Sunday, December 23, 2007

Football Fun

One of the pleasures of completing my big meeting is that I get to have some leisure time. Today I indulged myself by watching some football. I didn't see this bit live, but the clip cracked me up. During the Packers-Bears game (in which the Packers were possessed by the three stooges), one of the refs dragged a player out of a scuffle (above photo from Brian Kersey). One of the commentators, I think it was Madden, likened it to the Martinez-Zimmer scuffle in 2003. The size and age disparity is certainly significant in both, but in this case, the big young guy (linebacker Barnett) doesn't seem pissed at the smaller old guy (ref Quirk). The interaction was more like a small mom dragging her hulking son away from something fun by his ear. Video here.

Update: Apparently Barnett was pissed afterward. Quirk was fined $8150 by the NFL, which Barnett's agent reported was satisfactory.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Stuffed Animal

Say you were a dog and someone gave you a plush duck. Would your first instinct be to pull the long fuzz off the top of its head? Besides riding in cars backward, I think my dog has other problems.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Dick Cavett is funny: "Don't be afraid."

I can't wait to use this:

“Hello, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.”

“Bill Jovanovich please.”

“Mr. Jovanovich isn’t in.”

(Temple throb increases.) “Where is he?”

“He’s in Europe, I’m afraid”

“Don’t be afraid. Where in Europe?”

from "An Author's Nightmare in the New York Times

"It's really much better if you don't distort the record"

Earlier this year, JPL employees working with non-classified material were informed they would need to give permission for extraordinarily invasive background checks to keep their jobs. JPL employees filed suit to stop the background checks. In September, a panel of judges granted a temporary injunction against this requirement. This week, another panel heard arguments about extending the injunction. According to an article in the Whittier Daily News, the tone of the hearing was promising for the JPL employees. The judges gave positive feedback to the employee's lawyer:

The panel asked few questions of Keeny, however, and had words of praise.

"You've done a good job. I don't want to interfere, keep it up," Judge David Thompson told her part way through her argument.

And were critical of the government's arguments:

Most contentious were Stern's arguments, during which sparks flew in the normally calm courtroom.

"It's really much better if you don't distort the record," Judge Kim Wardlaw chided at one point after Stern described a questionnaire as having only multiple-choice questions.

"I have a copy of the form. It asks if there is anything else, and there are blanks," she said.

I'm also happy to learn that Caltech objects to the requirements:

Caltech lawyer Mark Holscher argued that the college should not be included in the injunction because it objected to the requirements and is not involved in the collection of employee information.

Leaving Los Angeles

I heard a terrific slip of the tongue on the radio yesterday. A local official was being interviewed about the Southern California Association of Governments' report on "how the Southland is doing on everything, including the economy, crime, traffic, housing and education." The report is described here. The unfortunate official was reading from a statement, somewhat haltingly, and discussed the type of changes the report indicates they need to make so that the region is "a place we want to leave," halting pause, "to our children."

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Bad owners

JH went running with me this morning. He was telling me about the drama surrounding Congo the German Shepherd. Basically, some gardeners came to a house with six shepherds and one gardener ended up being severely attacked after taking shelter behind their female owner and grabbing her in the process. The guy ended up in the hospital and had to get 65 rabies shots, according to the press. Now, six months after the attack, the court found the dog to be dangerous and decided he should be euthanized. In the ruling, he mentioned that the attack went on for three minutes. From articles, it sounds like the female owner was trying to stop it, but couldn't, and it only stopped when the male owner came out of the house. I can't think of a good reason to have six shepherds; it's suggestive of paranoia and a preference for a big stick. Certainly, anyone whose dogs don't have rabies shots is an idiot.

"Congo, having been granted a stay of execution, is muzzled and under house arrest, as his owners await a decision on their appeal.: - NYTimes

Must be nice to be rich. Everyone else's dog is in a kennel at Animal Control in these situations.

[The day after the attack] an animal control officer took Congo and four other dogs an animal shelter, where Congo stayed until he was released pending the appeal. He was sent home two weeks ago after five months in lockup.

Oh, well, that's not quite as grievous.

"A wide swath was cut today on "FOX & Friends" as we tried to save a German shepherd from death " -as in Fox network

You know you're on the wrong side if Fox agrees with you.

"The dog reacted protectively," [NJ Assemblyman Neil] Cohen said. "Dogs are not just companions. They are here to protect us. If these were criminals, not landscapers, who grabbed (Elizabeth James) the dog would get a medal." ( )

WTF? They weren't criminals. They weren't attacking her. They were hired workers who may have shown some bad judgment, but whose safety from the dogs was still the responsibility of the owners. But this is less about responsible dog ownership than it is about entitlement. These wealthy white people believe their dog is more important than a laborer, especially an immigrant laborer, and there are lots of people who agree with them.

On a lighter note, I enjoyed a satire about the Republican presidential candidates' responses to the Congo drama. Here's an excerpt:
Only Tom Tancredo expressed outright enthusiasm for the law [that would protect dogs like Congo], stating that any dog that bit an immigrant was a hero in his eyes. Tancredo not only approved of the law, but he called on the Governor of New Jersey to pardon Congo, and said that he would nominate the dog for the Medal of Freedom. “The only thing that bothers me is that his name, Congo, doesn’t sound very American,” Mr. Tancredo said. (from this blog)

Thursday, November 29, 2007

This web site closed during non-business hours

Imagine my surprise when I tried to conduct some insurance business with DeltaCare to find that their website was not only undergoing maintenance, but also appeared to be reliably available only from Monday through Friday 4 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday 4 a.m. to 4 p.m. Pacific Time. Happily, they "apologize for any inconvenience," which really changes things, I can tell you.

