March 30, 2009
March 29, 2009
There was a post I came across a little while ago that talked about how we let so many details slip out of consciousness. And for good reason sometimes. Can you imagine if you took in all the detail of every minute of every day. Your brain would quickly overload and crash.
This is an interesting experiment on what they call 'change blindness' about how little we actually process. Even large changes can go by without our noticing. It is probably even worse these days as people (me included) walk through life more distracted. More and more data is streaming into our lives, worthwhile or not, and there is relatively little time of mental quiet. The video demonstrates a pretty dramatic change that 70% of the people tested missed.
This one is even more entertaining.
Then I saw the story on this woman earlier this week. She has the opposite problem. Jill Price: The Woman Who Can't Forget.
The three UC Irvine scientists who studied her decided that her case deserved its own name—hyperthymestic syndrome, academic Greek for "exceptional memory"—and it’s not hard to see why.As she says, "You don't realize how much of yourself is created by editing our memory." She constantly relives events and choices she has made, and tortures herself with 'what if'. Her father compares it to a grain of sand in an oyster - "it builds a pearl around it to smooth out the sand. And that is what our memories are - we forget all the bad things, or a lot of them, or they're dulled. The emotions are dulled. But with Jill, she is right there."
I ask, for example, if she can tell me some dates of famous accidents and airline crashes; she’s all but unstoppable. She instantly retrieves from memory the exact dates of the explosions of space shuttle Challenger and Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. She remembers not just that September 25, 1978, was when a PSA flight crashed in San Diego but also that the jet collided with a Cessna. She can go in either direction, disaster to date or date to disaster. When I say "January 13, 1982," Price has no trouble recalling the Air Florida flight that plummeted into the
According to McGaugh’s Neurocase article, Price is even more astounding on the events of her own life. At the scientists’ behest, for example, she recalled—without warning and in just 10 minutes—what she’d done on every Easter since 1980. "April 6, 1980: 9th grade, Easter vacation ends. April 19, 1981: 10th grade, new boyfriend, H. April 11, 1982: 11th grade, grandparents visiting for Passover .
And before you think it’s a wonderful thing to have such a prodigious memory, imagine this: Jill Price remembers all the sad and bad things in her life - the death of loved ones, for instance, like it’s happening right now. Time heals all wounds, but not for Jill Price.
I can't imagine.
March 24, 2009
March 22, 2009
The area is heavily wooded, and it feels like you have stepped into the quiet country as soon as you reach its borders. The town has deed restrictions that set home parcels at a two-acre minimum, so though the town is filled with many extravagant homes, they are far enough away from each other so it still retains a little rural feel. Running through the streets is the only way this riff-raff belongs there.
We headed back to the store to have some coffee cake and sing Happy Birthday in honor of David's 50th birthday. He quipped "If I knew I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of my body". I'm assuming it was a bit tongue-in-cheek as he is a pretty fit 50.
Back home the morning and early afternoon were filled with typical Sunday morning fare. I took the time to make pancakes and eggs for breakfast, enjoyed reading the Sunday paper, checked e-mail and blogs, did a load of laundry, did the dishes and tidied up a bit. While I was leaning against the counter in the kitchen, contemplating my next move, our pooch perked up her ears and looked at me expectantly. Time for her Sunday afternoon adventure.
After much dancing around (her not me) we loaded up in the car to go and check out the new off-leash park in Mountlake Terrace which had just opened on March 16th. The park is near the community pool and baseball fields with easy access from the freeway and a decent amount of parking. It is a smaller park, probably a little over an acre, but is a little unique in its own way. Rather than being an open field, it is pretty heavily wooded. Volunteers cleared out the brush but left all the trees. After fencing in the area, they spread out wood chips along the ground to help keep it from getting too muddy.
It has been a while since we've taken our pooch to an off-leash park. She has definitely lost a step or two, and didn't go chasing off after any of the dogs running around the park. She spent her time wandering around the trails and trees, taking in all the good smells and checking out the dogs she happened to come across. She seems content to have moved into the 'stop and smell the flowers' portion of her life. Let all those young pups come to her.
