« June 2005 | Main | August 2005 »

July 30, 2005

Ear Pattern Recognition?

Here's a snapshot from the BBC News web site's Technology page at 11:05 CDT on 2005 July 30.

So, what happens when there is so little inside one's ears that no pattern can be distinguished?

July 28, 2005

Tempest Tea

Tamara and I frequented a tea house called Tempest Tea in Highland Park last winter. Apparently, there's more to that name than meets the eye, and I was unaware of it until this morning.

A fellow Mensan wrote a post to my Mensa mailing list that contained the phrase "more tempest than teapot," which inspired my reply of "what does that mean?"

Our resident librarian directed us to this page at Wikipedia. The Teapot Dome scandal involved the illegal leasing of oil reserves in Wyoming and California by Senator cum Secretary of the Interior Albert Fall (R-New Mexico) to private corporations in exchange for no interest personal loans and other bribes.

Thus, the phrase "tempest in a teapot" (not mentioned at Wikipedia) was coined, and its use means something like, well, that's an awfully big storm for such a small space.

Naming a tea shop Tempest Tea was clever, indeed.

July 27, 2005

Movin' Out

The process of moving out is getting up to speed now, as I have posted things I'm selling to several web-based bulletin boards. I've had several bites, but nothing has been sold just yet. One bite in particular was from a person who is moving to Dallas and is interested in looking at all the stuff I'm selling. Hopefully, he'll be able to show up here this afternoon.

Debra and her sisters were a great help yesterday, helping me pack books and other stuff in return for me cooking dinner, which will happen Friday-ish. They are holding a garage sale in Houston this weekend and next weekend, so they're also going to add some of my stuff to the sale, and we'll do some sort of profit-sharing scheme. Great!

It's a reasonably gloomy day here, with thunderstorms occurring throughout the morning and high temperatures down to a welcome 83 degrees. I could watch the rain all day.

July 25, 2005

Google Style

It seems every other week Google has some new and fantastic idea come to fruition. Very recently, they have added a feature to Google Maps that overlays roads on satellite imagery. Here's mid-town Manhattan.

Click to enlarge.

Now, really, how freakin' cool is that?

Last week(?)'s moon imagery was pretty neat, too, but lacking in quantity, apparently because Nasa would not release any more of it.

Oh, and buy my stuff so I can move to Pittsburgh easily!

July 23, 2005

Failure

Retired teacher Liz Beattie of England will be attending the Professional Association of Teachers's annual gathering in the coming days (July 25-28 in Buxton, Derbyshire) to present yet another putrid exacerbation of the already particularly fetid meme of political correctness. Hers comes in the form of an idea that the word "failure" should be replaced in educational vocabulary with the concept of "deferred success." What a load of rubbish that is. Even the bag of bricks Education Secretary Ruth Kelly thinks it's trash.

From a logical point of view, it's clear that failure is precisely that; it has absolutely nothing to do with success. If a student has earned a low score on an exam, what has he done? He has failed to grasp the concepts. He has failed to perform at an acceptable level. He has failed at his attempt to apply his knowledge. This is not success, and it's foolish to try to convince anyone that, in every case, this is really deferred success. Just get real.

The phrase "deferred X" implies that everybody is confident that X will happen at some point down the road. Is the pothead teenager that sits at the back of his English class, consistently performing poorly because he just doesn't care, going to be successful at some point? Likely not. A likely career path for this gentleman is to drop out of school, get arrested for selling drugs, and spend some time behind bars, before eventually cleaning up and mopping floors at the grocery store until his retirement, at which point my tax dollars will be subsidizing his new muscle relaxer habit. Maybe this is Liz Beattie's idea of success, but it's certainly not mine.

July 22, 2005

Pi Day

According to Wikipedia, there are two days held in honor of the mathematical constant pi: Pi Day and Pi Approximation Day. Today is the latter.

Using American-style dates, Pi Day occurs on 3/14, and Pi Approximation Day occurs on 7/22. If you can't figure out why, I don't like you.

