Sunday, December 31, 2006

Who Knew The Flu Could Be So Cute?

Yes, that cute little guy is a plush orthomyxovirus, or flu virus to us laypeople. He's just one of the many cute critters produced by GIANTmicrobes. So next time you're laid up with the flu, or athlete's foot, or Lyme disease, or gonorrhea or any of a number of otherwise icky maladies, curl up with one of these cute little cuddly friends and let it take some of the hurt (or itching or burning as the case may be) away.

You can also get Giant Microbes at Amazon

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Extreme Heights

Scared of heights? Then stay away from this Grand Canyon attraction when it opens.

Press release:

Grand Canyon West, a destination owned and operated by the Hualapai Tribe at the Grand Canyon's western rim, announces March 28, 2007 as the official public opening date of The Skywalk. The Skywalk will be the first-ever cantilever shaped glass walkway to suspend more than 4,000 feet above the canyon’s floor and extend 70 feet from the canyon's rim.

Access to The Skywalk will run from dawn to dusk and will cost $25 per person in addition to the cost of a Grand Canyon West entrance package. One hundred and twenty people will be allowed on the bridge at a time. Admittance is first come, first serve for walk up visitors; however, reservations can be made. Guests will enter and exit the walkway via temporary buildings while the adjacent visitor’s center is being completed. Grand Canyon West plans to issue numbered shoe covers — in in order to avoid scratches and slipping - to each visitor that enters the open-air walkway.
Prior to the public opening in March, Grand Canyon West will host a "First Walk" event for media and VIPs. The name of the first public figure to step on The Skywalk will be announced closer to the opening.

The historical rollout of The Skywalk structure, with the glass in place, is scheduled for February 27 to March 2. The initial part of the rollout process involves jacking the structure up off of the supports and then subjecting the structure to several days of thorough tests that replicate the conditions of final placement. After the final testing is complete, the multi-million pound steel enforced structure will be rolled out across the canyon's edge, which takes multiple days. Immediately after the structure is in position, it will be seated and attached to the foundation. Details for a media event during the rollout will be revealed closer to the event.

Official Site
National Geographic article
Snopes article
Height comparison with famous tall structures

I would love to go there, and from what I've read of the erosion in the area I better not wait too long.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Let The Good Times Roll

Three more links have accumulated...

The Internet Speculative Fiction Database I only just discovered this one when I searched for a good representative link for a book I mentioned in a recent blast. It looks to be an extensive searchable database of science fiction (or speculative fiction, as it was earlier known and some prefer) authors & works, including listing of the various editions of each work published. Example pages: Isaac Asimov, Foundation, 2004 Spectra hardcover edition.

Think Geek Some of the geekiest t-shirts, toys, gadgets, books, etc. you'd ever hope to find. A few select items: Blue LED Faucet Light (Lights up the water streaming from your faucet), T-Qualizer Shirt (A t-shirt with a light-up graphic equalizer display that actually responds to sound), and The Red Swingline Stapler (Excuse me! That's my stapler!) Like I said, it's geeky.

PostSecret People from all over send in their anonymous and very creative postcards telling the world of a secret they have been keeping. Some are posted each Sunday. Others are published in the books the site owner compiles periodically. (I gave a copy of the first to my wife last Christmas.) It can really touch your heart in any number of ways, perhaps the most valuable being when someone posts the same secret you've been keeping. It can be very therapeutic to send one in too, I imagine. And sometimes they're funny or uplifting. Well worth a look. Search for postsecret.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Extreme Interest Rates

My wife showed me this loan site today, which reportedly is advertising on Judge Judy. Take a look at these interest rates.

Loan Product Interest Rate Annual Percentage Rate Number of Payments Payment Amount
$5,075 Loan 59% 59.95% 84 $254.03
$2,600 Loan 96% 99.25% 42 $216.55
$1,075 Loan 89% 96.78% 42 $83.89

I've got a contact in banking law enforcement who tells me this would be considered usery in all 50 states. I'm sure he'll be passing this along to some interested parties. Unless these rates are the result of the site being hacked or their rate data getting corrupted I would hope they wouldn't be in business all that much longer.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Extreme Blending

I was looking at Scientific American online and stumbled upon their article "20 Gadgets We Love." On the last page was an intriguing item: a blender. What's so great about a blender? Well, they linked to this YouTube video of the blender reducing a handful of marbles to glass dust.

