Aunt Lowey's Fair and Balanced Handy-Dandy Blog

Miscellaneous fair and balanced (or balanced and fair, or unbalanced and unfair as the mood strikes) thoughts, links, rants, and cool stuff.
  "Peace and quiet, peace peace peace,
we all want peace, we all want peace."
-- Fred McFeely Rogers, 1928-2003

  Other blogs, cartoons, and interesting sites

The Agonist


Making Light


The Sideshow


Brad DeLong

The Hillbilly Sophisticate

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Molly Ivins


Unshelved(formerly "Overdue")

Monty Python

The Onion

Dave Barry



This Modern World

Science Blog

Visit my Handy-Dandy Home Page,
my Live Journal,

. . . and, of course, my Archives

This page is powered by Blogger, the easy way to update your web site.

Feedback by blogBack


Thursday, February 27, 2003
Best news I've heard in awhile: Death Takes a Holiday. No, it's not a Terry Pratchett book. It's a real news story -- a company that runs funeral parlors and cemeteries had "cut its earnings estimate for the year, partly because, to put it bluntly, not enough people are dying." Gee, coulda fooled me!
There was a book, and later movie, IIRC, about submarines, that was called "Run Silent, Run Deep". That seems an appropriate title for this tale of the fate of Pioneer 10, the little satellite that could. It keeps going and going . . . but, unfortunately, it's going silently from now on, no longer able to send messages home.
NASA says they've lost contact with Pioneer. Last they heard from it was January 22nd.

It was launched March 2, 1972, when I was a senior in college, and is the first human-made object to leave the solar system, having gone beyond the orbit of Pluto in 1983. Now it's more than 7 billion miles away, headed toward Aldebaran, the big red star that appears in our sky as the eye of Taurus the Bull. Not that it's going to get there soon -- Aldebaran is 68 light-years away, and NASA says it will take Pioneer 10 about 2 million years to get there! Seven billion miles is a drop in the bucket in comparison, but the little ship's "radioisotope" power source is apparently wearing out, the last signal was very weak, and a scheduled contact February 7 didn't work, so NASA is not planning to try to contact it again.

The following excerpts from the story at seem like fitting farewells:

"Pioneer 10 was a pioneer in the true sense of the word. After it passed Mars on its long journey into deep space, it was venturing into places where nothing built by humanity had ever gone before," said Dr. Colleen Hartman, director of NASA's Solar System Exploration Division, NASA Headquarters, Washington. "It ranks among the most historic as well as the most scientifically rich exploration missions ever undertaken," she said.

"Originally designed for a 21-month mission, Pioneer 10 lasted more than 30 years. It was a workhorse that far exceeded its warranty, and I guess you could say we got our money's worth," said Pioneer 10 Project Manager, Dr. Larry Lasher.

This is from Wednesday's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

It's more proof, I suppose, of why they call it "dope". And it takes place in the same township where I grew up!

[excerpt from story begins here}

A raid at one of the shops, Heads-N-Threads in North Huntingdon, led to additional arrests -- some of the easiest township police have ever made, according to Chief Charles Henaghan.

"While we were there, we kind of got an added bonus," he said. "Customers were coming in to purchase the illegal items."

To do that, they had to walk past two marked police cars outside the shop on U.S. Route 30.

Inside, federal, state and local officers in uniforms were searching for paraphernalia.

One woman walked up to a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent who was wearing a marked shirt, pointed to a pot pipe and told him that she wanted to buy a pipe "just like that." The pipe was in a bag marked "evidence."

Some of the shoppers arrived carrying drugs or paraphernalia. Township police confiscated an unknown amount of suspected heroin and marijuana, plus several pot pipes and cash.

"It was almost hard to believe," Henaghan said. "I don't know how to characterize it -- as naivete or stupidity or whatever -- to walk into a store when you have uniformed officers standing there and try to buy something illegal from them. I really don't know what it says about our society."

The customers made no effort to hide contraband they had when they walked in.

"One individual had the bag of marijuana sticking out of his back pocket," Henaghan said.

Another had a large bag of marijuana in his clothing, along with several packets of heroin and more than $1,700 in cash. Others were carrying pot pipes. Police also confiscated a pizza box filled with marijuana.

