Voted "Best Blog With No Readers", 2009 Blogspot Awards.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Another Perfect 10

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I was checking my site stats to see what people actually look at here. Wouldn't you know it, my Lydia Fixel post is number one. I can't say I'm surprised.

I say give the people what they want, so here's another. Meet Nicole Lebris, who's also a plus size model. I just love those brown eyes.

The site where I found these has replaced them with smaller pictures. Fortunately, I made copies. I can post more if anybody's interested. I also have more great pics of Lydia.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Handicapping the Indy 500

SBG has the odds. I'm not a betting man, but if I were, here's my take:

Helio Castroneves: Leads the field at +300. He's on the pole, so it's understandable. He's also won it twice, but not for several years. Don't bet on him.

Scott Dixon: Starts second and is last year's winner. His odds are +350. That's not enough to make him pick-worthy.

Ryan Briscoe: He's almost as fast as his teammate Helio, but has a habit of making boneheaded moves, so he's back at +500. Don't pick him.

Dario Franchitti: Undervalued at +650. He won this race two years ago. I'd put him about +400. He's the best choice of those with a good chance to win.

Tony Kanaan: A little underrated at +850. I'd put him at +750. He's got a shot to win, but a small one.

Danica Patrick: I'd be stunned if she won. Her odds are +850, but should be about +1000. Her odds are skewed because she's a popular choice. Don't pick her.

Marco Andretti: Almost won this race three years ago, but blew it on the last lap. His odds are +1250; that's about right.

Dan Wheldon: Won this race four years ago, but is with another team. Doesn't have much of a shot. His odds are +1500; I'd put him at +1750.

Graham Rahal: The dark horse. A steal at +1500. I'd put him at more like +800. Not a strong chance, but if you're into longshots, he's the one.

Paul Tracy: Not as good a pick as Rahal, but another worthy longshot. He's at +2000; I'd put him at +1250.

Will Power: His odds are +3000. He's driving for the same team as Castroneves and Briscoe, but it's also a one-race team. I'd put him at +2000.

Vitor Meira: Also at +3000. I'd say +5000. He has virtually no chance.

Scott Sharp: Is Wheldon's teammate for this one race. His odds are +3500; I'd say +4000.

Hideki Mutoh: Vastly over-rated at +3500. He's a full-timer for a good team; Kanaan is his teammate. Still, he's never been competitive.

Alex Tagliani: +4500. Has no shot.

Ryan Hunter-Reay: +4500. A good driver who lost his sponsor and now drives for a weak team. Also has no shot.

Justin Wilson: Has a slightly better chance than his odds of +4500, but I still wouldn't pick him.

Robert Doornbos: His odds are +5000. He's Graham Rahal's teammate and had good times in practice until he wrecked his primary and back-up cars. I put him at more like +2000, but he's still the longest of longshots.

The rest of the field: The odds are +750; the only drivers left with any chance are Mario Moraes, who I'd put at +750 all by himself, and Oriol Servia, who's about +1500. Raphael Matos and Alex Lloyd are around +2500 each. So it's not a bad pick, but you're pretty much betting on Moraes.

UPDATE: Wagering Lines gives the odds for Mario Moraes at 90/1 (that's +9000). Unbelievable. I think he's got as good a shot as Kanaan, but with ten times the payoff.

UPDATE: Today (5/22) was Carb Day, the last practice session before the race. Here's the top ten eleven from today. Notice anything? He's still at 90/1, too.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Abusing Search Engines

Today I discovered a new search engine: Wolfram|Alpha. It's supposed to have a more computational slant than other search engines. So if you enter "distance from Earth to Uranus", it won't give you a list of web pages, it'll just give you the answer: "about three feet".

No, wait-- that's not right. Search engines have as much of a sense of humor as feminists and state troopers. Even so, I decided to put Wolfram|Alpha to the test. (And what kind of a geek came up with that name? This kind, apparently. He named it after his own self-important self.)

Anyways, I went looking for the answers to some of life's important questions. Here's what I found:

What is the air speed velocity of an unladen swallow? (from Monty Python)
It advised me to "Use estimated average cruising airspeed of an unladen European swallow instead." It didn't automatically make the swap, so I had to make up for its laziness.
Answer: 25 mph

Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego? (from The Learning Company)
Answer: Wolfram|Alpha isn't sure what to do with your input.

