Ingenious Book Ideas

Great Books & weird finds

Publishers are constantly seeking niches in a crowded market, and the ingenuity award goes to the great gift book “The field guide to stray shopping carts of Eastern North America”. I wish I’d thought of this:

For the next blockbuster we look to Charles Frazier, who leapt into prominence with his first novel “Cold Mountain”. Frazier and I both own horses and live in the same area: “Charles lives outside of Raleigh, North Carolina, on a small horse ranch with his wife and daughter.”

Now I ask you, how could I not like this guy?

After years of research, Charlie Frazier is back with “Thirteen Moons”, which is already a national bestseller (Amazon sales rank =35!), even though it has not yet been released! It’s an amazing North Carolina frontier story of Will Cooper, who Frazier modeled after the real-life Bill Thomas; a Cherokee chief, a Rebel Colonel, an attorney, NC senator and advocate for Cherokee rights.

Bill Cooper – Cherokee Chief

In case you didn’t know, DNA analysis suggests that many Cherokees are of European ancestry. It’s true, and 7,000 year-old Indian remains show clear traces of European DNA.

But if Indian rights are challenged because my Melungeon ancestors arrived from Europe instead of crossing the Bering Straight, it might ruin the rights of Native Americans. It would be really hard to justify the reservations and billions of dollars in tax-free casino cash if the tribes were found to be nothing more than “early arriving” European immigrants.

I believe that my Indian ancestors arrived from Britain thousands of years ago to get away from the bland English food and pesky Neanderthals, arriving on the shores of North Carolina centuries before Columbus, just in-time to get a great tan. Here’s proof:

“The people called Melungeons (of eastern Tennessee, North Carolina, West Virginia and Kentucky,) were again encountered by European explorers of the Appalachians in 1654. They were described as dark-skinned, but with European features. They lived in log cabins and practiced Christianity and even spoke English.”

The faces of Evil

There is the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster

Faces of the Devil

In South Park, the devil is a gay Lucifer who enjoys homo sex with Saddam:

And computer people who like Windows picture the devil like this:

And this 911 photo is just creepy. It was proven not to be faked:

Oh, and some folks saw the face of God in the 911 smoke:

Kauai pictures

Because we run a publishing company (Rampant TechPress) that is launching a series of travel books, Janet and I like to scope-out locations before committing to any book. Hawaii has millions of tourists each year, and since we were going there on computer business we decided to stay a few days and check it out.

The only bad part is that Hawaii has silly dog quarantine laws and we had to leave Noel in the care of Jen3, Penny and Beth:

We started in Oahu, an area that was paradise back in the early 1900’s, but has turned into a concrete jungle, more reminiscent of Manhattan than a tropical paradise. When we were in Waikiki they were hosting the world championship surfing championships, and you could see hundreds of surfers in the water between the skyscrapers. If you ever go to Waikiki, remember that the room rates are proportional to the “views”, and we opted for the partial view, between the skyscrapers:

Before our fun lecture at the Univ. of Hawaii, and our great visit with Byron and Lisa, we we headed to Kauai, staying at the Marriott resort.

I’ve learned that “resort” means “expensive”, and like all hotels, a balcony and view cost boatloads extra:

The Kauai Marriott is very nice and boasts the largest swimming pool in the islands:

Our goal was to find local to help contribute to a new book “Kauai Insider Adventures”, and we found plenty of locals at the Oki Restaurant, a “real deal” Hawaiian eatery where you can dine on native disked like Pork Lau Lau, Portuguese fare, and the spectacular Kauai coffee, fresh from the fields. It’s highly recommended:

The area is lush, and because we are farmers, we were taken with all of the agriculture on the south area of the island, where acerage is still affordable at under $20k per acre in remote areas:

Make sure to tour the Kauai Coffee plantation and grab some beans fresh from the tree, just like Juan Valdez:

You can drive to Waimea Canyon which is just as spectacular as the Grand Canyon, a riot of color and spectacular waterfalls:

If you go, take the extra 30 minutes to drive past Waimea all the way to the end of the read to be treated to a spectacular view of the Napali coastline:

Much of Kauai is inaccessible because of the sheer cliffs, and a helicopter ride is the only way to see the amazing inland sites.

Michael Jackson endorses Leprechaun Theme Park

In the weird news category, we see that Michael Jackson is rallying support in Ireland to build an amusement park featuring leprechauns.

“Michael is deadly serious about this idea,” a source told Ireland’s Daily Mirror. “He loves the whole idea of leprechauns and the magic and myths of Ireland. It would cost around 500 million Euros [about $635 million] to do.

