Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

Lemming Tracks: Northeast Storm, New York City, and All That

"In Central Park, Snow That Collected on Still-Leafy Branches Fells Even Hardy Trees"
Matt Flegenheimer, The New York Times (October 30, 2011)

"The storm struck trees of all ages and sizes in Central Park: oaks and elms outside the boathouse, birches and dogwoods near Belvedere Castle, magnolias and mulberries beside the obelisk.

"The damage was spread across about half of Central Park’s 840 acres, making it the worst devastation that Douglas Blonsky, president of the Central Park Conservancy, had seen in his 27 years there.

"In all, as many as 1,000 of the park’s trees may be lost to the freak October snowstorm; in contrast, Tropical Storm Irene — which work crews only recently finished cleaning up after — cost the park 125 trees...."

Meanwhile, North of Manhattan - - -

"Governor Declares State Of Emergency"
Hartford Courant (October 30, 2011)

"The rare October snowstorm that smacked the state this weekend eclipsed tropical storm Irene in power outages, leaving as many as 884,000 customers without electricity and resulting in dire estimates that it may take more than a week for many to have their service restored...."

"Police report 2nd death in Conn. due to Oct. storm"
Associated Press, via (October 31, 2011)

"State police report a second death in Connecticut related to the weekend's rare October snowstorm.

"Spokesman Lt. Paul Vance tells WFSB-TV that the fatality occurred due to a crash on Interstate 91 in the Hartford area. No details were available Monday morning.

"One person was killed Saturday in a crash on Route 85 in Colchester.

"Connecticut Light and Power reported Monday that about 751,000 customers were without power, down from more than 830,000....

"...The utility says it has more than 300 crews working to restore power and plans to add 450 crews from out of state. Spokesman Al Lara told Fox Connecticut News that downed trees are slowing the work.

"The United Illuminating Co. reported about 8,600 customers without electricity and has said it expects to restore power to all customers by Monday night.

"The power outages shattered the record for a single event that was set when the remnants of Hurricane Irene hit in August. It may take more than a week to restore power to everyone, Connecticut Light & Power said....

"...The storm smashed a record for October snowfall in Connecticut, dropping 12.3 inches Saturday at Bradley International Airport, said Charlie Foley, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Taunton, Mass...."

This sounds like a genuinely serious storm. A little over a foot of snow isn't all that much, here in central Minnesota: and Connecticut has noticeable winter weather, too. But in October? That's a lot of snow. Particularly, the Lemming understands, since leaves were still on many or most trees: letting snow accumulate on the branches, which eventually snapped off.

As for what this 'really means?' The Lemming has opined on that sort of thing before.

Somewhat-related posts:

Chimps, Genes, and Reading Past the Headline

" 'Junk' All That Separates Humans From Chimps"
Science - SCITECH, (October 27, 2011)

"We all are the one percent, apparently.

"Scientists have long been baffled by the genetic similarities between humans and chimpanzees, which share up to 99 percent of the same DNA despite our vast differences in appearance and ability -- baffled until now, that is. Researchers have determined that the only thing that separates us from chimps is a tiny bit of 'junk DNA.'..."

No, Really: This Makes Sense

At that point, the Lemming didn't know what to expect. Between folks who desperately want to believe that the universe is maybe 6,000 years old, and others determined to believe that humanity is a cancer in Mother Nature, there's been a lot of nonsense flung around the marketplace of ideas.

That "tiny bit" and "junk DNA" suggested that this article might be of the 'human beings are nothing but hairless chimps' variety.

So the Lemming kept reading. Hey: that's the only way to find out if it's worth writing about.

Turns out, "junk DNA" is what odd bits of code in the human genome were called. The Lemming will get back to that.

"...Led by Georgia Tech professor of biology John McDonald, a new study has verified that while the sequence of genes between humans and chimpanzees is nearly identical, Chimpanzees have certain gaps in their genome. In humans, those gaps are filled with what is known as 'junk DNA.' The findings are reported in the most recent issue of the online, open-access journal Mobile DNA.The research could go a long way in answering a universal question -- what makes us so different?

" 'Let's say intelligence is your ability to compose poetry, symphonies, do art, math and science,' astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson explained at a talk at St. Petersburg College. 'Chimps can't do any of that, yet we share 99 percent DNA.'..."

One of the big questions, given how genetically similar chimps and humans are, is why we're so radically different. Assuming that the answer is strictly in our DNA, that means that the "junk DNA" may not be quite as junky as it's assumed to be.

'We Don't Understand It, So It's "Junk"?'

There's an explanation, of sorts, for how that 1 percent got called "junk." Basically, it's because researchers didn't know what it did. Back to that article, again:

"...For years, scientists assumed the opposite, that this junk DNA did very little. By definition, the sequences have had no known biological functions, such as encoding for protein sequences.

"But McDonald's research indicates these bits of seemingly random code act as important regulators within the human genome, serving as on and off switches, activating important genes and regulating how they are expressed...."

The Lemming isn't sure that it's quite appropriate to call something "junk," because a researcher doesn't understand what it does. On the other hand, "junk" is a whole lot easier to say - and shorter - than something like "seemingly random sequences," so maybe it's a good choice after all.

Anyway, this is a fascinating twist in our studies of human genetics. For the Lemming: your experience may vary.

Somewhat-related posts:
More related posts:

What the Lemming thinks about science, religion, and getting a grip:

Friday, October 28, 2011

Kill the Dog, Win a Medal: Or, Toto's Lucky Break

"Death By Newbery Medal"

"There is a Slice of Life story about childhood and coming of age. The main character has a best friend (an animal, another child, or a family member) who is a source of joy, wisdom, and understanding in their life. This friend is often frailer, more unworldly, or otherwise more 'special' than the main character. Bonus points if the character is cute or adorable.

"At the end of the story, this very special best friend is abruptly killed off, usually in a clear-cut case of Diabolus ex Machina. A favorite trick is to have the death happen entirely offscreen. The more horribly poignant the tragedy the better.

"All this is generally accompanied by lots of 'end of the innocence' angsting from the main character, along the lines of 'That was the day my childhood ended...' Really, it's just the author's way of having a child suddenly make the jump to adulthood via a single defining tragedy.

"The Newbery Medal is a prestigious award given to American novels written for children. To win one, it helps a lot to use a story like this.

"Bridge to Terabithia won a Newbery..."

The Lemming hastens to add that not every Newbery Medal book involves the littlest cancer patient dying of pneumonia because the main character left a window open. Or a loyal dog being killed by its owner.

Back to that page from

"...Remember, one reader's predictable, Narm-filled Award Bait can be another's Heartwarming-Crowned Childhood Classic that will always hold a special place on their bookshelf...."

