Sunday, December 25, 2011

Thai Language Group - Associations

I got curious about the Thai language group. The linked Wikipedia page is good.

Why the sudden interest? I was wondering in what language my name means or sounds similar to something really funny or raunchy. In it's native language my name is pretty serious. If you don't know, many Thai words generate these associations in English speakers with teenage thought processes - I'm in this group. 

Here are some links to a Thai first and last names.

Now you can choose a first and last name and get some pretty wild combos.
Here's one example : Dhipyamongko Phatipatanawong

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Four Years Since Surgery

Lunar Eclipse (
Courtesy of the US Naval Observatory Data Services, yesterday was Julian Day Number 2455916.5 . The Julian date for CE 2011 December 21 00:00:00.0 UT is JD 2455916.500000. The JDN, or JD, is simply the count of days since a given day in the past .  The year, month, day of month conversion is more complicated since the number of days in a solar year is 365.25 - 0.0078103 (J2000) and different from the fixed star frame sidereal year  of 365.25 +0.006363004, as of J2000). days. Subtracting  the JDNs  of two calendar dates gives the number of days between those dates. Of course, one must have an accepted algorithm for converting from calendar dates to JDNs  (and back). 

The official date of my surgery was December 21, 2007  -  JDN 2454455.5 which gives 1,461 days since surgery.   Since 1, 461 modulo 365 is one,  there was a leap year somewhere along the survival curve. :)  

Today, the winter solstice  occurs at 05:30 UTC.  In 2007 it occurred 06:08 UTC.    Happy Survival Day...the days get longer for the next 6 months or so - nice thought. 

Friday, December 16, 2011

Christopher Hitchens - God Is Not Great

Christopher Eric Hitchens
In noting the death of Christopher Hitchens yesterday.,_Christopher

I add a few quotes from Thomas Carlyle
  • I do not believe in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance.
  • It is a vain hope to make people happy by politics.
  • The world is a republic of mediocrities, and always was.
  • Writing is a dreadful labor, yet not so dreadful as Idleness.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Cleaning Plastic Lenses - Never Reuse Cloth

Lens cleaning cloths are an antiquated idea from the days of glass lenses and before fancy coatings.  In the days before paper towels and tissues, when toilets included bidets and cotton towels,  a cloth for cleaning glasses kind of made sense.  These days it's simply not a good idea.  Many modern eyeglass lenses are coated with a hydrophobic coating that causes water to form small droplets on the surface.  To clean your glasses all you need to do is wash your hands well and then gently apply some clean soap (liquid preferred) to wash off any oils on the lenses.  Then rinse the lenses under clean running water to wash off any particles and emulsified oils.   Shake gently to remove as much water as possible. Any remaining water can be soaked up with a clean tissue or paper towel.  No wiping or dragging.

Any time you attempt to dry clean a lens by wiping you risk dragging a hard particle across the surface and making scratches.  Could that be why those "free" cloths are provided?  Pretty things - nice and soft and cuddly.  I would use them for one luxurious nose blow and toss them in the trash.   Of course, a single-use, packaged, "cloth" impregnated with an ammonia solution is fine.  That's my take. Enjoy those high-index plastics with fancy AR coatings. 

Sure beats lead glass. :)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Yiddish Word of the Day: Paskudnyak

Mycobacterium Tuberculosis
source wikipedia
The etymology of the Yiddish term paskudnyak  is fairly clear.  In Russian the word паскуд (paskud) means bastard.   In Polish the word paskudzić  means "to bungle", mess up or botch.  The Polish noun for an abomination is paskudztwo.     A related word in Russian is  позорный (pozornyĭ) meaning dishonorable.   The Yiddish word means a really nasty villain,   - "bad to the bone".  

Friday, November 25, 2011

Not Quite Right In the Head

The world is generally more interesting with people who are "different".   At Thanksgiving dinner last night I heard a saying that seems to be common in America, but due to my foreign background,  I never heard before - the saying is "Half a bubble off level"  or "Half a bubble off plumb".    It's sounds pretty American in origin.  It seems that the term was used by none other than  Samuel Langhorne Clemens (aka Mark Twain).  This seems about right given that Mark Twain started out as a typesetter and piloted a steamboat on the Mississippi River.  However,  it is very possible that Twain picked up the saying after he moved east to New York and Connecticut.   Twain  loved science and technology  - he was a friend of Nikola Tesla and they used to hang out together in Tesla's lab. Twain  lost a lot of money financing new inventions. 

Now we get to the issue of the meaning of the saying.   I guess the pithy term would be eccentric. But eccentric has several meanings  -  some quite unrelated -    off-center or outside,   imbecility,  folly , insanity,  capriciousness, un-conformity or non-conformity, ridiculous, comical,, ain't English a fine language for insulting people.   :)

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Standing Around in Parking Lots: Bad Idea

Woman killed by truck before Yale-Harvard football game

(Reuters) - One woman died and two others were injured after the driver of a U-Haul truck plowed through a parking lot tailgating area ahead of the annual Yale-Harvard football matchup on Saturday, police said.
Drinking is an indoor sport.
A 30-year-old woman from Massachusetts was killed after the driver accelerated through a parking lot and ran over the three women before slamming into other parked trucks, said New Haven, Connecticut police spokesman Officer David Hartman.
The woman who died was not a Yale student or affiliate, according to a statement from the university, nor was she believed to be affiliated with Harvard.
The deadly accident happened near Yale University's stadium in New Haven, just hours before the noon kick-off for the 128th playing of the Yale-Harvard football rivalry, Hartman said.
Security around the game was tight and traffic patterns were well-established, he said.
"This is very organized," he said. "This was a tragic accident."
A second victim, a Yale School of Management student, was hospitalized in stable condition, the Yale statement said.
The third woman hit by the truck suffered minor injuries, according to police.
The operator of the truck was described as a young male and was being questioned by investigators, Hartman said.
Yale extended its sympathies to the victims and their families. It said college officials would review policies and regulations related to tailgating at athletic events.
Average attendance at the last six Harvard-Yale games played in New Haven was more than 53,000, according to the Yale University website.
Harvard won the game by a score of 45-7.
(Reporting by Lauren Keiper; Editing by Colleen Jenkins)

Monday, November 7, 2011

Marie Curie - Google Doodle

 Today's Google Doodle is about Marie Curie (144th birthday).

