Thursday, June 28, 2007

Happy blogaversary to me...

   As of today, I have been contributing to the greater blogiverse; circumnavigating the Blogosphere; dipping my toe into the Blogistan Ocean as it were, for three whole years. What's that, you're skeptical? Good for you. Allow me to present my evidence: Two-for-one offer. Make careful note of the date on that entry.
   Happy Blogaversary to me!

   Also, many thanks to Matt of
Pooflingers Anonymous, for posting an entry celebrating his second anniversary of blogging, and reminding me about mine. 'Cause I totally would have missed it otherwise.
   Please feel free to snag the graphic below for prominent placement on your own blogs.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

This is not Dawn's book meme

   I'm sorry, Dawn, I really am. I've got your book meme in my test journal. I've even answered several of the questions. My problem right now is one of time (or lack thereof). Between work, landscaping the back yard, and being kept up all night by a sick dog, by the time I sit down at the computer, I just want to read some blog entries, look at some webcomics, and vegetate. Answering question that actually require thought - introspective thought at that - is just a bit out of reach for me most days. I'll keep plugging away at it, I promise.

   In the mean time, here is John Scalzi's
Monday Photo Shoot:
Get a picture of a crowd or crowded event. Conventions, weddings, parties in cramped spaces -- you know, anywhere there's lots of folks doing something.

   See, this is an easy one. I've already taken this picture. In fact, I've already used it on AWV. All I have to do is link to it. No thought - introspective or otherwise - required. Heck, I don't even have to describe it. All I have to do is quote some of the text I wrote for that entry as a preamble, like this:
   Despairing of ever finding Trevi fountain, we decided to stop for gelato. If you have never tried authentic Italian ice cream before, put "eat gelato in Rome" on your list of seven things to do before you die. Bump the Eiffel Tower for it. It is that good. So it was with lemon, and creme caramel, and tiramisu flavoured gelato dripping down over fingers wrapped around cones thin like upside down church spires that we turned another corner, and there it was: the most crowded place in all of Rome.

Shoulder to shoulder at Trevi Fountain. Rome, Italy.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Let's play a game where we pretend...

   Recently, a challenger for the James Randi Educational Foundation's one million dollar prize was tested on the Japanese television program Getsuyoru (roughly translated: Monday Night). A gentleman by the name of Mike Maggio claimed to be able to contact "spirits" who could reveal to him the contents of sealed envelopes. He agreed to a test protocol in which twenty sealed envelopes would contain pictures of twenty different items. Mike would pick up each envelope, and write upon it the name of the item his "spirits" identified as being inside. Mr. Maggio was given the list of items beforehand, so he didn't need to pull items out of thin air. He simply needed to match up twenty known items to the envelopes which contained their pictures. According to the test protocol, he needed to match only five of the twenty items correctly in order to pass this preliminary testing phase and move on to the formal test for the million bucks.
   Only five. It doesn't sound like a lot. Should be dead easy, right? But, remember, according to random chance, he should be able to correctly identify only one out of twenty. Five is a significant result that approaches the one in one thousand odds Randi requires for a preliminary test. A final, formal test would require a result needing greater than one in one million odds of passing by pure chance in order to walk away with the one million dollars.
   Also important to note is the fact that Mr. Maggio participated in the design of the test, and agreed before testing began that it was a fair test of his alleged abilities. He was confident going in that, not only would he reach the five correct answers mark required to pass the test, he would correctly identify all twenty items. The picture below is representative of his results in general.

   Mike wrote the word "AUTOMOBILE" on the outside of the envelope. That envelope contained a picture of a glass of "BEER." In all, Mr. Maggio correctly identified one of the twenty items; exactly what the laws of chance would predict. He was unable to explain why his "spirits" failed to correctly identify the items in the envelopes, but refused to accept the possibility that it was because they don't exist.
   Up next for the JREF challenge, Mr. Mike Guska, who claims to be able to successfully locate precious metals, like gold and silver, by way of dowsing. Mr. Guska has already been tested by the JREF once before, and has created all kinds of rationalized excuses for why he failed that test. As per the rules of the challenge, he is permitted to reapply to be tested again after one year, and he has done so. My prediction: Mr. Guska will once again fail a test he agreed was fair and helped to design; and Mr. Guska will once again refuse to accept even the possibility that his failure might be because dowsing just doesn't work. Unfortunately, that prediction, when it comes true, will not win me the one million dollars.

note: That last link leads to a JREF forum thread spanning - to date - thirty-seven pages, and almost fifteen hundred invidual messages. Not for the faint of heart...or mind.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Bevare ze milky pirate

   Complements of Matthew, I present to you the next big You Tube phenomenon:

Do you want a Banana?