Before wandering off on a suggestion for the next "Wizard of Oz" remake, a little background on Oz and all that:

"The Wizard of Oz" and an Appreciative Lemming

For the record, the Lemming likes L. Frank Baum's original "Wizard of Oz," and the sequels that the Lemming's read so far. The Lemming also likes the famous 1939 "Wizard of Oz" movie - and some of the subsequent ones.

But the Lemming realizes that none of the above are 'literary.' At least not by the standards that the Lemming had to learn, back in the 'good old days.' Good grief: Toto survives, Dorothy survives: what's the fun in that, for a 'serious thinker?'

It's not to late to turn this around, though. Maybe it's time for some frightfully earnest chap to re-write "The Wizard of Oz," transforming it from mere escapist literature (or a trenchant metaphorical discussion of American history, railroads, and all that: no, really, someone said that).

There Might be a Pulitzer in This

From Toto's point of view, it's a good thing that he and his owner, Dorothy, weren't in a 'deeply moving,' or 'meaningful' story. The Wicked Witch of the West's demise was a little edgier in L. Frank Baum's story, compared to the 1939 film adaptation - and the Lemming is wandering off-topic.

The basic "Oz" story doesn't need to change much - orphan Dorothy goes to Oz, meets weird people, and returns home. What could transport Baum's book to a higher (or lower?) plane is the details. Here's what the Lemming came up with, after a late-night cup of coffee:
  • Dorothy
    • Dropped on Auntie Em's doorstep as a baby
    • Precociously perceptive
    • Frees Toto from an animal research facility
    • Pursued by
      • Police
      • Scientists
        • Evil, of course
      • Corporate ninjas
  • Auntie Em
    • Operates an endangered wetlands preserve
      • With no visible means of support
    • Divorced
    • Wants to be a lawyer
      • Corporate
      • High-powered
      • Or a starship captain
  • Toto
    • Cute
      • Really, really cute
    • Starts communicating with Dorothy
      • Canine mind-meld?
      • Writing
        • On the ground?
        • Using Dorothy's laptop?
  • Suddenly, a tornado
    • Destroys Auntie Em's sustainable cabin
    • Uproots half the trees in the endangered wetland
    • Pulls Dorothy off the ground
      • Toto too
What is Toto trying to say? What happened to Aunti Em? And why do the corporate ninjas all look like agents from Men in Black?

Meanwhile, Dorothy and Toto are dropped into the middle of a planned community: apparently a collaborative effort by M. C. Escher and Salvador Dali. They meet the residents: most of whom wear green and violet bib overalls and carry banners with slogans like "PARCHEESI NOW!" and "LEGALIZE CONFETTI."

The Emerald City Goes Green

The residents tell Dorothy that her way home lies through the Emerald City, where the great wizard Oz will surely help her: while maintaining a small carbon footprint and using only sustainable resources.

While Dorothy and Toto travel to meet Oz, minions of the Wicked Witch of the West capture Toto. W. W. of the W. has a photo taken of herself petting the dog, and returns Toto to Dorothy: during a press conference.

Meanwhile, Dorothy has discovered that the great and mighty Oz is a mere imposter: with a disturbingly complete collection of Powerpuff Girls key rings.

Kill the Dog, Save the Planet

Then, just as the glitzy Good Witch of the North is about to send Dorothy and Toto home, Toto finally tells Dorothy what he was doing at that animal research facility.

Toto was one of twelve genetically altered dogs. The evil scientists had tried using monkeys, but the primates escaped. To Oz.

This dire dozen was programmed to spread chaos and destruction: and a plague that would convert all animals to greenhouse gasses, dooming life on Earth. Including pandas and fur seals.

Toto is powerless to overcome his programming: but there is one last hope. Oz may be a charlatan wizard, but he's also a top-notch biochemist: who just happens to have a fully-equipped lab right there in the Emerald City. Toto tells Dorothy that by vivisecting him, Oz may find a way to stop the remaining 11 dogs of doom before it's too late.

Dorothy of Kansas then helps Oz disassemble Toto. Oz stops the dogs, and Dorothy is returned to Kansas. In this version, it's the Lemming's guess that she'll go through years of therapy: which gives opportunities for sequels. Lots of sequels.

And the Pandas Live Happily Ever After

Oh, right: and the pandas are okay. Fur seals, too.

On consideration, the Lemming thinks that maybe this re-write is a little too serious.

The Lemming is also re-considering the wisdom of nocturnal imbibing of coffee.

Vaguely-related posts:

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Cartoon Character Design: Six Steps

"How to Design a Cartoon Character"
Ryn Gargulinski, eHow

"Designing a cartoon character is similar to giving birth, since you are creating a whole new being, but it’s different because you get to pick all the character’s traits, personality and looks. You also have complete control over what the character does and does not do. You can design a cartoon character with a dose of imagination and a few helpful tips...."

That "similar to giving birth" phrase just about cost this how-2 its credibility for the Lemming. This blogger was present for each birth: and it didn't take a brilliant observer to note that what the Lemming's wife experienced was significantly different from the process of creating a cartoon character.

That said, Ryn Gargulinski put together a pretty good - and mercifully brief - set of guidelines for creating a cartoon character. They're numbered, and the Lemming will get back to that:
  1. Envision the being
  2. Pick its personality
  3. Sketch a rough draft with the personality in mind
  4. Give your character a few obvious attributes that are easy to reproduce
  5. Be unique
  6. Name your character.
Ordered lists like that are really good for instructional material. In this case, though, the implication that steps one through six should be taken in that order are - in the Lemming's opinion - debatable.

Particularly since step six might precede step one. Sure, someone would probably decide that a character would be a child before deciding on the name "Baby Stubly." But in principle: a name might come first.

Nitpicking aside, it's a pretty good introduction to character design. The "Tips & Warnings" section, below most of the content, is worth reading too. In the Lemming's opinion.

Allegedly-related posts:

Monday, October 24, 2011

Roentgen / ROSAT Hit Earth: Somewhere Around Southeast Asia

"Dead ROSAT Satellite Reenters Over South-East Asia"
Ian O'Neill, Discovery News (October 23, 2011)

"The German Aerospace Center and NASA have confirmed the defunct Roentgen Satellite, or ROSAT, has met its doom, most likely somewhere over SE Asia. German officials have said that the reentry occurred some time between 9:45 p.m. and 10:15 p.m. EDT on Saturday night.

"Fortunately, there are no reports of falling debris or damage, which means the surviving satellite bits -- around 30 pieces -- most likely crashed safely into the Bay of Bengal, somewhere between the the east coast of India and Indonesia. The location has yet to be confirmed, however.

"If it did come down in the Bay of Bengal, the satellite would have been approaching heavily populated cities in China before it started to tumble through the Earth's atmosphere, a fall that would have taken up to 15 minutes.