That's my geekish moment for this morning.

I have something to say about the optical resolution of the human eye, too, but I need to look into it a bit more.

Oh, and remember Pure Pwnage from a couple days ago? I got Arin hooked on it, and our favorite episode is number six. But, you really need to watch all the episodes leading up to it first. :)

July 20, 2005

The Spice Extends Life

The first time I went to Seattle, a little less than two years ago, I learned a trick to making flavored espresso. After putting the grounds in the thing but before tamping them, add the flavor to the top of the grounds. Then proceed as usual.

The El Diablo coffee shop on Queen Anne Hill does this with raw sugar in their Cuban Coffee, and it turns out to be a fantastic drink, despite being inevitably short-lived.

I tried this flavoring method this morning with the cinnamon and created a decidedly more exciting drink than I did with yesterday's cinnamon espresso. I have decided this drink's official name will be espresso melange, in honor of the relationship among the drink, the fellow Mensan, and Dune.

July 19, 2005

Random

Hmmm, items of news.

I resigned from my job Monday morning, which leaves me free to do whatever I want for the 20 hours per weekday that I'm not in class. I wish I could give an exit interview to my boss there; I have tons of criticism (not quite equally matched with praise) for the divison in which I worked. I will keep it all to myself, though, and continue to maintain a low-profile, quiet exit. I'll miss the cash flow, though.

Star Wars Revelations is an independent film made for about $20,000. It bridges the gap between episodes 3 and 4 by explaining, for instance, what's happening to all the Jedi left after the Temple explodes. Because George Lucas is completely cool with people playing in his backyard so long as they don't make any money off their work, the only way to get the film is to download it. There are a number of ways to do this; I opted for the whole two DVD set, which was about 8 GB of data in total. Check it out: Panic Struck Productions.

If you're really into gaming, you'll find the Pure Pwnage videos amusing. I watched episode 4 this morning, and so far, it's my favorite. Each episode is in the neighborhood of 60MB-100MB in size. Check it out: Pure Pwnage.

Also, a guy on my Mensa mailing list, in response to a post about Dune, says we've managed to stumble upon one of his secrets: sometimes when he drinks espresso with cinnamon, he imagines it's actually melange. I tried it last night, and he's absolutely correct. Sip your cinnamon espresso, close your eyes, pretend you're on Dune. It really does work.

My family wants me to visit Massachusetts at the beginning of August for Taylor's end-of-term art show at SMFA Boston (did I mention it's part of Tufts University?). I don't know if I'll be able to do it; I have so much furniture and stuff to sell, and I really should be here on the weekends for that. On the other hand, I would love to go to see her show and the family, especially since I don't think I'll be leaving Pittsburgh often once I get there. Sigh.

July 15, 2005

Heart Prayer

No earth-shattering news, really. I got my countersigned lease in the mail, so I definitely have a place to call home in Pittsburgh for 17 months. And, Taylor's having a blast in Boston at the SMFA.

Check this out, though: link.

"Praying for patients undergoing heart operations does not improve their outcomes, a US study suggests."

You think?

July 11, 2005

Awake-ish-ness

I've been awake for something like 28 hours. I was getting kind of numb and slow a couple hours ago, but then I ate macaroni and cheese (the organic white cheddar kind with the rabbit on the box), and now I feel OK.

"OK" isn't quite the correct, um, acronym (Orl korrect, is it? Army? World War? Vietnam? Something. I forget the etymology and can't be bothered to look it up.). I don't think I could sit in a NYSE board meeting and be coherent right now, but anything short of that, I'm sure I could handle in brief lengths.

Or, maybe the excitement of being a newcomer to a NYSE board meeting would give me the adrenaline rush I need to be completely coherent during it. Of course, I'd pass right out afterward. In the back seat of my car. Car with driver. Because I'd be a NYSE board member.

Anyway, I was reading BBC News this evening after eating my macaroni and cheese, and there was an article about blogs covering the London bombings. Let me see if I can scrounge up that article again... yes, indeed. The article is excellent, but what's better is one of the actual blog posts. If you never read a commentary again, you must read this one first.

