Friday, January 20, 2012


I used to grit my teeth a bit whenever a Captcha box would pop-up.

Captcha, I thought, was just a way to prevent spam...prevent robotic programs from going into a website and generating messages over and over to sell a product or perhaps even to launch something malicious.

Mentally I used to think: Oh gee, stop being so paranoid...typing this thing in is wasting my time to prevent something that probably isn't going to ever happen anyway.

Then a co-worked sent out a link to TED that explained what Captcha was all about.

You see, more and more books are being scanned so they can be kept and read digitally, which is a really good thing since so many books are printed on acidic paper that turns into crumbs over time.

But...the scanning process has a flaw:  Sometimes the font or print scans in as a garbled word or a word that seems meaningless.

Humans could be hired to go back and visually see the word in question and then correct the scan but that would cost millions of dollars to do and take up a lot of time.

The guy on TED is the amazing creator of Captcha, a program which solves this problem.

Here is how it works. Basically you have Captcha to make sure you are human.

Re-Captcha shows you 2 words. One word is a word that they already know what it says.  It is the word that you are typing in to make sure you are human and not a robot, because you can  both type/read.

The 2nd word (or the first, they are in random order) is simply a scanned word from an actual book. It is not known exactly what this word is supposed to be but you might, and can take a guess.

You type in what you think your see and eventually enough people answer what they think  the "image" of a word actually is spelling out.

So in summary, when you type in the Captcha word, you enabling the scanning old books into digital formats for free.

Some facts:

500,000 hours a day are "wasted" on Captcha.

100 million words a day are turned into digital via Re-Captcha via you.

2.5 million books a year are scanned into digital via you.

The TED video, linked below, is so worth is just a few minutes long, and I can promise you will laugh as well as celebrate how books are being saved in less than a minute at time.

PS: If you have never explored the TED website before, you have been so missing out on great stuff!   Thinkers are brought to talk about ideas, all kinds of ideas, most of which are ideas that you never thought about before (like what is the purpose of play?)
Watching a single TED post can fuel conversation around the house and work place in a way that makes your brain feel alive! 

The whole Captcha thing...makes me feel like I am living in the future!
(Except I am  not...the photo above is a hallway that I go past every day at work, and sometimes walk when I need a break. Beam me up Scotty!)

When I need a less futuristic break, I go outside and take pictures of nature instead:


There isn't much to see around a parking lot in winter, but as usual, if one looks hard enough, there is always something to see.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Snow Day

You can tell just by looking exactly when the forced air heat comes on at our house.

Bitsy is a student of Birkrim, or hot, yoga.

She setttles in in front of the heater vent and practices all her yoga poses whenever the heat turns on.

(Frankly I am a little jealous that I am not small enough to get a full body blast of heat like she does in front of the vent).

Can you tell she is getting toasty?
Just look at those glowing eyes...

Eyes that glow so brightly they reflect on the hardwood floor.

A tad spooky, no?

I just let her be, all melted and warm from her nose to the tip of her tail.
Tate, being a Faithful Orange Cat, is not lazying around.
Oh no...he has some snoopervising to do!

Tate:  He didn't do a very good job on the sidewalk....

Having a good snoopervisor means all jobs around here get done right in the end.

Meanwhile, I get back to my quest to photograph snowflakes perfectly.
The slightest motion, like manually clicking the shutter, blurs the shot.

I pulled out my new tripod, and fussed with all the adjustments to get the thing down to the perfect snowflake level (all the while hoping the flake wouldn't melt away) and then used my timer  feature to take this shot.

Better, but I still think I can improve my technique.  

We'll be getting a lot of snow the next few days. I intend to try a few other shooting "tweaks" to see what I can get. 

Stay tuned....

Snoopervising duties finished, Tate now wants to go play in the powdery snow.

If you look closely, you can see where he dug into the snow when he first came outside to play.

We have no idea what he is digging for.   It is just too funny to watch him make the snow fly.

Bitsy came out too.  She always takes just one step into the snow, then holds up that paw like it is injured.
She stands there like that, giving us pitiful looks until we scoop her up and take her back inside.

What an actress she is.

She is so girlie-girl compared to Tate!

The Day The LOLcats Died

Not sure exactly where I stand on this situation, but I want/need to learn....
Here's good place to start.

Update: Proud to report Utah's Warren Hatch helped/is helping to get SOPA/PIPA stopped.

A really, really fast summary:

As a blogger, I have had folks take entire posts of mine and PUBLISH them in their online newsletters (Princeton University, I am looking straight at you right now...) without asking me or even crediting me.

Under SOPA/PIPA, the Princeton site would have been shut down.  NO warning.  Just like that, Princeton's site would cease to exist.  (Currently a warning is posted and the blogger can remove the offending content).

Also...if someone was to comment on your blog and quoted from someone else's blog, your blog would be shut down. 

If I decided I didn't like your blog, all I would have to do is leave a plagerized comment and KaZAM!  Your blog would be locked up, and no longer accessable.

Imagine what that would mean to business websites, to political websites.  Scullduggery would abound.
How would you like them apples?
I wouldn't. 

There are less draconian laws to address copyright infringment.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Gray Days; looking for Sun

Another gray January day was creating a decidedly gray-bordering on black- mood in me.
To help restore my outlook, Bernie to suggest we take a walk outside somewhere. 
"Somewhere" this time was in the heart of the city; Liberty Park to be exact.
After we slipped on down jackets and gloves, we began our walk. Barely three minutes into the walk we passed by the back of the Tracy Aviary. 
Seeing the bright yellow Sun Conures in their enclosure sure lifted my spirits fast.

Talk about a blast of color!  Don't you feel happier just looking at them?
Their keeper/feeder entered their enclosure as we looked on.
A chat with her informed us that:
There were 19 birds in the cage
The birds are counted twice a day
The bird's sex is determined via blood test
They haven't attempted to determine the sex the birds
And yes the birds are quite happy in their outside enclosure even when it snows.
Bird don't migrate to avoid the cold, the keeper told us.  Birds migrate in order to find food. 

How had that detail eluded me all these years?

As soon as she entered the enclosure the entire flock flew to her,  For a moment she looked as though she was wearing a yellow and orange coat. 
I sort of wished I was her.  Doesn't she look happy at her job?

We walked the length of Liberty Park and around to the other side of the aviary.  The distinctive pelican odor wafted about, but that was easily forgiven after watching the pelicans at play on the shore of their snowy white world.

As we completed our walk about and headed back to our car, we noticed another kind of bird in the tree just in front of where we had parked.

Seeing the bald eagle was kind of funny. 
We had earlier talked about going to the nearby Farmington Bay where the bald eagle population soars during the winter months.
Guess we saved ourself both time and gas money by just going to good old Liberty park in town instead.

I had decided against carrying my "good" camera as the day was so gloomy and all, but I had slipped my point and shoot Sony Cyber-shot HX-5V into my pocket before we began our walk. 
Like the rest of the birds we encounted, the little eagle was therefore suitably document in a jiffy.
Bernie made me laugh by pointing out the the little eagle had probably been asking for directions to Farmington Bay when he saw the scene at the foot of the tree he was perched in:
Why go to all the trouble of flying on the Farmington Bay when all these kinds of birds are at the ready?

And heck,  there are even some interesting looking orange and yellow birds just across the way too.
Just need to figure out how to get inside the citrus flavored bird's place to give them a try.