Monday, December 11, 2006

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

All I want for Christmas

Is that too much to ask?

Papa Strange's Rules for Mama Strange's Freshman English Course

I've talked many times before about this and even asked Jen if I could come in and give a 5-minute presentation on things guaranteed to lower your grade, but every time Jen presents a new and amazing thing a student has done, we've forgotten the last amazing and unprecedented folly. So here we are:

Papa Strange's Rule #1:
Don't pick your nose in class. (This probably seems obvious to you, since you paid attention in third grade and have conformed to societal norms, but for some students this should probably be reminded.)

Papa Strange's Rule #2:
Don't eat during class. No cheeseburgers, no candy, and definitely none of #1. Class only lasts fifty minutes (you can wait) except for those once-per-week classes, but if you can't arrange your week so that you aren't eating during a specific three-hour period you probably aren't fit for college... or church... or work...

Papa Strange's Rule #3
Show up to class and bring your book. Well, probably you could get by with just reading, thinking about the text, and remembering the text in an intellectual manner, but few students take this obsolete approach to college so I suggest simply showing up with book in hand.

More rules to follow, but is a pretty large list already and maybe too much for the common freshman all at once.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Weird things abound

I should have known it wouldn't be long before other uses were found for the manifold usb connections installed on modern computers. Enjoy more coffee, closer to your desk.

That just looks funny to me, more than wrong. A funny thing happened to me a few days ago when I met with one of my students. We were discussing some of the finer points of federal aviation regulation when I showed him my certificate (that's not my certificate, but it looks like my certificate). He flipped it over to the back and he remarked hey, it's the guiness guys!

Of course, it's only Wilbur and Orville but what does that matter?

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The end of the power cord is near

(But we may have the power strip a little longer)

We've got wireless keyboards and mice, wireless internet and keys (same idea, different application) and now, possibly, wireless power.

So we lose the cords, which is great, but I think this means a lot more power outlets. It's hard enough to figure out which power cord goes to which device, but sometimes two devices use a similar enough cord so you can manage. If your wireless power adapter is set to one mobile phone and not the other, you obviously cannot get by with only one power source; If Jen and I both use a Nokia phone, we now need two outlets dedicated to phone power. I guess this is technology creating new problems, but the new possibilities are exciting. Imagine a power manager in your kitchen (essentially a great power strip hidden from view) that gives power to appliances on demand. Simply pull your mixer or blender out of the cabinet and use. No plugging in. [Thanks to /.]

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Corporate logo visible from space?

I wish I was the first to find this or that I could say I saw this from the air, but all I can do is let you read it for yourself: the Colonel, visible from space.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Flying has a few casual privileges

One of them is what you learn about air and sky. The sky, really, isn't too complex but it does confuse because we don't live in it; flying helps take away some of that confusion. One unfortunate misconception is that the sky is not fluid. We tend to equate fluid with liquid, but gases move as fluid too. If you had a million small pebbles they'd also exhibit fluid flow in some capacity, but who cares really?

Because we tend to misunderstand (that sounds so wrong post-Bush) the fluid flow of the sky, I think we often miss out on some of the neat things in the sky. Given enough sky-watching I think you'll see some really cool things.

Did you know clouds like to move in waves? This is easier seen from the air, and vertical movement from the heating air mass tends to distort our view, but on some relatively calm days you can see that clouds like to form in rows as though at the top or bottom of waves.

Have you ever stopped to watch clouds roll? If you've mixed two separate liquids together you can see them roll about before they mix. Clouds do the same rolling about as heat pushes them up and the air cools off.

Today I witnessed for the first time a cloud "dropping". I had often seen clouds rising upward because of heat but had never actually seen one appearing to drop. The appearance is quite surreal and hard to believe because it happens both quickly and slowly. It's as though someone is fluffing out a sheet on a bed in slow motion, or if you could watch ice cream melt away at high speed (which Jen would never allow).

It's a bit hard to describe, but as I watched it occur it seemed both logical and wildly mysterious. As I checked heading and altitude and turned back to the right to watch the cloud's descent I almost didn't believe I had seen it.

You should get up and see it for yourself, or if you can't just do a little cloud-gazing when you're out.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

I absolutely love my new MacBook Pro

and almost every thing about it, especially the very cool things like this. In fact, I could create a long list of things I love about my macbook, but that would do nothing but bore you; I'd rather share this one thing I absolutely cannot stand. Apple decided it likes the brushed aluminum look on the pro models (other models are plastic), and it does look quite cool, but one thing apple must have forgotten. My fingertips.