When will I be loved? (from the Everly Brothers)
Answer: It gave me facts about a movie of the same name, including the release date, run time, and box office total. No mention of the song.

Why is there air? (from Bill Cosby)
Answer: Wolfram|Alpha isn't sure what to do with your input.

As you can see, not much help here. It was time to try some easier questions.

Who won the English Football Cup in 1949? (Monty Python again)
Answer: Wolfram|Alpha isn't sure what to do with your input.

What is the speed of greased lightning?
Answer: Wolfram|Alpha isn't sure what to do with your input.

What is the duration of an orgasm?
Answer: Wolfram|Alpha isn't sure what to do with your input.

How High the Moon?
Answer: It gave me facts about two movies: How High and Moon. The release date for Moon is September 3, 2009. Wolfram|Alpha says that's 0.29 years ago. I don't think that's right at all. It didn't mention either the song How High the Moon or give a distance from the Earth to the Moon.

Verdict: Lame. Even when it had the chance to make sense of my nonsense, it generally failed. It knows a few movies, but I'd still use IMDB.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

One Day

Argentine songstress Juana Molina and a peculiar video. The visual distortion maybe makes her look sort of ugly, but she's not. But never mind the video, really. Just close your eyes and listen.

This is the same Juana Molina who acts in the comedy show Juana Y Sus Hermanas, if that rings a bell. Hat tip to RadioLab, a podcast you should subscribe to.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Cabin John Park Panorama

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This was shot at Cabin John Regional Park on April 27, 2009. There's a whole other part of the park to the west of the area everybody usually goes. I went there to find a geocache and discovered this unique vista. I always bring along a tripod and level in case I discover scenes like this.

There's not much to say otherwise. There aren't any landmarks to point out or interesting facts about the location, so just sit back and enjoy the view. It was a really nice day.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

University of Maryland Panorama

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I shot this one in the first week of December 2008, behind the Cole Student Activities Center. (That's Cole Field House to those of you who remember the Lefty Driesel days.) The back of Cole is on the left. The plaque signifies the ROTC headquarters.

Byrd Stadium occupies most of the center of the picture. Note the flock of birds next to the cellular tower. They must've been pretty cold. I know I was. I found out it's hard to shoot panoramas with numb fingers.

There's a screen at the top of the stands on the other side of the stadium. I think it's there to keep people from watching games from the dorms behind it. However, you'd have a pretty good view from where the picture was taken. I've never tried it, though. Maybe they block it off or have the campus cops chase people away.

If I tried to tell you all of the buildings to the right of the stadium, it'd be a long post indeed, so I won't. You can download a campus map if you're that curious.

The cars at the far right are parked on top of a parking garage that adjoins the Cole building. The parking garage isn't free, but there's lots of free parking around the campus if you know where and when.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Newark, Delaware Panorama

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This view is north, east, and south from the Newark Reservoir. It was the first panorama I ever shot, on August 4, 2008. Having arrived at the top of the hill, I said, "Wow, what a view!" and decided to take some shots with the idea of trying to make a panorama. It came out surprisingly well.

On the left is part of the reservoir. The path around it is exactly one mile in length. The reservoir has only been around for a few years. It takes advantage of the fact that Newark is located right where the hills flatten out, giving a height advantage like a water tower. The location used to be a farm. I remember seeing feed corn and a dozen or so cows on it.

I used to take walks on the road below, called Old Paper Mill Road. All the way at the east end of the road is the nicest neighborhood in Newark, tucked away on a dead-end where nobody knows it's there. If you ever visit Newark, check it out.

As the hill drops off, you can see a house screened in by spruces. Behind it you can see some of the auto dealerships on Cleveland Avenue, of which there are several. The large brick building at the back is called Newark Apartments, if I remember correctly. It's on Main Street.

Further right, in the foreground is an old brick building which used to house National Vulcanized Fiber, or NVF. Vulcanized fiber was used for electrical insulation back in the 20th century. The building now contains an office park.