Google Doodle - Marie Curie.
 Marie Curie was the first person to win two Nobel Prizes in science.   The others are  John Bardeen (Physics) and  Frederick Sanger (Chemistry) .  Linus Pauling won his first Nobel in chemistry and his second for Peace. He perhaps should have received two just for inventing chemistry.  :) 

Marie's daughter, Irene Joliot-Curie  won the Nobel prize in Chemistry with her husband,  Frederick Joliot-Curie (nee Joliot) .

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Beer: Stouts and Porters

I believe this may be the first in a series of posts on beer.  .  Beer is probably the oldest alcoholic beverage and dates to about 10,000 BC.  The first written records on beer are from China and Mesopotamia and date to about 4,000 BC .

A nice Imperial Stout in my favorite glass
This post is concerned with the style of beer known as "stout" or stout "porter".   Stouts are generally dark, warm-fermented, beers invented in London, England.  Their cousins, the ales are also generally fermented at warm room temperatures ranging from 15 C to ~29 C (60 F to 85 F).  In warm conditions the yeast rises to the top of the fermentation vessel and the beer is called "top-fermented" or warm-fermented.     

Other than being dark, stouts have a large range of tastes, textures and alcohol levels by volume (ABV).  Porters started out as rather strong beers with about 8% abv.  Over time, they became cheaper and weaker and evolved into the Gatorade of the day, sweetish, and refreshing.   Aging usually adds flavor but takes time and money.  Porter brewers discovered that a small amount of aged beer could be used to flavor new beer and make it good enough to sell.    Irish stout dispensed with even more ingredients (except the cheap black color of burned barley) and made a thin but refreshing drink of moderate abv.  Today, Guinness (~ 4% abv) is the modern version.  When fresh, it's quite a nice summer beer.  However, it sours very easily, and if not used quickly becomes quite unpalatable - if you have a palate...   Beware the "Irish" pub serving stale or insipid Guinness.  You are better off with the bottled version.

The acme of the porter/stout genre is the Russian Imperial Stout or Imperial Porter.   Originally, Imperial stout was brewed in London for the Empress Catherine the Great of RussiaIt was a strong and flavorful concoction (~10% abv).  When done right,  imperial stout is a sublime example of the brewer's art.   My thanks to big Jeff at Redbones for a really fine bottle.

In this context,  I'll paraphrase Benjamin Franklin,  "Imperial Stout is proof that the almighty wants us to be happy".
more later.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Paul Leka: Songwriter, Pianist, Arranger

Paul Leka  (Photo by Joseph Bly)
Paul Leka, known for his songs Green Tambourine and Na Na Hey Hey, Goodbye,  died recently.   The song Na Na...,  was performed by the band,  Steam.    Here's a Youtube video of an early performance.

Green Tambourine was performed by the band,  The Lemon Pipers.  Here's a live video courtesy of  SixtiesPopGold1 on youtube .


Thursday, October 13, 2011

Steve Jobs, Computing Entrepreneur and Media Maven

Apple I (Wikipedia), circa 1976.
Palo Alto, California (10/5/2011),   Steve Jobs had a deep understanding of the connections between computing technologies  and their social uses.    It started with his appreciation of the potential of the "graphical user interface".  As a kid,  he attended after-school lectures at Hewlett-Packard.   Later, as a summer employee,  he met Steve Wozniac (Woz).   After graduating from high school in 1972,  Steve spent only one semester in college.   He was interested in practical computing and was attracted  to Asian religions.  With Woz, he attended the Homebrew Computer Club and worked as a technician at Atari.   In 1975, Woz designed the Apple I.  The display was a standard TV set. And it booted from ROM!!  Apple Computer was established on April 1, 1976 in Cupertino, California, and incorporated January 3, 1977.   The Apple-1 was released  in  July of 1976.    No one does it alone in this world. Jobs and Woz  knew they needed help.  A key mentor and partner was Mike Markkula, Jr.  Mike had BS and MS degrees in EE from USC and was already a millionaire retiree at 32.  Yes,  we all need mentors of one kind or another. 

Apple II with floppy disks
In 1977,  a much improved Apple II was introduced.  The plastic case opened easily to reveal a motherboard and eight expansion slots.  The keyboard was built in to the case - a harbinger of laptop computers to come.

Apple II - case open
Xerox started their Palo Alto Reseach Center (PARC) in 1970. Xerox PARC still exists.   PARC researchers became famous  for developing key technologies in computing and communication -  bitmap computer graphics,  the graphical user interface (GUI),  the computer pointing device called the "mouse", object-oriented programming (OOP).   Contributions from PARC alumni, such as Alan Kay (not to be confused with Andrew Kay of Kaypro),  Butler Lampson, Charles Thacker and many others  were progenitors of the many of the components of modern computers.  At SRI, Douglas Englebart and Bill English's work led to the development of the computer mouse. 

Apple's Macintosh
 IBM introduced it's personal computer (PC) based on the Intel 8088 microprocessor in 1981. An obscure company called Microsoft provided the DOS 1.0 operating system.  Apple needed something better to survive.  On January 24, 1984,  Steve introduced the Macintosh at an emotional Apple shareholders' meeting.  the Macintosh was the first commercially successful PC with a mouse, a GUI and a 9-inch, 512x342 pixel monochrome display.  Users today would be immediately familiar with the windows and icons.   The marketing effort was very effective and many people became instant converts.  Detractors labeled it a mere toy - they were wrong.  Command line interfaces, although cool for those who had entered code with switches, were not the path to ubiquitous computing.  Bit-mapped graphics output was seductive no matter what, so some kind of input made sense.  The ability to create polished documents with integrated text and graphics made desktop publishing the killer app.   A year later, Apple introduced the LaserWriter, one of the first mass-market laser printers - only $6,995 (1985 dollars, wow).

Michael Dell founded Dell Computer in his dormroom at the U. of Texas, Austin (1984).  The era of extreme PC competition was here.   Apple struggled due to the relative dearth of software compared to IBM compatible PCs.  The network effect was in full force. With 90% market share, people wrote code for the dominant OS - Microsoft's. 

NeXT Cube circa 1990 (via wikipedia)
Jobs was pushed out of Apple in 1985 - probably the best thing that could have happened to him at that stage.  His creativity was unleashed.  Later on they would find they needed him more than ever.    He started NeXT, Inc.  It took until 1988 for something to be unveiled:  a computing powerhouse -  the NeXT cube. Despite it's limited commercial success, it was a huge influence on the industry.  The first web server ran on a NeXT in in 1990.   The cube was replaced by a "pizza box" in the NeXT station.   The workstation market (for technical and scientific computing) was no pushover either.  Competition was fierce and many companies did not survive - NeXT held on until 1996.   But these computers, and their software, allowed new computers to be designed - a bootstrapping process that continues today.  In 1986, Jobs bought George Lucas' "Graphics Group" and renamed it "Pixar".  Movies like Star Wars needed special effects and computer animation which required powerful graphics-oriented hardware and software to do anything in a reasonable time.   In 1996,  Apple bought Jobs' NeXT and Jobs' returned to Apple becoming CEO in 1997.  Desktop publishing was morphing into digital video production - the medium was the message.  More and better hardware and software was needed.

Sony Walkman, circa 1980
Akio Morita,  a founder of Sony with Masaru Ibuka, travelled a lot.  He wanted to be able to listen to opera while flying.  Nobutoshi Kihara, in Sony's audio division,  led the development of the Walkman compact audio music player.  It used  magnetic tape in a "compact" cassette as the music carrier (analog memory).  The Walkman went on sale in 1979 in Japan and became a world wide hit.   After the compact disc (CD) replaced analog tape as a consumer music medium, portable CD music players were sold.  They had many problems:  CDs needed to spin and the motor needed to be small.  This caused numerous skips in real world conditions.   Eventually,  digital memories were used to "buffer" up to a minute of audio while the disk stabilized after a jolt.
Could a digital semiconductor memory device be used instead of a moving disk in a portable music player?   As digital hardware  became cheaper, more powerful, and less power-hungry,  complex portable devices became feasible.  At the same time,  digital signal processing (DSP) and ideas from data compression and perceptual coding led to the development of "lossy" compression schemes such as jpeg,  and importantly for audio,  mp3 (MPEG audio layer 3).   Lossy compression allows for significant reduction in bit-rate and file sizes.  For mp3, compression by a factor of ten is quite common compared to CD audio rates.

iPod ca 2003
Apple announced it's portable digital media player, the iPod, in 2001.  The first iPod used a 5GB hard disk as a storage device.   Flash memory was still to come.   More important, Apple's iTunes software ran on Macs and later Windows deskop platforms to allow syncing and backup of music files. And most importantly,  Apple offered a place to buy songs though it's  iTunes service (2003-).  Apple was in the music distribution business.  As the internet expanded, Apple could offer it's web services worldwide.   In 2005, Apple introduced the iPod Nano, a digital media player which used non-volatile "flash" memory.  

In January of 2007, Apple unveiled it's first iPhone smartphone.  The phone was a leap forward in functionality compared to it's contemporaries.  A sensitive capacitive touchscreen, which used one or more real finger tips, replace the then common stylus-based version.   The phone was very similar to an earlier model by LG - they claimed that Apple had copied their device.  LG's phone was popular but it lacked the 3rd party software distribution channel  (App Store) and the scale of the Apple effort.  For text input the iPhone uses a virtual keboard on the screen saving weight and volume.   Current versions have two cameras,  front-facing for video telephony and rear for high-res still and video capture.  A native web-browser (Safari) is included.   A wide range of  free and paid apps for many needs and purposes has increased the iPhone's popularity.

Not surprisingly,  Google and Microsoft have challenged Apple in the smartphone arena.  Now Google's Android OS, and open hardware approach, is recapitulating the OS war between Microsoft's Windows and Apple's OS.   In terms of market share,  Google is gaining fast and will likely grab a large share of the market.  Microsoft's smartphone OS is good and getting better.

Steve Jobs with iPad - 2010
So what's the "cool factor" that Apple has in abundance?   It's more than skin-deep.  It all about esthetics, ergonomics and function combined into one package.   For users, living in the Apple universe is pretty nice.   Apple hardware plays nice with their brethren.  You did not need to know a nerd to do stuff.  

Tablet (aka slate) computers are thin, flat devices with a screen area about the size of letter paper (or A4 in ISO).   The don't have a physical keyboard and use touchscreen for input via a virtual keyboard and touch gestures for pointing, etc. via a fingertip or a stylus.   They have been around in some form since the invention of the writing slate made of actual slate (stone).  Touchscreen technology has improved a lot over the past ten years.  Capacitive touchscreens are sensitive to light touch of a finger tip.  Multi-touch allows two or more fingers to be tracked simultaneously.  This allows for two-finger gestures (for zooming, etc.)  and also better virtual keyboard function.  

Apple's tablet device is called the iPad.  More than 30 million iPads have been sold since it was released in April, 2010 -  !@@!! 

One important feature that's missing from Apple's touch input devices is called Swype (R).  It's a natural for virtual keyboards expecially on small screens.  You enter words by sliding your finger from letter to letter to spell out the word. The traced path is matched with likely words and you select the one you want.  It's pretty good.   A small keyboard is actually easier to use with Swype(R) since distance traced is smaller and thus faster. 

What can we expect from Apple now that Steve is not with us?  I'm sure more improvements in the current line of products.  The issue for the long term is new stuff.  To quote Alan Kay, "The best way to predict the future is to invent it."


Monday, October 3, 2011

Nobel Prize in Medicine 2011

STOCKHOLM | Tue Oct 4, 2011 8:03am EDT (Reuters) - The Nobel Foundation said on Monday a decision to award the 2011 Nobel Prize for medicine or physiology to Canadian scientist Ralph Steinman would remain unchanged despite his death.
By Patrick Lannin and Anna Ringstrom  STOCKHOLM | Mon Oct 3, 2011 11:52am EDT
Zanvil Cohn (left) and Ralph Steinman (right) examining d
STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - A scientist who won the Nobel prize for medicine on Monday for work on fighting cancer died of the disease himself just three days before he could be told of his award, and after using his own discoveries to extend his life.

Canadian-born Ralph Steinman,  68, had been treating himself with a groundbreaking therapy based on his own research into the body's immune system but died on Friday after a four-year battle with pancreatic cancer. His colleagues at Rockefeller University in New York called it a "bittersweet" honor.

The Nobel Committee at Sweden's Karolinska Institute, which does not make posthumous awards, said it was aware of Steinman's death; but it appeared that it had not known before making its announcement. It is likely that Steinman died without being aware he had won science's ultimate accolade, along with American Bruce Beutler and Jules Hoffmann of France.

Swedish officials on the Nobel Committee were rushing to try to clarify what secretary general Goran Hansson, called a "unique situation, because he died hours before the decision was made." Hansson told Swedish news agency TT the panel would review what to do with the prize money, due to rules against posthumous awards. But it would not name a substitute winner.

"The Nobel Foundation has recognized Ralph Steinman for his seminal discoveries concerning the body's immune responses," said Rockerfeller University president Marc Tessier-Lavigne.

"But the news is bittersweet, as we also learned this morning from Ralph's family that he passed a few days ago after a long battle with cancer," he added.

The institution said in a statement: "Steinman passed away on September 30. He was 68. He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer four years ago, and his life was extended using a dendritic-cell based immunotherapy of his own design."

Alexis Steinman, indicating that her father had not known on his deathbed of the impending decision in Stockholm, said: "We are all so touched that our father's many years of hard work are being recognized with a Nobel Prize. He devoted his life to his work and his family and he would be truly honored."

Beutler and Hoffmann, who studied the first stages of the body's immune responses to attack in the 1990s, shared the $1.5 million award with Steinman, originally from Montreal, whose discovery of dendritic cells in the 1970s is key to understanding the body's next line of defense against disease.

"This year's Nobel laureates have revolutionized our understanding of the immune system by discovering key principles for its activation," the award panel at Sweden's Karolinska Institute said in a statement in Stockholm.

Lars Klareskog, who chairs the prize-giving panel, told Reuters before the news of Steinman's death: "I am very excited about what these discoveries mean. I think that we will have new, better vaccines against microbes and that is very much needed now with the increased resistance against antibiotics."

Beutler, 53, is based at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California. Luxembourg-born Hoffmann, 70, conducted much of his work in Strasbourg. They were supposed to share half the 10 million Swedish crowns ($1.46 million) of prize-money. The rest should have gone to Steinman, though the unusual circumstances leave its fate now in some doubt.

Beutler told Reuters he had learned of his prize by e-mail and had to search online to make sure it was true: "I finally found it on Google News. My name was all over the place."

Of his work, he said, it "might lead to new treatments for inflammatory and auto-immune disease and possibly new treatments for other kinds of diseases as well."

The work of all three scientists has been pivotal to the development of improved types of vaccines against infectious diseases and novel approaches to fighting cancer. The research has helped lay the foundations for a new wave of "therapeutic vaccines" that stimulate the immune system to attack tumors.

Better understanding of the complexities of the immune system has also given clues for treating inflammatory diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, where the components of the self-defense system end up attacking the body's own tissues.

Beutler and Hoffmann discovered in the 1990s that receptor proteins act as a first line of defense, innate immunity, by recognizing bacteria and other microorganisms. Steinman's work, explained how, if required, dendritic cells in the next phase, adaptive immunity, kill off infections that break through.

Understanding dendritic cells led to the launch of the first therapeutic cancer vaccine last year, Dendreon's Provenge, which treats men with advanced prostate cancer.

"We live in a dangerous world. Pathogenic microorganisms threaten us continuously," the Nobel panel said, describing the work over the decades in understanding our defenses.

"The first line of defense, innate immunity, can destroy invading microorganisms and trigger inflammation ... If microorganisms break through this defense line, adaptive immunity is called into action ... It produces antibodies and killer cells that destroy infected cells ... These two defense lines ... provide good protection against infections, but they also pose a risk ...: inflammatory disease may follow."

Medicine, or physiology, is usually the first of the Nobel prizes awarded each year. Prizes for achievements in science, literature and peace were first awarded in 1901 in accordance with the will of dynamite inventor and businessman Alfred Nobel.

The award citation noted that the world's scientists had long been searching for the "gatekeepers" of immune response.

Hoffmann's pioneering research was conducted on fruit flies, highlighting how key elements of modern human biology have been conserved through evolution.

The immune system exists primarily to protect against infections but it can also protect against some cancers by targeting rogue cells before they proliferate.

Sometimes, however, the immune system goes into overdrive and attacks healthy tissue, leading to autoimmune inflammatory diseases, such as type 1 diabetes and multiple sclerosis, as well as rheumatoid arthritis. The effect is often compared to "friendly fire," when troops hit their own comrades in combat.

(Additional reporting by Ben Hirschler in London and Mia Shanley in Stockholm; Writing by Alastair Macdonald)

STOCKHOLM | Tue Oct 4, 2011 8:03am EDT
(Reuters) - The Nobel Foundation said on Monday a decision to award the 2011 Nobel Prize for medicine or physiology to Canadian scientist Ralph Steinman would remain unchanged despite his death.
Steinman was awarded the prize together with Bruce Beutler and Jules Hoffmann for increasing understanding of the immune system.
Rules set up in 1974 prevent the Nobel Committee from awarding the prizes posthumously, unless death has occurred after the announcement of the Nobel Prize.
Steinman died on September 30 and the committee announced the prize without knowing of his death.
"The events that have occurred are unique and, to the best of our knowledge, are unprecedented in the history of the Nobel Prize," the foundation said in a statement.
"According to the statutes of the Nobel Foundation, work produced by a person since deceased shall not be given an award. However, the statutes specify that if a person has been awarded a prize and has died before receiving it, the prize may be presented."
(Reporting by Mia Shanley)

Friday, September 30, 2011

Physics Lectures On YouTube

Professor Lewin is an engaging lecturer at MIT and I love his Dutch accent.   His stuff is is great..

  Prof.V.Balakrishnan, Department of Physics, IIT Madras.  Really fine  lectures.
Bon appetit! 

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Rosh Hashana & The Dead Sea Scrolls On The Web

Rosh Hashana (The "head" of the year) is a Jewish  holiday.  Today is the first day of the year 5772 according to the Hebrew Calendar.    The epoch or reference date of the hebrew calendar is the date of the creation of the universe  -  the Anno Mundi.    Around 160 CE, Jewish scholars worked backwards from "known" events and used time periods mentioned in the Hebrew bible and calculated "year zero" at around 3,920 years before their current time.  So if we are in 2011 CE,  then we get 2011-160+3920 =  5771.  Seems right. 

You won't have to travel spatially to Israel to see the Dead Sea Scrolls.   The Israel Museum, Jerusalem and Google have a project to digitize them, and make them available to all online.   The Official Google Blog has a post  about the project as well.   As of now, you can click on the Great Isaiah scroll and get images and translations to English of the text.   The scrolls were discovered in caves in the Dead Sea area which is usually hot and dry.  Most of the scrolls are badly fragmented - a few are almost complete.  The scrolls were carbon dated in the 1990s with calibrated ages for the oldest scrolls at about 300 BCE  (about 2,300 years ago).    These are the oldest known surviving copies of the Hebrew bible and related texts.

The Hebrew bible starts with Genesis, the creation of the universe.  The biblical creation myth is one of many.   No ancient one is close to the scientific value for the age of the universe.  The Chinese and ancient Egyptians came up with ~40,000 years.  The Hindu's were close at 4.5 billion, but then decided to multiply by fifty. Still, it's pretty good.   Christian estimates range from about 9,000 to 6,000 years.  

Sunday, September 11, 2011

September 11 Attacks - Tenth Anniversary

As I write this, ten years after the September 11, 2001 attacks,  I am doing something similar to that day ten years ago.  I am sitting at my computer.   Most of us remember where we were, and what we were doing,  on that  cool, clear Tuesday morning.   I was on the yahoo news website when the page updated and a small "breaking news"  link appeared in red.  Shortly after,  I tuned in to the CNN cable TV channel and watched,  in fear and fascination,  the events of that day as they unfolded on TV.  Manhattan, being compact and a hub of television production,  had almost instantaneous video coverage after the collision of the first plane with the  World Trade Center's North Tower at 8:46 AM.   At first, I thought it was an accidental collision.  When the second plane collided with the South Tower at 9:03 AM,  I knew immediately it was a coordinated attach by hijackers.  The flight path of the second plane was clearly controlled and targeted - it reminded me of the film footage of the Japanese kamikaze planes flying into our ships in WW2.  The kamikaze fighter planes,  although loaded with high explosives, were tiny and light compared to a modern passenger jet.  Ominously,  all the hijacked planes originated on the East Coast and were flying transcontinental routes to California.  Their size, speed, and the large fuel load made them heavy and as lethal as hundreds of kamikaze fighters.   The choice of flights was far from random.  Someone had designed, organized and implemented a horrible plan.  And the results transcended all the planners expectations by a wide margin.   It started with perfect weather for neophyte pilots.   And then we learned  of the events in Washington, DC and near Shanksville, PA.  How many more were left? Nobody knew.   Fighter jets were scrambled from Otis Air Base.  For days after, a rustic quiet in the skies was punctuated by the roar of military jet engines.

Like many with family and friends in New York, I was concerned about where they were and how they were doing.  I also felt closer to my fellow New Yorkers than I ever before.  My thoughts went first to my mother who used to take the bus down to South Ferry - right past the World Trade Center.  Telephone service became rapidly saturated - especially outgoing service.   I talked with my mother shortly after the attacks - from the downtown bus, she had seen the pall of smoke rising from  the Battery Park area.   In the following days, she told me about the notices, many with color pictures of missing relatives,  taped to the lamp posts in her neighborhood.   The sadness was excruciating.    About two weeks later, I took the train to New York.   It really hit home as I walked past those notices - so many pictures of young and vibrant people - they were never to return.  Shakespeare's most famous soliloquy came to mind -  they never had a choice.   ...The undiscovered country from whose bourn  No traveller returns, puzzles the will,....

The New York Times' coverage was very detailed especially regarding the unraveling of the plot, people and organizations behind the attacks.   And, of course, the local stories were heart-rending.  There were many stories of close-calls:   those who missed flights of the four planes - people with early dentist appointments who arrived later than normal to work - those with flexible working hours .  But mostly there were stories about the victims and their families.  The good news, which is not mentioned enough,  is that over 50,000 people worked in the WTC towers.  At the time of the attacks about 18,000 people were in the towers.  About 200,000 people visited the WTC complex daily.   Three thousand people died -  it could have been much worse.

The planes hit high up on the WTC towers.  greenhorn pilots did not have the skills to fly in low....tbc

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Louis Armstrong - 110th Birthday Celebration.

Louis Armstrong
770 pix restored (full res at wikipedia)
Louis Armstrong , jazz great, trumpet virtuoso , vocalist,  and composer, was born on August 4, 1901 in New Orleans,  Louisiana to a very poor family.   His nickname "Satchmo" ,  short for "satchel-mouth" ,   has no definitive origin.  It may be related to his love of fine food or the shape of his mouth when playing the trumpet.   He likely started out on the cornet,  similar to the modern trumpet but with a different sound.   Like Mozart, Satchmo's deep, natural musical talent allowed him to be a spontaneous, extemporaneous, musical improvisor.

Here are some youtube links to high quality recordings.

La vie en rose
Mack the Knife

Summertime with Ella.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Third Anniversary of Chemo - Gregor Mendel - Google Doodle

 Today is the "official" third  anniversary of the end my chemo in 2008 - and 3.5 years from surgery.   To quote Galileo  - from the Italian - "E pur si muove"  ("And yet, it moves" -  in this case time).

I found peas on Google's home page this morning.    Here's what it looked like.
the "Google doodle" commemorates the birth of Gregor Mendel,  father of modern genetics.   Mendel did most of his work with pea plants and documented the patterns and statistics of traits he observed (phenotypes) based on their parental traits. From these observations, he inferred what is known now as the Laws of Mendelian Inheritance.  He observed that traits are not blends of parental ones but specific characteristics  (either there or not with specific frequencies).  He posited that factors for each trait are inherited from each parent but separately (segregation).  And that traits are not inherited as a group but  independently (independent assortment).   As the microscopic and molecular aspects of genetics where later elucidated,  the mechanisms for Mendel's laws became apparent.  We now know that many phenotypes are transmitted in much more complex ways (non-Mendelian inheritance).

Thursday, June 23, 2011

My "New" Baby

A friend roused me from my indolence to write this post - thanks Amy!   This post is dedicated to Sheldon Brown of Newton, MA.   Sheldon Brown's website is a testament to his bike knowledge and sense of humor. 

The actual bike - click to enlarge
Well it's not really new and it's not a baby - a human baby that is.  It's a bicycle,  only twenty-one years old and orphaned on the streets of Cambridge.   I found it stripped of the easy-to-remove things - both wheels (with quick-release skewers),  the seat post and the saddle.   But the key items were intact. The frame, brakes, derailleurs, crank-set, chain were in good condition.    The frame is small - good for a small rider.  The frame graphics identified it as a Miyata 721A.  Note the low and forward setting of the saddle (short legs) and upward tilt of the handlebars  (short arms).  Should I really be riding an adult-sized bike? 

1990 Catalog Page - click to enlarge
After a little googling,  I found someone who likes Miyata bikes enough to scan several years worth of glossy paper catalogs.   One of these,  the 1990 catalog, is a special issue for the  centennary of the Miyata company.    It turns out the Model 721A made it's debut in 1990 and my little orphan is one of the originals.  There is also a decal of the bike shop that sold it - Farina's of Watertown.  
The bike is mid-level road (touring/racing) model designed for hilly terrain.   It has 21-speeds,  most of them useless for the flat lands of Boston,  in a seven rear-by-three front sprocket configuration.  It has a Shimano Hyperglide chain and rear cluster (freehub-cassette) system with a Biopace  front crankset.    The frame is made using the "bonded aluminum" method .   This method uses aluminum tubes and connects them with lugs and glue.   Bicycle frames are typically made from three main tubes in a triangle.  These tubes must be connected to form a strong and stiff stucture.   A classic method is to connect the tubes with shaped "lugs"  ,  thicker hollow forms that accept the tubes at certain angles.  The lugs and tubes are connected using "brazing"  (melting metal into a small gap between the parts).   Other methods include welding the tubes directly together or  using lugs and glue.   In fancy bikes, the frame is constructed of a unified composite material with no obvious seams.  

My other bike is a trusty 1978 Motobecane Sprintour (made in France) with a steel (CrMo alloy) frame.  On the lower end and 12 years older,  the Sprintour model really contrasts with the 721A.   It's much heavier.  The gearing system is much simpler -  a ten-speed using a traditional rear  freeweel  gear cluster (5-sprockets) and two in the front.  The  dérailleur  (French word derived from de-rail which describes the way the chain is pushed off one sprocket on to another) system uses a basic sprocket geometry (the chain only fits on on gear at a time - and slides otherwise).  Shifting levers are continuous (no indexing on the shifters) and they are located on the downtube.  

The Shimano Hyperglide chain and gearing system is much more complex then the 1970's systems.  The sprocket teeth vary in shape and orientation as you go around to allow the chain to grab two gears at one time (the chain is slimmer and specialized as well).  The adjacent sprockets must align (in rotation) to allow the chain to mesh properly - so the entire cassette must be assembled correctly.   Indexed shifting levers are part of the system as continuous control is not really compatible.  The benefits of all this complexity are easy shifting by clicking the shifter into place and changing gears under power.   In the old days,  you had to ease up on the cranks before shifting.  

The braking system on the Miyata is also a big step up from the Motobecane with it's basic Weinmann side-pull, single-pivot, caliper design.   It uses the Shimano 500 EX (Exage?) SLR dual-pivot, calipers,  low-friction cables,  and matched Aero brake levers.   The Shimano brake design is very smooth and powerful (especially on new, clean aluminum wheel rims).  Grime is the bane of most mechanical things - especially bicycle components and brakes importantly.  If you've ever wondered why your brakes are not working as well as when they were new,  it's not age per se - worn down maybe to due the abrasion of sand and grit.  Oils and greases gum up over time due to chemical reactions with oxygen (ozone).  Gums are the opposite of greases in that they promote sticking rather than sliding.  Ironically,  a little layer of grease on your rims will eventually cause them to sound like a really bad violin  (and violinist).   Violin bows are "waxed"  to increase "sticktion".  Also, entrapped sand grains in the brake pads will grind grooves into the rim surface and reduce the contact area available for the brake pad.   And the brake pads, made of rubber, may also degrade as well  (ozone again).

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Fading Out of Photographic Film

A graphic of film sales
over the past ~15 yrs
 A story published today by the AP about the decreasing use of photographic film in general and film-based still imagery in particular had a nice graph from industry sources.   Here it is.  As with many tech related things the delay until the drop-off is hard to predict. But when it comes it's fast and furious.  In this case the peak occurred around 2000 at  800 M$ and is now maybe 20 M$ - a factor of close to 100.  In annual terms, that's about  60% per year.  

Large format film still beats semiconductor pixel based sensing for beauty and subtlety.  However, it's expensive and requires a lot of skill use the film medium effectively.  Digital post-processing of film captured images is, of course, a loss of purity but is in-effect used when these films are printed on large format digital printers using laser scanning and laser-based paper exposure.  The film is scanned, digitized and then laser printed onto fancy color paper.  For black and white,  a clean traditional "analog" print is still possible. But even for B/W there are benefits to HQ digital printing over dark-room methods.  Basically, darkroom skills are in short supply and photoshop software is very powerful. 

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Beaux Arts Trio

The original Beaux Arts Trio -    Piano: Menahem Pressler,  Violin: Daniel Guilet,  Cello: Bernard Greenhouse,   is 2/3 gone with the death, at 95,  of Bernard Greenhouse yesterday at his home at Wellfleet on Cape Cod.   A friend of his uploaded some videos of him practising recently.  I am embedding links to them here.  I don't know how long they will remain.  (From kathycello Bernard Greenhouse believed in practicing and playing cello every day. At age 95, he still practiced daily. This video was taken in his studio overlooking Wellfleet (MA) Harbor and his recently planted garden. He will be fondly remembered by all his students, colleagues and friends. -videos taken 5/4/11 by Kathy Schiano, cellist and friend.)

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Coffee, One of the Essential Elixirs

My cuppa espresso -
the reason I was able to post this
I read this article, in paper form, in the best coffee house in my neighborhood (their espresso is sublime and ineffable). It's from the Guardian Weekly, a digest which includes international news, analysis, features and book reviews from the Guardian, plus select articles from the Observer, the Washington Post and Le Monde. The Guardian company has a long history.  It started out as the Manchester Guardian in 1821.  The company nows owns the London Observer,  a venerable Sunday newspaper (1791).  