Medical Hubris

from a New York Times article about a feud between two top heart surgeons (thanks cranky):

Dr. Cooley recalled that a lawyer had once asked him during a trial if he considered himself the best heart surgeon in the world.

“Yes,” he replied.

“Don’t you think that’s being rather immodest?” the lawyer asked.

“Perhaps,” Dr. Cooley responded. “But remember I’m under oath.”

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Red Peppers Stuffed with Goat Cheese


Half cup of uncooked couscous
Half cup of goat cheese
Coarse ground black pepper
Handful of shelled edamame
Three red peppers (try to pick ones with symmetrical bottoms, it makes them stand up better)
2 tablespoons of sun-dried tomato pesto

Cut off the tops of three red peppers about 1/2" down; set aside. Remove the seeds and pith from inside the peppers. Put them in a pot of gently boiling water, first tipping them to fill them with hot water, and then setting them upright. Boil for three minutes.

Cut and dice the yummy parts of the tops of the peppers away from the stem and pith.

Use tongs to take the peppers out of the boiling water and drain them. Set them upright in an oven-proof container just large enough to hold them and keep them in place.

Mix half a cup of couscous with a half cup of the water the peppers were boiled in. Add in the diced peppers. Cover and let it sit for five minutes.

Meanwhile, add 2 tablespoons of sun-dried red tomato pesto to half a cup of goat cheese. Mix well, add pepper to taste. Mix with couscous.

Fill the peppers with the couscous and goat cheese mix. Sprinkle edamame on top. Cook at 400 for 5 minutes, or maybe longer. It's nice to have them a little brown on top, but I wouldn't want the goat cheese to melt too much.

Friday, November 16, 2007

The pluses and minuses of ratings

This is from an editorial in the Stanford paper in response to the new US News and World Report ratings. They discuss pluses and minuses of evaluation schemes. The below example is the plus. The minus is Leave No Child Behind.
Building a Better Legal Profession is a national grassroots movement of law students who hope to create market pressures that will stimulate workplace reform in the nation’s largest private law firms. Although the students of Stanford Law School who spearheaded this movement are a force to be reckoned with, in the litigious environment of modern America, anyone who takes on the task of reforming “big law” is taking on Goliath. So what was the weapon of choice for this organization’s struggle to improve diversity, increase pro bono work and restore a sliver of humanity to the lives of entry-level corporate lawyers? The group created a simple system of arranging available online data about firms. They ranked the firms against one another based on factors such as diversity, and then graded each firm with a letter A through F. Copy, paste and rank. It seems like a simple formula, and it is, yet it has won Building a Better Legal Profession press and praise across the nation. Creating a grading system that ranks law firms based on something other than profits is a neat way of capitalizing on America’s passion for rankings while changing traditional paradigms of prestige.
It would be very hard to do something like this for biology labs because the small numbers of people who work in each lab would reduce the possibility of anonymity. But I like the idea.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Overheard at neuroscience conference:

I do mostly heroin.

He certainly meant that he does heroin research, but I liked the unintended implication. There are lots of addiction researchers here. My personal (very limited) experience is that cannabinoid researchers tend to have an experiential knowledge of their subject. I don't particularly expect the cocaine and opiate researchers to have experience, but I don't know.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Bicycle Parking at the San Diego Convention Center

I called the main number. A woman hears the word "parking" in my request and says, let me give you the number for our parking garage. I said, usually there are bicycle racks outside of the parking garage, is there anyone who would know about those? She says, let me ask. Later, she says nope, but I'll give you the parking number. I call parking and a really helpful woman says they don't have bicycle parking, but she thinks she's seen some around. Can I hold? You bet.

When she comes back, she says she talked with the same lady I did, and then she also called security. Security said there are bike racks (or maybe just one?) at building A on the way to the reception or administrative offices. Facing the center, it's all the way to the right. Good luck to me.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

heard on sports radio

"the anecdote to their ills"

Thursday, October 11, 2007

All the news that's fit to print

I was listening to WNYC streaming this morning, and heard "WNYC is supported by N Y Times dot com." After a brief spiel about its merits, notable for the absence of the phrase "New York Times," it concluded with the tagline "All the news that's fit to click."

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The other beautiful campus

I'm fortunate enough to be on the most beautifully landscaped campus I know. It's so lush that I forget about the flora of other campuses I've been part of. For example, this past weekend I was at San Francisco State University, and I was awed by the huge trees. How could I have forgotten these? The center of campus has paths criss-crossing grassy areas, each with towering Monterey Cypress and Monterey Pines. I've spent a lot of time hanging out under them. Unfortunately I didn't shoot my own pictures of them; I pulled this one off flickr.

Web text formatting complaints

How to make people wish they didn't have a feedback form:
The underlined terms in your [cramped, incredibly small] text display boxes are an aesthetic nightmare. They make the text hard to read. I think I understand the idea behind them. Couldn't it be implemented in a less obtrusive manner? Perhaps putting links below the field would be a reasonable compromise between prominence and disruption.

