Sunday, February 27, 2005

Locomotive Breath – Operation Lifesaver

I have memories of sitting in my fourth grade classroom as the visiting police officer scared me witless about trains and railroad tracks. Smashed cars, bodies covered in tarp and enormous engines the size of Godzilla waiting to smack you silly if you let down your guard.

Train safety education has come a long way since then. With 200,000 miles of tracks in the U.S., it is important to know the facts about rail safety.

Operation Lifesaver is a program that provides tools and resources to teachers, the media, and professional drivers about being safe around trains and rail yards. One of the things that I learned from the web site is that a train is three feet wider than the rails on either side. Be safe, not sorry -

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Must Be The Music – Digital Audio Preview

I'm getting closer to buying an MP3 player. Every time I am about to plunk cash money down on the counter, a new better device comes along.

I'm not greedy mind you. My desires are that the MP3 player accommodates a wide variety of formats. I want FM reception. It has to be able to record lectures and meetings and I don't want to pay more
than $250.

Then again, the Apple iPod Shuffle is simple, clean and only plays music. Ah, Simplicity. Plus, it is $99, which is a lot closer to me than $250 is at the moment. I need help. My first stop is Digital Audio Preview.

I was able to quickly find out which media players have quality recording capabilities. I can do a quick price check on the various players. The Online Music Store Guide has a list of legal download music sources. I didn't know about the restrictions from some of the companies on what I could do with the music after downloading.

The site has a chat section, FAQ's and articles on various digital audio topics. Good starting place for this media player newbie -

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

My Baby Like The Western Movies - B-Movie Tribute Sites

I spent a good part of my wayward youth watching the Late Show, the Late, Late Show and the Late, Late, Late Show. Toss in a couple of Creature Double Features and I was a happy camper.

Classic B-Movies were produced quickly and with slim budgets. Unlike many special effect whiz-bangs of today, B-Movies have a plot. It may not be well developed. It may not be obvious. That is the beauty of a B-Movie, not only are you entertained you get to engage your critical thinking skills.

One of my favorite movie resources is Brian's Drive-In Theater. It is a tribute site for actors and actresses that appeared in movies such as Hercules, Muscle Beach Party and Where the Sidewalk Ends. As an added bonus, there is celluloid beefcake!

I ask you, how often do you come across men posing half naked with their chest pumped up like a rooster? Yeah, yeah, there is cheesecake too. All this and Hercules, Tarzan and all the B-Movies information you can stand -

A visit to Bad Movies is also in order. If the film tanked or is a mess from beginning to end, they just might have a review of it. Nevertheless, they do respect the classics such as C.H.U.D., Beginning of the End, Howard the Duck and The Abominable Dr. Phibes. I
can hear the good doctor wailing on the organ as he is disposing of his next victim. There is a rating system to help you separate the merely misguided from total stink bombs.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Oh, How It Hurts – SSA Benefits Estimate Calculator

It does not matter if you are 18 with a bullet or plowing up the north 40. Before you enter into discussions about the proposed changes in Social Security, you need to know the facts. What will you and some of your compatriots can expect to receive in benefits after providing a lifetime of involuntary investment.

For most of us, it ain’t pretty.

To get a good approximation of what you can expect at retirement visit the Social Security Estimated Benefits Calculator. This will give you a rough idea of how much cat food you will be able to stock up on, provided you do not have a cat. You can’t afford one on what you will receive per month -

To get more detailed and personal information you can order the Personal Earnings Retirement Statement (PERS). This will give the exact breakdown by year of your declared W2 earnings. For those that are a little phobic about entering info online you can call a toll free phone number to call 1-800-772-1213 to order the PERS statement.

After you scrape your jaw off the floor and regain the ability to form sentences you will probably have questions. On the Social Security site there are publications to answer those very questions like, “What is the legal age of retirement?” Hint, depending on your birth date, it may be older than you think.

Also, the GSA/Pueblo repository has a downloadable copy of rights and benefits -

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Long And Lonesome Road – Scrappyland

A person could accuse Harry McCracken of having way too much time on his hands.

Why dedicate effort into an obscure animated black and white cartoon? A cartoon that has no available DVD or VHS products and almost no prospect of any being developed?

The question begs, Why create Scrappyland? Why create an entire web site without any help from Columbia Tri-Star or Sony Picture Entertainment, the current owners?

I can think of a number of reasons. Scrappy is a part of American animation history. It is a chance to rediscover what was funny in 1934 America and learn about a few of the innovations found in Scrappy cartoons, such as the use of montages. If you have a love and appreciation for traditional animation then this is a part of your knowledge bank that needs to be filled.

The site is full of details of the history of Scrappy cartoons, an frequently asked questions page, a gallery of images, resources and a great deal of passion to pull all of this together in a well design web site -

Friday, February 18, 2005

Canned Ham – Arts and Letters Daily

What if there is something more than reality television?

What if there are people that actually think and talk about things that have not appeared on television? Not total eggheads mind you, just folks who long for conversations of substance.

