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May 30, 2002

Amazon Restaurants Beta

Found this at Metafilter:

Amazon has posted thousands of scanned, OCRed menus from restaurants in six U.S. cities and made them available at Amazon.com Restaurants, where users can make reservations and post reviews. They've got a few of my favorite places in NYC :)

Anybody want to suggest some good eats in New York? Boston? San Francisco? Send me an email and I'll put it up, or post a comment!

May 29, 2002

PT-109 Located

Robert Ballard, the oceanographer who located the sunken remains of the Titanic, has
located the sunken remains of John F. Kennedy's old patrol boat, PT-109. The boat was sunk off the Solomon Islands in 1943 by a Japanese destroyer.

May 28, 2002

To Mars!

Evidence for Recent Liquid Water on Mars: Gullies in Gorgonum Chaos

Speaking of the colonization of other worlds, it turns out there's a great deal more water on Mars than a lot of people thought. This is good news for potential human visitors, but people, you should still read your Kim Stanley Robinson ;). Here are an article and a news release on this announcement.

Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC) picture of Gorgonum Chaos from NASA's Planetary Photojournal at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Make a Really Short Link

TinyURL is cool! I've been using MakeAShorterLink for this sort of thing since discovering it (on Boing Boing?) last year, but now Mark's posted this even more powerful URL shortener. This one's going on the links page! :)

To the Moon!

Astronaut Charles Conrad stands at Modular Equipment Stowage Assembly during Apollo 12 mission, 1969

As has been widely blogged (I saw it first at Boing Boing), China is preparing to commence manned space exploration in a few years (ye gods - 2005 is just "a few years" from now) and intends to set up a permanent colony there in 2010. I'm sure they can do it, and part of me simply thinks more power to them--the United States should have done this in the first place, and could have if we hadn't been in such a hurry to win the race to land there (as many, perhaps most notably Isaac Asimov, have argued).

Last week in the Wall Street Journal, Jim Carlton wrote about the ongoing early debate over permanent lunar settlement, development, and exploitation. Various people and organizations want to use the moon for research, tourism, industry, and colonization. But what are we to do with this land that's part of no country at all? Some are proposing modelling our use of the moon on our use of Antarctica, based on the Antarctic Treaty of 1959 that regulates use of that continent (by the signers of the treaty, anyway). I can only hope that everyone's read their Kim Stanley Robinson.

Apollo 12 image from the NASA JSC Digital Image Collection

Vanilla Coke Reviewed

Bottled Vanilla Coke has been sold since May 15, but it took me until this past Sunday to find a bottle for sale. I finally tried it, and it's pretty good, not as good as a soda fountain vanilla coke, but a much better variation than the bottled lemon Diet Cokes that they're selling (which taste artificial). The vanilla flavor is milder than I expected. It makes the drink even sweeter, but not too sweet (YMMV). Diet Vanilla Coke is not available yet (I checked) :(

May 22, 2002

Caffeinated Soap

ThinkGeek is now selling caffeinated soap. No, really. Caffeinated soap. It's called "Shower Shock". The caffeine is absorbed through your skin, and there's 250mg per "serving" (which would be a hell of a lot if you drank it, but it's probably less effective taken transdermally).

May 21, 2002

Aortal: mybluehouse

It's Tuesday, and time for another Aortal link!

Rebeca Delgado's mybluehouse weblog was the source for the cool papier-mâché link I just posed, and it's got so much more! Rebeca is a writer, an artist, a mother, and a lawyer too! She writes her blog (which she has subtitled bleublog) about the benefits of living in France with her family, about her cool knitting projects, and about all the great stuff that can be found online. Be sure to check out mybluehouse's main entry page, and its sister knitting site, fluffa!

I discovered mybluehouse through Leslie, who sent me the link. Thanks, Leslie!

Last week's Aortal link was caterina.net. Please take a look if you haven't yet!

Papier-mâché Anatomy


Did you know? The Smithsonian has quite a collection of papier-mâché anatomical models!

Via mybluehouse

May 20, 2002

Stephen Jay Gould Has Died


Evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould died today of cancer. He was sixty years old.

The New York Times has his Obituary (free registration required - you can use "songdog.net" as username and password).

Thanks for letting me know, Al.

Photograph from Seattle Arts & Lectures

May 19, 2002

Just Saw Episode II!

Jango Fett, in Star Wars: Episode II -Attack of the Clones

I just got back from seeing Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones; I'll post more tomorrow, but for now let me just say that I had a blast!

