"The only blog we have to fear is blog itself."

Monday, May 29, 2006

My annual Memorial Day post 

The American Military CemetaryI went on a trip to France and England in May of 2002, and one of the places I visited was Normandy, the site of the D-Day invasion during World War II. Upon my return, I put my photos online.

Pointe-du-HocFeel free to click on the links below to see and read a little bit about some of these locations.If you ever get an opportunity to visit Normandy, I highly recommend it. Very well worth it, even if you only have two days there (as I did).

And, by the way, my photo site is hosted on free server space, so I apologize in advance for popups.

Thursday, May 25, 2006


group 415 group 415
01305 60510 17079 04606 50100
93000 08203 90130 94069 01207
81080 17028 07906 90220 73038
01401 70150 15073 00402 00680
12013 12510 00540 04091 01401
30150 86022 09608 10660 02082
05507 00020 00000 02208 30290
08022 01200 40710 13065 02709
40190 29014 02200 80020 11083
07300 30260 19000 00700 00000
86 86

That is all.

Technology Changing Us 

I had read a while ago that the thumb has become or is becoming the most used digit among young people, over the index finger, largely due to mobile phone usage. We shape the technology, then the technology shapes us.

Well, as Leonard Nimoy said on The Simpsons, "The cosmic ballet... goes on":

Soldiers bond with battlefield robots:
U.S. soldiers in Iraq are giving nicknames and forming emotional bonds with bomb-defusing robots they have come to regard as teammates, according to the founder of the company that invented the machines.

IRobot Chief Executive Colin Angle said one group of soldiers even named its robot "Scooby Doo" and grieved when it was blown up after completing 35 successful missions defusing improvised explosive devices.

"Please fix Scooby Doo because he saved my life," a soldier told repair technicians, according to Angle's account at last week’s Future in Review technology conference.
Doctor, did you warm up with 'Grand Theft Auto'?
Surgeons who warmed up by playing video games like "Super Monkey Ball" for 20 minutes immediately prior to performing surgical drills were faster and made fewer errors than those who did not, said Dr. James "Butch" Rosser, lead investigator on the study, slated for release Wednesday.

The research involved 303 surgeons participating in a medical training course that included video games and was focused on laparoscopic surgical procedures--which use a tiny video camera and long, slender instruments inserted through small incisions. The study was conducted by Beth Israel Medical Center in New York in conjunction with the National Institute on Media and the Family....

The results supported findings from a small study conducted by Rosser in 2003, which showed that doctors who grew up playing video games tended to be more efficient and less error-prone in laparoscopic-training drills. That earlier study suggested that playing video games sharpened eye-hand coordination, reaction time and visual skills.
Just wake me when we're 20% android, okay?

"Crib Potatoes" 

Babies and TVs Making More Sense to Parents:
A new study released today by the Kaiser Family Foundation...found that despite increasing debate over the potentially harmful effects of television on young children, many parents believe that the benefits of a little tube time — whether for their children's development or their own sanity — outweigh the risk of raising a generation of crib potatoes.
According to the study, one-third of children under 6 have a TV in their bedroom. Jeepers.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Dinner Table Talk Fodder 

Quote spotted in passing on a random blog's comments:

The phrase "jumped the shark" has jumped the shark.



Dan Povenmire, a director for Family Guy, writes on the official show blog about riding a private-sector version of the Vomit Comet:
My group was very eclectic, there was a 70 year old woman, a blind violin player, a hotel manager, a performance artist, a race car driver, and an attorney most of you would recognize from the O.J. Simpson trial....

"OK, we’re going into our first parabola!" the coaches informed us, "You’re gonna feel heavy now." Sure enough, it became really difficult to raise my arm. They had given some of us Nerf balls to toss around. When I dropped it from my heavy hand, it landed with a thud on the mat next to me as if I had dropped a sack of sand. After about 20 seconds of this, someone said, "Here we go!" and suddenlythat extra weight was gone and we lifted off the floor. It was not that sickening feeling centered in the pit of your stomach that you get from a rollercoaster drop, it was just this pleasant lightness that you could give yourself over to, which is exactly what I did.

The strange and wonderful thing about weightlessness is that it somehow manages to be both completely unexpected and exactly what you had imagined. It is a feeling of incredible freedom that is just ripe with the possibilities of play. No matter how adult you feel, it is virtually impossible not to push off a wall and go flying through the air like Superman. Soon the cargo hold of the 727 resembled a 3 dimensional slow-motion mosh pit with bodies flying around every which way like cotton candy in a cotton candy machine.
The experience cost four grand, but it sounds worth every penny.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Illicit Stairs 

So Betsy had a suggestion: let's climb some illicit stairs.

