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Showing posts from 2006

Another Progress Update

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Well, it's been a while, but I have now added dictionaries 9 and 10 to the table. Number 10 is Beth's hardcover dictionary that I had previously mentioned as being misplaced. Beth unearthed it while cleaning in preparation for a small party to celebrate her birthday. Note: It's not the current edition (third has now been updated to fourth). I do intend to check the fourth edition one of these days. For now, this will serve just fine. I was quite impressed by how well it performed on my little test.More impressive still is number 9, which I would rank as my current top pick. It is the new leader in the hit count, and the color illustrations are quite nice. Number 9 missed on ninjutsu and Scientology, but it was the first to hit on habanero!I've copied the table to this entry so that you don't have to scroll down to the previous entry if you've been following the progress of the project. If you haven't been following the progress, I would certainly encourage …

Another Progress Update

I added two more mass market paperback dictionaries tonight (numbers 7 and 8) to the table below. They both outperformed the previous mass market dictionaries, but neither was able to reach 10 hits in 26 tries. Early indications suggest that I'm just not going to be able to recommend any small dictionaries. They all seem to be pretty lousy, in my view.

Progress Update

Just in case anyone is tracking my progress on the dictionary comparison project, you might be interested in knowing that I have added two more mass market paperback dictionaries to the table: numbers 5 and 6. As might be expected, they both fall short of any of the hardcovers I've checked so far. Nevertheless, they are both far superior to the original dictionary that sparked this little endeavor.

I've also started checking two additional mass market paperbacks, both of which show early promise of ending up with higher hit counts than the two I've added to the table today. Stay tuned.

Some Photography (and Happy Thanksgiving!)

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It seems that quite a large percentage of the hits that my blog has been getting recently have come from people who found my bleeding heart photograph in Google and apparently wanted to see a larger version. Well, for all you photo nuts out there, I've decided to post a few more of my favorite shots from the last several months. Enjoy!








The plants are from our garden, the waves are from a pond in New Hampshire, and the rock formations are from the Zion area of Utah.

I'm no botanist, so I don't know the identity of any of the plants. If you can identify any of them for me, I'd appreciate it.

Note: If you're interested in using these images for your own purposes, please ask permission first. I'll probably be very happy to grant it and I'll certainly appreciate the courtesy. And keep in mind that I do have the originals, so if you want higher resolution, I can provide it. Whereas, if you just swipe it from the web, you'll have a maximum of 431 pixels in width …

On Dictionaries, part 1

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We own multiple dictionaries. I wouldn't say it's a collection, as such, but we're in possession of at least 5 different dictionaries, and we actually have two copies of two of them. One of those that we have two copies of is a miserable mass market paperback with a cover that brags:

The #1 New York Times Bestseller
Over 25,000,000 Copies in Print!
This is, of course, Webster's New World Dictionary, Fourth Edition.

I'm a bit fuzzy on why we landed on this particular dictionary the first time. All I recall is that we wanted a dictionary in the car. I suspect that very little thought went into a selection process at the time. The second copy was purchased in an airport, and despite my knowledge that it's so pathetically lacking, I bought it because it was the only dictionary available at said airport.

I was recently dismayed to discover that this dictionary does not include the word curmudgeon. It may not be the most frequently used word in the English language, but …

Finally, Some Elvis Pics

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As mentioned a while ago, Beth and I went out to Vegas for wedding anniversary #3 to get our vows renewed with Elvis. Here are some pictures from that occasion:





All very tasteful, no?

In Memoriam, Mark Cassorla

We just got back home last night from another vacation, this one to Texas. This vacation was interrupted by a side trip I had to make to bury my cousin Mark, who decided that he needed to kill himself on Monday morning. It's hard to express all of the feelings this has drudged up. But I feel as if it's somehow my responsibility to try to say something appropriately solemn.

