Sunday, December 31, 2006

Keeping the Christ in Santamas

This sign repeats the oft-phrased sentiment to "Keep Christ in Christmas". The idea is to remember that Christmas is a celebration of Jesus' birth and not about the buying a lot of gifts. Quoters of this phrase usually lament the commercialization of Christmas and its focus on material things and not on the Christmas message of peace on earth and goodwill towards men.

How ironic that it is a sign with Santa Claus, in all his advertising creation glory, reminding us of this. Funnier would have been a sign saying "Keep Christ in Xmas".

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Test your typing acumen, but have fun doing it

Neatorama points to this clever flash game in which you type the words under your enemies to shoot and destroy them. Speed and accuracy are rewarded while stumbling over the keyboard only lets them get closer to shoot you. Being a two fingered typist myself (I also hit the space bar with my thumb but that doesn't count as a finger.) I was still able to compete successfully in the game. Technique doesn't matter, only results!

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You may address me as ...

My Peculiar Aristocratic Title is:
The Very Reverend Richard the Furtive of Fiddlers Green
Get your Peculiar Aristocratic Title
Almost as much fun as that church I created a while back.

(also via exploding aardvark presented by Lady Fortune the Absurd of Greater Internetshire)

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What is your literary personality?

Given the choices it seems pretty obvious that I would be a college textbook, and that it would be an unflattering description. Knowledge can be such a burden. That will be $34,000 please.

You scored as A college textbook. You're an authority on something, you just know it. Everyone else does, too, but that doesn't mean they like you. Since you think very highly of everything you say, you charge a pretty penny to entertain your listeners. Those forced to pay do so grudgingly and try to defray the costs of learning from you by selling portions of their access to your charms to others. As a result of this speedy dissemination of your knowledge, you constantly add to your repertoire--and then hike your price. Despite your usefulness, which is rarely in doubt, nobody likes you. They find you didactic, boring and irrelevant--but still necessary.

A college textbook




A classic novel


A coloring book


A paperback romance novel


An electronics user's manual


The back of a froot loops box


Your Literary Personality
created with

(via exploding aardvark, but you knew that alredy didn't you?)

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Tuesday, December 26, 2006

What did you get for Christmas?

Technically, I got married and a house and that kind of big stuff. Yet, in spite of an appropriate Christmas slowdown on any gifts, Santa (with a helper) brought me a new digital camera. I wirelessly transferred this picture of our Christmas tree to the computer so that I could share it with you. Look forward to better pictures on the blog now that the technology has been upgraded. I just love modern technology.

What did you get for Christmas? What one thing is your best gift? The camera is technically my best Christmas gift, but I should also mention the new house because I only just moved my stuff in last week.

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Saturday, December 23, 2006

Space Mecca

So much of our lives are tied to the rhythms of the planet we live on. Muslims pray towards Mecca several times a day. That is easy to do on Earth, but requires a new calculus in space. Dr. Zainol Abidin Abdul Rashid is actually tackling the problem of how many times a day and towards which direction a putative Muslim astronaut's would need to pray to fulfill his religious obligation. Conveniently it isn't based on how many orbits of Earth or Muslims could need to pray 20 times a day in space. It would be interesting to know what they would need to do away from Earth orbit.

This reminds me of the imam in the Charles Stross collection Accelerando who wrestles with much thornier problems of whether uploaded minds have souls, and other quandaries produced by the Singularity the characters in that book are living through.

I would like to know what the Catholic Church's answers are to the theological implications of uploaded minds and life on other planets, to namejust two interesting science fiction ideas with huge religious implications. They must be in the Vatican library somewhere waiting to be revealed.

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Sunday, December 17, 2006

Mad as a hatter

Which type of hat are you? Here is a helpful quiz. Via exploding aardvark, of course.

My results allowed for two alternatives:

First choice:

What Sort of Hat Are You? I am a Bowler Hat.I am a Bowler Hat.

I'm very proper, often politically correct, precise and dapper. I generally look down on the masses, but I usually try not to let it show.
What Sort of Hat Are You?

Second choice (probably the better one):

What Sort of Hat Are You? I am a Halo.I am a Halo.

I believe I am perfect. Others may not think so, but those others are wrong.
What Sort of Hat Are You?

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Saturday, December 16, 2006

Dancing saves lives

As part of our blissful existence, my new wife and I like ballroom dancing. Not the stuffy weird kind that you see in those competitions on TV, and especially not the Joey Lawrence type on Dancing with the Stars.

It turns out that not only are those dancing lessons and dances fun, but they might extend our lives. (Just look what they did for Vince).

NPR's Morning Addition reports that cardiologists are beginning to realize just how healthful ball room dancing may be
. Italian researchers found that just 21 minutes of dancing, three times a week, can match the cardiovascular benefits from working out on a treadmill or bicycle.

Let's examine this. Don't you think that doing any exercise three times a week will probably confer the same benefits. Most people's problem is the lack of exercise, not the particular type. And of course the story has the de rigeur atypical experience of someone who dropped their two blood pressure medications because they started dancing, just like in those weight loss commercials. Still, dancing is tons of fun.

Perhaps you could purchase a Dance Dance Revolution if finding a partner is too much trouble. But most importantly - dance, dance, dance!

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Friday, December 15, 2006

Lucky seven legged deer - killed by hunter

I used to worry about getting chronic wasting disease from deer and having my own body eat holes in my brain a la mad cow disease, or Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. Spongiform encephalopathy, it's not just for cows anymore. Now I need to fear the combination of industrial chemicals, environmental disruption, biorhythm upset, or nanotechnology runaway that has produced the 7 legged hermaphroditic deer recently killed (and eaten!) in Wisconsin.