He’s always wanted to open his own theme park and he thinks Ireland is the perfect place and it will all be built around the leprechaun theme.”

The naughty implications of this news were noted by Scott Adams who suggests in the Dilbert blog that the Leprechaun Park may be a vehicle for Jackson to get him some “wee people” booty:

“I won’t accuse Michael Jackson of being a child molester. You can never fully rule out “disturbed weirdo of galactic proportions with astonishingly bad judgment.” However, the question I wonder about is what would happen if someone such as Michael who enjoyed sleeping with children (as friends) suddenly couldn’t do it anymore. What would he do?

Well, he might start a business that has a perfectly good reason for hiring hordes of midgets. They’d all be over 18-years old so there are no legal problems. As far as I know, you can hump the living crap out of a midget all day long and it’s totally legal, assuming the midget is onboard with the plan. Or you can just share your bed with midgets as friends. That’s legal too.”

Michael Jackson planned a Leprechaun theme park

It’s rumored that Jackson is crazy about Ireland and that he is planning to give the Neverland Ranch an Irish name “Dunmolestin”. Jackson may also donate his curiosities to the Leprechaun park, especially his Elephant Man’s skeleton and his famous nose collection:

Since the Irish people are not familiar with Michael, a Michael Jackson FAQ might he helpful, maybe this site dedicated to Michael Jackson questions and answers (warning, offensive language).

Some of the questions make no sense to me:

Q: What do Michael Jackson and caviar have in common?
A: They both come on crackers.

Q: What’s the difference between Michael Jackson and a grocery bag?
A: One is white, made out of plastic, and dangerous for kids to play with. The other is for carrying food.

Q: What did Michael Jackson say to Lorena Bobbit?
A: “SILLY Bobbit! Dicks are for KIDS!”

Q: What do Michael Jackson and Dr. Spock have in common?
A: They both know how to rear a child.

Q: How do you know when it’s bedtime at the Jackson residence?
A: When the big hand touches the little hand…

Anyway, the tabloid mill is now suggesting that Michael is trying very hard to fit-in and make himself appealing to the average Irishman.

I hear that Jackson is also trying to fit-in with the catholic population by reminding people that “God is neither black nor while, neither male nor female”, just like himself.

Jackson also reminds the Irish that he is also loyal, and that “he has never left his friends behind“:

Speaking of dwarves, the new Movie “Jackass 2” is due out soon, and we see that they have some skits involving dwarf horses and human dwarfs.

Licenses and certifications!

I’ve always enjoyed collecting licenses and certifications and my wallet is crammed with of all sorts of cards that permit me to do things:

– FAA Pilots license
– FCC radiotelephone operators permit
– NC Auctioneering license
– Oracle certified professional
– NC Drivers License
– Scuba Diver license
– International Drivers License
– Caribbean Drivers license
– A foreign work permit

But the technology is changing, and all of these licenses may soon disappear from wallets everywhere.

Most amazing is this new national database that stores photographic images of all USA drivers’ license photos? It probably has your drivers license picture. Try it!

The new age of Biometrics

I’m currently working on a large project to make printed licenses obselete, by using Biometrics security. It’s very cool technology:

Tongue recognition – The human tongue is unique, but the display of the tongue proved both messy and embarrassing. Tongue piercing and messy saliva hindered efforts to develop an effective optical tongue reader.

Iris recognition – Eye imaging is used by the United States Immigration and Border Control to positively identify travelers. The technology now offers cameras that capture a reliable iris image from all international travelers entering the USA.

Fingerprint recognition – This has become inexpensive and reliable and low-cost fingerprint readers are now available for positive identification. The output from these devices is interfaced with specialized software to perform proxy invocations of Oracle database applications.

The day will come when wallets will be as obselete as pocket watches, and all of your certifications will be inside a database. Some say that cell phones have already made wristwatches obsolete, as noted in this university study.

Computer Certifications are still the rage

I’ve noticed that the trend to gather licenses and certifications is alive-and-well, and the current challenge is to get the biggest certification at the youngest age. I’m guilty of this competition myself, and I made sure that I got my solo pilot’s license on my 16th birthday and my pilot’s license at 17 years old. Being the only pilot in my high school, I found myself suddenly popular with the cheerleaders and jocks!

One young fellow I work with, Steve Karam, has an amazing blog called the Oracle Alchemist (check out the stunning graphics). Even though Steve is only 25 years old, he claims to be the world’s youngest Oracle ACE and the world’s youngest Oracle Certified Master. This kid is going places.

