Wednesday, September 29, 2010

I'd only read about them...

I came across this in the front yard of a house near my work.

This pole/chains/basket contraption is a disc golf disc catcher, which I had only seen online, never in the flesh. It looks very 70's to me - maybe it's all the chains?

It seems there is at least one course in Gainesville - we'll have to check it out!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


I'm not fond of most parts of my body, but I really like my eye color.
I could do without the long, luxurious lashes - wasted on a guy. But what can you do?

Monday, September 27, 2010

Saturday Night Cat Scratch Fever

"Come on already! Bring the mad beats!"

Sunday, September 26, 2010

What the what?

Michelle came across yesterday as part of a Halloween ad - and this particular costume caught our eye.

If I were naming the costumes, this would be 'Zebra Sex Ninja'.

Is the model here a man or a woman? If it's a woman, she has no breasts I can detect. If it's a man, he has no package that I can detect.

There's just something hilarious about these poses, and I thought I would share.

This first pic has a pretty standard pose - feminine?

It's a shapely person, no doubt about it. You don't often see men in tights, so the default assumption of my subconscious is 'female'.

This next one make me a bit uncomfortable. He/she is getting a little too relaxed. I mean, hello - we just met.

The last one just takes the cake - what is this pose supposed to convey? That he is fabulous? She really needs to pee? I don't know, but it makes me laugh.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Chance Favors the Connected Mind

Another RSA video, this time promoting an interesting book. I'll be putting this one on request at the library.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

No, thank you.

I came upon this in a restaurant bathroom (after I was finished eating, sadly).

Please say it's not just me - scrubbing your hands with some questionable grainy bowl of something simply does not appeal. Just how long has this stuff been sitting here getting funky? Is this even legal? Do I call the Soap Police?

Friday, September 17, 2010


Michelle had an appointment today (Friday) to have an implantable defibrillator (ICD) installed near her left collar bone - it's like having a couple of paramedics following her around just in case.

Here's a device similar to hers - it's actually pretty tiny, considering it can last 5-7 years without needing the change the battery.

There are a lot of different varieties of the device - hers doesn't need to do any pacemaker duties - it will just sit, wait, and monitor in case there's any kind of problem that requires the device to 'deliver therapy' which is a nice was of saying 'it zaps you'.


Sunday Update!

Michelle's recovering well, she was released from the hospital early Saturday afternoon. It's good to be home, and she's doing great.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Packing for Mars

Mary Roach has made a living poking fun at science for years.

She's written a number of fun and interesting books:
  • Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers
  • Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife
  • Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex
  • Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void

'Packing for Mars' is her second book I've read - 'Stiff' was also entertaining. I'd also like to recommend a TED Talk by Mary - 10 Things You Didn't Know About Orgasm - interesting and funny stuff.

The book opens this way: "To the rocket scientist, you are a problem. You are the most irritating piece of machinery he or she will ever have to deal with. You and your fluctuating metabolism, your puny memory, your frame that comes in a million different configurations. You are unpredictable. You're inconsistent. You take weeks to fix. The engineer must worry about the water and oxygen and food you'll need in space, about how much extra fuel it will take to launch your shrimp cocktail and irradiated beef tacos. A solar cell or a thruster nozzle is stable and undemanding. It does not excrete or panic or fall in love with the mission commander. It has no ego. Its structural elements don't start to break down without gravity, and it works just fine without sleep."

Mary spends the next 320 pages reviewing the history of US, Russian, and Japanese space programs, demonstrating in an accessible and humorous way why it's so damned difficult to put a human in space and bring that human home safely. Eating is a problem. Bathing is a huge chore. Using the bathroom can be dangerous. The body suffers too - muscle and bone mass simply dissolve away.

Logic tells me that robots are a perfectly fine way to explore the universe. Space is the most extreme of extreme environments, and it's a huge struggle of man hours and equipment to keep us alive and well. Until technology has progress for another hundred years or more, we should simply focus on robots.

My heart tells me that it would be an almost religious experience for me to look up into the sky, look at the tiny pink dot of Mars and think 'THERE ARE PEOPLE WALKING ON MARS. RIGHT FREAKING NOW!'. It would be a huge accomplishment, an amazing achievement, great this, wonderful that...

...But it would be too dangerous and a waste of resources to send a human to the surface of Mars in the next twenty or thirty years. Anything that a person can do, we can design a robot to do better. As wonderful and amazing as we are, robots are better at the grunt work, and exploring Mars will involve a lot of grunt work. We could design a 6' tall humanoid robot that can walk around, hold human tools, perform human tasks... but why would we? We're great and adaptable creatures, but we're too fragile for space travel technology as it exists now.

