Wednesday, August 30, 2006

I think I talk good!

My mom cries whenever I (purposely and speciously) use this ungrammatical construction, "I don't got no ...", referring to when I don't have any of something. I guess it is that all that education went to waste. Perhaps it is because of the brand/dialect of American English I speak. Here are the results from the quiz:

Your Linguistic Profile:
45% General American English
35% Yankee
15% Dixie
0% Midwestern
0% Upper Midwestern

I always knew I was a Yankee, in spite of my love of grits. Technically, what I speak is the Philadelphia variation of the Midlands dialect. Here is a very technical map of these dialects that only a linguist could love or understand. Here is an even more detailed linguistic map for Pennsylvania. There are maps of the pop vs. soda controversy, and a whole list of regionalisms (spigot for faucet, crayfish vs. crawfish vs. crawdad, aunt as ant or ahnt, and others) with maps.

Obviously I know that the differences in American English shrink into insignificance when compared with the varied dialects of English spoken in the United Kingdom. Those differences birthed the play, Pygmalion, and the musical, My Fair Lady, based on it. With that rich diversity of accents you can have Professor Henry Higgins (or 'enry 'iggins if you prefer) guessing, with a few spoken words, what particular street in London a poor urchin comes from. Pygmalion is also a leading example of the whole trope of taking a poor kid and training them to be a rich one. My favorite from the movies is Trading Places, set in Philadelphia.

Even in the mass media future, how one speaks often remains a signal of where and what socio-economic background from which they come.

(quiz via Metaphor Voodoo)

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Monday, August 28, 2006

Decadent chocolate cake

Whirdly has researched a topic of interest to theobromaholics everywhere. (theobromine is the active ingredient, a mild stimulant, in chocolate that makes it so great.).

Often at dessert time after dinner I wonder aloud why every restaurant has a decadent chocolate cake or some other fancy named chocolate cake, when all it really is is chocolate cake (which is not a bad thing, in and of itself). I really love chocolate, and so I am drawn to discussion of the chocolate items on the menu. I also like being decadent yet believing in truth in advertising.

Crack food reporting comes to the rescue, apparently people report "that Black Forest Double-Chocolate Cake tastes better than Chocolate Cake, even when the cakes themselves are identical." So now I know why every restaurant has a Double Decadent Chocolate Cake on its menu, to my dismay.

From the article in The Guardian:
"The industry's mistake, it seems, had been to listen to the market researchers instead of the food psychologists. People tell researchers what they think they want to hear, or what the respondents want to believe about themselves. But the little-trumpeted field of food psychology may be one of the closest things that the corporate world has to a window on its customers' souls. We know, thanks to recent findings, that people drink more than a third more fruit juice when they pour it into a short, wide glass instead of a narrow, tall one, and that people will eat more of a product if it comes in a bigger package. We know that people will report that a breakfast bar tastes worse if the packaging describes it as containing soy, even if it contains no soy, and that Black Forest Double-Chocolate Cake tastes better than Chocolate Cake, even when the cakes themselves are identical. Above all, we know that just because people say they want to eat more healthily, it doesn't mean they really do."
(italics mine)

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John Karr didn't do it, he is too creepy

The way that we know that John Karr didn't kill JonBenet Ramsey is that when they started interviewing his babysitter and family members that knew him they have all said that he was kind of strange and that he did suspicious things such as always locked his computer room, and he married 13 year olds.

Normally when you catch the criminal for a sensational murder case all his friends and family and neighbors say "He seemed like such a nice guy", "never had any problems with him", "He kept to himself".

Nobody is saying that about John Karr, they all think he is creepy, thus he didn't commit the murder. Now he won't be charged for the murder, who is going to pay for his plane flight back from Thailand and for the fancy meal on the flight?

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Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Alternate Universe Futurama

The post's title refers not to the classic episode, "The Farnsworth Parabox", where the characters really encountered many different alternate universe versions of themselves, but to some fan art floating around the web.

Here are the classic characters from the show at the beach.

Here they are in cutesy anime style.
And here the team fierceness has been punched up a bit.
(via Minimalist Weblog)


Saturday, August 19, 2006

Are you teachers?

Something in our pedantic manner must have prompted someone to ask if we were teachers at dinner tonight.

Our answer: We feel that most people we meet have a lot to learn, but that doesn't make us teachers.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Zombies can't write...