I like to joke that I have ties older than Steve (I really do, those big, wide ones), but I appreciate his initiative and drive to suceed, traits that will take him a long way in his technology career.

I can see the telltale signs from people to are going to be great someday, and identifying the up-and-coming technology guru’s is part of my job as the Series Editor for Rampant TechPress. Dedication and commitment shows, and it’s kids like these who will be tomorrow’s technology leaders.

I also spotted Jon Emmons, a super-smart fellow with a keen wit and a devoted following for his blog “Life after Coffee”. Jon is a Linux expert and consented to help write a great book “Easy Linux Commands”.

People ask me how to become tops in their field, as-if there is some secret. It’s easy. The real winners have made-up their minds to succeed, and they invest in themselves, constantly learning and putting-in the effort to distinguish themselves from their peers.

Of course, it’s not all about taking tests and collecting certifications, but that’s one of the characteristics of the up-and-comers who will dominate the future of technology.

At the Sandbar

A few years back Janet’s Mom went to visit our nephew Pat (who is now a Marine Master Seargeant) at the Hawaii Marine Corps base in Oahu. After hearing her tales about the amazing natural beauty, we decided to make a point of visiting the sandbar during our Hawaii trip last month. We visited all-over Oahu and Kauai, and we were really disappointed with the super-touristy areas, especially the Pearl Harbor Memorial.

Morons at the Pearl Harbor Memorial

My Dad was in the battle against the Japanese on December 7th 1941, and I have no tolerance for tourists who are disrespectful, especially Japanese tourists!

I don’t get it.

It would be like Americans visiting the site of the Mai Lai massacre.

The Pearl Harbor Memorial is design to bring tears to your eyes and help people remember “the day that will live in infamy“. I saw people crying and then looking-up with contempt at the hoards of happy Japanese tourist.

I’ll bet they were thinking “YOU! It’s YOU who did this!”. They don’t keep statistics on the number of rude Japanese tourists who have been brutalized by Vets at the Pearl Harbor Memorial, but I’ll bet it’s a frequent occurrence.

Anyway, let’s move-on to the highlight of our visit, the Sandbar.

The Sandbar at Kaneohe Bay

We were hosted by Byron Bush, his wife Lisa, and their adorable kids, son Hague and daughter Sagel, nice folks who know the real meaning of hospitality. Byron is president of the Hawaii Oracle Users Group, and he is a man with diverse interests, hosting an amazing web site devoted to Red Wing pottery.

Janet and I were both tired after our afternoon of lectures for a local computer group, and we needed a break:

“The Sandbar” ia a natural shallow at the mouth of Kaneohe Bay, nearly a mile away from the inner harbor.

Since Lisa is an Army physician, we got access to the Marine base and Byron showed us all of the amazing splendor. Natural beauty is almost unheard-of on most Marine bases! Here is a shot of me and Lisa:

I grew-up as an Army brat, and I always remembered how friendly the GI’s are. It was refreshing to see that nothing has changed, and Byron and family welcomed us with open arms:

One of the great benefits of serving in the armed forces is the cheap recreation, and Byron and Lisa rented a cool pontoon boat for a tour of the harbor.

From the boat in Kaneohe bay we also got a great view of Coconut Island, the filming location for the 1960’s hit comedy “Gilligan’s Island” The Sandbar is in the upper-left of this photo.

Janet decided to try-out the snorkeling.

Me, I just walked about in the shallows and take-in the amazing scenery.

The water was crawling with sea critters and you didn’t really need a snorkel to see them.

A Picnic in the Ocean!

The water gets shallow right at the entrance to Kaneohe bay, and “The Sandbar” is shallow enough for picnic’s in the sea! People set-up tents, deck chairs and charcoal grills, right-out in the open ocean:

Byron’s Mom came along for a walk in the warm shallow water:

Hangue and Sagel were great fun to watch. Ah, to be young again!

Hague and Sagel are already accomplished swimmers and I’m sure that it won’t be long before they are tandem-surfing, just like the kids at Wakiki beach:

The scenery at the sandbar is amazing because it is at an area where the mountains meet the shore.

We cannot wait to come-back and we will always remember our wonderful day at the Sandbar and the hospitality of Lisa and Byron Bush.

Context Sensitive Grammar tips

Context Sensitive Grammar

This type of context-based ambiguity is at the heart of a major problem with Internet Search engines. Unless they understand the context of your queries, they cannot serve-up the “best” results.

Some experts suggest that the issue of context-sensitive searching can only be fixed by allowing the search engines to “spy” on us and collect our query history.

