Tuesday, February 28, 2006
Monday, February 27, 2006
tags: art, museum, chemistry
Saturday, February 25, 2006
Pay close attention to the object lesson provided by the Flying Dutchman and his accursed brethren if you want to avoid walking the earth for all eternity (or until kingdom come). For example:
- The Flying Dutchman has taught us not to swear an oath to continue your attempt to round the Cape of Good Hope until Judgment Day lest fate take you at your word.
- Don't tell Jesus to hurry along on His way to the crucifixion as the Wandering Jew did, He may tell you that you will walk until the last day.
- Don't be the centurion who pierced Jesus' side. In some legends Longinus is also forced to walk the Earth, till He comes back.
- Don't kill the albatross that leads you, your crew, and your ship out of trouble unless you want to get in more trouble. Just as in the Rime of the Ancient Mariner, you'll be forced to tell your story to all you meet for all eternity to help them learn your lesson.
tags: art, museum, cursed
tags: art, museum
Thursday, February 23, 2006
Yes, Ronald McDonald house collects pop tabs for recycle. In my discussions with the local Ronald McDonald house personnel, I asked some questions and found out a few things. Why not recycle the whole can instead of just the tab? They say that the tab has more aluminum in it than the rest of the can. This is not true according to snopes, and common sense.
They do recycle the tabs. They get $0.42/lb of tabs and raised almost $4000 in 2005 by recycling about 7 million tabs. The money raised goes to pay bills for families that use Ronald McDonald house that are not covered by other donations or funding. Ronald McDonald house has a noble mission: Provide a "home away from home" for families of seriously ill children receiving treatment at nearby hospitals.
The staff was very nice to me and showed me their tubs and tubs of pull tabs and provided the information above about the program. Still, I can't but help there is a better way for them to raise funds for their cause. Why not recycle the whole can, at 14 grams it weighs more than twenty times what the tab (0.6 grams) weighs. The person who had the tab had the can, it would have been 20 times more money raised. Better still, just collect pennies instead of the tabs. There are 181 pennies in a pound, that's $1.38 extra per pound for the charity.
I felt so bad for their misjudgment that I got some information about donating and I am sending them a check. Maybe their pull tab collection program generates donations after all.
tags: urban legend, recycle
Tuesday, February 21, 2006
"Gilbert cited studies done by scientists for the California Public Utilities Commission, whose findings boil down to the fact that while there is no proven link between EMFs exposure and diseases such as leukemia and brain tumours, the possible risk warrants further investigation."and
"“Even the World Health Organization in its international review says it doesn't have a great deal of concern but it admits the information is not 100 per cent."So no proven link, but let's keep investigating anyway, and base our decisions on this lack of evidence. Are you ready to enroll yourself or send your children to this top notch school run by someone who does not make fact-based, science-supported decisions?
He draws a comparison to other effects that don't show up until 30 years after exposure, like those from asbestos or second hand smoke. While it is true that those effects often don't show until 30 years later that is the only conclusion you can draw. The comparison to wi-fi is specious, these other examples have nothing to do with the potential health effects of EM fields. Cancer is so scary it freezes everyone in their tracks.
The comments on Treehugger ask reasonably if university president Gilbert has also banned portable phones, and cellphones on the campus, which also transmit in the same frequency spectrum and are even more ubiquitous than wi-fi. Engadget has a running series on whether cell phones cause cancer or not, they are on chapter 8041 at last count. I think everyone is worried that they will be sued someday whether or not it is proven these fields cause cancer. Remember you don't need scientific proof to win a civil case.
tags: cancer, tinfoil hat, science, wifi
Monday, February 20, 2006
Cellular automata are built on a grid from simple rules that depend on only the nearest neighbor values. A table of the outcomes for each of the eight possibilities can be built and is designated by the decimal equivalent of the binary values. This example is rule 30.
Then you can build a pattern based on these rules. Rule 30 is an interesting one because it has chaotic, interesting behavior.
