2 3 live&learn&rejoice: March 2011

March 31, 2011

buttermilk creek

no regrets found in buttermilk creek, somewhere just east of killeen in the great State of Texas, but a number of other interesting discoveries were made according to the washington post.
The discovery of 56 stone tools four feet underground in the Texas Hill Country makes certain what most archaeologists have suspected for a while: that human beings were in the Americas at least 15,000 years ago.

That date is about 2,000 years before the appearance of the so-called "Clovis culture" whose distinctive fluted and notched arrowheads are the earliest widely found human artifacts in North America.

Evidence for "pre-Clovis" human activity has been accumulating for decades as archaeologists have found a few unusually old sites in places as far apart as coastal Chile and central Pennsylvania. But there were always problems - a jumbling of deposits, uncertainties of dating - that made some archaeologists doubt the age of those discoveries.

The Texas finds, reported Thursday in the journal Science, are likely to persuade nearly everyone. The undisturbed condition of the site, a distinct layer of artifact-containing sediment below the Clovis deposits and dating that consistently puts that layer at 13,200 to 15,500 years old is what makes this discovery especially convincing.

"It pretty much closes it for me," David G. Anderson, an anthropologist at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, said of the debate about whether there were people in the Americas before the Clovis period, which began about 13,000 years ago and lasted less than 2,000 years.

"This is almost like a baseball bat to the side of the head of the archaeological community to say, 'Wake up, there were pre-Clovis people here,' " said Michael R. Waters, the anthropologist at Texas A&M University who led the excavation.

Gary Haynes, an archaeologist at the University of Nevada at Reno and a skeptic of previous pre-Clovis claims, said: "This one comes closer than any of the others. I think it's a half-step from finishing off the argument."

The Clovis culture takes its name from the town in New Mexico where the characteristic artifacts were first excavated in the 1930s.

The newly unearthed objects come from a site northwest of Austin, which has been under excavation for several years along a waterway known as Buttermilk Creek. They consist of relatively crude scrapers, knife blades, broken and half-repaired spear points, and more than 15,000 flakes and chips testifying to human workmanship. They bear some similarity to Clovis tools, although not a clear one.

Whether the people who made them were related to the people who made the Clovis tools is uncertain. However, no bones or other DNA-containing materials were found, so the question can't be answered.

"Cultural history and biological history do not have to go hand in hand. So there's no way you can say they were related to each other," said Eske Willerslev, director of the Center for GeoGenetics at the University of Copenhagen.

Anthropologists think that the first Americans migrated across a land bridge connecting eastern Siberia to Alaska. They then made their way south along the Pacific coast and through an "ice-free corridor" in glacier-covered North America. A site in southern Chile called Monte Verde, 35 miles inland from the Pacific, has evidence of human occupation at least 14,000 years ago.

Dried human excrement found in a cave in south-central Oregon has also been dated to 14,000 years before the present, so it comes from pre-Clovis people. Mitochondrial DNA indicates the producers of the feces were of Asian origin and could be - although are not necessarily - ancestors of American Indians.

Willerslev, who did that research, said there are three main possibilities for the relationship between the pre-Clovis and Clovis people.

They could have both been direct descendants from the same migrant group, with their tools evolving from the crude implements at the Texas site into the fine and highly consistent style known as Clovis.

Alternatively, the Clovis people could have come from Asia in a migration entirely separate from the earlier one. Once here, they could have made improvements on the tool-making of the pre-Clovis immigrants, or they might have brought an already more advanced technology.

The third and less likely possibility is that the pre-Clovis people were of a different ethnic origin, such as European. However, Willerslev said that "as things stand at the moment, I don't think there's much evidence that it's non-Asians" who made the pre-Clovis tools.

Because there were no charcoal, seeds, skin or other materials derived from plants or animals at the Texas site, radioactive carbon dating couldn't be used to determine the deposit's age. Instead, the 13-member research team used "optically stimulated luminescence" dating, a technique developed in the 1980s that measures how long certain kinds of rock (typically quartz) have been out of the sunlight.

Waters, the lead archaeologist, said the site was apparently a campsite, not a tool production area. Layer after layer of undisturbed, sequential deposits show that prehistoric people visited the area on and off for thousands of years.

Ruth Gruhn, a retired professor of anthropology at the University of Alberta, visited the Buttermilk Creek site several years ago and agrees it dashes the 60-year-old "Clovis first" view of American settlement.

"It's a very nice wooded valley near a stream. It probably doesn't look very different from what it did when prehistoric people occupied it," she said.

March 30, 2011

Even more (on) regret.....

More from the Northwestern / University of Illinois - Urbana Champaign study on regret.....sigh....
“About 44 percent of women reported romance regrets versus 19 percent of men. Women also had more family regrets than men. About 34 percent of men reported having work-oriented regrets versus 27 percent of women reporting similar regrets. Men also had more education regrets than women. 
Individuals who were not currently in a relationship were most likely to have romance regrets. 
People were evenly divided on regrets of situations that they acted on versus those that they did not act on. People who regretted events that they did not act on tended to hold on longer to that regret over time. 
Individuals with low levels of education were likely to regret their lack of education. Americans with high levels of education had the most career-related regrets.”

give a cow a break

why have just a burger when you could have an elevation burger, that is to say 100% grass-fed, 100% free-range beef with french fries cooked in olive oil.

(you won't regret it!!)

