Monday, June 28, 2010


I'll never be
An angel
Too great
A price to pay
For wings

(my first ever gogyohka)

Saturday, June 26, 2010


My dad taught me to play chess as a kid. Thanks, Dad! :) I used to play chess in high school, but then I dropped it for a long time. Nobody I knew really enjoyed playing it. Eventually, I started playing against various computer programs, like Battle Chess, Chessmaster 3000, and gnuchess.

The problem with playing against a computer opponent is that I started taking the game less seriously. After all, if you blunder and are down a piece, why play out the game? Just start a new one. I seemed to think ahead fewer moves, and to look only at the obvious positions. It was almost like playing speed chess: you take a short amount of time to consider the obvious moves and lines of play, and go with your instinct. That strategy works against weaker opponents, but not stronger ones.

Once I was on twitter for a while, I realized it would be the perfect medium for correspondence chess. I searched a bit, and sure enough, I found ChessTweets. Playing against live people again really highlighted how rusty I'd become.

Now I'm reteaching myself how to look ahead at various lines of play, and consider all the viable moves. So far I have no wins, one draw and four losses, but I think I'm getting better.

If you want to play me there, please challenge me to a game. All you need is a twitter account, and it's free. My twitter name is @pn8r. See you on the boards! :)

Friday, June 25, 2010

New Holiday

I discovered a new holiday to celebrate.

Today is June 25 or, as I now call it, Halfway-Between-Christmas-Past-and-Christmas-Future Day!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


Here's an open letter from me to XM Radio:

Dear XM Radio,

I never in a million years thought that I would want to pay for radio service. After all, I've been getting it for free my whole life, and I've been perfectly happy.

But then I bought a new car with a free three-month trial subscription to XM Radio. I printed out a list of the stations and began to explore. I loved the idea that I could listen to any decade from the 1940s to the 2000s. I loved all the different genres that are available. I liked the comedy stations and the children's music.

I was ready to spend some money!

Unfortunately, the factory radio is really stripped down regarding XM functionality.

It will only display the first 16 characters of a song title or an artist's name. That's usually not enough. It could have been designed to scroll across, or even display successive 16 character chunks.

In addition, the radio will not pause or rewind the music - there's no live buffer.

If I'm going to pay for radio service, I expect more than a bare-bones radio receiver to go with it. There are plenty of fancy XM Radio receivers available for less than two hundred dollars; they have those feature above, plus many others. Since the car's radio is built in, with a safety video system for driving in reverse, I can't even replace it.

So, XM Radio people, when you license out your technology, you need to have better standards in place. You just lost a potential customer.



Wow, that sounded really whiny and complaining, but I just don't understand how a so-called "premium" car audio system could turn out to be so bad. It actually took a great radio service and made it unappealing!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Wish Me Luck

Tonight I plan to upgrade my iTunes to version 9.2 and my iPhone to iOS 4.0.

It would probably be a no-brainer, except that we have a PC, not a Mac. This means that I'm worried.

If you never hear from me again, you'll know why!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Mooning Around

People love the crescent moon. When people think of the moon, many imagine it as a crescent, shining in the west after a beautiful sunset.

The full moon is popular too, rising in the east as the firmament fades to black after sunset. There are even special names for full moons, like the Harvest Moon or the Full Cold Moon.

The new moon is special because it marks the beginning of a new lunar cycle.

Even the half moon is memorable, showing up in names of many restaurants, pubs, locations, etc.

However, I always feel bad for the gibbous moon. Nobody ever talks about it. Most people have never heard of the word gibbous, or know what shape the gibbous moon is.

The gibbous moon is like the opposite of the crescent moon: wherever the crescent is lighted, the gibbous moon is dark and vice versa. It's partway between a half circle and a full circle.

After the moon appears to grow in width (to wax) from new to crescent to half, it then becomes gibbous. It gets fatter and fatter for almost a week until it is a full moon.

After that it appears to shrink in width (to wane), reversing the order of the phases from full to gibbous to half to crescent to new.

Even though the moon spends the better part of two weeks as a gibbous shape, most people don't realize it. I think it's because when the moon is a really fat gibbous, people think of it as full, and when it's a day or two past half, people still consider it to be half.

Also, the gibbous shape isn't very common in general. The full moon is a circle, like a pizza, a CD, an orange. A half moon is a half circle, like half a pie. A crescent is like a banana. But what's a gibbous shape like?

So here's to the gibbous moon, the overlooked shape!

Friday, June 18, 2010


Happy Father's Day Weekend!

What's that, you say? How can a day be a weekend? Isn't that an oxymoron of some kind?

Welcome to my world. I stretch out holidays as far as I can. My favorite is when my birthday lands on a Wednesday, because then I manage to celebrate the weekend before AND after!

I aspire to someday stretch out enough holidays throughout the year so that every single day is a part of some festive occasion.

The summer is tough because there are fewer holidays. I guess that's what vacations are for!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Time for an Idea

Once in a while I have ideas for great inventions! This one might not be great, but it IS an invention.

I haven't worn a wristwatch in years. There are a few reasons. One is that I don't like the feeling of it constricting my wrist. Another is that I feel like I'm a slave to time. A third is I discovered that nearly everywhere I go - car, office, home - there is a clock, so why do I need to carry one around?

The final reason is boredom. I used to buy a really neat watch, but after a few months or a year, I'd be tired of looking at it (or playing with its features), so I'd buy another. After a while I had a few of my own watches to choose from each day, but I was used to them, and I always wanted something different.

So here's my idea: the iWatch. Just like the iPhone, the iWatch would be a watch with a touch screen for the face. You could go to the iWatchStore and download any watch face and features you want. Some would mimic analog watches, some would be digital, others would have extra features, like sunrise/sunset times, etc. Just like there are app developers for the iPhone, there would be iWatch face developers.

