Tuesday, January 31, 2006
Monday, January 30, 2006
A guy in Brazil with way too much time on his hands decided to create an application to be used with googlemaps. This application answers the question that every elementary school age kids asks at one point in time or another:
"If I did a hole in the earth, where do I come out?"
Friday, January 27, 2006
Everyday, I hear it either via email, phonecall or on the street:
"I could do a better job at predicting the weather than those guys."
Or this one:
"If I was that wrong at my job, I'd get fired!"
Now is your chance to back up your tough talk or as they say--"weather smack"--with action.
The following are forecast weather maps for Monday morning, January 30th.
Before you give me the typical "All-you-guys-look-at-are-colors-and-squiggly-lines", here is the technical explanation of what you are looking at.
Each map is the forecast result of a supercomputer cranking out what "it" thinks will happen on Monday, roughly 3 days from the time that I write this. The map on the left--called the EUROPEAN MODEL--is the solution from a different set of mathematical equations than the map on the left which is called the MRF MODEL. If you think you can assemble a 5 or 8 day forecast then you need to be able to accurately interpret maps like this. Can you tell any differences between both maps for northeastern Ohio? Can any of you even find northeastern Ohio?
The map on the left suggests that Monday morning, a low pressure over Michigan will usher in colder air with a changeover from rain to wet snow with temps near 30. The map on the right suggests the low will track through Indiana keeping temps in the mid 30s with primarily rain instead of snow.
If anyone other than another weather person can ascertain the same conclusion looking at those maps, you can have my job. In fact, I'm willing to bet that most of you had absolutely no clue...which is fine. There is nothing wrong with admitting defeat at the hands of the person that you mock whenever the atmosphere doesn't cooperate. I fully accept your white flag.
Seriously, I am not suggesting that being a meteorologist is the toughest job out there. All I ask as your friendly, neighborhood meteorologist is for a little love and understanding. Those maps you are looking at convey a message to you the viewer through us, the meteorologist. We do the best we can with the maps we have. Some are great, others are out of whack. Its up to the meteorologists to determine which one, if any, are more correct.
If you don't like it, learn how to read maps that show northeastern Ohio as a small spot roughly a quarter of an inch long. Once your through here, study some second order non-linear differential equations along with some cloud physics. Finally, assemble your findings in a concise presentation no longer than 3 minutes with a concentration on the differences in the short term forecast between Lorain, Ohio and Chardon, Ohio while someone is speaking to you in your ear piece telling you how much time you have left to finish your presentation. While the person is speaking to you, continue talking as if nothing is happening. Oh yes, your in front of a camera broadcasting your every word to more than one million people whose livelihoods depend on your expert analysis. Oh by the way, don't studder.
Yeah, the job of meteorologist isn't hard at all.
Sunday, January 22, 2006
Its amazing how an infant reacts to different stimuli. Over the last several days, my wife and I have been experimenting with different baby foods to see how our son reacts to them. Naturally, we started with the less desirable foods first: VEGGIES!
Peas, carrots, sweet potatoes, beans, he ate them all except for the peas. Then on cue, the fail-safe mechanism that all kids involuntarily utilize to get out of eatting vegetables reared its ugly head. Yep, you've got it. Its the ever- opportunistic gag reflex that's present in all of us as kids whenever we're forced to eat a food--more often than not, vegetables--that we want no part of. I gagged on lima beans as a kid and still do! Now, my infant son has learned of its existence which could make the job of dinnertime parenting for my wife and I that much harder from here on out.
So the next day, we tried the peas again and sure enough, he gagged BIG-TIME! I believe at that exact moment, my son reached into his bag of tricks and pulled out the gag-reflex to use to his advantage. Only this time, it was preceeded by a look that spoke volumes on his vegetable displeasure. Yes, my 6 month old son is officially copping an attitude toward what mommy and daddy are preparing for him.
The next day, my wife decided to try out something that might appeal to him more than peas. So, we busted out the chicken and rice followed by some apple sauce for desert. He wasn't too excited about the chicken and rice probably because it was first time eatting it. But once we introduced him to the apple sauce, his eyes suddenly opened as if he was transported to some baby-food nirvana. The only action that he would allow to interrupt his deer-in-headlight daze was the entrance of more apple sauce into his system. And if you didn't shovel it in fast enough, he would let you know with the loudest grunt an infant is allowed to produce.
