Awesome workout posters with silly names

I’m building a home gym in the garage, all part of the Year of Doing Stuff that I’ve decided will mark 2014. I don’t have much equipment, so I’ve been building up routines that may help.

Free Visual Workouts.

Now, I’m not sure what makes “I Aim to Misbehave” a Firefly workout, but the routines look really good and challenging. Sometimes you just need a plan, and I plan to print a few of these out for the garage wall.

Experts baffled by quake-formed island except…you know…they’re not

This is what gets me about the “Baffling” meme in headline writing. Inevitably, the story reveals that, no, its a nifty, curious, uncommon thing, but rarely baffling.

Here’s the headline in question:

Experts baffled by quake-formed island

As you can imagine, the story is about a new island formed off the coast of Pakistan by a recent, massive earthquake in the region. The article embeds this nifty video from the Telegraph:


It takes about five paragraphs before the article contradicts the headline:

Such islands are not entirely unusual to scientists who study the earth and its sometimes violent movements.

Marco Bohnhoff, a professor of seismology at the German Centre for Geosciences in Potsdam said there are two ways such islands can be created.

So…essentially, its prolly a mud volcano:

Click for source.

Linkdump: computing for kiddies

Stinkbug Manor houses two lovely and awful children, ages 4 (soon-to-be 5) and 7 (soon-to-be 8), and recently, I’ve noticed that they’ve spent far too much time hovering around my computer.
In general, I don’t have a problem with telling them no and booting them off. However, I also know that I want to blunt the emerging issues regarding my daughter, the 7 (8) year-old, whose friends are beginning to acquire either their own devices (iPods Touch, primarily) or laptops. There’s no way on Earth I want to give my daughter unfettered access to Girl Drama, and I certainly don’t believe any child of any means should own a device they can’t replace with the money found in a few holiday cards from Mom-mom & Pop-pop (seriously, Mom, St. Patrick’s Day cards? Really? They appreciate the $5, though.).

My lovely and talented daughter can barely make it through dinner without spilling her glass, I’d hate to see the damage she’d do to her own iPod. They are allowed to play games/Facetime on our devices, even unsupervised (but not far away), but they’re not getting their own. Uh-unh.

Still, I’d like them to use a computer. Even play games (although I’m trying to keep gaming to a minimum. I see no need to introduce gaming consoles any time soon. I fear they will become inevitable, but they are yet another thing that will try to keep my kids inside.

More this, less computing. But still, some computing
More this, less computing. But still, some computing

So, computer it is, and, I have an embarrassment of plans of how to deal with it. But let’s inventory the equally amazing embarrassment of computing options available:

  • A mac mini, purchased 2012 after the catastrophic failure of my old macbook’s hard drive.
  • A macbook, revitalized after the 2012 hard drive death.
  • An ancient Dell laptop, trash picked. Now runs Ubuntu. Doesn’t have a wireless card.
  • A new $199 no-name Chinese laptop bought on Ebay. Also runs on Ubuntu. I bought it intending to give it to the missus, but it was too icky slow for the Win7 it came with and so I decided Ubuntu would be good. It makes for a nice writing laptop, though, so I’m kind of loathe to get rid of it.
  • An ancient Dell Inspiron laptop what my wife uses for work and should replace for Gawd’s sake already. (Generally off the table.)

So here are the options:

1) I could give each child their own account on the Macs, complete with predetermined auto shutdown time limit thingies, which is nice.


  • I still don’t like the idea of them mucking about on the computer with all the Family Stuff on it.
  • They also tend to poke the screens with their little pointy appendages and it gets all icky.

2) I could give them each an Ubuntu laptop, with similar safety bits.


  • They’re not at all familiar with Ubuntu.
  • One of them would necessarily get the trashpick Dell, whose lack of WiFi card would prevent PBS kids and require tethering to the router. (Still, minecraft)
  • Inability to Facetime or Message with Apple-equipped peers, the little sh!ts.


3) Do nothing. Allow them to whine.

There’s no downsides to that, really, as the whinging hardly stops anyway. Still, I want them to be able to use a computer to discover how to do stuff and make stuff.

So, while I’m trying to decide, some helpful links. If you happen to read this, let me know if you have any ideas. Feel free to comment.


How to Create a Family-Friendly Ubuntu Land of Pure Bliss. Setup.