I would buy an iWatch. I might even wear it.

Sunday, June 13, 2010


Since I spent so much thought creating this limerick for the @Loqwacious word game, I decided to share it here.

The word of the day was gamine. Wikipedia even has an article on the subject!

There's a good reason that I rarely craft limericks, as you're about to find out.

There once was a pretty young queen
Who everyone said was gamine
She didn't agree
But as you can see
She has a well worn trampoline

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Titanic Rodomontade

The unsinkable RMS Titanic slowly inched away from her berth in Southampton, headed for Cherbourg, Queenstown, and ultimately New York City.

Poseidon watched, seething. How dare these mortals declare their handiwork unsinkable! Had they forgotten the powers that he and his fellow Olympians could unleash?

He saw the SS New York nearly crash into the Titanic, pulled in by her wake. He chuckled. That should remind them what they were dealing with.

A while later, he looked in on the Titanic again. He saw a mortal proudly standing at the very bow of the ship, shouting "I'm the king of the world!"

Poseidon grew furious. First they claimed their ship to be unsinkable, and now came this puny mortal's rodomantade!

He looked across the vast ocean and saw what he needed. He carefully changed the currents slightly, rearranged his domain slowly.

When the iceberg loomed out of the fog, Poseidon saw the look of surprise on their faces. Even after the iceberg ripped a gash in their flank, most of them still thought they were invincible. Not even enough lifeboats for them all! Hubris!

And that one who would be king, where was he? In the icy water, barely clinging to life. As the ship broke and sank, as the mortal's lifeless body was claimed by the sea, Poseidon chortled.

He was satisfied.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Keys and Buttons

I've had my new car for a few weeks now, and there's one feature that has taken time to get used to.

Instead of a key, I just have a key fob. As long as the fob is within a few feet (about a meter) of the car, I can press a button on the door handle to unlock it. And there is no ignition key slot, just a big ol' glowing pushbutton.

What's hard to get used to is leaving my keys in my pocket. For decades, it's been completely normal to reach into my pocket as I walk up to the car, use the key to unlock the door, slide into the seat, and then put the key into the ignition.

Now I have to leave my keyring in my pocket. It doesn't sound like much, but it's actually been very hard to do!

A weird side effect is that I will walk up to other locked doors and expect to press a button to unlock them. When I realize there's no button, I have to sheepishly get out my keys. Maybe I could find a way to make my house doors work without keys too!

Thursday, June 10, 2010


It's June, and I haven't seen any 2010 coins yet!

Here in the U.S., the quarters are going through another series of redesigns. This time, they are honoring National Parks. I haven't seen any of the new quarters. Last year, there were six quarter designs to honor Washington D.C. and five territories. I haven't seen any of them either.

For 2010, the reverse of the Lincoln cent was changed. The Lincoln Memorial was replaced by a shield. Nope, I haven't seen that one either.

Dime? No. Nickel? No. Half Dollar? Don't make me laugh!

Where are they all?

UPDATE: The day after I wrote this, I got one of last year's 2009 U.S. Virgin Islands quarter! It's got an outline of the islands, with some trees, a bird, some flowers and a bit of beach.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Snide News

When did the local newcasters become so snide? I feel like I'm
watching a bunch of well-dressed people sitting off to the side at a
party, gossiping about the other guests.

Isn't the news supposed to be presented objectively? I guess viewers
tune in to watch the pointless banter and the snarky remarks.

Since I get most of my news from the Internet, I should really break
this bad habit of watching it on television.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Two Sides

At dinner, my wife was telling me how my middle son misbehaved today. Then my oldest turned to me and said, "Let's hear what he has to say. You know, Daddy, there's two sides to every story." He's eight years old. I'm going to have my hands full, aren't I?

Monday, June 7, 2010

Mars and Regulus

Tonight, after sunset, I saw Mars and Regulus in a close conjunction in the west. Regulus is a first magnitude star in the constellation of Leo the Lion.

Mars and Regulus are only about one degree apart. That's pretty close for two of the brightest objects in the sky.

There were two things I found interesting.

One is that you could fit two full moons between the pair, because the full moon is about a half degree wide. Usually the moon looks pretty big, because of the Moon Illusion. But knowing that TWO moons would fit in that tiny space illustrates just how small the moon really appears to us.

The second point of interest is the color. Mars is currently the same brightness as Regulus, but you can tell them apart because of their different colors. Regulus is a blue-white star, while Mars is a reddish-butterscotch planet. Many people have trouble seeing that stars are various colors, but seeing these two objects close together should make it obvious.

Don't forget to look at Venus, the brilliant object to their lower right!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Julie and Bailey

I saw the movie Julie and Julia. I thought it was going to be about cooking, but it was actually about blogging.* It inspired me to blog again.

When I started this blog, I thought I'd blog at least once a day. When that didn't work out, I aimed for every other day, then once a week.

My problem is that I expect every entry to be a masterpiece. As a reader, I tend to gravitate to blogs that not only have clever writing, but also contain relevant illustrations and links. But I couldn't make all my blog entries into encyclopedia articles AND still stick to blogging every day - it took too much time. Unfortunately, my feeling was that if it wasn't just exactly how I wanted it, I'd rather have no one see it at all.

Recently, Bailey, whose writing I admire, told me that I should just type my thoughts out and revise them later. When I complained that I was a perendinator, she did this: *shrug* That put me in my place, and I won't use procrastinating as an excuse anymore.

So from now on, I will be blogging everyday, even if I don't have anything earth-shattering to say, and it's not formatted perfectly. So beware! :)

* I exaggerate slightly. It was about blogging AND about chopping onions into a pile so high that when you enter the room, your eyes instantly tear up.