There are thousands of people who could go a lifetime without needing to know anything about Brad, Jennifer, Michael or Robert Blake.

Arts & Letters Daily
is a service of the Chronicle of Higher Education. Don’t let that scare you.

The articles range from various non-televised arts and performances, philosophy, literature, and music. They even have gossip for those that want to cut back but need maintenance dose to help make the transition.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Smokin' - Do You Own A Toshiba Satellite Laptop?

If you or someone that you know owns a Toshiba Satellite 5005 series laptop computer, you can file a claim for compensation. Toshiba Satellite 5005 laptop users have until June 27, 2005 to file a claim.

The settlement is in response to a lawsuit brought against Toshiba. There was an allegation there was a design defect that caused Satellite 5005 laptops to overheated or shut down.

The settlement provides a choice of remedies such as cash or credit vouchers to an extension of the warranty on the laptop. The website has an extensive FAQ section that provides details on the settlement and the claims process.

To file a claim for the laptop, visit the official Toshiba settlement page You can download a claim form or file your claim online.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

London Calling - BBC and CBC programs of note

As many of you know, I listen to the British Broadcasting Corporation and Canadian Broadcasting to get a broader perspective of the relationship between American and the rest of
the world.

The BBC program, Global Business did something interesting last week. They explained to an international audience just how much America is intertwined with various economies. To visit the BBC and to listen to live and archive programs visit or

The Canadian Broadcasting Company has a very good web site that not only informs their citizens about Canada but also keeps an eye on that pesky neighbor to the south. It has extensive international coverage. It is a huge site but the starting place is

Your local public radio station may carry As It Happens, hosted by Mary Lou Finley and Barbara Budd. Depending on the topic, they are tough, funny, informed and always prepared for anything. You can listen to programs at

Monday, February 07, 2005

Put Me In Coach - John Wooden's Pyramid of Success

I had the opportunity to hear Coach John Wooden speak. I passed on it figuring it would be just a bunch of rah, rah testosterone soaked trash talking "how we beat this team" stuff.

I am not a basketball fan. Ever since they went to long shorts the game has no interest to me, except for that Nike commercial where the basketball is the beat and the players the dancers. That I like.

Unfortunately, my images of basketball coaches are associated with Bobby Knight and others who use intimidation, humiliation and financial incentives to motivate college teams to the winning line.

That decision was a huge mistake. Coach Wooden has something of offer to non-sports minded folks. I stumbled upon Wooden's "Pyramid of Success" in my local newspaper. It is a building
philosophy of qualities you would want to have instilled in a young man (or woman) such as industriousness, friendship, loyalty, cooperation, and enthusiasm.

On deeper level, it is how we use to see ourselves as a people and as a country. Not liberal or conservative, not democrat or republican. Self-control, adaptability, honesty, integrity, faith, and
skill. Coach Wooden adds details about how he came to build this pyramid and life lessons that he has learned in his 94 years.

So this got me thinking. Could the coach's pyramid be applied to the current occupant at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue? To view the pyramid of success visit

I don't know which way Coach Wooden swings politically. He seems like a decent guy. The pyramid contains reminders of lost lessons America needs to re- learn quick, fast and in a hurry.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Give Me Three Steps Mister - M$ Photo Story 3

Never underestimate Microsoft. Sure they have a mangy mutt of a browser (Use Firefox!) and security patches come a dime a dozen but sometimes they get it right.

This is one of those times. Photo Story is fun, easy and stimulates your creativity. Imagine easy slideshows, photo poems, vacation slideshows, school projects, creating tutorials, and citizen journalism. This is one useful program. It is also free.

Photo Story can help you assemble a group of pictures, combine those still pictures with motion effects, attach music and create movies in the Windows Media Video format.

You can send the video as an email, to Smartphone cell phone users or to those poor souls that have melded with their media players. I'm telling you this consolidates about 5 pieces of software I had to use to get similar effects but no where near as effective.

Now if you are allergic to what is now known as the "Ken Burns Effect" you might hesitate to use this program. Fear not, you can customize movements and transitions to suit your nature.

So if there is a birthday, anniversary or some other event that you want to make a photo montage/video then this is the one to start with. This program runs on Windows XP. You will need to have Windows Media Player 10 to be fully functional.

Most versions of Windows Media Player shouldn't have any problems playing back the videos. or

Want to see what it can do before you donwload? There are sample videos on the M$ web sites but another place for creative support is

Thursday, February 03, 2005

In-Between the Dark & The Light - Picasa 2

For those that like to take pictures of our memes we need all the help we can get. If you have a scanner, digital camera or web cam and you can't afford Photoshop, you need Picasa.

Picasa is a photo organizer. But wait, there is more! For novice computer users, it makes the job of correcting digital images a lot easier.

Picasa also makes it simple to send photo by email without sending a big honking huge file. It will help you figure out the right size and quality settings for you. For that alone it should be nominated for a Nobel Prize.

If you are into blogging, photo-blogging or want to add a picture to your audio blog, Picasa can upload the photo to the web site. Not to mention that it will help you record your photos as a slide show that you can place on a CD.

