July 14, 2008

Berkeley Springs Photos

I've setup a webshots.com site for the Columbia Ski Club and I've posted photos from the July 2008 Berkeley Springs trip.

Berkely Springs, WV - July 2008

July 07, 2008

Play Date with Little Richard

No, not that Little Richard! I mean this one. Isn't he cute? Richard is the work in progress of 2 nice people, Ted and Jeannie. On July 5th, I had the privilege of being 5-day-old Richard's first play date. As Ted and Jeannie reported in their blog, the day before, Richard had his first cookout and dining out. I don't think he picked up the tab. Anyway, we had a good time on his first walk in his high-tech stroller. I'm pretty sure Richard slept through the whole walk; I guess he'll just have to read his parent's blog to remember it. Ted was a real natural when it came to feeding the little guy; Richard was totally peaced out cradled in Ted's arm. Jeannie spared me the diaper changing experience. And of course her maternal instincts came into play during the stroll.

So where's the head scratcher in this post, you ask? Why in the world does this stroller have a substantial PDF user's guide with more than 40 pages of supposedly self-describing drawings, yet the captions (in all PC multi languages) appear completely separate from the illustrations? Sure, in a printed manual this might work if you keep your place in both spots at once, but how can you do this with a PDF? Net result was this stroller was a real challenge to assemble. JHU and NASA should be proud of the Leoutsakos parents.

July 06, 2008

Cape May Photos - June 2008

Well, I finally broke down and registered for a free photo publishing web site called webshots.com. My main motivation was to publish photos I'd taken on a Cape May (NJ) trip with the Columbia Ski Club ("We do more than ski"). Pretty easy to use interface, especially when you figure out that you can upload a whole folder at once by multiply selecting all the files when you browse to the folder. The free account is limited to 1,000 photos but that's enough for many of us (except maybe Sue ;-)

Life Before Cell Phones?

Does anyone remember what our daily lives were like prior to the advent of cell phones? Way back when people could only reach you when you were home or at work (or thru email)? Back when you could go grocery shopping without hearing some loud mouthed idiot talking practically in your ear as they just happen to be contemplating the items on the shelf next to you, or standing behind you in the checkout line? Or carrying on some private conversation while standing in other store lines so loudly that you cannot hear or be heard by the sales clerk? Or when people generally used two hands and a mostly full brain to drive a car before they came to consider signaling and paying attention as optional while they are on their cell? How about riding a bicycle? The other day, I saw a teenager riding a bike on a busy road (175) at rush hour while talking on his cell phone. Do you think he was paying attention to the cars that were whizzing by him?

Don't get me wrong. I carry a cell phone and occasionally use it in public settings and when driving. But when I do, I try to be mindful of the people around me and I pay attention to my environment. I don't want to become a statistic. Do you?

June 28, 2008

Umbrella, ella, ella, ella

Not being fond of getting wet, I always take an umbrella with me whenever the Washington Post says there will be thunderstorms or a high probability of rain. I don't consult the Baltimore Sun, but perhaps I should since I live between DC and Balto. Friday was spent in Arlington, a long haul by car and Metro. On the return just before we pulled into the Greenbelt station at the end of the Green line, it started raining. By the time we exited the Metro, it was pouring very hard. Of course, this was a rare occasion when I did not bring an umbrella or even a jacket. At least a hundred commuters were massed together inside the station not wanting to brave the elements. Well, I was pretty anxious to get home and with no hint that the rain would ease up soon, I decided to hoof it to my car, a 5-minute walk. Probably not the brightest idea I've ever had. Running wasn't an option due to my heavy laptop and other factors. Within 1 minute, I was soaked. By the time I reached my car, every article of clothing was drenched and my glasses were completely fogged up. Fortunately, I had a towel that I could drape over the car seat, but I was totally soaked to the bone. After defogging my windows and cleaning my glasses, I hit the road. Traffic was slow and there were the usual idiots. You know, the guys who switch lanes without signaling to get 2 cars lengths ahead. No close calls but it was slow going and all I could think about was getting out of these wet clothes and drying off. So much for the happy hour I had planned on going to!

Anyway, the head scratcher here is who was the designated umbrella carrier for the day to guarantee that it wouldn't rain on my parade, huh? And it's true -- when it rains, it pours.

June 24, 2008

iPod Shuffle Algorithm

In my office, I listen to an iPod in shuffle mode most of the time. With nearly 8,000 songs on the 30GB model, you would imagine that the odds of hearing the same song twice in two days would be low, wouldn't you? And you'd expect that if you had different versions of the same song, they would not be played in sequence, right? Wrong! Yesterday I heard the song I Won't Stand in Your Way by the Stray Cats and immediately afterwards I heard the same song from a Brian Setzer Orchestra album! I thought I must be imagining things, so I hit the Previous Song button. Sure enough, I was in touch with reality -- well, at least as far as my hearing goes. But I thought what are the odds of that happening? Then a few hours later, I heard Beethoven's Fifth (yeah, I know, my tastes are pretty eclectic) and right after that, I heard it again this classical piece as a cut from a movie soundtrack! Curiouser and curiouser, I thought. I listen to the iPod with shuffle all of the time and although I do tend to hear some songs repeated on different days, this was the first time I'd experienced back-to-back plays of 2 versions of the same song -- and twice in one day!

So I emailed my friends Ted and Jeannie who are eagerly awaiting their first baby. Jeannie has a PhD is statistics, so I figured she might be able to calculate the probability of this double double-play. And maybe it would keep her mind off waiting for Little Richard to arrive. Tune in for the result in a later post.

Meanwhile, I googled iPod's pseudo-random number generator (PRNG) and found these 2 insightful hits: Is-an-ipod-on-shuffle-truly-random and a MacInTouch Reader Report from 2005 which offered this advice:

"iTunes still seems to have a tendency to pick some songs more frequently than others, and some songs never seem to get picked. My solution to this problem has been to create a "not recently played" smart Playlist which only picks songs which haven't been played in the past few months, and also have a low playcount. Then I use this smart Playlist to feed Party Shuffle."

Beyond Our Ken(s)

Hi, I'm back with a slightly different blog name than a few years ago. This new blog is mainly devoted to rambling, rumbling and grumbling about things that make this Ken scratch his head in wonder. Not "why is the sky blue?" but more like "why do people have loud, extended cellphone conversations in the supermarket?". You know, earth shattering stuff like that.

It's unlikely that I'll blog very often, but I do scratch my head often. I just have to be careful since my hair is thinning that I don't scratch too hard ;-)