Wednesday, December 19, 2007

I wrotez a poem

Actually, I don't write poems. They grab me by the throat and demand to be set down.

Last night was one such occasion:

Grade Crossing, Prairie, Night
Black box silhouettes hurtle across my path, invisible, from horizon to horizon
A million tons of treasure, trinkets, tabletops, marbles, alarm bells
Made in China (and its suburbs) for purchase in our own
A single light the only warning.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Peggy Noonan on "The Speech"

I love it when someone really smart agrees with me. It gives me hope that I'm not a total dunderhead. Peggy Noonan also thinks Romney did a very good job, and that he missed an opportunity in not reaching out to people of no faith.

"The Speech"

Mitt Romney's "Faith in America" speech.

Hewitt may be right. As a political event, Romney may have hit a grand slam given the attention given to it. Or not, if you read other's opinions.

IMO The Speech rates a B+, maybe an A-. It was a very good speech (though not quite Peggy Noonan quality), competently delivered. However, it fell short of Reagan's dulcet tones (and was unsettlingly reminiscent of W's choppy delivery - do I want to listen to that or to Rudy for the next eight years?).

He made no mention of non-Abrahamic worldviews. Buddhists and freethinkers may not be a large voting bloc, but the intelligentsia and media elite hold them in high esteem. A couple of sentences could have undercut paragraphs of criticism.

Minor verbal whoops such as "two century laters" show that he's human, at least.

It'll be interesting to watch the polls over the next few days as the spin works its way out to the folks who not only didn't live-blog it, but aren't quite sure who this Mitt Romney fellow is.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007


Geese fly in V formations.

This lets each goose (except the lead, of course) surf on the wingtip vortex generated by the goose ahead, reducing the amount of energy needed to stay aloft. The aerodynamics of wingtip vortices is well-understood. It's the reason that most modern airliners have "winglets" - those small vertical blades at the ends of their wings.

The winglets reduce the size of the vortex produced by the wingtip, and therefore reduce the drag.

Of course, geese don't have winglets - they're gonna create vortices. But as a group, they can work together. Like NASCAR drivers "drafting", geese maintain a precise relative position to take maximum aerodynamic advantage.

But did you ever notice that the V is almost always asymmetrical? One side is usually longer than the other. Turns out there's a precise mathematical reason for that, too.

There's more geese on that side.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Fearfully and wonderfully made

TED | Talks | David Bolinsky: Fantastic voyage inside a cell.

This is all just emergent behavior. It all just arose by chance, by the random combining of molecules over millions of years. It has no purpose. No desgner, no creator, no engineer set it in motion.


Sure. Tell me another funny story.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

UPDATED - Open Phone Tests versus Just Knowing It

Will Richardson (Weblogg-ed) starts the day with a thought-provoking post about a student who sends text messages with his phone in his pocket.

---------------------------------- UPDATE Challenged by Barry(16) in the comments thread at Weblogg-ed, I re-read the article. It does not in fact say that Insoo was texting during a test, only that he was texting *in class*. That's the equivalent of passing notes, and hardly a character issue on the level of cheating on an exam. Further, the full article notes that he wants a new phone, the price of which is doing well on his exams. I've edited this post accordingly. Sorry to impugn your character, Insoo. -----------------------------------

This raises all sorts of interesting questions, being battered about in the comments thread and on Twitter. "If they can find the answer on the Net (including their personal learning network of friends and trusted strangers), is the question worth asking?" and so forth.

These are good and valuable questions to batter about. But...

As Charles says in the comments on Will's post, unless the networking is somehow helping Insoo grasp the mathematical concepts, then he isn't learning math. He may be learning something, but it isn't what was assigned. And what was assigned, we may assume, is something that is of value to society. Kids are always whining, "Do I really have to know this?" Cheating - of any form - is that whine put into action. We can argue about the relevancy of the curriculum. And we should listen to our students so we can make it relevant. But they don't get to decide what they need to learn and what they can slough off.

Second, there needs to be a recognition that sometimes you Just Need To Know It. If I'm on an airplane and the engine catches fire, I don't want the pilot texting his Personal Learning Network for a solution. I want him to "Execute the Engine Fire Checklist from memory with no prompting in less than 30 seconds with 100% accuracy." (Thank you, Mr. Mager!)

There's no question that we educators - with help from our madly-connected 21st-century students - need to devise relevant, authentic learning activities that leverage the power of these new communications tools and paradigms.

But it's fair for us to expect that they'll learn what we ask them to.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Black Friday

Game Somethingerother with #1 son. He can not only keep a secret, but feign surprise and delight. Besides, I needed an SME to keep from buying the wrong thing.

