Sunday, February 27, 2011

Down to the Natural History Museum

Wednesday I went down to the Mall to take in a couple of museums. First stop was the Natural History museum. Here are a couple of pictures of the rotunda of the museum. And yes the second picture is kind of a picture of a stuffed elephant's butt.

Cyprus: Crossroads of Civilizations

The main reason I went down to the Natural History museum was to see the exhibit Cyprus: Crossroads of Civilizations. It was very interesting. Unfortunately no pictures were allowed in the actual gallery. But the pictures below were outside of it. For more information follow this link.

‘Cyprus: Crossroads of Civilizations’ celebrates Cyprus’ 11,000-year history and showcases some of the latest discoveries from the early era of Cypriot archaeology,” said Sophocles Hadjisavvas, guest curator of the exhibition. “This unique exhibit shows the rich heritage and cultural contribution of Cyprus to the world. We look forward to having Smithsonian visitors explore Cyprus and the treasures this island has to offer.

The Korea Gallery

This was a wonderful exhibit right by the one on Cyprus. The painting is really incredible.

Gems at Natural History

The gem collection here is nothing short of fantastic. The most famous gem of course is the Hope Diamond which is the last two pictures.

More at the Natural History Museum

I'm always amazed when I walk through the galleries dealing with rocks and minerals. The things that are unearthed are nothing short of spectacular. I am a huge fan of agates. I always find them beautiful.

At the National Gallery

I really enjoy going to the National Gallery. It is such a wonderful place. There is always some new exhibit to see. And it is a treat to see how the main entrance is decorated. I brought my book along and sat down and read in one of the side court yard areas. It was very relaxing.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

David Gray at Strathmore

Just an amazing concert with David Gray at the Music Center at Strathmore. I've been wanting to see this guy for a long time. I remember seeing him on Saturday night live. He played Babylon. The next day I went out and got the album.

Strathmore is an incredible place to see a concert. It is just an amazing place.

Had seats in the Grand Tier row B just about dead center. Hear are a couple of videos from the concert (not shot by me).

He was in very good voice. Had an excellent band. He played for almost two hours. Who could ask for anything more.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Highs in the 70s — Wicked Winds — Wintry Slop

That's what DC has experienced in the last 4 days. Friday was a very warm warm day for February. It was in the upper 70s. It was so nice that I had lunch sitting on the grass in a park. I got lunch from one of those food trucks that have popped up all over DC. In fact, there six of them by Farragut North park. I had a slice of pizza. It was great.

Along came Saturday. Gusting, howling and blowing winds. They seemed to get stronger and stronger as the day progressed. Made it just about impossible to go outside. I had branches and all sorts of crap in my front yard. I went out that evening when the winds had calmed down a little. There was a sign that had blown in my yard. It was probably 2 feet by 3 feet. It was pointing out new condos. I figured out the sign came from at least 6 blocks away. I put it up on the lawn. Needless to say it was not there when I got back. No telling where it went to.

Then last night came the tell tale sign of tapping against my windows. A sure sign that what was coming down was sleet or freezing rain or both. It tuned out to be both. Then very late in the night it turned into snow. Not much but it left an icy crust on everything. I had to pull rather hard on my car door to get it opened this morning.

I have to say I am so ready for just some plain old average weather. DC has had a year of extremes. I think I'm now officially over that.

Monday, February 21, 2011

2Political Episode 50

2PP050 - 17 February 2011

2Political Podcast Episode 50- is now available. You can listen to it or download it from the podcast site, You can leave comments there as well as download or listen to any episode (you can access the five most recent episodes from the list on the right side of my blog).

We begin with sad news, the passing of Sam the Cat. From there it’s Beck and his bizarre ranting. The larger discussion is about the turmoil in the middle east, and that leads on to the extremism of the tea party Republican politicians. They’re every bit as bad as we warned.

Please leave a comment (anyone's welcome—agree or disagree!), or you can ring the 2Political Comment line on 206-350-3982.

Links for this episode:
The Glenn Beck Conspiracy Theory Generator

Boehner the budget hawk shifts his course - Dana Millbank’s Washington Post column
Episode 155 – Change Comes to Egypt and Ayn Rand
I Me Mine: The Unholy Trinity Of Ayn Rand – O’Toolefan’s blog post Arthur mentioned
Arthur’s blog, podcasts and videos can be accessed here.

Get 2Poltical Podcast for free on iTunes

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Sam the Cat

October 31, 1995-February 12, 2011

I'll have more on the fantastic 15 years I spent with Sam and some of the amazing things he did.

Friday, February 11, 2011

A Friday Smile

Here are two funny strips from Peanuts. A good laugh for the end of the week.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Knowning When to Let Go

I took Sam for another sonogram yesterday. It was done at a place called Southpaws (where the scan on Saturday was done). It is a wonderful facility. The doctor who did the scan was great. She was very straight forward with the news she gave me. The news is not good.

She is fairly certain that Sam has cancer. She couldn’t exactly find where it is but everything pointed to the fact that he has cancer. She extracted fluid from in and around his lungs. Under normal circumstance the lung should re-inflate. But that is not what is happening with Sam. As the vet described it, the lung is collapsed in some way with some sort of a mass. The bottom line not good news. Yes you could go in and operate and try and fix the problem but to what end. Sam couldn’t stand being at the vet’s last year when he had the problem with his kidney. That was only four days. An operation like this it would probably be a couple of weeks.

Then there is of course the problem with his kidneys. Even if the surgery was some how successful. The anesthesia used could ruin his kidneys. So there will be no surgery.