...but they make a great alphabet if you can get them to hold still.
Zombie Letters from (via Drawn!)

Charles Stross charitably gives away a great zombie movie idea. What if a zombie movie portrayed the soldiers accurately. Take a special forces type of group of soldiers, highly trained, professional, and deadly, and throw wave after wave of zombies at them. His working title is "Zulu with Zombies". I guess he shares the common frustration with characters in a monster movie doing stupid things.

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Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Taro plant, ancestor of Hawaiians, not for patenting or genetic modification

After a fight led by Hawaiian activist Walter Ritte, Jr., the University of Hawaii has given up all rights and royalties on patents of three disease-resistant varieties of taro. Controversy arose when it was discovered that researchers at the university were doing genetic modification to produce a better taro plant. The taro is considered sacred by some Hawaiians because they believe that the taro is the ancestor of the Hawaiian people. There doesn't seem to be objection to breeding new varieties of taro, but genetic engineering is upsetting:
Kahakalau and Ritte said that using genetic-engineering techniques to insert foreign genes into the taro plant is wrong. "You can't change our ancestors without our permission," Ritte said.
They also objected to the possibility that farmers might have to pay a royalty to use the patented breeds of taro. The three patents in question are plant patents PP12,772, PP12,361, PP12,342 obtained by Eduardo Trujillo throughout 2002 for taro plant varieties named Pa'akala, Pa'lehua, and Pauakea. His intention was to produce disease resistant higher yielding taro as a food plant for Pacific islanders who grow it natively.

You can decide for yourself the ethics of patenting and owning a plant variety and then licensing and requiring royalties for its use. There seems to be a sharp distinction drawn by the parties in the conflict between cross-breeding and genetic engineering. I wonder if technique is everything in this conflict. My knowledge of plant patent law is weak, but I think you can patent a plant variety that was just bred for specific characteristics and not genetically engineered. Would the activists have objected to a patented plant produced by breeding? The excuse given pits science and economics against a religious belief, and muddies the issue of genetically engineering or even asking for a royalty for a "sacred" plant.

Patents serve a useful purpose. Patents provide a limited monopoly so that there is an incentive to produce new products such as disease resistant taro. It cost the university $300,000 to develop the variety. Patents are limited and published so that before they expire others are forced to innovate around them to produce new inventions and that benefits society, and that after they expire the knowledge is available to all.

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Tuesday, August 15, 2006

DNDELYN is a dandelion is a dandy lion

Serendipity happens all the time. After my tirades about weeds, suddenly there appears DNDELYN, a dandelion license plate. One must always be prepared to take advantage of serendipitous events, so I whipped out my trusty ( but crappy) Treo camera to immortalize the event.

I can only imagine that the owner of the personalized license plate likes dandelions or maybe ...





Ray Bradbury

or couldn't fit DNDEWHLS and they're a Dandy Warhols fan.

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Monday, August 14, 2006

Roundup Ready Weeds!

After this gardening season of heavy rain followed by bright sunshine I have had it with the weeds in my garden. Some of them are my own fault, the rain washed newly spread grass seed into the vegetable garden where it grew well until I pulled it out. The other weapon in my arsenal, but not for the vegetable garden, is Roundup. Weeds in cracks, weeds in the mulch are dealt with mercilessly and chemically.

The active ingredient in Roundup is glyphosate. Now, there are reports that a grass, genetically modified to be glyphosate-resistant, has escaped from its testing area in Oregon. Keeping in mind that a weed is a plant growing where you don't want it, we don't need Scotts creating weedy grasses resistant to the most popular weed killer on the market. The concern is that not only will the grass escape and become an unkillable weed but that it will fertilize its wild relatives or that gene transfer to other plants will occur and pass on the resistance to actual weeds. I guess I have time before it gets here from Oregon.

(via Exploding Aardvark)

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Sunday, August 13, 2006

People as Microbial Hotels

A recent short report on NPR and an article on the possibility of a microbial basis for some types of obesity both comment on the number of cells in the human body as well as the numbers of our microbial passengers. The amounts are surprising. There are 100 trillion, (10 to the 14) cells in the human body, but we carry 10 to 20 times more microbes than that. It seems we are more them than us (or me). If that doesn't start the itching and turn you into a recluse a la Howard Hughes I don't know what will.