{end of excerpt}

Gee, if this store is where I think it is, there used to be a really good pizza place near there. But the only green stuff on their pizza was oregano.

Monday, February 24, 2003
If it's Monday it must be snowing! This time they're only predicting 1-3 inches, or 2-4 depending on which station you listen to. It wasn't bad coming to work, though; I think there was only about an inch in my driveway.

Only 4 and a half days left of February, and I think I will be glad to see March blow in.

Sunday, February 23, 2003
Why I am, or am not, a handy-dandy aunt: I've finally added the picture of my great-niece Jordan to my website. I thought I could also upload the little video-clip of my great-nephew Jericho (his mom and Jordan's mom are sisters to each other), but it didn't work. Aaaaugh! Meanwhile I also added a link from my homepage to this blog.
Saturday, February 22, 2003
Also, now I've decided to play with colors. At is a good page on blue and gray colors, or "bleus, gris et cyans" (it's French). The main page is called "Codes hexadécimaux de couleurs RGB (Html)" There are also pages for other parts of the spectrum. The color names themselves are mostly in English, though, and in color, so even if you don't know French you can probably use it.
Now that I'm in a good mood, I'll post a couple of humor links.

"ICQ Log Study Shows Americans Have 'Ungood Grammer'" puts the blame squarely where it belongs -- on AOL and "instant messaging":

"Its really scarey how bad these Americans communicate with themself's," said Hunter Echo of SGG during an ICQ interview. "'How r u?' roughly translate means 'How our you?' How difficult is it to type out the entire word porperly. We don't put the balm entirley on Americans, we think AOL (creater of the software) is responsible for installing a grammer UNchecker which purposefully distorts the persons' grammer. All american's can't be that stuipid? Kan they?"

And the other day Vicki mentioned this column by Jon Carroll on the great President whose birthday we celebrated last week, Washington Lincoln. Or something like that. . . .
(Also, while you're at Jon's, do check out his pages on mondegreens.)

Another post with no meaning whatsoever except to post something: There, let's see if that fixes the comments thing.

This just in! -- it works! Somebody send me a comment!!!!!
Friday, February 21, 2003
LISNews has an article on librarian pickup lines, one on how libraries handle the Sports Illustrated swimwear issue, and one on Jeb Bush's contempt for librarians and for Florida's history.

Best line: "guys who wouldn't know a Dewey decimal from a Mountain Dew are after the SI swimsuit models and their barely covered, um, reference sections."
"Funky Lasagna" would be a good name for a band, actually.

So would "Boomerang Nebula".

Thursday, February 20, 2003
Photo fun:

1./ This picture is:

(a) a neon bow tie
(b) an hourglass
(c) from a new opening for "Days of Our Lives"
(d) a wineglass on a mirror
(e) long ago and far away

2./ This one is:
(a) funky lasagna
(b) something that was overpriced before it went on sale
(c) something people that got snowed in at Boskone wished they had
(d) something I wouldn't mind knitting if I had time
(e) something I wouldn't mind knitting in blue (see photo 1 for color) instead of that weird grape color
(f) something I wouldn't mind knitting if my fingers didn't cramp up when I knit

Wednesday, February 19, 2003
This was funny, except of course that there really are people like that. Scroll all the way down to the bottom, for the bumper-stickers too. I'd even be tempted to get one except that I still have my Gore/Lieberman sticker from 2000 on the car. (And my other alternative to that would be the running-gag line from some of Lois McMaster Bujold's books, "I didn't vote for him.") The Gore sticker is next to my Pittsburgh Pirates sticker. My guys, losers or not. And Al isn't, of course.

Meanwhile, this is somewhat related.

Baseball and anti-war protests. Hmm. I'm having flashbacks here to the march in October, 1969, which I attended accompanied not only by some of my friends and several thousand other people (and this was just in Pittsburgh), but by my transistor radio, which I was seldom without in those days. That day I was listening to the World Series -- the Mets were winning.

