Pail Punting Preliminaries

January 6, 2013

bucketlistI finally got around to watching The Bucket List the other night and enjoyed it (could Morgan Freeman possibly be more likable?) and like every other soul who watched that movie got to thinking about my own such list. I’d never written anything like this down before so I was curious to see if I could quickly list 10 things worthy of inclusion. That’s a long bucket list, I know, but I figure I have plenty of time (hopefully) to get them all done. So here’s my list (subject to change as I consider in more depth over the coming days/weeks/years/decades):

Tony’s Provisional Bucket List

1. Learn to speak another language proficiently (not Klingon)
2. Spend a significant block of time overseas living as a local (goes with #1)
3. Learn to play the guitar reasonably well (simple songs) and sing on key
4. Learn enough construction skills to renovate a house
5. Write a book good (lucky?) enough to be published
6. Take or audit at least one philosophy class
7. Learn to board surf
8. Design and build a house or building of some kind
9. Take a bar tending class and/or a cooking class
10. Learn to sail at an intermediate level

Feel free to share a list (or a partial list) in the comments section. Don’t be shy – life is short, after all.


December 12, 2012


Cool date. Too bad nothing memorable happened today (so far).

Even though I haven’t been posting, I’ve been learning stuff:

I’ve started a top secret learning project that won’t be unveiled until it’s complete.

SYSK taught me about how Meth works (backed up by a few eps of Breaking Bad)

They also had a cool episode about genetic engineering of children, which led me to…

A happiness gene has been identified in women. Should we crank it up for all babies in the future? It sure would make dating easier for the men of the future.

On ArsTechnica I’ve learned that photosynthesis is nearly 100% energy efficient in an article about how biology may use quantum mechanics.

Any of these could make a full post, and maybe they will if the world doesn’t end on the winter solstice. We shall see!

The password is what?

November 4, 2012


I’m not great at making sure my online passwords are secure. I don’t change them often enough (if ever) and some of them are a bit on the weak side (no mixture of letters and numbers or too short or whatever). But compared to most people it seems I’m not too bad. ArsTechnica posted an article that listed the most common passwords, and it’s even more predictable and silly than the yearly list of popular baby names. Here’s the top 12 with my comments in parentheses:

12. trustno1 (people still remember the X-files, I guess)

11. iloveyou (awww, unless you think about people typing it to themselves)

10. baseball (it beat football and basketball easily)

9. 111111 (64 in binary?)

8. dragon (I love Game of Thrones too)

7. letmein (I’d never seen this one before but it makes sense)

6. monkey (because people like monkeys)

5. qwerty (the dvorak keyboard folks don’t use this one)

4. abc123 (do they think of the Jackson 5 song when they type it?)

3. 12345678 (they’re getting worse now)

2. 123456 (for people too lazy to type the 7 and 8)

And finally (and predictably):

1. password (yes, people really are this stupid)

Well, I’m off to change my passwords now. Oh, and I apologize in advance for the “artsy” photos with dramatic lighting and depth of field effects I’ll be posting in the future… I bought a fancy new DSLR and just can’t help myself.

Angry Capsters

March 5, 2012

So I finally listened to a Missed in History podcast yesterday. It’s been a while because I’ve been enthralled in Dostoyevsky’s “The Brothers Karamazov” in audiobook form (a great format for Russian literature since pronouncing the names is tricky for English speakers). The podcast was about the Lincoln assassination, but sadly there was little I didn’t already know since I watched a documentary about it a year or so ago. But in their wrap-up they mentioned Mad Hatters in a literal sense, which compelled me to look it up later.

It turns out that in 18th and 19th century England mercury was used in the production of felt that was used in the making of hats. The workers in these factories (the “hatters”) were exposed to significant quantities of the toxic substance and some suffered from dementia as a result of mercury poisoning. It was common enough that “mad as a hatter” came to be synonymous with “crazy person” during this period.

The phrase is usually associated with the character The Hatter in “Alice in Wonderland,” which was written in 1865 (Lewis Carroll never actually uses the term “Mad Hatter,” though the character is clearly insane and the Cheshire Cat refers to him as “mad”). Carroll grew up in Stockport, where hat-making was a prominent trade, so he would have very likely been aware of the phrase.


January 15, 2012

This week I listened to a podcast about a criminally insane man who played a big part in the formation of the Oxford English Dictionary. But as I was reading more about that dictionary, I was led in down a side path and ended up reading about a Noah Webster, a Connecticut native who is considered the father of American education (my guess is that he’d be horrified by the current state of our public education system, but that’s neither here nor there).

