Saturday, January 27, 2007

Symptom or Cause?

Or maybe both?

What am I talking about? An apparent dearth of science reporting in this country, and a failing in science education. I usually get my news throughout the day through the AP feed of my local paper's web site. Today when I arrived at the Secret Headquarters I noticed the page design had changed, and Science was missing from the list of sections. WTF??? Remembering a trick I had picked up, I edited the URL, substituting "RANDOM" for the code for my local paper after "SITE=" to have it redirect me to a random paper. The first site that came up had the full complement of sections. I breathed a sigh of relief and bookmarked it.

Now at my Secret Lair, I tried the same trick. This time I'm not having such good luck. I've been through a couple dozen randomly selected sites and not one of them is carrying the science section. This is an outrage.

It raises (no, not "begs") the question: Is this a symptom of poor science education in this country? Do the papers not carry science news due to lack of interest? Or does this shortage of exposure to science cause a lack of interest in science education?

UPDATE: I finally found one: I do think I will keep looking for one with a simpler layout, and AP search. If I don't find one tonight, I'll email myself the one I found at the Secret Headquarters.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Lava & Ice

We finally had some snow this past weekend, followed by sleet which froze on top the snow. The next day we found the ice sheet on the bed of red lava rocks had holes in it around the higher rocks. I thought the juxtaposition of lava and ice was interesting, so I snapped a picture and off we went to the Secret Headquarters. Will post another winter pic later.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Tiddy Bear Commercial

I Just spotted this commercial on TV while my wife was watching an Amazing Race rerun. Gee, I wonder why they call it the "tiddy" bear?

All Rolled Up Into One

Since I last posted about my CafePress efforts I've continued to add new designs & items, lately focusing on original designs. (Or as original as I can manage.) I was planning to post each design set to the blogroll, but it's snowballed a bit. Instead, I've removed the individual ones and posted a link to a CafePress search that should show all my designs and products, with a day or so lag for new stuff. That'll be all I have of it on the blogroll unless I come up with something particularly good.

Also, I just got SeaMonkey 1.1, and I am loving this built-in web form spell check!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

A-Rockin' And A-Geekin'

I feel like simultaneously rockin' out and geekin' out, so...

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Learning Every Day

I've got some Snapple bottles lined up on my desk. Let's take a look at the "Real Facts" in the lids...

"The temp. of the sun can reach 15 million degrees F."
Sounds about right, but is it? A quick search finds where they say: "The Sun's outer visible layer is called the photosphere and has a temperature of 6,000°C (11,000°F)." Not quite 15 million, but that's just scratching the surface. If we delve deeper: " Solar energy is created deep within the core of the Sun. It is here that the temperature (15,000,000° C; 27,000,000° F)..." Ahah! 15 million degrees C and 27 million degrees F. I suppose somewhere in between the surface and the core the temperature would be 15 million F, so technically the lid is correct, but I don't think that's what they meant.

"The most sensitive parts of the body are the mouth and fingertips."
Now, some of you romantic types may be thinking there's something else more sensitive, but have your ever seen a blind person pull down their pants to read? I didn't think so. I happen to know this one is correct, so we'll move on.

"Swimming pools in the U.S. contain enough water to cover San Francisco."
At first glance you might think "Wow, that's a lot of water." or "Wow, that's a lot of pools." But what exactly are they saying? They don't say "All the swimming pools combined." The implication is that each and every swimming pool in the U.S. has enough water to cover San Francisco. "Yeah, right!" you say, and possibly with good reason. But notice also they did not specify how deeply San Francisco would be covered. According to, S.F. covers a 47 square mile area. If you assume an average pool size of 10,000 gallons and trust my math, that comes out to a depth of 3.109692907397719148936170212766x10^-7 meters, or 0.3 micrometers. A water molecule measures close to 2 picometers, less than 1/150000 the depth, so it's not like there wouldn't be enough water, and it's also obvious that any size pool will do. Looking at it practically, though, that's like 1/100000 inch of rain, which would probably evaporate pretty quickly unless San Francisco was experiencing one of its famous fogs at the time. If that were the case, however, the damp on everything might be more than the pool water. Technically, though, I say this one's correct.

Final score: 2/3

Sunday, January 14, 2007

The Lights Are Coming Down

I started taking down the lights at the Secret Lair last weekend, but was interrupted by rain. There's supposed to be a chance of rain tomorrow, but there should be enough clear times to allow me to finish the job.

Yes, that's the secret lair, with clues as to its secret location cleverly, and probably unnecessarily, removed. The picture was taken several years ago and there were a few differences between that year's lights and this year's. We haven't wrapped lights around the rail fence in front of the house for a few years now, and we haven't put lights on the deck for a few more. We did have lighted wreaths hanging in the middle of the windows, thanks to some nice suction cups (though one did keep falling off at first.) Unfortunately, I never got around to putting the lights on the tree. It's grown a few feet since this picture was taken. At the time I could use a broom to position the higher lights. Now I have a light handling attachment that screws on a pole I use to change the floodlight bulbs (with another attachment.)

Next year I hope to do a better job of it, and get fresh pics. Maybe if the new LED lights are affordable enough by then we can expand on our lighting and still reduce the power. If they're not they should be by the following year.

So... anyone else have pics of their decorations? Post them and leave a comment here and we'll maybe start a chain.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

It's Time To Roll Out The Barrel... And Find Out What's Inside Today!

A little semi-random homage to ZOOM there.

I've added a few more links, some of which are my own.

Sysinternals This site is an old favorite of mine that has since been taken over by Microsoft, so it's a bit more cluttered and less informative than it used to be. The utilities there, though, are invaluable. My favorites...

PageDefrag - I have it set up to defragment my registry, virtual memory, & hibernation files on every boot.