Then too, there was the game I attended with my sister and my best friend the night after I finished graduate school, in August, 1974. Cincinnati vs. Pittsburgh at Three Rivers. All the way to the park we were discussing the speech Pres. Nixon was to give that night. "He'll never resign," I kept saying. "Being President is the only thing he's ever wanted." And again, I had my transistor along to listen. Guess who was wrong that time? :-)

Yes, baseball and peace are a good combination.


First the weather: It stopped snowing! Yay! Then I shoveled the driveway and front steps -- what front steps? You couldn't even see them, the snow had piled and drifted and covered them completely. If it hadn't been for the corners of the retaining wall I'd never have found them! -- and sure enough about the time I got to the top of the steps it started to snow again. (boo!) Only another inch or so, though. .But then it stopped again and seems to be staying stopped. I think the total here at my house for the whole storm was 12 inches, maybe a bit less. I'm going by what I shoveled and by the snow gauge in my backyard, which I can see from my kitchen window.

The library was open but wasn't busy, which was probably just as well: a few of the staff were still unable to come in because their roads weren't plowed, and the director was out all morning helping the janitor shovel the sidewalks and steps. The schools, of course, were closed.

In fact it was warmish today (temp. above freezing, if only slightly) with more warm weather to follow. And rain in the forecast, too, in a couple of days from now, which should melt some of the snow, and probably cause flooding in some of the low areas (river and creek valleys, or "hollows" as they're often called around here), so it's not an unmixed blessing.

Second, Yariv from backBlog e-mailed me a change in the coding to try so I can get the comments up. I haven't tried it yet (tired from snow shoveling, among other things; really, my shoulder's still aching, and I'm hoping to go to bed earlier than usual tonight), but I intend to try it soon.

Monday, February 17, 2003
The Pittsburgh weather people are real encouraging, she said, dripping sarcasm. They're comparing this snow to the ones in 1950 and 1993, which are the worst in the region's history, about 30 inches each time.

They are also important events in my family's history. The Big Snow of 1950 fell over Thanksgiving weekend, when my mom and I were still in the hospital after I was born, and Dad was snowed in at work for several days. Mom and I spent the next week or two with my aunt and uncle who then lived in Homewood. I don't remember it, of course, but Mom and Aunt Ruth and some of my other older relatives would always tell me about it, so it almost seems like I do. They're almost all dead now, so the memories of them telling me about it are what's really important.

The Blizzard of 1993 happened on Dad's birthday. My sisters and I, the ones of us who live in the Pittsburgh area, were going to have a party for him, with cake and a roasted turkey and all kinds of good stuff, but the snow prevented that. At least he was at my sister's when it snowed (the party was going to be at her house) so he had company and food and we didn't have to worry about him. We had the party a bit late, the next weekend, when the roads were cleared.

These are significant events in my family history. I wonder what will happen this time. At least I hope there's less snow!

A technical note: I've moved some things around in the template, including eliminating the "tables" on the bottom and right side; most of those links, including the buttons, are in the "Other blogs and links" table now. Once I "publish" this note I can see how it looks.
I give up, and am e-mailing backBlog to see if they can help me sort this out. There are some other problems too, possibly results of my clumsy attempts to "tweak" the coding for backBlog in order to get my comments feature up and running. I know little HTML and less Java, and may have screwed things up more than I've helped them. In fact the buttons for Blogger and backBlog now seem to have vanished! I've re-entered the coding for them, and hope they'll come back. "Come back, Blogger! Come back!"

At least the counter works, and looks nice. And not all those numbers are my own log-ins. Someone is out there! Hi! (waving)
Sunday, February 16, 2003
It's snowing. And snowing and snowing and . . . we've got quite a bit so far; when it's all over tomorrow we should have close to a foot. Some parts of the country -- heck, some parts of the area, not far south or east of here -- already have more.
let's tweak again (like we did last summer?) -- Name that tune!
Oh, good. The button worked. I'm glad something did.
And a button for backBlog too. Not that it's good advertising for them yet, since I can't get the comments to actually work! There's a ')> in there that doesn't belong somehow, even though I don't see in the coding what the problem is, where those punctuation marks are extraneous.
I've added a counter so I can tell if anyone else but me is checking in to read my deathless prose :-) and the coding for a comments feature, from a company called BackBlog, but so far when I click on the appropriate part of the post ("Please click here to comment") all I get is a "The page cannot be found" message. Oh well, it's a start for 2 a.m. on a Saturday night/Sunday morning.