Specifically the index finger of my right hand. The tip of it hurts. A few thousand times a day. With some lingering irritation and dry soreness prevailing at other times. Sometimes when I wake, it feels like I rubbed it against sheet metal for hours on end the previous day. Oh, that's right, I-did, I-did rub it along my aluminum trackpad a few thousand times the previous day. And a few million times the previous month.

But no big deal. I can punch and track with other fingers, I've got nine remaining. Now I'm off to solve today's LA Times Sudoku. And afterwards, hand lotion.

Word to your moms, I came to drop bombs

I hope you've had the opportunity to see this guy on tv. Nevermind that he looks like the colonel, his campaign adverts are the best ever. In case you've missed it totally, his tv spot runs something like this:

[Dark background] Illegal immigration is a weapon of mass destruction waiting to happen [mushroom cloud in red engulfs dark background]... join me to get rid of [the incumbent] who voted for civil rights and for amnesty for illegals [many images of poor aliens, most mexican]... many have fought and died for this country, let's not give it away.

Now, I may be wrong on a lot of things, including politics and political motivation, but it seems a bit excessive to equate mexican immigration with nuclear detonation. I won't deny that immigration is a national issue in dire need of resolution, but I'll disagree that illegal immigration is the greatest danger facing this country. It also seems a bit much to deny charity and forgiveness to someone who faces considerable danger to earn less money than you. And it seems a bit futile to attack an incumbent with a one-issue platform, especially when that one issue was not one of voter parlance prior to suggestion. Fear is a powerful motivator, but it can also blind a man. Maybe even blind a man from seeing how unreasonable is his campaign.

But, hey--we gots to protect them borders. I gots to look out for me and mine.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Election day is around the corner

so don't forget to sue your local political organization. I think this guy has a little too much free time.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

What's wrong with NASCAR?

There's got to be something wrong with the National Association of Stock Car Racing, right? Is it indeed the perfect American sport or is it just perfectly flawed like America?

Really, what's wrong with me that I'm sitting here in my driveway handing out halloween candy while my wife teaches bible study inside and I'm writing about NASCAR and what's right or wrong with it? Probably free time allotment; I've got too much right now and not enough later.

Is anything wrong with NASCAR? Aside from lack of capitalization control, things like this: Lars Anderson's NASCAR Power Rankings.

This isn't backlash from hockey-guy, because he's mad that his sport, which he believes trumps NASCAR physically, emotionally, and intellectually for both the player and fan, is so poorly watched while NASCAR is printed on everything from Cheerios to underwear to flash drives. This is open, honest thinking from wannabe-economist-guy who, like every good economist, can attribute value (or attempts such) to invaluable or incalculable items.

That's why I love polls--especially sports polls. Of course the only thing that matters is where the teams finish at the end of the season, but prognosticators of all sorts like to predict the finish. That's why we have polls, power polls, power rankings, rankings, standings, sittings, and similarly useless data. (Sittings, of course, unreal and would be useless even if real).

But with Lars, I must draw the line; this is just too far. First, what is a guy named Lars doing pretending to be a NASCAR fan, let alone expert? I'd more likely believe Dr Laura Schlessinger's NASCAR review than Lars I'm-from-the-midwest-one-generation-removed-from-Norway Anderson. If it were Mikey, Jimmy, Billy, Tommy, or Danny Anderson telling me what they thought about pit crew efficiency and which team had the best shot at next weekend's 600, I'd believe it without question. But not Lars.

Put aside the obvious need of pseudonym and we come up with a more obvious flaw in Lars' rankings. NASCAR already has honest rankings. They're compiled after every race because every driver competes with every other driver in the same conditions almost every week. Scientists would go crazy for this data and economists would quit their jobs if all circumstances were so often and easily controlled. Not only is this useful data so easily obtainable and comparable, but NASCAR has, on top of that, its own series rankings systems already, making Lars useless!

Not that Lars is useless, of course, and his rankings are interesting prognostication. I like that. So why is all this so bad? Have I simply got too much free time, or am I mad? Maybe, but here is the catch: Lars gets paid by Sports Illustrated to post this tripe on their front page! A multi-billion dollar industry is making money by brandishing rehashed information as news by a correspondent whose name indicates his inadequacy. Maybe that's not so bad, though. Maybe I can write a column predicting last week's weather. Or I can freelance with the New York Times to create a best-seller power ranking. Or maybe I could go to tv; anybody have a number for Fox news? They must need a NASCAR anchor.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Josiah Bounderby of Coketown would be proud

he, having been part of both classes, pulling himself out of the gutter and transforming himself into the upper class leader of the working man's town, would appreciate this new revelation by one of London's premier evolutionary theorists. Or maybe Bounderby would have been disappointed, himself a truthless denial that man can transcend social class, to see the lie that he believed so whimsically dismissed.

