty big deal. Big enough for the Lemming to devote a heavy day's worth of posts to the event. Some were serious, some not so much:

Michael, Michelle, and Redecorating the White House

"Santa Monica designer Michael S. Smith to decorate Obama's White House living area"
Los Angeles Times (January 17, 2009)

"Santa Monica designer Michael S. Smith has won the commission to redecorate the White House living quarters for the Obama family.

" 'He sounds like a wise choice, with his interest in traditional though not pedantic museum settings,' said historian William Seale, author of 'The President's House: A History.' 'What works best in the White House is someone who is immersed in the past and can design in a modern way.'..."

This article gives a pretty good introduction into the interior design end of the Obama presidency.

High Profile, Not High Profit

"...Though the White House is a high-profile assignment, ... the incoming president usually is allocated $100,000 per term for redecorating -- a relatively modest sum for what could be a large, complicated job.

"Many presidents bring their own furniture to their new quarters, and President-elect Barack and Michelle Obama will have access to White House warehouses.

" 'It's been a mandate since the Kennedy administration that nothing can be thrown away,' Seale said. 'So Mrs. Obama will be shown a catalog of furniture, drapery, even curtain rods.'..."

Good news for the Obamas: they can do what they like (and can afford) with their private quarters. Given their apparent preference for traditional houses, though, they're not likely to make headlines with their decor.

More posts about Barack Obama's inauguration day:

Moving Two Presidents in One Day: Safely and Smoothly

"Special Ops: How to move a president in a few hours"
CNN (January 20, 2009)

"(CNN) -- Comedian Mark Russell was at a recent event in Chicago, Illinois, when he found himself sitting next to Valerie Jarrett, an adviser to President-elect Barack Obama...."

"... Russell sees humor in the presidential transition, but the actual operation to move both families in and out of the White House is serious business.

"The clearing out of the Bushes' belongings began over the summer, when many items were packed and taken to Crawford, Texas, says Anita McBride, chief of staff to first lady Laura Bush. Then, during the Christmas holiday, the Bushes moved their personal things out of Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland, according to McBride...."

Moving one family in and another out is hard work at best (I 'let' my wife and kids do most of it, when we've moved). Doing it on a tight schedule, with excited crowds, swarming reporters, and just possibly lurking lunatics, is a major operation.

This article gives a look at what went on at the White House.

More posts about Barack Obama's inauguration day:

"I will execute the office of president" - no, wait - "I will faithfully execute...": Obama Oath Bloopers

"First inauguration for Roberts as chief justice"
The Associated Press (January 20, 2009)

"WASHINGTON (AP) — Chief Justice John Roberts swore in President-elect Barack Obama as president of the United States on Tuesday with a slight stumble over the wording of the oath of office in the first of what could be many important interactions between two men who rose to their positions of power quickly and who have some background similarities, but whose politics differ...."

I was watching the inauguration on television, and I remember at least two flubs by Chief Justice Roberts, but never mind. They finally got the oath right (I think), and swore Barack Obama in as President of the United States. Hey, Roberts is human: lines get dropped.

I wonder if someone's thought of making a blooper reel of this sort of thing? It's got entertainment possibilities.

There's another take on the oath oopsies here:

"I Do Solemnly Swear…(Line, Please?)"
The Caucus blog / The New York Times (January 20, 2009)

"For a couple of smooth-talking constitutional experts, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and President-elect Barack Obama sure had a hard time getting through the constitutional oath of office.

"There was, first of all, a false start from Mr. Obama, who started to respond before the chief justice had completed the first phrase. Mr. Obama ended up saying the first four words – 'I, Barack Hussein Obama' – twice.

"Then there was an awkward pause after Chief Justice Roberts prompted Mr. Obama with these words: 'that I will execute the office of the president to the United States faithfully.' The chief justice seemed to say 'to' rather than 'of,' but that was not the main problem. The main problem was that the word “faithfully” had floated upstream in the constitutional text, which actually says this: 'That I will faithfully execute the office of the president of the United States.'..."

I'm just glad it wasn't me, in front of the cameras.