I always thought of Mark as "Marco". I'm not really sure whether this is because I grew up hearing other people calling him Marco or not. As I've mentioned before, I'm cursed with a horrible memory. So I honestly can't say whether anyone else ever called him Marco, although in my mind's ear, I can pretty clearly hear it rolling off his father's tongue. I'm also not sure whether I ever called him "Marco" to his face or whether the nickname resided strictly in my head.

What I can say is that in some sense I always felt closer to Mark than I ever felt to any other r…

Another New Adventure

Let's add to the list of "things I know, from experience, to be difficult": Learning how to ride a unicycle.

As my big birthday present this year, I got a brand new unicycle. We assembled it, disassembled it, cut a few inches from the the seat post, and reassembled it so that it's the proper height for me. That was almost 20 days ago.

Since then, I have tried practicing, or practiced trying, or just spent some time on most days trying to make some incremental progress towards being able to ride the thing. As it turns out, it's a fairly exhausting process. While I haven't been timing my sessions, I think it's safe to say that I don't likely manage to put in more than about 10-15 minutes of practice in any given day. I can say with a fair degree of confidence that I am doing better than when I started. I feel even more confident in saying that I'm really not very far along at all.

I'll get there eventually. But for now, it's a slow process and …

NaNoWriMo is Coming Again

Last year, probably around this time, a couple of sentences popped into my head, and I knew that these would form the opening lines of my first attempt at National Novel Writing Month. The sentences were as follows:

Angelique was thin in a way that resembled tall. Her husband, Laszlo, was short in a way that resembled broad.

I had no title in mind, nor did I have a premise. All I had was two sentences. I was confident that they constituted a fine start. True to the spirit of the exercise, I did not commit those sentences to paper (nor did I type them into a computer, nor did I utter them aloud) until November 1. And that's where my journey began.

I am plagued by a terrible memory, and so I knew that there was a high likelihood that by the time November 1 rolled around, I might well forget those sentences. They might be superseded by something better (or by something worse). Or I might just start NaNoWriMo with a blank mind, having to manufacture a whole new start when November began.

More Minor Tragedies

I've been thinking for some time about some of the little things in the world that count as (or that should count as) tragic. (See my previous post about "Walking on Sunshine".) Note: These are not seriously tragic issues that are about real human suffering. They are minor things that don't have any really major implications. They are minor tragedies, with the emphasis on "minor".

Tops on my list: Churches that have "hours of operation". There is something horrible about the notion that churches and synagogues (and mosques, I assume) have locks on their doors and that certain people hold the keys and that the doors are sometimes locked. It's a symptom of the world we live in, and I understand it. However, I believe in my heart that this is a very sad state of affairs. These places should offer sanctuary. They should be places of refuge. That's not a part-time endeavour. To my way of thinking, it's an all-or-nothing proposition. (All-or-…

An Update and A Random Observation

O.K.

So it's been a while since my last post. In the intervening time, we took a little vacation to Las Vegas and surrounding areas (Zion and Bryce in Utah, and a quick trip into California to visit my aunt and uncle). Zion and Bryce are spectacular. Vegas is a spectacle. And California was on fire! (We saw lots of smoke from wildfires and were close enough that we actually saw a dump of fire retardant from a helicopter.) Fires notwithstanding, California was inspirational, as we passed by (through) a huge wind farm. How people can say that those windmills are an eyesore is completely beyond my comprehension. I think they're beautiful, partly because of the pure aesthetics and partly because of what they represent.

While in Vegas, we renewed our vows on our third wedding anniversary with a giant Elvis as the officiant. (Perhaps I'll post a picture or two sometime.)

Since then, we've had our first official house guests in the new house. Chris and Petra came to visit a week…

Things Heard on the Radio

A couple of weeks ago, I was listening to NPR and I heard reporter Libby Lewis giving a report in which she mentioned Lewis Libby. Not especially interesting, but I thought it was mildly amusing.

...

