Knowledge is power Archive Last updated - Jan. 18
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December

Y2K
I've noticed quite a bit more tension on the streets, some long gas lines (bringing back some bad memories of the 70's) and lots of people buying gallons of water at gasoline prices. I went into a Menards yesterday to buy a hammer and there was a line for the flashlights. My prediction for Y2K - the power will stay on but your credit cards won't work. If I'm wrong you better read this Red Cross article on emergency food and water. It describes where to find hidden water supplies in your home and what sort of food you should stock. This article on Looting describes what happens during hurricanes and other disasters when your neighbors go pillaging.


Road Rage
These three studies on Agressive Driving, Road Rage and Driver Agression describes some scary examples of people losing control over little things. There's a list of reasons people give for killing another human motorist - like - "He wouldn't turn off his high beams" or "They kept tailgating me..." The Agressive Driver Study list weapons used in traffic altercations. "Aggressive drivers have also thrown a wide range of partially eaten foods, including burritos and hamburgers."




Bar Code Decoder
Bar codes are on everything these days. That can be a good thing because these days you can search for a company's Web site using their product's bar code on nifty site called deBarcode.

George J. Laurer invented the UPC in 1973 and has a home page.


I'm not sure what it is but its cool,
A Temple of Alife has some artificial life models that are fun to play with but there's little info there on what the represent or how they work. "... interactivity is not only between the user and the computer program but within the computer system itself".


Millennium Notes
Everybody out there has a "Millennium list", The best athlete, the person of the Millennium, the greatest invention of the Millennium etc. I nominate "John Scalzi's Best of the Millennium" as the Best, Best of the Millennium Web site. Since November, he's been describing (in excellent detail) "things people really care about (or should, in any event)" Like: Best Lopsided War. Best Vision of Hell. Best Condiment." Obviously well though out and researched. In his best list of bests he proclaims the best use of the wheel was the clock. Brilliant observation. But I have to vehemently disagree with his best domesticated animal choice - the cat. The cat? I think the cat certainly has gotten a better deal out of domestication then any other animal. Except for killing mice, it never has to do any hard labor or give up its flesh for a human breakfast or its fur for a scarf. But without a doubt, it's the domestication of the horse which has changed the way humans live in every concievable way. Communication, warfare, agriculture, sport, fashion etc. have all been shaped (and in some cases created) by the horse.



How to Start a Fire
With Y2K coming in the middle of winter, I thought it would be a good idea to brush up on our fire starting skills. There are several ways to start a fire without matches. You can use flint and steel or there's a few products that will help you start a fire with one hand. But the real skill is being able to start one without having any modern gadgets available. You can learn the bow drill method or if you don't have any string or cordage avalable you'll have to learn the very difficult hand drill method. You should also read these tips on staying warm and dealing with frostbite and Hypothermia.


Electroluminescence
Y2K is also supposed to put us in the dark. I've always been a fan of chemiluminescent lightsticks. They are those cyalume and snaplight sticks that glow when the chemicals inside them are combined. Here's a little more history on how they were invented.

But as a caver, I know these sticks have disadvantages, the main one being the inability to test them before use, since once you light 'em, they can't be turned off. If they've been squashed or the foil package isn't sealed they may or may not work. Also they're greatly effected by temperature, since they get dimmer the colder it is. An alternative to these lightsticks is the Krill Lamp which uses electroluminescent technology instead of chemiluminescence. Here's a good independent review of the Krill.




Iceland's got elves
Iceland, a land with 100 percent literacy and zero poverty believes they have a population of fairies and elves including "a glut of 13 unjolly Santas, the so-called Yuletide Lads, who skulk about cities, towns and rural farmsteads each Christmas". Learn their names and habits at this icelandic teachers site. To learn more about Yule in Iceland visit the links you find at EyeonIceland.