May 17, 2002

Tragic and Bizarre Art Disaster

This infuriates me. Stéphane Breitwieser is a prodigous art thief, who has admitted to the theft of 172 different works of art from museums all over Europe. He kept the pieces in a collection in his bedroom. But when he was arrested last year, his mother threw the collection away, destroying most of the works. This NY Times article has more (free registration required--you can use "songdog.net" for username and password).

Via caterina.net

Gratulerer med Syttende Mai!

May 17 in Stavanger Happy Seventeenth of May, Norway's national day!

Norway had been a part of Denmark since 1536, but in 1814 Denmark ceded Norway to Sweden, and King Carl XIII of Sweden proclaimed that Norway would be an independent country. On May 17, 1814, Norway passed its constitution and Prince Christian Frederik became the King of Norway.

The newspaper Nytt fra Norge put together a nice summary of the events of 1814 for Norway's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (also available here).

Picture of girls in Stavanger from Stavanger-Web.Com.

May 15, 2002

Going to Paris!

We've ordered our tickets, and we're going this September! It will be my first trip to France and my first trip abroad in a long time. I'd better start working on my French :)

May 14, 2002

WWF Smacked Down By The WWF

No, wait. Aww, just read it. I've been wondering whether something like this might happen.

Via Invisible City Productions

Aortal: caterina.net

It's Tuesday, and time for another Aortal link!

caterina.net, written by Caterina Fake, is literate, intelligent, and well worth the read. Recent entries have ranged in topic from Focault to Brenda Laurel, from America in the 60s to Provence today. And then there's wonderful stuff like this.

I found caterina.net through Mighty Girl, which just happens to have been my previous Aortal link! Please take a look at Mighty Girl if you haven't yet!

Best Web Site Under 5K

Create the "best" sub-5-kilobyte (small) web site you can, using no server-side code or processing, and impress the world. Entries for the 5k are due by June 16. This should be fun to watch!

Found at kotke.org and caterina.net

Hack Your Car

Bill Machrone writes in PC Magazine about software and hardware tools that allow you to connect your computer to your car's computer, to monitor and modify all sorts of things. This is a very interestin' development.

Getting President Bush Up To Speed

President Bush has been spending some time with Crown Prince Abdullah, of Saudi Arabia. Reuters has an entertaining article:

Abdullah said ... that he had to spend hours getting President Bush up to speed on Middle East issues, but his impression of the U.S. leader was positive.

A Promising Start

Arrived early at the office this morning, and proceeded to lock myself out on the landing. Taking a shortcut through this glassed-in airlock of an entryway, I realized as the door clicked closed behind me that I had left my access card at my desk and would not be able to continue through the security door across the way. Neither could I return through the door behind me. No, I had to wait for the next person to arrive (or else bang on the glass like Benjamin Braddock). Alas, when the next person arrived several minutes later and I sheepishly told my tale, he looked at me oddly and told me that he was a visitor. So we both waited, and were eventually permitted inside. What further wonders might the day hold?

May 11, 2002

In Memoriam - Douglas Adams

Douglas Adams died one year ago today, and he is sorely missed.


I fell in love with his books as a teenager, and have read and re-read them voraciously ever since. I miss the excitement of hoping for another one. That said, I have somewhat mixed feelings about Salmon of a Doubt, a posthumous collection of his writing.

A book by this title had been rumored for perhaps five years. It was even pre-listed on Amazon.com a number of years ago. But according to the MFAQ, Adams was supposedly never working on a book by this title. He was, however, working on bits and pieces of a new Dirk Gently novel, which he turned into bits and pieces of a new Hitchhiker’s novel. At some point along the way this work-in-progress became associated with the Salmon of a Doubt title and the name stuck.

This book was somewhat famously incomplete. Adams was spending time on the game Starship Titanic, and on the book of the same name. He was also working on a big-screen adaptation of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, but alas, he died before he could bring this project to completion. Whoever does so, one day, had better do it right.

When Adams died he left behind some ten chapters of a novel, and these have been gathered, along with various other unpublished and rarely-published writings, in a collection bearing the Salmon of a Doubt name. I'm dying to read this stuff, and I definitely will, but I can't help wondering whether he would have wanted me to.

Incidentally, I want to add that Adams was a big supporter of the conservation of endangered species, which he wrote so wonderfully about in Last Chance to See. Last May, his official site requested that donations be made in his name to some of his favorite conservation organizations, and I want to post these here:

I am grateful to Douglas Adams for sharing his humor, his concerns, and his imagination with the world. He made it a better place.


