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Uncommonly Sensible

Keeping the "anal" in analytical... (While trying to remain civilized)

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Location: United States

Friday, September 29, 2006

It's a small world...

(Don Eigler and Erhard Schweizer of IBM’s Almaden Research Center made nanotech history when they wrote their employer’s name in xenon atoms on a nickel surface, using the weak attractive forces between the atoms in the STM needle’s tip and the xenon atoms to nudge them into position. Their paper was published in Nature on April 5, 1990)

There was an article recently on Nanotechnology, in the June 2006 issue of National Geographic Magazine.

From Wikipedia:
"Nanotechnology is a field of applied science focused on the design, synthesis, characterization and application of materials and devices on the nanoscale. Nanotechnology is a sub classification of technology in colloidal science, biology, physics, chemistry and other scientific fields and involves the study of phenomena and manipulation of material at the nanoscale, in essence an extension of existing sciences into the nanoscale. Two main approaches are used in nanotechnology: one is a "bottom-up" approach where materials and devices are built up atom by atom, the other a "top-down" approach where they are synthesized or constructed by removing existing material from larger entities. A unique aspect of nanotechnology is the vastly increased ratio of surface area to volume present in many nanoscale materials, which opens new possibilities in surface-based science, such as catalysis. This catalytic activity also opens potential risks in their interaction with biomaterials."

It's a fascinating subject, and it shows a lot of potential.

Some recent (Sept. 26th) articles:
Nanotechnology Risks Unknown
(Washington Post)
Study Says U.S. Has Lead in Nanotechnology
(New York Times)

Other related links:
The Institute of Nanotechnology
NanoBusiness Alliance
Nanotechnology Now
The National Nanotechnology Initiative
Engines of Creation:
The Coming Era of Nanotechnology

(K. Eric Drexler)

And a blog about it:
Howard Lovy's NanoBot

Size definitely matters!!!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

"I'll be back"...for my license!

California Govern[at]or Arnold Schwarzenegger has finally gotten a motorcycle license.

This was reported back in July in the foreign press, so I only just heard about it.

I posted something about him being involved in an accident on his Harley back in January, which by all accounts was not his fault.

Also, by California law he wasn't in violation because he had a sidecar.

Of course, he has been seen riding motorcycles in some of his movies without a sidecar, as in the picture above.

Anyway, less than six months later, he made good on his word...and now he's a legally licensed motorcycle operator.

I may not agree with (all of) his politics, but Arnie seems to be a man of his word.

We could use more like him...

Monday, September 25, 2006


Time to lighten things up around here again.

A.P.: RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil - Claudio Paulo Pinto is looking to break an eye-popping record. Literally. Pinto can pop his eyeballs out of their sockets at least 7 millimeters (0.3 inches), a national record for eye-popping according to RankBrasil, an organization modeled after the Guinness Book of World Records that lists Brazilian records.

A former driver, Pinto got a job scaring visitors in a commercial haunted house in Belo Horizonte, 210 miles north of Rio de Janeiro. But he recently was laid off, and now he seeks international recognition for his ability.

"I was measured by an opthamologist on television in January. I could pop my eyes out 7 millimeters," Pinto said by telephone Saturday. "Since then, my capacities have improved over 50 percent."

That could put Pinto close to the record. The title of "furthest eyeball popper" in the Guinness Book of World Records currently belongs to Kim Goodman of Chicago, who can pop her eyeballs 11 milimeters (0.43 inches) out of her sockets.

Pinto's ability is called "globe luxation." Doctors say it can strain blood vessels and nerves between the eyes and the head and feels unpleasant but usually doesn't cause lasting damage.

Pinto says he's been luxating his globes since he was 9 years old and "it doesn't hurt a bit."

Maybe he's just been eating the wrong spinach...

Friday, September 22, 2006

Moderation in all things...

Ever since the events of 9-11-01, I've been hearing a lot of people say that there are no moderate Muslims.

They apparently base this assertion on their not having heard much (or any) condemnation of terrorist acts from that quarter.

I would contend that there might be any number of reasons for that, such as the oppression that exists in many Islamic countries. Brutality against their brethren seems to rule the day in a lot of places, such that many are afraid to speak out. Doing so may well cost them their tongue at the very least...and possibly their life.

What reasonable person can truly blame those in such circumstances for keeping their criticism to themselves?