Cyber maps
Cybergeography has "maps and graphic representations of the geographies of the new electronic territories of the Internet, the World-Wide Web and other emerging Cyberspaces". Maps of submarine cables, satellites, geographic maps of internet traffic, a Real-Time Geographic Visualization of World Wide Web Traffic etc. All these are neat but I'm interested more on the Web site map examples as inspiration for my own site maps. I'll be collecting more on this subject in the future.

Mappa Mundi has a map of the month, (check out the archives) with a bit more explanation on a few examples, but I was suprised to see their own site map is text based.



Common Colds
I think I caught a cold this weekend. Just in time for Christmas. They have figured out how one form of cold virus binds to human cells, which could lead to drugs that block infection. Here's some advice on how to fight the sniffles.


Genetic Minimalism
The minimum numbers of genes required to produce a living organism is between 255 and 340. Scientists took a Mycoplasma genitalium, the smallest known genome capable of independent replication, with 517 genes and screwed with each gene one by one, to figure out wihich ones were needed to make a living thing work. This is a big step toward creating new life. I think by next Christmas somebody will figure out how to make a real live Pokemon.


Biological Warfare
While on the subject of colds and genetic playthings, here's an excellent article on Biological Warfare; Malignant Biology. It covers the history of BW ("During the wars of the middle ages it was common to catapult the bodies of victims of smallpox or bubonic plague"), what makes a perfect weapon, and what sort of weapons already exist or could be expected. Check out some of the very scary links throughout the article. A prototype BW 'SWAT' team exists, whose mission is to arrive at the scene of a biological attack within 24 hours, identify the agent, measure the extent of the contamination, and tell relief agencies when it is safe to send in aid. Its name is Task Force Scorpio, and it is based in Switzerland.




Bug appreciation
Insects.org - "shameless promotion of insect appreciation". Cool interface, an entomological database of very cool bugs, a good primer on how to photograph bugs and some good cultural entomology (insects in human culture) articles.




Atlas of the Brain
The Whole Brain Atlas contains CT (roentgen-ray computed tomography), MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), and SPECT/PET (single photon/positron emission computed tomography) images of normal and diseased brains. Check out the mpg movies to "travel" through the brain slices. Make sure you read the Neuroimaging Primer to learn how they got these fascinating images.




Dangerous chickens
Rebbecca pointed to this story about dangerous chickens on CNN's page. The chickens have developed an anti-biotic resistant strain of campylobacter, the nation's most common food-borne infection. According to the CDC, more than half of the raw chicken in the United States market has Campylobacter on it.


Airline stuff
If you want to know what time the flight with Aunt Martha is arriving you call the airline. But what if you wanted to know the exact speed, altitude and heading of that flight? Now you can with Flighttracker.

I always love listening to the air traffic control channel on the headlines when I fly. I can listen to the O'Hare approach frequency if I want to pretend I'm on a plane. You'll need an ATC glossary like this one to figure out what their talking about. There's also this much more comprehensive gopher glossary . (Remember gopher?). If you want to learn more about air traffic control around the world here's the ATC webring list.




Weblog history
Some blogger said the surest way to get linked in all the Weblogs is to write an article on Weblogs and either call them "the new journalism" or critize them for having been done before. I wanted to resist linking to such fluff, but needed to set something right that was said in "Web's blog, stardate 1999" found on the Japan Times site.

Weblogs shouldn't be confused with "what's cool" archivists. Bloggers are more likely to include "what sucks." In fact, the smartalecks at Suck.com, with their oblique hyperlinks, definitely pioneered the "click here for punchline" breed of humor so common in Weblogs.

No offense to the smartalecks at Suck, but the pioneer of such an art form was one of the Patron Saints of Weblogging - Mirsky and his Worst of the Web. He started in 1994 and quit in 1996. Suck.com started in 1995.


Weblog notes - Archives and goats and other ramblings
In 1997 I said (on my now decrepit link site which hasn't been updated since 97)"He's gone now, a hero of our time. He attempted the huge task of finding the worst of the Web. Definetly the funniest stuff i've seen in this medium. Maybe he'll put his archive back up." Notice my improvement since then, in my spelling and style.

