Past Gas, literally

June 30th, 2015

A backhoe digging in this ditch ruptured a gas main this morning

A backhoe digging in this ditch ruptured a gas main this morning

This morning I got to play hero, ironically driving our electric car with our “Past Gas” license plate.

I was driving to work as usual when I turned off of Hillsborough Street onto Ashe Avenue, a spot where a new apartment building is going up. As I go by, I see a construction leap off a backhoe and race across the road. Others scurried away as well, eyes wide with fear. It was then that I smelled natural gas and realized the deafening roar I was hearing was the sound of a busted gas main. Yikes!

I rolled down the road for a moment or two while frantically fumbling to unlock my phone to dial 911 (I temporarily forgot I can do this from the locked screen, but whatever). I blurted out what I saw and heard to the dispatcher and gave my name and number. Though the dispatcher told me they were already sending someone out, I didn’t see or hear any first responders so I took matters into my own hands. I figured I might not be trained in how to direct traffic but any idiot can block traffic, so I pulled my car across the oncoming lane and got my geeky yellow safety vest and my emergency light out from the trunk.
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NSA can track everyone’s phone calls again — for a while – CNET

June 30th, 2015

Who needs the Patriot Act when a judge can simply extend NSA’s domestic spying with the stroke of a pen?

When did you last call your mother? Don’t worry if you can’t remember — the National Security Agency can once more keep track of that for you. That is, for the next 180 days.

After briefly suspending its bulk collection of phone call data, the NSA now has the authority to start it up again, a federal judge ruled on Monday.

Source: NSA can track everyone’s phone calls again — for a while – CNET

Daily Mail invents critics of Facebook’s “Celebrate Pride” feature

June 30th, 2015

A friend shared a story on a website called the “Conservative Post” called “Everyone Who Changed Their Facebook Photos To Rainbow Just Got DUPED.” I’m always curious of what gets my righty friends all worked up so I read it.

Conservative Post got duped

Conservative Post got duped

Over a million people changed their facebook profile pictures to a rainbow filter in support of gay marriage.

New reports reveal that the “Celebrate Pride” tool may not have been the best idea…

According to Daily Mail, this tool was actually Facebook’s way of performing psychological testing on their users.

Cesar Hidalgo wrote on Facebook yesterday. “The question is, how long will it take for people to change their profile pictures back to normal.”

Experts say that by setting up the tool, Facebook was able to get an unprecedented insight on how to influence their users.

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Calming Signals – The Art of Survival – Turid Rugaas – International Dog Trainer

June 27th, 2015

A glossary of signals dogs use to calm each other down. Very interesting.

For species who live in packs it´s important to be able to communicate with its own kind. Both in order to cooperate when they hunt, to bring up their offspring, and perhaps most importantly: to live in peace with each other. Conflicts are dangerous – they cause physical injuries and a weakened pack, which is something that no pack can afford – it will cause them to og extinct.

Dogs live in a world of sensory input: visual, olfactory, auditory perceptions. They easily perceive tiny details – a quick signal, a slight change in another´s behavior, the expression in our eyes. Pack animals are so perceptive to signals that a horse can be trained to follow the contraction in our pupils and a dog can be trained to answer your whispering voice. There´s no need to shout commands, to make the tone of our voice deep and angry – what Karen Pryor refers to as swatting flies with a shovel.

Source: Calming Signals – The Art of Survival – Turid Rugaas – International Dog Trainer

Why mosquitoes bite some people and not others — and the surprising non-toxic way to avoid bites

June 26th, 2015

Here’s an insightful read on what attracts (and repels) mosquitoes. Science for the win!

Why are some people so much more attractive to mosquitoes than others? And what can you do about the pesky little bloodsuckers, especially if you don’t want to resort to DEET? (DEET, while effective, is also weakly neurotoxic in humans.)

To start, there are some 150 different species of mosquitoes in the United States, and they differ in biting persistence, habits, ability to transmit disease, and even flying ability.

