Friday, May 25, 2007

My nemesis

A significant portion of my late spring is weed whacking star thistle, one of the nastiest weeds around. The Nature Conservancy does the same thing, but on a much larger scale, using a helicopter (no, not upside down as a weed whacker). There's a good article in the latest Nature Conservancy magazine (which lots of pictures) -- here's a quote:

Standing on the east rim of the canyon, the river thousands of feet below, you can see a lot of that ground, and it’s all at risk, particularly from a weed called yellow star thistle.

“It’s nasty stuff,” Talsma says. “It’s just a crying shame.”

... The plant first came to North America from Mediterranean countries in tainted loads of clover seed or alfalfa shipped to California in the Gold Rush days. From there, it has marched steadily east. It bears a pretty yellow flower, but that’s the only nice thing to say about it.

Here's even more pictures, courtesy of UCB.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Jumpseats, Cars, Beaches

I've been reading the blog of a NWA 757 pilot. Recently he was in the jumpset of a Hawaiian Airlines 717 from Honolulu to Hilo, and soared on the north shore. Interesting pictures in both, but it sounds like he prefers his 757:
After all, if I miscalculate a bit, I have those magnificent, high compression, high bypass, twin rotor, axial flow, turbofan, Pratt & Whitney R-2040's, producing more than 80,000 pounds of thrust to bail me out. In thrust we trust, let's fire this baby up!

Changing the subject, the annual report of water quality of California beaches is available. Because of low rainfall this year there wasn't as much contamination from run off, but I did find this paragraph:

In a recent study on enteric viruses at Imperial Beach and the Tijuana River mouth, researchers reported a number of hepatitis A virus strains. Because untreated human fecal waste from Tijuana sewage outfalls is a major pollution source to coastal waters near the US/Mexican border, human fecal bacterial densities (E. coli and
Enterocci) during wet weather exceeded state water quality standards in 86% (12 of 14) of the samples in the study. Exceptionally high concentrations of these human fecal indicator bacteria were significantly correlated with high concentrations of hepatitis A virus and enterovirus. Three strains of poliovirus were also detected

Polio? yuck.

Changing the subject again, an interesting paper in the Proceedings of the IEEE volume 95 issue 2 (2007) about the software running in modern cars. The article is fairly understandable and not too technical. Here's the citation:

Engineering Automotive Software. Manfred Broy; Ingolf H. Kruger; Alexander Pretschner; Christian Salzmann. Page(s): 356-373 vol 95 issue 2 (2007). Digital Object Identifier (DOI) 10.1109/JPROC.2006.888386

If you are a Fresno State person, you can click on and paste in the article's DOI (10.1109/JPROC.2006.888386).

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Enhanced color vision

Speaking of HCI, another topic in my class is enhanced color vision. I first read about this in Glenn Zorpette's article "Looking for madam tetrachromat" (you can read a plain text version or see the article in the Red Herring archives if you log in). The idea is that there are women with extra photo receptors.

This has also been a good Damn Interesting story (with some nice illustrations).

I was reminded of this again because the May/June 2007 Technology Review had a short review of a recently published Science article describing genetically engineered mice with an extra photoreceptor. Eventually you'll be able to see the blurb in the Tech Review "From the Labs" archive, but until then you can read the abstract of the Science article.

Actually, I fooled around with different URLs and I think you can see the May/June 2007 issue of Tech Review before it is officially released. You might want to check out the Objects of Desire photoessay, in addition to the enhanced mice.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Time: Subjective and Objective

One of my favorite things to have HCI students read is Tog's short description of an experiment showing the difference between objective and subjective time. (Tog also talks about the manipulation of time in the classic "Principles, Techniques, and Ethics of Stage Magic and Their Application to Human Interface Design" in which he talks about the mirrors-by-the-elevators anecdote (also repeated by Ackoff & Rovin in "The Ups and Downs of Elevators" section of Beating the system: Using creativity to outsmart bureaucracies and also appearing as a Joel on Software topic)).

Anyway, The whole point of this post is that Tog recently posted an update including a funny example of airlines that "get it" and "don't" when it comes to objective and subjective time. You can skip all that stuff above and read this :)

Santa Barbara whales

A gray whale was swimming around by the wharf in downtown Santa Barbara (still alive, but maybe suffering from the “Unusual Mortality Event" that's killing marine mammals.

A nutty student tried to steal teeth from a recently washed-up sperm whale and was arrested.