Thursday, January 28, 2010

Fraud Exposed

Sometimes someone does something so odious that no rational person can ever forgive them.  To a scientist of any ilk, falsifying data is one such crime. Especially when it is done for commercial interest and harms the public health, it is totally unforgivable. Andrew Wakefield, sometimes with a decorative Dr. in front of his name is one who has committed such an act.  As detailed in the London Evening Standard, he was found “in breach of ethical and professional guidelines.”

His research (on only 12 subjects) was the major impetus behind the mass fear of the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccinations. The idiocy was quickly seized upon by the autism groups and Jenny McCarthy. From the hearing:
The research has since been discredited by subsequent studies involving millions of children, which found no evidence for the link between the triple jab and autism. It has since been retracted by the Lancet, and ten of the original 13 authors disowned the research. But the claims sparked a massive drop in the number of children given the triple jab for measles, mumps and rubella. Vaccination rates have still not fully recovered to levels before the scare.
Just causing the resurgence of MMR in the population is bad enough, but it also appears that Mr. Wakefield caused this wave of hysteria and disease at least partially for profit.  Once again from the hearing, Wakefield ...
received £55,000 to carry out the research on behalf of solicitors acting for parents who believed their children had been harmed by MMR, but could not account for how at least half of this money had been spent and did not declare any conflict of interest to the Lancet, according to the fitness to practice panel.
So to echo crankylitprof over at Cranky Epistles, Wakefield falsified his data, a lot of hysterical people bought in to it, and a lot of kids have been harmed because of his duplicity.

We are all sympathetic to those afflicted or affected by autism in their search for a cause, but joining in hysteria seldom leads to anything good.  And in this case it has brought diseases once declared defeated back into circulation, causing yet more misery. And all because some idiot was intellectually dishonest as well as a liar by omission.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Advice For The Lovelorn

OK, so I lied. But the title go you to read didn't it. It's that time of the week - time for Mama Kat's Writer's Challenge. This week featured a number of prompts that didn't enthuse me to the point of taking quill in hand (or finger to keyboard as the case may be). But at least number one came through and spoke to me:
1.) Share one piece of great advice you’ve received from someone who knows stuff…

Rather than one piece of advice, I thought I'd share several.
  • Water flows toward money. (From my grandfather, in reference to the fact that money can abrogate water rights quicker than a lightning flash.)
  • If a simple physical model can't explain it, you have the wrong idea. (Richard P. Feynman on why complex mathematical models of reality are often wrong.)
  • There will be many people you can love and who can love you in your life. The one you marry will be the one you are in love with at the same time you both want to get married. (A paraphrase of a discussion with my mother.)
  • Don't tease the sow. (My uncle, warning us to stay away from the vicious man-eater that was the old breding pig.)
So what is your good advice?

BTW, here are some tidbits of advice I found floating around Google:

Which one do you think is better?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


An article by Nicole Ferraro, "Intelligence Down, Social  Networking Up", has some really disturbing statistics in it. The most disturbing is from our friends at A. C. Nielsen about the amount of time being spent on social networking sites by the populace of various countries.

Time Spent On Social Networking Sites

Add the fact the Nielsen also reports that Americans are glued to the boob tube 151 hours per month on average and you have a pretty good basis for understanding the decline and fall of American productivity. 151 hours a month comes out to 5+ hours a day. So we have 6+ hours on the social networking sites plus 5+ hours glued to the tube. It's really fortunate that at least some people can multi-task; otherwise we would have only a few hours a day left to work and interact as normal human beings.

Inquiring minds want to know: do you find this as disturbing as I do? The loss of productivity, the increased obesity due to inactivity, the failure of normal human to human interaction and socialization - it all seems a high price to pay for things as mindless as TV and facebook and twitter, and ...

Monday, January 25, 2010

Feel the ...

