Saturday December 5, 2015

OMG My IMAP Mailboxes are Gone!

I have never cared for the "store mail on the server" model of IMAP. Disliking this from an academic standpoint, I had avoided using IMAP as much as possible. However, I recently decided that I wanted to use email on both my desktop and my laptop.

Thanks to recommendations from knowledgeable friends and acquaintances who insisted that IMAP was really the only way to keep my mail clients in synch on multiple computers, I grudgingly converted to IMAP a few weeks ago. And it was working.

Mail was being delivered to ~/Maildir and I was getting it on both machines. I set up server-based mailboxes and moved all of my "On my Mac" messages to the server. Filed messages were now accessible in both locations. All was fine.

But then, I decided to improve things.

[...Pause while the reader considers the ramifications of that statement and either gasps, sighs, or chortles...] ...
       Continue reading "OMG My IMAP Mailboxes are Gone!"

OMG My IMAP Mailboxes are Gone! - posted at Sat, 05 Dec, 15:44 Pacific | Comments (0)

Thursday November 20, 2014

Mac Cannot Connect to Messages

Following a communications SNAFU the other day (I was not logged into Skype), I decided to set up Messages on Spouse's Macbook Air, so we'd have a guaranteed way to communicate Mac to Mac. His Macbook is running 10.9; how hard could it be?

Answer: surprisingly difficult. Although he regularly connects to iTunes (no issues with his Apple password), I kept getting "cannot connect" from Messages. It suggested I check my Network connectivity (no issues).

So, I did what I always do... I searched. This seems to be a relatively common problem. A lot of people proposed possible solutions. Delete plist files. (Tried.) Delete keychain files. (Tried.) Reset the clock(?). (Sure, why not.) Check the Console messages.

Check the Console messages.

Screenshot console log

Odd. (Note: the only reason I even saw these lines was because I had the console open while I tried to connect with Messages. It's not something I would have looked for.

       Continue reading "Mac Cannot Connect to Messages"

Mac Cannot Connect to Messages - posted at Thu, 20 Nov, 16:09 Pacific | Comments (0)

Friday October 17, 2014

Hello Ello

I recently joined Ello. It's still in Beta, by invitation, but gaining users (and features). I'm enjoying it.

I especially like the mix of Twitter-like discovery and non-reciprocal following with FB-style conversation threads. Most of the early users of Ello are designers, artists, photographers and writers. It has a very creative feeling.

Every time I discover (and sign up for) a new Social Media platform, I ask myself "What will I use this one for?". I already use Twitter (short status), Facebook (longer status, discussions), and (occasionally) Google+ (more technically-oriented posts). What can Ello add for me?

I've decided to let the early adopters drive the meaning. I am using Ello for photos, non-technical discussion, sharing, essays, and short creative writing. That may change, over time, but it's a good fit for me at this time. ...
       Continue reading "Hello Ello"

Hello Ello - posted at Fri, 17 Oct, 15:59 Pacific | Comments (0)

Sunday October 12, 2014

Macbook Air does not wake from sleep as expected

Recently, I discovered that my 13-inch, Mid 2011 Macbook Air was not waking from sleep as expected when I opened the cover, even if I tapped the spacebar. I needed to press the power key. This was annoying because if the power key is held down too long, the laptop restarts. Ugh. ...
       Continue reading "Macbook Air does not wake from sleep as expected"

Macbook Air does not wake from sleep as expected - posted at Sun, 12 Oct, 19:06 Pacific | Comments (0)

Tuesday July 16, 2013

E:signature verification failed

Updating an Android OS Manually (With Hiccups)

I recently upgraded my Android mobile device from a Motorola Droid Bionic to a Samsung Galaxy S III. I love the new Galaxy, but the Bionic still works as a "hand-held computer". After all, it has WiFi, telnet, shell access... I decided to check to see if it was possible to update the OS.

  • Good news: yes, there are updates.
  • Bad news: it should not be this difficult to install an update!

The first thing I did was try Verizon's recommended approach.

Settings > About phone > System Updates

There was an update available. I selected Download. Then I waited...
      and waited...
              and waited...

while the Bionic claimed

Download suspended. Will resume shortly...

for several days.

That's right. Days.

There had to be a better way. ...
       Continue reading "E:signature verification failed"

E:signature verification failed - posted at Tue, 16 Jul, 20:11 Pacific | Comments (0)

Friday January 30, 2009

Wasting Time in Twitter?

On Jan 8, in TwiTip, Darren Rouse posted an article entitled "How to Stop Twitter Becoming a Waste of Time".
“Twitter is a Waste of Time” - it is a criticism that has been leveled at Twitter many times over and while I’m one of Twitters biggest fans I’m also in agreement that Twitter can be a compete waste of time. I’ve wasted time on Twitter and I’ve seen many others do it. In fact recently when I asked my followers about the topic I found that most people could relate to the idea of wasting time on Twitter.

So how do you stop yourself from letting Twitter become a waste of time?

The article is a good one and most of the comments are reasonable. I recommend reading it. Here's my comment, for the record: ...
       Continue reading "Wasting Time in Twitter?"

Wasting Time in Twitter? - posted at Fri, 30 Jan, 18:17 Pacific | Comments (0)

Tuesday April 1, 2008

Gmail Custom Time

Just in time for April 1...

Introducing Gmail Custom Time™
Be on time. Every time.*

Just click "Set custom time" from the Compose view. Any email you send to the past appears in the proper chronological order in your recipient's inbox. You can opt for it to show up read or unread by selecting the appropriate option.
Gmail utilizes an e-flux capacitor to resolve issues of causality (see Grandfather Paradox).

*The term "Every time" is used loosely here to represent the number 10.
Gmail Custom Time - posted at Tue, 01 Apr, 04:01 Pacific | Comments (0)

Friday March 21, 2008

Upgrading to Mac OS X Leopard

Disclaimer: This article documents the problems and solutions we encountered during our recent home server migration from Mac OS X 10.4 (Tiger) to 10.5 (Leopard). Unless you want to use Mac OS X for a DNS/Mail/Web/... server, this will probably not be a particularly relevant article. And, unless you are technically oriented (and preferably, Unix-literate), you may find some parts of it confusing.

Since December 2006, we have been running our home server system on a Mac mini, running MacOS X (Tiger). Specifically, this is the "consumer client" version of Mac OS X, not the specially labeled (and vastly different) "Mac OS X Server" product.

Recently, said system become unacceptably slow and Rich's investigations with top(1) revealed Very Large Numbers of pageouts. This told us that we needed more RAM and (perhaps) a faster hard disk. Because the mini is not designed for this sort of expansion, we purchased a gently-used Power Mac G5 (2.0 GHz, dual processor, 4 GB RAM).

Then, because it seemed like "The Right Thing To Do At The Time", we installed Mac OS X 10.5 (Leopard) and prepared to migrate our back-end tools and web applications. After all, we've each been running Leopard from a "user perspective" for a few months. It's stable. How bad could the upgrade be?

Whenever you find yourself asking that question, slow down and reconsider. The upgrade worked, eventually, and it was the right thing to do. However, it was not accomplished without considerable frustration. ...
       Continue reading "Upgrading to Mac OS X Leopard"

Upgrading to Mac OS X Leopard - posted at Fri, 21 Mar, 23:34 Pacific | Comments (0)

Friday January 18, 2008

Macbook Air

This week, Apple introduced the Macbook Air. I've been reading some of the articles, as well as the whining comments. ...
       Continue reading "Macbook Air"

Macbook Air - posted at Fri, 18 Jan, 21:12 Pacific | Comments (0)

Thursday December 27, 2007

XO Connected

Rich and I had our monthly "Beer and Scripting" dinner last night - our monthly occasion to get out of the house, eat good food, and chat with fellow Bay Area techies. Last night, we took our new XO laptop along.