Friday, September 28, 2007

crummy design from an unexpected source

The major Pasadena event recognizing World AIDS Day has a crummy looking website. I'm nearly embarrassed to send people there to contribute - will they think it's a fraud? "No self respecting group of gay men would be associated with this!" The tabs across the top look cheesy, the faded background image isn't identifiable, nor is it aesthetically pleasing. It's large enough to distract from the text and the logo. But what really kills me are the vertical blue bars, which look a lot like scroll bars. In fact, when I first went to scroll down the page, I was confused for a minute. While any given person might not live up to a positive stereotype about their group, you'd think a group focused on a disease that disproportionately affects gay people would have a better looking website.

Also crummy looking: AIDS Service Center (the main beneficiary of the event, and probably a main organizer)

And, in fairness, fantastic looking: GMHC

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Scientist's Unconscious Credo

One never notices what has been done; one can only see what remains to be done.

Marie Curie, letter to her brother, 1894
French (Polish-born) chemist & physicist (1867 - 1934)
(Certainly not limited to scientists though)

Thursday, September 20, 2007


I went on a lovely backpacking trip, but the last morning was a little cold for my tastes. Later I found out the low had been 18 degrees. I'm so tough!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

"They had fun making it"

This seems to be a recent trend, books and movies that relish the fun to be had in making them. Certainly some zest is pleasing and not to be begrudged, but when the pleasure taken by the creators is greater than the pleasure it gives, one might wish the creators had focused more on their job. AR on Ocean's 13: "I won't go see something that was more fun to make than it is to see." Although she didn't explicitly begrudge Chabon the pleasure, RS similarly thought the Yiddish Policeman's Union appeared fun to write, but she found the book tedious.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Adieu Coney Island, hello shinier dullness

As I've said before, I love Coney Island. I love the air of decrepitude, cheesy rides, freak shows, a huge ferris wheel, and go carts all adjacent to the board walk. These parts are called Astroland, and the family who has owned it for 40 years has sold it to a developer who plans to level the place. The family plans to keep the adjacent famous wooden roller coaster, the Cyclone. Coney Island is part of New Yorkers' (if not national) identity, a place known to generations of people from all walks of life. In the past few decades, it has also been celebrated by counter culture, with the Mermaid Parade ("Brooklyn's yearly celebration of homemade spangle and semi-nudity" - Village Voice) and Sideshow School. Historically there has been continuous change to Coney Island and I have to accept that. I just hope it doesn't get modernized beyond recognition.

The New York Times has a lovely paean/editorial on the topic, including these gems:
''A spirit of frolic must be manufactured,'' maintained Frederic Thompson, the dreamy impresario of Luna Park, ''and it cannot dwell where straight lines, dignified columns and conventional forms dominate.''
...Coney has remained an urban space; diverse and edgy and even seedy in places, much more like the rest of the city was in the 1970s, rather than the ever shinier, duller New York of the 21st century.

If the airport is your town's best feature...

A terminally boring small town I lived in as a kid was mentioned parenthetically in a New York Times article recently. I was curious if there were other mentions. On searching the NYT site, I found that of the 10 first entries, 7 were articles about surrounding places that use the town's airport, 2 focussed on a crash at the airport, and one cited it as the birthplace of a hall-of-fame cowgirl.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Benefits of being a crazy dog lady

A few days ago I walked from my car to the dumpster in my garage, keys in one hand, a paper towel and a peach pit in the other other. I opened the door to the dumpster room and tossed the keys into the dumpster. Luckily this particular dumpster wasn't under the trash chute and only had large pieces of packing material in it. My keys were some five feet from me on part of a cardboard box.
Of course I travel with a Chuckit in the car, and its pasta-fork like end allowed me to fish the keys out after a few tries. Actually I have two Chuckits in the car, but let's keep that to ourselves.

p.s. If you haven't seen a Chuckit in action, spend 40 seconds watching this (non-commercial, audio-free) video:

With great power comes...

the potential for doing some really stupid things. Case in point: I issued a command on my linux computer today that had the effect of changing the permissions of every directory on the computer. Luckily I interrupted it before it had gone too far, but it's still a huge mare's nest of stuff to fix.

Sunday, September 02, 2007


Recently I was on Nantucket and was constantly amazed by the clouds and the beauty of the light. I figured Los Angeles must have only crummy clouds and light since I couldn't remember being transfixed by them here, unlike in other cities like San Francisco. However yesterday I was visiting some friends on their boat near Long Beach and got to see this wonderful light. Clouds not too bad either.

Selection of performance-enhancing genes

In May, scientists at the NIH published an article about the genetics underlying extremely muscled "bully" whippets. They described a mutation in the myostatin gene that impairs myostatin's usual role of putting a brake on muscle development. Animals have two copies of most genes. Animals with this mutation in one of their myostatin genes (like the middle dog in the picture above) are heavily muscled and extremely fast. Animals with the mutation in both their myostatin genes , like the right dog in the picture, are barely recognizable as whippets. I think their extreme appearance contributes to the sense of alarm this discovery has occasioned.