To the point, I took it upon myself to do a search for evidence of moderation in the Arab/Islamic world, and I found it.
(As expected, I hasten to add)

There's a blog called Mission: Imperative! that, as it says on the header there (copied above), has been "presenting Arab and Islamic voices of reason to the English speaking world."

Many folks showcased there have my admiration.

I've added Mission: Imperative! to my blogroll...

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Wet & wild!

(Look Ma, no camo!!!)

For approximately 1½ months every year, in late Summer and early Autumn, one of the world's best whitewater rafting experiences can be had in West Virginia...on the Gauley.

This is rated as one of the top ten whitewater rafting destinations on the planet, and it's the right time of the year, currently.
(No pun intended)

I've gone a number of times, always using West Virginia Adventures as my outfitter.

From their website:

"The most intense whitewater rafting available in the Eastern United States. This river is well known in West Virginia and is considered to be a world-class whitewater adventure. The Gauley River is available in September and October, when Summersville Lake is drained to winter levels. The Gauley River contains over one hundred rapids in a 26-mile section. It is rafted in two different sections, The Upper Gauley and The Lower Gauley, or both sections may be rafted on The Gauley Ironman Trip. The Gauley River is the true gem of whitewater rafting West Virginia has to offer."

I've done the Upper and Lower Gauley, in regular and "extreme" rafts, the latter being a smaller raft which is more profoundly affected by conditions.

I'd like to do the "Ironman" option someday, but I can never seem to get enough other people interested in that one; they require a minimum of six people to schedule it, but when "push comes to shove" there are never five other people in my circle of rafting aficianados willing to go for it.

The "Ironman" trip consists of doing the Upper and Lower Gauley (26 miles) in one day.

It is recommended that those who attempt the Gauley have previous whitewater rafting experience; West Virginia Adventures also runs whitewater rafting trips on the New River, which is less of a challenge.

I've gone there too, as well as a number of other places.

Here are some links:
Rafting America
Whitewater Rafting

There are plenty of others, too...

Monday, September 18, 2006

Are you ready for some football?!

Ah yes, it's that time of year again; NFL football season.

The regular season began last weekend, but the 2996 Project took precedence.

Every part of the country has a "local" team, although all of the New England States have to share the Patriots.

While not every State has its own team, some States have several, like California, Florida, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas.

Which team one decides to call their own may vary. There are those who are originally from somewhere else, who still root for their former home team, and others who simply choose to prefer a different team than the "local" one.

In any case, a good game is hard to beat...as is a good team, although as former NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle once said:
"On any given Sunday, any team in the NFL can beat any other."

Of course, that was before they came up with Monday Night Football...

Friday, September 15, 2006

Fun in the sun!

("Camo" Jack in Key West)

Win a job in Key West with free housing!!!

A fascinating opportunity showed up on my "radar".

I've been down to The Keys quite a few times over the years; not this year, however, but three out of the last four. Were it not for the fact that I'm already pulling down the big bucks in the "Military-Industrial Complex", it would be well worth considering.

From the potential employer's website:

Lazy Dog Island Outfitters & Outdoor Adventure Company is a young, fast growing company looking for a dynamic, outside-the-box person to join their team.

Could this be you? Yes, apply!

$75,000 a year as a member of the Lazy Dog team and free housing in a prestigious community in Key West.

All finalists will be invited to Key West, all expenses paid, where they will stay at The Conch House and The Kitehouse. The Lazy Dog crew will spend a week getting to know the finalists, after which a winner will be chosen.

It looks like somebody's "dream job". At the very least, it could mean an all-expense-paid trip to Key West.

There are worse things in life...

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Senseless slaughter...

A.P: SYDNEY, Australia - At least 10 stingrays have been killed since "Crocodile Hunter" Steve Irwin was fatally injured by one of the fish, an official said Tuesday, prompting a spokesman for the late TV star's animal charity to urge that people not take revenge on the animals.

Steve Irwin's untimely demise was noted here last week...and on a lot of other blogs too. It seems to have come as a shock to many.

Now it would appear that some miscreants are seeking some form of misguided retribution; Mr. Irwin was considered something of a National Treasure in Australia, so some insensible individuals are apparently taking it out on these innocent sea creatures.

There is nothing malicious about stingrays; their sting is a purely defensive reflex, and generally when people are stung by them it is quite accidental, most often because they stepped on one they didn't know was there. Stingrays do stay quite low, even partially buried sometimes.

Were he alive today, I am quite certain that Steve would be appalled at this atrocious behavior. The Animal Kingdom was his "raison d'etre" , one might say.

