Khan Academy

Education as entertainment? I think so – I think this might be the next Wikipedia. Each segment is explained much in the manner you’d explain it yourself to, say, your own kids or younger relatives. I hope you’ll check out and bookmark Khan Academy.
Alex Forbes

Sal Khan of Khan Academy was a guest on the Charlie Rose Show today. I found Sal to be an articulate and captivating speaker with a contagious enthusiasm for whatever he’s talking about. Listening to Sal talk about what turns him on is like stepping out of a dodge-em car and into a Tesla. What does Sal like to talk about? Everything.

Khan quit his day job as manager of a hedge fund to create free online course content for students, teachers, professionals and those of us just interested or curious about a topic. He offers over 2100 short bite-sized videos on topics as diverse as finance, astrophysics, math and biology.

If you sign up and log in, you can actually take the coursework and save your work. Courses are staged in linear progression so, in Algebra for example, you “get” graphing of lines first, before learning the dependent concept of the slope of a line.

Each segment is a video “chalkboard” of about 10 minutes duration. There are about 45 segments to Cosmology and Astronomy, or about 150 segments and examples for Calculus. It’s an actual “course” for those who step through the entire progression of segments.

With no particular itinerary in mind, I thought I already knew Arithmetic, so I watched the videos for Lattice Multiplication and Least Common Multiple, learning something in both cases.

Since I majored in business and finance back in the previous century, I then monitored Banking 17: the gold standard – “what happened to the gold?” I learned that even when we were on the gold standard, we were on a fractional reserve system: only a fraction of US bank notes were ever actually backed by hard gold.

Being an astronomy buff, I monitored Radius of Observable Universe, Supermassive Black Holes and How we know about the Earth’s core. I understood that run-of-the-mill, garden-variety black holes result from core collapse of stars in the 30-solar-mass range, but I didn’t realize “supermassive” black holes, such as the one lurking right in the heart of our own Milky Way, may have been “primordial” – formed by an entirely different process shortly after the Big Bang.

Course content is staged logically and progressively so that you “get” each concept before moving on to the more advanced concepts that depend on them. This works for me, since I seem to be fundamentally incapable of learning a topic until I grasp its constituent and underlying concepts. Khan never talks down to his audience and never assumes “you should know this.”

Education as entertainment? I think so – I think this might be the next Wikipedia. Each segment is explained much in the manner you’d explain it yourself to, say, your own kids or younger relatives. I hope you’ll check out and bookmark Khan Academy.

1,536 total views, 1 views today

E-mail Etiquette

Slipped Through The Cracks: E-mail Etiquette

Back in the early 1990’s, e-mail had already been on ARPANet and other closed government and academic dial-up lines for about two decades. The new AOL, Prodigy and other e-mail services were starting to roll out to the popular culture. That’s when the trouble started. People who had never written a letter before in their life were suddenly sending out torrents of illiterate nonsense.

“E-mail etiquette” suggestion sheets were cropping up everywhere. Computer clubs of the era would even hold presentations on the topic of writing an electronic letter without annoying your friends. There was no way a user could not know that typing in ALL CAPS IS SHOUTING.

Today, all that has changed. For one thing, computer clubs all tanked. Club members discovered the information convenience of the new internet. Secondly, we have a whole generation of savvy youth who don’t remember a time when we didn’t enjoy the instant access of the internet. Thirdly, much of the “Baby Boomer” generation has already embraced at least part of the personal computer, mobile device and instant social networking services of the twenty-first century.

What we offer here is mostly for the benefit of those who somehow slipped through the cracks. If you have never actually seen any of the over 4 million Google hits on a search for “email etiquette” lists, invest about ten minutes in your social networking skills and do that now.

We offer the below tips for folks who imagined they must personally re-invent customs of email usage and socially acceptability. (Horrors, how could they have known?) We offer these tips in the same helpful spirit as basic potty training. “Feel free to forward to everyone you know.”

1. BAN FORWARDED EMAIL: “FW:FW:FW” forwarding chains are generally messy and unwelcome. Many people delete them without reading.

2. NO GOOD GUY POINTS: If all someone does is forward other people’s forwarded stuff, their friends are entitled to complain that they never write, because they didn’t.

3. NO REPLY EXPECTED: Corollary of #2. People who didn’t actually write anything themselves, should expect no replies.

4. LARGE FONTS ARE SHOUTING TOO. Somewhere in the universe, there is one soul who spends all his time reformatting the gibberish of others into large, easy-to-read 36 point bond Brush Script bold italic fonting, then decorated in various Bozo The Clown bright colors. Do not, I repeat, do not do this, and don’t forward content to which others added their own creative finger-paints. That’s insultingly annoying.

5. PHOTO COLLECTIONS: OK, kids and animals are, awwww, CUUUTE. If the original photographer isn’t credited with the image content, chances are somebody’s being ripped off, and most of the time they are trying to make a living or run a website with great images like the ones being forwarded anonymously to the whole world.

6. ATTRIBUTION AND COPYRIGHTS: A lot of highly creative text is similarly circulated with author or copyright credits stripped off. If we don’t know who wrote it, think twice about forwarding a rip-off to friends who might realize that “everybody does it” didn’t cut it in grade school either.

7. SUPERPATRIOT SENTIMENTALIA based on one’s own personal trademarked, licensed franchise on Liberty and the U.S. Constitution is not necessarily amusing to the 99% of a readership who never heard of one’s own skinhead chapter.

8. RACIST PROPAGANDA: If one’s one true accomplishment in life was an accident of birth, this is one of those many things that should be re-thought before admitting in public. OK, maybe one happened to be born with an epidermis. Perhaps the country into which they were unceremoniously dropped automatically recognized them as a citizen. Or maybe they were anointed at birth with a lifetime membership in the First Zygotian Church of Gondwanaland, the One True Faith that nobody else ever heard of it. No one gets to claim credit for that.