Then, across town to meet the wife and younger three at the sports store. A recument bike has been on the watch list, as we both need to reverse the caloric input/output ratio. Sale price expires in ten minutes. Smart clerk sized us up instantly. ("Not in shape, reasons to live, able to pay.") The box was waiting at the door when I walked in. My airplane will have fewer buttons and controls.

The all-you-can-eat pizza place was *right there*, so...

Hey. I had a salad, and only one "seconds" trip on the pizza. Progess, not perfection, right?

Finally, Sears and JCPs with the Daughters looking for a suitable Christmas dress. 12 tried. One settled on, after I said, "Oh, well. Looks like we struck out. No, we're not doing Macy's. Let's go home." It looks FINE. Really.

Then today, "Enchanted" and "Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium" followed by take-home pints from Hershey's Ice Cream.

All in all a very expensive weekend. And thank You, Big Guy, for making it possible. Feels okay to blow a bonus check on stuff for the fambly when you've already tithed on it. :-)

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Digital Identities

"Glassbeed" has an interesting post about Kids and Digital Identities today.

I originally had several online IDs in order to keep professional, personal, and political commentary separate. I was concerned that prejudice about my personal views might color people's perceptions of my professional capabilities.

I quickly realized that it was far too much work to keep them totally separate. If someone takes a dim view of my professional contributions because they don't like the way I vote or worship, that's their problem.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Revealing comments - CNN Political Ticker Wrestler Ric Flair supporting Mike Huckabee «

Back many months ago I thought Huckabee had a shot at the national ticket. It's clear he's at best a second-tier candidate with regional appeal. (That *could* come in handy to balance Rudy, though.)

That "regional appeal" becomes more clear with his recent endorsements - Chuck Norris, Ted Nugent, and now a famous pro wrestler (whom I've never heard of, since the last time I watched "rasslin'" was when LBJ was President).

What's really revealing, though, is the reaction in the comments section at the CNN ticker site linked above. The hatred and bigotry that is expressed there is truly breathtaking.

But it isn't coming from the fans of Chuck, Ted, and the WWF.

Monday, November 19, 2007

New Technology Makes Aircraft More Crash-Resistant.

"The Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands will demonstrate how the application of Fault Tolerant Control can be used to keep damaged aircraft flying and improve their chances of being successfully recovered. "

It probably would not have helped in this case, though.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Amen, amen, and yea verily I say unto ye again, amen

Will Richardson at Weblogg-ed:

"At some point, I want one of the goals and outcomes for the students at my kids’ school system to be that they will graduate with the ability to build their own learning networks in effective, ethical and safe ways. But that will only happen when enough of the administrators and teachers understand that for themselves. Only then will they be able to help my kids add dots to their world maps in ways that teach them the power of networks in the ways we already know it."

emphasis added

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

I think we may have turned a corner... the war of Radical Islamism against Western Civilization. Not only is there continued good news from Iraq (a "surge" division is going home) but the the enemy is fodder for ridicule. (Think "In Der Fuhrer's Face") Note - the second link above is NSW, non-PC, and potentially offensive. YHBW, YMMV, etc.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

A parable for teachers

From the email inbox:

Once there was a king who decided to set aside a special day to honor his greatest subject. When the big day arrived, a large gathering took place in the palace courtyard and four finalists were brought forward.

The first person was a wealthy philanthropist. This man was deserving of the king's honor because of his great humanitarian efforts. He had given much of his wealth to the poor, building orphanages, schools and hospitals throughout the land. The second was a celebrated physician. This outstanding doctor was deserving of honor for rendering his faithful and dedicated service to the sick for many years and discovering medicines that saved many lives. The third was a distinguished judge. He was noted for his wisdom, his fairness and his many a brilliant decision.

The last person presented before the king was an elderly woman. Her manner was quite humble, as was her dress. She hardly looked the part of someone who would be honored as the greatest subject in the kingdom. What chance could she possibly have, when compared to the other three, who had accomplished so very much?

The king was intrigued, to say the least and was somewhat puzzled by her presence. He asked who she was. Then the answer came: "Well, my king, do you see the philanthropist, the doctor, and the judge over here? She was their teacher!"

Monday, November 05, 2007

A large hmmm factor

What happens when you take public dataset A, merge it with public dataset B, and make the results public - and easy to use?

Betchablog has links and commentary.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

A human in the loop

Astronauts fix ripped solar wing

Sometimes, there's just no substitute for real "hands-on" problem-solving.

We have become masters of automation. Since the beginning of the Industrial Age, it's been all about faster and cheaper. Since people are slow and expensive (especially in space) that means getting people out of the loop. The more we can turn the work over to the machines, the more work can get done.

Until something goes worgn.

Machines are far better than people at performing pre-programmed tasks with precision. Star Wars - the 1977 pre-digital-effects original (a purist, I refuse to call it Episode IV) - could not have been made with human camera operators. But when the machines break down (as they always do), people must step in to fix it.