Pictures borrowed from Floor 42 and www.douglasadams.com, and copyright their respective owners.

Well, That's Done

We had four and a half hours to solve eight problems. It was tough, but not unfairly so. Now I have to wait up to a month to find out how I did.

We now return you to your regularly-scheduled blog.

May 10, 2002

Wish Me Luck, World!

I'm off to take a very important four-and-a-half-hour exam. Think of me!

May 08, 2002

Germany Planned to Invade the US

The German newspaper Die Zeit reported on German plans at the turn of the twentieth century for an invasion of the United States through New York City and Boston. The aim would have been to force the US into a treaty ceding control of the seas to Kaiser Wilhelm II's forces. Reuters has more, and so does Ananova, but Die Zeit itself does not have the story online as of this writing.

May 07, 2002

Notes on Logic

I'm studying for a big exam, and I've been wondering what the precise definitions are of certain terms used in logical arguments. Thanks to Merriam-Webster OnLine, I now know. And you can too! (So don't ever say you never learn anything useful at Songdog.net).

A lemma is "an auxiliary proposition used in the demonstration of another proposition"

A corollary is "a proposition inferred immediately from a proved proposition with little or no additional proof"

An axiom is "1 : a maxim widely accepted on its intrinsic merit; 2 : a statement accepted as true as the basis for argument or inference; 3 : an established rule or principle or a self-evident truth" (see also postulate)

A theorem is "1 : a formula, proposition, or statement in mathematics or logic deduced or to be deduced from other formulas or propositions; 2 : an idea accepted or proposed as a demonstrable truth often as a part of a general theory" (see also proposition)

Incidentally, a hypothesis is "1 a : an assumption or concession made for the sake of argument b : an interpretation of a practical situation or condition taken as the ground for action; 2 : a tentative assumption made in order to draw out and test its logical or empirical consequences; 3 : the antecedent clause of a conditional statement"

The difference between a theorem and a hypothesis seems subtle: a theorem is something you will attempt to prove or at least deduce, while a hypothesis is something which you may attempt to test. And therein lies the difference between the methods of mathematics and of science.

By the way, did you know that a theorem is also "3 : [a] stencil; 4 : a painting produced especially on velvet by the use of stencils for each color"?

Surveilling Einstein

It's well known that Albert Einstein was a brilliant physicist. It's fairly well known that he was also an outspoken pacifist and civil rights activist. One might suspect that these latter facts would have rankled a few people, and one would be right.

The FBI conducted ongoing surveillance of Einstein until his death in 1955. In 1983, Dr. Richard Alan Schwartz wrote about Einstein and the FBI for The Nation. Since then the censorship of Einstein's file has been reduced, and Fred Jerome (hardly a neutral author, which may rankle a few people as well) has written a new book on the topic, to be published this month.

The New York Times wrote about all this today (you can use "songdog.net" as username and password)

May 06, 2002

The Greatest Thing Since ... Well ...

Sara Lee is introducing packaged crustless bread. It's sliced, too! For US$0.75 extra per loaf you get the crusts cut off for you. I wonder what they put in it to keep crisp edges from developing. Personally, I like crusts, though!

Via Boing Boing

May 03, 2002


Astronomers generate too much information. They scan the sky with their instruments of ever-increasing resolution, building huge archives of observational data to be analyzed when they've used up their telescope time.

The problem with this is one of indexing and accessibility. The number, variety, and size of astronomical data sets makes knowing where and how to look an essential skill, and one that defies mastery.

That's the motivation for Astrogrid, a three year, £5 million project in the UK whose aims is to provide a common querying framework for the moutains (sorry--galaxies.) of data that are being accumulated.

More available from the BBC.

Honey, I Shrunk the Horticulturalists?

Humongous Plant On Display

It only looks like a bad movie. The enourmous "corpse flower" is in bloom in London. For three days. The Sumatran titan arum plant grew from a bulb to 9' (3m) in height, and 165 lbs (75kg). It smells "putrid," but the horticulturalists at the Kew Gardens are thrilled to have gotten it to blossom at all. It's been six years.

From Wired News

May 02, 2002

What Apocalypse?

Ok. I've been wondering. Who the heck reached Songdog.net with this query? Someone did. Yesterday. This site is currently at the top of the results, for coincidental reasons thank goodness. But is there something happening on May 11 that I ought to know about? Does anyone want to own up?