More posts about Barack Obama's inauguration day:

New President, New White House Website: This One Has a Blog

"Change at the White House Web Site"
The Caucus blog / The New York Times (January 20, 2009)

"Change comes to the White House Web site

"President Obama had not yet taken the oath of office at 12:01 p.m. on Tuesday when the Obama administration took over the cyber-address of the presidency,, with a flourish. A minute past noon, the Bush administration’s familiar Web site, with eight years worth of archived press releases, speech transcripts, photographs, executive orders, and proclamations were swept away into the hands of the National Archives. The homepage instead featured a large portrait of Mr. Obama and the slogan, 'Change Has Come to America: The Inauguration of President Barack Obama.'..."

More posts about Barack Obama's inauguration day:

American Presidency Changes Hands: Smoothly

"Bush Bids Farewell With Secret Note to Obama"
FOXNews (January 20, 2009)

"President Bush welcomed President-elect Barack Obama at the White House on Tuesday with a few hearty pats on the arm, a symbolic gesture to the transfer of power soon to take place.

"Obama and his wife, Michelle, walked up the steps of the North Portico and exchanged handshakes, smiles and pecks on the cheeks with the outgoing president and first lady Laura Bush...."

One of the things I like about the way America handles its national affairs is the relatively smooth process we've got for having leadership roles change hands. Most political campaigns remind me of the sort of discussions you see in the primate house, but once the vote-counting (and, on occasion, re-counting) is over, the winner doesn't have to take the White House by force.

The Bush-Obama transfer seems to have gone off with more than the usual civility.

That "secret note" business?

"...Keeping with a White House ritual, Bush left a note for Obama in his desk in the Oval Office, wishing him well as he takes the reins of power.

"'I won't provide any details, but the theme is similar to what he's said since election night about the fabulous new chapter President-elect Obama is about to start, and that he wishes him the very best,' outgoing White House press secretary Dana Perino said Tuesday...."

More posts about Barack Obama's inauguration day:

Obama Party Time for Most, Serious Work for Security

"Security tight as Obama takes oath"
CNN (January 20, 2009)

"WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Barack Obama was sworn in Tuesday as the 44th president of the United States with no major security problems, but authorities are looking into an unspecified threat to disrupt the inauguration.

"The FBI is investigating two 'streams of intelligence' suggesting the Somalia-based terrorist organization Al Shabaab may have been plotting an attack timed to coincide with the event, the FBI and Department of Homeland Security said in a joint threat advisory obtained by CNN...."

Between crazed Muslims, white supremacists, and assorted lunatics, the people responsible for security in Washington, D.C., today had their hands full. (Don't misunderstand that sentence: I know that not all Muslims are terrorists, just as all white people aren't white supremacists.)

And, I'm really glad that the king-sized street party (pun intended) went off without unpleasantness.

By the way, if you haven't heard of Al Shabaab, I'm not surprised. It's an outfit in southern Somalia, and was just another bunch of terrorists/militants/whatever, until pirates in northern Somalia hijacked a Saudi tanker. Al Shabaab did not approve.

More posts about Barack Obama's inauguration day:

The Lemming Gets Serious: Obama's Now President Obama

President Barack Obama was sworn into office today, making him the 44th American president.

It's a pretty big deal, and the 2,000,000 or so people on or near the Mall in Washington, D.C., seem to think so, too. That figure is an estimate from the Park Police, reported on a news channel. I haven't found it in online news yet.

The Lemming Reminisces

I've seen a few big milestones go by in American history since I was born, back in the Truman administration. I remember the:
  • First president who identified himself as Catholic
  • End of segregated lunch counters and drinking fountains
  • First pocked calculator
  • Last working steam locomotive in the Red River Valley of the North
  • Jet airliners take over long-distance passenger service
  • First people to walk on the Moon
  • Beginning of direct long-distance dialing
  • First commercial push-button phone
  • First trans-Atlantic live television signal
I remember when it became possible for a
  • Man to carry his baby in public without ridicule
  • High school boy to take Home Ec
  • High school girl to take Shop
Those technological changes made it possible for people to travel faster, farther, more comfortably. And, made it possible for them to have conversations with each other, even if they were on different continents.

Someone in central North America being able to order a book from a store in England, and be reading it a few days later, isn't just convenient. It makes Europe, and North America, and Asia, and Africa, and all the rest of the 'connected' world, neighbors. I think we're only beginning to see major changes in the way people deal with each other, coming from 'the Information Age.'

Depending on your point of view, the world is cosier, or more crowded. And each of us, again depending on how you see things, has either a wonderful set of new neighbors on the block, or a neighborhood full of disturbingly different strangers.

I tend to see the world as a cosier place, with a refreshingly unfamiliar set of neighbors as close as an online forum: but I know that not everybody sees things that way.

