Feb 24, 2017

Happy Friday

“The greatest part of our happiness depends on our dispositions, not our circumstances.” ~ Martha Washington

I always keep a happy disposition, especially on a Happy Friday!

Pancake Day

Pancake Day is celebrated primarily in the UK, Ireland, Canada, and Australia. It is also known as Shrove Tuesday, Pancake Day is the day before Ash Wednesday, which is the first day of Lent. Ash Wednesday is March 1, 2017.

Pancake Day was originally a pagan celebration of the changing of seasons, a sort of recognition of the maddening battle this time of year between very cold and beginnings of Spring. Pancakes, in their roundness and warmth, symbolized the sun.



Incidentally, a Bristol-based design firm called Kinneir Dufort has come up with a
3-D printing machine that uses facial recognition technology to print your likeness on a pancake. The system utilizes both the high-tech and the low-tech to mirror your face, combining complex face-recognition and tracking software with the practice of layering strokes of pancake batter onto a hot plate to result in color gradation caused by the varied cooking times of different parts.

Snow White

One of the most famous fables, variations of Snow White appear in more than 400 versions of fairy tales around the world. The most well-known version is actually called “ Snowdrop” and comes from Grimms’ Children’s and Household Tales . It was later tweaked into a more familiar format by the folklorist Andrew Lang and eventually adapted by Walt Disney.

In this version, the queen wished for a child and a baby girl was born; her hair was as dark as ebony and her skin was so fair and pure that her mother named her Snow White. After the queen died, her father married a woman who was vain and wicked, who would stand in front of a magic mirror asking who was the fairest woman in the land. The mirror always replied “My Queen, you are the fairest one of all”, until one day an answer came that threw her into a rage – Snow White was now the fairest woman in all the land.

Snow White’s step-mother, furious at what the mirror had told her, ordered a huntsman to take her into the forest and kill her, taking the girl’s heart as a proof. The huntsman felt sympathy for Snow White and let her free, bringing the Evil Queen a deer’s heart instead. Snow White came upon a small cottage and, feeling exhausted, collapsed into one of the beds and fell into a deep sleep. When she awoke, seven dwarfs were looking down upon her. They told Snow White she could stay with them as long as she cleaned and cooked.

Snow White and the dwarfs lived in contentment, until one day when the magic mirror told the Queen that Snow White was alive and was still the fairest of them all. The Queen disguised herself as an old woman and presented Snow White with a poisoned apple. After taking a bite of the apple, Snow White fell unconscious. The dwarfs, assuming she was dead, built a glass coffin and placed her inside.

In the animated movie, the prince convinced the dwarfs to let him give her one last kiss - that became the most popular version. She awakened and the prince declared his love for her.  They were married, and as all fairy tales go, they lived happily ever after.

Other versions include, "Gold-Tree and Silver-Tree” - “Maria, the Wicked Stepmother, and the Seven Robbers” - ”Snow-White and Rose-Red“ and "The Young Slave."

Incidentally,  Disney announced a live-action feature retelling Snow White’s tale from her sister’s perspective, Rose Red.

Free Art

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City announced last week that 375,000 high resolution images of artworks in its collection are now under the Creative Commons Zero license. This means hundreds of thousands of artworks can now be accessed, downloaded, and used, without needing to ask for permission or being afraid of lawsuits.

Now you can download some real art, make it any size you like with your computer, go get a frame, and hang works from the masters on your wall for a fraction of the cost of an original. Some might like to use them for screen savers. You can search or peruse the collections here. LINK

Apple Museum

Speaking of art, there is an Apple Museum in Prague, Czech Republic. Not sure why this place was chosen, but seems like a full fledged museum dedicated to rare Apple devices and Steve Jobs' memorabilia, and rare Apple souvenirs from private collectors.

The memorabilia in the museum dates from 1976 to 2012. The artifacts on display include mostly every printer, joystick, mouse, and PC, as well as software representations. One exhibit includes
two long tables which showcase how the iPod and iPhone have evolved over time. The collections tell the story of Jobs along with the hardware.

Also included are high school yearbooks with Jobs and Steve Wozniak, the co-founder. Going beyond Apple, it includes Pixar and NeXT items which are representative Jobs time with those companies. Next time you are in Prague, might be an interesting side trip.

Zinc and Colds

It is one of the few ingredients linked to shortening a cold. Unlike Vitamin C, which studies have found likely does nothing to prevent or treat the common cold, zinc may actually be worth it. The mineral seems to interfere with the replication of rhinoviruses, the bugs that cause the common cold.