The "lucky" hunter appears to have eaten one to many of these things.

I for one would like to be the first to welcome our new septopedal hermaphroditic deer overlords.

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Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Cycle of the seasons

Travel to the southern hemisphere has left me with season lag - as they move from beautiful spring toward languid summer, I must return to the beginning of winter. That is why exploding aardvark's poem quotation has such resonance for me as I wait for Spring.
"Lilacs, forsythia, apple blossoms:
their pleasure consists less
in their being there than in our sense
of their seasonal recurrence,
There is no such reassurance
in the regularities of the planets,
even our own, but the first crocus
under a familiar tree, that's something
that gives the simplest soul
an identity worth having:"
- excerpted from "Homes, Prisons, and Hotels: The Geography of Private Life for Jose Padilla and his torturers" by Tom Disch

Disch's poem goes on to contrast this cycle with the probably unlawful imprisonment of Jose Padilla (even criminals, especially criminals, have habeas corpus rights). A prisoner is prohibited from the simple experience described at the beginning of the poem. Evil must be confronted in this life, and many are doing so in this case. At least give these people a trial.

Right now, I prefer to focus on the deep feeling of time and the random tossing of fate ( as expressed by not having reassurance in even the regularity of our own planets) that Disch expresses so well in these first lines of his work.

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Birth and death in the skies above.

I consider myself lucky that in 15,000 miles of plane flight crammed into a short time, I encountered none of the difficulties of the two trips below. The serendipity of these items begs their juxtaposition.

First class passengers on a British Airways flight had to share their cabin with a man who passed away during the flight. The grieving widow sat with the body, and it sound like the flight attendants tried to cover up the body to provide some decorum, but this would have really freaked me out.

But even as all things die there is new life. Another story reported the birth of a child on a flight from Mexico to the Chicago. Luckily there was an OB/GYN on the flight. The baby is doing fine.

Only one observation to make here -

Circle of life.

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Bellas Artes alive and well in Santiago

As is usual when we travel to foreign capitals, we visited the Chilean National Art Museum in Santiago (this visit was on November 17th). The "Museo de Bellas Artes" wasn't as large as in some cities but it was very enjoyable and had a good and appropriate focus on some South American artists.

The statue out front says "Unidos en la gloria y en la muerte" - "United in glory and in death",

very dramatic.

Here I am appreciating art, just before we were told no flash photography. Lucky my trusty Treo, though crappy, is a lot less conspicuous and is perfect for secret, though crappy, museum photos.

I like a little irony in my art. For instance, the piece depicted above by Alexandro Reid entitled "Maquina Burocratica" is an engine of people carved in immovable wood. I believe this reflects what good bureaucracies, governments and congresses do. Usually the only thing worse than when they do nothing is when they do something.

These pieces were part of a modern art exhibit in the first large hall of the museum. A picture of the horse head sculpture is required as it ties into the trip theme with horse back riding part of the vacation on Easter Island.

This sculpture is just creepy yet interesting.

The large puffy horse sculpture behind the museum is simply called Caballo (by Fernando Botero). Unfortunately it is covered in graffiti. Perhaps we should think of it as public participatory art, or art on art. Caballo is one of many similar sculpture and paintings throughout the world.

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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Even the southern hemisphere celebrates Christmas

While we were in Santiago (Nov 15th) , workers in the center of town were setting up their Christmas decorations. They were in the process of building what looked to be a huge Christmas tree. The customs are strange down there, though, they appear to hang teamsters from the tree to celebrate the season.

When I say the square in the middle of the town, I really mean the middle of the whole country. And they have a kilometer zero marker to define it. The country is measured from that mark.

Appropriately they also have a statue of Pedro de Valdivia, the founder of Santiago and first royal governor of Chile, in the same square. After a glorious career he was eventually captured during a battle with the indigenous peoples and they executed him by pouring molten gold down his throat to satisfy his thirst for treasures, eek!

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It's a long way to Easter Island from here.

On the way out to Easter Island from Philadelphia we had a number of stops.

Philadelphia to Miami - 1021 miles
Miami to Bogata, Colombia (we did NOT get off the plane there) - 1519 miles
Bogata to Santiago, Chile - 2637 miles
Santiago to Easter Island - 2337 miles

On the way home we went straight from Santiago to Miami - 4136 miles.

So we went 7514 miles out and 7495 miles in. Over 15,000 miles for our honeymoon trip.

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Sunday, December 03, 2006

Fences, gates and ingenuity on Easter Island

This one is for the Virtual Ranger. We found much ingenuity in the use of materials on Easter Island. Everything must be shipped in from the mainland (2000 miles away) with the consequent markup in cost, so they try to get all of the use they can.
I wonder if the Virtual Ranger can tell me if this gate is hung correctly (hinges on the right).

Note the use of inexpensive eucalyptus tree branches from the island, even as hinges.

Another part of the wall had a gate made of an old bed frame. You should clearly be able to see the rusty springs that give away the provenance of this piece.

Other folks use a lock to hold the toilet paper holder closed, on Easter Island a simple twist of wire will do.

Even the hotel we stayed in right before and after the horse back riding portion of the trip didn't waste money on fancy materials when simple particle board with varnish would do. You can even see the green dye that marks the edge.

Kudos to the Easter Islanders for their ingenuity and reuse of materials.

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