Monthly Archives: November 2005

The Great Train Story

One thing I really enjoyed during my trip to Chicago in August was a visit to the Museum of Science and Industry. Our reason for visiting turned out to be rather ghastly, but I did enjoy another exhibit at the museum, The Great Train Story. It is a gigantic model train set, over 3,500 square feet of diorama. Trains head west from a model downtown Chicago, across the Great Plains, into the Rockies and eventually end up at the Seattle waterfront. I was absolutely fascinated by the entire layout, recalling model train sets of my youth. The exhibit featured multiple tracks carrying a myriad of trains; numerous freight trains, passenger trains, commuter rail, the “L”, and even a subway in downtown Chicago. It was a train lover’s delight, and still brings a smile to my face three months later.
'The Great Train Story' at the Museum of Science and Industry

Saturday Morning Science Links

  • The Chymistry of Isaac Newton – an exploration through Newton’s alchemical nature. While I’m at it, let me plug the NOVA website Newton’s Dark Secrets, another exploration of his fascination with alchemy.
  • Pompeii: Stories from an Eruption – A companion website to the Field Museum exhibit. Interesting stuff. For those interested in reading more, I’d suggest reading a fine historical novel, Pompeii by Robert Harris.
  • Computer Brains in Space – NASA is taking a long hard look at hardening faster microprocessors, or at least building redundant systems for fault tolerance. The problem is that radiation can seriously screw with a microprocessor’s internal logic, throwing transistors and causing erroneous results. The current generation of space-worthy, radiation-hardened microchips are too slow and power hungry to satisfy NASA’s need for deep space computing power. NASA’s idea is to build in triple redundant computers, with three microprocessors voting on their results to eliminate errors. Of course that makes for a power hungry PC, so they are still researching the problem.
  • Oh yeah… Spock’s beard looks so cool, I need to throw up another picture of it. Live long and prosper.

Spock's Beard!

Undercover In North Korea

Check out this CNN documentary Undercover in the Secret State; a riveting look at underground dissidents using mobile phones and digital cameras to document to appalling conditions in Kim Jong Il’s reclusive, xenophobic state. The footage shows people dropping dead in the streets from hunger, children picking in the dirt for specks of food and the miserable conditions inside this communist police state.

1500 Abandoned Vehicles Collected In Just Two Villages

I’ve said it before, let me say it again: Guam is awash is litter. I’m not talking about cigarette butts and beer cans along the highway, though there is plenty of that to go around. I’m talking about illegal dumping of large objects, abandoned vehicles, washing machines, refrigerators, air conditioners, furniture, and back road boonie dumps. Many of these illegal dumps are exposed after a typhoon strips the foliage around the island, revealing nasty piles of garbage and rusting white goods at a convenient dumping point.

KUAM’s story on the abandoned vehicle program reported that over 1500 junked cars were collected in the last six months, and that’s only from the two villages of Yoña and Dededo. Hopefully the Chinese demand for metal will spur more aggressive efforts to remove all the junk littering the island. Somehow though, I doubt the kind of people that dump their old washing machine on the back road to Andersen are going to pay $15 to have it collected and shipped off island. And they definitely aren’t going to pay $75 for their old car when it’s cheaper and easier just to dump it in the boonies off Ysengsong Road and let somebody else deal with it.

That Was Money Well Spent

A package arrived yesterday from an eBay auction; a Magnavox M61107 TV signal amplifier. I got the idea from a coworker who said Kmart had these things that clear up the snow on cable television. They did, but for $26 a pop. A quick trip to eBay solved that problem, I got one for about $10 plus shipping. Of course I had to wait a month for the gizmo to arrive, but when I plugged it into my cable last night I was amazed. The snow was gone. On every channel, even the inscrutable ones at the lower end of the dial. I can watch ESPN again! Hello, SportsCenter…

Route 4 Appears To Be Completed

I couldn’t believe my eyes, but it is true: the road construction in Yoña is finished! The entire road, all four lanes of blacktoppy goodness, is open for traffic down to the Ylig River Bridge. I drove down Route 4 last night to check for myself. The road is finished, painted and marked, but I think it is missing some traffic signs, otherwise the job is complete. And it only took three years longer than expected.

For The Record

For The Record
The papal nuncio, John Burchard, writes calmly
that dozens of mares and stallions
were driven into a courtyard of the Vatican
so the Pope Alexander VI and this daughter,
Lucretia Borgia, could watch from a balcony
“with pleasure and much laughter”
the equine coupling going on below.
When this spectacle was over
they refreshed themselves, then waited
while Lucretia’s brother, Caesar,
shot down ten unarmed criminals
who were herded into the same courtyard.
Remember this the next time you see
the name Borgia, or the word Renaissance.
I don’t know what I can make of this,
this morning. I’ll leave it for now.
Go for that walk I planned earlier, hope maybe
to see those two herons sift down the cliffside
as they did for us earlier in the season
so we felt alone and freshly
put here, not herded, not
driven.

-Raymond Carver

New evidence suggests Micronesia settled at least 5,000 years ago

Here’s a little story that I haven’t heard anything about in the local media. Archaeologists taking sediment cores in Saipan’s Susupe Lake have found definitive evidence of human habitation in the Northern Marianas from 1800 BC, 3800 years ago. But they also uncovered possible evidence of human induced climate changes from 5,000 years ago, the earliest evidence of human habitation in Micronesia. The discovery predates the earliest site on Saipan by 1,000 years.

Un Long Dimanche De Fiançailles

Friday I watched A Very Long Engagement, and I enjoyed it very much. Today I realized what day Friday was, and thought it very peculiar I watched that particular movie on that particular day. So bow your heads for the fallen of the Great War, the war to end all wars.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly,
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie,

In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields.

Australian infantry wearing Small Box Respirators (SBR). The soldiers are from the 45th Battalion, Australian 4th Division at Garter Point, Ypres sector, 27 September 1917. Photo by Captain James Francis Hurley.