Thursday, May 29, 2008

OK, I barely remember this one...

It seems it was decades ago that I was first exposed to coin-operated video games. Actually, it probably was...

But this one was definitely one of the first I remember playing. Well other than the table-top Pong games that I seem to remember from one of the old college bars I once frequented...

The growing, menacing 'music' on this recreation definitely brings old buried memories back to life. Still get that old, harried, 'I am gonna die..!!' buzz from it.

hat tip to: Mike the Mad Biologist

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Arrival on Mars of the Phoenix Lander...

Launched in August 2007, the Phoenix Lander is scheduled to land on the red planet on May 25, 2008.

Reborn from the ashes, like its namesake mythical creature, of the Mars Surveyor 2001 Lander (mothballed earlier this decade) and the failed Mars Polar Lander of 1999, the Phoenix Lander is set to study the "history of water and the habitability potential in the Martian arctics ice-rich soil."

The problems faced by the Lander as it approaches Mars at a speed of 12,500 mph and after Seven Minutes of Terror has hopefully safely landed on the Martian surface are documented in the video at Space dot com.

As it takes ten minutes for signals to reach Earth from Mars ...and the whole landing sequence will be over in seven minutes . . .well, let us say there is not a lifeline back to Mother Earth.

Excellently produced and very informative, the video is well worth the five minutes spent watching and thinking.

For some reason, I am seriously geeked by this whole mission and the idea of finding water and perhaps the possibility of past life on Mars. I feel ten years old again and living, once again, at the crest of mankind reaching for the stars.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Crabapple Glory Days

Fifteen years ago my wife and I planted two Flowering Crabapple 'Prairiefire' (Malus) trees. Their bright pinkish-red flowers are a truly glory in the spring . . .for about two days. When they bloom they quickly 'set' and lose the petals and brilliant color in a day or two.

But oh my, while they are in full glorious bloom . . .lets just say we hope we are trying to sale our home in the springtime when the trees are blooming. They may be the best asset of the property, even with winter storm/snow damage the trees suffered a decade or so ago.

Check out the pics and link below and enjoy.

Link: Crabapple Glory


Sunday, May 11, 2008

Do Not Be Taking Urban Dictionary seriously...

The idea that anyone would take the unfiltered content posted to urbandictionary dot com seriously is crazy to me. A disclosure at the bottom of their web pages notes: "Urban Dictionary is not appropriate for all audiences." No duh.

A recent article in the NY Times Magazine online noted the value of the iconic Oxford English Dictionary in seeking ". . .guidance in the finer points of usage..." for words and phrases, a task well served by the O.E.D.

As an example of the hazards out there on the web for the linguistically-challenged writer, the writer notes the Urban Dictionary 'usage' given for the slang rotflmao: "A chatroom abbreviation used mainly by imbeciles, usually in response to something mildly, often very mildly, amusing. People who use this type of shorthand should be avoided like the Spanish flu."

Well, yeah. But the more expected definition is given first: "Rolling on the floor laughing my ass off."

Either you want to say that or you do not.

Urban Dictionary is full of prank, pornographic, and downright stupid definitions. An online O.E.D. it is not. Unless you are trying to understand your teen daughter's 15 y/o boyfriend I am not sure why you would want to believe much, if anything, found on UD.

Hat tip to: A.Word.A.Day newsletter

Thursday, May 8, 2008

"Last Man Down" ...Last job done.

.....September 11, 2001: 9:59 A.M.
"It came as if from nowhere.
There were about two dozen of us by the bank of elevators on the thirty-fifth floor of the north tower of the World Trade Center.
We were firefighters mostly, and we were in various stages of exhaustion...
And then the noise started, and the building began to tremble, and we all froze. Dead solid still... No one spoke. There wasn't time to turn thoughts into words, even though there was time to think.
For me anyway there was time to think, too much time to think...

"Last Man Down" is the sobering personal tale of one New York City fireman's experience surviving a hellish event that the world could never have imagined. His tale is not one of personal heroism while battling flames or pulling innocent victims from the clutches of Death. His tale is one of uncertainty, of not knowing what is happening, of having to be responsible and logical, of having to lead in a situation antithetical to reasoned response, calculated logic and effective leadership.

This is the story of New York City Fire Department Battalion Commander Richard Picciotto and his survival of the collapse of the north tower of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.

Last Man Down opens with a quiet moment of reflection. The author recounts the New York Fire Department's (FDNY) custom of sounding a sequence of five bells, four times in a row, over the FDNY internal bell system when a firefighter is lost in the line of duty. While the communications system has changed "the call of 'four fives,' from one firefighter to another, will always signal the loss of a brother." The author deplores the ugly fact that on September 11, 2001 there was no time for 'four fives'. "There was no time to ring the bells for (our fallen brothers) and too few of us left to hear the ringing."

What follows is his dedication of his story to those firefighters who "gave their lives on that tragic day." What follows are black words set on white paper: rank / surname / given name / unit assignment. Page after page after page after page after page after page after page after page after page after page after page after page of names...343 firefighters strong--as officially recorded by the FDNY--all gone. A roll call as hauntingly obscene as it is beautifully evocative of all that was lost.

"May their spirits soar, and their legacies linger, and may their mention here stand for the bells that never rang in their honor."

Read the rest of the review at Epinions dot com.

Originally published May 2, 2002

Monday, May 5, 2008

APOD: your daily space picture...

Astronomy Picture of the Day
is a site that consistently provides some of the best pictures of the marvels of our universe. Each day a new picture showing an image of the world and the planets and stars above us is presented.

An example is this picture showing two spiral galaxies that will slowly collide over the next billion or so years.

Perhaps some distant relative of humanity will be around to record the 'cosmic wreck'.

Other pictures share images of planet Earth and our interactions with our neighbors, near and far, in our solar system, galaxy, and beyond.

Check out the site and the various ways to search the site and discover a wide range of fantastic astonomy pictures.

New beginnings...


The first time is always an adventure.

First day of school, first 'girl-friend', first kiss, first wife, first baby, first teenager. Each one a new and unique experience.

As is this 'blogging' thing. I mean, what-the-h3ll have I got to say and who cares..?? Indeed.

I have been active on the Internet for almost ten years and this is perhaps the next step. In reality, I intend to use this blog, right now, as a 'back-up' for reviews I have published at Epinions dot com.

Beyond that, I have no idea what I might discuss or share here and who might be interested in hearing it.

We shall see I suppose.