Friday, April 29, 2005

Readability Stats

This site will measure the readability of any web page. Here is a summary of the results for my blog:
Gunning Fog Index = 9.10
Flesch Reading Ease = 70.30
Flesch-Kincaid Grade = 6.06

What do these mean? Here are definitions for the Gunning Fog Index and the Flesch Scores.

A Bug's Life

This site has some great macro photographs of insects.

Shadowbox Cabaret

Friday night we went to the Shadowbox Cabaret at Newport on the Levee. We saw their "dirty little secrets" show with another couple. We had a good time! The show was a mix of live music and comedy skits. I'd say overall the music was stronger than the comedy, but there were some very funny skits. There was an excellent lead guitar player that did an amazing job on Voodoo Child, and a bass guitar player that was rocking on Papa was a Rolling Stone and on Who Are You. A fun evening on the Levee.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Folksonomy and New Music

A few weeks ago I had a post about finding new music and I’ve mentioned Flickr several times in other posts. I found a connection between these items today.

A business site I was reading used the term “folksonomy” which I wasn’t familiar with. There is a good Wikipedia entry for the term. Folksonomy is an informal, spontaneous classification using keywords or tags. The entry immediately made me think of the Flickr site (which the article gave as an example) and how fast classification tags become popular and adopted. A couple examples include the Flickr tags of memorymap and whatsinmybag. I find both tags interesting and like browsing the related entries. My first attempt at a memory map got a surprising number of views!

The Wikipedia article on folksonomy also mentioned GenieLab as a tag example. I went to the site and found it is a music rating and recommendation service. A main function of the site is to record your ratings of music artists or groups (both good and bad), and use them to lead you to other music you might like. I did a quick test by rating about 30 groups (a mix of likes and dislikes) and then asking for recommendations. Some of the recommendations, e.g. Pere Ubu, were newer groups that I have heard (and in this case seen) and do like. That gives me confidence in the GenieLab recommendation feature. The site also makes it easy to explore these recommendations by linking to sites like Amazon, iTunes, or MSN Music that have sample recordings. If you feel lucky, you can also rely on the wisdom of crowds and find groups similar to your favorites that are liked by others. There are lots of other functions and the Genie Lab blog describes new developments and functionality.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Happy Earth Day

I’m not much for political blogging, but I couldn’t let the Bush administration’s phoney concern for the environment shown around Earth Day go by without calling it out. George W’s Earth Day photo opportunity and the First Lady’s support of the Junior Rangers can’t even begin to offset the environmental damage the Bush administration has supported. Shortly after Bush’s first election victory, he pulled the US out of negotiations for the Kyoto Protocol which was trying to limit carbon dioxide emissions. The recent news about oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is another example. There are several spots on the web where you can learn more about George’s concern for the environment including the W Watch page maintained by the Sierra Club.

Television Commercials

If you don’t get to see enough advertising on television, you can go to this website that claims to have the best ads from TV. Some of the ads are familiar. However, there are quite a few from foreign markets that are new to me. Be sure to click on the archives and you’ll find a lot of clips organized by year and month.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Talk About Over-Packing!

Dianne always laughs at my packing stress when we go on a trip. I wish I could adopt her approach of just throwing some stuff in a bag and going. I'm counting days, thinking about the weather, and trying to have options along with some sense of color matching. In the end, I pack heavy. I like to have my bases covered on a trip. Nevertheless, I'm a rookie compared to this guy carrying 14 suitcases that must have each weighed a ton!! I'm sure it didn't take a rocket scientist working for the US Border Patrol to realize something was up.

I also liked the comment regarding refrigeration near the end of the article. That was the second thing that popped into my germophobe mind after reading the second paragraph. And what was the third thing? I hope his clothes were clean. Hmmm....this smokey flavor reminds me a bit of used sweat socks.

Friday, April 22, 2005

No Soup For You!!

Remember the "Soup Nazi" episode from Seinfeld? Dianne and I happened to see that last night. That's one of my favorites -- right up there with the Kenny Rodger's chicken episode. CNN has an article today about Al Yeganeh taking his soups national later this year.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Stationary is Bad

I got a Motion Computing tablet PC a few months ago. One of the Microsoft products that came with the tablet is OneNote. I've used it a bit and it is very handy for taking notes. The ink capabilities make it a handy piece of software for a tablet PC. In fact, I find it's a great way to make clippings to use as a basis for blog entries.

Why the OneNote advertisement? A friend sent a link today to the "stationary is bad" site. They have three movies on the site that are pretty funny. They're worth watching a couple times to see all that is going on.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005


Call me old school, but the Grafedia media project described here just sounds like graffiti for the 21st century. The main Grafedia web site is here.

