Eine kleine Netmusik

Were Netsurfer Digest still alive, this would have been a bonanza week of discovered online goodies – and it’s only Thursday! So why not present them in the same style?

How the Brain Uses Tools

Tool use, while no longer a hallmark of humans, is still nifty, and a team of neurologists in Italy is looking into how it all works in the brain. They devised an ingenious experiment that is able to control for the brain’s signals to muscles in order to study the brain’s cognitive signals during tool use – in this case, in macaques. After wiring the monkeys’ heads with sensors, the researchers presented them with two kinds of pliers, which the monkeys needed to get food. One set of pliers worked in the standard manner: close your hand and the pliers close. The other pliers required the monkeys to open their hands to get the pliers to close. The monkeys’ neurons fired in the same pattern regardless of which pliers they used – but that pattern was the same one displayed by macaques who used no tool at all but grasped food with their hands. The scientists conclude that brains see tools as extensions of the body and not as foreign objects. While this is a conclusion that in isolation seems perhaps trite, it is a fundamental step in neurology and anthropology. ScienceNOW has an article.

Why You Should Know George Meyer

Got a favorite line from “The Simpsons”? Odds are it comes from George Meyer. The guy coined the term “yoink”, after all. This New Yorker feature appeared in March 2000 (and is socked away at The Simpsons Archive), so it is outdated. Near as we can tell from IMDb, he no longer works on the show, although he was a credited writer on last year’s “The Simpsons Movie” and he has credits on the TV show through 2005. read the article for more than Meyer, though. It shines light in some dark corners of the show’s history to reveal info you may have never seen before. Ever hear of Army Man magazine? That was Meyer’s and “The Simpsons” is its cultural heir. Grab a Duff and start reading.
The Simpsons Archive: https://www.snpp.com/other/interviews/meyer00.html
IMDb: https://imdb.com/name/nm0583127/

Colorization Can Be a Positive

Film colorization has been around about a century, but exploded in the mid 1980s as colorizers turned CPUs to the task. The process became the subject of much debate, with Turner Entertainment often in the crosshairs. As audiences, critics, and historians have grown used to the process and, not least, as the technology has improved, the debate has simmered down. Still, the classics remain a point of contention and when West Wing Studios undertook to colorize the Three Stooges, arguments flared up. West Wing studied the original props to make sure it got the colors right and the results are spectacular. This is not your young uncle’s colorization. As you might expect, some of this has shown up on YouTube. Take a gander for yourself.

(NSD never embedded video, so I won’t do that here either. Nyeah.)

War as Food Fight

Starting with World War II, create a list of the world’s major military conflicts. Now, choose a food to represent each nationality. Brings these foods together in animated food fights to illustrate the military history of the last 70 years and you have Stefan Nadelman’s “Food Fight” short film. See if you can name all the conflicts. It’s not too hard.


One thing I forgot to mention about the weekend was that we hosted two sleepover guests Saturday night as a babysitting favour to some friends.

Sunday morning, the baby (she’s three, I think) got into some of our kids’ paint in our basement and went into our bathroom to wash it off. Our sink and towels turned purple, but it’s water-soluble paint, so there’s no real damage. There is, however, a mystery.

In that bathroom, we keep one of those small bottles of liquid soap with a pump dispenser. We discovered the pump part, but we have no idea what happened to the bottle or the soap that had been inside it. I wonder where she cached it. It’s another house mystery, like why our dryer will blow a fuse every few months, or why the hall lights work and then don’t, or where the heck those flies are coming from.

I don;t think I’ve mentioned the flies. Early last fall, our home became home to a species of fly. They look like standard black houseflies, only they are smaller and slimmer.

Strangely, for our climate, this population of flies is living through the winter. They survived even our absence for two weeks. We have no idea where they are breeding or what is sustaining them.

We had some guesses. I thought they may have arrived and survived in the dog food bag, but I kept that outside long enough to freeze any larvae to death and it did not affect the flies (although, they could, I suppose, have re-infested the bag). They chinchilla poop is too hard and dry to host insects, but the rabbit and guinea pig also left the house for those two weeks and the flies were as numerous as ever when we all returned, which rules their (and our) poop out.

