How often do you cheer for North Korea?

While it's a shame three sailors were injured retaking their own ship, it's nice to see the pirates losing.

And it's particularly interesting to see the US warships coming to the aid of a North Korean vessel.

Crew wins deadly pirate battle off Somalia

(CNN) -- The crew members of a North Korean freighter regained control of their ship from pirates who hijacked the vessel off Somalia, but not without a deadly fight, the U.S. Navy reported Tuesday.

When the battle aboard the Dai Hong Dan was over, two pirates were dead and five were captured, the Navy said.

Three wounded crew members from the cargo ship were being treated aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS James E. Williams.


I'm surprised there isn't more media attention to the crime of old fashioned piracy. Aside from the random episode CSI Miami, of course.

Free Taco Tuesday

While I do enjoy my Taco bell, for some reason, I don't think it makes sense to hop in the car and drive down there for one free taco.

Now if it was two free tacos...

From the PI:

Taco Bell gives away free tacos on Tuesday

In case you're on the prowl for some free food today, Taco Bell is the place. Thanks to Jacoby Ellsbury's stolen base during the World Series last week, Taco Bell's "Steal a Base, Steal a Taco" promotion takes place Tuesday between 2 and 5 p.m. at participating restaurants.

All you have to do is show up at a Taco Bell and ask for your free Crunchy Seasoned Beef Taco. That's it. It's one free taco per person, according to the rules, but we won't tell if you decide to flit from Taco Bell to Taco Bell to eat your fill.


Gasworks Park

This afternoon I finally had the chance to start playing with my Pentax K10d. It's got a bit of a learning curve, though. I'm not really sure what I'm doing yet.

I went out to Gasworks Park because it has a nice contrast of textures with the old equipment, they lake, and the grass. I took most of these shots using the automatic settings. Click on them for larger versions.

It's a start.

2007-10-27 Gasworks Park Seattle (26)

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1928: The year we became lazy

Tonight I cooked up some cinnamon toast for dinner. I pulled out the bread knife and slice a piece off the loaf. It wasn't that difficult

Even growing up in the enlightened and tech-friendly seventies, we often sliced our own bread. Weekends with Italian food found my mother slicing up a loaf of Italian bread so we could sop up all our sauce and cheese. I doubt that was the most challenging part of the meal.

And yet, the invention of "Sliced Bread" is the benchmark by which all other technical achievements are now judged.

When Otto Rohwedder invented the bread slicing machine in 1928, I'm sure he was meeting the needs of the day. But did he really think that this would be the apex of American science and engineering?

Incredible new inventions are said to be "the greatest things since sliced bread" implying that all inventions before the new one fall to their knees beneath the aura of the bread slicing machine.

We have space shuttles that go to the stars and come back (usually), computers that let us communicate with millions of people around that world, medical machines that can actually replace human organs, and none of that compares to sliced bread.

To say the internet is the greatest things since sliced bread means that even if sliced bread is no longer the top of the invention heap, it is still better than supersonic air travel, live TV from around the globe, the polio vaccine, and even plastic.

People say that US society began its decline with the Bush administration, or the Lewinsky scandal, or the insider trading scandals of the 80s, or the "Me Decade" of the 70s, or the hippie movement of the 60s, or the McCarthy witch hunts of the 50s. They're wrong.

They country began its slow decline when we decided we were too damn lazy to slice our own bread.


Sleep 05: British sleep walking

Studies have found that sleepwalking can be brought on by stress, alcohol, eating cheese or consuming too much caffeine. It generally takes effect an hour or two after going to bed, when people are first slipping into a deep sleep.

Cheese? Really?

Apparently, sleepwalking is on the rise in British hotels. Because of cheese.

The full article (originally found on fark) is available here.


A380 too small

I don't know if this is a bad idea, a good idea, or a really cool idea.

But I'm leaning toward insane.

Airbus has always planned for a stretched version that could carry about 100 more passengers -- perhaps as many as 1,000 in a one-class configuration.



Photography 02: Over the years

Until 1995, I considered photography one of my hobbies.

As a little kid, I remember borrowing my parents' instamatic and those old flash cubes. And after taking four pictures, I remember splitting open those flash cubes and reducing them to paper, plastic, and powder. The chemicals in that powder may be why I don't have a Nobel Prize yet.