It's the same with learning. We can design all sorts of systems that automatically mold themselves to the student. We can create algorthims to diagnose and adapt to a specific "learning style", or anticipate a learner's probable errors and stand ready with remediation at an atomic level of detail.

But there will always come a point when a student steps off the design document.

It doesn't happen with every student, but a dollar gets you a doughnut it happens with every "automated instruction system" if it has enough users. Eventually, a student comes up with a question the designer didn't anticpate.

As the old pre-PC "Little Rascals"put it, "Now what, Buckwheat?"

But if we can put a human being back into the loop - someone who can interpret the lost look, the six-days-without-logging-in pattern, the forum post that is so clearly off-track - then we don't have to analyze the content to death.

Just build an additional component into the sysem: a teacher, a tutor, a peer mentor. (If you call them "a network of organic, analog feedback devices" you might even be able to get grant money to pay them.)

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Willow Creek

A Shocking “Confession” from Willow Creek Community Church

Willow Creek has been at the forefront of the "seeker friendly" movement in the Evangelical Christian world. Offer lots of social services, upbeat music, stay away from the fire and brimstone, and you'll pack 'em in. Apparently they decided to do an internal study and found that while the church was growing, the people weren't.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

An update on Thunder

Aimlessly looking at back links (it's a slow day), I recalled the Green Pea incident described here. I thought my legions of faithful readers might appreciate an update. Thunder died a couple of months ago. The tank sits empty, the pump stilled.

Useful web 2.0 links

From a Sloan-C workshop (yes, I know it's a mess) Burks'/Ray's 20 Top Web 2.0 Applications for Education Below are links to 20 top, stable Web 2.0 applications that are widely-used in higher education. Please take a look at any of these that you have not previously used. Blog Wiki Podomatic Flickr Google Docs Google Calendar GooglePages MySpace Citizendium YouTube Gliffy Skype Kartoo Elluminate Vroom Second Life Odeo Digg Xdrive zoho Webware 100 - "the best 100 Web 2.0 sites" Here are links to many more top Web 2.0 applications identified by CNet as being among the top 100 Web 2.0 sites online. You are encouraged to explore these as well: Links and brief descriptions of the finalists by category: Browsing finalists: Communication finalists: Community finalists: Data finalists: Media finalists: Mobile finalists: Productivity finalists: Publishing finalists: Reference finalists:

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

California is Burning

Hundreds of homes in flames, half a million people evacuated.

How long until someone blames this on George Bush?

Monday, August 27, 2007

Age of Wonders

In the film "Master and Commander," 19th-century British sea captain Jack Aubry is handed a wooden model of a new warship. He examines it carefully, noting its many innovative features. Finally he sets it down, saying, "What an age of wonders we live in."

If he had only known what was just over the horizon.
Since the Renaissance, every age has been an Age of Wonders, it seems. The colonies of the New World had limitless wealth. The Enlightenment promised a new dawn of scientific understanding. Steam would provide inexhaustible power. The telegraph allowed messages to be sent thousands of miles. Bell's telephone transmitted the human voice over a wire. In 1900, the Patent Office concluded that everything that could be invented, had been.

But more wonders were yet to come. As the new century dawned, Thomas Edison was working tirelessly to find a way to produce light with electricity. Henry Ford was realizing that an automobile could be built cheaply if the work was broken down to the smallest task. And in Ohio, two brothers were building a machine that could fly.

Within only fifty years, the electric light, the automobile, and the airplane had totally transformed society. By the end of World War II it was hard to imagine life without them.

Not long afterward, my father went to work for International Business Machines. He was initially set to work repairing price-calculating grocer's scales - the core of the business. Within a few years he was assigned to a new area called "data processing". Engineers had created an experimental calculating machine twice the size of anything previously attempted, with 40,000 characters of memory. It cost millions, and filled a large room.

In the mid-1950's, the most powerful computer in the world had 39k of memory.

Just a few decades later, Seymour Cray was building supercomputers. They were the size of refrigerators and orders of magnitude faster than anything else on the planet. They didn't have cooling fans - they had radiators. Researchers waited for months to get a few seconds of precious time on the mammoth machines.

Today, my kids' Playstation 2 has more processing power than any Cray ever had. For the price of lunch you can put 2 gigabytes of storage on a keychain: 20,000 of the room-sized machines my dad worked on, the size of a pack of gum. For less than $150, you can buy a 500 Gb hard drive. That's 200 billion pages of text - 33,000 college libraries. It's the size of a paperback book.

We're connected in ways Captain Aubrey could never have imagined. You can shoot video with a cell phone, upload it to YouTube, and it can instantly be viewed by millions of people, worldwide. If you have a question - any question - "just Google it" and you will likely get an answer in moments. If you like a song, you can buy it for a buck on iTunes (or steal it elsewhere). You can look up anything at all on Wikipedia, a reference thousands of times larger than the Encyclopedia Britannica - and change it yourself if you spot an error.

