November 29, 2009

I think I will get this for Blaze for Christmas!

How to Teach Physics to Your Dog


We had a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend. It started last Wednesday, as I am burning vacation hours and need to take some extra days off.

Doreen had to work, so I worked around the house (replacing a timing motor in for our pond, for example) and had lunch with my Sweet Ever Lovin' at Treebeards downtown. Nothing says a day off like Red Beans and Rice! (I don't work anywhere near downtown, and I just love the Treebeard's RB&R)

Wednesday evening we had Doreen's friend Linda over, and I cooked some Pan Roasted Chicken, Braised Brussels Sprouts, and Rice Pilaf. We had a nice White Burgundy to go with it.

Thanksgiving day we went over to our friends Jim and Gary's house for a delightful (and filling) meal. Turkey, Dressing, Cranberries, Mashed Potatoes, Green Bean Casserole, Corn Casserole, Salad, THREE KINDS (Apple Cream, Pumpkin, Pecan) of Pie, and Champagne (the pink kind). We ate too much, talked too much, and had a great time.

On Friday, we laid low and didn't eat too much. We had lunch with Trouta (My MIL) of cold cuts and potato chips. Two of my nieces came over for drinks later (it was Domi's 27th birthday - on the 27th!) before they went out to dinner.

Saturday we met my sister and the aforementioned nieces for crawfish and oysters at the Ragin Canjun. You just can't beat crawfish and oysters.

Finally, today we had lunch at Beaver's Ice House (not the old Beaver's Matthew. This one is fancy) and it was great. I had Texa-Quiles that were delicious. Doreen had their pulled pork sandwich. Also, great.

This evening we are eating leftover Pozole. And then on to work tomorrow.

November 27, 2009

Rings around the earth

Who hasn't wondered what it would be like if the Earth had rings like Saturn?

November 26, 2009

iPhone amd the HMI

My sweet ever lovin' recently purchased an iPhone 3GS. It has, without a doubt, the absolute best Human Machine Interface I have ever seen.

I have been in the software business since 1982, and I have never seen anything so intuitive, easy, and quite honestly, joyful to use.

I have a G1 that runs the Android operating system, and it feels just clunky in comparison.

I know that part of the wonder I feel at the iPhone is the speed with which it accomplishes any task, but it is obvious that the first order of business with that device is user experience.

Now, if only AT&T would get better...

November 23, 2009

November 20, 2009

Some wine buying advice.

My sweet ever lovin' asked me to put together a little wine advice for some folks she works with. I wrote the below for fun.


It is usually easy to buy good expensive wine (though this article may disagree with that statement). You go to a big name (Mouton Rothschild, Caymus, Domaine de la Romanée-Conti), spend a couple of hundred dollars per bottle, store it for a couple of years, pop it open, let it sit open for a couple of hours, pour it carefully into expensive glasses, swirl, sniff, sip, and then make some important sounding pronouncement about dried currents and leather, and enjoy.

Buying a good, cheap wine (often, in the wine world referred to as good QPR wines "Quality/Price Ratio") is usually a little more challenging. But if you are willing to learn some very basic rules, you will be the hit of the party.

As with buying anything, the key is to find the wine that is either trying to break into the market, and therefore selling below their usual price, or is not popular at the moment, and therefor cheap because people are rejecting it for its more popular competitors.

Another thing to keep in mind is that all inexpensive wine (say, less than $25 or so) is meant to be consumed immediately. So you want to buy the most recent vintage you can find.

The last thing to remember is that California is almost always over priced, over oaked, and over alcoholic. Don't buy it, unless you have had it before and know you will like it.

All that being said, remember, too, that your taste is the most important thing of all! If you like big, buttery, oaky chardonnays, for goodness sake, buy them, drink them, and enjoy them! They are pretty cheap these days (see the "popular" rule, above) Wine is to be enjoyed, not worshiped.

So, first you need to decide if you want a red or a white wine. Believe it or not, there are good reasons to drink white wine with fish (see this) but most other food matching rules can be thrown out the window.

Rather than naming individual wines, I would suggest regions.

You can get most of these wines at almost any grocery store in town. The Fiesta on Alabama has a strangely great selection. Of course, Whole Foods and Central Market have an outstanding selection (and very helpful staff) I hate to say it, but stay away from the Spec's (a very big Houston liquor store) downtown unless you know exactly what you want. They will up-sell you every chance they get. That being said, if you DO know what you want, they have a good selection.

