Fourier Analysis is a mathematical tool which can do a number of things: separate out signals from noise; help identify patterns or trends in data; filter out all unwanted data and focus on a single signal; use approximations to make generalizations; make approximations of real world signals (think electronic music); combine harmonics to get a stronger signal. That's what I'll be trying to do here!! Won't you join me with your comments?

Friday, February 29, 2008

The experienced traveller

CableGirl has a great game that lets us all take a ramble down memory lane. And I do have some stories that are not really SOS, but definitely memorable, so I'm playing this week. For a walk in someone else's shoes, check out her blog.


I had been in Munich (München in German) for over a year, and had not done all the traveling I had originally planned, primarily because I was spending time with my German boyfriend. But there came a holiday weekend in early Spring when he was going off to visit his family and everyone else I knew in town had plans. So I decided to take an overnight train to visit Florence.

Of course my mother would have had a fit at the thought of me traveling by myself to a country where I did not know anyone or speak the language. And friends had warned me of problems on the overnight trains and pickpockets, etc. But of course, I was 29 and invincible. So off I went!

The trip was uneventful, except for being slower than I expected. On the German side it was a high-speed train, but in Italy I think it turned into the milk run. Literally. We stopped at every little station and seemed to load some sort of freight on, but very few people. This went on all night long!

Finally I arrived in Florence or Firenza as it is called in Italian. I booked a hotel room via the tourist bureau at the station. It was within walking distance and set out to wander around and find it, getting a bit lost but seeing wonderful sights at every corner. I got myself checked in and went exploring. Of course I don't do anything unprepared so I had a couple of guide books that I followed and it was glorious. Looking back now, with the perspective of many years of a full schedule and parenthood, I really squandered the leisure time I had!

I walked slowly, lingered over lunch al fresco, got lost and backtracked and had no real destination. I did not try to find the best times to visit the museums as it did not matter that I had to stand in line for hours. And while I did see most of the sights on my list in the 4 days I was there, I ran out of time and did not see everything. But I figured I would come back another time. Little did I know it would be with 2 kids, DH and my Mom and her walker in tow. The two trips cannot be compared!!

Of course I visited the museum where Michaelangelo's David is housed. In those days they did not have to search your bags, and cameras were allowed so you could take your own pictures. I took a lot of photos, but later realized I would have done better to spend my money on the postcards! But at some point I decided I wanted a picture with me in it. So I asked an English-speaking couple and they were happy to oblige. I wanted a picture of myself admiring David. And so I posed in profile, with my chin pointed slightly up in order to lengthen my neck for a more flattering image of myself. I smiled a serene smile and held the pose without realising where my eyeline was directed. Yep, just as the camera clicked, it dawned on my that I appeared to be closely examining David's privates. Needless to say, while this is a very flattering picture of me, it was not one I used on my Christmas cards. In fact, I think there is only one copy in existence!

I had a fantastic time and did not at all regret making this trip on my own. My Italian phrasebook got me through most situations, and I was adopted by a waiter in the restaurant near my hotel where I stopped to dine more than once. He could not believe such a "stunning beauty" was on her own. Of course he flirted outrageously, which I'm convinced is a genetic trait in Italian men. And when I would not go with him he tried to fix me up with his cousin! But he was not offended when I turned down all offers and the third time I was there he took over my ordering and brought me the most wonderful dish that was not on the menu: chicken breast cooked on a bed of asparagus and covered with baked over Parmasean cheese with Tagliatelli noodles. That with a wonderful local Soáve and perfect Italian Spring weather made for a truly memorable meal.

Finally it was time to go home and I headed for the train station with just under an hour's time to spare. The station is smaller than the one in Munich and so I was not surprised when they did not yet have my destination listed on the departure board. I spent some time looking through the gift shops there for any last minute souvenirs I might have missed. Thirty minutes prior, still no train bound for Munich/München. I looked at my return ticket and saw that the track was listed so I headed on over to where it should come in. There was a train there, but it was bound for Monaco. But of course I was an experienced traveler and knew that in Italy, things did not always go according to schedule, so I wasn't worried when at 15 mins. prior to departure, there was still no train to Munich and the train to Monaco was still on the track.

