|Asparagus Pee, Gooblek & Other Neat Stuff
Thoughts and observations of an Enneagram Type 7 INFP Beatles fan. I prefer baths to showers, late nights to early mornings, cats to dogs, and Mary Ann. The perfect blog for all featherless bipeds.
Gooblek is a 2-to-1 suspension of cornstarch in water. It acts like a liquid if you move it slowly, but a solid if you hit it or squeeze it. Click below for info on Asparagus Pee.
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Thursday, January 29, 2004
I got so excited tonight! I was getting ready to clean our little 20 gallon aquarium, and I noticed that the glass was crawling with a bunch of hydras! Now, the only experience I've had with hydras was some pictures in my High School biology book, but these guys are the real deal, and they look hungry.
They range in size anywhere from about 1/8th to 3/16th of an inch (or as we Americans like to say, a couple-three millimeters), and they're clearly visible to the naked eye. They look a lot like pieces of lint with serious intentions.
I collected several and looked at them under both of the microscopes that I bought last fall, and they look fantastic under our fairly decent optical microscope, but the blue toy microscope that hooks up to a USB port has a hard time picking them out from the background noise - even though they look as green as this one in my 'good' scope, they look almost white otherwise, and of course, they don't stand still or even lie in a plane, and ol' Blue didn't seem to want to focus on anything, even though I was looking at the little guys right there on the stage.
So, the bottom line is that I tried really really hard to get you a picture of one of my hydras, but I just didn't have the resources, so this is the most representative sample I could find on Google, and I looked at several dozen and this is the best I could come up with. (Hey, worse things have happened.)
I'm currently reading The Evolution of Useful Things by Henry Petroski, which is all about stuff like paper clips, staples, and forks, and it's absolutely fascinating.
One of the things that's occurred to me this evening is that, while I have to work hard to convice our 4 year old that mommy and daddy didn't have computers when we were growing up, my parents had to work hard to convince me that they really didn't have televisions. But here's what I was thinking about - Janet's Grandmother, or my Great Grandmother (or yours) probably had a couple of Edison light bulbs (patented 1879), and maybe even a phone (1876) or a car (Model T's were $950 in 1908, which actually seems kinda steep), but they didn't have paper clips (1901) staplers (1923) or Scotch tape (1930). I'm guessing when some of this stuff came out, it was a lot like 1980 or '81, when a saw Post-It notes for the first time, and I thought, 'Now why would anybody want that?' Kinda weird, huh?
In today's news, Microsoft is offering a $250K reward to anyone who helps authorities get the guy who created the Mydoom.b virus (and SCO has also offered a $250K reward for Mydoom.a). Here's the 'duh!': "Microsoft said residents of any country are eligible for the $250,000. The company has said previously it will not pay rewards to anyone involved in creating the viruses."
Wednesday, January 28, 2004
Here is a picture that Carla from my office took of a trail that a slug left behind on her screen door. It looks like a stick-figure person, and she calls it 'Es Car Gogh.' Pretty cool.
Remember when I found these slugs?
Monday, January 26, 2004
Do you remember a few months ago, when I was suffering from changing long distance carriers for our office? Well, it seems that even though I started the changeover last July, this week we still had several of our 18 phone trunks that were either still with the old carrier, or the old carrier had somehow snatched them back.
(If you ever need to check who your carrier is, just dial 1-700-555-4141, and there'll be an announcement that tells you, but we have a bunch of lines that are in the PBX phone switch in our basement, and you can't tell which line you've got because it picks the next available one automatically, so there's really no easy way to test.)
Anyway, here's the rant:
I call up SBC (oh, did I say that out loud?), and the auto-attendant greeting says, 'To experience our world-class customer service, press 2 now, and an SBC representative will be with you in a moment.' OK, well, that sounds great, so I press 2.
I get to enjoy about a minute of delicious Muzak in the 'on-hold' style that we all love, and then I hear, 'Please hold for just a moment, and a representative will be right with you,' and again, I'm thinking, well OK!
About 5 seconds after that, it says, 'Due to an overwhelming number of unexpected calls, we are unable to service your call at this time,' hangs up on me, and I get a fast busy.
'An overwhelming number of calls?' This is supposed to be The Phone Company!
This goes on for 3 or 4 cycles of calling, waiting, and being hung up on, then I finally get through to a warm body and they answer the phone, 'I'm Theresa... How may I provide you with excellent service this morning?,' and I explain to Theresa that evil forces seem to be in control of my phone bill. She takes a look at our account and says, 'Hmm. Well, I don't get this... can you hold for just a second,' and proceeds to put me on hold for 14 minutes 27 seconds (our phones have a display that tells call duration). After said 14:27, someone named Ky comes on the line and says, 'Hi, I'm Ky. How may I provide you with excellent customer service?' and I say, 'Gosh, I don't know but I hope it works out better than the excellent service I was getting from Theresa when she put me on hold about 15 minutes ago!'
The good news is that I honestly believe that Ky got things straightened out, but it took phone conversations with at least 5 different people over a period of almost 3 hours, and most of those people honestly couldn't help me.