I happened to see an ad on TV tonight for a product that shall remain nameless (but you can find it here). The ad featured the catch-phrase "Feel the Heal", trademarked by the nameless company, proving you can trademark anything. You can imagine what happened from there with my strange bent of thought. Heal came across as Heel, since that is what it sounded like. And from there I meandered down a hundred possible interpretations of the phrase, none of them good. Some examples:

Feel the Heel #1 - A picture of a rather elderly gentleman with a foot fetish sprang to mind. This poor fellow was kneeling at the feet of a beautiful model and trembling with awe and desire as she lifted her high heel clad foot to him with the words "Feel the heel".

Feel the Heel #2 - A group of people are partying, dancing and drinking, having a great time. A group of young women are sitting around a table discussing the bad behavior of the cad at the club. One woman pipes in with "Feel the heel". The others look aghast at her. She explains that he will undoubtedly be intimidated and go for safer prey.

Feel the Heel #3 - The star quarterback is lying on the field,writhing in pain. The head trainer turns to the team doctor and says "Feel the heel, feel the heel".

So what comes to your mind now as I shout "FEEL THE HEEL'????

Does it change after seeing this picture?

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Sunday Going Down

Just when you thought the weather couldn't be any nicer for this time of year, today it is cooler and as the air pressure rises the winds are a-howling. In fact, the weather service is blaring this tidbit over the game I'm trying to watch:
Issued by The National Weather Service
Denver/Boulder, CO
1:02 pm MST, Sun., Jan. 24, 2010






FYI, we are on I-76.

The warning blaring over the TV blocked out the kickoff and first three downs of the Colts-Jets game, so I'm really happy that the Colts didn't do much. It is really annoying to miss a critical play because you are seeing a black screen with a computerized voice s.l.o.w.l.y reading the above announcement. Now if the weather critters can just hold it down for the rest of the game...

Yesterday was a busy day for me. My undergraduate alma mater does alumni interviews of applicants for admission since there are often 20 or more qualified applicants for each class opening. So early afternoon saw me interviewing a candidate. (I get the pleasure for the one or two applicants every few years out here in the boonies since there are no other alumni here. Many years ago when we were in California it was a group effort and we did 4-5 a day for a few weeks of Saturdays.)  The interview was fun and interesting.

Every once in a while you meet a spectacular young person who makes the  interview a pleasure. This was one of those. The young lady was one of the two most spectacular candidates I have seen in the last 30 years of doing such interviews. The pleasure of meeting a youngster that has not only lettered all three years of high school in three sports, but is also intellectually curious and knowledgeable and is involved in literally tens of charitable and community efforts as both a leader and a follower is all too rare. The interview ran an hour longer than normal just because of the interesting discussions on topics ranging from philosophy to literature to mathematics to politics. I really hope she is admitted; I think she would be a definite asset to the campus.

After spending an hour getting my notes into coherent form and filing them with the admissions office, it was time to go to a working meeting related to my real job. Dinner was catered in - by one of the attendee's sons running to Sonic. It was that kind of a meeting. {*grin*} In any case, it was after 10pm when I walked in the door to the guilt inducing stare from Molly, asking "Where have you been? Where is my chewie? Huh?"

Molly is currently laying on the floor giving me the doggie evil eye:

She wants to go for a walk but the breeze outside and the game inside is making that a slim possibility. We'll have to see if the guilt of not listening to Molly eventually exceeds the pleasure watching the game.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Jail Break

Today featured a moment of true Colorado weather. As I left the prison after being the graduation speaker (92 inmates graduated with vocational education certificates), it rained, snowed, and blazed sunshine in a period of less than three minutes. Proof positive that the old adage "If you don't like the weather in Colorado, wait five minutes." is based on a kernel of truth.

I always find it amusing to watch the inmates after a ceremony like today's. It is standard practice at the prison to have cake and punch supplied by the culinary arts program as the reward for the prisoners at the conclusion. The prisoners line up anxiously for their cake and then politely wait and hope there will be enough to have a second piece. Staff and guests always go first; I'm sure the fact that I always refuse the cake due to my diabetes makes more than one inmate happy I was the honored guest and not someone who might eat the cake.