In about fifth grade I got my own Kodak disk camera, and I'm sure my mother's house is still filled with those little rounds negatives rolling all over the place. I spent several years playing with that camera and taking pictures of everyone and everything I could. I would then bike over to the sports supply store to get them developed.

By the time I was in college I began to get in serious. I bought my first "real" cameral in 1990. That Pentax K1000 was a tank and still works today. It traveled all over the country me, and even survived a flight from Paris, France to Great Falls, Montana as checked baggage. I learned to shoot in Black and White and process my own images. I have sheets of negatives now.

After graduating college I even picked up my own enlarger and set up a darkroom in my house.

But I didn't use it much. In 1995, photography dropped off my list of major hobbies.

Traditional hobby photography has taken a big hit over the past decade or so. Sometime in the early nineties, people who would have been gotten deep into photography instead went into computers. Both hobbies took a lot of time, money, and attention. Like many other enthusiasts, I had to choose between being a computer geek and a photo geek. I chose computers.

Photography didn’t disappear completely. My first job in Idaho was photographing someone's wedding. I used that tank of a camera on various road trips and to take picture of tulips in Washington. But it went into storage about 5 or 6 years ago when I switched to a digital point and shoot.

The digital point and shoot cameras I've used since then have been fine. I saved a lot of money on film and I've taken plenty of shots I would have missed by not carrying a camera with me. But it's time to do more.


Photography 01: A new toy

I was just about to leave the apartment today when the joyous buzz of the front door sounded. Fedex was here with a package. The timing was perfect.

Normally, Fedex packages mean work. The UPS and Fedex guys know me by name because they regularly drop off stuff from the California corporate headquarters.

Today was different, though. I was waiting for my new camera to arrive. I tracked the package on line since it left New Jersey last weekend. I knew it had made it as far as Kent, WA this morning, but I couldn't be sure it would get here today, until that buzzer sounded.

I looked at digital SLRs for about year and finally ordered the Pentax K10D for a few reasons. It has a great collection of features, great reviews on Amazon, and I loved my last Pentax camera.

Now I have to figure out how to use it.

Here is the OOBE (Out Of Box Experience).


Shatner-Palooza: "I don't do cameos"

In this clip Shatner denies rumors that he will appear in the next Star Trek movie. He's seems particularly annoyed that his good friend Leonard Nimoy will appear.

He makes some sense in the beginning, but eventually starts talking about Kirk's death and extracting dinosaur DNA.

And in part 2, he doesn't even pretend to make sense.


Escalator Innovation

Were Dante alive today, he would likelyreserve the 5th ring of hell for people stop at the top or bottom of an escalator, pondering whether they want to go left, right, or straight.

In areas like malls and airports, hundreds of people may be walking perpendicular to the escalator and can cause similar problems for those just getting off (or trying to get off) the moving stairs.

At the Washington Square Mall in Tigard, OR, they came up with a solution to this problem.

Seen at Seatac

I saw this United Airlines jet at SEA a couple weeks ago. For some reason, they gave this aircraft a nose job.

The nose of a commercial aircraft typically is filled with avionics and navigation equipment.

The color scheme for the plane itself is an older United color scheme (or livery). The nose cone, though is from their new color scheme. I guess they needed a last minute nose donor.


This is just disgusting

Oct. 15 (Bloomberg) -- Three of the largest U.S. telephone companies declined to answer lawmakers' questions about Bush administration efforts to spy on Americans' phone calls and e- mails, saying the government forbade them from doing so.


My favorite views of Mt Rushmore

A few years ago, Jon and I drove from Seattle to Chicago for his wedding. Along the way, we stopped at Mt Rushmore.

This is one of my favorite shots from that stop.

Road Trip_2004-04 034

You can see more of the Mt. Rushmore pictures here.


Airport Codes

Generally, when I abbreviate a city name, I just use the airport code. When I write someone that I'm going to Chicago or Miami, I write it out as ORD or MIA. It's habbit other frequent flyers have as well.

While SEA (Seattle) and BOS (Boston) may seem to be obvious codes, have you ever wondered where there others came from?

This article goes into excruciating detail about how airports get their codes. It's fascinating reading.

