Monday, August 27, 2012

What Does Bill Nye, the Science Guy, Say About Creationism?

Bill Nye, former host of the the PBS kids show Bill Nye, The Science Guy, has it right about evolution and creationism. Treating creationism as fact or science distorts reality and harms our children and the future of America. 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Zombie Walk

Stockholm had its annual Zombie Walk this weekend. It's a peaceful and somewhat joyous event. The participants parade around the streets and shopping malls dressed as zombies. It's all in the spirit of good fun. Many cities have zombie walks, including Sacramento, California, which had the first zombie walk on record in 2001. (I had no idea that Sacramento was first in anything.)

Munich will have its annual zombie walk on September 8, 2012. If you're in town, check it out, or better yet, dress up.  

Saturday, August 25, 2012

It's a Woman's Choice

Something to think about. I remember a time when women had no choice. I don't think we want to return to that place in history. 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

When the First Line of a Book Catches Your Attention

They say you can't judge a book by its cover, but what about the first lines from a book? There's nothing quite like a book that has you gripped from the very first line. In fact, I've never been disappointed when the first line of a book catches my attention. Here are 10 of my favorite opening lines:

10. "Time is not a line but a dimension, like the dimensions of space." Cat's Eye - Margaret Atwood

9. "Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show." David Copperfield - Charles Dickens

8. "Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins." Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov

7. "I planned my death carefully; unlike my life, which meandered along from one thing to another, despite my feeble attempts to control it." Lady Oracle - Margaret Atwood

6. "It was a pleasure to burn." Fahrenheit 451 - Ray Bradbury

5. "Mother died today." The Stranger - Albert Camus

4. "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair."  A Tale of Two Cities - Charles Dickens

3. "The Past is a foreign country; they do things differently there." The Go-Between - L.P. Hartley

2. "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy

1. "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife." Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Campus Party in Berlin: The Biggest Geek Festival in the World

Berlin is currently hosting the biggest electronic entertainment event in the world. Known as Campus Party, this week long technology festival brings together some of the best tech talent from Europe and Latin America to discuss the latest in technological innovation. Campus Party is expecting 10,000 programmers, bloggers, inventors, developers, and gamers to attend. Campus Party continues until August 26, and is being held at Tempelhof Airport. I wish I was in Berlin to attend.

Those Clever Birds Take Advantage of Trash Collection

Birds are smart. It's Wednesday, and I woke up to the sound of birds outside my bedroom window. You see, it's Wednesday, and Wednesday is trash collection day. For birds that means food. On the other days of the week, there's hardly a peep from our feathered friends, but on Wednesday, it's another story altogether. They're out and about scavenging for tasty morsels, and making quite a racket and mess of it. 

In Portland all trash for curbside pick up must be in blue Portland Trash Bags. Residents purchase the bags at the local supermarket ($1 for a 15-gallon bag and $2 for a 30-gallon bag). In principle this method of trash collection is great. You pay for the amount of trash you produce. However, as with most things, there is a downside. These plastic bags are easily punctured by crows, gulls, and other neighborhood wildlife. Until recently, the neighbors would place their trash on the curb the night before collection. But lately, the birds have gotten to the bags before it's collected. I never knew how much litter these birds could make. Now, most people place their trash on the curb shortly before pick up.

Lately, there are less birds around on Wednesday morning. In a way, I feel sorry for them. I guess they'll have to get food the old-fashioned way: hunt.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Quote of the Day: Gutless Little Twerp

Talk Show interviewer, Piers Morgan called Todd Akin, the Republican candidate for Senate in Missouri, a "gutless little twerp" after Mr. Akin backed out of a scheduled interview. I would have called Mr. Akin something else. 

