Tales From The Ipe!

I sit by and watch the river flow. I sit by and watch the traffic go.

Category: Did You Know? (page 1 of 5)

So now we’re doing this thing where we order our food 6 months in advance….

Namita recently heard about these companies out in Pennsylvania or wherever that will provide you with a commercial freezer, and 6 months of meats and other foods at a time. It’s all organic, individually packaged, and the salesman is coming next Tuesday……

All of the husbands out there — you know I’m asking, “Wait, what’s happening?” I laugh, but Namita must often wonder what I’m talking about at times as well. Of course, I’m usually asking for approval, and she’s usually telling me what will be happening. 😉

So there I am a week later, and some sales guy named Rod or Rob (or whatever his name was) from Five Star Home Foods is trying to sell us on this program. You select the types of foods you want, be it chicken filets, steaks, hamburgers, etc. They deliver a large commercial freezer, and six month supply of food. It’s all flash frozen and individually wrapped.

We signed up but they allow you to cancel if you don’t like the free trial pack of food they give you. We tried their steak burgers and pork chops. They were… fine. They’re smaller than you would buy in the store, but my wife says it’s because they’re all organic.

Alright, I’m in. I’m not a big advocate for organic food. I’m not against it by any means, but I’m not going out of my way to buy organic. I’ll do cage-free eggs and conflict-free Nathans hot dogs all the time.

So here we are. We have this massive commercial freezer in our garage stocked with food. It’s been a few weeks now, and no worries. I’m still lazy and I like eating out, but it’s nice to know there are supplies in the house. Last night, I grilled pork chops and chicken breasts. Small portions, but you have so many, you know? And they were fine.

The Art of the Photograph by Art Wolfe & Rob Sheppard


For our Secret Santa exchange this year, my friend Sandhya surprised me with ” The Art of the Photograph” by Art Wolfe & Rob Sheppard. I am absolutely thrilled. I borrowed this book from our local library a few months ago, and thought it was excellent. Just from reading just the first half of the book, I realized why my photos were so terribly boring. I can’t wait to finish it.

Beautiful pictures, easy to understand, and very insightful. It’s not just a must – read for budding photographers; it’s a must – own reference book.

Dr. Abdus Salam, theoretical physicist

Dr. Abdus Salam

Dr. Abdus Salam

Earlier this month, there was a lot of news that scientists over at Cern’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC) had potentially discovered the Higgs boson. Named after the British scientist (Peter Higgs) who dreamed it up in 1964, it’s an exciting to think we have evidence that it exists. A few weeks ago, I learned in a Daily Mail article that in the 1970’s, a Pakistani physicist named Dr. Abdus Salam also predicted the existence of the Higgs boson particle. Salam was the first Pakistani to win a Nobel prize in Physics. However, he was later shunned in his own country by Muslim fundamentalists when they took control of Pakistan in the 1970’s. It seems that he is from a different sect of Islam that is considered heretical in the eyes of Sunni Muslims. He ended up living out his days in England  until he died in 1996. When I read the article, I had the impression that he won the Nobel Prize for predicting the the existence of the particle, which is not true at all. The article is actually wrong.

Last night, I was watching The Elegant Universe, a very nice 3-part series on string theory that came out in 2003, and hosted by noted American physicist Brian Greene. While I’m watching this, there is a clip from the 1979 Nobel Prize ceremony, and there on screen are three fellows winning the Nobel Prize in Physics for work on the electroweak theory, and the fellow in middle appears to be South Asian! Who is that? I do some searching and lo and behold, the fellow in the middle is none other than Dr. Abdus Salam.

SHELDON L. GLASHOW, ABDUS SALAM and STEVEN WEINBERG for their contributions to the theory of the unified weak and electromagnetic interaction between elementary particles, including inter alia the prediction of the weak neutral current.

Dr. Abdus Salam accepting the 1979 Nobel Prize in Physics

Dr. Abdus Salam accepting the 1979 Nobel Prize in Physics

So yes, the Daily Mail article had some of its facts incorrect, which I think is the sign of the times here, because I don’t think these writers are doing their due dilligence in researching (or minimizing typographical errors!) In any case, Dr. Salam is huge, because he was one of three physicists who independently came up up with the electroweak theory.

I’m sorry for geeking out, but I do loves me some physics. Also, I geeked a little, because Dr. Salam came up earlier in the month because of the Higgs boson annoucement, and again a few weeks later while I was watching a completely unrelated episode of NOVA on PBS. Can you blame me?

NY Times: Notes From a Dragon Mom

I wrote a science article back in high school about Tay-Sachs disease. As a parent now, this article gave me a whole different perspective.

Emily Rapp is the author of “Poster Child: A Memoir,” and a professor of creative writing at the Santa Fe University of Art and Design.

MY son, Ronan, looks at me and raises one eyebrow. His eyes are bright and focused. Ronan means “little seal” in Irish and it suits him.