March 29, 2011


Per a study undertaken at Northwestern and University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign, American adults most frequently regret, out of all the regrets they have, 'a lost romantic opportunity.'  20% of respondents identified this as their biggest regret in life.  Missed educational opportunities followed at 13%, career choices - missed choices - came in at 12%, followed by financial regrets (10%), parenting missteps (9%), and health issues (8%).  Sad.....and regretful.

running better

training tips for a marathon
from running times magazine

1. A weekly long run of 90 to 120 minutes or longer.

2. General training runs of 45 to 90 minutes and consistent double days.
Training in this zone is achieved primarily through moderately paced sustained runs of 30 to 120 minutes at 55 to 75 percent of VO2 max. What does this mean in terms of "real-world" paces? These runs range from a warm-up jog to everyday conversational-pace running. Most general training runs during the week fall into this category. This pace also encompasses recovery runs, which is running at less than 65 to 70 percent of VO2 max. This particular training zone is responsible for the following:
Improved oxidative capacity in cardiac muscle and the muscles used in running.
Improved joint and tendon strength.
Increased capacity to store fuels such as carbohydrates and fatty acids.

Increased number and size of mitochondria (the powerhouses of the cell).

Improved O2 delivery and CO2 removal through increased blood volume and capillary density
3. Progressive tempo runs.
Training in this zone involves runs primarily of 15- to 25-minute efforts completed at 75 to 90 percent VO2 max. These runs are generally defined as tempo or steady-state runs and range from slightly slower than marathon race pace to as fast as 10K race pace. The main goal of training in this zone is to complete a comfortably hard effort for a sustained amount of time. This training zone is responsible for the following:
Increased ability of Type IIa fast-twitch muscle fibers to use glycolytic and oxidative enzyme, i.e., take on aerobic characteristics.

Increased stroke volume (the amount of blood pumped in a single contraction or beat of the heart).

Increased capillary density and blood volume.
4. Intervals of 800m to 2400m repetitions at 5K to 10K race pace.
This type of training is performed primarily through two- to eight-minute repetitions at 90 to 100 percent of VO2 max, where VO2 max pace is the pace that well-trained distance runners can hold for roughly 10 to 11 minutes when running all out. This is the exact pace necessary to develop maximum oxygen uptake by the muscles. These are classically defined as interval workouts or fartlek runs, whereby the athlete runs at a particular pace and then takes a recovery jog between hard efforts. In this case, the harder efforts are performed at primarily 5K to 10K race pace. This is the fastest of the aerobic paces. This particular training zone is responsible for the following:
Increased ability of working muscles to use glycolytic and oxidative enzymes.

Increased blood-buffering capacity.

Continued activation of fast-twitch muscle fibers.
5. 200m, 300m or 400m at faster than 5K race pace.
This type of training is performed primarily through 30- to 120-second repetitions at faster than 100 percent of VO2 max. This effort is anaerobic and is considered speedwork to most. Repetitions are generally performed at roughly one- to two-mile race pace for most distance runners, although middle-distance runners are known to regularly run repetitions at 800m race pace and faster. This particular training zone is responsible for the following:
Improved functional leg strength and overall speed
Improved efficiency, or running economy, developed through increased neuromuscular recruitment

Increased ability to tolerate high levels of lactic acid through increased buffering capability.

Increased plasma volume and improved neuromuscular recruitment.
6. A recovery day each week.

March 28, 2011


Out of the 23,000 people who ran Austin's Capital 10K this past weekend, 12,000 entered the timed race.  The fastest man (a 24-year old) finished in a time of 29:54 and the fastest woman (a 31-year old) in 34:53.   The oldest man who entered the timed race (and finished) was 89 years old and finished with a time of 1:30:34.  Two 80 year old women finished the race, one with a time of 1:30:09, and the other at 1:58:07.  To finish among the first half of the timed entrants, one would have to run a 1:03:00 race (that's 10:17/mile).

a tribute to worsts

inspired by an article from the guardian, trying to think up some of my personal best worsts:

--pretty much any tv show on the air qualifies for a best worst in my book

--in a similar vein, it is not uncommon for the winner of the oscar for best movie of the year to be a worst

(okay, i'm admittedly struggling with the concept of best worsts and just focusing on the worst)

--perennial favorite for best worst in pop music might be "having my baby" or "kung fu fighting" but again these fall clearly into the worst category and the best worst category remains elusive . . . hmph, i need to cultivate a new way of thinking . . .

fortunately the guardian pulls through with examples so here goes:

Annie Stevens: As Dakota and Elle Fanning consider roles in a film about talent-challenged The Shaggs, let's celebrate the best worsts

Reading that the decidedly talented Fanning sisters – Dakota and Elle – were in talks for a movie about The Shaggs was heartening. The Shaggs – three sisters who, despite not having much in the way of musical ability, formed a band because a palm reader told their superstitious father they would – released one album in 1969, Philosophy of the World. It was quite universally rubbished, but later achieved cult status. The New York Times said that it was "maybe the best worst rock album ever made"; Frank Zappa famously said the Shaggs were "better than the Beatles" and Kurt Cobain quite fancied them too.

Last week, an unknown 13-year-old American teen, Rebecca Black, was afforded similar treatment: her song Friday, produced by the Arc Music Factory became the latest "YouTube sensation". The song, which was to become the subject of online polls such as "Is this the worst song in the world?", received millions of hits, and much mockery and meme-making ensued. Yet Rolling Stone declared that there was something about this strangely intoned bubblegum-ish pop that was "uniquely compelling".

In a time of reality TV dross, when one can get famous by eating beetles in exotic locales or wearing a wedding dress with disco lights on it, you can become immune to the wonder that is the best worst genre. Which is a pity, because the unhinged self-belief and the sheer gumption involved in making it to the world stage without a scrape of talent is surely an enviable talent in itself.

