Sunday, April 26, 2009

Good Luck

Maryland weather flicked that switch this weekend with temps going from mid-60's during the week to mid-90's this weekend. So we wandered down to the park today and had a nice dinner by the Bay. Katgrrl decided to look for a 4-leaf clover, and (surprise!) she found one. The second 4- leaf clover I have ever seen.
Some other pics of the park flowers in bloom.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

U was schooled home style

I don't do this often but I enjoyed these types of little tid-bits so much I am posting the article here. The original article can be found here - By Stacy Conradt;
Agatha Christie was a painfully shy girl, so her mom homeschooled her even though her two older siblings attended private school.
Pearl S. Buck was born in West Virginia, but her family moved to China when she was just three months old. She was homeschooled by a Confucian scholar and learned English as a second language from her mom.
Alexander Graham Bell was homeschooled by his mother until he was about 10. It was at this point that she started to go deaf and didn't feel she could properly educate him any more. Her deafness inspired Bell to study acoustics and sound later in life.
If Thomas Edison were around today, he would probably be diagnosed with ADD -- he left public school after only three months because his mind wouldn't stop wandering. His mom homeschooled him after that, and he credited her with the success of his education: "My mother was the making of me. She was so true, so sure of me; and I felt I had something to live for, someone I must not disappoint."
Ansel Adams was homeschooled at the age of 12 after his "wild laughter and undisguised contempt for the inept ramblings of his teachers" disrupted the classroom. His father took on his education from that point forward.
Robert Frost hated school so much he would get physically ill at the thought of going. He was homeschooled until his high school years.
Woodrow Wilson studied under his dad, one of the founders of the Southern Presbyterian Church in the United States (PCUS). He didn't learn to read until he was about 12. He took a few classes at a school in Augusta, Georgia, to supplement his father's teachings, and ended up spending a year at Davidson College before transferring to Princeton.
Mozart was educated by his dad as the Mozart family toured Europe from 1763-1766.
Laura Ingalls Wilder was homeschooled until her parents finally settled in De Smet in what was then Dakota Territory. She started teaching school herself when she was only 15 years old.
Louisa May Alcott studied mostly with her dad, but had a few lessons from family friends Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Nathaniel Hawthorne.

Give Fiber a chance

No I do not mean the fiber that Lemony tells me to eat more. I mean the fiber optic lines that are under every city and hang on most telephone poles. This is the way the world communicates today. These lines are the way 116 people a month come to our little blog. So why would anyone want to hurt our wonderful fiber?

" Just after midnight on Thursday, April 9, unidentified attackers climbed down four manholes serving the Northern California city of Morgan Hill and cut eight fiber
in what appears to have been an organized attack on the electronic
infrastructure of an American city."

The article goes on the say the it has mostly gone unreported. I would disagree and say that it has been reported, search Google news for it and you will see lots of articles. I personally think it was ignored, not by the news agencies, but by the people. If the top news agencies see the people are clicking on links about Britney Spears and other fluff, guess what they will move to the front page. I saw the headline on the major new sites the next morning, and fifteen minutes later is was pushed down because on some celebrity news piece. Anyway, I am getting off topic.
So why is this a big issue? Snips from different articles highlight it for me:

According to Santa Clara spokeswoman, Joy Alexiou, "Our concern is 911. If someone is having an emergency and can't make a phone call, they should go to the nearest firehouse, police station or hospital emergency room. We have people at those areas with radios."

"Commerce was disrupted in a 100-mile swath around the community, from San Jose to Gilroy and Monterey. Cash was king for the day as ATMs and credit card systems were down, and many found they didn't have sufficient cash on hand. Services employees dependent on communication were sent home. The many businesses providing just-in-time operations to agriculture could not communicate. "
So, should you worry about what happens if you should lose your means of communication? No, but you should have a plan in place, in case of any type of utility loss. Should you worry about terrorists and crazy people cutting your phone line? No, because they have access to the power grid, and that is much more fun to play with.

Sleep well.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Warfare

Remember the good old days when the next foxhole over contained an actual human being?

"Numbers reflect the explosive growth of robotic systems. The U.S. forces that stormed into Iraq in 2003 had no robots on the ground. There were none in Afghanistan either. Now those two wars are fought with the help of an estimated 12,000 ground-based robots and 7,000 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), the technical term for drone, or robotic aircraft."

The Reuters article goes on to talk about what robots are doing in the battlefield and how they can save human lives, as well as take them.