In a 2011 review of studies of people who recently became ill, researchers looked at those who started taking zinc and compared them with those who just took a placebo. The ones on the zinc had shorter colds and less severe symptoms.

Online Jury Duty

Many do not like jury duty, but did you know you can perform jury duty from the comfort of your own home and make money doing it?
Lawyers will post a case summary and verdict questions to the OnlineVerdict, with the option of having 25 or 50 jury-eligible people review the case facts and provide feedback on the case issues. Registered jurors in the venue the case was filed will receive an email invitation to review the case, and when completed, will receive payment for their time. Juror feedback is tabulated and presented to the lawyer or legal professional who posted the case.

Each case review may take anywhere from 20-60 minutes to complete depending on the length of the case summary and the number of attorney-provided questions. Juror payment amounts ($20-$60) reflect the amount of time estimated to review a case. The web site for more info is LINK

Robo Marimba

Here is something you do not see every day. It is a robot that plays music in relation to what human musicians are playing.

Shimon, engineer Guy Hoffman’s robot musician, does not play programmed music, it improvises in ensembles with human players, communicating with a expressive head and favoring musical ideas that are unlikely to be chosen by humans, so as to lead the performance in genuinely novel directions.

The robot combines computational modeling of music perception, interaction, and improvisation, with the capacity to produce melodic acoustic responses in physical and visual manners. Shimon has performed with human musicians in dozens of concerts and festivals from DLD in Munich Germany, the US Science Festival in Washington DC, the Bumbershoot Festival in Seattle WA, and Google IO in San Francisco. Georgia Tech Center for Music Technology is Shimon’s patron.

Here is a three minute example of the pleasant outcome. LINK

Wordology, Roughshod

We see this word in the expression "to run/ride roughshod" over somebody or something, meaning to tyrannize or treat harshly.

It came about as a way to describe the 17th century version of snow tires. A "rough-shod" horse had its shoes attached with protruding nail heads in order to get a better grip on slippery roads. It was great for keeping the horse on its feet, but not so great for anyone the horse might step on.

Feb 19, 2017

Happy Friday

Smiles are like honey, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.

I always share sweet smiles, especially on a Happy Friday!

Gravity Myth

Many believe there is no gravity in space. Astronauts appear weightless in space, so there is an assumption that space is a place with zero gravity. That assumption carries no weight.

There is less gravity in space, but the idea that there is none is factually incorrect. There is gravity on Earth, on the moon, and on the sun. It all around us. The reason why space allows humans to be weightless is because they are gravitating toward the Earth at the same rate as their ships.

Coffee Grounds Uses

Coffee grounds serve a dual purpose when it comes to cleaning pots and pans. Grounds attract and absorb grease and oil, making them an ideal candidate, with dish soap for removing excess grease from a pan.


Coffee attracts worms and their presence means a healthy garden. Also, the acidity in the grounds keeps snails and slugs away. The grounds alter the pH level of soil, which can result in new colors for flowers.

Sprinkling grounds over wood before setting a fire can stop ashes from flying around.

After rinsing your hands, scrub them with used grounds, and then wash
to remove the smell of garlic or fish from them. The grounds exfoliate your skin and remove dead tissue, which is where much of the smell resides.

Coffee grounds as a skin scrub can help revitalize your face and reduce cellulite.

Put a bowl of grounds in the back of the fridge, and another in the freezer. Some people argue that raw grounds work as the best deodorizer, while others claim used grounds are best. Try a half-and-half mixture.

Millennials overtake Baby Boomers

It finally happened, Millennials are now America’s largest generation according to population estimates from the US Census Bureau. Millennials, those ages 18-34 in 2015, now number 75.4 million, surpassing the 74.9 million Baby Boomers, ages 51-69. Generation X, ages 35-50 in 2015 is projected to pass the Boomers in population by 2028.

The Millennial generation continues to grow as young immigrants expand its ranks. Boomers, whose generation was defined by the boom in US births following World War II are older and their numbers shrinking as their number of deaths exceeds the number of older immigrants arriving in the country. With immigration adding more numbers to its group than any other, the Millennial population is projected to peak in 2036 at 81.1 million.


Pew Research Center established that the oldest Millennial was born in 1981 and the youngest Millennial was born in 1997.

Unseen World

A friend of mine, John Mascitti passed along this great Ted Talk. Fast and slow motion from the minute to the enormous. Seven minutes of wonder. LINK

Amethyst

It is a semiprecious stone and is the traditional birthstone for February. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/amethyst

1250-1300;  Latin amethystus, Greek am├ęthystos not intoxicating, not intoxicated (so called from a belief that it prevented drunkenness)


The ancient Greeks wore amethyst and made drinking vessels decorated with it in the belief that it would prevent intoxication. It is one of several forms of quartz.