If it doesn't work tomorrow and I can't figure out the problem I'll e-mail them. They seem to be in Israel where it's early morning now -- they're what? seven or eight hours ahead of us -- but it's bedtime here in Wild & Wonderful W.Va.
Friday, February 14, 2003
From LISNews: This cartoon by Doug Marlette about Jeb Bush vs. the Florida State Library.
Thursday, February 13, 2003
True Yahoo!News headline: Bush Tells Troops They Ready if War Comes

Hey, Yahoo! headline writer: You semiliterate, war or no.
Wednesday, February 12, 2003
Pam Gotcher from the Bujold list reports on her new toy, a Segway Human transporter, on MSNBC! She's one of only thirty people in the U.S. who owns one of the things. She lives in Florida, and loves it. They do look like fun. Personally, though, I'm not at all sure how they would do in hilly -- and snowy -- West Virginia!
Update to the note about World War I veterans -- I looked at the Excel files at the VA website and it said there were 610 veterans of WWI. (This was apparently as of 2001.) There were however 1245 veterans over 100 years old! (Are these people who were in the service shortly before or maybe just after the Great War? There are apparently no Spanish-American War vets left; they'd have to be about 120 years old if there were.) The Excel files also had breakdowns for how many veterans there are in each "age cohort" or for each war or between-wars period by state. West Virginia had 4 WWI vets, compared to 23 for Ohio and 28 for Pennsylvania. (When you live in the Northern Panhandle, which is only about five miles wide here, you tend to think in terms of three states, not one like normal people. :-) ) California had 70 and Florida had 59, while Alaska had none, and Vermont, North Dakota and Delaware had one each.

This of course is only counting U.S. veterans. A quick Google search on First World War veterans brought up several links for appropriate agencies in the UK and Canada, and I suppose other countries have them as well, but I wasn't that curious. Call me Americentric, or whatever the word is, but just having an idea of how many U.S. vets there are in that group was enough to satisfy my wondering.

The Oldest Light in the Universe

Neat picture from NASA's Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe, aka WMAP, which is out at the L2 Lagrange point.. Among other things, this "baby picture of the Universe" -- which apparently represents the background microwave radiation from about 380,000 years after the big bang -- seems to fix the age of said Universe "at 13.7 billion years, with a remarkably small one percent margin of error." Of course 1 percent of nearly 14 billion is still a long time! Puts the baby pictures of my great-nephews in a different perspective. (I have one of my great-niece -- their second cousin -- that I scanned today and need to put online soon, too.)

Tuesday, February 11, 2003
GAO drops Cheney energy probe

Excerpt from the article:

GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE chief David Walker said the watchdog agency will not appeal a Dec. 9 court ruling in favor of the Bush White House, which refuses to reveal which industry executives and lobbyists Cheney and his aides met with in the early months of the administration.
“GAO strongly believes the district court’s decision is incorrect,” said Walker, the GAO’s comptroller general.
But “further pursuit of the ... information would require investment of significant time and resources over several years,” Walker said. Several private organizations are pursuing the same information in separate court cases, he noted.
U.S. District Judge John Bates, a Bush appointee, had said the GAO’s lawsuit seeking to find out whom Cheney and his aides met with from the business sector was an unprecedented act that raised serious separation-of-powers issues.

(end of excerpt)

GAO, you see, is an agency created and run by Congress (like the Library of Congress and the Government Printing Office), not by the President.

I guess no one told Judge Bates in law school, or even in high-school civics class, that the separation of powers is the main principle of the Constitution! The Congress is supposed to be a check on the President, and vice-versa.

Good luck to the "private organizations" that are still on the case!

This Yahoo! News story, "Veteran, 106, Honored by France for WWI Service" makes me wonder just how many combat veterans -- or even regular veterans -- of the "war to end all wars" are still with us? Can't be many. Even the youngest ones -- the ones who were only 14 but lied about their age to get in -- would be 100 now. My grandpa, who was in the Army during the war but never got overseas, would've been about this man's age.