Mr. Akin made headlines after he justified his extreme opposition to abortion by claiming that victims of "legitimate rape" [whatever that means] rarely get pregnant. It's beyond my comprehension that someone can be so ignorant. Is this what the Republican Party has become? Tragic!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Parking Lots Made Beautiful

Mercy Hospital Parking Lot
Most people go about their daily activities hardly noticing the ubiquitous parking lot. Yet, the parking lot is a familiar and useful part of modern life. Characterized by black top surfaces, minimal landscaping, and pole lighting, these open spaces dominate many urban landscapes. Since most parking lots are designed to maximize parking space, they lack extensive landscaping and are generally ugly heat islands in summer or frozen wastelands in winter. Parking lots are rarely "designed," and if they are, it's done cheaply and haphazardly. It doesn't take much money to beautify a parking lot, just a willingness to make an eyesore more attractive. 

Here is a wonderful example of an ordinary parking lot made beautiful. It's the Mercy Hospital parking lot in Portland, Maine. Located on the corner of Spring and Winter, this simple and economical design relies exclusively on annuals and grasses massed along the guard rails. The colorful plants not only soften the harsh asphalt pavement, but they attracts birds, bees, and useful insects. The carefully selected plants also compliment the brick sidewalk and brick hospital across the street. Thank you Mercy Hospital for adding a little bit of beauty to Portland!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Dolphins Caught Underwater

Isn't the Web amazing. While searching for the Dolphin Browser to install on my Nexus 7, I discovered this video of dolphins swimming underwater. The footage was taken off the coast of Santa Cruz, California. It's really something to behold. 

Friday, August 17, 2012

Teaching Children to Respect People and Animals Through Books

A Childhood Favorite
These days, I find myself re-reading some of my favorite books from childhood, including The Wind in the Willows, Charlotte's Web, Black Beauty, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. What is it about these books that I find so comforting? Is it nostalgia, a wish to escape the harsh realities of the present day, or simply a desire to reconnect with my inner child. I don't know the answer. However, one thing these books have in common is that they teach people about prejudices, and how to be tolerant and respectful of other people and animals.

Not a day goes by when the media doesn't inform us of some mass shooting or some other form of violence inflicted on people or animals. So how do we as a society change? Stricter laws, harsher penalties, more prisons, . . . There's no one answer; however, one thing that works: have young people read books. Books are incredibly powerful and are an amazing teaching tool. Here are some of my favorites. They entertain while teaching valuable life lessons. 

  • A book that I wish the Obama's had read before they got their Portuguese Water Dog. What a wonderful example it would have been for the President to adopt a rescue dog.

  • The vegan lifestyle isn't for everybody, but this book lets children learn about an alternative to our meat obsessed world.   

  • Having good manners is never out of style. 

  • A funny and timeless story about our environment and how to protect it. 

  • It's not wise to be connected 24/7.

  • A witty and lighthearted look at race relations when a cat couple is startled to discover that their newborn is a dog!

  • A tale of vanity versus humility. 

  • Funny and hilarious! I can read this book again and again. (I've been told that I resemble the dragon.)

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Injured and Abandoned: Missy is Rescued

Missy, an injured dog that was left to die on a mountain, was rescued on Monday by a group of volunteers who braved dangerous conditions and snow. The group had heard of Missy's plight and organized a rescue party.

Missy's owner, Anthony Ortolani, said he was forced to leave Missy on the mountain when her feet became injured and she could no longer walk. Mr. Ortolani admitted that he made little effort to retrieve his dog, who he assumed was dead.

Nevertheless, Missy miraculously survived after going without food or water for eight days. She is now safe. Unbelievably, Mr. Ortolani is now seeking custody of Missy. Can you believe it! Missy's fate will now be determined at a custody hearing conducted by the Clear Creek County Animal Control in Colorado. 

In contrast to Mr. Ortolani's actions, watch this video of a dog rescuing another dog in the middle of heavy traffic. This selfless dog risked his own life to save that of another dog.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

One More Term for Obama?

Michael Montgomery sent me this wonderful music video. The music and visuals are inspiring! Enjoy. (And please, don't forget to vote this November). 

Potato Doughnuts in Portland?