Earlier this month AA Gill reviewed what he officially deemed to be the "worst restaurant in the world". Apparently the L'Ami Louis in Paris is not only enormously popular but is also the sort of joint that people – celebrities even – kept up their sleeve to say imperiously at dinner parties: "Oh, I know this great little place in Paris." I took enormous pleasure in reading choice phrases such as "intimidatingly gross flabs of chilly pâté", "fetid bladder damp" and "gray, suppurating renal brick".

The fact that this restaurant had scaled to such lofty heights is, at first, perplexing. But on reflection, it seems that perhaps L'Ami Louis is really quite inspired. After all, we're doomed to eat meals with faintly sinister sauces, sinewy meat and scaly unidentified objects at some point in our lives. You might as well eat something unspeakably awful and brag about it later. It won't be easily forgotten. In this disposable fame-guzzling world, the last thing you want to be is forgettable. And indeed, while many untalented folk do get their moment in the exquisite limelight, many do end up in the forgotten bin.

Talent, as many a scholar with a book manuscript in their top drawer or aspiring actress pulling pints knows, is certainly not a guarantee for success. Any doughy school careers counsellor will assure you that talent is only a small part of the equation. The rest is hard work, luck, perhaps an exceptional party trick, and just very occasionally capturing the zeitgeist in some completely inexplicable way.

In a Melbourne cinema, Tommy Wiseau's 2003 film The Room, another candidate for the best worst genre, recently celebrated one year of late-night cult screenings. At these weekly screenings, like they do all around the world, the audience throw spoons at the screen. This is the sort of community building and pop culture-defining exercise that even the most brilliant film rarely recreates. And my entire cinema clapped at the end of The King's Speech.

In the hit Chris Lilley mockumentary television series, We Can Be Heroes, talent, or lack thereof, heroism and ambition, is explored in a delightfully cringing way. These ordinary heroes of Australia, all of them played by Lilley (who this week released a teaser trailer of his new show Angry Boys, out later this year), had very unique gifts and ambitions. Such as the schoolgirl who collected sponsor children, or the lady who rolled from Perth to Fremantle. At risk of sounding like an internet guru specialising in dynamic self-empowerment, the key to happiness and success is probably to either make up a talent that nobody else has or to tell detractors to sod off and keep banging on in whatever it is you love doing most.

Florence Foster Jenkins (1869-1944), for whom I have an undimmed soft spot, is perhaps the poster girl for this. A self-made opera singer, her strangulated cat arias and complete inability to hit a right note, pitch and diction were legendary, both in history and in my family who had competitions to see who could do the best Florence Jenkins impersonation. In her career she put on recitals for hordes of amused fans. Aware of people's unkind views on her singing, she once said, "People may say I can't sing, but no one can say I didn't sing." Which, surely, is worthy of a standing ovation.

March 27, 2011

old habits die hard

in jane austen's guide to good manners, we learn that visits should be returned promptly whenever they are expected. "any sense that an expected call is paid with reluctance will, naturally, cause an offense." (p 35)

fast forward to 2011, any guide to good manners would recommend returning text messages promptly for everyone knows that any sense than an expected text message is paid with reluctance will, naturally, cause an offense. thus you have college students texting during class, everyone texting while driving regardless of the risk of traffic accident, the obsession with pulling out the phone whenever you have a breathing space of more than 30 seconds.

so the same cultural cues that governed miss austen's habits 200 years ago continue calling the shots with the smart phone crowd. some things never change.

March 26, 2011

end the carbon pawprint?

dog owners can get practical tips for reducing their carbon footprint in a new book,  the real guide to sustainable living by robert and brenda vale.  the reporter for cnn.com highlighted the comments in the book that assert dogs are worse for the environment than SUVs.  the reporter goes on to ask: is it time to eat the dog?

i think it's a question we've all wondered about from time to time...full story is online at http://www.cnn.com/2011/LIVING/03/26/dog.hybrid.mnn/index.html?hpt=C2

March 25, 2011

carbon footprint

check out this interactive website to get an idea of what you're leaving behind . . . and to admire the presentation of information in a really neat way.


March 24, 2011

Another author seaman / sailor

Jack London (1876-1916).  Jack London's widow had an affair with Houdini.

ode to thursday

as soon as fred gets out of bed,
his underwear goes on his head.
his mother laughs, "don't put it there,
a head's no place for underwear!"
but near his ears, above his brains,
is where fred's underwear remains.

at night when fred goes back to bed,
he deftly plucks it off his head.
his mother switches off the light
and softly croons, "good night! good night!"
and then, for reasons no one knows,
fred's underwear goes on his toes.
by jack prelutsky

March 23, 2011

Author seamen

Herman Melville, Joseph Conrad, James Michener .... Quotes follow - 

Herman Melville
-- “To produce a mighty book, you must choose a mighty theme. No great and enduring volume can ever be written on the flea, though many there be that have tried it.”
-- “They talk of the dignity of work. The dignity is in leisure.”
Joseph Conrad
-- “Gossip is what no one claims to like, but everybody enjoys.”
-- “Facing it, always facing it, that's the way to get through. Face it.”
James Michener
-- “Unless you think you can do better than Tolstoy, we don't need you”
-- “I'm not a very good writer, but I'm an excellent rewriter.”

more fun w/charts

check out google's public data to see information presented in various formats, pick your favorite style

March 22, 2011

watch your language

Recent hyperspectral imaging of Thomas Jefferson’s rough draft of the Declaration of Independence has clearly confirmed past speculation that Jefferson made an interesting word correction during his writing of the document, according to scientists in the Library of Congress’ Preservation Research and Testing Division (PRTD). Jefferson originally had written the phrase “our fellow-subjects.” But he apparently changed his mind. Over the word “subjects” he inked an alternative, the word “citizens.”


