Forget whatever witty and informative post I was going to provide tonight.  Go over to The Occasional CEO and read about the latest and greatest economic forecasting tool:  Just Follow the Bones.
Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, January 28, 2010 at 9:06 pm | Edit
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Nanosurf—the company that put an atomic force microscope on Mars and good Swiss bread on Janet's table—has a cool promotional video.

Disclosure: I receive no direct material compensation for posting this video or anything else about Nanosurf.  It can't be denied, however, that the support of our daughter's family is of considerably more value than receiving a free book.
Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, January 20, 2010 at 9:31 am | Edit
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Today's Stone Soup says it all.  Far from being boring, the people I know who are not active on Facebook are choosing instead to live their First Lives.  :)

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, November 5, 2009 at 7:07 am | Edit
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Thirty years ago we entered the world of adventure gaming.  We had graduated by that point, so I believe it was my brother who first hooked us up to the University of Rochester's computer system, on which was installed ADVENT, the one, the true, the original computer adventure game—running on a DEC-10, I'm pretty sure, though my memory is misty on the details.  After ADVENT we moved on to the original Zork, which was just as much fun.  No devotee of today's high-action, graphic-heavy, semi-realistic games will ever understand the delight of those simple, text-based games.  (The links will take you to Wikipedia's description of the games, but I'd avoid them if you ever think you might play them yourself.  The ADVENT—Adventure—entry especially gives too much away.  And if you're wondering why the name was ADVENT rather than Adventure in those days...believe it or not, it's because "Adventure" has too many letters.

What was truly wonderful about the games was the social interaction.  One of my favorite memories is of the houseful of relatives who had come to share Thanksgiving with us.  We had a borrowed terminal and the old-fashioned type of modem—new technology then—into which one fitted the telephone handset after dialing in and hearing the carrier tone.  We took turns typing commands into the computer, and everyone participated in solving the puzzles, each person contributing his own special knowledge and way of thinking.  The idea of "cooperative games" leaves a bad taste in my mouth, being associated with the misguided self-esteem movement in public schools some years ago, but these, truly, were cooperative games, in which we all won and to which everyone had something to contribute. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, October 5, 2009 at 11:01 am | Edit
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My favorite section of the newsletter we get from Wycliffe Bible Translators is where they give some interesting example of the challenges of accurate translation.  The "back translation"—translating back into English something that had been translated from Engilsh to the new language—often reveals subtleties and misunderstandings that can be quite funny.

As it turns out, one doesn't need to be documenting a rare, unwritten language to find translation humor.  Our new printer came with the following warning:

This product is supplied with a plug that has a protective earth pin.  This plug will fit only into an earthed electrical outlet. This is a safety feature.  To avoid risk of electric shock, contact your electrician to replace the electrical outlet if you are unable to insert the plug into it. Never use an earthed adapter plug to connect the product to an electrical outlet that lacks an earth connection terminal.

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, October 3, 2009 at 6:26 pm | Edit
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Too much politics lately.   Time for something lighter.

Here's what looks like a Japanese game show where the contestants must wake up, get ready for school, and be out the door in less than five minutes.  That's just a guess—the only words I understood after "three, two, one, go!" were "bento" and "sandwich."  I love it for the reminders of Japan, and for the really cool lunch the mother makes for her child to take to school.  Note the Japanese way of quick shirt-folding.  Can any of my Japanese-speaking readers (all one and a half of you) tell me what on earth she is doing with the shirt? And why that would be part of a normal morning routine?

I never did understand brushing one's teeth before eating, though.
Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, September 21, 2009 at 6:02 pm | Edit
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Hat tip to Andy Bonner for this humorous look at the copyright mess.

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, August 11, 2009 at 4:49 pm | Edit
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My sister called me a geek because I adorned reserved church pews with such labels as "DSTB 1" and "NMB 2."  To me, that was a compliment, but I still maintain I'm too old to be a geek.  Nonetheless, I was pleased to note that I scored higher than expected on Geek Dad's 100 Essential Skills for Geeks.  (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, July 20, 2009 at 8:45 am | Edit
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To prove the Front Porch Republic isn't all academic discussions of too much length and intensity for the casual reader, check out Animals Were Definitely Harmed in the Production of this Story, explaining why, unlike modern movies, farm life entails "‘the harming of animals of every shape and in every fashion."

The story is less morbid than amusing, and rings true to life outside of Hollywood.  Here are a few excerpts to tempt you. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, June 18, 2009 at 1:59 pm | Edit
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The lituus is not a test to determine the pH of a substance, although that's how I read it at first.  It's a musical instrument, and one of the last works written for it was J. S. Bach's O Jesu Christ, meins Lebens Licht.  No modern listener has been able to hear Bach's motet as it was intended, however, because the instrument fell out of favor and became extinct.  No one today knows what it looked or sounded like. 

Until now.  Alistair Braden and Murray Campbell, from the University of Edinburgh, at the request of—ta da!—the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis, applied to the problem software they had designed to improve modern brass instruments. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, May 31, 2009 at 11:10 am | Edit
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Wolfram|Alpha is in its infancy, and like any baby it can be quite cute.  Like this example Janet discovered while trying to figure out how much powdered (confectioner's) sugar is in a box.

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, May 23, 2009 at 7:34 am | Edit
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For every presidential election in recent history (meaning at least the last 30), I have had one overriding concern:  the nomination of Supreme Court justices.  I was asked once why it would be a problem if President Obama merely replaces retiring liberal justices with more liberals—other than missing the opportunity to "pack" the court to my liking.  That's when I realized that I don't want a biased Supreme Court, at least not in the sense my friend was implying.  But neither do I want a "balanced" Supreme Court.  I want one that will rule based on the Constitution, whether they are for or against me.  I don't want the Judiciary taking over the role of the Legislature.  If our Justices are chosen based on their positions on particular issues rather than for their position vis–à–vis the Constitution and the Law, I think we have little hope for real justice.

But enough heavy thinking!  Mallard Fillmore can make me smile, even about such an important issue.


Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, May 18, 2009 at 10:40 am | Edit
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As if Wolfram|Alpha weren't enough to lure me away from productive work, Phil (not the Phil who comments here) posts this news story.

You get the picture.

(Oh, Janet—look what happens when you lure your mother to the computer for a phone call and then go out for the evening!  Wink )
Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, May 16, 2009 at 4:14 pm | Edit
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This Stone Soup cartoon makes me think, not of our children, who have learned from us and built well upon what they've learned, so that we in our turn have learned from them, but about our society in general, as we (re)discover the virtues of thrift and living within one's means; of childbirth as a natural, personal process; of breastfeeding; of small farms and organically-grown food; of respecting, enjoying, and conserving our natural environment.  We knew all this 40 years ago; how did we fail to pass it on?  Probably in the same way our parents' and grandparents' generations failed to pass their virtues on to us....

Not that progress isn't being made:  somehow we've managed to make smoke-free airplanes and restaurants stick, for one thing; and many in the next generation are rediscovering what was lost between our parents' generation and ours:  the blessings of having many children.  :)
Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, April 25, 2009 at 7:34 am | Edit
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Three diverse takes on China:

Although written nearly a year ago (note the line, "Assuming that the global economy does not decline now, it will at some point"), George Friedman's geopolitical analysis of China (via InvestorsInsight) is perhaps frightening, perhaps reassuring, but certainly fascinating.  The concluding summary provides an introduction to the ideas, though it by no means does justice to the long article. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, April 17, 2009 at 8:54 am | Edit
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