28 January 2015


Listening to NPR and The Writer's Almanac this morning, I heard Garrison Keillor talk about the meaning and origin of the word "serendipity." It's a nice piece, which you can read or listen to by following the link below.

But what I really liked was the following explanation, quoted by Keillor and originally stated by a mid-20th-century medical researcher named Julius H. Comroe, Jr:

"Serendipity is looking in a haystack for a 
needle and discovering a farmer's daughter."

And what could possibly be better than that?

Writer's Almanac for January 28, 2015

13 January 2015

Keyboard Story

In helping Nancy (ex-wife) move to a a new computer, I got her a wireless mouse and keyboard. I therefore kind of inherited her wired mouse and keyboard.  A couple weeks later I needed an extra keyboard to set up a computer for another friend, so I hooked up the old clunky wired keyboard that Nancy has been using for the past ten or twelve years.

And was thrilled to be reminded about the great touch and feel and heft of those old keyboards. This one is a standard HP keyboard from, I'll guess, 2000 or maybe 2003, and it's built like a brick shithouse. The feel of the keys is fabulous. So at least for the moment, I've set aside my high-tech, latest and greatest, wireless, curved, etc etc etc keyboard, and am back using this old clunker with it's fabulous feel. My apologies to business partner Jack and anybody else I've tried to convince about the wonders of modern keyboards—although they are, in fact, pretty great in many ways. But they feel like cheap imitations and toys next to ol' reliable here.



PS. If you have any of those old keyboards, think twice before getting rid of them. Reverting to (or continuing to use) an old-fashioned wired keyboard may be not such a bad thing after all.

PPS. Anybody want to buy a top-of-the-line Logitech keyboard with wireless "Unifying" receiver, music controls, programmable keys, special keys for calculator and turning off computer, ergonomic wrist-rest, sculpted keys, .....

12 January 2015

I Love My Yahoo Ads

I'd like to congratulate the brilliant and creative people at Yahoo for designing their headlines, articles and advertisements so cleverly that it's no longer possible to tell them apart. This is a great strategy that will undoubtedly result in millions of clicks on advertisements when people think they're clicking on articles. And that will thrill both the advertisers and Yahoo, and they'll all make loads of money. From somebody else, that is, since I stopped using Yahoo today. For anything. Ever. But good job!

07 January 2015

Maps #34456

Aren't maps wonderful? This one I saw from Sarah Miller on Twitter ( ‏@sarahlovescali  ) along with the caption:

"Outline of remaining states without gay marriage now resembles an old man, lying on his back, taking his last breath."

My comment might be:

"Hey white states! Relax! Just because you're the last to adopt any sort of social progress, about anything, ever, it doesn't mean you're bad states. You're just full of people who are afraid of people not like "us" and new things—like the future."

A subsequent Twitter post said, "Add same-sex marriage to the list of wars W lost." 

03 January 2015

Oh Shit

Look at the surfer.


(Mavericks is a world-famous surfing spot just north of Half Moon Bay, near San Francisco. It's a fairly mild spot for waves during normal conditions, but has monster surf under certain conditions.)

02 January 2015


I may have to start a new blog called "Awesome Image of the Day" or something. Here are a couple entries for today. (Click on image for original page.)

And here is the site where I found them.

27 December 2014

A Great Texan

Not, it's not an oxymoron. I think we all love this guy. (Click on his picture.)

18 December 2014

Picture Pages

I haven't posted anything for a while, and am today feeling rather picturey. So here's a brief guide to some great pictures:

Astronomy Picture of the Day not only has a great daily astronomy-related picture and commentary, but is one of the oldest sites on the internet. I've been a regular viewer for years, you should be too.

The National Geographic Photo of the Day site likewise has a changing-daily photo that is beautiful, unusual, interesting, astonishing, unbelievable or all of those things.

If you need more pictures of the heavens, take a look at the Hubble Site. It has many fabulous shots of the skies, all or most of which were taken from the orbiting Hubble telescope. Look around the page and click on the "full screen" button to see the pictures in their full glory.

A few years ago, my search for some good desert photos for my aunt led me to a Phoenix-based amateur photographer named Art Brown. Art takes a lot of walks in the desert, and posts outstanding pictures along with desert/hiking commentary. If you like the desert or even if you don't, you'll enjoy these pictures. Here is Art's Desert Exploration Blog and here is a collection on another site. I've used some of Art's pictures to create some very nice greeting cards.

I started making greeting cards a while back in order to help out a friend, and the pictures we were using were of Point Lobos, a section of California coastline near Carmel. I got to be e-friends with the photographer, Chuck Bancroft, who was a park ranger at Point Lobos for 30 years or so. See pictures of Point Lobos and environs at his site, Images by Chuck Bancroft.

And here, from an earlier post, are The Top 100 Pictures of the Day from 2013 from a site called "Twisted Sifter."

22 August 2014

Another Map

So what one word do you think best describes America, or is the situation / condition / characteristic most clearly associated with America?

Apparently somebody undertook a study of countries' Wikipedia pages, and mapped the most-repeated word for each country onto a map of the world.

As usual, there seems to be a minor discrepancy between what is actually true about America and what its residents think is true.


Here's the map.

18 August 2014

Do What?

Uh, Hillary, you may be right about Obama not having a particularly well-phrased foreign policy, but you perhaps need to be a little cautious about what you offer as an alternative...