There's a New York Times article on the subject that does a good job of describing the problems and benefits associated with identification of genes underlying given traits. I especially like this comment about the psychological effect:

Inborn abilities once attributed to something rather mystical seem to lose a certain standing when connected to specific genes.

There were several missteps in the article though. The author does not remark upon some fallacious breeder assertions. For example, she paraphrases breeders as saying "no genetic test can predict the intangible qualities that make a dog great." "Great" in this context seems to mean a racing champion. Why would we think the drive to win races not genetically based? In other kinds of animals, we've already identified genes that affect memory, sexual orientation, aggression and feeding.

A more elementary error in the article is the assertion that DNA testing will allow breeders to intentionally breed dogs with "a genetic advantage," as if breeders who have breed fast dogs together in the past have had conferred some other kind of advantage on the dogs. As long as people have selectively bred dogs, we have been manipulating the genetics of dogs, just without the level of knowledge we now have.

Still, I am pleased to see this kind of coverage in the popular media. And I too am somewhat sad about reducing canine and human qualities to genetics. However, both species have tens of thousands of genes, most traits are affected by multiple genes, and we cannot selectively breed canines or ourselves for many genes at a time at this point. We may prioritize some traits in either species, reducing our sense of mystery or the divine, but we will not eradicate quirkiness or the unexpected from either population any time soon.

What do ad people get paid for?

I came across this racist ad by Intel in the Dell catalog today. It makes me doubly annoyed that it's in the Dell catalog: it means that two sets of advertising people vetted the thing. Gee, what could be wrong with a bunch of dark-skinned, barely clothed clones bowing to a smug white guy in business clothes?

Thursday, August 30, 2007

JPL Scientists Refuse Broad Background Checks

from "JPL Scientists Sue Federal Government and Caltech for NASA's Background Checks"

The waiver allows investigators to look at workers' employment, financial and medical histories. They can also question friends and colleagues about the workers' psychological health, political background and sexual proclivities.

This is legally acceptable for people in classified or highly sensitive positions, said Stormer, but none of the 28 scientists -- many of whom have been at JPL for decades -- fit that bill.

..."I can fly a spacecraft to any planet in the galaxy, and I'm being judged by people who don't have a clue as to my technical qualifications whether I'm suitable for government service," said Byrnes.

He continued, "It's already an extremely rigorous process when the labs hire someone. We check your degrees, whether you worked where you said you did. All that is normal and fine. This is something else. This is McCarthyism."

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Weather misery

It's this strange yellow out, almost hazy, but nothing you can really put your finger on. It's 100 degrees.

This was my life:

San Francisco

This is my life in hell/graduate school:


Any questions?

(thanks to, friend to the data-obsessed, referred by dolface)


Flyswatter. By chefmate!?

Monday, August 13, 2007

She's flummoxed by virtual infidelity

There's an article in the WSJ titled "Is This Man Cheating on His Wife?" It's free for now. It's about problematic involvements in online fantasy worlds, highlighting a marriage in which a real-life woman is unhappy with her husband's online marriage.

[She] is losing patience with her husband's second life. "It's sad; it's a waste of human life," says Mrs. Hoogestraat, who is dark-haired and heavy-set with smooth, pale skin. "Everybody has their hobbies, but when it's from six in the morning until two in the morning, that's not a hobby, that's your life."
But my favorite quote has to be:

"It's really devastating," says Sue Hoogestraat, 58, an export agent for a shipping company, who has been married to Mr. Hoogestraat for seven months. "You try to talk to someone or bring them a drink, and they'll be having sex with a cartoon."

Uh, yeah. Clearly she signed on for a monogamous relationship and isn't buying her husband's insistence that it's just a game. While I think denial pervades all of our interactions, you can't really blame a 58 year old woman for not having thought much about "sex with a cartoon" fits into her relationship landscape.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Professional Teeth Whitening Online

Seriously. That was a text ad in gmail this morning.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

And the winnah is...

Originally uploaded by _buttercup
My little dog and I finished beginning obedience class Wednesday night. Graduation was a small scale dog show of the obedience kind. And guess who took home the first place trophy? What a dog.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Mac, camping around Lake Tahoe

Originally uploaded by _buttercup
This is from a camping trip GP and I took, around 2001 or so. Mac loved the lake there.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The wrong Mexican

It's so early in the day, yet I've twice already been gob-smacked into amazed silence.

In gob-smackdown #1, I was sitting on a bench at the dog park with another woman. A third woman came over and said "this dog" was a bad dog, a trouble maker, etc. I assumed she was talking about her own dog in the hyperbolic way some dog-owners do, but it slowly because less and less plausible as her dogs walked away and she continued to talk about "this dog." It turns out she was talking about the dog of the woman next to me, the dog who was now sitting next to us. I had seen nothing anti-social in this dog's behavior. The scolder simply felt it was a good idea to come over and diss the dog to the owner. Nothing she said was even constructive, which is the usual dog park social-vice: unsolicited advice. This was just unsolicited insults.