Now I knew that Monaco was in a different direction from Munich, so this could not be my train. I checked the departure board to see if there were any other trains going to Germany, as I knew (again the experienced traveler) that sometimes they listed the end destination for a train that might be stopping at the destination you were traveling to. No trains to anywhere in Germany.

Now I was starting to get concerned. At 5 min. to departure time, I started looking for a conductor. I found one on the platform closing the doors to the Monaco train. I asked him about the train to Munich. Of course he did not speak English or German. He tried to put me on the Monaco train. I showed him my ticket. He nodded insistently as the conductor on the end of the platform was blowing his whistle to indicated the train was about to depart. I took a leap of faith and jumped aboard.

Good thing too. In Florence (Firenza) they call Munich Monaco. To quote Mark Twain, "Those foreigners have a different word for everything!"

Saturday, February 23, 2008

What I thought when I read Jenn's Singular Saturday...


Yeah we are silly, but that's what the weekend is for, right? Wanna play too? Check out Jenn's place!

Friday, February 22, 2008

25-year-old me would never imagine...

"5 Things I Never Pictured In My Future When I Was 25 Years Old."

Okay, I have been wanting to play Flashback Friday ever since CableGirl started it. But I have been having a hard time getting my mojo back and blogging more regularly. We seem to be operating in crisis mode around here much of the time, and I am tired of blogging about that. So I came across this meme when I was visiting Greeblemonkey and I thought I might combine the two..

"What would my 25 year old self be most surprised about?"

I am surprised to find how hard it was to answer this. I was a pretty astute 25 year old and kinda figured I would be married (again) and eventually have kids. I was communicating on the DARPANET (the US Defense Department Network that eventually became the Internet) with colleagues around the world, and not only about business, so while I did not necessarily predict blogging, it would have been a natural extension to my life back then.


1. I never expected I would be living in Europe. And I don't think I really knew where the Netherlands was! UK, France, Germany, Italy, yeah. But Netherlands-Belgium-Luxembourg (the call it Be-Ne-Lux for a reason) I would have been fuzzy on.

2. I never expected I would not always have a career. I had worked so hard on my degree and had plans to keep going (which I did). I was doing really great in a male-dominated field that was really taking off (early Silicon Valley days). And I just figured I would combine marriage and career and motherhood the way many women of my generation were already starting to do. And though I have really only been out of the career mode for less than 5 years, there are now some tax and insurance complications which make going back to work much less attractive financially, even though the kiddos are at a point where I could logistically swing it without too much disruption (or so I tell myself). But we sat down and did the numbers a couple of months ago and it would end up costing more if I went back part-time and it would only provide a small benefit if I went to work full-time. And quite frankly, it just is not worth it. So I am now in the process of mentally adjusting my self-image to one of no longer of being a career woman. And that is really something I never expected to do.

3. I never expected that music would no longer be a big part of my life. It was for so many years. It paid the grocery bills when I was in college. It was my social life when I was 25, playing groupie and roadie and back-up singer to a techno-pop band. And I was singing in the church choir on Sundays. Nowadays it is DD1 & DD2 who do most of the singing. And when the rare occasion occurs that the spirit moves me and I sing along with some of my favorites, they no longer sit enthralled but complain that the neighbors or their friends can hear and I am embarrassing them. (sigh)

4. I never expected I would be in such poor physical condition at this age. I had no idea that I would lead such a sedentary lifestyle playing chauffeur to kids. Plus the fibromyalgia has really put a cramp in my routine. I have a lot of work to do...

5. I never expected I would be known as the "Creative Mommy". My whole position has been that I am not about to spend the outrageous amounts for the pre-packaged parties and crafts when I can come up with something equivalent by using my imagination and what I could find on sale. And I figured out the trick to the fancy birthday cakes is extra icing (it covers a lot of errors). And now I find myself with the reputation as the Mom who throws the best birthday parties and I often get calls from desperate mothers who find out they cannot get the date they want for the pool/bowling center/tennis club/horse paddock or jungle gym, so what to do with a houseful of elementary school kids? Now if I was known as the "Cheap Mommy", that would not have been so unexpected!

Well I may be stretching the "Flashback" definition, but it really took me back to try and figure out how my perspective has changed. I promise to do better next time, but if you want to see how others have told some of their tales, check out 42 (she's a real hot number!!)

Monday, February 18, 2008

Good Night Moon...