Welcome to the 21st century. Everything is different, now, isn't it?

Well, yes and no. True, people today seem to live in a cloud of constant sensory input, resulting in what one writer called, "continuous partial attention." Many of our students can't imagine living without computers, portable music players, game systems, and the like. Others have only heard about these wonders, and worry about what they're missing.

For those of us who teach (and who directly support the teachers), this is a huge challenge. Many of our students know far more than we do about the new tools and toys. Others struggle with basic skills most of us mastered years ago. Every semester faculty come to me and say, "Please get me set up with Blackboard. My students say I need to use it."

But in truth, the technology doesn't matter all that much. Regardless of the tools they use, people are still people. We all have the same basic human needs: for food and shelter, for security, for love and belonging, for esteem, for self-actualization. Under the iPod and Razr, behind the email or discussion board post, is a human being with the same fundamental needs as his or her great-great grandparents.

They just meet those needs in different ways, that's all. iTunes is not so very different than the traveling minstrel of Chaucer's time. It just has a larger repertoire.

A tool is merely a set of affordances and constraints - stuff it lets you do easily, and stuff it makes it hard to do. That applies to tools used for teaching, too. You can teach in the 3D simulated world of Second Life, where people can fly and a student may appear as an alien with an orange mohawk (ok, bad example - that can show up on campus, too). But you also can teach while sitting on a log and using your finger to draw in the dirt (hey - digital interactive multimedia!)

Drawing in the dirt is a quick and easy way to show something - to a person who's there with you. Teaching online lets you bring in all sorts of resources and frees the student from having to be in a certain place at a certain time - but you lose eye contact and facial expressions. Is that good? Is it bad?

Neither. It's just different.

You can't replicate a classroom online. Don't try. You can only work to replicate the results of the classroom. That's the most fun part of my job - helping faculty figure out how to use these new tools to get the same (or sometimes, better) results. Of course, the capabilities of the tools keep changing, and new tools keep appearing. (Some of them are so new we don't know how to really use them well.) We often feel like hamsters on a wheel that's spinning faster than we can run. But we keep up as best we can with what's going on "out there." We try new things. Sometimes they work better than we'd planned. Sometimes they crash and burn. We pick up the pieces, learn from the experience, and try, try again. We have to, if we want to prepare our students for the next Age of Wonders.

It's just over the horizon.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

My ride on a B-17

Our little local airshow had never had a website. I made one for this year's show. ( It's gotten a fair amount of traffic, even after the show. (I concocted a photo contest to drive traffic after the show and reinforce the experience.)

During the show I work the flightline. (I get to tell pilots where to go, hee hee.) So Friday midday I'm out on the ramp, sweating and getting sore feet and a sunburn. (Hey, at least I don't have to pay for the priviledge.) Actually, it's a very nice day. A few clouds, a breeze, high 70s and severe clear. VERY nice day.

Around 2:20 the show boss called me over and asked, "What are you doing at 2:45 today?" I replied, "Whatever you want." (Of course.) Pointing to the fully restored B-17 Flying Fortress behind her, she said, "Be on that plane."

I replied, "Yes, ma'am!" (Of course.)

I signed the waiver, got my ID sticker. Went over to the flightline chief and told him that I'd been assigned to "special duty" until the '17 landed. He smiled a bit and nodded. He got a ride last year.

I waited, waited some more, then we were assembled and briefed by the flight engineer. "You have to stay seated until the wheels are up. Then you can move around at will, go up front to the bombardier's station, whatever, except for the tail and ball turret."

We boarded and strapped in. I was in the radio compartment. They opened up the "skylight" so we didn't bake.

There's a very loud, somewhat unpleasant screetchy sound, sort of like what you hear on an Airbus 320 when it's about to start its engines. I assume it's an hydraulic pump.

I'm on the starboard side, with a glimpse out a tiny window. I can see a LOT of rivets on the right wing and the #3 engine (inboard right side) That's the one that starts first. The prop starts turning. 14 blades, then a cough, grumble, roar. #4 turns, starts. #1, #2. All four engines are now idling, each consuming 20 gallons per hour of $5/gal avgas. A penny per second, just to sit there with the motors running.

The whole airframe shakes with suppressed power. This is no Walter Mitty pocketa-pocketa fantasy. This is a serious machine built for a serious purpose - to defeat a serious and determined enemy.

The sound increases and we start to move. The brakes squeal. From my seat I can look forward and see the ground through the open bomb bay doors. More loud sound, and the bomb bay doors close.