The gob-smack the second (homage à Buffy, "lesson the first") was courtesy of my downstairs neighbor, an 80 year old white show-biz guy. He was standing at the back gate to our complex, holding the gate open whistling at someone I couldn't see. He continued the whistling as I approached. I offered to hold the gate for him if he needed to talk with someone. He accepted and went to the corner, where I saw he was trying to get the attention of the young Mexican gardeners across the street. I didn't watch closely, but soon he was headed back to me. As he approached, he said it was "the wrong Mexican." He went on to explain that he had more clothes than he could possibly use due to the excessive wardrobing that happened in show business and he often offered them to the gardeners who work in our complex. The wrong Mexican. The phrase is evocative of a particular world-view in which all Mexicans are gardeners and all gardeners are Mexican. Where this is the extent of their identity. Where they want to wear old show-biz guy clothes.

Googling "the wrong Mexican" yields two sets of grimly humorous results. The majority of results cite the movie "The Machete" the tagline of which is: "They just fucked with the wrong Mexican." The other humorous result is the suggestion by google that I change my search to "the working Mexican."

In San Francisco, They Love the Devil

[Drawing of Sutro Tower by Lee Feynves]

Ok, not exactly. But this is the second of the humorous devil-related events I've seen. I'm quoting from boingboing in near-entirety here:

[The driver of the San Francisco cab with medallion number 666] convinced assistant commission executive director Jordanna Thigpen to request that the board retire medallion No. 666 forever. Unfortunately for Byrne, the commission voted 5-1 yesterday that the number should live on. From a pre-vote San Francisco Chronicle article:
Byrne, a 30-year veteran driver, was assigned No. 666 only last August, Thigpen said, after another applicant refused to accept the number. Since then, sources said, Byrne has been involved in at least one accident -- even after taking the precaution of having the cab blessed at Mission Dolores.

"Do I believe in the Mark of the Beast myself?" Thigpen said in an interview. "No. But there is a lot of negative energy around that cab. If we can help somebody out, why not do it? If something's a nuisance, it's our duty to get rid of it, right?"

A commission clerk, who asked not to be identified, said Byrne "had many deaths around him and his family" and that getting rid of the cursed number "is an idea that speaks for itself." Link
And from a post-vote article: "How dare you take Lucifer's number away," said Thomas George-Williams, president of the cab drivers union, who was sporting the red horns (at the hearing). "This is a serious issue."
A cabbie named Tom warned the commission that it was "opening a can of worms" and would soon be deluged with requests to retire other numbers. A cabbie named Barry pointed out that 666 was the address of SS Peter and Paul's Church on Filbert Street, an outfit not thought to be in Satan's pocket." Link
The original humorous devil-related San Franciscan event involved a controversy over a large monument of a cross in a public park. While many felt that it was inappropriate for the city to appear to be endorsing a particular religion, there was no agreement about what action to take: selling it on the cheap to a particular religious group was seen to favor that group. One editorial suggested selling landmarks to all interested religious groups, including selling Sutro Tower to the satanists.

Note: Thanks to dolface for finding the source of the drawing.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Domo-kun ipod case

When life gives you lemons (and your dog eats your (plain leather) ipod case), make a Domo-kun ipod case. I based it on this tutorial.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Favorite slur

You grog-faced villain!

Dog fighting

This is an incredibly disturbing article about a dog fighting ring that an NFL star was involved in. The cruelty went beyond the fighting and training for fighting; dogs were destroyed cruelly. For once I agree with the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS)*

''Some of the grisly details in these filings shocked even me, and I'm a person who faces this stuff every day,'' Goodwin (of HSUS) said. ''...Those are extremely violent methods of execution -- they're unnecessary and just sick.''

*Generally I dislike HSUS because they capitalize on the people's good will toward their local shelters by implying through their name that they are the national group for local shelters; actually they have no affiliation. They are a fairly radical political group like PETA; I agree with about 50% of their policies and initiatives.

Nuclear Power

I was listening to a radio show about nuclear power today. The safety concerns and the potential improvements with respect to carbon emissions are pretty well-trodden ground, but I haven't heard much about where uranium comes from. Is there an OPEC for uranium? Would using more nuclear power allow us to be more independent?

This article, titled "Lack of fuel may limit U.S. nuclear power expansion", says
Much of the uranium used by the United States is coming from mines in such countries as Australia, Canada, Namibia and, most recently, Kazakhstan. Small amounts are mined in the western United States, but the United States is largely reliant on overseas supplies. The United States also relies on Russia for half its fuel [converted from weapons].

Silver Spoons at the Dog Park

(Based on the title, I seem to be on an 80's television theme.) I saw a funny sight at the dog park a few weeks ago. A man, maybe 60 was at the dog park with another man, maybe 30. It's unusual for two people to come with one dog during the day, so they caught my attention. Neither was dressed remarkably. They left the enclosed area shortly before I did, and I was amazed to see a town car pull up to them as they walked out. A uniformed chauffeur got out and brought wipes from the trunk over to the men and the dog. One of the men began to clean the dog while the driver filled a water dish. As I left the parking lot, the chauffeur was opening the door for the older man to get in the car.

There is a stretch limousine that regularly comes to the dog park, but it is owned by a dog care guy and the dogs just hop into it, mud and all. The guy wears shorts, a t-shirt and a bluetooth headset. Entirely different.