Has anyone seen any Grafedia in the wild?

Monday, April 18, 2005


Spring is here. It is very pretty with all the trees flowering. Here is a tree outside our door.
But with the flowers comes a lot of pollen. Even taking anti-histamines, I'm still congested. I had a bad sinus headache today.

Saturday Flying

On Saturday, Dianne and I went to an AYA fly-in at the Muncie airport. It was a beautiful day and there were 17 Grumman planes that flew in for lunch. Here is a picture of our Tiger, Tony, on the ramp at Muncie with the control tower in the background.


Memory Map

I've posted my first attempt at a memory map at Flickr. It's an annotated view of Little Falls. If you search for Flickr images with the tag "memory map", you'll find lots of annotated maps.

I also ran across a couple of neat Flickr hacks here and another here. There are many folks taking advantage of the public image tags. I like the Flickr concept.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Creativity and Teaching

I was reading a post at the Innovation Tools site which discusses five things you can do or think about to enhance creativity. I found four of the five items and questions interesting.

    What do you need to pay more attention to in order to manifest your most inspired idea or project?

    In what ways can you strengthen your intention on a daily basis?

    What boundaries, limits, or old paradigms are you willing to challenge this week?

    Who (or what) do you need to connect with in a new way in order to manifest your hottest, new idea?

These items hit home with me – but not directly in a creativity context. I’ve been thinking about ways I might stimulate student motivation and foster problem solving skills in my first year chemistry students. Here's what came to my mind.

Although important, I wasn't thinking about class attendance. I thought of this like the Zen of chemistry. I have to be there in the moment and be focused. The same is true for the students. Everyone has to be concentrating and participating to get anywhere.

Especially from the student side, what is “…the primal purpose and commitment…that will sustain you through the doubts, fears, and unexpected obstacles along the way”? Many students project the attitude of giving up at the first sign of difficulty because everyone knows chemistry is hard. It seems they lack the determination to succeed. You hear Donald Trump say that all the time on The Apprentice. The trick is to instill that drive in my limited lecture time. I find this particularly frustrating and hard to overcome on an individual basis in a large class.

I feel only a minority of students push themselves when thinking about new concepts or when trying to develop problem solving skills. I sense several issues here that can vary by individual. Examples include difficulty with subject vocabulary, lack of confidence or drive when reaching limits, and insufficient background skills (e.g. math ability). I use several techniques to address these, but I’m always looking for better options to gently push the limits.

Making connections between concepts in different topics or chapters, or linking laboratory experience to lecture, has always been an obstacle for students. My typical student is low on Bloom’s taxonomy pyramid and has difficulty with problems that require making connections to solve. Many of my students would drive constructive learning theorists nuts! I hope using mind maps as a basis for lectures, along with Socratic discussions, will facilitate making connections. We’ll see if this will work in a large group.

Maybe I need to think more about motivating creativity rather than worrying so much about experiences, relevance to a major, or extrinsic factors for student motivation?

Flickr and AOTS

I decided to jump into the Flickr pool and pee in it. Dianne’s favorite TV channel is the G4 video game television network. One of the programs on the network is called “Attack of the Show” (AOTS). They cover gaming and internet related items. I find the show entertaining. On their April 5th episode, they did a segment about Flickr – the online photo hosting site. Besides being a basic photo repository, Flickr offers a lot of functionality for albums, tagging and searching for photos, privacy, linking to blogs, etc. They encouraged viewers to open a free Flickr account and post photos in the public pool that contained yellow colors (i.e. peeing in the pool). No photoshop allowed. Each yellow photo was to have a tag of AOTS. There were quite a few entries. Here is one of mine showing the signs of spring we’re experiencing.


Jungle Jim's International Market

A while back I posted a vision for the supermarket of the future. This Business Week online article talks about the wacky supermarket of today – Jungle Jim’s in the greater Cincinnati area. It really is a shopping experience and a great place to go for specialty items, produce, and fresh fish. As mentioned in the article, it’s not necessarily a place to go for bargains on everyday items. However, a lot of “foodies” think there is value in the specialty products.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Miscellaneous Items

Here are a few odd items that speak for themselves.

Instructions for making a clock. This gives new meaning to snack time.

Don't keep me in suspense.

Here's a good gift for all cooks practicing voodoo.

With gas prices rising, this green motorcycle could be a good seller.