One of the other attendees had just picked his XO up at the Post Office that very day, so there were two at the table. ...
       Continue reading "XO Connected"

XO Connected - posted at Thu, 27 Dec, 09:27 Pacific | Comments (0)

Sunday December 23, 2007

XO Laptop - First Impressions

Educational. Fun. Technically Cool. Charitable. Deductible. What's not to like?

My XO Laptop arrived on Thursday. I ordered through the OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) "Give One, Get One" program. (Hurry! Current program ends Dec 31).

We opened the box when we got home on Thursday evening, popped in the battery, and fired it up. Here are my early impressions. ...
       Continue reading "XO Laptop - First Impressions"

XO Laptop - First Impressions - posted at Sun, 23 Dec, 12:20 Pacific | Comments (3)

Tuesday December 11, 2007

Pleo: Out of the Box

I am now the proud owner of one of the first Pleos - the little robotic dinosaur from Ugobe. I first learned of Pleo nearly a year ago when I read an article by Clive Thompson in Wired magazine.

Say hello to Pleo. From the guy who brought you Furby, it's a snuffling, stretching, oddly convincing robotic dinosaur. You are so going to want one.

Clive was right; I wanted one. As soon as it was possible, I pre-ordered my Pleo. Then I waited while Ugobe changed the schedule, each time making improvements and adjustments. More sensors. An externally rechargeable (and replaceable) battery. And finally, in mid-November. the announcement I had been waiting for.

       Continue reading "Pleo: Out of the Box"

Pleo: Out of the Box - posted at Tue, 11 Dec, 18:24 Pacific | Comments (1)

Friday August 4, 2006

Study Illuminates How Babies Learn to Speak

A high-tech machine that monitors infants' brain cells as they listen to speech reveals a key element in how babies go from hearing sounds to speaking them.
Read the article (or listen to audio) at
Study Illuminates How Babies Learn to Speak - posted at Fri, 04 Aug, 21:04 Pacific | Comments (0)

Sunday May 21, 2006

Lighting Up The Future

A research team from Kennedy & Violich Architecture in Boston has designed solar-powered lamps composed of light-emitting diodes (LEDs) woven into colorful swaths of fabric. The lights are undergoing field testing in a remote mountain community of Mexico's Sierra Madre, ...
       Continue reading "Lighting Up The Future"

Lighting Up The Future - posted at Sun, 21 May, 00:05 Pacific | Comments (0)

Friday April 7, 2006

Smart Glasses

I've been nearsighted since I was 4 or 5. I've worn glasses since the third grade. When I hit 40, my accommodation went to Presbyopia in a handbasket.

I wear progressive bifocals. Rich has four different pairs of glasses — intermediate, distance, reading, and computer. I sit a little bit farther away from the computer screen than I used to. Our optometrist keeps suggesting LASIK (no thanks). But now, there's something new on the horizon... ...
       Continue reading "Smart Glasses"

Smart Glasses - posted at Fri, 07 Apr, 19:26 Pacific | Comments (2)

Tuesday March 28, 2006

Lost and Found

The Journal of Robert Hooke

A manuscript "charting the birth of modern science" and misplaced for more than 200 years, has been found, sold to a private party, and will be housed at Britain’s Royal Society. ...
       Continue reading "Lost and Found"

Lost and Found - posted at Tue, 28 Mar, 22:05 Pacific | Comments (0)

Friday March 3, 2006

Science Snack

NewScientist is a most excellent science periodical, published in the UK. A friend of ours subscribes and loans us the magazines after he has read them. Recently, NewScientist expanded their online offerings: Blogs have arrived!

In a new addition to our top quality daily news coverage, we have launched two exciting blogs. We search out the world's most weird and wonderful science and technology news links - so you don't have to.
Enjoy one or both. No calories in these "snacks"!
Science Snack - posted at Fri, 03 Mar, 08:28 Pacific | Comments (0)

Tuesday February 14, 2006

Happy Anniversary, ENIAC

February 2006, marks the 60th anniversary of ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer) a 28 ton behemoth able to handle 5000 additions per second — far faster than any device previously invented. ...
       Continue reading "Happy Anniversary, ENIAC"

Happy Anniversary, ENIAC - posted at Tue, 14 Feb, 00:19 Pacific | Comments (0)

Wednesday February 1, 2006


One of the strangest satellites in the history of the space age is about to go into orbit. Launch date: Feb. 3rd. That's when astronauts onboard the International Space Station (ISS) will hurl an empty spacesuit overboard.
"We've equipped a Russian Orlon spacesuit with three batteries, a radio transmitter, and internal sensors to measure temperature and battery power," says [Frank Bauer of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center]. "As SuitSat circles Earth, it will transmit its condition to the ground."

NASA Science News for January 26, 2006

If you have a police scanner or ham radio rig, you'll be able to listen to it "talk" as its orbit passes over wherever you are.


SuitSat - posted at Wed, 01 Feb, 08:08 Pacific | Comments (0)

Tuesday January 31, 2006

Serendipity in Numbers

In any largeish set of numeric data, you might guess that numbers that begin with the digit '1' would occur approximately 11% of the time. And, that numbers beginning with any of the other digits, 2 - 9, would also occur 11% of the time (each). After all, shouldn't each digit have an equal probability of occurrence?

In truly random data, data which could just as easily have been labeled with letters or colors as numbers, you'd be right. But in truly numeric data, data that increases or decreases additively (or subtractively), you'd be surprised. In actual fact, values that begin with the digit '1' are much more likely to occur (especially if the numbers have at least 4 digits, e,g, from 1000 on up).

The mathematical rule that describes this phenomenon is referred to as Benford's Law, after the physicist who discovered it. ...
       Continue reading "Serendipity in Numbers"

Serendipity in Numbers - posted at Tue, 31 Jan, 08:04 Pacific | Comments (0)

Sunday January 15, 2006

Night Writing

I keep a pad of paper and a pen by the bed. At night, when I can't sleep because my thoughts are tumbling round and round, I can reach for the pad and make a note. Then, if I'm lucky, my brain agrees that the thought has been captured and allows me to sleep.

There's one problem with this method. It's dark in the middle of the night! ...
       Continue reading "Night Writing"

Night Writing - posted at Sun, 15 Jan, 23:59 Pacific | Comments (0)

Tuesday January 10, 2006

Model-based Documentation

Rich gave a short talk tonight on Model-based Documentation for the SF Ruby Meetup group. He's been thinking about this area for some time. If you're interested, take a look at what he's got and send him a note...

These pages present an integrated approach to semi-automated documentation of large systems. I have coined the term "Model-based Documentation" for this approach, because a model of the system under study guides the process and unifies the results.

Note: These pages are very much a Work In Progress: feel free to contact me if you have questions, comments, etc.

Model-based Documentation - posted at Tue, 10 Jan, 23:50 Pacific | Comments (0)

Wednesday November 30, 2005

A Giant Step

Surgeons in London plan to test a revolutionary stem cell technique using cells from .. the patient's nose! This will be the first trial of a simple technology that could one day allow the paralysed to walk again.
[An] all-important discovery made in 1985 showed that in one section of the nervous system, a part of the nasal cavity concerned with smell, nerve fibres are in constant growth - even in adulthood. Though people with a bad cold may lose their sense of smell, it does come back.

