Archive for July, 2011

Surprisingly, it’s not a trade exposition for bad cooks

Tuesday, July 26th, 2011



Thursday, July 21st, 2011

I saw a bumper sticker last week that was in Latin. Such things tend to catch my eye; I’ve got two t-shirts with Latin text on them. On translates into English as, “I have a catapult. Give me all your money or I shall hurl an immense rock at your head.” The other one is a bit sillier, and translates to, “How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?”

In any case, the bumper sticker I saw reads, “Si hoc legere potes eruditissimus es sed parum distas!” This translates to, “If you can read this, you are well-educated and too close!

And, speaking of well-educated (or stretching in that direction, anyway), I have a vocabulary of 35,000 words. This puts me at the top of the “most people” range, and somewhere between the 85th and 90th percentile. They don’t have a lot of data yet, though – the average SAT verbal score for people who’ve taken the test so far is 700. They’d like more people to take their test, particularly ages 15 or younger. My age doesn’t have an average vocabulary reported, though. They only report that for ages 18-32. The data shows an increasing vocabulary size with increasing age, although the data isn’t monotonic. I’m wondering if the increase is regular enough beyond 32 to be worth extrapolating to see how I compare.

Saturday matinee

Saturday, July 16th, 2011

Here’s a couple of videos for a summer Saturday.

First, we have the animated cartoon:

octopus lovers fight back!! brought to you by Free Funny Videos

Drama, action, and romance – what more could you ask for? Next, we have the live-action feature, in which someone is pretty animated:

He gets an amazing amount of music out of an instrument with only three strings, especially considering that two of them are tuned to the same note.

Evolution’s Stepchildren

Friday, July 15th, 2011

This is a poem I wrote back in 2002. Note the dated topical reference in the last line – I actually wanted at the time to draw a cartoon with the hostess facing the one primitive primate among the contestants and saying, “You are the missing link!”, but I can’t draw. I ran across it by accident today, and thought it would be worth posting. Apart from that, most of the impetus behind this one was the desire to come up with something that had a quick, bubbling rhythm to it.

I’ll note that it’s possible to sing this to “Turkey in the Straw” with a little forcing here and there, but I won’t claim that it’s a good idea.

Evolution’s Stepchildren

In the course of evolution, newer species will emerge.
They develop out of older ones, as though there is an urge
For them to try to become better (however that’s defined),
But the process takes forever, which some people seem to mind.

Improvement comes in two ways, as I’m certain that you know.
Your descendents can be better, which eventually will show
Through accumulated changes, as the generations pass.
And the species is a new one when enough changes amass.

The other way is faster, and it only needs a fool
Who improves the race by bowing out of our genetic pool.
This happens rather often, so it cannot be ignored,
And we give to those who qualify their very own award.

Named after Charles Darwin, it’s not one for which you’d vie,
Since to qualify to win it, you must nearly always die.
Do these people ever stop to think before they do their stunts?
Do they realize that they’ll be known as intellectual runts?

Does their life flash by before them when they realize what they’ve done?
Do they hear the angels tell them that they’ll soon have no more fun?
Well, I know I’m not impressive, but I’d really hate to think
That I’d hear a voice from Heaven say, “You _are_ the weakest link!”

Miscellany 16

Thursday, July 14th, 2011

Let’s see what we can pull out today, shall we, boys and girls?

I don’t use picks much, apart from finger picks when I’m playing banjo. I do use picks when I play mandolin, but I don’t play my mandolin that often (and, actually, it’s on a long-term loan at the moment). However, I can’t help but wonder if I’d have a better grip and be able to keep the picks from sliding around in my fingers without having to clamp down to the point of cramps if I were to punch them out of old credit cards.

Carbon fiber is neat stuff. I’m quite taken with the Blackbird carbon fiber ukulele, although I doubt I’ll ever own one. Perhaps I can eventually learn to make my own, though.

If you’re interested, there are more extreme substances discussed here. I don’t think there are any hobby guides for using them, though.

There are a couple of new British reality shows in the process of finding cast members. I’m linking to this article because the shows are based in Liverpool, where I was born, and I enjoy stupid puns such as the series names.

Invisibility cloaks are now officially passé – now they’re proposing time cloaks.

This is an extremely heart-warming story. I so understand why the father feels like that.

We’ve long had computers that could play games, but that’s because they were specifically programmed to do so. There have also been computers that have been programmed with the rules for a game, then tasked with determining a winning strategy by playing countless games against themselves or other computers. Now there’s a computer that learned to play a game by reading the manual.

Here’s a cool video: one year of the moon’s cycles covered in 2.5 minutes.