March 21, 2009
I've joined a biking group that has a scheduled ride each weekend from March through June. The ride series is called Cascade Advanced Training Series (CATS), and is meant to get riders ready for the Seattle to Portland (STP) ride in July. There are actually two series of rides each weekend, one for riders planning to ride the STP in two days (CTS) and another for those planning a one day ride (CATS).
Each of the series rides a new route each weekend, progressively adding mileage and hills each week. Within each series there are a number of pace groups. The CTS series has 11-12, 12-14, and 14-16mph pace groups, and the CATS series has 16-18, 18-20, and 20+mph groups. Every rider can find a group they are comfortable with, and you can change groups each weekend or even mid-ride if you are having a rough day or are feeling particularly frisky.
The series is well organized from what I have seen. The ride calendar is online for both CTS and CATS, and has downloadable maps and cue sheets for each ride. A great benefit of this series, beyond the structured training, is getting exposure to so many biking routes around the Puget Sound area. I get a bit bored riding the same routes all the time, but it is easy to stay on the paths you know. With the maps and cue sheets in hand, you can check out the new routes without much fear of getting lost.
Saturday's route was called the "Eastside Loop" and is pictured below.
The route has some great water views of Lake Sammamish and Lake Washington while touring through Bellevue and Kirkland. Next week's ride is around Lake Washington, a ride I have always wanted to do, but never took the time to figure out a good route. Now I just have to follow the wheel in front of me.
And as an added bonus, this is all free. The rides are sponsored by Cascade Bicycle Club and led by instructors at Cycle U. Awesome!
March 20, 2009
Day is already slightly longer than night, and that will improve incrementally over the next few months, peaking on the first day of summer. It has always seemed odd to me that the day with the most daylight is at the start of summer. The weather improves over the next couple of months even as the length of day slips away. There is probably some scientific explanation, but I don't feel like bothering Google right now.
Cross your fingers for sunshine, and get outside and enjoy it this weekend.
March 19, 2009
Her report card so far is a solid B. I used to throw the Frisbee for her in the backyard, but with her knee problems that leads to a week of hobbling around the house. Being a dog, and a lab specifically, she won't stop even when she is in pain. The vet recommended in the absence of surgery or drugs, that we try walking to strengthen her muscles and get rid of her "pooch" (see what I did there).
She is very excited when I pick up the shuffle and put on my headphones. Sometimes this means we're going for a walk, but it could mean I'm going for a run or just doing some mindless housework. If I head toward the laundry room where her leash is - game on! Leaps, squeals and panting ensues. She doesn't bother with the warm up to exercise that we've talked about, and forget about stretching.
Our normal route is about a mile and a quarter and includes an open field behind the neighborhood church. Occasionally we'll see other dogs there off-leash, and she is always up for meeting someone new. I have a feeling that there are several other dogs that walk our normal route, because she stops regularly to either sniff the bushes or do her own marking. Who knew girl dogs marked? She is all smiles and has a little prance in her step as we make our rounds.
She has been doing pretty well so far. I can tell she favors the bad leg a little bit, and will do an almost skip sometimes to avoid putting too much weight on it. Afterwards, she will occasionally get up stiff-legged after being still to long, but no real limping lately.
Today, a non-walking day, I caught her in the backyard with her nose to the wind. On rest days, the neighborhood smells come to her.
March 18, 2009
I was making spaghetti and forgot to pick up mushrooms. I dug through the cabinet and found a can of sliced mushrooms. Not sure why we have them, or how long they've been in there. I opened the can and gave it the scientific sniff. You can smell botulism right? No weird smell, but even so I figured I shouldn't risk it. Then for some reason, I took a bite of one before dumping out the rest in the garbage.
Now I have a headache.
"I think the purpose of most pharmaceutical company efforts is to do a little disease-mongering and to have people use their drugs," said Dr. Frederick Wolfe, who was lead author of the guidelines defining fibromyalgia in 1990 but has since become one of its leading skeptics.
March 17, 2009
"...Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter." - Thomas Jefferson
Last deadline cuts like a knife.
Leaving the newsroom the final workday, some craned their heads upward to the globe, as its neon flickered and illuminated the newspaper's famed logo, in present tense: It's in the P-I.Online switch marks the start of a new era.