15 August 2014

Data Visualizations 3

Sites using data visualization techniques to present their data:

The Winds of the World. This is one of the very best. HUGE amounts of data rendered into an instantly-understandable format. Plus it's beautiful. Click-and-hold to rotate, double-click to zoom in. Let me know if you figure out reverse-zoom. And click on bottom left corner items for more info.

Live Air Traffic is vastly more interesting and informative than giant tables of data.

Scientific Collaborations. I'm not sure what this chart shows, but it sure is beautiful!

US Unemployment, 1976 - 2014. Certainly not the prettiest example, and fairly simple—but brilliantly effective in communicating.

Sites about data visualization or those with multiple examples:

"Data Is Beautiful is a hidden gem for gorgeous data visualizations"

14 August 2014

Data Visualizations 2

Here's a nice representation of bicycle trips made by users of "Hubway," a bicycle-sharing service in Boston.


Data Visualizations 1

Here's a video showing the movement of culture (represented by well-known or important people) on the "axis" of historical time. Fascinating stuff, very creative presentation.


08 August 2014

Your Experience Counts For Shot

It's kind of odd. The only tools that God gives us to evaluate reality are our observations and experiences, from which we're presumably supposed to draw conclusions and use to make better decisions in the future. This certainly works well with things like touching a hot stove. 

However, we know from modern science that in order to draw valid conclusions about pretty much anything in the larger world of politics, economics, any of the "ologies," etc., you must have hundreds or thousands of examples and data points, not just a few. So on large scales and big social questions, in other words, your and my experiences are "not statistically meaningful;" there aren't enough of them to tell us anything about whatever it is we're discussing.  

And yet our personal experience is much more real and immediate and meaningful to us than statistics. 

Suppose you live in Plainville, and a survey shows that Plainville is a very safe, largely crime-free town. In LA and New York the crime rate is 20 crimes per thousand people; in Pleasanton and SLO it's five crimes per 1000, and in Plainville it's only one crime per 1000. 

But what if YOU are that one person out of a thousand who got mugged? 

Then you think Plainville is full of criminals and is very unsafe! So from that point on you will lock your doors and have a security system and not go out after dark--even though you're living in the safest town in the country and your neighbors don't lock their doors, have security systems, etc. 

So our personal experience overrides our knowledge, and we therefore make WORSE decisions based on our assessment of the subject. 

Something's wrong with this picture! 

20 July 2014

Collapsing Capitalistic Holes

An original thought. I do have them once in a while....

This was inspired by looking at a picture on Astronomy Picture of the Day while thinking about markets.

Capitalism is like gravity.

An appropriate amount of gravity is essential for the development of universal "life" (stars, galaxies, planets, space-time). But if gravity becomes too concentrated, and is not moderated by other forces, it destroys everything within its reach and rips the universe apart (black holes).

Capitalism held in check by social forces and governments, and applied to social interactions where it sensibly applies and is kept out of those where it doesn't apply, is healthy, productive and arguably essential to the formation and functioning of modern society. However, if capitalistic forces become too strong, and are not held in check and moderated by other social forces, they will destroy the very society they helped create.

Are You One of Them?

Here's the interesting observation for the day.

Because I bought a top-of-the-line keyboard from a company called Logitech, and because Logitech is apparently more concerned with making flashy and multi-featured and whiz-bang keyboards than with ones that actually hold up over time, I'm having to replace all the letters as they gradually wear off. Maybe Logitech didn't understand that people who bought their keyboards would actually use them for typing, and be putting their fingers on the keys dozens or hundreds or perhaps even thousands of times? You would think that a keyboard manufacturer would have figured out this fact, but you'd be wrong.

Anyway, I'm having to buy replacement key decals. So I go to Amazon, look up key decals, and get the usual way-too-many options.

Happily and unexpectedly, I see there are colorful options. So I don't have to go with simple white-on-black or vice versa. There are blue ones, flowery ones, orcs, shades of blue, etc.

Great, I think, I'll get some of the pretty ones. So I start narrowing my search. After poking around a while, I notice the following, which is the observation referred to above:

All the interesting and colorful key decal sets are for Macintosh keyboards, and for IBM-style PCs there are only the dull white-on-black decal sets!

How interesting. Given that there are 100 or perhaps 1000 times as many IBM PCs as Macs in the world, you'd think that there would be a little more demand for something that the Mac community apparently finds worthwhile.

But no, that's not the case.

So one is forced to the sad conclusion that anybody who uses an IBM-style PC rather than a Mac is boring, plain, un-fun, un-interesting, has no sense of style and is cheap--not willing to spend even pennies to buy products that are creative, innovative, artistic or nicely designed.

I think about myself and all my PC-using friends and conclude yes, it's true.....

11 February 2014

Legal Immigrants

I've been avoiding the Twitter reposts, but had to share this one. From @RobElliottComic:

Giraffes born in American zoos are Giraffrican Americans.

10 February 2014

Glenn Greenwald

Glenn is one of the foremost journalists working in America today. He seems to be absolutely fearless when exposing government incompetence, malfeasance, corruption, and abuses of all sorts with a particular emphasis on civil rights. He has had a private blog plus sponsored blogging positions at a couple online newspapers, and now has created a new outlet to better disseminate stories. Highly highly recommended.