If someone tells you that the Sun doesn’t affect weather on earth (which I’ve seen argued by some global warming/climate change advocates), tell them “thanks for playing; now go away.”

Lots of information about sunscreen here; some of it I’d known, and some I hadn’t. It does put me in mind of the letter purportedly received from a child by a book publisher: “Dear Sirs: I am returning your book because it is about penguins and it tells me more about penguins than I care to know.” The link goes to PDF file of a speech delivered in 1948 – I first ran across the anecdote (which I remember slightly differently) in an earlier edition of this book.

This looks like an interesting site to help with learning a foreign language.

Mark Steyn has a disturbing report up.

Here’s a series of mug shots. A couple of them show up more than once. All I can say is, the only way I’d get tattoos like these people is if someone drugged me and applied them while I was unconscious. And then I’d have to worry about getting mug shot, after I went after them.

And, finally, the (presumably) first Pastafarian driver’s license.

This is a post I’ve been putting off

Wednesday, July 13th, 2011

I wrote it about three weeks ago, but I’ve been putting off posting it because I don’t like conflict. I did promise these people that I’d post about it, though, and now that the doctor has told me to start walking without the support boot, it’s time and past time.

Now that my broken ankle is healing, I’ve been wearing a boot for support. The boot was supplied by Rocky Mountain Medical Equipment, and they’ve sent me an invoice for $240.92. I called them last week to see if I can get a discounted price, because I don’t have medical insurance. Most places will give discounts to people without insurance, because there’s less paperwork involved, and my understanding is that the payments tend to come through more quickly if an insurance company isn’t in the middle of the process. I couldn’t get an answer when I called, because the manager (whose name I wasn’t given, and forgot to ask for) was out of the office that day, and all discount requests had to be approved by the manager.

I heard back from them Friday, to the effect that the price quoted in the invoice already included a 15% discount. I find this difficult to believe, because of the evidence shown in the following two pictures.

Ortho price list

Part of the bill

I scanned these from the invoice package. Note that the price of the “walker boot” on the form in the first photo is what I was invoiced, and note that there is no entry in the area provided for “discount” in the second photo. I suppose it’s possible that the price list I saw at Dr. Shannon’s office is a custom one specifically for people without medical insurance, but how likely is that? I’d say there’s zero possibility, since another part of the form talks about what may or may not be covered by insurance. Wouldn’t you expect the invoice to show the original price and the discount? I certainly would. And how hard is it for them to determine whether an invoice has had a discount applied? I see three possibilities here:

1. The price includes a 15% discount that is not noted on the invoice, and I was shown a custom “discounted for no insurance” price list.
2. The price is not discounted, but they presumed it is because I asked about it, and they didn’t bother checking the invoice.
3. The price is not discounted, but they told me it was so they could get full payment.

The billed price is troubling to me, because I found the exact same boot available online for $79.95. I realize that things are normally cheaper online, but by a full factor of three? I was presuming that the invoiced price was the full retail price, and felt that if Rocky Mountain Medical Equipment provided me with the same 40% discount that both Dr. Shannon’s office and the hospital have already provided me, then the price would not have been tremendously out of line. Presuming about $20 shipping costs (which is probably high) for the online purchase, a 40% discount would have made the prices about $140 versus about $100. This is still a significant difference, but justifiable.

If the quoted price is already discounted by 15%, then their retail price is more than $280, well over three times the cost to purchase online, possibly even including shipping. This, to me, is unreasonable, if not unconscionable. Either Rocky Mountain Medical Equipment is price-gouging, or their overhead costs are so high that it’s obvious that they don’t know how to run an efficient business. Not to mention that their staff appears to be dishonest, clueless, or lazy.


Wednesday, July 13th, 2011

Here’s a ukulele built from Lego bricks. It’s tuned down a fair amount, because it wouldn’t handle the tension of being tuned like other ukes, but still sounds pretty good.

Disappointingly, this sounds about right

Wednesday, July 13th, 2011

Recently, there’s been some noise with respect to how President Obama can raise the debt limit unilaterally, without the approval of Congress. It sounds pretty dodgy to me, and it put me in mind of a comment President Lincoln addressed to Democrats in a speech he made in February, 1860, at the Cooper Institute.

The specific line from the speech that it reminded me of was this:

Your purpose, then, plainly stated, is that you will destroy the Government, unless you be allowed to construe and enforce the Constitution as you please, on all points in dispute between you and us. You will rule or ruin in all events.

It appears that not much has changed.

Nice couch. Be a shame if anything happened to it …

Thursday, July 7th, 2011

Threatening cat