Webloggers are currently having a discussion about how to archive their sites. I've only been logging since September so I don't have a problem yet (stay tuned for a polished up archive though). But I have left my old links site up (as referenced in the previous paragraph) even though the links are rotten. Leaving it up has allowed me to quote myself as if I had said something really important in the context of history and makes it seem like I've been around since the dawn of Web time. Unfortunately Mirsky's archive would have no context without the links since he rarely said "this is funny cause its a site that sells goats" he just said something like "I want to buy a kid"

By the way if you want to know more about goats its all here at GOATS RULE which will answer the age old question "How do goats affect my life?" and coincidentally had been selected as the worst site of the day at the new Worst of the Web.


Valuable reference site
I noticed that Mike over at Larkfarm couldn't resist linking to the Airsickness Bag Museum that I also refer to in my concept blurb. Everyone should know that for your reference there is also a toilet paper museum if you need to look that sort of thing up.


Mandarin pronounciation
In Mandarin the word ma can mean mother or horse depending on the word's tone. The problem for Westerners is that they are not accustomed to using these tones as keys to meaning. Read this Nature article on how they can teach westerners how to listen for that tone. I've always been fascinated by the similarities of the word "mother" in languages. Is it one of the first words or does it derive from the movements of the mouth during suckling? I'm still searching for something on this.




Your browsing habits and your email address
A couple of months ago I mentioned Web bugs and I said "I don't use a HTML-displaying email client, and I can't think of a way to anybody could really abuse this sort of thing, but I bet somebody will". Well somebody will. They'll sneak out your email address to banner ad companies. Up til now they knew your viewing habits, now they can find out exactly who you are, and connect it with what you look at. Here's how to sync browser cookies with email addresses. This is big folks. To quote Richard M. Smith author of the write-up: "This "progress" represents yet another step in the erosion of privacy on the Internet. The best solution to this problem, I believe, is a technical one." I doubt that Netscape and Microsoft will consider this a "security hole" as he does and I doubt they'll do anything about it either, as he suggests. The question every owner of a Web page that sells something is "How do I get the email address of the person viewing my Web site?" There's never been a reliable way to do this before and the companies who sell demographics/psychographics (your name, address, salary, age, hobbies and anything else they now about you) are probably squealing with delight over this. Companies will see this as a bonus to doing business on the Web. If you're the kind of person who deosn't like to provide personal information on all those warranty and subscription cards, turn off your HTML formating in your email clients. If you want hear more opinions on this, go to the Slashdot discussion.




Political Web sites
Orrin Hatch turned into Jakob Nielsen for a second in last night's debate when he critized the usability of GW Bush's site. A few things worry me about him after seeing the page -
1. He's got a color attribute in his horizontal rule tag, does he think all browsers support this? And why, if he bothered to include the color, did he just make it black? I don't know if I can trust him now.
< hr noshade size="1" color="#000000" >
2. He's using Microsoft FrontPage.
3. He's selling bottled water with his name on it.
Also his tables are unbalanced (Line 424: Close element < /TABLE > found but element wasn't open.) In all fairness I should check the syntax of all the other candidates but then I wouldn't have time to vote. Besides I'm not as critical as the parody site at gwbush.com.


Color Theory
I had a conversation in the real-world last night about Color Theory and so I feature color today. I think I've collected enough stuff to keep me reading all weekend.
    First some color basics. Why do printers and artists have different definitions for primary colors? Once you can answer that you can apply that to Web browser safe colors.
    But I knew all that. What I learned last night was that colors have sound. Read A Comparitve study of Light and Sound, by Bruce K. Lee to understand this concept.


Computer Color Mathematics
Here's the short but complicated reason why monitors can present an infinite variety of colors, but are actually limited to the maximum size of the memory cells allocated for each color.