Once he was full of apple sauce, he was a happy baby once again and we put him to bed. Later on that night, my wife declared, "Our baby has a sweet tooth!"
Not wanting to believe this, I said, "Come on, that was just a fluke."
I needed more data to be convinced.
The data came over the next 3 days. More gagging on peas and more trips to his apple sauce utopia.
My wife was right. Its just unreal how a baby can develop a "taste" for food so fast. This brings me to my theory on sweet tooths. Here's a brief synopsis:
A person's sweet tooth intensity goes up exponentially when they're born and peaks when they are about 18 months old and stays at that peak until they are probably ten or eleven. There is a small decline in the early teen-age years but it still stays fairly high. In our late 20s to early 30s, we go through a sharp decline only to spike in times of stress mostly due to kids. (My wife added this one). The decline continues until your retirement years when there is a sudden spike, say around 65 or so where it continues to rise until death.
This graph isn't the same for everyone. But after years of exhausting research collecting data from thousands of people, its a pretty good representation.
The bottom line: This is only the beginning of what is to be an interesting first few years of introducing my son to new foods. Just like I did way back when, he'll want the tasty stuff before the food that's good for you. As a result, we'll have to act like the bad guys and force him to sit at the table and eat it.
As you can see, he wasn't too pleased with my photo timing. The blank stare...similar to the look that Clint Eastwood gives the bad guy before he meets his maker.
Friday, January 20, 2006
February 21st is the voluntary reporting date for all position Major League Baseball players; a sure sign that winter is approaching its demise. Very soon, I will rank the top 5 players as each position for the upcoming 2005 season using a highly mathematical, scientifically complex, purely esoteric top-shelf method that is yet to be topped in scouting circles. All I will say about this method is that the Quadratic Formula is utilized. Need I say more.
I might use this equation too. I haven't decided yet....
All this for information that 99.9% of the population could care less about...That's the beauty of it!
Tuesday, January 17, 2006
Forget the Chicago Cubs and their trophy case vacant of any World Championships since before the Titanic sunk.
Forget the Cincinnati Bengals' post-season drought of more than fifteen years.
Forget the Seattle Seahawks no closer to playoff football than a trip from Los Angeles to New York.
Cleveland sports are, by far more cursed than any other professional sports franchise as indicated by an ESPN article from July 13, 2004 which validates my observation to a tee.
Cleveland is a football town. No question here. Even when the Indians were the powerhouse in the 1990s, the Browns--although defunct as a result of their 11th hour departure to baltimore----were still the talk of the town.
Which brings me to this entry's headline: The Fumble revisited. Today, January 17, 2006 is the 18th anniversary of the "Fumble". This was one of the moments in sports history in Cleveland when Cleveland sports fans had their collective hearts literally ripped out of our bodies right when the taste of a Superbowl trip was as close as the residual Cheedo cheese goo on my fingers that fateful Sunday afternoon.
The fumble is such a pungent memory in the minds of all sportsfans that its now an entry on Wikipedia.com, the free encyclopedia on the World Wide Web for all of the world to see.
I'll spare you the details of the fumble. You can read them yourself. But just remember this day as you get ready for playoff football this weekend.
Sunday, January 15, 2006
"Talking Up" Your ChildIf you’re recently married, then the proverbial inquiries from parents and other talkative relatives on when your going to procreate have, no doubt, become the focus of conversation at family gatherings especially around Christmas and Thanksgiving.
But it gets worse. Suddenly your friends, who have been married less time than you, are expecting their first child. From this point on, going out to dinner with the newly married couple--commonly referred to as "couples’s night out"--becomes an arduous chore. The conversations which used to revolve around careers or movies or other innocuous, everyday topics have undergone a metamorphosis unbeknownst to you and your wife. As you wait for your appetizer in the restaurant, your friends--the expecting couple-- blindside you with words like "baby" or babyesque phrases like "baby shopping" or "baby nursery" or "breastfeeding" or the mother of all pregnancy words: "epidural"!