Just as getting to the moon in the 1960's was a series of slow and careful steps, I'm sure our journey to Mars will be much the same way. Getting astronauts to a science station which would remain in Mars orbit would remove the 20 minutes of transmission delay between Earth to Mars and allow them to use telepresence control of the robots. The orbital Mars station astronauts could even do their work in a simulator room, surrounding them with 360 degrees of monitors, allowing them to have a human's eye view of the surroundings - we would get the benefits of having 'boots on the ground' without risking an additional atmospheric decent/ascent.

One thing has been made very clear to me across all of the space travel documentaries I've watched, books I've read - artificial gravity of some sort will be a necessity for the health and well-being of the astronauts. The term 'artificial gravity' sounds like a joke, but that's thanks to Hollywood - there are a number of ways of accomplishing 'fake gravity', if just through spinning the spacecraft at the appropriate speed. It will cost more to provide gravity, but if it means our astronauts bones and muscles don't melt away to nothing during the trip, it will be worth it.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Credi-Bull #20

'Global Warming' is a term we're all familiar with - and it's a phenomenon that most scientists will agree is an actual phenomenon, even if they continue to argue about whether or not mankind is to blame.

It's easy to argue from either position - mankind does release billions of tons of CO2 emissions into the environment every year, but the same could be said of the hundreds of volcanoes on the planet. In fact, an average of twenty volcanoes are erupting at any moment.

Ice core samples from Greenland and Antarctica plot very clear points on the graph of climate change and how variable it is. The Earth has had very stable weather for the past 10,000 years - and it's no coincidence that this point marks the beginning of human history.

As every last crystal of ice on the planet slowly melts, the coastlines of the planet will change drastically - and many lowland plains currently used for cultivation will be flooded.

One solution to flooded farmland is something originally invented in ancient Bangladesh hundreds of years ago - floating plots of farmland. The Bengali used buoyant plots nearly one hundred feet long to grow everything from mango to jackfruit and dates.

So - floating farmland in the ancient past: Credible or just Bull?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Mail Embargo

Have you ever found a notice or bill in the mail on Friday night that managed to ruin your weekend? "Jury Duty? Aw man..." You know you'll have some unpleasantness to deal with on Monday, and there's nothing you can do about it until then.

Here's what we've started doing - don't check mail until Monday! With one less weekend worry, you'll be more relaxed.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Bleeping bleeper

I've vented my frustration with 'things that beep' here but it's not just microwave ovens that are the problem.

I'm a distracted guy, usually in the middle of five things at once. I've gone into the kitchen for some orange juice, noticed there are no clean glasses, unloaded the dishwasher, loaded and started the dishwasher, put the clean dishes away, taken out trash, refilled the water bowl for the squirrels, started a load of laundry, fed the cat and eventually wandered back to the PC, wondering why I left it.

Right! OJ!
Except (son of a bitch) we're out of OJ.

So I set timers. Lots of timers. I set a reminder for anything might need one. But timers and alarms are annoying. Four or more alarms in a day are more than enough to get you irked right there. Thanks to my iPhone, I can set as many alerts as I like.

I do set quite a few...
  • Alarm - 5:30 (ugh)
  • Timer - 10 mins - I dry my towel after a shower
  • Timer - 5 mins - Pancake batter matures as stove warms
  • Alarm - 30 minutes before I'm to leave for work
  • Alarm - 15 minutes before I'm to leave for work
  • Alarm - several weeknights - favorite tv shows
  • Alarm - Monday nights - Call Mom!
  • Alarm - Sunday mornings - Sunday Paper!
You get the idea.

Most alarms and timers have a very grating sound, by design - they need to catch your attention over whatever background noise or music or talking might be going on, and perhaps wake you from a sleep. Our house is very quiet - we don't blast music, and I don't have a house full of people making noise. It's usually me, Michelle, the cat, and we're web surfing, reading or watching TV.

We've reached a sufficient level of technology that any timer or alarm should have options for alert sound volume control and a wide assortment of different ding/ring/beep/klaxon sound effects from even a simple digital timer.

I've tried several options on the iPhone timers and alarms, and settled on the 'Harp' sound. It's actually soothing - I don't grit my teeth when it goes off - and the sound is different enough from the normal background noise that it stands out.