For white wines:

French - White Burgundy - in particular Macon. You can get these for about $10. If you want a substantial wine, just buy one of these. You will enjoy it.
Spanish - look for Albariño (that is a varietal) from Rías Baixas or a Verdejo from Rueda. They are crisp and dry - something light you can have with appetizers.
New Zealand and Chile - a Sauvignon Blanc. There are plenty of these at good prices. The best will smell like fresh cut grass. Buy cheap, and buy young! You don't want old Sauvignon Blancs. (France also has good, cheap Sauvignon Blancs - Sancerre if you can find it. Bring this to a party to impress people. They will all love it)

For red wines:

Argentina - one word: MALBEC. Good, big, bold, almost chewy. Used as a blending grape in France, this can be just great. Again, look for young, cheap wines.
France - Seek out Bordeaux small names. Their wines are usually quite good, and reasonably priced. Don't worry about knowing which ones to buy. The "First Growth" wines are hundreds of dollars a bottle. The "Second Growths" are usually at least $100, the non-growths can be as cheap as $8. Get a couple of $8 bottle and see if you like them. I bet you will.
Chile - Cabernet. Very reliable
Oregon and Washington - Pinot Noir. Look for cheap ones. They are usually quite good.
Spain - most Riojas are good values. Look for Crianza (that describes how long they have been left in the barrels) I always like them the best, but look for the Reservas (more expensive, more oak) or wines with no designation (younger)

For sparkling wines:

Spanish - Cava. Try to avoid the one in the black bottle (it is not bad, but the lesser known names are usually better). Buy plenty, as you will need it.
Italian - Prosecco. The nice thing about prosecco is that it is usually farily low alcohol. So you can drink plenty.

If you want to learn more about wine, watch Wine Library TV. It is very entertaining and very informative.

But the only thing that really matters is what you like. Get a case of $8-$10 wines and drink them with a bunch of friends. But keep in mind that you will not always be able to find the same vintner again. Look for regions and grapes.

Many of these wines come with screw-caps. Do NOT be turned off by screw caps! They make a lot of sense for inexpensive wines. (one exception to my No California Wines above would be anything from Bonny Doon. They always use screwtops)


Napping on a day off

I have started losing vacation days again, so I took today off.

This is Djimmah, sleeping on me

November 17, 2009

Old photos

Some are quite creepy:

Wtf Photos From Old Times « Do While

Rosetta Stone

Who Should Own the Rosetta Stone? - TierneyLab Blog -

Orhan Pamuk

Last night we went to hear Orhan Pamuk read from his new book at the Inprint Margaret Root Brown reading series.

The book is called The Museum of Innocents, and is, of course, set in Istanbul.

While reading from the book Orhan was rather hard to understand. English is not his first language, and he really did not do justice to the beautiful prose that he writes.

But during the Q&A session he was very entertaining. He is very clever, and loves to talk. So a question would barely be out of the interviewer's mouth and he was answering it with a long and involved response. I wish I would have timed him, but I think he took at least five minutes to answer a simple question.

He frequently referred to one of his other books (Istanbul) to answer questions about his personal background, and refused to answer one question at all. (That question was about character development. He said "That is a very long answer. I think we will not answer that question")

The final question asked was "What advice do you have for young writers in the audience?" He said the is asked that a lot, and always gives the same answer:

"Don't take advice from old writers"

November 14, 2009

A little good news

Small victories | Gulliver |

Rich People

Through no fault of my own (it is complicated, but let's say it was my wife's fault) we were invited to the 50th birthday party of one of Houston's richest people.

This fellow - 100% self made - is probably worth over $1 billion. So when his wife throws him a 50th birthday party, it is one heck of a birthday party. And much to my chagrin, this fellow was about the nicest guy in the room.

From the ice-bar (think slab so clear ice about 2' thick, surrounding a conventional sized bar) to the 12 different buffet stations (Main lobster, roast beef, beef tenderloin, sausage (??) oysters, you name it) to the free flowing booze (Veuve Clicquot champagne, Marker's Mark Bourbon, you name it) to the live 12 piece band, to the 20 minute fireworks display.