Here's an innovative new watch. I can't imagine what that would cost.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Weekend Flying

This weekend the weather was nice and I was able to take the Tiger for a couple flights. On Saturday I did a local flight to check out the plane after the work that was done on the cylinder head temperature gauge. Everything looked good, the engine was fine, and it handled great. Here is a picture after I had landed back at KISZ.
On Sunday I took a short cross country trip to KMQJ in the Indianapolis area. Again, everything was fine with the Tiger. Surprisingly, it was a little bumpy even at 5500 feet. It was such a beautiful day, a lot of people were out flying. There was parachute activity at a couple airports along the way. Just west of Middletown (KMWO) I saw a group of 3 gliders circling (likely trying to catch some thermals). It was unusual to see gliders in that area. Usually they are over by Waynesville and the Caesar's Creek.

Now I just need to get my instrument flying skills back in shape and we should be ready for some trips.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Radio Broadcasts and New Music

Where does your music come from today – especially new music? That question popped into my head after doing some reading last week. It got me thinking about how my music listening habits have evolved.

Growing up I loved listening to FM radio. It was fun tuning around to hear new music. KCLD was a great Top 40 station out of St. Cloud, Minnesota. If propagation was right, I could hear stations from the Twin Cities that played good easy listening or rock music. It wasn’t all good of course, but I was hearing new stuff. I got a good feel for which groups I liked and which I didn’t. It seemed like there was more stuff I liked than not.

College days here and here were a music bonanza. If nothing else, stereo wars in college dorms exposed me to a lot of new music. Word of mouth and media sharing (records and tapes) with friends helped. In the early 80s, who didn’t vegetate for an hour watching music videos on MTV?

Today things seem different. I find it hard to listen to Top 40 radio. Even local alternative radio stations don’t hold my attention anymore. And the commercials get old really fast. How many times can you listen to an Enzyte commercial that tells you nothing? Good luck even catching a video on MTV during normal viewing hours today. When you do find a video on their sister stations, it’s not even worth watching. It seems there is a very small percentage of new music that I consider airworthy. I guess I’m getting old and cranky. I’m sure Dianne would agree.

My waning interest in FM radio isn’t unique. A recent article in the NYT discussed the rise of satellite radio and how that may be changing the landscape for traditional broadcasting. I see an analogy to cable TV subscriptions. I have an XM satellite radio and love it! Continuous reception, no commercials, wide selection – what’s not to like. Even though satellite radio subscribers only represent about 3% of number of radio listeners, apparently broadcasters are changing formats and reducing commercials to protect their lucrative business (I was amazed that profit margins can be up to 50%). I’m sure the rise of iPods and similar devices as well as internet streaming audio have cut into radio listening time.

So where is my new music coming from? I still get good music tips from friends and share CDs now and then. Web based streaming audio is another way to hear some variety. I used to use the custom radio station option of the Real Player. You pick groups you like and they stream songs from those groups as well as related groups. It was a good way to hear new songs that you’d have a high likelihood of enjoying. Unfortunately, Internet streaming at work (most of my listening time) isn’t allowed. Finally, special internet broadcasts are good if you can find ‘em. For example, David Byrne of Talking Heads fame has started a regular streaming audio broadcast to share new music he finds interesting. That’s the best sampling service I’ve heard recently. I also liked his comments about licensing in his interview with Xeni Jardin.

I’d be interested in other approaches you use to find new music.

Supermarkets of the Future

This article describes an interesting new supermarket concept. It fits with the American love of automobiles. It’ll be interesting to see if their concept and expansion plans play out. This would be fantastic in harsh environments. I remember as a kid how excited people were over the grocery service at the new Coborn’s supermarket. After checkout, you had the option of loading your groceries into a numbered tub. The tub went to a drive-up window where an employee would load the groceries into your car when you presented your numbered claim check. That was handy in the Minnesota winter. The AutoCart concept takes that idea into the 21st century.

Flavor enhancers

The New York Times had an interesting article about a biotechnology company called Senomyx and their work on flavor enhancers. Senomyx has studied the five flavor receptors and used that knowledge to search for compounds that activate or suppress the flavor receptors. The Senomyx technology pages provide a nice overview of their strategy. The NYT article reports several food and beverage companies have licensed rights to use Senomyx products in certain types of products. I’m sure there’s a lot of regulatory work ahead to prove the additives are safe. It would be nice to have a safe, salt receptor agonist so companies could reduce the amount of salt in their products (e.g. canned soups or V8) and yet maintain the flavor.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Google Maps and Flickr

