Saturday, February 19, 2011

Friday, February 18, 2011

Nova... Smartest Machine on Earth


Watch the full episode. See more NOVA.

This is for hale and anyone else who is interested. I'm pretty sure this is the program I saw last week on PBS.

Safe Haven law

I never knew this, now I feel sorry for the girl who put her baby in the dumpster when she could have been cover under this law. Now she is in trouble with the law.

Sad, sad, sad......

Safe Haven Law

WHO'S NEXT????




OH MAN...AM I NAUGHTY!!!



Opposing viewpoint - The Walker Bill

Thanks for turning me around KK. You put forth your position intelligently and without inflaming opposing viewpoints. I have been keeping my thoughts to myself for various reasons including my "part-time" job, as well getting flamed on FB and the like. However, for your reading enjoyment here goes:

I support Governor Walkers proposal for the following reasons:

The state is broke. Previous administrations from both sides of the aisle raided, overfunded, underfunded and moved funds around to balance the budget. There isn't anything to move anymore. Public employees have very cheap health care. Even with the increase proposed they will STILL be below what the average private sector employee. They have to pay more for insurance and pension or job cuts will happen. Take your pick.

This is also about the unions not being able to automatically deduct for dues anymore. They are losing their moneypot and are ticked off. Teachers in RUSD pay more for the union dues then for healthcare. Something is wrong about that.

19 states and the Obama federal government do not allow public sector employees to unionize. What Walker is doing is not a radical idea.

Something has to be done to reduce the budget. Everyone will feel the pain on this. Local units of government will feel it as well. We need to fix this before we turn in to the next California. This is not an attack on Teachers, or DPW or Firemen. It's the economic crash coming home to roost.

Thanks for reading my opinion, which like you I am entitled to have.

Well thought out comments welcome from all sides. Attacks and flames will be deleted.

Buckyballs in Space

Just a quick note that I should have posted yesterday. The National Optical Astronomy Observatory is producing a podcast each month for the 365 Days of Astronomy podcast. Our podcasts will air on the 17th of each month. One part of my job is tracking down NOAO scientists to interview them for this project (the January episode was on the Galileoscope).

The February episode was posted yesterday and features an interview with NOAO astronomer Letezia Stanghellini about her research on Buckyballs in planetary nebula, titled Buckyballs in Space. Buckyballs are unique molecules made out of pure carbon that would look like a soccer ball if you magnified them. They are very strong with a lot of unique properties and potential applications in medicine.

I am working on the March edition today...stay tuned for more!

Reprinted with permission from the Half-Astrophysicist Blog.

The Solar System as Seen From Messenger

The Mercury Messenger spacecraft is just about to go into orbit in March. It's has taken years to get to this point. Messenger has already done a couple of flybys of Mercury, but it has a lot of time to kill while getting line up for its orbital insertion.

In November, Messenger turned its cameras outward to look at the other planets in the solar system. They just released the image today. Here it is.


You can see all the planets except Uranus and Neptune. The positions of where they would be are marked (sorry Pluto, you don't count in this one). Messenger is not exactly in the plane of the solar system (the ecliptic) so it had to point its camera slightly up or down to see all the planets resulting in that curved shape. If you look closely between Neptune and Mars, you can see the Milky Way!

Every time we see our solar system from a new perspective, it gives us a little better idea of our place in the universe. I just love when NASA takes the time to let their craft capture these unique images!

Reprinted with permission from the Half-Astrophysicist Blog.

"I For One Welcome Our New Computer Overlords"

This week, Jeopardy had a unique series of shows air Monday through Wednesday (just in time for sweeps, coincidence?) Two former Jeopardy champions, Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter, played two games against Watson, an IBM supercomputer.

If you don't know what happened and don't want spoilers, stop reading now (of course I think most of you are well enough informed that you probably ran across the coverage by now!)

Everyone gone who hasn't seen it? Good.

Watson kicked this asses. You might think that a computer would easily win at Jeopardy, but it's a much more complicated problem that you think. Jeopardy clues are frequently based on puns and wordplay. The answers often give clues to the question. Sometimes I can think of more than one right question, but a combination of the answer and the category guides you to the right one. Computers are very good at looking up information in a database. Understanding natural language, puns and wordplay, that's a much more difficult computer program to write!

One of the interesting things they did was have Watson produce a graphic showing his top three choices for answers and his confidence level in each. Watson had a threshold to buzz in, he had to be confident of his answers or he wouldn't buzz in. Watson was very quick on the buzzer and you could tell Jennings and Rutter were frustrated. They knew many of the answers and were just beaten to the buzzer. Watson missed final Jeopardy the first night but was very far ahead and made a small wager (I took consolation in the fact that I knew that final Jeopardy!)