"Although the likelihood of the 2.4 ton X-ray satellite causing death and destruction was low (at 1-in-2,000), these odds were higher than last month's NASA Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS) crash. The likelihood of UARS hitting someone on Earth was set at 1-in-3,200, even though UARS was a larger piece of kit than ROSAT...."

What made ROSAT particularly dangerous was its mirror: almost three feet across, and weighing 880 pounds. Odds are pretty good that most of it came down in one piece. Even if the mirror broke up during reentry, and the largest piece was only half the size of the original: that'd still be 440 pounds of mirror. Definitely not the sort of thing anyone would want hitting the roof.

As of last night, it looks like nobody got hurt. That's good news.

The bad news is that ROSAT wasn't the only piece of space junk spinning around our planet. The Lemming's no Luddite, and thinks that communications satellites, GPS systems, and all the rest are useful. On the other hand, it's gotten crowded up there: and folks on Earth can't count on being lucky each time something comes in.

Maybe someone will work out a way to make money by salvaging out-of-service satellites. The Lemming's pretty sure that the more earnest folks Earthside would have fits over such capitalistic plots, and there'd have to be some sort of air traffic control (space traffic control?) for the salvage operations. But the Lemming also thinks a 'private sector' solution like that would probably cost less, and might work more effectively than some massive bureaucracy.

Think about it: if Earth goes the 'government' route, the United States, Japan, Russia, China, and India - at minimum - would insist on having full control of the program. The United Kingdom, France, Germany - you get the idea.

Yes, the Lemming thinks 'Ralph's Rockets and Orbital Salvage' would probably work better. Particularly since Ralph would have plenty of competition to keep up with.

And that's another topic.

Slightly-related posts:

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Libya's Colonel is Dead

You've probably read about it in the news: the Libyan Colonel is dead. Which is bad news for anybody still supporting him, good news for a whole lot of other folks.

The Lemming opined about Libya, autocrats, and living in the Information Age, in another blog:

Friday, October 21, 2011

Flabbergasted: What's a Flabber, and How Does One Gast It?

"Flabbergasted" really is a word:

Merriam-Webster Dictionary
  1. Affected with sudden and great wonder or surprise
  2. Filled with amazement or wonder
The M-W lists quite a few synonyms for flabbergasted, which the Lemming has combined into one whacking great list. Just in case you have an aversion to saying "flabbergasted," although the Lemming can't imagine why:
  • Agape
  • Aghast
  • Amazed
  • Appalled
  • Astonished
  • Astounded
  • Awed
  • Awesome
  • Awestruck
    • Also awestricken
  • Bewildered
  • Bowled over
  • Confused
  • Dazed
  • Dismayed
  • Dumbfounded
    • Also dumfounded
  • Dumbstruck
  • Horrified
  • Marveling
    • Or marvelling
  • Openmouthed
  • Overwhelmed
  • Shocked
  • Stunned
  • Stupefied
  • Wide-eyed
  • Widemouthed
  • Wondering
"Widemouthed" is not, of course, to be confused with the largemouth bass, or the wide mouth frog protocol, which has little or nothing to do with Protocol (1984).

"Flabbergasted:" Where it Came From

Online Etymology Dictionary

"1772, mentioned (with bored) in a magazine article as a new vogue word, perhaps from some dialect (in 1823 flabbergast was noted as a Sussex word), likely an arbitrary formation from flabby or flapper and aghast...."

Words and a Blogging Lemming

A reasonable question at this point is: SO WHAT?!! The Lemming's noted what some odd word means, and where it comes from: but what value does that information have?

Knowing what flabbergasted means probably won't make the difference between picking a winning lottery ticket, and merely delaying other customers at a convenience store checkout. Memorizing that list of synonyms probably won't guarantee social acceptance and success in the Stock Market. Not even if you can recite it backwards.

A student is unlikely to find "define 'flabbergasted,' and use it in a sentence" on the next test. Particularly in biology class. That would be flabbergasting.

However, the Lemming thinks that knowing what words mean, and where they came from, has value from a 'quality of life' point of view. It's fun to discover that "flabbergasted" goes back to the 18th century, and may have originated in Sussex. Of course, the Lemming enjoys reading dictionaries: so your experience may vary.

Vaguely-related posts:

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Shanghai World Financial Center: Amazing Architecture, a Disgruntled Dragon, and Getting a Grip

"Shanghai World Financial Center"
Kohn Pedersen Fox, Aric Chen, Architectural Record (January 3, 2008)

"Any plan to build the world's tallest building requires dodging a minefield of technical, economic, and political issues. But throw in a regional financial crisis, a global race skyward, and major, midconstruction design revisions-complicated by a symbolic motif that flared simmering national tensions-and the task seems that much harder...."

Those phrases, "symbolic motif...simmering national tensions," raise a question that the article answers - eventually. For your convenience, and because the Lemming's going to opine on what happened, here's how a seemingly-innocuous architectural feature turned into a pickle of paralogizing and pettifoggery.

First, here's the 'offensive' part of the Shanghai World Financial Center that might have set off an international incident:

"...The result is a soaring, silvery square prism, sliced at opposite corners by gently curving arcs that nearly converge at the top—an abstract confluence of the ancient Chinese representations of heaven (a circle) and earth (a square)...."

Doesn't seem too offensive, does it?

To most Americans, whether a perforated tower's hole was round, square, or something else, might not make much of a difference.

Folks in China might have seen a round hole in their new skyscraper as nice application of part of their cultural heritage. If the project's developer hadn't been Japanese. Back to the Architectural Record article:

The Strange Case of the Disgruntled Dragon

After an extensive discussion of the Shanghai World Financial Center's engineering challenges, we get back to what happened when a barbarian architect tangled with national pride, Eastern style:

"...And yet the biggest curve ball came from something seemingly innocuous: the aperture cut out from the building's summit. Serving as the project's iconic centerpiece, it was originally a circle intended to evoke a traditional Chinese moon gate and would have doubled as a gondola ride—an inside-out Ferris wheel a hundred stories in the sky. But aware of the project's Japanese developer, many Chinese saw in it Japan's rising sun, an interpretation that proved intolerable given the countries' deep, historic strains. 'It was presented by me as a moon gate with complete confidence,' recalls Pedersen, unaware of the controversy he was about to ignite...."
(Architectural Record) [emphasis by the Lemming]

The Lemming can see the point of view of the Chinese soreheads, sort of. At least as recently as WWII, some folks south of the Mason-Dixon line emphatically did not like being called "Yankees." Considering what their families had gone through, that's understandable. After the War Between the States, General Ulysses "the Butcher" Grant's efforts, and carpetbaggers: folks in the Southern states had little reason to appreciate Yankee rule.

Unlike the South, China managed to free itself from conquering armies: but the Lemming figures that some resentment toward Japan can be expected.

