Saturday, September 29, 2007

Robot Doodles

When I moved to the new house I had unopened boxes of stuff from the last house that I never sorted and culled. Some of that stuff had been sitting at my parents house for years. I never worried about it because it was mostly in their way, until they moved and I took possession again. These boxes are now in my way so I have been at least rearranging them before final disposition.

The fun thing is that there are notebooks from ages ago. Please enjoy some robot doodles from my chemistry class freshman year of college. Aside from these, I notice that most of the doodles are in all the notebooks except the science and math ones. I must have actually been interested and paid attention in those classes.

I should put these on a t-shirt. I was such a better artist then!

Stay tuned for more as I crack open more boxes and explore the archives.

(doodles from ~1986)

Monday, September 24, 2007

Yet another regional dialect quiz

Fark pointed to a poorly researched article about how the southern dialect is spreading. Comments then centered around value judgements made based on someone's accent. The discussion went downhill from there.

Regardless, I still have a Philadelphia accent. Which I have decided I am proud of, since many of the questions were centered around whether I pronounced pairs or even triples of words differently. I guess the dialects in the rest of the United States are making do with fewer vowel sounds or phonemes.

What American accent do you have? (Best version so far)

Mid Atlantic

Also known as a "Philadelphia accent" but also heard in south Jersey, Baltimore, and thereabouts.

Personality Test Results

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More information and data on dialects and tests can be found at this earlier post, I was a Philadelphian in this quiz as well.

Geiger Counter for sale

Saw this cool Geiger counter at a vintage "shop" in Michigan on our earlier summer vacation. The shop had tons of stuff, which was actually laid out nicely across several garages and sheds at some guys house.

We thought that it would be difficult to buy this, pack it up and take it home on the plane in the current security environment. I don't even know if Geiger counters contain radioactive materials themselves as a control or to make them work. I see some Googling or Wikipedia research for some future fun.

Brandywine Community News more soggy and cloggy than popular

It may have been the unfortunate combination of Saturday morning delivery and a big rainstorm, but the Brandywine Community News seems to clog more storm drains in the region than than the minds of eager readers. On Sunday morning we found this mess on Timber Lane off of Baynard Blvd in the Brandywine Hundred, but we didn't have a bag to clean it up.

These four copies will never be read, but at least some kind citizen had finally removed them (but not the leaves) by Monday morning.

Even worse we haven't gotten our own copy on Stoney Creek Lane in many weeks. I see so many of these free papers wet and abondoned in driveways and roadways, this was the most amusing and egregious example.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Talk like a Pirate Day

Ahoy, maties, Today is Talk Like a Pirate Day. That is about all I will say about it, except here is a quiz to get yer own pirate name, aarrrr!

Avast! I am -

My pirate name is:

Dirty Roger Roberts

You're the pirate everyone else wants to throw in the ocean -- not to get rid of you, you understand; just to get rid of the smell. Two things complete your pirate persona: style and swagger. Maybe a little too much swagger sometimes -- but who really cares? Arr!

Get your own pirate name from
part of the network

Good Luck.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Liturgical referree - 10 yards for bad mass

I have had many a discussion with my Catholic friends on fine points of theology and structure of the mass, often whether it was performed correctly since these days you find a lot of "creativity" in church. I am a radical centrist, too liberal is bad but so is too conservative (conservative and liberal serve in the absence of better labels). You could say I know too much, but I do enjoy the intellectual side of the church.

The new Liturgical Referee described by the Curt Jester (I assume it is a joke) is a position right up my alley. This person could jump out during the mass to stop liturgical abuses and generally bad masses, such as when the priest adds their own words to the liturgy or just skips steps, or when they ring the bell at the elevation or slip back into Latin in the middle of the mass. Sometimes they could stop parishioners from adding their own craziness to the mix. Two signals that are my favorites are:

Liturgical Dance detected

The "What the heck am my hearing" signal is one of the most common signals and indicates syrupy banal liturgical music or the inappropriate use of secular music such as show tunes and popular music (especially from the seventies).