Thalia's Child from Musings from a Muse gave me this award:

She said, "This woman's brain intimidates me..." Now I'm not quite sure that is a compliment! I don't really want to intimidate anyone. If anything, I try and help explain science to the layman/woman because I don't think it should be intimidating. But I will accept the award in the spirit that it is given and will be passing along my nominees in a future post. (And BTW, thanks Thalia's Child, it is nice to get blog bling!)

But I have heard comments from others who think I am pretty brainy. "Whiked smaaht" as SMID would say! So now I guess I have a reputation to maintain. Therefore I will tell you about the upcoming total lunar eclipse.

This is happening on Wednesday night (20-21.February.2008) and will be visible from most of North America as well as South America, Western Europe, Africa and Western Asia.

A total lunar eclipse is pretty special. Lunar eclipses only occur during the full moon, and while there is usually one of those a month, because the Moon's orbit around the Earth is tipped 5 degrees compared to Earth's orbit around the Sun, the Moon does not usually pass through the Earth's shadow. But about 2 - 4 times a year, it does pass through all or part of the shadow, and an eclipse occurs.

Now maybe you will hear some talking head on the TV speak about partial eclipses, umbral and penumbral shadows, and you'll think "Huh"? This is just fancy scientist talk. The Earth's shadow is actually composed of two cone-shaped parts, one nested inside the other (see diagram below) . The outer shadow or penumbra is a zone where Earth blocks some (but not all) of the Sun's rays. In contrast, the inner shadow or umbra is a region where Earth blocks all direct sunlight from reaching the Moon. In fact, so little light is blocked during the penumbral lunar eclipses that they are not really visible to the untrained naked eye. But scientists love using big words that no one understands, so one of them might mention this. Ignore this discussion.

More common events are partial lunar eclipses. This is where the Moon passes through only part of the Earth's umbral shadow. That means you see a the Full Moon which gets a "bite" taken out of one side that slowly grows bigger and then gets smaller. There will be a partial lunar eclipse visible from parts of Europe on August 16th this year.

But you really should try and view all or part of the eclipse this week if the weather in your area permits. Some of you in the western US or Australia might have had an opportunity to see the total lunar eclipse in August last year. But another total eclipse will not occur until 2010. So set your alarms or stay up late and hope for good weather!

Here is a table of the viewing times for your locations:

Total Lunar Eclipse of February 20, 2008

North America Other
Partial Eclipse Begins: 04:43 pm 05:43 pm 06:43 pm 07:43 pm 08:43 pm 01:43 am* 02:43 am* 03:43 am*
Total Eclipse Begins: 06:01 pm 07:01 pm 08:01 pm 09:01 pm 10:01 pm 03:01 am* 04:01 am* 05:01 am*
Mid-Eclipse: 06:26 pm 07:26 pm 08:26 pm 9:26 pm 10:26 pm 03:26 am* 04:26 am* 05:26 am*
Total Eclipse Ends: 06:51 pm 07:51 pm 08:51 pm 09:51 pm 10:51 pm 03:51 am* 04:51 am* 05:51 am*
Partial Eclipse Ends: 08:09 am* 09:09 pm 10:09 pm 11:09 pm 12:09 pm 05:09 am* 06:09 am* 07:09 am*
* Event occurs on morning of February 21, 2008

The UK and parts of western Europe are on GMT time. The Netherlands, Germany, etc. are on GMT +1. This means I'll be getting up about 4 AM (yawn!).

So what is so special about a total lunar eclipse? Won't it just look like the Moon going through all its phases within a short space of time? Yes it will. Kind of. Maybe. You see the direct light from the sun will be blocked by the body of the earth. But sunlight also passes through the Earth's atmosphere and bends. So just like dawn and dusk are not completely dark, even though the sun is still below the horizon, some light from the sun will reach the moon and the shadow will not be completely dark. Thus the shadow from an eclipse is not like the "phase" of the moon because no sunlight is shining on the dark part of the moon when it is not "full". (This is a trick question for kids in science, when they say that the dark part of the lunar phase is the shadow of the Earth blocking the Sun from the Moon!)

So what can we expect? The most beautiful total lunar eclipses are when the Earth's atmosphere filters out the blue portions of the sunlight and only allows the redder portions of the light to come through. So we could see a "blood red moon". In some earlier times and cultures this was a portent of evil or misfortune or the approach of a terrible event. I don't doubt that there will be something that occurs in the coming year that might be linked back to this event. In fact, I will even predict that someone will make this link! Check back with me in a year and I'll be happy to say "I told you so"!