Killing these unique animals is the antithesis of everything Steve Irwin stood for.

This is no way to honor his memory...

Sunday, September 10, 2006


...we won't forget.

(Picture used with permission)

The 2,996 Project: A Tribute to the Victims of 9-11-01...another "day that will live in infamy".

This project was first brought to my attention by Benning's Writing Pad; after the concept caught on and gained momentum, several others on my blogroll (and I) got on board.

The idea is for bloggers to pay homage to the innocent victims of that awful day.

In my case, I have the honor to write in memory of Jeanette LaFond-Menichino, who was 49 at the time of the attack.

Jeanette lived in New York City, was a senior account analyst for Marsh & McLennan and was confirmed dead at the World Trade Center.
(295 Marsh & McLennan employees were killed in the attacks; they were working in Marsh's One World Trade Center offices located at the impact zone. In fact, on October 11, 2001 Marsh established a crisis consulting practice specializing in terrorism)

I didn't know Jeanette, so first I shall defer to those who did...

Her sister (Anita) wrote:
This is my sister. I miss her very much. She was beautiful, fun and a big part of my life. Now there is just a big void. How can she be gone? I think of her laugh, how we used to joke on the phone and how we looked forward to being together. I hope she knows how much she is loved and missed. My little sister, Jeanette, I love you.

A co-worker (Jerry) wrote:
I worked with both Jeanette & her mom in Bankers Trust. She was a great person & friend. I will always remember her & her wonderful smile.

Jeanette was an American, unlike many who perished during the events of that fateful day.
(There were citizens from several dozen other countries killed in the attacks as well)

Of course, what we call "Americans" is a diverse collection of individuals, with ancestry from every place on the planet.

But back to Jeanette, the point of the post. I have only conjecture to work with, in addition to the limited amount of information available to me. But I am of an age now with her when she died, and I'm quite sure that we share certain commonalities. Americans, working towards that "American Dream", looking to the future with hope...possibly hoping for a comfortable retirement.

However, for Jeanette, all of that was cut short. One can only hope that the end was quick, and relatively painless.

For some people in this world, the lives of innocents like Jeanette are meaningless, something to be thrown away to make a misguided point.

There are those who think that the ideology of hate that motivated the attacks is symptomatic of a great many adherents to a particular belief system. I choose not to accept that, believing instead that it is a minority of fanatics who use that belief system to justify their own agenda. It wouldn't be the first time in history this has happened, although it would be great if we citizens of Planet Earth could work on making it the last. But I digress; a habit of mine.

I'd like to think that Jeanette would agree with me, but because of some individuals who were deluded by a hateful group of small-minded people, I shall never know.

For Jeanette, may her death not have been in vain.

Rather, let Jeanette be remembered with honor, and hopefully we as a nation can move forward together...just as we did, all too briefly it seems, in the aftermath of those terrible events.

May God bless Jeanette, and may God Bless America...

Friday, September 08, 2006

Something's fishy...

Last Saturday, I finally got down to the National Aquarium in Baltimore, something I'd been meaning to do ever since they opened the place.

I've been to some nice aquaria previously, most notably the ones in Boston, Massachusetts and Sydney, Australia.

I was surprised to learn what a procrastinator I truly am...because on August 8th, the Baltimore Aquarium celebrated their 25th anniversary.

Time really does fly when you're havin' fun...

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Chigeon or picken?!

Last month, I saw the birds in the picture above when I went on a little overnight bicycle camping trip along the C & O Canal Towpath.
(My heavily-laden bike in background)

Anyway, these birds appeared to be some type of chicken and pigeon/dove hybrid. They had feather-tufted feet and tail feathers that could be fanned out, just as one of those in the picture has on display. Also, they seemed quite habituated to humans, as they allowed us to approach quite close while remaining apparently unperturbed.

My buddy Bob, who sometimes posts comments here as Bob_inSpain suggested that perhaps they were chigeons, to which I responded with another possibility: pickens.
(Not to be confused with Slim, of course!)

The Birds were in the exact same location when we rode down on Saturday as when we rode back on Sunday.

In any case, this unfamiliar species (unfamiliar to me, at least) piqued my curiosity, so I took their picture.

Any ornithologists out there?

Tuesday, September 05, 2006


That was the "signature" exclamation of Steve Irwin:

I think it's a quite appropriate reaction to the news of his untimely demise, and one I feel certain he'd appreciate.

In an ironic turn of events, he was fatally struck in the heart yesterday by a stingray on Australia's Great Barrier Reef.