Color Perception
"Color is not a physical phenomenon, but a perceptual phenomenon" This chapter in a dissertation on A Computational Model of Color Perception and Color Naming explains that.

Color Psychology
Color matters has lots of stuff on how color effects us. Pantone also tells us how color effects moods.

"New" color development
The people at pantone are creating new colors. Read this interview with the director of the Pantone Color Institute, Leatrice Eiseman to learn how the new millenium's colors are choosen.

Mars Polar Lander
It was a dull day at the Mars Polar Lander site. ExploringMars has got some good stuff on mars geography and weather. Mars has some cool stuff like big dust tornadoes - "The average dust devil is slow-moving and may carry several tons of dust within its height of 1.2 miles" - and what I think has to be the coolest place in the Solar System - Olympus Mons, at 16 miles high, must have a great view from the top.


Web site production
This stuff probably won't be interesting unless your in the business - read Cam's excellent "Defining the Design and Production Process" to get a good idea of how sites are built. His process is remarkably similar to mine except for the dynamic content management system. Most designers I know work the same way except for a few die-hard old-timers who still do the mock-ups in Quark rather than Photoshop.

"I have a Macintosh G3 with a 21-inch monitor on the right and a secondary 17-inch monitor on the left. Typically I have BBEdit open in the right monitor and a browser or two open in the left monitor. As I code, I switch back and forth on a constant basis, always testing the code."

I've got the exact same set-up but with two networked G3's. I run Virtual PC on one to check for cross-platform browser problems as I code.

I would have liked to hear more about his information architecture and information design process since I've been hunting around for a few days for real-world examples. Roles, organization, and support: Building usability into the design process is a good example of such a real-world model of how they do it at MathWorks.




Chromosome 22
For the first time a human chromosome has been squenced. You've probably heard this already but this is big stuff. When you get quotes like this: (Francis Collins, from the National Institutes of Health) "I think this is probably the most important scientific effort that mankind has ever mounted. That includes splitting the atom and going to the moon", you know its big. Here's the Chromosome 22 homepage from the Sanger Institute where you can learn how they did it, or you can download the entire sequence (if you knew what to do with it). The journal Nature has an understandable article on the science of sequencing.


Nature's Science update page
I don't know why Nature's Science Update page wasn't on my list before. Its another great daily resource for all of you science fans. One of the recent features I found interesting was about a gene in fruit flies that seemed to control size. The gene can be controlled biochemically to alter the flies size without altering other growth mutations. "It could be that the pathway matches a fly's growth to its available nutritional resources." There's lots more good stuff there, and it'll take me awhile to read through it.


Snake robots
Nasa's building snake robots. But they're not the only ones. Here's a list of others buidling slithering robots for all kinds of applications from extra-terrestrial exploration, tight space industrial inspections, mine-clearing etc.




I'm an idiot
It took me about six tries to figure out how this pick-a card web magic trick was done. There I was trying it over and over, looking for some fancy javascript trick or something. See if you can feel as stupid as me when you figure it out.




World Aids day
Today is World AIDS day and rather than blackout this page like many other Webloggers, I'm sticking to the theme of this page of knowledge and learning and including a few links to a subject I sadly know little about.


The Science of AIDS
Learn about the virus, components of the immune system, vaccines and viral resistances on AEGiS's Science of HIV pages. This stuff is fairly technical but fascinating.
Do you know what Cytokines are?
"Cytokines are chemicals (such as the interferons and interleukins) that are made by the immune system. The immune system releases certain cytokines to help recruit cells and manage the fight against infections."


Tracking the Virus to its Origins
Sailors and star-bursts, and the arrival of HIV. An article on the tracking down of the origin of HIV to a Norwiegan Sailor and discussion of whether the virus spread by natural transfer of simian immunodeficiency virus to humans or from iatrogenic introduction (through a vaccine).


HIV Graphics
Very cool and very scary animations representing the life cycle of HIV-1. From the very Comprehensive NOVA site.


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