March 21, 2011

More on deaths in the national parks

Two to three people die in Zion National Park each year (http://www.examiner.com/outdoor-recreation-in-salt-lake-city/zion-national-park-sees-three-deaths-two-days) - sometimes from falls, sometimes from floods.

In 2003 the US Park Rangers of the Fraternal Order of Police announced its list of most dangerous national parks, monuments, recreation areas, etc. (dangerous to whom?  rangers or the public?). The most dangerous (Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument (AZ), Amistad National Recreation Area (TX), Big Bend National Park (TX), and Coronado National Monument (AZ)) are so identified because of human menaces (drug smugglers and drunk boaters and drivers).  http://www.travelkb.com/Uwe/Forum.aspx/rv/3756/Most-Dangerous-National-Parks-2003

March 20, 2011


read the following WSJ article online about sxsw tech shows and had lots of homework to do just to get the gist of it. i thought sxsw interactive was supposed to be cutting edge, intellectual, introducing groundbreaking technology and i learn from this piece that maybe it is more limited to just social media, which i guess is trendy these days but less interesting to me.

in any event here's my homework notes first, a primer that might be helpful before reading the article

b-round definition thanks to http://definitions.uslegal.com/s/series-b-round/

Series B Round is the second round of financing by venture capitalists. This round comes after the Series A round. Receiving a Series B round denotes that professional investors are interested in providing finance to the company after the Series A round.
When a company raises venture capital by selling its preferred stock, the shares of preferred stock sold in a given financing round are defined with a letter. "Series A" shares are shares sold in the first financing round. Subsequent rounds are called "B", "C", "D", and so on. Shares in a particular series have similar rights.
definition courtesy of http://searchnetworking.techtarget.com/definition/Evernet
The term Evernet has been used to describe the convergence of wireless, broadband, and Internet telephony technologies that will result in the ability to be continuously connected to the Web anywhere using virtually any information device. Considered the next generation of Internet access, the Evernet assumes the emergence of an amount of bandwidth that would enable millions of homes to access the Web through inexpensive cable modem, DSL, or wireless connections.

The "Evernet" can also be considered to include common household appliances and home and office networks that include devices that control the environment; such networks require an "always on" capability. In addition, portable devices that can connect quickly and easily without wires to other devices (see Bluetooth) might also be considered part of the Evernet.

(and if that definition leaves you with a little hollow feeling, not to worry there are loads of Evernet consultants available via Google--assuming that's still cool to use...maybe Evernet is more relevant to areas that don't have high speed Internet access now? maybe i'm not understanding what this is . . .)

and i know what foursquare is and what it does, i just don't know why anybody cares. people post on fb that they are at starbucks or walmart or the gym or wherever their daily life takes them. i assume everyone is leading their daily life. why on earth would i care that you were at starbucks. hell, i barely care that i'm at starbucks.

so foursquare i've heard of before & know, but it is a total mystery nonetheless.

besides, isn't foursquare yesterday's news?

ashton kutcher & demi moore
Really, like foursquare i've heard of them and really a big yawn. who cares where they are or what they are or are not doing. and yes i know they have gazillion twitter fans. makes you wonder about twitter, doesn't it? no, probably not, makes you wonder about me . . . or not. i can think of nothing less interesting than second-rate celebrities (except the things that follow)

hashable, a fun and useful way to track your relationships
jeeze, please spare me

omg, the company takes credit for farmville and all those other lame time suck games on fb. okay, i'll grant you they are popular and i imagine mr and mrs zynga are making big bucks but really have some pride and NEVER admit you have such a low opinion of human beings that you designed farm/pet/whateverville.

group me
group messaging. are you serious? please. this is like pretending the towel is a new exciting product you created.

so if this piece fairly represents what went on at sxsw interactive, i don't feel bad missing it . . .
Navigating a Texas-Size Fest
By Katherine Rosman
912 words
15 March 2011
The Wall Street Journal Online
NY Culture
Copyright 2011 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Austin, Texas

Overheard this weekend at South By Southwest, the festival here at which Internet entrepreneurs, engineers, journalists, promoters, moneymen and web-savvy Hollywood types meet to discuss technology, brand and buzz:

"We're monetizing."

"I'm building a CRM."

"We're building an API."

"We closed a B-round."

"Social media is dead. The new Net is the Evernet." (We have no idea what that means, but you read it here first.)

When South By Southwest was launched in 1987, it was centered on the discovery of musical talent. In 1994, a few days devoted to new media and film were added to the agenda. Now the "interactive" portion is a huge draw. This year, more than 17,000 people are expected to have attended the five-day interactive conference, which offers panels with titles like "Slaying the Four Horsemen of the Social-Media Apocalypse" and "I'm So Productive, I Never Get Anything Done."

But for many, the panels are the justification for attending a days-long party where you might see Conan O'Brien, Twitter fiends Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore, or Rainn Wilson from "The Office," who was promoting a few indie features here. South By Southwest is the Sundance of the Internet industry. But don't call it "South By Southwest."

"Unless you know to call it 'South By,' you shouldn't be at South By," explained Mark Sullivan, a Houston-based publicist.

Some of the most coveted party invitations celebrate companies that might be obscure in middle America but in Austin are like Coca-Cola: Foursquare, Mashable, Hashable, Zynga, GroupMe and Fast Society. Late-night, the hotel bars become jam-packed.

At the W Hotel in downtown Austin, guys—there's a high ratio of men to women—in jeans (dress code: I-didn't-give-this-outfit-much-thought casual) sit on low couches drinking and talking start-ups. Matt Bijur came to South By from Los Angeles to try to build buzz for Squabbler, a social-debate site in which users post 30-second videos to argue a particular position. Mr. Bijur was hanging out with Kevin Zellmer, head of strategic partnerships at KickApps, a company that helps brands with their social media outreach. Mr. Zellmer's agenda was fluid. He hoped to network and get a sense of "the space" (big buzzword). For him and his cohort, attendance was mandatory.

