Friday night we had our annual S’mores Night in the backyard. Basically we borrow a portable fire pit from some neighbors, and invite the whole block (27 houses, around a hundred people). Not surprisingly, the same group of maybe thirty people show up every year.

There was a twist this year: our newest neighbors (right next door) have their own fire pit, a trampoline, and three little kids. Since there’s no fence between our yards, it made the party even more fun because we had two trampolines, about fifteen screaming kids bouncing and chasing each other, and the two fire pits with roaring flames. The adults sat around talking and enjoying the beautiful evening and occasionally telling kids to stop throwing things into the fire, and that five marshmallows at a time was maybe too many. Oh, and when it was fully dark and the neighbors brought out the strobe light and shone it on the trampoline, the kids really started having fun. It was hilarious to watch.

The party lasted around three hours– finally around ten o’clock we decided it was time to wind down the hyperactive kids. As it turned out, our kids had invited several of their friends to sleep over for the night, so we all moved inside and ended up with five surprise guests that night. Everything worked out, though, and I think we can consider it another rousing success.

Now we have some leftover s’mores material: a bag of marshmallows, a dozen Hershey bars, and a few boxes of graham crackers. So in the evenings I’ve been making my high-tech s’mores in the microwave:

A carefully-prepared cracker, with the microwave set to 1:40 at power 4, and voila, I have an awesome mess of warm white and brown sugary glop oozing out from between the crackers. Whee!


Holy nanotech, Batman.

Researchers at IBM spent 20 hours using an atomic force microscope to image a molecule. This puppy has a “needle” that’s only a few atoms wide, and moves half a nanometer above the surface of its subject. For 20 hours. That is an amazing piece of technology.

The molecule:

Pentacene, or C22H14. It doesn’t look all that remarkable until you compare it to a ball-and-stick model of the same molecule, similar to what you might build in high school chemistry class:

In other words, these guys actually took a “photograph” of a single molecule at the atomic scale. And you can actually see the individual atoms and bonds.

Science is so cool.


Someone had the idea that a dual-screen laptop would be sweet. And indeed, the marketing bling looks kind of cool (minus the Windows logo, heh):

Keep in mind these are dual 15.4″ displays with a full-size keyboard. I think we’re really starting to stretch the idea of a “laptop” here…


Kyra is very excited about middle school. She loves her French class, loves playing volleyball, and loves the idea of playing the flute. Today I met her at school to go flute-shopping. Half a dozen local music stores had set up in the common room, hawking their wares. You could rent any instrument for your kid in band, pick up the song books, and so forth. It was really quite nice to be able to comparison-shop by simply walking around the room and talking with the various salespeople.

In the end we decided to rent a Gemeinhardt 2SP, which is supposedly a pretty good one. It’s a thousand-dollar instrument (wow!) but we can rent it for twenty bucks a month so that was an easy decision. Thankfully she didn’t choose the saxophone or some of the brass instruments, which rent for around sixty or eighty a month.

Kyra practically skipped home with it, and upon arriving promptly put it together and started working on it. Since she doesn’t really know how to play (she’s only had a couple days of band class) it was a little funny to watch. But I’m sure she’ll get the hang of it soon, and then we can look forward to nice music wafting from her room.


Alex went fishing with his Boy Scout troop today (there are three boys in the troop, including him). When I went to pick him up, he thrust his hands in my face and said happily, “Hey Dad, smell my hands! Fish guts!” Mmm.

As we walked home with his friend Connor, I was entertained by tales of how they whacked their fish on rocks to crack their skulls, how the blood spurted around, how the leaders showed them how to slice the fish from jaw to tail and yank out all the guts, and so forth. Yummy!

As someone who has never in his life caught a fish, I don’t really get into the whole fishing scene, but it was fun to hear Alex get so excited about it.


The Cash for Clunkers program is, thankfully, finally over. What a waste of 2.9 billion dollars.

Interesting parting shot: all of the top 10 vehicles traded in were American. And 8 of the top 10 vehicles purchased were foreign.

Top 10 Trade-in Vehicles
1. Ford Explorer (4WD)
2. Ford F150 Pickup (2WD)
3. Jeep Grand Cherokee
4. Ford Explorer (2WD)
5. Dodge Caravan/Grand Caravan
6. Jeep Cherokee
7. Chevrolet Blazer
8. Chevrolet C1500 Pickup
9. Ford F150 Pickup (4WD)
10. Ford Windstar

Top 10 New Vehicles Purchased
1. Toyota Corolla
2. Honda Civic
3. Toyota Camry
4. Ford Focus
5. Hyundai Elantra
6. Nissan Versa
7. Toyota Prius
8. Honda Accord
9. Honda Fit
10. Ford Escape

How, exactly, did this help the American auto industry?


I saw an article called “Songs in Code” which uses programming languages to describe famous songs. It’s like the Song Chart Meme on Flickr about a year ago, but much much geekier.

A few that I identified:

if (withU) ‘a’ to ‘z’ else (‘a’ to ‘z’).filter(_ != ‘u’)
“With or Without You” by U2
if ( time < 9 ) { Bed.tumbleOutOf(); Kitchen.stumbleTo(); Ambition.pourMyselfACupOf(); }
“9 to 5” by Dolly Parton
var city = {type:”paradise”, grass:0x00FF00, girls:”pretty”)}; transport(this, city);
“Paradise City” by Guns ‘n Roses
self.is_a?(Walrus) == true
“I Am the Walrus” by John Lennon



Tara and Derek just stopped in for an overnight visit on their way home from a cross-country trip, and Derek had the most awesome t-shirt I’ve seen in a long time. It was all black, and had a little name tag over the breast:

It looks like a real name sticker, of course, and he says people ask him about it all the time but not many of them really get the joke. And I suppose that’s true: either you get the joke or you don’t, and if you don’t, then a bunch of explaining (“no, there is too much… let me sum up”) isn’t going to make it funny.