Friday, July 22, 2011

Kary Mullis, John Bardeen, and the Invention of the Transistor

Kary Mullis, the chemist who won a Noble in 1993 for inventing PCR (it made the Human Genome Project possible), has a fun paper available at his site called: "Conversation With John Bardeen." Bardeen was the guy who invented the transistor, for which he was awarded the Noble Prize in physics back in 1956. (He actually won a second Noble during the early 70s for his theories on super-conductivity.) If you know anything about Mullis, he's interested in just about everything. One day in 1987, Mullis was reading about Bardeen when he realized that he was still alive and living in Carbondale, Illinois. He says the following:
On a long shot, I called Carbondale information for his number. It was listed. The phone number of the father of the Electronic Age was listed. The manager of our local Circuit City has an unlisted number. John Bardeen's wife answered and said "Yes, he's sitting here at the table", and put him on the phone without asking who was calling. I told him I wanted to talk to him about the invention of the transistor, was it a convenient time? Was he in a comfortable chair? He said fine, so we talked for about an hour. He never asked me who I was or why I wanted to talk.
I guess his paper won't interest just a whole lot of people, but I thought it was nice. You can read it here: Conversation With John Bardeen

You can also see a short documentary on Bardeen here:

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Avira Anti-virus Software And Why You Should Uninstall It

No matter which one you choose, it seems every good, free anti-virus & anti-spyware program goes over to the dark side at some point and becomes unusable. Many of us used a combination of AVG-Free and Lavasoft's AdAware-free for years until both went sour and started using adverts and bundling useless software. After that, many of us went to Avira and SuperAntiSpyware. The latter is still a good spyware app, although it updates very slowly these days (it didn't always). But Avira has now began bundling an Toolbar with their products. In the past, Avira actually blocked this toolbar whenever anyone tried to pawn it off on you, considering it to be malware. And now they're actually partnering with it!

You can choose not to install the toolbar, but then you won't get use of Avira's WebGuard feature. Avira tries to instill fear in their users (and potential users) by making bold statements about this, making it look as though WebGuard is an essential feature that you shouldn't be without. Truth be told, it's a mostly useless feature that does nothing but slow both computer and web surfing performance. It's their sleazy tactics that have everybody up in arms. To which I can only say, "Bye-bye Avira."

I just downloaded Avast, which is getting good ratings presently. One thing I like about it is that it has a "gaming mode" that you can use when not surfing the web, but rather, are doing something with your computer that requires a lot of power such as gaming or using video and graphics programs. In Gaming Mode, Avast barely registers in system resources. Sounds like a real winner. I'll post a follow-up in a month or so.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Mont Saint-Michel

The 8th wonder of the world with the only Catholic Church I ever want to visit.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Roid Fever

Since the Roger Clemens trial (or mistrial as the case may be) is in the news, I wanted to say some things about steroids that you'll seldom hear.

Obviously roid fever has infiltrated nearly every sport for the past 20-years or more. Roids have been around (at least in the USA) since the 60s, but weren't used by much of anybody until the body builders started taking them in the 70s. But even then it was quite a different situation. Guys weren't using the massive amounts of the drug that they are today. They used it sparingly in those days. If you remember the big names in body building at the time—Schwarzenegger, Columbu, Oliva, Nubret, Zane, Ferrigno etc., they were much bigger than body builders that came before them, but they still were nowhere near the size of the guys we're seeing today. During the 70s, these guys were generally known for one or two predominant body parts. One guy was known for his big biceps, another for his legs, another for his back and so on. In fact, if you were to see any one of them just in silhouette, you would still know who they were. Today, every part of the body is massive. In silhouette, these guys all look the same.

In power lifting, we're seeing guys who are lifting incredible amounts compared to weight lifters in the pre-roid era. Paul Anderson was one of the very few lifters who could squat more than 600 pounds in those days. Okay, he could do WAY more, but that was Paul. Guys like him come along once every hundred or two hundred years. He was squatting 800 when his closest competitors were barely getting over 600. Today we see guys doing 800 to 900 all the time, a couple even managing 1,000 pounds. Very few guys could bench press more than 500 pounds before 1960. Today we see guys routinely doing over 750 and a couple over 800! This just shouldn't be. No amount of diet and exercise alone could generate that big an improvement. No how—no way. Roids have been a real game changer; no doubt about it.

Steroids create a great irony also in that they're great at helping the body to heal quickly, but they're also great at helping athletes tear the body up. Guys today have muscles that are easily capable of generating more power than the skeletal frame can handle. It's not torn muscles you see much of today in the gym. It's much more serious injuries like ligament and rotator cup damage. I must say that at my strongest (without juicing, thank you very much), when I was squatting and dead lifting 600 pounds, I often felt like my back was going to break, or my shoulders fall off. You can't imagine how the bones in your shoulders feel when they've got 600 pounds resting on them. A friend of mine at the gym used to look at me and say, "Man, that's stupid weight." He was right. Paul Anderson was different. He not only had massive muscle, he had massive, thick bones—one of the largest skeletal frames ever measured. 600 pounds for him was a walk in the park. I had no business lifting that kind of weight, and I would never do it again. Your body will generally tell you when it's had enough. Mine sure did. But guys on roids just don't seem to hear their bodies talking.

Aside from power lifters and body builders, all of whom seem to be taking drugs today, in other sports the guys to watch out for are the naturally thin ones. These are the guys who go to the gym and workout like hell for a year and still only manage to gain 5-pounds of muscle. When you see someone naturally thin like that all the sudden gain 30 or 40 pounds of muscle very quickly, you can bet he's juicing. But guys like me who can put on weight easily don't need steroids. While there are exceptions to the rule, generally speaking, if you can put on fat easily, you can put on muscle just as easily.