Why you might ask? Because the diet they get has no deserts and no sweets and is heavy on fats and carbs. So the only sweets they might see in a year from their regular diet is that piece of cake after a graduation celebration. For many of the inmates, it clearly ranks right up their with getting assigned to a red-band group. (Red-band groups are groups composed of prisoners with spotless records and the wardens OK that are sent outside the gates on work details. That is the only way the inmates get a chance to see normal life scenes and open fields.)

It is also interesting to watch the inmates queue up to talk to you. They must have staff permission to approach within arms length of a guest. They must also have permission to speak to you. So they queue up to get permission to even say something so simple as "Thank you for coming."  or "Thank you for caring." Makes you really appreciate the freedoms you have in your own life once you spend a few hours there.

It used to be that there was some jocularity amidst the inmates, but it is clear that the murder last week has depressed the inmate population. I wonder how long it will be before some semblance of normal returns. The assistant warden and I had a long discussion on the matter while we were waiting for the inmates to be brought in. They are wondering the same thing.

Time to head for the bed.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

And Away We Go

The low, the high , and the "eh, who cares" for the day.

Rant - The rising wind and cold. The air pressure has stayed low and my shoulders have been screaming. I just want the high pressure to get here so things will quit hurting.

Rave - The people at Harper Collins who generously selected me to get two Fiona McIntosh novels (Royal Exile and Tyrant's Blood) in their give away. Special thanks to Katherine Nintzel, the Editor that sent them along to me.

Epitome of Tepidity - Molly snoring away on the floor by my feet. Makes me want to head for the bed as well.

Writer's Challenge A Go Go

It's that time of the week - time for Mama Kat's Writer's Challenge. So here are this weeks topics:
1.) I recently read all about the importance of us bloggers developing an “Elevator Pitch” via one of my new favorite blogs. According Wikipedia and Elevator Pitch is “an overview of an idea for a product, service, or project. The name reflects the fact that an elevator pitch can be delivered in the time span of an elevator ride (for example, thirty seconds or 100-150 words).” Create one short (a sentence long) and one longer (100 – 150 words) Elevator Pitch describing what your blog is about.
(inspired by Darren from Problogger)

2.) The strangest dream ever…
(inspired by Amo from Where A Woman Shakes Her Tablecloth.)

3.) Write a list of 10 things that can be done to stave off boredom.
(inspired by Lourie from CA Girl).

4.) “How many homes have you had? Write a journal entry about ALL the places you’ve called ‘home’ in your life.”
(inspired by

5.) “Why wouldn’t they just start over? Write a story where a character refuses to go back to square one.”
(inpired by

Given that I am running a bit short of time, I am going to only do #s 1, 2, 3, and 4. You'll have to visit Mama Kat to see about those who tackled #5.

#1 - First the short version:
The random ramblings of an over-observant obsessive.
Then the longer version:
My day to day rants, raves, observations, and punish humor. Originally started to get my writing muscles back in tone, but now continuing because it is fun. One of the few blogs with absolutely no commercial interest. No solicited reviews, giveaways, ads, or pushes to go see the ring of connected commercialism that is much of blogging.

#2 -  I already brushed on this topic in this post. The full version runs thus.
I had a very vivid dream. As I was strolling down the path, I was accosted by a group of pygmies chanting and dancing. Since they spoke no English and I spoke no Pygmy, communication was difficult. Eventually it became somewhat clear that the pygmies had formed a company to commercialize and market their rib sauce that had been passed down from elder to younger since the dawn of time. Their claim was that it was the world's best rib sauce. Suddenly I was buried under a mass of pygmies who were all chanting

Bar Be Que
Bar Be Que
We Eat You!

And then I woke up.

#3 - Some quick time wasters:
  • Read Google's News Headlines
  • Conduct random web searches
  • Add up the numbers of your social security number, your date of birth, and your telephone number to see if the total is divisible by eleven
  • Chew the end of a ballpoint pen
  • Practice levitating 
  • Write your obituary 
  • Visit  
  • Visit
  • Send and read twits via Twitter
  • Write on your blog

#4 - I have lived in 13 places since birth. It starts with the little house on the left side in this aerial picture:

I spent from age 0 to ~3 living there.