You and your wife have no idea what sudden changes are occurring to the conversation until it’s too late. By the time both of your brains register what's going on, you both feel like the dreaded "third wheel" with nothing to add to the conversation. At this time, the clock begins to slow and you begin to trade eye contact with your husband or wife non-verbally signaling a rapid retreat. Unfortunately, a retreat out of social gatherings which are more intimate such as a dinner is out of the question due to its conspicuous nature. So you’re forced to sit and listen to their baby talk along with every possible tangential topic relating to it. Finally, after they have used all available energy in feeding their cooperative monologue, the evening finally ends.
Weeks later when the couple calls you to set another dinner date you reluctantly ablidge. Rather than looking forward to the Friday or Saturday night "get-together", the 24 hours leading up to it hovers over you like the horrific anticipation of a dentist appointment to fix a painful tooth.
After several incidents like this with either friends or neighbors, my wife and I pledged that when it was our turn to have kids, we wouldn't put the people we know in this awkward predicament. Ideally, that sounded great at the time. However, when it was our son who came into the world, our lives went through a similar metamorphosis to what we experienced at dinner with our expecting friends some years earlier. Suddenly, our vernacular went from one that’s professionally driven to a database filled with automotapia. The phrase "going goo-goo, gah-gah" wasn't something we heard on the network TLC anymore. It words were uttered from us!
We tried implementing our "pledge" when friends called and honestly, we stuck to it very well. But slowly, that pledge has been slow eroding away. And you know it feels kind of good
Now 6 months into parenthood, our son is showing so much personality that our pledge which we made shortly before his birth just doesn't seem right. Just yesterday, he rolled over for the first time. For the rest of the day when we placed him on his stomach, he just rolled right back over. He must have done this 25 times! To not talk about his developmental achievements wouldn't be doing my child justice.
If you would have told me, say a year ago, that your son or daughter rolled over for the first time, I wouldn't have cared much. But now that we've brought a child into the world, our perspective has done a complete "180". The topics that we considered passé are now mainstream. Sure, my wife and I are still aware of "over-hyping" our child but that's not our main focus. I guess finding that middle ground between expressing to other how proud you are of your kids and over-hyping their accomplishments is one of many evolutionary elements of parenthood that I never fully understood until now.
So, here's to my son rolling over multiple times and to him pulling the string to his truck and to him waving his fingers and to him smiling when we...
Friday, January 13, 2006
Earthquakes only happen on the west coast not in Ohio, right? Not so. In fact, Ohio sits on several faultlines and other deep structures that have the potential to cause seismic activity. Ohio is also on the periphery of the New Madrid Seismic Zone, an area in Missouri and surrounding states that was the site of the largest earthquake sequence to occur in historical times in the contnguous US. Many scientists say that its only a matter of time before a major earthquake occurs in the middle of the country!
On January 13, 2006, a small earthquake was reported in Eastlake, Ohio with a 2.4 magnitude. This is equivalent to 4.6 tons of TNT compare this with the 9.0 quake that caused the tsunami which was equivalent to 32 billion tons of TNT! While these quakes are no where near the severity of the west coast quakes, they are still felt and in some cases, can still do some damage. Over the last 2 months, 4 earthquakes have been reported in the snowbelt areas of Northeastern Ohio alone!
The Ohio Seismic Network is responsible for recording the state's earthquake activity. Since 1999, the 25 station network has recorded 31 events that most of us didn't even feel or hear about.
Maybe you remember the quake back in 1986. That earthquake registered a magnitude 5.0 or 1000 times more powerful than the quake on January 13th! Amazingly, 13 aftershocks occurred over the following 2 months. It ended up being the most studied quake in the history of Ohio quakes.
Therefore, if you feel a rumble sometime, it might be a truck driving by or thunder. But there is always the slim chance that it could be the earth quakes beneath you!
Thursday, January 12, 2006
How many of us twenty or thirty-something adults have parents who have discovered the power of email within the last 3 years? Just when our colleagues and friends who have had an email account since 1992, finally grew out of the "forwarding-goofy-emails-with-attachments" phase, now our parents, great aunts and geriatric grandfathers are getting into the mix.
Don't get me wrong. I love my parents and relatives. They are responsible for molding the great person I am today and for that I am eternally grateful. But sending emails with "funny" attachments buried inside attachments which are buried inside yet another attachment isn't the cool thing to do anymore. If anything, it’s real cheesy and reaffirms the fact that the sender behind the forwarded email is six years behind the "internet 8-ball"! In effect, the sender is telling the recipient, "This new internet thing is the best! I wish email was around 10 years ago." Not real smooth.