I say whimsically, because I have read the BBC story. Go ahead, read it for yourself of follow along here the Wellsian story (I should think they will appreciate it, if it indeed does not violate copyright). I'll try to retell.

Oliver Curry, of the London School of Economics Department of Philosophy and Natural History, has jokingly (surely?) suggested that we will see a genetic split among humans in the next few thousand years. Interesting indeed, is his social application of his darwinism scholarship, that the human race will divide along class lines into distinct sub-species within, possibly, 10,000 years.

The descendants of the genetic upper class would be tall, slim, healthy, attractive, intelligent, and creative and a far cry from the "underclass" humans who would have evolved into dim-witted, ugly, squat goblin-like creatures. Indeed and interesting idea, which sparks a certain image I just can't put my finger on...

Social skills, such as communicating and interacting with others, could be lost, along with emotions such as love, sympathy, trust and respect. People would become less able to care for others, or perform in teams. This sounds somewhat familiar, and I know I've read it somewhere...

The logical outcome would be two sub-species, "gracile" and "robust" humans similar to the Eloi and Morlocks foretold by HG Wells in his 1895 novel The Time Machine. Aha!! That's it! Err, wait.?. Can you just take a 111 year publication and contrive its theme as your own theory?

Well, maybe you can. If you're tall, dark, handsome, and smart enough I guess. I'm just too short and stupid to understand how this is reportable news. Or, were it news, how it would be useful. Certainly, predictions with theories of prevention (or any sort of course guidance) have use. And sometimes its good to know what will happen even if you can't prevent its occurrence. But is this prediction of any real scientific or societal value (notwithstanding the arguments that might be made that technological advances may take away the class gap, or the prevalence of the middle class)?

I don't know, but at least it's not my tax money. Maybe tonight I'll go home and do some research of my own, tax free of course. Hmmm... what will it be? I guess I'm just too dim-witted to make up my mind; I'll have to go to the bookshelf to decide. I hope the book I want to research isn't on the top shelf.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Needless to say...

So I'm watching the Saints-Buccaneers football game (still am) and the announcer is making a statement about Reggie Bush and finishes with needless to say...

I would think the statement needless to say is, indeed, needless to say. Or more correctly the statement following is needless, needless to say. I think I've got that right, but then maybe I'm wrong. Or maybe I'm speechless.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

They start young, don't they?

Shoplifters. That's what the lady at the checkout counter at Walgreen's said. I didn't really respond to that; I, like she probably, was amusing myself trying to recreate the events that just transpired. As I walked up to the counter, to purchase a snack for myself and a co-worker who had not had lunch, I noticed a little boy about 4 running out behind his mother asking a question. I think she was pushing a cart with a younger child in the seat but didn't really notice because I was intereseted in the boy who wasking asking what about this momma?

He apparently had pulled a bag of life-savers off the shelf and was asking her if he could have them. This was a bit rushed, and hard to notice since I was checking out. The lady behind the counter didn't notice at all and I considered mentioning that the boy seemed to take the candy out of the store before I realized that this would be a lost cause.

It seemed reasonable to me that her two most likely
responses would be unconcern or freakish overconcern. Shoplifting, I'm sure, occurs frequently at Walgreen's with the mix of young shoppers, kids, and the weird store layout. In fact the latter is why I hate shopping at all such drugstores. Why do drugstore managers feel the need to put all the crap you couldn't possibly want at the very front of the store to bombard your senses as you enter. It makes me react strongly in distaste. But as I waited for her to process me I wondered what portion of shoplifting occurs honestly. How many thieves are unknowing 4-year-olds simply acquiring what they desire? This thought wasn't long before being interrupted by a bag of life savers being thrown throughthe still-open sliding door.

I'm not sure whether I could hear the mother say something before the toss, but distinctly overheard her afterward commanding him to pick that up! It may have been put that up! or put that back!, I don't know, but the boy entered again, quickly picking up the bag from the floor between the detector posts (the detector which I believe is intended to detect theft) and put the bag into cart near the front. [This is the same store where a woman last week bitterly complained that she would have purchased more had there been any carts available when she arrived. The carts were all in the small parking lot and she just couldn't walk all around the store without a cart. Walgreen's lost a lot of money that day she declared shortly after refusing to purchase an item because it was indeed not in the circular.]