As an example, These would both be violated in the Polka Mass that we heard about in Munising, but did not go to when we were on vacation in Michigan. It is a mass where the music is polka with the lyrics replaced by the part of the mass. These are apparently still popular in the northern midwest, as you might guess, but may not be strictly appropriate or correct. Try - "Strike up the band the mass has begun, clap, clap, clap, clap, the Crucifixion Polka" or - "Roll out the wine barrel, we'll have a Holy Communion".

The "rulebook" for the mass is the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (abbreviated GIRM and said like germ, which is a cool acronym in its own right). I happen to own a copy of the GIRM and some ancillary documents. I guess I am a nerd about things both sacred and profane.

(via Neatorama)

Why isn't this double jepardy?

Philadelphia area residents have no doubt heard of the death of police officer William T. Barkley. They have also heard that his killer, William J. Barnes, has been charged with the murder. The surprising fact of the case is that the shooting that supposedly caused the death took place 41 years ago, and that Barnes already served 15 years in jail for the shooting.

The sad truth in this story is that the officer, Barkley, suffered paralysis from the shooting and had health problems the rest of his life. Still, I would have thought that justice was served when Barnes was convicted of the crime and served his time. The articles do not say what Barnes was convicted of so long ago, and so you can see how an overzealous prosecutor might pull out one of the many crimes that wasn't used 41 years ago, or the "new" one of murder and retry the case. Don't get me wrong, I think that if you commit a crime you should submit to justice and punishment for it, and it seems to me that that is what happened to Barnes. I have heard of charges moving from attempted murder to murder when a victim dies in the hospital days after the fact, but usually that happens long before a trial, conviction and serving a sentence. Barnes has already been denied bail for his "offense".

This is not the same as if they just discovered the murder from 41 years ago. Barnes is no great citizen, he has been in and out of jail his whole life until a recent "turnaround". All of that still seems irrelevant to the the fact that this really looks like double jeopardy. I am not a lawyer so I am sure I am missing an important point. The whole case looks like it will center around medical experts trying to prove or disprove that the infection that Barkley finally died from was a direct result of the injuries from 41 years ago. Shooting a police officer and 40 years of paraylsis are so emotionally charged that I don't expect a reasoned rational discussion of the facts. I would just like some lawyer to explain the basis for the murder charges.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Music and Music Visualization for the Masses - Classical style

I just finished reading Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson again. In one scene one of the many main characters, Lawrence Waterhouse, who loves math and organs, wants to take a crack at fixing the organ in the church to which his (hopefully) future wife belongs. They won't let him near the thing until he jumps up and starts playing Toccata and Fugue in D minor. He is such a genius that he transposes to C sharp minor on the fly, because that will sound better on that organ. Musicians will cower and whimper at the scariness of someone actually being able to do that. The author's description of the performance is humorous in itself, especially the part where Lawrence kicks off his shoes and starts playing pedal tones and low notes to shake the whole church. He pretty much blows the mind of the pastor, music director, and future fiance, and blows his own mind as he figures out a math problem that has been plaguing him and runs out of the church.

Unfortunately Catholic churches these days seem enamored of the piano and don't play even the electric organs they have anymore, let alone the real pipe organs in some of the older churches. I miss that "God has entered the room" sensation described above that you get when a good organist is playing a good organ and really pumping out the low notes. Almost any Bach organ piece is sufficient for that effect.

Thus, I was inspired to go search the web for some free performances of Toccata and Fugue in D minor, and was looking for a site that I remembered with videos for visualization of the notes of the music as they were played. The site is the Music Animation Machine and one of the most popular animations is in fact for Toccata and Fugue in D minor. See it embedded below, just click:

There is a ton of other great stuff at the site, the page with the list of music with videos is here. As regards Bach, I would say that I am more a fan of the fugues than I am of the toccatas, I suspect it is the rigor and repeats with variations in the fugues that I like so much. My favorite is the Little Fugue in G minor. Unfortunately the visualization (youtube link) is a midi piano and it really sounds best on the organ. A good version on the organ can be (paradoxically) found at the PianoSociety webpage (link to mp3, BWV 578 - Fugue in G minor ("Little Fugue")).