Next we moved into town to a house that I remember primarily because it had wagon wheels painted green and white for a fence. The wheels were taller than I was and fascinated me greatly.  We were there a year or so. (The house still stands today, but the wagon wheels disappeared sometime in the 80's)

From there we moved to a small stucco house with a large picture window on the edge of dry land field. I talked about this house here. It was in an unincorporated oil field exploration community of maybe 30 houses and not much else.

Then we moved to a town of about 350 in Nebraska. That was where I attended kindergarten through third grade. I remember that house because it has a big back yard and grape vines. Perfect for my brother and I and the neighborhood kids to play army and cowboys and indians. One of the adjacent houses was built underground since the area got hit with tornadoes year after year and they got tired of rebuilding. I suffered my first crush on an older woman when the neighbor's daughter gave me an old pair of her roller skates.

We moved back here to this town in time for me to start fourth grade. It is the house that mom still lives in today. What I remember from the early years is that the house had been built in the first quarter of the century by a local craftsman who used no milled lumber. Every piece of the frame was hand adzed to size and shape and no two were the same. So when we remodeled it was an interesting type of do-it-your-self project. It was also full of mysterious things like a family bible from the old country in German, etc. Fortunately the next door neighbor knew a bit about the history and the family who had lived there.

Then I went away to college and lived in a dorm and then a frat house. On the way from college to graduate school, L and I got married and arrived in California to find no housing available for us due to a snafu. We eventually found an apartment in a complex after spending some time on a fellow grad students spare bunk bed set. The complex stands out for being painted in brown, brown, and more brown as was typical in California at the time. After a couple of years we rented a nice little duplex that had a private patio and a fireplace. It sat less than half a block from the green belt through the town and was a gorgeous place.

After graduate school, we moved to the suburbs of Chicago and a ground floor apartment in Naperville. It was all white and had shag carpeting. We lived there for three years and experienced some real firsts there. The first time we had a car stolen, the first time with -50F temperatures causing ice to form on the inside walls even with the heat on, and the first time living near an abusive couple. Needless to say, we were ready to move on from the Chicago area.

Then it was off to Manhattan Beach, CA. We rented a house for the first year and it was a typical beach community bungalow, with a full size swimming pool in the back yard. It had roses in the front yard and a huge hedge along one side of the lot. It also had termites.

The next year, L and I bought our first place - a unit in a triplex in Redondo Beach - just up the road a ways. Our unit was gray stucco and 3 stories tall with an underground garage. It was during our years there that we found out we were going to have the Son.

Finally, we moved back here where we have lived for the last 20+ years. The Son was born and grew up here. You can see what the interior of the house looks like here. It is a big ranch style house with a brick exterior and attached garage. It was built in the 60's and the only other owner is the the doctor that is my eye specialist. I went to school with some of his kids, including a younger one named Dan, so you might say it has come full circle.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Posting Potpourri

I knew it was too good to be true. Today was overcast and misty/drizzly highs in the mid thirties. Made the whole day dreary and depressing. Even Molly thought it was downright low - she came and curled up at my feet and slept most of the day as I worked and talked to every Tom, Dick, and Harry on the phone. By the time I got free of the instrument of Satan it was drizzling and looking really miserable outside. Not to be deterred, Molly and I headed out for a good five mile walk. It was after dark when we got back to the house which just made the day seem even gloomier.

In other news, I got a confirmation call from the prison today. I am the honored guest speaker at the vocational program graduation on Friday. They originally asked L, but since she is up in the mountains they settled for me. {*grin*} 

It has been almost three years since I spoke to a vocational graduation at the prison. (The others were college and GED graduations.) The last time I spoke I was introduced by a lady I had known for years.  She was the Son's grade school principal and had left to work in the vocational programs at the prison about the time the Son headed off to middle school.  Since I last spoke, she lost her battle with cancer.  It will be interesting to see who introduces me. If it is the assistant warden, I can count on it being hilarious. Let it be some of the other muckety-mucks and it will be as dry as two month old toast. There may even be some of the inmates from this post and this post in attendance as graduates. I hope so.