The nasal cells have the added advantage of belonging to the patient, so there is no risk of their being rejected.

[ The nose cells that may help the paralysed walk again, The Gaurdian Unlimited, 11/30/2005 ]

A Giant Step - posted at Wed, 30 Nov, 16:45 Pacific | Comments (0)

Friday November 18, 2005

Colored Bubbles

C o l o r e d bubbles. Coooooool.
... it's not easy to improve the world's most popular toy. Yet the success of one inventor's quest to dye a simple soap bubble may change the way the world uses color

[ The 11-Year Quest to Create Disappearing Colored Bubbles, Popular Science, Dec. 2005 issue ]

Eleven years, half a million dollars, innumerable dye-stains, chemical burns, ruined clothes, and noxious fumes later... one of the toy industry's long-sought technical breakthroughs has become a reality — nonstaining colored bubble solution.

Colored soap bubbles! Of course! Everyone loves blowing bubbles. It seemed such a simple and perfect idea, the kind that would leave other inventors slapping their foreheads and saying Why didn't I think of that? [Tim] Kehoe says, "I remember walking down to the store thinking, ‘This is so easy. I'm going to be rich!' "
       Continue reading "Colored Bubbles"

Colored Bubbles - posted at Fri, 18 Nov, 13:29 Pacific | Comments (0)

Wednesday September 7, 2005

Up and Running with Tiger

My new PowerMac G5 arrived yesterday afternoon. Hoorah! And yes, I managed to wait until I was done with my work day to start on the Grand Migration (although Rich opened the box and unpack the G5 onto a convenient table.)

First, I had to back up all of the files on my G3 for copying to the G5. The new hardware includes a different I/O interface; I can't just plug in the old disk drives. The good news is I get a nice new 400 GB drive. The bad news is that the backup and restore literally took hours.

Then Rich helped me swap hardware, putting the G5 on my desk (where it fits with a little room to spare and opens on the right side, thank goodness!). We dealt with cabling (power, displays, USB, Firewire, and network). We dealt with troubleshooting and ultimately replacing the one screen that didn't light up. Then I booted 'er up, started copying in all of my files, and headed off to bed. ...
       Continue reading "Up and Running with Tiger"

Up and Running with Tiger - posted at Wed, 07 Sep, 22:38 Pacific | Comments (0)

Wednesday August 31, 2005

Tiger Yes, G3 No

I upgraded to Mac OS X 10.4 (Tiger) last week. That was the easy part. Then the problems started.

My cursor was freezing several times a day. Unplugging and replugging the USB cable would get it moving again but... that's just not right. Once, my keyboard stopped sending signals (although the mouse was working that time).

Then there were the crashes. Oy!

I think the crashes may have been brought on by the too-frequent resetting of the USB and mouse but... at least twice a day, sometimes three or four times, always at the worst possible time. Crash. (Actually, Mac OS X is usually very polite. "We're sorry. You need to restart your computer.")

System 6 wasn't this bad. Even Windows isn't this bad!

What could have gone wrong? ...
       Continue reading "Tiger Yes, G3 No"

Tiger Yes, G3 No - posted at Wed, 31 Aug, 20:10 Pacific | Comments (0)

Saturday August 27, 2005

Scientific American Mind

We have begun a subscription to a new quarterly magazine, Scientific American Mind. The first issue arrived last week and I read it cover to cover. I recommend it to anyone who is interested in how the mind works.

Some of the feature articles in the first issue include:

  • Natural-Born Liars — Why do we lie, and why are we so good at it? Because it works

  • Sweet Dreams Are Made of This — What are dreams? Why do we have them? The answers are as intriguing as dreams themselves

  • True Crimes, False Confessions — How innocent people end up confessing to crimes they did not commit

  • The Truth and the Hype of Hypnosis — Though often denigrated as fakery, hypnosis is a real phenomenon with therapeutic uses

  • Signing Gets a Scientific Voice — Sign language is as rich and complex as spoken communication, probably because the brain creates and deciphers it in the same way

  • Buy This — Companies spend billions on marketing campaigns, but neuroscientists could someday determine which ads best capture consumers' attention

Interesting reading.

Scientific American Mind - posted at Sat, 27 Aug, 18:54 Pacific | Comments (0)

Wednesday August 10, 2005

License to Shoot

Photos, that is...

Img 0001

I have a new camera. It's about the size of a Zippo lighter (in fact, the case resembles said lighter). James Bond would love it (or so claims the description :-)

I had been looking for an SD-card camera that would work with my Kyocera "smartphone" PDA. I think this is better, however. For one thing, I don't have to pop my memory card out of the Kyocera to use the camera! Also, this is a solid little beastie (at least in its metal case); I'd be somewhat afraid of breaking an SD camera attachment for the Kyo.

The camera uses one AAA battery, can take up to 150 640x480 "hi res" JPEG images, and connects to my Mac via USB. It also has 8 MB of internal storage, a voice record function (12 min max), 30 sec video clip capability, and timed recording mode. Not bad for such a little thing. ... and did I mention it works perfectly with Mac OS X? :-)

The results aren't half bad. I've attached the first image I shot, taken in relatively dim room light at night. It's a bit grainy at full size, much better at half size (as shown here), and really amazingly good for the conditions.

Does this make me a "Bond Girl"? ;-)

License to Shoot - posted at Wed, 10 Aug, 22:30 Pacific | Comments (0)

Wednesday July 6, 2005

Deep Impact

I suppose by now you've heard about Deep Impact, NASA's successful mission to blast a hole in Comet Tempel 1. It's been in the newspapers; I read about it first in the NASA Science News email newsletter. Considering that this all happened 268,000 miles from home, I'm pretty impressed at the accuracy of the mission.

There was another "deep impact" that I never considered, although I suppose it makes a certain amount of sense. It appears that a Russian astrologer is suing NASA, seeking damages for moral suffering caused by the mission. The experiment "ruins the natural balance of forces in the universe" and has "deformed" her horoscope.

Scientists say the crash did not significantly alter the comet's orbit around the sun... NASA representatives could not be reached for comment on the suit.

Deep Impact - posted at Wed, 06 Jul, 12:35 Pacific | Comments (0)

Friday June 24, 2005

Uphill or Down?

According to a study done by the Vorarlberg Institute for Vascular Investigation and Treatment (Austria), there's a difference in the effect of uphill vs downhill exercise.

Hiking on a mountainside gives the heart a health-promoting challenge, but the nature of the benefit depends on whether one is climbing or descending. A study conducted on an Alpine mountainside suggests that going up improves the body's processing certain fats, while going down enhances metabolism of a key sugar.
Both up and down hiking softened the spike of blood cholesterol that typically follows fat consumption, the team found. But only uphill exercise improved metabolism of fats called triglycerides, and only downhill exercise significantly increased glucose processing, Drexel says.

[ Up and down make different workouts", Science News (Week of Dec. 11, 2004; Vol. 166, No. 24) ]


Uphill or Down? - posted at Fri, 24 Jun, 17:31 Pacific | Comments (0)

Thursday April 28, 2005

Nuisance Suit

Good Grief! Has it come to this.

Apple Computer has been slapped with a lawsuit by Tiger Direct Inc. for allegedly infringing its trademark with the new Mac OS X "Tiger'' operating system scheduled for release on Friday.

  -- Apple sued over "Tiger," injunction sought, Thursday, April 28, AppleInsider

Give us a break here, people. Where, pray tell, was Tiger Direct a year ago when Apple first started talking about Mac OS X 10.3.4 (aka "Tiger")?