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

John Scalzi's Monday Photo Shoot

Your Monday Photo Shoot: Capture something in flight. Birds, insects, planes, bats, whatever -- if it's getting around in the skies, it's fair game for this photo shoot.
   This is a photo I took during my trip to Italy in 2005. I was trying to get a shot of Via dei Condotti, which runs west from the foot of the Spanish Steps, and is famous for being lined with all the most exclusive, and expensive shops in Rome.* I had no idea I had captured the dove flying across the street until after I got home and was viewing the pictures.

   I had to convince the wife that it really was a dove flying across the street, and not a UFO, or an angel, or something. Sometimes it's not easy being me.

* At least I think that's where this is. If anyone else out there knows different let me know.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Is it just a rhapsody?

   Matthew played in his annual recital for his music school today. I managed to sweet talk Mrs. Ho into letting me take a long lunch so I could attend. I arrived just before he went on, and stayed just long enough to see him play, then buzzed back to work. What? The popsicles needed to be restocked before the evening rush.
   Matt expressed disappointment with his performance, but I thought he did quite well. Sure, he made a couple of mistakes, but it's a very challenging piece, and I know he gets gutterflies something fierce. I'll tell you, the boy doesn't waste any time. He walked up on stage, sat down, and started playing immediately. I just barely got the camera started in time. In fact, I think I missed the first note of the song.

   Here is Matthew's performance from last year. Compare and contrast.

Something smells fishy here

Barry asked: "what do you do with tilapia than involves jarlesberg?"

   Just this:
Tilapia Recipes. -With a couple minor differences. I season the fish with salt and pepper before I bread it. I then give it a generous spritzing with fresh lemon, and good sprinkling with dill. Then, because I can rarely find tilapia fillets thin enough to allow rolling, I either fold them over the cheese, and secure them with toothpicks, or, if they are very thick pieces of fish, I simply lay the cheese on top. I prefer not to do the latter, as the jarlsberg tends not to melt so much as get crispy, so it stays softer if it's in the middle.

   My favourite fish recipe, another one I found on the Internet, is one I call my 'thumbing my nose at the doctor' recipe. We're always being told we should eat more fish in order to help lower our cholesterol, so I went out and found a fish recipe that calls for four slices of bacon, and a quarter pound of butter.
   That slam you just heard was Dan's car door, as he rushes to the supermarket to buy hisself some rainbow trout, some onions, and big ol' bag of bacon. Look out, dog-cat. There might be leftovers.

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Sunday, June 10, 2007

If you believed they put a man on the moon

   The other day I was preparing dinner...


   You can see that we were having fish. Tilapia, in fact. There is a container of breadcrumbs waiting to coat the fillets, which, as you can see, have been lightly seasoned. Prior to breading, they must be dredged in beaten egg, of course. This is not going to be 'beer batter' fish. The beer is just because cheffin' is hard work. The recipe does not call for rootbeer either. That's just an empty can left over from lunch. The recipe does include lemon, dill, and jarlsberg cheese (not pictured).
   But, wait, you say. Is there something odd about that egg? Well, here, have a look from a different angle...

   Want a closer look?

   Jumpin' Jehosephat, Jasper! That there egg is a-standing on its end. It must be that there Vernal Equinox thingy goin' on right now. That's when all the eggs around the world can be stood on end real easy like. Right?

   Actually not. The Vernal
Equinox, or the first day of spring, occurred on March 21st this year, almost three months ago. The Summer Solstice is approaching, but it was still a full two weeks away when I took this picture on June 8th. So how did I get the egg to balance on end? You can stop looking for wires, or double sided tape, or strategically placed mirrors. I just stood the egg on its end.
   It really isn't that hard to do. Try it for yourself. It just takes a little bit of patient fiddling. Oh, and a cooperative egg. If the first one you try won't stand up, try another one. You see, eggs aren't really perfectly smooth. Run your finger along one. You'll feel rough spots, and sometimes little tiny bumps. If those bumps occur near the end ofthe egg, they can act as little supports, allowing the egg to stand on end. I opened a fresh dozen, and the second one I took out easily stood up. It even stayed standing up as I opened and closed drawers and cupboard doors beneath it.
Many people believe that it is only possible to stand an egg on end on the Vernal Equinox, or at least on one of the Equinoxes. Why is this common urban legend so prevalent? I have no idea, although, I suppose it has much to do with the fact that, most people have never tried to stand an egg on end, or even really thought about it very much.

   Why did I stand an egg on its end? Just to see if I could. Why did I photograph it, and write about it here? Anyone who has ever forwarded me an email containing a hoax virus warning or urban legend knows the answer to that question. I simply can't resist debunking obviously silly stories that get propagated because the majority of people in the world lack even the most simplistic critical thinking skills.
   For more on
egg standing, and other silly, astronomy and science related hoohaw, visit Phil Plait's Bad Astronomy web page.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

How's this, Rev. Swift?

Two appropriately dressed parishoners leaving this Sunday's mass at Holy Cross Catholic Church in Toronto.