All of Houston's movers and shakers were there. (and I was, too!) The Mayor, Rich Kinder (probably the richest guy in town) and everyone else you think makes Houston, Houston.

Happy 50th. Thanks for giving me a tiny view into another world.

November 12, 2009

Fado and Mariza

Last night we had two events - the Urban Green party at Hermann Park (it had a Circus theme, though I could not tell you why) and the Fado singer Mariza.

We only stayed at the party for a few moments, as Mariza started at 8:00 PM. It looked like it was going to be a happening party. They had sliders from Little Bigs, and I saw some pizza walking around as well.

We got to Jones hall about 5 minutes before the concert started, found our seats (almost the same seats we had for the Tom Waits concert) and settled in for a very pleasant couple of hours.

Fado is a traditional Portuguese form of music, and Mariza is its reigning queen. Fado means destiny or fate, and most of the tunes sound very sad and filled with longing.

I say "sound" because they are all in Portuguese. I don't speak Portuguese. The great thing is that you don't need to. While you listen to these songs you get transported back to another time. Imagine, maybe, sitting in a smokey bar, waiting for your letters of transit to get you out of Franco's Spain.

Or imagine that your loved one has disappeared over the horizon, and you are left behind in s steamy equatorial jungle on your own, perhaps never to see her again.

All very sad.

For her first encore, she asked the crowd where people were from besides the US and Portugal. She got quite a list: Israel, Venezuela, Turkey, Greece, Bosnia, Argentina, Mexico Colombia, Guatemala, France, The Netherlands, and Angola were the places that Doreen and I remembered. She woudl sing a little song from each country (that she could remember) it was nice. Then she sang "Smile" (though your heart is breaking) in English, one more encore un-amplified (we were close, but it was still very soft) and ended up with arousing, upbeat Fado.

It was a nice evening.

November 2, 2009

A test

This test is very similar to the one that I had to take to get my Mining Engineering degree:

(hat tip to cousin Claire)

In honor of the end of the semester, I present the following in-class exam. I’ve been told you can find this in William Nivak’s “The Big Book of New American Humor.”

Read each of the following fifteen problems carefully. Answer all parts to each problem.
Time limit: 4 hours. Begin immediately.

Describe the history of the papacy from its origin to the present day, concentrating especially, but not exclusively, on it social, political, economic, religious, and philosophical impact on Europe, Asia, America and Africa.
Be brief, concise and specific.

You have been provided with a razor blade, a piece of gauze, and a bottle of Scotch. Remove your appendix.
Do not suture until your work has been inspected. You have 15 minutes.

2500 riot-crazed aborigines are storming the classroom. Calm them. You may use any ancient language except Latin or Greek.

Create life. Estimate the differences in subsequent human culture if this form of life had developed 50 million years earlier, with special attention to its probable effect on the English parliamentary system. Prove your thesis.

Write a piano concerto. Orchestrate it and perform it with flute and drum. You will find a piano under your desk.

Based on your knowledge of their works, evaluate the emotional stability, degree of adjustment, and repressed frustrations of each of the following: Alexander of Aphrodites, Ramses II, Gregory of Nicea, and Hammurabi.
Support your evaluation with quotations from each man’s work, making appropriate references. It is not necessary to translate.

Estimate the sociological problems which might accompany the end of the world. Construct and experiment to test your theory.

The disassembled parts of a high-powered rifle have been placed on your desk. You will also find and instruction manual, printed in Swahili. In ten minutes a hungry Bengal tiger will be admitted to the room. Take whatever action you feel appropriate. Be prepared to justify your decision.

Develop a realistic plan for refinancing the national debt. Trace the possible effects of your plan in the following areas: Cubism, the Donatist controversy, and the wave theory of light. Outline a method for preventing these effects. Criticize this method from all possible points of view. Point out the deficiencies in your point of view, as demonstrated in your answer to the last question.

There is a red telephone on the desk beside you. Start World War III. Report at length on its social-political effects, if any.

Take a position for or against truth. Prove the validity of your position.

Create a small rapidly rotating black hole. Investigate and report on its effects on the opto-electric properties of Seaborgium (element #106). Clean up your experiment after you’ve finished.

Sketch the development of human thought and estimate its significance.
Compare with the development of any other kind of thought.

Define the universe. Give three examples.

Describe in detail. Be objective and specific.