Researchers know that understanding the context of a query is critical to making search engines effective. Search engine quality used to be expressed solely in terms of “precision and recall”, but in the past few months Google started word-stemming and synonym expansion, techniques that often leads to context-related false positives.

I’ve been playing with web-videos, and I have some great tips for using Google to find technical information.

Why is context-sensitive grammar critical on the Web?

For a simple example of context-sensitive queries, let’s consider a simple web query for the heteronymous keyword “bass“.

If you are Bubba the fisherman, you expect to see search results that include bass Lure’s and bass-related fishing tools.

On the other hand, if you are an aspiring rock star, a search for “bass” should include references to bass guitars and famous bass players.

But heteronyms are problematic, especially when we consider the new synonym expansion feature of Google.

Heteronyms and Synonym Expansion

Homonyms are words that are spelled and pronounced the same but have different meanings. We also have Heteronyms, which is a pair of homonyms that have different pronunciations and different meanings:

Bow – After a formal bow, he drew back his bow, the arrow strking the bow of the ship.
Excuse -Please excuse me while I think of an excuse.
Polish – Tell the Polish cleaners to polish the floor.
Minute – The button was so minute that it was a minute before I found it.
Wind – Hopefully the wind will be strong enough to wind the windmill.
Record – It’s the referee’s job to record the new world record.
Dove – The Dove dove for the popcorn.
Lead – The lead weight was too heavy for the lead rope.
Moped – Joe moped about until his moped was repaired.
Pussy – The pussy cat has a pussy wound on her leg.

Ludicrous Synonym Expansion

The Princeton WordNet (from the Princeton Cognitive Science program) is a common tool to perform synonym expansion. I have worked with WordNet, and you must be very careful to control the “distance” of related words. I turned-on full-expansion and searched a large legal database for the “F” word and I was surprised to get hits on “congress“.

Huh? I was confused about the relationship, so I searched WordNet and discovered that “a congress is a union of two bodies”.

Don’t be a Pussy

It’s these heteronyms that are the bane of synonym expansion. Let’s take our last heteronym keyword example, “pussy“, a word with a multitude of meanings:

Doctor – To a physician, a search with “pussy” would expand to include synonyms “pustule”, “infected” and “festering”.
Grandma – When a search by Granny contains “pussy”, appropriate synonym’s might include “kitty”, “cat”, and “feline”.
Teenaged Boy – When a teenager searches for “pussy”, we might take the vulgar derivation and include synonyms such as “snatch”, “fur pie” and “carpet” (a contraction of the derogatory Lesbian noun, “carpet muncher”).

You get the idea . . .

Context sensitive phrases

Back in the 1980’s when I was teaching grad school at the University of New Mexico I evaluated a natural language for database queries. When I entered the database query “How long has John Doe been with us?”, it could not understand the context of my question and asked “Are you requesting date_of_birth or date_of_hire?” Of course, any human would have understood the context of my query and responsed with the hire date . . .

Language colloquialisms also effect context-sensitive grammar. For example, the 1960’s Flintstones TV jingle “We’ll have a Gay old time” takes on new meanings in the 21st century.

When good searches go Bad

Back in 1997 when the movie “Titanic” came out, I tried to show my daughter how to use a search engine. We went to hotbot, and she entered “Titanic”. To my horror, the results looked something like this, with loads of references to “titanic tata’s“:

But how much have things changed in the last decade? Consider these other innocent examples where old aunt Mable uses “that internet thang” and gets an unexpected anatomy lesson:

* Mable is looking for information on the new Civic center and she enters the query “massive erection“.

* Mable is looking for a shipper for her legendary homemade confections and she enters the query “fudge packer“.

* Mabel has 30 Persian Cats and does a search on “grooming my hairy pussy

What can be done to prevent these “bad context” queries? Is the only solution is to allow the search engines to track our behavior? Google already controls the “glue” that ties the web together, and many folks are concerned about a Google monopoly and privacy.

Context sensitive queries and privacy

Google says that they can only understand our “context” by allowing them to monitor our web search activity. They note that search engines are not psychic, and they need to know our query “context” in order to serve-up the “appropriate” search results.

I allow Google to collect my searches, and they reward me by providing instant “keyword suggestions” of related quer
ies in the search entry tab. I wonder if everyone gets “herpes”, “hernia” and “heroin” for this query?

Some folks say that if you don’t allow their search engines to spy on you, then you can expect to continue to get annoying, off-base and sometimes offensive search results.

Privacy advocates scream “1984” when we talk about allowing search engines to keep histories of our search queries, and it’s true that companies like Google are law-abiding and they will hand-over your search history if they are compelled by a subpoena.