On the other hand: getting upset over a circle?!

There may be cultures that don't have a circle as part of their symbolic vocabulary. But "moon gate" China isn't one of them.

>>>BEWARE<<< >>>THE<<<
#>#>#>#LIZARD MEN#<#<#<#
%%%from outer space%%%!!!!
and other weirdness

Things could be worse. Someone in China might notice that their Shanghai World Financial Center's square hole is the same shape as Purina Mills's trademark: and goes a little crazy. Who knows? China may soon be demanding United Nations sanctions against the United States: for secretly putting a Yankee imperialist capitalist warmonger trademark symbol in their skyscraper.

Maybe the notion that anyone would see 'Yankee imperialism' in the Shanghai World Financial Center's architectural style is crazy.

Next thing, the Lemming will be saying that there's a conspiracy theory about the CIA blowing up New York City's World Trade Center. Oh, wait - - -.

Actually, the 'CIA plot' angle isn't the craziest idea to feature in conspiracy theories. The CIA, after all, really exists:
Or, maybe shape-shifting, space-alien, lizard-men really do run the world, and the Lemming's in on the plot!!! Use enough emotionally-charged words, write in ALL-CAPS, put the fonts in colors calculated to make your eyes hurt, sprinkle liberally with exclamation marks!!!!!!! - and the Lemming might convince someone. But why bother? And that's another topic.

World's Tallest Building - Sort of - In August, 2008

When someone calls a building "the world's tallest," they're quite likely right. Even if someone else calls the pile in their back yard "the world's tallest" building, too. It has to do with which measurement gets used to define a building's height. Back to that article, again.

"...Upon its completion last year [2008], the Shanghai World Financial Center, designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox (KPF), became the world's tallest building—sort of. Though it currently claims the world's topmost roof, at 1,614 feet, and highest occupied floor, it was surpassed in total height by the 1,680-foot-high spire of Taipei 101 during construction and will be dwarfed by the 2,680-foot-tall Burj Dubai when that structure is finished later this year. But at 101 stories, the Shanghai World Financial Center still cuts through the skyline of China's financial capital like a glittering knife, a spectacular, supertall achievement that beat the odds nonetheless...."
(Architectural Record)

The Lemming hasn't heard of any building with income-producing levels farther from the ground than that megatower in the UAE. It's the "Burj Dubai" in the 2008 Architectural Record article; "Burj Khalifa" or "Burj Dubai" in 2010: and the Lemming hasn't checked to see what it's called this year. Never mind the name: it's that half-mile-high pile of metal and glass in the United Arab Emirates. Even in Dubai, the Burj-whatever stands out.

So does the Shanghai World Financial Center. For now.

A Glass Roof, Glass Floor, and Coming Attractions

Here's the final excerpt from the Architectural Record article. In this post, anyway:

"...At the bottom of the trapezoid, one deck features an operable glass roof; at the top, the second has become known for the hair-raising experience of walking on glass floors a third of a mile from the ground. 'It's really about lifting people up, not just making the world’s tallest record,' KPF senior designer David Malott says of the building.

"Which is probably a healthy attitude. After all, currently rising next door is the Gensler-designed Shanghai Tower. And if all goes as planned, it will dwarf the Shanghai World Financial Center by 400 feet when it is completed in 2014."

Given human nature, the Lemming figures that the Shanghai Tower will be someone's fault - if you listen to the right people. But the Lemming also figures that it'll be something worth looking at, too.

As with so much else, the trick is paying attention to things that make sense. And that's yet again another topic.

Related posts:

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Pickles Aren't Always Pickled

The Lemming's working on tomorrow's post, which has to do with architecture and design: business-as-usual, with the Lemming's new schedule. Naturally, a discussion of a remarkable skyscraper and cultural issues brought the Lemming's train of thought to pickles.

For the Lemming, that sort of thing is "natural." Your experience may vary. And probably does. Which is another topic.

Where was the Lemming? Posts. The day after today. Architecture. Pickles. Right.

Pickling is what you can do with cucumbers, watermelons: just about anything edible, and some things that aren't. But that's not the sort of pickle the Lemming was thinking of.

Definition time! The Lemming's a recovering English teacher, which might be why there are so many of these digressions into what words mean - and even why they mean what they mean now, and didn't mean the same thing a few hundred years ago. Which is another topic.

Here's what "pickle" means:
  • Pickle, noun
    1. Vegetables (especially cucumbers) preserved in brine or vinegar
    2. Informal term for a difficult situation
  • Pickle, verb
    1. Preserve in a pickling liquid
    (Princeton's WordNet)
Will knowing that "to pickle" something means preserving it in a pickling liquid enable you to bring about world peace, end hunger, and win the lottery? Probably not. Will knowing that a pickle can be a preserved cucumber or a difficult situation that has nothing to do with vegetables, vinegar, or brine bring you success in your career, an acne-free complexion, and brighter, whiter teeth? Almost certainly not.

But the Lemming likes to know what words mean: and maybe you do, too. Or, not: which is also okay. Although that brings up the question of why you read this much of the post. And that is yet another topic.

Allegedly-related posts:

Monday, October 17, 2011

We interrupt for a special bulletin: STEVE JOBS IS STILL DEAD! This blog will resume normal posts on Wednesday

As 'celebrity news' goes, this isn't at all bad:

"Silicon Valley elite honor Steve Jobs"
AFP (October 16, 2011)

"Silicon Valley nobility arrived at Stanford University on Sunday to pay tribute to revered Apple co-founder Steve Jobs.

"Security teams from Apple and Stanford along with local police officers cordoned off the main quad on campus, only letting pass those with invitations to the private event....

"...Responses to invitations were directed to Emerson Collective, a philanthropy founded by the Apple co-founder's wife, Laurene Powell Jobs.

"Amid global mourning for the death of the man behind iPhones, iPods, iPads, and Macintosh computers, California Governor Jerry Brown declared Sunday as 'Steve Jobs Day' in the western US state...."

The Lemming doesn't mind this follow-up on a celebrity's death: partly because Steve Jobs became a celebrity for what he contributed to the world's cultures.

That's a welcome change from the usual news about:
  • Some media star's latest incarceration for
    • Shoplifting
    • Public intoxication
    • Reckless driving
    • All of the above
  • A sports 'great' beating up someone
    • Again

Celebrities, News, and Silliness

Not that everyone who's on the 'grin until your lips hurt' side of the camera is a chronically inebriated kleptomaniac with relationship issues. And I'm sure that quite a few professional athletes get through an entire season without forcing their managers to deal with the courts. The quiet ones don't seem to get much publicity.

There's something about celebrities that seems to bring out the 'silly' in people.

Like the 'Princess Di is Still Dead!!' items that littered journalism a few years back; or seemingly endless 'royal wedding' coverage, more recently.