Near the supermarket, there's the bottom entrance to one of Pittsburgh's many public stairs. These outdoor staircases were built back when steel workers needed an efficient way to get down to the riverside mills from the steep slopes where their small saltbox homes were perched. These steps are often daunting memorials to the hardiness of millworkers--even a leisurely stroll up some of these monster walkways can knock the wind out of billygoats.

Many of these stairs are legal streets, with mailboxes for adjoining homes and official status on street maps (reportedly to the chagrin of the occasional motorist, intending to use one of these map lines as a vehicle shortcut only to be confronted with narrow concrete steps).

San Francisco has public steps of renown, with some 350 staircases in that city. Cincinnati has a reported 400. Pittsburgh, meanwhile, has 712.

According to the book The Steps of Pittsburgh: Portrait of a City, one Pittsburgh neighborhood alone (South Side Slopes) has a total step count of 5,447. Compare that to the Empire State Building's 1,575 steps from the lobby to the 86th floor observation deck.

These particular stairs Betsy suggested we traverse were blocked off at the bottom, likely indicating that they were no longer in practical service. There was no sign saying "Do Not Enter" or other warning, but we knew any trip up the steps would be an illicit one.

Getting past the metal pipe barrier at the bottom of the staircase was easy, and the walk up the lower portion of the steps was relatively uneventful (although it was obvious that people used the blocked-off stairs as a "secret" drinking location from the amount of empty bottles in the foliage beneath and beside the concrete steps).

Halfway up, one of the metal railings was twisted off its post and bent completely across the stairway. Whether this was vandalism or secondary warning was not clear.

It's possible that it was an intentional blockage, however, as the walk became much more precarious afterwards. A couple whole sections of stair or landing was missing entirely, and we had to shimmy along the gap on the uncertain remaining concrete structure. The ground was only mere feet away, but one wouldn't want to take a tumble of any distance mixed up with crumbling concrete and metal railing.

We needn't have worried, however, as we completed our ascencion unscathed. We quickly realized though that the quiet little neighborhood street at the top of the stairs wasn't actually the top; after respite of a short city block, the stairs continued up the hillside. That's when we realized that the days when steel workers traveled up and down these inclines were truly a Sisyphus-like nightmare. Today's automobile commutes home from work can be maddening, but try a little taste of mountain climbing after a 12-hour mill shift.

The next set of stairs were intact and fully functional, and these finally led us to the top (or at least as high up the slope as this set of stairs would take us). The neighborhood at the top of the stairs was interesting. The houses were small and some were in shabby repair, but the views of many were stunning: the late afternoon sun glinting off the Allegheny River. Beyond, the waterway coursed below its succession of bridges and the skyline of downtown loomed largely in front of Mount Washington.

The next time we climb some illicit stairs, I have to remember to bring a camera.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

A Night No Longer Remembered... 

...at least no longer by direct participants.

Last U.S. Titanic survivor dies:
Lillian Gertrud Asplund, the last American survivor of the sinking of the Titanic in 1912, has died, a funeral home said Sunday. She was 99.

Asplund, who was just 5 years old, lost her father and three brothers -- including a fraternal twin -- when the "practically unsinkable" ship went down in the North Atlantic after hitting an iceberg.


Asplund was the last Titanic survivor with actual memories of the sinking, but she shunned publicity and rarely spoke about the events.

At least two other survivors are living, but they were too young to have memories of the disaster. Barbara Joyce West Dainton of Truro, England, was 10 months old and Elizabeth Gladys "Millvina" Dean of Southampton, England, was 2 months old.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Mona Lisa x 2 

From the Mona Lisa In the News Desk (a generally underutilized desk, to be sure)...

Famous Smile Gets A Voice:
She is probably the most famous woman in the world...who came to fame in 1506. That's when Mona Lisa was painted. Yes...the voice, say Japanese experts, is what Mona Lisa would sound like....

Scientists at the Japan Acoustic Laboratory in Tokyo made Mona Lisa talk.

"Knowing her bone frame," says Dr. Matsumi Suzuki, "I can make her voice. What I believe to be very close to her real voice."

Measuring her fingers give them a guess at her height...about 5-feet-6 inches. Using the painting they determined the structure of the skull. Finally, they turned it all over to a computer with a data base of 150-thousand voices...and a special program by Microsoft...and out it came.
And how about this one....