Watson made mistakes and didn't always understand the question. Once Watson said the same incorrect answer that was just given by Jennings.

Okay, so computers are now superior right? Well, one thing I noticed is that the second game was much closer than the first, Jennings and Rutter seemed to learn how to play against Watson. What would have happened in a third game? With practice, could they beat it? Does Watson have the ability to learn (without the input of external programmers) to stay ahead of the human challengers? It was an interesting exhibition, but I think these are a few questions that would be fun to explore as well.

And the quote in the title of my blog? Ken Jennings added that to his final Jeopardy answer on the second day. It's a reference to the Simpsons episode when Homer flies on the space shuttle. Some ants in a science experiment escape and one of them floats in front of a camera during a live broadcast leading Kent Brockmant to conclude that the shuttle was taken over by giant ants and say, "I for one welcome our new insect overlords". I don't think Watson understood the joke.

UPDATE: Here is the clip from the Simpsons

Four for Fridays

Hello everybody! Yep another Friday is here and it's time for Four for Fridays! This week's questions are about the radio.

1) What is your favorite radio station?

2) Do you think the radio overplays songs?

3) If so, which ones?

4) What would you like to hear on the radio?

Enjoy your weekend!

Open Blog - Friday


'Ponch' wants you to know what day it is. 

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Walker Bill

I don't like to use this forum to go political, but I am compelled to make a statement. I personally want to thank the democratic representation for slowing down this political "rush it through"  and "stick it to the union" plan by Governor Walker.  What a shame that our Senators had to resort to fleeing the state to hide like children from voting. To me, pushing this through at this speed, only shows there is no willingness to hear debate of any kind. To me, there is not full disclosure as to why only wages can be negotiated, not working conditions, curriculum or worker's rights. The restrictions proposed in this bill make it impossible for union representation or protection. Even President Obama  is denouncing Walker's aggressiveness by calling it short-sightedness.

The commercials and the governor want you to believe workers are simply whiners and greedy. The biggest issue being argued is NOT about the money that teachers and state workers will forfeit. This is not about paying a fair share for pensions and health care. This is about the right to representation. The right to collectively bargain. This is about fair and reasonable labor practices being followed by those who repeatedly have shown they don't play fairly or reasonably. Do we really want RUSD and the school board to have full domain over decision making in Racine without repercussion?

I am hourly. I went to work today. I checked the news in the morning, but the official decision to close schools came only 10 minutes before my start time and was not relayed to workers in a timely fashion. I was sent home. No work, no pay.  I was then called back an hour and a half later. I sat in an empty building with no students. There was money to pay me and many others for that? This day will need to be made up at the end of the school year... and they will have to pay me again. I only hope that tomorrow, the same idiotic decision making doesn't have me running around not knowing how to proceed.

The people who make decisions should not be allowed carte blanche in how education is run without having those who live it and witness it first hand looking over their shoulder and holding them somewhat accountable. They have demonstrated on may occasions that they make very bad, not thought-through decisions. One example that comes to mind is the decision to move their administration building. That was condemned by the public, but they rammed that through in a closed session vote. Watch out, Racine, they have an awe-inspiring whopper of a referendum they plan to spring on you next.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Does Anybody Else Think this Commercial is Weird?



It's not that it offends me. It just seems stupid to market your product as delicious if you eat someone who has eaten it. I don't know, maybe it's just me.

Here's the 30 second version: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6e0Gsn4khss

Price Reduction on Birthday Cake

Here you go, Sassa..... Happy Belated Birthday. You don't get a day older if you forget to celebrate! :)

Of course, it is Danish Layer Cake!

Science on my iPod

I have been busy but want to get back into the habit of more frequent blogs again. I will kick that off by posting something I have meant to for a long time: the science and tech podcasts I listen to on a regular basis. Some of these are tech, some science, some specifically astronomy. I know there are a lot of great shows out there and I can't listen to them all so feel free to add your favorites in the comments. All of these are free subscriptions so there is no excuse not to try them if you think they look interesting!

I am putting these in alphabetical order since that's the way they display on iTunes!

Are We Alone : AWA as it is known is a weekly podcast from the SETI Institute. Seth Shostak, Molly Bentley and the gang tackle a different topic each week in a lighthearted, humorous manner, interviewing a wide variety of scientists in the process.

Astronomy Cast : Pamela Gay and Fraser Cain take you on a weekly facts based journey through the cosmos in the form of an informal conversation. If I ever go back to teaching, I would love to use this series instead of a textbook for an introductory astronomy course. Yes, it's that good.

