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.


15 January 2014


The Weather Underground ("Wunderground") has long been one of my favorite weather sites. Lot of info at its main site.

I recently saw the Wunderground app running on an iPad, and was surprised to see that a much more detailed and colorful map was apparently available for the iPad than for the PC. So I wrote to the site and asked if I could get that same map through a regular browser.

Here's the answer.

(click and slide to move the map around, zoom controls on the left.)

13 January 2014

Interesting Mondays

Three things of note today:

1. Another fabulous map (thanks to John Bartelt.)

2. Bumper sticker: Stop Global Whining. (Thanks to Mike Lucas.)

3. And from APOD, still one of my top-five internet sites, here is an "interactive infographic" to show you how big or small things are. It's been around for quite a while, but is wonderful to see for the first time or for review.

10 January 2014

Drumming Fun

The Top Secret Drum Corp of Basel?

That's what they say...


Thanks to friend Dorothy Shaw Ariens for the link.

05 January 2014

If you like maps, you've love this:

40 Maps That Will Help You Make Sense of the World

The Winds of Earth

More in the continuing series, "Wonders of the Internet."

Move left/right/up/down with click-and-hold

Zoom in with double click, zoom out with shift double click

28 December 2013

Dining Dogs and other favorites

Following are some of my favorite videos from YouTube. I think I've posted them before, but they're definitely worth another look.

27 December 2013

Merry Christmas

So I was walking down the street the other day, and for some inexplicable reason I invented a joke.

I'm fairly good at repeating jokes I've heard or read, but I'm not one to actually invent jokes. I just pass them along, like everybody else. The Source of Jokes has long been largely a mystery.

So it was rather surprising to come with something original—if not all that clever or sophisticated. Hey, it's my first try...


So what did Santa say when Mrs. Claus asked him what he thought of Miley Cyrus?


You should be able to figure this out. Send a comment to share the laugh or to get the answer.

You Barbarians

I don't need any more reasons to appreciate Paul Krugman, but he keeps providing them. I liked the last sentence of the second paragraph below. (This is from Krugman's blog, 27 Dec 2013).

OK, I’m a New Yorker. So says the dialect questionnaire from the Times, which I’ve just gotten around to; try it, it’s fun. Actually, what it said is that I’m from New York, Yonkers, or Newark — but close enough.

I was, however, somewhat disappointed that the most distinctive New Yorkism in my speech was the one I already knew about — the Mary, marry, merry test. Civilized people give these words distinctly different pronunciations; the rest of you barbarians don’t.


Update: Mairy, maary, mehry.

12 November 2013

Adventures in Language

or possibly "Language Abuse."

From the  MSNBC headline on an article about self-propelled vacuum cleaners:

New Roomba chews up hair and is 50 percent suckier