Into the night, the globe spun -- turning, turning, turning, into tomorrow and a past-tense P-I world.
The Hearst Corp.'s decision to end the print edition of the Seattle P-I but maintain its Web site marks the first time that a major metropolitan daily has attempted the switch from print and online to digital only.
March 16, 2009
Somewhat ironically I found out about the official closure from the online site Neatorama that collects and posts interesting links to stories from around the net.
It's not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change. - Charles Darwin
March 15, 2009
The nice thing about these Cascade rides is there is a weather hot line you can call to make sure the ride is still on. Heavy rain, fog or ice cancels, but who's to say what heavy rain is around here. It is nice to be able to call so you don't show up at the starting point alone. Snow on the other hand is a pretty clear sign we're not riding.
March 14, 2009
Pi is a numerical constant widely used in mathematics, science and engineering. Pi is an irrational number, meaning it can't be expressed as a fraction using whole numbers. You can carry the number Pi out to an infinite number of decimal points and the pattern never repeats. Pi is represented by the symbol below, cleverly carved into a pi(e)
Note the digits encircling the symbol. Clever cook! In case you would like to sing a Pi Day Carol, here you go. Catchy! And you thought math couldn't be fun...
March 13, 2009
Google pulls keywords from your website or blog to come up with ads your readers might be interested in. The above ads obviously relate to the tree topping story I posted yesterday. Of course I rarely talk about tree topping, so it isn't clear that my readers are interested enough in the subject to click on an ad.
And the ads are not always so spot on. When I wrote about the Ragnar Relay last year, there were ads for electronic relays (like you might find at Radio Shack) for quite some time. So can I manipulate what ads come up? Let's give it a try.
So tomorrow I'm going to run around Green Lake, listening to U2 on my free iPod, pick up my Trek bicycle at Greggs, stop off for a strong cup of coffee at Starbucks, visit the Woodland Park Zoo, stop by Kidd Valley for a hamburger, celebrate St. Patrick's Day at an Irish pub, drink a Guinness, eat some corned beef, call for a Yellow cab on my HTC cell phone, head home to take my Labrador for a walk, order a pizza from Papa Murphy's, sit in my Ikea chair and read a New York Times bestseller on my Kindle, and search Windows Live on my Dell computer to find something to do Sunday.Man to get all that done, I am going to need some Red Bull.
Anyway, Santelli had agreed to come on the Daily Show, but canceled at the last minute, or "bailed out" as Stewart jokes. The Daily Show airs the clips of CNBC programs they had intended to ask Santelli about, and this sets off back and forth rants between Stewart and Jim Cramer, also of CNBC. Well Jim Cramer agreed to appear on the Daily Show last night. Stewart was pretty unrelenting in his interview. He comments at the end, "I hope that was as uncomfortable to watch as it was to do."
The interview is below, preceeded by some of the Daily Show spots leading up to it. Warning - bleeped language throughout.
CNBC Gives Financial Advice
In Cramer we Trust
March 10th: Basic Cable Personality Clash
March 11th: Jim Cramer Battle Promo
Here is the ink to last night's show with Jim Cramer: The Daily Show
March 12, 2009
I think you need to be a little crazy to be a tree topper. In order to cut down these large trees like this one in our neighborhood, these guys shimmy up the trunk with shoe spikes and a band around the trunk. Oh, and they have a running chainsaw hanging off their belt.
As he climbs the trunk of the tree, he lops off the branches with the chainsaw and drops them down to another guy who loads them into the truck or chipper. He keeps climbing up the tree lopping off branches until he gets near the top where the trunk starts swaying back and forth under his weight. Once he can't go any higher, he starts cutting slices of the trunk above him and works his way back down.
So for me,
- heights bad,
- dangling chainsaw worse,
- fear of cutting through the strap that holds you to the tree - constant.
A few years ago when I was building decks, I stopped by a job site in Renton to check on things. It was pouring down rain and I was checking on the tarps over a waterproof deck we were working on, hoping the wind hadn't destroyed the tent we had built. Down the street, there was a pair of guys cutting down a tree in the same manner described above. It was the first time I had seen it, and I watched in amazement as the guy worked his way up the tree, in the pouring rain and with the tree swaying back and forth in the wind.