Yesterday, I listened live to G.W. Bush's press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi. I believe this was within a couple of hours of the U.S. Supreme Court essentially saying that Bush's plan for his captives (or are we supposed to say "detainees"?) in Guantanamo Bay is unwarranted and illegal. Before he started taking questions, he did some speechifying. During this segment, he said the following (in regards to having spoken with a Japanese woman whose daughter was apparently (from what I gather) abducted from Japan and brought to North Korea in what was surely an illegal act):

It also reminded me about the nature of the regime -- what kind of regime would kidnap people, just take them off offshore, you know[?]
Note: I've copied this quotation directly from t…

A Family of Loons

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Yesterday, Beth was working and I was not. After I joined her for her lunch break, I swiped her car, loaded it up with my kayak and gear, and went out to Grafton Pond. I spent about an hour and a quarter on the water. As I was heading back to shore, I came across a family of two adult loons and one baby:



My photographic skills are not quite brilliant, but I'm happy enough with these shots that I'm willing to share them.I believe these are the first loons I've ever seen in the wild. Awfully pretty birds, they are.

T-Shirt Designs

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Last weekend, we went to MINIs On Top 2006. We went up on Friday and I was wearing a t-shirt of my own design. I got several compliments on it, so I'm taking that as an encouragement to mention my t-shirt designs here. These are available through cafepress, in case you're interested. The two designs I'm offering at the moment couldn't possibly hold much interest for anyone outside of New Hampshire. Perhaps future designs will appeal to a wider audience. I'll be sure to post new designs here as I produce them. As with everything I post, I welcome your feedback.

Obscure Music (to answer your question)

On Tuesday or Wednesday of last week, I stopped in to the local supermarket. Beth had asked me to pick up some deli meat and as it was being sliced, I found myself in conversation with a couple of the guys who worked there. The younger-looking one (who I'm guessing is somewhere between 14 and 18 years my junior) asked what kind of music I listen to and all I came up with was "a wide variety of stuff".

Then he asked whether I listened to any really obscure bands. I was still kind of in a daze from Monday and I don't think all of my synapses were really firing at full strength, so I just kind of fell into letting him know that my favorite band is Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and that I also really dig Morphine and Pixies.

I think all three are fairly obscure. He was unfamiliar with Nick Cave, but something in his appearance led me to believe that I shouldn't steer him away from investigating. (I did get the impression that he was actually seeking recommendations for w…

On Burying My Uncle

Last week started very badly, with the news that my much beloved uncle, Elie, had succumbed to the cancer he had been fighting since late last year. The burial was on Monday, and so Beth and I drove down to Long Island to be there for that. It was nice seeing family (some of whom I hadn't seen in a couple of decades), although the circumstances for bringing us together were the saddest imaginable.

I am very thankful that we now have a GPS device that gives us on-the-fly directions to where we're going. The trip was estimated at 4 1/2 hours. With the NYC-area traffic thrown in, it took us just 5 hours, which gave us plenty of time to get there early and have some lunch before heading to the cemetery. (This in contrast to a few years ago when we missed my grandfather's funeral because the mapquest directions we had printed were wholly inadequate and got us so very lost that we never did find the cemetery. On that occasion, we ended up heading home thoroughly disheartened just…

Going to Town Meeting or, Rediscovering Direct Democracy

On May 9, Beth and I attended our first town meeting. This seems to be a peculiarity of life in New England. Once a year, the town has a meeting in which residents are welcome to speak their minds on various issues and to vote. It was an interesting process.

I was disappointed by the low turnout. In a town of over 6,000 people, I don't think any of the Articles received more than 325 votes. That's pretty sad, especially to someone who cherishes the idea of democracy and who thinks that direct democracy should be considered a nobler system than representative democracy.

The way things worked is that there were five uncontested elections and two or three other Articles that were voted on by paper ballot without public discussion. The balloting for these issues was open all day, from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. At 6 p.m., the town meeting began.

I don't believe that the room had more than 250 people in it at any time during the meeting. For each of the remaining Articles, there was public …

Bleeding Heart Flower Photo

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Here's a photo of a flower that's growing on our lawn. I've been mowing around it instead of chopping it down. It stands alone. When I first saw it, I assumed it was some sort of orchid. It seems I must have been wrong about that. It's apparently something called a bleeding heart, for obvious reasons, I think. Beautiful, no?