Wordology, Nasothek

A collection of noses is a Nasothek.

Classical statues tend to lose their noses, and during the 19th century museums would commonly replace them with “restoration” noses, to preserve the appearance of the original sculpture.


During the 20th century some museums changed philosophies and “de-restored” their collections, thinking it better to present each piece in its authentic state. This created a excess of noses, and some museums collect these into displays of their own. I make no claims about which one might resemble mine.

Incidentally, Gutzon Borglum, who also sculpted Mount Rushmore, sculpted the Capitol bust of Abraham Lincoln - with just one ear.  He believed that the dualities of Lincoln’s personality (hard as rock, soft as velvet) were reflected in the opposite sides of his face, with the right strong and masculine, the left soft and feminine.  Borglum said of Lincoln’s face, “You see half-smile, half-sadness; half anger, half-forgiveness; half-determination, half-pause; a mixture of expression that drew accurately the middle course he would follow.” If you look at the left side, you do not see an ear. Borglum explained that he purposely omitted the ear because he wished attention to be drawn to the stronger right side of the face.

Self Destructing Phone

From noses to ears to phones. Researchers in Saudi Arabia have developed a mechanism that, when triggered, can destroy a Smartphone or other electronic device. The self-destruct mechanism consists of a polymer layer that rapidly expands when subjected to temperatures above 80 degrees Celsius, effectively bursting the phone open from the inside. The mechanism can be adapted to be triggered in various ways, including remotely through a Smartphone app or when it is subjected to pressure.

Once triggered, power from the device's battery is directed to electrodes that rapidly heat, causing the polymer layer to expand to about seven times its original size within 10-15 seconds. This crushes the vital components inside the device, destroying any stored information.

One engineer believes the phone will see adoption in the intelligence and financial communities first, though it can also be retrofitted to existing phones for about $15.

Cold or Flu

This is the time of year there are many bugs going around to make us miserable. Worse yet, some come back during the same season. In general, flu symptoms tend to be more severe than cold symptoms, but do not last as long. Here are a few ways to tell whether you have a cold or the flu.

  • Symptoms of a cold usually come on gradually, but symptoms of the flu can appear suddenly.
  • Symptoms such as sneezing, stuffy nose, and sore throat are more common with colds than with the flu.
  • People with the flu usually develop a fever, but people with colds rarely do.
  • The flu often causes body aches and headaches, which can be severe. If you have a cold, aches are usually mild.
  • The flu can cause serious complications, such as pneumonia or bacterial infections, but such compilations are rare with colds.
  • You can get a seasonal flu vaccine to reduce the severity of flu each year, but there is no vaccine to protect from the common cold.
  • Washing your hands frequently can help prevent either cold or flu.
There is no cure for the common cold, but relief includes: stay hydrated, get rest, soothe a sore throat, combat stuffiness, relieve pain. etc. All are common sense, and should help you feel better for the week or two it takes to shake that nasty cold. Antibiotics attack bacteria, but they are no help against cold viruses.

Antiviral medications do not cure, but can help alleviate some of flu symptoms, and many of the remedies for cold apply to the flu as well, including taking medicine for headaches. Flu symptoms usually are gone in a short time and do not linger as a cold does.

Regardless of whether you have a cold or the flu, the illness will usually go away on its own, but you should visit your doctor if your symptoms change or get worse. If you get either a cold or flu, please stay home and do not share.

Feb 10, 2017

Happy Friday

Laughter is like a push-up bra for your personality.

Now I understand why I like laughter so much, especially on a Happy Friday!

Apple TV

If you have a 4th generation Apple TV box and want to reduce the loud sounds to equalize volume during some parts of shows, press the microphone on your Apple remote and say to Siri, "Reduce loud sounds." It will change the internal settings until you change it again.

4k UHD, HDR-10 (Dolby Vision), OLED, Smart TV

Since the last time I wrote about TVs some new acronyms have popped up. If you are buying a TV for the future these are important, but if you are buying a TV for short term, (the next few years) almost all of these are not important. The reason they are not important is because almost no one is broadcasting to take advantage of 4K, HDR-10, (Dolby), except some Netflix and Bluray DVDs.

Smart TV - These sets are good to have now and the majority of new TVs are smart TVs. They allow access to the internet from your home WiFi and provide access to Netflix, YouTube, Hulu, and more without the need for a separate box.
Many Smart TVs give you a full web browser, so you can use a search engine or visit websites. Some let you play interactive online games.