Picasa will run on Windows 98, ME, 2000 and XP. How much would you be willing to pay for such an extraordinary program? Not even Ronco can match this deal.

It is free. Nada. No charge. To download a free copy - seriously, no spyware, cyber cooties or anything nasty visit

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Badger, Badger, Badger Potter, Potter - What Is A Meme?

Cross the rainbow bridge of Asgaard,
Where the Blue Ming heavens roam,
You'll behold his breathless wonder,
The God of Thunder,
Mighty Thor!

For those that grew up with The Mighty Marvel Super Heroes you would not have to explain, it would be a shared communion of experience. Of comic books, cheesy limited animation cartoons, and a simpler time.

Theme of The Mighty Thor -

This isn't just about memory. There was a point in my life where this information was important for my social survival. It was a part of my tool kit for my neighborhood. (I was engaged in passionately debates that Thor would have whipped the pants off The Incredible Hulk.)

A meme (pronounced MEEm) is an idea or a concept that passes from human to human or from a source like a book, TV show or music) to another human. It is the cultural transmittal of

There are different requirements for survival information. What may work in Denver does not fit into the lifestyle of Pittsburgh. Memes can be gender, social status, economics or simply how you have fun.

To start you off on the right foot visit Meme Central's FAQ at, You can read the FAQ's to get a good overview of Memes.

Wikipedia has a solid page on Memes and the study of memetics

If you don't have enough personal memes and need to stock up check out the Memes List - or

I bring this up because the newer generations have their own memes. They are reflections of their literature and environment. Instead of creating fanzines or talking they create flash
animations. These are transmitted via the Internet not only in the home environment but around the world.

Hence, I commend to you:

Viewing these cultural memes is not going to make a bit of sense to you if you are not hip deep in the hoopla. That is okay. I don't get it either except the Potter, Potter animation has a funky tune. Take what you can, and leave the rest.

Will take at least five to 10 minutes for dial-up users.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Sarah Goode - Inventor

Sarah H. Goode was the first African American woman to hold a patent. She invented a bed that could be folded up into a desk cabinet. Sarah owned a furniture store and invented the bed for people living in cramped spaces.

The correct spelling of her name is Sarah H. Goode and I have made the correction in the post. To view a drawing of the patent you can visit the search area of the US Patent Full Text and Image Database You want to select the patent number option. The patent number in question is 322177. You then wan to click Images to see her design.

Now in Firefox or Opera browsers I didn't see anything but a QuickTime symbol. In Windows Internet Explorer I was able to see the drawings. You can see a version of the drawing at Inventor page at

There are even more black inventors listed at

At California State University at Pomona a student put up a bit of information as well as book citations to read more about Sarah and other women inventors.

Women inventors were not encourage or supported. African-American invention were not always credited to the actual inventor. Documentation is spotty but it is getting better. The sources that I have listed are viable and do a better job of giving you the facts.

Resources to Learn About African American Inventors

Since some of the prior links on Sarah H. Goode have vaporized. I've located other documents and websites that contain information on African-American inventors.

For grade schools students looking for African-American inventors there is a Google Books reference that you might find interesting. The name of the book is African-American Inventors By Fred M. B. Amram, Susan K. Henderson and you can view pages from that book.

Also for elementary school readers is Women Inventors 2 by Jean F. Blashfield.

If Sarah's info is too skimpy for you then you could look at this information kit created by PBS on inventor Percy Julian. You get a bit about his life and book and web resources to help you whip up a report on the PDQ.

From the Portland Public School System this is a 140 page document written by Hunter Havlin Adams on the history of African and African-American Contributions to Science and Technology.

For teachers and youth leaders you might want to take a look at an Ohio State University Extension guide called Invent - An African-American Inventor's Curriculum. This guide contains information about African-American Inventors, worksheets, games and skill building in critical thinking and idea processing.

For high school folks you own me big time for this one. From the ERIC portal this is a digest .pdf listing of resources you can investigate that talk about African-American inventors. It is just a list of books that may or may not have what you need. Not everything is on the Internet. There are times when you do have to touch an actual book.

09/20/09 Update

Mercy, this is becoming a never ending challenge. Some of the websites have died and left a spam holder pushing crud to un-suspecting folks. Had to take down the Famous Inventors link.

As some of you know, Microsoft Encarta is also going the way of the vapors so I gotta yank that link out as well. I re-checked the links and the remaining ones are still active. Still no photo or illustration of Sarah H. Goode.

02/10/2008 Update

Dear Anonymous Dudes or Dudettes that do not look at the Comment section. I have searched and re-searched there is no photo currently on the Internet of inventor Sarah Goode. If there was one, and it was in the public domain, I certainly would put it up for viewing.

10/22/2007 Update

Ah, there is nothing like good comments that inspire accuracy. Or make you feel like a stumble bum in a library. And it was a good thing somebody spoke up cuz the previous links have gone belly up. I have updated the spelling of her name, new viable links and stuff like that.