Can coffee wreck your marriage? Poisonous brew or the thinker's drug of choice?  A new book of essays about coffee and philosophy seeks to uncover the truth
Stuart Jeffries, The Guardian, Thursday 14 April 2011

On 29 December 1675, King Charles II issued a Proclamation for the Suppression of Coffee Houses. He'd had it right up to the top of his vast wig with the Peace and Quiet of the realm being disturbed by Idle and Disaffected Persons hopped up on proto-espressos.
Bad to the bean: a coffee house at the time of King Charles II
Photograph: Lordprice Collection / Alamy/Alamy
Looking back, perhaps he was right. In 1675, the number of coffee houses in London was roughly 2,000; today that's the number of London baristas who said "Chocolate on top?" in the last minute. We've reached saturation point.
Back in 17th-century England, King Charles wasn't the only person who thought coffee was a social vice. The Women's Petition Against Coffee of 1674 claimed all-male coffee houses were responsible for "a very sensible Decay of that Old English Vigour . . ." by promoting "the excessive use of that Newfangled, Abominable, Heathenish liquor called Coffee, which . . . has so Eunucht our Husbands and Crippled our more kind gallants they come from it with nothing moist but their snotty noses, nothing stiffe but their Joints . . ."
But, to the disappointment of those petitioners, Charles bottled it. Two days before his proclamation was due to take effect, he backed down, fearful that his head might go the way of his executed father's – such was English fury about the suppression of an institution that had created the nation's first egalitarian meeting places, the so-called "penny universities".
The debate about coffee's merits has raged ever since. Is it a pernicious brew that causes impotence, arterio-sclerosis, heart failure, indigestion, insomnia, premature old age, pancreatic cancer, birth defects and bad breath, as well as poverty among the farmers who grow it? Or is it an inky nectar that helps prevent Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, liver cancer, gallstones, type 2 diabetes and colon cancer, improves motor skills and reaction times, promotes fair trade to the impoverished south and stimulates both intellectual acuity and social interaction?
The answer is, according to a new book of essays about coffee and philosophy, quite possibly all of these.
Coffee: Grounds for Debate, a title in the Philosophy for Everyone series, argues that coffee is a performance-enhancing drug for thinkers. "The appropriate analogy is that coffee and philosophy go together like foreplay and sex," insist editors Scott F Parker and Michael W Austin. "You can have one without the other, but the latter is better with the former and the former often leads to the latter." Philosopher Basam Romaya says: "With the use of coffee, critical thinking abilities are sharpened, attention to detail enhanced." This is a venerable claim: in the 16th century, Sheik Abd-al-Kadir, an Arab scholar, said: "No one can understand the truth until he drinks of coffee's frothy goodness."
Well, maybe. There is a big problem for such assertions, namely that coffee (an Ethiopian plant first cultivated in Yemen around AD575) wasn't around when some of the world's leading brains were working at full tilt. Aristotle never sipped a macchiato, Socrates didn't have a Caffè Nero loyalty card. Worse yet, some of the greatest later philosophers – Kant and Nietzsche, for example – were coffee refuseniks. Yes, Voltaire reportedly drank 60 cups of coffee a day, but not even the most ardent rookie philosophers should copy him. Costa hasn't created a nation of geniuses.
The book will also stimulate those seeking to understand the aesthetics and ethics of coffee. California philosophy professor and self-proclaimed coffee snob Kenneth Davids lists criteria for excellence: 1. Acidity is good; 2. Smoothly viscous or lightly syrupy mouthfeel is good. 3. Aromatic and flavour notes that are complex and intense are better than simple or faded ones. 4. Natural sweetness is good, too much bitterness bad. 5. Natural flavours and aromas such as floral, fruit, honey and chocolate are better than flavours that come from mistakes made during drying, such as mustiness or moldiness. 6. Long, sweet, flavour-saturated aftertastes are good. 7. The robusta bean makes worse coffee than the arabica.
Marvellous – except that many coffee drinkers don't have the same taste as Davids. for instance, there is something called the "rio note" – a harsh medicinal sensation apparently created by certain moulds. Americans like Davids hate it, but it is widely enjoyed in the Middle East and central Europe. Mmm, yummy – mouldy coffee.
So what about impotence? That does seem to have been overstated. The Women's Petition Against Coffee prompted a broadside from men who argued that it "makes the erection more Vigorous, the Ejaculation more full, adds spiritualescency to the Sperme". Initially I wasn't sure what "spiritualescency" means, either, until I read in this book that caffeine increases sperm motility. That said, some say coffee may harm the sperm while speeding it on its way, which makes a kind of sense.
All in all, the debate reminds me of what Homer once said about alcohol in The Simpsons – that it was "the cause of and solution to all of our problems". Coffee is like that, only more so.
-- end of included article--

P.S.  Note added for EKO, a fellow coffee aficionado.    Many coffee mavens (a shtikel of yiddish here) consider decaffeinated coffee to be an abomination - verging on the sacrilegious.   What is the  physiological basis of this extreme response to an otherwise rather pleasing product (when well made).  The answer probably lies in the molecule called  caffeine and it's many effects on neural and neuroendocrine systems.   The pharmacology of caffeine is summarized in it's wikipedia page (click "caffeine" link above).  It's a competitive inhibitor of adenosine at adenosine A1 receptors (see other subtypes) but also has a wide range of effects on many systems in the body. 

Saturday, April 23, 2011

MESSENGER - Mars Orbit #73

The MESSENGER spacecraft has been in orbit for over 36 days now (at approx 2 orbits/day, this is orbit 72+).  Stunning images are being taken at visible wavelengths.  Here is one of the latest

Click to Enlarge -
Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University
Applied Physics Laboratory/
Carnegie Institution of Washington
Date acquired: April 15-17, 2011
 Instrument: Narrow Angle Camera (NAC) of the Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS)
 Center Latitude: 24.4°
 Center Longitude: 264.6° E
 Resolution: 250 meters/pixel
 Scale: The crater in the center of the image is about 105 kilometers (65 miles) in diameter

Of Interest: This image is a mosaic of multiple NAC images. The crater in the center is being crossed by a scarp, such as those seen at Camoes and Thakur.
These images were acquired as part of MDIS's high-resolution surface morphology base map. The surface morphology base map will cover more than 90% of Mercury's surface with an average resolution of 250 meters/pixel (0.16 miles/pixel or 820 feet/pixel). Images acquired for the surface morphology base map typically have off-vertical Sun angles (i.e., high incidence angles) and visible shadows so as to reveal clearly the topographic form of geologic features.

The MESSENGER spacecraft is the first ever to orbit the planet Mercury, and the spacecraft's seven scientific instruments and radio science investigation are unraveling the history and evolution of the Solar System's innermost planet. Visit the Why Mercury? section of this website to learn more about the key science questions that the MESSENGER mission is addressing. During the one-year primary mission, MDIS is scheduled to acquire more than 75,000 images in support of MESSENGER's science goals.

Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Boston Marathon Number 115

Grete Waitz by Leo Kulinski, Jr.

Very sadly,  I just read that Grete Waitz succumbed to cancer today.    She won the NYC marathon nine times in a span of eleven marathons (1978 through 1988).   She set three course records and won it five times in a row (1982 - 1986).   Her personal best in the marathon was  2:24:54  (London - April 20,  1986,  tomorrow is the 25th anniversary of that achievement).