I truly doubt that Apple's use of the name "Tiger" is "causing confusion, mistake and deception among the general purchasing public." Might this just be a bid for notoriety?

At the root of the issue appears to internet search results. Tiger Direct contends that Apple's use of the name has adversely affected its ranking amongst the Internet's largest search engines, Google and Yahoo, bumping the company from its usual spot in the first three results.

Booooo! Hiss!

I hope the judge slaps Tiger Direct... upside the corporate noggin. This sort of juvenile game playing is embarrassing to observe.

Nuisance Suit - posted at Thu, 28 Apr, 16:13 Pacific | Comments (0)

Thursday January 20, 2005

Skin Printer

Scientists at Manchester University's School of Materials (in the UK) have developed a printerthat prints... skin!

Using the same principle as an ink-jet printer, experts are able to take skin cells from a patient's body, multiply them, then print out a tailor-made strip of skin, ready to sew on to the body. The wound's dimensions are entered into the printer to ensure a perfect fit.
"It's not like printing a sheet of paper. We can print a few millimetres in depth and build it up layer-upon-layer until, in principle, we could produce bone fragments the size of a golf ball.

"It is difficult for a surgeon to reconstruct any complex disfiguring of the face using CT scans, but with this technology we are able to build a fragment which will fit exactly. We can place cells in any designed position to grow tissue or bone."

[ ref: Manchester News Online, article, Wednesday, 19th January 2005 ]

Wow. What will they think of next.
Skin Printer - posted at Thu, 20 Jan, 17:42 Pacific

Monday January 10, 2005

Fixed-width fonts

I love fonts. I collect fonts. I especially love "handwritten" fonts.

As a programmer, however, and constant email user, I need to use fixed-width fonts, preferably with easily distinguished characters. So how do I mix and match my love for handwritten fonts with fixed-width programmer's fonts? Take a look at some of the cool fixed-width fonts I've found!

Fixed-width fonts - posted at Mon, 10 Jan, 00:05 Pacific

Friday January 7, 2005


Optomap I had an eye appointment today. They have a "new" gadget called Optomap (they've had it for about a year now). The patient looks into a 4" diameter hole in the front of a big white box (face turned sideways, nose smooshed into place). A green light flashes and the machine takes a picture of the back of the eye. Repeat for the other eye and then, back to the exam room to look at the pictures. The images are then stored in the computer as a permanent record of the condition of the patient's retina at that exam.

Conventional Retinal Imaging Technology only captures a small area of the retina [about 30 degrees] at one time. ... In contrast to the simple illuminating effects of whitelight in a conventional examination, the Optimap allows review of a 200 degree internal scan which is viewed in separate wavelengths of light."
Not only that, but there's no need for eye drops, fuzzy vision for the next hour, or those funny plastic sunglasses.

My optometrist pointed out the optic nerve, which shows as a bright yellow spot in the center of the frame, and the macula, a dark smudge. I could see a bunch of veins running to the optic nerve. I asked if the image showed that I was nearsighted and he said yes. Apparently nearsighted people have some "fraying" around the edge of the optic nerve (although I don't have much of that). ...
       Continue reading "Optomap"

Optomap - posted at Fri, 07 Jan, 23:58 Pacific

Saturday January 1, 2005

On Intelligence

Are you interested in how the mind works? So is Jeff Hawkins (of Palm OS fame) and he's written a very interesting book about it. Read my review and followup essay.

On Intelligence - posted at Sat, 01 Jan, 19:47 Pacific | Comments (0)

Sunday December 12, 2004

Technology Moves Forward at the Grocery Store

Thirty years and more ago, your local grocery store used cash registers. Prices were marked on all items; the checker punched that price into the cash register and the total was calculated much like a desktop calculator with a paper tape.

Although the first patent for a bar code type product was issued in October, 1952, and the first bar code used commercially in 1966, it wasn't until 1970 that an industry standard was set. By 1970, the Universal Grocery Products Identification Code (UGPIC) was written; this evolved into the Universal Product Code (UPC) in 1973. In June of 1974, the first U.P.C. scanner was installed at a supermarket in Troy, Ohio. [ref: The History of Bar Code] ...
       Continue reading "Technology Moves Forward at the Grocery Store"

Technology Moves Forward at the Grocery Store - posted at Sun, 12 Dec, 18:26 Pacific

Wednesday October 20, 2004


Several of the restaurants we patronize regularly have televisions going - our favorite diner, the burrito place, one of the Chinese places, the Japanese restaurant (that one's at the far end of the sushi bar and more difficult to see). I often find myself watching (especially the one at the diner). I don't want to... not really. But I get sucked in by the colors and motion.

You're staring at a piece of furniture!

People on TV are not your friends. They're not in the room with you. You are alone in the dark, staring at a plastic box. Think about it. This is like a science fiction horror story; but it's really happening. People have stopped living as humans and connected themselves to machines instead.

Does this happen to you? Do you wish you could just turn it off?

Now you can :-) ...
       Continue reading "TV-B-Gone"

TV-B-Gone - posted at Wed, 20 Oct, 17:44 Pacific

Saturday September 4, 2004


Today I came up with a theory that fit the facts, then looked up some references that supported the theory. Cool!

At dinner today I noticed a red area on my arm around a small scratch I got a couple of nights ago. Neither the red area nor the scratch hurt particularly. It's not infected. It looked almost like a bit of light sunburn.

We were out in the sun today for about an hour and the red patch was... hmmm, about the size, shape, and diameter from the scratch of the or=inrmtnet I had applied that morning. I wondered...

So I did a web search for the antibiotic ointment - Neosporin, containing neomycin, bacitracin, and polymixin. I found a useful page that told me there were "no problems expected" from sun exposure. Hmmm. ...
       Continue reading "Pramoxine"

Pramoxine - posted at Sat, 04 Sep, 22:30 Pacific

Sunday July 25, 2004

Inverse Femtobarns

Rich and I have learned a new unit of measurement - the inverse femtobarn.

What on earth is a "femtobarn," and what does it have to do with the amount of data an accelerator produces?

Rich picked up a copy of the Stanford Report, a daily Stanford newspaper. In the paper was an article entitled Understanding luminosity through 'barn', a unit that helps physicists count particle events.

A barn is the unit used by nuclear physicist for the size of an atomic nucleus of uranium.

The cross-sectional area of a uranium nucleus is about 10 -24 square centimeters, small on the human scale, but large compared with other atomic nuclei. "Femto" means a factor of 10-15: a thousandth of a millionth of a millionth. A femtobarn, then, is 10-39 square centimeters ­ an incomprehensibly small unit of area.

The term "barn" was coined by two physicists, M. G. Holloway and C. P. Parker, at Purdue University in December, 1942. ...
       Continue reading "Inverse Femtobarns"

Inverse Femtobarns - posted at Sun, 25 Jul, 20:58 Pacific

Tuesday July 20, 2004

It's Physics

There's a joke about Science:
If it wiggles, it's Biology.
If it stinks, it's Chemistry.
If it doesn't work, it's Physics.
Perhaps to this we could add:
If you don't understand it, it's Quantum Physics.
       Continue reading "It's Physics"

It's Physics - posted at Tue, 20 Jul, 07:32 Pacific

Friday July 16, 2004

Are Mac Users Smarter?

Well, yeah...Isn't it obvious? I mean, we use Macs!


Paul Murphy decided to do a little "scientific research" into the subject for his recent article in MacNewsWorld.