One feature I'd like with the iPhone that is not an option: the ability to record my own alert sound. How about my voice or Michelle's voice saying "Psst! Hey sweetie, don't forget your towel in the dryer. Love you!". Doesn't that sound like a scene right out of a kinder, gentler future - a place you want to live in? Sounds like it to me.

Friday, September 10, 2010

World's Best Cat Litter

Buy it. There is no other cat litter. It really is the best. Yes, it is more expensive, but you will not be sorry. Many products promise to 'neutralize odors' but this stuff really does. It's amazing, and has no noticeable fragrance of its own.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Another problem solved! Nap time?

I'm making a lot of pancakes recently. I've been having fun tweaking the recipe - turns out, adding more baking soda isn't always a great idea.

For one, baking soda is salty, and we're trying to minimize our sodium intake, thank you very much. Also, additional baking soda stops giving you more puff at a certain point, but does thicken the batter, which is 'not so much with the good' for pancakes being done all the way through.

I've tried adding liquid banana flavoring (meh-it's real banana pancakes or forget it), vanilla (meh) and finally lemon. Unsurprisingly, lemon pancakes are delicious! Anyone who likes lemon poppy seed muffins or bread will agree.

I try to control the variables as much as possible - pan, temperature, preheat time, pancake mix consistency, elapsed time before the flip... and still, I tend to allow the pancake to brown too much or not enough.

You would think you could flip an underbrowned pancake back over and it would brown correctly, but you would be wrong. You have missed your chance, Mr. Impatient. You can't put a baby back in the womb, (or can you?) and there are no second chances with pancake doneness.

What's that you're yelling? Cooking and baking is an art, and I should practice? Refine my skills? Learn something?

NO! Once again it is technology which is the solution, and EtchCo to the rescue: I present to you 'The FoodView Extreme!'.

Basically it's a heat-resistant camera in the center of each burner, looking up at the food you're cooking. Originally I pictured a glass-top stove, but The FoodView Extreme! would work with any stove type.

You'll use glass cookware with The FoodView Extreme! - the camera picks up a live feed of your food as it cooks, displaying the image on a monitor built in to the stove itself, into a nearby cupboard, or wirelessly streaming to your iPhone or other wireless device. Color correction software would adjust the image to subtract the ruddy heat glow, ensuring an accurate display of delicious doneness!

Using a phone app, the user can use previously stored images to create a basic image database for doneness - 'Hey, FoodView Extreme! app - in the future, say DING when the bottoms of my cupcakes are this color - thanks'.

The FoodView Extreme! isn't just for the stovetop. With The FoodView Extreme! for ovens, your biscuits and cookies will be perfect each time. No more burnt bottoms! No more underdone middles! Pre-order The FoodView Extreme! today!

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Post-It Note: Breathe More

At work, I present seminars over the phone, teaching clients to use our point-of-sale salon and spa software products. During some seminars, I spend nearly an hour talking non-stop. (I've mentioned my need for throat lozenges and the negative side effects of them here.)

Recently Michelle hung out with me at work (my own little Bring Your Wife to Work Day) and watched me do my thing. She was able to give me a few pointers, including something that I was completely unaware of - I often run out of breath.

I've been giving the same seminars several times per day every day for three years now, so needless to say I have them memorized. It seems that I take breaths at the same times for each instance of the same sentence, such as:

" this point, Lisa realizes that she forgot her purse in the car. Now, we have a line of customers in line behind her (of course), so we can't just sit and wait on this transaction, we'll need to put this transaction on hold - you'll see a checkbox for this at the bottom right of the register - click the box for 'Place on Hold' then click 'Accept'." (Breath here)

Many of my sentences go the same way - the only time I pause for breath is immediately after I have given a direct instruction. This is a bad idea because I'm probably running out of breath at this point, and even though I cannot realize it, my voice has been getting slightly more faint with each word.

So because of my bad breathing habits, the student might not hear the instruction, and ask me to repeat it - much to my haughty frustration - damn it, weren't they listening? Forget the fact that they are in a noisy environment with hair dryers, people laughing and talking, tv or music blaring.

This sort of 'didn't realize I did that' thing is the reason athletes and other competitors will video or audio record themselves - it's very difficult to have perspective of yourself performing a task.

I was wondering this morning - you can whistle while breathing in as well as breathing out. I realize that whistling does not engage your voice box, so it's an apples and oranges comparison - but I wonder if a person could train themselves to speak normally while breathing in? Air is flowing across the same body parts.

