… thinking about the world differently . . .
January 31st, 2019

Hmm.. what was that word again?

What was that word again? Professionals tell me it hasn’t got much to do with age, but I wonder why more older folks seem to have that issue of coming up with just the right word. (“Seem” is also appropriate – I do not have research results supporting this notion either way!)

It does not seem to afflict younger generations (again, zero research backing up this statement!) and from what I recall, I did not have these occasional lapses when I was younger.

(If anyone knows more, or has references to research, please post in the comments!)

A few days ago, dictionary.com sent along an email with a great link to the words lethologica and lethonomia.

Lethologica is what you use when that word just won’t surface to the tongue, you kinda know it, but not.

Lethonomia is what you use to describe the situation when you haven’t got the right word to describe the situation.

The real issue is this: will I experience lethologica or lethonomia next time when I try to finish a sentence in a way that others understand ☺️  😎  🤔


January 2nd, 2019


Reuters reported in the New Horizon mission investigating Ultima Thule. The work NASA is doing exloring the universe around us is such fascinating and important science.

One paragraph attracted my attention especially:

Scientists had not discovered Ultima Thule when the probe was launched, according to NASA, making the mission unique in that respect.

In these words lies the purpose of science: One takes a road and explores for the sake of exploring. If something is revealed, excellent – explore that. Such investigation is important to pursue and continue.

There is, of course, a need to distinguish this exploration from the navelgazing, unpurposed “research” so popular with so many “scholars”.

December 23rd, 2018

Life Lesson

Visiting with friends, we formulated a life lesson: Don’t let the itchiest person sit in the noisiest chair.

You probably get the picture, squirming elicits various sounds from the chair, much to the embarrassment of Itchy.

August 27th, 2017

Not my usual material, but … why not?

I have a Bodum Brazil French Coffee Press. It is probably the most inexpensive model sold for 11 to $18 at Target or Ebay. My model has a black handle and body – like so:

Makes good-to-my-taste coffee!

The device has an annoying feature: It collects gunk. What I mean is coffee residue and hard water deposit. There are specifically two spots where the stuff collects, and the design of this device is truly problematic, unless you know the following trick!

But, first things first.

The beaker sits inside a plastic “cup”-like bottom and it fits awfully snugly. The handle, made from the same stiff plastic material, has a part that fits over the rim of the beaker rim into the beaker to provide a secure hold. Here is an enlarged detail of that part. you can see the shadow of the handle part as it sits over the lip.

Now coffee residue collects between this part and the glass – on the inside. It is very difficult to clean without contortions and using some weird brushes etc. But I dunno, I have an aversion to old coffee residue, especially several generations old!

The area collecting the residue of hard water is on the edge of the “cup”-like portion of the handle. Also, on the bottom of the cup, there is more hard water residue collection opportunity!

Clean up is not that simple as direct access to the surfaces is extremely difficult, and in the case of the “cup”, impossible. On first gander, it looks like one could bend the handle upward and slip it over the lip of the beaker. But the plastic material is pretty rigid and probably get more rigid with age, and that means the handle can break.

The solution, it seems is to twist the beaker 180 degrees until the spout is located under handle. Now it is easier to bend the handle outward, and then twist out the beaker from the “cup” to allow cleaning of all the surfaces.

One tip can help: pour hot water on the “cup” to help in loosening the plastic before you twist the beaker.

To remove the coffee and hard water residues, use plain white vinegar. Pour some on a sponge and use it to soak the residues. let the vinegar do the work, even refresh the vinegar and resoak. It works better than scrubbing and possibly scratching the glass.

Before you put it back together, dry all the surfaces, and to ease the twisting of the beaker in the “cup” i used a tiny-tiny amount of coconut oil on the “cup”‘s inside. I had coconut oil s I used it. I do not think it makes a different what you use. Use really a tiny amount. This also helps create a barrier against water just sitting in that corner and creating the residue.

Now carefully place the beaker into the “cup” so the spout faces the handle. Slip the end of the handle over the spout, and then carefully press the beaker evenly into the “cup”. When that is done, grasp the beaker and twist it 180 degrees so the spout is opposite the handle.

Surgery – and cleanup – DONE!