The guy on the ground kept shouting "You the man!" up to his buddy. "Yes he is" I thought, thankful that I was standing in the wind and rain with both feet on terra firma.
I miss reading the newspaper. I love the big unwieldy thing in my fingers, foldable in every direction. You could tear out whatever, and then toss it. And the general utilitarian qualities of newspaper are like no other. I have to go scraping around the house now if I need an extra piece of newspaper for lining the cat box or starting a fire. I love the unique experience of drawing down old Christmas ornaments and noting the aged date on the newspaper they're wrapped in. I remember the time when I would go down to the coffee shop and sit there for an hour and a half, perusing the L.A. Times. This was back when Starbucks were only a paltry few in the northwest, and no one was answering cel phones or angling for a good Wi-Fi signal. -but alas, now I'm sounding like grampa.
March 11, 2009
The Hearst Corp. announced in January that, after $14 million in losses last year, it was putting the P-I up for sale. Failing that, the company said it would cease publication of a print version of the paper, a closure that could come this week.Seattle is (was) a two newspaper town, but the Seattle Post-Intelligencer (P-I) will be shutting down all but their online presence in the next day or so. The shutting down of newspapers is not exactly breaking news anymore. The industry has been in decline over the last few years.
Indications are Hearst intends to continue the paper as an online-only operation, with a much smaller staff. One way or the other, more than 150 people are likely to join out-of-work colleagues all over the country.Newspapers everywhere are squeezed in a vise of debt and falling revenue that is wringing life out of once-vibrant publications all over the country.
Revenues have dropped and readers have been moving to the online (free) versions. The newspaper industry has been slow to adapt to a new business model. In the past, up to 70% of their revenue came from advertising including classifieds. Much of classified advertising has moved to free venues like Craigslist, cutting a big hole in newspaper revenue streams. Online ads bring in some money, but not nearly enough to replace print ad revenues.
Papers have already been making cutbacks in staff and departments. Some columns have been eliminated and sections have been combined. The Seattle Times is actually printed on paper that is now narrower by an inch. The Seattle Times and P-I entered into a joint operating agreement some years ago. The agreement meant that both papers were printed at the Times' plant to cut down on cost. It wasn't enough to save the P-I, only delay it's demise. I actually received a P-I instead of the Times a few mornings ago. Not sure if it was a mix up or some nostalgic nod to the last week of the printed P-I.
There aren't many two-paper towns left, and the outlook for the Times is not rosy. Newspapers around the country are scrambling to come up with a new business model. Readership is actually up if you count the online readers, but getting revenue from these readers is tricky. I listened to a piece on NPR discussing some of the ideas floating around. These include:
Charging a subscription price for access to the website on a monthly or annual basis.
Would be tough unless all newspapers do this at the same time, otherwise people will simply get their news on another site. The Wall Street Journal charges for some of its online paper, but it is one of the few who have been successful with this model.
Charging micropayments (5 cents for example) for individual articles.
Kind of like iTunes in that you can buy only what you want and avoid paying for filler. Some sort of online account would need to be set up to avoid actually whipping out a credit card each time you click. It is unclear if people will pay story by story, and if they do, readers may end up reading a very narrow field of subjects.
Charging websites who link to stories to pay for the research and reporters.
People argue that they get their information from blogs and other sites, but much of the real stories originate with newspapers, who aren't getting compensated for their reporting.
Tax breaks or government grants to help support the industry.
This might be a tough sell these days with the current state of the economy. On the other hand, isn't the "fourth estate" of the press a vital part of democracy? One could argue it is more important than the auto industry on this level.
Reducing cost of printing paper by using Kindle-like devices.
As noted in another post, printing costs for the New York Times are twice as high as providing a Kindle to every subscriber. Hearst Newspapers is considering producing their own device, and like a cell phone, discounting the device (or giving it away) with a subscription contract. The problem for some is that the electronic version is static (like the printed version) rather than updated regularly like the web version.
I have had the Seattle Times delivered to my Kindle for the last few days. I am seeing if I can do without the printed paper. The Kindle version is nice, but not quite the same experience of reading through a physical newspaper. Of course stopping home delivery will eliminate some waste, both environmentally and in printing costs, but my current motivation is to save $13.50 a month.
