Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Capture the History of the SF Earthquake

The San Francisco earthquake struck the Bay Area one hundred years ago today. Much has been written about this fascinating event, but one thing to note is that we're almost beyond the point when living people will have first-hand memories of the earthquake and its aftermath. SFmuseum.org would like to hear from people whose lives were affected by the earthquake. Visit their website to learn more.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Still Rebuilding!

The 100 year anniversary of the San Francisco Earthquake is approaching (next week), and the topic is very much in the news. The San Jose Museum of Art is taking advantage of the attention to publicise a new project... rebuilding the clock tower that was destroyed in the earthquake 100 years ago!

The rebuilt clock tower will be a nice addition to a city that all too often neglects its heritage and its architecture. You can learn more about the project, and the history of the museum building, on the San Jose Museum of Art website.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

The Curiously LESS Strong Peppermints

For many years I've been a fan of Altoids, the "Curiously Strong Peppermints" from Callard and Bowser. The mints have evolved, but the original formula dates back to the 1780's!

Recently I saw a new Altoids tin in a store. It's the same size, but the design has been changed and is more old-fashioned looking. Oddly enough, the mints tasted just a bit different, so I compared the list of ingredients with an old tin I had on hand.

OLD LIST: sugar, oil of peppermint, gum arabic, gelatin, corn syrup

NEW LIST: sugar, gum arabic, artificial flavor, oil of peppermint, gelatin, glucose syrup

Oil of peppermint has gone form the second to the fourth ingredient! *sigh*

Time to try another mint.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

History All Around Us

It's not surprising that there's a lot of history around us... people have been living in this country for a long time. And in almost every community, there are people who care about that history, and work to preserve it. Hostorical societies and small museums abound. Some communities may have "living history" centers that cover many acres and preserve dozens of structures; others may have a small room in the city hall or community center where a handful of artifacts are preserved.

It's hard for these history exhibits to compete with multi-media entertainment centers, but they are there, year after year, waiting for you. It's worth your time to see what your community was like in the past. It's not something that's "good for you" - it's just plain fun.

Take a little time this week and seek out a local history exhibit or museum! And maybe - just maybe - you'll want to become a little more involved in preserving your community's history for others to enjoy.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Fun with Photoshop?

The story below has been circulating around the Internet in recent days. I have no idea if it's true... it certainly has the "feel" of an Internet hoax. Nevertheless, the picture is funny, so I'll post the accompanying story as well:

Edge Designs is an all women run company that designs interior office space.

They had a recent opportunity to do an office project in NYC. The client allowed the women of this company a free hand in all design aspects. The client was a company that was also run by all women execs. The result

We all know that men never talk, never look at each other, and never laugh much in the restroom. The men's room is a serious and quiet place. But now, with the addition of one mural on the wall, lets just say the men's restroom is a place of laughter and smiles.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Search your Photos

Most of us have searched for images on the Internet, or perhaps searched a stock photo site. The image searches don't really have anything to do with the images... they consider files names, tags, and words surrounding the image.

The premise behind Riya.com is different. The site can be "trained" to recognize images of particular people, and then can recognize other photos of the same people. The site, which is currently in beta testing, offices a service allowing users to automatically catalog thier photos.

Similar technology has been around for many years, but has never worked well enough to be broadly used. (El Cotoro recalls a demonstration in which the software repeatedly confused photographs of Humphrey Bogart with a lamp.)

The small number of images I tried on the Riay site didn't give very good results, but maybe you'll have more patience and better luck!

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Coupons on your Cell Phone

I'm not a big fan of new kinds of advertising, especially when it involves my phone number, but a company called CouponZap.com has introduced a new wrinkle that actually makes sense. Cell phone users can sign up for call lists for specific companies. The companies can then use text messaging to send each subscriber coupons that can be redeemed by simply showing the text messages. Each message has a unique code, so the company can keep track of who redeems which coupons, to better target their offers.

The service probably makes the most sense for restaurants, bars and entertainment venues, who can send out special incentives to bring in customers on slow nights.

Customers can "opt out" of the call list at any time.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006


The captive breeding program at the Wolong Giant Panda Breeding and Research Centre has been a great success, with 16 pandas born between July and December, 2005. If you'd like to learn more about pandas, and see dozens more pictures, visit pandafans.org!

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Welcome to Zombo-com

I don't know why I find this funny... but maybe you will too:


Forward it to your friends, so they too can experience Zombo.com!

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Sand Skiing

Another entry in the "bizarre but true" category: a 25-story indoor ski facility has been built in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The ski facility is located in the billion dollar Mall of the Emirates, one of the largest shopping centers in the world. Notice the sand and palm trees at the base of the structure.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Take 5 Minutes to Help a Science Fair Project

Help high school student Matthew Rongey by participating as a subject in his science fair project at sciproj.yes2.us. If you agree to take part in this experiment, you will be shown a short 2.5 minute video. After the video, you will be asked a series of questions pertaining to the video and regarding demographic information. All the details are on Matthew's site.

If you'd like to help other students with science fair projects, go to www.sciencebuddies.org

Tuesday, January 24, 2006


Architects and engineers compete to see whose team can build the most spectacular structure using little more than cans of food at Construction, the annual Design and Build competition in New York and other cities. Best Meal, Best Use of Labels, Structural Ingenuity and Jurors’ Favorite. At the end of each competition, the more than 100,000 cans that are part of the exhibit are given to the Second Harvest Food Bank. For details and pictures, visit www.canstruction.org/

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Where's George?

I recently got a dollar bill, stamped in red ink with the words, "Track this bill at www.WheresGeorge.com"

The WheresGeorge website lets you enter the serial number of the bill to see where it has been. Unfortunately, I was only the second stop for my bill, so it wasn't too interesting - but some bills on the site have criss-crossed the country (there's a view that shows the path on a map). Check the top ten menu to see the most interesting bills. Cute idea...

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Need a Break?

If you've ever spent a mindless half-half hour watching one of those home video shows on TV, you'll enjoy break.com. People post homemade videos, which you can rate and comment on.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Thanks PG&E

El Cotoro spent a cold and dreary New Years day this year, thanks to a fallen branch that brought down a power wire. Our neighborhood - 165 houses - was without power for a day and a half.

A day and a half is not a long time, but it was long enough for us to transfer our "most perishable" food from the refrigerator to a cooler packed with ice. Long enough for us to experience "Internet withdrawal." Long enough for us to spend an evening huddled in front of a fire to keep warm. Long enough for us to wrap our tropical fish tank with blankets and hot water bottles to keep the fish alive. Long enough for us to appreciate (and play with) those fancy LED flashlights in our emergency kit. Long enough to realize that reading by candlelight (or even LED light) is not easy.

A day and a half is not a long time, and many people went through much, much worse over the past year. Still, it gave me a greater appreciation for the thousands of people who gave up their holidays to work, nonstop, in cold wet weather in order to restore basic services to their community.

Thanks, PG&E!