Adding a leading zero to a file name

I often find this necessary when trying to get audiobook files to automatically sort correctly. For example, files from chapter one are named "1-01 Book Name" and "1-02 Book Name", but files from chapter 11 are named "11-01 Book Name" and "11-02 Book Name." In the current case, they were in all kinds of strangely named subdirectories, so first I had to copy them all into a single directory. (I did this in Ubuntu Feisty, but it should work in most flavors of Linux and OSX and Cygwin (for Windows users )):

find . -type f -name "*mp3" -exec mv {} ~/bookdir/ \;

Next I moved the ones that already were correctly formatted. There's a more elegant way to do this, selecting files that have digits in the first two places, but my case was so simple that I used the dumb way:

mv 10* 2dig
mv 11* 2dig

Finally we get to the actual renaming, using substitution syntax.

rename 's//0/' *.mp3

The part in the single quotes means substitute anything with an initial zero. In english it would be add an initial zero.

Now move the correctly named files back into your directory, and voila:

mv 2dig/* .

Some wizard could do all this with a single command, but I'm not that wizard.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Motorcycle nostalgia

I saw this motorcycle on the street today. The light color at the front of the tank is not just the light; it's the way the bike is painted.

It reminded me of my last motorcycle, which had a way cooler paint job:

I sold it when I moved down to Los Angeles, on the premise that it LA is a ridiculously dangerous place to ride a bike. I've found that true, but I still miss having one.

"Soviet Fashion Show" commercial for Wendy's

I loved this commercial when it was new (1985), and I still do. I'm not sure why. Partially I fell for the cold war era mockery of Soviet uniformity and communism, but at the same time I loved what may have been self-mockery: the portrayal of a soviet fashion show MC'd in english, subtitles of english...

Wendy's: Soviet Fashion Show

Posted Feb 26, 2002

The classic "Soviet Fashion Show" commercial for Wendy's.

Dog on Art

This is the dog lying in the center of a campus sculpture called "Moore's Stone Volute." It's scheduled to be demolished, which saddens me.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Hobbies of my dog

My sister SB has never let me forget the way I described one roommate: I said, "he watches TV" in the same tone that one might say, "he builds ships inside bottles" or describe some other unusual occupation. So now it is only fair that my canine roommate has similar tastes.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Grim Girl

Or at least that's what she calls herself.

The best part of the LA Zoo.

(Not plastic)

It's called a mojito

but it's virgin and not like other mojitos I've had. It's terrific.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Difficult people

Yesterday I had a brief and relatively unimportant interaction with the head of my homeowners' association. She is superficially pleasant, but I hate dealing with her. She staged a coup, maligning our former association leaders. Whatever their faults may have been (few, to my knowledge), they put in a tremendous amount of work, and her (and her cronies') willingness to disparage them makes me doubt her ability to see the big picture, her ability to make good long term decisions.

Beyond this history (and her ongoing self-aggrandizement) is her lack of a relationship with integrity. Months ago, before her election to Grand Poobah, she was stirring up trouble, trying to get the people with one-bedroom apartments to insist on lower homeowner's fees. She gave me her entire spiel, after which I told her I had a two bedroom apartment. She ended the conversation with an odd way, like a cat who walks into a glass window and then tries to pretend it didn't happen. A cat who thinks she can convince observers that they didn't see what they just saw.

Yesterday I asked if we could add a second entry to the to the electronic directory that visitors use to call up to the apartment from the front entry. She said no, there is only room for 107 entries and there are 107 apartments.

I have no problem with my request being denied; unless the system capacity is sufficient for everyone to have two entries, it's a reasonable policy. However, I am insulted that I am being asked to believe any equipment in the world has a capacity for 107 entries. Fifty, sure. One hundred, sure. Two hundred, fine. You take my point. It's ludicrous.

I am mystified by her inner process. Does she think I believe her? Is she aware that she's lying? Is she simply dumb as rocks? I imagine she must have been a teacher, the crummy kind who would tell kids anything to get them to do what she wanted.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

July 4th was the Pathfinder's 10 year anniversary

Ten years ago the Pathfinder landed on Mars. This was the first mission to send a rover to a planet. It proved the utility of airbag-mediated touchdown and automated obstacle avoidance. The mission budget was less than the cost of the movie Titanic.

Three minute video here.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007


Anyone using iGoogle? I've got a few awesome gadgets I'm happy to share. My favorite is a a webcam of San Francisco from Sausalito. I also have a slideshow of pictures from my Flickr and Picasa accounts, a scraped feed from my new favorite columnist (Robyn Blumner), a John Stewart quote of the day, countdown timers until my vacation and Bush's last day in office (not the same day, alas, he should leave so soon). I also view my calendar, email and to-do list, but you don't want those (if you do, I'll owe you).

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Worth Bush's Time

Which of the following judicial matters does the Bush administration think requires intervention:

a) The supreme court upholds the denial of a final appeal on the grounds it was filed later than allowed by law, even though it was within the date specified in the judge's instructions. Gobsmacked legal commentators resort to short words: mean (NYTimes Editorial, St Petersburg Times' Robyn Blumner, Slate's Dahlia Lithwick).

b) Scooter Libby is ordered to begin his prison sentence.

Hint 1: the sentence was commuted, but an eventual pardon "has not been ruled out."

