Tuesday, June 18, 2013

A Morning Walk...

Debbie and I have been regularly walking up the hill alongside our home, almost always early in the morning (so it's not too hot).  It's great physical therapy for her, still recovering from her broken knee.  The chaparral can be very beautiful, and this morning's walk provided a couple examples.

But before we started this morning's walk, I caught our old girl (Lea) asleep on the couch.  At the ancient age of 16 (particularly old for a field spaniel), she spends most of her days in approximately this position.  It takes her a few minutes of movement before her joints work freely, and she doesn't play very often any more.  But every once in a while, she surprises us – as she did last night with me.  I had a Milk Bone for her, and when I held it up out of easy reach, up she went on her two hind legs, as if she was still a puppy!  I gave her an extra Milk Bone after that :)

This morning we took Mo'i along on our walk.  He's 14 – not far behind Lea – but still going strong.  He can easily make the 3 mile round trip walk with us...but by the time we get home, he's visibly dragging a bit.  It's easy to see how much he enjoys these walks.  This morning he was actually pulling me out the front gate, something he rarely does (he's always “lunking” alongside us as we walk, not straining at the leash like Miki or Race).

At left are the seeds of the mountain mahogany (a Cercocarpus, but which one I'm not certain).  Most of the year this is a scruffy looking chaparral shrub, notable mainly because the deer love to eat its leaves.  But for a few weeks in late spring, its hairy, fuzzy seeds put on a beautiful show, especially when back-lit.  This morning, as we looked to the east with the sun just over the horizon, we could see thousands of these mountain mahogany shrubs lit up in the valley below us and on the surrounding hillsides.

At right is the scarlet larkspur (Delphinium cardinale), a chaparral native that is particularly beautiful this year (we presume because of the early rains).  I counted 24 plants in bloom along a 1.5 mile stretch of road (they love road cuts and the edges of open, rocky areas), easily double the density I've ever seen before.

It was a very pleasant walk.

You Can Still Tie Your Shoelaces...

Reader and friend Simon M. passes along this video:

Simon says:  “I just hope Obama doesn't see the video because he'd make it law that we take it.”  Scary thought, that...

Magnetic Memory Breakthrough...

Those geeks of a certain age may remember magnetic bubble memories, which stored data in tiny magnetic domains stored on thin magnetic films.  Flash memory completely overwhelmed it, partly because of the much lower energy requirements (which translates into much higher density) of flash.  Now scientists at MIT has made a surprising advance that might just bring back the bubbles: they've figured out how to reduce the energy required to form and move magnetic bubbles by a factor of at least 10,000

This will likely have an impact in other areas as well, including magnetic disk storage (“hard disks”) and magnetic tape storage.  It isn't clear to me that this discovery will also result in an areal density improvement, something the storage industry is always looking for...

Reversing the Effects of Alzheimer's...

Faster, please...

Military Advance...

Larry E. passes along this bit of jarhead humor:

The implant is specifically designed to be injected in the forehead.

When properly installed, it will instantly allow the terrorist to speak to God.

It comes in various sizes: Generally from .223 to .50 cal.

The exact size of the implant will be selected by a well-trained and highly skilled technician, who will also make the injection.

No Anesthetic is required.

The implant is likely to be painless.  Side effects, like headaches, nausea, aches or pains are extremely temporary.

Some bleeding or swelling may occur at the injection site.  In most cases, you won't even notice it.

Please enjoy the security we provide for you.

Best regards,

I got to wondering where the term “jarhead” orginated.  There seems to be quite a bit of uncertainty about this.  I found these origins in different places:
  • Former U.S. Marine headwear (hats) looked a bit like jars.
  • The same company that manufactured Mason jars used to manufacture U.S. Marine headwear.
  • The stiff leather encircling the neck, which used to be part of the U.S. Marine uniform (and is the source of the term “leatherneck” made the Marines hold their heads stiffly erect, like jars.
  • The standard U.S. Marine “buzzcut” haircut makes the Marines' heads look like jars.
  • It's a metaphor for the U.S. Marines' heads: hard on the outside, empty on the inside.

Peace Talks?

This headline just showed up in my email (from the WSJ):
U.S., Taliban to Hold Afghan Peace Talks in Doha
Doha is in Qatar.

What instantly flashed to mind were the peace talks with Vietnam, which really were our negotiated withdrawal after losing the war there.  Shortly after our withdrawal there was completed, the state we propped up (South Vietnam) was completely overrun by the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army, and South Vietnam disappeared.

I sure hope that's not a portent for the future of Afghanistan...

Sacremento Politicians Beclown Themselves Again...

Now I realize that headline really isn't news.  Our low information, low IQ legislature beclowns itself on a near-daily basis.  But this beclowning is of a particularly delightful variety – the Democrats pulled a fast one on our budget (no news there), and it very well may be that by doing so, they permanently eliminate one of their beloved sources of “revenue”.  That would be a thing of beauty, that would!

NSA and Conversation “Collection”...

Bruce Schneier points out some speculation that the costs of recording all conversations might not be quite as high as he had previously imagined.  It might actually be possible – especially if (as Schneier speculates) the voice calls are run through at speech-to-text conversion first.

Schneier also points to this post at Rubbing Alcoholic, wherein the NSA may have been caught using an unusual definition of the term “to collect”.  In its ordinary meaning, the way you and I might use it, if we say that “phone calls are being collected”, we'd mean that the calls were being recorded somewhere.  But the NSA appears to be using that term to mean something else altogether: to them, to collect a phone call means to listen to the call that had already been recorded (but not, according to them, collected).

That's a semantic construction worthy of Bill Clinton.

One of the commenters on the Rubbing Alcoholic post summed it up nicely:
God dammit, America

Supercell Thunderstorm Over Texas...

Via APOD, of course: