Really, Really Tiny Guitars

Posted in Technology on November 19th 2003 by Randy Reichardt

:: As a guitar player of some 37+ years, I was interested to see this news release about the new, Flying V NanoGuitar. It falls under the category of NEMS (Nanoelectromechanical Systems), which is two orders of magnitude smaller than MEMS (Microelectromechanical Systems).

The original “nanoguitar“, about the size of a blood cell, was developed in 1997.

I’m looking forward to the first CD release of nanoguitar music!

Sore Shoulder, Amazon Breaks New Ground

Posted in Random Thoughts, Technology on October 27th 2003 by Randy Reichardt

:: My right shoulder and arm were examined today by a doctor with a specialty in sports medicine. Turns out my shoulder is somewhat out of whack – can’t give you much more of an explanation than that. My muscles, rotator cuff, and so on, are ok, but the shoulder blade is out of alignment, bulging a bit at my back. I will need physiotherapy. Unfortunately my first appointment is on November 12th, so in the meantime, I’m getting a massage and stocking up on pain killers.

:: announced last Thursday that it is making the full-text of ~120,000 books (>33,000,000 pages), searchable to its customers. The searching is done at the same level as a title or author search. So I took the book Moonwatcher’s Memoir by Dan Richter, flipped it open to a random page (116), read the phrase “some Velcro slipping” in a sentence, typed that phrase into the Amazon search window, and boom, the first item retrieved was Richter’s book, with a link to p116, where it found the phrase. What was interesting was how fast the results appeared, in less than five seconds. Given the size of the db, 33 million pages, never mind how many words, I was very impressed that it found the one book with the phrase so quickly. The search algorithm retrieved other books and pages with the words “some“, “Velcro“, and “slipping“, but not the phrase itself.

However, I tried three times to retrieve the text of the page, and finally received a response; I suspect Amazon’s servers are burning a lot of coal right now, trying to keep up with the new service. So to see the page that contained the phrase, I had to wait over 10 minutes. Once the page with the phrase you searched appears, you can browse two pages on either side of that page in the book.

This is an impressive feat on Amazon’s part. Within my profession, a growing number of full-text databases exists, mostly of primary and secondary journal literature, along side a smaller number of databases which offer the full-texts of monographs, such as books24x7. None of the book dbs remotely approach the content of Amazon’s 120,000 books. It’s a unique feature that will no doubt increase sales. Amazon’s customers now have another powerful search tool to retrieve books (and CDs, DVDs, etc) of interest to them while browsing and searching. The question is: how quickly will their competitors move to offer a similar feature to their web sites?

It Takes … Balls

Posted in Blogging, Library, Technology on October 24th 2003 by Randy Reichardt

:: I was at the Netspeed 2003 conference today in Edmonton, and attended a number of interesting sessions, including ones covering virtual reference services, and PDAs in the library. One of the keynote speakers, Ian Whitten, currently the iCore Visiting Professor at U Lethbridge, and Director of the NZ Digital Library at the University of Waikato in New Zealand, discussed Greenstone Digital Library Software, a suite of open-source software used to build and digitize library collections. During his engaging and at time hilarious talk, he showed us examples of digitized collections created with Greenstone, including this page on castration from Basic Husbandry Practices and Veterinary Care. (The foreword of the book states: “The manuals are based upon experiences documented through a series of intensive field work activities over a one-year period with a group of livestock small-holders living and working in Cavite province of the Philippines.”)

Note the picture of the farmer tossing the animal testicles onto a roof of made of galvanized iron. This is an indigenous practice done on hot days, as the belief is that the testicles will dry up faster, and thus so will the wound to the animal.

The attentive crowd watching Ian, myself included, had just finished eating lunch at this point in time.

:: I’ve been playing around with Blogger sites again, ones I’ve created to keep myself familiar with how to set up an instant blog on that site. Among these sites is my original blog from July 2002. I need to maintain familiarity so that I might sound somewhat intelligent and coherent when G and I present blogging sessions in the not-too-distant future. As some of you might notice, I’m also experimenting with the font size and styles here as well.

Transferring video to DVD

Posted in Technology on September 25th 2003 by Randy Reichardt

:: Hewlett Packard has introduced a device called a DC3000 DVD Movie Writer, that lets you transfer VHS and other formats, including BetaMax, to DVD. Another new toy!


Posted in Library, Technology on September 24th 2003 by Randy Reichardt

:: I experienced two “firsts” today. At work, we began our Librarian On-Site! service. For the first time in my 25-year career as a librarian, I left the library to do information and reference work, and went to where the users “live”, on their turf. I set up shop in a large computer lab, and offered consulting to any engineering student or faculty who needed help. It was a lot of fun, especially in the second hour, when a class of chemical engineering design students descended upon me with a propane pricing and chemical property question.

The other “first” was more personal – I was fitted for a hearing aid. Yah, you read that correctly. It’s wonderful getting old. I’ve had a version of low tone conductive deafness in my right ear since 1985 or so. It’s never worsened or improved, so my ear doctor suggested I consider a hearing aid. I’m going to try it for a few weeks, and then decide whether or not to purchase (~$1,500Cdn, just a pile of chump change).

A hearing aid. I can’t believe I typed those words. It seems to work well most of the time. It doesn’t work well with a telephone or headset or headphones, so I’ll have to get used to using the phone in my left ear. It has two settings, one for group noise (used in a meeting or a party), and a basic setting for conversation. The device feels ok in my ear, not too much of a bother, and most people I spoke to didn’t even notice it. That’s cool because it protects a bit of my vanity, but inside, a small part of me is very, very sad.

Gallery Revisited

Posted in Music, Random Thoughts, Technology on September 16th 2003 by Randy Reichardt

:: I discovered this afternoon, by serendipity more than anything else I suppose, that I had the wrong binaries loaded for NetPBM. Er, duh. Like, how would I know? Anyway, I uploaded them to my server, and Gallery started working on my site. I’ve loaded a handful of photos so far, and will continue to work on tweaking things in the next few days.

:: I’m feeling slightly better than yesterday. Bones and muscles not aching as much. It was very cool in town here today, and is 1oC at the moment. Apparently snow has been falling heavily in other parts of Alberta. Still, I’ll take this over what Hurricane Isabel is about to give the eastern seaboard.

:: Some time back, during an NYC trip, I was introduced to Rainsong guitars. They haven’t been available in Alberta, but a rep for the company was scheduled to come through Edmonton this week and visit Avenue Guitars, far and away the best guitar shop in Edmonton, and the only one I frequent. I’m looking forward to playing one again soon.