I doubt it's possible to get a definitive answer, but as long as you don't take any of it too seriously you can have a lot of fun playing with proxies such as the average user's ability to read and write his or her native language. This isn't necessarily a reasonable measure of intelligence (mainly because intelligence has yet to be defined) but almost everyone agrees that a native English speaker's ability to write correct English correlates closely with that person's ability to think clearly.

In other words, if we knew that Mac users, as a group, were significantly better users of written English than PC users, then we'd have a presumptive basis for ranking the probable "smartness" of two people about whom we only know that one uses a Mac and the other a PC.

       Continue reading "Are Mac Users Smarter?"

Are Mac Users Smarter? - posted at Fri, 16 Jul, 23:49 Pacific

Sunday May 30, 2004

Fun With Meccano

When I was a kid, I wanted an Erector set very much. I think I must have asked for one for ChristmasOrMyBirthday several years in a row before I finally got one! But nothing I might ever have made from my Erector set could come close to the cool stuff that Tim Robinson has done with Mecanno.

Robinson says he's always been fascinated wwith Meccano, "almost exclusively with mechanism and models that 'do something real'." He recalls building "astronomical clocks, orreries, looms and other textile machinery, a gear cutting machine (which cut usable gears in brass), and perhaps most enduring, the differential analyzer (an analog computer)."

Wow. ...
       Continue reading "Fun With Meccano"

Fun With Meccano - posted at Sun, 30 May, 00:25 Pacific

Saturday February 7, 2004

Make Your Motor Cortex Dance

"Brain areas that are used to perform an action are also needed to comprehend words related to that action," ... "Remarkably, just the reading of feet-related action words such as dance makes [the motor cortex] move its 'feet.'"

[cf "The Brain's Word Act: Reading verbs revs up motor cortex areas", by Bruce Bower, in Science News, week of Feb 7, 2004

       Continue reading "Make Your Motor Cortex Dance"

Make Your Motor Cortex Dance - posted at Sat, 07 Feb, 11:05 Pacific

Sunday February 1, 2004

"Roll 'em" gets a new meaning!

The future of e-paper and rollable displays gets closer.

In a major step toward electronic paper that works like a computer monitor yet feels and behaves like a page of a book, researchers in the Netherlands have made electronic-ink displays on flexible plastic sheets.
       Continue reading ""Roll 'em" gets a new meaning!"

"Roll 'em" gets a new meaning! - posted at Sun, 01 Feb, 07:35 Pacific

Saturday December 20, 2003

Verse Meter Analyzer

In The Eyre Affair (a Thursday Next novel), author Jasper Fforde describes Thursday's introduction to the Verse Meter Analyzer: ...
       Continue reading "Verse Meter Analyzer"

Verse Meter Analyzer - posted at Sat, 20 Dec, 13:56 Pacific

Sunday November 30, 2003

Terra-cotta warriors show their true colors

The terra-cotta warriors buried near the tomb of the first Chinese emperor, Qin Shihuangdi, present a fierce challenge—to modern-day chemists. Since the site's discovery near Xi'an, China, in 1974, archaeologists have unearthed more than 1,500 of the life-size figures. But once the warriors see the light of day after more than 2,200 years of burial, their paint disappears, sometimes within minutes of exposure.

With an estimated 8,000 more figures still buried, scientists have been looking for ways to lock the paint in place. Now, a group of chemists in Germany has a technique that just might work.

Although the terra-cotta warriors excavated so far have lost their original color coats, a novel restoration technique could preserve the paint layer on the thousands of warriors that remain in the ground.

[c.f. The March of History: Terra-cotta warriors show their true colors, Alexandra Goho, Science News Online, Week of Nov. 29, 2003


What's even more interesting (to me :-) is that this article's abstract arrived in my mailbox yesterday, the day after we watched the latest Lara Croft movie Tomb Raider II: The Cradle of Life. (Yes, I enjoyed the movie very much). The terra-cotta warriors are featured in a "bit part" in the movie. Synchronicity strikes again.

Terra-cotta warriors show their true colors - posted at Sun, 30 Nov, 13:08 Pacific

Saturday November 8, 2003

Powers of Ten

One of the coolest coffee table books of all time is Powers of Ten.
Back in 1968, designers Charles and Ray Eames made a 10-minute documentary film, titled Powers of Ten , showing what the universe looks like at different scales. Philip and Phylis Morrison were scientific advisors on the movie, which Philip narrated, and it was chosen in 1998 for preservation in the National Film Registry, which selects "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant motion pictures" for preservation. The Morrisons' book translates the film onto paper.

Starting with a view of a billion light-years, the book (like the film) moves inward, with each page being at one-tenth the scale of the previous one. In 25 steps, you're looking at a picnic by the shores of Lake Michigan, then plunging into a human hand, down through the cells inside it, the DNA inside the cells, the atoms inside the DNA, and the subatomic particles inside the atom. By the time you've gone a total of 40 steps, you're in a world of quantum uncertainty.

There is no better guide to the relative sizes of things in the universe, and no better teacher about what exponential, scientific notation really means. --Mary Ellen Curtin

[c.f. editorial review for the book version of Powers of Ten by Philip Morrison, Phylis Morrison, Office of Charles & Ray Eames ]. Also available on DVD.

Now, the Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida has recapitulated Powers of Ten as a Java applet (also available as a Windows screen saver).

View the Milky Way at 10 million light years from the Earth. Then move through space towards the Earth in successive orders of magnitude until you reach a tall oak tree just outside the buildings of the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory in Tallahassee, Florida. After that, begin to move from the actual size of a leaf into a microscopic world that reveals leaf cell walls, the cell nucleus, chromatin, DNA and finally, into the subatomic universe of electrons and protons.

Java works so nicely on Mac OS X :-)

Powers of Ten - posted at Sat, 08 Nov, 18:46 Pacific

Saturday November 1, 2003

November is for Nuts

November isn't just for turkeys anymore.

November has been designated Georgia Pecan month. Is pecan pie a traditional part of your Thanksgiving feast? Add pecans to your stuffing this year! (I've always added almonds and hazelnuts; pecans would be tasty too). Or... try my family's recipe for cranberry gelatin salad, a tasty and light side dish to complement your Turkey Day dinner.

November is also Peanut Butter Lovers Month. Yummmm. (National Peanut Month is in March). I'm not sure how to add peanut butter to Thanksgiving... maybe some peanut butter cookies? Or peanut butter-stuffed celery as an appetizer! If you live near a Safeway store, try their house brand "100% natural peanut butter". It's our favorite.

Have a nutty month.

November is for Nuts - posted at Sat, 01 Nov, 12:32 Pacific

Sunday October 12, 2003

Does Winter make you SAD?

It's the middle of October. The middle of Autumn. The next three and a half months are my least favorite time of the year. We live in the San Francisco Bay Area, 37.8° North latitude (about even with Richmond, VA to the east); if we lived much further north, I probably wouldn't like February either.

Winter is too dark. The days are too short. It's bad enough right now, but on Sunday Oct. 26, we'll turn the clocks back. Then it will get darker even faster in the evening. Full dark by 5:30 pm. Yuch. ...
       Continue reading "Does Winter make you SAD?"

Does Winter make you SAD? - posted at Sun, 12 Oct, 00:04 Pacific

Friday October 10, 2003

iChat, iSight, iSign

For Melvin Patterson, who has been completely deaf since he was a toddler, communication is a visual experience.

In the past, conducting a conversation using traditional nonvisual telecommunications tools like telephones and pagers was frustrating. Text messages or sign language conversations on jittery Web video screens were a pale substitute for a face-to-face exchange.