If the Earth had no atmosphere, then the Moon would be completely black during a total lunar eclipse. But it can actually take on a range of colors and even change during the event. It can range from yellow to orange or red to dark brown. It will depend on how much dust, pollution and clouds are present in the atmosphere. After the volcano on Mount Pinatubo in 1992, the December total lunar eclipse was dark brown and almost black.

Now while I have you out looking at the sky, let me point out a couple of things: "Orion" is the most visible of constellations in the winter night sky and is one that almost everyone can find! Just look to the southeast. It should be one of the first constellations visible after sunset. After you find the three bright stars in his belt and the 3 more hanging down that is the scabbard for his sword, look down to the right for the bright bluish star that is his knee. This is the blue supergiant star Rigel. If you look above the belt to the left at his shoulder you see the reddish star which is a red supergiant star called Betelgeuse. Following at Orion's heels is his faithful companion, the constellation "Canis Major" which has the brightest star in the night sky Sirius. Sirius is actually a double star which is visible in small telescopes.

And of course you should look for Mars, which is the reddish object shining brightly just above
Orion. Through the course of the night Mars and Orion descend toward the western horizon.
Saturn is visible as a bright yellowish object in the late evening in the southeast sky.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Never Enough...


Don't get caught napping and missing the fun! Come and play here!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Never Give an English Pop Quiz on Valentine's Day

Pop Quiz: Answer the following question with as many appropriate adverbs or adverb phrases you can think of.

How do I love thee?

Answers: An awful lot, really, a hell of a lot, endlessly, joyously, very, more, sweetly, with every fiber of my being, more than I love Mimmaw and Pawpaw, soon, hugely, gladly, sleepily, immensely, tragically, more than anything in the whole world, loudly, silently, dearly, suspiciously, too, suddenly, absolutely, very much, daily, profusely, tomorrow, unexpectedly, happily, patiently, tenderly, greedily, recklessly, obnoxiously, swiftly, immeasurably, madly, kindly, angrily, nearly, rarely, enormously, endlessly, quite, far, passionately, infinitely, boldly, fabulously, oodles and boodles, defiantly, selfishly, a whole bunch, gracefully, a great deal, successfully, more than a warm bucket of spit, endearingly, smittenly, foolishly, more than a sharp stick in the eye, yearningly, almost, faithfully, exactly, carefully, bravely, adoringly, cautiously, sentimentally, quickly, repeatedly, deliberately, rapidly, overwhelmingly, safely, enthusiastically, doubtlessly, carelessly, wildly, easily, fondly, rightfully, unconditionally, politely, well, swiftly, promptly, doubtfully, seldom, shyly, lucidly, fiercely, smartly, elegantly, unbearably, sometimes, ardently, zealously, thoughtfully, wearily, speedily, awkwardly, roughly, seriously, even more than that, reverently, monstrously, silently, reluctantly, smoothly, perfectly, terribly, anxiously, horribly, often, painfully, stealthily, poignantly, quickly, tenderly, deeply, badly, devotedly, dangerously, weakly, weekly, too much, softly, solemnly, warmly, regularly, mysteriously, excessively, poorly, merrily, powerfully, truthfully, innocently, loudly, courageously, blindly, intensely, vehemently, sadly, frantically, sternly, vivaciously, fervently, not, hungrily, perfectly, stirringly, rudely, more than I can say, considerably, loyally, nervously, accidentally, truly, always, only.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Early Signs of Dementia...?

It is almost Friday. I had completely spaced out about the Haiku Buckaroo Two Contest.

And while I have managed to come up with a few e-mail haikus, they don't count if they are not on my blog, and maybe you have missed them so for the sake of true public embarassment, I share them here. (If you don't want to spoil your image of me, please skip to the next blog in your reader!)

I'm so far behind...
Cannot think about contests.
Haiku is too hard!

Okay, so this is
My "Haiku Excuse" entry
Does it qualify?

I'll forward to Les.
She'll understand won't she?
I'm a bad blog-friend ;(

Why even bother?
Jami's better anyway.
Oh, she's not playing?!