When the Wright brothers first took to the air in 1903, there was no need for coding airports since an airport was literally any convenient field with a strong wind. However, the National Weather Service did tabulate data from cities around the country using a two-letter identification system. Early airlines simply copied this system, but as airline service exploded in the 1930's, towns without weather station codes needed identification. Some bureaucrat had a brainstorm and the three-letter system was born, giving a seemingly endless 17,576 different combinations. To ease the transition, existing airports placed an X after the weather station code. The Los Angeles tag became LAX, Portland became PDX, Phoenix became PHX and so on. Incidentally at the historic sand dune in Kitty Hawk where the first flight occurred the U.S. National Parks Service maintains a tiny airstrip called FFA—First Flight Airport.



Lead: The Latest Threat to Homeland Security

Everyday brings news of another recall of a Chinese made product. The early recalls were for deadly tires and poisoned pet food. Now, though, the recalls are for the more subtle lead poisoning in toys.

It’s truly shocking that we can’t trust the cheapest possible products, made with slave labor to be quality learning and entertainment aids for our children. How can these accidents happen?

Obviously, they’re not accidents – they’re intentionals.

China has made tremendous strides over the past few decades. Market oriented reforms and a focus on growth have turned the country into an economic powerhouse, providing finished goods for much of the world. China is the reason steel and oil prices have skyrocketed in recent years; they are importing more of these raw materials than ever before and limiting supply to the rest of the world.

In fact, that was part one of the recently established plan. It’s a clever form of market oriented attack on the US. By buying all this stuff, and driving up commodities prices, they hope to crash the economy of the US.

But that might only be effective for the next few years. The US has a massive capacity for innovation. The inherent scrappiness in the national character that gave the world everything from the Internet to the Chicago Cubs gives us tremendous resilience. Even if we face an economic collapse, the children of today will be the entrepreneurs of tomorrow. They are smart enough and determined enough to pull the country out of any trench and create the next economic bubble.

To bring down the US, you have to collapse the economy of today, and destroy the entrepreneurs of tomorrow.

And that’s what these lead contaminated toys are.

Excessive lead exposure in children learns to impaired intellectual development. It lowers IQs, causes stunted grown, limits hearing, and gives kids ADHD.

The increase in lead toys is all part of a long term world domination plan on the part of the Communist party in China. Before invading the US, they first have to make our kids dumb.

That must be we why they are letting Survivor be filmed there, too.

You’ve been warned.


A380 Finally Delivered

Airbus delivers their first A380 super jumbo jet on Monday. The Boeing 747 is no longer the largest passenger jet in the world.

From the Seattle Times:

The worst day of John Leahy's life, Airbus' chief salesman says, was facing Singapore Airlines executives and telling them that the very first A380 superjumbo — already months behind schedule — would be delayed yet again.

"They just looked at me," said Leahy, the European plane maker's chief operating officer. "Fortunately, they were speechless."

Better late than never has been the mantra, but Leahy may soon be able to breathe easier after the handover Monday of the much-ballyhooed but problem-ridden A380, a vital step in Airbus' efforts to recover from the vast troubles linked to the superjumbo plane.

The A380 is an impressisive achievement, even though it is two years late.

But, while I'll reserve final judgement until I see one in person, it is unfortunately ugly. I'm not usre why, but it just looks like an inelegant beast in all the pictures I've seen. I don't know if it's the proportions, the lines, the curves or just the sheer size, but it's just not as attarctive an airplane as the 747. The 747, even with it's odd hump, has a beauty and grace to it that is simply amazing.

Of course, I don't think "beauty" was one of the design criteria for the A380.


Musings on Missoula

Yesterday, I as I stepped of the Horizon Air Q400, I stood on the tarmac, looked around at the empty mountains and squat terminal building nearby, and took a deep breath. That thin, fresh mountain air, tinged with jet fuel means I am back in Montana.

I took care of business in Missoula today, and now I'm sitting on the balcony of my hotel room, looking out over the dense black water of the Clark Fork River at night. Its subtle roar seems healthier that the similar, yet disturbing, constant highway roar ever-present in most cities.

It's quieter tonight. The inebriated college kids seem to have knocked off early. There is no second-hand marijuana smell wafting in from one of the neighbors' balconies. The police just drove quietly through the park across the river sweeping the spot light across the banks, hoping to spot the errant camper, homeless person, or whomever they were looking for. They found no one.