Hint 2: Joseph Wilson, husband of CIA operative Valerie Plame whose identity was revealed, resulting in Libby's conviction, comments, 'the commutation “should demonstrate to the American people how corrupt this administration is.” He suggested that its goal was to prevent Mr. Libby from telling all he knew about White House actions, particularly in the planning for war.' (NYTimes, "Bush Spares Libby From Prison Term", 7/2/07)

New Leaves

During SB's visit, she organized a renovation of the porch. She (and I) cleaned, arranged, and otherwise prettified the porch. The best part was going out to buy new plants. I'm an inveterate plant-killer, so this round is succulents. These are the "after the cleanup" and "before I've mistreated the plants" pictures. Hopefully having a record of how the plants are supposed to look will help me figure out when they're looking bad. Click the picture to see the individual images. Thanks SB!

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Plant shopping

I made this map/list with the batchgeocode tool. The process is a little time consuming, but the tool is nicely designed.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Blogging via phone.

In a size- and cost-cutting measure, I'm using a not very smart phone, and pushing the text capabilities as far as I can. You can expect short, badly spelled entries if I decide to do much blogging by phone. Usually I just send notes for a blog entry to my email and then flesh them out and fix the spelling when I'm at a full-size computer. The other very useful text message option is to text to the to-do list site I use, remember the milk.

For example, here's something I emailed to myself via text message from my family reunion. My middle name, Conley, used to be spelled in the more common Irish manner, Connolly, until there were two men with the same name in a county in rural Maryland. My ancestor renamed himself in the mid 1800s.

Another good story from the reunion: our geneologist cousin kept noting the men who had big ideas but not much money and their habit of marrying rich women. I was more intrigued by the idea that I come from a line of women who marry outsiders.

Deep Gym Thoughts

  1. "Tainted Love" has perfect tempo for my pace. "I must not think bad thoughts" (by X) is pretty good too.
  2. Based on my years-long observations, I suggest that individuals with severe, uncontrolled, persistent flatulence might want to look, at the very least, for an uncrowded gym. Am I being fascistic here? I'm talking about a pretty extreme case.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Sync contacts and calendar - Verizon K1m, and (sigh) Windows

First install Motorola drivers from here:
Then follow directions here (which tell you how to run bit pim and convince it you have a v3cm phone):
That post says you can sync the phone book. For me it also worked for calendar, although I had to remove all punctuation from my calendar events (which I downloaded from google).
Also, by copying "wallpaper" to my local computer, I downloaded pictures and was then able to export them to a folder. I didn't try copying ringtones. I did try copying sms but had no luck, and no error in the log.

Now all I need to do is get it to work under linux and I'll be all set. Actually, In a perfect world, when I connect my phone to the computer to charge at night, it would automatically (with the aid of scripting) bidirectionally sync with google calendar and a local contact information source AND my google email address book. i'm loath to put anything on the internet (even in my gmail account) that doesn't really need to be there.

The dog who wasn't one

How weird is it for a dog to like to ride backward in the car? I think it's extremely weird. I've never seen it before. He sits calmly, LOOKING OUT THE BACK WINDOW, watching the world recede from him. But then, he also watches me in the mirror when I'm brushing my teeth, so we're just going to have to agree that he's got lots of mutations.

Friday, June 22, 2007

marstons restaurant

marstons restaurant
Originally uploaded by _buttercup
i finally ate at marston's. it was all that. we had omelets, oatmeal, bread pudding and cobbler, which is featured in this picture. the cobbler was peach and berry. the wait was long, and i was so hungry that i ate too much of my early orders. by the food was as good as reputed.


Originally uploaded by _buttercup
I took this with my camera phone, which means I was quite close. What's wrong with frogs these days! They shouldn't let strangers just approach like that.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

You've got to stop with the cute thing...

...because it's kind of freakish.
The dog is the subject of abusive love-talk. He doesn't seem to mind.

Weather alerts

Pasadena, CA
Date Forecast Hi Lo POP
Tue Jun 19 icon Partly Cloudy 82°F 60°F 0%
Wed Jun 20 icon Partly Cloudy 85°F 61°F 0%
Thu Jun 21 icon Sunny 87°F 65°F 10%
Fri Jun 22 icon Sunny 88°F 65°F 10%
Sat Jun 23 icon Sunny 88°F 65°F 10%
Sun Jun 24 icon Sunny 86°F 66°F 10%
Mon Jun 25 icon Sunny 87°F 66°F 0%

1) i really like the new format of the weather channel's news alerts - i hate having to wade through junk to get the simple info i want
2) the weather is going to be hot this week. ick.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Speaking of backing up before editing...

This is my favorite new shell script. I wrote it myself, but after reading many people's suggestions and documentation. I use it when I am going to edit configuration files. I have a directory called "setting-backup" that I store the copies in. Each file is given its original name plus the date and time, all the way down to the second. That way, if you can make several changes in a minute, you can save a copy between each change. For most people this would probably be more useful for documents. The script:
# script=bk
#parameter $1 is the existing file name
#dt=`date +%y%m%d`
#mv $1 $1$dt
cp $1 ~/computer/setting-backup/
`basename $1`-`date +%Y-%m-%d_%H.%M.%S`

#usage: myfile
#must be run from directory of original file
#produces myfile070602

Open Firefox downloads

With Kubuntu Feisty and Firefox 2.0, if I asked Firefox to open the containing folder of the download, it would use some wonky and unusual file manager. Thanks to the "Firefox + KDE" entry on this blog, I got it fixed. Before I share the solution, remember to backup any files you edit! The solution:
$ cp /usr/share/applications/kde/kfmclient_dir.desktop ~/.local/share/applications/nautilus-folder-handler.desktop