"Ground-based robots in Iraq have saved hundreds of lives in Iraq, defusing improvised explosive devices, which account for more than 40 percent of U.S. casualties. The first armed robot was deployed in Iraq in 2007 and it is as lethal as its acronym is long: Special Weapons Observation Remote Reconnaissance Direct Action System (SWORDS). Its mounted M249 machinegun can hit a target more than 3,000 feet away with pin-point precision."

So what could possibly go wrong?

"A recent study prepared for the Office of Naval Research by a team from the California Polytechnic State University said that robot ethics had not received the attention it deserved because of a "rush to market" mentality and the "common misconception" that robots will do only what they have been programmed to do.
"Unfortunately, such a belief is sorely outdated, harking back to the time when computers were simpler and their programs could be written and understood by a single person," the study says. "Now programs with millions of lines of code are written by teams of programmers, none of whom knows the entire program; hence, no individual can predict the effect of a given command with absolute certainty since portions of programs may interact in unexpected, untested ways."
That's what might have happened during an exercise in South Africa in 2007, when a robot anti-aircraft gun sprayed hundreds of rounds of cannon shell around its position, killing nine soldiers and injuring 14."

The article attempts to raise the question of ethics the way any modern one-page story does in our incomplete thoughts that scatter the Internet nowadays. (The irony is, I'm blogging this.)

"Beyond isolated accidents, there are deeper problems that have yet to be solved. How do you get a robot to tell an insurgent from an innocent? Can you program the Laws of War and the Rules of Engagement into a robot? Can you imbue a robot with his country's culture? If something goes wrong, resulting in the death of civilians, who will be held responsible?
The robot's manufacturer? The designers? Software programmers? The commanding officer in whose unit the robot operates? Or the U.S. president who in some cases authorises attacks? (Barack Obama has given the green light to a string of Predator strikes into Pakistan)."

No need to panic yet, it's not like they would deploy this technology at home. Right?
Just get nervous if anyone mentions Skynet.

As a closing, I leave you with the South Korean Guard Robot YouTube vid clip, and yes this is real.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Beware of the mouse

The Wild Mouse is the deceiving roller coaster that looks nice and calm, and is anything but that.

We went to Hershey over a long weekend with some relatives. It was a nice day, even with dragging the kids around the last part of the day. Our youngest, Zilla, is almost 7, and he has decided that, like his mother, he enjoys roller coasters. You can hear him telling me at the end of the video he wants to do it again.

Pardon any harsh words I may use in the video, and shots of my feet; I closed my eyes at those points of filming.

Friday, April 17, 2009


I thought that everyone would like to see what I was greeted with on the whiteboard one evening. For those who don't know' we homeschool our three children, and we have a separate room used for study, complete with whiteboards. What a fine display of cursive writing and artistic skills that our three children have learned. I will let Lemony fill in the details.
Details: The kids have been saying "canyon" when they mean to say "cannon", so we had a little lesson complete with pictures illustrating the difference between the two concepts.

I went to one of those paint-your-own-pottery places with a friend last fall when I was in a bit of a goofy mood, and came home with a pitcher on which I had painted the Kool-Aid Man. It's not like we even drink Kool-Aid, so the kids were really confused by my new friend. So I had to get on YouTube and dig up some old TV commercials so I could show the kids who the heck this Kool-Aid man was.

Back to the "drawing board": we had drawn the canyon and then I realized that we needed something to give an idea of the size of the thing we were talking about. Enter stick figures. And then something to illustrate the matter to be concerned about when looking at a canyon a bit too closely. Enter "Oh, nooooo!" stick figure. You can see where it went from there. --L.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


This is a cool experiment. From the site
"In New York, we are very occupied with getting from one place to another. I wondered: could a human-like object traverse sidewalks and streets along with us, and in so doing, create a narrative about our relationship to space and our willingness to interact with what we find in it? More importantly, how could our actions be seen within a larger context of human connection that emerges from the complexity of the city itself? To answer these questions, I built robots.
Tweenbots are human-dependent robots that navigate the city with the help of pedestrians they encounter. Rolling at a constant speed, in a straight line, Tweenbots have a destination displayed on a flag, and rely on people they meet to read this flag and to aim them in the right direction to reach their goal. "

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Saturday, April 4, 2009

The Amazing Mackerel Pudding Plan

Lemony found this website and I think this helps explain a lot of things about the 70's. The web site has a list of Weight Watchers recipe cards from 1974, along with comments. My personal favorite is 'FrankFurter Spectacular'.

Also available as a book, titled;