It will also be interesting since there was an inmate murdered in his cell last week - he was housed with a high risk offender due to the state budgetary constraints not funding opening the new high rish offender prison just completed. As a consequence, high risk offenders are now crowded into the medium risk populations. That leads to higher incidences of violence within the prisons, amidst other problems. Makes me suspect that security may be a bit edgier than normal.

One of the side benefits of gloomy days is that I tend to put on random music and listen to some really different stuff. Apropos of a gloomy day, I heard some music I haven't heard in 40 years. Which is a topic for gloominess in and of itself. But in any case, I give you The Chocolate Watchband with Come On:

Hard to believe they used to open for the Grateful Dead at places like the Filmore, isn't it? Even more amazing was that they played with groups like The Mindbenders at the Filmore.

I think it is a safe bet that you, my dear readers, haven't listened to either The Chocolate Watchband or The Mindbenders in recent days.

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Back Has It

The unseasonably nice weather continued here and boy is it great! Molly and I went walking and it was close to 50 degrees this afternoon. The downside is that there are sometimes rather strange people out walking when we are.

This afternoon was a case in point: a lady and her teenage daughters were walking in front of us at about the same speed. Molly and I got the pleasure of following them from about 20 yards to the rear for a couple of miles. That in and of itself isn't interesting; the fact that the lady and her daughters were carrying on a discussion in voices that approached foghorn levels was.

I was a bit confused over their topic of discussion for the first part of the walk. I was torn between believing that the topic was basketball, soccer, or vinyl siding. Some of the phrases I overheard were:
"It is so big that I can't fit it through the hoop."
"Mine is so straight and thin that everything keeps falling off."
"I'm jealous of you because mine won't fill them out."
"I'm jealous because mine won't fit in the gap."
Of course, the bits and snippets Molly and I overhead were tantalizing but very uninformative as to what exactly was being discussed in such stentorian tones.

After 15 minutes, the conversation became clearer. They were discussing their derrières!

I still cannot fathom why they felt the need to discuss this topic in such depth and so loudly as they walked in the park, but it kept me entertained.

Now all I hope for is to see this on tomorrow's walk:

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Difference ...

The differences between men and women can sometimes be so glaring and yet so un-obvious that one simply goes "Huh?" and proceeds on the down the road. Today I served as a perfect example on the male side of the huh.

I got up this morning, threw on a polo shirt and shorts, and then proceeded to do the normal morning things like let Molly out and in, make coffee, etc. Since I was working from my home office today, I moseyed down the hall to the office and went to work. At noon I grabbed an apple and played with Molly for a bit, then went back to work. Late in the afternoon, I decided it was time for Molly and I to go for our walk. It was at that point that I thought to button the vee on my polo shirt and discovered that I had been wearing the shirt inside out all day.

The point here is that I had not looked at myself in the mirror all day or the error would have been obvious. The inside is very different than the outside of the polo shirt in question. I would regard my behavior as somewhat typical for the male of the species.

Now, for those of you of the female persuasion, just how likely is it that you could or would go for 8 hours or more without looking in a mirror? Yeah, that's what I thought. Amusing difference, isn't it?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

National Delurker Day

It has come to my attention that today (what remains of it) is National Delurker Day. Time for the ole blog to get gussied up with Joe, the open minded delurker:
to make sure *you* de-lurk. I know that you are out there. Yes you! It is time for you to leave a comment as you drive by, time for you to introduce yourself.

Besides, I have a more personal reason to see you de-lurk: I want to know which of you was dumped on this blog by Google when searching for [googlesex] (4% of the traffic one recent wintry day) and the ever popular ["google voice" -nexus delay] (5% of the traffic on yet another day).

So please de-lurk and leave a comment. Inquiring minds really want to meet you.


Due to time constraints on a networked software test later today and a meeting with the press, I'm not going to be able to post for Mama Kat's Writer's Challenge this week.

Enjoy a break free of sarcasm and snark. {*grin*} I should be back to inflict pain and suffering in your reader tonight.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Friends and Acquaintances

One of the interesting things about getting older is that the range of friends and acquaintances keeps expanding. It gives one a wider perspective on the world as the range grows, probably making it possible to be a better friend as time marches on.