But that changed dramatically when Patterson tried iChat AV, new videoconferencing software, and iSight, a new Web camera, which Apple Computer Inc. introduced during the summer.

Read the rest of the article from Monday's (Oct. 6, 2003) San Francisco Chronicle.

iChat, iSight, iSign - posted at Fri, 10 Oct, 23:53 Pacific

Saturday September 13, 2003

One Very Big "Oops"


As the NOAA-N Prime spacecraft was being repositioned from vertical to horizontal on the "turn over cart" at approximately 7:15 PDT today, it slipped off the fixture, causing severe damage. (See attached photo). The 18' long spacecraft was about 3' off the ground when it fell.

c.f. - Sept. 09, 2003

One Very Big "Oops" - posted at Sat, 13 Sep, 10:45 Pacific

Tuesday September 2, 2003

Hooray for Peanut Butter

I've always liked peanut butter; lately I've discovered it's actually good for me (Unfortunately, I don't think Reeses cups count :-)
Eating low glycemic index foods such as peanut butter, yogurt, beans and broccoli along with a diet high in cereal fiber can significantly reduce the risk of non-insulin-dependent diabetes in women, according to a new Harvard School of Public Health study recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

c.f. Peanut Butter

Rich and I have been discussing reducing carbohydrates in our diet... cutting down on the "High Glycemic Index" foods. So now, instead of peanut butter toast, I'm going to be eating my peanut butter on celery. Gee, peanut butter and more fiber too. ...
       Continue reading "Hooray for Peanut Butter"

Hooray for Peanut Butter - posted at Tue, 02 Sep, 23:48 Pacific

Friday August 22, 2003

Last week's blackout

[The satellite photo I posted earlier was a hoax :( Sigh. These are real]
Left is approx. 20 hours before the blackout; right is approx 7 hours into the blackout. Click images to enlarge.

I know a couple of people who were within the black-out zone. ...
       Continue reading "Last week's blackout"

Last week's blackout - posted at Fri, 22 Aug, 20:46 Pacific

Monday August 18, 2003

The Ambient Orb

Oooooh. I want a new toy!
The Ambient Orb is a device that slowly transitions between thousands of colors to show changes in the weather, the health of your stock portfolio, or if your boss or friend is on instant messenger. It is a simple wireless object that unobtrusively presents information. ...

The Orb arrives set to indicate the Dow - glowing more green to indicate market movement up and red to indicate movement down... It can be customized to a set of free channels, such as market indices...or weather in select cities. Optionally, you can upgrade to access more premium channels, such as your customized portfolio, local weather, pollen count, or IM buddy watch. There's also a developer interface where any semi-savvy web programmer can control the color of their Orb with a simple http "get" call. Track how full your hard drive is, traffic on your website, Slashdot posts, or your credit-card debt.

I want one of these!

See more at Think Geek

The Ambient Orb - posted at Mon, 18 Aug, 21:39 Pacific

Saturday August 16, 2003

Close Encounters

Look for it in the night sky - an increasingly brighter, reddish "star" near the moon. That's not a star; it's the planet Mars.

Earth and Mars are rapidly converging. On August 27, 2003--the date of closest approach--the two worlds will be 56 million km apart. That's a long way by Earth standards, but only a short distance on the scale of the solar system.

Between now and August, Mars will brighten until it "blazes forth against the dark background of space with a splendor that outshines Sirius and rivals the giant Jupiter himself." Astronomer Percival Lowell, who famously mapped the canals of Mars, wrote those words to describe the planet during a similar close encounter in the 19th century.

[c.f. Approaching Mars, Science@NASA]

       Continue reading "Close Encounters"

Close Encounters - posted at Sat, 16 Aug, 12:10 Pacific

Thursday August 14, 2003

Gadgets and Gizmos

I've discovered two new gadget sites recently.

The first, Gizmodo ("The Gadgets Weblog") is for techie toys: PDAs, cellphones, cameras, etc. Take a look at the article about the iBOT 3000, a wheelchair that climbs stairs!

The other site is a bit more prosaic. If you're not into computer tech, you may prefer The Gadget Source, ("The Authority for Kitchen Gadgets"). They even have a Kitchen Gadget of the Month Club. Oooohhhh... And me without a steady income :-( ... I found this site while looking for a source for a metal sink strainer I bought a few years ago at a (long-forgotten) store. (The strainer is a most excellent sink accessory. I recommend it highly).

Gadgets and Gizmos - posted at Thu, 14 Aug, 11:22 Pacific

Sunday August 10, 2003

Hearing New Voices

One of the best things about the WWW is how much interesting information is available - how many new things you can learn if you keep your eyes open. Weblogs make even more information available, as people share links, news, and personal stories. The WWW is both a community and a community-enhancing tool.
Though there's a lot of talk about newspapers and politicians and celebrities having weblogs, we are continually reminded that the most amazing thing about weblogs is how they let average people share their unique perspectives on life.
       Continue reading "Hearing New Voices"

Hearing New Voices - posted at Sun, 10 Aug, 13:20 Pacific

Friday August 8, 2003

The Forrester Electronic Toy Show

We went to a presentation yesterday at PARC (The Palo Alto Research Center). Daniel Rasmus and Rob Enderle, both industry analysts, provided an amusing presentation of "business and consumer gadgets and toys", from notebook computers, to handhelds, to cases, cameras, power supplies, and things we wouldn't have guessed existed. How about a gadget vest with many many pockets, ala Dilbert? For cooler weather, it has zip-in sleeves. Or, how about a laptop backpack that looks more like a baby carrier; it's so unusual that Mr. Enderle says he's stopped in security check points simply to explain what it is.

Some things were neat, many were... strange. Several gadgets caused us look at each other, raise our eyebrows, and mouth "Why would anyone...?". The one thing I came away lusting after was the Veo Network Camera. Nevertheless, it was a fun presentation, all in all.

The Forrester Electronic Toy Show - posted at Fri, 08 Aug, 15:04 Pacific

Saturday August 2, 2003

Is that fruit ripe?

A friend sent me this, from an article called "Ripe Now," by Jeffrey Steingarten (reprinted in "Cookwise," by Shirley Corriher).

  • Fruits that NEVER ripen after they are picked: soft berries, cacao, cherries, grapes, citrus fruits, lychees, olives, pineapples, and watermelons.

  • Fruits that ripen ONLY after picking: avocados.

  • Fruits that ripen in color, texture, and juiciness but NOT in flavor or sweetness after picking: apricots, blueberries, figs, melons (except watermelons), passionfruit, peaches, and persimmons.

  • Fruits that get sweeter after they are picked: apples, cherimoyas, kiwi, mangoes, papayas, pears, sapotes, and soursops.

  • Fruits that ripen in EVERY way after picking: bananas.

So those incredible baseball-sized peaches we get at our local grocery this time of year, that go from hard to juicy in 3 days, were that sweet and nice to begin with?! Interesting.

I wonder if plums and nectarines fit in with peaches... ...
       Continue reading "Is that fruit ripe?"

Is that fruit ripe? - posted at Sat, 02 Aug, 08:07 Pacific

Saturday July 26, 2003

Re-defining the commuter car

(not to mention the concept of "back-seat driver")

The Tango, the first vehicle produced by Commuter Cars, is a glimpse into the future of commuting where we hope wasted time, energy, and freeway real estate due to traffic jams will be things of the past. The safety, size, and efficiency features of the Tango will be found in every vehicle we ever produce.
It's electric. It's tiny. It's cute. It looks like it's been squished between two big rigs :-)
At 39 inches wide and 8 feet 5 inches long, it's skinnier than some motorcycles and shorter than many a living-room couch. It runs on batteries, not gas. to 60 in less than 4 seconds ... 80 miles per charge; three hours to recharge in a dryer socket.
Demo models are currently zipping around Spokane, Seattle, and Montréal ... maybe we'll see them on the streets someday.