All of a sudden, Potato Doughnuts (also known as the Spudnut) seem to be everywhere. They're the latest craze to hit Portland. I had never heard of potato doughnuts until very recently, but they've been around since the early 1900s. Potato doughnuts are made with mashed potatoes or potato starch instead of flour, and as a result, they're sweeter and lighter than the traditional doughnut. 

Holy Donut, a shop specializing in potato doughnuts is located on Park Avenue across from the Ice Arena, and it has hipster written all over it. Designed in a shabby chic style, Holy Donut has comfy sofas, plenty of rustic furniture, and that all important feature, the "cool" twenty-something customer.

The doughnuts are pricey ($1.50), but they are delicious. The day I visited, I tried the cinnamon sugar and sweet potato. Yum! And if crowds are any indication, Holy Donut is a success. The place was full. Go early. Many of the favorites sell out fast. 

However, for my money, I would head to Tony's Donut Shop. They have traditional doughnuts at reasonable prices ($.80). No hip people or potato doughnuts here, just good doughnuts, full of sugar, fat, and calories.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Goldfinches Thrive on Sunflowers

This year a pair of American Goldfinches (Carduelis tristis) have made their home in our Korean Ash tree. The male is bright yellow with a black patch on his forehead. The female is a dull olive yellow.

This lively pair thrive on our sunflowers. During the afternoon hours, they work furiously as they pluck off sunflower petals to get at the seeds. They create quite a mess, not to mention disfiguring the sunflowers. Oh well, I can hardly begrudge them. They have a young family at home. 

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Is There No Shame: Purse Stolen from Unconscious Woman

It's difficult not to be cynical. Some things still surprise me. 

Monday, August 6, 2012

David Hasselhoff: Then and Now


and Now
David Hasselhoff, the heart throb of the 1980s, hasn't been as lucky as the Marlboro Man (the personality I profiled yesterday).

The Hoff has had difficulty dealing with his alcoholism and troubles with weight gain (it must be all those cheese burgers); and despite some obvious plastic surgery, you can see every one of his 60 years. 

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Marlboro Man: Then and Now

and Now
William Thourlby was the original Marlboro Man from the 1950s. Now 88, Mr. Thourlby still looks good. How does he do it? Simple answer: he never smoked or drank. There's a lesson in that. 

Friday, August 3, 2012

What's Wrong with Netflix?

Is it just my perception, or has Netflix deteriorated? It seems like things started to go down hill last year after the Netflix debacle. As you remember, Netflix raised prices and attempted to split off its profitable streaming service from its not-so profitable DVD service. Or perhaps, that's when I first noticed the lower standard of quality at Netflix.

For example, I find it's taking more and more time to get movies. I have nine movies at the top of my movie queue that are listed as "very long wait." Some movies have been at the top of the queue for 7 months. In desperation, I tried the public library, and guess what? I was able to get a number of movies from the public library that were listed as "very long wait" on Netflix. Even more amazing, yesterday, when I logged on to the Netflix site, I somehow got the Netflix page of another user. It had his movie list and personal information! 

The lauded Netflix streaming service is also not shaping up as a suitable replacement for the DVD service. Without any warning, movies are suddenly withdrawn from streaming and become unavailable on streaming and DVD. I understand that Netflix is not entirely to blame. The licensing companies, who control the rights to use the video product, are asking for more and more money, even in cases where the movie is 70 years old. (Thanks, Congress for extending the Copyright law.) In any case, it's frustrating. 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

A Poke at the Absurdity of Religion

Very funny!  

The Future is Here

Tawabo speaks Japanese, Chinese, Korean, and English. He's an official greeter at the Tokyo Tower in Japan. BTW: He's a robot too. Robotics have come a long way in the last few years. It's not Science Fiction anymore.

For example, I have a robotic vacuum cleaner known as Roomba. He works at my house, and like the Energizer Bunny, he goes on and on. He's better than Rosie, the robot who works at the Jetsons: No lip and no fussy uniform. 
Stock Tip:  Buy stock in the IROBOT Corp. It's IRBT on the NASDAQ. Robotics are the future.