Sunday, May 30, 2010


Memorial Day
Fort Sam Houston

Review: State quarters - South Dakota

So close, South Dakota. You almost got a "Better" rating. I like the idea of using Mount Rushmore on the quarter design because the monument is very patriotic, and it is easily recognizable the world over. It's a natural, and I think it works even on a coin-sized canvas.

But, then there's the bird, which kept this design from getting a higher rating. Again, unless your state's official bird is an eagle, a hawk, or a falcon, it has no business trying to look cool on a quarter. Or anywhere else.

Overall rating - 3 - Good.

Montana's on deck.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Advancing humanity

What happens when a deaf baby is given the gift of hearing for the first time?


Makes me smile, too.

(Hat tip: Instapundit)

Friday, May 28, 2010

Review: State quarters - North Dakota

Not bad with the bisons, North Dakota. They are grand and indicative of the great American plains, and two is not too many here. Your design even calls to mind another classic coin. Too bad Kansas beat you to it with a slightly better look.

Oh, and nice use of the rays (seen previously here, here, and here).

Overall rating - 3 - Good

Next, down just a bit for South Dakota.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Answer: Where this place is

To answer the previous post about where this place is:

The place is Boerne.

And the picture was taken in front of the historic Turnverein.

Happy bowling.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Question: Where is this place?

If you think you know where in the San Antonio area this place is, share your answer in the comments section. Bonus blog points for guessing the name.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Possibly the best music video ever made

And remember, when you start to take yourself -- and your life -- a bit too seriously, keep this in mind:

Even Spock can laugh at himself.


Review: State quarters - Colorado

Poor Colorado. It's a rectangle. That's so unexciting.

But it's got awesome mountains! And breathtaking views! And sublime nature! And, and, and, that's what we need to put on our little, tiny quarter. Big, huge Rocky Mountain highs!

And thus is born the most epic of nature fails, Colorado's clumpy quarter design.

Overall rating - 1 - Bad

Next up: North Dakota

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Review: State quarter - Nebraska

I kind of like Nebraska's quarter. The tall, jagged austerity of Chimney Rock provides a good balance to the smooth roundness of the sun (which, of course, is sending forth those nice life-giving rays). It actually makes for an effective landscape on such a small canvas.

And then, they had to put that wagon on there. In this picture, you can at least tell what it is. On a quarter, it's a blob. And it kept this rating from being one notch higher than "Good".

Overall rating - 3 - Good

Colorado's coming.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Review: State quarters - Nevada

Nevada's quarter is too cluttered. Three wild horses when one would have done fabulously. A mushy set of mountains. The lame use of state flowers (which this one is also, apparently, quite dangerous for those poor horsies). The only thing that looks cool is the use of the sun rays, which is the second time we've seen such usage. But that by itself isn't enough to redeem this jumbled design.

Overall rating - 2 - Mediocre

Need I say Nebraska?

Sunday, May 16, 2010

R.I.P. Dio

Heavy metal loses part of its voice.

Ronnie James Dio, whose soaring vocals, poetic lyrics and mythic tales of a never-ending struggle between good and evil broke new ground in heavy metal, died Sunday, according to a statement from his wife and manager. He was 67.

Dio revealed last summer that he was suffering from stomach cancer shortly after wrapping up a tour in Atlantic City, N.J. with the latest incarnation of Black Sabbath, under the name Heaven And Hell.

I liked Dio, especially his solo stuff. I remember buying Holy Diver when it first came out, and I was pleasantly surprised that "that guy from Black Sabbath and Rainbow" had put together such a good metal album. Some of it was obviously geared for radio play, but it's still a hard-rocking album that carries all the characteristics of Dio.

He will be missed by the metal world.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Beach afternoon

What is there to do at the beach? Well, you can fish, you can wade, you can swim, you can walk around ---- just don't spend too much time sitting in one place.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Looking for a Sun-Earth climate connection

But wait, I thought the science was settled. Humanity is to blame for "climate change", right? Not the sun.
The surface of the sun undergoes violent changes on a daily basis, but a group of astronomers has found that the size of our nearest star has been perplexingly constant in recent years.