The blender is by Blendtec, and they have a whole series of Will It Blend videos, from ice to oysters (with shells), to rake handles.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Spider Bite - Epilogue

As of this weekend all signs of the bite, including bruising, have completely cleared. No additional symptoms arose during the recovery.

The identity and whereabouts of the spider remain unknown. To date there have been no further attacks.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Rollin' Rollin' Rollin... Keep Those Web Sites Rollin'...

Another trio of links:

Scientific American The latest in science news, and highlighted articles from the print edition. You can, I think, see all the articles with an online subscription. RSS feed available.

Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing BOINC for short. Install it and hook up with one or more projects to let your computer use its idle time to help with massive computational projects being distributed in small chunks to participating computers. Projects include:
* Mathematics and strategy games
o Rectilinear Crossing Number
o SZTAKI Desktop Grid
o Riesel Sieve
o Chess960@home
* Earth Sciences
o BBC Climate Change Experiment
* Astronomy/Physics/Chemistry
o LHC@home
o Einstein@home
o Quantum Monte Carlo at Home
o Spinhenge@home
o SETI@home
* Biology and Medicine
o World Community Grid
o Predictor@home
o Tanpaku
o Rosetta@home

Rogue/Suspect Anti-Spyware Products & Web Sites A very important resource if you're trying to rid yourself of or defend yourself from spyware & adware. It not only has a list of good software to use, but also instructions on how to clean your system, and a list of supposed anti-spyware programs that are actually spyware/adware themselves or are at best ineffective.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Oh! Christmas Tree!

Well, the tree is finally decorated. We got it last weekend and it had been sitting a few days with just the star on top and a single red plastic ribbon on one branch, left over from when it was marked for cutting on the tree farm.
Here's a picture of it all lit up in the dark room. You can see some of the lights on the bushes outside the window. The tree is decorated with one string of 100 mini-lights, two strings of seven bubble lights each, a few candy-cane striped ball ornaments, and various other ornaments we've accumulated over the years. Our favorites are the Rudolph and Misfit Toys, and the other toy-themed ornaments such as an Easy-Bake Oven and a Slinky. (The oven smells like cake and the slinky moves up and down and plays the slinky jingle.) The dark line along the top of the wall is painter's tape. It's been there a little while.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Spider Bite Examination Report

As some of you may have noted from my "blasts" on my Yahoo 360 page I apparently got bitten by a spider on the right little finger yesterday afternoon. By the time I went to bed it looked like a nickel-sized bruise. Today it's been about the same, but with a little swelling and a bit lighter color in the middle section.

Based on information & advise from various sources, I called in for an appointment with the doctor and got one late this afternoon. She looked at it and pronounced it not so bad, saying that if it had been a black widow or brown recluse it would have been crusty by now. She told me to take an antihistamine for the swelling & inflammation, and watch it for changes outside the normal course of a bruise.

So that's where things stand now. I have a standing prescription for 12-hour Allegra so I'll be taking at least a dose of that. I had been off it for a while due to the cold I've been fighting the last week and a half. Allegra dries up the sinuses, which is not what you want when there's something nasty living in there you need to get flushed out. I *seem* to be on the tail end of that, and a 12-hour mucinex along with it should counter the drying enough. Meanwhile, I wait & watch. So far other than the inflammation it seems to be going the bruise route. If it diverts from that path I'm to call for another appointment. Presumably they would start me on antibiotics then.

The picture was very hard to pose. The bite is on the side of the finger towards the next finger. (Proximal side?) Also the camera refused to focus except on the black printed line. The lighting was bad as well, so I had to adjust the color and contrast a bit. I think I got it fairly close.

