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August 31, 2002

Lionel Hampton, 1908-2002


Lionel Hampton died today after more than sixty years of making music. Hamp played in many great bands as a leader, and with fellow jazz icons such as Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, Charlie Parker, and Charles Mingus. He started on the drums, a pioneer of stick-twirling flourishes, and took up vibes while drumming in Armstrong's band in 1930. The New York Times has his obituary.

Photo from the International Association for Jazz Education's NEA Jazz Masters bio of Hamp.

August 27, 2002

Oh, great.

I notice from my referrer logs that thanks to a recent post Songdog.net has become the number one Google search result for "to become congested with mucus". That's just terrific.

August 26, 2002


At a New Jersey beach yesterday I noticed that the incoming tide was bringing jellyfish up to shore. I was in water up to my chest and discovered that although I like to look at jellies at the aquarium, being in the water with them made me a tad squeemish.

I assumed that these were the common moon jellyfish, but based on a little online research I'm now convinced that they were many-ribbed hydromedusae. A lot of them were washing up on the sand, where they looked very much like pieces of ice from some beachgoer's cooler. I touched one of them gently with my finger and found it surprisingly firm (harder than JELL-O). A moon jelly might have stung me, as it certainly would have stung the little girl nearby who had gathered about ten of the creatures from the beach and arranged them in a line.

For a good approximation of what I saw, I direct you to Herb Segar's stock photography website, where he has good pictures for sale of many-ribbed hydromedusae both on the New Jersey sand and in the water.

August 21, 2002

Food History

The Food Timeline, put together by librarians at the Morris County Library in Whippany, New Jersey, is a fascinating reference to when we started to eat what. Great, great stuff. And don't miss their Culinary History Timeline!

I found this at William Fields' Fields | Weblog.

August 14, 2002

In Memory of a Frisbyterian

Ed Headrick invented the modern Frisbee while working for Wham-O in the sixties. Headrick died two days ago, and will be transmuted to his creation: his ashes will be made into Frisbees. Reuters has an interesting obituary which is well worth reading.

August 13, 2002

Spam Report #2

This morning I got a message informing me that "a lifestyle that includes taking medications of any kind, eating too much cooked food, processed/refined food, meat, dairy, and poultry causes your body to become congested with mucus." How did I get on that list? And I won't even ask about the message with the subject line, "Exciting News About Herpes."

August 12, 2002

Perseid Meteors

Tonight, if you're lucky and a bit patient, you ought to be able to see some Perseid meteors. On average a watcher under good skies should see about one meteor per minute. The Perseid meteor shower lasts about two weeks, and is expected to peak tonight between 6pm and 9pm (EDT). Those of us in the contintental US will have probably better luck later in the evening though, between midnight and dawn, when Perseus is high in the sky.

For more information, including star charts, check out these resources from Sky and Telescope and Spacewatch.

August 08, 2002

Edsger Dijkstra has Died (UPDATED)

Edsger Dijkstra, a profound influence on computer science for the last half century, died on Tuesday of cancer. Several months ago I was preparing for a comprehensive exam in computer science and it seemed like I couldn't read more than a few pages without encountering one of Dijkstra's ideas. Joey deVilla has written a nice memorial piece about Dijkstra, and I recommend it to you.

Update (Friday, August 9, 9:35 AM EST): The NY Times has posted an obituary.

Science News of the Day #2: Speed of Light Decreasing?

In an article in Nature today, a group of Australian physicsts present their evidence that the speed of light may be slower today than it was twelve billion years ago, suggesting that further revisions may be necessary to Einstein's theories of relativity. The Nature article is not available online, but The Age has a good piece and even CNN is covering this.

Science News of the Day #1: A P-time Primality Test

Three computer scientists at the Indian Institute of Technology in Kanpur have published a paper presenting a new algorithm for determining whether a given number is prime (evenly divisible only by itself and by one) or composite (evenly divisible by at least one number besides itself and one). The big deal is that they also present a proof that their algorithm runs in what computer scientists call polynomial time. It's been an open question in computation theory whether such an algorithm is possible, and if the paper is correct, then a big question has just been answered.

There's some great copy in the paper:

The ultimate goal of this line of research is, of course, to obtain an unconditional deterministic polynomial-time algorithm for primality testing. Despite the impressive progress made in primality testing so far, this goal has remained elusive. In this paper, we achieve this.
I love that.

The New York Times has a good piece on this, and those inclined can read the paper itself (as a PDF).

Thanks, Mom!

August 06, 2002

Aortal: language hat

It's time for a new Aortal link:

Songdog.net reader language hat has established a blog! Its name? Why, languagehat, of course! Mr. hat is a polyglot many times over, and language, languages, and linguistics are his featured topics (hats are also given their due). He keeps a watchful eye on writers and journalists, culture and cultural commentators, and the unusual people of the city. Allow me to direct your own watchful eyes to languagehat!

nyc bloggers was my previous Aortal link. Be sure to check it out!

UPDATE: languagehat has moved to www.languagehat.com. Don't forget to update your links!

Goat Mayor Wounded but Recovering

Clay Henry III, Mayor of Lajitas, TX

No kidding: The mayor of Lajitas, Texas, is a beer-drinking goat named Clay Henry III. Hizzoner was recently maimed by a man named Jim Bob. The New York Times is covering the story (you can use "songdog.net" as username and password).

Thanks, Leslie!

Photo from Lajitas - The Ultimate Hideout

August 05, 2002

Very unusual spam

I can't believe I'm doing this.

I got a very unusual piece of spam a few weeks ago with the subject "[a time]Time Travelers PLEASE HELP!!! [a string of numbers and letters]".

The message read:

[a different string of numbers and letters]=Hello, If you are a Time Traveler from Dimension [some numbers and letters], year 2008 or Dimension [some other numbers and letters], year 2432 and or in possession of the Dimensional Warp Generator wrist watch, the Carbon Copy Replica model #[a number] series or similar technology I need your help! My entire life and health has been messed with by evil beings! I simply need the safest method of transferring my consciousness or returning to my younger self with my current mind/memory. I need an advanced time traveler to work with who can help me, I'd would prefer someone with access to teleportation as well as a variety different types of time travel. This is not a joke! I am serious! Please send a separate email to me at: [an email address] if you can help! Thanks

I've removed all of the various numbers which probably serve as a fingerprint of my copy of this message to the person who sent it. Probably they're just checking for valid email addresses or something of the sort. But hey, at least they're having fun with it. And then again, you never know ...

Where can I get one of those dimension warp generating watches?

August 01, 2002

Been Down So Long ...

OK. Songdog.net got knocked down by a server upgrade and a slow progression of fixes. If anyone's interested in the sordid details, post a comment and I'll be glad to discuss it, but I don't want to bore anyone else.

For those of you just joining us, welcome!

For those of you checking back, thanks for returning!

And now, down to brass tacks ...