The science fiction story "Blood Music" by Greg Bear (eventually lengthened into a novel) relates the story of a scientist who creates biological computers which then go on to take over his body and potentially the world. From the microbial perspective, they already own the world and use us as hotels, they don't really need to take over.

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More terrorists as practical jokers.

Wondermark stole my "terrorists as practical jokers" idea. The worst part, his execution is better and more entertaining. Good for him. Where did he find the cool woodcut of the sultans arguing?

I like the brainstorming session. He focuses more on the terrorist plan being disruption rather than the actual blowing up of planes. Bruce Schneier points out that preventing the last attack, by banning gels and liquids or checking shoes won't catch the next one, as the next is apt to be different.

(via BoingBoing)

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Saturday, August 12, 2006

New Crazy Delaware Blue Hen Roundup, now with Zees, Bees, Tips and Flips


Two sleepy gangbangers fell asleep in the drive through at the McDonald's near my house (second item). The helpful officers that came to wake them took them into custody for their own safety, as they had a 9mm handgun, some crack cocaine and a whole lot of money. Get a good night's sleep or carry an alarm clock before you go satisfy your munchies craving after or before your illegal activities.


A bee flew in this drivers window. The distraction, just imagine the arms flailing and swatting at the bee, caused him to cross the center of the road and get into a head-on crash which killed the oncoming driver. Keep your windows closed or let yourself get stung. The accident was in the Chester County, Pennsylvania, which is North of Delaware gets added to the roundup for the bizarreness of the bee involvement.


A bomb scare drove people out of the lovely Riverview Motel in Claymont. Just how lovely is the motel? The bomb was discovered in the secret heroin lab set up in one of the rooms. The good news is the Feds think they may have found the lab producing the bad heroin laced with fentanyl that has been causing overdoses all over Delaware. The other guests at the motel might want to find new travel agents.


Police are still looking for the vandals who flipped a porta potty while a DART bus driver was using it. The poor bus driver suffered a neck fracture and is now paralyzed from the waste down. It sounds funny and looks funny on TV and in cartoons when they flip over the porta-john with some one in it, but the person in it is having no fun. If they find the kids who did it they are going to do actual jail time!

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Friday, August 11, 2006

Flesh out vs. Flush out

These two phrases, "flesh out" and "flush out", do not mean the same thing and are not interchangeable.

You flesh out a plan. Building the plan is akin to putting flesh on a skeletal frame. Fleshing out is building up not searching out.

Your hunting dog flushes out the pheasants from the tall grass so that you can get a good shot at them. You flush out things that are hidden.

You could flesh out a plan to flush out the pheasants.

(flayed skeleton from this anatomy chart)

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Thursday, August 10, 2006

Terrorists also elaborate practical jokers

The terrorist as master practical joker (because that's just as insane an explanation for their activities as any other).
In August 2001, one terrorist to another:
T1 - I bet you I can get boxcutters, letter openers, pocket knives and even nail clippers banned from all flights in the US. Think of all of those aggravated passengers with annoying hangnails.
T2 - OK, you're on.
T1 - If I win the bet I want the money to go to my surviving relatives.

In November 2001, Richard Reid to his terrorist cell controller:
Rich - I bet you I can make everyone have to take their shoes off to fly in an airplane.
Terrorist - OK, you're on.
Richard - If I win the bet and survive I want my winnings in cigarettes, since they are the only fungible currency in prison, otherwise just give it to my surviving relatives.

In August 2006, Overheard at the terrorist water cooler.
Terrorist A - I bet you I can get airline passengers even crankier than that show bomber guy by getting all water and soda (they'll get thirsty), perfumes and deodorants (they'll get smelly), toothpaste (their breath will smell), suntan lotion (sunburned in August!) and every other liquid and gel banned on airplanes.
Terrorist B - Oh, yeah. I'll do you one better by also getting every electronic device larger than a watch banned also. Without laptops and iPods they will go insane on those long flights.
Terrorist A - OK, you're on, but if they allow breastmilk and baby formula I'm only paying you or your surviving relations half the bet.
Has anyone figured out that the terrorists not only want to cause spectacular loss of life to get noticed and forward their cause but also all of the inconvenience they cause gets them in the news just as well? Today's latest scare has us now banning all liquids from airplanes,because some bombs can be made from liquids that are explosive. The electronic devices are banned because they can be used to detonate these liquid explosives. Everything must be checked into baggage, so you can take them, but the business traveler who was savvy enough to avoid bag check is now thwarted.