Friday, December 8, 2006

Street Pizza

Well, my wife and I are still sick. Fortunately, that has nothing to do with this blog entry. This morning as we arrived at the shop we discovered a street pizza - or, more accurately, a parking lot pizza - right by our spot. That's the actual pizza, in situ, above. Note the tire tracks.

It got down into the mid 20s last night, so I guess the pizza got cold a little too fast for the taste of whatever kids were eating it.

Prints and other items featuring this photo are available for purchase.
Street Pizza Framed Prints and Cards at
Street Pizza Prints and Cards at
Street Pizza T-shirts and Gifts at
Street Pizza T-shirts and Gifts at

Monday, December 4, 2006

Another Serving Of Rolls

Three more additions for the blog roll:

Science News Online Updated weekly, this is the online edition of Science News, The Weelkly Newsmagazine of Science. It offers featured articles from the current issue, web-only features, and an archive of past articles. It also has an RSS feed which I may add to my feeds (as if they ever update.) I've referred to more than one article here when answering questions in Yahoo Answers.

Project Gutenberg It's the famous Project Gutenberg. the first producer of free electronic books. They claim to have 20,000 free e-books available and counting. I believe most all are available as plain text and some are available in HTML, Plucker, or MP3 audiobook form.

Project Gutenberg Distributed Proofreaders The main source of new books for Project Gutenberg. Sign up and help produce the electronic books by proofreading one page at a time via their web interface. I've done a few myself and it's not hard. Just familiarize yourself with their conventions and markup and jump to it. You get to pick from whatever books are currently being proofed.

Saturday, December 2, 2006

We're back! We're Sick!

We're back from our New York City trip. We had planned on doing a morning tour of the harbor on the Circle Line, but we both woke up with colds after our adventure on the tour bus. Take my advice: don't ride an open-top tour bus when there's a thunderstorm in the forecast. I plan on posting some select photos, but haven't decided whether to put them in an album on the front page or post them one at a time in the blog. Anyway, here's a rundown of the trip, with Google Maps links where I can find the spot:

Day 1: Worked a bit at the shop to get a last few orders out then drove to Gettysburg. Spent a bit more time than anticipated in the museum and weren't able to complete the CD-guided driving tour. What we did see was interesting and I got some good pics dispite the rain & mist. After grabbing a quick bite at the KFC just outside the park, we drove on.

We didn't start looking for a hotel until around 9:00 PM and didn't find an affordably priced one until around 11:00. I think we were driving through some sort of golf resort rich section of New Jersey. We went out to get a bite before bed and ended up driving for half an hour without finding anything but night clubs, high-end restaurant, and one closed Burger King. They did have some nice holiday lights in the town square, though. My wife had some crackers and we went to bed.

Day 2: The hotel served a free breakfast (and for $120/night it better) that was pretty good. They had a cook there making omelettes to order and a waffle station where you could make your own fresh with premeasured cups of batter. They were fresh and delicious. Out in the parking lot I took a pic of a couple huge houses neighboring the hotel. We were definitely out of our element.

Driving on we made our way to New York, or rather to the hotel near Palisades Park New Jersey. It was still early so we dropped off our luggage at the desk and, on the advice of the desk clerk, took the bus from the Vince Lombardi Park & Ride to the New York Port Authority bus terminal.

We walked towards Times Square and once there bought a two-day ticket for the tour bus but talked them into giving us three days because of the rain in the forcast. (The tickets are sold by agents on foot near each stop, and seemingly everywhere else.) We waited a bit for the bus and went on the downtown tour. (Here's a map of their downtown & uptown routes.) We saw lots of neat stuff and I got lots of pics.

We hopped off in Greenwich Village to get some lunch. (You can get on and off at any stop for the duration you pay for.) We ate in a little pizza joint on a corner and who should walk in for a slice but John Rzeznik of the Goo Goo Dolls. If I had a camera phone I would have taken a pic while making a fake call, but all we had was the regular digital camera and I didn't want to be too touristy. We just finished our lunch and left without making a big deal of it. I'm not sure, since I didn't get a good look, but I think another band member was with him. The pizza was really good, but for the sake of the band's privacy I won't post the name of the joint.