On Time...Awfully Late...and Not There Yet

Well, of course it's been a lot longer since my last post than I ever intended. In case you were on the edge of your seat, you have my apologies. I think what I need to do is to start actually making time to blog instead of what I've been doing: merely hoping to find time to blog. If I wait for the time to arrive, it slips by, as there's always something that seems more pressing (even if that "something" amounts to nothing more than trying to reduce my sleep debt).

The day after my last post, the new issue of Make magazine arrived in my mailbox. This, of course, thwarted my efforts to quickly get through that Scientific American special issue that I mentioned in my last post. I highly recommend picking up the Scientific American issue, as it's fascinating. But I recommend taking a look at Make, even more strongly. When the fourth issue came out, I didn't think it was possible to produce a better issue of a magazine. Since then, I've been astonished to …

The Time is Coming. . . .

While I was on my lunch break from the book store today, I wandered over to the Periodicals section, thinking that I would track down one of those magazines about living off-the-grid (power-wise, not technology-wise) and browse through it. [I'm terribly interested in the possibility of setting up a windmill for home electricity use, or possibly putting up a solar panel on the long south-facing side of our roof.] I got sidetracked, however, as my eye was caught by a special edition of Scientific American, devoted to the topic of time. I flipped through it a bit and I bought it. It seems like a very interesting read from what I've seen so far.

I'm going into it with my own preconceived notions. Chief among them, time always moves forwards, never backwards. What happened already has happened and will forever be in the past. It is not possible to go back to before a previous occurrence.

Reading this magazine may turn out to dispel these notions. I doubt it, but I'm keeping a…

What of this Immigration Reform Brouhaha?

Well, I figure it's about time that I get around to saying something about this. My delay is certainly not from a lack of things to say. If anything, it's from an overabundance of things to say. This has led to a bit of paralysis, as it's been difficult to try to distill my thoughts down to a blog-entry-sized object. (I think most of my entries are probably too long anyway, and this one has the potential to be a monster.) As today's the day of the "Great American Boycott" and protests in the streets, I might as well take this opportunity to yammer along with everyone else. Here goes:

First: On the maternal side of my family, my mother is a first-generation native-born American. On the paternal side, my father is either first- or second-generation (depending on which of his parents is counted as the precedent setter in such matters). So what that means is that I come from immigrants, and not from all that long ago. Three of my four grandparents were born in for…

Kayaking, Part 2

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As "promised" in my previous kayaking post, here's a picture of our (Beth's) Mini loaded up for a kayaking trip. Pretty silly looking, eh?

Well, we went out again today, this time to McDaniels Marsh. This body of water covers well over twice the area of Grafton Pond, although it's extremely shallow. I remembered to take a GPS unit this time. We paddled together to about 1.25 miles away from where we parked before Beth decided to stop for a rest while allowing me to go on for a while alone. I got to what I believe was pretty much the far end of the marsh, at 1.65 miles from the car.We saw a painted turtle, some small fishes, and a few ducks. I also spotted a couple of amphibians (newts or salamanders, I'm guessing), a kingfisher, and a healthy looking snapping turtle.
When we got back to shore I flipped my boat to try draining it, and (much to my surprise) discovered that there were about a dozen (maybe more) leeches attached to the hull! Which leads to my que…

A Random(ish) Collection of Thoughts

I've been listening to public radio quite a lot recently and I've been reading Robert Reich's blog. These have stimulated in me some thoughts that I think might be worth mentioning here in my blog:
Why are Americans so adept at electing presidents who are either incapable or unwilling when it comes to properly pronouncing the word "nuclear"? It's just three syllables. The "E" is long. There's only one "U". And the "C" is followed by an "L" with no vowel between them. How difficult is that?
If there are any high school teachers reading this who might have a bit of free time to run a simple experiment, I'd appreciate the following:Have your students take out a sheet of paper.Ask your students to each write 20 complete sentences of varying complexity. Stress that the goal is 20 complete sentences. The subject matter is irrelevant. There is no requirement to tell truths. There is no requirement that the sentences be …