So now compare a closeup of the cone snail shell to the (upside down) results of cellular automata rule 30. Mother nature uses these simple rules, built up by overlapping dynamic chemical reactions, and controlled by biology to put designs on shells, spots on leopards, and stripes on zebras.
tags: cellular automata, biology, math, science, cone snail
Sunday, February 19, 2006
Saturday, February 18, 2006
This quote from Calvin and Hobbes, "Verbing weirds language" inspired a further observation -
"It's not the verbing that weirds language so much, but rather, the renounification."Verbing podium deserves odium in some quarters because it has three syllables and sounds clunky. I personally take umbrage at corporate speak where nouns are verbed to sound smart, but it doesn't work. I don't dialogue, for instance, I talk. The exception to this one is leverage, I can't think of another word that clearly means "use the same resources or knowledge across several projects to save time and money", as succinctly as leverage does.
The great thing about the English language, is that it isn't static, it can grow and take in new concepts. It is a language for the future. So, I will take the bad with the good on this one.
Some poor guy in Missouri didn't join a rural fire department or pay his dues, so he got to watch his property burn. The firefighters did come to the property to ensure that no one was hurt, but they didn't fight the fire.
This is a great real life example of these anarchy, or libertarian science fiction thought experiments. Would you rather have dues or taxes?
Found this one at Fark.
tags: libertarian, anarchy, scifi
Thursday, February 16, 2006
"If a company ever markets a Gov. Ruth Ann Minner doll, it should feature a string in back -- pull it and she forms a task force."Not many people seem to be volunteering for this task force. She is not the only one asking for an investigation.
A 59% increase in my electric bill will be noticed, I just worry about the people who can't afford a 10% increase, let alone a large one. Politicians in the state are now suggesting a tax relief initiative which would only end up putting tax dollars into the hands of Delmarva as credits for residential customers. This still seems to reward Delmarva's rate hike and is only a stop gap for us customers. It doesn't look like it will fly in the legislature. Most likely reregulation is on the way.
I would love to see the legislature give tax breaks to those who try to save electricity or add local generation like solar power or wind power; it might not address the deregulation mess but it would start to address the long term issue of power generation and resource conservation. On my next house I want solar water heaters (these evacuated tubes even work when it is cold yet sunny) and solar power generation (solar roof tile example). I am afraid the answer to this issue is going to be decreased quality of life. The conservation suggestions lead to hotter houses in the summer, colder in the winter, or colder hot water. I have a new efficient furnace and new efficient air conditioner. What are folks without the resources to make these upgrades to do?
The analysis of the issue yields several reasons for the rate hike and how it isn't just deregulation that is driving the rise:
- The free market competition in Delaware for electricity has not developed.
- Energy costs are up.
- Delmarva doesn't own any generating capacity anymore.
- It is the worst time to be buying electricity on the market.
Seems to me it is time to change the system, or get rid of the expensive power produced by natural gas power plants. Everybody talks about peak oil coming and spiking those prices, but nobody mentions peak natural gas explicitly, if there is such a thing. By the way, Delmarva passes gas price hikes right through to their customer, so gas bills have already been on the rise.
"... the highest price paid by one customer for five minutes worth of electricity is the price everybody pays for that period.
For example, if you own a nuclear plant you may find a company to buy your power at 3 cents a kilowatt hour. If a natural gas plant begins selling power at 6 cents a kilowatt hour because it is a hot day and demand for power has spiked, the nuclear plant will be paid 6 cents, not 3 cents.
Even though natural gas power plants supply only 7 percent of all of the electricity available from PJM, they drive the price for all plants, Monacell said. And since Delmarva's contracts are based on the price of power on the PJM market, natural gas is driving its price increases as well."
tags: peakoil, electricity, Delaware
Wednesday, February 15, 2006
Unfortunately, I just missed the opportunity to join a woman's curling betting pool, I can't think of anything more obscure than betting on woman's curling (football playoff fantasy football and superbowl statistics are mundane compared to that). I am really mad I missed the chance to bet in the pool, because I could have won, since I am sure that I am watching more curling than anybody else in the pool. No amount of computation would probably be able to predict this one. Neither Wisdom of the crowd or genetic algorithms could be applied, because I really have no information (Aren't you scared I thought of it, though?).
Curling is the sport with the 42 lb stones they slide on the ice to a target. It is interesting to watch because it isn't just "wack the opponent's rocks" out of the circles (called the house); there is strategy involved. I also enjoy the Canadian/Minnesota accent of the announcers, certainly a humorous accent to an east-coaster like myself. I suppose it's surprising that I should have an interest. Perhaps it is due to the similarity to bocce or lawn bowling, or just it's obscurity.