I understand that loss of life is incalculable, but hypothetically speaking, how would one balance prevention of an attack against all of the cost, time lost and inconvenience of security measures that are intended to catch highly unlikely, rare events. Some econometrician somewhere is doing this calculation and I would love to see their results.

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Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Slime Molds are species too!

Science News tells the story of a team of ecologists and ecology enthusiasts going on a BioBlitz in a national park near Washington, D.C. to catalogue plant and animal species. The reporter joined Team Slime Mold/Fungus. Because, slime molds are species too, and they need cataloguing and counting as much as any species. That weekend was devoted to "undersurveyed" organisms.

In my daily travels I have been walking past some piles of mulch around some shrubs wondering what animal had vomited up some disgusting crunchy white stuff on the mulch and hoping someone would clean it up. It was disgusting, especially when I thought it was vomit. Coincidentally, the article above appears in Science News and they describe a lumpy yellow crust on mulch in flowerbeds that is sometimes called "dog-vomit slime". I finally made the connection to my unpleasant mulch experience. That wasn't dog vomit, it was nature, right there in front of me. That particular slime mold is called Fuligo septica.

When it dries out it is sometimes called scrambled-egg slime due to its consistency. I took a picture of an example of that form I found on the opposite side of the shrub from the slime above. Isn't it great when book learning (in this case science magazine learning) impacts practical experience. There is biodiversity to be measured all around you, even in your yard.

The article went on to talk about all of the other mushrooms and other fungi that can pop out of mulch and soil after a rain and the supplemental references on the web (pictures of slime molds, and introduction to slime molds) will allow me to identify other slime molds and fungi in may travels.

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Stuck behind more trucks on Ridge Pike in Norristown

What is this Maier's bread truck doing making a left turn on Ridge Pike in Norristown into the Strohmann bread factory? Shouldn't there be some sort of separation of bread brands?

I now have to add, "Don't get stuck behind a Maier's bread truck making a left turn on Ridge Pike." to my Rules for Living. Used to be you only had to worry about the Strohmann trucks, but my keen senses and pattern recognition skills picked up on bread truck and bread factory, even if the markings and visual cues were contradictory, in plenty of time to move to the right lane and avoid an incident.

Turns out many bread brands are owned by a huge bread conglomerate, George Weston Bakeries, Inc. (mmm, bread conglomerate). Maier's falls under the Strohmann brand with Dutch Country and D'Italiano. Isn't everything made by just one company now anyway.

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Monday, August 07, 2006

Who would you fly into space with?

My favorite space crew would be...

You scored as Serenity (Firefly). You like to live your own way and don't enjoy when anyone but a friend tries to tell you should do different. Now if only the Reavers would quit trying to skin you.

Serenity (Firefly)


Moya (Farscape)


Millennium Falcon (Star Wars)


Babylon 5 (Babylon 5)


Deep Space Nine (Star Trek)


Galactica (Battlestar: Galactica)


FBI's X-Files Division (The X-Files)


SG-1 (Stargate)


Andromeda Ascendant (Andromeda)


Nebuchadnezzar (The Matrix)


Bebop (Cowboy Bebop)


Enterprise D (Star Trek)


Your Ultimate Sci-Fi Profile II: which sci-fi crew would you best fit in? (pics)
created with QuizFarm

The quiz must have a wide definition of spaceships and crews to include two space stations (DS9 and Babylon 5), a ship that only stays on scorched Earth (the Nebuchadnezzar) and the X-files, this last must be because the author liked the series.

My results make sense, whoever would want to fly around for the government? My top scores show a love of freedom and independence. Doesn't anyone ever realize that on Star Trek only the military is flying around in space? Starfleet is the military arm of the Federation, is it not? Nice military industrial complex they have going there on Star Trek. Even the other races seem to be flying primarily military or government backed spaceships. Maybe spaceships are expensive. Only on Deep Space Nine and rarely on the other series did you get a glimpse of a non-military or civilian control of space and space flight, and they were usually criminals.

(via I can't believe its not cleavage honey)

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Firing by text message heralds the new bleak dystopian future

A company unable to reach an employee for a few days resorted to firing her by text message. The company claimed to be keeping in touch with "youth culture" by doing so. I wonder if a text message meets the legal requirements of written notice? It appears that someone is going to get in trouble for this one.