Even in the second biggest city in the state, it's easy to feel the open space. And it's easy to feel that something in the air is fundamentally different than in many places. Perhaps it's the oxygen.

I've been thinking over the past couple of days about what story to tell. How should I describe Missoula? How do I capture the magic of this state? What anecdotes are most appropriate.

In the end, I gave up trying.

So I just look out over the water in the calm chill of the night, inhale deeply, smile slighty, and just say:



Think before you speak

Mitsubishi just announced a new line of commuter jets. The company president expects them to be successful:

"We feel strongly that we will be able to create an aircraft that will have an impact," he told reporters.

I thought the goal was to ensure your aircraft don't have any impacts.

Full article

New York State returns $318

Today I got a check for $318.74 from the state of New York.

After a certain period of inactivity, banks, brokerage house, insurance companies, and other organizations are required to turn over a customers' assets to the state for safe keeping. When you want it back, you contact the state it was turned over to.

I checked the database on the NY state website, and it reported I had unclaimed funds. I downloaded a form, filled it out, had it notarized and sent it in. About 6 weeks later I had my check.

I'm not exactly sure where the funds were from; I had done business with the institution in the past, though, and the state had the right address so I know it's mine. It was a pleasant surprise.

Check the websites for states you have lived in. You may find money you (or a deceased relative) did not know about.

Be careful, though. There are internet scammers that prey on the unclaimed funds issues. Some people will charge you a fee to do what you can do for free. Some may just be centers for identity theft, so exercise caution if you choose to deal with the 3rd parties.

The safest solution is probably to go directly to the states' websites. On the government site, search for "Unclaimed Property."

Here are the 4 sites I checked:

New York

Let me know if you find anything. Good luck.


Shatner-Palooza: LSD

Someone took Shatner's memorable rendition of Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds and added their own animation.

Until I saw this video I never realized how much he looks like President Clinton.


Appendix may be useful, afterall.

Kind of like the Appendix at the end of a book, it turns out the one in the body may be useful as a biological reference tool for the digestive system.

From the Seattle Times:

The appendix "acts as a good safe house for bacteria," said Duke surgery professor Bill Parker, a co-author of the study. Its location — just below the normal one-way flow of food and germs in the large intestine in a sort of gut cul-de-sac — helps support the theory, he said.

Also, the worm-shaped organ outgrowth acts like a bacteria factory, cultivating good germs, Parker said.

That use is not needed in a modern industrialized society, Parker said. If a person's gut flora die, they usually can repopulate it easily with germs they pick up from other people, he said.

But before dense populations in modern times and during epidemics of cholera that affected a whole region, it wasn't as easy to grow back that bacteria and the appendix came in handy.


Fascinating stuff.


Are you a fugitive and want to turn yourself in? Bring your ID

A wanted rape suspect tried to turn himself in at the local jail the other day. The folks at the jail told him to go away. Is this really a good idea?

Full article here.

Jail Director Steve Thompson said staff turned Baker away because he didn't have a driver's license or any other identification to prove he was the person sought by deputies.

Baker was asked to go to the Sheriff's Office, inside the courthouse, to straighten things out, Thompson said.

"Surprisingly, many people show up without their ID, like [Baker] did," Thompson said. "It's illegal for us to detain people when we can't confirm who they are."


Cheating Sleep

I planned to watch Heroes on Tivo at 2:00 AM tonight, but apparently, Tivo thinks it's crazy for people to watch TV that late, and told me it wouldn't let me watch because it was updating it self.

On Wired's How To section, they offer an introduction to polyphasic sleep, and they offer suggestions on how to get better quality sleep, even if you get few hours.

The schedules the suggest are a bit rigid for my taste. I'll stick with my 4-6 hours a night during the week and 10-12 hours a night on the weekend.

A six-year study Kripke headed up of more than a million adults ages 30 to 102 showed that people who get only 6 to 7 hours a night have a lower death rate than those who get 8 hours of sleep.



The problem with attending large tradeshows...

... is that I sometimes leave them wanting to spent way too much money.

BTW, does anyone have any thoughts on the Pentax K10D?