When I was in my twenties, so were most of my friends. There were some exceptions, mostly professors and business colleagues. But when it came time to have people over for dinner or otherwise socialize, the group was mostly of a similar age.

As the decade of my thirties passed, the range widened. I now had friends in their twenties and some as old as {*gasp*} their forties. People in their fifties were part of a strange and outre world that just barely intersected my social life. (Or who threw the really good business parties!)

Needless to say the range of friends continued to blossom through the decades. Now that I am in my fifties, I have friends that range from their twenties to their nineties. And I find I like the breadth of view points that brings to my life. It also makes me wonder what kind of an idiot I was in my younger years not to intentionally seek out friendships with those of dissimilar ages at that time.

How about you? Have you found your circle of friendship ranging further afield as you have matured (Sounds so much better than aged, doesn't it?)?

I'll leave you with this picture of a few friends sharing a good laugh a few years ago.  I am the only non-octogenarian in the picture. From left to right: myself, a well-know rancher and conservationist, and the person least constrained by social convention I know (and also the most likely to make any party memorable).

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Odd of the Moment

L headed back to the mountains today so I was left to do real work and enjoy a beautiful day. It did indeed reach 45F - so I walked to the Post Office and then to the office of the new mayor (who also happens to be the treasurer of my campaign committee) and then to one of the local computer stores to look at some proposed equipment for the Humane Society. All in all a pleasant walk with just a light weight hoodie over my office wear.

Now that you have clicked away due to my boring meanderings, we can get to the interesting things. As I neared home, I saw a couple of city trucks and workers along with an old high school friend standing on the lawn of a house down the street from ours. Turns out Joe's (uncle of the high school friend) water lines to the house froze last night. It is one of those oddities that sometimes the subsurface frost shield can move as the surface warms and cause freezing in unexpected locations. They were all standing around after giving up on using the flame-thrower in the meter pit and were about to roll in the hot water jet machine to try thawing it out. Pretty incongruous to see workers in shirt-sleeves using the flame-thrower and the hot water jet to thaw out water lines under the street. I was just happy it wasn't my water line.

The whole episode brought to my mind the question of whether bad things happen in multiples or not. Just yesterday I remarked to L that Joe must have gotten a new pickup; then I realized that the new truck in his driveway was his friends and Joe's was nowhere to be spotted. That is unusual because Joe's truck is always out front. Turns out that Joe's truck had been destroyed in an accident Saturday. Now his water lines froze shut last night. Sure seems like Joe is off to a bad week. So do you think Joe should plan for yet more bad news?

Speaking of being a bit off, can you spot what is wrong with this piece of art work?

I just hope it isn't what we have on the side of our animal control trucks. After all, we are supposed to handle animals of the non-human variety, not party animals and others of the human variety. Someone dropped a rather critical e off Humane. I guess I'm going to have to take a look when I meet with the animal control officers later in the week. If you hear a large AARGH echoing through the land, you'll know what I found.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Proof I Am Alive

After several days of ODing on the football playoffs, I figured I'd better get my rear end in gear and prove I am still alive.

Today it warmed up to a glorious 42 and tomorrow it might even hit 45. That meant that L and I and Molly went walking in the park this afternoon. I wore shorts since it exceeded the 20 degree threshold, but L had on a bit too much with a sweater and a coat and gloves and .... So L was shedding layers all the way along the walk. Molly didn't care about the temperature;  she just walked in the snow rather than on the cleared path. If she thought it got too warm, she just sat down in the slush and grinned at us. Given that she does the same thing when it is -10F and the wind is blowing, that was no surprise.

I read a number of blogs (my Google Reader list has about 230 in it) and suffered unrequited bouts of glee whenever I read that someone felt guilty that their Christmas tree was still up after the New Year. But I couldn't make snide comments on the blogs because our tree was still up. L and I finally took our tree down today. Now I no longer have to restrain my glee to, I can make snide comments the next time I come across a posting saying the tree is still up. (Especially since this year it got put up earlier than last year.)