August 16th, 2017

Too good to pass up…

Andy Borowitz, who writes pretty decent comic pieces about the presidents of the USA seems busy in the past few months (can you guess why?)

Today he published 2 pieces, but the title of the second piece was so good, I decided to just publish it here for your pleasure:

Ivanka and Jared Vacationing in Moral Vacuum


You can click the link above to read the funny piece.

February 4th, 2017

URL Shortening

Waaay back when, when we started using the web, it became clear that URLs are hard to remember. Sure, we have domain names that are human-memorable like “meshar.net/blog” and “google.com”. But soon enough URL became “http://meshar.net/blog/?p=5004” (the URL (link) for this post) and much much worse and longer.

In stepped technology with ways to shorten URLs. Maybe they were not that human-memorable, but at least they were shorter. For example, a service called tinyurl.com sjortened the above to “http://tinyurl.com/hd3h62t”… Ok, that’s not much of a feat, shortening a 30 character URL to 28 chatacters. But it works. Imagine a URL like this monster: https://www.google.com/maps/place/48%C2%B051’32.2%22N+2%C2%B017’38.6%22E/@48.8586285,2.2941227,19z/data=!4m5!3m4!1s0x0:0x0!8m2!3d48.8589438!4d2.2940484 ?? 151 characters! Tinyurl.com squeezed this to “http://tinyurl.com/hpg2amr” – all of 26 characters. Click it, et voilá, you are transported on Google Maps to the corner of the Tour Eiffel in Paris.

So this is nice. But danger looms around the corner in the world on World Wide Web. Tha bad guys are out there trying to grab your secrets and make money off you.

You see: Many people are now conditioned enough to be wary of URLs like that monster above. It is weird looking, could be dangerous. Indeed. The characters can hide all sorts of attacks that would infect your computer and lead you astray.

So today I read a nice article on Make tech Easier about URL Shortening. It provided a link to another service that would give you a preview of what you are about to go to – http://checkshorturl.com – use the page there to enter the long URL and let the service tell you more where this URL will take you!

Nice deal.

I like to use a service available at v.gd. The monster above was shortened to “https://v.gd/R3Qk7a”… When you go to that URL, it does not automatically push you into the destination, but instead first shows you where the destination is, so you can make a more informed decision to continue to the ultimate destination, or forget it.

So now you know. Enjoy.

January 8th, 2017


Sean Spicer, the spokesperson for president-elect Trump, complained that the media does not accord DJT with the respect he deserves.

Pardon me, I always thought respect is something you work for, earn. That is is not something you get because of your genetics, good looks, or haircut… Apparently, along with other norms of this society, that respect earning bit is also flipped over on its head.

Along with this “good morning message” in the news, came the realization that indeed this reaction is just that bump in the rug that scurries around lookinh for an outlet, the problem is much deeper. Rob Goodman wrote this excellent article titled “What the King of Hawaii Can Teach Us About Trump – A political fable from 1819.

It explains the fate of norms. While it will not make you feel fuzzily relieved, you will understand where things are, where they could be, and outline a way for each of us to move forward and to imprint of ourselves anf our norms on the upcoming “new order” in the world. An important message…

December 27th, 2016

Google Calendar

On the desktop version of Google Calendar, one can add an event that takes the entire day, i.e. no start/stop time. There is a little checkbox designating the event as “all day”.

On the Android platform non-desktop form of the calendar, the “mobile version”, this is not readily possible. But the following trick works… The event should start at 12:00AM on the desired date, and end on the next day, at 12:00AM.

That schedule spans the entire 24 hours. The event will show as an “all day” event on the desired day, and no hint of it on the next day.

Now, I’ll keep a lookout for a trick to change the calendar without resorting to presenting the calendar in the desktop form and editing the event in that format. Google never put the ability to CHANGE the calendar in the edit screen, only to choose the calensar when initially creating the event.

March 29th, 2016

Here is a mindbender

J. Craig Venter - Wikipedia

J. Craig Venter – Wikipedia

Craig Venter is a genomics pioneer and an incredibly gifted and creative geneticist, biochemist, biotechnologist and a few other nearly unpronounceable professions. A new research article published in Science [link here and another, possibly easier to understand, here] on March 25, 2016 details work done to create what can be called the smallest possible living genome. Yes, this is on the serrated edge of “creating life” in the lab.

