Archive for June, 2005

Opening an Apple

June 28, 2005

Sorry…not that Apple. And not that Open either…

My sister-in-law Dami has repeatedly (and with good humor) demonstrated what she calls “opening an apple,” a feat which amazes me. Briefly, she can tear an apple into two pieces with her bare hands, leaving no marks on the apple at all. Here is a not-very-good-photo of her handiwork:

[split apple]

I can’t do this no matter how hard I try. Her husband the Marine can’t do it either. She claims this is a common thing in Korea where she grew up. I think it may be time to call David Letterman. 🙂

Dr. Fun on Blogging

June 22, 2005

Dave Farley gets the narcissisum thang.

[doctor fun]

Travel Photography

June 17, 2005

I’m arriving in the Bay area next Tuesday evening on business am thinking about bringing my camera to do some shooting that evening before I head to Palo Alto to my hotel. I’m taking a continuing education landscape photography class at RISD (Rhode Island School of Design) and would like to find some nice vistas to capture in the setting sun. But where to shoot?

I initially turned to Google Maps to get an idea of how far east SFO is from the ocean. But I quickly realized that the satellite view is a dream come true for anyone planning a photography trip. I was able to follow Highway 1 south, looking at the topography to decide which exact locations look promising. I can see places where the beach is near the level of the road and others where there are cliffs and other photographically interesting features. Switching back and forth between map and photo mode let me plan out my stops very easily.

How cool is that?

X11 on Solaris x86 laptop

June 13, 2005

I had a devil of a time getting the correct screen resolution on my Tecra M2 laptop after installing Solaris 10. Rather than attempt to enumerate the problems I had, I’ll just suggest that if you are using Solaris 10 on a Tecra M2, then you do the following two things:

  • Apply Xorg patch 118966-03, which improves Xorg’s screen auto-detection capabilities. You can get the patch from PatchFinder on SunSolve.
  • Replace the generic Xorg nVidia driver with the real deal from nVidia. Get the latest version here.

Best wishes and I hope this saves someone out there some time and trouble.

Of Mars Probes and Apricots

June 11, 2005

I read recently in Sky & Telescope that NASA thinks they now understand how we lost the Mars Polar Lander back in December of 1999.

During its final descent to the surface, the landing rockets fired at the right time and the correct altitude, but they cut off prematurely. NASA believes the jolt from a landing leg deployment may have caused the probe to think it had landed, which then terminated the burn early. The net effect was that, after having travelled all the way from Earth, the probe dropped the final 130 feet to the surface, never to be heard from again. Fini!

Anyone who has been to a supermarket can sympathize with this situation. All the care and technology used by the growers in picking and shipping your favorite fruits to your local market, all the time you take to select those perfect specimens. It all comes to nought at the last moment when the lame-assed bagger drops your perfect apricots the final 12 inches into the bag, bruising them without remorse. Mission failure.

Word up

June 8, 2005

Two word-related questions and a rant.

First question. Can anyone think of an English word, other than ‘choir’, that begins with a ‘ch’ that is pronounced with a ‘kw’ sound? I can’t.

Second question–a research librarian favorite. What English words, other than ‘angry’ and ‘hungry’, end in ‘-gry’? Hint: There are several, though none are common.

The rant. Improper use of the word ‘circa’, which means ‘about, used especially in approximate dates.’ There’s a house in my town–a huge McMansion–whose owner erected a granite post near the street that says ‘circa 1999’ on it. That’s simple ignorance on the part of the homeowner, but consider the following bookstore sign in the TF Green airport in Providence, RI.

[heritage bookstore]

That’s downright embarrassing.

High School Math

June 3, 2005

Math in the service of safety. A lesson for new and experienced drivers alike.

I still clearly remember by freshman high school math teacher, Martin J. Badoian, discussing braking distances with his class. He asked us to estimate how fast we could remove our foot from the accelerator and depress the brake pedal in an emergency and to calculate how far the car would move in that time at different speeds.

Assuming the car stops instantaneously once the brake pedal is depressed (remember, this was math class, not physics) here are the distances in feet for different vehicle speeds and reaction times.

Speed (MPH)
30 35 40 45 50 55 60 65 70 75 80 85 90 95
0.5 22 26 29 33 37 40 44 48 51 55 59 62 66 70
1.0 44 51 59 66 73 81 88 95 103 110 117 125 132 139
1.5 66 77 88 99 110 121 132 143 154 165 176 187 198 209
2.0 88 103 117 132 147 161 176 191 205 220 235 249 264 279

Elementary, but sobering, mathematics.

Memorial Day

June 1, 2005
code talker code talker code talker

I was thinking about these three Marines on Memorial Day. Thinking of their story and the sacrifices they and their fellow Navajo Code Talkers made during World War II. There were about 400 Code Talkers in the Pacific theater and I’m guessing there aren’t many still with us.

For those unfamiliar with the use of coded radio communication based on the Navajo language during World War II, here are some resources. For a Hollywood version, try Windtalkers with Nicholas Cage.. For books, try Navajo Weapon by Sally McClain, or the photo book Warriors: Navajo Code Talkers by Kenji Kawano.

It was an honor and a privilege to meet these men, shake their hands, and thank them for their service.