Or news that '[celebrity] is dead:' given national coverage after some caffeinated journalist read something online. Maybe news editors have gotten more savvy these days.

Steve Jobs, Humanity, the Big Picture, and the Lemming

For what it's worth, the Lemming's sorry to see Steve Jobs gone. He made a real contribution, by helping change the way most folks relate to information technology. That's a big deal.

On the other hand, the Lemming thinks that, just as humanity somehow struggled on after whoever learned to use fire died: humanity will endure the death of Steve Jobs. Maybe the next-generation iPod or digital nose hair trimmer won't be quite the huge splash it would have been with Jobs' colorful personality pushing it.

But the Lemming strongly suspects that somehow, somewhere, someone is going to get a new idea or two. And others will realize that the idea's a good one.

Then, quite likely, it'll just be a matter of time before we see editorials warning about how the new idea will
  • Bring about the end of civilization
  • Kill some cute animal
  • Generally spread chaos and destruction
Sorry: It's Monday, and it's hit the Lemming with unusual severity this week.

Related posts:

Friday, October 14, 2011

Mutant Mice Shed Light on Intestinal Bacteria

"Feedback Loops Keep Gut Bacteria Calibrated"
Ars Technica, Wired (October 14, 2011)

"We tend to get overly focused on bacteria that are trying to kill us (and there's no shortage of those), but there are large populations of bacteria that live in or on us without causing any problems, and some of them are even helpful. This is especially true in the gut, where bacteria help us with the food we eat and provide some essential nutrients; there's even evidence that our gut bacteria can influence our behavior. This creates a bit of a challenge for the immune system, which needs to kill harmful bacteria and avoid killing helpful ones—but still keep their numbers in check. This involves a degree of interaction between the immune system and the bacteria.

"A study in yesterday's Science has described a new way that the gut and bacteria interact to keep things from getting out of hand. Cells in the gut sense when the bacteria get too close, and produce a peptide that kills some of them off when they do. This keeps the space around the cells of the small intestine free of bacteria, which in turn keeps the bacteria from setting off a full-blown immune response...."

The research involved fiddling with mouse genes and seeing what happened. The article is fairly easy reading, but the Lemming wouldn't necessarily recommend perusing it just before a meal. Unless you're on a diet. Or don't mind thinking about the cellular nuts and bolts of digestive activity while you eat.

Fascinating stuff, for the Lemming. Your experience may vary.

Maybe someday medical professionals will realize that antibiotics kill intestinal microcritters, that this messes with normal digestion, and that there's an easy fix available: acidophilus, and that's another topic.

Sort-of-related posts:

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Color Theory, Color Wheels, and a Nifty Bracelet

"The Art of Color
for Bead Jewelry Designers

"You will learn the science of color, color theory, and how to use a color wheel to create great color combinations.

"We will discuss the emotional aspects of color, including color therapy as well as the meaning and symbolism of color.

"Margie Deeb, author of The Beader's Guide to Color said '"You can learn to use color in extraordinary ways. You already possess the most important tools...'..."

What caught the Lemming's eye was that 'color wheel bracelet.' It's - colorful. Pretty. has more than a nifty photo and a book to sell, though. That page links to some pretty-good introductions to color theory, and "Using the Color Wheel To Create Stunning Combinations," which won't make the reader into a world-class designer: but does cover enough to get started with. Plus a bit.

The Lemming thinks they really meant "Using the Color Wheel To Create Attractive Combinations." The Lemming has used 'color wheel' theory to create designs: with a personal taste that led to stunning results. The Lemming's daughter who's a commercial artist analyzed one of those stunning creations. Her assessment was that it looked like an explosion in a paint factory.

The Lemming thinks she was right, and that's almost another topic.

The point is, a color wheel and understanding of color theory won't guarantee results. The Lemming thinks it's a good idea to know the basics, though.

Color Theory From Another Angle

"Color Wheel"

"A color wheel (also referred to as a color circle) is a visual representation of colors arranged according to their chromatic relationship. Begin a color wheel by positioning primary hues equidistant from one another, then create a bridge between primaries using secondary and tertiary colors.

"These terms refer to color groups or types:

"Primary Colors: Colors at their basic essence..."

Taking the same basic content, starts with color as an idea, not colored beads. Which is also okay. This page mentions the familiar red-yellow-blue color wheel, and different ways the colors can be presented in a graph.

A tip of the Lemming's hat to, for mentioning two of the other color wheels out there: the "Printers' color triangle," and Goethe's nine-part harmonic triangle.

Color Theory: More Text, Fewer Pictures

"Color Theory" Ford (2007)

"For a long time, now, there has been a problem that fledgling designers have run into on a constant basis. This problem seems insignificant to most, but in actuality it is quite possibly the most important factor in a design or piece of artwork. Yes, you guessed it...I'm talking about the issue of COLOR.

"Color can be a touchy subject. Sometimes artists use colors that evoke certain emotions. Other times artists use colors simply because they like the way they look. While any design instructor will tell you that the latter reason is completely wrong, I tend to disagree. In my personal opinion, color always has meaning. This meaning can be, as I mentioned, an emotional one or it can be a personal preference on the part of the artist himself, but it ALWAYS has purpose behind it.

"There is nothing wrong with choosing a color because you like it because, after all, it is your work. However, when choosing a color you still want to make sure its use does not conflict with what you are trying to say with your work. Proper use of basic color theory can help you decide what colors match, as well as what each color makes people feel...."

Ryan Ford's approach is more like the textbooks the Lemming's familiar with. Ford assumes that the reader can visualize the color wheel, and refer to that mental image while reading.

The Lemming's comfortable with that approach. But then, the Lemming's:
  • One of those folks who read cereal boxes during breakfast as a child
    • Including the ingredients list
  • Loves to see data as a matrix
    • Then create graphs and tables so others can see it, too
Let's face it: the Lemming's not normal.

Ford deserves mention, for explaining what RGB, CMYK, and PMS) mean:
  • RGB
    • Red
    • Green
    • Blue
  • CMYK
    • Cyan
    • Magenta
    • Yellow
    • Black
      • "K" for "black"??
  • PMS
    • Pantone Matching System

Kudos. Although Ford could have explained why "K" for "black" makes sense.

Still, this is a pretty good place to start learning about color theory. The Lemming's seen to many 'introduction to' articles and texts, where the author assumes that folks who want an introduction to some topic already know the field's jargon. Uff da. (Which isn't jargon: "Uff da" is dialect, and that's another topic.)

Slightly-related posts:

Monday, October 10, 2011

iClouds on the Horizon?

"Enduring Genius"
Jobs left plans for more Apple products
Thomas Grillo, Boston Herald (October 10, 2011)

"The Apple genius stockpiled fours years worth of blueprints for fresh products to ensure his company's success, according to reports.