New to Kayaking

After half a year on layaway, Beth and I finally completed the transaction and took delivery on our new kayaks this past weekend. We learned or were reminded of several good lessons:
What is known in New Hampshire as a fairly small pond is the equivalent of what would, in Maryland, be known as a pretty substantial lake. Our first outing with our new boats was to a beautiful body of water known as Grafton Pond. It has apparently grown from its original size as a result of damming, but it's still considered to be pretty small. In Maryland, there are no natural lakes. (A fact I learned years ago from Beth, who knows many things.) This means that our Maryland-oriented sense of inland bodies of water is pretty warped. In a sense, these lowered expectations are good for us. They keep us from taking for granted the comparative grandeur of our new environs.
When the wind kicks up, a flat body of water can become surprisingly choppy, surprisingly quickly.There are places (for example, one pa…

Thanks, Science Guy

I've said before and I'll surely say again that in my view, my generation is as much defined by Ultraman and Kung Fu Action Theater as by anything else. This may well define me as the lone member of "my generation". I'm not sure about whether that's the case or not. There may be others out there.

The bottom line on that definition probably amounts to little more than this: For better or for worse, my cultural awareness is and will likely always be something that (at least in part) is tinted by the influence of television. Whether that's ultimately a good or bad thing is not something that I'm interested in discussing at this point. (At least not during this blog entry.) However, I have mentioned it as simply a noteworthy scrap of information. Having said as much, I am willing to go on record as saying that neither is this truth a cause for great celebration nor is it one of the world's great tragedies. I'm quite certain that it falls somewhere …

About a Random Conversation...

I ran into John yesterday while I was on my lunch break from the book store. I hadn't seen him in a few weeks, and I hadn't ever discussed politics with him, as I had previously only spoken with him while we were working--and, of course, the company has a policy that discourages talking politics. Well, as this was my lunch break and as he's moved on to other employ, I asked him whether he had heard that I am running for president.

Almost immediately, he said, "I'll vote for you."

My instant response was, "Don't vote for me unless you're already not going to vote for someone else."

Interesting, this, because John knew nothing about my politics and I knew nothing about his, but he turned out to be exactly the sort of person at whom my campaign is aimed. In describing himself as someone who has opted out of the voting process, and in describing his reasons for having done so, he made it very clear that my target audience is not just a theoretical …

Population Density

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Below are two satellite images. One is centered on our old house in Maryland. The other is centered on our new (much older) house in New Hampshire. We used to live in a "town" (in quotes because in reality, it's nothing...not a city, not a town, not a village...really just a "rough idea of a place") that's ten square miles with a population well over 50,000 people. We now live in a town that's 40 square miles with a population between 6,000 and 7,000 people. I'll let you do the math. (What you'll come up with is that there's a lot less crowding here than there.) I figure what's pictured below is less than 4/100 of a square mile of ground in each case. And in case it isn't obvious, what you're looking at in the top photograph are two cul-de-sacs, surrounded by townhomes (or "row houses", depending on where you're from).



If I've done my figuring correctly, I've scaled these two images to show a land mass that&…

The Big Lottery Win

Well, I mentioned earlier that it would probably take me a while to get really ramped up on this blogging thing. But so far it seems both easy and enjoyable, so I think I'll get there without losing interest along the way.

Here's the latest news to report:

After getting home from the movie tonight, I checked my lottery tickets from the $150+ million Powerball (4/1). Zero hits on ticket 1. Zero hits on ticket 2. And a big $7 win on ticket number 3. I believe that effectively doubles my lifetime lottery winnings.Beth took me to see V for Vendetta tonight. I thought it was fantastic! I'm only a few pages into the book (Beth's more than halfway through). We're both enjoying it so far. She tells me that the book is quite different from the movie (or vice-versa). But even if the book turns out to be much better than the movie, I'm not going to let that detract from my opinion of the movie. I'm funny that way.Yesterday evening we returned home from a few days spent…