Finally, I have found the perfect bed. For whom I am not sure, but who could resist trying to get fitted sheets for this bed:

And while we are looking for new and different furniture, how about this "Rocking Hot Dog":

I think a room outfitted with the bed and rocking dog would be sufficient to drive me crazy. How about you?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Nostradamus Strikes Again

Time for some distraction from the snow and wind outside (not to mention the sub-zero temperatures). I.e. it is time once more for Mama Kat's Writer's Challenge. This week's topics:
1.) Describe what you would change about yourself if you could.
2.) Book Review! What children’s book do you hate reading to your child?
(inspired by E. from Mommy’s Still Fabulous)

3.) What do you predict will happen this decade? (You can be funny or serious if you like).
(inspired by Christopher from CaJoh)

4.) Choose the 7th picture you took from last January and write a poem.
5.) Write about a heated argument you had with your parents (real or fictitious).
(inspired by Writer’s Digest)

Hi ho and away we go.

#1 - There are a lot of things about me I would like to change. Unfortunately most of them are things that there is no realistic way to change and if I iterated them all, this post could reach epic lengths. So I will limit myself to a few day to day nits.
  • My hair to return or go away entirely.
  • My hair to finally just be all gray or return to black. Trying to "style" half a head of 95% gray hair isn't easy.
  • To stop aching. All the broken bones and stretched ligaments of a lifetime make me an acute weather predictor. If the left shoulder hurts, it is going to storm. If the right hand hurts, it will be cold. If the feet throb like mad it is going to be clear. And the worst thing is that I can still remember when nothing hurt and weather was a thing to watch and not predict.
  • To return to the flexible strength of my twenties.
  • And of course if we can ask for anything, I'd love to be handsome, lantern jawed, with abs of steel, have perfect eyesight, have an awesome super power or two, and rule the world in my spare time. {*grin*}

#2 - I need to modify this one a bit to say which book I *hated* to read. Given it has been more than a decade since reading to the Son, some of the pain is beginning to fade. {*grin*}

When I was a kid, my favorite book was Digger Dan. Of course it re-surfaced (thanks mom) to read to the Son. Somehow the prose lost much appeal over the interleaving 30+ years and the happy ending became less of a surprise. So Digger Dan is one selection.

The other book is actually any one of the Richard Scarry books, especially Busytown. Not only the interminable reading packed with alliteration, there was also the computer game that could drive one close to distraction with its continuous verbalization. Admittedly they are all great books and were loved by the Son, just a bit repetitive for me. Not only that, but the books were all complex enough that the Son wanted them read to him night after night and then to read them aloud still more times as he learned to read.

#3 - Things I predict will happen this decade:

  • The smartphone hardware market will consolidate.
  • The number of smartphone operating systems will shrink to 3 - iPhone, Android, and probably RIM.
  • Microsoft will buy one of the other smartphone OSs (like Palm) and so badly bungle the subsequent marketing effort that the OS will die.
  • Hard copy books will disappear in favor of eBooks of various forms.
and finally, I'll go a little farther out on the limb with
  • Home PCs will disappear in favor of an interface unit that connects via the net to a cloud of computing resources and storage.

  • I will lose more hair.
  • My hair will finally turn completely gray.
  • My joints will ache more.
  • Getting up in the morning will become more of a task.
  • I will continue to be amazed at the important things youngsters don't know how to do.

#4 - I took no pictures last January, so I have nothing to show nor exposit upon.

Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense. - Buddha

#5 - The topic inspires me not. Instead I'll put forth an old chesnut and see if it tickles your brain.
A mother make tasty toast in a small pan. After toasting one side of a slice, she turns it over. Each side takes 30 seconds. The pan can only hold 2 slices. How can she toast both sides of three slices in 90 seconds?
The answer is in the first comment.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Rant, Rave, Odd, Insane

Rant of the Day:
Tonight was the webinar from hell. 3.5 hours of insipid instruction that could have been better completed in 30 minutes of reading. I guess I shouldn't be surprised - every class I've ever taken for non-technical certification has been similar. But they could have at least scheduled it for normal work hours and turned off the tattle-tale that flashes alerts to the instructor any time any one moves their mouse out of the webinar window. As if that is going to make someone stay awake. {*grin*}

Rave of the Day:
Google Voice. It made it trivial to connect several phones to the webinar stream. Although I am certainly not a power user of Google Voice, I'd highly recommend that you get it.

