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exhalations
Monday, October 30, 2006
 Motofone; charge it with your bicycle 
Many people have wondered why there is no simple, inexpensive, cellphone. Most people use about 5% of a typical phone's capabilities. These phones have color screens, cameras, web capabilities, etc. Battery life could be much greater without all of the extras. Well, Motorola has finally developed a simple, inexpensive, phone called the Motofone. It uses E-ink technology for the display which doesn't require a backlight and is very energy efficient.
The saved power allowed Motorola to use a small, less expensive battery, even though the phone offers eight hours of talk time and 12 days of standby time. According to Colorado, a user could charge the phone by riding a bicycle, a dominant mode of transportation in India. In a bike equipped with an inexpensive dynamo-based system Motorola is also developing, it would take about two hours of biking at a leisurely pace.


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Saturday, October 28, 2006
 Performance enhancing drugs 
An amateur athelete wanted to know what would it be like to take performance ehancing drugs. He wrote about the experience in an article entitled Drug Test - A Cautionary Tale.
Everybody knows that many athletes cheat by using performance-enhancing drugs like steroids, testosterone, and EPO. But what is it like to take these banned substances? Do they really help you win? To find out, Outside Magazine sent an amateur cyclist into the back rooms of sports medicine, where he just said yes to the most controversial chemicals in sports.


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Thursday, October 26, 2006
 Firefox 2.0 
Firefox 2.0 was released recently. I've downloaded it and will install it soon. Whenever I upgrade a browser I remember the days when I would upgrade Netscape and all of my previous settings and bookmarks would disappear. That hasn't happened in a while, but I still fret a little during the upgrade. Anyway, here's information about customizing Firefox 2.0 (mostly for my future reference, which is often the case with my blog entries).


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Wednesday, October 25, 2006
 Moleskine City Notebooks 
For a notebook junkie, Moleskine notebooks are the ultimate in quality and functionality. They are expensive, so I end up using the Strathmore 400 Series 5.5" x 8.5" spiral bound sketch pads.

Moleskine will soon make availble in the U.S. their City Notebooks. They are currently only available in Europe. They contain a city and subway map, up to 36 pages of zone maps, 76 blank pages for notes, 96 tabbed pages for references, 32 removeable sheets, and 12 transparent sticky sheets that can be overlaid on the zone maps for tracing routes and marking landmarks.


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Friday, October 20, 2006
 City bikes 
It seems that U.S. bicycle companies have finally discovered that people can use bicycles for everyday transportation. Most bikes that are now manufactured are intended for recreational riders: road bikes for the faster sport riders, mountain bikes for trail riders, and hybrid or comfort bikes for paved trail riding. Most of these bikes can be adapted for all-weather riding, but it's usually a challenge mounting fenders, lights and racks. Plus, it adds to the final cost of the bike.

Breezer has been making transportation bikes for a while. Now others are starting to follow as described in a recent article on transportation bikes in the Wall Street Journal.

These bikes come standard with fenders, racks, lighting systems, and usually a small horseshoe-like lock attached to the seat stays and intended to encircle the rear wheel to prevent someone from riding off with the bike. This kind of bike was everywhere when we travelled in Basel, Switzerland. To see examples of these bikes see this article on how Copenhagen, Denmark is being transformed in to a bicycle paradise.


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Tuesday, October 17, 2006
 Rainy Tuesday 
It was a perfect day to spend inside several art galleries downtown. I caught one of the last express buses to Metro and was at the Freer Gallery just after it opened at 10 am to see Small Masterpieces: Whistler Paintings from the 1880s. They were very small abstract paintings that nevertheless capture the beaches of England and various town scenes.

I was tempted by a book of paintings by Carl Larsson which was on sale at the Hirshorn Museum. There wasn't much else on exhibit; the second floor was closed and there were selections from the permanent collection on the third. The galleries that contained the large color field paintings were empty as usual; what a waste of exhibition space. The same was true at the National Gallery, where the modern art exhibits in the Concourse looked empty and sterile like this.