I suspect the popularity is higher this year because the US Woman's team has some really cute girls, and the human interest story of the two Johnson sisters on the team. They have their own website over at Curlgirls.com, where you can leave comments wishing them luck. After starting 0 and 3, they have finally won a match against Denmark. I am hoping for more victories for them going forward. U S A !
Tuesday, February 14, 2006
Apparently this is quite a problem in the U.K. where folks are so annoyed when people walk through their fields that also contain rights of way that they sometimes put bulls in the field it to scare people away. This happens often enough there is a law against it. You cannot put bulls in fields which have rights of way running through them. You can't put any other dangerous animals in either so forget all of those other ideas you were thinking of. I imagine that this idea has many possibilities for a funny movie or two. Maybe it only has enough humor for a short internet clip.
We all know that this feast is in a convenient time in the calendar to counter the old roman pagan holiday of Lupercalia, a wild holiday for lovers (weren't they all). Careful inspection of a calendar will show that many of our holidays (from holy day) are church feasts that were often placed in the correct locations to substitute for pagan celebrations. I think the church calls this acculturation.
Lovers have been declaring their love on or around this date for centuries, let us not not stop now. Happy Valentine's Day.
Monday, February 13, 2006
The study showed that rats are definitely able to tell which direction a smell comes from by using this stereo sense. The rats were trained to poke their tiny noses into a hole and associated odors from the left with the left water bottle and odors from the right with the right water bottle. A video shows the rat choosing the correct side 5 out of 6, (as indicated by an LED placed there just for the demonstration, caution, link loads an mpeg).
The article also mentions the need for parallel neuronal pathways which then combine for comparison, much like the two optic nerves combine when they enter the brain to produce stereo vision. Imagine being able to build a three dimensional smell model of the world just like we do with stereoscopic vision. In so far as rats think about the world around them, how might their perceptions be different from ours with the aditional overlay of the stereolfaction sense.
Sunday, February 12, 2006
In a similar vein, what is UBER SZD compensating for. Methinks he doth protesteth to much. What exactly is being described as UBER SZD and why does he have to point it out, if it is?
We got ten inches of snow last night over about a twelve hour snowfall, which is actually quite a lot of snow for little ole' Delaware. I like to think that in Delaware we combine the worst of the northern snows with the worst of the southern panic about snow. I am sure that the ten inches started out a little higher and was compacted by the time I got to it, because it was heavy.
So today is a Sunday of shoveling and snow and traffic cones. It's a quandary, saving parking spaces is illegal in Wilmington, but parking in someone else's cleared space is rude. I like to put my car in the garage or park behind my house to avoid the whole situation. What do you think? Please post your reply in the comments - Is saving spaces appropriate? Is parking in someone else's freshly cleared spot rude?
Thursday, February 09, 2006
Yesterday I got to watch a guy shave as he drove into work. Doesn't he care about all of the little shaving bits of stubble dirtying up his car or the shirt he is wearing? I was more than a little turned off by his public shaving.
This morning was the last straw.
I was able to get a picture in my rear view mirror so you could see for yourself what the rest of traffic saw. This guy didn't even have his hands on the wheel, and I would have worried that with all of the water and soap from the shower, that his hands would have been very slippery anyway. What some people won't do to grab a few extra winks in the morning. Showering on your way into work is taking multitasking to a ridiculous extreme.
Wednesday, February 08, 2006
Tuesday, February 07, 2006
Just think of that room full of bureaucrats and poor Sam Lowry, the competent employee propping up incompetent upper management. The crushing bureaucracy in this movie actually seems tame compared to some modern counterparts. I certainly long to fly on angel wings to the heavens. Sam Lowry brings day dreaming at work to high fantasy.
9 to 5
Who hasn't wanted to truss up their boss and extract promises of a raise and other benefits. The key is to not get caught. I also learned a long time ago that the administrative assistants are the true power behind the thrown, this movie provides confirmation of this idea.
Any movie in which computer generated cartoon ants quote Marxist dialectic is OK by me. The workers control the means of production, after all. Also fun are ant middle managers trying to meet quota. There is a nice juxtaposition of Z trying to be an individual, but being crushed into conformity by his ant society. The modern corporation values diversity, just as long as everyone is the same as everyone else.
