Thursday, March 30, 2006

Made Me Smile

This 5' video is worth watching.

HT: Powerline.

Banned Books Week

Bets on whether my local public library puts Free Inquiry Magazine on display during "Banned Books Week"? We now know Borders and Waldenbooks won't.

A few years ago, my library pulled the Nancy Drew series from the shelves because it "didn't have enough multicultural role models for girls." After parents howled enough, they returned them but hid them in a special section of "books of historical interest," that you have to ask for help to find.

I sought it out, and found other books of historical interest that had been hidden in the patrons' best interests, including this and this.

Not all the librarians buy into this sort of thing, fortunately. When I asked one whether "Nancy Drew" would be on display during Banned Book Week, she smiled, shook her head, and said, "Exactly!"

But can you dance to it?

Why to-do lists need to be in 4/4 and the key of D: here.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

In Case You're Wondering

Last night was the debut of McGinty's Wake, at the Nederland dance. I went up and danced with beginners. Eric Curl graciously let me call a couple of dances, too.

Beginners often avoid eye contact. I usually say, "If you look at me while we're dancing, then I won't get dizzy and throw up on you." They laugh and relax.

One woman I said this too last night replied, "I'm autistic." When I laughed, she said, "No, I really am."

In case you're wondering whether you are, too, here's a test.

Blogging for Chemistry

I've posted before about how impressed I am by Jean-Claude Bradley's Organic Chemistry course. It's a beautiful example of open courseware. Now, he's alerted me to UsefulChem
an open project to actually do useful chemistry.

For example, he's building anti-malarial drugs as a community project.

Say what?

Well, he began by using Google Scholar to decide what to do, searching articles in chemistry journals for the phrase "a pressing need." Oh but it gets better.

If you're interested in chemistry and the web, you can even pitch in. A nice thing about web-based projects is that even little contributions add up, and you never know where the next one will come from.

See for yourself.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006


Much work has gone into how to project the globe onto a flat surface so as to reasonably represent the shapes and sizes of countries. (John Snyder is Lyn's dad.)

Here's a site that doesn't bother with that, for an interesting reason: Worldmapper: The world as you've never seen it before

Monday, March 27, 2006


I'm pretty displeased about the fact that haloscan still sends me notes saying I have comments that give me no way to tell what they're comments on. I'm going to try turning off haloscan comments. This means, sadly, that old comments will be gone.

If I can't get Blogger comments turned on, I'll reverse the process.

Stupid Phone Tricks

You could probably tag this "RTFM," but I just learned that my phone's alarm will go off -- sound and all -- when it's turned off. There doesn't seem to be a profile that silences the alarm, either.

Probably depends on the phone, but it's easy to try: set an alarm for five minutes away, turn the phone off, and wait.

Worth knowing if the battery's going low and you want to keep it off, or if you're somewhere that you don't even want an alarm sounding.

When the alarm sounds, it even asks whether you want to turn the phone back on.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Jeanne's 80th Birthday

This weekend, Jeanne Snyder had her 80th-birthday party. I went out to play for it,
and had the honor of playing with her daughter, Lyn, and with the fine, Maryland fiddler, J.C. Miller.

The band was joined, in the festivities, by storyteller, Julia Hammid.

De gustibus

One of those things I like, but couldn't tell you why.

Thursday, March 23, 2006


At one point, Ron Coleman asked whether one of my posts meant this blog was getting "all literary and stuff."

Not until I'm good enough to do something this good.

Better Than "900-" Numbers

Consumerism? Meet the mobile phone.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Advice for Jihadi

An interesting piece in
The American Thinker
from J. R. Dunn, former editor of the International Military Encyclopedia.

Part 1 of 3.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Organic, Man!

I took the first term of organic chemistry. The next two terms took me.

The first, in the course I took, was physical organic chemistry. When I understand something, I internalize it; thirty-five years later, I still know you can get from optical rotatory dispersion to circular dichroism with the help of the right mathematician.

When I don't, it's in one ear and out the other: for terms two and three -- lasso chemistry -- we got a new professor, who just didn't work for me. I doubt I could have told you the name of a major reaction the week after I took the quiz on it.

Fast forward to yesterday. Poking around the web, I found an open courseware organic course from Jean-Claude Bradley, at Drexel University.

On a lark, I looked. It's astonishing. He pulls out every possible technological stop. Every lecture is podcast, so I can download them to my iPod. The notes are all available as PDF. It's all brought together in a blogspot blog, CHEM241.

The text is on-line as PDF, of course. Quizzes and exercises appear to be a video game.

Not enough? All the lectures hang off the blog as streaming screencast Flash presentations. You can hear him talk as you watch him write on the board.

Already, I've learned more about Lewis diagrams than I knew then.

This is blogging with a vengeance. A real eye-opener.