Be sure to follow the directions.

You know, stand right, walk left, be polite, only use foul language after your third or so word, et cetera.

So, about staying up for 28 hours... I worked (work work) last night, then got coffee and did moving preparation stuff for a while, then sent emails, then... it's been a pretty productive day. I don't see why people aren't more flexible with their standard interpretation of the "day." During any night, I'll get more done in less time than I would during any day. And, then, I'll have time to relax and do a crossword or something.

OK, that's all.

July 08, 2005

Free Bird

I made a difference in the life of a bird today.

Not more than five minutes ago, actually.

I was walking home, and in a tree outside was something fluttering. I looked, and the bird was hanging by its foot from what looked to be yarn tangled in tree fibers. I ran inside, got scissors, and cut it down. It landed not exactly gracefully and was unable to fly because the leftover stuff attached to his foot was now also attached to a few branches on the ground. I cut most of the rest of the stuff off, and the bird took off, flying directly into the side of the building, falling down, and landing on the ground. I thought, uh oh, and ran back inside, dropped off the scissors, and got a pair of gloves, with which I intended to pick the bird up and take it into the grass. When I approached it, however, it managed to fly off into the sun.

Make a difference every day, right?

London-town

Yesterday, at least four bombs were detonated in central London, so far killing 37 people and injuring over 700 more. At present, Metropolitan Police predict the death toll will rise above 50.

The first bomb was detonated on a Circle Line tube train 100 meters from Liverpool Street station at 0851 BST.

The second explosion occurred on a Piccadilly Line train between Russell Square and King's Cross stations at 0856 BST.

The third explosion happened on another Circle Line train that had just left Edgware Road station for Paddington Station, at 0917 BST.

The fourth was on the number 30 bus from Hackney to Marble Arch in Tavistock Square at 0947 BST.

One group, apparently related to al-Qaeda, has claimed reponsibility for the bombs. Any actual association, however, cannot be immediately verified.

Whatever organization did it is a lot of cowardly simpletons. Honestly, if you're going to kill people, at least give them the chance to kill you, too. Cowards. Pathetic.

July 03, 2005

Bye, Pittsburgh

This trip to Pittsburgh has nearly come to a close. I need to leave the hotel for the airport in about an hour.

Yesterday, I checked out the Three Rivers Regatta. It wasn't a regatta like the Harvard-Yale Regatta is a regatta, but it turned out to be cool nonetheless. It took place at the "point", on the downtown side of the confluence of the Allegheny and the Monongahela. They did have a few boat races, but they also had a bass fishing competition, kids rides, terrible food, radio stations, a bunch of U.S. Navy propaganda, and some other stuff. At one point, I heard a gentleman singing Music of the Night (Phantom of the Opera) on behalf of an AM radio station, and that segued into a Sinatra song, and then his last number was Oh Beautiful for Spacious Skies, which had most of the audience in tears. That was pretty cool. Overall, the "regatta" was worth the $1 admission fee, but I don't think I stayed any longer than an hour. I think I was the only person there wearing long sleeves and shoes any fancier than cross-trainers.

I started reading Friday by Heinlein on the plane Thursday, and I finished it yesterday. It's an excellent read, as most of Heinlein's works tend to be. If you enjoy science fiction, this is for you.

It's good that older science fiction explores things like future culture. All the new stuff is so dry. It's like creativity in science fiction took a huge hit when Asimov came out of his prime.

Oh, by the way, I'm going to rent the apartment I mentioned here a couple days ago. It'll be on a 17-month lease, which is great for me because I can't guarantee I'll be here any longer than is necessary for a masters degree, but it sucks for the landlady because finding a new tenant in a very university-oriented part of town in the winter is difficult. Because of that, I couldn't talk her down on rent, but I'm also not giving her six months in advance. So, that six months payment will just sit around and earn interest in my hands, instead of in hers. She's obviously not a financial advisor. Sucker.

