Friday, August 28, 2009

Not beyond reasonable doubt

The coroner has ruled Michael Jackson's death a homocide. He seems to have overlooked the possibility that the desperately addicted Jackson might have awakened during Dr. Murray's bathroom break and injected himself with an additonal overdose of propofol. Thus it could have been an accidental suicide. Alternatively, a member of his family could have done it.

I'm sorry to inflict you with yet more of the endless comment on Jackson, but this seems instructive in how to evaluate evidence.

Week One

Classes are over for the week. Or, at least, mine are. Techinically, one of my classes doesn't get out for another hour but the professor let us out early because today he was just introducing the class. My classes seem fine so far, and I don't have too much work yet (knock on wood!), just some reading. German class is probably my favorite, which is good because it meets three days a week and my other classes meet once or twice.
It raining hard and I forgot my umbrella (and I usually have it!), so right now I'm in Bender Arena waiting to see if the rain will let up. Yay for wireless campuses.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Pre-eclampsia figured out ?

Pre-eclampsia has sometimes been linked to genetics, but a new clue comes from a study that finds that it might be related to eating unpasteurized dairy products infected with a fungus such as a particular type of mold. I don't know whether they mean something like Camembert or what, but, maybe more information will come out.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

World's longest yard sale

Route 127 from Ohio to Alabama is the site of the world's longest yard sale. It starts the first Thursday in August through to the following Sunday. It is too late for this year, but info about next year is available.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Julia Child sells out

Predictably enough, after the fine movie "Julie and Julia" hit the theatres, Julia Child's cookbook is the number one hit in book sales, after 50 years in print. Julie Powell's book is doing well too.

Out Foxed

The fox got most of our remaining chickens, including super-rooster. The strange thing is that instead taking just one, he got a bunch of them at once. Maybe it was a gang of foxes. Or, maybe it was a coyote. I don't know of coyotes in this area, but they are elsewhere around DC, so, maybe.

Foxes and coyotes don't get along. Basically the coyotes are stronger and munch on foxes, although they prefer cats. So, it is either a fox or a coyote, but not both.

The arms race is on. I'm going after 'em. In my opinion, a keeper of domestic animals has an ethical duty to protect domesticated animals from the wild ones.

Community Supported Agriculture

There is an interesting concept around called community supported agriculture. The way Lance Estevez works it is for around $20 per week (price could vary next year), he delivers to your house, organic produce from his farm. He tries to get at least 3 people in each locale so he can justify fuel costs.

So far he is covering only the Waldorf, Accokeek, Oxon Hill area. He grows the usual vegetables and also provides eggs. He has more business than he wants, but has agreed to include us for next year if we can find a couple of neighbors to include. Lance has a bad back and is limited in his activities.

I intend to ask him to include a season-long supply of fresh basil. That will be popular for sure.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Drink Beer for Better Bones

Women who drink beer regularly have increased bone density.


Does anyone know a good bookstore (used/new/or both) accessible by the DC metro? Or does anyone have any thoughts on Capitol Hill Books? For reading books, not textbooks.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Animated knot tying

There is a website on knot tying where the process is animated for your instruction. One of the more interesting ones, under the category of boat and utility, is the trucker's hitch. I didn't know about that one before. The nice part about it is that you tighten it by pulling down on the free end. The free end provides one tension, the double loop provides another two tensions for a total force amplification of three.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Boo got shot

An interesting thing just happened that left me reflective on how we perceive things. I was walking to my car in a deserted shopping center at 11pm. A black SUV starts driving towards me, a little faster than normal which makes me nervous. As is approaches me I hear a deafening *POP*. I duck because I think someone is shooting at me. As the car drives away I see they ran over a soda can and feel silly.

First Impressions

So far, college feels like camp. Of course, classes haven't started yet, and I'm participating in a 4 day community service program. My group is working at a community center in southeast DC called THE ARC. Today we did some painting for them.
I moved in Sunday, and both my roommates are here as well. All of our stuff seems to fit into out room, which consists of a bunk bed, a loft bed, 3 desks, 3 bookshelves, 3 dressers (2 of them in the built in wall storage). We have a tiny micro fridge (microwave and fridge issued by the school) and a TV and DVD player which we haven't hooked up yet. I have the top bunk. Our room faces northwest, so I can watch the sunset through the window. The view is ok-- as long as you don't look directly down to the parking lot below.
Classes start next Monday.

Monday, August 17, 2009

The surgeon's knot

Various knots are designed for different purposes. A handy knot to know is the surgeon's knot. It is just like tying a square knot, except that the first twist is done twice instead of once. This helps maintain tension on the secured object while the next twist is tied. Click on this link for a picture.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Give me a regular haircut

Today I got a haircut. For men this is easy to specify. Most men ask for and all barbers understand the "regular haircut." I don't know how the term originated. Maybe it referred to meeting Armed Forces "regulations." In any case, it is now a deeply embedded part of American culture. Sometimes the order might be modified with "a bit long" or "on the short side".

Of course, the barbers will also take special orders such as "flat top", "Mohawk", or "mullet". Most men don't care, so they simply say "give me a regular." Oftentimes, nothing is said, both the customer and barber say nothing and the cutting proceeds.

Today was a bit unusual, at least for me. Most barbers will quickly clip the excess ear hair characteristic of old men, and that happened. But what was unusual is that he also went for my right eyebrow and clipped the wild straight, often gray, hairs also characteristic of older men. I didn't particularly want it done, but it was too late to complain. Of course the left one had to be done for symmetry, so I said nothing. Now I look young ... heh.

The barber appeared Filipino. Maybe eyebrow customs are different there.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Trying to think of mechanisms

Is there any plausible way to connect solar activity with Earth's climate ? In the visible region of the spectrum, sunspots make only a minor difference in solar output. But in the ultraviolet, a 6% decrease due to no sunspots is significant.

Smog, created by the action of UV on atmospheric pollutants, almost certainly acts as a greenhouse gas. Decreasing the amount of UV would plausibly decrease the amount of smog and hence decrease the amount of greenhouse effect, leading to cooling.

Atmospheric pollutants are sometimes human caused. Sometimes the pollutants are natural in origin, such as, the emission of hydrocarbons by certain kinds of trees. The Great Smokey Mountains are said to have a "smokey" appearance precisely due to tree emissions.

It therefore seems plausible to me that an absence of sunspots could lead to cooling. Detailed calculations are in order (but I'm not going to do it).

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Continued Strangeness of the Sun

It is now been 31 days since a sunspot has appeared on the sun. This is at a time when the next solar cycle is long overdue. At visible wavelengths the solar irradiation has dropped only a small amount, while at ultraviolet wavelengths, a 6% drop has occurred. For more info see this NASA link.

Meanwhile, back on Earth, the National Snow and Ice Data Center, reports that this summer's ice coverage in the arctic is between the former long term average and what occurred during the ice coverage low of 2007.

Whether this is related to the Sun's behavior no one knows. We do know that increased CO2 in the atmosphere should increasing global warning, but the Sun is also an important factor.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Microchipping your pet.

A subject I had never before thought about popped up today with a news article about microchipping your pet. This involves inserting an RFID chip under the skin of the animal. Both veterinarians and animal shelters commonly scan a lost animal for a chip in order to determine whether it has an owner.

The procedure costs about $50 but varies from veterinarian to veterinarian. Someone with 37 chickens, 2 dogs, a pig and a donkey faces a formidable cost. The cost escalates still further if you have a pet hornet nest, and, worse, I'm not sure whether the chip would fit into each hornet. If you have only one or two pets, it is affordable.