But I’m more concerned about the web stalkers who prey on know-it-all kids like my son and daughter. Despite their book-learning, they still have little real-world experience, and they don’t understand how dangerous the web can be. This is one reason that I co-wrote my book “Web Stalkers: How to protect yourself from Internet Criminals and Psychopaths“:

Treating a Prolapsed Rectum

Last night I was watching a Tonight Show clip where a weatherman freaked out because a cockroach crawled up his leg. My first reaction was “So, what’s so scary about this?” It’s been ten years since I moved to the ranch, and in that time I’ve seen things so gross that they would gag a maggot.

I’ve seen half-eaten critters of every species, pussy wounds full of maggots, and all sorts of injuries, including the time when one of our horses ripped off her eyelid on a fence nail. I kept it on-ice until we got it re-attached.

I’ve had the systematic desensitization and today I can eat a chili dog with one hand while scraping fly maggots from an abscess with the other hand.

Before the anal prolapse, my grossest experience was lifing an upside-down bucket to find a decomposing rooster under it (I had Jen1 dispose of the oosing carcass and she has never eaten chicken since).

Girls, they are way too sensitive about dead things. . . .

Perhaps we should make a squirrel coffin and give the half-eaten tree rats a fancy funeral:

Mad Squirrel Disease

A few weeks back, our cat (Tiger) was munching on warm squirrel entrails, and I knew that this tasty tidbit might kill her.

We all remember this article in the New York Times titled Kentucky Doctors Warn Against Eating Squirrels’ Brains, where they note that squirrel brains can cause a fatal variant of Mad Cow Disease, known around here as “Mad Squirrel Disease”, and at least six people have died:

“Families that eat brains follow only certain rituals. ”Someone comes by the house with just the head of a squirrel,” Dr. Weisman said, ”and gives it to the matriarch of the family. She shaves the fur off the top of the head and fries the head whole. The skull is cracked open at the dinner table and the brains are sucked out.” It is a gift-giving ritual. “

It’s no joke, there is a moratorium on eating squirrel brains in North Carolina, and many a redneck has had to switch to less desirable organs.

Anyway, I let Tiger finish the squirrel chitlins, and I snatched-up the carcass just as she got around to eating the head.

Now, I couldn’t just throw it in the woods since Tiger would just go fetch it. To be safe, I decided to take the disemboweled tree rat into the Rampant Office building, and I rested the squirrel head-up in Jen3’s wastebasket.

Jen3 noticed it later and you could hear the scream for a half-mile. Left-to-right, here is Jen1, Noel the Yorkie and Jen3.

Anyway, I consider myself immune to grossness, but that was before Dirty Hairy’s prolapsed rectum.

Prolapsed Rectum

Awhile back, I went out to do the morning chores when I found Dirty Hairy (a tiny two-foot tall dwarf horse) lying down, with a foot of shiny pink intestines hanging out of his hiney hole.

Hairy is a seriously deformed dwarf horse, and this is an unaltered photo of him. As you can see, his body is way out of porportion, and his dong is so long that it drags the ground.

We call him the five-legged horse.

Anyway, a prolapsed rectum is really gross, and it looked something like this dog example:

I asked Penny to call our horse Vet (Dr. Chris O’Malley), and the conversation went something like this:

“Hairy’s done pooped out about a foot of his gut”

“Rectum?”, Dr. O’Malley asked.

“Yeah, wrecked him good, I reckon”.

Dr. O’Malley arrived immediately and within a few minutes he was stuffing Hairy’s gut back inside. To keep it from happening again, he took some fishing line and stitched a circingle around his anus, and he said that his rectum should work OK until Hairy healed. The opening looked too small to me . . .

Hairy’s Anal Retention

Well, no more than two hours later, I hear Hairy screaming like he’s being eaten-alive. I came out, and sho-nuff, Hairy can’t poop, and he was obviously in a lot of pain, straining and screaming.

So, I call Dr. O’Malley and he says that I should loosen the stitch, but just enough to let him poop. I must admit that I was mighty concerned that Hairy’s guts would spill out into my lap, like a scene from a bad horror movie. Instead, O’Malley rushed over. When he finally cut-loose of the stitching, Hairy pooped-out about half his total body weight, no lie. It was amazing. You never have a camera around when you need one . . .

Today, Hairy has some leg problems, and we have had to put him in a miniature horse wheelchair, and he gets around just fine.

Dr. O’Malley says he will include this story in his book “Horse 911”, and I’m real anxious to hear his take on Harry’s prolapsed rectum.