The flies seem to cluster around the kitchen and “library” (actually a room-sized closet). There are no foul smells that might indicate where they are breeding – which, along with the five months this has been gong on, rules out a dead animal host.

The flies seem to have a taste for sweet rather than, say, feces, but we haven’t seen any evidence of maggots near any food. The flies seem oblivious to our pantry. At least they don’t hide our soap.

Long weekend

Child Three picked up a nasty virus last week. It may have been an influenza and even if it wasn’t, the symptoms were the same: congestion, cough, fever, lethargy…. We sent him to school Thursday although we probably should have kept him home. He stayed home with me Friday.

Fridays are our traditional nights to invite the wife’s mother and aunt over for supper. Less traditionally, Fridays have also become Child Two’s night for play rehearsals. I picked her up and we enjoyed a nice stretch of free time, except for Child Three, who fell asleep.

Child Three had a hockey practice scheduled for 8:00 a.m. which he missed, of course. As a coach, I should have been there, but I had to spend the day at Concordia for the Young Journalists Workshop – but more about that in a moment. I had to be at the school for 9:00, so I couldn’t make the practice either.

The wife had agreed to spend the day volunteering for the local soccer association. We were left with nobody to look after the deathly pale Child Three. Child One normally babysits for us, and that was our plan originally, but with Child Three ill, we wanted more adult supervision. Lifesaver friend and assistant coach Neil stepped in. His boy was at the practice, so Child Three went with and watched. Neil dragged him around all day, a choice of words that isn’t a reflection on Neil’s plans so much as one of Child Three’s energy.

I spent the morning chatting with ten or so prospective journalism students, about how to turn a press conference into a story. I think it went well, but next time I do it, I’ll make it more hands on. I lectured too much.

I had a two-hour slot in there to do some work, so I answered some research questions and surfed. My novice team had a game to play at 7:00 p.m. and I had scheduled Child Three to play goalie. First thing in the morning, we couldn’t decide if he was too sick to play, and to be safe I called our other goalie and asked him to bring his equipment just in case. (When our goalies aren’t playing nets, they dress and play as forwards.)

I spent the afternoon doing a second session with the potential students. We went to my lab and did some desktop publishing, which was almost entirely hands on. I think that was more effective than the morning.

I got home around 4:30 and by that time it had become obvious that Child Three was not going to play hockey. I spoke with assistant coach Bram, the father of our other goalie and told him his boy was in net.

I prepared a bit for our game and vegged out for half an hour before heading to the arena. Our record was 10-1-0 with 46 goals scored and 12 against, in a virtual tie for first. We played the sixth-place team, 4-5-2 with a goal differential of 18 for and 26 against. I have no idea how that team has lost five games. They gave us a glorious game. We hopped out to a 1-0 lead early in the second, but they tied it a minute later. I think we may have had more shots, but most of our shots were taken from too far away. The opposing goalie could cover post to post with his legs – that was amazing to watch, and painful to imagine – and we never could lift the puck over him. We lost 2-1 in a game that the other team earned.

In the short term, the loss will be painful. In the longer term, it will help. I was able to spot some flaws in the boys’ games that we can correct and which will make them better hockey players, which is the goal at this level anyway. We need better tactics coming out of the zone, which was a problem. Defencemen who were reasonably solid early in the year have come down with goal-itis and are now hanging out too deep in the offensive zone. We gave up many breakaways, which is a cardinal sin in my “Webs’s Big Book of Hockey”. Still, the game should turn out to be short term pain for long term gain for all concerned.

Neil and family came over after the game to help us – OK, help Elvi – hang a hammock. It turned into a late night, after which I updated the acting resumes for Children One and Two, who had an audition tape to make for a kids show at 11:00 a.m.

In the morning, Elvi printed out some headshots and picked up Child Two from her sleepover host while I tried to print the resumes. Child Three missed indoor baseball practice, but with the schedule, might have missed it regardless of health.

We got back from the audition at 1:00 p.m. and soon had visitors. In between, I was able to knock out and post online some notes for this week’s Online Magazine class.

The novice kids had another practice at 4:00 p.m. (all three novice teams practice en masse) but I was just too beat to make it. I slept through it, then woke up and folded laundry until my back started to twinge. Then I wrote this. Tomorrow? I read Web site assessments and pick grades out of a hat.