I want to stop here, before the dreadful hitch: my son is 18 months old and will likely die before his third birthday. Ronan was born with Tay-Sachs, a rare genetic disorder. He is slowly regressing into a vegetative state. He’ll become paralyzed, experience seizures, lose all of his senses before he dies. There is no treatment and no cure.

How do you parent without a net, without a future, knowing that you will lose your child, bit by torturous bit?

NY Times: Notes From a Dragon Mom

Have you ever read the ingredients in Reese’s Pieces?

I had this crazy craving for Reese’s Pieces this morning. Have you ever read the ingredients? In the same order as listed on bag.

Sugar; partially defatted peanuts; partially hydrogenated vegetable oil (palm kernel and soybean oil); corn syrup; dextrose; contains 2% or less of: artificial color (yellow 5 lake; red 40 lake; yellow 6 lake; blue 1 lake); salt; resinous glaze; soy lecithin; modified cornstarch; carnauba wax; vanillin; artificial flavor; milk.

Wow. My favorites in that list are partially defatted peanuts and resinous glaze. Turns your stomach, don’t it? BTW, they’re delicious.

io9.com: The 10 strangest creative liberties ever taken on superhero TV shows

I have no words to describe what I have seen in this article, and the embedded video clips that go along with it. Hollywood has always seen fit to drastically alter source material to suit “the suits”, but some of their decisions border on the remarkably insane. io9.com published this article, The 10 strangest creative liberties ever taken on superhero TV shows, and truly, it boggles the mind.

  • The Human Torch replaced by a floating robot?
  • Wonder Woman needs a husband?
  • Wonder Woman is a ninja?
  • Spiderman fights giant monsters in his giant robot (of course, only in Japan.)
  • The Brady Brunch spun off a Brady Kids animated show with pandas and a magic-wielding bird?

The clips are priceless, so please, view the clips. My favorite is the Fantastic Four clip featuring a bizarre Magneto. Please, please, please. Otherwise, Magneto will get angry!

Science shows are awesome but sometimes give me a headache

One of the nice benefits of FiOS and/or watching the HD channels is I’m watching some very cool and heady science shows. For the past two months, I’ve recently been watching two fantastic shows in particular:

I’m currently watching an episode of The Universe on the History Channel in high definition about alternate universes, the unified theory, and all that jazz. These are available in SD, but watching them in HD is beauty on a whole different level. It’s been interesting that Albert Einstein touched upon many of these topics in the early-to-mid 20th century — that man was truly a genius.

The shows use lots of computer graphics and interviews with scientists to help explain the topics, but the science is mind-boggling, I often rewind once or twice to try to understand a particular concept. And I’m sure these topics have been dumbed down or “laymanized” for the every man who is watching.

A flat tire helped me to discover that replacing tires on Toyota Highlanders is an expensive proposition

This is the ratchet that went into our tire

This is the ratchet that went into our tire

During the week that I was in Dallas, my wife was driving the kids home and got a flat tire somewhere between Princeton and our house. She didn’t know what it was, but last week when I took it to my local Toyota dealership’s servicing department, they and I were both shocked to find it was a large ratchet tool. They were so amazed, they gave it back to me to keep. You can see a picture of it in my hand on the right. Maybe someone was doing some auto repair, and lost this on the road at some point.

I asked Toyota if they could patch the tire, but they said they couldn’t. Furthermore, they stated all four tires were in bad shape and should be replaced. All four tires? The car is less than two years old, and we’ve accumulated only 42K miles on these tires. Depending on the variables, I would expect tires to last at least 50-60K miles. This is highly questionable. I’m sure Toyota is more than willing to sell me unneccessary services and parts, and that includes overpriced tires, but I asked for an initial quote.

Oh geez, that’s when I got my second shock of the day. The 2008 Highlander Limited originally comes standard with Toyo Open Country P245/55 R19 light truck tires. Fantastically expensive, four new tires would run me $1178. The only other option are Bridgestone Dueler H/T 400’s that will cost about $868. It’s not just the cost that’s shocking — these are the only two options, albeit expensive ones. In the past, I could  go to any tire shop and get a reasonable and comparable model. It turns out that nowadays, you’re going to find more cars/trucks with odd-sized tires that are not carried by many shops.

I went online, and there are numerous complaints from current Highlander owners that you are locked into these limited choices that aren’t readily available at Toyota or Firestone locations. Oh yeah, that’s right. Toyota doesn’t even stock the Toyo tires, and has to special order them. Furthermore, Highlander owners complained that both Toyo and Bridgestone tires will last you 40K miles or less, and you’ll see uneven wear-and-tear. Again, these are my options?