So now we are both distracted, myself and the lady at the counter. She was a bit amused, not having seen much of this take place or at the least not caring what took place. I mentioned foolishly that I thought I had seen the boy leaving with the bag but decided not to mention the event, to which she responded they start young, don't they? I smiled to myself, amused, and took the bag out of the cart and placed it back onto the crappy shelf, half-expecting to be doing this again soon.

Monday, September 25, 2006

It's hard to explain to someone else why you fly

and even harder to convince them they should as well (though I'm not in favor of the convincing). Most people have not flown, and those who have usually decide very quickly on which side of desire they sit. Likewise even the unflown are usually certain in their foreaffections. But, if pictures were able to translate the feeling you get when flying then this slideshow would be as close as it gets. Enjoy.

I'm well behind here

That is the working title for my last abandoned post. I'm well behind in posting, and at some point I'll write with regularity, so here is my attempt to restart.

Today at work I had an absurd conversation, which is not so surprising should you know me. It was genuine, though, and certainly gives insight into the way I approach life. (Should you have any way to access this insight and assemble it into knowledge or reason, please forward it to me.
) Upon setting up a computer I asked a lady if she wanted a new keyboard and mouse; her response was a quick and definite yes. I have to ask this sort of question because every new computer comes with keyboard and mouse but many users have purchased their own specific to their needs or desires and I don't want to discard these unknowingly. Somehow in this I get caught up wondering aloud what is the plural of mouse.

Of course the plural of mouse should still be mice even if it is electric. But that's not how we like to talk, and I think if you pay attention you'll find people willing to talk about buying mouses for computers. Not that you often have reason to talk about computer mice, but you often talk about email, right? And sometimes you get lots and lots of emails? Or do you really? We don't get junk mails at home, why should we get junk emails?

This doesn't really matter to me much--what I really want to know is why do road signs sometimes get it so wrong? Are we really supposed to Watch for falling rock? No, actually we are supposed to watch for fallen rock, which is a road hazard in moutainous areas. Indeed that's the purpose of road signs--to alert to you hazards along your path. If you're like me, however, you've spent many hours (or minutes, at least) peering through the back windows looking upward trying see the rock destined to crush your roof flat. Certainly there is some danger in rock falling onto your car while driving the mountain pass, but the danger in looking upward while driving a mountain road that has fallen rock ahead is, well, more than certain.

The emails, the emails, what--what, the emails

Monday, June 26, 2006

When is fund-raising a little more than fund-raising and little less than rational?

NPR reports on a Wisconsin school district that is selling naming rights to raise the funds to build new schools. This isn't the first district to have this bright idea--they're just copying another district's lead, citing that "striking a marketing deal" may be easier than acquiring the taxes to fund school projects. I can certainly see how this makes sense, considering that three-quarters of the tax-paying population does not have children in public schools. Why should they be forced to shoulder the load?

Oh, that's right. Civic responsibility. Isn't that the reason why you and I pay medicare, welfare, and disability taxes whether or not we're old, poor, and sick? Ahh, screw it. Let the old, poor, sick, and children fend for themselves. It's not my responsibility.

Then there's also the concern of the captive audience. We're already aware as a society that what goes on in our schools is important in shaping the ideas and opinions of our nation's future. That's one element of the heated debate over evolution/creationism courses in public schools. That's why a school boards fight so hard to include/exclude courses like African-American history. It's amazing to think that you can go to school and learn as much about the businesses in your little community as the world outside your little community. But, hey, that Kaiser Permanente Fieldhouse... wow! it's great.

Of course, you don't have to spend half a million to get your company logo on the side of a large building. You can get your name plastered alongside smaller school objects (like auditorioum seating) for more reasonable amounts of money, because what good is a school if you can't sell every inch of it to corporate sponsors? One Wisconsin school official says "he'll consider most offers, as long as they don't promote tobacco and alcohol". Good to see that he has some moral conviction.

I'm sure, however, that if you want alcohol and tobacco sponsored in school you can get your name written in the bathroom stalls. You'll just have to find a student to put it up for you--if you can agree on the price.

Because that's the Tick's

...that he's nigh-invulnerable. At least, that's what he says. Since the show was cancelled after three seasons, we never actually got to see for ourselves. Really, he was vulnerable, since money, or lack thereof, did him in...

but I guess that gets us back to nigh