"You have to be here," he said.

A unique social etiquette pervades the event. At the door of the bar or hotel, a PR neophyte searches an iPad for your name. Once you pass muster, you "check in" to the venue on your geo-location social network of choice. Next, via your preferred group text-messaging app, you text a core of friends alerting them to your whereabouts. You sidle up to the bar and order a Shiner Bock. (It's a Texas beer and you're here to enjoy the local culture, right?) You snap an arty photo of the scene with your iPhone camera and post it on Instagram and Twitter, affixing "#sxsw" to the end of your micro-message so all your followers know you are in-the-know and on the list.

Then, casually, you sip your drink, checking your device to see who has retweeted you, the warm glow of the screen casting you in the right light. The tech-obsessed indulge, free of judgment. Overheard (or, in Twitter parlance, "OH"): "Looking down is the new looking up."

Charging batteries is a priority, and there is major competition for electrical outlets at the Austin Convention Center. You can catch a buzz on the street: representatives from Sonos, a wireless stereo company, carry mini-generators in backpacks and let passers-by plug-in.

The most exclusive place to recharge was the CNN Grill SXSW, where nearly every table had its own power strip. In an effort to be known for more than hard news coverage, the cable network took over Max's Wine Dive, a popular restaurant known for authentic Southern comfort food. A huge neon CNN sign outside the restaurant replaces Max's regular branding.

Like sponsors do at Sundance, CNN also dispensed with the normal menu, instead giving control of the kitchen to Union Square Hospitality Group, the New York restaurant company run by Danny Meyer. You need special credentials to enter.

Inside, bloggers blog, journalists tweet and entrepreneurs plot. On Saturday, three gentlemen from the search engine StumbleUpon.com discussed how to maximize their SXSW exposure by hiding "golden tickets" around town. Clues to the location of these tickets are being disseminated on Twitter. The first person to find the ticket, photograph it and tweet the photo wins a prize like a Macbook computer. It was finally decided that the golden ticket would be given to Danny Sullivan to hide and tweet about. Mr. Sullivan is the editor of SearchEngineLand.com and has more than 100,000 followers on Twitter.

"Not just a hat-rack," said Anthony Napolitano, StumbleUpon's director of sales, as he tapped his forehead.

On Sunday, those actually looking for a little Texas with their tech gathered at a party for the Houston Web site CultureMap. This was at Scholz Garten, a banquet hall first opened in 1866. The lighting wasn't fancy. The square dancing was raucous. The barbecue was spicy.

Write to Katherine Rosman at katherine.rosman@wsj.com

More information.....

From today's NY Times review (written by Geoffrey Nunberg) of "The Information" (James Gleick) -

"....the text of 'War and Peace' takes up less disk space than a Madonna music video."

"Americans consume more bytes of electronic games in a year than of all other media put together, including movies, TV, print and the Internet."


after living in austin 10 years, i learn this weekend how fun sxsw is. better late than never.

March 19, 2011

Deaths in the national parks

In Zion National Park, in Utah, there's a trail that leads from the base of the canyon to a rock formation (1200 feet high) named Angels Landing.  It's a hard trail that begins along the Virgin River, goes fairly steeply uphill along the side of the cliff,  then winds its way through a forest along a tributary, and winds up in a series of switchbacks (called Walter's Wiggles) that ascend to Scout Lookout.  Scout Lookout gives an amazing view of the Canyon.  Beyond Scout Landing, the climb becomes 'technical,' and involves climbing up rocks (with drop-offs on one - and sometimes both - side(s)), with chains available to support climbers as they make their way to the top of Angels Landing.

At least five people have fallen to their deaths (in un-suspicious circumstances) from the Angels Landing trail.  Most of those happened on the technical part of the trail (above Scout Lookout), but some took place from Scout Lookout itself.

Surprisingly. more people have died in Zion on the Emerald Pools trail, which is a far easier trail, but which includes slippery ledges and tempting waterfalls.

Source?  http://www.nps.gov/zion/frequently-asked-questions-about-zion-canyon.htm

Angels Landing



Emerald Pools


elephant dung

elephant dung will help power the new $50 million asian tropics exhibit opening at the denver zoo next year.

so, you know, this makes you realize you know nothing about elephant dung.

elephantdungpaper assures you that elephant dung does not smell, which is the critical question really: http://www.elephantdungpaper.com/fact.html

robert moss, whoever he is, tells a story about playing with elephant dung and he again assures the reader that elephant dung has no odor, http://blog.beliefnet.com/dreamgates/2010/09/remember-to-play-with-elephant-dung.html

And then a science teacher chimes in to remind everyone that the true hero of the dung story is the dung beetle, which he describes as the world's "smallest and efficient janitor." He describes a scientific experiment whereby 3800 dung beetles crawled all over a fresh dung pile and disposed of the 75-lb pile within half an hour.

Of course this begs the question of how it went through their systems, but really it's all a bit much for me so go find out all at http://www.dandydesigns.org/id47.html

March 18, 2011


Share photos on twitter with Twitpic
reposted from v&a twitter feed
because i can


. . . otherwise known as nail falling off

i think it is not uncommon for runners/joggers to have toenails fall off but until today i did not confirm that assumption with dr google.

google tells me the constant pressure on toes while running can cause injury to the toenail. large toenails hit the shoe repeatedly and bruise the toenail. when the injury damages the underlying nail bed and causes the toenail to fall off, it is known as subungal hematoma. (hematoma, of course, is  collection of blood outside the blood vessels)anyway, because of the injury, the toenail gets detached from the nail bed and it becomes painful. later the color of the toenail changes to black or bluish black and eventually it falls off.

i could insert a picture here but i believe that is not necessary and would not be appreciated.

why do we have toenails and fingernails anyway? why isn't it just skin?