(Post race note:  Fellow Norwegian, and marathon great  Ingrid Kristiansen won Boston twice, NY, London 4x, Stockholm. She held the marathon world record  for 13 years. (London 1985, 2:21:06).  )
In 1897, John  "JJ" McDermott won the  first Boston Marathon with a time of 2:55:10 !!   It was a small field,  15 runners.  What a difference a century makes!   This year we hosted about 27,000 runners from all over the world.  As you might expect, the BAA  website has improved markedly over the past decade.  Today I'm digging into the results database, it's impressive.  For example,  I searched on runners with Kenyan citizenship (including those not living in Kenya), elite and otherwise,  and found 20 runners.   There were 33 runners from the Netherlands (including two who identified themselves as MDs - showoffs). 

Yesterday's race was really fast (at least for the elite runners).  Clear and dry,  a brisk tailwind (from the West at 20 mph), temperatures in the 50s, and dewpoints of 25 F (that's an RH of 33%), the conditions were about as good as they get - at least based on the results.  In the mens race, Geoffrey Muttai of Kenya ran a 2:03:02 which is the fastest recorded marathon time so far.   However, there are criteria for race eligibility  for an official world record.  A century ago,  the men's world record was around 2:40 - and today the record is 2:03:59  (Berlin 2008) - held by Haile Gebrselassie of Ethiopia.

In the women's race,  Caroline Kilel (Kenya) edged out Desiree Davila (USA) by two seconds with a time of 2:22:36.   Clearly the women were having a harder time this year with these "ideal" conditions - the women's world record is just over ten years old  (Paula Radcliff,  MBE - 2:15:25,  London, April 13, 2001).    In 1983,  Joanie Benoit ran a 2:22:43 and set a course record.  In 2002, Margaret Okayo (Kenya) set the women's course record with a 2:20:43.   The first sub-3 hour women's world record occurred in 1971 (Elizabeth Bonner,  2:55:22,  NY Marathon).  Since 1971, the women have shaved almost 40 minutes of the record.  The men have only gained 5 minutes. -  wimps :) 

Joanie Benoit Samuelson (50- 54) ran a 2:51:29.   Christine B. Kennedy (55-59) ran a 2:56:17.  Come on guys! -  get a move on,  you know who you are.  :) 

How "ideal" were the conditions yesterday?  The Boston Marathon is a tricky race.  Disaster lurks for the unwary.   Boston is a windy city. In April,  the sea wind is freezing - the land wind can be anything from Arctic to Tropical - unlike the autumn marathons, with their somewhat more predictable weather,  coastal New England spring weather is highly variable due to cold ocean temperatures and dips in the jet stream.   Some of our biggest snow storms have happened in early April.   Here's a little snapshot of today's date from the NWS  -  TODAY MAXIMUM 48,   Record: 95 F 1976 ;  MINIMUM 41 , Record: 16 F 1875;   AVERAGE 45 .   Yuk!!   So much for averages!

So, how did the top racers do it yesterday?  Well, in short, they flew.  Detailed video analysis shows that the men's winner took a single bound in Hopkinton and his took his first footfall at the finish line.  The Kenyans, in case you don't know,  train for Boston in a zero gravity chamber, or run down Mt. Kilimanjaro.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Some Pesach Yiddish

Yiddish is a wonderfully expressive language.   Knowing even a few words brings a feeling of self naches.  The feeling arises from a deep connection to history, culture and humanity.  It is second only to English in expressiveness (Russians may disagree).  Like English,  it draws liberally on multiple languages, with both simple (usually single syllable) and erudite words and forms.  English has it's origins old north German, Celtic,  and Viking (old Norse). The Roman, and later Norman conquests, brought Latin, Greek and Norman (Old Northern French).

Home Made Matzo - Click to Enlarge
Yiddish was not spoken by the Sephardic Jews . They spoke Judeo-Spanish dialects like Ladino, and came to Europe via North Africa.  Ashkenazim came to Europe through the Byzantine Empire, from the area called Anatolia (Asia Minor),  which is now Turkey.  The Ashkenazi migrated into Germanic-speaking Central Europe (~900 CE) and likely spoke Aramaic, the lingua franca of the Middle East,  and Hebrew.  Middle High German became the base for Yiddish.  Spoken Aramaic became less useful and Hebrew was used for religious purposes.   In 1290, the Jews were expelled from England,  auguring the later xenophobia, antagonism, repression and duress in Germany, France and Spain (~1492 CE).  Jews migrated east to Poland, Russia and the Baltic region.  Eastern Yiddish, absorbing  many Slavic words,  became the main dialect in the Yiddish continuum.  In Western Europe,  Yiddish declined as German Jews preferred German to Western Yiddish. However, in the east, Yiddish thrived until the Holocaust. The Golden Age of secular Yiddish culture, and it's language,  lasted about a century (mid 1800s to ~1945) expanding with the laissez-faire  ethos associated with the Industrial Revolutions.

"Hold on", you say.  What's with the megillah you are dishing out here?   Where is the Pesach Yiddish?
OK,  here's your payoff:  What's the origin of the saying   "Have a zissen Pesach"  ?  "Zissen" is Yiddish for sweet.  It comes from the German "süß" (note:  the beta looking character is a "ligature",  a new character formed from two other ones,  in this case an "S" and a "Z")

Eye of Horus (Egyptian)
 MFA Boston (click image to enlarge)
As a bonus bit of Yiddish,  (and still Pesach related) -  What does  "kein ein hora" mean?   This is a nice melange of Hebrew and German.  The first word "kein" is German in origin,  meaning no or not.  The last word is definitely not German.  The last word "hora" ( הרע )  means "evil" in Hebrew.   The "ein" is a little tricky,  ein means "a" "one" or "any",  so literally "not any evil"  would result.  But it's not quite right,   the ein is likely not German. The word eye in Hebrew is  "ayin" ( עין ) , so kein ayin hora.  A slim possibility is the Germanic version of "eyes" -  augen in German an oygn in Yiddish - so kein oygn hora. (a bit doubtful considering that the saying generally uses the singular form of  eye).   Avoid the evil eye!

Finally,  Yiddish is written with Hebrew characters.  It may look like Hebrew but it ain't.  Well I hope you like my little tsholent  (stew - one of those russian words in Yiddish) and another Yiddish word tsimmes צימעס which is similar but also means "big deal". 

"Have a zissen Pesach"

Tenth Anniversary of Surgery

It's been ten years since cancer surgery.  I have new camera. :)