The new study shows that the sun's diameter has changed by less than one part in a million over the last 12 years. The sun's width today is a steady 932,057 miles (1,500,000 km) across, the researchers found.

"The sun is remarkably constant," lead researcher Jeff Kuhn, the associate director of the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy, told "We're measuring that the diameter changes by less than a kilometer (0.62 miles).

"This constancy is baffling, given the violence of the changes we see every day on the sun's surface and the fluctuations that take place over an 11-year solar cycle," Kuhn said.

The puzzling results also contradicted other measurements of the sun taken from the ground, raising further questions on what could be causing the discrepancies.

"What this really means is that, if we believe the ground measurements, then what we're seeing is long-term fluctuations in the Earth's atmosphere," Kuhn said. "The sun is influencing the atmosphere of the Earth in very significant ways."

Kuhn's work is one of several worldwide efforts to understand the influence of the sun on Earth's climate.

"We can't predict the climate on Earth until we understand these changes on the sun," Kuhn said. [emphases added]


Bold words, Mr. Kuhn. Bold words.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Review: State quarters - West Virginia


I'm sure the New River Gorge Bridge is an awesome sight to see in person, but on the back of a quarter? Not so much, West Virginia.

Overall rating - 2 - Mediocre

Back out west for Nevada.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Review: State quarters - Kansas

Kansas gets kudos for this one. The flower in the lower left was unnecessary, but the state did right by choosing one main iconic element for this quarter design -- a big, bold bison. Nothing says America on the open plains more than this shaggy beast.

Overall rating - 4 - Better

Due east for West Virginia

Friday, May 07, 2010

Review: State quarters - Oregon


Just after I get finished making note of how nature scenes seem to fail on the state quarters, Oregon has to come along and prove me wrong with this, the representation of Crater Lake on their quarter. It's not perfect, but it's a good depiction of one of the coolest natural water formations in the United States.

I have to admit, I like it. I don't know exactly why it works for me, but it does.

Overall rating - 3 - Good

Stay tuned for Kansas.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Contemplating life on Titan, right here on Earth

I've heard about tar pits before, but did you know there is a lake of tar in Trinidad that is larger than Vatican City?

And did you know it could help us understand how life could develop on Titan?
A lake of asphalt may be the closest thing on Earth to the hydrocarbon seas on Saturn's moon Titan, and it is apparently teeming with microbial life.

Not only could these findings help in the search for aliens in our own solar system, but they could provide insight into the evolution of life on this planet.

The largest naturally occurring asphalt lake on Earth is Pitch Lake on the Caribbean island of Trinidad, where black goo oozes across roughly 114 acres, an area slightly larger than that covered by Vatican City. Brimming as it is with hot asphalt and bubbling with carbon dioxide and hydrocarbon gases, Pitch Lake hardly seems fit for life.

However, scientists now find each gram of sticky black goo in Pitch Lake can harbor up to 10 million microbes, including bacteria as well as other single-celled organisms known as archaea.

This planet is teeming with life, even in the most inhospitable places, which means it shouldn't be all that surprising if we get to another planet or moon and happen to find something living. Especially at a microbial level. But, coming from someone who thinks we need to start ramping up our space exploration -- and colonization -- efforts, part of me hopes that never happens.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Review: State quarters - Minnesota

You know, I'm starting to get the impression that nature scenes don't work so well on the quarter-sized canvas. I like the outline of Minnesota on this quarter, and I even like the motto, "Land of 10,000 Lakes." But the fishermen on the lake look kind of mushy, and the treeline in the background is generic and boring. And what the hell is wrong with that loony bird in the foreground? Is it the state bird? Remember that eagles, falcons, and hawks are cool to have as a state bird, and therefore they would be cool to feature on the quarter design. Any others -- not so much.

Overall rating - 2 - Mediocre

Oregon's coming up.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Review: State quarters - California

John Muir. Some kind of environmentalist activism dude that loved California. I had never heard of him before seeing this quarter. And even if I had, I would never have thought he was a giant. Or that he had a giant bird for a pet.

Overall rating - 2 - Mediocre

Next is Minnesota.