Re-defining the commuter car - posted at Sat, 26 Jul, 10:02 Pacific

Friday July 25, 2003

San Francisco Factoid - BART Transbay tube

== The San Francisco Factoid ==
Essential local trivia you'll probably forget almost immediately

BART's landmark transbay tube was completed in August, 1969. Constructed in 57 sections and reposing on the bay floor as deep as 135 feet beneath the surface, the $180 million structure took six years of seismic studies to design, and less than three years to contract. Before it was closed to visitors for electrification, thousands of adventurous folks had walked, jogged, and bicycled through the tube. It received a dozen major engineering awards and rapidly became famous, seeming to capture the imagination of visitors from all over the world.

[c.f. Mark Morford, SF Gate Morning Fix, July 25, 2003]
San Francisco Factoid - BART Transbay tube - posted at Fri, 25 Jul, 11:21 Pacific

Thursday July 24, 2003

Eat Fish? There's a catch...

Eat more fish! But not too much fish. And not the wrong kind of fish. ...
       Continue reading "Eat Fish? There's a catch..."

Eat Fish? There's a catch... - posted at Thu, 24 Jul, 16:15 Pacific

Microsoft's Patent Problem

I don't personally approve of software patents; I think they are bogus almost by definition. I've seen too many "inventions" that are nothing more than implementations of ideas that any reasonably bright programmer could have come up with. That said, this article causes me certain bemusement. On the one hand, I think s/w patents are wrong. On the other hand, they exist and, on the third hand, I tend to be in favor of just about anything that keeps Micro$oft from taking over more of the world, Borg-style. ...
       Continue reading "Microsoft's Patent Problem"

Microsoft's Patent Problem - posted at Thu, 24 Jul, 09:26 Pacific

Tuesday July 22, 2003

Science Buddies Mentoring Program

Started by a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, Science Buddies gives students throughout the SF Bay Area additional support to carry out successful science fair projects. Science Buddies is currently working with over 700 participants from a seven-county area in Northern California.

Science Buddies is a peer e-mentoring program for middle and high school students involved in science fairs. The hands-on program is structured with a schedule, deliverables, and a final goal of completing a science fair project and entering it in a Bay Area science fair. Top high school science students (Mentors) are matched with less experienced students (Investigators) and take the lead mentoring role on a science fair project. The Investigator does the actual work; the high school Mentor offers guidance and feedback. Adult advisors, usually professional scientists, complete each team and back up Mentors when they need it.

Read more at or in the San Jose Mercury News article from March, 2002.

I never did a science fair project... maybe if something like this had been in place when I was in High School, I would have.

Science Buddies Mentoring Program - posted at Tue, 22 Jul, 13:26 Pacific

Doctors carry out first successful tongue transplant

A patient who doctors say is the first-ever recipient of a human tongue transplant is recovering and shows no signs of rejecting the new organ, his Austrian doctors said.
Dr [Rolf] Ewers said the team of doctors had been preparing for two years to carry out the tongue transplant, but had until now either lacked a candidate for the operation or an appropriate donor.

"And now finally after long training we were able to carry it out," Dr Christian Kermer said.

He said there is no evidence in the medical literature that such an operation has even been carried out on humans and that his team felt convinced they were the first.

Read more in this article from the Sydney Morning Herald.

Doctors carry out first successful tongue transplant - posted at Tue, 22 Jul, 13:12 Pacific

Tuesday July 8, 2003

Rubber Ducky you're so fine...

Curt Ebbesmeyer has been tracking plastic ducks at sea. Dr. Ebbesmeyer, a retired oceanographer, says that anytime now the plastic ducks, and three other plastic species from the same shipment that's already washed up, in part, in Hawaii and Alaska, could turn up in Iceland, Canada or New England.
Today on NPR, Robert Seigel spoke with oceanographer and "flotsamologist" Curtis Ebbesmeyer, who tracks cargo lost off ships. Ebbesmeyer is currently watching a flock of rubber ducks, which has made its way from the Pacific to the North Atlantic. Listen to the story on All Things Considered Audio. Transcript also available ($4.95).
Rubber Ducky you're so fine... - posted at Tue, 08 Jul, 23:50 Pacific

Saturday June 7, 2003

Herbal Mosquito Repellant

Want a natural way to fight mosquitoes? Something without nasty pesticides?

Try catnip! Apparently it repels mosquitoes (and your cats will love you for it). ...
       Continue reading "Herbal Mosquito Repellant"

Herbal Mosquito Repellant - posted at Sat, 07 Jun, 22:43 Pacific

Monday May 26, 2003

Miracle safe bee spray

It's bee season; we had three yellow jackets today trying to get into the screen porch - somehow they find their way in between the screen and the glass. Then, if they can figure out how, they're only one step away from being inside the screen porch. Ayiee!

So it's time once again for me to share the recipe for the Miracle Bee spray - harmless to humans and pets, lethal to bees, cleans your windows while you're at it. ...
       Continue reading "Miracle safe bee spray"

Miracle safe bee spray - posted at Mon, 26 May, 15:46 Pacific

Tuesday April 29, 2003

Volume Control #2

Earlier this month, I wrote
My sweetie is not only an all-around great guy :-), he's also smart and electrically talented.
Well, he did it again :-) ...
       Continue reading "Volume Control #2"

Volume Control #2 - posted at Tue, 29 Apr, 23:42 Pacific

Friday April 25, 2003

50 years of the Double Helix

On April 25, 1953, James D. Watson and Frances H.C. Crick announced the structure of DNA in the journal, Nature. Unlike many scientific papers, this one had a simple title: A Structure for Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid. Fifty years has gone by; a lot has changed. Today we have sequenced the human genome.
In April 2003 , NHGRI and the Department of Energy will celebrate three historic events: the 50th anniversary of the discovery of the DNA double helix, the essential completion of the human genome sequence and publication of NHGRI's new vision for genomics research.

     --  National Human Genome Research Institute

I recommend James Watson's personal account of the discovery, The Double Helix. It's an interesting read.
50 years of the Double Helix - posted at Fri, 25 Apr, 23:15 Pacific

ETech Con - Day Three

This was the third (and last) day of the O'Reilly Emerging Technologies Conference. Still a winner. We didn't attend even one session that didn't make us think and give us something to discuss. No session that we attended was boring or uninteresting, nor was any session exactly what we thought we expected. I think this is the first conference I have attended where I can truly make those claims.. ...
       Continue reading "ETech Con - Day Three"

ETech Con - Day Three - posted at Fri, 25 Apr, 23:00 Pacific

Thursday April 24, 2003

ETech Con - Day Two

More interesting talks at Day Two of the O'Reilly Emerging Technologies Conference. We made it to the first keynote (scheduled for 8:30 am) after a 1-hour drive through some nasty rain. Yuch!. The first speaker was Alan Kay, inventor of SmallTalk, who gave a well-attended talk on User Interface history, entitled Daddy, Are We There Yet, complete with video clips. Many of the things we take for granted today were in research labs 40 years ago... yet some of what was in those labs still hasn't made its way into currently available computing interfaces.

The second keynote, Personal Interfaces, was presented by Kevin Lynch of Macromedia and focused in large part on what Macromedia is doing to turn Flash (an animation engine) into a much more functional development system for creating desktop Internet applications that will still work after being disconnected from the Internet.