You could and should spend many days searching and listening to all the great free stuff at the Piano Society. Some of my favorites from the Piano Society are ...
  • Debussy Clair de Lune, (mp3 link Clair de lune). My mom wants me to finally learn this and play it for her at the nursing home someday. The Music Animation Machine visualization (youtube link) will blow your mind with all of those notes.
  • Mozart Piano Concerto No. 20 in D Minor, KV 466, Romanza (mp3 link Romanza). Possibly his most famous tune, made famous again in the movie Amadeus.
All of it is nice music to listen to while working or reading or even when doing nothing but listening.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Drug tests for whole cities

A recent article in Science News describes a new method to analyze waste water for drugs and drug breakdown products. As analytical chemistry has gotten more advanced, chemists can detect smaller and smaller concentrations of compounds. The new technique can detect quantities of drugs and drug metabolites down to nanogram quantities per liter. Jennifer Field (at OSU) and her graduate student Aurea Chiaia developed this technique and presented the results at the American Chemical Society meeting in Boston on August 21st. I have been searching for a paper which describes the work in detail, but it doesn't seem to be available, only abstracts and press releases. I would have loved to see some charts and the actual measured values from the paper.

That Friday, Field spoke on NPR's talk of the nation Science Friday to describe some of the work. They investigated several different compounds, illegal drugs, such as pseudoephedrine, cocaine, rave drugs (like Ecstasy), LSD and heroin. They also looked at some drugs that are not illegal like pseudoephedrine, amphetamine , one of which break down products of methamphetamine use and the other can be used to manufacture methamphetamine illegally.

She was cagey about reporting which community has a bigger drug problem, appropriately suggesting that these are early results and probably because they are working out the accuracy of the findings. Most of the coverage of the paper centers around the use of the technique for drug enforcement officials. Some of the articles about the study reflect this concern.
"Cities in the experiment ranged from 17,000 to 600,000 in population, but Field declined to identify them, saying it could harm her relationship with sewage plant operators."
She also seemed hesitant to list the cities in particular they studied. I was impressed with her stand on privacy concerns when it was suggested that the technique could be used further upstream by law enforcement officials to catch people using illegal drugs. From the OSU press release:
“Waste water analysis is a more powerful indicator at the community level,” Field said. “We are interested in the 'community load' of drugs, so we want to take samples as close to the urinal as possible without violating the privacy of individuals.”
The team also looked at caffeine, which she described as a human urinary biomarker, perhaps it could serve as a control compound to normalize the other concentrations.

One interesting part of the study involved looking at the levels change in drug use for one coop municipality over 28 days to look for time effects. They measured benzoylecgonine, which is a breakdown product of cocaine. They found that cocaine use increased on weekends, indicating that it is used recreationally, while methadone, a prescription opiate, used to treat cocaine abuse remained constant. Methamphetamine, not know for its recreational use, but for its addiction, showed steady use over the time period. One of the papers co-authors, Caleb Banta-Green, is a research scientist at the University of Washington's Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute, and is especially concerned about meth abuse, which has been increasing in the Pacific Northwest.

It looks like the group will also present similar findings at the 6th International Conference on Pharmaceuticals and Enocrine Disrupting Chemicals in Water in October.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Movie Quiz

It goes without saying that I found this via Howard and that he got 100% correct. Besides politics Howard loves writing about movies. The questions start with some familiar movies of the past 25 years and then veered into crazyland in the later ones. I felt they were biased a little toward action, science fiction and fantasy which I should have done better in, but did not.

76%The Movie Quiz - Movie Reviews

Try it yourself.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Head and headless a bit too early for Halloween

It isn't just Delaware that has crazy news. To the north of us in Pennsylvania police have found a head floating in a lake, and all of its teeth were pulled! They were hoping to identify the head as belonging to a headless body found earlier in August. Forensic pathologists found no evidence of Novocaine in blood samples from the head, making this crime especially heinous.

I imagine there is now a search for the teeth to identify the head to identify the body in the house that Jack built.