The solution will likely be a combination of these and other ideas, but something needs to happen soon. More than ever, people are tuning into what is going on in their communities, states and country. Investigative journalism needs to continue in some form. As Bill Moyers said last year,
"Across the media landscape, the health of our democracy is imperiled. Buffeted by gale force winds of technological, political and demographic forces, without a truly free and independent press, this 250-year-old experiment in self-government will not make it. As journalism goes, so goes democracy."
March 6, 2009
the designers at Altitude combined two things we love -- bikes and lasers -- to create an instant bike lane and make nighttime cycling a whole lot safer.
Their bike-mounted gadget, called Light Lane, beams two bright red lines and the universal symbol for cyclist on the pavement, neatly delineating a bike lane to remind motorists to yield a little space. It should make everyone feel a little more comfort on the road.
Another bike concept
‘One’ provides a real solution to the problems involved with urban transport. With congestion rapidly clogging up the roads the need for products that can free individuals from their car are in real demand.
When open, ‘One’ is a comfortable stylish bicycle that not only offers all the benefits of cycling (like cheap travel and exercise) but with its revolutionary power assist system the user can cruise around with ease. When folded, ‘One’ turns into a smooth, light and compact case free of all dirty and protruding parts. ‘One’ can be easily carried, stowed and stored.
March 5, 2009
The combination of the increasing urban density in Seattle and the goal of the Bicycle Master Plan (BMP) to install 3000 new bicycle racks within the city over the next 10 years, has increased the density of amenities on urban village sidewalks. Due to this increased density, in many urban villages there is little existing space to install sufficient bicycle racks to meet the growing demand.
March 4, 2009
I am hoping to crack 4 hours which would be about a 20 minute improvement. Easy to say four months out - we'll see how training goes.
I was watching The Biggest Loser last week, and a four hour finishing time suddenly looked a little different. The show does a quick video on the contestant that was sent home each week to show how they are doing on their own. Last week Dane Patterson was sent home and they show him running a marathon with his wife. Though he has lost over 100 pounds, he is still a nearly 300 pound man.
The snippet showed Dane and his wife crossing the finish line in 3:53. My first thought was "no way". Not that a 300 pound man couldn't beat me across the line, but the shots of him on the course didn't look like a guy running at a 8:53 pace. Then I thought, maybe it is true and I am selling this guy short and not pushing myself enough. Then I forgot about it.
Turns out there were a couple of things wrong with the picture. The graphic they showed over the video was 3:53, but the clock actually read 5:53 when he crossed the finish line. A pretty significant typo. And it turns out he only ran 23 miles. When it looked like he wasn't going to make it to the finish line before the 6 hour cutoff, the on site producer for the show gave him a ride from mile 17 to 20 so they could film him running across the finish. A poor decision that he regrets. He actually went back and ran the missing 3 miles later that day with his brother, who was also on the show.
He has been interviewed multiple times, including on the Today Show with his trainer Jillian Michaels.
She pointed out that something has been lost in the controversy: the fact that Patterson, a former offensive lineman who had begun the show at 412 pounds, accomplished a remarkable feat.
“It’s such a shame, though, because he ran 23 miles. I’ve never even run more than five miles,” Michaels said. “Of course you want that shot at the end. I wish it had been presented different.”“It’s sad,” Patterson said. “I wanted to please the show. I felt grateful to be on the show. I know how important that finish-line shot was. That’s why it happened.”
Failure is an option
Roker asked Michaels whether the desire to have a shot of Patterson crossing the finish line didn’t obscure what should be the real message, which is that sometimes people try and fail.
“That really is the bigger message. And I think Dane’s learned that. He knows, you give it a shot, you reach for the stars, and if you’re not failing, you’re not really living,” Michaels answered. “I want them to fail, because I want them to try for things that are out of their comfort zone. It’s like, ‘OK, now I know I got this far, and next time I’ll work on X, Y and Z and I’ll complete the entire thing.’ ”
At the same time, Michaels said she understood the pressure everyone was under. “Because it’s a reality show, they want that money shot at the end, and I guess a producer made a poor decision.”