March 17, 2011

Erin go braugh

St. Patrick was born around 390 and died more or less 70 years later.  For some unknown number of years, he was in servitude in Ireland to 'border raiders.'

"The traditional folk tales about Patrick (e.g., his using the shamrock to illustrate the concept of the Trinity, driving snakes from the island) are all pious elaborations of a later time."
--Encyclopedia of Catholicism (Harper Collins 1995)

antoine helbert

people do get up to interesting things  . . .


March 16, 2011


us patent issued for "the method of, and apparatus for, transmitting vocal or other sounds telegraphically ... by causing electrical undulations, similar in form to the vibrations of the air accompanying the said vocal or other sound" on march 7, 1876.

and we all know the story of a. g. bell and his invention, but did you know that one elisha gray, a fellow dabbler in acoustic telegraphy, filed a caveat with the patent office that same morning?

not sure what it means exactly to file a caveat, but one result of that action is that we all learn that alexander graham bell invented the telephone and we've never heard of elisha gray (w/apologies to mr gray's descendants)

and now for a patent of a device that just never made it big time . . .


In February 2011, the average number of months from an initial patent application filing to the date an official action is first taken with respect to that application by the US Patent and Trademark Office was 24.5 months.  The goal of the US PTO is to get that number down to 10 months by 2015.  The average pendency - defined as the number of months from the initial application to the date the application has a final disposition is 34 months.  Goal is to get that down to 20 months by 2015.

In 2009, 482,871 patent applications were filed, and 244,341 patent applications were granted.  1009 of those patents granted were plant patents - 389 of those originated in the US, 620 outside the US.  The non-US country with the highest number of plant patents?  The Netherlands, followed by by Germany, Japan, and the UK.

March 14, 2011

We all need a friend .....

All data from US Statistical Abstract -

As of 2001, 36.1% of US households include a dog, 31.6% a cat.

20.8% of one person households have a dog, 23.5% a cat.

34.3% of two person households have a dog, 31.3% a cat.

46.2% of three person households have a dog, 37.4% a cat.

50.6% of four person households have a dog, 38.2% a cat.

53.0% of five or more person households have a dog, 39.7% a cat.

remember frank grimes?

frank grimes started working at the nuclear power plant in springfield in 1997.

the simpsons' team probably thought they were creating a comic sketch when writing the following dialogue, but turns out they were merely drafting plausible scenarios at any nuclear power plant and very little creativity was involved.

here goes from episode 4f19:

grimes:  what is his job?
lenny: safety inspector.
grimes: that irresponsible oaf? a man who by all rights should have been killed dozens of times by now?
lenny: uh, 316 times by my count.
grimes: that's the man who's in charge of our safety? it boggles the mind.
carl: it's best not to think about it.

"I wouldn't mind having a third eye, would you?"
(blinky introduced in episode 7F01)

March 13, 2011

duck and cover

growing up, we laughed about the stupidity of the public service announcement "duck and cover" -- embedding it here because years later it is still astonishing to see what the usa government produced.

and now the japanese government continues the tradition of providing astonishingly insipid advice.

March 12, 2011

Elements that are liquid at room temperature?

Those would be bromine - see http://www.chem.purdue.edu/gchelp/liquids/index.html (courtesy of Purdue) for a nice photo of bromine at room temperature - some gas, some liquid - and mercury - see http://chemwiki.ucdavis.edu/Inorganic_Chemistry/Descriptive_Chemistry/Chem_2C_Transition_Metals_and_Coordination_Complexes/Zinc,_Cadmium,_and_Mercury.

I always thought mercury was in home health thermometers (and, having broken those thermometers, I was always worried that I had endangered countless lives).  But I guess it's no longer used (but haven't figured out what has replaced it.....).

Bromine, however, is a halogen, not a metal.  Mercury is the only metal that is a liquid at room temperature.  http://www.esse.ou.edu/fund_concepts/Fundamental_Concepts1/Elements/The_Elements.html

Gallium, francium, and cesium all melt at slightly above room temperature (30/86, 27/80.6, and 28/82.4 degrees Celsius/Farenheit, respectively).  Rubidium?  39/102.2 degrees Celsius/Farenheit.


cesium (aternative spelling of caesium).

atomic number 55.

one of three metals found in a liquid state at room temperature (makes you wonder what the other two are, doesn't it?)

it is soft and silvery white.

most of the world's cesium comes from minerals and nuclear fission.

NY Times article explains:

In the form found in reactors, radioactive cesium is a fragment of a uranium atom that has been split. In normal operations, some radioactivity in the cooling water is inevitable, because neutrons, the sub-atomic particles that carry on the chain reaction, hit hydrogen and oxygen atoms in the water and make those radioactive. But cesium, which persists far longer in the environment, comes from the fuel itself.
cesium-137 is the most common radioactive isotope of the element cesium.
it emits highly penetrating gamma radiation.

(gamma rays are similar to X rays rays, but X rays generally have lower energy. A dose of three gray of gamma rays delivered briefly to the total body would be lethal to about 50% of humans exposed because of severe damage to the hematopoietic system. deaths would be expected to occur within about 60 days.)

in any event, even the non-radioactive form of cesium is highly poisonous.

japanese television yesterday reported that the country’s nuclear and industry safety agency detected cesium near one of the reactors damaged by the earthquake.