Well, I need to go pack and then find some way to kill half an hour.

It'll be a pity to leave the clime of Pittsburgh (holy hell, I just looked outside at the building across the street, and it almost looked like it was snowing... alas, it is not), but it's a necessary evil. Back to the daily grind. Bah. At least I have a holiday on the Fourth to readjust to 100+-degree weather.

July 02, 2005

Pittsburgh: Reprise

I'm back in Pittsburgh, and I still think it's a really cool city.

My flights yesterday were almost awful. They weren't delayed or anything, but there were definitely certain elements to them that were particularly undesirable. Mini-rant turn on. I flew coach, so I didn't get free alcoholic beverages (or *any* alcoholic beverages, since my first flight took off at freakin' 6:45 AM, and all I *really* wanted was either sleep or ten shots of espresso), I didn't get any leg room, I didn't get anything near decent service, and I was uncomfortably near the person next to me (who may have been flying for his first time and who had a really stupid haircut). I flew Delta, which severely compounds these issues. I flew through Cincinnati, which must have the most boring airport in the civilized (whereas airports in Irkutsk are managed by Russian prize-fighters, er, I mean military, and thus are not civilized) world. And, I had only slept three hours in as many days, so that again compounded the issues. Mini-rant turn off.

Once I got to Pittsburgh, everything was all good. I rented my car, which for an American car (Chevy Malibu) is pretty decent, but woe be to the person who eventually purchases it. I drove to the Omni downtown, which turned out to be a much nicer hotel than I had expected. The accomodations are nearly like those of the Warwick in New York City, but the elevators actually work! And, there are 12 of them! In fact, I think this hotel in general outdoes the Warwick, but then again, I'm not in New York City, am I?

I ate, I called tons of people about apartments and townhouses, I had a beer, I ate again, I had another beer, I took a long shower, and I crashed. I passed out for something like 14 hours. I woke up sore and ecstatic. I haven't slept that long in at least one age (as in: your dragon is one age old).

I woke up almost late, and I rushed to get ready, get dressed, get coffee at the Starbucks in the lobby (!), and get over to Shadyside to look at an apartment. This is the apartment I want, and from what I can tell, it's a steal for its price (to give you an idea, it's well over $1000/month), but I'm going to try to talk the landlady down from that, given that We (the concerned parties, naturally) are willing to pay six months in advance.

The two-bedroom apartment is on the top floor (plus loft!) of a completely renovated (like, it was stripped down to its frame and then rebuilt) house. It has a private staircase, a landing at the top that serves as a balcony, a sweet view of the surrounding area, soundproofing material between all the units (landlady == architect), hardwood floors, central air and heat, washer and dryer in the unit, etc., etc., and a Whole Foods Market just down the road! Hoooooooray! Plus, the landlady lives in Baltimore, which is far enough away for comfort but not too far away for her to get things done when things need to be done. Oh yeah, and she hires someone to shovel the snow from my staircase and from my parking spot during the winter.

I also saw another apartment today, which was $1200/month and had a landlady who barged right in without prior notice, a stupid coin-op washer and dryer in the basement, and window A/C units that barely worked. No way.

I called the lady in Baltimore and told her I'd like to rent her apartment.

Then, I stopped being productive.

I got a haircut at Salon Nuvo downtown, bought some clothing at Jos. A. Bank across Mellon Park from my hotel, and went to the south side for the evening. There, I visited the Z Lounge, which has tight grooves (DJ something-or-other started spinning around 10:30), a relaxed atmosphere, and, as I hear, the best drinks in Pittsburgh. I had a number of drinks there, and they're certainly excellent, so maybe the reviews are correct. You can't beat $28 for a night of awesome drinks at a trendy martini bar, either.

Hey, Mom, I made it back to the hotel without dying. There was, of course, that unfortunate casualty on the 10th Street Bridge, though...

Or maybe it was a causality. Heh.

That's very roughly how the past two days of my life have gone. So, how are you?