"Despite his illness, Jobs, the co-founder and CEO of Apple who died last week at the age of 56, had been masterminding updated versions of the iPod, iPad, iPhone and MacBooks, and overseeing the development of the delayed iCloud project, which will allow Apple users to store music, photos and other documents remotely, according to a report in the Daily Mail.

"Carl Howe, director of Yankee Group's Consumer Research group, said he's not surprised that Jobs was at work on future Apple products, noting that the design registration for the iPad was completed in 2004 but not introduced to the marketplace until last year.

" 'It's not like these guys plan only a quarter or two in advance,' he said. 'Jobs anticipated new products years ahead.'..."

We'll probably be hearing about Steve Jobs for quite a while. As the Lemming opined last week, Mr. Jobs had quite a bit to do with developing the interconnected world we have today.

That said, the "future Apple products" sound a whole lot like current Apple products:
  • Probably with new features
  • Possibly with better performance
  • Maybe with some number of bugs fixed
    • And a lower number introduced
Even the "delayed iCloud project" isn't all that new: at least, "cloud computing" has been around for years. This blog's first post about cloud computing was in January, 2009, as the Lemming recalls.

Back then, cloud computing would cause the death of the PC. The Lemming sounded off on "death of" articles last month. (September 28, 2011)

The Lemming thinks "cloud computing" makes sense for some functions. In a way, this blog is an example of cloud computing. The Lemming uses a desktop computer in central Minnesota to connect via the Internet with servers run by and it's those servers that store the posts.

Until some millennial day, when Internet connections never fail and data stored online is absolutely, positively, failsafe secure - the Lemming thinks that quite a few business and personal data storage and management will be done on-site.

How hard is it to make "failsafe" systems? Let's look at a definition for the term:

"failsafe- A process that uses controls and logic to stop an improper operation or transaction before it occurs and creates an error condition or defect. ex.- an entry program for distributing a single charge to several departments by percent that will not update if the individual entries don't add up to 100%."
(Bridgefield Group)

The example Brigefield Group gives shouldn't be too hard to get right: says the blogger who doesn't have to write the code; and get it approved by a gaggle of managers. More complex operations, like an online database? The Lemming suspects that making something like that "failsafe" when it comes to security will be somewhere between extremely difficult and flat-out impossible.

But the Lemming's been wrong before.

Vaguely-related posts:

Friday, October 7, 2011

Steve Jobs, 1955-2011: Computers and Hyperbole

For once, the rumors were right. A celebrity really is dead. Steve Jobs' life and death were major news yesterday

World Leaders and Steve Jobs: Not Bad for a Kid From the Apricot Orchards

"World tributes pour in for Steve Jobs"
Laura Smith-Spark, CNN (October 6, 2011)

"International leaders in politics and business are paying tribute Thursday to Apple visionary Steve Jobs, whose death at age 56 has saddened many around the world.

" 'Steve Jobs transformed the way we work and play; a creative genius who will be sorely missed. Our thoughts are with his family,' British Prime Minister David Cameron tweeted.

"French President Nicolas Sarkozy wrote on his Facebook page that Jobs was a great entrepreneur, innovator and major player in the world's technological revolution.

" 'As inspired as he was inspiring, Steve Jobs will remain one of the great figures of our time,' Sarkozy said, as he paid tribute to the American's courage in both his work and personal life.

"Ireland's Prime Minister, or Taoiseach, Enda Kenny also gave his condolences in a statement paying tribute to the man who brought the world the iPod portable music player, the iPhone and the iPad tablet...."

There's more of the same as the article goes on. Steve Jobs, once Apple CEO and Chairman, made a difference. A big difference. Around the world. A whole lot of national leaders have said so: occasionally online.

Not bad for some kid from California's apricot orchards.

End of an Era? Yes - End of the Innovators? Not Likely

"Apple's Steve Jobs Dies at 56"
Associated Press, via (October 6, 2011)

"Steve Jobs saw the future and led the world to it. He moved technology from garages to pockets, took entertainment from discs to bytes and turned gadgets into extensions of the people who use them.

"Jobs, who founded and ran Apple, told us what we needed before we wanted it.

" 'To some people, this is like Elvis Presley or John Lennon. It's a change in our times. It's the end of an era,' said Scott Robbins, 34, a barber and an Apple fan. 'It's like the end of the innovators.'..."

"End of the innovators?" "THE innovators??" What, we've seen the last of folks like Αρχιμήδης, 諸葛亮, Benjamin Franklin, or Nikolas Tesla? Somehow, the steel industry endured the passing of Bessemer, movies survived the death of Disney, and the Lemming thinks we haven't seen the end of innovation. Not even close.

Remember the story about the fellow who said the United States Patent Office should close, because everything that could be invented: had been invented? In 1900 or so? It may not be true: but that's not the point.

Over-the-top hyperbole and Elvis aside, Steve Jobs has been one of the big innovators, and - in the Lemming's opinion - an even better publicist for information technology. He will be missed.

Back to that Associated Press piece:

"...President Barack Obama said in a statement that Jobs 'exemplified the spirit of American ingenuity.'

" 'Steve was among the greatest of American innovators -- brave enough to think differently, bold enough to believe he could change the world and talented enough to do it,' he said.

"Jobs had battled cancer in 2004 and underwent a liver transplant in 2009 after taking a leave of absence for unspecified health problems. He took another leave of absence in January -- his third since his health problems began -- and resigned in August. Jobs became Apple's chairman and handed the CEO job over to his hand-picked successor, Tim Cook....

"...The news Apple fans and shareholders had been dreading came the day after Apple unveiled its latest iPhone, a device that got a lukewarm reception. Perhaps, there would have been more excitement had Jobs been well enough to show it off with his trademark theatrics.

"Jobs started Apple with a high school friend in a Silicon Valley garage in 1976, was forced out a decade later and returned in 1997 to rescue the company. During his second stint, it grew into the most valuable technology company in the world with a market value of $351 billion. Almost all that wealth has been created since Jobs' return....

"...He helped change computers from a geeky hobbyist's obsession to a necessity of modern life at work and home, and in the process he upended not just personal technology but the cellphone and music industries.

"For transformation of American industry, he has few rivals. He has long been linked to his personal computer-age contemporary, Bill Gates, and has drawn comparisons to other creative geniuses such as Walt Disney. Jobs died as Walt Disney Co.'s largest shareholder, a by-product of his decision to sell computer animation studio Pixar in 2006...."

One more thing before moving on. The Lemming learned a lot from doing time in American academia, but let's get real. Some outfits insist on seeing on that piece of paper colleges and universities swap for time served need a college education. Folks who want to work for a bureaucracy need a diploma.