I used to use Mapquest all the time for on-line maps and driving directions. Since Google starting posting maps that also include an option to see satellite views, I go there all the time. A lot of people are using this site in creative ways. One example is to get a satellite preview of an area containing a geocache. Another neat example is creating an annotated tour on a map. Here is an example showing a tour of Ithaca, NY. I could imagine this would be useful for chamber of commerce websites. Today I saw another, more personal use, of annotating a satellite view.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

News Aggregators

If you get into reading a lot of blogs, you’ll find it is time consuming to surf to each blog and find out what (if anything) is new. It’s much easier to use an RSS news aggregator that tracks your favorite blogs and shows what is new-along with other features. I like Bloglines and use it almost daily. Robert Scoble of Microsoft posted a short review of various RSS aggregator services on his blog. I was happy to see that he spoke highly of Bloglines.

New Pens

I’ve always been intrigued with pens. I have several fountain pens that I don’t use too much since I have a tablet PC, a palm Pilot, and a Logitech IO pen. More of my writing is digital these days. Nevertheless, I was intrigued with some new ink pen designs that you can see here and here.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

On-line Language Courses

Deutsche Welle Germany’s government run international radio station has been broadcasting German language lessons. Now, on their website, they are providing collections of the language lessons. Along with the spoken instruction are PDFs that help with reading as well. That might be interesting to try-although I don’t have a big demand for German.

Interestingly, the BBC has similar on-line language courses on their website. This would be a good way to maintain a language you don’t use very often.

Photo Blogs

I’ve been looking around the web at lots of other blogs. I’m looking at content as well as layout to get ideas. One class of blog I find interesting is the photoblog. Given my interest in photography, I guess it makes sense. One photoblog I like is called a daily dose of imagery. There are some beautiful shots of Toronto as well as examples of interesting techniques possible with digital photography. The world according to Mona site has some nice photos too.

I also found a couple photoblogs based in Hawaii. You can find them here and here. What a great place to find subjects for a photoblog.

There are also several spots to find lists and rankings of photo blogs. One of my favorites is

April Fools Gift Idea

In college, it was an event to get some mail in your postoffice box. A package was even better! Often times that meant food from home. One spring break, my roommate and I visited my Aunt and Uncle’s dairy farm and picked out a nice cow pie to mail to one of our “friends” at college. We sent it anonymously. He was so exited to get a package he didn’t even look for the return address. It was a good practical joke.

What I didn’t realize is you could make money doing that sort of thing! Maybe my friend owns the business?

Friday, April 01, 2005

MindJet Blogs

Several of the folks at MindJet have initiated blogs discussing various aspects of information mapping software and their MindManager software in particular. I'm learning their product and hope to try it as an alternative approach for chemistry lectures in the next academic year.

Sony PSP saga

Dianne, the quintessential gamer, got one of the first million Sony PSP units released in the US. We got it the day they became available. It’s quite the system offering gaming as well as options to show videos, digital photos, and play digital audio. The screen is an amazing LCD, TFT screen with 480x272 resolution at millions of colors. You can see a picture and get the details here.

Unfortunately, Dianne’s PSP has some pixel defects. There are at least two (I think one is actually two adjacent pixels that makes it look like one) pixels that are always on. They are in the middle of the screen and stand out when looking at a dark background. It’s pretty annoying to have that happen right out of the box. In the few days the US units have been on the market, there has been a lot of web traffic describing Sony PSP units with pixel defects. For example, check here and here.

I understand manufacturing of LCD screens is difficult and there can be some screen defects. These were much more common in the early days of manufacturing computer monitors. That’s why ISO standards for LCD screens were established several years ago. The standard describes limits for dead or always bright pixels for various quality screens. This site has a description of the standard for computer monitors. If you calculate the defect rate for our PSP unit assuming only 2 bad pixels, it comes out to 15.3 bad pixels/million. Clearly that’s way higher than the error rate for a computer monitor – much harder to manufacture the larger screen. That seems completely out of line for a PSP sized screen.

So how to get it resolved? We purchased the unit at Blockbuster and as of 3/31 they are refusing to stand behind the product and are referring us to Sony. In fact, we were given some mis-information at our local Blockbuster – but that’s a long story. Suffice it to say I won’t be patronizing any Blockbuster stores in the future. If you do, I’d encourage you to read their return policy (especially for non video items) very carefully before purchase! Sony will take the units back as described here and here, but you have to pay for shipping. That wouldn’t be an issue if Blockbuster supported the products they sold. Although Sony’s warranty appears to limit liability, it’s really unfortunate they won’t cover the cost of resolving a problem with a brand new unit whose defect rate is much higher than even a class III LCD screen.