Here is my solution to the problem:
Anyone over the age of 45 who has not emailed someone or used the internet for more than 10 hours in his or her lifetime should be given pass codes allowing them temporary access to the internet and email. (If you are between the ages of 18 and 45 and you still send them, then you should not be allowed to use a computer. Period.) The pass code activates a monitor which tracks their progress in learning the ins-and-outs and dos and don'ts of the World Wide Web. The monitor would allow only a set number of email faux paux by the user. If they send an email with one of those "funny" email attachments then a buzzer goes off notifying them of their transgression. If they exceed the preset number of email "no-nos" then a computer voice tells them,
"You have exceeded the acceptable number of email etiquette violations. The computer will now shutdown."
The user would need to wait a predetermined amount of time before attempting to send an email... say around 3 days. This would give the user ample time to reflect on their emailing infraction so as not to do it again.
Simple enough...but alas this will never happen.
We all have freedoms and these freedoms also encompass the internet and the computer illiterate individuals who use them. So, in all practicality, the best we can hope for is for all of us veterans of internet communication to get the word out to our parents and relatives reminding them that the act of emailing someone isn't "cool" anymore. It’s now a fact of life and mainstream, kind of like electricity.
So go get them an I-Pod or have them pod cast their messages. Now that would indeed be cutting edge....at least for another year or two!
Tuesday, January 10, 2006
...All In The Eyes Of The Beholder
At the start of the new year, Frank Jackson was sworn in as the 56th Mayor of Cleveland. Everyone is intrigued about the prospects for change in the economic and education sector of our fair city during the new mayor's tenure. That's well and good but I'm more pumped up about a more eye-catching headline that, in my opinion, is more universal than simple economics. This is where the legendary star of stage and screen actor Victor French (deceased) comes into the picture.
Several weeks prior to the election in November of 2005, the soon-to-be mayor was giving a press conference. As I watched, the puzzled look on my face became more and more apparent. Soon, a co-worker asked,
"Is anything the matter?"
To which I replied, "Is it me or does Frank Jackson look a lot like Victor French?"
* The picture is black and white and a bit grainy but it works *
Upon hearing my comparison, my co-worker suddenly wore the same puzzled look only his was not the result of the press conference footage but a reaction to my unorthodox observation. Although he didn't actually say it, his look was the verbal equivalent of, "Are you from this planet?" Unphased by my co-workers neutral interest, I explored their uncanny resemblance further.
Obviously, my co-worker was lacking the proper television/pop-cultural knowledge necessary to understand the nature and scope of what I had noticed. To the uneducated eye, their mirror image lies hidden inside the frames of video. But to myself, the resemblance was an epiphany. Call it fate or destiny but I soon realized I was put in front of that TV during that press conference for one reason and that was to identify who--between Victor French and Frank Jackson--was the "Man's Man".
For the longest time, I've been a huge Victor French fan so I could not do him a disservice by conceding the "Man's Man" Title to the new mayor without a test of strength. Therefore, a simple comparison of both men utilizing five criteria--my arbitrary set of criteria albeit somewhat slanted toward my tastes--was the only fair way to see who was the "Man's Man". There could be only one.
1. Speak ability - Mayor Jackson doesn't have the best pipes in the world but his voice is slow, methodical and very succinct in the times that I've heard him. Mr. French had a raspy, rugged voice no doubt from years of smoking. Let me make this clear, I don't condone smoking to increase ones ability to sound rugged. However, Mr. French--more than likely unintentionally--pulled this off wonderfully. The question isn't who is/had a healthier lifestyle; the question is who is manlier. The advantage goes to Victor French.
2. Height/Stature - Yes, there have been some manly men who have been short (like Chuck Norris: 5'9") but not many. For the purposes of this comparison, the combination of ones height and stature will be taken into account.
While there are no official listings of Victor French's height, I did find a picture of him standing next to Michael Landon who is listed on the internet movie database as 5' 9 1/2". Victor looks to be about 4 inches taller. So using inductive reasoning, we'll give Mr. French a height of 6' 1 1/2" or round up to 6'2" with a weight of around 230. Check him out in a rerun of Highway to Heaven. Victor is deceased so he can't really argue.