Here’s the next surprise. The Highlander comes with a fantastic feature where a sensor detects a low tire pressure. Nice feature, right? I knew that, and sounded good to me, nor did I have to pay extra for that. Guess what? Every time you have to change a tire, you have to throw the sensor away, and buy a new one, and pay to install that. We all initially like how sophisticated our cars/trucks are these days, but when you have repairs, there are so many more expensive parts to either replace. It’s incredible. Talk about a double-edged sword.

Although I was nervous about driving around with no spare, I wasn’t going to throw money away without price comparison shopping. I tried a few Toyota and Firestone locations, and my Dad helped me as well. I also decided to limit myself to only two new tires for now, with the intention of replacing two more next month. Spreading that cost out over two months is a little easier to swallow. In the end, I went back to James Toyota where we originally purchased the Highlander. They offered us $460 on two tires plus a free car wash. I made a 7:30am appt on a Wed, waited in their nice customer lounge for about 90 mins, and then got on my way to the office. They also highly recommended that we change all four tires at once, but I wasn’t interested. I’m sure we can squeeze out another few weeks without the world ending.

$460 later, I have half of the new tires that I need, but it will have to be good enough for now. There’s no way we’re going to plunk down nearly a thousand dollars on tires in one month.

Tropical storm Agatha opens up massive, horrifying sinkholes in Guatemala City

I saw this post and photos originally on io9.com. There are more details on BoingBoing. The photo below is of a sinkhole 20 meters deep and 15 meters wide after tropical storm Agatha struck the country. Local press reports that it swallowed an entire 3-story building, and there were more sinkholes in the city itself.

Guatemala is in a state of crisis today after twin natural calamities struck: First, on May 27 the Pacaya volcano (just 19 miles from the capital) woke up in a bad mood. Lava flowed, black sand and rock and ash spewed everywhere. A newscaster covering the news near the volcano was killed by flying rocks.

Two days later on May 29, tropical storm “Agatha” struck, destroying homes, causing floods, and creating tens of thousands of internally displaced. Infrastructure in this country—where the majority live in poverty—is very poor, and ill-equipped to handle such a double blow. As of last night, official numbers on storm: about 30,000 “refugees,” close to 120,000 evacuated, 93 dead and rising. Guatemala’s one international airport has been has been closed for days, and just as it prepares to reopen today, there’s word of new volcanic activity.

Sinkhole in Guatemala City

Sinkhole in Guatemala City

The World at War is the greatest documentary about WWII

After moving to FiOS last summer, one of my favorite channels is the Military Channel, which is one of the many channels under the Discovery Channel umbrella. It’s basically weapons and war 24 hours a day. As a guy, it’s good stuff. One of the shows they broadcast is The World at War. This is a 26 episode British television documentary  published for British television. Begun in 1969, it began airing in 1971.

The World at War (1971)

The World at War (1971)

It is the most in-depth series of documentaries about World War II that I have ever seen. Stretching over these 26 episodes, there are no recreations or CGI graphics. It is 100% actual footage from newsreels, battlefield video, and other footage from the era. To see people’s faces, to witness actual battles, and to see what it must have been like to have lived through that time. In addition, the producers interspersed footage with interviews with actual combatants and people in power back then. Actor Jimmy Stewart who described his time as a U.S. bomber pilot, to Averell Harriman as U.S. diplomat, to chiefs of staff, commanders, generals, from various countries who fought in the war. You watch interviews with Luftwaffe commanders as they described their missions to bomb London and the English countryside, the German people who survived bombing, the Polish people who survived the Warsaw uprising, etc. This series of documentaries was put together over two years starting in 1969, and these people were still alive at the time, and tell you first-hand what it was like.

What I also find fascinating are the background information and footage describing how the world got to the point of war and what happened behind the scenes, not just on the front lines. It was very interesting to watch how Japan slowly became a fascist state run by the military, and that their quest for expansion was to acquire the necessary natural resources that they lacked on their series of home islands. To watch footage of the common British citizens walking around rubble after the bombings, doing their best the next day to continue life. Having studied WWII before, these documentaries have brought the whole period from the 30’s to the mid 40’s to life for me.

Lastly, from Europe to Africa to Asia to the Pacific, there were so many atrocities committed by so many nations against others. The amount of people struggling to survive with limited food, no clothes, living in bombed out homes. I remember one anecdote where a Japanese woman interviewed spoke about how originally Japanese were reluctantly forced to work in factories. She tells in the interview how she worked from sunrise to late in the evening, and due to the rations, and her only meal would be the late dinner — a bowl of soup with one noodle. The people of Stalingrad who survived the Nazi invasion had no food, so they would mix sawdust into their version of bread. The number of people who died in these battles and bombings. We talk about the wars these days and how 10 or 20 people were killed in an attack. Back then, thousands of people at a time were dying  in bombing raids or on the battlefront in a day. The scope of the carnage is mind-boggling.

I don’t buy DVDs any more, since I’ve found it much more economical to simply rent a film as needed. However, I’m very interested in purchasing this series and adding it to my DVD collection. It’s worth its weight in gold.

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