Happy Valentine's!
Tired brain going Hai-ku-ckoo.
Why do I do this?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Second Impressions

Conversations Monday morning.

DD2: "Mom, are you going to a party?

"No. I'm going to see someone at the airport."

Later, downstairs...

DD2:"Mom, what are all those things in the bag on the table?"

"Those are some presents for my friend."

DD2: "I knew you were going to a party!"

DH:"You're getting dressed up and putting on make-up to go to the airport?"

"Yes, I want to look nice and make a good impression."

DH: "But she has seen you already."

"Yes, but I was in my usual Mommy outfit and did not do anything to my face when I met her because I didn't know I was going to be seeing her for the first time. And I believe that second impressions are as important as first ones."

DH: "She's not going to recognize you."

The air temperature in the room suddenly drops 10 degrees as I give him one of my I-can't- believe-you-just-said-that stares.

DH "I guess I should not have said that."

"It's okay. Second chances are also important."

DH: "Well, you look very nice sweetheart."


Ever have a friend who could insult you, question your honesty and integrity to the world and still make you laugh?! I don't know how SMID can write any sort of trip report that would be at all interesting and coherent. For my part it went like...

Jenn showed up at the bagel shop with SMID in tow. After recovering from shock, I hugged her. And then we ate and talked until the waitress threatened to have us evicted because there were 6 groups lined up waiting for our table. Then I took them on a tour of some of my favorite quirky statues and monuments. And we walked and talked and walked and talked. They took a lot of pictures. I mean A LOT.

Then we went to my house for a cup of tea. And we talked. And then we went to the beach and they took a lot of pictures and we talked. And then we went to a restaurant and ate and talked. Then back to the beach and we looked at the stars and talked. And then I took them to Jenn's house and we talked and looked at some photos. And on Monday I met SMID at the airport and we talked until it was time for her to board her plane.

And when I say talked it also included laughing, giggling, teasing, anecdote telling, interrupting, talking over one another, sputtering and snorting laughter, family photo showing, gossiping, complimenting, complaining, a little moaning and bitching, interrogating, guffawing, chuckling, and lots of comments and high praise (at every opportunity and lull in the conversation) for Jenn's new boots (be sure and ask her about them!).

So when you see the photos and are all envious about the wonderful sightseeing tour she had, don't be fooled. It was a gabfest. It could have taken place anywhere. We were so tuned in to one another it is a wonder that any of the photos are in focus! We had a blast (yeah I know, I'm dating myself with that phrase)! I just hope it was worth the jet lag! And AG has earned himself demi-god status in my book.

Okay, now I want trip reports from other blogger meetings. And you can't fool me. Good food, wine, tasteful settings, exotic locations, none of it means anything when it comes to visiting with your friends!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Strangers on the Net...

My second entry into ...

(an inspiration of SMID) !!

(Sung to the tune of Strangers in the Night, apologies to English lyricists Charles Singleton and Eddie Snyder)

Strangers on the Net, exchanging emails,
They had never met, but knew such details
Of each others lives and common points of view.

Something in those blogs was so inviting,
And those lovely photos were so exciting,
They started a blog that now is run by two.

Strangers on the Net,
Two busy mothers they were Strangers on the Net,
Up to the moment that they said their first hellos, little did they know,
Amazing Guy would play a part,
A trip to Holland was in the cards.


Now they're truly friends, blogging together,
Photos without end, comments about weather.
It gets better yet for Strangers on the Net!


We had entirely too much fun!! Have you ever met someone that you felt you had known for ages? That's how I felt when I first met Jenn-in Holland. And that's how I feel about SMID. I was going to meet Jenn for a shopping-and-gossiping afternoon. And she showed up with a friend in tow!! Whee-hee! We had a blast. And she brought along some sunshine, which we haven't seen here in a while. My face hurts from the smiling and giggling we did. And those 2 shutterbugs went crazy on the tour I gave them of my favorite photo ops (it seems we all share a sense of the odd and absurd!) Want to see what we saw? Check out their photoblog in the coming weeks (a pair of those shoes in today's photo are gonna be mine!!).

And of course check out the other links on this fabulous Music Monday!

Saturday, February 9, 2008

How Much I Knew about the Red Boots' Road Trip...


Jenn-in-Holland is full of surprises. So is SMID!! For more surprising words, come play with us here!