Buzz Out Loud : BOL is a daily podcast "of indeterminate length" about developments in the tech world. Quirky, funny and informative. You will be hooked after you hear your first "Molly rant".

Geologic Podcast : Not quite a hard science/tech podcast but I think it belongs here anyway. Skeptic/musician George Hrab, well how to describe it. He can talk passionately about music, science, skepticism and any other weird thing that happens to him that week. Careful if you listen to it in the gym...I don't want anyone dropping weights on themselves from laughter!

IT Conversations : IT Convserations is a channel dedicated to information technology. I found them carrying the series Tech Nation with Dr. Moria Gunn. There is much more here as they carry talks from TED and many annual meetings including the O'Reilly Emerging Media Conference, Web 2.0, Where 2.0, Emerging Telephony and many others. I don't listen to every show in this feed because there are so many and lots of them are very technical in areas outside my areas of interest (although I imagine others would love them). Still there are a lot of gems in this feed.

Lab Out Loud : The National Science Teacher's Association podcast. Targeted at science teachers but frequently has interviews that would interest a general audience as well.

Naked Astronomy : Monthly podcast on astronomy news with typical British humor.

The Naked Scientists : Weekly science podcast with British wit (this week: What makes mucas green?)

Nature Podcast : Weekly podcast from the journal Nature, one of the big names in science journals.

Science Friday : NPR's weekly podcast with Ira Flatow that covers current science stories.

Skepticality : The official podcast of Skeptic magazine features interviews with noted skeptics and scientists.

The Skeptic's Guide to the Universe : "Your Escape to Reality" starts each show. SGU takes on pseudoscience, medical quackery, and doomsday nonsense every week. They will feel like old friends after a few weeks.

Skeptoid : Brian Dunning's short (~10 minutes) weekly podcast takes on a different topic each week. Well researched and entertaining.

This Week in Science : "The Kick Ass Science Podcast" is the tag line. They do their best to live up to it with fun and interesting conversations on the latest science news.

This Week in Tech : A long and leisurely review of the week's tech news with Leo Laporte and friends.

WNYCs Radio Lab : Radio Lab is a very well produces series that explores different topics in science. My big complaint is that they don't air episodes more frequently, but they put a lot of time and effort into each show.

The 365 Days of Astronomy Podcast : Originally conceived for the International Year of Astronomy in 2009, it just keeps going. Each day features about a 10 minute podcast on a different topic produced by professional and amateur astronomers from around the world. I am producing one a month for the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (we have the 17th of each month), work on the Dark Skies podcasts we produce and do some on topics of personal interest as well.

As you can tell, I listen to a lot of podcasts while running, at the gym, commuting and at home. With all the free content out there presented in different styles, there is no excuse not to be well informed (oh, and I listen to things OTHER than science podcasts as well, but that is another blog!)

Reprinted with permission from the Half-Astrophysicist Blog.

Dear Madame Zoltar

Hello, my warming trendsetters! How are you? Hasn’t it been lovely to watch so much snow melt? And ugly, too, when it reveals all the dirt and debris beneath. Those huge piles of snow by the lake in Pershing Park are incredible. I drove by and almost expected to see a St. Bernard dog with a keg of brandy on patrol up there. Never in my life have I seen such accumulations of snow in Racine. We really are getting a break with the warm up to melt it, as long as flooding doesn’t occur.

Racine’s mayoral primary was yesterday, so Eric Marcus and John Dickert will face each other in the April 5th election. May the best man (Eric Marcus) win.

It’s been a slow week, my dears, so I don’t have a lot to blog about. Now that the Packers have secured the Super Bowl, I should let you know that I am not a March Madness type girl. Basketball has never moved me the way that football does. It must have something to do with all that brute, male force in football. Oh my.

I know there is a major brouhaha occurring now over our new governor’s budget bill. I don’t think that anything I could say would add to the debate. I tend to keep my opinions focused on more local issues, where my voice is more likely to be heard. When I have insomnia, I call my alderman and complain about problems in the neighborhood. That’s how I do my part.

I was happy to see Mr. OrbsCorbs’ blog concerning the return of the Racine Post. Those gentlemen over there have always done such a marvelous job of covering the Racine scene. While I’m heaping on the praise, I should also mention Racine Uncovered and the marvelous job that Ms. Beth does on reporting crime and political shenanigans in Racine. We are fortunate to have such a vibrant online community.

Finally, I assume that you’ve already seen this, but in case you haven’t, here is the cutest Volkswagen commercial:



Thank you, thank you, dear Irregulars and regulars alike, for taking time to read my blog today. I so enjoy your company. It’s soothing to sip a cup of coffee, watch the snow melt, and read the JT Irregulars. Are you already anticipating the first blossoms of spring? I am.