We taxi for a long time. The airfield has no parallel taxiway, so you back-taxi down the active runway to a turnaround at the end. No control tower, and the airport is open, so it's up to the pilots in the pattern to talk to each other in order to avoid... unpleasantness. You can imagine the radio calls: "Lost Nation traffic, Cessna Three Four Bravo five miles south, inbound for Two Eight, Lost Nation." "Three Four Bravo, be advised, a B-17 is back-taxiing on Two Eight." "Three Four Bravo, we'll extend."

We complete the slow turn - the taxiway is barely wider than the our gear - and take the active runway. The engines rev up to takeoff power.

The airplane had been quivering at idle and taxiing, like a dog eager for the owner to loose the leash. Now the leash is off, and the animal leaps forward. The acceleration isn't the shove-you-back-in-your-seat thrill of a sports car. It's not the relentless, smooth press of a commercial jet meeting a schedule.

It's more *purposeful* somehow. We have a war to win, I think. Thousands of people back home have labored to build this machine so that we can use it stop Hitler and end this damned war. I don't imagine what it must be like to feel that, I actually feel it. It's a fleeting moment, but a real and powerful one.

We lift off easily at our light weight, and I think of what it must have been like to know you were thousands of pounds over gross, willing the wing to lift, not being able to see forward but knowing that this. takeoff. is. taking. a. really. long. time...

We climb out straight ahead. I can see out the sliver of window a local landmark near my house. We must be nearly directly overhead, at less than a thousand feet. A phone call while waiting to start engines had alerted the home crew. They were outside and waving as we flew overhead, they tell me later. I might have seen them if the bomb bay doors had been open.

The gear is up, and we get the word (ok, a hand wave and a nod) that we can unstrap and move around.

I realize quickly (with much gratitude) that a pudgy out-of-shape 45-year-old has about the same dimensions and flexibility as a skinny nineteen-year old in a sheepskin flight suit. We squeeze past each other, grin madly, take turns at the waist guns. badda-baada-baddabadda! ("Yah, Sven, dere vas Fokkers above, Fokkers below, Fokkers to da left and right. And alla dem fokkers vas Messerschmits!").

Yeah, funny. But holding the waist gun, looking out the window, hunched over peering through a ring sight... I've seen the films. "Dem Messerchmits" are small targets, moving fast, and they are trying to kill you. The '17's skin is thin. The helmet and flak jacket don't cover everthing.

The moment passes.

This was a media flight. A local reporter was on board, with a camera ship flying in formation to get some shots with downtown or the lake in the background.

Also in formation, a pair of P-51 scale replicas. 3/4 the size of the real thing, and 1/20 the cost.

The crew had removed the "sunroof" - the large clear panel over the radio room. We could (carefully) look out this large opening and have a perfectly clear view of the tail and the sky all around.

I take off my hat, hold onto my glasses, and look back at the tail and the lakeshore below. Holding station at five o'clock high and seven o'clock high are a pair of P-51s.

I know it's 2007. I know those are scale replicas, not the real thing. But for some reason, standing in a B-17, looking out at a pair of P-51s, I feel... protected.

We pass over the lakefront downtown airport, LOW, and hit the airshow smoke on #2. Someone downtown calls 911 thinking we're on fire.

We climb and turn, and I have a magnificent view of downtown and the lakeshore out the open hatch. I make my way forward, squeezing through the bomb bay catwalk to the flight deck. The three-man crew is all cool professionalism in their flight suits. There's a GPS moving map attached to the panel. I try to ignore it.

I squeeze down between the pilots' seats to the nose compartment. I imagine peering through those little windows on the side, trying to spot the enemy fighters. I imagine deadly black flowers of flak blossoming outside the big clear bubble at the very front. Nothing you can do but hope they miss. Bombardiers and navigators suffered the highest casualty rates.

I make my way back to the engineer's station - we're minutes from landing, now. But I pop up into the top turret one more time, look towards the shore, and I can see my house. I wave, knowing the kids can't see me.

We take our seats and strap in for landing. I'm wedged into the radio compartment again. A long, low final approach - the airport neighbors who hate airplanes must be LOVING this! - we cross the threshold, three quick screetches and we're rolling.

Taxing in and shutting down is anticlimactic. As the props stop, I once again think of the kids, now old men, who took this airplane into harm's way. They had no idea that their sacrifice would ensure that my kids would grow up in freedom. They just wanted to get the job done.

I look at the guy across from me and say, "Twenty-four more, and we can go home."

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Ratings Always Drop Twice

I'm not normally a big fan of noir, but this satire from Iowqahawk is rich.

Note - if you don't get the inside jokes, you obviously don't read the center-right blogs. He left out a few folks, but the "Jimmy Fargo" and "Dragon Lady" references are classic.

Monday, June 18, 2007


Watch this video: Duty In The Desert: "Green Light"

Now consider this: The men who do this, volunteer to do it. Not only that, they compete for the honor of being allowed to do it.