By the way, since I mentioned Theresa and Ky (and Mary Alice, you rocked!), I feel I should quote Kurt Vonnegut's foreword to Sirens of Titan, to wit, 'None of the names have been changed to protect the innocent, as God protects the innocent as a matter of heavenly routine.'
I'm about to leave you with a few quick linky doodles, and I'm considering turning this into a pattern of ranting or providing a meaningful essay followed by a bunch of interesting links. By the way, if it isn't obvious, 'linky doodle' is a free association off of 'Yankee Doodle,' as in, 'here's a linky doodle dandy.' But I digress...
Saturday, January 24, 2004
So I'm looking at MetaFilter today, and I ran across this wonderful documentary on the Federal Reserve banking system (and evils thereof), but it looked to run about 2 hours, and I realized I didn't have nearly enough time in my life to watch it this month, so I went looking for other sources of information, and I ran across this nifty Fed 101 tutorial on the Fed's own website. I think I may really need to take the time to learn about this stuff.
Here is one of the worst 'good news/bad news' jokes I've ever heard... guy hangs himself because his wife catches him cheating on her, and the wife saves him, but in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, where they all live, attempted suicide is against the law, so charges are being brought against him: Excite - News
Thursday, January 22, 2004
Here is a very cool thing. Think you know where you stand on the issues? This site challenges you with arguments from the opposing side and tries to change your position. Check it out KQED | News and Public Affairs: You Decide. (via Itchy Robot)
I don't believe in astrology, but somehow it seems fitting to follow a bunch of posts on the skeptics' meeting I attended with this astrological report from Excite:
Your mind is a blissfully chaotic place. Your brain is a beautiful machine in motion. You're a vessel spinning in its moorings, eager to leave the dock for open waters. You're churning out ideas that conventional language can barely touch. When you speak, it's an explosion of pure thought that makes conventional thinkers run for safety. Surprisingly, there are people around here who understand you. Where have they been all your life? The point is that you're forming a bond right now. Your combined powers are sure to break records. You'll all be talking about this for years.
Hey, it may be a bunch of hooey, but they took the time to write this about me, and when they're right, they're right, right? And yes, I am a Gemini.
Saturday, January 17, 2004
Quick Update - Sound Bites from The Amazing Meeting 2:
Amazing Meeting Update OK, so here's what I'm doing this weekend in Las Vegas. If you know or care, please take a look - it seems they're updating in near real-time, their pictures are much better than mine are turning out, and I need to go to the lunch buffet. (Thursday I was in the 4th row, Friday I was in the 3rd row, and today I'm in the 13th row, which is not only an unlucky number, it's a much less satisfying experience.) The Amaz!ng Meeting 2: Las Vegas
Thursday, January 15, 2004
I have made it to The Amazing Meeting in Las Vegas. I haven't done anything or met anyone or learned anything yet, but here are two quick shots of me and my temporary blogspot at the Tuscany hotel on Flamingo.
Well, it's after midnight, and I'm preparing to fly to Las Vegas tomorrow, so tonight is just a bunch of linky doodles...
Monday, January 12, 2004
Here's an interesting idea from idea-a-day.com:
Sell a range of Inaction Man and Inaction Woman figures and accessories, e.g. TV, couch, remote control, coffee table, bowl of peanuts, six-pack of lager and a variety of classic Chinese, English, Indian, Italian and Turkish takeaway meals. For those who might question whether slothful, gluttonous, TV-obsessed lager drinkers are suitable role models for children, the standard response would be to point out that:
P.S. They did not choose to publish my idea to have a section of dominos set up in a plastic base that would be loosely hinged at the bottom so they could fall over in the classic 'domino theory' sense. There would be a hooked mechanism in the base that could grab the back edge of the toppled dominos and set them back up en masse, then get out of the way. Each section would be about 18" long, with 72 or so dominos, and there could be special colored or trick sections that would do all the classic tricks like making an American flag, or climbing stairs, and the sections would all hook together like a model train set or Hot Wheels track.
Saturday, January 10, 2004
I never thought I'd have to say this, but I'm pissed off at PBS.
I was watching this great show last night about how Edison invented the first practical electric light bulb and brought electricity to the people, called Great Projects: The Building of America - Electric Nation, and they did a fine job of presenting Edison's achievments, but they never mentioned Nikola Tesla! I mean, I learned all about the Samuel Insull scandal (kinda like the first Enron) - he was the guy that brought cheap, clean GE power to Chicago. They went into great detail about his trial for mail fraud after selling Edison General Electric stock certificates by mail, causing thousands to lose their life savings in the Black Friday stock market crash. They mentioned that DC wasn't practical because it couldn't be transmitted over long distances, and that AC was the answer. Then they flashed a nameplate from a GE generator that said "Alternating Current" on it, and went on to detail the Tennessee Valley Authority, and still never even mentioned Tesla.
That's just not right.
