Sunday, May 31, 2009

Get your mind out of the gutter reports as of 16:00 PDT today:
Attachment of shuttle Atlantis atop the modified 747 carrier jet is underway at today at the gantry-like Mate-Demate Device structure. The orbiter has been hoisted up and the aircraft towed underneath Atlantis in preparation for the duo to be bolted together.
This is so Atlantis can be ferried back to KSC after landing at Edwards last week.

In the past there's been some giggling when I've regaled you with stories of the Mate-Demate Device. But it's all true, and here's pictures to prove it. Note that NASA people sometimes have a sense of humor -- see the instructions on this mount point on a 747.

Rarely, a shuttle has to land in New Mexico. Do they have a MDD also? As of the end of 2006, apparently not:
"The concern out at White Sands is not with the runway facility, but with the turnaround," Shannon said. "We don't have the large mate-demate device that we use to lift up the orbiter and put it on the back fo the shuttle carrier aircraft (for transport back to Florida). Also, we don't have as much equipment there to service the vehicle. Basically, you power it down and wait for the calvary to arrive."

Just in case, two C-17 cargo jets were called up to ferry backup equipment from Kennedy to White Sands, including a purge unit to pump nitrogen gas through the shuttle's plumbing and a power system to run various heaters and other systems to defend against expected freezing weather Saturday night. Rocket nozzle covers also are being sent to keep out gypsum dust, which caused major contamination problems after Columbia landed at White Sands in 1982.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Metacognition, Motorcycles, Marmots

Just got back from a quick trip to Huntington Lake, where the thunderstorms were building again by 11am. In addition to the usual deer, we saw a marmot. First one I've seen at Huntington in over 40 years. Not to be confused with the pika, or the water ouzel of Sierra lore.

Not exciting enough for you? Try this: A lot of people are finding truth in "The case for working with your hands", published in the NYT Magazine. It takes a while to get there, but the author compares and contrasts being an electrician, an over-educated abstract writer, and a motorcycle repairer. And even works in metacognition:
Cognitive psychologists speak of “metacognition,” which is the activity of stepping back and thinking about your own thinking. It is what you do when you stop for a moment in your pursuit of a solution, and wonder whether your understanding of the problem is adequate. The slap of worn-out pistons hitting their cylinders can sound a lot like loose valve tappets, so to be a good mechanic you have to be constantly open to the possibility that you may be mistaken. This is a virtue that is at once cognitive and moral. It seems to develop because the mechanic, if he is the sort who goes on to become good at it, internalizes the healthy functioning of the motorcycle as an object of passionate concern. How else can you explain the elation he gets when he identifies the root cause of some problem?
It reminds me of Dirty Jobs guy's talk.

  • Interesting, short interview with the Nature Conservancy's advisor on freshwater.
    Worldwide, about 70 percent of freshwater goes for agricultural use, 20 percent for industrial use and 10 percent for human use. Other beverages, including beer, require far more water to produce than you would think.
  • What do emoticons really do? A Cognitive Daily study.
    For the insulting statements, both the Smile and the Wink led to more complimentary ratings, while the Exclamation Mark's ratings weren't significantly different from statements with no punctuation. For complimentary statements, both the Smile and Exclamation Mark led to more complimentary ratings, while the Wink's ratings weren't significantly different from statements with no ratings.

    So adding a wink or a smile can enhance the positive perception of a negative statement, but a wink doesn't change the rating of a positive statement. Smiles and exclamation marks both improve positive statements.
  • White paint to fight global warming.
    The Lawrence research he refers to (which we wrote about last fall) says that white roofs and pavements could mean a one-time reduction of 44 billion tons of carbon dioxide. That, Art Rosenfeld said, translates to removing all the cars in the world for 18 years.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Maynard Dixon

The Fresno Art Museum kicks off a summer exhibition featuring one of Fresno's famous sons, Maynard Dixon, with a documentary and Q&A with the film director and Dixon's son this Saturday.

Besides having a cool sounding name, his paintings of the west are great. The look like Sunset magazine covers :)
Sunset Gold Mining Number. Digital ID: 1258909. New York Public Library I don't think I'll ever own an original :)

Bonus: About the same time, another Fresno son was immortalized in this baseball poem (and now a street near the fairgrounds :)

Friday, May 22, 2009

Victual visuals

A couple of posts ago I linked to pictures of toasted cheese sandwiches.

I didn't realize this was so popular: there is a site and and a site.