The vet game him a shot of steroids. She said that might stimulate his appetite and prevent some of the fluid from coming back. I was also given an applicator to use to give him more steroids. You wipe the medicine on the inner flap of his ear. When we got back, Sam did eat some food. He ate some lunch meat. It was the only thing that he would touch. That is not going to sustain him.

The thing is I can tell he is not feeling well. Even his purr doesn’t sound right. It takes him a long time to relax into the rolled up ball that cats sleep in. His breathing when he finally gets into that position is not slow as it should be but forced and faster than usual. I watched on and off for 20 minutes on Monday night as he tried to get comfortable on the couch. It is obvious he is not doing well. I will say he seemed a little better last night but not much.

This is my plan. I’m going to see if the steroids help him feel a little better and see if he eats some food. It is supposed to get a little warmer this weekend and be sunny. I’d like to let him out into the backyard and let him enjoy rolling around in the grass and dust and taking in some sun.

I owe him that much.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Tuesday Treat

This is such a wonderful cover for the 2011 calendar.

One Year Ago, the Snowpocalypse

A year ago we were in the lull between the two storms. Trying very hard to dig out of the snow. I didn't go to work for a week. There was no above ground Metro service for most of that time. One of the days I stayed home because of the water coming in in the room off my back bedroom.

I'm so glad we haven't had a repeat of this so far this year.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Sam is Ailing

Sam is very ill. Over the last week or so he hasn't had much of an appetite. I tried switching up foods which seemed to work for a little while. I originally had an appointment with the vet on Saturday. I moved it to Thursday morning figuring sooner was better.

He stayed at the vet for the day. Turns out he had a large amount of fluid in one of his lungs. The upshot being I took him for a sonogram at Southpaws on Saturday. That showed more fluid in his abdominal cavity.

The results of the test will be forwarded to my vet. I'll talk to her on Monday. Looks like the next thing is to send him to a cardiologist for another test.

But the main thing he is still not eating very much. I've tried just about everything I can think of but he just doesn't seem to be interested. I got him some dried food and he eat a little of that last night and a very little this morning.

I'm trying to be optimistic, but this doesn't look good.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Those Annoying Security Words You Use to Purchase Tickets

I’ve been to several web sites looking for tickets or downloading some software. In both of those cases, I’ve run across these annoying words you have to type in to find the tickets or download your file. Here are a couple of examples:

On Ticket Master this is called the security check. This is from their site:

The Security Check allows us to:

Ensure Fair Access to Tickets
Automated programs known as “Bots” cannot read distorted text as well as humans. The Security Check helps prevent automated programs from blocking other customers from getting tickets.

Digitize Books One Word at a Time
By entering the words in the box, you are also helping to digitize books from the Internet Archive and preserve literature that was written before the computer age.

Provide an Audio Option for Visually Impaired Customers
An audio option allows visually impaired customers to hear a set of 8 digits that can be entered instead of the word challenge.

When this first started the “words” you had to type were actually words. They were also in a straight line. They were also one color — black. Now it seems anything goes. As you can see from a couple of these examples. The phrase is in a wave. Part of it is black another part white. A large part of the time they aren’t even words. One thing I’ve noticed lately is some of the phrases have accent marks. How do you recreate an accent mark on a standard American key board?

Sometimes it takes me a couple of times to figure out what the phrase is. When getting tickets this can be a pain.

The thing I didn’t know was the part about helping to digitize books one word at a time.

This from the Recapthcha site:

About 200 million CAPTCHAs are solved by humans around the world every day. In each case, roughly ten seconds of human time are being spent. Individually, that’s not a lot of time, but in aggregate these little puzzles consume more than 150,000 hours of work each day. What if we could make positive use of this human effort? reCAPTCHA does exactly that by channeling the effort spent solving CAPTCHAs online into “reading” books.

To archive human knowledge and to make information more accessible to the world, multiple projects are currently digitizing physical books that were written before the computer age. The book pages are being photographically scanned, and then transformed into text using “Optical Character Recognition” (OCR). The transformation into text is useful because scanning a book produces images, which are difficult to store on small devices, expensive to download, and cannot be searched. The problem is that OCR is not perfect.

reCAPTCHA improves the process of digitizing books by sending words that cannot be read by computers to the Web in the form of CAPTCHAs for humans to decipher. More specifically, each word that cannot be read correctly by OCR is placed on an image and used as a CAPTCHA. This is possible because most OCR programs alert you when a word cannot be read correctly.

But if a computer can’t read such a CAPTCHA, how does the system know the correct answer to the puzzle? Here’s how: Each new word that cannot be read correctly by OCR is given to a user in conjunction with another word for which the answer is already known. The user is then asked to read both words. If they solve the one for which the answer is known, the system assumes their answer is correct for the new one. The system then gives the new image to a number of other people to determine, with higher confidence, whether the original answer was correct.

Who knew?

So I guess I’ll be a little less annoyed each time I have to type in those phrases.

But it would be so much easier if they were actual words

Rhode Island Station

The construction or Rhode Island Station is in full swing now. This is a project to develop the area right by the Metro station there. Up until that last couple of the months, most of the work has been preparing the area for the actual construction. They had to remove a small hill and that took some time.

However, in the last couple of months, the actual building has begun and the project is starting to take shape. You can take a look at what the final product will look like by clicking on the picture below. The goal is to have things ready by the end of this year.

Rhode Island Station, Part II

The Rhode Island Avenue metro parking lot was closed in May of last year. The first structure that was built was the parking garage. It went up very quickly because it was essential concrete slabs. Very much a pre-fab construction.

In the late fall this construction started.

This last picture is from the parking lot where the Giant and Home Depot is. It will eventually be a TD Bank. The construction area had been fenced over for several months. Only in the last couple of weeks has there been any work going on.