I did enjoy Constable's Great Landscapes: Six Foot Paintings. What was most interesting about that exhibit were the full-scale studies that were much rougher but in some cases were better than the finished originals. Many of the studies were not good; they were not meant to be exhibited and were too big to be spontaneous and quickly executed. When studies from other artists are compared to finished originals, I usually prefer the studies; they seem to have more life and bolder colors than the detailed, finished work.

I took a quick look at The Streets of New York: American Photographs from the Collection, 1938-1958, then spent some time viewing the Master Drawings from the Woodner Collection, my favorite show of the day. I could spend hours looking at the mostly small-scale pencil, charcoal, or ink drawings by the masters.

There was still time for one more collection, the National Portrait Gallery to once again see the works in the National Portrait Competition, and the American Art Museum. I have been to both recently, but was a little overwhelmed by the new space. The works from both museums are now intermingled and I think it's too confusing. I suppose if you have never been to the old space it wouldn't be a problem, but I'm used to each museum being in a more or less separate building. I'm sure I'll get over it.

I was able to catch Metro before the fares rose at 3 pm and was home shortly after 4.


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Wednesday, October 11, 2006
 Recent reads 
One advantage of a long flight is the chance to catch up on reading material. The flight from Atlanta to Zurich was over 9 hours. Since it's an overnight flight, there isn't much time for reading. The goal is to get as much sleep as possible, as it will be morning in Zurich, and the best way to fight jet lag is to remain awake during the day and go to bed at a normal time, albeit in a new time zone that is 6 hours earlier.

However, on the return flight there was plenty of time to read. I happened to have a copy of the June 5, 2006 New Yorker. Nora Ephron writes about her love affair her rent-controlled life at the Apthorp, a beautiful residential building in New York. While the article isn't online, here's a comment about it on Curbed.

There's a profile of Howard Stringer, the new CEO of Sony Corp which provides an interesting look at this once dominant technology company that has floundered recently.
The previous year, in conjunction with the company┬?s sixtieth anniversary, Stringer explained, there had been plans to launch a campaign promoting sixty great Sony products. “And I just sort of collapsed at a meeting,” he said. “I said, ‘We can┬?t talk about sixty products just because it happens to be the sixtieth anniversary! We don┬?t have sixty fantastic products.’


In Life and Letters: The Agitator, there's a discussion of Oriana Fallaci's crusade against Islam. She has become more conservative with age, but she makes some excellent points about the West has dealt with Islam and Islamic immigrants.

There were other good articles as well. The 25¢ I paid the library for the used copy (or was it from the free magazine bin at the used book store?) was well worth it.

I also packed along the October 2006 Wired magazine that contained a brief article on the computer mapping that goes into producing the base maps for navigation systems. Gizmondo's spectacular crack-up tells the sordid story of the people behind the game device of the same name that crashed and burned a few years ago. The articles in Wired are consistently good, which is why it is about the only magazine to which I now subscribe, for about $14/year.


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 Switzerland 
We're back from a great trip to Switzerland to see the Agility World Championships. The U.S. team did well, although the competition is very tough. Europeans have been competing in agility for a very long time, much longer than here in the U.S. Jennifer Crank and her do Guess won second place in the Medium Individual category, a great accomplishment. It's amazing what these well-trained dogs can do.

Bike are everywhere in Switzerland. There are bike lanes on most of the major streets and good bike parking facilities in most places, including the train stations. People ride their bikes for transportation, and almost all bikes have fenders, lights, and kickstands. Most people park their bikes upright, with the rear wheel locked. Apparently bike theft is not a huge problem, as bikes are parked freestanding overnight on most streets.

Public transportation is excellent, with a trolley and bus system that serves almost all parts of the city. Buses and trolleys run about every 5-8 minutes. The routes are clearly marked on excellent maps. Motel guests are issued a pass that allows them to use the city's transit services for free for the length of their stay. It makes the U.S. look like a third world country.


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