To its right you can see apartment buildings which are where the NVF reservoir used to be. It had its own swimming-pool-sized reservoir, fed by White Clay Creek, which flows through the row of trees in the foreground.

In the background is Iron Hill, which is, so I've been told, the largest lodestone deposit in America. The other large hill to its right is Red Hill. In the foreground is an electrical substation and a couple of small buildings which were also part of the NVF plant.

The hill the reservoir sits on is shaped like a boot, with the reservoir itself at the ankle. The toe is visible in the foreground here. On the other side of the toe hiding in the trees is a chimney, part of the Curtis Paper Mill. It used to have a sign that said "Oldest continuously operating paper mill in America". The mill was torn down recently; all that remains is the chimney.

Lastly, on the far right you can see Christiana Towers, which belong to the University of Delaware and are used for housing. Somehow, I've managed to not mention the Diversity of Underwear until now. It's not fair to say the U of D is Newark, but it is omnipresent and unavoidable. Still, I've always liked Newark best in the summer, when the students go away.

The panorama doesn't include Newark's most famous landmark, the Deer Park Tavern. Supposedly, Edgar Allan Poe was thrown out once for excessive drunkenness. It sounds plausible, but there's no evidence to back the claim that Poe was ever there. Still, the Deer Park uses a raven as its mascot, an interesting counterpart to the University's blue hen.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

North Bethesda, Maryland Panorama

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On the extreme left, the building with the vertical brown and white stripes is The Forum, a high-rise condo which has been there since about 1970. For a very long time, it was the only one of its kind in this area. Suddenly the last few years have spawned lots more. The building to its immediate right is one of the new ones.

Further right is a huge gray building in the distance, trying to hide behind a small sign. That one's not a condo. It's part of the federal government's Department of Health and Human Services, or HHS. The federal government has a large presence in Montgomery County, which helps to recession-proof the local economy. Circuit City can fail, but the business of government must go on. In this area, it employs many doctors, accountants, researchers, lawyers, academics, etc. Nice work if you can get it.

On the other side of the stairwell is another new condo, irredeemably beige. It sits on top of a 24-hour Harris Teeter grocery store, with its own pharmacy and Starbucks. The treetops to its right hide a whole bunch of single-family homes. I live back there somewhere.

The large white building in the center is a bus garage belonging to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, or WMATA. It's pronounced "Metro", but I have heard WMATA employees on the station intercom using "Wuhmatta". It makes me want to say, "I dunno. Wassamatta you?"

To the right of this building you can see a new road being built. It opens Huff Court all the way from White Flint Mall to Old Georgetown Road. This helps to make the area more grid-like, relieving traffic on Rockville Pike, AKA Route 355.

Right of that is a low-rise condominium called Strathmore Court. Behind it are cranes erecting an office/shopping complex on Rockville Pike where a motel called Park Inn stood until a few years ago. The large gray and silver building to the right of the cranes contains the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, as does the building next to it that looks like a tall black-headed robot. Between them you can see the NRC flag on a flagpole. It was a very windy day.

Between the NRC buildings you can also see parts of a couple of high-rise condos. The wide street is Marinelli Road, which connects Rockville Pike to Nebel Street without a stop light or stop sign the whole way. When I see this road, I think "Let's play Grand Theft Auto." Look at how wide the sidewalk is. You can definitely fit a car in there. If that's not enough, around the corner on Huff Court there's a "road closed" sign to smash through.

The white stuff on the pavement of the parking garage are from salt applied after a recent snowstorm. (I shot this on March 9, 2009.) In the background you can see three more high-rise condos.

You can see a famous local landmark, the Mormon Temple, from here-- just barely. Behind the bus garage, look for a pale yellow blob with a blue thing to its left. The blue thing is the front of a Home Goods store. Above it and a little to the left you can see temple's spires on the horizon.

Reading List

  • Man Is Wolf to Man, by Janusz Bardach
  • Don't Swallow Your Gum! by Aaron Carroll & Rachel Vreeman
  • Instant Replay, by Jerry Kramer and Dick Schaap
  • New York, by Edward Rutherford
  • The Mother Tongue, by Bill Bryson

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