The team used a tiny microbe with a very simple genome consisting of several hundred genes, and then essentially carved out gene after gene to create the smallest viable organism. “Viable” is a big word since none of the organisms can survive outside a petri dish because the Venter team simply made up for deficiencies that were not essential by adding the needed parts in the lab. So if gene x is needed to create a food form, that food was added to the dish, and the gene came out of the “engineered” organism’s genome.

Syn 3.0

Ultimately, the final form they dubbed “Syn 3.0” had 473 genes. It was “viable” based on the definition explained above. Much to the surprise of the team, they had to add various genes just to accomplish that minimum viability test.

149 genes were added. So what is the surprise? The team hasn’t a clue what the function of these genes is!

Hmmm… Life is much more complicated and mysterious than we ever assumed! The plot thickens…

See here for another article in Extreme Tech that is slightly more accessible to non-science readers…

Seems as though the saying “Enjoy Life” takes on different meaning than we ever intended…

March 9th, 2016

Humans vs. AlphaGo: 0-1

You’ll hear more about the game of Go and the program called AlphaGo in the next months and years.

Go is a game played in Japan, Korea, and China (possibly other cultures in the far East.) It dates back over 3500 years. The game is played on a board marked with a grid of 19×19 upon which players place black or white pebbles in turn. They attempt to place their pebbles to surround and thus capture the opponents pebbles.

The rules are few and dead simple. Some people report mastering the rules (not the game, though!) in 10 minutes. The simplicity however is deceptive as the strategies, subtlety and intricacy is incredibly deep.

Go takes years to master although it is fun to play at any time and at any level.

Ladt night, in Seoul, South Korea Go player Lee Se-dol, a legendary player in the world, list the first of 5 games in an historic match between a human and a program.

The program, AlphaGo, was created by a Google unit dealing with neural networks, artificial intelligence and machine learning called DeepMind.

Lee resigned following more than three arduous hours. Lee said after the game “I was very surprised, I didn’t expect to lose. I didn’t think AlphaGo would play the game in such a perfect manner.”

I’ll post more later…

January 20th, 2016

Technology moves fast, even faster than the Pony Express


modern mailboxes

what kind of mailbox is this anyway???

Hmmm… Hard to believe, but there you have it. We are in danger of leaving the younger generation behind – they have a hard time using basic things like rotary phones, mailboxes… sheesh 🙂


January 15th, 2016

On Quantum Computing

Many of us find computing a bit intriguing, perhaps intimidating, if it ventures into anything beyond pencil and paper or 4-function calculator. There is this mystique involved in computing because of the abstraction of numbers to something that is represented by zeros and ones, then calculating huge and complicated things at that level in tiny fractions of a second.

This mystique is augmented and magnified when the word “programming” enters the horizon. Now many of us get that queasy feeling of being overwhelmed by some geek, nerd, or worse – a 6-year old kid! 🙂

But really numbers are just abstractions of say cows you can see (and count) in the field, or piles of tomatoes in baskets. Sure you can tell someone else “I have 50 baskets of tomatoes, but you already abstract a picture of 50 baskets to a number “50”…

There are some people living in jungles who have had no need to abstract quantities in their lives beyond “one”, “two”, “three”, “many”. It is a simple culture that has no need for more detailed abstraction than that! Sure, they cannot easily calculate 20% of 40 had they lived in our culture, but we will be unable to survive more than 4 minutes after being bitten by some unusual beetle on the jungle floor if we visit their world – but they would simple reach to the nearest remedy, apply it to the bite, and we’ll be as good as new!

So much for the competitive edge of 20% of 40!

Back to the intimidation of programming: We cook things. Say an egg: Take a vessel, fill it with water. Gather some firewood and make fire – or just light up your stove. Take an egg and carefully place it in the water in the pan. Put the pan on the fire, and let it boil for 3-5 minutes, remove from the fire, add cold water – voila! A boiled egg!

You have done this many-many times. You already know several tricks to make things faster, better boiled eggs etc.