Last week, Mayor Jackson was a guest at my place of employment. I saw him stand next to a buddy of mine who is 5'10" and he seemed a few inches taller. Based on my observation, I'm going with a height of 6 feet for the new mayor. His is in good shape so his weight can't be more than 200 lbs (maybe 210 but no more). Again, for our comparisons, its physical stature not weight. So the nod once again goes to the deceased Victor French.
3. Occupation - A job is a job is a job. It’s a means by which to pay the bills and put food on the table. Some occupations are nobler than others which brings us to Mayor Frank. He is a lawyer, a former city councilman and is now mayor of the 15th largest television market in the country. Victor French was a superb actor and director in theater and television work. I'm not saying that Victor French wasn't smart but in order to get your law degree, you need a lot of schooling. It sounds biased but that the way it is. Moreover, Victor is no longer with us so he technically has no occupation so we have to give the advantage to Mayor Frank.
4. Hair - Wow. This one is tough. Both men have solid, healthy heads of hair from what I can see. Victor's hair had a slight disheveled look which gives the impression that he didn't care about it. Mayor Frank's hair is full of body, well managed and not one follicle is out of place. Advantage by a landslide: Mayor Jackson.
So far, it’s tied at 2 apiece.
5. Beard - Another very tough call. Being a man's man requires that you be able to grow a full beard in 15 days or less with no significant negative zones. That is a beard with dead areas in awkward places. You must also keep said beard for a period of 6 months as well as keep it well-groomed. Victor French no doubt has the most rugged beard. It’s the beard of a working man. Nothing wrong with that. Mayor Jackson's is a beard veteran. It’s not only rugged but it’s very well managed with no negative zones, its well-trimmed and is probably very fluffy. The facial hair--beard--criterion goes to Mayor Frank!
Now, what did this exercise achieve? It showed that a man's beard is the telling characteristic if he is manly. In this comparison between the late, great Victor French and the new mayor of Cleveland Frank Jackson, the "Man's Man" title--to my dismay-- goes to Mayor Frank Jackson by the slimmest of margins.
Wednesday, January 04, 2006
Unless you've had some sort of high school geometry "PI"-- or the symbol π as its referred to in math & science--probably seems like a meaningless concept. Little do most of us realize how important PI is to our existence. But before I go any further, here is a π refresher for all of you who slept through 10th grade math. π is a mathematical constant that represents the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter. If you know the distance around a circle, you can find the diameter as long as you have π. Or if you take the circumference of the circle and divide it by its diameter you will ALWAYS get π. It doesn't matter how big the circle is, it works every time whether it’s a star that's bigger than our own or an everyday basketball. Pretty slick, huh?
So what...what do I care?
Here goes my geekatude at full throttle so get ready. π is 3.1415926535....and so on. The decimal is non-repeating (so far). It also cannot be expressed as an exact fraction, its only an approximation. So technically, you can never create a "perfect" circle. However, over the centuries, mathematicians have been trying to find out a more exact expression for PI. So far, π has been calculated to 1,241,100,000,000 (trillion) decimal places. This was done by computer scientist Yasumasa Kanada and his coworkers at the University of Tokyo Information Technology Center back in 2002 using this formula. (Click here if you want the first 10,000 to impress your friends)
Looks pretty straightforward with all of those "arc tan" thingies and of course the plus and minus signs that we all recognize. Hard to believe that you need a supercomputer that can carry out the 2 trillion operations per second to achieve all of those digits. To put that into perspective, if you counted to one trillion saying a number each second, it would take you 31,000 years to finish! If someone started during the last ice-age, they would still be counting.
To put it bluntly, Mr. Kanada turned it on and let it crank out numbers for a very long time. By the way, in 1999, Yasumasa Kanada worked with researchers to calculate 206,158,430,000 digits of π landing him and his team in the Guinness Book of World's Record for what could possibly be the most academic/nerdiest pursuit of all time. I can't imagine why they got that dubious award. They simply didn't do enough nerdy things to warrant it. (Maybe they should try performing long division on random numbers for a week without sleeping. That will no doubt cinch it for them
Why you ask--for the love of all that is normal--do they not have better things to do with their time? The reason for this is simply to test computer power. Someone very soon, no doubt Mr. Kanada again, will eclipse this record and get nothing for it.