Source: Why mosquitoes bite some people and not others — and the surprising non-toxic way to avoid bites

Supreme Court On Gay Marriage: ‘Sure, Who Cares’ – The Onion – America’s Finest News Source

June 26th, 2015

Love won today, as the Supreme Court ruled marriage is marriage for everybody. I’m thrilled for my LGBT friends (and everyone, frankly) who are no longer denied the fundamental right to love whom they choose.

It reminded me of this article from the Onion a few years back, which pretty much sums up my thoughts about the whole matter.

WASHINGTON—Ten minutes into oral arguments over whether or not homosexuals should be allowed to marry one another, a visibly confounded Supreme Court stopped legal proceedings Tuesday and ruled that gay marriage was “perfectly fine” and that the court could “care less who marries whom.”

Source: Supreme Court On Gay Marriage: ‘Sure, Who Cares’ – The Onion – America’s Finest News Source

What makes your eyes red in the pool? It’s not the chlorine –

June 26th, 2015


“When we go swimming and we complain that our eyes are red, it’s because swimmers have peed in the water,” says Michele Hlavsa, chief of the CDC’s healthy swimming program. “The nitrogen in the urine combines with the chlorine and it forms what’s known as chloramine and it’s actually chloramine that causes the red eyes. It’s not the chlorine itself. It’s chlorine mixed with poop and sweat and a lot of other things we bring into the water with us.”

Source: What makes your eyes red in the pool? It’s not the chlorine –

Motorcycles and HOV lanes

June 25th, 2015

While waiting for traffic to move on I-95 in Springfield, VA this week, I wondered why motorcycles are allowed in the HOV lane? This makes no sense to me.

  • Motorcycles are not high occupancy vehicles, instead they almost always carry a single person.
  • Motorcycles are not good for the environment. While they may burn less fuel, they generate far more pollution.
  • Motorcycles do not take up less space on the road than cars.

So, what exactly do governments gain by giving motorcyclists a free pass to the HOV lane? Whatever it is, I’m not seeing it.

Update: According to this page on the website, federal law allows motorcycles in HOV lanes:

Motorcycles are permitted by federal law to use HOV lanes, even with only one passenger. The rationale behind allowing motorcycles to use HOV lanes is that it is safer to keep two-wheeled vehicles moving than to have them travel in start-and-stop traffic conditions. States can choose to override this provision of federal law, if they determine that safety is at risk.

I don’t think this is reason enough, since it’s better for the safety of everyone to avoid start-and-stop traffic, but that’s just me.

Drones not yet cleared for takeoff

June 24th, 2015

An Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) or "drone"

An Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) or “drone”

After having had such fun with the Structure Sensor I borrowed through the N.C. State Libraries Technology Lending program, I suggested that they consider lending quadcopters like the DJI Phantom 3. Drones like the Phantom 3 are so cutting-edge that they are far ahead of Federal Aviation Administration regulations, so much so that many common-sense uses of drones (or as the FAA calls them, “unmanned aircraft systems” or UAS) are currently banned outright.

Like other university libraries, N.C. State Libraries would love to lend out drones but the present legal limbo with the FAA prevents that from happening. You see, what many people don’t realize is that the FAA is in charge of the nation’s airspace from the ground up. Not just 500 feet and above but starting at the ground. Public property, private property, it doesn’t matter. If you fly anything, anywhere, the FAA makes the rules.
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Scanning 3D objects with the Structure sensor

June 24th, 2015

This is a 3D rendering of me

This is a 3D rendering of me

As an employee of a company located on N.C. State’s Centennial Campus, I have access to the tech lending program of the N.C. State libraries. One of the more interesting devices I found there two weeks ago was a 3D scanner kit consisting of an iPad Air and an Occipital Structure 3D Sensor device. Not knowing much about it I thought I would take it home for a week and see what it could do.

The sensor integrates with the iPad by using the iPad’s built-in camera in conjunction with the Structure sensor. The sensor paints the scene in front of it with infrared grid points. The sensor then detects how this grid is bent by the object in the field and, together with the iPad’s sensitive accelerometers, computes the dimensions of the object. All of this happens in seconds and it’s quite amazing to watch!
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