And when they hit the ground, they are armed to the teeth, ready to move out in minutes, and spoiling for a fight.

I'm glad they're on our side.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Blue Löbster Cult

Rare blue lobster avoids the cooker

Or maybe the Lobster Blues?

Gimme twelve bars in A, boys, 1, 2, 3, and...

I'm mindin' my bus'ness, looking for a bit o' food.
Jess mindin' my bus'ness, looking for a bit o' food.
See a funny cave, lawdy boy don' it smell good.

I goes inside, it's crowded as it might be.
I goes inside, it's crowded as it might be.
Tries to leave, done made a fool o' me.

Got dem los' mah freedom, headed fo' da steampot blues....

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The new culture of death

More Americans support doctor-precribed poison than not:

The new AP-Ipsos poll asked whether it should be legal for doctors to prescribe lethal drugs to help terminally ill patients end their own lives — a practice currently allowed in Oregon but in no other states. Forty-eight percent said it should be legal; 44 percent said it should be illegal.
The incessant "right to die" drumbeat of the past few decades has been successful, it seems. What's next? one wonders.

Something to ponder over a tasty soylent cracker, eh?

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Are you an Information Omnivore?

Pew Research has a new study out on how people use information and communication technology.

You can take an online survey to see where you fit on the spectrum. (FWIW I'm a "Connector", second from the top tier, "Omnivores".)

Here's a direct link to the PDF version of the full report.

Monday, May 07, 2007

"It's quite interesting, and a little disturbing," she said.

If you read the little thin-paper inserts that come with your prescription meds, you'll often find a discussion of "bioavailability." That's the percentage of the drug that actually gets into your bloodstream and does you good.

Ever wonder what happens to the rest?

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Apropos of nothing...


I had to return a library video ("The Matrix") today. I forgot to drop it off on the way to work. I had to work late, so I thought I'd run out after the regular work day and before my evening teaching and drop it off. I HATE being late returning videos, since the library charges a dollar a day.

But first I had to get gas, since the "Fuel It or Push It" light was on.

$3.19 a gallon.

My car gets about 15 mpg. It now costs me about a dollar to drive five miles.

It was cheaper to pay the fine than drive the round-trip to the library.

I dropped the DVD in the after-hours box on the way home.

An early Father's Day tale?

A moment of silence, please. Leo the goldfish has died.

Leo was a good fish, well-loved by my older daughter. He enjoyed blowing bubbles and swimming briskly. He didn't let Thunder, his larger tankmate, bully him out of his share of fish flakes.

We don't know what killed Leo. He turned up missing yesterday morning, and a search of the tank eventually turned up his remains down among the gravel. Thunder, the larger fish belonging to my youngest son, was still swimming. (Note - Thunder is not a suspect in Leo's demise. Goldfish die, and they decay quickly. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.)

So last night I cleaned the tank, thoroughly. I transferred Thunder to a bowl of freshly-filtered water while I boiled the gravel and scrubbed the tank.

But Thunder wasn't looking so good, himself. He was listless, tending to float tail-up. I don't know much about goldfish, but even I could tell that Something Was Not Right with Thunder.

How did we cope before Google? Thunder very likely had swim bladder disease. The cure: Green peas. Yes, green peas are apparently a miracle food for goldfish. Post after post on fish-fan message boards extoll the life-bestowing, heath-restoring virtues of green peas. Green Peas, the Legume of Life.

Chicken soup for goldfish.

So after I reassembled and refilled the tank, and poured the ailing Thunder out of the bowl back into his home, I searched the freezer for a bag of green peas. No luck. The pantry? Success! But since they were far too large for little Thunder to injest, I peeled them open in the hopes that the listless little fish would ingest some of the green miracle mush inside.

Please bear in mind that Thunder is not a fancy mutant goldfish. He's not a lionhead, koi or waikin. He doesn't have flowing fins three times his body length. His eyes do not pop out like marbles. He's a ten-cent carnival prize. A miniature carp. He lives in a ten-dollar tank and eats cheap fish flakes. A grade-schooler's first pet.

But there I was, peeling canned green peas at two in the morning, trying to save him.

Most folks would call me crazy. But Dads understand.

Oh - this morning Thunder looked much better. Maybe there's something to peas after all.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

I wouldn't use 'em , myself

Headline: Freight train with shuttle parts derails.

Reminder to NASA brass considering using those booster segments: Apollo 13's O2 tank was dropped about six inches.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Why I love country music

In case you don't recognize him, the speaker is Jeff "You might be a redneck if..." Foxworthy.

(Disclaimer: I was raised up on both kinds of music: Country, and Western.)

Friday, April 06, 2007

Jesus' Last Parable

"My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?"