Sunday, March 19, 2006

Skype's not Hype

I installed Skype on Thursday, but the folks I knew who use it regularly weren't around, so that's about as far as I got.

Today, I was more persistent. It paid off.

Stephe, in Seattle, had been telling me he'd used it a lot; I thought I'd call him on his cell and have him walk me through it. No answer.

Next, I went over to Gmail and saw that a friend at Western State was on, and available to chat.

I popped up a chat window. Tristan quickly downloaded the software and tried it out. I couldn't hear him, but he said (via the chat) that he could hear me fine. I was using my iBook's built-in speakers and microphone. Tristan was running Linux, and had never tried using his microphone from FC4, so he went off to investigate.

Next, I saw a pal in Romania was up, at 2:00 in the morning. Sebastian is the guy who first invited me to Gmail. I popped up another chat window.

"Do you have Skype?" I asked.

"What's your Skype name?" Sebastian replied. As soon as I could get it typed in, my "phone" rang.

Wow. The voice quality is excellent, and there's no noticeable delay. To Romania. For free.

As we were talking, Stephe called me. Contact again. Finally Tristan called back, because he'd figured out how to turn on his mike.

Two countries and three operating systems (OS/X, Linux, and Windows).

Voice over IP. It just works. It's amazing. It's free.

No wonder the phone companies are worried.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Carnival of Cars

Jo and Tim will appreciate the Carnival of Cars. Perhaps others will, too.

Jergas de habla hispana

Kevin Cohen calls Jergas de habla hispana "the best web site ever."

You Light Up My, uh, Life

Enlighted Designs

Hungering for Fame

Richard Carpenter has a new cover out:

"She Ain't Heavy, She's My Sister."

For the money

Someone at Ejamming thinks a good place to make money is from aspiring musicians who want to jam with people they can't see.

Only $20 a month.

Brings to mind an old joke:

"Why did the banjo player take up his instrument?"

"For the money."

If you're not a folk-music type, substitute, "viola" or "tuba" for "banjo."

Thursday, March 16, 2006

The Web Flexes Its Muscles

This as-yet under-publicized event is a big deal. Just as the web's invisible hands gathered millions for tsunami relief, and SETI-at-home has brought distributed processing power to bear on the search for life outside the solar system,
we now have a way to let the web dissect the Baathists.

A good thing. A very good thing.

More Web 2.0 Goodness: Isolatr

Isolatr is the bomb. It's hot sauce. I promised I wouldn't tell.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Next up: Google France

Google Mars.

They got to this before they got to Google maps of France.

Detatchable Tentacles of the Internet

Once uploading to 30Boxes beccomes easy (it's not yet, but they say they're working on it), I can use iCal, on my iBook, while off-grid, and then synch up and use the web service when on-grid.

My iBook becomes a detatchable appendage of the web the same way that my iPod is a little, detatchable appendage of my iBook.

Another variant on this theme is Calcoolate, a web-based calculator service that replaces the less-powerful, Windows calculator whenever you're connected to the web, but invokes the Windows calculator when you're not (for those who run Windows, that is).

Next time you see someone walk by wearing iPod earphones, think of them as hectocotyls of the Internet.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Close, but no cigar box [updated!]

30 Boxes is almost an interesting application: lots of functionality, but there's no iCal integration so I can't synch it up with my calendars anywhere else.

In contrast, Remember the Milk has wonderful iCal integration, but I can only define to-do items, not calendar items: I can define a regular to-do item that lasts several hours, like the Linux Users' Group meeting, but it doesn't show up on my desktop calendar as a calendar item -- only in my to-do list.

Everyone almost has it.

Update: Nope, I'm wrong! I can export my 30boxes calendar to iCal. It's under settings/syndication at the bottom of the page. Works fine. Nice. I'm switching.

Odd reading material

Jeremy recommends this when you're looking for something different.

In particular, my brother-in-law, Tim Green, may have something to say about this cockeyed item.

Ya fadda's moustache

Lyn took me to dinner and I ended up certified. Go to the bottom of the pictures of theHuMBuGS Weird Beard Bonanza and Moustache Roundup at Burnt Toast 2-24-06 for me and my certificate, then take a look at the rest of the pice.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

She Gives Great Pod

Recently, sister Jo, the tattooed lady, having been told all her life that she gives great phone, took some classes in how to do voice-overs. Now, she just needs some gigs. While she's waiting, LibriVox could use her talents.

Yours, too.

Got a book, short story, or poem you love? Read it again, for everyone else's iPod.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Erica, Susan, Marcelle

A few weeks ago, Lyn said, "This mattress is killing me." I'd had the same waterbed since I was a grad student in the 1970s, so it was a 1970s-technology waterbed that looked like it belonged to a graduate student. Duh.

I said, "Okay, we'll get a new one. Right now."

"Can we get dressed first?"