Back to Obama

Barack Obama is black. About half his ancestors came from Africa. His father is from Kenya: and yes, Barack Obama is an America citizen. Born in Hawaii. Thanks to peculiarities of various laws, he had dual American/Kenyan citizenship until he was 21, but make no mistake: Barack Obama is an American citizen.

Not everybody's happy about Barack Obama being president. There are quite a few people who will hate the current president at least as much as others hated #43. It'll be for different reasons, but the feelings will, I think, be about the same.

Judging from the crowd in Washington, D.C., having a sort of street party on steroids, a whole lot more Americans are tickled pink that Obama will be behind the big desk in the Oval Office. We may not get an 'official' count for Obama's inaugural audience. The National Park Service says that Congress told it to stop doing those crowd counts, when the NPS came up with a number that Congress didn't like for the 1995 Million Man March.

I'm glad that I was around when Martin Luther King led an effective civil rights organization, and now, then the first American president who is from Hawaii - and black - took the oath of office.

What I feel is at most pennies on the dollar to what the Reverend Joseph Lowery must be experiencing. As CNN put it:

"The Rev. Joseph Lowery, a close friend of King's who will deliver the benediction at Obama's inauguration, said the timing of the two events 'reflects the mysticism of the movement.'

"[Andrew] Young chuckled upon hearing Lowery's words relayed and added, 'I always say that coincidence is God's way of remaining anonymous. ... I can't think of a nicer birthday present for Martin Luther King.' "

Barack Obama Day at Apathetic Lemming of the North

I've decided to make today's posts 'all Obama, all the time,' more or less. I've found a few items that should be interesting. Don't worry, though, the Lemming isn't making this into a fan site. I just think that an historic occasion like this warrants special treatment.

News and views: More posts about Barack Obama's inauguration day:

Monday, January 19, 2009

Martian Methane Media Madness

"Mars methane media mess"
Bad Astronomy blog / Discover (January 19, 2009)

"By now you’ve probably heard the news about Mars: methane gas is being generated on the Red Planet, and the amount varies with season and location. There are really only two ways to make methane that we know of: geologically (volcanoes, chemical changes under the surface, and so on) and biologically (little critters basically farting).

"Mars is an interesting place, and anytime we find something new and interesting about it, it’s not surprising to see the media covering it. It’s also not surprising to see the scientists involved excited about it. But when that news deals with biology, well, things tend to get a little out of control.

"Or, as in this case, a lot out of control...."

The post is a good read, and has a fine summary of what we actually know about Martian methane. (Selected points: it's there; something's producing it, and we don't know what.)

The author is right: some of the tabloid media took the story and ran, screaming, right off the edge or reality. Hardly surprising.

Mainstream media, tabloids and all, doesn't have the best track record for getting science right.

There is a pretty good article in a specialized online publication:

"Mars Methane: Geology or Biology?" (January 15, 2009)

Other posts, about "Mars, Mostly."

A Little Girl With One Ear and a Doctor: A Story in Photos

"A story without Words" (January 14, 2009)

"Everyday 99% of the medical doctors around the world are doing the very best they know how to help relieve pain and suffering. I am so thankful that this physician had the skills to help this little girl."

The rest is a series of photos, of a doctor and a little girl with no left ear to speak of. It's amazing, what medical technology can do these days.

I didn't find the source for the photos, or who the people are. If you know, I'd appreciate it if you left a comment.

A List of BlogCatalog Royalty

I'm part of the BlogCatalog community. Today, a far-from serious discussion thread established the Royalty of BlogCatalog:

"Jeunelle's Top Royalty Picks In No Particular Order And May Be Subject To Changes & Adjustments"
The Official BC Royalty Awards / BlogCatalog discussion thread (started January 18, 2009)

I got one of the less obviously choice positions: stablehand. As I wrote, "it's amazing, the things you uncover, now and again."

Everything You Wanted to Know About the Southhampton Football Club: but Didn't Know Where to Look

You could try the, the Official Website of Southhampton Football Club, or visit:

The blog that "is all about Southampton F.C. ... from betting to gossip and even the celebrity fans...."

The official site is pretty much like most official sites. Very official. With nice graphics.

SaintsNoDisbelieving, on the other hand, seems to get behind the scenes, under the curtain, over the transom, and generally around the usual run of stats and bios. Looks like fun.
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