Others can pick up the experience they want long before graduation. Steve Jobs is one of them.

Here's how Mr. Jobs explained the advantages of being a college dropout:

"...'All of my working-class parents' savings were being spent on my college tuition. After six months, I couldn't see the value in it,' he said at a Stanford University commencement address in 2005. 'I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and no idea how college was going to help me figure it out.'

"When he returned to California in 1974, Jobs worked for video game maker Atari and attended meetings of the Homebrew Computer Club -- a group of computer hobbyists -- with Steve Wozniak, a high school friend who was a few years older.

"Wozniak's homemade computer drew attention from other enthusiasts, but Jobs saw its potential far beyond the geeky hobbyists of the time. The pair started Apple Computer Inc. in Jobs' parents' garage in 1976. According to Wozniak, Jobs suggested the name after visiting an "apple orchard" that Wozniak said was actually a commune.

"Their first creation was the Apple I -- essentially, the guts of a computer without a case, keyboard or monitor......."
(Associated Press, via

That's when the world changed.

World Leaders, Nerds, and Steve Jobs

"Tributes for Apple 'visionary' Steve Jobs"
BBC News US & Canada (October 6, 2011)

"World and business leaders have been paying tribute to Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, who has died at the age of 56 from pancreatic cancer.

"US President Barack Obama and Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev said Mr Jobs had changed the world.

"Microsoft's Bill Gates said it had been 'an insanely great honour' to work with him. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg remembered his 'mentor and friend'.

"The Twitter microblog site struggled to cope with the traffic of tributes...."

After quite a great deal more of that, BBC gets to what the Lemming thinks is a really major contribution Steve Jobs gave the world:

"...Mr Jobs built a reputation as a forthright and demanding leader who could take niche technologies - such as the mouse and graphical user interface, using onscreen icons rather than text - and make them popular with the general public. ..."
(BBC News US & Canada)

Nerds who read this? Please don't be offended by what's coming: the Lemming's something of a nerd. More than 'something,' according to #3 daughter.

Nerds are great people: some are also geeks. But the most brilliantly innovative nerdy geek could develop a world-changing technology: and live in obscurity until the nerdy geek's socially ept (why not?? 'the opposite of inept') sibling showed the world why they wanted - and needed - wind-powered automatic ear wax removers. ("It'll blow your mind!")

"Steve Jobs is the Chairman of the Board...."?!

"Steve Jobs" (still online, as of noon (Central) October 7, 2011)

"Steve Jobs is the Chairman of the Board of Apple, which he co-founded in 1976. Apple is leading the consumer technology world with its revolutionary iPhone and App Store, its family of iPod media players and iTunes media store, and its Mac computers and iLife and iWork application suites. Apple recently introduced iPad 2 which is defining the future of mobile media and computing devices.

"Steve also co-founded and was the CEO of Pixar Animation Studios, which created some of the most successful and beloved animated films of all time including Toy Story, A Bug’s Life, Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Cars and Ratatouille. Pixar merged with The Walt Disney Company in 2006 and Steve now serves on Disney's board of directors.

"Steve grew up in the apricot orchards which later became known as Silicon Valley, and still lives there with his family."

"Steve Jobs is the Chairman of the Board of Apple...." "Is?" Present tense?? The Lemming can think of several explanations, some more plausible than others. Steve Jobs:
  1. Isn't dead, he's
    1. Secretly running Apple from a bunker in northern Minnesota
    2. One of the shape shifting, space alien, lizard men who run the world
    3. Been forced out of Apple and is hiding in
      • A bunker in northern Minnesota
      • A secret basement under Apple headquarters
      • A Bangkok warehouse
  2. Is dead
    1. Apple will
      • Learn to cope without Mr Jobs
      • Become a Dilbertesque American corporation
    2. He's
      • Secretly running Apple from a bunker in northern Minnesota
        • Communicating with Tim Cook through a magic iPod of his own design
        • Telepathically influencing the operations of Apple
          • Which he's done since his death in 1985
            • In a freak lab accident
      • The victim of a conspiracy involving
Maybe the Lemming shouldn't make jokes about this. Apart from the matter of poor taste, there's the possibility that someone's going to believe one or more of those crazy conspiracy theories.

Seriously, Has a very nice, tasteful, splash screen up, with a monochrome portrait of Steve Jobs, his name, and 1955-2011. Folks working there probably have better things to do at the moment, than updating Mr. Jobs' bio page.

And, for the record, the Lemming figures that #2A is what's really going on. Seriously: Elvis?

Sort-of-related posts:

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Lemming Tracks: Cathedral Repairs, Freedom, and a Ranting Lemming

"National Cathedral to reopen in November after fixes"
AP, via USA Today (October 4, 2011)

"The earthquake-damaged Washington National Cathedral announced Tuesday that it plans to reopen on Nov. 12 but said it must raise tens of millions of dollars to fully restore the building.

"Three of the four spires of the Gothic cathedral's central tower were damaged during the earthquake. Intricate stonework was shaken loose, and some fell onto the building's roof. Major cracks also formed in parts of the structure. Inside the cathedral, small pieces of mortar rained down from the 100-foot-high ceiling during the quake. Safety netting was stretched over the sanctuary as a precaution.

"The reopening will mark the first time the cathedral has resumed its services since the magnitude-5.8 earthquake on Aug. 23. It had hoped to reopen for 9/11 anniversary services, but the collapse of a massive crane being used for repairs complicated the work...."

First, the good news: as far as the Lemming knows, nobody got hurt or killed when that August 23 earthquake knocked pieces off the cathedral.

Actually, there isn't much bad news connected with this. Nobody hurt, and the building's pretty much okay.

Job one, the article says, was making sure that the Washington National Cathedral was structurally sound: and would stay that way. That, and a collapsing crane, is what's going to take until some time in November. Patching up all the essentially cosmetic damage will take years. And a lot of money.

Dollars and Sense

Despite the name, the Washington National Cathedral isn't part of America's federal government. The United States doesn't have a state church, and can't: unless Congress goes crazy and changes the Constitution.1

That, from the Lemming's point of view, is more good news: Repairs on the National Cathedral get paid for by folks who want to spend the money; not taxes confiscated by the feds.

Back to that AP article:

"...Cathedral officials said Tuesday that they need at least $15 million for initial repairs but that fully restoring the cathedral would likely cost tens of millions of dollars.

"The cathedral is also trying to raise another $10 million to fund operations through the end of 2012. The Episcopal cathedral saw severe losses during the nation's financial crisis as its endowment plunged in value and fundraising fell off. Its budget was slashed from $27 million to $13 million and its staff was cut by more than half from 170 full-time employees to 70 last year...."

Hold It: Episcopal?? CATHEDRAL?!!