It is no accident that Jesus quoted Psalm 22 as he was dying. It gives us an important clue about what really happened on the Cross.

You see, the Crucifixion was Jesus' final parable. While Jesus' agony was horrible, how could a few hours of suffering - even scourging and crucifixion - possibly begin to atone for the sins of billions? The simple answer is, it could not, and it did not.

John tells us, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning." Since before time began, Jesus and the Father had shared the closest possible communication. Their father-son bond is the envy of every parent, every child. When Jesus prayed, he always referred to God as his Father. And he prayed out loud mostly for the benefit of his disciples, because he knew that God the Father already knew his heart and mind.

When Jesus was in anguish in the Garden after the Last Supper, he cried out, "Daddy, is there any other way?"

But there *was* no other way. If there had been, would God have sent his beloved Son to the cross?

But the physical agony of the cross was only a shadow of reality. You see, as Jesus hung there in excruciating pain - beaten, bloody, mocked, reviled, humiliated, and rejected by men, "he who knew no sin *became* sin."

His chest heaving in its final spasms, Jesus looked up to His Father.

And God, the Holy One, eternally, perfectly Just and Righteous, looked down.

He did *not* see his perfect, kind, gentle, loving Son, the one in whom He was well pleased. He did *not* see the obedient child who had scampered about Joseph's workshop. He did *not* see the eager student questioning the teachers in the Temple. He did *not* see the gentle healer who gave sight to the blind, made lepers clean, and made the lame walk.

God looked down at Jesus on the Cross and saw only sin.

He saw every sin I have ever committed. Every sin you have ever committed. Every sin ever committed by every person who has ever - or who will ever - put their faith in Christ. He saw hate and anger and murder and lies and deceit and slander and sloth and lust and gluttony and envy and adultery and covetousness and idolatry.

God looked down at Sin, and turned away in disgust.

And Jesus, for the first time in all eternity, was utterly Alone. As that terrible emptiness, the full weight of God's wrath fell on him, is it any wonder that he cried out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

And then he said, "It is finished," because it *was* finished. There was nothing left to do but die.

So that He could rise again...

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Peace of Mind

The Heavenly Chorus just gained a new lead. I've got the vinyl Boston LP I bought with my high school Burger King earnings on the turntable right now. I never could cover Boston. The rhythm parts are pretty easy, and the lead parts aren't all that challenging if you have the Tom Sholtz-designed RockMan (or can dial in a close-enough balance of gain, distortion and chorus). I've even got a decent tenor most days. (With a chest cold, a passable baritone.) But Bradley Delp sang on a completely different plane.

Thursday, February 15, 2007


New ice cream named for Stephen Colbert

I'm not a Colbert fan, since I don't watch much TV. And I'm not going to get into the liberal bias of the media here. But vanilla ice cream with fudge-covered waffle cone pieces and caramel?


And hey - they could have included three kinds of nuts, but didn't. So props to that.

Ok, look. I'm over 40. Vanilla IS a flavor.


New ice cream named for Stephen Colbert

I'm not a Colbert fan, since I don't watch much TV. And I'm not going to get into the liberal bias of the media here. But vanilla ice cream with fudge-covered waffle cone pieces and caramel?


And hey - they could have included three kinds of nuts, but didn't. So props to that.

Ok, look. I'm over 40. Vanilla IS a flavor.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Gar - this is just getting SO tedious...

The MS Sslams our soldiers. again. I don't want to spend much to much time on this, but, dangit, it's going to get MSM play despite the fact that it warrants zero attention. The article claims that the military is lowering its standards, wasting no time to get in an editorial jab.

"The Army and Marine Corps are letting in more recruits with criminal records, including some with felony convictions, reflecting the increased pressure of five years of war and its mounting casualties. "

Emphasis added. I'll let you read the article and see for yourself how slanted it is, but here's a sample:

"The Army granted more than double the number of waivers for felonies and misdemeanors in 2006 than it did in 2003."

More than double? Double what? Compared to what? Can we have some real numbers, please? In statgeekspeak, "What's the n"? In MSMspeak, "What's the data, Kenneth"?

Ah, but.

Read down TEN paragraphs to see who instigated this kerfuffle. It's Aaron Belkin, director of the Michael D. Palm center, which Google reveals as a "think tank" apparently dedicated to opposing the (Clinton-era) "don't-ask-don't-tell" US military policy on in-the-ranks homosexuality.

I guess that it's a Bad Thing to let kids who've had a brush with the law volunteer to risk getting their butts blown off, while at the same time...

Nope. Not gonna say it.

Wouldn't be prudent.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

A day late and a dollar short, as usual

Click the link above and listen.