Congratulation! You have just finished a “programming job”. It consists of steps doing something in each step. Testing of certain results (say, the egg is too cold to put on a raging fire in boiling water, so you reduce the heat and wait, test again, and proceed) and taking alternative paths of action depending on the tests.

Then you process certain inputs in some steps, and eventually produce some specific, desired results – a perfectly boiled egg.

There. This really is a great model for a program running in a computer.

Let me take you to the start of this blog: The fearsome abstraction of numbers into zeros and ones.

Nearly no programmer calculates numbers in their heads using ones and zeros – except some fringe characters, which you should definitely stay away from.

But it happens to be a simple thing for a computer circuit to represent a state with these two values – “0” or “1”, “no voltage”, “voltage” – that’s it. We do not work in voltages and currents, but computer circuits do, so it is their language.

Traditional computing since Boole and Babbage – and Countess Ada! – have worked numbers in this fashion. Since the 1940s, the current/no current in a circuit became the implementation medium for computing, inside computer circuits.

We have heard so much about it the binary states in computing that we mostly have some rudimentary understanding of the two states.

Quantum computer artist renditionEnter quantums. Physics has been nice a fun for centuries, being described by rules (“Laws of Physics”) by many folks who experimented and derived the rules – Newton to Einstein to Hawking. Some experimented in their heads using mathematical tools, others used their heads to intercept falling apples (Newton!) And so our physical world was pretty well described by various laws, gravity, speed, momentum, optics, electricity-oriented laws and so on.

But this all held well with the physical world of non-atomic dimensions – big stuff, especially big as compared to atomic particles. When it comes to these little entities that are smaller than small, the laws of physics simply do not quite work the way we are used to from High School Physics classes.

Quantum computing is one such “critter” that behaves differently in the small-scale subatomic world. While computer circuits determine states by zero or one, quantum computing has these states as well, but also adds another state – the in between state, neither on, nor off.

Yes, it sounds weird to say – or read – that something can be neither on nor off, neither zero, nor one. But there you have it – while the bits that we use use to represent states in a computing device can have only these two states, qubits, the representations of state in quantum computing, can have the on state, the off state, and the in-between state.

The only way to grasp this is to accept it as an “IT IS SO!”

Imagine the total befuddlement of people in Newton’s age when he suggested gravity as a law of nature – “whoa!!! Wait a moment here, what do you mean Earth pulls stuff without even touching it?” But we we do not find gravity to be a strange notion, we know it, and have discussed it, performed experiments to measure it and so on.

Qubits are to us like gravity was to Newton’s contemporaries. The third state is also called by the lovely technical term “coherent superposition.”

But don’t get too happy yet! It gets better! So what is the point here, you may ask. Qubits when joined in large numbers, can perform mathematical computations that are quite complex. The complexity leads to new possibilities to compute things that used to take loooong time on traditional computers in mere fractions of seconds.

Here is a practical example: You were told that a good password is a long one which utilizes many all numerics, all letters – upper and lower case – and as many symbols as you can. Such passwords you were told CAN BE CRACKED by computer using trial and error, but the number of trials will be so large that it is not practical to crack passwords that way, it might take the fastest computers 15,000 years or something like that.

But what about quantum computers? Yeah, exactly! They might take a few seconds to crack a password that a traditional computer would need 15,000 years to crack.

Weird stuff.

Now, don’t panic, don’t run out to change your passwords – this is not quite ready for prime time, although who knows what the NSA is using ALREADY – maybe they have a fully functional quantum computer of significant power.

But realistically, it’ll be many many years before quantum computers are ready to crack your passwords and lay bare to the world the cat pictures you have been sending in your emails…

There is more strangeness in quanta! One interesting – and widely popularized – aspect is the introduction of the uncertainty principle into their world (and ours!) If you measure an aspect of a quantum, their other measurable aspects are no longer static and may change. You can search for a term “Schrödinger’s cat” (here on Wikipedia) and it may melt your brain, but it is a fun piece of reading. Great gymnastics for the brain…

Another interesting effect of the quantum-sized world is the remote effect – a change in a quantum in one location can convey a change in another quantum even while the distance between the quanta may be millions of miles. And the change happens instantaneously! So much for speed of light!

So you can change a qubit of info in Chicago, and that change is conveyed to some spaceship 3 billion miles away from Chicago instantly! Huh? Yep, these are the implications of the science.