In case you are unfamiliar with who Tesla was and what he did, he was a Serbo-Croatian immigrant who worked for Edison in the late 19th century, then was shafted by Edison and went to work for George Westinghouse. He invented pretty much every aspect of the power generation and distribution system we use to this day, including the polyphase AC generator, the concept of using step-up and step-down transformers to trade voltage for current, and an efficient, brushless AC motor. He was an eccentric weirdo who lived alone in a hotel with a bunch of pigeons, but he was also one of the great genius inventors at the turn of the century. If you want to learn more, here are some handy linky-doodles:
These links are the tips of huge icebergs, and there's so much more, like Edison inventing the electric chair for prisoner executions to prove that AC current wasn't safe - if you don't know about this stuff, please check it out.
OK, I have to admit that Mr. Bush may have accidentally done something almost right - I mean, even a clock that doesn't run is right twice a day.
Now, I know that his new immigration scheme is designed to garner the Hispanic vote, and that it's not quite fair to either workers or employers on so many levels, but having read the section in Reefer Madness on the sorry state of migrant workers who pick strawberries in California, I think its a genuine improvement in the plight of illegal workers/immigrants. Having said that, here is an interesting analysis with lots of relevant links: Citizen Smash. (via Critical Section)
I'd like to be excited about the Bush plan to go back to the Moon and onward to Mars, but I just can't. I've been looking at these exciting new pictures from Mars, and I gotta say, I hope that we do discover some trace of life there, because that would be completely revolutionary and totally cool, but I've lived several years in Arizona, and Mars looks way, way, way too much like the worst parts of Arizona without any water. Oh, and there's also that little issue of, oh, you know, like, the money. Manned missions are grandstanding for the benefit of others, and just plain don't make sense.
So while I'd like to get all inspired by Mr. Bush, I just can't.
I basically agree with Bruce Sterling, who's been blogging that we should expect to settle on Mars way after we've successfully settled the Gobi desert, since it's much cheaper, much closer, and much more accomodating. Bottom line? I think Dubya's just trying to capture a little of the JFK bravado going into the election and more or less failing. (I never met Jack Kennedy, but I'm pretty sure this Bush guy ain't him neither.)
On a lighter and much cooler note, here's a link to 'I.'(via Presurfer)
Friday, January 09, 2004
So I'm going to have some fun next week. I'm going to Las Vegas for a little mini-vacation and attend James (The Amazing) Randi's The Amaz!ng Meeting 2. It's a seminar thing for skeptics that has magic acts, debunking sessions, speeches on evolution, etc., and it promises to be exceptionally cool. I'm really looking forward to it.
Here are some interesting links that have caught my attention over the last few days:
Wednesday, January 07, 2004
Todays Duh! award goes to this article by Neal Starkman, with a great big thank you to Neal for saying what I've been thinking, and saying it so well. And I'm hoping 'The S Factor' nomenclature takes off.
Here's a representative quote from the article:
It's not merely that some people are insufficiently intelligent to grasp the nuances of foreign policy, of constitutional law, of macroeconomics or of the variegated interplay of humans and the environment. These aren't the people I'm referring to. The people I'm referring to cannot understand the phenomenon of cause and effect. They're perplexed by issues comprising more than two sides. They don't have the wherewithal to expand the sources of their information. And above all -- far above all -- they don't think.
Monday, January 05, 2004
Todays Doh! award goes to The Crocodile Hunter. I'm sure you've all seen this already, but this guy goes into the crocodile pit with his 1-month old son under one arm and feeds a crocodile! What point is there to having a Michael Jackson if we don't at least learn from his mistakes?
Sunday, January 04, 2004
Here is a cookbook that's been in my wife's family since circa 1957 - Betty Crocker's Cook Book for Boys and Girls. It's really interesting to thumb through this and wax nostalgic over the good ol' days, when you would make hamburgers by adding a half cup of evaporated milk and a teaspoon of salt, or 'Saucy Hamburger Crumble' starting with a tablespoon of 'fat.'
My mom actually had a grease can that we kept in the 'fridge well into my teens that was an aluminum tin about the size of a coffee can, with a strainer in the top that all the 'good grease' like bacon drippings went into. Mmmm... bacon drippings.
Someone told me recently that I should consider a career as a professional whistler. I know that sounds silly, but doggone it, I really am somewhat of a whistling master, a prodigy so to speak. I was hoping to have a sample of me whistling a Bach concerto or Stars and Stripes Forever, or some such, but in the meantime, here are some slackard whistlers that are still worth a listen: WhistlingRecords.com.
I'm about to drop the Da Vinci Code references now for awhile, but here's an interesting link to the Opus Dei Awareness Network: ODAN.
Speaking of conspriracies, this stuff's pretty sick, but I have to admit that sometimes I wonder... Stupid Conspiracy Theory?
Here's a website that has sound samples of Presidents Dealing with People over the Phone.
Here's a great tool for wordsmiths - kind of like a rhyming dictionary, a thesaurus, and a really powerful tool for discovering relationships between words: Lexical FreeNet.
And I'm always in the mood for a good Simpsons quotes page. (via Presurfer)
And last, but not least, here is the obligatory link to Google's year-end Zeitgiest - it was worth looking into this if only to figure out why Yuko Ogura was the number one Japanese search for 'popular women.' Pretty cute.
This site is
Chris Benson's problem.
46-yr-old Geekboy with the strength of 10 men. I may not be the coolest guy in the world, but when he dies...