His professional career got off to a rocky start after attending Yale during the Revolutionary War (and college didn’t go smoothly either – he quit for a year after lapsing into a depression but found his way back on track after finding a mentor). He passed the bar exam but couldn’t find work as an lawyer due to the war so he opened a school which was immediately successful, but then he quickly shut it down and left town, likely due to a failed romance.

Webster then turned to writing, where he wrote a series of popular newspaper articles and then his first versions of his famous Speller, Grammar and Reader books for elementary education. These books were designed to teach reading in elementary school and were quite successful. The Speller book was known as the Blue-Backed Speller due to it’s blue cover, and would see 385 editions in Webster’s lifetime, sell over 60 million copies, and be a dominant force in reading education for over 100 years. Over the course of all these editions, Webster changed the spelling of many words to make them “Americanized.” This was somewhat arbitrarily, but clearly growing up as a patriot during the revolution gave him the desire to distance even the language from British rule.

Of course, Webster is probably most famous for his dictionary, but these weren’t successful in his lifetime. He published his first dictionary in 1806 and then  much more comprehensive version in 1825, but it only sold 2,500 copies. He finished his second edition in 1843 and then died soon afterwards. After his death his dictionary rapidly grew in popularity and influence.

One statistic in particular stood out to me about Webster’s life – he was such a prolific writer that a modern bibliography of his published works required 655 pages! He would have been quite the blogger…

Parlez vous?

July 20, 2011

The German Grand Prix takes place this weekend at the Nurburgring in western Germany, not far from Luxembourg and Belgium. Both of those two smaller countries are primarily French speaking, but I knew that from a 6th grade geography project I did. What I did learn today during my usual amount of time on is that the words “Grand Prix” is really just French for “Grand Prize.” It makes perfect sense, but I never saw it until it was pointed out by an article. Oddly enough, there is currently no French Grand Prix.

Cousin Larry

July 18, 2011

I was watching Mean Girls for the umpteenth time the other day and this scene drove me to do so research. In the scene, the girl on the right was confused about how she was related to the guy she wanted to kiss, who was her cousin.  I then went to see my Uncle Parka and his grand-daughters who were visiting my parents. The kids are the daughters of my first cousin Berti, and I wasn’t sure what their relational name to me was. So I looked it up and they are my first cousins, once removed. I thought they might be second cousins, but that would mean that our nearest common ancestor would be a great-grandparent (versus a grandparent for first cousins). If one of the girls has a child one day, that child would be my first cousin, twice removed. Finally, this makes sense to me.


July 13, 2011

Way back in my first career I was a graphic designer. If you know a bit about design you are probably aware that there are different kinds of designers. Some specialize in illustration, others in page layout, some in logo design and so on. While almost all designers have to do all these things, most will self-identify with their strongest area. I think of myself as a typographer. I have my favorite typestyles and I’d like to think I’m quite skilled at using them with purpose to achieve a desired effect. Well, I was reading the UK version of MacUser on my iPad (I prefer the Brit mags because they tend to expect a bit more of the reader for some reason) and came across a great article by Keith Martin about the ampersand. It is my favorite character in most typefaces (as opposed to fonts, which are specific instances of a typeface, such as 12 point Palatino italic) and of the author of the article as well. What I didn’t know about the ampersand is that it developed from a ligature (which is a special character that merges two or more letters) for the letters e and t  (“et” in Latin means “and”) and gradually developed into the symbol we know today. In some faces you can still see the e&t, though I confess I never noticed it before. It’s meaning is subtly different than simply typing “and” as well; it implies a greater connection than the word and makes sense for proper names of business partners or of a romantically involved couple. I had never really thought about that before either, though I’ve always used it that way.


July 7, 2011

I play quite a bit of Words With Friends these days, and I have a little personal rule that I only play words that I know and use (excluding the 2-letter words you simply must use to be competitive). So I use the app regularly to look up words I can’t define. Prosaic isn’t a result of a WwF game. No, I heard it a few days ago while watching TV– Meg Ryan uses it in one of my favorite “flip to” movies, You’ve Got Mail. It’s a word I never use because it sounds pretentious, so I never bothered to look it up. But I recently did and it’s ironically a fancy word that means “commonplace.” I’m still not going to use it.

P.S. By the way, feel free to start a Words With Friends game with me. My “handle” is TonyKulla (not NY152).