I was unable to find statistics on this though. The Dept. of Veterans Affairs has some Demographic Tables, but I can't read them here; they're in Excel. And they're only in 5-year groups, with projections for future years up to 2030. Won't be any WWI vets by then, I reckon.
This looks interesting: a live camera view of New York City from one of the Circle Line ships. The site also includes some previously-taken pix of the city and links to other NYC live cams.

OK, at one in the morning the Circle Line cam isn't much (showed the dock) but I bet it's interesting during the day. Meanwhile there's always the Times Square cam!
Sunday, February 09, 2003
The Hillbilly Sophisticate, another blogger from West Virginia, wonders what our state quarter will look like.
I hope it will include the outline of the state, which is distinctive, being very irregular, especially for a state without a seacoast, and not at all like, say, Colorado or Wyoming.
So that's where they come from!
There seem to be an awful -- and "awful" is a good term for some of 'em -- lot of these personality tests online lately. But here are two good ones:
Which Poetry Form Are You?
Which Greek Goddess Are You?

Unlike some tests, you can get multiple answers from these, so I am a sonnet and blank verse -- I have actually been known to commit both, too! -- and Athena and Hestia.
Everybody's gettin' into the act!
Dave Barry has a blog now too.
Today's entry is inspired by his visit "to a Secret Undisclosed Location that I will refer to by the Code Name 'Fisney Forld.'"

Dave, that's what you get for (a) having kids and (b) living in Florida.
Friday, February 07, 2003
Sky and Telescope magazine has a nifty new Interactive Sky Chart feature on their website. This can be personalized to any location and time, and shows the constellations and planets that would be visible in each part of the sky at any hour if you have good seeing conditions. (Which we don't tonight; it's snowing.) This includes daylight hours when the only astronomical objects visible would be the Sun, Moon (depending on phase), and maybe Venus.

I thought it was fun.

Related, perhaps, is this Wired article: "Astronomy: Hobby or Money Pit?"

Thursday, February 06, 2003
Speaking of music questions, one of our patrons wanted a listing of music companies. We thought she meant recording or production companies or music publishers or some such, but what she really wanted, it turns out, was record stores. So Pat looked up "retail record stores" on Google.

The second listing on the results page said:

Retail Record Stores

Below are retail options: Mail Order: Flex Records Phone: 802.862.9055 Fax: 802.865.0301.

Retail Stores: To locate a retail record store near you, email us. - 2k - Cached - Similar pages

But when you click on that, guess what it says!
"We are strictly a wholesale business, we do not sell retail. Below are retail options:" (Italics mine.) The rest of the page is in the Google listing.

"Query by Humming" is a technology currently being developed by the Fraunhofer Institut, who also invented the MP3 format. They've demonstrated the program at trade shows, including one this week in Cannes, France, but it's not available commercially yet. According to the article, it "identifies a song by title and composer based on a person humming a few bars into a microphone." Meanwhile, other companies are working on similar programs.

Musically untalented as I am, I liked this part: "The software displays the recording's structure, identifying the notes by pitch as high and low notes, alerting the tone-deaf to where their melody fell apart."

The fine folks from Fraunhofer "believe the product would interest music retailers, but mainly they see it as a tool for musicians." But they're missing another prime audience: reference librarians. (Patron comes in, or calls on the phone, and asks, "Do you know what this song is?" and hums it.) Probably DJs with call-in request lines, too; I bet they get the same sort of questions.
Michael Swanwick's Periodic Table of Science Fiction is up to number 80, Hg. That's mercury -- the element, not the planet or the god. But the story is about the planet.

Last summer I was using a line from number 40, Zirconium, as a .sig file: "Real baseball is played on a diamond. Virtual baseball is played on a zirconium."

Pitchers (and catchers; why do people forget the catchers?) report to spring training next week. Spring is on its way, no matter what the (expletive deleted) groundhog said!
Notes on a trip to Wal*Mart

All I really needed was a thingy of roll-on deodorant, but I wandered around the store with a shopping cart and bought a few other things, including a DVD. Which is weird when you consider that I don't have a DVD player yet! But it's one of my all-time favorite movies (Local Hero), including one of my all-time favorite soundtracks, and it was only $5 and I was afraid that I might not find it when I finally do break down and buy a DVD player, so I bought it anyhow.