I understand why guys who are naturally thin feel a need to take a drug that will help them compete with bigger guys. After all, athletes are trying to keep their jobs. And lets be honest, if steroids were available a hundred years ago, athletes would have taken them then too. Athletes have always done crazy things to give them any edge they could get. Football players during the 40s and 50s often ate rocky mountain oysters with the notion that it would give them more strength. Paul Anderson actually used to go down to a local slaughter house and drink bull's blood for the same reason. These things probably didn't work, but it just shows what lengths they would go to. It's always been this way.

Now here's a notion I'd like to put out there. Steroids are most often rejected today by sports lovers because it's said that it gives the athlete an advantage over the others who aren't taking them. But what about those naturally skinny guys I mentioned earlier? Would it be wrong to say that steroids merely level the playing field for them? That would probably be true except for the fact that there are a large number of guys who are naturally strong that are juicing today too, so they'll always stay ahead of that skinny guy who's juicing.

Here's another thought to chew on: Isn't weight lifting itself an artificial advantage? Let's take steroids out of the picture a second. Now here we have two guys, one who can put on muscle easily and another who can't no matter how hard he tries. Wouldn't it then be an artificial advantage for the guy who can put on muscle easily? After all, he didn't come by those muscles naturally. He wasn't born with them. He had to workout to get them. By definition those muscles are not natural. But then enters a third guy, and this guy is one of those freaks of nature, a Bo Jackson who was born with 18" arms. He doesn't even need to workout to get muscles. Do you see anything fair in this? The first guy is skinny and can't put on muscle without steroids. The second guy can put on muscle easily by just working out. And a third guy has muscles without doing anything thing; he was born with them. The thing is, hardly anyone disputes the second guy working out so that he can gain enough muscle mass to compete with the guy who doesn't need to workout. Yet we're up in arms over the skinny guy using steroids to do the same thing.

Babe Ruth didn't need to lift weights in order to smash some of the farthest home runs ever recorded. Albert Pujols hits some long ones too, but he's put on around 35 pounds of muscle since he started weight training in 1998, and doing it steroid free. Sammy Sosa could hit homers with the best of them, but he was naturally slim and it took steroids for him to gain enough muscle to compete with the big boys. Is it hard to see why Sosa felt a need to take them? And if we take his awards away, should we also take away those of Pujols since it took weight lifting for him to get strong? Should only naturally strong guys like Babe Ruth be allowed to have muscle, hit home runs, and earn a living for his family doing it? Steroids really do level the playing field for the skinny guy sometimes. We say, "Yeah, but they're dangerous." Actually, it's been said by many physicians that if you find the right steroid for you, and take it in moderation, it can be a real wonder drug. So, if a guy like Sammy Sosa uses the right steroid in the right amounts, and it works like a wonder drug for him with little or no danger, then would it be okay for him to take them? And if steroids are unfair, how about vitamins? They've done wonders for me.

I really don't know the answer. I just don't think things are as cut & dry as people seem to think.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Cahokia Indian Art Show

My sister and I went to the Cahokia Indian Art Show yesterday. I videotaped the exhibits and made a little movie of it for my music channel at YouTube. The tune in the background is from my last CD but will also appear on my upcoming all acoustic CD. It's called "Flamenco Joe."

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Lost Patrol

Philip MacDonald wasn't the great writer his grandpa George was, but he was pretty decent. One of John Ford's early films (1934), The Lost Patrol, was based on one of Philip's novels called Patrol. Someone has posted it at YouTube now. You can see it here: The Lost Patrol

Monday, July 4, 2011

2012 Hoax

A good website for the loonie person in your life. I wish I could get my sister to surf over to this. (hint)

2012 Hoax

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Author Sex Quiz

I laughed and felt disgust simutaneously at this. If you go to the following link you'll find a quiz where you're supposed to figure out which of ten excerpts were written by men or women. After you hit the submit button, you'll find out which you got right or wrong. You'll also find out the identity of the authors. You may be surprised. The writing is so bad, I thought all the samples were by high school kids. Turns out they're all well-known modern authors. Is it any wonder normal humans can't find anything to read these days?

Author Sex Quiz

Friday, July 1, 2011

Is You Is Or Is You Ain't My Baby

Here are two great renditions of the classic song. Both came out in 1944 and are decidedly different. I love 'em both!

Bing Crosby and The Andrews Sisters

Louis Jordan & His Tympany Five
(Jordan co-wrote the song and had the first hit record with it.)

Does Anyone Tell The Truth In Court Anymore?

First we have this incredibly stupid circus of Casey Anthony and family where it seems painfully obvious that she's lying, her father is lying, and her father's mistress is lying.

Then we have the case of Former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn being accused of raping a hotel maid, and it's now come out that there's a lot of evidence that she made the whole thing up to try and sue him for money. However, it couldn't have happened to a bigger louse. This guy's gotten away with worse things than rape over the years. It's kind of fitting though that an immigrant crook from the ghetto should try to screw-over an immigrant crook from the country club.

It seems like people think nothing anymore of lying through their teeth after putting their hand on a bible and swearing by God to tell the truth. Who raised these people? A courtroom is the last place on earth you'll hear anyone tell the truth about anything.

Doesn't it seem sort of ironic that polygraph tests aren't allowed as court evidence even though they've been proven time and again to be at least 90% accurate, and yet your chances of having someone in the witness box tell the truth is what—maybe 50-50?