Enjoy that brain melt!

January 1st, 2016

Scary future – Climate Change

Happy New Year 2016!!

Just when the world relaxed into the post-Paris Climate Summit sleepiness, the evidence and research begins to come out.

This one is titled “Sorry, You Can’t Have Fries With That: 10 Foods That May Disappear Thanks to Climate Change" [click] is about some foods that will begin to disappear as the climate changes and growing conditions for crops begin to shift to the detriment of these crops.

What can you do? Educate yourself in the ways that small actions can help delay the changes, in perhaps reverse (nah, probably too optimistic! Just go for delay…) climate changes.

You can shift your food habits from meat at most meals to focusing on vegetables, and use meat only as flavoring. It works, it is fun, and it is healthy to boot, not just for you, but the planet!

Michael Pollan coined a great phrase, his three rules for eating: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” [click] He has great books you can get at the library, read, study, and live by.

Did you notice the word “mostly” in his rules for food? It means that you don’t have to panic about becoming a vegetarian or vegan!

Just start shifting slowly. Instead of 3 bacon strips with breakfast, have just 2 for the next 2 weeks. Then cut another one. Etc… Instead of finishing the whole 8 oz. of burger, leave a forkful on the plate for the next 2 weeks. Then another forkful. Etc…

You won’t feel hungry doing those minor changes, but if you do, get a carrot, maybe a small tomato.

Your body (and the planet!) will thank you. Before too long, you will be following Michael Pollan’s advice – no pain, no weight gain.

But Pollan is just one of many many resources. Start reading.

November 23rd, 2015

“Call A Professional”, Indeed!

I have waged battle trying to setup a printer to work wirelessly. The technology is there. The technical details are likely to be VERY understandable by anyone with 8th grade education who is not drooling. So where’s the battle? Manuals and user guides written by persons with zero comprehension of sentence structure, zero attention or care that OTHERS read what they wrote. In fact, I suspect almost NO USER MANUALS were EVER read by whoever wrote them! Yeah, I am disgusted.

I won’t name names, these companies already have a sullied reputation without my slashing at them.

But today, facing the prospect of “back to the torture chamber” to continue the battle, I saw this cartoon in the November 23, 2015 edition of How To Geek Newsletter. It fits to a tee!

2015-11-23 Geek Comic Call A Professional

November 20th, 2015

Inspiration by Einstein

My previous 3 posts about big numbers, the one before about programming and my post about swimming with/against the current, all came into focus when I read the article in the New Yorker “The Space Doctor’s Big Idea” from November 18, 2015.

The New Yorker article is about Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity. Einstein was an extraordinary thinker, a fact that the article discusses with some nice emphasis. Big thoughts are not necessarily simple to explain, although the US Election Campaign raging in full force now would have you believe it is exactly that. Candidates right and left (and even center – wait… Are there any?) dummify ideas that take considerably more than 140 characters to describe and encapsulate them into a little dumbpill of a soundbite. All the nuances get lost, and with that, the real value of the ideas is tossed into the garbage heap of politics. That people lap this up and cherish these morsels of dung, and why, is another post for another time. But let me slap myself back into the topic I set to write about… The General Theory of Relativity [See Wikipedia article] was published in 1915, and over the last 100 years – yes it is 100 years old! – has been tested several times in elaborate experiments. It is quite complex because of the math that accompanies it (which is considerably longer than 140 character!) It followed the Special Theory of Relativity [See Wikipedia article] published in 1905.

Back to the New Yorker article: In the article, the author Randall Munroe, who is behind the comic xkcd [See Wikipedia article] attempts to explain the Special Theory of Relativity (and its big sister General Theory of Relativity) using a 1000 most used word vocabulary. He observes that, ironically, the word “thousand” is not among these words, and resorts to using “ten hundred” to express the number.

I read through the article and it is GREAT! Read it. You will easily understand it.

The next job for you will be to read through the gibberish of some narrative from speeches made by 2016 Presidential Canddiates (both side!) and see if you can make your way through these without losing your sanity and tear your hairs out. (Maybe just read the New Yorker article and stop there, huh?)

Have a lovely day…

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