We did a little comparison shopping, and ended up with a semi-waveless bed from Inomax. I got a new frame, pedestal, and headboard with it. Lyn was happy. Here, Erica, Susan, and Marcelle check out the new bed after the concert.

Marty Green

A few years ago, I stumbled across Marty Green's On Foreign Soil on the web. I smacked my forehead, said "Goyishekop! Why didn't I think of something like this?"

I called him and ordered a copy. After it arrived, and I'd started reading it, I ordered copies for my mother and sister Nan, both of whom I knew would find it fun.

The book's a progressive translation of Falk Zolf's autobiography. Marty starts in English, translated from the original Yiddish, throwing in occasional Yiddish words, like "mame" (mother) and "tate" (father). The first time he uses them, he defines them. By the end of the book, it's become the original Yiddish text, with occasional English words thrown in, and you're reading Yiddish.

One thing that makes it work is that it's an engrossing story. You follow the tranformation of Zolf's world from his childhood in a little, Jewish village of pre-WWI Poland to an adulthood in the New World. Note, too, the irony: the first part, where you're immersed in the now-lost, Yiddish world, is told in English, while the last part, in the English-speaking modern world, is told in Yiddish.

I'd love to see it as a movie. Maybe someone can talk Mel Gibson or Stephen Speilberg into it.

In the package, with the book, was a lagniappe. Marty had thrown in a CD of himself singing country tunes and playing Floyd-Cramer-style piano. Pretty well, too. I thought, "This guy is extremely weird. And that's a good thing."

A couple of weeks ago, he called to say he was coming to Colorado, and did I want to host a house concert? I had no idea what he'd do, so I said yes immediately.

It was worth it.

Last night, Marty did a one-man, two-language musical in my living room. Yes, there were sing-alongs. It's a little hard to describe a concert that weaves Marty Robbins tunes into an 1880, I.L. Peretz poem, but it's not to be missed.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

But He Gets Free Health Care

Here's a guy who's dying to get internet access.

For background, see also this and this.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

"Cupertino is worth a mass"

The Pope just got the same iPod I have.

Is he feeling cool, or what?

Monday, March 06, 2006

The Shirt Off My Back

A few weeks ago, I took eight, loud, Hawaiian shirts to the local cleaners. Winter's a good time to clean your summer shirts.

I've been using the same cleaners for 15 years or so. Now, it seems, they're under all-new management.


When I went back to pick them up, the owner first tried to convince me that I must have taken my shirts somewhere else. When I showed him the claim ticket, he made a show of looking around, and then showing me that the one number in his spreadsheet of jobs that had all the columns blanked out was mine. "Probably you got a ticket but never left your shirts here. You look around your house. Probably you'll find them."

I figured he'd lost them or sold them or destroyed them, but I certainly wasn't getting them back. I thought about small claims court and Tom Martino, but was saddened because the shirts had sentimental value: most had been gifts from friends and family.

I made a token call to the Better Business Bureau, who told me I wasn't likely to get any satisfaction; their records showed the business already had an "unsatisfactory" rating. Still, they told me what information to email them, should I want to. I did.

Well, now.

Saturday, the owner called and said he'd gotten some mail from the BBB, and then he'd remembered that my wife had brought the shirts in, and of course he had them, and I should come and pick them up.

I'm not married, but I didn't argue. I quickly went down and picked up my shirts. He had the grace not to charge me. Perhaps it's because there were other customers in the shop.

It's ironic, in a capitalist sort of way, that the BBB has no competition. If they did, I could certainly recommend them.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

How do I file this?

A stack of loose CDs has been sitting in my living room for a couple of days -- the aftermath of my first rush to shovel them onto my new iPod. This morning, in a fit of industry, Lyn began putting them back with the other CDs, which she'd carefully alphabetized a few months ago.

As I was washing the breakfast dishes, she came in with a CD that my pal Kevin gave me. Its title


is written in Hebrew characters. (Yiddish uses the Hebrew alphabet for the same reason English uses the Roman, and Russian the Cyrillic: people who are inventing a writing system just adapt the one they already know.)

"How do I file this?" she asked.

"Under 'Yud'."

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Maggie and Will

Maggie, Will, and Lyn at tonight's Martisor party.

You can find more (and, okay, better) pictures of Maggie and Will on Vermont Ferret's photoblog.

Diamonds in the Not-So-Rough

I keep seeing reports that cheap synthetic diamonds are just around the corner.

I don't think this will make natural diamonds any less valuable, any more than pitching machines devalued Robin Roberts (this one, not this one), but it does mean that CZs will get replaced.

I do wonder whether flawlessness in natural diamonds will become less important.

Mardi Gras In Iraq

Mardi Gras In Iraq

HT: Uncle Roger.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Surprised by Joy

Sometimes my nightmares about the loss of my daughters grow so vivid, so terrifying, that they wake me.

And there I lie. In the dark. Awake. Childless.

Ozzi and Ziggy