Please send your campaign dirt and bomb threats to: madamezoltar@jtirregulars.com.

It was very slippery went I went out earlier today. Be careful out there, my dears. The snow may be melting, but there are still huge piles at some intersections, limiting your vision. Take your time and you’ll get there. Tyrotoxism!

Open Blog - Wednesday


Melting, messy, mushy slush. 


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

"Two Racine doctors among seven indicted in drug case"


http://www.jsonline.com/news/crime/116268219.html

Cocaine.  Sheesh.

The 2011 Interactive Budget

The New York Times has put up an interactive graphic of Obama's proposed 2011 budget. They did this last year as well (and I believe I linked to it here as well). Each part of the budget is to scale so you can see how much is spent on different programs and can play the "I can cut this budget easily" game. Here is a snapshot of this year's budget.

I know you can't read everything here..the interactive graphic lets you zoom in to see what those small squares are. The colors indicated whether the funding has increased or decreased from last year.

Spending is only half the issue. I would love to see an interactive graphic that shows where the government revenue comes from.

Today is Racine's Primary Election Day




So many sacrificed so much for your right to vote.  Please use it. 

Monday, February 14, 2011

Find your Polling station

You can't vote if you don't know where to go. Use this handy interactive website to find where you need to go.

http://www.cityofracine.org/City/Departments/Clerk/Poll.aspx?id=196

John Dickert and the "Embezzler"

I've been informed that Mayor Dickert spoke on WRJN yesterday. I believe he does that regularly, but I don't listen to the station, so I don't know. Apparently, he referenced a problem with his Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP). He said there had been an "embezzler," who he fired. As it turns out, the only person fired from the NSP was Bill Bielefeldt, the city's award-winning lead abatement specialist who blew the whistle on lying John's lead paint removal violations in the NSP. Lying John responded by firing Bill, and Brian O'Connell sent the police to Bill's house to intimidate him. You can read the history here: http://news.racinepost.com/2010/09/racine-housing-program-creating-lead.html
http://news.racinepost.com/2010/10/racine-police-used-to-deliver-letters.html
http://news.racinepost.com/2010/10/whistleblower-forces-racine-to-clean-up.html

As I understand it, lying John and his cronies have been desperate to get something on Bill ever since they fired him. They've tried a number of different approaches, but nothing would stick. It appears that Mr. Bielefeldt is honest. (That alone would scare the hell out of a pathological liar like Dickert.) So I guess they've settled on "embezzler" as the purported reason for firing Bill, months after the fact, and minus any apparent criminal investigation.

Once the dust settles, there will be a wrongful termination lawsuit filed against the city. Mr. Bielefeldt will win (or, more likely, the city will settle), and the citizens of Racine will have to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for lying John's deceit and arrogance.

Party on, lying John!

Why Doesn't Anyone Tell Me These Things?

The Racine Post is back, sort of: http://news.racinepost.com/2011/01/so-where-were-we.html

I think this is great news, even if the site will not be the same as before. I've truly missed the Post. I hope they have some input on our upcoming mayoral election.

Open Blog - Valentine's Day


Who is your Valentine?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Spring time humor

Four brothers left home for college, and they became successful doctors and lawyers and prospered. Some years later, they chatted after having dinner together.. They discussed the gifts they were able to give their elderly mother who lived far away in another city.

The first said, "I had a big house built for Mama."

The second said, " I had a hundred thousand dollar theater built in the house."

The third said, "I had my Mercedes dealer deliver an SL600 to her."

The fourth said, "You know how Mama loved reading the Bible and you know she can't read anymore because she can't see very well. I met this preacher who told me about a parrot that can recite the entire Bible. It took twenty preachers 12 years to teach him. I had to pledge to contribute $100,000 a year for twenty years to the church, but it was worth it. Mama just has to name the chapter and verse and the parrot will recite it."

The other brothers were impressed. After the holidays Mom sent out her Thank You notes.

She wrote: "Milton, the house you built is so huge I live in only one room, but I have to clean the whole house. Thanks anyway."

"Marvin, I am too old to travel. I stay home, I have my groceries delivered, so never use the Mercedes. The thought was good. Thanks."

"Michael, you gave me an expensive theater with Dolby sound, it could hold 50 people, but all of my friends are dead, I've lost my hearing and I'm nearly blind. I'll never use it. Thank you for the gesture just the same.."

"Dearest Melvin, you were the only son to have the good sense to give a little thought to your gift. The chicken was delicious. Thank you."

Love you,
MAMA

45.4 °F



45.4 °F in West Racine at 4:18 PM, according to Weather Underground.

HOORAY!!!

We now return you to our regularly scheduled programming.