How to restrict my kid’s computing time.

Linux is Full of Educational Software.



How to Install DansGuardian

9 of the Best Linux Educational Games

The Linux Desktop: Rich With Educational Software

Child-proofing your Mac.

How to share your Mac with your family.

How to manage multiple Macs at home.

Support.Apple’s bit on managing kid computer usage.


The Familiar Sounds of David Rose…

This is a bit of a departure, but bear with me. Yesterday, I wanted to add some “stereotypical travel” music to a video I was editing on Final Cut Pro–something along the lines of 50s-TV incidental music (or the background to a 90s Ren and Stimpy cartoon). A long, twisty search engine path took me to this, and it is perfect:

It just screams idyllic 50s suburban neighborhood, at least in my head, even though it was written in the mid-40s.

Do you know this man? I didn’t.

That’s “Holiday for Strings” by David Rose and, if you spent any time in the 20th Century, I’m you’ve heard it a thousand times in many incarnations (including my favorite flavor, Spike Jones). I did a little searching into David Rose, and what I found blew away my pop-cultural sensibilities.

I’ll spare you the Wikipedia copypasta about Rose’s life, except to mention that he was married to both Martha Ray and Judy Garland, and had a long, productive career. (His granddaughter makes the sort of unremarkable technopop that seems to dominate nowadays.)

Rose has a place in pop culture legend for “Holiday for Strings” alone, but I was floored when I heard he also wrote a good number of familiar TV themes, with a particular fondness for Michael Landon projects. He wrote the themes for Little House on the Prairie, Highway to Heaven and, most importantly:

Each theme is different, yet you can sense the genetic connection.

Now, here’s what really floored me. “Holiday for Strings” is one of those “Oh yeah, that song” type affairs, but nothing compares to this David Rose classic:

I mean, really. What are the chances that one guy wrote “Holiday for Strings,” “Bonanza,” AND “The Stripper.”


Any joker can whistle a phrase from “The Stripper” in the workplace and instantly warrant a written warning from Human Resources. That’s how much influence David Rose has had on your life. I salute you, my previously anonymous, long-since-dead friend.

Link Dump: Domes, Anasthesia, and Pick-pocketing!

Some items in my head that I think might be worth sharing.


We’ve barely begun winter, yet I find my thoughts drifting toward backyard project season. A few summers back, I put in a slate patio after scoring some of the material on Craigslist. (Just picked up a trail-a-bike for my son…I have a couple of topic-oriented RSS Craigslist searches saved on Google Reader.) This spring, I’d like to make good on my threat to build a pergola and, just maybe, a backyard studio. Now, I could convert the back-half of my garage, which seems doable, considering I just use it for storing bikes, the lawn mower, and all the leftover building supplies from re-framing the garage wall. Or I could buy (and finish) one of those nice Amish sheds. Or, I could build a dome using these nifty plates, some pressure treated lumber and some roofing material.

I’d have to consider power (which I might be able to get from the garage connection), legality (some small structures don’t need permits, I think…maybe), and approval (from my lovely and wonderful boss), but its worth investigating.

Starplates. Just add bolts and 2x4s.
Something like this right behind the pergola. Could work.


I think by now, the notion that you can wake up during surgery “locked in” to experience the operation, is common. This article, however, makes me doubt how real it is, though. Its a long read and I haven’t gotten to the end of it–so tentative opinion folks–but once I read about how most of the anecdotal evidence presented was solicited through hypnosis, my skeptical hackles started to rise. Still, some of the descriptions from patients share a lot of similarities with the old out-of-body during surgery tales you hear. It makes me wonder if patients are registering conversation some way while under anesthesia. Second, the concept of “emergence delirium” is real and poorly understood. I wonder how many stories of anesthesia-related trauma are poorly-recalled episodes of such delirium. Spicy! Need to read the whole thing. You should too.

End lesson: If real, its extremely rare, and should be the last thing on your list that would stop you from having surgery.


If you don’t listen to Penn’s Sunday School, you should. (Penn and I share similar fears of crustaceans the size of basset hounds, and we both cry over Matt Harding videos. See here.) That said, here’s another Atlantic article (mentioning Penn) about an entertainer in the same vein (and in the same magical circles…hmm…I wonder people googling Magic Circles will end up here?…Eh, why would they? Nobody else does! True, sadly.). Read about Apollo Robbins. Adam Green does a wonderful job of writing it.