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"Floating" magnetic bed cheats a little

This bed is suspended in the air using magnetic fields. It is tethered to the floor with thin steel cables though, which is cheating a little. The designer has yet to add the cushions and pillows to make it comfortable. He claims that:

"Although people with piercings should have no problem sleeping on the bed, Ruijssenaars advises them against entering the magnetic field between the bed and the floor.

They could find their piercing suddenly tugged toward one of the magnets."

Not exactly comforting, and I might avoid working on a laptop on top the the bed. Pacemakers and this bed also might not mix well. The work is inspired by the monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey.

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Sunday, August 06, 2006

Siamese Twin Cucumbers

After decrying the cuculoupe abomination, I find my own garden cursed by mutated fruit. Today I picked this Siamese Twin Cucumber, though I think they prefer to be called conjoined twin cucumbers. I am looking for a surgeon or sous chef with the skills to separate them so they can have normal lives.

I suppose this is the type of thing people put up on eBay, but eventually I will just use it in a salad or cucumber soup, or perhaps as a garnish for something to take advantage of its unique cross section.

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The newest golf technology fixes all errors.

I golfed for the first time in years this past weekend. I had given up golf because I only hit every other shot well, and that is a very long golf game with far to many strokes. A group of us went golfing just for fun and that seemed reason enough to break my boycott. The expert of the group took one look at my 30 year old golf clubs and said that they would be "hard" to hit.

My clubs are in good condition and were hand me downs from my older brother, but they represent the bronze age of club technology. Since that time, golf technology has passed through the iron age, steel age on onward to carbon fiber composites, titanium and other extremely light metals, as well as new shapes and weighting to improve club effectiveness even further. The next generation of clubs will probably consist of plasma constrained by force fields.

One of our foursome let me try his technologically advanced golf clubs. He had a driver so advanced that it has adjustable weights to tailor the effect on the ball when you hit it. It also has a huge sweet spot. I went from topping the ball and only getting a good (but short) drive every third try or so to beautiful long straight drives with a delightful ping when the club hit the ball. That club was like confession, it covered up all of my golfing sins. After I swallowed my pride and starting borrowing his clubs for the second nine holes I shaved 11 strokes off the second half. It was sad that I had that many strokes to shave but the point is technology fixed my golf game. I actually birdied the 18th hole because I first used the great driver for a perfect drive, a perfect 9 iron to four feet from the pin. I sunk the put with a futuristic putter that forced me to have a correct pendulum like putter swing. I am a convert!

When I started playing tennis again last year I experienced the same effect. The last racket I had was purchased maybe 15 years ago, during the transition between wood and composites and actually was wood with carbon fiber inlay. The racket I got last year was half the price of that one, and half the weight at least. You can even buy clothes tailored to the specific sports activity with sweat wicking fibers that keep you cool during your workout.

What a great comparison and contrast of golf and tennis technology from long ago to today.

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Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Overheard in everywhere else

Since they have "Overheard in New York", and "Overheard in the Office" and even "Overheard at the Beach" they should finally cover it all with "Overheard in everywhere else". Here is my suggested first entry,overheard at a restaurant tonight in Wilmington.

"He's so much happier now that he is off the anti-depressants"

My big (virtual) musical break.

Honest and the Hypocrites continues to climb the charts with their new hit "What I say is not important". Form your music group, name your song and make your own 45 record. It's retro and it's cool!

A questions from the back? A phonograph record, children, is an ancient analog sound storage medium. Musical groups used to record songs on them. Don't laugh, it may be the only form of audio storage durable enough to survive the upcoming apocalypse and still be playable and understandable by the future civilization that rises from the ashes (or water, or ice, or zombies).

(via Coudal Partners)

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Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Flash Enhanced Abstract Portraiture

Ryan Terry's Portrait Machine will generate your "portrait" for you. The portraits generated are rather abstract. I think the forms in the work capture my innate inquisitiveness, unconventionality and willingness to challenge the status quo as well as my respect for others privacy, my ability to go along with the flow, and talent for accepting things as they are.

(via Exploding Aardvark)

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More conversions by license plate

This person may be exhorting us to pray or they may actually be someone who does. Still, I continue to wonder if a license plate is the best place for such a message. Isn't this type of thing best left to each person's private personal convictions?

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