And when I went to the checkout counter, I owed them $17.41, so I started fishing around in my wallet for the change. A quarter -- yep -- a dime -- yep -- a penny -- yep, lots of pennies! -- and a nickel -- well, maybe. It was a Canadian nickel, with the Queen on it instead of Tom Jefferson. And the cashier wouldn't take it. I think that's the first time I've ever run across a human cashier who turned down a Canadian coin. (Vending machines are of course designed to recognize the difference. Pop machines and newspaper machines don't save the Queen, they spit her back out. Patriotic robots!) I didn't have any more nickels from either side of the border. But I did have lots more pennies, so that's what I gave her. My six cents worth.

Some people think pennies are useless.

Maybe I should save my Canadian money for Torcon. A whole nickel! (Well, it's a start.)

Wednesday, February 05, 2003
Those of you whose libraries use the Library of Congress Classification can skip this, but Middletown Thrall Library -- yes, that's their real name! (they're in Middletown, NY, in the Catskills) -- has a neat site for learning about the Dewey Decimal Classification. It includes a game, "Do the Dewey", a bio of ol' Melvil D., and a guide to DDC. "Dewlearn" it!

Thanks to Blake at LISNews for this.
This just in . . . spam from Middle Earth!
(a takeoff on the Nigerian spam plague)
Monkey see, monkey do?

This was posted to a list I'm on.
Columbia Crew Was of 7 Different Faiths

Kalpana Chawla - Hindu

William McCool - Roman Catholic

Ilan Ramon - Jewish

Rick Husband - Charismatic

Laurel Clark - Unitarian

David Brown - Episcopalian

Michael Anderson - Baptist

"This is just the way America is right now. Seek the best and the brightest, and you'll invariably scoop up a great assortment of faiths."


Also this: "'If I'd been born in space I would desire to visit the beautiful Earth more than I ever yearned to visit space. It's a wonderful planet,' wrote Capt. David Brown to his parents in the last e-mail they'd receive from him. "

May God, whatever He, She, It, or They turn(s) out to be, bless them all, and all who mourn them, even those of us who did not know them in this life.

Over at Teresa Nielsen Hayden's blog Making Light is a discussion of possible patron saints for the Internet, computer users, editors, writers, librarians and other such wordy occupations. Don't forget to check out the comments section!
Tuesday, February 04, 2003
One of the hats I wear at work is Government Documents Librarian, and one of my favorite Government Documents has always been Spinoff, NASA's annual publication about the good stuff that space technology does in the down-to-earth everyday life of people.

Examples of some of these space-age technologies are listed at for the Apollo program and for the Space Shuttle.

If you live in the U.S. of A, you can order a free copyof Spinoff at
. If you want a back issue it's $13 and if you live outside the U.S. it's $16. But back issues are also online in .pdf format at
Oooh, cool. I've got the linking thing figured out!
Scientists Uncover How Brain Perceives Color
". . .researchers at the University of Texas-Houston Medical School have shown how modules of cells called "thin stripes" in a particular region of the brain are arranged and perceive colors.
"This finding provides the first physiological basis for the perception of the full gamut of color," said Daniel Felleman, a professor of neurobiology and anatomy."

I hadn't realized that so much of this is still not understood.

Another website at (which Yahoo linked to) is about how the brain perceives light. "Colored light arrives at the eye, and somehow gets to the brain," -- I think the UT-H study above is trying to solve that "somehow" bit -- "and extensive research shows that the brain perceives the color of the light in a 3-dimensional way -- that is to say, there are three independent components to the brain's perception of color. This matches physiological evidence that there are three types of color-receptor cells in the eye."
Nice graphic of the color spectrum too.
This was posted to a list I'm on. I've sometimes wanted to do this!

Then again, I've sometimes wanted to do it to our local newspaper.

This is my first post, mostly just for practice and testing. I'll insert real stuff later.

Visit my Handy-Dandy Home Page
Home  |  Archives