This may look like a fake Mona Lisa. It isn't. It's a fake of a fake Mona Lisa:
Were he alive, Konrad Kujau, the man who forged the Hitler diaries and countless paintings, would no doubt feel a tingle of pride for his great-niece, Petra.

She is being prosecuted for forging his signature on hundreds of cheap, Asian-made copies of works such as the Mona Lisa and selling them at an inflated price as "original Kujau fakes".

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Blogging on "Non-Ultra Joy" 

Jen Ahearn, 1/20/03:
so in the kitchen here at the office there are two bottles of dish soap for us to wash our grimy coffee mugs and scinece experiment containing tupperware with. one of them is Ultra Joy. The other one is Non-Ultra Joy. not just Joy, but expressly Non-Ultra. who would buy a product labelled as non-ultra? why would someone call their dish soap that? it seems that any potential "we're being totally up front with you here" brownie points, consumer-appreciation wise, would be totally obliterated by people's unwillingness to buy something that's labelled as inferior. are they trying to tap into people's pity or sympathy for an underdog detergent? "it may not be all 'ultra' but it gets my dishes clean and i love it." i just don't get this at all.
Meg's Food and Wine Page, 6/2/05:
I have to admit that when purchasing dishwashing liquid, I am drawn to one in particular: Non-Ultra Joy. Because, let's face it, there is just something charming about a product that comes right out and declares that it it NOT the tops! Not super-concentrated, not extra-strong, not to-the-max.

I'll admit that it isn't the best dishwashing liquid out there. You have to use a lot to get the job done. But, hey, it's darned cheap, and at least you know going in that it's non-ultra!
Carleen and Michael Huxley, 7/10/05:
So, I went to Albertson’s on Friday to get the weekly groceries. We’ve been running out of dishwashing liquid so I scanned the shelves for the Ajax but it looked as though they were out so I grabbed the next cheapest thing I could find, which was a bottle of Joy. When I got home Mike started to help me unload everything. When he pulled out the dishwashing liquid, he started to chuckle. “What?” I asked. Apparently, I hadn’t bought just any bottle of Joy. I had bought a bottle of Non-Ultra Joy, because really, who in all of worlds creation could possible want a bottle of Ultra Joy.
sweeper, 8/10/05:
OK, maybe it takes marketing genius to figure out this one. I'm no genius. Heck, I'm not even "your average consumer".

So I noticed on a bottle of dishwashing liquid the words in rather bold type "Non Ultra Joy".


I looked closer for the sub label "Because your dishes shouldn't be clean enough" or something like that. I guess I wouldn't have been miffed it if just said Joy or Joy Classic or even Moderately Elated. But there it was like it was something special "Non Ultra".

On the back there was buried in the directions (like you need directions to use dish soap) that "for greasy dishes, try Ultra Joy".

Because you have a product called Ultra Joy you have to name your other product Non Ultra Joy? Is this some kinda new law? Will I soon see "Non Peanut M&Ms"? Will second order siblings be named "Non Dave"?
kyneburh, 8/11/05:
Wow how random. I just got back from refilling my water glass in the small kitchenette here in the office. The dish soap now stocked in there is “Non-Ultra Joy”. Now I can understand the marketing of the “Ultra” version of a product, but what genius came up with Non-Ultra. Why not just call it old formula, unimproved? Or ½ strength from the other bottle you could be buying? This must be why I am in engineering not marketing.
Chris Marino, 12/23/05:
I just got back from Safeway where I had to buy some dishwashing liquid. I scanned the shelf and came across 'Non Ultra Joy', as in, not 'Ultra Joy'. I couldn't believe what I was seeing.

Monday, May 01, 2006

It Ain't Over Until the Fat Lady Is Clubbed on the Right Knee By a Man Wielding a Blunt Object Leading the Lady to Mournfully Wail "Why? Why? Why?" 

Tonya and Nancy Turned Into Sports Opera:
When Tufts music student Abigail Al-Doory sought inspiration for her opera, she looked not to Wagner's "Ring" cycle but to the Olympic rings, where themes like power, envy and greed are plentiful.

In "Tonya and Nancy: The Opera," Al-Doory provides 18 movements on the scandal that turned the once-dainty sport of figure skating into a soap opera of whacking, wailing and time spent in jail.

Scheduled for two Tuesday night performances, the production portrays the skaters not as rivals but as a pair, singing for the audience's sympathy as the tawdry affair unfolds.
BTW, Kerrigan's "Why? Why? Why?" quote is actually in the Columbia University Press' Columbia World of Quotations. Take that, Shakespeare!

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