As of this morning's NY Times:
Naoto Sekimura, a professor at Tokyo University, told NHK, Japan’s public broadcaster, that “only a small portion of the fuel has been melted. But the plant is shut down already, and being cooled down. Most of the fuel is contained in the plant case, so I would like to ask people to be calm.”

March 11, 2011

big surprise

after decades of proclaiming boldly and proudly how safe nuclear energy was in japan, now we get this headline. big fucking surprise. really governments should be deeply ashamed of themselves. but, of course, they never have been and never will be. no doubt a line of officials will bow deeply if anything bad happens. and that's all that matters, right guys?

March 10, 2011


came across the acronym "api" yesterday not once, but twice, and decided that the gods wanted me to know what that meant and wikipedia (of course) had the answer:

An application programming interface (API) is a particular set of rules and specifications that a software program can follow to access and make use of the services and resources provided by another particular software program that implements that API. It serves as an interface between different software programs and facilitates their interaction, similar to the way the user interface facilitates interaction between humans and computers.

An API can be created for applications, libraries, operating systems, etc, as a way to define their "vocabularies" and resources request conventions (e.g. function-calling conventions). It may include specifications for routines, data structures, object classes, and protocols used to communicate between the consumer program and the implementer program of the API.
So, for example, on this page http://code.google.com/apis/maps/ you can also sign up for an API key.

And if time allowed, there are all sorts of "apis" available for a free download at http://vimeo.com/api/docs/downloads

Perhaps tomorrow . . .

March 9, 2011

Cremation, happiness, and....

.... home ownership? ... average travel time to work?

Happy people live in Hawaii and are highly and happily cremated.

Nevada, Washington, Oregon, Arizona and Montana are also big cremators, but are neither particularly happy nor miserable states.  Home ownership rates in those states?  60.1%, 64.4%, 64.3%, 68%, and 69.1%, respectively.  Hawaii home ownership rate?  .... only 56.5%  (all numbers as of 2000).  So, the happiest state has a lower home ownership rate.    Among the unhappiest states are Arkansas, Mississippi, Kentucky, and West Virginia, with home ownership rates of 69.4%, 72.3%, 70.8%, and 75.2%.  Hah!!  Better not to own a home ... if happiness is a goal.

How about commute times?  Happy Hawaii?  26.1 minutes.

Unhappy Arkansas, Mississippi, Kentucky, and West Virginia?  21.9, 24.6, 23.5, and 26.2.  Not much to glean there.

But I have lost sight of cremation.  Sigh.


so all this talk about happiness and I stumble upon a book description at amazon.com about flow, the psychology of optimal experience. first paragraph snippet below:

and in reading the reviews, it occurs to me that frustration from a job that is meaningless (like mine) need not lead to despair and unhappiness. refocus, reprioritize. create a work environment that is an opportunity for personal development so that it becomes a meaningful place and your actions and your attitude at work make a difference. you don't have to be a physician healing the sick or a social worker to have a positive impact on the world around you, even shuffling papers at your desk, you can generate positive goodwill and spread good cheer. not only the obviously sick would benefit from a feel good factor. so while some of us (most of us?) are stuck in pointless office jobs, we can still contribute to harmony and good will.

and maybe this book will give some guidance about whether people who go with the flow get cremated. maybe they eat at mcdonald's just before their memorial service. happy meal = happy death?

March 8, 2011

Cremation and....

So, no correlation between cremation and happiness.  Alas....

How about cremation and ....

.... number of violent crimes per capita?

The number 1 state in that category?  South Carolina (who would have thought??)

.... followed by Tennessee, Nevada, Louisiana, and Florida.  Nevada ranks high in terms of cremation - but , as for the other four, nothing particularly notable.  And, just since we are comparing things...All those states seem about average in terms of the happiness quotient - neither deliriously happy nor abjectly miserable.  So, not much there for us in terms of cremation and violent crime, or violent crime and happiness.

How about the states with the lowest per capital violent crimes?  Those would be Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, North Dakota and South Dakota.  No correlation with cremation.  But maybe happiness.  Vermont and Maine are fairly happy, as is South Dakota.  But North Dakota is really quite a happy bunch.  So, low violent crimes?  Fairly happy!  Makes sense, I suppose....

I shall persevere in my search for cremation correlations.....

the competition is tough

excerpt from NY Times article of March 5, 2011:

(and before you read through it seeking insight, i can tell you up front there is no mention of whether he got married at McDonald's or not and no indication if he wants to be cremated . . .  what's a girl to do?) . . .

Discovered: The Happiest Man in America

For the last three years, Gallup has called 1,000 randomly selected American adults each day and asked them about their emotional status, work satisfaction, eating habits, illnesses, stress levels and other indicators of their quality of life.

It’s part of an effort to measure the components of “the good life.” The responses are plugged into a formula, called the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, and then sorted by geographic area and other demographic criteria. The accompanying maps show where well-being is highest and lowest around the country.

The New York Times asked Gallup to come up with a statistical composite for the happiest person in America, based on the characteristics that most closely correlated with happiness in 2010. Men, for example, tend to be happier than women, older people are happier than middle-aged people, and so on.

Gallup’s answer: he’s a tall, Asian-American, observant Jew who is at least 65 and married, has children, lives in Hawaii, runs his own business and has a household income of more than $120,000 a year. A few phone calls later and ...

Meet Alvin Wong. He is a 5-foot-10, 69-year-old, Chinese-American, Kosher-observing Jew, who’s married with children and lives in Honolulu. He runs his own health care management business and earns more than $120,000 a year.

Reached by phone at his home on Friday (and referred to The Times by a local synagogue), Mr. Wong said that he was indeed a very happy person. He said that perhaps he manages to be the happiest man in America because “my life philosophy is, if you can’t laugh at yourself, life is going to be pretty terrible for you.”