4K UHD - these ultra-high-definition televisions offer four times the resolution of a standard 1080p HDTV. Instead of a screen that has about 2 million pixels, these televisions show about 8 million pixels.

HDR-10, Dolby Vision - I lump these two, High Dynamic Range and Dolby10 together, because they are competing technologies, kind of like the old Betamax / VHS argument. Some manufactures are using one vs. the other and some have both. HDR is currently winning, because it is open source while manufacturers must pay royalties to Dolby for its technology. Many advertisements refer to them simply as Dolby and HDR.

The first of the two major differences between Dolby Vision and HDR-10 is that Dolby uses 12 bits per color (red, green, and blue), where HDR-10 uses 10 bits per color. The second, Dolby Vision uses dynamic, or continuous metadata so that color and brightness levels can be adjusted per scene, or even frame-by-frame basis. HDR-10 uses static metadata that is sent only once at the beginning of the video. Both reproduce a wider range of brightness levels, higher contrast ratio, and richer colors. Contrast ratio is the measurement of the difference in brightness between the whitest white and the darkest black. When seen side by side with non-HDR content, HDR-enhanced video is incredibly bright and with vibrant colors. Samples show a very positive marked difference.

Some TVs use OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diode) screens for a superior image and other benefits. Televisions packed with organic light-emitting diodes are incredibly thin, because each pixel is its own light source, so backlighting is not required. These televisions are more energy efficient than other TV panel types. Some LG TVs are as thin as four credit cards.
Quantum dot  or QLED TVs can match the contrast ratio of OLED. Quantum dots are microscopic dots about a fraction of the width of a human hair.Samsung uses the term Quantum Dot.


Bottom line, you can get 4K UHD, HDR (Dolby), OLED on one TV. Every 4K is UHD by definition. Almost all TVs are LED, but very few are OLED or Quantum dot. Most TVs are now Smart TVs.

Incidentally, DolbyVision is for pictures and Dolby Atmos is for sound.

Lucille

In the winter of 1949, BB King played at a dance hall in Twist, Arkansas. The hall was heated by a barrel half-filled with burning kerosene, a fairly common practice at the time. During a performance, two men began to fight, knocking over the barrel and sending burning fuel across the floor. The hall burst into flames, and the building was evacuated.

Once outside, King realized that he had left his guitar inside so he went back into the burning building to retrieve his beloved $30 Gibson guitar. King learned the next day that the two men that started the fire had been fighting over a woman who worked at the hall named Lucille. King named that guitar, and every guitar he subsequently owned, Lucille, as a reminder never again to do something as stupid as run into a burning building or fight over a woman.

Quote

“Like a welcome summer rain, humor may suddenly cleanse and cool the earth, the air and you." ~ Langston Hughes

TV No Tuner

For those of you who may wish to get an antenna and ditch cable, check the TV you have and the next one you buy. Some manufacturers have begun to eliminate the tuner in order to save costs.
A TV tuner is a device that converts digital over-the-air channels for viewing on compatible displays and TVs. If you get a TV without a tuner, you will need some kind of converter box, such as an HDTV Digital TV Converter box with HDMI output.  You can also get a DVR that will turn an antenna into HDMI cable. This way not only do you get OTA but a DVR to record your shows.

External TV tuners cost from fifteen US dollars up to multiple hundreds of dollars and can be as small as a USB stick up to the size of a cigar box. You can also buy a TV tuner card for a PC and turn it into a television.

Wordology, Pareidolia

The natural tendency to see faces in objects or patterns.

It is the psychological phenomenon that causes some people to see or hear a vague or random image or sound as something significant. Pronounced par-i-DOH-lee-a.

Feb 3, 2017

Happy Friday

If happiness lives in your soul, a smile will adorn your face.

My soul keeps me smiling, especially on a Happy Friday!