I haven't picked up the album yet, but I see that you can actually get the whole thing in Mp3 form for $3.99 on Amazon.com. Of course you'll miss out on the album art. The front cover is a fairly bland seascape, and there is a typical band photo on the back. It seems to be a tradition to have the band members stand at various distances from the camera and looking in different directions.
It kind of reminds me of a photo we took a few years ago when we were in Washington D.C.
I am clearly the bass player. My poor wife, standing behind Jonathan, must play the triangle or something.
March 3, 2009
March 2, 2009
Art Studio Fills Empty Spaces.
In some cultures, you burn a smudge stick to drive out the evil spirits, the bad luck. The past.The article points out that it is a win-win situation. The artist gets exposure for his artwork, and the storefront gets some activity instead of remaining empty. Filling empty storefronts also benefits the neighborhood. The article goes on to point out this line of thinking could be applied to vacant houses as well. "someone keeping the home fires burning at a foreclosed home until things turn around."
But in these days of loss and worry, of pulling back, shutting down and starting over, it might help to put some art on the walls.
That's the idea behind artist Ethan Jack Harrington's traveling studio.
Harrington plans to move his work space from one emptied Seattle storefront to another each month, essentially chasing the bad juju of the recession away, and replacing it with creative energy, beauty and an eye to building and preserving community.
There was a Stuff You Should Know podcast a week or so ago on squatting. It mentioned that in 2007 there were 672,000 homeless folks and 16.7 million vacant houses. The show seemed in favor of the idea of filling all these empty houses, but they also mentioned how hard it is to get a squatter out of a house.
Cut Your Calories to Lose Weight
For people who are trying to lose weight, it does not matter if they are counting carbohydrates, protein or fat. All that matters is that they are counting something...After two years, every diet group had lost — and regained — about the same amount of weight regardless of what diet had been assigned.Kind of one of those common sense things, but the diet industry is a massive one selling the latest fad. The good news is it doesn't matter which program clicks with you. It is all about taking in less calories than you burn off. I'll be publishing my "Eat Less, Move More" book soon. Well pamphlet.
"Miracle" water a low-cost alternative cleaner to harsh chemicals
It's green and it saves money - the mixture costs less than a penny a gallon. It isn't ready for the home yet as the machine costs about $10,000, but hotels, etc. can save money while getting rid of toxic chemicals.
It's a kitchen degreaser. It's a window cleaner. It kills athlete's foot. Oh, and you can drink it.
Sounds like the old "Saturday Night Live" gag for Shimmer, the faux floor polish plugged by Gilda Radner. But the elixir is real. U.S. regulators have approved it. And it's starting to replace the toxic chemicals Americans use at home and on the job.
The stuff is a simple mixture of table salt and tap water whose ions have been scrambled with an electric current. Researchers have dubbed it electrolyzed water, not as catchy as Mr. Clean. But at the Sheraton Delfina in Santa Monica, Calif., some hotel workers are calling it "el liquido milagroso," the miracle liquid.
That's as good a name as any for a substance that scientists said is powerful enough to kill anthrax spores without harming people or the environment.
March 1, 2009
When riding along, it is not uncommon to see another cyclist at the side of the road. Many are just taking a break, but others are trying to fix something that has gone wrong - a flat tire, a dropped chain, trying to locate that ticking noise, etc. An upside-down bicycle is a sure sign something is wrong. If it is a group ride with other cyclists on the road, it won't be a minute before you hear "Are you doing OK? Do you have everything you need?"
On the bigger rides, there are inexperienced cyclists who may not know exactly what to do or have the right tools to make the repair. Even experienced riders may need a hand if they have already run across several problems and are simply out of supplies (or patience). 99 times out of 100 they will smile and wave you on, but I've pulled up to others that were frustrated, confused and welcomed a helpful hand. It is a supportive community and you are rarely out there all alone.
What a wonderful question, "Are you doing OK? Do you have everything you need?", and how great would it be to hear it sometimes when you're feeling a little broken down. 99 times out of 100 your response would be "I'm fine" even if you weren't, but just hearing the question may be enough to help get you right-side-up again.