Ironic because he took a lot of calculated risks with creatures far more dangerous than the relatively benign stingray. Excluding violent allergic reactions, I would venture to guess that the statistics for death by stingrays is nearly nil. Rays usually only sting as a defensive reflex; generally when inadvertently stepped on in the case of humans, for whom their venom typically causes nothing more than a very painful sting.

By being struck directly in the heart, this was just an instance of extremely bad luck. None of us knows when our time will be up, but 44 seems to be far too young to die, although there are worse ways to go than in the midst of doing that which you love. Still, I was shocked and saddened to hear the news.

I've been swimming with rays in various places all over the world, including the Great Barrier Reef, but most recently last Summer in the Bahamas.

Here's a picture of one I swam with there:
(It tickled when he/she swam over my feet)

I think Steve Irwin was fairly well-known, but to review...in 1992 (coincidentally, the year I was in Australia) "The Crocodile Hunter" started being aired by the Discovery Network, and in 2002 he starred in the feature film "The Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course."

He always seemed like an affable kind of guy. He is survived by his wife Terri, daughter Bindi Sue and son Bob.

Steve, we hardly knew ye...

Monday, September 04, 2006

(Rest from your) Labor Day...

Normally, without exception (at least since some time in the 90's), I have gone to O.T.R. for Labor Day Weekend.

If you click on the link, you will see that O.T.R. stands for "Old Timers Reunion", and it's a caving event.

This year however, due to having had knee surgery less than 5 months ago, I knew there'd be no caving for me this Labor Day Weekend.

I could've just gone down and hung out with my caver folk, but with all the rain in the forecast, I figured I'd skip the 700 mile round trip.

Also, I usually ride the Harley down there...and although I've got more miles riding in the rain than most people have miles riding, it's not something that I particularly enjoy, and I do avoid it if I can.

All that being said, I haven't exactly rested from my labors this weekend. I've been putting the finishing touches on an addition to "La Casa de Camo" (my rambling estate) that I have been working on for a few years now. Due to my (bad?) habit of having fun on the weekends, and the fact that I've mostly been working on the project on the weekends too, it has taken awhile.

Anyway, other than needing a coat of paint (since it's primered already), it's done:

Now I just have to move furniture into it.

BTW, I still had some fun this weekend...

Friday, September 01, 2006

To boldly go...

...where no man has gone before.
My brother Rich sent me the following story:

Original Star Trek Gets CGI Upgrades for HD Syndicated Return

On the cusp of Star Trek's 40th birthday, the Original Series shall stun syndicated television with shiny new CGI features.

Affirming rampant Internet rumor, TV Guide reports that CBS Studios is giving all 79 episodes of TOS a makeover, digitally remastered with computer-generated effects, utilizing High Definition technology that wasn't available when Gene Roddenberry crafted the timeless stories.

My brother knows that I have been a Star Trek fan for a long time, of course. I barely remember seeing the original series when it first aired, 'cause I was a bit young to appreciate it, but when it was later syndicated as reruns I couldn't get enough. So I guess that makes me a nerd or geek...whatever. I can live with that.

There's a Star Trek website, which I've got "bookmarked", naturally. Occasionally I'll visit it to see what's on the horizon, which at present is the next movie.

And before this mixed blessing I affectionately call "da 'Net" was invented there were (and still are) these fascinating social phenomena known as Star Trek conventions, of which I have been to precisely one.

This occurred when I was in high school; I saw a few of the cast members there and met James Doohan, who played Scotty. He was quite a personable fellow. Not many know this, because he hid it well, but he had lost the middle finger of his right hand. I learned this when I shook that hand. Now that you know, if you pay attention the next time you see him on Star Trek you'll see that he's almost always clenching his right hand or hiding it, but if you look carefully it's noticeable sometimes. I looked into it, and found out that it was actually shot off by machine gun fire on D-Day. "Scotty" was a genuine war hero! The day he died (July 20, 2005) Spike TV aired the Next Generation episode in which he appeared; I happened to catch the show, then heard later that he'd died that day. I never did find out if that was coincidental, or in memoriam. The final appearance of Scotty is in Star Trek Generations, which was the movie that handed off the Star Trek movie franchise from The Original Series cast to the one from The Next Generation.

DeForest Kelley, who played Dr. McCoy, appeared as an antiquated Star Fleet Admiral in the inaugural Star Trek: The Next Generation episode. He was also the first member of the original cast to go where none of us has gone before...

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