World Cancer Day

Saturday, February 4 is World Cancer Day 2017. The day is celebrated to raise awareness of all types of cancer and to encourage the prevention and treatment of cancer. The idea is to become aware and push for actions that will reduce premature deaths, improve quality of life, and increase cancer survival rates. More info here http://www.worldcancerday.org/faq

National Lame Duck Day

On February 6 National Lame Duck Day recognizes the ratification of the 20th Amendment on February 6, 1933 to the United States Constitution, or the Lame Duck Amendment.
The term 'lame duck' originated as a description of stock brokers in 1700s England who could not pay off their debts. The term later carried over to businessmen who, while known to be bankrupt, would continue to do business.
The official record of the United States Congress of January 14, 1863 read, "In no event ... could [the Court of Claims] be justly obnoxious to the charge of being a receptacle of 'lame ducks' or broken down politicians." In politics a lame duck is a person currently holding a political office who has either: lost a re-election bid, chose not to seek another term, was prevented from running for re-election due to a term limit, or the office held has been eliminated.
Prior to the ratification of the 20th Amendment to the United States Constitution there was, for Congress a 13 month delay between election day and the day the newly elected officials took office. In the case of a lame duck, this was a 13 month notice his or her job was terminating, crippling his or her influence. Hence the lame or injured duck. The 20th Amendment shortened this period from 13 months to 2 months and changed the dates for the beginning of the new Congress to January 3 and when the newly elected president took office from March 4th to January 20th.
During a lame duck session, members of Congress are no longer accountable to their constituents. It is possible for their focus to switch to more personal gain instead of acting on behalf of their constituents with an eye toward re-election. Lame duck Congresses have declared war, impeached a president, censured a senator, and passed the Homeland Security Act among other actions. Lame duck Presidents have pardoned many criminals, issued executive orders, confiscated land to create national parks, declared areas to be newly opened or newly restricted from drilling for oil, created additional federal judges, executive clemency for family members, and more.

Jimmy Carter's administration published more than 10,000 pages of new rules between Election Day and Ronald Reagan's Inauguration Day. When President George W. Bush took office in 2001, his administration acted to block the implementation of 90 final rules that were issued in the final months of the Clinton administration, but that had not yet gone into effect.


Incidentally, unlike the United States Congress, there is no 'lame duck session of Parliament in most Commonwealth countries between the general election and swearing in of elected officials.

Fluffy Eggs

A friend of mine, Jeff Flanagan passed along this quick scrambled egg tip. Instead of butter or spray for a pan coating, use a little olive oil.  Much fluffier eggs.

Bacon Up

Holy Disaster - US bacon reserves hit 50-year low. Prices continue to go up in a sizzle. The average price of bacon across America has risen 14 percent since June of last year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Analysts are reporting an 18% increase in the wholesale price of pork, with the surge expected to have a continued rise on the price of bacon and sausages.

Pig farmers can't keep up with the world's sizzling appetite for those fatty, juicy, smoky strips of sheer eating pleasure. US Department of Agriculture, “Today’s pig farmers are setting historic records by producing more pigs than ever,” said Rich Deaton, president of the organization. “Yet our reserves are still depleting.”


Hog farmers export approximately 26 percent of total production, the Bacon Council said. China still produces almost four times the amount of pork as the US, so the US may need to reduce exporting in order to satisfy local demand or risk rising imports. Bottom line, eat more bacon now before the next increase.

Quote

 “Laugh a lot, and when you are older, all your wrinkles will be in the right places.”

Falconry Terms

Some common terms we use come from falconry. For instance, the term, 'under your thumb’ comes from the falconry way of holding the bird's talons under ones thumb to keep it from flying away.
A falcon is fitted with a small leather hood over the bird’s eyes and head to keep it from being distracted. From this we get the term ‘hoodwinked’.

Falconers regularly give their bird a small treat when landing on their hand. Each time the bird goes to find game, like rabbits, and returns it is given another treat. After a few sessions the bird is full and no longer wants to go hunt. It is said the bird is ‘fed up’.

Quick Conversion

 If you want to quickly convert between miles and kilometers, you can use the Fibonacci sequence to make a conversion with a good degree of accuracy. The Fibonacci sequence, which is the basis for the golden ratio (1.618), begins like this: 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144

Each number in the sequence after the first two is the sum of the previous two numbers. Look at any number in the sequence as a number of miles and the next number in the sequence is approximately that same distance in kilometers. For example, 55 miles equals about 89 kilometers. Conversely, 34 kilometers equals about 21 miles.

The conversion of miles to kilometers is 1.609. The small difference between that and 1.618 will cause higher numbers to not equal, but the numbers would need to be quite high to make a difference. When in your car, check your speedometer for a quick comparison.

Krispy Kreme Giveaway

Starting February 6 ending February 28, Krispy Kreme will provide customers with a free original glazed doughnut when they purchase a coffee in any size. No coupon is required, and customers may take advantage of as many free doughnuts as they can handle while the deal is valid.

The company is relaunching its coffee with a choice of two flavors: Smooth and Rich. The former is described as best for "subtle, easy drinking," while the latter is darker and comes with a "more bold experience."