9. BE HONEST AND ADMIT SOME FOLKS REALLY DON’T KNOW HOW TO READ: Do you know an e-mail Black Hole? What do they actually do when they receive that personalized email from a friend who asks a direct question? Do they strap on the old drool bib, let their jaw go slack and mumble, “Oh how nice, I have mail” and DELETE it?

10. “THIS IS GREAT”: If we MUST forward something, (a) It better be good (b) It’s better if it’s topical to our interest group (c) Strip out all the FW:FW:FW markup (d) Preserve any credits and attribution (e) Never read or forward chain mail (f) Give our friends credit for enough intelligence to decide what to do with their own email. DON’T add tacky instructions like “this is great” and “forward to 10 other friends”.

CONCLUSION: Email can still be fun and useful when used reasonably. 95% of the problems are generated by 5% of the users. Certainly, you can still forward content; just use common sense. “Free postage” doesn’t buy us the right to be friendly and courteous in public while insulting our friends’ intelligence behind the email ramparts.

By: Alex Forbes, ©2-8-2011

1,442 total views, 4 views today

Amazon Bird Calls has some elegant and much-emulated software algorithms to suggest items we might be interested in purchasing. Suggestions are based on our own ordering histories, and also on related items other customers purchased after buying some item in our order history.

Thus, if you once ordered the Nash Ensemble’s recording of Schubert’s Trout Quintet (theme song for the BBC Britcom Waiting For God), the software might be smart enough to suggest a new release of the complete Schubert symphonies, while being smart enough not to set up associations with unrelated symphonies like Dvorak’s New World.

Hence, if you’re interested in a Field Guide to Birds: Arizona and New Mexico, why not branch out into bird calls, or, better yet, buy this new phone and place that bird call yourself?

Amazon Bird Calls

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Found Cat

Found Cat. This picture is circulating the internet.

The question that the sender came up with: “Makes me wonder how they sexed it…”

The answer one of us came up with:

Cat’o’possums can be sexed, but it’s not easy, and it may take time. Methodical evaluation of lacerations on the hands and face is paramount here.

1.       Minor lacerations, heals quickly – juvenile of either sex

2.       Major lacerations but you get over it – male

3.       Major lacerations that never heal properly and leave permanent scars – female

4.       I never said that, this is just what I heard from somebody else.

Participants’ names are withheld to protect the guilty parties.

1,997 total views, 1 views today

We Like The Moon

It’s still there after all these years: the original Spongmonkeys, from which that horrid old Quiznos singing commercial was taken, about 2004. And it’s still horrible, which is why I keep coming back to it. For self-assurance that you haven’t completely lost all of that irresponsible old juvenile humor, you can check it out yourself at Please do turn down the volume control on your PC speakers so you don’t get evicted. They are still offering spongmonkey T-shirts, though I couldn’t guess why.

We’ve even posted the lyrics below the screen capture image to help ruin your day. 🙂

We Like The Moon

We Like The Moon

We like the moon
coz it is close to us
we like the moooon!
but not as much as a spoon
’cause that’s more use for eating soup
and a fork isn’t very useful for that
unless it has got many vegetables
and then you might be better off with a
unlike the moon
it is up in the sky
it’s up there very high
but not as high
as maybe
digibles or zeppelins
or lightbulbs
and maybe clouds
and puffins also I think maybe
they go quite high too
maybe not as high as the moon
coz the moon is very high
we like the moon
the moon is very useful everyone
everybody like the moon
because it light up the sky at night
and it lovely
and it makes the tide go and we like it
but not as much as cheese
we really like cheese
we like zeppelins
we really like them
and we like kelp and we like moose
and we like deer and we like marmots
and we like all the fluffy animals
we really like the moon

1,352 total views, 2 views today

Note to Our Readers

This is also being posted in PHOTO Notes, as a follow-up to earlier entries here on this subject. Earlier this week we had to turn off Comments. We were hit by a baffling graffiti-spam two days in a row, where a person or bot (not sure which) posts links to objectionable sites. They are offensive and unwelcome, easily deleted, but otherwise harmless.

We were not sure at first why we were targeted. We discovered the problem is as old as interactive web pages, and the purpose is to raise the Google ranking of the offensive sites. Click “Continue Reading” to find out more about this bottom-feeder phenomenon.

We apologize to our readers for any concern this may have caused. We’ve since taken reasonable additional steps to prevent posting of a known collection of objectionable links. We’ll gradually open up Comments to recent postings, although (author’s message) not enough of you were using them.

Please note that, at this point, we have not installed a cuss words filter here (we do have one). There are many cuss words that have perfectly inoffensive non-slang meanings. At some point, common sense has to prevail. When it does not, those of us with authorship privileges can always delete inappropriate comments with the click of a button.

In the continuation page of this article, you can read what a notable authority, Jay Allen of MT-Blacklist, has to say about this phenomenon.
Continue reading

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Graffiti Spam hits Summitlake

We received notification today that someone posted a comment to one of the PHOTO Notes pages containing links for viagra and devices for the enlargement of the male member.

That means we have to turn off the coding that allows you and me to post comments. If you know me, just ask me to get privileges to post Notes material with links and other html.

Besides being a huge and uninvited invasion of personal space, this has nothing to do with “family friendly”: the ads are just distasteful and offensive, period.

Once aware of it, it’s a small matter for us to delete the entry and take other defensive measures.

It’s too bad it happens, though. Help us put people like this out of business by cleaning up their messes before they can get paid for making them. If you spot this kind of tampering on your favorite reputable websites, help us all out by reporting it to the webmaster right away.


933 total views, 1 views today