Have soldering iron and spatula, will travel.

As seen on the careers page from Planetary Resources, the asteroid mining company…

Hotlinked from Planetary Resources.

If you can live up to these standards, you may very well be a great nerd and, possibly, a fantastic cook.

Some questions that you may be asked during the application/interview include:

Are you a space nut? Prove it!
Look around your home. How would we know that you are an engineer?
What are your three favorite tools to get the job done? What makes them your favorites?
What do you want to get out of working for Planetary Resources?
What do you do for fun?
Have you seen a product through its full life cycle: design, analysis, fab, assembly, test, and ops?
Have you designed and built hardware that someone else has used?
Have you written code that someone else has used?
Do you know how to use a mill and a lathe?
Can you debug a PCB?
Does a convoluted, system-level problem make you tingle with excitement?
Do you know how to create an interplanetary spacecraft trajectory to a celestial target?
Are you a mean cook?
Can you fix the heat if it breaks?
We would recognize your handiwork on such space missions or product releases as…
Are your soldering skills are best described as Cro-Magnon, Offensive, Survivable, Clean and Functional, Mil-spec compliant, or Angelic (cue choir sounds)?
How would you feel about moving to the Seattle area?
At Planetary Resources, we fail. A lot. In fact, we celebrate failure. Give us an example of one of your failures, how you fixed it, and what you learned from it.
What name would you give a crash test dummy, and why?
Paste a link to a picture that best describes you, but is not OF you.
If you were asked to give a 20 minute presentation on a subject for which you consider yourself an expert, what would be the topic of the presentation?

Lowered expectations

Much to my chagrin (and the amusement to the maintenance staff at Wistar), my beloved standing desk has been laid low. Or lower, at least. Read about my former state of excited expectation here.

When I started work here in early spring, 2010, I used my New Guy privledge to equip my closet-sized office with a standing desk. A year later, I asked them to remove the old fancy press-board executive desk that blocked my easy path to the door (replacing it with a beaten-up desk of sufficient length to go across the wall).

The standing desk was a joy to use. I felt more energized during the workday, and hardly acquired that mid-afternoon lethargy that used to drag me down. I loved the standing desk and extolled its virtues to my coworkers. I experienced every benefit proclaimed by articles at Forbes (I could forestall death by up to three years!) or Lifehacker.

I stood all day, every day.

Until today.

Today I realized I was experiencing one of the infrequently mentioned possible side effects of standing desks. Varicose veins. Yes, it turns out that whole “all things in moderation” axiom applies to standing desks too, dammit. I’m 38. I exercise. I eat (mostly) right (apple, as I type!). And I am acquiring my 68 year-old father’s legs.

I’m blowing out the veins in my leg in an awfully itchy and annoying fashion.

So, today I sit. So, special warning to folks considering jumping on the bandwagon–get an adjustable desk and, for god-sake’s, adjust it on occasion!

Mine isn’t conducive to regular up-and-down motion (should have gotten one of those swinging-arm jawns), and now it wobbles a bit as I type.

Innovation, Translation and other big ideas

I’m currently reading Jon Gertner’s book about Bell Labs, The Idea Factory (and you should too), and this quote popped out at me. I leave it here for reference.

To those with an open mind, of course, the transistor could be considered a breakthrough of both science and engineering–in effect both a discovery and an invention. What seemed fair to say, though, wast that the transition was not yet an innovation.

The term “innovation” dated back to sixteenth-century England. Originally it described the introduction into society of a novelty or new idea, usually relating to philosophy or religion. By the middle of the twentieth century, the words “innovate” and “innovation” were just beginning to be applied to technology and industry. And they began to fill a descriptive gap. If an idea begat a discovery, and if a discovery begat an invention, then an innovation defined the lengthy and wholesale transformation of an idea into a technological product (or process) meant for widespread practical use. Almost by definition, a single person, or even a single group, could not alone create an innovation. The task was too variegated and involved.

Right now, I know folks struggling with the concept of “translation,” as in translational medicine, the process of taking a scientific biomedical concept and turning it into a practical drug or therapy.

Everyone, from researchers to academic administration to pharma to the National Institutes of Health, are calling for translation. What they mean is innovation, I think.