Now go make a sammich.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

T-Fried and recess

Tom Friedman is coming to town to talk about his latest book, Hot, Flat, and Crowded at 5:30pm on June 25 at the Warnors. It's a benefit for the Met. I think he's a better speaker than writer, so this is a good opportunity if you don't want to read his latest tome :)

Also, "Does recess really improve classroom behavior?". Pretty interesting.

Monday, May 18, 2009

College majors, interviews

Week 5 of jury duty started today, so this has to be quick.

This is the time of year for college graduates looking for jobs. Fast Company has two relevant items: a "Life Lesson for College: Your Major Doesn't Matter" and "Hold that Interview". The latter talks about how unreliable interviews are for hiring (it reminds me of Bob Sutton's insight about the harm of annual performance evaluations).

Finally, GQ has a slideshow of fashion regrets. I only made it through about half the slideshow :)
We’re not proud of the images you’re about to see. But we’re proud of you, the GQ reader, for taking one look at pictures like these and saying, “You’ve got to be kidding”—and for still looking to us for guidance, even after we told you it was cool to leave the house dressed like a sex-dungeon proprietor, or a Renaissance Faire pimp, or the distinguished ambassador from the Sovereign Nation of Polyestra.
Bonus: Woman's Day explores the ten greatest grilled cheese sandwiches. Great pictures :) You might enjoy Tom Colicchio's "Gruyère with Caramelized Onions", on rye.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Asparagus, and Hanford homeboy

Three unbelievable things:
  • Reclusive Hanford native Steve Perry of Journey fame will perform in Honolulu. I'm not sayin' that's good or bad, I'm just sayin'.
  • You can induce false memories to get kids to eat asparagus (or adults to do things they don't want to do :), and
  • Week Four of jury duty started today.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Traffic, Snow, air travel

Steve RT'ed me about differences in road signage between the UK and the US. That reminded me that I wanted to post more about my current jury duty book Traffic, but there are so many things to mention I think you just have to read it :) It's pretty safe to say that much of what you think you know about driving and traffic isn't true when you look at objective data :) You might also remember a previous rant.

NPR's Science Friday celebrated the 50th anniversary of C.P. Snow's "Two Cultures" lecture at Cambridge.

Wouldn't it be great if Southwest Airlines served Fresno? And better yet, if FAT was changed officially to FYI? Why are the answers "not necessarily" and "not going to happen", respectively? At least we were first on this list (click on "Best"); Wichita Kansas was the worst.

Anyway, GPS-based airport navigation could save a bunch of money and BIS time.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Txting and commuting

Why are text messages limited to 160 characters? This LA Times article has the answer, and other tidbits such as:
U.S. mobile users sent an average of 357 texts per month in the second quarter of 2008 versus an average of 204 calls, the report said.
It's illegal in California to text while driving, so what else do we do? According to Traffic: Why we drive the way we do (and what it says about us),
Anonymity in traffic acts as a powerful drug, with several curious effects. ... the inside of the car itself becomes a useful place for self-expression. This may explain why surveys have shown that most people, given the choice, desire a minimum commute of at least twenty minutes. Drivers desire this solitary "me time" - to sing, to feel like a teenager again, to be temporarily free from the constricted roles of work and home. One study found that the car was a favored place for people to cry about something ("grieving while driving").

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Goats and jury duty

Besides talking about the Sierra Remote Observatories, some of us were also talking about using goats to get the 100 foot fire clearance in the foothills. Hard to believe, but goats eat poison oak and star thistle, even at its nastiest.

Speaking of nasty, Eric Slye really didn't want to do jury duty and let the court know. Yikes. It's not that bad.

Finally, although it is a self-selected sample, the Wakoopa data on what apps people are using, and when, is pretty interesting. I particularly liked this Tufte-esque diagram showing usage through the day (both work days and weekends).

I'm also still pondering this nugget from the Covert Comic: "There are no passengers on spaceship earth – we’re all sky marshals."

Friday, May 01, 2009

Magic, storm tracking

The most recent Wired is really good, besides an article about the Georgia henge I talked about earlier is one about Penn & Teller. The latter is a coauthor of an article in Nature Reviews Neuroscience "Attention and awareness in stage magic: turning tricks into research". It reminds me a little of Tog's classic "Magic and software design" that I've talked about before (he's also recently posted part two of a discussion about inclusive design). Speaking of inclusiveness, we've been emphaizing captioning of videos. Here's a little spoof that was going around today for you Woodstock fans.

Some bonus things:
  • Mike Oz at the Fresno Bee continues his "Worst flyer of the week" selections.
  • A couple of people asked me recently about the Sierra Remote Observatories in the mountains east of here.
  • I was looking at a street-level weather map here.
  • and finally, a story via Steve about rebooting.