Oh-ay. Did that?
Good. Now, I know, it's Far Too Late (i.e., > 30 seconds) for me to have any effect on that particular conversation, but...
  1. I LIKE Barney, hokay? Barney is Nice (as opposed to Niiice). You grok the difference, eh?
  2. I learned some really useful stuff from a wannabe ethnomusicologist. So I got no gripes on dem, yaknow? Hokay.
  3. I put a World Music course online, an' it seems t'be doing reasonably well.
  4. Zither an'bone flute, hit can work, maann...


Sometimes music needs to be used as a weapon of mass irritation.

Ask me about Pete and the laundry, hokay?

Monday, February 05, 2007

Da Game... eh, well, da Halftime Show, eh?

SERIOUS PROPS to the behind-the-scenes folks who made it possible for The Nameless One to play LIVE in pouring rain!!
His unspoken yet obviously heartfelt tribute to Dylan and Jimi... Well done.

Next year, and every year until 2010, some fifty-odd Sociology 202 students will write about how at SB41 a black guitarist paid musical tribute to an amazing black guitarist at the halftime show where for the first time two black head coaches squared off...

And in another thirty years kids will come across that and think, "Huh? What's the deal with skin color?"

And in 2047 someone will actually get a Ph.D. based on whether Prince did or did not play a Chuck Berry lick in his halftime show.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The cost of lessons


I'm in a bit of a conundrum. On the one hand, I thoroughly disagree with folks on the left who want America to lose in Iraq so that we will "learn a lesson."

On the other hand, I agree that the spineless, feckless, craven Senators who put their personal political fortunes above victory need to be taught a lesson.

It seems a bit... inconsistent, non?. But is there a difference?

Yes. It has to do with intentions, consequences and outcomes. If several Senators come up short in their fundraising and therefore lose their races in '08, they will probably lose to pro-victory GOP primary opponents. Depending on whether the electorate at large wants victory, the general election will go to either a pro-victory or pro-retreat candidate. If the electorate wants retreat, then the incumbents will defeat their pro-victory primary opponents anyway.

If, however, these Senators notice The Pledge and grow some backbone, then victory is more likely (though not assured, given the pro-defeat media).

The Pledge signers don't want these Senators to lose per se, we want them to support victory. That's the lesson we want them to learn, and soon.

The "lesson" that the Left wants America to learn requires that we first be defeated and humiliated. In the process, the Middle East will become exponentially more unstable, with a failed-state Iraq becoming a training ground for Iranian-backed terrorists, likely war between Turkey and a new Kurdistan (putting NATO in quite a conundrum), and the Saudis and Israelis perhaps being forced to engage Iran militarily.

Hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions will die.

Persian Gulf oil production and transport will plummet, sending prices skyrocketing and ushering in a worldwide economic crisis.

But the Left doesn't care about any of those things so long as the US "learns a lesson."

Yes, that's the point.

While buying a stereo system component, James Lileks observed: "A manager had to be called to cancel the transaction, and as the fellow deftly entered in a series of codes I wondered how many skills exist today that cannot be transferred from one job to another. Once upon a time, you made barrels for one guy, you could make barrels for another. But the moment you leave BestBuy, your knowledge of their point-of-sale codes is useless. You can transfer the ability to learn, but not the thing you actually learned. In the end it’s your ability to master the system that’s the skill, I suppose. " (Emphasis added.)

Yes, exactly.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Somebody explain this to me, please

The senate unanimously confirms General Petraus as the new U.S. commander in Iraq. During his confirmation hearings he told them in no uncertain terms that a lack of resolve will only strengthen and encourage the enemy.

And at the same time Senators are scrambling to get on record as opposing the strategy that General Petraus will implement.

The collective cognitive dissonance in the Capitol is astounding.

The Pledge

I say this as one who grew up when Nixon was President. My father supported him. I was skeptical. In college, I opposed Reagan. Later, I volunteered for Paul Wellstone.

The pendulum swings. Read the archives, and you'll know that I these days support a President who is not at all like Carter or Clinton. Read between the lines, and you might guess (correctly) that I support the "surge." In the last election, I held my nose and supported the GOP.

The pendulum swings.

The Pledge.

It's simple.

If you're a Republican Senator running for re-election in '08, and you support the craven, defeatist, dare-I-say-treasonous "Sense of the Senate" resolutions such as the ones proposed by Sens Biden and Warner condemning the President's strategy - and therefore giving aid and comfort to the enemy (hence the "treason" charge) - let this unnoticed post serve to inform you that I will not contribute one dime or one minute of my time to your re-election.

In fact, I just might support your opponent.

Not that you care. I'm just one obscure blogger, right? But take note - there are ten thousand more like me.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Well, THAT was certainly enlightening!

Mystery of world's biggest, yuckiest flower solved


"These plants are so bizarre that no matter where you put them with any group of plants, you're going to have a lot of explaining to do," Davis said.

H'lo, Reuters? Anyone?

Thursday, January 04, 2007