The third keynote was an energetic and very interesting discussion of social structure and social software, with the intriguing title, A Group Is Its Own Worst Enemy. This talk was presented by Clay Shirky (without any visual aids; I took 5 pages of notes!). Clay has achieved a place on my short list of "must hear" speakers - no matter what the topic, if he's speaking, attend the talk!

With lots of things going on at home too, we could only attend the morning sessions. I'm sure the ones we didn't attend were just as informative and interesting. So far, this conference has been an all-around winner.

ETech Con - Day Two - posted at Thu, 24 Apr, 21:35 Pacific

Wednesday April 23, 2003

Emerging Technologies

Day One of the O'Reilly Emerging Technologies Conference. Fun stuff. We went to a talk on Biological Computer Models - how to use ideas from "swarms" (e.g. ant colonies, bees, wasps...) such as "simple rules" and "bottom-up modeling" to make new and different computer systems. When Southwest Airlines applied these models to their air cargo transport, they improved their efficiency by 70% and saved millions of dollars. All by using a "traveling ant salesman" algorithm.

We also attended a talk on semantic search engines, given by a speaker from NITLE - they appear to have some very interesting projects going on.

We stopped by to chat with the folks at the Internet Archive Bookmobile. The Internet Archive is collaborating with numerous libraries to digitize as many texts and books as possible, The Bookmobile is making "out of print" (and/or out of copyright) books available to people one book at a time from the back of a well-equipped minivan.containing an HP duplexing color printer, a couple of laptops, a desktop binding machine, and a paper cutter.

The Bookmobile is a demo of a public domain application. It addresses the basic question: What good is the public domain?
Lessons from the Internet Bookmobile

It was an interesting day. I look forward to tomorrow.

Emerging Technologies - posted at Wed, 23 Apr, 23:30 Pacific

Monday April 21, 2003

Space Station Science

I've found another cool web site. This one is part of The site I discovered today (with the assistance of a mailing-list friend ;-) is Space Station Science: Picture of the Day. You can subscribe to get the latest nifty info and picture in your mailbox, daily. I love the web.

Here's an excerpt from the entry for April 21, 2003:

The Physics of Space Gardens

Credit: ISS Expedition 6 Flight Engineer Nikolai Budarin

It could only happen in space: A tiny bubble of air hangs suspended inside a droplet of water. The droplet rests in the cup of a delicate green leaf, yet the stalk doesn't bend at all. Cosmonaut Nikolai Budarin photographed this scene on April 9, 2003. He was peering into the Russian Rasteniya greenhouse onboard the International Space Station (ISS), and his snapshot illustrates some of the strange physics of gardening in space .

First, consider what would happen on Earth: The air bubble, lighter than water, would race upward to burst through the surface of the droplet. Meanwhile, the leaf would be busy tipping the heavy water onto the floor below. Everything would be in motion, the picture a blur.

In Earth-orbit, though, the scene is truly motionless. The air bubble doesn't rise because it is no lighter than the water around it--there's no buoyancy. The droplet doesn't fall from the leaf because there's no force to pull it off. It's stuck there by molecular adhesion.

Be sure to read the rest of the story, with links and explore the archives. I recommend Blowing Bubbles too!

Space Station Science - posted at Mon, 21 Apr, 23:30 Pacific

Friday April 18, 2003

Private manned spaceflight

A private manned spaceflight program was unveiled Friday at a desert airport where it has been in secret development for two years.

A rocket plane, dubbed SpaceShipOne, and the White Knight, an exotic jet designed to carry it aloft for a high-altitude air launch, were shown off in a hangar at Mojave Airport by famed aircraft designer Burt Rutan, who developed the program.

Rutan is best known for creating Voyager, the airplane that made the first nonstop, unrefueled flight around the world in 1986.

Story by Andrew Bridges, AP Science Writer for the San Francisco Chronicle, Apr. 18, 2003
Take a look at the SpaceShipOne FAQ.
Private manned spaceflight - posted at Fri, 18 Apr, 22:16 Pacific

Wednesday April 16, 2003

Garbage In, Oil Out

"This is a solution to three of the biggest problems facing mankind," says Brian Appel, chairman and CEO of Changing World Technologies, ... "This process can deal with the world's waste. It can supplement our dwindling supplies of oil. And it can slow down global warming."

A new process, soon to be in commercial production, uses heat and pressure and water to convert any form of organic waste into oil, natural gas, powdered carbon, and re-usable minerals. The oil can be further refined and distilled into gasoline, kerosene, and naphtha. The process, thermal depolymerization, can convert a wide variety of waste products, from plastic bottles to municipal sewage to food wastes to those heaps of tires that traditionally dot the landscape.

Thermal depolymerization has proven to be at least 85 percent energy efficient (that remaining 15% is used to run the process as the gases are burned on-site to make heat for power). Even the Oil companies seem to be taking a favorable stance; thermal depolymerization can make the current petroleum industry itself cleaner and more profitable.

Depending on the feedstock and the cooking and coking times, the process can be tweaked to make other specialty chemicals that may be even more profitable than oil. Turkey offal, for example, can be used to produce fatty acids for soap, tires, paints, and lubricants. Polyvinyl chloride, or PVC—the stuff of house siding, wallpapers, and plastic pipes—yields hydrochloric acid, a relatively benign and industrially valuable chemical used to make cleaners and solvents.

Read the complete article in the May 2003 issue of Discover magazine.

Edit (Dec 2013) - Discover Magazine sold its domain to the Discover Credit Card and Changing World Technologies has gone through some changes.
Garbage In, Oil Out - posted at Wed, 16 Apr, 22:00 Pacific

Saturday April 5, 2003

Not quite a Kraken....

It's not Kraken sized, exactly, but it could try to eat a London bus. Researchers have retrieved an example of a colossal squid, yclept Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni .

Then again, half a millennium or more ago, ships were much smaller. Columbus's ships averaged less than 3 times the length of the modern London bus. And this was considered to be an "immature" specimen of colossal squid. So... perhaps this is a descendant of the famed kraken after all!

Not quite a Kraken.... - posted at Sat, 05 Apr, 10:18 Pacific

Thursday April 3, 2003

Volume Control

My sweetie is not only an all-around great guy :-), he's also smart and electrically talented.

We recently purchased a pair of small radio tuner / CD player units; one for Rich's office, one for the bedroom. These are very nice and have an easy to use (especially in the dark) remote control, but the volume control adjustment was pretty coarse at the low end. And when you're listening before falling asleep (or sitting 2-feet from the speakers in your office), you want a finer volume control at the low end! Worse, we listen to the classical station a lot. Because classical music has a large dynamic range, it was often a case of "I can't hear it" vs "that's a bit loud".

But as I said, Rich is not electronically challenged! He simply stuck a pair of (50 ohm) resistors between the player and the speakers, and lowered the volume across the dial. He says an "L-pad" would be the right answer, really, but this is just fine as a hack. In any case, we're now up in the "mid-range" adjustments, and the adjustment capability is finer and smoother. Delightful!

Volume Control - posted at Thu, 03 Apr, 12:09 Pacific

Tuesday May 14, 2002

The earth moved (but we didn't notice)

There was an earthquake at 10 pm last night. Magnitude 5.2, centered in Gilroy, which is about 75 miles south of us. We didn't feel it. If you're interested, there is information available at the SF Chronicle Earthquake site.

Map of the Quake Area

0513 quake image
The earth moved (but we didn't notice) - posted at Tue, 14 May, 19:59 Pacific