According to Wikipedia: Normal human speech is produced with pulmonary pressure provided by the lungs which creates phonation in the glottis in the larynx that then is modified by the vocal tract into different vowels and consonants. However humans can pronounce words without the use of the lungs and glottis in alaryngeal speech of which there are three types: esophageal speech, pharyngeal speech and buccal speech (better known as Donald Duck talk).

In linguistics (articulatory phonetics), manner of articulation describes how the tongue, lips, jaw, and other speech organs are involved in making a sound make contact. Often the concept is only used for the production of consonants. For any place of articulation, there may be several manners, and therefore several homorganic consonants.

The ability to speak normally while breathing in either direction would definitely be a benefit to anyone who does a lot of public speaking.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Credi-Bull #19

Credi-Bull - a story that might be fact, and might be fiction. When playing, please avoid definitive answers like "I know this is true, I saw it on the news last night."..Instead, couch your vote as a "guess" - this will help ensure that everyone gets an unbiased chance to play!

Women spend an average of 70% more time personal grooming than men, and almost half of this grooming is hair removal. It's a common myth that women have less body hair than men - the follicle count for both sexes is the same - around 5 million hairs.

Hair removal for women in the United States came into fashion in the 1920's, when changing fashions revealed more bare skin, demanding more personal time spent grooming, and more money spent in beauty salons waxing and plucking.

Our millions of hairs aren't just an unwelcome remnant from the early days of humanity - hair still serves useful purposes, controlling sweat, managing debris and protecting the skin from abrasion.

Newly published research indicates that hair removal may actually have negative effects for women, especially those trying to conceive a child.

When a hair is plucked, the root is torn from the body - the dermis layer of the skin senses this as an injury, and a series of chemicals are released to repair the damage. When thousands of hairs have been plucked, (such as during a leg waxing) the amount of chemicals released may result in a change to hormone levels, especially the class of hormones known as Androgens. These Androgens could result in Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), a leading cause of female infertility.

This research may lead women to an odd decision - keep themselves groomed and infertile, or keep themselves ungroomed - possibly making sex more awkward until the popular fashion surrounding female body hair eventually adjusts to more reasonable standards.

Real or Fake? Vote in the 'comments' section.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Cute Lil Critter

I don't have all that much interaction with the local wildlife - I try to take a hands-off approach. Some of you might remember the trunk frog from about a year ago.

Today there was a super cute little lizard on my car (I want to say he's a gecko, but that's probably incorrect). We were worried about driving with him on the car and tried to shoo him, but he simply hid under the hood.

We ran our errand and came back, and he rode with us the whole way. Big adventure for a little fella!

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Wandering the stacks

We walked around the local bookstore quite bit last night. I already have a stack of books at home waiting to be read, so I successfully resisted the urge to pick up any more.

But I came across some fun covers and thought I would share them. I do not know if they are good books or worth reading, but I do know I liked the covers.

I'm enjoying the whimsy on the bird's face. I like to imagine the artist had fun working on this. What do you mean, that's not whimsy, that's fear? No no no.

This time the bird seems a bit guilty. And it makes me think of Finding Nemo with the MINE? MINE? MINE!

The male brain is made of duct tape, chuckle.

...And the female brain is made of phone cords. Hah!

There is no spoon.

I don't think I could come up with a longer title of a book that I will still want to read - this is the actual title: 'The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements' by Sam Kean.

It's no surprise that the title says it all. If you like science and enjoy finding out little tidbits of back-story about how everything in your life came to be, check out this book. The problem is, he references so many other books that I'll be on a science history reading kick for months.

One thing I learned is that it's really sad how often managers of scientific teams end up wedging themselves in once a project has finally shown some promise, even winning a joint Nobel Prize for not much contribution. It's a good book that I wish was twice as long - there's just enough detail to tantalize.

The main part of the title 'The Disappearing Spoon' is explained on the front flap of the book: "Though solid at room temperature, gallium is a moldable metal with a unique property: it melts at 84 degrees Fahrenheit. So a classic prank for scientists is to fashion gallium spoons, serve them with tea, and watch as guests recoil when the Earl Grey makes their utensil disappear."

So I wondered what would happen if the person being pranked laughed it off and chugged their tea. Is gallium poisonous?

According to Wikipedia: "While not considered toxic, the data about gallium are inconclusive. Some sources suggest that it may cause dermatitis from prolonged exposure; other tests have not caused a positive reaction. Like most metals, finely divided gallium loses its luster and powdered gallium appears gray. Thus, when gallium is handled with bare hands, the extremely fine dispersion of liquid gallium droplets, which results from wetting skin with the metal, may appear as a gray skin stain."