A slow movie made intentionally slow so as to emphasize the tedium of the workday for the temp employees portrayed. The overblown drama and office politics surrounding the search for a petty office thief seemed plucked from a very real office. You can almost smell the desperation of these girls trying to move into permanent positions. Generation Xer's (are there any of us left) should empathize with these desperate characters. I must also admit that I like this movie because it stars Toni Collete(Muriel's Wedding), Parker Posey and Lisa Kudrow.
This is the quintessential "I hate work" office movie. Office Space has so many good situations and great lines that it is hard to pick a single one. It may be a little unfair to include this movie into the "I hate work" Film Festival since the movie's catch phrase is "Work Sucks". Still, many a time I have quoted any number of the funny lines from the movie. For instance
"I believe you have my stapler.", "Pieces of Flair", "Federal Pound-me-in-the-a** prison", and who can forget those "TPS reports".
Many of the best lines must be performed, like - "You could have as many as ... four ... direct reports", but you need to hold up four fingers during your delivery. Certainly you should make an O-face for full effect if you are going to talk about making your O-face. Someday, I want to take my troublesome laserprinter out back with a bat, "Office Space-style".
What other office related movies should I have included in my film festival? The nominations are open. Please post your favorites in the comments.
Monday, February 06, 2006
Cool Hunting reports on a "Welcome Squid Overlords" T-shirt whose designer was inspired by a Discovery science special in which it was predicting that cephalopods are the genera best poised to be the dominant species on the planet after humans go away (we'll make great pets), and the fact that cephalopod biomass has probable surpassed the human biomass on the planet. The Welcome Quid Overlords t-shirt is available at the Feed Store.
I am sure that scientists that work on TV shows of future scenarios read science fiction to get all of their best ideas. Perhaps a Stephen Baxter novel inspired the scientist to put forth the hypothesis, or Baxter was inspired by a scientist (see the references in his novel) and then went on to inspire the next scientist. In Baxter's novel, the squids are bred and genetically manipulated to be smart enough to be capable of running the mission to Cruithne. It turns out that the smart squid is better equipped to run the mission than any computer system they could build (at least in the book), and they actually end up taking over the asteroid.
Eventually, Stephen Baxter has the main character of Manifold:Time, Reid Malenfant, travel to the asteroid Cruithne. This asteroid is often called Earth's second moon because it is in a 1:1 resonance orbit with Earth. For every revolution of Earth around the sun, Cruithne also goes through one orbit. Here is a java simulation of the orbit of Cruithne, Earth's second moon, that is worth playing with. There are currently no plans that I know of to send a mission to Cruithne, manned, squidded or otherwise.
I, for one, would like be the first to welcome our new squid overlords.
Sunday, February 05, 2006
Lucky I am a pure Steelers fan. Happy Superbowl everybody.
By the way, the game is Steelers 7, Seahawks 3 which is good because the Steelers are winning but bad because I think a whole lot of people were expecting a little more scoring. My Superbowl pool is sunk!
Most traumatic moment so far - some Seattle player getting his groin taped, ouch!
Best commercial - Kermit the Frog and extreme sports, even though he is a total sellout to Ford for their hybrids now. Not only is it easy being green now, he should rake in some green for this one. (I know he isn't real, I am talking about whoever owns the rights to his use.)
Today's task is to beat my football knowledgeable family (especially my twin sister) by beating them at a Superbowl pool. Careful readers may be able to surmise that I have no chance of winning the Fantasy Playoff Football pool, even with the application of genetic algorithms, so all my self respect must ride on today's pool.
The idea is to get the most points by having the most answers about the events in today's game itself. Many are random, for instance:
- Coin Toss - heads or tails
- Coin Toss winner
- Direction of first play on TV (not kickoff)
- Total fumbles (or sacks, or interceptions, punts, penalties etc.)
- Total number of points
- First play to score
A few searches on the internet turn up a few pages where one can bet on every single aspect of the Superbowl. While I am not interested in betting, I am interested in prediction. For instance the over/under for the total number of points for the game is either 46 or 47 depending on where you look. That means the crowd thinks that the total number of points scored in the game will be 46 points (or so). Guess what I put on my sheet? The process continues for more and more esoteric items like number of sacks or penalties.
Always remember the application of science and math to even the most mundane of activities can improve your life. I will tell you after the Superbowl if it worked out. Go Steelers!