We hopped back on the tour bus and saw lots of other sites, including a glimpse of the World Trade Center site through the churchyard of the Church of St. Peter as we passed by on Broadway, and our best view of the Statue of Liberty as we swung around the tip of the island, the United Nations buildings, and Rockefeller Center where they had lit the tree the night before.

After cleverly pretending to be guests to use a hotel's lobby restrooms, we took the uptown tour, seeing many sites including Central Park, several museums, the Apollo Theater in Harlem, Grant's Tomb, and a few mansions & churches. We also passed the site of the shooting of John Lennon, in front of his home by the park. Unfortunately, the bus was moving just a little bit and the pics I got are a bit blurry.

After the tour we met up with my wife's family and ate at Planet Hardhollyrockwood, or whatever it was, by Times Square. (Actually, we ate near Darth Vader & Chewbacca costumes, so I guess it was Planet Hollywood. At my sister-in-law's insistance, no doubt.) The food I had was decent, actually, but not as good as that pizza from lunch.

After that we headed back to the hotel. The Port Authority was hot as hell, and we had just missed our bus and had to wait a while for the next one. I think switching the thermostat there must be a union job.

Day 3: After a late start, due to much socialization with the family over breakfast in the hotel lobby, we headed into town again. We started off by hopping a tour bus and jumping off at the American Museum of Natural History and seeing the Cosmic Collisions show in the planetarium. After the show we wandered around the museum, mostly in the vertibrate evolution exhibits. I got some nice pics in there, including some nice ones of the grounds, Central Park, and the city out the windows. It was rainy out but nice and comfortable inside.

The only glitch was when we were watching an orientation video in a large darkened alcove furnished with several wooden benches. I spotted something moving in the aisle. Turns out it was a mouse. The kids there seemed quite amused and tried to chase it.

We lost track of time - there's no way to see all if the museum in a day - and missed the last uptown tour bus so we had to take a taxi back to Times Square. It was a wild and weaving ride, but very smooth for all that. I gave the driver $15 on a near-ten-dollar fare. Was that too much?

We debated a bit on what to do next, and decided on doing the city lights tour. It looked like the rain had stopped, but as it turned out it wasn't quite done.

We toured around the city a bit, stopping at Lord & Taylor's store to walk past the window displays and popping inside to see the interior decorations. (Got pics.) The tour map doesn't indicate very well the route of the city lights tour. It turns out it includes a trip across the Manhattan Bridge to Brooklyn. That was an interesting drive at night from atop an open-top tour bus. Very windy. We stopped at a nice little pier under the Brooklyn Bridge (I forget the name) for some pictures of the skyline and an ice cream cone for my wife.

It started to rain so we headed back to the bus where they handed out cheap plastic ponchos. I had my coat with a hood so I put mine over our bag. The heavy rain naturally hit us as we started back across the bridge. All we could do was hunker down and try not to let our hoods blow loose. One woman ahead of us had an umbrella that kept blowing inside-out. Another tourist next to us had an abandoned poncho blow back into his face. There was much laughter.

By the time we got back into town the rain had stopped so we continued with an abbreviated tour. We did pass by Rockefeller Center again. The place was lit up beautifully. A nearby building was lit up in blue floodlights woth projected white slowflakes falling down its side. I didn't take any more pictures, though, for fear of a sudden downpour hitting the camera. The tour guide said we could take the lights tour again the next night if we wished, but we were planning to leave anyway.

After that we headed back to the hotel, by chance meeting up with my in-laws as we waited on the bus platform. My MIL is a bit freaked out by busses. She doesn't like not seeing the road as they go over bridges & overpasses. She had her eyes closed for much of the ride.

Day 4: The next morning we both woke up with colds. We had planned on taking the morning cruise of the harbor, but decided that we couldn't take the 40-degree temperatures and packed up to go home. Fortunately, without extra stops a direct route home is an easy half-day drive.

So here I am at home, sick in my jammies & robe. I'll post pics later this week, possibly over an extended period.