In case you are wondering and I know you are, the 1,241,100,000,000th decimal digit of pi (not counting the initial digit, 3) is 5. Chicks dig a dude who knows this.
Seriously, we all need to pay homage to π. Not because it's a non-repeating (so far), irrational number (a number that can't be expressed as a fraction)--although that pretty impressive too--but because without π, circles or variations thereof would be very hard to come by. Just look around the room for a minute and check out all of the perfectly rounded items. Wheels on your chair, electrical cords, fans, computer CDs, gears on your car or watch or even pendulum clocks just to name a few. Now imagine everything in your life without rounded edges. Sure, curvature would still exist in nature such as plants, animals, humans, etc. But every manmade object of a circular nature requiring exact measurements would be grossly inaccurate. Bridges would be created with asymmetric curvature thus affecting its ability to hold weight. Every time a sea of vehicles would drive on it or a strong wind would blow through its support beams causing the bridge to resonate at an unwanted frequency, its structural integrity would be compromised thus potentially causing the bridge to collapse. Do you like π a little more?
Pi is fundamental to the way in which our universe functions; practically everything is dependent on π at some basic level: light, sound, energy, gravity, electromagnetic fields, the movements of the planets and matter itself. Without π, our understanding of this stuff would be nil. To engineers--who have in essence--designed and created our infrastructure such as roads, bridges, sewer systems, plumbing, and etc-- π is an invaluable number. Imagine a hospital without an MRI or a CT Scan Machine? In other words, without π we'd still be in the dark ages.
I'm not asking all of you to become nerdy, pocket-protector computer geeks, I just think we all, as contributing members of society, need to step back and think about the little things that make life, as we know it, much easier. One of those "some things" is π.
π sounding like your next best friend? I thought so.
Tuesday, January 03, 2006
Ever since I've been a kid, I've dreaded grocery shopping. Don't get me wrong, I cherished that time with either with my dad or mom. But the hum-drum pace of trudging through 18 isles looking for romane noodles the clueless high school inventory clerk stacked in the wrong spot isn't my idea of world-class usage of free time.
The real reason why the evils of grocery shopping irritate me don't reside in the act of shopping itself but from the proverbial explanation point of the entire process:
Yep, trading currency for the goods in the checkout line.
While waiting in the line to the cash register, we all have our ways of passing the time when the line is long. Maybe it’s reading the tabloids or paroozing through the endless shelves of gum and assorted candy looking for that quick pick-me-up. Shoppers don't
care what you do as long as you follow what I like to refer as "Checkout Etiquette". Invariably,
the first rule in the book is violated every time I step into the line. Wouldn't you know it, it’s always me who gets behind an individual who can't comprehend the novel idea of having money close at hand so as not to "upset the applecart".
Allow me to paint this chaotic picture for you: It’s usually an older individual who is female-not always but most of the time--who has lost some mental dexterity in the mental math department.
The clerk scans the last item and hits the total button which displays the final amount on the screen for all to see. Remember, in the event that the shopper does not see the amount, the clerk also gives the shopper verbal confirmation of the amount as well:
"That will be $54.13, ma'am".
The person then just stands there staring at the amount on the display for 5 to 10 seconds
as if he/she was just blindsided with ultimate shock of their lives. In the checkout line where time is of the essence, 10 seconds seems like an eternity!
Memo to clueless shoppers: the display isn't in Latin! It’s not a language that's from an ancient civilization long since deceased. They're numbers! Numbers are a series of digits from zero to nine assembled in a specific order to indicate a specific quanity. In this case, the quanity is MONEY!
I am puzzled that an otherwise "normal" individual who has not had any past consumer comprehension issues freezes up like a deer in headlights when the last item is scanned in and its time to fork over the cash?
Why is this such a hard concept to understand?
To make life easier on the rest of us who follow Checkout Etiquette to the letter, please polish up on your number recognition. I thought we all learned them in first grade. Evident ally, some of you were sick that day. And most of all have your money, checkbook or debit card out and ready to go. Using valuable time rummaging through ones belongings looking for denero as if it’s never seen the light of day is a violation of rule number one of the Checkout Etiquette Handbook.
If you follow these simple steps, it will make the miserable experience of grocery shopping a little more tolerable.