Odd Person of the Day:
The cable TV repairman wondering down the alley while staring up at the wires as he walked. He was rather embarrassed when he walked right into the dumpster I was emptying garbage into. The expression on his face as he mumbled "uh high" and then headed back the other way up the alley was priceless. I recognized him, but didn't want to embarrass him further by saying "Hi Dave", so I just went back to the gate and into the house.

Insane Moment of the Day:
This morning in the midst of a very vivid dream. Especially since the dream featured a group of pygmies that had formed a company to market the world's best rib sauce. And I was buried under a mass of pygmies who were all chanting
Bar Be Que
Bar Be Que
We Eat You!
And then I woke up.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Odd Happenings

This afternoon as I walked through the kitchen, I noticed that the answering machine was flashing that there was a message. Being the good little robot that I am, I veered over to the machine to give a listen. When I pressed the play button there was a period of noise followed by a rather shaky rendition of "...have you talked to your mother today...". The call ended with some additional noise, leading me to think that I had been butt dialed by a octogenarian.

I almost deleted the message, but there was something familiar about the voice. So I checked the caller ID and sure enough it was mom's friend Ruth (who does indeed happen to be in her 90's).

I did the logical thing and called mom to see if she knew what was happening. (I was planning to call her cell phone next and then head over to her house if I still hadn't reached her.) Mom's first words after hello were "so you got a call from Ruth too?" Turns out that Ruth had called just about everyone out of concern for mom this morning when mom's phone busied out off-hook and Ruth couldn't reach her.

After we got that all straightened out, mom was laughing at what had happened. She had a call this morning and the caller had wanted a recipe. So mom set down the phone she had answered and grabbed another phone to discuss the recipe (I suspect after she found it.). After completing the call, she hung up the phone in hand, but forgot to hang up the other phone. So her phone line rang busy off-hook and Ruth could not get mom on the phone, thus triggering the string of calls, including the one I received.

It's good that mom has dedicated and concerned friends like Ruth. But I do hope that in the future she'll call me on my office line - that way she might get me immediately rather than the answering machine and me at some indefinite time in the future.  And it would be nice if said something like "This is Ruth." when she gets the answering machine. {*grin*}

Emotional Impact

Now that 2010 is alive and kicking, I was all set with tons of blog topics. But, I made the mistake of reading the stack of incoming in my Google reader and came across a thought provoking factoid that drove me to write this post. So the other 10,000 topics will just have to wait.

Scientific American ran a short article today entitled "Computers Can't Show You the Monet" that collected many of the random ideas circulating through my mind into one coherent stream. It in turn is a summary of an article in the journal Computers & Graphics. In the study, non-art-expert humans and computers tried to place 275 paintings into 11 artistic periods. The computers looked a brush patterns, colors, the way the patterns were laid down on the canvas, just about any quantifiable quality of the paintings. The net result - humans did immensely better than the computers.

This result is interesting to me because one might assume that with sufficient time and training, a heuristic programming approach would become proficient in sorting the art. But there is also a nagging suspicion that a fundamental underlying difference that may pose an insurmountable hurdle to objective machine classification: humans classify by emotional reaction.

The article concluded with a wonderful summary:
Computer algorithms judged the art by obvious and quantifiable parameters, such as the way the paint was laid on the canvas, or the color composition. But humans classified art based on complex psychological evaluation. We ask questions such as, who is in the image? And, what emotions are being portrayed in the scene? This kind of analysis is crucial for correctly identifying art—because even non-expert people were right two thirds of the time, far better than their computer competitors. And that makes sense: ultimately, art is about our emotional reaction to a Starry Night or a Girl With A Pearl Earring. But to a computer it’s all just brushstrokes.

So what are your thoughts?
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