The Washington National Cathedral is an Episcopal church. Aren't cathedrals Catholic churches? Nope. "Cathedral" is: a kind of building; some of what a bishop does; a music album; a band; and a game. Then there's "cathedra," that's a piece of furniture:
  • Cathedral (religious)
    • Noun
      • Any large and important church
      • The principal Christian church building of a bishop's diocese
    • Adjective
      • Relating to or containing or issuing from a bishop's office or throne
      (Princeton's WordNet)
  • Cathedral (music):
  • Cathedral (game):
  • Cathedra (furniture):
    • Literally a chair and the source of word 'cathedral'
      • This chair is located in the sanctuary and is used exclusively by the Archbishop
      (Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis Missouri)
The Lemming is a "recovering English teacher:" as the man behind the Lemming puts it on Twitter. (On Twitter, the Lemming's Aluwir, and we're all Brian Gill, some guy in central Minnesota) That's part of why the Lemming puts so many definitions in these posts. The Lemming was fascinated with language long before doing time in academia, and that's another topic.

Just to make things more confusing, the Washington National Cathedral isn't the big Catholic church in Washington. That one isn't called a "cathedral," because it isn't. A cathedral, that is. Never mind, here are links to their websites:The Lemming will, mercifully, refrain from explaining what "basilica" means, where the word comes from, and why it's not the same as a basilisk: and those are yet more topics.

Where's the Rant?

About the post title, "...and a Ranting Lemming" - The Lemming's 'rant' is mostly in footnote 1. And in another blog's posts: Quakes, kooks, and getting a grip, under Vaguely-related posts)

Basically, the Lemming isn't on the same page as folks:
  • Who want freedom from religion
  • Whose religious beliefs make faith look like a psychiatric condition
Not even close.

Vaguely-related posts:

1 The 'Bill of Rights,' as first ratified in 1791, starts this way:
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances...."
(Bill of Rights Transcript Text,"
America's self-described 'better sort' have decided that this means nobody's supposed to talk about religion: unless they say the 'right' things. There's another way of looking at the First Amendment, but it's what the establishment sometimes calls "simplistic:"
"...Two clauses in the First Amendment guarantee freedom of religion. The establishment clause prohibits the government from passing legislation to establish an official religion or preferring one religion over another. It enforces the "separation of church and state." Some governmental activity related to religion has been declared constitutional by the Supreme Court. For example, providing bus transportation for parochial school students and the enforcement of "blue laws" is not prohibited. The free exercise clause prohibits the government, in most instances, from interfering with a person's practice of their religion...."
("First Amendment," LII / Legal Information Institute, Cornell University Law School)
The Lemming's opined about freedom of speech, ideological prudery, and getting a grip, in another blog:

Monday, October 3, 2011

Vesta: Small World, Big Mountain

"Giant Asteroid Vesta Has Mountain Taller Than Anything on Earth" (October 3, 2011)

"A NASA spacecraft orbiting the asteroid Vesta is revealing new details about the huge space rock's surface, including a massive mountain that rises taller than Mt. Everest on Earth.

"NASA's Dawn probe has been circling Vesta since mid-July, when it arrived in the asteroid belt that orbits the sun between Mars and Jupiter. So far, Dawn has beamed back surprising views of Vesta that revealed an enormous mountain in the asteroid's southern hemisphere and show that its crater surface is incredibly diverse place.

" 'We are learning many amazing things about Vesta, which we call the smallest terrestrial planet,' Chris Russell, principal investigator of the Dawn mission, said in a statement. 'Like Earth, Mars, Venus and Mercury, Vesta has ancient basaltic lava flows on the surface and a large iron core … The south polar mountain is larger than the big island of Hawaii, the largest mountain on Earth, as measured from the ocean floor. It is almost as high as the highest mountain in the solar system, the shield volcano Olympus Mons on Mars.'..."

The article has several NASA photos sent back by the Dawn probe: The Lemming thinks they're fascinating, but someone else might wonder what's the big deal with a grayish pockmarked lump of a mini-planet.

What's most intriguing for the Lemming is the possibility that Vesta's southern mountain isn't essentially the biggest lump on a lumpy pile of stuff. If Vest has - or had - some sort of geological process that pushed that mountain up, we'll have more data to drop into planetary geology models. Or whatever that topic's called. "Planetology" sounds awkward: and that's another topic.

Like Venus, Earth, and Mars, Vesta apparently has two major areas. The asteroid's northern hemisphere has more craters than the southern, and seems to be older. Volcanic activity, long ago? Evidence of a really big impact event on Vesta?

The Dawn probe's next stop is Ceres: ETA 2015.

Related posts:

Lemming Tracks: Change in Schedule

The Lemming turned 60 last Friday. ("Lemming Tracks: The Lemming Hits the Big Six-Oh" (October 1, 2011) That's a big deal for the Lemming: and marks the start of a new schedule for posts in this blog.

There's an explanation for why the Lemming's messing with routine coming later in this post. First, though, here's what to expect in Apathetic Lemming of the North: each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

'Topic of the day,' by blog:
A Catholic Citizen in
Apathetic Lemming
of the North
Sauk Centre Journal
SundayBeing CatholicWeekly post
MondayFeatured topicScience and technology
WednesdayStudying the Bible and CatechismArchitecture and design
FridayMy take on
the news

The Lemming's rapidly running out of Monday, so here's a (fairly) brief explanation for the change in schedule. It's from another blog, where the Lemming doesn't use the 'editorial we.'

Never mind. Here's the story:

Scheduled Creativity?!

Over the years I've had quite a few jobs, from beet chopper and delivery guy to advertising copywriter and graphic designer. Then there were those stints as a radio disk jockey. And a high school teacher. Not at the same time, of course.

I've learned quite a few things, including the value of time management. Which is why there are changes coming in this and some other blogs.

I'd like to divide my time like this:
  1. 100%
    Creative projects
    • Some of which have been on the back burner for
      • years
      • Decades
  2. 100%
    Researching and writing posts for
    • This blog
    • My other blogs,
      [Get ready for shameless self-promotion]
  3. 100%
    Tales of
    • Loonfoot Falls
      • Small town life, the way it never was
    • Galaxy Cadet
      • Heroics and hairspray in the 27th century
    • Castle Dampthorn
      • I don't even have a tagline for this one
Obviously, that won't work, since about two thirds of the way into "100% Creative projects," I'd start eating into the time I need for sleep.

If I discipline myself to spend no more time on each post in the new schedule than I do now, I should have about three days a week available for 'catching up. That's a big if, though: I've tried this sort of thing before.

We'll see how this goes.

Almost-related posts:
Unique, innovative candles

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

Pinterest: From the Man Behind the Lemming

Top 10 Most-Viewed Posts

Today's News! Some of it, anyway

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

Who Follows the Lemming?


Family Blogs - Blog Catalog Blog Directory