GirlHacker's Random Log

almost daily since 1999

Genetic Mythbusters


In my continuing quest to unravel the genetic mystery of my son’s wet ear wax, cloverleaf tongue-folding ability, and shovel-shaped teeth I stumbled across John H. McDonald’s “Myths of Human Genetics.” He describes that while tongue-rolling and other traits are common examples used by teachers for basic genetics, those traits aren’t all simply expressed by dominant/recessive genes. Tongue-rolling is partially genetic but studies have found non-rolling parents with rolling kids. So it’s not a good basic example though it’s often used in introductions to genetics. Among his many well laid out examples is my nemesis, yes the wet earwax, which is one that actually is a simple dominant/recessive situation but isn’t used much as an intro example, likely because of homogenous school populations and grossness.

Posted in science

Typewriter Repairmen (Last)


Seems you can’t be a typewriter repairman without someone sticking “last” in front of your title. But there are still a few “last” typewriter repairmen ready to service your Selectric. The Seattle Times found Robert Montgomery in Bremerton, WA and Dave Armstrong in Bellevue, WA. Montgomery, aged 92, fixes your antique or your electric for $48 an hour at Bremerton Office Machine Co. He repaired typewriters in London during World War II. Armstrong says typewriter repair is only 10% of his business at more appropriately named Computer & Printer Repair. I plan to get rid of my electric typewriter, but I’m keeping my manual… right next to the anvil.

Posted in nostalgia

Buttercow Cam


The Illinois State Fair’s iconic butter sculpture of a cow now has a webcam.  That’s 800 pounds of unsalted butter. (thx Jared!)

Posted in culture

Why I Love the WA State DOT Twitter Feed



Film Students to Carry Oscars


Six aspiring film students will carry the Oscar statuettes onstage this year, replacing the usual models. The show’s producers decided to put more meaning into the task than that of aesthetics (or, as they actually said about the models “they’re just there to be objectified”).  Six students were picked out of 1,100 applicants who submitted essays and videos.  The selection looks to be nicely diverse with students who hail from other countries and a Marine Corp veteran.

Posted in oscars

Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree 2012


It’s my ninth year of stalking the origins of the Rockefeller Christmas tree using online maps. This year’s Norway Spruce grew up in Flanders, New Jersey. It’s 80 feet tall, 50 feet in diameter, and was still standing strong in Joseph Balku’s yard, wrapped with 10,000 feet of rope and 2,000 feet of cable, after Hurricane Sandy blew through. A couple weeks later, after a careful crane-assisted removal and drive to Manhattan, it was wrapped in five miles of wire with LED lights and topped with the usual Swarovski star for New Yorkers and tourists to enjoy.

Posted in plants

Living Computer Museum


I have this joke that Paul Allen has these huge garages where he puts the things he collects and when one fills up he opens a museum for it. That got us the Experience Music Project, Science Fiction Museum, Flying Heritage Collection, and, OK, the Seattle Cinerama never fit in a garage but it counts in spirit. Now Allen has opened the Living Computer Museum.  “Living” because it’s not a bunch of dead boxes on display with unpowered CPUs. The computers are powered on, to a huge electricity bill, but a wonderful trip to the near past. Use a working Xerox Alto, write that infinite GOTO BASIC program again on the TRS-80, and look at the innards of a PDP 8.  Photos and a trip report on Seattle Retro GamerAP article.

Posted in nostalgia

Coca-Cola for 5 cents


Coca-Cola cost a nickel for 70 years because of a short-sighted deal that gave two lawyers the rights to bottle Coke and buy syrup at a fixed price forever.  When bottled Coke took off, the Coca-Cola company massively advertised 5 cent Cokes to sell as much syrup as possible. They wouldn’t get more money if the price rose anyway so they decided to push selling as much Coke as possible at that great price. Then vending machines built to take a nickel became another sticking point for raising the price. Raising it to a dime was too much, and the U.S. Treasury wouldn’t make a 7.5-cent coin.  Eventually, inflation and a re-signed bottling contract made way for higher prices.  But 70 years is a long time for 5 cents.

Posted in drink,nostalgia

Peter Gabriel Talks at Google


In Peter Gabriel’s talk at Google he explains to the digital generation audience why “In Your Eyes” couldn’t go at the end of the original vinyl “So” album as he wished. It’s a lesson in a different type of technical limitation.

It has a good bass line there. To get a fat bass line on a full vinyl record you can’t put it near the end. You had to have it nearer the beginning. So it went on the start of side two just because there wasn’t enough room for the needle to vibrate as it got closer to the center. So then when CDs came along I was able to take that track and put it on the end where it always should have been.

FAA Commemorates 9/11


The FAA’s “Next Generation Air Transportation System”, NextGen for short, uses satellites to streamline airplane descents. At Reagan National Airport the new NextGen arrival sequences have been named in honor of those who lost their lives in the tragedies of September 11, 2001.  The arrival sequences have a series of waypoints which each have five-letter names.  The sequence named FRDMM (Freedom) contains “WEEEE,” “WLLLL,” “NEVVR,” “FORGT” and “SEP 11.” Other waypoints include  “LETZZ,” “RLLLL.”