Then, open nautilus-folder-handler.desktop and edit the mime-types line to read:


Tuesday, June 05, 2007

wrong location, dog

wrong location, dog
Originally uploaded by _buttercup
i love this picture. he actually happily gets in his crate, but in this instance he decided to billy-goat around the car. doof.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Painfully cute

This is the same pup who was Bonden's shadow a few months ago, growing in leaps and bounds

Campus life

It's great to be able to let the dog run around off leash around groups of people. As I discovered last year with Mac, putting a bandana around a dog's neck makes them seem much less intimidating. There was a small child chasing him around which made him a bit nervous, but he tolerated all the attention. It's a somewhat awkward and unfamiliar situation for me when people want to interact with him and he is aloof. It's a typical shepherd behavior though; they don't typically warm to people quickly. He was overjoyed to see his friend AR, and it's nice to see what his enthusiasm for someone other than me looks like. He didn't scrounge the burgers, which I attribute more to weirdness than good behavior.

How to explain Los Angeles

I went out the other night to a friend's birthday dinner at a nearby mall. When I went into the underground parking garage, this sign was resting on the ticket dispensing machine. I had to dig through my backpack after I took the ticket to find my camera, hoping the barrier wouldn't drop. The sign says "'Nothing can bring you peace but yourself.' - Ralph Waldo Emerson." It looks like it was simply run off their printer and stuck in a cheap lucite stand. Do they rotate the epigrams? Is this why they call themselves _Modern_ Parking Inc?

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Live free and splat

The third of today's rants comes from my favorite crazy libertarian state, New Hampshire, with a quote from one of the anti-seatbelt law lawmakers: "When people get in their car in the morning and put on their seatbelt, they'll think 'I'm no longer free.'" (NPR Morning Edition)

When children are present

Another piece of vagueness that I drive past every day is a sign restricting the speed limit "When children are present." Well, it's a school. Children are present from 8-4 or something like that. What if there are evening programs? Is there summer school? How can I know these things.

After a web search, I found that I wasn't the only one with this kind of question. Here's what the California driver's handbook says:

Within 500 feet of a school while children are outside or crossing the street, the speed limit is 25 mph, unless otherwise posted. Also, if the school ground has no fence and children are outside, never drive faster than 25 mph. Always drive more carefully near schools, playgrounds, parks, and residential areas because children may suddenly dart into the street.

I think that means unless students are going to or from the school, I can go the regular speed limit. Most cars don't slow down and I expect to be creamed if I do.

p.s. I wanted to use the word "vaguery" but neither miriam webster or the OED would approve.

"i quoted quotes from osama bin laden"

i turned on the radio to the distinctive voice and phrasing of our national village idiot. naturally i turned it off immediately.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

my mental dialog during a first date

(you = perfectly nice prospective from online dating who i drove a long way to see. she suggested we meet at barnes and noble at the mall. ok, the nicest mall ever, but still, the mall (The Grove if you must know). )

wow, you're young-acting. you act younger than all the 23 year olds i work around.

you're out of your 20s and living on someone's couch?

hmm, that putting yourself down thing is pretty unappealing. guess i don't have to wonder how light hearted the self-deprecation in your emails was.

[she apologizes for her appearance]

well, if you wanted me to have a different impression, you could have set up a meeting for a different day.

[we're looking at a fountain and at how the shape of the water droplets change. i record a movie of it, and show her the last picture i took, one of bonden]

her: you have a dog?

mental me: uh, yeah. note for your future dating success: make an effort to remember the few pieces of information you have about someone you're having a convo with. especially if it's something that seems to be relevant to you (i infer from her tone).

Monday, April 30, 2007

Fatigue per calorie

Today I thought of a new metric by which to analyze exercise: fatigue per calorie. People who exercise to help them sleep might look for a higher fatigue per calorie. I aim for a low fatigue per calorie workout, so I can work out in the morning and not be exhausted during the work day.

I took a new route biking with Bonden today. I tried going north and east - ultimately I'd like to be able to bike to the dog park, which is in that direction. My normal route is more directly east through a quiet residential area without much traffic. Today's route was 4 miles, half on multi-lane streets with stoplights. I spent the whole ride watching for dogs, cars and narrow spaces and keeping an eye on the fatigue level of the dog. I realize that this might be the worst fatigue per calorie workout - I'm barely sweaty, but I'm beat. Even riding our usual route is pretty tiring. I think the treadmill has the minimum fatigue per calorie rating. Sorry beast. Dog park for you.

One thing that irked and amused me was the placement of signs around highway entrances. On two corners, huge highway signs were placed not only in the middle of the sidewalk, but on a corner so one could not use the cut-away to ride up onto the sidewalk (or for more virtuous causes). On the other hand, the car obsession of the region is good for me - there are very few people on the sidewalk, so when we do ride on the sidewalk, we're not menacing too many people.

A mouthful of a dog description

According to this page, the color of little bear's coat is black sable, it has the blanket-back pattern and the length is indicated by calling him plush-coated. There is apparently also some interesting genetics behind it. Interestingly, the same genes are used to identify mice when we're trying to make a mouse that is missing a particular gene.