Filemon - A great hacking tool. Lets you monitor & log file accesses on your system, and filter it by program. Great for figuring out where the heck a program is grabbing a file from, or trying to if it's not finding it.
Regmon - Similar to Filemon, but monitors registry access instead. Find those hidden settings.

Quackwatch A great resource for researching dubious medical claims. I know I've referenced it a couple times in Yahoo Answers.

John's Secret Stores

Shameless plug here! I've been going through my digital photos and picking out a few that might look good on mousepads, mugs, t-shirts, etc., and setting them up on Free money, if anyone buys them. So far I've got four "stores" set up...

John's Secret Store - Gettysburg I: Path & Fence - Based on a couple pics I took of a split-rail fence and trees along a leaf-strewn walking path in the Gettysburg battlefield.

John's Secret Store - Gettysburg II: Lee - Based on the Robert E. Lee statue on the Virginia soldiers monument. This was at the same location as the path & fence.
John's Secret Store - New York - Based on a couple pictures I took of New York and the Brooklyn Bridge lit up on a cloudy night, from across the river in Brooklyn.
John's Secret Store - Roses - While visiting my brother and his family I spotted this rose in the back yard and snapped a couple close-ups. I cropped them down to just the blooms and tossed them up on a variety of items just to see what sells.
There will be more. I've got a shot or two of a duck figurine in the same flower bed as the rose that might make a good journal cover or mousepad. And I plan to dig through my older photos as well. It seems fairly easy once you get the hang of it. If you've got a high enough resolution digital camera or scanner, or a good paint program (The GIMP is free) and some artistic talent, you could make a few dollars yourself. They also let you self-publish CDs, DVDs, and books, but I haven't looked into those options.

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

More Music In My Mind

Another song that's been going through my head lately. Wawa plays it, interrupted by little promos, on the speakers over the gas pumps. Ever since we filled up the other day it's been wafting in and out of my mind.

Bob Marley - Is This Love

Monday, January 8, 2007

I'm In A Bee Gees Mood

I was going to just copy & paste the lyrics, but I lucked into a karaoke video. Sing along!

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Random "I'm Still Alive" Blog Entry

I'm still recovering from my hellish (or at least helly) night. My appetite is coming back, but my capacity to eat is lagging it a bit. I get full quickly and get slightly nausiated & tired between meals. The only other major symptom I'm feeling is a pain in my right shoulder by my neck when I sniff. I must have strained something a bit there that night.

Anyway, for a bit of semi-randomness, here's what's on the Prioritiser list on our DVR, with commentary...

1. The Amazing Race 10

Yeah, it's over. We'll switch it to the next one when it shows up.
2. Lost
We both got hooked watching the reruns after its first season. My wife has become disappointed with it, but I want to see where it's all going.
3. The Office
It's hard not to like this one if you've ever worked in an office.
4. My Name Is Earl
Yeah, Jason Lee's a scientologist, but the show's still funny as hell.
5. The Nine
This one's my wife's
6. Rome
A bit gory at times - it is on HBO - but compelling.
7. The Biggest Loser
An inspiring show.
8. Heroes
Another show where, like in Lost or Invasion, you don't get the full picture right away.
9. Kyle XY
If they don't make another season the first one will have been such a tease. A bit sappy at times, but I want to see more.
10. Lightning In A Bottle
I've had this programmed since we got the DVR, but it's never been on a channel we get yet.
11. Aqua Teen Hungerforce
Always good to have a few episodes on hand for a laugh when I'm in the mood or want to unwind.
12 Sealab 2021
Just in case they show some more.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Fever Dream

I'm getting this down while I remember it. I have no idea what time or even what day I had it - this has been a little disorienting and I'm amazed more time hasn't passed.

Most of my time since my last post has been spent in bed with the covers alternately on and off and a damp washcloth on my forehead while I occasionally sip ginger ale and water. The dream started with me lying down like that, with all that stuff around me, but I was lying on the ground at the edge of a sunny field watching a pickup softball game. The grass seemed dry where I was, but must have been damp where they were playing because they kept slipping and making mildly spectacular errors and saves. One heavy-set batter fell immediately upon making a hit.

As it happens in dreams sometimes, I rolled to my feet and found myself in my old room at my parents house. Nobody else was home and I somehow knew my parents and wife were out shopping. I shuffled over to the bathroom and opened the cabinet to get a fresh washcloth. (I'm not sure why. Maybe the first one had grass & dirt on it.) As soon as I opened it a hurricane lamp chimney fell out and broke on the floor. I went off to get a broom and dust pan to clean it up. While I was grabbing them it occured to me I should get a vacuum too to be sure to get up all the slivers, since folks are often barefoot in bathrooms. I went outside to get it, since it was naturally in a case in the trunk of the car.

As I pulled out the case from the trunk, a woman walked up to me and started talking. It was Zsa Zsa Gabor, except she looked to be only about in her mid-40s at the oldest and her hair was in a more modern style. I'm not sure exactly, but as I took out the vacuum and tested it I think she talked about a vacuum cleaner she used to have. I recall thinking she didn't look too bad and that if I weren't married I might have made a play for her.

We said our goodbyes and I headed back toward the house. When I got to the door I found that instead of being on the bathroom floor the broken glass was embedded in some tar on the driveway. The tar was a navy blue instead of the usual black, but though I noted that as unusual it didn't surprise me at all. I sat down with a putty knife and began prying up the pieces and feeding them into the nozzle of the vacuum. At that point my father showed up and began helping me pry up the pieces. We had to break up a few of the larger ones to make them fit in the vacuum nozzle.

I don't remember any more of the dream beyond that, if there was any more. I guess I woke up then.

Anyway, I'm starting to feel a little weak, so I'm going to grab a pill and get back to bed.