He continued: “This is a practical joke, right?”

March 7, 2011

Back to cremation .... and happiness

States with the highest cremation rate include Hawaii, Nevada, Washington, Arizona, Montana, and Oregon.  Does cremation correlate to happiness?  Sadly, not necessarily.....only in Hawaii do generally happy people happily choose cremation.  Does cremation correspond to unhappiness?  The unhappiest states include Arkansas, Mississippi, Kentucky, and West Virginia, and those aren't high cremation states.  Arizona, though, is not such a happy state (and it is a high cremation state).  Hawaii is a really happy state - it's the only one that scores in the 70s in the happiness index.  (For all this, and more, data on happiness, see this Sunday's NY Times Week in Review article, at http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2011/03/06/weekinreview/20110306-happiness.html?ref=weekinreview and http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/06/weekinreview/06happy.html?_r=1).

So, cremation?  happiness?  

happy meal = happy marriage

heard on the radio that mcdonald's in hong kong will be offering a "wedding package" for those who grew up loving the golden arches and want to celebrate the good things in life on their big day.

not sure if it was a joke or not . . .

i'd opt for the in 'n out wedding package so you could drive thru and continue onto the honeymoon without delay, but that's just me.

March 6, 2011

I beg to differ.....

Taking a (temporary) break from cremation.....

Q.E.D.   ... quantum electrodynamics?  I think not.   No, no, it's that which has been demonstrated, or quod erat demonstratum.  The crossword answers to the clue Q.E.D. are usually four letters - not seven (quantum) or twelve (demonstratum) - one has only to figure out whether it's quod or erat......

Q.E.D. used to appear at the end of mathematical proofs to indicate that that which was supposed to have been proved / proven had indeed been so.


austin music

in honor of upcoming #sxsw, listening to music from a few local bands...

March 5, 2011

Starting the weekend right, let's live and learn more....

... about cremation.  Japan has one of the highest cremation rates in the world (97%), but even Great Britain is up there at 70%.  In the US, the cremation rate was 25.5% in 2000, and expected to be around 36% in 2010 (I guess results aren't yet in).  States within the US having the highest cremation rates?  Hawaii, Nevada, Washington, Arizona, Montana, and Oregon (all over 50%).

There is a Cremation Association of North America, which, at least as recently as 2009, published The Cremationist, but I cannot find current issues.  But there is a handy life expectancy page at http://www.cremationassociation.org/Consumers/LifeExpectancy/tabid/67/Default.aspx.  Enjoy!


Goetting, Marsha A., and Claire DelGuerra. 2003. Cremation: history, process and regulations. The Forum for Family and Consumer Issues 8(1), at http://ncsu.edu/ffci/publications/2003/v8-n1-2003-january/fa-1-cremation.php.

It's not a particularly good day...

...when an envelope arrives in your mailbox sporting, on the envelope itself, ......

"Free Pre-Paid Cremation!  Details Inside"

Note the exclamation point.  One might well wonder why - or how - that offer might merit any exclamation.  And then there's the puzzle of something being both 'free' and 'pre-paid.'  But then, as Tim (the president and CEO of Neptune Society, "America's Cremation Specialist") says, "cremation just makes sense."  Even if nothing else about the solicitation does.....

March 4, 2011

movie sounds

listen to movies more carefully and beyond the dialogue you'll hear the sound of horse hooves, heavy breathing, wind chimes, tire screeches, or any of a zillion other noises we need to hear to make the movie believable.

part of movie magic is brought to us by foley artists, people who sit in a studio and make appropriate noises to accompany the dialogue & visuals of a movie.

in a 5-minute video clip at http://gawker.com/#!5768850/meet-the-guy-who-makes-movie-sounds, a veteran foley artist demonstrates the craft and describes a car crash sound as layering hundreds of "paint strokes" (make that sound strokes) to get an authentic sound.

for more, go to http://www.marblehead.net/foley/

just amazing what goes into making a movie. really the epitome of the dreaded word "teamwork".

March 2, 2011

life is good

list of top 20 zombie movies + 1 courtesy of a new coworker. how sweet can life get really?

21) Zombies of mass destruction (forgot about this one)
20) Zombies on a Plane (at least its better than Snakes on a plane)
19) Insanitarium (bad, but has its moments)
18) Resident evil's (Way different from the game)
17) 28 days later (<3)
16) Hell of Living dead (1980's classic, love the cat...)
15) Army of Darkness
14) The return of the living dead
13) Night of the Creeps
12) The evil dead
11) Diary of the dead
10) Land of the dead
9) Pet sematary
8) Day of the Dead
7) Evil dead 2
6) Dawn of the dead (2004)
5) Zombie flesh eaters
4) planet terror
3) Night of the living dead
2) Braindead (peter jackson) (Gore)
1) dawn of the dead (1978)


does the iris of your eye reveal your true inner state?

does the iris change to reflect changes in health?

Fun and travel

So, yesterday we looked at consumer units and whether and how much they spend on reading and entertainment. How otherwise do these c.u.s spend their free time? 53% go to movies and 31% go to sports events. 52% exercise and 32% volunteer.

Randomly changing topics.... What Asian country sends the most foreign visitors to the US? By a wide margin, it's Japan - more than 8 times as many visitors than the next closest Asian competitor (which would be China). Most foreign visitors to the US from a European country other than the UK, France, Italy, or Germany? The Netherlands wins this race, followed by Switzerland.

All from the US Statistical Abstract.

March 1, 2011

chart of the day

for ideas on how to present information, get a chart delivered to your email in-box every day . . .